12/31/2008

Testing

This is a test to see if I can post with my new iPhone (Note: This phone is highly addictive.).

12/30/2008

Islam and Violence According to Gallup

The quotes below are from Dalia Mogahed in an interview with Warren Larson (“Islam According to Gallup: Analyst Dalia Mogahed says it's time to rethink what we think we know about Muslims.” posted 11/14/2008 09:04AM at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/november/26.38.html?start=1). Dalia Mogahed is a “senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies,” and her comments are based on a standard scientific survey that covered “90 percent of the global Muslim population.”


How do you respond to conventional wisdom that says the Qur'an espouses
violence?

First, [violent] verses have a historical context and must be understood and interpreted in a specific way. Second, if the Qur'an espouses violence, then we should have a greater percentage of Muslims involved in violence. Violence is usually politically, not religiously, motivated. Third, terrorist sympathizers or the "cheering section"—the 7 percent who are politically radicalized—are no more religious than mainstream Muslims who abhor violence and say it is morally unjustified. Muslims are as likely as Americans to denounce attacks on civilians. Finally, people defending their position on 9/11—the 7 percent who think it's completely justified—do so because of political and geopolitical perceptions, not theology. Not one referred to the Qur'an. Their responses could have come from an atheist. They see the U.S. as an imperialist power trying to control the world. Those who condemned 9/11 quoted Qur'anic verses that forbid killing innocent people. So moral objection to terrorism is competing with political rage, and people can go either way.

I cannot help but wonder what we can do politically to undermine terrorism. I know what we can do from a religious perspective (see posts here and here). I hear of the current religious climate in Iran, and hope and pray God gives our current and future political leaders wisdom and a winsome spirit.

How should evangelicals respond to what seems to be the spread of extremist
Islam globally?

Evangelicals should respond the way everyone should respond. Understanding the cause of the problem is important. The data clearly show it is driven not by religious extremism but by extreme political ideology. Second, as a human family, look at the extremists as an outside group, rather than as an outgrowth of religion. This builds bridges between people of different faiths all fighting a common enemy. Let's not forget that Muslims are the primary victims of violent extremism. People in majority-Muslim countries, unlike Americans, say their greatest fear is terrorism. Third, evangelicals should help empower those trying to make positive change peacefully. At the end of the day, this battle is not for the soul of Islam. It's the road to reform.

The grievances terrorists champion are strategically chosen and ones the vast majority agree with. Others try to address these same issues peacefully. To the extent these people are effective, terrorists are seen as ineffective and their methods as barbaric. Finally, evangelicals should vocally and unequivocally denounce anti-Muslim hate speech. When prominent Christian leaders make degrading statements about Islam, it feeds [Osama] bin Laden's claim of an American "crusade" against Islam and Muslims. Hateful statements against what Muslims hold most dear are a gift to bin Laden and a slap to mainstream Muslims who fear and reject his methods and therefore should be seen as allies, not enemies, in the fight against violent extremism.


The approach Mogahed recommends does seem to be more conducive to missions to the Muslim world. And if we are to make lasting change in the religious / political systems that produce terrorists at home or abroad, the only thing that will work is the life change that individuals experience after they come to Christ. Military might, although sometimes a valid approach to terrorism, is not the primary solution.

Thanks to Gallup for informative research.

On The Nature of Saving Faith

Two men start to walk across a 300 foot bridge that spans a mile deep chasm. One man walks confidently and makes consistent progress while the other steps catiously and nervously, starting and stopping along the way. Which of the two reach the other side?

Both. The integrity of the bridge remains the same for both men and is the only reason for there successful crossing.

There is only One Bridge with the eternal and redemptive integrity that will carry a sinner into God's presence. His name is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the Living God.

- Rick Frueh, a comment on Camp On This

12/23/2008

Christmas in 2009

The wonder of Christmas has overwhelmed me again. I am taking a week or so off from blogging to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with my family. I wanted to leave you with these links:


Martin Luther on Christmas


Ligonier post on Christmas - note free resources


Stand to Reason on Christmas in history



May your Christmas be filled with hope and your New Years filled with joy!

12/19/2008

Warren to Pray at The Inauguration

It is interesting to see the fire-storm of rhetoric that has ensued over Obama’s pick of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Please see the well written posts by Al Mohler and Ben Witherington.

It is ironic because I have lone admired Warren for one thing, despite the many theological differences we have. Warren has steered away from politics in his pulpit, and he has urged other pastors to do the same through his Purpose Driven Church Conferences. He now finds himself in politics up to his neck after hosting the presidential debate in his political forum. (Note the lack of political posturing here and the article here.)

Some comments on the separation of church and state. I am for it. So are many Baptists throughout history. Warren has positively influenced me to keep out of politics on this blog except where matters of ethics are involved.

I am for letting any candidate and / or elected public official pick whichever religious leader he / she wishes to give speeches or prayers at any ceremony he / she has authority over. The right to free expression of religious ideas does not end just because one has a government job or becomes an elected official. That goes for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, etc.

This freedom of expression is a requirement of separation of church and state, not a violation of it. The free expression of religious ideas is protected, and it leads to much needed, civil discussion of theology (or lack thereof), ethics and morals. Forceful arguments and debates are the stuff from which good thinking results.

Separation of church and state as a principle is violated when someone uses physical force or other forms of persecution or coercion to force someone to convert. Putting a gun to someone’s head and telling them to convert or die is a violation of separation of church and state. So is banning him or her from the free expression of his / her ideas just because he / she is in the public square.

