May 2010

by Ray Dillon

Most of the United States and, perhaps, the western world stands amazed at the actions of a US citizen with an MBA degree who sets out to bomb Times Square in order to create panic, destruction, as well as death.  Many ask why someone would travel multiple times to Pakistan to study the art and craft of bomb making.  He had a family, a good job, and the potential for “making it” in this country.

So we start looking for reasons.  A foreclosed house is given as the inciting incident.  However, there are millions who have had their houses taken back by the bank but, to my knowledge, none of them went on a shooting spree or constructed a bomb to set off in a major city.  Another possibility that is put forward is the deceptive recruiting power of Islamic radicals.  Yet, no one can give an idea of why a bright American citizen would fall prey to these “phantom” recruiters.

Most recently, there has been a recognition that the cause of the 9/11 tragedy, Fort Hood shootings, the “underwear bomber”, and now the Times Square bomber is that we are in a religious war.  There are still many who believe that taking on radical acts of violence are due to poverty or a lack of knowledge of the West (if they knew us they would love us).  These views are being discounted in large part because of recent events.  The radicals in London who bombed the subway system were from middle and upper-middle class English families, for example.  Osama Bin Laden and some of his closest leaders were educated in the west.  They know people here and in other western countries and still hate us and what we stand for.  Further, this doesn’t explain the bombings in Indonesia by Islamist radical groups.

So what’s the reason for all this mayhem, it is a belief in the teachings of Mohammed and in the clerics who take his words and use them to foster their own agendas.  One must remember that in the Koran there is never a mention of assurance of salvation and eternal bliss except in one case:  becoming involved in jihad.  Jihad means struggle and a holy jihad is a struggle with infidels (those who are not intensely following the rigorous faith of Islam).  Good works, prayer, giving, and attending Islamic tradition are a way to eternal bliss but they are never fully certain or have assurance of salvation. Holy Jihad does provide that assurance.

Therefore, those mentioned before are certain of their salvation because of their actions against those who stand against “puritanical” Islam, even if their efforts were not completely successful.

So why should the Christian fully understand where they are coming from.  This is not to suggest that Christians condone their actions.  The acts are abhorrent.  But radical (here I mean fundamental or going back to the root) Christians should understand faith in someone, a deep commitment to the writings or words of that person, and performing acts that the world will not understand.  Radical Christians have a deep faith in the work of Jesus known as the Christ.  The world recognizes Jesus as a philosopher, a prophet, as well as a Jewish carpenter turned radical and killed for his beliefs.  The world does not understand radical Christian faith any more than it understands radical Islamic faith.  The radical Christian has a deep reverence for Scripture and looks to it for faith and practice as God’s word.  The radical Christian believes that Scripture is inerrant and, while it is poetic and apocryphal at times, it is truth in its entirety.  The world often has a view of Scripture as a group of “holy” writings but is no more the word of God than a Fanny Farmer cookbook.

The radical Islamist has an even higher view of the Koran than the Christian.  There are Islamists in the world who have memorized the entire Koran but cannot read a word of it.  Desecrating one page of the Koran can result in death.  The world cannot understand this idea.

The radical Christian is sometimes called by God through Scripture or by internal promptings to do out-of-the-ordinary things:  give money in excess of their normal pattern, go to remote parts of the world to speak of their faith, or give their lives to serve people.  Radical Christians who have good jobs, homes, families, and MBA degrees sometimes do extraordinary things for, at least according to the world, peculiar reasons.

Christians have been doing unusual, out-of-the-ordinary, even seemingly weird things for centuries.  They don’t seem too strange to those who understand. Christians do these things, because we are in a holy war.  The enemy is defeated but the battles still go on and Christians are called to enter in to the fray.

So, while the world doesn’t understand the mindset of shoe bombers, underwear bombers, van bombers, and others of like mind, the Christian should understand.  Faith is only as good as the object of our faith.  Our object is Jesus and his finished work.  Because of that faith, we sometimes are called to do radical things.  Jesus called us to be ministers of reconciliation.  The pursuit of that call is something the world cannot understand.


I’ve been so far behind, I think I saw my future self passing me on the way home!  Here’s a great post from Michael Patton over at the Parchment & Pen blog.  (Michael seems to be going through a rough patch lately.  Send up a prayer or two for him if you think about it.)

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about 14 examples of the type of apologetics (defending the faith) that Christians should not use. Due to an enthusiastically sent email I received today, I have a 15th example. And I am not happy about it.

I know how it is. We believe what we profess and we are quick to accept anything and everything that confirms some aspect of our faith. I am the same way. However, what we believe is too important for us to be uncritical, even about those claims that seem to support what we believe.

These pictures below represent supposed archaeological finds of giants in Greece. The person who sent these to me (and lots of other people after being forwarded many times) believes this to be proof of the giants that lived in the days of David (Goliath and his bothers; the Nephilim, etc.). The title of the email was “Nephilim – Giants in Greece.” The last words on the email were these: “And in the final analysis…….. The Bible does tell the truth and with precise accuracy….. No doubt about that!!!!”

I must admit that my critical admonition here is only going one way. I have not checked to see if this is true. I simply know it is not.

The enthusiastic, “No doubt about that” from the sender scares me for many reasons.

1. I am frightened by the lack of critical spirit this represents among Christians who blindly accept any bit of “evidence” that seems to support the faith. This is not the way God wants us to use our minds, even if the uncritical conclusions support his truth. We simply can’t do this folks.

2. I am also afraid of a faith built upon such tabloid evidences. Whether it is the Bible code, the Shroud of Turin, the lost day of Joshua, crying statues of Mary, or Noah’s Ark sightings, these type of things usually don’t last. If your faith is built on them, it won’t last either.

Could it be that we find evidences that confirm our faith? Certainly. We do all the time. It is not the finding of evidences that concerns me, but the uncritical method with which these evidences are evaluated by many well-meaning Christians. I am sure that some Sunday School teacher is going to use these pictures in a PowerPoint presentation this Sunday to show how Christianity is true.

Want to set people up to leave the faith later? This is the first step.

3. Finally, this gives our critics great ammunition. I know that critics will always find their reasons for rejecting our beliefs no matter what, but let’s make sure we do our part to help them reject and criticize for the right reasons. Let them take on our best apologetics, not these side shows.

In short, if you are reading this and your conversion is strongly supported by any tabloid support for Christianity such as this, please, please, please, rethink your faith. I would rather have you not believe having looked at good evidences for Christianity, than to have a believe built upon this type of manipulated sensationalism. More than likely, most (if not all) of these types of things are going to fall apart.

Most Christians are not too critical when it comes to this type of thing. They think that they are supposed to believe it. And I know that this does not only go for Christians. Atheists, Mormons, Muslims, and any other faith-based belief system is going to have those who uncritically use “evidence” that is, in the long run, counter-productive. But I am not talking to them right now. They can use all the pancake apologetics they want. But we (Christians) simply don’t need to. We have enough evidence for our faith to keep up from resorting to such things.