Monday, December 22, 2003

December 22, 2003

10:33 PM The “Pastor’s Roundtable” turned out to be three-way discussion that included Roy Schwarcz of Middle East Ministries in Buffalo Grove and a Muslim cleric who teaches religion and Arabic at a college prep school in the Chicago suburbs. We had a frank and civil exchange of views. Most amazing revelation: The Muslim cleric said he believes that the 9/11 attacks had been planned and orchestrated by the U.S. government. He called the 19 hijackers “patsies” and claimed there was no evidence they were even on the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Roy and I and Scott Thomas (the host) were so stunned that no one knew what to say. Later we had a fairly lively discussion on the touchy issue of whether Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same God. The Muslim cleric said yes, of course we do. Roy and I said no because you can’t ignore the issue of Jesus Christ. Roy was eloquent at several points in affirming the biblical basis of salvation by grace flowing from the Abrahamic covenant. The Muslim cleric forthrightly declared that the biblical accounts of Jesus’ death contain contradictions, and that Muslims believe Jesus did not die on the cross—he only “appeared” to die. Scott Thomas summed it up well when he said the real issue is Jesus Christ—who is he? We celebrate his birth in three days—and after 2000 years, he is still the dividing line of history. 1:35 PM Several months ago I agreed to be part of the “Pastors Roundtable” on WYLL, 1160 AM, from 3-5 PM today. When they called me a few minutes, they said I was going to one of three guests—the other two being a Messianic Jewish leader and a Muslim cleric. We’re supposed to discuss the news of the day plus whatever else comes up. Sounds like we’ll have a lively discussion. 10:00 AM No, my shopping isn’t done. But it’s partly done and I’m hoping to finish the rest of it today. 9:57 AM We’re having two candlelight Christmas Eve services at Calvary—5 PM and 9 PM. 9:50 AM Don’t forget to pray for our soldiers at Christmastime. 9:40 AM Paul Marshall reports on that the Christian minority in Bethlehem is shrinking.

In the last three years, several thousand of Bethlehem’s Christians, perhaps five percent of the population, have left. They have gone for many reasons. One is simply that life is very, very harsh under the intifada and Israeli military action. Another is the rising power of radical Islam. A Pew survey in June found that Palestinians judged Bin Laden the “world leader” most likely to “do the right thing,” with 71-percent support. Next was Arafat.

Because of this pressre, “Christians throughout the Middle East are fleeing their homeland. At the end of the 19th century, they were a quarter of the Holy Land’s population. Today they are barely a 40th.” 9:38 AM David Aikman offers an encouraging report on the the spread of Christianity in China. He says there may be as many as 82 million Christians in all the various denominations. Thanks to Ted Engel for the tip.

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