12/18/2008

Another Quote that Deserves a Post of Its Own

“What is the greater miracle: the raising of the dead man in Lazarus, or the mere existence of the man who died and of the witnesses who swore to his revival?” - William F. Buckley, Jr.

12/17/2008

R. C. Sproul on The Origin of Sin

R. C. Sproul does a good job of explaining what we can know about the origin of sin in “The Mystery of Iniquity” over at Ligonier’s blog.

I’ve tried to tackle the issue here and here, but R. C. does a more professional job.

12/16/2008

The Shack and the Atonement

I have been reading The Shack by Wm. Paul Young over the last few weeks. Evidentially, I am not alone in this.

While I do find much of the book to be somewhat helpful when read very carefully, I cannot help but express some concerns with its theological underpinnings. I am going to leave some of the issues it raises regarding the trinity, theology proper, the incarnation, Christ’s exclusivity, and special revelation to those more able. (See Norman Geisler here.) I want to focus on the way the book expresses the atonement (what Christ did in His life and death to secure salvation for us).

On pages 95 and 96, we are told that God the Father has “scars in her wrists” just like Jesus does. The character that represents God the Father says that Christ did at the cross “…cost us dearly.” In this book’s scheme, the Father does not desert Jesus on the cross. The Father suffers with Christ. This has implications for other areas (see here and here), but it also has very personal implications for all of us.

God can forgive us only because Christ paid the penalty for our sins. And what was that penalty? The wrath of God the Father Almighty. All of the punishment that we deserve because of our sins was suffered by Christ. How could God the Father poor out His wrath on Himself? Christ must be seen as a distinct Person for Him to suffer God’s wrath, and if He doesn’t suffer God’s wrath for our sins, we will.

The character who represents God also states that “Regardless of what [Jesus] felt at that moment, I never left him…” (p. 96). Christ became a curse for us on the cross. All of our sin and shame were credited to Him as He suffered and died. How could God the Father not turn His back on Christ once He became a curse for us? God abandoned Christ because at the moment that Christ was credited with our sin, Christ was the worst sinner in the history of the world. God abandoned Christ so Christ could endure the abandonment we deserve on our behalf.

Because of what Christ did for us, we are no longer shameful sinners. We no longer need fear that God will punish us. God is not mad at us anymore. We need no longer fear that God will turn His back on us and leave us in our sins. As one Lutheran puts it, “God abandoned One, so He does not need to abandon you.” When we place our faith in Christ, we are loved and accepted by the Father. We are accepted because of what He did on our behalf.

(For a book-length treatment of what Christ did for us, see R. C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross.)

The Shack is an allegory, and allegories are not always a way to express great truth with equally great precision. Despite this, I do not recommend this book for newcomers to Christian theology. Much of it is misleading.

Al Mohler on How to Use a Study Bible

Mohler has a very helpful article on the use and benefit of study Bibles here.

12/04/2008

Iraqi Christians

Stand to Reason gives a link to a World Magazine article on the persecution of Christians in Iraq. Here’s an excerpt:


As a result, over 2 million Iraqis—about 25 percent of them identified as Christians—have fled to neighboring countries, mostly Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. (View the map.) Judging from extensive conversations with Iraqis living in Jordan and Syria, few want to go home. While at least 40,000 Iraqis have been killed in fighting, random violence, and terrorism since the U.S. invasion in 2003, these refugees are the Iraq War's living casualties—psychologically damaged from the prolonged terrorism, afraid of the next text message or the letter on the doormat, and helpless before a fearful future.


The most appalling thing that I hear about the Iraq war is the notion that Christians were better off under Saddam Hussein than under the current government. It breaks my heart that my friends are going to Iraq to get shot at so that we can let the new government we helped set up condone or at least ignore the persecution of Christians.

It’s like we are following Star Trek’s prime directive. Didn't we see Captian Kirk and company debunk that enough times?

Why do we not require the guarantee of religious freedom for all citizens of all religious belief (or non-belief) by the Iraq government? Why do we allow our soldiers to die for something less than the freedoms we enjoy?

Chuck Colson comments here. Another article can be found here.

12/01/2008

Black Friday

Thanks to The Point for a link to an article on “three dead, more wounded” in ‘Black Friday’s’ shopping spree. The Guardian article says in part:

Two men shot and killed each other in a crowded Toys R Us shop in southern California on Friday as shoppers thronged to the sales on what is normally one
of the biggest retail days of the year in the US… A Wal-Mart employee was killed when a crowd, which had gathered for a sale at a Long Island outlet, surged into the shop as the doors were being opened at 5am…

It is humbling to see where unbridled consumerism leads us. Once we start to depend on things we buy to make us happy, we start down a road without a cross-over for a u-turn. I know I have been guilty of the same kind of spirit. It’s so easy to use that credit card to purchase something.

In any circumstance, we always do what we want to do, and we always want to do what will make us the most happy. (That’s my short version of the book The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards.) The problem arises when we begin to think that something other than the glory of God can bring happiness. We look to the stuff we buy instead of the God Who Is.
John Piper does a great job of calling us back to the love of God above all else. He calls us to desire “the vast, ocean-deep pleasures of God more than the mud-puddle pleasures of wealth, power or lust.” Oh that God would be our supreme pleasure. What tragedies could be avoided. Let’s repeat David’s prayer: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).”

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