Wednesday, October 12, 2016

11 Christian Missionaries Crucified and Beheaded

Residents inspect damage from what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus. (Reuters)

At several steps on their path to death by beheading and crucifixion last month, 11 indigenous Christian workers near Aleppo, Syria, had the option to leave the area and live. The 12-year-old son of a ministry team leader also could have spared his life by denying Christ.

The indigenous missionaries were not required to stay at their ministry base in a village near Aleppo, Syria; rather, the ministry director who trained them had entreated them to leave. As the Islamic State (ISIS), other rebel groups and Syrian government forces turned Aleppo into a war zone of carnage and destruction, ISIS took over several outlying villages. The Syrian ministry workers in those villages chose to stay in order to provide aid in the name of Christ to survivors.

"I asked them to leave, but I gave them the freedom to choose," said the ministry director, his voice tremulous as he recalled their horrific deaths. "As their leader, I should have insisted that they leave."

They stayed because they believed they were called to share Christ with those caught in the crossfire, he said.

"Every time we talked to them," the director said, "they were always saying, 'We want to stay here—this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.' They just wanted to stay and share the gospel."

Those who chose to stay could have scattered and hid in other areas, as their surviving family members did. On a visit to the surviving relatives in hiding, the ministry director learned of the cruel executions.

The relatives said ISIS militants on Aug. 7 captured the Christian workers in a village whose name is withheld for security reasons. On Aug. 28, the militants asked if they had renounced Islam for Christianity. When the Christians said that they had, the rebels asked if they wanted to return to Islam. The Christians said they would never renounce Christ.

The 41-year-old team leader, his young son and two ministry members in their 20s were questioned at one village site where ISIS militants had summoned a crowd. The team leader presided over nine house churches he had helped to establish. His son was two months away from his 13th birthday.

"All were badly brutalized and then crucified," the ministry leader said. "They were left on their crosses for two days. No one was allowed to remove them."

The martyrs died beside signs the ISIS militants had put up identifying them as "infidels."

Eight other ministry team members, including two women, were taken to another site in the village that day (Aug. 28) and were asked the same questions before a crowd. The women, ages 29 and 33, tried to tell the ISIS militants they were only sharing the peace and love of Christ and asked what they had done wrong to deserve the abuse. The Islamic extremists then publicly raped the women, who continued to pray during the ordeal, leading the ISIS militants to beat them all the more furiously.

As the two women and the six men knelt before they were beheaded, they were all praying.

"Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord's prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus," the ministry director said. "One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, 'Jesus!'"

After they were beheaded, their bodies were hung on crosses, the ministry director said, his voice breaking. He had trained all of the workers for their evangelistic ministry, and he had baptized the team leader and some of the others.

Hundreds of former Muslims in Syrian villages are in danger of being captured and killed by ISIS, which is fighting to establish a caliphate in which apostasy is punishable by death. The underground church in the region has mushroomed since June 2014, when ISIS began terrorizing those who do not swear allegiance to its caliphate, both non-Muslims and Muslims. Consequently, the potential for large-scale executions has grown along with the gains in ISIS-controlled territory.

The ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission is providing resources and trying to find ways to evacuate these families by other routes.

Many of the ministry's teams also remain in Syria. Christian Aid Mission assists those who do not or cannot leave with the means to survive.
Even those who leave, however, may encounter ISIS militants and other criminals in refugee camps, said the leader of another ministry that Christian Aid Mission assists. He spoke of a Muslim from northern Syria who, like all men in areas that ISIS takes over, was coerced into joining the caliphate or being killed.

Recruited into ISIS, he fled the country after his brother was killed in the fighting. Disillusioned with ISIS but still adhering to Islam and its teaching that Christians and Jews are unclean "pigs," he went to Amman, Jordan, as he had learned that relatives there were receiving aid from Christians.

The Muslim, whose name is withheld for security reasons, went to a Christian meeting with the intention of killing the aid workers gathered there. Something kept him from following through on his plan, though, and that night he saw Jesus in a dream, the ministry director said.

"The next day he came back and said, 'I came to kill you, but last night I saw Jesus, and I want to know what are you teaching—who is this One who held me up from killing you?'" the director said. "He received Christ with tears, and today he's actually helping in the church, helping out other people. We're praying for lots of such Sauls to change to Pauls."

The sorrow of the ministry team leader who lost 11 workers and one of their children last month has been deep, but he takes heart that their faithfulness could help change the hearts of persecutors.

"They kept on praying loudly and sharing Jesus until their last breath," he said. "They did this in front of the villagers as a testimony for others."

He asked for prayer for surviving family members and for himself.

"These things have been very hard on me," he said. "What wrong did those people do to deserve to die? What is happening is more and more people are being saved. The ministry is growing and growing—in the past we used to pray to have one person from a Muslim background come to the Lord. Now there are so many we can barely handle all the work among them."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Perspectives on the Evolution/Creation Controversy -3- Conclusion

Part Three Conclusion

The progressive creation position (depending upon the individual) may move further from a literal reading of scripture to become increasingly non-literal (at least with regard to the first chapters of Genesis). For example, the 6 days of Genesis, as with the old earth position, may be interpreted as actually referring to a longer period of time. (Note that the two examples of old earth creation - day-age and days of revelation – will also accommodate a progressive creation position.) Similarly, the Noachian flood may be taken non-literally (e.g., as referring to a localized instead of a world-wide flood), since it implies that many species became extinct at one time rather than progressively. 

The final position to consider is the theistic evolution position. Advocates of this position generally accept the physical evidence as showing that the earth/universe are quite old. In addition, the theistic evolution position also accepts the biological evidence as showing that all living things came from a common ancestor; new species occur as a result of divergent development, usually of isolated populations experiencing unique environmental pressures. Thus, the theistic evolutionary position is like the atheistic evolution position in that both positions accept the extensive physical and biological evidence. Unlike the atheistic evolution position however (which argues that evolution is undirected), the theistic evolution position argues that God guides the evolutionary process, usually in a subtle way. Thus, evolution has occurred, but God has directed it.

The theistic evolution position (depending upon the individual) generally moves further from a literal reading of scripture to become increasingly non-literal (at least with regard to the first chapters of Genesis). Some advocates for a theistic evolution position adopt similar views of scripture to the old earth and progressive creation perspectives. (The day-age and days of revelation positions will accommodate a theistic evolution position). Other advocates for a theistic evolution position adopt stronger non-literal views on the beginning chapters of Genesis – Genesis 1 up to Genesis 11:9 (i.e., the tower of Babel). These stronger views may regard the beginning chapters of Genesis as “Creation Narratives;” creation narratives (or creation myths) are not literally true, but are intended to convey a symbolic explanation of how creation came to be as it is and of the place of humans, for example, in creation.

Again, with the exception of the atheistic evolution position, the 4 remaining positions (young earth creation, old earth creation, progressive creation, and theistic evolution) are held by committed, mature Christians who have grappled with how to reconcile the evidence of Scripture and science. I recommend that people interested in the creationist-evolutionist controversy avoid reading individuals at either end of the continuum, simply because most people are likely to already be more familiar with the ends of the continuum. I have provided a short list of older books below. Older books should be cheaper and perhaps more available on Amazon. You may not agree with all of the conclusions of the authors below (I don't). However, there are many devout Christian scholars and scientists who try to reconcile the apparently differing accounts of scripture and sciences rather rejecting one end of the continuum or the other. They get short shrift from the opposite ends of the spectrum, but are engaged in earnestly and carefully thinking about the evolution-creation controversy. 

Moreland, J. P., & Reynolds, J. M. (1999). Three views on creation and evolution. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. An easily readable book describing three Christian positions: young earth creationism, old earth creationism, and theistic evolution. 
Fischer, D. (1996). The origins solution: An answer in the creation-evolution debate. Lima, OH: Fairway Press. One individual approach to resolving the controversy.
Miller, K. B. (2003). Perspective on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Miller is a highly esteemed author of some of most widely used biology textbooks in U.S. high schools.
Miller, K. R. (2007). Finding Darwin's God: a scientist's search for common ground between God and evolution (P.S.). New York: Harper Perennial. Miller is a highly esteemed author of some of most widely used biology textbooks in U.S. high schools.
Pun, P. P. T.  (1982). Evolution: nature and Scripture in conflict? Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Although a little outdated now, Pun is an advocate of progressive creationism, a perspective that is less common than other Christian perspectives. 

Steven J. Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Perspectives on the Evolution/Creation Controversy -2- of Three

Part Two
The first approach we should briefly consider is the atheistic evolutionary perspective. In particular, we should recognize that this position is unlikely to be held by many sincere Christians. After all, a position that denies there is a God (atheism) is not easily reconciled with claims about God’s creative and redemptive acts! Nevertheless, this position is worth mentioning because it is typically one of the positions in the evolution/creation debate that gets more media attention.

The second approach to consider is young earth creation, which is the other position that gets more media attention, especially within Christian media. This approach is likely to be one of the more familiar perspectives to many Christians. It generally holds that God engaged in the process of creation in 6 literal days a relatively short time ago (i.e., 4000-10000 years ago). This position is drawn from a literal interpretation of the 6 days of creation of Genesis 1, combined with a close reliance on Biblical genealogies and timelines (such as that by Bishop Ussher) suggesting Adam and Eve were created about 6000 years ago (about 4000 BC). This close adherence to a literal understanding of scripture raises problems for reconciling it with evidence from other sources.
So, for example, fields of study such as astronomy, physics, astrophysics, engineering (e.g., space exploration) and geology (among others) have produced a large amount of consistent and unified evidence for the age of the universe/earth. Young earth creationists generally deal with this evidence by rejecting or questioning the evidence and assumptions provided by the relevant fields of study. Evidence about the relatedness or similarity of extinct and extant (currently existing) species is explained by the fact that God created all of them; the similarities simply reflect God’s design or plans. The fact that there are many extinct species is argued to primarily reflect the flood narratives (Genesis 6-9); many species that are now extinct (e.g., dinosaurs, ammonites) became extinct due to the flood.

The third approach I will consider is the old earth creation position. In contrast to the young earth creation position, the old earth creation position generally accepts as valid the large amount of physical evidence suggesting that the universe/earth are quite old. However, advocates of an old earth position tend to adopt similar perspectives of the biological evidence about the similarity of extinct and extant species as young earth creationists – that all species were created in a relatively short period of time (i.e., days) and that genetic and morphological similarities reflect God’s design, rather than evolutionary processes. Similarly, the extinction of many species is generally attributed to the Noachian flood. 

Because the old earth creation position moves away from a strictly literal reading of Biblical timelines/genealogies, a degree of “interpretation” of the Biblical narrative is often adopted by advocates of this position. Two examples of this are the “day = age” interpretation and the “days of revelation” interpretations of Genesis 1. The “day = age” interpretation is more familiar to many Christians; this interpretation argues that the days of Genesis actually reflect long periods of time, along the lines of Psalm 90:4 - A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by . . . (NIV). That is, although Genesis refers to 6 days, these days are not 6 literal days, but are 6 longer time periods. Alternatively, supporters of the creative “days of revelation” interpretation of Genesis 1 accept the 6 days of Genesis, but understand these NOT as days during which God created things, but rather as 6 days during which God explained to Moses how He created everything. That is, according to this position, God created everything over a very long period of time, but God took 6 days to explain or reveal to Moses what He created and how He did it. In both examples (day-age and days of revelation), the 6 days of Genesis are still 6 days. However, both examples add a little twist to the interpretation – either applying other scripture (i.e., the day=age example) or a creative reading of scripture.

The fourth position, progressive creation, accepts the physical evidence about the age of the universe/earth and increasingly accommodates the biological evidence. This position argues that creation occurred over a long period of time, but, in contrast to the young earth position, in which all living things were created within a relatively short space of time (e.g., the 3rd, 5th, and 6th days of Genesis 1), the progressive creation position suggests that species were created “one at a time” over the (long) time course of creation. From this perspective, individual species were not created “all at once.” Rather, God is continually involved in creating individual species (e.g., apatosaurs, ammonites, mastodons) as appropriate and as reflected in the geological and paleontological record.” Creation (of species) is an ongoing process, but evidence about the relatedness or similarity of extinct and extant species is still explained by God’s design. The difference lies in whether living things were created “all at once” or progressively, a “little” at a time.

