Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blessed Are The Pentecostals (An Evangelical Christian’s Thoughts About The Pentecostal Movement)

            Protestant reformation occurred in the 16th century. In other words, Protestantism was born in the 16th century.

            We live in the 21st century. Sadly, within a span of 500 years, the spiritual decline of the mainline Protestants (Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican etc.) gained momentum.1

            It may be quite reasonable to date the birth of Pentecostalism to the 20th century, although The United Holy Church and the Pentecostal Holiness Church would date the birth of Pentecostalism to the 19th century, 1886 and 1879, respectively.2 The birth of Pentecostalism is so precious to Christendom that Life magazine declared it as among the top 100 events of the second millennium – ranked 68th to be precise.

            Pentecostalism is growing at the rate of 35,000 believers a day or 13 million a year. It is the second largest denomination in Christianity, second only to the Roman Catholics.4

            God did not sit tight watching the decline of Protestant denominations. God birthed the Pentecostal movement.

            The decline of mainline denominations need not be construed as a decline of Christianity. The decline merely reveals the decline of nominal Christianity, argues Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research, an evangelical research company. He said, “A better reading of the stats is found when you move beyond the headlines and see a long, slow (but accelerating) decline of (mostly) nominal Christianity. However, the percentage of convictional Christians has remained relatively steady, with some decline.”5  

            Ed Stetzer is indeed right. There are greater possibilities for the nominal Christian to reject the Lord than the spiritually mature Christians. This compels us to consider the aspect of nominal Christianity.

            The Lausanne Movement, founded by the much acclaimed Christian evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, characterized a nominal Christian as, “…a person who has not responded in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord. He is a Christian in name only. He may be very religious. He may be a practising or non-practising church member. He may give intellectual assent to basic Christian doctrines and claim to be a Christian. He may be faithful in attending liturgical rites and worship services, and be an active member involved in church affairs. But in spite of all this, he is still destined for eternal judgment (cf. Matt. 7:21-23, Jas. 2:19) because he has not committed his life to Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10)” (Emphasis Mine).6

            The nominal Christian bears personal responsibility for his spiritual malady. However, the church is also equally responsible for the sustenance of nominal Christianity.

            In our context, since it is the nominal Christian who is more likely to reject Christ, the church responsible for the sustenance of nominal Christianity were the mainline Protestant churches. Therefore, the birth of Pentecostalism, which emphasizes much on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, was much needed and extremely justified.

            Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

            Being the second largest tradition after the Roman Catholic Church, it would be worthwhile to consider the spiritual contributions of the Pentecostal tradition to Historic Christianity.

            First, Pentecostals believe in the inspiration, inerrancy and the infallibility of the Bible. They also believe that salvation is through Christ alone. These beliefs are vital to control and oppose the development of the liberal and postmodern Christianity that desacralizes the Bible to be a mere historical document and feigns salvation upon all and sundry.  

            Second, nominal Christians tend to be much lesser within the Pentecostal tradition. Pentecostals by virtue of their theology – emphasis upon the baptism of the Holy Spirit – tend to rather instinctively restrict the presence of nominal Christians in their fold. A Pentecostal yearns and prays for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This vital desire of the Pentecostal to be the channel of the Holy Spirit’s gifts sustains him in the Lord’s presence, thus preventing him to be a nominal Christian.

            Third, Pentecostals are stern fundamentalists about social behavior. Many Pentecostal denominations ban traditional vices such as alcohol, tobacco, movies, and short-sleeved dresses. In today’s context, this much needed attribute of the local Pentecostal church would vigorously oppose homosexuality, abortion and the other sinful practices that many mainline churches endorse.

            Last but not the least, one of the local church’s main emphases is upon the spiritual development of our youth. Youth are more attracted to a Pentecostal church than a mainline church. When the mainline churches struggle to attract the youth to attend their worship services, the natural presence of youth in their worship services offers the Pentecostal church a tremendous advantage to nurture them and develop their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

            Are there challenges to the Pentecostal movement? Yes of course!

            Divisions are always a challenge to the unity of any movement. There are almost 11,000 denominations in the Pentecostal movement. This could pose a serious challenge to the Pentecostal movement.

            However, history has taught us a valuable lesson that there could be unity in diversity. So by the grace of God, the various denominations of the Pentecostal movement could thrive even amidst their differences and be united in serving God and HIS people.

            I am a Christian. I do not consider myself a Pentecostal, for I do not believe that all Christians ought to speak in tongues. Since speaking in tongues is one of the prime tenets of the Pentecostal faith statement, I disqualify myself from being a Pentecostal (although I could speak in tongues in my private prayer time). I am more an Evangelical Christian than a Pentecostal. 

            There exists a definite theological tension between the Pentecostals and the mainline churches where each one claims spiritual superiority over the other. However, the theological differences are not severe enough to disrupt the peace between the concerned entities.  Hence we could agree to disagree on the theological differences and live in harmony with each other.

            The need of the hour is unity and not division. When Historic Christianity is constantly under fire from the secular and postmodern world, I believe with all my heart that it is the Pentecostals, Evangelicals and the faithful Christians from the other denominations that will uphold and sustain Historic Christianity.

            Blessed indeed are the Pentecostals for they have blessed Historic Christianity immensely. Let us pray for the continued growth and sustenance of Pentecostals and may their service to the Lord and HIS people be much fruitful.

Endnotes:

Websites cited were last accessed on 21st July 2016.

1 http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

2 https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/uploaded/50cf83d3192469.20505915.pdf

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/16/living/christianity-american-dead/index.html

6 http://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-10#1

Glossary of Terms:
http://www.pewforum.org/2006/10/05/spirit-and-power-a-10-country-survey-of-pentecostals2/ offers definition of the following terms:

Pentecostals
Members of denominations that emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the belief that speaking in tongues is necessary evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals belong either to one of the historical denominations, such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ, that originated in the religious revivals of the early 20th century, or to newer, largely independent churches, sometimes labeled as neo-pentecostal churches.

