Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Theology of Islam
09/30/2007 - James WhiteA few portions of my interview on Islam with Coral Ridge appeared this weekend. You can watch the segment on line. If I could figure out how to link directly to the video feed in a player, I would, but that's a bit beyond my technical capacities. I'm honored to have gotten to contribute to the segment along with the likes of Al Mohler and Walid Phares, and in particular I'm glad the last segment where I speak of the difference between Islam's vision and that of Christianity was included. I also had a few comments included in an earlier segment. You can order the DVD of all of these segments here.
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#5)
09/21/2007 - James WhiteI continue my examination and rebuttal of Ali Ataie's article, "Can Paul Be Trusted?"Ataie has been alleging that Paul contradicted Jesus, and thus far, we have seen that in each instance, it is Ataie who is in error, not Jesus nor Paul. We continue with these assertions:
Jesus exhorts his followers to strictly adhere to the laws and commandments (Mark 10:18-19; Matt. 19:17; Luke 18:20) while Paul calls the law and commandments a curse and bondage (Gal. 2:16, 3:11, 24; Rom. 2:13).As with the previous assertion, Ataie is ignoring the context of each of his citations, while at the same time ignoring counter citations that would refute his assertions. For example, Paul himself said "we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31), and that in a context that explains Ataie's error. Further, Jesus, for example, declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and claimed the prerogative to heal on the Sabbath, basing His claim upon the fact that the Father likewise "works" on the Sabbath (John 5:17-18). In the specific texts cited, all we have is the abiding validity of God's moral law on the one hand, affirmed by both Jesus and Paul, and the fact that no amount of law-keeping can make one righteous before God, for the standard for holiness is perfection itself. Hence, one must be justified by faith in the provision God has made in Christ Jesus. Ataie's citations only demonstrate how it is possible to pick and choose citations while ignoring their context to create the false appearance of contradiction, which can be done just as easily to the text of the Qur'an, or any other written text, for that matter.
Jesus says that atonement through sacrifice in not necessary (Mark 12:28-29; Matt. 9:13) while Paul believes that only Jesus' atonement blood sacrifice can save us (Eph 5:2; Gal 3:13; Heb. 9:26).Once again, a quick glance at the texts documents that Mr. Ataie is context-challenged:
Mark 12:28-29 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;It is hard to imagine five more completely dis-connected contexts than these offered by Ataie. It truly does make one think that he is using a Bible search engine and simply looking for usable phrases without giving the first thought to the context in which they are used. The first context is in identifying the greatest commandment in the Shema.It has nothing to do with sacrifice. The second from the Lord Jesus does not make the sacrificial system "unnecessary" but it instead contrasts the attitude of the person who would sacrifice without changing his or her heart to the one who engages in sacrifice with the proper attitude, that of a broken heart, with compassion for others. This is the same Jesus who told the lepers He had healed to make the offerings found in the law of Moses. There are only two citations from Paul (evidently Ataie assumes Pauline authorship for Hebrews), the first speaks of Christ offering Himself up for us, and the second speaks of His becoming a curse, both completely consistent with the New Testament's presentation of the intention of Christ to give Himself in our behalf. Nothing said hereis even slightly relevant to the citations from Jesus, for once again, Ataie seems to ignore the reality that all words in language take their meaning from the context in which they are used.
Matthew 9:13 "But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Ephesians 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "
Hebrews 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Yet after all of this, Paul still has the audacity to claim: Be my followers, as I am a follower of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1)!As well he could do so, having given his life in the service ofChrist. The better question is whether Ataie has the audacity to claim any kind of facility in languages and in the fair reading of the Christian Scriptures after posting this kind of cavalier, a-contextual, and so easily refuted material? I wish I could say this is the end of his presentation, but alas, it is not. So we shall press forward as time allows during this very busy season of preparation for our conference and debate in providing a full response to Ataie's claims.
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#4)
09/18/2007 - James WhiteI continue my review and refutation of Ali Ataie's attack upon the Apostle Paul titled "Can Paul Be Trusted?" Thus far we have seen Mr. Ataie offering horribly flawed interpretations of Paul's words that betray both a great prejudice and bias on his part (bordering on bigotry) as well as a tremendous amount of ignorance concerning the art of serious literary exegesis. Nothing he has raised has, as yet, provided a serious reason to doubt Paul. But now he moves to the assertion that Jesus and Paul were in contradiction in their teaching, and as Ataie's accusations mirror the thinking of many Muslims, especially in the West, we will find reviewing his words educational.
Paul has managed to contradict Jesus in almost every single area of faith and practice. Jesus says that there is no original sin (Mark 9:13-14) while Paul says there is (Rom. 5:12-14).I can only assume that Mr. Ataie has very badly mis-cited his sources here. If you look at the Markan reference, there is nothing even remotely relevant to be found. I looked around Mark a good bit, and had given up finding any references at all when it struck me that the only possible text Ataie could be referring to would not be in Mark, but in John; not verses 13-14, but 3-4, and the only part he got right was chapter 9. So, I think he is referring to this:
Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 "We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.So, if this is in fact the text, then does it follow that Jesus did not teach original sin? Surely not. In the context, Jesus is answering a very specific question from the Apostles, who had accepted the thinking of their day: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"Jesus is not even addressing "original sin" at all: he is addressing the common belief that if a child was born with a defect, that either the parents committed a particularly gross sin, or, even the child in the womb committed a sin (such as kicking on the Sabbath day!). Jesus' reply is that neither of these assumptions were correct: instead, the man was born blind for a purpose, a purpose that was about to be fulfilled in his healing. To place this in contrast with Paul's teaching in Romans 5 is completely without merit. Jesus taught the same doctrine as Paul in such chapters as John 6 and 8, for example.
Jesus says that not ALL of us are unrighteous people (Mark 2:16-17; Matt. 15:24) while Paul says that no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10, 23).The irony here, of course, is that Romans 3:10 is simply a citation from Psalm 14, so unless Ataie wishes to say Jesus contradicted the Old Testament Scriptures, he hardly wishes to make this argument. But even without this consideration, once again Mr. Ataie completely mishandles the texts:
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:16-17).There is no question that Jesus taught that all men had to repent; there is no question that Paul said the same thing. So the only question is why Mr. Ataie so badly misunderstands the gospel text. Evidently, the argument goes like this: if Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, then there must be righteous folks that Jesus did not come to call. But since Jesus called all to repentance, this is an obvious error on Ataie's part. Ataie is missing the fact that the Pharisees did indeed claim to be righteous, and it was their vaunted self-righteousness that kept them, in His words, blind. This was the point of the story of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10-14). There are no righteous people in and of themselves: the only ones who can stand before God in righteousness today are those who are clothed with the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ given to them by faith and faith alone. ...
Matthew 15:23-28 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." 24 But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" 26 And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one."
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and come fall short of the glory of God.
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Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#3)
09/10/2007 - James WhiteI continue with my review of, and response to, Ali Ataie's article, Can Paul Be Trusted? Mr. Ataie continues:
Not unlike the Christian missionaries of today who travel into Muslim lands dressed in Muslim garb, Paul admits that he employs the use of deception to catch fish for Christ--becoming a Jew for Jews and a Gentile for Gentiles, that he may gain the more (1 Cor. 9:19-22).It is hard to judge whether Mr. Ataie simply does not understand the context of Paul's epistle to the Corinthians, and specifically, his discussion of liberty in the ninth chapter, or if he is just so intent upon making a point that he is ignoring what is so obvious. Paul is not even addressing the use of deception in the text, of course. In fact, the verse immediately following those referenced by Ataie explains it rather clearly: "1 Corinthians 9:23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it." Paul is not saying he pretends to be something he isn't in a deceptive manner, he is saying he uses his freedom so asto make a clear path for the gospel. So, he is free (v. 19) he willingly gives up that freedom so as to proclaim the gospel. So, he uses his freedom to make it possible to preach to the Gentiles when in that situation; when amongst Jews, he does not demand that he be allowed to continue to do whatever he wishes, but instead, he uses his freedom to once again make it easy for him to proclaim the gospel. To accuse Paul of some kind of deception is almost silly at this point, as if Mr. Ataie has no interest at all in actually attempting to understand Paul's context. But it is not as if this is some confusing or difficult section. The language is not hard to follow, if a person is not already so prejudiced against Paul that they cannot allow him to speak for himself.
The despicability of such treachery is something Christians have practiced for over 2,000 years and in many cases have even condoned. When it comes to clinching a convert, anything goes.This is nothing more than rhetoric unworthy of serious interaction, to be honest. Terms like "treachery," "despicability" (!) and "clinching" are emotional buzz-words meant to end rational discussion, not prompt it. Ataie has grossly misread Paul, and now attributes to Paul the worst possible motives without any basis. This is angry denunciation, not serious argumentation.
Such immorality is demonstrated as Paul describes to the Corinthians how he stole money from other churches in order to bribe them to believe -- Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service (2 Cor. 11:7-8).
Yes Paul, you have committed an offense--remember, Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15; Matthew 19:18)?!
Once again, Ataie's prejudice blinds him to the simplest and easiest of linguistic usages. Paul is referring to the fact that he had not asked the Corinthians for their support, relying instead upon the support of the other infant churches he had founded. His use of the term "robbed" (sula,w) is clearly ironic, not literal. He was not literally saying he took money that was not meant to be for him! If I were to say to a church, "I robbed my family so that I might serve you," I am saying I gave preference to the one, taking from the other, not literally, but figuratively. Surely Mr. Ataie knows this, and one is left wondering if Mr. Ataie simply is not concerned to communicate to knowledgeable Christians who would find argumentation utterly unconvincing and facile.
Most astonishing of all is how Paul tells the Romans that as long as people continue to believe in his doctrine, he cannot be labeled as a sinner for LYING (Rom 3:6-7)?! Lying about what? The fact that he saw Jesus?Again, the serious reviewer is left struggling to believe that such a plain text, and a plain context, could be so completely misconstrued by Mr. Ataie. Here is the text, in context:
Romans 3:1-5 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED." 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?What is Paul saying? In context, he has just concluded the demonstration of the sinfulness of the both the Gentiles and the Jews. He has concluded that even those who possess the law of God do not in fact obey the law of God. So he is answering an objection to his teaching: "what advantage has the Jew?" He answers that there is great advantage in that, for example, they were entrusted with the "oracles of God," i.e., the Scriptures. But immediately he faces another objection, one he will actually return to in Romans chapter 9, that being that the Jews, as a group, rejected the Messiah, and rejected the gospel. Doesn't this constitute an argument against the Christian faith? Paul's response is no, for man's actions cannot overthrow the faithfulness of God. Instead, "let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." God's justice must be upheld at all costs, or we face the specter of a universe without purpose and without resolution. But notice then the example Paul raises. He indicate that he is speaking "in human terms," i.e., he is using merely human reasoning to illustrate the folly of the objection. That is, if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, then wouldn't that make God unrighteous to punish our unrighteousness (since is only serves to demonstrate His own righteousness)? To which Paul replies in the strong negative, appealing to the necessity of God's justice as judge of all the world. This then becomes the context of the statement, "But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?" Note the theoretical nature of the statement. Paul is not referring to any specific "lie" as Ataie's reading would require. Instead, just as the contrast pair before was "unrighteousness/righteousness," here the contrast pair is "lie/truth." Ironically, Ataie once again stops his reference citation right before a verse that would, in context, destroy his argument, v. 8, "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come '? Their condemnation is just." Evidently, Paul had encountered the likes of Mr. Ataie's highly prejudiced, horrifically biased, interpretation of his words, back in his own day.
So in light of the actual meaning of the text, it is next to impossible to track any relationship between that and Mr. Ataie's commentary, it truly is. There is nothing about continuing to believe his doctrine, there is nothing about not being labeled a sinner, there is nothing about Paul having seen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Ataie is simply making this up as he goes along, and I for one find this kind of abuse of the Christian scriptures highly offensive. I believe I am under compulsion to expend myself to accurately represent and examine the text of the Qur'an, for example. I would be ashamed of myself to throw out this kind of invective without being able to show due diligence in my study of the text itself. It shows no respect for God, and no respect for the truth, and no respect for those you believe to be in error, to produce this kind of non-argumentation. If Islam is true, it cannot be properly promoted by ridiculous argumentation, and so to use such argumentation may well indicate that the originator does not have as much confidence in the truthfulness of his position as he wishes others to believe.
You Must Listen To This
09/05/2007 - James WhiteThis morning I listened to an information-packed, highly useful lecture by Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund. Even if Islam is not "your topic," you cannot afford to remain in the dark about it, and this lecture is tremendously useful. I challenge you to find the time to listen and learn!
Dealing with Islam
09/01/2007 - Jeff DownsLarry Wessels and Steve Morrison deal with topics in Islam in a video series. They are uploading some of them to the net:
Islamic Holy War - Jihad
Answering Islamic Apologists (Part 5)
Did Mohammed Marry a Nine Year Old Girl.