Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Day as “Good Governance Day” Controversy In India


            This December, the Indian academia was notified by the Indian government to organize several activities (essay, quiz competitions and documentary screenings)1 on December 25th to observe ‘Good Governance Day.’ These activities, according to the government mandate, should be photographed and recorded as a proof of compliance. 2

            This implied that schools and colleges should work on Christmas day. Thereby a Christian child (and of course the parents too) would be denied an opportunity to worship and enjoy reminiscing the Lord’s birth as a family.

            Any ardent Christian would ponder the reason behind the sudden choice of December 25th by the government of India to observe ‘Good Governance.’ The government’s choice of December 25th was to honor the birthday of Mr. A.B Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, who was born on the same day. He belongs to the party that presently governs India.

            Justifiably the National Council for Churches in India (NCCI), the apex body of Protestant and Orthodox churches in India representing 14 million Indian citizens, registered their protest against the government action through a letter to the Indian Prime Minister. Their letter read, “Your government has been telling the people that good days are going to come. However, we are alarmed at the way the good days are sought to be introduced. They appeared to be ushered in at the cost of social, economic and religious minorities and vulnerable sections of the society… It is asserted that that your government wants to celebrate it as Good Governance Day. The implication of such a celebration is that government offices, educational institutions etc would have to function that day showing scant respect to the holy day of the Christians, Christmas…” 3

            Evidently, neither the NCCI nor the average Christian dislikes the concept of ‘good governance.’ But the contention of every Christian is the choice of the day on which that noble concept was preferred to be observed. Why did the government of India choose the Christmas day to observe good governance?

            Since then, the Indian government has issued revised notifications to the Indian academia to wrap up Good Governance Day events before December 25th and that the compliance report is not mandatory. 4

            However, this question remains intact; was the initial notification of the Indian government aimed against the Christians? Instead of deliberating over the government’s intent, we may as well ask, how should Christians respond if they are denied holiday on Christmas day?

Communicate the Disappointment Peacefully

            A formal and a peaceful communication, such as the one lodged by NCCI, is valuable. This is apt, for the ruling government in a democracy should not deny any religious community, especially the minority, of its religious privileges.  

Disappointment as Legitimate Response

            How would the other religious communities respond if their holy days are made working days by the ruling government? How would the Muslim community respond if ‘Prophet’s birthday’ was ruled a working day on account of a noble governance concept? How would the Hindu community respond if ‘Diwali’ or another more important holy day was ruled a working day on account of a noble governance concept?

            One could reasonably infer that these communities would be disappointed as well. Disappointment is a default human response upon curtailment of a privilege. Therefore, it’s indeed reasonable for a Christian to be disappointed when our privileges are curtailed in a democracy.

Why Celebrate Only On December 25th?

            In the event of such disruptions, we may as well think of alternate options.

            Why not celebrate Christmas on another day, maybe December 24th or December 26th or the Sunday that’s before or after December 25th?  The Bible’s silence on the precise date of Christ’s birth indicates that the event of Christ’s birth is more important than the date of the Lord’s birth. 

            If a Christian family is keen on celebrating Christmas together, then this is a viable option. If any action is aimed at disturbing the peace of a Christian mind, then the Christian mind should find ways to remain at peace without compromising its religious position.

We Can Remain Without Celebrating on December 25th

            Consider Indians living in the Middle East as a case in point.

            Many travel to the Middle East to make a living – a wealthier and a comfortable one at that. In the Middle East (or in a similar scenario), Christians are expected to work on any day other than the stipulated weekly and national holidays. Therefore, working on Christmas or Easter is a normal routine for the Christian who lives in the Middle East.

            The Christian family in the Middle East makes do with a family dinner on Christmas day or celebrates Christmas on another day. The Christian in this situation refrains from protesting against the Islamic government for not declaring Christmas as a national holiday, for the Islamic nation is not his native country. He simply trudges along, for sustaining his wealth and comfort seems more appropriate than demanding a mere holiday albeit for religious reasons.

            Or consider a country that curbs the existence of a Christian church. In this scenario, the Christian should not celebrate Christmas outside the precincts of his home. But the core religious factors of not celebrating Christmas or worshipping the Lord in the local church does not prevent the Christian from taking up employment in that country.

            Therefore, it is indeed possible to not celebrate Christmas on 25th.

Christmas Is Celebrated In Our Hearts

            The Lord Jesus Christ reigns in the heart and mind of every Christian. While celebrating these important occasions in the company of the family or the church community is indeed significant, it is of paramount importance to celebrate the Lord’s presence – HIS birth, death and resurrection in our hearts and minds.

            Christmas is the celebration of our Savior’s first-coming into the world to save us from our sins. We are eternally saved when we believe in Jesus. This is a matter of great joy. This joy should occupy our hearts until our last breath.  