Evangelicals
Members of Protestant denominations who hold traditional religious beliefs but are neither pentecostal nor fundamentalist. Evangelicals do not stress the gifts of the Holy Spirit (as pentecostals do), but they are not hostile to them (as fundamentalists are). All three groups share certain basic religious doctrines, such as the need for believers to have a conversion experience (i.e., be “born again”) and to convert non-believers. As a consequence, they all can be thought of as belonging to a broader evangelical Protestant tradition.

Mainline Protestants
Members of the once-dominant Protestant denominations. Although affirming many traditional beliefs, these churches are known for their generally progressive theology and openness to new ideas and societal changes. These denominations do not stress the gifts of the Holy Spirit but are often tolerant of such practices, and thus include charismatics in their ranks.



Thursday, July 14, 2016

What’s Wrong With The Churches Today?

            Heard about the Stayaway Saint Syndrome? 1

            Research company, Barna Group, estimates that 156 million Americans are churchless - those who have never attended a worship service barring a wedding or a funeral.2 These numbers need not be considered as unique or native to the USA, but representative of all the countries.

            Why are there stayaway saints or churchless Christians? The condition of today’s churches does not appeal to the stayaway Christians.

            If you think that everything is well with our churches today, then you may be partially correct. Not everything is right in the churches today, much is wrong.

            Christian apologist, Frank Turek, thus highlighted the church’s failure by examining the aspects of the timing of church services, Scripture reading, message, and worship (singing). He then concluded that if the church fails to disciple its flock, then its members would have a very poor commitment to Christ and their lives would hardly show any change. Here is an excerpt from his article, “The Seeker Church: Is Anyone Making Disciples?”

            “Time:  This won’t take long– 45 minutes to an hour, max.  You can set your watch by these services.  And if the pastor or priest goes just a wee bit longer, the congregation gets restless.

            The Bible:  Leave your Bible home– the folks on the stage or altar handle the Bible reading which is normally a mere sprinkling of verses yanked from their context.  Moreover, there is no attempt to teach you how to study the scriptures yourself.

            Worship:  Just watch– there is a performance up front.  You’re more of an observer than an active participant in worship.

            Message:  It’s groundhog day– you hear the same, short message repackaged every Sunday.  The sermon (or Homily) is to preaching what cotton candy is to nutrition.  Sweet but of little value.

            Outcome:  Low commitment and little life change. 

            …We’ve got to stop defending our church practices if they are not doing what Jesus told us to do.  If you’re not making disciples, you’re not doing church the way Jesus commanded it.  As Jesus warned, we can’t let our traditions nullify the Word of God.

            …We’re loosing 75% of our young people because– instead of making disciples who are in awe of God and devoted to His purposes– a majority of churches from most  denominations are producing shallow narcisists obsessed with themselves and their own happiness.” 3 (Emphasis Mine).

            “Satan is not fighting churches, he is joining them. He does more harm by sowing tares than by pulling up wheat,” these were the very words of the renowned evangelist, Vance Havner, who added another dimension – the satanic – to emphasize the spiritual poverty of our churches.

            Satan is hyperactive in our churches. An article in the “Charisma News” reveals the sorry state of our churches that preaches the gospel of Satan in lieu of the gospel of Christ.4 This article highlights the false teachings a.k.a satanic doctrines that many churches preach today. A church that preaches one or more of these concepts is yielding to the control of Satan and not the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is an excerpt from that article:

            “Overemphasis of Prosperity: Carnal prosperity preachers encourage God’s people to seek after riches—or to seek after God for the purpose of riches—often even judging your spirituality by the kind of car you drive. What does that have to do with the gospel of Jesus?

            Hyper-Grace Teachings: They rightly teach that Jesus died for all our sins—past, present and future—but wrongly conclude that as believers we no longer have to deal with sin (meaning we never have to confess sin or repent of sin, and the Holy Spirit no longer convicts us of sin).

            Antinomianism: In practice, it means that “anything goes,” since Jesus has set us free. The problem is, Jesus didn’t set us free to sin; He set us free from sin.

            Deification of Man: Many false teachings today start with man rather than with God. In contrast, when Paul laid out the gospel message in Romans, he started with God and then went to man: God is holy and we are not; He is righteous and we are not; we are under His judgment and in need of mercy, and that mercy comes through the cross.

            Challenging the Authority of the Word: Best-selling authors tell us the biblical text isn’t reliable, that the biblical manuscripts we have in our possession are hopelessly contradictory, and that we can know little or nothing about the real, historical Jesus. Other authors tell us that the Bible is no more than a collection of religious traditions and that God Himself is nothing more than a religious myth.

            Rejecting Hell: Nowhere is this questioning of God’s Word seen any more clearly than when it comes to the subject of hell and future punishment. And because we preach an imbalanced gospel—emphasizing God’s love and ignoring His wrath, emphasizing His mercy and ignoring His justice—we no longer have room for hell and future punishment in our theology.

            Universal Reconciliation: Universal reconciliation promotes a get-out-of-jail-free mentality—that in the end, everyone will make it into heaven because of Jesus’ death on the cross. (In contrast, universalism teaches that all paths lead to God.) There may be future suffering, but it will be purging rather than punishment, and ultimately everyone will be saved.”5

            We could go on and on about how pastors deem their ministry as a money-making occupation than as a service rendered to the Lord and HIS people. We could also speak much about the lay leaders of the church who merely use their leadership position as an opportunistic projection of their personal glory in the mould of the Pharisees during Christ’s time, instead of glorifying God.

            Let us also not think that the larger (mega) churches where hundreds and thousands of people congregate to worship are godlier than the smaller congregations. In fact, there are more chances for the mega churches (with its greater access to the seductive material resources) to yield to the Satan than the smaller churches.

            So what do we do?

            We need to be the agents of change in the local church says theologian R.C Sproul, “…We’re the church that God ordained from the foundation of the world. We’re His people; we’re His household, so let the church be the church.

            We’re living in a time of crisis…but if we want to be concerned for our nation and culture, our priority must be the renewal of the church. We are the light of the world.

            …Change in culture doesn’t always come from the top down. It often comes from the bottom up. The change we need to work for, chiefly, is renewal within the church…We must remember who we are, who the foundation is, who the cornerstone is, who the head of our building is, who the Lord of the church is.

            Do we love the church? I doubt if there have been many times in our history when there has been as much anger, hostility, disappointment, and disillusionment with the institutional church as there is today. It’s hard not to be critical of the church because in many ways the church has failed us. But if the church has failed, that means we have failed. We are called to serve the church in the power of God the Holy Spirit.

            We, the church, have been made for this task by the indwelling presence and power of God’s Spirit. Yet, we are called not so much to rise up but to bow down. And if we bow down to our Lord, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:14, the church will be the church, and our light will pierce the darkness.”6

            How do we make this change in our churches?

            First, it is impossible to know the error if we do not know the truth. In other words, we ought to read and study the Bible. This is our personal responsibility.

            Second, change is a slow process. Change should be effected by God and not us. God is the source of all blessings. We are mere channels. Hence, we need to prayerfully align ourselves with God in order to know what to do and when to do. Since change is always slow, patience ought to be our key attribute and prayer is a means to that attribute.

            Third, change would only be effective if administered with humility, love and grace. Therefore, we ought to be humble, loving and gracious with everyone in this process.

            Finally, administering love and grace in a spirit of humility does not imply a condition of being politically correct. Truth needs to be spoken out loud and clear. Those who stand for truth cannot be politically correct. Feathers would be ruffled, tough stance ought to be taken, but more importantly, every aspect of change ought to be guided by the Spirit of God, who is the wisdom of God.

            Staying away from church is not an option. Let us by the power of the Holy Spirit make a positive change in our church. Amen.

Endnotes:

Websites referenced here were last accessed on 14/July/2016

1 http://www.brutallyhonest.org/brutally_honest/2005/02/whats_wrong_wit.html

2 https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/698-10-facts-about-america-s-churchless#.V4YShvl95hE

3 http://crossexamined.org/the-seeker-church-protestant-roman-catholicism/

4 http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/from-the-frontlines/39026-the-7-great-lies-in-the-church-today  



6 http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-church/  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Would Religions Disappear? Christianity Extinct by 2067?

            Researchers predict that religion will soon be extinct in nine countries namely, Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland. “A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

            The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

            The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

            The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

            The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

            Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics - a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part,” claimed BBC in March 2011.1

            Another report from the British Census Study states that Christianity would be extinct by 2067 [in England], “A new governmental report on Christianity is making some waves, though, according to the report, not as many waves as one might think. The core of the report is that Christianity, once the religion that wasn’t to be trifled with, is quickly on the decline, and at a much faster rate than anyone really thought. Christianity is declining so quickly that experts believe the religion will be “statistically nonexistent” by 2067 — or, in other words, extinct.

            The report that leads to a prediction of Christianity’s demise stems from the British Census Study, the British Social Attitudes survey, and the British Election Study. Though the report on Christianity centers on Great Britain, experts say that Christians would be naive to think that the United States isn’t far behind, and offers evidence and statistics to back up their predictions.

            According to the statistics, between 2001 and 2011, the number of people who followed Christianity fell by over 5.3 million people. To put that on a timescale, that’s about 10,000 individuals per week forsaking Christianity. Following up on those stats, Christianity will fall to nonexistence in England in the year 2067.

            The Social Attitude survey concurs with this data on Christianity. Believers in Christianity fell from 40 percent of the British population in 1983, to 29 percent in 2004, to 17 percent in 2014.”2

            Scary? Are you worried?

            Would religions be extinct in the future?

            That religions would decline in the future is a statement worthy of consideration and belief, but religions cannot possibly be extinct in the future. Why?

            God exists, and there are reasonable evidences positing the existence of God. Because God exists, people would continue to believe in God. When people believe in God, religion will exist and not be extinct. Applying this to Christianity, we could quite easily postulate that Christianity could never be extinct.

            Why could religions possibly decline in the future?

            Needless to say, people ignore or reject God when all is well in their lives. Another article on BBC quotes Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, who posits decline of religion in countries that offer greater security to their citizens, “So not surprisingly, nations that report the highest rates of atheism tend to be those that provide their citizens with relatively high economic, political and existential stability. “Security in society seems to diminish religious belief,” Zuckerman says. Capitalism, access to technology and education also seems to correlate with a corrosion of religiosity in some populations, he adds.”3 (Emphasis Mine).

            Having said that, decline of religion occurs in religious countries as well. If we were to apply the aspect of “security” into this predicament, we have the answer as to why religion could be on the decline in religious countries.

            People reject God in instances of both security and insecurity. When people live a very comfortable and secure life, they tend to ignore or reject God. Similarly, when people are in pain and suffering – when they live an insecure life amidst pain and suffering – they could lose hope and hence reject God. The aspect of security or the lack thereof, motivates people to reject God. Religion declines when people reject God.  

            Could Christianity decline in the future?

            Christ the Lord predicted that Christianity would decline in the future, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24: 10-13, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            True to what the Lord foretold, Pew Research Center announced in 2015 that the Christian share of the US population is on the decline.4 So let us not be surprised about the decline, for if the Lord foretold the decline, then the decline is bound to occur.

