God at Work in Iran

A recent article on Christianity Today website talks about the miraculous way in which Iranian Muslims are coming to faith in Christ. The article describes an Easter service in Eastern Germany in which seven such people were baptised. Here is the description of the event:

The group baptism happened at an unsettling time for European Christians. During Lent, radical Muslims handed out large numbers of Qur’ans on street corners and announced plans to distribute 25 million German-language copies of their holy book in order to win Germans to their faith. But on the night before Easter, some 150 worshipers filed silently into St. Mary’s Church in the Zehlendorf district of Berlin to witness conversions in the opposite direction.

Until midnight, the sanctuary was dark. Then Gottfried Martens, senior pastor, chanted from the altar: “Glory to God in the highest.” All at once the lights went on, the organ roared, and the faithful broke jubilantly into song: “We praise you, we bless you, we worship you.” Like Christians everywhere, they celebrated the Resurrection of their Lord.

For the six young men and one woman in the front pew, the moment had additional significance: They were placing their lives in danger in exchange for salvation. Under Islamic law, apostasy is a capital crime, a fact brought home to the German public by press reports about Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an ex-Muslim, who was sentenced to death in Tehran. Some of the converts at St. Mary’s were themselves persecuted before fleeing to Germany, now home to the largest Iranian community in Western Europe, numbering 150,000.

The article continues explaining that often, in Iran, people come to faith through dreams, without the mediation of any Christian witness. Those who are familiar with the way in miraculous ways in which God works in Muslim lands will not be surprised. Thanks God for it. He will not be frustrated in his plans by the failures of missionaries, who would rather stick to outdated and ineffective missionary methods than follow God in what he does today.

This kind of pathetic Protestant retrograde attitude is illustrated by two statements quoted in the end of this interesting article.

The author of the first statement is Thomas Schirrmacher, chair of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance. Here are his comments on this pattern:

God sticks to the Reformation doctrine that faith comes by receiving the Word through Scripture and preaching. In these dreams, Jesus never engages in hocus-pocus, but sends these people to where the Word is faithfully proclaimed.

Absolutely pathetic. ‘God sticks to the Reformation doctrine’? In other words, God is a Protestant. Maybe even a Lutheran? So, after all, they were finally able to tame God. I wonder if he confessed any sins when he was confirmed. As for me, I prefer to follow Desmond Tutu’s dictum which says, ‘God is not a Christian’.

The second statement comes from Gottfried Martens, senior pastor of the church where those Iranians were baptisted, who, in spite of his Lutheran prejudices, seems more able to see the truth that the ‘enlightened’ theologian quoted above. I quote from the article:

As a confessional Lutheran, I am not given to Schwärmerei,” he says, using Luther’s derogatory term for religious enthusiasm. “But these reports of visions sound very convincing.

I am so glad the God in whom I believe refuses to be boxed out, even by professional theologians, who should know much better.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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