Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Human Suffering - Should God Be Punished?

            God created this world where evil is an existential reality. Evil is not an illusion. When evil attacks us with all its force, we do feel the pain and, at times, we succumb.

            Speak to anyone who lost their job for no fault of theirs or speak to those whose baby was raped and murdered. Try listening to people who lost their loved one because a shooter lost his mind and randomly shot everyone in his eyesight.

            We may be able to find some reasonable answers for God allowing evil in this world. Those answers may be predicated on the love of God and the freewill of man:

            1. The love of God necessitates mankind’s freewill i.e. man should not be compelled to love God, but the man should have the freedom to love God.  

            2. Man’s freewill allows for the possibility of evil. Man can freely reject God. When man freely rejects God, evil is a certain possibility.

            3. Evil would not rule forever. The Bible teaches that God would defeat evil once and for all. And in the life to come, in heaven with God, there would be no evil. So those who believe in Christ would be spending the eternity in heaven without any pain or suffering.

            So God may have very good reasons to allow evil. Hence the existence of God and evil need not be incompatible.

            However, an agnostic/skeptic/honest seeker could wonder about God and evil through the following thought process:

            A. God exists (or assume that God exists).

            B. Evil is an existential reality.

            C. When evil hurts God’s people; God should be punished, because HE fails to protect     HIS people.

            D. But God is not punished.

            E. Hence, there is no God or there is an evil God.

Why Should God Be Punished?

            Justice demands punishment for evil and any type of wrongdoing. Since God is just, evil should be punished. Since justice demands that the perpetrators of evil should be punished in this world or in the world to come, God has assured that Satan and his cohorts (angels and evil mankind) would be punished unto eternity. 

            God is our ultimate source of love, care, comfort, and protection. We expect and desire that God protect us from evil. Hence we pray, “…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…” (Matthew 6:13, NIV).

            But it is quite evident that God’s protection is lacking in many lives that trust in God fully. There is untold suffering in many Christian homes.

            So there seems to be a degree of validity to the thought process that God should be punished!

            Consider this problem from another vantage point.

            Governments and governing authorities are to care for and protect their people. If they fail in their duty, they may not be reelected. This is their punishment. 

            Similarly, God is the supreme governing authority. So HE should protect HIS people. If HIS people suffer for illegitimate reasons, then God should assume responsibility. In other words, God should be punished.

            Assume an instance where an old lady was robbed by a young man. Also, assume that a perfectly able police officer was in the vicinity and he watched this event unfold. But he did nothing to prevent the theft. At the very least, that police officer could be deemed inefficient. An inefficient police officer is to be punished.

            The very duty of a police officer is to prevent crime from happening. If a police officer remains passive and allows crime to happen, then the police officer fails in his duty. Thus he is to be punished. 

            If you disagree with the above conclusion to posit that this police officer should not be punished, it is plausible that this police officer was tolerant of the crime. A logical corollary, then, is that anyone who is tolerant of evil is evil. Since justice demands that evil should be punished, the police officer who does not prevent a crime should be punished.

            This analogy could be extended to God.

            God has created a world where evil exists. And in many instances, evil triumphs over good. If evil triumphs over good, there is something wrong with the world that God has created (at least in the here-and-now).

            God alone is present everywhere (omnipresent).  Hence, HE is the only one who is present in every evil situation where good people suffer.

            God is the only all-powerful (omnipotent) being. Hence, HE alone can prevent any and every evil that occurs in this world.

            Since God is the only all-powerful and the only omnipresent being, HE is perfectly capable of preventing every evil that occurs in the world. If God fails to prevent evil, then HE may be either evil or inefficient. Hence, God should be punished!

Has God Been Punished?

            The Bible teaches us that God, in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ, suffered punishment for the sins of the whole world, “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (Romans 3: 25-26, NLT).  

            But some could argue that this punishment is not sufficient, considering the fact that, not one, but millions and billions of people are being slaughtered by evil. So a onetime punishment that God took upon HIMSELF, even if it were gory, is insufficient.

