Monday, April 27, 2015

Rapture Revolutionized; What If Christians Are Not Raptured?


            If you believe that Christ will return invisibly to snatch away the church (the living and the dead, who will be resurrected), you believe in the doctrine of rapture. You would also believe that God will give glorified bodies to all raptured believers of Christ so to live with HIM unto eternity.

            Your belief would include the great tribulation - a future seven year period of extraordinary suffering for mankind (need not be a literal seven year period). With reference to the timing of rapture and the great tribulation, you could believe that rapture would be: (we shall only consider the three major views)

            Pre Tribulational (rapture before the tribulation period)

            or

            Post Tribulational (rapture at the end of tribulation)

            or

            Mid Tribulational (rapture during the midpoint of the tribulation)

            Rapture is a rather recent view. Rapture was initially propagated by John Darby in 1827. A majority of Christians believe in Pre-tribulational rapture.

            Miraculous is always exciting. Rapture is miraculous, for it alludes to believers being supernaturally snatched away from this world.

            Apart from the church’s teaching, the doctrine of rapture has been popularized through movies, such as “Left Behind.” Those who have been greatly impacted by these movies as well as the teachings consider rapture to be an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity.  But is it so?

            Dr. William Lane Craig, an acclaimed and an accomplished Christian philosopher, expressed his public disagreement with the rapture theology.1 His disagreement was based on his hermeneutical consideration of the following verses that apparently espouse rapture: Mark 13:19-20, 24-27; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 22-26, 51-55, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8. 2

            When such a sharp theological disagreement occurs at the highest academic realm, how would lay Christians respond?

            An average Christian mind would respond through a few pertinent questions:

            1. Should I [continue to] believe in rapture?

            2. What would happen to me if there will be no rapture?

            3. If I would not be raptured, then am I doomed to suffer during the terrible period of tribulation?

            Primarily, there are essential and non-essential doctrines in Historic Christianity. How do we identify an essential doctrine?

            Dr. Norman Geisler defines essential doctrine as, “First, the doctrine must concern and be connected to our salvation; that is, it must be salvific. Second, its connection to our salvation must be crucial; that is, it must be so tied to our salvation that if it were not true, our salvation as God revealed it would not be possible.” 3

            For instance, Christ’s divinity or faith in Christ is an essential doctrine. But baptism by water is not an essential doctrine.

            In other words, water baptism is not a means to our salvation. However, we cannot agree to disagree about Christ’s divinity. As Christians, if we believe that Christ is not God, then we are not Christians. We may as well consider ourselves as people of other religion or atheists or agnostics, since they do not believe that Christ is God.

            Therefore, while certain doctrines are considered essential to Historic Christianity, there are other doctrines that are non-essential. Rapture falls under the non-essential category because it is not connected to our salvation.

            Rapture does not hinder man’s relationship with God or salvation in any possible manner. Rapture merely espouses the snatching away of the believer from this world and into God’s presence. The crucial aspect of rapture is not the act of being raptured (snatched away), but the fact that the person is a believer of Christ.

            Faith in Christ gains salvation (it is not the faith that Christ is one among the many gods, but the faith that saves man is the faith that Christ is the only [way to] God whose redemptive sacrifice saves man of his sins). If man rejects Christ, then he rejects himself from God’s presence. So faith in Christ is an essential doctrine.

            Therefore, even if the doctrine of rapture is incorrect, Dr. Craig affirmed that it would not affect believers’ relationship with Christ or their salvation, “I think that the rapture doctrine is wrong, but that’s not going to inhibit anyone’s relationship with God.”4 Dr. Craig’s statement reflects the notion that rapture is a non-essential doctrine in Historic Christianity.

            What if there is no such thing as rapture? Would a believer of Christ be with God nevertheless? Of course!

            Pre-tribulational rapture espouses the snatching away of the believers of Christ from the impending gory of the great tribulation. But the mid-tribulational and post-tribulational rapture includes the believers of Christ in the gory of the great tribulation. Whatever the case may be, believers of Christ will either go through the great tribulation or not.

