Lessons of Spiritual TerrorismWhich of us can ever forget the first time we saw the video of the airliner smashing into the World Trade Center in New York City? It was a sight that was unbelievable from any way a person can look at it. Americans found it unbelievable that an enemy could conduct such a successful attack on American soil. Most Americans could not be so warped in their belief system that they would murder literally thousands of innocent victims to promote their cause. We also found it hard to comprehend that people would hate us so much that they would sacrifice their own lives to advance their cause, especially when that cause was religiously motivated. Most people in our culture will make no sacrifice to promote their religious beliefs--much less die for it.
With all of these negatives in our minds, it may seem difficult to believe that there are any positive lessons to be learned from all that has happened--especially any spiritual lessons. The fact is that there are some amazing parallels and connections between the events of September 11, 2001, and the spiritual war of terrorism that has been going on from the creation. We would like to point out some of these parallels and lessons and hope that they may be useful and constructive.
Spiritual Terrorism Is Hard to Believe
Just as most Americans could not believe that the events of September 11 could ever occur, they do not believe Satan is real or that heaven and especially hell exist. The destructiveness of sin and the active work of Satan in this world have been relegated to myth and the creation of an ignorant age of superstitious people. We live in a Pollyanna society that believes in the possibility of heaven, but not the reality of hell. Our society denies that God gave us life with the idea that we are to use that life in a positive way. Just as God described Paul as a "chosen vessel" in Acts 9:15 , so too we are each chosen for a specific purpose.
Perhaps a part of our denial that we are responsible to do something with our lives is the fact that we are not sure about our origin. The obsession of America with evolution has saturated us with relatively minor questions about time and organic process while the obvious nature of man as a being uniquely created in the image of God has been ignored.
It is man's real makeup in God's image that makes man different. It is our spiritual heritage, not our biological one, that gives us worth. Our society will believe Stephen King or Star Wars, but deny our own creation as children of God in His image because it is too hard to believe.
Spiritual Warfare Demands
Man Be a Responsible
The war we are describing that people find hard to believe is as old as the Creation. In the Garden of Eden, we see Adam and Eve as beings able to choose between evil choices and good ones. In the book of Job, we see God and Satan battling through Job. Christ is confronted by choice as Satan tempts him after his fast in Luke 4:1-13 , Paul warns us and himself that he was still struggling with the forces of good and evil ( Romans 7:15-8:1 ).
This gives a fundamental base to all of us that we serve the same role as Job. This is the role we all have; and whatever our specific role may be, we all will accomplish the common purpose for which we were created.
Many people of our generation do not want to be responsible free-moral agents. They want to do whatever brings them gratification with no consequences for their actions. This is the primary reason that people reject Christianity--it makes demands and forces people to be responsible for the choices they make. We want to point to our genes, our environment, or people in our past and live any way we want with no responsibility for our actions. This is not to say that those things are not real obstacles; it is to say we still must make our own choices and bear the consequences even if there are mountains in our way. When Galatians 6:7 f says whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, there are no qualifications given for the reaping. We are told God will help us and not allow us to be overpowered by evil ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ), but we must still be responsible.
However much the terrorists who kill point the finger at bin Laden, Hussein, or for that matter at their Koran, they are still individually and uniquely responsible for their actions and choices. So too are we--both here and in the hereafter.
Spiritual Warfare Is
The World Trade Center was horrific because of the number of deaths that occurred in a short time in a small geographic area. We do not want to minimize the tragedy of this violence in any way, but when you compare the 100,000 people affected personally from this event, you still have a small number compared to the damage done daily by alcohol, drugs, pornography, abuse of all kinds, and crime. Those of us who work with people who are deeply embedded in sin probably were less shocked by the September 11, 2001, tragedy than most because we see the same kind of results of Satan's activity on a daily basis. The lesson that has been brought home in a very abrasive way by the terrorist activity is that the rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ is horrible beyond description.
The most fundamental result of rejecting Christianity is the devaluation of the worth of a human being. All human rejections of Christianity, whether they be out-and-out atheism or a man-made religion, end up treating man as an insignificant being.
Terrorism Is not Limited to
One Kind of Battle
The World Trade Center horror is not the end of the efforts of terrorists to persecute the United States. Anthrax has presented a whole new threat to the security of the world. Stories are coming out of terrorist strongholds of women who have acid thrown in their faces if they do not dress as the terrorists feel they should. Car bombs and gas attacks have already happened, and the future seems to be a future where continued uncertainty is generated against all of humanity.
Spiritual terrorism is also a system of multiple devices. Alcohol, drugs, sex, and the exploitation of others seem to be the main devices of spiritual terrorists, but new tools of disruption are always on their way. While substance abuse and sex have always been with us, the ways in which they are packaged and sold to the unsuspecting change daily. The United States government is being heavily challenged to deal with all the fronts that terrorism is operating on, and only by great alertness, unity, cooperation, and resolve can the terrorists be kept at bay. We would suggest that exactly the same methods must be used by the followers of Christ to deal with spiritual terrorism.
Terrorism Never Ends as Long as the Leadership Is in Existence
Terrorism is not new. Tragic and horrible things have happened to innocent people from the biblical times. Military leaders in the United States have repeatedly said that destroying the hardware of the terrorists will not stop terrorism. If one terrorist is killed, there is always another ready to take his place. Selfishness, greed, desire for power, lust, and ego are so prevalent on this planet that the best we can hope to do is to contain the activities of the terrorists.
Spiritual terrorism is very much the same. As long as Satan is alive and well on planet Earth, there will be acts of spiritual terrorism brought against men and women. The one difference is that God has told us that there is a time coming when there will be no more leadership for spiritual terrorism. Satan and his angels will be put in a place in which they will no longer have access to man and a chasm across which nothing can pass will be placed between good and evil ( Luke 16:26 ). No denigration of human life will happen and no abuse, ego, exploitation, pride, arrogance, or sin will exist. It is called heaven, and it is the only real answer to terrorism of all kinds.
The World Trade Center disaster and the following uncertainty and struggle is a great argument for the validity of the Christian message and the reality of heaven. There are many other lessons--great and small--that the terrorism of our day brings, but these are the more obvious ones.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour ( 1 Peter 5:8 ).
--John N. Clayton
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JanFeb02.