"A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD" Studying The Bible INTRODUCTION 1. An important element involved in our walk with God is BIBLE STUDY 2. Some new Christians find difficulty getting started in this area 3. But this is an important duty, one which the Bible emphasizes - Ac 2:42; 1Pe 2:2 I. WHY BIBLE STUDY IS IMPORTANT A. BECAUSE THE BIBLE POSSESSES THE POWER OF "SANCTIFICATION"... 1. "Sanctification" means "to set apart"; as used in the Bible, to set apart for God's purpose 2. The Word of God is the means by which God does this... a. As praised by David in his psalm - Ps 19:7-11 b. As mentioned in the prayer of Jesus - Jn 17:17 -- IF WE ARE GOING TO BE USEFUL TO GOD, THEN WE NEED TO STUDY HIS WORD! B. BECAUSE THE BIBLE POSSESSES THE POWER OF "PRESERVATION"... 1. A lack of knowledge has always destroyed the people of God - Ho 4:6 2. But the YOUNG can keep their ways pure by the Word of God - Ps 119:9 3. And the ELDERS were exhorted to keep the church by the Word - Ac 20:28-32 -- ONE OF THE FIRST STEPS TOWARD BACKSLIDING IS TO NEGLECT GOD'S WORD! C. BECAUSE THE BIBLE POSSESSES THE POWER OF "SALVATION" AND "CONDEMNATION"... 1. Received properly, it can save our souls! - Jm 1:21 2. It will be the standard by which we will be judged - Jn 12:48 [Will the Word save us, or will it condemn us? Careful study and application of the Bible will make the difference!] II. WHY BIBLE STUDY IS OFTEN NEGLECTED A. SOME PEOPLE JUST "TAKE THE PREACHER'S WORD"... 1. For this reason, they do not study for themselves 2. Most preachers are good men, but they can still be wrong - Ac 18:24-26 3. It is our responsibility to "test the spirits" (1Jn 4:1-2), and to be able to identify "false apostles" (2Co 11:13-15) B. SOME PEOPLE SAY "THEY CAN'T GET ANYTHING OUT OF THE BIBLE"... 1. This may be because they read it so little, or because they do not know how to go about studying it 2. Often it is because they do not use a modern English translation 3. Most have simply made little effort to understand it 4. Yet Paul assumed that people could understand it if they read it - cf. Ep 3:3-4 C. SOME PEOPLE SAY "THEY DON'T HAVE THE TIME"... 1. People who DO study are busy too, but they leave off things that are less important 2. As Jesus commanded, we must put the things of the kingdom of God FIRST - Mt 6:33 [There is really no excuse for neglecting the Word of God. In view of its importance, we would be foolish to do so. But how shall one study the Word of God? There are several different approaches...] III. METHODS OF BIBLE STUDY A. THE "PLANNED-LESSON" METHOD... 1. "A Closer Walk With God" is an example of this method 2. Someone prepares lessons on a subject, then it is studied in a class or at home 3. This is a good way to study, but one's study should not be limited to this method B. THE "SUBJECT" METHOD... 1. This involves selecting some subject (e.g., "baptism"), then collecting and studying each passage in the Bible on the subject 2. This method has its advantages, but it can be easy to take things out of context and draw the wrong conclusion C. THE "BOOK" METHOD... 1. This consists of an intensive study of a single book of the Bible 2. Since the Bible was written a book at a time, this is probably the best way to study the Bible 3. DAILY BIBLE READING programs can very easily utilize this approach to the Scriptures a. E.g., following a program to read through the entire Bible each year b. E.g., taking a chapter each week to read and study daily, you can cover the New Testament in depth over a five year period -- Doing both of these will give a person an OVERALL under- standing of the Bible and an IN-DEPTH understanding of the New Testament [To get more out of the studying you do...] IV. SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR BIBLE STUDY A. SET A REGULAR TIME... 1. Regularity is a key to success, so set aside some regular time for study a. For "night owls", the best time may be late at night, after the children are in bed b. For "morning larks", early morning before the children arise might be better 2. Family study is a good practice, but each person needs also to have a regular time in which he or she can come face to face with God's message ALONE B. PRAY AS YOU STUDY... 1. Begin your study with prayer - cf. Ps 119:18 2. As you study, ask God for the wisdom and strength to understand and obey His Word - cf. Ps 119:5,6 3. End your study with prayer - cf. Ps 119:10-11 C. UTILIZE VARIOUS HELPS... 1. TRANSLATIONS a. Using various translations can help make understanding the Bible easier b. The more reliable translations are: 1) King James Version (a classic, but somewhat archaic) 2) New King James Version (my personal choice) 3) American Standard Version (most literal, but hard to read) 4) New American Standard Version (a wordy update to the ASV) c. Some translations that are easy to read can be used as references (e.g., New International Version) d. One should not put much stock in versions translated... 