Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Invention of Adolescence

posted by Christine Pack

Note: I found this article by Otto Scott on the Defending Contending site, and think it speaks very aptly to our culture today. I have also heard Paul Washer teach on this strange phenomenon of "adolescence" as well, but could not find the sermon in which this appeared. 

Adolescence is now accepted by most Americans as a strange and difficult period marked by wild swings of mood, outbursts of temper, rudeness, rebelliousness, and personality changes — all involuntary.

They would be surprised to learn that this period was unknown, unrecognized, and unseen in every previous civilization, culture, and society throughout the immensely long history of humanity. It is, even today, unknown in large areas of the inhabited world.

I recall marveling at the calm that pervaded families in South America during my last extended stay there in the early 1950s. I did not hear a single rude response by a teenager to anyone. No doubt it was different in the slums, but this was the atmosphere among the middle and upper classes.

In earlier times, this was once true even in the United States, the land now known for difficult children. There was even a time when there were no adolescents.

That was, of course, a time beyond the memory of even our oldest inhabitants: a time before the Civil War, during the First American Republic. Our great social changes began after that conflict; after huge waves of immigration came via the new, safer steamboats; during the period when many Americans anxious for a higher, more complete education, went to Europe — and especially to Germany — to study.

One of these was G. Stanley Hall, who earned a doctorate in psychology under William James at the new Johns Hopkins University in 1878. Hall went to Germany for two years and was swept up in German psychological research and became especially interested in the mental development of children.

After that immersion in what is usually termed “the latest scientific developments,” Hall returned to Johns Hopkins as a professor of psychology and pedagogy. (Wonderfully impressive terms!) Hall taught John Dewey, Lewis Terman (who later pioneered “mental” tests) and Arnold Gesell, later famed as a “child” psychologist.

Hall conducted numerous “studies” of children during the 1880s and 1890s, and in 1904 issued a landmark book cumbersomely titled Adolescence: Us Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education.

That title alone should have warned the wary, but it was a time when a number of savants were appearing with novel theories about human behavior. Dr. Freud, addicted first to opium and then cocaine, had convinced many of his patients that he could read thoughts of which they were themselves unaware. Lombroso’s theory that a criminal was an anthropological type with certain physical characteristics still had a following; so did phrenology: the idea that the contours of the skull indicated mental and spiritual qualities. It was a time, in other words, when — in the name of science — human beings were being redefined by various individuals who claimed to possess supernormal powers of observation and insight.

Dr. Hall was one of these. His theories fit inside spread of Spencer’s social Darwinism and the fashionable belief in the perfectibility of Man through formal, secular education. He thought the embryo in the womb repeated Darwin’s evolution of humanity from the sea, and that the stages of childhood repeated the stages of social evolution from pre-savagery to civilization. He left the definition of civilization unstated and seemed to believe that it was a permanent condition achieved in the West in 1905.

Dr. Hall argued that childhood consisted of “three stages, each with a parallel in racial history” and each requiring certain set teaching approaches. Infancy and early childhood were equal to pre-stages of culture, and parent/teachers should allow the child to play with blocks and to exercise freely. At six or seven, he believed the child experienced various crises leading to the “pre-adolescent” years of eight to twelve, when behavior is comparable to “the world of early pigmies and other so-called savages.’”[1]

At this point (six or seven) the child was, in Dr. Hall’s view, ready for school — and its discipline. But a new period of crisis, he believed, arrived between thirteen and eighteen — which he termed adolescence.

Hall compared this to ancient and medieval civilizations. He believed it was a crucial period, “because it prepares the youth for the acquisition of knowledge, mores and skills that will determine the future of the individual and, by extension, that of the human race.”

He also believed that it was “a stormy period . . . when there is a peculiar proneness to be either very good or very bad.’”[2]

There does not seem to be any basis for this conclusion. Throughout all the previous centuries of Christianity — and of Judaism before that, twelve had been considered the age of maturity. Both confirmation in the Christian religion in Pre-reformation centuries, and the Bar Mitzvah in Judaism (then and now) took place at that age. Thereafter, a young person was expected to behave as a responsible adult, and to assume a place in adult society.

Boys in New England whaling towns went to sea and rose to become masters of clipper ships in their early twenties Girls married at sixteen and set about raising a family, managing a home and behaving as matrons. Their counterparts around the world behaved the same. Life began early; tantrums may have occurred, but they had no general rationale connected to age: everyone was held responsible, and God was not blamed for anyone’s misbehavior.

Social life, however, is replete with imitative patterns. People are apt to behave as they are expected to behave — whether well or foolishly.

Hall’s ideas fit the fashion: it would not be fair to say that they were deliberately conceived to do so; it would be accurate to say that Hall was a man of his time, more than a man of original insight. He codified ideas about children and youths that were then floating in the air. That was the reason his argument was so easily swallowed by educators and other professionals. True originality has a much harder time.

In any event, Hall’s work provided a basis for segregating school children by age. Elementary school children were segregated from secondary schools along the lines of his “observations.” Twelve was the age of the break. The new fashion spread even into religion, and the clergy began to aim different lessons at special age groups: the Bible was too much for the young.

The movement mushroomed into special courses for special ages. At certain ages, a child was expected to learn this much — and no more. To learn behind the group was a cause for concern, so in time, was to learn ahead of the group. Norms came into being; to fit the norm became (as it is now) more important than to sprint ahead — and to fall behind is a calamity. Never mind that different children grow at different rates at different times and that even individual progress is sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Differences were put in the background; age in the foreground.

At a certain time, therefore, in the lives of contemporary American children, certain behavior patterns are expected — and subtly mandated. Nor is this only true of children. There is now an expected beginning and an end to a working career: one cannot be too young — or too old.

