The Non-Neutral State as Theologian

We are told by our secularist masters that government is to remain free of religion. It should take no position on religious matters. But as Greg Bahnsen said:

The alternative to God’s law is not no law at all, but human law; governments which do not guard the majesty of God and His righteous law have no alternative and choice but to uphold the majesty of their own human authority … If no higher law is adhered to, then the law of man is absolute; there is no logical barrier to stop such a state from becoming totalitarian. When the state’s will is substituted for God’s will, then the only real crimes become crimes against the state (as in Imperial Rome, present day Russia, and much of the United States), for example, treason, defection, and so forth.

And so it is that our government has no problem ruling on the finer points of religion when it threatens our order. One think tank that has done the government’s thinking for it for decades is the RAND Corporation. In a report from RAND titled “Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists“, published in 2010 we find advocacy for one form of Islamic theology against other forms. For example:

Nevertheless, precisely because Islamist ideology plays such a central role in these groups, it is necessary to change militant Islamists’ beliefs as well as their behavior. Moreover, while it may be difficult to alter the worldview of Islamist radicals, there is an opportunity to use mainstream Islamic theology to undermine radical Islamist ideology.

Let me say here that the government is right to oppose Islam, but what is it opposing it with? Simply put: secularism. There is no real concern for any truth claims, all such claims are assumed to be so many baubles for the unenlightened masses. The goal is to get these Muslims to embrace an ideology that is effectively neutral towards truth claims. You can believe in Jesus or Allah, it doesn’t matter, so long as your beliefs make absolutely no claims on politics or the State. Once they start doing that, the State will not tolerate them, and thus the State makes a theological claim of its own. Witness:

Because ideology is such an important driver of violent Islamism, most of the existing deradicalization programs in Muslim countries include an ideological component in the form of a theological dialogue. These prison-based programs enlist imams, Islamic scholars, and some- times even former radicals to discuss Islamic theology in an effort to convince militants that their interpretation of Islam is wrong. Since the discussions “are based on a common reference to Islam and Islamic law as the ultimate source of truth and legitimacy,” they are more compelling than other approaches and, at times, effective in moderating the prisoner’s beliefs.

A credible interlocutor who was knowledgeable about both Islamic theology and democratic ideals was used to conduct the ideological intervention, which consisted of challenging the political and social underpinnings of the radical narrative as well as its theological foundation.

In these cases, once a trigger emerged, the leaders of the radical organization began a period of internal deliberation. When presented by credible interlocutors—usually accomplished Islamic scholars, or ex-militants—mainstream Islamic theology served to push the mili- tant leaders to disengage and deradicalize by raising questions about their ideology. Mainstream Islamic teachings pulled the leaders toward moderation by offering them a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of God, as well as a way to justify the strategic and ideological shift to their followers. Because Islamic jurisprudence prohibits many types of jihad, the militant leaders could present the organization’s moderation as a correction of past beliefs that were the result of a misreading of Islamic theology.

Because counter-radicalization and deradicalization programs are embedded in a war of ideas, the counterideological component of these programs is extremely important. Most Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian programs employ a form of theological dialogue in which main- stream scholars and sometimes even former radicals engage extremists in discussions of Islamic theology in an effort to convince the militants that their interpretation of Islam is wrong.

As I said, the claims of Islam are evil and should be resisted, but they cannot logically be fought by a secular state claiming neutrality as the highest value of all. They can and should be combatted by a renewed Christendom, one which combats the rule of Allah with the rule of the Son of God, now reigning at his Father’s right hand. In the end, Christians need to realize that America is not fighting for truth, but for neutrality as the highest god. We can be wise enough to let it conduct this battle as a necessary precursor for the spread of the Gospel, but we cannot think that this equates with the Great Commission. And if we embrace the RAND way of thinking about religion, we will see this same logic turned on us – keep your religion in your head and you will be fine, but if it makes claims on the State, woe betide you!

Recovering Morning Prayer

Lue-Yee has a provocative post on how to integrate Morning Prayer into the working day here.