            If Christ reigns in our hearts and if our hearts are filled with joy then none can or should take that joy away. This joy remains irrespective of our ability to celebrate Christmas.

            Although we remain joyous, we ought to grieve. We grieve for those who do not believe in Jesus. While we grieve, we pray that those who do not believe in Christ would believe the Lord Jesus Christ. None should take this prayer away from us.

            Since Christianity is primarily an inward disposition of a heart to the Lord Jesus, a Christian should be able to work or study on any given day, thereby denying trials and tribulations the chance to destroy his peace.

            Nothing can separate the believer from HIS Lord. Nothing should destroy the peace that Christ offers to us.

            That Christians should submit to the governing authorities is mandated in the Bible (Romans 13: 1). In the very same verse, the Bible says that governing authorities have been established by God.

            The Bible asserts that the governing authorities should hold no terror to those who are doing right (Romans 13: 3, NIV). Even if governing authorities fail to do the right, we should do the right albeit without compromising our religious position.

            If Christians are denied the privilege of worshipping and reminiscing the Lord’s birth on Christmas day, we should continue doing the right. And in doing the right, we will be blessed by God for the Bible teaches that we should bless those who curse us (Luke 6: 28).

            So may the joy of the Lord’s birth increase in our hearts as we seek to serve HIM alone during this Christmas season and always. May the incomparable power of God rest and abide upon every Christian who genuinely seeks and serves Christ so that we will remain peaceful and joyous even during trials and tribulations. May this world know and believe in the Lord Jesus as their God and savior.

            A blessed Christmas to you and yours! Amen.



Endnotes:
1 http://www.firstpost.com/india/good-governance-day-angry-leaders-say-communal-design-to-target-minority-holidays-1853529.html

2 http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-uproar-in-lok-sabha-over-schools-being-told-to-remain-open-on-christmas-2044700

3 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/good-governance-day-ncci-seeks-pm-narendra-modis-intervention/articleshow/45568276.cms


4 http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/good-governance-day-circulars-revised/article6701900.ece

Monday, December 15, 2014

“To Murder All Homosexuals” - A Biblical Teaching?


            On 3rd December 2014 a pastor was reported predicting ‘AIDS free Christmas’ if all homosexuals are killed, “A Baptist pastor in Tempe, Arizona called for the mass extermination of LGBT people on Sunday in a sermon entitled “AIDS: The Judgement of God.” In the sermon, which was uploaded to YouTube on Monday from Faithful Word Baptist Church, Pastor Steven Anderson said that God has ordered in the scriptures that gays should be killed, and that if humanity wants to have an “AIDS-free world by Christmas,” he said, that’s what should be done.

            “Turn to Leviticus 20:13,” he says in the video, “because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS.” “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them,” Anderson read aloud. “And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS,” he said. …Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant”…There will never be any gays in his church, he said, not ever, ever, ever. “No homos will ever be allowed in this church as long as I am pastor here,” he insisted...”1



            (Leviticus 20: 13 in New International Version translation is, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”)  

            Some key questions, in this context, should be addressed, and they are:

1. Are the Old Testament Laws Applicable Today?

            Not all Old Testament laws are applicable to Christians today.

            God did not intend Old Testament laws to be timeless ethical codes. God gave Israel laws that were appropriate to their historical circumstances.2 

            Consider divorce as a case in point. Divorce was permissible under the Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 24: 1-4), but Christ revised the law on divorce. First, HE said that divorce was not God’s ideal for marriage established at creation (Matthew 19: 8). Second, Christ taught that sexual immorality could be the only reason for divorce (Matthew 5: 32, 19:9).

            The Old Testament law on divorce was only appropriate to the morally calloused hearts of the Israelites, for Christ radically narrowed the scope for divorce.

            Furthermore, some Old Testament laws do not apply to the life of a Christian (e.g. circumcision: Acts 15 & 1 Corinthians 7: 19). 

            Advocates for homosexuality strive to legitimize homosexuality by claiming that none of the Old Testament laws are applicable to Christians today. They refer to Paul’s argument that he was no longer under the law (1 Corinthians 9: 20) to legitimize homosexuality as permissible by God.

            While striving to legitimize homosexuality in Christianity, these heretics ignore the verses from the New Testament (verses written by Paul) that deem homosexuality as sin (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9). Since both the Old and the New Testament deem homosexuality as sin, mankind, especially Christians, should not indulge in homosexuality.

2. Does God Desire the Death of Homosexuals?

            God did say what HE said in Leviticus 20:13.  Leviticus 20:13 teaches that homosexuality is sin, and death is the punishment or consequence for homosexuality.

            The New Testament affirms death for sin (Romans 6: 23). The only difference between the theocratic-then (divine governance: God ruled Israel directly then) and the non-theocratic-now (human governance within God’s absolute control) is the timing of God’s judgment.

