Sunday, July 3, 2016

Review: Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living

Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living by J. Rodman Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Williams continues the plain, clear, non-controversial discussion of theology systematically covering salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living. Again, as I stated in my review of volume 1, this is a great beginner book on theology for someone seeking to understand Biblical concepts without fussing and trying to sort through various competing theologies and high-sounding doctrinal positions.

But, more than that, this volume offers the charismatic perspective, which would do well for any Christian to read and gain a balanced insight and understanding into the various types, modes of operation, personal applications, and the differences between what is meant by "spiritual gifts" as opposed to "natural talents." This is a must read for anyone unsure about the pentecostal/charismatic view or is just plain against it (cessationist) who is ready for the challenge to his uninformed or preconceived notions about the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts.

He also provides clarity to issues like regeneration, justification and sanctification without going beyond what the Bibles reveals, without countering opposing views, and without philosophical argumentation, delving lightly into controversial topics in a non-confrontational tone like the security of salvation and the possibility of apostasy.

Let me be clear, if one is looking for a book to discuss all the varieties of doctrinal beliefs and theological views, this is not the book. It's purpose is to teach what the Bible teaches and lead readers "more deeply into the truths that He alone can reveal" through the plain exposition of Scripture in a systematized fashion without cluttering or obstructing it with differing points of doctrinal opinions.

The new Christian seeking understanding to gain a better grasp of God's purposes for his life, the old Christian seeking to trod again the "old paths" and regain the simplicity of following Christ, both will benefit from reading and re-reading "Renewal Theology," vol.2.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

On Transgenderism as Demonic Influence

I think that this is an article every thinking Christian should read in order to better understand the primary issue regarding the LGBTQ community, with specific reference to transgenderism.  The acceptance by certain Christian communities of homosexuality and its various accompanying lifestyle make this article all the more relevant and important:



Review: History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325

History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325 History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325 by Philip Schaff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although, probably much outdated, it is a good read. The "History" starts from the death of the last apostle, John (c.100), to the beginning of Constantine's rise as the Roam emperor. However, the discussion is not on Constantine but briefly on Eusebius and two other of his contemporaries during Constantin'e reign.

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Review: Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine

Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine by Peter J. Thuesen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent an enlightening narrative of the "contentious doctrine" of predestination in America from the puritans until now, and he briefly covers it's history from the time of the apostle Paul to Augustine, Medievalism to the Reformation, Arminianism to the English Reformation, and finally, to American Puritanism. In subsequent chapters, he deals with the contention in America covering it's impact or influence even in Catholicism, Mormonism, unitarianism and other religious bodies or groups. He even mentions to my surprise, how the some parts of the African American community had adherents to Calvinism, even hyper-Calvinism. Personally, I never realized how contentious predestination was, especially, to the point of having records of people having mental illnesses/breakdowns from it's belief in its Calvinistic form. For some reason, my only disappointment was that the author did not state, at the end of the book, his position; I am interested to know.

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Review: Old Yeller

Old Yeller Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yep, I get into reading a children's book sometimes. Trying to catch up from my Grammar School days. Anyway, this was about as good and exciting as the movie, perhaps better. And the ending sure bummed me out. But the ending was great and a good lesson on issues of life and death. I especially like the heart-to-heart talk Travis has with his father about Old Yeller. He doesn't provide a simplistic answer to death and is sort of loss for words of comfort, but he tells him the rough truth: "...things like that happen. They may seem might cruel and unfair, but that's how life is part of the time" (p.116).

I read this book with my 9-year-old Grandson and, although I got a bit ahead of him and finished it without him, this is a great book to the kids or Grandkids. The only problem you may have is with the archaic words.

This book is as it should be, a classic, and one of the best.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by Roger E. Olson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone seeking to understand Arminian theology properly, that is, as taught by James Arminius. Many Calvinists have a grave misunderstanding of classical Arminianism basically, I think, because they may not have not read Arminius' "Works" (I wonder if apologists like James White or theologians like MacArthur read it). In any case, Olson gives a very readable - not at all technical - understanding of Arminianism comparing the erroneous assertions made as to what it teaches with what Arminius himself and those who followed him taught . He admits that some who call themselves Arminians have strayed away from Arminius' teachings, however, it cannot be denied that even Calvinist have done the same with John Calvin. The value in "Arminian Theology" is the clarity he gives to Arminius' teachings and points exactly where others have gotten it all wrong; and, I must admit, in my experience discussing Arminianism as compared to Calvinism, the Calvinist brings up these exact misrepresentations of Arminianism as Olson points out in the book. It also helped me tremendously by pointing out areas where I have misunderstood Arminianism. For the Calvinist and the Arminian this a must read; and for the novice in theology who has an interest in reading Arminius' "Work", I suggest you read Olson's book first.

