Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
1527: The Ten Year Anniversary of the Reformation
10/30/2007 - James SwanOn October 31, churches throughout the world celebrate the nailing of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg Chapel door. The event represents the outpouring of Christianity unshackled and blossoming. Like Hilkiah finding the Book of the Law, the thirty-four year old Luther proclaimed the doctrinal “solas” to the world: scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and the recognition that all of life is lived to the glory of God alone. For over five hundred years, these biblical truths reclaimed by the Reformation have transformed individual lives and entire societies. Truly, churches do well to celebrate the victory of the Reformation.
But like all victories, we tend to overlook the struggles involved. We may even romanticize the Reformation. We see the triumphs, and think that God blesses particular individuals like Luther with great growth and success, while the rest of us struggle through our Christian lives with failures and hardship. Just ten years after the posting of the Ninety Five Theses, we find the forty-four year old Luther one of the most famous men in Europe. In 1527, he preached sixty sermons, lectured to students, wrote one hundred letters and fifteen tracts, and spent time working on his translation of the Old Testament. He did all this while having the responsibilities of a husband, father, minister, teacher, and political advisor. One can find this productivity throughout all of his life. We think God must have blessed Luther by making his life easier so he could concentrate on God’s work.
But a closer look at Luther in 1527 shows some surprising details. Scholars mark this as the year Luther’s health increasingly began to deteriorate. It is recorded that he had several fainting spells, even fainting during a sermon. Luther, a man who loved to preach, had to stop preaching for a while. He also complained of intense pain in his chest, accompanied by painful buzzing in the ears. It had become so severe that it was thought he was about to die. News of this spread quickly, and fear gripped the people of Wittenberg. An entire deathbed scene of “Luther’s last words” was recorded in which Luther, surrounded in bed by his closest companions, voiced a deep concern for his pregnant wife and infant son: “Lord God, I thank Thee for having allowed me to be a poor beggar on earth. I leave no house, property, or money. But you gave me a wife and children, I commend them unto Thee. Feed, instruct, and preserve them as Thou hast preserved me, O Thou Father of children and widows.”
Luther recovered, but his physical condition continued only to become worse from this point. This physical weakness brought on serious bouts of depression. This melancholy would accompany Luther throughout his life. As he struggled with failing health, he would at times wish for death to release him from the pain brought on by intense headaches, dizziness, arthritis, digestion problems, infections, and uric acid stones, to name only some of his maladies. In his pain, he questioned whether or not God had abandoned him. He wrote to Melancthon, “I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But through the prayers of the saints [Luther’s friends] God began to have mercy on me and pulled my soul from the inferno below.”
Some may be surprised to read these words by Luther. How could a man who stood alone against the Catholic Church and Roman Empire show such a lack of faith? My belief is that Luther was like all of us. We at times stand strong, and at other times we cry out to God to increase our faith. Where Luther lacked faith in 1527, he also displayed it remarkably in other instances. The plague ravaged Wittenberg that same year. Many of Luther’s friends died, and his students and colleagues fled for their lives. Luther’s son even became ill for a time. Luther though felt “public servants, preachers, mayors, judges, doctors, policemen, and neighbors of the sick who have no one to take care of them are on duty and must remain.” He did not begrudge those who fled, “for to flee dying and death and to save one’s own life is a natural instinct implanted by God and is not forbidden.” But for Luther, fleeing the plague was not an option. He turned his house into a makeshift hospital, where he and his pregnant wife took care of the dying. The house was quarantined, remaining so even after the plague subsided.
This was the year 1527 for Luther, the ten-year anniversary of the Reformation. How many of us in Luther’s place would question whether or not God was chastising us for sin? How many of us would question whether or not we were missing God’s will for our lives? How many of us would wonder why we were not successful in our Christian ministry? Luther though, expressed profound understanding for all these trials: “The only comfort against raging Satan is that we have God’s Word to save the souls of believers.” In all these trials, Luther clung to that Word, and its promise that it would see believers through the difficulties of life, and that it alone showed us Christ and our salvation, the only really important thing. Luther best expressed this at the end of the troubled year 1527, by penning, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther expresses that in our trials, God will be victorious, and so will we:
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim? We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.
Why Can't We All Just Get Along? (AKA: Stop Shining Light on My Sin!)
10/28/2007 - Colin SmithThe following quotation is from a book by a Muslim author. It made me laugh when I read it, because it further confirmed a truth I have been told, and have witnessed, for years. Let me give you the quote, and I will explain after:
In any case, the unacceptability of Jesus' divinity and the Trinity to the Qur'an is uncontrovertible, as is the fact that Jesus and his followers are regarded as exceptionally charitable and self-sacrificing. The Qu'ran would most probably have no objections to the Logos having become flesh if the Logos were not simply identified with God and the identification were understood less literally. For the Qur'an, the Word of God is never identified simply with God. Jesus, again, is the "Spirit of God" in a special sense for the Qur'an, although God had breathed His spirit into Adam as well (15:29; 38:72). It was on the basis of some such expectations from the self-proclaimed monotheism of Christians--and, of course, Jews--that the Qur'an issued its invitation: "O People of the Book! Let us come together upon a formula which is common between us--that we shall not serve anyone by God, that we shall associate none with Him" (3:64). This invitation, probably issued at a time when Muhammad thought not all was yet lost among the three self-proclaimed monotheistic communities, must have appeared specious to Christians. It has remained unheeded. But I believe something can still be worked out by way of positive cooperation, provided the Muslims hearken more to the Qur'an than to the historic formulations of Islam and provided that recent pioneering efforts continue to yield a Christian doctrine more compatible with universal monotheism and egalitarianism. (Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur'an, 2d ed. (Minneapolis, Mi: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1994), p. 170.)
Are you laughing yet? Do you see what Dr. Rahman is saying here? Essentially, he is saying, "The Christian view of Jesus is unacceptable to the Qur'an, but we are willing to accept that Christians can be jolly nice people. You know, we (Muslims and Christians) all might be able to get along if we focus on the things that unite us! Then maybe you Christians will heed the call of the Qur'an and join with us. Of course, first you need to ditch all that nonsense about the Trinity and the divinity of Christ... oh, and the Muslims need to be more welcoming to other faiths (though it is debatable whether you can really get that from the Qur'an)." Get it yet? That's right: in order for Christians to be welcomed by Muslims, Christians need to deny the very thing that most distinguishes them as Christians: our Christology! Once we have done that, we are left with little else than being nice people who believe in God, and I'm sure that will work for Muslims. Many "Christians" in this country are already operating on that basis, and the Muslim world is lapping them up! Shabir Ally finds allies amongst such people in his debates, and Fazlur Rahman can look to them as "pioneers" and use them to try to shame the rest of us for being uncooperative.
But there is a wider application to this in that it is not just the likes of Dr. Rahman who are saying this to Christians. Why is it that Christians who actually hold to Biblical truth are put down, belittled, and treated as morons in our society? For the same reason the Muslims want us to deny our distinctives: the gospel of Jesus Christ is an offense to those that are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18-30). The world does not want to acknowledge sin, repent, believe on Christ, and be conformed to His image; the world loves its darkness too much. And yet this is what the gospel demands. The world would much rather we give up the gospel and become more like the world; this would be a much more satisfactory basis for unity and peace, because we are the only ones having to give up anything.
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The Monthly Explosion of Anti-Christian Bigotry: This Time with Profanity for Impact!
10/26/2007 - James WhiteWARNING: This blog post contains profanities and vulgarities. I am warning you up front. No, I have not joined the emergent movement. I am quoting a professor directly, from a digital audio recording this time, and it is important to know what is being said in classrooms today by those who detest Christianity and who behave in simply outrageous fashion.
Back on September 20th of this year Dr. Lee Carter of Arizona State University and Glendale Community College accused me of lying to my daughter about the authorship of the gospels in his philosophy class. I wrote an open letter to him about the situation here, and a follow up here. He chose not to respond to these letters. It is clear that Dr. Carter does not believe that anyone who believes as I is a rational person worthy of discourse or even the courtesy of response, let alone common respect.
Yesterday my daughter texted me a quote from Carter's class that left me staring at my Blackberry in disbelief. I texted back, "Too bad that's not on mp3." She replied, "It is." I listened to the entirety of the class this morning while riding, as I did not want anyone to be able to accuse me of isolating things from context. Dr. Carter was going over "Sufi stories," parable-like stories common in Sufism. He errantly indicated that Jesus told parables to help his listeners understand his message (according to the text, the exact opposite is the case), but in any case, he was going over these stories for some reason or another. As normal, Dr. Carter could not avoid going off on various trails, promoting socialism, decrying capitalism, blasting the United States, etc. At one point he paralleled Ronald Reagan to Hitler and somehow made a connection to the killing of Jews. Later he preached loudly about how people do not think rationally, and as evidence he pointed to the election of...George Bush. Evidently, to be rational is to be a leftist socialist. Every time I listen to this man I am left aghast. But never so much as today.
He came to a Sufi story that had something to do with power temptations. At one point (47 minutes into the lecture) he opines, regarding followers of Jesus when he returns, "We don't give a crap about your ideas, don't give us this idea stuff, we can't understand that shit anyway! It's the power we want, man, and you've got miracles...good enough for me!" Then he speaks about how people would not recognize Jesus were he to come back. "They wouldn't know who the hell he was." He speaks of how you might marry someone when you are young and then one day wake up and say, "Son of a bitch! Who is that person I married?" "You were looking through a lot of illusions." In this context then he made the following statement that became the main element of the text my daughter sent to me after class:
And in fact, if Jesus did come back, the most likely people to put him back on the cross would be Christians, and the most likely people to nail him to the cross would be fundamentalist Christians. They would be the ones who would be nailing that son of a bitch back to the cross, because he'd be the one who'd be refuting what they believe, and they wouldn't want that. Fair enough? So the most likely guys to be hammering in the nails, they are the guys who elected George Bush, and believe in the literal truth of the Bible, and don't believe in evolution, because they don't want to use reason, and they don't want to think, they'd rather stick to their illusions that hopefully may convince them that they don't have to be afraid at night when they are all alone, and the devil may whisper in their ears.This quotation comes 49:40 into the lecture.
Later in the lecture Carter referred to someone who was a "shithead" and asked who that might be like, but stopped himself before stating the obvious: he was referring to the President.
I am not writing this post about how grossly unprofessional and offensive a man Dr. Lee Carter is. That really is not even a question, as I cannot possibly imagine any professional acting the way he does during his lectures.
I am not writing this post about the fact that Dr. Carter gives new meaning to the very properly styled psychological problem "Bush Derangement Syndrome." I do find his connection of Bush and conservative Christianity shallow, fallacious, and just plain silly, but again, that's not why I'm writing.
I am not writing this post about Carter's obvious, deep, imbalanced hatred of Christianity. He is surely not alone in that malady in the academy either.
I am not writing this post as a complaint that my daughter's ears have been sullied by Carter's salty language. My daughter works out in the world. She takes drive-thru orders at Starbucks. You would be absolutely amazed at how people talk to her.
I am not writing this post about the language, per se, either. I think it is grossly unprofessional and indicative of a teacher completely out of control, but sadly, things have changed a lot since I was in school, and though I would be summarily dismissed were I to ever use such language, evidently, this is par for the course for Carter. Customer beware. Of course, I have always said, and will always say, "Profanity is for those who lack the intelligence to express themselves in any other manner."
I am writing this post about the prejudiced, bigoted mistreatment and, yes, I will use the term, persecution, of Christians in a public institution in the United States. It is painfully obvious to everyone that this kind of outrageous rhetoric would never, ever be allowed were the object to be Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, homosexuals, or any particular ethnic group. Carter would have been dismissed long ago but for the fact that his vitriol, his prejudice, his bigotry, is aimed at the sole "allowable" object of such things in decaying Western culture today: conservative, truth-believing, life-changing Christianity. No, Carter knows little about Christianity. He creates a straw man caricature of it in ever single lecture I've heard. But the above outrageous, offensive, ridiculous statement, combined with his willingness to accuse Christian parents of lying to their children about the authorship of the gospels without the slightest evidence and in fact against the facts themselves, demonstrates once again the truth of words written long ago, "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19).
The world wants Christians to believe that if you will just avoid being "radical" (i.e., if you will live like the world rather than being transformed into the image of Christ) then some sort of peace can exist. But the fact is, it is the world that is radical. Think of it: pots in rebellion against the Potter. Creatures denying their Creator. Those who know God exists, recognize Him when looking outward upon the creation, or looking inward as well, and yet unwilling to confess Him, worship Him, or obey Him. That is radical. That is suppression of the truth. And when the world encounters those of us who have given up our rebellion and bow the knee to the Creator they are so intent upon denying, their anger toward us for reminding them of what they are so desperate to forget knows no bounds.
Just a note for those who will respond to this with, "Just have your daughter go elsewhere!" This is the only class where this kind of thing is taking place. As she has pointed out, she has learned more about philosophy in her modern fiction class than in her philosophy class, and is involved with honors classes, and so she is not complaining. If anything, just as I grew from being the only special creationist in the biology department in college (and that in a Christian school!) and from taking an ethics class in seminary from a pro-abortionist (at least back then he let me debate him in front of the other students---and guess who won?), so too Summer has seen the inherent contradictions in the anti-Christian worldview of Dr. Carter, and has grown as a result. In fact, it has made her appreciate the professionalism of her other professors.
The UK Branch of Answers in Genesis Responds to Council of Europe
10/12/2007 - Alan KurschnerAnswers in Genesis have posted a reply to the recent Council of Europe document that dogmatically asserts "The dangers of creationism in education."