            Matthew 24: 13 states that some will stand firm unto the end. So definitely there will be a remnant that will stand firm in the Lord Jesus Christ.

            How do we develop this remnant?

            It is the responsibility of the local church to develop and disciple this remnant into a position of strength. Young people are abandoning religion, even Christianity, in droves. The local church should develop their young people into growing stronger in Christ.

            Unfortunately that task seems easier said than done. Instead of discipling and developing young people in Christianity, the local church, according to Christian apologist Frank Turek, is producing shallow narcissists.5 These shallow narcissists would then abandon Christianity when all is not well in their lives.

            Most of the local churches are more engrossed in entertaining their customers (read Christians) than developing them into stronger disciples in Christ. If such is the case, the consequence is rather inevitable; Christianity would indeed decline.

            It is then our bounden duty to pray for the local church and also become active in the local church so that we could be instrumental in raising stronger disciples of the Lord. This then is the need of the hour. Frank Turek communicates this truth wonderfully, “We fail to realize that what we win them with we win them to.  If we win them with entertainment and low commitment, we win them to entertainment and low commitment.  Charles Spurgeon was way ahead of his time when he implored the church to start “feeding the sheep rather than amusing the goats.””6

            May the local church raise faithful Christians who would live and die for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Endnotes:

1 http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-12811197

2 http://www.inquisitr.com/2170856/christianity-to-be-extinct-by-2067-says-new-government-report/

3 http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141219-will-religion-ever-disappear

4 http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

5 http://crossexamined.org/the-seeker-church-protestant-roman-catholicism/


6 Ibid.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why Would Jesus Predict Muhammad In The Bible? Why Do Muslims Quote The Bible? (Understanding The Muslims)

            The question is not whether Jesus Christ predicted Muhammad in the Bible as a prophet. Many Christian scholars have adequately and reasonably falsified the notion that Muhammad is mentioned in the Bible. So let us be clear from the outset that Muhammad is not mentioned in the Bible.

            We could think from another vantage point to understand the Muslim mindset. Hence, we could ask two questions:

            (1) If Christ were to have predicted Muhammad, what could have been the most compelling reason that may have motivated Christ to predict Muhammad?

            (2) Why would a Muslim refer to a possibility that the Bible or Christ predicted Muhammad as a prophet? 

            The Bible states that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and the Lord and Savior of mankind. Any conservative Christian would believe that the Bible does not mention Muhammad. On the contrary, the Islamic holy book, the Quran, refers to both Jesus and Muhammad as prophets. The Quran denies Christ’s divinity. 

Why Would Jesus Predict Muhammad In The Bible?

            The most minimalistic answer to this question is that Jesus Christ would have predicted Muhammad, if Muhammad was in God’s will (plan) to carry out the work of Christ Jesus, which is to preach Christ crucified so to save people from their sinfulness or eternal doom. This is the hallmark of a true prophet/disciple succeeding Christ (cf. Apostle Paul).

            Both the Quran and the extra-Quranic literature informs us that Muhammad neither did affirm Christ as God incarnate nor did preach Christ as the only way to heaven. Essentially, Muhammad contradicted Christ. 

            If Muhammad contradicted Christ, why would Christ predict Muhammad knowing well that he would absolutely contradict HIM?

            Christ, being God, would know perfectly well as to what each man would do at any point in time. Hence, Christ would have precisely known that Muhammad would contradict HIM in the future. Christ then had no reason whatsoever to predict Muhammad from the perspective of a true prophet of God. Therefore, the notion that Christ predicted Muhammad is an insane and a preposterous thought.

            However, Christ could have predicted Muhammad for one good reason. Christ could have revealed to mankind that Muhammad would deny Christ. Hence, in this context - the context of false prophets - Christ had a plausible reason to predict Muhammad. Therefore, if Christ had predicted Muhammad, Christ could have only predicted Muhammad as the one who would deny HIM.

            From within the perspective of the Bible, wherein the Bible teaches that Christ is God and that believing in Christ is the only way to heaven, there is absolutely no reason for Christ to have predicted Mohammed as the true prophet or a true disciple of God.

Why Do Muslims Argue That Christ Predicted Muhammad As A Prophet In The Bible?

            Whether we engage in a friendly religious banter or in a serious religious conversation, our Muslim brother or sister, at some point in time, will argue that Muhammad was foretold in the Bible.

            Well-known apologist of Islam, Ahmed Deedat, had argued extensively for the case of Muhammad in the Bible, “During 1975 Ahmed Deedat held a series of lectures at the Durban City Hall, two of which set out to prove that Muhammad is foretold in the Bible. The first lecture, entitled What the Bible Says About Muhammad, dealt with the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18.18 in the Old Testament, and in it Mr. Deedat sought to show that Moses was predicting the coming of Muhammad when speaking of a prophet to follow him who would be like him. During 1976 Mr. Deedat published this lecture in booklet form under the same title. In his second lecture in 1975 he spoke on Muhammad the Natural Successor to Christ and here he endeavoured to prove that Jesus was foretelling the coming of Muhammad when he exhorted his disciples to wait for the coming of the one he called the Comforter who, he said, would follow him.”1 Therefore it is of no surprise that our Muslim friend will table this theme for the purpose of discussion.

            Why do Muslims depend on the Bible to confer greater credibility upon Muhammad? Fundamental to every Islamic argument against Christianity is the notion that their holy book Quran is pure and trustworthy. At the same time, Muslims would passionately argue that the Bible is corrupt in its transmission. Effectively, they argue that the Bible that we have now is not what God gave to the original authors, for the Muslims believe that the original content of the Bible has been corrupted during the transmission of the Bible over the thousands of years.