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Review: Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic

Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic by Larry R. McQueen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As noted in the preface, "This study brings the themes of the book of Joel into conversation with emerging Pentecostal scholarship..." (p.7).

Unfortunately, I must admit I am new to Pentecostal scholarship and not very knowledgeable of Pentecostalism, although my personal Christian experience has interacted with the views of Pentecostalism (even before I was actually aware of it's existence). In any case, that is just to say that I may not have been able to enjoy the full impact of this book not being fully cognizant to the issues revolving around Pentecostalism's thought and spirituality. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable read for any person of any Christian theological view or denominational persuasion, and much that is said can be applied to the Church universally.

As I understand it, McQueen sees the book of Joel as giving quality to contemporary Pentecostal tradition and as the basis for envisioning Pentecostalism for purposes of renewal.

In the introduction, the author discusses the hermeneutics from the "classical" Pentecostal perspective and then turns to a brief and general review of the book of Joel in light of "previous works."

In chapter 2, he discusses the thesis of the book of Joel as (a) having three movements: lament, salvation, and (what perhaps may have been an issue overlooked by other commentators or scholars), judgment, and (b) that these movements "provides a framework of progression of the relationship" between God and Judah (p.21).

In chapter, he shows how the New Testament appropriated the "themes of Joel" (discussed in chapter 2) to "provide a theological framework for understanding the gift of the Spirit," which he identifies preeminently, so it seems to me, as (a) ushering in the last days; (b) the immediate divine presence and communication to his people and, in consequence, (c) the establishing of a prophetic community (p.44). As such, respecting disciple's experience and Peter's sermon in consequence of the public display of the gift of tongues in Acts 2, "The tongues-speech of the disciple is interpreted by Peter as the manifestation of prophetic inspiration," which "characterizes the last days and is the primary sign of the present of the Spirit" (p.51)

In chapter 4, McQueen shares "how the Pentecostal movement has appropriated the major themes of [lament, salvation, judgment in] the book of Joel" in a way similar to how they were seen as being applied in the New Testament ((p.74), and thereby engages Pentecostal history, theological studies, testimonies, and even the lyrics of a song throughout the chapter. One of his conclusions is that the "early Pentecostals were living signs of eschatological salvation and judgment" (p.92).

In the final chapter, McQueen "provides some reflection on [the] method" of Pentecostal hermeneutics, and does so, interestingly, from personal experience in the writing of this book, contending that "there is more to Pentecostal hermeneutics than reader and text...open to a radically subversive element which stands outside both the Bible text and the interpreter, that is, the critical claim of the Holy Spirit" (p.108).

I have found this reading to be most instructive as to the emphasis that the book of Joel has for the contemporary Church the greater realization of the significance of the Spirit, not only for Biblical interpretation but also for the meaning, character, and method of witness the Church is to live out in the world today.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Devotion 1: Repentance


What is "repentance"?

It is the last word - the sum total of God's call to men as sinners - proclaimed in the Torah and by the last of the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist.

In continuity with the prophets of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the tradition of John the Baptist, it is the first word of God's call to men as sinners proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, carried forward by the apostolic and early Church witnesses; it is the message that continue today, in these the last days since Pentecost, the divine imperative, never watered down through the ages up to today.

It is the call of God to men to abandon their own way of life and live to God's will.  Repentance is the walk of Man's return to the Garden of Eden.

It is the divine call that has an eye to the Kingdom of God, that is, God's all-encompassing glory exposed and ruling over all the earth with absolute moral goodness.  Consequently, it implies both warning and promise: the promise of a new life in a new age for a new people in a new earth centered in a new city.  And the warning of divine retribution against men as sinners who oppose his rule, refusing to align themselves now - not tomorrow, but now - with the imminent and inevitable reign of God's Son, Jesus Christ over all of heaven and earth.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Matthew 3:3 (NET)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We need revival..

"He who does what is right
is righteous
just as he is righteous"
(1 John 3:7b, NIV)

We need revival yet, if we are going to see revival, I think there are some things we need to confront and come to terms with.

1.  If we have sinned we need to repent.  We cannot claim to be holy as Christ is holy if we live in sin.  The reality of our faith is found, not in mere words, but in deeds (James 2:22).  Struggling with guilt is not dealing with sin.  If you sin, you should feel guilty, and the only way to remove the guilt is to repent from your sin and turn to the Cross of Christ to wash it away by his blood; that is, in a nutshell, to "cease from sin and do good" (Psalm 37:27).

2.  As the Church, we need to stop calling ourselves "sinners". We are not sinners. God now calls us "saints."  In many places in practically all his epistles, Paul identifies believers in Christ as "saints."  Nowhere does he refer to God's people as sinners.  We will only lower the standard and always have the greatest difficulty in overcoming the fallenness of our flesh if we continue to identify ourselves with sinners, that is, with those who in refusing to come to Christ are demonstrating their hatred for God and, as such, stand as his enemies (John 3:19-20; Romans 8:7; Philippians 3:18; James 4:4).

