Monday, February 8, 2016

Why The Hell


            It’s no surprise that many people hate hell. Nobody loves punishment!   

            Hell is synonymous with evil, because hell is the abode of those who reject the one true and living God. Those who reject God are, by nature and in essence, evil. They are evil since they have not repented of their sins, so their sins are unforgiven.

            Heaven and hell are consequences for man’s life on earth.  If there’s no hell, people can do what they want and how they want. Those who do not want consequences for their actions hate hell.

            It doesn’t matter whether we like or hate hell. If it is there, it is there.

            Why the hell? Instead of asking “why should there be a hell?” we could ask “what would happen if there is no hell?”

            So if there is no hell, there would be…

No Punishment & No Justice

            Hell is the perfect punishment for evil. Since evil exists, punishment should prevail. If there is no hell, there will be no perfect punishment for evil.

            Human justice system is not omniscient. So some offenders will always escape the clutches of the human justice system. Moreover, corruption is rampant everywhere, and that includes the human justice system. Corruption entails that innocent could be punished and the guilty go scot-free.

            Whatever the case may be, lack of punishment is effectively the lack of justice. How can there be justice when evil people go unpunished and innocent people suffer?

            Therefore, if there is no hell, evil would remain unpunished. Hence there would be no justice.

Sovereignty of Evil

            Evil people prosper in this time and age (cf. Psalm 73: 3). If evil people prosper, the weak and innocent would suffer deeply.

            The movie “Purge” depicts a synopsis of a world where evil rules the good for a brief period of time. One day in a year is earmarked to “purge.” There would be no consequence for crimes (evil) that day. People could go berserk and unleash evil for 12 hours on that day where all crime is legal. Purge was a vent to unleash one’s concealed evil into the world and a means to an artificial population control.

            During “purge,” evil is sovereign. This would be the perpetual state of the world if there is no hell.

            When evil rules, evil would be the superior moral. If there is no consequence for evil deeds i.e. if there is no hell, good cannot be the superior moral (good need not be stronger than evil). If evil rules over good, evil would be the sole standard for life. Hence evil will pulverize the good.    

Amoral World

            Evil rules when there is no punishment. If evil is sovereign, this world would be amoral (evil would be the only superlative moral). Wouldn’t morality cease when the right-wrong moral distinction is erased?   

            For the sake of this discussion let us categorize evils as lesser and greater. The lesser evils could be gossips, jealousy, bad temper leading to minor offenses, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, and envy.

            The greater evils could be the horrendous evils. Christian philosopher and priest, Marilyn McCord Adams lists horrendous evils, “…the rape of a woman and axing off of her arms, psychophysical torture…betrayal of one’s deepest loyalties, cannibalizing one’s own offspring, child abuse…child pornography, parental incest, slow death by starvation, participation in the Nazi death camps, the explosion of nuclear bombs over populated areas, having to choose which of one’s children shall live and which will be executed by terrorists…I regard these as paradigmatic, because I believe most people would find in the doing or suffering of them prima-facie reason to doubt the positive meaning of their lives. …” 1

            Predicated on the fact that life is more valuable than materials, it might be of less significance to the victim and the society if a thief who robbed a pen was not convicted of his crime. But it is of a great significance if a murderer of a child remains unpunished for his crime. 

            The thief who habitually steals pens could progressively deteriorate into robbing millions. During this progressive deterioration, the thief could also become a killer. Thus the possibilities for the lesser evil to transform into greater evil are endless.

            What prevents a man from committing petty crimes when evil rules? Man, on an average, may not commit horrendous evils always. But man is totally susceptible to committing the lesser evils such as, sexual immorality, gossips, quarrelling, jealousy, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, and envy, which in turn could lead to horrendous evils.

            The lesser evils would also increase in intensity and magnitude. When lesser evils increase, the society would be exceedingly volatile. Living under these conditions would be unbearable. In other words, we would be living in an amoral world under constant suffering.

            If evil rules, violence would be rampant and peace would cease, for the world we live in would be amoral.

God’s Non-Existence

            A world without hell could only be postulated under the condition that God does not exist i.e. an atheistic paradigm. It is very reasonable for evil to prosper and justice and peace to be non-existent in the atheistic worldview.

            The atheistic paradigm would not (or cannot) offer any reasonable or logical answers to the problem of evil. Such is the moral bankruptcy of atheism.

            Ask an atheist to explain the presence of evil. More often than not, they would quote Richard Dawkins in his work “River Out of Eden” and say “there is no such thing as evil.”

            Mind you, it is Dawkins and his followers who brand the God of the Bible as evil. On one hand they say that there is no evil, but on the other hand they contradict their statement that there is no evil to assert that the God of the Bible is evil.