If family be a hindrance, then maybe family is the key as well. Working parents with schoolchildren know the experience of droping off the kids at school before work and picking them up at the end of the day. If drop-offs happened in the same place as Morning Prayer before work, things could be a lot easier. If parents could go to worship with their children in the morning and not have to take them some place else before work, they could have more time to grow together with their families and have a time to be still before God and peacefully to entrust themselves and their children to his mercy.

The East Africa Revival Network

Rwanda is sending missionaries into Tanzania to combat the spread of Islam there. The East Africa Revival Network was created to facilitate this missionary effort. The background story is:

Islam is growing fast in Africa. Already more than 50% of the inhabitants of Africa are Muslim. It has been stated and echoed again and again by Muslim leaders that Africa will become the first “Islamic Continent”. They are very serious about this. The Iranians, Libyans, the Saudis,and many other members of the 57 nation Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) are pouring many millions of dollars into African nations to build mosques, Islamic schools, clinics and to support a literal army of Islamic teachers and preachers. East Africa (Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Eastern Congo) is a priority target for Islamic takeover because of it’s poverty and the ancient roots of Arab businessmen here Tanzania is alreaddy more than 30% Muslim, the tipping point for domination is about 40%.

At a Jerusalem Conference of church leaders Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo was approached by two Tanzanian leaders who said, “You there in Eastern Rwanda still have revival. The churches in the path of the Islamic takeover in Tanzania are weak, worldly, or fractured. Can’t you come over and help us before the Muslims takeover? Otherwise Christians wll become a persecuted minority.”

Bishop Alexis had experienced cruel ethnic persecution in Rwanda and had been forced to be a refugee from his own country three times. He heard their cry and prayed. Then he invited these two Tanzanian leaders to the East Africa Revival Convention held in his Gahini Diocese each year and by faith announced God had raised up 18 laymen who were experience and committed evangelists to send to Tanzania to work with the churches there that are directly confronted by the Islamic Invasion. Out of this was born the Vision for an inter-denominational, international ministry of partners that would enlarge and accelerate the Mission to confront the Islamic Challenge with a revival of an evangelistic, missionary, church planting spirit.

Consider supporting this important effort in prayer and with money.

TLS Review of Islamic Books

Reviewing several recent books on Islam for the TLS, Jonathan Benthall shows the irony in an Islamic scholar who advocated no compulsion in religion and was jailed by Iran for his exegesis!

The reformist Iranian scholar Mohsen Kadivar, in an article contributed to The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking politics and modernity, edited by Mehran Kamrava (2006), asserts that “most available interpretations of Islam do not welcome the freedom of religion and belief”, before going on to argue that a more correct interpretation of Scripture and valid traditions accepts the principle of “no compulsion in religion” (see 2:256 in the Qur’an). But Kadivar has been punished by eighteen months in an Iranian prison for his exegesis of Scripture, and many other reformists, in Iran and elsewhere, have suffered worse.

He notes an event of interest to me mentioned in Scott Atran’s book Talking to the Enemy, where:

…the actions, during the massacres in Rwanda, of the many Muslims who saved thousands of non-Muslims, both Tutsi and Hutu, when churches, governments and secular NGOs turned away.

He also mentions that the RAND corporation sought to intervene in the theology of Islam in 2004:

Some other analysts are worried that Western-inspired initiatives, such as that embarked on briefly by the RAND Corporation in 2004, to intervene in the theology of another religion may have unintended consequences, one of which is that progressive ulama are exposed to allegations that they are tools of Western intelligence services.

I had never heard of this, but I tracked down some RAND reports and hope to look into it a bit more. How fascinating that our ‘secular’ government has no problem ruling on what religious tenets are actually acceptable to the State. The left has no problem deploying theology when it suits them.


Through The Looking Glass

The Red Queen shook her head, ‘You may call it “nonsense” if you like,’ she said, ‘ but I’VE heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!’

Yesterday, an Alice in Wonderland story appeared online alleging all kinds of things about why AMiA split and Chuck Murphy eventually fled church discipline. Amongst many other charges in the Pravda-worthy article is one from Retired Archbishop Kolini, who “noted that Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of Gahini Diocese took money from Trinity Wall Street.”

