For those who might be interested, I have started posting papers that I have written for my Th.M. on my website. As Dr. White has often said in the past (and I agree with him), the value of a theological education is not where you get it, but what you do with it. It is my hope and prayer that the work that I do is of use to the church, and that the Lord will be pleased to bless His people through it. I have re-formatted the papers slightly (reduced the line spacing and some other minor tweaks), and saved them in PDF format. There are only a handful out there at the moment, but I will add more as time permits. The link to my site is http://www.colindsmith.com–just follow the “papers” link.
It seems the Fundamentalist Atheists are at it again. According to this news story, they are planning a campaign to plaster pro-atheist ads around New York subway stations. I’m not objecting to them doing this; it is, after all, their Constitutional right to exercise free speech. However, I think it is instructive to observe the Christian message (sure, they don’t say they are counter-Christian, but let’s not be fooled) they are seeking to address. According to the article, the posters say “A million New Yorkers are good without God.” How many times have you heard Christian evangelists tout the benefits of becoming a Christian? “Jesus will make you happy, give you peace, restore your marriage, give you a healthy bank account, etc. etc.” Perhaps you have found yourself pleading the same case with an unbeliever. The fact of the matter is that there are many happy, healthy, rich, atheists with good marriages that are contributing members of society. The problem is, this message of peace and prosperity is not the gospel. Sure, with Christ as Lord of your life, you might find peace, happiness, and other physical benefits. But this message would not have gone down very well in the first few centuries of the Christian church, when believers often found themselves persecuted, beaten, and humiliated for their faith. Faith in Christ often meant a loss of worldly privileges. Jesus Himself even promised persecutions to those that follow him (Mark 10:28-30); He even said that following Him would stir family rivalry (Matthew 10:34-35). Becoming a Christian is not a favor we do for God. Salvation is not an option on your health benefits. It is something that we must do if we are to have the only peace that really counts: peace with God. Yes, you can be happy, healthy, and prosperous as an atheist; but you will continue to be an enemy of God, which will profit you nothing in the end (Matthew 16:26).
I found it interesting that the group sponsoring the ads calls itself “the Big Apple Coalition of Reason.” How many atheists have stopped to consider what reason is? Where did reason come from? How is it man can reason? This is not a skill we learn; and there are certainly no other animals on earth that are able to reason as man is able to. The glaringly obvious answer, which atheists (for obvious reasons) ignore, is that reason is a gift of God. As creatures made in His image, we have the capacity to think, to draw conclusions, and to express opinions founded on rationally-derived information. It is ironic, therefore, that a group founded to promote the denial of God would use in its name one of the strongest evidences of His existence.
One of the obejctions Arminians like to throw against the Reformed teaching regarding election is the fact that one cannot speak of a sovereign God electing without at least implying, if not directly approving, “double predestination”–that is, that God both elects to salvation and to damnation. The Arminian objection is largely emotional: the thought of a good and loving God condemning countless masses of people to eternal torment should grieve your soul and make you wonder how a God of love could ever do anything so heinous. That God would gather millions of people and select only some to be saved is supposed to be seen as equivalent to terrorists rounding up villagers and condemning them all to die, except for some random, fortunate souls that are picked out. Just imagine the poor, depraved non-Christians being dragged into hell against their will, kicking and screaming all the way to the fiery pit shouting “Why me? Why me?” and you get the idea.
Of course, this is quite an unbiblical representation of the Reformed doctrine of election and reprobation. The Reformed view starts with the fact that we are all sinners, every last one of us (Romans 3:23). And not just that we are guilty of getting angry at our kids, or jumping in line at McDonald’s, or saying something mean about a co-worker. No, we are guilty of outright rebellion against our Creator. We are all God haters, actively suppressing the knowledge of God and ignoring Him and His claims upon us (Romans 1:18 ff.) When Romans 3:11 says that there are none who seek after God, we must understand that this is saying that no-one is actively pursuing the things of God. There is no-one who desires from the bottom of his or her heart to be pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6). No-one wants to do God’s will; it takes a work of God’s regenerating Spirit to change the heart so that we are able to believe and desire to please God (John 3:3). This is what happens when God elects to save. Those God does not choose are left in their rebellion; they have no desire to do God’s will, no love for God, and feel absolutely no remorse at not being of the elect.
