Monday, January 30, 2012

"Bible" Joke

A country preacher went looking for a job. The interviewing committee finally interviewed him. They asked him, “Do you know much about the Bible?”
The preacher said, “Oh, yeah. I know the Bible through and through.”
“What’s your favorite book?” they asked.
“My favorite book is Mark.”
“What’s your favorite part?”
“My favorite part is the parables.”
“Oh, yeah. What’s your favorite parable?”
“My favorite parable is the one about ‘The Good Samaritan.’”
“Can you tell it to the committee?”
The preacher replied, “Yep. It goes this way: “Once there was this man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among the thorns; and the thorns sprung up and choked him. And as he went on, he didn’t have any money, and he met the Queen of Sheba. She gave him a thousand talents of gold and thousand changes of raiment, and he got into a chariot and drove furiously. “He was driving so furiously, he drove under a Juniper Tree, and his hair got caught on the limb of the tree. He hung there for many days, and the ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink. And he ate 5,000 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. “Then one night, while he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair, and he dropped and fell on stony ground. But he got up and went on, as it began to rain. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights; so he hid himself in a cave, and he ate locusts and wild honey. “Then he went on until he met a servant who said, ‘Come; let’s have supper together.’ But he made an excuse and said, ‘No, I won’t. I married a wife and cannot go.’ So the servant went out to the highways and the hedges and compelled him to come in. “After supper, he went on and came down to Jericho. When he got there, he looked up and saw that old Queen Jezebel, sitting high up on the window; and she laughed at him. So he said, ‘Throw her down, out there!’ And they threw her down. Then he said, ‘Throw her down again!’ And they threw her down 70 times 7. And of the fragments that remained, they picked up 12 baskets full …, besides women and children. – They say, ‘Blessed are the PIECE-makers.’ “Now, whose wife do you think she will be on the Judgment Day?”

The Story of A Vase

A grandfather and a grandmother were in a gift shop looking for something to give their granddaughter for her birthday. Suddenly the grandmother spots a beautiful vase, “Look at this lovely piece of work”, she says to her husband. He picks it up and says you’re right, this is one of the loveliest vases I have ever seen.

At that point something remarkable happened. Something that could only happen in a children’s book. The vase says to the grandparents. “Thank you for the compliment, but I wasn’t always beautiful.” Instead of being surprised that the vase can talk, the grandfather ask it, what do you mean when you say you weren’t always beautiful? Well, says the vase, “once I was just an ugly soggy lump of clay. But one day some man with dirty wet hands threw me on a wheel. Then he started turning me around and around until I got so dizzy I couldn’t see straight. Stop..Stop I cried. But the man with the wet hands said, Not Yet! Then he started to poke me and punch me until I hurt all over, Stop..Stop I cried, but the man said “Not Yet”. Each time I thought he was through, he would crumble and roll me up and began to poke and punch me again.

Finally he did stop. But then he did something much worse, he put me into a furnace. It got hotter and hotter until I couldn’t stand it. Stop..Stop.. I cried. But the man said, “Not Yet”. Finally when I thought I was going to burn up, the man took me out of the furnace. Then some short lady began to paint me, and the fumes got so bad that they made me feel sick. “Stop…Stop..” I cried. “Not Yet” said the lady. Finally she did stop, but then she gave me back to the man and he put me back into that awful furnace. This time it was hotter than before. “Stop…Stop” I cried, but the man said “Not Yet”.

Finally he took me out of the furnace and let me cool. When I was completely cool, a pretty lady put me on this shelf, next to this mirror. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I was amazed, I could not believe what I saw. I was no longer ugly, soggy and dirty; I was beautiful, firm and clean. I cried for joy. It was then I realized that all the pain was worthwhile. Without it I would still be an ugly, soggy lump of wet clay. It was then that all the pain took on new meaning for me. It had passed, but the beauty it brought has remained.

At The Cross

Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed?
And Did My Sovreign Die?
Would He Devote That Sacred Head
For Such A Worm As I?

Was It For Crimes That I Have Done,
He Groaned Upon The Tree?
Amazing Pity! Grace Unknown!
And Love Beyond Degree!

But Drops Of Grief Can Ne'er Repay,
The Debt Of Love I Owe:
Here, Lord, I Give Myself Away,
'Tis All That I Can Do!

At The Cross, At The Cross, Where I First Saw The Light,
And The Burden Of My Heart Rolled Away, It Was There By Faith,
I Received My Sight, And Now I Am Happy All The Day!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How the Health and Wealth Gospel Twists Scripture

Most Christians have heard some of the following: "You can have what you say," "The reason you haven't been healed is that you don't have enough faith," "We can write our own ticket with God if we decide what we want, believe that it's ours, and confess it," "He wants you rich and healthy," "What is the desire of your heart? Name it , claim it by faith, and it is yours! Your heavenly Father has promised it. It's right there in the Bible."

Such statements reflect the models which set forth a theology of the spoken word (rhematology) or of thought-actualization, commonly known as "positive confession", which stresses the inherent power of words and thoughts.

Some who teach this system argue that just as God, by His faith, spoke (or conceived of the creation in His mind) and matter came into existence (Genesis 1, Psalm 33:6, Hebrews 11:3, 2 Peter 3:5), so the Christian can speak (or conceive of things in his mind) and actually bring them into existence by faith.

Many of those in the Word-Faith movement, such as Charles Capps and Jerry Savelle, teach that God had faith in His faith. They use Scripture texts such as Mark 11:22 and Hebrews 11:3, translating them as "have the faith of God". However, renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, in his books A Short Grammar of the Greek Testament (pp. 227-228) and A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (p. 500), very adequately shows that the phrase is not to be translated in the subjective genitive (meaning that the noun is the subject of the action - or that God is the subject of faith) such as "have the faith of God", but is to be translated in the objective genitive (meaning that the noun is the object of the action - that God is the object of faith). He goes on to insist that translating in the subjective genitive is preposterous. He says "it is not the faith that God has, but the faith of which God is the object".

The Gospel of Health
"I am fully convinced - I would die saying it is so - that it is the plan of Our Father God, in His great love and in His great mercy, that no believer should ever be sick; that every believer should live his full life span down here on this earth; and that every believer should finally just fall asleep in Jesus" (Kenneth E. Hagin, Seven Things You Should Know about Divine Healing, p. 21).

The above statement and others like it have caused much confusion in the body of Christ and led many to be presumptuous in the area of divine healing. There are some things that are true about healing to which most Christians would readily admit. First of all, people who are morally conscientious and who recognize that the physical body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) may generally have better health because they take care of their bodies. Secondly, the healing of human life is part of the redemptive work of God. The Bible does teach healing. It was part of Jesus' and the apostles' ministries. There were gifts of healing in the church's charismata, and in James 5:14-15, Christians are specifically encouraged to pray for the sick with the promise of answered prayer.

Of course, one reason believers pray for the sick to be healed is their conviction that the body, though still subject to decay and death in the present age, is destined for resurrection (1 Corinthians 6:13-14), and when God does heal someone it is a sign of the future Age already at work in the present.

However, where most Christians depart from the "faith movement" on healing is their understanding of the most pivotal text of Isaiah 53, which those in the faith movement almost always twist to justify their view of "blanket" coverage for the physical healing of every Christian who has enough faith.

A clearer understanding of this important passage can be gleaned thorough a deeper evaluation of its underlying Hebrew text. What does the text Isaiah 53:5 mean when it says, "and by His stripes we are healed"? The Faith Movement interprets it to mean primarily the physical, while the majority of Christian scholarship has always interpreted it to mean primarily spiritual. For example, Gordon D. Fee, Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is quoted in the SCP Newsletter, Spring 1985, concerning this text, as saying, "It is also questionable whether the Bible teaches that healing is provided for in the atonement. Scores of texts explicitly tell us our sin has been overcome through Christ's death and resurrection, but no text explicitly says the same about healing, not even Isaiah and its New Testament citations.

"Matthew (8:17) clearly saw Isaiah as referring to physical healing, but as a part of the Messiah's ministry, not the atonement. Peter (2:24) saw the healing in Isaiah 53 as metaphysical, referring to our sin sickness, and this is the primary sense Isaiah himself gives the passage.

"Yet, since physical disease was clearly recognized to be a consequence of the Fall, one may argue that healing also finds its focal point in the atonement. But saying that does not imply all faithful Christians should experience perfect health. Even historic Pentecostalism, which believes healing was provided for in the atonement, does not hold that view. The position paper on divine healing adopted by the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God (1974) makes it clear that healing is "provided for" because the "atonement brought release from the consequences of sin." Nonetheless, since we have not yet received the "redemption of our bodies", suffering and death are still our lot until the resurrection".

An incorrect Bible hermeneutic (rules for Bible interpretation) combined with a desire for complete perfection have led many in the faith camp to deny the reality of sickness and disease.

For example, Kenneth Hagin, in The Name of Jesus, says, "In teaching on divine healing and health, I have often said, `I haven't had a headache in so-many years.' (At this writing it has been 45 years.) I guess the devil got tired of hearing me say it. Just a few months ago, as I left the office building and started home, suddenly my head started hurting. Someone might say, `Well, you had a headache.' No, I didn't have one! I don't have headaches. I haven't had a headache since August 1934.

"Forty-five years have come and gone, and I haven't had a headache. Not one. The last headache I can actually remember having was in August 1933. I haven't had a headache, and I'm not expecting to have one. But if I had a headache, I wouldn't tell anybody. And if somebody asked me how I was feeling, I would say, "I'm fine, thank you." (p. 44, parenthesis in original).

It is obvious from the above statements that Hagin doesn't consider having a headache to be real. That's because to him and other Faith movement teachers, symptoms are not real indications of sickness or disease, but distractions by the devil tempting him or her into making a negative confession.

The Gospel of Wealth

"It's a matter of your faith. You got one-dollar faith, and you ask for a ten thousand-dollar item, it ain't gonna work. It won't work. Jesus said, "According to your faith", not "according to His will, if He can work it into His busy schedule." He said, "according to your faith be it unto you." Now I may want a Rolls Royce and don't have but bicycle faith. Guess what I'm gonna get? A bicycle" (Frederick K.C. Price, "Praise the Lord" broadcast on TBN, 21 September 1990, taken from Documentation for Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaff). The cardinal fault with the prosperity gospel is one central tenet: God wills the financial prosperity of every Christian, therefore, for a believer to live in poverty is living outside God's intended will. Normally tucked away somewhere is another affirmation: Since we are God's children, we should always go first class, we should have the biggest and the best. Only this brings glory to God!

No matter how much one tries to clothe the above affirmations in Biblical garb, it is simply not Biblical. Again, poor scripture interpretation is employed by the faith movement.

To substantiate their teachings, proponents of the prosperity gospel distort the meaning of certain Bible passages. One such passage, frequently quoted is 3 John 2. John began his letter with a friendly greeting, expressing his desire that Gaius "may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers".

Kenneth Copeland explains this verse on page 51 of his book, The Laws of Prosperity, says, "You must realize that it is God's will for you to prosper. This is available to you, and frankly, it would be stupid of you not to partake of it".

This verse, however, according to James Bjornstad in his article, "What's Behind the Prosperity Gospel?", published by Moody Monthly in the 1986 issue, "is nothing more than John's personal wish for Gaius. We should not take it as an universal promise or guarantee of health and wealth".

The Greek word translated "prosper" in the KJV means "to go well with someone". This wish for "things to go well" and for "good health" was the standard form of greeting in personal letter of antiquity, just as a friend today might say, "I hope this letter finds you all well".

Another popular text for the word-faith teachers, with regard to prosperity, is John 10:10. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with material abundance. According to Gordon Fee in the same Moody Monthly issue, the "abundant life" Jesus talked about here is the same "life" or "eternal life" in John's gospel and is the equivalent of the "kingdom of God". Fee goes on to say, "It literally means the "life of the Age to come". It is the life that God has in and of Himself; and it is His gift to believers in the present age. The Greek word perrison, translated "more abundantly" in the KJV, means simply that believers are to enjoy this gift of life "to the full" (NIV).

Material abundance is not implied either in "life" or "to the full". Such an idea is totally foreign to the context of John 10 as well as to the whole teaching of Jesus" (Ibid.).

Many in the word-faith movement treat God as if He is a God simply there only to cater to our every wish as we ask it and that His entire purpose in heaven is simply to do our bidding. Kenneth Hagin has even written a little booklet entitled, "How to write your own ticket with God". This is the same presupposition that Charles Fillmore of Unity School of Christianity had with regard to prosperity. H. Terris Newman, writing in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 1990, p. 45, records Fillmore's rendition of Psalm 23: "The Lord is may banker; my credit is good. He maketh me to lie down in the consciousness of omnipresent abundance; He giveth me the key to His strong box; He restoreth my faith in His riches; He guideth me in the paths of prosperity for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk in the very shadow of debt, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thou preparest a way for me in the presence of the collector; Thou fillest my wallet with plenty; my measure runneth over. Surely goodness and plenty will follow me all the days of my life, And I shall do business in the name of the Lord forever."
One can not help but see that attitudes like the above are discouraged in scripture when it says, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10).

In contrast to word-faith theology, sound biblical theology teaches that God does not have to do anything. God, the Creator of all things, is sovereign in all things, not the creature. God is not obligated to heal or prosper anyone, yet He graciously does, and neither is deserved. Someone has said: "healing is not a divine obligation, it is a divine gift". The receiver of the gift can make no demands. God can be trusted to do all things well.

Perhaps the root error of the gospel of health and wealth is that it seeks to apply a theology of future glory to the believer in the here and now. But the Lord Jesus taught a theology for here and now that both sustains believers in hard times and holds out hope for tomorrow.

Christians should not claim now what God in His grace has promised only for the future.

© Copyright 2000 Watchman Fellowship, Inc..

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Ten Qualities of Mountain-moving Prayer

1. Rooted in Worship

Because this was discussed in Chapter 2 it will be explained here only briefly. We enter into God's presence with praise and thanksgiving. The psalmist wrote, "Come before His presence with singing ... Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, / And into His courts with praise" (Ps. 100:2b, 4a). Our arms are outstretched in adoration of Him rather than open hands in expectation of a request fulfilled. Prayer is more than running down a list of "I wants."

Beginning with worship enables us to align our perspectives with God's. When Jesus instructed his disciples how to pray, He told them to begin by saying, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." Hallowed means simply, "holy, complete, and set apart." God doesn't need to be reminded He is holy. But we do.

Prayer that moves mountains is rooted in worship.

2. Unfettered Through Confession of Sin

Jesus died on the cross to cleanse us from every sin. However, unconfessed sin can stand between us and an unhindered relationship with God. James 5:16 reminds us, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." James wasn't writing to the unsaved, he was writing to the saved.

Unconfessed sin in the life of the believer and to a much greater extent in the life of the unbeliever-places a wall of separation between God and us. But true confession of sin tears it down. The prayers listed in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 are designed to aid you in entering God's presence with a pure and clean heart.

Prayer that moves mountains is unfettered through confession of sin.

3. Expressed in Specifics

Did you ever stop to consider that every day God gives us new insights into His mercy? Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us that God's mercies are new every morning. A beautiful sunset, a quick recovery from a head cold, or an unexpected compliment from your boss are just a few examples of God's mercies that are new every morning. In response we should return the favor to God by blessing Him in new ways. Every day, try to find some new means of expressing your love to Him. Just as He is specific in showing us His new mercies, so should we be specific in giving Him our praise. If you love Him, don't just tell Him you love Him, tell Him why you love Him.

