Friday, July 30, 2010

Ergun Caner on Issues Etc.

I've tried to go through the episodes of Issues Etc. on which Dr. Ergun Caner appeared, and tried to review them in light of statements related to Caner's autobiography and other issues that have swirled around him of late.

April 16, 2003, Hour 3 (last two-thirds, 12:00 onward) "Islamic Sects" (Todd Wilken, Interviewer)(link to wma version)

(17:31) Myself, I am Turkish, twenty generations back Muslim, you know I'm the first Christian - I converted to Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and God, you know, when I was a senior in high school.
  • If Caner converted on November 4, 1982, as he has said a number of times, he was in the first half of his junior year.
(18:40) And we saw, just a few days ago, a Shi'ite imam hacked to death - actually he was an ulima, a scholar - hacked to death because he was seen to be complicitous with Saddam Hussein.
  • The word "ulima" is a plural noun, not a singular noun.
(33:30) Yeah, this is difficult for me, because of course I was not born in this country. I was a m- You know, my father being a muezzin, we came to this country as Islamic missionaries, to use an Americanized term. And I began to see the panopy (?) - I began to see the landscape of Islam. I would say the vast majority of Muslims here in America - perhaps 85% are Sunni. I teach here in Texas, I will be teaching at Liberty University starting this fall. I think you will run into maybe - most - the vast majority of the Muslims you run into are Sunni, the rest are divided among Shi'ite, Suffi on the West Coast, and Nation of Islam, which I never - I never saw a Nation of Islam 'till I came to America.
  • Obviously, if Caner was only a toddler when he came to America, he is using the term "we" to simply refer to his family in general. However, on other occasions he has said that his family came to build mosques. Building mosques is not quite the same thing as engaging in da`wah (the Arabic term for calling folks to Islam).
  • If Caner came to America when he was a toddler, how would he even remember whether he saw a Nation of Islam member before then? This is one of those kinds of statements that is probably true (there are not a lot of Swedish Nation of Islam folks) but might still give someone a very wrong impression (much like saying, "I've never had such tasty Swedish meatballs before" when it is your first time trying the dish).
(44:55) This is something I only hear here in America. If you would have said to me when I was Muslim, and I was a Muslim until I was almost twenty, if you would have said to me when I was a Muslim that Allah and Jehovah-God of the Bible are the same god, I would have been offended. As a Christian, I find it blasphemous. There is no comparison. There is - This is only something that we learned in America, because they want us all to be religious - they want us all to be - basically - all of us are seeking the same god.
  • If Caner converted on November 4, 1982, he was barely (by less than a week) 16. If he converted earlier than that, as his book Unveiling Islam, suggests, he was even younger.
  • The statement about this being "only something that we learned in America" is almost certainly true (it's hard to imagine a toddler learning any significant amount) but also tends to give an impression that is wrong.
(48:26) Let me tell you great news, Willis, the Lutheran Hour not only here in America - but you have on your mission work, something that spreads into the middle east. And please do not think - for all those who say, "Well, we give our money and want to know, you know, is it being of any effect?" Speaking on behalf of all immigrants, I heard the gospel before I came to America. I heard it because of your transmissions, because of your work, because of the fact that you gave your money. Continue to do so, because you will never know what a profound effect it has on the lives of those -- I was in Islam! I was the son of a muezzin - the one who does the call to prayer - and yet I heard the gospel because of such moves as the Lutheran Hour and others. You got into our lives, because you got into our radios - you got into our televisions - and now, because of satellite, you have an incredible opportunity. This is a time for the church to rise up. For the Lutheran church to rise up, for the various denominations that preach Jesus Christ as the only savior to rise up. Man, this is our chance.
  • If Caner came to America as a toddler, it is hard to imagine that he heard the gospel in a particularly meaningful way before then.
  • There seem to be other places in Caner's speeches where he claims that everything he knew about Christianity was what he learned in his mosque. Was it that way, or was it this way, where he heard the gospel via Lutheran (or some similar) radio?
July 14, 2003, Hour 3, "Muslim Beliefs about Jesus & Christianity" (Todd Wilken, Interviewer) (link to wma version)

