What Is Pride And How Do We Deal With It?

 

What is pride and how can it affect our lives? Pride Is exalting oneself above how God sees you and pushes you to move beyond the boundaries of how He wishes you to act.

Pride is the real “silent killer” because it slips in unawares and wrecks everything around you. We might fall into a belief that exalts ourselves above others and soon we start treating people with less respect, or act in a way that is unbecoming of who we are in God. It can be very subtle.

Pride causes us to act in ways that are self seeking, self serving and ultimately not in line with our true goals or the goals that God has for us. For instance, at work our boss may give us instructions to do things one way, but we think we can do it another way because we want to be the boss. This is not in line with the goal of getting that task done, it is subverting that task.

Pride taints things with selfish motives.

One great practical way to deal with pride is to refrain from taking the opportunity to exalt yourself. Either in word or in deed, or in heart. For example, to exalt ourselves with our words can be belittling others while talk about how good we are at something. In deeds we might communicate the same thing, only this time with our actions. This might include drawing attention to yourself or trying to make yourself look better than others, or doing things towards people that demonstrate a belief in their “littleness.” And in the heart is where this all starts, which is why we must keep a close watch on what enters our minds and is given permission to stay.

Arousing the flesh often invokes more pride because it enlarges our selfish will and changes our perspective on what we think we need to be happy. The bigger the self the more the self must be satisfied.  And vice versa, the more we satisfy ourselves the bigger the self that desires to be satisfied. In reality, we often need very little to be satisfied, but when we give ourselves pleasures beyond what is necessary, we raise the bar for what we think we need to be happy. This calls for humility in our spirits and self control.

Please do not fall into condemnation at this point. But perhaps try to think of ways to refrain from indulging in activities that excite the flesh beyond measure.

What is the flesh? The flesh is our body that wants to be gratified. It is the soul without God that wants to rule its own domain. This is the home of pride, because it cannot live in our spirit.

Also we can implicitly exalt ourselves, this is a little more tricky, because it demands that when others praise us, or we praise ourselves with first thoughts, we must actively reject such ideas or else they will stick to our mental perception of the world.

Another helpful tool is to refashion our mind according to God’s perspective, romans 12:2.

Through the lens of God’s word and that Word manifested through the communication of others, we can reorient our vision to see things more clearly. In this perspective, all is a gift from God, even our very breath. So there is no reason to think that we are solely responsible for any of our talents or great accomplishments.

Another helpful tool is to be watchful of activities that might subconsciously be seeking praise. Sometimes we do things under a guise, in the hopes that people will offer us praise. We musts examine our motives and be willing to be brutally honest with ourselves, in the pursuit of wisdom and humility. If we find that our actions are tainted with selfish motives, it might be best to refrain from engaging in such habits until our motives are reoriented.

Lastly, we must love God, because in His presence, His love satisfies us with a joy that drowns out any desire for self exaltation. Why eat crumbs when you can have the whole cake? In His presence we realize how utterly weak a joy it is to dip in the pool of self praise.

People are ultimately creatures of desire and when juxtaposed with the greatest desire of joy with God from His love, the realm of self exaltation is seen as a stumbling block to real happiness. This is where we must strive to always be, because it leads to true fulfillment and purpose in life.

Scriptures Referenced Above:

 

Should Christians Get Involved In Politics?

Some time ago I mentioned to a Pastor friend of mine, that, I didn’t think God wanted His people to be involved in politics. Our focus should be heavenward and politics only creates the kind of strife that dumbs down our passion for God. Real followers of Jesus shouldn’t get involved in such worldly things … I thought. However today my beliefs are a little different, and I think it’s important to take a second and more serious look at the nature of Christian faith and how believers should feel about political action.

There is no doubt that those who wish obey Jesus Christ and fulfill His great Gospel commands are to seek His Kingdom first, even before their own personal desires (Matt. 6:33) but I’m not so sure that trying to seek God’s will for our lives, and the lives of those around us, means neatly severing ourselves from all things political. What if God actually cares about our nations and wants us to be intimately involved with the course our governments take? If God cares about the little things, the seemingly minor details of our lives that we invite His presence into, why would He dismiss the major details that affect us all?

