I'm loading this in today's queue, but under Phil's post as. His post isn't bumpable, and I'm not up for manning the top headline today.
As many of you know, Youcef Nadarkhani has been held for almost 900 days in an Iranian prison, and has now been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam and refusing to recant his new religion. If he's put to death, it will be the first time since 1990 that an Iranian will be put to death for apostasy. Our friends at TGC reported on this matter this way on Thursday, 23 Feb 2012:
Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani faces imminent execution for charges of abandoning Islam and refusing to recant his Christian faith, the American Center for Law and Justice reports. The 34-year-old husband and father of two, whose case was temporarily delayed in December, may now be executed at any moment without warning, according to a new---and apparently final---trial court verdict. Unfortunately, many of the details surrounding the case remain unclear.Our other good friend and mentor James White tweeted the clarification that Nadarkhani was an anti-trinitarian heretic without further comment (disclaimer: that's via twitter anyway and I am not current on my DL podcasts, so if I missed something I will gladly update and amend this report). His tweet was retweeted by a few people, and I admit that I was under-edified overall with the net effect.
Now, why be under-edified when the truth is being spoken?
Let's take it as utterly-unimpeachable that Nadarkhi is a hardened Modalist, a renouncer of trinitarians and all churches with non-modalist theology, and an apologist for Jesus-only baptism and baptismal regeneration. Let's simply admit that while Franklin Graham may be having some pastor qualms about impugning the Christian confession of anyone, the secular press has absolutely no discernment on the matter of who is and isn't a Christian, and they almost always get it wrong. I stipulate these points with no qualifications.
Let's consider a few things:
1. Which is more important at this moment: untangling the cultural and philosophical confusion of Islam toward the Christian faith (especially about a complex and nuanced doctrine like the Trinity), and the secular ignorance of the press in general, or seeking to influence our government and the government about to execute this man for frankly-unjust reasons? If we really are working under a deadline which, at the end, leaves a man dead and in unrepentant sin, should we be working to clarify the Iranian religious courts' view of what is and isn't Christian apostasy, or working to influence them to release this man to a country where he doesn't need to be executed? Because in point of fact, they don't care if he's Christian or Buddhist or a priest to Quezacotl -- they care that he is apostate to Islam, and that's his crime. To save the man, body and soul, we have to first gain mercy, or at least some sort of stay of execution or alternative sentence, from a court which, frankly, has a lot worse problems than what is sizes up as just punishment.
2. Is it merely pragmatic to save this man's life without correcting both the inaccuracies of the Press and the Iranian courts? I'll bite: sure it is. But it's not a rote pragmatism -- a mere appeal to expedience. To say, "first we must save this man's life -- both for the sake of his mortal life and immortal soul -- and then we can continue the apologetic fight against heresy and public ignorance of our faith," is setting priorities, which is not a disgraceful thing but in fact stewardship of resources, and putting God's view of human life and of human justice in the right place in our apologetics.
3. This goes back to my post regarding Nuance from earlier this week: at some point, whatever it is we are doing has to represent the whole counsel of God and not just our pet projects. At some point, we have gotten our few favorite pixels of the whole picture of theology right -- and lost sight of the whole picture, presenting to the world instead a jumble of squares which demonstrate Pantone-precision for their colors, but an utter lack of context and clear-sightedness about what we are actually supposed to be doing. You may not realize this, but this is exactly how we look to people in this situation:
And seriously: I know you don't want to be that guy on the right. Think harder about this issue and this situation. Sometimes getting both/and means you have to get one and then the other -- rather than all or nothing.