Monday, August 24, 2015

Why Pray When God Knows Our Need?


            Those who have driven in India know what a colossal challenge it is to remain safe and sane. When we are on the Indian roads, we’d hope to get home safe – physically and mentally! Although our driving skills may get us home safe, the conscious irresponsibilities of our fellow drivers may victimize us to road rage to stress and injure us mentally.

            Prayer is thus inevitable while we are on the Indian roads.

            Our need is to be safe. Because we know our need, we pray for our safety.

            God’s knowledge includes the state of our return - safe / limbless / lifeless. But when we pray, we ignore God’s knowledge. We pray earnestly, since we care for our own safety.

            Similarly, while praying for recovery from illness, we ignore God knowledge – whether God would heal or whether this sickness would prolong. Irrespective of God’s knowledge, we pray for healing.

            We ask God because we know our need. We don’t care for what God knows. Our need ignores God’s knowledge and our prayers remain active to the utmost measure.

            If you are in agreement until now, and if the question, “Why Pray When God Knows Our Need?” still rings a bell in you, could you then be a victim of unconscious disingenuousness?

            Being disingenuous is to be insincere. To be unconsciously disingenuousness is to be unconsciously insincere - a state of being ignorant of our insincerity.

            Is this question, “Why Pray When God Knows Our Need?” insincere?

            This question presupposes a one-dimensional nature of prayer – as if prayer is merely to express our needs to God. So it does partially reveal the questioner’s impoverished understanding of prayer.

            Does this question then drag us into the gloomy companionship-dungeons of ignoramuses when, in other instances, our prayer ignores God’s knowledge? Not necessarily!

            This question could be a sincere derivative of a diligent study of Matthew chapter 6.

            Within the context of prayer, Christ delivers two seemingly contradictory statements:

            #1: “…when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6: 7-8, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            #2: Quite immediately Christ said, Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6: 11, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            So the questioner cannot be dumped into the dungeons of disingenuousness for asking, “Why Pray When God Knows Our Need?” This question contains a certain degree of merit given the seemingly contradictory statements highlighted above.

            In other words, the questioner may well be justified to eliminate the “expression of need” or “give me my daily bread” component of prayer.

            Are these two statements contradictory? No!

            Verse #1 reveals God’s nature – that HE knows it all. Verse #2 reveals our privilege to ask God for just about anything. As much as God knows it all, it is our birthright to ask our Heavenly Father for what we need or want.

            A few other relevant questions could be raised: What’s wrong if we don’t ask God? Won’t God give to us even if we don’t ask HIM?  

            These questions are heavily moored to God’s attributes of grace, goodness, mercy, love and justice.  A gracious, good, merciful, loving and a just God will give that which we need at HIS time, so why bother asking HIM?

            In other words, we may merely praise and thank God for HIS sustaining presence. Why bother God with requests that HE already knows and will anyway give it to us, whether we ask or not.

            Stop for a moment.

            Would God give to us even if we do not ask HIM in prayer?

            Doesn’t the Bible say that unless we ask we do not receive, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4: 2c, NIV)? The more famous counterpart of this verse is, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7: 7, NIV; cf. Matthew 21: 22; Mark 11: 24; John 15: 7).

            If the Bible says, ask and you shall receive, does it not infer that if we do not ask, we would not receive? Or would we receive whatever we ask for (cf. John 15: 7)?  

            The answer is not quite simple. Let’s examine the “asking mechanism” in prayer by observing a few verses from the Bible:

            1. Ask and you shall receive (Matthew 7: 7).

            2. If we ask and believe that we have received it, it will be ours (Mark 11: 24).

            3. If we are in Christ and if HIS Words are in us, then whatever we wish will be given to us (John 15: 7).

            4. If we ask according to the will of God, we receive (1 John 5: 14).

            5. Ask with wrong motives, we do not receive (James 4: 3).

            The most crucial aspect of “asking in prayer” is if we are in Christ and if HIS Words are in us. All the other aspects (highlighted above) are subsets of remaining in Christ.

            A. We remain in Christ only if we believe in HIM.

            B. If we are in Christ, we would ask according to HIS will.

            C. If we are in Christ, we will not ask with wrong motives.

            Therefore, the fundamental question that ought to be answered by each one of us personally is if we are in Christ and if HIS words are in us. This fundamental question supersedes the question, “Why Pray When God Knows Our Need?”    

            In order to better understand this dynamic, let us ask if God would give to us even if we do not ask HIM in prayer?

            Let’s consider our spiritual need over the material:

            Would God give us the ability to know and love HIM more than ever or anybody, if we do not ask for it?

