Friday, March 20, 2015

I.S.I.S.’s War on Middle East Christians

Christians Under Siege: There's no time to waste, we must act now

Stephen Andrew Missick has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has visited Aramaic-speaking Assyrian Christian communities along the Khabour River Valley in Eastern Syria-communities that are now under attack by ISIS. Who are these Christian groups being attacked by ISIS? What can Christians in America do to help-to find out more come to lecture presented by Stephen Missick -


Meeting at the Nathaniel Center, 804 Russell Palmer, Kingwood, Texas


March 26, 2015, Thursday, 7 P.M., In the Large Hebrew Classroom upstairs. For more information call 281-592-4104 or email

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Emergent Church

While America Evangelicalism becomes more diverse, new leadership representing the diversity is emerging.

In a recent edition of “Christianity Today” it was discovered that favorite authors of Christians in Africa are Ben Carson, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Joyce Meyer. (See “Christianity Today,” October 2014, p. 22). This indicates that leading American Evangelistic pastors carry a lot of influence in Africa. This will probably be the case for some time to come. What this indicates is that these men and women need to consider that Africa is a part of their audience and thus they need to speak to Africa.

In the same edition of Christianity today there is an article about Asian American Christians entitled “Silent No More: Asian American Christians are Growing in Influence and Audience. Will They be Embraced by Their Broader Church Family?” by Helen Lee (Christianity Today, October, 2014, 39-47). This was the cover story. The article contained some interesting facts such as the Asian American community is made up of 34 nationalities, there are 7,123 Asian American churches and six ethnic groups, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, Indian, and Japanese make up 83% of Asian Americans.

In God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World written by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, who are both journalists for the Economist, the authors visit an illegal but tech-savvy Chinese house church, and find the Bible study leader who seems to be heavily influenced by the prosperity gospel (pages 1-4). In my opinion, that is bad theology, but probably not surprising to find these ideas in a culture that is attempting to become an economic superpower. (Brother Yun, the “Heavenly Man,” has written about his experiences in the Chinese house-church movement and the persecution that he has endured.)

As America and the world becomes more diverse, leadership is emerging that represents the diversity. This is seen even in the Republican Party. Nikki Haley is an Asian American from a Sikh background who is the Republican governor of South Carolina. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, governor of Louisiana, is from a Punjabi background. Both Haley and Jindal have converted to Christianity. (However, apparently Haley practices both Christianity and Sikhism.) African American leadership is also starting to emerge in the Republican Party with Allen West, Mia Love (a Mormon), and Herman Cain. (Ben Carson is now a Republican candidate for president.) Of course, the Democratic Party prides itself in its diversity.

Ravi Zecharias is an international Evangelist from India, who now resides in Canada. He is now one of the leaders in Christian apologetics.

Michael Youseff of Church of the Apostles in Georgia is a native Arabic speaker born among the Coptic Christians in Egypt. Benny Hinn is a Palestinian Christian, although he rarely admits to this. (Probably due to the strong support for Israel among Evangelicals and the tendency to think ill of Arabs among them.) Walid Shoebat, also a Palestinian, has become a well-known Bible prophecy teacher.

Chinese American Francis Chan has risen to prominence in Evangelical circles with his best-selling books such as “Forgotten God,” which is about the Holy Spirit.

Joseph Prince pastors a mega-church in Singapore. Joseph Prince is half-Sikh and half-Chinese. (Sikhism is a religion and an ethnicity.)

In Korea there is David Yungi Cho (formerly known as Paul Yungi Cho) who has recently emerged from a tax evasion scandal (in which he was fined $5 million). He was the pastor of the world’s largest church that claims 830,000 in its membership! (He is now in semi-retirement.)

Growing up in Southern Evangelical circles, the late Nora Lam was often heard of and a movie about her testimony, entitled “China Cry” was made.  Nora Lam was an evangelist who had to flee persecution in China. Growing up I would hear of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee often. Sometimes people question Nee, Lee, and Prince’s theology-as if they are heretics. I don’t see any serious divergence from Christian orthodoxy in their teachings and it seems to me that the suspicion is upon them because they are “foreign.”

This shows that God is raising up leaders from Korea, India, the Arab world and China, among other places.

Some steps are being made to make the voices coming from the “third world” or the “developing world” to be heard within the Evangelical community.

Africa Bible Commentary is s one-volume commentary written by 70 African Scholars and is the first ever to be produced in Africa by African theologians to meet the needs of African pastors, students, and lay leaders. It was edited by Tokunboh Adeyemo, the executive director of the Centre for Biblical Transformation and has previously served as general secretary for the Association of Evangelicals in Africa. He earned a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary.

There is also a study Bible entitled “The Africana Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures from Africa and the African Diaspora” that features commentary from Africans and African Americans.

