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Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

I write this blog as a pastor, out of deep concern for the spiritual well-being of anyone who hears or reads God’s Word but who may not have much experience in understanding the great skill of people who take Scripture out of its context and thereby build false doctrines.

Those false doctrines always lead people astray from the truth of God’s Word — something God Himself is deeply concerned about (e.g. 1 Tim. 1:3; 4:6; Titus 1:9; 2:1; Jude 3; Rev. 2-3).

In yet another of Bell’s books, Love Wins, he makes this outrageous attack against God Himself and the clear teaching of His Word:

“Millions have been taught that if they don’t believe, if they don’t accept in the right way according to the person telling them the gospel, and they were hit by a car and died later that same day, God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell. God would, in essence, become a fundamentally different being to them in that moment of death, a different being to them forever.

“A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormenter who would insure that they would have no escape from an endless future of agony.

“If there was an earthly father who was like that, we would call the authorities.  If there was an actual human dad who was that volatile, we would contact child protection services immediately.  If God can switch gears like that, switch entire modes of being that quickly, that raises a thousand questions about whether a being like this could ever be trusted.  Let alone be good.

 “Loving one moment, vicious the next. Kind and compassionate, only to become cruel and relentless in the blink of an eye.  Does God become somebody totally different the moment you die?  That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can’t bear it.  No one can. . . . That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (173–75).

The above quote is a masterpiece of a straw man (the technique of attempting to win an argument by setting up a false or misleading premise – especially of an opponent’s position).

Here, the opponent is really God himself, for Bell argues vehemently against Him and His Word.  He knows what Scripture declares throughout: that God is “slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (e.g. Ps. 103:8).

Moreover, God pled with backslidden, rebellious Israel and Judah through His prophet Jeremiah to repent of their sins before judgment came against them (Jer. 36:3).  The Holy Spirit is at work to convict all people of sin before judgment comes (John 16:7-11).

No one just suddenly goes to hell; indeed, God is daily at work to bring that person to Himself through repentance and faith in Jesus. 

And yes, people must come to faith in Jesus, for He is their only atoning, substitutionary and all-sufficient sacrifice for their sins – according to His own words (John 3:16-21; 8:24).                                                    

However, every person has free will and God will not force someone to Himself if they’re not willing – despite all of His efforts through Jesus to save them from an eternity in hell. 

To accuse God of being cruel, vicious, abusive and volatile is blasphemous and heretical.  It is calumny of the basest kind and renders Bell no better than the garden variety atheist.  

He is a modern-day pied piper, a false teacher extraordinaire:

           He’s some Pied Piper, that Rob Bell

           Gaining a larger following, leading many to hell

           But if you criticize him, you’ll be labeled hateful & intolerant

           Even while his books and Nooma videos make his bank account exorbitant

           Those cool black glasses and smooth voice make him compelling

           To a generation lacking in real biblical discernment, now falling

           Jesus and John warned that false apostles and teachers would come,

           Deceived and deceiving, but who would really pay attention? 

           Bell plays on people’s emotions and tickles their ears,

           But the Apostle Paul already warned us about men like him, ere 2,000 years

           Why the rush to read Bell when there are already so many accurate teachers

            Unless one is simply content to ignore the clarity of Scripture?

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HELL: ANNIHILATION OR ETERNAL SUFFERING? PART TWO
 

1)      Finally in our study on hell, we come to the Greek word Gehenna (Mark 9:43-48; cf. Mt. 10:28): This is the place of future punishment after the resurrection and judgment of unbelievers (we’ll study this in a moment from Rev. 20:11-15), where they will suffer eternally in spirit, soul and body

2)      In Mt. 10:28, the word “destroy” does not mean annihilation or extinction but great loss or ruin

3)      Jesus says it is eternal punishment as opposed to eternal life (Mt. 25:46) and is a place originally prepared for the devil and his angels, who will also suffer eternally (Mt. 25:41).

4)      God’s completed revelation of the eternal suffering of hell can be seen in Rev. 20:10-15.  We should note especially v.10 and how it informs vv.11-15, where the focus is on torment “day and night forever and ever.”

5)      The same Greek phrase translated “forever and ever” (v.10) is used in 1:18 to speak of our Lord’s eternity; in 4:9-10; 10:6; 15:7 of God’s eternity and in 11:15 of Jesus’ eternal reign.

