Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
It Was Only a Matter of Time...
10/31/2005 - James WhiteI hope the few folks left in sound evangelical churches who might be tempted to in any way listen to or utilize any materials produced by Paul Owen, will read his latest musings here. Note his consistent use of "expiate" instead of "propitiate," the sure sign of heterodoxy and a collapse on the central aspects of the faith. Owen's self-destruction is complete. Watch for a move into a realm allowing much wider latitude in theology in the near future. And I wonder how far the lesser-lights of rCism will follow their patron scholar?
Quick Note From the LA Area
10/29/2005 - James WhiteGreetings from Ontario, California. I will be speaking here tomorrow and then getting back to Phoenix Monday and staying there for all of November, DV. Doesn't mean I'll ever catch up, but a month away from airports will be a true blessing.
I do not regularly look at Robert Sungenis' website, but I saw a reference to it in Karl Keating's e-letter, and just found this article posted there. If the cited e-mail is authentic (it surely looks like it is), Matatics has taken the logic of Rome's position to its ultimate conclusion: and in so doing, proved that his conversion was an error. If following Rome's claims to their logical conclusion results in your rejection of the current Roman Church, then the arguments Gerry used for years to substantiate his conversion are proven wrong, are they not? It would surely seem so. In any case, there would be much benefit in pointing out the inherent self-contradiction in the response offered as well, given the odd positions Sungenis espouses, but time does not allow for such luxuries while traveling. It will be interesting to read Matatics' "manifesto" if he ever gets around to posting it. But do not hold your breath! Gerry claimed his book for Tan Book Publishers was coming out in the early 1990s, and it is still nowhere to be seen.
Back to the Da Vinci Code on Monday, Lord willing...and finishing up the Shabir Ally debate on Tuesday on the DL. Oh, and btw...one other note. To the followers of Nadir Ahmed who are sending inane e-mails about how I am "afraid" of Nadir
Ahmed---please, stop wasting your time. Internet bullies bore me. When you come up with something meaningful to say, let me know. Start by explaining the error I pointed out in his comments in his debate with Sam Shamoun. Start with something other than acting like playground thugs. You really shame your cause with such behavior.
Greetings from Brandon
10/28/2005 - James WhiteJust a quick note as I prepare to speak again this afternoon at the Brandon Biblical Theology Conference. I am speaking along with Tom Ascol and George Zemek on Reformation themes. Today I will be speaking on salvation through Christ alone and doing a general Q&A session before heading home this evening and then heading over to the LA area tomorrow afternoon. It's been a real blessing so far to meet with fellow believers here in the Brandon area.
The Da Vinci Code (Part III)
10/26/2005 - James WhiteAfter mentioning Constantine, Teabing goes on to insist he remained a pagan his entire life. While that could be argued, at least at this point you do have disagreements amongst historians as to the exact state of Constantine's religion. He then continues, insisting that “Christians and pagans began warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it threatened to rend Rome in two.” I don't believe the Christians can be blamed for warring with pagans as much as the infighting within the church itself was at issue. Be that as it may, Constantine clearly saw the conflict arising out of the Arian controversy as a threat to the peace he so desperately needed to keep the Empire united. But Brown can't give us the truth about the real reasons for the Council of Nicea. Why? Because he is going to tell us that Constantine made up the deity of Christ at this point in time. Yet, the disagreement was over that very issue! If Constantine made up the concept, and no one prior to Nicea believed in the deity of Christ, there couldn't have been a controversy over the idea! So Brown is forced to ignore the actual historical reasons for the calling of the Council of Nicea so as to “fit” the event with his theories.
Teabing goes on to naively assert that in AD 325 Constantine just up and decided to bet on Christianity as the future religion of the Empire. He forgets to mention that in reality Constantine showed himself to be the consumate politician indeed: but in a fashion that completely contradicts his thesis. Specifically, the Council of Nicea did not end the controversy that had been brewing for years beforehand due to the conflict between Arius and Alexander of Alexandria over the deity of Christ: in fact, even after Constantine's death, Arianism reigned supreme in the external, visible church. If it had been Constantine's purpose to use the deity of Christ as his anti-feminine trump card, he failed, miserably, to follow through on his plans. He only cared about keeping the peace: if that was through enforcing Nicea, or a later council, it didn't matter much to him.
Beyond this, Brown seems ignorant of the fact that Nicea took place a scant dozen years after the “peace of the church,” the official ending of imperial persecution of Christianity itself. I have always found it amazing that people would think that the very men who had suffered so much for so long under the heel of Rome, refusing to deny their faith, would, a scant decade later, collapse in disarray in allowing the Emperor to determine the heart of their own faith. Brown's theory is simply laughable at this point: he will, as we will see, actually assert that up until this point in time no one actually believed in the deity of Christ. Constantine foisted it upon the church out of whole cloth, and we are actually supposed to believe that they went along, though Brown again causes the historically aware to laugh hysterically at his assertion that the vote on the matter at Nicea was “close.”
Don't be fooled: the Constantinian era is, in fact, a turning point in Christian history, but not for the reasons Brown alleges. He can mix in just a small amount of truth with a huge dose of utter foolishness to create his story. He notes that various pagan symbols entered into the faith during the same time period, and you can certainly make a case that the period during which the church went from persecuted minority to “religion of the Empire” was one during which many unbelievers entered into the formal membership of the church and they brought their baggage with them. But to assume this was purposeful on Constantine's part once again begs both the question and the historical sources. The fact of the matter is, Constantine simply did not have the kind of power that would have been required to do even 1/10th of everything Brown, via his characters, alleges.
Today on the Dividing Line
10/25/2005 - James WhiteThough at an odd time, we packed the hour with more reviews of Islamic debates...continuing the Shabir Ally debate, but also looking at some others Sam Shamoun has done that truly make you wonder. Listen in!
