A Year of Deception

YBW-cover-cropG. K. Chesterton said in his book “Orthodoxy” that:

“the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.

Chesterton well understood where Postmodernism was headed and his description of modern man’s inclination to doubt everything is exemplified in the Emergent church movement today. In Emergent circles it is common to have “question and response” sessions; “question and response” rather than “question and answer” because they believe that there are no absolute answers to any of life’s biggest questions. Rachel Held Evens, who has embraced this kind of postmodern theology, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular voices of the Emergent Church and over and over again in her writing she demonstrates the rebel against everything attitude that Chesterton described so well. Her new book, “A year of Biblical Womanhood: How a liberated woman found herself sitting on her roof, covering her head, and calling her husband master” is just one more example. It is rife with examples of poor biblical exegesis, false assumptions, and it appears frequently to be deliberately misleading but, like most of Rachel’s writings, she is consistent in her call to rebel against everything. Trillia Newbell has written an excellent review of Rachel Held Evans latest book and cites many examples from the book itself. She concludes with this thought “This book is not ultimately about manhood and womanhood, headship and submission, or the complementarian and egalitarian debate. At its root this book questions the validity of the Bible.”  I believe she has hit the nail on the head.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Originally posted on the Gospel Coalition

Nabel QureshiLoving requires knowing. And in a new book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim’s Journey to Christ (Zondervan), Nabeel Qureshi aims to help Christians better love their Muslim neighbors by providing an insider’s perspective into a Muslim’s heart and mind.

Through personal narrative, Qureshi covers a range of topics including the relationship between the Qur’an (Islam’s sacred text) and Hadith (Muhammad’s words and actions recorded in tradition) as well as the cultural challenges between East (honor-shame cultures) and West (innocence-guilt cultures) in dialogue and evangelism. As one of the newest members of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Qureshi has the unique ability to address misconceptions on both sides between Christians and Muslims.

I corresponded with Qureshi about what he appreciates about Islam, consequences Muslim converts face, what Western Christians can learn, and more.

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As the son of Pakistani immigrants to the United States, you share candidly about the ignorance of many American neighbors and classmates concerning Muslims. What would you like to share with those same people concerning what you appreciate most about Islam?

What I appreciate most about Islam is the discipline it instills in its adherents, the reverence Muslims have toward the Creator, and Muslims’ commitment to memorizing the Qur’an. I think Christians could learn a lot from their Muslim neighbors about memorizing Scripture, approaching God with respect, and pursuing personal discipline.

What are Islam’s main objections to Christianity?

The primary objection Islam poses to Christianity revolves around the person of Jesus. Orthodox Christianity teaches Jesus is the ultimate revelation, God himself, who through his sacrifice on the cross has paid for the penalty of all mankind. The message doesn’t just come through Jesus; the message is Jesus.

Islam, on the other hand, teaches that Christianity is just one of a series of revelations. It teaches that many religious figures have come throughout time, sent by God, Jesus being one of them. He’s no more than a messenger. He didn’t die on the cross, let alone for the sins of mankind. God hasn’t paid our penalty, and we are unsure of our destiny until after the judgment has been cast.

In all these things, Islam challenges the person of Jesus and the path to salvation as taught in Christianity.

Although protected from anti-conversion laws in the West, what real consequences do Muslims still face in converting to Christianity?

Even in the West, Muslims potentially face great sacrifices in following Jesus. Devout families, and even many that are nominal, will dissociate with members who have left Islam. Islam isn’t just a set of beliefs but is seen as a family’s heritage and cultural identity. When a member of the family leaves Islam, it’s often viewed as betrayal. For Muslim women, this may even mean getting kicked out of the home by their husbands and potentially losing custody of their kids.

For Muslims, the decision to follow Jesus often means sacrificing everything. One must truly pick up his or her cross to follow Jesus.

In light of the significant consequences one might face for conversion, why would you tell someone that following Jesus is worth the cost?   

As great as the cost can be, there’s nothing worth more than following our Creator in truth and fulfilling the tasks he’s given us. The Christian God is a God of unconditional love, one who grants us peace and directs our every step. To know and be in relationship with him is worth every sacrifice, and he is faithful to restore what’s been lost. Jesus makes it clear that to follow him is to sacrifice and be persecuted. That’s what all the disciples went through, that’s what the early church went through, and that’s what the New Testament teaches us to expect. In our sufferings for Jesus, we are bonded to him and his sufferings for us (experientially, not savingly). It’s worth every sacrifice to be so connected to God, who loves us and created us for this purpose.

