Social Constructionism (2)

Last time we defined social constructionism and showed that it falls into the category of postmodernism. Our goal with this series is to understand the layers of social constructionism so that we might be aware of its dangers as Reformed Christians. To peel away the first layer of the social constructionist onion, let’s begin by understanding our place in history.

Throughout the history of the world there have been great time periods which are marked by common and stable characteristics. Historians have recognized this and have given names to these great bands of time to help us understand the vast and complex flow of human history. The Iron Age comes to mind, and the Classical Age, the Renaissance, and the Industrial Revolution. These are just to name just a few. This is called the periodization of history.

Sometimes we recognize these patches of history by the spirit of prevailing philosophies which characterize them. The Germans called this the zeitgeist which means “the spirit of the times.” The age of reason or modernism or postmodernism are but a few.

In truth, history is the unfolding of God’s sovereign counsel. It is seamless; one day flows into a thousand years. To lump together segments of God’s counsel as it unfolds is surely an arbitrary construction of man. But the periodization of history helps us think about history by providing us with a framework to analyze the unfolding of God’s activity.

Because it is artificial, people living through a particular time period seldom realize it. The poor Irish farmer of the sixth century hardly understood he was living during a time known as the Early Dark Ages. He simply lived his life within the framework his culture provided, hardly aware of the forces that brought about the zeitgeist of that era.  It is for the student of history to look back and identify the period many years after the period has existed.

Throughout the flow of time, there have been great disruptions which often bring about the end of an era and the beginning of something new. Some of the most fascinating times in history occur not during the period, but between them. These are called transition periods and they are usually marked by a radical change in human life because of some powerful external factors. In his sovereign counsel, God has used many different means to carry out his will in history. These disruptions do not escape his sovereignty. They exist because of his sovereignty. Maybe it was the discovery of iron. Maybe it was the invention of the engine. Or maybe it was some sweeping philosophical or political ideology. In a transition period, disruption is the defining characteristic.

Because of these cataclysmic disruptions, it is possible to recognize, in the moment, that something old is dying away and the birth of something new, maybe even mysterious, is imminent. When the printing press was invented, the disruption to the status quo was recognizable in the relative moment. Pope Alexander VI issued his notorious Inter Multipleces (1501) which banned the printing of any books which were not endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. He realized that the printing press had ushered in a great change which he did not like.

If we are perceptive enough, we can identify these transition periods while the transition is taking place. Sometimes the changes that take place can be so great, so effectual, so powerful, that even the oblivious person knows something big is happening. Sometimes the disruption is gradual, but deep.

We are in a transition period right now. When this period started and when it will end is for the coming generations to determine. It would do us well to take a moment to try to understand what age we are living in. It is my purpose to prove to you that social constructionism is one of the main disrupters.

More on this next time.

____________________

This post was written by Rick Mingerink, a member of the Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Michigan. Rick is also the principal at Adams Christian School. If you have a question or comment for Rick, please do so in the comment section.

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God's Word: A Lamp and a Light

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Less Than the Least: Memoirs of Cornelius Hanko

Less Than the Least: Memoirs of Cornelius Hanko is expected to be available sometime in June.

Less Than the Least is the memoirs of Rev. Cornelius Hanko’s long, fruitful life of nearly a century (1907–2005). He lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the rise and fall of communism, and the advent of the space age, and spanned the terms of eighteen US presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Son of Dutch immigrants to America, Rev. Hanko served six pastorates in five states, most notably in First Protestant Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1948–1964), along with Rev. Herman Hoeksema and Rev. Hubert De Wolf. Rev. Hanko poignantly describes the grief caused in the PRC by De Wolf’s heresy and schism (1953).

This delightful book comes complete with photos. 

 

***NOTE: Book Club members may opt-out of receiving this title by calling or emailing the RFPA. Must respond by May 31.***

 

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Social Constructionism

Over the next couple posts, I will be treating the subject of social constructionism. This may seem like a strange topic, hardly worth knowing. Although the term itself isn’t part of most people’s daily speech, its influence can be seen all over. If you bear with me over the next couple posts, you will find social constructionism is something you will want to know more about.