(10:27) Anyone reading the Koran, and I encourage Christians - to reach my people, you must read the Koran - you must, you know, get to see what the Koran is about. Anybody, reading the Koran, will run across an amazing number of allusions to Scripture. But they are not correct allusions to Scripture, they are - things are charged. For instance, Abrahim at the top of Mount Moriah (Abraham) sacrifices his son in the Koran - he sacrifices Ishma'il.
(11:05) But until I became a Christian, in my late teens, I thought Abraham sacrificed Ishmael, his oldest son.
  • 15-16 is not really "late teens" is it?
  • He may have thought that, as Muslims do teach that - but not because of what the Koran says.
(22:09) And, of course, one of the arguments we used, and the most famous one I used, in London was: "So you're telling me," I said to the imam, "You're telling me that the Old Testament was perfect and then corrupted?" "Yes." I said, "So then you tell me that the New Testament was perfect and then corrupted?" He said, "Yes." And I said, "So then why should I trust if Allah could not preserve the first two, why would he preserve the third?" And it elicited boos from the Muslims, but it's a valid point, and it won the debate for us.
  • Does anyone have a recording of this supposed debate? What was the name of the Imam?
  • Incidentally, that is a good question to ask your Muslim friends. I have asked a similar question before, and received not much of an answer back.
(23:23) They believe that all the prophets of the Old and New Testaments, some of the ones we wouldn't even consider prophets, like Barak - Deborah and Barak - not Deborah, but Barak himself. David, Noah, they believe these to be prophets.
  • But Barak is not one of the 25 prophets of Islam (link to discussion - text may need to be highlighted to be read in some browsers)
  • And, of course, Christians believe David, Deborah, and Noah to be prophets.
(30:44) Interviewer: Does the average Muslim know his own book -- know the Koran? And does the average Muslim know the Christian Scriptures? Caner: No, he doesn't. The average - you're talking about the average Muslim here in America, the answer of course is "no." I am the son of an ulima - that is one who is a scholar of the Koran - and that is the only explanation why we knew the Koran the way we did. Now, a Muslim may read it, but he is told that, unless he reads it in the original Arabic, he is not reading the true Koran. The equivalent of King James Only Christians - those that say there is only one version of the Scripture that is true. They say that only the Arabic is correct. Well, most Muslims don't even read the Arabic. Only 20% of the Muslim world understands Arabic. So they will read it in a language they don't understand.
  • I have seen no evidence, aside from Caner's claims, that his father was one of the ulima.
  • Ulima is a plural noun, not a singular noun.
  • There's no evidence that Caner reads Arabic any better than the 80% that he seems to write off in his comment.
(35:30) And, from the moment we are born, there is a reckoning, that is a good and a bad. You are taught that there is a jinn - it's hard to explain what a jinn is - it is somewhat like a spirit-being, not an angel though, it's not an angel, but it's somewhat like an angel. A jinn sits on your right shoulder and a jinn sits on your left shoulder. And they write down - the one on your right shoulder all the good that you do - the one on your left shoulder writes down all the bad that you do.
  • What is interesting about this clip is that here Caner seems to know the right word - jinn, as opposed to other places where he makes the serious error of referring to the jinn as the injeel (Gospel). He also seems to understand the concepts correctly, though perhaps a Muslim reader would disagree with me.
(37:39) And what we have in the Wahabi is the doctrine of the female jihadeen, which is - if a woman dies, she does not go to paradise for - you know the virgins who are waiting for and the pomegranates. Instead, she - if she dies as a suicide bomber - is allowed to pick who she wants to go with her to paradise.
  • What Caner probably means is "mujihad" (singular) or "mujahideen" (plural). While there may be a word "jihadeen" it would not appear to fit in Caner's sentence.
November 6, 2003, Hour 2 (first half), "A U.S. News & World Report Story on Women in Islam" (Todd Wilken, Interviewer) (link to mp3 version)(link to wma version)

(2:25) We didn't know - of course, you know, I was raised Muslim and then we came to this country - We didn't know that it was oppressive. You know, we never thought, "Oh, I'm being oppressed," this is all we ever knew, was the wearing of the chador or the wearing of the niqab, or - of course - the most germane one is the burkah. But this was all we ever knew.
  • The statement that he was raised as a Muslim and then came to America suggests to the average person something different than that he came to America as a toddler.
  • Likewise "this was all we ever knew" tends to suggest more than the first 2-3 years of a person's life experience.
(5:52) I have lived under socialism, and fascism, and of course Islamic sharia law and in democracy and I would say, as an immigrant, this is far superior, but it is also riskier.
  • Let's grant that Sweden, which is really a democracy, can count as socialism. Socialism isn't really a form of government - so the grouping is bad - but whatever.
  • When did Caner supposedly live under fascism? Is he making a joke at the late Jerry Fallwell's expense? That doesn't seem to fit the context. It looks like he is claiming to have lived under a fascist regime in Turkey.
  • When did Caner live under "of course" Islamic sharia law? Turkey does not have sharia law (even if he supposedly lived there). So, how is this claim to "of course" have lived under sharia law anything resembling the truth?
(7:05) It's been thirteen hundred years since Mohamed died in 632, as women have been seen as half - you know - hell is full of two-thirds women. The teachings of Mohamed about a husband being able to have four wives, and a woman being only able to have one husband at a time. This inequity continues. And its down to the core - it's endemic. My mother was one of many wives for my father - and it was just passed along culturally like this.
  • Notice that in this context, Caner's oft-repeated claim that his father had "many wives" is specifically linked to polygamous practices.
(9:45) The Muslim will say, "This is the revealed will of Allah. This was received from Allah, beginning on Mohamed's fortieth birthday. ..."
  • No, Islam does not claim that Mohamed's fortieth birthday was the date of the first revelation. He was - they claim - forty years old at the time, but it was not on his birthday.
(17:34) Well, when I as Muslim, we had a madrass. Madrasses are now very famous, because they are the places where the jihadeen are training. But one of the things we do in a madrass is that we learn about Christianity. If the Muslims are so adamant about their work, to try to learn about Christianity, why do we not, as Christians who have the truth, and the peace, and the grace - why do we not learn about their culture - learn about their religions - use it as a bridge to build into their lives. My mother did not hear the gospel, as much as we tried, my mother did not hear the gospel 'till nine years after my brothers and I were disowned. And thankfully, from the bottom of my heart, thankfully one woman - one Christian woman - broke through the barrier - and broke through the distrust and reached my mother for the gospel.
  • "Madrass" is not the singular form of "Madrasses." Instead, Madrasah is the singular form with Madrassas as a Latinized plural (Madaris is the real plural).
  • "Jihadeen" is not the right word. The right would would be "mujahideen" as noted above.
  • Caner's presentation does not say that his mother was a Muslim woman reached for Christ by a Christian woman, but it certainly gives the listener that impression.
April 14, 2004, Hour 1 (1st half), "The Islamic Holy City of Najaf & Islam & Democracy" (Todd Wilken, Interviewer) (link to wma version)

