Far too early on a Saturday morning in Singapore, abruptly awakened by Facebook notifications, I peeked a bleary eye at what was happening. Two friends had, in quick succession, marked themselves safe in Paris, on Facebook’s Safety Check.
- immediate vows of retaliation, and an appeal for unity and togetherness (François Hollande: “So France will be merciless in its response to the Islamic State militants…use all means within the law…on every battleground here and abroad together with our allies”.)
- calls for non-retaliation – you cannot bomb an idea that is religious, anti-Western, anti-imperialist (Peter van Buren);
- calls for justice not vengeance – war on terrorism fuels more terrorism (The Nation);
Speculating how this could have been prevented
Speculating on the rise and aim of ISIS
- fingering George Bush’s Iraq War as responsible for the creation of ISIS (Vanity Fair, Huffington Post);
- rebutting that, qua Leo Tolstoy, no one can really be certain of the cause of historic events – “US invasion of Iraq, massive corruption, recent drought, Sunni v Shia sectarianism, constant Western and Russian meddling, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, trade sanctions, foundational scriptures, Muhammad’s example of religious militarism, Hulagu Khan’s sack of Baghdad, Al-Ghazali’s anti-scientific ‘renewing of the faith’, the Curse of Oil, establishment of the state of Israel etc etc. So many causes of the bedlam in the Middle East. Some are traceable to US foreign policy. Some not at all.” (comments from Muslim Matters)
- (and also apparent real joy at the American liberation of Iraq (Wait But Why))
- demanding that politicians finally officially acknowledge that ISIS is a Muslim organisation albeit one that interpretes the Quran differently from peaceful Muslims (The Spectator);
- explaining that the West needs to know the intellectual basis of their enemy; that the Islamic State really believes that they have set up a caliphate with Baghdadi as caliph, that all good Muslims are to show allegiance to the caliphate, that they are working towards the Day of Judgement (The Atlantic);
- insisting that it is grossly misrepresentative to say the Islamic State is Islamic (The Slate).
Another group has been greatly offended. Their cause of anger: #prayforparis and #prayforhumanity.
- God is so concerned with evil and that most of the Bible, God’s word, teaches how he has dealt with it and will deal completely with it.
- Good news for the good guys? Yes. But bad news for all of us, the whole of humanity. Because evil isn’t out there – not zombies, not another country or race or economic group or political party or bloodthirsty terrorist group, it’s in us – it is us. Since the Fall, every intention of the thoughts of the human heart has been evil continually (Genesis 6:5); it has been deceitful all the time and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9); out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matthew 15:19). No one seeks for God or worships him – the ultimate definition of sin.
- If God had dealt completely with evil at the Fall, none of us would exist. If God comes to deal with evil now, all of us, on the basis of our own records, will have to be wiped out for justice to be done.
- So as I write this and as you read this and life goes on around us, it is erroneous to ask why bad things happen to good people. Because there is no one good, not even one. (Romans 3:10). No one seeks for God. The real question then is this: why do good and bad things happen to us bad people? Why does the sun still shine on us? How can we still enjoy life and love and companionship and food and air?
- It is the mercy of God for now. But we cannot be so complacent as to think this means we are home free. There is a judgment to come:
“the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:7-10)
- And what does repentance look like? It is acknowledging that we have forsaken the true and living God and have wickedly chosen to live our own ways. It is turning back to acknowledging God and trusting his promise that the blood of his Son, Jesus, who died on the cross, has paid for our sins. It is submitting to the lordship of this Christ.
- It is to this God whom we pray. It is this judge Jesus whom we must fear. So yes, ISIS is scary but “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
And why pray? The Christian is in a very different relationship with God the Father – able to speak to him and be heard, but of course, God being sovereign may not give us everything we ask for. Skimming the surface of the topic of prayer is D.A. Carson: