Book Plunge: The Secret Battle of Ideas About God

What do I think of Jeff Myers’s book published by David C. Cook? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jeff Myers’s latest book certainly starts off getting your attention. How can it not with talking about people who were directly tied in to 9/11? This then gets directly linked to virus outbreaks that have taken place which is finally compared with the idea of mind viruses. Myers doesn’t mean some disease you need to go see your doctor about, but rather ideas that spread and people don’t have much defense for, including and especially, younger Christians.

Myers work is to deal with a problem which is that many of our younger Christians believe things that are entirely at odds with orthodox Christianity and they don’t even realize it. They’ve been made victims in a war that they don’t even realize that they’re fighting in, something immediately reminiscent of The Green Book is Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. These people have not been given a Christian worldview. As I’ve said many times before, it might be shocking to realize that to develop a good Christian lifestyle, you might need to have more than concerts and pizza parties at church.

Myers says that there are essentially five other kinds of worldviews, though no doubt there is some overlapping. These are secularism, Marxism, postmodernism, New Spirituality, and Islam. As I write this, I know Christian friends who have fallen especially for New Spirituality and Islam. Myers contrasts these worldviews with Christianity in the book.

One good aspect about the book is Myers is very open about himself and his own struggles and mistakes. When he writes about a failed marriage, he doesn’t hide it. When he talks about anger with God, that’s out there in the open. When he talks about mistakes in the past in the area of sex, that’s right there. When he says that counseling drains him, he means it. That kind of openness I admire.

Those questions are relevant because what Myers is really dealing with in the book is existential questions. Am I loved? Why am I hurting? Does life have any meaning? Can’t we all just get along? Is there hope for the world? Does God matter? Many of us in apologetics would like to leap straight to the questions of if God exists or if Jesus rose from the dead, but many people are not starting with those questions. They’re starting with these. We need to get to those questions, but how does Christianity answer these questions in contrast to other worldviews?

Myers’s book is clear and easy to read. You don’t have to be a professional philosopher to understand his arguments. There’s about 200 pages of content, but it’s still a relatively short read and it’s one that you could present to someone who is exploring Christianity and wondering about these kinds of questions.

If there was something I would like to see more of, it is that while the book is clear that Christianity does answer these questions, that doesn’t show Christianity is true. It’s fine to have a book dedicated to existential questions, but I would have liked to have seen a section at the end that would include apologetics books for further reading on the other questions that can show that Christianity is true. Perhaps it could point to other authors like J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel.

Still, this is a good book to read to help with the questions. It’s easy to read that when I finished, I put it in a stack of books for my wife so that she could go through it as she’s been learning a lot about these questions as well. If she does go through it, I am sure she will be blessed by it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Remembering Nabeel Qureshi

How do you honor a life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I woke up Saturday like it was much any other day. At one point, I knew we needed some groceries so I tell Allie I’m off to the store to pick some up. There I am walking through the frozen section when I hear my phone go off indicating a text message. Well, let’s see what Allie wants me to pick up that she just remembered.

It wasn’t her.

It was my mother-in-law, Debbie Licona.

“Nabeel is with Jesus. You cannot say anything to anyone until we tell you.”

The timestamp shows that that message came in around 2:25. I wandered through the story trying to remember what I needed to buy and trying to keep a brave face about me. Inside, I was heartbroken. Yeah. We knew that this was coming. We knew it could have been any day now. Still, there’s something of a shock when the news finally comes.

I was also worried about my wife at that point. She does not handle bad news well and she was home alone. Before too long, the news had broken from other sources all over Facebook. My father-in-law had tweeted it out and that’s when Debbie told me she had already told Allie.

I went through the shopping of that day watching other people go about their business as if it was an ordinary day. I turned on the radio in the car and heard talk radio that was about sports, which I already don’t care for, but which I cared for even less this time. How can you talk about sports when this has happened? How can people go about their day normally? Don’t you know a great man has died?

I remember being rung up at Sprout’s and the cashier giving me my receipt and saying “Have a good day.” My thought in my head was “Whatever that means.” Today is not a good day. Today we lost Nabeel.

I had got to know Nabeel through Mike. I remember being with him at a restaurant I think after or during the apologetics conference talking about life in general. I had messaged him some on Facebook and I loved his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Nabeel had been a guest on my show once talking about Islam. Those interested can find that here.

Nabeel bravely battled against stomach cancer. There was always a hope that he would be healed, but it didn’t happen. It’s times like this I wondered what God was thinking. Why Nabeel of all people? He didn’t deserve this did he?

I also sadly saw some Muslims speaking about where they think Nabeel is now. I know there are some who are celebrating. I saw them post when the news came happy that Nabeel was getting what they thought he deserved. It’s tempting to reply with anger at them, but you know what? Nabeel wouldn’t want that.

Nabeel was also young. Younger than I am right now, and that makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life. It was also the kind of event that made me want to come home and hold my wife close to me. I don’t know how many days we have together. I want to make the most of them.

I miss Nabeel now. I didn’t get to know him well enough as I should, but I always enjoyed my time with him. Sadly, I probably took it for granted. He was young and healthy. He’ll be with us awhile. I was wrong. I hope I’m not taking anyone else in my life for granted.

There is a picture going around Facebook of Nabeel after his baptism. He has his arms raised in his air in victory. In the past, it brought joy, but today it brings me sadness. I know it should bring me joy, but it doesn’t because I want to see the happy and healthy Nabeel again, and I don’t. It’s obvious my sadness is not for Nabeel. He is far better off. It is for myself. It is for his family and all others left behind.

Nabeel. Thank you for being my friend in this time you had with us. I look forward to everlasting friendship with you one day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Bernie Sanders and Religious Exclusivity

Is it wrong that Christianity is an exclusivist religion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In a hearing for Russell Vought recently for office, Senator Bernie Sanders expressed some hostility towards Vought for his position on Christianity. Apparently, Vought holds this really bizarre position. He thinks Christianity is actually true and not only is it true, it’s the only true religion and thus all other religions are wrong and will not get you into the grace of God.

