Sunday, 25 October 2015

مسیحی شکرگزاری کی بنیاد خدا کی دی ہوئی نجات ہے :خروج ١:١٧-٧


ہم  سب  اس  حوالے  سے  اچھی  طرح واقف ہیں جب خدا چٹان میں سے  پانی  مہیہ کرتا ہے. جب ہم پرانے عہد نامے کا مطالعہ کرتے ہیں  تو خدا  بارے  میں  دو   چیزیں  سامنے  آتی  ہیں: ١) کے وہ قادر مطلق ہے  اور  معجزات  کرتا ہے  اور ٢) وہ غضب سے بھرا ہے. تو جہاں اسنے سمندر  کے دوٹکڑے  کرکے  بنی اسرائیل  کو پار کیا ، وہیں  اسنے مصریوں  کی  لاشوں  کے ڈھیر  لگا دیے

بائبل کے ابتدائی  ابواب  میں خدا فورن سرگرم ہو جاتا ہے اور تورہ  خدا کے قہر  کے اظہار  سے بھری  پڑی  ہے. لیکن ان  تمام واقعات  میں بھی ہم خدا کے رحم  کی بہت  دلچسپ  تصویر  دیکھتے  ہیں.

 بنی اسرائیل خدا کو آزما  رہے  ہیں پانی کی شکایت  کرکے. لیکن یہ بہت عجیب بات ہے، کیونکہ بائبل میں درج معجزات کی ایک  اچھی تعداد  پانی کے معجزات ہیں. وہ خود پانی کو پار  کرکے مصر  سے نکل آے ، اور بحر قلزم کے دو  حصے  کرنے  والے  سے کہ رہے ہیں کے تو ہمیں پانی فراہم  نہیں کرسکتا! یہ صاف کفر ہے. 

لیکن بات یہاں ختم نہیں ہوتی. آیت  ٣ میں وہ کہتے ہیں کے ہمارے جانور مر جاینگے . کیا وہ تیسری آفت  کو  بھول  گئے ، جہاں خدا نے مصر  کے  جانور ماردیے  لیکن ان کے  بچالئے ؟ اور پھر یہ کہنا کے ہمارے بچے جاینگے ، جبکے  خدا نے مصر کے پہلوٹھے مارے اور انکے بچالئے . آپ سوچ رہے ہونگے یہ کیسے ناشکرے لوگ ہیں. پر کیا بھی ایسے نہیں؟ اپنی زندگی میں خدا کے بیشمار کام دیکھنے کے بعد بھی ہم روزمرہ کے حالات  دیکھ کر ہم نہ شکرے  ہو جاتے  ہیں.

 ہم   پہلی ٤ آیات میں دکھتے ہیں کے  بنی اسرائیل موسیٰ کے  خلاف اکھٹے ہوجاتے ہیں اور ایسا لگتا ہے کے اسکو مار ہی ڈالینگے! تو اب غضب سے بھرا خدا کیا کرے گا؟

خدا موسیٰ  سے اسکی لاٹھی لانے کو کہتا ہے. لاٹھی بائبل میں سزا کی علامت ہے (زبور ٧:٢، امثال ٢٤:١٣ ). زبور ٣٢ کے چرواہے  کی لاٹھی بھیڑ کی تسلی کا باعس صرف اسلے ہے کیونکہ چرواہا  اس سے جنگلی جانوروں کو مارتا ہے. اور یہاں بھی لاٹھی سے مراد سزا ہے، کیونکہ ہم آیت ٥ دیکھتے ہیں کے خدا موسیٰ سے کہتا ہے کے بزرگوں کو بھی ساتھ لیجا. ایسا لگتا ہے کے کوئی عدالتی  کاروائی ہونے والی ہے. کسی کو سزا ملنے والی ہے. لیکن کسے؟



اصول تو بنی اسرائیل سزا کے حقدار ہیں. اور جب ہم یہی واقعہ  گنتی ٢٠: ١سے ١٣ میں پڑھتے ہیں تو وہاں سزا موسیٰ کو ملتی ہے. پر حیرت کی بات یہ ہے کے خدا یہاں سزا اپنے سر لیتا ہے!