            Judgment [for homosexuality] was immediate in the theocratic-then. But now it could happen in the present (e.g. death due to AIDS) or in the future – when Christ will judge mankind once and for all.

            Unless man repents and believes in Christ, whose perfect sacrifice will save everyone who believes in HIM from sin, the sinful man will eternally die for the sake of his sin, be it homosexuality or any other sin.

3. Should Homosexuals be Murdered Today?

            No, the Bible does not teach that homosexuals should be killed now.

            If Levitical laws are to be considered today, then each of them needs to be followed. For instance, all adulterers should be murdered as well (Leviticus 20: 10).

            God was not solely biased against the homosexuals that HE pronounced death sentence against them. In fact, God was against any form of sex outside the precincts of marriage, which is precisely why adultery was also judged with a death sentence.

            We would do well to recollect that Israel was a theocratic society when God handed down the Levitical laws to Israel. The period of theocracy has ceased ever since Israel rejected God’s rule over them. God then gave the Israelites over to human kings (1 Samuel 8: 4-9). (Theocracy will once again be established when the Lord Jesus will rule again from Jerusalem in the future for 1000 years.)

            Since we are no longer a theocratic society, God has commanded us to submit to the governing authorities. So we submit to the laws established by the governing authorities (Romans 13: 1-7).

            Christians are not called to take the law into our own hands. Christians are called to submit to the righteous rulers who govern for the good of the people.

            Since there are no laws promulgating death upon homosexuals today, homosexuals should not be murdered. Everything that’s immoral or that which is a sin against a Holy God cannot be judged with death or termed illegal in a non-theocratic society we live in now. Thus, calling for the murder of homosexuals is unbiblical, insane and depicts a distortion of the Bible.

            Homosexuality is a violation of God’s creational intent. God created man and woman for sexual intercourse, therefore homosexual relationship, as an aberration of the creational intent, is an assault on God.

            God has assured in HIS Word that homosexual offenders will not inherit God’s Kingdom. Murdering homosexuals will deprive them of an opportunity to repent and renounce homosexuality. Moreover, it is God who has the sole right to take life off the earth.

            Hence, it is our bounden responsibility to love homosexuals so to lead them to Christ by whose presence and power they could renounce the sinful practice of homosexuality.

4. Are All Homosexuals Pedophiles?

            The pastor from Arizona termed homosexuals as pedophiles (an adult who is sexually attracted to young children). The term pedophile does not apply to homosexuals, since homosexuals, by definition, indulge in same sex relationships, and normatively are not pedophiles.  

5. Should The Church Marry Homosexuals?

            Obviously not. The church should not marry homosexuals.

            The Bible deems homosexuality as sin (Cf. Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22, 20: 13; Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9); hence the church should not encourage sins. Consequently, the church should not marry homosexuals.

            Sadly, quite a few churches marry homosexuals and even ordain and appoint pastors who practice homosexuality. Similarly Evangelicals concerned is a movement that seeks to legitimize homosexuality in Christianity.

            Those striving to legitimize homosexuality in Christianity misinterpret the verses from the Bible that deem homosexuality as sin so to render homosexuality as a God-approved practice. This hermeneutical distortion is a sin since it falsifies God’s Word to misrepresent God.

            They also deceptively emphasize that to love your neighbor is to love their sins and encourage them in their sins. If we apply their faulty interpretation to human existence, then one should legitimize all the sins e.g. greed, slander, drunkenness, adultery, theft and what not.

6. Could Practicing Homosexuals Worship In Church?

            Church is a congregation of sinners. There is none righteous in the church (Cf. Ecclesiastes 7: 20, Romans 3: 10).

            Consider this verse, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, NIV).

            Minimally, the church includes greedy, drunkards, slanderers and thieves (those who use their workplace resources for personal and other gains could be considered as thieves). If these sinners can worship the Lord and be in positions of leadership in the local church, then why can’t practicing homosexuals worship the Lord in the church?

            If practicing homosexuals are denied access to the church, then how can one expect them to renounce homosexuality? What then is the ministry of the local church?

            A key role of the church is to edify its worshippers. In other words, a greedy person who worships in the church should renounce the sin of greed by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the ministry of the church.

            Similarly, a practicing homosexual or a prostitute should renounce their sins through the ministry of the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Renouncing sins is more likely possible when the church ministers to the sinner in Christ’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit.

            Therefore, the church should graciously and lovingly include practicing sinners in its community and that includes practicing homosexuals as well.      



Endnotes:

1 http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/12/arizona-pastor-predicts-aids-free-christmas-if-all-gays-are-killed-as-god-commands/comments/


2 For a detailed study, please refer to Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Could Catholics & Protestants Unite? Was Pastor Rick Warren Accurate?