3.  We need to stop using the Bible as a comforter for any sin and the sinful lifestyle.  We need to stop assuaging our guilt by satisfying ourselves with the Bible's portrayal, however honest, of God's people in their weaknesses and failings.  We need to stop taking comfort in our sin by the sad fact that even the Bible shows men and women of God less than perfect.  We will never reach the goal of holy living here and now if we continue to look away from the righteousness of God's people and focus on their shortcoming and sins.

The Bible reveals the acts of his people honestly.  However, it is not so we can emulate them in their sin or take comfort that they also sinned and, therefore, expect only a continuation of living a life falling in sin, defeated by it's allure.  Men and women are portrayed with such dreaded honesty in the Bible so we can see the grace of God, through His promises, at work in their lives as demonstrative of that same grace that is directed towards us and more than sufficient to overcome sin and the irresponsible and unwise lifestyle.

I'm often reminded of this anonymous poem when I read about the failings of God's people in the Bible:
"Wouldn't this old world be better, If the folks we meet would say: I know something good about you, And then treat us just that way!"*
For example, I may hear preaching about Aaron's sinful foolhardiness in making the calf idol, but I never heard a sermon about Aaron's desperate run to head off a plague God sent against the Israelites for their rebellion.  It is where he shows himself to be truly a "man of God" in every sense of the word.

Concerning Aaron when the Israelites were being punished by a deadly plague for their rebellion, a blogger writes, "Aaron now displays a devotion to his office of mediation between God and the people.  Whereas, in the first case 'the Lord struck the people with a plague, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made,' we see later on that Aaron 'took his stand between the dead and the living so that the plague was checked.' In the former instance, he was a mediator for death but in the latter he became mediator for life."

Another example is Lot.  How often we hear what a worldly fool of a sinner was Lot.  I've yet to hear it preached what a righteous man was Lot, for 3 times in one sentence is he designated as righteous in the New Testament: "righteous Lot," "righteous man," "righteous soul" (2 Peter 2:7-8).

It is not a matter of denying our sinful thoughts, words, or actions, or ignoring the sins of God's people as if they are not recorded in the Bible.  It is a matter of where we ought to focus our faith in God.  Focus on our failings, and we will fail.  Comfort ourselves with the sins committed by those in the Bible, and we dull the conviction of the Spirit in our conscience. Looking at ourselves and others as merely "sinners saved by grace," and we will miss the experience of grace that empowers to holy living.

What does the Bible exhort us to do but to "fix your thoughts on Jesus" (Hebrews 3:2 NIV).

It is not denying our failures and the sins we do commit.  It is not denying where we once were before Christ.  It is to affirm the power of the Cross to grant us  forgiveness and overcome our failures and sinful actions; it is to affirm our position as God’s “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If we are to stand together above the squalor and shipwreck of our fallen state and show the world we are the people of God in the demonstration of the power of the Spirit that we say we possess in Christ, we must abandon sin, recover our calling as saints, and proclaim the righteousness of those men and women of God whom the Bible records as having overcome.

------------

* http://margiesmessages.com/Iknowsom.htm

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Part 5: Jesus & Muhammed

This is my final message on the subject regarding why I believe Jesus is God as opposed to the Islamic belief that he is not God.

Last time we discussed how in the Qur'an, unlike Muhammed, Jesus is said to be the object of faith with a warning, at least implied, that to disbelieve him would bring divine judgment from God who knows all things, especially the hearts of men.

In addition, I notice that the Qur’an (in agreement with the New Testament), also claims that Jesus works miracles.


Jesus: the Miracle-Worker

In addition, I notice that the Qur'an (in agreement with the New Testament) also claims that Jesus works miracles.  

At the announcement of Jesus' birth to Mary, the angel tells her that God will appoint Jesus as an “apostle to the Children of Israel (with this message): ‘I have come to you with a sign from the Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave: and I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by God’s leave’…” (Sura 3:49).

As a matter of fact, there are a few places in the Qur’an that claim Jesus performed miracles; see here

However, also in the Qur’an and in stark contrast, Muhammed is shown not to have performed any miracles.  He seems to be unwilling or unable to prove his mission by attesting “signs and wonders.”

In S 3:183, God tells the prophet that if they ask from him a miracle to prove you are His prophet, he is to answer by saying (and I paraphrase), “Why should I perform a wonder since you rejected the miracles performed by past prophets?”

In S 17:90-93, Muhammed is challenged to prove he is a prophet of God, yet he responds, “I’m only a mortal man,” suggesting to me that he is unable to perform the miracles demanded to prove his prophetic office as assigned by God.