            If a serious Muslim believes that the Bible is corrupt, then why do they refer to the Bible about the possibility of Muhammad being predicted? If the Bible is corrupt, would not the notion that Muhammad is predicted in the Bible also be false?

            This author highlights this point well, “Muslims have made the claim for a long time that the coming of Muhammad is prophesied in the Bible namely the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament), and the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). Why do Muslims make this claim?

            The claim rests on the assertion in the Qur’an that Muhammad’s coming is described in the Scriptures of the ahl al-kitab, i.e., the People of the Book, a title given to Jews and Christians. It states, “Those who followed the Apostle the unlettered Prophet [Muhammad], whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures) in the Law and the Gospel” (Qur’an 7:157). The Law and the Gospel refer of course to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures respectively. An inconsistency emerges at this point when the Bible is brought into the discussion by Islam. Many Muslims charge that the Bible is:

             1)  Corrupted and unreliable.

            2)  Some parts of it are true.

            3)  Some parts of it are false.

            If (1) is true, then the argument that Muhammad is predicted in the Bible is moot and irrelevant because the Bible cannot be trusted. Both (2) and (3) essentially amount to saying the same thing and most Muslims opt for either (2) or (3). The reason for doing so however is not based on any consistent criterion but rather an ad hoc approach, it is contrived from the beginning. How do Muslims argue what parts of the Bible are true and reliable and which ones are not? They do so by using the Qur’an as their reference guide. When the Bible agrees with the Qur’an, it is right, when it does not, it is flat out in error. This is the exact same methodology that cults use in judging the Bible, if it does not conform with their “new” revelation or scripture, it is in error. The same methodology is employed by Islam in its treatment of the Bible.” 2  

            A Muslim takes utmost joy to an extent that he thinks that it is his birthright to criticize the Bible as a corrupt document. In the same vein, why does Islam not offer the Quran for a thorough criticism (historical, textual etc.)? History is replete with instances of violent Islamic backlashes against any attempt to criticize the Quran or its prophet Muhammad. This is the double standard Islam practices. 

            How do Muslims justify that the Quran is free from all corruption? They will say that the Quran is pure because Quran says so (circular argument) or that Allah has preserved it to be pure. In the same vein, if we assure the Muslims that the Bible claims purity (e.g. John 10:35) or that God protects the Bible from any corruption, they would immediately reject our argument.

            Therefore, whenever Muslims refer to Muhammad from the Bible, they are merely exposing their double standards without realizing their fallacy. This is because they are indoctrinated to do so and they do not think through their arguments. 

            The other reason that motivates Muslims to cite the Bible is more serious in nature. As we have seen, Christ had no compelling reason whatsoever to predict Muhammad as the true prophet of God. Moreover, Muslims believe that Quran is pure and that the Bible is corrupt. However, Muslims have the audacity to falsely cite Muhammad from the Bible as a slap in the face of Christianity.

            By citing Muhammad from the Bible, the Muslim implies that Christ is not God. How? If Christ had predicted Muhammad, and if we are to assume that the Quran is pure and from God, then Christ is a mere prophet and not God.

            Significantly, the Muslims believe, albeit without any good reason, that they possess greater knowledge than Christians.

            Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Christian to expose the fallacy of the Islamic argument in order to highlight the fact that Bible is indeed the word of God. If the Bible can be reasonably proven as God’s Word, and we can prove this reasonably, then on the basis of mutual exclusivity, the Quran cannot be God’s Word.

            Alternatively, we could ask our Muslim brother or sister to prove that Quran is God’s Word. I personally wonder that if Muslims had even one reasonable argument to prove that the Quran is the Word of God, they would have allowed the world to freely and academically critique the Quran without taking any offense.

            When Muslims take the liberty to critique the Bible, they should also allow a free academic critique of the Quran.

            We live in a civilized world, so there is no harm in enjoying a civil discussion analyzing our respective religious worldviews.

Endnotes:

1 http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/muhammad.html

2 http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2015/12/does-bible-predict-coming-of-muhammad.html


Read also http://crossexamined.org/simple-reason-quran-word-god/ to understand why Quran cannot be the Word of God. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Conjuring Two or Not To

            Conjuring 2 is a horror movie. Should Christians watch horror movies or not? What does the Bible say about watching horror movies?

            Filmmaker and author, Brian Godawa, in his article, “The Apologetic of Horror,” presents an excerpt of horror stories from the Bible, “The prophet Daniel wrote horror literature, based on images and drama pitched by God to him in Babylon. Not only did God turn the blaspheming king Nebuchadnezzar into an insane wolfman to humble his idolatrous pride (Dan. 4), but He storyboarded horror epics for kings Belshazzar and Darius as allegories of the historical battle between good and evil to come. Huge hybrid carnivorous monsters come out of the sea like Godzilla, one of them with large fangs and ravishing claws to devour, crush, and trample over the earth (7:1–8) until it is slain and its flesh roasted in fire (7:11); there are blasphemous sacrileges causing horror (8:13), including an abomination of desolation (9:26–27); angels and demons engaging in spiritual warfare (10:13); rivers of fire (7:10); deep impact comets and meteors colliding with the earth, Armageddon style (8:10); wars, desolation, and complete destruction (9:26-27). The book of Daniel reads like God’s own horror film festival.

            It is not merely the human being Daniel who crafted this work of epic horror allegory, it is God Himself who rolled the camera and directed the action. God himself enjoys the horror genre. That’s God-breathed inerrancy. The author of this faith didn’t grow out of it after the Old Testament. In fact, he may have received an even harsher movie rating in his later production, the New Testament.

