Apologetics

Recognizing the Canon

Who put the Bible together? Who chose those books to be bound together in that order?

That is a good question. Some of it is fairly self-evident. Let me start by giving you just a little analogy. If you look at certain Gospels, that are oftentimes considered to be Gospels, that were left out and read them, you will immediately realize why they are left out.

Over the last decade or so, for example, a Gospel that has gotten a lot of press is the Gospel of Judas. It is supposed to be far, far superior to the Gospel of John, and there is a lot of static on this on the Web. One day — and this has been quite a while ago — I decided to pick up the Gospel of Judas and, along with a colleague who has worked with me almost twenty-eight years, we sat in my office and read the thirteen papyrus pages. When we got done, we were on the floor laughing. Laughing because of the absurdity of the Gospel of Judas. In other words, people talk about it in glowing terms, but when you actually read it, you see the difference between that and the literary masterpiece that we call the Gospel of John or even the five books of John, including his epistles in the Book of Revelation.

I think the more fundamental answer to your question is that the books that we have in our Canon, or the books that were used in the early Christian church, obviously Jesus giving ratification to the Old Testament Canon but with respect to the New Testament Canon, these are books that were widely distributed and read prolifically in the early Christian church. They were letters. Those letters were not letters that were determined by men to be canonical or part of the Canon of Scripture; rather, they were discovered to be canonical based on the principles of canonicity.

A canon is a measuring rod or a stick by which you measure, and there are principles associated with that measure, and these books fall in line with those principles, including the principle of perspicuity. The principle of perspicuity means that the books are clear and consistent not only within themselves but also amongst themselves.

The operative way of taking about the Canon of Scripture is this: it is not human beings determining but human beings discovering.

When you are talking about the Old Testament, that Canon was established early on. That Canon was ratified by Christ and the Apostles prior to the time the New Testament Canon came into existence. I mean, there was a long time when there was no such thing as a New Testament Canon. The New Testament Canon came into existence over time. But, the practices of the early Christian church have been perpetuated to this day through Christ, through the Apostles, and through the early church fathers — Fathers like Ignatius of Antioch and later through the early New Testament catechism, a first or second century document. So, upon the basis of the tradition that has been passed down from Christ to the Apostles to the church fathers, we also have a tradition whereby we know what was used, what was circulated, in the early Christian church. That is how the Canon came to be.

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21)

For further related study, please see the following:

Is the New Testament Canon Authoritative or Authoritarian? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Fictitious Gospel of Judas and Its Sensational Promotion (Daniel Hoffman)

The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic? (Douglas Groothuis)

Overcoming the Media Mania of the Gnostic Gospels (Paul Maier)

Please also check out these resources in our e-store:

Memorable Keys to Essential Christian D-O-C-T-R-I-N-E (P401) by Hank Hanegraaff

The Origin of the Bible (B1089) edited by Philip W. Comfort

The Canon of Scripture (B329) by F. F. Bruce

This blog is adapted from the 9/18/2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

The Only Solution to Western Erosion and Islamic Resurgence


The reason I wrote the book MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion is that despite its incoherence, the Muslim cult (by the way, it is a cult — a cult of Arabian paganism, Judaism, and Christianity, and a muddy mixture of all of them at best), this cult one-billion-six-hundred-million strong and growing, is poised to fill the vacuum left by a Western culture that is slouching inexorably toward Gomorrah. Demographics are alarming. While polygamist Muslims boast a robust birthrate, native Westerners are moving rapidly toward self-extinction. Filling that void are multiplied millions of Muslims who have little or no intention of assimilating into Western culture.

Equally grave is the specter of global Islamic jihadism. That is calling it like it is. A global Islamic jihadism network that is now exacting mass genocide on Christians in the East and ever-multiplying terrorist attacks throughout the West. Just before I went on air, I did an interview with the Associated Press. During that television interview, I wore a button, and that button has the fourteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet on it: ن. The reason I wear it, as I explained to the AP reporter, is that I stand in solidarity with Christians who are facing mass genocide in the Middle East, which is squarely in the blind spot of the West. This symbol, the fourteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet — we use the word “nūn”; that is how you pronounce it, to describe this letter — has been scrawled on churches and homes of Christians throughout the Middle East, as they have been taken by Muslims. It is not just ISIS; other people have been plundering the homes of Christians as well. So I wear this, although it is used as a term of derision by Muslims against Christians who serve the Nazarene, Jesus Christ. I wear it in that I am standing in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are being maimed and murdered. Most of them I will not see this side of eternity, but I will see them in eternity. What more can I say?