Would Our Afterlife Reward Suffice?

            The Bible teaches that although evil remains triumphant in this world (in many instances), there is an afterlife without evil and that afterlife is the reward for those who suffer evil now.

            But the pain experienced by those suffering should be healed in this world. A prospect of healing and restoration in the afterlife remains an intangible prospect in this life, whereas the pain we suffer is tangible in this life.

            Consider two people who are suffering. There is always a prospect that, in this life, one is healed and the other is not. This is what we observe now.

            The one who has been healed will enjoy peace and joy in this life, whereas the one who suffers without healing, does not experience peace and joy in this life. But the reward these people would receive in their afterlife could be similar. In fact, they would enjoy a similar quality of peace and joy in the afterlife, whereas in their life on earth, one enjoyed more peace and joy than the other. So the afterlife reward does not seem to offer justice in this instance.     

Why Should God NOT Be Punished?

            Punishment should only be invoked upon injustice. If God has done nothing wrong, then HE need not be punished.

            Positing any arguments to assert that God cannot be punished without any legitimate reasons would be to ascribe evil upon God – as if God is an untouchable evil dictator. Justifiable reasons should be provided to establish that God has done no wrong.

            God cannot do any wrong. God is the ‘greatest conceivable being’ or the ‘maximally great being.’ Hence, HE can only be perfect and good.

            Imperfection cannot be a part of God. Evil is an imperfection, hence evil, too, cannot be God’s character.

            Therefore, if God, in HIS perfect knowledge, has allowed HIS people to suffer for a particular period of time in this world without receiving justice in this world, then HE would have good reasons to do so.

            Should the good and perfect God necessarily broadcast the good reasons for the suffering of HIS people? No, a good and a perfect God is not required to publicize the reasons for the suffering of HIS people. Since God is perfect and good, HIS reasons would also be perfect and good. People should have faith in God.

            Thankfully, the Bible is not silent about this theme. The Bible does address this situation.

            The Bible affirms that God’s people (not everyone, but some) will continually suffer in this world, especially when they are striving to live for God. In fact, Paul spoke about his suffering with an emphasis that God’s servants will indeed suffer for the sake of God, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6: 4-10, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            The very fact that the Bible addresses this theme is an affirmation to God’s goodness and perfection. So it is evident that God allows evil to attack HIS people. It is also obvious in the Bible that God heals or delivers some and not the others (for reasons that are only known to HIM or better known to HIM).

            Christians should not be surprised if and when they suffer, instead, they should trust God while they suffer, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name! It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message! If good people barely make it, What’s in store for the bad? So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.” (1 Peter 4: 12-19, MSG).

            God pours HIS abundant grace upon those who are suffering. God is with HIS people during their suffering. Those who are suffering can always seek and gain help from God.

            God sustains HIS people during their times of trials and tribulation. God would fail if HE neither delivers nor sustains those who are suffering. Those who suffer need a great help. The Bible is replete with instances of God helping those who are in pain.

            Apostle Paul’s life is a classic case in point, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, NASB).  

            In fact, as these verses teach us, those who earnestly seek God during their suffering would be filled with God’s power to endure their suffering.

Conclusion

            God has done nothing wrong to warrant any punishment. The Bible is also unequivocally clear that God’s people would be called to suffer. But God does not abandon us while we suffer. Instead, HE offers us HIS abundant grace and power to endure suffering.


            “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5: 10-11, NIV). 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Why Do Christians Support Abortion?

            Supporters of abortion seem to think that they have a right to abort because abortion is placed under the reproductive justice framework. Reproductive justice framework “offers a new perspective on reproductive issues advocacy, pointing out that for Indigenous women and women of color it is important to fight equally for (1) the right to have a child; (2) the right not to have a child; and (3) the right to parent the children we have, as well as to control our birthing options, such as midwifery…”1

            If the Bible speaks against abortion, then Christians cannot support abortion, irrespective of reproductive justice. However, a group of Christians passionately support abortion. Why?