Headed to Tampa: South Mountain Trek
10/25/2005 - James WhiteI've lived in Phoenix for over thirty years, and ridden over 31,000 miles around the state on a bicycle, but until last Wednesday, I had never ridden in South Mountain Park. No, I do not know why. Anyway, last Wednesday I rode up to the top of South Mountain and truly enjoyed the effort. It is only seven miles from the start, but you climb over 1200 feet in the process. I love climbing (not so much descending), so I really enjoyed the ride. Since I'm headed out tomorrow and will be missing most of my riding for the rest of the week, I decided to make the most of my last day at home for a while and headed back to South Mountain, this time to ride to the top not once, but twice. I was smiling the first time up, not so much the second, as you can see. But it was a gorgeous morning, and I managed to get in 28.1 miles with 2760 feet of ascent (over half a mile!). A great blessing to have the health to be able to do that, to be sure.
Headed to Tampa in the morning for the Brandon Conference, and then off to LA on Saturday. Hope to see many of you who live in those areas (though, given the trans-continental weekend I have coming up, I doubt I'll see anyone at both events!).
Change in the Dividing Line Time Tomorrow
10/24/2005 - James WhiteTomorrow we will move the DL from 2pm EDT to 7pm EDT. I'm heading to Tampa on Wednesday, speaking Thursday and Friday in Brandon, flying red-eye back, and then flying to Southern California for a big Reformed Baptist gathering on the Lord's Day in celebration of the Reformation. I'll be speaking about six times over the course of this trip on Reformation themes. Anyway, I have one last shot to get a grueling ride in, and that's tomorrow morning, so...we are going to give me enough time to get it done without feeling rushed. Besides, there won't be a Thursday edition.
We will be continuing the Shabir Ally debate. I was listening this morning to some other debates Sam did against other Islamic apologists on PalTalk, and I must confess...they all made Shabir Ally look very, very good, comparatively. One of his opponents, named Osama, tried to argue that Mohammed is predicted in Isaiah 42. Let's see if you can find the reference:
Isaiah 42:10-12 10 Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them. 11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices, The settlements where Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing aloud, Let them shout for joy from the tops of the mountains. 12 Let them give glory to the LORD And declare His praise in the coastlands.
Don't feel badly if you can't find it---it is so utterly fallacious it is hard to imagine anyone ever thought it up. Isaiah 42:11 refers to Kedar. This Islamic apologist argued that Kedar was one of Ishmael's sons (Gen. 25:13), and since Jesus only went to Egypt and back to Palestine, then this can't be about Jesus, it must be about Mohammed! He insultingly said Jesus fled Egypt "like a rat," seemingly ignorant of the fact that the Lord was an infant at the time. In any case, look at the context and see that there is nothing about the Messiah going to Kedar: the passage is like so many others indicating that the good news of what Yahweh did for Israel would be heralded outside the borders of Israel itself. Such horrific eisegesis demonstrates how vacuous and empty are Islam's attempts to find Mohammed in the Christian Scriptures.
The Da Vinci Code Part II
10/24/2005 - James WhiteUpon announcing his sweeping attack upon the validity of the Bible, Brown continues his work through the dialogue of his characters. Sophie's in-depth response, “Okay,” then leads to these claims by Teabing:
"Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land….More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.
“Who chose which gospels to include?” Sophie asked.
“Aha!” Teabing burst in with enthusiasm. “The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great.” (231)
This is quite the mixture of claims, some of which are not overly consistent with others, and this gives us a possible “hook” in talking to devotees of the book and opening up a dialogue on the errors and inconsistencies of Brown's position. Brown says Jesus was the promised Messiah. That would mean the Old Testament, at the very least, contains valid prophecy, divine prediction of future events, and that Christ fulfilled those prophecies. Well, obviously, if the Old Testament is accurate enough, “inspired” enough, to contain true prophecy, then would it not follow that God could protect the New Testament as well? Once Brown opens the door on that level, we might as well step through and begin to press the same claims that the Lord taught us to use:
And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
10/21/2005 - James WhiteOK, I confess. This disgusts me. It offends me. I sit here wondering what on earth will be next. This is the utter prostitution of the text of Scripture, all in the name of money. What is it? A new publication from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Here's the link so you can see it up close. Click on the "See Larger Photo" link and read the incredible cover for yourself. Can you imagine putting on the front of a "New Testament" ">>Sexcess: Success with the Opposite Sex!" Aside from using a children's version, I am simply offended that God's Holy Word, this awesome gift of grace that should cause us all to bow in reverence that God would deem it proper to communicate with us in such a manner as to give us light and direction and comfort, could be treated in such a shameful fashion. Shame on Thomas Nelson. What will we be subjected to next?
The Da Vinci Code Part I
10/21/2005 - James WhiteThe Da Vinci Code (hereafter TDVC) is not one big long attack upon the Christian faith. In fact, if you fall asleep for about ten minutes in the film...ok, and run to the bathroom a little later for another couple of minutes...you'll probably miss the main objectionable portions. But more problematic, from an evangelism/apologetics viewpoint is just this: the anti-Christian material in the book is absolutely central to the plot; therefore, I can't possibly see how it can be "cleaned up" in the movie version, even if there was a reason for Ron Howard to do so. And since it is central to the theme, it is the main thing the reader, or the movie-goer, takes from the experience. "What if...?"
The primary section of the work in which this material is found comes as Langdon and Sophie are running from the police, bearing the cryptex, the key to the location of the Holy Grail. They go to Leigh Teabing's residence. Teabing is an eccentric old man, an expert on the Grail legends, and far more involved in the entire story than Langdon and Sophie know. In any case, they enter into Teabing's library and there educate Sophie, who we later find out is actually a descendant of Mary Magdalene and hence of the "royal bloodline," about the "true nature" of the Holy Grail. The fundamental nature of the book's attack upon the Christian faith can be seen when Teabing and Langdon begin weaving their conspiracy theory:
Sophie sensed a rising air of academic anticipation now in both of her male companions.Teabing produces quotes from da Vinci, "Many have made a trade of delusions and false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitude" and "Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!" (231), informing Sophie that da Vinci was talking about the Bible. He continues,
"To fully understand the Grail," Teabing continued, "we must first understand the Bible. How well do you know the New Testament?" (230)
"And everything you need to know about the Bible can be summed up by the great canon doctor Martyn Percy." Teabing cleared his throat and declared, "The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven."...
