To My Greyhound Aquaintances :)

Last week, when I was riding the Grey Hound from Dallas to Houston, adjacent to me there were a couple of Muslim ladies who were arguing with Christian guy about religion. I felt an urge to even out the numbers and couldn’t help stepping in to join the debate.
There was a point during the debate when I said that the Quran gave a very unique place to Jesus by claiming that He was sinless and that his birth was of a virgin womb. The ladies did not know which verse I was talking about so I told them that I would post the verse I was talking about in this blog for them to read. My initial, impulsive thought was to get their email ids and send the ids to them, but then I realized that sharing emails was a very imprudent idea. So here, I am writing this blog to let them know the verse from Quran I was quoting. I gave them this blog address. I hope they would check this sometime.
Below is the verse.
And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger from thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a FAULTLESS son. She said: How can I have a son when NO MORTAL HATH TOUCHED ME, NEITHER HAVE I BEEN UNCHASTE? He said: So it will be. Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And it will be that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place. Surah 19:16-22.
My point was this. Quran states that God alone is faultless. Quran says that Jesus is Faultless. So Jesus has to be God. I don’t think even the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) has claimed to be faultless.
I enjoyed the debate. One of the ladies was a Christian who converted to Islam 3 years ago. Her problem with Christianity she said was the it was too vague and did not give her answers. The trigger to her abandoning Christianity was the lack of love in the life of a committed Christian who was close to her. It is understandable, after all, it is human nature that the ‘followers’ of a religion abuse it. On the other hand, it is human nature that ‘spectators’ of a religion should be disgruntled with religion because weakness exhibited by those that are religious.
As in any game, it is easy to be a ‘spectator’, it is difficult to actually be playing the game. I am reminded of what G.K. Chesterton said, “Christianity wasn’t tried and found wanting, but it has been found difficult and left untried”.  It is not an easy thing to be a Christian. There aren’t a set of rules that one can follow to claim to be a good Christian.
In fact one of the primary objection of the other lady who was a born Muslim was that Christianity seemed to make salvation too simple. All one had to do she believed was to just believe that Jesus died for everyone sin and then that gives Christians a ‘ticket’ to Heaven. If only Christianity has been that simple, then even the Devil would become a Christian. Christians of this centaury in trying to make Christianity appealing to people of other religions mistakenly portray it as a simple and cheap ‘belief system’.
The essence of the Christian message isn’t just about a ‘belief’ in some Truth, but in a REGENERATION of the heart which turns from the old ways of life to become holy reflecting God’s holiness. Goodness may be attained by doing good works, but holiness cannot be attained by doing good works. Holiness is not about works, but it is about the fundamental nature of the person. Holiness is not a state of not doing something wrong, it is a state of not ever having an inclination to do anything wrong. Holiness of this kind is state of being which is required us to have communion with God. The Christian idea of this regeneration of the heart is about attaining holiness, the purpose of holiness is to make it possible for us to be able to have a relationship with God whose nature is to be holy. The purpose of having a relationship with God is to glorify God. Because of these reasons, Christianity is not about a set of rules or procedures. It is a lot more, it is about maintaining a relationship, something that man finds very difficult to do. To follow a rule is very easy, to be in a relationship is a lot more difficult. Hence Christianity is a lot more difficult than it appears. It is precisely because of this reason why it is a lot more fulfilling a well, because a relationship is more fulfilling than a ‘rule’. On the other hand, it is also because of the relationship aspect of Christianity that some people leave it untried.
The lady also thought that Christians imagining up the idea of the ‘Trinity’ was non-sensical. Yes, it is true that Christians imagined-up the word ‘Trinity’, but to relegate it as non-sense is to completely misunderstand what trinity means. Trinity is the word the Christians use to describe the multiple facets of Godhead. There are better Christians that I who have written about what trinity means, any true inquirer of Truth can understand the idea of a Trinitarian God for what it means, after all the word ‘Trinitarian’ is an adjective that helps understand the ‘paradox’ that is evident in the Godhead.
She also said that the Bible was inconsistent with itself. For example, she said, “ if God was God that He wouldn’t have had to ask Adam where he was hiding?”. I think the answer is this, if a father were to talk to a his kid with the intellectual prowess, then the whole point of talking to the kid is lost. If God were to use all of his omniscience in his conversations with His prophets, then the point of conversation would be lost completely, it would be like God talking only to Himself. When God talks with man, He has to come down to the level of man to talk to him.
Looking back at the debate I had, I am having a renewed understanding of the scriptures and human nature. I realize how easy it is to comment about what appears wrong and inconsistent about the other person’s scriptures by taking a few verses, out of the context, and then posing questions which simply belie a complete misunderstanding of the history, the culture and the intent with which the Scriptures were written.
Christian experts and Islamic experts have been debating with each other about inconsistencies in each other’s scriptures. So what does a person do? What does a person believe in? Does one believe in the Christian experts who say that the Bible is true? Or the Islamic experts that the Quran is true? I don’t think both can be true, only one has to be the truth. How can one get to Truth?
I believe that Truth can only be revealed by God, no man can reveal Truth to anyone else (though men can talk about truth to each other). There is no Truth apart from God. So to reveal Truth God has to reveal Himself to man. I believe that He reveals Himself to any man or woman who is ‘truly’ seeking the Truth. That person will get closer to God.

Meditations on the Salute of the Snob

A few days ago, I was at the ‘Wings over Houston’ air show where diverse range of aero planes from the ones used in WWII to F16s performed breathtaking acrobatics ranging from spectacular reenactments of some classic WWII battles to a lady doing some really scary wing walking.
By far, the best performance of the day, to me, was that of a F15 which was piloted by two US air-force pilots. Its diamond shape, sharp nose, flame tail and the roar of the revving engines captivated the audience in a trance. The aesthetically shaped shining mass of grey metal roaring its way 3 miles into the atmosphere and then traversing the space over the airfields at reckless speeds and daunting maneuvers with class of its own, was a beauty to behold. As I was mesmerized by this spectacle, the word that kept non-volitionally popping into my mind was, ‘elegance’. I kept whispering to myself ‘elegance’… ‘elegance’… ‘pure elegance’…
The audience was caught up on a ‘state of transcendence’ during the 10 minutes of mind boggling air acrobatics and the sheer aesthetic beauty of the F15. Among the audience, I saw two guys a little farther with the tough-guy-demeanor… bushy moustache, a goatee that emphasized the constant smirk, arms crossed across the chest, denim and boots. They appeared to represent the kind, whose face is permanently set into a sneer, expressing a cynicism at everything around them. But as the F15, snooped down over the crowd to bid its final ‘adieu’, the tough guys did something unexpected, they looked at each other and seemed to say ‘let do it’ and then when the F15 passed over us, close above our heads, the couplet did a salute!!!
It was glorious to watch the massive machine doing some super natural feats fly so close to our heads. In fact, the salute was the ‘ordinate’ response to such an experience. They weren’t just saluting the F15, because the glory did not belong just to the piece of metal called the F15 or the pilots, the glory of the experience belonged to the invisible ‘spirit’ of human creativity which envisioned and built such a machine that would with elegance, defy ubiquitous laws of nature, which has bound mankind for many millennia. I couldn’t say which of the two spectacles intrigued me more, the elegant F15 and its spectacular feats or the tough guys’ salute at the experience of glory.
As I was thinking about this, my mind digressed into thinking about another class of intellectual ‘tough guys’ who are the true cynics. They call themselves skeptics and wear an expression of a perpetual sneer. I think that the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hutchins fall under this category. I suspect that they would give a free-pass to or even be appreciative of these tough guys who salute the ‘invisible’ human-spirit that created such a marvel, after all the salute is a sign of gratitude to the sublime human spirit. On the other hand, if these intellectual skeptics were to see a man that were to go down on his knees marveling at the ‘invisible’ Spirit of God whose creativity is seen in the starry hosts of the heavens and the universe within the atoms, these intellectuals ‘materialists’ would pounce on them calling them disillusioned mentally retarded religious bigots.
My point is that the materialists who claim that sane men cannot worship something they cannot ‘see’, constantly keep worshiping things that aren’t ‘materially’ seeable. They worship the ‘laws of logic and reason’, which they use in their arguments against God though none on earth can ‘see’ the laws of logic. The laws of logic is an ‘immaterial reality’ as is the ideal of the human spirit or for that matter, the Spirit of God.
Yesterday, in President Obama’s speech in the State Dinner in the honor of the Indian Prime Minister, he said, “there are two things that are most beautiful in life, the starry hosts above and the sense of duty within the human heart”. I have seen a part of the starry hosts. I have never ‘seen’ the sense of duty. I may have seen the manifestations of the ‘sense of duty’, but that is not ‘seeing’ the sense of duty itself, after all most people may do things because of the sense of fear rather than duty. Nevertheless, none can ‘see’ it precisely is because it is a ‘sense’. If it can been ‘materially seen’ in a test tube, it can no longer be called a ‘sense of duty’, neither would it likely be ‘called’ beautiful.
The cynics of the kind we are talking about do not discount the universal sense of duty in the heart of man, even though they cannot ‘see’ it, but they discount the sense of God within the heart of man. In suspect that, empirically speaking, the ‘sense of God’ in the hearts of men would be more prevalent among men than the ‘sense of duty’ in the heart of man.
I find it surprising that the cynics wouldn’t discount one ‘sense’ but would disparage the other. This is outright hypocrisy. We may wonder what motivates these intellectual heavy weights to be hypocritical, after all if there is a crime there has to be a motive. What would that motive be? I suspect that the reason why they do not discount the validity of the ‘sense of duty’ is because they don’t see the sense of duty as directly implying the presence of a superior personality outside or above them. But the sense of God, if it is acknowledged as genuine, would imply an acknowledgement of a superior personality above.
I am remained of the progenitor of these Anti-Christian cynics, Aldous Huxley, who perhaps was a better cynic than the contemporary ones, as he directed some of his cynicism at himself as well. He said, “I do not believe in a God, not because there isn’t enough evidence for a God, but because I do not want a God to be there… (because that would imply that there truly is a standard morality and I need to adhere to it)”.
The class of cynics who do not want a superior authority to be there, rile against those who believe in a superior authority, just because they want to live lives their own way, without any encumbrances from any superior being. Their tirade against God has nothing to do with God being invisible, even if God were visible, they would explain Him off with a new scientific theory, no matter how untenable it sounds. Their need to rile against God and all those who are on His side has everything to do with the spirit of rebellion in every man that does not like to be truly grateful and consequently humble towards anyone else other than self. What starts as gratitude would impel a person to be humble and would help the person to salute or go down on his knees at the experience of glory.
The lesson to Christians in this is that if the Christians were to be yield to the downward tug of the ‘fallen’ human nature to not be grateful to anyone else other than self, then they too would end up in the class of the cynics who sneer at everything good around them. So in this Thanks giving season, as we move towards Christmas, let us take time to be grateful to the invisible yet pervasive God who is ‘there’.