Apparently, there are places in the Qur’an where a miracle is demanded from Muhammed to authenticate his mission as divine, yet he is, at least, unwilling and, possibly, unable to do so; for example, see here.

Of course, there are places in the Hadith claiming Muhammed performed miracles but the Hadith, as I understand, was not written under divine inspiration.  Please see here for further consideration: 

However, there are many places in the Bible that show Jesus performing “signs and wonders” as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets (e.g. Isaiah 35:4-6; 53:5, cp. Matthew 4:23) authenticating his words and mission as divine while, at the same time, proving his divinity (Mark 2:10-12).

From my perspective, the New Testament provides indisputable evidence that Jesus is who he claims to be and what he claims to be is more than a mere prophet of God like Muhammed.  Jesus claims to be someone greater than any man, even the prophet Muhammed; for, while the Qur’an admits that Muhammed is a mere man, the Bible forcefully demonstrates that Jesus is God as recorded in the New Testament and as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures ( the Old Testament).

As the man healed of blindness answered the harsh interrogations of Jesus’ ruling religious opponents seeking to charge Jesus with blasphemy, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” miraculous like healing the blind (John 9:33).

The message of the Gospel of Christ faces one today with the same question Jesus asked his disciples, which demanded from them an immediate answer: “Who do you say that I am?”

Conclusion

I have shown 5 reasons why I believe Jesus is God as opposed to the Islamic belief that he is not compared to the person of Muhammed as depicted in the Qur’an and the person of Jesus as he is depicted in both the Bible and the Qur’an.  To review, we saw that Jesus is
  1. a man of Peace
  2. Sinless
  3. the Messiah
  4. the Object of Faith
  5. a Miracle-Worker 

I can only pray that these 5 brief articles on why I believe Jesus is God will encourage readers to make an objective investigation for themselves concerning what the Bible says about Jesus and come to their own conclusions.  I will not keep secret that you will come to a conclusion that compels you to embrace the revelation that Jesus is God.

I welcome any questions, criticisms, and/or corrections regarding what I have written and a mature dialogue is always welcome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Part 4: Jesus & Muhammed

Review: Jesus the “Anointed One”

Last time, for a brief review, I shared how only Jesus - and no one else, not even Muhammed - is affirmed as the “anointed One” in both the Bible and the Qur’an.  As such, as I already stated, it would make sense to suppose Jesus must be of far greater significance and superiority than Muhammed.  There were two points made showing Jesus’ superiority over Muhammed:
  • First, the Arabic “masih” may be translated “very anointed” or “most anointed.”
  • Second,  the word “masih” needs to be understood from its use in the Hebrew Bible from where the word is translated.  As such, “messiah,” is mentioned in the New Testament,  alongside the title, “Son of God,” which, at the very least, identify Jesus as more than a mere man and  vastly superior to Muhammed.
Here I will be brief so as not to take advantage of my reader's time.

Part 4:  Jesus is the Object of Faith

In Sura 4:170, the Qur’an reads, “O mankind!  The Apostle hath come to you in truth from God; believe in him: it is best for you,  But if ye reject Faith, to God belong all things…” (The last phrase seems to suggest God will know if you have rejected his Apostle and, consequently, will judge you accordingly).

It seems to me from the context that the identity of the “Apostle” points specifically to Jesus for the next verse warns of believing that Jesus was more than an apostle, that is, God (cf. vs.171ff).  However, even if its reference is meant to understood as a general reference to all messengers of God, nevertheless, the Quran teaches that one must believe, if not specifically in Jesus, at least, all the messengers of God in whom Jesus was one.  Therefore, if one chooses not to believe in Jesus, it seems to suggest that he or she places their life in eternal danger.

Even the Bible says that one should believe in the prophets of God and for pretty much the same reason as stated in the Qur’an:  “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20).  And, if we are to believe that Jesus is a prophet of God, then we are obligated as God-followers to trust in him.

However, Jesus goes further when he says, “If you trust in God, then trust also in me” (John 14:1).  In addition, he claims, “I m the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father unless he comes through me.”

As the Qur’an teaches that the prophets of God must be trusted, so the Bible also teaches the same.  And if we are to obey the prophets of God, then we must believe in Jesus,the prophet sent by God, to tell us that if we are trusting in God, then we must also trust him; and that it is only through him that access to God is given.  No man, Jesus says, can come before God except through the One whom he sent, namely, Jesus himself.

Unfortunately, this may be where the rubber meets the road because, although both the Qur’an and the Bible teach that we are to obey the prophets of God, these two books believed to be sacred hold contradictory positions regarding Jesus’ person.  Whereas the Bible seems to show that Jesus is God in the flesh, the Qur’an teaches that he is no more than a man and not God.

I think it would be a good idea to quickly review what we learned the Qur’an teaches about Jesus.

First we learned that Jesus is the embodiment of peace.  We also leaned that he is sinless and that he is Messiah, that is, the deliverer or savior.  And we saw that all these attributes are possessed only by God.  In God is peace, and if Jesus is peace, it is in him alone where we can find our peace.  God is holy, without sin.  The man that can claim sinlessness can claim to be God.  The Qur’an teaches the Jesus was sinless.  In spite of the Qur’an’s denial of Jesus divinity, nevertheless, Jesus is asserted to possess an attribute uniquely God’s and God’s alone.  Whoever is said to be sinless necessarily, by definition of what God is in his essential nature, is also shown to be God.  Finally, Jesus is named Messiah (the “anointed one”), a name given to no other person, not even the prophet Muhammed; he alone is savior of men.  While God has his many men as divinely-gifted prophets, God has only one Anointed Messiah/Savior; and his name is Jesus “who will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  And, finally, we saw that Jesus is an apostle to whom credence is to be rendered by the command of God.

The cumulation of all these facts, at least to me, points to the truthfulness of the Biblical attestation that Jesus is God in the flesh: “…the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1,14).

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

Islam teaches it is impossible; Jesus cannot be God.

However, if God is God, and it is affirmed that God can do the impossible, then God can become a man without lessening his divine essence or becoming anything less than human.  If it were not impossible, if it were something that was easy to do, there would be no more reason to believe that Jesus is God than to believe that ice can turn to water or that wood in the fire can turn into ash.

The proof of divinity is might be clearly seen in the fact that its occurrence of the impossible and only God is capable of accomplishing the impossible.

In my next installment, I wish to discuss what in my opinion is conclusive and irrefutable evidence that Jesus is God.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Part 3: Jesus & Muhammed

A Word to the Muslim Community

I pray these brief discussions on why I believe Jesus is God are challenging.  If any professing Muslim reading this finds any place where they feel I have misunderstood or misrepresented the Qur’an, please let me know and I’ll try to either clarify my meaning or make the proper corrections.

Correction is the mother of understanding.

In Review: Jesus is Sinless

In my last message we saw that the Qur’an, in agreement with the Bible, teaches that Jesus is sinless.  Furthermore, we saw that both the Qur’an and the Bible teach that all men without exception are sinners.  However, we also noted that these two teachings -  Jesus is sinless and all men are sinners - poses a contradiction inherent in the writings of the Qur’an if, as it also teaches, Jesus is a mere man.  

That is, if the Qur’an teaches that JesusChrist is merely a man and not God as a man, namely, then to also teach that he is sinless - an attribute only God possesses - while at the same time teaching that all men are sinners poses a self-contradiction.  However, these two seeming contradictory propositions - that Jesus is sinless while all men are sinners - is resolved in the Bible which teaches that Jesus is both God and man; Jesus is fully God because he is holy and only God is holy, and Jesus is also fully man yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26).  

It is my contention that, in order to maintain the integrity of the any written source as divine revelation, self-contradictory propositions cannot be found written in the text; and wherever they are found, a coherent resolution to the text from the text must be found.  God does not contradict himself. 

Leaving the issue of Jesus’ sinlessness in the Qur’an, we come to the next reason why I believe Jesus is God.

Part 3: Jesus is the “Anointed One”

The Bible declares that Jesus is Mashiach or Messiah, which in Hebrew means “anointed one”.  In the Greek New Testament, the Hebrew for Mashiach is translated as “Xpiotos” in Greek, which is then translated as “Christ in English.”

“NT preaching, especially among Jews, focuses on presenting Jesus as the Christos,” and the apostle “Paul anguishes over the fact that his Jewish brothers do not acknowledge [Jesus as] Christ” (“Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary,” p.109).

The Qur’an, in agreement with the Bible, teaches that Jesus is Mashiach, that is, al-Masih:
  • “…his name will be Christ Jesus”(Sura 3:45)
  • “That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus’…”(Sura 4:157).
First, it should be noted that the term “Christ” is not a name but a title.  In Matthew 1:21, the angel of the Lord, appearing to Mary declares that she will give a miraculous birth to a son whom she is commanded to give the name of Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.”

“Jesus” is the Greek for the Hebrew, “Joshua,” which means “Jah saves” or “God saves,” and that is the name Mary gave her Son: Jesus.  However, the term “Christ” is not his name but his title, his office as the One whom God sent to earth.

