Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Good Night Ravi-Ji

I came in contact with Ravi Zacharias’ work when I was doing a research on a topic to share here at Evergreen Word of Life. As God would have it, I was also going through a crisis in my personal life. I had so many questions to ask but could not find anybody to ask. When I began to listen to Ravi’s messages, like a candle wax before a burning flame, all the questions began to melt away.

Something else happened. All the while, I knew that God did not call me to enter the normal mold of the Christian ministries around me. I knew that God called me into teaching and writing and to be a Christian apologist but I didn’t know what it all entailed. Ravi Zacharias International Ministries helped to open my eyes and sharpen this ministry which I am doing today. I attended the Core Module Course about a year ago which God used to further shape what He is doing in my life.

Ravi was an epitome of knowledge. He had a good command of the English language and vocabularies. I learnt several names of scholars from him from different areas of study – humanity, philosophy, anthropology, theology etc. I began to study names like C.S Lewis, Malcom Muggeridge, G.K Chesterton etc because of how he quoted from them. He was a scholar that had respect for other scholars even when he disagreed with them. Most of his works in my study include: The Logic of God, The Grand Weaver, Can man live without God and Nabeel’s book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. I can’t explain how he could quote from hymns, poems and excerpts from several works from memory even at old age, apart from the enormous grace that was upon him. The Poem by the Elementary School Teacher made great impact on me:

He came to my desk with a quivering lip, the lesson was done.
“Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted
and gave him a new one all unspotted.
And into his tired heart I cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

I went/came to the throne with a trembling heart;
the day was done.
“Have you a new day for me, dear Master?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
He took my day, all soiled and blotted
and gave me a new one all unspotted.
And into my tired heart he cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

He taught me not to be afraid to reason and to question. From him I learnt the reasonableness of the faith that we profess and how to be bold to defend it before anybody no matter how hostile they may be with all gentleness and respect. I learnt that self-protectionism is counter-productive to Christianity. When the Christian teaching is brought out in the court of ideas, it gives adequate answers to life’s problems in a way no other worldview can.

Ravi Zacharias was a Christian evangelist with passion for souls. Like Billy Graham, he presented the Gospel of God’s love in a very simple and uncomplicated manner. He was consistent. His burden for young people who are inundated with atheistic beliefs made him to start the Refresh Program which focuses on those entering College. He continually emphasized on the virtue of humility as the vehicle upon which apologetics moves. Each time he quoted 1 Peter 3:15-16, he would emphasize on the first part of verse 15 and verse 16 which deals with our heart and our attitude. “In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” ESV. He said that the world does not just want the Gospel that is heard, but the Gospel that is seen, because oftentimes, our lives speak louder than our words.

Ravi, I am grateful that God brought me in contact with you and your ministry. Thank you for the things you taught us during your lifetime. You are the inspiration behind the upcoming ministry area we are launching soon, Christian Apologetics: Difficult Questions, Adequate Answers.  We cannot but continue to do our part and to finish well as you have done. I conclude this piece with a few stanzas from Richard Baxter’s hymn which the daughter Sarah, said Ravi recited in January 4, 2020:

“Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?

Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Savior’s praise.
My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ‘tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.”

Good night Ravi-Ji.

Re: We are all atheists by Leo Igwe

My attention is drawn to the article written by the humanist scholar, Leo Igwe, in Sahara Reporters of 13th May 2020 where he argued that “we are all atheists”. This my piece is more of a response to the philosophical underpinnings of his argument than to the issues he raised in his discourse.

First of all, I want to state clearly that I believe in people’s right to life, freedom of conscience, expression and association because I believe that God has endowed human beings with these inalienable rights and freewill; they are made in His image. Every human being has essential worth, therefore, violation of any of these rights for any reason, whether religious or otherwise, is a violation of God’s purpose for humanity. If God allowed Adam and Eve to exercise their freewill in the Garden of Eden, I believe it is against His plan for any man to dictate, force or punish any man because of belief or disbelief, as the case may be. Hence, I join to call for the release of Mubarak Bala who was arrested in connection with posts that he made on Facebook which was alleged to have insulted the prophet of Islam, Mohammed. Though I may disagree with his lack of sensitivity and respect for his Muslim neighbours, he has right to life. He has right to defend himself in a competent court of law without molestation or persecution.

Having said that, my focus is on the author’s statement, “we are all atheists” and his line of argument that brought him to that conclusion. It presents to be a very flawed argument. The reasons are obvious to every thinking person that reads in-between the lines.

First, the author is influenced by his concept of God – he seems to believe that God is a human idea that people use to fill up the gaps for anything they do not understand, hence his coining of the word Allah-god and Christian god in his discourse. It shows either a gross misunderstanding of those words or the usual atheist’s irreverence towards God. Almost in every language, there exists the consciousness of the Almighty God. Though they may have names for several gods, they have a name reserved for the Almighty. In Igboland where I suppose the author is from, there are many names for different gods but one is reserved for the Creator – Chineke. Chineke is in His own class, as it were, among the gods as the God who created the Universe. Allah actually is the name used for the Almighty God by both Arabic Christians and Muslims, though their connotations may be different just like when the Igbos use the word Chi. When you mention Chi, you can be asked a further question, which Chi? It will help your listener to understand which you are referring to. The writer majors his arguments on these differences in connotations and misunderstands the use of the word God in different languages. This perhaps explains why he mixed everything up when he gave his listings of the gods worshiped in different cultures. So he was not only playing with words, he was also displaying that he does not understand the relationship between the use of those words for the gods and the word used for the Almighty God.

