Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monica Dennington Slips Further Into Heresy

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
(2 Peter 2:1-3)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Stuff

Four new books for Christmas:
  • NET Bible, Compact Edition (, 2007)
  • D.A. Carson - Exegetical Fallacies, Second Edition (Baker Academic, 1996)
  • J.D. Shams - Where Did Jesus Die?, 8th Edition (Islam international Publications Limited, 1989)
  • Ethelyn Simon, Irene Resnikoff and Linda Motzkin - The First Hebrew Primer: The Adult Beginner's Path to Biblical Hebrew, Third Edition (EKS Publishing Co., 2005)

Also, there is now a link list "On Origins Debate" for those interested in doing research on Creation, Evolution and Intelligent Design.

And for those interested, there is a free E-book linked on the EvoInfo Lab entitled The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories by Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley and Roger L. Olson. You can download it by going to this link.

EDIT (12/30/2009)
Managed to procure four new books, one from the Royal Ontario Museum and three from a used bookstore somewhere in downtown Toronto:

  • Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World (Royal Ontario Museum, 2009)
  • Antony Flew - There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind (Harper One, 2007)
  • H. Richard Niebuhr - Christ and Culture (Harper One, 2001)
  • Howard Rice - Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers (Westminster John Knox Press ,1991)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Critique of BBC Documentary "Did Jesus Die?"

My Ahmadiyya colleagues have been urging me to watch the BBC documentary Did Jesus Die? for a long time now. I finally got around to it, and as I have done so, I have reviewed and commented on the contents of the documentary, which I have posted here below:

(00:40-00:45) - "...throughout history, people have responded differently to this [the Gospel] story." Somewhat true. The Jews and the Pagans denied that Jesus rose from the grave, but they didn't deny that Jesus died. Instead, they claimed that his body was stolen by His disciples (as has been recorded in Matthew 28:11-15 and is mentioned around 31:30-31:40).

(01:00-01:17) - "...There have been heresies that suggested that Jesus survived the crucifixion..." Uhh, no. No such theory has ever existed until around the 18th/19th centuries, during the advent of German liberal higher criticism. Funny enough, nowadays this view is not taken seriously anymore, save by various conspiracy theorists and certain Islamic sects/schools of thought (the Ahmadiyya being one of the most prominent of them).

(02:35-02:50) - "Many modern scholars and theologians... now seem to doubt the historical accuracy of the gospels" There will always be dissenting views, though admittedly they are more prominent now than they have been centuries before. However, the figures tend to be inflated, and there are still many scholars and theologians who view the gospel accounts as reliable, even inerrant, and can articulate good reasons for believing so (I can give a boatload of names if anybody would care enough to ask me).

(02:55-04:00) - Elaine Pagels, John Dominic Crossan... why do they always pick the most far-left liberal scholars and use them as the spokespersons of "contemporary biblical scholarship?" This kind of skewed presenation is so patently dishonest, especially when considering the expert replies made by less radical scholars who do in fact view the gospels as historically accurate in their reporting of Jesus' story.

The next several minutes features some rather cheap diatribes against supernatural events, such as the miracles. Of course, you have to presuppose Naturalism in order for this tactic to actually work. Now, it's not all without merit, as they are also spot on in pointing out some of the nonsense promulgated by Roman Catholics, particularly the Filipinos who reenact the Crucifixion back home, but the blatant skewing of facts.

(13:15-13:25) - "The gospel accounts of it [the resurrection]... are full of inconsistencies and curious contradictions." The supposed "incosistencies and contradictions" are brought up later in the video (14:08-15:10). The apocryphal ending of Mark is already well known among biblical scholars (both liberal and conservative), so bringing it up is beating the dead horse.

Notice, also that the video doesn't mention actual conflicting details, but only mention how certain stories appear in one or two gospel accounts but not in the rest. If the four gospel writers were intending to complement each other's reports (which they most likely were), then there isn't really a problem with this.

Nevertheless, if anybody is really worried about "inconsistencies and contradictions" in the resurrection stories, why not look up the various harmonies proposed by biblical scholars who actually have taken the time to carefully study the gospel narratives (The best harmony, I think, would be the one proposed by Simon Greenleaf).

As a side note, thank God they put N.T. Wright in there. He's probably the only voice of reason present in this whole documentary.

(17:40-18:00) - Unnecessary tangent on Roman Catholicism's papal claims. Duhh, of course they're spurious, but what's the point of comparing such a questionable belief with the more attestable doctrine of the resurrection?

(19:00-20:50) - Yet another unnecessary tangent. The Toronto "Blessing" is so far out there, it's an embarrassment even for many of the sane(r) Charismatic churches. Also, what does believing in the "literal truth of the bible" have to do with the mania that goes on in the Toronto Airport Church? Tearing down strawman is also a dishonest debate tactic, you know.

(23:00-24:10) - Scare tactics. As though believing in orthodox Christianity somehow automatically placed you in the ranks of those who indiscriminately burned all dissenters as heretics. How does that even affect the accuracy of the gospel stories anyway? Besides, the matter concerning the Cathars isn't as simple as the documentary makes it out to be, but I am not an expert at that particular field of church history, so I will have to pass it over for the time being.

(26:10-26:25) - People come up with conspiracy theories involving the Knights Templar all the time. There isn't really any solid evidence (the actual bones?). Besides, wouldn't this do violence to the Ahmadi theory that Jesus' remains are in Kashmir?

(34:40-35:00) - "The question of clinical death is certainly raised by the fact that the herbs that Joseph of Arimathea took into the tomb with the body of Jesus were aloes. These are healing, not embalming herbs." Admittedly, aloes are indeed used to treat minor burns or wounds. However, The kind of wounds sustained by Jesus during the Crucifixion and the tortures He endured before it are way beyond the capacity of aloes to treat.

Besides, 75 pounds? You do not place 75 pounds of herbs with a person in a burial cloth unless you believe that person to be deceased.

(37:55-38:55) - More beating the dead horse. Stop bringing up the apocryphal ending of Mark, seriously.

Also the Luke reference is authentic: The theory of Western non-interpolations, on which the idea of the Luke passage being a later addition is based, is no longer taken seriously by most biblical scholars (save for a minority). Besides, the author of Luke also wrote about the ascension in Acts 1:9-11, so it's not that far-fetched that he would have had that idea in mind in writing the gospel.

(39:00-40:00) - Does anybody really still take seriously the idea of Jesus having a sexual/marital relationship with Mary Magdalene? Also, who are the "historians" who support this idea? Michael Baigent? Richard Leigh? Give me a break, this kind of crackpot theory is hardly even worth going over, since it's been debunked to death countless times before.

(42:00-42:15) - Questionable relics like this have been floating around for centuries, especially during the medieval period. Even if it was authentic, it is likely to have been transported from some other region of the world. The relics don't really prove much.

(49:10-49:20) "Could Jesus have been taken to India as a child and taught to be a Buddhist?" Problem is, there is no evidence that the magi ever took the infant Jesus with them to India. That is just sheer eisegesis. Jesus' teachings on humanity, salvation, etc. are contradictory to Buddhist principles.

(50:00-50:05) - "Certainly the later teachings and miracles of Jesus have uncanny parallels with the teachings and miracles of the Buddha." LIKE???

(50:05-51:00) - "Loving your enemies and the idea that the meek will inherit the earth have absolutely no tradition or precedent in Judaism, but they are entirely consistent with Buddhism." Try Leviticus 19:34, Psalm 22:26 and Psalm 37:11 on for size. It helps to do some research before spouting off nonsense such as this.

Also, it is quite dishonest to highlight those few places where Christianity and Buddhism do happen to have similarities (which is usually in the moral aspects), and ignore the numerous places where they conflict (which is usually in the theological aspects).

(51:10-52:20) - Finally, we get to the tomb in Kashmir. Surprising... the Ahmadis seem to put a lot of stock into this documentary., yet their beloved Kashmir tomb theory is barely discussed at all in the video, and has been relegated to the very end.

Furthermore, if this theory is as groundbreaking as it is made out to be, why don't scholars actually pay attention to it? Even the crackpot theories in the Da Vinci Code and Talpiot Tomb received some scholarly attention (mostly critical). It is telling that the Ahmadi theory does not get even a peep out of the academia.

(54:05-55:15) - "But this is a sacred site, and short of exhumation, there is no way of discovering whether the body buried here is that of a man who once survived crucifixion." There you have it: Nobody has ever really demonstrated that the person buried in Srinagar is Jesus as we can't even get to the body. The footprint doesn't count for much, as such kinds of things are falsified all the time, and are not considered good evidence at all.

(55:30-End) - "...The end of Christianity as we know it..." It would be indeed, IF the case being made throughout the video had any validity to it. But it doesn't, so better luck next time. PS - Pagels' theory at the end is somewhat...cute... but there are way too many factors that cannot be accounted for by it, such as the sudden change in disposition by the apostles, or the conversions of Jesus' brother James and the apostle Paul.

In conclusion, I was not at all impressed by the documentary. The bulk of it is just plain bad history and skewed information. I am nowhere nearer to being convinced by the Ahmadis' theory that Jesus survived crucifixion than when I first encountered this idea.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jesus, the Gospels, Gnosticism and Historical Revisionism (Part 2)

(Continued from Part One)

Not many people are aware of the history of the New Testament documents. It is thus not too surprising that skeptics and conspiracy theorists would want to capitalize on the general ignorance of the masses by claiming all sorts of strange, unhistorical ideas regarding the formation of the biblical text. The conspiracy theories center around 1) The books that make up the New Testament, and 2) the actual text of the aforementioned books. So we shall concentrate on these two things

First off, there are two main reasons why we consider the four gospels to be the canonical gospels. First, there is the issue of dating: All four gospels are dated to around the second half of the first century, which makes them very close to the time when Jesus walked the earth, and situates them within the apostolic age. This means that they reflect the actual teachings and beliefs of Jesus' apostles better than any gospel text that has come afterward. By contrast, all of the apocryphal gospels (with the possible exception of portions of the Gospel of Thomas) are dated to later centuries, and some have even been found to be modern forgeries (eg. Secret Mark).

Second is the fact that the first four gospels have an identifiable Vox Dei due to their reflecting what the church has believed all along even before these traditions became "enscripturated." This is in contrast to many of the apocryphal gospels, that contain obvious legendary developments (eg. a talking cross) and lack any historical background (some of these apocryphal gospels don't even have a narrative, but are just "sayings" texts eg. The Gospel of Thomas).

Against this, it is claimed that the four canonical gospels really are on the same level or even inferior to the apocryphal gospels, and that it was only during the Council of Nicaea that they became canonical. First, there is the obvious problem that Nicaea had nothing to say on the canon of scripture. Second, there is plenty of evidence that the ante-Nicene church considered the four gospels to be the canonical gospels.

There is the muratorian fragment, which is widely considered to have been written around the late 2nd century due to internal cues within the text of the fragment itself. The text mentions Luke as the third gospel, and John as the fourth. The names of the first two gospels are cut off from the preserved fragment of the text, though there is very little doubt that it is Matthew and Mark.

There are also the writings second century church fathers Papias, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Papias refers to both Mark and Matthew, identifying them as accepted apostolic writings. Justin Martyr quotes from the gospels, though he doesn't mention them by name, and refers to them as the "memoirs of the apostles" (link). The most explicit statement, however, comes from Irenaeus. In Against Heresies, he writes,

It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh.
(Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. III:XI:8)

All of this furnishes abundant proof that the fourfold gospel was already well in place long before the fourth century. There is no historical evidence for the assertion that the four gospels did not become canonical until Nicaea.

Now that we have that out of the way, there is also the claim that the text of the New Testament has been deliberately tampered with, "embellished" as Dan Brown puts it, in order to make Jesus "godlike." Of course, this simply ignores the mountains of manuscript and patristic evidence to the contrary. We have dozens of manuscripts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and all of the major texts asserting the deity of Christ (eg. John 1:1 John 1:18, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1, etc.) are there, exactly as we have them in our present day New Testament text.

And even if we didn't have these manuscripts, we can still extrapolate these passages from the patristic quotations. Various early church fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, etc. have commented on the scriptures in question and we can validate our current reading of the scriptures from their writings.

Given these two lines of evidence, there is no justification whatsoever for the claim that the modern day Christian New Testament is not the same text that the first and second century Christian Church had received from the apostles.

(Continue to Part 3)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Rant on Word-of-Faithers

"It's not enough to beg, you have to demand what you want from God!"

"God wants us to be healthy and wealthy!"

"You give God permission to do what He wants!"

"Speak what you will into existence!"

"You can get anything you want in Jesus' name if you name it and claim it!"

"Take the Kingdom by force!"

God is good. God is our provider. He knows exactly what we need and has counted all the hairs of our head. But it is easy to misinterpret this and think that we can ask of God whatever we want. This is sort of what happened recently. I had an encounter with a Name-it-Claim-it proponent, and though he didn't necessarily said all the things I just posted above (he said some of them), the mentality that you can just speak whatever you desire and God will grant it was definitely there.

I can never quite understand how this mentality develops in some professing Christians. Yes, God will provide for our needs and will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4), and yes, we need to be persistent in praying and asking God for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). But know this: God is NOT obligated to give you a new car or a paycheck for ten thousand dollars. God will give us riches according to the kind intentions of His will. What about Job? God gave him riches, and God allowed Satan to take them away from him. It all took place according to His plan, and He does make all things work for good in the end (Romans 8:28). His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), so we must not always expect that what we want is what God will provide to us. After all, is it not a mark of faith that we seek His will rather than that of our own carnal desires?

And one last thing: Jesus said that He has overcome the world, and He has promised that we will overcome the world with Him. He never promised though that this overcoming of the world would come in the form of great health and wealth. Our victory in Him comes from our justification and forgiveness from our sins, the inward renewal of the Spirit that comes after, and the persevering grace that keeps us secure in Him forevermore. Do not seek after this "health and wealth" gospel, for it is another gospel, one that is bound to bring on one the anathema pronounced by Paul (Galatians 1:8-9). Be content with what God provided, for as the apostle has also written:

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
(1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jesus, the Gospels, Gnosticism and Historical Revisionism (Part 1)

Because Constantine upgraded Jesus' status almost four centuries after Jesus' death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history... Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.
(Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. Doubleday, 2003. p. 234)

The above quote, taken from the popular (and controversial) Da Vinci Code, echoes a popular sentiment that has been oft-stated by conspiracy theorists, skeptics, certain liberal theologians and even Muslims (the Islamic propaganda video The Divine Book quotes the above passage nearly verbatim, as though Dan Brown was somehow a scholarly source). Yet pretty much every single statement that has been packed within that single paragraph is fraught with historical errors, and almost none of it is factually accurate.

First off, Constantine lived three centuries after Jesus walked this earth. He did not "upgrade Jesus' status." In fact, Constantine didn't even care what the results of the council of Nicaea would be to begin with. He just wanted the clergy to agree. As Philip Schaff notes,

In the year 325, as patron of the church, he summoned the council of Nice, and himself attended it; banished the Arians, though he afterwards recalled them; and, in his monarchical spirit of uniformity, showed great zeal for the settlement of all theological disputes, while he was blind to their deep significance.

Also, the deity of Christ did not originate with Constantine, or with Nicaea. It has always been affirmed by the early church. For example, within the epistles of the apostle Paul, one may find multiple affirmations of Christ's deity:

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.
(Colossians 2:9, ESV)

...waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ...
(Titus 2:13, ESV)

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:6-8, ESV)

And lest anybody object to the citing of Paul, it must be remembered that Paul was actually in contact with the other apostles. The apostle Peter, for one, approved of Paul's writings (2peter 3:15-16), and even made his own affirmation of the deity of Christ:

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:1, ESV)

Also keep in mind that Paul wasn't really adding any innovations, but was rather repeating what had already been handed down to him by the Jewish Christians he met in Antioch and Jerusalem. In fact, it has been recognized that Philippians 2:5-11, also known as the Carmen Christi, is actually from a tradition that predates Paul's conversion. It is most likely an early Christian hymn. If so, this is strong evidence that Jesus was acknowledged as God in human flesh from the very beginning. (For more information on this one, I strongly recommend getting a copy of The Forgotten Trinity by Dr. James White.)

Aside from the New Testament epistles, the writings of the early church fathers also provide strong evidence for the antiquity of the belief in deity of Christ. For example, there is the testimony of Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35-108 or 117 AD). In his epistles, he writes:

There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible,— even Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Ephesians. ch. 7.)

Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.
(Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Ephesians. ch. 19.)
If any one says there is one God, and also confesses Christ Jesus, but thinks the Lord to be a mere man, and not the only-begotten God, and Wisdom, and the Word of God, and deems Him to consist merely of a soul and body, such an one is a serpent, that preaches deceit and error for the destruction of men.
(Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Philadelphians. ch. 6.)

For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory].
(Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Romans. ch. 3.)

(Important note: There are quite a few forged epistles floating around that are alleged to have been written by Ignatius of Antioch. For this reason, I have taken care to quote only from those epistles which are considered to be his real writings.)

And then there is ante-Nicene epistle known as 2 Clement. Admittedly, this is not regarded as a genuine epistle of Clement, as Clement died around the end of the first century, whereas 2 Clement was written until around 140-160 AD. Nevertheless, this epistle is still early enough to be considered a valid witness to the faith of the Apostolic church. In it, the author writes,

Brethren, we ought so to think of our Lord Jesus Christ as of God, as of the judge of quick and dead, and we ought not to think meanly concerning our salvation.
(2nd Clement. 1:2.)

And then there is the witness of Justin Martyr (Ca. 100-165 AD), who is considered to be one of the first of the great Christian apologists. In his First Apology, he writes,

Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judæa, in the times of Tiberius Cæsar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove.
(Justin Martyr. First Apology. ch. 13.)

It is interesting to note that the quotation above is an early expression of the Holy Trinity. Although the structure of the doctrine did not fully develop until the fourth century, we can see that primitive strands of Trinitarian thought already existed in the earliest days of the church.

And finally, we have Melito of Sardis (? -180 AD). Much of his work has been lost, though we have been able to locate one of his sermons, which is now known as the Peri Pascha. This sermon is quite significant, as it displays an elevated Christology:

The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.
(Melito of Sardis. Peri Pascha. v. 96.)

He continues,

This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age.

This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen.
(Melito of Sardis. Peri Pascha. vv. 104-105.)

Thus, we can see that the proof is irrefutable that Christ has always been acknowledged as God. This was not an invention of the 3rd or 4th centuries, but is the apostolic witness, and is thus part and parcel of the faith which has been delivered to the saints.

So much for the "thousands of documents already exist[ing] chronicling His life as a mortal man."

(Continue to Part Two)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Excerpts on Islamic Texts

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:
Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people! of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet's Companions who fought against Musailama). (I went to him) and found `Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), "`Umar has come to me and said: "Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the! Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Qur'an by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yalmama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected."

I said to `Umar, "How can you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" `Umar said, "By Allah, that is a good project. "`Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which `Umar had realized."

Then Abu Bakr said (to me). 'You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it in one book)." By Allah If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an.

Then I said to Abu Bakr, "How will you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" Abu Bakr replied, "By Allah, it is a good project." Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and `Umar.

So I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat at-Tauba (Repentance) with Abi Khuza`ima Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him.
(Sahih Al-Bukhari 6:509)

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to `Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to `Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Qur'an) as Jews and the Christians did before." So `Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you."

Hafsa sent it to `Uthman. `Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, `Abdullah bin AzZubair, Sa`id bin Al-As and `AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. `Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue."

They did so, and when they had written many copies, `Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. `Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.

Sa`id bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuza`ima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23)
(Sahih Al-Bukhari 6:510)

It is reported from Ismail ibn Ibrahim from Ayyub from Naafi from Ibn Umar who said: 'let none of you say "I have acquired the whole of the Qur'an." How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur'an has disappeared? Rather let him say "I have acquired what has survived."
(As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan Fii Ulum Al-Qur'an. p. 524)

Then the people fell to variance in their reading; some read according to the version of 'Ali, which they follow to the present day; some read according to the collection of which we have made mention; one party read according to the text of ibn Mas'ud, and another according to that of Ubai ibn Ka'b. When 'Uthman came to power, and people everywhere differed in their reading, 'Ali sought grounds of accusation against him.

One man would read a verse one way, and another man another way; and there was change and interpolation, some copies having more and some less. When this was represented to 'Uthman, and the danger urged of division, strife, and apostasy, he thereupon caused to be collected together all the leaves and scraps that he could, together with the copy that was written out at the first.

But they did not interfere with that which was in the hands of 'Ali, or of those who followed his reading. Ubai was dead by this time, as for Ibn' Bas'ud, they demanded his exemplar, but he refused to give it up.
(The Apology of Al-Kindi. pp. 73-74)

Related Note
The debate between Dr. James White and Imam Syed Sayeed will be taking place tonight at 7PM EST. Dr. White will be broadcasting the debate (as he has before), so be sure to tune in to the Dividing Line webcast.

UPDATE (11/22/2009)
I've expanded the quotations from Sahih Al-Bukhari. The whole sections are now copied out, so that those who check them can see them in their original context.

Also, for the sake of future reference, I am also posting here a link to an online copy of The Apology of Al-Kindi, courtesy of Answering Islam.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New Books Arrived Today

  • Louis Berkhof - Systematic Theology, New Combined Edition (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996)
  • Darrell Bock - The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities (Thomas Nelson, 2006)
  • Joe Boot - Why I Still Believe (Baker, 2006)
  • Paul Varo Martinson - Families of Faith: An Introduction to World Religions for Christians (Augsburg Fortress, 1999)
Two new books:
  • Karen Armstrong - Buddha (Penguin Books, 2004)
  • Bruce Metzger - A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994)

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I am now contributing to my friend's apologetics blog, Cyber Church of Christ (which is not affiliated with the Churches of Christ). This simply means that from now on, some (not all) of my blog articles from Epagonizesthai will be posted there as well.

That is all. Happy Reformation Day to you all. Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Video)

My brief reply to Monica Dennington.

In light of recent denials of the doctrine of the Trinity, generally under the pretense that the doctrine is not clearly stated in the Bible, I present this short video demonstrating a few of the basic points that comprise the doctrine of the Trinity, and the scriptural basis for them. This is to give the viewer a basic where and how the Trinity is derived from the Holy Scriptures.

This is not a comprehensive video. Most (though not all) of the key texts are presented, and are allowed to speak for themselves. If anybody has any comments, suggestions, or objections regarding the Trinitarian exegesis of these passages, by all means, say so in the comment box.

By the way, some of the slides may move faster than others, and I apologize for that. Simply pause the video at those places where you think it may be moving too fast.

All scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.
Music is of the hymn "Holy Holy Holy."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Monica Dennington Now Denies the Trinity

This is the end result of having NO spiritual discernment or proper biblical training whatsoever...

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

The Depravity of Man

This is a submission I made to an essay contest. It is 326 words long, but since the essay contest's word limit is only 250 pages (I don't know why it's so short, so don't ask me), I submitted an abridged version. Here is the complete, unabridged version of the essay:

The Depravity of Man

We like to think that we’re good and decent people. After all, it just sounds so rude and politically incorrect to suggest that we’re something less than this, that we’re actually malevolent, that we’re just trying to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re virtuous beings, that this sickness is really a part of our nature as human beings. But are we really being completely honest with ourselves? Do we not all have that inner tendency to, like the stranded boys in William Golding’s fictional island, devolve into utter savagery?

When Thomas Hobbes formulated his social contract theory, he worked on the assumption that man in a state of nature is despicable, nasty and brutish.[1] As a Philosopher and Ethicist, Hobbes knew that trying to formulate a social contract theory on the presupposition that mankind is naturally noble and virtuous is pure folly, since one would have to take into account the inevitability of crime, corruption and chaos. The string of wars, corrupt dictators that are laid bare when one goes through the history of mankind testifies to the truth of our nature. Case in point: Pol Pot, that psychotic late dictator of Cambodia, after he had murdered millions of his own countrymen, declared “my conscience is clear.”[2]

Even when we do those things that we esteem to be good, it is only because we have baser motives for doing so, such as hope for rewards and praise, or fear of being punished by the powers that be. Without this sort of restraint, we shall become as the savages of old; slaves to our own nature, even while labouring behind the illusory curtain of liberty from restraint. It is indisputable, and no matter how we try to deny it, in the end we will have to face that inconvenient truth: our nature is depraved. It is as the Good Book declared long before: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?[3]

End Notes
  1. Ayson, Florentino and Dolores Aligada-Reyes. Fundamentals of Political Science: Second Edition, 2005. Mandaluyong City: National Book Store, 2005. p. 37.
  2. 'My conscience is clear' says Killing Fields leader Pol Pot. BBC News. [].
  3. Jeremiah 17:9, English Standard Version.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Atheist "De-Baptism"

I've seen and heard some crazy things before, but this one just takes the cake:

Some atheists think they can undo their baptism with a de-baptism. Why do they even care?

The title of the USA Today article says it all - Atheists choose 'de-baptism' to renounce childhood faith. I'm not sure that Hemingway could have summarized it better. When a person becomes a Christian they repent and believe the Gospel. They renounce their previous life (repent of sins) and proclaim that they belong to Jesus. These proactive steps might explain why de-baptisms are taking place. It is somewhat of a reversal process. De-baptism is actually another borrowing of the Christian worldview by atheists. Why do it at all?

Read more about it here:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When Liberty is Too Much

This is an in-class essay that I wrote for my grade 12 English class earlier this month. My teacher vehemently disagrees with my position, yet has conceded that my essay is "undeniably well written" and that I have well-supported my position with my citations. For posterity, I have transcribed the essay and am posting it here on Epagonizesthai, with some minor changes in form, including a few minor revisions suggested my teacher.

When Liberty is Too Much

When Individualism Reaches Excess

"It's my own life and I'll live it how ever I want." This is (arguably) the rallying cry of our age. Many in our generation do not like being told what to do, and would prefer to set themselves as their own final authority. If anyone says that there are higher standards and virtues that we are to be held accountable to, let him be anathema!

Of course, this is not to say that we are one hundred percent self-centered all of the time. No sane person could live such a way. As writer John Langone has pointed out,

If you always thought only of yourself, chances are you wouldn’t think about being loyal to anyone. You might betray those around [you], and be betrayed by them. There would be no reason to distinguish between right and wrong because whatever you felt was right would be right.[1]

This kind of attitude is what inevitable takes us to moral relativism, which is defined as the belief that there are no absolute moral standards, that right and wrong are relative to the individual (or group if you have that herd mentality), and eschews the notion that moral judgments can be grounded in any way, so that moral reasoning becomes a completely subjective endeavor.[2]

This brings to mind one particular incident when the popular writer and thinker Ravi Zacharias was speaking at Oxford University. At that time, some students came up to him and insisted that absolute values don’t exist. As Zacharias recounts,

I asked one of them whether it would be wrong for me to take a butcher knife and cut to pieces a one-year-old child for sheer delight. There was a pause, and then he said, to an audible from those listening, “I would not like what you did, but I would not honestly say that it would be wrong.”[3]

It sounds sick, doesn’t it? And yet the student in that encounter was being logically consistent in his beliefs. How indeed can we say that it is wrong? When Pol Pot murdered millions of his countrymen and claimed, “My conscience is clear,” we may protest at his grotesque depravity, but do we have any solid basis for even making such a judgment? A consistent moral relativist would have to say no. This is what happens when we turn ourselves as individuals into our own personal “ground of all being.” If we follow this paradigm to its logical conclusion, we end up with Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil.” Like Nietzsche, we would dismiss caring for the “little guy” as utter folly, saying that those who do, “have preserved too much that which should have perished,” and be, “work[ing] for the deterioration of the European [or in our case the human] race.”[4]

And yet, those who espouse this view become “moralists” in denouncing those who defend the notion of absolute right and wrong. These pundits will preach and pontificate on their paradigm, even though they have no real basis for doing so, As Philip Yancey has observed,

The pioneers of unmorality [sic] have practiced a blatant contradiction… the new moralists first proclaim that morality is capricious, perhaps even a joke, then proceed to use moral categories to condemn their opponents… These new high priests lecture us solemnly about multiculturalism, gender equality, homophobia and environmental degradation, all the while ignoring the fact that they have systematically destroyed any basis for judging such behavior [as] right or wrong. The emperor so quick to discourse about fashion happens to be stark naked.[5]

This has also been the critique on our education system, as Robert Nielsen (in his review of writer Allan Bloom’s book, “Closing the American Mind” writes:

Literate or not, earnest or trifling, rich or poor, nearly every student… enters university with one fixed belief—that truth is relative. Students assume that areas are valid only for their time and place, or perhaps only for the individual holding them; that there are no universal and eternal verities for people to learn and live by. This leaves everyone free to think and do as they please, without worrying about right and wrong, so long as they don’t infringe on others’ freedom to do otherwise. The only sin is intolerance.[6]

What if we had a math class where every individual is free to decide for himself what the sum of two plus two is, and anybody who claims that any answer other than four is wrong is immediately branded as “close-minded” and “intolerant.” It sounds like a surreal scenario, yet that is the kind of logic that is being propagated by schools and by popular culture today. It is no wonder that many of our youth end up broken and disillusioned as they grow older. We need to break out of this individualistic mentality of relativism. It is my contention that we have lost our grounding on matters of truth and morality, and must bring ourselves to the consequences of our ideas, not to mention those higher standards of absolute truth and right and wrong that we have so foolishly relinquished. Then, and only then may we be able to find our way, rather than spinning our own heads around hopelessly in circles.

End Notes
  1. Langone, John. Thorny Issues: How Ethics and Morality Affect the Way We live. Little, Brown and Company, 1981. p. 9-10.
  2. Spinello, Richard. “Relativism.” Ethics: Revised Edition, Volume 3. Salem Press, 2005. p. 1252.
  3. Zacharias, Ravi. Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth. Multnomah Publishers, 2002. p. 21.
  4. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil., 1886. p. 95-96.
  5. Yancey, Philip. “Biological Imperative Does not Cause People to Act Ethically.” Ethics: Current Controversies. Greenhaven Press, 2000. p. 38.
  6. Nielsen, Robert. “The Closing of the (North) American Mind.” Echoes: Fiction, Media and Non-Fiction. Oxford University Press, 2002. p. 327.