6)      This stands in dramatic contrast to the eternal fullness of life described of His people – saved by grace through faith in Jesus – described in Rev. 21 (note especially vv.4-6).

7)      Someone may well argue that “forever and ever” comes before the new heavens and the new earth.  But that argument falls when we examine Rev. 20:11-15 and the words “dead” and “death.”

8)      The “dead” John speaks of in v.5 comes from the Greek word nekroun, or physically dead.  “The second death” comes from the Greek thanatos, which refers to a spiritual death.

9)      Now, if someone were to lean solely upon their own logic, they might come to the conclusion that spiritual death therefore means annihilation, but as we’ll shortly see, that is not the case.

10)  In v.13, “dead” again refers to the physically dead and “death and Hades” to the spiritually dead (describing people who have always been dead to God, spiritually, since they were never born-again.  Cf. Eph. 2:1-5).  The second use of “dead” in v.5 is also the physically dead.

11)  Thus, we can see that those who died physically apart from Christ were literally in Hades, as they were spiritually in Hades as well.  Combined, both aspects of their lives, clearly one and the same, are cast into the lake of fire.

12)  Thus, the lake of fire is now clearly seen and is part of the eternal state, something reinforced again in 21:8, where John gives the general category, “unbelieving” (modified, correctly, as “cowardly”) as well as a sampling: “abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars.”

13)  In this case, we must not miss the consistency of Scripture in making it clear to us that both Hades and Gehenna are eternal, real places, with real, eternal suffering. 

14)  Surely the written Word of God is plainly warning all who have ever read or heard this to make the most important decision a person can ever make: The need to have their sins removed in Christ!

15)  In addition, their fixed, real state is mentioned one more time near the end of John’s Revelation (as if to strongly emphasize, on the one hand, hell’s eternal reality, and perhaps to warn us against the temptation to modify its reality, on the other hand) in 22:15 (cf. 21:27).

16)  More on this subject needs to be mentioned, for the annihilationist has more verses to buttress his or her argument.  The first argument uses Jesus’ words from Mt. 5:23-26 to infer (logically) that after a person has suffered for a time, he or she will be released from such suffering.

17)  However, this is no exegesis at all, since our Lord here is speaking strictly of forgiveness to believers, first, and secondly, this passage says nothing here about hell. 

18)  The same holds true in Mt. 18:34; Luke 12:44-47 and Luke 21:33 (recall that we’ve already established that the lake of fire is part of the eternal state).

19)  No one could ever rejoice over a human being spending an eternity in hell, but that is and will always be the case in this age (e.g. Mt. 7:13-14), and it is never God’s fault. 

20)  We can never impugn the motives and justice of a God who never had to save humanity in the first place, let alone leave the presence of the Father to become sin in our place. 

21)  Indeed, God has done everything imaginable to prevent someone from going to hell. 

22)  We may not like the fact of its existence and the eternal torment of those there, but we should at least be humble enough to admit that our view of justice – informed as it is through perfect Scripture – is understood in the fallen state we’re in

23)  Human beings – created as eternal beings in God’s image and likeness – should logically all respond to God’s gracious gift of salvation. 

24)  But the sad truth is, those who reject this offer really want nothing to do with God (e.g. John 3:19), so in the end He gives them their wish

25)  And hating Him on earth, how could they possibly enjoy Him in heaven?  Let us close with about the only passage in Scripture appropriate at this point to close with by reading Rev. 19:1-9.

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“The ancient covenant is in pieces.  Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he has emerged only by chance.”[1]

“What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than God and You have crowned him with glory and majesty.  You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the sea”( Psalm 8:4-8).


[1] Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (London: Collins Press, 1972), 167.

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People ask this “setup” question all the time — usually on college campuses.  So I hope the reader will pass this along to college students especially!  Here is an excerpt from my Systematic Theology on God’s Omnipresence:

God does not use His omnipotence to abuse or dominate, but it is rather rooted in His love (recall our earlier discussion and cf. Job 8:3).  His power, as seen above, is used to meet needs, to encourage, to strengthen, to give victory over sin and to empower (Luke 24:49).