The same principle is true when coming to Him with our requests One day as Jesus was departing Jericho, the cries of two blind men could be heard over the din of the accompanying crowd. Walking to their side of the road, Jesus asked them a very important question "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Matt. 20:32 NKJV). They didn't give some generic catchall answer like, "We want You to be with us.' No They replied, "We want our eyes to be opened."

Jesus asks us the same question in prayer: "What do you want Me to do for you?" Nothing is more uninspiring in prayer than something like, "God, I pray that you will be with Sally." In all reality, that prayer is answered because God already is with Sally. What Sally really needs is victory over depression. For this reason, Chapters 5 through 10 are designed to aid you in praying specifically for stressful feelings, marriages and families, children, relationships, jobs and career, and sickness and disease.

Prayer that moves mountains is expressed in specifics.

4. Focused on the Kingdom

Twice in the Lord's Prayer, the disciples were exhorted to "pray in" the coming kingdom: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done" (Matt. 6:10 KJV) and "For Thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory" (Matt. 6:13 KJV). The ultimate goal of prayer is to see the kingdom of this world transformed into the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15).

Focusing first on the kingdom of God addresses the thoughts and intents of our innermost motives. Whose kingdom are we building anyway? God's or ours? James addressed the issue of motivation and unanswered prayer this way:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NKJV)

God promises to supply all of our needs (Phil. 4:19), but meeting our desires and wants is secondary in importance.

Praying for the coming kingdom is our opportunity to pray for those items that are foremost on God's heart. Chapter 11 will aid you toward that end.

Prayer that moves mountains is ultimately focused on the kingdom.

5. Conveyed from the Heart

Effective prayer reflects who we really are inside. Merely reciting a prayer from a book without lending our true thoughts and feelings is akin to playing a tape of prerecorded prayers. For this reason Jesus urged His disciples against praying with vain repetition (Matt. 6:7).

The Bible was written in the common language of the people. Psalms, the original prayer book, reflects the most heartfelt and transparent emotions of its various writers. What makes the Psalms profound is not its sophisticated language, but the fact that it communicates what is common among every class of people

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, the language of the common people, not classical Greek used by the aristocracy and writers of that time. So why do we hear so many prayers offered in church filled with language we hardly understand? True prayer isn't filled with flowery words, it is expressed from the heart. John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, got right to the point in his prayer: "Give me Scotland or I die."

Prayer that moves mountains is conveyed from the heart.

6. Empowered by the Word of God

Just as important as praying from the heart is praying the anointed, inspired, Word of God. The moment Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He picked up His sword of the Spirit and fought Satan with the Word of God (Matt. 4; Luke 4).

If, according to Hebrews 4:12, the Word of God is "living and active," then when we pray using Scripture, the Word of God works on our behalf-even after we are finished praying! just like a nuclear reaction that keeps radiating into eternity.

Through Scripture we learn what God's will is. When our prayers come into line with His will, they are accomplished. If all God's promises-which we find in His Word-are "yes" and "amen" (2 Cor. 1:20), then we would be remiss by not beginning with them.

Prayer that moves mountains is empowered by The Word of God.

7. Asks in Jesus' Name

Prayer that moves mountains isn't hesitant to ask. The most commonly used Greek word for prayer in the Bible, proseuche, means literally "to wish" or "ask." However, it doesn't mean "to demand." Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (NIV). Through prayer we are given opportunity to present our requests to God.

Notice in this same verse that we are encouraged to bring any¬thing and everything before the throne. There is no request too small or too great that God isn't willing to answer.

When we ask, we ask in Jesus' name. We don't have to implore the great saints of the past or even Mary, the mother of Jesus, to go before the Father on our behalf. Jesus is our advocate before the Father. Jesus said, "until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24 NKJV, italics added).

Prayer that moves mountains asks in Jesus' name.

8. Prays with Faith

Without faith, it is impossible for us to please God (Heb. 11:6). We must believe not only that God has the power to move our mountains through prayer, but we must also believe He has made His power available to us and that He desires to do it!

John Calvin once said, "The principal work of the Spirit is faith ... the principal exercise of faith is prayer." The main ingredient in mountain-moving prayer is faith. Let's look at what Jesus said about mountains in Mark 11:22-24:

Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be removed and be cast into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (NKJV, italics added)

Notice how often the words faith and believe are used. Faith isn't something we muster up on our own, it is nurtured through God's Word and in prayer. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17 NKJV).

Here's how the cycle of prayer and faith works: We give ourselves to God in prayer; we grow deeper in our relationship with Him; we know better what are the issues on His heart; we see clearer what His desires are for us; we pray for them; our prayers are answered because they line up with His will; God builds more faith in our lives. And the more faith God builds in our lives, the more inclined we are to spend time with Him. As we spend more time with Him, the cycle repeats.

Prayer that moves mountains prays with faith.

9. Borne out of a Relationship

Jesus said in John 15:7, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you" (NIV). An important key to answered prayer lies in remaining in Christ-to seek Him, wait for Him, listen to Him, and allow Him to guide your prayers. Remaining in Christ implies a prior relationship.

Every salesperson worth his salt knows that the hardest sell is the cold call. But when the salesperson is able to establish a relationship with the client, the likelihood of a sale greatly increases¬partially because a relationship of trust is established, but also because the seller is able to sell according to the client's needs.

The same is true in our walk with God. Asking God to answer our prayer when we have had little or nothing to do with Him beforehand is like going on a cold call. A mutual relationship of trust hasn't been established, and we are completely unaware of what the issues on His heart are.

Every relationship is based on a mutual give and take. All too often we call out to God, "Oh God, please give me direction for the future," and yet we give Him no room to speak to us. Once we've had our say, we get up off our knees and go along our way. It's no wonder so many people find their prayers going unanswered and have no sense of God's direction!

Although there is some question concerning its meaning, many Bible scholars believe the word selah, frequently mentioned in the Psalms (Psalm 3, for example), refers to a pause for reflection and waiting upon God.

We should all expect somewhere along the way to receive divine direction. In Scripture, not hearing from God was a sign of the removal of God's blessing (2 Chron. 7:14). But somewhere in the midst of the dialogue between God and us, mountain¬moving prayer happens.

Prayer that moves mountains is borne out of a relationship.

10. Refuses to Give Up

Wedded to our faith we must add perseverance. Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Prayer is more a marathon than a sprint. All long-distance runners know that at some point in their run they will "hit the wall" when their will is tested. Everything within their mortal body screams to give up, but they know they must continue if they want to finish the race and win the prize.

Answers are rarely won in the first ten minutes of prayer. But as we cling to God's promises with a tenacious grip when we "hit the wall," He will either answer our prayer or change it to conform to His will. All too often, however, we give up right at the point we should really begin pressing in.

In an instant society that expects speedier computers, quicker meals, and fast-paced television programming, this essential requirement of prayer has been lost. If a prayer request isn't answered immediately, we lose interest and move on.

Jesus told the story of a widow who sought justice from an unrighteous judge. She pestered Him repeatedly until He finally gave in and answered her request. Jesus concluded the parable with these words:

And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"(Luke 18:6-8 NIV)

The good news is, our God is not an unjust judge! He desires to bless His children with good things! If we serve a God who is good, how much more will He answer us when we pray relentlessly? Once again, we also see the relationship between faith and perseverance. Perseverance is faith in action.

Prayer that moves mountains refuses to give up.

