Monday, June 29, 2015

Same Sex Marriages Legitimized; Why The Hoopla? (A Christian’s Response)


            In a historic ruling, the SCOTUS legitimized same sex marriages in the USA.

            On one end of the response spectrum was a threat from 10,000 pastors from the ‘Black Robe Regiment’ – preachers wearing black robes – to die if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriages. On the other end, the liberal and postmodern Christians would welcome the legitimization of same sex marriages because they favor the practice of homosexuality within Christianity.

            In general, many genuine Christians continue to express surprise and disappointment at this ruling. Surprise and disappointment is legitimate if we are living in a world free of evil. But we live in an evil world.

            Evil will continue to rule our world until the Lord returns to annihilate the Satan. So instead of expending energy into surprise and disappointment, should we not focus on facing reality in the presence of the Lord Jesus?

            The evil practices of this world will continue to flourish. Christians subscribing to Historic Christianity should be aware of this fact.

            Anti-Christian disposition will continue to flourish. The rejection of God will gain further momentum and will permeate into all facets of our life. 

            Liberals who demand tolerance from Historic Christianity will hypocritically not tolerate Historic Christianity. More and more liberals will gain control over all facets of life and will make life extremely difficult for Christians.

            Now that homosexual marriages are at par with heterosexual marriages in the U.S, it’s only a matter of time when this trend captures the whole world. Do not ever think that your country is immune to legitimization of homosexual marriages and that this abomination of a marriage will never plant its feet in your soil.

            Do not be surprised if the world rules that homosexual marriages are more preferred than the heterosexual marriages.

            Do not be surprised if polygamy (more than one spouse) and polyamory (group relationships) are legitimized next [1].

            If polygamy and polyamory are considered taboo now, it could no longer be taboo in a decade or so. Such will be the way of this world, so prepare for it now.

            Legitimization of homosexual marriages is similar to legitimizing polygamy or polyamory or marriage between humans and animals. LGBT community preaches love through slogans such as, "Marriage is About Love," "All We Need Is Love," "All Love Is Equal," "Love Wins" etc. Since LGBT community exalts love over gender, they could support polygamy or polyamory or even a marriage between humans and animals.

            Host of other sinful practices could be legitimized next e.g. pedophilia. Pedophiles have already demanded same rights as homosexuals [2], since American Psychiatric Association termed pedophilia as a sexual orientation. (Subsequently APA recanted and termed pedophilia as a disorder. [3])

            If the pedophilia group lobbies powerfully as the LGBT, it’s a mere matter of time for pedophilia to be legitimized. In fact, child porn could be legitimized before pedophilia [4].  

            The principle that governs the liberal mind is “nothing is taboo.” A world that loves evil will indulge greater evil. Be prepared and do not be surprised.

            How are we to prepare?

            First, realize the genuine concern.

            Why are sincere Christians against legitimization of homosexual marriages? Is it because we hate homosexuals? No! We hate no one. But we are against the practice of homosexuality because it is against God and nature.

            The only marriage that’s pure in God’s sight is the marriage between a man and a woman. All other relationships and marriages are an abomination in God’s sight.

            Government’s legitimization of homosexual marriages would entail the following:

            A. Homosexuality will no longer be a sin / disorder / immoral act according to the law of the land.

            B. Homosexual marriages would be equal to heterosexual marriages.

            C. Host of other immoral and sinful acts such as pedophilia, incest, bestiality, pansexuality, object sexuality etc could be legitimized based on the legitimization of homosexuality. 

            D. Frighten / imprison those who speak and act against homosexuality.

            Second, where is God when such evil is on the rise?

            William Lane Craig said it beautifully in his facebook page, “God has chosen once again to allow people to freely choose their own undoing rather than intervene to preserve righteousness. “Therefore God gave them up” (Rom. 1.24). I fear that with this Supreme Court decision re-defining marriage, America has passed a watershed in its cultural and moral degradation. It beggars the imagination that our society allows states to prohibit marriage between first cousins (despite their love for one another, etc.) and yet will not allow states to prohibit marriage between two men or two women. Churches and religious institutions who refuse to re-define marriage in order to accommodate cultural pressures will now find themselves increasingly under duress”

            God will allow man to exercise his freewill to his own eternal doom. God will not intervene to preserve righteousness every day. Today the west leads the world in moral degradation. The east and the rest will follow suit.

            Do not get disappointed or disoriented with God. Until the Lord returns, evil will flourish. Then the Lord will return to finally eliminate evil once and for all.

            Third, do not be discouraged by the powers-that-are. The powers-that-are will endorse evil.

            President Obama (@POTUS) tweeted this after SCOTUS’ decision, “Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins.” That the POTUS endorsed the SCOTUS [5] does not alter the truth of God’s Word.

            Do not allow our faith in Christ & the Bible to be swayed by the powers-that-are. Let not the powers-that-are dictate our opinions.

            Let us not allow the world to move us away from the Lord or HIS Word – the Bible. Let us not allow those in power to determine our faith in Christ. Let us allow the Lord to rule over us and speak to us through HIS Word – the Bible. Let us be mindful of the Lord and not the world. Let us be students of the Bible.  

            Finally, how should the Church respond to the government decrees that contradict the Bible?

            The Christian church is responsible to disciple Christians to live through these difficult times because many Christians attend church regularly than read their Bibles diligently.

