From Jim McGuiggan... Can we still believe?

Can we still believe?

Because the world has a God-denying look I have never been more glad than now to know that the love of God and his holy purposes were made known on a cross, in the middle of bedlam and chaos, pain and cursing and evil and brutality. The shock of war, the depressing effect of war, the chaos and bedlam of war, however anguish-bringing, can't work ultimate harm to the faith of those who have seen God in the cataclysm at Golgotha working a wondrous work. More than ever I'm certain that what Christians need to be telling are the massive foundational doctrinal truths to people who are already in pain or soon will be.
The deep-rooted confidence that's possible in life isn't born out of endless summery days and pleasant experiences. What gives us the assurance of permanent blessing and joy is nothing less that the conflict that raged around the incarnate Lord on a cross in the Middle East. The Christian faith is born out of the clash between worlds when powerful evil forces combined and the world spirit met God who had come in and as the man Jesus Christ. The result is spelled out in Colossians 2:15. The world agony and evil we see everywhere we look is no new thing! And what we see is only the tip of the iceberg. The hideous and horrifying spectacles like Auschwitz, Cambodia and a million innocent looking houses that hide cruelty and degradation that defies description are only the masks that hide the evil behind the evil. Praise God for his work at the cross. What is true of war is true of ovarian cancer, lifelong depression or bone deep loneliness.
The Christ of the cross says to you who are crushed almost to despair: "Take heart, I have overcome the world in your name and for your sake."
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing to post from his website, theabidingword.com

A Christian Approach to Islam [Part II] by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.


A Christian Approach to Islam [Part II]

by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the January issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]
Unlike the popular notion, Islam is not the exclusive religion of Arab countries in the Middle East, but has found prolific expression around the globe. It is the fastest-growing religion in the world, claiming up to one billion adherents worldwide. To put that in perspective, this figure indicates that one out of every five people is a Muslim. In the United States, there are now up to five million Muslims, and over 1,100 mosques or Islamic centers (see Rood, 1994; Ahmad, 1995). Muslims, therefore, no longer are the vague features of geographically detached people, but could be among those whom we encounter in our daily routines. In light of these considerations, properly understanding, and responding to, Islam become increasingly apparent and personal.
The Persian Gulf War, and other such conflicts involving the U.S. and Islamic nations, have created within Westerners largely negative images of Muslims. Often they are associated with the stubbled faces and cold stares of fanatical terrorists who, to advance their political agenda, bomb public facilities, snuffing out hundreds of innocent lives. While some militant Islamic sects have conducted terrorist activity in the U.S. and other Western nations, they are not necessarily representative of all Muslims (see Al-Ashmawy, 1996; Sial, 1995). Simply exposing the radical views held by violent sects would not be a responsible critique of Islam. As Islamic writer Mubashar Ahmad correctly has objected, such an approach “would be as if someone tries to understand Christianity by reading the news of what is happening politically and religiously in Northern Ireland or of apartheid in South Africa” (1995).


In light of Ahmad’s legitimate caveat, at least two observations need to guide an analysis of, and response to, Islam. First, as indicated in part one of this series, Islam is not a monolithic system, but contains several identifiable sects and movements (Brantley, 1996; see Rood, 1994). It is “a religious movement that has experienced constant change over the centuries and has acquired a high degree of inner diversity, a faith shared by concrete men and women with a broad spectrum of attitudes and feelings” (Kung, 1986, p. 22). Not all Muslims engage in, or support, the terrorist activity of fundamentalist Islamic sects. In fact, nonextremist Muslims decry the intolerant Islam preached by militant fanatics whose messages, they contend, are “a cover for advancing their political agenda and their lust for power, and ideology more akin to fascism and Marxism than to the Islamic faith” (Al-Ashmawy, 1996, p. 157). Thus, a Christian response to Islam must guard against stereotyping Muslims as blood-thirsty rogues with no regard for human life.
Second, we need to be sensitive to, and try to appreciate, the anti-west/anti-U.S. sentiment among many Middle Eastern Muslims. Historically, Muslims have equated, and continue to equate, the West with Christianity. From this perspective, “Christian” and “Muslim” nations have had a long history of conflict, leaving both with animosity toward one another. While Islamic countries have committed their share of atrocities against Christian nations, the former do have some legitimate grievances against the latter. The Crusades (c. 1050-1291), for example, are etched indelibly into Muslim minds. In the Colonial period (c. 1450-1970), Western nations subjugated about ninety percent of the Muslim world, which instilled in many Muslims a deep desire to avenge such shame and humiliation. Perhaps the greatest blow to the Islamic ego was when, after thirteen hundred years of occupation, they lost possession of Jerusalem to the Jews in 1967. Muslims blame this turn of events on the “Christian” West for creating the state of Israel in 1948 (see McCurry, 1994). Though we might reasonably object that they have skewed history to a certain extent (see van Ess, 1986, pp. 37-38), Muslims nonetheless view the West, and particularly the U.S., through lenses colored by this history of Muslim casualties. If we are to have any success in reaching Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must approach them with sensitivities toward their, and our, past.


While we recognize the vast diversity of thought and attitudes within Islam, our response to this world religion must be limited to its core beliefs. Before offering such a critique, it will be both helpful and crucial to clarify the points of tension between Christianity and Islam. While on a superficial level it appears that Christianity and Islam share common theological ground in some particulars (e.g., monotheism), a closer scrutiny of the two religions exposes several fundamental differences that can be reconciled only by a costly compromise by either the Christian, the Muslim, or both.

Monotheism of Islam

At first glance, it appears that the rigid monotheism of Islam largely is compatible with Christian thought. The idea expressed in the Qur’an that God is “the one, the most unique,” and the “immanently indispensable” to Whom “no one is comparable” (sura 112:1-2,4), generally agrees with biblical concepts of God (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4; Psalm 86:8; Isaiah 40:18; 44:6). Yet, the monotheism of Islam is so rigid and inflexible that it repudiates two crucial, and inextricably linked, doctrines of historic Christianity.
1. The Trinity. Though questioned by some groups within the pale of Christianity, the concept of the trinity has strong biblical support (see Bromling, 1991). This doctrine does not suggest, as is alleged by non-Trinitarians, a tri-theistic construct of God. It simply affirms that there are three distinct persons (i.e., the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), yet all are one in essence. In other words, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sustain distinct relationships to one another, they share the same divine nature (see Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, p. 266). In this regard, Christianity and Islam are firmly opposed to one another. Unlike the monotheism of Christianity that allows for a plurality within the divine essence, Islam condemns such a pluralistic concept of God (see Kaleem, 1994). The Qur’an cautions the “people of the book” (i.e., Christians) against calling God “Trinity” for “God is only one God” (sura4:171).
2. The Deity of Jesus. Consistent with Islam’s repudiation of the Trinitarian idea of God, the Qur’an, though it exalts Jesus in many particulars, explicitly denies the deity of Jesus. While the Qur’an acknowledges that Jesus was a miraculous “sign” and divine “blessing” (19:21), Islamic Christology is totally devoid of divine content (see Kuitse, 1992, 20:357). Since God’s transcendent glory prohibits His begetting a son, the Qur’an presents Jesus only as the “son of Mary,” not the Son of God (4:171). Rather than possessing the divine nature as in biblical Christology (Philippians 2:8-12; Colossians 1:18), the Qur’anic Jesus “was only a creature” (43:59) brought into existence by God’s creative word (3:42-52). Islam’s view of Jesus demonstrates the vast difference between it and Christianity. And, far from being a peripheral issue, the deity of Jesus is an essential tenet of Christianity. Thus, while Christianity and Islam share a common monotheistic belief, there is no resolving their Christological differences as they stand.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Another cardinal doctrine of Christianity—the atonement—is discarded by the Qur’an. That Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the grave according to the Scriptures is the thrust of the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Contrary to the conclusion of some modern theologians, Paul argued that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were actual events of history. Following Paul’s line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, if Christ did not actually rise from the dead there is no gospel, and the entire Christian system is annulled (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). A denial of these core events is tantamount to rejecting the veracity of Christianity.
Yet, Islam does deny these central Christian events, charging that Jesus actually did not die on the cross (see Ijaz, n.d.). In a context in which the Jews are excoriated for repeatedly breaking God’s covenant, the Qur’an reads:
And for saying [in boast]: “We killed the Christ, Jesus, son of Mary, who was an apostle of God;” but they neither killed nor crucified him, though it so appeared to them. Those who disagree in the matter are only lost in doubt. They have no knowledge about it other than conjecture, for surely they did not kill him, but God raised him up (in position) and closer to Himself; and God is all-mighty and all wise (sura 4:157-158).
This one reading has generated considerable debate among Islamic commentators. The phrase, “so it appeared to them,” particularly has been problematic. Generally, orthodox Muslims have interpreted this to mean that in some mysterious manner, God made another person so resemble Jesus that he was crucified by mistake. By this means God intervened and frustrated the Jews’ evil purpose, and subsequently transported Jesus into heaven (see Geisler and Saleeb, 1992, pp. 64-65). According to Norman Anderson, Muhammad’s aversion to Jesus’ death as reflected in the Qur’an could have been motivated by several factors. Perhaps it was due, Anderson suggests, to the influence of Gnostic views, to his disdain for the “superstitious veneration” of the symbol of the cross in seventh-century Asia, or to his disbelief that God would allow one of His prophets to die in such a disgraceful manner (1975, p. 101). Of these possibilities, the latter is the most likely candidate.
Regardless of the rationale behind Islam’s denial of Jesus’ crucifixion, one fact remains: Islam rejects the idea of Jesus’ crucifixion and, by implication, His vicarious suffering for sinful humanity. As already indicated, such a denial strikes at the very heart of the Christian system. Once again, any points of contact between Islam and Christianity are eclipsed by this fundamental difference.

Means of Salvation

As a corollary to its denial of Jesus’ death, Islam differs significantly with Christianity regarding the means of humankind’s salvation. In the Christian system, all responsible human beings without Christ are powerless slaves to a ruthless taskmaster—sin (Romans 5:6-11; 6:15-18; Ephesians 2:14-18). Since there is no means of liberating ourselves from the bondage of sin, human beings desperately are in need of a savior. In response to this critical condition, God, motivated by His love, entered into human history as a man, and offered His sinless life for humanity. The New Testament writers employed several images (financial, military, sacrificial, and legal) to convey in a concrete way the soteriological purpose of Christ’s death. Through the cross, sinners are purchased (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), victorious (Colossians 1:12; 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28), atoned for (Romans 3:25; 1 Corinthians 5:7), and acquitted and reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:16-19; Colossians 1:19-20; see Guthrie, 1994, pp. 251-256). While scholars continue to debate the theological details of these images, it is clear from the New Testament that God took the initiative in the salvation of humanity. It further emphasizes that salvation is not by human works of merit, but by God’s grace through an expressive faith in the redemptive act of Christ on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Islam, however, has no place for a suffering savior in its redemptive system. It does not view human beings as enslaved by sin without the ability of self-emancipation. Though it emphasizes the role of God’s mercy and forgiveness in salvation, Islam teaches that God’s pleasure, and thus one’s place in Heaven, are earned (cf. suras 2:207; 39:69). On the Day of Judgment, according to Islam, those who have fulfilled their religious duties, and compensated for their altruistic deficiencies by performing additional good deeds, will attain salvation. Those whose good deeds are insufficient, however, “shall forfeit their souls and abide in Hell forever” (sura 23:102-103). In the final analysis, according to Islam, humankind’s spiritual need is not for a divine savior, but simply for divine guidance.


