Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anne Rice Quits Christianity

This just goes to show you that the cross has always been and always will be foolishness to the natural mind:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. “I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else...

...As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Clark Pinnock Retires from McMaster

Wesleyanism is winning the day, which is why the Calvinists are so defensive.
-Clark Pinnock

*Rolls eyes* Whatever. I guess he hasn't noticed the recent resurgence of Calvinists in Evangelicalism, plus the advances being made by theologians in the Reformed camp (Three words: The Gospel Coalition). I wonder what he means by "winning," because I don't see Wesleyan-Arminians winning anything anytime soon.

Personally, I am quite glad that he is resigning from his post. I hope McMaster Divinity School will get somebody more doctrinally sound to take his place.

News Article

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oh Really, Hussein Wario?

Hussein Wario is a person whom I cannot quite make heads or tails out of. It escapes me how somebody could be so intent on defending Ergun Caner (who has done nothing but lie about his past, slander Calvinists and misrepresent Islamic beliefs) whilst simultaneously posting criticisms of Acts 17 Apologetics (who have been boldly proclaiming the Gospel even in the midst of hostile crowds of Muslims). I have been following the events that have been taking place in Dearborn ever since the arrests, and I must say that all of the evidence points overwhelmingly to the innocence of the Dearborn four. Mr. Wario does not seem to get this, though. In one of his recent blog posts, The Glorified Deceit, he continues his criticisms of Acts 17 Apologetics and Alpha and Omega Ministries for defending Acts 17. He begins with this little point:

On July 2, I wrote for the first time on the arrests of Acts 17 Apologetics missionaries in Dearborn, Michigan. Christians, including Dr. James White, urged their fellow Christians—even witnesses to the arrests—for restraint in passing their judgment because these missionaries had “everything” they did on video. While Dr. White asked Christians to wait for the video evidence, he did not stop from denigrating the City of Dearborn and its police department. I wondered how he would react this strongly when he was not in Dearborn, let alone be a witness. An Arab Christian even notified Dr. White of his concerns of Acts 17 missionaries and he was called to wait for the video evidence.

I think somebody should inform Mr. Wario that Dr. James White was right up there in Michigan when the events took place. The places where the debates and ABN programs took place were a stone's throw away from Dearborn. He even had a discussion with some of the missionaries the afternoon before the arrests took place. In his own words:

I had spent about an hour with Nabeel, David, and Nageen [sic](I am uncertain if Paul was with us at lunch) the afternoon they were arrested at the ABN studios. I was talking with the head of ABN when they came in (we had gotten some burritos for them at a local restaurant). As soon as Nabeel came in he told me he had just finished a class on systematic theology, said he thought he had a good grip on the issues relating to Reformed theology, and launched a series of good questions for me. This led to a discussion on the key elements of my beliefs as a Calvinist. It was not an argument, it was a good period of questions on Nabeel's part, answers on mine. And Nabeel was listening carefully to my replies. This is how I know an honest hearted young man, brilliant (a medical doctor!), teachable, intense. I have tried to be a good example of a more mature believer for him, as little contact as we have had. And I hope I have done the same for David (this was the first time I met Nageen [sic]).

In any case, when I had people telling me about bad behavior of Nabeel and David, I was immediately suspicious. But why would Christian groups bear false witness about them? Well, why has Hussein Wario become a wild-eyed defender of Ergun Caner? I do not know, but it happens. But I have said to a number of folks, "How about we just wait for the video footage?" And now we have it. (link)

And you can argue, "Well yeah, but he wasn't there when the actual arrests took place." That does not invalidate his statements at all. I have friends who saw the arrests firsthand, and they corroborate Dr. White's statements.

Dearborn Police Department returned the cameras “intact” or “without erasing all the footage” [Acts 17 Apologetics statements] a fortnight ago. As promised, footages [sic] of the arrests were posted. Most Christians, mostly Dr. White’s fans, quickly asked their fellow Christians to repent publicly for questioning the arrests. I have wondered how witnesses could recant what they witnessed prior to the arrests that footages [sic] don’t debunk.

I'm wondering which "witnesses" Wario is referring to here. I already posted the video of my friend who is a witness to the events and can testify that everything Dr. White and the Acts 17 team have said are true. He's not the only one either. Perhaps if we knew better who these people are who allegedly witnessed Acts 17 doing their disorderly conduct, we can take a better look at their claims and see how reliable they are.

Since posted footages weren’t answering questions, I wrote a post on July 19 of how 15-20 minutes of footage before the first arrest could provide clues. I was specific. Nageen’s [sic] arrest. A concerned Christian was upset with me. He sent me a message and we went back and forth for a while. He ended up asking Acts 17 on Facebook for the video footage prior to Nageen’s [sic] arrest. The message was clear. The footage should be what transpired before the first arrest. How hard can it be? Guess what video was posted? Dubbed, “The Missing Footage,” it has nothing to do with the first arrest. Nageen had already been arrested at that point. The public needs to know what happened that necessitated the criminal complaint. They want people to believe that they were victims of injustice. How evasive and misleading can they get? Can they just admit that not all of their activities—legal or “illegal”—were on camera?

First of all, I wonder how hard it is to remember a person's name. Her name is spelt Negeen. With an e. Come on people, get it right.

That aside, most of the people who were accusing the Acts 17 team of disorderly conduct allege that it took place in the 15 minutes that transpired between Negeen's arrest and the arrest of the other three. The purpose of the missing footage being released was to put that myth to rest once and for all. And as for why there would be a criminal complaint against Negeen, the answer is obvious: The police don't want another person taking video footage of the arrests when they happen, so they decided to get her out of the way (harassing her in a very rude and uncivilized manner in the process). To quote her own words, "I wasn't aware that videotaping in America had become illegal." (link)

Even with these questions still lingering, Dr. White still gives this group a platform to spread their myth about being arrested in Dearborn for being a Christian, etcetera. They were on “Iron Sharpens Iron” last Wednesday, courtesy of Dr. White, discussing the arrests. He “very highly recommended” the appearance.

Just for your information, Acts 17 Apologetics isn't the only group that has suffered from the unlawful practices of the powers that be in Dearborn. Dozens of Christians have been treated similarly. For example, we have this interview of a Christian who talks about how they and other Christians (such as George Saieg's ministry) are prevented from distributing literature while Muslims who do the exact same thing get a free pass.

Dr. White—a man known for his straight answers—keeps on changing his story as well. From his initial post about “the rule of law (not Sharia) in Dearborn” to the most recent one belittling Josh McDowell witnessing to Muslims. Apparently, he learned the hard way that Christians still preach or distribute Bibles and tracts in Dearborn.

I don't quite understand either why Josh McDowell's ministry went unhindered while many other Christian ministries (not just Acts 17 Apologeticss) were. I would guess that McDowell had taken special care to be as inoffensive as possible in distributing books there. And if some Muslims come to Christ as a result of his ministry there, then that's great! However, that does not change the fact that titling his video "Sharia Love" is simply in poor taste, and is an insult to our brothers and sisters in Christ who have to endure the devastating effects of Sharia law in majority Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.

I wonder if he has ever been to Dearborn to write such a scathing initial post on the arrests. Does anyone know? Sad, how his objectivity is lacking and integrity somewhat wanting. It seems they matter only when investigating Dr. Ergun Caner. On that note, Liberty University rendered its verdict four weeks ago and that has not stopped Dr. White from continuing his discussion.

I don't want to get into the Ergun Caner issue for the main reason that it leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. However, as I pointed out earlier, Dr. White was in fact in Michigan during the time of the arrests. I have watched his appearances on the Jesus or Muhammad programs that were being shown at around that same general time period. It is simply naive to think that he does not know what he is talking about when he posts his criticisms

A mere red herring because Dr. White refuses to acknowledge that he has been wrong in criticizing the Dearborn police, Josh McDowell ministries, other Christians and organizations. Evidence of his deceit is even on his Alpha & Omega Ministries website. His fans never question it. Instead, they glorify it.

I have been quite observant of what has been going on lately, having gone through ever available bit of information that has become available ever since the events first occurred. I would say that Dr. White is right on the money in everything he has said regarding the Dearborn police and Josh McDowell ministries. Now, I don't know what other Christian organizations Mr. Wario is alluding to here. Are there Christians who saw the events and will testify that Acts 17 and Dr. White are wrong? I don't know. But I have heard the testimonies of people who were there and they point overwhelmingly to only one conclusion: Acts 17 Apologetics is innocent of all charges that have been laid against them.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
(Psalm 96:11-13, ESV)

NOTE: In the initial version of this post, I mistakenly said that Dr. White was in Dearborn. What I should have said was that he was within a stone's throw away from Dearborn. Thanks to Hussein Wario for correcting me on that one minor point wherein I misspoke, but that does not negate anything else that I've said.

In Defense of Nabeel Qureshi

Due to their ministry efforts in explaining and critiquing the Islamic religion, Acts 17 Apologetics has been the target of propaganda by various Muslims online. One such example is a YouTube channel that goes by the name of RefutingActs17. Whoever runs this channel has been busy taking pot shots at various Acts 17 members, although careful viewers should note that there is little actual substance to the attacks being made. Be that as it may, there are some videos on that channel where Nabeel Qureshi’s statements are chopped up into short little sound bites and used as ammo to attack Nabeel. It is worth taking a look at some of these attempts:

Description: Just watch the bigoted and islamophobic sentiments of Nabeel Qureshi flow as he visits 'Islam-o-Town' of London.

Comment: Now, you could probably conclude from the short sound bite offered that Nabeel is providing us with “bigoted and islamophobic sentiments.” However, there is a bit of sleight of hand here, as viewing the original video in its context reveals that there is nothing bigoted or islamophobic about what he said. Immediately after saying “things are getting a lot more Islamic around here,” he then goes on to say, "and really, I have no problem with that. If Islam is a religion of peace and there's no stifling of personal rights or anything of that sort, I have no problem with that." It is really quite dishonest to just pluck that one statement out of context and use it to misrepresent what Nabeel is actually trying to convey here.

Of course, Nabeel goes on to explain that "that is not the case" based on some facts that he cites, not to mention his own observations while in London. And he is not being totally negative either. He even says at one point that he doesn't agree with all of the claims that other critics of Islam make. Whatever the case, what he says is certainly true, so this particular pot shot really does not really succeed accomplish anything other than demonstrating the fact that the video maker has a serious axe to grind against Acts 17 Apologetics.

Description: Watch-out! The Dearborn Muslim Youth are both racist and threatening according to Nabeel Qureshi.

Comment: At the time that this video was made, the footage of the racist and threatening comments had not yet been released. However, since the video footage proving that the claims made by Paul Rezkalla were right all along have been released, I think it would be safe to say that this particular attack no longer really holds. This is just an example of how these Islamic propagandists are seeking to take advantage of the media blackout to cast doubt on the honesty and integrity of the Acts 17 members.

Description: We've finally been able to put together a convincing argument that Nabeel was never a Muslim, and never has been a Muslim. Nabeel was an Ahmadi, a member of a highly heretical deviant group known as Ahmadiyya. They are branded as heretics in every Muslim country and barely make up even 0.1% of the entire Muslim Populace.

Comment: I have always known that Nabeel Qureshi was a former Ahmadi. This really isn’t particularly new to me, and neither am I surprised that those who are within the fold of Orthodox Sunni Islam would use this as an excuse to discredit his testimony.

First of all, it is ridiculous to claim that he tries to pass himself off as a former mainstream Muslim. I have heard him give his testimony before on Iron Sharpens Iron, and he is quite clear about being a former member of the Ahmadiyya movement. In an article he wrote on the massacre of Ahmadis that took place in Lahore two months ago, he states, “The victims were Ahmadi Muslims, the sect of Islam in which I was born and raised.”[1] And to top it all off, in his conversion story, he makes it quite explicit in an endnote that he was raised as an Ahmadi:

I mention that I had learned a very peaceful version of Islam. I belonged to the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam, a sect that many Muslims consider heretical. One of the distinguishing features of this movement is that they consider military jihad to be abolished. As I wish to be forthright with all my readers, this note serves to explicitly state which sect of Islam I belonged to.[2]

As for whether the fact that Nabeel is a former Ahmadi makes him a liar: Whether Ahmadis actually are Muslims or not is not really my concern. However, let me concede just for the sake of argument that the Sunnis are correct in saying that Ahmadis are not really Muslims . That does not mean that he is lying. In order to be a liar, you would have to know that what you are saying is false. However, since Nabeel was taught all his life that he was a Muslim, and he took this for granted to be true, the worst charge that one could raise against him is that he had been tricked by his Jama’at into honestly (albeit mistakenly) believing that he was a Muslim when he actually wasn’t.

Let me give an equivalent from a Christian perspective: I deal with various cults (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons) that profess to be Christian, even though they deny many of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. Now, I could say that they had been fed lies by their leaders, but I would not say that they are liars themselves. They may be honest in thinking themselves to be Christians, but they are honestly mistaken.

So why does he not mention these things to the youths he is dialoguing with in the video? The answer is obvious: As the video maker himself acknowledges (0:27-0:30), the youths don’t even know what an Ahmadi is! There are more important things that needed to be discussed, so delineating the differences between Orthodox Islam and the Ahmadiyya movement would be a waste of time at this point.

(Note: In the comments section of this video, it appears that the channel owner has blocked the person who had been calling for Nabeel’s execution. Kudos to the channel owner for distancing himself from such a violent extremist, yet this does not soften the arguments that are being raised against him.)

Description: Nabeel Qureshi admitted from the very beginning that he had willingly accepted a flawed religious text.

Comment: The vast majority of Muslims know little about textual criticism, and many of the ones who do rely on some rather biased sources such as Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus.[3] Suffice to say, the video maker does not really explain anything, but is once again taking one little sound bite and ripping out of context (I even chuckle a bit at one of the video comments that talks about “30,000 corrupt manuscripts that all differ from one another.”). Now, it is true that when copies of the bible are produced, the scribes inevitably make copying errors. However, the vast majority of these errors are neither viable (the errors are obvious or are produced way too late to have any chance of being the original reading) nor significant (minor copying errors like spelling errors and word order that do not affect the meaning of the text). Also, an error made by a scribe in one part of the world will most likely not affect manuscripts made anywhere else in the world, which is why comparing manuscripts that were copied in widely divergent geographical regions is a very effective method of filtering out textual variants and verifying the original reading.

Ultimately, it is not a question of whether manuscripts of the bible have errors in them, but whether these errors prevent us from knowing what the original text of the bible actually says. You can have thousands of manuscripts that all have errors in them, but unless every single manuscript has mistakes in the exact same spot (and really, this is where the “they all differ from one another” argument falls flat on its face), this is does not provide any evidence that the bible has been corrupted. In fact, given the superior textual tradition of the bible compared to other literary works dating from the same age, we have much more certainty on what the bible says than any other book written before the invention of the printing press. It is truly “an embarrassment of riches,” as renowned textual scholar Daniel Wallace often puts it. As Dr. Bruce Metzger states in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament,

During the twentieth century, with the discovery of several New Testament manuscripts much older than any that had hitherto been available, it has become possible to produce editions of the New Testament that approximate ever more closely to what is regarded as the wording of the original documents[4]

To add to this, Drs. Normal Geisler and William Nix also state that,

The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book—a form that is 99.5 percent pure.[5]

I would add to this that in the remaining 0.5 percent where there is any signficant doubt concerning the original reading, not a single cardinal Christian doctrine is affected. In other words, our biblical faith remains intact. (For more information, see this article that I wrote for the Aristophrenium)


I doubt that this will be the last time I have to deal with RefutingActs17, as the channel owner has only recently begun to start posting videos criticizing Acts 17 Apologetics. However, a quick skim through the videos in question show that there is very little substance to the claims being made. For the most part, what you get is a volley of name-calling such as “bigoted,” “islamophobic,” “tinkerbell,” etc. Nevertheless, I hope that this article will help to expose the false accusations being raised against Nabeel Qureshi and the other members of Acts 17, and vindicate these brothers and sister in Christ.

End Notes
  1. Qureshi, Nabeel. Muslims Slaughter 70 of My People, Who Are Also Muslims. Answering Muslims. <>.

  2. Qureshi, Nabeel. Crossing Over: An Intellectual and Spiritual Journey from Islam to Christianity. Answering Islam. <>.

  3. I do not have the space or time to explain the problems with Ehrman’s arguments, so I would like to direct the reader to Daniel Wallace’s review of Misquoting Jesus: <>.

  4. Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Second Edition). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994. p. 10.

  5. Geisler, Norman L. And William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago IL: Moody Press, 1980. p. 367.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weird Stuff People Say on Youtube

What you are about to read is a recording of a dialogue I recently had with a fellow on Youtube named "paisleyatlarge." This is just an example of how Youtube acts as an internet ignorance aggregator. His assertions obviously have no merit to them whatsoever, but I wanted to toy around with this fellow a bit to see what kind of utter nonsense he would spout. Here are his initial comments (with my initial rebuttals):

There was an apparition of jesus a few years ago, His face miraculously appeared on a wall of an old abandoned gas station down in Mexico. The devout came from far and near, prayed, sang, lit candles, incense, made dedications, promises, and had vigils. One evening a man went up to the magic image and rubbed it with his finger. Some of the white wash came off, and revealed that underneath was an old poster advertising a Willie Nelson concert.

An Interesting anecdote, but says nothing at all about the truth or falsity of the Christian faith.

Mormonism, xtianity, they are all man-made. xtianity was made up on command of Constantine by the council of Nicea, and did not exist before then. It was all made up including the story of jesus. You can study the historic evidence yourself, if you look up legitimate historians rather than xtian apologists.

Can you please explain to me the writings of such the ante-Nicene Fathers such as Clement of Rome, Papias, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardis, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage, etc. who all taught what Christians today believe long before Constantine came along?

His response to my initial comments (with my rebuttals):

The very popular gnostic ideas of "christos" goes back at least til 200bce but was not what people think of today as "christ" (un-bodied spirit). The closest ideas were possibly Ireneus, because he was the most irrascibly aggressive, his ideas gained ground. The teachings of Marcion, original fragments of "Mark" there was IS CHRESTOS, (IS later changed to IES or IESU, jesus, no "j" in alphbet then, and CHRESTOS (good, helpful, useful) rather than CHRISTOS (annointed).

What "original" fragments of Mark are you talking about. The oldest manuscripts of Mark that we have are widely available (they can be viewed online at and they read nothing like what you just claimed.

IS CHRESTOS wasn't born, was sort of a 'ghost' that appeared to save us from god (jehovah) who created all the material world, was less skilful, bad actally, than the new unknown god of love IS. Marcion also edited the letters of Apollonius into being the letters of 'paul', to create the first xtian scriptures (as well as fleshing out the myth of jesus with the life of Apollonius). For all his trouble, he was excommunicated by the Romans, but they kept his book, was all they had!

Although it is true that Apollonius lived around the same time as Paul and the NT writers, the main body of Apollonian belief didn't develop until centuries later, and did so as a response to the spread of Chrsitianity. So if any borrowing took place, it would actually have been the other way around. Not only that, but I defy you to provide me with any credible historical source that says Paul's letters were originally Apollonius'.

Eusebius changed Marcions scriptures to IES (jesus) to attract the popular joshua cults, to CHRISTOS to draw in remaining gnostic, therapeuts & essenes, the astrotheological aspects of Egypt, etc. for the pagans, to create the myth to unify the nation. That was way too little space for not nearly enough info, no room to reference, so only a VERY bare skeleton. I hate to do that. Really, you or anyone else can study this on your own, the catholic encyclpdia online's a good source. And with a humble heart I gratefully give you most profound thanks for being so kind and astute to not mention "The Antiquities of the Jew", by Josephus.

Are you relying on the primary sources or what some secondary source tells you? These patristic writers' sources are available online ( I've read them myself, and the reality there is nothing like what you just claimed.

But I'm on a roll... the "pre-nicene fathers" are naturally very important for the church which tries desperately to draw a tenuous thread between them even back to 'polycarp' who was supposed to know 'peter', trying to produce history for their version of christ, who with all he was supposed to have said and done, acclaimed to have been so widely known, not a single contemporary historian of his area even mentions him by name. Nor paul. Pre-Nicene fathers believed a hodgpodge.

That's a lot of assertions, but nothing that I can find from any credible historical source. Got any citations to back those up?

The third wave of assertions and rebuttals:

Apollonius biography of his VERY LONG and fruitful life wasn't written until around 200 (I think) and is the longest biography written of an historical person of that period. Have you read it? Surely it is not totally historical or factual, a good book, but reeks of the fabulous, and Damis is the "gullible" foil for Pol's wisdom. His legends were known far and wide, to the point of apotheosis, his temple was in Tyana, and his legend, 'beliefs' developed after he died.

I don't question that there was a historical figure named Apollonius. However, I do find it rather telling that you have no problem with accepting a biography that was written a century after he died [Note: Apollonius died at approximately 100 A.D.], while at the same time rejecting the Gospels which took much less time (20-60 years) to be written.

But before his "beliefs" were developed, he had actually left direct letters behind, purchased by the wealthy businessman/bishop Marcion, who edited them (in reverse order) into being the letters of "paul". The earlest fragmensts of "mark" also reflect the teaching of Marcion, pointing to him as probable author (and that would be the 'gospel' spoken of in the letters of paul)

More assertions without evidence. Would you care to link us to any source that will provide the original text of Apollonius' letters so that I and anybody else who is interested could examine the texts for ourselves?

Anyone can see that Apollonius and "jesus" are two very completely different stories, two men both with very different beliefs. But you can see how the life of Pol and memory of his legend easily added flesh to the myth of jesus. Also, most the emperors didn't like pol nor his followers for the most part, so only a tiny part of pol's ca 100 years for jesus, perhaps leading to the idea "if all he said and did was written down, the world wouldn't be big enough to hold the books

I think that rather than proving that 'paul's' letters were originally Apollonius (a real historic person,but they were edited by Marcion) it might be best if SOMEONE would finally prove to us and the rest of the waiting world of history that there EVER was such a person, such an INFLUENTIAL and highly regarded person, as 'paul of tarsus', who magically managed to leave no more historic foot prints than did 'jesus'.

No historian worth his salt denies that there was a historical figure named Paul. Since we mentioned the apostolic fathers, several of them (such as Clement, a noted elder of the church of Rome who is mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3) knew the apostle in person. Unless you want to deny that Clement and the other apostolic fathers existed either, there is really no question that there was indeed a man named Saul of Tarsus.

When you deal with someone who starts denying that the apostle Paul was a real historical figure, you know that you are dealing with a complete loony. I shall relent from posting any more of the (evidently fruitless) youtube dialogue at this point.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Baptist Bishops?

Stranger things have happened, I guess...

Baptist Bishops
From left, Bishops Rodney S. Sampson, John M. Borders III, and Edward Stephens Jr. at Border's ordination ceremony in Memphis. (Pretrinia Martin)

The Rev. John M. Borders III approached the pulpit at Morning Star Baptist Church on a recent Sunday wearing his usual suit and tie. He adjusted his glasses, as he often does, and proceeded to deliver to the packed sanctuary a thunderstorm of a sermon on a theme from Revelation: “No more delays!’’

In the pews, some sobbed. Some shouted, “Yes, Lord!’’ Some just breathed, until Borders concluded with a hushed prayer.

The only outward sign that something was different was the new ring on the pastor’s finger, a thick gold ring with a purple stone. It symbolized his recent elevation, in a ceremony in Memphis two weeks before, to the position of bishop.

The title of bishop, accompanied by such emblems of authority, was uncommon among hierarchy-spurning Baptists until recently, but it is being adopted by a growing number of Baptist pastors, most of them African-American. Borders and other new bishops have acquired some of the ceremonial garb — croziers (pastoral staffs), zucchettos (skullcaps) and chasubles (robes) — that their spiritual forefathers left behind when they broke from the Church of England in the 17th century. Some, including Borders, have even embraced the doctrine of apostolic succession — the belief in an unbroken line from Jesus’ apostles to today’s bishops.

Borders, a sober man who regards his flock with obvious affection, spoke lightly of his role as shepherd during his sermon.

“When I watch you,’’ he said with a smile, “I see a congregation of miracles.’’

Read the rest of it in the original article:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why I Believe - The Testimony

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life-- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.
(1 John 1:1-2)

I was recently posed with the question of how I know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Now, for a pretty short question, I must admit that there are so many things that need to be said regarding this topic. More than I could fit within a two hour timeframe (which is the amount of time I took to write this little article), so I shall try as best as I can to answer this question that was given me. Lord willing, I shall try to "give an answer for the hope that is in me" (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). I know that my mind is limited, so may this be a good starting point for further study on this topic.

Now, I want to say that there are two aspects to my answer to this question. There is the objective aspect, and then there is the subjective aspect. I shall deal with the objective aspect first:

Look again at the passage which I quoted at the beginning of this passage. The apostle John talks about that which he has heard and seen. Many of the world's religions (especially Eastern religions) focus on the esoteric and otherworldly, with no objective grounds by which we can determine whether they are true or false. Christianity is very different from that. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ, the eternal Word by which all things were created, came down to earth, lived as a flesh-and-blood human being amongst us, died, rose again three days later and ascended into Heaven. The Bible that we have today was written down primarily to provide us with a witness to what happened during those thirty-odd years that our Lord walked upon this earth (true, it speaks of many other things as well, but ultimately Christ is the centre of divine revelation). I believe that the Bible is God's Word because God has used the written Word to bear witness to the living Word. As the author of Hebrews put it, "in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world" (Hebrews 1:2).

Whether the Bible is to be recognized as the Word of God depends on whether it truly gives us a reliable and sufficient witness to Jesus' life and work. After all, if this is God's Word, then we should expect it to provide us with a truthful account of the primary object of revelation. Did Jesus really die on the cross and return to life three days later? If not, then the Bible is little more than an interesting museum artifact that we can spit upon and poke fun at. But if He indeed rose from the grave, then He is vindicated in all that He has claimed for Himself as the "Son of Man" who is "seated at the right hand of Power" (Mark 14:62). Paul said as much when he wrote,

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

The idea, of course, is that this is not the case, for as he goes on to explain, "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20-21). Earlier in the same chapter of the same epistle, he speaks of the resurrected Christ appearing to many witnesses, including himself (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). What this indicates is that the Resurrection is not just some abstract concept that mortal men devised. Most of the men who wrote these scriptures actually saw the risen Christ. Some of them (such as James and Paul) were skeptical about the Christian claims and yet came to faith in spite of their predisposition to disbelieve in the Gospel. This would make no sense if they did not truly encounter the risen Christ. It would be absurd: These men had everything to lose and nothing to gain unless they truly experienced what they claimed to have experienced. They were willing to suffer persecution and die for the sake of this testimony. If these men were just "following cleverly devised tales," as Peter put it in 2 Peter 1:16, then we have no way of making heads or tails out of how they acted. Simon Greenleaf, a prominent American lawyer writing in the nineteenth century, points out how weighty the testimony of the apostles really is. Writing as a lawyer who examines the truthfulness of their accounts based on the rules of legal evidence, he writes,

The great truths which the apostles declared, were, that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in Him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice, everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling errors that can be presented to the mind of man. Their master had recently perished as a malefactor, by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teachings of His disciples. The interests and passions of all the rulers and great men in the world were against them. The fashion of the world was against them.

Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes, imprisonments, torments, and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing. As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience, and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency.

It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact. If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. To have persisted in so cross a falsehood, after it was known to them, was not only to encounter, for life, all the evils which man could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of a good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope of happiness in this life, or in the world to come.

Such conduct in the apostles would moreover have been utterly irreconcilable with the fact that they possessed the ordinary constitution of our common nature. Yet their lives do show them to have been men like all others of our race; swayed by the same motives, animated by the same hopes, affected by the same joys, subdued by the same sorrows, agitated by the same fears, and subject to the same passions, temptations, and infirmities, as ourselves. And their writings show them to have been men of vigorous understandings. If then their testimony was not true, there was no possible motive for its fabrication.[1]

We can produce endless theories to explain away the events that occurred (and many skeptics have attempted to do just that over the past two centuries), but the fact is that none of these explanations hold water. Only the Christian worldview can account for the fact that the apostles were transformed from doubters and cowards into brave spirit-filled evangelists who would go out to distant lands and proclaim what they knew to be true, even to the point of death. To again quote Greenleaf:

All that Christianity asks of men... is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals. Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.[2]

When all is said and done, we may find that what is written in the Bible is vindicated as being true. B.F. Westcott, the great biblical scholar who started the great tradition of modern New Testament textual criticism, put it succinctly:

Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than he resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.[3]

In summary, I believe the Bible to be God's Word based on the truthfulness of its testimony. The men whom He used to pen it down had no reason whatsoever to invent their stories, and the many alternative explanations that those who disbelieve in the bible have put forward all fail to account for all the facts and explain why things happened as they did, leaving the Christian message as the only possible explanation.

And now I come to the subjective aspect of my reason:

We must understand that although the historical events recorded for us in the Bible are empirically verifiable, there are some aspects that you can't verify through analysis of facts. This is the case with the inspiration of scripture. I can tell you what the Bible tells about itself:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Peter 1:20-21, NIV)

But how do you "prove" this to be true? In one sense, you can't. It's not as though you can conduct some sort of scientific experiment that can detect whether the words of the Bible have God's Spirit in them. But this does not automatically mean that we take what the Bible says on "blind faith." As I asserted in the earlier part of this writing, there are many grounds by which we can know the objective reality of what scripture says. I think the point is captured best by the Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer when he wrote this analogy on how faith works:

One must analyze the word faith and see that it can mean two completely opposite things.

Suppose we are climbing in the Alps and are very high on the bare rock and suddenly the fog shuts down. The guide turns to us and says that the ice is forming and that there is no hope; before morning we will all freeze to death here on the shoulder of the mountain. Simply to keep warm, the guide keeps us moving in the dense fog further out on the shoulder until none of us have any idea where we are. After an hour or so, someone says to the guide: "Suppose I dropped and hit a ledge ten feet down in the fog. What would happen then?" The guide would say that you might make it till the morning and thus live. So, with absolutely no knowledge or any reason to support his action, one of the group hangs and drops into the fog. This would be one kind of faith, a leap of faith.

Suppose, however, after we have worked out on the shoulder in the midst of the fog and the growing ice on the rock, we had stopped and we heard a voice which said: "You cannot see me, but I know exactly where you are from your voices. I am on another ridge. I have lived in these mountains, man and boy, for over sixty years and I know every foot of them. I assure you that ten feet below you there is a ledge. If you hang and drop, you can make it through the night and I will get you in the morning."

I would not hang and drop at once, but would ask questions to try to ascertain if the man knew what he was talking about and if he was not my enemy. In the Alps, for example, I would ask him his name. If the name he gave me was the name of a family from that part of the mountains, it would count a great deal to me. In the Swiss Alps there are certain family names that indicate mountain families of that area. For example, in the area of the Alps where I live, Avanthey would be such a name. In my desperate situation, even though time would be running out, I would ask him what to me would be the sufficient questions, and when I became convinced by his answers, then I would hang and drop.

This is faith, but obviously it has no relationship to the first instance. As a matter of fact, if one of these is called faith, the other should not be designated by the same word symbol. The historic Christian faith is not a leap of faith in the post-Kierkegaardian sense because "he is not silent," and I am invited to ask the sufficeient questions in regard to details but also in regard to the existence of the universe and its complexity and in regard to the existence of man. I am invited to ask the sufficient questions and then believe him and bow before him metaphysically in knowing that I exist because he made man, and bow before him morally as needing his provision for me in the substitutionary, propitiatory death of Christ.[4]

One final point that I must make: I am a Reformed Christian. Being Reformed, I do not believe that people come to have faith in Christ as Lord and in the Bible as the Word of God because of superior intellectual arguments, clever philosophical syllogisms or historical proofs (although God can and certainly does move through these things). Because of the depravity that exists within every human heart, the only thing that can truly convince the unbeliever to believe is the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, since "no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3), and "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).

So, to the unbeliever who reads this, whether you are an Atheist, a Muslim, a Jew or whatnot, I pray that the Holy Spirit may move your heart to consider these things carefully, and press upon you the truthfulness of God's Word.

End Notes
  1. Greenleaf, Simon. The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by The Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1965. pp. 28-30.
  2. Ibid, p. 46.
  3. Westcott, B.F. The Gospel of the Resurrection. London: Macmillan, 1868. pp. 4-6.
  4. Schaeffer, Francis August. He Is There and He Is Not Silent. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1972. pp. 99-100.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brief Dialogue With a King James Onlyist

I don't want to deal with King James Onlyists. I really don't. I avoid that topic like wildfire because of how inane and close-minded many advocates of King James Onlyism are. Unfortunately, you do sometimes have to inevitably deal with them. Recently, I was debating the reliability of the bible with some Muslims, and one particular Christian chimed in and commented on one of my Muslim opponents' use of the NIV for his prooftexts. What she said was rather disturbing for me, as rather than correcting the Muslim's misuse of scripture, she instead chose to attack his choice of translation,

If you quote from the n.i.v which is a perversion of the bible not the bible thats not a fact. read the king james bible 1611 not some new age garbage book that calls it self a bible

the niv had homosexual translators on its committee like virginia molencott and was done by people who did not even trust God' is perfect it was also unnecessary since we already have an english bible I.E. the K.J.V

At this point, I had to chime in:

Stop dealing with tangents regarding English translations and stick to the main topic!

And she replied back to me,

it absolutely matters about the translation if one has no errors and the other does which one is the genuine article and which one is a counterfeit? If you use the counterfeit to prove an argument how can one debate when the whole premise is the bible is man made? if i made my own science book that was riddled with errors and then someone said science is wrong based on my error prone book who could argue?

Of course, the idea of a translation having "no errors" is patently absurd. Every English translation is imperfect, even the King James Version (although she would of course deny this). If there was a single English translation of the bible that was perfect, then studying the Greek and Hebrew text of the bible would be unnecessary. Thus I replied,

There's no perfect translation. There's a reason why studying Greek and Hebrew to determine the best way to translate any given passage is necessary, you know.

Of course, her only response to this was to malign the New International Version even further:

in the niv it says elkana killed goliath in the king james it says that elkana killed the brother of goliath david killed goliath so greek hebrew or not we have two storys one is fact one is not

At this point, we took the discussion to PM. I could not let her continue making her inane KJV-Only rant in public for fear that it would only give the Muslims even more ammunition to use in discrediting the bible. I thus PMed her:

Like I said, no translation is absolutely perfect. Some translations will get it right and others screw up. The fact that the KJV got it right in this case doesn't make up for the fact that the KJV gets it wrong elsewhere: For example, the ιησους in Hebrews 4:8 is obviously referring to Joshua, but the KJV translators goofed up and said it was Jesus. Well we know for a fact that Jesus gives us rest (cf. Matthew 11:28), so going with the KJV rendering would give us an unnecessary contradiction at this point.

There is an excellent book on this issue called "The King James Only Controversy: Can We Trust Modern Translations?" by Dr. James R. White. If you have time, do get it.

What follows is a rant about the brilliance of the KJV and its translators and an attack on the translators of modern bible versions. My rebuttal to her comments are included in between her statements:

your wrong all they did was transliterate the word joshua which in greek is jesus isoos=ιησους this is not an error the king james translators new it is joshua a transliteration is not an error look at the word jehovah and in the n.t saboath both transliterations

Of course we both know that Jesus and Joshua are the same name in Greek, which is ιησους. However, the reason why we translate it as two different names is precisely so that we can distinguish one person from another, and rendering Hebrews 4:2 as Jesus just invites misunderstanding for those who don't know the Greek text.

the kjv was translated by between 55 and 60 men all of which were more qualified than the modern day pseudo scholars which are all textual critics and none bible believers...

Umm... I don't know how to break this to you, but those men were working on a limited number of manuscripts dating to around the middle ages and later. I don't doubt that they were masters of the languages, but if you're using inferior manuscripts, then you'd basically be producing a high quality translation of a low quality text.

Also, I know many conservative bible believing Christians who were/are involved with modern day bible Translations as editors and consultants. D.A. Carson, Bruce Metzger, Gordon Fee, James White, etc. I don't think you can accuse those people of not being bible believers (unless you already decided in advance that the KJV = The Word of God). well they used a text called the wesscot and hort Greek text which was not one text but a picking and choosing of 5 or six text to form a completely new text. that never existed in history. wescott and hort deified themselves giving themselves authority to change what ever they "deemed" as correct. the men behind the kjv were believers who thought that they would be punished by God if they changed even one iota of scripture. some of those men had mastered up too 15 languages. i speak four languages but i'v mastered none. William Tyndale who spoke six languages so well no one could decipher which one was his mother tongue. It never ceases to amaze me how people can come along with some book written by one man and use it to correct the 55 to 60 of the greatest intellects of their time.

Uhh... Westcott and Hort started the production of what is now known as the critical text, but it didn't end there. What most bible translations use today is known as the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition Greek New Testament, which is produced by taking all our earliest and best-attested manuscripts and deriving the original reading from those.

If you wish I can also show you where my old spanish bible agrees with the kjv 100% of the time yet the modern spanish disagrees in the exact same places. coincidence? I think not.

That'd be no surprise if your modern Spanish bible is relying on the same critical text I just mentioned whereas your older bible (Which I presume to be the 1919 [slight mistake here on my part, it's actually 1909] Reina Valera, correct me if I'm wrong) is based on the same late manuscripts that the KJV (and NKJV, by the way) was based upon.

By the way, I love reading from the King James Version. I love the poetic feel of all those thees and thous. I just wouldn't advise using it in an indepth bible study because of some of the archaisms and uncritical acceptance of later readings. For bible study, I would suggest a more up to date translation such as the New American Standard Bible or the English Standard Version (both of which are translated by godly, bible-believing men).

See this powerpoint presentation regarding all the textual issues pertaining to the King James Version and modern Bible translations.

Also see this article on the history of Erasmus of Rotterdam (whose publication of the Greek New Testament paved the way for what would eventually become the Textus receptus):

I hoped that maybe at this point we could enter into a reasonable discussion of the history of English translations of the bible, plus the vital textual critical issues involved. However, when King James Onlyism has poisoned your mind, you become immune to all forms of rational thought. What followed my rebuttal to her assertions was this rather lengthy and inane rant:

Inferior text according to you and textual critics. yes nestle aland and more eclectic manuscript. by what authority and with what manner did they choose good from bad under what basis was a choice made? the textus receptus or received text is a far superior as well as historical text. erasmus did not make the textus receptus he translated the old latin-vidus latina= into greek. thousands of t.r manuscripts were in existence apart from the Erasmus translation by the way the old latin; not the vulgate but the vidus latina agrees 100% WITH the t.r. and that was translated in the first century. never in the history of the churches did the hodge podge of nestle-aland exist so what you and the modern doubters are saying is that there was no valid text until wescot, aland and the other critics came along they base all their arguments on the so called original manuscripts which they have yet to show anyone. so they say if its older its better. how would they know its better what do they have to compare it to? the original meaning? who died and made them God? by the way just because people cant understand the kjv doesn't make it erroneous.

1Co 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

the holy spirit is the only way to understand the bible not your intellect-- Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

as far as those men I would consider them liberals most fundamentalist wouldn't I'm a bible believer not a fundamentalist as far as that term is used.

I dont believe in a universal church or para church ministries so why would i go to those who have false doctrine to use as a valid source. I did not just read some book some guy wrote i read greek and hebrew i dont need some theologian to tell me what it means or what it meant I have the holy spirit And God manifest his word through preaching in his local churches not in Christendom. I am not referring to the 1909rv. the reina valera gomez 1909 and the 1543 enzinas which are exactly the same are the ones I have. if you study the byzantine empire you will find that thousands of manuscripts came out of there that had nothing to do with erasmus yet funny they did agree with his translation far more than the critical text which used manuscripts that were easier to find contradictions in than similarity. You have been misled

I never replied back to this person. I figured that there's simply no point in doing so. Besides, I have more important things to do...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Clarifying Reformed Theology (Part 6)

Unlike previous parts of the Clarifying Reformed Theology series, I am going to be responding to a different individual this time around. This time, it is Eric Giunta, the same Roman Catholic I previously debated over the nature of authority. I will continue dialoguing with Jamie after I answer this fellow's points regarding the Reformed position.

Predestinationism is foreign to the thought of St Augustine, as he himself had to clarify on more than one occasion.

I suppose that is the reason why Augustine of Hippo wrote an entire treatise on the subject, eh? I could quote to you Augustine's entire Treatise On the Predestination of the Saints, but let me just give you a few brief excerpts that sum up how we view divine Election:

I carried out my reasoning to the point of saying: 'God did not therefore choose the works of any one in foreknowledge of what He Himself would give them, but he chose the faith, in the foreknowledge that He would choose that very person whom He foreknew would believe on Him,—to whom He would give the Holy Spirit, so that by doing good works he might obtain eternal life also.' I had not yet very carefully sought, nor had I as yet found, what is the nature of the election of grace, of which the apostle says, 'A remnant are saved according to the election of grace.' [Rom. 11.5.] Which assuredly is not grace if any merits precede it; lest what is now given, not according to grace, but according to debt, be rather paid to merits than freely given.
(Augustine. On the Predestination of the Saints. Ch. 7.)

Because a man, puffed up against another, might say, "My faith makes me to differ,'' or "My righteousness," or anything else of the kind. In reply to such notions, the good teacher says, "But what hast thou that thou hast not received?" And from whom but from Him who maketh thee to differ from another, on whom He bestowed not what He bestowed on thee? "Now if," says he, "thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou receivedst it not?" Is he concerned, I ask, about anything else save that he who glorieth should glory in the Lord? But nothing is so opposed to this feeling as for any one to glory concerning his own merits in such a way as if he himself had made them for himself, and not the grace of God,—a grace, however, which makes the good to differ from the wicked, and is not common to the good and the wicked. Let the grace, therefore, whereby we are living and reasonable creatures, and are distinguished from cattle, be attributed to nature; let that grace also by which, among men themselves, the handsome are made to differ from the ill-formed, or the intelligent from the stupid, or anything of that kind, be ascribed to nature.
(Augustine. On the Predestination of the Saints. Ch. 10.)

It would be too tedious to argue about the several points. But you see without doubt, you see with what evidence of apostolic declaration this grace is defended, in opposition to which human merits are set up, as if man should first give something for it to be recompensed to him again. Therefore God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, predestinating us to the adoption of children, not because we were going to be of ourselves holy and immaculate, but He chose and predestinated us that we might be so. Moreover, He did this according to the good pleasure of His will, so that nobody might glory concerning his own will, but about God's will towards himself. He did this according to the riches of His grace, according to His good-will, which He purposed in His beloved Son, in whom we have obtained a share, being predestinated according to the purpose, not ours, but His, who worketh all things to such an extent as that He worketh in us to will also. Moreover, He worketh according to the counsel of His will, that we may be to the praise of His glory. [Phil. 2.13.] For this reason it is that we cry that no one should glory in man, and, thus, not in himself; but whoever glorieth let him glory in the Lord, that he may be for the praise of His glory. Because He Himself worketh according to His purpose that we may be to the praise of His glory, and, of course, holy and immaculate, for which purpose He called us, predestinating us before the foundation of the world. Out of this, His purpose, is that special calling of the elect for whom He co-worketh with all things for good, because they are called according to His purpose, and "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." [Rom. 11.29.]
(Augustine. On the Predestination of the Saints. Ch. 37.)

Well aren't these exactly the kinds of things we who are Reformed Protestants would say? To say that we are innovating anything is pretty absurd at this point, given that Augustine and other church fathers made the exact same points long before us.

This was an issue he grappled with, but even he didn't think to set his private interpretations and exegesis against the teaching of God's Church, as Calvin did.

In reply to this, I again quote the great saint:

Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, but the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.

Also, what we contend is that these teachings that we proclaim are nothing new. What we espouse as the doctrines of grace were known even during the days of the early church. If you don't believe me, here is the proof.

And finally, we could get into an extended debate about what Augustine actually believed as Church teaching (Hint: He disagreed with quite a few things that Rome today regards as dogma), but that is to be the topic of another discussion. For now, our focus is on Divine Predestination.

The distinctions between God's active and His permissive wills also seems to elude you. God allowed the Romans to do as they did, He did not force them to.

Actually I spend a good deal of my discussions distinguishing between preceptive and decretive (those are the terms we prefer to use) wills, not to mention the role of secondary causes in bringing about what God has ordained to come to pass. It's too bad you didn't read my previous blog posts like I asked you to, because I dealt with these points at length when I was replying to my Wesleyan-Arminian friend, Jamie.

Now, I generally dislike repeating myself, but for the sake of understanding, let me repost some of the relevant passages that I wrote in previous parts of this series:

It must be said at the outset difference between ordaining something and causing something to take place. To illustrate this, just think of gravity. In order for a rock to move upward, I have to lift it up with my hand. In order for it to fall, however, I don't have to hurl the rock down towards the ground. I need only to let go of the rock and let gravity do its thing. The same can be said about sin. He does not cause anybody to sin or disbelieve in Him. Rather, He ordains these things in the sense that He makes use of our natural inclination to sin in order to bring about His own ends and purposes. In fact, it can be said that God by His grace actually restrains us from doing as much evil as we would otherwise do (the upshot of this is that whenever God hardens somebody's heart, He is actually loosening His grip of common grace upon that person so that their sin nature takes greater control). Look back at Joseph and his brothers. They were actually planning to kill their younger brother, yet God by His gracious providence worked in the heart of Reuben and made it so that they would just sell him into slavery instead (cf. Genesis 37:12ff).

Finally, regardless of God's sovereignty over all events, He still holds men accountable for what they will to do. This is why Judas can still be condemned as a “son of perdition” even though he did what he had to do in order for scripture to be fulfilled (cf. John 17:12). This is also why Jesus could say that the soldiers who crucified Him had sinned and needed to be forgiven even though their actions were a part of God’s foreordained plan (cf. Luke 23:34).
(From Clarifying Reformed Theology, Part 1)

Also, we never said God forces anybody to do anything. As I made abundantly clear, God makes use of men's own depravity (or as you Roman Catholics like to call it, concupiscence), to get them to willingly do what He has ordained for them to do. It's not like God is zapping the soldiers with the desire to sin or anything. Their natural sin nature (cf. Genesis 6:5, 8:21, Psalm 14:2-3, 51:5, 58:3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10-12, 8:5-8, etc.) takes care of that.

And He prevents nobody from coming to Him, but merely allows human nature to run its course when sinful men reject Him Calvin himself stated this when he said,

Therefore, forasmuch as no man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men; neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.
(Calvin, John. Commentary on Acts 2:14-21.)

He sets the door wide open for everybody who is willing to come to Christ. The only thing that prevents people from believing is their own sinful nature. Left to our own devices, we will choose to reject God. Every time. More than that, the very strawman that you accuse Calvinists of believing in was condemned by Calvin as a construct invented by unbelieving heathens:

...this fault they [the heathens] add... that when they do think of God it is against their will; never approaching him without being dragged into his presence, and when there, instead of the voluntary fear flowing from reverence of the divine majesty, feeling only that forced and servile fear which divine Judgment extorts Judgment which, from the impossibility of escape, they are compelled to dread, but which, while they dread, they at the same time also hate.
(Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. I:4:4.)

Another obvious case study that I didn't bring up during my blog post series was Pharaoh. Scripture tells us first that God hardens his heart, and that Pharaoh hardens his own heart afterwards. How is this so? Well, God withdraws His common grace which is what enables Pharaoh to act good, and then Pharaoh's own sin nature takes over from there. Basically, God "lets Pharaoh be Pharaoh," as one good friend of mine put it. Why does God ordain this?

As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.
(Exodus 14:17-18, cf. Romans 9:17)

That is your answer. :-)

Also, the question I asked is one of logic. Scriptural exegesis is irrelevant. If the Scriptures ever did teach something illogical of God, they'd be exposed for literary straw.

Only a Roman Catholic would ever dare to say "scriptural exegesis is irrelevant." :-)

It's funny given that these same scriptures tell us:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

"I will destroy the wisdom ofthe wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
(1 Corinthians 1:18-20, NIV, cf. Isaiah 29:14)

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments... See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
(Colossians 2:4-8, NIV)

If you won't listen to the Word of God, however, then listen to what the early church fathers had to say:

Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone.
(Theodoret of Cyrus. Eranistes. Ch. 1.)

But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves...
(Clement of Alexandria. The Stromata. XII:16.)

In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scriptures.
(Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechetical Lectures. 4:17.)

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.
(Hippolytus. Against Noetus. Ch. 9.)

So, if you want to debate this topic any further, let's debate it using scriptural exegesis. If you have any argument against the Reformed position which I have presented in these blog posts, present your arguments from the Word of God. :-)

Grace and Peace.


Footage of the Dearborn Arrests

Recently, the footage of the Dearborn arrests had come out, and... what can I say? It's just utterly disgusting what the police did. Especially with Negeen. I don't know about the rest of you, but only an animal would act the way the police acted towards her (touching her when she pleaded not to, forcing her to strip down to her tank top and making crude sexual comments towards her). I'm just appalled, and I take this very seriously. Not only that, but they apparently also arrested her before arresting the other three so that she wouldn't be able to take photos of the others getting arrested.

Well, for those who want to see the videos, here they are:

May the Lord vindicate these four brave brothers and sister in Christ and bring those ruthless police officers (not to mention the lying, corrupt city mayor) to justice.

Further Reading

Friday, July 16, 2010

Briefly Explaining the Trinity

During the early phase of writing and preparing my article on the deity of Christ, I had a dialogue with a Muslim regarding some of the passages I discussed in chapter one. When we came to John 1:1, he asked me a question that went somewhere along these lines: “If the word is with God and the word is God, then doesn’t that mean God is with God?” Unfortunately, this kind of misunderstanding leads to all sorts of strawman arguments against Trinitarian beliefs. They will quote, for example, the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 which goes, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

Many Christians will respond by saying that God is one, but He is three-in-one. Unfortunately, this just leads to even more confusion on the part of those who do not understand Trinitarian theology (and unfortunately, the Christian making this response probably does not understand it himself/herself either), especially since it is usually not explained in what sense God is three-in-one. Thus, it is necessary to give a brief explanation of what we actually believe regarding the Trinity.

Perhaps the most concise and accurate definition of the Trinity that I can think of is the one provided by Dr. James White in The Forgotten Trinity. It goes something like this: Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

There, we see what it means when Christians say that God is three-in-one. Actually, there are two Greek words that all Christians (and non-Christians who wish to understand what biblical Christianity teaches) need to know. The first word is ousia, and this is the word which we translate as being, essence or substance. This is the word that is used in the Nicene Creed when we say that Jesus Christ is “of one being [homoousion] with the Father.” The second Greek word is the word hypostasis, which is generally translated as person. Thus, when we say that the Word was with God and is God, what we mean to say is that within the one ousia of God, there are three hypostases that have eternally been together. So when we say that the Word was with God and was God. There are various places in the Old Testament wherein God is presented as being multi-personal, such as Genesis 19:24 and Zechariah 2:8-11. In these passages, Yahweh interacts with Yahweh (a strange thing to behold if He was Unitarian in nature). In addition, this doctrine is encapsulated in the Trinitarian formula that appears in these passages:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
(Matthew 28:19, ESV)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14, ESV)

...according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood...
(1 Peter 1:2, ESV)

Please note that merely quoting these verses in and of itself does not prove the Trinity. Now, I believe that these passages do support Trinitarian theology, but that careful exegesis of these verses must be done first, which I do not have the space to do here. In any case, I already wrote a solid defense for an orthodox Trinitarian view of God in my previous posts. In summary, remember that there are three foundations of Trinitarian theology that must always be kept in mind, and that denial of any one of these three foundations results in a heretical viewpoint that is no longer biblical Christianity. These three foundations are:

1. Monotheism, that there is only one God (denial of this foundation leads to Polytheism).

2. There are three Divine persons (denial of this foundation leads to Modalism or Sabellianism).

3. The three Divine persons are coequal and coeternal (denial of this foundation leads to Subordinationism or Arianism).