Monday, July 23, 2012

If you were born in Saudi Arabia you’d be a muslim

Question: I often hear this argument: If you were born in India you would be a Hindu, if you were born in Saudi Arabia you would be a Muslim. So your faith in God has no foundation, it’s just a geographical construct and therefore not true.
Answer: Yes, I remember hearing this argument from a business associate back in 1980. It really threw me. Perhaps because it contains a hidden accusation against God, that if there is a God, it isn't fair to condemn people to hell just because they were born in Saudi Arabia and had no exposure to the truth of the gospel.
Of course it is a dodge, since neither you nor the person with whom you are having the discussion were born in Saudi Arabia nor would we want to be. Why are they suddenly so concerned about people they never met? You could say the same thing about the native Americans before the arrival of the pilgrims; they had no exposure to the truth about the Christ.
What finally helped me was a pastor's advice regarding my doubts. "Are you 90% sure about your faith in Christ? What is the other 10%? Is it Islam? Go investigate it, then live 100% by what you decide." Even then I knew enough about Islam to know it wasn't true, could not be true.
So we want to be people who are open to learning, to new information, but that doesn't mean we should live in indecision or not act on what we know to be true. This is the error described in James 1, "being a double-minded man unstable in all his ways."

Perhaps the best response would be to point out how ridiculous the argument can become. We actually have a saying I used this morning when my boys kept coming in and out of the house leaving the door open. "Were you born in a barn?"
So if you were born in a barn, does that make you an animal? No. If you are born in Hungary does that make you Hungarian? No. When two of our boys were born in Hungary the birth documents said, "unknown citizenship". Since both parents are American, we then applied at the US embassy for US citizenship. The Bible really makes your eternal destiny a question of identity and citizenship. You have to be born again.

We could also point out that the premise isn't even true. Many people born in India are not Hindu but are Muslim or Christian. India is not a monolithic culture. The problem in Saudi Arabia is a lack of access to truth. I doubt that is what our friends want, to be isolated from truth so that they have no options. But even there it isn't really true that people in Islamic nations have no access to God. We see that today there are many amazing movements of God among Muslim peoples, some are hidden, with imams and sheikhs turning to Jesus. No doubt God has His people in Saudi Arabia as well.
This suppression of truth really upsets God, but He allows it and judges it. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20
In the West we often think in terms of individual choice. It is true that God judges us as individuals. But we also see a God who judges nations. Much of the Old Testament deals with judgment of nations, cities, and empires. One possibility is that God is judging and will judge nations like Saudi Arabia for suppressing truth in unrighteousness. But then there are the bright exceptions like Rahab and Ruth, people who choose God over their own people and family.

Although post-modern philosophy shuns comparing one belief system with another, the book of Hebrews uses this approach. It shows how Jesus is superior to angels, to Moses, to Aaron, to the high priest, and how superior the old covenant is to the new. We could also do this effectively to show how vastly superior our message is to reincarnation or a religion like Islam with no assurance of escaping hell.