            Since rapture is a subset of Christ’s second coming, let us observe rapture from the vantage point of the Lord’s second coming. There are then two stages of Christ’s second coming.

            The first possible stage is the rapture, which is the “coming for” the saints. The second stage of the Lord’s second coming is the “coming with” the saints. The great tribulation separates these two stages.

            Even if rapture does not occur, it is certain that the Lord will come again!

            Effectively, if rapture does not occur, then the Lord’s second coming will occur in one stage or as a single event.

            However which way you look at it, when the Lord returns again in all HIS glory, the believers of Christ will be with the Lord forever in their glorified bodies. So rapture really does not matter!    

            If rapture does not occur, then the believers would be included in the great tribulation. In this scenario, Christians should just be ready for this inclusion (cf. 2 Corinthians 12: 9).

            Would those who disagree with rapture be termed heretics or would those who profess to rapture be considered heretics? In the words of Dr. Craig, “A heretic is someone who has a doctrinal error so serious that it separates him from salvation” 5

                Whether you believe in rapture or not, there is no doctrinal error that separates you from salvation. As said earlier, faith in Christ is mandatory to one’s salvation. Rapture is not essential to man’s salvation. So ‘heresy’ is not something that we should be concerned about in this context.

            However, it is rather unfortunate that Christian denominations have warred over non-essential doctrines, such as rapture and water baptism. Spiritual pride is one major reason for this sad reality. So we continue to pray that God would enable us to follow this maxim, “In essentials unity, nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.” Amen.



Endnotes:

1 http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/10/09/theologian-claims-rapture-proponents-might-be-reading-the-bible-all-wrong-and-reveals-an-alternative-end-times-interpretation/

2 For an extensive rebuttal of the doctrine of rapture, please visit these links:

Link 1: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s13-2

Link 2: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s13-3

3 http://www.equip.org/article/the-essential-doctrines-of-the-christian-faith-part-two/#christian-books-1

4 http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/10/09/theologian-claims-rapture-proponents-might-be-reading-the-bible-all-wrong-and-reveals-an-alternative-end-times-interpretation/


5 http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s13-2

Monday, April 20, 2015

Eugenics: Killing Defective People; A Christian Response



            Eugenics is a combination of two Greek words meaning ‘good’ and ‘genes.’ The vision of “Eugenics,” a term coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton - cousin of Charles Darwin - is to create a superior and a flourishing human race, devoid of all genetic imperfections and hereditary diseases, by eliminating defective people.

            Eugenics posits an increase of ‘socially good genes’ by eliminating the proliferation of ‘bad genes’ within a given gene pool. Briefly, positive eugenics advocates marriages among fit people and negative eugenics limits procreation through sterilization and euthanasia.

            Eugenics destroys our society by disgracing those with hereditary diseases and other abnormal medical conditions to a status of being ‘defective.’ When a ‘defect’ is identified, elimination of the subject carrying that defect gains greater priority than healing of that defect. This is the damaging service caused by eugenics to our society. 

            In contrast, the Bible alludes to people with defects as sick and needy. The Bible also terms all human beings as sinners – with an innate propensity to sin. Some sinners, such as serial killers or rapists, violate their victims rather irreparably whereas others, in comparison, commit sins that do not violate others.

            Whatever the case may be, the Bible offers a cure for both the sick and the sinner. The cure is in God and HIS Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that those who believe in Christ will be healed of their infirmities and delivered from their sins. 

            Eugenics endorses:

a.       Forced sterilizations of defective people (between 1934-1939, 350,000 defective people were sterilized).

b.      Killing the hospitalized (In 1934, Adolf Hitler’s national euthanasia programme was aimed to free up 800,000 beds for war causalities).   

c.       Promoting abortion to kill defective children (Margaret Sanger, a proponent of eugenics and a founder of “Planned Parenthood,” is probably America’s largest cause for abortion at almost a million abortions per year).1

d.      Infanticide on defective children i.e. Stephen Hawking should have been killed.

e.       Killing people with diseases or other abnormal medical conditions (e.g. those who are disease prone e.g. Ludwig Van Beethoven, and the one billion obese people should be killed).