            The book of Revelation is an epic horror fantasy sequel to Daniel, complete with science fiction special effects, and spectacles of horror darker than anything in a David Cronenberg Grand Guignol theater of blood. In this apocalyptic prophecy we read of a huge demonic spectacle of genetically mutated monsters chasing and tormenting scream ing [sic] people (9:1–11); armies of bizarre beasts wreaking death and destruction on the masses (9:13–18); a demonic dragon chasing a woman with the intent to eat her child (12:3–4); a seven-headed amphibious Hydra with horns that blasphemes God and draws pagan idol worship from everyone on earth (13:1–10); massive famines (6:8); gross outbreaks of rotting sores covering people’s bodies (16:2); plagues of demonic insects torturing populations (9:1–11); fire-breathing Griffon-like creatures (9:17); supernatural warfare of angels and demons (12:7); the dragging of rotting corpses through the streets while people party over them (11:7–13); rivers and seas of blood (14:20; 16:3); a blaspheming harlot doing the deed with kings and merchants (17:1-5) who then turn on her, strip her naked, burn her with fire, and cannibalize her (17:16); more famines, pestilence, and plagues (18:8); and when the good guys win, there is a mighty feast of vultures scavenging the flesh of kings and commanders in victory (19:17–18). And I might add, this all gives glory to God in the highest.” 1

            Brian Godawa’s premise is that the Bible does not oppose horror movies, since God HIMSELF has narrated horror stories as a part and parcel of HIS revelation. He then goes on to defend the horror genre theologically because…2

            …horror movies reinforce the doctrine of man’s sinful nature.

            …horror movies communicate the logical consequences of sin.

            …horror movies illustrate the consequence of modern man’s pride and arrogance.

            This is a compelling argument. The Bible does not explicitly pronounce a ban on horror movies. In fact, Brian Godawa has presented persuasive reasons to believe that the Bible does not ban viewing of horror movies.

            Those who desire to watch horror movies are not fearful of horror movies. But others may be fearful. Hence they may not watch horror movies. I have not watched horror movies because these movies have not appealed to my interest. I find enough horror in this world, so I do not need a distinctive encounter with horror through horror movies. But our counsel to those desiring to watch horror movies ought to be biblical and without any extraneous bias.

            Some Christians pronounce a blanket ban on horror movies as if they are as horrific as pornography. If we are to pronounce a blanket ban upon horror movies, then we ought not to watch the majority of the television serials and movies, for they contain insane amount of corrupt thoughts, violence and/or sexual connotations. Is this the way forward for us?

            Popular Christian website www.gotquestions.org almost suggests that horror movies are a strict no-no, “As we mature in our Christian walk, sin and evil should bother us more and more all the time. We are to be beacons of light in an ever-darkening world, striving to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). Scripture tells us to be moral and pure, abhorring what is evil and to have our minds focused on things which are noble and pure, lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), and that “whatever [we] do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). These verses should guide us daily in everything we do, including the movies we choose to see. How can it be possible to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) when we are at a horror movie laden with murder and mayhem and, essentially, being entertained by the very sins that Jesus Christ died for?”2

            Does this render a judgment that those Christians who watch horror movies are not Christians or are they being unholy?

            There ought to be a meaning to all our actions. I enjoy watching a game or a clean movie or a TV serial, for I learn something out of them and in the process, I unwind. However, I am unsure how watching a horror movie would bring forth peace or relaxation upon us and I am also unsure how one can enjoy watching horror.

            Watching horror movies once in a while may not be a bad choice. However, I personally find only one good reason to watch a horror movie, which is to review them biblically so to make good use of the knowledge gleaned to disciple fellow Christians to grow in Christ.

            If we watch horror movies frequently, then we are indeed treading dangerous waters. To conclude, here is wisdom in the words of Brian Godawa, “Horror and thriller movies are two powerful apologetic means of arguing against the moral relativism of our postmodern society. Not only can they reinforce the biblical doctrine of the basic evil nature in humanity, but they can personify profound arguments of the kind of destructive evil that results when society affirms the Enlightenment worldview of scientism and sexual and political liberation. Of course, this is not to suggest that all horror movies are morally acceptable. In fact, I would argue that many of them have degenerated into immoral exaltation of sex, violence, and death. But abuse of a genre does not negate the proper use of that genre.

            It would be vain to try to justify the unhealthy obsession that some people have with the dark side, especially in their movie viewing habits. Too much focus on the bad news will dilute the power that the Good News has on an individual. Too much fascination with the nature and effects of sin can impede one’s growth in salvation. So, the defense of horror and thriller movies in principle should not be misconstrued to be a justification for all horror and thriller movies in practice. It is the mature Christian who, because of practice, has his senses trained to discern good and evil in a fallen world (Heb. 5:14). It is the mature Christian who, like the apostle Paul, can explore and study his pagan culture and draw out the good from the bad in order to interact redemptively with that culture (Acts 17).”3 (Emphasis Mine).

Endnotes:

1 http://www.equip.org/article/an-apologetic-of-horror/

2 Ibid.

3http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-horror-movies.html


4 http://www.equip.org/article/an-apologetic-of-horror/

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sex With Animals; The Dark Future Unravels

            One of the most distressing and nauseating report in the social media this week was about Canada legalizing sex with animals. But this is the truth; Canada did not pass a new law legalizing oral sex with animals.
    
            Let us not be glad that good sense prevailed in Canada, for the truth is much worse than we think.

            Bestiality and Zoophila are the terms that represent the morbid, perverted and hedonistic act of sexual intercourse between humans and animals.

            There are animal brothels! Apparently animal brothels are on the rise in Germany under the pretext that sex with animals is a “lifestyle choice.”

            The presence of animal brothels need not surprise us, for bestiality was practiced even in the biblical times. The Bible deems bestiality as a perversion and pronounces curses upon the perverts indulging in such heinous practices. We live in a sinful world, so we expect and experience sins of all forms and sizes.

            Perverts claim that sex with animals is a lifestyle choice. Mexico, Finland, Hungary, Brazil, Denmark, Sweden, USA, South Africa, Columbia and Germany are the countries where one can have sexual intercourse with animals.2

            The fact that people claim bestiality as their lifestyle choice should also not depress us. We live in a world that actively promotes debauched lifestyle choices.

            Making a bad lifestyle choice is not new to us. Cigarettes, for instance, are proven (beyond doubt) to be harmful to human health. Yet we sell and promote cigarettes. People, who are well aware of the harmful effects of cigarettes upon their body, smoke them willingly.

            So the presence of sin and the sinful preference of man are not the most disturbing aspects. But what disturbs me most is the reason propounded by those combating the evil practice of bestiality.

            Recently the Danish government banned bestiality in Denmark. Yes, bestiality was once legal in Denmark!!!

            Please read this news snippet carefully; this apparently was a statement by the Danish government, “The Danish government has decided that a ban on sexual relations between humans and animals shall be implemented in the Danish legislation.

            Animals must be treated with respect and care and have the right to a high level of protection. When it comes to sexual relations between humans and animals there is a special concern to be taken into account, as the animals cannot consent to enter into a sexual relation with a human being. Another concern is that it can be difficult to identify and document possible physical or mental damage to the animal as a result of the sexual relation with a human being.” (Emphasis Mine).3

            Why did the Danes ban bestiality? The answer is simple. The Danes banned bestiality so to prevent cruelty upon animals.

            It is this answer that disturbs me the most. We are more concerned about the animals than we are about our fellow humans! In fact, we are not concerned about the wellness of human beings. By wellness, I mean the spiritual wellness.

            European countries have long since buried God into the metaphorical grave. Consequently, mankind is slowly yet steadily digging graves and burying each other.

            The morality that the Bible espouses is the creation’s most appropriate response to their creator, which is to honor and glorify God through our thoughts, words, and deeds. Sin is an assault upon God.

            Within the context of morality, when we enthrone animals, we dethrone God, who is the essence of morality. When we deem God as nonexistent or dead or when we intently ignore HIM, we adulterate and mitigate our conception of morality. God is no longer the essence of morality. Within the context of bestiality, animals have replaced God.

            Having replaced God with animals, we are more concerned about our exploitation of animals than we are about Satan’s exploitation of man to lure him to perennially sin against God.  

            Sex, as intended by God, is the sacred consummation of a marital relationship between a husband and his wife. Today, that biblical notion is being erased deliberately. Sex is liberally viewed more as a lifestyle choice by those who have buried God.

            So when we realize that animals are being inordinately hurt by brutal animalish humans, our focus is more towards saving the animals because they cannot fight their own cause.

            We should save our animals, no doubts, but then who will save the sinful mankind?

            Satan is winning huge victories in many lives. Those who stand at the sidelines and are seated at the bleachers, applaud these victories as if these victories are paving way for a blessed life.

            Today, the secular world’s message to its brutish inmates is this; it is wrong inappropriate to have sex with animals, since, by doing so, you are inordinately hurting the animals. This is the morality we desire.

            In the process, we encourage our fellow men to have sex with other humans. It does not matter if that human being is your own spouse or the spouse of your neighbor or even a fellow male or a fellow female. Adultery and homosexuality are Aok! But please do not hurt the animals.

            Morality is thrown into the fire from the frying pan progressively and almost irreversibly.  

            We may think and celebrate that we are saving our animals, but we are losing our fellow men to Satan’s schemes. We do not realize Satan’s presence because we have buried God. Consequently, we are the causal agents encouraging morality to plummet into darker depths all the while thinking that we are the defenders of morality.

            We are defending a skimmed morality. The essence of morality, God, has been skimmed.

            While the world condemns bestiality, it celebrates fornication, premarital sex, homosexuality, adultery and what not!  Welcome to the darker future.

            Do not live under the false impression that our future will be glorious. Our future will not be glorious. Our future will be dark.

            I am not referring to a darker future with respect to our economic development or technological development and the likes. Our world, with respect to its moral state of affairs, will plunge into darker depths.

            What then is the need of the hour?

            God should be in the equation. In other words, those who believe in God ought to remain in Christ, voice their opinions, and strengthen their children and their neighbors to live for God and HIM alone. When we live for God, our thoughts, words and deeds will be pleasing in HIS sight. When we live for God, we will strive to be morally upright and by the grace of our dear Lord, we will.

            As long as Satan exists, and he will exist until he is annihilated by Christ in the future, evil will prosper and morality will plummet. In this depressing situation, if we can live strong and well in the Lord, it is to our benefit.

            Many Christians will be swayed by the world and will depart from the truth that is only found in Christ. These so-called Christians are the wolves in sheep’s clothing (cf. Matthew 7: 15). Beware of them. They will demand that we be politically correct and be tolerant of anything and everything that happens around us.

            I believe it was Francis Schaeffer who predicted that mankind would compromise absolute truth, “Today not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people have always thought of truth, has died.” Let us not compromise the absolute truth, rather let us live for the absolute truth in Christ and may the truth set people free.

Endnotes:

1 http://www.snopes.com/canada-legalizes-beastiality/

2 http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/10-nationalities-who-fornicate-with-animals/


3 http://www.peta.org.uk/blog/denmark-bans-bestiality/

Monday, June 13, 2016

Feminism: Should Woman Submit To Man?

            When did we last hear a sermon in the church about wives submitting to their husbands? Sermons about husband loving his wife are in abundance, but sermons devoted to Christian wives submitting to their husbands…?  

            The church, existing in the feminist era, strives to be politically correct. But churches need to be biblically correct!  

            Should the wife submit to her husband in a Christian home? Who is the head of the Christian home – husband or the wife?