Now to Sanders, this might be news. It’s not like this is a new development in Christianity. Christians have held to this belief since the very beginning, even when it led to them being outed by the Roman government and put under all manner of persecution and had them branded as atheists. We have to wonder if this is the first time Sanders had heard about this.

He’s right that while Christianity would be the majority religious belief in America (Or at least claimed) that there are numerous other believers in other religions and no religions here in America. Does this mean that Christians are automatically meant to treat them as lesser citizens. Sanders seems to think this, but on what grounds?

Let’s start with establishing something. Every religious belief is exclusive on some areas. Even a universalist would say that a person who thinks only one way to God is true will still make it to God, they are wrong in holding an exclusivist position. A pluralist will have to essentially change every other religion out there in order to make his pluralist religion true.

This includes Judaism and Islam as well. Try going to a regular synagogue and saying you’re a Jew who accepts Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. See if you’re treated as a Jew like everyone else. While there might be some exceptions, many Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah are excluded. Islam is often violently exclusive as is seen by many of the terrorist attacks we have going on today.

This is simply because of logic. All Christians give claims that are truth claims and those claims by nature exclude anything that contradicts them. This is no different from every other field out there. All truth claims do this. If Christianity has it essential that Jesus is the Messiah, then if the claim is true, all religions that disagree are wrong. If Islam were right in that God is a monad and only one in person, then all religions that disagree, like Christianity, are wrong.

One of the great freedoms we have in this country is the freedom to come together and worship as we see fit and to discuss our religious differences. In the practice of true tolerance, we have it that you can disagree very strongly ideologically, and yet still leave in a spirit of peace and even friendship. These are the discussions we should be having. I have no desire for us to try to establish a theocracy here because it would not be God ruling. It would be some men claiming to rule in the name of God.

The problem for Sanders is that he’s doing the exact thing he condemns. He is saying that if you hold X religious belief, you are not fit for public office. This is a rather exclusionary position and is saying that someone is wrong to hold the religious belief that they do, yet all the while complaining that it’s wrong to say another religious belief is wrong. It can’t be had both ways.

Naturally, a Christian who holds public office should care about the freedom and well-being of all of his constituents. This is part of our religion as well. We are not to show favoritism. If a Muslim and a Christian come to trial and the Muslim is in the right, the Christian should back the Muslim. He can disagree with his religion all day long and should, but in this area, the Muslim is in the right.

Sanders is, unfortunately, being an example of someone who doesn’t really understand religions and doesn’t see them as truth claims but more as personal preferences. Sadly, a lot of Christians might take the same attitude, but it’s not one Christianity has had historically. Part of this is also an example of the great problem we have of religious illiteracy here in the West where many people talk about religion and religions, but they don’t really understand them.

What are we as Christians to do then? We are to teach our people that Christianity is not just a flavor of ice cream that you happen to really like, but making really serious divine claims about everything in reality, and that we are to go and live out those claims. We are to uphold the Kingdom of God in all things, but also to uphold the great love of our neighbor that we are commanded as well. Who knows? Sanders might find that living in a society like that isn’t as bad as he thought.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/22/2017: Ken Samples

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Is Jesus really unique? We live in a world where there are many religions. Each of them claims to be true. Is there really any way to tell? Why should anyone think that there’s anything special in Christianity as opposed to another view like Islam or Confucianism?

Ken Samples in his book God Among Sages has looked at the religions of the world. He points out positive contributions of each one and ways that we can better understand and interact with adherents of them, but then shows the uniqueness of Jesus. In the end, Jesus does indeed stand out.

This Saturday, we’ll be exploring that claim further. We’ll have an hour together to discuss the matter and we’ll be making the most of it. Still, we need to ask who Ken Samples is. Well….

According to his bio:

Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion for helping people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity’s truth claims. He is the senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe and the author of several books, including Christian Endgame and 7 Truths That Changed the World.

How does someone approach other religions of the world? As Christians, we can tend to be hyper-skeptical of any of them and not really give them the time and attention they deserve if we want to reach their adherents. Islam is one of the major world religions highly impacting our world today, but how many of us have actually read the Qur’an and informed ourselves about it, yet we often have no trouble commenting on daily news stories about Islam itself as if we know what we’re talking about with it.

It can also be tempting to go on full attack mode with other religions, but there’s no need to do that. There are things that will be correct in other religious beliefs. We also don’t need to rule out automatically the religious experiences of people in other belief systems. If we want them to treat Christianity seriously, we need to treat their belief system seriously.

There is also the question in the end of what about those who have never heard. While Samples and I do fall on different sides of the spectrum here, we both fully uphold the idea that the Great Commission needs to be fulfilled. This is an area that Christians can disagree on, but we must never take it as a reason to be lax in our duties with regard to the command of Christ. As I have said before, the Bible never explicitly addresses the question. It gives us our marching orders and says nothing about if we fail the plan. There is no plan B.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and I hope you’ll also consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show! It’s always great to see them. Be ready next time to discuss world religions and the uniqueness of Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Qur’an In Context

What do I think of Mark Robert Anderson’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Qur’an for many Christians is a very foreign book. Some people have tried to read it and yet have not made it past the second sura. The style of writing is different to most Christians and does not seem like an engaging work, but the reality is that Christians need to understand this work. Whatever you think of Islam, the Qur’an is the holy book of this faith and it has shaped the world greatly.

Anderson has written a book to help us in its text. Anderson urges us rightly to try to drop our preconceptions and approach the book seriously and seek to understand the way it was written, the why, and the historical context. Even if you don’t think it’s holy Scripture, the Qur’an still should be understood on its own terms. That requires work, just like understanding the Bible does. I have been a long opposition to people not bothering to study the historical context of the Bible and yet speaking on it. I say the same for the Qur’an.