            One need not be an astrophysicist to affirm the evil of killing. Similarly, any average human being can understand the similarity between forced sterilizations and rape – both violate a person’s sanctity, and hence are evil. 

            If this be the case, why are we discussing eugenics? Shouldn’t eugenics have been eliminated from our dictionary?

            Whether we like it or not, eugenics raises its ugly hood under the guise of scientific advancement. Thus eugenicists posit cleansing of the society of its innate defects through eugenic sterilization, which is achieved by the alteration of the genetic basis of societal defects such as poverty and criminality.

            Eugenics manifests in various guises. If you wonder whether forced or illegal sterilizations happen today, then prepare to be shocked. 150 female inmates were illegally sterilized in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation between 2006-2010.2 At least 8 women died after undergoing government sponsored sterilization procedures in India, which was conducted to curtail overpopulation. These women were paid a measly $23 to have the surgery.3

            The purpose of this short essay is to induce a Christian response to eugenics. I have offered my response to eugenics and you can formulate yours. Christians should either endorse or oppose eugenics, there is no middle ground. Having said this, eugenics has infiltrated into Christianity, for quite a few christian leaders support eugenics.

            What does the Bible have to say about eugenics? In other words, would Christ have supported eugenics? No, not by any stretch of imagination.

            The Bible does not warrant its believers to either kill or violate anyone’s sanctity. Historic Christianity is all about loving, healing and saving people who believe in Christ.

            The Bible reveals a sovereign God who creates and determines the length of man’s life. As a sovereign creator, God alone has the power to take life off this earth. This is an entailment of God’s sovereignty.

            But man is neither sovereign nor can he create life. Therefore, man, through the science of eugenics, cannot usurp God to determine who lives and who not. Nothing, not even science, provides man the authority to unjustly eliminate life. 

            The Bible does not discriminate people (cf. Matthew 22: 39; Galatians 3: 28), but eugenics judges and discriminates people based on their social fitness. Eugenics promotes the fit and eliminates the unfit. Life that God creates is precious in HIS sight (1 Peter 2: 4) and God is impartial (2 Chronicles 19: 7) to both the fit and the unfit.

            God heals the sick. Although in certain instances, HE does not heal all the sick, but unlike eugenics, HE offers strength to those HE does not heal, to live through their sickness. God does not eliminate defective people.

            God does not kill the sick to promote a flourishing human society devoid of all imperfections. Instead, God offers the imperfect man a means to eternally coexist with HIM – the only pure and perfect being, through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that those who believe in Christ will be saved.

            The Bible mandates care for the needy (Exodus 22: 21-23). We ought to care for the needy so to uplift them and enable them to live a better life. Nowhere does the Bible state that the sick and the needy ought to be killed so to construct a flourishing human society.

            The Lord Jesus Christ was a friend of sinners and downtrodden (Matthew 11: 19, 25: 34-36). In fact, Christ condemned those who ignored the needy (Matthew 25: 41-43). So the needy are not a burden upon our society; rather the needy ought to be cared and provided for.

            Thus far we have refuted negative eugenics. Positive eugenics is no better.

            Positive eugenics advocates marriage between fit people (man and a woman). So, two ‘non-defective’ people (free from all abnormal medical conditions) should get married.

            Even among non-defective people, a man with high IQ ought to marry a woman with high IQ. This is the compatibility proposed by positive eugenics.

            Are not grace, love, trust, sacrifice, humility, compassion necessary for the success and longevity of the marriage, than high IQ? High IQ does not necessarily presuppose grace, love, trust, sacrifice, humility, and compassion.

            What if two christians, one with high IQ and the other with low IQ, but both loving the Lord dearly and possessing grace, love, trust, sacrifice, humility, compassion in growing measure, decide to get married? This couple will most likely enjoy a long and a prosperous marriage than the couple with high IQ and less grace, love, trust, sacrifice, humility, compassion.