Extracted from Prayer to Move Your Mountains by Michael Klassen & Thomas Freling

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Prayer by Michael Quoist

I have fallen, Lord,
Once more.
I can’t go on, I’ll never succeed.
I am ashamed, I don’t dare look at you.
And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me, bending over me, watching.
But temptation blew like a hurricane,
And instead of looking at you I turned my head away,
I stepped aside
While you stood, silent and sorrowful,
Like the spurned fiancè who sees his loved one carried away bo the enemy.
When the wind died down as suddenly as it had arisen,
When the lightning ceased after proudly streaking the darkness,
All of a sudden I found myself alone, ashamed, disgusted, with my sin in my hands.
This sin that I selected the way a customer makes his purchase,
This sin that I have paid for and cannot return, for the shopkeeper is no longer there,
This tasteless sin,
This odorless sin,
This sin that sickens me,
That I have wanted but want no more,
That I have imagined, sought, played with, fondled, for a long time;
That I have finally embraced while turning coldly away from you,
My arms outstretched, my eyes and heart irresistibly drawn;
This sin that I have grasped and consumed with gluttony,
It’s mine now, but it possesses me as the spiderweb holds captive the gnat.
It is mine,
It sticks to me,
It flows in my veins,
It fills my heart.
It has slipped in everywhere, as darkness slips into the forest at dusk
And fills all the patches of light.
I can’t get rid of it.
I run from it the way one tries to lose a stray dog, but it catches up with me and bounds joyfully against my legs.
Everyone must notice it.
I’m so ashamed that I feel like crawling to avoid being seen,
I’m ashamed of being seen by my friends,
I’m ashamed of being seen by you, Lord,
For you loved me, and I forgot you.
I forgot you because I was thinking of myself
And one can’t think of several persons at once.
One must choose, and I chose.
And your voice,
And your look
And your love hurt me.
They weigh me down
They weigh me down more than my sin.
Lord, don’t look at me like that,
For I am naked,
I am dirty,
I am down,
With no strength left.
I dare make no more promises,
I can only lie bowed before you.
[The Father's Response]
Come, son, look up.
Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded?
If you loved me, you would grieve, but you would trust.
Do you think that there’s a limit to God’s love?
Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you?
But you still rely on yourself, son. You must rely only on me.
Ask my pardon
And get up quickly.
You see, it’s not falling that is the worst,
But staying on the ground.

-Michel Quoist

How Does the Bible Relate to Islam? By Barbara B. Pemberton

Islam teaches that throughout history God has sent prophets, from Adam to Noah to Jesus and ultimately Muhammad, all with the same message: There is only one God, who desires people to pursue good and to prevent evil. Christians and Jews, "People of the Book," are believed to be the remaining followers of earlier divine, but corrupted, revelations. Islam's scripture, the Qur'an, is understood,by Muslims to have restored God's original guidance. The Qur'an includes numerous biblical personalities but recognizes as authentic only three sections of biblical literature: the Torah of Moses, the Evangel of Jesus, and the Psalms of David.

Muslims see many of their beliefs and practices as biblical: the existence of only one God, the prophets, heaven, hell, angels, and a day of judgment. They also see the importance of charity, prayer, and fasting in the Bible. Although Muslims believe that Jesus was only a prophet and not divine, they do believe the accounts of His virgin birth, sinless nature, miracles, and second coming.

The Qur'an accuses Jews and Christians of distorting their earlier revelation by deliberately suppressing the truth or by false interpretation. Muslims charge that the OT and NT contain logical inconsistencies, improbabilities, and factual errors. Charges against the OT include false reports of immorality (David and Bathsheba), missing doctrines (afterlife in the Torah), and incompatibility with science. The Evangel has been corrupted with inaccurate historical references, discrepancies in the Gospel accounts, and fabrications (such as the crucifixion). Christians and Jews allegedly suppressed or removed biblical predictions of Muhammad. For example, Psalm 84:4-6 is said to be about Muhammad, who overcame his childhood disadvantages by God's grace. Jesus supposedly predicted the coming Prophet Muhammad when He spoke of the "Counselor" in John 14.

Islam rejects the concept of human participation in the process of revelation that shows in the varieties of biblical books (Gospels, Letters, etc.). Jesus' original message is deemed lost. Muslims believe that Gospel authors, writing long after Jesus, altered the message to promote their own points of view. Paul's letters are supposed to promote a "mystical" Christ and "false" doctrines such as the resurrection. Another Muslim argument against biblical reliability is the lack of a record that the original texts passed from one generation to the next.

Muslims are, of course, correct that the Bible is older than the Qur'an. But there is not a shred of evidence the Bible has been corrupted. Indeed, the transmission of its text is by far the most accurate of any from the ancient world (see "Has the Bible Been Accurately Copied Down Through the Centuries?" By Norman L. Geisler). The Bible is not compromised by God using human personalities in its writing any more than when He uses human personality in the spoken word of prophets. Moreover, powerful evidence supports, among other things, the historicity of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection (see "Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?" By William Lane Craig). Prayerful Christians can help to correct Muslim misconceptions about the Bible (e.g., by showing that the Bible does not sanction the sinfulness of Western culture). Indeed, Christ's followers should befriend Muslims so the Holy Spirit can bring conviction to their hearts through the powerful Word of God (Heb 4:12).

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

How Does a Christian Converse with a Buddhist? By Ravi Zacharias

Attraction to Eastern spirituality, and particularly Buddhism, is powerful because the human spirit craves spiritual answers. Thus, whenever a Christian converses with someone of another faith, including Buddhism, he must attempt to reveal the hungers of the human heart and how Christ alone addresses them.

Gautama Buddha taught that we should free ourselves from illusions of selfhood, God, forgiveness, and individual life hereafter. We should focus on a life wherein good deeds outweigh the bad. Buddha believed that all life is suffering and that to escape from rebirth we must understand our nature. If we extinguish hungers and detach ourselves from desires (namely, relationships), we will then offset all impure acts and thoughts. That is the Buddhist's hope. But Buddhism's attraction provides no real answers. The self-which is undeniable and inescapable-is lost in Buddhist philosophy, which brushes away the hungers of the soul. Everything is in our care. All losses are ours. There is no "other" to whom we can go, not even a self to whom we can speak. Yet Buddhism's denial of a personal God is unable to prevent its practitioners seeking to relate to and worship a personal being. There is a universal hunger that drives the self to a transcendent personal other of one's making.

Buddha considered one's present life to be payment for previous lives. Each rebirth is due to karmic indebtedness, but without the carryover of the person. In contrast, Christianity sees the individual self as distinctive and indivisible. God's love is personal. Jesus brought God's offer for true forgiveness and eternal life while affirming each individual as uniquely created in God's image. For Jesus, suffering is only symptomatic of the life unhinged from right relationship with God. We have broken away from God, from our fellow human beings, and even from ourselves.
In contrast to karma-where "sin" is nothing more than ignorance or illusion Christ's forgiveness can provide true appeal for the Buddhist. The gospel proclaims that we have come apart from within, and to this brokenness Jesus brings the real answer. In finding true relationship with God, all other relationships are given moral worth. God, who is distinct and distant, came close so that we who are sinful and weak may be forgiven and made strong in communion with God Himself without losing our identity. That simple act of communion encapsulates life's purpose. The individual retains his or her individuality while dwelling in community.

Moreover, Christ does not prescribe extinguishing one's self-which is not possible-but rather prescribes no longer living for oneself. Hungering after righteousness is good and brings God's fulfillment. Everyone who has surrendered all at the feet of Jesus can confess with the Apostle Paul, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day" (2 Tm 1:12). Jesus Christ guards all our purposes, loves, attachments, and affections when we entrust them to Him.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Notable Christian Apologist: Justin Martyr By Ted Cabal

Born in Palestine, Justin (c. 100-167) spent his early years immersed in philosophy. Though a professional philosopher (Platonist), he was impressed with the courage of Christians facing death for their faith. He converted to Christ in A.D. 130 through the witness of an old Christian man who spoke to him of the true “philosophy”. This truth was revealed trough biblical prophets foretelling events to come and was confirmed by miracles. Justin's heart was stirred and thereafter he spent his days seeking to introduce others to Christ. Faithfulness to his confession of Christ ultimately led to his beheading at Rome-hence the name Justin Martyr.