"I beg your pardon?"
"The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book. (231)
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Today on the DL
10/20/2005 - James WhiteContinued the Sam Shamoun vs. Shabir Ally debate today, and even heard Shabir argue that Revelation 14 informs us that women will not enter into paradise! You have to hear it to believe it. "When Bad Jehovah's Witness Arguments Get Picked Up by Muslim Apologists." Sounds like a bad B movie, the stuff of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Anyway, here's the program.
First Objection: It's Fiction, Dummy
10/20/2005 - James WhiteVery shortly after posting the previous article the following e-mail was sent through our website:
Someone at Alpha and Omega ministries might like to encourage James White to point out at the beginning of his blog that The Da Vinci Code is marketed as a fictional story. Fiction defined as: a making up of imaginary happenings. He should point out that there is no need for any defense except to point out the fact that the author himself has marketed the work as not true. There is no need to argue with an author who never claimed to be telling the truth in the first place. It is a movie made for entertainment value and nothing more. Such a story is meant to be enjoyed, not critiqued. The arguments made in this book should not be addressed unless they are common arguments found in more serious venues. Because of this there is no need to badmouth the book itself, but it may be helpful to address its fictional claims if it serves to educate others.
Are we making a mountain out of a mole-hill? Should we just laugh at the The Da Vinci Code, enjoy the story, and ignore the statements it makes about the Scriptures, Christ, the apostles, the Church, etc.? Does this author have a point? ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Heads Up, Folks. It's Coming
10/20/2005 - James WhiteMay 19, 2006. That's when one of the most outrageous anti-Christian films we've ever seen will explode onto American movie screens. Powered by big stars (Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen) and Oscar winning director Ron Howard, the film adaptation of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code represents the investment of millions of dollars in spreading the clear message that the Bible "was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda-to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base" (234) all at the cost of the truth about the "divine feminine."
If you haven't read the book (unlike more than twenty million others), you may have only heard bits and pieces about its blatant attacks upon the Christian faith. I have had the opportunity of addressing the book in a number of contexts, and will continue doing so in an attempt to equip believers to respond to the onslaught. But I would like to document some of the major errors and the way in which they are presented by Dan Brown here on the blog. I encourage you to take this information and be prepared to use this opportunity to present a strong case for the Christian faith. Yes, you read that correctly. We need to see that attacks upon the faith are opportunities if we are prepared and if we are willing to count the cost and go against the cultural flow. We all know that nothing like this could ever be produced if the main target were, rather than the Bible and Christianity, the Quran and the Muslim faith, or Judaism. No, that would never be allowed, but Christianity is fair game at Sony Pictures, that's for certain. But since it is going to appear, we need to be ready to take advantage of it, and provide not only a strong denunciation of its errors, but a positive presentation of the truth of Scripture. And in doing so, we need to be willing to draw clear lines between those who call themselves Christians and yet are unwilling to view Scripture as Christ did, and ourselves.
Today on the DL...
10/18/2005 - James WhiteI forgot to provide the link to last Thursday's DL. Here it is. We continued the review of the Ally/Shamoun debate on that program, and today as well. Lots of interesting topics addressed. Here is today's program.
An Addition to Eric Svendsen's Refutation of Dr. Owen
10/18/2005 - James WhiteWhile I was away in Omaha I noted that Paul Owen had posted what honestly sounds to me like a slightly modified transcription of a Gerry Matatics lecture on the Immaculate Conception. Eventually one begins to get used to Owen's promotion of any kind of false teaching in the name of scholarship, but when you have refuted these arguments over and over again it is still frustrating to see them repeated.
There is no reason to repeat what Dr. Svendsen has said, for he has truly refuted Owen at each and every point, fully, and in a compelling fashion. Instead, since that duty has been dispatched with alacrity and skill, I would like to illustrate once again the eisegetical nature of Owen's claims. That is, Owen has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not, in fact, an exegete: he is a (very poor) theologian who forces, often in a very awkward fashion, his theological system into the text of Scripture. He has given us an excellent example of this in his current attempt to promote Roman Catholicism.
Luke 1:38 reads, "And Mary said, 'Behold, the bondslave of the Lord (h` dou,lh kuri,ou); may it be done to me (Latin: fiat mihi) according to your word.' And the angel departed from her." Outside of the huge edifice of theology built upon the fiat mihi phrase in this text by Roman theologians, Owen uses this text to substantiate his Roman reading of Mary's words to the angel, allegedly indicating a vow of celibacy. Dr. Svendsen has refuted his arguments at this point, but my desire is to point out the sources and methods Owen uses and how they differ from sound exegetical practice. This would help to explain his wildly inconsistent and incoherent theology.