Contrary to what many of us think or believe, the Bible does actually talk about politics. And while this isn’t the right space to provide a thorough exposition, a few important details are worth mentioning. Even though in ancient Israel, God wanted the Israelites to look to Him for governance and not any human ruler, something which the Israelites failed to consider, God provided the people with their first King—one Saul from the Tribe of Benjamin, After Saul we see a checkered history of good and bad kings intermittently rising, the latter bringing prosperity while the former repeatedly led the people astray. Hezekiah’s righteousness provoked God’s protection over the people while Ahab’s actions released a three year drought. The contrast between the prosperity and distress of Israel in relation to the righteousness of Her Kings is proof enough of how government affects a nation, but later on we even see how God anoints particular, unexpected, rulers for His own sovereign purposes.

Writing in the 8th century B.C., Isaiah the prophet tells us that God will one day anoint a foreign leader who will liberate the Jewish captives:

This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him … For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me … I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty” (Isa 45:1,4,13).

History tells us, both from within and outside of the Bible, that a Persian leader named Cyrus

did in fact come to power in the 539 B.C., and fulfilled these prophecies with startling accuracy. He released the Jewish people, provided sanctity and enabled them to rebuild Jerusalem. Critics have tried to argue that there must have been a second author that added these prophecies centuries later but there’s no evidence for such a claim and Bible scholars call this move a “backhanded compliment” to the brilliance of God.1

In the New Testament, when the fullness of God’s will is revealed to the world, there are more explicit references to the relationship between faith and politics. When the Lord Jesus Christ is asked about paying taxes, He responds by saying that we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Matt. 22:21), indicating that His followers should respect earthly governments and not refrain from paying dues when necessary. Then, during His trial, He also tells the Roman Governor that His Kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), displaying a higher, more authoritative form of government distinct from our earthly systems.

Also In the Epistles we see the Apostles give us the same honor/transcendence relationship between God and politics. Paul tells us that governement is a grace to humanity, “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good … They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience” (Rom. 13:4-5). Peter likewise tells us to “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor,” (1 Pet. 2:17). These passages are underlined in the strongest way when we find that both men lived under a hostile Pagan government that showed little regard to those of Christian faith, and eventually executed both apostles for their allegiance to Jesus over the emperor they were telling people to honor.

From these passages and others, a relationship between followers of Christ and the political realm seems to step into view. God’s Eternal, Heavenly Government demands our highest obedience above all else—even if death is the cost. Still, while we spend our brief time here on earth, our attitude should still be one of respect to those in power. This honor/transcendence dynamic is given even more light when we see how second and third century defenders of the faith interacted with the Emperors of their time (see the writings of Justin Martyr and Aristides).

But what does this mean for Christ followers today, and how should we respond to the ever increasing hostility believers find themselves facing in the public square? Each context demands it’s own particular response, and Ancient Israelites/Roman believers provided a basic model, but still today a slight confusion seems to pervade the Christian mind. Should we live like the Essenes of old, the mystics who wandered out into the desert and wanted nothing to do with the system? Should we separate ourselves into the psychological wilderness? Others perhaps may want to live like the Zealots, the violent rebels who used violence and insurrections to overthrow their Pagan occupiers. Were they on to something? But perhaps without all the bloodshed?

Hopefully the reader knows how both of these positions might not be suitable for followers of Jesus. God doesn’t call people to extinguish our lights in the midst of darkness but shine ever brighter, nor does He call us to use violence or plot against our rulers, but rather to pray and intercede for them in the midst of all wickedness. Nevertheless I believe that many of us implicitly adhere to a third position which is just as un-Biblical—the silent giant of passivity. In the midst of respecting those in power, God also calls His people to stand for what is just and right, and to do so unashamedly and without fear. Early apologists wrote very plainly and respectfully to their emperors about the consequences for neglecting to treat Christians with the same dignity as everyone else. No malice but lots of truth. For too long, believers in the West have taken for granted the freedoms we possess—liberties offered to us through legislation that was constructed on the basis of Judeo-Christian principles. But things have shifted more radically than ever and the feasibility of those freedoms is already losing ground. Perhaps we should stay away from extremes and just be unafraid to speak and use our voices, or are we too polite (ahem, scared) to do such a thing? There is nothing un-Christian about sharing your voice in public places, even if it invites the hatred of those who disagree. But there is a danger in being silent while other loud but ill informed voices win the room and start dictating what society should perceive as good or evil; and then begin enforcing that alien perspective through law. Because as followers of the Messiah, we have an inside track to the nature of those things, and muzzling our voices will do as much good as a doctor concealing the cure to a fatal disease. We may not possess our freedoms much longer, at least not in cases of religion, conscience or speech, but while those things are still guaranteed (at least in word) under our laws, a proper Christian civic ethic invites us to be as bold and active, and respectful and God fearing as possible. May God stir our hearts and grant us Wisdom. Amen.

1See Norman Geisler’s Big Book of Christian Apologetics, section on Bible Prophecy.

Transcendent Truth in a Postmodern World: The Judgment of God

In any age, scripture is squeezed into the particular mold that culture creates.During Medieval times people were crushed into a system of works run by an institutionalism that didn’t always play by the “rules”. This called for Luther, Calvin and others to reinforce ancient truths. Near the end of the Enlightenment, scripture was subjected to an onslaught of speculative and imaginative criticism from people who wanted to learn about the “historical Jesus” but could not stand the Jesus of scripture. These ‘rational’ minds were met by other scholars who reinforced, and continue to reinforce ancient truths. Today it seems, in a culture where the feelings fueled mob rules without any objective reference point to guide, the Bible is commandeered to accommodate a myriad of personal preferences. Scripture, it seems, has now become servant of peoples personal whims and worries. And while this always seems to be the case, man now, however, has an unprecedented loss of respect for divine architecture of scripture and this laissez faire attitude has not been adequately guarded against in the Church. Of course, this was the point that the counter-historical Jesus scholars were making, but today, years after the initial battle, it seems that society by and large, Church included, has yielded to the flippancy which pervaded early criticism.

We can see this in the way the contemporary Christians meet societal norms. Since feelings are paramount today, and no one wants to be bothered with anything that feels bad, it has since become acceptable to gloss over several foundations of the Christian faith—appreciation for the authority of scripture being one of them. In what follows I hope to touch on at least a few of these foundations, the first being divine judgment.

Judgment

Unbeknownst to the modern world, actions do not speak into a void, they have moral consequences. When evil is committed, there is a price to pay and it isn’t simply time in rehabilitation. While God’s ultimate goal is restoration and salvation for His creatures, those who do not receive His forgiveness will remain spiritually dead after physical death and be held accountable for their actions after they leave this world. Philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that without the Christian understanding of eternal judgment, morality becomes incoherent since good and evil are not rewarded or punished—a zero sum game where points are scored but no one wins or loses. Jesus believed this as well, in fact the entire gospel is predicated on the wrath of God. Although some may argue, justifiably perhaps, that this isn’t the sole foundation of Jesus’ message, it remains a predicate nonetheless. We all know that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but save from what? His gospel proclamations make it clear that God’s wrath is on the horizon (immediate or not) and He is now in the process of gathering His elect before the storm.

Consider some of the first sermons preached by John the Baptist, and Jesus:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near …  You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” John in Matthew 3:1, 8-10.

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

“And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell … If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:22, 29-30.

As Jesus continues His ministry the idea of judgment and His purpose in saving others from it only becomes more clear (cf. John 3:16-19, Matthew 20:28, 26:28, Luke 13:2-4). The foundational truth of Jesus coming to save people from the coming judgment is neatly summarized by John after Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36).

Jesus did indeed bring us the greatest message of hope, reconciliation and comfort that humanity has ever had the privilege of hearing. Our world has been flipped upside down through the message of His foreign, heavenly love. But this love is only as potent as it is because of the fact that it is foreign, and comes from a world where perfect righteousness exists, and alongside of it, perfect hatred for evil—without compromise. J.I. Packer speaks about the “otherness” of the gospel without the idea of judgment:

“if we are silent about these things (sin and judgment) and preach a Christ who saves only from self and the sorrows of this world, we are not preaching the Christ of the Bible. We are, in effect, bearing false witness and preaching a false Christ. Our message is “another gospel.” J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, (parentheses mine).