            On 2nd December 2014 “The Christian News Network” reported Pastor Rick Warren’s1 apparent apostasy through their article, “Rick Warren’s Call for Christians to Unite With Catholics, ‘Holy Father’ Raising Concerns”2

            These were Pastor Rick Warren’s words contending for unity between Protestants and Catholics, “We have far more in common than what divides us. When you talk about Pentecostals, Charismatics, Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, on and on and on and on. Well they would all say we believe in the trinity, we believe in the Bible, we believe in the resurrection, we believe salvation is through Jesus Christ. These are the big issues. Sometimes Protestants think that Catholics worship Mary like she’s another god. But that’s not exactly catholic doctrine. There’s the understanding, and, and people say well what are the saints all about? Why are you praying to the saints? And when you understand what they mean by what they’re saying there’s a whole lot more commonality. Now there’s still real differences, no doubt about that. But the most important thing is if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team." 3

            Pastor Rick Warren proposed not a structural unity, but a unity of mission. Yes, there are glaring disagreements between Protestants and Catholics.4 Should these theological disagreements prevent unity?

We Live In Unity

            Leave aside Catholics for a moment. Can we live independent of our non-Christian brothers and sisters in this world? Unity, I believe, is the creational intent of God (Cf. Psalm 133:1; Matthew 22: 39 etc.)

            God knew that people would either accept or reject HIM, and HIS omniscience entailed HIS command to love our neighbors. Thus God mandates unity.

            Consider our workplace. Don’t we live in unity with our non-Christian brothers and sisters at our work place? Isn’t there a unity of purpose within our workplace among people belonging to multi-faceted religious worldviews?

            Whether we like it or not, we ought to live in unity at our workplace, else we wouldn’t survive in the job. So let’s assume that the possibility of being jobless motivates us to live in unity. But don’t you agree that the possibility of something bad happening to us is not the real reason to live in unity?

            How do we get motivated to love our non-Christian brothers and sisters for the right reasons? We are motivated to love everyone because God loves everyone – those who accept HIM and those who reject HIM. God loves even those who hate HIM.

            When God loves everyone and when people subscribing to varied religious thoughts can unite to work for a living, what prevents Protestants and Catholics to work together? What prevents Christians to work alongside Hindus or Muslims or those from other religious persuasions on common missions?

Theological / Doctrinal Unity Between Catholics & Protestants Is Impossible

            But let’s get this straight.

            Salvation is a fundamental teaching of any religion. Unfortunately this is where Protestants and Catholics hold opposing views.

            Protestants rely solely upon Christ for salvation. We believe salvation cannot be earned, but it is a gift of God through God’s grace and man’s belief in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

            On the contrary, Catholics combine belief in Christ, doing good works, and in certain instances they teach that belief in Christ is not even necessary for salvation.

            With such a sharp non-reconcilable disagreement in existence, a theological or a doctrinal unity between Protestants and Catholics is impossible. There are many such disagreements between Protestants and Catholics, so to expect a theological unity is to expect purple geese to lay golden eggs.

            Furthermore, no sane protestant would consider the Pope as his spiritual leader. On the other hand, a protestant who knows his Bible will only believe in the triune God and in the incarnate Lord Jesus Christ and follow HIM all through his life.

A Missional Unity Is Realistic

            Pastor Rick Warren denies the possibility of a structural unity but advocates missional unity, "The unity that I think we would see realistically is not a structural unity but a unity of mission. And so, when it comes to the family we are co-workers in the field on this for the protection of what we call the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex, and the sanctity of marriage. So there’s a great commonality and there’s no division on any of those three.”5

            Why shouldn’t the Catholics and Protestants unite to fight against homosexuality, abortion and other rampant evils? Protestants should unite not only with Catholics but also with other religions to fight against evils that destroy the world - poverty, pornography, human trafficking etc.

            Such a unity is necessary because of the magnitude of the problem at hand. Poverty is so rampant that it’s virtually impossible for one religious group to facilitate its eradication. Similarly the evil of pornography is so enormous that it’s impossible for one religious group to eradicate this evil.

            So let’s unite with those who share the passion to save this world from rampant evils, and let’s to the best of our abilities, transcend religious barriers to save our fellow brothers and sisters from pain and suffering.

            I am not advocating that Christ is unnecessary for our salvation. Christ is necessary for salvation. Without Christ, none can be saved. Only belief and obedience to the Lord will save us and grant us a life eternal with our Lord.

            However, it is our love for the Lord Jesus Christ that motivates us to live in unity with everyone irrespective of our religious differences. We should also unite with everyone who is willing to be a means to eradicate evil that destroys human life. Every individual Christian and the Church of Jesus Christ should know and play their role to live in unity and to eradicate evil. Amen.