Justin would go on to write several apologetic treatises, including two addressed to the Roman emperors Antoniinus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. In these works Justin, sought to prove the injustice of the persecution of Christians. He defended Christians from false charges such as atheism. Their refusal to bow before pagan idols and worship the emperor stemmed from their worship of the true God, who is invisible as Creator of all things. Demons are the true source of the hatred instigated toward Christians. Traces of truth that may be discovered in pagan philosophers writing before Christ were borrowed from the Hebrew Scriptures or else are due to the pre-incarnate Christ as Logos (the rational power guiding the universe) enlightening them. The biblical prophets accurately prophesied the coming of this Christ as the central figure of history.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Does the Bible Teach That Humans Are More Than Their Bodies? By J.P. Moreland

Throughout history most Christians have believed in "the souls of men and beasts," to take an expression from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Animals and humans are composed of an immaterial entity-a soul-and a body. The main biblical emphasis is on the functional, holistic unity of a human being. But this unity includes a dualist distinction of body and soul. The human soul, while not by nature immortal, is nevertheless capable of entering an intermediate disembodied state upon death and, eventually, being reunited with a resurrected body. By contrast, animal souls do not reflect the image of God and most likely do not survive death.

There are two main lines of argument for dualism: biblical anthropological terms and biblical teaching about life after death.

1. Old Testament anthropological terms. Biblical anthropological terms exhibit a wide field of meanings, and so we must take care to interpret each occurrence in its context. The two most important OT terms are nephesh (frequently translated "soul") and ruach (frequently translated "spirit").

Nephesh sometimes refers to.God as an immaterial, transcendent self, a seat of mind, will, emotion, etc. (see Jb 23:13; Am 6:8). It is similarly applied to humans (Dt 6:5; 21:14; Pr 21:10; Is 26:9; Mc 7:1). It also refers to a vital entity that makes something alive (Ps 30:3; 86:13; Pr 3:22.). Finally, nephesh refers to the continuing center of personal identity that departs to the afterlife as the last breath ceases (Gn 35:18; cp. 1 Kg 17:21-22; Ps 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13; 139:8; Lm 1:1). The Bible regularly speaks of death and resurrection in terms of the departure and return of the soul. Indeed, the problem of necromancy throughout Israel's history (the practice of trying to communicate with the dead in Sheol; see Dt 18:9-14; 1 Sm 28:7-25) seems to presuppose the view that people continue to live conscious lives after the death of their bodies.

Ruach, frequently translated "spirit," sometimes signifies a vital power that infuses something, animates it, and gives it life and consciousness. Thus the ruach in man is formed by Yahweh (Zch 12:1), proceeds from and returns to Him, and is that which gives man life (Jb 34:14). In Ezekiel 37, God takes dry bones, reconstitutes human bodies of flesh, and then adds a ruach to these bodies to make them living persons (see Gn 2:7.) There is no ruach in physical idols and thus they cannot arise and possess consciousness (Jr 10:14; Hab 2:19). Ruach also refers to an independent, invisible, conscious being as when God employs a spirit to accomplish some purpose (2 Kg 19:7; 22:21-23). In this sense Yahweh is called the God of the vital spirits of all flesh (Nm 27:16; cp. 16:22). Here "spirit" means an individual, conscious being distinct from the body. Moreover, ruach also refers to the seat of various states of consciousness, including will (Dt 2:30; Ps 51:10-12; Jr 51:11), thought (Is 29:24), emotion (Jdg 8:3; 1 Kg 21:4), and one's moral or spiritual condition (Pr 18:14; Ec 7:8).

2. The OT on life after death. The OT depicts individual survival after physical death in a disembodied form. The dead in Sheol are called rephaim. Old Testament teaching about life after death is best understood in terms of a diminished though conscious form of disembodied personal survival in an intermediate state. First, the OT often depicts life in Sheol as lethargic, inactive, and resembling an unconscious coma (Jb 3:13; Ps 88:10-12; 115:17-18; Ec 9:10; Is 38:18). However, it also describes the dead in Sheol as being with family, awake, and active on occasion (Is 14:9-10).

Second, the Hebrew Scriptures clearly teach the practice of necromancy (communicating with the dead) as a real possibility and, on some occasions, an actuality (see Lv 19:31; 20:6; Dt 18:11; 1 Sm 28; Is 8:19). Third, according to the OT, the nephesh-a conscious person without flesh and bone-departs to God upon death (see Ps 49:15).

3. New Testament anthropological terms. Several NT passages use pneuma (spirit) or psyche (soul) in a dualistic sense. Hebrews 12:23 refers to deceased but existing human beings in the heavenly Jerusalem as "the spirits of righteous people made perfect." Revelation 6:9-11 refers to dead saints as the "souls" of the martyrs who are in the intermediate state awaiting the final resurrection (20:5-6). Several texts refer to death as "giving up the spirit" (Mt 27:50; Lk 23:46; 24:37; Jn 19:30). Matthew 10:28 says, "Don't fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." In this text psyche seems clearly to refer to something that can exist without the body.

4. New Testament teaching on the intermediate state. Certain NT passages seem to affirm a disembodied intermediate state between death and final resurrection. For instance, there is the transfiguration passage (see Mt 17:1-13) in which Elijah (who never died) and Moses (who had died) appear with Jesus. The most natural way to interpret this text is to understand that Moses and Elijah have continued to exist (Moses was not re-created for this one event) and were made temporarily visible. Thus the transfiguration passage seems to imply a disembodied intermediate state.

In Luke 23:43, Jesus promised the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with Me in paradise." The term "today" should be taken in its natural sense, namely as meaning that the man would be with Jesus that very day in the intermediate state after their deaths.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 and Philippians 1:21-24, Paul referred to a state after death and prior to the resurrection in which people experience a conscious disembodied "' ("naked," "unclothed") existence in God's presence.

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul admitted that, during a visionary experience, he did not know whether he was in his body or temporarily disembodied. Because Paul understood himself as a soul/spirit united to a body, the latter state of being disembodied was a real possibility for him.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Isn't Christianity Intolerant? By Paul Copan

Unless we're talking about language development, it's a good idea to understand words before we use them, especially when they may be emotionally charged. One commonly used-and abused-word describing Christians is intolerant. Of course, some prickly, pugnacious persons call themselves Christians but deny this claim by their lives. True Christianity shouldn't be equated with abuses committed in Christ's name. Think of Mother Teresa, not the Inquisition! Without compromising their convictions, all Christians should-as much as possible-live at peace with everyone (Rm 12:18).

Today people assume tolerance means "accepting all views as true." And because genuine Christians don't do this, they are charged with being intolerant. Whenever you hear Christians criticized as intolerant, ask, "What do you mean by `intolerance'?" True tolerance doesn't mean accepting all beliefs-the good and the goofy-as legitimate. After all, one who disagrees with Christians doesn't accept Christianity; he thinks Christians are wrong! Historically, tolerance has meant putting up with what you find disagreeable or false. You put up with strangers on a plane who snore or slurp their coffee. Similarly, you put up with another person's beliefs without criminalizing him.

Tolerance differentiates between beliefs and persons. While disagreeing with certain beliefs, we can show respect to persons holding those beliefs, since all humans are made in God's image and inherently deserve respect. Furthermore, Christianity's truth doesn't imply that non-Christians are 100 percent wrong. Christians can agree with non-Christians about, say, certain ethical truths and scientific findings. All truth is God's truth. Truth is more basic than tolerance since tolerance itself presupposes belief in truth.

