Apologetics

What to Know about Urban Apologetics and Why It Matters

Black Hebrew Israelism is making significant inroads within America’s urban communities and is persistently one of the top five subjects visitors search on equip.org. Vocab Malone is one of a growing number of Christian apologists who seek to address many of the challenges faced by urban churches. His focus involves urban apologetics, worldview analysis, and pop culture. Vocab has done a number of debates and dialogues with Muslims, atheists, and Black Hebrew Israelites, and he has written for the Christian Research Journal. Hank Hanegraaff recently had a great discussion with Vocab Malone on the Hank Unplugged podcast. The following is a snapshot of that discussion.

Hank Hanegraaff: I have listened to some of the stuff you have done with Black Hebrew Israelism. This is a topic that is transcendently important, and we are going to cash that out, but I love the fact that you have a focus on urban apologetics. This is not apologetics proper; rather, this is a particular species of apologetics, and you have to get primed for this pump.

Vocab Malone: This is true. You know it has been around; Lemuel Haynes way back during the Revolutionary era was a Black pastor, actually, of a White congregation, which is substantial if you think about it back then in the United States, and he tackled universalism. He was doing apologetics in his context as a Black pastor. You’ve got guys who have come out with loud voices, like Tom Skinner, who have touched some of these issues, and Carl Ellis, Jr., who may not be a familiar name but should be to a lot of people. So, here I am just sort of on the train, but, here is the thing, a lot of these did not come to the forefront of other people’s attention outside of an urban context until the Internet, and now here we are in a new era. As far as specifically Hebrew Israelism within a context of urban apologetics, there has really been no Christian response, for the most part, for decades.

Hank: This is something that is really important. There is a whole segment of the American population that is being pulled into what I think you can rightly call a cult.

Vocab: I do. Let me tell you something real briefly, which I think you will find fascinating. One of the largest groups of this variety is called IUIC (Israel United in Christ), and they are the most successful organization out of all the camps — that’s what they call themselves, camps — they are starting to take a page from the playbook of the Church of Scientology. They won’t debate any of us. They won’t engage us on the streets for the most part. What they are doing though now is flagging YouTube videos and threatening legal action — sometimes veiled, other times not so much veiled — against the apologists who are starting to criticize their doctrine. I think you are going to see that type of behavior grow from some of the more successful camps. Basically, a lot of them play down and dirty, not all of them, but a lot of them do play that way.

Hank: This is not some kind of a fringe movement, either. I mean, if you think about the movement as a whole, there are some incredibly influential people who are involved, like Kendrick Lamar.

Vocab: Yes, Kendrick Lamar is a platinum rap artist. He is sort of the thinking millennial’s rapper. (You know, I’m a hip hop fan. I kind of cut my teeth listening to Christian hip hop.) There is an intellectual component to what Kendrick does, but he always had this kind of Christian glaze over it, which some people took as a hopeful sign, right? Well, he has taken a turn straight into the doctrine of Hebrew Israelism to the point where his last album title — which, again, we are talking a platinum album, right — this thing was titled DAMN. Its concept was that Black Americans are damned by God because they are not keeping the law, statutes, and commandments; therefore, they are suffering the curses according to Deuteronomy 28 because they are the true Israelites.

Hank: What I am really interested in, before we get into all of that, I’m interested in you. How did you get involved in the Christian faith? How did you get involved in urban apologetics? What spurred you on? What was the impetus for all this?

Vocab: Sorry, yeah, I jumped the gun.

Hank: No. Perfect. I do want to get back to this, but I think people really want to know who you are. You said you cut your teeth on hip hop, for example, I mean that was a passion for you?

Vocab: Yeah. When I was in the fourth grade, I got transferred to this different school. On the first day at the school, during show-and-tell, a kid stood up and did an acapella rap, and I was just floored. Ever since then, I was just floored, and the kids at school who were popular were not the athletes, believe it or not, it was the kids who could beatbox and rap.

Pretty early on, someone actually introduced me to Christian hip hop. Really, my main influences are actually Christian hip hop. I’ve got to tell you, you know, there is some silly stuff in it, but it was really saturated with the Word and a strong evangelistic impulse. So, of course, I had begun doing Christian hip hop myself (you know a very mediocre attempt) but what it led to were conversations in urban contexts, as I would be out and about rapping in different churches and on the block.

What does that lead to? Objections! These are not the objections that your average mainstream evangelical hears all the time. Because, all of a sudden, you hear, “Well, that is for White people.” “That’s a White people’s religion.” “Why do you have that picture of Jesus portrayed when He was not a White man?” “What do you say about the justification of slavery by Christians?” I got a slew of questions like that and even getting into the idea of Christianity is really a rip off of ancient African religion, which is an idea that is now resurgent. I was hearing all of this, and that led me to further study, because I did not want to just talk, I wanted to know. Believe it or not, the way I basically got into apologetics is by beginning off conversations rapping to people. It really began rapping to people, the conversations, to wanting to know what I was talking about, that is why I ended up in seminary, and now after being a retired rapper — I do not really do that anymore, except when the kids want to have some fun — now I am really trying to take all that and bring it to bear, realizing it is a huge field. My specialty is on one area of concern and need, out of many.

Hank: You know, I think this is one of the coolest things I have heard in a long time. You got into apologetics exactly how someone ought to get into apologetics. You got involved in rapping, rapping Christian stuff, then people hear the Christian stuff, as a result, they start asking questions, as a result of them asking questions, you start finding answers to the questions, and in the process, you become an apologist, an urban apologist at that!

Vocab: I never would have guessed when I was in the fourth grade and saw that kid stand up and do that acapella rap during show-and-tell that this was the journey that the Lord would lead me on, but here I am. The beauty of it is the Internet is bringing a lot of young Christian urban apologists together, and some of the churches are starting to wake up. There are starting to be conferences that specialize in urban apologetics. Now, it is still few and far between; by and large, the church is asleep to a lot this unfortunately, but they are starting to hemorrhage members. Yes, some of it is because of the secularization of the culture, but a lot of it has to do with these new alternative urban spiritualities that are populating the city landscape. I don’t really think the churches in those contexts by and large are paying attention. There are exceptions: Eric Mason in Philadelphia, and a number of other men I could name, and I do think it is increasing, but there is a bigger problem that is being recognized right now, because the millennials are extremely dissatisfied with the current state of the church and they are turning to these new alternative urban religions within a city context.