When contacted in Rwanda where he is preparing for an international conference with the Conseil Protestant du Rwanda (CPR), Bishop Bilindabagabo said, “I did not ask for and I did not get any money from TEC since 2004, the year our Province decided to stop receiving money from TEC. This includes even money for the then ongoing projects. In 2004 we as a diocese and I as a person stopped any kind of contact with TEC and of course Trinity.”

One wonders if this latest article in any way alters the perception of those who drafted the Winter Conference Communique, when they wrote: “We are thankful that our leaders have committed to healthy internal communication and support their decision not to respond to negative characterizations in the media.”

Curiouser and curiouser…

C.J. Mahaney: Good to Go!

In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, Sovereign Grace Ministries has re-instated C.J. Mahaney as their President. As Brent Detwiler recounted:

You (CJ) continued by saying that Larry “must confine [himself] to the that point in order to leave peacefully.” In other words, you could accept Larry telling the movement he was abruptly and prematurely pulling out of the disciplinary process because he disagreed with our assessment of his character. You would not allow him to explain his departure in terms of doctrinal differences. But then you went further. You told Larry if he included doctrine as a basis for leaving “we will go into more detail regarding your sin and if necessary Justin’s sin.”

C.J. then went on to blackmail the Tomczak’s in a phone call where he threatened releasing details of their son’s confessions to him as a pastor to the public; this was in 1997. Mahaney acknowledged this in a confession to Covenant Life Church, but he called it ‘coercion’:

It grieves me to report to you that in a particular phone conversation I sought to coerce Larry to present his leaving as I thought was right.

Sovereign Grace has looked at this and many other things and essentially said “no problem”! Get back in the saddle and go get them big guy! Mahaney has repented of this sin and has confessed it, let’s be clear. But that does not mean that he is fit to serve any more. Imagine confessing your sins to a pastor and then having him use them against you or your family to get you to act in a certain way. Is someone who does that fit to be a pastor let alone a functional bishop?

But, C.J. is a Reformed big wig so he gets a pass. Disgusting, reprehensible and arrogant.

Assistance with Evangelism

Steve Jeffery, the pastor of Emmanuel Evangelical Church in London, points out an online tract about “two ways to live.” This seems like a helpful tool. He discusses how his church does open-air evangelism here, and suggests these questions as conversation starters:

  1. What do you do during the week?
  2. What things are most important to you? Why?
  3. What do you think is wrong with the world?
  4. What do you think is the root cause of the problems in the world?
  5. Would you describe yourself as religious?
  6. What do you know about Jesus Christ?
  7. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
  8. If it were possible to know God personally, would you want to?

He also referred to these courses. It’s worth looking into for we who are evangelism-challenged.

PEAR and ACNA – Options

The statement issued at the close of Moving Forward Together listed three long-term options for parishes still affiliated with Rwanda (not the AMiA parishes):

1. Full participation in an existing diocese of ACNA

2. Remaining affiliated with PEAR while also forming a subjurisdiction of ACNA

3. Remaining affiliated with PEAR by establishing a missionary jurisdiction in North America

I would think, although I am not sure of it, that the first two options will be the most popular. Some churches may want to simply be part of the new province in North America and will move accordingly. Others may desire to have a part in ACNA and do what Archbishop Duncan called for in planting churches with Anglican 1000, still maintaining ties with our Rwandan brothers and sisters.

The option of creating a missionary jurisdiction in North America is what the AMiA was supposed to have been, before all the talk of a ‘personal prelature’ came about. What I don’t understand about that option is why PEAR would want two separate entities within the USA? Also, what would the difference be on the ground between option two and option three? I’m sure time will bring clarity to these options.

Leithart on American Christians

From Credenda:

Christians in the modern age have often ridden the wave of sacrificial politics, and American Christians have shown as little resistance as any. Christians are among the most patriotic Americans. So seamless is our union of American ideals with Christianity that it is difficult for us to consider even the possibility that our nation is a sacrificial system competing with God and the church for our loyalty. It is virtually unthinkable that God might call us to the sacrifice of martyrdom in opposition to America rather than to sacrifice in defense of America. No wonder activist Christians are so readily folded back into the system. Until we get sacrifice straight, until there are actual martyrs, our resistance to statism will remain anemic.

His article describes nation states as transformed churches, demanding ultimate loyalty.