I hope that this does not come across as simply wanting to push the idea of hell, that is not my aim, nor was it the intention of Jesus I believe. Instead, hell is simply a real consequence for sin and the basis for Jesus’ message of redemption. Without it there’s nothing to ‘save’ from and the sacrifice of Christ was only some kind of twisted message of self-denial. No, my friends, Jesus came to pour out His life so that we would not have to face the destruction of ours. God loves us and is not willing, that is not desiring, to punish anyone, His heart is to redeem and save (cf. 2 Peter 3:8-10, John 3:17). Judgment is not a comfortable thought, nor should it be since even God is pained at the prospect of people having to suffer it. But the Bible paints it as a reality that undergirded much of Jesus’ message. Those who wish to call themselves followers of Him are required to stay genuine to the substance of His truths. For the contemporary Christian this means first, adhering to the truth of scripture, and secondly being “unashamed” (cf. Romans 1:16) to share it with their surrounding world. One should think upon the consequences of not communicating God’s judgment if it is in fact a reality that God is trying to warn us of. In the final run, the question always returns to whether scripture is allowed to speak to us, or if we desire to impose upon the words of Jesus.

“If they value their careers, they should keep quiet about their intelligent design views”- What Abuses in the Scientific Community Tell Us About Science And Our Souls

Often when trying to share something new, it involves challenging something old. In the case of science now pointing more to God than random processes, to design instead of Darwinism,[1] many have a hard time even considering that this could be true. People typically aren’t interested in the evidence surrounding such a claim because Darwinism has built such strong trenches around their epistemology. They reason that if anything even remotely like this was true, the scientific community would readily agree and grant everyone their rightful prizes. But is this necessarily true? In fact, it’s patently not. Many scientists in recent years have seen the wrath of the “consensus” when trying to either offer sound critique of Darwin’s ideas or highlight how God’s Hand appears to be very evident within the natural world; the necessary conclusion to their observations. Aside from discussing the false supposition that science cannot include talk of God, I felt it important to highlight what kind of reactions are occurring in the academic community when scientists want to offer alternative opinions. This discussion is important not merely for science, but because it highlights much deeper issues contained within the human psyche. These issues in turn point towards our eternities because our reaction to new, potentially different kinds of knowledge often serves as a barometer for the status of our souls.

Dr. Gunter Bechly, Paleontologist: Dr. Bechly is a distinguished academic in his field, publishing 150 scientific publications, writing for Cambridge University Press (on evolution from his former evolutionist standpoint) discovering 160 new species and 10 new biological groups, and has served on the editorial board for two scientific journals. Bechly originally set out to mock Intelligent Design and Creationism in a public display at the Museum of Natural History he was curating (Naturkunde Stuttgart) for a celebration of Darwin’s bi-centennial birthday. However after exploring through some of the literature he says his former understanding of the field proved to be a gross mischaracterization. Ultimately he became convinced of Darwin’s shortcomings and Intelligent Design’s more persuasive arguments but this development proved hazardous to his position. He soon lost access to necessary workspace and control over his exhibitions. He says he was  told he was “no longer welcome, and that it would be appreciated if I would decide to quit …  (so) I decided that it did not make sense anymore to continue working in a hostile environment that makes productive research and collaboration with colleagues impossible.” Bechly was forced to resign after serving for 17 years. In 2017 his “long- standing” Wikipedia page was taken down sparking controversy in the scientific community. His story is available here – https://freescience.today/story/gunter-bechly/

