Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
More on Islamic Apologetics, NT Transmission, on the DL
11/29/2005 - James WhiteToday I covered the Sam Shamoun vs. Nadir Ahmed debate a little more in-depth, in light of Mr. Ahmed's contacting me and my informing him he was welcome to call the program and respond to what I have said about his presentation (the invitation remains open). Sam Shamoun called in toward the end of the program as well. We covered the common use of equivocation by Islamic apologists with reference to the term "corruption," and looked at Surah 4:157, Jeremiah 8:8, and other passages. Here's the program.
Upcoming Needs: Important Announcement
11/29/2005 - James WhiteI am one of those folks who really likes predictability. I like a routine. Same ol' same ol. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Make do and be thankful. That kind of thing.
But sometimes, things have to change. We have been operating this entire ministry out of very, very, very small quarters for quite some time. And we've made it work. Of course, with a huge staff like ours (= two people, myself and Rich) you can work in smaller quarters. Of course, there isn't a square inch left in my office...books stacked on top of books, every bit of space being used. In any case, we've made the decision that we need to move to a more suitable, and functional, location, for a number of good reasons. And the Lord has opened up a wonderful opportunity and location as well, perfectly suited for our needs. No, I'm not going to divulge the location (I've been discussing the Qur'an a lot lately!), but it isn't overly far from where we currently are.
In any case, we hope to be moving toward the end of January/early February. Oh yes, we will need some strong backs. My library will be a bit of a...workout. But, of course, as anyone knows, when you move an entire ministry operation, there are associated "extra-budgetal" costs. Especially since we do the Dividing Line from the office, there will be costs associated with getting proper Internet connections put together, let alone getting all the computers set up, printers, being able to continue to burn CD's and DVD's and fill orders, etc. And, of course, with the debate and travel schedule I have starting in February through May, we have to make this move as smooth as possible, meaning we can't rely upon Rich "ToolMan" Pierce to be building things on the fly (as he has often done in the past). We might actually have to buy shelves, for example (gasp!).
Now as I explain on about a semi-annual basis, this ministry is actually just like all those you hear about who have "matching grants" and do cold calling and all that stuff---well, we don't get matching grants or do cold-calling or have telethons and stuff, but like everyone else, we pay our bills and keep the lights on through the support of a very small number of churches (three regular supporting churches, and a couple that have me speak so often I sort of consider that the same thing) and everything else comes from the support of God's people. We don't do the "guilt trip fund raising routine" ("If you don't give, we will have to go off the air!") or all that---if I ever had to get to that point I'd go into another line of work. But that's how we make ends meet.
Now, I've noticed over the two decades of A&O's existence that we just don't seem to appeal much to rich folks. The vast majority of our supporters are not looking to make large contributions before the end of the year, that's for sure. Yeah, a couple of times over the years someone has given a larger than normal donation in December, but it's pretty rare. If anything, end of the year is harder because our folks are trying to stuff a stocking or two. But anyway, here's our little appeal. If you like the Dividing Line, the blog, the debates, the conferences and the like, and feel the work is worthy of your support, and maybe a little added support in light of the upcoming move, well, we will do our best to utilize anything given to God's glory. No matching grants, no cold-calling, and my wife promises not to appear on your TV talking a million miles per hour. We promise.
The Da Vinci Code XII
11/28/2005 - James WhiteWe have already seen that Brown relies heavily upon a highly doubtful, uncritical, easily challenged view of extra-biblical sources such as the Nag Hammadi Library and various other gnostic-influenced works. Ironically, Brown contradicts himself once again in his statements immediately following the embarrassing "heretic" comment on page 234. Here Brown speaking as Teabing says that "some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive." And what does he refer to? First he mentions the Dead Sea Scrolls, which, of course, are Jewish in nature and origin, not Christian. Now, if he would like to argue that 7Q5 is, in fact, a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, making the DSS relevant, that's fine---that would only destroy his entire thesis once again, putting Mark's writing within a few years of the events themselves. But obviously, that is not his intention, so, even mentioning the DSS is utterly irrelevant. Next he lists the Nag Hammadi finds, which of course contain some of his favorite sources, all from the second century, of course. He claims that both the DSS and the Nag Hammadi library tell "the true Grail story." I'm sure those working on the Dead Sea Scrolls need to be informed of this, since they would not have any idea of that otherwise! And one thing can be said with all certainty regarding the Nag Hammadi Library: there is no single story, no single position, to be found in that collection of works. They were not "gospels" representing the early Christian religion amongst the "thousands" Brown has alleged: they are the works of those who sought to pervert and change the faith, joining elements of Christianity with foreign beliefs.
Brown goes on to claim the DSS and Nag Hammadi finds "speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms" (234). Again, I would love to see where the DSS speak of Christ's ministry period, but be that as it may, in reality, once you leave the inspired text, you can find anything you want in second century writings about Christ. In fact, the deity of Christ is prominent in these works. The Docetics, for example, loved to speculate on what Christ would be like as a god (without a true physical body), and some of their myths and legends even ended up in the Qur'an! Surahs 3:49 and 5:110 both make reference to Jesus allegedly making birds of clay come alive, a story found in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas: ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Jeremiah 8:8: Abused and Misused
11/27/2005 - James White
"At that time, declares the LORD, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. 2 And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. 3 Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the LORD of hosts. 4 "You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? 5 Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. 6 I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, 'What have I done?' Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. 7 Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD. 8 "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. 9 The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them? 10 Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. 11 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace. 12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD. 13 When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them." 14 Why do we sit still? Gather together; let us go into the fortified cities and perish there, for the LORD our God has doomed us to perish and has given us poisoned water to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.
This text is one of the most commonly cited by Islamic apologists---well, let me modify that. One verse is, specifically, verse 8, "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.'" The assertion is that this is a plain, incontestable assertion in the Bible itself that its own text has been corrupted (and, by extension, that the Bible is not the Word of God). Is this what Jeremiah is saying?
One thing you can almost never accuse Islamic apologists of is taking into consideration the context of any biblical passage when citing from the Christian Scriptures. We saw that repeatedly in reviewing Shabir Ally's debate with Sam Shamoun, even to the point of his directly admitting he did not need to worry about interpreting the Bible in its own context. And though I have heard multiple Islamic apologists citing the text in debates and on websites, I have yet to hear one who shows any knowledge of the context of the text and its function in the prophecy of Jeremiah.
Let us first consider how utterly unlikely it is that the Islamic interpretation offered by certain apologists has any merit whatsoever. If Jeremiah were actually accusing the scribes of altering the actual text of the Torah, the Mosaic Law, so that it was no longer available or knowable, can we imagine him doing so in one verse, and them moving on? But surely that is not his purpose, for he continually assumes the possession of, and knowledge of, the law of Yahweh, holding those very people accountable to it. It is simply beyond the realm of logic to think Jeremiah himself believed that law had been corrupted and lost as well. Consider well that Jeremiah will later prophecy the writing of God's law upon the hearts of His people in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33), but he says nothing about it having to be re-inspired or revealed again so as to be able to do so. And consider this passage as well: ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
11/26/2005 - James WhiteI've been working on a few other projects over the course of the holiday and haven't had the slightest desire to open up The Da Vinci Code and document more of Dan Brown's errors. But it has been hard to avoid noting the explosion over the past week of a "blog war" as it is being called (a bit melodramatic for my tastes) once again focused upon he-who-starts-blog-wars, Michael Spencer, aka, "iMonk."
This one got started because, as is his pattern, iMonk posted an article that was, well, quite self-revealing. In fact, if you ask me, it was not proper to post it in public. In fact, posting that kind of stuff in public is an open invitation for exactly what happened. If you are Dr. Introspective, then you might wish to write such things for a...limited audience? But when you have a long history of being hyper-sensitive to any and all comments by others (though you seem quite willing to dish it out yourself), you might consider the wisdom of such a course of action.