Endnotes

1 Pastor Rick Warren authored the much acclaimed ‘Purpose Driven Life’ and a host of other bestselling books. He is the founder pastor of the Saddleback megachurch.

2 http://christiannews.net/2014/12/02/rick-warrens-call-for-christians-to-unite-with-catholics-holy-father-raising-concerns/#sthash.0mjOGJf2.dpuf

3 http://carm.org/rick-warren-and-catholicism

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why Did God Kill 25 Million People In Old Testament? (A Brief Response To The Atheists)



                 That God killed 25 million people seems to be a guesstimate of some atheists, but those numbers do not matter.

            Justice is God’s attribute, so HE cannot unjustly kill even one person. Justice, moreover, is an ontologically necessary attribute for a maximally great and perfect being - God. Therefore, God cannot be unjust.

            Since God created everything – humans included, and because God is a just God, HE alone has the sole authority to give and take life. To reiterate then, metaphysically a just God cannot unjustly kill even one person, for God cannot act contrary to HIS nature.

            All that matters is if God has revealed morally sufficient and justifiable reasons for eliminating lives. 

            Hence 25 million is not a number we are concerned about; instead we are concerned about God’s justice. So our question is, “Was God just in killing a large number of people as recorded in the Old Testament?”

            Two introductory remarks are essential.

            First, Bible records God’s killings. If God is evil and unjust, HE need not have allowed HIS people to record those deaths. So to begin with, the fact that God allowed the deaths of people to be recorded in HIS revelation to mankind a.k.a the Bible, suggests that HE is a just God.

            Second, this hue and cry about God being a ruthless killer is predominately posited by atheists. Their intent is to establish that God does not love (for if HE loved, HE would not have killed), and hence there is no such loving and a just God.

            Atheists do not believe in objective moral values / law (e.g. killing of people is morally incorrect). If an atheist believes in objective moral values, then he should posit an objective moral law giver, who is none other than God. When atheists appeal to an objective moral law to deny God’s existence, they are merely invoking God’s presence. So their argument is self-defeating.  

            Despite their self-defeating argument, atheists persist in excoriating God. They ridicule God to render the Christian Bible as unworthy of trust. Thus atheists attack the inerrancy of God’s Word – The Bible.

            Think about this. Although an atheist ridicules God for killings, he never has a reasonable answer (than the answer posited by Christians) to explain the evil in our world.

            If an atheist is questioned about evil and its cause, his most reasonable response would be that people are merely dancing to the music of their DNA. While discussing the reason for evil from within the atheistic perspective, an atheist social media debater remarked, “Oh evil just happens.” This is their best answer.

            Do these answers genuinely satisfy a rational mind? No.

            As much as an atheist loves to excoriate God, much to our chagrin, he consistently fails to come up with reasonable responses. But on the other hand, he vehemently and irrationally denies the rational responses posited by the Christians. Such is their hypocrisy.

            Having said this, a just God has morally sufficient reasons to kill people, so God is justified and none can fault God. What then is one morally sufficient and justifiable reason for God to kill people?

God Can Kill Wicked & Unrepentant People

            Deuteronomy 2:34, 3:6, 20:16-18, Exodus 23:23, Deuteronomy 7:1-2, Joshua 3:10, 9:24 and 1 Samuel 15:2-3 record God’s command to exterminate people. Take for instance the Canaanites, who were they?

            They were wicked. They practiced idolatry, witchcraft, soothsaying, sorcery, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality and bestiality.1

            But wasn’t there a chance for these people to repent and be good? Yes. Genesis 15: 13-16 teaches that God refrained from his judgment upon the Canaanites for 400 years during which time God’s own people languished in slavery.

            If Canaanites did not repent in 400 years, common sense suggests that they would not have repented even if God had given them another 400 years. But God is omniscient (God possesses middle knowledge2 as well). Thus God knew precisely that Canaanites would not repent. Hence God judged them.

            What about children who were killed? Was God unjust in killing children? No!

            Death is either a gateway to heaven or hell. When children die, God in HIS grace takes them into HIS own presence (Cf. 2 Samuel 12: 23). So the death of children is in fact their salvation. Children who die will be with God in heaven.

            Just as how the owner of a building possesses all authority to demolish a building, God, the owner of every life, possesses all authority to create and to eliminate life. Instead of allowing the children to grow in the Canaanite practice, God in HIS mercy takes them away, and by doing so, favors the children from an eternal perspective.

            Having said this, let us engage some objections:

Objection #1: God Killed Millions But Satan Killed Only 60!

            Obviously this objection accuses God as the greater evil. Since the source of the data for this objection is the Bible, it’s only reasonable that we posit a response from the Bible.

            The Bible does not refer to Satan as a good being. Satan opposes God. The Bible terms Satan as an accuser (Revelation 12:10), tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3).