In any case, the Qur’an, in agreement with the Bible, declares that Jesus is the “Christ,” that is “the anointed one.”  I have found eight references in the Qur’an that either directly name Jesus as Messiah or indirectly reference him as such.  For brevity’s sake, I cite three, which have direct reference: 
  • “his name will be Christ Jesus” (Surah 3:45)
  • “their saying: We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger.” (Surah 4:157).
  • “Christ Jesus the son of Mary” (Surah 4:171).
Admittedly, the Qur’an warns both Jew and Christian not to think of Jesus as more than a messenger from God, that is, a mere man; but, then again, when you consider what we previously learned about Jesus in the Qur’an - that he is peace and he is sinless - it is legitimate to question whether such a warning makes sense.

In addition, unless I am mistaken, not even Muhammed is given this title in the Qur’an, nor anyone else, for that matter, either in the Qur’an or the Bible.  Considering if the leading prophet of Islam is not vested with the title of “the anointed one,” it would make sense to suppose Jesus must be of greater significance and superiority than Muhammed and, if I am correct, the question that needs to be asked is, in what sense is Jesus greater than Muhammed?

First, in Arabic, the word “masih” is “an "intensive form" that often indicates "a very high degree of the quality which their subject possesses or an act which is done with frequency…by their subject” and “is grammatically capable of carrying the idea of ‘very anointed’ or ‘most anointed’ both of which would express a very high degree of the quality which their subject possesses” (cited from “A Grammar of the Arabic Language,” vol. 1, Edited by W. Wright, L.L.D, copyright 1967, p. 136 ; see http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Memsuah/al-masih.htm).  If such a definition for “masih” is correct, then again, it indicates Jesus as having greater significance and superiority over Muhammed.

Therefore, we see that in one sense, the divine anointing on Jesus is greater than what Muhammed, as merely a “messenger of God,” is claimed to possess.

Second, the title of “Messiah,” given only to Jesus “appears in the Qur'an after Muhammad has made some contact with the Jews and Christians of Arabia. Clearly Qur'anic use of the title is linked to Jewish and Christian beliefs about the Messiah. Therefore, we must go into Jewish expectations and Christian beliefs about the Messiah to find out what the title means” (http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/titles).

Admittedly, while the Qur’an denies it, the New Testament identifies the Messiah (al-Masih) as the Son of God:
  • “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
  • “ Nathaniel (John 1:49).
  • “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1)
  • “I believe you are Messiah, Son of God” (John 11:27).
  • “tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus said, You have said it” (Matthew 26:63-64).
  • Even demons recognized Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God when he commanded them to depart: “And demons also came out of many, crying, You are the Son of God!  But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah” (Luke 4:41).

“By offering no explanation of this title, the Qur’an is at the same time making no contest against the accepted longstanding beliefs of the Jews and Christians about the Messiah. To both he is far more than just a messenger. The title in Jewish and Christian scriptural usage clearly implies greatness of such a degree that all the true messengers of God will ultimately bow to him in homage and obeisance. By admitting the Christian contention that Jesus is the Messiah, the Qur’an is in fact implying that he is the ultimate man of glory in human history and that he is the one who is the final expression of the revelation of God to men” (ibid).

Therefore, in another sense, we see that Jesus, identified as the Son of God, signifies his possession of eternally divine qualities equal to God; in other words, “like father, like son.”

In my next installment, we will see that the Qur’an warns us to trust in Jesus; unlike Muhammed, to make Jesus our object of faith with a warning of dire consequences.

Part 2: Jesus & Muhammed

In Review: Jesus is Peace

To review, last time I discussed that the Bible teaches Jesus is not only peace but the very embodiment of peace. After Jesus’ resurrection and before he ascended to Heaven, Jesus said that it was not God’s peace he was giving them but his peace: “My peace I leave with you” (John 14:27).   And that peace is obtained not by believing solely in God but by believing in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:1).

We also saw that even the Qur'an teaches that with Jesus there is peace and, furthermore, that he is the embodiment of peace, that is, Jesus is Peace itself: “Peace is on me the day I was born” is what we read in Qur’an 19:33.

So, we have seen that the Qur'an and the Bible teach that Jesus is Peace, an attribute only God possesses in purity and fulness, and is experienced fully only in the Presence of God. Further, if it is true that Jesus is Peace and we affirm God is Peace, then it necessarily follows that Jesus is God.  Here's a simple logical formula to show what I mean:

First proposition:  God is Peace.
Second Proposition:  Jesus is Peace.
Logical Conclusion:  Jesus is God.

As with the idea of peace is found in both the Christian and Islamic writings, when it comes to Jesus being without sin, both the Bible and the Qur’an are in agreement.

Part 2: Jesus is Sinless

In the Qur’an, an angel announces to Mary “the gift of a holy son” (Sura 19:19), much in the same as we read of the angel’s announcement to Mary in the Bible that the child born to her of the Holy Spirit “will be called, Holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:37).

Two things I find interesting when we look at some verses in the Qur’an about God and humans.