The points of tension between Islam and Christianity demonstrate the theological incompatibility of these two world views. To embrace Islam is to deny the essentials of the Christian faith; likewise, to espouse Christianity is to compromise seriously the core beliefs of Islam. Having laid out the basic practices and duties of Islam, and having highlighted the distinctions between Islam and Christianity, a Christian evaluation of Islam now is in order. Due to space restrictions, we will devote our attention to two crucial points of Islam: the nature of God, and the Qur’an.

The Nature of God

As already indicated, the stringent monotheism of Islam categorizes the Trinitarian concept of deity espoused by Christians as tri-theism. This is due to a misunderstanding of the Father/Son relationship between God and Jesus as mentioned in the Bible (see John 10:29-33). For Jesus to sustain such a filial kinship to God, “often in the Muslim mind implies some kind of sexual generation” (Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, pp. 134-135). Of course, the term “Father” or “Son” does not necessitate physical procreation any more than Saddam Hussein’s description of the Gulf War as the “Mother of all Battles” demands that the conflict had a physical womb. The description of Jesus as the “only begotten Son” of God (John 3:16) refers, not to a physical act of procreation, but to His unique relationship to God the Father.
The idea expressed in the Qur’an that God’s glory prohibits Him from begetting a son (in the carnal sense; sura 4:171) provides further insight into the theology of Islam. God is so transcendent and unified to Himself that He is dissociated totally from creation and, thus, acts impersonally (McDowell, 1983, p. 393). To many Muslims, this implies that God is so detached from our human existence that He has no (knowable) essence; He is absolute Will. A God with no essence means a God with no essential characteristics. From this perspective, though the Qur’an extols God as “the Compassionate, the Merciful,” such characteristics are not rooted in His essence but are the results of His capricious will. As the Qur’an indicates, God is merciful simply because “He has decreed mercy for Himself ” (sura 6:12). In short, in Islamic theology what God does determines who God is. Since God’s actions are contingent on His arbitrary will, then who God is ultimately is an act of His volition.
Such a concept of God, however, involves a serious moral difficulty. It implies the possibility that, had God willed it, He might as easily have been “The Merciless” rather than “The Merciful.” For, as Geisler and Saleeb have observed, “if God is Will, without any real essence, then he does not do things because they are right; rather, they are right because he does them” (1993, pp. 136-137). In the final analysis, the God of Islam has no nature by which He is inherently prohibited from, or motivated toward, certain actions. The God of Christianity, however, has such a nature that self-limits His actions (e.g., He cannot lie, Titus 1:2). In addition, rather than being the products of His volition, the benevolent attributes of the Christian God (e.g., goodness, mercy, love, grace) are part of His essence.
These divergent concepts of God find practical expression in profoundly different ways. Consistent with Islamic theology, the concern of orthodox Muslims is not to know God in an intimate fashion, but simply to obey Him. The God of Islam does not reveal Himself; rather, He reveals only His will, to which Muslims are to submit in an external fashion. On the contrary, the God of Christianity has revealed not only His propositional truth in the Bible, but also His essence in the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, Christians seek not only to do God’s will, but to be in a covenant relationship with Him. Due to the Islamic concept of God, together with its works-oriented means of salvation, Muslims cannot have the sense of security that Christians enjoy through God’s grace as taught in the Bible.

The Qur’an

To Muslims, the Qur’an is not merely the counterpart of the Christian Bible, but is the Islamic equivalent of Christ. According to Muslim scholar, Yusuf K. Ibish, “If you want to compare it with anything in Christianity, you must compare it with Christ Himself ” (as quoted in Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, p. 179). Consistent with Ibish’s observation, Muslims assign to the Qur’an the same attributes that Christians apply to Christ. For example, just as Jesus is the human manifestation of the eternal God in biblical Christology (John 1:1-3,14; Hebrews 1:1-3), the Qur’an is the linguistic representation of God’s eternal Word. In short, while in Christianity the divine Word became a human being, in Islam the eternal Word became a book. Muslims further argue that the Qur’an not only is the inspired, inerrant, eternal, and final revelation of God that supersedes all others, but is also the ultimate divine miracle. In fact, as stated in part one of this series, it was the only miracle Muhammad offered when asked to display his prophetic credentials. Muslims employ several arguments to support the claim of the Qur’an’s miraculous status. Consider two of the most popular arguments, and a brief response.
1. Unique literary style. To many Muslims the strongest evidence supporting the miraculous nature of the Qur’an is its impressive literary style. The Arabic in which the Qur’an was written has rhyming, rhythmic qualities that delight the Arab’s ears (Shorrosh, 1988, p. 25). Muslims further hold that the Qur’an’s rhetoric, clarity of expression, and concepts are unparalleled in the world of literature. To Muslim apologists, these literary qualities indicate the divine origin of the Qur’an.
To question the literary quality of the Qur’an, as many attempt to do, is an inadequate response to this argument because the Muslim simply would point out that only those who understand the nuances of the Arabic language can appreciate this aspect of the Qur’an. Further, determining the quality of a production introduces the dimension of subjectivity. Hence, the question is: Does eloquence indicate divine inspiration? At best, the eloquence of the Qur’an only suggests that Muhammad was a gifted orator. If eloquence is strong evidence for divine inspiration, the works of Homer and Shakespeare are candidates for this exalted status as well. In short, the argument from eloquence is not a sufficient proof of inspiration.
2. Muhammad’s illiteracy. A controversial verse in the Qur’an forms the basis for the belief in Muhammad’s illiteracy. In that passage, Allah promises to bestow mercy on those who, among other duties, “follow the Apostle—the Unlettered Prophet...” (sura 7:157). The phrase “the Unlettered Prophet,” often is interpreted to indicate Muhammad’s illiteracy. If so, Muslims contend, this is further confirmation of the Qur’an’s divine origin, since it would have been highly improbable, if not impossible, for a formally-uneducated prophet to produce such a quality work.
There are at least two points to make in response to this claim. First, it is questionable whether Muhammad actually was illiterate. Some Arabic scholars contend that the words al umni “the unlettered,” actually mean “the heathen,” or “the gentile,” which is reflected in more recent translations (see Ali, 1993, p. 148). Second, if Muhammad actually were illiterate, that fact alone would not necessitate that the Qur’an was dictated to him by God. One’s level of formal training does not necessarily enhance one’s intelligence or creative abilities. Even if he could neither read nor write, Muhammad could have dictated his messages to a scribe who subsequently wrote them down. In the final analysis, it is plausible that someone with no formal training could have produced the Qur’an. Hence, the question of Muhammad’s illiteracy is a peripheral issue when it comes to establishing the divine origin of the Qur’an.
Islamic apologists offer other arguments to support the Qur’an’s claim of divine authorship. Among them are the alleged perfect preservation of the Qur’anic text, fulfilled prophecies, its unity, and scientific accuracy. These evidences, however, similarly prove to be unconvincing (see Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, pp. 204; Lawson, 1991).


Of course, Muslims, as do other non-believers, challenge the evidences for biblical inspiration. Since, generally speaking, Islamic countries protect the Qur’an from criticism, it has not been subjected to the same intensity of critical analysis as has the Bible. Despite the centuries-long attacks against biblical credibility, the Bible has fared quite well. And, though it is not within the purview of this brief article to enumerate each of them, there are impressive evidences for the integrity of the Christian system (see Geisler, 1976; Wharton, 1977)
While we can, and should, discuss the differences between Islam and Christianity, and debate with Muslims regarding the inspiration of the Qur’an, encountering Muslims at this level most likely will produce little evangelistic progress. First we must extend the love of Christ to Muslims in concrete ways. Once they have seen tangible evidence of the risen Lord within our lives, we will be in a better position to discuss these more technical, yet vital, issues.


Ahmad, Mubashar (1995), The Changing Perception of Islam in American Pluralistic Society [Online],URL http://www.utexas.edu/students/amso/changing_perception.html. [NOTE: This link no longer is active.]
Al-Ashmawy, Sai’d (1996), “Islam’s Agenda,” Readers Digest, pp. 156-160, January.
Ali, Ahmed (1993), Al-Qur’an: A Contemporary Translation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Anderson, Norman (1975), “Islam,” The World’s Religions, ed. Norman Anderson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Brantley, Garry K. (1996), “A Christian Approach to Islam—Part I,” Reason and Revelation, 16:1-7, January.
Bromling, Brad (1991), “Trinity—From Nice or Heaven?,” Reasoning from Revelation, 3:1, January.
Geisler, Norman L. (1976), Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb (1993), Answering Islam (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Guthrie, Shirley C. (1994), Christian Doctrine (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox).
Ijaz, Tahir (n.d.), Prophet Jesus Had Died: The Quran [Online], URLhttp://www.utexas.edu/students/amso/1_Quran.html. [NOTE: This link no longer is active.]
Kaleem, Al Haj Ata Ullah (1994), The Islamic Concept of God [Online], URLhttp://www.utexas.edu/students/ amso/ror/islamic_god.html#misc. [NOTE: This link no longer is active.]
Kuitse, Roelf S. (1992), “Christology in the Qur’an,” Missiology: An International Review, 20:355-369.
Kung, Hans (1986), “Muhammad and the Qur’an: Prophecy and Revelation: A Christian Response,”Christianity and World Religions, ed. Hans Kung (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).
Lawson, Todd B. (1991), “Note for the Study of a Shi’i Qur’an,” Journal of Semitic Studies, 36:279-295.
McCurry, Don (1994), Witnessing to Muslims [Online], URLhttp://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/crj0123a.txt. [NOTE: This link no longer is active.]
McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart (1983), Handbook on Today’s Religions (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers).
Rood, Rick (1994), What Is Islam? [Online]. (Richardson, TX: Probe Ministries), URLhttp://www.gocin.com/probe/islam.htm. [NOTE: This link no longer is active.]
Shorrosh, Anis A. (1988), Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab’s View of Islam (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson).
Sial, Sultan (1995), Terrorized Twice [Online], URLhttp://www.utexas.edu/students/amso/oklahoma.html#Quran. [NOTE: This link no longer is active.]
van Ess, Josef (1986), “Sunnis and Shi’ites: The State, Law, and Religion: Islamic Perspectives,”Christianity and World Religions, ed. Hans Kung (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).
Wharton, Edward C. (1977), Christianity: A Clear Case of History (West Monroe, LA: Howard).

The Da Vinci Code and the Dead Sea Scrolls by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Da Vinci Code and the Dead Sea Scrolls

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The Schøyen Collection MS 1655/1
In 1947, a number of ancient documents were found (by accident) in a cave on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. This collection of documents, which has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, was comprised of old leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments that had been rolled up in earthen jars for centuries. From 1949 to 1956, hundreds of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and a few Greek fragments were found in surrounding caves, and are believed by scholars to have been written between 200 B.C. and the first half of the first century A.D. Some of the manuscripts were of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (e.g., 1 Enoch, Tobit, and Jubilees); others are often grouped together as “ascetic” writings (miscellaneous books of rules, poetry, commentary, etc.). The most notable group of documents found in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea is the collection of Old Testament books. Every book from the Hebrew Bible was accounted for among the scrolls, except the book of Esther.
The Dead Sea Scrolls make up one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. Jews and Christians often point to these scrolls as evidence for the integrity of the Old Testament text. Prior to 1947, the earliest known Old Testament manuscripts only went back to about A.D. 1000. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible scholars have been able to compare the present day text with the text from more than 2,000 years ago. What they have found are copies of Old Testament books separated in time by more than a millennium that are amazingly similar. Indeed, the Old Testament text had been transmitted faithfully through the centuries. As Rene Paché concluded: “Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the Old Testament was accurately transmitted for the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the beginning” (1971, p. 191).
So what does all of this have to do with The Da Vinci Code? According to Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” (2003a, p. 1, emp. added). Yet notice how Brown uses one of his main fictional characters (Leigh Teabing) in the book. In an attempt to disparage the New Testament documents, Teabing alleged the following about them and their relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls:
“[S]ome of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert” (Brown, 2003a, p. 234).
“These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls, which I mentioned earlier,” Teabing said. “The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible” (p. 244).
Although Brown asserted on the very first page of his book that “[a]ll descriptions of...documents...in this novel are accurate” (emp. added), and even though he claimed “absolutely all” of his book is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred (see Brown, 2003b), among the many inaccurate statements he made in his book are those quoted above regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Simply put, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not in any way “Christian records;” they are Jewish writings from a Jewish religious sect, most of which predate the time of Christ (and thus Christianity) by several decades, and in some cases one or two centuries. These scrolls contain no “gospels.” In fact, Jesus of Nazareth is never even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Such a reckless use of one of the greatest biblical archaeological discoveries ever should cause readers to see The Da Vinci Code for what it really is—a fictional novel bent on raising unnecessary suspicion about the trustworthiness of the Bible. Interestingly, the “documents” Brown used in hopes of casting doubt on Christianity, are, in actuality, some of the greatest pieces of evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament. What’s more, the Old Testament was “the Bible” of the early church. It is from these “Scriptures” that first-century Christians gleaned a greater understanding about Jesus, Who, as taught in the Old Testament, was the Christ, the prophesied Messiah (Acts 8:32-35; 17:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). In that sense, the Hebrew Scriptures contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls collection marvelously “match up with the gospels in the Bible.”


Brown, Dan (2003a), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Brown, Dan (2003b), “Today,” NBC, Interview with Matt Lauer, June 9.
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

“How Come Earth Got All the Good Stuff?” by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


“How Come Earth Got All the Good Stuff?”

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Stuart Clark, of New Scientist magazine, recently asked the question, “How come Earth got all the good stuff?” Of all the planets in our solar system that allegedly formed naturalistically “from the same cloud of gas and dust that surrounded the sun more than 4.5 billion years ago,” why is “Earth...so suitable for life” (Clark, 2008, 199[2675]:29)? Stuart acknowledged:
We know that its distance from the sun provides the right amount of heat and light to make the planet habitable, but that alone is not enough. Without the unique mix of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur that makes up living things, and without liquid water on the planet’s surface, life as we know it could not have evolved. Chemically speaking, Earth is simply better set up for life than its neighbours. So how come we got all the good stuff? (p. 29).
How did Earth get to be just the right distance from the Sun so that it receives “the right amount of heat and light to make the planet habitable” (emp. added)? How did Earth get such a “unique mix” of all the elements that make up living things? How did Earth “acquire its life-giving water supply?” (p. 29). Did Earth become the “just-right” planet by happenstance?
Clark said that our best hope to find clues about Earth’s origin is from meteorites, since “they formed at the same time as the planets” (p. 29). However, he admitted: “[T]here are subtle differences that are proving tough to explain. For example, the mix of oxygen isotopes in chondritic meteorites does not match those found on Earth. So far no one knows why, but since oxygen is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust...it is a mystery that cannot be ignored” (p. 29, emp. added). Regarding Earth’s “life-giving water supply,” Clarke suggested that “[t]he most popular explanation is that the water arrived later, in the form of icy comets from the outer solar system that rained down in the period known as the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment.’ As yet, though, there is no firm evidence to confirm this as the source of Earth’s water” (p. 30).
Though atheistic scientists have attempted to answer these and similar questions for many years, still no one has a legitimate naturalistic explanation for what New Scientist calls our planet’s “biggest mysteries” (p. 28). To conclude that Earth received just the right amount of “carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur” by time, chance, and non-intelligence is irrational. When does time, chance, and non-intelligence ever produce such wonderful effects? To conclude that the estimated 326 million cubic miles of water on Earth (“How Much Water...?,” 2008) are the result of “icy comets from the outer solar system” raining down on Earth millions of years ago is equally absurd.
The fact is, adequate non-intelligent, random, naturalistic causes for the “just-right” Earth do not exist. The only rational explanation for the precise design of Earth, the cosmos as a whole, and life on Earth is an intelligent supernatural Creator.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:20-22).
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).


Clark, Stuart (2008), “How Come Earth Got All the Good Stuff?,” New Scientist, 199[2675]: 29-30, September 27.
“How Much Water is on Earth?” (2008), Livescience.com, [On-line], URL:http://www.livescience.com/mysteries/070621_llm_water.html.

"Jesus Was a Vegetarian" by Kyle Butt, M.A.

"Jesus Was a Vegetarian"
by Kyle Butt, M.A.


Recently I read the statement, “Jesus was a vegetarian.” Supposedly, since Jesus did not eat meat, neither should we. There are several problems with this line of reasoning.
First, people often use the “Jesus did x, y, or z” to demand that we should do the same things. But the truth is, just because Jesus did or did not do something does not necessarily have any bearing on what we should or should not do. Jesus did many things that we are under no moral obligation to imitate. For instance, could we say, “Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem and so should you?” Or what about, “Jesus never rode in a car, and neither should we?” Would we be correct to demand, “Jesus never had electric lights, so cut off your power?” Or “Jesus never sent a text message, so stop texting?” You can quickly see the problem here. While it is the case that Jesus is the perfect example of how all humans should live, it is not the case that every aspect of His life is something that we should copy. Paul explained it well in Philippians 2:5 when he said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Notice it is the “mind” of Christ, or His attitude, that we are to imitate. That means that while Jesus was seeking the lost He may have gone up on a mountain to preach, but we may need to use a microphone or a YouTube video. Or whereas Jesus walked from village to village, we may need to drive, fly, or ride a bus. Just because Jesus wore sandals that does not mean hiking boots are off limits for His followers.
The second reason the “Jesus was a vegetarian” statement was so strange to me is because it is patently false. He certainly was not a vegetarian. He often ate meat. In Luke 24:42-43 the text says: “So they gave Him [Jesus] a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” The passage could not be more straightforward about Jesus consuming fish. In addition, since Jesus was  a Jew who faithfully followed the Old Law, He was commanded to eat the Passover Lamb every year. In Exodus 12:5-8, we read that all the Jews were to take a Passover lamb, kill it on the  14th day of the first month and “eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs.” In the New Testament, we see Jesus arranging this very procedure with His apostles. Luke 22:7-8 states, “Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He [Jesus] sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.’” This was just one of the many animal sacrifices that Jewish people ate on a regular basis.
Third, the New Testament makes it clear that killing and eating animals is perfectly acceptable to God. In 1 Timothy 4:1-4 the Holy Spirit foretold that some were going to depart from teaching the truth and were going to command people to “abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Notice that in this passage, the sense in which God calls animals “good” is the fact that they are good for food. The idea that God, Jesus, or the Bible somehow morally obligate people to be vegetarians simply is incorrect.

"Evolution is the Scientific Consensus—So You Should Believe It!” by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


"Evolution is the Scientific Consensus—So You Should Believe It!”

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

“Everybody’s doin’ it. So, you should, too,” the little boy’s classmate says. After giving in and engaging in the inappropriate behavior and getting caught, what does the little boy’s mother say? “If everybody jumps off a cliff, are you going to jump with them?” We’ve all likely heard sound reasoning like that from an authority, and yet the truth of such logic must not have “sunk in” with many in the evolutionary community.
Recently, we received an e-mail at Apologetics Press responding to an article we posted a few weeks back titled, “Bill Nye: The (Pseudo-)Science Guy” (Miller, 2012a). The gentleman’s comments were not atypical of many of the comments we receive from the evolutionary community, but one line of reasoning, in particular, is representative of the mindset of many. Thus, we felt it was worth a formal, public response. The argument this individual based his contention on was that the scientific consensus on a subject—whatever it may be—should be ultimately accepted (i.e., considered as “gospel”), and any further scientific investigation and/or discovery should be viewed in light of the veracity of the scientific consensus on that subject. Specifically, he applied the concept to the idea that belief in Darwinian evolution is the scientific consensus today and therefore, should be accepted—not resisted, as we do at Apologetics Press. This gentleman is hardly the only one who espouses such a view. So, it is worthy of consideration to see if it holds up under scrutiny.
Perhaps the first objection one should have to such a mindset is that it falls into the category of logical fallacies known as Argumentum ad Populum—appeal to the majority (Archie, 2012). The variation of this fallacy known as “Bandwagon,” is the idea in which someone attempts to “prove a conclusion on the grounds that all or most people think or believe it is true” (Archie). In other words, just because a lot of people believe in something (like macroevolution), that does not make it true—and the number of people who believe in it should not be cited as evidence in support of the proposition. Just because bloodletting was “the most common procedure performed by surgeons for almost two thousand years,” that should not have made it an acceptable idea, though it carried the weight of consensus behind it (“Bloodletting,” 2012). Just because the consensus in medicine in the recent past, before the discovery of germs, was not to worry about cleanliness in operating rooms, that does not mean that such entrenched practices should not be questioned. Just because the consensus over millennia was that life could arise spontaneously from non-life (Balme, 1962)—a belief held even as late as 300 years ago when Francesco Redi conducted his experiments that began casting doubt on that idea—that does not mean that such a preposterous idea should have continued to exist. Just because the “consensus” in certain evolutionary circles only 100 years ago was that certain races should be considered inferior in the evolutionary chain (cf. Darwin, 1859; Stein and Miller, 2008), did that mean that everyone should have accepted the “consensus” and taken part in eliminating those deemed “weaker” or “less fit” by evolutionists?
“Majority rule” is hardly a suitable mindset for scientific investigation. Scientific breakthroughs are not made by the majority—but rather, by innovative individuals thinking outside the box, not thinking in the same way the majority thinks. In fact, the “consensus” view is often times the very viewpoint that is wrong because of the “herd mentality” humanity tends to have—the same mentality that Moses warned against in Exodus 23:2. Just because there is a consensus in this country among the rank and file Americans that evolution is false (cf. Miller, 2012b), that should not be taken as evidence for or against evolution—whether or not the population is deemed “scientific” enough in the minds of the science community’s self-promoting “credentials police.” There exists an overwhelming consensus (84%) in the world that some kind of god(s) exists (cf. “Major Religions of the World…,” 2007), and yet one can be assured that the atheistic evolutionary community would not want to appeal to the “consensus” argument in that case. Consider further: even if it is now the scientific consensus among the biology community that Darwinian evolution is true, what about before evolution had become consensus in that field? Should the “consensus rule” have been applied then, disallowing the spread of evolutionary theory? If so, then the biology community is in error for breaking their own rules and needs to go back to the old viewpoint in order to be consistent.
In truth, accepting the consensus view on a theory is a dangerous practice. Scientific theories are not “bad guys.” Theories are important in order to make scientific progress. However, a theory (like the Theory of Evolution or the Big Bang Theory), by its very definition, is not known as absolute, but rather, as a possible explanation of something. A theory tacitly acknowledges the potential that it may be incorrect and that there may be other theories that fit the facts better, that will one day be proven as legitimate. This makes accepting the consensus view on a scientific theory a dangerous practice, since the theory may be wrong. A scientific law, however, is not based on “consensus” or speculation, but on the evidence—the facts. Therefore, there should be “consensus” about the laws of nature, even if there isn’t. However, what makes them valid should not be, and is not, based on “consensus.” The goal of science should be the pursuit of truth—not consensus; truth—not what’s popular. That is what has and will lead to further scientific progress in this country and in the world.
The consensus in this country that has existed since its inception—that Creation is true and Darwinian evolution is false—has no doubt played a role in the scientific breakthroughs that individual scientists have made that have led to our nation’s success. Such breakthroughs are to be expected according to the biblical model. In this area, it is clear that following the “consensus” has been a good thing. It seems evident, based on God’s dealings with nations in the Bible, that He views the spiritual state of a nation by its consensus views on various matters, and He responds accordingly with blessings or punishments. In the past, God has showered this nation with blessings—scientifically, economically, militarily, and in many other ways—in large part due to the “consensus” of Americans that the God of the Bible is the one true God (cf. Miller, 2008). Sadly, the consensus is changing, and we should expect God’s blessings to diminish accordingly. May we encourage you always in your pursuit to boldly speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), doing your part to make the American consensus one that believes in and seeks to obey the one true God of the Universe.


Archie, John (2012), “Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic Argumentum Ad Populum,” Introduction to Logic, Lander University, http://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/popular.html.
Balme, D.M. (1962), “Development of Biology in Aristotle and Theophrastus: Theory of Spontaneous Generation,” Phronesis: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy, 7[1-2]:91-104.
“Bloodletting” (2012), Science Museum Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine,http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/bloodletting.aspx.
Darwin, Charles (1859), On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (London: John Murray).
“Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents” (2007),http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html.
Miller, Dave (2008), The Silencing of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Miller, Jeff (2012a), “Bill Nye: The (Pseudo-)Science Guy,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2842.
Miller, Jeff (2012b), “Literal Creationists Holding Their Ground in the Polls,” Reason & Revelation, 32[9]:94-95, September (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press),http://www.apologeticspress.org /APPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1093&article=2040#.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).

"Under God" is Under Fire by A.P. Staff


"Under God" is Under Fire

by A.P. Staff

At first glance, the news seemed encouraging. According to a decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court on June 14, 2004, the phrase “under God” will continue to be included in the Pledge of Allegiance. However, this is not as encouraging as it appears. Instead of ruling on the merits of the case, eight of the nine justices (Justice Scalia recused himself from ruling) decided that the respondent did not have the proper standing to bring a case before the Supreme Court, leaving the Pledge of Allegiance open to further attacks.
The case began in 2000, when Michael A. Newdow filed a lawsuit in the Eastern California District of the Ninth Circuit against the U.S. Congress, President Bush, the State of California, the Elk Grove Unified School District, and school superintendent David W. Gordon. In his suit, Newdow, who is an atheist, claimed that requiring his daughter to recite the phrase “under God” every morning in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the clauses of the Constitution that prohibit the establishment of a national religion and the free exercise of religion (Stevens, 2004, p. 4).
The Pledge of Allegiance originated in the 1892 celebrations of Columbus Day, and read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” The wording was revised several times over the course of the next sixty-two years, the final change coming in 1954 when President Eisenhower approved the addition of the words “under God.” He said: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war” (“The Story of the Pledge of Allegiance”).
The district court ruled that the Pledge was constitutional, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually overturned the ruling. Following motions filed by Sandra Banning—the mother and legal custodian of Newdow’s daughter—and a custody ruling by the California Superior Court, the Court of Appeals amended its opinion. The new opinion omitted any statement on the overall constitutionality of the Pledge, but ruled that the school district’s policy—requiring teachers to lead students in reciting the Pledge every morning—did violate the Constitution. The Elk Grove School District then appealed to the Supreme Court, asking if Newdow had proper standing to bring the suit, and, if so, whether the policy of required recitation violated the Constitution (Stevens, pp. 5-7).
Writing for the court, Justice Stevens said: “Nothing that either Banning [the girl’s mother] or the School Board has done, however, impairs Newdow’s right to instruct his daughter in his religious views” (p. 13). The court ruled that Newdow could not bring the case, since he was not the legal custodian of the child, and so overturned the amended opinion of the Ninth Circuit. Thus, this ruling left undecided the merits of the Pledge’s constitutionality.
However, in a concurring opinion by Chief Justice Rehnquist: “On the merits, I conclude that the Elk Grove Unified School District (School District) policy that requires teachers to lead willing students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which includes the words ‘under God,’ does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment” (2004, p. 1). In another concurring opinion, Justice O’Connor wrote: “Like the Chief Justice, I believe that we must examine those questions, and, like him, I believe that petitioner school district’s policy of having its teachers lead students in voluntary recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance does not offend the Establishment Clause” (2004, p. 1). In a third concurring opinion, Justice Thomas wrote: “We granted certiorari [certiorari is a review of a decision by a lower court] in this case to decide whether the Elk Grove Unified School District’s Pledge policy violates the Constitution. The answer to that question is: ‘no’ ” (2004, p. 1).
Where does this leave the Pledge of Allegiance? As shown by the concurring opinions above, three of the eight justices who ruled in the case were prepared to decide that it is constitutional to recite the Pledge with the phrase “under God” intact. For now, the Pledge of Allegiance remains a reminder that the United States of America was founded on the belief of a Supreme Being. Whether or not that view continues, however, remains to be seen.
The application to Christians is that taking “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance would put the United States farther down the slippery slope as it heads toward becoming a godless, morally depraved nation. This country was founded upon the common law principles of the Old World, which were, in turn, founded upon biblical, godly morals. If we are not under God, then the sky is the limit to our degeneration.


O’Connor, Justice Sandra Day (2004), Elk Grove v. Newdow, U.S. Supreme Court, [On-line], URL: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/03pdf/02-1624.pdf.
Rehnquist, Chief Justice William H. (2004), Elk Grove v. Newdow, U.S. Supreme Court, [On-line],URL: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/03pdf/02-1624.pdf.
Stevens, Justice John Paul (2004), Elk Grove v. Newdow, U.S. Supreme Court, [On-line], URL: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/03pdf/02-1624.pdf.
“The Story of the Pledge of Allegiance,” Flag Day Foundation, [On-line], URL: http://www.flagday.org/Pages/StoryofPledge.html.

From Mark Copeland... "THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT" The Nature Of The Church (Universal)

                        "THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT"

                  The Nature Of The Church (Universal)


1. Understanding the nature of "The Church Jesus Built" begins with    the word church itself...
   a. From the Greek word ekklesia, it means "an assembly"
   b. Which is used most frequently in the New Testament in two 
      1) The church universal - that company of souls redeemed 
         by the blood of Christ
      2) The church local - Christians in a geographical area that
         work and worship together as a congregation of God's people

2. Our understanding of the nature of the church can also be enhanced by...
   a. Contrasting the church universal with the church local
   b. Noting how the New Testament carefully delineates between the two

3. Failure to observe the distinction between the church universal and church local...
   a. Leaves one open to erroneous concepts of the church
   b. Leads one to present a confusing picture of the church in their
      evangelistic efforts

[In this lesson and the one to follow, I would like to notice ways in
which the church universal is different from the church local.  Let's
begin by looking at...]


      1. This is the church to which Jesus referred in Mt 16:18
      2. It is made up of all the saved, both living and dead - cf. He 12:22-24

      1. Remember, the universal church is called the body of Christ - Ep 1:22-23
      2. There is only one body (Ep 4:4); therefore, only one church!

      1. In Jerusalem, following the death, resurrection and ascension
         of Christ - Ac 2:1-47
      2. As Peter later referred to this day, it was the beginning - cf. Ac 11:15

      1. One cannot join the church by their own volition
      2. Rather, they are added by the Lord Himself when saved - Ac 2:41,47

      1. There is no agency on earth that keeps the registry of true members
      2. Enrollment is in heaven; only the Lord knows those truly His
         - He 12:23; 2Ti 2:19

      1. The Lord is presenting to Himself a church holy and without
         blemish - cf. Ep 5:25-27
      2. Those in the church who are sinning and refuse to repent are
         cut off, cast out, spewed out - cf. Jn 15:2,6; Ro 11:19-22;Re 3:16

      1. For the Lord is the Savior of the body (which is His church) - Ep 5:23
      2. Since the Lord adds one to His church when they are saved, one
         cannot be saved and not be in the church universal!

      1. The church universal has organization - cf. Ep 2:19-22; 1 Pe 2:5
         a. What organization exists is spiritual in nature
         b. Christ is the cornerstone, together with His apostles and
            prophets as the foundation, and all Christians are 'living stones'
      2. There is no earthly headquarters for the church
         a. E.g., no telephone number to call to speak with the head of the church
         b. For He is in heaven!

      1. For there is no earthly organization to divide!
      2. If division appears to exist...
         a. Some unscriptural organization of churches must have been created
         b. Such an organization can have division, but the Lord's
            church universal cannot!
      3. Those who would seek to divide the church through doctrine,
         conduct, etc., are simply cut off by the Lord Himself!
      -- There is and always will be, 'one body' - Ep 4:4 (we need to
         make sure we are remaining faithful to be in it!)

      1. The church universal is made up of the saved, both living and
         dead - He 12:22-23
      2. When one dies, they are still with Christ! - Php 1:21-23; 1 Th 5:10


1. We have seen there are at least ten things true of the church universal...
   a. Composed of all Christians         f. Consists of all the saved
   b. There is just one                  g. Must be in this to be saved
   c. Began on the Day of Pentecost      h. Has no earthly organization
   d. Enter only by being added by       i. Can't be divided
      the Lord                           j. Death doesn't affect
   e. The Lord keeps the books of           membership

2. Our next study shall examine what is true of the church local...

In light of what we have seen thus far, we do well to ask ourselves:
Have we been added by the Lord to His church universal...? - cf. Ac 2:36-41,47

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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