The Rev Dr Alan Clifford

a call for clarity, compassion and courage

Last week on BBC Radio 4, Anglican bishop Dr Michael Nazir-Ali commented on the plight of the Coptic martyrs. He simply dismissed the response of the Egyptian Air Force as ‘revenge’. This assessment lacks reality. They used appropriate power to punish the murderers. Had the Coptic people risen up against I.S. with knives and AK47s, that would be ‘revenge’, condemned as such by Christ (see Matt. 5:43-4). But yes, these Muslim butchers, faithful to the blood-thirsty hatred of their so-called Prophet (see Qur’an, Suras 8:12; 9:27-33; 33:57-61) must be dealt with militarily if they persist in their satanic carnage (see Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7).

For over a decade, we welcomed Copts and others to special Bible Studies here at Norwich Reformed Church (1993-2005). On a government-funded programme, three 80/100-strong groups per year (app. 65% Muslim, 35% Christian) studied British teaching methods in English, Maths and Science at the Department of Education and Professional Development, University of East Anglia. Among several Bible Study series for the Christians, THEY MET JESUS (working through the Gospels) was much appreciated. The Copts were especially grateful, even though I kindly and sensitively endeavoured to wean them away from their superstitions. Being more acquainted with their Bibles than some of the Evangelicals, they loved the studies. They said they would translate them after returning home. One dear Coptic man said he valued the studies more than the university lectures! So, my heart bleeds for them in their hour of need. We uphold them in prayer, as well as expose the dark, hate-driven agenda of their persecutors. Without fail, the Egyptian Christians were always horrified that mosques were being built in the UK. They were no less horrified at the immoral and drunken behaviour of the other students and the general secular ethos of the university.

Pro-Islam western governments – telling us ad nauseam that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ – seem utterly perplexed, wondering in schizoid fashion how to handle the Muslim menace. They’ll never get it right until they see Islam for what it really is. In his quatercentenary year, England’s greatest Reformed (Puritan Calvinist) theologian Richard Baxter (1615-91) has some urgent things to tell us:

That Mahomet was so great (or any) prophet, is neither confirmed by any true credible miracle, nor by any eminency of wisdom or holiness, in which he excelled other men; nor anything else which reason can judge to be a divine attestation. The contrary is sufficiently apparent in the irrationality of his [Qur’an]: there is no true learning nor excellency in it, but such as might be expected among men of the more coarse wits, and bararous education: there is nothing delivered methodically or rationally, with any evidence or solid understanding: there is nothing, but the most nauseous repetition an hundred times over of many simple incoherent speeches, in the dialect of a drunken man; sometimes against idolaters, and sometimes against Christians for calling Christ, God; which all set together seem not to contain (in the whole [Qur’an]) so much solid useful sense and reason as one leaf of some of those philosophers who he opposeth…

And who can think it any probable sign that he is the Prophet of truth, whose kingdom is of this world, erected by the sword, who barbarously suppresseth all rational enquiry into his doctrine, and all disputes against it, all true learning and rational helps, to advance and improve the intellect of man: and who teacheth men to fight and kill for their religion: certainly, the kingdom of darkness is not the Kingdom of God but of the devil: and the friend of ignorance is no friend to truth, to God, nor to mankind: and it is a sign of a bad cause that it cannot endure the light. If it be of God, why dare they not soberly prove it to us, and hear what we have to object against it, that Truth by the search may have the victory: if beasts had a religion it would be such as this.

And his full attestation to Moses and Christ as the true prophets of God, doth prove himself a false prophet who so much contradicteth them, and rageth against Christians as a blood-thirsty enemy, when he hath given so full a testimony to Christ…

Richard Baxter, The Reasons of the Christian Religion
(London: F. Titon, 1667), 202-4 (emphases mine).

In the next century, Dr Samuel Johnson considered this book to have ‘the best collection of evidences of the Christian system’ (The Autobiography of Richard Baxter, ed. J. M. Lloyd Thomas (London:J. M. Dent, 1931), p. xxxiii).

It was never more urgent to hear again the voice of Richard Baxter!

Dr Alan C.Clifford

PS: As for the generally-vilified Crusaders, their violence (however reprehensible from a Reformed religious perspective) was never on the scale of the Muslims, and generally a response to Islamic atrocities. So, in extreme situations, I have some sympathy with them from a civil standpoint. The Crusades were initially a response to pleas for protection against violent persecution of pilgrims (whatever one may think about the piety behind the medieval pilgrimage).

I attach a picture of myself standing beside Richard the Lion Heart’s effigy at the Abbey Fontevrault, France (taken during a 2008 visit to Saumur). I am wearing a Norwich Reformed Church T-shirt (The Huguenot cross over the English cross).

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