            Would God give us the continuously abounding anointing of the Holy Spirit, if we do not ask for it?

            Would God give us the ability to serve HIM tirelessly, if we do not ask for it?

            NO, God will not offer these blessings, if we do not ask for it.

            Why?

            A Christian who does not ask for spiritual blessings is probably more focused on the material aspects of his/her life. This person has not really understood the basic tenet of a Christian life, which is a constant striving for a greater knowledge of God, to love HIM more, and to serve and glorify HIM always.  

            A Christian who does not ask for spiritual blessings could be in a budding stage (an infant Christian) or be plagued with questions about Christianity or stagnant (a lukewarm or a halfhearted Christian) in his/her relationship with Christ.

            A Christian in love with Christ would desire to know, love and serve HIM more. This Christian knows that the greater anointing of the Holy Spirit is necessary to love Christ and be of greater service to HIM. So this person will evidently desire these great spiritual blessings.

            If our minds are not in Christ, we would not desire spiritual blessings. So once again the question narrows down to whether we are in Christ or not.

            God, who offers HIS sun and rain upon those who hate HIM, will offer the necessary blessings to everyone irrespective of their status in Christ. But, I believe, HE will offer HIS spiritual blessings to only those who desire them.

            The question, “Why Pray When God Knows Our Need?” is a question that focuses on material needs than spiritual. This question will not be asked by Christ-loving Christians, for they would constantly plead for the greater spiritual blessings. When we plead for the spiritual the material will also be added unto us.

            It’s man greatest desire to live in peace. But it’s only the prince of peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, who can offer us peace to live amid trials and tribulation.

            This peace from the Lord, which the Bible describes as the peace that transcends human understanding, is only available to those who ask HIM, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7, NIV, Emphasis Mine).


            May we pray continually seeking God’s blessings upon our lives. 


Monday, August 17, 2015

Why Does God Reject People & Churches?


            The title “Why Does God Reject People & Churches?” presupposes God’s rejection of people.

            Imagine the dilemma of a child about to be killed or molested. Don’t you ever wonder where God is in those situations? Doesn’t the molestation or killing of a hapless child reveal the fact of God’s rejection of an innocent child?

            Then there are prayers that are rejected by God. Some pray for a better job to overcome their increasing debts, but not only do they not find a better job, but they could also be in a terrible situation in their present job that they could be imminently fired. Failure to get a better job or loss of the present job indicates God’s rejection of their prayers.  

            What about people dying of illnesses despite ardent prayers? Doesn’t this amount to rejection as well?

            Consider a church that defies and defiles God and HIS Word. If this church continues to grow in numbers despite its defilement of God, doesn’t it indicate a worldly growth, in contrast to the spiritual growth desired by God?

            If God does not bring this church back to its truthful worship of HIMSELF, then does it not amount to HIS rejection of this church by allowing it to continue in its sinful practices?

            A popular message in the Christian community is that God will never reject HIS people. Is that so?

            The Bible portrays instances of God’s rejection of HIS people, a few of which are here:

            1. God rejected King Saul (1 Samuel 15: 23, 16: 1).

            2. God rejected King Solomon by raising up adversaries against Solomon to destroy his kingdom (1 Kings 11).

            3. God rejected Paul’s prayer to remove the messenger of Satan from his life (2 Corinthians 12: 7-8).

            4. Those who reject the Lord Jesus will be eternally rejected by God (John 3: 36).

            We observe two categories of rejection by God:

            A. Temporal Rejection that need not necessarily entail a loss of salvation (1-3)

            B. Eternal Rejection that entails loss of salvation (4).

            There are two broad reasons for God’s rejection from within a temporal perspective:

            (a) In the case of King Saul and King Solomon, God rejected them because they consciously disobeyed God.

            (b) But Paul did not disobey God. Nevertheless, God rejected Paul’s prayer. Why?

            On one hand, we have heard of several instances of people abandoning God because of unanswered prayers. Then there are those, like Paul, who remain in the Lord even through unanswered prayers, and glorify HIM through their adversities (cf. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10).

            So the other reason God rejects our prayers is to display HIS glory through the suffering life although the precise reasons for God’s rejection of prayers, in this context, remains mysterious.

            We may not know the precise reason(s) for God’s rejection of our prayers although we strive to live our lives in obedience to God. But of this we are sure, that our allegiance is to God whether or not HE answers our prayers.

            The Bible teaches us that it is better to live in God’s presence than not, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84: 10, NIV).

            Apostle Paul conveys a similar message from his context, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1: 25, NIV). At times, God’s plan for our lives may appear foolish and weak, but it is not so.

            God cannot be undermined under any circumstance; least of all during pain and suffering.

