Monday, September 15, 2014

So What If There’s Gay Gene? So What If You Are Born Gay?



            Why is the pro-gay lobby eagerly waiting for the discovery of a gay gene? Is it to possess a so-called legitimate excuse to practice homosexuality? If a gay gene is discovered, would it offer true legitimacy to practice homosexuality?

            First things first, homosexuality is a deviant or an abnormal behavior whether it’s viewed from a natural or from a Historic Christian perspective. Nature deems that the final cause of sexual intercourse is to procreate. This sexual intercourse ought to happen between a man and a woman. That homosexual couples cannot bear children naturally is basic knowledge. 

            Reproduction or procreation is inherent and mandatory to sexual activity, argues the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud wrote that “It is a characteristic common to all the perversions that in them reproduction as an aim is put aside. This is actually the criterion by which we judge whether a sexual activity is perverse – if it departs from reproduction in its aims and pursues the attainment of gratification independently.” 1 It is quite interesting to note that these words came from a man who was quite liberal on homosexuality, but who through his views on perversion deems homosexuality as a sexually perverse act.

            The Bible explicitly forbids and condemns homosexual behavior (Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 1:7). However, it’s important to draw a distinction between homosexual orientation and behavior.

            The Bible does not condemn those possessing homosexual orientation and not expressing their orientation in actions. Therefore it’s not important whether a man or a woman has homosexual orientation, but what’s of ultimate importance is whether people express their homosexual orientation as homosexual actions.

            This entails that it’s not important how one gets their orientation, but what one does with their orientation.

            Many gay men and women truly believe that they were born gay and hence they argue, “If I were born this way, how can I not be attracted to those from the same sex? And if am born this way, how can I change?”

            On the face of it, the arguments of the gay people seem legitimate. But the question we need to ask is whether these arguments are seemingly legitimate or truly legitimate. 

            In line with procreation, which is only possible when opposite genders unite sexually (man and woman); we could reason out that homosexuals should act primarily according to their gender than their desires. In other words, why do homosexuals follow their desires more than they follow their gender?

            Although a person could be born with certain desires, he / she can necessarily control those desires. By soliciting the most appropriate supportive measure, a person can control and suppress any desire, including their sexual behaviors. If homosexuals argue that sexual behaviors are uncontrollable, then by the same logic, they could be taken to endorse crimes of all sorts (murder, rape etc.). Because no sane person tolerates crimes, this contention could be deemed nonsense.

            The existence of genetic basis for traits does not by itself prove anything about whether the trait is natural in its relevant sense. For instance, clubfeet is a defect. So proving genetic basis for clubfeet does not necessarily prove that clubfeet is ‘natural.’

            Therefore, establishing a genetic trait for homosexuality does not necessarily prove that homosexuality is ‘natural.’ (Moreover, none with normal feet would want clubfeet through surgery. It’s always the other way around. Man always strives for normalcy and not abnormalcy.)

            Let’s observe from another vantage point that genetic traits do not necessarily prove a behavior to be natural. Suppose science offers genetic predisposition to anger, would that justify thrashing gays and those who support them? In other words, if a homosexual seeks to legitimize his behavior by reasoning that he/she is born gay, then can his antagonist seek to legitimize bashing of homosexuals by arguing that he/she is born mean and angry? Therefore, genetic predisposition does not determine a behavior as ‘natural.’

            Here’s another intriguing instance. Are you aware that pedophiles (an adult who is sexually attracted to young children) argue that their damaging trait is inborn? Retired FBI agent Bob Hamer and author of “The Last Undercover” recounts his experiences, “It actually brought back memories of the NAMBLA conferences I attended. I listened to men justify oral sex on 18 month olds. How often I listened to men claim their pedophilia was an inborn trait; it was natural, ‘this is the way God made me’”2 (NAMBLA is an acronym for ‘North American Man Boy Love Association’).

            Whatever said and done, pedophilia cannot be a ‘natural’ practice even if it is proven to have genetic basis. It is unnatural for an adult to have sexual relations with a child. Similarly, it is unnatural for homosexuals to have sexual relations; hence homosexuality cannot be a ‘natural’ practice even if it’s proven to have a genetic basis.

            On the other hand, if homosexuals demand freedom to pursue their illicit sexual relations, then would they endorse pedophiles to sexually molest a child? (Well with the kind of depravity that exists, I would not be surprised to hear them argue to justify the actions of a pedophile. Such is the deplorable depravity we encounter in today’s world.)

            The cause for the deplorable moral depravity we find in today’s world is a logical extension of the Humean moral philosophy that “reason is a slave to passions.” 3  If reason is a slave to passion, then one should endorse all possible depravities, including homosexuality and pedophilia.

            Where is the scientific world on the discovery of the gay gene? The largest scientific organization in America, the 'American Psychological Association,' a pro-gay organization, believes that “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles…” 4  Although we do not conclude that the search for gay gene has ended, we contend that ‘gay gene’ is irrelevant.  

