Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Continued Response to Shabir Ally (pt. 3)
10/31/2007 - James White
But now, of course, we know that such doubts once existed. James seems satisfied that when he had asked me if the New Testament writings had asserted that Jesus actually died on the cross I answered in the affirmative. He is working with only a partial recall, for my presentation and arguments throughout show that there were tell-tale signs that Jesus had not died on the cross despite this assertion.
Surely there are no "tell-tale signs" in the New Testament, nor are there any in history, for that matter. Though Shabir anachronistically inserts some great conflict into the early church from his Islamic background that simply did not exist at the time. Gnostic docetists would start denying the crucifixion due to theological concerns about an embodied savior, but for the vast majority of those living under Roman rule, the great question of the day was not "do the Romans often fail at executing folks by crucifixion?"
One of the ironies of debating Shabir's unusual, minority Islamic opinion on this topic has to do with the fact that he grants the very thing that repulses the majority of Muslims: the crucifixion of Jesus. That is, most Muslims do not believe Allah would ever allow one of his prophets to be treated in such a manner. Yet, Ally does allow for this, though, somehow, he then places Jesus in the tiny, tiny minority, basically unknown to history, of people who not only survive a Roman crucifixion, but do so right under the eyes of the Romans themselves. Men who had killed many other men, experts in the subject, so to speak, looked at him and said, "He's dead." But somehow, Jesus was able to fool them all, survive, and miraculously extract himself from the tomb! Or...so it was made to appear to them? In essence, Shabir Ally claims we just don't know the mechanics of what happened, as Surah 4:157 doesn't tell us. But my question remains why any set of 40 Arabic words written without the slightest connection to the events in Jerusalem should carry the slightest weight for us in the first place.
I added further that the Jews, according to Matthew’s Gospel, felt deceived. In keeping with the requirements of their Sabbath observance, they had left the crucifixion scene on that Friday evening with the assurance that the legs of the crucified victims would be broken. But they must have found out by morning that the legs of Jesus were not broken. They hurried into Pilate’s court to request that the tomb of Jesus should be sealed up. They were apprehensive lest the disciples of Jesus should steal his body and then proclaim that he had risen from the dead. According to Matthew’s Gospel, they claimed that in case “the second deception would be worse than the first.” I asked what the first deception was, and suggested that they felt deceived in the first place because while they had the reasonable assurance that the legs of the victims would be broken, those of all the victims were broken except those of Jesus.I must say that this is a most imaginative reading of the text. Let's look at it:
Matthew 27:57-66 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. 62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver (evkei/noj o` pla,noj) said, 'After three days I am to rise again.' 64 "Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception (pla,nh) will be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
I had never heard anyone suggest Shabir's reading until the night of the debate, and the reason is fairly simple: the "first deception" was the idea that Jesus was the Messiah; the second would be that His own prophecy of His own resurrection would be fulfilled. "The first fraud was belief in the Messiahship of Jesus, the second belief in his resurrection" (A.T. Robertson). There is nothing in the text to even begin to substantiate insinuating into the Jews' words anything other than a fear of grave robbery. The idea that they thought he was still alive in the grave is simply gratuitous! This is more Islamic anachronistic eisegesis, based upon a text six hundred years removed from the original context. The irony is that if you were to answer Shabir's question by reference to the NT text, he would dismiss your answer. For example,
John 19:31-35 31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.How does Shabir respond to this? He follows the line of the liberal mind-reading critic who discerns that this is a "later addition." And how do scholars know this? They start with a theoretical reconstruction of what they think Jesus must have been like, and, using that as a filter, dismiss everything that disagrees. Simple! And once again, when Shabir encounters this kind of argumentation used in reference to the Qur'an, he dismisses it out of hand. The use of two differing standards is telling indeed.
10/30/2007 - James SwanI was on Chris Arnzen's Iron Sharpens Iron show talking about "Martin Luther: Facts and Fiction." I addressed the indulgence controversy, the historical understanding of sola fide in church history, and other facts and fiction surrounding Luther's life. The MP3 can be found here.
Recently, Dr. Ashley Null was on Iron Sharpens Iron, speaking on Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation. That show can be found here.
Also, make sure to check out Party Hearty Marty and the Reformers!
1527: The Ten Year Anniversary of the Reformation
10/30/2007 - James SwanOn October 31, churches throughout the world celebrate the nailing of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg Chapel door. The event represents the outpouring of Christianity unshackled and blossoming. Like Hilkiah finding the Book of the Law, the thirty-four year old Luther proclaimed the doctrinal “solas” to the world: scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and the recognition that all of life is lived to the glory of God alone. For over five hundred years, these biblical truths reclaimed by the Reformation have transformed individual lives and entire societies. Truly, churches do well to celebrate the victory of the Reformation.
But like all victories, we tend to overlook the struggles involved. We may even romanticize the Reformation. We see the triumphs, and think that God blesses particular individuals like Luther with great growth and success, while the rest of us struggle through our Christian lives with failures and hardship. Just ten years after the posting of the Ninety Five Theses, we find the forty-four year old Luther one of the most famous men in Europe. In 1527, he preached sixty sermons, lectured to students, wrote one hundred letters and fifteen tracts, and spent time working on his translation of the Old Testament. He did all this while having the responsibilities of a husband, father, minister, teacher, and political advisor. One can find this productivity throughout all of his life. We think God must have blessed Luther by making his life easier so he could concentrate on God’s work.
But a closer look at Luther in 1527 shows some surprising details. Scholars mark this as the year Luther’s health increasingly began to deteriorate. It is recorded that he had several fainting spells, even fainting during a sermon. Luther, a man who loved to preach, had to stop preaching for a while. He also complained of intense pain in his chest, accompanied by painful buzzing in the ears. It had become so severe that it was thought he was about to die. News of this spread quickly, and fear gripped the people of Wittenberg. An entire deathbed scene of “Luther’s last words” was recorded in which Luther, surrounded in bed by his closest companions, voiced a deep concern for his pregnant wife and infant son: “Lord God, I thank Thee for having allowed me to be a poor beggar on earth. I leave no house, property, or money. But you gave me a wife and children, I commend them unto Thee. Feed, instruct, and preserve them as Thou hast preserved me, O Thou Father of children and widows.”
Luther recovered, but his physical condition continued only to become worse from this point. This physical weakness brought on serious bouts of depression. This melancholy would accompany Luther throughout his life. As he struggled with failing health, he would at times wish for death to release him from the pain brought on by intense headaches, dizziness, arthritis, digestion problems, infections, and uric acid stones, to name only some of his maladies. In his pain, he questioned whether or not God had abandoned him. He wrote to Melancthon, “I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But through the prayers of the saints [Luther’s friends] God began to have mercy on me and pulled my soul from the inferno below.”
Some may be surprised to read these words by Luther. How could a man who stood alone against the Catholic Church and Roman Empire show such a lack of faith? My belief is that Luther was like all of us. We at times stand strong, and at other times we cry out to God to increase our faith. Where Luther lacked faith in 1527, he also displayed it remarkably in other instances. The plague ravaged Wittenberg that same year. Many of Luther’s friends died, and his students and colleagues fled for their lives. Luther’s son even became ill for a time. Luther though felt “public servants, preachers, mayors, judges, doctors, policemen, and neighbors of the sick who have no one to take care of them are on duty and must remain.” He did not begrudge those who fled, “for to flee dying and death and to save one’s own life is a natural instinct implanted by God and is not forbidden.” But for Luther, fleeing the plague was not an option. He turned his house into a makeshift hospital, where he and his pregnant wife took care of the dying. The house was quarantined, remaining so even after the plague subsided.
This was the year 1527 for Luther, the ten-year anniversary of the Reformation. How many of us in Luther’s place would question whether or not God was chastising us for sin? How many of us would question whether or not we were missing God’s will for our lives? How many of us would wonder why we were not successful in our Christian ministry? Luther though, expressed profound understanding for all these trials: “The only comfort against raging Satan is that we have God’s Word to save the souls of believers.” In all these trials, Luther clung to that Word, and its promise that it would see believers through the difficulties of life, and that it alone showed us Christ and our salvation, the only really important thing. Luther best expressed this at the end of the troubled year 1527, by penning, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther expresses that in our trials, God will be victorious, and so will we:
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim? We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.
Some Views from Seattle
10/29/2007 - James WhitePlease note: I just finished a multi hour Arabic tutoring session (had a great time, I have a great tutor!) and I want to get this posted but IE simply refuses to cooperate. So, the following works fine in FireFox; looks OK in Opera, and if you use IE, well, "Your condemnation is just!" :-)
We had a lot of folks taking pictures during the cruise and debate in Seattle. While I have been addressing important theological and historical issues since then, I haven't posted any pictures! That helps to re-inforce the "White isn't human, he's an unfeeling machine" thing, so I thought it would be good to put that rumor to bed.
First, here I am wondering who is going to turn the lights down...again. See, back in 2005, redgoatee, a channel semi-regular (and very early morning texter) leaned back against the back wall and...turned off the lights. We have mercilessly ribbed him about that since then. Well, this last trip, three different people did the very same thing! So red is now only accountable for 1/4 of the incidents (they really need to do something about those light switches!).
Next, of course, Shabir Ally, likewise from the debate. I forgot to ask Shabir how many debates he has done now. I would be interested in knowing. Given that he did some "dialogues" with Tony Costa the week after our debate in Seattle, I would imagine he has done many, many more than I have. Again, I am appreciative that he was willing to fly all the way to Seattle for the debate. Surely, those familiar with some of the less, shall we say, cordial Islamic apologists can be thankful for Shabir's reserve. We disagree strongly, but have proven now in two debates that such disagreement can be handled in such a fashion that gives credibility to our claims to follow the admonition to show respect for our fellow men.
There were, thankfully, at least a few Muslims who made it to the debate despite the weather. After the debate I had a chance to chat with a few, but our conversation was mainly focused upon how to get more Muslims at debates in the future! I appreciated that they, too, wanted to have more participation from their community in such encounters. Not a single harsh word was spoken all evening as far as I know, and I am pretty certain that Shabir likewise did not get "ambushed" by anyone after the debate. Things truly went well along those lines, and I am very thankful for those who prayed that the debate would be peaceful, and useful, to all.
Now here are some channel rats. Well, MarieP, Brigand, and Figgy, are channel rats. Mrs. Figgy isn't a channel rat, and we can only hope that Figglet will be a channel rat...someday! This was taken on the front of the Mercury, which happens to be the location of one of my greatest cruise experiences (amazingly, I did not even go up there this trip!). That is where, back in 2002 as I recall, I watched the Northern Lights...all alone...no one else out there...in the silence of the waters of Alaska. It was awesome. Of course, maybe someone else did come up there, but when they heard that guy laying on the deck staring up at the sky singing "How Great Thou Art!" they went...elsewhere, quickly. But I will never forget that experience.
Now, one of our sessions went right up to the time of the formal night, so we had to wear our formal wear to the class as there wasn't time to change. Some folks don't like the idea of a formal night, but to be honest, they have really grown on me over the years. Formal wear is something our modern culture has begun to lose touch with. But you know what? Folks look downright good when they dress up! The ladies look gorgeous, and even some of the men clean up real nicely! So, we had a pretty formal group for class that afternoon. So here I am with Steve, aka, Bart, another channel rat, but from Canada (see, we are an equal opportunity chat channel, right Flamey?). He was making fun of my kilt, so...I'm teaching him a lesson in cross-cultural behavior...or is it just a right cross? Hard to tell. We are out on the deck cooling off, because for some reason we couldn't get the ship to get the temperature down in the room where I was teaching. So we would go out and enjoy the crisp cool air for a while before heading back to our studies. For those wondering, that is not my clan tartan. That is the Spirit of Scotland tartan. I got it so that my dear wife would have an easier time matching me on formal nights! I also think it is a gorgeous tartan. The wire, by the way, is for my microphone. It is not an odd American addition to a kilt!
Speaking of my dear wife, she too was on the cruise. And yes, for those like Algo who read all past blog entries, she still has her pink and purple polka-dotted luggage. ( Sigh ) We like to have formal pictures taken on the ships. I doubt we would have had more than a single sitting at a formal studio over the past ten years, but since there are photographers all over the ship on formal nights, we have a real nice set of formal pictures (for less than you would pay at photo studios, I might add). Thankfully, our kids were able to come along back when they were younger, so we got some great family portraits. One of the best was taken on the Mercury while in heavy seas. We were all smiling naturally because we were holding on for dear life and laughing about it! They are in school or working or both now, so those days have passed, sadly. Of course, I married my wife when she was two, which explains why she looks so much younger than I do! But she puts up with me and she surely makes our formal pictures look a lot better! Of course, the only problem with most of the formal pictures is they do not show her shoes, and my wife loves shoes. I mean, I can tell some shoe stories if you would like...but I better stop there before I get in trouble.
Now for the first time I thought it might be a good idea to get a picture of the entire staff of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Well, that wasn't too hard to do! I don't think Rich and I had ever had a formal portrait taken before, so this may well be a first! Yes, the look on his face does say, "Such a shame he's wearing that kilt, but oh well, I've had to get used to a lot of oddities over the past twenty years." Yes, it's been over twenty years. One of us has the patience of Job! Well, maybe we both do. We aren't quite ready to sit on the front porch in rockers yet discussing all our apologetic adventures...but when we get there, we will surely have a lot of stories to go over! Someday we will have to take some DL time to talk about how we ended up in this grand adventure together. For now, let me just say, if it were not for Rich Pierce, there would be no A&O, period, end of discussion.
Now, as I've noted, our littlest cruiser this trip around was little Ava, aka, Figglet. Prior to the cruise one of Figgy's greatest goals was to get a pic of me with Figglet, and, well, that really was not difficult to do. We actually took a few, but this one turned into the "Mad Scientist About to Mutate Baby" picture. Of course, you know I was just making one of those faces you make when you talk to little kids...but I'm sure some fine folks out there like DA will warp the picture and turn it into some monstrosity. "Their condemnation is just." I wonder what little Figglet will say someday when she looks back at these pictures. "Dad, you let that weirdo hold me?"
We had a group picture taken on formal night as well, but I'll save that one for a little later! Once again, many thanks to all who made the cruise, conference, and debate such a blessed time. It was great to share it with you all!
Further Response to Shabir Ally (Part 2)
10/29/2007 - James White
The earliest Muslims such as Ibn Abbas used the sources at their disposal. They looked at the literal text of a part of that verse, but only a part, and concluded that two things were being denied: first, that Jesus was killed by his enemies; and second, that he was hung on a cross.We can see that Shabir's position requires us to believe that you could be crucified, but not killed, and that this is the specific meaning of the text. One cannot simply make such an assertion as this without providing some substantiation. Where does he get the idea that salaba means merely to hang upon a cross without the attendant and obvious component of being a means of execution? Salaba is defined as "To put to death by crucifixion." The massive Lane Arabic Lexicon has as one definition, "he put him to death in a certain well-known manner." Wehr as well as Penrice simply has "to crucify." One interesting, and seemingly conflicted, source is 'Omar's Dictionary of the Holy Qur'an. It has, "To put to death by crucifixion, extract marrow from the bones." Then, "A well known way of killing: Crucifying." Then the source seems to try to work with the obscure problems raised by Surah 4:157, but in a very confusing, and self-contradictory, fashion: "Put to death in a certain well known manner. It is not mere hanging on a cross. Jesus was hanged on a cross but not put to death, in other words his death did not occur while he was hanging on the cross." Then when specific forms used in the Qur'an are mentioned, each is defined "till death," except for the negation of the term, as found in 4:157, "They did not cause (his) death by crucification."
Assuming that crucified means merely being hung on a cross, they then enquired of Jews and Christians as to what scenario could possibly explain the Quran’s statement that Jesus was neither killed nor crucified. Eventually they arrived at the basic interpretation that someone else was made to look like Jesus and that that person was crucified instead, whereas God raised Jesus into heaven. On all other aspects of the scenario that would get this other person onto the cross, even who this other person was, the commentators differed widely, revealing the paucity of their sources and the degree of speculation that went into the commentary.Once again, "they did not kill him, they did not crucify him" does not mean "they did not kill him, they did, however, crucify him, sorta." Mr. Ally's explanation, while interesting, does not take into account the fact that if it were not for Surah 4:157, other texts, such as Surah 3:55 and 19:33, would be plainly understandable as referring to the death of Jesus. All of this proves another point I made: for all the claims of Muslims regarding the clarity and perspecuity of the Qur'an, Surah 4:157 is not clear, it is not perspicuous. And yet, since it is the only text in the Qur'an on this subject, it's lack of clarity is foundational to the incoherence of the Islamic position on the death of Jesus.
The best reconstruction of the meaning is what has been mentioned by Tarif Khalidi in the introduction to his book: The Muslim Jesus. The Quran seems to mean no more than to deny that the Jews killed Jesus.They did not kill him, they did not crucify him. This is the literal reading of the text, given in the previous entry. It is the hardest reading to break these two statements apart and assign completely different meanings: they did not kill him goes with the boast mentioned in the previous verse (same terminology as well); so how can the second statement, "they did not crucify him" take on a different meaning, almost a concessive meaning, "they did not kill but, and they did not crucify him to death (but they did, in fact, crucify him)"?
I fully sympathize with the attempt to make Surah 4:157 say as little as is humanly possible. Given that it is not clear, but confusing, muddled, and without context, it is far easier to defend a minimalist view than the view dogmatically expounded in much of Islam today. But if that is all the text is saying, then would Shabir agree that in fact the text might simply mean that the Jews did not kill Jesus, instead, the Romans did? It is hard to say (he has mentioned this possibility in the past).
I explained all of this in the debate, adding that the Indian scholar Abdul Majid Daryabadi in his four-volume exegesis: Tafsir-ul-Quran, while following the classical interpretation of the verse in his translation nevertheless in his notes defined crucifixion in a way that supports Khalidi’s interpretation. Daryabadi defined crucifixion as ‘the act of putting to death by nailing to a cross’. Keeping this definition in mind, we notice that the verse says: “They killed him not, nor crucified him.” Substituting Daryabadi’s definition of crucifixion, the verse would mean: “They killed him not, nor put him to death by nailing him to a cross.” I argued that this means in essence that the Quran is first denying in a general manner that they killed Jesus, and immediately following up with a parallel denial that they killed Jesus by the specific means of crucifixion.This is one of the reasons I would like to debate an Islamic apologist who would defend the classical, and mainline view of Surah 4:157, for it would be rare for Christians to encounter someone holding Shabir's position. But in any case, if Shabir Ally allows for Surah 4:157 to carry a very non-classical meaning, then one wonders why he does not go the rest of the way and accept the normative translations of 3:55 and 19:33 and hence accept that Jesus did in fact die at the hands of the Romans in the first century, as he agreed that all the historical sources with any meaningful claim to originating in the first century assert? We are still left with no reason why Shabir applies a very odd, unusual set of criteria to all of those historical sources and hence denies the crucifixion of Jesus.
James in his presentation allowed that the Quran could mean that the Jews did not kill Jesus, since the Romans did. Therefore James did not really have a problem with the Quran as such, but only with the classical interpretation. And since I was not determined to defend the classical interpretation in this debate he was really barking up the wrong tree. Much of what he said in this respect was irrelevant as far as proving his case goes. He had to prove, in response to my specific objections, that Jesus actually died on the cross. This he failed to do.
As to my failing to prove that Jesus died on the cross, I was the one who gave all the unanimous first century testimony. Shabir gave none. I was the one who gave materials that were all far closer to the events of Jesus' life than anything Shabir Ally can provide for anything in Muhammad's life. If Shabir Ally were consistent, he would have to either throw out all similar evidence related to Muhammad (resulting in his throwing out the vast majority of Islamic piety and practice), or, he would have to admit that the evidence in support of the crucifixion of Jesus is overwhelmingly superior to anything he has for Muhammad, hence, he would have to accept the thesis. No matter which way he goes, Shabir is left without a way of establishing his position.
I made reference to Raymond Brown who, in his two-volume work: The Death of the Messiah, writes that since crucifixion pierces no vital organ, we must therefore wonder: what was the physiological cause of the death of Jesus? Moreover, Brown notes that Mark’s Gospel, the earliest of the four, indicated that there was some doubt on the part of the Roman Governor Pilate that Jesus could have died at the time when the Gospels indicate to be his time of death. Brown points out that Matthew and Luke both rewrite the episode in their own Gospels in such a way as to omit mention that Pilate had this doubt. The obvious reason for this rewriting, according to Brown, is that readers of Mark’s Gospel would start entertaining the same doubt which Pilate had. Matthew and Luke wanted that their own Gospels should not encourage such doubts.And as I pointed out in my rebuttal, none of these observations carry any weight against the thesis. Asking for Gill Grissom to be cross-side to provide a medical examination before accepting the rather obvious fact that Jesus was dead is hardly cogent, and again, is not a standard Ally would ever demand for anything in his own religious faith. Jesus gave up His life: does Ally deny Jesus would have had the power and authority to do so? Ally takes Markan priority not as the current majority theory but instead as a given fact despite how often he has been corrected on the topic. Note the commitment to a slavish "copying" mode on the part of Matthew and Luke, along with the implicit insinuation of dishonesty on their parts. There is also a rather expansive use of Brown's own words here (The Death of the Messiah I: 1219-1222). Brown's comments are far more nuanced than "Matthew and Luke both rewrite the episode...in such a way as to omit mention that Pilate had this doubt." This is going well beyond even Brown's comments (p. 1222). Brown does not make the case Ally does here at all. In fact, some of his comments are:
Overall, then, it was not impossible that Jesus died relatively quickly, and there is nothing egregiously unlikely about Pilate's reaction to Jesus' reported death in 15:44-45. (1222)In fact, when he then raises the question of what the "later Evangelists" thought of Mark's inclusion of this material, he refers to the idea that they had concerns about the apologetic impact of its inclusion as "not a perfect solution." Again, I refer the reader to Brown's own words, for Ally is putting far too much weight upon these comments.
But may I likewise point out another problem here. Look at the text:
Mark 15:44-45 44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.First, there is every reason for Pilate to make this inquiry, for Joseph of Arimathea had made request for it. Evidently, Pilate had not yet received word from the crucifixion site of the death of Jesus (possibly because the other two who were crucified were not yet dead). Secondly, though Shabir does not mention it, if he is going to put weight upon this text to use against the crucifixion, he can't pick and choose: Pilate calls a centurion to verify that Jesus is dead. Pilate does not merely get a second-hand answer. He calls an expert. An eye witness. The centurion, not just any centurion, but the one, evidently, who was in charge of the crucifixions themselves. This only makes the chances that Jesus was not, in fact, dead, drop off the probability scale. This man is not going to risk his life letting a man who was condemned by the governor fake death! He had seen many men die. He knew what a corpse looked like. Pilate specifically questions this expert eye witness. He does not just casually inquire, he demands an answer (evphrw,thsen). He is specific in asking if Jesus was already dead. Verse 45 gives us the answer: the phrase "and ascertaining from the centurion" can only mean the centurion provided a positive response to Pilate's question. The expert eye witness, whose life depended upon giving Pilate an accurate response, said "Yes, he's dead." So what do we have here? Shabir Ally has brought this text into play. Evidently he accepts it as a historically valid text. So he can hardly complain that we allow it to speak, and when we do, we see it is a devastatingly strong testimony. The only way out of this is to argue that Mark is lying, and, of course, we have seen many times that any text that opposes Mr. Ally's thesis will in fact be dismissed as erroneous or a late redaction or something. But most of my readers have already come to recognize that this is not a valid form of argumentation.
Why Can't We All Just Get Along? (AKA: Stop Shining Light on My Sin!)
10/28/2007 - Colin SmithThe following quotation is from a book by a Muslim author. It made me laugh when I read it, because it further confirmed a truth I have been told, and have witnessed, for years. Let me give you the quote, and I will explain after:
In any case, the unacceptability of Jesus' divinity and the Trinity to the Qur'an is uncontrovertible, as is the fact that Jesus and his followers are regarded as exceptionally charitable and self-sacrificing. The Qu'ran would most probably have no objections to the Logos having become flesh if the Logos were not simply identified with God and the identification were understood less literally. For the Qur'an, the Word of God is never identified simply with God. Jesus, again, is the "Spirit of God" in a special sense for the Qur'an, although God had breathed His spirit into Adam as well (15:29; 38:72). It was on the basis of some such expectations from the self-proclaimed monotheism of Christians--and, of course, Jews--that the Qur'an issued its invitation: "O People of the Book! Let us come together upon a formula which is common between us--that we shall not serve anyone by God, that we shall associate none with Him" (3:64). This invitation, probably issued at a time when Muhammad thought not all was yet lost among the three self-proclaimed monotheistic communities, must have appeared specious to Christians. It has remained unheeded. But I believe something can still be worked out by way of positive cooperation, provided the Muslims hearken more to the Qur'an than to the historic formulations of Islam and provided that recent pioneering efforts continue to yield a Christian doctrine more compatible with universal monotheism and egalitarianism. (Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur'an, 2d ed. (Minneapolis, Mi: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1994), p. 170.)
Are you laughing yet? Do you see what Dr. Rahman is saying here? Essentially, he is saying, "The Christian view of Jesus is unacceptable to the Qur'an, but we are willing to accept that Christians can be jolly nice people. You know, we (Muslims and Christians) all might be able to get along if we focus on the things that unite us! Then maybe you Christians will heed the call of the Qur'an and join with us. Of course, first you need to ditch all that nonsense about the Trinity and the divinity of Christ... oh, and the Muslims need to be more welcoming to other faiths (though it is debatable whether you can really get that from the Qur'an)." Get it yet? That's right: in order for Christians to be welcomed by Muslims, Christians need to deny the very thing that most distinguishes them as Christians: our Christology! Once we have done that, we are left with little else than being nice people who believe in God, and I'm sure that will work for Muslims. Many "Christians" in this country are already operating on that basis, and the Muslim world is lapping them up! Shabir Ally finds allies amongst such people in his debates, and Fazlur Rahman can look to them as "pioneers" and use them to try to shame the rest of us for being uncooperative.
But there is a wider application to this in that it is not just the likes of Dr. Rahman who are saying this to Christians. Why is it that Christians who actually hold to Biblical truth are put down, belittled, and treated as morons in our society? For the same reason the Muslims want us to deny our distinctives: the gospel of Jesus Christ is an offense to those that are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18-30). The world does not want to acknowledge sin, repent, believe on Christ, and be conformed to His image; the world loves its darkness too much. And yet this is what the gospel demands. The world would much rather we give up the gospel and become more like the world; this would be a much more satisfactory basis for unity and peace, because we are the only ones having to give up anything.
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The Monthly Explosion of Anti-Christian Bigotry: This Time with Profanity for Impact!
10/26/2007 - James WhiteWARNING: This blog post contains profanities and vulgarities. I am warning you up front. No, I have not joined the emergent movement. I am quoting a professor directly, from a digital audio recording this time, and it is important to know what is being said in classrooms today by those who detest Christianity and who behave in simply outrageous fashion.
Back on September 20th of this year Dr. Lee Carter of Arizona State University and Glendale Community College accused me of lying to my daughter about the authorship of the gospels in his philosophy class. I wrote an open letter to him about the situation here, and a follow up here. He chose not to respond to these letters. It is clear that Dr. Carter does not believe that anyone who believes as I is a rational person worthy of discourse or even the courtesy of response, let alone common respect.
Yesterday my daughter texted me a quote from Carter's class that left me staring at my Blackberry in disbelief. I texted back, "Too bad that's not on mp3." She replied, "It is." I listened to the entirety of the class this morning while riding, as I did not want anyone to be able to accuse me of isolating things from context. Dr. Carter was going over "Sufi stories," parable-like stories common in Sufism. He errantly indicated that Jesus told parables to help his listeners understand his message (according to the text, the exact opposite is the case), but in any case, he was going over these stories for some reason or another. As normal, Dr. Carter could not avoid going off on various trails, promoting socialism, decrying capitalism, blasting the United States, etc. At one point he paralleled Ronald Reagan to Hitler and somehow made a connection to the killing of Jews. Later he preached loudly about how people do not think rationally, and as evidence he pointed to the election of...George Bush. Evidently, to be rational is to be a leftist socialist. Every time I listen to this man I am left aghast. But never so much as today.
He came to a Sufi story that had something to do with power temptations. At one point (47 minutes into the lecture) he opines, regarding followers of Jesus when he returns, "We don't give a crap about your ideas, don't give us this idea stuff, we can't understand that shit anyway! It's the power we want, man, and you've got miracles...good enough for me!" Then he speaks about how people would not recognize Jesus were he to come back. "They wouldn't know who the hell he was." He speaks of how you might marry someone when you are young and then one day wake up and say, "Son of a bitch! Who is that person I married?" "You were looking through a lot of illusions." In this context then he made the following statement that became the main element of the text my daughter sent to me after class:
And in fact, if Jesus did come back, the most likely people to put him back on the cross would be Christians, and the most likely people to nail him to the cross would be fundamentalist Christians. They would be the ones who would be nailing that son of a bitch back to the cross, because he'd be the one who'd be refuting what they believe, and they wouldn't want that. Fair enough? So the most likely guys to be hammering in the nails, they are the guys who elected George Bush, and believe in the literal truth of the Bible, and don't believe in evolution, because they don't want to use reason, and they don't want to think, they'd rather stick to their illusions that hopefully may convince them that they don't have to be afraid at night when they are all alone, and the devil may whisper in their ears.This quotation comes 49:40 into the lecture.
Later in the lecture Carter referred to someone who was a "shithead" and asked who that might be like, but stopped himself before stating the obvious: he was referring to the President.
I am not writing this post about how grossly unprofessional and offensive a man Dr. Lee Carter is. That really is not even a question, as I cannot possibly imagine any professional acting the way he does during his lectures.
I am not writing this post about the fact that Dr. Carter gives new meaning to the very properly styled psychological problem "Bush Derangement Syndrome." I do find his connection of Bush and conservative Christianity shallow, fallacious, and just plain silly, but again, that's not why I'm writing.
I am not writing this post about Carter's obvious, deep, imbalanced hatred of Christianity. He is surely not alone in that malady in the academy either.
I am not writing this post as a complaint that my daughter's ears have been sullied by Carter's salty language. My daughter works out in the world. She takes drive-thru orders at Starbucks. You would be absolutely amazed at how people talk to her.
I am not writing this post about the language, per se, either. I think it is grossly unprofessional and indicative of a teacher completely out of control, but sadly, things have changed a lot since I was in school, and though I would be summarily dismissed were I to ever use such language, evidently, this is par for the course for Carter. Customer beware. Of course, I have always said, and will always say, "Profanity is for those who lack the intelligence to express themselves in any other manner."
I am writing this post about the prejudiced, bigoted mistreatment and, yes, I will use the term, persecution, of Christians in a public institution in the United States. It is painfully obvious to everyone that this kind of outrageous rhetoric would never, ever be allowed were the object to be Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, homosexuals, or any particular ethnic group. Carter would have been dismissed long ago but for the fact that his vitriol, his prejudice, his bigotry, is aimed at the sole "allowable" object of such things in decaying Western culture today: conservative, truth-believing, life-changing Christianity. No, Carter knows little about Christianity. He creates a straw man caricature of it in ever single lecture I've heard. But the above outrageous, offensive, ridiculous statement, combined with his willingness to accuse Christian parents of lying to their children about the authorship of the gospels without the slightest evidence and in fact against the facts themselves, demonstrates once again the truth of words written long ago, "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19).
The world wants Christians to believe that if you will just avoid being "radical" (i.e., if you will live like the world rather than being transformed into the image of Christ) then some sort of peace can exist. But the fact is, it is the world that is radical. Think of it: pots in rebellion against the Potter. Creatures denying their Creator. Those who know God exists, recognize Him when looking outward upon the creation, or looking inward as well, and yet unwilling to confess Him, worship Him, or obey Him. That is radical. That is suppression of the truth. And when the world encounters those of us who have given up our rebellion and bow the knee to the Creator they are so intent upon denying, their anger toward us for reminding them of what they are so desperate to forget knows no bounds.
Just a note for those who will respond to this with, "Just have your daughter go elsewhere!" This is the only class where this kind of thing is taking place. As she has pointed out, she has learned more about philosophy in her modern fiction class than in her philosophy class, and is involved with honors classes, and so she is not complaining. If anything, just as I grew from being the only special creationist in the biology department in college (and that in a Christian school!) and from taking an ethics class in seminary from a pro-abortionist (at least back then he let me debate him in front of the other students---and guess who won?), so too Summer has seen the inherent contradictions in the anti-Christian worldview of Dr. Carter, and has grown as a result. In fact, it has made her appreciate the professionalism of her other professors.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
10/26/2007 - James WhiteThe last page of my notes from the debate arrived in my book bag via UPS before the DL yesterday, so I took the time to go over the points I had written down during the closing and the audience questions of the Shabir Ally debate. Then, we took a phone call, and then listened to some Bart Ehrman material---which is really hard to distinguish from the Shabir Ally material! Here's the program (free/high quality).
Further Response to Shabir Ally (Part 1)
10/26/2007 - James WhiteShabir Ally has posted a brief article in response to my equally brief review and announcement that I would be going over our debate on The Dividing Line. I would like to offer my response here.
James had to prove three things. First, that Jesus was crucified. Second, that he was crucified as a sacrifice for the sins of God’s people. Third, that he was willing to be this sacrifice. As for the term ‘crucified’, it is clear that in this context it does not mean merely to be hung on a cross, but actually to die on the cross. This is because no Christian doctrine of the cross allows for Jesus to come down from the cross alive and still be a sacrifice for anyone’s sins. It is only by proving all three of these points that James can come out successful.And may I add that it is truly stretching the meaning of language to posit any meaning of "crucify" in almost any context that does not, in fact, include the meaning of death? I had hoped this would come up, but we might as well address it here. Shabir Ally does not hold the mainstream Islamic view of Surah 4:157 and the death of Jesus. He holds a minority viewpoint that allows Jesus to have been crucified, but, to have survived the crucifixion. Now, let's think about this for just a moment. How many people survived crucifixion at the hands of the Romans? Or, to put it more directly, what percentage of those the Romans tried to kill on a cross actually died? I know history records a few folks who were purposefully taken down to try to save their lives at the request of a person of influence and power (which is not the case with Jesus), and even then, the majority of them died. But even if someone managed to fool the Romans and fake death upon a cross, tell me, what would the percentage be? Would it not be fair to say that in 99.999% of the cases the Romans proved themselves to be excellent executioners? So, if Shabir is willing to say Jesus was crucified (something the vast majority of Muslims reject), does it not follow that he is then relying upon a tiny fraction of a percentile as the realm of his possible argumentation?
Further, if language and context mean anything, would it not follow that the claims of the Jews would be defined by history itself? That is, if Surah 4:157 is responding to a boast by the Jews, as it says, who can possibly argue that the term as they would be using it would mean "hung on a cross but not killed"? The boast the text is attempting to respond to (rather poorly, to be sure) is that they slew Jesus, the messenger of Allah. But the text says they did not do this, but it was made to appear to them. Here is the text:
So even these words, over half a millennium removed from the time of Christ, are hardly supportive of the idea that in reality Jesus was, in fact, crucified, but, He just wasn't killed. You don't say "Yes, he was crucified, but was not killed" by saying "they neither killed him nor crucified him." The repeated phraseology is far more likely to be a form of strong negation than it is anything else.
As for the first point, James in his report simply concentrates on what he presented in his opening statement and follows that with the incredible assertion that I did not respond to his points.
What I actually said was,
The concensus opinion of those with whom I spoke after the debate (hardly an unbiased group, obviously), was that Mr. Ally never even tried to mount a response to my presentation. In essence, at one point in cross-examination I asked Mr. Ally if he would not agree that all of the genuinely first century sources agree in proclaiming that Jesus died upon the cross, and he agreed that this is the case. Ally's approach was to go back to his primary argument: he quotes from liberal "Christian" scholars (whether Roman Catholic, Open Theist, you name it) and hammers away on his attack upon the Bible. He even spent a tremendous amount of time, in cross-examination, closing statement, and audience questions, going back to the very same Synoptic issue about Jairus' daughter that we discussed at Biola! A number of people were very disappointed that he wandered so far from the topic in that way.Please note I said this was the concensus opinion of those with whom I spoke, and I identified them as a biased group, obviously. So I don't see how Shabir comes up with "incredible assertion" when I was plainly, in context, speaking of the conclusions of those who observed the debate. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Ally never argued that the first century evidence was not unanimously in favor of the conclusion that Jesus was crucified. He did not dispute the citations I gave. His response was not to present any counter citations of first century evidence, since there is none. All he could do was present a conspiracy theory, blaming Paul for hi-jacking Christianity, and on that basis present the amazing hyopthesis that somehow Jesus survived crucifixion. How, what Jesus did later, etc., he cannot say. But without a scintilla of evidence (outside of his own minority reading of 40 Arabic words written over a quarter of a million days after the events), Shabir opts for the 0.001% probability that the Romans missed one--a real important one at that. Then he combines this with the assertion that Paul and all the NT writers were simply dishonest (they kept making things up---in fact, anything that doesn't agree with the Qur'an they made up), and, what is more, the original followers of Jesus, unlike the followers of Muhammad, were illiterate and therefore incapable of fending off the likes of Paul (wait, wasn't Muhammad illiterate?), so they did not even manage to write a book or warn the world that Paul had taken over! Instead, Paul managed to take a crucified Jewish Messiah and create a world religion. Evidence offered from the first century? Nothing but the fact that naturalistic scholars don't believe in things like revelation and prophecy.
I hope that reviewers will find that I did in fact respond as follows. I explained that the Quranic verse 4:157 does not require the interpretation that someone else was put on the cross instead of Jesus. Although this has been a widely circulated classical interpretation, I agreed with James that there is no report attributed to the Prophet, on whom be peace, to verify this. In sum, although this is an early interpretation it is not binding on Muslims to hold it. What precisely happened at the cross is not spelled out in the Quran, and it is up to Muslims to investigate the question using credible or available historical sources.
This is indeed Shabir's position, and as he admits, it is not the majority opinion of classical Islamic theology, nor is it the majority position today amongst Muslims. That is fine. I'm not one to find the majority viewpoint overly comforting. But the fact remains that simply noting this viewpoint does not, in and of itself, constitute a meaningful rebuttal to my presentation that the first century sources are all supportive of the thesis I was defending in the debate. Nor is an attack on the reliability of the NT documents a sufficient argument for a Muslim who in the debate affirmed the perfection of the Qur'an as divine revelation. Shabir may think he can adopt the role of the agnostic and get away with the use of a double-standard. Given his own complaint to Robert Morey in his debate with him wherein he not only demanded (properly) that the Qur'an be read in context (and his appropriate assertion that the hadith likewise needs to be read in context), but he also insisted that one cannot use naturalistic scholarship to attack the Qur'an! The old saying is surely true, you can't have your cake and eat it too!
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Opening and Closing Statements: Shabir Ally Debate
10/25/2007 - James WhiteShabir Ally has written a response to my brief comments posted a few days ago here on my blog. I will be replying to him, but I wanted to start out by providing my two written statements from the debate. When I am going first, I will often have a written statement for my opening. I realize that "schmoozing" the audience would get me more brownie points with the postmodernists in the audience, but this is a debate, and the point is to communicate truth with clarity. A written statement allows you to do so. I go "live" in the rebuttal and cross-ex. This time I had a closing statement as well, which was very unusual. But, despite Shabir's objection to it, the fact is it was exactly on topic, provided a summary of my case, and fit perfectly. I had timed it at 8 minutes of my twelve minute closing statement, so I was able to break out of it a couple of times and expand upon it. Evidently Shabir did not notice when I did this. In any case, here is my opening statement, followed immediately by the closing statement as well.
Just over two years ago I stood in this very room and debated a man identified by many as the leading historical Jesus scholar in the world, John Dominic Crossan. We debated the historical reliability of the Gospels. It is ironic that tonight, in essence, I defend the Gospels again, but in a completely different context. You see, Dr. Crossan does not believe in an afterlife, in judgment, or in miracles. Shabir Ally does. Crossan does not believe God has given special revelation. Shabir Ally along with all faithful Muslims does. While not an atheist, neither is Dr. Crossan a classical theist. He dismisses the vast majority of the biblical accounts as nothing but parables, and all prophecy is nothing but wish fulfillment.
And yet, ironically, if Dr. Crossan were here this evening, he would be...on my side of this debate, at least in reference to the historical reality of Christs death. Despite his great skepticism about all things supernatural, he accepts the historical fact that Jesus of Galilee was crucified at the beginning of the fourth decade of the first century in Jerusalem. He would not view his death as a purposeful one, and would surely not view it as a sacrifice for sin, but even the highly skeptical Dr. Crossan accepts as a historical fact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
And yet this evening we debate the question, "Was Jesus Christ crucified as a willing sacrifice for the sins of God's people?" The question has two parts, one historical, one theological. On both there is dispute between Christians and Muslims. The historical question is that of the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah; the theological question turns upon the Christian insistence that God forgives sin only in and through faith in Jesus Christ due to His giving Himself as a sacrifice for sins, or in the words of Scripture, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).
This is a debate involving two men committed to two of the world's major religions. I am an elder in a Reformed Baptist Church, representing the Christian faith's historic proclamation that Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God whose death on Calvary's cross propitiated the wrath of God against all who trust in Christ. Shabir Ally is a believing Muslim, the head of the Islamic Dawa Center in Toronto, and as a believing Muslim, he rejects the idea that Jesus was crucified and died on Calvary's cross as an atonement for sin. Both of us accept that God is our Creator, and that God has spoken. Even the Qur'an says that Allah "revealed the Torah and the Gospel" "for a guidance to mankind," so we both believe that at the time of Jesus, God was engaged in supernatural revelation. Neither of us can consistently join Dr. Crossan in viewing all divine revelation with skepticism. So what brings us here tonight to debate?
We are not here this evening due to any lack of clarity on the New Testament's part regarding our thesis. If we leave aside second century Gnostic sources that have no meaningful historical pedigree in the first century and that suffer from incurable theological precommitments to dualism, resulting in their rejection of Jesus as a true human being, we are left with the unanimous testimony of the Christian Scriptures, the Apostles, disciples, and even the few secular sources that have come down through history, that Jesus died at the hands of Pontius Pilate at the instigation of the Jews around the beginning of the fourth decade of the first century. The gospels, Paul's epistles, and Luke's history of the early church, the Acts of the Apostles, all have solid credentials as originating within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses themselves. In fact, if, as I believe, Luke is providing documentation to be presented in the trial of Paul in Rome, then this puts its date within three decades of the crucifixion. Likewise, if one were to postulate that Mark came before Luke, as surely my opponent this evening does quite often in his talks, this would put Mark no later than twenty or twenty five years after the events of the ministry of Jesus, and perhaps even less. In any case, the New Testament is plain in its affirmation of the historical event of the crucifixion. We will look at its consistent theological teaching in a moment.
While we would hardly expect a great deal of information about an itinerant Jewish rabbi and teacher to find its way into secular historical records of the day, there are two sources outside the New Testament that should be mentioned this evening. The first is found in Josephus (Antiquities XVIII. 63-64), the Jewish historian writing less than half a century after the events of Christ's ministry. There is much dispute about the text, and many feel portions of it are a later Christian interpolation. But this does not need to detain us, for what is important is that Josephus not only mentions Jesus, but likewise makes reference to Pilate, and to crucifixion. It is highly probable that this portion of the reference is original with Josephus himself.
Likewise, eighty five years after Jesus' ministry, the Roman historian Tacitus (Annals XV.44) made derogatory reference to the Christian movement, and in doing so likewise notes that the founder had been executed during the reign of Tiberius, and he even mentions the specific name of Pontius Pilate. While some might suggest Tacitus is just reporting what he had heard from Christians, it is significant that if there was any controversy over the fact that Jesus had been executed under Pontius Pilate, there simply is no evidence of it from the first century documents. What we find from every source that has any legitimate claim to coming from the first hundred years after Jesus echoes the words that most scholars, conservative and liberal alike, believe to be some of the earliest in the New Testament:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.This is the core teaching of the Christian faith, and anyone who wishes to suggest otherwise has a very, very tall challenge ahead of them.
But I doubt Shabir Ally will argue that the New Testament as we possess it today teaches anything other than this very truth. So why are we here this evening? I submit to you that the only reason we are here this evening is because of 40 Arabic words written in a book that can be dated no earlier than 625 years after the ministry of Jesus. These 40 words were written in a different culture, 765 miles away from Jerusalem, over half a millennium removed, without any direct or firsthand connection historically, to the events in Jerusalem. Indeed, these 40 words find no literary connection to the first century at all, for they were written by a man who had no firsthand knowledge of the New Testament, for it had not yet been translated into the Arabic language. I refer, of course, to Surah 4:157 of the Qur'an, which reads,
And because of their saying: "We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger (rasool)." They slew him not nor crucified him, but it was made to appear to them, and those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.Shabir Ally has admitted, in a debate in 2004, that this text is, in fact, key to his understanding of the issue of the crucifixion of Jesus. I shall, of course, leave it to Shabir to explicate his own views on this text, but for the moment I wish to make sure my assertion here is fully understood. I realize the Muslims in the audience do not believe these to be the words of Muhammad, but that they are the words of Allah. The Muslims in the audience this evening may even be tempted to be offended when I disagree with these words, and in fact assert that these words are false, erroneous, and that they are based upon ignorance of the Scriptural teaching. It cannot be any secret that a Christian who understands Islamic teaching and yet remains a Christian does not believe Muhammad was a prophet. There is nothing to be accomplished in glossing over our differences. May I point out that if Shabir Ally is right, then those I honor as apostles and prophets are actually false teachers and promoters of idolatry. Shabir has made it plain that he blames the Apostle Paul for in essence hi-jacking Jesus (who, according to Muslims, was himself a Muslim), supplanting the original followers of Jesus, and replacing the simple message of Jesus, found today only in the Qur'an, with the false and blasphemous teaching that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for the sins of the world. We should not minimize the fact that we are asked by our Muslim friends to believe that the New Testament is hopelessly corrupt, the gospel is false, and the worship of Jesus amounts to the unforgivable sin of shirk. If the Muslim is tempted to be offended at the assertion that Muhammad was ignorant of the biblical record, written in a language he could not understand, and that hence he made errors in his teachings, the Christian has significantly more reason to experience temptation to offense at the necessary results of Islamic teachings. But I, for one, did not come here this evening to feign offense at the Islamic denials of my own faith. I am here to lay these issues out on the table and to shine the bright light of truth upon them, a light available only when both sides come to the table and honestly lay out their differences.
I am asserting that the reason Shabir Ally sits here this evening in denial of the thesis is due to these 40 Arabic words, traceable, at their earliest, to the revision done of the Qur'anic texts ordered by Uthman and undertaken by a committee chosen by him sometime after the middle of the seventh century according to the tradition recorded in Al-Bukhari. There truly is no other reason. And what is more, though the Qur'an claims to be a clear book, written in the perspicuous Arabic tongue, the fact is this text is nowhere near clear, let alone perspicuous. Many have pointed out that if it were not for Surah 4:157, the Qur'an's teachings in such texts as Surah 3:55 and 19:33, where the death of Jesus is mentioned, would be easily understood without prompting very obtuse explanations that require us to believe the text is referring to a future death of Jesus that has not even taken place as yet. What is more, the text as it is written is very unclear, prompting, as Shabir Ally himself has noted, any number of contradictory interpretations by Islamic scholars over the centuries. And what is truly amazing to me is this: when the Qur'an contradicts the Christian teaching of the deity of Christ, it does so repeatedly, and forcefully. We likewise find references to this in the hadith. But when it comes to this one single ayah, these 40 lonely Arabic words that pop into the Qur'an out of nowhere, we likewise cannot find any meaningful commentary on these words in the hadith literature. Think of it. Muslims for two hundred years could not think of any commentary by Muhammad on this ayah. And yet, I, as a Christian, am to believe these 40 Arabic words, written over half a millennium after the Christ event, in a different language from far away are to be taken to be sufficient to overthrow the entirety of the New Testament and the testimony of eye witnesses and martyrs.
But as it is my job to defend the thesis this evening, allow me to read into the record the ancient testimony of the gospels regarding Jesus' own words about His death. If these words are to be contradicted, I assert the one doing so needs to do more than point out that liberal secular scholars tend to disagree with words that claim to be inspired. That is a given. If we are to believe these words are falsely attributed to Jesus, then I suggest that proof of the dishonesty of the writers needs to be provided; documentary evidence of later tampering with the text must be submitted. Without such evidence, the words of Jesus must stand. And so we start with these words recorded by Mark during the time when the eyewitnesses to these events were alive and well and very active in preaching Jesus message:
Mark 8:31-34And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." 34¶ And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.Likewise in Mark 10:45 we read, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." This New Testament witness to the centrality of the purpose of Christ in the cross is given prophetic authority in the words of the angel recorded in Matthew 1:21, "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. "The Apostle John often refers to the self-giving of Christ as the means of salvation, but one summary statement that is particularly striking is found in Revelation 5:9-10:
9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."And Paul's testimony is ubiquitous on this subject, so I simply read into the record these words from Titus 2:
Titus 2:13-14 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.Many other texts from Peter, and the writer to the Hebrews, could be included. But we do not need to belabor the point. The evidence of the New Testament on the issue is overwhelming, consistent, and clear. ...
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Look at the Response to this Article
10/25/2007 - James WhiteI was just directed to this article (ht: Plaidman!) alleging that Francesco Forgione, aka, "Padre Pio," a "saint" so popular in Italy that a recent survey said more people there pray to him than to Jesus or Mary (!), faked his "stigmata" using carbolic acid. While that is all very interesting, what I found most intriguing was the reaction of the legions of people dedicated to "Padre Pio." Now remember, they aren't worshipping the man, see, they are only praying to him and asking for his intercession and things like that. And Rome has assured us, infallibly even, that prayer is not worship and dulia is not worship and we don't need to worry about all this idolatry stuff because, as Patrick Madrid mentioned in our debate, folks back in the past have had problems with idolatry, but we don't have the same problems today, so that is why we do not have to worry about those texts in the Bible that prohibit such things. But anyway, note the response to even daring to suggest that Padre Pio might just have been faking his alleged godliness:
The new allegations were greeted with an instant dismissal from his supporters. The Catholic Anti-Defamation League said Mr Luzzatto was a liar and was "spreading anti-Catholic libels".That can't be how anyone would respond to such an allegation, is it? Surely not! I mean, we have documented repeatedly how fair and even handed Roman Catholic apologists are in responding to criticism and refutation, so this is truly amazing, isn't it?
Pietro Siffi, the president of the League, said: "We would like to remind Mr Luzzatto that according to Catholic doctrine, canonisation carries with it papal infallibility.
"We would like to suggest to Mr Luzzatto that he dedicates his energies to studying religion properly."
Excuse me while I extract my tongue from my cheek.
Anonymous Books and Inspiration
10/24/2007 - James WhiteFriday evening an important difference between Muslims and Christians came to light in the debate in Seattle. It is a difference I highlighted in the Biola debate as well. Muslims and Christians have very different views of what inspiration means, and how it manifests itself in Scripture.
Of course, I am speaking only about Christians here in the historical sense, those who believe the same thing about Scripture that Jesus did. Yes, I know I just cut my audience down by like 90%. That's fine. It's a necessary limitation.
During the cross-examination Shabir Ally asked me about the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. He asked if we know who wrote it, and I said we do not. He took this as clear evidence that it cannot possibly be inspired, since it is anonymous. This is related to the Islamic insistence that we must know the character of a prophet, and that the character of that prophet is directly related to the authority of the word he proclaims.
One is immediately struck by the irony of the Qur'an's frequent references to the Torah and the Injil, and what those terms would have meant to Muhammad in his context. Muhammad did not argue as modern Muslims, nor did he have to: he was ignorant of the actual content of the Christian Scriptures, so he did not have to concern himself about the fact that the Christian canon has always contained books without attributed authors. That did not seem to stop Muhammad from saying he believed in these books. Only with the passing of time has the problem of the inherent contradiction between Muhammad's teachings and understandings come to light, becoming a problem for later generations of his followers.
The contrast in belief that is illustrated by this point from Friday's debate is this: the Christian focus when speaking of inspiration is on the nature of the written record; that is, as Paul expressed it, it is Scripture itself, not the instrument used in producing it, that is God-breathed. In the same way, Peter said that men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Peter places "men" in this text (2 Peter 1:21) at the very end, locating all the activities of God before the instrument, man. Scripture nowhere presents itself as some magical book that just floats down out of heaven. God has revealed Himself by means. Those means include man's language, man's experiences, man's interaction with God Himself. But it is not the mechanism that is "inspired," but the result. God is so powerful and so wise that He is able to use His creatures as the mechanism whereby His Word comes without compromising the nature of the final product. This is why the specific name of the writer is not the issue. God knows who He carries along by the Holy Spirit, and He will exert just as much effort to let His people know as He does in the actual work of inspiration itself. Plainly books that do not bear today, and did not bear in the days of Christ, a particular author are quoted by Jesus as "Scripture."
It is hard to see how the Muslim can consistently argue against this position, for the simple reason that there is no direct Qur'anic knowledge of the Old and New Testaments that would allow it to even acknowledge the situation, let alone address it. Only later generations of Islamic scholars have had to struggle with the issue and come to conclusions that are more or less consistent. In any case, if the Muslim wishes to argue that the name of the writer of a book of Scripture must be known, upon what basis is this to be argued? The Qur'an, in Islamic orthodoxy, claims only one passive channel through which it allegedly came: Muhammad. Muhammad may have believed all the biblical books had known and verified authors, we don't know. But in any case, for Islam to come along six hundred years after Christ and erect a new standard that must be followed that, in essence, is irrelevant to itself but only relevant to Christianity and Judaism is just a bit odd. And that is exactly what later generations of Islamic theologians have done, even though their own sacred text is immune to the standard they employ!
This likewise touches upon the Islamic insistence that prophets must be particularly holy, and why the biblical, historical accounts of the fact that prophets themselves were sinners like the rest of us are rejected by Islam (and the Qur'an).
So as I said to Shabir during the debate, we have very different views of inspiration, and many of Islam's objections are actually based upon transferring an anachronistic and unbiblical view back onto the texts that Muhammad simply did not know or understand.
Today on the Dividing Line
10/23/2007 - James WhiteBack in the saddle for the Dividing Line today. Reviewed the events of the past week, including the break-in, the conference, and the debate. Actually ran out of time, surprisingly! So, as promised, the post-debate review, etc., on the DL! Here's the program (free/high quality).
"But I chose you out of the world, and because of this, the world hates you" Our Lord, John 15:19
10/22/2007 - James WhiteGod's judgment upon decadent God-hating secularism seems to be speeding up. The collapse of Western culture into open, unapologetic persecution of Christians based upon Darwinistic dogmatic fundamentalism is evidenced every day in the media. Unreasoning secularists refuse to even consider engaging in an intellectual defense of their worldview. Instead, with force of human law, they seek to silence all opposition. While we normally see these things happening in Europe first, we can look to the East and Left Coasts in the US for examples as well. Repeated stories about the exaltation of homosexuality to a position of protected, preferred status, with the attendant insistence that the state has the right to force all children into its mind-numbed mold of political correctness is already forcing many Christians to consider fleeing from those nations and states that enforce such evil ideologies. The open denunciation of the simple factual evidence that life is complex and the result of design, and the prohibition of even mentioning this obvious fact within the context of "public education" (far better to identify it accurately: public, government sponsored indoctrination), is another clear example of God lifting His hand of restraint and allowing the evil of men's hearts to run wild.
I have noted that the secularists will probably not last long in Europe anyway. I am hearing stories of how sharia law is being put into practice in Norway, so it is just a matter of time before the secularists are swept away anyhow. Humanistic religion is a brittle thing, and quite incapable of moving men's souls (how could it, since, in its Darwinistic dogma, there is no soul to move?), and hence incapable of putting up an extended fight against Islam. Just as the apostate armies of Israel long ago were no match for the Assyrians, so the apostate secularists will have little chance withstanding the jihadis.
I'm sure most have already read about the bills Schwarzenegger signed in California that seek to give uber-rights to homosexuals and sundry others who define themselves by how they have sex or how they dress, etc. I suppose that makes sense: in a secular worldview, there is nothing spiritual about man to raise him above being defined by such things as what kind of under clothes you like to wear. I mean, we define dogs by "long hair" or "short hair," so man, the evil animal, might as well be defined by such mundane things as well, right? No wonder we no longer see Bachs and Beethovens. Anyway, I noted a while back the move in the UK to make preaching the gospel or just reading the Bible itself in public a hate crime. Here's an article that should likewise make you realize that in a very short time we will all be faced with the choice of suffering persecution and loss of worldly goods at the hands of those who irrationally hate God and refuse to defend their views in argument, and being silent. Note how the secularists hate the idea of truth. Well, except for "their" truth, which is unquestionable. The only truth they will allow is that "there is no truth in religion, only in science." They have no idea they are just as much a caricature as the most wild-eyed Inquisitor in Spain in the 15th century.
I pray God will cause me to love His truth, His church, His people, His gospel, more and more, so that my attachments to this world will grow ever weaker and weaker. The only Christians who will remain strong in the coming years will be those who realize the strong antithesis of these simple words: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). The only "leverage" the world has against us is that which we willingly give: our ungodly attachments to this world system. The more we are crucified to the world, the more we live in light of our death in Christ and our life in Him, the less power they will have. This is the secret of the persecuted church, and it is a lesson our brothers and sisters in other lands know well. It is one we must learn, and quickly.
A Stormy Night in Seattle
10/20/2007 - James WhiteIt turned out that the huge storm we sailed right into the middle of on Thursday (resulting in my adopting a new last name, "Green," along with just about everyone else on board) swept on into Seattle before us and produced wind gusts near 80 mph, even knocking out power in some areas. And that was just the leading edge. A few hours before the debate began (or so I am told---I was a bit pre-occupied) the heavens opened and the rain began. Not your regular Seattle rain, according to Mike O'Fallon, but more like your Tampa style down-pour thunderstorm kind of rain. As a result, one hundred thirty folks who had purchased tickets were no-shows. That was a bit disappointing, but certainly understandable. I guess you could hear the thunder inside the ballroom but I was oblivious to it.
In any case, the debate went on with a good crowd of folks, though not as many Islamic participants as we had hoped for. I will be going over the debate on the Dividing Line on Tuesday. I can't guarantee that I'll have audio that soon, but I will have my notes from the debate, and that would surely be enough to hit the high points. For now, I will summarize.
I opened the debate with the assertion that the only reason a Muslim like Shabir Ally would deny that Jesus died upon the cross as a willing sacrifice for the sins of God's people is due to 40 Arabic words, specifically, Surah 4:157. I quote from my opening statement:
I am asserting that the reason Shabir Ally sits here this evening in denial of the thesis is due to these 40Arabic words, traceable, at their earliest, to the revision done of the Qur'anic texts ordered by Uthman and undertaken by a committee chosen by him sometime after the middle of the seventh century according to the tradition recorded in Al-Bukhari. There truly is no other reason. And what is more, though the Qur'an claims to be a clear book, written in the perspicuous Arabic tongue, the fact is this text is nowhere near clear, let alone perspicuous. Many have pointed out that if it were not for Surah 4:157, the Qur'an's teachings in such texts as Surah 3:55 and 19:33, where the death of Jesus is mentioned, would be easily understood without prompting very obtuse explanations that require us to believe the text is referring to a future death of Jesus that has not even taken place as yet. What is more, the text as it is written is very unclear, prompting, as Shabir Ally himself has noted, any number of contradictory interpretations by Islamic scholars over the centuries. And what is truly amazing to me is this: when the Qur'an contradicts the Christian teaching of the deity of Christ, it does so repeatedly, and forcefully. We likewise find references to this in the hadith. But when it comes to this one single ayah, these 40 lonely Arabic words that pop into the Qur'an out of nowhere, we likewise cannot find any meaningful commentary on these words in the hadith literature. Think of it. Muslims for two hundred years could not think of any commentary by Muhammad on this ayah. And yet, I, as a Christian, am to believe these 40Arabic words, written over half a millennium after the Christ event, in a different language from far away are to be taken to be sufficient to overthrow the entirety of the New Testament and the testimony of eye witnesses and martyrs.I provided all sorts of evidence from the first hundred years after Christ---the New Testament, Christian writings such as Clement and Ignatius, and even Josephus and Tacitus---that demonstrated that there truly was no dispute about the fact that Jesus had died upon the cross. I likewise pointed out that the gnostic fantasies of the second century, so often the darlings of the modern "anything to debunk Christianity" academy of scholars, have little evidentiary weight. I emphasized to the Muslims who were listening (both last night, as well as in the future) that the evidence I was presenting is closer to the events of Christ's life than almost anything the Muslim can document relating to Muhammad's life and teachings. For example, quoting again from my opening statement,
About 77 years after the crucifixion, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was traveling to Rome to die as a martyr. In the letters he wrote as he traveled are repetitive references to the cross and the death of Christ. Remember, this documentation is still about seventy years closer to the events of Jesus life than the best documentation that exists for any of the events in Muhammad's life. Remember, hadith collections like Al-Bukhari date from over two centuries after the death of Muhammad, so Ignatius was three times closer to the sources than Al-Bukhari was.The concensus opinion of those with whom I spoke after the debate (hardly an unbiased group, obviously), was that Mr. Ally never even tried to mount a response to my presentation. In essence, at one point in cross-examination I asked Mr. Ally if he would not agree that all of the genuinely first century sources agree in proclaiming that Jesus died upon the cross, and he agreed that this is the case. Ally's approach was to go back to his primary argument: he quotes from liberal "Christian" scholars (whether Roman Catholic, Open Theist, you name it) and hammers away on his attack upon the Bible. He even spent a tremendous amount of time, in cross-examination, closing statement, and audience questions, going back to the very same Synoptic issue about Jairus' daughter that we discussed at Biola! A number of people were very disappointed that he wandered so far from the topic in that way.
As I said, I will be going over the debate on the DL, so I will simply say that I felt it went very well, and I look forward to future debates with Shabir, and with other credible Islamic apologists.
Let me hasten to add a tremendous word of thanks. I can't begin to tell you how blessed I was by the group that was with me up in Seattle. We had a wonderful time on the cruise, and having the debate at the end truly was a blessing for the entire group. Here is a picture of just some of the folks who gathered late in the night after the debate in my hotel room to discuss the events of the evening, almost all of whom had gone on the cruise as well. These folks not only prayed and studied, they worked as well! Volunteers were helping Rich with the set up and doing security and helping folks find the ball room and all sorts of things. We could not have done it without them, to be sure! Rich tells me special thanks goes to Dave Hewitt who, when Rich was having some real set up struggles, threw himself into the work, doing difficult physical labor that was vital in getting things done. Many kudos to Dave Hewitt! I would like to mention Daniel Figueroa, aka Figgy (proud father of Figglet, our official 2007 Baby Cruiser), who likewise was a great help to me. We simply couldn't do things this large and complicated without the help of God's people.
Likewise, I wish to say thank you to those who supported our ministry last week while we were gone, and after the distraction of another break-in as well. One gentleman in particular gave very sacrificially, and we thank the Lord for that.
Finally, my special thanks to those involved in the debate itself. Here is a picture of the group from before the debate. I do thank Shabir Ally for flying to Seattle for the debate and for always conducting himself as a gentleman. I look forward to future debates. Thanks to Thor Tolo of KGNW Radio in Seattle who moderated the debate and did a great job. And of course, to the two guys who make it all happen: the indefatigable Mike O'Fallon of Sovereign Cruises who, along with dear little Cathy, make cruising enjoyable, and of course, the man behind it all, the guy who gets it all done, the fellow who gets you your orders and keeps this ministry going, and the disembodied voice on the DL who keeps me humble, Rich Pierce.
A Pre-Debate Poem
10/18/2007 - James WhiteThe Uber Librarian posted this on her blog last week. It seems fitting to link to it...today. An Uber Librarian poem.
Sandra Tanner on the Bible Answer Man (Updated)
10/18/2007 - Jeff DownsLast month James informed us that Sandra Tanner was scheduled to be on the Bible Answer Man. Her appearance was reschedule for this week and Sandra was on BAM Tuesday (10/16) and Wednesday (10/17).
Click here to listen in.
Edwards on the Impeccability of Jesus
10/18/2007 - Jeff DownsFor those interested in the theology of Jonathan Edwards and/or the impeccability of Jesus (i.e. He could not sin), maybe interested in this recently published journal article:
Jonathan Edwards's Freedom of the Will and his defence of the impeccability of Jesus Christ, by Philip J Fisk. Scottish Journal of Theology, Vol. 60, Is. 3 (article is not online).
Here is the abstract:
It is in Jonathan Edwards's Freedom of the Will (1754) that he reconciles impeccability and freedom of the will in the human soul of Jesus Christ, even when Jesus is in a state of trial. But how does he shape a synthesis between these two attributes without duplicity, and at the same time avoid theological and christological barbs, whether Arminian or Hobbist, Nestorian or Apollinist? For Edwards, the Son of God did not surrender impeccability when he undertook to fulfil – in human nature, and in a state of trial – intra-trinitarian promises, promises made not only by the Father to the Son, but by the Son to the Father. Edwards views the habits of the heart of Jesus Christ progressing in holiness from the moment of his incarnation. He understands the excellencies that the Son of God brought to the human nature in the incarnation in no way to have added to nor to have diminished the impeccable holy disposition of his person. A key to interpreting the holy habits of Jesus’ heart is, according to Edwards, to view the source of the impeccability of the soul of Jesus as lying in its essence, not in a cause outside his person; it lies in the very disposition of his heart.
I do believe you can purchase the article from the link above.
Greetings from Victoria
10/17/2007 - James WhiteWe are docked in Victoria, so I am trying to get some Internet access. We have experienced the longest Internet outtage I've ever seen on a ship before, and only got access this morning. But even then, I am unable to establish the kind of access I need to get to my e-mail, so if anyone is writing to me expecting an answer...well, there's always next week! Just think what it was like sixty years ago when you had to write a letter and send it over land and wait for a reply! Creates patience.
The cruise has been blessed thus far. This morning I spoke on the Johannine witness to the doctrine of atonement. Tomorrow I will address Romans 8, and then we will need to move on to the historical aspects and issues in preparation for the debate Friday night. We have had very smooth sailing, literally and metaphorically, so far. Many thanks to those who have prayed for us, and to those who have been active back in Phoenix repairing windows and keeping the offices safe. More when we get better Internet access! Blessings!
Madrid on the Assumption
10/16/2007 - James SwanIn a previous entry, I explored the alleged parallel in the development of the Roman Catholic Marian dogmas and the Trinity. Recall, Catholic apologist Steve Ray recently sought to validate the Marian dogmas as developing like the Trinity developed. To hear Ray's assertion, listen to this recent Dividing Line broadcast.
I pointed out the Marian dogmas are not mined from Scripture. For instance, the assumption was not the result of God's people delving deeper and deeper into God's Word. It was not the result of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. It was not the result of in-depth exegetical studies. It is an idea found outside of Biblical revelation, imported into the Bible in a ploy for validity.
This week I re-listened to Dr. White's 1993 sola scriptura debate with Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid. It has been some time since I've listened to this. One particular comment from Madrid really jumped out this time, and is relevant to the non-biblical nature of the assumption. Madrid affirmed material sufficiency in this debate. Those adhering to material sufficiency hold all the doctrines Catholics are to believe are found in the Bible. Those holding to the partim-partim view say that part of God's special revelation is contained in Scripture, and part is contained in Tradition. The challenge for those like Madrid is to place things like the assumption somewhere into Scripture, whether it fits or not. By doing this, one avoids the necessity of defining the content, extent, and historical validation of extra-biblical Tradition that adherence to the partim partim view demands.
Note the following comment from the 1993 debate:
Patrick Madrid: "Mr. White brought up the assumption. He could bring up any doctrine he might like, none of which would be the topic of our debate, tonight, but at some future point perhaps, we could discuss where those doctrines are found. The assumption, for example, since he brought it up, I'll just refer to it. Revelation, chapter 12, Mr. White. It's a very commonly used passage for Catholic apologists. I don't know why you would have missed that. The woman clothed with the Sun was seen not only by modern Catholic apologists as Mary's assumption, but also the early Church Fathers, which Mr. White is so fond of bringing into the picture. I'd be more than happy, in some future point, to demonstrate, in a different debate, how the early Church Fathers viewed Revelation 12. They exegeted that passage to mean that Mary had been brought up into Heaven in a special way. But, that's another topic."
I grant Madrid's point that the assumption was not the topic of debate. However, simply placing the assumption in Revelation 12 does not prove it belongs there. One of the most ironic things about Revelation 12, is that the woman described "cried out in pain as she was about to give birth." Think back to what God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16 as the result of her fall into sin, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children." So, while proving the assumption, Revelation 12 gives Catholic apologists new problems (Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin solves it this way: "Mary did not experience literal pain when bringing forth the Messiah, but she suffered figuratively").
But then Madrid appeals to the early church fathers as proof Revelation 12 is about the assumption. Fortunately for Madrid, very few actually read the early church fathers! If they did, they would discover the same thing Giovanni Miegge did. The earliest reference to Mary in Revelation 12 does not appear until the fourth century:
"The modern Mariologists like to turn to [Revelation 12], seeing in it an allegory of the Virgin Mary. But whatever can be thought of their interpretation, it is a fact that none of the early interpreters before the end of the fourth century see the Virgin Mary in the woman of the Revelation. They all understand her to be the Church and so they continue to make most of their interpretations in the following centuries. Ticonius is the first to suggest the Marian interpretation" [Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955, pp.101-102)].
So, the earliest church fathers see "the woman" as "the Church," yet somehow, this earlier interpretation must be wrong, and the post-fourth century interpretation must be correct. Why? Because Mary's assumption needs to be in the Bible. Or, perhaps, it is both Mary and the Church. Without Rome telling us, anything goes. For instance, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin says the woman is "a four-way symbol": Mary, the Church, Israel, and Eve. That covers all bases!
Well, it was 1993 when Madrid said this, and he appears to have himself "developed." In his booklet, A Pocket Guide To Catholic Apologetics (Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2006), Madrid states on page 27:
Mary's Bodily Assumption into Heaven
Not mentioned in Scripture. However, other bodily 'assumptions' are mentioned- Enoch (Gen 5:24; Heb. 11:5), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1, 11-12), and those alive at the second coming (1 Thess 4:13-18).
But then, without any explanation, he simply puts: "Rev 12:1-8," and it is not a proof-text intended to be part of those just mentioned. It stands alone by itself. So perhaps, Madrid is simply saying the words "Mary's Bodily Assumption into Heaven" is not mentioned in Scripture. Whatever the case, Revelation 12 stands as a desperate attempt to place the assumption in Scripture. It certainly does not have any exegetical merit for demanding it be the interpretation of Revelation 12, nor are the early church fathers, the alleged keepers of sacred Tradition, unanimous in interpreting the passage as Madrid suggests.
Rod Decker on Bart Ehrman
10/15/2007 - Jeff DownsBack in August I posted this resource from Rodney Decker on critiquing Ehrman's Bauerian views. If you would rather load the MP3 into your iPod, here is the link.
Horton, Osteen and James White - Updated
10/15/2007 - Jeff DownsSome of you are aware (probably most by now) that Michael Horton was on 60 Minutes on Sunday evening, responding to Joel Osteen's "theology." The segment can be view by clicking here. Michael Horton also has posted some article in response here. Kim Riddlebarger writes a wrap up here in which he states:
On the lighter side, just so you know, Michael's already caught a fair bit of flack from his friends. As one noted Reformed theologian pointed out, "Osteen’s theology may indeed be popcorn theology, but it appears that he can bench press more than Horton can." Michael has already promised to spend more time in the gym and will challenge Osteen to a rematch. Maybe the only Reformed guy who can currently out-bench Osteen is James White.
Let the games begin!
Update - A Continuous Strain of Silliness
Bob Ross throws his understanding of things into the areana. He states "I have heard Joel Osteen numerous times on TV, I have read his writings, and in just a matter of a couple of sentences at the close of every sermon, Joel preaches more Gospel than Michael Horton evidently even believes." If Ross wasn't so serious, it would be as funny as the weight lifting compition about to take place. Ross confirms his seriousness when writes "our nearby [Joel Osteen] neighbor who perhaps reaches more people with the Word of God on any given Sunday than either James or Michael will reach in a lifetime." So, Mr. Ross doesn't know the gospel (this is clear from the fact that he believe this is what comes from Joel) and he seems to indicate that numbers are to be significant to us.
Ross claims that I am "holding the fort while James is elsewhere." This is certainly a stretch....but what should I expect from a man who begins an Email (which isn't that long) by being critical of James and Michael Horton, claiming that Osteen is "one of their favorite targets." Has James ever said anything about Osteen? I can't seem to recall anything. And there is no doubt that Michael Horton has much better things to do. But, I thank God he had the opportunity (in what little time he had) to address these issues.
Ross calls Horton's comments from 60 Minutes and his articles "delirious diatribe," then he attacks Horton for being Pedobaptist, and something else about A. D. 70 and Horton not responding to him. Talk about delirious diatribe.
BTW, here are some other resources that should be of interest regarding Osteen. Regarding Mr. Ross, well, this was my first and last comments concerning him.
Your Best Life Now? Assessing Joel Osteen's Prosperity Message, by Robert Bowman.
Behind The Smile: A Closer Look at Joel Osteen's "Your Best Life Now" (Real Media file), by Rafael Martinez and Lance King.
"The Leaven of Lakewood – Joel Osteen’s Appealing But Aberrant Message" The Quarterly Journal, Vol 24, No 4.
10/14/2007 - James WhiteI'm half tempted to add a new category, "Various Illegal Activities Caught on Video" or something like that.