I first learned about this subject during my graduate studies at Calvin College. It was new to me, but it helped me understand why the world is consistently moving toward a progressive, non-traditional worldview. Have you ever wondered how two people living in the same country, maybe even on the same street, can have such radically different views on marriage or homosexuality and both passionately claim they are right? Or how there can be such polarization between the left and the right? The differences in worldview and ideology are so deep and foundational we have a difficult time even identifying ourselves with some of our fellow citizens. The differences no longer center on surface issues, but they go directly to the root. They deal with matters as deep as God’s creation ordinances.

In part, the answer lies in our conception of truth and knowledge. At the heart of all arguments is the desire for truth. It is human nature to want to uncover that truth. Or, so we may think. What if more and more society is operating within a radically different framework for understanding truth? What if more and more society rejects the premise that truth rests outside of themselves? In such cases, the possibility for two sides to look at the same thing and come to radically different conclusions is highly probable.

Social constructionism is a broad conglomeration of philosophies, but at its heart is the assumption that knowledge is socially created. That’s right. Knowledge (i.e., Dogs are furry and they can make good pets) is created in the minds of the knower. Because knowledge is the product of the knower, it is not independent. It does not exist outside of the mind. It is constructed in each person through the experiences they’ve had (i.e., I know dogs make good pets because I’ve had a dog and it was a good pet, or someone who’s had a dog for a pet said they were good pets, etc.). Since each person has a slightly different experience than someone else, each person forms a different knowledge base. Collectively, if knowledge is created and based on the experiences of society, absolute truth does not exist. It cannot, because absolute truth is an inflexible reality that exists apart from the knower. Take marriage for example. The social constructivist will say marriage is a construct of society. It can and must change as societies’ needs change.

Some people understand this as postmodernism. That would be correct. Social constructionism is a prominent theory in the postmodern movement. But postmodernism isn’t a theory itself, rather, it is a label. If we want to understand the activity which brings about the postmodern label, we would do well to understand social constructionism. 

This theory may seem absurd to you and me. But it is the foundational framework for so many philosophers, institutions, and organizations; and not just secular, but Christian and Reformed too. Although I have high esteem for the instruction I received at Calvin College, it may surprise you to know that her teacher education program is rooted in social constructionism. In 2002, Calvin College’s Department of Education rewrote their conceptual framework for their teacher education program. This framework was to provide the foundations for the educational philosophies taught to her students. They placed the foundations of their program on the philosophies of many social constructivists.[1] You can access their framework here (https://www.calvin.edu/academic/education/info/conceptualframework.pdf).

I have also heard more than a few Reformed (i.e., Protestant Reformed) teachers promote the idea of constructivism in their teaching. More often it comes from teachers just graduating from college. It would do them well, too, to probe a little deeper.

Let’s peel away some layers on this onion, shall we?

____________________

[1] Their conceptual framework explicitly references social constructivists (or those who embrace constructivist theories) like John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Parker Palmer, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Spencer Kagen, Jurgen Habermas, Henry Giroux, and Cornel West.

____________________

This post was written by Rick Mingerink, a member of the Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Michigan. Rick is also the principal at Adams Christian School. If you have a question or comment for Rick, please do so in the comment section.

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Book Sale!

Don't forget about the Inventory Reduction Sale we are currently running!
Now is a good time to grab some books at great prices for that son or daughter or grandchild that will be graduating this year!

Book Club members save even more! Log into your online account before you start making your order.

*(Sale ends May 31, 2017, 11:59pm)*

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (3): Instructing the Children

Our covenant children are royal children. Once they come to years of discretion we are called to hold before them, “Do you know, my child, that when you were very small something solemn, something holy happened to you? You were baptized in the name of the triune God. You are not a heathen child, but a child of the covenant” (Wielenga, Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, 182). All instruction in the home and at school has that at its core: our children are separate as royal children. Added to that truth, the Reformed Baptism form calls parents to instruct their children “herein when they shall arrive to years of discretion”.

Parents can heed this calling only through the grace of God in his gospel.  By nature we have irretrievably lost the privilege that God should be our God (Wielenga, 180). To this the Lord answers, “I do not wish to be only your God, but also the God of your child” (180). This humbles the believing parent and gives them hope. As a priest and a prophet, the parent is called to pray for the child and teach the child.

As a priest, the parent is called to be as Job: “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all” (Job 1:5a). As a prophet, the parent is one of the chief teachers of the children. The children must be taught their “misery that necessitates the cleansing signified by baptism, deliverance that is expressed in the promises sealed by the water of baptism, and also the life of gratitude to which the blessings of baptism urge” (Wielenga, 182). Here, the author of the Baptism Form commentary echoes the three divisions of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is the basis of all Reformed instruction in the home.

The instruction in the Christian home is essential for Christian school education to thrive. As this blog is a celebration of the work of our parents in the home, I want to take this opportunity to relate some wonderful highlights that we teachers see each day in the school.

Devotions at school are encouraging because teachers can discuss the Word with children who are well versed in the gospel. These children have the language of the Reformed faith on their lips. (At times, we hear “the speech of Ashdod” on the lips of the children, but then we instruct the children to cut out these evil words.) The teachers are very thankful for the instruction the children receive in how to pray. Instruction in prayer ought chiefly to happen in the home and not in the school. From their earliest years, the children ought to be taught to pray. Instruction in prayer takes years and years of work. Before a child even crosses the threshold of the kindergarten room, he or she already has five years of instruction in prayer. From the mere “Amen” a mother says over the child when the child is a week old, to the first full reciting of the Lord’s Prayer (which takes a long time in itself), to the full spontaneous prayer of a young person who is permeated by the Word, the prayer instruction of the child is arduous work. Parents, we thank you for this instruction. It is a delight for teachers to see its fruit. We stand with you and will work also with the children to continue it.

Class discussions concerning spiritual matters are the source of gratitude for teachers. The children often relate stories from their lives that illustrate the truth discussed. Take United States geography for an example.  In my class we do a report on a state within the U.S. A. Without any prompting, children often write about a true church that is located within that state. These children are aware of other fellow saints and want to have communion with them! They are always extremely interested in the people on the mission field. We can learn from these children! I often wonder, where does this excitement come from? The answer is that these children are royal children who are sanctified in Christ. They speak the speech of a child raised in a covenant home. 

Parents, we see the fruit of your work teaching these children in the home. Be encouraged that you are fulfilling your vows.

______________

This post was written by Mike Feenstraa member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. Mike also teaches fifth grade at the Protestant Reformed School in Dyer, Indiana. 

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Not Forgotten

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. The stores are stocked with “World’s #1 Mom” cards. The greenhouses are filled with husbands and children picking out hanging baskets and flower pots. Mothers and grandmothers everywhere are receiving hugs and text messages of thanks.

They are not likely to be forgotten.

And this is perfectly appropriate. For many of us we have had faithful, loving mothers. We are appreciative of their devotion, hard work, and self-sacrifice, and we want them to know it.

But there are some for whom this day is not one of rejoicing. Rather it’s a day of sadness. It’s a day in which they hold their pain close and pretend like everything is alright. It’s a day they wish would be over again for another year.

Sadly, these women are likely to be forgotten.

They might be forgotten because we don’t know about their struggle. It’s too private, too personal, and they aren’t ready to share it. They also might be forgotten simply because, well, we forgot. We didn’t stop to think about what they’re going through.

But they’re there. They’re present among us, shouldering silently a heavy burden.

There’s the single woman. Maybe she’s in her late twenties, and still hasn’t been asked on a date. Maybe she’s in her fifties, and the reality of being a lifelong single has fully sunk in. She wants to be married. She wants to have children of her own. But she doesn’t.

There’s the barren woman. She’s happily married to a faithful, Christian husband. But, like Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah before her, she’s childless. She wants to be a mother. She wants to quit her job and stay home with her children. But month after month the test is negative.

There’s the woman who has miscarried multiple times. She’s felt the joy of conceiving and having a little one growing within her! She’s felt the nervous excitement of being a mother! But then her doctor can’t find a heartbeat. They tell her something is wrong. The child within her is no longer alive. And no one else knows.

There’s the woman who has a child. Maybe several children. But she’s unable to have any more. She hears the whispers, “Her youngest just had his fourth birthday. Why isn’t she expecting? Maybe she’s being selfish.” This cuts her to the quick. She wants more children. She isn’t being selfish. But her quiver is full at one or two.

There’s the mother with adopted children. Unable to have children naturally, she’s decided to adopt. For others who have adopted, it has gone well. But for her it’s been difficult. There have been countless struggles with her adopted children.

There’s the single mother. Her child was conceived out of wedlock, and she feels a sense of shame that she’s become a mother under these circumstances. She’s afraid, “What will others say? What will they think? How will they treat me? How will they treat my child?”

