Saturday, September 20, 2008

Phil Johnson's Excellent Perspective on Fundamentalism

This mp3 by Phil Johnson, of Grace To You, has some substantive and lucid insights into the American Fundamentalist Movement, and he puts words to why I feel hesitant about some of the more "fringe" elements in an otherwise legitimate position. His criticisms are right on. Historic and biblical fundamentalism and evangelicalism are true positions, while some have gone too far and too shallow.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Proving Jesus From the Quran

Sura 4:171 The Women
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.

Ya ahla alkitabi lataghloo fee deenikum wala taqooloo AAala Allahiilla alhaqqa innama almaseehu AAeesaibnu maryama rasoolu Allahi wakalimatuhu alqahaila maryama waroohun minhu faaminoo biAllahiwarusulihi wala taqooloo thalathatun intahookhayran lakum innama Allahu ilahun wahidunsubhanahu an yakoona lahu waladun lahu ma fee alssamawatiwama fee al-ardi wakafa biAllahiwakeelan
The Quran refers to Jesus as Surah 4:171 says: "... His word
which He gave unto Mary".

It is common for Christians to use this title to attempt to "prove"the Deity of Christ in this verse of the Muslim text. Of course, this should not be done for the following reasons:

  • Christian integrity demands we deal with context and what the Quran is actually saying.

  • Muslim creed denies the Deity of Jesus as taught in the Bible

  • Muslims consider it idolatry to ascribe a divine partner to God

  • The Deity of Jesus is best exegeted from the Biblical text, not the Quran because the Quran does not reveal this truth in it's pages.

فِي الْبَدْءِ كَانَ الْكَلِمَةُ، وَالْكَلِمَةُ كَانَ عِنْدَ اللهِ. وَكَانَ الْكَلِمَةُ هُوَ اللهُ . John 1:1 in the Arabic bible also calls Jesus the Word. However, what the Word is in the Apostle John's mind is not the "Word" of Muhammed's claim. For the Muslim this "word" is a promise or prophecy from Allah to Mary, as seen in Surah 3:45

"...O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of
a word from Him ". Jesus here, is simply a man, born by Allah's divine fiat, his "BE" resulting in his existence.

The Quranic Jesus is best understood in the context of medival Syriac Christianity, and the apocryphal gospels of that region of Arabia.

This article : from James White on the biblical exegesis of John 1 is quite helpful. Christians should develop a solid theology based on the text of the Word of God, the Bible, and then proceed to explain the person of Jesus to their Muslim friends.

This may still cause opposition and questions, but our responsibility as believers is to give an accurate defense (apologia-απολογία 1 Peter 3:15) of the truth of our hope and faith.

May God give us the wisdom to do this and to give an answer to our opponents for God's Honour and Glory in the Gospel.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Dual Authorship & The Nature of Jesus Christ

Dual Authorship refers to the fact that the divinely given Scriptures are a product of both God & men. God's Word is both eternal & temporal. That is God spoke in the ultimate and final sense through secondary means of prophets & apostles. So, for example, in Matthew 1:22 : "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet..." Also, when Jesus denounced the Pharisees about their traditions, He said:"Full well, ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother....making the word of God of none effect through your tradition". (Matthew 7:9-13). In both places, the Word of God is said to be what a human author spoke or wrote.

Of course, there is a mystery in just how men could write Scripture, and yet it is the God breathed words of the Lord. In 2 Peter 1:21"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." And when speaking of the prophets who foretold the Gospel, Peter wrote:"...the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of the Christ and the glory that should follow." (1 Peter 1:11-12) Both verses describe that it was a dual authorship that came as the Word of God.

I have been wondering whether we can look to the nature of Christ Himself & His "hypostatic union" to give us a parallel to help us understand dual authorship. Christ is the Word of God who became flesh. He has both the divine nature as the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who took upon himself human nature, and a body. He became human with no loss of his eternal essence. In fact, Christ had to limit or set aside his "divine prerogatives" and take the form of a servant and human with all human limitations. Yet Christ is the Revealer of the Father, and sinless Son of God.( See Philippians 2:5-11)

Since there is both a divine and human element in the Person of Jesus, and there are both divine and human elements in Scripture, we should not be surprised to see parallels, and perhaps get insight into the inspiration of Scripture. Then again, there are limits here.

For one thing, the "Hypostatic Union", a concept which explains the dual nature/one person of Christ is itself a truth which we apprehend, but do not fully comprehend. It is paradoxical to speak of the two natures being one Person, without confusion of each entity. Just as the threes of the Persons in the Trinity are paradoxical, yet true.

In Dual Authorship, we are trying to understand a process. Whereas in the hypostatic union, we have to deal with essence. We know the Scriptures are divine, but how did they get that way given the human involvement?

Matt Weymeyer gives an exegetical understanding of the problem. This is not exhaustive, but it gives us a good idea of what the words of Scripture mean when speaking of the God/man process of authorship.

"In Matthew 1:22 and 2:15, the preposition hupo is used to express ultimate (or primary) agency, whereas the preposition dia is used to express intermediate (or secondary) agency. The distinction is this: the ultimate agent is the person who is ultimately responsible for the action of the verb, and the intermediate agent is the person who is used by the ultimate agent to carry out that action. In simpler terms, if A is the ultimate agent, B is the intermediate agent, and C is the action of the verb, the idea is that A uses B to perform C.

The implications of this are profound. According to Matthew 1:22 and 2:15, the person who is ultimately responsible for the action of speaking forth the Old Testament prophecies is the Lord Himself, for Matthew refers to the words of prophecy as “what was spoken by [hupo—ultimate agency] the Lord.” In addition, however, these verses also indicate that the Lord used intermediate agents to speak forth these words of prophecy, for Matthew refers to “what was spoken…through [dia—intermediate agency] the prophet.” Put very simply, A (God) used B (the prophets) to perform C (write Scripture)." Matt Weymeyer

I would be very much interested in reader comments and input to these ideas. Let me know what you think!

The Colosseum

The is the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. I made it to Rome, and managed to get a few shots of the awesome Colosseum. Once again, I was impressed with the ancient building. Yet, as a believer in Jesus Christ, my thoughts kept going back to the days of the severe Imperial persecutions of Rome against the Christians.

There I was walking around in the arena where Roman citizens came to watch the bloodbath as ferocious animals ravaged the innocent martyrs of Christ. It is said that Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch was martyred in the amphitheater. The facts about the Colosseum can be found at the link.
My concern is how to look at this thing through the lens of faith. Knowing that it was used for gladiator fights, animal fights, and other pagan entertainments, points to the depravity of Roman civilaization. Further, knowing that Christians were killed there for their faith tells me that that generation of pagans were laying up wrath for the day of wrath. (Romans 2:5)