(13:09) Let's just use a comparison here. I happen to be a baptist, I was saved Black Baptist, a national baptist, I am now Southern Baptist. Presbyterians and I worship differently, but I believe Presbyterians are going to heaven. They believe in Jesus Christ and so do I. In Islam it is different. In Islam, Sunni declare that Shia are Gulat - Cult. In every mosque I lived in, before I came to America, the mosque was defined by whether it was Shia or Sunni or Suffi - Suffi the third, it's a minor sect. And so, they do not believe that - Sunni do not believe that Shia are going to be in paradise, and Shia do not believe that Sunnit are going to be in paradise - at least the theologians don't.
  • Jerry Tackett, who allegedly led Dr. Caner to Christ was a white guy. Of course, there could be a white guy in a black church.
  • I have seen no evidence that Steltzer Road Baptist church was actually in the National Baptist conference.
  • The statement about "every mosque I lived in, before I came to America" implies that Caner lived in more than one mosque before coming to America. Leaving aside the issue of people living in mosques, is there any evidence that Caner was in more than one mosque before coming to America?
June 24, 2004, Hour 3 (2nd half), "The Crusades" (Todd Wilken, Interviewer) (link to wma version)

(29:22) Interviewer: 1) The escalating violence in Iraq. As a former Muslim and as a former resident of that area of the country - of the world - how do you see that escalating violence? Caner: I see it as the natural progression. I mean, this is something that - we were just asked about this in Washington, DC, and I said, "if I was a betting man, I'm not, but if I was a betting man I would guess that there will be even more, after we made the initial exchange of power."
  • Notice that the interviewer is under the impression that Caner was a resident of the Middle East, and that Caner does not do anything to say, "Well, I was born in Sweden, and raised in Ohio ..." or anything of that kind.
(41:39) We chose to convert by the sword, just like the Muslims do. Exactly like my people, like I was trained to do, as a young man. We were trained that Allah will be glorified when every country becomes an Islamic land and Sharia law holds forth. They just said this on the news, not more than an hour ago, my wife comes running down with the press report, and it says that, that you know, here the al-Zawahiri has made the statement that "we will not stop 'till the world is Islamic again." That's the way I was raised, that's my world.
  • Notice Caner's claims to be involved in radical Islam. He not only claims that he was trained to convert by the sword, but even that he was raised in the way of al-Qaeda leader, al-Zawahiri.
May 3, 2005, Hour 2 (first half), "An Associated Press Story about a Muslim Convert to Christianity" (Todd Wilken, Interviewer) (link to mp3 version)(link to wma version)
  • I didn't notice any particular items worthy of note in this one. I also included the link here to be fair to Caner. I'm not trying to pick on only select interviews, sermons, and lectures.
August 13, 2006, Hour 1, "Islam" (Todd Wilken, Interviewer) (link to mp3 version)

(2:16) Interviewer: If you had five minutes, alone with President Bush, to talk about Islam, what would you say to him, Dr. Caner? Caner: I would tell him that this is not political - I think that's the biggest mistake we can make, is to assume that this is a political issue. This is theological, for Muslims. This is eschatological. This is their desire. This is what we were trained from birth - that this is the holy war. And I think that the President has to be aware that this constant advice that he's receiving that this is just a political thing is just - it underestimates our enemy. It underestimates those who want to do us serious harm. I think the second thing I would tell him is that they are not terrorists, they are devout. In thirteen hundred years of history - thirteen hundred - I would ask him, "Can you name one period of time where Islam has coexisted peacefully in any country?" The answer, of course, is "no."
  • Notice the claim that Caner was trained "from birth" (understandable hyperbole) for holy war. Are we really to believe that Caner was trained to do what Muslim terrorists do?
(4:45) To a Muslim, a Sunni (myself) does not consider a Shi'ite to be a good Muslim. In fact, he does not consider him to be a Muslim at all.
  • That's interesting, because it appears that the Sunni Muslims who don't permit non-Muslims in Mecca do permit Shi'ite Muslims there. Also, Caner's own "Islamic Foundation" appears to have held events of some kind that were also attended by the Shi'ite family of Jamal Jivanjee (in fact, the families apparently even had dinner together).
(33:42) Jesus strapped himself to a cross, so that I wouldn't have to strap a bomb to myself.
  • There does not appear to be any evidence that Ergun was in any way planning to strap himself to a bomb.
(UPDATE: the item below added thanks to Fredericka, who pointed this out in the comment box)
(42:57) There are contradictions. Of course, any man-made book will have contradictions. And so there are any number of contradictions in the Qur'an that seem to fight against each other. Surah 19 is one of them, where it talks about the birth of Mary, I mean the birth of Jesus in Mary, and it makes some amazing claims. They come from the Gospel of Barnabas, which was a book that came centuries after our Lord and the other gospels. And in those teachings they teach some things that even Muslims cannot espouse.
  • Caner notes that there seems to be a relationship between the "Gospel of Barnabas" and the Koran. The relationship, however, appears to be the reverse of what Caner has stated. It's generally thought that the Gospel of Barnabas was written around the 14th century. It is a fairly obvious forgery (see the discussion at this link, for example), written - to all appearances - by a Muslim forger of European extraction (the work uses lines and thought gleaned from Dante Alegheri's Divine Comedy).
August 17, 2009 "Islamic Sects" (link to mp3)(Todd Wilken, Interviewer)

(03:24) I have on-going debates with Muslims who are from different sub-sects of Islam, and they will say, "we have never done this," or "we don't face this direction," or "our Ramadan is only thirty days" etc. And I quickly add that - you know - that Sunni Islam is, as you said, it's like - it's as divided as Christianity is, in that they have four major schools - if you will - sects. But from those four major schools, there are myriad of different denominations, if you will.
  • What debates? Can Dr. Caner document the debates that were on-going in August of 2009?
  • The issue of Ramadan being thirty days is not really a "sub-sect" issue. Ramadan is either 29 or 30 days long (since it is a lunar month, it can go either way).
(22:39) They are the ones who controlled Mecca, they are the largest theological school, they do most of the training for the imams who come to America, the training that takes place overseas, in places like my city, Istanbul.
  • That's not exactly the same as saying "I was born in Istanbul," but it does suggest to the listener that Caner is from that city, which Caner is not (as far as we can tell).
(30:16) Catholics have Lent, Muslims have Ramadan. Catholics have the rosary, and in Islam we have "masallah" which is the - which are the beads - you count the ninety-nine names of Allah - it looks exactly like a rosary.
  • I suppose that Caner means misbaha, which is one name for Muslim prayer beads.
  • "Masallah" sounds like the Turkish word for "congratulations" or "cheers".
  • I had previously speculated that Dr. Caner got his wrong idea that Ramadan is 40 days long from conflation with Romanism. This quotation doesn't prove that, but it does suggest that it may be the reason.
- TurretinFan

Second Incarnational Defense of Idols Rebutted

Subsequent to my last post, Frank Turk (aka Centuri0n) has submitted a new argument into the comment box of his his own post (link to post). Frank Turk argues:
One of the pillars of Tom's argumentation is that any image of Jesus is necessarily, by definition, a "false image" of Jesus. And the reason for this is that the Law in Israel says explicitly that Israel was [a] not to make graven images to worship, and [b] not to seek to represent the invisible YHVH with visible objects.

Tom's view relies heavily on continuity between Israel and the Church, and between Old Covenant and New Covenant. The problem is that, becuase of Christ as incarnation, there is a significant discontinuity between OT and NT.
There is some discontinuity and some continuity between the old and new administrations of God's grace. There is not discontinuity on this point. We see that a few ways.

I. Old Testament Prophecy

Micah 5:13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.

Micah points forward to the coming time, and specifically identifies the issue of idols as one of the points of continuity/reform to God's word.

II. End-Times Prophecy

Revelation 9:20-21
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

The use of idols is listed among the things that the wicked do, among the serious crimes like murder, sorcery, fornication, and theft.

III. Paul's Ministry

Acts 17:24-31
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

This is part of Paul's famous sermon on Mar's hill. Notice that there is a discontinuity - the Gentiles are now called to serve God, whereas before only the Jews were called. All men every where are commanded to repent. But Paul does not say "Jesus doesn't look like that, he looks like this (holding up a little icon or statue)." No, Paul specifically teaches the Greeks that God is not worshiped with the works of man's hands, nor is he properly represented even by such elevated metals as gold and silver.

IV. Paul's Epistles

1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Notice that while Paul acknowledges Jesus as Lord, without a doubt, he still refers to his King as invisible. Paul did not have a flannel-graph Jesus that he carried around with him. He preached Jesus, not pictures. Before I get too much more into Paul's epistles, let me provide some more of Frank Turk's argument. He writes:
Consider it:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. [NASB]

Right? Heb 1:1-4, with a special emphasis on this phrase: "He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature". That Greek word under "exact representation" ("χαρακτήρ"), ironically, is a word used to describe the engraving in a coin -- it is specifically an engraving term.

This speaks to us about the nature of the incarnation, doesn't it? Somehow, because Jesus was exactly like God, there's a discontinuity between the OT demand that there are no created images which can represent God and the NT fact that Jesus, conceived in Mary's womb as a man in the form of a servant, is actually God.
Let me provide the KJV for the passage that Frank Turk quoted:

Hebrews 1:1-4
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

What does it mean that Jesus is "the express image of his person" (χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ) It means that Jesus is God. It means that Jesus and the Father are of one and the same divine being. It does not mean that Jesus is a picture of what God looks like. Jesus flesh and blood, his humanity, is not a representation of God, nor was that the intent. Jesus took on flesh, not to represent God, but - as a man - to represent men!