            If the church does not disciple the believers, Christians would endorse homosexuality based on the command “to love our neighbor.” Naïve Christians may not be aware of the Bible’s stand that homosexuality is a sin - affirmed in both the Old and the New Testaments. Hence the church should teach that homosexuals are to be loved but their sin of homosexuality should be rebuked, so that they may repent and live a life that would glorify Christ. 

            Pray for the pastors who preach against homosexuality. They will be scrutinized and persecuted. If they refuse to marry homosexuals, they could be sued and/or imprisoned. These are difficult times for those who desire to live according to the Bible. Pray for those who desire to glorify the Lord Jesus while being in this situation. May our faith in Christ be strengthened. Amen.   



Endnotes:

[1] http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/gay-marriage-decision-polygamy-119469.html#ixzz3eDKLPeVn

[2] http://www.greeleygazette.com/press/?p=11517

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/31/pedophilia-sexual-orientation_n_4183482.html?ir=India&adsSiteOverride=in

[4] http://www.greeleygazette.com/press/?p=11517


[5] http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/White-House-Lit-Up-With-Rainbow-After-Same-Sex-Marriage-Ruling-310199591.html          

Monday, June 22, 2015

What If Jesus Is NOT GOD?


            Some Christians do not believe in Christ’s deity (i.e. Jesus Christ is God). They may subscribe to a position that denies Christ’s true divinity (e.g. Adoptionism or Eutychianism) and could belong to groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormonism.

            An average Christian who believes in Christ’s deity cannot expound or defend his belief when confronted by a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormonism, who would passionately deny Christ’s deity. Why?

            Broadly, Christians, having been continuously indoctrinated of Christ’s deity, blindly believe this to be a fact. They are vague, since they have not adequately considered this subject.

            Instead of examining reasons for Christ’s deity (i.e. why Christ is God), we could consider the implications of denying Christ’s deity (i.e. what if Christ is not God?). Those who deny Jesus’ deity should confront a few challenges that are highlighted here:

            First and foremost, the Bible reveals that man is saved ONLY if he believes in Christ (Galatians 2: 16; Romans 10: 9-10, John 3:16). The Bible also reveals Christ as God in human form (Mark 14: 61-62; John 20: 28; Colossians 1: 16-17; Philippians 2: 5-11; Titus 2: 13; Hebrews 1: 8). Those who deny Christ’s deity force their bias into these texts. A proper exegesis of these texts asserts Christ’s deity.

            So a believer of Christ should believe in Christ, and that belief includes Christ’s deity.  The classical understanding is that the second person of Godhead took upon the human nature in addition to HIS divine nature.   

            The disciples of Christ who believed in HIM were called Christians (Acts 11: 26c). If a person does not believe in Christ’s deity, he / she surely cannot qualify to be a Christian so to be on par with other Christ-believing Christians.

How Would People Be Saved If Christ Is Not God?

            Christ ought to be God to save mankind of sins through HIS sacrificial death [resurrection and ascension]. Christ’s virgin birth that precludes transmission of sin and HIS sinless perfection in life – an attribute of HIS divinity – are essential for man’s salvation.

            If Christ is not God, HE cannot be eternal, so HIS sacrifice cannot posit an eternal value i.e. HIS onetime sacrificial death cannot be appropriated to the believers in the past, present and the future.

            Salvation by grace through faith is a non-negotiable tenet of Historic Christianity. The Bible states that the believers are saved by the grace of God through their faith in Christ. Consequentially, our good works cannot get us to heaven.

            If Christ is not God, good works should get us to heaven. But the Bible categorically asserts that good works cannot save anyone (Romans 3: 20; Ephesians 2: 8-9; Titus 3: 5).

            An imperfect (sinful) man cannot perform good works to perfection. So he cannot go to heaven. If God still hauls this imperfect man into heaven, then by implication, good works is unnecessary, since God, in any case, will haul all degrees of imperfections into heaven. So salvation by good works is a self destructing position.  

            Significantly, those who do not believe in Christ as God remain in an appalling predicament. If good works cannot save people and if the man Jesus cannot save people, how would they be saved (if Christ is not God)?

Could The Man Jesus Save Humanity?

            Why was Jesus’ narrative included in the Bible if HE was not considered as God by the authors? If Jesus is not God, HE is a meaningless component in the Bible.

            Some may argue that God saves people through the man Jesus. Why would God sacrifice a man to save mankind of their sins when HE could have sacrificed a goat or an unclean pig?

            Why did God intend horrendous suffering and crucifixion for the man Jesus when suffering was totally unnecessary? Is God a cosmic sadist?  

            If Christ was a man, he was a sinner. An imperfect sacrifice cannot save mankind from their sins. A sinner cannot save another sinner. Or on what merits could a sinner save another sinner?

            God-ordained animal sacrifices (performed in the Old Testament) provided a temporary covering of sins. The animal sacrifices did not save man, but God saved man through the animal sacrifices.

            So Christ’s sacrifice, if HE were not God, would be non-salvific or could only save  himself – albeit temporarily, not permanently.  

            Hence C.S Lewis in his classic work Mere Christianity said, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

            In addition, if Christ is not God…

Bible Is Erroneous

            Bible is the primary source that reveals Christ’s deity. The Bible would be fallible if Christ is not God. A fallible Bible is not trustworthy.

Christianity & Other Theistic Religions Are Alike

            The deity of Jesus Christ is a significantly unique facet of Christianity. Nothing separates Christianity from other religions if Christ is not God.

            In fact, Hinduism believes in the deity of Christ. Hindus believe that Christ is one among the many gods they believe in. If Christians do not believe in Christ as God, it seems that Hindus are more Christians than the non-Christ-believing Christians.

Christ Need Not Be Believed Or Worshipped

            Belief and worship of Christ is immaterial if Christ is not God. But the Bible mandates everyone to believe in Christ for salvation and worship HIM alone [W].

            If Christ is not God, people merely ought to believe in God. So which flavor of God should they believe in? Obviously not the God of the Bible, since the Bible would be erroneous if Christ is not God. So would they believe in the God of Quran or Vedas….?

            In order to conclude, let us consider the following:

Necessity of Christ

            The apostle Paul, after establishing Christ’s divinity, asserts Christ’s necessity, “…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied…” (1 Corinthians 15: 17-19, NASB).

            Resurrection of Christ makes profound salvific sense only because Christ is God. Had Christ not been God, HIS resurrection would have been a mere miracle without salvific significance, similar to the resurrections of the widow’s son, Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter.

How Did Christ Respond To Those Who Did Not Believe HIM?

            The Pharisees denied Christ’s deity. So Christ doomed them to hell (cf. Matthew 5: 20). HE also humiliated them by labeling them blind guides, fools, snakes, brood of vipers, hypocrites, and whitewashed tombs.

            So Christ is God. There’s no denying this fact. But there are consequences to denying Christ. I pray that everyone believes in Christ and be saved. Amen.  


Endnotes:


[W] The Bible mandates worship of Jesus (Matthew 2:2, 2: 11, 4: 10, 8: 2, 14: 33, 28: 9; Luke 24: 52; John 9: 38; Hebrews 1: 6), thus affirming Christ’s deity. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jesus Drank Wine, So Could Christians Drink Alcohol?



            Christ drank wine from the Passover cup (Mark 14: 23) and possibly otherwise (Luke 7: 33-34). Christ’s first miracle – to turn water into wine – implied that HE did not object to drinking of wine. Then the Bible mandates Christians to be Christlike [1].

            Some Christians attribute their habit of drinking to Christ. They argue that since Christ drank wine, they could drink too. Some extend this argument when they ask, isn’t it Christlikeness that Christians are to focus on, if so, why not drink? Thus the Christian who seeks to consume alcoholic beverages justifies his temptation (or his desire) through Christ.

            Within this context, there are two groups in Christianity. One group argues that Christ did not drink wine except from the Passover cup. This group believes in total abstinence, which is that the believers should not drink. Others think that since Christ drank wine, they could adopt a more tolerant or a rather validating attitude towards moderate drinking.

            Dr. Norman Geisler, an advocate of total abstinence, emphasized that during biblical times, beer and wine were consumed in moderation. More importantly, they were diluted (3 parts water and 1 part wine), and hence did not cause intoxication while consumed in moderation. In comparison, today’s beer and wine are categorized as strong drinks that are condemned by the Bible. [2]

            This article is not about whether Christ drank wine or not or whether moderate drinking is a sin or not, but it’s about whether a Christian could use Christ as a means to drink alcohol. Hence, let’s concede that Christ may have consumed wine although HE certainly would not have been drunk with wine. Drunkenness is a sin whereas Christ was sinless.   

            When a Christian justifies his drinking, even in moderation, through Christ’s consumption of wine, two problems emerge to the forefront:

            Problem #1: Is this Christian more in love with alcohol than Christ?

            Evidently, those who consume alcohol love alcohol. Why would they drink alcohol, if they do not like / love it?

            Anyone who maintains that they do not love alcohol but nevertheless consume it are either addicted to alcohol or compelled to drink because of social or business obligation. Bible denounces addiction. Those who detest alcohol would not drink it or could find gazillion ways and means to evade drinking alcohol, if they so want to.

            Significantly, a Christian is to love Christ and hence follow HIM all through his life. In other words, because he loves the Lord Jesus, the Christian would ardently desire to obey and follow Christ.

            But a Christian who justifies his desire to drink alcohol through Christ could be more in love with alcohol than Christ. His desperation for alcohol alludes to this fact. If this is true, then anyone who loves Christ less, sins against God, for he / she violates the greatest commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all our life.

            Importantly, a Christian who justifies his drinking through Christ is treading dangerous waters. Anyone who uses the Lord as a means to fulfill his / her carnal desire is playing losing games with God, the supreme judge, who by virtue of knowing man’s heart, will judge him / her for every perverted desire (cf. Matthew 12: 36).

               Problem #2: If a Christian justifies his drinking through Christ, then would he / she do all that Christ did (i.e. the physical activities) or are they merely looking to be preferential in their obedience to Christ? 

            Bear with me now; some of the questions that I am going to raise may appear to be as retarded. But such is the state of justification of drinking through Christ.

            For instance, Christ did not have a place of his own (cf. Luke 9: 58), so are we not called to own a home or to live in a particular location but keep moving from one location to another all through our lifetime?

            Christ died [resurrected and ascended into heaven] at a fairly young age of 33, so are we to die young?

            Christ fasted 40 days and 40 nights, so are we to fast similarly?

            Christ drove out business people from the temple, so are we to wield that authority to weed out unholy business from the church of Jesus Christ today?

            Similarly, Christ died for the sake of our sins, so are we to die for the sake of other’s sins?

            Or are we to remain single and advocate singleness just because Christ was not married; albeit by contradicting the Bible that endorses a heterosexual marriage?

            We cannot literally do all that Christ did or did not do.