We are witnessing the cobelligerency of fantastically wealthy Saudis. They are spending billions of dollars exporting virulent Wahhabism to the West. We think about ISIS or ISOL or Daesh, or whatever you want to call it, the fact of the matter is we have an alliance — because we are addicted to the alliance’s oil — we have an alliance with Saudi Arabia, the very country that is exporting something equally as bad or perhaps worse than ISOL itself. Exporting this virulent form of Sunni Islam to the West.

Worse still, Western governments, academic institutions, and media outlets are bent on exporting a false narrative respecting the religious animus that is animating global Islamic jihadism. I hope when you hear the monikers that are used on television, you will insert these words, at least mentally in your mind, for what is really going on. The best moniker to use is not radical Islam; it is global Islamic jihadism. That of course serves to recapitulate a problem, but what begs our attention are solutions.

Some might suppose that the solution lies in an aggressive use of Western military power. Now, that is wholly necessary in some cases, just as World War II was wholly necessary, but it is not sufficient. Sebastian Gorka, who was part of the Trump administration until, I guess, he could not stand anymore the political correctness going on in this regard, he wisely noted that you cannot win a war if you cannot talk honestly about your enemy. I should also say that the problem is not ultimately fixed either at the ballot box, because, as with military might, political activism plays a necessary yet insufficient role. The despotism of militant egalitarianism, radical individualism, multiculturalism, political correctness, and religious pluralism are not magically redeemed by political victories. That ought to be pretty clear to us by now. Even during the Reagan Revolution, illiberal liberalism — I love that moniker because it shows just what we have to deal with: an oxymoron — illiberal liberalism continued, even during the Reagan years, to hold sway in the educational, entertainment, and environmental industries, the very industries that create, manipulate, and disseminate ideological constructs that are driving Western civilization in a very, very dangerous direction.

Again, that is why I wrote the book MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion. I am using the acronym MUSLIM so that you can remember, or get your arms around, what Islam is all about.

The only real solution to a disintegrating West, to a resurgent Islam, is what the prophetic pen of Os Guinness wisely designated renaissance. In other words, it is the power of the gospel, however dark the times. “The challenge,” said Guinness, “is to shake ourselves free from the natural despondency of those who look only at circumstances and at the statistics of decline and gloom.” As Christians, we do well to realize that the West has been one place before, and now it appears that the West has almost been lost a second time. Now partly in response to the courageous faith of those who have achieved it twice before, but more in response to the Great Commission itself, it is time, it is high time, to set our minds and hearts to win back the West to our Lord again.

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog adapted from the September 7, 2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Sally Quinn, Hexes, and the Truth about the Occult

Speaking about a true evaluation of things, I wish Sally Quinn had a true evaluation of things. I was reading USA Today, and the headline in huge, huge type was “Sally Quinn Has Cast 3 Hexes, and Worries They Worked.” She, of course, is a veteran journalist and founder of a website, ironically enough, called On Faith. She describes her lifelong belief in the occult, and worries that she once put hexes on people, and those hexes actually worked.

You read the article (it is in a question-and-answer format), and in response to questions, she pointed out that she has “psychic abilities.” She says, “My mother put hexes on two people,” and, boy, did they work; those people “died.” She said, “I saw her do it,” and then “when I was in my late 20s and early 30s, there were three people who hurt me in some way, or [hurt] somebody I loved, and so I decided to put a hex on them.” When she was asked, “How do you put a hex on someone?” She said, “There’s sort of a ritual. I light candles and music and fire and notes,” and she said, as a result, “one person died right away, another person got fired immediately and then died, and then the other one died right away.” Evidentially, two died instantaneously.

Quinn’s brother said to her, “You’ve really got to cut this out. This is bad karma,” and, “In some way, you have put out bad energy and it comes back at you threefold, and you’ve just have got to stop this.” When she heard that, she said, “I never did it again,” although she has been tempted. She says, “Believe me, since [Donald] Trump was elected, and since the election, I can’t tell you how many friends have asked me to put a hex on Donald Trump, and I won’t do it. I just said no. I don’t do that anymore.” In other words, she is not going to murder another person. It worked for her mother, did not have to use a knife, sword, didn’t have to use a gun. Just had to learn the ritual and use a hex.