By my estimation our nocturnal visitor probably got himself a handful of glass for very little. I have carefully examined the video now (remotely!), and he was in the offices less than 40 seconds. Our alarm makes a horrid racket. Obviously, you can still grab valuable stuff in 40 seconds. We are doing what we can, remotely again, to see if he swiped much of anything. The irony is, this is probably the best weekend for this to happen. Why? Because most of the valuable stuff that someone could swipe from us has to do with conferences and debates, and all that stuff is up here with us! So there wasn't much left of value, that's for sure. Unless he wanted to read piles of theologically rich and accurate books. Not likely.
So here is a picture of him...running away, off into the (appropriate) darkness. I'd like to think he might have run smack dab into something out there in his haste as a small bit of justice. But that's unlikely as well. In any case, those bars are not coming off those windows anymore...well, not without knocking the wall down anyway. And so we press on, all the efforts of evil men notwithstanding! "Brethren, pray for us."
3:52am Phone Call
10/14/2007 - James WhiteThe Puritans called it a "dark providence." Far from home, your cell phone rings. It is the alarm company. Yes, again. This man arrived outside our offices around 3:42am. He managed to get through the iron bars on the window, break it, and get in. Of course, that set off the alarm. It was a bit frustrating to log into our video system and not see anyone there for quite a while, but eventually the place was surrounded. No, they didn't catch the guy. But it also looks like he didn't get much of anything, though, at this point, obviously, it is hard to tell. My office, the location of the previous break ins, was not touched, as it is now a bit like a fortress. They broke the largest window in the offices, the one I've always felt was the most prone to this kind of thing. But how they got the iron bars off the concrete block wall, well, at this point, I don't know. Evidently we need to get some Dobermanns, electric fences...something along those lines. Welcome to Phoenix, as they say. LA East. No earthquakes, just a lot more heat.
Please pray that the folks back in Phoenix can secure the offices fully and that the offices will be protected while we press forward with our work here in Seattle. I would like to immediately thank Vic, Dan, Benny, and the others who will be working to secure things back in Pheonix. Also pray that this distraction will not detract from what we have worked so hard to prepare for those in the conference and, of course, that none of this will impact the upcoming debate.
So It Begins
10/13/2007 - James WhiteAs this posts I will be headed to Seattle. Forecast: rain, rain, more rain. I don't mind a bit. I could use a bit of hydration, to be honest. And it will not get much above 54 the whole week. Again, I'm all for that. Remember, I just survived July and August in Phoenix.
If I might speak with my fellow brothers and sisters, those who stand with us in seeking to glorify God in the proclamation of His truth. I was just watching Rich pack up over 500 lbs. worth of equipment to ship to Seattle. The costs in putting on a debate like this are great. We do the recording. We do the shipping. We do the arranging. We pay to fly those we debate to the location. We put them up. And you all well know that with what we ask for our DVDs and the like, it literally takes years to recoup the costs. We don't do this to make money, we do it because it needs to be done! Rarely can truth be seen as clearly and brightly as it can be in the context of debate.
But once in a while I need to remind folks: we are a tiny ministry. We do not have the kind of financial resources many of the "big boys" do. We don't do fund-raising, networking, cold-calling, and all that kind of stuff. So when we step out onto the front lines like we are this week, we need all the encouragement we can get from those who believe that what we are doing is important and worthwhile, not only for today, but for years to come. So if you can assist us at this time, either with a one-time gift, or even more importantly, with a regular monthly donation, it would go a long way toward encouraging us to continue this kind of work in the future. And it would sure allow me to be focused solely upon the challenge ahead of me as well. Thank you for your consideration!
The UK Branch of Answers in Genesis Responds to Council of Europe
10/12/2007 - Alan KurschnerAnswers in Genesis have posted a reply to the recent Council of Europe document that dogmatically asserts "The dangers of creationism in education."
On the Last DL for...Twelve Days
10/11/2007 - James WhiteStarted off with a review of Tim Staples from CA Live on the subject of "eternal security" illustrating the difference between God-centered and man-centered reading of the Scriptures. Then we moved back to Shabir Ally's objections to the concept of atonement. Here's the program (free/high quality).
God Has Spoken With Clarity on His Freedom in Predestination
10/11/2007 - Alan KurschnerIf you have been a Calvinist for some time, you have heard the objection "Predestination is a mystery," or some version of that. Often it is a good-intentioned pious remark, and other times it is intended to blunt discussion on the certainty that God has spoken with clarity of his freedom in saving a people for himself. Recently someone responded to me,
"I'm not a complete fan of Calvinism...because I feel it's a little too boxy for such a huge, deep spiritual truth [predestination] within a Spiritual realm that we cannot completely comprehend."Not sure what is meant by “completely comprehend”? If he means by that we cannot completely comprehend God’s unfathomable love for us rebel sinners that he would elect us unto salvation, then no one is going to disagree with that. But if he means that we cannot have certainty that God has spoken with clarity of his free grace to bestow on undeserved sinners because that truth is too “deep” then I completely disagree since the apostle Paul is absolutely clear in Romans 9 that election does not depend on what we do but on his freedom and wisdom.
Do we claim that since the Trinity is a deep spiritual truth we cannot have certainty that the Bible teaches the Trinity? We can have certainty of the fundamentals of the Trinity: 1) Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father are Divine 2) There is only one God 3) and Equality of the Persons. Certainly we cannot have “complete comprehension” regarding the depths of the intimate relationship between the persons. Certainly we are not privy to the mystery of God incarnate. Yet, we have certainty that this is what the Bible teaches--and believing this is not putting God in a "box." We can be a “complete fan” of Trinitarianism. And we can be a “complete fan of Calvinism” since it is Calvinism that is faithful to the clarity of Scripture on God's freedom in salvation.
Has God spoken with clarity on his freedom in the predestination of his people? Absolutely. One cannot read Romans 9 and come away from it thinking, “The reason that I am elected is because of something I did.” To claim that predestination is a “mystery” is to contradict the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1 who says that the mystery of predestination has been made known! It is no longer a mystery! The will of the Father has been revealed:
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”(Ephesians 1:9-12)Somewhat related to this is the question that I am often asked, "Why did God choose someone over some other person?" My simple response is to turn to Ephesians chapter 1 and give them these specific Biblical reasons listed below:
In love he predestined us (v.4,5)Amazingly though, some are not satisfied with Paul's answers here. They are not content that the reason that someone is elected is for God's purpose, will, and special love. They cannot accept that God's wisdom is perfect and just in his choice of the elect. Sometimes I even get a sense that they want an answer that involves what we have done for God to choose us! They are seeking a man-centered reason for the cause of election--not a God-centered reason as Paul lays out in Ephesians 1. We can be thankful that God has spoken with clarity on predestination, and that it depended on his freedom and mercy, and not on our God-hating rebel wills. If the word "predestination" is not one of the sweetest words to a believer's ear (as it was for the apostle Paul) then some evaluation is needed of that heart.
to be holy and blameless in his sight (v.4)
to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ (v.5)
in accordance with his pleasure and will (v.5)
to the praise of his glorious grace (v.6)
in accordance with the riches of God's grace (v.7)
according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (v.9)
according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (v.11)
More Hatred of Christianity
10/10/2007 - James WhiteI have added a new category here on the blog: persecution. We all know that our brothers and sisters are persecuted around the world by repressive regimes, whether they be atheistic/communistic (North Korea, for example), or religious (Islamic, Hindu). But it is no longer any secret at all that secularists want to silence Christians, whether they be of the dogmatic Darwinist sort (Dawkins) or others, such as the homosexual lobby.
We saw just recently that the Council of Europe (part of the EU) put forward document 11375 (17/9/2007 -- in European date order, which makes more sense, in this case, than the standard US format) titled "The dangers of creationism in education." The document can be found here. There is no room for debate, no room for discussion or dispute, as the document begins with its summary, "Creationism in any of its forms, such as 'intelligent design', is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are definitely inappropriate for science classes." Well there you go! That settles it! Just as Rome attempted to silence criticism of its own misunderstandings centuries ago in Europe, no one seems to have learned a thing during the intervening centuries. While once it was religious bigotry that stifled the very ability of man to speak and debate and argue and disagree, now the secularist bigots have taken control, and they are just as intent upon stifling free speech and the expression of opposing viewpoints as ever their religious ancestors did. Dogmatically committed to Darwinism with a fervor of faith beyond almost anything known today in European "Christianity," the Secular Kingdom of Europe has firmly established its credentials as hating God's law, hating God's Word, and hating God's truth. You will love homosexuality, abortion, and everything else that eats at the soul of man, or you will be an outcast, and feel the brunt of the heel of the kingdom's boot. Of course, secularist Europe cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, for the secularist is concerned only about himself or herself, and hence simply does not reproduce. So this monument to man's hatred of God will be washed away in short order by the natural reproduction rates of the immigrant Islamic populations, and the work of persecuting Christians, begun by the secularist regimes, will fall to those with far more experience in that field.
There are so many contradictions and absurdities in the Council of Europe document that it takes one's breath away. It is a monument to dogmatic secularistic fundamentalism. It does not even show a passing familiarity with the key issues in the debate, but, how could it? Darwinists do not want their theory debated. They want it obeyed. Period.
So today I was pointed to another indication of the incessant bent of the Western Rebel toward hatred of God. Here is another move to shut the mouths of those who would speak God's Word in the UK. I have documented numerous times on this blog the push to establish "gay super rights." Homosexuals, constantly suppressing the voice of conscience, want no one adding to that monumental effort by speaking the truth they are working so hard to suppress. So they seek to silence those who would say homosexuality is a life-destroying, culture damaging addiction by force of law. "Hate crimes" legislation is nothing more than a means of giving the government the right to peer into the hearts and minds on the basis of its own prejudice. It is a mechanism to suppress expression of "politically incorrect" views. We watched the old Soviet Union use these kinds of laws for decades as a basis for its brutal suppression of free thought, and now the West is mimicking its vanquished foe. While it will take longer for these laws to come to full effect in the US, the process has already begun. Free speech is now only for those who wish to promote godlessness thereby.
In a wonderful display of irony, I paged down to find one Dan from Sheffield making a comment on the news story. He concluded his comments with, "laws against incitement to hatred allready exist for other things, this just extends that legal standard, and shoudl extend equally , to everyone, whatever sky pixie they happen to belive in." Why shouldn't Dan's description of my God as a "sky pixie" fall under the very same prohibitions of "hate speech"? No one can answer that question, since logic and reason are not relevant to those who promote this kind of mindless "political correctness."
The days of our freedom to speak are numbered in the West, my friends. We must take advantage of them while we can! It will not be long before "counting the cost" will finally have meaning for those of us who have been blessed with unlimited freedom for a very long time.
Today on The Dividing Line
10/09/2007 - James WhiteThe majority of today's program was focused on Shabir Ally's objections to the atonement. But, I also added a special addition at the end of the program, where I played two songs from one man...a man who is...two men. Mylo Hatzenbuhler we have heard a few times before but, we haven't before heard his "other side," the more serious side, the work of the real Mylo, Clyde Bauman. So don't turn the program off after the end! Once the closing credits are over, I play Mylo's classic number, "Pickup to Lemmon," and I follow that with Clyde Bauman singing Dvorak's, "Goin Home" from the New World Symphony. For more info on Mylo's music, visit his website! He's a good brother in the Lord. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Followup: Steve Ray's 'World Premier'
10/09/2007 - James SwanAfter this past Thursday's Dividing Line, I've been looking around for any type of response from Steve Ray or his supporters. One person on Ray's discussion board at the "world premier" quipped, "There was also some guy named J. White on the guest list, but he never showed." Well, at least this may indicate some of his Ray's supporters at least seem to be aware of Dr. White's review.
One person on Steve Ray's blog commented,
"I’m not Roman Catholic, but I have more freedom to enjoy the riches the RC church has to offer than Dr. White would urge. I thought on his podcast he overstated the 'perspicuity' of the doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture alone and minimized the creedal and theological development that the doctrine went through."
It doesn't appear this person listened closely, as one of the main points was that the evidence for the Trinity is mined from the Scriptures, as the outcome of God's people examining God's revealed inscripturated truth. The guiding factor for the development of the Trinity is the Bible. As Dr. White pointed out in his book Scripture Alone, "The text of Scripture provides the grounds and, most important, the limits for this development over time." And also, "Real development of Christian doctrine is simply our ever-increasing understanding of the Word" (p.185).
Contrarily, the Roman Catholic Marian dogmas are not mined from Scripture. The assumption and the immaculate conception are not the result of God's people delving deeper and deeper into God's Word. They are not the result of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. They are not the result of in-depth exegetical studies. They are ideas found outside of Biblical revelation. As Dr. White notes, "Many doctrinal formulations that Rome claims 'developed' over time are not only non-biblical but downright anti-biblical. These came about as a result of a process; however, it was not development of Christian doctrine but slowly departing from Christian doctrine" (p.185).
For the defenders of Rome to make their parallel between the Trinity and the Marian dogmas, they would have to demonstrate the Marian dogmas are the result of God's people dealing with, and only with, God's Word. Recall a few days ago I mentioned The New Catholic Answer Bible stated, "Is Mary's assumption described in the Bible? No, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen." Here is as blatant a denial of true Biblical doctrinal development as one can find.
Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott states, "The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not explicitly revealed in Scripture" (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p.200). He also admits that the first monograph on this subject was written in the twelfth century (p.201). Because of this, I would argue Roman Catholics are forced to begin with the immaculate conception, and then secondarily seek to refer back to Scripture for support or implicit proofs. So if there is any development here, it is backward development. It is taking a developed concept and seeking to read it back into Scripture. This is exactly what Pius XII said to do in the papal encyclical Humani generis:
"It is also true that theologians must always have recourse to the sources of divine revelation; for it is their duty to indicate how what is taught by the living magisterium is found, either explicitly or implicitly, in Sacred Scripture and in divine 'tradition'. "
David King rightfully stated of this,
"This language of Pius XII amounts to a prescription, not for exegesis, but for eisegesis, i.e. reading into Scripture and/or tradition the doctrinal pronouncements of the Roman magisterium. Scripture, not to mention tradition, is regarded as an afterthought. It is the Roman magisterium that becomes the norma normans non normata, and as such, acts as the norma normans (the norm that norms) for both Scripture and tradition. Rome makes herself the final standard for the adjudication of all doctrine. To paraphrase Pius XII above, the magisterium defines, then the theologians find. Rome's position is de facto that of sola Ecclesia, a law unto herself" (Holy Scripture Vol. 1, p. 244).
This backward development expressed by Pius XII can be mistaken as Biblical study. For instance, In seeking out implicit scriptural proofs, appeals to the phrase "full of grace" as a translation of Luke 1:28 are offered. This text is a favorite of the New Catholic E-pologists, but is not warranted, being rejected in many modern translations and scholarship. Even the translation used by the New Catholic Answer Bible (NAB) translates the phrase "Hail favored one!" This of course, does not stop the insert writers (Dave Armstrong and Paul Thigpen) from translating the phrase "full of grace"in one of their inserts and using it as a proof text. Nor does "full of grace" make any sense in the context. As Eric Svendsen pointed out, "Contextually, the reason Mary is 'highly favored' is because she 'has been elected by God to conceive the Messiah', not because of some intrinsic and permanent quality of grace within Mary" (Who Is My Mother?, p. 129).