There’s the mother whose child has died. She can identify with Naomi-Mara. Her child was stillborn. Her child died at six months. Her child died at six, at twelve, at eighteen years of age.

There’s the mother with a prodigal son (or daughter). Her child has gone into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living, even with harlots. She prays. Nothing seems to change. She pleads with him. He doesn’t call for months.

There’s the mother with many children. Her struggle is different. Far from struggling to get pregnant, she jokes that she could get pregnant if her husband simply looked at her. She physically could have a child every nine months. She catches stares driving her “bus.” Strangers at the grocery store comment on her large number of children. The Christian school tuition is staggering. She’s physically, mentally, and emotionally drained from the care of her children. And then she finds out she’s expecting again.

On Mother’s Day, amidst the cards and flowers and joy, remember these women as well. Remember the silent struggles that they endure. Bring their needs before the Father in prayer.

And for those who are struggling and feeling neglected, you are remembered. We may not always be able to be there for you. We may not always understand. We may not always know the right thing to say. But you are valued as an essential part of the body of Christ. You are loved, by the Father and by us.

You are not forgotten.

______________________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Reading

Some two thousand years ago, the imprisoned apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (II Tim. 4:13). John Calvin’s comments on this passage are instructive: “It is obvious from this that although the apostle was already preparing for death, he had not given up reading…But we should note that this passage commends continual reading to all godly men as a thing from which they can profit.”[1]

The Bible commends reading. Reading is a discipline of the Christian life.

Reading as a spiritual discipline is not the same as reading in general. Certainly, reading books on history, science, wars, animals, and economics (the list goes on) is to be recommended, providing they are wholesome. But reading as a spiritual discipline is more focused on explicitly Christian literature, Reformed literature—in short, biblical literature: the Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) publications, and so many other books and periodicals that promote our growth in godliness. Of course, we read the Bible, too, and that ought to be our main book—but the reading of scripture has been treated in past articles on devotions.

It is no secret that our technology-crazed world makes reading difficult. Technology, not wrong of itself, robs us of the time required for reading, and even the ability to read well. The incessant checking of Facebook, the constant updates on Twitter, the endless games, and the most recent alert from Snapchat present a very real danger to many disciplines of the Christian life, but especially to reading. Who has time anymore to read, at least to read more than a sentence here or there on a social media platform, or a quick news story? Soon enough, the reading of a substantive book on church history, or even working through a Standard Bearer article, becomes a daunting task.

Why do we read? Why do we read when Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, Snapchat, and games seem so much more exciting, real life, and convenient? I provide three reasons below, readily recognizing that these reasons can be multiplied.

First, we read to sharpen our Reformed, biblical worldview: a worldview that includes doctrine, application of doctrine, and history. Do we not want to learn more about the signs of Christ’s coming, or justification by faith alone (two recent RFPA publications)? Do we not desire to evaluate world events through a Reformed, biblical lens (“All around Us” rubric in the Standard Bearer)? Do we not love our brothers and sisters overseas, longing to become better acquainted with them (recent article on Myanmar in Beacon Lights)? What do we believe? Are we anchored in it? Are we able to teach it to the generation following? Reading is crucial!

Second, and closely related to the first, is that reading is a means God uses for growth in godliness. Whatever we take in shapes our thinking. How blessed is the man, then, who enjoys a steady diet of sound, God-glorifying literature! These books and magazines edify, instruct, warn, comfort, and encourage. Reading holds an integral place in our life of sanctification.

Third, we read to become better readers of the Bible. Reading more makes us better Bible interpreters. This is not to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit, but only to say that reading helps our ability to comprehend words and thoughts, sharpens our grammatical skills, and improves our critical thinking. If only for this reason, reading is important!

A few reminders about reading are in order.

Be persistent. Remember: a discipline is a habit. Reading good books is no exception. Do not give up after two books. Read, and read, and read some more (even if at first it is not the highlight of your day). Soon it will become an activity you enjoy immensely! Make a reading schedule and stick to it. Scribble down notes while reading, to stay engaged. Even reading with others is helpful: moving chapter by chapter through a book with a friend or a group keeps everyone accountable. Good readers are not developed overnight—which is why this is a discipline of the Christian life.

Do not grow discouraged. It does not matter how many books you read in a year. Perhaps you have seen reading programs that call for the reading of x number of books in one year, and, because you do not or cannot read that many in a year, you become discouraged. The number of books is not as important as simply reading books, and understanding what you read. Set your own pace.

