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August 28, 2006

Comments

Ya know, I've been thinking about this myself lately. I would like to believe that I would not deny the Messiah, but I know I would struggle because of my son. He's 14 months old and losing me would mean something to me and to him.

I would certainly not mind going Home, but I want to raise my son, see him ride a bike, play little league and then end up as the starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox (doing theological debates in the off-season, of course). I guess it shows an attachment to this world.

I too thought about this, but have no good answers. What does Greg think?

I think you've pretty much summed up the issues. I do however think there is good scriptural testimony that one can deny Christ, and still be saved. With this, I think that we should weigh the situation from an eternal perspective. Can we be used of God to save more being alive, rather that just the Muslim extremist? Also, if one had a family, he is then responsible for that family. That has to be taken into consideration.

I go with the Westminster Cathecism:

"Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever."

Such things as christian witness and saving souls are only secondary objectives. Their goal is the same: glorifying God. He can manage all that other stuff Himself, through other people, angels or whatever.

To abandon our chief end in pursuit of possible secondary ends would seem foolish to me. I don't think it even matters if the captors themselves recognize the martyrdom or not. They could get sudden amnesia five minutes later and it would still be totally worth it, because God, angels and demons would see it.

Here's an interesting question arising from the dilemma:

If you denied Christ and were allowed to live, does that mean God must have a reason for preserving you?

If you refused to deny Christ and died, does that mean God no longer has a reason for preserving you?

You can slice it and dice it any way you want, but the question seems to really be whether or not "its your time to go when its your time to go."

>but the question seems to really
>be whether or not "its your time
>to go when its your time to go."

King Hezekiah's case is interesting, since God said that it was his time to go, but he prayed that he would live longer. Then 2Ch 32:25 says:
--
32:25 But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.
--

Up until that time Hezekiah's life had been as blameless as it gets for fallen people. Hezekiah did repent, but I can't help but wonder, if this serves as a lesson for us. That it is sometimes possible to postpone God's chosen time, but it is not a good idea.

Couldn't this same question be put to many of those listed in "Fox's Martyrs" (i think i got the title of the book correctly)? As I read many of those accounts, most of them could have saved themelves from a very painful death (burning at the stake for example) by just simply complying with the torturers demands. Then when released, they could have said what Steve Centanni had said. After all, that was all that was being asked of many of the Christian Martyrs in that book.

And yet, how can you not help but be inspired and uplifted and strengthened by the examples of our courageous Christian brothers who are not willing to deny Christ under any circumstances? Especially when only one word could free them so that they could continue to live and be with their loved ones?

One more observation: Let's hypothetically assume that one of our children were in the hands of a murderer or a molester. And let's pretend that the murderer says to our child that he will release them if they would only deny and reject us (the parents).

Now let's assume that our child decides that he loves us so much, that even under pain of death, he will not reject us or deny us, and is therefore murdered. Now, the loss would be horrible for us to handle... but what would our feelings be if we learned that our son or daughter decided to accept death than reject us? I can't speak for others, but as for me, I would imagine I would be incredibly touched beyond words to know that my child loved me so much, that they would refuse to deny me, but instead choose death. That where actions speak louder than words, they decided to prove it with their lives. Wow.

Even though the conversion is obviously a sham, doesn't it serve a powerful propaganda purpose for the enemy? The captors are clearly (I assume) willing to die for their worldview. The reporters weren't. What does that say about the resolve of the Muslim forces v. the West? What good is a worldview if one is not willing to die for it? Just a thought that I didn't see addressed.

This is a difficult question, but I think it is for reasons not expressed here. It seems clear to me the correct choice, it is choosing that route which is difficult.

While the idea of making false statements while under duress seems justifiable, when should it stop? If you lived in Iran, would you deny your faith to get a job to feed your family?

Also, why recant your former conversion? Is it because you were only bowing to external pressures before, or is it the recanting which is the product of external pressures? Once we have poven ourselves to be untruthful in what is most important, how much trust should we recieve?

Finally, as a fairly newly married man, I hate the thought of leaving my wife alone, unable to support her. I don't have children, I can only imagine the feeling to be magnified. Finally comes the question of, "Would I be of more service to God if I were alive?"

