Alex Crain

Editor, Christianity.com

Kent_Brantly

After hearing Dr. Kent Brantly publicly thank God for healing him from the deadly Ebola virus, atheist Sam de Brito posted a scathing article at the Sydney Morning Herald that questions Brantly as a true man of medicine. The article entitled: “Science, Not God, Saved Him from Ebola,” takes issue with Brantly crediting God for his healing. Brantly, a Samaritan’s Purse doctor received experimental Ebola treatments at Emory University Hospital after his emergency evacuation from Liberia. He was released from the hospital on August 21, saying, “I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life.”  

While de Brito's perspective is shared by many who doubt the reality of the supernatural, what his critique refuses to grant is the possibility that both aspects of Brantly's healing—the scientific and the spiritual—are compatible. If Dr. Brantly, a trained medical doctor, gives God ultimate credit for saving his life, does that necessarily discount the effort of skilled physicians who used the most of scientific advancements they could in his treatment? No, says Christian apologist Jonathan Sarfati. Such attempts may seem to place Christians on the horns of a dilemma but it is a false dichotomy. Furthermore, anti-theists actually choose not to acknowledge that science pre-supposes the existence of the biblical God.

As Rich Deem at GodandScience.org argues, God uses the advances of science and medicine in the hands of skilled physicians as instruments of healing. Ultimately, every breath is from the Lord, even the breath of those who disbelieve (1 Samuel 2:6).

Your turn: What do you think of Dr. Brantly being mocked for giving God credit for his healing?

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

race_peace_unity_hands

Paraphrasing a line attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most segregated hour in America is still 11:00am on Sunday morning. It's a sad reality that we see on a weekly basis. Recent racial conflict like that which occurred in Ferguson bear witness to the fact that we are still a long way off from the peace to which God calls us as human beings.

Today at CT, Rudy Carrasco--who has been involved in racial reconciliation ministry through the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) since 1990--offers four principles that guide his efforts to racial reconciliation:

1) Expand the Table (without sacrificing black and white)

2) Personal Relationships

3) Racial Reconciliation 2.0

4) They Are In Their 50s and 60s

The priniciples aren't easily summarized without compromising Carrasco's meaning. So, please see his well-written explanation of them here. These principles can guide each of us as we reshape our thinking in a more biblical way. Notably, at the conclusion of his article, Carrasco is encouraged that: "As we look with a biblical lens into the brokenness of the church and America, there is the possibility of edification and, yes, racial reconciliation."

He is not alone in his thinking. In the past few years, there have been several encouraging signs that the matter of racial reconciliation is on the minds of Christians in America in an ever increasing way. Trillia Newbell, in her book, United, casts a magnificent vision for the kind of diversity and racial reconciliation that God desires in our churches. (See our interview with her here at Christianity.com.) Also, pastor and author, John Piper, promotes and preaches this vision with great impact in his ministry via a book and video entitled "Bloodlines."

At times, church leaders take superficial approaches to foster diversity in their congregations. Raymond Goodlett, co-pastor of a racially diverse congregation in Richmond, Virginia offers wise counsel on that issue and speaks of the importance of deep repentance in this video.

What about you? How do you see the need for racial reconciliation in your church and community? How committed are you to personally take part in achieving it?
 

Alex Crain is the editor for Christianity.com.

persecution_target_head

Evangelical Christians in the United States see morality and Christian influence eroding fast. But that’s not the same as persecution. And we’d better learn the difference quickly, warns Alan Noble in his piece at The Atlantic, or we may lose whatever voice we still have:

“If evangelicals want to have a persuasive voice in a pluralist society, a voice that can defend Christians from serious persecution, then we must be able to discern accurately when we are truly victims of oppression—and when this victimization is only imagined.”

Noble points to several recent trends in the Evangelical world that show a fascination with the allure of persecution:

1)      A number of movies have portrayed valiant Christians standing up against oppressors. For example, God’s Not Dead, Persecuted, and, going back a decade or so, the whole Left Behind series tell a similar tale of persecution.