 Thus, Oden writes,

 God does not exert the kind of coercive power that directly determines all historical processes unilaterally.  Such power God could exercise, if need be.  But God’s power is so great that it is non-defensively able even to allow other freedoms to challenge it without being anxious about its own security or identity (Gen. 11:1-9).  God is at ease with human competencies, free to laugh about desperate human powers (Ps. 2:4).[1]

Therefore, to ask the question, “Can God make a rock so large that He cannot lift it?” betrays a profound ignorance of God’s nature (though that type of question is almost always disingenuous and is designed to trap one into answering “yes” or “no” when really, the only answer is that it is an illogical absurdity to even ask the question or attempt to answer it).

In fact, since Proverbs 26:4-5 tells us, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.  Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes,” it may be well to tell the critic simply that God in His omnipotence has the power to give him eternal life or to cast him into hell (cf. Mt. 10:28)!  We should do this winsomely, yet soberly.

Calvin is certainly quite blunt on matters such as these:

 Mingled vanity and pride appear in this, that when miserable men do seek after God, instead of ascending higher than themselves, as they ought to do, they measure him by their own stupidity, and, neglecting solid inquiry, fly off to indulge their curiosity in vain speculation.  Hence, they do not conceive of him in the character in which he is manifested, but imagine him to be whatever their own rashness has devised.  This abyss standing open, they cannot move one footstep without rushing headlong to destruction.[2]

When Scripture puts what we might understand as “limitations” on God – such that He “cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13) or that He cannot lie (Heb. 6:18), it is because to do either would be inconsistent with His nature.

 Oden’s insight here is very helpful:

 God’s power is expressed in harmony with God’s wisdom, justice, and love, not as if God’s power were completely detachable from these attributes.  Only that being is omnipotent who is able to effect all things that are consistent with the divine character and with the divine perfections…To say that God “cannot” act unjustly is not a reduction of God’s power, but rather an expression of the adequacy of God’s power to do what being God requires, namely, act justly.[3]


[1] Oden, 76.

[2] Calvin, 1.4.2, 46.

[3] Ibid, 78.

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WHAT IS ISLAM?
Pastor Brad Matthew Abley

1) Islam, which means “submission,” is a religion founded by a man named Mohammed who lived from 570 to 632 A.D. (thus, approximately 600 years after the beginning of Christianity) and who claimed to be a prophet of God (called Allah), and who was allegedly called by Allah to restore true religion throughout the world.
2) The Koran (also spelled Quran) is the Islamic equivalent of our Bible and consists of 114 “revelations” of Mohammed, which he claimed were given to him by Allah through his archangel. 
3) Parts of these “revelations” were recorded by Mohammed to his disciples and the rest are based upon his oral teaching, which his disciples recorded from memory after his death.  It should be added that Mohammed struggled with some of these “revelations,” worrying that they could be demonic in origin.  However, his wife Khadijah encouraged him to believe they had come from God.   
4) Mohammed lived in a culture surrounded by Jews and Christians and early in his life was favorable toward them until they rejected him and his teachings as being false.
5) In addition to the Koran, a number of additional sayings reported to be from Mohammed were also compiled by his disciples —  called the Hadith (tradition) — and these are used for the political and social structure of Islam (there is no such thing as separation of church and state in Islam; religion informs and rules the state).  A Surah is equivalent to a chapter from the Bible.
6) Muslims do believe in much of the Old Testament and they believe Jesus was a prophet and good teacher, but they do not believe He is God (Surah 4:171).
7) There are three sects of Islam, the largest being Sunnis, who are widely considered religious and political “moderates.”  It has been estimated that 90 percent of the Muslims in the Middle East are Sunnis.
8) The radical and militant sect of Islam is known as Shia’ite and these are the followers of Islam who are dedicated to eradicating Christianity and Judaism from the world, through Jihad, or “holy war.”  The main reason for the split between the two main sects is over who the proper successor of Mohammed was to be.
9) The third sect of Islam — the Ahmdiyan sect — is much smaller than the previous two and founded in the 1800s, but which is also very zealous and evangelistic, particularly among American college students.

WHAT DOES ISLAM TEACH ABOUT JESUS?

1) First, while purporting to be a pure revelation from “Allah,” and while claiming that the Bible itself is corrupted (but offering no proof), it is important to know that Islam’s Koran actually makes extensive use of the Old and New Testaments and also of literature from extra-biblical writings from Jewish rabbis and heretical, alleged Christian writings during and after the New Testament era (writings the early church rejected as heretical).  We will discuss this at length later.
 
