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.

[You may not identify with Thabiti Anyabwile, but then again, you might.]

Calvinist Confessions, 4

by Thabiti Anyabwile

I am a Calvinist.  I love the glorious truths of God revealed in His word.  I praise God for His mighty works in creation, redemption, and providence.  I live, I trust, for the glory of God in all things.

I am a Pharisee.  I shouldn’t be.  How can anyone claiming to be a Calvinist living for the glory of God also be a peevish, joyless, and fearful little Pharisee?  It’s a shame.  But I’m a Calvinist and I’m a Pharisee.

Narrowness for the letter and not the spirit, suspicion of joy, and fear are not the only things that make it possible for me to be a Calvinist and a Pharisee.  There is a fourth reason why these two things blend together more often than they should, and why they blend together in my heart.  Anger.

I’m an angry man.  I don’t want to project on anyone else.  This is about my heart.  But I think there’s a lot of anger among us “Reformed” types.  So much so, some of us–let me just say I–need to be sent to reform school.  No I don’t mean Westminster or some place in Scotland.  I mean we need to be sent to a school that helps us deal with our anger, that makes us “positive members of society.”  We need help.  I need help with my anger.

You don’t believe it?  I have one word for you.  “Blogs.”  That’s exhibit A for the rampant anger in Reformed circles.  What a naked display of raw and random anger splattered across the virtual world landing on anyone with a keypad.

I’ve had my part in that.  Oh, you couldn’t tell?  Or only occasionally?  You see, really, more problematic than the displays on blogs is the respectable anger I nurse.  I’m not given to loud outbursts.  If that happens, we’re at Defcon 1.  We don’t go there.  We try never to use the red phone.

But beneath the poker face lives a small volcano regularly seeping lava over the lip of its opening.  That’s in the heart.  While on the outside… the slightly reserved and seemingly dispassionate face of the Pharisee.

Anger comes in many colors.  There is red magma of violent outburst.  As I said, that’s not my style as a Pharisee.  Resentment is a kind of anger.  It’s the warm orange anger that comes from the blend of disappointment, self-righteousness, and entitlement.  The anger of stinging words wrapped in religious jargon.  There is the parakeet yellow of angry backbiting and gossip, tale bearing and kindling strife.  James tells us this is murderous.  There is the green of jealousy and evil eyes.  There is also the swooshing blue of those who run when angry.  That’s the flight response.  There is the indigo of depression, which is sometimes a symptom of deeper anger.  Next is the violet of grudges and “silent treatments.”  Then there is the icy white of “cold war” anger.  Violet is close to “cold war,” except “cold war” arms itself for more serious retaliation.  I’m a good Pharisee.  I think I hang out somewhere between violet and orange, silent anger and resentment with occasional depressive moods.  Any of these sound familiar?

Of course, resentments and silent treatments are the preferred combination because it maintains the semblance of respectability.  I am, after all, a Pharisee.  I’m wearing expensive robes, long tassels, wide phylacteries, and I sit in the best seat in the house, where I may be seen.

I know there is such a thing as righteous indignation.  I know we’re to be angry and not sin, neither let the sun set on our wrath.  But the Pharisee that I am has lost count of the sunsets.  And isn’t there a difference between righteous indignation and being indignant because our “rights” have been trampled?  Too often, I don’t always see that difference.  That’s what makes me a Pharisee.  That’s what makes me angry.

recovering pharisee

As a Pharisee, I know it’s not polite to talk about anger.  Even now, there’s the sense that admitting anger is unpleasant.  Respectable people don’t get angry.  They’re cucumber cool, calm, and collected.  But Pharisee-ism is about wearing masks that hide inner realities.  It’s about pretension and show, being seen and applauded by men.  There’s no way to stroke that beast without becoming victim to it.  The voice in my head screams, Don’t tell on us!  Don’t remove the mask! But the High and Lofty One says, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Is. 57:15).

If the truth were told, I’ve been angry for a long time.  I’ve been angry about a lot of things and angry about nothing in particular.  I grew up in an angry-sounding house.  With eight children, somebody somewhere was always angry.  I was angry when my father left the family.  I was angry when arrested as a teenager.  I was angry with “friends” who distanced themselves after my arrest.  I’ve been angry about all the “racial” mistreatment I’ve experienced.  Then I was angry that so many people denied it.  I was angry as a Muslim.  I played basketball angry–but we called it “intensity.”  I’ve been influenced at points in my life by angry men, some of them prominent political and historical figures. Worked for a while in state government, where many of the longest-serving people were simply masters of anger.  That patient, slow boil, I’ll-out-live-and-out-scheme-you-because-I’m-a-civil-servant-and-you-can’t-fire-me anger.

