Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The dilemma facing Protestant and Evangelical Christians in the West

The greatest dilemma today for Protestant and Evangelical Christians in the West is how to treat the Scriptures. Do we see them as the inspired words of God to live by and the standard to judge the morality of our own lives and that of society? Or do we see some of it as being inspired and other parts as not being useful or applicable today? Which portions of the Scriptures do we live by and which ones do we leave out or omit from our practice? Do we order our lives "sola scriptura", or by church traditions or by reason? Do we embrace modern scientific thinking or post-modern philosophy in helping us guide our decision-making about which Scriptures we can apply to our lives? Do we accept science to help us decide which Scriptures make sense and which ones are just parables, mythical or fables (if any?)? Or do we adopt the zeitgeist of postmodernism in determining that our faith is not the one true faith, but just one of several possible truths?

While I've been Evangelical for part of my life, I have realised from my own walk with God that I only have his Scriptures to guide me into discerning truth and error, especially in an era when Jesus himself prophesied that there will be great deceptions. And when I analyse the situation even more, I find that the disciples of Jesus and Jesus himself did not have a New Testament Bible. For them, the only Scriptures they owned were the Old Testament. With that fact in mind, Jesus and all his apostles based their doctrine and teachings around the Old Testament Scriptures (or the Torah) and through interpretations and re-interpretations of those Scriptures.

For me then, the question is not about which Scriptures are valid for instructing me and for application in today's world. All the scriptures are a standard  to show what God likes or approves of or to reveal humanity's past, present or future. As the apostle Paul declares in 2nd Timothy 3:15-17 according to the New Living Translation (NLT):

15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
However, the Bible is also complex, as it is compiled from various authors, contains diverse genres of content including laws, regulations, proverbial sayings, songs, folk wisdom, stories, genealogies, lists, histories, and reports. Yet despite its complexity, God uses it to help us identify what is good and what is wrong and to prepare us to do good.

Yet, the dilemma for Christians today is that our environment is changing. Historically, we moved from a persecuted minority religion to a popular majority in the Wes during the age of Constantine's reign in Rome. We in the West have enjoyed that status and the many privileges since then, perhaps taking our privileges and status as State sanctioned religion for granted, while Eastern Christians faced persecution for holding to their beliefs. Now as the West becomes diversified, our privileges and status are being taken away. Out of fear we attempt to preserve such through politics and legislation.

Yet, we forget our history, that when the disciples and apostles were preaching their doctrines, things that were practiced then in the 1st century are only now becoming legal and respectable int he 21st century (child sacrifice or abortion, witchcraft, paedophilia, homosexuality etc.). Somehow, when Christianity became legal, legitimate and the popular majority, such things were outlawed and driven underground.

So we must now see ourselves in the proper perspective. Do we believe the Scriptures only when the law and scholarship (or university intellectuals) are on our side? This is the test of our time. Just as how Job was tested, Satan accuses God about  our service to God. As illustrated in Job 1:8-10 in the New International Version (NIV):

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.

This charge is now being brought against us. Do we serve Christ because our faith is privileged or protected by our state?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The case against abortion as a "right": Emerging views

I have been reluctant to give my views on this debate, fully aware of the controversies and the passion on both sides. However, I find the views that I am about to share are missing from what I have heard or read. Had someone spoken or written these views, then I could keep silent. But the fact that they are absent means that perhaps I am the person that needs to provide this perspective.

In summary, the flow of my argument is this:

  • rights are things that we are born with, and not give due to our privileged access to technology and applied science
  • If a man or a woman wants to prevent conception, there are alternatives outside of abortion, including sterilization or making oneself an eunuch for career or other purposes
  • If a man or woman wants to delay conception, then there are also alternatives made possible by technology and applied science.
One of the things that bothers me the most is that organizations and individuals are calling for women to have a "right" to "safe" abortions. To me personally, while I fully agree with the argument that women should have a right to control their own bodies, to insist on abortion being a right is a stretch. For me, rights are things that we are born with and do not exist just because we have access to certain technology or applied scientific procedures. Rights are independent of our manipulation of natural laws and processes.

Secondly, to speak of abortion as a "right" is to imply that abortion is the only option or means for women to control their bodies and health. This to me is misleading, as there are other options made possible by technology and applied science that are open and available to women. If a man or woman is serious about preventing conception, there is the option of sterilization or according to the Biblical tradition "making oneself an eunuch". This procedure is totally endorsed by Biblical tradition and is respected by at least one Old Testament and one New Testament writer. Consider Jesus in Matthew 19:12:

For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others--and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
Then consider Isaiah (Isaiah 56:4-5):
For thus says the LORD, "To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, 5To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.
And finally, consider Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1):

Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
As such, being a eunuch is the Biblically endorsed option to those who want to prevent conception. In fact, it is totally and morally okay to make yourself a eunuch for your career or some other purpose. 