Train your children. Parents, we do well to cultivate in our children, starting already with our young children, and continuing with our teenagers, a love for reading good books. If this training is lacking at home, it is far less likely that our children will immerse themselves in Christian literature after they move out. Hand them a Beacon Lights, tell them to read two articles on a Sunday afternoon, and discuss the articles with them. Give your high schooler an RFPA book, and check periodically on his progress. And, parents, let’s have our own book in hand, so that we can be an example before our sons and daughters. As with so many of the other spiritual disciplines, parental involvement is key.

Read, dear reader! Such is a discipline of the Christian life.

_______________

[1] From John Calvin’s commentary on II Timothy.

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This post was written by Rev. Ryan Barnhill, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois. If you have a question or a comment for Rev. Barnhill, please do so in the comment section on the RFPA blog.

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The May 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer....on it's way to mailboxes worldwide!

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Islam (14)

So far in our study of Islam, we have focused on theology (who God is—and especially the doctrine of the Trinity) and Christology (who Christ—and especially the Person of Jesus as the Son of God, His relationship to the Father, His incarnation, sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead). In our last blog post on February 23 (Islam 13), we considered the essential gospel truth of the resurrection of Jesus.

However, it is not enough that a Muslim (or anyone else to whom we witness) has an intellectual understanding of these truths, but to be saved he must believe them. With the subject of faith, we come to another important subject—the doctrine of salvation.

In Islam, salvation consists of the Five Pillars, which are (1) confession (of faith in Allah and in Mohammed, his prophet) or the Shahada; (2) prayer (usually five times a day—dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night); (3) almsgiving (or Zakat); (4) fasting in the month of Ramadan; and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (Or Hajj). Of these five pillars, the first (confession) is fundamental, for it makes a person a Muslim: to become a Muslim one must say (preferably in Arabic), “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah.” This translates into English as, “There is no (true) God but Allah and Mohammed is the Prophet (Messenger) of Allah.” By saying the Shahada with conviction, a person is converted to Islam.

Having recited the Shahada, one enters a life of seeking to attain unto salvation by obedience to Allah through prayers, devotional exercises, and good works (as defined in the Qur’an and in Sharia Law). Islam, therefore, is essentially a works-based religion—there is no room for grace in Islam.

Consider these texts from the Qur’an:

“If any do deeds of righteousness—be they male or female—and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them” (Surah 4:124).

“But those who believe and work righteousness—no burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear—they will be Companions of the Garden, therein to dwell (forever)” (Surah 7:42).

“But those who believe and work righteousness, and humble themselves before their Lord—they will be Companions of the Garden, to dwell therein for aye” (Surah 11:23).

“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure; and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions” (Surah 16:97).

“But any that (in this life) had repented, believed, and worked righteousness, will have hopes to be among those who achieve salvation” (Surah 28:67).

Christianity, unlike Islam, is not a works-based religion, but the only grace-based religion. Every other religion teaches people to work (at least partly) for their salvation, while Christianity announces the good news that salvation is entirely the work of God, given freely by his grace, and received by faith alone. Grace is God’s favor toward sinners, a favor that is free, that does not come to us because we deserve it, or because we earned it, or because we did anything to cause it or to maintain it. That grace is seen in the sending of Jesus Christ into the world in the incarnation to suffer the penalty of sin and death due to us for our sins. Nothing in us motivated God to send his Son to be crucified for us—God’s motive was his free grace for sinners.

Salvation must be by grace alone because all people are sinners. As sinners they are not merely flawed or imperfect, but as sinners they are guilty, corrupt, and depraved. We call this truth the doctrine of “total depravity,” which teaches that all people are so sinful that they are wholly inclined to all wickedness and incapable of any good. Therefore, a sinner cannot perform any good works in order to be saved. Sometimes, Christians will say, “You cannot perform any works that are perfect enough to please God and to satisfy his justice.” By that statement, they mean, “You can perform some good works, but they will always fall short of the perfection required by God.” However, the truth is worse than that—the unbeliever cannot perform any good works! All of the works that he performs—even the works that seem to be religious, charitable, helpful, and praiseworthy—are sins. (Of course, if he was irreligious, uncharitable, cruel, and base, he would sin even more). That is why to be saved we have to repudiate not only our obvious sins (the things of which we are ashamed; the things that we know constitute disobedience to God), but also our cherished “good works” (the things of which we are proud; the things that we think constitute obedience to God). In other words, salvation by works—and therefore Islam—is a complete non-starter! The same is true of every other religion—Buddhism, Hinduism, and even false Christianity, such as Romanism. Any religion, even if it seems to share some of the beliefs and practices of Christianity, that teaches any form of salvation by works is not Christianity, but a false religion in which there is no salvation.