Tolerance operates at different levels. What can be tolerated in one area may not be tolerated in another. I'll tolerate certain behaviors in other children that I won't tolerate in my own. Christians shouldn't tolerate adultery within the church (ecclesiastical intolerance), but this doesn't mean we seek to have the adulterer imprisoned (legal intolerance).

Condemning arrogance, Christianity emphasizes grace and humility. Some "Christians" think they're superior to non-Christians. But this violates the spirit of the gospel. We gratefully receive God's gift of salvation, being like beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. Unlike the manager of some exclusive country club, God lovingly invites everyone to participate in His family-and not at the expense of truth.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

What Are Common Characteristics of the New Religious Movements? By Leonard G. Goss

“New religions" or "alternative religions" are breakaways from larger, more traditional religions. They break down into self-improvement groups, Eastern religions or thought systems, unification groups, and Christian deviation sects. Many of these new religions had Christian roots, but have departed from historic biblical Christianity and discarded one or more of Christianity's basic beliefs. What they have left behind is something that decidedly is not Christianity. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves" (Mt 7:15).

Viewed through the lens of biblical teaching, each new religion abandons orthodox Christian tenants at one point or another (and usually at many different points). Latter-day Saints (Mormons), for example, have parted company with the Christian tradition in multiple ways, but perhaps the most dramatic is their teaching that the church founded by Jesus and the apostles was destroyed from human history by the time of Constantine. Hence, the LDS church was founded to once again represent the exclusive truth and to rescue the Christian religion from total apostasy. The Unification Church (Moonies) also departs from biblical teaching and undermines Christian thinking in dozens of different ways, most notably in claiming their founder is God's messiah and messenger who will fulfill the work of Jesus. This is a serious heresy found in many of the new religions, and the Apostle Paul warned about following after "another Jesus" who is not the same Jesus revealed in Scripture (2 Co 11:4). Other examples are The Way International, a group where the leader's interpretation of the Bible is considered the only valid interpretation and is in fact the Word. The Children of God, sometimes called the Family of Love, believes all mainline Christian churches are as anti-Christian as organizations that do not profess Christianity. The basic belief of this sect is that its members are the only true Christians and obedient servants left on earth. Many other new religious groups could be mentioned, but one last example would be Eckankar, one of the mystical new religions, which teaches out-of-the-body travels (bilocation) and replaces Jesus Christ with the group's founder as the incarnation of God on earth and teaches that only through their group can an individual find ultimate truth.

This small sampling of new religions shows how very different these movements can be, and therefore it is not easy to suggest that each new religion looks the same or possesses the same theological, sociological, psychological, and moral characteristics. Although each new religious belief system deviates drastically and in individual ways from conventional, historic Christianity, still there are some common characteristics to look for in the new movements. Here is a list of warning signs and danger zones, along with some representative groups displaying these characteristics noted in parentheses:

(1) The group is almost always outside the mainstream of dominant religious forms and culture and displays an oppositional style and substance, meaning it is elitist and exclusionist. (Church of Scientology, Global Family. Unification Church, The Walk/Church of the Living Word, The Way International)

(2) Often there is a "new authority" or new revelation besides the Bible from which adherents to the group must find ultimate truths. (Christian Science, International Community of Christ/the Jamilians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Unification Church)

(3) On the other hand, some groups do not claim to have a new, extra-biblical revelation; instead, a group may claim "all we use is the Bible." But the Bible is reinterpreted to justify and defend false teachings. (Alamo Christian Foundation, Children of God/Family of Love)

(4) The group is comprised of lay people; there are no paid clergy or professional religious functionaries. (Fundamentalist Army, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism)

(5) The group is focused around a central figure who is a prophet-founder "chosen" by God to deliver a special message to the modern world that is not found in the Bible, has not been known to genuine Christians throughout all church history, or to recover the teaching of the ancient church that has been lost through the centuries. (Christian Science, The Farm, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, Unification Church)

(6) This leader is usually a charismatic figure, and often the style of his or her leadership is authoritarian. (Children of God/Family of Love, Church of the Living Word, Yahwism)

(7) Often the group teaches that the Bible foretold the coming of its particular group or leader. (Branch Davidians, Children of God/Family of Love, The Farm, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Unification Church, The Walk/ Church of the Living Word)

(8) The group thinks of its belief system as the last bastion of God's work on earth. The adherents are God's "final and last group" and they play a central role in the last things. The truth of all things spiritual is exclusive with them and the world is doomed without them. (Jehovah's Witnesses, University Bible Fellowship)

(9) The group believes its adherents are being persecuted. (Alamo Christian Foundation, Healthy Happy Holy Organization, the Truth Station, Unification Church)

(10) The group might engage in some form of predatory and destructive recruitment of new members with vigor, zeal, and high pressure, often deceiving recruits or not revealing their whole theology. (Alamo Christian Foundation, Unification Church, the Way International)
(11) The group sanctions wayward and rebellious members. (Church of Armageddon, Divine Light Mission, Jehovah's Witnesses, People's Temple)

(12) The group believes that God is a force or power, not a person who relates to the creation. (Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity)

(13) The group is fixated on eschatology (end times) and is usually apocalyptic in its teaching. (Branch Davidians, Children of God/Family of Love, Jehovah's Witnesses, People's Temple)

(14) The lifestyle of the group's members is highly legalistic. (Alamo Christian Foundation, the Christ Family, Church of Armageddon, Maranatha Christian Church)

(15) Sometimes the group has a notion that a communal organization is necessary to fulfill the human calling. Therefore, there is usually a tightly maintained autocratic organization which governs both spiritual and everyday life. Some dictate modes of dress, length of hair, the type of personal adornment that is permitted, and sometimes even marriage partners. (Alamo Christian Foundation, Forever Family/Church of Bible Understanding, Church Universal and Triumphant, The Walk)

(16) The group engages in strange rituals and mindless chanting. (Church Universal and Triumphant, Penitentes/Brothers of Our Father Jesus)

(17) The group emphasizes secondary issues and minor points of theology. (Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses)

(18) The group members are very often taught that they can have direct revelations and visions from God. (Mormonism, Swedenborgianism, Unification Church)

(19) The group claims that it is compatible or in harmony with the Bible and traditional Christianity, but in fact it reduces and discounts the Bible or otherwise adds to the revelation of Scripture. (Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, People's Temple, Unification Church)

(20) The group has usurped traditional Christian vocabulary, but has redefined and reinterpreted terms and concepts from the Bible-making its words do "double-duty" in order to defend aberrant doctrines. Their language is pliable and has no fixed meaning. (Christian Science, Mormonism, Unity School of Christianity)

(21) The group denies at least one central truth of Christianity-such as the work of Christ on the cross, the authority of the Scriptures, salvation by grace through faith, the bodily resurrection, the doctrine of eternal punishment, etc. (Alamo Christian Foundation, Branch Davidians, International Community of Christ/the Jamilians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Swedenborgianism-the Church of the New Jerusalem, Unification Church, Unitarian Universalists)

(22) The group denies both the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation. (Anthroposophical Society, Children of God/Family of Love, Christian Science, Eckankar, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, United Pentecostal Church, The Way)

(23) The group recognizes Jesus as a great teacher and leader, an avatar, a wise man, even as the most important of God's created beings-but does not believe that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. (Unification Church, The United Pentecostal Church, The Way International)

(24) The group teaches a "salvation through works" system whereby members must ultimately save themselves. (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism)

(25) The group emphasizes experience over basic Christian doctrine. (Alamo Christian Foundation, Children of God/Family of Love, Divine Light Mission, est, Lifespring, Mormonism, Urantia, The Walk/Church of the Living Word)

(26) The group is mystical and individualistically oriented. (Church Universal and Triumphant, Foundation of Human Understanding, New Testament Missionary Fellowship)

(27) The group dabbles in the occult and spiritism. (Anthroposophical Society, Children of God/Family of Love, Mormonism, Unification Church, The Walk)

Christians must recognize that our spiritual enemy is not the new religion but, rather, Satan (2 Co 11:12-15).