            Why then is the homosexual community harping on genetics? As Bryan Fischer, Director of Issue Analysis, American Family Association, articulates commendably, “If homosexuality is not in fact genetically caused, they have nothing….Without a genetic causation, sexual preference in behavior is clearly a choice, a choice which no one is compelled to make. And that choice can be evaluated in any number of ways, including whether or not it is good for human health and whether or not same-sex households are sub-optimal nurturing environments for vulnerable young children.” 5    

            To conclude, gay gene is not a matter of concern at all. Even if it were to be discovered in the near future, it would not affect our thoughts and conviction.

            Gay gene or not, homosexuality is an inappropriate and a deviant sexual behavior, and hence should not be practiced. But we should love homosexuals, albeit reminding them lovingly that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful, which should be overcome by the grace and power of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and by seeking the right support and remedial measure. Amen.   
                       


Endnotes

1 Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis, p277.

2http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2008/11/01/born_gay_or_a_gay_basher_no_excuse/page/full  

3 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-moral/

4 http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation.pdf


5 http://www.onenewsnow.com/perspectives/bryan-fischer/2014/06/17/the-latest-in-scientific-research-there-is-no-gay-gene

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Pastor Osteen Why? (Response to Pastors Victoria & Joel Osteen’s Sermon Viral)


            Forbes cites Lakewood church as the largest church in America.1 Pastor Joel Osteen with his wife and co-pastor Victoria Osteen lead Lakewood church.

            A recent video posted on YouTube shows Pastor Victoria Osteen’s remarks, which have gone viral on social media attracting scathing criticisms as well as sympathetic defense. She said, “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy… So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy,” she continued. “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen” (Emphasis Mine).



            I disagree with Pastor Victoria’s theology. Let me merely introduce Pastor Victoria’s error.

            The crux of her message was “self over God” (narcissism), which is an outright idiocy. Man worships God for the Almighty God is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth.

            Holiness is the key theme in the book of Leviticus. We are not called to be holy for our sake, but we are called to be holy for God, whom we worship, is holy (Leviticus 11: 44 et al.). Therefore, when we worship God, we are not doing it for ourselves, but we are solely doing it for God. This thought pervades the Bible.

            Our joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We bear the fruit of joy if and only if we remain in Christ. Apart from Christ we can do nothing.  Therefore if we are joyous, God would be pleased with us, not for being joyous, but for being in HIM and HIM alone.

            Think about this as well; are we in the business of keeping God happy?  Alternatively, would our failures cause sadness in God? If this be true, and if the whole world, Christians included, are sinners, we are looking at the possibility of a very sad God. This God cannot be happy at all.

            On the contrary, if God is ‘perfect’ (of course God, as a maximally great being, has to be and is perfect), then HIS perfect being entails HIS happiness. Therefore, as the much acclaimed Aristotelian philosopher Thomas Aquinas said, “God is happiness itself.”2

            I hope this introduces the error. 

            As pastors of a church boasting attendance of 45000, Pastor Joel and Victoria Osteen would be much scrutinized. They would be much sought after and scorned by quite a few. This is the dilemma and the inevitability of success. Yet their immense popularity and mass acceptance would drown these negativities, even if these negativities are justified.

            Let’s look outside the persona and into the nature of the teaching. Why do preachers preach errors at the local church?

            Erroneous teaching would continue in the local church for the very simple fact that Christian or shall we say some of the so-called Christian seminaries teach these errors to their so-called gullible students. Thus, pastors graduating from these seminaries would preach errors to drag their congregation into deplorable theological pits and existential pitfalls.  

            This is the sad reality in the church today. When errors are preached by the pastors, the congregation simply believes the error as if the preacher’s words are infallible and inerrant. But in fact, it is the Bible that is infallible and inerrant because it is inspired by God.

            Since the average Christian is too busy to study and understand the Bible, and even discuss in Bible study groups, they render themselves vulnerable to the evil schemes of satan, which also could be in the form of church leadership (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11: 14).  When the average Christian refuses to study and understand the Bible, he/she loses the ability to discern the right from the wrong.

            When the average Christian loses the ability to discern the right from the wrong, he/she mindlessly applauds the heresies proclaimed by the preachers. These preachers are motivated by the applause, and they continue in their people-pleasing endeavor. The vicious cycle continues.

            So, it is not right to only blame the preachers for preaching errors. Please blame those in the congregation who hear and applaud these errors rather mindlessly. As some say, biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high.

            Here is a disclaimer. Not all churches and not all preachers preach errors. There are preachers and churches that remain faithful to God and HIS Word. Similarly, not all Christians remain without a great desire to study the Word of God. There are quite a few and I am blessed to know a few who have a deep desire to know more of God and HIS Word.

            So what do we do when we encounter errors? C.S Lewis once said, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” We ought to pray that God opens a door or even a window of opportunity where we can engage the error so to present the truth with a view to liberate the many who may have believed in the error.