Hank: Yeah, I think this is really fantastic. I mean, you are hitting on a note that needs to be sung pretty loud and clear. It is a clarion call for the church. We are talking about the church being infiltrated, and in many ways, as you point out, people are leaving the church in droves, but the people in the church do not know what the heck is going on. They are whistling as they walk past the grave yard. There is a big attrition going on because we cannot answer the objections that have been raised. This is particularly significant in the urban church, and we know at the Christian Research Institute how significant it is because if you look at the interest in Black Hebrew Israelism, the interest is absolutely staggering. We are bombarded with requests for just one article that we wrote in the Christian Research Journal, and even that is just scratching the surface of a pandemic that is stripping the urban church of its Christian witness.

Vocab: This is correct. I mentioned IUIC earlier. They are what we in the field call a 1 West variety of Hebrew Israelism. That is a certain sect kind of along the lines of Salafi Islam (an ultra-conservative sect of Sunnis); however, there are also different mainstream varieties of Hebrew Israelism. There has actually been a number of churches (these would be traditional Black churches a lot of times, some small, others bigger) who are either grafting this theology into their ministry, and it is really changing the whole character and nature of their church, or there have even been a couple of cases, I thought it was a hoax at first, where pastors were actually handing over their keys to these camp leaders in these Hebrew Israelite cult groups and basically pledging allegiance to some of their leaders.

I will be very specific, one is called ISUPK (Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge). There is a video where the pastor hands over his keys and at the end of it, he stands in formation with the other “soldiers” and gives a salute to the commanding general Yahanna, who is the authority of ISUPK. Granted, that was a smaller church, but some of these bigger churches are sort of having a fusion of traditional Black church Christianity, evangelical theology, and Hebrew Israelism. The end result is not really Hebrew, Israelite, or Christian; rather, it is a mess. It is almost like some kind of modern mainstream version of the old-school Ebionite heresy. Some people may be listening and thinking, “Only a fool would get suckered into this based on what I know of it.” Don’t speak so quick, because the moral needs, the felt needs, is what I mean by that, and some of the existential crisis going on in the urban community are leading people to have open minds about ideas like Hebrew Israelism, and we’ve got to take that into account.

Hank: You mentioned this whole idea of someone falling back into the ranks of the soldiers. When you watch this on YouTube or on television, you can even listen to it on the radio, or if you are actually there in the urban communities hearing the rhetoric, this is very militant. This is martial stuff.

Vocab: Yes. The camps tend to be organized along those terms. If you noticed, I mentioned the leader of ISUPK, he calls himself General Yahanna. He is not an elder or pastor; he is a general. Then one of the main men under him is a man named Captain Tazaryach. They wear military black boots, cargo black pants, lots of times a black leather jacket, some kind of shirt with the Star of David all over it, then spikes and studs in gauntlets on their arms, and different types of headbands, which look like something from an old-school Bible movie or something. It looks wild, but it is a uniform to folks, and it is bringing order where people are seeing chaos, so people are gravitating toward it. They feel like it gives them meaning and purpose. Lots of people describe the process wherein they realize they are a “Hebrew Israelite,” and they call it waking up. That is the way they describe it.

Hank: Lots of people listening in are going to say, “What in the world is a Black Hebrew Israelite?” Give us some kind of an idea about the origins of this movement. It is obviously multifaceted, not monolithic, but share about some of the leaders like Frank Cherry and William S. Crowdy, along with how all this got started.

Vocab: Back in 1896, the first known for certain documented case of someone who would be called an African American saying that they are actually an Israelite was Crowdy. He was out chopping some wood, got this vision, and the vision said, “You know, you are actually an Israelite, and you are a descendent of Abraham.” He was scared, but basically, he went around the country preaching this, and his earliest followers were both Black and White. He did not have the exclusion aspect that some of the more modern groups have, where they not only say that African Americans are the true biblical Hebrew Israelites, and as a corollary, the Jews in Israel and whatnot, are all frauds, but lots of these modern groups say you can be saved only if your lineage can be found on their twelve tribes chart. So, the Chinese whom they call Moabites — I know it is ridiculous, I am just telling you what they say because they have their own table of nations chart — the Japanese whom they call Ammonites, White people or European descendants are Edomites, Arabs whom they call Ishmaelites, and Indians from India, all those folks are doomed to a lifelong eternal slavery when Yahawashi (that is what they call Jesus) returns. The only groups under this particular rubric of Hebrew Israelism who can be saved are Native Americans, Black Americans, and Hispanics. That is one particular brand. However, there are lots of other branches of Hebrew Israelites that believe you can be grafted in, but they still practice a form of ethnic hierarchy within their ecclesiastical structure. A great example of the more inclusive is Israel of God out of Chicago. They are probably one of the biggest churches of the Hebrew Israelite variety around; they have a 6,000-seat church, and they are moderate, believing that so-called Gentiles can be grafted in; however, they cannot teach Israelites, so there is still an ethnic hierarchy even among the nicer groups.

Listen to the full interview here.

For further related reading, please see:

The Origin and Insufficiency of the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement (Jimmy Butts)

Christian Hip-Hop: A Generation’s Words (John K. Wells)

Christianity and Black Slavery (Jeffrey B. Russell)

Putting Race in Biblical Perspective (Jemar Tisby)

Is Christian Orthodoxy Strong in the Black Church? (Jerry Buckner)

What’s Wrong with Black Theology? (La Shawn Barber)

 

Apologetics

What makes the resurrection of Jesus so significant to Christianity?

Dr. Gary Habermas is one of the foremost defenders of the historical Jesus and the Resurrection, the crux of Christianity. He is the Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has authored or coauthored more than three dozen books and has been a visiting professor at more than a dozen graduate schools.

Dr. Habermas was recently a guest on two episodes of Hank Unplugged. The following dialogue is adapted from that discussion.

Hank Hanegraaff: Let’s look at comparative religions. There is just nothing on the landscape like Christianity. So often people have this idea that you are going to find facsimiles of the Resurrection in other religions; however, that is not the case. In fact, the more you look, the less there is for the historicity of the other religious figures in some cases, and in the main there is no good reason for believing that what people are giving their lives to, or what they have believed to be reality, has any validity at all.

Gary Habermas: That is right. In fact, my teaching assistant, who is a PhD candidate, and I just finished two articles. One of them is for the Christian Research Journal. The other for another publication. For both, I was asked to write an article on the uniqueness of Christianity vis-à-vis other religions. We list about six things that are really different, all of which surround the nature of the gospel. You are so right in that comment.