2)      Shady news reporting that skews facts (see Noble’s piece for detail) in order to drum up outrage.

Yes, from a global perspective, Christians are a persecuted people. In Asia, Africa, and the Middle East especially Christians are losing their lives for the sake of Christ. So, perhaps, rather than grumbling about cultural shifts that threaten to marginalize them, the question that Christians in America should be asking is “How can we better present the gospel and the joy of God in a way that’s appealing?” See how David Murray recently addressed this at his blog. The book he reviews there is a much-needed manifesto for American Christians: Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence & Can Begin Rebuilding It, by Greg Forster. Be sure to check out our author interview with Forster when it appears at Christianity.com.

Your turn: Are American Evangelicals persecuted as much as they think? What leads you to think that way?
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

muslim_ramadan

Extraordinary stories about the massive number of Muslims converting to Christ are appearing around the world. Recently at World Magazine, writer Warren Cole Smith interviewed 25-year missionary David Garrison who has documented his findings about the Muslim phenomenon. “There is a revival in the Muslim world,” Garrison says. He believes between 2 and 7 million former Muslims have converted to Christianity in the past two decades. His book, A Wind in the House of Islam, contains impressive research to back up his claim.

Why is this happening? Nabeel Qureshi, a popular speaker and author, explains in his book and online testimony that the gospel is being proclaimed with greater effectiveness. Qureshi affirms that the Holy Spirit works primarily by and through Scripture. And in his own experience, he says that subjective visions about Christ were also steps in his conversion from Islam to faith in Christ.

Open Doors USA recently reported a remarkable conversion story of a former Muslim man in Iran named Taher. He would beat his family and even threatened to kill them because of their faith in Jesus. After Taher's family fled abroad, time passed and in his growing despair he cried out: "I will believe in the God who reveals Himself to me." According to his story (here), the living God answered his prayers through a dream. It isn’t clear how much of the Bible Taher was exposed to, but he heard the gospel through the witness of his family and saw the reality of their faith in the face of persecution.

Some believe that these reported visions of “Isa” (the Muslim name for Jesus) could be spurious and, therefore, should be received with caution. Dennis McBride, in particular, writes about this at The Alliance for Biblical Integrity:  

If the Isa of Muslim dreams is not the Jesus of the Bible, who is he?
One option is a false Christ appearing as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:413-15). But what could the enemy of our souls hope to gain from doing that? Consider this: we have already seen that people with sinful motives have preached Christ for selfish gain (Phil 1:15-18), so it is reasonable to envision the author of pride and selfishness doing the same and in the process potentially:

• Diverting worship from Christ to himself, which has been his goal from the beginning (Isa 14:12-14; Matt 4:9).

• Deceiving Muslims into thinking they are worshiping the true Jesus when, in fact, they are worshiping the person in their dreams. All the accounts I have read unquestioningly equate Isa with Jesus.

• Diluting the primacy, centrality and authority of God’s Word by establishing faith based on subjective revelations and experiences (John 20:24-29).

• Creating expectations of evangelism linked to visitations from Jesus. (Some Muslim outreach strategies now include praying that Isa will appear to even more Muslims so more will be saved.)

• Creating expectations of additional visitations from Jesus, such as during times of persecution, and the inevitable disillusionment and confusion that result when those expectations are not met.

• Causing division within the Body of Christ over this issue.

I mention those to illustrate how the enemy could benefit from a phenomenon that on the surface may seems like a kingdom divided. I have not concluded that visions of Isa are necessarily demonic, nor do I believe Muslims are not being genuinely saved. But Muslims who come to Christ do so in the same way everyone else throughout church history has: the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to the truth (Acts 16:14). But the spiritual harm that can result from connecting their faith to subjective mystical experiences can be great, as certain parallel revelatory claims of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (as well as various cultic groups) have demonstrated over the years.

Whether these visions of Isa are true or untrue doesn’t negate that we rejoice with Muslims who are genuinely turning to Christ. Your turn: what do you think? Do you know people of the Muslim faith with whom you can share the gospel?

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

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