            God forbid, if a calamity befalls these atheists, who claim that there is no evil, would they enjoy their calamity or suffer through it in pain and tears? Evidently, no sane human would enjoy evil but only suffer through it in pain and tears, for pain is inherent in evil.

            So an atheist who denies God’s existence will deny evil and will deny hell. He has no other option. So if there is no hell, there is no god.

Conclusion

            If there is no hell, then:

            1. Evil would be unpunished.

            2. Evil would be sovereign (rule over good).

            3. World would be amoral.

            4. There should be no God (for hell is only plausible if God exists).

            But this is the existential reality. Sovereignty is singular. There cannot be two sovereign beings i.e. two maximally great beings. When a being is sovereign, all other beings are subjugated.

            We are not living in a world where evil is sovereign. We are living in a world where God is sovereign. Although Satan is the temporary ruler of this world, the sovereign God is in total control.

            We know that God is in total control since our world is not amoral. There are punishments for evils. Evil does not rule over good.  

            Good still rules over evil. This is precisely why a good number of people enjoy a rather peaceful existence. The presence of God entails peace.

            God has temporarily allowed evil to reign. But HE has assured us that not a hair from our head will perish.

            God is good. God does not tolerate evil.

            If we repent of our sins, believe and remain in the Lord and Savior Christ, we will be saved. Those who do not believe in Christ remain evil, since their sins remain unforgiven because of their conscious rejection of Christ.

            Such an evil person sins against an infinite God. Sins against an infinite God mandate an infinite punishment in the form of hell. Hell then is the eternal abode of all those who reject Christ.

            In case you have not received Christ yet, please pray and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your God and savior. I pray that you repent of your sins and ask Christ to forgive you. The merciful and loving Lord will forgive you and you will be with God forever and ever. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Endnotes:


1Marilyn McCord Adams, “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God,” The Problem of Evil (ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 211-12.

Monday, February 1, 2016

I Don’t Speak In Tongues, Am I A Christian?


            There are essential and fringe doctrines in Christianity. According to Dr. Norman Geisler, essential doctrines should be connected to our salvation and its connection to our salvation must be crucial, for without that connection, our salvation should be impossible.1 Fringe doctrines are not connected to our salvation.

            We can agree to disagree on the fringe doctrines. But we cannot compromise on the essential doctrines.

            This is not as simple as it appears to be. The complication arises if and when fringe doctrines are interpreted as essential.

            Speaking in tongues (glossolalia) is considered as a fringe doctrine by some Christian denominations. These denominations consider the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues as a gift from God and not as a sign of God’s approval of the believer’s authenticity.

            Conversely, a few denominations consider speaking in tongues as an essential demonstration of salvation i.e. if a believer is saved, then he/she should speak in tongues, “WE BELIEVE... The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is ‘Speaking in Tongues,’ as experienced on the Day of Pentecost and referenced throughout Acts and the Epistles.”2

            This then is the problem to contend with. If a genuine Christian is defined as the one who speaks in tongues, then would those who do not speak in tongues be considered as not genuine? If they are not genuine, would they not gain salvation?

            Those who consider speaking in tongues as a mandatory manifestation of the Holy Spirit receive their affirmation from the Bible. But if the very same Bible stipulates that all Christians need not necessarily speak in tongues, then this problem could be resolved.

            So let us consider some verses from the Bible:

            1. The Holy Spirit sovereignly determines the recipients of the spiritual gifts (e.g. gift of tongues), “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines(1 Corinthians 12: 11, NIV, Emphasis Mine). Spiritual gifts are not rewards to those who seek or qualify for them.

            2. No one gift is for everyone and no one person has every gift, “…God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts…” (1 Corinthians 12: 28-31, NIV). The implied answer to each of these questions, which includes the question on tongues, is “no.”

            3. Believers are to seek the spiritual gift of prophecy or that of interpreting the tongues than merely speaking in tongues, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy...For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say” (1 Corinthians 14: 1 & 13, NIV).

            Those that mandate speaking in tongues in public (during the worship service) encourage believers to seek that spiritual gift. There are curriculums to speak in tongues in some churches.

            Conversely, the Bible teaches that speaking in tongues but without interpreting it merely edifies the person who speaks in tongues. Instead, speaking in tongues and interpreting it is to be greatly desired in the worship service.

            4. Love is to be greatly desired than any spiritual gift, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3, NIV).

            5. Tongues without interpretation is not meant for the worship service, but meant for private prayer purposes only, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14: 27-28, NIV).