Dr. Richard M. Sternberg, Evolutionary Biologist: While serving as editor of the Journal “The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington” Sternberg received an article from Dr. Stephen C. Meyer entitled ““Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories.” While Sternberg himself was not a proponent of Intelligent Design at the time, he felt the article deserved to be published and subsequently did so. After pressure from the Smithsonian the Biological Society of Washington decided to retract the article, despite the fact that it had gone through the normal peer review process (a fact which has been confirmed and documented but is often lied about to attack Sternberg’s credibility). Sternberg then began to face severe persecution at his workplace, the Smithsonian Institution. He lost access to necessary workspaces, his keys and office were taken away, his research Associateship was not renewed; he was demoted and put under a hostile supervisor. The National Center for Biotechnology Information was also urged to fire him. Sternberg filed complaints with the US Office of Special Counsel, but due to jurisdictional issues, his pleas went unanswered. They did however respond by saying: “It is also clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI (Smithsonian Institution).” Due to the hostilities he consistently faced, Sternberg ultimately resigned from his position.  Dr. Sternberg’s story is available here https://freescience.today/story/richard-sternberg/ as well as being featured in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, Astronomer: Holds an impressive research record, including the discovery of  several planets. After publishing “The Privileged Planet” which argues that the universe is intelligently designed a petition was circulated among his peers trying to denigrate his work. They were concerned about him sharing his opinions in an upcoming presentation on campus. Although the petition doesn’t mention him by name it is well known that trepidation about his upcoming speech was the cause for the petition. Soon after his application for tenure was denied and Dr. Gonzalez says this: “I have very little doubt that I would have tenure now if I hadn’t done any work on intelligent design.” And then gives this advice to other scientists … “If they value their careers, they should keep quiet about their intelligent design views.” Dr. Gonzalez story is highlighted in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Robert J. Marks II, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University, first president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: During an interview with Pro Intelligent Design filmmakers Marks said he was academically safe, with tenure, but complaints were subsequently made to Baylor faculty. He had his research website shut down by the university and was told to return the grant money he had received. “I have never been treated like this in my 30 years of academia … no doubt that the center of this is my work in intelligent design.” Dr. Marks story is highlighted in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Caroline Crocker, Immunopharmacologist: After criticizing evolution and mentioning intelligent design in her cell biology class at George Mason University, Dr. Crocker faced severe discipline. After being confronted by her supervisor she was suspended from teaching her class and reassigned to labs. When her contract expired shortly after it was not renewed and she says her academic career came to a halt. She says she never had trouble finding employment before the conflict but because potential employers are now aware of what took place she has had considerable difficulty finding work in her field:  “I was only trying to teach what the university stands for which is academic freedom.” Dr. Crocker’s story can be found here https://freescience.today/story/caroline-crocker/ as well as being featured in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Michael Egnor, Neurosurgeon: After writing an essay stating that doctors didn’t need to study evolution in order to practice medicine, he was subsequently pressured to resign and became the target for what he calls “a lot of very nasty, nasty comments” with “unprintable words that were printed.” He also says he was surprised by the “viciousness and baseness” of the comments he received. Dr. Egnor’s story can be seen in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Scott Minnich, Geneticist: While serving in Iraq as a scientist in the Military survey group looking for biological weapons, became hesitant about the paper he was going to co-publish paper with Dr. Stephen Meyer on how the Bacterial Flagellum is best explained by intelligent design. He remembers thinking “what are the consequences, am I going to lose my job and be able to support my family?” During this particular moment of trepidation right before the deadline of his paper, mortar rounds were going off near his location, the Perfume Palace. He realized that they were becoming substantially closer with each round states that he thought: “I may not be here tomorrow” and pushed the send button on his email. Complaints from anonymous faculty about him followed, and he says his peers tried to get him fired by labeling him as incompetent: “I was censored.” Dr. Minnich’s story can be seen here https://freescience.today/story/scott-minnich/ or in the documentary http://www.Revolutionarybehe.com

Dr. Michael Behe, Biochemist: After becoming disillusioned with Evolution’s explanatory power Dr. Behe published his now landmark “Darwin’s Black Box.” Soon after he received hostile reactions, ridicule and subversion from his faculty peers and believes that if it weren’t for his tenure he would be in danger of losing his job. He’s often accused of trying to bring religious views into his science (as if this were actually detrimental to his work), but says this: “I don’t have a theological dog in this fight. I’m just trying to do my job as a biochemist” – https://triblive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_384626.html

This statement is further justified by his welcome attitude toward common descent, but his refusal to believe Darwinian mechanisms could play a role.

In the film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” 5 scientists were interviewed who chose to disguise their physical appearance for fear of losing their jobs. They all voiced similar concerns about the dangers of publicly questioning the evolutionary paradigm. One said “you use intelligent design to get the research done, but your not allowed to speak about it in public.”