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Is Christian Science Compatible with the Bible? By Robert B. Stewart

Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) is a religion based primarily upon the New Thought metaphysical theories of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910). It is a rebirth of the ancient gnostic heresy that matter, including disease, is illusory. Still, to the casual observer, it often sounds biblical because of Christian Science's propensity to use (while redefining) Christian terms. For instance, Eddy says in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that "the Bible has been my only authority" (126:29-30), that "Divine Science derives its sanction from the Bible" (146:23), and also that the Bible is the "inspired Word" and "our sufficient guide to eternal Life" (497:3-4). Nevertheless, Christian Science ; rejects the Bible's plain sense in favor of the spiritual interpretations recorded in Mrs. Eddy's writings, Science and Health, Miscellaneous Writings, and Manual of the Mother Church. This becomes clear when she states, "The material record of the Bible ... is no more important to our well being than the history of Europe and America" (Miscellaneous Writings, 170).

A brief perusal of Science and Health reveals many contradictions between Christian Science and the Bible. Mrs. Eddy's religion not only reinterprets biblical names (Adam becomes "belief in original sin" [579:8-9], while Abraham refers to "faith in the divine Life and in the eternal Principle of being" [579:10-11]) but also denies key doctrines. It replaces the biblical concept of a triune personal God with a triple principle of "Life, Truth, and Love" (331:26-27). It denies sin: "Man is deathless, spiritual. He is above sin or frailty" (266:29-30). It rejects Christ's sufficient atonement: "The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon 'the accursed tree,' than when it was flowing in his veins as he went ' daily about his Father's business" (25:6-9). It even denies Jesus' deity, as it distinguishes between the Christ, "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (583:10-11), and the historical person of Jesus.

By redefining biblical terms, Christian Science denies virtually every cardinal doctrine of Christianity. In no meaningful way can Christian Science be considered compatible with the Bible.
Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Can a Christian Have Assurance of Salvation? By Chad Owen Brand

Scripture teaches that Christians are saved by God's grace, which we access by placing our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Rm 3:21-26; Eph 2:8-9). It also teaches that we can persevere in that faith since we are "protected by God's power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pt 1:5). But can we know with assurance that we truly do belong to the Lord and in the end will be resurrected to eternal life? The answer is yes.

The NT writers were convinced that assurance is available to believers. Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, "No condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus," and then concluded that chapter's remarkable discussion with this statement in verses 38-39: "I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" John was also convinced that believers can have assurance. He wrote, "This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands" (1 Jn 2:3). And again: "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death" (1 Jn 3:14).

How can we receive this assurance? Just as medical technicians test vital signs to look for indicators of health, so there are several "vital sign indicators" in Scripture for spiritual health.

1. The Bible says we are to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (1 Co 9:24-27; 2 Co 13:5). There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with a Christian stopping from time to time and asking the question "Am I doing okay, spiritually?" We are not looking for perfection at such times, just signs that God is making a difference.

2. Are we walking in obedience to God? Those who love Him obey Him (1 Jn 2:3). This is an objective test. Again, we are not looking for perfection, since becoming like Christ is a process that lasts a lifetime (Rm 8:29-30; 1 Jn 3:2). The question is, is obedience to Him what I want more than anything else?

3. Do we have a sense that we truly belong to the Lord and He to us? Scripture teaches that if we are Christians, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rm 8:9), a Spirit who "testifies together with our spirit that we are God's children" (Rm 8:16). It is this same Spirit who enables us to cry out, `Abba, Father," to our Father in heaven (Rm 8:15; G14:6).

Scripture gives both objective and subjective vital signs. When it comes down to it, as John Calvin once noted, assurance comes with faith. If we are trusting Jesus alone for salvation, that brings assurance with it.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Notable Christian Apologist: Irenaeus By Ted Cabal

Irenaeus (c. n.D. 130-200) was born of Greek parents in Asia (modern-day Turkey). In his youth he learned under Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who had been a disciple of the Apostle John. As a teenager Irenaeus served as a missionary to Gaul (France), where he later filled the office of bishop. Some later Christian authorities indicate that he was martyred during the reign of Septimius Severus.

Irenaeus was the most important defender of essential Christian doctrine in the second century. He was especially effective in combating the heresy of Gnosticism. a cult that stressed secret knowledge (gnosis) as the way to salvation. Irenaeus contended with the gnostic leader Marcion, who taught that the OT and NT reveal two different gods. The god of the OT was the creator of matter, which, according to gnostic teaching, was evil. Thus, according to Marcion, the OT was useless. The NT God, as the God of law, unknown before the coming of Jesus Christ. Irenaeus powerfully refuted Marcion by demonstrating the interrelationship of the Testaments. He detailed how the OT accurately predicted the coming of Christ, Moreover, Irenaeus stressed the literal resurrection of Jesus. The Redeemer's physical body is not only not evil but in fact raised from the dead for our salvation – precisely as the OT prophets had predicted.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Isn't That just Your Interpretation? By Paul Copan

Few things are more frustrating than carefully presenting reasons for the meaning of a text-biblical or otherwise-only to be casually dismissed with "That's just your interpretation!" Whether Scripture, history, literature, or politics is under scrutiny, we witness people reducing meaning to personal interpretation or perspective. Who hasn't heard the Friedrich Nietzche's line, "There are no facts-only interpretations"?

But isn't that statement presumed by the speaker to be a fact, not an interpretation? Many claim that conclusions about abortion are just matters of "interpretation" or "perspective," but they give the impression that if you disagree with them, you're wrong. To deny objectivity is to assume something is objectively true for all people: "Everything is a matter of interpretation, whether or not you agree with my statement." We have only two alternatives: triviality ("It's all perspective, including mine"-so why believe it?) or incoherence ("Everything's a matter of perspective, except mine"-making a person an exception to his own rule).

Most people appeal to "interpretation" because they don't like another alternative. "Interpretation" is often a smokescreen for pursuing one's own agenda or autonomy. To better discern whether this is so, we can ask, "Do you mean that you don't like my interpretation or that you have good reasons for disagreeing with it?" Other questions worth asking are these: "Can a perspective ever be correct?" "Are some things not a matter of perspective (such as a flat earth versus a round earth),"How can you know that your interpretation and my interpretation are actually different?"

Even if we don't always get things right, we can discern that some perspectives better approximate the truth than others. We generally trust the Wall Street Journal over tabloids, even though good newspapers may be wrong at points. The fact that we can recognize that some interpretations are more plausible than others (and thus are more likely true) indicates that not everything is matter of interpretation. Therefore, we must be willing reasons for the most plausible position. After, all, if everything is perspective, how can we distinguish between reasonable and wacky ideas?

Despite our limitations, we still cannot escape objectivity. To deny its possibility is to affirm its actuality. Even the "perspectivist" believes that those disagreeing with him are objectively wrong.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

What Are the Three Laws of Logic? By J.P. Moreland

There are three fundamental laws of logic. Suppose P is any indicative sentence, say, "It is raining."

The law of identity: P is P.
The law of noncontradiction: P is not non-P.
The law of the excluded middle: Either P or non-P

The law of identity says that if a statement such as "It is raining" is true, then the statement is true. More generally, it says that the statement P is the same thing as itself and is different from everything else. Applied to all reality, the law of identity says that everything is itself and not something else.

The law of noncontradiction says that a statement such as "It is raining" cannot be both true and false in the same sense. Of course it could be raining in Missouri and not raining in Arizona, but the principle says that it cannot be raining and not raining at the same time in the, same place.

The law of the excluded middle says: that a statement such as "It is raining" is either true or false. There is no other alternative.