            These verses certainly demonstrate that the Scripture does not command all Christians to exclusively seek the gift of speaking in tongues. Therefore, it is a perfectly acceptable scenario for Christians to not speak in tongues. Significantly, the Bible’s emphasis is on God who bestows these spiritual gifts than those who receive the spiritual gifts.

            It would be unwise to think that only a few speak in tongues. The Bible teaches that speaking in tongues edifies the person speaking in tongues. Therefore, it is possible that the Holy Spirit could have given the gift of speaking in tongues to many.

            A mandate to speak in tongues seems to provide an instance of Christian denominations jostling for spiritual superiority over their counterparts. Alternatively, these denominations may be incorrectly interpreting the Bible. This seems to be a minor concern in Christianity, for it is better to seek the spiritual gifts, than not.

            On a side note, it is wiser to not ridicule those who speak in tongues, although some instances of speaking in tongues appear as a fake - repetitive utterances of only a few syllables fall under this category. If we ridicule, we could run the risk of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit of God.

            Whatever the case may be, I personally reckon that an initiative to desire for the spiritual gifts is better than not desiring for spiritual gifts.  But the big question is do we eagerly desire the spiritual gifts?

Endnotes:

Websites referenced were last accessed on 1st February 2016.

1http://www.equip.org/article/the-essential-doctrines-of-the-christian-faith-part-two/#christian-books-1


2 http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Statement_of_Fundamental_Truths/sft_short.cfm

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mr. Trump, Does Christianity Need You?


            In this time and age where political correctness (a.k.a compromising one’s faith) supersedes honesty, I was pleasantly shocked to hear Donald Trump, the US Presidential candidate, promise to protect Christianity if he would be elected to power. Trump, in his recent address at the Liberty University, said, “We're going to protect Christianity…If you look at what's going on throughout the world...Christianity is under siege.” Trump also assured to ease the passage of persecuted Christians into the USA and salvage “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.”

            Some fellow Christians love Trump for his exceptionally vocal support for Christianity. Christians love to be protected and cared for, especially when we are the object of hate!

            Trump is not our average role model Christian. But some Christians love Trump in spite of his many debt-defaults, multiple marriages, and ignorance of the Bible. Some even predict that American Christians could vote for Trump in droves.

            I am not an American citizen. I am not into politics. I do not desire to advise who the Americans should vote for or not.

            But I am Christian. I believe that the Bible offers precious truths about our future. So I desire to analyze world affairs through the Christian perspective.

            I have also observed politicians, both the aspiring and incumbent, using religion as a means to their victory. So I use Trump as a case in point, from the biblical standpoint, to ponder over the necessity of politicians to protect Christianity especially when Christianity is under assault.

            I am not saying that Christian politicians are unnecessary. Christians should get into politics for the sake of good governance. But allow me to explore if Christian politicians could protect Christianity or not.

            Is Donald Trump necessary for Christianity?

God’s Will

            God is sovereign. God is more powerful than all that has been, is, and ever shall be. God has promised to be with HIS people unto the very end of the age.

            But God, according to HIS will and pleasure, protects some and allows persecution upon those whom HE chooses. God could intervene in world affairs, if HE considers it necessary.

            If God so desires that Christianity needs a protector, HE could pave way for Trump’s election. Trump would get elected if HE is appointed by God as Christianity’s savior.

            Therefore, if God wills, Trump would be a temporary necessity for Christianity.

Sinfulness of Man

            During every election in every country, politicians woo the religious leaders to endorse them. This is the political tradition. During this process, politicians with selfish ambitions portray themselves as a necessity for Christianity or any other religion. 

            I am not surprised at Trump’s assurance to protect Christianity. Trump offered his assurance to protect Christianity while speaking at Liberty – a Christian university.

            If Trump lived up to the political tradition and assured Christianity of protection, then he is merely cozying up to the Christian vote bank – 70% of American population. If this be the case, then Trump is merely exposing the innate sinfulness of mankind.

            A sinful man would do anything and everything, irrespective of whether it pleases God or not, to gain the object of his desire. Obviously, Trump desires to become the president of the most powerful country in the world. So, if he is debauched, he would do all it takes, even lie that he would protect Christians, to be the President of America.

            No one is perfect, says the Bible. All are sinners. Trump is as much a sinner as Clinton, Cruz or Carson.

            Unless the politician humbles himself in God’s presence, and consistently looks to God for direction, the politician is most likely to err and dispatch Christianity into more perilous times than the past. Thus, from the perspective of sin, no one is necessary to protect Christianity.

Evil of Revenge

            If Trump gets elected and if he lives up to his promise and protects Christianity, it is a given that Trump could only protect Christianity in America.

            Consider the other side of this coin as well. If Trump successfully protects Christians and Christianity in America, would Christians in the other parts of the world be safer than before?

            What would be the price that Christianity has to pay for its protection?

            Satan has temporary control over the world, so evil reigns. As long as Satan exists, evil would persevere. Evil ensures revenge.

            Could there be a vengeful backlash against Christians in the other parts of the world if America is to [brutally] contain or expel the non-Christian trouble makers from its soil? Possibly so!

            This possibly would be the price that American Christians ought to pay for their protection – the lives of their fellow Christians. Although Trump may or may not be necessary for the Christians in America, he need not be so for the Christians all over the world.

The End Times

            We live in the End Times. The Bible teaches us that peace and protection is not offered to the Christians during End Times.

            The last days present a gloomy picture for the Christians. Consider these verses, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21: 8-19, NIV).

            If it is a given that Christians would be persecuted during the End Times, a protector is not a necessity. So for all we know, Trump’s assurance of protection could be a play to entice the Christian vote bank.

Impossibility of Absolute Protection

            Satan has already succeeded in dividing Christianity. Given this backdrop, Trump cannot protect all the Christians always on all matters. If Donald Trump assures Christians of protection, then he obviously should antagonize certain groups of people within Christianity.

            Consider “gay marriages” as a case in point.

            The Christian world is divided over “gay marriages.” Some Christian denominations endorse gay marriages, whereas others oppose. If Trump opposes gay marriages, then he evidently would antagonize the denominations favoring gay marriages. These Christian denominations would not consider Trump as a protector of Christianity – their version of Christianity rather.

            If Trump cannot protect all Christians at all times, then he is not absolutely necessary to Christianity.

Governance Versus Protection

            You could argue that Trump only intended to protect Christians from persecution. But in reality, ISIS harms both Christians and Muslims!

            Every religion is being persecuted under some pretext or the other in many countries. Muslims could contend that they are being persecuted in America, especially after 9/11.

            The hallmark of good governance is to ensure protection against evil for all citizens regardless of their religion. The sovereign God is merciful to both Christians and the non-Christians. God is even merciful to those who abuse HIM.

            Therefore, good governance is to protect people against all forms of evil. Good governance is to stand by truth at all costs.

            Christian politicians are required to do God’s will in the realm of politics. I believe it is God’s will that truth should prevail and evil be contained. Let us hope and pray that those elected to positions of power would impartially govern to bring joy and peace upon mankind.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Could Agnostic Islam Stop ISIS' Terrorism?

            Another Paris style attack in Jakarta, Indonesia by the ISIS! More innocent lives harmed by such ruthless terror. While the world searches for ways and means to stop the ISIS, my friend referred an article to me – an interview of Hassan Radwan by the Clarion Project.

            Clarion Project is an organization that promotes tolerance and moderation to challenge extremism. 1 Hassan Radwan is an agnostic Muslim writer, activist and the founder of the Facebook discussion group “Agnostic Muslims and Friends.”

            Hassan Radwan suggests that agnostic Islam is the best means to stop ISIS. How could agnostic Islam stop ISIS?

            Hassan Radwan recommends a distinctive methodology to understand the Quran - to fundamentally negate Quran’s infallibility and interpret it based on human reason and conscience tethered to tolerance and moderation ingrained in the goodness of present time and culture. Read this rather lengthy quotation scrupulously so to understand Radwan, “The only way to defeat extremism is to get to the root cause. Groups like ISIS are merely a symptom. The root cause in my opinion is the belief in the infallibility of the Quran. Yes, of course I am aware there are many other factors such as the often foolish and misguided policy of some Western governments towards the Middle East as well as many other social and political factors such as the rise of the Salafi form of Islam. But they alone cannot account for the existence of the harsh puritanical and supremacist form of Islam that seeks to impose political and religious authority throughout the world…

            …But as long as we don’t tackle the belief that the Quran is the infallible words of God then no matter how many problems are solved or inequalities righted there will always be another group seeking to impose the word of God against reason and conscience.

            This is why when you defeat one group another even more desperate rises from their ashes. The idea that the Quran is fallible will of course come as a terrible shock to most Muslims brought up as we are to believe the Quran is the perfect and infallible word of God, but I firmly believe that once we Muslims get passed this shock and emotional reaction and begin to reflect more rationally we will see that in fact this is the only way to save the real soul of Islam from the extremists who are in fact the ones destroying it.

            In actual fact the Qur'an never uses words like infallible, perfect nor miraculous. The reason this belief seems to have gained ground is because of the challenge the Quran makes to "bring something like it." Though being unable to imitate something doesn't of course mean it is either perfect or infallible. The Quran does say it is from God, but then again what I'm saying doesn't contradict that. I accept the Quran was inspired by God. It's just not verbatim his actual speech.

            Revelation and inspiration is a mystery. I believe that to a lesser or greater extent we can all be inspired in different ways. How we express this inspiration is determined by our environment, personality and limitations. Whatever inspiration Prophet Muhammad received, it had to be expressed though his language, his person, his character and his culture. This must be borne in mind when reading the Quran. They are human words attempting to convey spiritual experiences beyond human language and conceptualization.

            Thus we as Muslims can draw wisdom and benefit from the Quran as long as we apply our reason and conscience. Yes, of course our reason and conscience are fallible, but so is the Quran, particularly when one appreciates that it was formed by a human being in a very different time and context as our own today” (Emphasis Mine).2

            So Radwan, either implicitly or explicitly, submits these propositions to eliminate terrorism predicated on religious extremism:

            1. Quran, if considered as infallible, will entail religious extremism a.k.a. terrorism (because Quran could be interpreted in a violent manner).

            2. ISIS has created its extremist ideology from the Quran.

            3. Quran cannot be infallible since Prophet Muhammad, a mere man, expressed it through his distinct yet culturally-entrenched self.

            4. A Muslim cannot know, for certain, if the Quran is God’s literal words or not.

            5. Hence all Muslims are to be agnostic and negate Quran’s infallibility.

            6. An agnostic Muslim should apply his own reason and conscience (firmly entrenched in brotherly love) while interpreting the Quran.

            7. If all Muslims are agnostic about the Quran, then terrorism, based out of the Quran, would be eliminated.

            This then is the utmost countermeasure against terrorism, according to Radwan.

            Radwan’s rejection of Quran’s infallibility is reasonable because Muhammad, being the only or the single source of divine revelation, could have expressed the revelation through his flaws and bias. The single source of Quranic authorship duly caused doubt in Radwan’s mind, “No matter how great the source of inspiration it is nevertheless inextricably tied to the time and place of the person who received it and subject to his flaws, limitations & context.” 3 Give credit to Radwan for he hit the proverbial nail on its head through his proposition to reject Quran’s infallibility.

            Radwan rejects Quran’s infallibility to liberate Islam from its violence and to reform it to be more tolerant and inclusive, “We must stop protecting the Quran on the basis that “God said it” because he didn't. Muhammad said it, albeit inspired by God. Only in this way can Islam truly become a universalistic, inclusive and pluralistic religion.”4

            This is a positive first-step to curb terrorism. Rejection of Quranic infallibility could mellow a tough heart.

            Terrorism cannot be eliminated totally, but can be curbed. However for terrorism to be successfully curbed, the truth of Quran’s fallibility should be communicated to the Islamic grassroots.

            While Radwan’s rejection of Quranic infallibility is reasonable, his overall strategy to eliminate terrorism based on the Quran, is existentially untenable. This is because Radwan presupposes the following:

            1. Non-existence of Satan (who, according to the Quran, urges humans to sin - Sura 114:1-6). 

            2. All humans are good.

            Both these presuppositions are invalid. First, Satan exists. Second, if Satan exists, all humans cannot be good.

            If all humans are good, their interpretation of Quran would absolutely exclude violence. But since sin resides in human heart, sin would motivate a violent interpretation of the Quran. 

            Thus we are back to square one, which is to confront terrorism.

            Terrorism, in a short term perspective, should be confronted with due diligence and aggression. Terrorists ought to be imprisoned before they wreck havoc or be eliminated once and for all.

            In a long term perspective, terrorism cannot be totally eliminated since evil will continue to exist. Evil will exist since Satan, the source of evil, will continue to exist. Satan will cease to exist when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to annihilate Satan once and for all. Until then, all we can hope for is to curb terrorism and not to absolutely contain it.

            May the good Lord Jesus Christ comfort, encourage and strengthen those adversely impacted at Jakarta and in the other parts of the world by the terrorists.

Endnotes:

1 http://www.clarionproject.org/about

2 http://m.clarionproject.org/analysis/hassan-radwan-faith-faithless-and-back-again

3 Ibid.


4 Ibid.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dangerous Comparisons Of Star Wars With Christianity


             May the force be with you? Is God with us or is the force with us? Are God and the force same?

            If you are yet to recognize that force is synonymous to Star Wars, you probably haven’t heard of Star Wars, which belongs to sci-fi fantasy movie genre!

