Monthly Archives: October 2010

Women in the Bible and the Qur’an

When casting light on the low view of women put forth in the Koran, it is popular for opponents to say something along the lines of “Oh yeah? Well what about the low view of women in the Bible?!”. So in an attempt to dispel the myth that the Bible and the Koran are in any way similar as to their views on women, I want to present the

From Mary Jo Sharp’s site:

Debate Topic: “Women: The Qur’an and The Bible

MARY JO SHARP BIO:
Mary Jo Sharp is a former atheist from the Pacific Northwest who thought religion was for the weak-minded. She now holds a Masters in Christian Apologetics from Biola University and is the first woman to become a Certified Apologetics Instructor through the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Mary Jo has spoken to numerous groups, including audiences of over 1,000 people. Some of her speaking engagements include: The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma State and Youth Evangelism Conferences, the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia Youth Evangelism Conference, The Southern Baptists of Texas Evangelism and Leadership Conferences, and the Evangelical Theological Society National Conference. Mary Jo administrates the website, Confident Christianity, and the Facebook group, Two Chix Apologetics, where she engages people from around the world in dialogue concerning the truth of Christianity.

DR. TABASUM HUSSAIN BIO:
Dr. Hussain. Born and raised in London, England, she acquired a BSc(HONS) in Biological Sciences at the University of Westminster, an MSc in Advanced Neuroscience at University College London, and lived in Australia for six years acquiring a PhD in Psychological Medicine (Neuroscience) at Monash University, Victoria. Recently settled with family in Toronto, Canada. Outside of her profession she has developed an interest over the years in Muslim-Christian Apologetics. Dr. Hussain has recently become a member of the Muslim Debate Initiative to become more involved in debate/dialogue focusing on women’s issues in the Bible vs the Quran.

Part one

Part two:

Part three:

Part four:

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Happy reformation day!

One of my favorite quotes of all time is when Martin Luther, when pressed as to whether he would stand on his convictions even in the face of certain death, said

Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.

While I disagree with many of the doctrines that have come about as a result of the reformation, I do salute the brave men who fought for their convictions in spite of the fierce oppression leveled against them

Now if only men like Martin Luther had taken the reformation a bit further, imagine what Christendom would look like today.

Well anyway,

Happy reformation day!

And for good measure, here’s a music video of the 95 thesis:

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Set forth your case conference

Here is a link to more information about the conference. The conference will be held this November 18-20 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. I am personally looking forward to seeing Alvin Plantinga speak. As Craig mentions in the video above, Plantinga is one of the best philosophers alive today.

Hope to see you there!

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The foundation of the modern feminist movement

[HT Wintery Knight]

“[A]s long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed…. No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.

With the above quote in mind, here is an excellent essay outlining why people like myself and my wife are wholly opposed to the radical feminist movement of our era.

The highlights include:

  • Feminism is anti-child, leading to a marked rise in abortions worldwide.
  • Feminism is anti-male, being almost wholly based (like the NAACP) on the perpetuation of class hatred, the perception (not reality) of inequality.
  • Feminism is anti-family, being radically opposed to any gender distinctions it views motherhood as a problem to be solved and not a blessing to be embraced.
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What about those foreskins?

This is part of my “dispelling the notion that the Bible contradicts itself” series.

Saul asking David for 100 foreskins for the hand of his daughter, hardly loving your neighbour eh?

Saul’s request was not for the foreskins of just any old person, but Philistines, who were under judgement of God for crimes He outlined and charged them with long before He directed Israel to be the nation to go and punish them.

I would argue that the punishment of wrongs is among the most loving thing that can be done for others. It is certainly more loving than allowing them to continue in their wayward ways.

Now we might disagree in whether God had the authority to enact judgement or whether His standard is just, but to say that the upholding of a standard (which also happened in the NT to Jesus for the sins of the world) is unloving is not a valid criticism.

Additionally, such punishment at the hands of other nations came on Israel as well when they continued to disobey God and ignored repeated warnings and admonitions to repent. This stands in stark contrast to the charge that the God of Israel was tribalistic even in the old testament.

From thebricktestament.com

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Is Mormonism a legitimate Christian denomination?

[HT Brian Auten]

Mormons rarely debate their beliefs in public, and in this epic clash on the topic of whether Mormonism can legitimately be considered a Christian denomination. Here is the audio courtesy of Bring to You Apologetics.

If you like Dr Martin’s work here, you might want to consider buying his excellent counter-cult book, Kingdom of the Cults.

The Pilgrim has an interesting comment:

In 2005, Van Hale publicly announced that he cannot accept the Book of Mormon as real history about real people (see here). I’m not sure if his debate years earlier with Dr. Martin brought him to that point, but you never know.

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Does regeneration precede salvation?

RC Sproul writes:

Yes, the faith we exercise is our faith. God does not do the believing for us. When I respond to Christ, it is my response, my faith, my trust that is being exercised. The issue, however, goes deeper. The question still remains: “Do I cooperate with God’s grace before I am born again, or does the cooperation occur after?” Another way of asking this question is to ask if regeneration is monergistic or synergistic. Is it operative or cooperative? Is it effectual or dependent?

This is an excellent example of the problem in viewing faith as a work under the law. You see, if Sproul is right and faith is a work under the law then it certainly does mean the debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is one of synergism vs monergism. However since it is impossible to show how faith is a work under the law (because it isn’t) raising the issue of monergism vs synergism is simply a red herring thrown out to merely obscure the real issue, which is what we mean when we say that man exercises his faith and that God does not “believe for us”.

And here is where we also get to see the double-speak employed by Calvinists like Sproul.

The reason we do not cooperate with regenerating grace before it acts upon us and in us is because we can- not. We cannot because we are spiritually dead. We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him for the dead.

That is very interesting, mostly because if people are dead in the way Sproul seems to think they are, then they can do _neither_ good nor evil. If God were to punish such a person, we would have to accuse him of literally beating a dead horse, that is, something that can do nothing other than lay there.

However the language of the whole of Scripture simply doesn’t support such a notion and Sproul knows it, that’s why he stated at the outset that:

“Yes, the faith we exercise is our faith. God does not do the believing for us. When I respond to Christ, it is my response, my faith, my trust that is being exercised.”

Well if Sproul says that at the outset and yet by the end comes to the conclusion that we are totally dead without the quickening of the Holy Spirit, what is he doing in the interim to alleviate the apparently logical paradox he has created?

The answer: He fundamentally redefines what faith is.

In the reformed view faith is simply a mechanistic system predicated on a chain of causes that eventually rests on God. Where faith is traditionally and commonly accepted to mean an act of the will (albeit not a directly volitional act).

Therefore Sproul’s assessment that faith is evidence of regeneration preceding salvation is only valid if we add in a hidden premise that faith is merely a mechanistic output of a predefined set of inputs. The trouble with that view is that if the will is reduced to a machine where faith is nothing more than a product of a series of causal inputs (regeneration being one of them) then the very words used such as “will” and “faith” loose their meaning.

Moreover, on this view of faith, we end up begging the ugly question of why God does not choose to regenerate all men so that they will automatically choose to place their faith in Christ and be saved. Then again, this butts up against another ugly reformed doctrine which is that God does not really love all men nor does he want them to all be saved.

In the end, however, I would agree with Sproul’s assessment that regeneration precedes faith. That the Holy Spirit’s prior operation is a necessary precondition to one’s placing their faith in Christ. however it is far from certain that such regeneration is a sufficient condition for one’s placing their faith in Christ. Indeed, Scripture indicates in many places that it is not sufficient as we have many accounts of people freely spurning the love and drawing of Christ. In other words, regeneration may precede faith, but it by no means causes faith.

So while a positive contribution can not be made in regards to one’s salvation, a negative contribution (ie. choosing to reject the drawing of the Holy Spirit unto salvation) is certainly possible.

Some may point out, however, that Sproul thinks that people are dead such that they only do evil. And that “it would, perhaps, be “double-speak” if he didn’t believe other things in lieu of those two.”

This is where the double speak comes in. You see, if I were to ask whether sinful man sins of his own free volition then you would undoubtedly say “yes”. However, if I asked if man knew he were sinning you would either have to say no in order to remain logically consistent within your own system or you would have to say yes if you wish to affirm what the Bible says on the matter. You see, throughout Scripture we are entreated with language that makes it appear (that is, if we do not presuppose a doctrine that claims otherwise) that man knows he is sinning (in spite of knowing what good is) and yet chooses to forgo God’s will thereby making himself, of his own free will, a rebel just like Satan, the rebellious angel and Adam and Eve, the rebellious progenitors of our race.

However, men like Sproul seem to think that if they redefine “faith” and “will” to mean something which is slavishly enslaved to some other causal entity (ultimately controlled by God, so the number of gears in the causal machine is really irrelevant) they can use the same words the Bible does without doing fundamental damage to language itself. Faith or belief, while not a volitional action, is still an action taken by a will that must be free in some capacity or else the word is emptied of its meaning.

So when men like Sproul, who are smart guys that know better, equivocate on the meanings of the words they are using, they are being deceptive and dishonest. They are practicing double-speak in the classic Orwellian sense by attempting to subvert the very words being used. They would be more honest and respectable if they were to say what they plainly mean in language everyone can understand. But then, they would have to resort to mechanistic language wherein we would have to take great pains to avoid words like “puppet” and “robot” which, while derided by Calvinists far and wide, continue to provide an apt description of the epistemic bankruptcy of Reformed epistemology.

Consequently, this equivocation or redefining of words is one of the reasons that it is so hard to have a productive discussion with Calvinists. Then again, for a system of doctrine that ended up burning many men at the stake merely for disagreeing with it, I suppose being intellectually dishonest is but a small price to pay.

For an extended treatment of this topic I highly recommend this article from the Society of Evangelical Arminians.

Also, if you are interested in what I consider to be a more credible alternative to irresistible grace, I suggest overcoming grace.

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Obama bin Laden on the terrorist roots of global warming

Bill is wrong, though. Those like myself who are vehemently opposed to Global Warming understand along with Osama bin Laden all too well that it is all about terrorism. Don’t believe me?

Check out this UK ad promoting the 10:10 campaign which carries with it the laughable slogan of “no pressure”:

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The equalizing effect of the internet

The rapid growth of social media platforms and technologies have flattened and democratized the communications environment in ways we are just beginning to comprehend. –Dennis J. Moynihan, U.S. Navy’s Chief of Information1

A friend of mine once asked me why I thought it was the case that so many churches and ministries have failed to adopt a social media strategy. My answer for this, borne out of my deep seated cynicism for what Udo Middleman rightly calls “The Market-Driven Church“, is quite simple: They are afraid of the equalizing effect social media has.

It is all too common to read disparaging comments about bloggers by those who, in times past, would have been insulated from insults by “the common man”. Happily (for some anyway) those days of unequal access to a platform from which to share our opinions with a wide audience are long gone.

Mark Twain once cautioned his readers not to “start a fight with a man who buys his ink in barrels”. It used to be that if you wished to be heard you would start a newspaper. An expensive endeavor to say the least.

Now all we need to do is spend 5 minutes to create a blog on Blogger or WordPress.

True, this equalization brings with it the problem of having our world saturated with frivolous, unhelpful, sub-par, and often downright false information. However I believe Alexis de Tocqueville was right in his assessment that failure to discern good information from bad information is a failure on our part, that free access to “the press” is a net gain.

How much more civil would we be, how much more productive would our conversations be if we thought of every man as having the potential to reach millions overnight with their message?

When it comes to churches and ministries, empires will necessarily be changed. The one man show will likely not fare well. But with God’s grace and guidance, and a little help from a technology that is able to bring and enforce unparalleled equalization among the members of the body, mutual edification and a true ekklesia will once again thrive.

  1. This quote is from a synopsis titled ‘Navy’s social-media handbook is required reading for political campaigners‘. It has been recommended to business as well, and I would also highly recommend this to church businesses. []
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By grace, through faith

A common thorn in the side of most Calvinists is Ephesians 2:8 which reads

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

To keep with the reformed doctrine of irresistible grace (ie. men being robots) they prefer to make the case that faith is included in the gift given from God.

The problem with your interpretation is that if faith is included in what is gifted to us then it makes the through (διὰ) superfluous and unnecessary given the context.

Rather, πίστεως (faith) is the conduit διὰ (through) which χάριτί (grace) is actualized.

Word for word it is: τῇ The γὰρ for/reason χάριτί grace ἐστέ you σεσῳσμένοι are saved διὰ through πίστεως faith καὶ and τοῦτο this οὐκ not ἐξ out of ὑμῶν of yours θεοῦ God τὸ the δῶρον gift/sacrifice/offering.

Further, Robertson’s Word Pictures puts it this way:

Neuter, not feminine ταυτη, and so refers not to πιστις (feminine) or to χαρις (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part. Paul shows that salvation does not have its source (εξ υμων, out of you) in men, but from God. Besides, it is God’s gift (δωρον) and not the result of our work. (emphasis mine)

For more context, this verse is almost the same as verse 5 before it but with the addition of “through faith”. Verse 5 reads:

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

If faith is part of the gift and is indeed necessary for salvation, why was it omitted in verse 5?

It seems that only by making the illogical leap to thinking of faith as a work12 can a person sustain the notion that faith along with grace is not of ourselves.

  1. Which should be rejected anyway since such a view of faith as a work would make verse 9 incoherent. []
  2. Galatians 3:6 among other verses point to the fact that faith is not a work under the law. []
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