            So those who are empowered to counter the errors should not remain silent, instead voice out the truth so that the truth will set them free. Having said this, the truth does not set everyone free, for many will reject the truth. But rejection of truth need not dampen the voice of truth. Truth should be proclaimed always, especially by those empowered to negate errors.  

            So let’s understand the Bible (2 Timothy 3: 16-17) through the anointing of the Holy Spirit and continue to destroy “ …speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God…” (2 Corinthians 10: 5a, NASB), and may we do so in the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.



Endnotes:

1 http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/26/americas-biggest-megachurches-business-megachurches.html


2 St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (A Concise Translation), p61.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Love Jihad And The Perils Of Interfaith Marriage


           ‘Love Jihad’ is one of the contemporary trending topics in certain sections of Indian media. Love jihad is an interfaith marriage arguably with a deeper intent and consequent ramifications.

            Wikipedia defines Love Jihad as, “…also called Romeo Jihad, is an alleged activity under which young Muslim boys and men reportedly target young girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love. The term has been used to describe the activity in India, while similar activities have been reported in places like the United Kingdom.”1

            Love jihad in its context of use by the India media seems to incriminate Muslim boys. But aren’t there are two players in this game – a Muslim boy and a non-Muslim girl? If it takes two to tango, then incriminating the Muslim boy, and absolving the non-Muslim girl seems unjustified and irresponsible.

            The non-Muslim girl is an active party to this wedlock, so she should be held equally responsible. If force remains unemployed in this so-called coercing relationship, the non-Muslim girl becomes a willful participant to this interfaith marriage. If she is a willful participant, then she is equally responsible, if not more, for the act of marriage. 

            It’s plausible that a girl be attracted to a charitable, loving, kind, handsome, well educated or an affluent boy and be married to him. The boy could be attracted to a girl for the same reasons. So attraction is aided by a particular trait or a combination of traits inherent in the individuals.

            As much as religion is an identity, it’s also a personal trait, for religion is a serious lifestyle of an individual. But it is implausible that a girl marry a boy merely for the sake of his religion and not for any of his other personal traits.

            Religion could be a secondary or tertiary appealing trait that attracts a girl to a boy or vice versa, certainly not the primary. The primary trait that attracts a girl to a boy, I maintain, cannot be religion, but one or more traits such as good looks, affluence, benevolence, education, vocation etc.

            Elaborating briefly, in quite a few occasions, a boy and girl would silently observe each other or at least one would silently observe the other before making the first move to initiate a verbal conversation. I contend that, during this phase of silent observation, the girl gets attracted to the boy, not for the sake of his religiosity, but for the sake of his personal charms.

            In the first few silent interactions (or observations) between a boy and a girl, the individual’s personal charms achieves the task of attracting the opposite sex.  This is the preliminary attraction. Since words are not spoken during this phase, the religious identity need not be established for the attraction to mature.

            If we concede that the boy may have malicious intent in coercing the girl towards marriage for religious purposes, then we contend that the girl succumbs to the boy’s play not for the sake of his religion, but for one or the other personal trait that she finds attractive in him.

            If the girl discards her faith to marry the boy and his faith, then this is purely the decision of the girl, barring any act of explicit coercion (e.g. threat). After all, in the absence of any direct and explicit coercion for the sake of religion, the girl merely bites the attractive ‘carrot’ the boy dangles. While the boy merely dangles the carrot, it is the girl who bites the carrot. Hence the girl, through her act of accepting the boy and his faith, becomes an active and a responsible partner in the act of marriage. 

            If love jihad were to be factual, the non-Muslim girl becomes an active and an equal partner if the relationship were to culminate in a marriage. Therefore, it is unfair to entirely blame the Muslim boy and absolve the non-Muslim girl of any responsibility, or shall we say irresponsibility.

            Steering away from love jihad, let’s for a moment discuss the deep concerns that could plague an interfaith marriage. Yes, I presuppose that an interfaith marriage is a recipe for disaster.

            However, we should concede that if the husband and wife in the interfaith marriage are not passionate (the word ‘passionate’ is employed in a very deep sense here) about their respective religion, then the interfaith marriage would remain healthy from a worldly perspective. Such a marriage is a purely a marriage of convenience.

            On the other hand, if one partner of the marriage covenant is passionate about his/her religion, then he/she will encounter stumbling blocks that could potentially ruin their marriage.

            First, religious tolerance within the marriage is a fallacy, for it states that ‘you-practice-your-religion-and-I-will-practice-mine.’ The essence of religious tolerance is ‘you-do-what-you-like-and-I-will-do-what-I-like.’

            Imagine a wife as a stickler for ethics and the husband expressing his desire to rob a bank. Wouldn’t the wife, if she is a true stickler for ethics, prevent her husband from robbing the bank? But if the wife tolerates or does not oppose or prevent her husband’s desire to rob the bank, would we not say that the wife’s passion for ethics is a convenient lie? 