Yes, there was a discontinuity, God became flesh and dwelt among us. But there was not a discontinuity with respect to make representations of God.

Thus, for example, we see Paul use a similar expression in Colossians.

Colossians 1:12-17 ... giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Notice that here it calls Jesus the "image of the invisible God" (εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου) that first word in the Greek is the root for our word "icon." It would be absurd to read that literally, as though Jesus were a literal icon of something that is invisible. What it means instead is that Jesus is God. He is of the same substance with the Father.

Notice how in both the Colossians passage and the Hebrews passage, this likeness to the Father is contextually connected with power: "upholding all things by the word of his power" and "by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist."

Going back to Hebrews, we see that the author of Hebrews recognizes the invisibility of God, but provides this interesting metaphorical language:

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

How is it that we see our invisible God? It's not by painting pictures - it's by faith. It's trusting in the promises of God like Moses and the other witnesses of Hebrews 11.

Furthermore, in what should be a very interesting twist for Frank Turk, we see that the Scriptures teach that we can see the invisible things of God through the visible creation.

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Of course, we are not seeing the power and Godhead of God itself, we're seeing their effects in the Creation. We're seeing what God made, and consequently seeing Him through that - not a purported similitude, but an illustration and demonstration of His power.

- TurretinFan

Tim Guthrie - Highly Offended at Being Wrongly Linked to Ergun Caner

According to Tim Guthrie: "never before tonight has a Christian or lost person so misrepresented and bore false witness" (source).

The charge? Dr. White allegedly inappropriately linked Guthrie and Caner.

This website (link to website) as of July 30, 2010, has the following list of board members:
Board Members

* Dr. Robert Stewart ([removed e-mail address to avoid spammers])
* James Walker
* Ergun Caner
* Tim Guthrie
* Jerry Holbrook
* Bob Anderson
* Jeff McLean
* Alice Pitchford
* Laura Arnn
* David Henke
But there is no wrath in Tim Guthrie's post against the website for placing him and Caner next to one another. All of Guthrie's fury is directed against Dr. White for jumping to the conclusion that Guthrie and Caner serve on the board together.

Guthrie, in a fit of indignation, went so far as to make the absolutely ludicrous claim: "Mr. White fabricated the whole connection thing."

Really? Did Dr. White hack the Watchmen website so that Guthrie's name spuriously appeared next to Dr. Caner's? If Guthrie is going to be upset at someone for linking him to Dr. Caner, he should be upset with the Watchman organization.

- TurretinFan

UPDATE: Dr. White's hacking skillz update:

Apparently, to create this massive fiction that Tim Guthrie was on the board of Watchman with Ergun Caner, Dr. White not only hacked the current page, but also managed to go back in time and hack the pages for the last few years:

2008 Archive page

2007 Archive page

2006 Archive page

First Archive page I could find showing Guthrie and Caner as on the board at Watchman

Smoke and Fire Icons?

During the recent discussion on images of God, I have heard a couple of folks suggest that God portrayed himself as being a pillar of cloud and fire.

A more careful reading of the text shows that while the pillar of cloud/fire was a sign of the presence of God, it was not supposed to represent God. Instead God was "in" the pillar:

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:

It was something that God provided to the people of Israel:

Exodus 13:22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Psa 105:39 He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night.

When God stirred up the Egyptians he is described as doing so "through the pillar," as though God were within the pillar, hidden.

Exodus 14:24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,

As an aside, we may note that the same distinction exists with respect to the burning bush. The angel of the Lord was not the burning bush, but spoke out of it.

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

When the tabernacle was built, this special manifestation of God's presence was placed on the tabernacle itself:

Numbers 9:15-16
And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.

Exodus 40:38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

And when God led the people he led them with the pillar:

Deuteronomy 1:33 Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.

Psalm 78:14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.

Nehemiah 9:19 Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.

The pillar of fire and smoke became a renowned sign among the Canaanites, much like the story of the Exodus.

Numbers 14:14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.

It's worth noting that when God specifically disclaims the fire as a similitude of himself (as if the distinctions we had drawn above were not enough):

Deuteronomy 4:12 And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.

And likewise, by connection with the other manifestations (by connection) we can infer that they were also not intended as similitudes:

Deuteronomy 5:22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.

That ought to pretty much close the case against the pillar and cloud being representations of God. Since the pillar of cloud and fire are not representations of God, Christian artists should not feel concerned about drawing the imagined pillar.

As an interesting aside, the pillar of cloud and fire makes one additional appearance in the Old Testament. Pointing toward the new covenant, Isaiah describes this sign of God's presence as being upon every dwelling place of mount Zion (i.e. the individual believers and their households), and the assemblies (congregations or churches).

Isaiah 4:5 And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.

There is not, of course, a literal smoke and cloud pillar that goes up from our houses and churches, but God is present invisibly with us. If we wish to be wise we will worship God not with the works of men's hands, but in Spirit and Truth, as it is written:

John 4:23-24
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


Response to Argument for Idols from the Incarnation

In the course of the comments on a previous post (link to post), I had asked:

What about the prohibition on picturing God? -- Why does that prohibition not apply to pictures of Jesus?