            Therefore, while God rejects us because of our disobedience to HIM, it is not true in all cases. There are people who strive to obey the Lord and please HIM in all that they do, but their prayers are also unanswered for mysterious reasons although that very situation could be used to glorify God.

            What type of disobedience would warrant God’s temporal rejection of us?

            In the case of King Saul, he disobeyed God by rejecting God’s Word and consciously denied his disobedience (1 Samuel 15: 13ff). King Solomon rejected God by not being fully devoted to God and followed other gods (1 Kings 11: 1-6). (Whether King Solomon repented is unknown, hence his eternal destiny will remain outside the scope of this article.)

            So disobedience to God and conscious denial of that disobedience and rejecting God’s Word and following other gods would merit God’s temporal rejection. This would then entail a loss of the Spirit’s anointing in the believer’s life.

            We can glorify God through our pain and suffering through the words of Job, “…At this, Job… fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1: 20-22, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Thus far we have seen the temporal rejection of God. But God rejects people unto eternity as well.

            A good, merciful, gracious, loving and a just God cannot reject a sincere seeker or a genuine believer. However, God rejects those who reject HIS Son our Lord Jesus Christ, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3: 36, NIV).    

            Christ conveyed the same message in HIS own words, “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:33, NIV). So have no doubt, those who reject Christ will be eternally rejected by God.

            This draws us to another pertinent point.

            Would a Christian lose his salvation if he rejects Christ during persecution?

            Consider Christ’s words spoken in the context of persecution, ““Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24: 9-13, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Obviously Christ did not mean that “those who stand firm to the end” will be saved from persecution. The verse clearly states that believers would be handed over to be persecuted and put to death. 

            Therefore, the term “saved” in Matthew 24:13 corresponds to eternal salvation. Our salvation is predicated on us remaining in Christ. So those who reject Christ during persecution will lose their salvation.

            But we are not done here.

            Those who reject Christ during persecution will have more chances of living than dying, for only those who stand firm with Christ will be put to death. So if those who reject Christ would live, then it is possible that they could earnestly repent and reinvite Christ into their lives.

            But here is the most important aspect for our consideration.

            Those who earnestly believe in Christ will not reject HIM. Those who earnestly believe in Christ will reject material life and not Christ.

            Therefore, the person who rejected Christ once amidst persecution, if he were to earnestly repent and believe in Christ again, would not reject Christ again amid persecution.

            Finally, what about churches that are cold and lukewarm? Would God reject these churches?

            God’s presence or HIS glory departed from the temple then (Ezekiel 9, 10, 11; cf. Deuteronomy 31: 17-18; Hosea 9: 12). Similarly, God’s presence can depart from the church now as well.

            God does not voluntarily depart from a life or from a church that sincerely worships HIM. God departs when the church refuses to genuinely worship HIM i.e. the church worships itself (its material benefits or its people or its achievements) than worship God.

            Westminster Shorter Catechism states that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy HIM forever. May we do just that by genuinely worshipping God and living in and with HIM alone.




Monday, August 10, 2015

Know The Antichrist??? Are We Ready?



            We love to speculate. When we see the famous performing controversial deeds or uttering controversial words, we love to implicate them into controversial predicaments.

            Many Christians love to speculate on future events such as the rapture, four blood moons, antichrist etc. The “four blood moons” event that was speculated so vividly could die a dull death [1], but the rapture and antichrist speculation will uninhibitedly continue.  

            “Antichrist” is the “man of lawlessness” who will appear prior to Christ’s second coming and who will cause great pain and persecution. This antichrist will be annihilated by Christ Jesus upon HIS second coming (2 Thessalonians 2: 8).

            Those who deny Christ’s deity are generically termed “antichrist” as well. These antichrists are the precursors of the final antichrist.

            Many popular figures have been speculated as antichrist. These are the leading contenders speculated as antichrist [2]:

            1. The Pope [3]

            2. The American President

            3. Hitler, Stalin

            4. Mikhail Gorbachev

            5. Napoleon

            6. Emperor Nero Caesar [4] & Domitian

            Why is antichrist a theme of interest to Christians?

            A. The Bible says that Christ will return again. No one knows when Christ will return, but Christ’s bodily return will be sudden, personal, and visible. 

            B. Christians subscribing to Historic Christianity will hope and desire for the second coming of Christ. This anticipation is fuelled by preachers preaching that “we are in the last days,” wherein “last days” refers to the imminence of Christ’s second coming.

            C. The Bible also says that the antichrist would appear before Christ’s second coming. 

            D. Hence it is reasonable to expect Christ’s presence any time and the unraveling of the antichrist - the precursor of Christ’s second coming.

            But is it reasonable to speculate the identity of antichrist with the popular figures? Yes, it would be reasonable to speculate as long as the speculation is based on a strong premise.

            Prior to speculating, we should be aware of the characteristics that define the antichrist, which are:

            (a) The beast (antichrist) will claim to be God and demand worship from all. He will deny Christ’s deity, incarnation and messianic role.

            (b) He will perform impressive and successfully deceptive signs.

            (c) He will persecute God’s people.

            (d) He will rule the world.

            (e) He will not allow people to buy or sell without his mark (666).

            Thus the four hallmark characters of the antichrist are:

            1. Claim to divinity & worship (or denial of Christ).

            2. Persecution of God’s people.

            3. Governance of the World.

            4. Performance of signs and wonders.

            If we superimpose these characters of the antichrist upon the Pope or the American President, then neither the present Pope nor the present American president fit the identity of the final antichrist. They may fit in part but not in full.

            Those who deny that Jesus is God are antichrists (1 John 2: 22). Anyone, be it the Pope or the American president, if they deny Christ as God, then they are antichrists. But in order for them to fit the bill as the final antichrist, they need to minimally fit the four hallmark characteristics of the final antichrist.

            But then, the antichrist need not reveal all the four characteristics at the same time. He could progress from one to another or may merely fade away after exhibiting one or more but not all.

            Consider Hitler.

            Although Hitler persecuted the Jews, he was vanquished by the allied forces. This defeat prevented him from governing the whole world. So he failed short of governing the world, claiming divinity and performing signs and wonders. Such was the case with all the other candidates speculated to be the final antichrist.

            Consider the American President or the Pope.

            They own the necessary platform to govern the world through a series of manipulative political moves. If either of them are the final antichrist, as they continue to gain that control over the world, they could persecute Christians in a smaller scale and progress to a full blown persecution. Performance of signs and wonders and claim to divinity could be their final revelations, if they are the antichrist.

            Therefore, speculations could be reasonable as and when we observe people exhibiting one or more of these characteristics that reveal the antichrist. But a rushed conclusion that the American President or the Pope is the antichrist is not a wise speculation.

            How are we to be prepared for the antichrist?

            1. Our relationship with the Lord Jesus should grow from strength to strength (Ephesians 6: 10ff; John 15). Unless we know Christ, we cannot withstand the oppression of the antichrist, if he were to arrive in our lifetime.

            2. Pray:

                        …for strength and wisdom to stand firm amidst trials.

                        …that we would not doubt or reject Christ during persecution.

                        …that our spiritual eyes would be constantly open to recognize false teachings and antichrists.   

            3. Do not doubt the antichrist’s coming.

            4. Do not be alarmed or unsettled and do not let anyone deceive you (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5; 1 Peter 3: 14).

            5. Suffer patiently upon persecution (James 5: 7-11; Romans 5: 3; 1 Peter 2: 20)

            The antichrist will come. The Lord Jesus will then arrive to annihilate him and evil forever. While we yearn for the second coming of the Lord, we ought to be prepared for the rule of evil upon our lives through the antichrist.

            May the Lord’s grace and peace be upon us as we await HIS glorious second coming. Come Lord Jesus come and deliver us from evil. Amen.



Endnotes:

[1] http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2014/03/four-blood-moons-in-2014-15-christs.html

[2] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-7-most-popular-contenders-for-the-antichrist

[3] Protestant leaders Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale have considered the Pope to be the antichrist.


[4] Many theologians speculated that “666” the number of the beast said in Revelation 13: 18 refers to Emperor Nero, whose name in Greek when transliterated into Hebrew holds the value 666.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Should Christians Favor Death Penalty?



            Love and Christianity are seemingly synonymous. When the judiciary awards death penalty to criminals the social media, which include Christians, rumbles and grumbles about the validity of death sentences.

            How should Christians view death penalty?

            This is an opportune moment to discuss this subject for Yakub Memon, involved in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts that killed 257 people, was executed in Nagpur, India on 30th July - the morning of his 53rd birthday and a day before his daughter’s 21st birthday.

            Pew Research Center reports [1] that from among the other religions, Judaism and Buddhism oppose death penalty. Hinduism holds no clear stance. Islam favors death penalty. American atheists and agnostics are split almost equally on death penalty.

            Pew Research Center also reports [2] that from among the Christian denominations, Baptist, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist oppose death penalty. Assemblies of God and Mormons do not have an official position on death penalty. Southern Baptist and the Lutheran church – Missouri Synod favor death penalty.