God’s Spirit is moving in China. “God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China” by Liou Yiwu and “Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power” by David Aikman both chronicle how Christianity is growing in China. There is some persecution in China. The government wants to control the church through “Three Self” churches. That is churches that are “self-governing, self-supporting (i.e., financial independence from foreigners) and self-propagating.” However, independent and illegal house-churches are thriving.

Evangelicals should have a world vision and should watch for and be open to the way God is moving around the world.

Evangelicals in America need to be loving and accepting of the international body of Christ. One way in which American Christians are not inclusive regards Arabs and Middle Eastern Christians. This is seen in Benny Hinn’s downplaying his Arab identity and claiming to be “Greek.” He is from a Palestinian Greek Orthodox background. Evangelicals tend to blame the existence of Islam upon Abraham’s fathering Ishmael through Hagar. This is an incorrect reading of Scripture. In the Bible God blesses, and doesn’t curse, Ishmael (Genesis 17:20). However, the mistake in interpretation is that Ishmael is not the father of all Arabs, as many falsely suppose. A genealogy of Arabs is found in Genesis 10:21-32, showing that Arabs existed before Abraham. After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah and sired six Arabian tribes through her Genesis 25:1-4. In Abraham’s day, it was acceptable to take a servant as a concubine and have children through her. Today, Abraham’s action is looked upon as sinful and as a lack of faith. It is often preached that Abraham’s lack of faith brought evil, the Arab people, into the world. Each of Abraham’s eight sons became a nation in fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations-and not just one Jewish nation. (Actually, two nations came from Abraham’s son Isaac; Israel and Edom.) From the perspective of many Evangelicals, Abraham conceived Ishmael in sin (although the Bible doesn’t say this). It is difficult to see how Abraham marrying Keturah and having sons through her could be construed as being sinful. What Christians are saying to the Arab people in their misinterpretation of Scripture is that they hate them and wish that they were never born. The Bible says that the Arabs were the first to hear and receive the Gospel (Acts 2:11, Galatians 1:17). Arabs are also confused with Muslims, while not all Arabs are Muslim and most Muslims are not Arab. Unfortunately, these racist, anti-Arab, un-Christian beliefs are deeply engrained in the American Evangelical community and reinforced by the actions of Islamist terrorists. All of this also ignores the fact that there are millions of Arab Christians and large communities of Arab Evangelicals. Christians shouldn’t have hate towards their brothers and sisters in Christ, nor should they twist the Scripture to affirm such false beliefs. Anti-Semitism needs to be fought against. But many Evangelical Christians need to change their attitudes towards their Arab brothers and sisters.

As is seen above God is moving in mighty ways around the world and in minority groups in the United States of America and Canada, but some obstacles remain. There are other similar barriers that exist among American Evangelicals regarding diversity. However, they must be overcome, because Jesus is the Son of Man, which means he is the son of all Mankind, and he died for the whole world, including Arabs, Africans, and Asians, on the cross. Evangelicals need to align themselves with the loving heart of Jesus Christ and accept diversity in the church and welcome the emerging leadership.

Eastern Perspectives: Endo’s Jesus, “Silence,” and “God’s Chinese Son”

Martin Scorsese is finally filming “Silence” a film based on the book by Shusuku Endo about the persecution of Japanese Christians under the Shoguns. (This story recently made the news because someone was killed in an accident on the set.) Scorsese has talked about making this film for decades. (The book has already been adapted to a film in Japan.) Shusuku Endo was a Japanese Catholic Christian.

In this book, Endo chose to tell the story of persecuted Japanese Christians through the perspective of European missionaries. I felt that it would have been better to tell the story through the perspective of the Japanese, as Endo does in "The Samurai" about Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga (or "Francisco Felipe Faxicura", as he was baptized in Spain) who crossed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in a failed hope to bring the Gospel and global trade to Japan, and in "Final Martyrs." 

It would be interesting to see the story of Amakusa Shiro (as told in “The Nobility of Failure” by Ivan Morris). Anakusa Shiro was a teenage Samurai who fought to protect Japanese Christians from persecution. The revolt of Japanese Christians against the oppression is called the Shimabara Rebellion (which took place in the 1630s). Eventually, he was captured and executed. Many Japanese Christians consider him to be a saint. (However, although he died as a martyr, Shiro threatened to return in one hundred years to exact vengeance for his death. Interestingly, Chinese Nestorian Christians also accepted the idea of reincarnation. They preached that Christ freed the believer from the cycle of reincarnation.)