            In God’s creational intent, the woman may have been a sequel to man but she most certainly is an equal to man. Neither dominates the other; neither is inferior to the other within the context of God's creational intent.

            But God in HIS perfect wisdom has ordained a hierarchy in the Christian home. The husband is the head of the Christian home. This hierarchy should be unequivocally accepted.

            The wife is not the head of a Christian home, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5: 22-24, NIV, Emphasis Mine.).

            The husband is compared to Christ and wife to the church. As Christ is the head of the church, husband is the head of his wife. Period.

            Moreover, when love (verse 25) and submission (verse 22) are being equated in Ephesians 5: 22-25, unjust domination of any form in a Christian household is forbidden.

            Christian feminists dilute the meaning of the word “submit” or “subject” as being ‘thoughtful and considerate’ or ‘to act in love’ toward one another! This interpretation betrays the biblical intent for this passage.

            The Greek word “hypotassō” - the root word for “submit,” renders the meaning of “submission to authority.” Here are a few other instances in the New Testament where “hypotassō” has been used:

            Luke 2: 51: Submission of Jesus to the authority of his parents

            Luke 10: 17: Demons being subject to the disciples (Demons cannot be “thoughtful and considerate” to the disciples and neither can the demons “act in love” towards the disciples!!!!)

            Romans 13:1: Citizens being subject to government authorities

            1 Corinthians 15: 27: Universe being subject to Christ

            1 Corinthians 15: 28: Christ being subject to God the Father

            Titus 2: 9: Servants being subject to their masters.

            Hebrews 12: 9: Christians being subject to God.

            In all the above instances, the relationship is pretty straightforward – it’s submission and not anything else.

            Wives cannot rebel or be resentful of their husband’s leadership in the family. Wives cannot compete with their husbands for leadership in the family. (A husband cannot be abusive, selfish or domineering.)

            Submission to authority does not include an utterly inactive presence in the family and agreeing to everything that the husband does or does not do. A wife can be totally submissive and at the same time participate in the decision-making process of the family. (Husbands ought to provide godly leadership, and be loving and considerate towards their wives while wives ought to joyfully submit to their husband’s leadership.)

            The Bible provides us with a few instances of feminism, where the husbands succumbed to their wives, who actively performed sinful deeds. A husband cannot be so considerate of his wife that he allows her to make all decisions, even the wrong ones.

            Always remember that the first man Adam was persuaded by his wife Eve to disobey God. King Ahab submitted to his [wicked] wife Jezebel to worship Baal (1 Kings 16: 31-33). The so-called wise King Solomon listened to his many wives and turned his heart after other gods (1 Kings 11: 4) and even sacrificed to Molech (1 Kings 11: 7-8).

            A dominating wife and an inactive husband are a clear recipe for disaster in a Christian household. Feminism will raise its ugly hood in the Christian home when the wife’s faith in Christ is inadequate. The wife who dominates her husband cannot be a mature Christian. The husband who submits to his dominating wife for the sake of peace and stability of his family will always be the victim of Satan’s evil scheme against the Christian household.  

            This then is the solution to any feminism infected Christian household. It’s not surprising that apostle Paul, who laid out the modus operandi of Christian household, concluded his letter with an exhortation to constantly fight Satan’s evil schemes, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6: 10-18, NIV).

            Feminism that destroys the Christian household does not spare the Christian church.

            Consider a church that apparently suppresses its women by mandating them to cover their heads (1 Corinthians 11: 5) and to remain silent (1 Corinthians 14: 34). Should the [spiritually-gifted] women of that church be utterly feministic and rebel against authority?

            Primarily, does the Bible mandate women to be silent in the church? No.

            Before we study 1 Corinthians 14: 34, which appears to mandate women to be silent in churches, we ought to have studied 1 Corinthians 11: 5, which says, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head” (Emphasis Mine).

            It’s sufficiently evident that Paul advises women to cover their heads. He does not prohibit women from praying or prophesying. Therefore, Paul did not mandate women to be silent in churches.

            If Paul did not mandate women to be silent in the worship service, he would not have contradicted himself later in the 14th chapter when he said that women ought to remain silent in churches. Therefore, we ought to study 1 Corinthians 14: 34 in the context of Paul’s letters.

            Paul has always been accused of being harsh towards women especially in their involvement in the worship service. But the very same apostle Paul speaks highly of women in positions of leadership in Romans 16: Phoebe (v2); Priscilla (v3-4) and the other women in the same chapter. 

            Therefore, the restrictive passages such as 1 Corinthians 14: 33-36 ought to be viewed as relating to local context of the Corinthian church than interpreting it universally to restrict women from speaking in any church today.

            Should women cover their heads today?

            Would God be more bothered about a head covered in a worship service than a heart that worships HIM in spirit and in truth? Obviously God is more concerned about the heart than the head (cf. Matthew 23: 25-28). 

            Could women be pastors and elders in the local church?

            1 Timothy 2: 11-14, 3: 1-7 & Titus 1: 5-9 and few other passages seem to mandate women to not assume positions of leadership in the churches, whereas we have other verses in the Bible such as Acts 2: 17-18 that seem to suggest that women can indeed participate in leadership positions.

            A church that prohibits women from being pastors and elders does not demean the womenfolk. Women in such situations could be actively involved in the ministries of hospitality, mercy and evangelism. If women are prohibited from teaching men, then women who are spiritually gifted could use their time and resources to teach other women.

            Creating chaos to divide the church is not an option for women who suffer these prohibitions. If your church prohibits you from assuming positions of leadership then so be it. God will provide you with opportunities to serve HIM from other situations.

            Role of women in the church is a fringe theological aspect, which we can agree to disagree. The concerned churches and the women should be gracious and not confrontational. As Saint Augustine said may we be charitable in our relationship with each other, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”