…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).
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!
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?