Steven J. Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer

Friday, October 7, 2016

Perspectives on the Evolution/Creation Controversy

The vast majority of what we hear about the evolution/creation controversy comes from the rather vocal ends of a spectrum of views. These two ends (the supporters of “young earth creation” and “atheistic evolution”) debate through the media and other avenues, often generating more heat than light. However, while the extremes engage in heated debate (or talk past each other), there are a host of sincere, educated Christians who have carefully considered scriptural and scientific evidence to arrive at a range of intermediate views seeking to harmonize the evidence. In what follows, I will briefly summarize 5 perspectives on the evolution-creation issue.

Let me begin with what everyone (regardless of perspective) generally agrees upon.

First, most people recognize that the universe and earth give the appearance of being very old (universe = 13.8 billion years old, earth = 4.5 billion years old). Note that I do not say that the universe and earth are old, but that they appear old. I will say more about this later.

Second, most people recognize that a variety of species exists today and a variety of species previously existed (e.g., mammoths, dinosaurs, ammonites, dodos and so on). Furthermore, clear patterns of similarity (e.g., genetic similarity, morphological similarity) exist among species that exist today. Patterns of similarity also exist between the species existing today and species that no longer exist. Thus, for example, mastodons, mammoths, and modern elephants show genetic commonalities that are unique to that group. Similarly, dogs and bears show genetic similarities or commonalities, some of which do not exist in other creatures. Even strains of influenza virus (e.g., modern flu strains vs. the 1918 flu pandemic virus) show genetic similarities (which is why we can have “flu shots”). The genetic similarities are echoed by morphological (i.e., bone structure or physical structure) similarities. Mastodons, mammoths, and modern elephants show similar physical and bone structure, as do dogs/bears, or feline species (e.g., lions, saber-tooth tigers, housecats, and so on).

Three, adherents of each position below (with one exception - atheistic evolution), also consider the scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be divinely inspired and authoritative for Christian faith/doctrine and practice. That is, every position (except for atheistic evolution) is held by sincere Christians who are committed to the Bible as their guide for faith/practice; a number of these Christians also have graduate degrees (e.g., PhDs) in the sciences or social sciences and serve as faculty at a host of Christian universities and colleges around the world.
Having noted what most individuals involved in this debate agree upon, the question then becomes one of reconciling these three sources of evidence (physical evidence about the age of the earth/universe, biological evidence about species and their relationships, and scriptural evidence about God’s role in creation). In the chart I have provided below, I have presented 5 attempts at reconciling these lines of evidence. These attempts form a spectrum of views. I will start by very briefly addressing the single “non-Christian” view – atheistic evolution, then proceed to the other extreme (young earth creation) and subsequently address the middle 3 positions. Keep in mind that these are general perspectives; each perspective may contain several variations. Furthermore, the perspectives are not always clearly separable from each other. Individuals may hold views that combine or are on the border of two perspectives.

Young Earth
Old Earth
Theistic Evolution
Atheistic Evolution
Very brief summary
God created all in 6 days a relatively short time ago (i.e., 4000-8000 years ago)
God created all in 6 days a long time ago (billions of years ago)
God created separate species over a long period of time.
Separate species appeared over a long period of time, through the “God directed” evolutionary process.
There is no God. Separate species appeared over a long period of time, though the evolutionary process.
Approach to Bible
Generally a strict literal approach to Bible
Generally a literal approach, with some interpretation. E.g., day = age theory, days of revelation theory
Non-literal approach
Non-literal approach
Rejection of Scripture
Scientific evidence (physical)
Scientific evidence (biological)
Accepts some
Held by Christians

Steven J. Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Everywhere - International Staff Songsters

Have you ever stopped to think how God loves you?
It sounds quite incredible, and yet it's true.
Nothing on this earth or in the heavens above
Is as sure and certain as God's love.

O it's as high as the sky and it's as deep as the sea,
And it's as wide as the world, God's love for you and for me.
We can't escape his love, or take ourselves out of his care,
So where could we hide from his love?
His love is everywhere.

Everything is changing in the world today,
There's one thing reliable in every way,
Other things may alter but it's clear and plain
That the love of God is just the same.

O it's as high as the sky and it's as deep as the sea,
And it's as wide as the world, God's love for you and for me.
We can't escape his love, or take ourselves out of his care,
So where could we hide from his love?
His love is everywhere.