            Christians should oppose eugenics for it violates human sanctity and denigrates the weak. Instead we should love the weak and help them to live a better life and lead them to the Lord Jesus who alone can save and deliver them.



Endnotes:

1 http://www.sba-list.org/sites/default/files/content/shared/12.31.14fact_sheet_pp_2013_2014_annual_report.pdf
&
http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2015/01/01/planned-parenthood-annual-report-all-about-abortions-and-profits/

2 http://www.christianpost.com/news/three-generations-of-eugenics-sterilizing-california-prisoners-100053/


3 http://rt.com/news/204351-botched-sterilization-kills-women-india/ 

Monday, April 13, 2015

So You Messed Up Your Exam! Why Pray?

                  “Post debacle” prayer or ‘how would prayer help me when I have messed up?’ is intriguing enough to be examined.

            The specific situation of children writing crucial examinations in India could be good case in point. Contextually our question could be, ‘would there be any use in prayer after messing up the exams?’

            Indian high schoolers (11th & 12th graders) are deemed potentially unsuccessful if they do not pursue education in science or commerce. According to scores of Indian parents, these are flagship streams, while others such as social sciences (arts/humanities) are apparently worthless. This thought paradigm is predicated on the ostensible financial stability offered by jobs within the science or commerce domains.

            Children studying in grades 10 and 12 (who would, at the end of their respective academic years, write crucial examinations) in India are an incredibly stressed out group. I believe that parents, peers and public increase their stress.

            First, parents stress out their children. They burden the child with high, and in several instances, needless expectations by forcing them to pursue undergraduate and graduate programs in medical (not nursing), engineering, biotechnology, chartered accountancy or management.

            God has appointed parents as stewards of children – to care, nourish and protect them against all forms of evil. Unnecessary stress upon anyone, let alone children, is evil. God does not intend to bring stress upon anyone.

            If parents are sensitive to God’s will and leading, they will do well and not be a stress factor upon their children. There is an undeniable difference between handholding our children to excel and thrusting our desires upon them, especially when they do not buy into ‘our’ desire for their future.   

            Second, children are stressed out by peer pressure. When peers are focused on pursuing these much vaunted courses, the child is inevitably stressed out if he is unable to or does not desire to pursue these courses.

            Third, public pressure stresses out these children. Even before the student enters grade 10, a popular topic of conversation during public engagements with friends or relatives is, “what do you plan on studying in grade 11?” If the student responds, “I haven’t figured it out yet” or “I desire to be a teacher,” then the child, in all likelihood, will be explicitly or subtly disgraced, for professions such as teaching, and an existence without adequate knowledge or planning for the future, is considered slothful and stupid in the Indian subcontinent.

            Then there is the rather insane competition to secure admission into decent academic institutions in India that increases children’s stress. In many instances, even a score as high as 90% does not fetch one a seat in a premier institution.

            In India, ‘messing up’ need not necessarily imply an ‘F’ grade. Any score lesser than 90% (less than A+) is considered a mess-up depending on the actual situation the child could be in. When expectations are sky-high, a micro thin line separates success and failure in India.

            Why does a child mess up in exams?

            A child may not be innately gifted to excel in the Indian academic system. Moreover, adverse situations could negatively impact a child’s preparation preventing the child’s potential excellence.

            Certainly, a child cannot be held responsible if he/she is not gifted intellectually or if the child is thrust into an adverse situation, which the child has no control over. The responsibility then is in the domain of the sovereign God who created the child with subpar intellectuality, and who need not have thrust the child into the adverse situation.

            Thus children (and their parents), who are embedded in these situations, cannot be faulted for praying to God after messing up the exam. But our question remains, is it of any use to pray after messing up the exam?

            In other words, would God miraculously transform the wrong answer to the right or manipulate the evaluator of the test papers to award marks to the wrong answers? Although God could sovereignly perform the aforesaid deeds, HE would not perform those deeds (for it would contradict HIS attribute of justice) to unjustly rescue the child who prays to HIM.