The response I got from one of my Eastern Orthodox readers was this:

"Because on Sinai we saw no image. In the Incarnation, we did."

This is sort of a standard response from the Eastern Orthodox, and I had tried to anticipate it somewhat in the post, although I wasn't dealing with an Eastern Orthodox person in the post. There are several responses:

1) There were theophanies before the Incarnation.

There were theophanies, appearances of God, prior to the Incarnation. Those theophanies were around both before Moses (see where the Lord visits Abraham in Genesis 18), and after Moses (see where the Lord appears in the fiery furnace with Daniel's three friends in Daniel 3).

So, the significance of the absence of the image on Sinai is not that no one ever saw God in a form before the Incarnation. There was no form shown to the people of Israel on Sinai, but there were other forms shown. Even closer to Moses, both Jacob (wrestled with the Lord in Genesis 32) and Joshua (who met with the Lord, see Joshua 5) saw God in human form.

2) We have not seen Jesus.

Jesus is presently in heaven. The apostles, other disciples, and even the unbelieving Jews saw Jesus. We did not. There are no detailed explanations of what Jesus looked like in the Scriptures, and while some Eastern Orthodox seem to think they have access to some kind of authentic tradition of what Jesus looked like, those stories are not credible.

3) There is greater significance to "for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire" than just that they did not know what God looked like

I am referring specifically to this:

Deuteronomy 4:15-19
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

Notice that there are two things prohibited - making something that is supposed to be a likeness of God, and worshiping/serving anything other than God (even the sun, moon, and stars).

I'd like to suggest that the point about not seeing God's form, is that what is significant is that there was no form seen when God was explaining how He is to be honored. Thus, creating a form of God would be an example of something that adds to the law of God.

There are two Sola Scriptura verses in Deuteronomy that specifically provide for a limitation on innovation.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Keep in mind that the context of each of those passages supports the point I'm making.

In the first instance:

Deuteronomy 4:1-8
Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you. But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

Basically, in context, God is saying "do exactly what I say, neither more nor less." Furthermore, Deuteronomy 4:2 is in the context of the prohibition on images that we're discussing. Specifically, the linking verses are verses 9-14:

Deuteronomy 4:9-14
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

Notice that in this context, of solemnly insisting that the people keep God's law, God reminds them of the particular day on which the law was given. That day is the day that is then referred to when it comes to the question of making representations of God.

Just as there was no image of God shown to the people so that they would have a pattern after which to illustrate him on the day of Horeb, so also we are not given an image of God (of any person of the Godhead) that is to serve as an illustration so that we may try to show a likeness of God today.

We see no similitude, only words, just as the people of Israel saw no similitude, they only received words.

The same sort of thing is true with respect to the other passage from Deuteronomy 12.

Deuteronomy 12:28-32
Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God. When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Again, God is commanding that people do exactly what he commands, not adding to it or taking away from it. In particular, here, he forbids innovation in the form syncretism or borrowing. In other words, God explicitly tells people not to model their religious life after that of the nations around them, but simply to follow the word of God.

We are not given a portrait of Jesus in the Bible, just as the Jews were not given an image of God on the day the law was given. The same principle that applied then, applies now, notwithstanding the Incarnation.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Misstatements vs. Lies - Dr. James White and Dr. Ergun Caner in Contrast

Dr. James White exposes and admits his own misstatement made over a length of time, and contrasts his situation with that of Dr. Ergun Caner.
The video includes a direct personal appeal to Dr. Caner. I hope he will listen to it and take heed to it.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Response to John H. Armstrong on the Caner Situation

Mr. Armstrong writes:
The board of Liberty University, which no one would rightly suggest had any reason to cover up the facts if they found them worthy of letting him go, has retained Dr. Caner on the Liberty faculty. I think fair-minded and gracious Christians should leave it there. It is none of their business to engage in this dialog any further when proper channels of authority were followed and a process justly concluded that said the charges against Dr. Caner were not sufficient to warrant dismissal.
(source - link in original)

Since Mr. Armstrong seems to have a few misconceptions, I hope he will allow me to clarify matters.

1) I am certainly not calling for the dismissal of Ergun Caner. I am glad that he has not been dismissed from Liberty University. My objective is his restoration, not his punishment or condemnation. I realize not everyone who is critical of Caner shares my sentiments in this regard, but that's fine.

2) In light of (1), I am willing to hope that those at Liberty who know Dr. Caner personally care even more about him than I do. As such, I don't see why they would need to dismiss him in order to acknowledge the legitimacy of the criticisms leveled against him.

3) Stated more clearly, there's more than one action that the Liberty Board could take if they found evidence that the charges against Dr. Caner were mostly true. It does not come down to simply firing Dr. Caner if the charges are true or retaining him if they are false.

4) As to (3), we have actually seen folks note this with respect to Dr. Caner's removal as president. Some folks who are critical of Dr. Caner were quick to note that this negative action by the Board with respect to Dr. Caner proves that the Liberty board found culpable wrongdoing on Dr. Caner's part. However, as Caner's defenders were quick to reply, the Liberty board could be taking that action for other reasons, such as simply to avoid controversy or distraction.

5) The sum of (1)-(4) is that Liberty's personnel decisions are not necessarily guided in any direct way by the strength of the charges against Dr. Caner. That principle applies to the favorable action of continuing to list Dr. Caner as a professor, although we cannot seem to locate any classes he will be teaching in the fall semester. That principle likewise applies the negative actions of not continuing to permit Dr. Caner to serve as president of the seminary, and not listing Dr. Caner as professor for any classes.

6) As to possible reasons why Liberty might cover up unfavorable facts, there are - of course - innumerable possibilities. The following are just possibilities, not facts or certainties. They are speculation, but Mr. Armstrong's statements calls for speculation by stating: "
... no one would rightly suggest [that the Liberty Board] had any reason to cover up the facts ... ." Here are some possible reasons:

a) To save face

Elmer Towns (one of Liberty's founders) made statements before the investigation to the effect that the charges against Dr. Caner would never stand up in court. It would be embarrassing to Towns for Liberty's Board to highlight any true charges against Dr. Caner.

b) To avoid getting sued

I have no idea what Dr. Ergun Caner's views on suing other Christians or Christian organizations is, so I'm not trying to suggest that Dr. Caner would actually take other Christians to court. However, as a general principle, when employers fire employees they have the risk that the fired employee will sue them. So, it's certainly reasonable to imagine that Liberty, as an employer, would be cautious as a matter of organizational policy.

c) Out of love

Dr. Ergun Caner is a very likable guy. I know this from hearing him speak, listening to how churches and other crowds react to him, and seeing the blog responses from those who consider themselves his friends. One would hope that the Board of Liberty would have a personal relationship with the president of the seminary. If that's the case, it would be hard on them to publicly release findings of the investigation that are negative with respect to such a nice guy as Dr. Caner. Out of love (whether misplaced or not), it is easy to imagine Liberty's board covering sins of one of their friends. Christians serve a merciful God, and it is easy to imagine a Christian board showing mercy.

7) Further to (6), the Liberty Board did not actually release the results of the investigation. They did not make the negative facts that came to their attention known beyond extremely general characterizations. Whether their reason was one of the reasons in (6) or some other reason, we may never know. Because ...

8) Further to (7), Liberty's Board is refusing to discuss this matter further. So, they are continuing to conceal any information that they may have received during the investigation. I'm not suggesting that they are not entitled to do this. They are free to conduct their own investigation of their employee however they like. However, it is clear that Liberty's Board is not being transparent with the public regarding the investigation. That lack of transparency should limit the scope of inferences that we draw from their extremely brief comments on the matter.

For the final points, recall that Armstrong wrote: "
a process justly concluded that said the charges against Dr. Caner were not sufficient to warrant dismissal" (link in original)

9) Processes don't do things, people do things. The Board took action, reached conclusions, and so forth. It may seem a little pedantic for me to point this out, but the reason for doing so is to highlight that this is not an impartial machine at work, but living, breathing folks who (as far as we can reasonable determine) have worked with and know Dr. Caner personally.

10) Whether or not the conclusion of the process is just (whether there was procedural justice), is something that Mr. Armstrong cannot know without some sort of inside information. I don't believe that Mr. Armstrong is claiming to have inside information. Without such information, however, we cannot know whether the process used by the board was a just process or one that was unjust. There is, as I noted above, no transparency to Liberty's decision. That is a two-edged sword, by the way. Without Liberty releasing the details of its investigation, we can no more say that Caner was justly removed from being president than we can say that Caner was justly retained as professor.

11) The Board did not officially state that there were "not sufficient reasons to warrant dismissal." The Board's action was not immediately dismissal, but the Board did not explain its decisions. As noted above, the Board's actions were not transparent, and there is no expectation that they will clarified.

With all due respect to Mr. Armstrong, Liberty's decision did not settle the matter either for or against Dr. Caner. Those who wish to be fair minded both to Dr. Caner and to those who have criticized Dr. Caner should consider the facts, investigate the evidence for themselves, and not rely on second-hand reports - whether from bloggers or boards.


Response to Steve Hays on the Second Commandment

This is not a full rebuttal to what Steve Hays wrote on the second commandment (link to Steve's post). Instead, it is a heavily short-handed rebuttal, written with his high level of understanding of Scripture and theology in mind. The goal is to persuade him, not to respond to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox errors on this subject (themselves differing from one another).

Steve makes an argument that is similar to the argument that John of Damascus used to justify the making of images of Jesus. The argument boiled down is that the absolute prohibition on making representations of God was limited to the time before the incarnation.

There is one critical flaw in this argumentation: Theophanies. Whether or not Moses saw something capable of depiction, other men did. Those men lived before Moses, such as Abraham, and after Moses, such as Joshua saw the Lord in human form.

Consider this:

Deuteronomy 4:15-19
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

Rather than treating the comment "for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire" as being the reason why the commandment was imposed, may I suggest to Steve that a better way to understand it is in reverse. To avoid fanning the idolatrous temptations of the Israelites, God did not reveal Himself to them in any form. The formless revelation of God, therefore, is an object lesson to how He wishes to be honored: without images made by man.

Finally, let me provide the second counter-example. For whatever reason, Christ when resurrected concealed himself from being recognized by his appearance. Thus, Mary Magdalene does not immediately recognize him, nor do the disciples on the road to Emmaus, though evidently Jesus did look the same - even down to the scars whose inspection by Thomas Christ welcomed.