1) By one man (e.g., The Living Bible) 2) By individuals from one denominational background (e.g., The New World Translation) 2. DICTIONARIES a. Not knowing the meaning of words is the most common cause for not understanding the Bible b. An ordinary English dictionary can be used, but there are special Bible dictionaries that are more useful and accurate c. A good one is "Vine's Expository Dictionary" 3. CONCORDANCE a. This useful work contains words in alphabetical order along with a list of verses in the Bible where they are found b. It can be a great time saver in finding verses based on a given subject c. If possible, use a concordance based upon the translation you use 4. ENCYCLOPEDIAS a. This type of reference gives detailed articles on the people, places, and things mentioned in the Bible b. Two good sets are: 1) Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia Of The Bible 2) The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 5. COMMENTARIES a. These are books written by scholars commenting on various books of the Bible 1) One must be careful, as these scholars are not inspired and are subject to mistakes 2) But their insights and the fruit of their own study can be helpful b. It might be good to ask mature Christians what commentaries they can recommend 6. These and other reference helps are often found in church libraries and may be available for your use; in time, you should gradually develop your own library of Bible study aids CONCLUSION 1. Such aids can be a great help, but make sure that the conclusions you draw are based upon your own careful study of God's Word! 2. What is most important is that we are engaged in some sort of consistent, systematic study of the Bible so that we are ever being blessed by the Word of God! SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING... 1. How long do you study the Bible daily? 2. Do you study the class lessons at home (when available) that you have in church? 3. If you are not doing so now, are you willing to spend 15-30 minutes daily in Bible study? 4. What's your biggest problem in studying?
London Terrorists, Violence, and the Quran
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
For the second time within two weeks, Muslim terrorists have targeted innocent Londoners in an incessant desire to strike out at alleged enemies (Fleming, 2005). British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed the perception of many of the people of the world when he said that such acts by Islamic terrorists should not reflect negatively on Britain’s large Muslim population. In fact, he insisted: “We know that these people act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as we do” (“Hunt Intensifies...,” 2005, emp. added).
This almost irrational refusal to link terrorism with Islam is apparently widespread even among mainstream Muslims. For example, the secretary-general for the Muslim Council of Britain pointed to “alienation” and “segregation” as among the potential incentives for Islamic suicide bombers (Manji, 2005, p. 78). Nevertheless, some Muslims appear a little more willing to entertain the possibility that perhaps Islam and the Quran are responsible for the terrorists’ behavior: “For too long, we Muslims have been sticking fingers in our ears and chanting ‘Islam means peace’ to drown out the negative noise from our holy book. Far better to own up to it” (Manji, p. 78).
Own up to it, indeed. It may well be true that the vast majority of Muslims disapprove of the wanton acts of violence by Islamic terrorists. But the Quran—the holy book of Islam that 1.3 billion Muslims believe to be the word of God—is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. Difficult to believe? Then read for yourself the following sections of the Quran from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things inretaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah2:190-194, emp. added).Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse that killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah 22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explained the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! theycannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horsestethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captivesuntil he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, and let them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you” (Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even inself-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword(2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is thesubmission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into the entire world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder the Muslim terrorists who perpetrated the London bombings, America’s 9/11, and many similar incidents over the years, manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis, Brits, and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... Andthose who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. Whatthough ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.
Fleming, Sam (2005), “London Subway Targeted by Terrorists; No Casualities,” Bloomberg Media, July 21, [On-line], URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000087&sid=ac0iyqgLFnBI&refer=top_world_news.
“Hunt Intensifies for London Terrorists” (2005), Fox News, July, 7, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,161840,00.html.
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Manji, Irshad (2005), “When Denial Can Kill,” Time, 166:78, July 25.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).
BLOOD—The Liquid of Life
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
Blood always has been a curious substance whose vast mysteries and capabilities have yet to be fully explored. Doctors in the twenty-first century transfuse it, draw it, separate it, package it, store it, ship it, and sell it. And, although modern-day scientists have not uncovered completely all of the wonders of blood, they have discovered that it is the key to life. Without this “liquid of life,” humans and animals would have no way to circulate the necessary oxygen and proteins that their bodies need in order to survive and reproduce. Hemoglobin found in the red blood cells carries oxygen to the brain, which in turn uses that oxygen to allow it to control the entire body. A brain without oxygen is like a car without gas or a computer without electricity. Blood makes all of the functions in the body possible.
In the past, ignorance of blood’s value caused some “learned” men to do tragic things. For instance, during the middle ages, and even until the nineteenth century, doctors believed that harmful “vapors” entered the blood and caused sickness. For this reason, leeches were applied to victims of fever and other illnesses in an attempt to draw out blood containing these vapors. Also, the veins and arteries located just above the elbow were opened, and the patient’s arms were bled to expunge the contaminated blood. George Washington, the first President of the United States, died because of such misplaced medical zeal.
Maybe you have seen a red and white striped, twirling pole at the entrance to a barbershop. In the middle ages, barbers did much more than cut hair. They also performed minor surgeries (such as tooth extractions). One of their most frequent feats was bloodletting. Barbershops generally kept on hand a fresh supply of leeches—stored in a basin on top of the pole.
But what does all this have to do with the Bible? Thousands of years before the lethal practice of bloodletting was conceived, mankind had been informed by God that blood was indeed the key to life. In Leviticus 17:11, Moses wrote: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Because red blood cells carry oxygen (due to hemoglobin in the cells), life is made possible. In fact, we know today that human red blood cells carry approximately 270,000,000 molecules of hemoglobin per cell. If there were any less, there would not be enough residual oxygen to sustain life after, say, a hard sneeze or a hefty pat on the back.
Today, we understand completely the truthfulness of Moses’ statement that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” But how did an ancient shepherd like Moses come to know such information? Just a lucky guess? How could Moses have known almost 3500 years ago that life was in the blood, while it took the rest of the scientific and medical community thousands of years (and thousands of lives!) to discover this truth? That answer, of course, is that Moses was guided by the Great Physician—and therein lies the difference between life and death.
Another Pointless Attempt to Defeat Biogenesis
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
“British scientists recreate the molecules that gave birth to life itself”—the title of a recent article posted by the UK based, Mail Online (Enoch, 2012). Such a bold, presumptuous title certainly grabs your attention, considering that it leaves the impression that abiogenesis has finally been proved—that non-living “molecules” can give rise to life, contrary to the mounds of scientific evidence that prove that life comes only from life (see Miller, 2012). Unfortunately for the atheistic evolutionist, the article admits more bad news for the beloved theory than good.
The article begins with the statement, “Scientists [i.e., evolutionary scientists—JM] are one step closer to understanding the origin of life...” (Enoch). To the atheist, this would sound exciting, until he realizes that the author is tacitly admitting that after decades of work trying to establish that life could somehow evolve from non-life—which must have occurred in order for Darwinian evolution even to begin—scientists still do not understand the origin of life. Robert Hazen, a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory, admitted in his lecture series, Origins of Life, that scientists “don’t know how life began,” but rather, have to “make an assumption that life emerged from basic raw materials through a sequence of events that was completely consistent with the natural laws of chemistry and physics” (Hazen, 2005). Paul Davies, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and professor at Arizona State University said, “One of the great outstanding scientific mysteries is the origin of life. How did it happen?... The truth is, nobody has a clue” (2006, 192:35). Eminent British evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, also admitted that no one knows how life began (Stein and Miller, 2008).
The problem with this idea, from a scientific standpoint, is that science has, in fact, spoken about the origin of life. Science has proven time and again that, in nature, life comes only from life (Miller, 2012). Life does not come from non-living things in nature. So, according to science, the answer to the origin of life question must be found outside of nature—from a supernatural source. Don’t expect the atheistic evolutionist to accept that logical implication from the scientific evidence, and don’t expect Enoch’s article to make that admission either.
What are the facts that can be gained from the research discussed in the article? The tests conducted by organic chemists at the University of York and the University of Nottingham reveal that “using simple left-handed amino acids to catalyse the formation of sugars resulted in the production of the predominantly right-handed form of sugars” (Enoch). This is amazing and significant research. The problem, as usual, is not the evidence of science, but the interpretation of the evidence by evolutionists. The researchers assert that their find might explain how carbohydrates could have originally evolved on Earth and why the right-handed form dominates in nature. According to Paul Clark, who led the team of scientists who conducted this research, “One of the interesting questions is where carbohydrates come from because they are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. What we have achieved is the first step on that pathway to show how simple sugars—threose and erythrose—originated” (Enoch, emp. added).
Notice that they “jump from A to Z” in their conclusion that their findings have proven to be the “first step” in showing how “simple sugars…originated.” How can one make such an assertion? That’s like seeing a car for the first time, noticing that it is green, and proceeding to assume that the first step has been taken in proving that all vehicles are green cars. The researchers go beyond the evidence when they apply their excellent research to a hypothetical world that allegedly might have existed eons ago, that might have had just the right conditions and available materials to produce the results they gathered from their experiments—conditions and materials which have only been present in their laboratory, not in nature—which may or may not have been the means by which, in the evolutionist’s eyes, life could have somehow spontaneously arrived in the first place.
As is usually the case when such research is publicized, the authors want to grab your attention by boldly implying something that has not actually occurred. One has to read the article cautiously to catch the myriad disclaimers laced throughout the article, which subtly highlight the fact that the implications of the research are characterized by mere assertions and conjecture—not proof. A quick perusal through the short, 357 word article, watching for disclaimers, reveals the following phrases concerning the interpretation of the research: “could have occurred”; “could explain”; “many people think”; “we are trying to understand”; “most scientists believe”; “hypothetical conditions”; “that may have been present on early Earth.” The truth: naturalistic scientists don’t have a clue how life originated. They can only guess and speculate because (1) they were not around when life was originally initiated, and (2) because nature reveals that life cannot come from non-life.
With that in mind, notice the significant admission by Paul Clarke. “For life to have evolved, you have to have a moment when non-living things become living—everything up to that point is chemistry. We are trying to understand the chemical origins of life” (Enoch, emp. added). So, Clark admits that his team’s research does not even involve trying to answer the ultimate question of how life could come from non-life. His team was merely interested in trying to figure out how the non-living building blocks of life could come about—not how they could make the jump to life. That question is still untouched by Clark’s team, and the scientific world at large.
In essence, these scientists are merely trying to figure out how the blocks of life could have come about from pre-existing materials that they hope were in existence eons ago—not how those building blocks could have accidentally arranged themselves into a building that came to life and started walking around giving birth to other fully functional buildings. In truth, the question of “how life could come from non-life” has already been addressed by the work of Redi, Spallanzani, and Pasteur, and their scientific research indicates that abiogenesis cannot happen (see Miller, 2012). So why are Clark and his team wasting their time trying to prove how the building blocks leading up to a disproven theory could form? According to the article,
The research has echoes of the landmark Miller-Urey study in 1952, which simulated hypothetical conditions that may have been present on early Earth. It showed how the building blocks of life can form from simple chemical reactions—for example, electrical activity like that associated with lightning can prompt the formation of amino acids.
The problem with this statement is that the authors appear to have not gotten the memo that the Miller-Urey experiments are now considered to be almost totally irrelevant to the abiogenesis question today (see Miller, 2012 for a discussion of these experiments and how they are viewed today). The fact that the authors point to those experiments indicates that either they are behind the times among the evolutionary community or are so desperate to validate the possibility of abiogenesis that they ignore recent research which refutes their hopes.
Sadly, in this day and age, many scientists are only interested in studying nature to determine how things happen through various evolutionary theories, rather than simply finding how things happen. Their initial assumptions corrupt their interpretations of the evidence. Why would scientists not simply follow the evidence—wherever it might lead? Could it be that “they have itching ears” that prohibit them from enduring “sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3)? Could it be that they refuse to “receive the love of the truth,” but instead, choose to “believe the lie” because they take “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)? Regardless, the evidence is clear. In nature, life comes only from life. So, according to the scientific evidence, the only way life could have been initiated in the beginning was through a supernatural act by a Being outside of the natural realm. That is where the scientific evidence leads the logical mind.
Davies, Paul (2006), New Scientist, 192:35, November 18.
Enoch, Nick (2012), “British Scientists Recreate the Molecules that Gave Birth to Life Itself,” Mail Online, January 27, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2092494/Life-sweet-New-clue-chemical-origins-sugar-molecules-DNA-recreated-scientists.html.
Hazen, Robert (2005), Origins of Life (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company).
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis,” Reason & Revelation, 32:2-11, January (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018&article=1722.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).
Did Paul Write About Jesus as a Historical Person?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
In his book, The Pagan Christ, Tom Harpur claims that the story of Jesus was mythical. To bolster his assertion that there never was a real human named Jesus as depicted in the gospel accounts, Harpur alleges that the apostle Paul, whose writings were penned before the gospel accounts, never mentioned Jesus as a historical figure. Harpur wrote: “The earliest writings in the New Testament, which make up more than one-quarter of its total content, are the letters of the Apostle Paul. What is absolutely striking about them is their virtual silence on the whole subject of a historical Jesus of Nazareth” (2004, p. 166). Harpur believes this claim to be of such force that “[t]here is no question that this is the datum that ultimately stares down the proponents of historicity.... Paul never once mentions the man Jesus, in the full historical sense” (pp. 166-167).
Harpur, anticipating the fact that many who read Paul’s writings see that the apostle mentioned Jesus, wrote:
Of course, a critic will argue that Paul does occasionally speak of Jesus by name. This is quite true. But today, most Bible theologians agree that even when he does so, he is not talking about a man of flesh and blood, a historical person, any more than the Egyptians were when they spoke of Iusa millennia earlier.... Yes, Paul does talk about “this Jesus whom we have seen,” and at times he gives the impression he has an interest in an actual person, but closer examination shows that he really is speaking always of mystical visions of an exalted, spiritual being whom he calls Christ (pp. 167-168).
Is it true that Paul only mentioned Jesus “occasionally” and never referred to Him as a flesh and blood human being? Certainly not. In fact, it is amazing that Harpur could make such an outlandish, unscriptural claim and still have his book published by anyone familiar in the least with Paul’s writings.
The fact of the matter is Paul often spoke of Jesus in terms that cannot be understood correctly in any way other than as a historical, flesh-and-blood human being. Paul used the name “Jesus” 218 times in his writings (Strong, 2001, p. 453), not counting other names for Jesus like Christ or Lord. For Harpur to say Paul “occasionally” mentioned Jesus is outright dishonesty. Paul used the name Jesus five times in the first eight verses of Romans, seven times in the single-chapter book of Philemon, and 22 times in the brief, four-chapter book of Philippians. An honest account of Paul’s writings shows that they are replete with Jesus’ name, containing it an average of two and a half times per chapter.
Not only did Paul repeatedly mention Jesus, but he specifically stressed that Jesus had come in the flesh as a real human being. For instance, in 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul wrote: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” To elucidate what he meant by the word “man,” Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (emp. added).
Any attempt to turn Paul’s phrase “in the likeness of men” into some sort of spiritual, mystical appearance is doomed to failure. Furthermore, Paul more specifically mentioned that “the likeness of men” that he discussed in Philippians meant human flesh. Paul wrote to the Romans about “Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3, emp. added). The apostle further mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:13 that Jesus “witnessed the good confessionbefore Pontius Pilate” (emp. added).
Harpur’s major contention is that Paul did not mention details about Jesus’ life such as His birthplace in Bethlehem, His mother’s name, or His specific miracles. Yet, if the guiding hand of God produced the New Testament documents, it makes perfect sense that such information would not be repeated in Paul’s writings, since it was so thoroughly documented in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In truth, the fact that Paul repeatedly alludes to Jesus in the flesh, but does not reiterate the various details of the gospel accounts, shows that Paul coincides with the Gospel writers, but was independent of them as well. Why would God need to record for the fifth time the various miracles and facts about Jesus’ life in the writings of Paul? Paul consistently dealt with many of the events in Jesus’ life such as His death, burial, resurrection, trial before Pilate, birth according to the seed of David, and the overarching fact that He took on the form of a human. Harpur’s complaint that Paul did not mention enough of the details that are recorded in the gospel accounts is a criterion that he and his fellow skeptics have arbitrarily chosen and that proves nothing.
Harpur’s false assertion that “Paul was a mystic, and he knew only the mystical Christos, Christ not ‘after the flesh’ but after the spirit” (p. 172) lacks scholarly integrity and biblical foundation. The obvious truth is that Paul saturated his writings with the name of Jesus and repeatedly stressed that Jesus had come in the flesh as a historical human being. The details he left out of his writings accord perfectly with what one would expect from divine inspiration, and show that, while he acknowledged the historical Jesus, his writings serve as testimony independent of the gospel accounts.
Harpur, Tom (2004), The Pagan Christ (New York: Walker).
Strong, James (2001 reprint), The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Nelson).
“Living Fossils”—Evolution’s Innate Circular Reasoning
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Another earthshaking find within the evolutionary community only spotlights once again the inherent irrationality of the faltering, fallacious theory. During a Southeast Asian expedition, retired Florida State University science professor, David Redfield, captured the first photos of the Laotian rock rat, once believed to have gone extinct more than 11 million years ago. The fossilized remains, collected previously from sites in Pakistan, India, Thailand, China, and Japan, were thought to verify this last known relative of a long-extinct family of rodents known as Diatomyidae (“Retired Professor Captures...,” 2006). Surprise, surprise—another alleged “ancestor” eliminated from the tattered evolutionary tree.
Observe the two contrasting, conflicting, mutually exclusive approaches to the created realm:
1. Evolution: All animals we see today are advanced forms of primitive precursors, and descendants of a single ancestor. As more advanced forms have evolved by means of adaptation, natural selection, survival of the fittest, and genetic mutation, the earlier forms were naturally displaced and disappeared. Fossils, millions of years old, represent life forms that were the evolutionary predecessors of present life forms, but which went extinct long ago.
2. Creation: God created a spectrum of animals during the six-day week of Creation. While reproducing only after their own “kind” (an ambiguous Hebrew term that likely parallels the modern taxonomic classification “family”), these animals were created with the genetic potential for producing a variety of other species, giving rise to the diversity of animal life presently on the planet. Along the way, due mostly to environmental factors, many animals have become extinct. However, other species have escaped detection by humans for centuries, only to be rediscovered in some remote area.
Which of these two viewpoints fits the actual physical facts? Obviously, the latter. Evolutionists repeatedly find themselves in the embarrassing position of discovering that the alleged evolutionary ancestors of current life forms, that supposedly went extinct millions of years ago, are in fact still living. They are forced to cover their tracks by inventing a self-contradictory, nonsensical term to identify these anomalies—in this case, “living fossils.” But that’s like a round square. Philosophers and logicians refer to such duplicitous posturing as irrational and “logical contradiction.” Evolutionists call it “science.”
“Retired Professor Captures a ‘Living Fossil’ on Video” (2006), Research in Review, June 13, [On-line], URL: http://www.rinr.fsu.edu/rockrat/more.html.
Adult Cells Still the Better Option for Therapeutic Research
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
For years, ethical issues have plagued the development of embryonic stem-cell research in America (cf. Bush, 2001). Despite its slight potential for therapeutic benefits in the distant future, embryonic stem-cell research has been shown to be unethical because it necessitates killing people (seeThompson and Harrub, 2001; cf. Gibson, 2007; Colley, 2007b). Scientists also have known for several years that adult stem-cell research has yielded greater results than embryonic stem-cell research (see Harrub and Thompson, 2004; Saunders and Prentice, 2006; “Stem Cell Research: Facts...,” 2001; Miller, 2007). Unlike embryonic stem cells, however, adult stem cells are only partially pluripotent, “capable of forming several cell types—principally blood, muscle, and nerve cells. It has been possible to recognize, select, and develop them to the point that they form mature cell types with the help of growth factors and regulating proteins” (Lillge, 2001; cf. “Stem Cell Basics,” 2006). In 2007, researchers determined that adult stem cells may be transformed into “blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone” (Kolata, 2007). This method allows for the development of truly pluripotent cells without resorting to “therapeutic” cloning or the destruction of embryos (see Kolata). Stem cells from adults may offer hope of developing therapies for patients suffering from diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s (see Takahashi, et al., 2007; cf. McIlroy, 2007; Colley, 2007a).
Not only have scientists changed adult stem cells into “iPS,” or pluripotent cells that carry the same possibilities for regenerative medicine as do embryonic stem cells (see Vogel and Holden, 2007), but now scientists have “transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal” (Stein, 2008). Harvard biologists have “pinpointed three crucial molecular switches that, when flipped, completely convert a common [adult] cell in the pancreas into the more precious insulin-producing ones that diabetics need to survive” (Stein, bracketed item added; cf. Zhou, et al., 2007). This raises the possibility that “patients suffering from not only diabetes but also heart disease, strokes and many other ailments could eventually have some of their cells reprogrammed to cure their afflictions without the need for drugs, transplants or other therapies” (Stein). Zhou and colleagues discussed their research, in Nature:
Here...we identify a specific combination of three transcription factors (Ngn3 (also known as Neurog3) Pdx1 and Mafa) that reprograms differentiated pancreatic exocrine cells in adult mice into cells that closely resemble β-cells. The induced β-cells are indistinguishable from endogenous islet β-cells in size, shape and ultrastructure. They express genes essential for β-cell function and can ameliorate hyperglycaemiaby remodelling [sic] local vasculature and secreting insulin. This study provides an example of cellular reprogramming using defined factors in an adult organ and suggests a general paradigm for directing cell reprogramming without reversion to a pluripotent stem cell state (2008, parenthetical items in orig., emp. added).
Researchers in the field of regenerative medicine have grand dreams of using adult cells to replace conventional surgery with a sort of genetic substitution (see Stein, 2008).
Those of us at Apologetics Press continue to pray that the Creator’s view of the matter will be paramount in the minds of those who push our society to new limits of biological inquiry. Embryonic stem-cell research is unscriptural and unethical. The scientific community is making it increasingly clear that embryonic stem-cell research is also unnecessary.
Bush, George W. (2001), “Remarks by the President on Stem-Cell Research,” [On-line], URL:http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010809-2.html.
Colley, Caleb (2007a), “Adult Stem Cells Match the Potential of Embryonic Stem Cells,” [On-line],URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3551.
Colley, Caleb (2007b), “Therapeutic Embryonic Stem-Cell Research ‘Just Not Realistic’,” [On-line],URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3504.
Gibson, Robert (2007), “Stem Cell Research Is Good News for Heart Patients,” The Epoch Times, [On-line], URL: http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-10-11/60678.html.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2004), “Presidential Elections, Superman, Embryonic Stem Cells, Bad Science, and False Hope,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2621.
Kolata, Gina (2007), “Scientists Bypass Need for Embryo to Get Stem Cells,” The New York Times, [On-line], URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/21/science/21stem.html.
Lillge, Wolfgang (2001), “The Case for Adult Stem Cell Research,” 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine, [On-line], URL:http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/winter01/stem_cell.html.
McIlroy, Anne (2007), “Stem-Cell Method Hailed as ‘Massive Breakthrough’,” The Globe and Mail, [On-line], URL:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20071121.wstemcells21/BNStory/Science/home.
Miller, Dave (2007), “Adult Stem-Cell Research,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3272.
Saunders, William L., Jr., and David Prentice (2006), “Adult Stem Cell Treatments–Nine Faces of Success” (Washington, D.C.: Family Research Council), a tract.
Stein, Rob (2008), “Scientists Reprogram Adult Cells’ Function,” The Washington Post, [On-line],URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/27/AR2008082701829.html.
“Stem Cell Basics” (2006), The National Institutes of Health, [On-line], URL:http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics5.asp.
“Stem Cell Research: Facts and Fallacies” (2001), National Right to Life, [On-line], URL:http://www.nrlc.org/Factsheets/FS08_StemCellResearch.pdf.
Takahashi, Kazutoshi, et al. (2007), “Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Adult Human Fibroblasts by Defined Factors,” Cell, 131:1-12, November, [On-line], URL:http://images.cell.com/images/Edimages/Cell/IEPs/3661.pdf.
Thompson, Bert and Brad Harrub (2001), “Human Cloning and Stem-Cell Research—Science’s ‘Slippery Slope’ [Part III],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2510.
Vogel, Gretchen and Constance Holden (2007), “Field Leaps Forward With New Stem Cell Advances,” Science, 318:1224-1225, November 23.
Zhou, Qiao, et al. (2008), “In Vivo Reprogramming of Adult Pancreatic Exocrine Cells to β-Cells,”Nature, [On-line], URL: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature07314.html.