First, the Qur’an teaches that God and only God is holy: “God is He, than Whom there is no other god…the Holy One…” (Surah 59:23).  In the footnotes on this verse (#5402, p. 1528), of the Qur’an translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, which I possess, it is noted that, “in the title, ‘the Holy One,’ we postulate a being free from all stain or evil, and replete with the highest Purity.”

In Surah 62:1, we read, “Whatever is in the heavens and earth, doth declare the Praises and Glory of God…the Holy One…”

Also, all throughout the Bible God is declared to be holy.  As an example, I will take one verse each from the Old and New Testament:
  • “you who are enthroned as the Holy One” (Psalm 22:3).
  • “he who called you is holy” (1 Peter 1:15).
More can be read about God’s holiness in the Bible here: http://atdcross.blogspot.com/2014/02/gods-holiness-permeates-bible.html

The first thing we’ve established is that both the Qur’an and the Bible agree that both Jesus and God are holy.

The second interesting thing is that both the Qur’an and the Bible teach that all men are not holy but are sinners.

In Sarah 47:19, God is recorded as saying to Muhammed, to “ask forgiveness for thy fault (sins).”  And in 40:55, where we read, again, God speaking to the prophet to“ask forgiveness for thy fault (sin).”

In a footnote #4428 under 40:55 on p.1277 of Abdullah’s translation of the Qur’an, he states, “Every mortal according to his nature and degree of spiritual enlightenment falls short of the perfect standard of God and should, therefore, ask God for forgiveness.”

Furthermore, in this footnote, Abdullah cites 16:61, which reads, “If God were to punish men for their wrong-doing, he would not leave on the (earth), a single living creature.”

The Qur’an agrees with the Biblical verdict that all men are sinners being incapable of having produced acts that are righteous in God’s sight:  “There is no one righteous, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10,23).  Men are such gross sinners that in the Old Testament, God announces through the prophet Isaiah that all their righteousness is like filthy (literally: menstrual) rags in God’s eyes (Isaiah 64:6).

However, what about Jesus?  Does the verdict that all men are sinners include Jesus?  Did Jesus sin and is he, therefore, a sinner?

The Qur’an and the Bible condemn all men as sinners, every man without exception, even Muhammed the prophet.  Logically, if Jesus were merely a man, would he not also be a sinner?

Yet, the Qur’an and the Bible insist that Jesus is holy, without sin.  One may say, “But Jesus was a prophet of God.”

My answer, “How is that relevant?  Although a prophet, is Jesus still not a mere man?  And are not all prophets men and all men sinners?  However, we have seen it is taught by both the Bible and the Qur’an that Jesus is without sin; as we saw in the Qur’an, Jesus is considered to be holy.

In consequence, the question can be asked, if Jesus, even as a prophet, is a mere man, how can the Qur’an claim that he is holy if all men are sinners?  It can only be reconciled by finding agreement with the Biblical claims that Jesus is God; only God is holy.

I am aware that there may be some Muslims that suggest Muhammed did not sin but, from my albeit little research thus far, this argument does not seem to be valid because it rests on mistranslations of relevant passages in the Qur’an, for example, translating the word used in the Qur’an for “sin” as “fault.”

Even if it is insisted that Muhammed may have merely committed errors and not sins or minor sins and not grave sins, it is still a valid argument that Jesus, unlike Muhammed, was also without the commission of any errors, mistakes, or minor sins.  Therefore, Jesus remains superior to Muhammed and every other man who walked the earth.

Now, only one being is holy and that being is God, both sinless and flawless.  And if Jesus, although a man, is sinless and flawless, can it be said that he is just a man?

Again, let’s put up a simple logical formula used for Jesus being Peace:

First proposition:  God is Holy.
Second Proposition:  Jesus is Holy.
Logical Conclusion:  Jesus is God.

One final word in this section of my discussion.

The Qur’an declares that God is holy.  It does not explain how God can be holy, but only states the fact that he is.  In the same way, the Qur’an declares the fact that Jesus is holy without any explanation of how he could be holy.

The Bible does the same; it does not explain how God can be holy; it only declares that in fact he is holy.  Holiness is a divine attribute, the eternal essence of the divine being.

Also, neither does the Bible explain how Jesus can be holy but only asserts that he is, as the Qur'an does.  One Bible verse that beautifully sets forth this truth about Jesus reads that he is “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners,” while simultaneously, he is also “exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).

Well, I could go on with this topic regarding both Jesus and God being holy, but I will end here.

Be on the lookout for my next discussion why I believe Jesus is God, namely because he is declared as the “Anointed One.”

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Part 1: Jesus & Muhammed

Jesus & Muhammed:  Why I Believe Jesus is God

There are many things, which we find in the Bible about Jesus, especially in the New Testament section, which challenge the high status given to Muhammed in the Islamic religion. In some cases, however, it is interesting how Jesus is portrayed in a Qur’an.  Even in the sacred book of Islam, Jesus seems to be, at least, a greater prophet than Muhammed and, at most, in some cases he might be seen as more than a mere human.