In 2009 a non-profit group called the American Freedom Alliance, signed a contract with the California Science Center regarding their use of the Imax Theater. When it was discovered that they were going to screen the documentary “Darwin’s Dilemma” which critiqued evolution and portrayed Intelligent Design in a favorable light, the CSC cancelled the event and disregarded its contractual obligations. When the matter was taken to court, the AFA won their suit and it was revealed that the CSC cancelled the event after severe pressure from the Smithsonian Institution, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and other local academics. https://evolutionnews.org/2011/08/evidence_revealed_in_californi/

This list is not exhaustive, it was compiled through memory and only a few hours of online research. If one were to direct more effort, even scholarly research into this area, I’m sure more stories wouldn’t be hard to find. I’m well aware that this information is going to be hard to digest for some, and will be met with various methods of circumvention, nevertheless the pattern is clear. Many scientists feel unsafe in discussing what they believe to be valid scientific thoughts, ideas they claim actually help their research and provide more explanatory power than certain standard paradigms. Many I’m sure will say that these institutions were simply trying to protect science, but keep in mind the science here was never discussed. Distinguished scientists were simply harassed, abused and forced to resign for disagreeing with the status quo. Their reasons for disagreement were never addressed, just that they disagreed. And so we see a different kind of dynamics that doesn’t simply involve good science doing away with bad science, but spiteful people doing away with dissenting, potentially groundshifting opinion. Hopefully in the future more and more people will begin to shoot directly for the science itself and be wary of blindly adopting the idea that “it’s true because everyone else believes it.”

M.B. Foster, an Oxford Philosopher during the 1930’s writes about how our presuppositions about God ultimately trickle down into our study of the natural world. Our heavenward thoughts direct our earthly scientific views. That’s why this discussion transcends the data itself, it, as the bible says of scripture “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). In other words our position in the search for scientific truth will also be indicative of the nature of our souls. A virtuous heart will find no frustration in being proven wrong, as scripture says, “rebuke the wise and they will love you” (Proverbs 9:8).  but an immoral one will often flee from truth in the form of denial, ignorance or abuse. Are our hearts thirsty for knowledge, or are we simply interested in confirming our own biases?  An honest answer to this question, especially in relation to the natural world and its impact on our understanding of God and the Bible, often points towards our inner, eternal habitation.

This Blog owes much to the documentaries “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” which is available for free on youtube, and “Revolutionary”  which is also available for free at http://www.revolutionarybehe.com

[1] Darwinism here simply refers to the idea of macroevolution, or large changes in animal forms thought to take place through mutations and natural selection.

Addressing Ijaz and Islamic Apologetics

Ijaz Ahmad is a respected contemporary Muslim apologist, he’s also a good friend of mine. There’s no shortage of polemics on his Facebook page or throughout his blogging activity, well versed in textual criticism and the basics of Christian theology he makes for an interesting conversation partner.  That said I’d like to address the substance of his thoughts, and in doing so will be addressing the Muslim community at large.

Ijaz’s focus seems to be on discussing the reliability of the New Testament. He tends to use a certain methodology that narrows in on minor details about the text and then extrapolates extraordinary and unrealistic hypotheses about either the historicity, or integrity of the Bible. Another issue that Ijaz and others overlook is that when they cite what they believe to be arguments against the Christian faith, the arguments themselves bounce much harder back against Islam itself. Ijaz’s latest blog about the ending of Mark belongs to the latter category.

Mark’s Evocative Ending

To recap, most early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at 16:8, however later manuscripts have an added 11 verses[1]. Most scholars agree that the longer endings are likely not original, although some writers have made plausible suggestions for their inclusion.  Ijaz notes that vs. 8 ends with the word “gar” or, in English “for”, as in “the flowers were for Diane”. Some then conclude then that vs. 8 ends mid-sentence with a word that is pointing towards more, and therefore the NT has lost the ending in Mark. There are several problems with this assumption.