Well, ol' centuri0n, who used to be a regular in my chat channel, but is too busy for us little people anymore (especially since Pyromaniac has eaten with him and put graphics of him on his blog, rocketing him into the very upper echelon of the blogosphere), commented on one of iMonk's introspective (and provocative) posts, and KABOOM! went iMonk once again. But more than this, iMonk has followers, very properly identified by Steve Hays as the "Tavernistas." They are a truly fascinating conglomeration of folks who take the "this is a tavern" mantra way, way too seriously. A few have a rather salty tongue too, if you know what I mean (taverns are not known for their concern to glorify God through control of the tongue). In any case, they came forth from their tavern, beer mugs in hand and pitchforks at the ready, in defense of their leader, and well, the rest is history.
Most of you know all of this anyway, so why comment on it? Well, today I see this "suggestion" that this blog ignore that blog, and this blog not allow comments mentioning that blog, and this person get to have editing rights on that blog, and so on and so forth, and I have to just roll my eyes and go, "What??" You've got to be kidding! Spencer has even pulled the original post, though he continues to dangle it out there by musing he might make it a password-protected file or something.
I blog mainly to provide apologetic information to folks that I hope will help them be more confident, proclaiming, grounded Christians in an ever more hostile world. Sometimes I blog out of personal enjoyment (the personal articles) and to demonstrate that you can be an apologist and plain ol' human being, too. But I do not blog to play mind-games with folks or to get the adoration of others, and to be perfectly honest, I'm starting to wonder if the BHT (Boar's Head Tavern) isn't starting to take on the characteristics of a proto-personality-cult. Whatever it is, I sure don't suggest wandering in there. It is clearly a place of great confusion, and not a little bit of anger. Pass by quietly, dear traveler.
The Da Vinci Code XI
11/23/2005 - James WhiteAfter creating, out of whole cloth, the idea that Constantine was busy running about the Roman Empire looking for at least 996 "original" gospels while promoting his edited versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Brown decides there is simply too much credibility lingering in this story, so he decides to shoot the last of it dead immediately. Enter the fellow I assume Tom Hanks is going to be playing, Robert Langdon, to add yet another incredible example of a-historical silliness to the very core of the Da Vinci Code fable:
"An interesting note," Langdon added. "Anyone who chose the forbidden gospels over Constantine's version was deemed a heretic. The word heretic derives from that moment in history. The Latin word haereticus means 'choice.' Those who 'chose' the original history of Christ were the world's first heretics." (234)First, once again, there is not the slightest bit of historical foundation to this claim. None. Next, this is not a Latin term: it is Greek. The Greek terms ai`retiko,j, ai`reti,zw, and ai[resij are all found in the New Testament, long before Constantine. The verbal form does indeed mean "to choose," but not in the context Brown suggests. The term means "to choose or select for the purpose of showing special favor to or concern for," and is used in such passages as 2 Thessalonians 2:13 in the context of God's choice of the elect: "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth." It refers not to choosing to believe mythical gospels that never existed, but choosing someone so as to give to them favor or grace. From this verbal idea, then, it comes to indicate divisions based upon choice in its substantival/adjectival forms. In fact, the very term "heretic" appears, in Greek, in the New Testament, a simple fact that anyone with the slightest concern for truth could have determined rather easily (in fact, it even appears in Plato!). It appears in Titus 3:10, "Reject a factious (ai`retiko.n) man after a first and second warning."
But outside of these rather obvious facts, there is another little historical problem for Brown's claim. A quick scan of the ecclesiastical Latin writings that predate Constantine likewise demonstrate Brown's lie. Off the top of my head I recalled one rather obvious example of the use of this term before Constantine, and there are many others. Around the beginning of the third century (for those challenged historically like Mr. Brown, that would be around AD 200) Tertullian wrote a book titled "Praescriptionibus adversus Haereticos," The Prescription Against Heretics. Once again, for fictional character Robert Langdon's benefit, the year 200 is, oh, about 125 years prior to AD 325, the date of the Council of Nicea. So, if, as we are told, the term "heretic" came from the time frame after Nicea where people were choosing to believe in gospels that never existed, how could Tertullian be using it in the title of his book? Yes, well, I'm sure Constantine is to blame for that as well.
Today on the DL
11/22/2005 - James WhitePlayed clips from Tim Staples, Shabir Ally, and Patrick Madrid today---in that order, though, amazingly, two of the three had something in common. You'll just have to listen to find out what it was! Here's the program.
The Da Vinci Code X
11/22/2005 - James WhiteAfter insisting that "educated" Christians know all about Constantine's hi-jacking the faith and inventing the deity of Christ, Teabing tries to say that Jesus was a good guy and did good things. That is very nice: defame the entirety of His own teaching about Himself, tell us that we actually can know abolutely nothing about Him or His teachings (if all we have left has been utterly changed how can we truly know anything about Him?) but make sure to throw in a few crumbs about what a nice guy Jesus was. The attempt is not worth the ink it takes to print it. He continues, "All we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Christ's substantial influence and importance." No, that is not all Brown is saying.
Teabing drones on,
Because Constantine upgraded Jesus' status almost four centuries after Jesus' death, thousands of documents alredy existed chronicling HIs life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history." Teabing paused, eyeing Sophie. "Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned."
Let's do a little math for Teabing aka Dan Brown. Christ's death is somewhere around AD 30 (33). 33 + 400 years = AD 433. Constantine died in AD 337. Evidently, great scholars like Teabing, or fiction writers like Brown, get confused about the fact that Nicea was in the "fourth century" but that doesn't mean four hundred years. He's off here by a full century. The Council of Nicea was less than three hundred years after the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we have seen, Constantine did no such thing, nor did he have the power to do so at all, as if the early Christians, having suffered horribly at the hands of Rome, would then turn around and allow Rome to introduce what would be, in fact, a gross blasphemy into the faith. If no Christians had believed in the deity of Christ, to all of a sudden introduce such an exaltation would have been indeed a blasphemy: but no such thing took place. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Already Planning for Next Year...
11/20/2005 - James WhiteIt couldn't have been too bad if I'm not only planning on doing it again next year, but planning on doing the full thing (i.e., the full 109 mile route), so yes, I made it through the 80 mile portion of El Tour de Tucson on four months preparation. Didn't set any records, nor was I trying to. Survival, no injuries, and a good time were my goals, and I accomplished those. Here's a picture at the start line. My good friend Eddie McKee rode with me, and he even put a little sign on the back of his bike that said, "200 meters, 100 meters, Go DrO! AOMIN.ORG." Of course, no one but I could make heads or tails out of that. The 200 meters, 100 meters thing is from a workout video he and I have both done (I many, many times), called "CycleRobix" with coach Troy Jacobson (www.spinervals.com). DrO is my in-channel nick, and of course, if you are reading this, you caught the last part.
I did see a few crashes, or at least the remnants of some. For some reason I had thought the race was capped around 4,500 riders, but I was completely wrong about that. We had 7,773 riders in all the segments of El Tour this year, a new record! Put almost 8000 riders on the same roads, and some of them are going to run into others of them. Saw one poor fellow on a back board with a neck brace waiting for an ambulance at one point. But I actually witnessed one crash. I was on the access road southbound on I-10 having just come off of Tangerine Road. I was pretty much alone, with a fellow about 20 yards ahead, and a big pack coming up behind me but still a good 150 yards behind me. Just riding along doing some mental calculations on how far I had to go, when the guy in front of me hits some railroad tracks crossing the road at an angle. The second rail grabs his front rim and slams him on the road. It was horrific to watch. Of course, though you don't read these rules anywhere, you know what your duty is...I got across the tracks without crashing, jumped off my bike, and got over to him as quickly as I could. "What can I do for you? Do you feel anything broken? Do you want me to call anyone?" Pretty quickly the pack behind me came up and they started slowing and asking if we needed help. If I had said "Yes!" the entire pack would have skidded to a halt, I assure you. There is a real comaraderie in these races. But I had gotten him to his feet by then, and since we both had cell phones, we waved them on. He seemed to be ok outside of some road rash. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
The Da Vinci Code IX
11/19/2005 - James White
"It was all about power," Teabing continued. "Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power. I've written several books on the topic." (233)Dan Brown's utter incomprehension of biblical scholarship and history comes out here again, for he seems to think that "Christ as Messiah" and "Jesus as Son of God" are equivalent terms. Surely, the idea of Christ as the Jewish Messiah is as primitive as can be, and it would be even more absurd (if that is possible) to suggest that it was Constantine who came up with the idea of Jesus as the Messiah! Such is silly beyond words, and I know of now scholar at all who makes such a suggestion.
The early church was a loosely connected group of persecuted churches, racked by heresy and strife, despised by the world. The idea that the early church could be so organized, let alone so dishonest, as to 1) die by the thousands for a lie, 2) seek political power while being persecuted thereby, and 3) come up with such a grand scheme, is again absurd. So is Brown misusing terminology again, and not referring to the early Church at all, but instead to post-Constantinianism? Surely the growth of the church/state relationship began with Constantine, but there is simply no possible way of connecting Jesus as Messiah with post-Constantinianism. So, assuming, then, that Brown is simply incompetent as a historian, let's reconstruct his assertion. Let's say he's talking solely about the deity of Christ here, not Jesus as Messiah. So, the idea is that Jesus' deity was vital to the construction of a church/state relationship. Is there merit to this assertion?
Not historically, for once again, Brown ignores the Arian resurgence after the council of Nicea. Constantine didn't care if Jesus was deity or not: he only cared about political stability in his lifetime. He surely did not have some "big conspiracy picture" in his mind for future generations. This is pure historical revisionism masquerading as scholarship (note the "I've written several books on the topic"---and he will soon cite numerous actual books published over the past decades, again giving credence to the "fiction based on fact" concept). Who are these "many scholars"? Of course, we are not told. Of course, you could get a group of "scholars" to agree to anything if you have enough money and time, but that is hardly relevant to truth.
Ironically, this thesis, as absurd as it is historically, is exactly what I keep hearing from Islamic apologist Shabir Ally. The poor "original followers" of Jesus could not manage to proclaim his truth, and the mean nasty followers of Paul basically "took over." When you try to find these original followers, you find more and more assertion with less and less documentation---in fact, you find absolutely nothing more than mere assertion and speculation, but these days, assertion and speculation, as long as it is joined with a smile or "sincerity," is all you really need. Post-modernism flourishes.
Now having made an utter mockery of history itself, Brown now decides to mock the faith itself in these words. Having claimed to have written several books asserting Jesus was "hi-jacked" by the early church, we read,
"And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?"This kind of rhetoric is simply disgusting. "Well, if you were really educated, you'd know what I'm saying is true." Such is especially reprehensible in light of the fact that it is Brown who is demonstrating his utter lack of education (or, worse, utter dishonesty) with this kind of ravaging of historical realities. The vast majority of educated Christians know the early church hi-jacked Jesus? This kind of absurdity can only be promulgated in this fashion: it can never survive actual debate and examination, so it must assert itself by repetition, or, in this case, through repetition on movie screens and in book stores all across the world.
"Why should they?" Teabing countered. "The vast majority of educated Christians know the history of their faith."
Yesterday on the DL, Quick Note Before the Big Race
11/18/2005 - James WhiteLast evening on the Dividing Line we had a three-part program; first a call on what Jehovah's Witnesses believe about salvation; then I read the majority of a two-part talk given by Joseph Fielding McConkie, LDS scholar and son of Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie (noted below); and then a real quick call and a question on why Romans 8:1 looks different here:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (NASB)
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (NKJV)
Here's the program.
Finally, I'm headed to Tucson this afternoon. I will be riding in the 80 mile portion of El Tour de Tucson tomorrow morning, Lord willing. It's the first time I've ridden El Tour since 1998, but it looks like the weather is going to be completely perfect, and so I am looking forward to it. I am not, however, taking my computer, so, things will get a bit quiet till early next week.
Today on the DL: The New Mormon Dilemma
11/17/2005 - James WhiteJoseph Fielding McConkie is the son of one of the most outspoken Mormon apostles of the twentieth century, Bruce R. McConkie. In 1985 he wrote a book with Robert Millet (same LDS scholar who wrote the Eerdman's publication we have spoken of in the past) called Sustaining and Defending the Faith. The book remains in print. He is a professor at Brigham Young University.
Unless I am completely missing his point, it seems to me that McConkie is not walking the same path as Millet and Robinson these days. No, I don't have any "inside contacts" up there, but I am referring to two talks McConkie gave less than two weeks ago, found here and here. I will be discussing these talks on the Dividing Line today, for I see in them the "New Mormon Dilemma." I think McConkie sees something I have been seeing: Mormonism will splinter and die a thousand deaths if it gives up its distinctives: and, of course, it is those very distinctives that makes it a non-Christian religion. McConkie sees that compromise and trying to "look like everyone else" simply can't work for a religion like Mormonism which was founded on principles and beliefs that simply cannot be twisted into an ecumenical pretzel and still function as they have in the past. Just a couple of representative quotes:
Do you realize that the notion that all churches are equal presupposes that the true church of Jesus Christ actually does not exist anywhere?”I can respect McConkie. I can talk to a Mormon who believes he is right and I am wrong. It's the Mormons who think their feelings say they are right but my feelings might say I am right and who really knows and we all have light and blah blah blah blah blah....those are the ones I struggle with. McConkie has a spine---a fully, documentably heretical one, but a spine nonetheless, and as I believe Walter Martin once said, paraphrasing, "I prefer my heretics straight up, thank you." Indeed indeed.
If we are concerned about not offending the world, the first thing we ought to do is to reject the Book of Mormon. Can you imagine a book telling someone who believed in infant baptism that they are “in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity,” that they have neither “faith, hope, nor charity,” and that they ought to be cast down to hell for the very thought? (Mormon 8:14).
Perhaps we need to rethink the idea of seeking common ground with those we desire to teach. Every likeness we identify leaves them with one less reason to join the Church. When we cease to be different we cease to be.
So, that's what we will start with on the DL...but you never know where we will end up when those little green lights start blinking on the phone bank. The DL is today at 6pm EST.
Today on the DL
11/15/2005 - James WhiteToday on the Dividing Line we took a call on how to witness to Mormon missionaries, another with the suggestion that I do some DL's on the Da Vinci Code based on my PowerPoint presentation of it (good idea!), and I also spoke about a New York Times article on abortion, and then discussed Sura 4, Ayah 157 in the Qur'an and the Islamic denial of the crucifixion of Jesus. Here's the program.
Tuesday Morning Notes
11/15/2005 - James WhiteOn a very sad note, Adrian Rogers has died. Chemotherapy is a rather barbaric way of dealing with cancer, and while it can work, it likewise has lots of complications, in this case, double pneumonia. His website asks for prayers for the Rogers family. All theological disagreements aside, as I noted a few years ago when reviewing his sermons on Romans 8 and 9, when it came to justification, he was spot-on, and we can be thankful for his life and ministry.
Also in the "arrived over night" material is a rather full article by Steve Hays in response to Paul Owen's continued attack upon the substitutionary, penal work of atonement by our Lord Jesus Christ, here. I am thankful Steve Hays and others have the stomach to continue to deal with Owen's ever widening body of writing giving evidence of his apostasy. As sad as it is to see false teaching proclaimed, it is also good to know that Paul was right: time does, in essence, demonstrate who is approved and who is not (1 Cor. 11:19), and I can only hope that those who have been duped by this man in the past will see him for what he really is and will no longer cooperate in assisting him to spread his teachings in those bodies of believers where he has no place being given a platform.
The Da Vinci Code VIII
11/15/2005 - James WhiteWe have come to the examination of one of the key assertions made by Dan Brown in his attack upon the central elements of the Christian faith (so as to make room for his Magdalene-based conspiracy theory). We read:
"My dear," Teabing declared, until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but man nonetheless. A mortal."
"Not the Son of God?"
"Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea."
"Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"
"A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added. (233)
We have seen that the assertion that no one believed in the deity of Christ prior to the days of Constantine is utter rubbish, historically speaking. We have provided just two of many sources that could be cited that prove, beyond any and all refutation, that in point of fact the deity of Christ was known and believed by Christians long before Constantine was a twinkle in his daddy's eye. Indeed, the earliest heresies were not denials of the deity of Christ, but imbalances based upon it! The gnostic Docetics denied not the divine nature of Christ, but His humanity! And the Sabellian heresy in the decades prior to the Council of Nicea once again was based upon an acceptance of the fact that Jesus was the Son of God and deity: it simply sought to work this out within a unitarian framework (which can never work). So history---when it is known---makes a mockery of Brown's claims at this point.
We likewise have seen that the description of Jesus Christ as "the Son of God" is found in Scripture, and that long before Constantine ruled as well. If the assertion is made that Constantine altered the biblical texts to insert the phrase, this founders upon the consideration that we possess biblical manuscripts that predate Constantine and that would have been far outside his grasp no matter how powerful one presumes him to have been, and these plainly identify Jesus Christ as "Son of God." It would be humorous if it were not so sad to note that one of the most popular terms for Jesus is "Son" in...the gnostic gospels that Brown, through his characters, will identify as the "earliest Christian records." In fact, Christ is identified as "Son of God" in the Nag Hammadi finds, the very ones Brown directs us to as the unadulterated, unchanged, pre-Constantinian "gospels," such as the Gospel of Philip, the Sophia of Jesus, and the Gospel of the Egyptians! ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Two Quick Monday Morning Notes
11/14/2005 - James WhiteFirst, Pastor Brazier has sent me the link to my February UK trip itinerary. Here it is. I can't express how much I'm looking forward to returning to the UK, and Lord willing, this time with a measure of health!
Second, I got up last night and noted the screen was on, so I checked on the computer and found a note from Sam Shamoun. Sadly, that woke me up fully at 2am. Thanks Sam! :-) But the note was interesting. It was about the entry below on Hebrews 1:6 and Shabir Ally. Evidently, Sam knows Ally's argument on this passage, and filled me in on what Shabir messed up trying to say in the debate, and since it is quite interesting (and, despite his having missed references and the like, we want to respond to the best someone has to offer), here's the scoop:
Shabir Ally said Deuteronomy 32:6, but what he meant to say was Deuteronomy 32:43. I might have been able to figure that out if I had looked at a paper copy of the Greek text instead of the electronic copy I used. Why? Because the Nestle-Aland 27th ed. includes along the side of the text citations/sources. At Hebrews 1:6 it includes Psalm 97:7 and a reference to Deuteronomy 32:43, where the LXX has a phrase that is a variant from the Hebrew. First, look at the comparison of the LXX of Psalm 97:7 and Hebrews 1:6:
|Psalm 97:7 LXX||proskunh,sate auvtw/| pa,ntej oi` a;ggeloi auvtou/|
|Hebrews 1:6||proskunhsa,twsan auvtw/| pa,ntej a;ggeloi qeou/Å|
Then Deuteronomy 32:43's variant phrase:
|Deu. 32:43||proskunhsa,twsan auvtw/| pa,ntej ui`oi. qeou/|
|Heb 1:6||proskunhsa,twsan auvtw/| pa,ntej a;ggeloi qeou/Å|
The LXX reading is actually a parallel:
|proskunhsa,twsan auvtw/| pa,ntej ui`oi. qeou/|
|evniscusa,twsan auvtw/| pa,ntej a;ggeloi qeou/|
I include the parallel to show that "sons of God" = "angels of God" in this context. Now, the LXX variant is verbally identical to Hebrews 1:6, and given the parallel that follows, provides a perfect match; however, the rest of the sources in Hebrews 1 (Ally assumes Pauline authorship, which I do not) are from the Psalter, and the Psalm 97:7 reference is probably the source of the Deuteronomy 32 variant anyway, given how close it is verbally as well. In any case, this wasn't even the focus of Shabir Ally's statement: outside of giving no original reference, and giving the wrong LXX reference, his assertion was that Paul's error was not only the citation of the LXX, but that the LXX had "Jehovah" and Paul misquoted it. But this isn't the case in any of the LXX sources: the LXX does not contain the Tetragrammaton (despite the wildest efforts of JW apologists to find a way to say it did). The term "Yahweh" does not appear in Deuteronomy 32:43, nor in Psalm 97:7. I think, if I can engage in just a bit more "he said this, but maybe he meant that" speculation, that what he might be referring to is the "elohim/angeloi" issue, that is, in Psalm 97:7 (96:7 LXX) the Hebrew is "worship him all you elohim," "gods," but in the LXX it is "angels," the LXX interpreting elohim to be a reference to angels. That's about the closest I can come, and in all of this Shabir Ally shows himself unwilling to apply the same standards to the Qur'an he does to the Bible. At least we can look at the sources used by the Apostles! You can hardly subject the text of the Qur'an to the same kind of examination (you rarely have sufficient context to do so, and it so rarely actually cites, directly, preceding documentary sources), so to try to prove the superiority of the Qur'an on this basis is once again fallacious.
Some Stuff on the Net....
11/14/2005 - James WhiteI was just sent this link. I am honored to be in such grand company.
Chris Jenkins and some other brainiacs--and Frank Turk--have started a blog (gasp! someone has started a blog??). I don't think they have Pyromaniac's graphics skills, but they are definitely younger than Phil. Wait...that doesn't sound right--and I'm not sure Frank Turk is younger than Phil Johnson. Anyway, it has to be good, since it's title is in Latin (hey, mine is in Greek). Here's the Reformata blog.
Another Shabir Ally Biblical Error
11/13/2005 - James WhiteThose who have listened to the Dividing Line of late know that I've been playing sections of debates featuring, mainly, Sam Shamoun. We played the entirety of his debate with Shabir Ally, and I've been listening to a number of Ally's other debates, mainly while riding medium distance runs on a bicycle (20 to 40 miles or so). Great time to listen/study. Anyway, I was flying down South Mountain (miss one of those corners and that would be a literal description) and I caught Shabir Ally doing an impersonation of Gerry Matatics. By that I mean he was doing the "throw out a statement with supporting citations so fast that only the best note-taker will even keep up with you and do it so that folks will be impressed (but hopefully won't question you about it later)" thing. Ally was trying to make yet another allegation of error in the Bible, this time on the basis of a citation from Hebrews 1:6, or at least that is all I can assume he was doing, since he didn't bother giving the reference. Instead, he referred to the passage in Hebrews 1 where "God said to the angels, 'Worship the Son.'" I can only assume he means Hebrews 1:6, "And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." There are simply no other candidates for the passage to which he refers. He then says Paul was quoting from Deuteronomy 32:6, which reads, "Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?" No, I have no idea how that is connected at all. All of the citations in Hebrews 1 are from the Psalter. So, strike 1. But then Shabir Ally says that Paul did not quote from the "Hebrew original" but from an "inaccurate Septuagint version." And then, to make it worse, allegedly Paul misquotes even the LXX (Septuagint), because, we are assured by Shabir Ally, the Septuagint does not say "worship the Son" but "worship Jehovah." So let's add up the errors...it isn't Deuteronomy 32:6 that is cited, it is Psalm 97:7 (96:7 LXX) in Hebrews 1:6. The text does not say "the angels are to worship the Son" but "let all the angels of God worship Him" (the term "Son" is not found in Hebrews, so how Paul could misquote that is hard to know). Further, the LXX, despite the best attempts made by a few Jehovah's Witness apologists, does not make reference to Jehovah (Yahweh), but uses the Greek term kurios in place of the Tetragrammaton. So, though I would imagine Shabir Ally's presentation sounded real good to his followers, once again we are left in amazement at the simple lack of accuracy in his statements.