            Second, to affirm religious passion and at the same time training their children in both religions is fallacious as well. To allow their children to dabble with both religions in order to choose one is akin to endorsing the child to indulge in both religions.

            Endorsing the child to practice both religions, as if both were fundamentally same, either reveals the poverty of religious knowledge in the parent or is a serious blot on the factor of religious passion. No sane parent would endorse their child to both study and simultaneously indulge in lazing or gaming or being a cybernaut. These are highly destructive and distractive activities preventing the child from studying.  

            Therefore, not being passionate about their religion is to remain religiously unobtrusive (pun intended) in the marriage partnership. To be passionate about their religion and at the same time being religiously unobtrusive is to betray the true meaning behind the religious passion.

            So far, I have presented two reasons from the perspective of ‘religious tolerance’ and ‘parenting’ to assert that an interfaith marriage is a recipe for disaster for those who are passionate about their religion.  

            The third reason is based on the ‘exclusivity of religions.’ As the term suggests, all religions are highly exclusive and contradictory to each other.

            Allow me to explain through examples. What would be the state of a marriage between a conservative girl (being holy and prude) and a hedonistic (pleasure seeking) boy? It does not take an astrophysicist to answer that this marriage would be disastrous, unless one party gives in to the other’s ideologies, although they are mutually exclusive, totally unacceptable and thoroughly unfathomable.

            Holiness and hedonism cannot coexist. A conservative girl is by definition not pleasure seeking and a hedonist is never holy. Such opposites could never coexist. Similarly every religion opposes the other in every essential doctrine, so two different religions cannot coexist in a marriage covenant.

            An interfaith marriage would suffer irrevocably even in the most common aspect of dispensing with the household’s finances. Just as how a passionate supporter of a particular political party would never financially support the opposing political party, a passionate religionist would rather give his money to a project of his own religion than to an endeavor of another religion. (This does not imply that a Muslim / Hindu / Christian would not be charitable to a desperately needy person from another religion.)

            Therefore when all religions are mutually exclusive, partnership between two individuals passionate about their respective religions, would not be successful, unless one subscribes to the other or dilutes his/her own stand.  

            Does the Bible endorse interfaith marriages?

            The Bible does not teach anywhere that a Christian can marry a non-Christian and live happily to glorify God.

            The responsibility of every Christian is to glorify the only true and the living God of the Bible (1 Chronicles 16:25-29; 1 Corinthians 10: 31, Colossians 3: 17 et al.). Therefore, living with a spouse who practices another religion is synonymous to agreeing with the truthfulness of that religion or denying the truthfulness of Christianity, which consequently does not glorify the God of the Bible.

            The bible does not encourage or endorse a Christian towards interfaith marriage (Cf. 2 Corinthians 6: 14-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 33). The 1 Corinthians 7: 12-14 passage is at times referred to endorse an interfaith marriage. But this passage refers to a non-Christian who converts to Christianity while being married to an unbelieving spouse. This passage does not refer to a Christian marrying an unbeliever. 1 Peter 3:1 is another similar passage that suggests a marriage between a Christian wife and a non-Christian husband, where the conversion of the wife into Christianity happened during the marriage.

            But don’t these passages suggest a happy marriage between a Christian married to an unbeliever?

            While these passages do not refer to a happy married life, they merely suggest that the commitment to the institution of marriage be honored. However, if the unbeliever desires to exit from the marriage covenant, the Bible teaches that the Christian spouse should not prevent the unbeliever’s exit (1 Corinthians 7: 15). 

            Therefore, my conclusion is two-fold:

            (1) I personally do not subscribe to jihad of any form or size. However, within the context of love jihad, the non-Muslim girl exercises her freewill to marry and convert to Islam. Hence, the non-Muslim girl is equally responsible, and it is unjust to ascribe blame purely on the Muslim boy.

            (2) Interfaith marriage is a recipe for disaster provided one or both spouses are passionate about their religion.

            May God bless us all. Amen.  


           

Endnotes:


1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Jihad

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People?


Introduction

            Some leading thoughts from the more commonly asked question “why do bad things happen to good people?” would serve as an introduction.

            The question “why do bad things happen to good people?” is often asked with a motive to label God as malevolent or powerless. This question presupposes that good people deserve good things, not bad things, because they haven’t done anything wrong, at least comparatively.

            However, when bad things happen to good people, the governance of our world seems bizarre. Consequently, this situation seemingly lends credence to God being either evil or powerless.

            This question apparently defends the cause of ‘good people,’ hence seems noble, in its essence. Moreover, since bad things do happen to good people, this question gains legitimacy whether its intent is to understand or undermine God.

            This question, in many instances asked by a skeptic, naturalist or a postmodern, is intended to undermine or denigrate God through the presupposition and the subsequent challenge of God’s goodness and power. But would they, with similar seriousness and intensity, ask, “why do good things happen to bad people?”

Thoughts On “Why Good Things Happen To Bad People?”

            Reasonable individuals ought to consider both sides of the coin. If we question the reality of bad things happening to good people, then the reality of good things happening to bad people need also be questioned.