            Although denominations may hold official positions on death penalty, individual members do not necessarily adhere to these official positions. A case in point is that 53% of US Catholics favor death penalty contradicting the official position of the Catholic Church [3].

            There are three major positions in the context of death penalty.

            First, Christians favoring death penalty (Reconstructionism) quote Genesis 9:6, Numbers 35: 33 etc. Their arguments are three-fold [4]:

            1. Old Testament law reflects God's unchanging character.

            2. Jesus did not come to abolish the law.

            3. Capital punishment is prescribed in the New Testament.  

            Charles “Chuck” Colson, who served as a special counsel to the American President Richard Nixon, founded “Prison Fellowship” in 1976. Chuck Colson’s view as a Christian and as one who had vast experience in serving prisoners should be diligently considered.

            Chuck Colson opposed death penalty to begin with. Subsequently, he changed his views and supported death penalty.

            These are Chuck Colson’s words, “…For as long as I can remember, I have opposed capital punishment. As a lawyer I observed how flawed the legal system is, and I concluded, as Justice Learned Hand once remarked, that it was better that a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man be executed. I was also influenced by very libertarian views of government; I distrusted government too much to give power to take a human life to the judicial system…

            …But I must say that my views have changed and that I now favor capital punishment, at least in principle, but only in extreme cases when no other punishment can satisfy the demands of justice.

            …Perhaps the emotional event that pushed me over the (philosophical) edge was the John Wayne Gacy case some years ago. I visited him on death row. During our hour-long conversation he was totally unrepentant; in fact, he was arrogant. He insisted that he was a Christian, that he believed in Christ, yet he showed not a hint of remorse….

            …So in spite of my misgivings, I've come to see capital punishment as an essential element of justice. On the whole, the full range of biblical data weighs in its favor. Society should not execute capital offenders merely for the sake of revenge, rather to balance the scales of moral justice which have been disturbed.” [5]

            Second, Christians who oppose death penalty (Rehabilitationism) would argue as follows [6]:

            A. Neither Christ nor Paul called for death penalty upon the adulterers they encountered.

            B. God does not rejoice in the death of wicked (Ezekiel 18: 23). God did not enforce death penalty upon Cain and David for murdering Abel and for the adulterous affair with Bathsheba, respectively.

            C. Criminals should be allowed to reform or repent.

            D. Christians are called to love another and not pay evil for evil (cf. Matthew 5: 38-39 & Romans 12: 19).

            But what if a psychopath who was shown clemency escapes from the prison to continue killing people?

            A secular argument against death penalty is that the crime rate has not decreased despite the death penalty; hence death penalty should be abolished. Isn’t this a weak argument since abolishing death penalty is not a certain method to reduce crime?

            On the contrary, abolishing death penalty could fuel increased killings by rank evil minds, sociopaths and psychopaths who know certainly that they would live despite murdering innocent lives.

            Allowing unrepentant and rank evil murderers to live is unjust.

            It is considered humane to abolish death penalty. But is it humane to murder innocent lives?

            It is merely on humanitarian grounds that a murderer be excused and allowed to live. Humanitarian grounds posit an argument that is “in favor of life.”

            But the murderer has killed another life! So allowing this murderer to live unconditionally is a violation of justice. The only condition that would probably allow this murderer to live is if the murderer repents.

            So a murderer cannot live if he remains unrepentant. Even if a murderer repents, how would anyone know whether his repentance is true or not? This is the weakness of this position.

            A third position also exists. This favors death penalty for certain crimes, such as a murder of a child (Retributionism).  The arguments in favor of this position are [7]:

            (a) The primary goal of justice is punishment (cf. Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:4).

            (b) If it’s cruel to kill an offender then it’s cruel to kill an innocent person (e.g. child) for which the offender deserves to be killed.

            To conclude, man does not possess the godly wisdom to determine who dies and who lives. God who knows everything would perfectly know if a person is incapable of repenting or is capable of continuous murder. This knowledge is vital to decide the fate of a criminal.

            If we certainly knew that a criminal would continue to kill, then by all means it is safe and reasonable to execute him so to prevent further murders.

            If we certainly knew that a criminal would not repent but holds a murderous mindset, it is safe and reasonable to execute this criminal, for he could either escape and continue to kill or motivate others outside the prison to kill.  

            But if a criminal repents of his sin, then he deserves to live a changed life although in the confines of the prison / correction center.

            This then is the knowledge the judiciary should possess to establish justice. Unfortunately, this knowledge is privy to God alone.

            In the absence of such knowledge, the judiciary could merely examine the circumstances and evidences presented to decide appropriately.

