Freed Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is not a Christian…

…At least that’s what I’m effectively being told on Twitter.

The Christian world rejoiced yesterday at the news that Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani had been freed from jail.

Nadarkhani had been in prison since his arrest in 2009 and was subsequently sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010. Although the apostacy (renouncing his Islamic faith) charge was overturned, the court still found Nadarkhani guilty of proselytising Muslims, sentencing him to three years imprisonment, but released him as he’d already served the time.

It’s worth noting that the Iranian government had offered leniency if he were to recant his Christianity and reconvert to Islam, which he refused to do, and as a result the appeals court upheld his death sentence in 2011.

An extraordinarily brave chap I’m sure you’ll agree.

In view of this, I was surprised and taken aback to hear of his Christian status being called into question.

This is based on the fact that he adheres to Oneness Pentecostalism. This is a non-Trinitarian doctrine and I was advised that we should pray for his conversion to Nicene Catholic Orthodoxy.

The Catholic chap that gave me this advise is something of a ‘voice’ for Catholicism and did emphasise that he wasn’t saying Nadarkhani was going to Hell.

A few other Catholics joined in the discussion and broadly agreed that due to Nadarkhani’s doctrinal stance he wasn’t a true Christian.

This has not sat easily with me; in fact, it has disturbed me to an extent.

I thought I’d do some cursory investigation to see if this type of thinking relating to Nadarkhani was more widespread, and found that it was. And it wasn’t just Catholics either.

Youcef ain’t no Christian. He can’t be sentenced on charges of not denying Jesus, because the Jesus he believes in is the Oneness Jesus. In other words, Youcef actually denies Jesus. Remember the modalism stuff with Jakes? Yup, Oneness teaches that God is one being and one person who manifests himself in three different ways – father, son, and spirit. He is part of a growing cult in Iran. And now he is sentenced to death. Persecution has a way of affirming one’s beliefs to oneself, no matter how wack those beliefs are. With the international uproar and support of thousands of ignorant professing Christians, Youcef may only become more and more hardened in his false doctrine. When you pray for him, don’t necessarily pray for his escape from the hands of those who can destroy the body. Instead pray that he would be saved from the wrath of God, Who can destroy both the body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

SOURCE

And:

Do not stop praying for Nadarkhani. Indeed pray earnestly and ceaselessly that the grace of God may shine and intervene in this case and that Youcef may be reunited with his wife and little children but also (more importantly) that he may come to knowledge of salvation that comes by repentance and faith in Christ alone through the power of the Holy Spirit alone to the glory of God the Father alone. Pray!

SOURCE

Now, I’m no expert in Oneness Pentecostalism having only encountered it on US-based forums some years ago. I agree, it is of course a heresy.

But this is what bothers me.

Nadarkhani would rather opt to be brutally executed for his faith in Christ than recant. He was prepared for that and also languished in an Iranian jail which I suspect doesn’t come with the same home comforts afforded to Western inmates.

The question in my mind is if folk believe he is not in fact a Christian, then presumably Nadarkhani went through this hell for nowt. Or perhaps for a delusion.

If Nadarkhani had been executed, would he reach the pearly gates and be duly told to move on downstairs, as his doctrine was iffy?

Is that what would happen?

If so, then I am myself worried, as I bet, somewhere within my rather mixed-up and fragmented brain, is a doctrinal error. Perhaps one that could even be considered by others as heresy.

All in all, I would opt to be in doctrinal error and as brave and heroic in my faith as Nadarkhani, than doctrinally perfect and pontificating judgement on another’s faith, who has made sacrifices we can only imagine, from the vantage of my secure and safe comfort.

That’s just how I feel.

What about you?

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18 Responses to “Freed Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is not a Christian…”

  1. Tom Says:

    Didn’t someone once say something about beams and motes?

  2. Fr Richard Says:

    I must confess that when reading the news of this man’s welcomed release, I was rather disheartened to witness how this personal tragedy has been immediately picked up by the Christian Right in particular as a means of vindicating hatred of Islam and Muslims. There are many Muslims who have a habit of seeing the enemies of Islam as the West and its historic religion, Christianity. There is much said about how the kufur have warred against Islam. The irony is, of course, that far more Muslims have been killed – and continue to be killed – by their fellow Muslims. But then the same could be said of Christians, until recently, Christians have been knocking the hell out of each other and spilling much blood in the process. I thought it curious that much was being made of this man’s Christianity, when if this man’s ministry was in a town in England and he was successfully proselytising members of the local RC or Anglican church, then there might not be so much warmth extended towards his particular religious viewpoint.

    I don’t think we can have hierarchies of victims of state oppression: if someone is wrongfully imprisoned, then surely that is enough to condemn this or that state or political process? I think the validity of this point of view will become apparent if this pastor just happens not to be a pastor of a Trinitarian form of Christianity. If the internet and tweetosphere suddenly become littered with chagrin that this man isn’t a Trinitarian Christian, then in a sense it is clear that his worth to many a conservative Christian campaigner was not that he is a human being, wronged by a vicious and (ironically) conservative religious theocracy, but that he was a useful political and ideological pawn. If this proves to be the case, it is yet more evidence of the politicisation of Christianity and of how far it is wandering from its basic tenets.

  3. Archdruid Eileen Says:

    Oneness Pentecostalism is not Trinitarian Christianity. Agreed. But it’s faith in Jesus that brings salvation, not detailed theological rectitude. I am sure God will see his faith, and not worry about whether his doctrine matches up to a 5th century definition of orthodoxy.

  4. Lucy Mills Says:

    Yep – What Archdruid Eileen said.

  5. Goy Says:

    Generally speaking is Oneness not closer to Islam than it is to Christianity?

  6. Gordon Says:

    Oneness is quite common amongst pentacostalists, even those who claim to be trinitarian because they tend to view the holy spirit as a power or force rather than a person.

  7. Paul Priest Says:

    Stuart primarily I must apologise for the ignorance of my fellow Catholics; especially the self-professed ‘apologist’ who should seriously apologise for his obtuse & ill-informed comments.

    Yes – unitarian baptisms are invlaid as they are anti-trinitarian but ironically even though they baptise in Jesus’ name they do not believe in His Divinity – so it really is a non-sequitur to ever consider their baptisms valid….

    BUT
    Pastor N faced death in Jesus’ name and therefore , irrespective of the invincible ignorance within his doctrinal errors – he fulfilled the criteria for Baptism by desire and according to the Catholic faith Pastor N IS INDEED a fully baptised Christian by his desire even unto death to bear the witness of a martyr. {Some will say he needed to die in order to be ‘washed in the blood of Christ’ but that is untrue – Pastor N showed his Living Faith – as has every martyr]

    Any unitarian or non-Trinitarian or non-theist [e.g. the jehovah's witnesses in the holocaust] achieves a martyr’s crown if they bear witness in facing death for the sake of Our Lord and Saviour or one of His faithful…

    End of story.

    It does not mean that Pastor N is not still a believer in heretical views – but invincible ignorance did not confound the baptismal grace incurred by his living witness to the Christ he adores.

  8. Anne Says:

    Agree with Archdruid Eileeen. About time we Christians stopped fighting and condemning each other over 5th century definitions of God & started thinking about God in 21st century ways, before there are none of us left to fight!

  9. Gillan Scott Says:

    Given that the concept of the trinity is one of the hardest for Christians to get their head around, it is surely dangerous for anyone to say with certainty that their understanding of God as Trinity is fully correct.

    Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Co 12:3)

    Pastor Nadarkhani may or may not have his trheology completely correct, but to question his faith given his willingness to die for Jesus seems utter foolishness.

  10. Goy Says:

    In hoc signo vinces†

    Read somewhere that Oneness-Pentecostalism was the prefered religion of the C.I.A. ;-)

  11. Roger Pearse Says:

    I think that it is very easy to get into some muddled thinking here.

    The key question is really very simple, and both narrow and broad. Do we become a Christian because we are part of a social group or cause; or because we accept certain teachings?

    If the former, the teachings are secondary; if the latter, the social or communal aspect is secondary.

    It seems to me that we’re a little too inclined here to say, “This chap must be one of us” because it would seem harsh to object. Yet that leads us straight to the nonsense whereby only people whose “faces fit” are welcome in churches. In which case what becomes of those whose faces do not fit? However firm in faith, and however blessed by God, they will never be more than hangers-on. This is the process that gives us unbelieving bishops, for whom the only sin is to question whether they are Christians.

    It is almost a litmus test for heresy to see how someone saying things which sound dodgy reacts to the statement “you are not a Christian”. If the response is outraged violent attack, as it so often is, the statement is proven.

    The Christian teaching is both wide and narrow, but it is wide where the communal religion is narrow, and narrow where the latter is wide. Anyone can come to Christ, whatever his social background. You don’t have to be “one of the right sort” to be a Christian. You only need to believe and confess in Christ Jesus as Lord. But by the same token, the teaching of Christ is narrow where the other is wide; you may be a bishop, the son of a vicar, welcome at every theological conference, preaching in the streets and appearing on television. But if you do not in fact believe the teaching, both what it excludes as well as what it affirms, the Lord will tell you, “I never knew you”.

    What, then, are we to think of Oneness Pentecostalism? I know little of it, except that it seems to be an American phenomenon, where some of the nascent pentecostalists, in rejecting the stuffy unbelieving religion of their day, went so far as to reject all theology after the bible. Those who did this entered into heresy, out of ignorance I suspect. Satan doubtless gained an advantage over them. The Trinity is a biblical teaching, inevitable from the New Testament. But I suspect that it is not a teaching which lives in most of our lives, but one most Christians inherited when we believed.

    But that error, out of human weakness and ignorance, and persisted in for reasons rather, does not mean that those baptised in this group cannot be saved. The witness of Pastor Nadarkhani indicates that God is at work in them, and that we must be grateful for.

    We must not compromise the Christian teaching. That alone unites the Christians, and excludes the non-Christians. We must be particularly careful with “this person is evidently holy / self-sacrificing, so he must be a Christian”. It allows us to be manipulated, if we do this. It was thinking along those lines that gave us the absurd spectacle of the British press prefacing every reference to Rowan Williams, when he was Archbishop-select, with some comment about how ‘holy’ he was, purely to stifle opposition to the appointment of a man of no special qualities and no obvious qualifications, purely because he had ordained gay priests while undertaking not to.

    Those who suffer for the name of Christ, of course, do deserve our respect and admiration, and we may welcome the release of Pastor Nadarkhani. The “debate” would appear to have been stirred up for sinister purposes, I would say.

  12. Richard Barker Says:

    Jesus prayed for ALL believers (John 17:20-26 nkjv):

    “…for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which you gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one…”

    His prayer continues in its awesome, mind-boggling grandeur and reveals His mind towards our sectarian demon-ations. Only when we ALL grasp these facts and obey Him, THEN will the whole world believe in Jesus and who He really is!

  13. Gordon Says:

    “The key question is really very simple, and both narrow and broad. Do we become a Christian because we are part of a social group or cause; or because we accept certain teachings?”

    … or because we know something to be unequivocally true.

  14. Richard Barker Says:

    Gordon,
    Imho it should be because we know some-one who is alive (ie. not some-thing). And only God drops that revelation into our ‘knower’, thereby to enable us to know He is unequivocally the Way, the Truth and the Life.

    As preacher ol’ Sam Lockridge would ask, “I wonder, do you know Him?”

    Don’t think your earlier claim about Pentecostalists and the Holy Spirit is a correct assumption.

  15. Gordon Says:

    Well. most pentacostalists I have known when asked to explain the trinity have given a modalist interpretation with each person of the trinity being an expression of a single God. They have also tended to explain the holy spirit in terms of electricity. I don’t think they have a fully rounded feel for the trinity which is why they are more likely to go down the oneness route than other types of Christian.

  16. Richard Barker Says:

    Thanks Gordon. Their explanation probably arose from having encountered effects of the presence of God. AoG people I’ve seen also pray to Jesus before/during such an event and have a Trinitarian understanding.

    Checking Grudem’s Systematic Theology confirms this as difference between AoG and modalist United Pentecostal Church, of which I wasn’t previously aware. So your clarification is appreciated.

  17. Gordon Says:

    I note that when I do a search on Youtube for “Christian” the top video shown (to me at any rate) is always one sponsored to be there by the Mormons. This opens up the definition of Christian again.

  18. Rob O. Says:

    The issue of central importance is whether or not adherence to particular doctrine has implications for salvation. When someone says that they believe in the name of Jesus for salvation, they’re saying something doctrinal (whether or not they know they are). When they say Jesus, who do they believe He is? Two sections of Scripture are helpful here when thinking about this: Matthew 16:13-20 and Galatians 2:11-14. Here in Matthew, Jesus taught his disciples that who the they believe the Son of Man was the distinguishing factor as to whether they would be His church (and the foundation thereof) or not. Here in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul demonstrates the seriousness of Peter’s effective denial of the gospel by him showing partiality to the Jews, thereby denying an essential doctrine of the gospel (that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone).
    Now, I want to be clear… nowhere does Scripture explicitly or implicitly say that we must have ALL of our beliefs about God correct if we are to be saved. That would be a works-righteous salvation, ironically enough. We are saved simply by the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior… but…. confessing that implies many things, like who Jesus Christ is, what He saved you from, what it mean for Him to be Lord, etc.. If we deny any doctrine that is inextricably connected to this confession, we are not saved. It is belief, by faith, that saves us, not our best intentions and acts of bravery, however noble they may be.
    Lastly, we must differentiate between those deeper truths of God which we simply not been exposed to or have learn, and those truths which we deny once we have been exposed to them. We are responsible for what we do with God’s Word.
    There is much more than can be said in this short post, but I hope Christians will examine Scripture for themselves to see what God says about the place of doctrine in our lives. 1 Timothy 4:16 – Pay close attention to your life and your doctrine; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save yourself and your hearers.
    I, too, like the 2nd poster above, will be praying for Youcef for many things, most especially his repentance and salvation.

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