            If God is considered the author of bad things happening to good people, then God should be the author of good things happening to bad people. So it is obligatory to keep God in the equation when we question good things happening to bad people.

            In its essence, the question “why do good things happen to bad people” investigates God’s love, grace and justice. In other words, only a loving and gracious God can possibly offer good things to bad people, especially when justice demands that bad people deserve bad things.

            Because the questioner exports an ardent anticipation of the justified consequence of punishment to bad people, he/she disputes the reality of good things happening to bad people as inherently unjustified. Therefore, this question, in its essence, gains ignobility.  

            Outside the theoretical deliberations of the academic domain, this question is often raised by the righteous who are suffering. Because it is unfair that the righteous suffer and the evil prosper.

            The Bible deals with prosperity of the wicked in Jeremiah 12:1-5, Psalm 37, 73, and Habakkuk. Before we move further, let us affirm the following:

            (1) All good people do not suffer. There are many good people in the world who do not undergo terrible suffering. For instance, although most of Christ’s disciples suffered gory deaths, tradition affirms that apostle John died rather peacefully. (While traditions affirm that apostle John was boiled in boiling oil, some traditions maintain that he did not suffer while being boiled. Consequently, all who witnessed this miracle were presumably converted to Christianity.)

            (2) All bad people do not prosper. There are many bad people languishing in the prisons or dead and gone.

            (3) If all good people suffer and all bad people prosper, then God’s purpose for life could be in serious jeopardy.  

            (4) So only some good people suffer and some bad people prosper.

            (5) Because not all good people suffer and not all bad people prosper, it’s reasonable to infer that God is not evil per se (intrinsically).

            (6) Because not all good people suffer and not all bad people prosper, it’s reasonable to infer that God should have a definite purpose in allowing suffering and prosperity upon certain individuals.

            (7) Moreover, because God is sovereign and because the suffering of the good and prosperity of the bad is not universal, we could legitimately infer that God chooses some good people to suffer and some bad people to proper.

            Therefore, the question “why do good things happen to bad people” should question both the purpose (why does God allow prosperity) and the choice (why God chooses ‘A’ over ‘B’) behind this existential reality.

Choice & Purpose In The Prosperity Of The Wicked

            Broadly, and not considering the moral status of people as to whether they are good or bad, we ask why God chooses some to suffer and others to prosper? Similarly, we could ask why God chose Matthew as a disciple and not another tax collector.  

            To the best of my knowledge, the Bible does not explicitly offer an answer as to why God chose Matthew and not another tax collector or why God chose Paul and not another student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Because the Bible does not reveal the reasons behind God’s choice always, we rest the case of God’s choice on the impeccable justice, goodness and love of a sovereign God (Cf. Romans 9: 9-18).

            To rest the choice of people enjoying or suffering under various situations of good and gory on the almighty God’s sovereignty is much better than to dump this very painful existential question to randomness or its queer ramifications.

            Passages such as 1 Samuel 2: 6-7 explicitly teach that God authors poverty and prosperity. This binds precisely with God’s sovereignty, for only a sovereign or a maximally great being is supposed to and expected to author every event of life. Therefore, God’s overwhelming presence in poverty and prosperity is never in question.

            Is the sovereign God expected to inform people of every choice HE makes? In other words, should God be accountable to people? A maximally great being need not be accountable to HIS creation. Contrarily, it’s the creation that’s accountable to its creator.

            In an academic setting, the professor offers relevant knowledge to the students. In a two-year academic course, the professor, whose knowledge exceeds that of the student, offers the student relevant knowledge during the first year of the student’s academic pursuit. Then the professor offers greater knowledge to the student in the second year.

            In any case, the professor is not obligated to offer a greater knowledge than what’s expected of him and what’s expected of the student. This is analogous to God’s relationship with people.

            God is neither necessitated nor obligated to reveal or enlighten his choice(s), unless HE so determines a need to reveal in accordance with HIS omniscience. Therefore, we don’t necessarily need to know why God chooses certain people to enjoy and suffer the good and the gory, respectively.

            What’s God’s purpose in allowing good things upon bad people?

            But why shouldn’t God allow good things upon bad people? A sovereign God can do what HE desires (Romans 9: 15). The Bible teaches that the sovereign God is good, gracious, compassionate, merciful and loving. Therefore, when good things happen to bad people, it purely displays God’s grace upon the undeserving.

            Let’s think from another vantage point. If God is merely obligated to serve justice by means of meting out good to those who are good, and bad to those who are bad, then it seems to me that a well programmed robot can achieve this functionality to perfection. But a maximally great being exists to not perform the meager functions of a robot.

            In certain instances and for specific reasons, good things could be delayed to those who are good and bad things could be delayed to those who are bad. What may these specific reasons be? Let’s just, for the sake of convenience, say that the reasons are for ‘greater good’ (the greatest good being salvation).