We have, today, an entire hierarchy of social groups based on age: from Day School to Leisure Village. There are assumptions surrounding each age group: from expected tantrums by adolescents to PMS for women of a certain age — and an end to creativity from the old.

There are many variations of this development — from youth gangs to the forced retirement. In fact, we have almost achieved a society nearly completely segregated by age in which the generations have been narrowed from the traditional thirty years to far fewer. Age now separates us more than ever before in any society; persons raised only a few decades apart find one another nearly incomprehensible. Dr. Hall, therefore, can be said to have influenced us as much (and perhaps more) than Darwin or Dr. Freud, and like these more celebrated “thinkers” has brought us at least an equal load of distress, disturbance, and unhappiness.

Originally appeared in the CHALCEDON REPORT, JULY, copyright 1991. 

1. Howard P. Chudacoff, How Old Are You? Age of Consciousness in American Culture, (Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 67.

2. Ibid.

photo credit: Dbl90 via photopin cc

Discontentment Is A Sin

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13
Below are excerpts from an excellent sermon delivered by Jeremy Clarke, pastor of Legacy Baptist Church in Northwest Arkansas.  This sermon, Discipleship Part 1, is part of an expository series and can be downloaded in its entirety here.

❝God does not suggest that we ought to be content in his care and provision; He commands it.  Contentment is biblically described as freedom from external need due to confidence in God's adequate provision.  There is an intrinsic relationship between being content and your faith.  If you have Christ, you have all that you need.  Conversely, if a man has everything and doesn't have Christ, he has nothing.

And yet the church reflects so much of the world in this, I fear.....I'm convinced that the more people have the more discontent they become.  The church in America is literally saturated with discontented people who've been incubated in this soil of American consumerism.  They're just grumbling and complaining and covetous consumers.....it's really quite sad.  Listen to me.  Few sins are uglier to God than complaining.   Few sins hinder our effectiveness for the gospel more than discontentedness.  And because that's true, my children will tell you, that nothing is dealt with more severely in my own home than complaining and discontentedness.  Complaining at the Clarke home will typically elicit a very swift response.  I'm particularly sensitive to that issue as a parent and as a pastor, and I'm convinced that the greatest threat that faces our children is not drugs or promiscuity, the greatest threat that faces our children today is the seed of Christless discontent germinating in the soil of a home that presents a child with every temporal whim under the sun, and in doing so ignores or at least neutralizes the responsibility of pointing these young reprobates to Christ, and his sufficiency.  And children do not come into the world, content, do they?  Not by any stretch of the imagination. As we'll learn in the coming weeks, contentment must be learned.  Paul said, "I've learned to be content."  Discontent in the home must receive a swift, decisive sentence, or your child's heart will be given over fully to do evil.

The American church today is rich in a way that is foreign to the rest of the world.  And yet the church in America seems to find more to complain about, and the most minute issues to grumble about, and subsequently there seems to be very little humility in the church today, very little thankfulness, very little gratitude.  Servanthood seems almost to have been replaced by expectation, which does nothing but further feed discontent.  I'm standing here telling you that until we become servants and stop being some discontented customers, we will never attain to the deep intimate knowledge of the Son of God.  Never ever.

Every complaint that breaches your mouth, that breaches my mouth, is an expression of faithlessness.  Further, it's an indictment against a sovereign God who ordained the circumstances under which you are complaining.  All of your complaints and all of my complaints, one way or another, are complaints against the providential purpose and will of God.  And they do nothing but hinder your spiritual growth and your advance in Christ.  Discontent is devastating.  It's a devastating sin.  So let's not confuse contentment with just some nice, Christian virtue.  That's not what contentment is.  On the contrary, this is so serious, this issue of contentment, that it is nothing less than a divine precept.  It is commanded by God.  You're to be content with whatever you have, you're to be content with food and wages and clothing and your spouse.  This isn't a request.  It's not a suggestion, it is a command.

To complain about something is to complain about the circumstances that God has ordained.   You can put that in context of our lives today.  Pull up to the gas station, and you see it's $3.50 - oh, for crying out loud, this is crazy, $3.50?  These are circumstances that God has ordained, I don't have the right to complain about these things.  I  don't need to get fearful or concerned, because God promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  You go to start your car one morning, it doesn't work, and you go, ah, great, this is crazy, this is just not gonna do.  Does it not all belong to God? Has He abdicated? Is He not still on the throne? Is this not his car, are you not his child, does the road not belong to him, and the mechanic that you'll see, are these not all under the sovereignty of God?  Don't I give the mechanic breath, and the skills that he has, don't they come from me? Oh, fearful, grumbling, complaining child of God.  Relinquish your complaining. You are complaining against the circumstances that God has ordained.

God's Word declares it, and you and I are to comply.  We could end right there this morning, couldn't we?  God offers much more than that, though.  God doesn't just issue a command, He gives us the means by which we are to comply, the regenerative properties of his Spirit.  So God motivates us toward obedience by changing the principles and features of our hearts and motives and inclinations, so that we not only can, but long, to comply.  So we're to comply, but righteous duty is all but completely obscured in today's church by this matter of discontent.  Duty is not a popular word in the church in America. I think every one of us would agree with that.  Few Christians see their sojourn on earth as a duty, a divine enlistment.  The church today knows a whole lot about freedom, a whole lot about fulfillment, all of that kind of stuff, but it is calloused to words like 'commission,' 'obedience,' 'surrender,' 'charge,' 'duty,' 'sacrifice.'  We live in a self-absorbed, indulgent time, and we're insulated by all sorts of resources and comforts.  We've fostered a culture of expectation, a culture of preoccupation with whatever meets our 'felt needs.'  It ought not to be that way.  And around and around the church goes in this Americana, feel-good kind of spiritual haze: spiritually uncommitted, spiritually immature, possessing little if any discernment, little if any Biblical conviction, little if any aptitude for service and devotion and sacrifice.  Now listen to me: God's will, and the majesty of his infallible Word, is all that we need to motivate us toward compliance.  That's it.  It's all that we need to captivate us into obedience. You are to be content, and I am to be content, because the holiness of God demands it.