2) The Koran has some quite amazing things to say about Jesus, but most importantly, it teaches that He is not God and that He did not die a literal death on the cross for the sins of the world. 
3) On the other hand, and from a strategic witnessing standpoint, the Koran actually teaches that our Lord was sinless, but that Mohammed was a sinner (Surat 47:19; 48:1-2)!   Moreover, the Koran teaches that Christ was born of a Virgin and may imply that He was the word of God.  Thus, from a witnessing standpoint, this question must be put to any Muslim: If the Koran has such an exalted view of Jesus – as the greatest prophet next to Mohammed – what do you do with His claim that salvation and eternal life come only through Him?
 4) There is further contradiction between the New Testament and the Koran in that while the Koran teaches that Mohammed was Allah’s greatest prophet, it also holds that Jesus did miracles (Mohammed himself acknowledged doing no miracles), that He was the Messiah, that He was taken up into heaven by Allah, and that He will return!
5) Furthermore, the crucial question must also be asked of the Muslim: what do you do with His claims to be God, and to have prophesied His own crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and return?  Could a great Prophet be a liar or could he be mistaken?  And what about the vast proof for His crucifixion, and His bodily resurrection on behalf of the world? 
6) If the New Testament is true and Jesus Christ is telling the truth and says that you must entrust your life to Him, what will you do with Him?
7) On the other hand, depending upon what kind of teaching a particular Muslim has received, some Muslims are taught that one who believes in Jesus as God has committed “the one unforgivable sin,” called shirk, and that this sin will send him to hell forever.
8) Thus, it is imperative to be discerning about what the Muslim knows about his or her faith; ask questions of the Muslim to determine what he or she knows about Islam’s view of Jesus.
9) Muslims are taught from the Koran that Jesus was the greatest prophet of all with the exception of Mohammed and the Koran clearly teaches that He was only a man: “Jesus was no more than a mortal whom [Allah] favored and made an example to the Israelites” (Surah 43:59).
10) The Koran asserts that Jesus denied His own divinity before God.  In addition, Muslims do not believe Jesus died on a cross and that Allah would never permit one of his prophets to die in such a hideous manner: instead, God substituted someone else to die in His place.
11) Of course, the believer must explain the reason for our Lord’s crucifixion: to redeem man from his sin.  Moreover, in order to redeem him from sin, Jesus had to be sinless, else His atonement would be imperfect and incomplete: only God Himself could provide such a sacrifice, done out of love for the world.
12) The Christian must be clear and bold in proclaiming our Lord’s promise of eternal life to those who embrace Him (John 3:16; 5:24; 11:25-26; 14:6), for Muslims are taught that anyone who converts to another religion other than Islam will be cursed for evermore.
13) But the Muslim’s own salvation is uncertain and indeed entirely problematic, for he will receive eternal life only if Allah has predestined him to receive it.  Furthermore, eternal life depends upon his works and upon his ability to please Allah, having his works placed on a scale: in the Day of Judgment, “they whose balances shall be heavy with good works shall be happy; but they whose balances shall be light are those who shall lose their souls, and shall remain in hell forever” (Surah 23:104-105).
 
14) The above is why some Muslims recite extra prayers, give extra to charity and make pilgrimages not only to Mecca but to other holy sites of their religion, hoping to earn favor with Allah.  Contrast this with eternal assurance of forgiveness of sins and eternal security that Jesus Christ Himself all who will exchange their lives for His (Luke. 24:44-47).
15) With respect to Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers, there is great difficulty with Koranic teaching on sin, for while it acknowledges Mohammed’s sin, the Koran also believes that men are good by nature and it does not believe in original sin (cf. Rom. 5:12-14).
16) Both the Koran and the Bible agree that there was a fall from the original state of the world in Eden, but both mean something entirely different by the fall.
17) The Bible teaches that Adam’s sin was rebellion. Knowing perfectly well what was right, Adam chose to do wrong. As a result, Adam’s entire race shares a natural distaste for God and his ways.
18) Sin is always rebellion against God, the King whose authority we reject.  By contrast, the Koran says Adam forgot to walk the right way. In Islam, sin can be defined as forgetfulness, heedlessness, or a failure to remember. Such forgetfulness is simply the result of inherent weakness, as opposed to active rebellion against God.
19) Muslims believe that non-Islamic societies and non-Muslim religions corrupt humans who, in the right environment (i.e. under Islam), are able to live a good life that is pleasing to Allah. That good life (coupled with fate—even good Muslims have no assurance of Allah’s favor) is required for entry into Paradise.
20) The best way to live a good life is to live in a good society defined as one governed by Shari’ah, the divine Islamic Law. This is an all-encompassing system that controls every aspect of everyday life and it applies to the economic, political, and legal structures of society as well as to everyone’s personal life.
21) It is appropriate—one could even say loving—to impose Shari’ah on a society for the temporal and eternal good of its citizens. This ideology is more obvious in radical expressions like the Taliban, but is inherent in all Islam.

