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Religion

The Qur’an gets the Trinity wrong

Islam teaches that the Qur’an is the perfect revelation of Allah, but that presents a problem for Muslims then when it gets things wrong. One of the more notable errors is found in its explanation of what Christians believe about the Trinity. It makes two clear mistakes, first describing us as worshipping three gods. As we read in the fourth and fifth surahs:

.…The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist - it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (4:171)

They have certainly disbelieved who say, "Allah is the third of three." And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. (5:73)

Secondly, the Qur'an describes Christians as believing in a Trinity made up of the Father, Jesus, and Mary.

And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?'"…. (5:116)

As you might expect, Muslims do have their explanations for these verses. In some translations they change 5:73’s “…third of three” to say “…one of three in a Trinity” to correct the original error. And they do the same with the "three" in Surah 4:171, changing it to "Trinity." But as Luke Wayne, of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, notes in his article "Did the author of the Quran understand the Trinity?" that’s not how the earliest Islamic scholars understood these passages:

Muqatil ibn Sulayman's mid-eighth-century tafsir is considered by scholars to be the earliest complete commentary on the Quran to have survived in good condition. In it, Sulayman claims that Christians "say that Allah, powerful and exalted, is the third of three – he is a god, [Jesus] is a god, and [Mary] is a god, making Allah weak.”

To explain away the error in 5:116 the suggestion is made that Allah, rather than addressing Christians here, was addressing some obscure sect that worshipped a Trinity made up of the Father, Son, and Mary. Or some will point to how Catholics are elevating Mary to an almost god-like status. That is the best they can do. As Wayne concludes:

It is not hard to understand how a pagan Arab might make these kinds of mistakes based on second-hand stories, hearsay, and uninformed observations and thus end up with the Quran's erroneous conception of Christian belief. But to say that God Himself might get so confused as to what Christians believe is ludicrous.

News

Scottish minister charges police with hate for their hate crime campaign

The Scottish government and Scottish police have joined together under the banner "One Scotland" to campaign against hate crimes using videos and a variety of billboards. One billboard reads:

Dear bigots, you can't spread your religious hate here. End of sermon. Yours, Scotland.

Another, longer one, says:

Dear bigots, division seems to be what you believe in. We don't want your religious hate on our buses, on our streets and in our communities. We don't want you spreading your intolerance. Or making people's lives a misery because of their religious dress. You may not have faith in respect and love, but we do. That's why if we see or hear your hate, we're reporting you.  End of sermon.  Yours, Scotland

The minister at St Peters Free Church (and former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland) David Robertson, was quick to point out the problem with this campaign – the police have lumped hate crimes (crimes motivated by hate...as opposed to those motivated by love?) in with "hate incidents." Vague definitions mean that the police's hate crime campaign might well be violating their own definition of a hate incident. On his blog (theweeflea.com) Robertson shared a letter he had written to the police and government to report to them their own "hate incident" and began with their definition:

“A hate incident is any incident that is not a criminal offence, but something which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hate or prejudice.”

On these incredibly vague grounds, he points out that on a day-to-day basis, he experiences a lot of anti-Christian "hate." He gives as examples, parishioners who have been bullied at work and in higher education. But he also quotes a number of emails that he regularly receives, such as:

“Personally, as a secularist, I hate religion and feel I have every right to, despite attempts by the Scottish government to sneak a blasphemy law round the back door by making it an offence this year to hate religion.”

He then points out that the inundation of billboards is in and of itself "hate incidents," promoting anger and hatred against religion, possibly resulting in vandalism against churches and worse. He also points out that the problem with the term "hate crime" is that it bears with it the threat of criminal prosecution. We can learn from Robertson's response to the officials in Scotland. With some wit, he points out the self-contradicting nature of their own propaganda, and then takes the time to ensure there is no doubt that he is against bullying and hatred...and also governments that exceed their proper limits. Hatred, as we know from Scripture, is a sin, but things such as murder and assault are sins as well as crimes. Sin must be repented of, and then forgiven in Christ. Crimes must be punished by the government, and it is difficult to judge something based on feelings in a court of law. At the end of the day, the irrationality of such a billboard campaign may be clear enough for even the culture at large to see. It is internally incoherent, as can be seen in their two fundamental principles:

1) Hatred is a crime 2) I hate haters

One other Christian voice has chimed in with wit and humor to expose this campaign. A Christian think tank and advocacy group, Christian Concern, created three alternative posters copying the very same style. One read:

Dear One Scotland, All people should be free to express their views, even if they offend other people. This is what freedom of speech means. How about promising to protect those whose views others might find offensive? This is how democracy works.  Love,  Some Christian friends

And we'll leave them with the last word:

Dear One Scotland, Do you really think that churches are teaching their members to be hateful towards others? Or to be violent towards people we disagree with? Why not pop into a church sometime and find out what we really think? Love, Some Christian friends

Movie Reviews, Watch for free

6 short videos well worth watching

These 6 videos are about as different as different can be, covering art, adoption, Noah's Ark, the Gospel behind bars, and both witnessing outside abortion clinics, and not witnessing at all. They also differ in length, organized here from the shortest, at 4 minutes, to the longest, at 39. What unites them? They are all fantastic! And they all speak to what God has done and is doing in the world around us. What is Art? (4 minutes) God is an artist, and the fact that we aren't going around saying "Wow!' and "Unbelievable!" all the time is only because we've let worldly cynicism cloud our vision. In this chapter from his "bookumentary," Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, N.D. Wilson does an amazing job of opening Christians' eyes to the wonder all around us – he helps us regain our ability to see things as they really are. i like adoption (6 minutes) A film to watch with your children - this is about earthly families, but Christians can't miss the connection to what God has done for us. This is a joy to watch! Who will stand for life? (8 minutes) Each day John Barros sits outside an Orlando abortion clinic and shares God's Truth with everyone who enters. He's been doing it for years. And God has used him to save more than 2,500 children. You can find more about him here and here and by clicking the title above. Noah's Ark – a real boat that was really seaworthy (10 minutes) An outside observer might think the organized Church was doing its best to undermine the credibility of the Noah's Ark, presenting it in children's bible story books as being too small for the giraffes to even really fit in (their necks having to extend out an open window). In this 10-minute video, we learn how the biblical proportions show it to be a seaworthy vessel. If you find this intriguing, the last 20-minutes of the video can be seen here.  Sing a little louder (11 minutes) This short film tells the true story of a Christian congregation that was confronted with the monstrosity of what the Nazis were up to in the Holocaust. What was their response? More importantly, what's our own response to the abortion holocaust going on in our time? Don't watch this film if you don't want to be confronted.  Don't waste your life sentence (39 minutes) In John Piper's 2003 book, Don’t Waste Your Life, he challenged Christians not to get distracted by and caught up in "Freedom 55," the big house, the shiny new car, and whatever other trappings are said to make "the American Dream." Piper's message was, if you don't have Jesus, you have nothing. In 2009 Piper was invited to visit the Louisiana State Penitentiary, described as "the largest and historically one of the bloodiest maximum-security prisons in the USA." These inmates don't have fast cars, big houses, or any prospects of ever getting them. Piper's message to them was, don't let your deprivation distract you from what you could have. Interspersed with clips of Piper preaching, we hear from inmates who have been changed by the gospel while they've been in prison. And we learn how here too, God's people can live for Him. For more free videos and full-length documentaries, be sure to check our list here.

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Greg Dawson and the psychology class

by Jay Adams 2008 / 149 pages This is a novel, but it'd be more accurate to call it a textbook masquerading as a novel – the goal here is education, not entertainment. Jay Adams' fictional protagonist Greg Dawson is a preacher who lives near a Christian college. Some of the students want to know the difference between the psychological counseling theories they are being taught and the biblical counseling Greg Dawson uses. Via a series of informal conversations with Pastor Dawson, the students learn that the psychology they’re being taught at their Christian college is built on secular counseling theories. They are asked to consider just how many different secular counseling theories there are. These theories claim to be built on insights into what Man is really like, and yet the different theories disagree with one another, and sometimes wildly. So how are we to evaluate them? Dawson points students to the Bible, asking them to examine how many of the theories line up with a biblical understanding of our inner nature. So long as these secular theories understand Man outside of our relationship with God how can they understand what Mankind is really like? Dawson asks them to also consider that most of these theories don't acknowledge our sinful nature, or understand our purpose here on earth. As the back of the book details, some of the other issues explored include: the difference between apologizing and forgiveness the place of evangelism and faith in Biblical counseling Is all truth God's truth? some specific issues such as depression, mental illness, and marriage Adams is only one of many experts to consult when it comes to biblical counseling. Others include Ed Welch, Heath Lambert, Wayne Mack, Paul David Tripp and David Powilson. But this book is an ideal introduction to the subject – the novel format makes for an easy, yet highly educational, read. And if you like this one, you'll be interested to know Jay Adams has written two other "Greg Dawson" novels: The Case of the Hopeless Marriage and Together for Good: Counseling and the Providence of God.