Japan was being won to Christianity through the efforts of Catholic missionaries. The English and the Dutch then convinced the Shogun that the Catholics represented a threat to his rule. (As the result of their Calvinistic beliefs, the British and the Dutch believed that the Japanese were non-Elect and as such, Jesus did not die on the cross for them. The British had strictly financial and trade interests in the East and at the time had no interest in sharing the Gospel with the local peoples, at that time. They viewed the success of Portuguese missionaries as a threat to their economic interests. At this time in history, Catholics engaged in missionary work and Protestants did not. In fact, William Carey was not allowed to Evangelize in British India and the British allowed barbaric customs such as suttee, in which the widow was thrown into her husband’s funeral pyre, to persist for decades under British rule.) As a result, the Shogun brutally suppressed Christianity and closed Japan from any foreign contact (sakoku) until Commodore Perry forced Japan to open up to the rest of the world in 1852-1853. Until that time practice of Christianity was a capital crime.

The long sustained persecution of Japanese Christians devastated the church-however, it did survive. One of the fascinating things about the Japanese is that Japanese Christianity survived underground for centuries.

The Japanese who retained the Christian beliefs and practices, often in garbled forms are called the “Kakure Kirishitan” meaning the “Hidden Christians. (They attempted to write down the Bible stories as best they could. The Kakure Kirishitan scriptures are a very interesting read. It is admirable, how these people maintained their Christian beliefs the best they could, without access to the Bible or missionaries.)

Approximately 30,000 secret Christians, some of whom had adopted these new ways of practicing Christianity, came out of hiding when religious freedom was re-established in the mid-19th century, after Perry’s visit.

(Note: America dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, one of the centers of Japanese Christianity. In fact, ground zero was very near the Urakami Cathedral, which was destroyed in the explosion, but subsequently rebuilt. Many Americans believe that it was necessary to use the atomic bomb to bring a swift end to a long and terrible war. My personal feeling is that, while it may have been necessary to develop the technology for the bomb, lest the Nazis or Communists gain that knowledge first, it should never have been used, especially on civilian targets as it was. I respect other peoples’ opinions, but in mine Hiroshima and Nagasaki repent crimes against humanity. Of course, the Japanese committed many war crimes, as can be seen in the book and the movie “Unbroken,” but a “Christian” civilization should be held to a higher standard. The Japanese who committed atrocities against Mr. Zamperini and others and at the Rape of Nanking should have been arrested and punished. Unfortunately, the man who tortured Mr. Zamperini was able to get amnesty.)

After Japan was opened again to the West, Nicolai Kasatkin was able to found the Japanese Orthodox Church, which flourished until the Russo-Japanese War, but endured through, and survived the conflict. This was due to the respect that Saint Kasatkin was held in by the Japanese. (The Nichorai-do, or Holy Resurrection Cathedral, founded by Saint Kasatkin still stands in Tokyo.)

Endo often wondered why Christianity has never been able to gain ground in Japan. It seems like the one opportunity to win Japan to Christ was blunted by the British and the Dutch. Today, Japan is less than 1% Christian.

Christianity has had several starts in China as well. It thrived in the Nestorian form under the Chinese and Mongolian emperors. Nestorian churches still stand in China. They look like typical pagodas. But this is an example of how Christianity is able to adapt to different cultures. The Nestorian Church declined and endured as a persecuted minority until the small and dwindling Nestorian Chinese were converted to Roman Catholicism. It is interesting that later a form of Christianity almost took over China.

Hong Xiuquan claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ and led the Tiaping Revolution (which took place roughly the same time as the American “Civil” War). His new religion could be described as perhaps a Chinese equivalent to American Mormonism. The story is told in “God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan” by Jonathon Spencer. Hong Xiuquan tried to pass the state test in order to become part of the Chinese bureaucracy. He failed, as did all but 5% of those who took the test.  (At the time, China portrayed itself as a meritocracy in which anyone who passed the state tests could rise in government.) In the height of his power, Hong Xiuquan ruled over 30 million people. However, at least 20 million people in the Tiaping revolt. The Manchu government was able to crush this quasi-Christian revolt, with the help of the British and the French. (So we see that the British were instrumental in crushing Japanese Christianity, and in crushing a large professed Christian movement in China.)

The Chinese government currently holds that the Tiaping revolution did bring needed social reform, such as sexual equality and social justice for peasants.

It is fascinating to see how China and Japan have responded to the Gospel.

Endo’s “Life of Jesus” is a retelling of the story of Jesus from a Japanese perspective. Endo feels that the reason that Japan has been resistant to the Gospel is because of the way it is presented from the patriarchal Western perspective. According to Endo, it is the matriarchal approach that the Japanese would find more appealing. This is surprising seeing that Japan has been a strongly militaristic culture in the past. Endo’s “Life of Jesus” is based on serious historical research. It isn’t as though Endo has created a new Japanese Zen-Buddhist Jesus, in the way that Jesus is seemingly presented as a Taoist sage in some of the “Jesus Sutras” Nestorian Chinese literature.

The movie “Silence” could be effective in telling the story of the terrible persecution that Japanese Christians suffered, a story that many in the West are unfamiliar with, and perhaps encourage people to read Endo’s other works, such as his life of Christ, and look at the Gospel message through a totally different, and non-Western perspective.