You see until the church returns to a Godly fear of the Almighty, until we become laid low by his resplendent majesty, until the church becomes shaken to its very roots, so that we see ourselves in comparison to his Christ, we will never know the depth of our own sin, the depth of our own ingratitude, the depth of discontentedness, the depth of our covetousness, we'll never know the heinousness of our grumbling and complaining.  The church today is not deeply pained by its sinful discontent, so much so that we don't have an inkling of the understanding of the holiness of God.  Not an inkling.

We are to be content because we understand that we serve an infinitely holy, inifinitely supernatural, omnipotent, majestic, resourceful God who says 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'  He's a God who is faithful to his promises.  To be discontent is to trample that promise underfoot.  In fact, it's to call God a liar.

The operation of your life runs directly proportional to your view of God.  It's a critical thing for Christians to understand.  It's a simple formula that says this: to the extent that you understand God's holiness, to that extent you don't complain.  And I truly believe that this is Ground Zero for the church today, coming back to a vivid hunger for understanding the holiness of God, the majesty of God.  It's missing in the church today, and I think it has a lot to do with the saccharine teaching that has developed over the last 150 years.  The church today is not the same as it was 150 years ago. We've lost our solemn appreciation for the holiness of God. Our radios are turned to Christian presets that have lots of nice songs, and we come to churches that foster lots of nice feelings and emotions, lots of nice thoughts, but there is little or no acknowledgment of the incomprehensible holiness of God Almighty.

You scour your Bible, and you will see that any account of an encounter with God is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of sin and holy terror.  That's what it means to be confronted by the holiness of God.  And if at this very moment the Lord of glory would reveal to us here in this room just how detestable our discontent is before him, every breathing soul in this room would be prostrate on the floor, mourning in sorrow over that sin.  We don't have an inkling.

And don't miss this: discontent in the heart is revealed in the mouth.  Those who complain most are those who are the most ignorant of the holiness of God.  Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  There is a critical relationship between a man's humility and his embrace of the holiness of God.  That embrace is revealed at the point of his speech.  I'm convinced that the greatest expression of ignorance of the character of God is expressed in complaining, in grumbling and in discontent.  Lamentations 3:39 "Why should any living mortal, any man, offer complaint in view of his sin?"  That Scripture is saying: you must have lost your mind, to offer complaint in view of the immense sin in your life.  I'm speaking about myself as well. Why on earth would we offer complaint in light of our sin?  You ought to underline that verse in your Bible, you ought to teach it diligently to your children, you ought to put it on the cornerposts of your home, you ought to wake up, and rise up, with that thought ever before you.  If your children complain, if you complain, swiftly and decisively deal with that sin.  Put it to bed.❞

photo credit: mahalie via photopin cc
photo credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Discipleship, from the Nature of the Church series (Pastor Jeremy Clarke, Legacy Baptist Church)

For the Christian: "I Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You"

Serving One Another in Love

On Christmas Dispositions

Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas

Sunday, July 17, 2011

God's Design for Marriage Not So Bad After All?

Posted by Christine Pack

In a recent New York Times article, author Erica Jong who famously championed free love and commitmentless sex, has posed the question: "Is Sex Passé?" Erica Jong is known for having fought for decades to help women claim their "right" to casual sex. Now, 40 years later, an entire generation has been brought up in the aftermath of the free love 60's and 70's to become a culture that literally pulsates with sex: sexuality is on display on billboards, on TV shows, in movies, roaring through the internet in every deviant form, in books, even in the hoochie mama clothes sold at Wal-Mart and Target in the girls' section. But now, a reversal seems to be occurring. Writes Jong:
"I was fascinated to see, among younger women, a nostalgia for ’50s-era attitudes toward sexuality. The older writers in my anthology are raunchier than the younger writers. The younger writers are obsessed with motherhood and monogamy."
In Jong's mind, the reason for this backlash is because "daughters always want to be different from their mothers. If their mothers discovered free sex, then they want to rediscover monogamy." Jong seems to to believe that while the sexually repressed women of her generation had to fight for their sexual freedom, the women of this generation who already have this freedom are celebrating this freedom by going back to.....monogamy and children.

To make this story all the more interesting, Erica Jong's own daughter, author Molly Jong-Fast, has written of her upbringing in a heartbreaking way: of having a mother who casually walked around naked, of pornographic pictures of lesbians hanging in her home, of being required by her "very progressive middle school" when she was an eighth grader to go to a local store to purchase condoms, of her harrowing drug addiction.  Having survived this childhood, Jong-Fast came to reject the idea of sexual freedom as a good thing. She has also written of her deep desire to be "normal," and of being a stay-at-home mom who has a "closed marriage" (which, presumably because she was writing for Salon, she had to spell out by helpfully explaining that this is "where you only sleep with the person you are married to").
Some Pharisees came to him to test Jesus. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” 
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:3-6)
In reading through Erica Jong's article and then several articles by her daughter Molly Jong-Fast, I came across a photograph of this family dated 1980, when Molly Jong-Fast was two years old, and Erica Jong was married to Molly's father, Jonathan Fast. I looked at the picture of this husband and father, and wondered: What must it have been like to be the man who was married to the woman who worked so hard to help women claim the "right" to not be monogamous? Was this a man who was valued as the leader of his home? Was he respected? I have no way of knowing the inner workings of this marriage, documented by this single black and white photograph. But what I do know is that to go outside the parameters of marriage, as it is ordained by God, is foolish. God's commands for us - all of them - are for our blessing and our benefit. As Christians, we should know that God does not give us commands to limit us, to take away our fun and freedom. But this is so often our thinking - wrong thinking, sin-addled thinking: that God is a big kill-joy, limiting us, not wanting good for us.  Let us let Scripture align our thinking in this area:
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
When we understand God rightly, we know that his purposes are always two-fold: (1) to be glorified but also (2) to bless those who belong to him. And thus, our obedience to his command about marriage results not only in God being glorified by the harmonious, loving unions that result - and serve as a testament to the world of God's loving care and provision - but also results in blessing the men, women and children who live in obedience to their Creator. Glory to God for his care and provision - He is deserving of all honor and praise.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Islam, the Ultimate Obsessive-Compulsive Religion

Below is one of the most gripping testimonies I have ever read. Like the author of the article below, I also had a form of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) before God mercifully lifted it from me. Mine was never as severe as Ms. Khalil's, but I certainly can relate to her love of rituals as a lost person, and how doing the rituals seemed to be something that I could do to hold off death, and somehow please "God." I also relate to Ms. Khalil's desire for a strong father figure who spiritually guides those in his care. Before I was saved, I began reading the Old Testament and had this same reaction to the God of the Old Testament. We hear so much about how the God of the Old Testament is a monster. Well, I didn't see it that way. From my Old Testament reading, the first thing that came through loud and clear to me was God's unapproachable, magnificent, all-consuming holiness, and how man's sin problem made it impossible for him to approach this high and holy God. (Impossible, that is, without the supernatural intervention of God himself, which came in the form of his Son, Jesus.) But another thing I began to grasp was also God's deep and abiding love for his people. Yes, he disciplined them, but he also loved them. Don't loving parents discipline their children? I began to yearn for this loving Father to be in my life, loving me, protecting me, spiritually guiding me.

Below is Ms. Khalil's article in its entirety.

 Islam, the Ultimate Obsessive-Compulsive Religion 
by Farrah Khalil, article reprinted in full from World Net Daily

Although it has been seven years, I still have the vestiges of Islamic rituals stamped into my brain. For example, I still refuse to pet my dog before I pray. Why? Well, because in Islam, dog saliva makes all prayers null and void.

There are tons of circumstances and elements that can cause a Muslim's prayer to "not count," like sighing, talking, clapping, turning away from the Qibla (direction of prayer), folding one's hands, not washing up properly, intentionally laughing, intentionally weeping about "worldly matters," prostrating an incorrect number of times and (excuse me for being crass) farting. These silly rituals that have nothing to do with my relationship with the Lord still "come a knocking" when I least expect it – grim reminders that I spent eight years of my life attempting to become the best "white, female, American, Muslim in the world!"

I used to think that my conversion to Islam was Satan's first attack against me, but I was wrong. Yes, this was Satan's most ferocious and spiritually lethal barrage, but it was far from his initial attempt to hijack my soul. No, my salvation was "up for grabs" the moment I popped out of the womb and looked into the eyes of my self-pronounced agnostic father and Sicilian mother who had been raised by her Jewish stepfather.

The fact that my parents were not Christians, never stopped them from stringing Christmas lights or hiding Easter eggs. My father loved the "essence" of Christmas – the tangible fellowship and joy that seemed to permeate the air. He loved "playing Santa," decorating Christmas cookies and singing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" while spinning me around in his arms. It was this "pretense of Christianity" that we practiced twice a year, combined with my paternal grandparents' staunch Baptist faith, that allowed me to say, "I'm Christian," if anyone happened to ask. But what did that mean? I didn't know. Sadly, I could spew out facts about Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, but when it came to Jesus, I was clueless. I knew that Jesus was somewhere in the Bible (He made cameo or two) and that a large cross was involved, but that was the extent of my Christian knowledge. Pretty pathetic.

Needless to say, I was an easy target for Satan – a virtual sitting duck. Yet, at age 11, I was still too young for thought-provoking ideologies and religious conversion. There had to be a progression – a progression that would turn me into a spiritually deprived and almost "soulless" human being. This soul-sucking movement began the day I found my mother curled up on her bedroom floor in the fetal position, eyes open, mouth wailing. It was a terrifying sight. She had just received "it," the phone call that my grandmother had shot herself in the throat. It was all downhill from there, which is usually the case when God is not part of your life. After the initial stages of grief had passed, the three "Ds" (depression, divorce and drugs) led by the big "D" (the Devil) completely and unapologetically obliterated my family.

I reacted to this total annihilation by becoming the most obsessive compulsive 11-year-old girl that you would never want to meet. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder in which the sufferer's fears are allayed by repetitive rituals, counting, washing, etc. What fears, you ask? Well, I am sure it is different for every person, but I began to fear that if I did not concede to my self-imposed rituals, then one of my family members would die.

It all started with light switches. I rationalized that if I did not flick light switches eight times in a row someone would "kick the bucket." The light-switch obsession eventually morphed into an insane obsession with showers. I just knew that germs from my body could potentially leap onto somebody else and they would eventually – that's right – die. And it would be all my fault! Their blood would be on my hands! Thus, in an effort to alleviate this fear, I started taking six showers a day. But this compulsion was cut short the moment my parched skin began to crack and blister. However, the disintegration of my youthful skin in no way meant that my OCD was starting to fizzle. It just meant that my OCD was a bit ADD.

As the years went by, my obsessions continued to mutate and change. There was the towel obsession, the hydrogen-peroxide obsession, the water obsession and then, right before the big "finale" (Islam), the food obsession. To put it simply, I became so anorexic and bulimic that I will probably need dentures by the time I turn 40. Although each of my obsessions were vastly different and exceptionally bizarre, they all had one thing in common: They were "performed" in an effort to ward off death and destruction from an unknown and unnamed force. Enter Islam.

Now it was time. Everything was in place. My father had remarried, my mother was missing-in-action, and I was continuing to destroy my teeth and esophagus on a daily basis. I was also finally old enough (17 to be exact) to allow Satan to completely take over my body. And he did it via one of the most handsome humans I had ever laid eyes on – a human who would eventually become my husband. His name was Tamar, and he met all of my physical criteria: tall with olive-colored skin and jet-black hair. Like any ignorant, white girl who attended a school that was 98 percent Caucasian, I assumed he was Hispanic. I was wrong. Tamar was Middle Eastern, and on our fourth date he informed me that he was a Muslim. I had no idea what that meant, and I really didn't care. I just knew that I was in love. And fortunately so was Tamar.

Tamar didn't tell his parents about me until we were six months into our relationship. In fact, they didn't even know that I existed (even though I lived just one street over). Why? Well, because it is very unorthodox for a Muslim man to get involved with a non-Muslim woman. On the other hand, my father, who had recently given his life to Christ, knew all about my relationship with Tamar, and it terrified him. I still remember the day he looked directly into my eyes and said, "Sylvia, I am so scared that you are going to convert to Islam, marry Tamar and move to the Middle East."

I replied to his premonition by throwing my hands onto my hips and furrowing my brow in utter disbelief. Then I shot my father one of those rebellious teenager-esque smirks and snapped, "That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!" Boy was I wrong.

After Tamar told his family about my "existence," I began to go to his house on a daily basis. I loved it there. In my eyes, he had the perfect family. His mother was June Cleaver's doppelganger, if June Cleaver had been from the Middle East. She was constantly cooking and cleaning and bringing Tamar and me mugs of hot tea to sip while we studied.

Although Tamar's father never spoke to me much, it was clear that he was in charge. That was a good feeling, a secure feeling – a feeling that I hadn't felt in years and a feeling I didn't want to lose. Thus, in the beginning, I feigned interest in Islam in an effort to please Tamar and his family. It was of utmost importance that I proved I was good enough, that I was worthy of Tamar's love, despite my haggard past and lack of religion.

I always nodded my head respectfully, almost emphatically, when Tamar's mother would explain why she covered her hair. For her it was twofold. First, she didn't want to hang from her locks in hell. Second, her beauty, in its full capacity, was reserved for one man only – her husband. The last thing she wanted to do was cause another man to lust after her! That was a sin that would immediately be added to her heavenly scales, and nobody wanted "off-balance scales."

Off-balance scales?

The OCD part of my brain exploded into action the moment I heard this phrase. What was she talking about? What scales? Did I need to know about these scales? Would something bad happen if my own scales were off balance? I had to learn more. Tamar's mother, as well as his father, were happy to oblige. They taught me all about the heavenly scales that weighed a Muslim's good and bad deeds from the moment they were born until the day they died. On that day, if one's bad deeds outweighed one's good deeds, even by the smallest percentage, then that person went straight to hell. But there was hope. Good deeds could erase bad deeds, and praying on a certain night during Ramadan (the month of Islamic fasting) could expunge a plethora of sins! Furthermore, repeating certain phrases after praying the five daily prayers had the ability to annul at least 1,000 bad deeds – like magic!

The biggest sin eraser of them all was going on a Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca. This once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage guaranteed the instant removal of all sins. Then maybe, just maybe, one could make it into heaven, but one was never sure. It was an intangible gambling of sorts, a virtual coin toss. Could I beat the odds and make it into heaven? I thought I could. The rituals, the math, the counting, the repetitive washing before prayer: It was right up my alley. Islam was, and is, the perfect religion for someone with obsessive compulsive disorder. I wanted it.

I dove head first into the study of Islam and immediately began drowning in its murky, repressive and hate-filled ideology. I not only started reading the Quran, Islam's holy book, but I also began pouring through every Islamic book I could get my hands on. I read about how to pray and when to pray and where to pray. I read about the millions of situations and elements that would make a prayer null and void. I read about ways to erase sins and ways to increase good deeds – the lifelong struggle to regulate one's heavenly scales. I read books explaining why men could have up to four wives and books about how the Holocaust was just one big lie (conspired by the Jews, of course). I read books about the life of Muhammad, Islam's final prophet, and how to emulate his life on a daily basis, like drinking in sips of three (this was better somehow) and allowing a fly to fall into your drink (apparently, fly wings cure diseases). I read about the "evil Jews" and the "infidel Christians" – Christians who erroneously thought Jesus was the Son of God.

"How stupid," Tamar's parents would scoff. "To think that Allah (the Islamic god) would come to earth in the form of a man."

"How stupid," I would repeat, thinking of my born-again father. He believed that Jesus was the Son of God. Poor thing. He was going to hell.

Yet, with all of my reading, I still hadn't made a formal proclamation to convert to Islam until that one fateful evening. It was just past midnight and I was sitting on the edge of Tamar's bed fiercely clutching a dark green Quran against my chest. I was feeling something, not a peaceful or happy something, but something. And although I felt "heady" and scared, I also felt powerful. It was time. "I'm ready to convert to Islam," I whispered to Tamar. "Praise Allah."

Two years later, I was boarding a plane to the Middle East with Tamar, now my husband, and our newborn son in tow. I was a hard-core Muslim by this time, but the pinnacle of my Islamic fundamentalism was yet to come. The anti-Semitic rhetoric that filled every nook and cranny of the Middle East, coupled with my desire to prove myself as a "real Muslim," turned me into a hate-filled, angry and utterly depressed monster. At first everyone attributed my strange behavior to culture shock, but that wasn't it. I had assumed that living in an Islamic country would finally allow me to feel Allah's love – something that I had yet to experience but was waiting for. When that didn't happen, when I still felt nothing but fear and inadequacy, I began to panic.

Maybe I was praying incorrectly, or maybe I was praying at the wrong times? But that was impossible. I had my watch set to go off at the beginning of each "prayer block," the very beginning, so that I had plenty of time to wash up. And then it hit me: I wasn't washing up correctly! My prayers were not going through! Oh no! Was I not getting enough water behind my ears or between my toes? Did I not gargle enough or let water drip all the way to my elbows? In a fit of sheer hysteria, I stripped off my clothes and ran into the shower. I stood under the water for at least 30 minutes and allowed the hot shards to saturate my entire body. Then I pushed in the plug and let the water rise until I knew that my feet were completely immersed. I had to make sure I was washed up properly – had to make sure my prayer would go through. I would never make the same mistake twice, never.

I spent the rest of my time in the Middle East (three years to be exact) living as a suicidal hermit whose skin was cracked and bloody – the dire consequence of living in the shower. Yet the constant bathing, constant praying, constant counting and constant hating never brought on Allah's love. I finally assumed that I was doomed – that my scales would never even out. It was too late. Pointless. I wanted to die, and I wanted to follow in my grandmother's footsteps. But the Lord had other plans for me. They were plans I couldn't even fathom.

Eventually, Tamar got sick of watching his wife morph into a pale waif with hollowed eyes and blistered skin. With more than just an ounce of bitterness, he decided to save my life and move us back to America. I was more terrified than happy. I just knew that Allah was going to crash the plane, because it was my fault that we were leaving an Islamic country to return to "evil America." To be honest, I was shocked when our plane touched the tarmac without a hitch. But my happiness was short lived. I reasoned and even conceded to the fact that Allah would simply kill me some other way. It was inevitable. I had read the Quran enough to know how Allah worked. His anger and bloodlust were insatiable. I just hoped vengeance would be quick and, hopefully, painless.

Over the next two years the Lord began to slowly but surely work on my heart. Four outstanding and, in my eyes, supernatural events took place that led to my blessed and undeserved salvation. The first event occurred the night I returned to America, the night I asked my father if I could drive his car to the grocery store. I hadn't driven a car in almost three years and was hankering to get behind the wheel of my father's Oldsmobile. Although there wasn't anything I necessarily needed, I parked "Old Gold" in front of the neighborhood grocery store and walked inside. The sound of people speaking English was like music to my ears. I hadn't realized how much I had missed the familiar white noise.

I took my time perusing each aisle and smiling affectionately at items I hadn't seen in years. After spending an hour just looking, I decided to buy a single pink toothbrush. With purchase in hand, I got in line behind a man wearing a long, black robe. I was used to seeing people in long, black robes. The Middle East was full of people in long, black robes. Thus, I didn't bat an eye or furrow a brow at the man's outfit – until he began to speak. The robed man in front of me was telling the cashier about the wonderful bar mitzvah he had just attended. Bar mitzvah? My eyes immediately flew to the top of the man's head. How had I missed the yarmulke (Jewish skullcap)? I couldn't believe it! I was standing behind an "evil Jewish rabbi." Ironically, right as this thought entered my mind, the "evil Jewish rabbi" turned around and said, "Why don't you go ahead of me. You only have one thing."

To say that I was shocked is an understatement. Why was this "evil Jewish rabbi" being nice to me? Jewish people, especially rabbis, were supposed to be mean and nasty, weren't they? That's what I had been told. That's what I had read. In fact, more than one person in the Middle East warned me not to buy products that may have "passed" through Israel. Why? Well, it was quite obvious. Everyone knew that Jewish people poisoned food, especially baby food, that was on its way to Islamic nations. This was common knowledge, wasn't it?

"Please, go ahead of me," the Jewish rabbi repeated, shaking me out of my wide-eyed stare.

"Thank you," I murmured, throwing money onto the counter and grabbing my toothbrush. I desperately needed to get out of the grocery store – desperately needed to get away from the strange feeling I was feeling. But I couldn't get away from the Holy Spirit. The moment my body sank into "Old Gold's" faded driver's seat, I curled into a ball and started to sob – purging out years of unfounded and unwarranted hate toward God's chosen people.

Event No. 2 was, and is, a necessary but gut-wrenching memory. Tamar had received an anonymous video email depicting the beheading of Daniel Berg by Islamic fundamentalists. He asked me if I would like to watch the video with him, but I declined. Unfortunately, we lived in a small apartment, which meant that, although I couldn't see the video, I could hear the video. And what I heard I will never forget. The animal-like screaming and repetitive chanting of "Allah Akbar" seemed to resonate throughout the entire apartment. But I was confused. I understood why the Muslims were chanting, but why were they screaming? It didn't make sense. And it wasn't possible that the screams were coming from Daniel Berg, because he had been beheaded. "Why are the Muslim men screaming?" I called out to Tamar.

My husband returned to the living room looking as if he were going to throw up. "It wasn't the Muslim men screaming," he eeked out. "It was Daniel Berg. They, they sawed his head off slowly – too slowly."

Event No. 3 concerns the famous, and now a bit "infamous," Mel Gibson. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and there seemed to be nothing "watchable" on television, until Tamar and I heard the TV announcer declare, "Coming up next, its Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of The Christ.'"

This was a movie I had vowed never to see. Yet, for some reason, I tossed the remote onto the couch, shrugged my shoulders and said, "Let's watch it and see what all the hub-bub is about." Strangely, very strangely, Tamar did not object. So there we sat, two Muslims, watching "The Passion of the Christ" on Sunday afternoon. When the movie was over, I pretended to be unaffected. But, honestly, I was so affected that I hardly knew what to do with myself. I couldn't stop thinking about Jesus. Had he really endured all of that pain for humanity? I didn't get. And the reason I "didn't get it" was because I had made the very unlearned and ignorant decision to convert to Islam without doing any type of research. I hadn't read the Bible. I hadn't read any outside secular sources to back up or disprove Islam. I hadn't compared the life of Jesus with the life of Muhammad. I hadn't examined the history of Islam. I hadn't done anything! I was a lazy, naïve, uneducated convert. Unfortunately, I hadn't made this connection – yet.

