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The Editorial

Terrorism in France

Europe has been given an horrific reminder of the threat of terrorism.

John Benton, Editor

Figure Image

On 7 January, Islamic extremists stormed the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with assault rifles and killed ten of the editorial staff and two policemen. Refusing to surrender, the perpetrators were hunted down and eventually killed by French police by which time another incident, in which an Islamic extremist held people hostage in a Jewish supermarket in the French capital, was taking place. More deaths occurred. We are sad for the bereaved and disgusted by these murders. The attackers claimed links to both ISIL and al-Qu’eda.

World War III

The terrorist threat against the West is ongoing and the French government spoke about a war being waged against free speech and the Western way of life. As we see the violence of extremist Islam across the globe we have to conclude that this is a ‘world war’.

Though the French authorities were careful to say this is not a war with ‘religion’ generally, it seems however that many liberals do view it as an ideological conflict in those terms.

What does this tell us about the way the world is going? I’m speculating, but we may think along the following lines. Paul tells us that Christ will not return until ‘the man of lawlessness’ is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2.3). This could be a particular individual, or the term might represent the general character of society in the years prior to the Second Coming. But the man of lawlessness is an atheist, for Paul says: ‘he will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped’ (2 Thessalonians 3.4). He will oppose not just Christ, but all ‘gods’ (including, presumably, Allah). If you were the devil and wished to drive the world into absolute opposition to all deities, how would you do it? The church has made many mistakes which would play into your hands – not least the Crusades (in which Christendom followed not Christ, but Islam in waging war) right down to paedophile priests and youth leaders today. But surely the best way to turn the world to atheism would be to raise up organisations like al-Qaeda, ISIL and Boko Haram and get people to put Bible Christians somehow into the same bracket.

‘Je suis Charlie’

What should Christians do in order to try to avoid being put into the ‘fundamentalist’ category? First of all we must show love. ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God’ (1 Peter 2.12). Secondly, Christians should steer well clear of both legalism and state religion. It is those who see religion primarily as rule keeping, rather than a matter of the heart, who tend to feel free to force others to conform – as in Islam, medieval Catholicism and the Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus – ‘They are not keeping the rules, so they deserve to be ill treated’. And it is state religion to which Islam aspires. State churches have aligned themselves with the political elite. The appeal of atheism in modern Europe has historically rested on its role as a liberator from ‘the establishment’ which included the state church. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. The church is a voluntary organisation. We believe in freedom of thought, of conscience and of speech. In that sense, although we may not agree with all their liberal attitudes, we should be standing right alongside the publishers of Charlie Hebdo.