Since I am not God, I cannot speak for His plans for our and our families lives. However, I must submit that God does not need me. I'd like to think so, but He doesn't. Whether I live and become a preacher, or am shot, buried in an unmarked grave, and never heard from, God's plans will not be thwarted. So, faced with this difficult decision, I'd have to turn to my trust in God. Obey Him with my honesty, and trust Him to take care of the rest.

The Christian faith examined this issue before. As much as I hate the idea, their question was not "should I recant?", but rather "can people who have recanted EVER be allowed back into the church?"

William...
I am curious as to why you would ask that. Is their a biblical passage that says that a recanter should not be accepted by the church? I am familiar with the Hebrews passage concerning "those who have fallen away, but it says that "it is impossible to renew them to repenntacne, sicne they again crucify the Christ and put him to open shame..."

That is about their attitude, not ours towards them, and the context is different anyway. Perhaps there is something I am not considering?

Thanks!

My typing is abhorrant!

I am reminded of Daniel's friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

Here is a story of one forced to deny his Lord. A Rwandan Man's Confession: by Dr. Bob Moorehead

In 1980 a young man from Rwanda was forced by his tribe to either renounce Christ or face certain death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was killed on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room:

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed, the die has been cast, I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made- I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, worldly talking, cheap giving & dwarfed goals.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.

I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till everyone knows, work till He stops me & when He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me because my banner will have been clear.”

Thought provoking Melinda - I've been asking myself similar questions. I've linked you and added my own thoughts in my post. Click on my name for this comment( hope that's ok - you don't appear to have trackbacks).

Let's take it this hypothesis to the extreme then, to examine if there is any circumstance under which it is "acceptable" to temporarily deny Christ, if only for show.

What if it were not you held hostage, but your loved ones? Their captors give you a choice -- publicly deny Christ, or they die in the slowest and most torturous way possible.

Although this is (hopefully) hypothetical, I also would wonder how Greg (or anyone else) would respond. Myself, I really don't know. It seems this would be a much tougher choice than if I were the one under the gun.

Any thoughts?

Followers of Jesus ought to be wise. Christians are rewarded in heaven for being wise. STR is about knowledge, wisdom, and character. Dying because some Muslims want you to say you reject Jesus is not always the wise thing to do. Is saying that you reject Christ to Muslims rejecting Christ? In many cases I don’t think it would be. If one is really doing the maximal or greater good, then why call it evil and blame him or her for it? In that case, he or she is doing a good, indeed, the greatest good possible in that situation. For example, If a person could live and not die and accomplish far more for the cause of Christ as living apologist, it wouldn’t be wise to die for a couple of Muslims. The contemporary Muslim example is different than the early Christian persecutions because we are living in a different society than the early Christians that were persecuted. We are living in a society that needs living apologist more than dead Christians that told a couple of Muslims that they are supposedly no longer Christians. It is absolutely crucial that we have living apologist because our society has become enormously anti-intellectual. Living apologists are insulin, not ice cream. Melinda, do you agree with my view? Does anybody agree?

Didn't Peter deny Christ three times? If one of these guys denied Christ and then when he gets back home professes his faith in Jesus, what's the outcome? Is he now going to hell or is our salvation based on something that happens outside of us, like Christ's life, death and resurection!

I Think if we deny Christ our whole life then we are not saved. It's noble to die by not denying Christ, but how does that act save us? Our we now saved by works?

I thought about this while reading about their release this morning. As you said, we don't know if either of them was a Christian, but the problem theyt have now is that they cannot deny their new "faith". Muslims have a tendency to want to kill those who leave their faith, even if they were forced to convert in the first place.
Jesus died for me, I must be willing to die for him. I only pray that I would be strong enough to do so should that day ever come.

This link has an interesting take on this story. It's called "Hellpoint Christianity:"

http://planetpreterist.com/news-5052.html#cmnts

I have always envied those, that have been put in this position, refused to deny Christ, and killed because of that. In just few moments their lives have become more meaningful than mine is likely to ever be.

A few months back when a visiting pastor from Australia came, we discussed this question. The pastor shared with us what his mentor told him...

It's plain and simple - "you will never die for something tomorrow which you are not willing to live for today."

I think the moment we ponder at gunpoint what is the right thing to do, we lost our stand already.

I would guess that Jesus would want us to deny them because of Him, and if they killed us, so be it.

But, of course, who knows what you would really do when the gun is at your temple.