            Christ is God. HE came for a specific purpose, which was to die for the sake of man to save him of his sins, so whatever HE did was towards the purpose of redemption. 

            Christlikeness is not to perform the identical physical activities that Christ performed. Christlikeness is to possess an attitude similar to that of Christ in loving, forgiving, sacrificing our carnal desires for the sake of the kingdom etc.

            Significantly, Christlikeness is achieved by the inhabitation of the Lord Jesus in each believer – Christ in us, the hope of glory (cf. Colossians 1: 27). A believer who is Christlike will never contradict Christ; rather perfectly synchronize with HIM.

            Therefore, the man who strives to justify his drinking to Christ will only find himself contradicting with the Lord, for HE cannot do everything the Lord did or did not do. So he would find himself in a deeper dungeon. The man who uses Christ as a means to justify his drinking, sins against the Lord and will have only himself to blame and not anyone else.

            We are not done yet.

            Does moderate drinking benefit us?

            Some may argue that moderate drinking does not interfere with their life or their spirituality, and hence could be continued. Unfortunately recent scientific discoveries seem to disprove this notion.

            National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 2004 specified that moderate drinking leads to short term health damages [3]. If moderate drinking damages health - be it short or long term - should it not be avoided?

            A paper published in Neuroscience in 2012 indicated the harmful effects of moderate drinking. These scientists concluded that moderate drinking could have profound effects on the structural plasticity of the adult brain because the number of cells produced in the brain was reduced by 40% [4].

            Another paper published in the British Medical Journal in 2014 discovered that moderate drinking (equivalent to less than 500 ml of beer or 2 small glasses of wine a day) is detrimental to health [5]. These scientists concluded that the lesser our alcohol consumption, the better would be our cardiovascular health.

            Hence, we could enjoy the best of cardiovascular health if we totally abstain from drinking.

            So whether Christ drank or not is a moot point; utterly irrelevant to whether we should drink or not. If we agree that our motive in life is to remain safe and secure, then the safest bet for us then is to abstain from drinking. 

Endnotes:

[1] 1 John 2: 6; Romans 8: 29; Ephesians 4: 13; 1 Corinthians 1: 11; Philippians 2: 5, 3:10 etc.

[2] https://criswell.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/ctrgeislerformatted.pdf

[3] http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm

[4] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306452212008457

&


http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/10/study-even-moderate-drinking-impairs-brain-cell-formation/264129/

[5] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2688161/Moderate-drinking-IS-bad-health-Just-
two-glasses-wine-day-cause-problems.html

&

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20140711/a-little-alcohol-may-not-be-good-for-your-heart-after-all

Monday, June 8, 2015

Muslim Chaplain Tahera Ahmad & Christian Marine Monifa Sterling; Victims of Religious Intolerance & Racial Discrimination? A Perspectival Observation


            Recently, the social media's been buzzing about Tahera Ahmad, the discriminated Muslim Chaplain. The flight attendant refused Tahera an unopened can of soda while flying United Airlines, whereas her neighbor was offered an unopened can of beer. When Tahera protested, she was verbally abused by another passenger. [1]

            Being a prominent figure of inter-faith dialogue, Tahera rode the social media bandwagon to drum up support as well as hatred.

            Then there’s Monifa Sterling’s predicament.

            Monifa’s a US marine and a professing Christian. She was court-martialed for refusing to remove the Bible verse - “No weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17) - she had posted in three different places in her workspace. [3]

            Monifa was convicted with a bad conduct charge, demoted in rank, and discharged from the Marine Corps. Since then she has been unemployed and will be ineligible to receive government funds and benefits as a veteran.

            Monifa Sterling did not ride the social media bandwagon to mobilize support in her favor. But Liberty Institute [4], the largest legal organization dedicated to defend and restore religious liberty in America, is serving as her legal counsel and striving to restore justice and to protect her.

            Let us examine these discriminations from a few perspectives:

            First - the perspective of location.

            On one hand, we have Tahera, possibly discriminated for being a Muslim and on the other hand, we have Monifa, certainly discriminated for being a Christian. These discriminations happened in America that was founded on Judeo-Christian values, which appeals to loving the neighbor and blessing the enemy.  

            Intriguingly, America is considered a top racist country.[5] If America, which brands itself as the most tolerant and progressively postmodern (absolute truth being relegated to favor relative truth), is the location of racial discriminations and religious persecutions, then there need not be any safe zone in this world - immune to religious persecution and racial discrimination.

            It doesn’t matter where you are, you could be persecuted for your faith as long as you profess your faith in no uncertain terms. Of course, those that are ashamed to proclaim Christ in public will have a nontoxic life amidst vultures circling to devour the devout.

            Second, let’s observe this from the perspective of the persecutors.

            The flight attendant probably had a negative image of Islam and hence went ballistic on a Muslim chaplain. The staff sergeant, who possibly had an unholy aversion to Christianity, persecuted a devout Christian.

            It just takes one person consumed by certain hatred to unleash evil upon humanity. In other words, the source of evil a.k.a Satan merely contaminates the weaker human open to destructive indoctrinations to transform them into potential disaster breeding force.

            The stronger force of evil, thereby, consumes the minions of potentially weaker servile subordinates to subtly yet intensely destroy life. So beware of that one vengeful human in your domain baying for your blood, especially if you profess your faith.

            Third - the perspective of gender.

            The instances of Tahera and Monica were of women persecuting fellow women. So we should no longer think of women as immune to persecute or discriminate.