            Before we consider the reasons behind Christians supporting abortion, let us examine the biblical position on abortion.

            The Bible teaches against abortion, because: “(1) God is actively involved in the creation and sustenance of the fetus from conception (Jeremiah 1: 5; Isaiah 49: 1; Psalm 139: 13-16).

            (2) Bible uses the terms ‘conception’ and ‘birth’ interchangeably (Job 3:3; Jeremiah 1:5; Isaiah 49: 1; Psalm 51: 5), implying the fetus as a person from birth. In fact, Psalm 51: 5 states a continuity of personal identity (as a sinner) from conception to birth. The Greek term for a baby, ‘brephos’ is applied to a child in the womb (Luke 1: 41-44) and a newborn baby (Luke 2: 16), for Christ’s incarnation was recognized from the time of conception.

            Thus, it is evident that the Bible affirms the personhood of the fetus from conception, and that God is actively involved in fashioning the fetus from conception. HE knows us even before our conception. If a man kills the fetus, then it’s not only equivalent to killing a full human being, but it’s also equivalent to rebelling against God’s design of a human from conception (cf. Exodus 20: 13). Man sins when he rebels against God. Since abortion is a sin against God, a man should not abort his unborn baby.”2

            Christian Q&A website, Got Questions, states that a Bible-believing Christian cannot remain in the pro-choice group, “The Bible is clear that all human life is created by God for His purpose and His pleasure (Colossians 1:16), and a Christian who truly wants to know the heart of God must align his or her viewpoint with God's. When we start justifying evil according to our understanding, we dilute the truth of God's Word. When we rename adultery an "affair," homosexuality an "alternative lifestyle," and murder of the unborn a "choice," we are headed for serious trouble. We cannot redefine what it means to follow Christ. Jesus said we must first "deny ourselves" (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23). Part of denying ourselves is letting go of comfortable lies the world has fed us. We have to let go of our own understanding and allow God to change us (Proverbs 3:5-6)…

            … The Bible is clear: since God is the Creator of human life, only He can determine who lives or dies. And every person who claims the name of Christ has the obligation to make certain his or her views line up with His Word. Is it possible for a born-again Christian to be pro-choice? Yes. Is it likely that such a person will remain pro-choice? Not if he or she is allowing God’s Word to transform and renew his or her mind (Romans 12:2).”3

            If the Bible is against abortion, why do some Christians support abortion?

            Fundamentally, the pro-choice Christian groups affirm the women’s right arguments in favor of abortion. Some of these arguments are:

1. “women have a moral right to decide what to do with their bodies

2. the right to abortion is vital for gender equality

3. the right to abortion is vital for individual women to achieve their full potential

4. banning abortion puts women at risk by forcing them to use illegal abortionists

5. the right to abortion should be part of a portfolio of pregnancy rights that enables women to make a truly free choice whether to end a pregnancy”4

            Within the group of Christians who support or espouse abortion, there are the leaders and the followers. A lay Christian, who may or may not have an opinion on abortion, should understand one significant attribute of the leaders who espouse abortion.

            Those who lead the pro-choice group or those who fervently support abortion would subscribe to progressive Christianity. In other words, they would no longer believe the tenets of Historic Christianity. Abandoning the tenets of Historic Christianity allows the individual Christian to do anything that he/she feels is right.

