Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Muslim Apologetics: Does God Preserve His Word?

The Qur'an declares:

“No change can there be in the words of Allah” (10:64);

“No one can change His words” (18:27);

“There is nothing that can change His words.” (6:115)

On what basis, then, do Muslim apologists constantly repeat the charge that the Bible- which they acknowledge as originally coming from God- has been corrupted?

When mentioning this quandary on Facebook, my friend Jeremy Sells helpfully noted:
They [that is, the Muslim apologists with whom Jeremy has interacted] claim there was a gospel given to Jesus that was not corrupt or corruptible that speaks of Muhammad. This gospel (which is not changeable) was lost but fragments of it can be found in the current New Testament.
But when- according to the Muslim view- was the gospel (which cannot be corrupted, but can- apparently- be mixed with error, from the Muslim standpoint) lost or subsumed under error?

Jeremy notes that from the Muslim apologists he’s spoken with: “you cannot get a coherent answer.”

Nor would a coherent answer likely be forthcoming. Because we know from clear manuscript evidence (from the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus codices, and others) what the text of the Gospel accounts looked like at the time when Muhammad received the Qur’an: that the Gospel accounts we have today are consistent with the Gospel accounts to which Muhammad and the earliest Islamic community would have been exposed. In the places where the Qur’an affirms the Injil, it is affirming the exact Gospel accounts that Christians use today. And yet the author or authors of the Qur'an clearly believe that the Gospel accounts are consistent with what the Qur'an teaches, despite the fact that (for example) the crucifixion of Christ is central to the Gospel accounts but denied in the Qur'an. This leads Dr. James White, in his book What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an, to conclude:
[T]he Qur’an presents such a profoundly different view [concerning what the Bible teaches than] what is actually found in the New Testament especially, that the Muslim is faced with a choice: reject Muhammad as a prophet and the Qur’an as a revelation from God, or accuse the Christians of radically altering their text from what it originally said.
But note that this accusation goes against not only the historical evidence but also what the Qur’an itself teaches concerning divine communication.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Islam: Five Core Beliefs

In his book Breaking the Islam Code, J.D. Greear helpfully points out that the core beliefs of Islam can be accurately summarized into five points of doctrine: monotheism, prophets/apostles, angels and demons [actually, "jinns" is a more accurate term than "demons"], holy writings, and final judgment.

"Monotheism" must be understood in three ways: God alone is Creator and Lord, God alone is worthy of worship, and God alone possesses divine attributes (the “omnis,” etc.).

As far as I can tell "prophet" (nabi) and "apostle" (rasul) are used interchangeably in Islam. (Muslims refer to Muhammad as both "Prophet" and "Apostle.") Some Muslim accounts claim that there have been over 124,000 prophets and apostles. However, Islam teaches that there are 25 primary prophets; Adam is considered the first Muslim prophet, Jesus in considered the 24th, and Muhammad is considered the 25th and final prophet (notice that the disciples of Jesus are not mentioned). In Islamic belief, the primary teaching of the prophets was all the same: that there is only one God and that people should repent and seek God, but each prophet also added something new to the body of revelation.

Angels and Jinns
"Angels" in Islamic belief are spiritual messengers and servants of God, prophets, and jinns: they do not have free will. Iblis (also called Shaytan) was a jinn who refused to pay respect to Adam, and thus became an evil enemy of Man. Other jinns also fell (though there is an idea of some jinns remaining good, the word is usually used as a near synonym for “demon”), they can change form and they attempt to deceive people (notice the idea of deceptive spirits).

Holy Writings
Muslims believe that before the revelation of the Qur'an, God gave the Taurat (Torah), Zabur (writings of David, i.e., the psalms), and the Injil (Gospel: many Muslims claim that our Gospel accounts are corruptions of an original Gospel in which Jesus was a Muslim, but- one must ask- is this claim consistent with what the Qur'an says?) Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the ultimate holy book in its eternality, its finality, and its authority. Muslims believe that the Qur'an, though revealed to Muhammad in time, exists eternally in Heaven. The Qur'an in Arabic is thought to be a word-for-word copy of the eternal Qur'an; translations of the Qur'an may reflect the meaning of the Qur'an (more or less), but they lack the power and validity of the Qur'an in Arabic. The other holy writings are thought to reflections of God’s will and character, but they are considered to be more closely related to particular times and places. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the last holy book that will be revealed. Muslims generally believe that the Qur'an is the only sufficient authority in all matters whatsoever, including spirituality as well as laws for the state.