Secondly, atheism by its definition does not accommodate belief in any god.  By saying that we are all atheists, he negates the common understanding of the word, atheism, as defined by atheists themselves – “a rejection of the assertion that there are gods”. By saying “all Muslims are atheists, even though all atheists are not Muslims”, the author accommodates the possibility of having an atheist who is a theist of a sort but not a Muslim. The author’s accommodation of belief, at all, in any god shows the confusion that exists within their set of belief or disbelief, whatever the atheist accepts. It is more of a moral issue, where the person has chosen to believe that there is no God or to deny the existence of God, despite all the evidences. Therefore, it is not because there is no God that the atheist believes in atheism, but because that is the choice he has made.

Again, the argument that “atheism entails a lack of belief in a god or gods. Muslims believe in Allah but do not believe in other gods like Ogun. Therefore, Muslims are also atheists” does not have logical consistency based on the definition of the terms. It self-destructs and falls like a pack of cards. It violates the law of rational inference in logic. You cannot say, “I have ears. Elephants have ears, therefore I am an elephant”. That two things have one thing in common does not mean that they have everything in common a. Someone may be an unbeliever in Ogun or Amadioha but the fact that he believes in the God of the Bible, for example, disqualifies him from being an atheist. Atheism, by its definition, is not defined in relation to any god as the author tends to portray. It is a lack of believe in gods or according to IEP, the view that there is no God b. So, in my view, the author over-generalized when he concluded, “we are all atheists”. The truth is that, we are not all atheists.

In conclusion, I posit that it is only in the Judeo-Christian worldview can the virtues the author tends to promote can and indeed have survived. God gives essential worth to every human being. You cannot violate someone’s life because you do not like him or because you do not believe what he believes. God has His image on every human being, hence as free moral agents, everyone should be free to make his decisions. Yes, our decisions have consequences, but they must be made out of freewill and not out of compulsion. I call on the author to examine authentic and biblical Christianity with an open mind and he will discover that the life and teachings of Christ worth believing and following. C.S. Lewis once said “If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.” c.

Finally, in addressing my fellow Christians, we must pay attention to what our Lord Jesus taught us. The gullibility, merchandise, arrogance and loveless behaviours we exhibit today are strange to the Gospel of Jesus and cannot allow us to effectively be His witnesses in this world that is in so much need. We must go back to missions and social work. This gap in identifying with the existential issues of our time makes the modern mind to view Christianity as not being relevant to their day-to-day life struggles. We built hospitals, schools, leproseums, refuge homes for the most vulnerable of the society, rescued twins, championed the stoppage of slavery etc etc. Where are those social actions today, especially in Africa and within the Nigerian church? This is a food for thought. When we resemble our Lord, it will be easier for the believer to think and the thinker to believe.

a.       Zacharias R. (2019). The 3.4.5 Grid. Lecture at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Academy, RZIM. https://www.rzim.org/page/academy-core-module
b.       Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP). Atheism. Online at https://www.iep.utm.edu/atheism/. Accessed 19/05/20.
Lewis, C.S. (1970). God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), 108-109.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Personal Development during the Pandemic Lockdown

It is obvious that the Coronavirus is not going away soon. The world will learn to live with it for some time before the last trace clears. Everybody is adjusting and adapting. Companies are taking new decisions. Nations are developing fresh policies on how to continue to function in the midst of it  and revive their battered economies to avoid a more devastating social breakdown. The truth is that the world will not remain the same. The question that bothers me is, "is the church thinking? Shall we be ready for post COVID-19 or do we think it is going to be business as usual?" Anyway, that is an issue for another day. My focus now is to stir my readers up to prepare for what is ahead.

As you are in this lockdown, what are you doing with your time? Sleep? Watch movies? Play games? Then hop to your laptop and throw out one email to convince your hierarchy that you are working hard? Day in, day out? That may be one of the worst things to do to one's self. You have to develop ways to maximize this period so that you come out of this period better prepared.

Post COVID-19 Pandemic, there will still be opportunities, but they will be available for those who prepared themselves. A greater percentage of the populace will come out the same way at the same level pursuing the available limited opportunities. But a few who added some skills to their skill set will separate themselves from the crowd and receive more attention.

There is no gainsaying that most companies have discovered the benefits of working virtual. Some that used to pay on monthly basis may resort to hourly rate basis since they have learnt that it is more profitable for them when some of their staff work from home on adhoc basis. Emphasis will be laid on value instead of time. Most union agitations will not make sense because obviously, everybody will be adjusting. Because things will pick up slowly, it means that some people may not be able to retain their current jobs. How do you prepare?

1. Enroll in Online Courses most of which are cheap and free of charge. Example: LinkedIn e-learning, Google e-learning, MS in Financial Engineering offered by WorldQuant University, Udemy Education Courses, Coursera etc. Use that Internet Data to do online courses instead of just Social Media.
2. Learn new hard skills on you own like Musical Instruments, Disc Jockey (DJ) etc using online guides.
3. Attend Webinars to horn in your skills in your profession.
4. Engineers can learn AutoCAD, Primavera P6, Project Management/Project Controls, Unanet Risk Analysis, etc.
5. Attend Training and upgrade from Occupational Safety to Technical Safety. Attend training according to your profession like Data Analysis etc
6. Pastors can enroll to obtain Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Theology or Management etc etc.

The truth is that we can all do something about our personal development now. Make that choice today, focus and you will be glad you did.
God bless you.