            In order to justify their feelings or emotions, these pro-choice leaders would misinterpret the Bible. They assert that the Bible does not condemn abortion, since the word abortion is not present in the Bible as against the 3000 Bible verses that mandate social justice, “…in the New Testament, there is no direct teaching on abortion. Jesus does not address the topic specifically and not one of His parables talks about ending a pregnancy. Neither do any of Paul’s letters mention abortion. Abortion was very prevalent in many of the places Paul visited – we know this from other historical texts, and as he mentions in his letters, these cities were brimming with prostitution and illicit sexual activity. In fact, Paul never had a problem speaking out on any topic he believed followers of Christ should pay attention to! This makes it very interesting that abortion was obviously not a topic of enough priority for Paul to mention…”5 

            If abortion could be endorsed through this mode of reasoning, then by the same mode of reasoning a whole host of sins could be endorsed. For instance, watching porn or smoking could be endorsed, because pornography and smoking are not explicitly condemned in the Bible.

            Rebecca Todd Peters is a Christian who fervently supports abortion. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church and professor of religious studies at Elon University. She is also a progressive Christian.6

            Liberal or progressive Christians supporting abortion would generally have a very low view of salvation. Rebecca Todd Peters says, “Progressive Christianity, for me, and for many people, is about focusing on what the social teachings are in the Bible, in the traditions, in the church, that help us think about and address the social problems we see in the world. That’s very different from an evangelical understanding of Christianity, which is about salvation. I actually don’t care that much about salvation. That’s not my primary concern. My primary concern is about the world that we live in, and how we make a more just world. That’s the tradition of the social gospel.” (Emphasis Mine).7

            Christians reject Christ if they are not concerned about salvation. The Lord Jesus did not come to preach social justice to the world. HE came to die for our sins so that those who believe in Christ would live forever.

            The cross is the central aspect of Christianity.  If Christians claim that they are not concerned about salvation, then they are not really aligned with Christ. If they are not aligned with Christ, then their Christianity could be unequivocally questioned. So would it be accurate and reasonable to conclude that those Christians who support abortion are not Christians, to begin with?

            Finally, the hypocrisy of those who fervently support abortion is unraveled by the Christian apologist, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, “At Ohio State University, I did an open forum on a radio talk show. The host was an atheist.

            From the start, the callers were antagonistic. I could feel the tension as soon as the lines lit up. One angry woman caller said, “All you people have is an agenda you’re trying to promote.” Referring to abortion, she said, “You want to take away our rights and invade our private lives.”

            Abortion had not even been brought up.

            “Just a minute,” I replied. “We didn’t even raise the subject.”

            I said, “Can I ask you a question? On every university campus I visit, somebody stands up and says that God is an evil God to allow all this evil into our world. This person typically says, ‘A plane crashes: Thirty people die, and twenty people live. What kind of a God would arbitrarily choose some to live and some to die?'”

            I continued, “but when we play God and determine whether a child within a mother’s womb should live, we argue for that as a moral right. So when human beings are given the privilege of playing God, it’s called a moral right. When God plays God, we call it an immoral act. Can you justify this for me?”

            That was the end of the conversation.” (Emphasis Mine).8

Endnotes:

1https://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/courses/fileDL.php?fID=4051

2http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2013/08/the-dilemma-of-abortion.html

3https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-pro-choice.html

4http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/mother/for_1.shtml

5https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-truth-about-christianity-and-abortion_us_58f52ed7e4b048372700dab5

6What is Progressive Christianity?

            It can be hard to define progressive Christianity because it’s an umbrella term for a lot of different beliefs. But I think my friend and fellow blogger, Alisa Childers (who was once part of a progressive Christian church) hit the nail on the head when she summarized it this way in a recent post:

            A lowered view of the Bible
            Feelings are emphasized over facts
            Essential Christian doctrines are open for reinterpretation
            Historic terms are redefined
            The heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice

            Here’s the danger. To the untrained ear, the progressive Christian message can sound a lot like biblical Christianity. There’s talk of God, Jesus, the Bible, love, and compassion. If a child has never learned to think more deeply about theology and what the Bible actually teaches, they can easily mistake progressive Christianity for biblical Christianity.

            And progressive Christianity often teaches an incomplete or false gospel.

(Source: https://crossexamined.org/progressive-christianity-is-as-much-of-a-threat-to-your-kids-
faith-as-atheism/)

7https://www.thenation.com/article/a-christian-argument-for-abortion-a-qa-with-rebecca-todd-peters/

8https://rzim.org/just-thinking/reaching-the-happy-thinking-pagan/


Websites last accessed on 18th May 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

Are Mosquitoes God’s Mistake In Creation?

            Mosquitoes are more of a menace than a blessing. This is a common opinion of mosquitoes by any layperson. “It is the mosquito’s ability to transmit diseases that has earned it the reputation of deadliest animal on earth—a statistic popularized by Bill Gates. Malaria alone infects more than 200 million people a year. Nearly half a million die. Besides malaria, mosquitoes are responsible for spreading dengue and yellow fever, encephalitis, filariasis, West Nile, and increasingly, Zika virus”,1 says an article in Christianity Today.

            Not only mosquitoes, but the existence of viruses and other organisms that cause profound anguish upon human beings perplexes us and prompts us to ask questions such as this, “I am intrigued by the existence of viruses which seem to cause so much grief to mankind. I’m thinking of the devastation caused by, for example, SARS, Zika, and Ebola. Did God create them for good, but their function was distorted with the Fall? What about the creatures that carry them; for example, mosquitoes? Did God create them for a greater purpose than to torment humans?...”2

            Molecular biologist and Christian apologist, Anjeanette Roberts details the role of viruses in the Creation, the Redemption and the Fall, “Viruses play a critical role in creation by maintaining Earth’s biogeochemical cycles and contributing to Earth’s precipitation cycles. Life as we know it is possible in large part because of viruses.

            Viruses are also phenomenal tools for discovering many other things we know about cellular and molecular biology. And they are fantastic tools for delivering payloads and altering cellular and disease processes. I associate these characteristics of viruses and virus studies as viruses in redemption. Through God’s providence, viruses can help us steward creation well to mitigate disease and ease human suffering—all redemptive works (although not in the spiritual sense of redemption).

            Viruses may also be associated with the Fall in a couple of different ways. They may be defunct cellular machinery that results from biological organisms undergoing natural decay processes. Or viruses that cause disease and fatalities in humans and other organisms may be viruses that have resulted from mismanagement of creation and/or a combination of that and decay processes. I am not convinced that any virus is a direct result of the Fall, but their disease state may be exacerbated by events associated with the Fall—such as humanity’s mismanagement of creation or Adam and Eve’s denied access to the tree of life.”3

            If mosquitoes are a menace, why did God create mosquitoes? Did God err in creating mosquitoes?

            Biochemist and Christian Apologist, Fazale Rana explains the reason behind God’s creation of a mosquito:4

The misery caused by mosquitoes has lead to eradication efforts. If this work is successful and these pests are completely eliminated, what will happen? Recently, a writer for Nature posed that very question to scientists who study mosquito biology and their ecological role.1 Would the total eradication of mosquitoes have a deleterious impact on ecosystems? If not, then one would be justified in viewing these creatures as a true nuisance, incompatible with the work of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good Creator. But if they would be missed, then it means that mosquitoes are indeed part of God’s good creation.
As it turns out, mosquitoes do play an important role in a variety of ecosystems. For example, each year when the snow melts in the Arctic tundra, mosquitoes hatch from their eggs and make up a significant part of the biomass. Some scientists believe these insects serve as an important food source for migratory birds. Mosquitoes even impact the migratory routes of caribou. As caribou move through the Arctic, they take certain routes specifically to avoid mosquito swarms. These migratory routes then impact plant distribution, dictate the feeding behavior of wolves, etc.
In aquatic environments mosquito larvae serve as a food source for fish. In other habitats, spiders, salamanders, frogs, reptiles, and other insects consume mosquitoes. Mosquitoes themselves feed on decaying leaves, organic debris, and microbes. They serve as pollinators as well. Around 3,500 known species of mosquitoes occupy every continent and every conceivable habitat. Yet, only around 200 of these species will annoy humans and even fewer will bite.
So, it looks like mosquitoes do serve a function. As such, they can be understood as part of God’s good design.
But what would happen if these creatures were eradicated completely? It seems that mosquito experts are divided on whether or not their loss would have a dramatic effect on most ecosystems. According to some ecologists, the loss of mosquitoes would harm most ecosystems. Others believe that other organisms would step in and assume mosquitoes’ role as food sources, detrivores, and pollinators. Yet even if mosquitoes can be eliminated without consequence, it doesn’t exclude them from God’s good design. If they were never created, it appears that God still would have to make something like them.
The fact that other organisms could possibly assume the role of mosquitoes within ecosystems speaks of the natural order’s elegant design. It appears that robustness has been built into ecosystems; if a key species disappears other organisms can take its place and buffer the ecosystem from potential damage.
Most scientists agree that—compared to other organisms—mosquitoes are unusually efficient at sucking blood from one individual in the population and then transferring the blood to another individual. This makes mosquitoes adept at spreading pathogenic microbes. As a consequence, if mosquitoes were eliminated, the spread of certain diseases would halt—but there is a downside to such an outcome. While the population might become healthier, its numbers would swell and overpopulation would eventually become a concern. Overpopulation then leads to the loss of health because of limited resources and, thus, leads back to suffering.

            So we could reasonably conclude that mosquitoes are not God’s mistake in creation, instead, they are a part of God’s good plan. In fact, Christian scientists who were involved in studying mosquitoes glorified God, as did Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross, who “…was able to view, for the first time, “pigmented bodies” (i.e. oocysts) beneath the gastric lining of a "dappled-wing" mosquito (female Anopheles). He later penned the following, giving glory to God for this important discovery of the malaria parasites:

This day relenting God
Hath placed within my hand
A wondrous thing, and God
Be praised. At this command,
Seeking His secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
Oh million-murdering Death.
–Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross, August 1897”5

Endnotes:

1https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/april-web-only/creation-caught-in-crosshairs-in-fight-to-end-malaria.html

2http://reasons.org/explore/blogs/theorems-theology/read/theorems-theology/2017/12/14/viruses-mosquitoes-and-suffering-bad-or-good

3Ibid.

4http://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2010/09/02/why-would-god-create-mosquitoes

5https://answersingenesis.org/biology/disease/design-mosquito-and-its-dangers/


Websites last accessed on 7th May 2018. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Why Don’t Most Churches Teach The Bible?

           The Bible should be studied, not read. Unless the Bible is studied, its rich content cannot be understood. The Bible is the Word of God; the 66 books that make up the Bible belong to different genres, or types, of text (Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Prophecy, Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypse). One cannot understand poetry as he/she understands a narrative. Hence the need to study the Bible gains greater credibility.  

            Christians’ faith in God and their relationship with God is always consistent with the extent and intensity of their Bible study. It’s more likely that the Christians’ relationship with God be deeper and better if their study of the Bible is rigorous. This is a no-brainer.

            The term ‘churches’ in the title refers only to those churches subscribing to Historic Christianity. Hence, it does not include the postmodern, the liberal, the progressive or the emergent churches. So the title, “Why Don’t Most Churches Teach The Bible?” incriminates only those churches subscribing to Historic Christianity that do not teach the Bible.

            Quite a few churches take great effort to teach the Bible to its members. These churches preach from the Bible and they conduct sincere and intense Bible study programs. Blessed are those who utilize these opportunities to study the Bible. Even those worshipping in such churches are blessed because they have a convenient opportunity to study the Bible.

            However, many churches do not teach the Bible to its members. Hence, those worshipping in these churches are deprived of an opportunity to study the Bible.

Why Don’t Churches Teach The Bible?

            Indifferent Pastor: The pastor is the leader of the church. If the pastor is not keen on teaching the Bible to its members, then, more often than not, the church would not teach the Bible.

            There are many reasons for a pastor to be indifferent towards teaching the Bible. A pastor may not have the time to prepare for the Bible study or he may have other priorities. But the fact remains that he is indifferent to the importance of Bible study, hence his church does not focus on teaching the Bible to its members.

            Institutional Church: If the church remains bogged down in a package of programs, committees, policies, team, ministries, initiatives, budgets and events, then the church may be an institutional church or on its way to being one. There’s nothing different between this church and an organization.

            A church is an institutional church when its primary agenda is in the material, and not in the spiritual. Such a church would not be interested in Bible study since it is not interested in the spiritual growth of its members. Instead, the church would be scrupulously interested in its material growth (number of people attending the church, increased offering, and the likes).

            Ignorant Members: The Bible is filled with unpleasant truths. For instance, the Bible unequivocally states that unless a person believes in Christ, he/she cannot inherit eternal life. But a convenient lie to mask this unpleasant truth is that God saves everyone – those who believe in Christ and those who do not. This convenient lie is the doctrine of universalism or inclusivism.

            There are churches that choose to not preach the unpleasant truths. Instead, they preach the convenient lie. Such a church would rather let its members remain ignorant of the Bible. An ignorant mind cannot distinguish between a lie and the truth so it will accept the convenient lie as the truth. Hence the church leadership will have an easy time preaching the convenient lies.

            Intimacy With Culture: If the church prefers to be intimate with the popular culture, then it will refrain from teaching the Bible. However, the Bible consistently opposes the popular culture.

            If the popular idea is to accept homosexuality, a church that desires to be intimate with the culture would approve and endorse homosexuality. Such a church would not desire to teach the Bible since the Bible is explicit in its condemnation of homosexuality.

What About Small Group Bible Study?

            Some churches promote small groups within their congregation to teach the Bible. How effective are these small groups?

            Small group Bible studies can be very effective if there is a strong leader to lead the Bible study. Any small group will be effective only if the leader excels in teaching the Bible and guiding the Bible study.

            A temptation the devil throws at the small group Bible studies is to morph it into a social group where friendships, business collaborations, and whatnot, are cultivated diligently. Small group Bible studies will always need to fight the good fight to remain a Bible study group instead of morphing into a social outfit.

            Small group Bible study would also do better if it manages its time effectively. Any effective Bible study requires a minimum of 60 minutes to a maximum of 90 minutes per session.

            Bible study should consume the entire 60-90 minutes. Singing, prayer etc. should be outside this time. Anything less than 60-90 minutes for Bible study cannot lead to an effective study.

            The small group Bible study should meet every week. Apart from meeting every week, there should be homework for the participants to keep them engaged in the study during the week.

What If You Are Worshipping In A Church That Does Not Focus On Bible Study?

            Approach your church leadership and request them to begin a Bible study program. If they do not implement your sustained request, then you are probably left without an option but to look out for a private Bible study program or another church. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Biblical Illiteracy Is Hurting Christians Big Time

            Almost every Christian home owns a Bible, but how many Christians actually read the Bible? Statistics reveal very poor results! Majority of Christians do not read their Bible.

            It seems Christians do not have an urge or a desire to read the Bible. That deep desire to read and study the Bible seems to be lost in time.

            Here’s another perspective. If a lay Christian is in conversation with his Muslim friend about Jesus, it is exceedingly possible that the Muslim friend knows more about the Bible than the Christian. This is the plight of Christians today.

            An article in Christianity Today, authored by Ed Stetzer, emphasizes the problem of biblical illiteracy with facts:1

Christians claim to believe the Bible is God's Word. We claim it's God's divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren't reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.
Because we don't read God's Word, it follows that we don't know it. To understand the effects, we can look to statistics of another Western country: the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Bible Society surveyed British children and found many could not identify common Bible stories. When given a list of stories, almost 1 in 3 didn't choose the Nativity as part of the Bible and over half (59 percent) didn't know that Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is in the Bible.
British parents didn't do much better. Around 30 percent of parents don't know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.

            Biblical illiteracy is an epidemic that continues to soar. It is not limited to the USA or UK. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Biblical illiteracy may even be prevalent in our homes.

            Why should we read the Bible? If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then as God’s people, we ought to know God’s Word. Significantly, God has commanded us to learn HIS Word.

            Today, we have unlimited access to the Bible, yet we do not read it. An article from Biola University reveals why we should read the Bible:2

In the book of Amos, people who experienced a “famine of hearing the words of the Lord” are portrayed as undergoing divine judgment. Amos paints a picture of people without access to God’s revelation searching for a message from God like desperate people — hungry and dehydrated — in search of food and water (Amos 8:11–12). In Amos they want it, but are not permitted it. In our case, although we have unlimited access, we often don’t want it…
When God commissioned Joshua (the son of Nun), he charged him with these words: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Josh. 1:8). How often should you meditate on it? Day and night. Why? So that you do what is in it.
The Old Testament book of Psalms leads off with these words:
          Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Ps. 1:1–3)
And in another psalm: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). Have you ever wondered how it could be his meditation all the day? The psalmist didn’t have the Bible on his smart phone. Did he carry around a big scroll under his arm? No, he had memorized the passages he was meditating on and was thinking about them. He had committed large sections of the Bible to memory…
Are you aware that the New Testament authors included in their writings more than 300 direct quotations from the Old Testament writers — not counting hundreds of other allusions and echoes of Old Testament language? There is no evidence that any of these authors actually looked up the references as they wrote. They simply knew their Bibles — that is, the parts of the Bible that had already been written. How did they come to know it so well? They worked on it “day and night.” They saturated themselves in it. (Emphasis Mine).

            What are the effects of Biblical illiteracy? Ed Stetzer says that those who do not read the Bible could easily be deceived by the plethora of false doctrines that are in vogue today, “…Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”3

            If we do not know the biblical doctrine, we could believe in any false doctrine as if it were the biblical doctrine. The danger of not knowing the truth is that we could believe in falsehood as if it were the truth. Truth cannot contain even a speck of falsehood in it. But falsehood could have one or more strands of the truth. However, falsehood will remain a falsehood despite the presence of one or more strands of the truth.

            How could we recognize a false doctrine when we are oblivious to the truth? Unless the truth is in us, we can never identify a false doctrine. If we do not read the Bible, we would not know the truth. This is the primary reason why so many Christians believe in false doctrines. 

            What are the churches doing? Churches are one of the most significant reasons for this debacle says Albert Mohler, “Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.

            Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy. How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?

            Even the pulpit has been sidelined in many congregations. Preaching has taken a back seat to other concerns in corporate worship. The centrality of biblical preaching to the formation of disciples is lost, and Christian ignorance leads to Christian indolence and worse.” (Emphasis Mine).4

            How do we overcome this biblical illiteracy epidemic? Those who haven’t read the Bible tend to think that Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple! Unless we read the Bible, we cannot think and believe in the truth.

            Albert Mohler believes that the ball is in our court i.e. the Christian’s court:5

This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course. Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.
Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy–or too distracted–to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.
This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of Americans–Christians included–will go on thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah lived happily ever after.

            Finally and more importantly, let’s not blame our parents or our churches for not teaching us the Bible. Let’s blame ourselves.

            Unless we have a great love and a burning desire to read and study the Bible, we would not listen to our parents or our church leaders, even if they teach us the Bible. If we do not read our Bible, our love for the Lord our God is seriously lacking. So if we do not read the Bible, then let us repent of our sin and begin to read and study God’s Word.

Endnotes:

1https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/epidemic-of-bible-illiteracy-in-our-churches.html

2http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy/

3https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/epidemic-of-bible-illiteracy-in-our-churches.html

4https://albertmohler.com/2016/01/20/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem-4/


5Ibid.