Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

Jeremiah 8:8

Sunday February 18, 2007

I spent about two and a half hours Friday night talking with Muslims and trying to persuade them that Christianity and Islam are completely different. As I often find when I’m talking to Muslims it was frustrating and heart-breaking and all I can do is pray that God will show them what grace really is. Part of the problem is that whatever a Christian says the Muslim will respond, “but the Bible’s been corrupted”. The overwhelming evidence that this isn’t the case (I was at the British Museum and Library on Wednesday looking at archaelogical and manuscript evidence which paints an overwhelming case for the Bible being historically reliable and textually preserved) and the fact that the Qu’ran gives no suggestion that this is the case aren’t my point here – yesterday I found out that they can make the case from within the Bible.

Thankfully it was Joel who showed me on the way home rather than a Muslim bringing it up during our discussion. Jeremiah 8:8 is the verse that Joel’s been confronted with before, and it says:

How can you say, “We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us”? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.

This doesn’t seem good – it looks like the Bible itself says that parts of it have been corrupted by unscrupulous scribes. Joel, though, also showed me what the verse really means. We need to take a trip to 2 Kings 22, with a brief layover in Jeremiah 1:3 to see that Jeremiah received this prophecy during the thirteenth year of Amon’s son Josiah, the king of Judah.

It is after two kings who did “evil in the sight of God” and led the Israelites in idolatry (Manasseh and Amon in 2 Kings 21) that the eight year old Josiah became king. 2 Kings 22 recounts how he paid for the restoration of the Temple and how during this work the Book of the Law was found. The book had been lost and as soon as Josiah heard it he was distraught at the state of Israel, found God’s will and, in chapter 23, started to make reforms. So where does Jeremiah fit into this? 2 Kings 22:3 tells us that the Temple renovations were in the eighteenth year of Josiah – five years after Jeremiah’s prophechy. Suddenly everything falls into place.

God was angry with the scribes because they said they had the “law of the LORD” when they didn’t even know where the book was! Instead, the scribes were teaching (and writing) whatever they felt like – which presumably included that Israel’s idolatry was okay. Jeremiah prophecies that they will be punished for this – which happens – but through it all we can see that God made sure his law was preserved, even though it was completely ignored for a while. In its historical context, then, not a proof that what we now have in our Bibles differs from what was originally writen by Moses.

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The Lost Gospel of Judas

Monday January 1, 2007

I just watched a program by this name on Channel 4. The first thing I should say is that it really didn’t wind me up as much as I thought it might. It was well researched, well put together (if a little slow at points) and apart from that annoying habit of repeating what’s just happened and what’s about to happen before and after ad breaks it wasn’t that gimmicky. Whether I’ll be this relaxed just after watching Channel 4’s The Secret Family of Jesus (8pm Christmas day – anyone see irony there?) is still undecided.

A brief run-down, then, of the program and what questions it raises that need to be addressed. This gospel was written by 200AD (or so I’m told) by the Gnostics. The Gnostics were a group who claimed to follow Jesus but who prided themselves on their special knowledge (gnosis) which came from a direct link to God. What does Judas say? Several interesting things (like that Jesus could turn into a child at will) ,but the most striking was that Jesus asked Judas to ‘betray’ him, so that Jesus would be freed of his body and able to be pure spirit. From what I understand of the Gnostics, that’s not too surprising – they thought that the body was fundamentally bad and that we each have a ‘spark of the divine’ trapped inside our bodies.

The thing that really struck me from the program wasn’t the gospel itself, but the obvious relativism which most commenters showed. People calling this document “another interpretation of Jesus”, that the Gnostics were following Jesus in “a different way”, or that “we don’t have to choose between Judas and Mark” were surely missing the point. The Gospel of Judas disagrees with the canonical gospels, such as when it says that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was good (cf. Mark 14:21). For that matter, it disagrees with the rest of Scripture – God said that his creation was good in Genesis 1, not something to be freed from. They can’t both be right, and given the evidence from the rest of the Bible, the teaching of the apostles and early church fathers, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament documents… I think I’ll stick with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It was a well presented documentry, which taught me and got me thinking about the issues involved in it. The scary thing was the way post-modernism has affected our culture so much – to the point that very smart people are happy to say that two contradictary ideas can both be true. Thank God that there is absolute truth and that we can find it in Jesus who came to us “from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

I realise that I really haven’t addressed the issues of how we know not to trust the gospel of Judas, and whether it could be giving the true message. For a proper treatment of what (if anything) the Gospel of Judas means to the church today, and for a link to a copy of the text itself, see here.

UPDATE: I’ve just been flicking around bethinking.org and found a great article on the gospel of Judas and the Gnostics. Just thought I’d point it out for anyone who wants to know more – and another plug for bethinking is always worth it!

Think about it!

Tuesday November 28, 2006

Since I’m recomending apologetics resources, I really should give a shout out to bethinking.org. It’s put together by UCCF, and is a fantastic repository of apologetics talks and articles over a vast range of subjects and levels of detail. It really is great!

Jay Smith on youtube

Monday November 27, 2006

I’ve been meaning to put this link up for a bit. Jay Smith is an American apologist, who specialises in defending Christianity from attacks made by Muslims. He knows a lot and is very articulate when he presents it. Listening to him is great for learning how to defend the faith, and also how to talk to Muslims about some of the problems in Islam. It’s also an encouragment to know that there are answers to all the attacks of our faith even if we don’t know them ourselves.

He’s recently started putting videos on youtube.com, with short answers to criticisms of Christianity and invitations for Muslims to engage him in ongoing dialogue. His videos are top-quality and can be found here.

A word of warning, though. There are video responses by Muslims to many of Jay’s submissions which is fantastic and gives him a chance to come back on what they’re saying. Moreover it is encouraging that all the arguments I’ve seen from them against Jesus or the Bible are based either on misunderstanding or misquoting the Bible or on creating a ‘strawman’ and knocking it down, ie arguing against things that Christianity has never claimed anyway but they say that it does. However, many of them are very confident of their views and very eloquent and persuasive. And even if they weren’t, the words they speak are dangerous. Paul says to the Colossians, “see to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit” (Colossians 2:8) showing that words and ideas, even if they are untrue, are powerful and can damage our faith – by which I mean our personal faith in Jesus, not the Christian faith which is unshakable. So take protection.

If you are going to watch what the Muslims are submitting – which is a great way to learn what they think and begin to work out how you would respond – make sure you pray first, that God will keep you safe from “philosophy and empty deceit”. If you are unexperienced in dealing with Islam, maybe watch the videos with another Christian friend. If you see something that sounds reasonable, talk it over with someone older and more experienced and see what they think. Don’t be afraid to say that you saw a Muslim argument and you can’t see anything wrong with it – none of us knows everything and we’re all always learning.

With that word (or two paragraphs!) out of the way, please do make use of this fantastic resource. Happy viewing, and hopefully it will help you in your conversations with Muslims – and everyone else.

Apologetics

Wednesday June 14, 2006

Apologetics are arguments to defend the Christian faith. While, like Paul, I want to “know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2), forĀ “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), there are confusing elements to the Christian faith. Many people see following Jesus Christ as ludicrous, and in order for them to see otherwise Christians must know what the Bible says about these key issues. Peter says to always be “prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

To that end, as and when I have time I’m going to think through some of the big questions people ask of the Christian faith and see if I can answer them, “yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:16).

Just a good teacher?

Monday June 12, 2006

When we do evangelistic surveys on campus, the number one response we get to the question "Who do you think Jesus was?" is: "he definitely existed, he was trying to make people get along better (or live a better way, or find fulfillment). He probably wasn't the Son of God." Usually this comes with very little knowledge of what it is that Jesus taught. In response to this, I'll yield the floor to CS Lewis:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus]: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic– on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg– or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon: or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But lets us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to use. He did not intend to.

Jesus claimed and the Bible writers claimed that he was God (eg. John 1:1-4), he called his body "this temple" (eg. Matthew 26:61) and the Jews knew exactly what he was saying (eg. John 8:58, where the religious leaders want to kill Jesus for taking God's personal name 'I am' [cf. Exodus 3:14] for himself). If you want to respect Jesus as a teacher then read one of the four accounts of his life in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and see what you think. You can take it or leave it, but if you pick and chose then that's not treating Jesus as a teacher, but using him as a helpful way to back up your personal views.