Would you be surprised if I told you that somewhere along the way, Anger became a companion?  Not the kind I’d walk with in public.  Most of the public can’t handle angry black men.  I’m angry about that, too.  Instead, Anger became a secret confidant.  The friend I’d call up when threatened.  The friend most ready to reassure me when I felt inadequate or insecure.  The friend that kept others at a distance or bullied them into submission.  A body guard of sorts.  I could control Anger; summon him at will.  I could justify Anger.  Someone did this or someone did that.  This was threatened or that injustice committed.  Something had to be done.  I had to strike back.  Pharisee.

There is such a thing as righteous indignation.  Absolutely.  We must oppose injustice, of course, because God uses means.  Pharisee.

God uses means, not mean people.

God is sovereign.  He even uses mean people.  Of course he does.  Pharisee.

But is that justification for your anger?  The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

You can control your anger.  Everyone gets angry.  ‘Tis true.  Pharisee.

Wouldn’t it be more godly to conquer your anger rather than coddle it?

I’m aware of the conquering presence of God’s Spirit in my life.  When the Lord saved me, one of the things He graciously did was rid me of so much anger.  He freed me from so much bitterness and even hatred.  It’s one Ebenezer I raise in remembrance of God’s gracious redemption.  Yet, sanctification is progressive.  He’s still working.  And the Pharisee is kicking and screaming, “Leave me this little anger!  Let me hold onto this grudge, this charge, this resentment!”  Old friends tend to stick around the longest.  They’re often the most difficult to ditch.

But I’m reminded of another Calvinist Pharisee (speaking anachronistically, of course) who did battle with his Pharisaical anger.  He writes to me: “In this [new birth, coming salvation] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pet. 1:6-7).  What is greater than the trials of this Pharisee’s anger?  The glories and power of my God’s salvation.

Oh Lord whose anger is holy and righteous, make us more aware of and dependent upon the great power of your salvation.  Nail afresh the sin of my anger to the cross of your wrath, that I might be freed from its power, pull, and guilt.  We need Thee every hour.  Amen.

Three of our brothers in Christ faced an ultimatum – convert to Islam or die.  Perhaps Bill’s recent trip to Cote d’Ivoire has made this a more real event than it otherwise would have been for me.  About this story, John Piper tweeted, “Whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2).” Pray for our African brothers.

From extreme northeast Nigeria…

Boko Haram: How 3 pastors were beheaded eyewitness
From TIMOTHY OLA, Maiduguri
Thursday, August 6, 2009

•Photo: The Sun Publishing

One of the victims of last week’s attack by the Yusufiya sect in Borno State has given a shocking account of how the Islamic extremists killed three pastors who were captured along with other victims on the second day of the insurgence. The victim was among those held hostage in Yusuf’s enclave.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Sun in Maiduguri, the eye witness who preferred anonymity disclosed that the three pastors were beheaded on the instruction of the sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf shortly after bringing them out of his inner chamber.

“The pastors alongside one Ibo man were asked to change their faith to Islam like they did to other people taken as hostages. I think there was an argument by one of the pastors which gave the others some level of confidence to also resist accepting Islam.

“The Yusufiya men who were armed on that Tuesday afternoon were not comfortable with the pastors and they took one of them to the sect leader in his inner chamber. They came out later to the courtyard within the compound and cut their heads one after the other and thereafter, shouted allah akbar in wild celebration accompanied with several gun shots,” the eye witness disclosed.

He said the hostages numbering about 50 within the area of the execution of the pastors and another fair complexioned man which he could not identify, were gripped with fear as non could foretell the outcome of their stay at the enclave of the fundamentalists. He was however lucky to escape as he was freed in the night with others with a warning not to mix with kafrici (infidels).

Corroborating the account of the killing, a Senior pastor with Good News Church, Wulari Maiduguri Rev. Baba Gata Ibrahim told Daily Sun in an interview that a pastor in his church, Pastor George Orjih was beheaded on the instruction of the Boko Haram leader because the clergy man refused to accept Islam.

“An eye witness who was also captured by the Islamic militants gave us details of how the pastor was killed. He told us they were persuading him to accept Islam and he said over his dead body. He was even said to have preached Christ to Mohammed Yusuf and that reportedly angered the sect leader who then as he ordered that the pastor and others be killed immediately,” he disclosed.

The late Pastor George Orjih was said to have arrived Maiduguri last week from Jos where he was doing his Masters programme in Theology. Described as a fearless, hardworking, and intellectually sound, his care for the welfare and well being of his family allegedly contributed to his capture and eventual death.

“He was mindful of his family and their welfare. He was really out of the house but thought to go back again. That was how he was captured by the Boko Haram before he was killed. It was the very week, in fact the following day he returned from school where he was doing his Masters in Theology that he was arrested,” the senior pastor added.

He urged the government to provide adequate security for Christian in the state.

Also delivering a sermon during the funeral rites for late Rev. Sabo Yakubu, slain COCIN Church pastor, the speaker, Rev Bulus Azi urged Christians to emulate the pastors who were killed because of their refusal to betray their faith. Quoting from the bible in Revelation 7: 9-15, the regional chairman of the church told Christians to prepare to die anytime as their calling demand.

[H/T: Robert Sagers, blogging at B2W]