The USA Today Q & A ends with her saying, “I…had this epiphany, which was that all of the things that I had believed in, all of the magic that I had believed in, was just as legitimate as organized religion, of Islam or of Judaism or of Catholicism, or of Protestantism. And it was just that it wasn’t organized in that way and that therefore didn’t have that respect….So I began to see that all religion was magic, and it is.” She also says, “I can’t understand that any God who was omniscient and all good could allow suffering, and that’s the big hurdle I have about a confessional God.”

I think it is important for us in light of Sally Quinn’s new book Finding Magic, it is instructive and incumbent upon us to discuss a couple of things. She does not believe in a confessional God because a confessional God would not allow suffering. What’s the Christian response? Secondly, she is involved in occult practices, or at least she was, and I think by looking at the title of her book (although I have not read it), she still is into the occult to some degree. She is just not killing people anymore with her hexes. It is a pretty disturbing thing, and we need to talk about the world of the occult as well. This is another example of why it is necessary for Christians to always be ready to give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within them and do that with gentleness and respect.

Now, what Sally Quinn is into is the world of the occult. I thought that I would spend a few moments talking about the world of the occult because this is one of the core values of the Christian Research Institute: to counter cults and this occultist kind of behavior Quinn’s involved in.

It is kind of interesting, even in the article she was not going to divulge all the secrets, and that is quite common because the actual idea in the Latin (i.e. occultus) has inculcated in it this idea of hidden or secret. But, of course, now she has taken the world of the occult, and it is no longer in the closet. It has been glamorized. Think about this: you don’t like someone; you can kill them. You do not even have to go to court. This kind of sorcery or magic is an attempt by occultists to harness paranormal powers for private purposes. What they do is they use these ritualistic formulas — Quinn talks about “candles and music and fire and notes” but doesn’t want to elaborate beyond that — they use spells, incantations. What they are trying to do is harness what they perceive to be the natural and spiritual powers of the universe in order to satisfy their own desires. Someone hurts you, someone does not love you as they should, you feel jilted? Well, put a hex on them, and then they will pay. It is just a matter of learning how to harness this power.

What does God say about that? First of all, God lets us know that it is lame. There is no real inherent power here. It is mythological. It is not real. But, God warns the Israelites that these very practices would inevitably lead to their downfall (Deut. 18:9–13). Not only that, but He rebuked the Babylonians. He rebuked them because they supposed that they could bypass His power through their many sorceries and potent spells (Dan. 2:1–23; Isa. 14:1–23). That is the germ of the issue. It is seeking another power other than God. It is trying to supplant the one who created the universe and stamped His imprimatur upon us with a counterfeit. In doing this, they are believing in a kind of spiritism that is completely bankrupt. Ouija boards, the crystal ball, the idea of conjuring up the dead, all of this is something God spoke out against very, very strongly warning those who practice spiritism by saying, “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists” (Lev. 20:6 NIV).

In the Bible, we see something very graphic in this regard. Sally Quinn really could not kill anybody with her hexes. That is delusional. God, however, has the power of life and death. You see in 1 Samuel 28, Saul — who was made the first king of Israel — turn from God to hexes, spiritualists, to the witch at Endor. As a result, he thinks that through a witch, he can get answers that he no longer wants to get from God. Remember, in the story, Samuel appears, and the witch is bewitched. She is absolutely terrified because she certainly was not expecting this. Samuel was raised from the dead not by an occult power, which would be impossible, but by God. That was done as a severe warning. You see that warning carried out in the life of Israel’s first king because with the warning came the result. Saul died (1 Sam. 31).

We should never turn to anyone but to the true and living God. The bottom line when it comes to spiritists is prostitution. When they are involved in that kind of prostitution, they end up cutting themselves off from all that is true, right, and good.

I was also very intrigued by Sally Quinn saying, “I can’t understand that any God who was omniscient and all good could allow suffering, and that’s the big hurdle I have about a confessional God.” This, of course, brings up one of the questions that is asked over and over again by those who disbelieve. That question is asked to those whom believe, and those who believe need to answer, and when they answer, they give a reason for the hope that lies within them, and hopefully they can do that with gentleness and with respect.

At first blush, when that question is asked — when you are asked the question about evil or suffering — there might seem to be as many responses as there are religions. In truth, there are only three: pantheism, philosophical naturalism, and theism.

Now pantheism, we get rid of the first two quickly; it denies the ultimate existence of good and evil. Why? Because in this view, God is all, and all is God.

What about philosophical naturalism? That is the worldview that undergirds evolutionism. Well, philosophical naturalism supposes that everything is a function of random material processes, and thus there can be no such things as good and evil in the ultimate sense.

Theism is the only possibility, and only Christian theism answers the question to suffering and evil in a satisfactory matter.

Let us boil this down to three things. First of all, freedom of choice. Christian theism acknowledges that God created the potential for evil when He created humans with freedom of choice. We choose to love or hate. We choose to do good or evil. The record of history bears eloquent testimony to the fact that humans of their own free will have actualized the reality of evil through their ungodly choices. God is not the author of evil. He created the potential for evil, but He did that by granting humans freedom of choice.

There is a second point. Without choice, love is meaningless. A lot of people do not like to hear this, but it is true. God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces His love on people nor a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love Him. Instead, God, who is the personification of love, grants us freedom of choice. Without freedom, we would be little more than preprogrammed robots.

The final point I would like to bring out in this regard is the fact that God creating the potential for evil by granting us freedom of choice is ultimately going to lead to the best of all possible worlds. It is going to lead to a world in which there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. Those who choose Christ will be redeemed from evil by His goodness and will forever be free from sin.

We live in a fallen, sin-cursed world, and many people suffer as a result of the sin not only of a cursed world but the sin of people. Lives are taken away by drunk drivers, by murderers. We should also recognize that the gravity that keeps us on the planet is the same gravity that enables fatal falls. In that, we realize that even natural disasters — we have just experienced in Houston, Texas, one of the worst devastations in the United States of America, hurricane Harvey and now hurricane Irma, looks like its sight’s set directly on Florida — and a lot of suffering can come out of that. In the midst of suffering, there has to be a word of encouragement. That word of encouragement is this: we look forward to a place, a universe, in which it no longer groans and travails but is liberated from its bondage to decay, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:18–25, and we too ourselves will be liberated. So we look forward to that which we do not yet have, and we expect it earnestly.

— Hank Hanegraaff

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, NKJV).

Apologetics

The Secret and Joel Osteen: An Even Greater Problem than American Christianity’s ABC moment.

We do live in an anything but Christian moment. Sometimes it has been called an “A-B-C” (anything but Christian) moment. It is a moment in human history in which we are not only being attacked in the West by a liberal liberalism but we are also being invaded, as it were, by militant Islam. The demographics alone are alarming. Perhaps there is even a greater problem, which is the problem of a church ill-equipped, and ill-prepared. A church that is gorging on empty calorie diets. A church that is no longer a leavening force within the culture. If there was ever a time in which the church needed to stand up and be counted, it is now.

Let me give you just a little anecdote. There was an article in USA Today entitled “How Conor McGregor’s Belief in Law of Attraction Will Help Him Beat Floyd Mayweather.” This of course was about the Floyd Mayweather vs. Connor McGregor fight which took place on Saturday. Connor McGregor talked about the law of attraction in this article. He said, “It is the most powerful thing in the world…the belief that you are able to create whatever situation that you want for yourself and no one can take it from you. It is believing something is already yours.” McGregor went on to say, “If you can see it here and you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen…you are creating that law of attraction and it will become reality.” Vocalizing desires then makes them real. McGregor predicted as a result of the law of attraction that he would win in just two rounds. He lost, of course, in the tenth round.

Now, that anecdote is interesting to me for this reason: it does not just come out of midair. It comes from a book that was a mega bestseller called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. She told the world that she had discovered the secret to life, and boy did the world take notice, Oprah Winfrey at the top of the list. What was the secret? The secret was the law of attraction. Rhonda Byrne got the law of attraction from the New Testament. She says it is quite easy; the New Testament gives it to us in “three simple steps”: ask, believe, receive. Then she goes on to point to herself as the principle example. In order to transform herself from fat to thin, she had a method; she thought thin thoughts. In fact, she said she did not so much look at fat people because if you see people who are overweight and observe them, that is going to be a negative consequence. She says as a result of the secret, “I now maintain my perfect weight of 116 pounds and I can eat whatever I want.” In other words, for her, the error was to think that food [i.e., overeating] was responsible for weight gain.