Anderson goes through piece by piece and then compares what he finds to the Bible. There is no doubt on my part he wants to be as fair as he can to the Qur’an. He also addresses the question of if we worship the same God or not. I think we could say that we have that as our intention and I think that Anderson does argue that, but there can be no doubt the descriptions of Allah and YHWH are vastly different.

Anderson also wants us to study the world of 7th century Arabia. What was going on? What were Christians and Jews and pagans all saying? How did Muhammad approach this world?

Next comes a long look at the worldview of the Qur’an. What does it say about evil? What does it say about Adam? What must one do to be saved? All of these have marked differences and Anderson has many questions about whether the system in the Qur’an is really coherent or not.

Jesus is a big topic. The problem for the view of Jesus in the Qur’an is that it’s really downplaying. Very little is said about the ministry and teaching of Jesus. Much comes from non-canonical sources and its depiction of the Trinity is highly lacking. The Qur’an says Jesus is the Messiah, but divests this of any real meaning at all.

Amazingly, you can have many in-depth looks at the lives of other people in the Bible, but with Jesus, you get nothing like that. You don’t understand what His ministry was and why He came. It simply looks like Jesus is only there to point to Muhammad.

Ah yes, but what about the crucifixion? The Qur’an is clear on that and that’s that Jesus did not die on the cross. Anderson disputes that and I have to say he makes a highly highly compelling case. I have long thought that Islam denies that Jesus was crucified, and many Muslims do, but Anderson made a case that made me rethink if that’s what the original Qur’anic author intended and I dare say I will not be as strident until I find a better response to that claim. Anderson bases his claim on what he considers a better reading of that text in light of other texts he thinks are clearer. He contends that others are reading the clear texts in light of this one and changing those in ways that don’t fit.

Finally, he wraps things up by asking if we could say the Qur’an is the sequel to the Bible. The answer is decidedly, no. There are too many differences across the board. Still, we should strive to understand the Qur’an in its historical context to have better discussions with the Muslims we encounter.

Anderson’s book gives a lot of food for thought. He is kind and fair in his treatment and there is nothing here I can think of that would be seen as “Anti-Muslim” or dare I say it, Islamophobic. I look forward to even seeing what some Muslims think about the material in here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manuscripts

What do I think of Keith Small’s book published by Lexington Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At an event recently, I was involved in a debate with Muslims who brought up claims about differences in the Bible and how this isn’t a problem with the Qur’an. On its face, I considered this a ridiculous claim. After all, any manuscript copied by hand from the ancient and medieval world will undergo some change. Still, I didn’t have a real source for that. That led me to searching for a book on the topic. (Yes. It is possible to go to a source for information besides Wikipedia.)

Keith Small’s book was the one I saw that looked like the one to get. After reading it, I think my prediction was correct. One interesting aspect is after reading it, you can’t tell where Small stands in a debate. Is he a Christian? Is he a Muslim? You don’t know. That’s how even-handed he is.

It doesn’t take long for the common Muslim claim to be put to rest. There are documents of the Qur’an all over the world in different museums that have differences in them. To be fair, a lot of what Small says is hard to understand without knowing the Arabic, which I do not know. What can be understood is that there are differences.

Small also points out that this was acknowledged by early Muslim scholars and Christian apologists responding to Islam would also mention some of the differences. Small doesn’t get into any of the possible theology behind this nor does he say anything about any possible ramifications for Islam. This would be a much more serious problem I think for Islam than for Christianity since the Qur’an is also said to be eternal if my understanding is correct.

Also, much of Christianity began with the written document first and then that document was handed down so the document became primary. The Qur’an was stated as a tradition many many times beforehand and then that tradition was handed down, but often it would have many of the changes, albeit minor, that came with oral tradition. We might not be able to speak about the original Qur’an. Instead, we could need to speak about original Qur’ans.

Interestingly, there are some major differences. Some saw the second Sura, the Cow, as it’s own book. Some copies don’t include some Suras. Some have extra Suras. While we can say that Muslims will point to Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11, Muslims have their own problems. Unfortunately, many of them will not realize this. Just as Christians have often not really interacted with the evidence of their position too many times, so it is that many Muslims have not done the same.

While I am a critic of Islam obviously, I do think that for the most part, it has likely been handed down fairly well much like any other ancient document, but there can be no support for the common myth of no variants whatsoever. Anyone wanting to study this issue should take advantage of Small’s book. It is sure to be a staple in this field for some time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

ISIS. We Don’t Hate You

What do we say to our enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometime in our day and age, it’s hard to be able to show love to your enemies. Many of us remember well 9/11. We remember the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil. We see in our minds the image of people on the upper stories leaping out of the windows. We remember watching those towers come down.

We remember also people coming on the news afterwards trying to tell us that Islam is a religion of peace, and so they have told us. They have told us after every single terrorist attack that has happened. It’s really hard to think that it is and we wonder how we as individuals, not as the political entity of a nation, are to respond to ISIS.

ISIS in their magazine recently put out and article called “Why We Hate You And Why We Fight You.” It’s a real article and you can see it here. A commenter on Mike Licona’s Facebook page said when shared that it would be awesome if someone wrote from a Christian perspective to counter about why we don’t hate them.

Well why not?

First, “We hate you first and foremost, because you are disbelievers, you reject the oneness of Allah.”

Naturally, this is about the Trinity. Of course, we could respond and say that Muslims deny the full deity of the Son of God which would also be blasphemous. Many of them have an idea that Jesus was conceived of some sexual union between God and Mary. Not at all. Still, it’s important to note we wish to honor God properly and to honor the Son as we honor the Father per John 5:23. This will get us into apologetics arguments for why we believe the NT is reliable and why we believe in the highest Christology that we can.