Roman Catholic apologists have to be called out on the Marian dogma / Trinity parallel. By doing so, it's an opportunity to direct them solely to the Biblical text, and also exposes faulty argumentation. Primarily, it exposes that what determines truth in Roman Catholicism is not the Bible. The guiding principle for Roman Catholic doctrinal development is none other than the Roman Catholic Church. That which sets the boundaries for Romanism is Rome. The Bible functions as it does in all sola Ecclesia groups, as a vehicle to promote what it wants God to say, rather than what God has said.
Eschatology and the Antichrist
10/08/2007 - Jeff DownsNot sure how much I'll be able to post, but I'll do my best to keep things going. Don't miss the Dr. Kim Riddlebarger's series on "Eschatology and the Antichrist." I believe there will be four parts; two are currently posted online:
Part 1 - The Biblical Doctrine of the Antichrist (9/28/07)
Part 2 - The Man of Lawlessness: Nero? The Pope? Or Someone Yet to Come? (10/5/07).
Stay tuned to this page for the updates. The Academy & Authors' Forums currently meets every Friday.
To Our Faithful Brothers and Sisters
10/07/2007 - James WhiteWe enter this week upon a period of intense teaching and ministry. I leave this week for Seattle. We will be worshipping at a local Reformed Baptist Church the Lord's Day morning, and Sunday evening I will be starting the class and conference on the Cross, which will then continue on the Mercury Monday.
I am truly looking forward to spending the week with excited, committed believers, focused upon Calvary. We will be spending the majority of our time over the first days in the text of Scripture, focusing upon the nature and intent of the atonement. Then we will transition as the week progresses toward its end into the subject of the historicity of the cross as I get "in the zone" for the debate Friday evening on that very subject.
We disembark Friday morning, make the short journey to the hotel, and prepare for the debate Friday evening. We believe that we will have a very good Islamic representation at the debate, audience wise, and I fully expect Shabir Ally's strongest set of arguments. Of course, I have listened to many of Shabir's presentations on this topic, including debates on the topic, so I am fully prepared for the range of arguments he has presented in the past. Further, I have listened to debates and presentations by a number of other Islamic apologists on the topic as well. I am looking forward to this encounter!
The result of the preparation, packing, etc., is predictable: I cannot guarantee much action on the blog, at least from me, for the next two weeks. Even when on the ship I will be teaching for many hours a day, so any blog articles will probably be quite brief. I hope some of the other folks on Team Apologian can step up and keep things active, but I know our regular supporters and readers understand the necessity of being quite focused at this time.
Along those lines, please make a commitment to bring this week of ministry before the Lord. I know I can do nothing outside of the blessing of the Triune God. My teaching falls upon deaf ears if the Spirit does not bring light and understanding. It is truly my prayer that the debate will provide a clear, compelling proclamation of Christ crucified to any and all Muslims who will view it, both that night as well as for years into the future (the primary reason we do debates to begin with!). Please pray that God will bless the group that gathers in Seattle with a sense of unity, fellowship, and purpose. Pray that the Spirit will grant to us unity and a forgiving spirit should any offend. Pray for my health, as well! I have debated through sickness in the past, but it is never enjoyable! And as Rich and I are away next week (hence, no DLs), please pray that God will protect the ministry and that God's people will continue to support us even as we stand on the frontlines. In all these things, may the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, be praised!
Reformed Theology on Iron Sharpens Iron
10/06/2007 - James SwanChris Arnzen, mastermind coordinator behind the Great Debate series, hosts a daily radio show, Iron Sharpens Iron. Dr. White has been on this show frequently, most recently in dialog with Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics, and also giving 10 questions for potential Roman Catholic converts.
For those of you committed to the doctrines of grace, a few recent shows deserve a listening. These shows are all available as free MP3's:
Steven J. Lawson, the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, addressed the The Expository Genius of John Calvin.
Steve Camp addressed, THE ORDO SALUTIS: the Biblical Sequence of Stages Involved in Salvation (& How Their Order Effects Evangelism). Many within modern evangelicalism believe that faith precedes regeneration. Steve Camp proves those who teach this have unwittingly reversed God's ordained order for the salvation of lost men.
Tom Ascol addressed Hyper-Calvinism vs. Historic Calvinisim . Many if not most Evangelicals who are NOT Calvinists, erroneously apply the disparaging term "Hyper-Calvinist" to those who believe in the doctrines of sovereign grace. Pastor Ascol proves this improper use of a derogatory label is reckless behavior, and reveals that those who do so are uninformed or misinformed.
Today on The Dividing Line
10/04/2007 - James WhiteWe did our best to celebrate the World Premiere of Steve Ray's DVD (in Troy, Michigan) by playing clips from Steve's recent CA Live appearance and, well, sorta examining his claims for consistency and accuracy. The result was...as to be expected! Here's the program (free/high quality).
Today on the Dividing Line: the World Premiere of Steve Ray's New DVD! Excitement is an Understatement!
10/04/2007 - James WhiteI almost lost consciousness this morning when I saw this announcement appear on my screen:
World Premier of Apostolic Fathers!
Friday night I will be giving an introductory talk on the Apostolic Fathers before showing our new DVD for the first time!! The title is Apostolic Fathers, Handing on the Faith.
Anyone who buys a copy at this event will also receive a free copy of my audio CD From Baptist to Catholic: the Unintended Journey.
Oh man, if I could just get a flight to Troy, Michigan, for the World Premiere of this...DVD! I wonder who will be there? Mel? Britney? Denzel? This would be big enough to break out the kilt! But alas, I probably won't be able to make it. But I sure would like a copy of From Baptist to Catholic: the Unintended Journey. Even the title reminds me of such great works of cinema and literature like...Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
However, just recently Steve Ray was on Catholic Answers Live talking about the very same topic, so today on the DL, to help Steve celebrate the World Premiere of this DVD, we will be playing some clips from his appearance on the program. We really need to do this since, as we will hear, Ray is an "expert" on the early church. And one thing we have all learned from watching The Journey Home is that all you have to do is pop open a single book of the early church fathers and bang you will be praying to Saint Bellarmine by the time the book hits the desktop. No one has ever read the early church writers without converting to Rome, and surely this new DVD will have folks clamoring to join up as well! Of course...I might have a few facts from the history of that period to bring to bear that might have missed the "cut" and didn't make it onto the DVD...maybe. We will see! But don't miss all the excitement of the World Premiere show today on the DL, 7pm Eastern Snob Time, 4pm Pacific Laid Back Time, 4pm Mountain Honoring of Time...Time.
Oh, btw...for those interested, the final from last night was...D'Backs 3, Cubs 1. :-) For some odd reason, my friend back East is not replying to my text messages. Isn't that odd?
The New Catholic Answer Bible (Part One)
10/04/2007 - James Swan
After about a year of stopping myself, I finally picked up The New Catholic Answer Bible (Wichita: Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005). The work appears to be some sort of collaboration between Dr. Paul Thigpen, editor of The Catholic Answer magazine and My Daily Catholic Bible (Our Sunday Visitor) and Dave Armstrong (a self-proclaimed Catholic apologist). Thigpen left the charismatic movement to swim the Tiber, and holds a PH.D in historical theology. Armstrong, also a convert, calls his swim across the Tiber "Confessions of a 1980s' Jesus Freak." To my knowledge, he has no theological training.
So far I haven't been able to locate any information within the book as to who wrote either the notes or the plentiful information inserts. Amazon.com indicates Armstrong and Thigpen wrote the inserts (the Amazon link features a picture of Armstrong, so I think it's safe to say Armstrong is involved, he also links to this book from his blog). But, I haven't found either Thigpen's or Armstrong's names anywhere in the book. Well, it is around 1400 pages, so perhaps I'll come across this information yet. I wrote the publisher a few days ago asking for this information, and so far, no response. This reminds me a little bit of the old who wrote the New World Translation? Add to this, the frequent Watchtower-like drawings throughout this book, giving one that "I'm reading something a bit slippery" feel.
The book is set up like a typical study Bible with commentary notes at the bottom of each page. Whoever wrote these notes though, is still a mystery. Throughout the book are "inserts." These are one page topical overviews of Roman Catholic doctrine, basic theological, and apologetic issues. I'm going to guess these are primarily Armstrong's and Thigpen's, and there is indeed a difference in content between the inserts and commentary. The commentary appears to be written by someone with at least some exegetical training. The inserts have more of the typical current trend of Catholic pop-apologetics.
As I've skimmed through the book, one thing I immediately looked for was what particular body of doctrine was this Bible going to attempt to give "answers" to. That is, is this Bible going to defend the growing popular Catholic understanding of material sufficiency, or will it use vague language, giving it a partim-partim slant? Those adhering to material sufficiency would hold all the doctrines Catholics are to believe are found in the Bible. Those holding to the Partim-Partim view say that part of God's special revelation is contained in the Scripture, and part is contained in Tradition. I think this is a crucial question, because it will determine exactly how particular answers will be given. For instance, will non-biblical key Catholic dogmas like the assumption, papal infallibility, or indulgences be defended and proof-texted in the commentary, or will these been seen as elements of Tradition?
Perhaps this quote from Insert U1 (after page 1314) provides the answer:
"Some Christians insist that only Scripture is authoritative for Christian faith and life. They deny the Catholic teaching (and the historical reality) that Scripture is actually a written portion of a much wider sacred and authoritative Tradition, which includes other elements passed down orally and by patterns of behavior. They fail to realize that if Scripture were the only legitimate source of Christian belief and practice, the early Christians who lived before the New Testament was written and circulated could not have lived the faith. St. Paul alludes to this reality. He tells the Thessalonians how to discern the truth from error: 'Brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement [oral tradition] or by a letter of ours [Scripture]' (2 Thes 2:15). "
Insert N-2 states the following:
"St. Paul, for example, commands Christians to 'hold fast' to the traditions he has passed on to them, both those that were written down (and were later recognized as Scripture) and those that were not written down (see 2 Thes 2:15)."
This seems to be a partim-partim leaning. Interestingly, the commentary note on 2 Thes. 2:15 doesn't even address this particular issue. I was a bit shocked to find that The Catholic Answer Bible didn't have this bolded with a two-page section of commentary, as it has been a key proof-text for Roman apologists. I think this points out the difference in scholarship between the writers of the inserts and the writers of the notes. The insert writers present your standard Catholic pop-apologetics.
So, as far as I can tell, this answer-Bible will not be helpful on one of the most important issues facing Roman Catholics, that is, are Catholics defending more material than is found in the Bible? Perhaps Armstrong and Thigpen plan on doing The New Catholic Answer Tradition Book sometime in the future. For instance, in their note on the assumption, they state,
"Is Mary's assumption described in the Bible? No, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. The death of St. Joseph isn't described in Scripture, either, though it's certain that this important event took place within the years chronicled by the gospels. In fact, many events even in the life of our Lord himself were not recorded in Scripture (see jn 21:25). The assumption of Mary is only one of the many significant events in the life of the early Church that have been remembered and witnessed to by ancient Tradition."
So, this "answer Bible" is not limited to giving Biblical answers! Non-biblical answers are included in the inserts written by Thigpen and Armstrong. In the next few weeks, I'm going to post more of the answers I've found in The New Catholic Answer Bible. Perhaps the next edition should include the disclaimer: "not all answers will be Biblical."
On Giving Your Cell Number to People on the East Coast
10/03/2007 - James WhiteSo I was deep, deep in sleep this morning at 4:32am. I remember the dream had something to do with debate, as I was making a very strong point. Now, it may have been about how horses with wings are clearly worth more than horses in roller skates (you know how dreams are), but the point is I was in deep sleep. REM sleep.
Then...my BlackBerry starts loudly proclaming the arrival of...a text message. Yes, a text message at 4:32am. Now, I leave it on at night because at times I need to receive messages, say, from my daughter, if she is traveling. My parents are older, so I keep the phone nearby. But generally, I get to sleep through the night. Not today. See, I gave my cell number to a friend. He's still a friend, don't get me wrong. But you see, he lives on the East Coast. I live in Phoenix. People on the East Coast often don't know where Phoenix actually is. It's on the other side of the Big River (the Mississippi), so its exact location isn't overly relevant. But what is more, what time zone it is in is not relevant, either. Folks on the East Coast do seem to realize that they should stop and think a bit before calling someone in California, because they realize there is a three hour difference there. But since Phoenix isn't in California, well, the time difference doesn't matter.
You see, Eastern Time Zone folks are...time snobs. Yes, there is a thing called time snobbery. It's when you think your time zone rules everyone else's. Time snobbery. And it is time to speak out about it!
Now, I should note that folks on the West Coast do the same thing in reverse. They will often call folks in the East Coast way, way late at night for the very same "my time zone is really all that matters" reason. But East Coasters seem to be more infected with this idea, since, from their perspective, everything takes place in their time anyway. They are the "standard." And besides, New York is in their time zone, hence, does anything else matter?
Now, the folks in "fly over" territory, the folks in the Central Time Zone, are the least time-snobbish of anyone. That is because you almost never see anything announced in their time zone. You see "9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific," and the poor folks in the middle are just expected to "do the math." Central time zone folks suffer from clear time-discrimination by time snobs in the Eastern and Pacific time zones. And since Mountain time only includes the likes of Wyoming and New Mexico...well, MST is the red-headed stepchild of time zones, to be sure. Eastern time snobs generally don't even mention MST. It's irrelevant. A literal "waste of time."
Now we in Arizona are some of the few folks in the world who honor time. See, we realize that clocks do not determine what time it is: time is independent of clocks. Clocks are just instruments. Turning your clock back, or forward, an hour, does not actually impact time, just your perception thereof. So we in Arizona don't play with our clocks. We don't pretend that moving the hands around is actually changing anything. Time is time, and we honor it as such. Hence, for about 8 months out of the year now, our honoring of time means that our clocks read the same as the folks on the West Coast. The other four months or so we synch up with Mountain time. In other words, we are always MST. Period. Ah, the glory of consistency.
Now, my friend was texting me because he not only suffers from time snobbery, and hence it never crossed his mind that 7:32 his time would be 4:32 mine, but he also suffers from being a...Cubs fan. And you see, I live in Phoenix, and the Arizona DiamondBacks had the best record in the NL, and hence are playing the Cubs in the first round of the MLB playoffs. Now, ever since the commissioner of the NBA handed the 06/07 season to the Spurs, I haven't cared a bit about pro sports. I really haven't. It's a racket and I just don't care anymore. I ceased being a fan of anything, NBA, NFL, MLB, whatever. But I admit I'm pulling for the D'Backs for two reasons: 1) I was here when they started, so, at least I've been consistent, and 2) I can't name a single person on their team. Seriously. Right now, this season, they are a bunch of young guys, no big super-stars, no $100 million dynasty guys, just a buncha young guys playing for the love of the game (how is THAT for unusual anymore). So, it's easy to root for them over against the over-paid, pampered super stars that fill the rosters of other teams. Yes, I know...they will almost all fall into that same trap themselves if they do well, so hey, does it really matter? But for this season, it's easy to root for them to beat the massively over-paid guys on the other squads.