IS THE KORAN RELIABLE?

22) My intent here is not to speak disparagingly about Muslims or Islam, but rather in the “marketplace” of ideas to take a careful and critical look at the religion and its claim for an infallible “holy” book to see if its claims can be upheld.
23) As mentioned above, Islamic teaching holds that the Bible we have is corrupted, and yet the Koran itself contradicts such a view. In the Koran, Mohammed writes that Allah commands him to search the Bible if he has any doubts about what Allah is revealing to him.
24) In another portion of the Koran, after highly exalting the writings of Moses, the prophets (the Suhuf), the psalms of David (Zabur), the teaching of Jesus (the Injil) and His disciples, the Koran says, “We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.”
 
25) In fact, the Koran states that the above books were inspired by Allah (Surah 35:27-31; 4:163-164; 5:43-47; 32:24; 46:11-12; 2:87) and that Allah’s revelations are incorruptible and can be changed by no one (Sura 6:115).
26) Indeed, as Josh McDowell points out in his book, The Islam Debate (p. 39), Surah 7:157 holds that the Law of Moses (called Taurat) and the Injil were in the possession of Jews and Christians during the time of Mohammed.
27) How, then, could the Muslim charge of a corrupted gospel hold true?  Was not Allah powerful enough to preserve both the OT and NT from corruption?  And yet at no time in history has anyone been able to prove the existence of any other books claiming to be the same as those described above.
28) In addition, Muslims can offer no proof of corruption in the Protestant Bible, for there are well-over 25,000 hand-copied manuscripts of both the Hebrew OT and Greek NT found from all over the Middle East which are in complete agreement with each other and despite charges by critics for several centuries now, the Bible has proven to be inerrant and infallible.
29) On the other hand, the same cannot be said of the Koran; it has nowhere near the amount of available manuscripts for critical examination to see if its claims can be upheld.  McDowell (pp. 50-51) shows that when the Koran was first collated by the Caliph Uthman into one standard text, there were numerous texts in existence which all contained many significant variant readings and that in various parts of Syria, Armenia, and Iraq, Muslims were reciting the Koran differently than in Arabia.
30) Uthman saw to it that his version was sent to every province holding variant texts and that those variant texts be burned.  In stark contrast to this, many variant readings of the NT are in existence today and no attempt has ever been made to destroy them.
31) Why is that?  Because in each of those variants, the differences between the text of the NT we have today and the variants are so minor (spelling mistakes, punctuation, marginal notes and single words left out of a sentence due to copyist error) that they do not affect one single doctrine.  Truly, the NT has marvelously withstood withering attacks over the centuries to continue to be the reliable word of God.
32) Equally damaging to the Koran as being reliable are the words of Umar in his reign as Caliph; he indicates that an entire passage from the Koran was left out; specifically, verses prescribing stoning for adultery which were recited by Mohammed:
God sent Mohammed and sent down the Scripture to him.  Part of what he sent down was the passage on stoning; we read it, we were taught it and we heeded it.  The apostle stoned and we stoned them after him.  I fear that in time to come men will say that they find no mention of stoning in God’s book and thereby go astray in neglecting an ordinance which God has sent down.  Verily stoning in the book of God is a penalty laid on married men and women who commit adultery (McDowell, pp.51-52).
33) In fact, the Koran, written several thousand years after the OT and several hundred years after the NT, contradicts the Bible, whether it be the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1-15; cf. Surah 5:27-32), or its assertion that the ark of Noah came to rest on Mt. Judi (Surah 11:44) as opposed to the biblical teaching of Mt. Ararat (Gen. 8:4).
 