In fact, if I could expand it just a little bit. All religions have what you might call negative apologetics. They will say, “You are a loser,” “you are wrong,” “that is not correct;” however, no other faith, including Judaism, no other religion has what we would call positive evidences, wherein they could say, “My faith is true for these reasons,” and really give solid reasons. When I give a lecture on this subject, about what is true about religion and what is not, I give a list of about ten reasons, and four of them are simply true of religion in general. For example, intelligent design. You could say, “I’m a Buddhist, and I think the universe is designed also.” You can also talk about near-death experiences, and a person can say, “I’m a Hindu and my uncle had a near-death experience.” That is for religion in general. But, six of the ten evidences are evidences that indicate Christianity specifically is true. To my knowledge, other religions do not have this empirical, measurable data that says, “Our faith is true because of this, this, and so on.” You are exactly right. The Resurrection heads the list for Christianity.

Hank: Take me through the progression on how things have changed in the academy since the time of your PhD work to the present in terms of how the Resurrection is viewed.

Gary: Sure. You know what? That is a tricky question, because oftentimes when I do this general lecture on the Resurrection, which I have given something like two thousand times, I will talk about differences just like that. I tell them when I was in graduate school (you talk about our ages); I was finishing my PhD when I was still quite young. I finished my PhD when I was twenty-five years old. I was twenty-one years old in graduate school when I started my MA. If I were to say in my grad classes in those days, “Hey, you know what? I believe Jesus did miracles,” “I believe the tomb was empty,” or “I believe He appeared in bodily form to His followers,” if I were to say one of those three things (Jesus did miracles; tomb was empty; He appeared bodily), my classmates would probably judge, whether or not they said so in public, that they just heard from a guy that is either an evangelical or a conservative Catholic. This is, at least at our university. I have my master’s degree from a Catholic university. They might say, “Oh, yeah, he must be studying for the priesthood or something. Well, only conservatives believe those things.”

Today, I will give you a rundown on all three of them. Jesus is a miracle worker. Where is that? It has been said in books that 100 percent, though that is not quite true, but some of the research books today say that 100 percent of schools believe that Jesus did miracles, at least healing miracles and exorcisms. He either did the ones in the Gospels, or things just like them. In other words, maybe instead of feeding five-thousand, he fed three-thousand, but that thing happened. Miracles are “in” today.

Empty tomb. Where are we on that? Empty tomb is held by about 75 percent of scholars today, whereas when I was in school, it might have been 20 percent.

Lastly, what about the view that Jesus was raised in bodily form, not just some sort of wispy or ghostly sort of form? The majority view today is that Jesus appeared, and that He appeared bodily. A recent survey I did a few years ago, less than one in four critical scholars now come up with naturalistic theories to explain away the Resurrection. In my headcount, this was very unofficial, but in the little headcount I did, it was like 23 to 24 percent who come up with naturalistic theories. Naturalistic theories are kind of ignored today. This is kind of a day when the supernatural is “in.” Yet, so many say, “I’m Buddhist.” This is surely a popular thing, and you can be a Buddhist while not being really conservative, so people do not go, “Oh, really?” Rather, they just go, “Huh, yep, go right on.” But if you say, “I am a conservative Christian,” you will get screamed at.

The field is changing to answer your question. Belief in the supernatural is way up. Personal belief in miracles, personal belief in the afterlife, 70 percent, 80 percent, and sometimes 90 percent.

Hank: You alluded to this already, but I think it will be good for people listening in to get just an idea, a flavor, of why we are so passionately supporting the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You think about the quintessential text, 1 Corinthians 15, when Paul says,

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (vv. 3-8 NIV).

The first thing that strikes me is that Paul is receiving something and passing it on. It turns out that he is passing along a creedal statement that can be traced all the way back to the Messiah’s murder. How significant is it that Paul is talking about something that has no time whatsoever for legendary corruption?

Gary: It is extremely important. Critics, even those who are Jesus Seminar members (that may not be a phrase a lot of your listeners know about, but the Jesus Seminar is the group that throw the beads in the hat, and if you count the so-called red-letter words of Jesus, based on how the colors of the beads are counted, they reject between 80-90 percent of Jesus’ red-letter words, the sayings. They say Jesus did not say those things), well, there are Jesus Seminar scholars, I am thinking of one right now whose is very prominent, he calls that, as many of them do, he calls that phrase (1 Corinthians 15:3–8) a pre-Pauline utterance.

Someone can say, “Well, of course it is pre-Pauline; Paul said he got it from somebody else.” But, I am saying something a little bit different. Paul is saying he got it from somebody else. Okay, yep, that is for sure; however, pre-Pauline means when Paul was on the way to Damascus and met the risen Jesus, that creed was already in existence. If you call it pre-Pauline, you mean it was there when Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor.

If Paul’s conversion is, as it is often dated, one to three years after the cross — if you date the cross at AD 30, some say AD 33, but if you date the cross at AD 30, Paul’s conversion is at AD 31–33 — that creed was already there between AD 30 and the date of the conversion. Some of the leading critics will put that creed back at about AD 30. James D. G. Dunn, who’s as influential as any historical Jesus scholar today, says that creed was already formalized within a few months of the cross.

The way I like to think of it is we’re pretty accurate. We [are not certain of the year] of the death of Jesus, but the Resurrection happened in spring of that year. If He was raised from the dead, let us say in March (this year it is April), if He was raised from the dead in March or April, and if Dunn is right, that creed was in existence within a few months. This means by the time that year ended, AD 30, the creed already existed. That is how early it was.

The fact that it came down through several people who were witnesses — three of the six groups there — three of the six appearances that Paul lists — they are groups. This is very important. Groups do not hallucinate. This one sentence is very, very early, and very, very significant. It is real history.

Listen to part 1 of the Hank Unplugged episode with Gary Habermas here.

Listen to part 2 of the Hank Unplugged episode with Gary Habermas here.

More articles from Gary Habermas:

When Religious Doubt Grows Agonizing

Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: HALLUCINATION the Recent Revival of Theories

Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels

See also the following estore offers:

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (B8909) by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona

In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History (B1086) edited by Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas

 

Apologetics

Why Is It So Hard to Call Out Margaret Sanger on Eugenics?