Unfortunately, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us deny Christ on a daily or weekly basis and we don't lose our salvation...although we weaken our witness.

What happened to the journalists was a form of torture, and the US and many allies recognize that giving out information (in this case) under torture could not be considered a traitorous act. So I'm not sure I'd make that big of an issue of it.

The nobel thing would be to die, it would also send a message to the muslims that Christians are willing to die for their cause also.

But I would never condemn someone for being afraid to do it, not knowing how I would act if the gun were turned on me. And certainly they would not lose their salvation if they had it to begin with, how can we take away something that God gave us?

This from T.S. Eliot:

"The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a
man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far
in practice he will stake his life on his belief."

We should die for Christ! I pray that I will willingly and lovingly do it, and I think I really would and could. I should not worry about my wife or children...God loves them more that I do. My ministry can be done by others that God can appoint. I really can't wait to get to heaven!

But the poster above threw and whole nuther wrench in the cogs when he asked

"What if it were not you held hostage, but your loved ones? Their captors give you a choice -- publicly deny Christ, or they die in the slowest and most torturous way possible."

Ouch...that just messes with my head...I'm totally thrown off balance and can't think of anything Godly about watching my family die. All of my bravery and all of my complete faith that I would instantly meet God does no good in this situation. Help me God never ever to have to deal with this.

God will never give us more than we can handle...if He gives it to me I will be able to handle it. I'll know what to do then...but right now I have a head ache just thinking about that.

I guess my thinking on this right now, is that I can't seem to call out in my head anywhere in the bible where it teaches that we are specifically called to give up our lives instantaneously. I can think of a few passages such as, "Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends", and "and if you keep your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life, you will save it". Does this mean we are to be martyred? Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not against martydom.

A Christian apologist must ask if he or she would die for Christ if he or she had a good reason to hold that Christ would want him or her to die for Him in a particular situation. A Christian apologist ought to answer yes to the aforementioned question. However, God doesn’t hold the position that it is wise to die for some contempory Muslims that want you to “deny Him” if in your soul you knew you would try to accomplish the greatest good possible for the cause of Christ by living life on earth as opposed to dying at the hands of the contemporary Muslims. I’m arguing that in our contempory society a Christian apologist doesn’t have a good reason to die for some Muslims in the type of situation that Melinda has described in the STR blog. Our contempory society needs apologists because many people in our society are epistemological relativists and moral relativists among other things. In this situation that I have been describing, in this situation that involves an apologist at least, I think that a contempory Christian apologist could tell the Muslims that he or she is supposedly “denying Christ” at gun point and the Christian apologist would be doing the right thing. Christ would be more pleased with an apologist if he or she did not die at the hands of the Muslims in the situation that I have been describing because the Christian apologist would be advancing the cause of Christ in the most effective way by living as opposed to dying. I’m arguing that there is at least some cases, particularly in our contemporary society, that a person could say that he or she is supposedly “denying Christ” to contempory Muslims and please God at the same time. Our contempory church needs apologist more than it needs martyrs. I could be wrong about this.

I would agree with that last comment. Given the situation.
Dave-

Comtempory splemporary...whatever. God is not pleased with lies, not the weak at heart. Surely he would be pleased with your faith if, at gunpoint you would not deny Him. And He could also save you from death if you were that "Glorified Apologist" that this world could not live without.

But alas, who of us knows how brave they are as we sit behind these keyboards. I think to NOT DENY CHRIST for any reason ever, is the right answer. Hope I've got it in me if the occasion arises.

I don't buy the ambassador argument. There was a serious shortage of worshippers of God in Babylon, much worse than of ambassadors today, and what does Daniel do when the prohibition of prayer comes? He goes right ahead and PROVOKES the killers by opening the windows when he prays. And his ol' pals agree: better to go to the furnace. They actually say, that God might not save them, and it would still be the right thing to do. ("But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.")

Converting to islam is not signing on some dotted line. It involves saying "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet", which is just about as explicit denial of Christ as it gets.

How in the world does one manage to nab the "jim@aol.com" email address? You must have been with them for a million years...

"How in the world does one manage to nab the "jim@aol.com" email address? You must have been with them for a million years..."

This, I think, is the more important question. Who is Jim? And what kind of uber-geek is he that he early adopted the new fangled interweb technology? Does he know what "baud" is?

I am going to tell my husband and sons tonight that if they are ever faced with the choice of denying Christ or allowing me to be tortured and/or killed, that it would be my highest honor to be tortured or die so that the name of Christ could be lifted up by their testimony. I would be severely disappointed if they chose to save my earthly life by denying Christ. I think they will respond in the same way.

PS I have lived in the Muslim land where my husband (a Muslim convert) grew up, and personally have known a Muslim convert killed for his faith. My experience of persecution for claiming the name of Christ while there (being denied the job I was hired for when I got there) has always brought great joy to my soul because it was a pure form of suffering for Christ: no human motives, purely for naming the name of Christ. What followed was so much beyond what I could ever have planned...God is sovreign and knows what He is doing.

Personally, the question "should I recant of my trust in Christ" is rhetorical, a resounding NO!! I have not been in a situation like this, so for these men, if they were Christian, will more or less be treated like Peter was treated by our Lord. "Feed my sheep."

I have a question in the form of an illustration. What if a Christian was walking down the street in California as opposed to some Muslim part of the world? Let’s say that some man randomly pulled out a gun on the aforementioned Christian. The man tells the Christian “You must say you deny Christ or I will shoot you.” The man with the gun could simply be on drugs, he could be mentally ill, or maybe he doesn’t like Christians. What if you said “I won’t deny Christ” then the man with the gun shoots and a bullet hits some random pedestrian. What should the Christian do if he or she has a gun pulled on him in the aforementioned situation? What if we use same circumstances I described above but the Christian is a security guard on duty. In this case, the man with the gun points the gun at the security guard. The guard’s main job is to deter and prevent violence at the store he is guarding. However, in this illustration the guard doesn’t comply with the man’s request to supposedly “deny Christ.” As a result, the man shoots and a bullet hits a random pedestrian. What should the California security guard have done when told “You must deny Christ or I’m going to shoot you?”

I certainly see a whole bunch of philosophical thinking going on here but how about a little more biblcial thinking?

Matthew 10:33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

Daniel 3

I could go on but you get the point. Also I'm glad someone brought up the early church and all of those that died for their faith. Their families included. Some of them suffered more then those that get shot to death or their head chopped off which now seems like the common way of killing Christians. Of course in some countries people get acid thrown on them and have to live the rest of their lives here on earth with scars and pain.

For my own part, the crisis situation may be easier to deal with then the chronic day to day failures I face in my own walk and life. Being a witness is difficult at any time especially as I am aware of all my own questions and internal contradictions. And it's all too easy (for me, anyway) to fall into the trap of acting responsible for someone else's feelings, prejudices, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and hatred toward God (and thus me). Yet I believe the Creator of the universe revealed Himself to humanity in the incredible life (John 21:25) of the person Jesus.

The earlier post suggesting a california security guard capitulate to a terror threat for the sake of others safety is not something I would agree with doing. But it is also something I would not see as very wrong. Again, I am a bundle of contradictions. Why should a single mistake in judgment as to one's witness be so much more severe than the day to day witness that one struggles with everyday?

I don't respect any questions made at gunpoint. As Christ held Peter harmless for answers given in fear, so too we should ignore answers made by our brothers at gunpoint. Anything else gives too much power to terrorists. We must say to them conversions at gunpoint are a joke and everyone in the world knows it.

Lies are wrong...always, be it to save face, save your job or save your life. Lies are just wrong.

We all lie...each and every one of us lie.

Our salvation is not based on how brave we are, but our witness is based on that, and many other variables.

It's best for the sake of our witness to deny Islam and stick with Christ...even if it means death.

To those who have the brass to do it, they should do it without hesitation. Christ will forgive them, and we also should forgive them.

I meant to save, "And to those who find they don't have the brass Christ will forgive them, and we also should forgive them."

Will, Is it true that lies are always wrong? What about the Nazi example. For example, let’s say that you were living during the Holocaust. You are hiding a group of Jewish people in your home for their protection. The Nazis ask “Are you hiding anybody we might be looking for?” Would it be wrong to lie to the Nazis if they asked you if you were hiding some Jewish people?

"Comtempory splemporary...whatever. God is not pleased with lies, not the weak at heart"

Hi Dave. The first part of that statement is a little rude. It is writing off what someone has to say. It is okay to disagree, but to treat someones thoughts with such an attitude is a great disrespect to them.

Furthermore, as further elicited later, there may well be times when lies are very much what God is please by. The prostitute in Jericho hiding the prophets of God for instance, was one such case where someone is not only praised for it, but even rewarded for it.
Some "dishonest" behavior is not without honor. Examining the bigger picture is valid.

I suppose on a world view where your own righteousness saves you, such a denial is unthinkable, but let's face it. We do a lot more to deny Christ by degrees every day that we live. Every sin, on our part is a denial of Him. His response to us... more grace.

I do not deserve such a lavish love and forgiveness, but God chooses to glorify himself in showing me his mercy. I only hope that I can offer Him more fo the worship of loving obedience as a response... it will be found more in the living than in the dying.

so there's my piece/peace

The finisher I forgot to put at the end of the previous post...

The statement I am trying to make is that the question riginally posed is relevant, but it is more relevant to ask ourselves if we deny Him by our actions every day...

okay, go read somehing brilliant now. :D

Hi Joe,
"Comtempory splemporary...whatever. God is not pleased with lies, not the weak at heart" I agree with you Joe, “The first part of that statement is a little rude. It is writing off what someone has to say. It is okay to disagree, but to treat someones thoughts with such an attitude is a great disrespect to them.” Good point. I learned a lot from all of the comments but that “Comtmpory splemporary” remark was the kind of thing that leads to more harm than good.

Does anyone know if the two released men are Christians? I haven't seen anything that confirms one way or another.

If they are Christian, it is interesting that it has not been discussed in a way that would make it an opportunity for witness on their part?

Hey Joe,

You said
"Furthermore, as further elicited later, there may well be times when lies are very much what God is please by."

I don't think lies ever please God, the attitude of the heart of the prostitute in Jericho was what really pleased God. She did what was right to protect the people of Isreal, and risked her own life to do it. If a Christian lied by denying Christ to save his own life, well the attitude of the heart is totally different if you can follow that logic.

Anyways, excuse the "Comtempory splemporary...whatever" comment, it was some of my rather sarcastic humor at work, no harm meant.

Joe, sorry for my brevity which led to confusion, and for taking SO long to read this message board. I wasn't asking that question myself; I was quoting the early Christian Church. I believe I know the answer: we should confront such people, then accept their repentance. There's explicit commands to follow that procedure, and to repeat the forgiveness as many times as needed.

My point is that the Church has already had to face this problem, and they didn't consider it a dilemma. They held that denying Christ is far worse than losing your life. Their dilemma was simply whether to accept a denier back into the Church.

And yes, the Hebrews passage was important to many of them. I don't believe it means that, though; I believe it's a counterfactual statement used to prove a point, rather than a spiritual law. (If it had been a spiritual law, it would have to be a major doctrine, and it has no support in any other text; on the other hand, if viewed as a counterfactual, it forms a valid logical argument that affirms truths taught elsewhere and emphasises the superiority of Christ over the religion of the temple.)

-Billy

The first part of this illustration is from the book Matters of Life and Death by Francis J. Beckwith and Norman Geisler. I added the other part of the illustration. The authors ask, is martyrdom the same as committing suicide? The authors say “No. A martyr is commanded to renounce his/her faith or face execution. It is not the martyr’s intent to die but to stand firm for personal belief against the threat of death. They ask is suicide ever morally justified. They say “Yes, but in very rare circumstance when a higher good is at stake. Take the following case as an example. Suppose a CIA agent is captured by the enemy and he knows that they will give him sodium-penathol (a drug which will make him tell the truth). And on taking this drug the agent knows that he will reveal secrets whose exposure to the enemy will result in the death of ten thousand innocent women and children…we are saying that since it is a higher moral obligation to save ten thousand, to take the cyanide tablet is to act in accordance with a higher law. Preserving life is good in itself; it needs no outside justification.” My question is What if the enemy said to the CIA agent “If you deny your Christian faith the ten thousand women and children will not die.” Let’s assume that the enemy is telling the truth. What should the Christian CIA agent do? Should the agent save the ten thousand lives by “denying” his faith or should the agent not “deny” his Christian faith even though that would result in the death of ten thousand innocent people? What would please God the most? What’s the right thing to do? It is clear that the agent Should save the ten thousand innocent people? Thanks for your comments.

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