            If Satan opposes God, and if God is an evil killer (as proclaimed by the atheists), then Satan should be intrinsically good. But Satan is not good, instead Satan is purely evil. Therefore, the inverse condition is more reasonable i.e. since Satan, the evil being, opposes God, God should be intrinsically good.

            Significantly, those who raise this objection against God display a serious inadequacy of biblical comprehension. God is sovereign, whereas Satan is not. It is also evident from the Bible that Satan is not independent of God. Satan cannot kill anyone without God allowing him to. Therefore, attribute the 60 or whatever number that one wants to add to Satan’s credit into God’s account.

            Every single death by Satan can be reasonably explained. Consider Job’s family that was killed by Satan.

            God allowed it for a particular reason. While God commends Job’s righteousness, Satan accused Job of being godly and righteous for selfish reasons. If the godliness of a righteous man in whom God delights can be shown to be a terrible sin, then redemption is unimaginable, for the godliest of godly will be the most ungodly. More importantly, God’s judgment about Job’s righteousness would have been proven erroneous.

            Therefore, God allows Job’s travails, and true to God’s commendation, Job emerges as godly and righteous after that severe trial. Satan was proven to be a false accuser.

Objection #2: God Cannot Murder

            If you and I cannot murder, then God cannot murder as well.

            Because the universe in its creational intent is temporal, human life is also temporal. Therefore the creational intent is that death is inevitable for every human life - that which is born should die. As said before, only the creator God can eliminate life when HE determines the appropriate time and reason according to HIS perfect knowledge and justice.  

            God does not murder when HE eliminates life from this temporal world. God judges people for violating HIS laws. The consequence of God’s judgment is death initiated by God.

            A case in point is that a just human judge does not murder when he sentences a convict to death; instead the judge pronounces a judgment upon a law-offender. A judge has the authority to sentence a criminal to death, if the said criminal is a proven offender of the law.

Objection #3: If God Can Kill, So Can A Parent

            Life is created by God. A father and a mother do not create life. They merely provide the sperm and the egg, which is the creational design of God. Thus father and mother are a means to creation of life.

            Parents are created beings themselves. Parents are not creators of life. Therefore, parents are merely stewards of life created by God.

            Since parents are not creators, they are not owners of life, hence parents, as created beings themselves, do not have the authority to eliminate life. Only the creator God has the authority to eliminate life. No one else has this authority.

Objection #4: Why Did God Not Offer Sodom & Gomorrah 400 years To Repent?

            We posit God’s deferral of judgment upon Canaanites for 400 years as justification for the Canaanite massacre. But this act of God requires a greater understanding.

            God is omniscient – HE knows everything with respect to the past, present and the future. God possesses middle knowledge as well.

            To begin with, God would have known that even in 400 years the Canaanites would not repent. So to infer that God hoped for the Canaanites to repent and believe in HIM is incorrect.

            Why then did God wait for 400 years to judge Canaanites? On one hand, God waited for 400 years to judge the Canaanites but on the other hand, God punished Sodom & Gomorrah rather quickly. Why?

            Both Canaanites and the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of sins against God. Neither of them repented before God’s judgment. So it was morally sufficient and justifiable for God to judge them both for their sins.

            The Bible teaches us, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18: 25c, NIV). God, for reasons that are just, but best known to HIM, defers judgment upon people, according to HIS will.

            But the Bible does provide a clue about God’s judgment of Canaanites and Sodomites. In Genesis 15: 13-16, God says that “…the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” So God waited for their sins to reach its full measure to pronounce judgment upon the Amorites - a Canaanite clan. Similarly it is possible that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah had reached its full measure when judgment was pronounced (Cf. Genesis 19: 13).   

Conclusion

            We can go on and on reasonably dealing with every objection that are posited against God. When a mind compulsively argues against God, then it’s a given that that mind integrally refuses or does not innately desire to comprehend God. This is a mind that has rejected God. This mind, as long as it continues to integrally reject God, will not comprehend God, barring a divine intervention in the likeness of an intervention on the road to Damascus.  

            Then there are honest objections against God. These objections are from a mind that earnestly desires and seeks to comprehend God and HIS actions in this world. An infinite being’s actions in this world are not effortlessly comprehensible by finite minds, such as yours and mine.

            Therefore, our starting point is to earnestly seek God in all humility for all our doubts and confusions. May we, by the grace of God, endeavor to assimilate the humility that Christ practiced, and may the peace of God that transcends human comprehension fill our hearts and minds and guard us in Christ Jesus. Amen.   

  

Endnotes:
1 http://www.equip.org/articles/killing-the-canaanites/#christian-books-2
&
http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1630
&
http://www.evidenceunseen.com/what-about-the-canaanite-genocide/

2 Dr. William Lane Craig defines middle knowledge as the knowledge of what every possible person would freely do in any circumstances in which God might place him, God knows what sort of evidence will be non-coercively conducive to belief on the part of each human person.