34) In addition, the Koran teaches that Abraham’s father was Azar (6:74) and not Terah (Gen. 11:27) and that Abraham attempted to sacrifice Ishmael (37:100-112) and not Isaac (Gen. 22); the Koran holds that the flood occurred in Moses’ time (7:136; cf. 7:59ff) and not Noah’s (Gen. 6-8). 
35) In a bizarre twist, it holds that Israel returned to Egypt after the Exodus (2:56-57, 61), which, of course was neither the case historically nor was it the case biblically.  The Koran also contradicts the NT by saying Zechariah would be speechless for three days for his unbelief (3:41) rather than nine months (Luke. 1:18-20).
36) Far more importantly, the Koran plainly denies the crucifixion of Jesus, which even secular history – let alone the NT – upholds.
37) In fact, while Jesus forbids adultery and fornication and allows only one wife for a man, the Koran permits a man to have up to four wives and unlimited concubines (women for sex) and does indeed promise concubines for men in heaven (cf. Surat al-Nisa 4:24; Surat al-Naba 78:33), in stark contrast to the teaching of Jesus (Luke. 20:34-36).
38) When Muhammad began his religion the first of his “revelations” has him tolerating all religions: “There is no compulsion in religion” (Surat al-Baqarah 2:256).
39) However, at the end of his 114 “revelations” the slaughter of “idolaters” (non-Muslims) is allowed unless they repent and turn to Allah (Surat al-Taubah 9:5, 29). This is where radical Muslims find their justification for Jihad, or the killing of non-Muslims.
(An interesting side note: only a few weeks ago from this writing, there was a major flap over the University of North Carolina requiring incoming freshmen to read the Koran as part of its annual book reading for incoming freshmen.  However, the students were required to read only the “earlier revelations” of the Koran – not its later “revelations,” which are much more controversial.  Is that true academic scholarship?).
41) In contrast to the above, when Jesus’ disciples grew frustrated that people were not converting to His message, they wanted His permission to destroy them, but Jesus rebuked them for such a desire (Luke 9:52-56).
42) Muslims (and even President Bush) claim Islam is a peaceful religion, and yet the Koran allows for the enslavement of all peoples (including even fellow Muslims: Surat al-Nisa 4:36), and Muslims in Sudan are currently enslaving thousands of Sudanese Christians and forcing them to convert to Islam, or else they are maimed or murdered.
43) Moreover, the Koran also allows husbands to “scourge” their wives if they disobey them – certainly not a “peaceful” thing to do! This is something the Bible would never allow and Eph. 5:22-29 makes it clear men are to treat their wives with the utmost respect and nourishment.
44) Finally, Surat al-An’am 6:34 says “there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah.” However, Mohammed has Allah changing his mind three times about which direction Muslims were to direct their prayers, changing from Ka’bah to Jerusalem and finally to Mecca (present-day Saudi Arabia).

 

IS MOHAMMED FORETOLD IN THE BIBLE?

45) Some Muslims claim Deut. 18:18 – a prophecy Jews and Christians hold to be messianic – is a prophecy of Muhammad, reasoning that Muhammad was far more like Moses than Jesus: both Muhammad and Moses were lawgivers, military leaders and spiritual guides for those whom they led; both were at first rejected by their people, whereupon they fled into exile and then later returned to lead their followers as religious and secular leaders.
46) However, the passage in Deut. 18:18 says that this Messiah to come after Moses would be “From among their brethren” and only Moses and Jesus were Israelites, whereas Mohammed descended from Ishmael.  McDowell (p. 79) notes that both Moses and Jesus left Egypt to perform God’s work, but Muhammad never was in Egypt.
47) In addition, Moses and Jesus forsook great wealth to share the poverty of their people (Heb. 11:25-26; cf. 2 Cor. 8:9); this Muhammad did not do.  Moses spoke with God “face-to-face” (a Hebrew term which is figurative for a direct encounter), and Jesus did the same (John 1:1).
48) Contrast the above with the Koran’s own assertion that Muhammad’s alleged revelations came to him through the mediation of the angel Gabriel.  And while both Moses and Jesus performed many signs and wonders, Muhammad performed none at all (Surah 6:37, 57).
49) Muhammad never claimed that Moses wrote of him, as Jesus emphatically did (John 5:45) and Peter and Stephen reinforced (Acts 3:22; 7:37). 
50) Some Muslims also attempt to see the “Comforter” of John 14-16 as Muhammad, but simple exegesis of these chapters shows such a view to be absurd, for these chapters make it quite clear that the “Comforter” is not a man but the Spirit of God.
51) Furthermore, He always glorifies and points people to Jesus Christ; He dwells with and within the followers of Jesus (who knew Him then), yet Muhammad was not even born until more than 500 years after the coming of the Comforter of John 14-16.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOSPEL OF BARNABAS?

52) Muslims will occasionally catch Christians off-guard by mentioning the Gospel of Barnabas as being the only authentic New Testament document.  Most Christians have never even heard of this “gospel.”
53) Of course, the document, purportedly coming from the Apostle Paul’s fellow apostle Barnabas, contains prophecies of the coming of Muhammad, denounces Paul and his entire ministry and rejects the deity of Jesus and His Messiah ship (though the Koran counts Him as Messiah, while at the same time rejecting His deity).
54) While historical evidence exists for the veracity of all of the writers of the NT, there is no historical evidence for the apostle and companion of Paul writing a gospel.  Thus, we must first examine who the real Barnabas was and then examine when such an alleged “gospel” came into being and by whom.
 
55) Barnabas appears in the NT as an apostle after the resurrection of Jesus, but until that time was known by his common name, Joseph (Acts 4:36).  The name “Barnabas” (“son of encouragement”) was given to him because of his character and nature of encouragement to the Christians he ministered to.
56) In contrast to the above, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas has him as one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus and even more contradictory, alleges that he was always called Barnabas, even during Jesus’ earthly ministry.
57) The next time we see Barnabas is in Acts 9:27, during Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem to visit the apostles.  It was Barnabas who defended Paul before the apostles, after Paul had publicly proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God (Acts 9:20).  This, too, contradicts the claims of the Gospel of Barnabas.
58) It was Barnabas who sought out Paul to help him teach and ground the new believers in Antioch in the faith (Acts 11:26) and from this point on, the two traveled and ministered together (Acts 11:28-30; 12:25; 13:33; 15:1-2), both of them preaching Jesus as the Son of God!
59) Again, in contrast to the above, the author of the Gospel of Barnabas is diametrically opposed to Paul and all he stands for, especially in relation to his teaching on the person of Christ.
60) Yes, it is true that Paul and Barnabas did have a dispute about taking John Mark along with them on one of their missionary journeys (Acts 15:38-40).  However, it is a testament to the character of both men that at a later period, they were reconciled (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11).
61) The best manuscript evidence for the Gospel of Barnabas is that it was written perhaps 200 years after Muhammad, especially since it quotes the Koran, which itself was written after Muhammad’s death.
62) In addition, the only copy available of this book is written in Italian – not in Greek – and the book has many lines taken from Dante’s Divine Comedy, which was written in the 13th century. It is the Koran which says there are seven heavens (Surah 2:29), but the Gospel of Barnabas says – like Dante’s Empyrean – that there are nine heavens and that Paradise is the 10th heaven above all the others (McDowell, p. 101).
63) The Gospel of Barnabas repeatedly has Jesus say He is not the Messiah but that Mohammed would be the Messiah.  Yet again, this even contradicts the Koran, which calls Jesus the Messiah (Surah 3:45).

HOW TO COMBAT ISLAM: PRAY, LOVE AND WITNESS

What is the most powerful thing we can do in this epic spiritual battle we face? Pray with compassion for the salvation of Muslims, who are blinded to their need for the Savior just as with any other person apart from salvation through Jesus. Pray with authority for the destruction of the spiritual forces behind Islam. 
Ask Muslims if they have found forgiveness and eternal life through the Messiah, Jesus Christ!  Another strategy in witnessing to them is to ask them how they hope to get to heaven, for Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgment, Allah will place their deeds on a scale; those who have sufficient personal merit will go to heaven and those who do not will go to hell.
Muslims have very little assurance of their prayers being answered, for Allah is distant, capricious, and difficult to please.  Of the 99 “beautiful names” for Allah, not one is “love” and Allah does not love the sinner (compare this with John 3:16; 1 John 4:6; Rom. 5:8-10; 2 Cor. 13:14).
Allah cannot ultimately be known and he is not relational, for that would make him dependent upon his creation.  This stands in dramatic contrast to John 17:3; Is. 30:18, the book of Psalms and the vast majority of the entire Bible!  Indeed, the God of the Bible is intensely personal, intimate and loving!
Moreover, He has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ and through His Word, whereas Allah has revealed his will only through the Koran, as interpreted by Muslim clerics (recall how this was the case in the Roman Catholic church for centuries and how corrupt that church became, with unbiblical teachings and wicked practices among popes and priests).
Therefore, another excellent strategy in reaching out to Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ is to invite them to do a Bible study; if they agree, pray earnestly that God would reveal Himself to them through His Word and before actually beginning the Bible study, open up in prayer, asking God to speak to you both through His Word. 
I recommend studying John and reading through the particular passage ahead of time, anticipating any questions that might come up in the study.  Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions about the passage.

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HOW CAN A LOVING GOD ALLOW SUFFERING? Part Two
God’s Fault or the Fault of Society?
Pastor Brad Matthew Abley

1) Here is another common question from the critic, or sometimes, the sincere seeker: If evil causes suffering, why doesn’t God stop evil if He’s so powerful?  For Him to stop evil, He would have to remove free will.  To be consistent or “fair” He would have to do this for all, not for a select few (as we’ll understand in a moment as we briefly study the Ten Commandments)! 
2) What about your own evil?  Do you want Him to begin with you?  What if every time you wanted your own way, God put a constraint on your decision-making?  Be honest!  How would you like that?
And how do you think another would feel if you had the power to force them to obey your every wish?  How would you feel if the tables were turned?
3) From a study of Ex. 20:1-17 (recall James 2:10) we can understand that God is incorruptible while we’re corruptible and thus our absolute and urgent need of Him. 
Read and comment on it.  The outcome: Jesus obeyed the commandments perfectly, and what evil did He bring to the earth?  What about Paul and the rest of the disciples?
4) James and John wanted to bring fire down from heaven upon those who refused to follow Jesus, but He rebuked them and turned them around from those who would use power to bring suffering to those who would use power to bring good (Luke 9:51-56).
5) Thus, suffering is clearly the fault of society in rebellion against God, for “Evil can only exist in something as a corruption of what ought to be there.”
Thus, according to Gal. 6:7-9, sometimes we can understand why suffering exists and sometimes, we cannot Luke 13:1-5), though God still gives us the ability to make a difference through our own lives, as can be seen in the next paragraph:
6) We can be an extraordinary part of the solution to suffering through one of the most satisfying things in all of life: prayer, which can move the heart and hand of God Himself – the best part of our free will (e.g. Gen. 18:16-33; Jer. 5:1-2; Ez. 23:30; Dan. 2; cf. James 4:2b)!

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HOW CAN A LOVING GOD ALLOW SUFFERING? Part Three
A Moral Universe and the Importance of Prayer
Rev. Brad Matthew Abley

1) God created men and women in His own image and likeness (Gen. 1:16-27) and therefore a major part of this is that like God, we are moral beings, and thus it is our responsibility to live moral lives.  But sin has deeply damaged us, our relationships with others and the world itself and this is the cause for misunderstandings, arguments, envy, hostility, hatred, war and many other evils besides.

2) God has provided four major solutions to suffering and evil: First, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and demonstrates that love by sending His own Son – God the Son – to be the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

3) Propitiation (cf. 1 John 4:14; Heb. 2:17; Rom. 3:25) is the appeasing of God’s wrath against sin and the resultant reconciliation.  It can also be translated expiation: The extinguishing of guilt and the payment of the penalty for sin by death (so serious is sin before God).
4) The second major solution God has provided for this world to free us from suffering and evil: Jesus’ life on earth was the perfect demonstration of how human beings ought to treat each other. 

5) God’s third major solution to suffering and evil: He has given us Scripture and ensured its infallibility and inerrancy through His very own inspiration to instruct us in how to live.  

6) God’s fourth major solution to suffering and evil is one of the most overlooked and underestimated solutions there is, and yet another of the most satisfying things in all of life: Prayer, which can move the heart and hand of God Himself – the best part of our free will (e.g. Gen. 18:16-33; Jer. 5:1-2; Ez. 23:30; Dan. 2; cf. James 4:2b; John 14:12-14; 15:7; 16:24; 1 John 3:21-22; 5:14-15; Luke 19:1-8)!

7) Thus, we’ve learned that humanity is in partnership with God, as a parent is in partnership with his or her son or daughter – for life, for joy and companionship, for good and for blessing.

8) When a child rebels against his or her parent, the bond of trust is broken, the relationship suffers and evil fills the gap of what was intended (see the above paragraph).

9) Thus, the suffering and evil are not the fault of the parent but of the child.  Likewise, suffering and its consequent evil are not God’s fault but the fault of humanity.

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