Although there are those who claim that the word “gar” is out of place at the end of vs. 8, those familiar with Greek know that it is a word that, although used as an explanatory conjunction, can be placed at the conclusion of a sentence or a discourse unit. This is why Mark 16:8 is translated as “for they were afraid”, not “they were afraid, for”. Mark’s writing style tends to be choppy to begin with and scholars suggest he may have ended his gospel at vs. 8 to intentionally try and evoke a response in the reader. If for some reason we discover a previously unknown ending to Mark, the argument, from an Islamic perspective, still holds more detriment to one’s own faith than whatever accusations are aimed at the Bible. Furthermore, Islamic apologists often like to cite the shorter ending of Mark as not including a resurrection, but this simply isn’t true. Part of Ijaz’s argument is that the real reason the women were afraid (vs. 8) is because of an unknown ending to the text, however the reason they were “bewildered”, as the text clearly implies, is because they just encountered an angel who told them that their once crucified friend and Lord, has now been raised from the dead:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid”-Mark 16:6-8. 

When the Shoe is on the Other Foot

Now, If one were to point the same finger that Ijaz is pointing  towards the Quran we’d find that, unlike the speculation lodged at the NT, Islamic history does explicitly tell us about lost parts of the Quran. Aside from the controlled destruction of textual variants and abrogated portions (which for all intents and purposes practically “destroy” certain passages) there are actual cases where Quranic verses are stated as having been lost before the final collation and therefore removed forever from the text.[2] If these Islamic records are true, then one has to ask what was the purpose of Allah revealing certain revelations from his heavenly tablet, only to have them lost before they could ever make their way into the text? The same logic applies to the abrogated (or annulled) verses in the Quran, why (or how?) were they revealed if their ultimate purpose was to be overthrown a short time after? Does this really constitute truth derived from an all knowing omnipotent Creator, or is it more feasible to say that mere humans were in ultimate control of these ‘revelations’?

The Bible never claims to be a direct dictation from an eternal heavenly tablet. Although God’s word does likely exist in some form in heaven, the reliability of the Bible doesn’t ultimately rest on the continuance of every original verse in the canon. Rather it rests on the substance of which it is composed, the revelation of Jesus’ supernatural life, the power of His resurrection, and the culmination of God’s salvation story as foretold in the Hebrew prophets -facts which would be deducible even if we only had one gospel. Many Christians throughout the world have survived in their faith on only portions of the NT, if any. Jesus is still the same, history is still the same and He still saves to this day. The same cannot be said of the Quran which is the object of faith for Muslims and is said to have been sourced verse by verse from a heavenly tablet. In this case, lost portions, annulled portions, destroyed portions, actually do affect the basis of faith since it reflects on, and demonstrates inconsistency in, the one who allegedly intended it to be transcribed verbatim from heaven.

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A Few Questions For My Friends

My question would be whether my friends in the Islamic faith allow themselves to think as critically about their personal faith as they do about the Bible. If one were to question their own faith as vehemently as they question Christianity, do they think that Islam would withstand the onslaught? What if one ponders the fact for a follower of Islam to criticize the Bible is inconsistent in itself, since the Quran tells its followers to reference the Torah and Gospel in order to validate itself[3] (a fact which makes little sense given the obvious discrepancies, perhaps a subject for another future article). My hope in writing this is to encourage Muslim and Christian alike to investigate their beliefs openly, and think as critically about their own beliefs as they do about the beliefs of others. If anyone desires to seek the truth about God or His nature, whether they’re Muslim or Christian, double standards will only serve to delude the people who hold them from any semblance of reality. There is much more that could be said about the reliability of the Bible, the transmission of the Quran, or other blog posts from Ijaz, but my aim was to be as short and succinct as possible. Again I’d like to restate that I value my friendship with Ijaz and enjoy conversing with him over various issues. May God bless him and the rest of my Muslim friends and family who would consider these issues, May God increase their health and bless their families and spiritual lives. Salaam.

Endnotes

[1] This variant, along with the Pericope Adulterae in John 7:53-8:11 are the most significant variants we know of in the NT. Both however do not affect any Christian doctrines and are well known for being possible additions to the original text.

[2] See Sahih Muslim 5.2286 and C.G. Pfander, The Mizanu’l Haqq., 256. The so called “Satanic Verses” also constitute a portion of the Quran which has been lost.

[3] See S. 10:94 and other similar verses in the Quran.