The main difference between us is we think God is best to give out the final judgment rather than us. We like you would rather see you converted than see you dead. That is so much for us that as individuals, we are willing to wait it out and pray for our enemies and bless those who persecute us, per Jesus’s instructions in the Sermon on the Mount.

Second, “We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted”

Some of these things we’ll agree on actually. We don’t care for the way the homosexual lobby has transformed America. Still, the difference is we don’t want to win over our enemy with the sword. It ultimately won’t convince him. It’s also not allowed in the way of Jesus.

As for separation of church and state, we seek to give a place where everyone can worship freely. That may seem risky to you, but to us, ideally it’s supposed to allow everyone to live in freedom. Here for instance, I disagree thoroughly with your religion of Islam, but I would surely defend the rights of Muslims to build a mosque and worship as they see fit.

Next, we also remember that according to Romans, we were all once enemies of God and living our own lives putting ourselves at the center. Okay. Some of us still struggle with that. We also remember that while we were His enemies, God sent His Son to save us. Our fellow Americans and such who disagree with us are in the same boat. Anyone of them could also follow in the footsteps of Paul for all we know.

Third, “In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage are against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.”

And again, we agree. We don’t care for atheism. The difference is we don’t hate atheists. It’s atheism that is the problem. We also think it’s foolish to deny the reality of a creator and yes, we could all bear to think about our final judgment a lot more. Still, as with the second, we prefer to use the methods of Christ and besides, we’d rather show the idea is just wrong instead of killing those who hold it.

Fourth, “We hate you for your crimes against Islam and wage war against you to punish you for your transgressions against our religion.”

We have seen plenty of this towards us as well. In fact, our own military has burnt Bibles sent to our soldiers. Yet still, this all falls under the second theme. We would rather show that the religion is wrong instead of going the path of warfare.

Fifth, “We hate you for your crimes against Muslims; your drones and fighter jets bombs, kill, and maim our people around the world.”

Based on what came first, I’m quite sure that even if this stopped immediately, you’d still have the same attitude. This goes to what we do as a nation. If we look at nations that have been attacked by Muslims, we take that seriously. If an innocent nation was being attacked, we would also take that seriously. Many of us were living in peace when 9/11 took place. That kind of matter is taken by our government as an act of war and like you, we want to defend our women and children as well.

Sixth, “We hate you for invading our lands and fight you to repel you and drive you out.”

In the West, there is no real desire to build an empire. With our nuclear capabilities, we could have done so easily if we wanted to. We have no desire to wipe you off of the map. We would prefer to see people living in freedom. Still, once again, we are not to hate our enemies. We are to love them.

“What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam…As much as some liberal journalist would like you to believe that we do what we do because we’re simply monsters with no logic behind our course of action, the fact is that we continue to wage—and escalate—a calculated war that the west thought it had ended several years ago. So you can continue to believe that those ‘despicable terrorists’ hate you because of your lattes and your Timberlands, or you can accept reality and recognize that we will never stop hating you until you embrace Islam.”

And here is where we are different. Your reason for hating us is we don’t embrace Islam. Our reason for loving you is God. God loves you and He loved us even while we were enemies. In fact, His love for us never changed. We didn’t earn it at all. We don’t become Christians so He will love us. We become Christians because He loves us.

And what is that love? It is not sentimental warm fuzzies. It is not what you would see in some Disney movie. It is the active sacrificing of your good for the good of the other. For instance, many of us who are husbands frequently put our own desires on the line for the other. You also know this in saying that you want to protect your women and children. You would be willing to die for your women and children. So are we.

What our nation does as a nation we cannot say. What happens if we are attacked directly could lead into that self-defense, especially with our wives and children at stake. It is nothing we take delight over. It has been said that all good soldiers should hate war but sometimes it is a necessity.

An ultimate difference between us is Jesus is our supreme example whereas yours is Muhammad. Jesus has been our greatest incentive to holiness and a life of true love and sacrifice for one another. No doubt, we fail miserably at times, but we all still seek to try.

Of course, if you want to keep going after us, you’re going to do so and that will just perpetuate the cycle. We would prefer you take the way of Christ. Perhaps you should look into the case for Christianity. What have you to lose? If Islam is true, there is no reason to fear. Start by reading the New Testament. At this, you might ask me if I’ve read the Koran. Indeed I have. I hope to someday soon read some of the hadiths as well. I think it’s part of being informed.

Unfortunately, we suspect you will likely keep going down the same path, but we Christians in America should make it a point to pray for you. Our opponents are not flesh and blood but principalities. It is the ideologies that are our ultimate enemy, not the people who hold them. We hope you’ll see things the same way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Seth Dunn of Pulpit and Pen on Nabeel Qureshi

Is Nabeel Qureshi someone that we should avoid? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I found out yesterday that David Wood had made a video about Seth Dunn of Pulpit and Pen doing a hit piece on Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi. I have had my interactions with Dunn in the past. For instance, when the Coptic Christians were murdered by ISIS and I shared that, Dunn considered it a good time to point out that (in his view) that the Coptic Christians weren’t really Christians due to their view on salvation. (Those who can see my Facebook can read it here.)

I have seen N.T. Wright described as an unsound theologian because he’s an egalitarian and he baptizes babies. I have seen it said that William Lane Craig made a point in a debate just because he was trying to win a debate. In fact, he has even gone after myself on my view of Heaven and Hell (Or at least one I am open to) is plainly heretical.

When my wife later (Much later since we didn’t want to make an issue out of it really as I can’t make an issue of everyone who says anything to me on Facebook) confronted him on this, he did back it.

I did say Nick is a heretic. This was on the comment section of his blog, not on FB if memory serves. He’s a universalist, if that’s not heresy then I don’t know what is

This would work if universalism was my view. It is not. Not everyone will be saved. Unfortunately, Dunn still sees Heaven and Hell as they have to be separate locations and pushes that on my what I say. No. My view there was that the same sun that melts wax hardens clay. Those who have lived lives of righteousness will be in the presence of God forever and think this is Heaven because they have loved God and being with the one they love is a delight. Those who have not and have rejected Jesus will live forever there as well and will consider it hell because they have hated God. I do not see any redemption either for them at that point. Heaven and Hell are not defined by a location (Since God is omnipresent) but are defined by relationship to God. Universalism is the view that all will be redeemed. That is not my view.

But hey, why make a big deal out of it? I had seen Dunn write many times on Facebook and every single time it was all about how some group isn’t really Christian or something along those lines. It reminds me of the Christians who want to say that every new game craze or fad that comes out is somehow satanic. After awhile, you just don’t listen any more. There are better usages of time.

Then I saw David Wood came out with that video. I was frankly surprised. Why is David Wood spending so much time on this? In fact, this is a nearly 40-minute video. I hadn’t seen a video that long from David Wood, at least in recent history, aside from something like a debate of course. Why do this?

For one thing, Pulpit and Pen is a prominent blog for some reason. Second, Dunn has actually been nominated for president of the SBC. It looks like this won’t happen at least this time around, but that shows me this is more serious than I thought.

I should also point out that I happen to know David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi personally. At this point, I don’t think I have got to meet David Wood in person yet, though I would be delighted to someday. The same can’t be said for Qureshi. We’ve had a number of interactions together and his character and commitment to Christ has always been an amazement to me. Both of these men have also been on my show.

According to Dunn, one of the first problems with Qureshi is that he spoke at Reset 2016. Of course, Pulpit and Pen did have something else to say. Someone else on the site said that the event was shut down due to intense heat. This was a judgment of God.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

I wish I was, but I am not.

Of course, by these standards, when the Reason Rally is not shut down, does this mean that God is pleased with them? I figured we were supposed to be interpreting the work of God by Scripture.Who knew that we could do it by watching the Weather Channel?

So why is this event so problematic? Because Dunn thinks that there were too many people there who were enemies of the cross. Now do I approve of all the speakers there? No. At the same time, I’m nowhere near as extreme as Dunn is where everyone must have their theology right in every single area or we seriously call them into question. I disagree with Roman Catholics, but I do not think they are all lost. There are lost Roman Catholics just as much as there are lost Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.

Still, Dunn thinks that by speaking here, Qureshi has made himself be seen as questionable. After all, it’s hard to imagine that because Qureshi goes out and speaks about Jesus to a million people that somehow he should be viewed with suspicion. Let’s remember that our Lord was seen as a friend of tax collectors and prostitute and the group of twelve men he surrounded himself with did not include theologians who had all their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed.

However, Dunn is not done yet. There is another suspicion brought to light by a Muslim apologist named Yahya Snow. I had not really heard of Snow. Still, I have known that in many cases, Muslim apologetics can be some of the worst apologetics that there is. I would even put it below the new atheists. I have seen some of the most bizarre arguments brought forward, such as the time a Muslim even accused me of thinking that Joseph was 90 when he married Mary. This was news to me since I had never once believed anything like that.

David Wood said that while there are respectable Muslim scholars, such as Shabir Ally, Snow is not one of those. In fact, Snow can be considered the worst of the worst. At least, that was the way it sounded to me when he described someone else as an example of someone who could not be beat for how bad his arguments were until Snow came along.

This guy then, is the one Dunn relies on for his claim. What is the claim? There is a great inconsistency in the story of Nabeel Qureshi of how he became a Christian. You see, Qureshi had dreams that played an instrumental view in his conversion.

Yet here’s the problem. In an interview, Qureshi said that David Wood was sitting at the other end of the doorway. In yet another case, he was standing. There you have it! It’s the smoking gun!

Unfortunately, Wood points out that Qureshi called him and told him about the dream and that Qureshi wrote it down in his dream journal. So did Qureshi slip up? Yes. This can happen. Wood even plays a clip of William Lane Craig saying that 2 + 2 = 5 is a necessary truth. Are we to say that Craig doesn’t know what basic math any more is? No. Sometimes, we can all slip up when we speak. More on this later.

The next point is that Qureshi has questionable credentials as a Muslim. Qureshi was an Ahmedi Muslim. They are often viewed by fellow Muslims as non-Muslims. As Wood points out, the Ahmedi do have some odd beliefs, but Qureshi held to everything you were supposed to believe as a Muslim. Since Dunn in his article refers to James White who he says is a Christian apologist and an expert in Islam agrees on that point, then perhaps he should hear what James White says from the 1:40:00 point on in this video.

White doesn’t deny that Qureshi was a Muslim and in fact he says that while he disagrees with Qureshi’s stances, including on Roman Catholicism, that Qureshi is a gift to the church. He just thinks that Qureshi should describe himself as a devout Ahmedi Muslim. There could be truth to that.

Wood’s video is worth watching in the whole, but it was said last night that Dunn had written a response. I have looked at this response. Now I think it would have been better to accept the correction and move on, but that is not what happened. The counter can be found here.

So what does Dunn say in response?

Wood defends Qureshi’s speaking engagement at Reset 2016, comparing the event to an atheist “reason rally” or a gathering of hostile Muslims. This is an inappropriate comparison. Reset was not the Areopagus. Reset 2016 was advertised by its promoters as a Christian event where “we are gathering as one—lifting a unified sound, asking Jesus to reset our generation.” Reset was not a gathering of hostile atheists or Muslims but (nominal) Christians who came for miles to be unified with one another and pray to Jesus. This was not a Billy Graham crusade designed to see people saved, it was a Christian “unity” event that included the Pope of Rome. It took no Christian boldness to show up to the event and draw applause from the crowd. It would have been bold of Qureshi to separate his Jesus from the indeterminate amount of false Jesuses parading around at this event, rebuking those who followed them, and calling them to repentance and faith.

This might make sense if you’re caught in the idea of discernment ministries where you’re supposed to know who is and isn’t a heretic, but I think Wood’s answer still stands. Qureshi was asked to come and share something about Jesus to a million people. He jumped at the chance. I also suspect, and Qureshi could tell me if I’m wrong, that he would do what any preacher does most every Sunday. A preacher always is aware that there could be non-Christians in his audience. He ends most of his sermons with a call to the Gospel. So again, let’s see. Is Nabeel to be viewed with suspicion because he went and talked to a million people about Jesus? That’s an odd basis for suspicion.

Wood’s video does not accurately represent my view of Qureshi’s Christian faith. I did not assert that Nabeel Qureshi was “apostate”. Nor did I assert the same about Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell, or Tim Tebow (who also participated in the Reset 2016 event). If one performed an exhaustive search of all my blogging at this site and my personal site, one would be hard-pressed to find examples of me using the term “apostate”. I intentionally avoid the use of this incendiary term to prevent overly emotional reactions to my writing. Other contributors to this website do frequently use the term. However, none of them have claimed that Qureshi, Zacharias, McDowell, or Tebow were “apostate.”

Maybe not specifically, but one could draw a valid inference. For instance, after Dunn gives a warning in his original article about speakers at a conference and how Christians should be careful, he points to Scripture. What Scripture? This one.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

Yes. This passage about those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. What am I to believe based on that? Dunn goes on to say that

Christians should remember that every brother and sister converted from complete lostness and spiritual deadness.  Rather than judge Christian speakers by their backstories, Christians should judge them by the ongoing demonstration of their faith.  No one’s dream or vision is more trustworthy than gospel presented in Holy Scripture.

Of course, I don’t think Qureshi would disagree with this. He would definitely think the Gospel is more reliable, but that does not mean Qureshi is going to discount his dreams any more than I’m going to discount some of the best scholarship that defends the resurrection of Jesus. Does that mean the scholarship is more reliable than the Gospel? Not at all. Dunn may not use the words, but the idea is there. If you keep crying wolf over and over, people will not listen when real wolves show up.

Wood’s video does not accurately represent my view of Qureshi’s former faith. I did not assert that Nabeel Qureshi was not a Muslim. I asserted that his Islamic credentials were “in question” given that he was of the Ahmadi sect. This is simply a statement of fact, given that there are a number of Muslims who claim that Ahmadi’s are not true Muslims. Given that Islam, on the whole, is a false religion, it’s tough to say exactly what “true” Islam is. One must rely on various opinions. Since I am not an expert on the matter, I cited the opinions of Muslim apologist Yahya Snow and well-respected Christian Apologist James White. David Wood, who is knowledgeable on the subject does not agree with Snow or White. Wood’s assessment is very educational but not terribly relevant to my argument.  My modest assertion that Qureshi’s Islamic credentials are “in question” stands. That Qureshi was raised a devout Ahmadi is not in question, nor did my article indicate that it was.

And Wood accurately answers this. Qureshi held to all the essential beliefs it requires to be a Muslim. Dunn thinks that since Islam is a false religion, it’s difficult to know what a true Muslim is. Why? I think Mormonism is a false religion, but that does not mean that I don’t know that there are beliefs that Mormons see as non-negotiable. The same with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Dunn points to White, but again, White is the one who sees Qureshi as a gift to the church. Perhaps Dunn should send his article to White so that White can see the error of his ways and chance his view on Qureshi.

Wood points out that even the best of speakers misspeak. This is true. I have done it numerous times on my own podcast in egregious ways. I’ve never done it on professionally produced and edited television program while telling about a seminal event in my life, however. I’ve also never done it with Pat Robertson on The 700 Club. Whatever the case, Wood provides testimony to corroborate Qureshi’s dream story and admits that Qureshi just made a mistake. This is fine and I’m glad the air has been cleared on this issue.

This is the kind of thing that just astounds me. Dunn admits that we all make mistakes, but then he says “I’ve never done it while talking about a seminal event in my life or on the 700 Club.” At this, I just want to say “Good for you.” Unfortunately, others do make mistakes in these arenas for a number of reasons. If Craig can be on stage saying 2 + 2 = 5, then I am much more open to this happening. It would have been better for Dunn to just let this slide instead of still pushing it forward.

Dunn goes on to talk about Ravi Zacharias, whose minsitry Qureshi works for, speaking to Joyce Meyer as a great Bible teacher. I’m not here to defend Zacharias in that. I do not think Meyer is a great Bible teacher at all. Dunn goes on to say that Qureshi had never heard of her. Good for him. Qureshi was able to enter into a dialogue with Seth on the matter. Is Qureshi right in his assessment? I don’t know, but I know this. Qureshi was willing to look.

Of course, things get worse. Qureshi actually said the Roman Catholic Church gets a bad rap from Christians. Dunn is sure many Calvinists would disagree. So am I. There are many of us who disagree with Calvinists as well. Why is it that the Calvinists should be seen as the ones that set the bar?

I certainly don’t want Pulpit & Pen to be an echo chamber but I understand the readership and the theological leanings of the readership of my own blog.  The Pulpit & Pen has a largely Reformed readership.  To our average reader, these statements about brotherhood with Roman Catholics are downright offensive.  As David Wood notes in his video, Qureshi has studied the Christian faith from California to Kentucky and beyond, at the postgraduate level.  How could any educated Protestant theologian not see Roman Catholicism as something to “cut ties” over?  Thank God Luther did. Luther put his life one the line to refute the Pope.  Qureshi speaks with him.  There are almost certainly regenerate Catholics (who have yet to leave the Roman Catholic Church) but official Catholic doctrine (see Galatians 1 and the Council of Trent) is anathema.  Qureshi seems to disagree.

Perhaps we don’t see it that way because we see that we agree on the resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. Do I think RCCs have some wrong views on salvation. Yes. I think in fact a lot of Christians do and God saves them regardless. Dunn says he finds Qureshi’s comments offensive. Well I find it offensive to take someone who White has said is a gift to the church and try to tear them down. Still, there is worse coming along these lines.

Much worse.

As you can see, some of the tweets above are months, even over a year, old.  I did not just happenacross a video from a Muslim apologist (one David Wood has a history with) and try to discredit Nabeel Qureshi and write an ill-advised, critical blog based on his assertions.  I’ve observed Qureshi for over a year, as well as his employer RZIM.  To me, he seems more concerned with being a New York Times Bestseller (Roman Catholic buy Christian books, too) than consistently rightly dividing the word of God. The evidence is in print before you.

Now it’s my turn.

I know Qureshi as I said. His character has always struck me as exemplary. Wood pointed out that Qureshi lost his family as a result of his conversion. In Qureshi’s own book, he said he wished he could have died right after converting so his parents would never know about it. I have seen him be asked about how he can talk to Muslims when so many of us get so angry about them based on events like 9/11 and he said that he always tries to remember that anyone of them could be someone like Paul someday.

Every night before I go to bed, I read a verse of Scripture. I let that be something I think about as I go to sleep. Last night, I read Philippians 3:17 as I’m going through Philippians. I got to this verse.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

I thought that was amazing. Paul could tell others “Live like I do. I am your model.” I honestly do not think I am ready to say that about myself yet. I also thought that if anyone was like that, it was Nabeel. This is someone who Wood points out was willing to go to jail with him for preaching the Gospel and continued to do so in prison.

Yet Dunn says Qureshi seems more concerned with writing bestsellers, since Roman Catholics buy those as well, than rightly dividing the Word of God. No. Qureshi is just a good writer and people like his books. For Dunn’s sake, should Qureshi try to make his books be not as good so they won’t sell as much?

I don’t blame David Wood for defending him. They are good friends and he has seen Nabeel witness to people. Good for him. I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear him speak. He’s a book-selling, speaking-tour ecumenist. I don’t know Nabeel Qureshi’s heart but I don’t write blogs or study Apologetics at the masters level to sell books or make money–I do it to edify the church. I think the church would be edified to avoid ecumenists like Nabeel Qureshi, no matter how interesting their backstories are.

It’s nice to know Dunn’s standards and I think in this passage he’s told us a lot more about himself than he does about Qureshi. Well Dunn can stay in his echochamber and refuse to listen to Qureshi and think that gives him bonus points or something, but I consider it a treat to get to hear Qureshi speak. He also says he doesn’t know Qureshi’s heart, which he doesn’t, but somehow he knows that Qureshi writes blogs and studies at the Master’s level to sell books or make money, instead of edifying the church, which is obviously what Dunn does.

Yes. Because back when Qureshi was wishing he was dead after his conversion, he hatched this master plan where he said “Forget my family! I can make a lot of money as a best-selling author! After all, Christian apologetics is where the money is!”

No it isn’t.

I am nowhere near wealthy. In fact, I am at the poverty level. I don’t do what I do to make money. Would I like to have more coming in? Yep. Would I like to have a best seller some day? Who wouldn’t? Still, the recognition I get will be based on the quality of my work and the apologetic material that I produce. If I was just wanting to make money, I would be in a different field altogether. I’m not because frankly, I have a passion for this field. I love the fruit that it produces and what I do gives me great joy.

You see, if you’re going to say you don’t know Qureshi’s heart, stop right there then. Don’t go on to say why he does what he does. You don’t know.

The writing ends with some points including that David Wood can have at it if he wants another round. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. David Wood is a bulldog of sorts and he will definitely stick up for someone like Qureshi. I also plan to be right there as Qureshi is my friend and I think writings like those of Dunn in fact tear down Christians needlessly.

We’ll see what happens after this but Qureshi is a friend of mine and I choose to stand by him. I would uphold him as a fine example of what we should all strive to be. I do not agree with him on everything, but I think his character and commitment are examples to us all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Answering Jihad

What do I think of Nabeel Qureshi’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to be clear at the start. I consider Nabeel Qureshi a friend. I’ve got to meet him in person many times and I highly admire him. I was also given this copy by Zondervan for review purposes. I hope to remove as much bias as possible.

That being said, I do want to say that at the start, Qureshi really does care for the Muslim people. He has told myself and others that for all he knows, there could be one like the Apostle Paul among the Muslims who will go on to become a great missionary so he’s always praying for them. Qureshi is equally against Muslim violence and violence against Muslims.

This is important in our day and age when we can look at a Muslim and immediately think of 9/11. We can give thanks for the Muslims out there that do condemn atrocities like 9/11. At the same time, it’s important to raise the question and ask if this violence is consistent with the history of Islam.

Qureshi covers the issues relating to the nature of Muhammad and the nature of the Koran. The work is quite thorough. If you do not know anything about Islam as you start to read the book, you will be able to still understand what is going on in the world today. Qureshi writes with scholarly rigor and at the same time, combines it with a pastoral heart.

The book is divided into three parts. The first answers questions on the origin of Jihad. What is Islam and what is Sharia and what is meant by Jihad? We also get a brief look at the history of Muhammad.

The next section deals with our own time. What does it mean when we speak today of Radical Islam. What about terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Horam? Is it possible that one day we could see a reformation in Islam that will make it a peaceful religion?

Of course, one could ask the question that was asked by Obama after some Muslim attacks. Don’t Christians have a history of warfare in the Crusades? Don’t they also have a history of warfare in the Old Testament? Do Muslims and Christians really worship the same God?

The book is excellent and each section can be read in a brief time and easily digested. If there was a concern that I did have, it would be that I think that Qureshi does condemn the Crusades too quickly and leans too close to pacifism for my taste. I think the Crusades largely started off as defensive wars for instance to help those in need. Of course, this does not mean that all that was done in the Crusades was right and much is to be condemned, but as it is problematic to say all of it was right, it would be just as much to say that all of it was wrong.

Still, I think this is an excellent book for understanding Islam and if there’s one thing we can all get from this, it would be Qureshi’s heart on the matter. He really does love Muslims. Maybe we could be better at reaching them if we had the same love for our enemies that Qureshi has.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

How To Examine Claims

What are some steps you can take in investigation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So yesterday, my wife brings to my attention this claim. It’s an old one and it’s one I had looked at before but not really wrote much about except on Facebook because I take it as prima facie nonsense since it sounds like conspiracy theory thinking. It’s important that you know that in my family, I’m the more intellectual and my wife is the more emotional. So let’s suppose you’re someone who hasn’t studied this area as much and you hear a claim. How can you start investigating a claim like this?

Let’s start by seeing what it says:

Much to the dismay of the Vatican, an approx. 1500-2000 year old bible was found in Turkey, in the Ethnography Museum of Ankara. Discovered and kept secret in the year 2000, the book contains the Gospel of Barnabas – a disciple of Christ – which shows that Jesus was not crucified, nor was he the son of God, but a Prophet.

Actually, the account could not show that. It cannot show that any more than you can give someone a NT and show them Jesus is the resurrected Lord just by doing that. You have to work through the data of what the document says and why it should be believed. At best, you can say an old manuscript was found that CLAIMS this, but not one that shows it.

If we go this route, we also have to look beyond it. This is one claim. Do we have any other claim to the contrary? We have several. Practically every book of the New Testament as well as sources like Josephus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Tacitus, and Lucian. The crucifixion of Jesus is one of the most accepted facts of all by New Testament scholars.

Could it be this Gospel is right? Well perhaps, but if you’re going to say every other claim is wrong and this in the face of expert opinion on both sides of the fence, you need some convincing evidence. Just saying it is not convincing enough.

The book also calls Apostle Paul “The Impostor”.  The book also claims that Jesus ascended to heaven alive, and that Judas Iscariot was crucified in his place.

Amazingly enough, this all seems to match very well with Muslim doctrine. For those interested, I would suggest doing some research on the Gospel of Barnabas. Also, don’t confuse it with the Epistle of Barnabas.

A report by The National Turk says that the Bible was seized from a gang of smugglers in a Mediterranean-area operation. The report states the gang was charged with smuggling antiquities, illegal excavations, and the possession of explosives.  The books itself is valued as high as 40 Million Turkish Liras (approx. 28 mil. Dollars).  Man, where is the Thieves Guild, when you need them?

Now we’re getting somewhere. We have some claims we can look into. So let’s do that. Let’s go to the National Turk. I go there and I type in Bible in the search engine. The second link matches the image I see above. You can read the story here. At this point, I am not looking to see if the story is true or false, but if you read the story, the National Turk is saying nothing like what is presented in the rest of the article about the content of the book.

Authenticity
According to reports, experts and religious authorities in Tehram insist that the book is original.  The book itself is written with gold lettering, onto loosely-tied leather in Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.The text maintains a vision similar to Islam, contradicting the New Testament’s teachings of Christianity.  Jesus also foresees the coming of the Prophet Muhammad, who would found Islam 700 years later.
Several problems here. First off, who are these experts and religious authorities? We’re not told. There is not a single name I can go and check on. Do we even have a date on the book yet? If the book is 1,500 years old, who cares if it’s an original? We want the earliest and best sources. It’s also a wonder how this person could think Islam came 700 years later. Islam was active in the middle of the 7th century which would be 600 years after Jesus.
It is believed that, during the Council of Nicea, the Catholic Church hand-picked the gospels that form the Bible as we know it today; omitting the Gospel of Barnabas (among many others) in favor of the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Many biblical texts have begun to surface over time, including those of the Dead Sea and Gnostic Gospels; but this book especially, seems to worry the Vatican.
And now we have something else we can investigate. Yes. This is believed. It is also believed by some that evolution is a giant fraud put on them by the scientific community. It is believed by many that the moon landing is a hoax. It is believed by many that 9-11 was an inside job. It is believed by many that Jesus never existed. The opposite claims are also believed by many. Of course, anyone who bothered to study the Council of Nicea would know that this is nonsense. Here’s what one scholar says about this.

There are also a lot of people who think (I base this on the number of times I hear this or am asked about it) that it was at the Council of Nicea that the canon of the New Testament was decided. That is, this is when Christian leaders allegedly decided which books would be accepted into the New Testament and which ones would be left out.

That too is wrong.

Who is this scholar?

Bart Ehrman.

Anyone want to think he has an axe to grind for Christianity? Muslims love quoting Ehrman. Will they accept him here?
What evidence do we have any of this is worrying the Vatican? We have no statements from the Vatican whatsoever. All we have is the article’s say so. Why should I take that seriously?
Much more of this article is just accusations about other people, but I think it’s ironic how it ends.
For centuries, the “defense” of blind faith has driven nations to war, violence, discrimination, slavery and to become the society of automatons that we are today; and for just as long, it has been justified with lies.  If you know better, act like it.
It is amazing that so many people who shared this article did so with blind faith without checking it. There’s also a greater irony when you talk about war and violence and look at the history of Islam. Perhaps those who believed this article should have known better and acted on it.
This has just been one case, but I hope I have shown some of the tools that can be used. This is also assuming that you are not an expert on the material. I really recommend doing this even for stuff that agrees with you. There’s a lot of nonsense on the internet after all.
In Christ,
Nick Peters