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 change 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 happen across 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

Book Plunge: Jesus and the Jihadis

What do I think of Craig Evans and Jeremiah Johnston’s book published by Destiny Image? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

ISIS. Go back in time a few years ago and the most any of us would think of would likely be that Isis was the name of that Egyptian deity. Now ISIS is a household name, but we’re not thinking about an Egyptian deity. We’re thinking about an Islamic one. ISIS represents the Islamic State declaring war on the rest of the world with the desire to turn the world over to Islam. They are ready to die for Islam and not only that, but they are ready to see to it that you die for Islam as well. They are a group bent on your destruction and the sad reality is you probably don’t really realize how much of a threat they are.

Is this just a radical offshoot of Islam out of step with historical Islam? According to Evans and Johnston, no. In fact, if Muhammad were alive today, he would not only join ISIS, but he would in fact lead it. To show this, the authors go back in time and give a brief history of the origins of Judaism and Christianity and then compare that to Islam. On this journey, you will learn a good deal about the historical Jesus and especially the way that archaeology has impacted our understanding of the New Testament. This is important because the constant contrast in the book will be the person of Jesus with that of Muhammad and then the contrast of YHWH and Allah, the Bible and the Koran, etc.

The writers also give plenty of frightening statistics about the way that ISIS is growing. These people have a lot of money and they know how to use social media well. You no longer have to leave the comfort of your own home for ISIS to train you. Nope. You can live a normal life here in America and be training secretly in the comfort of your own home to be a Jihadist. This makes it extremely difficult to find out who is and who isn’t a threat to our security in America. Jihadists show no signs of stopping and indeed, they won’t stop until all the world is converted to Islam and as many of us have seen on the news, they don’t have any hesitation to kill you if they think you stand in their way.

This book has a fitting section also about Luther’s Koran at the end. Martin Luther in fact supported the man who wanted to print a copy of the Koran in the Latin of the people because Luther thought that every Christian needed to learn the Koran so they could know how to answer Islam. Luther said this even though he himself had never encountered a Muslim. If it was needed then, it is needed all the more today. One of the reasons Islam is spreading so much is that Muslims are more than willing to die for their faith. If only the day will come when Christians are as willing to live for Jesus as Muslims are willing to die for Allah.

I found this book to be extremely eye-opening and I hesitate to say more because you quite frankly need to read it yourself. We live in a culture where Christians are at war and most of us are walking around like it’s 9/10/2001.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Addendum: I was given a free copy of this book by Jeremiah Johnston for the purposes of review.

Book Plunge: Rediscovering Jesus

What do I think about the new book from Rodney Reeves, Randy Richards, and David Capes published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Rediscovering Jesus by Capes, Reeves, and Richards is a surprising read. Now I had read this book shortly after reading Rediscovering Paul so I was expecting something like that, but that isn’t exactly what I got. At the start, I was kind of disappointed hoping to find more about the culture of Jesus and especially looking at Jesus from an honor and shame perspective. That disappointment was only initial. As I got further into the book, I found myself quite intrigued and fascinated by what I was reading in the book and I found the idea for consideration a fascinating one.

This idea is to look at Jesus in isolation from the major sources that we have, such as the Gospel writers individually, the Pauline epistles, Hebrews, the general epistles, and Revelation. What would it be like if each source was the only source we had on Jesus? We usually take a composite of all we have on Jesus and then put that together and say this is the real Jesus. There is no fault in this, but looking at each case in isolation can be an interesting case study. Imagine how different our worldview would be if the only source we had on Jesus was the book of Revelation?

While these are fascinating, there is also a second section where we look at Jesus from other sources. What about the Gnostic Jesus such as popularized in works like The Da Vinci Code? What about the Jesus of Muslims who never died on the cross? What about the historical Jesus of modern historians who do not hold to the reality of miracles? What about the Mormon Jesus that looks like a Jesus made just for America? Speaking of that, what about the American Jesus as here in America, Jesus is used to promote and sell just about anything. Every side in every debate usually wants to try to claim Jesus. Finally, what about the Cinematic Jesus? Many of us have seen Hollywood movies about Jesus. Some are good. Some are not. How would we view Jesus if all we had were those movies to watch? (And since so few people read any more, this could become an increasingly common occurrence.)

For me, honestly the most fascinating section was the one on the American Jesus. This dealt with so much I see in my culture. It’s interesting we don’t talk about the French Jesus or the Japanese Jesus or the Italian Jesus. It’s more the American one. This one changes so much to being the super manly Jesus who takes the world like a man or the Prince Charming Jesus that every girl sings about as her boyfriend. This can be the pragmatic Jesus who is there to help us promote our culture, or it can be the Superman Jesus who rescues us when we’re in need, but then disappears. I do have to admit I am a Superman fan so I could see the parallels very easily and while I do think there are valid parallels, we do not want to see Jesus as identical with Superman. If there’s any chapter in the book I keep coming back to mentally, it’s this one. I will certainly be watching my culture much more.

I find this book to be one of the most eye-opening ones I have read in that sense. I do not think I ever paused to consider what it would mean if all I had to tell me about Jesus was just one particular source or one kind of source. How much richer off we are for having all these other sources! We can also be thankful for the non-Christian sources as well because these can highlight aspects of the Biblical Jesus that we might have lost sight of or they could show that the Jesus of the Bible is so much greater by contrast. If an outside source says something true about Jesus, we are the better for it. If it says something false, this can contrast with the true and we are the better.

I recommend the work wholeheartedly. It fortunately also comes with questions at the end that make it ideal for small group discussion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To Islam Answers

Is the Crucifixion A Historical Reality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by a friend to look at the “work” from “Islam Answers” on the historicity of the crucifixion. Some of you think I save my worst condemnation in research methodology for the new atheists. That is false. When I read Muslim argumentation, it is worse. Going through the first part that I went through was a labor of love for my friend.

I do wish to note that I am staying with my area here as well. Seeing as I am not an authority on Islam, I will not be commenting on how well Muslim works pass the standard of historical criticism. That is for those who do study Islam. I will instead comment on their criticisms of the NT. Naturally, it won’t be exhaustive, but it will be sufficient.

The work that I am critiquing at this point is part 1 that can be found here. What I find repeatedly is the same argument ad nauseum and the same failed argument. I find a lack of interaction with the latest scholarly research and the so-called research that I find is extremely poor. This will be pointed out as we go along, especially since a number of times, Wikipedia is cited as their source.

For instance, it is repeatedly stated that the Gospels are anonymous. The writers of this work (Who strangely enough I do not know who they are since they happen to be anonymous) repeatedly state that if they were eyewitnesses, surely they would want to put who they were. It is a shame they did not pick up a work like E.P. Sanders’s “The Historical Figure of Jesus.” On page 66, they would have read:

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’

Furthermore, it is not as if we have no idea whatsoever who wrote the documents that we have as the Gospels. There is no interaction with Martin Hengel’s suggestion that the original works would have included the authors names somewhere. Hengel could be wrong of course, but it would be good to see the anonymous writers of this piece interacting with it.

Is there any mention of the church traditions that state who the authors are? None whatsoever. Again, the church traditions could be wrong for the sake of argument. Sure. Yet shouldn’t the idea be at least interacted with? We could consider what Tim McGrew says in my interview with him at the start about Gospel authorship or my interview with Andrew Pitts on NT Forgeries.

In fact, for all their concern about anonymity, as I said, it doesn’t bother them that the authors of their work itself is unnamed and even on their web page about the music in the video, one sees this:

Theme Nasheed (by unnamed group from Morocco)
Enjoy, and make some “duaa” for us.

Apparently, the problem isn’t anonymous works. It’s which ones they will accept.

Are we to think anyway that if there was a name on the Gospels, that they would instantly be seen as credible? We have six epistles in the NT that are said to be by Paul that most scholars do not think are Pauline. Why should we think the Gospels would be treated any differently?

And what about other works that are anonymous? How do we know Plutarch wrote his works? One of his grandsons later on says he did. A large number of works in the ancient world were anonymous. Do the authors of this piece want to say that if any of them are anonymous, then we must view them all with suspicion.

In fact, let’s take a look at some points about the authorship of the Gospels. Let’s start with Matthew. The early church speaks with one voice. Matthew wrote the book. The writers of the piece being responded to today make note that the authors don’t use the term “I” but instead, if they speak of themselves, speak in the third person. Traditionally, this would only work with Matthew and John because Mark and Luke not even in tradition would be seen really as major eyewitnesses. (Mark is thought by some to be the young man who runs off naked in the Garden, but that’s only one scene.) Matthew does write about himself in the third person. Is this a problem? The writers of this piece should have known this question was addressed around sixteen centuries ago by Augustine. Excuse a long quote please:

Contra Faustum 17.1

  1. Faustus said: You ask why we do not receive the law and the prophets, when Christ said that he came not to destroy them, but to fulfill them. Where do we learn that Jesus said this? From Matthew, who declares that he said it on the mount. In whose presence was it said? In the presence of Peter, Andrew, James, and John—only these four; for the rest, including Matthew himself, were not yet chosen. Is it not the case that one of these four—John, namely—wrote a Gospel? It is. Does he mention this saying of Jesus? No. How, then, does it happen that what is not recorded by John, who was on the mount, is recorded by Matthew, who became a follower of Christ long after He came down from the mount? In the first place, then, we must doubt whether Jesus ever said these words, since the proper witness is silent on the matter, and we have only the authority of a less trustworthy witness. But, besides this, we shall find that it is not Matthew that has imposed upon us, but some one else under his name, as is evident from the indirect style of the narrative. Thus we read: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and called him; and he immediately rose up, and followed Him.” [Matthew 9:9] No one writing of himself would say, He saw a man, and called him; and he followed Him; but, He saw me, and called me, and I followed Him. Evidently this was written not by Matthew himself, but by some one else under his name. Since, then, the passage already quoted would not be true even if it had been written by Matthew, since he was not present when Jesus spoke on the mount; much more is its falsehood evident from the fact that the writer was not Matthew himself, but some one borrowing the names both of Jesus and of Matthew.

Augustine replied: What amazing folly, to disbelieve what Matthew records of Christ, while you believe Manichæus! If Matthew is not to be believed because he was not present when Christ said, “I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill,” was Manichæus present, was he even born, when Christ appeared among men? According, then, to your rule, you should not believe anything that Manichæus says of Christ. On the other hand, we refuse to believe what Manichæus says of Christ; not because he was not present as a witness of Christ’s words and actions, but because he contradicts Christ’s disciples, and the Gospel which rests on their authority. The apostle, speaking in the Holy Spirit, tells us that such teachers would arise. With reference to such, he says to believers: “If any man preaches to you another gospel than that you have received, let him be accursed.” [Galatians 1:9] If no one can say what is true of Christ unless he has himself seen and heard Him, no one now can be trusted. But if believers can now say what is true of Christ because the truth has been handed down in word or writing by those who saw and heard, why might not Matthew have heard the truth from his fellow disciple John, if John was present and he himself was not, as from the writings of John both we who are born so long after and those who shall be born after us can learn the truth about Christ? In this way, the Gospels of Luke and Mark, who were companions of the disciples, as well as the Gospel of Matthew, have the same authority as that of John. Besides, the Lord Himself might have told Matthew what those called before him had already been witnesses of.

Your idea is, that John should have recorded this saying of the Lord, as he was present on the occasion. As if it might not happen that, since it was impossible to write all that be heard from the Lord, he set himself to write some, omitting this among others. Does he not say at the close of his Gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written”? [John 21:25] This proves that he omitted many things intentionally. But if you choose John as an authority regarding the law and the prophets, I ask you only to believe his testimony to them. It is John who writes that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ. [John 12:41] It is in his Gospel we find the text already treated of: “If you believed Moses, you would also believe me; for he wrote of me.” [John 5:46] Your evasions are met on every side. You ought to say plainly that you do not believe the gospel of Christ. For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel.

  1. Faustus thinks himself wonderfully clever in proving that Matthew was not the writer of this Gospel, because, when speaking of his own election, he says not, He saw me, and said to me, Follow me; but, He saw him, and said to him, Follow me. This must have been said either in ignorance or from a design to mislead. Faustus can hardly be so ignorant as not to have read or heard that narrators, when speaking of themselves, often use a construction as if speaking of another. It is more probable that Faustus wished to bewilder those more ignorant than himself, in the hope of getting hold on not a few unacquainted with these things. It is needless to resort to other writings to quote examples of this construction from profane authors for the information of our friends, and for the refutation of Faustus. We find examples in passages quoted above from Moses by Faustus himself, without any denial, or rather with the assertion, that they were written by Moses, only not written of Christ. When Moses, then, writes of himself, does he say, I said this, or I did that, and not rather, Moses said, and Moses did? Or does he say, The Lord called me, The Lord said to me, and not rather, The Lord called Moses, The Lord said to Moses, and so on? So Matthew, too, speaks of himself in the third person.

And John does the same; for towards the end of his book he says: “Peter, turning, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also lay on His breast at supper, and who said to the Lord, Who is it that shall betray You?” Does he say, Peter, turning, saw me? Or will you argue from this that John did not write this Gospel? But he adds a little after: “This is the disciple that testifies of Jesus, and has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” [John 21:20-24] Does he say, I am the disciple who testify of Jesus, and who have written these things, and we know that my testimony is true? Evidently this style is common in writers of narratives. There are innumerable instances in which the Lord Himself uses it. “When the Son of man,” He says, “comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8] Not, When I come, shall I find? Again, “The Son of man came eating and drinking;” [Matthew 11:19] not, I came. Again, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live;” [John 5:25] not, My voice. And so in many other places. This may suffice to satisfy inquirers and to refute scoffers.

This happens in other places. Consider Xenophon’s Anabasis in Book 1, chapter 8.

At this time the barbarian army was evenly advancing, and the Hellenic division was still riveted to the spot, completing its formation as the various contingents came up. Cyrus, riding past at some distance from the lines, glanced his eye first in one direction and then in the other, so as to take a complete survey of friends and foes; when Xenophon the Athenian, seeing him, rode up from the Hellenic quarter to meet him, asking him whether he had any orders to give. Cyrus, pulling up his horse, begged him to make the announcement generally known that the omens from the victims, internal and external alike, were good (3). While he was still speaking, he heard a confused murmur passing through the ranks, and asked what it meant. The other replied that it was the watchword being passed down for the second time. Cyrus wondered who had given the order, and asked what the watchword was. On being told it was “Zeus our Saviour and Victory,” he replied, “I accept it; so let it be,” and with that remark rode away to his own position. And now the two battle lines were no more than three or four furlongs apart, when the Hellenes began chanting the paean, and at the same time advanced against the enemy. (Emphasis mine)

Or consider Book 2, chapter 20, section 4 of Josephus’s War of the Jews.

4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command. (Emphasis mine)

Such is sufficient to make our case.

What about Mark? Mark is said to be the testimony of Peter. Note that if the early church wanted to secure Mark as a Gospel, they could have just said it was the Gospel According to Peter since it was essentially Peter’s testimony. They didn’t. They kept the middleman in there, the middle man who would have been a shameful figure seeing as he was a Mama’s Boy who ran back home and led to a division between Barnabas and Paul.

Luke? Luke never claims to be an eyewitness himself, but he interviews those who are eyewitnesses and records what they say. Again, why would the church make up Luke? He’s an unnamed barely mentioned in the epistles.

John is the one who makes the most sense really and guess which one is the only one with some dispute in the early church? It’s John. Is it John the Elder or John the Apostle who wrote it?

Interestingly, in all this talk about eyewitnesses, nowhere is cited the work of Richard Bauckham with “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” I suppose the great research of Islam Answers never included reading the best and latest scholarly material.

What about bias? Everyone who wrote anything back then wrote with a bias. I suppose Islam Answers has a bias as well. They want to show Islam is right and Christianity is wrong. Should I discount them entirely because of that? Not at all. The best holocaust museums are ran by Jews. Do you think they have a little bit of bias. In fact, as stated in my interview with Jonathan Pennington, unbiased history would be viewed with suspicion. You had to have a motivation for writing what you wrote. Mostly, it was to say “This person was a good and virtuous man and you should seek to emulate him!”

Of course, there is an ample amount said about contradictions and one of the main ones they point to is the sign above Jesus’s head at the cross as if to have different renderings of what it says is problematic. To begin with, the message was written in more than one language. Which language was translated in which way? Second, even if it said one thing, a paraphrase is entirely acceptable. What do they say the sign says?

Matthew: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Mark: The King of the Jews.

Luke: This is the King of the Jews.

John: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.

Does anyone notice a recurring theme here?

We are also told that the Gospels claim Jesus will die and be raised three days later. Why were the Gospels surprised? Chances are, they did not think raised from the dead by Jesus then meant literal bodily resurrection. They probably were thinking along the lines of divine exaltation somehow, such as Jesus being vindicated. Or, they were wondering if He was speaking in parables again since this is the Messiah and the Messiah is not supposed to die.

The writer also asks about the claim that Jesus died (Noteworthy that in this piece he only deals with the Gospels and not Paul or even secular sources like Tacitus) and wants to know if the author could verify Jesus was dead. After all, Pilate seemed surprised.

It is true most victims lasted longer on the cross, but Jesus had also been up all night long, undergone a trial, and been severely flogged. (Many people died in just the flogging alone.) This would only hasten the death of Jesus. If there is still doubt, let us consider that those who would know well, like the American Medical Association, agree that Jesus was dead.

The next point the authors bring up is that in about 50 years according to the historical method, the eyewitnesses would have been dead. This is flawed terminology anyway. The historical method does not speak. Historians speak using the historical method. Nevertheless, what is the great source that the authors use for their information on the historical method?

Wikipedia.

I’m not kidding. They really use Wikipedia.

At least they’re nice enough to tell you what to search for. They recommend looking for R.J. Shafer, although Shafer wrote forty years ago and we have learned some matters since then. Is there any interaction with much more recent work? How about James Dunn’s “Jesus Remembered”? or Walton and Sandy’s “The Lost World of Scripture.” You can also hear my interview with Brent Sandy on the topic.

The writers tell us that the Gospels were written 40-50 years later. Source on this?

None given.

Argument for it?

None given.

Now again, they could be right, but they need to argue that. Also, the testimony of the eyewitnesses would have been told in the context of a community. (Yes. They later on refer to the telephone game not noting that ancient communication was completely unlike that.) In the community, those with the best memories would be the gatekeepers as it were of the information as the stories were told. Now minor details could be altered as long as the thrust of the story was the same. This did not constitute an error in the story to the ancient mindset. For more on the liberties that could be used in Greco-Roman biography, hear my interview with Mike Licona.

The writers also make a claim about the authors having an air of omniscience asking questions that are meant to be stumpers.

“Who shadowed Jesus to report him being carried by Satan from mountain to mountain. Who was with him?”

Strange idea. I’m just going to throw this one out there. Maybe Jesus Himself told them what happened in the wilderness?

“Who shadowed Judas to report him make the agreement about money?”

Simple. Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus could have both had knowledge of the event.

“Who shadowed Judas when he hung himself? and when he died AGAIN (!!!) by spilling his guts?”

Now there are different ways to deal with the discrepancy. Some say the terminology in Matthew is not literal but meant to say Jesus died like a traitor like Athithophel. I’m going to for the sake of argument go for the more common idea that Judas hung himself over a precipice and then after time, the rope broke and he fell and died.

No one needed to shadow him for that. Simple observation after the fact would tell everyone what happened?

Finally…

“Who shadowed Jesus when he prayed remove this cup from me”?

When Matthew says that Jesus went a little farther, the Greek word used is Mikron. That should show how short the distance was. Jesus prayed for a long time. When He returns each time, He finds the disciples sleeping. What’s so hard about thinking they hear him praying out loud just as they doze off? What would also be impossible about if the resurrection is true, Jesus telling them about the prayer afterwards? Either one works.

Later on, we find this excellent piece of logic. We are told the NT was written in Greek, but the language of Jesus and the disciples was Aramaic, therefore, whoever the NT authors were, they never met Jesus.

Yeah. I don’t see the logic either.

Would it have been ridiculous to consider that in the early church, the authors could tell their stories to people who could write and speak Greek and communicate it to them? It would also not be unheard of for them to know some Greek, especially if they were traveling in the Roman world anyway where Greek was the universal language.

WIth this, they bring in 1 Peter which they say is in Greek and too sophisticated to be by a fisherman. (Because we all know fishermen just had to be stupid.) Even if that was so, did they bother to read 1 Peter? What does 1 Peter 5:12 say?

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

It says Peter had a secretary, namely Silvanus, who wrote for him. Peter would have had the final approval to be sure, but it would be just fine to say “This is what I want to say. Phrase it in the best way.” Peter would still be considered the source of the letter.

Amusingly, the writers consider the idea of secretaries as an incredible response. Any interaction with E. Randolph Richards’s work on secretaries? Nope. Well if this level counts as an argument, then I have a response.

Muslim apologists often use the ridiculous argument that the idea that the Gospel writers used secretaries is ridiculous!

If their assertion counts as a refutation, so would mine.

When we get to textual criticism, there is complaining that one early fragment cited is the size of a credit card. What’s their source of their contention with this? It’s Wikipedia. Perhaps they could have considered a work such as The Early Text of the New Testament. If the NT cannot be trusted textually, there’s no basis for trusting any ancient document textually. I’d also like to point to the words of a leading textual scholar on the transmission of the NT. This scholar first says:

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

Elsewhere, this scholar also says:

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy.

I strongly suspect our anonymous writers would tell me to stop reading the conservatives and pick up some Bart Ehrman instead.

Which would be amusing if they did because the scholar who said both of these statements is in fact, Bart Ehrman.

The first one is here: Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

The second one is here:

Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

The writers also deal with supposed contradictions between the OT and the NT. Now I don’t hang my hat on inerrancy. Scholars do not play all-or-nothing games with ancient texts. Yet one supposed discrepancy needs to be mentioned. The writers say in the NT God is a spirit and doesn’t have a body. What about the OT?

The writers refer to Habakkuk 3:3-4. I find most translations speak of rays coming from God’s hand, but the KJV has the reading these writers quote.

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.

Yes. They really think the Jews thought God was a being like this who had horns coming out of His hand. The same with God walking in the garden in Genesis 3. Apparently, they do not know how to recognize allegorical language or as is also the interpretation I give for appearances of God in the OT, that the pre-incarnate Christ was the one who appeared.

One other one worth dealing with is if Jesus’s name was Immanuel as in Matthew 1, or if it was Jesus, as He was known throughout His life?

The writers are unaware of double names in the OT apparently. Consider that Jacob was also called Israel and many times after his name was changed, he’s still called Jacob. Moses’s father-in-law was known as Reuel and Jethro both. My favorite example of this is in 2 Samuel 12:24-25.

24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and theLord loved him.

25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Now why would the writer say Jesus was known as Immanuel? In the original prophecy, the boy who was born was a sign that God was with the people. Jesus is a far greater indicator of that. This Gospel has early on “God is with us” in Jesus and ends with “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is known as an Inclusio. This means that the whole of the Gospel is to be seen as “God with us” in Jesus.

The writers also say that the passages that speak about Israel don’t work for Jesus since Israel went and lived in rebellion. The point is that Jesus is a type of Israel, not a one-to-one parallel. Jesus is in fact the true Israel and He succeeds as Israel where national Israel failed.

The writers also say that if John was near the cross, the disciples would have known to not be afraid. John was also known to the high priest so he could have been given some extra leeway anyway. That could explain his being near. (Also, there was a crowd there. Are we to think that every person was patrolled?) Are we to think the other disciples would not want to take precautions seeing as their Messiah in their eyes at the time did not survive the cross?

When it comes back to eyewitness testimony and memory, they refer to the writings of Garraghan, who wrote in 1946. Again, we’ve learned more since then, but where is this information found? What a shock. It can be found here.

It’s as if the only work the writers read on how to do history was that Wikipedia page.

In fact, later on when they quote Wikipedia again they say

The reader must be warned that our following discussion assumes that our above mentioned Wikipedia source, is correct and does not have grave omissions.

It’s hard to imagine how these people think this passes for research….

Their next claim?

Bernheim (1889) and Langlois & Seignobos (1898) proposed a seven-step procedure for source criticism in history:[3]

  1. If the sources all agree about an event, historians can consider the event proved.
  2. However, majority does not rule; even if most sources relate events in one way, that version will not prevail unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis.
  3. The source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text.
  4. When two sources disagree on a particular point, the historian will prefer the source with most “authority”—that is the source created by the expert or by the eyewitness.
  5. Eyewitnesses are, in general, to be preferred especially in circumstances where the ordinary observer could have accurately reported what transpired and, more specifically, when they deal with facts known by most contemporaries.
  6. If two independently created sources agree on a matter, the reliability of each is measurably enhanced.
  7. When two sources disagree and there is no other means of evaluation, then historians take the source which seems to accord best with common sense.

Did I have to type any of that? Nope. It was cut and paste from Wikipedia. Why? Because that’s exactly what they did….

Also, there is another cut and paste job in the article from Wikipedia which I will quote as well.

C. Behan McCullagh lays down seven conditions for a successful argument to the best explanation:[11]

  1. The statement, together with other statements already held to be true, must imply yet other statements describing present, observable data. (We will henceforth call the first statement ‘the hypothesis‘, and the statements describing observable data, ‘observation statements’.)
  2. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory scope than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must imply a greater variety of observation statements.
  3. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory power than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other.
  4. The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.
  5. The hypothesis must be less ad hoc than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs.
  6. It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false.
  7. It must exceed other incompatible hypotheses about the same subject by so much, in characteristics 2 to 6, that there is little chance of an incompatible hypothesis, after further investigation, soon exceeding it in these respects.

McCullagh sums up, “if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true.”

At least they think McCullagh is an authority. Here’s what McCullagh says about Mike Licona’s book “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.”

This is an astonishing achievement and a major contribution to the ongoing debate. It is clearly written and full of fresh insights and arguments that will enrich discussion for years to come.

Our writers were probably too busy reading Wikipedia to read scholarly books on the matter and learn how historians really operate from them.

Of course, there is the constant cry of “contradictions.” For instance, did the Centurion come to Jesus or did his servants? For the ancients, this would not have been a problem. When the servants came, it would be as if the centurion himself came. Both could be spoken of. Are we to think that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and flogged Him, that that means Pilate himself did the deed? Much could be said about other supposed contradictions. An excellent source on these would be Tektonics and of course, reading the best commentaries on the issues and other scholarly books like Craig Blomberg’s “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.” You can also consider my interview with Blomberg on that book.

Again, not everything could be said, but it is safe to say that these writers embody the very worst in research methodology. I suspect all they did was sit at their computers and look up sources like Wikipedia. There is no hint of any interaction with the best material against their position. Those wondering on the pro-Islam side of their argument are invited to go elsewhere, but I can safely say that their criticisms serve for me as a boost to the Gospel and a further demonstration of the bankruptcy of Muslim apologetics.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Real Persecution

Are you really undergoing suffering for Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

Just this weekend, I was involved with a debate on Facebook with what I believe to be a cult or at least cultic sacred namer type. That’s one of those that insists on using specifically Hebrew names for God and Jesus and usually suggesting Yeshua is a not the correct name. There’s a major emphasis on that in groups like this along with a rejection of many orthodox beliefs seen as “pagan” and an insistence on keeping the Law.

I was able to handle everything this person said and pointed out they said nothing in reply to my responses, until they gave the line to one of their fellows who had popped in recently that they were just getting the same kind of treatment that Jesus got that eventually got them nailed to the cross.

At this, I was quite angry. Why? It’s not because a cult group was doing this. Real Christians make statements like this way too often. It’s because when this is done, it’s a real insult to people who are really being persecuted. 