 ، خدا خود اس چٹان پر کھڑا ہے (آیت ٦) جس پر لاٹھی ماری گیئ بلکہ وہ تو خود چٹان ہے (استشنا ٣: ٣٢). اسرائیل نے پانی کی شکایت کر کے خدا کے خلاف گناہ کیا، لیکن وہ سزا جو انکو ملنی چاہیے تھی خود پر لی/ اسے چھڑی ماری گیئ اور ایسے اسرائیل کو پانی میسر ہوا.

 یہ یسوع  کی قربانی کا جو اسنے اس جہاں گناہوں کیلئے دی کی بہت خبصورت تصویر ہے.

 یسوع ہی وہ چٹان ہے جس پر لاٹھی ماری گیئ (١ کرنتھیوں ٤:١٠). اور جب انہی اسرائلیوں کے بچے یسوع کے  خلاف ہوے اور اسے مراونے میں کامیاب ہوتے ، تو اسکی پسلی کو چھیدا گیا اور وہاں سے پانی نکلا ( یوحنا ٣٥:١٩). یہ  پانی صرف اسکی موت کو ظاہر  کرتا ہے.. اصلی پانی تو وہ ہے  جو ہمیں اس پر ایمان لانے کے  وسیلہ سے ملتا یعنی خدا کا پاک روح (یوحنا ٣٧:٧ سے ٣٩).

 یہی بات مسیحیت کو دنیا کے تمام سیاسی اور مذہبی فلسفوں سے ممتاز کرتی ہے. یسوع  صرف روٹی اور پانی کا وعدہ نہی کرتا بلکہ وہ آپ روٹی اور پانی ہے.  ہمارے تمام شخصی  اور سماجی مسائل کا حل صرف یسوع کی ذات ہے. ہماری ضروریات جسمانی ہوتی ہیں، پر وہ ہماری روحانی ضروریات بھی پوری کرنا ہے. اور جب ہم ہمیشہ کی زندگی میں داخل ہو جاینگے، تو کوئی ضرورت باقی ہیں رہے گی. اور یہی ہماری شکرگزاری کی اصل وجہ ہونی چاہیے 



Sunday, 18 October 2015

Peculiarities in Pakistani Christian Theology II

This is a follow-up of a theme that I have picked up in the last couple of days of Christians by and large not thinking their theologies through, using the Pakistani Church as my case study. 

Now before moving on, it is important to state here that theological inconsistency isn't exclusive to Pakistani Christianity (or to Christianity in general). Hence, this post should not be seen as a critique of Christianity with the purpose of inspiring disbelief. In any case, criticisms of organized religion do not logically disprove belief in God. Those who think otherwise are not intellectually mature, IMHO.

Anyway, let's move forward with a few more examples that are very relevant in my culture.

Now one of the most unfortunate trends that I have observed is the fact that Christians are seen as alien race in Pakistan and are often thought  of, like other religious minorities, as non-natives, even though we have been living here for centuries.

I remember in primary school, many kids used to ask me where I am from, why do I sing the national anthem, and whether I only speak English at home etc. Strangely enough, my bank asked whether I also had a foreign account.

But keeping aside the racism and myopia exhibited by the majority community, we also cannot sideline the fact generations upon generations of Christians have not played their part in assimilating in the local culture. 

One can argue that Pakistan has no local culture but a mixture of diverse subcultures, local Christianity being one of them. That is true to a certain extent, but I have enough first-hand experience to know that the "us vs. them" mentality also prevails among Pakistani Christians as well.

In this respect, some linguistic examples can help shed light on the fact of how petty our theological controversies really are. 


Image source: PointIt

In Urdu we have many words for religious poetry set to music, qawali, hamd, naat etc.  

Hamd (حمد) simply means "praise" or "praise of God". And since the Hindu religion and the Sanskrit language have a great influence on our local cultures, there is yet another word for lyrical and musical  worship: Bhajan (भजन)

Both these words are very accurate translations of 'hymn'. But for some reason, Pakistan churches have not assimilated these words in their vocabulary. For the Psalms, we do use accurate transliterations (tehilim, zaboor, or mazmoor), but when it comes to contemporary  worship songs, we tend to use the rather vague گیت (geet).

