Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Storm Clouds of Persecution on the Horizon?

I am not a prophet, and have no way of knowing what the future holds. But there are some clouds on the horizon that may portend difficulties for faithful Christians in the future.

With the election of Barack Obama, one worries, for example, about the government forcing Christian doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to participate in abortion procedures against their consciences. Right now, my wife, who is a pharmacist, has only been able to avoid ethical dilemmas on this score because she has worked for hospitals connected with the Seventh Day Adventists and Roman Catholics. But one wonders if a pro-abortion government will continue to allow Christian hospitals to opt out of abortion procedures?

Another concern is the homosexual issue. One wonders, now that the Liberal Democrats have gained control of the government, how long it will be before ministers will be prosecuted for hate crimes if they dare to call homosexuality a sin? If a minister's text is Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6, passages which clearly identify homosexuality as sin, will ministers who preach the text faithfully be thrown in jail? Will their congregations support them if they stand with the Scriptures against the government?

Maybe a bit further down the road, one also worries about the left's concept of tolerance that is so popular in our society. Tolerance sounds good, except that tolerance can't seem to tolerate anything perceived as intolerance! More specifically, what bothers our culture most is the intolerance of Evangelical Christians, who maintain that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and apart from him people face an eternal judgment.

This sort of exclusivism and certainty is hated on the left (and even by some on the right!). For them the only certainty is that there is no certainty! For them inclusivity is their greatest love, which, ironically enough, makes them hate and want to exlude Evangelicals who do not share their inclusivism. If and when this hatred in our culture will finally break out into violence is hard to say. It already makes life difficult for confessing Evangelicals.

I don't want this post to seem as though it is a whine and complaint, although I admit it is! Somehow, we who are confessing Evangelicals and hold to the exclusivity of Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible as God's Word, need to get ready for the coming storm. If the storm doesn't materialize, praise the Lord. But if it does come, we need the courage and good cheer to face it.

I say good cheer, because this is how Jesus wants us to face insults and persecution. Jesus says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Somehow, we are to look at any insults or persecution we might receive as cause for gladness and joy, not complaints and whines! The only way to have this attitude is to treasure heaven far above this earth. In other words, we must prepare ourselves by setting our minds on the things above, where Christ is, and not on the things of earth (Col. 3:1-4). We must realize in a deeper way that Christ redeemed us from our slavery to sin to bring us to his heavenly temple so that we might live in his blessed presence. Just as Israel was redeemed from slavery and brought to Mt. Sinai, so we have been redeemed by Christ and brought to Mt. Zion above. This world is not our home. Our home is above with Christ, and already we dwell there by faith, enjoying union and communion with the Father and the Son.

My thoughts on the possibility of persecution were prompted by a post from TheocentriBlog. You can read this post by clicking the read more button below. Included in the post are some rather sad comments by our president-elect, the pope, and Billy Graham.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Anatomy of Future Persecution: Exclusivity of the Gospel?

What will be the basis for future persecution of the church? There is increasing news that there will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming months. This is a matter when and not if. The attack will obviously come from the hands of radical Muslims with exclusivistic theology.

Question: How many more attacks will it take for the politically correct governments of the world to outlaw exclusivistic theology as inherently dangerous and a threat to national security? If you identify with “fundamentalist” Christianity, I’m sure it is irritating for you to be identified with “fundamentalist” Islam. Now it is only a superficial connection, but how would you like for it to be a real connection that bears fruit in persecution?

Listen to the words of our future President, Barrack Obama: “I'm a big believer in tolerance . . . I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding . . . there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty . . . I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell . . . I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That's just not part of my religious makeup.”

I also noticed a recent video on CNN where a pastor was berated by Rick Sanchez for believing in an exclusive Gospel. The reporter quoted several “authoritative” sources (the Pope, Billy Graham, and Barrack Obama [ha!]) in attempt to convince the pastor:

Pope John Paul II: “. . . it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour.”

Billy Graham: “I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost --were going to hell. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God.”

Barrack Obama: “I am a Christian . . . So, I have a deep faith. I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

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