Finally, if a man or woman wants to delay conception rather than make themselves a eunuch permanently, there is another option that makes possible delayed reproduction. This option involves freezing eggs or sperms until the desired time, and then having a surrogate mother or invitro fertilization. This process seems both expensive and unnatural to me as well. But it is definitely an option that should be made available for those who want the freedom of delayed pregnancies.

However, some might argue that not everyone can afford this option and that the poor will use traditional medicines and procedures that put women's lives at risk to circumvent these expenses. This is perhaps the biggest case for providing medical procedures. To prevent women from making bad choices in delaying conception that put their life at risk. However, even in this case, it seems to me that such women are making a choice. So even if we make available medically approved abortion, it does not change the fact that a choice is being made among various alternatives. The alternatives include: 
  • sterilization, 
  • saving eggs for later, 
  • having nature/God decide or 
  • just having the child. 
Considering this, it is clear to me that abortion is not a right, but a choice pursued among varied alternatives. [Unless abortion was the only alternative, then I would give it status as a "right"]. Even "safe" abortion procedures are selected among the varied options hat I have mentioned here (above). And until I get new information on the matter that changes my mind, I shall be critical of the discourse that promotes abortion procedures as a woman's "right".

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

We have no choice but to live together

I write this blog post out of concern for the dangerous trends that I see in my world. Despite all our advances in pluralism and multiculturalism, I see the world moving backwards. And I take to this blog to passionately rant about it.

Let me begin by saying that people, we must live together! There is no choice! Just like how you are born in a family and you have no choice about whom you are related to, it is the same with living in the world or a specific nation. People of different faiths, beliefs and creeds need to live together! We co-exist and inhabit the same world or planet. Whether you believe that God has put us together or not, the reality is that you cannot just wish to live among people of your own kind or your own belief! That is not your reality!

We are all neighbours. The Christian, the Jew, the Buddist, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Atheist, and the Agnostic and whatever faith or label that you identify yourself with! Yet, we all have to live together, despite our differences in opinion. And despite us having differences in opinion and belief, we must not only live together, but let other human beings also live and participate in society, politics  and economic activities.  No one should be prevented from participating in society, political or economic activity because off their creed, religious beliefs or any other criteria including sexuality, sexual orientation, gender etc.

Yet the great evils that I have seen all across the world including the West, is that there is great intolerance. In some nations, the intolerance is violent. Where mere mortals decide that only those of their same persuasion or belief must live and exist in their local space. Mere mortals, take the position or role of God to exterminate or eradicate other human beings who are not like them in belief , using force and coercion to establish their "like-minded" community or locality.

IT IS EVIL to force any person, against their consent to do what goes against their conscience! It is like slavery. It is just evil to force people to do what YOU want them to do. It is evil to force people to live as how YOU want them to live. As long as a person's beliefs is not to injure another person, then we have no right to use force or any persuasion of any form, including the law to compel others to do anything against their will.

I don't want to get into specifics, but the daily news is unbearable:

  • Boko Haram in Nigeria
  • Sri Lanka ultranationalist Buddhists violently attacking Muslims
  • Communist governments destroying places of worship 
  • Secularists telling people of faith that they must keep their religion at home and leave religion out of their decisions at work or in the public sphere or that people who don't believe in abortion must fund those who do
  • ISIS in Syria and Iraq and their attacks on Christians

We all have differences in opinion. But one thing that we all have in common: No one wishes to be coerced to do that which they disagree with! That is why slavery was and still is evil. It is inhumane to force another human being to conform to YOUR ideas about how they should live, work, be or exist. No human has the right to elevate themselves and their consciousness over another human being! As we are all human beings who are going to die, we must not seek to elevate ourselves and beliefs over others, because we will all meet the same fate. We are all going to be dust or dirt one day! It does not matter if we are rich, poor, religious, non-religious, straight, gay, vegetarian or omnivore, etc, we will die. We will all die like the animals that we eat or don't eat.

Let everyman come to his own conviction, not through force and coercion, but through experience, dialogue and through the process of questioning his own beliefs and testing the validity of those beliefs. I personally want my freedom to do this and would also want other who do not arrive at the same beliefs or conclusions to also go through this process.

After all, who wants to be locked into a world where he or she has to live as someone else dictates, who is mere mortal but yet claims to have more wisdom about what is right and whose authority cannot  be questioned or challenged. Yet, even in so-called democratic societies, I see this depressing situation.