God has nowhere indicated any desire to be honored through man-made images of Him. I realize that many "Protestants" as well as some others who profess to follow Christ make or use purported[Fn1] images of Him without intending to use them as part of "worship." Nevertheless, the only obvious reason for depicting Jesus Christ is because he is God. It's not for a group photo of Nazareth high school, nor is it a booking photo at the Sanhedrin detention center. The point for Christians that makes Jesus Christ of any interest is the fact that He is the Son of God.

Now, there are sometimes other reasons to have images purporting to be of Christ. For example, one might provide a display of such images simply to show the foolishness and self-contradiction of attempts to image Christ, who is in heaven.

But if you wish to see an image of God, do not give up hope. Men (humans) are made in the image of God, and particularly husbands are in God's image:

1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

For those who wish to see Christ imaged - there is one divinely sanctioned representation:

1 Corinthians 11:24-26
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

So, let's view Christ that way - through the non-likeness of the bread and wine, worshiping and reverencing God in the way in which He wishes to be worshiped, not with our own imagination, but according to His Word.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Second Anathema Against Biologos

Another - and independent - reason that I do not consider Biologos "one of us," (see the first anathema here) is its policy of permitting and promoting articles that deny inerrancy, such as the work of Kenton Sparks. Again, I realize that true believers can be misled by false teachers, but it is a serious departure from the fundamentals of the faith to deny that Scripture - in the original autographs - is inerrant. To deny that is, in effect, to reject the Word of God.

Sparks goes so far as to say:
The factual contradictions within Scripture or between Scripture and extrabiblical sources cited in my previous blog are not, in my view, the most serious difficulties that Christians face in the Bible. More troublesome are those cases where a biblical text espouses ethical values that not only contradict other biblical texts but strike us as down-right sinister or evil.

The idea that there are true factual contradictions within Scripture (in the original autographs) is a serious error. Many folks, however, who hold to such an opinion stop there. They allege that there are trivial factual errors and nothing more. This is still a serious error: Scripture is the Word of God, and God does not make even trivial factual errors.

Scripture tells us that the hairs of our head are numbered.

Matthew 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Luke 12:7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

God does not just have infinite cognitive power, he's attentive to details.

And that also extends to the Word of God:

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Luke 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Likewise, and perhaps most critically, God's word cannot be broken, thus we can rely on it:

John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

Similarly we see that God's word is pure:

Psalm 119:140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.

Psalm 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

In that last verse, "tried," has the sense of "refined," something without any impurities.

Nevertheless, while claims that there were trivial factual errors (to be clear, things like using round numbers are not errors) in the original is a serious error, to allege that the original Scriptures contradict one another with respect to moral teaching is essentially heretical.

Scripture itself plainly teaches:

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Sparks concludes the portion of his article to which I've linked above with the claim: "Even more in our day than his, it is clear that Biblicistic inerrancy is an intellectual disaster." May I respectfully but strenuously insist that it is clear that the rejection of inerrancy is a spiritual disaster.

I also don't agree with Sparks that inerrancy is an intellectual disaster. I'm not one of those people who say, in tones that sound pious, that we must sacrifice the intellect to maintain the faith. The use of the intellect is perfectly compatible with the doctrine of inerrancy. In fact, on the contrary, the attitude that Sparks displays in his article of refusing to let "Evangelicals" explain why apparent contradictions are only apparent contradictions, and not actual contradictions, is one of intellectual laziness - a true intellectual disaster. The result is that Sparks is making shipwreck both of the faith he apparently professes and of his own intellect.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

John Piper on Sermon Preparation

John Piper has an interesting video (with transcript for those who prefer to read) on how he prepares his sermons (link). Obviously, his approach will work better for some ministers than for others. It is interesting, nevertheless, to hear how he does it. In my own opinion (for what little that is worth), I've always thought of Piper as a preacher first and foremost, so it was very interesting for me to hear how it is that he prepares to preach.


Rebuttal to Argument from Exhaustive Guidance ...

One of the Roman Catholic arguments that is popular is the argument that Scriptures alone are insufficient as our rule of faith and life, because they do not explicitly (or perhaps even implicitly) address issues that allegedly did not exist at the time Scripture was written. Usually topics like birth control are broached as the issue to be addressed.

Steve Hays has provided an excellent, if somewhat amusing, rebuttal by pointing to Islam as an example of a religion that seeks to regulate a much deeper amount of people's lives than even Catholicism (link to rebuttal). One way to apply the rebuttal is that if Catholicism is supposed to be an exhaustive rule is by showing that there are many questions it does not answer, such as whether it is appropriate for a woman to be alone in the same elevator with a man who is not part of her immediate family.

If Scripture's alleged failure to answer the question of stem cell research is a problem, why isn't the failure of Catholicism to tell us which side of our body to lie on at night a problem for Catholicism?

And there is really no need to limit ourselves to the extremes of the Muslims or Jews - where is Catholicism's answer as to whether I should buy Pepsi or Coke? And if I find myself in an elevator that is playing music by Britney Spears, am I permitted to stay on the elevator as long as I don't allow myself to enjoy it?