Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Converts’ Trial Shows Tensions Before Papal Visit

We don’t use force to tell anyone about Christianity,”

Tastan said.

“But we are Christians, and if the Lord permits, we will continue to proclaim this.”

Describing himself and Topal as “citizens of the Republic of Turkey who love its democratic, secular system,” Tastan stressed they had nothing to hide in defending themselves in court. “We are not ashamed to be Turks. We are not ashamed to be Christians.”

Full report
Why Jesus said this would happen


Anonymous said...


Have you ever posted a bio or personal history? I'm curious to know more about you and, in particular, how/when you became a Christian.


Celal Birader said...

Mandy ? Is that you, Mandy ?

In any case, here is a little bio of myself becoming a Christian and some recent spiritual journeyings :

My parents emigrated from Turkey to the U.S. during the mid-1950s. I was born in Elizabeth N.J. and we lived for a time in Brooklyn . My first memory is of us driving into a little logging town in the northern Quebec, Canada to which we were moving after my dad’s U.S. student visa ran out.

After a time in the hinterland of Quebec we moved south to Hull, Quebec where I spent nearly all of my elementary school years. The RC runs all schools in Quebec church so I had to go to an RC church or remain illiterate. My parents were Muslim so I was exempt from RC classes or RC ritual. I did, however, choose to remain in the catechism classes and got a lot out of them. I learned a lot of Bible stories from the Old Testament and the New. I also went to the local RC church with my class whenever there were any religious days being celebrated. Again I had an exemption from going to confession because I came from a Muslim household. I don’t know to this day whether it was good or bad of me to do so but I did take part in communion because I wanted to be part of the mystical experience that surrounded it.

Of course, there was always the crucifix at the head of our classroom. That was the closest I came to being confronted with the person of Jesus or the gospel that I can recall. So based on the image of the figure on that crucifix that I saw day after day I concluded Jesus was this person who loved us so much that he was willing to die for us. But I never understood what good sacrificing himself was going to do for us. The best term that would express my understanding of Jesus at that time was that he was some kind of “martyr” or “victim”.

When I was 12, we moved back to the U.S. – to Indiana. Coming from a French-Canadian to an Anglo-American culture was a major shock and dislocating experience for me. I would also pray earnestly to God almost every night. I gradually stopped my praying activity after about a year because I could not see any answers to them.

From that age onward I had no religious training at all. My teenage and high school years were spent in the ebb and flow of worldliness. I didn’t do drugs or get involved in sex. I did well at school. My ambition since the age of 9 was to be a doctor, like my dad.

'When I started university in New York State in 1976 some of the first people I met in my or what it meant dormitory were Christian. Although at that time I did not have a faith myself I was interested in making friends with them because I thought it would be prudent to associate with good people and religious people fell in that category of good. From time to time our conversations would shift to spiritual topics.

Once during one such discussion when it was my turn to express an opinion I said "There is one God but that people could reach him in different ways " One person there said something I had never heard in my life. He said: "Jesus Christ is the only way to God". This categorical statement struck me and although I did not say anything at the time it went straight into my heart.

My contacts with these Christians started to become more and more infrequent. From time to time if the subject of Christianity ever came up I would be offered some tracts which I would accept in order not to hurt them but I would put them in the bottom drawer of my desk without reading them. By the end of the year when it became clear that I would not be able to pursue a degree in medicine which had become like an idol in my life my life no longer had any goal or purpose.

When the academic year ended, I returned to my parents' home and started to do some reading in Marxism at a university library near my home. This ideology was starting to fill the void in my life.
The following year when I moved into a dormitory in another university I quickly learned that the student who was staying across the corridor was someone who was ready to discuss spiritual matters with anyone who might be interested. He was a Christian. This seemed like a strange coincidence but now I understand that it was God's merciful plan that I come once again in contact with the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. But at the time that's not what I thought. My leanings toward Marxism started to make me more antagonistic to Christianity.

From my new contact I learned that Jesus Christ would come again as Judge and King. This seemed to me a very incredible thing to believe. In my mind this seemed to me the weakest point of Christianity. So one evening before classes started for the term I found myself in my friend's room. When chatting I noticed on his desk what looked like a book about Christianity. It was actually about the Lord's Second Coming.

That evening as I read this book carefully in the quietness of my room the Lord opened my heart to receive the message of that book as the Lord had opened Lydia's heart to respond to Paul's message in Acts 16:14.I read that book from cover to cover and by the time I reached the end I had completely surrendered to Christ. Everything I read pointed to the deity of Jesus Christ and I had for the first time began to see this truth. Shortly thereafter I got my first Bible and started reading it. The words began to speak to me directly.

I also met with Christians on campus. I was advised to reveal to my parents my faith when I went home during the Christmas holidays. I did. I did not expect the extremely vigorous opposition to which I was immediately subjected. I did go back to university after the Christmas recess and was baptised about four months later in April of 1977. During my confession of faith at my baptism I still remember saying I would follow Christ wherever he would lead me.

During the summer of 1980 I was involved with YWAM in Frankfurt in open-air evangelism. My role was to translate open air preaching into Turkish as well as be involved to meet and converse with Turkish speaking seekers.

In 1983, I moved to Istanbul, Turkey and became involved in a Turkish speaking church where in 1986 I was appointed elder. In 1989, I was married and in 1990 moved my family to London where I have since been involved in our local church.

A little about my theological pilgrimage. Was introduced to Reformed thinkers via the footnotes in the Francis Schaeffer’s books. So I borrowed via interlibrary loan works of Warfield, Van Til and other Old Princetonians from seminaries. I was impressed with their deep thinking on the Bible what it teaches. I also went from being pre-millennial to amillennial on the basis that these guys are so smart they must be right about how to interpret Revelation 20.

Around 1995 I discovered the Internet. Here in Britain, at that time I was considered among the earliest of the early adopters. Having lived previously in a Muslim society where it was difficult to share the Christian faith I saw the technology as a brilliant tool to teach Muslims about the faith. The Muslims were thinking the same. And I discovered there was a lot of anti-Christian material from Muslims on the Internet. Much of that material is now withdrawn because Christians have become active and responded to these charges.

I also came across Messianic Jews on the Internet. Some of what they were saying was thought provoking but some of the stuff didn’t sound right. It is in the exercise of having discussions such folk (and Muslims) that I have appreciated the existence of creeds and confessions. They were the scaffolding that kept from falling over the side of my theological constructions.

Of course, in my discussion with Muslim and Messianic Jews, I was forced to rebuild my own theology from the ground up on a biblical basis. I can appreciate the focus of the Messianic Jews in this area but noted significant blind spots in this movement with respect to their understanding of the apostolic ministry as well as in the area of the Law – the Mosaic Law.

My position has changed and probably will continue to change somewhat as I continue to look into this complex subject. At present I don’t see “replacement theology” as an entirely black and white matter. However, I have yet to come to terms with quite a number of things about church history and the theology of the church. For instance, while I acknowledge the Jewish rejection of the Messiah was most significant, I think the church has gone too far in the wholesale rejection of its Jewish spiritual heritage and of the Jewish people also . My understanding of the Bible has been tremendously helped by my becoming more conscious of this heritage which is hidden from us even in seminaries where the poo-pooing of Jewish things goes too far, in my opinion.

I have been exploring early church history and now my interest has shifted to interstamental period and would like to study the apocrypha, time permitting. I think John 16:13-15 is used by many to grant the “church universal” infallibility. While I believe the apostolic witness is infallible I do not think God ever guaranteed the “church universal” would be. So there you have my scepticism about the later confessions. Yes, the faith and the truth has been providentially preserved (Athanasius comes to mind for instance. Arianism, which was a pernicious error, was stopped).

The Reformation was significant in that whether intending to or not it turned the paganised church back to its Jewish roots. (Isn’t it interesting that Calvin had to learn Hebrew secretly?). I think the task was not completed (as Luther referred to teaching based on some OT passages as “Jewish fables”) and maybe this is what “semper reformada” means.

So until recently, I thought to myself “Perhaps to be the best and most complete Christian one should become Jewish”. I would have seriously considered it were it not for Galatians 2:14-3:3. Don’t need to. Why not? The definition of Israel has been widened to include Gentiles AS Gentiles. And then came into contact with names like Sanders, Dunn and Wright who are saying things that have the ring of truth.

I think that should be enough eyestrain for all of us for now.

MT said...

No, not Mandy, just a curious reader. Thanks for the lengthy reply.

Also, how can I go about helping Turkish Christians? I worry for them and would like to provide some financial support if possible.

Celal Birader said...

Hello MT,

The best thing anyone can do for them is to pray for them.

If you are in the U.S you may contact Turkish World Outreach. They usually have some projects that could use some funding.

If you are in the U.K. you could make a gift to Friends of Turkey UK to support a children's Christian publishing house in Turkey.

Or if you have more questions just send me an email via my blog profile.