Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why Does God Love Satan?

The question, “Does God love Satan?” seemingly yields diametrically conflicting answers from conservative Christian theologians. Some assert that God cannot love Satan. In contrast, others claim that God loves Satan. So does God love Satan or not? 
Answers to the question, “Does God love Satan?” cause further complications. If God does not love Satan, how could God be maximally and perfectly good? (If God does not love one being, then HE cannot be maximally and perfectly good.) Moreover, if God hates Satan for being evil, does HE also hate all those humans who reject and slander HIM? If God hates those who reject and slander HIM, HIS love is conditional. But isn’t God’s love unconditional?
The answer, “God loves Satan,” is also riddled with complications. If God loves Satan, how could a good God love the evil Satan? Could there be a semblance of evil in God because HE loves the evil Satan? Furthermore, if God loves Satan, should we also love Satan?

God Cannot Love Satan

Christian Q&A website, Gotquestions.org affirms that God cannot love Satan, “No, God does not love Satan, and neither should we. God cannot love that which is evil and unholy, and Satan embodies all of that. He is the enemy (1 Peter 5:8); the evil one (Matthew 6:13); the father of lies and a murderer (John 8:44); the accuser of God’s people (Revelation 12:10); the tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5); proud, wicked and violent (Isaiah 14:12-15); a deceiver (Acts 13:10); a schemer (Ephesians 6:11); a thief (Luke 8:12); and many more evil things. He is, in fact, everything that God hates. The heart of Satan is fixed and confirmed in his hatred of God, his judgment is final, and his destruction is sure. Revelation 20 describes God’s future plan for Satan, and love for Satan has no part in it.”1

God Loves Satan

Dr. William Lane Craig claims that God loves Satan, “I feel no awkwardness whatever in affirming that God most certainly does love Satan. Indeed, what I should find awkward would be affirming that He does not! God is a perfectly loving being, whose love is not based on a person’s performance. Satan is a person, indeed, on the traditional conception an angelic person of unparalleled beauty and perfection among creatures. How could God not love him? The fact that that person is now fallen and unspeakably evil does not imply that God ceases to love him, any more than He ceased to love us when we fell and became enemies of God (Romans 5.10).”2
(Dr. Craig’s claim was in response to this question, “…Is it not true then that His love for all includes the Devil? For if it were not the case then there would be at least one eternally damned being whom God does not love or loves less, i.e., He is not all-loving or the greatest conceivably loving being.”)

Is Satan Totally Evil?

In his blog, Tough Questions Answered, Bill Pratt quotes Dr. Norm Geisler to contend that Satan is not totally evil, “Many people mistakenly believe that while God is totally good, Satan, or the Devil, is totally evil. They are polar opposites of each other.
This idea, however, is false. Satan, while being totally evil in a moral sense, is not totally evil in a metaphysical sense. Theologian Norm Geisler explains the distinction in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question. Geisler writes:
The Bible speaks about Satan as “the evil one” (1 John 5:19) who is a liar by his very nature (John 8:44). Surely there is no good in Satan – is he not totally evil? Yes, he is completely evil in a moral sense, but not in a metaphysical sense. Just like fallen humans still have God’s image, even so Satan has the remnants of good that God gave to him as a created angel.
For example, Satan has good insofar as he is a creature of God, insofar as he has intelligence, and power, and free will. Of course, he uses all these God-given good powers to do evil; he is ever, always, irretrievably bent on evil. But this is only to say he is totally depraved morally, not that he is totally deprived of all creaturely good metaphysically.” (Emphasis Mine).3

Understanding God’s Love For Satan

The assertions, “God loves Satan” and “God hates Satan” need not be construed as being diametrically opposite or absolutely conflicting. Both these assertions could be true in a particular sense – the metaphysical or the moral.
Since Satan retains a remnant of goodness of God’s creations from a metaphysical sense, we could reasonably sustain the notion that God loves Satan. In other words, God loves Satan only from a metaphysical sense.
But Satan is morally depraved. God cannot love the consequential deeds of a morally depraved being. So from this sense – the moral sense – the notion that God hates Satan (his evil deeds) could be sustained.
Significantly, an absolute denial of God’s love for Satan cannot be sustained. Just one reason may be sufficient to corroborate this assertion. If God hates Satan absolutely or totally, then should God not hate all those who reject and slander HIM?
But the Bible clearly teaches that God loved us when we were sinners (Romans 5:8). Therefore, if God loves a sinful, rebellious and slanderous man, on what grounds could God not love Satan? While it is true that both Satan and those men and women who rebel, reject, and slander God are doomed to an eternal damnation, the judgment of God need not violate HIS love for those who disbelieve and abuse HIM.
God’s judgment is contingent on the exercise of freewill in the case of Satan and the unbelieving mankind. But God’s love for HIS creation is not contingent on HIS judgment. It is contingent on the goodness of HIS creation (God created all things good). Moreover, as it has already been asserted, neither Satan nor the unbelieving mankind is totally evil, for they still retain their creational goodness in the metaphysical sense. (The unbelieving humans could be morally good in certain or most instances. Satan too could, arguably, be morally good in certain situations, albeit in a passive sense, when he does no harm to his followers – not from the perspective of eternity, but from a worldly perspective.)
To conclude, the understanding that God loves Satan could only be sustained if the entailing complications could be resolved. These are the complications. If God loves Satan, then “how could a good God love the evil Satan?” Could there be a semblance of evil in God because HE loves the evil Satan? Furthermore, if God loves Satan, should we also love Satan?
How could a good God love the evil Satan? Satan is morally depraved and irretrievably bent on evil, but this is from a moral sense. However, Satan does retain a remnant of the goodness of God’s creations (intelligence, power, freewill etc.). If Satan retains even a remnant of the metaphysical goodness of God’s creation, there is enough latitude for God to love Satan. So an absolute assertion that God hates Satan cannot be sustained. Therefore we could reasonably affirm that God loves Satan from the metaphysical sense and yet assert that God hates Satan from the moral sense.
Could there be a semblance of evil in God because HE loves the evil Satan? A maximally good and perfect being cannot be evil in the sense of both the metaphysical and the moral. If God loves Satan from a moral sense, then an argument that God could be evil may be valid. However, God’s love for Satan is from a metaphysical sense (not from a moral sense), hence there cannot be a remote semblance of evil in God.
Does God’s love for Satan imply that we should love Satan? The Bible mandates us to stand against the evil schemes of Satan and his entourage (Ephesians 6: 11). Moreover, Satan works against God’s people, so Christians cannot love Satan.