Author and social critic Mary Eberstadt had a wonderful conversation with Hank Hanegraaff on the secularist religion birthed by the sexual revolution, and the real duplicity in the way it turned yesterday’s sinners into modern-day secular saints — Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger being a prime example. The following dialogue is adapted from their conversation.

Hank Hanegraaff: If you look at this whole idea of a secularist religion, there are high priestesses that come to mind, such as Gloria Steinem, Margaret Mead, and certainly Margaret Sanger. I want to single out Sanger for a moment because she was a person who was very much on the vanguard of the eugenics movement. Today, we have a new hypereugenics movement afoot. I was reading a couple months ago about what is going on in Iceland, where they are now declaring themselves to be almost 100 percent Down-syndrome-baby free. They’ve almost eradicated Down syndrome babies through abortion. They suppose this to be some great thing and laude it as a step forward. In fact, Richard Dawkins, probably the most influential materialist on the planet today, says that it is immoral to bring a Down syndrome child into the world. So, we have this new move toward a hypereugenics movement that eradicates those who are thought to be unfit in society; and in their place, we are looking toward designer babies.

Mary Eberstadt: Yes. There is an implicit cruelty, to say nothing of a lack of diversity in one’s outlook, that would wipe children like that from the face of the earth. I’m so glad you brought up Margaret Sanger. We live in a moment where there are upset, agitated groups who want to pull down statues of Confederates, and they are making their argument in the public square. I am glad that they are. They are not just making emotive appeals; they are making arguments about how things have changed, and how we have developed morally as a people. So, whatever you think of their case, it is astonishing to me that Margaret Sanger hasn’t been torn down from her podiums all over America.

As a matter of fact, consider this: Planned Parenthood, for years and years, gave annual awards (the last ones I think were in 2015) called the Maggies, and they were named for Margaret Sanger. They were given to journalists who had written pro-choice pieces, and to other figures who had somehow come into the pro-choice fold.

Alright, let us look at this for a minute. Margaret Sanger was unflinching in her insistence on the inferiority of certain other people. She wanted to keep down the numbers of certain other people. She believed very much that there were fit people and unfit people. But, guess what? Fit people looked like her, and unfit people looked like, well, fill in the blank. So, it is very hard to understand why she gets a pass in a moment of extra attention to racism and extra moral sensitivity to racism in America’s past, when she was the embodiment of this kind of eugenics thinking.

What we are seeing is that in any other context, besides defending the sexual revolution, nobody would be getting away with this; but Margaret Sanger is getting away with it because she is a paragon of the sexual revolution, and she is the equivalent of a secular saint. I think people who stand against what she stood for should be proud of themselves, and I think that those of us who do are on the right side.

Hank: You know what is really interesting about this? I have looked into this over the years. Eugenics has been a huge, huge issue in the United States of America. Talk about a really virulent evil in America, and there have been many, but this is at the top of the list. But, the odd thing about it is this: eugenics was considered progressive prior to World War II in universities such as Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard. This was considered very, very progressive. Pro-eugenics legislation was passed in blue states ranging from California to New York. You had prestigious people on this bandwagon — not just Margaret Sanger. They had bought into an ideology that said that the unfit were affecting the genepool such that the fit did not survive as well, and so the only thing that we can do is to make sure that we got rid of those that were unfit. Moreover, as you correctly said, the unfit were oftentimes people that did not look like the stereotypical American. They were Blacks. They were Jews. They were people who had some kind of a physical malady. But this was something that was orthodoxy within America, and it really did not see its demise, at least for a while, until it reached full bloom in the genocidal German death camps. Then it vanished into the night, and nobody wants to say that they had any association with this eugenics movement. We are quietly paying reparations for the harm that we did, particularly to the Black community, and we, for example, are doing that in North Carolina. But, most people do not want to own up to the fact that this was an ideology that was uncritically bought into that devastated lives, and we are now seeing history repeat itself in other places.

Mary: Yes, once again, Christianity should get some credit for being on the right side of that issue. It is Christianity, infused with Judaism, that taught humanity that all human beings are equal in the sight of God. That is a revolutionary idea. Christianity, correctly applied, should get some credit for that insight. Eugenics was not some kind of Christian thing. It was a progressive thing, as you correctly pointed out. When progressives today wonder why there are people who are “standing on the wrong side of history,” it is because we do not want to be standing wherever they are standing, certainly not in the case of eugenics.

Similarly, Hank, I think Christianity gets such a bad rap for being bad on women somehow, but it was Christianity that introduced the very idea that men and women were morally equal — so morally equal that consent was required for marriage. This is a very early Christian idea and it is revolutionary. Were there equal outcomes? No, of course not. Were there equal economic statuses throughout history? No. But the idea that a woman’s soul was just as important as a man’s and that it would be jeopardized if she could not freely consent to marriage, and the marriage would be invalid without both parties freely willing it, this is a fantastic liberating idea. It is among the most liberating ideas ever to appear in humanity, and that’s a Christian idea.

Part of what I am trying to say is this. I think, for reasons we all understand, a lot of traditional believers have been in a defensive crouch because they were not expecting how ferocious the winds against them would become; they were not expecting all these religious liberty cases suddenly proliferating across the land; and they were not expecting they would not be able to practice their faith without public ostracism. But the defensive crouch is not the answer when what you are in possession of are truths that other people are losing sight of that have been a boon to humanity. So be proud of standing on the right side of the eugenics discussion. Be proud of standing against what Margaret Sanger and all other people like her stood for. I think we can be emboldened — without patting ourselves on the back — to know some of the good that Christianity has done out there in the world.

This blog was adapted from “The Sexual Revolution with Mary Eberstadt,” which originally aired on episode 18 of Hank Unplugged. To listen to the full interview, click here.

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

Margaret Sanger: “No Gods, No Masters” (Bob Perry)

How the West Really Lost God (Mary Eberstadt)

Sex, Lies, and Secularism (Nancy Pearcy)

Sex, Lies, and Christianity: Reclaiming Biblical Sexuality (Melanie Cogdill)

Mary Eberstadt is author of It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. Her writing has appeared in TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, National Review, First Things, and The Weekly Standard, and in March 2017, she was named Senior Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute.

Apologetics

How to Have Hope in Spite of the Wilting Flower of Christianity in the West?

 

Earlier this year, Hank Hanegraaff had an illuminating conversation with best-selling author and social critic Os Guinness, which was released as an episode of the Hank Unplugged podcast. The following is a portion adapted from the conversation wherein they talked about remaining hopeful in spite of the reality of “wilting flower Christianity” in the West.

Hank Hanegraaff: In what many consider is your magnum opus, Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, you talk about our age as quite simply the greatest opportunity for Christian witness since the time of Jesus and the Apostles. There is a wide door that Saint Paul wrote about, and it has now been reopened for the gospel, yet that seems so counterintuitive. I think about the world today, and I say, “Wow, we are in desperate need of renaissance, but I do not see any signs of it.” You’re saying that the age in which we live is the most open door for the gospel ever.

Os Guinness: We are the first global faith in the world. Globalization, you could put it that way, is almost in the DNA of the Christian faith, going right back to the promise of the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 12. Today, we are the first truly global faith. We are not doing well in America, and in much of the West, but as we look toward the future with the unprecedented challenges of artificial intelligence, singularity, and things like that, only the Christian faith has answers to some of these titanic questions. I say this is the grand age of apologetics, and we need to get out there persuasively so that people can really hear the good news, and not in some simplistic way but in a way that genuinely answers the challenges that are being raised to humanity.

Hank: You talk about the power of creative persuasion in making a case for the gospel to people who seemingly couldn’t care less.

Os: Yes, you are right. In this country, we’ve got more bitter opposition and hostility than ever in American history, and of course many people are just apathetic. But I think it is a great moment because, as you know well, the alternative answers are visibly failing and many of them are profoundly dangerous. I am just in the middle of another book on the topic of freedom. If you think, “America is the land of the free,” Saint Augustine says you understand a nation by what it loves supremely, and it is no question that America’s supreme love is freedom. But how do you ground it? You cannot go to the Eastern religions. They talk about freedom, but it is a way of renouncing this world. When you look at atheism and agnosticism, they look at naturalistic science, whether it is B. F. Skinner, J. B. Watson, or Sam Harris; for them freedom is an illusion. The fact is, our atheist friends, who form a huge number of people in the intelligentsia in this country, cannot ground freedom, and you cannot apart from the Scriptures — the Jewish and Christian understanding.

Hank: It seems to me that we are at a tipping point. I was in Singapore a couple of times last year and I thought about Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Singapore, who talked about how all civilization is essentially fragile. You have written about this in a number of your books: this tipping point in history where we think that we are invincible. But if we look back at the bleached bones of those who have gone before us, like the Roman Empire and many other civilizations, we recognize afresh that our civilization can fade if we do not ultimately become salt and light in this world. You pointed out that there are a number of threats. There is the threat of an illiberal liberalism, on the one hand; and you have the encroaching threat of Islam, on the other hand. But you think that there is a far greater threat, and perhaps that threat is that while pagans are exercising their job description, Christians are not.

Os: That is right. One way of putting it would be looking at this third threat as the scandal of the American church. The church is not strong anywhere in the West, except the United States and Poland are numerically strong. In most of the other countries, the church is a tiny minority. But the scandal of the American church is that we are a huge majority of the American people, and yet tiny groups like Jews or gays and lesbians — they are less than 2 percent of America — each of them has far more influence — they punch above their weight — than Christians do. The American church is simply not the salt and light. The simple fact is the American church is weak culturally because it is profoundly worldly. It has been effectively assimilated.

Hank: We are no longer cultural change agents; we have become conformed to the culture itself.

Os: Exactly, to put it mildly. This is a real tragedy, and that is why we need reformation and revival. Almost weekly you see sad examples of the ineffectual character of the church compared with other groups. As a culture at large, I call it a cut flower civilization.

If you look at many of the great features of our Western Civilization — human dignity, freedom, justice, equality, and all sorts of things like this — they are actually rooted, most of them, not in Greek ideas (some of them are), certainly not in Latin or Roman ideas, they are rooted in the gospel and the Scriptures at large. Yet, for two-hundred years since the Enlightenment, the West has decisively cut those roots, and now the flower is fast fading.

Hank: One of the reasons I love your books is that there is an optimism in them. On the one hand, you are very candid about the issues you just talked about: cut flower Christianity. That metaphor itself seems to indicate that Christianity in the West cannot last. Yet you do believe in the power of one. You do believe in the fact that twelve men changed the world. Therefore, Christianity not only can survive but thrive. But you also point out the problems in the Global South, which are very, very real. I have spent a lot of time in myriad places in the Global South, and there you see tumbleweed Christianity — Christianity without root. I think in one of your books you wrote about the fact that many people in the Global South are just one unanswered prayer away from reverting to animism, Buddhism, or ancestor worship and the like. When you look at the big scope of things, it seems like a problem that cannot be fixed. Yet, in all of your books, there is a resounding optimism.

Os: That is right. I hope that is so. You can put it two ways. The sort of way to put it in the public discussion is that while many of the generalizations about culture or about the church are rather negative and discouraging, it is the exceptions that are really inspiring. Generalizations are often rather gloomy, but thank God for individuals, and thank God for new initiatives. Something wonderful in the last twenty years is the International Justice Mission, one of the premiere human rights groups in the world today. It grew under Gary Haugen. Examples like this are magnificently encouraging.

On the theological and spiritual level, I believe that we should be as realistic as we can be. Look at the facts in the white of the eye and at the same time always respond with Christian hope, never with fear. Fear is the predominant world emotion. The whole globalized world is interconnected, nobody is really in charge, and people are very afraid, but the refrain of the gospel is Have no fear. With the Lord’s sovereignty, we should never be afraid and however dark the times, we move out with hope. I think this is an imperative for all Christians.

Listen to the full Hank Unplugged interview here (scroll through the list to “Living in a Post-Truth World with Os Guinness”).

Recommended books by Os Guinness:

Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion

Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times (B2002)

Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance (B720)

Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror (B823)

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (B638)

Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization (B2028)

 

Apologetics

Does Christianity Offer a Higher or Lower View of the Body?

Hank Hanegraaff: Paradigms allow us to see only what our paradigms allow us to see. We don’t think so much about our paradigms as we think with our paradigms. As Christians, we have unwittingly adopted bad paradigms. It is not just the culture that needs to be liberated; it is Christianity that needs to be liberated from its own cultural captivity.

Nancy Pearcey: That’s right. When we talk about these issues that I address in Love Thy Body, we’re looking at moral issues like abortion, assisted suicide, homosexuality, and transgenderism. In the book, I am very concerned to help people understand the secular paradigms because so many Christians are adopting or absorbing those paradigms without even knowing it. In particular, I talk about the view of the body, as you might guess from the title. I show that the secular view of the body is a very low view of the dignity, value, and purpose of the body; that Christians have absorbed that as well; and that it is not biblical.

The response I am getting from a lot of readers is, “I picked up this book because I thought I’d get some handy arguments against the secular view, and instead it’s transforming me and my understanding of the body and how it relates to these moral issues?” You’re right. It really hits both sides. It helps people be equipped to understand our secular culture and respond more effectively, but to do that it requires also a transformation of our own thinking.

HH: It is critical for Christians to learn to think Christianly and to develop a Christian worldview. Oftentimes, we embrace other worldviews without recognizing that we have embraced the very water in which we swim. The culture in which we love. Expand on that.

NP: Yes. Let’s take maybe the most hot button issue for Christians — homosexuality. Even conservative churches are dividing over this issue. Young people are having a hard time saying what’s wrong with it.

What I help people to see is that homosexuality assumes a very low view of the body. People say, “We should accept homosexuals because we want to be loving.” If you want to be loving, you want to help them to see that the view itself is very dehumanizing and very negative. For example, here is how I would unpack that: no one really denies that biologically, physiologically, anatomically, males and females are counterparts to one another. That’s just how the human sexual and reproductive system is designed. What happens when you embrace a same-sex identity, then? Well, implicitly you’re contradicting that design. Implicitly you are saying, “Why should the structure of my body inform my identity? Why should my sexed body have any say in my moral choices?” Well, that’s a profoundly disrespectful view of the body. The implication is, what counts is, not whether I’m biologically male or female but just my feelings, my desires, my mind, that nonphysical part of me. As a result, it has a very fragmenting impact on a human personality. It’s self-alienating. It’s alienating people from their own bodies.

Those who defend a biblical view of sexuality are not relying on a few scattered Bible verses. What we are promoting is a teleological worldview. Teleology means it has a purpose. We are saying that the structure of your body has a purpose and that it reflects a divine purpose. As a result, it encourages people to live in harmony with their biological sex and leads to a holistic integration of personality.

This gives us a chance to prove the biblical ethic not simply in negative terms — “it’s a sin,” “don’t do it,” “thou shalt not” — which is true, but it is not complete. It gives us a chance to communicate in a positive way. We have a higher view of the body. We have a high view of the dignity and value of the body. We are encouraging people to have a much more positive view of their body instead of the negative one implied by the homosexual narrative.

HH: What is interesting about what you said is that, in reality, so many people in the secular culture presuppose Christianity itself has a low view of the body.

NP: Yes. In fact, I’m getting that pushback from some of my critics. They say, “Wait a minute, it’s Christianity that has a low view of the body that focuses on the next world.”

The problem is that many Christians are out of touch with their own heritage. If you look back to when Christianity started, the early church was surrounded by world-denying philosophies, like Platonism and Gnosticism. They treated the material world as a place of death, decay, and destruction. In fact, in Gnosticism, which taught that there were many levels of deities, the world was created by a very low-level deity, even an evil deity, because, after all, no self-respecting god would get his hands dirty mucking about with matter.

In this context, Christianity was revolutionary. It taught that, no, it was the highest God, the supreme deity, who created this material world, and — what’s more — He pronounced it “very good” (Gen. 1:31). An even greater scandal was the Incarnation. The very idea that God Himself would enter the material world and take on a human body that was totally rejected by Gnosticism. The incarnation is the ultimate affirmation of the dignity of the human body.

Finally, at the end of time, is God going to scrap the material world as if He made a mistake the first time? No! The Bible teaches He is going to renew and restore this world. He is going to create a new heaven and a new earth, which is why the Apostles’ Creed affirms the resurrection of the body. This is an astonishingly high view of the physical world. There’s nothing else like it in any other philosophy or religion.

Love Thy Body, my book, gives people the tools to go beyond the negative message and to deploy positive arguments, showing that a biblical ethic is more appealing, more attractive, and more compelling than any secular ethic.

This blog is adapted from the February 10, 2018, Bible Answer Man broadcast in which Hank Hanegraaff interviewed Nancy Pearcey. Listen to the entire interview on the Hank Unplugged podcast (scroll through the list of episodes to the title “Love Thy Body with Nancy Pearcey”).

Apologetics

Is Hell a Torture Chamber?

What about books, tracts, movies, YouTube videos, and pictures depicting Satan and demons torturing sinners in hell? Wasn’t hell created as a place of punishment for the Devil and his demons?

The Devil and fallen angels are not going to be caretakers of hell; rather, they are going to be incarcerated in hell. This is very clear in the Scriptures, including passages such as Matthew 25:41 and Revelation 20:10–15. The premise to the question is absolutely right — hell was created as a place of punishment for the Devil and his demons.

Another thing that needs to be pointed out is this: hell is not torture. It may be torment, but it is not torture. The pictures or images that people come back with after they have had supposed trips to hell and back are simply manufactured. They do not correspond to reality.

Hell is ultimately what people have an earnest of today. Those who reject the goodness, grace, and glory of God, which could be theirs, are experiencing hell in the present. But this is an earnest (or token) of the holy wrath that is yet to come.

What happens ultimately is separation from the blessings of God. The Lord will say to those who rejected His love and forgiveness, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). This separation is shown in the intermediate state with the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31. The rich man had all the fineries of life, but then he dies and ends up in torment. Again, this is an earnest of what is to come, because that rich man ultimately will stand and give an account for what he did in the flesh, and then death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death, which is a complete separation forever from the goodness, grace, and glory of God.

Remember that hell is not torture; rather, it is torment. The torment is that you are separated from the very one you were created to have union with. Again, I think that hell is misconstrued. Quite often, the metaphors used for hell in popular books, and even those found in Scripture, are taken in a wooden literalistic fashion, as though people are going to be consumed or burned with fire that never fully consumes them. Fire is a metaphor for the horror of the holy wrath of God, being separated from the goodness of God, the very one who knit us together in our mother’s womb and created us for fellowship with Him.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here (Hank Hanegraaff)

Why Should I Believe in Hell? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What about Hell? The Doctrine of Hell (Douglas Groothuis)

The Dark Side of Eternity: Hell as Eternal Conscious Punishment (Robert A. Peterson)

C.S. Lewis on Hell (Louis Markos)

The Justice of Hell (Donald T. Williams)

Love Wins: Making a Contradictory Case for Universalism (Doug Groothuis)

We also recommend the following bookstore resources:

AfterLife: What You Need to Know about Heaven, the Hereafter, and Near-Death Experiences (B1076) by Hank Hanegraaff

Resurrection (B545) by Hank Hanegraaff

Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (B1060) by Robert A Peterson

Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (B1062) edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert A. Peterson

This blog is adapted from the October 24, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Are the Ethics of the Bible Just as Bad as Those in the Qur’an?

The Qur’an has ethics which do not belong in any century, you are right, but should not the same be said about the Bible?

No. The same should not be said about the ethics of the Bible. If you think about the ethics of Jesus Christ and the ethics of Muhammad, they are completely different.

Think about Jesus Christ. He lived in a first-century context, a context wherein women were considered chattel. They were on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder. Their testimonies were not considered valid in a court of law. But Jesus takes women and elevates them to complete ontological equality with men in that culture. He has women in His inner circle (Luke 8:1-3).

Not only is this true with Jesus Christ, it is true with the followers of Jesus Christ. Paul famously said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV). Genealogy does not matter. Gender does not matter. Station in life does not matter.

We in fact get the inherent worth of human beings from the Bible — from a biblical ethic. I think if people knew a little bit about history, they would know that we are still benefitting from the ethos and morays of the Bible, which have been thrown to the wind in our culture, but we are still benefitting from them. Even though we are no longer living in the pages of the Bible, we are living in the shadow of the Bible, we are still benefitting from a biblical worldview.

When someone cavalierly says, “The ethics of the Qur’an do not belong in any century and the same thing should be said about the Bible too,” I sometimes wonder whether or not the person is familiar with the Bible, and whether or not the person is able to read the Bible in the sense in which it is intended. I challenge all in the spirit of humility, gentleness, and respect to read the Bible. Perhaps start with the Book of Proverbs.

Every single maxim or principle for successful daily living is encapsulated in the Book of Proverbs. I still remember one time many years ago doing a seminar for a large corporation, and I was extemporaneously quoting the Proverbs. “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts” (Proverbs 24:3-4 TLB). As I was going through proverb after proverb, people were going, “Wow, that is amazing! I’ve never heard such erudite business principles.” Then I told them, “I am simply quoting from Solomon from the Bible.”

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

Is the Qu’ran Credible? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Could the Bible Command a Rape Victim to Marry Her Rapist? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Could a Good God Sanction the Stoning of a Disobedient Child? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Can Christians Legitimize a God who Orders the Genocide of Entire Nations? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Did Muhammad Believe in Women’s Rights? (Mary Jo Sharp)

Five Differences between Sharia and Old Testament Law (David Wood)

Fundamentalist Faith and the Problem of Holy Wars (Elliott Miller)

Hollywood vs. History: Kingdom of Heaven and the Real Crusades (Daniel Hoffman)

Was Israel Commanded to Commit Genocide? (Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan)

Is the God of the Old Testament a Proponent of Total War against Noncombatants? (Matthew Flannagan)

A full-orbed assessment of Qur’anic ethics can be found in MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion by Hank Hanegraaff. More information on how the Bible (biblical ethics in particular) shaped Western civilization can be found in The Book That Made Your World by Visahal Mangalwadi, How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt, and Christianity on Trial: Arguments against Anti-Religious Bigotry by Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett.

This blog is adapted from the October 19, 2017, Hank Unplugged episode “MUSLIM: What You Need to Know.”

Apologetics

Do Wrong Beliefs about Jesus Hinder or Affect Salvation?

Question: “My wife is a believer in Jesus Christ and on fire for the Lord, but she has difficulty believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. Will this hinder or affect her salvation in any way?”

I do not think it is the absence of knowledge that damns; rather, it is the despising of knowledge that damns.

One of the things that we know for certain as we read through the Scripture is this: there is only one God. The Scripture is very plain and clear about that. Look at the Old Testament, for example. There is the Hebrew Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV).

Now, if you continue reading the Bible, you recognize that the Father is God. The Bible is explicit about that (see John 17:1–3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3–4; Ephesians 1:3;1 Peter 1:3–5).

You also realize that the Holy Spirit is God. One example in the New Testament is Acts 5, wherein Peter condemns Ananias, who lied about selling a piece of property and donating all the proceeds to the church. The Apostle said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God” (vv. 3–4 NIV). In this case, lying to the Holy Spirit means lying to God.

Another example in which the Holy Spirit is equated with God is 2 Corinthians 3:17–18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (NIV; cf. Romans 8:9–11). The Holy Spirit is omnipotent (Genesis 1:2; Luke 1:35), omnipresent (Psalm139:7–9), omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), eternal (John 14:16; Hebrews 9:14), and personal (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13–14; Acts 8:29; 15:28; 16:6; Romans 5:5; 8:14–16, 26–27; 15:30; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

The Bible is also very clear with respect to Jesus Christ being God—being of one essence with the Father. For example, Colossians 1, which declares Christ to be “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (vv. 15–18 NIV). Another example is Hebrews 1, which declares, “About the Son [the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy’” (Hebrews 1:8–9 NIV; cf. Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 45:6–7). And, of course, John 1 declares “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v. 1 NIV). Anyone reading through the Gospel of John with an open mind sees Christ repeatedly identified as God. After Jesus demonstrated the power to lay down his life and to take it up again, the disciple Thomas did not identify him as “a god” but as “my God” (John 20:28). The original Greek language of John 20:28 is unambiguous and definitive. Literally, Thomas said to the risen Christ, “the Lord of me and the God of me.”

Moreover, in Romans 10:13, Paul equates calling on Christ with calling on Yahweh (Joel 2:32). And in his letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul declares that Jesus, “being in very nature God [in the form of God], did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant [the form of a servant], being made in human likeness” (NIV). Paul goes on to conclude by equating bowing to and confessing the name of Jesus with bowing to and confessing the name of Yahweh, further demonstrating that Jesus is Himself Almighty God (see Philippians 2:6–11; Isaiah 45:22–25). I do not know how it could be any clearer.

The Bible is telling us that there is one God, that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. But also the Bible tells us that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct (see Matthew 28:19; John 14:15–21, 26–27; 15:26–27; 16:5–15).