            Women are as culpable as men for any rogue action or sin on the face of this earth. Sin does not discriminate between genders.

    Fourth, were Monifa and Tahera victims of racial prejudice?

            Monifa’s persecution need not be construed as an instance of racial discrimination.

            Apparently, Mikey Weinstein, one of the 50 most influential Jews in America and one of the 100 most influential people in U.S. Defense [6], carries out a secular humanist agenda in the U.S defense. Evidently, Mikey advocates for punishment against Christians in the U.S military for professing their faith. [7]

            Recently, Army Chaplain CPT Joseph Lawhorn was [wrongly] disciplined for offering spiritual guidance to a soldier in need.[8] If an army chaplain, who is the face of his religion, is persecuted for carrying out his role, then what is to become of Monifa?

            However, Tahera’s persecution, since she is Indian born, [9] could be a conflation of racial discrimination and religious intolerance.

            Tahera was wearing a hijab in the aircraft.  Moreover, the flight attendant used the term ‘weapon’ to justify her refusal to offer an unopened can of soda. Thus we could reason out that this was more an instance of religious intolerance than racial discrimination.

            So it seems that religious intolerance is more in vogue than racial discrimination, especially within this context.

            Finally, let’s observe this from the perspective of response during persecution.

            Monifa’s courage to take on the mighty U.S defense is to be applauded. But having lost almost everything (pertaining to her vocation), were there any other legitimate options for her to pursue?

            She may as well protect her first amendment rights to religious expression as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to defend her posting of the verses as a form of religious exercise.

            Although Tahera’s response may have been cognitively and circumstantially pertinent, there could have been a different response.

            Importantly, irrespective of the strength or weakness of the reason of conflict – an unopened can of soda – there could have been more thought applied to the damage that the publicity may have caused.

            The pro-Islamic and the Islamophobic entities are, in no uncertain terms, firmly present and extraordinarily unyielding in their ideologies. This is a serious divide.

            Our endeavor is not to widen this divide. On the contrary, Tahera’s publicity would have solidified and widened this divide. This is the bitter truth.

            Tahera’s profile as the Director of Interfaith engagement would be to construct a peaceful rapport between any two or more polarized theological divides. Hence she could have ideally refrained from any activity that could possibly, even remotely, disrupt this peace. 

            Therefore for the sake of peace, she need not have publicized this matter. As a Director of Interfaith engagement, she could have swallowed the bitter pill of public humiliation and could have focused on the bigger picture of constructing a peaceful rapport between Islam and the other world religions.

Endnotes:

[1] http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/30/us/united-flight-muslim-chaplain/index.html

[2] https://www.libertyinstitute.org/sterling

&
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/05/21/after-court-martial-marine-cites-religious-freedom-in-continued-legal-fight/

&
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/05/26/marine-court-martialed-for-refusing-to-remove-bible-verse.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.libertyinstitute.org/about

[5] http://www.thetoptens.com/most-racist-countries/

&

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/The-Top-12-Most-Racist-Countries-in-the-World-20150320-0019.html

[6] http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/about/michael-l-mikey-weinstein/

[7] http://allenbwest.com/2014/12/disturbing-christian-persecution-us-army/

[8] http://www.christianpost.com/news/army-chaplain-wrongly-punished-for-offering-spiritual-guidance-bible-scriptures-during-suicide-prevention-session-say-24-members-of-congress-134053/

&

http://www.armytimes.com/story/military/2014/12/10/army-chaplain-joseph-lawhorn-ranger-training-complaint/20213399/

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahera_Ahmad



Monday, June 1, 2015

Exciting Archeological Discoveries Validating The Bible


            For the past 200 years the Bible has been tirelessly attacked on various fronts. One such attack has been on the historicity of the Bible – whether the Bible is historically accurate or not. 

            To begin with, the following is a listing of a few of the major archaeological discoveries (not in any particular order), validating biblical truths, over the past century.

Writings Before the Time of Moses

            Discoveries of a tablet containing Ugaritic alphabets, a pottery water pitcher inscribed with eleven archaic letters, and the code of Hammurabi at an ancient site at Susa (present day Iran) affirmed that the art of writing existed even before Moses’ time. Hence it is reasonable to assert the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, thereby negating ‘documentary hypothesis.’[1]

Discovery of Humanity of Genesis 1-11

            University of Birmingham archeologist Jeffrey Rose’s discovery of over sixty new archeological sites along the shoreline of the Persian Gulf are dated as older than 7,500 years. In 2006, archeologist Hans-Peter Uerpmann of the University of Tubingen in Germany uncovered the remains of three different settlements that date between 25,000 and 125,000 years old at the base of Jebel Faya in the United Arab Emirates. [2]

Discovery of Edom

            Edom, present day Southern Jordan, was the land inhabited by the descendants of Esau. Archeological discovery of a copper mine in Edom region dated to 10th century BC enhances the credibility of the biblical account of Edom ruled by King David. [3]

Tel Dan Stela – The First Historical Evidence of King David Outside The Bible

            “The Tel Dan inscription, or “House of David” inscription, was discovered in 1993 at the site of Tel Dan in northern Israel in an excavation directed by Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran.” [4]

Burial Plaque of King Uzziah

            “His stone burial plaque has been discovered on the Mount of Olives, and it reads: “Here, the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah, were brought. Do not open.”” [5]