            Finally, would God intervene to save a criminal, who is about to be executed before repentance via a wrong decision by the judiciary, and who would have repented if allowed to live longer? I believe God, who does not rejoice at the death of the wicked, would intervene to save this person, for HE knows perfectly that this criminal would repent.

            What would God do if a criminal who could have repented is executed before he repents? Would this criminal gain eternal life because of man’s (judiciary) wrong decision?

            If the just God allows a death, it implies that that criminal would not have repented even if allowed to live longer. Hence it follows that this criminal would not gain eternal life.

            Innocent people should not die. May the authorities ensure this at all cost.  

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/13/some-major-u-s-religious-groups-differ-from-their-members-on-the-death-penalty/ last accessed 3rd August 2015, 1100 hrs IST.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://www.compellingtruth.org/death-penalty-capital-punishment.html

[5] http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1274579/posts

[6] http://www.compellingtruth.org/death-penalty-capital-punishment.html


[7] Ibid.

Monday, July 27, 2015

C’mon Let A Christian Marry A Non-Christian????


            What’s wrong if a Christian marries a non-christian? If they marry, would their marriage be disastrous or would their children hate Christianity?

            A foundational verse quoted in this context is “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 6: 14). A common faith in Christ is at the heart of a Christian marriage, they say.

            This is the backdrop. Conventional Christian teaching mandates Christians to NOT MARRY non-christians. If a Christian marries a non-christian, by implication, their marriage would be sinful and disastrous [1].

            This is the puzzle. Should a marriage between a Christian man & woman entail a healthy marriage?

            No! A marriage between a Christian man and a woman need not necessarily entail a healthy marriage.

            Why?

            Scores of non-christian marriages are healthy and successful. If non-christian marriages are successful, the condition that Christians ought to marry Christians could be discarded.

            The reality of many healthy, successful and strong non-christian marriages should remind Christians that the nametag “Christianity” does not unconsciously render a Christian marriage healthy.

            Committed religious belief, not necessarily Christianity, enables strong and successful marriages.  

            But, atheists, who deny God, also enjoy healthy marriages. So it is reasonable to conclude that committed irreligiosity does enable healthy marriages.

            Examine this situation from the perspective of divorce in Christian marriages. Scores of divorces and separations in Christian marriages testify that a Christian marriage could be disastrous.

            There are make-believe Christian marriages (that pretend as successful marriages). The husband and wife may not love each other but would merely be married for the sake of being married or may not talk to each other inside their homes. They may not share the same bed or could lead separate lives inside their home all the while posturing perfection in their marriage.

            Au contraire, Christians have married non-christians from time immemorial. Many such marriages are successful and healthy. Healthy marriages between Christians and non-christians serve as a testimony to the fact that a marriage between a Christian and a non-christian need not be disastrous.

            Therefore, isn’t a teaching that two Christians ought to marry for a healthy marriage an unacceptable teaching that is incoherent with the existential reality?

            We are not done! Observe this situation from another perspective.

            Very few Christians read their Bible daily. A recent study in America confirms that only 9% of Americans read their Bible daily [2]. This could very well be a fact in other countries as well.

            So if two Christians, who have not read their Bible or who do not love the Lord, get married, what are the chances that their marriage would be successful? Unless a conversion occurs during the marriage, their marriage should not survive according to the conventional Christian teaching. 

            But if their marriage is successful, it is not because of their religiosity. There never was any religiosity in them. Their marital success could be for the same reasons as to why marriages between atheists are successful!

            The problem would compound if one Christian partner loves the Lord dearly but the other Christian spouse is lukewarm or cold towards Christ. This is another favorable situation for potential marriage problems.

            Based on the existential realities of non-christian (atheists included) and even certain Christian marriages, a conclusion that a marriage between two Christians need not necessarily entail a healthy and successful marriage is valid.

            Therefore, the conventional Christian teaching that a Christian should marry another Christian for a healthy marriage could be rendered null and void.

            What if a sincere Christian who longs to get married cannot locate a Christian partner? What if this Christian is attracted to an opposite-sex-non-christian with admirable qualities worthy of a perfect fit as his/her soulmate? 

            What would be a sound biblical advice to this Christian? Would you advise him/her to marry the non-christian he /she is attracted to?

            “Focus on the Family,” an acclaimed Christian ministry that strives to strengthen a Christian marriage, qualify their teaching that a marriage between two Christians is more likely to be healthy through these words, “Many people who seriously practice a traditional religious faith – be it Christian or other – have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population. The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practiceCouples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudesenjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers

            …Saying you believe something or merely belonging to a church, unsurprisingly, does little for marriage. But the more you are involved in the actual practice of your faith in real ways – through submitting yourself to a serious body of believers, learning regularly from scripture, being in communion with God though prayer individually and with your spouse and children, and having friends and family around us who challenge us to take our marriage’s seriously – the greater difference this makes in strengthening both the quality and longevity of our marriages. Faith does matter and the leading sociologists of family and religion tell us so”[3] (Emphasis Mine).      

