Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Response to Persecution

By Don Landis

Persecution comes in many forms, but at its central core it is the rejection of God and the resulting attack on those who follow Christ and claim He is the supreme Lord and the only way to salvation. Persecution has been growing more prevalent in recent years, however in order to understand the persecution of today we will first consider the persecution that has taken place in the past.

Historical Persecution

It is fascinating to study early church history of the first century and to see what accusations were made against the early believers, accusations that added fuel to a fire, which would from time to time incite persecution.

The Roman world accused Christians of many abominable acts, however some of the persecution was due to ignorance of the true Christian faith and practice.
  • Cannibalism - they heard the Christians were celebrating the death of someone and were eating and drinking his blood - thus accusing them of cannibalism - ignorant that the symbol of Holy Communion is a picture of Christ giving his life for us and our receiving Him into our lives.
  • Incest - having heard so much about a holy kiss and the practice of calling each other sisters and brothers in Christ that the Roman world made ignorant claims of incest.
  • Anti-social behavior - Most of the Christians were poor and had regular jobs so getting away for worship together was difficult and mostly held in homes. The nature of the service with its emphasis on the Word of God and teaching of believers generally sequestered them away in homes, usually at night. So the Roman world assumed some clandestine conspiratorial purpose.
  • Non-patriotism - this accusation was because so many of the Christians rejected military service in the Roman army and would not acknowledge Caesar as Lord.
  • Atheism - What a surprise, the Christians worshiped only one God and in contrast to the Roman world that had many gods they appeared atheistic.
Ultimately it was the early Christians allegiance to Christ as supreme Lord that would really be the lynch-pin of persecution. The Caesars wanted to be acknowledged as "Lord" and Christianity's view of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ could not allow such an acknowledgement.  Thus they were seen as a threat to the state – because emperor worship was an effort to deify the Caesar, to hold the disintegrating immoral, chaotic anarchy in check through a central figure of authority designated as “god”.

However, persecution and rejection of Christianity wasn’t all just ignorance. We must understand what Paul makes clear in Romans 1, that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It is often the case that the more men suppress the truth, the more violent, antagonistic and nasty they become. Hatred of God and God’s people becomes a common characteristic of such a person. So there were deep and spiritual motives behind the persecution, maiming, imprisoning and killing of Jesus’ followers.

Persecution Today: Why is it Increasing?

We have been noting within the last two years a serious, growing antagonism and hatred being shown to Christians, specifically Christian leaders such as Ken Ham. Ken and the folks at Answers in Genesis believe the biblical view that God exists, that His Word is true and that He is the creator of all things. This automatically leads to complete confidence in the authority of Scripture, God's inerrant word. Because of this strong stance Ken, and others like him, have become lightening rods for those looking to vent their anger and rebellion.

The truth that God's Word is inerrant and completely authoritative must be denied and destroyed by those who suppress the truth. They must attack it in order to silence the external and internal evidence God has given mankind of Himself. I have proposed that the increased anger we see in an atheist’s attacks demonstrates they are doing all they can to silence the voice of God. The more angry their attacks become, the more they are attempting to surpress the truth. Their anger actually becomes evidence of the truth of God and His Word.

Just like the relativist who claims "everything is relative" destroys his own view by claiming "everything is relative" (his statement that “everything is relative" is an absolute, which means everything is not relative because an absolute statement cannot be relative), so the atheist attacks, slanders, maligns, curses the name of God and all He stands for and all the while proves God’s existence. Why? Because God Himself predicted and described the nature of the rebel and the character of the attack!

And of course the irony is that there can be no “truth” or "unchanging right or wrong” or “correctness” in an evolutionary humanistic based worldview which automatically is relativistic. Truth, morality, and correctness cannot exist in a relativistic world, they are all absolutes which are incompatible with relativism. And yet even the relativist clings to absolute truth (their claim that "everything is relative" is an absolute truth), morality (they too know in their heart that acts such as murder are wrong), and correctness (by telling people everything is relative they claim their worldview is the correct worldview).