A Case for Celebrating Christmas

Christmas seems to be a dividing line this year for many Christians. Some see it as a purely Pagan holiday with Christian colors, while the rest of the believing world embraces the celebration without reserve. Personally, I was more concerned with the fact that today’s world commemorates Christmas without Christ. I recently visited the largest Christmas attraction in the city, a seasonal fair in Stanley Park with train rides, light displays and food tents, but in the midst of dozens of snowmen, Santas, Rudolphs and Elves, there stood only one lone small nativity scene, nestled in an unsuspecting corner of the festival. This, along with the focus on gifts, trees, lights and everything else but Christ put me on the middle of the dividing line. I almost came to the point where I felt it necessary to completely divorce Christmas from all things associated with December 25th, and move on to a more somber remembrance of Christ’s birth. But in the midst of my thought process, one which seemed to be moving me closer to the side of the no-Christmas camp, I sensed that the Holy Spirit wasn’t pleased with the way my heart was pondering things. He seemed to be convicting me that aside from the possible Pagan elements, the consumerism and snowmen, God was still present in Christmas, and He was still pleased with our celebration of His Son’s birth.

It’s more than likely that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, that many people who celebrate Christmas aren’t concerned with the spiritual reasons for doing so, and that consumerism can go too far, but what confronted me was that despite all this, Jesus still took pleasure in the fact that this day had been set apart to remember and glorify the time when He first slipped into our world and shone His light in our midst. Aside from the train rides and trees, I took my family to Church where we sung carols which worshiped the living God. I raised my hands and Praised Christ with my four year old son who sang with me “Gloria In Exelcius Deo” ( or glory to God in the highest). I enjoyed a Turkey dinner with my in-laws, some of whom were Muslim, and we watched a video together about Jesus being the Prince of Peace, the bedrock of security and stability for our lives. I also got to spend time with my other family members who at present don’t follow Jesus, and watch them play with my kids as waves of laughter rolled. In such things, God is glorified.

It’s my contention, as a recovering legalist with a former finger pointing addiction, that God still receives our worship, still blesses our time with family and still uses December 25th as an opportunity to reveal His truth to the nations, regardless of the other shortcomings associated with it. I believe that God isn’t so much concerned with trying to find out what’s wrong with the world as He is with working towards what’s right. From my own former obsession with finding sin in everything and looking for the devil lurking under every rock, I’ve learned that oftentimes we  overstep our bounds in analyzing things. So instead of focusing on the pitfalls, I think it’s important to see where God might be moving, and move with Him.

 

FACEBOOK CHRISTIANITY?

When Mark Zuckerberg offered us a new way for the world to socialize, It’s likely he wasn’t anticipating that his online book of faces was going to have the impact that it did. It’s also likely that he wasn’t anticipating how his new platform would affect believers in the body of Christ, but affect it did, and not always for the better. Granted, Facebook has opened many doors for the gospel to be shared with people who might have otherwise never heard it before, and this is truly a blessing, but another consequence that might have caught Christians off guard, is that it’s provided a new, and very convenient avenue for many of us to do exactly what the Bible tells us not to do. Scripture tells us that followers of Jesus should:

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil” (2 Tim. 2:23-24)
However, in the secrecy of our online life, we find it very easy to engage in these behaviors. People don’t often stop to think or pray before they voice the first emotion they feel after watching the news, viewing some viral video or reading someone’s controversial post, and this isn’t healthy. The Bible tells us that the tongue is a “world of unrighteousness” that “stains the body” and “sets the course of our life (on fire)” (James 3:6). In other words, our tongues have the capability to manifest the sin that’s in our hearts and produce visible damage in our lives. And make no mistake, just because it’s not our physical tongue doing the talking online, the same principle applies. In fact, in this day and age it seems that the Biblical principle of guarding our “tongues” would apply even more.
So here’s a thought, why don’t we pray before we post? Why don’t we ask ourselves if what’s coming out of our “mouth” is going to cause strife or build others up in love. Sharing the gospel is good and teaching others about a Biblical worldview is definitely good, but if our hearts aren’t in the right place when we share our thoughts with the public, we can actually do more damage than good. Let’s always ask if our online habits are self-centered, or Christ centered, pleasing to God or pleasing to the flesh, otherwise online may not be the best place for us to be.