So, the time-snobbery-originated text message that rudely woke me up at 4:32am this morning was a poor, deluded time-snob Cubs fan informing me that "the D'Backs are going down tonight!" Well, maybe they will. I won't be watching. I'll be at church, Lord willing, and other than that, prepping for next week (cruise/debate). But I did learn one lesson from this morning: be careful who you give your cell number to. If they are on the East Coast, you might wish to have them tested for time snobbery before you hand over that number.
(Anyone not reading this entire thing as the humorous piece it is supposed to be needs to take a remedial course in contextualized reading).
Book Review: Putting Jesus In His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ
10/03/2007 - Alan KurschnerPutting Jesus In His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski is a book about the greatest human who has ever lived: Jesus, God in the flesh. The world's religions have no problem embracing and affirming his human nature; it is the doctrine of his divine nature that offends and confronts the heart of all that is implied with the uniqueness of Jesus (hence, the reason why many post-evangelical Christians sadly today will focus on his “humanness” as to not offend postmoderns.)
This book is anything but a dry systematic treatment of the deity of Christ; and it is crafted and organized in such a way as to mnemonically teach our Lord’s identity in a church setting or apologetically argue for his deity with nonbelievers. Devotionally, this book will dispel any notion that Jesus is our “big brother”--it will bring us back to a reverence for his Lordship that was practiced in the apostolic age. In other words, we pray and worship to the Creator of the universe and not a mere first-century demigod. The book is not monochromatic in its approach, the authors write,
Our aim is to provide a comprehensive case from the New Testament for the deity of Jesus Christ. Many of us were taught that the deity of Jesus can be proved using one or two verses—say, John 1:1 (“and the Word was God”) or John 20:28 (where Thomas calls Jesus, “My Lord and my God”). To be sure, we will say something about these important texts. But there is much more biblical evidence for Jesus’ deity.The authors are pedagogically and apologetically minded for they have structured the content in five categories of evidence for the deity of Christ with the acronym HANDS:
Honors: Jesus shares the honors due to God.The book contains an appendix, “HANDS Review Tables” that summarize the evidence in the book. So once you read the book these “review tables’ in the appendix would be an excellent way to review these different categories of evidence for the Deity of Christ without having to go back and re-reading the entire book.
Attributes: Jesus shares the attributes of God.
Names: Jesus shares the names of God.
Deeds: Jesus shares in the deeds that God does.
Seat: Jesus shares the seat of God’s throne.
Lastly, since I am a footnote junkie I have to say the endnotes at the back of the book are worth the cost of the book. Though the book itself covers what is essential for the Deity of Christ, the footnotes immerse you deeper into current scholarly discussion, grammatical and textual insights, and further suggested readings for the ambitious.
God in human flesh is a mystery and miracle—this we cannot fully fathom. God’s revelation to us that this has indeed happened is demonstrated comprehensively in Putting Jesus in His Place from the Primary Source: God-breathed Scripture.
Today on the Dividing Line
10/02/2007 - James WhitePressed on with our review of the Regent University debate with Shabir Ally, focusing upon the key issues that will surely arise in just a few weeks now in Seattle. Here's the program (free/high quality).
For Those Who Support Dan Corner
10/02/2007 - James WhiteRemember Dan Corner? He was on Gene Cook's program a while back? The one-string banjo playing fellow whose only topic of discussion is "OSAS"? Well, for those of you who send money to Dan Corner for his ministry, you might want to consider what he is spending it on. Open up a browser (this seems to only be in the US, as we had folks in Canada and Sweden try this and it didn't come up) and put "aomin" in the Google search bar. First item up? A sponsored link to Dan Corner's website, with one of the search items listed being "no Calvinism." Try it. Someone told me he is paying per click, so hey, let's give Dan something to be happy about! Visit his site. Click that link! And while you are visiting, check out the file we have had up for years documenting Corner's antics here.
Reformed Baptist Fellowship Blog Entry
10/01/2007 - James WhiteRead it here.
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#6)
10/01/2007 - James WhiteWe have been working through an article posted by Islamic apologist Ali Ataie attacking the credibility of Saul of Tarsus, i.e., Paul the Apostle. So far we have found Ataie's article lacking in any substance whatsoever, and have found each and every point to demonstrate only that Ataie's exegetical skills are missing-in-action. Context, and any kind of fair-minded reading of the text, have no place in his mean-spirited attack upon a martyr-apostle of Jesus Christ. This kind of action would be similar to a Christian posting a grossly misleading, unfair, mean-spirited, a-contextual, inaccurate attack upon one of the Companions of the Prophet, say, Abdullah ibn Umar, or Zayd ibn Thabit.It needs to be remembered that while Muslims express great offense when they perceive an attack upon their Prophet or upon Islam, Islamic apologists are quick to launch attacks against the entirety of the early generations of Christians, accusing them either of falsehood, as in the case of the Apostle Paul, or of abject cowardice, in the case of the "original followers of Jesus" who, if their theories are correct, capitulated to the upstart Paul and allowed him to completely hi-jack the faith of Jesus! In any case, the battleground must be level: just as any Christian must, by definition, say Muhammad is not a prophet of God, so too the Muslim must say the apostles Paul, John, Matthew and Peter, along with men like Luke and Jude, were deceivers who should not be honored, for they led people away from the "true religion" of Islam and into the worship of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. There is nothing to be gained by ignoring the conflict that exists: true progress of understanding demands that the issues be clear before our eyes. No man shows love for the truth who hides the real issues that cause the conflict in the name of peace.
Mr. Ataie continues:
Paul is believed by Christians to be the author of fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament and the only historical author of the New Testament who is also a major character WITHIN the New Testament. Paul bridged the gap between Jew and Gentile by abrogating the sacred Torah of Moses and demanding from Christians absolute faith in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.Of course, historic Christian faith has affirmed the authorship by Paul of thirteen NT Epistles. The fourteenth to which Ataie refers is Hebrews, which may, or may not, be Pauline. In any case, it is an interesting observation that Paul is the only NT author who is also a major character within the NT, which is basically true. However, his actions and travels are central not in his own writings, but in the major book of Acts, written by Luke. We are truly left wondering, however, what Mr. Ataie means when he says that Paul "bridged the gap" between Jew and Gentile. While Paul was key in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles, as Acts makes clear, he was not the first. Peter is used in this task first, though his role is that of ground-breaker. He remains "Apostle to the Jews" while Paul is "apostle to the Gentiles." But the assertion that Paul does this by "abrogating the sacred Torah of Moses" is the same absurd charge that Paul refuted repeatedly in his own ministry. Here Ataie joins the scribes and Pharisees in their false allegations against Paul. No texts are provided, for none could be. Instead, Ataie joins this allegation together with the odd statement that Paul "demanded from Christians absolute faith in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ." Is this meant to be the corollary to the alleged abrogation of God's law, which Paul so clearly teaches points to one's own sin, and hence to the need of a Savior? Is it an assertion that before Paul there had been no focus upon faith in the crucified and risen Savior? Such would be the logical extension, and is, of course, the Islamic position, all based upon the anachronistic reading back into the first century of the necessary implications drawn from one particular reading of Surah 4:157.
But such is not the conclusion one comes to when faced with the facts of the matter. The message of the cross is clearly pre-Pauline, and all the attempts by Islam's apologists to say otherwise fall flat in the face of the most basic examination. The only possible means by which they can promote such a theory is by first vilifying Paul, without basis, and attributing to him the basest possible motives. What is more, they have to ascribe to him nearly supernatural powers of persuasion, for he comes along after the beginning of the Christian movement and, starting as a persecutor thereof, somehow manages to take the whole thing over in a matter of less than two decades! At the same time they have to ascribe to the original followers of Jesus the most serious forms of cowardice and failure! If, as Muslim authors assert, Jesus and the Apostles were themselves Muslims, and Jesus only taught about Himself what is found in the Qur'an, then every single one of the New Testament books was written by an enemy of the true Muslim Jesus. So how did the original followers of Jesus fail so completely to produce even a single work of literature in contradiction to the corrupted New Testament? Some try to say they did, and point to either Gnostic groups, or others, to the Ebionites. But neither group has any meaningful claim to originality when it comes to the disciples of Jesus. The Gnostic worldview is clearly Eastern, and surely no one can argue successfully that the Jewish Messiah in the first century in Judea was running about spouting Gnostic proverbs. The Ebionites at least have a similar worldview to that which would have prevailed in Jerusalem, Judea, and Galilee, but the Jesus they espouse would not have created the conflict with the Jewish leaders that led to His death in Jerusalem--indeed, that Jesus looks suspiciously like a Pharisee. In any case, the Muslim runs directly into the stone wall of the statements of his own sacred text when he tries to make the Ebionites into the original followers of Jesus, for while the Qur'an promises success to those followers of Christ (3:55, 61:14), the Ebionites clearly never experienced that promised success against the "false" followers of Jesus (from the Islamic viewpoint), i.e., the actual disciples of Jesus, Peter, James, John, Paul, Luke, etc. So no matter which direction we go, the allegation that the Muslim is forced to make against the early Christians falls upon examination. The New Testament does represent what the original followers of Jesus taught; Paul did not come along and wipe out the original disciples; instead, he joined those he once persecuted, and the message he taught was not some foreign teaching, but was the same message, for he was indwelt by the same Spirit. The message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the primitive confession of faith of the church itself (1 Cor. 15:1-6), became Paul's message as well. But it did not originate with him.
However, unlike Jesus, Paul almost never mentions the impending Kingdom of God and seems to know next to nothing about the historical Jesus' ministry experiences in Galilee and Jerusalem. He only quotes Jesus once in his fourteen letters and knows nothing about the virgin birth. Can you imagine a Christian missionary of today going into the Middle East and NEVER uttering the Lord's Prayer, or one of the Beatitudes, or even a SINGLE parable that Christ gave?Evidently, the argumentation found in this kind of presentation goes along these lines, "Each of Paul's letters must be a re-statement of everything found in the Gospels; each must repeat what is said in the others, for if there is any divergence, or if there are different subjects to be addressed (as would naturally be the case in epistles written to churches or church leaders) then this means Paul was ignorant of the material in the Gospels." But such reasoning is fallacious from the start. Paul is not providing a comprehensive re-statement of everything found in the Gospels, and speculation as to the full extent of his knowledge based upon such reasoning, especially when it ignores his interaction with Peter, James, etc., is obviously fallacious. Paul does speak of the kingdom, obviously; he has no reason to repeat the events of Jesus' ministry in his epistles, either. The proclamation of Jesus' life and ministry was part and parcel of the church's life. Eyewitnesses continued that testimony for decades, all during Paul's ministry. Why should he fill his epistles with that which is the general possession of the church at large? An obvious example is at hand: why didn't Ali Ataie tell us about the hijrain this article? Why didn't he mention anything at all about Muhammad? Does this not prove that Ali Ataie is ignorant of the life of Muhammad? No, of course not! It was not his purpose to speak of Muhammad in this article, so why should we expect him to repeat everything he knows about Muhammad or Islam as a whole? In the same way, when writing, say, to Corinth, why should he repeat everything he knows about the life and ministry of Jesus? When it is appropriate, Paul does so: when speaking of the resurrection he reminds the believers of the common confession of all believers, specifically, the gospel found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6. But just because he does not repeat every miracle story, every parable, is slim foundation for assuming that when Paul sat in the fellowship of believers, listening to the same preaching by eyewitnesses everyone else did, that he must have fallen asleep!
Ataie continues with this amazing assertion:
Rather than assimilating himself into the first century Jesus tradition, Paul instead invents a religion ABOUT Jesus and declares himself the Apostle of the Lord. His main sales pitch: Jesus died for yours sins so it's okay to act irresponsibly.Note the anachronistic assumption derived not from a fair reading of the sources but from his own Muslim background: who gets to define the first century Jesus tradition? Paul is smack dab in the middle of that first century tradition, and is one of the most vital, and in fact, unquestionablebearers of that tradition! We can date Paul, identify when he was in particular cities, even tie his letters to archaeology and history so as to identify individuals within the churches to which we wrote! Unlike the wild-eyed theories of many today that get all the press and media attention that seeks to take documents written a century or more later and invest them with great authority and meaning, believers can rely upon solid and sound documentation in Paul and Luke that ties directly to the first century context. Ataie assumes the first century Jesus tradition would present us with a Muslim Jesus, the Jesus he finds in the seventh century Arabic document known as the Qur'an. But there is not the slightest historical reason whatsoever to invest the Qur'an with an iota of historical validity in its claims regarding first century Judea and Jerusalem, to be certain. Ataie cannot escape the historical anachronism forced upon him by his Islamic confession, however. So Ataie does not have any foundation at all upon which to base his assertion that Paul "invented" a religion. The modern skeptics who echo his ideas do so for reasons that he, as a Muslim, cannot borrow. They do so out of a natural revulsion to the supernatural and a rejection of anything related to the idea of "revelation." No Muslim can follow them into such an arena, and hence, cannot cite them as supportive of the Islamic position. So upon what basis does Ataie assert Paul invented a religion? Where is his first-century documentation? We have already seen that his attempts at dealing with the biblical text have failed at every point, so to what can he turn? We fully understand why he attacks Paul and his authority: he does so because a member of the Quraysh clan in distant Arabia six hundred years in the future did not know the Bible, and in particular, the New Testament, and hence, in his ignorance, contradicted Paul. Ataie, following this man implicitly, therefore rejects Paul's authority. This is the only reason.
But when Paul faced his enemies in the first century, he reported that, as is so often the case, those who oppose the truth abandon all sense of honesty and integrity in their zeal. Paul reported that some of those who opposed him lied about his teachings just to seek to impugn him and damage his ministry. In fact, some even lied about him in saying that he taught people that they could go on sinning because they were saved by grace. For example, in Romans 3:8, Paul notes such people, "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come "? Their condemnation is just." The entirety of Romans 6 provides a further refutation of this false calumny used by Paul's enemies. One would think that with the distribution of Paul's writings all over the known earth for nearly 2,000 years no one would have the temerity to continue to lie about him with such accusations. But, that is clearly not the case, as we see in these words of Ali Ataie! The very falsehood that Paul refuted in writing to the Romans in the middle of the first century Ali Ataie repeats brazenly at the beginning of the 21st century! It is truly beyond me how anyone can make a statement like this, for it stands in opposition to the entire corpus of Paul's writings. Possibly his intended audience will never check his statements for accuracy? It is hard to say, but I can only rebuke Mr. Ataie for such rhetoric, and exhort him to aspire to a higher level of apologetic in his future writings.