            Consider this example from the Bible. The one who owed the king ten thousand talents was forgiven of his entire debt (Matthew 18: 23-35). This was a good thing to happen to this wicked man. The greater good, in this instance, was to teach this wicked man the art of grace and forgiveness. But this wicked man failed to learn from the goodness rendered to him, and finally received the judgment that he deserved.

            So one reason why good things happen to bad people may well be that God, by virtue of HIS graciousness, is delaying HIS judgment upon them so that they come to know, believe and love HIM.

Conclusion: Our Response

            When we ask “why do bad things happen to good people,” the questioner seems noble and God seems ignoble. Contrarily, when we ask “why do good things happen to bad people,” the role reverses, for in this instance, the questioner seems ignoble (arguing for the punishment of the wicked) and God seems noble (being favorable to the wicked).

            Because God does not change, our question neither confers nobility or ignobility upon God. The immutable reality is that God is always good.

            Since God will always be good, gracious and loving, it’s only appropriate that bad people get good things from HIM. So this question, instead of exposing an apparent aberration in God’s governance, cements HIS unconditional love for people.

            I believe in the Bible, so I see myself as a sinner or a bad person, hence this question applies to me as well. I am grateful that though I am a sinner, God’s blessings are abundant in my life. This rich experience of God’s grace motivates me to be gracious with people who hate me.  


            We also pray that those unworthy of God’s blessings would realize their unworthiness and draw closer to the life giving presence of the living God. Thus they will partake in the life giving sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ through belief in Christ, which is the ultimate good for all people. Amen. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Should Persecuted Christians Fight Back?


            The social media was rampant with gory details of persecutions of Christians in Iraq by the ISIS and the savagery of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Thus it’s merely reasonable to think about the rightful response to these persecutions by the persecuted.

            Notwithstanding a reasonable thought, an article by Michael L. Brown, an eminent Messianic Jewish scholar, recently asked the same question – should persecuted Christians fight back? He provides the pros and cons for retaliating.

            Here is a summary from his article (please refer his article for his exposition).1 Dr. Brown’s reasons against retaliation are:

            “1) Jesus went to the cross willingly and instructed His followers not to fight for Him (John 18:36). We are to follow in His footsteps (Matthew 16:21-26).

            2) None of the apostles resisted persecution.

            3) Jesus taught against fighting back (Matthew 26:51-54).

            4) The entire testimony of the New Testament is against us violently fighting against our persecutors. We are called to pray for them (Matthew 5:43-48), we are the lambs going to the slaughter (Romans 8:35-39; 1 Peter 2:21-23), we are promised persecution (2 Timothy 2:3; John 15:18-20), and only those who suffer with Jesus will reign with Him (Romans 8:16-18), and great is their reward in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12).

            5) Jesus told His disciples that if they were persecuted in one city, they should flee to another (Matthew 10:22-25). He could have given military alternatives as well, but He did not.”

            Dr. Brown apparently suggests reasons for Christians to retaliate…

            “1) From a humanitarian perspective, a how would a father of three young daughters offer them to the persecutors for rape, torture and sex slavery, would he not fight for their lives?

            2) What do we do when we can’t flee?

            3) Today persecution is a geo-political issue. Should not Christians take up arms to defend themselves just as anyone else in their shoes would fight against an invading army?

            4) It is the proper role of government to use the sword to fight against evil and uphold good (see Romans 13:1-4). Some terrorist groups, like Boko Haram, are in complete violation of their country’s laws, so for Christians to fight against them is no different than a Christian homeowner using physical force to stop a dangerous intruder.

            5) The Scriptures call us to rescue those who are perishing (Proverbs 24:11-12). So why not fight those who are beheading Christian children and slaughter others in the most gruesome ways?

            6) Luke 22:35-38 suggests that swords could be used for self-defense…”

            The reasons to fight and not to fight sounds compelling, but is it more compelling to fight back or not to? Here is my personal take on this situation.

            If the persecutors force themselves to violate the sanctity of my children or any other member of my family, then I would do all that it takes to defend my family. I would rather give up my life in defending my family than not. Only the creator and the Father God has the right to take life off this earth (Cf. 1 Samuel 2: 6-7; Job 1: 21). Loving our neighbor entails protection.

            If the persecutors are in the business of slaughtering Christians for their faith in Christ, then I would most willingly offer my life for the sake of Christ. In other words, I would not recant my faith in Christ to live a few more miserable years. A profitable reminder from history is the martyrdom of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey). 2

            From a nation’s standpoint, the ruling authority should do all that it takes to protect the basic human rights of all its citizens. The world should intervene during persecutions to protect those being persecuted.

            But what if persecutions are engineered by the ruling authorities? A typical case in point would be the persecutions organized by Hitler or Mao Zedong.

            If Christians are being persecuted by the governing authorities, then the Bible does not offer any tangible reason to fight back the governing authorities by means of violence. Fleeing is an option, but if fleeing is not possible, then persecution should be endured. Christians cannot take up arms to fight or rebel against the governing authorities.

            There could be persecutions at the workplace. Especially if we are ardent in our faith in Christ, then the ardent believer(s) of other worldviews may innovate methods to jeopardize our presence at the workplace. In such situations, our primary response should be to allow our work ethics and proficiency to strengthen our presence at our workplace.      

            There is never a good reason to fight our persecutors at our workplace. Therefore, when the going gets tough, then we, as tough Christians, should increase our work efficiency at our workplace to let our work defend our presence.

            If persecutions at work go out of hand, and there are good instances where it can get harsh on us, then it may even be a viable option to consider moving out. But in any case, we should love our persecutors. We should never hate or retaliate against them. We can never repay evil for evil (Romans 12: 17).

            In some instances, our own family members would persecute us (Matthew 10: 21, 35-36; Luke 21: 16). They, like the other persecutors, may say all kinds of evil things against us (Matthew 5: 11) or use our own words against us (Matthew 22: 15; Luke 11: 53-54) or raise false accusations (Matthew 26: 59-61; 2 Timothy 2: 8-9) or crucify our character (Luke 7: 34; John 7: 12, 9: 24) or simply term us as the devil (Matthew 9: 34).

            While we suffer these persecutions, we ought to seriously consider if we are on the side of the truth or not. If we are not for Christ, then we are against HIM (Matthew 12: 30; Luke 11: 23).

            The objective for every Christian is to be in Christ and in HIS truth always. If we are in Christ, then our persecutions would be for HIS sake. The greater reward, according to the Bible, is only to those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ (Matthew 5: 10; 2 Timothy 3: 12).

            HoweverTherefore, if we are persecuted by our own, then we should endure it and not retaliate against them. 

            Retaliation is never an option for a Christian or a group of Christians. Retaliation against the governing authorities, through formation of rebel outfits, is out of question for Christians.  

            In HIS own mysterious yet marvelous ways, God will help those being persecuted (Psalm 46: 1). These verses summarize the state of the believers being persecuted, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4: 8-11, NASB, Emphasis Mine).

            To God be the glory (Jude 1: 25). Amen.



Postscript:
The discussion whether to retaliate or not does not imply that a nation not defend itself when it’s under attack (persecution). When a nation is under an unjust aggression, it does possess all reasonable rights to defend itself. Failure to defend, I believe, is a gross injustice to its citizens.

Endnotes:

1 Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/08/should-persecuted-christians-defend-themselves/#4CKOjUCC26DAb3hg.99

 2 “One of the most stirring martyrdoms recorded in church history is Polycarp's. When the venerable bishop of Smyrna (modern-day Izmir, in Turkey) heard the Romans were planning to arrest him, he heeded his friends' advice and withdrew to a small estate outside of town. But while in prayer there, he had a vision. "I must be burned alive," he told his friends. When the soldiers arrived, his friends once more urged him to run, but Polycarp answered, "God's will be done."

After being escorted to the proconsul, Polycarp carried on a witty dialogue with his questioner, who flew into a rage and threatened Polycarp with death by fire. "The fire you threaten burns but an hour and is quenched after a little," Polycarp answered; "for you do not know the fire of coming judgment, and everlasting punishment, that is laid up for the impious. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will."


At the execution scene the soldiers began to secure him to the stake, but Polycarp stopped them: "Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails." He prayed and the fire was lit. The second-century chronicler of this martyrdom said it was "not as burning flesh but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace." The martyrdom, he added, was remembered by "everyone"—"he is even spoken of by the heathen in every place."” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1997/may19/7t6016.html) 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Who Is A Spiritual Christian?


            First, the term “spiritual christian,” as I employ, does not refer to a sect of Russian orthodoxy.

            Second, broadly there are two types of Christians –genuine and false. Genuine Christians are described as, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10: 9-10, NASB). A false Christian neither confesses nor believes in the historic Christ, and denies HIM. Therefore, a false Christian will not be saved.

            Third, within the spectrum of genuine Christianity, there could be spiritual and unspiritual (carnal) Christians. This is a complex subject, so I wish not to stand in judgment over anyone.

            Here’s an illustration of the complexity I am referring to. Consider a Christian soldier who, due to his work exigencies, cannot spend time positively communing with God. Would we term this Christian soldier spiritual or unspiritual? I’d rather not stand in judgment over this person or anyone in similar situations.

            However, let’s come to the topic on hand.

            The local church is an outstanding setting to observe the spiritual branding of Christians. For example, the pastor or a member of the Church board / committee or a preacher will be considered to be more spiritual because of his/her spiritual profile. Elsewhere, a Christian who speaks in tongues or prophesies would be considered more spiritual than those who lack these gifts. Is this how Christians should be branded as spiritual or not?

            Matthew 7: 22-23 categorically rules out a universal branding based on spiritual gifts. Therefore, possessing spiritual gifts need not be the criteria for spirituality.

            Spirituality is not about positions as well. Matthew 23 is a case in point. Christ condemned those who held high positions for their hypocrisy. 

            What about the learned and the scholarly? Is intellectuality a case for spirituality? The scribes and pharisees were learned; Matthew 23 negates spirituality based on intellectuality. Moreover, Satan knows the Scriptures well enough, for he quoted Scriptures to the Lord. So knowing the Scriptures need not be the criteria for spirituality.

            What about those who fervently pray in the public? Are they to be considered more spiritual than the others? Verses such as Matthew 6:5, 23: 14** and Luke 18: 11 negate a universal application of prayer as criteria for spirituality.

            What about those regularly attending their local church? If spirituality is determined by a diligent regularity to the worship in the local church, then this statement gains validity, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” A Christian gains nothing out of his church attendance, if his body is inside and his mind outside the church.

            Sacrificial giving does not attest to spirituality. Sacrificial giving amounts to nothing if the intention behind the giving violates God’s commands (Cf. Malachi 1: 6-14; Luke 18: 9-14, 18-27).  

            To sum up, a Christian need not necessarily be spiritual due to:

            (1) His high position in the local church or in God’s Kingdom (e.g. head of a Christian organization).

            (2) Spiritual gifts (speaking in tongues, prophesying etc).

            (3) Knowledge of Scriptures and intellectuality.

            (4) Articulate prayers.

            (5) Regular attendances to the local church.

            (6) Sacrificial giving.

            Who then is a spiritual Christian?

            First, a spiritual Christian lives in and for the truth (Joshua 24: 14; 2 Kings 20: 3; Psalm 15: 2 et al.). His private and public life should consistently testify to his truthful lifestyle, primarily to God and consequentially to man.  This is not to say that he would be sinless, for none are sinless.

            He does not willingly venture into sinful deeds for hedonistic or narcissistic intent, but he will quickly repent and relent of his sinfulness. God would be his primary focus and he would sincerely attempt to view and interpret the world and his life from Christ’s perspective a.k.a. “what would Christ want me to do…[in every situation].” He would not intentionally violate God’s commands.

            Living in truth mandates the exposure of lies that strives to destroy a Christian’s faith in Christ. Because Satan masquerades as an angel of light, the spiritual Christian will always fight the good fight against all dark and evil forces and their entailments with the armor of God (2 Corinthians 10: 5, 11: 14; Ephesians 6: 10-20).

            Second, humility would be the spiritual Christian’s hallmark with Christ’s humility as his benchmark. He would intentionally strive to be lesser while Christ becomes greater in and through his life. He would do nothing to glorify himself. Even if he unintentionally does, he would consciously strive to purge those unintentional self-glorification deeds from his life.

            Third, a spiritual Christian would love and yearn for more of God and for the continuous anointing of the precious Holy Spirit. His first love is God. His life would be lovingly dedicated for God’s glory.

            A spiritual Christian would ‘love’ [God and] man in the words of 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a (PHILLIPS):  

            “This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

            Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.

            Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”

            Very significantly, a spiritual Christian would travel the extra mile to love that one needy person over and above the many. Contemporary Christianity is adept at ignoring the one person over the many. This is much unlike Christ who left the ninety-nine out in the open to care for the one lost sheep (Matthew 18: 12-14; Luke 15: 3-7)

            In other words, quite a number of contemporary Christian leaders love to serve the needs of the many and not the one. That one needy person is deemed insignificant. This is the bane of contemporary Christianity, which is scrupulously unchristlike and consequently unspiritual.

            Fourth and finally, the spiritual Christian would demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a growing measure from his life. So he/she would:

            …love the unlovable (Matthew 5: 39-42; 1 John 3: 18)

            …be joyous in pain (Job 6: 10)

            …as much as possible be at peace with everyone (Romans 12: 18; Hebrews 12: 14)

            …be patient with God and man in pain and suffering (2 Corinthians 1: 6)

            …be kind (Romans 11: 22)

            …be good (3 John 11)

            …be faithful when faith in Christ is threatened (Romans 1: 17; 1 Corinthians 4: 2; Cf. Isaiah 5: 20)

            …be gentle (Matthew 5: 5; Philippians 4: 5)

            …be self controlled amidst temptations (Titus 2: 11-12; 2 Peter 1: 5-7)

            These attributes or the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in a Christian’s life when he/she remains in the Lord (John 15: 5). Apart from Christ we cannot bear fruit.

            Therefore, truth, humility, love and the fruit of the Spirit are mandatory to the spirituality of a Christian. He achieves this by continuously yielding himself to the control of the Holy Spirit. Everything else (position, spiritual gifts, knowledge of Scriptures, articulate prayers, regular church attendance, and sacrificial giving) is a mere postscript to true spirituality.

            This, I believe, is God’s will for those in Christ Jesus – being truthful, humble, loving, and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit at all times by virtue of a loving and a surrendered life in Christ. Amen.

Endnotes:


** - Matthew 23: 14 would not be found in certain translations because the verse was not found in some early manuscripts.