Wider than the human mind can realize,
His love is unlimited and never dies;
Though we don't deserve it, every day it's new;
That's the love of God for me and you.

O it's as high as the sky and it's as deep as the sea,
And it's as wide as the world, God's love for you and for me.
We can't escape his love, or take ourselves out of his care,
So where could we hide from his love?
His love is everywhere.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Made in the Image of God: Part 3 (Conclusion)

My husband and I chose to change the patterns and practices in our home. Our children have not grown up with WT. They are wonderfully and fearfully made, and they have a confidence in this
truth that I have not seen nor experienced. But as I am seeking and finding a new image of God, and as I stay in recovery from WT, I am focusing on how God sees me—via passages, such as Psalm
139:1-16 (The Message):

139 1-6 GOD, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!
7-12 Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

And why are our perceptions of God important? Because, The essence of the Christian faith is the establishment of a relationship with God, which, in turn, is based on the individual's perceptions of God. Thus, the perception of God is crucial to laying a foundation for faith. Furthermore, trusting and submitting to God are considered essential to spiritual growth. Understanding individuals’ perceptions of God is essential to comprehending
individual relationships with Him (Tisdale et al., 1997). The question then arises of how individuals form perceptions of God.

[Perceptions of God Held by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” by Elizabeth J. Hayduk, 2005]

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Made in the Image of God: Part 2

Another detrimental experience to developing a healthy image of God is the teaching of ‘worm theology’. I am including an article that I wrote on this subject for the Lenten Season, 2014: Day 4 of Lent, Saturday, March 8th/14
By Elizabeth J Hayduk

I’ve been contemplating the source and the detrimental effects of ‘worm theology’ (WT). In my research, I have discovered that there are two common sources to which people attribute the origin and development of WT.

The first common source is believed to have stemmed from King David’s statement in Psalm 22:6, where he says, “But I am like a worm instead of a man. People make fun of me and hate me.” (New Century Version) However, Psalm 22 is deemed to be a Messianic Psalm, which means that it is a psalm, which prophetically spoke of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. So does this mean that Jesus saw Himself as a worm? Coffman, a Bible commentator, notes that, the phrase, "… I am a worm" does not reflect Jesus’ perception of Himself. Rather, he points out that, “Jesus is not speaking here of his own estimate of his own true importance and worth, but of the estimate that his enemies have made concerning him, as proved by the second half of the verse.”He is despised (as men despise a worm) and is not recognized by his contemporaries as a human being with rights." [Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible…]

The second common source of WT arises from a line in an old hymn by Isaac Watts, called, “Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed”. The line says, “Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” Those who follow this line of reasoning believe that God will treat them more favourably if they have low or non-existent self-worth. There seems to be some confusion between humility and lack of self-worth, with the former being of value and the latter being ‘sinful’. In fact, these terms are often used interchangeably, when their meanings are distinct. Humility means having a realistic view or evaluation of one’s self. A humble individual doesn’t boast about their achievements. Self-worth encompasses a sense of our own value, our worth as a person.
Paul Coughlin, a Contributor, has written an article on, “The Dangers of Raising Kids with 'Worm Theology' “[]. This thoughtful expose notes that, “Many were told as kids that they are worthless in and of themselves—that they possess no inherent value, even though the Bible says that all people are created in God’s image, endowing them with innate value and worth. Making matters worse is that people who come from tough childhood experiences such as abuse and neglect have what a counselor friend calls "shame Velcro." They are actually attracted to systems of belief that demean them.”

Children develop their image of God based on their interactions and images of their parents. Many parents want to ensure that their offspring will not be obnoxious or boastful, but that they will be good citizens, fitting well into society. (Of course, they don’t want to be embarrassed by their children, either.) In fact, many parents have used the phrase, “I’ll take you down a peg or two”, which is a way of humiliating their children to “put them in their place”. But what happens if the child gets to the last peg? And what image of God is being formed in their children’s hearts and minds?

urthermore, what happens to adults who have grown up with WT? When depressed or feeling low, it’s easy to berate ourselves, maybe to even call ourselves names. Insecurities rise, any confidence may evaporate, and questioning God’s love becomes the focus. Nor is it easy to recover from the detrimental practices that stem from WT.

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer,