Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Christians in Intelligence Services Conflicted over Use of Torture
The first CIA agent to die in the war on terror was an evangelical Christian. Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed on November 25, 2001 while questioning an Al Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan. After Spann asked the prisoner why he had come to Afghanistan, the prisoner shouted, "To kill you!" He lunged for Spann's throat, unleashing a prison riot. Spann fired on his attackers, but after his weapons were empty, the prisoners killed Spann and booby-trapped his body. Spann didn't live long enough to experience the many dilemmas of terrorist interrogation, torture, and prisoner abuse. But had he done so, to whom could he have turned for Christian counsel? The agent's job is fraught with complex ethical dilemmas that few pastors and theologians have experienced. In recent months, Christianity Today interviewed Christians serving in the military and intelligence services to gain their perspective on the fight against Al Qaeda, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the role of Christians in applying aggressive, torture-like interrogation methods. Christians are in desperate need of biblical insight, because they are deeply involved in the chain of influence, all the way from Washington to military and intelligence operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba's Guantanamo Bay. Christians in intelligence services told CT that the torture debate must be approached as a worldview issue. However long the global war on terror lasts, Christians in America's intelligence services say that believing Christians must never surrender their absolute spiritual values.
Intelligent Design Reduces God’s Power and Might, According to Director of the Vatican Observatory
Jesuit Father George V. Coyne on Tuesday delivered the annual Aquinas Lecture on Science Does Not Need God, or Does It? A Catholic Scientist Looks at Evolution at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Catholic Online received an advance copy of the remarks from the priest-astronomer, who heads the Vatican Observatory. Father Coyne acknowledges that Christianity is “radically creationist,” though the theory of Intelligent Design reduces and belittles God, he says. Science is and should be seen as “completely neutral” on the issue of the theistic or atheistic implications of scientific results, since “science and religion are totally separate pursuits.” Christianity is not best described by the “crude creationism” of the fundamental, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis or by the Newtonian dictatorial God who makes the universe tick along like a watch. Rather, Coyne stresses, God acts as a parent toward the universe, nurturing, encouraging and working with it. In his remarks, Coyne criticizes the cardinal archbishop of Vienna for supporting Intelligent Design, and calls “mistaken” the belief that the Bible should be used “as a source of scientific knowledge.” Father Coyne also credits 18th-century French naturalist Georges Buffon more than Charles Darwin for “[causing] problems for theologians with the implications that might be drawn from the theory of evolution.” Buffon was condemned a hundred years before Darwin for suggesting that “it took billions of years to form the crust of the earth.”
New Barna Report Explores Teens and the Supernatural
Ministry to Mosaics: Teens and the Supernatural, the latest report from The Barna Group, was released last Tuesday. Based upon three nationwide studies conducted among more than 4,000 teens ages 13-18, the report examines teens’ media exposure to the supernatural world as well their perception, experience, and beliefs on the immaterial realm. The report hopes to help youth workers, pastors, and parents understand and respond to the spiritual needs of America’s youth. The 47-page report revealed that most teens believe in the supernatural realm with seven million teens having encountered an angel, demon, or some other supernatural being. 30 percent of all teens claim they had supernatural encounters, while more than 10 percent say they have communicated with the dead and nearly 10 percent claim they have psychic powers. According to The Barna Group, the research revealed that many churches fail to address the subject of the supernatural in terms of time given to the subject and relevance. One of the most striking findings according to the group is that only one-quarter of churched teenagers (28 percent) recall receiving any teaching at their church in the last year that helped to shape their views on the supernatural world.
Missionary's Death Will Not Stop Bangladeshi Ministry
Laxman Das, a native Christian missionary in Bangladesh, was recently murdered by a gang of Muslim extremists. The 25-year-old was found on the side of a highway earlier this month near the capital city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Laxman was working full time as a missionary. Eyewitnesses say he was riding a bus home when it was stopped and he was singled out, forced off the bus, and beaten to death. K.P. Yohannan, president of Gospel for Asia, says the murder took place during Islamic religious holiday festivities. "This is the season of Eid, which is one of the high Muslim holidays and [a time of] celebration," he notes. "Some people tell me that [during this] season there’s no law and order in the country. [They say] if you are angry with someone or you want to take revenge, this is the time to do it." Laxman, who leaves behind a wife and a five-month-old child, had established a church in his village in North Bangladesh. Yohannan says the young missionary was aware of the dangers he faced daily. "He knew that it [was] a risk for him to be in the ministry, especially where he was preaching and reaching the people [for Christ]. And his life and example as a man of prayer… [who] really gave his life to study God’s Word and [had a] passion for souls will remain as a significant challenge to our people. The work in Bangladesh will go on." GFA currently trains 77 students in two Bible colleges in the country. The ministry also has 98 full-time native missionaries in Bangladesh who have planted 75 churches.