AA
Assorted
Tagged: evangelism, featured, Mark Penninga

Help wanted: Prophets

Our leaders, and neighbors, need to hear God’s Word from us

****

God’s Word cuts. We acknowledge that is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It may even be that it’s because we know it can have such strong and contrasting reactions that we don’t often hear God’s Word directly referenced or quoted, even by Christians, in our work places, the mainstream media, our legislatures and courts, or other places in the public square.

Ready reasons come to mind for our silence. “I’m just a grandma / just a laborer / just a teen / just a _______ [fill in the blank].” Or, “I’m not gifted with words.” When it comes to speaking God’s Word to the world, we might like to leave this job to our pastors, missionaries, or maybe people who get paid to bring a Christian perspective to our secular leaders. Another common hurdle is our concern of throwing the pearl of the Gospel before the secular swine, resulting in a mess we would rather avoid.

Nothing new under the sun

So God’s Word is generally excluded from the public square, and not by governmental dictate, but by Christians’ own reluctance to speak it.

What might happen if we decided again to speak God’s Word out loud, in public discussion and debate? Well, we can’t control how our neighbors will respond to God’s Word, but we can have a hand in determining whether they are even exposed to it.

Two remarkable Old Testament stories illustrate this well, and serve as good lessons for today. They feature two kings of Judah who lived shortly before the kingdom was conquered and the people exiled to Babylon.

A king with ears to hear

The first king, Josiah, assumed the throne at age 8. According to 2 Kings 23:25,

“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”

When we think of righteous kings, David and Solomon often come to mind. But neither compared with Josiah.

When Josiah was 18, he made orders to make repairs to the temple. Then something strange happened. Apparently when renovating the temple, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law. He proceeded to give it to the king’s secretary, who passed it on to the king with these rather uninspiring words “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” I call this strange because it suggests that the Book of the Law was lost and forgotten – even by the high priest and in the temple! What does it say of the spiritual health of the covenant nation of Judah when the Book of the Law is forgotten? There may have be a form of spirituality in the land, but clearly there was little faithfulness.

When Josiah heard the words of the law, it struck him to the heart. He immediately tore his cloths and asked the priest, and others, to inquire of the LORD, recognizing that he and the people had not been faithful. After hearing God’s response of judgment and grace, Josiah demonstrated true leadership. He gathered all the people together and “he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 23:2). He then covenanted before the LORD, “and all the people joined in the covenant” (23:3).

These were not just words and good intentions. In the following weeks, Josiah proceeded to reform the entire nation. He destroyed the idols, broke down the houses of the cult prostitutes, eradicated child sacrifices, and went from place to place removing the high places and shrines. After this he commanded the people to celebrate the Passover, “for no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel or the of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah (23:22).

Based on what we know of Josiah, it seems he stayed faithful in his leadership till he died in battle.

A king who loved darkness rather than the Light

As was so often the case with the kings of Israel and Judah, a faithful father did not at all mean a faithful son. Josiah had a son named Jehoiakim, who became king after his younger brother Jehoahaz’s very short three-month reign ended in captivity. Jehoiakim had no use for God’s Law or his father’s reforms. Rabbinical literature describes him as a very evil man, guilty of much incest, murder, and adultery.

But for those familiar with the Bible, most of us will better know Jehoiakim as the king who burned God’s Word, as recounted by the prophet Jeremiah.

God instructed Jeremiah to write down all the words that He had told him. He added “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3). Through his scribe Baruch, Jeremiah wrote all the words down on a scroll. Since he was banned from going to the temple, Jeremiah had Baruch go there instead, and he read God’s Word to the people. Word made its way to the government officials, and Baruch was ordered to take his scroll and read it to them. God’s Word filled them with fear and they decided “we must report all these words to the king” (36:16).

Eventually king Jehoiakim had the scroll read to him. When he would hear three or four columns “the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them in the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire” (36:23). Unlike his father Josiah’s response to the finding of the law, Jehoiakim was not fearful or repentant. Rather he ordered that Baruch and Jeremiah be captured.

God’s word still cuts

Repentance and reform, or fire and persecution. Two kings, two generations, and two very different responses to God’s Word. Both kings responded with conviction. But the conviction went in two very different directions.

Western society today likes to be nice. We are known for wanting to avoid controversy. Christians aren’t immune to these societal trends. We generally don’t like to rock the boat of culture. And citing Scripture tends to do just that. It is one thing to quote the Bible at a Bible study or in the privacy of our home. It is another to bring it to our civil leaders, our business associates, or community friends.

The temptation we all face is to avoid using Scripture in public discourse. Out of a desire to reach a secular and pluralist audience, we stick to language that doesn’t turn people off. There are indeed times when it is appropriate to communicate biblical truth in a way that our neighbors will listen. If we don’t know who our readers or listeners are, there can be wisdom in not triggering them before our point is made. For example, a hardened atheist or jaded ex-Christian may read our letter to the editor, see a reference to Scripture, and immediately stop reading. If it is possible to communicate the same truth without directly quoting Scripture, there may be wisdom in doing so.

There are also times when we simply are not the gate-keepers of communication. If we know that those gate-keepers will not allow their publication to become a forum to communicate Scripture, there again may be wisdom in putting that Scripture into our own words. For example, when staff from the organization I work for contribute articles to large secular newspapers for publishing, we have learned that Scripture may not be welcomed. If we want to still get published, we have to show some creativity. But that said, we may be surprised by a new generation that is far more open to considering a faith-based perspective than their baby-boomer parents.

Whether it is through direct quotations, or by means of rephrasing it to be appropriate for the context, the bottom line is that the communication of Scripture is not only still acceptable, it is absolutely necessary. We know that hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit through the Word. And it is our job to communicate that Scripture. Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks what it means that we are called Christians. We confess that it means we carry the three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. That means that every Christian is called to “confess His Name.” Prophets carry the words of God to those who need to hear it. This country is full of people who need to hear God’s truth. This isn’t a job we can pass off. It is an integral part of the job description of every Christian.

We don’t know whether the person we speak to will respond like Josiah or Jehoiakim. But changing hearts is not our job. It is God’s. God calls us to be His agents. We really are modern-day prophets.

None of us can do this well in our own strength. Let us constantly pray to “set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3)! We can also ask God to open our eyes to see opportunities to testify to Him, and embolden us to seize those opportunities while we still have them.

As with many difficult things, the best way to learn is by simply trying, and not giving up. Let’s encourage each other to shine the light of God’s Word across our nation.

Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada. 

——-

SIDEBAR: Citing Scripture doesn’t give us immunity: Two cautions

Although we need God’s Word shared, it is also important to remember that the way we share it should reflect the grace and truth that Christ exemplified. There are two common and related mistakes to avoid.

First, simply because we quote Scripture does not mean that we are in the right. The Pharisees knew Scripture well, and quoted it endlessly. But they lost perspective and didn’t recognize God Incarnate, right in front of them. If we are wrong, or simply misguided, adding a Bible text doesn’t change that. In fact, it can reflect very poorly on Christ Himself.

Second, even if we are communicating truth, if it doesn’t come alongside grace it isn’t faithfully representing Christ. Christ never communicated truth without grace, just as He never communicated grace without truth. We humans naturally don’t do that. Some of us tend to want to always get to the truth of the matter. And people get hurt in the process. Others emphasize grace, and compromise truth in the process. There are no shortage of examples of Christians who throw out Bible texts in their letters and meetings, while showing little love and grace to those who they are addressing. We need to realize that the person we are speaking with likely does not share our belief about the authority of God’s Word, nor do they understand its context. And this will be compounded if we never actually meet (e.g. if our communication is written).

Put ourselves in the shoes of our readers. What happens when we hear a Muslim referencing the Koran and urging the West to submit to Mohammed? Not only do we disagree, we end up not listening to anything else they say. We write them off. So it is so important that our communication makes it clear that we too have to measure up, and we too struggle and fail when trying to do so. God’s Word is for us as much as it is for the people we are addressing. Truth without grace and love is a clanging gong. This world doesn’t need more noise.


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