In other words, the Father does not become the Son, and the Son does not morph into the Holy Spirit. You have one God, subsisting in three persons, who are eternally distinct. That is what the Bible teaches.

Now, you say it is hard for your wife to get her head around that; I will tell you, it is hard for me to get my head around that, too. I oftentimes tell people, “If you can get your head around that, your God is too small.” This means that the God we serve can be apprehended but cannot be comprehended. He is beyond our ability to fully comprehend, and that is not only true for this present time but also it is true for all eternity. The Bible is clear that Jesus is God, that the Holy Spirit is God, and that the Father is God, but there is one God with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being eternally distinct.

What I am talking about again is this: it is not the absence of truth that damns; rather, it is the despising of truth that damns. What I am suggesting is that there can be many professing Christians unable to communicate what I just communicated, but I am not looking at them and saying, “Those people are lost.” That is not my province; rather, that is in fact the province of the Holy Spirit. However, as you read about the Lord — doing what the Lord asks us to do, getting into God’s Word, and getting God’s Word into you (Deuteronomy 6:6–9; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119) — as you learn more and more about God, you have to follow what God says, as opposed to recreating God in your own image.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Who Is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26?  (Hank Hanegraaff)

If God Is One, Why Does the Bible Refer to Him in the Plural? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Oneness Pentecostalism Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

We also recommend the following book:

Muslim: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion (Hank Hanegraaff)

This blog is adapted from the November 8, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Christ, Allah, and the Sword

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39 NIV).

Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Does this not contradict His message of peace? If the “sword” mentioned by Jesus is never to be taken literally, can Christians concede that the “sword” mentioned in the Qur’an was never meant for Muslims to take literally? 

The “sword” Jesus talked about is not literal. It symbolizes conflict. Someone says, “Well, then do not take Islam literally when you have the Surah of the sword.” But, the reality is that one should be taken literally; the other quite obviously should not be taken literally. I say that because if you look at the history of Islam, you have fourteen centuries of advancement by sword. If you look at the model of Christ, you have almost two thousand years of advancement by word.

Do you ever see Jesus Christ doing what Muhammad did? Do you see Jesus in Jerusalem slaying people? Do you see Him killing the Jews that would not listen to Him? Muhammad beheaded hundreds of Jews. One is quite literally using the sword; the other is using, in this case, the sword as a metaphor.

Jesus’ metaphor of the sword is quite plain. The sword divides, and ultimately truth divides even more. We follow the one who is the way and the truth, but when we do, there is a division between mother and father, and sister and brother.

In the end, Jesus was very plainly living by a dictum. That dictum was shown in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47–55; cf. Mark 14:43–52; Luke 22:47–53; John 18:1–11). There the soldiers come to arrest Him and one of the disciples — Peter — takes out a sword and whacks off the ear of a solider. So, Jesus did not suddenly say the rallying cry, “Let us kill them; pull out your swords!” No. Jesus healed the soldier missing the ear. Then He said to Peter, “Put your sword back in its place…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52 NIV).

The distance between Muhammad and Jesus is the distance of infinity.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Muhammad and Messiah: Comparing the Central Figures of Islam and Christianity” (David Wood)

Five Differences between Sharia and Old Testament Law” (David Wood)

Is Religion the Root of Evil?” (Hank Hanegraaff)

If Christianity Is True, Why Are So Many Atrocities Committed in the Name of Christ?” (Hank Hanegraaff)

Learn more about Islam in MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion (B2043) by Hank Hanegraaff

Apologetics

Politico Whitewashing Abortion

I saw an article in the Washington Examiner entitled “Politico Whitewashes Horror of Aborting Triplites.” The article by Philip Wegmann points out that “Dostoevsky observed that ‘man could get used to anything,’” and “Orwell explained” much the same thing “how political jargon gives a ‘defense of the indefensible.’”

Wegmann goes on to say,

Rather than admit that the only way to turn triplets into twins is to kill a baby, Politico hid behind a euphemism. And rather than react in horror at the death of a child, they printed a splashy graphic to explain “the decline of triplets” as if the procedure was the equivalent of filling a dental cavity. In short, they casually whitewashed slaughter.

The article points out precisely how they do that. This is graphic, but I think it needs to be heard: the doctor uses ultrasound; that ultrasound is used in order “to maneuver the unborn baby into position,” then “a syringe of toxic potassium chloride is inserted in the mother’s belly…that long needle is stabbed into the child’s little heart until [the child’s heart] stops beating. Politico just calls it a ‘reduction,’” but the “real horror goes unnoticed when imprecise language transforms a callous abortion into an unremarkable ‘reduction’” and “the public can become accustomed to the most revolting of horrors if they are pre-packaged correctly. Dostoevsky and Orwell were right all along.”

I happened to write about this subject in The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition, Revised and Updated. There I put forth an acronym. The acronym A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N, so that people are equipped to annihilate A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N arguments. While I will not go through the entire acronym on the show today, I do want to highlight the “O” in A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N.

The first “O” in A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N I dubbed the “opium” effect. This is in keeping with the article I just read to you wherein clever codewords are the opium of the pro-abortion lobby. Those code words are specifically designed to dull human sensibilities to something that is absolutely horrendous: the horror of abortion. We see this all around. For example, the moniker “Planned Parenthood.” That may well be the quintessential example. The positive ring of the words masks the horrific reality. To abort a preborn child is tantamount to terminating a life. As Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger famously pontificated, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Such killings again are positively repositioned as prochoice prerogatives. The preborn children terminated, well, they are indelicately rendered fetuses and prolife advocates are profanely recasts as social extremists. Again, this is the opium effect, the effect of clever code words. This has been used to great effect within this holocaust that is going on within our midst.

Abortion is the painful killing of an innocent human being, and we ought to get that squarely in our psyche. We ought to be able to communicate this because it is painful for the child, in that methods employed involve burning, smothering, dismembering, and crushing. It is killing in that, from the very beginning, that which is terminated fulfills the criteria necessary for establishing the existence of biological life. That includes metabolism, development, the ability to react to stimuli, cell reproduction, and the like. I say it is the painful killing of an innocent human being, innocent in that the preborn child deserves protection, not capital punishment. The painful killing of an innocent human being, in that the child was killed is the offspring of human parents, has a totally distinct genetic code.

Since abortion is nothing short of terminating the life of a person created in the image of God, it is important for us to get this information into our minds.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Blog adapted from the October 18, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.