That kind of rhetoric, at first blush, may seem merely silly, but there is a clear and present danger in the reasoning. Just as her followers must avoid fat people for fear of becoming fat as well, they must avoid cancer victims for fear of contracting cancer or, for that matter, poor people for fear of becoming poor. In other words, you have to avoid the very people that Jesus exhorts us to care for. Do not even look at them, according to Rhonda Byrne.

What I found to be remarkable about Byrne is that she is remarkably open with respect to The Secret’s dark underbelly. She points out events in history where masses have been lost. Why? Again, the law of attraction. They attracted horror to themselves. Thoughts of fear can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “We are attracting everything to ourselves” and “There is no exception,” says Joe Vital, a law of attraction devotee. Thin thoughts produce thin bodies. On the other hand, six million Jews brought the horror of the Holocaust upon themselves. Or, think Houston. In Houston, there are millions of people attracting fifty-seven-trillion liters of floodwater to fall on Houston because they are thinking negative thoughts — at least that is the logical extension of her view.

For Rhonda Byrne, the jinni is the law of attraction, but this has metastasized, because it is not just being taught in the world under a quasi-Christian framework; it is being taught overtly in the church. In Houston, you have Joel Osteen. He is explaining that you have to begin speaking words of faith over your life; your words have enormous creative power; the moment you speak something out, you give birth to it, it is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative. When Osteen describes the genocide of nearly one million Rwandans, the implications are never far from the surface. Wherever and whenever tragedy strikes, words are at the center of the narrative. “Think about it,” exhorts Osteen in Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, “Your words go out of your mouth and they come right back into your own ears…and those words will produce exactly what you’re saying.” As proof, Osteen invokes the Bible. Says Osteen, “The Scripture tells us that we are to ‘call the things that are not as if they already were’” or were already in place. The problem here is he has taken a text, and he has distorted the text. He is quoting from Romans 4:17 and, as he must surely know, that text says nothing of the sort. It does say something of the sort, it is just that he has put a spin on it. The spin is that we are to call those things that are not as though they already were. But what does the Bible say? It says it is God who calls those things that are not as though they already were.

All of that ought to be a warning that we are within the church buying into a form of New Thought metaphysics carefully packaged for Christian consumption. Now the atheist world, the materialist world, looks at this and says, “See how easily Christians are misled! How gullible they are!” But, this is a caricature of Christianity. It is not the real thing.

What I am saying is this: yes, we face a threat from a liberal liberalism. Just think about the transgender movement. Now sex is no longer tied to biology. Think about gender fluidity. There are fifty-seven or more varieties now. Think about same-sex marriage. All of this is a threat to the historic Christian faith and to Western civilization. Then we have the demographic issue of millions and millions of self-aborting Europeans meaning that through the social structure now in vogue, the death rate exceeds the birthrate, and filling the vacuum (as vacuums are always filled) are millions and millions of polygamous Muslims. Yet, you wonder, somehow or other, how in the world could Islam be in bed with a liberal liberalism or vice versa? Does not seem to make much sense? But it does when you come to think about the reality that, right now as I speak, Christianity is seen as the obstacle that has for too long been dominant within Western culture, and it must be unseated. Now you have, as I said, strange bedfellows. In the midst of this milieu, a crumbling church and me talking to you on the Bible Answer Man broadcast saying, if you will be salt and light, you can exercise the power of one, and make a difference. And if you think the power of one is not significant, think Martin Luther. Or, think about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Or, in a negative sense, think about Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong or Pol Pot. We can make a difference, but it is not because words create reality; it is because we are called by God who does create reality to be empowered by the Spirit and to go out and make a difference while there is yet time.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following articles:

What Is The Secret? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Secret Revealed: Assessing the Latest Self-Help Phenomenon (Robert Velarde)

Osteenification and What It Portends (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity in Crisis, 21st Century: Wealth and Want (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity Still In Crisis: A Word of Faith Update (Bon Hunter)

What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 1): E. W. Kenyon and the Twelve Apostles of Another Gospel (Hank Hanegraaff)

What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 2): The Teachings of Kenneth Copeland (Hank Hanegraaff and Erwin M. de Castro)

God Is Love, but Is Love God? (Elliot Miller)

Addressing the ‘Positive Gospel’ of the Metaphysical Movement (Dean C. Halverson)

See also our e-store resources:

Christianity in Crisis, 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff

The Osteenification of America by Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the August 29, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.