The real problem in Iraq...
Note from Tim: Here's a short piece by an elder of our church, David DeBoor Canfield, making the case that the problem we're confronting in Iraq is not one of military might, but of the heart. Although I'm not sure he's hit the nail on the head in terms of the proper application of the doctrine of sin and depravity in this context, the theme of the bondage of Islam can't be struck often enough as we look eastward. Start with the central thing that Islam does not worship God as a loving Heavenly Father and move on from there. Really, though, the thing I'm far more concerned about as I look at the Mideast is the significant movement among evangelical missionaries to take the scandal out of the Cross by evangelizing Muslims (if it can even be called "evangelism") without calling them to leave their mosque, to be baptized, and to unite themselves to the Bride of Christ, the Christian church. But leaving that to the side, for now, here's David's article:
We hear cries on all sides these days about how the US government has mishandled the war in Iraq: Some critics state that we failed in political ways, perhaps by summarily dismissing all of those connected with the Baathist party in the initial stages of the war. Others castigate us for poor military strategy, or unnecessarily alienating portions of the Iraqi populace. I would suggest rather that our primary failing in Iraq has been of a theological nature: Because of misplaced political correctness, we have set up a situation almost guaranteed to fail...
In Galatians 5: 19-23, we are presented with two contrasting lists of personal characteristics. The first list contains such things as immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension and envy. The second list contains the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Clearly, people possessing the qualities contained in the one list will live in relationship to each other in a radically different way from those exhibiting the character traits mentioned in the other.
Now what is it that causes some people to possess the traits of the one list or the other? Scripture tells us the first list characterizes those who live according to the desires of the flesh, and contrary to the Spirit of God. The qualities in the second list are said to be the fruit of the Spirit, naturally flowing out of the hearts of those He indwells. The question then follows: Can and should we expect those whose hearts are not controlled by the Holy Spirit to exhibit that which is said to be His fruit? Indeed, should we be surprised when the unregenerate sin? This is no slam against Islam per se. If Christianity is true, then every other belief system, including Islam, constitutes a futile and fruitless attempt to find God. Jesus Himself assures us that although a good tree will bear good fruit, a bad tree cannot, since bearing good fruit would be contrary to its nature (Matthew 7: 17-20). Our course of action in Iraq strongly suggests that our leaders believe that a bad tree can indeed bear good fruit"one of those fruits being that those who have hated each other for centuries can learn to live in true and lasting peace.
Let us not mince words: Those who are not indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit cannot and should not expect to bear the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. I am not asserting that those who seek to satisfy the desires of the flesh are as bad as they possibly could be. Many Moslems adhere to a rigorous moral code in an attempt to obey the dictates of their faith and thereby please their god. But what will this avail them if they lack faith in the risen and living Christ, who assures us that no one comes to the Father except through Him? Dare we assume that those who lack salvation might yet possess the fruits that accompany it?
Neither am I suggesting that Christians who are controlled by the Spirit always flawlessly exhibit His fruit. What Christians do, though, is to confess their sins and seek to open their hearts to ever-greater control by the God they seek to serve. They also worship the true God who has the power to grant peace. What hope of peace do Iraqis have, ultimately, if they are basing such hope in a god that cannot deliver it?
By this discussion, I do not maintain that non-Christians can never live together in relative peace. One can find what appears to be peace in non-Christian areas of the world, but the peace that exists in those areas is typically borne by fear and other factors imposed from without. In Iraq itself, relative harmony among antagonistic groups was maintained under the brutality of Saddam because people were more interested in preserving their lives than they were in promoting their particular sect of Islam. Once the threat posed by Saddam and his henchmen was removed, the internecine struggle between Sunnis and Shiites became overt. This is evidence, if we need it, that true and lasting peace can only come from a heart transformed by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
The belief in the exclusivity of Christianity should drive our involvement in Iraq, but sadly it will not, because our post-modern American mentality accepts all religions as equally valid and effective paths to God. At one time, democracy in the West flourished as it was nourished by Christian principles. As western democracies have gradually abandoned Christianity, democracy itself has been weakened. Largely forgotten is the Scriptural declaration that “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Given that, I can see little hope for the long-term success of our policies in this war-torn portion of the planet.
-by David DeBoor Canfield