Friday, June 03, 2011

The Koran, Dr. James White, and the Idea of Repenting

Recently, a Youtube video came to my attention, in which my friend Dr. James White is accused of lying about the Koran. Specifically, Dr. White had made essentially the following argument:

1) Our Muslim friend alleges that the Bible is wrong, because the Bible says that God repented.

2) But, the Koran (at 2:37) teaches that Allah repented.

3) Therefore, if our Muslim friend is to be consistent, he would have to say that the Koran is wrong.

The video alleges that the Koran, at 2:37, does not say that Allah repented. The Online Quran Project provides a number of English translations. Here are the translations I found there of that particular ayah of surah 2.
Abul Ala Maududi
 37.  At that time Adam learnt appropriate words from his Lord and repented, and his Lord accepted his repentance, for He is very Relenting and very Merciful.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali
 37. Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration[37], and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

Ali Quli Qara'i
  37. Then Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned to him clemently. Indeed He is the All-clement, the All-merciful.

Arthur John Arberry
 37. Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned towards him; truly He turns, and is All-compassionate.

Ahmed Ali
 37. Then his Lord sent commands to Adam and turned towards him: Indeed He is compassionate and kind.

Aisha Bewley
 37. Then Adam received some words from his Lord and He turned towards him. He is the Ever-Returning, the Most Merciful.

Ali Ünal
  37. (Aware of his lapse and in the hope of retrieving his error, rather than attempting to find excuses for it,) Adam received from his Lord words that he perceived to be inspired in him (because of his remorse, and he pleaded through them for God’s forgiveness). In return, He accepted his repentance. He is the One Who accepts repentance and returns it with liberal forgiveness and additional reward, the All-Compassionate (especially towards His believing servants).

Amatul Rahman Omar
  37. After that Adam received from his Lord certain (useful) commandments and He turned to him with mercy. He, indeed is Oft-returning with compassion, the Ever Merciful.

Bijan Moeinian
  37. [Out of mercy] Adam received from his Lord some words of supplication. [Once he returned to his Lord with those words of supplication,] God forgave Adam as He is the most forgiving and merciful.

Abdul Majid Daryabadi
 37. Then Adam learnt from his Lord certain Words, and He relented toward him, verily He! He is the Relentant, the Merciful.

Edward Henry Palmer
 37. And Adam caught certain words from his Lord, and He turned towards him, for He is the compassionate one easily turned.

Faridul Haque
  37. Then Adam learnt from his Lord certain words (of revelation), therefore Allah accepted his repentance; indeed He only is the Most Acceptor of Repentance, the Most Merciful.

George Sale
 37. And Adam learned words of prayer from his Lord, and God turned unto him, for He is easy to be reconciled and merciful.

Hamid S. Aziz
 37.  And Adam obtained certain words (revelations) from his Lord, and He relented towards him, for He is the Relenting, the Compassionate.

Mahdi Pooya
 37. not yet included, see Chapter 90-114

Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali & Muhammad Muhsin Khan
  37. Then Adam received from his Lord Words. And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.

John Medows Rodwell
 37. And words of prayer learned Adam from his Lord: and God turned to him; for He loveth to turn, the Merciful.

Muhammad Ahmed & Samira
  37. So Adam received from his Lord words/expressions, so (He) forgave on him, that He is, He is the forgiver , the most merciful .

Muhammad Aqib Farid Qadri
  37. Then Adam learnt from his Lord certain words (of revelation), therefore Allah accepted his repentance; indeed He only is the Most Acceptor of Repentance, the Most Merciful. (See Verse 7:23)

Muhammad Asad
  37. Thereupon Adam received words [of guidance] from his Sustainer, and He accepted his repentance: for, verily, He alone is the Acceptor of Repentance, the Dispenser of Grace.

Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali
  37. Then Adam received (some) Words from his Lord; so He relented towards him; surely He, Ever He, is The Superbly Relenting, The Ever-Merciful.

Muhammad Sarwar
  37. Adam was inspired by some words (of prayer) through which he received forgiveness from his Lord, for He is All-forgiving and All-merciful.

Muhammad Taqi Usmani
  37. Then ‘Adam learned certain words (to pray with) from his Lord; so, Allah accepted his repentance. No doubt, He is the Most-Relenting, the Very-Merciful.

Maulana Muhammad Ali
  37. Then Adam received (revealed) words from his Lord, and He turned to him (mercifully). Surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.

Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall
 37. Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful.

Hasan Al-Fatih Qaribullah & Ahmad Darwish
 37. Then Adam received Words from his Lord, and his Lord relented towards him. He is the Receiver of Repentance, the Merciful.

Rashad Kalifa
 37. Then, Adam received from his Lord words, whereby He redeemed him. He is the Redeemer, Most Merciful.

Shabbir Ahmed
  37. (The solution to this catastrophe was beyond human intellect.) Then Adam received Words of guidance from his Lord and He accepted his repentance. Behold, He is the Acceptor, the Most Merciful. (Adam = Man. His wife = Woman. She also repented and Allah treated both of them equally (7:23-24))

 37. Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He turned to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.

Syed Vickar Ahamed
  37. Then Adam received the words of inspiration, from his Lord, and his Lord forgave him; For He is One Who accepts Repentance (Tawwab), Most Merciful (Raheem).

Tahir al-Qadri
  37. Then Adam learnt some words (of humility and repentance) from his Lord. So Allah accepted his repentance. Surely He is the One Who is Most Relenting, Ever-Merciful.

T. B. Irving
 37. Adam received words [of inspiration] from his Lord and he turned towards Him. He is the Relenting, the Merciful!"

Umm Muhammad (Sahih International)
  37. Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.

Wahiduddin Khan
 37.  Then Adam received some words [of prayer] from his Lord and He accepted his repentance. He is the Forgiving One, the Merciful.

  37. Prompted by the sense of guilt, Adam felt shame, but because guilt did not reside in the intention, Allah in mercy inspired him with a prayer for invoking His forgiveness, and in turn did Allah give up resentment against him and pardon his offence: it is He Who always accepts true repentance and the atonement made by the people, He is AL-Rahim.

[Progressive Muslims]
 37. Adam then received words from His Lord, so He forgave him; He is the Forgiver, the Merciful.
For the purists, the Arabic is this:
37 ‏فَتَلَقَّىٰٓ ءَادَمُ مِن رَّبِّهِۦ كَلِمَتٍۢ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Note that, of course, not all of the translations are equally literal or equally authoritative. The purpose in presenting them all is two-fold. First, I want to affirm that none of them (not one!) says "Allah repents." Not one uses those exact words. On the other hand, many of them identify Allah as "oft-returning" or "oft-turning" or the like, which has the same sense. Obviously, some take a different tack completely. The point, though, is that there is a reasonable basis for the idea that Allah "turns" whether one uses the word "repent" or not.

That reason is the reason given by Paul Rezkella in the comments section of the post where I found the video:

If you read the arabic in Surah 2:37, you read the word “tawwabu”, which means “repenting”. “…and his Lord repented (fataba) towards him; for He is Oft-Repenting (huwa al-tawwabu), Most Merciful.” S. 2:37

Of course, Sam Shamoun has already written about this. He points out that there at least four more such places. Also Sam Shamoun has already explained about the idea in the Bible of God repenting, with comparisons to the Koran.

But the fundamental error of the person in the video seems to be his assumption that if the term "repenting" is not used by the translators, the sense of the word is not there. That's a mistaken argument.

Of course, there's a possible alternative error. Some poor deluded person might think that when the KJV says that God "repented," they mean that God turned from sins. Such a notion would be the result of someone simply not understanding English very well. That would be excusable in the case of someone who is not a native English speaker, as perhaps may be the case for the person in the video. But such a notion is completely wrong and unfounded.

In any event, someone who wants a more thorough, detailed discussion can peruse Sam Shamoun's articles at the links above.


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Grace in Cyril's Commentary on the Book of Exodus (First Discourse)

The Orthodox Research Institute has published an English translation of the first discourse of Cyril of Alexandria's Commentary on the Book of Exodus. It's not a massive volume (about 50 pages of English text). Nevertheless, it serves to illustrate some aspects of Cyril's teachings on topics related to the doctrines of grace. Most of the following will be quotations from this single work. Any bolding is my own, whereas material in brackets is added by the translator:

The State of Fallen Man
The following interestingly seems like some form of recognition of original sin, at least of concupiscence, and its universal applicability to the human race, as well as its source in God's withholding grace:
But let the word of the narrative pause at this point. Let us say presently bringing the mind into the innermost spectacles, that because the thought of man is persistently devoted to evil things since his youth because of lack of good things from above, the whole human race, so to speak, was being corrupted and something like a famine was devouring the heavenly lessons; It was exactly as we could observe the prodigal who is also drawn as a model of a parable, who devoured the paternal fortune in foreign lands, and wished to satisfy his hunger with the fruit of the carob tree from which the pigs were eating.
(Chapter 3 at p. 13)

Bondage of the Will
In the following, Cyril appears to argue that it is the knowledge of God that brings true freedom of will.
"But God," he says, "considered them, and looked upon the children of Israel, and was made known to them." When, therefore, we live in ignorance of God {ignoring God or being ignored by God} then we all will also fall under those who do us injustice, and we roll around into the mires of sin, having as bitter and raw {cruel} supervisors of such things the unclean demons. But the grace of freedom will always follow the knowledge of God (knowing God will always be followed by the freedom of will}.
(Chapter 8, at p. 75)

Justification of the Impious by Faith in Christ

In the following, Cyril appears to argue for justification by grace through faith:
For {the fact that} those who do not move away from the worship according to the law are being held under the power of corruption, Christ himself will make clear. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink the blood, ye have no life in you." And this was the mystery, not from those under the law from some place or other, but from those who have accepted the faith and have been justified in Christ and {have accepted} the education which is better than the one under the law, and I mean the evangelic one. Those, therefore, who did not become free of the burden through faith, or under the {power of} corruption, and as in a mall, {which is} the mother of death, and I mean, indeed, the same, and they are away from Christ. But if they would wish to untie the sample, that is the corruption, which {corruption} does not have the power to justify them, and {if they would wish} to approach the grace which truly produces life, then they will approach the one who justifies the impious one, {they will approach} Christ, that is, through whom and with whom the glory belongs to the Father together with the Holy Spirit to the centuries of centuries. Amen.
(Chapter 8, at p. 87)

Plain and Direct Style of Scripture
Finally, here is one quotation from Evie Zachariades-Holmberg, editor/translator, which is of interest as it relates to the perspicuity of Scripture:
There are, of course examples in the early Christian literature, where the authors achieve masterpieces with the use of the simple or the sophisticated / artificial style in the language. St. Paul's mode of expression for example in chapters 12 and 13 of the first epistle to the Corinthians is amazing in its directness, vivacity, power and simplicity, especially when compared to the epistle of Clement of Rome who is also addressing the Corinthians on the same subject.
(p. xv)

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thoughts on the PCA, Wilson, and Keller

"On the other hand, a denomination that rejects the orthodoxy of Doug Wilson out of hand while embracing Tim Keller unquestioningly is a denomination which has lost sight of what Reformed theology is all about."

Some thought provoking comments from the BaylyBlog. I'm not sure I agree with their comments, but it is still an interesting perspective on the PCA's current state of affairs.

I think there is work already in progress to deal with the Tim Keller situation. One reason for prioritizing the FV as something to be addressed first would seem to be the allegation that the FV is denying justification by faith alone. Whether or not that accusation is true, such a denial would seem to be a more central error than the errors associated with Tim Keller by his detractors.


UPDATED to correct Pastor Keller's first name.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sins of the Fathers Upon the Children - The Case of Abijah

1 Kings 14 provides a very sad story of Jeroboam and his family:

1 Kings 14:1-18
At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said to his wife, "Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people. And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child."
And Jeroboam's wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see; for his eyes were set by reason of his age.
And the LORD said unto Ahijah, "Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman."
And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said,
Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, "Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; but hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.

Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.

Moreover the LORD shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now. For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger. And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.
And Jeroboam's wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died; and they buried him; and all Israel mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by the hand of his servant Ahijah the prophet.
In this sad story we see Jeroboam trying to get some good news about his son. Jeroboam seems to have a mistaken or confused notion about the power of prophets. Jeroboam seems to think of prophets as magicians, people with their own power or at least with some control over God's power.

Thus, Jeroboam thinks about the only prophet he's ever run into that was nice to him, gets his wife to bring what would presumably be a pretty generous gift for an average person, and instructs her to go and ask the prophet for good news regarding the son. Of course, Jeroboam know that he's out of favor with the Lord, so he tells his wife to disguise herself so that the prophet won't know whose wife she is.

It's all carefully calculated, and somewhat silly. Ahijah the prophet is, by this time, blind from old age. He can't see and so the disguise is a waste of time. At the same time, he's a seer. He gets revelation from God, and God isn't fooled by Jeroboam or his wife. God knows that the wife is coming before she gets there.

Moreover, the prophet is a true prophet of the Lord. What the Lord tells him, he tells to Jeroboam's wife. He doesn't make up good news to cheer a grieving mother. He tells "heavy tidings" to her. He informs her that when she gets back her son will die.

Moreover, he informs her that her whole family is going to be destroyed. The colorful metaphor that the Lord uses is that Jeroboam's family is going to be removed "like dung." How much dung do you leave around the house if your child or pet has an accident? None, of course. You scrub until the site and smell of it are gone. The same went for Jeroboam's family.

The son who died was the lucky one. He got mourned by all Israel and buried in the family grave. His brethren died more miserably - killed and left to be eaten by wild animals. They received an undignified and humiliating death.

Why was Jeroboam's family to be utterly wiped out? God's answer is clear:
for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam
This is a fulfillment of God's threat for violations of the second commandment:
(Exodus 20:4-6)
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Deuteronomy 5:8-10)
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
This is not the only instance of this sort of thing in the Bible, but it is one example. Because of Jeroboam's sins, his family was wiped out.

Because of Solomon's sins, the kingdom was rent from Rehoboam and ten tribes were given to Jeroboam, yet God showed mercy to the line of David. Recall that it is written regarding Abijam (not Jeroboam's son who died, but one of David's great-grandchildren):
1 Kings 15:1-5
Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah. Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David's sake did the LORD his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem: because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.
This example of God's favor to David's children on account of David's righteousness is something that leads believers to have a hope that God will show favor to their children. It is not that we have a righteousness that deserves or merits favor, but that God is still pleased to bless even the very imperfect righteousness of those who, like David, trust in the Lord.

Moreover, the federal principle even applied to the nation. Notice that Israel's future destruction is prophesied by the prophet. Whereas Judah was chastised by God, but then restored to the land.

The federal principle, you see, is not only for judgment but also for blessing. That is why Abraham was called to circumcise his sons and why we baptize our children. It is why all those in Adam died, but all those in Christ will be made alive.