Endnotes:

1https://www.gotquestions.org/does-God-love-Satan.html, last accessed on 18th June 2017.
2http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-love-the-devil, last accessed on 18th June 2017.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Could We Accuse God’s Anointed?


          Pastor Benny Hinn, during a Pastors conference in Lagos, Nigeria on February 10th 2017, cautioned that God’s anointed should not be criticized.1 He’s not alone in making such statements. Quite a few servants of God pummel their audience to submission with such threats.

            “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15 & 1 Chronicles 16:22) is an oft resorted verse by fulltime Christian workers (Pastors, Evangelists etc.). This is to protect them against criticism.

            The Bible narrates instances of people being cursed for accusing God’s anointed. In Numbers 12, Miriam was cursed with leprosy for criticizing Moses. 2 Kings 2: 23-25 shares the narrative of the boys mauled by two bears because they cursed Elisha.

            Many Christian leaders are accused of immorality, false teaching, lack of financial accountability etc. So could we accuse these anointed servants of God who serve in HIS vineyard around the clock?

            Anointing is a prerequisite for God’s workers. However, our innate propensity to sin ensures that accusing God's anointed is indeed a complicated predicament.

            There are two broad categories of God’s servants – the true and the false servants of God. The true servant of God is called and anointed by God to employ his/her gift to serve God’s people in HIS Kingdom. Then there are false workers in God’s Kingdom, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15, NIV).

            These false workers need not be anointed by God, since they are not called by God, yet they serve God full time. These false workers undertake God’s work as their permanent vocation for selfish gains.

            If there are false workers in God’s Kingdom, would not our criticism of them be appropriate? Yes and no; this is not as easy as it seems. This is another complicated predicament.

            Consider this complication. How do we absolutely identify a false worker? Confessions and other investigative mechanisms do prove people’s duplicity. However, when confessions are missing and when there are no solid evidences to prove a person’s hypocrisy, we tread dangerously. We do not possess perfect knowledge. So with what certainty or authority do we accuse a servant of God as a false prophet? There is always room for error in our judgment.

            Some Christians argue that God’s workers could be criticized irrespective of Psalm 105:15 & 1 Chronicles 16:22 because these verses do not refer to criticizing God’s servants, “Christians are to hold one another accountable for one another's behavior (1 Jn. 3:17; Gal. 6:2; Tit. 1:9; 1 Tim. 1:3,4; 4:16; II Tim. 4:2; Matt. 18:15-16). … Christians are to be accurate and balanced when giving criticism. When a person or group that claims to be Christian and yet seriously departs from the historical biblical doctrines of orthodox Christianity, one cannot stand idly by in silence. (Matt. 18:15-16). To not speak out would be dishonoring to God and unloving, not only to Christians, but also to the propagators of the error.

            …They point to biblical proof texts such as Psalm 105:15, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm" (KJV). But if one looks at the passage, it will reveal that it has nothing to do with questioning the teachings of church leaders.

            In the Old Testament the phrase, "the Lord's anointed", is used to refer to the kings of Israel (I Samuel 12:35; 24:6, 10, 16, 23; II Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Psalms 10:6), and not to prophets. In the context of Psalms 105 the reference is to patriarchs in general (vv. 8-15; ef, I Chronicles 16:15-22).

            Psalms 105:15 has nothing to do with the issue of questioning the teachings of any of God's "anointed". In the context of this passage, the words "touch" and "do harm" have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone.

            Specifically, in I Sam. 24:6, the phrase "touch not the Lord's anointed" refers to David's refraining from killing King Saul when he had the opportunity. It means in that context, "not to kill".

            The fact is that David did rebuke Saul publicly more than once and called him to account for his actions before God.”2

            You may be inclined to criticize the teaching of the person or the very character of that person. However, there is a word of caution associated with criticizing God’s servants when there are no confessions and/or no solid evidences against the said person.

            If you are inclined to slay the character of a God’s servant, then ensure that you “Try everything in your power to contact the person and have them or a representative explain themselves.”3 Do not blindly trust the media or ride the gossip bandwagon. We would be better off to err on the side of grace/caution. We should do our due diligence before attacking the character of God’s anointed.

            Whatever the case may be, if you are to criticize God’s anointed, do know that “…there is scrutiny and there is malicious intent—two very separate ideals. When you scrutinize someone, please make sure it's with 1) Godly intent about his or her teaching,  and 2) not against the person themselves. I've read many examples—especially on message boards—where a preacher's character is maligned because of something he or she taught or is NOT teaching…That's where people fail to take care when they "touch God's anointed." Their words are simply malicious.

            And, malicious intent against anyone, much less God's anointed, isn't without its consequences.

            We know from 2 Kings 2:23-24 what happened to 42 youth from Bethel who maliciously mocked Elisha, certainly one of God's anointed. "He went up from there to Bethel, and going up on the way, little boys came out of the city and made fun of him and said to him, "Go up, you bald head! Go up, you bald head!" He turned around, saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and ripped open forty-two of the boys."

             This type of mockery implied malicious intent, perhaps to maim or kill Elisha. At that time, the epithet "baldy" signified contempt in the East and showed severe disrespect for Elisha's message and God's power. God sent the bears as a judgment for their callous unbelief.

            God may not be so blatant these days. But again, there are consequences.

            So what should Christ followers do when they find themselves in disagreement with someone in the ministry? At least these three things:

            Make sure that what you are disagreeing with is something that person actually said. I've seen a lot of people comment on things they don't even investigate and simply assume it's true because they read something somewhere or heard it from someone else.

            Most importantly, check it against Scripture. This is the ultimate test.

            Don't go off half-cocked and rebuke anybody at time in any place—most specifically on the Internet—when you disagree with someone. Try everything in your power to contact the person and have them or a representative explain themselves. Matthew 18:15-16 says, "Now if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, then take with you one or two others, that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every word may be established" (MEV).

            There certainly isn't a lack of public rebuke on the Internet. A great deal of it is mean-spirited and not meant for godly correction, but as it appears, for some people to simply make themselves feel better…Pastor Kenny Luck calls it "spiritual nitpicking."

            It is important—nay, crucial—for Christ followers, as Hux says, "not (to) render a condemning judgment upon anyone (that alone is for God), but to render a discerning judgment upon all teachings. It is important for Christians to test all things by Scripture" as the Bereans did with Paul in Acts 17:11. "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, daily examining the Scriptures, to find out if these things were so" (MEV).”4

Endnotes:

1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyDaYlEIYM8  (Go to the 1:36:38 mark to listen to this caution)

2http://www.watchman.org/articles/other-religious-topics/accountability-the-way-to-touch-gods-anointed/

3http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/54342-be-careful-when-you-touch-god-s-anointed


4Ibid.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Islamic Terror & A Peaceful Response

            Recent terror attacks could motivate a supposition that Islam may be the greatest perpetrator of terror today.

Is Islam An Agent For Terror?

            Statistics do not lie. Consider a few terror statistics in the recent years: 1

            (1) As on date, 18 terror attacks by Islamic terrorists eliminated 350+ and 900+ were injured.

            (2) 1000+ dead and 2500+ injured via 47 terror attacks by Islamic terrorists in 2016.

            (3) 100+ Islamist terror attacks in the year 2015 (3000+ dead and 3000+ were injured).

            Global Terrorism Index 2016 observes that “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram and the Taliban were responsible for 55 per cent of all the deaths from terrorism in 2015.”2

            These statistics are adequate to conceive a case for further Islamist terror attacks this year. Significantly, Islam could be the supreme perpetrator of terror in today’s world.

            The verses from the Quran do not lie. The Quran seems to motivate terrorism. Consider a few relevant verses:3

            Quran 2: 191: “And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.”

            Quran 3: 85: “And whoever desires other than Islam as religion - never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.”

            Quran 5:33: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment…”

            Quran 8: 12: “…I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”

            Quran 9:5: “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush…”

            Quran 47:4: “So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah - never will He waste their deeds.”

            Muslims do not lie. The entailment of the Quranic motivation for terrorism is the logical yet dastardly response by a segment of Muslims who refuse to cooperate with the authorities even if they were aware of an imminent terror attack, “TWO thirds of British Muslims would not inform the police if they thought that somebody close to them had become involved with terrorist sympathizers, according to a poll.”4

Are We An Agent For Terror Or Peace?

            These evidences demonstrate that Islam could be construed as the greatest perpetrator of terror today. But does this offer a non-Muslim a valid reason to accuse Islam and the Muslims?

            This content would be consumed by those active in expressing their opinions in the social media or to friends and family. Despite the evidence that indicts Islam as the greatest terror manufacturer of our day, how do we respond to this predicament?

            We could either promote terrorism or peace. Our response could either placate or intensify this situation. A Christian response should rightfully help heal the menace of terrorism.

            What are the options ahead of us?

            Accusing Islam or ridiculing Muslims could be the most natural response. When we accuse Islam or ridicule our Muslim brothers and sisters, we would definitely not appease this situation. Instead, we may amplify the gap to intensify the animosity between Muslims and non-Muslims. If we are to accuse and ridicule Islam and Muslims, a Muslim could dig in his heels deep into his faith.

            Accusing Islam cannot and will not help soothe this situation. Islam cannot change; the Quran will be what it is. The Quran cannot be rewritten to make it less violent or more peaceable. Religious texts cannot be modified. This is the fact of the matter.

            Accusing our fellow Muslims cannot heal the menace of terrorism. Our accusations would probably entail a greater non-cooperation between Muslims and the governing authorities, as is the case in Britain. Alternatively, our accusations could foster an active or a passive intensification of the jihadist movement within Islam or of its support.

            Any form of accusation is more likely to promote terrorism than not.

            How then can our responses to terror heal the menace of terrorism?

            Instead of posting accusatory posts on social media that are intended to accuse Islam and its adherents, we could post prayers or comforting posts that could heal the victims of terrorism.

            Islam, by its very nature, may motivate terrorism, but that there are millions of Muslims who hate these deeds of terror. We could express our love for these Muslim brothers and sisters through our responses.

            Any well meaning government would respond in a manner befitting the situation. Crackdown on terrorism would gain intensity and stringent measures would be employed that could increase the discomfort of ordinary citizens. We could bear with these efforts instead of complaining about the increased discomfort that strives to eliminate terrorism.

            Walk alongside the governing authorities, irrespective of our political affiliations or compulsions, to help heal the terror menace. Information to the authorities of any possible terror insinuations or affiliations that may appear in our domain is the need of the hour. Pray that God gives us the wisdom and discernment to identify a potential terror situation.        

            Please do not judge every Muslim as a terrorist. Let not the average Muslim be a recipient of our latent anger and resentment against the Islamic terrorists.

            Let not our Muslim friends arrive at a conclusion (based on our accusatory posts) that we do not intend to be their good friend. Just as God loves everyone, let not our love for our Muslim friends decrease, instead let it increase.  

            Last but not the least, pray for the terrorists. Pray that they may realize their foolishness, repent and change their ways.

            Pray for the victims of terror. Pray that they regain their normal life or at the very least adapt to their situation with least resistance.

            “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9, NIV). “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3: 18, NIV). May we be the peacemakers our world so desperately needs.

Endnotes:

1These statistics were gleaned from Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Islamist_terrorist_attacks

2http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2016.2.pdf

3these verses were obtained from https://quran.com/


4https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/659913/two-in-three-British-Muslims-would-NOT-give-police-terror-tip-offs

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Beef Ban & The Christian Response; How Then Shall We Think?

            Hurricane “beef-ban” has inundated the entire Indian subcontinent. If this ordinance attains fruition, consumption of beef would be scarce or virtually impossible in India.1 Social media is buzzing with frenzied voices arguing for and against the government ordinance to ban the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter.

            This ordinance, which has been announced on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could be tinted with religious overtones, for Muslims have traditionally been beef-eaters.2 Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was elected to govern India, the minority religious groups (Christians and Muslims) have been nervously anticipating curbs to their religious practices. This ordinance fuels the nervousness that similar complications are en route. (The 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in the city of Ayodhya serves as a painful and a recent antecedent to this nervousness.)

            What’s a reasonable Christian response to this predicament? Here’s my one cent.

            This ordinance need not necessarily be a precursor to further complications endangering the religious practices of the minority religious groups. Hence, our response should be measured, let alone we overreact. From a strict Christian stance, we need not be bitter or angry about this predicament, for Christianity is not all about eating.

            Easier said than done! To not be bitter or angry, in an existential sense, is difficult for a Christian who loves to eat beef. Then there are those who can only afford to eat beef, for beef is generally inexpensive in comparison to seafood, red meat, pork or poultry. To eradicate beef from the lives of these Christians could be construed as an intensification of their poverty or invasion of privacy, to say the least.

            Every Christian is crucified in Christ, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2: 20a, NIV). Hence our response to anything in and of this world should primarily be predicated on our Christianity.

            The government need not be the only entity that eliminates certain pleasures of life. Bad health condition does rob us off our pleasures. Beef is not a recommended cuisine for those suffering from obesity, high cholesterol etc.

            So if a valid reason is all we need to avoid consuming beef, then just as we avoid beef while we suffer from, say, high cholesterol, we could avoid consuming beef, if it hurts the religious sentiments of our Hindu brothers and sisters. The Bible emphasizes this situation without a doubt, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” (Romans 14: 19-21, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Moreover, the Bible mandates us to love our brothers and sisters; this includes our Hindu brothers and sisters. An entailment of our love for our Hindu brothers and sisters could be to sacrifice our consumption of beef.

            Consider the beef ban in the context of liberal or postmodern Christianity. My fellow Christian brothers and sisters, who are more liberal in their Christian attitude, go ballistic upon conservatives (such as myself) over the issue of homosexuality. My liberal Christian brothers and sisters argue to endorse homosexuality in Christianity, whereas I do not.

            Just as the liberal / postmodern Christian fragment argues passionately to exclude the legitimate hermeneutical thought process of the conservative Christians, why not exclude beef from their kitchen as well? The liberal Christian community loudly proclaims their love for the practicing gay Christians. In the same vein, why not exclude beef because of your love for your Hindu brothers and sisters?

            Well if you are a liberal Christian, you do not have any right whatsoever, to argue against the beef ban. Relativism includes everything. Relativism includes the religious sentiments of your Hindu brothers and sisters. So shut every possible vent and sit tight! Bury your disagreements within yourself. (If you are not a postmodern Christian, please pardon me for my aggression against postmodern Christians. Postmodernism is an insane concept. Those who have studied postmodernism and still subscribe to it deserve some harsh words that could possibly awaken them from their self induced intellectual coma.)

            Do think about this as well. Are you voicing your opinion against the beef-ban because of fear? Do you fear that the worse is yet to come, and hence you are against beef ban?

            Fear cannot rule a Christian’s life (Luke 12: 4 - 6). The Bible teaches that Christians are to expect persecution, ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5: 10-12, RSV, Emphasis Mine).

            Whenever we take issue with anyone over anything, let us do so knowing that our sovereign God is in total control. No harm would invade the Christian’s space unless God permits it. If God allows it, let us be certain of HIS sustaining presence.

            We are not fighting flesh and blood. We are fighting powers in the spiritual realm. The key to winning spiritual battles is to be clothed with the armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10 - 18). So let us respond to this beef ban while we immerse ourselves in Christ seeking God’s guidance and wisdom to respond appropriately.

            If God has chosen you and me for persecution, no force on earth can prevent persecution from materializing in our life. So let us continue to trust in God and not fear an impending persecution. God will sustain those who are persecuted. The incomparable power that raised Christ from death will sustain us during our moments of suffering.

            Consider those who are in utter poverty or unjustly imprisoned, with little or nothing to eat. Consider the refugees of war and those living in war prone areas of our world. Eating good food may not even be their prayer when their lives are at stake.

            In comparison, we are blessed. So let us employ our blessings to strive for the necessary aspects of our life than the fringe benefits such as eating beef. While expressing our opinions is necessary, let us not lose our peace over this [rather trivial] predicament.

            Peace is a rare commodity in our world. If we are to live in peace, we are to not indulge the forces that do not impact our faith in Christ. Tolerance and sacrifice are necessary to live in peace. As the Bible mandates let us not destroy the work of God for the sake of food (Romans 14: 20).

Endnotes:

1http://www.firstpost.com/india/beef-ban-dont-laugh-it-off-but-there-could-be-a-conspiracy-to-turn-india-vegetarian-3498523.html


2Ibid.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why God Allows Evil Upon Christian Evangelists?


          34 year old Nabeel Qureshi was a devout Ahmadiyya Muslim. He converted to Christianity almost 12 years ago. He served as an itinerant speaker with RZIM, and is a best-selling author (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, No God But One—Allah or Jesus?).

            Last year, the news that Nabeel had been diagnosed with cancer distressed the Christian world. His prognosis remains grim. A few days ago, the RZIM team bid their preliminary goodbye to Nabeel.1

            God’s blessing upon a very young Nabeel is evident. His ministry has blessed many. Had God blessed Nabeel with a longer lifespan, multitudes might have been drawn to Christ.

            However, God’s plan seems to be different. Ravi Zacharias recalled Nabeel’s goodbye to his colleagues at RZIM, “Our itinerants all gathered, about seventy of us from every continent. Nabeel spoke to us on the opening morning. He told us that the doctors have given up hope and that there will be no surgical intervention (which was to have happened only if the chemo and radiation had worked). Medicine feels it has done all it can…To his fellow itinerants Nabeel came to say, “Thank you. I love you all and if I have hurt anyone, I ask for forgiveness. Most important, my faith is stronger than ever in my Savior and whatever lies ahead, I will take it as God’s will.” Then he said, “You will probably not see me speaking in public anymore and I bid you all goodbye.” He then looked in my direction to share his final words of affection to me and bid us goodbye. I was too overcome to say anything.” (Emphasis Mine).2

            Nabeel’s situation motivates a consideration of these legitimately perplexing questions that confound a thinking mind:

            (1) Why does God allow evil upon Christian evangelists? (Approximately two-thirds of this world does not believe in Christ. Aren’t Christian evangelists the need of the hour?)

            (2) Why does God terminate the life of HIS evangelists while they’re young? (If God extended the ministry of HIS most effective evangelists, many more would have been blessed.)

            (3) Is God not interested in the conversion of non-Christians?

            These questions, if not provided with valid answers, could prompt a misunderstanding about God. Alternatively, a correct understanding could benefit the thinking Christian to appropriately comprehend God and this situation.

Why Does God Allow Evil Upon Christian Evangelists?

            In a world that is largely non-Christian, the need of the hour is Christian evangelists. The Bible mandates preaching of the gospel. If God allows evil upon evangelists (not all, but some), is HE not detrimentally interfering with the spread of gospel? God’s inaction from the perspective of lack of protection seems to contradict HIS Word.

            How do we reconcile this existential and spiritual dilemma?

            This dilemma could be resolved from another vantage point. If we can biblically assert that God is not constrained to protect HIS evangelists, a plausible inference is that God could allow evil upon HIS evangelists in the same manner in which HE allows evil upon anyone.

            Therefore, let us wrestle with the question “Why Does God Allow Evil Upon Christian Evangelists?” from the vantage point of “Is God constrained to protect HIS evangelists?” 

            This question is predicated upon these premises:

            P1. Evangelism is the need of the hour.

            P2. Evangelism is the greatest Christian ministry.

            P3. Christian evangelists are more precious (in God’s sight / plan) than other Christians.

            P4. Hence, it follows that God should protect HIS evangelists (over other Christians).

            If we can invalidate one or more of these premises, the conclusion (P4) could be disputed. Then we could confidently assert that God is not constrained to protect HIS evangelists. Therefore, the situation of evangelists being affected by evil need not be an aberration in God’s plan.

            (P1) is valid, for the Bible affirms this premise (Matthew 28: 19-20; Romans 10: 14-15).

            (P2) could be disputed. There are many Christian ministries or spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28); evangelism is not mentioned as the greatest Christian ministry. One verse that implies evangelism as the greatest ministry is 1 Corinthians 12:28, wherein the term “apostle” (“apostolos” in Greek) could be misconstrued as evangelist. However, it is worth observing that the New Testament also uses the word “apostolos” to simply mean messenger without referring to any specific church office (Philippians 2: 25; 2 Corinthians 8: 23; John 13: 16 and cf. Ephesians 4: 11). Therefore, the claim that evangelism is not the greatest Christian ministry could be adequately sustained.

            (P3) could also be disputed. The Bible does not dichotomize or provide hierarchy among Christian ministers. Furthermore, God cannot be partial to anyone (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9). Hence, the argument that “Christian evangelists are more precious (in God’s sight / plan) than other Christians” is invalid.

            Since (P2) and (P3) are invalid premises, it then follows that God is not constrained to protect HIS evangelists (over other Christians or anyone for that matter).  Therefore, God can allow evil upon HIS evangelists just as how he allows evil upon anyone.

Why Does God Terminate The Life Of HIS Evangelists While They’re Young?

            Unless God reveals, we will not know the precise reason of the untimely death of anyone, let alone an evangelist. But the Bible reveals that the death of God’s saints is precious in God’s sight (Psalm 116: 15).

            (We use the term “untimely” from a human perspective, not from a divine perspective. God takes people out only when HE so desires. Hence no death is untimely from God’s perspective.).

            Our common sense suggests that it is improper of God to terminate the lives of HIS evangelists while they are young. A simple reason behind this line of thought is that if God allowed HIS evangelists to live longer, more people could have been drawn towards Christ. 

            The sovereign God, who raised David instead of Saul and Timothy after Paul, can always raise another evangelist. Therefore, neither does the untimely death of any of God’s evangelists be deciphered as an aberration in God’s plan nor would God’s work be blocked or decelerated by the untimely death of anyone.

Is God Not Interested In The Conversion Of Non-Christians?

            This is an absurd question for a mature Christian. But from within our context of evangelists dying young, this question does gain a semblance of meaning from the perspective that if God had blessed the evangelists with longer life, many more might have been drawn to Christ.

            The untimely death of an evangelist cannot assail God’s desire for people to love HIM. God loves everyone and desires that all may know and believe in HIM (Ezekiel 18:23; Matthew 23:37; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

            An omniscient or all-knowing God knows who would accept and reject HIM. So, at any point in time, there are those who reject God irrespective of the presence of the evangelists. Those who reject God do so out of their own freewill, for God would do everything possible for man to believe in HIM.

Conclusion

            We grieve when our loved one is in death bed. Death or the prospect of death is a matter of great sadness. An untimely death is a matter of greater sadness.

            But while we feel sad, we also rejoice, for the dead or the dying Christian would soon be in God’s presence. Hence we could respond as how Ravi Zacharias responded, “My dearest Nabeel, I love you, dear friend, and my heart aches to see you leaving this world so soon. But if it is of any comfort, you have so far lived the same number of years as our Lord and Redeemer. What is more, the world is a mess. We are still trapped by the fears of living in a world immersed in hate and living for matter, greed, pride, and violence. You will be freed to the joy of life where there are no more fears, no more tears, no more hate, no more bloodshed, because you will be with the One who has already shed his blood for you, where love is supreme, grace abounds, and the consummate joy is of the soul. The smile of God awaits you: “Well done.”

            “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9 promises.

            Your eyes will now see and your hands will now touch that which is the only Real estate.” 3

Endnotes:

1http://rzim.org/global-blog/torn-emotions-a-visit-with-nabeel-qureshi/

2Ibid.


3Ibid.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Amor Fati (Love of Fate) & The Christian Response

            “Amor Fati” is a Latin phrase that means love of fate, wherein loss and suffering are to be accepted and considered as good or necessary facts of life. None of us are immune to pain. The Amor Fati of the Nietzschean consideration advises a love of one’s fate even in pain albeit without God. 

            On the contrary, God does not assure Christians of a painless life. Instead the Bible teaches us to live in Christ to gain the peace that transcends all understanding, which enables us to live successfully through pain.  

            The objective of this article is not to extensively dissect the Amor Fati of the Nietzschean consideration. Basic concepts of Amor Fati will be emphasized to motivate an adequate Christian response. Furthermore, a basic flaw in the atheistic consideration of Amor Fati will be identified.   

Nietzsche’s Amor Fati

            Amor Fati was glorified by the atheist German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who considered “love of fate” as essentially important for life. Nietzsche referred to Amor Fati as:1

            “…formula for greatness in human being” (Ecce Homo, 258)

            “…his inmost nature” (Ecce Homo, 325)

            “…the highest state a philosopher can attain” (Will to Power, 1041)           

            In its existential outworking, those subscribing to Amor Fati would believe that everything happens for a purpose. They are to love that which has happened to them. This essentially translates to accepting, interpreting and activating fate as a positive purpose for life. Nietzsche expressed this as, “My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati. That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal itbut love it.”

            Nietzsche linked Amor Fati to the concept of eternal recurrence, “Basically, this means that you live your life according to the principle that if you were to have to repeat the same actions as in the past, you would do them the same way. In other words, be at one with your fate and give your actions the weight of eternity. Stop wishing for something else to happen, for a different fate. That is to live a false life.”2

Christian Response to Amor Fati

            How should Christians, subscribing to Historic Christianity, encounter and engage with fate?

            Our fate is not fatalistic. The Bible does not teach that our life is an outcome of a predetermined course of events. Although God is sovereign, HE has offered us freedom to make choices that control our fate.

            For instance, we could choose to either accept or reject God. If we accept God, we go to heaven. If we reject the Lord Jesus Christ, we go to hell. Our eternal destiny is based on the choices we make now.

            Our temporal destiny, in large part, is also based on our choices. Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. We either choose not to smoke cigarettes to live a healthy life or choose to smoke so that we are vulnerable to illnesses associated with smoking.

            Life is a series of choices. Our choices determine our destiny.

            Most significantly, we love God. We cannot disassociate God from our life. We see life’s events from the perspective that God is the author and sustainer of our life. This need not necessarily postulate that God has foreordained every aspect of our life.3

            Christians look to God always – be it in moments of joy or pain. We are to depend on God always; seek HIM and pray continually. Therefore, we are not called to navigate life without God, rather we are to gain God’s peace and HIS sustaining and healing power to navigate through life’ darkest moments.

            Amor Fati contradicts Christian belief. So Christians cannot subscribe to Amor Fati. Christians are to love God. We are not mandated to love our fate.

            The sovereign God also controls our fate (cf. Tower of Babel, Jonah in the fish etc.). So the individual Christian would rather be aligned with God’s will than to rebel against God. Aligning with God’s will is only possible when we love God and seek HIM always.    

Basic Flaw in Amor Fati

            The basic flaw in Amor Fati is that one cannot truly love his fate. In order to understand this, let’s consider an existential dilemma. How should a father, who subscribes to Nietzsche’s Amor Fati, respond when he discovers that his infant son has an illness that will kill him early?

            A man had Amor Fati tattooed in his forearm so to be constantly reminded to love his fate. Here’s how this man responded when he discovered his infant son’s terminal illness, “When it counts is when you find out your infant son might have an illness that will debilitate him and ultimately kill him before he sees his twentieth birthday…It is then when you have to look at your forearm, be reminded that you have a choice in how to perceive this event, and look in the mirror through tears and consider something: Maybe, just maybe, if he wasn’t sick I would have taken him for granted. Now I won’t.  Now I’ll make every second count.  I can choose to be grateful for twenty years fully-lived with my son versus sixty years mostly wasted.”4

            Sounds good, isn’t it? Not exactly!

            How do we live while suffering from a terminal illness or while experiencing the untimely death of a loved one? Would not Amor Fati (love of fate) help us in this situation?

            No!

            We cannot truly love a painful situation – a terminal illness or an unexpected loss of our loved one. A true love of any situation would involve a desire for that situation. None of us desire terminal illness or to lose our loved one early. Hence, we cannot truly love our fate that involves horrendous pain.

            True love of one’s fate should essentially motivate a life within that fate. If one loves his fate, he should love to live that fate. This is similar to loving our house. If we truly love our house, we would love to remain in that house. We would not immediately seek to relocate to a better house.

            Fate that involves suffering cannot merit a similar response. We cannot truly love to remain in pain. Instead, we truly love to immediately liberate ourselves from that very painful circumstance of our life. Therefore, the love that Amor Fati demands cannot be true love.  

            But some may argue that they love their debilitated life (e.g. disability). This cannot be true love as well! Suppose a medical intervention is discovered to heal that disability, would we not rush to gain healing? So we truly love a life without disability. We cannot truly love a disabled life.

            Nietzsche’s Amor Fati promotes action, not stagnancy within that fate. This action does not preclude an action to change that fate. While Nietzsche prescribes love of one’s fate, that very love does not translate to enduring one’s fate. The man who subscribes to Amor Fati states that Amor Fati does “…not to teach you to be a cow standing in the rain, simply enduring and hoping to survive your fate…”5

            While applying Nietzsche’s Amor Fati to life’s painful predicaments, the constant endeavor is to change life’s situations. Upon encountering a terminal illness, the immediate response is to seek appropriate medical care to heal the illness. This is an endeavor to change one’s fate.

            Similarly, upon losing one’s job, the immediate motivation is to search for another job. Those attracted to eat unhealthy food will fight their appetite for unhealthy food and strive to live healthy. They do not love their fate of sickness or joblessness or eating unhealthy food.

            Therefore, those applying Nietzsche’s Amor Fati to their painful predicament exhibit a stark exhibition of a lack of love towards their painful predicament. They desire to change their fate by either eating healthy or searching for jobs or searching for a suitable medical intervention for healing.

            Man constantly strives to make things better in life; to change his fate. Thus he cannot love his fate that involves pain, for he exhibits love for an improved position in life. Therefore, Amor Fati is not a tenable proposition for life.

Endnotes:

1http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~beatrice/Nietzsche%20and%20Amor%20Fati.pdf

2https://dailystoic.com/robert-greene-interview/

3 Please refer to Dr. William Lane Craig’s argument to assert the fallaciousness of theological fatalism at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s3-14

4https://dailystoic.com/amor-fati/

5Ibid.


Websites cited were last accessed on 18th May 2017. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Salvation Of Jews; Is There An Aberration? (Salvation Of Old Testament Believers)

            Consider the number of Jews who reject Christ. Would they not be saved although they believe in the same God as Christians do? Is there an innate injustice in God’s plan for the salvation of Jews?

            Jews could be broadly categorized into:

            (J1) Jews who lived before Christ.

            (J2) Jews who live(d) during and after Christ.

            Jews are God’s chosen people. Intriguingly, it appears as if there are two plans of salvation for the Jews – a simple and a complicated plan. The simple plan does not explicitly involve Christ and applies to (J1). Since Christ was not explicitly involved in this salvific plan, the Jews had one less factor to believe. Hence this plan could be termed simple.

            The second plan, which involves Christ, applies to (J2). This appears to be a complicated plan because the Jews had to / have to believe in Christ as well.

            The apparent injustice is this; how could there be a simple and a complicated plan for the salvation of the same group of people? The only distinction between these two groups is that they’re either born before or after Christ.  

            This apparent injustice is magnified for God determines the precise time of birth of all people – Jews included. The individual Jew does not choose his/her time of birth. So it is rather plausible to infer that God placed the Jews born during or after Christ in a more precarious position than their ancestors. (Their ancestors did not have to deal with the Christ-factor for their salvation.)

Christ Is Necessary For Salvation

            The New Testament categorically asserts that both the Jews and the non-Jews (Gentiles) would only be saved if they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 12, NASB). Salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2: 8-9; John 1: 12, 14: 6).

            So mankind existing since the New Testament period should necessarily believe in Christ to be saved.

Salvation Of Old Testament Believers

            The term Old Testament (OT) believers include both the Jews and the Gentiles. The OT believers were not privy to the life and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, for they were born at a time when Christ was not revealed by God to the world.

            Two questions are in order. First, how did God save the OT believers? Second, is God’s plan for the salvation of Jews who lived after Christ more complicated because they had to believe in Christ as well?

            Understanding the salvation of Jews who lived in the Old Testament era should throw vital light into unraveling this predicament. Let us consider the three vital aspects of salvation: Justification, Regeneration, and Sanctification.

            Justification of OT Believers: Man is a sinner (be it in the Old Testament or since the New Testament period). So man remains guilty in his standing with God. If man is to be saved, his legal status must be changed from guilty to not guilty. If man met God’s requirements fully, he would be declared just or righteous in God’s sight. Man is justified when Christ’s righteousness is imputed upon him (Romans 5: 1, Galatians 3: 24, Ephesians 2: 8, Titus 3: 5).

            Abraham, Moses and King David never heard of Christ, yet they were saved (justified) by virtue of their belief in God (of the Bible). Salvation of OT believers included Gentiles as well (E.g. Job, Melchizedek, King Abimelech).

            OT believers were not saved by adhering to the law. Abraham lived 400 years prior to the establishment of the law, yet he was saved. Moreover, the law cannot be adhered to perfectly; the law merely brings knowledge of sin (Romans 3: 20; Cf. Galatians 3: 11). The uncircumcised Abraham was saved merely by virtue of his faith in God. The salvation of uncircumcised Abraham negates any notion of salvation by works (performing sacred rituals and doing good works).

            But Christ is necessary for salvation, and the OT believers, who lived before Christ by the plan of God, did not possess a conscious knowledge of Christ. So how were these people saved?

            Romans 4: 1-5, 9-10, 16 offers an answer to this question. Paul invokes Genesis 15: 6 to establish the fact that belief in God is adequate for salvation. Thus when man is saved by virtue of his faith in God, Christ’s righteousness is transferred upon this man, thereby rendering him as not guilty in God’s sight (Romans 3: 21-22, 5: 17, 6: 23, 8: 1; 1 Corinthians 1: 30).

            Regeneration of OT Believers: A regenerated man will ardently desire to live a holy life in his new birth. He will not desire to live a sinful life.

            One could argue that the OT believers could not have been regenerated since the Holy Spirit was not yet given. (The Holy Spirit would not be given until the Pentecost.) However, the Bible provides us with adequate evidence to corroborate the fact that the OT believers were regenerated.

            Moses contrasted the two groups of Israelites – those who were circumcised of heart (Deuteronomy 30: 6) and those who were stiff necked and stubborn (Deuteronomy 29: 19-20; Exodus 32: 9, 33: 3; Ezekiel 2: 4). As Paul said in Romans 2, a real Jew is the one who is circumcised of heart (v28-29). The heart of the real Jew is altered to conform to God’s will.

            The OT believers also experienced a change of heart (1 Samuel 10:6, 9; Cf. Isaiah 57: 15; Ezekiel 11: 19-20, 36: 25-26). This is similar to the transformation Jesus described to Nicodemus much before the Pentecost. Thus we deduce that the Jews who loved and obeyed God in the Old Testament period were regenerated.

            Sanctification of OT Believers: Sanctification is the process in which the regenerated man becomes progressively holier. The Old Testament ascribes righteousness upon Noah and Job (Genesis 6: 9; Job 1:1, 8). While one can argue that Abraham, Moses and Daniel were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, it does seem that these men were under the influence of the Holy Spirit because the Bible says that they were faithful, meek, good and self-controlled (cf. fruit of the Spirit). Although the Holy Spirit did not indwell the OT believers, HE evidently exerted an external influence.   

            Thus we understand that the salvific pattern of the believers in Old Testament and New Testament exhibit great similarity.

Salvific Plan Remains Same

              God’s plan of salvation included Christ then and now. However, the Jews who lived before Christ did not consciously see or hear of Christ’s salvific work to believe HIM.

            The Bible also states that the OT believers were saved because they possessed a forward-looking faith based on the promise that a Messiah, or a Redeemer would come. While speaking of the OT believers such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, the Bible asserts that “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance…” (Hebrews 11: 13, NASB, Emphasis Mine). In the same chapter, Moses “…considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward.” (Hebrews 11: 26, RSV, Emphasis Mine). The Lord Jesus emphasized that Abraham was looking forward to the day of the promised Messiah, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8: 56, RSV, Emphasis Mine). So if the Jews before Christ had clearly heard and believed in the Messiah and in HIS coming, they were saved.

            But what about those Jews who probably did not hear of the Messiah’s coming? (There may have been Jews during the time of Christ, who may not have heard the gospel message clearly because of the geographical distance and the lack of technology to disseminate information quickly.) Would they be saved?  

            If the Jews had not heard about the coming of the Messiah in the future, they would not have rejected HIM per se. If these Jews believed in God, they would be saved. The benefits of Christ’s atoning death would be transferred upon them.

            One final question remains, is God’s plan for the salvation of Jews who lived after Christ more complicated because they had to believe in Christ as well?

            Regeneration or “being born again” is totally a work of God (John 1: 13; Ephesians 2: 5; James 1: 17-18; 1 Peter 1: 3; cf. Ezekiel 36: 26-27). When a Jew hears of God and of Christ, God speaks powerfully to him and the Holy Spirit works powerfully in him. (Herein God does what HE needs to do to bring man into HIS fold.) Then man responds to God in faith. When God works powerfully in us, the honest seeker would easily accept Christ.

            When Jews reject Christ, the only significant consideration is whether the gospel of Christ-crucified has been preached clearly to them or not (cf. Romans 10: 14). If the gospel of Christ has not been preached clearly to them, then they are not rejecting the Christ of the Bible. In this instance, there is every possibility that God would save them as how HE saved the OT believers. 

            Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that there is no aberration in the salvation of the Jews.

Postscript:

The God Of Jews & Christians Is Not The Same

            Jews reject the Trinity. So they reject the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Jews strictly worship a monotheistic God. On the contrary, Historic Christianity subscribes to a Godhead that is Trinitarian yet monotheistic in nature. The Godhead is comprised of a co-equal Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            The OT believers – the Jews and the Gentiles – worshiped the same God. However, when Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were revealed to mankind in the New Testament, the conception of the Godhead became different for the Christians.

            In other words, God revealed HIMSELF progressively to mankind. Hence, it is plausible to deduce that God would not expect the OT believers to believe in the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. However, since HE has revealed the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, God would expect mankind in existence since the New Testament period to consciously believe in Christ for their salvation.


            The Jews (existing since the New Testament period, and if they reject Christ) and the Christians worship a different God. (In other words, although God is one, the Jewish and the Christian conception of God is totally different since the New Testament period.) The God of the Jews is similar to the Islamic conception of God (Allah). The Islamic conception of God is strictly monotheistic and the Muslims reject the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Yet the Jews and Muslims worship a very different God. If the Jews and the Muslims worship a different God, then by the same reasoning, we can reasonably deduce that the Christians and the Jews worship a different God. Therefore, the Jews in existence since the New Testament period would be saved only if they believe in Christ.