Friday Fundamentals – Religion of Peace

Friday Fundamentals on a Saturday? Yes. Sorry.

I chat a bit with and about Muslims. Major point of discussion is the peaceful nature or otherwise of Islam. Not peaceful moments or movements with Islam and it’s most interesting history but the whole thing – a whole religion of peace.

Gordon Nickel, an exceptionally thoughtful and gentle Christian scholar on somethings Islamic had this to say in regard to this most sticky of questions. I appreciate the unfortunate truth about the arrow of Islamic history and the inconvenient direction it is pointing. Unfortunate for westerners who couldn’t possibly believe that the exotic other was anything other than a benign exotic other. Inconvenient to the same group because history undermines their wishful thinking and to the peace loving Muslims (there are millions of them) in the West who feel their religion is the most misunderstood religion on the planet, or at least with planetary aspirations.

Below is an excerpt from his essay at the National Post in Canada.

Find the whole the whole thing here – it is really worth it.

Conversely, warring Christians who accept the authority of the Gospel must deal with the apparent prohibition of violence in the teachings and life example of Jesus. This discussion has been going on among Christians at least since the Crusades, when critics were heard to say “that it is not in accordance with the Christian religion to shed blood in this way, even that of wicked infidels. For Christ did not act thus.

Within the Christian community, one interpretive option is to read the Hebrew scriptures through the prism of the Gospel. According to the Gospel, Jesus said that he had come not to abrogate the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. Jesus then immediately replaced the law of retaliation with non-resistance, and commanded love for enemies (Matthew 5:17, 38, 39, 44). This way of dealing with difficult materials raises many questions, but it has allowed Christians to pursue pacifism while holding to the authority of the Hebrew scriptures.

Unfortunately, the Islamic principle of abrogation runs in the opposite chronological direction in relation to violence. Because the commands to fight and kill in the Koran are considered by Muslims to be among the recitations made very late in the life of the prophet of Islam — at a time when his conquest of Arabia was almost complete — Muslims scholars have been inclined to read the peaceful texts as subordinate to the later ones.

In other words, Muslims seeking to find a peaceful message in the Koran must fight not only the plain meaning of the Koran’s text and the current fashion for militancy, but also the arrow of Muslim history.

Interpreting the words of Muslim scripture so that they pose no threat to peaceful coexistence with non-believers thus seems a large challenge. In view of the high stakes in the world today, however, it is certainly a challenge worth taking up. Otherwise, Canadian proponents of multiculturalism will have a harder time arguing that traditional Islam is just another peaceful element in Canada’s multicultural quilt.

– Gordon Nickel has a PhD in the earliest commentaries on the Koran and teaches in British Columbia.

‘FIGHT IN THE WAY OF ALLAH THOSE WHO FIGHT YOU’

What follows are selected Koranic references to fighting and killing infidels.

– Baqara (2):190 – “And fight (qaatiloo) in the way of Allah those who fight you.”

– Baqara (2):193 – “Fight them (qaatiloohum), till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s”

– Baqara (2):244 – “So fight (qaatiloo) in the way of Allah, and know that Allah is all-hearing, all-knowing.”

– Nisaa’ (4):76 – “Those who are believers fight (yuqaatiloona) in the way of Allah, and the unbelievers fight in the idols’ way. So fight (qaatiloo) the friends of Satan; surely the guile of Satan is ever feeble.”

– al-Anfaal (8):39 – “Fight them (qaatiloohum), till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s entirely.”

– al-Taubah (9):12 – “But if they break their oaths after their covenant and thrust at your religion, then fight (qaatiloo) the leaders of unbelief.”

– al-Taubah (9):29 – “Fight (qaatiloo) those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what Allah and his messenger have forbidden — such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book — until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled.”

– al-Taubah (9):123 – “O believers, fight (qaatiloo) the unbelievers (kuffaar) who are near to you, and let them find in you a harshness (ghilza).”

– Baqara (2):191 – “And slay them (aqtuloohum) wherever you come upon them”

– Baqara (2):191 – “But fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then if they fight you, slay them (aqtuloohum) — such is the recompense of unbelievers.”

– Nisaa’ (4):89 – “then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them (aqtuloohum) wherever you find them”

– Nisaa’ (4):91 – “If they withdraw not from you, and offer you peace, and restrain their hands, take them, and slay them (aqtuloohum) wherever you come on them; against them we have given you a clear authority.”

– al-Taubah (9):5 – “Then when the sacred months are drawn away, slay (aqtuloo) the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush.”

– Nisaa’ (4):74 – “So let them fight (yuqaatil) in the way of Allah who sell the present life for the world to come; and whosoever fights (yuqaatil) in the way of Allah and is slain, or conquers, we shall bring him a mighty wage.”

– Muhammad (47):4 – “When you meet the unbelievers, smite (darba) their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds; then set them free, either by grace or ransom, till the war lays down its loads.”

Compiled by Gordon Nickel

Trinity on Thursday – Trinitarian and Unitarian debate transcript

As promised the debate transcript PDF of last Thursdays posted debate is available today.

I really enjoyed listening to the debate on my journey back from the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast in south west Wales.

sanders

If you knew Fred Sanders you’d know how good a likeness this is – Click it to download the debate transcript PDF.

I highlight a section which really resonates with my thinking and often features in my discussions with fine muslim people. It drives me to say “if Jesus is not actually divine, then we have major problems with the text of the Bible”. True for discussions with muslims who generally reject the reliability of the Old and New Testaments and also true for discussions with unitarians who generally accept the reliability of the Old and New Testaments.

God’s Glory Kept for God by Doctrine of the Trinity
Let me say this: one of the consistent strands that I hear in Professor Buzzard’s entire approach is a concern for monotheism, for the one-ness of God and for the God-ness of God; the fact that God is a jealous God who doesn’t give his glory to another. Isaiah is full of this stuff: “There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior,” “There is none except me,” “Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth,” “I am God, there is no other,” “I have sworn by myself, the word has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness, it will not turn back,” “To me, every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” “They will say of me, ‘only in the Lord are righteousness and strength’,” “I am the Lord, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another.” This is the concern of the Bible: the unity of God, that jealous, “I will not give my glory to another,” one-ness of God.

The problem with the view of Jesus Christ presented by Socinianism (or Arianism) is that it takes all of God’s glory – all of his prerogatives, his being the one to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess – takes all of that and gives it to Jesus Christ. It takes the man Jesus Christ and puts him on the throne of God, in the driver’s seat of the universe, as the consummator of the covenant of God’s ways with the world. It hands all this over to a man. And at that point, when Muslims look at Christianity and misunderstand it – they look at Christianity and see it as Socinian – they say, “You just handed all the glory of God to a man, a mere man. You’re an associator; you’ve associated someone with God.” I submit that the only way out of that is if God doesn’t give his glory to another because the Son is not an “other;” not another being; not something else, but is God; God the Son.

Page 30-31 of this transcript.

Text on Tuesday – More ‘early church’ and less Text

Today I want to post a link to a lecture by Gerald Bray (Research Professor of Divinity, History and Doctrine at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University) on Tertullian and the Latin Church. This lecture was a bit of a slow start but turned out to be really excellent. So much became clear and fell into place for me – particularly in relation to some of the distinctive practices and dogmas of the Roman Catholic church.

By clicking the image below it will link to the website where I sourced the lecture for this post.

tertullian_001

Click to Play the MP3

This lecture was originally hosted at a wonderful theological resource; with classes and courses from basic to advanced – highly recommended.

biblical training

Click here for more of Gerald Bray and a million other lectures

 

 

Trinity on Thursday – Trinitarian and Unitarian Debate

Here is a debate hosted on a Unitarian (non and anti-trinitarian) website that took place sometime in the mid 2000’s between Professor Anthony Buzzard (real name) and Dr. Fred Sanders. Is God one person or three? The sound quality is not brilliant. There  is a transcript available somewhere and I will post that next week.

For image source go to donaldsweblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/follow-directions.html

Click the image for the debate

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – Humanity’s relationship to God through Christ

Humanity’s relationship to God through Christ

Joined yet not the same.

Close yet not One.

As one though not the same One.

With yet without.

For and of.

From and to.

Enemy become friend.

Lost become found.

Creature become son.

Original poem by Humble Donkey. This poem can be reproduced electronically for non-commercial purposes, with a link to this blog.

 

 

 

 

The Trinity on Thursday – Time, Trinity and Text

A common objection from some of my muslim friends is that the doctrine of the Trinity stems solely from one place in the Bible – 1 John 5:7.

John

In the King James version (KJV) of the Bible – there is a piece of text which is super trinitarian in its implications – except it shouldn’t be there. That’s why it is in the KJV as above but not in the New International Version (NIV) or most others for that matter. Many though not all Muslims think that this piece of text, this verse, is the sole reason Christians declare that God is Triune – Three co-eternal and co-equal persons in the one being of God. This is a strong objection.

Let’s think about that argument and it’s implications. It would mean that in the earliest centuries to support the errant teaching of the Trinity idea – someone inserted this bogus text into the Holy Bible. No insertion into the text and there would have been no Trinity and certainly no scriptural warrant for being trinitarian. But  the argument goes, it was inserted and that’s why we have the doctrine of the Trinity.

But this is simply not the case. The verse no where to be seen in any greek text, appeared in the body of the text no earlier than the 15th century and only as a margin note – a schema of understanding, a devotional piece some time before that. No where near the earliest centuries of the church. And the understanding of the divinity of the Son and the Spirt was emerging very early on in the christian community, being described at the end of the second century using the word Trinity. No where near the time of this textual insertion.

time

For source click the image

And another thing I am a trinitarian Christian because I seek to read the whole Bible fairly and carefully and I actually can’t say I have ever read this so called ‘only verse that leads to the Trinity understanding’. Go figure. No bogus verse and yet trinitarian.

See Dr. Dan Wallace’s scholarly treatment of this issue below or click here

“5:7 For there are three that testify, 5:8 the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.”  ‑‑NET Bible

Before τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, the Textus Receptus reads ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι. 5·8 καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ (“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 5:8 And there are three that testify on earth”). This reading, the infamous Comma Johanneum, has been known in the English-speaking world through the King James translation. However, the evidence—both external and internal—is decidedly against its authenticity. Our discussion will briefly address the external evidence.1

This longer reading is found only in eight late manuscripts, four of which have the words in a marginal note.  Most of these manuscripts (2318, 221, and [with minor variations] 61, 88, 429, 629, 636, and 918) originate from the 16th century; the earliest manuscript, codex 221 (10th century), includes the reading in a marginal note which was added sometime after the original composition. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek manuscript until the 1500s; each such reading was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the reading appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either manuscript, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until AD 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant, since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity.2 The reading seems to have arisen in a fourth century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity.  From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Trinitarian formula (known as the Comma Johanneum) made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared (1516), there arose such a furor over the absence of the Comma that Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the Comma because he found no Greek manuscripts that included it. Once one was produced (codex 61, written by one Roy or Froy at Oxford in c. 1520),3 Erasmus apparently felt obliged to include the reading. He became aware of this manuscript sometime between May of 1520 and September of 1521. In his annotations to his third edition he does not protest the rendering now in his text,4 as though it were made to order; but he does defend himself from the charge of indolence, noting that he had taken care to find whatever manuscripts he could for the production of his Greek New Testament. In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: he did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold.

Modern advocates of the Textus Receptus and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings—even in places where the TR/Byzantine manuscripts lack them. Further, these KJV advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. But this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text. Further, it puts these Protestant proponents in the awkward and self-contradictory position of having to affirm that the Roman Catholic humanist, Erasmus, was just as inspired as the apostles, for on several occasions he invented readings—due either to carelessness or lack of Greek manuscripts (in particular, for the last six verses of Revelation Erasmus had to back-translate from Latin to Greek).

In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum must go back to the original text when it did not appear until the 16th century in any Greek manuscripts? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: faith must be rooted in history. To argue that the Comma must be authentic is Bultmannian in its method, for it ignores history at every level.  As such, it has very little to do with biblical Christianity, for a biblical faith is one that is rooted in history.

Significantly, the German translation done by Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and lacked the Comma. But the KJV translators, basing their work principally on Theodore Beza’s 10th edition of the Greek NT (1598), a work which itself was fundamentally based on Erasmus’ third and later editions (and Stephanus’ editions), popularized the Comma for the English-speaking world. Thus, the Comma Johanneum has been a battleground for English-speaking Christians more than for others.

Unfortunately, for many, the Comma and other similar passages have become such emotional baggage that is dragged around whenever the Bible is read that a knee-jerk reaction and ad hominem argumentation becomes the first and only way that they can process this issue. Sadly, neither empirical evidence nor reason can dissuade them from their views. The irony is that their very clinging to tradition at all costs (namely, of an outmoded translation which, though a literary monument in its day, is now like a Model T on the Autobahn) emulates Roman Catholicism in its regard for tradition.5 If the King James translators knew that this would be the result nearly four hundred years after the completion of their work, they’d be writhing in their graves.


11For a detailed discussion, see Metzger, Textual Commentary, 2nd ed., 647-49.

2Not only the ancient orthodox writers, but also modern orthodox scholars would of course be delighted if this reading were the original one. But the fact is that the evidence simply does not support the Trinitarian formula here—and these orthodox scholars just happen to hold to the reasonable position that it is essential to affirm what the Bible affirms where it affirms it, rather than create such affirmations ex nihilo. That KJV advocates have charged modern translations with heresy because they lack the Comma is a house of cards, for the same translators who have worked on the NIV, NASB, or NET (as well as many other translations) have written several articles and books affirming the Trinity.

3This manuscript which contains the entire New Testament is now housed in Dublin. It has been examined so often at this one place that the book now reportedly falls open naturally to 1 John 5.

4That Erasmus made such a protest or that he had explicitly promised to include the Comma is an overstatement of the evidence, though the converse of this can be said to be true: Erasmus refused to put this in his without Greek manuscript support.

5 Thus, TR-KJV advocates subconsciously embrace two diametrically opposed traditions: when it comes to the first 1500 years of church history, they hold to a Bultmannian kind of Christianity (viz., the basis for their belief in the superiority of the Byzantine manuscripts—and in particular, the half dozen that stand behind the TR—has very little empirical substance of historical worth). Once such readings became a part of tradition, however, by way of the TR, the argument shifts to one of tradition rather than non-empirical fideism. Neither basis, of course, resembles Protestantism.

See also a follow up piece of Dr. Wallace’s here.

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – I Turn the Tap

drinking03-water-tap-ethiopia_13109_600x450

For source click image

 

I turn a tap

I turn the tap

The water flows

And I am happy.

 

I bear down

The bowels give

And I am happy.

 

I spy the passport between two books

I may come and go

And I am happy.

 

I sit within as rain falls down

And my roof it shields me.

And I am happy still.

 

I sink below nights sea of sleep

In the place I long know as home.

And I am happy.

 

I know a man who has no clean water,

I know a man with the blocking cancer.

Another no passport,

Another no roof,

Another no stable home

And I am unhappy.

 

Appreciate the happiness that great riches afford.

Water running, bowels flowing,

roofs for drying and passports for going.

A home for living.

I turn the tap, the water flows.

Happy?

Original poem by Humble Donkey. This poem may be reproduced electronically for non commercial purposes, without express permission and with a link to this blog post.

Text Tuesday – Information and Invitation

gods-word-is-love

Click image for source

Speaking about the Bible

The word which God addresses directly to us is (like a royal speech, only more so) an instrument, not only of government, but also of fellowship. For, though God is a great king, it is not His wish to live at a distance from His subjects. Rather the reverse: He made us with the intention that He and we might walk together for ever in a love-relationship. But such a relationship can only exist when the parties involved know something of each other. God, our Maker, knows all about us before we say anything (Psalm 139:1-4); but we can know nothing about Him unless He tells us. Here, therefore, is a further reason why God speaks to us: not only to move us to do what He wants, but to enable us to know Him so that we may love Him. Therefore God send His word to us in the character of both information and invitation. It comes to woo us as well as to instruct us; it not merely puts us in the picture of what God has done and is doing, but also calls us into personal communion with the loving Lord Himself.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer IVP 1973 Page 99

Monday Music

I sang this beautiful hymn yesterday at a large central London church with a few hundred confident, care free singers. It was a more modern version and arrangement than this one and I didn’t realise it was a very old hymn until I tried to track it down to share with you. A modern rendition does not seem to available so here is the oldie but goodie.

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – Only those who have loved.

Only those who have loved

The warm blanket of good memories

wrap themselves around your shoulders.

The coldness of grief like a winter’s night

is pushed back by fabricated threads –

of love, laughter and lasting hope.

 

The cold it comes and it cannot be stopped.

The winter of grief befalls such a loss –

but the blanket warms against

and holds off the worst.

 

Forming a new season where cold dominates

but moments and movements of aching warmth and comfort

– waft about, coming up around the back,

sweeping over shoulders – tired with the exercise of tears.

And their caress lands to have and to hold.

 

Warm memories made today are threads for the future,

The blanket being sown through time,

for a time to come.

An eiderdown of beauty, of light and shade,

only to be known – in the grip of grief’s winter.

 

The greater the love, the deeper the winter,

and more achingly beautiful the blanket.

Only those who love will know griefs cold vastness

or the unfolding healing comfort of memories

Only those who have loved.

 

Original poem by Humble Donkey. This poem may be reproduced electronically for non commercial purposes, without express permission and with a link to this blog post.