As I pointed out, right now, there are Christians in the Middle East who are being killed for their belief in Jesus by ISIS right now. We should all agree that this is a real evil that should be stopped. Now whether you agree or disagree with Christianity, there can be no doubt that these are true faithful Christians who are willing to pay the price for what they believe.

Too often in our culture, we look at anything that happens to us and cry out “persecution!” Now I do not think everything that happens to us is right of course. There is an increasing tendency by certain groups out there to put as many limits on Christian expression in public places as possible. There is also the outcry from the homosexual community that we must change our beliefs or at least not state them publicly and must recognize a man-man or a woman-woman unit as a valid marriage. People who have refused have even been told to take classes so they can learn to change their minds. 

Some of these are getting close. We should all be on guard in this case and ready to stand up for what it is we believe in. Frankly, I’ll state everyone should be ready to do that. Whatever your worldview is, if you really think it’s true, you should stand up for it and you have all right to do so, especially here in America. If you think something should be illegal or legal, stand up for it and argue for it in the marketplace of ideas.

Yet Christians too often copy the world in one false notion. They play the victim. Many things that happen to us are not persecution. If someone disagrees with you in public and challenges your position, you are not being persecuted. Have it be that they pull a gun on you and tell you to stop talking about Jesus and I’ll agree you’re being persecuted.

When we use the term persecution too lightly, we remove from it the real meaning it should have. If you live in America and you’re reading this and you’re a Christian, it’s quite likely you went to church yesterday. You freely worshiped in a public place and had no fear of the government or Muslim terrorists coming in and killing you. You carried your own Bible and didn’t fear a police force stopping you and confiscating it from you. Some of you might have went out to eat afterwards in your Sunday best and everyone would have known you went to church and yet you feared no reprisals. 

When you get home, it could be you have several books on your bookshelf that are also Christian in nature. You could go to a bookstore and buy more if you wanted to or go on Amazon and freely order them. You would have no fear if you did the latter of the government come and checking your packages to make sure you weren’t getting anything illegal.

Do you pause in all of this to take a moment to realize how grateful you should be?

Many of us can have multiple Bibles on our shelves. I do. It’s good to study many translations. Do you know how many Christians in persecuted parts of the world would be thrilled to just have a piece of that Bible that you have? If they had but one passage of Scripture, they would be studying that passage endlessly. They long to do this, and meanwhile many of our Bibles gather dust on our bookshelves.

Most of you today are going to go through your day without fear of dying for your faith. You’re not risking your lives by reading the Bible or going to a church to worship. If this is you, you’re not really undergoing persecution yet. Oh there could be some beginning stages going on, but you haven’t been hit with the real deal as of this point.

In fact, let’s make a few other points clear.

First, to deal with any misconceptions, just because you’re being persecuted, it does not mean that your beliefs are true. Many belief systems were persecuted throughout history and are being persecuted. I say this because I do know non-Christians read this as well and I am in no way saying “Because Christians are persecuted, Christianity is true.” (Though I do find it interesting that Christianity is usually singled out.) What it can demonstrate is that you certainly believe that Christianity is true.

Second, let’s be careful about any boasts that we make. Some of you might be being asked “Would you be willing to die for Jesus?” I never answer this question with “Definitely! You bet!” Why is that? Because centuries ago there was a man who said he would never deny the Lord and would die for Him if he had to. This man was Peter, the same Peter who denied the Lord three times to save his own hide. Take that as a word of warning. Those who are the ones who boast about how they cannot fall or fail are usually setting themselves up for just that. I answer this question by saying “I hope that if it ever came to that, the Lord would give me the strength to do just that.”

Third, let’s make sure to give thanks for what it is that we have. We should absolutely be praying for the persecuted church. My wife and I do every night. If you want to know what is really going on, an excellent place to go is to Voice of the Martyrs. This is a fine ministry that’s doing its part to help the persecuted church and is certainly worthy of your prayers and financial support. If my wife and I had the funds to give to another ministry today, this one I think would be at the top of the list.

Fourth is that I am not a pacifist. I in fact fully support military action against those who do seek to do evil. Part of doing our part includes rescuing those who are suffering. If someone was threatening you and your family, I would hope that you would take whatever action necessary to protect your family. These Christians in the Middle East are your family too. They’re your brothers and sisters in Christ and it is just fine to want to protect them. 

If we regularly keep saying that we are going through persecution when we are not, then we do raise ourselves up, but we do so by lowering the sacrifice of so many around the world, such as those suffering under ISIS who are really paying the ultimate price. We are not at this point and we should not take a term that really applies to them and give it to us.

Give thanks for what you have, but meanwhile, pray for and support the persecuted church. This is your family that’s dying after all. 