Final Judgment
Islam teaches that there will come a day in which all of humanity will be judged on the basis of faith and works. In one hadith, Muhammad says that if a person repeats the Muslim confession in Arabic (with belief that the confession is true), and has one atom’s worth of good works, he will go to Heaven. Many Muslims believe that everyone will spend some amount of time in Hell in order to burn away sins. There is no assurance in Islam (except, perhaps, for martyrs) that one will not suffer in Hell (at least for a time).

Notice two things about the above teachings. First, notice their simplicity. Understanding the basics of the Muslim faith is much simpler than wrapping your head around Grudem's Systematic Theology (for example). The apparent simplicity of Islam is one reason that the Muslim faith has gained increasing popularity world-wide. Second, notice the apparent similarity between Muslim teachings and the Christian faith. At least on a superficial level, both Muslims and Christians believe in monotheism, prophets and apostles, angels and demons, holy writings, and the final judgment. These apparent similarities are the reason why I've even heard some of my Muslim friends claim that both Islam and Christianity teach basically the same things.

In some of my subsequent posts to this blog, I hope to examine crucial differences between Islam and Christianity.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Introduction to Islam:The Giving of the Qur'an and the State of Church History in AD 610

In A.D. 610 Muhammad, a forty-year old man from the Quraysh tribe, ascended Mt. Hira in Arabia. In a cave on this mountain, Muhammad began praying and meditating. Having spoken with Christians, and having realized the spiritual bankruptcy of the polytheism practiced in Mecca, Muhammad turned his mind to seeking true religion. One night, Muhammad was visited by an angel who claimed to be Gabriel. In a single night- called  Laylat al-Qadr: the "Night of Power"- Muhammad received the entire revelation of the Qur'an; he was overwhelmed by this revelation. Then, over a period of about twenty years, Muhammad received the Qur'an again, one section at a time.

When Muhammad received the Qur'an in A.D. 610, the Church had already settled issues regarding the Trinity (as seen in the Athanasian Creed, 6th c.), Christology (as seen in the Definition of Chalcedon, AD 451), and- largely- the canoncity of Scripture (as seen in codices such as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, 4th c.).

In the early seventh century, there were also some specific errors within the Christian community. By A.D. 610, the Veneration of Mary had also increased to the point that if Muhammad had visited a church, he would have likely seen icons of Mary. Also, false Gospel accounts, like the Gnostic-tinged Infancy Gospel of Thomas, were still influential among some who claimed to be Christians. Both of these errors- the Veneration of Mary and the use of spurious "Gospels"- would impact the teachings of the Qur'an concerning Christianity.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Culture, Morally Neutral?

I found the following quote saved in an old document file on my computer. I'm not sure of the original source, but it's thought-provoking, to say the least:
You constantly read this: 'Culture is neutral- morally neutral. So if culture changes, we can adopt it. We can do what we please.' Well, wherever do you find in the Bible that culture is morally neutral? Nowhere it's in the Bible text- it isn't in the Bible at all. The Bible says the opposite; it says there is a great world system, 'the system of this world,' which is under the sway and the rule of Satan. Culture of this world is often demonic- it's written in the vaults of Hell, it's wrong, it's antagonistic to Christian thinking and the standards of the Word of God. But no, they say, 'culture is neutral.' So whatever cultural form comes about, even if it's invented in the entertainment business by people who did it while on drugs and who are emphasizing rebellion against God and just about everybody, and sexual liberty, that's a culture which is morally neutral. And we should do the same. This is what people want, this is what the young wants, this is what the worldly wants.


Monday, May 06, 2013

"Only One Gospel:" Three Quotes by Martin Luther

Luther on the singularity of the Gospel declared in Scripture:

“One should realize that there is only one gospel, but that it is described by many apostles.” (104)

“Just as there is no more than one Christ, so there is and may be no more than one gospel.” (105)

"The Old Testament declares the same Gospel of Jesus Christ:" (Jn. 5:39, 46; Acts 3:24; 17:11; I Pet. 1:10-12)

Martin Luther, “A Brief Introduction On What To Look For And Expect in the Gospels,” Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, Timothy Lull, ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989)