Sunday, October 28, 2012

Muslim Insecurity Leads to Self-Destructive Riots

We have all seen the news stories: maddened crowds burning, chanting, screaming, even killing. Why? Because they were offended by a privately-made film which ridicules their prophet. That is the reality in Muslim-dominated countries. Where the peaceful debate over ideas is commonplace, and taken for granted, in countries with a Christian tradition (notice that I am not saying that they are Christian), in Muslim countries the free exchange of ideas certainly does not take place. Rather, in those countries, disagreement with majority views is suppressed with violence, both by government and by private individuals or groups. These riots have hit Arab countries, Pakistan, Muslim immigrant communities in Europe, and around the world. Where Muslims have free access to the media, and may publish their views, even critical of governments or other religions, reciprocal freedoms certainly are not found in Muslim-majority countries. Those who refuse to accept Islam face persecution, arson, rape, even murder. To my mind, there could be no more-eloquent proof that the faith of Muslims is indefensible, because their religion originated in the mind of a madman, not God.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

John Knox on Temptation

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." This verse begins the description of the Temptation of Christ, found in Matthew 4:1-11.

 In a sermon on this passage, the Scottish Reformer John Knox left us some comforting remarks on the question of temptation of ourselves. Knox taught that God sends temptations "to open and make manifest the secret motions of men's hearts, the puissance and power of God's Word, and the great lenity [leniency] and gentleness of God towards the infirmities , the horrible sins, and rebellions of those whom he hath received into His regiment and care." Thus, he held that temptations have three purposes in the intentions of God.

 First, they reveal, on one hand, the true character of the believer, bringing up his strengths, weaknesses, self-deceptions, unrecognized motivations, and ignorance. Second, they confirm the accuracy, power, and effectiveness of scripture. And third, they reveal the mercy and leniency of God toward our failures. I find great sweetness in those thoughts.

Some would object with James 1:13, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one." Knox addresses this verse. He held that James wasn't speaking in an absolute sense, i.e., that God never sends any temptation to any person at any time. Rather, he understood James to mean that God doesn't send temptation with the evil intentions that Satan does. I think Knox's interpretation is supported by the account of the temptation of Job, such as Job 1:11 and 2:5. In those verses, we see Satan intending to undermine Job's faith. In contrast, in allowing Satan's efforts, God expects, rightly, as we later see, to be glorified.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Jesus's Wife," the Desperation of Unbelief

Images like the one above were all over the news for a while, with commentary about a fragment which supposedly proved that Jesus was married. The fragment was in Coptic, not even a Palestinian language. However, it had been discovered by a professor from the Harvard Divinity School, so that covered all of its inadequacies. That professor dated the fragment to the second half of the second century, that is, more than a century after the time of Christ's life on earth. Yet, it was given the credence that such scholars do not give the gospels written by the eyewitnesses of His life.

 I have found the hype around this story to be quite entertaining. Secular scholars and heterodox religious scholars trip over themselves to find evidence that supposedly upends the Bible. Yet, they are invariably embarrassed in their efforts.

 For one thing, one very large thing, it is well-known that the Bible speaks of the bride of Christ. For example, in II Corinthians 11:2, the Apostle Paul describes the Church at Corinth as a bride betrothed to Christ. And in Revelation 19:6-9, the Apostle John describes a wedding feast for Christ and His bride, the glorified Church. In other words, true Christianity holds that Jesus does have a wife, but this is a metaphor for His relationship to the Church. Thus, even if the fragment is legitimate, it doesn't necessarily teach anything that orthodox Christians don't already hold.

 However, once the fragment became public, evidence of its counterfeit derivation started to leak out. The Vatican and Baptist authorities quickly dismissed it, as would be expected. However, secular authorities also started to question it, and even the liberal Huffington Post. I believe all of this proves what Paul also says, in Romans 1:21-22, "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools..."