Geet simply means song, a synonym for گانا (gaana). This is how the dictionary defines it, with no connotations of religious music. But trying calling any worship song گانا , and you will be rebuked, even by the most educated of Christians, that it is a گیت , not a گانا .

How weird is that! But let's move on to a more serious example. 

In Pakistan, people use 2 transliterations of Jesus' name: یسوع (yesu) and عیسیٰ (Isa). عیسیٰ comes to us from the Holy Qur'an, whereas the former comes from the Urdu translations of the Holy Bible. So Muslims commonly use  عیسیٰ  to talk about Jesus, while Christians commonly use یسوع .

Both use the same word for Messiah (مسیح). So Christians refer to themselves (مسیحی ) whereas Muslims refer to us as عسا ئی. Now one would ask Muslims why they don't use the term used for Christians in Holy Qur'an: نصاریٰ (nasara), but that is something they will answer.

In the last couple of years, government officials and media personnel are using مسیحی  instead of عیسا ئی when addressing the Christian population.

Why is that?

Because the Christian community "strongly protests" against the use of عیسا ئی. We are مسیحی  after all, right?

The origin of the controversy lies in 2 Semitic and 1 Hamitic language. The Bible is Hebrew and Greek, while the Qur'an is in Arabic. 

Jesus, being a Jew, had a Hebrew name  יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yĕhôshúa). When this came in the Greek New Testament, it became  Ἰησοῦς (Iesous). It is the latter Greek term that we find in the Arabic Qur'an, Isa.

So the word Christians use  yesu is closer to the Hebrew while isa is closer to the Greek. But they both mean the same thing and refer to the same person!

Of course, this is a tough pill to swallow for Muslims as well.This is because the Quran adopts Greek terms (even Injeel is a derivation from Greek) even though Islamic scholars like to argue that the Greek Bible is a corrupt form of the Aramaic/Hebrew original. 

That's the problem of not thinking about what you believe. That is why absolutely love Jesus when He says:


Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind


Sunday, 11 October 2015

Peculiarities in Pakistani Christian Theology

I was tempted to write 'Punjabi' Christian Theology, but that would have been racist.

My last blog post talked about general issues of theology and why it is necessary to think about our beliefs and revisit them time and again to see how tenable they actually are. 

Along with universal Christian doctrines (like sin, salvation, rapture, the Lordship of Christ etc.), their are some idiosyncratic interpretations of Bible verses and peculiar understandings of historical Christian beliefs that vary from country to country. 

In the US, for instance, the interpretation of the Bible and formulation of Christian theology would be very different from many other countries of the world because of the prevalence of issues like gun control, homosexual marriages, and legalization of abortion.

In this post, I will talk about peculiarities in Pakistani Christian theology. This is by no means a report on how the Church in Pakistan is divided theologically and denomination-ally. 



These are just my observations made while attending different parishes of varying denominations as I was growing up and also being affiliated with some para-church organizations. 


Religious sentiments in this part of the world are easy to understand. Modern education has still not permeated the East as it has in the West, and so people in countries like Pakistan tend to be highly conservative as far as faith is concerned. While subsequent generations are becoming more global in their outlook, they are still heavily influenced by the previous generations.

So now even the most educated of Christians are debating over whether one should wear shoes inside the Church or not. The Bible tells us that it is OK for Christians to get accustomed to local culture (1 Corinthians 9:20). 

However, since Christianity has spread in Pakistan due to missionary activity, many Christians still follow the practice of those western Christians, including wearing shoes inside the church. 

Now ideally, the debate can be resolved if the party in favor of wearing the shoes understands what the Bible says about culture. However, the other party doesn't appeal to culture at all, and this is wear the discussion turns sour.

The more traditional Christians say that it is actually sinful to wear shoes inside the church. They then cite Exodus 3:5 where God says to Moses "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground". 

So they think that wearing shoes inside the church is not honoring God. But this is not a strong argument, and I will demonstrate why.

In English, the pronoun "you" (and in religious context "thou") is used across the broad to address everyone, from a child to God Himself, with no connotations of respect or disrespect. However, in our national language Urdu, we have a range of pronouns, all of which are translated as "you", but they do convey different meanings, e.g. تو ,تم ,آپ etc.

In old Urdu, تو (tu) could be used to address elders of the house as well for it conveyed both love and respect. But in modern usage, respect is denoted by آپ (Aap) whereas تو  is considered informal and casual, sometimes even rude and disrespectful.

Now the problem is that local Bible translations (which are hardly ever updated) use تو  to address God and subsequently, Pakistani Christians also address God in their prayers with تو .

One would expect that people strongly opposing shoes in the church will favor using آپ in their prayers and also encourage the Bible Society to update the translation as such. 

But no!

They will fight with you to justify the use of تو !

They say we should address God with this pronoun (even when a respectable alternative is available) because God is our friend, and we have liberty to address Him casually.

Wait. Wasn't this the very reason why you were fighting the shoe-Christians, namely, that they are treating God casually?

In fact, entire sermons are preached on why we should use تو  instead of آپ when praying. The speakers and writers, however, forget that there is no such distinction in the original language of the Bible. For instance, the same Greek word "Ὑμεῖς (Hymeis)" is used to address both God (Matthew 6:9) and human beings as well (Matthew 5:13) and translated as 'you' both times. 

Funny, isn't it? But our people don't realize the blatant contradictions in what they practice and preach. I can cite more examples, but maybe in the next blog post. Meanwhile, think about the religious traditions you hold dear and honestly evaluate them using your intellectual faculties. 

This is, perhaps, what Jesus meant when he said 'love your God with all your mind. 
















Sunday, 4 October 2015

Thinking Theologically

For the past couple of days, I have been scanning books on Christian theology by known authors like Grudem and Packer to complete a seminary assignment . Last night, I also listened to a video lecture by Dr. J.I. Packer titled 'Theology is for Everyone'



While I am theology student myself and an advocate of the discipline, I am strongly against the practice of splitting hairs. What I mean is that while two opposing camps are virtually saying the same thing, but since they are not using the same phraseology, they deem each other heretics. 

Let me give you an example: What happens to children who die in infancy, i.e. do they go to heaven or hell?

There are 2 traditional approaches. Firstly, there is the orthodox concept of original sin or inherited sin in that all humans share in the sinful nature of Adam, or even in his very sin itself. Secondly there is the not so commonly-held notion of babies being free from original sin and having a free will to sin or not sin as they grow up. 

Now on the second view, it is easy to answer the question of an infant's eternal destiny. The baby who dies at birth is going straight to heaven because she did not commit any sin. 

However, proponents of inherited sin also believe that infants do (or at least can) go to heaven! After affirming that we have a 'sinful nature before the time of birth', Wayne Grudem writes:


" Yet it is certainly possible for God to bring regeneration (that is, new spiritual life) to an infant before he or she was born" Systematic Theology pg 500.

He goes on to write that even children of unbelievers can be saved, using the following words: "If they are saved....it will be on the basis of Christ's redeeming work" pg 501. 

To sum up, even though children are born with sin, yet we cannot say for sure that they are going to hell, which means, in other words, that they are going to heaven when they die. 

So what's the difference then? Nothing! Both the camps are in virtual agreement on the eternal destiny of infants, yet they will continue to oppose each other. 

One asks, what difference does it make if in both cases, the theology is allowing the idea that infants who die at birth will go to heaven, even if they were children of unbelievers. What then is the need to split hairs and emphasize the 'fine points of theology' when the end result is the same?

Why don't we make our lives simple? And this is what theology (being the science of God) is supposed to do, namely to make matters of faith understandable for the laity so that they can take positive action. A theology that causes people to sit at their baby's funeral and contemplating what Augustine, Luther or Calvin said is not the best application of this field of study, IMHO. 

However, these demerits do not take away the usefulness and necessity of theology. St. Paul writes:


For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge1 Corinthians 1:5
However, the focus of this discipline should go beyond proof texts and the historic beliefs of our respected denominations. Theological thinking needs to be adopted so that we can enrich ourselves with the knowledge of God and watch out for erroneous teaching. 

Theological thinking with also ensure that we do not blindly succumb to authority or to follow a certain interpretation of the Bible just because our church has been holding to it for centuries.


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