Event No. 4 was the final event: Islam's deathblow. Being back in America made my desire to be the best, white, female, American, Muslim in the world soar to new heights. I wanted to prove to my family, my friends and anyone I came into contact with that I was a "supreme Muslim." But I needed something other than just my word to back me up – something academically tangible.

I began taking online Islamic courses based in Pakistan. The courses were graded and allowed the student to print out certificates of completion upon the culmination of each course. I had obtained two of these certificates, which were displayed on the living-room wall with pride, when I began taking a course titled, "The History of Muhammad." What I learned in this course was gut-wrenching, perverted and downright gruesome. Muhammad married a 6-year-old? Really? Muhammad had a pregnant woman killed for mocking him? Really? Muhammad had thousands of Jews killed and thrown in a mass grave? Really? Didn't Hitler do that also? It was as if I had been punched in the face. Although I didn't know much about Jesus, I inherently perceived that he was nothing like Muhammad – nothing like a monster. For the first time in eight years, I was questioning Islam.

Unfortunately, Muslims are not allowed to question Islam. Allah really, really hates it when that happens. I was cognizant of this and was completely terrified. I just knew that Allah could read my mind. He could read my doubt-filled queries. But I was doubting! And Allah, or the tangible presence that was hanging out in my home, knew it. I could feel the anger and darkness. I could smell it, and it was petrifying. Therefore, I did the only thing I could think of: I pretended to pray.

For the next week, I continued to don my black headscarf and perform my ritual prostrations. Up and down, up and down, up and down, I went – eyes darting here and there. It was as if I were saying, "Look, Allah, I'm not questioning Islam at all! Don't you see me praying? Don't you see me going up and down? I'm still Muslim. Please don't kill me."

One can only live in abject terror for so long. With more than an ounce of trepidation, I called my mother – the woman who had given her life to Christ while I was living in the Middle East and the same woman who now helps run a Christian mission.

"Mom," I whispered into the telephone. "I don't want to be Muslim anymore."

In one of the calmest voices I have ever heard, my mother told me to get onto my knees and pray. When I contended that I didn't know how to pray, she told me to simply speak from my heart – no movements, no washing up, no repetitive chants – just talking. It felt so strange at first. I didn't know how to sit or where to place my hands or how to actually begin.

Finally, I just did it. I got down on my knees and talked to God. I begged for forgiveness for worshipping a false god for eight years. I cried out for protection. In gut-wrenching sobs, I told the Lord that I was terrified of Allah. By the end of my prayer, I was exhausted and shaky, but completely peaceful. I still remember lying back onto the floor and breathing. My fear that I had been carrying around for so long was gone!

I felt protected and, finally, loved. Thank you Jesus for never leaving me.

photo credit: alphadesigner via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Recommended Resources for Witnessing to Muslims

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Is The Bible The Word of God?

J. C. Ryle

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then mind that you do not neglect it. Read it! Begin to read it this very day. What greater insult to God can a man be guilty of than to refuse to read the letter God sends him from heaven? Oh, be sure, if you will not read your Bible, you are in fearful danger of losing your soul!

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you always read it with deep reverence. Say to your soul, whenever you open the Bible, "O my soul, you are going to read a message from God!"

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you never read it without fervent prayer for the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Humble prayer will throw more light on your Bible than any commentary that ever was written. You will not understand it unless your heart is right. You will find it a sealed book without the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Its contents are often "hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to babes."

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then let us all resolve from this day forward to prize the Bible more. God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, and walk in its light.❞

Friday, July 8, 2011

Answers in Genesis FREE Weekly Download – Radioactive and Radiocarbon Dating with Dr. Andrew Snelling

Posted by Christine Pack

I'm going to try to post these free weekly downloads from Answers in Genesis every week, time permitting, along with the biography of the scientist giving the lecture. I can't even begin to express how instrumental Answers in Genesis was in helping to form my biblical worldview. As a new Christian, I was still pretty evolutionary in my thinking. Then along came AIG.  I remember going through their LONG list of scientists on staff and just being amazed! And here's why: I had always been told and taught, from grade school all the way up through college, that science had "proved" evolution. Evolution was "fact." So, having had this life-long indoctrination, the first time I ever heard of "Young Earthers" as a new Christian, I immediately thought "cult!" But then several years later, along came Answers in Genesis, and here were all these scientists on staff, many of them with multiple and advanced degrees in the sciences.  In other words, it's not like these were guys with their PhDs in literature or something, weighing in on a subject they hadn't studied. These were scientists who had studied Archaeology, Biology, Zoology, Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Palaeontology, etc., etc., and who, after studying the evidence, were all saying, "It points to Young Earth, and here's why...."

Bottom line: I just really like how these scientists, working alongside Answers in Genesis, have turned that condescending, worldly dismissal of the Young Earth view on its ear. There are no "village idiots" in this bunch, my friends! You can say a lot of things about this group of scientists, but one thing you can't say is that they're stupid.
"It is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.' Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Corinthians 1:19-20)
So for all the Christian wonks out there who are geeked out over the idea that they can actually answer back (with science) to their evolutionary influenced friends who challenge the idea of Young Earth Creation with cries of "What about radiocarbon dating?" here is this week's FREE download (strike while the iron is hot - after a week, this link will no longer work). From the Answers in Genesis site:
"Few people who claim that radiometric dating proves the earth is billions of years old really understand the underlying assumptions. Using simple illustrations, Dr. Snelling examines these assumptions and equips viewers with information to counter the anti-biblical arguments."


Dr. Andrew Snelling,
Andrew A. Snelling is a geologist, research scientist and technical editor. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Geology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, graduating with First Class Honors in 1975. His Doctor of Philosophy (in geology) was awarded by The University of Sydney, Australia in 1982 for his research thesis entitled “A geochemical study of the Koongarra uranium deposit, Northern Territory, Australia”. Between studies and since Andrew worked for six years in the exploration and mining industries in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory variously as a field, mine and research geologist.

Andrew commenced in full-time creation ministry at the end of 1983, first working with the Creation Science Foundation of Australia until late 1998, including three years with Ken Ham before Ham moved to the U.S.A. From 1983 to 1992 Snelling was still required to be a geological consultant to the Koongarra uranium project. He was involved in research projects with several CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization) scientists, and in major international collaborative research effort with ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization) and university scientists across Australia, and with scientists from the USA, Britain, Japan, Sweden and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to investigate the Koongarra uranium deposit as a natural analog of a nuclear waste disposal site. As a result of these research endeavors, Andrew was involved in writing numerous scientific reports, and scientific papers that were published in international science journals.

In late 1998 Andrew joined the Institute for Creation Research near San Diego, as a Professor of Geology. His responsibilities included teaching Masters degree geology courses in ICR’s Graduate School, leading tours to the Grand Canyon, England and Yosemite – Death Valley, and research and writing projects. Andrew was a principal investigator in the 8-year, ICR-led RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) research project to which he made major contributions in rock dating studies using radioisotopes, and in studies of radiation halos (radiohalos) and tracks (fission tracks) in various minerals. He contributed two chapters to the first RATE technical volume in 2000, and three chapters to the second RATE technical volume in 2005, as well as being the primary production editor of both volumes. Andrew’s time at ICR was also spent writing a major new three volume book on geology, Creation and the Genesis Flood, which is expected to be published in early 2008.

In June 2007 Andrew’s employment began with Answers in Genesis as their Director of Research. He continues though to reside in Brisbane, Australia and commute regularly as necessary to the USA.

Andrew’s talents have enabled him to be involved in extensive creationist research in Australia, the USA, Britain, New Zealand and elsewhere, majoring on the radioactive methods for dating rocks and evidence for the Flood. Such research has included the formation of igneous and metamorphic rocks (for example, granites and schists, respectively), all types of mineral deposits, sedimentary strata and landscape features (for example, Grand Canyon, USA, and Ayers Rock or Uluru, central Australia) within the biblical framework of earth history. Technical papers by Dr Snelling on regional metamorphism and rock dating have won the prestigious “Technical Excellence Award” as best technical paper at the 1994 Third and 1998 Fourth International Conference on Creationism respectively. As well as writing regularly and extensively in many international creationist magazines, journals and publications, Andrew was founding editor in 1984, and served as editor for almost 15 years, of the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal (now Journal of Creation), and is currently serving as the Editor-in-Chief for the Sixth International Conference on Creationism.

Andrew has traveled around Australia, the USA, and widely overseas (Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China) speaking in schools, churches, colleges, public and university meetings, to both lay and technical audiences, on the overwhelming scientific evidence consistent with the biblical account of Creation and the Genesis Flood, based largely on his own research. Andrew’s research has demonstrated that a global flood about 4,300 years ago explains many rock layers and most fossil deposits found around the world. Building from that foundation, Dr Snelling has made predictions as to what should be found if a catastrophic global flood actually happened (for example, the existence of extensive, fossil-bearing rock layers). Additionally, Andrew’s research has indicated that radioactive decay rates have not been consistent in the past, having been grossly accelerated, so the radioactive methods for dating rocks at millions and billions of years old are not reliable, and the rock evidence overall is consistent with a young earth.

Andrew was raised in a Christian family in Sydney, Australia, is married to wife Kym, and has three adult children. Andrew’s interest in geology began very soon after his conversion at 9 years of age. His very firm conviction in the authority and veracity of the Scriptures brought him to the creation/evolution controversy early in his teens, so that by the commencement of university studies, Andrew already had a clear Scriptural perspective on the literalness of Creation and Noah’s Flood, and an unmistakable call from the Lord for a life-long involvement in creationist ministry.


B.Sc. Applied Geology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, First Class Honours
Ph.D. Geology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


Geological Society of Australia
Geological Society of America
Geological Association of Canada
Mineralogical Society of America
Society of Economic Geologists
Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits
Creation Research Society

 Honors and Awards 

At the Third International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh (1994), he was presented with the Technical Excellence Award for the best technical paper, a paper on evidence for regional metamorphism within the creationist timeframe.

At the Fourth International Conference on Creationism (1998), he gained the first three prizes for technical excellence: first prize for his studies on anomalous radiometric “dates” of recent lava flows from Mt Ngauruhoe volcano, New Zealand. The second and third prizes were for co-authored papers with John Woodmorappe on the cooling of granites, and Steve Austin on radiometric “dating” of a rock unit in the Grand Canyon respectively.



Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Vol. 1, edited by Larry Vardiman, Andrew Snelling and Eugene Chaffin

Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Vol. 2, edited by Larry Vardiman, Andrew Snelling and Eugene Chaffin

The NEW Answers Book, Featuring 15 authors such as Ken Ham (who also served as general editor), Dr. David Menton, Dr. Andrew Snelling, Professor Andy McIntosh, Dr. Georgia Purdom, Dr. Jason Lisle, Dr. Terry Mortenson, and Dr. Clifford Wilson.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Powerful Testimonies of Former False Converts

Posted by Christine Pack (and a thank you to airō blog for posting this video):

❝Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.❞ 2 Cor 13:5