Existence of Hittites

            “A century ago the Hittites were unknown outside of the Old Testament, and critics claimed that they were a figment of biblical imagination. In 1906, however, archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey, discovered the ruins of Hattusas, the ancient Hittite capital at what is today called Boghazkoy…” [6]

Discovery of Biblical Cities

            Jericho, Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, Jerusalem & Babylon have been discovered. Apart from these cities, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Gath, and Ekron (the five cities established by Phillistines; Israel’s enemy) have also been excavated. [7]

Walls of Jericho

            Of four prominent archaeologists who have excavated the Jericho site, Carl Watzinger, John Garstang, Kathleen Kenyon, and Bryant Wood, these are the words of Garstang who attests to the miraculous fall of this historical city, ““As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely, the attackers would be able to clamber up and over the ruins of the city.” This is remarkable because when attacked city walls fall inward, not outward.”[8]

Siloam Pool of Jesus’ Time              

            “During construction work to repair a large water pipe south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, at the southern end of the ridge known as the City of David, archaeologists Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron identified two ancient stone steps. Further excavation revealed that they were part of a monumental pool from the Second Temple period, the period in which Jesus lived. The structure Reich and Shukron discovered was 225 feet long, with corners that are slightly greater than 90 degrees, indicating a trapezoidal shape, with the widening end oriented toward Tyropoeon valley. The Siloam Pool is adjacent to the area in the ancient City of David known as the King’s Garden and is just southeast of the remains of the fifth-century church and pool traditionally believed to be the sacred Christian site.”[9]

Lazarus’ Tomb

            Renowned Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias said, “Some years ago, I was in Israel and visited the village of Bethany where Lazarus’ body once lay before Jesus raised him. A few months ago, I stood by the tomb of Lazarus in Larnaca, Cyprus, where he had become the bishop of the church. That tomb was excavated nearly one thousand years ago, and the simple inscription on the grave said, “Lazarus, Bishop of Larnaca—Four days dead, Friend of Jesus.” (Emphasis Mine) [10]

Ossuary of High Priest Caiaphas

            “A dump truck accidentally smashed through the roof of a tomb in November, 1990, during some work in the Jerusalem Peace Forest, leading to the discovery of the ossuary which contained the bones of the High Priest in the time of Jesus… Two of a dozen ossuaries in the tomb contained a form of the name Qafa', or Caiaphas.” [11]

Inscriptional Evidence for Pontius Pilate   

            “…inscriptional evidence for Pilate was discovered in Italian excavations at Caesarea Maritima in 1961. Antonio Frova, director of the excavations, found a dedicatory stone that bore a three-line inscription: Tiberieum/[Pon]tius Pilatus/[Praef]ectus Iuda[eae], "Tiberius [the Roman emperor of the period]/Pontius Pilate/Prefect of Judea."”[12]

Crucified Man – Tomb of Yehohanan

            “…in 1968, archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferis excavated a Jerusalem tomb that contained the bones of a crucified man named Yehohanan…the discovery demonstrated the brutal reality of Roman crucifixion methods in a way that written accounts never had before.”[13]. This discovery negates those who disbelieve in Christ’s crucifixion.

            To think of the Bible as a pure religious document without any historic accuracy is to negate its divine inspiration and inerrancy. At the same time, we should be aware that the absence of evidence is not necessarily an evidence of absence. Hence, with the available archeological evidences, we could reasonably posit the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.   

Endnotes:

[1] https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=860

[2] http://www.reasons.org/articles/lost-civilization-beneath-the-persian-gulf-confirms-genesis-history-of-humanity

[3] http://www.reasons.org/articles/archeology-affirms-existence-of-edom

[4] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/artifacts-and-the-bible/the-tel-dan-inscription-the-first-historical-evidence-of-the-king-david-bible-story/

[5] http://www.equip.org/article/biblical-archaeology-factual-evidence-to-support-the-historicity-of-the-bible/

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.probe.org/archaeology-and-the-old-testament/

[9] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-sites/the-siloam-pool-where-jesus-healed-the-blind-man/

[10] http://rzim.org/just-thinking/september-11-2001-was-god-present-or-absent

[11] http://biblicalstudies.info/top10/schoville.htm

[12] http://biblicalstudies.info/top10/schoville.htm


[13] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/a-tomb-in-jerusalem-reveals-the-history-of-crucifixion-and-roman-crucifixion-methods/

Monday, May 25, 2015

Lessons Learnt From Aruna Shanbaug's Life


            Shortly after her 25th birthday, this nurse was sexually molested and ruthlessly strangled by a vengeful hospital sweeper. The brutal attack incarcerated her into a vegetative state for 42 years. Aruna Shanbaug died on 18-May-2015, disowned by her family, but devotedly loved by the hospital staff to an extent that they kept her away from the pain of bedsores.

            We do not hope for Aruna’s painful situation upon anyone. But her situation could happen to anyone although in a different manner. Such is life’s gory unpredictability.

            She was in her prime and beautiful; her beauty attracted a young doctor who dated her because he saw her fit to be his wife. She was born to serve or so it seemed; she chose a respectable profession that served the ailing. That she lacked nothing could be a safe guess.

            But Aruna’s undoing was activated when she reprimanded a hospital sweeper for stealing food intended for hospital dogs. In response, his evil and perverted mind processed a reciprocation of rape. After sodomizing her, he harmed her irreparably by strangling her with a dog’s chain.

            In a moment, Aruna’s life morphed into gruesome pain.

            Her pain compounded when her family abandoned her. Aruna’s life could not have been darker and gloomier. Pain was at its zenith.

            Instantaneous death could have been a blessing in disguise for Aruna, for living in a vegetative state, and abandoned by her family, was a colossal pain than death. This is horrendous suffering.

            Without a cure in sight, death may have seemed like the best form of pain-relief. But God kept Aruna alive for 42 years in vegetative state.

Why and for what purpose did God keep Aruna alive almost to the point of being a burden upon the society?

            The Bible reveals that sickness and death are intended for God’s glory (cf. John 9: 1-3, 11: 4). So, how did Aruna’s life display God’s glory?

     Intriguingly, Aruna’s life offers a bright ray of hope to those in pain.

            The significant players in Aruna’s life were the hospital sweeper, Aruna’s family, the doctor who dated her, and the hospital staff.

            The hospital sweeper who molested and injured Aruna was an epitome of evil. He reminds us that evil lurks around the corner, waiting to assault us any moment. Despite our diligence, we could be susceptible to an evil assault, for we are rank powerless against evil if we strive to live our life in our own strength and might.

            Whatever be our situation, such an evil response cannot be justified. Even if we are in the very same situation as the hospital sweeper, reprimanded for doing wrong, we should take utmost care to not process any response that is remotely proximal to evil.

            Aruna’s family reminds us that no one or that nothing is certain in our lives. Our family and friends could discard us anytime. When we find ourselves in deep trouble, not many may come to our rescue. No one is perfect, our families included.

            On the other hand, if we are blessed to have family and friends who care for us when we desperately need help, then we ought to be grateful to God and to those who care for us. It is indeed a blessing to have family and friends who sacrificially care for us when we need them the most.

            The doctor who dated Aruna apparently took care of her for four years, but when he learnt that there would be no definite cure for Aruna, he decided to move on with his life. It seems that he has since married and lives outside India.

            Could we blame him for dumping Aruna? I don’t think so, for he too is not perfect. He may have found it unwise to squander his life over a person bound to remain incarcerated to die someday.

    What’s the point in being miserable and lonely waiting for someone who is not going to recover? Isn’t it the greater good to live happily? These thoughts probably motivated him to move on with his life.

            The hospital staff, especially the nurses and doctors, is the human-reason for Aruna’s seemingly painless vegetative state of life. As media reports portray, these nurses were God’s own angels, who kept this pathetic remnant of a human alive and well to the best of their abilities. 

            In hindsight, if it had not been for these kind souls, Aruna could have been dead, gone and forgotten a long time ago. In fact, the hospital staff may be the sole reason for Aruna’s fame in pain, for she was kept alive for 42 years. If she were not living, even vegetatively, she would not have been in the main stream news.  

            Think about this, what did the hospital staff have to gain by serving Aruna for 42 years? I could safely assume that they had nothing to gain. However, they cared for her because they loved her as if she was their own. This, I reckon, is the highest form of human love. 

            This is unconditional love - the very form of love that we should practice. Unconditional love expects nothing in return. Occasionally, we could be rejected by those whom we love unconditionally. But the prospect of rejection should not deter our love. 

            Were the nurses mandated to care for Aruna as if she were their own sister or mother? To care for Aruna so much so that she did not suffer from bedsores is the highest form of care. These nurses have undoubtedly engraved an admirable benchmark for us to emulate.

            Impossible as it may seem, the utterly selfless caring act of these nurses, most surely informs us that such a glorious art of caring is humanly possible. As long as God gives us breath to breathe and energy to serve, may we serve those in need with an utterly unconditional love.

            If anyone is in need, then we ought to serve them sacrificially. Sacrificial love is the need of the hour. We should practice sacrificial love always and at any cost.

            Significantly, Aruna’s life teaches us that not everyone would be healed by God. God heals some and not the others. We do not know the precise reason for God not healing some. But we are sure that God loves and cares for everyone. Just as God cared for Aruna through the hospital staff, HE would most surely care for you and me.

            Aruna’s life offers a glimmer of hope to those in severe pain. There are moments we may find ourselves lost and lonely in our terrible suffering. Aruna was lost and lonely in pain. But as Aruna received unexpected yet quality care, God will provide care and assistance from HIS people.

            May we be those who provide that unconditional and selfless love and care to anyone who is in need.        

Endnotes:

Information about Aruna Shanbaug was gleaned from these sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-32777562

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/18/asia/india-coma-victim-dies/

http://www.ndtv.com/blog/saying-goodbye-to-aruna-shanbaug-by-a-kem-hospital-nurse-764273

http://www.firstpost.com/living/the-unbearable-agony-of-being-aruna-shanbaug-a-great-injustice-331622.html

http://www.firstpost.com/living/the-rapist-who-never-was-let-us-not-forget-the-man-who-destroyed-aruna-shanbaugs-life-2251942.html


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-32776902

Monday, May 18, 2015

Has Science Disproved Prayer?



                  Atheists deploy science as an instrument to negate religion. Through the deployment of science if they prove the ineffectiveness of prayer, they reckon that they could posit God’s non-existence.

            Atheists refer verses from the Bible that apparently mandates 100% answer to prayer (Matthew 17:20, 18:19, 21:22; Luke 11:9-10).  So if a less than 100% answer to prayer is observed, the atheists suppose that prayer is ineffective, hence the Bible is incorrect.

            Then they argue that if the Bible is incorrect, either God is a liar or that the fallible man authored the Bible. Since God cannot lie, they posit God’s nonexistence and assert that it was man who authored the Bible independent of God. Thereby they strive, although in futility, to render Historic Christianity as invalid.

            This then is the background to the question, “Has science disproved prayer?”

            If a person or a group of people prayed for the sick in which there was no improvement, then, from among a few deductions, one could reason that prayer was ineffective. Conversely, if the sick are healed through prayer, a plausible deduction could be that prayer was effective. Praying for others is “Intercessory Prayer” (IP).

            A research by Kevin Masters et al published in The Society of Behavioral Medicine was exceedingly critical of prayer, “There is no scientifically discernable effect for IP as assessed in controlled studies. Given that the IP literature lacks a theoretical or theological base and has failed to produce significant findings in controlled trials, we recommend that further resources not be allocated to this line of research” 1

            But for every scientific research that invalidates the efficacy of prayer there is a study that validates it.

            Dr. Randolph Byrd’s research (published in Southern Medical Journal) asserted the effectiveness of prayer.

            Byrd studied patients in coronary care unit who were assigned to born-again Christians (with an active Christian life) for prayer to the Judeo-Christian God. Byrd concluded that those prayed for were benefitted “with less congestive heart failure, required less diuretic and antibiotic therapy, had fewer episodes of pneumonia, had fewer cardiac arrests, and were less frequently intubated and ventilated” 2

            Duke University’s Dr. Harold D Koenig is utterly confident about prayer’s effectiveness, “… out of 125 studies that looked at the link between health and regular worship, 85 showed regular churchgoers live longer. There’s a lot of evidence out there.” 3

             Relying on science to determine the efficacy of prayer is futile, for science corroborates both the prayer and the anti-prayer groups. Some studies observe healing of patients upon prayer and others do not.

            So science does not categorically establish the invalidity of prayer for it also establishes the validity of prayer.

            Significantly, “Should science validate prayer (or religion)?”  

            A perpetual conflict between science and religion is often observed, for to reiterate, science is the crutch of the atheists in their futile attempt at denying religion.

            In response, we could subscribe to evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould’s Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) and assert the total disconnect between science and religion to affirm that they should not overlap. Hence, we could univocally reject science’s intervention to validate prayer.

            Albert Einstein, in his paper Science, Philosophy and Religion (Sep 1940), seemed to reject the notion that science and religion should not overlap; he said, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” So, on the other hand, we could heed the words of science about religion provided science is valid in its evaluation of religion.      

            Then again, is it possible for science to determine the effectiveness of prayer?

            In order to think this through, we should consider three truths from a theological perspective (since prayer is a religious act that presupposes God’s existence), which are:

            1. Prayer is directed towards God, seeking HIS favor upon the needy.

            2. Man merely intercedes; man does not and cannot heal.

            3. God alone can heal and deliver. 

            Therefore, when researchers observe patients not being healed upon prayer, it merely signifies God’s decision to not heal. God healed some (in the studies where patients were healed) and did not heal some (during the other studies where patients were not healed).

            To reiterate, studies that observed positive impact of prayer upon the sick revealed God’s positive action i.e. healing upon the sick, whereas the studies that did not observe a positive impact upon the sick revealed God’s inaction.

            Why did God not heal some? That’s for God to answer and not for man to speculate unless God has revealed HIS reasons for inaction to man. God has indeed established certain principles about prayer in the Bible, which is not always in alignment with man’s carnal inclination.

            Consider a popular inactivity of God to prayer in Paul’s statement “…in order to prevent my becoming absurdly conceited, I was given a physical handicap—one of Satan’s angels—to harass me and effectually stop any conceit. Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.” Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, PHILLIPS, Emphasis Mine).

            This per se is not about God’s inaction to prayer, but it’s about God’s action to glorify HIS name through a willing man’s trial and tribulation. God’s inactivity was to strengthen and draw people closer to HIM. Therefore, when a sincere believer reads this passage, just as Paul accepted his pain, the believer trusts more in God and learns to accept his pain as a part of God’s grand plan to strengthen HIS people.

            Atheists, by rejecting God, reject that God alone, in HIS perfect omniscience, knows what is good for man. But prosperity is not necessarily the most ideal blessing for man.

            A testimony offered to God’s glory amidst severe pain is more powerful than a testimony offered in pleasure. This is unadulterated Christianity.

            Science then, cannot determine the efficacy of prayer because science has to learn God’s mind – as to why HE heals some and not heal others – so to determine the effectiveness of prayer.

            Anybody could seek God’s mind provided they repent and believe in God, seek HIM earnestly in humility and accept God in HIS terms (not on our terms). This is the simple algorithm to seek God’s mind.

            Then there are moments where God’s answer to our prayers would not necessarily please us, for HE could delay or reject our plea for just reasons. During these moments, we ought to, in humility, agree with God and not battle against HIM, for to battle against God is neither worthy nor winnable.

            So the question is not about whether science can determine the effectiveness of prayer, but the real question is if the atheists, who use science as a means to their futile endeavor, are willing to accept God. Atheists could repent and accept God in humility if they seek HIM earnestly.

            Therefore, since science does not disprove prayer categorically, the studies on effectiveness of prayer are of no relevance to Historic Christianity or God.       



Endnotes:

1 http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/burke_b/Criticalthinking/Readings/Prayer.pdf

2 http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/smj.pdf


3 http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/prayer-health-faith-medicine/2015/03/31/id/635623/#ixzz3aGJ9jzXe