Our Response

Christians are fair game it seems. The blogs and websites attacking Ken are brazen and growing in number. They are viscous, slanderous, full of lies and hatred. These attacks are classic, age old, and ironically are screaming the opposite of their intent. They are clear evidence of the truth of God and His Word which tells us what to expect from a rejecter of God.

One has to ponder how to respond to such attacks. It seems hopeless to debate these folks due to their apparent lack of desire to find true truth. Aside from that lack of desire their very view of truth is so skewed it cannot even allow them to find true truth. When the modern post-modern mindset that says there is no truth it contradicts its very existence by saying it is true that there is no absolute truth. They state that it is an absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. Because of this lack of belief in truth it thereby follows that there is no right or wrong, nothing is absolute - they are left with only one possibility. They must simply allow truth to be whatever an individual wishes it to be. So when and if they claim to want to know the truth we must understand what they mean buy the word “truth”.

I think a good apologetic response is one that might alert Christians to the nature of the attack and the cause of it. At the same time this might be used by the Holy Spirit if He so chooses to use this apologetic, to wake up and alert these folks as to their way of thinking and the reason and motivation behind their attacks.

What is the "Nature of the Attack"

Paul gives us a list in Galatians 5 of the character of a person in the flesh, which is either an unsaved person or a true believer but one who is following the habits and character of the body in which he still resides.

Certainly an unsaved atheist does and can only evidence these characteristics. The flesh Paul refers to is the nature and qualities which all men are born with in an unsaved and unregenerate state. This is what Adam and Eve passed on to each and every one of us.

First Paul warns us that there is a war between the Spirit and the flesh and there is no reconciliation possible between them. Galatians 5:17a "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another…"

Paul says the only hope is to stop walking in the desires and habits of the flesh and to walk in the Spirit. Gal 5:16 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." However this is not possible for an unsaved person and is only available to a re-born, saved person. Only a Christian can walk in the Spirit.

So, an atheist who denies God and exhibits his rebellion and suppression of the truth God has given can only respond with those qualities and characteristics Paul lists as the fruit of the flesh.

Gal 5:19-21b "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these,"

Take note of the several characteristics which would underlie any attack; impurity (brazen filthy speech punctuated with profanity) enmities, strife, outbursts of anger, dissensions and factions. Do we see this in blog after blog? Yes. The character of a god-curser, a man or woman who holds his fist up against God (the tell-tale sign of open and covert rebellion and the suppression of the truth) is seen in the attacker’s behavior.

Just as we do not see the fruit of the spirit in atheists, we also do not see the effects on culture that come from a Christian consensus (such as compassion, care, love), we do not see the character of Christ. American atheists were not the generators of such things as education, hospitals, the Red Cross and etc. These flowed from the Christian consensus and base.

Gal 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."


So a word of caution! Be careful not to entangle yourself in debate with a person whose heart’s desire is to deny and destroy God. It might be helpful to point out that his behavior evidences and proves the Christian worldview he so desires to destroy. However our ultimate purpose in "debating" (speaking with) an atheist must be to share the Gospel. Romans 1:16a "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes". The Gospel is the message that we have been sent to spread, and thus when we speak with unbelievers it should be our goal to bring up the Gospel and explain what Christ did on the cross.

It is important to remember that we must pity these fellow human beings who have not seen the Light of Christ for they cannot stop their behavior or alter it. They cannot be civil and demonstrate the character of a God-fearer. They are in a state that we would still be in if it were not for God’s grace.

1 Peter 3:15 "…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence"

Pastor Don Landis, president of Jackson Hole Bible College, teaches two weeks of practical apologetics, addressing issues such as described above, as the conclusion of the one-year biblical foundations course at JHBC. Visit the website to learn more about this unique school:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for addressing this issue. Being a lady, it took extra assurance of God's call before stepping out when I knew creationists are in the cross hairs of the Enemy.
    God is faithful and I've found when there's a group of praying Christians behind me and I remember it is the Holy Spirit's job to "compel" people to come to Jesus, it is an exciting place to be working in.
    The harvest truly is great.
    Remembering Romans 8:28 helps a lot, too!