            Star Wars merchandise overwhelm us – mugs, t-shirts, helmets, action figures, bedspreads, pillowcases, curtains and what not! People, irrespective of age, are fascinated by Star Wars. Touted by Forbes as the 20th biggest movie ever, Star Wars continues to bulldoze the imaginations of a worldwide audience.

            I may be one among the few to not be fascinated by Star Wars. But the Star Wars phenomena cannot be ignored when the imaginations of millions are absolutely spellbound by it.

            A conservative Christian response is to condemn Star Wars and advocate a ban on watching it. But in the world of internet, smart phones and peer pressure, any Christian mind could be motivated to watch Star Wars and buy into a few of its innate themes that are religious in nature.

            Star Wars has already captured the imagination of millions. This cannot be undone. Instead, Star Wars can be used as a means to drive home the timeless Christian truths.

            Effective Christian preachers use timely, appropriate and audience-specific illustrations to teach Christian truths. When Star wars is trending, churches and youth groups could draw parallels between Star Wars and Christianity to teach Christianity in a familiar context.

            Here’s what I am not saying:

            I am not saying that Star Wars is a Christian movie.

            I am not saying that Star Wars is a necessary means to disciple Christians.

            All I am saying is that the Christian leadership should be open minded to use these latest trends to augment one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Here are a few dangerous parallels between Christianity and Star Wars:

God Versus Force

            The force that Star Wars refers to is an all powerful force (an energy field created by all living beings) that binds the universe together. The force has two sides to it – the light and the dark side.

            However, God is fundamentally distinct from the force:

            God is a living spiritual being. God is not impersonal.

            God is perfectly good. There is no evil in God.

            God is uncaused, whereas the force is created by all living beings.

            God created the universe and all that is in it.

            God is sovereign and all powerful; God sustains the universe. 

Good Versus Evil

            According to Star Wars, good and evil are axioms of the force. The force causes the good and bad.

            The Bible teaches that God does not cause evil, since God is perfectly good.

            God created angels and humans with freewill. Satan, an angel created by God, causes evil and causes man to do evil. Man uses his freedom to either accept or reject God. When man rejects God, he commits evil.

            In Christianity, the believers of Christ are mandated to do good and not evil. Star Wars teaches that the subjects of the empire should listen to the force to either do good or evil. 

            In the Christian worldview, God will ultimately destroy Satan and usher a world without evil. But in Star Wars evil cannot be destroyed, since both good and evil are the axioms of the force. This entails that good and evil will continue to exist.

            In Star Wars, the Jedi knights fight for the good and the Sith lords are on the dark side. The Jedi dedicate their entire life to fighting for the good in the physical plane with physical weapons. But we, the believers of Christ, are constantly mandated to fight a spiritual warfare with spiritual weapons. 

Holy Spirit Versus Midi-Chlorians 

            The midi-chlorians of Star Wars could be compared to the Holy Spirit – the third person of the blessed trinity of the Christian faith.

            In the fictitious world of Star Wars, the midi-chlorians are intelligent microscopic lifeforms living inside the cells of all living beings. They apparently enable their hosts to listen to the force. Contrarily, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit, who lives within every Christian, leads us to do God’s will, if we are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

            In a parallel with Christ, Anakin Skywalker is the prophetic savior of Star Wars – the one who would come to bring balance to the force. Similar to the virgin birth of Christ, Anakin Skywalker was apparently conceived by the midi-chlorians.

            The Bible teaches that the second person of the blessed Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin.

Death Versus Afterlife

            There are references to afterlife in Star Wars. Many Jedi believe in some form of afterlife. The Jedi also believe that they should not fear death and that they would become a part of the force upon their death.

            Christians are called to neither fear evil nor death (Psalm 23). In Christianity, afterlife is certain. Death is a mere gateway to either heaven (an eternal blissful coexistence with God) or hell (an eternal life without God in absolute torment).

            In Star Wars, those who are evil and die would cease to exist. A few Christians, including Rev. John R.W. Stott, believe in a similar doctrine – Annihilationism. Annihilationism posits an absence of hell i.e eternal judgment.

            If evil people would merely be annihilated after their death, then while living, the evil people would live without any fear of an eternal judgment in hell. Thus the evil people would be motivated to continue their evil schemes.

            This situation poses a serious dent to God’s justice, for cessation of existence is not a punishment but a reward for being evil in this world.  

Rule of God Versus Rule of Evil

            In Star Wars, evil is in charge of the empire. While the subjects of the empire are led to believe that good is in control, in reality, evil rules.

            Similarly, we may be led to believe that the sovereign God is in absolute control of the world we live in today. But in reality, God has allowed Satan to rule our world for a brief period of time (2 Corinthians 4:4). The rampant evil in our world reveals Satan’s control.