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/7/2014: Abdu Murray

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Worldviews are one of the most important aspects of who we are and few of us ever take the time to think about ours. What is your worldview? What does it mean to have one? It’s simply the lens through which you view reality. The question that you need to ask yourself is if your worldview is really capable of answering the hard questions.

Or maybe if your worldview can even answer one Grand Central Question.

Grand Central Question. That sounds familiar. Why yes! That’s the name of the book that’s by my guest on this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. His name is Abdu Murray. (For those wondering about last week’s, it is recorded but we’re working on getting it online. Want it to come from the studio so you can hear immediately and also call in? Well we need the donations to keep that going.)

So who is Abdu Murray?

Abdu Edited 3

According to the bio Abdu sent me:

“Abdu is the President and co-founder of Embrace the Truth, an apologetics ministry dedicated to engaging non-Christians with the credibility of the Gospel in ways that touch the heart and the mind and equipping Christians to do the same.
For most of his life, Abdu was a proud Muslim who studied the Qur’an and
Islam. After a years-long investigation into the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the major world religions and views, Abdu discovered that only the evidence for the historic Christian faith could withstand the toughest challenges.

The results of Abdu’s intense search, coupled with the Lord’s
drawing of his heart, led him to put his faith in Jesus as the one and only Savior.

Abdu has spoken in numerous venues both in the United States and
internationally, including universities, churches, training centers, and
conventions. He hosts Embrace The Truth with Abdu Murray, a radio show heard on WLQV AM 1500 in Detroit and worldwide on the internet and podcast.

Abdu is an Adjunct Apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and is the Visiting Professor of Christian Thought and Apologetics at the Josh McDowell Institute of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Abdu lives in the Detroit, Michigan area with his wife and their three children.”

His book is looking at the question of materialism, pantheism, and then why Christian theism. The best part is the look at Islam. My review of the book that he wrote can be found here. If you ever engage with Muslims who are disparaging Christianity, the information that is found in this part of the book is going to be incredibly helpful.

I hope you’ll be interested in hearing what is going to be going on in this podcast. It will be a revealing interview from someone who left the Muslim faith and came to the Christian faith. I am pleased to count Abdu Murray as a friend and I am happy to be able to spread the word about his book. Please be sure to listen when the podcast becomes available.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Died

Did Jesus die on the cross? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There are some theories that should have died several several years ago and never did. Unfortunately, they keep rising up despite being put to death by the people that would have been their ablest defenders had there been any truth whatsoever to them.

One such idea is the swoon theory. This is the idea that Jesus never died on the cross.

In fact, it was Strauss years ago, who was beyond most liberals today in critiquing the NT, who put to death this theory. Strauss said that someone like Jesus who was half-dead could hardly have come out of the tomb and managed to just a few days after crucifixion appear to his disciples and proclaim that He was the Lord of Life who had conquered death. The apostles would not have called it a miracle. They would have called a doctor instead.

Yet this theory never seems to die. What are some reasons for it?

First, a large number of Muslims hold to this view saying that according to the Koran, Jesus did not die on the cross. Now since I am not an authority on the Koran, I will not comment on this point, but one does not need to be an authority to know that many Muslims make this claim.

Second, this is a popular claim that is popular on the internet and with conspiracy theories with such ideas as that Jesus never died but instead got up and went who knows where. There is even a group in Japan that thinks Jesus went all the way there and married and died.

Third, some people do look at the claim that some people were brought down from the cross and survived. This number could be counted on one hand and even more numerous would be the people who did not survive even when taken down. In fact, right off, I only know of one person who survived. This was when Josephus asked for three of his friends to be removed from crosses. All three got the best medical care Rome could provide. Only one survived.

In fact, several years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote an article where they stated firmly that based on medical knowledge we have today, that Jesus did indeed die on the cross.

At this point, I also think a certain objection must be added from some of the more unitarian bent who want to say “If Jesus is God, how did He die on the cross? Gods can’t die!”

The problem with this statement lies in what is meant by the word “die.” If you mean that God ceased to exist when Jesus died, then yes, God cannot die. God cannot cease to exist. Yet no one arguing for the resurrection claims that God ceased to exist on the cross.

What does it mean? It means that some aspect of Christ, perhaps His soul, left His body on the cross. Many of us don’t think we cease to exist when we die. We just go to live in another state. If this is the case for Christ, then Christ did the same thing. His soul experienced a separation from His body. A reuniting took place on Sunday morning in a new and glorified body.

It is a shame that the conclusion needs to be spelled out. Jesus did indeed live. Jesus was indeed crucified. Jesus did indeed die. Unfortunately, in our age of people often relying largely on internet searches and wikipedia instead of real scholarly research, this needs to be spelled out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters