I think one of the things that happened is that Islam has been airbrushed, and therefore it has become palatable to Western Civilization. In many cases people think, “Well, the God of Islam, the God of Israel, not a whole lot of difference, it is the same God.”
The problem here is that the God of Islam is not the God of Israel nor is it the God of Christianity. For example, the Master Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). Devotes of Muhammad, or those who are involved in Islam, find the very notion of praying to “Our Father in heaven” offensive to their way of thinking. Calling God “Father,” and for that matter Jesus Christ “Son,” suggests sexual procreation. And they would say that believing that Jesus Christ is God or that God has a Son is the unforgivable sin of shirk. The Christian belief that Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father full of grace and truth and that all the fullness of deity within Him in bodily form (John 1:1-5, 14; Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:3-4) for them is an unforgivable sin.
A lot of people unfortunately as Christians are unable to make the distinction between the Allah of Islam and the God of the Bible, and therefore it sounds like there’s neither distinction nor little difference.
I think it is also really important to recognize that the Qur’an is not the same as the Bible. If you’re reading neither, you don’t really see that there’s a big distinction.
The Qur’an, from a historical standpoint, makes all kinds of mistakes. For example, the Qur’an says that Jesus Christ was not crucified (Sura 4:157-158). In Islamic circles, it is believed that God made someone look like Jesus, and the look alike was crucified in place of Jesus Christ. All the historical evidence, however, points beyond a shadow of a doubt, to the fact that Jesus Christ was indeed crucified, and that crucifixion was for our sin. It was the atonement by which we are reconciled to God (John 3:16; Rom. 3:21-26; 5:8; 1 John 2:1-2).
Another thing you have to recognize is that Islam is growing in terms of birth rate. As a result it is becoming widespread and moving all over the world in that sense as well.
For further related study, please see the following:
Hank Hanegraaff invited Jack Countryman on the February 9, 2016Bible Answer Man broadcast to discuss Complete Bible Answer BookCollector’s Edition Revised and Updated. The following are some of the highlights from the conversation:
Hank Hanegraaff: I want to talk for at least a few minutes with the publisher of the Complete Bible Answer BookCollector’s Edition Revised and Updated. The reason I want to do this is because he is really the primal force behind this book. If it were not for my publisher Jack Countryman, this book would not exist today. From the very beginning, many, many years ago, he told me to take the questions that I answer on the broadcast, to chisel my answer until just the gym emergence, and to put that in a book, and it took him a number of years before I was convinced to do it. The book has come out now in three different editions. There was an initial edition, then a second volume, then the Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition and now there’s the complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated. And quite frankly, when Jack started talking about this project, I didn’t know how we could improve on the last one. And it wasn’t until I actually saw it in the studio that I realize that quite frankly this is the most beautiful book that I have ever seen. It is beautiful in its presentation. Of course I love the content, but the presentation is exquisite. It’s bigger than the last Bible Answer Book. It’s etched in silver. It’s, it’s, well its leather bound. It’s just an absolutely exquisite book, and I thought I’d have the publisher my good friend Jack Countryman on to talk about his vision for this book and to thank him for making a reality. Jack, good to have you on the broadcast.
Jack Countryman: Well, Hank it’s just great to be with you today and talk about our favorite subject the CompleteBibleAnswer Book.
Hank: You have been in this business the business of gift books and you’re the one who talked me into making this a gift book as opposed to what we would call a regular trade book. Talk about the difference between the two and why you thought this was perfectly suited for what is called the gift book category.
Jack: Well, as we discussed so many times, you chisel and really bring about the nuts and bolts of really the subject you’re dealing with, and I just felt like, from my experience with someone who has a beautiful book that they put in their hands, and they say, “My, this is just wonderful,” that first of all, they want to read it themselves, and secondly they want to give it to someone as a gift. And as we talked about putting this book together, I just couldn’t help but feel like this is the perfect subject. I mean after all you’ve done with this book one-hundred-and-ninety-five subjects. Can you imagine? This book is as important as a companion piece to the Bible. Then you added the twenty-five acronyms. So we have six-hundred pages here of just a material that is so valuable to our Christian walk to our Christian belief to our Christian understanding, and I just am thrilled that we’ve been able to do it and bring it out and we’re proud of this particular edition as you are.
Hank: Hard to believe when we started this project, Jack, many years ago that the book now would stand over half a million copies?
Jack: Well, it is a miracle but it also proves that people want to know the truth and truth matters. And people want to know what is the Bible has to say and you have been working for thirty years now? And telling people about the answers that the Bible has and that is just a wonderful experience and we’re hopeful to continue to build the numbers, so that the next time we talk, maybe will be talking about a million books.
Hank: Jack, you have sold so many millions of books in your lifetime. You’re in your eighties, very, very accomplished. A couple years ago I was privileged to attend your lifetime appreciation award. You were appreciated for how many books you have now put in the hands of people with Christian content?
Jack: Well’ we have published over eight-hundred titles, and we have now eighty-two million books in print. The first book that I published, God’s Promises for Your Every Need is now approaching twenty million. So God has really just blessed us beyond all measure.
Hank: Jack, your passion for Christian books. You probably could give many, many examples of people whose lives have been transformed by reading a book.
Jack: Well Hank you remember when we were in China together? And Elijah came to us and I was introduced to him and you told him that I was the publisher of God’s Promises for Your Every Need, and his eyes light up and he said, “I have that book! I’ve had that book for seventeen years and it’s all worn and tattered.” And I said to him, “You’ll have a new one in the morning.” I just couldn’t believe that we were over in China in Shanghai and the man had read the book that I published in 1982.
Hank: And I think that’s a great example of the fact that people in America read the book in English and often times fail to recognize that these books are translated into many different languages and they literally touch people around the globe.
Jack: Yes, in fact God Promises is now in twenty-nine different languages.
Hank: Well Jack you have been a great friend to me for many years and I wanted to have you on the broadcast to publicly thank you for not only urging me to do this book—because without you, as I a mention at the opening of the show, the book wouldn’t be a reality—but I appreciate the fact that you and the rest of the staff at Thomas Nelson have put your genius to work in terms of the presentation itself, because it’s not just the cover, leather bound, and etched in silver, but it’s the complementary colors inside, the way the titles are laid out, I mean it’s just a masterpiece.
Jack: Well you know Hank, you’ve often said that you want to equip Christians to mine Bible for all of its wealth, and I appreciate the opportunity that you given us to serve you in this fashion, because you are making a difference in the kingdom and the material that you have in your book is so essential for people to get, to learn, to become aware of what is going on in the world, in the cults, in abortion, in Mormonism, in the gay life, and doctrine. All the different things, the acronyms that you placed in the book are just so essential that I really want to urge people to get this book in their hands and it will change your life, and bring to light the path that God really wants for each and every one of us to take.
Hank: Jack, before you go, I want you to talk for a moment about your age. And the reason I want you to do that is because you are the youngest person I have ever seen in their eighties and you believe that every single moment is precious, and every time I see you, you’re excited about life, you recognize that what you do now counts for all eternity, I want you to share that passion with our audience.
Jack: Well, I’m eighty-six, and I believe that retirement is not in the Bible, it’s never a part of life, and my ambition has always been—I’m an little athlete—and my motto has always been “Lord, don’t put me on the bench. Keep me on the playing field. Keep me out where the action is. Let me be a part of what you’re doing, and if you’ll do that, I will serve you faithfully.” And that is my passion; that is my belief; that is my life.
Hank: And every single breath is significant. I remember my dad telling me that Jack when he was struggling with a fibrosis in the lungs, it encroached upon his ability to assimilate oxygen and as he was dying, I asked him, “Dad don’t you just want to get out of the misery go home and be with the Lord?” And he said, “No son, every single moment God gives me is precious.” And as I’ve shared with you privately he was able to pray for every one of his children and every one of his grandchildren and every one of his great-grandchildren before he went home to be with the Lord. So, even his last breath was significant. So, what you’re doing is encouraging all of us to run the race to finish the race to complete the race that the Lord our God is given us, so that when we stand before Him, He can say, “Well done.”
Jack: Amen, amen my brother.
Hank: Well Jack you have been a great friend to me as I said, and I really appreciate the work that you’ve done of this book. Give Laura the rest of the team my regards and tell them how deeply grateful I am. I know people—this is been one of the greatest months we’ve had and we’re just into it a few days, people are getting this book and their passing it on to other people, it’s been a wonderful resource to equip people.
Jack: Well we’re just so privileged to be a part of it and be able to bring it into the marketplace and we are as pleased with the beauty of the book as you. You know this book has six-hundred pages of absolute gold. So, I want to encourage everyone to get the book, to read it and make it be a part of their life.
Hank: Jack Countryman, he is the founder of the book division, the gift book division at Thomas Nelson, a great friend of mine for many, many years. Appreciate having you on the show Jack.
Jack: Well, thank you Hank. It’s been my privilege.
See a special video with Hank on The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated:
The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated is available for your gift to the ongoing work of the Christian Research Institute, the Bible Answer Man broadcast, our outreaches around the world. Get your copy for your gift, all this month. To order, click here. You can also call our resource center at 1-888-700-0274, or send your gift to PO Box 8500, Charlotte, NC 28271.
February 18th, 2016by Warren Nozaki | Type: Standard
What role do angels play in our lives and how do we discern angels from demons?
Let’s look at the opposite side of the coin for just a moment. We fight against the world (1 John 2:15), the flesh (Gal. 5:16-24), and the Devil (Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Pet. 5:8; Jas. 4:7), don’t we? But even in fighting the world, the flesh, and the Devil, we are called to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand against the wiles of the evil one. It’s never our prerogative to try to figure out where is the temptation coming from: Is this the world, the flesh, or the Devil? It is very hard to delineate between those categories. What we do is we put on the full armor of God so that we can withstand the wiles of the evil one. If we put on the full armor of God, we are going to survive spiritual warfare. If we do not we are going to be a guaranteed casualty.
I think the same thing is true with angels. Angels are ministering spirits but we don’t know precisely how God uses them in our life. We know in principle from texts like Hebrews 1:14, but we do not know what role angels play with regard to any specific circumstance.
I don’t deny the presence of angels and demons. We cannot deny this on the basis of biblical theology. The reality is this: angels are real and demons are real. Just as demons can be used to lead us into deception, so angels can be used by God in a ministering capacity. I’m simply saying that taking any given specific circumstance in our lives, it’s very difficult to directly apply an angel to the process, and say, “This was done by a ministering angel,” just as it is very difficult for you to say, “The temptation came from a particular demon.” What we know is that we are going to be tempted in general by the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Which one is the instrument at any given moment is something we cannot be absolutely certain about.
For further related study, please see the following equip.org resources:
The difference we have in the Bible is a difference between what is descriptive and what is prescriptive. What the Bible does is demonstrates the consequences that follow inextricably like night follows day, when someone does something that is outside the will of the Lord. You certainly see that in the most graphic of terms with David’s son Solomon. You see that in the end Solomon’s many wives and concubines turned his eyes away from the Lord, and so he died really in a miserable condition when you think about it, he was building pagan shrines and altars to pagan gods for his pagan wives.
So the edict is clear, Deuteronomy 17:17, memorable because of its address, the king “shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.”1 If this was true for the kings, how much more was it true for the people! But polygamy was practiced in spite of God’s warnings; in spite of the prescriptions that you find in Scripture. Genesis 2:24 is a classic case in point: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In the New Testament, Matthew 19:4-6: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” But it doesn’t end there. There are so many other passages that make clear the very point: A wife must not separate from her husband. It’s never plural—not husbands. 1 Timothy 3:2 points out that “an overseer must be…the husband of one wife”—not multiple wives.
I think the principle is very clear in Scripture, but the Bible doesn’t airbrush anything. It presents people with all their proclivities, with all their warts, moles, and wrinkles. But thank God! God accepts us not because we’re righteous but because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a time for Christians to remember their own sinfulness, and need for divine forgiveness.
Sometime ago Gretchen Passantino Coburn wrote a piece on the Lenten season. In it she offered these helpful insights on Ash Wednesday:
Ash Wednesday begins a forty day period during which Christians remember their sinfulness, repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and recognize that God’s forgiveness comes at an infinite price — the death of Christ on the cross on our behalf. It is not meant as a time of false humility or prideful self-sacrifice. It reminds us that our sin separates us from God, who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”). It has developed into a time of partying and carousing, exemplified by the extravagant celebration in New Orleans. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras attach little or no religious significance to it. Although it is better known than the following day, Ash Wednesday, it is virtually irrelevant to the spiritual focus of Christian observances.