            The fact that God has allowed Satan to rule over the world reveals HIS sovereign control from the perspective that HE would intervene in our life as and when HE deems it necessary. Finally, God would eliminate evil.  

Christians Versus Jedi

            Training is vital for both Jedi and Christians. Well trained soldiers will vanquish the enemy.

             In the fictitious world of Star Wars, Jedi had to be trained well before they became full-fledged Jedi knights.

            However, in reality, Christians should train themselves well through Bible study. This is the responsibility of every Christian.

            Churches should ramp up their efforts to train their members in the study of God’s Word.  Bible study groups exist in many churches, but these groups, if not monitored by the church leadership become a means to social jamboree or a ritualistic weekly get-together.

            Christian life is lived intentionally. Christian maturity is an entailment of spiritual training. Unless a Christian is trained well, he/she cannot withstand the flaming arrows of the Satan.

            To conclude, if the Christian leadership ignores the imaginations of its young people, then the young and fragile Christians could be in danger of losing their faith in Christ. Furthermore, the Christian leadership would not justify their calling as leaders of the Christian community, if they remain oblivious to the needs of their young people.  

            All Satan needs is a tiny entry into the imagination of the young and fragile Christians. Movies are a wonderful means to impact the imaginations of people. Good movies could bring people closer to Christ and bad ones would take people away from Christ.

            Jediism as a religion has the potential to remove people away from Christ. Star Wars remains to be an effective means towards this endeavor of Jediism. However, Christians could use the very same Star Wars to reinforce the timeless truths of Christianity.

            It is my hope and prayer that our faith in Christ grows stronger day by day irrespective of all the distractions around us. May not the force be with you, but may the good Lord be with us. 


Monday, January 4, 2016

Don’t Blindly Condemn The Christian Crusades


               Christians have been habituated into apologizing and condemning the crusades. Popular Christian website, “Gotquestions.org,” reflects this notion, “the crusades should not be referred to as the “Christian crusades.” Most of the people involved in the crusades were not truly Christians, even though they claimed to be. The name of Christ was abused, misused, and blasphemed by the actions of many of the crusaders.”1

            But aren’t there two sides to a coin?

            Didn’t the crusaders do anything right? Should we blindly believe the popular thought process that the crusades be unequivocally condemned?

            Seven crusades were undertaken over a 150 year period (AD 1099 to 1254). Jerusalem was successfully recaptured after the first crusade. The second crusade reestablished the captured territories of the first crusade. Subsequently, Jerusalem and many other recaptured territories were conquered by Muslims, so a third crusade was undertaken.

            The fourth crusade was as much a disaster as the third, for the crusaders sacked the Christian controlled Constantinople. The fifth, sixth and seventh crusades were also unsuccessful, for at the end of the seventh crusade, the Islamic forces captured all the crusader territories. All in all, the crusades were unsuccessful and disastrous.

            Encyclopedia Britannica offers pertinent information about the Christian crusades, “Crusades, military expeditions, beginning in the late 11th century, that were organized by western European Christians in response to centuries of Muslim wars of expansion. Their objectives were to check the spread of Islam, to retake control of the Holy Land in the eastern Mediterranean, to conquer pagan areas, and to recapture formerly Christian territories; they were seen by many of their participants as a means of redemption and expiation for sins…” (Emphasis Mine).2

            Given this historical backdrop, there are several facts to comprehend.   

1. Crusades Were Not Unprovoked Aggressions

            To begin with, why were the crusades undertaken?

            The Christian crusades were in response to the Islamic invasion. Had the Muslims not captured the Christian territories, the crusades may not have been carried out. Hence, the crusades were not unprovoked aggressions. This is the first fact.

2. The Bible Supports Just-War

            The notion that the Christian crusades were an appropriate response to the Islamic conquests presupposes the validity of the “just-war” view. The just-war view believes that a war be fought (a) with a just cause - an act of defense (b) with a just intention (c) as a last resort (d) as a declaration by a legal government (e) with limited objectives (f) with appropriate and proportionate means (g) to ensure the protection of the noncombatants and the proper treatment of the wounded.3

            Just-war view is endorsed by the Bible.

            Although Christ is the prince of peace, Christ will annihilate Satan by means of war. That Christ’s disciples owned swords lends credence to the fact that Christ endorsed weapons for defense. Significantly, the Bible sanctions wrath and terror by the governing authorities to eliminate evil (cf. Romans 13:1-5 et al.). This is the second fact.

3. Crusades Were To Protect Christians

            Pope Urban II’s crusade contained both just and warped reasons.