Does the use of h` dou,lh kuri,ou at 1:38 indicate Mary had made some kind of vow of perpetual virginity, to be a "Temple Servant"? Owen musters a truly rag-tag group of arguments, but he doesn't even attempt to begin where sound exegesis begins: by looking at the lexical meaning of the term, and, especially, given the context, its Old Testament usage. The use of the phrase "servant of..." with a reference to deity, or, in direct address, "your servant," in both masculine and feminine forms, is exceptionally common in the LXX (for example, 1 Samuel 1:11 for the feminine form, Joshua 24:39 for the masculine singular, Deu. 32:36 for the plural). What is not found in the LXX, nor in the New Testament usage, for that matter, is the idea of the term meaning a dedicated temple servant who has made a vow of poverty. Now, Owen did say, in response to Svendsen, that the term is "ambiguous on its own." Actually, it is anything but ambiguous, and given the rich and full Old Testament context in which it can be placed, there is not the first reason, outside of those odd motivations that keep heretics busy looking for ways to draw disciples aside and ravage the flock, to look for any other meaning to the phrase. Mary places herself firmly in the tradition of the godly women of Israel, Yahweh's servants, in accepting His will for her life, despite the challenges she now knew would come with that act of faith. There is simply no reason in the context or the language to read anything else into the text and hence to obscure its true meaning. Despite the maddening insistence of many post-moderns, the text is not a pliable substance that allows for all sorts of contradictory meanings---Luke communicated in such a fashion as to make his meaning known. ...
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We Continue with the Shabir Ally vs. Sam Shamoun Debate Today
10/18/2005 - James WhiteWe continue reviewing the Ally vs. Shamoun debate today. I note we have a number of Muslims listening, for evidently, Sam has quite the fan club out there. Evidently, the Muslims have their own versions of Ruckman and Riplinger in their "apologetics" community. But, happy to have them listening. Maybe the Lord will be merciful and open some eyes to the glory of Christ. In any case, be listening at 2pm EDT.
As I Predicted...
10/16/2005 - James WhiteEric Svendsen has begun the process of demonstrating Owen's errors here and here.
Quick "Howdy" from Omaha
10/15/2005 - James WhiteJust a quick hello from Omaha. Finished the Bible Conference this morning, will be preaching all day tomorrow. After the Conference this morning some of the men from the church took me for a ride...literally. They were kind enough to rent me a 2005 Harley Road Glide motorcycle, and we rode around the Omaha area for a little over three hours. I had never ridden a Harley (I have an older model Yamaha Virago 1100), so it was an experience, to be sure. Here's a picture of the bike. I was quite nervous---the bike is really designed for someone with longer legs than mine, so I had to work a bit, but more so because I was riding a $20k machine and the last thing I wanted to do was lay it down in some gravel going around a corner somewhere! But that didn't happen, and we had a great time together.
I am aware that Paul Owen has once again proven that there is no bad theology he is not willing to pawn on folks, and though I'm sure Steve Hays and Eric Svendsen will probably beat me to the punch, I do intend to once again demonstrate that Owen is the quintessential wolf in sheep's clothing.
More Shabir Ally, Omaha, Johnson, Deadlines
10/13/2005 - James WhiteToday on the Dividing Line we will continue our review of Shabir Ally's opening statement and, if I refrain from preaching too much, should get to Sam Shamoun's first rebuttal. The DL airs at 7pm EDT, 4pm PDT.
Headed to Omaha tomorrow morning (details here). Looking forward to visiting with the brethren there in Omaha once again, but given the schedule, you may not find too much blogging taking place while I'm away.
Steve Hays has once again knocked one out of the park with his response to Kevin Johnson's "there's more than one way to see a text" repetition of Enloe-ish rhetoric and double-talk, and, as normal, he does it with a good dose of humor. It would be enjoyable to respond to Johnson's self-contradictory musings, but other duties call. Here's Hays' article.
Just finished an article for the RBTR on John Dominic Crossan's views; I have a book review for the RBTR due, well, basically a few days ago. I'm also getting a number of requests for materials on The Da Vinci Code, and I'm glad to see that, since May of 2006 is coming at us rather quickly. First project due is for TableTalk magazine, and then an article for my good friend Pastor Roger Brazier for publication in London, and I've begun those projects.
For those in Tampa and in LA, I will be speaking in the Tampa area at the Brandon Biblical Theology Conference the 27th and 28th and then in the LA area for a group of Reformed Baptist churches for Reformation Sunday. I will be speaking at the Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Ontario (directions here).
Today on the Dividing Line: Sam Shamoun vs. Shabir Ally, the Bible and the Qur'an
10/11/2005 - James WhiteDespite technical difficulties, we pressed on with the DL today, playing the opening sections of the 2000 debate between Christian apologist Sam Shamoun and Muslim apologist Shabir Ally, as noted in the previous blog entry. I began responding to claims made by Ally in the second half hour of the program. This series of DL's will take some time to complete, but I believe it will be well worth the effort. Click here to listen to the first installment.
Beginning a New Series on the Dividing Line
10/10/2005 - James WhiteI was riding northbound last Saturday morning listening to a debate which took place a few years ago between our good friend Sam Shamoun and Islamic apologist Shabir Ally. I have been collecting Ally's on-line materials of late, and had been horrendously frustrated at the men he has chosen to debate. Up until listening to Sam's debate, I simply hadn't heard anyone really take him on properly. Well, I truly enjoyed listening to the debate, and wanted to share the debate with the audience of The Dividing Line. But more than that, I wanted to respond to Ally's claims one by one, something even Sam didn't get to do, given the brief time constraints of the debate itself.
Ally likes to use liberal Christian writings (especially Jesus Seminar style materials) to attack the Christian faith while refusing, of course, to apply the standards used by those sources to the Qur'an and Islam itself. Sadly, few of those he debates are prepared to engage that kind of apologetic. At times as I listened I could almost translate Shabir's Arabic-tinged accent into John Dominic Crossan's Irish lilt, for the words, in many instances, were identical. He also likes to throw out statements about textual criticism that simply make one cringe. In any case, there were so many statements made by him on such a wide range of topics that I felt taking time on the DL to review and rebut them would provide us an opportunity to address a tremendously wide range of apologetic issues, from textual criticism to the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the gospel, etc. So we will be following the pattern we have established in reviewing anti-Calvinist sermons in examining Ally's claims.
If you would like to listen to the entire debate ahead of time to see where we will be going, they are available on line here.
Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#25)
10/10/2005 - James WhiteThe next variant in a noted by Bentley and repeated by Saifullah and Azmy is found by comparing Luke 15:19 with vs. 21. Bentley claims, "Now the delightful change in later manuscripts is that the son, himself so unexpectedly welcomed by his father, prudently omits to offer himself as a hired servant!" Delightful? In any case, there is a fair amount of evidence for the inclusion of the phrase in verse 21, however, once again Bentley shows his unfamiliarity with textual sources in that he says "later manuscripts...omit" the reading. Except that P75, which clearly pre-dates a, likewise does not contain the phrase in question. More probably you have a common textual variant here: same phraseology in both verses, and given the familiarity of a scribe with v. 19 and the inclusion of the phrase leads to its inclusion in v. 21; on the other hand, a good argument could be made that since the phrase in question ends in sou and the final phrase preceding it likewise ends in sou, a normal example of "similar endings" could be in play. In any case, we must again remind the reader: at least the Christian has the manuscript evidence to see the variation: how many of these existed in the pre-Uthmanian Qur'anic manuscripts which went up in flames?
At this point Bentley (whose track record so far has been pretty miserable) transitions into a brief discussion of Mark 16:9-20 relevant to the resurrection account. Specifically, after citing an encouraging statement from Tischendorf concerning Christian faith, our authors once again begin beating upon the "longer ending of Mark" drum. Though Mark 16 does proclaim the resurrection, since there is no post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, this, it seems, is a terrible blow to Christian belief (the assumption being, of course, that every gospel has to record the same details in the same fashion, a common error of anti-Christian polemicists, religious and non-religious alike). The idea that Mark may have had sufficient reasons unto himself to end where he did does not seem to cross the mind of zealous critics, nor do they seem to allow for the possibility that God is more than sufficiently in control of His creation, let alone the creation of His Scriptures, to make sure we get the message with more than enough repetition (the God who inspired Mark well knew about Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, 1 Corinthians, etc.). In any case, I have addressed the various endings of Mark in The King James Only Controversy. Suffice it to say, a is not alone in raising questions concerning the ending of the Gospel of Mark.
Amazingly, after all this time, we finally come to the end of the citation of Bentley on the part of Saifullah and Azmy. After working through his many less-than-factual statements and his general misunderstanding of textual issues, we are left with little basis upon which to accept S&A's smug statement, "Now that we know that the contents of Codex Sinaiticus are different from modern day Protestant Bibles, we have provided Campbell with good reasons to cry. His cornerstone for the historical proof of textual integrity of the Bible lies shattered before his own eyes when tangible and touchable evidences are presented. Unfortunately for him, emotionalism and sob-stories are not substantive proofs for the textual integrity of the Bible." Of course, S&A have done little more than plagiarize a poor source, and evidently lack the acumen to identify the problems in the materials they are using. One truly wonders if they accept any of the testimony regarding the early textual problems with the Qur'an? Or do they apply a completely different standard to the Qur'an than they apply to the Bible? It has been my experience that Islamic apologists do indeed utilize glaring double standards in this arena.
We will continue with our examination of Saifullah and Azmy's article, though our progress should speed up now that we are not dealing with the Bentley citation one variant at a time.
Final Thoughts on Paul Owen's Eisegetical Anti-Calvinism
10/08/2005 - James WhiteJohn 10 is another of the great soteriological passages in Scripture that has encouraged God's people down through the ages. The Good Shepherd, the perfect Savior who gives His life for His sheep, and who promises the unity of the Godhead itself as surety of the completion of that work---all these themes scream "sovereignty" and, in the constant battle against the pull of human nature to intrude itself upon the glory of God, form the foundation of "Calvinism." The intimate relationship between the "sheep" and the Shepherd is clearly in reference to the Savior and the saved, God and His elect. Just consider some of the clear teachings in John 10 regarding this fact: Jesus calls His sheep; they know His voice; they can differentiate between His voice and the voice of a charlatan; those sheep who go in and out by Him, the door, will be saved; He came that they, His sheep, would have life, and have it abundantly. He lays down His life "for," in behalf of, the sheep. He calls the sheep of his flock "His own." He knows His own, and the relationship is reciprocal: His own know Him. He speaks of gathering the Jews and Gentiles (His "other sheep") together into this one fold. Jesus said to Jews (Old Covenant members) that they were specifically not of His flock. His sheep, instead, in contrast to, the Jews, hear His voice; they follow Him, and He knows them. This is the group, then, to whom Jesus gives eternal life and all the promises of these words:
John 10:27-30 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 "I and the Father are one."Once again, simply allowing the text to speak and following the flow of the words and the thought communicates a clear and compelling truth---one Paul Owen misses yet again. Instead of deriving the identity of the sheep from the text and the fact that they are saved, they have intimate, reciprocal knowledge of Christ, eternal life, and will never be lost, Owen imports his own assumed meanings from Old Testament passages and his general theological system (something Calvin did not do in this text, I may note). The sheep become a mixed flock once again, the promises of Christ the Perfect Savior become general hopes and wishes, dependent, in their final analysis, upon "covenant works of faithfulness." The connections he draws to OT passages in Ezekiel may fascinate some: but when your erudition muddles the text and corrupts its message, you need to leave your erudition behind and get out of the way of the text of Scripture.
Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#24)
10/07/2005 - James WhiteI know, I know, I started this in December of 2004. I continue with my response to Saifullah & Azmy's article on the transmission of the text of the New Testament, focusing upon their almost plagiaristically long citation of Bentley's work on Sinaiticus (see the 23 previous installments for background details). Bentley writes,
It must not be supposed from these examples that Codex Sinaiticus invariably supports an 'unorthodox' view of Jesus. On the contrary, in the genealogy of Jesus given by St Matthew, for instance, Codex Sinaiticus is (unlike some other manuscripts) one that carefully supports the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus, ending the list of his ancestors with the words, 'Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ'.A quick glance at the textual data immediately reveals that while a with the vast majority of the textual tradition, the minor variations present in the text do not, in fact, contradict the doctrine of the virgin birth. Hence I confess to being a bit lost as to what Bentley is trying to insinuate, outside of the already documented error on his part of assuming a manuscript (especially one like a) can be said to "support" or "deny" a particular viewpoint. A particular reading may be said to "support" or "deny" only upon one's reading of the text and one's theology. In any case, the insinuation seems to be that a is purposefully "supporting" the doctrine of the virgin birth, as if the author of the manuscript was altering his text so as to communicate a particular theological belief. And surely if that is the accusation being made, the text of Matthew 1:16 in a is hardly a good place to attempt to base your case.
Often, too, the additions to the text which are found in later documents but not in Sinaiticus are merely harmless, and indeed sometimes positively useful additions. Two such examples may be cited from St John's Gospel. In chapter 4 a woman of Samaria is asked by Jesus for a drink. She answers 'How do you, a Jew, ask a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?' Later scribes add an explanation to the original authentic text: 'for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans'.
Similarly in chapter 5 of John's Gospel, Jesus comes across a great many sick persons lying by a pool. A later scribe has added an explanation not found in Codex Sinaiticus: 'for an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatever disease he had'. ...
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Today on the Dividing Line
10/06/2005 - James WhiteToday was pretty much an Open Phones program, and despite it being an hour early, we had plenty of callers to get through the entire hour. We tackled everything from the emergent church movement to Crossan to Dave Hunt to...to...yes, amazingly enough...eschatology! [gasps, shock] Here's the program.
Two Quick Notes
10/06/2005 - James WhiteFirst, many thanks to the more than a dozen folks who have sent me the link to the new book from the English Roman Catholic Church, The Gift of Scripture. I honestly don't know if I have ever received as many duplicate copies of the same URL in my life. Yes, I know about it, and am seeking to obtain it.
Secondly, www.straitgate.com is down. We do not know why. We have no control over it whatsoever, so please, do not e-mail bomb poor Rich about it: he's about to pull his hair out. We cannot tell you if and when it will return, etc.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled...stuff.
Time Change on the DL Today
10/06/2005 - James WhiteJust a quick note. Today is somebody's birthday (whose name will remain a secret), so we will be moving the DL up an hour so that somebody's wife can take him to dinner this evening (and no, it is not my birthday). So, instead of 7pm EDT, we will begin at 6pm EDT, 3pm PDT.
Calvin vs. (Paul) Owen
10/05/2005 - James WhiteWhile working on the next (and I think, for the moment, final) segment of my response to Paul Owen's stealth anti-Calvinism, I noted his referring his readers to Calvin's discussion of election in the Institutes. What I found ironic was that barely a few pages after the section he cited, we read these words, which are not only relevant to the previous portion (i.e., note that this Baptist sees Judas as Calvin did, while Owen the "real" Calvinist disagrees with Calvin) but to the final portion (on John 10) as well:
CHRIST’S WITNESS CONCERNING ELECTION
Now let the sovereign Judge and Master give utterance on the whole question. Detecting such great hardness in his listeners that he would be almost wasting words before the crowd, in order to overcome this hindrance he cries out: “All that the Father gives me will come to me” [John 6:37]. “For this is the will of the Father,... that whatever he has given me, I should lose nothing of it.” [<430639>John 6:39.] Note that the Father’s gift is the beginning of our reception into the surety and protection of Christ. Perhaps someone will here turn the argument around and object that only those who in faith have voluntarily yielded are considered to be the Father’s own. Yet Christ insists upon this point alone: even though the desertions of vast multitudes shake the whole world, God’s firm plan that election may never be shaken will be more stable than the very heavens. The elect are said to have been the Father’s before he gave them his only-begotten Son. They ask whether by nature. No, those who were strangers he makes his own by drawing them to him. Christ’s words are too clear to be covered up with any clouds of evasion. “No one,” he says, “can come to me unless the Father... draws him... Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” [John 6:44-45.] If all men in general bowed the knee before Christ, election would be general; now in the fewness of believers a manifest diversity appears. Therefore, after Christ declared that the disciples who were given him were the special possession of God the Father [John 17:6], a little later he adds: “I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine” [John 17:9 p.; see also John 15:19]. Whence it comes about that the whole world does not belong to its Creator except that grace rescues from God’s curse and wrath and eternal death a limited number who would otherwise perish. But the world itself is left to its own destruction, to which it has been destined. Meanwhile, although Christ interposes himself as mediator, he claims for himself, in common with the Father, the right to choose. “I am not speaking,” he says, “of all; I know whom I have chosen.” [John 13:18.] If anyone ask whence he has chosen them, he replies in another passage: “From the world” [John 15:19], which he excludes from his prayers when he commends his disciples to the Father [John 17:9]. This we must believe: when he declares that he knows whom he has chosen, he denotes in the human genus a particular species, distinguished not by the quality of its virtues but by heavenly decree.
From this we may infer that none excel by their own effort or diligence, seeing that Christ makes himself the Author of election. He elsewhere numbers Judas among the elect, although he “is a devil” [John 6:70]. This refers only to the office of apostle, which, even though it is a clear mirror of God’s favor, as Paul often acknowledges in his own person [e.g., Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 3:7], still does not contain in itself the hope of eternal salvation. Judas, then, could be worse than a devil, since he faithlessly discharged the office of apostle, but Christ does not allow any of those whom he has once for all engrafted into his body to perish [John 10:28]; for in preserving their salvation he will perform what he has promised—namely, he will show forth God’s power, which “is greater than all” [John 10:29]. For what he says elsewhere, “Father,... of those... whom thou hast given me none... is lost but the son of perdition” [John 17:11-12], even though the expression is misused, involves no ambiguity. To sum up: by free adoption God makes those whom he wills to be his sons; the intrinsic cause of this is in himself, for he is content with his own secret good pleasure. [3:22.7]
More on Anti-Calvinism from Paul Owen (V)
10/05/2005 - James WhiteI continue with what I hope is a helpful series exposing the anti-Reformed polemics of pseudo-Calvinist Paul Owen of Montreat College. We have seen how Owen has manhandled the text of John 6, ignoring its own context and flow, inserting a-contextual concepts here and there and coming up with his eisegetical conclusions. We move on to his next section on that favorite section of those who seek to insist that one can truly be in Christ, a disciple, joined to Him, truly "of" Him, and yet be lost and thrown away, John 15, and the parable of the vine. It surely should strike the careful reader as odd that clear didactic passages like John 6 can be so completely mishandled, as Owen has been shown to have done, while such "clarity" is derived from a parable. Let us hear what Dr. Owen has to say:
2. It may be helpful to make a few more comments about John 15:1-6. When Jesus identifies himself as the “true vine” in 15:1-2, he is identifying himself as the true Israel (Psalm 80; Isa. 5:1-7). When believers are incorporated into him they can said to be “in the vine” and so members of the new Israel. But there are different kinds of branches in the vine. There are fruitful branches, and branches without fruit. Any branch which lacks fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire (15:6). Now it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the failure to bear fruit proves that you were never actually “in” the vine. Any person who has seen a vine knows that it can have both kinds of branches. Not bearing fruit does not prove that you are not a branch, it proves that you are a branch in the vine which has died (and so does not bear fruit). This is the whole basis of Jesus’ warning–make sure that you do not become a dead branch which fails to produce fruit. If you do, you will be destroyed. Those who fail to “abide” in the vine will not produce fruit (15:4), and will be burned in the fire. Failing to abide in the vine leads to loss of life, which leads to failure to produce fruit, which leads to eternal destruction.Do not miss the agenda here: you can have life, and lose it. You must abide. I.e., the non-elect can have life and lose that life. Of course, one could ask, "Could a non-elect person abide?" And while a discussion of Augustine's views on this topic might be interesting, it has little to do with the reality of the the teaching of John 15.
I have provided my viewpoint on this text elsewhere. In commenting on Owen, we note the tendency to once again ignore the immediate context in favor of verbal allusions and the like (very popular in the academy). Jesus' point is not that He is the "true Israel" but that He is the source of all spiritual life and that apart from Him we can do absolutely nothing. Jesus' own application is lost in Owen's search for parabolic means of making the New Covenant a mixed covenant and God's salvation a mixed work (it is hard to avoid seeing strong elements of synergism in Owen's comments). Note the statement, "when believers are incorporated into him." Is it not odd that when Jesus specifically speaks of how the elect were given to Him in eternity past and He will lose none of those thusly given in direct teaching in John 6:39, this promise is dismissed as wishful thinking; but when a parabolic example is used (vine/branches), Owen can find sufficient clarity to know that the illustration is telling us about the "incorporation" of "believers" who, evidently, are not disciples (i.e., only disciples produce fruit). Remember that Owen would likewise say this incorporation is done, normally, by infant baptism. Further, all of these branches are "members of the new Israel" and hence members of the covenant in the blood of Christ. So though there is no fruit, no discipleship, no flow of life from the vine to the branches that are cut off, yet we are told that these are true members of the New Covenant. ...
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On Defending the NWT (III)
10/04/2005 - James WhiteI have been responding to various comments made in defense of the New World Translation by a defender of the Watchtower Society. One of the passages referenced is Colossians 1:15-17. Our JW defender once again shows no familiarity at all with the discussion of this text and its meaning despite his comments on the "weakness" of my apologetic regarding the Watchtower in general. He cites a single pro-JW source, but provides no response to the comments I included in these words in The Forgotten Trinity:
Before we leave this passage, however, we need to listen to the objections that are raised by many today. Indeed, this passage is translated in such a way as to attempt to hide the truths we have just seen by the New World Translation published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Rather than repeating the phrase “all things” over and over again, as Paul did, the Watchtower translation inserts another word, “other,” into the phrase, making it read, “all [other] things.” [fn: When the NWT first came out, the word “other” wasn’t in brackets. However, such a hue and cry was raised, later editions included the brackets. However, the Society gladly drops the brackets when paraphrasing the passage (as in the 1991 publication, The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, prologue, and the 1995 publication, Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life, p. 39).] The reason for the translation is transparent: since Watchtower theology insists Jesus is a creation, this passage must be rendered this way. ...
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Today on the DL
10/04/2005 - James WhiteToday on the Dividing Line we concluded the three-part series in response to Jack Graham's anti-Calvinism sermon, and then took calls. Here's the program.
Dave Hunt Says Calvinism a False Gospel
10/04/2005 - James WhiteIt is dangerous to let folks guest blog for you. They get bit by the bug and go and start their own blog and well, then you are left with nobody to guest blog for you anymore! That's what happened with Alan Kurschner, who has begun a most entertaining blog, www.calvinistgadfly.com. I appreciated his kind words concerning my debate with Dr. Crossan (Alan went on our cruise and seemed to enjoy himself).
You may recall I mentioned Hunt's outrageous newsletter Q&A portion in which he made this outlandish statement:
Could someone who believes this false gospel of Calvinism be truly saved? Fortunately, many Calvinists (you among them) were saved before becoming Calvinists. They now malign God by saying that He is pleased to damn multitudes though He could save all and that He predestines multitudes to the Lake of Fire before they are even born. But having believed the gospel before becoming Calvinists, they "shall not come into condemnation, but [have] passed from death unto life" (Jn 5:24). Those who only know the false gospel of Calvinism are not saved, while those who are saved and ought to know better but teach these heresies will be judged for doing so.You would really think that if Hunt had the courage of his convictions he would stand up and defend this kind of statement in debate: he will not. He has been challenged to do so over and over and over again, but he simply will not do it, no matter who is offering the invitation (i.e., his own allies have tried to get him to do the debate, but he will not do so). In any case, don't miss what he is saying: Calvinism is a false gospel. It does not save. The only saved Calvinists are those who believed a different message when they were "saved" (remember, Hunt holds to an antinomian view that precludes the existence of false faith). Isn't it odd that if a Catholic author challenged Hunt to debate (like Karl Keating), he would do so: but he will not dare do so against me, since he knows this kind of statement would evaporate under cross-examination and any knowledgeable Reformed theologian and exegete would simply run Hunt out of the debate in a hurry.
Anyway, the Calvinist Gadfly has commented on this section here, and will be doing more commenting in the future. I really do wish to comment more on Hunt's lengthy response in the September newsletter, but there are only so many hours in the day. We will see what develops.
More on Anti-Calvinism from Paul Owen (IV)
10/03/2005 - James WhiteI continue reviewing the anti-Reformed interpretation of John 6 and John 10 offered by our pseudo-Calvinist scholar, Paul Owen. Before moving on to his next statement, I would like to briefly note the amusing attempt Owen has posted to provide for himself some cover regarding my previous comments on Romans 11. Though no serious minded individual could possibly be impacted by Owen's response, it remains educational to note not only the errors men like Owen propound with a serious look of scholarship on their face, but how they then attempt to get around refutations of their position. Rather than dealing with the substance of the response, Owen chose to use misdirection, focusing upon the fact that when Paul presents his imaginary arrogant Gentile who boasts of his position, he uses a singular rather than a plural. This, somehow, is supposed to be some major fact that I "missed" in my comments. Of course, I never mentioned the number of the pronoun since, as anyone can see, it is utterly irrelevant. When you present an imaginary speaker, are you going to use a singular pronoun (as in, "You will say, then, 'They were broken off so that I may be grafted in...'" etc.) or a plural pronoun? The singular, of course. This is somehow supposed to be relevant to the fact that we are still addressing Gentiles in general? Is Owen seriously suggesting that the use of the singular means Paul is speaking specifically of a particular member of the New Covenant? The singular proves a New Covenant member, rather than a single member of a group as a whole (Gentiles), is in view? Really? Yet again, amazing argumentation to say the least. This is the best Dr. Owen can come up with in the face of the refutation of his position?
Then, in another attempt to blow smoke across the discussion, Owen tries to argue for the Jeremiah identification of the OT citation in 6:45 despite the clear verbal superiority of the Isaiah reading, all the while completely ignoring the refutation of his position provided in the ensuing discussion. Likewise, another rC writer chimes in who seemingly is unaware of the difference between citation and allusion. Almost any verbal parallel, no matter how weak or a-contextual, can be listed as an allusion. [Steve Hays provides a fuller discussion, including a useful list of citations, here]. We are truly seeing a classic example of failed exegesis flailing about helplessly, with nothing more at its disposal than obfuscation. ...
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A Wonderfully Balanced View of Assurance
10/02/2005 - James WhiteI have often said while traveling that one of the greatest blessings I have experienced in my ministry is the stability and focus of my fellow elder at the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, Don Fry. After more than thirty years of ministry in the same church Pastor Fry remains focused upon the sound and consistent proclamation of God's Word.
In the morning services we have been working our way through 1 John, and are closing in on the end of the book. Today Pastor Fry came to 1 John 5:13:
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.Now, aside from the textual variant here regarding the Textus Receptus, this passage is the "classicus locus" of the discussion of assurance. I truly appreciated the balance, and yet the passion, with which this subject was addressed this morning, and I look forward to the continuation of the study next Lord's Day morning. If you would like to listen in, here is this morning's sermon.
On Defending the NWT (II)
10/01/2005 - James WhiteAnother text our JW correspondent mentioned was John 8:58. Once again the commentary shows no sign of any serious interaction with the chapter I offered in The Forgotten Trinity nor any of the various scholarly articles on the use of evgw. eivmi at 8:58, 8:24, 13:19, 18:5-6, etc. Of course, it is hard to be overly critical (outside of his comments against me specifically) in that the vast majority of evangelicals, even those who have been privileged to grow up in sound churches, have no idea how rich and full and glorious John's testimony to the deity of Christ truly is. A few vague references to John 10:30 or John 1:1 is about as far as most can go on a topic that in reality not only defines our faith (how important is the deity of Christ to Christian exclusivism, for example---and could our ignorance of this great topic be part of the reason why inclusivism is making such inroads?). Just a thought in passing.
The incessant usage of single-author, off-beat, "never heard of that one" translations is a hallmark of JW internet e-pologists. Obviously, just because someone publishes something, it does not follow that there is anything overly meaningful in its content. Indeed, just some of the versions cited give you a good idea of the level of this kind of apologetic: The Simple English Bible; the Living Bible; The Four Gospels & Revelation by Richmond Lattimore. Why not cite the Oxford Inclusive Version and the Reader's Digest Version for all it means to serious exegesis? The writer then kicks open a somewhat humorous "back door" by saying that even if it is rendered "I am," all Jesus is saying is that He pre-existed. That has "nothing to do" with Exodus 3:14. Of course, as I pointed out in my work on the subject:
When dealing with theological issues, we often condense things and make connections that, in reality, take a little more proof than we have offered. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the connection that is alleged to exist between Jesus’ words in John 8:58 and the words of Yahweh in Exodus 3:14, “I am that I am.” You will find references to Exodus 3:14 in most commentaries on John 8:58, yet, those who deny the deity of Christ cry “foul!” and argue that such an immediate connection can’t be made. The strongest argument they can present is that the ego eimi portion of Exodus 3:14 isn’t really the assertion of divinity: the ho ohn portion is (ho ohn being translated as “the Being” or “the One Existing.”). ...
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