            If God offers success to every diligent prayer, would not the child and parents resort to prayer with greater fervor than preparing for the exams? Also, if prayer is the recipe for academic success, then would not a majority of Christian students occupy all the premier institutions in India?  But this is not a reality in India.

            Furthermore, if God offers material success e.g. success in exam to every diligent prayer, would not the whole world flock to God merely for the sake of material prosperity?

            If this be the case, none will believe God for the sake of deliverance from their sins and none will love God for HIS perfect sacrifice in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            Given these considerations, we could safely conclude that God would not miraculously help the child so to promote lethargy or disinterest with regard to his/her education. Instead, God will perform deeds to promote diligence and responsibility in a student as long as the student wills to work hard for success. God would not do anything unjust but to lead the evaluator to grade the test paper more graciously and in all fairness.  

            So are we not supposed to pray after messing up? The Bible mandates us to pray continually, which undoubtedly mandates us to pray after messing up.

            What then should be the purpose of our prayer after messing up?

            A child who is inadequately gifted intellectually or a child implanted in adversity should pray predominantly for the realization of God’s will for his/her life (this holds true for the parents of the child as well). These children and their parents should also pray for divine strength to overcome their weaknesses so to pursue God’s will for their lives.

            Parents, especially, should realize that social sciences or similar streams of education could be employed by God to fulfill HIS will for the child and the world. Moreover parents should realize that abundance of income is not primarily dependent on the work of our hands, instead it is solely dependent on God who offers life and various blessings to us.

            The loving, gracious, merciful and compassionate God does not will destruction upon the lives of HIS people. Although God allows pain into our lives, HIS grace will always be sufficient for us and HIS incomparably great power will enable us to overcome pain.

            There are children who prepare to the best of their abilities. However since they are gifted with subpar intellectuality or because of adversities, they cannot score high grades. Then there are those who could have messed up their preparation for a variety of reasons. In both instances, not only the children, but their parents should also pray to achieve the following: 

            First, request God for strength to accept the consequences i.e. result of messing up the exam. Second, ask God for wisdom to move forward i.e. our next step action subsequent to the failure. Third, repent and plead to God that HE would enable us to change so that we do not repeat our sins / errors of apathetic preparations that led to the mess up (repentance is only for those who deliberately mess up their preparations).

            We should always remember that God is a God of second chances. God expects us to exercise our freewill to love, obey and repent of our sins to be drawn closer to HIM for HIS will to be ours.


            Messing up is not an aberration in our life, but we need God to enable us to stop messing up repetitively. If we seek God earnestly, God will graciously enable us to do HIS will. Our goal is to become wiser as days go by – wiser by godly living that promotes diligence, responsibility and accountability in all that we do so that God is constantly glorified in our lives. Amen.    


Monday, April 6, 2015

Christianity In The Hands Of Mindless Histrionic Preachers


                   It’s a perennial joy to watch certain Christian preachers preach. I have enjoyed the sermons and lectures of Billy Graham, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig and a few. They preach the gospel, defend historic Christianity and teach the Bible diligently.

            However, a few days ago I was bewildered to watch the mindless histrionic preaching of a few Christian preachers.

            A proud preacher1 had the audacity to claim that his anointed ministry is not meant to serve a mere 50-60 people rather it was meant to serve millions.

            Another theatrical preacher2 claimed that ordinary people could not step into a certain part of the stage (obviously that’s where he was standing) where apparently the Holy Spirit’s anointing was powerful. When people tried to step into that so-called anointed area of that stage, they were thrown back (the big question is if they were acting or not).

            Then there was a preacher3 whose primary task was to make people laugh. People laughed aloud uncontrollably when he touched them. People laughed because this preacher apparently anointed them with the Holy Spirit.

            Correct me if am wrong, but I most surely think these preachers are utterly mindless.  

            Why do I term them mindless? I am quite sure that there are many in Christendom in this genre of preaching. Is it demeaning to term these preachers as mindless? Let us think this through.

            What’s the purpose of this style of preaching? What do they try to achieve?  

            The proud preacher manifested his innate pride by purporting that his anointed ministry is not for a mere 50-60 people. His purpose, I reckon, was two-fold: (1) to explicitly yet proudly assert his astronomical spiritual net worth, and (2) to humiliate the members of his church whose sole fault was attending that worship service.

            His manifest purposes, as any honest student-of-the-Bible would affirm, are absolutely unbiblical. The Bible urges humility, not pride.

            The Bible mandates grace, love, mercy and compassion, not a vulgar demeaning outburst against naïve Christians – not the least to brutally massacre them for having attended the church service to worship God.

            What then was the proud preacher trying to achieve?           

            Apparently he did not want to waste his time on a few people (50-60) when he could have ministered profitably (pun intended) with a larger gathering. But was he justified in denying his ministry upon a few people?

            The Lord Jesus Christ, as the Bible reveals, ministered to both, the lone Samaritan woman, as well as a large gathering. If the Lord Jesus Christ ministered to a single person, who are we to not minister to a single person or a smaller group?

            When the Lord Jesus Christ did not condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery (a blatant sinner), who are we to condemn naïve Christians whose only fault was to attend a worship service to worship God.

            Would it not be appropriate to term this proud preacher as mindless because of his failure to be Christlike in his ministry? I honestly believe that this proud preacher, for reasons aforesaid, was mindless.

            Power preaching is in vogue in Christendom. Lavish display of power on stage attracts people.

            By power I do not mean powerful sermons preached by the power of God, rather an ostensible display of people being thrown around on the stage or people laughing uncontrollably when they were allegedly impacted by the so-called anointed preachers of God.   

            What’s the purpose of this display of power on stage? Superficially, I reckon, if I were to speak on behalf of these drama-preachers, these ravishing acts of power are meant to display God’s power.

            I ask two questions: (1) Did Christ display power where people were thrown around when he touched them? (2) Does God require us to perform such power-ministries?

            Christ displayed the power of the miraculous - resurrecting the dead, healing, casting of demons, calming the storm, multiplying bread and fish etc. These miraculous events blessed people’s lives.

            To the best of my knowledge of the Bible, I neither think that people were thrown around nor did they laugh uncontrollably when Christ touched them.

            The power Christ displayed was more meaningful i.e. it blessed human life significantly. Contrarily, as is the case with these preachers, lives are not blessed when people are thrown around and when they laugh uncontrollably.  

            The powerful ministry that God desires of us is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 18-20) and be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1: 8). There is another power the Bible mentions, but rarely practiced these days, which is the power to share our possessions with the needy (Acts 4: 32-34). Of course, we cannot ignore the powerful ministries of healing and exorcisms.

            The Bible does not urge or mandate us to display power of comical proportions – to throw people around and/or to make them laugh uncontrollably upon being touched by the so-called anointed minister. So I do not understand the sincere purpose behind such scandalous display of power on stage other than the fact that their genuine purpose may be to propel themselves to greater fame among the masses.

            I honestly believe that this genre of ministry is mindless and unbiblical in that it does not normatively bless people (or at least I cannot understand how it blesses people, barring God’s sovereign intervention).

            This genre of mindless histrionic preaching is not the need of the hour, unless these mindless preachers compulsively desire to gratify the audience by humoring them at no extra cost.

            This is the need of the hour. People would be blessed when they are drawn to the love of Christ through the preaching of the gospel. People are blessed when they are loved and cared for, especially during their moments of need and desperation.

            Those ailing would be blessed when they are healed of their sickness or when they are delivered from demonic oppression. Those in doubt would be blessed when the Bible is taught and clarified – undiluted and unadulterated.

            May we do all that we can to bless people. May not our will be done, but may the good Lord enable us to do HIS perfect and pleasing will always. Amen.



Endnotes:

You can watch these preachers by copy-pasting the following links in your browser (they speak in Tamil – a South Indian language):

1 Proud preacher: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=612529632215319&set=vb.434891643312453&type=2&theater

2 Theatrical preacher: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=914453421922257


3 Preacher who makes people laugh: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=351088805086181&pnref=story