Monday, February 14, 2011

Once An Arafat Man

by Tass Saada
Tyndale, 2008, 229 pages

I've been on a bit of a kick lately reading books about the Middle East, and more specifically about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict (two others I've read and would definitely recommend are Now They Call Me Infidel and Son Of Hamas). I've been surprised each time with how much I still have to learn, as each of these three books has offered a pretty unique perspective.

In Once An Arafat Man we see this conflict through the eyes of a man who joined the PLO as a teenager and was, soon after, murdering Israelis. He hated Jews, but his fierce hatred wasn't limited to just Jews - at one point he and his men try to assassinate the Jordanian crown prince. And one of his "fun sidelines" was to throw a grenade into the window of any Christian home he found out about.

What I found most interesting was how Saada became Christian. He had a long time friend who opened God's Word to him. But it took just one verse of Scripture, and, as the author describes it, he had no choice but to fall on his knees. He also describes hearing God speak to him at this moment. He hears a voice say: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Now I am normally quite suspicious when I read or hear a Christian talk about how God has spoken to them. I've found, more often than not, that Christians who make these claims are the very same who aren't avidly studying what God has said in his Word - instead of turning to where He has revealed Himself, they rely on feelings, and dreams and inklings, and call it God's revealed will. And often times that "revealed will" is superficial, or conflicts with the Bible (my father told me of how one Christian friend insisted that God had told him to divorce his wife and marry his hot, new, young girlfriend). There is reason then to be cautious when anyone talks of God literally speaking to them.

But Tass Saada's "mystical experiences" (he has more than one) aren't superficial, they don't conflict with the Bible, and he doesn't elevate them above Scripture. As he notes about his conversion, those who simply hear and believe "are perhaps the most blessed." He notes also that conversion via dream or vision is not normal, but is more common among Muslims. He sees this as evidence of God's power - Muslim authorities try to cut their citizens off from the Bible, but there is no stopping or containing God.

So I just had to marvel at how God will break down any resistance - His grace is truly irresistible!

Discernment label
(For more on this, see "Discernment labels" in our articles section)

CONTENT: A former PLO sniper and chauffeur Yasser Arafat, who fought the Israelis and assassinated civilians, immigrates to the United States. Almost twenty years later, he becomes a Christian and starts reaching out, first to Jews, and then to Arabs in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, hoping, with God’s help, to bring hope to the youth.

CAUTIONS: Tass Saada’s conversion is described by him as a “mystical experience.” After hearing just one line from the Bible (John 1:1) he was forced to his knees, saw a light and heard a voice speak John 14:6. He has a few other such encounters where he hears a response from God. Such spiritual encounters claims are something Christians should examine with caution, as we know in some churches spiritual mysticism replaces the Bible, and sometimes blatantly contradicts it (a friend of my father once told him that God has ordered him to divorce his wife and marry his hot young girlfriend). But while caution is warranted, extreme skepticism is not – nothing Saada hears from God conflicts with what He has said in his Word.

CONCLUSION: Though the author is not Reformed, his life is proof of God’s irresistible grace. God turned this violent young man into someone willing risk death to spread the Good News to Muslims.

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