Finally, it is interesting to ponder Shabir Ally's implicit assertion that to cite the LXX is to automatically, it seems, disqualify the Bible from being the Word of God. This comes from the fact that in Islam, Arabic is the "pure" and "divine" language, and that the Qur'an truly only exists therein (all translations being inferior and mere approximations). The idea of using the language of others to spread the message of Scripture is foreign to much of modern Islam, which spreads its message most often by force of arms rather than convincing people through persuasion and appeal. Muslims see the spread of the Christian Scriptures by copying and translation (so as to bring the gospel to all men in their own language) a weakness, not a strength, and this goes back to a fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam: biblical Christians and Muslims both believe God shows His great power by bringing people into proper subjection to Himself; but Christians believe He does this by taking out a heart of stone and giving a heart of flesh, by changing the person inwardly, making His enemies His worshippers, not by the force of the sword, but by the power of the Spirit.
Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness IV
11/12/2005 - James White
Titus 2:7-8 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.Teaching marked by integrity, dignity, and now, "sound speech." Literally, "whole, healthy, sound" in word, speech. In this particular instance, the term Paul uses is u`gih/ , which of course is related to his more common term, u`giai,nw , "sound, correct, well-grounded. Consider for a moment how often Paul uses this concept in exhorting the next generation of church leaders:
1 Timothy 1:10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,Sound doctrine, sound words, sound in the faith---all refer to that which is in proper order, functioning aright, healthy.
1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,
2 Timothy 1:13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Titus 2:2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
I can't help but think of an example from my own life right now. I am looking forward to riding in my first cycling race in seven years. The last race I rode in was El Tour de Tucson in 1998, riding the 75 mile portion. In a matter of days I'll be riding in El Tour again. Things have changed a bit over the seven years I've been gone, and now the 75 mile portion is an 80 mile run. In any case, you climb a lot in El Tour. If I recall correctly, the full 109 mile course had 3,300 feet of climbing in it. Though I've dropped nearly forty pounds since June, I've kept lifting, so I'm still much heavier and more muscular than I was the last time I rode El Tour, so climbing hills is slow going in comparison to the lightweight hammerheads around me. So I've been working hard on my climbing of late (did 3,300 feet last Wednesday over 36 miles, and 3,500 over 41 miles just a few days ago, all on South Mountain here in Phoenix). Now, a bit over a month ago I "tweaked" my left knee kneeling down to do something in the back yard. Now I have to ice my knee after every ride. In fact, the faster I get the ice on it, the better chance I have of avoiding pain. My knee is no longer truly "sound." It's not working the way it is supposed to. Thankfully, it hasn't started bothering me when I ride, only afterward---but as anyone knows, it is on my mind even when I'm climbing. I probably unconsciously favor it as well. It's still functional, of course, but it is not fully sound, not perfectly healthy (as all my 40+ readers can probably understand). Something isn't quite right, and it reminds me of that fact with regularity.
Apologies for my sports-related example, but in the same fashion, teaching that is not "sound" may "work" by many standards. It may "get the job done." But if it is not really sound, it will have results, down the road. It is like feeding the sheep an imbalanced diet: they may live fine on it for a while, but eventually, it will have an impact. Sickness will develop. Disease will enter the flock.
Sound doctrine is not something that would be "nice" if we could just "afford" it. You will never become truly healthy by cutting corners on diet and exercise and nutrition---though you can, in the short haul, get away with things. But short-sightedness is the hallmark of American evangelicalism, is it not? The shallow pap we call "teaching" in so many churches today cannot long nourish the famished sheep. It builds no solid foundation, and it results in an anemic, birth-defect filled next generation. Sound doctrine is simply letting God say what God says in His Word: unsound doctrine means we are ashamed of the truth and think we are wise enough to come up with something else.
Live Blogging the Dateline Program on the Birth of Jesus Christ
11/11/2005 - James WhiteI've decided I might as well live-blog while I watch this thing. Given that it will feature John Dominic Crossan and Scott Hahn...well, it will have to be interesting. Prediction: Hahn will be one of the most conservative on the program. We can hope, anyway. Remember, he was trained as a Presbyterian. :-)
00: Ah, there's ol' Dr. Crossan, "Get over it. It didn't happen." Hey, Hahn's beard looks good trimmed tightly. :-)
01: The aim is not to challenge anyone's beliefs? What a wonderfully post-modern way of putting it. As if the Christian faith can stand without its historical moorings.
02: "It's a parable, dummy!" Hey, anyone who has been listening to the DL over this year, and has listened to the Crossan debate, is ready for this one.
05: Ben Witherington III is the conservative in the group? Well, lovely. "Guesswork." Great---too bad no one there to give a meaningful response.
07: Dom: why not wear a tie? :-)
08: Here's the url for the transcript: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10005045/
09: The nativity scenes ignore the historical context? Uh, why? Could someone explain the assertion? Crossan's statements sure didn't provide any basis for the statement.
10: One thing is for sure: I sure "hear" Crossan's words with a whole lot more clarity than a few years ago. Not sure how someone who hasn't read his works and dialogued with him could really follow him too well, though.
14: Ah, don't you love contrasting a little school play shot on an unsteady camera with the erudite scholars? Yeah, lovely.
16: Here comes the "it was common for folks to believe in men sired by gods" garbage, straight out of Crossan's works. Listen to the cross-examination from our debate for how well that flies in light of the uniqueness of Jewish monotheism.
17: Sure looks like the interviewer has little interest in challenging Crossan's position. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Sit Down: Robertson Was Right
11/11/2005 - James WhiteThere have been a number of times I have simply wanted to say, "Pat, just SHUT UP." Pat Robertson's ability to stick his foot in his mouth is legendary, of course. Being on the air daily surely increases your chances of foot-in-mouth disease, and I honestly do try to keep that in mind when evaluating his commentary. But I guess we have become so accustomed to him saying something that could best be described as "ill timed" that when the media throws out another one, we just automatically assume he's "blown it again."
But this time---I agree with him. Of course, I don't agree with the false imputation to him of a prediction of disaster befalling Dover, Pennsylvania---if he was, in fact, intimating that, he would be in error. But I think the media--and a number of Christians--have missed the point. In case you've been living in a lead mine for the past 18 hours or so, here's the story. All eight school board members who had favored allowing freedom in the public education system (a heresy right there--the public education system is a dogmatic institution where 'freedom' is strictly defined as 'that which promotes our world view over against Christianity') to present "intelligent design" as an alternative to the Central Dogma of the NEA, evolutionary theory, were removed by the citizens of Dover. Kicked out. Who wants freedom when it comes to evolution? It's a fact, you know---don't let all those unanswered questions get in the way! Shout down debate and discussion and dissent--without evolution we can't have our naturalistic materialism, so, kick the rebels out! And so they did.
Well, Pat Robertson commented on his program yesterday:
I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city...And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city...God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever...If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.Now, I am no fan of Pat Robertson, but I do believe we all have a duty to let a man define his own context, and as I read this (and I've heard the comment replayed a number of times already), his point was this: Dover doesn't want to have a Creator mentioned in their schools. Dover doesn't want to acknowledge God as Creator and Maker and King, therefore, should disaster strike (flood, earthquake, plague, whatever), it would be hypocrisy in its highest form to go running to the church saying, "Oh God, have mercy! Bless us! Help us!" I do not see a prediction of disaster in his words, and as I said, if there is such a prediction, I would reject it outright. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
The Da Vinci Code (Part VII)
11/11/2005 - James WhiteHe was on his way to his death, and he knew it. The story of Ignatius, the great bishop of Antioch, one of the early Christian martyrs, is well known, at least to those with an interest in church history (which limits things a good bit these days). Unwilling to compromise, Ignatius happily, as an aged man, embraced his departure to be with Christ. As he traveled to Rome to face death, he wrote to individuals and churches, and those letters have come down to us over the intervening centuries in Greek and Latin versions. Evidently, Dan Brown's extensive "historical research" for TDVC missed his letters, written in 107 or 108 (that's 200+ years prior to the Council of Nicea). If he had bothered to read these works, he would have known that claiming Constantine "made up" the deity of Christ or His position as the Son of God would be a historical blunder on the level of saying Jimmy Carter ran against George Washington for the Presidency of the United States.
Here is a selection from Ignatius' genuine writings (there is a body of pseudo-Ignatian literature as well) that testify to his view of the Lord Jesus Christ. For more information on this, and the apologetic relevance of Ignatius in light of a tremendously gross attempt to misrepresent him by the Watchtower Society a number of years ago, click here. His words to the Ephesians identifying Jesus as God were noted in our previous entry. [Which reminds me: the Yahoo! article rendered the inscription found in the ancient church as "the god, Jesus Christ," but in reality, the underlying Greek is probably almost identical to Ignatius' phrase here, and whether you render it "the god" or "God" is dependent upon the translator and the context. Hence, the inscription [without having seen the actual Greek as yet] could be rendered "to the God, Jesus Christ" just as in Ignatius. This is, in fact, how it is rendered here.]
My spirit is but an offscouring of the cross, which is a scandal to the unbelieving, but to us it is salvation and life eternal. Where is the wise man? Where is the disputer? Where is the boasting of those who are called understanding? For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to a dispensation of God, from the seed of David, yes, but of the Holy Spirit as well. (Ephesians 18)Notice not only the explicit affirmation of the deity of Christ, but likewise the very high view of Christ stated as well: Ignatius clearly viewed Jesus as the God-man, affirming both his humanity and his Deity, as we will see in another citation below. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness III
11/10/2005 - James White
Titus 2:7-8 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
There is another aspect of in our teaching showing dignity that should be brought out. To handle the Word of God is a great privilege. For far too long in conservative circles the ministry of the Word has been taken for granted and not seen as the high calling it truly is. The radical individualism of Western Society, and especially American society, has resulted in the idea that as long as you claim to have been "called" that this means no one can question this call. I remember the shock I had when I first spoke with the elders at PRBC about such things. Don Fry made it clear in discussing the issue early on that the elders of a church have a duty to examine someone who claims such a call and, if there is simply no evidence of God's gifting that man to the office, they should be direct in telling him they see no evidence of such a call. Unheard of! But oh so proper. For if such discernment is not used, you end up inflicting men upon the flock who have no business behind a pulpit, and in every case the ministry of the Word suffers as a result. The dignity of the office of teacher/pastor is diminished as a result.
To teach the truth with dignity requires work. A good sermon takes time, study, preparation, thought. How sad that so many today rush through that preparation rather than savoring it, mainly because 1) we have made them CEO's and hence left them no time for such work, or 2) those involved in the ministry find it easier to adopt the "look up some stories online, go play golf" model of sermon preparation (one reason I would never have made it in those circles). To handle teaching in a dignified manner requires not only a proper view of the gravity of the matter at hand, but it likewise requires you to hold a particular view of the ministry of teaching itself. Sadly, many go into the ministry without the foggiest idea of what is necessary to pursue the work with dignity before God and man. The work, the dedication, the single-minded devotion to please God and to leave the results in His hands---these things should mark the godly minister's work, and, beyond that, should be the source of his joy in his work as well. If the minister finds joy in that which cannot be taken from him by external factors, he will have a strength in ministry beyond human comprehension, an ability to "last" and remain steadfast, content in the setting in which God places him.
The Da Vinci Code (Part VI)
11/09/2005 - James WhiteOne of the most eloquent testimonies to the error of Dan Brown and the ridiculous and outrageous claims of TDVC regarding the "creation" of the deity of Christ by Constantine is found in the sermon on the Passover preached around twenty years before the end of the second century by Melito, bishop of Sardis. I included my translation of this tremendous section in my book, The Forgotten Trinity, and reproduce it here. Remember, this sermon was preached approximately 145 years prior to Nicea, 130 years prior to Constantine's battle at the Milvian Bridge (where he allegedly saw the sign of the cross in the sky and the phrase, "in this sign, conquer"). As you read these words, rejoice, as I rejoice, at the thought of this ancient believer and the fact that he reveled in the truth about the God-man Jesus Christ just as we do today! Oh that we had more preaching like this in our land today!
And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled!
He who hung the earth in place is hanged.
He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.
He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree.
The Sovereign is insulted.
God is murdered.
The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand.
This is the One who made the heavens and the earth,
and formed mankind in the beginning,
The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets,
The One enfleshed in a virgin,
The One hanged on a tree,
The One buried in the earth,
The One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven,
The One sitting at the right hand of the Father,
The One having all authority to judge and save,
Through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time.
This One is “the Alpha and the Omega,”
This One is “the beginning and the end”
—the beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible.
This One is the Christ.
This One is the King.
This One is Jesus.
This One is the Leader.
This One is the Lord.
This One is the One who rose from the dead.
This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father.
He bears the Father and is borne by the Father.
“To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.”
More Amazing Errors from Shabir Ally on the DL Today
11/08/2005 - James White(Here is today's program, noted below)
Someday I'm going to wrap myself around a light pole somewhere because I'm so amazed at something someone just said in a debate I'm listening to while riding my bike. Yesterday I was listening to the Morey vs. Ally debate while riding, and just about rode right off the bike path when once again Shabir Ally proved "use any tactic you want---who cares about consistency" is his modus operandi. You may recall his amazing statement to Sam Shamoun that he does not have to take the Bible in its own context: he can pick and choose verses, phrases, etc., at will, isolate them, take them out of context, etc., and it doesn't matter. To any serious minded person, this was an admission on Shabir Ally's part that you do not need to take his arguments seriously, since he is not presenting them seriously.
I will be playing these sections on the DL today, but briefly, in the Morey debate at one point Shabir Ally shows that he knows he uses sources and arguments in an inconsistent, illogical fashion. In defending the Qur'an, Ally argued that you cannot use "Western scholarship" since that disproves both the Qur'an and the Bible. Now, while one could surely argue that point, immediately you are left asking, "If that is the case, why do you quote from Raymond Brown and all sorts of Western scholarship ad infinitum et ad nauseum in your debates against William Craig or others?" The self-contradiction is glaring, and utterly self-destructive.
But later I was left gasping for breath, not because of how hard I was riding, but because of Ally's willingness to show either utter ignorance of the Trinity (a possibility) or, to grossly misrepresent it. At one point Ally again shows his complete lack of exegetical capacity in speaking of the incarnation and the relationship of the Persons in the Trinity. He asserts confusion on the part of Christians as to who the Father of Jesus is, whether it is the Father in heaven or the Holy Spirit (as if the term "father" is being taken to mean 'the one causing the incarnation'). Then he says this:
But I cannot help you with this kind of confusion, ladies and gentlemen, except to invite you to the truth that God has revealed to correct all of this confusion. Ladies and gentlemen, I noticed this confusion here today as well when during the prayers we noticed that some people were praying to Yahweh, and some were saying 'Yes Jesus, praise be to Jesus.' Because Yahweh and Jesus, according even to the Trinity, are two different persons, they are not one in the same. If you say that Yahweh is Jesus, then how can you say that Yahweh sends His Son? Who is His Son? Not Jesus?I find it hard to believe Shabir Ally could possibly say something like this in a public debate. Surely any person who has done even the most basic amount of study knows that part and parcel of the proof of the Trinity adduced from the Holy Scriptures is the use of the divine name, YHWH, of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Only by once again assuming unitarianism can Ally miss this vital point. And how could he possibly think that this argumentation is at all compelling to a Christian? A truly amazing example of "We don't need to study what you believe or accurately represent it!" Listen in to the DL for this statement and others, and your phone calls at 877-753-3341. Perhaps some folks will finally call in this morning to defend Shabir Ally's arguments? Some of the other Islamic apologists we have examined? We tried to find someone Thursday evening, but no one called. We will try again at 11am MST (1pm EST).
A Quick Aside on the Da Vinci Issue in Light of Current Events
11/07/2005 - James WhiteYahoo! had a story yesterday on the finding of an ancient Christian church in Israel, one pre-dating Constantine (hat tip SafeHaven). And almost as if on cue, the story contains this paragraph:
Two mosaics inside the church — one covered with fish, an ancient Christian symbol that predates the cross — tell the story of a Roman officer and a woman named Aketous who donated money to build the church in the memory "of the god, Jesus Christ."I don't know about you, but I sorta have to chuckle a bit that Dan Brown is making millions off lying about Constantine making up the deity of Christ right as the earth gives up an example of the ancient nature of belief in the deity of Christ, just as we see in Ignatius or Melito of Sardis. Must be a conspiracy or something.
The Da Vinci Code (Part V)
11/07/2005 - James WhiteHaving endowed Constantine with a-historical super-powers and credited him with doing things he never did, would never have had any interest in doing, could never have accomplished, and in fact, would have worked against his actual historical interests, Dan Brown continues the demolition of his historical credibility, but at least for a moment he sounds like so many others who blandly throw out the "Christianity just borrowed paganism" line, especially when it involves "dying and rising Saviors." So at least when this old canard is thrown out, at least Brown isn't completely alone in repeating it. But, that only proves that at this point he is just as guilty as all the rest in ignoring the fundamental difference between pagan stories of dying/rising gods and the unique Christian teaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As common as the allegation is, even a moment's reflection upon the vast difference between a polytheistic religion with the concept of anthropomorphic gods (gods with physical bodies) that are able to co-habit with human beings and the exalted monotheism of Judaism and Christianity shows one the absurdity of the parallel. Gods dying and rising may be common in polytheistic religions---but in the monotheism of Christianity and of the Jewish/Christian scriptures, the concept of incarnation and resurrection becomes utterly and completely unique. Just witness the Islamic revulsion at the concept of incarnation and you can see how tremendously unique is the idea. Further, you have the Jewish Scriptures and their prophetic witness to the life and ministry of Christ, something completely missing in any allegedly parallel pagan myth. Every time I hear someone casually throwing this alleged parallel out I have to shake my head in amazement at how facile and shallow such reasoning is.
Brown then even tries his hand at the "Constantine changed the Sabbath" argument, ignoring the presence of the phrase "the day of the Lord" in the Christian Scriptures and the wide witness to the celebration of Christian worship on Sunday in the early Christian documents (which, for Brown, don't even seem to exist). Once again the anachronism in Brown's fanciful claims is so strong as to be humorous.
From here Brown moves into his unique description of the Council of Nicea itself. Here we begin to see the central anti-Christian thrust of TDVC:
"My dear," Teabing declared, until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but man nonetheless. A mortal."
"Not the Son of God?"
"Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea." (233)
Here we see what is arguably the most absurd, ridiculous, easily refuted claim of TDVC: and yet, it is central to the entire thesis of the book's reconstruction of history itself. We could spend a great deal of time refuting this assertion, and will do so in the next installments. For now, I will allow two ancient witnesses to speak to prove that Dan Brown, Doubleday, and everyone associated with the upcoming film, are making their millions at the cost of truth itself:
From AD 108, Ignatius to the church at Ephesus: "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to her who has been blessed in greatness through the fulness of God the Father, ordained before time to be always resulting in permanent glory, unchangeably united and chosen in true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ, our God, to the church which is in Ephesus of Asia, worthy of felicitation: abundant greetings in Jesus Christ and in blameless joy." (Ephesians 1)
Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness II
11/05/2005 - James White
Titus 2:7-8 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.Just as we noted when we looked at 1 Cor. 1:17 a number of weeks ago, we can, by the means we use to proclaim the gospel, alter it and in fact empty the cross of its power, making it void. If we use worldly words of wisdom--human methodologies that prove we really do not trust God's Spirit to make God's message come alive in the hearts of His people--we may see "results" but they will not be abiding results to the glory of God. They will be man-made, and the resultant church anything but divinely blessed. An impure Gospel results in impure saints at best, or pure hypocrites at worst. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about sinless perfection or the concept of certain hyper-Calvinists that a person has to have memorized Berkhof's Systematic Theology before regeneration can take place. I'm talking about integrity in doctrine---putting the emphasis in the right place. Today the emphasis is upon the "end result" and being "user friendly." The fact that men of God are called to be His ambassadors and to proclaim His message without diminishment or alteration has been lost to a large portion of those who stand behind pulpits today.
A teacher with integrity will teach "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" to the best of his ability. The integrity of the truth will be a high priority---far higher than "the possibility of offense." Today the greatest heresy in many churches is hurting someone's "feelings." The teacher who has integrity will not seek to unnecessarily offend, of course. But when offense is part and parcel of the message, the teacher marked by integrity will leave the matter in God's hands.
The next term Paul uses is semno,thta, "seriousness, proper conduct, respectability, dignity, probity, holiness," "a manner or mode of behavior that indicates one is above what is ordinary and therefore worthy of special respect," "behavior which is befitting, implying a measure of dignity leading to respect - 'propriety, befitting behavior.' " Once again the modern trend is seen to be directly opposed to the biblical standard. Today the "minister" who is intent upon making himself "just one of the boys" or a "clown for Jesus" will gain an audience. How far from the attitude of the ambassador who, invested with the authority of the one who sent him to deliver a message, treats that proclamation with the dignity due to its author, resulting in the hearers likewise treating the message with dignity and respect. How little respect is shown the proclamation of God's message today! Congregations tell their pastors to keep it to twenty minutes---we want more music, more entertainment! Give us "gospel lite." Keep it simple! Nothing heavy! We want to feel good when we leave! No doctrine! No content! Stories, tell us childhood stories! Many sleep through the sermon with their eyes open, never considering the gravity of the message (if there is any gravity in the message to begin with), day dreaming about getting home to watch football, or worrying about what will happen Monday at work. We live in a generation of sound-biters---if you don't get the message across in four minutes and thirty seconds, you've lost me. Better throw a joke in to wake me up now. I can't concentrate on one thing this long! Of course, that's why I only read a few verses of the Bible a week, why the biblical text is a choppy mess of individual verses instead of a contiguous whole, etc. and etc. ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness
11/04/2005 - James White
I was reading through this text sort of "on my way" to verse 11 during a sermon lately, and could not help but be struck by how little attention is paid to this vital passage in so many churches today. Oh, there's plenty of emphasis upon being an example of good works, I guess, at least in an outward fashion. But for the large portion of folks today, good works and showing integrity, dignity, and sound speech in reference to one's doctrine and teaching...well, what on earth could be the connection between those two things? And yet, in biblical theology, they go hand-in-hand. One without the other involves imbalance. Doctrine and conduct, perfect balances of each other.
Literally Paul exhorts Titus to be "in teaching, incorruptible." The term, avfqori,an, is not a common one in this form: it is in essence the negation of the far more common term for corruption (fqora,). One's teaching can be corrupted by many things. It can be corrupted by the influence of human tradition, as in the case of the scribes and Pharisees with whom the Lord did battle over and over again during His earthly ministry. It can be corrupted by a desire for worldly things: money, fame, power, the adoration of the crowds. Paul told us about men who sought after these things and their teaching was corrupted thereby. But taking it in the positive form, "integrity, honesty, purity, soundness" what does this mean when it comes to doctrinal teaching? One lexical source sees it as communicating "telling the whole truth," and that would fit with Paul's words elsewhere:
Acts 20:26-27 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.To have integrity in teaching you can't hold back on any element of God's truth. This is truly a major area of failure today, and that for "fear of the face of men." As our culture becomes more and more post-Christian (and indeed, anti-Christian), the pressure to compromise on the content of the Christian faith will continue to grow, not only so as to create large mega-churches that do not at all challenge the sinner's rebellion against God so as to make him or her "comfortable," but even more directly in forcing us to count the cost of speaking the truth when the culture decides to make speaking the truth illegal. Who will we obey at that point? Who will we be willing to "offend"? Men, who love their sin and rebellion, or God, who gave us the Gospel? The day may well be coming when we will have to make that very choice, as recent events show.
Of course, to teach in honesty, integrity, and purity, assumes something that, sadly, apostate Christianity no longer confesses. If I am going to say "this gold is pure," I need to have a standard of purity and a way of defining the substance of "gold." If I can't tell you exactly what gold is, I can't claim to possess pure gold. In the same way, if you cannot define the gospel clearly and specifically you can't claim to be teaching it with integrity and purity, since those terms assume it exists and can be defined. So we see that those who plague the church today with their constant sowing of doubt and confusion are a manifestation of God removing his blessing, something that is hardly surprising in light of God's wrath coming upon Western Society, and the fact that a blessed, discerning church is a blessing upon any nation. [continued]
When Unrighteous Judges Rule the Land
11/04/2005 - James WhiteWhen men and women suppress the knowledge of God, twisting the image of God out of shape, their minds are darkened (Romans 1:18ff). The gross inconsistencies that result are striking to those who are not blinded by their hatred of God (Psalm 68:1). For example, today we hear choruses of voices of those who seek to maintain the barbaric practice of in-utero infanticide (euphemistically called 'abortion') warning us about Judge Alito and the woman's "right to choose," and how the Constitution protects that right: yet, the same people who would "see" this "right" in the Constitution now cannot see a parent's right to determine the teaching of sexuality to one's children. Here are the frightening words of the unanimous decision of the nation's most notorious group of judicial revolutionaries, priest-kings and queens in their own minds, the 9th Circuit:
Writing for a unanimous three judge panel, Judge Steven Reinhardt summarized the courts’ holding, saying, “We hold there is no free-standing fundamental right of parents ‘to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs . . . .’” Reinhardt continued, “We conclude only that the parents are possess (sic) of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on [sex-ed] to their students in any forum or manner they select.”Can't happen in America? You better believe it can. The foundations are gone: the idea of a transcendent moral law to which all, including judges, are bound, is gone. The God who could give that law has been banished from our public institutions. The moral foundation that gave rise to our society has been washed away, and without a foundation, no building can stand for long. The days are coming when speaking the truth will be very, very costly indeed.
For more info on this travesty of justice, this outrageous example of the oligarchy of priest-kings masquerading as justices, see here and here.
A Caller Free Dividing Line!
11/03/2005 - James WhiteWell, we opened the phones for all those folks who would like to refute what I've been saying in response to Muslim apologists...and all we got was the sound of crickets chirping! Not a single call. Oh well, so I went over some material from Nadir Ahmed and Sabeel Ahmed presented in debates against Sam Shamoun. Here's the program.
Homosexual Super Rights: Another Example
11/03/2005 - James WhiteThe fact that homosexual activists are seeking to make themselves a super-minority with super-rights far beyond anything that could be dreamed of by us average citizens has been illustrated yet once again. Not only are these folks behind the outrageous denial of justice that parades under the title "hate crimes legislation" (those laws that allow judges and juries to look into the heart, determine motivations and thoughts, and punish you more for committing a crime against a homosexual than against, say, an Italian, or grandma Peterson across the street: it's a way of saying 'These folks are more important than others--so if you offend them, you pay dearly'), but they flaunt the law knowing that the police are to afraid of them. Here is an article replete with pictures. Now just imagine what would have happened if that had been a liberal church hosting a pro-homosexual conference, or, worse yet, an abortion clinic! Goodness gracious, we can't have that! Order must be maintained! Arrest those trouble-makers! The incredible hypocrisy of post-Christian America only grows more obvious day by day.
Eric Svendsen on the Internet and A Lighter Note...
11/02/2005 - James WhiteEric Svendsen has hung up his blogging...shoes, or gloves, or whatever you use to blog. Here's his announcement. I can fully understand how he feels. To be honest, I can't figure out how he, and so many others, can put out so much material. You have probably noted that my volume of blogging is lower than many others. The main reason for that is simply time: if you want to produce something meaningful, it takes time, and if you are writing numerous articles for various journals and publications, working on books, etc., and then traveling as much as I have been of late, it just simply isn't possible to blog prolifically. But secondly, I can't judge my efforts by others: I have to be responsible with my time and be prepared to complete the tasks for which I am responsible, both with A&O and in reference to my church. So I applaud Eric for focusing upon his local church. I've been mentioning lately that I expect the blog fad to start dying down, to be honest, which will be a good thing. You simply can't keep up with forty or fifty blogs on a regular basis. Now, I have no intentions of curtailing my blogging: which for some is bad news, for others good news. However, I am truly considering making it a Monday/Wednesday/Friday thing, with the DL's on Tuesday/Thursday, and if something pops up I can always throw it up there, too. But it is quite a burden to try to do something daily (if you blog, you know what I mean).
But on the lighter side, Steve Hays has once again written a classic piece. Lately the folks at confusiosanitorium or whatever it is have not only charted new courses in unorthodoxy (as we all said they would, eventually), but they have taken to posting some of the most hilarious podcasts (replete with music)...and the combined effect was to tickle Hays' funny bone. True humor always has a strong element of truth in it, and this one illustrates that to no end.
The Da Vinci Code (Part IV)
11/01/2005 - James WhiteI apologize for being behind in returning to our Da Vinci Code series. I spoke on the subject at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church this weekend, and will be speaking at various churches in the Phoenix area on it between now and next May. Sadly, in most churches, almost no one is aware of what is coming our way with this film as far as its "anti-evangelistic" impact.
In our previous segment we began looking at the claims Brown makes concerning the alleged plot by Constantine to create an entirely new religion by fusing Christianity with paganism. To use a direct quote, "Historians still marvel at the brilliance with which Constantine converted the sun-worshipping pagans to Christianity. By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties." (232) He then adds this outrageous statement, "Nothing in Christianity is original."
Especially around the holidays we hear pretty much the same drumbeat. I had to chuckle as I checked my RSS feed just this evening and found Jason Engwer posting the beginning of what looks like a fascinating series on the issue of Christmas (link here). One of the points noted by Engwer is that while the Roman holiday was established in AD 274 (at the height of empire-wide persecution of Christianity) there are references to the date in Christian writings relevant to the birth of Christ that pre-date both the establishment of the celebration as well as Constantine himself. "Julius Africanus, however, argues in his Chronicle (A.D. 221) for a date in the winter, December 25." (in Everett Ferguson, editor, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], p. 251) Engwer notes. No matter what else we might say, laying this one on Constantine once again flies in the face of all historical inquiry.
But beyond this, the fact of the matter is that Constantine simply never had this kind of power, and history does not give us any reason to believe Browns' fanciful claims. The idea that Christians would simply roll over and allow the Roman Emperor to completely re-vamp their entire faith, from their faith in the nature of Christ to their worship, etc., is beyond ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that while the Constantinian era had great and far-reaching ramifications down the line in church history (especially relating to the development of sacralism, the "state church" concept), those ramifications could not have been foreseen by anyone at the time of Nicea, let alone were they part of some massive conspiracy. Further, they took a great deal of time to develop. It wasn't as nice and simple as Brown would like to say: you don't make the kinds of changes Brown lays at Constantine's feet in the time frame Constantine had to make them. Things moved just a little bit slower back then.
But there is something else to remember here. If it was, in fact, Constantine's desire to create a new religion with a newly divine Savior (as we will see), he failed miserably. He died in AD 337, and during the twelve years after Nicea he surely not carry out all the fanciful things Brown suggests. What is more, the "Arian Resurgence" that took place after the Council of Nicea gives the lie to the entirety of Brown's thesis. As I noted a number of years ago in an article for the CRI Journal: ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Solid Ground Sale Extended Till Midnight Tonight...
11/01/2005 - James WhiteJust got an e-mail advertising some really super sale prices on some neat stuff (like the biography of Sarah Edwards) at Solid Ground Christian Books, but it only goes till midnight tonight! Here's the site but gentlemen, please don't tell your wives I told you about this. I know, how sexist of me...but it is almost always the guys telling me I am causing them biblio-covetousness--it isn't normally the ladies, though I know you are out there, too. I guess your husbands let you buy whatever books you want.
Today on the the DL....
11/01/2005 - James WhiteFinished the Shabir Ally vs. Sam Shamoun debate today on the DL. Heard Shabir make it very clear that he does not feel he has to read the Bible in context--an admission that utterly destroys his credibility and his arguments, to be sure. Started the program with a message to Nadir Ahmed's followers as well. Here's the program. Open phones on Thursday at 4pm MST to allow anyone to defend the statements made by Shabir Ally. I will also be addressing some more errors in the Nadir Ahmed vs. Sam Shamoun debate as well.