            The just reasons were to defend the Christians in the Middle East and Europe against Islamic incursions (from 7th through to 10th century) and to protect pilgrims and churches in the Holy land.

            Warped and faulty theology snaked into the crusades. Pope Urban II promised complete forgiveness of sins and the Kingdom of heaven upon those who undertake the war. It is atrociously unbiblical to seek forgiveness for sins through acts of violence.

            Faulty theology combined with misguided mobs led to the gory violence against the Jews in the first crusade. However, Pope Urban condemned violence against Jews. Moreover, Pope Urban, at any point in time, did not call for conversion of Muslims by force.

            Although there were warped reasons, the third truth is that the crusades had just reasons, which were to protect Christians and the Christian states from cruel opposition.

4. Without Crusades, Christianity Could Be Extinct

            The Muslim kingdoms became more powerful after the crusades. History informs us that Muslims were en route to capturing the entire Christian world after the crusades.

            However certain intriguing incidents prevented further Islamic aggressions. The death of Sultan Mehmed II ruined his plan to capture Rome. Then rainstorms delayed the progress of Suleiman the Magnificent to capture Germany. 

            Interestingly, the Renaissance that led to humanism and scientific revolution enabled Europe to expand on a global scale. While the Muslim world regressed, Europe became wealthy and powerful. Thus the Muslim threat was neutralized economically.

            The fourth fact to consider is this. Thomas Madden, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University, reckons that Christianity may have been extinct if not for the crusades, “Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished. Without the Crusades, it might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into extinction.”4

5. Religion Not The #1 Cause For Wars

            Finally, why or when do we discuss the Christian crusades?

            Crusades are typically invoked to accuse Christianity or religion per se of atrocities committed in the name of God. This accusation either strives to debunk God’s existence or highlight the hypocrisy seemingly inherent in religion.

            But facts reveal that irreligion claimed more lives than religion. So religion is not the #1 cause of wars.

            According to the “Encyclopedia of Wars,” 1763 wars have been waged until now. Out of 1763 wars, a very low 6.98% or 123 wars were attributed to religion. Of the 123 wars waged in the name of religion, 66 were Islamic. If Islamic wars are removed from this equation, wars waged in the name of religion are less than 4%.5

            CARM quotes statistics from R. J. Rummel’s Lethal Politics and Death by Government, which reveals that lives lost during religious wars pales in comparison to the number of people who died in the hands of non-religious dictators: 6

            Joseph Stalin               - 42,672,000

            Mao Zedong               - 37,828,000

            Adolf Hitler                - 20,946,000

            Chiang Kai-shek         - 10,214,000

            Vladimir Lenin            - 4,017,000

            Hideki Tojo                 - 3,990,000

            Pol Pot                        - 2,397,000

Conclusion: How Do We Understand The Crusades

            Crusades need not be unconditionally condemned.

            If ISIS were to conquer a particular region in India or USA or any country for that matter, would not these countries retaliate to regain control or protect their territories? Likewise, crusades were in response to the unjustified Islamic aggression.

            Moreover, the Bible endorses just war. So from a biblical perspective, the crusades, as a just war - in response to an unjustified Islamic aggression, cannot be unequivocally condemned.

            However, atrocities committed during the crusades cannot be defended. The crusades violated the just-war stipulations. So an apology for the atrocities committed during crusades is in order.

            Mere apology would not suffice. Warped reasons that caused these atrocities should be examined and corrected to prevent future mishaps. Faulty theology, misguided and unruly campaigns are some causes for those atrocities.

            The sole cause for these reasons is the Satan. Satan will exist until the Lord’s return. So evil will continue to be perpetrated by the Satan under the pretext of some reason or the other.   

            Will religion cause wars and atrocities in the future?

            Religions that espouse martyrdom and killing their enemies could wage unjust wars.

            Christianity, if properly understood, should not cause unjust wars. But evil reigns in every gullible and spiritually immature man, so there are possibilities that radical and militant Christianity, which violate the Bible, could cause violence and wars. This cannot be ruled out. Such Christian militant outfits are in existence.

            But unjustified violence is not innate to Christianity. Old Testament cannot be cited as a pretext for violence. When the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before the Lord, the Pharisees recommended her to be stoned according to the Old Testament laws.

            But Christ exposed the depravity inherent in every human to teach the accurate application of the Old Testament laws by highlighting that the one without sin cast the first stone.

Endnotes:

Websites referenced were last accessed on 4th January 2016.

1 http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-crusades.html

2 http://www.britannica.com/event/Crusades

3 http://www.equip.org/PDF/JAH303.pdf

4 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/mayweb-only/52.0.html

5 https://carm.org/religion-cause-war


6 Ibid.