On Ash Wednesday, the historic churches mark the beginning of this period with a special service explaining the season, calling the people to repentance, signifying repentance with ashes, by which a cross is marked on the forehead of the penitent Christian.
Ashes (and “sackcloth,” or rough, plain clothing, usually of camel’s hair) traditionally represent mourning (2 Sam. 13:19; Gen. 37:34), repentance (Job 42:6; Matt. 11:21; Dan. 9:3; Joel 1:8, 13), and the judgment of God (Rev. 6:12). When King Ahasuerus ordered all Jews to be killed, Mordecai “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and . . . cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” The Jews throughout the land prayed “with great mourning. . . with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:1-3). This was for the dual purpose of mourning for their coming death and of demonstrating their repentance to God, pleading with Him to spare them from His judgment. When Jonah preached God’s coming judgment against Nineveh, the pagan king of Nineveh and his subjects understood that if a nation repents from its evil ways, God may withhold His judgment (Jer. 18:7-10), so they repented and prayed that God would spare them.
So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it (Jonah 3:5-10).
Ash Wednesday should remind Christians that they are sinners in need of a savior, and that their salvation comes at the sacrifice of God’s Son.
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12).
Hope this has been helpful!
February 10th, 2016by Warren Nozaki | Type: Standard
It’s important to recognize the model prayer—the prayer of Jesus, the prayer that Jesus taught his followers to pray—does start: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name” (Matt. 6:9). And I think that the recognition here is that, first and foremost, our desire, what we really care about, is that God’s Name be made holy. Our daily lives should radiate a far greater commitment to God’s nature and His holiness than to our own needs.
So to pray, “hallowed be Your Name,” is to pray that God be given the unique reverence that His holiness demands, that God’s Word be preached without corruption, that our churches be led by faithful pastors and preserved from false prophets, that we’d be kept from language that profanes the name of God, and that our thought lives remain holy, that we cease from seeking honor for ourselves but ask instead that God’s Name be magnified.
In saying this there’s nothing wrong with using the names of God as opposed to the titles for God. There’s nothing wrong with addressing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thanking Him for His sacrificial death on our behalf. There’s nothing wrong with thanking the Holy Spirit for empowering us as we pray, as we witness, as we provide for our families. So the standard is we pray to the Father, in the Name of the Son (or through the Son), by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus Himself invites us to pray to Him in John 14:14.
So there is no set formula. We pray to one God revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.
For further related study, please see the following:
I think that the Bible will often time draw from other sources, either explicitly by referencing those other sources, or by using similar quotations, as you would find in other books. For example, there are judgement metaphors in the Book of Revelation, which you find in1st century literature. Those judgment metaphors, therefore, have an understanding in the 1st century that you can derive from 1st century literature. But, of course, that does not mean that the 1st century literature is inspired literature.
I think that same principle applies, if you look at the Book of Jude. Jude mentions Enoch as the seventh from Adam, and mentions that Enoch had prophesied about men that are being described in the Book of Jude (Jude 14ff). Now, Jude was well respected as was Enoch in New Testament times. So Jude is now, as a well-respected church father or disciple of Jesus Christ, is quoting from the book of Enoch, but his quote does not mean that Enoch is inspired in the sense of supernaturally revealing new truth. Jude simply finds a quotation to be a helpful confirmation of truth that is already well established, and that’s the point.
The Book of Enoch is not inspired literature, but that does not mean it does not have truth. For example, it is true to say, whether this is in the Canon or outside the Canon that “the Lord is coming” or that “false prophets will appear,” or that “the wicked will be judged.” So, these are true statements, regardless of where you find them. But the fact that Enoch is being quoted does not of necessity mean that the quote is from inspired literature. It is a confirmation of truth that is well established.
Dispensationalism: an eschatological viewpoint according to which God has two distinct peoples (the Church and national, ethnic Israel) with two distinct plans and two distinct destinies. Dispensationalism is distinctive for its teaching that the Church will be “raptured” from the earth in the first phase of Christ’s second coming so that God can return to his work with national Israel, which was put on hold after Israel’s rejection of Messiah. God’s renewed working with Israel is thought by many dispensationalists to include a seven-year period of tribulation under the Antichrist in which two-thirds of the Jewish people will be killed, followed by the second phase of Christ’s second coming in which Christ and the martyred “tribulation saints” will rule for a thousand years from a rebuilt Temple with a reinstituted sacrificial system. Dispensationalism was first conceived by John Nelson Darby in the nineteenth century and popularized by prophecy pundits such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye in the twentieth century. 1
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
Serious poetry readers will recognize these lines from W. B. Yeats’s most celebrated apocalyptic poem, “The Second Coming.” And my hunch is that in a moment of candor, most of us would confess to similar sentiments as we listen to today’s avalanche of largely bad news.
From spiritual, moral, cultural, and political points of view, my guess is that increasingly rare among us are those who haven’t felt, at least at some point, that things are falling apart.
In the rubble and ruin that mark the wake of philosophers who have labored diligently to “deconstruct” truth, one could not reasonably be blamed for believing that in much of our intellectual landscape today, their work has been lamentably successful. Time spent debating “truth” seems a colossal if not utterly mindless waste of time to those who have swallowed “hook, line, and sinker” the notion that objective truth is sheer fantasy, embraced only by obscurantic religionists and others with room-temperature IQs.
Yet those who intimately know the One who is “before all things” and by Whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17) will never fear that the true center cannot hold. They will not only embrace but also daily live out the equally famous words of Alfred Lord Tennyson whom Yeats venerated as a young man:
“Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds.”
January 26th, 2016by Warren Nozaki | Type: Standard
In an article published in USA Today titled, “As Atheists Know, You Can Be Good without God,”1 Jerry Coyne, a biologist and outspoken atheist, is disturbed that many Americans, including some prominent scientists, believe that our instinctive sense of right and wrong is “strong evidence for [God’s] existence.” Though Coyne appears to have no formal training in moral philosophy and theology, he ventures into moral philosophy to explain why this is clearly mistaken. His article is useful in that it highlights some common mistakes contemporary atheist writers make in their attempts to ground a secular ethic.
DIVINE COMMAND THEORIES OF ETHICS
It is necessary to understand accurately the position Coyne is criticizing before we consider the merits of his critique. The argument that our instinctive sense of right and wrong “is strong evidence for [God’s] existence” found its most important formulation in a 1979 article by Robert Adams. In it, Adams noted that we instinctively grasp that certain actions, like torturing children for fun, are wrong; hence, he reasoned, we are intuitively aware of the existence of moral obligations. According to Adams, the best account of the nature of such obligations is that they are commands issued by a loving and just God. Identifying obligations with God’s commands can explain all the features of moral obligation better than any secular alternative. Consequently, the existence of moral obligations provides evidence for God’s existence.2
It is important to note what Adams did not claim. Central to Adams’s argument is the distinction between the idea that moral obligations are, in fact, divine commands and the claim that one cannot recognize what our moral obligations are unless one believes in divine commands or some form of divine revelation. Adams illustrates this distinction with the now standard example of H20 and water.
Contemporary chemistry tells us that the best account of the nature of water is that water is, in fact, H20 molecules. This means that water cannot exist unless H20 does. However, it does not mean that people who do not know about or believe in the existence of H20 cannot recognize water when they see it. For centuries people recognized, swam in, sailed on, and drank water before they knew anything about modern chemistry.
This distinction has important implications. The claim that moral obligations are, in fact, commands issued by God does not entail that people must believe that God exists in order to be able to recognize right and wrong. These are separate and logically distinct claims. Affirming one does not commit one logically to affirming the other.
Second, Adams offers an account of the nature of moral obligations, not an account of what it is generally good to do. Actions such as giving a kidney to save a needy stranger can be good without being obligatory. For an action to be obligatory, it must be more than praiseworthy or commendable. Obligatory actions are things we are required to do, or things another person can legitimately demand us to do. Not doing so without an adequate excuse renders us blameworthy, and others can justifiably censure us, rebuke us, and even punish us. Failure to comply makes us guilty and in need of forgiveness.
Failure to grasp these distinctions leads many critics of divine command theories astray, and although I will not argue it here, many lines of argument Coyne makes are unsound due to a failure to make these distinctions. Here, however, I will focus on one argument Coyne gives that does not depend on this confusion: the Euthyphro dilemma.