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/middle-knowledge-and-christian-particularism#ixzz3KWP5ZpSM


Monday, November 24, 2014

Catholic Church Endorses Universalism? Did Pope Francis Say That Atheists Will Go To Heaven?


            A year ago, Pope Francis implied that atheists would go to heaven if they only do good. These were his words, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good …‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”1

            Pope Francis’ speech about ‘doing good’ endorses salvation by works, which is consistent with the theology of the Catholic church. So this is not surprising. On the contrary, Protestants (or at least many Protestant denominations) negate ‘salvation by works’ to espouse ‘salvation by grace through faith.’

            In his controversial speech, Pope Francis stated that all are beneficiaries of Christ’s redeeming blood. This then is the most disturbing aspect about Pope Francis’ speech - his implication of universalism (that all human beings will find salvation; it does not necessitate belief in God and Jesus Christ.) If his implication of universalism is factual, then it is a false doctrine with reference to the Bible.

            Immediately after Pope Francis’ controversial speech, Fr. Thomas Rosica (staff of the Holy See press office) clarified that Christ is the means to all salvation, as if to negate the implication to universalism.2

            However, in his statement of clarity, Fr. Rosica refers to Fr. Karl Rahner’s conceptualization of “anonymous Christian” to imply universalism. The anonymous Christian is a non-Christian who ends up in heaven although without consciously realizing himself / herself as a Christian. These are Fr. Rosica’s words, “This must mean that the non-Christians who end up in heaven must have received the grace of Christ without their realising it. Hence the term – ‘anonymous Christian’.”3 The concept of “anonymous Christian” is taught in “Lumen Gentium” - the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II (no.16).

            Before we go any further, we should affirm the following:

            1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (promulgated for the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in 1992; henceforth denoted as CCC in this essay) deems atheism a sin, “Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion...” CCC 2125  The same message is found in ‘Gaudium Et Spes’ (Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World) promulgated by his holiness, Pope Paul VI in 1965, “While rejecting atheism, root and branch, the Church sincerely professes that all men, believers and unbelievers alike, ought to work for the rightful betterment of this world in which all alike live…She courteously invites atheists to examine the Gospel of Christ with an open mind.”4

            2. The Catholic church affirms the existence of hell, which is reserved for those who continue in mortal sin until their end.CCC 1033-1037

            3. The Catholic church does not explicitly endorse universalism. Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a Catholic Priest, author and blogger, emphasizes that universalism does not find a place in Catholic church, “It is a sentimentalist heresy because it is based not on clear thinking or logic or the authority of Church teaching or the catechism or the Sacred Scriptures, for there is no support anywhere for universalism in the Catholic faith” 5 Fr. Rosica affirms the same idea, “Catholics do not adopt the attitude of religious relativism which regards all religions as on the whole equally justifiable…”6

            However, the plot thickens here. Avery Cardinal Dulles, who held the Laurence J. McGinley Chair in Religion and Society at Fordham University, endorsed universalism, “Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted…”7

            Avery Cardinal Dulles was a very well respected Catholic theologian and was in close association to Pope John Paul II. It was Pope John Paul II who conferred the title of Cardinal of the Catholic Church in Rome upon Avery Dulles in 2001. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave the dying Cardinal Dulles a private audience.8

            I make these observations about Cardinal Dulles merely to emphasize his highly respectable standing in Catholicism. Therefore, a man of such high stature in Catholicism would not have ignorantly blurted out his endorsement of universalism. If he had meant what he said, then that could be the official position of the Catholic church as well.

            In fact CCC #841 affirms that Muslims and all those from other religions who acknowledge the creator God will go to heaven even if they reject Christ, “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.” 9

            Furthermore, CCC #847 offers anyone who rejects Christ a backdoor entry into heaven under the guise of ‘through no fault of their own’ hypothesis, “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.”10

            The Bible does not teach salvation for Muslims and other theists, instead the Bible teaches that belief in Christ to be the only means to salvation. On the contrary, CCC #841 confers heaven upon all theists, even if they reject Christ, and CCC #847 and #848 confers heaven upon all atheists.

            But the hypothesis ‘no fault of their own’ in CCC #841 bewilders me. Why?

            First, it is not biblical. Nowhere does the Bible say that man even if he rejects Christ for no fault of his own will merit eternal life.

            Second, the concept that man is following another religion for no fault of his own ascribes innocence upon man. (On the contrary, the Bible deems man a sinner.) In other words, man has not consciously rejected Christ, but is innocently following the religion that he has been born into.