            Therefore, a mere marriage between two Christians is surely not a recipe for a successful marriage.

            A Christian married to a non-christian could enjoy a healthy marriage from a worldly sense, but certainly not from a spiritual sense. When a Christian marries a non-christian, it is the Christian who would love the Lord. The non-christian spouse would not love the Lord Jesus. Hence this marriage could be easily damaged or broken by the Satan (cf. Ecclesiastes 4: 12). 

            A Christian marriage ought not to achieve the ordinary worldly success other marriages achieve; it ought to achieve greater spiritual success.

            Greater spiritual success in a Christian marriage gains precedence because Satan is active against a Christian marriage. The greater spiritual success for a Christian marriage is to individually and collectively grow in the Lord so to survive storms – small and large, and significantly lead the children to continuously love the Lord. Such a Christian marriage will glorify God.  

            To achieve greater spiritual success, the Christian family should love the Lord Jesus through the assimilation of HIS Word, love and submission to their spouse as Christ loved the church and as the church submits to Christ, and communion with fellow Christians. This is a surefire recipe for a greater spiritual success in a Christian marriage.

            There is greater power in a Christian marriage when both the husband and the wife love the Lord dearly, thus obey and glorify God through the ups and downs of the marriage. When they love the Lord dearly and are in constant communion with Christ, their marriage would be unbreakable.

            Finally, the disclaimer.

            This post is not to encourage Christians to marry non-Christians. It is wise to err on the side of caution than not.

            So a Christ-loving Christian ought to marry another Christ-loving Christian to achieve the greater spiritual success.


Endnotes:

[1] Every born-again Christian is a sinner. But he/she has been saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ. So a Christian married to a non-christian, although is a practicing sinner, will gain eternal life.

[2]http://www.raac.iupui.edu/files/2713/9413/8354/Bible_in_American_Life_Report_March_6_2014.pdf


[3] http://www.focusonthefamily.com/about_us/focus-findings/marriage/divorce-rate-in-the-church-as-high-as-the-world.aspx 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Why Believe Adam & Eve? (Defending Adam & Eve’s Existence)


            Bible reveals Adam & Eve’s existence. But did they really exist? If they did exist, how do we reason it out?

            In August 2013, Yahoo News reported the unraveling of a genetic Adam and Eve, who lived about 135,000 years ago [1]. This report was based on papers published in Science (August 2013). Genetic Adam and Eve are not to be confused with the Biblical Adam & Eve.

            Genetic Adam & Eve were supposedly two out of thousands of people with unbroken and continuing male and female lineages. On the contrary, Biblical Adam & Eve were the first ever humans created by God – our primeval ancestors.

            Minimally, Christians subscribing to Historic Christianity (because they consider the Bible as God’s infallible and inerrant word) believe in the existence of the biblical Adam & Eve [2]. Postmodern Christians consider the biblical Adam & Eve as mythological figures because they do not attribute divine inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy upon the Bible. Evolutionists and Non-Christians, with the exception of Jews and Muslims, deny the existence of Adam & Eve.

            Why is Adam & Eve’s existence germane to Christianity?

            If biblical Adam & Eve never existed, the Bible could be debunked i.e. the narrative of original sin and need for savior - the Lord Jesus Christ - could be incorrect as well. Thus a conclusion that there is no salvation from Christ, and that Christians are merely walking in the dark could be reasonable.

            Denial of Adam & Eve’s existence could entail Christianity’s falsity through the following assertions:

            1. Science proves Adam & Eve never existed.

            2. Adam & Eve did not disobey God (because they did not exist).

            3. There was no “original sin” that was passed to us - the descendants of Adam & Eve.

            4. Jesus’ death on the cross was in vain (because there was no original sin).

            5. Bible that reveals Adam, Eve, sin and Christ is thus incorrect.

            6. Therefore, Christianity is invalid.

            Scientists denying Adam & Eve’s existence, posit humanity’s origin from a small population of individuals. This nullifies biblical notion of humanity’s origin from one man and one woman - Adam and Eve. Studies of ancestral population size of humans based on mutation rates and independent of mutations are the dominant foundation for the denial of biblical Adam & Eve [3].

            Do not worry!

            Biochemist and Vice President of Research & Apologetics of “Reasons to Believe,” Dr. Fazale Rana refutes the conclusions of the studies denying Adam & Eve’s existence [4]:

            (1) These studies posit estimates and not hard and fast values. Therefore, do not consider estimates as concrete values.

            (2) Studies on “Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam” trace back the origin of humanity to single ancestral sequences, namely single man and single women a.k.a Adam & Eve [5]. (Mitochondria, which contain its own DNA, are inherited only from the mother. Mitochondrial Eve is the woman who was the most recent common female ancestor of all humans. Similarly Y chromosome Adam was the most recent common male ancestor of all humans because Y chromosome is inherited only from the father.)

            (3) Those who deny Adam & Eve’s existence assume that they were genetically identical, since Eve was created from Adam. But the Bible does not support the notion that God created Adam & Eve as genetically identical humans. God could have introduced genetic differences into Eve while creating her.

            (4) The claim for humanity’s origin from a small population of individuals, in fact, supports the existence of biblical Adam & Eve i.e. Adam & Eve procreated and had many sons and daughters. These studies could well be positing the population structure of humans some time after their creation when their numbers would have been small.

            (5) As in the case of the research done on “wild mouflon sheep,” these studies could have overestimated the original numbers for the first humans. A young male and female sheep placed in Haute Island in 1957 multiplied to 700 in 1977. When mathematical models used by studies to deny Adam & Eve’s existence were applied in the instance of wild mouflon sheep, the models underestimated the genetic diversity of the population.

            “Answers in Genesis” a Christian apologetics ministry refutes the denial of the existence of Adam & Eve through [6]:

            (A) Studies on human genetic diversity are predicated on “molecular clock dating,” which is “built on series of unverifiable assumptions and circular reasoning” [7]. (Molecular clocks estimate the duration of time taken for genetic diversity to occur.)

            Molecular Geneticist Dr. Georgia Purdom states that secular evolutionary scientists agree with the fundamental uncertainty in molecular clocks. Dr. Fazale Rana claims similarly that uncertainties in molecular clock analysis are on the order of +/- 50,000 years, which is remarkably imprecise. [8]

            (B) An appeal to young earth creationism (belief in six literal 24 hour creation days and that the universe we live in was created 6000-12000 years ago) rejects a notion of large genetic variation within a very short elapsed duration of time (6000-12000 years since origin of universe).

            (In fact, if young earth creationism is correct, Darwinian evolution should be discarded because it is virtually impossible for evolution to occur in a short time frame as 6000-12000 years.)

            Therefore, scientists’ denial of Adam & Eve’s existence need not be trusted for it is a flawed conclusion.

            What do we learn from this attack against Christianity?

            Intellectual attack against Christianity is rampantly escalating. Churches should respond by equipping themselves with answers to these tough yet reasonable questions. Apologetics ministry should be developed in churches that subscribe to historic Christianity.

            To conclude, I submit the words of Dr. Fazale Rana, “Even though the genetic data traces humanity’s origin back to a single woman and man, evolutionary biologists are quick to assert that mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam were not the first humans. Rather, according to them, many “Eves” and “Adams” existed.7 Accordingly, mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam were the lucky ones whose genetic material just happened to survive. The genetic lines of the other first humans were lost over time.

            While this explanation is not out of the realm of possibility, it is highly contrived. It would work if only a few of the first humans reproduced, or were allowed to reproduce. If the data is simply taken at face value, the biblical model is the more parsimonious explanation.

            Even though evolutionary biologists offer ways to explain away the implications of the human population genetic data, these explanations—entrenched in naturalism—are not necessarily superior to an interpretation that fully squares with the biblical account. The scientific case for the biblical Adam and Eve stands firm.” [9]

Endnotes:

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/genetic-adam-eve-uncovered-180706860.html

[2] Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons etc. also believe in Adam & Eve.

[3] http://www.reasons.org/articles/were-they-real-the-scientific-case-for-adam-and-eve

[4] Ibid.

[5] Recent studies have postulated the simultaneous existence of mitochondrial eve and Y-chromosome Adam. (William Lane Craig states, “…but recently Michael Murray, who is involved in the BioLogos movement and with the Templeton Foundation, sent me an email in which he said some recent studies have just reestimated the dates of the Mitochondrial Eve and Chromosomal Adam and they’ve determined that they were roughly contemporaneous.” - http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-historical-adam-and-eve#_ftn7)

[6] https://answersingenesis.org/genetics/did-we-all-come-from-adam-and-eve/

[7] Ibid.

[8] http://www.reasons.org/articles/when-did-mitochondrial-eve-and-y-chromosomal-adam-live

[9] http://www.reasons.org/articles/were-they-real-the-scientific-case-for-adam-and-eve