I am a vegetarian, and I have been for nearly 20 years. Prior to being a vegetarian, I loved chicken and would drool over a juicy steak like the next carnivorous person. Now, such things do nothing for me. I have sat at the dinner table with people sharing stories of the fabulous cuts of meat they have enjoyed, salivating and causing other to salivate as they describe tender pork roasts, or succulent prime ribs, all of which has no effect on me whatsoever. I have no desire for meat, and the thought of a juicy steak does as much for me as the thought of moldy bread. People have tried to entice my taste buds with their favorite dishes of animal flesh, but I simply have no desire to eat meat, so they are left frustrated. When the turkey is being passed around at Thanksgiving, I do not feel in the slightest bit offended when the platter is passed over me. My feelings are not hurt when someone else is offered the turkey leg. Indeed, I am grateful that people are considerate enough not to pour gravy on my plate. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything.
The Reformed position teaches that the reprobate attitude to God is akin to my attitude to meat. They don’t want God. They have no desire for God. The last thing they want is to hear the gospel message and be told of Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. It is not glorious to them; it is foolishness and a waste of their time (1 Corinthians 1:18). In fact, you would not be dragging them kicking and screaming into hell; you would be dragging them kicking and screaming into heaven! Unless God changes his heart, taking out the heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), the reprobate would be pleased to know that he has been passed over for election, and grateful that he will not have to tolerate God’s presence for all eternity.
So, in answer to the Arminian who says, “if you believe in election, that means you believe in double predestination.” I say, “yes and amen!” If by “double predestination” you mean that God has elected some (a multitude, if we accept what Revelation 7:9 says) for salvation, and purposefully left the rest to their just and deserved condemnation, I say, “indeed, that’s exactly what I believe.” That’s not to say I don’t grieve over the lost; they truly don’t know what they are missing, and how severe their punishment will be. However, we need to be sure we recognize that God is ultimately just in all His ways, and He does not condemn to eternal death anyone a) who doesn’t want to go there, and b) whom He has not determine will go there, for the greater purpose of His will, to the ultimate glory of His name. I close this article with the words of Loraine Boettner:
The condemnation of the non-elect is designed primarily to furnish an eternal exhibition, before men and angels, of God’s hatred for sin, or, in other words, it is to be an eternal manifestation of the justice of God.. This decree displays one of the divine attributes which apart from it could never have been adequately appreciated. The salvation of some through a redeemer is designed to display the attributes of love, mercy, and holiness. The attributes of wisdom, power, and sovereignty are displayed in the treatment of both groups. Hence the truth of the Scripture statement that, “Jehovah hath made everything for its own end; Yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” Prov. 16:4… This decree of reprobation also serves subordinate purposes in regard to the elect; for in beholding the rejection and final state of the wicked, (1) they learn what they too would have suffered had not grace stepped in to their relief, and they appreciate more deeply the riches of divine love… (2) It furnishes a most powerful motive for thankfulness that they have received such high blessings. (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, pp. 121-122)
If you’ve been paying any attention to the news over the last week or so, I’m sure you are aware that a fossil discovery made a number of years ago has recently been revealed to the public. What makes this fossil discovery of interest (at least to those that are hyping it) is that it supposedly provides evidence of a link between primates and humans–that elusive so-called “missing link” that, until this discovery, popular science has dismissed as not being a real problem. (Strange that, isn’t it? Something that isn’t really a problem suddenly becomes a problem when they believe they have solved the problem, but when it was really a problem, it wasn’t really a problem. But I digress…) I’m no scientist, but from what I gather, the fossil is a lemur-like creature that exhibits certain traits that appear to be “human.” Now, I have not read the scientific papers on the fossil, and I know there are some elements of the scientific community that are being a little more circumspect in their pronouncements about this, but, of course, the media and pop science are all over this, claiming it to be “final proof of evolution.”
As Christians, how do we approach such discoveries? Do we give up the faith? I’m sure there are some that will, or at least will feel tempted. There are others who may want to take a second look at alternative theories of human origins that try to compromise between pop science and Scripture by undermining the integrity of Genesis 1. Others may want to stand firm in their faith, but feel the pressure from jeering friends or snide commentators who will use this kind of thing to belittle the faithful. Whether it’s Ida the Fossil, or the Talpiot Tomb, or the Gospel of Judas–how can the average lay Christian maintain their trust in God’s Word in light of such assaults?