            Let’s say that ‘A’ is born into an atheist household. The no fault of his own argument will posit A’s atheism as a consequence of A’s nurture / upbringing – that ‘A’ was brought up in atheism, so ‘A’ subscribes to atheism. The logical alternate of this argument would be, had ‘A’ been brought up in a Catholic household, then ‘A’ would have subscribed to Catholicism. So in this case, ‘A’ will go to heaven because of his circumstances (atheism or Catholicism), which according to the Catholic catechism is for no fault of his own.

            The no fault of his own hypothesis includes a couple of invalid presuppositions. 

            A. This hypothesis removes any semblance of cognition of an alternate worldview. So the hypothesis presumes that the person in contention does not think about alternate worldviews for no fault of his own.

            Really? How did Catholic theologians determine this?

            B. The no fault of his own hypothesis also rejects a notion of conscious rejection of competing worldviews by the person concerned. By imputing innocence to the person, the hypothesis assumes that the person does not consciously reject competing worldviews, which need not necessarily be true.

            Consider Richard Dawkins who rejects God and Christ consciously. To begin with, the no fault of his own argument could include Dawkins under its scope by arguing that Dawkins was not properly informed or educated about God or creation that he subscribed to Darwinian evolution to reject God.

            Then just as how an expert neuroscientist would be unable to be an expert in ‘C’ language programming, the no fault of his own argument could potentially argue that Dawkins does not have the expertise to comprehend the truth of the Christian faith, and hence for no fault of his own subscribes to the lie of atheism to reject Christ.

            This so deviously entails that Dawkins has not rejected Christ consciously. It’s just that Dawkins is unable to comprehend the truth for no fault of his own.

            Thus the no fault of his own hypothesis has the surreptitious potency albeit sans sense and sagacity to confer heaven upon all and sundry.

            The third and the most important argument, as I see it, against the no fault of his own hypothesis is this. The concept that man follows another religion for no fault of his own ascribes inactivity upon God.

            If man is said to be following a lie for no fault of his own then the insinuation is that God has not done anything significant to teach man or to bring man into truth-consciousness. This is the most troublesome aspect of this Catholic doctrine.

            But God does intervene in people’s lives. The Bible is replete with such instances; a vividly remembered case in point would be Christ’s supernatural appearance to the church persecutor Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 1-18) or the promise that Christ would be with us until the very end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).

            Therefore to say that man remains in a lie for no fault of his own questions God’s immanence and relegates HIM to a mere spectator. Relegating God to a spectatorial dungeon is a false accusation and a sin against a sovereign and a just God.

            Significantly, St. Augustine (354 - 430 AD) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274 AD) arguably two most important Catholic theologians did not subscribe to universalism. The contemporary Catholic conception of universalism commenced in 16th and 17th centuries11 and since then continues to gradually capture the Catholic minds.

            The no fault of his own doctrine of the Catholic church motivates those subscribing to contradictory worldviews to remain in their belief. Why would an atheist or a Muslim want to know the truth if he is taught that he will go to heaven even according to the Catholic understanding? Why would Catholics even want to evangelize, for anybody could be wherever they are for they are there for no fault of their own, and for which they will enter heaven?

            Importantly, the Catholic conception of universalism mocks sin and Christ’s gory death on the cross. Why would anyone want to renounce their sinful life if all they need to do is good works while they continue to enjoy their sinful deeds? Why would Christ have to undergo that extremely painful death while HE could have sovereignly willed everyone into heaven without the pain of the cross?

            What about the Catholic affirmation of hell and their consideration of atheism as sin? It seems that the Catholic church does not take them seriously anymore.         

            I conclude with the words of Fr. Dwight Longenecker, “The effects of universalism on the church are catastrophic. It's not real hard to understand. People aren't dumb. If everyone is going to be saved, then why bother to go to church? If everyone is going to be saved there is no such thing as mortal sin. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need for evangelism. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need to feed the hungry, become a priest, build the church and become a saint.

            Of all the various Hydra heads of modernism, universalism is probably the most insidious and diabolical and destructive of them all. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's sweetness and light and sentimentality and underneath it's poison.”12


            Jesus Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14: 6, NIV). This is the truth, all else is a lie. Amen.


 Endnotes:
1 http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/explanatory-note-on-the-meaning-of-salvation-in-francis-daily-homily-of-may-22

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

5 http://www.catholic.org/news/hf/faith/story.php?id=43802 

6 http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/explanatory-note-on-the-meaning-of-salvation-in-francis-daily-homily-of-may-22

7 http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/02/001-who-can-be-saved-8    

8 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avery_Dulles

9 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p3.htm

10 Ibid.

11 http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/02/001-who-can-be-saved-8    

12 http://www.catholic.org/news/hf/faith/story.php?id=43802 

CCC2125: Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion. The imputability of this offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion." (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c1a1.htm)

CCC 1033-1037
1033We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.
(http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a12.htm)