Monday, August 06, 2007

Hearts of Darkness: CIA black sites

The Black Sites: A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program.

by Jane Mayer

In the war on terror, one historian says, the C.I.A. “didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

In March, Mariane Pearl, the widow of the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, received a phone call from Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General. At the time, Gonzales’s role in the controversial dismissal of eight United States Attorneys had just been exposed, and the story was becoming a scandal in Washington. Gonzales informed Pearl that the Justice Department was about to announce some good news: a terrorist in U.S. custody—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who was the primary architect of the September 11th attacks—had confessed to killing her husband. (Pearl was abducted and beheaded five and a half years ago in Pakistan, by unidentified Islamic militants.) The Administration planned to release a transcript in which Mohammed boasted, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.”

Pearl was taken aback. In 2003, she had received a call from Condoleezza Rice, who was then President Bush’s national-security adviser, informing her of the same news. But Rice’s revelation had been secret. Gonzales’s announcement seemed like a publicity stunt. Pearl asked him if he had proof that Mohammed’s confession was truthful; Gonzales claimed to have corroborating evidence but wouldn’t share it. “It’s not enough for officials to call me and say they believe it,” Pearl said. “You need evidence.” (Gonzales did not respond to requests for comment.)

The circumstances surrounding the confession of Mohammed, whom law-enforcement officials refer to as K.S.M., were perplexing. He had no lawyer. After his capture in Pakistan, in March of 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency had detained him in undisclosed locations for more than two years; last fall, he was transferred to military custody in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There were no named witnesses to his initial confession, and no solid information about what form of interrogation might have prodded him to talk, although reports had been published, in the Times and elsewhere, suggesting that C.I.A. officers had tortured him. At a hearing held at Guantánamo, Mohammed said that his testimony was freely given, but he also indicated that he had been abused by the C.I.A. (The Pentagon had classified as “top secret” a statement he had written detailing the alleged mistreatment.) And although Mohammed said that there were photographs confirming his guilt, U.S. authorities had found none. Instead, they had a copy of the video that had been released on the Internet, which showed the killer’s arms but offered no other clues to his identity.

Further confusing matters, a Pakistani named Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had already been convicted of the abduction and murder, in 2002. A British-educated terrorist who had a history of staging kidnappings, he had been sentenced to death in Pakistan for the crime. But the Pakistani government, not known for its leniency, had stayed his execution. Indeed, hearings on the matter had been delayed a remarkable number of times—at least thirty—possibly because of his reported ties to the Pakistani intelligence service, which may have helped free him after he was imprisoned for terrorist activities in India. Mohammed’s confession would delay the execution further, since, under Pakistani law, any new evidence is grounds for appeal.

A surprising number of people close to the case are dubious of Mohammed’s confession. A longtime friend of Pearl’s, the former Journal reporter Asra Nomani, said, “The release of the confession came right in the midst of the U.S. Attorney scandal. There was a drumbeat for Gonzales’s resignation. It seemed like a calculated strategy to change the subject. Why now? They’d had the confession for years.” Mariane and Daniel Pearl were staying in Nomani’s Karachi house at the time of his murder, and Nomani has followed the case meticulously; this fall, she plans to teach a course on the topic at Georgetown University. She said, “I don’t think this confession resolves the case. You can’t have justice from one person’s confession, especially under such unusual circumstances. To me, it’s not convincing.” She added, “I called all the investigators. They weren’t just skeptical—they didn’t believe it.”

Special Agent Randall Bennett, the head of security for the U.S. consulate in Karachi when Pearl was killed—and whose lead role investigating the murder was featured in the recent film “A Mighty Heart”—said that he has interviewed all the convicted accomplices who are now in custody in Pakistan, and that none of them named Mohammed as playing a role. “K.S.M.’s name never came up,” he said. Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer, said, “My old colleagues say with one-hundred-per-cent certainty that it was not K.S.M. who killed Pearl.” A government official involved in the case said, “The fear is that K.S.M. is covering up for others, and that these people will be released.” And Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father, said, “Something is fishy. There are a lot of unanswered questions. K.S.M. can say he killed Jesus—he has nothing to lose.”

Mariane Pearl, who is relying on the Bush Administration to bring justice in her husband’s case, spoke carefully about the investigation. “You need a procedure that will get the truth,” she said. “An intelligence agency is not supposed to be above the law.”

Mohammed’s interrogation was part of a secret C.I.A. program, initiated after September 11th, in which terrorist suspects such as Mohammed were detained in “black sites”—secret prisons outside the United States—and subjected to unusually harsh treatment. The program was effectively suspended last fall, when President Bush announced that he was emptying the C.I.A.’s prisons and transferring the detainees to military custody in Guantánamo. This move followed a Supreme Court ruling, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which found that all detainees—including those held by the C.I.A.—had to be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. These treaties, adopted in 1949, bar cruel treatment, degradation, and torture. In late July, the White House issued an executive order promising that the C.I.A. would adjust its methods in order to meet the Geneva standards. At the same time, Bush’s order pointedly did not disavow the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would likely be found illegal if used by officials inside the United States. The executive order means that the agency can once again hold foreign terror suspects indefinitely, and without charges, in black sites, without notifying their families or local authorities, or offering access to legal counsel.

The C.I.A.’s director, General Michael Hayden, has said that the program, which is designed to extract intelligence from suspects quickly, is an “irreplaceable” tool for combatting terrorism. And President Bush has said that “this program has given us information that has saved innocent lives, by helping us stop new attacks.” He claims that it has contributed to the disruption of at least ten serious Al Qaeda plots since September 11th, three of them inside the United States.

According to the Bush Administration, Mohammed divulged information of tremendous value during his detention. He is said to have helped point the way to the capture of Hambali, the Indonesian terrorist responsible for the 2002 bombings of night clubs in Bali. He also provided information on an Al Qaeda leader in England. Michael Sheehan, a former counterterrorism official at the State Department, said, “K.S.M. is the poster boy for using tough but legal tactics. He’s the reason these techniques exist. You can save lives with the kind of information he could give up.” Yet Mohammed’s confessions may also have muddled some key investigations. Perhaps under duress, he claimed involvement in thirty-one criminal plots—an improbable number, even for a high-level terrorist. Critics say that Mohammed’s case illustrates the cost of the C.I.A.’s desire for swift intelligence. Colonel Dwight Sullivan, the top defense lawyer at the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions, which is expected eventually to try Mohammed for war crimes, called his serial confessions “a textbook example of why we shouldn’t allow coercive methods.”

The Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to keep secret the treatment of the hundred or so “high-value detainees” whom the C.I.A. has confined, at one point or another, since September 11th. The program has been extraordinarily “compartmentalized,” in the nomenclature of the intelligence world. By design, there has been virtually no access for outsiders to the C.I.A.’s prisoners. The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security. The Justice Department argued this point explicitly last November, in the case of a Baltimore-area resident named Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years by the C.I.A. Khan, the government said, had to be prohibited from access to a lawyer specifically because he might describe the “alternative interrogation methods” that the agency had used when questioning him. These methods amounted to a state secret, the government argued, and disclosure of them could “reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage.” (The case has not yet been decided.)

Given this level of secrecy, the public and all but a few members of Congress who have been sworn to silence have had to take on faith President Bush’s assurances that the C.I.A.’s internment program has been humane and legal, and has yielded crucial intelligence. Representative Alcee Hastings, a Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “We talk to the authorities about these detainees, but, of course, they’re not going to come out and tell us that they beat the living daylights out of someone.” He recalled learning in 2003 that Mohammed had been captured. “It was good news,” he said. “So I tried to find out: Where is this guy? And how is he being treated?” For more than three years, Hastings said, “I could never pinpoint anything.” Finally, he received some classified briefings on the Mohammed interrogation. Hastings said that he “can’t go into details” about what he found out, but, speaking of Mohammed’s treatment, he said that even if it wasn’t torture, as the Administration claims, “it ain’t right, either. Something went wrong.”

Since the drafting of the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross has played a special role in safeguarding the rights of prisoners of war. For decades, governments have allowed officials from the organization to report on the treatment of detainees, to insure that standards set by international treaties are being maintained. The Red Cross, however, was unable to get access to the C.I.A.’s prisoners for five years. Finally, last year, Red Cross officials were allowed to interview fifteen detainees, after they had been transferred to Guantánamo. One of the prisoners was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What the Red Cross learned has been kept from the public. The committee believes that its continued access to prisoners worldwide is contingent upon confidentiality, and therefore it addresses violations privately with the authorities directly responsible for prisoner treatment and detention. For this reason, Simon Schorno, a Red Cross spokesman in Washington, said, “The I.C.R.C. does not comment on its findings publicly. Its work is confidential.”

The public-affairs office at the C.I.A. and officials at the congressional intelligence-oversight committees would not even acknowledge the existence of the report. Among the few people who are believed to have seen it are Condoleezza Rice, now the Secretary of State; Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; John Bellinger III, the Secretary of State’s legal adviser; Hayden; and John Rizzo, the agency’s acting general counsel. Some members of the Senate and House intelligence-oversight committees are also believed to have had limited access to the report.

Confidentiality may be particularly stringent in this case. Congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.

Concern about the legality of the C.I.A.’s program reached a previously unreported breaking point last week when Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, quietly put a “hold” on the confirmation of John Rizzo, who as acting general counsel was deeply involved in establishing the agency’s interrogation and detention policies. Wyden’s maneuver essentially stops the nomination from going forward. “I question if there’s been adequate legal oversight,” Wyden told me. He said that after studying a classified addendum to President Bush’s new executive order, which specifies permissible treatment of detainees, “I am not convinced that all of these techniques are either effective or legal. I don’t want to see well-intentioned C.I.A. officers breaking the law because of shaky legal guidance.”

A former C.I.A. officer, who supports the agency’s detention and interrogation policies, said he worried that, if the full story of the C.I.A. program ever surfaced, agency personnel could face criminal prosecution. Within the agency, he said, there is a “high level of anxiety about political retribution” for the interrogation program. If congressional hearings begin, he said, “several guys expect to be thrown under the bus.” He noted that a number of C.I.A. officers have taken out professional liability insurance, to help with potential legal fees.

Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the C.I.A., denied any legal impropriety, stressing that “the agency’s terrorist-detention program has been implemented lawfully. And torture is illegal under U.S. law. The people who have been part of this important effort are well-trained, seasoned professionals.” This spring, the Associated Press published an article quoting the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Silvestre Reyes, who said that Hayden, the C.I.A. director, “vehemently denied” the Red Cross’s conclusions. A U.S. official dismissed the Red Cross report as a mere compilation of allegations made by terrorists. And Robert Grenier, a former head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, said that “the C.I.A.’s interrogations were nothing like Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo. They were very, very regimented. Very meticulous.” He said, “The program is very careful. It’s completely legal.”

Accurately or not, Bush Administration officials have described the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo as the unauthorized actions of ill-trained personnel, eleven of whom have been convicted of crimes. By contrast, the treatment of high-value detainees has been directly, and repeatedly, approved by President Bush. The program is monitored closely by C.I.A. lawyers, and supervised by the agency’s director and his subordinates at the Counterterrorism Center. While Mohammed was being held by the agency, detailed dossiers on the treatment of detainees were regularly available to the former C.I.A. director George Tenet, according to informed sources inside and outside the agency. Through a spokesperson, Tenet denied making day-to-day decisions about the treatment of individual detainees. But, according to a former agency official, “Every single plan is drawn up by interrogators, and then submitted for approval to the highest possible level—meaning the director of the C.I.A. Any change in the plan—even if an extra day of a certain treatment was added—was signed off by the C.I.A. director.”

On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. Yet the C.I.A. had virtually no trained interrogators. A former C.I.A. officer involved in fighting terrorism said that, at first, the agency was crippled by its lack of expertise. “It began right away, in Afghanistan, on the fly,” he recalled. “They invented the program of interrogation with people who had no understanding of Al Qaeda or the Arab world.” The former officer said that the pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense: “They were pushing us: ‘Get information! Do not let us get hit again!’ ” In the scramble, he said, he searched the C.I.A.’s archives, to see what interrogation techniques had worked in the past. He was particularly impressed with the Phoenix Program, from the Vietnam War. Critics, including military historians, have described it as a program of state-sanctioned torture and murder. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance. But, after September 11th, some C.I.A. officials viewed the program as a useful model. A. B. Krongard, who was the executive director of the C.I.A. from 2001 to 2004, said that the agency turned to “everyone we could, including our friends in Arab cultures,” for interrogation advice, among them those in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, all of which the State Department regularly criticizes for human-rights abuses.

The C.I.A. knew even less about running prisons than it did about hostile interrogations. Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of European operations at the C.I.A., and the author of a recent book, “On the Brink: How the White House Compromised U.S. Intelligence,” said, “The agency had no experience in detention. Never. But they insisted on arresting and detaining people in this program. It was a mistake, in my opinion. You can’t mix intelligence and police work. But the White House was really pushing. They wanted someone to do it. So the C.I.A. said, ‘We’ll try.’ George Tenet came out of politics, not intelligence. His whole modus operandi was to please the principal. We got stuck with all sorts of things. This is really the legacy of a director who never said no to anybody.”

Many officials inside the C.I.A. had misgivings. “A lot of us knew this would be a can of worms,” the former officer said. “We warned them, It’s going to become an atrocious mess.” The problem from the start, he said, was that no one had thought through what he called “the disposal plan.” He continued, “What are you going to do with these people? The utility of someone like K.S.M. is, at most, six months to a year. You exhaust them. Then what? It would have been better if we had executed them.”

The C.I.A. program’s first important detainee was Abu Zubaydah, a top Al Qaeda operative, who was captured by Pakistani forces in March of 2002. Lacking in-house specialists on interrogation, the agency hired a group of outside contractors, who implemented a regime of techniques that one well-informed former adviser to the American intelligence community described as “a ‘Clockwork Orange’ kind of approach.” The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

Nevertheless, the SERE experts’ theories were apparently put into practice with Zubaydah’s interrogation. Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. (In June, the C.I.A. declassified long-held secret documents known as the Family Jewels, which shed light on C.I.A. drug experiments on rats and monkeys, and on the infamous case of Frank R. Olson, an agency employee who leaped to his death from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after he was unwittingly drugged with LSD.) The C.I.A.’s most useful research focussed on the surprisingly powerful effects of psychological manipulations, such as extreme sensory deprivation. According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”

Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

The U.S. government first began tracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 1993, shortly after his nephew Ramzi Yousef blew a gaping hole in the World Trade Center. Mohammed, officials learned, had transferred money to Yousef. Mohammed, born in either 1964 or 1965, was raised in a religious Sunni Muslim family in Kuwait, where his family had migrated from the Baluchistan region of Pakistan. In the mid-eighties, he was trained as a mechanical engineer in the U.S., attending two colleges in North Carolina.

As a teen-ager, Mohammed had been drawn to militant, and increasingly violent, Muslim causes. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of sixteen, and, after his graduation from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro—where he was remembered as a class clown, but religious enough to forgo meat when eating at Burger King—he signed on with the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, receiving military training and establishing ties with Islamist terrorists. By all accounts, his animus toward the U.S. was rooted in a hatred of Israel.

In 1994, Mohammed, who was impressed by Yousef’s notoriety after the first World Trade Center bombing, joined him in scheming to blow up twelve U.S. jumbo jets over two days. The so-called Bojinka plot was disrupted in 1995, when Philippine police broke into an apartment that Yousef and other terrorists were sharing in Manila, which was filled with bomb-making materials. At the time of the raid, Mohammed was working in Doha, Qatar, at a government job. The following year, he narrowly escaped capture by F.B.I. officers and slipped into the global jihadist network, where he eventually joined forces with Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan. Along the way, he married and had children.

Many journalistic accounts have presented Mohammed as a charismatic, swashbuckling figure: in the Philippines, he was said to have flown a helicopter close enough to a girlfriend’s office window so that she could see him; in Pakistan, he supposedly posed as an anonymous bystander and gave interviews to news reporters about his nephew’s arrest. Neither story is true. But Mohammed did seem to enjoy taunting authorities after the September 11th attacks, which, in his eventual confession, he claimed to have orchestrated “from A to Z.” In April, 2002, Mohammed arranged to be interviewed on Al Jazeera by its London bureau chief, Yosri Fouda, and took personal credit for the atrocities. “I am the head of the Al Qaeda military committee,” he said. “And yes, we did it.” Fouda, who conducted the interview at an Al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, said that he was astounded not only by Mohammed’s boasting but also by his seeming imperviousness to the danger of being caught. Mohammed permitted Al Jazeera to reveal that he was hiding out in the Karachi area. When Fouda left the apartment, Mohammed, apparently unarmed, walked him downstairs and out into the street.

In the early months of 2003, U.S. authorities reportedly paid a twenty-five-million-dollar reward for information that led to Mohammed’s arrest. U.S. officials closed in on him, at 4 A.M. on March 1st, waking him up in a borrowed apartment in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The officials hung back as Pakistani authorities handcuffed and hooded him, and took him to a safe house. Reportedly, for the first two days, Mohammed robotically recited Koranic verses and refused to divulge much more than his name. A videotape obtained by “60 Minutes” shows Mohammed at the end of this episode, complaining of a head cold; an American voice can be heard in the background. This was the last image of Mohammed to be seen by the public. By March 4th, he was in C.I.A. custody.

Captured along with Mohammed, according to some accounts, was a letter from bin Laden, which may have led officials to think that he knew where the Al Qaeda founder was hiding. If Mohammed did have this crucial information, it was time sensitive—bin Laden never stayed in one place for long—and officials needed to extract it quickly. At the time, many American intelligence officials still feared a “second wave” of Al Qaeda attacks, ratcheting the pressure further.

According to George Tenet’s recent memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” Mohammed told his captors that he wouldn’t talk until he was given a lawyer in New York, where he assumed he would be taken. (He had been indicted there in connection with the Bojinka plot.) Tenet writes, “Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats against the American people.” Opponents of the C.I.A.’s approach, however, note that Ramzi Yousef gave a voluminous confession after being read his Miranda rights. “These guys are egomaniacs,” a former federal prosecutor said. “They love to talk!”

A complete picture of Mohammed’s time in secret detention remains elusive. But a partial narrative has emerged through interviews with European and American sources in intelligence, government, and legal circles, as well as with former detainees who have been released from C.I.A. custody. People familiar with Mohammed’s allegations about his interrogation, and interrogations of other high-value detainees, describe the accounts as remarkably consistent.

Soon after Mohammed’s arrest, sources say, his American captors told him, “We’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the very brink of your death and back.” He was first taken to a secret U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan. According to a Human Rights Watch report released two years ago, there was a C.I.A.-affiliated black site in Afghanistan by 2002: an underground prison near Kabul International Airport. Distinctive for its absolute lack of light, it was referred to by detainees as the Dark Prison. Another detention facility was reportedly a former brick factory, just north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit. The latter became infamous for the 2002 death of a detainee, reportedly from hypothermia, after prison officials stripped him naked and chained him to the floor of his concrete cell, in freezing temperatures.

In all likelihood, Mohammed was transported from Pakistan to one of the Afghan sites by a team of black-masked commandos attached to the C.I.A.’s paramilitary Special Activities Division. According to a report adopted in June by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees,” detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.” (Some personnel reportedly wore black clothes made from specially woven synthetic fabric that couldn’t be ripped or torn.) A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.” The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, “because it’s demoralizing.” The person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said that photos were also part of the C.I.A.’s quality-control process. They were passed back to case officers for review.

A secret government document, dated December 10, 2002, detailing “SERE Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure,” outlines the advantages of stripping detainees. “In addition to degradation of the detainee, stripping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee.” The document advises interrogators to “tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” The memo also advocates the “Shoulder Slap,” “Stomach Slap,” “Hooding,” “Manhandling,” “Walling,” and a variety of “Stress Positions,” including one called “Worship the Gods.”

In the process of being transported, C.I.A. detainees such as Mohammed were screened by medical experts, who checked their vital signs, took blood samples, and marked a chart with a diagram of a human body, noting scars, wounds, and other imperfections. As the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry put it, “It’s like when you hire a motor vehicle, circling where the scratches are on the rearview mirror. Each detainee was continually assessed, physically and psychologically.”

According to sources, Mohammed said that, while in C.I.A. custody, he was placed in his own cell, where he remained naked for several days. He was questioned by an unusual number of female handlers, perhaps as an additional humiliation. He has alleged that he was attached to a dog leash, and yanked in such a way that he was propelled into the walls of his cell. Sources say that he also claimed to have been suspended from the ceiling by his arms, his toes barely touching the ground. The pressure on his wrists evidently became exceedingly painful.

Ramzi Kassem, who teaches at Yale Law School, said that a Yemeni client of his, Sanad al-Kazimi, who is now in Guantánamo, alleged that he had received similar treatment in the Dark Prison, the facility near Kabul. Kazimi claimed to have been suspended by his arms for long periods, causing his legs to swell painfully. “It’s so traumatic, he can barely speak of it,” Kassem said. “He breaks down in tears.” Kazimi also claimed that, while hanging, he was beaten with electric cables.

According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.”

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

Mohammed is said to have described being chained naked to a metal ring in his cell wall for prolonged periods in a painful crouch. (Several other detainees who say that they were confined in the Dark Prison have described identical treatment.) He also claimed that he was kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room, where he was doused with ice water. The practice, which can cause hypothermia, violates the Geneva Conventions, and President Bush’s new executive order arguably bans it.

Some detainees held by the C.I.A. claimed that their cells were bombarded with deafening sound twenty-fours hours a day for weeks, and even months. One detainee, Binyam Mohamed, who is now in Guantánamo, told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that speakers blared music into his cell while he was handcuffed. Detainees recalled the sound as ranging from ghoulish laughter, “like the soundtrack from a horror film,” to ear-splitting rap anthems. Stafford Smith said that his client found the psychological torture more intolerable than the physical abuse that he said he had been previously subjected to in Morocco, where, he said, local intelligence agents had sliced him with a razor blade. “The C.I.A. worked people day and night for months,” Stafford Smith quoted Binyam Mohamed as saying. “Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and doors, screaming their heads off.”

Professor Kassem said his Yemeni client, Kazimi, had told him that, during his incarceration in the Dark Prison, he attempted suicide three times, by ramming his head into the walls. “He did it until he lost consciousness,” Kassem said. “Then they stitched him back up. So he did it again. The next time, he woke up, he was chained, and they’d given him tranquillizers. He asked to go to the bathroom, and then he did it again.” This last time, Kazimi was given more tranquillizers, and chained in a more confining manner.

The case of Khaled el-Masri, another detainee, has received wide attention. He is the German car salesman whom the C.I.A. captured in 2003 and dispatched to Afghanistan, based on erroneous intelligence; he was released in 2004, and Condoleezza Rice reportedly conceded the mistake to the German chancellor. Masri is considered one of the more credible sources on the black-site program, because Germany has confirmed that he has no connections to terrorism. He has also described inmates bashing their heads against the walls. Much of his account appeared on the front page of the Times. But, during a visit to America last fall, he became tearful as he recalled the plight of a Tanzanian in a neighboring cell. The man seemed “psychologically at the end,” he said. “I could hear him ramming his head against the wall in despair. I tried to calm him down. I asked the doctor, ‘Will you take care of this human being?’ ” But the doctor, whom Masri described as American, refused to help. Masri also said that he was told that guards had “locked the Tanzanian in a suitcase for long periods of time—a foul-smelling suitcase that made him vomit.” (Masri did not witness such abuse.)

Masri described his prison in Afghanistan as a filthy hole, with walls scribbled on in Pashtun and Arabic. He was given no bed, only a coarse blanket on the floor. At night, it was too cold to sleep. He said, “The water was putrid. If you took a sip, you could taste it for hours. You could smell a foul smell from it three metres away.” The Salt Pit, he said, “was managed and run by the Americans. It was not a secret. They introduced themselves as Americans.” He added, “When anything came up, they said they couldn’t make a decision. They said, ‘We will have to pass it on to Washington.’ ” The interrogation room at the Salt Pit, he said, was overseen by a half-dozen English-speaking masked men, who shoved him and shouted at him, saying, “You’re in a country where there’s no rule of law. You might be buried here.”

According to two former C.I.A. officers, an interrogator of Mohammed told them that the Pakistani was kept in a cell over which a sign was placed: “The Proud Murderer of 3,000 Americans.” (Another source calls this apocryphal.) One of these former officers defends the C.I.A.’s program by noting that “there was absolutely nothing done to K.S.M. that wasn’t done to the interrogators themselves”—a reference to SERE-like training. Yet the Red Cross report emphasizes that it was the simultaneous use of several techniques for extended periods that made the treatment “especially abusive.” Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been a prominent critic of the Administration’s embrace of harsh interrogation techniques, said that, particularly with sensory deprivation, “there’s a point where it’s torture. You can put someone in a refrigerator and it’s torture. Everything is a matter of degree.”

One day, Mohammed was apparently transferred to a specially designated prison for high-value detainees in Poland. Such transfers were so secretive, according to the report by the Council of Europe, that the C.I.A. filed dummy flight plans, indicating that the planes were heading elsewhere. Once Polish air space was entered, the Polish aviation authority would secretly shepherd the flight, leaving no public documentation. The Council of Europe report notes that the Polish authorities would file a one-way flight plan out of the country, creating a false paper trail. (The Polish government has strongly denied that any black sites were established in the country.)

No more than a dozen high-value detainees were held at the Polish black site, and none have been released from government custody; accordingly, no first-hand accounts of conditions there have emerged. But, according to well-informed sources, it was a far more high-tech facility than the prisons in Afghanistan. The cells had hydraulic doors and air-conditioning. Multiple cameras in each cell provided video surveillance of the detainees. In some ways, the circumstances were better: the detainees were given bottled water. Without confirming the existence of any black sites, Robert Grenier, the former C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, said, “The agency’s techniques became less aggressive as they learned the art of interrogation,” which, he added, “is an art.”

Mohammed was kept in a prolonged state of sensory deprivation, during which every point of reference was erased. The Council on Europe’s report describes a four-month isolation regime as typical. The prisoners had no exposure to natural light, making it impossible for them to tell if it was night or day. They interacted only with masked, silent guards. (A detainee held at what was most likely an Eastern European black site, Mohammed al-Asad, told me that white noise was piped in constantly, although during electrical outages he could hear people crying.) According to a source familiar with the Red Cross report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claimed that he was shackled and kept naked, except for a pair of goggles and earmuffs. (Some prisoners were kept naked for as long as forty days.) He had no idea where he was, although, at one point, he apparently glimpsed Polish writing on a water bottle.

In the C.I.A.’s program, meals were delivered sporadically, to insure that the prisoners remained temporally disoriented. The food was largely tasteless, and barely enough to live on. Mohammed, who upon his capture in Rawalpindi was photographed looking flabby and unkempt, was now described as being slim. Experts on the C.I.A. program say that the administering of food is part of its psychological arsenal. Sometimes portions were smaller than the day before, for no apparent reason. “It was all part of the conditioning,” the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said. “It’s all calibrated to develop dependency.”

The inquiry source said that most of the Poland detainees were waterboarded, including Mohammed. According to the sources familiar with the Red Cross report, Mohammed claimed to have been waterboarded five times. Two former C.I.A. officers who are friends with one of Mohammed’s interrogators called this bravado, insisting that he was waterboarded only once. According to one of the officers, Mohammed needed only to be shown the drowning equipment again before he “broke.”

“Waterboarding works,” the former officer said. “Drowning is a baseline fear. So is falling. People dream about it. It’s human nature. Suffocation is a very scary thing. When you’re waterboarded, you’re inverted, so it exacerbates the fear. It’s not painful, but it scares the shit out of you.” (The former officer was waterboarded himself in a training course.) Mohammed, he claimed, “didn’t resist. He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” He said, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable. K.S.M. was just a little doughboy. He couldn’t stand toe to toe and fight it out.”

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”

Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, “It all comes down to individual moral barometers.” Waterboarding, in particular, troubled many officials, from both a moral and a legal perspective. Until 2002, when Bush Administration lawyers asserted that waterboarding was a permissible interrogation technique for “enemy combatants,” it was classified as a form of torture, and treated as a serious criminal offense. American soldiers were court-martialled for waterboarding captives as recently as the Vietnam War.

A C.I.A. source said that Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding only after interrogators determined that he was hiding information from them. But Mohammed has apparently said that, even after he started coöperating, he was waterboarded. Footnotes to the 9/11 Commission report indicate that by April 17, 2003—a month and a half after he was captured—Mohammed had already started providing substantial information on Al Qaeda. Nonetheless, according to the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, he was kept in isolation for years. During this time, Mohammed supplied intelligence on the history of the September 11th plot, and on the structure and operations of Al Qaeda. He also described plots still in a preliminary phase of development, such as a plan to bomb targets on America’s West Coast.

Ultimately, however, Mohammed claimed responsibility for so many crimes that his testimony became to seem inherently dubious. In addition to confessing to the Pearl murder, he said that he had hatched plans to assassinate President Clinton, President Carter, and Pope John Paul II. Bruce Riedel, who was a C.I.A. analyst for twenty-nine years, and who now works at the Brookings Institution, said, “It’s difficult to give credence to any particular area of this large a charge sheet that he confessed to, considering the situation he found himself in. K.S.M. has no prospect of ever seeing freedom again, so his only gratification in life is to portray himself as the James Bond of jihadism.”

By 2004, there were growing calls within the C.I.A. to transfer to military custody the high-value detainees who had told interrogators what they knew, and to afford them some kind of due process. But Donald Rumsfeld, then the Defense Secretary, who had been heavily criticized for the abusive conditions at military prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, refused to take on the agency’s detainees, a former top C.I.A. official said. “Rumsfeld’s attitude was, You’ve got a real problem.” Rumsfeld, the official said, “was the third most powerful person in the U.S. government, but he only looked out for the interests of his department—not the whole Administration.” (A spokesperson for Rumsfeld said that he had no comment.)

C.I.A. officials were stymied until the Supreme Court’s Hamdan ruling, which prompted the Administration to send what it said were its last high-value detainees to Cuba. Robert Grenier, like many people in the C.I.A., was relieved. “There has to be some sense of due process,” he said. “We can’t just make people disappear.” Still, he added, “The most important source of intelligence we had after 9/11 came from the interrogations of high-value detainees.” And he said that Mohammed was “the most valuable of the high-value detainees, because he had operational knowledge.” He went on, “I can respect people who oppose aggressive interrogations, but they should admit that their principles may be putting American lives at risk.”

Yet Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and later the State Department’s top counsellor, under Rice, is not convinced that eliciting information from detainees justifies “physical torment.” After leaving the government last year, he gave a speech in Houston, in which he said, “The question would not be, Did you get information that proved useful? Instead it would be, Did you get information that could have been usefully gained only from these methods?” He concluded, “My own view is that the cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral.”

Without more transparency, the value of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program is impossible to evaluate. Setting aside the moral, ethical, and legal issues, even supporters, such as John Brennan, acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable. As he put it, “All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.” When pressed, one former top agency official estimated that “ninety per cent of the information was unreliable.” Cables carrying Mohammed’s interrogation transcripts back to Washington reportedly were prefaced with the warning that “the detainee has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead.” Mohammed, like virtually all the top Al Qaeda prisoners held by the C.I.A., has claimed that, while under coercion, he lied to please his captors.

In theory, a military commission could sort out which parts of Mohammed’s confession are true and which are lies, and obtain a conviction. Colonel Morris D. Davis, the chief prosecutor at the Office of Military Commissions, said that he expects to bring charges against Mohammed “in a number of months.” He added, “I’d be shocked if the defense didn’t try to make K.S.M.’s treatment a problem for me, but I don’t think it will be insurmountable.”

Critics of the Administration fear that the unorthodox nature of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program will make it impossible to prosecute the entire top echelon of Al Qaeda leaders in captivity. Already, according to the Wall Street Journal, credible allegations of torture have caused a Marine Corps prosecutor reluctantly to decline to bring charges against Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an alleged Al Qaeda leader held in Guantánamo. Bruce Riedel, the former C.I.A. analyst, asked, “What are you going to do with K.S.M. in the long run? It’s a very good question. I don’t think anyone has an answer. If you took him to any real American court, I think any judge would say there is no admissible evidence. It would be thrown out.”

The problems with Mohammed’s coerced confessions are especially glaring in the Daniel Pearl case. It may be that Mohammed killed Pearl, but contradictory evidence and opinion continue to surface. Yosri Fouda, the Al Jazeera reporter who interviewed Mohammed in Karachi, said that although Mohammed handed him a package of propaganda items, including an unedited video of the Pearl murder, he never identified himself as playing a role in the killing, which occurred in the same city just two months earlier. And a federal official involved in Mohammed’s case said, “He has no history of killing with his own hands, although he’s proved happy to commit mass murder from afar.” Al Qaeda’s leadership had increasingly focussed on symbolic political targets. “For him, it’s not personal,” the official said. “It’s business.”

Ordinarily, the U.S. legal system is known for resolving such mysteries with painstaking care. But the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program, Senator Levin said, has undermined the public’s trust in American justice, both here and abroad. “A guy as dangerous as K.S.M. is, and half the world wonders if they can believe him—is that what we want?” he asked. “Statements that can’t be believed, because people think they rely on torture?”

Asra Nomani, the Pearls’ friend, said of the Mohammed confession, “I’m not interested in unfair justice, even for bad people.” She went on, “Danny was such a person of conscience. I don’t think he would have wanted all of this dirty business. I don’t think he would have wanted someone being tortured. He would have been repulsed. This is the kind of story that Danny would have investigated. He really believed in American principles.”

Original article posted here.

1 comment:

RAFAEL said...

THE ATHEIST OF DELUSION

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
THE SOURCE OF ALL EVIL: THE ATHEIST IGNORANCE

The source of all evil, the irrational atheist who blatantly impose on families a mechanism of unbelief that leads to murderous intolerance. Without rational force in their views because and atheist will never study seriously the subject of God. Atheists are teaching our children their ignorance which promote crime, lies, and have created today's system of immorality.
Rafael


The first subject we are confronted with is God.Let us read a few verses from the Bible. Psalm 14:1 of the Old Testament says, "The fool has said in his heart,/There is no God." This sentence may also be translated as "The fool does not want God in his heart." The result of saying this can be found in the second sentence of the same verse: "They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds."Let us also take a passage from the New Testament. Hebrews 11:6 says, "For he who comes forward to God must believe that He is."THREE KINDS OF PEOPLEWhether you claim to be a Christian, a non-believer, or a seeker after truth, we will start by examining the subject of God. In this respect the world is divided into three camps. The first is that of the atheists who do not believe in a God. The second consists of the agnostics. They have no sure knowledge about the deity. On the one hand, they dare not say there is no God, but on the other hand, they are not clear if God does exist. We belong to the third category of those who believe in God.PROSECUTIONIs there a God? I will not try to say yes or no to this question. Rather, I will make this place a law court. I will ask you to be the judge, and I will be the prosecutor. The work of a judge is to make decisions, to approve or disapprove the truth of statements; the work of a prosecutor is to present all the evidence and arguments that he can possibly gather.Before we proceed, we have to be clear about one fact: all prosecutors are not eyewitnesses of crimes. They are not policemen. A policeman may personally witness an event, whereas a prosecutor obtains his information only indirectly. He places all the charges, evidence, and arguments collected before the judge. In the same way, I shall present before you everything that I can possibly find. If you ask whether I have seen God or not, I would say "no." I am reading or demonstrating what I have gathered. My job is to search for facts and to call for witnesses. You are to arrive at a conclusion yourself.QUALIFICATIONSMany people assert that there is no God. As a prosecutor I ask you first to check the qualification of these people. Are they qualified to make such claims? Are those who assert that there is no God moral or immoral? Do not just listen to their arguments. Even robbers and swindlers have their arguments. Of course, the arguments support them as robbers and swindlers. The subject of their arguments may be very noble; they may talk about the state of the nations and the welfare of society, but their opinions cannot be seriously considered. They are not worthy of passing such judgments. If a man is upright in his conduct and moral judgment, we can give credibility to his words, but if not, his words lose their credibility. This is especially true when it relates to the question of deity. It is interesting to note that the moral standards of men are directly related to their concept about God. Those who admit their own ignorance have a passable standard, while insistent atheists invariably have a low level of moral responsibility. I do not claim to know all atheists, but of the several thousand that I know, none of them possess a notably commendable morality. You may tell me that there was once a moral atheist, but if there was one, he is dead. Or you may tell me that there will be a moral atheist, but whoever he may be, he is not here yet. At least we can say that for now, we do not know a moral atheist.NO ATHEIST IS MORALOnce at a gathering at the University of Nanking, I remarked that no atheist is moral. There were many students on the campus who did not believe in God. They were greatly offended by these words. The next day, while I was speaking, they came and shuffled their feet in an attempt to distract me and the audience. The next day when they came again, they made funny gestures and faces at me and carried on continuously throughout the speaking. On the fourth day the vice-president of the university, Dr. Williams, came and said to me, "We had better change the place of meeting. These students are infuriated by your assertion on the first day that atheists are not moral. Today they are not going to use their feet and lips only; they are going to use their fists. I heard that they will be waiting at the entrance of the hallway and will jump on you when you step in." I went along with the arrangement and conducted the meeting at another place. On the way to the meeting I walked alongside many students and listened to their conversations. Although many did not agree with me and felt uneasy about my preaching, they wanted to come back. One among them remarked, "Mr. Nee said that people who have no God have no sense of moral responsibility. This is perfectly right. How can anyone with moral decency shuffle his feet and jest while others are delivering a speech? Yesterday they caused such a disturbance in the meeting, and today they are going to come to fight. This is surely not what an honorable person would do. There is no doubt that those who do not believe in God do not have moral decency. Let us go to the meeting regardless of what they plan to do."Once a young man told a preacher, "When I was young, I seriously believed in God. But now that I am in college. I can no longer believe in Him." The fifty-year-old preacher patted the young man's shoulder and said, "My son, you do not believe in God anymore! Let me ask you a question: Since you have been converted to be an atheist, have you advanced morally? Has atheism helped you become better? Has it made your thoughts cleaner or your heart purer? Or did it make you just the opposite?" That young man felt ashamed. He admitted that he had gone downhill morally since his denial of God. The preacher pressed on: "I am afraid that you are not really saying that you believe there is no God, you are just hoping that there is no God."DO NOT JUDGE ACCORDING TO HOPEMany people are not really convinced that there is no God; they merely hope so. They would rather that there were no God in the universe. For them it would be much more convenient in respect to many things.I myself was one of those people. When I was a student I claimed that there was no God. Although I was extremely strong in my claim, something within me seemed to be protesting and saying, "There is a God." I knew deep in my heart that God exists. But my lips refused to admit this so that I could have an excuse for sinning. By declaring the nonexistence of God, going to sinful places was justifiable. If there were no God, I would become bold to sin. When you believe in God, you dare not do certain things. When you do away with God, you feel free to commit the worst sins without any fear whatsoever. If you sincerely hope to raise your moral standard by asserting the nonexistence of God, then your arguments are still plausible. However, the only reason men claim that there is no God is for an excuse for lawlessness, immorality, license, and indecency. For this reason, their whole argument is not worthy of consideration. The question is, "Are you qualified to claim that there is no God?" If your hope is merely for an escape from justice, you have lost your ground already.IS MAN THE GREATEST?One day a young man came to me and said, "I do not believe in a so-called God. Man is the greatest. He is the noblest among all creatures. There is no God in this universe; man is everything." We were sitting opposite each other. After hearing what he said, I stood up, went to one side of the room, stooped down, and gazed at him intently. I said, "You are really great!" Then I walked to the other side of the room and looked at him from another angle. "That is right," I said deliberately; "You are great! In Kiangsu province there are thirty million who are like you. There are at least four hundred million of your kind in China. The world contains only two billion who are the same as you are. Do you realize that during the last few days there has been a flood in the south? The dykes along the river are in jeopardy. The whole population in Hsing Hwa with more than two hundred thousand people have been recruited and rushed to the dykes in a panic. They are carrying earth with them to reinforce the banks. The repair work is still going on."Suppose that the world is recruited to hollow out the sun. A hole is drilled through the surface, and everyone has to remove a load from the inside. Assuming that no one will be burned to ashes, do you think that they can do the job? Even if all the people themselves were inside, they would not fill up the sun. That is not all. If you put several hundred planets the size of Earth inside and started shaking it, you would still find that the sun would be very empty inside. How many suns are there in the universe? Do you realize that the number of solar systems is in the hundreds of millions?"HOW VAST IS THE UNIVERSE?I then said to the young man, "And here you are! You have not even walked through the whole earth, and yet you consider yourself greater than the whole universe. Let me ask you, do you know how vast the universe is? Take light for example. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Try to calculate how far light travels in one minute, or one hour, or a day, or a year. There are some stars whose light takes three thousand years to reach us. Go and work out how far they are from us! And you think you are so great! I would therefore advise all atheists and young men alike to admit the incompetency of man not only morally, but intellectually and academically as well."CAN MAN EXTEND BEYOND THE BOUNDSOF TIME AND SPACE?Another time when I was in Kaifeng, I met another one of those young, stout atheists. I walked up to him and patted him on the shoulder, saying, "I saw God today!" He stared at me in curiosity and demanded a further word. I replied, "You are God! If you know that there is no God, then you have to be God." He asked for an explanation. I said, "Since you are convinced that there is no God, you must have traveled over the whole earth. If God is not in Shanghai, He may still be in Nanking. You must have been to both places. That is not all. If God is not in Nanking, He may be in Tientsin. You must also have been to Tientsin. But you cannot draw this conclusion simply by being in China; God may be in another country. So you must have been to every country on this earth. If God is not in one place, He may be in another. Therefore, you must have traveled throughout the world. One never knows if God is hiding at the North Pole or the South Pole, or in the woods or wilderness somewhere. So you must have combed through all those regions as well. If God is not found on earth, He may be found on the moon. You therefore must have been to the moon. God may also be on other planets or in outer space. This means that you have traveled through space and all the other galaxies as well. If you can say that there is no God, it must mean that you have traveled throughout the whole universe. If this is the case, you must be God yourself."This is not all. Even though you know that God does not exist in Shanghai today, how about yesterday? Perhaps God will come tomorrow. You say that you know there is no God today, but what about last year? And how do you know that God will not come next year? You say that there is no God this year, but what about a thousand years ago? Very well, you must be an everlasting one who knows everything about the past and future. You have to be a being beyond time and space. You must be in Tientsin and in another country at the same time; you must be omnipresent from the east to the west, from the North Pole to the South Pole. Who else but you can be the very God? If you are not God, you can never be qualified to say that there is no God."THE EVIDENCESome will immediately step back and say, "I have never said that I know there is no God. One can never tell whether there is a God or not." Well, if you cannot give a conclusion, I will ask witnesses whom I consider trustworthy to present arguments to you and prove the existence of God. Again let me say this, you are the judge, and I am the prosecutor. I am presenting only the evidence before you. Decide for yourself if there is a God.THE UNIVERSEFirst, look at nature, the world that is before our eyes and every phenomenon in it. We all know that scientific knowledge is the rational explanation of natural phenomena. For example, there is an observed drop in the temperature of a patient. The drop in temperature is a phenomenon, and the explanation for it is scientific knowledge. When an apple falls from the tree, it is a phenomenon. Why does an apple not fly into the air? The explanation for this phenomenon constitutes knowledge. A man with knowledge is a man who has the proper explanations.ONLY TWO EXPLANATIONSThe universe displays countless phenomena of diverse forms, colors, shapes, and nature. We cannot fail to notice these phenomena before our eyes. The explanation for all these phenomena is known as knowledge. All thoughtful persons have only two explanations as far as the origin of the universe is concerned; there is no third explanation. You have to take one or the other of them.What are these two explanations? The first says that the universe came into being through natural evolution and self-interaction; the second attributes its origin to a personified Being with intellect and purpose. These are the only two explanations presented by all philosophers of the world. There is not a third one.Where did the universe come from? Did it come into existence by itself or through chance? Or was it designed by the One from whom we derive the concept of God? You have to think and then make a decision about it. Everything that is by chance has certain characteristics. I would suggest you list all of these in a detailed way, the more the better, and then compare all the phenomena of the universe with your list. Alongside of this make another list of the characteristics which, in your opinion, would be prominent if the universe were created by an intelligent Being. Now by a simple comparison of nature with your two lists, it will be easy to draw a reasonable conclusion.CHANCE EVENTSWhat are the characteristics of things that come about by chance? First, we know that they are unorganized. At the most they can be partially integrated. They can never be totally organized. One can achieve a specified goal by chance once, but he can never achieve a specified goal by chance all the time. Anything that comes together by chance can only be integrated partially, never totally. For example, if I throw this chair to the other side of the room, by chance it may come to rest at a perfect angle. If I do the same with a second chair, it may also lie neatly beside the first one. But this will not keep on happening with the third and the fourth and so on. Chance can only provide partial organization. It does not guarantee total integration. Furthermore, all random interactions are aimless, disorganized, and purposeless. They are without order and structure; they are loose, formless, disorderly, and not directed toward any meaningful purpose. Briefly, we can say that the characteristics of chance events are disharmony, irregularity, inconsistency, purposelessness, and insignificance. We will write down these four characteristics on our list.CONSISTENCY AND ORGANIZATIONNow let us compare the things in the universe with these characteristics. Take, for example, the human being. He is carried in his mother's womb for nine months and delivered; he grows up and eventually dies. This cycle is repeated for every single individual. Consistency can be observed. It is not a wild game of chance. Again, look at the sun above your head. It does not exist purposelessly. Rather, it has its purpose and significance. Look at the moon, the stars, and the myriads of galaxies through your telescope. Some stars have their own planets. They all follow definite tracks and patterns. They are all organized. Their manner of motion can be calculated and predicted. The calendar in your hand is derived from them. Even next year's calendar can be printed before this year is past. All these show that the universe is organized, consistent, and purposeful.MICROORGANISMSLet us turn to the micro-world. Take a thin slice of wood. Put it under a microscope and observe its grain and structure, all meticulously regular and rhythmic. Even a blade of grass and the petal of a flower are finely fashioned. Nothing is unorganized or confused. Everything is disciplined and functional. All these things witness one fact to you: the universe, with its macro and micro aspects, is purposeful and meaningful. Can you say that all these came into existence by chance? Surely you cannot.IS IT OCCUPIED?Once I was preaching the gospel with a co-worker of mine in a village. On the way back we were extremely thirsty. There was neither a teahouse nor stream for us to get water. In fact the whole area was uninhabited. After walking for a while we came across a thatched hut. We went to the door quickly and knocked. For a long time there was no answer. We thought that no one lived there. When we opened the door and went in, we found that the floor was swept clean. In one of the rooms was a bed with nicely folded sheets. There was a teapot on the table, and the tea in it was still warm. I said, "Surely someone must be living here. All the arrangements indicate beyond doubt that this place is occupied by someone. We should not drink this tea. We must get out quickly or else people will think we are thieves." We walked out and waited for the owner to return.By observing the arrangements of the house, we concluded that someone was living there, without having seen the occupant. In the same way, we know that God is there by the arrangement of everything in the universe, although we cannot see Him. Every single phenomenon of nature is so balanced, organized, meaningful, and functional. You may say that they come by chance, but it is impossible for me to believe that chance is its sole originator. The Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart,/There is no God." Only foolish people can say in their hearts that there is no God.CHANCE OR DESIGNThe universe has to be created by Someone with profound wisdom, vast knowledge, and intricate design. If you cannot accept the concept of random formation of the universe, you have to admit that it was created by such a God. There cannot be a third explanation. The choice is left to you. You have to decide if the universe came by chance or whether it was created by God.A DEMAND AND ITS OBJECTOne witness may not be enough. I will call in another. This time we will consider man's heart. Before doing so, we should also observe one fact: wherever there is a desire, there must first be an object for that desire. For example, an orphan who has never seen his father naturally has a desire for a kind of paternal love. I have asked many people who were orphans, and they all have felt this irrepressible yearning. By this we can see that every desire of the heart arises out of an object in the world.As human beings we have a need for social belonging. We need companionship and mutuality. If you put a boy on a deserted island and he grows up alone, he still has the yearning for companions, for beings like himself, even though he has never seen a human being. This yearning or desire is the very proof that somewhere in the world there is something known as "man." At a certain age, man begins to think about posterity; he starts desiring children and grandchildren. This is not a mere fantasy. This desire stems out of the existence and possibility of offspring. Hence, where there is desire, there is an object for that desire.THERE IS GOD IN THE HEARTDo we have any desires other than social identity and self-propagation? What other cravings do we have? Deep in everyone there is a craving for God. Whether they are highly civilized races, such as those among the Caucasians, or the ancient civilizations, such as the Chinese civilizations, or the African natives and uncultured aborigines, they all have a common craving --God. As long as they are men, they have a yearning for God, no matter what race or nationality. This is a fact. You cannot argue against it. Everyone is seeking after God. Everywhere man is craving for God. This is very clear.By applying the principle that we just mentioned, we can see that since our heart feels the need for a God, there must necessarily be a God in the universe. Since there is a need for God in the heart, there must be the existence of God in the universe. If no God exists, we would never have such a craving in our heart. We all have an appetite for food. In the same way, we all have an appetite for God. It would be impossible to live if there was only an appetite for food but no food. Likewise, it would be impossible to live if there was a capacity for God but no God.NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT GOD?Once an atheist rudely rebuked me in a loud voice: "You said that a man has the psychological need for a God. But there is no such thing, and I do not believe in it." I said, "Well, do you mean to say that you never think about God? In fact, even while you were talking, you were thinking about Him. This indicates that you do have a capacity for God. There is no one who has never thought about God. He may try not to think much about Him. Since this thought is in you, there must be such an object outside of you."THE WORDS AND THE HEARTA young man once came to me to argue about God. He was vehemently against the existence of God. He gave me one reason after another for saying that there is no God. As he was enumerating the various reasons why God should not exist, I listened to him quietly without saying a word. Then I said, "Although you insist that there is no God and support yourself with so many arguments, you have lost your case already." He said, "What do you mean?" I went on to explain: "Your mouth can say as much as you want about there not being a God, but your heart is on my side." He had to agree with me. Although one can give all sorts of reasons in the head, there is a belief in the heart that no argument can defeat. A stubborn person may give a thousand and one reasons, but you can have the boldness to tell him, "You know better in your heart that there is a God. Why bother to look for evidence outside?"Now what would you say? After looking at nature and the universe, after checking with your inner feeling, it is up to you to decide whether or not there is a God. But you should not be irresponsible; your attitude must be sober because everyone has to meet God soon. One day you will all stand before Him. Everything concerning yourself will be laid bare. On that day you will know God. But now is the time for you to be prepared. We should all be prepared to meet our God

posted by RAFAEL @ 9:58 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

CONSIDER THIS SCIENTIFICALLY AND OBJECTIVLY

I shall begin by assuming that the issue of God's existence is settled. We all believe that there is a God. As those who desire to know the truth, we must go one step further to find out what kind of God He is. God is the greatest Unknown. We must spend some time to find out about this unknown One. The next step now is to know what kind of a God He is.In the past few thousand years man has been inquiring about the nature of God. Is He kind or is He righteous? Is He indifferent towards us, or is He extremely interested in human affairs? These types of questions are the direct cause of all human religions. What is religion? Religion is man's inquiry about God and his explanation of Him. Through these explanations, different men have arrived at different concepts about God. What kind of God is He? This is a big question. It is also a very serious question. We have all given our thought to this subject at one time or another. The question might even have occurred to our little mind when we were five years old. All men, educated or ignorant, have been intrigued by this question. It comes naturally after some contemplation and observation.But a person trying to speculate about God is like an ant attempting to understand a human being. It is extremely difficult for the little creature to try to realize our life, nature, and mind. In the same way it is impossible for us to try to comprehend God. For this reason, in the past few thousand years, all kinds of people, theologians and philosophers alike, have done much thinking about Him. What has God been doing all this time? Has He been indifferent to us or has He tried to reveal Himself to us? What is God's attitude? Do you think He would say, "I am God and have nothing to do with human beings. I do not care what you think about Me. I shall stay in heaven as God. Let the mortals be ignorant!" Or do you think He has a desire to reveal Himself to man and visit him?When I was in India, I saw some people lying naked on beds studded with nails. Some walked with bare feet on burning coals. These people devoted a great deal of energy to seeking after God. What has God done to them? Did He hide Himself and take no notice of them at all? Has He not kept Himself as a perpetual mystery? This is a great question. We have to consider it scientifically and objectively in order to find out what God is like.A few years ago I spoke on a similar subject to some medical students in an auditorium in Cheloo University. I said that man is an organism with a life. God also is a life. Man's life is higher than that of the lower animals, and God's life is even higher than that of man. I asked the students, "Since we realize that all living organisms have some common laws and express some common traits, can you name them?" Different ones then started to bring up different points. At the end we summed up the discussion in this way: all living organisms contain two common characteristics. You can call these characteristics their common expressions or their common laws. First, every life wants to preserve itself. It tends to reproduce itself. There is the ability to produce posterity, to continue its own life. Second, every life wants to have fellowship with other lives. It cannot stand being by itself. When a man cannot find fellowship with another human being, he goes to dogs, cats, fish, or birds and makes friends with animals. All living creatures desire fellowship.Based on these two characteristics of life, namely, the preservation of itself and fellowship with others, laws of human government are instituted. For example, the death penalty reflects a convict's desire to preserve his own life; punishment comes in the form of taking away and terminating such a life. This is the way to inflict suffering on a life. Imprisonment, as a less serious punishment, cuts him off from having fellowship with others. This reversal of the life principle becomes then a suffering for him. From this we see that punishment is applied according to the principles of life.With these two chief characteristics in mind, let us turn to the life of God. God is an organism of a higher order than human beings. He is naturally governed by this law of life. We can know God by the characteristics and distinctive features of His life. From this we can deduce whether or not God wants to have fellowship with man.There are two kinds of religion: religion based on natural concepts and religion based on revelation. Natural religion starts with man as the center. He is the one that is seeking after God and studying about Him. What then is revelational religion? Revelational religion comes directly from God. He is the One who comes to reveal things to us. Man's thoughts are often useless fancies. God's revelation alone is trustworthy. Christianity is different from all other natural religions in that it is a religion that comes from revelation. Christianity begins from God. It is God who comes to seek out man, rather than man who seeks after God.I will not try to persuade you to believe in Christianity or to read the Bible. I will only make a few suppositions. We will treat the subject in the same way as if we were solving a problem in geometry. We will start from the suppositions and then deduce our arguments step by step. We will examine our reasonings to see if they are sound and if our conclusions are logical. As in mathematics, with some problems we work forwards, while with others we work backwards. At any rate, in the end we should be able to tell whether or not a supposition is justified.We have to make a few suppositions. The first one is that God exists. This in fact has been covered by us already. We have agreed that there is a God. He is a Being who has a purpose.Second, we assume that God has a desire to reveal Himself to man. If God wants to reveal Himself to man and if He wants us to know Him, how does He do it? In what manner can He be made known to us? If He speaks to us through thunder or writes to us through lightning, we will not be able to comprehend His message. How then does God make Himself known to us?If He is to reveal Himself and if He wants us to know Him, He necessarily must do it through human means. What then are the common ways that men communicate with one another? First, they do it through speaking and second through writing. All means of communication, whether telegraph, telephone, sign, or symbols, are all included in these two categories. If God is to manifest Himself, these are the only two means for Him to do so. For the present we set aside the aspect of speaking; we will see how God communicates with us through writing.If God reveals Himself through writing, of all the volumes written by different people throughout the centuries, there must be one book which is divinely inspired. This is a very crucial test. If such a book exists, it proves not only the existence of God, but it contains His written revelation to us as well. Is there then such a divinely written book?In the search for such a book, let us first mention a few basic principles. Suppose I want to order a book from a publisher. If I can tell him the name and author of the book, there will be no trouble getting it. If, however, I forget the name and author of the book, I can describe the characteristics of it to the publisher, such as the contents, size, color, binding, etc. The publisher will then search through all his books and locate the volume I want. God has one book in this universe. How do we find it? We have to know its characteristics first. If there is any book that has been written by God, it must meet certain conditions or have certain qualifications before one can say that it is from God.Let me put forth a few propositions. If there is a book written by God, it must first of all mention God. It must tell you that it is from God and that its author is God. This is the first qualification. Second, it must carry a moral tone that is higher than what we commonly know. If it is a fabrication, it can at the most be on the same level as man. Third, if there is such a divine book, it must tell us about the past and the future of this world. Only God knows clearly what occurred in the past and what will happen in the future. Only by telling us these matters will we know Him as God. Fourth, this book must be simple and available so that all may be able to secure and understand it. If there were only one such book in the world, then only a very few people would be able to see it. It would not pass the test unless it is a book accessible to everyone. In the United States there is a group of people who claim to have a book from God. It is engraved in gold and contains only twelve pages. Such a book then would not be accessible to the Chinese. God would never write to us a book at which we could not look.Now the matter is simplified. Let us repeat these four conditions once more. (1) If such a book exists, it must tell us explicitly that its author is God. (2) It must carry a high tone of morality. (3) It must give a detailed description of the past and the future of the universe. (4) It must be available. Let us pick out some of the more important writings throughout human civilization and check them against these qualifications to see if any meets our requirements.We will start from books that are generally considered to be good. Let us take the Chinese classics of Confucius. They are immediately disqualified under the first requirement, for none of them claims to be written by God. They do have a high tone of morality, but they fail to give the origin and destiny of the world, the universe, and man. This does not mean that they are worthless books; it means that they do not contain the qualifications we want. They are not what we are looking for.Let us go to the classics of other cultures. There are numerous volumes of famous writings, but none of them passes the first test. They are all clearly written by man. They may be masterpieces in philosophy or morality, but they are not written by God, nor are they divinely inspired. We have to set them aside.There is a book in India called the Rig-Veda. It once dominated Hinduism. However, it does not claim to be written by God.Another book called the Avesta, written by a Persian named Zoroaster, is also extremely influential in the Middle East. It does not claim to be from God either. Moreover, its moral tone is not especially commendable.Let us come to the Koran of Mohammedanism. This is the closest one we can find. It tells us that it comes from God; it meets the first requirement. However, it does not fulfill the second requirement, for its moral tone is too low. The heaven it describes is full of lusts and flesh. God could never write a book with such licentiousness and immorality. Hence, this book does not pass the test of morality.After searching through all the books, you have to come finally to the Bible. If God desires to communicate with man, and if He does so through writing, then this is the only book that can pass the four tests. Hence, this must be the book God has for man.What does this book say? In the books of the law in the Old Testament, it says, "Thus saith the Lord," at least five hundred times. Other books in the Old Testament repeat the phrase about seven hundred times. In addition to the references in the New Testament to the speakings of God, the Bible has more than two thousand claims of divine origin. If God has no intention of communicating with man, we can forget about this book. But if He does communicate with man through writing, then this book has to be of immense value. Can you find another book where God is claimed as its author that many times?We have to see if the Bible meets the second qualification. Let us take a look at its moral tone. Everyone who has studied this book confesses that it carries the highest moral standard. Even the sins of the most noble persons are recorded and condemned without mercy. Once a strong opposer of the Bible was asked by his son, "Why are you so strong against the Bible?" He answered, "If I do not condemn it, it will condemn me." This book does not let us get by easily. The human concept is that all sexual acts outside marriage are considered as fornication. The Bible, however, says that even an evil thought is fornication. Human morality condemns an act of killing as murder, but the Bible condemns a slight hatred in the heart as murder.We consider a man who lets his enemy get by without paying vengeance as forgiving. But the Bible charges man to love his enemy. How high is its moral tone, and how low we are before its standards! You cannot help but admit that it presents the best ethical code for humanity.Furthermore, this book describes in detail the past and future of the universe. Once a friend told me that he could believe in everything the Bible says except the parts in Genesis and Revelation where it talks about the origin and destiny of the heavens and earth. I told him that if this is indeed a book from God, it must, of necessity, contain these matters. If the Bible did not contain Genesis and Revelation, it would be the same as any other book, and we would have to look for another book; it would not be the one we want. But the past condition of the world and its future destiny are recorded here. Hence, the third qualification is also met.What is the circulation of such a book? Last year (1935), more than two hundred million copies were sold. Can you name another book that has such a high circulation rate? This statistic, moreover, is not limited to just last year; every year the number has remained approximately the same. In one sense this book is very popular. In another sense it is like a thorn in your hand; it pierces you. This book gives you a headache. It creates an unspeakable uneasiness within man. It even causes man to oppose it. In spite of this, its annual sales are still over two hundred million.Furthermore, this book is translated into more than seven hundred twenty languages. In every country and among every race, there is a translation of this unique book. It is extremely easy for anyone to obtain a Bible anywhere in the world. If the Rig-Veda were God's book, then more than half of the world would perish due to a failure in obtaining it. Even if you put the Rig-Veda in my hand, I would still be unable to understand it. If only the educated ones can contact God, then I am destined to go to hell. If only the Indians have the opportunity, we Chinese, as well as other races, are out of hope. If God speaks through the Rig-Veda, then where can we find that book? Maybe we can only find the original copy in the London Museum. And even that may not contain the original meaning of God's revelation to man.This is not all. The Bible contains sixty-six books and it is divided into the Old and New Testaments. It was written by no less than thirty people. The span from the time the first book was written to the time when the last book was finished is more than sixteen hundred years. The places where they were written are also different. Some were written in Babylon, some in Italy, some at one end of Asia Minor, others at the other end of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the writers themselves differed in their backgrounds. Some were lawyers; some were fishermen. There were princes, and there were shepherds. All these writings by men of different backgrounds, languages, environments, and periods are put together. The amazing thing is that it is still a complete book.All those who have had some experience of editing know that in order to put together a few articles written by different authors, it is necessary for the authors to be of comparable level of academic achievements and viewpoints. Even when the academic standard and viewpoints are similar, there will still be conflicts and contradictions when you put five or six articles together. But the Bible, though complex in contents, contains history, poetry, laws, prophecies, biographies, and doctrines and was written by so many different ones at different times and under different circumstances, yet when you put them together, they surprisingly run as one continuous volume. There is no conflict or contradiction. They are written in one breath.If you read this book carefully, you have to admit that God's hand is behind all the writings. More than thirty people of varied backgrounds and ideas in different times and places wrote these sixty-six books. When you group them up, they link together as if they were written by one individual. Genesis was written about fifteen hundred years before Christ, and Revelation was written ninety-five years after Christ. There is a time span of sixteen hundred years. One talks about the beginning while the other projects the end of the world. Yet whatever begins in Genesis is concluded in Revelation. This amazing feature cannot be explained in human terms. Every word of it has to be written by God through man. God is the motivating One behind the whole composition.There is another remarkable thing about this book. In itself it is a book that gives life. Yet countless numbers of people have lost their lives for its sake. There was a time when anyone who held this book in his hand would immediately be put to death. The most powerful empire in history was the Roman Empire. There was a time when this empire summoned all its forces to destroy this book. Everyone who possessed it would be inhumanly persecuted and later killed or burned. They wiped out thousands of people and burned countless copies of the Bible. They even set up a monument at a place where they killed Christians. On it was the inscription: "Christianity is buried here." They thought that when they had burned all the Bibles and removed all the Christians, they would see Christianity lying there beneath their feet. But it was not long after that when the Bible came back again. Even in a country like England, which has already accepted Christianity as its state religion, you can still find tombs of martyrs for Christ if you visit different places there. Here and there you can find places where the Bible was once burned. Or you may come across a tombstone that tells you that such and such a person tried so hard and wrote so many books in his life to oppose the Bible. One place may tell you that the Bible was once burned there, and another place may tell you that Christians were once killed there. One signpost may point you to a statue of martyrdom, and another may point to a site of Bible burning.Why is it that so many people have tried so hard to oppose this book? Why is it that men would pass by other books, but would either oppose this book with every fibre of their being or would put their whole life to the stake for it? There must be something extraordinary here. Even if you do not believe that this is God's word, you have to admit that there is something unusual about this book.This book seems to be very simple and easy. If you consider it from the historical point of view, it tells the origin of the universe, the earth, the plants, human beings, how they established their kingdoms, and how they will eventually end. This is all. There is nothing special about it. Yet it has been handed from generation to generation for centuries. Today it is still with us. Moreover, if you do not confess that it is truth, you have to conclude that it is false. You can disregard many books, but you cannot ignore this book. Nor will it ignore you. It will not let you go. It demands a verdict from you. It will not pass you by.Another remarkable thing about this book is that almost half of it is prophecy. Among the prophecies, almost half of them are fulfilled. The other half are for the future and await fulfillment. For example, it predicted the fate of the nations of Moab and Ammon and of the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Today when people talk about big cities, they mention London and Shanghai. Then it was Tyre and Sidon. They were two chief cities of the ancient world. The prophecies concerning these two cities were all fulfilled. Once I was in the Middle East. For some reason I did not visit those two places. However, I bought two pictures of those cities. It amazed me when I looked at those pictures. I could not help but believe in the Bible. It was prophesied that if these two metropolitan cities did not repent, they would be destroyed and devastated. Their land would become hills of rocks and pebbles where fishermen would come to dry their nets. In the pictures that I bought, there was nothing but fishing boats and open nets on the shore. This is only one small fact that proves the reliability of biblical prophecy.If you compare past events with the prophecies in the Bible, you will find that they all correspond one with another. For another example, take the birth of Christ. Isaiah prophesied concerning a virgin with child a few hundred years before Christ actually came. Later, He was born indeed of the virgin Mary. The prophecy was accurately fulfilled. As the prophecies concerning the past have been fulfilled, so the prophecies concerning the future must also be fulfilled.If God desires to communicate with man, He must do so through common human channels of communication. He must use the human language or human writings. In other words, there must be a book in the world that is a direct revelation from God. If such a book does exist, it must contain the four criteria we mentioned. Now we can say that such a book is found. This book tells us that God desires to have fellowship with us. He speaks to us through this book. Through it God is no longer an unknown Being. We can now know Him. This book is the Bible. I hope all of you will read it.

posted by RAFAEL @ 9:55 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

THIS IS A SERIOUS, IS HE CRAZY? A LUNATIC?A LIAR? PLEASE YOUR VERIDICT.,

THIS IS A SERIOUS , IS HE CRAZY? A LUNATIC?A LIAR? PLEASE YOUR VERIDICT.,
God desires to reveal Himself to us. He does so through means that are comprehensible to man. These are namely written and spoken language. We have seen how God reveals Himself through writing. Now we want to take a look at His revelation through speaking.Suppose that you have had correspondence with a person for many years; however, you have never seen him. Naturally, you would want to know him more by having some direct acquaintance with him. Full understanding of someone cannot be achieved merely through writing. Direct contact gives a better chance. It seems as if communication through speech is of a more intimate and thorough nature than writing. When spoken language is added to written language, communication becomes enhanced. If you take away either of the two, you have a gap. Of course, if you take away both, communication is completely voided. Effective communication is always carried out by these two means.If God's intention is to reveal Himself to us, He must of necessity do so through speaking. But how does God speak? Does He trumpet from the heavens? If so, we would all be frightened to death. We would all run away. No one would dare to listen. There is a chasm between Him and us. He, being so high and great, would drive us away from His holiness. How then does He speak?THE WINTER ON THE MOUNTAINLet me relate to you a story. One winter I was staying on the mountain Lu-shan, recovering from an illness. It was immediately after the war, and there was practically no one living on the mountain. In the vicinity of my dwelling, one could hardly see anyone all day long. I am a quiet person by nature. This kind of environment was very appealing to me. Not only was it quiet there, but the weather was cold as well. From morning till dusk, all I saw was a boy who came three times to deliver my meals. At the beginning I was quite at ease. But after a while, even a person like me began to feel lonely.One day after lunch I went to take a nap. There was a balcony outside my bedroom window. When I woke up I saw some little creatures gathering around the balcony. Bits of my meal had been dropped there, and the birds were busily chirping around them. As they hopped around, they chirped and made many cheerful noises. I said to myself, "All right. Since I cannot find any human beings, I will try to make friends with these little birds."I rose up and went out to greet them. But in an instant they all flew away. An idea came to me. I took some of the leftover rice and began to arrange it in rows, with only a few grains in the first row and gradually increased them towards the entrance of the doorway. I hid behind the door and watched them coming. Soon they gathered around again. I said to myself, "This is my chance." I walked out and began to make friends with them. But the minute they saw me, they all scattered. Some perched on the branches of the tree across the balcony and stared at me, as if trying to determine what my intention was. Every time I approached them, they flew away, and every time I walked away, they came back. This went on a number of times.I wanted to preach to the birds. I wanted to tell them, "Little birds, I have no special intention in doing this. This is winter on the mountain, and food is scarce. I have enough food with me, and I just want to share it with you. Please be at peace and come down. I only ask that as you eat, I can sit among you. I want to listen to your songs and watch you playing. Come. Let us be friends..." But the birds would not come. They did not understand me. I had to give up.Later I had a certain realization within. I began to preach to myself. I said, "This body of mine is too big. If I could shrink from five feet eleven inches to the size of a bird, and even change myself into a bird, they would not be alarmed by my presence. I could then tell them my heart's intention, and we could spend the winter on the mountain Lu-shan together."We have a similar problem today. If God remained God, we could never understand Him. If He talked to us in His language, we would be altogether lost. If God wants to reveal Himself through speaking and have fellowship with man, He must shrink Himself to such a degree that He and we are the same. Only then would He be able to speak to us and tell us of Himself and of the mysteries of the universe. Only then would we be able to understand Him.Has God become a man to reveal Himself through His speaking? Let us again use the method of supposition. What if God revealed Himself through the human language? What if He became a man and fellowshipped with man? The implication is tremendous here! It would mean that in this world, among all the human beings throughout history, one person was not merely a man, but God as well! If it is granted that God became a man, there must be a mortal who was also divine. We need to find out about this One.This is a thorny task. But we will employ the effective method we have adopted—namely, setting down a few principles. Then we will search according to these qualifications and directions. We want to base our evaluation on what manner of life a person should possess and what qualifications he must have if he is God.The first condition that this person must fulfill is that he must claim to be God while he is on earth. He cannot be apologetic about it. He must declare boldly that he is God. Only then can we know who he is. Without this declaration, we have no way to guess his identity. Hence, a declaration is our first qualification.Second, the way this person came into the world must be different from ours. If I said that I am God and yet was born in the same manner as every other mortal, my words would carry no force. If on the other hand, I dropped down from heaven, my assertion would be taken seriously. The way this person comes into being must be extraordinary. He must come in an absolutely different fashion; otherwise, his words will not carry the necessary weight.Third, this man must bear a moral standard that is far above that of all other human beings. He must have God's holiness, and his life must bear the mark of God's righteousness. For example, if I became a bird and lived in exactly the same way as other birds, without showing them anything extraordinary, I could not convince them that I was actually a man. If God is to become a man, His moral behavior must be of the highest quality. This is the only way that we could identify Him as God.Furthermore, if a person is God, he must necessarily be able to perform things which no mortal can do. If he can achieve what we cannot achieve and know what we do not know, we can say that he is truly God.Lastly, this person must be able to tell us the divine purpose concerning man. What was God's purpose in creating the universe and man? How does He take care of human pains and sorrows? What is the origin and ultimate solution of everything in the universe? What should our attitude towards God be? All these he must reveal to us. Unless this one shows us what we do not see, we cannot say that he has shown us any revelation.We will set down these five conditions and put the whole of humanity to the test. Let us find out if someone meets the five requirements. Such a person would surely be qualified to be God.The first person to put to the test should be yourself. Of course, you are not God, because you have never claimed to be God. Nor have I ever claimed to be. So that rules out you and me. Very well, now we will introduce Confucius. If you read his books, you will find that he did conduct a very moral and proper life. But he never claimed to be God either. Hence, he fails in the first step.What about Sakya Muni, the founder of Buddhism? Not only was there an absence of the claim of divinity, but his philosophy itself is void of deity. He did not believe in the existence of God. Since he had no God, he cannot be God either.Next, go to Mohammed. He believed in God. But he never claimed to be God. He called God Allah and himself the prophet of Allah. If you go through every person in history, you will discover that no one ever claimed to be God except One. That One was Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to be the living God. No other person put forward such a claim.How can Jesus of Nazareth claim to be God? Before going on, we have to pause for a moment to seriously consider the matter. It is not a light thing to claim to be God. A person who makes such a claim falls into one of three categories. He must belong to one of these three categories; he cannot belong to all three. First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic. Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie. Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God. You can only choose one of the three possibilities. If you do not believe that he is God, you have to consider him a madman. If you cannot take him for either of the two, you have to take him for a liar. There is no need for us to prove if Jesus of Nazareth is God or not. All we have to do is find out if He is a lunatic or a liar. If He is neither, He must be the Son of God. These are our three choices. There is no fourth.What did Jesus of Nazareth say about Himself? In John 10:30 He said, "I and the Father are one." We need some explanation here. In the Bible the invisible God is called the Father. The Son manifests and expresses the Father. What is hidden is the Father, and what is expressed is the Son. The Son is the One who can be seen and touched. Behind, you have the Father. In front, you have the Son. The two are actually one. They are the two sides of the same reality. When we talk about two, we refer to the fact that one is hidden while the other is revealed. When we talk about one, we say that the revealed One is just the hidden One in manifestation. This is the biblical interpretation of the Father and the Son.Therefore, when Jesus of Nazareth one day said, "I and the Father are one," it was a statement that no one else could make. This man was saying in reality that He and the invisible God are one entity. He is God and God is He. God is the invisible Father, and He is the manifested Son. The Father and the Son are one! Who can this One be that made such a claim? Is He a madman? Is He out to deceive us?After Jesus spoke such a word, what reaction do we see? "The Jews again took up stones that they might stone Him. Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these works are you stoning Me? The Jews answered Him, We are not stoning You for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a man, are making Yourself God" (vv. 31-33). The Jews understood very well that Jesus' words meant that He claimed to be God. After hearing these words they wanted to stone Him to death. A claim was made by Jesus, and an accusation was charged by the Jews, both of which concerned His divinity. Was Jesus insane? Did He speak pure nonsense just to cause people to kill Him? Or was He a swindler setting up some kind of a scheme? If so, what was He trying to gain? Was He trying to gain death?Perhaps we will go back a little bit to the earlier parts in the Gospel of John and see what it says there. John 1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Why has no one seen God? It is because God is invisible. Jesus said that He was the only Begotten of the Father; He expressed the invisible Father. When you see the only Begotten, you see the Father.Again He spoke concerning Himself, "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven" (3:13). Have you ever heard anyone say such words? I cannot say, "No one has been to Shanghai, but he who comes from Shanghai to Tientsin, even I, Watchman Nee, who is in Shanghai." If I say so, I would be gibbering nonsense. But Jesus was speaking a heavenly language. He said that He came out of heaven and is still in heaven. What can a person be if he can be in two places simultaneously? Either he is God or he is a lunatic or he is a liar. If you have not yet believed in Christ, please give a verdict to this issue. Who is this man?Let us read John 3:31-32: "He who comes from above is above all; he who is from the earth is of the earth and speaks out of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of this He testifies, and no one receives His testimony." He said that He came out of heaven and was above all. After a while He said the same thing again. Let us see what is the purpose behind these words. He came to preach the things of heaven, but no one received His words. He mentioned words like "heaven," "above all," "out of heaven," etc. What kind of man was He? Confucius never said this. Neither did Sakya Muni or Mohammed. Was Jesus of Nazareth a madman, a liar, or the Son of God?John 5:17 says, "But Jesus answered them, My Father is working until now, and I also am working." He always put Himself in the same place as the Father. Verse 18 says, "Because of this therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." When we read His words now, we may consider them to be ordinary remarks. But the Jews knew what He was saying. They knew that He was making Himself equal with God. The words in fact meant that God is His Father and He came to express God. The invisible One is God, and the visible One is He. Therefore, the Jews sought to kill Him. What should we do about such an unusual person?John 6:46 says, "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except Him who is from God, He has seen the Father." Here the word is clearer. He said that no one other than Himself has ever seen God. Only He knew what the Father is like. I can only say with soberness and reverence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Read John 8:18. What did He say? "I am One who testifies concerning Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies concerning Me." The question in verse 19 is most interesting: "They said then to Him, Where is Your Father? Jesus answered, You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also." Have you seen what He was saying? They had seen Him, yet did not know Him. Of course they would not know the Father either, whom they had not seen. If men knew Him, they knew God. Who is He then? If knowing Him equals knowing God, is that not the same as saying that He is God and God is He?Read John 8:23: "And He said to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world." The preposition "from" in this verse is ek in Greek. It means "out of." That is how it should be translated. He said, "You are out of this world, but I am not out of this world." This man claimed to be from above; He did not come out of this world. Who can He be?The Jews were confused. They were totally bewildered. Who was this man? The ancestor of the Jews is Abraham. They boasted of being the descendants of Abraham in the same way the Chinese boast of being the offspring of Hwang-ti. The name Abraham was highly venerated among the Jews. Now they brought out Abraham. Please read John 8:53: "Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too. Who are You making Yourself?" How did Jesus answer them? Was He greater or smaller than Abraham? In verse 56 Jesus said, "Your father Abraham exulted that he would see My day, and he saw it and rejoiced." What is this? Even Abraham had to look forward to Jesus! Hence, verse 57: "The Jews then said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Now please pay your attention to Jesus' answer in verse 58: "Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I am." Tell me who this man is. If I told you that before Hwang-ti was, I, Watchman Nee am there, you would immediately write me off as a lunatic. Some of you would say that I am a liar. The words Jesus spoke made Him either a madman, a liar, or God. There can be no fourth alternative.We have to read on. In John 10:37-38 Jesus said, "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works so that you may come to know and continue to know..." Know what? The clause following is very crucial. It is a big statement: "...that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father." Who then is this man? He said that He was in God and God was in Him.Passages like the above are numerous in the Bible. I shall mention one more. Read carefully John 14:6-7: "Jesus said to him, I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and henceforth you know Him and have seen Him." It says clearly that if you know Jesus of Nazareth, you have known the invisible God. Why is this so? It is because He is God.One of the disciples was confused. John 14:8 says, "Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us." Philip was asking to be shown the Father who had been mentioned again and again by Jesus. Verse 9 says, "Jesus said to him, Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how is it that you say, Show us the Father?" Here Jesus made it very plain that to see Him is to see God. He made no apology about it. He is God. There is no need to see the Father anymore. If you see Him, you see God!Who is Jesus of Nazareth? What would you say? Is He merely the founder of the Christian religion? Is He merely an example of self-sacrifice and humanitarianism? Is He a social reformer? Is He an advocate for universal love, peace, and freedom? Listen to what He said about Himself. He said that He is God. What is your conclusion? Is He a lunatic or a liar? Is He a hoax, or is He God? This is a vital question.Can He be a madman? If you read His biographies in the Gospels and observe His life and manner, you will realize that not only was He sane and sound, He was very sober and firm. If there is a perfectly sound person in this world, He has to be the One. His mind was clear, and His mentality was alert. If you study His deeds and words carefully, you have to confess that His thoughts are very logical and consistent, and His manners are most comely and appropriate. To opposing ones He only needed to reply a few sentences, and their arguments against Him were defeated. He did not have a trace of madness in Him. A madman could never have done what He did.Then is He a liar? A liar always lies for a profit. If there is no profit to be gained, what is the purpose of lying? Why was Jesus crucified? For no other reason than that He claimed to be God. At the last judgment, the hour when His release or crucifixion was to be deliberated, He was examined as to who He was. What was His answer? He said that the Son of Man would be seen sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high, descending on the clouds in glory (Matt. 26:64). Even then He claimed to be God. As a result, He was crucified on the cross. Is there a liar who would sacrifice his life for his lie?Once I met a person who wanted to talk with me about our faith. He read some books about Jesus and admitted that Jesus had a high standard of morality. He could consider Jesus as a perfect man, a model for humanity. But he could not believe that Jesus is God. I said, "If you admit that He has a high standard of morality, then He at least is not a liar. If you agree that He is not a liar, then you have to accept His claim of divinity as truth. He repeatedly asserted that He is God. If you admire His morality, you have to recognize His divinity as well. Jesus of Nazareth is God!"Please read John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Verse 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality." What is the "Word" mentioned in verses 1 and 14? Verse 1 speaks of the relationship the Word has with God. In reference to when, the Word was there from the beginning. In reference to where, the Word was with God. In reference to what, the Word was God. Today the Word has become flesh; He has taken on a human body and dwelt among men. As to how He dwells, it says that He is "full of grace and reality," and "we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father." Who is this One? He is Jesus of Nazareth.Here we have only seen one of the five qualifications mentioned earlier. Only Jesus of Nazareth meets this first condition. This proves that He is God. We shall go on to see the four other conditions or qualifications. Jesus of Nazareth must meet all the other four qualifications before we can conclude that He is God.

posted by RAFAEL @ 9:49 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

EXAMINE THE CLAIMS

EXAMINE THE CLAIMS
If God is to be a man, He must come into the world in a way that is very different from all other mortals. We come into the world through our parents and are conceived by our mothers. To ascertain whether Jesus of Nazareth is an ordinary person or the incarnated God, we need to examine His birth. If His birth was no different from ours, we have to conclude that He is nothing but a man. Not only does He have to pass the first qualification, but He needs to pass the second one. Do not hastily believe in a person simply because he claims to be God; we have to test him by our second criterion. If he is indeed God, he must be born in an extraordinary manner.If we study the birth of Jesus, we will find that it was very different from ours. He was born of a virgin. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament tell us this fact. Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary.Before we go on, we have to realize that there are two ways to know God: by natural speculation or by revelation. According to natural speculation, one meditates and conjectures about God. In revelation, God speaks to man. We want to look at the revelation of God. We want to know what God says.The Gospels of Matthew and Luke show us that Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. This important fact enables us to conclude that He is no ordinary person, and it justifies our being a Christian.The natural mentality cannot readily accept this fact. Some years ago, a big debate was conducted in England. On one side were prominent leaders of modernistic schools of theology. On the other side was a famous Presbyterian pastor-theologian. Four major topics were raised. Twice a day, for four consecutive days, each side took turns delivering a long speech for a total of eight messages. One of the topics was related to our subject—the virgin birth. The modernistic theologians asserted that one reason alone was enough to disprove the virgin birth—the event was biologically impossible. According to the law of biology, it is impossible to have the virgin birth.On the same day, their opponent gave the rebuttal. Let me briefly mention a few of his arguments. He said, "Our friends have denied the possibility of such an event on the ground of biological law. I am here to ask whether such an event happened. They asked, 'Can this happen?' They referred you to academic principles. I am asking, 'Has this happened?' I point to a historical occurrence. It is one thing to be academically justified. It is another thing to be historically recorded."As he was speaking, he drew out a newspaper from his pocket. In the paper was an article about an accident that had happened a few days earlier. A man was driving on a winding mountain road. Due to carelessness, the car slid and tumbled down a deep gorge. The car was totally wrecked. Not even a square foot of the vehicle was left untouched. It was thoroughly damaged. But the man on the ground was absolutely unhurt. Later, he rose up and walked away. The theologian read the passage aloud and said, "This car tumbled down a thousand feet into ruin. You cannot even find a square foot of whole metal, and yet the man was unharmed. My friends would ask, 'Could this man live?' But my question is, 'Is this man alive?' He is alive! If you consider the possibility, there is none. But if you consider the fact, there it is!"What we have is a historical fact. If we try to study the virgin birth from a scientific point of view, we may conclude that this is an impossible event. But my question is whether or not such an event occurred. The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus was born of a virgin. So does the Gospel of Luke. At least you have to say that these records have said such a thing and that such an event was recorded in history. At least you have to believe that there is a historical event.I am not asserting that Matthew and Luke were inspired by the Holy Spirit when they wrote their books. Whether these books were divinely inspired or not, we will set aside for a moment. We are saying that there were a few people who followed Jesus. They wrote His biography. Both Matthew and Luke were contemporaries of Jesus. Matthew followed Him for more than three years. Luke was not as close, but he "carefully investigated all things" (Luke 1:3). I believe that when he wrote his gospel, the mother of Jesus was still alive. What did they say about the birth of Jesus? They all testified that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. His birth was absolutely different from ours. Today, after almost two thousand years, some who never saw Jesus, never talked to Mary His mother, and never met Joseph His father, conclude that He was not born of a virgin. How can you say that He was not born in this manner? Are you ruling out the possibility of such an event and concluding that it did not happen because of some arguments you proposed in your study room or some theories you fashioned in the laboratory?Perhaps we should read the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. There are forty-two generations in the genealogy. Beginning from the first generation, it repeatedly says, "So-and-so begot So-and-so." This phrase is used through verse 15, which says, "And Eliud begot Eleazar, and Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob." Verse 16 continues, "And Jacob begot Joseph." The surprising thing is that the next part of the sentence does not continue with "Joseph begot Jesus." Rather, it says, "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." When the line reaches Joseph, the pattern is dropped. This is because Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary. His way of birth was very different from ours.We have seen that His method of coming into the world was an unusual one. Now we want to look at His way of departing from the world. As we shall see, this was also contrary to our ordinary deaths. No one can ever predict the place, time, and manner he or she is going to die. A hundred years from now, all of us here will be dead. But no one knows how we are going to die. Jesus of Nazareth, however, foresaw His own death. He knew exactly when, where, and how it was to happen.Once when someone told Him that He was going to be killed, He answered that it was not acceptable for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). He knew that He was going to die in Jerusalem. One day, He told His disciples that the hour had come. Not only did He sense the imminence of His death; He told others that His death hour had come. He knew also how He would die. A number of times He mentioned that He would be crucified. This was recorded at least three times in Matthew. Not only was this man different in His way of entering into the world, but His manner of departure was no less extraordinary. Both His birth and His death were very unusual. Is this the Son of God?Let us consider the third qualification. What kind of morality did Jesus of Nazareth have? Was He the same as we are? Did He ever sin?I like the sentence Jesus spoke in John 8. Many were opposing Him at that time. They surrounded and cross-examined Him. In return He asked, "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" (v. 46). This was a tremendous challenge! Which one of us would dare to stand before everyone and challenge to be convicted of sin? Whoever dared do such a thing would be put to shame the minute his wife stood up to testify against him. Perhaps, in less than five minutes, seven or eight people would immediately rise up to expose his lies and unfaithfulness. But when Jesus made such a statement, no one was able to convict Him of sin. There has been a countless number of saints and sages throughout the ages, but none was bold enough to claim to be perfect and sinless. Why is it that Jesus alone dared to make such a claim?All I can say is that this man is either arrogant to the extreme or holy to the uttermost. A proud person may talk in an outlandish manner because he does not know himself; he has no realization of what kind of person he is. But when Jesus challenged, "Which of you convicts Me," there was no way He could be humble or polite about it. He is without sin, and He is holy to the uttermost.Jesus of Nazareth is not like Confucius, who said that given some more time, he would be rid of big, moral flaws. Jesus is sinless. When He made such a statement, He made it before His enemies. If there had been a slight misconduct on His part, the Jews would have caught it right away. The Jews are not prolific writers; they have not produced many books other than the Holy Scripture. But after Jesus, many books were written by the Jews to contradict Him. All these books deny His divinity, but none touch His morality. Of all the opposing writings, none can prove that Jesus ever sinned.Every philosopher or founder of religion, at one time or another, has said, "I repent," or "I regret such and such a matter. I will do better from now on." But Jesus of Nazareth never repented. A sinner must of necessity repent. But what does a sinless man have to repent of? Jesus never apologized to anyone; He never did anyone any wrong.When I was in England, some British friends asked for my opinion concerning their people. I said, "Among you, once ever so often, I hear, 'Excuse me' and 'I beg your pardon.'" To the English, anyone who does not know how to make these two remarks has to be an extremely base person, for he knows not his own mistakes. Anyone can make a mistake, but when one refuses to admit his mistakes, he makes himself vulgar. For this reason we have to say, "Excuse me" and "I beg your pardon" all the time.The amazing thing is that Jesus of Nazareth never said "sorry" to anyone. He never apologized. Could He be so evil as to ignore His conscience completely? Was He oblivious to His own errors? Or is He really sinless? If so, He cannot say, "sorry." It is not a matter of humility or politeness to Him, but a matter of maintaining His standing.I love the story about Jesus once walking down a road. Many people were gathered around Him, hoping to see the resurrection of a dead person. It was so crowded that the people pressed upon each other. One woman, who suffered from an issue of blood for years, thought that Jesus would surely be able to heal her since He had performed all kinds of miracles. She did not come to the Lord directly. All that she did was touch the fringe of His garment, and the sickness was immediately healed (Mark 5:25-29).Jesus felt something, turned around, and asked, "Who touched Me?" How did the disciples respond? They said, "You see the crowd pressing upon You and You say, Who touched Me?" (v. 31). He should have asked, "Who pressed Me?" instead of "Who touched Me?" If I were Jesus, I would have said in a gentlemanly fashion, "Excuse me." But Jesus did not need to say that. When He said that it was a touch, He meant that it was a touch and not a pressing against. The disciples only knew that many thronged around Him. But He knew that someone "touched" Him. He knew what He was doing. There was no need for apology. He knows no sin because He is without sin.Let me mention another story about Jesus. One day He came to the synagogue in His hometown. Someone handed Him the Scripture, and He started to read from a passage about Himself. The people there, however, despised Him. He remarked that a prophet is always despised in His own place. For this reason, God would not choose them but would rather go to someone else. After they heard this, they were very indignant. They carried Him outside and tried to throw Him down a cliff. I like very much what Jesus did then. He passed through their midst (Luke 4:16-30). If someone tried to push us over a cliff, we would struggle to escape. But He was no ordinary person. He simply passed through the persecutors' midst. They could do nothing except let Him pass by! He is without sin.Again, you see the same Jesus preaching to a ruler at midnight in a house (John 3:2), while choosing to converse with a woman beside a well at midday (4:5-7). Everything He did was very proper. No one can say anything against Him. You cannot find fault in Him.Another time some opposers came to tempt Him. They asked whether or not it was lawful to pay tax to Caesar. The Jewish nation, as you know, no longer existed then, and Caesar of Rome was their king. If Jesus said "no" to the question, He would have been involved in a political issue, and the opposers would have had an excuse to condemn Him. If He said "yes," all the Jews would have counted Him as siding with the Romans and hated Him. The result, of course, would have favored the opposers. This was a question that could not be answered "yes" or "no."How did Jesus reply? He said, "Show Me the coin for the tribute" (Matt. 22:19). He was wise. He even had the opposing ones draw out the money from their own pockets. Then He asked, "Whose is this image and inscription?" (v. 20). They had to admit that it was Caesar's. Jesus gave an excellent reply: "Render then the things that are Caesar's to Caesar and the things that are God's to God" (v. 21). With that He dismissed the whole case. This is where His majesty lies. He never made a mistake. You cannot get a case out of Him.I cannot enumerate all His deeds. Everything He did bears such a mark of nobility that there is absolutely no flaw in His behavior. I will briefly mention His betrayal as a final example. It was very late in the night, and men armed with torches, spears, and swords came to arrest this empty-handed Jesus. He asked them, "Whom do you seek?" They said, "Jesus the Nazarene" (John 18:7). He replied, "I told you that I am" (v. 8). At that very word, the band of rogues whose minds were set on capturing Him fell back to the ground. If Jesus had not voluntarily given Himself over to them, they would never have been able to seize Him. Such calmness and majesty can only be seen in Him!As to the traitor, Jesus knew from the first day of his intention. Yet He allowed the same to follow Him and even let him be the keeper of the money. All the time Jesus knew that money was being stolen by him. Who can demonstrate such forbearance and uprightness? Here is a man who is absolutely different from all others. In every respect, He has been proven to be the Son of God.The fourth qualification we mentioned is that one who claims to be God incarnated must be able to perform what an ordinary person cannot. Has Jesus of Nazareth performed any supernatural acts? We are not His contemporaries; it was almost two thousand years ago that He walked on earth. Naturally, we cannot be His witnesses. But one thing is sure: the apostles who followed Jesus recorded, preached, and testified the things concerning Him. The four Gospels were all completed within thirty years after His departure. Most of the Jews who were then alive had seen Jesus. If the apostles' records were false, they would have been repudiated long ago. However, the Jews only argued that Jesus is not the Son of God. They never denied His deeds, for the deeds were all facts.Today, when we read the four Gospels, we have no apprehension about their authenticity. If there had been a slight error when they were written, there would have been grave problems because many of the contemporaries had actually seen and heard Jesus. There was no chance for any fabrication. Hence, these books cannot be a hoax. If the Jews could not attack these books, there is even less of a basis for an attack today.Let us examine some of the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew 11:2 and 3 say, "Now when John heard in the prison of the works of the Christ, he sent word through his disciples and said to Him, Are You the Coming One, or should we expect another?" John wanted to make sure that Jesus was the Christ sent from God. If He was not, John would wait for another.Verses 4 and 5 say, "And Jesus answered and said to them, Go, report to John the things that you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; and the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel announced to them." Jesus answered neither "yes" nor "no." He only asked the messenger to tell John of the things heard and seen. He wanted John to think about them and decide for himself if Jesus was the Christ. Jesus proved His divinity by the miracles He performed. Here is a man who accomplished things that are impossible for human beings. You cannot help but confess that He is God.John 7:31 says, "But many out of the crowd believed into Him and said, Will the Christ, when He comes, do more signs than this man has done?" Many people testified that He performed all kinds of miracles which no man could do.John 10:24 says, "The Jews therefore surrounded Him and said to Him, How long will you hold our soul in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." On the one hand, the Jews hardened their hearts and refused to acknowledge His divinity, and on the other hand, they were puzzled by the many supernatural miracles that He performed. They gathered around Him and pressed for an answer. There is one thing in which Jesus never gave in: His claim to divinity. He performed what mortals could not. These acts testify to His divinity. He told the people clearly, "The works which I do in My Father's name, these testify concerning Me" (v. 25). On the one hand, He made His claim, and on the other hand, He performed miracles to justify His claim.In John 14:11 He said to His disciples, "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me." This is the same as saying that He is the invisible Father. "But if not, believe because of the works themselves." If He had not done anything impossible, this word would have had no value at all. If He had not performed any extraordinary acts, they would have asked back, "What works have You done? We do not know what You are talking about." But the disciples knew of the acts He did. All these acts prove that He is the Son of God.We have to check Jesus of Nazareth against a fifth qualification. If He is God, He has to show us what He is. Is He kind, or is He severe? Is He gentle, or is He fierce? What kind of a God do we have? As a matter of fact, Jesus did show us what God is.This is a most wonderful thing. The eternal, invisible God is now seen by us. There is no need to conjure up an untouchable and far transcendent God or imagine what He is like; He has revealed Himself to us. He has dwelt in our midst and walked among us. Jesus of Nazareth is the very God dwelling among and with man. He has manifested God's nature and attributes to us. There is no need to search for God anymore because He has revealed Himself. Our mentality is too limited. Our hands are too short, and our viewpoint too narrow. If we were left to ourselves to study and search for God, we could only conclude that He is the unknown One. Now we know that God desires to reveal Himself. In fact, He has revealed Himself to us already.We have said that the two means whereby God communicates with us are the written and spoken language. For this reason, the Bible and Jesus of Nazareth are the two indispensable factors in our faith. When you take away either one, God becomes the gravest problem in the world. Hebrews 1:1 says, "God, having spoken of old in many portions and in many ways to the fathers in the prophets." These speakings constitute the Bible. "Has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son" (v. 2). This is Jesus of Nazareth. Whoever is in Christ now may know Him. To have heard the words of Jesus of Nazareth is to have heard the words of God.Dear reader, what is your attitude towards Jesus of Nazareth? Thomas confessed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Peter proclaimed, "You are...the Son of the living God!" (Matt. 16:16). Martha said, "I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11:27). Even a Roman centurion exclaimed at the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matt. 27:54b). I hope you will make the same confession.

posted by RAFAEL @ 9:46 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

WHO IS HE?

Our Christian faith is based upon the revelation of God. It is different from all other religions which are attained through meditation, conjecture, and searching. We believe that the Bible is God's revelation to us. In other words, it is His spoken word to us. We also believe that God has become a man, who is the very Jesus of Nazareth. God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ constitute the basis of our faith.Let us begin by looking at the position that Christ occupies in our faith, or we may say, in Christianity. However, Christianity has been altered and is not what it ought to be. At the present we will not mention what Christianity ought to be. Rather, we will only draw a comparison between Christianity and other religions in order to see the distinctiveness of our faith. We will not try purposely to exalt Christianity and debase other religions. We will only draw an objective comparison between them.First, let us consider Confucianism. Actually, followers of Confucius never formally assert that theirs is a religion. Confucianism merely exercises great influence on Chinese culture, education, ethics, and philosophy. One thing, however, is certain: the teachings and doctrines of Confucius are of foremost importance, while the person Confucius is not as crucial. I do not mean that Confucianism has no concern for Confucius. The man indeed was an extraordinary person. However, in order to be a part of Confucianism, one only needs to understand the doctrines of Confucius, abide by his teachings, and be thoroughly acquainted with his books. It does not matter whether one understands the man Confucius or not. The principles, doctrines, and teachings of Confucius are the essence of the religion.Next let us consider Buddhism. The founder of Buddhism was Sakya Muni. Once he preached to his disciples about evil persons being reincarnated through the Wheel of Rebirth after death. This is something that attracts man's attention. But in all of Buddhism, the point of emphasis is doctrines and theories. Concerning the man Sakya Muni, although he has a history and biography, they are something parenthetical. They do not form the crux of Buddhism. The center of the religion is not the man Sakya Muni. Whether there was such a person is unimportant to today's Buddhism. All that is needed are the doctrines and teachings.Other religions such as Taoism and Mohammedanism are all of the same principle. After each founder set up a religion and left his teachings, doctrines, and regulations as the content of his religion, the founder himself was disassociated from the religion and had little to do with it.But our faith is entirely different. From its outset, Christianity is built on the man Christ. It is not built on the doctrines and teachings of Christ. It is amazing that when you open the Bible, you will not find too many chapters of doctrines. Passages where pure doctrinal issues are expounded are rare and of less concern to people. What concerns one the most is the man Himself and what kind of person He is. All who have read the Bible know that the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are not outstandingly voluminous. His person draws our attention. He alone is the foundation of our faith.The word Christ came from Greek, meaning the Anointed One. According to the Chinese, when a man takes up a task, he is given a letter of employment. The Jewish equivalent of this is anointing. When God summons a person for a work, He pours oil on the person as a seal of commission. Christ is the very God who was set apart to come to earth to be a man for the manifestation of God, in order that man may know God. Christ is the Anointed One. He is commissioned to such a task.Due to this basic distinction, Christ is different from the founders of other religions. Once He asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Over and over again He demanded that His disciples believe in Him. He said that he who believes in the Son has eternal life. Again He said, "He who loves father or mother above Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter above Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:37). Unless a man loves in this way, he is not worthy to be His disciple. Words such as these have been uttered only by Him. No other religious leader ever said anything like that. Confucius never said to Yen-weh or Tze-lu, "Believe in me," nor did he ever say, "Love me." Neither did any of the other leaders, such as Sakya Muni or Mohammed, demand of their disciples faith in them. All it takes to be their disciples is to believe in their doctrines.Hence, the true Christian faith is based on a person. It is built on Christ and not on some doctrines. The crux of the true Christian faith is a question of who Jesus is! Is He merely a Jew? Is He only a prophet? Or is Jesus the Son of the living God? The whole matter hinges upon who Jesus of Nazareth is. The difference between a genuine Christian and a false one lies not in the knowledge of the doctrines of Christ. Rather, it lies in the knowledge of who Jesus is!Who is this man from Nazareth? Since this is a crucial question related to our basic faith, we have to find the answer in the Bible. We will pay more attention to the Gospel of John and discover that only Christ Himself is the center of the Bible and the focus of the whole of Christianity.Before taking up the Gospel of John, we have to take a look at the background of the book. Prior to the coming of Christ, a forerunner was sent by God to prepare a way for Christ that men might be ready to acknowledge Christ. The forerunner was John the Baptist. Because of his powerful preaching, many people were convicted. As a result, many thought that he was the Christ who was supposed to come.But John 1:8 says, "He was not the light, but came that he might testify concerning the light." The light means Christ. He is called the light because light reveals and manifests. John was not the Christ. He was only bearing witness to Christ.Concerning this light, verse 9 says, "This was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." In this dark world, if a person has Christ, he will know all about God. When this light shines forth, man will say, "Here is God." They will recognize the light as God.Up to verse 9, we still do not know who this light is. Read on from verse 10 to verse 15: "He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, yet those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name, who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality. John testified concerning Him and cried out, saying, This was He of whom I said, He who is coming after me has become ahead of me, because He was before me." Have you realized, after reading the above verses, that all that is recorded here are actual facts, rather than many doctrines?What did John the Baptist say about Christ? He said, "He...is...after me." And yet He who was after John would be before him. This is because Christ was before him in the first place. This is the beginning of the testimony of John the Baptist.John 1:27: "He who is coming after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." The preaching of John is the beginning of our faith. He came just to tell others who Jesus of Nazareth is. Not only was Christ before John, He was so much greater than John that he was not worthy to untie the thong of His sandal and be His slave.John 1:29: "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"Verse 30: "This is He of whom I said, A man is coming after me who has become ahead of me, because He was before me." When John introduced Jesus, he said, "This is He"! (v. 30). The Gospel begins by showing us who Jesus is!This is the word of the forerunner. But what about Christ? What did He say? We admit that in the Bible there are a few basic doctrines. For example, regeneration is one of the basic truths. Buddhism and Mohammedanism also talk about regeneration. In their teachings they teach that whatever is past is considered as dead yesterday, and whatever is hereafter is considered as born today. But what did Jesus say about regeneration? Let us look at the record of John 3."There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to Him by night" (vv. 1-2a).Nicodemus was a ruler. He was also a learned and aged person. He came to Jesus to discuss some problems with Him, and Jesus brought up the matter of regeneration."Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3).Jesus showed Nicodemus the matter of regeneration, telling him that he needed to be born again. After Nicodemus heard this, he was confounded. He wondered how an old man could be born again. Did that mean that he had to go into his mother's womb and come out again? Jesus told him that this is not a birth of the flesh, but a birth of the spirit. If a man is not born of the Spirit, even if he could go into his mother's womb again, the flesh would still beget flesh. Only the Spirit begets spirit. Here you can see that even in such a basic and fundamental matter, Jesus did not expound much doctrine. He only mentioned a very simple fact—the need to be born again.No wonder Nicodemus asked, "How can these things be?" Jesus told him that this is not an earthly matter. It is something heavenly. That is why he could not believe. How can a man be born again? "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believes into Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes into Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God" (vv. 13-18). Have you seen this? This is regeneration!Jesus was saying that regeneration is not a doctrine. It is believing into Him. To be born again is to believe into Him. If a man does not believe into Him, he cannot be regenerated. After saying so much, it all comes back to "Him."What is our concept of regeneration? We think that if one was a thief yesterday and returns his booty to the owner today, that this is regeneration. Or, if one thought of having a mistress yesterday, but gives up that idea today, that this is regeneration. We think that as long as we quit doing whatever was bad in the past, considering it as dead, and strive to do well hereafter, we are born again. But this is man's concept. This is not the regeneration that Christ gives.The way of Jesus depends on whether you believe into Him or not. He who believes into Him has eternal life! God gave His only begotten Son that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned. This is not a doctrine. It is a matter of the person. It is a relationship between Him and man.Besides regeneration, there is another crucial matter, which we call Christian satisfaction. A genuine Christian feels that his hopes are fulfilled, his aspirations attained; he has no want; he is absolutely satisfied. But this satisfaction is very different from the contentment that people commonly talk about. Contentment is to see things in an optimistic way, to let things come and go by as they are without insisting on anything. There may not be much wealth or position. There may not be much honor or renown. But as long as one can live in peace and be left unbothered, that is good enough! This is contentment. But this is not satisfaction. When a person is satisfied, he feels that he has what he wants and that he has no more desires.There is an excellent record in John 4. What did Jesus say to a Samaritan woman there? "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again" (v. 13). If you desire worldly glory, renown, wealth, position, etc., you will never be satisfied. When you have ten thousand dollars, you will want a hundred thousand, and when you have acquired a hundred thousand, you will start dreaming about a million. There will never be satisfaction. He who drinks of this water will thirst again.How do you quench this thirst? The Lord Jesus said, "But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall by no means thirst forever" (v. 14). An amazing fact is that neither Confucius nor any other religious leader ever said such a thing. The teachings of Confucius and Mencius only tell you to be content and to abide in your poverty. The person Confucius or Mencius has nothing to do with your contentment. However, the person Jesus has a great deal to do with your thirst-quenching.Naturally the woman desired to drink of this thirst-quenching water. When she asked Jesus for this living water, "Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water" (v. 10).Was Jesus preaching a doctrine? No. There was no doctrine. The only thing He did was point to Himself, as if to say, "Well, if you know who He is, you will ask of Him at once, and He will give you living water, that you may never thirst again." Have you seen this? The whole question is who Jesus of Nazareth is.The Samaritan woman was not a decent woman. The fact that she had had six husbands showed what kind of woman she was. She must have been dissatisfied with this one and that one. One husband could not make her happy; another could not make her satisfied. As a result, she changed from one husband to another, and then to a third and a fourth, until she came to the sixth. One day she came out to draw water, a symbol of her being one who drinks and is still thirsty. The remarkable thing is that on that day, her life was changed. She became satisfied! What did she do? She did not do anything! On that day she realized who Jesus of Nazareth is and she was saved. Let us look again at the process through which she came to know Jesus and believe in Him

posted by RAFAEL @ 9:44 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

KNOWING

"The woman said to Him, Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet" (v. 19). Because Christ told her everything that she ever did, she perceived that this was no ordinary man. He must be a prophet. Jesus said something more to show her that He was not merely a prophet: "Believe Me" (v. 21). The woman said, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will declare all things to us" (v. 25). What did Jesus answer her? He said, "I, who speak to you, am He" (v. 26). The first thing that a sinner needs to do is not to repent and change his behavior, but to realize who Jesus is. All will be well if he realizes who Jesus is.Later the woman returned to the city and told the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I have done. Is this not the Christ?" (v. 29). I do not like the words, "Is this not." Since she knew that this man was the Christ, why did she say, "Is this not"? At any rate, she believed and went to tell others that Christ had come. You can see clearly that the whole issue is not about doctrine but about a person! Our basic concern is not doctrines. Rather, it is seeing who Jesus is! Once we have the Lord Jesus, we will have real satisfaction; we will be filled with the sense of having acquired everything.We will see a little more from John 5. It seems that in chapter five the Lord Jesus spoke some doctrines. But actually not much was expounded. It was once again an invitation to receive the knowledge of who Jesus of Nazareth is. He spoke some words, but they were to lead us to believe into Him. The Lord Jesus said that the Jews searched the Scriptures. But the Scriptures, the Lord pointed out, are a witness to Him. What is written there concerns Him. It is important to know the Scriptures. But more important than that is the knowledge of who Jesus of Nazareth is. The question is not what kind of teaching He teaches, but what kind of a person He isWhen we come to John 6, the matter is brought out in an even clearer way. "Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall by no means hunger, and he who believes into Me shall by no means ever thirst" (v. 35). He did not preach any doctrine. He just said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall by no means hunger." Have you seen the implication here? If I say that I am your bread of life and that he who eats me shall never hunger, you will surely say that Mr. Nee is a madman from Shanghai. Religious leaders can only give doctrines to others. They cannot give themselves to others. But Jesus is different. He is the bread of life. He is also the thirst-quenching water. The problem is in the people's unbelief in Him. When anyone believes in Him, everything will be all right."I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die" (vv. 48-50). These are words that no other can speak. Only Jesus can say this. He is neither a madman nor a liar. And whatever He says always points back to Himself. This man is the bread of life. He who eats of Him shall not die!Hence, our Christian faith is based on the issue of who Jesus of Nazareth is. We are not spending time merely to study His teachings. We are only asked to answer one question: who is He? What Christ proclaimed persistently on the earth was not His doctrines but Himself. The focus is not on the doctrines but on the person. As far as doctrines go, the books of Confucius and Mencius are filled with philosophies, ethics, and morality; they far exceed those in the Bible. But there is only one issue: who is Jesus of Nazareth? Do you know? Who is this Jesus of Nazareth?Let us read on. John 6:51: "I am the living bread which came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread which I will give is My flesh, given for the life of the world."Here His words become more and more peculiar. It is strange enough to say that He is the bread of life which came down out of heaven. Now He says that he who eats Him, not only will not die, but will live forever. This is extraordinary. Even more intriguing are the words that say that the bread He gives is His very flesh. No wonder the Jews at that time said that it was a hard saying. Who can take this? It is right! We never heard such words before. We never heard them from Confucius, from Mencius, from Lao-tze, from Chuan-tze, or from any other sages. We never heard them in China or in any other country. No man has ever spoken such words.After Christ spoke such words, verse 52 says, "The Jews then contended with one another, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" What doctrine did Jesus preach? None. All that He said was to eat His flesh. Verses 55 and 56 say, "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him." You can see that He is only emphasizing Himself. This is not a set of doctrines. Rather, it is the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood. Those who eat and drink will live forever.When we come to John 7, we see the last day of a great feast. Jesus spoke some words in front of those who were attending the feast. "On the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes into Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water" (vv. 37-38). Just imagine: on one of our busy festive holidays, I, Watchman Nee, stand up in the midst of a crowd and shout, "If you are thirsty, come to me and drink. He who believes in me, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." What would you say? You would surely say that I am a senseless fool from Shanghai who is talking nonsense. But that was exactly what Jesus did and said. There was really no doctrine; there was just the person Christ.On that day when Jesus spoke those words, a dispute arose among the Jews. Some said that this truly had to be the Christ. Others reasoned how Christ could come out of Galilee. In trying to answer who this man was, an argument arose among the Jews. The argument centered around one thing: who was this Jesus of Nazareth? A genuine Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the Christ.Further on in John 8:12, Jesus told the crowd, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall by no means walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." You can see that again His words are not doctrinal. The emphasis here is the "light" and the "I." It is not the practice of His teachings that makes a Christian. Rather, it is a relationship with Christ that qualifies us as one. Only by believing into Him will we receive the light of life. Only by receiving Him will we not walk in darkness.John 8:21-22 says, "He said therefore again to them, I am going away, and you will seek Me and will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come. The Jews then said, He is not going to kill Himself, is He, for He says, Where I am going, you cannot come?" The Jews were confused again. Where is the place He is going that we cannot go? They thought that perhaps He was going to commit suicide. Actually if that place could be reached by committing suicide, the Jews could still get to it by killing themselves. How could the Lord go to a place to which they could not go? Verse 23 says, "And He said to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world." It is because of this that where the Lord was going they could not go.Furthermore, they did not die in their sins because they were murderers and adulterers. Verse 24 is crucial, especially the latter half: "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." The King James Version added the word "he" after "I am." Let us quote the words of the original text. The Lord said, "You will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." The question is whether or not you believe that He is. What does this mean? It means that of the millions of people in humanity, you can pick out one and say, "This is He! This is God!" We want to examine Jesus of Nazareth to see if He indeed is! If we believe that He is, we will not die in our sins. Many are believing in a distorted Christianity, but we want to believe according to what Christianity really is. The first question we must ask is whether or not Jesus of Nazareth is.Once again the Jews retorted by asking, "Who are You?" (v. 25). Jesus' answer seemed to say, "This is not the first time that I tell you who I am. Concerning this matter I have never given in. I told you that I am; I am the One." Time after time He proved to others that He is; He is the Son of God.If we read the Gospel of John through, we will find that every passage concerns this one point: Jesus is the Christ. In John 10 the Jews surrounded Him and said, "How long will you hold our soul in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly" (v. 24). The question still hung on this one point.How did Jesus answer? He said, "I told you, and you do not believe...You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep" (vv. 25-26). All who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is God incarnated as a man, are not Christians. Those who do not recognize Him as the Son of God do not have the life of Christ in them; they are not His sheep. Upon this issue stands the whole basis of the Christian faith.In John 11 Jesus said again, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes into Me, even if he should die, shall live" (v. 25). Can a common mortal utter such words?In John 12 Jesus cried out aloud, "He who believes into Me does not believe into Me, but into Him who sent Me; and he who beholds Me beholds Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that every one who believes into Me would not remain in darkness" (vv. 44-46). You can see that the One who sent Him hinges on Him. To believe into Him is to believe into the One who sent Him. To see Him is to see the One who sent Him. The light also hinges on Him. To be in the light is to believe into Him. Everything hinges on Him.Then in John 14 the Lord said, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe into God, believe also into Me" (v. 1). He wants us to believe into Him in the same way that we believe into God. The one thing He always insists upon is the demand to believe in Him.John 15 speaks of some who hate the Lord. He said, "He who hates Me hates My Father also" (v. 23). Once again He reveals that He and the Father are one.In John 16, the Lord said that one day the Holy Spirit would come and convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. Why concerning sin? The explanation is in verse 9: "Concerning sin, because they do not believe into Me," because they do not believe that He is the Son of God. This is a sin, a very serious sin. When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict men, and they will realize how serious a sin it is not to believe in Jesus being the Son of God.One further passage in the Gospel of John will suffice. 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him whom You have sent, Jesus Christ." Here we are shown what eternal life is. The Lord's definition of eternal life is to know God. Believing in the eternal God and believing in His sent One—Jesus Christ—is eternal life. Eternal life hinges upon this person.I hope that we would all realize who Jesus of Nazareth is. Our faith does not have any empty doctrines. It is based on the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. To receive Jesus Christ is to receive God.

posted by RAFAEL @ 9:42 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

FIRST KNOWLEDGE

We have said that Christianity does not emphasize doctrines. Rather, it emphasizes the person Christ. Even when some doctrines are mentioned, they are few in number, and when you go about expounding them, they always point back to a person. If you turn to the four Gospels you will be amazed to find that everything recorded is just a description of Jesus of Nazareth. There must first be the knowledge of who He is; doctrines come afterwards. We have ascertained the person of Jesus Christ. Now we want to take a look at the doctrines of our faith.You cannot find many doctrines in the four Gospels. Neither are there many doctrines in the Acts of the Apostles. One finds doctrines only after coming to Romans. This is exactly what we have said before, that you have to know who Jesus Christ is before you can understand what His doctrines are all about.Concerning doctrines, there is also a vast difference between those in Christianity and those in other religions. I would like to mention again that the fact that I am a Christian does not mean that you have to feel and see things as I do. I will not take such a presumptuous attitude. I will only present the facts again, showing the difference between Christianity and other religions. I will not decide what is good or bad. You are asked only to examine the facts. If you think that this is right, then believe in it. Otherwise, take your choice. Emotional words are unnecessary here. I will, therefore, make no plea or invitation.Observing all the religions that are before us, you will see that all of them emphasize doctrines, not a person. Whether Confucius or Lao-tze, who they are and what they teach are two different things. They are two separate entities. Their doctrines do not have much to do with their person. You can take the person away from the religion, and it will not make much difference. The person only preached the doctrines, but he became disassociated from that which he preached.This is not the case with our faith. When did Christian doctrines come into existence? It was after the death, resurrection, and departure from the world of the person Christ that the doctrines began. All doctrines came later. Moreover, all these doctrines are centered upon Christ. The doctrines and Christ are inseparable. First you have Him, then you have His doctrines.For example, there is a doctrine in Christianity that speaks of the union of God and man. It is a very important doctrine. If you open the Bible to see how this can be, you will see that the source of such a doctrine is the fact that God became a man—Jesus. He is God mingled with man.The Bible does not present a doctrine of God becoming one with man. Rather, it shows Jesus of Nazareth, who is a sample of God being one with man. Originally, God and man were separate; there was a wide gulf between them. There was no possibility of union. But the Nazarene came. He was God coming to be a man. He was the bridge between man and God, joining the two into one. This is not a doctrine that teaches people to be one with God. Here is the fact: henceforth, when a man is in Christ, he can be one with God.THE SOLUTIONAnother very important doctrine in the Bible concerns death. The Bible depicts man as being totally corrupted, without any possibility of being reformed. The only solution is death. A man is like a piece of worm-infested wood with no chance of being carved or shaped. The only destiny for him is the fire. Death is the solution. Only dead people will not be proud if you praise them a thousand times. Only dead people will not be angry if you rebuke them repeatedly. Only dead people will not be tempted by sin and will not sin. Death solves all problems concerning sin.But how can we die? How can such a death occur? A religion will exhort you to die. Be dead! If you are dead, sin will no longer have an object to work on! But how can one die? By committing suicide? By throwing oneself into the sea? Or as the old Chinese scholars have said, by considering everything that is past as dead yesterday? No! All these are methods of common religions. They are not the Christian teaching.EXPERIENCES BASED ON A PERSONThe doctrine of death is absolutely related to Christ. His person determines His doctrines. Jesus died. What does the Bible say about this? It says that the world died with Him (2 Cor. 5:14). His death was to sin; hence, the whole world is dead to sin. Originally, the whole world was in sin, being dead in it. Only Jesus was not affected by death. He did not die of sin; He died to sin (Rom. 6:10). If we are one with Him, we are also dead to sin by His death (v. 11). Sin will not have an object to work on. All the problems of sin in us will be solved.This is the doctrine of Christianity. It is a fact that is absolutely tied to the person Christ. It is not an exhortation for people to conduct a moral life and repent from their wrongs. These are not Christian doctrines at all. Since Christ has died, whoever is in Him is also dead, thoroughly dead, to sin. Sin has no more grip on us. If Christ had not died, there would not have been any doctrine. All experiences and doctrines are based upon this person Jesus Christ.Another fact we have is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died and was resurrected. Hence, on our side, we are not only dead to sin, disassociated from it; we are regenerated and a new creation in the resurrection of Christ. All these are bound to the person Jesus Christ. No accomplishment is by us. Everything depends on Him.The Bible is not completely void of teachings. However, all the teachings rest on the person Christ Jesus. Only when He has a certain experience can there be a certain doctrine or teaching. Every single doctrine or teaching is bound to His personal experience. His incarnation is the basis of the union of God with man. His death is the basis of our dying to sin and self and the foundation of a life of holiness. His resurrection is the basis for receiving our new life. Everything we have obtained is based on what He has attained. The doctrines are absolutely based upon the person and bound to the person. This is genuine Christianity. This makes our faith different from all other religions.MAJOR RELIGIONS DEMAND TO BE HONESTOnce when Christ Jesus was about to leave the world, He spoke of a very amazing doctrine. Of course, this doctrine is again closely related to Him. He said, "I am the way and the reality and the life" (John 14:6). Perhaps you have heard others quote this passage. He said that He is the way. He is the way to overcome sin. He is the way to overcome the temptations of the world. He is His own teaching! All the ways to victory are Him.He also said that He is the reality. We have often heard people say that there is reality in So-and-so's words. Sometimes when someone puts forth a theory, we call it reality. In geometry, when we have proved that this equals that, we say that we found a truth. But the reality that Christ Jesus speaks of is Himself. He is the reality.Moreover, He is the life. He does not merely preach a doctrine and ask you to work it out yourself; He is the very life-power to perform what He preaches. Religion tells you to be honest and not to lie. Maybe someone has come and told you, "Exercise yourself not to lie. Every time you lie just bite your tongue once." I think that if we were able to recognize every lie we told, our tongue would be in two pieces before the day was over! Since our life is a human life, there is no possibility for us to not lie or sin. The life of man is absolutely impotent in this respect. Merely to give you some nice, lofty doctrines, while leaving it up to you to work them out, is not the way of Christ.The Bible says that He makes you able. That ability is of Christ. As long as you are in Him, He is your life. He can make you not lie, no matter what kind of a person you are!No other founder of a religion is great enough to uphold these three items: the way, the reality, and the life. All of man's experiences are included in these three things. Whenever you do something, you always have to decide whether or not it is worth doing. This consideration is a weighing of the reality. After the decision is made, you have to find a way. And after the way, you must have the power. Whenever you set out to accomplish something, you always have to pass through these three steps: the way, the reality, and the life.All three are inseparable. You are not given reality first, then the way, and then left to yourself to find the life. Every one of these three items is found in one person. When you have Him, every problem will be solved. This is Jesus. This is our faith. As long as there is a way to Him, everything will follow.TEACHING USSELES WHITHOUT HIMWhen we look at a few passages in the Bible, we easily discover that when the Bible mentions a doctrine, it always says that it is "in Christ." The words "in Christ" are constantly mentioned. Some passages say, "by Christ." But "by Christ" is not the best translation. It is better in those instances to translate them as "through Christ." God does not give things to us directly; they have to go "through Christ." In addition, there are phrases like "with Christ" and "together with Christ." They show the position Christ occupies in the Bible. Everything has to be through Him. Receiving Him is receiving His doctrines. Without Him it is useless to have any of His doctrines.NO RELATIONSHIP IN THEIR CREEDSThe above cannot apply to all other religions. You can be a devotee of other religions, abiding by their every creed, without having anything to do with the founders themselves.In arithmetic, there is a table called the multiplication table. You can find the product of any two numbers from one to nine from the table. Everything is arranged neatly. Do you know who formulated this table? I am afraid that millions who use this table never know who made it. But you can use this table without knowing the person who made it. All common religions are like this: you need not have anything to do with their founders, but you can apply their doctrines. The doctrines and those who preached them have no relationship with each other.In Kaifeng I met a foreign missionary. He had heard my preaching. I discovered that he was related to the doctrines of Christ but not to Christ Himself. He told one of my former classmates, who is also now my co-worker, how to practice the teachings of Christ and expound the theologies in the Bible. My co-worker asked him, "Can you touch people by these? Has anybody repented, forsaken his sins, and had his life changed by your preaching? Do you have such power?" He was dumbfounded by my co-worker's words.RELATIONSHIPThe source of our faith is Christ. If we have no relationship with Christ, we have no power. The doctrines of Christ are absolutely joined to Christ. The gem of the doctrines lies in Christ. It is useless to merely infer and discuss in an outward way.Let us now look at the book of Romans in the New Testament. I will not give many explanations. Rather, I will merely present the facts to you. We want to see what the Bible says.Romans 3:22, 24: "Even the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ to all those who believe, for there is no distinction;...being justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." These verses say that a man receives forgiveness of sins and justification before God by the redemption of Christ Jesus. They are based on a relationship with Christ. Without redemption, the sins of man cannot be forgiven.ALL IS RECIEVEDRomans 5:1: "Therefore having been justified out of faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ."Verse 2: "Through whom also we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and boast because of the hope of the glory of God."Verse 10: "For if we, being enemies, were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more we will be saved in His life, having been reconciled."Verse 11: "And not only so, but also boasting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."Everything that we have received, such as justification, reconciliation, standing in grace, salvation, joy in God, etc., is received through Jesus Christ. Simply by going through Him, we inherit all these.THE GIFTRomans 5:15: "But it is not that as the offense was, so also the gracious gift is; for if by the offense of the one the many died, much more the grace of God and the free gift in grace of the one man Jesus Christ have abounded to the many."Verse 17: "For if by the offense of the one death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."Because of Jesus Christ, the grace and gift of God can be bestowed upon all men. We can also reign in life due to Him. Verse 21 says, "In order that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The receiving of eternal life is through Him. It does not depend on the good behavior of man.THE PERSONRomans 6:6: "Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin as slaves."Verse 17: "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you have obeyed from the heart the form of teaching into which you were delivered."This is a vital doctrine in our belief: that by faith, we are crucified with Christ, and the old man is annulled. I do not crucify myself. When Christ was crucified, I was crucified with Him. By this I am set free from sin, being no longer a slave to it. In this way I can reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. This is a big doctrine that hinges on the person Christ.LIBERATEDRomans 7:24-25: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin."Here is a man who was constantly defeated by his own fleshly lusts. When he was at the end of his hopes, crying for deliverance, he saw the way of salvation: liberation by the Lord Jesus Christ. The power of liberation is also in the Lord.Romans 8:1: "There is now then no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. "Condemnation" does not refer to any ordinary kind of condemnation. According to some recently discovered old manuscripts of the Bible found in Egypt, this word has two meanings. The first is a legal term; the second is a common daily expression. In the legal context it means condemnation as a verdict. But in its ordinary usage it means impotent, powerless, bound, etc. For this reason I will translate this portion as, "There is now then no impotence..." There is no more weakness and inability.Verse 2: "For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death." Here are two laws. Originally, we were all bound by the law of sin and of death. Now the law of the Spirit of life has freed us; we are no longer under the control of the law of sin and of death. The law of the Spirit of life is in Christ Jesus. Have you seen this? Once again, our relationship with Him sets us free.Verse 10: "But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness." Since Christ is in me, I can live.MORE THAN CONQUERORS IN HIMRomans 8:35, 37: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?...But in all these things we more than conquer through Him who loved us." Although there is so much trouble outwardly, we are still more than conquerors. Strength is obtained by going through Him. Not that we are able in ourselves. It is all by Him and through Him.In the same manner, verses 38 and 39 say, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Why can nothing separate us from His love? It is not because of our virtues, but because this love is "in Christ Jesus our Lord"! Love is tied to the person Christ. When we are in Christ, we are in this inseparable love.