First, I want it to be clear that this discussion is merely a sharing of what I have come to believe the Bible teaches about Jesus in relation to the Qur’an.  I am neither a Biblical nor a Qur’anic scholar and have not read the latter except for some portions here and there, specifically those pertinent to this discussion.  These are my personal and unscholarly views based primarily on what the Bible teaches.

As such, I will focus on only a few portrayals of Jesus primarily from the Bible and, when appropriate for the sake of comparison, from the Qur’an.

Part 1.  Jesus is Peace

A very troubling time in my life came when my first wife, Clare Anne, died.  Without going into too much detail, I and the people in my church prayed for her complete recovery.  One day the doctor had stated that she had improved much and would more than likely be released that weekend.  Going home, I packed all her clothes and cleaned the house.  I told Sarah Anne (age 7) and Amy Joy (age 5) that their Mommy was coming home.  At 2:00 A.M. I got the call from the doctor that she had suddenly passed away.

Needless to say, my world was turned upside down and my faith, while not wavering in the fact that God is good, was terribly challenged.  

What the Bible showed me at that time was that Christ Jesus is my peace and gives peace, attributes possessed only by God:
- "You keep in perfect peace" (Isaiah 26:3).
- "God of...peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11).
- "peace from God" (Colossians 1:1).
- "the peace of God" (Philippians 4:7).

Jesus himself claims to be a man of peace in such a way as to actually be the embodiment of peace and able to grant such peace as he is to others, even amidst troubles and sufferings:
- “Peace I leave with you, my peace I to you” (John 14:27).
- “I have spoken to you so that in me you will have peace” (John 16:33).

The apostles claimed Jesus is peace:
- “The Word God sent…preaching peace by Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36).
- “we have peace through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
- “For he [Jesus] is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).

Even the Qur'an portrays Jesus as a man of peace.  Moreover, it seems legitimate to me to interpret such a portrayal as not just of a man who gives peace but as one who is its very embodiment:  “So Peace is *on* me the day I was born” (Sura 19:33).

Of course there are two arguments against this interpretation of the text:
- The first objection is that the same is said of John the Baptist in the Qur’an: “So Peace is on me the day I was born” (Sura 19:15).  Therefore, any attempt to apply one’s understanding of the text in relation to Jesus must also apply to John the Baptist; and, we know, John the Baptist is not God.
- The second objection is that the texts, as Muslim scholars explain, means nothing more than having divine protection from Satan.

My response to the above objections:
- First, the Qur’an teaches things about Christ Jesus that are not attributable to John the Baptist; for example, the Qur’an commands, by virtue of his birth and person, to “believe in him” (Sura 4:170) with a clearly implied warning of judgment if one did not heed.  It is unknown to me, and I don’t think it does, if the Qur’an teaches the same thing regarding John the Baptist.
- Second, while Islam teaches, “Every son of Adam sins” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Hadith no. 2499), Jesus was born sinless: “to you the gift of a pure (or, “holy”) son” (Sura 9:19).  Sinlessness is not, as far as I know, attributed to John the Baptist.  Evidently, the Islamic teaching that Jesus Christ is sinlessness is affirmed by Muslim scholars, even while simultaneously attributing him to be no more than a mere man.  It begs the question, how can Jesus be both a mere man and sinless if every son of Adam sins?
- Third, Jesus is also called God’s “Word” and God’s “Spirit,” attributes not claimed for John Baptist in the Qur’an (as far as I know), of which I will speak more of at a future date.

In conclusion, although the texts in the Qur’an regarding Jesus and John the Baptist may be similar, it does not necessarily mean that what is interpreted about one ought to be interpreted about the other, especially when other texts show otherwise.

My reading of the Bible has convinced me that Jesus is God by its portrayal of Jesus as the embodiment of peace and that such peace is what I have experienced when I placed and continue to place my faith in Christ Jesus (as Sura 4:170 commands of Muslims).

Of course, the peace I speak of here is personal peace, that is, the tranquility of the soul’s relationship with God and the confidence of finding divine favor in the day of judgment rather than meeting with God's wrath.

When worry and fear seek to overcome me, I can rest in the promises of God in Christ who is my Peace because His Spirit dwells in me.  Does it mean I will never experience hurt, trouble, or confusion?  No, it does not. Jesus said, “In the world you will have troubles”; but Jesus goes on to add, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

It does mean as a baby resting against the mother’s breast, so I can rest my soul in the Lord God and experience the peace that comes from His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I will devote my next blog on the subject of why I believe Jesus is God by showing how both the Qur’an and the Bible claim that Jesus is sinless.