In some cases, the believer may have to do a bit of research, dig into some history, and acquire facts. Thankfully, there are those skilled in specific areas of study that have provided resources to help (e.g., Dr. White’s book on the Talpiot Tomb is a great help to those dealing with finds of this nature). However, each one of us, by God’s grace, has been given a brain, and most of us are able to use whatever mental capacities we have to ask simple yet profound questions that help us get to the real heart of the matter. Take the case of the Ida fossil. There are good scientific reasons to be skeptical about the claims made for this fossil, and I will provide a link to the Answers in Genesis page below for more information about the find and the truth behind the science. But that aside, ask yourself: what is it they have found? A fossil. What does that fossil indicate? That a lemur-like creature once existed that had a couple of human-like features. How does this prove evolution? The evolutionists say because the theory requires a link between “apes” and humans, and this gives such a link. But what if the theory is wrong? Then no such link is necessary. In essence, this only “proves” evolution if you assume evolution happened. I think of this fossil like a photograph–a portrait. To say this fossil is related to humans is the same as saying that a photograph of one person is related to another simply on the basis of a few common traits–same eye color, same hair color. They *might* be related, but the mere existence of a photograph doesn’t *prove* the relationship.
So, the bottom line is that Ida is only proof of evolution if you first assume evolution to be true. If you dismiss the theory of evolution, Ida becomes simply another form of primate with some special characteristics: another kind of lemur that God created amongst the many, many types of creatures he created within those first six days of earth’s existence. Remember Romans 1:18ff. Unbelievers are trying very hard to suppress the knowledge of God, and it really isn’t that hard to see through their efforts, as long as you apply the correct presuppositions.
Here’s the Answers in Genesis page: Click Here.
“JWs and Bart Erhman’s all very well,” I hear you say, “but what happened to the Introduction to the Qur’an series??” Well, I apologize for the delay, but here it is, at long last, the third and final installment of the series. In this part we will examine what the Qur’an has to say about John the Baptist, Mary, and Jesus. Please bear in mind that this is a very brief overview; nevertheless, I hope it will be helpful to you.
There are far fewer direct references to New Testament figures in the Qur’an than Old Testament. Most notable of these, though are Mary (Maryam), John the Baptist (Yahya), and Jesus (‘Isa). A comparison between the Qur’an and the New Testament reveals a similar methodology at work in dealing with these as with people from the Old Testament.
John the Baptist
The birth of John the Baptist is preceded by the announcement of the angel to his father, Zacharias, who, according to Luke’s Gospel, was struck dumb as a penalty for his unbelief. In sura 19, Zakarya requests a sign to validate the prophecy concerning his aged wife giving birth, and the sign is that he will be unable to speak; there is no mention of his unbelief. When Yahya was born, the Qur’an says that he was given wisdom, and that he was devout and obedient to his parents. No mention is made of the ministry of John, his role as forerunner to the Messiah, his imprisonment, or his execution at the instigation of Herod’s wife (Yusuf Ali mentions these things in his commentary on 19:7 and 19:13, but he is clearly dependent upon the Christian Scriptures for this information).
Sura 19 has the Arabic name “Maryam” since it contains the birth narrative of Jesus from the perspective of His mother. Most other references to Mary in the Qur’an speak of her only in relation to Jesus (i.e. ‘Isa ibn Maryam, Jesus son of Mary; see, for example, 2:87, 23:50, 33:7, 4:156-7, et al.). In this brief passage (19:16-34), however, the Qur’an tells of the visitation of the angel to Mary and the prediction that she would bear a son even though “no man has touched me and I am not unchaste” (28). It also adds details not found in the canonical Gospels, notably the reproach of the people to Mary after Jesus had been born, and the baby Jesus jumping to Mary’s defense with an articulate response to those who accused her of promiscuity.
The idea that the infant Jesus was able to speak and behave in a very un-childlike way, is, of course, contrary to the concept of Him growing and becoming strong (Luke 2:40). It can, however, be found in Gnostic writings (e.g.,The Gospel of Barnabas 7, and The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, particularly the opening passage of the Latin text, where the two- and three-year-old Jesus is grinding wheat from a field, and commanding dried fish to move)
The Qur’an does not provide any record of Jesus’ life and ministry comparable to the New Testament Gospels. Aside from the account of His birth mentioned above, there are some notes regarding His character, and fervent denials of his divinity, but little else. The Qur’an does mention on a couple of occasions that Jesus was enabled by God to heal the blind, heal lepers, and raise the dead. In this list, however, it also says that Jesus “makest out of clay as it were the figure of a bird by My leave and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave” (5:110; see also 3:49). The canonical Gospels say nothing of Jesus doing this; rather, it is the Gnostic Infancy Gospel of Thomas that records such a feat: “This child Jesus, when five years old, was playing in the ford of a mountain stream…And having made some soft clay, He fashioned out of it twelve sparrows… And Jesus clapped His hands, and cried out to the sparrows, and said to them: Off you go! And the sparrows flew, and went off crying” (Thomas 2, from the First Greek Form; translation located at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf08.vii.viii.html).
In agreement with the Gospels, the Qur’an calls Jesus a prophet, and sets Him firmly in the line of other prophets such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses (e.g., 2:87, 2:136, 33:7). The Gospels, however, record explicit statements with regard to Jesus’ divine status, both in terms of commentary (e.g., Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:1; John 1:1; 20:28, 31) and direct affirmations from Jesus Himself (e.g., John 8:58; 14:6; 17:4). The Qur’an even goes so far as to put denials of His divinity onto His own lips:
And behold! Allah will say “O Jesus the son of Mary! didst thou say unto men ‘worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah'”? He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart though I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.” (5:116)
In addition to this there are frequent assertions that Allah would not bear a son, and that Allah does not have “partners” (e.g., 5:72, 13:33, 40:12). Muslims call such belief shirk, which is often ascribed to polytheists. The Qur’an views the doctrine of the Trinity as a denial of monotheism (see 5:72-73, 116), so any Christian holding to Christ’s divinity would be seen as one ascribing partners to God, and hence guilty of shirk.
The Qur’an also teaches, contrary to the Gospel accounts, that Jesus did not die on a cross, but only appeared to do so:
That they said (in boast) “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary the Apostle of Allah”; but they killed him not nor crucified him but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts with no (certain) knowledge but only conjecture to follow for of a surety they killed him not. Nay Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power Wise (4:157-158).
Once again, it appears that the Qur’an is seeking to protect the reputation of a prophet. If Jesus died on a cross, then he would be cursed (Deuteronomy 21:23), and this would not be appropriate for a prophet of Allah.
It is interesting to note, in light of the differences between the Christian Scriptures and the Qur’an, that the Qur’an refers to both the Tawrat (i.e., the Law, or the Old Testament) and the Injil (i.e., the Gospels) as revelations from Allah (10:37; 2:4; 3:3). Furthermore, it is required that the faithful believe not only in the present revelation (i.e., the Qur’an), but in those revelations that have preceded it (2:4). For the Muslim, however, there is no dilemma over which version is true: the Qur’an is Allah’s Word. As for the Tawrat and the Injil, Muslim apologists will be quick to note that these words do not refer to the written documents of the Old and New Testaments, but rather the original words spoken to Moses, to David, and to Jesus. Further, they will side with modern liberal scholars in asserting that very few of the original words of these men appear in our Biblical texts (Ironically, many of these liberal scholars would just as quickly deny the claims Muslims make about the authorship and reliability of the Qur’an):
When we say that we believe in the Tauraat, the Zaboor [the Psalms], the Injeel and the Qur’an, what do we really mean?… The Tauraat we Muslims believe in is not the “Torah” of the Jews and the Christians? We believe that whatever the Holy Prophet Moses? preached to his people, was the revelation from God Almighty, but that Moses was not the author of those “books” attributed to him by the Jews and the Christians? Likewise, we believe that the Zaboor was the revelation of God granted to Hazrat Dawood (David)? but that the present Psalms associated with his name are not that revelation…We sincerely believe that everything Christ? preached was from God. That was the Injeel, the good news and the guidance of God for the Children of Israel. In his lifetime Jesus never wrote a single word, nor did he instruct anyone to do so. What passes off as the “GOSPELS” today are the works of anonymous hands! (Ahmed Deedat, The Choice: Islam and Christianity, Volume Two, (Woodside, Ny: Islamic Propagation Center International, Inc., 1994), pp.80-81).
Hence, for the Muslim, the only way to know what Allah originally said to Moses, David, or Jesus, is to consult the Qur’an.
My purpose here has not been so much to present an apologetic, but to inform. If we are to present a meaningful defense of the truth, we need to be sure we understand what it is we are defending the truth against. If we assume that most Muslims derive their understanding of the Old and New Testaments from what the Qur’an teaches, then we are better able to understand where they are coming from and to address the issues if we know what the Qur’an is and what it teaches about our faith. For some excellent apologetic resources, I would encourage the interested reader to avail him or herself of the growing number of items available from Alpha & Omega, both in the bookstore, and also in the numerous blog entries and videos you can access for free on this site.