The Gospel [not] in our image

There is a growing trend in our postmodern culture to treat “religion” like a buffet line, serving ourselves portions of things we like from each religion and rejecting those things that seem distasteful to us.  Instead of seeking to understand what is true, too often we make our decisions based only on what feels good to us.

Stuart Townend and Keith Getty are to be commended for standing strong against this modern trend. Together they wrote “In Christ Alone” with the intent of sharing the complete Gospel message in song. When they were asked, last year, to allow their hymn to be published with altered lyrics that removed parts of the Gospel message that others were uncomfortable with, they refused because they wanted to ensure that their hymn would continue to communicate the whole Gospel message. Thank you Stuart and Keith for writing such a powerful hymn and thank you for being willing to stand firm when their was pressure to compromise. A complete interview with Stuart Townsand and Keith Getty can be found here.


God, the Cosmic Vending Machine

1like_1prayerThere is an ever growing trend in social media where prayer is equated with clicking “like.” While the accompanying pictures often depict real tragic circumstances, they frequently don’t depict real life situations. They are often very old pictures of situations that were resolved long before the first “prayer request” was ever made on social media.These requests are not made by friends or relatives of the person depicted but by scammers who have searched the internet for images intended to pull on your heart strings. Why do people make these requests? It is not because they are seeking prayers, it is because they are seeking profits. It is one way that internet scammers engage in “like harvesting.”  Each “like” does not equal a “prayer,” each “like” equals an increase in the ranking of their page which allows them to have much broader distribution of subsequent advertising that will come later.

More importantly, each click also represents a tragic misunderstanding of prayer. God doesn’t want our “like,” he wants our heart. The bible tells us that Jesus gave his life so that we might enter into a true genuine relationship with God, the creator of the universe. Real prayer is that time we spend with God communicating with him about those things which most deeply touch our heart and it is a time when we allow God to speak to our heart; it is a time to get to know God more deeply. Real prayer is powerful because it represents a true sharing of our heart with the one who already knows the perfect answer to every problem and has the power to do anything. However, God is not a cosmic vending machine in which we put our spare change and push the button of our choice, he is the Eternal King of the universe to whom we must approach with true respect and reverence. When you pray, please don’t share your “like” on facebook, but instead humbly share your heart with the God and King who loves you and so deeply longs for you to truly know him that he endured the cross for you.

 

Are Christian Hip Hop artists disobedient cowards?

Holy Hip HopThe response to a question about the legitimacy of “Holy Hip Hop” from a panel hosted by the National Center for Family-integrated churches erupted into a social media firestorm this past week. The views of the panel can be summed up in the following statement made by Geoff Botkin, he said And what concerns me about this so called art form, it is a picture of weakness and surrender on the part of people who think that they are serving God and they’re not. They are serving their own flesh, they’re caving into the world, they’re disobedient cowards! They are not willing to engage in the fight that needs to be engaged.” The panel’s harsh criticism of “Holy Hip Hop” has incited a number of responses from men like Mike Cosper, Ligon Ducan, Carl and Karen Ellis, Paige Patterson, Owen Strachan, Jonathan AkinBrian Davis, and others. What was the heart of this controversy? It was not about the message communicated by these Hip Hop artists (something the panelists acknowledged was doctrinally sound), it was wholly about the style in which it was being presented. The heart of this controversy goes far beyond questions about the legitimacy of “Holy Hip Hop.” At the center of this controversy is a much bigger question, a question that every minister of the Gospel must ask: What are valid expressions of contextualization in Christian ministry?

It is critically important that we do not confuse our cultural standards with the Gospel message. We must be uncompromisingly committed to upholding the truth of the Gospel in all our teaching but we must do so without imposing our own cultural biases on those who come from other cultural backgrounds. We need to remember that we, as Christians, are called to share only the Gospel of Christ. When we elevate our own cultural standards to the same level as the Gospel, we alienate the people around us and draw attention away from the Gospel message we are called to share.

Proper contextualization of the Gospel message is something with which we all must wrestle. Too little contextualization hinders the spread of the Gospel message by imposing barriers that Scripture does not impose. When we suggest that obedience to Christ requires one to abandon a particular style of music, kind of food, style of dress, etc… we have imposed a standard not given in Scripture and have raised an unnecessary barrier to the Gospel. At the same time we must remember that too much contextualization can so compromise the truth of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel itself is lost. While the Hip Hop style of music itself does not compromise the Gospel message, there are aspects of Hip Hop culture that do and we must be willing to abandon those aspects of culture that stand in opposition to the Gospel. For instance, we can praise our Lord with the sound of Hip Hop but the lyrics of many secular Hip Hop songs truly do not belong on the lips of those who proclaim faith in Christ.

The Worship of God Q&A: Holy Hip-Hop from NCFIC on Vimeo.