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:10-13).

It is not possible, therefore, for a Muslim to trust in the Five Pillars of Islam and be saved, for the Five Pillars are simply a form of salvation by works.

His first pillar, the confession, is a lie—an idolatrous lie. Allah is not the only true God—the triune God of the Bible is the only true God. Belief in the deity of Christ, for example, is not optional. Jesus declared, “All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23). Muslims claim to honor Jesus as one of the prophets, but Jesus requires (demands) honor equal to the Father. Jesus is not one of the prophets, but he is the Son of God. Elsewhere, Jesus warns, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). “I am he” is better translated simply as “I am”—“if ye believe not that I am.” “I AM” is the divine name, as Exodus 3:14 reveals, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Jesus claims the divine name again in John 8:58: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus did not say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” Adam, Abel, Seth, or Noah could have said that. The angels could have said that. Only Jesus can say, “Before Abraham was, I am,” because only he is the eternal, unchangeable I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Muslim must do what the Thessalonians did: “How ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Of course, for a Muslim to repudiate the Shahada, so that he no longer says, “La ilaha illa Allah” (“There is no God but Allah”), but confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, as Thomas did, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28), is nothing short of earth-shattering. For a Muslim to do so is for him to commit the unforgivable sin of Shirk, as we have seen before, the “sin” of associating others with Allah. Nevertheless, the Muslim must confess the truth concerning God and Christ to be saved. For a Muslim no longer to say, “Muhammadur rasoolu Allah” (“And Mohammed is his Prophet [Messenger]”), but to confess instead that Mohammed was a false prophet, is something that only the grace of God can cause a Muslim to do. Nevertheless, the Muslim must do this, for the teachings of Mohammed in the Qur’an and the Word of God (the Bible) are antithetical to one another.

No Muslim can view this as a light thing—and no Christian witness can treat this as a light thing. A Muslim convert to Christianity (an apostate in Islam) faces ostracism, rejection by family, disinheritance, and in some Islamic countries physical punishment and even death. Therefore, he must know what he is doing when he confesses Jesus as Lord. That is why we have carefully explained the truths concerning God and Christ before we reached this point. However, this is not new. In the Bible, those who confessed Jesus were persecuted. The persecutors were often family members, the community, and the religious leaders of the synagogue, and later the civil and religious authorities of the Roman Empire. Jesus is, however, uncompromising in his demands, something we comfortable Westerners with our “religious freedom,” “First Amendment Rights,” and “easy conversions” often forget:

“And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, if any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-33).

Consider our Muslim friend—or any prospective convert. His wife says, “You must not confess Christ.” He must hate, repudiate, and reject his wife in order to follow Christ. His parents and his brethren fall before him on their knees begging him with tears not to repudiate Islam. He must hate, repudiate, and reject his parents and his brethren and their tears in order to confess Christ. The authorities threaten to arrest him for his confession of Christ. He must hate, repudiate, and reject his freedom and embrace a prison sentence in order to confess Christ. The judge sentences him to death, but offers clemency if he will recant his confession of Christ. He must hate, repudiate, and reject his own life and willingly submit to death if the alternative is to reject Christ.

Do not imagine that people are not forced to make that choice every day. Do we, from the comfort our Western homes, behind our keyboards, know anything of that? When our family tempts us to compromise (perhaps in something as simple as church membership), do we buckle under the pressure? Do not imagine, then, that it is easy for the Muslim to turn his back on the religion of his fathers and become a Christian.

Pray for our Muslim neighbours—pray that God would give them grace to see the beauty that is in Jesus Christ, the eternal, only begotten, incarnate Son of God. Pray that God would give them grace to repudiate all of their empty, dead, and corrupt works in order to have Christ. Pray that God would give them the courage to count the cost, take up the cross, and follow Christ. And pray that you, too, would have the grace to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ. Our confession must be the Apostle Paul’s:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).

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This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 

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