These fundamental laws are true principles governing reality and thought and are assumed by Scripture. Some claim they are arbitrary Western constructions, but this is false. The basic laws of logic govern all reality and thought and are known to be true for at least two reasons: (1) They are intuitively obvious and self-evident. Once one understands a basic law of logic (see below), one can see that it is true. (2) Those who deny them use these principles in their denial, demonstrating that those laws are unavoidable and that it is self-refuting to deny them.

The basic laws of logic are neither arbitrary inventions of God nor principles that exist completely outside God's being. Obviously, the laws of logic are not like the laws of nature. God may violate the latter (say, suspend gravity), but He cannot violate the former. Those laws are rooted in God's own nature. Indeed, some scholars think the passage "In the beginning was the Word [logos]" (Jn 1:1) is accurately translated, "In the beginning was Logic (a divine, rational mind)." For example, even God cannot exist and not exist at the same time, and even God cannot validly believe that red is a color and red is not a color. When people say that God need not behave "logically," they are using the term in a loose sense to mean "the sensible thing from my point of view." Often God does not act in ways that people understand or judge to be what they would do in the circumstances. But God never behaves illogically in the proper sense. He does not violate in His being or thought the fundamental laws of logic.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

How Can the Bible Affirm Both Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom? By William Lane Craig

The biblical worldview involves a strong conception of divine sovereignty over the world and human affairs even as it presupposes human freedom and responsibility (cp. the accounts of Saul's death in 1 Sm 31:1-6 and 1 Ch 10:8-12). An adequate doctrine of divine providence requires reconciling these two streams of biblical teaching without compromising either. Yet this has proven extraordinarily difficult. On the one hand, the Augustinian-Calvinist perspective interprets divine providence in terms of predetermination, God choosing in advance what will happen. It is hard to see how this interpretation can preserve human freedom or avoid making God the author of sin, since (for example) it would then be He who moved Judas to betray Christ. On the other hand, advocates of revisionist views (e.g., open theism) freely admit that as a consequence of their denial of God's knowledge of future contingent events a strong doctrine of providence becomes impossible. Ironically, in order to account for biblical prophecies of future events, revisionists are often reduced to appealing to the same deterministic explanations that Augustinian-Calvinists offer.

Molinism offers an attractive solution. Luis Molina (1535-1600) defined providence as God's ordering of things to their ends either directly or indirectly through secondary causes. In explaining how God can order things through secondary causes that are themselves free agents, Molina appealed to his doctrine of divine middle knowledge.

Molina analyzed God's knowledge in terms of three logical stages. Although whatever God knows, He knows eternally, so that there is no temporal succession in God's knowledge, nonetheless there does exist a sort of logical order in God's knowledge in the sense that His knowledge of certain truths is conditionally or explanatorily prior to His knowledge of certain other truths.

In the first stage God knows all possibilities, not only all the creatures He could possibly create, but also all the orders of creatures that are possible. By means of this so-called natural knowledge, God has knowledge of every contingent state of affairs that could possibly be actual and of what any free creature could freely choose to do in any such state of affairs.

In the second stage, God possesses knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions (statements of the form "If x were the case, then y would be the case"), including counterfactuals about what creatures would freely do in various circumstances. Whereas by His natural knowledge God knew what any free creature could do in any set of circumstances, now in this second stage God knows what any free creature would freely do in any set of circumstances. This so-called middle knowledge is like natural knowledge in that such knowledge does not depend on any decision of the divine will; God does not determine which counterfactuals are true or false. By knowing how free creatures would freely act in any set of circumstances He might place them in, God thereby knows that if He were to actualize certain states of affairs, then certain other contingent states of affairs would be actual as a result. For example, He knew that if Pontius Pilate were the Roman procurator of Judea in A.D.30, he would freely condemn Jesus to the cross.

Intervening between the second and third stages of divine knowledge stands God's free decree to actualize a world known by Him to be realizable on the basis of His middle knowledge. By His natural knowledge, God knows the entire range of logically possible worlds; by His middle knowledge He knows, in effect, the proper subset of those worlds that it is feasible for Him to actualize. By a free decision, God decrees to actualize one of those worlds known to Him through His middle knowledge. In so doing He also decrees how He would freely act in any set of circumstances.

Given God's free decision to actualize a world, in the third and final stage God possesses so-called free knowledge of all remaining propositions that are in fact true in the actual world, including future-tense propositions about how creatures will freely behave.

Molina's scheme effects a dramatic reconciliation of divine sovereignty and human freedom. In Molina's view God directly causes certain circumstances to come into being and brings about others indirectly through either causally determined secondary causes or free secondary causes. He allows free creatures to act as He knew they freely would when placed in specific circumstances, and He concurs with their decisions in actualizing the effects they desire. Some of these effects God desired unconditionally and so wills positively that they occur. Others He does not unconditionally desire but He nevertheless permits due to His overriding desire to allow creaturely freedom, knowing that even these sinful acts will fit into the overall scheme of things, so that God's ultimate ends in human history will be accomplished. God thus providentially arranges for everything that happens by either willing or permitting it, and He causes everything that does happen, yet in such a way as to preserve freedom and contingency.

(For another perspective, see How Can the Bible Affirm Both Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom by Bruce A Ware)

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Does the Bible Teach Reincarnation? By Paul Copan

The simple answer is no. When proponents of reincarnation allege that certain biblical texts teach the soul's preexistence or reincarnation, they are approaching those texts superficially and their interpretations dissolve under further scrutiny.
Reincarnation (Hinduism) or rebirth (Buddhism) is integral to Eastern philosophy. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna talks of having "passed through many births." And what we reap in this life (karma) comes from what we've sown in past lives. Biblical, theological, and philosophical reasons, however, undermine reincarnation.

If one acknowledges the Bible's authority and storyline, one will readily recognize the Eastern doctrine of reincarnation as unacceptable. Many claiming that reincarnation appears in the Bible would go on believing in reincarnation anyway, with or without biblical support. They read reincarnation into isolated verses (e.g., statements about being "born again" in Jn 3) without respecting the biblical context or the worldview of the author. In doing so, they do not respect the biblical text as they would want their own Eastern texts respected. (What if we read bodily resurrection into their texts?)

Each of us must die and then be judged by God (Heb 9:27). When God told Jeremiah He knew him before he was in his mother's womb (Jr 1:5), this doesn't demonstrate preexistence or reincarnation; it only indicates God's foreknowledge and sovereignty. Notice Jeremiah did not say, "Before I was in my mother's womb, I knew You, God." That would make a persuasive case for preexistence! Also, the disciples' questioning whether the man born blind sinned before birth (Jn 9:2) does not express reincarnation but rather reflects the rabbinic belief that a fetus could sin while in his mother's womb (cp. Genesis Rabbah 63.6).

Furthermore, the historically supportable event of Jesus' bodily resurrection undercuts reincarnation. The biblical view of the afterlife is radically different from that of Eastern philosophies. True immortality is not the eradication or "snuffing out" (moksha) of the self nor its absorption with the One, Brahman, like a drop in an ocean. To receive immortality is to receive an immortal, imperishable physical body (1 Co 15:53-34). It is a spiritual body (that is, one supernaturally animated by the Holy Spirit) rather than a natural body (animated by a human soul). Immortality means being forever in union with God and living in God's presence with this new body in the new heavens and new earth-without losing individual identity.
Theologically, God's grace and forgiveness undercut karma. We need not bear the heavy weight of guilt and shame because Jesus Christ has absorbed all that for us. And if reincarnation is true, why help the underprivileged? Aren't they getting what they deserve-their karma?

Despite "evidence" for reincarnation, arguments for a person having lived previous lives could be explained by demonic activity (see Ac 16:16-18). A person having access to information about another's previous life does not imply that this was his own life. A psychic may purport to have knowledge of a crime, but this doesn't mean he committed it!

Philosophical problems with reincarnation are many. (1) Those "remembering" past lives tend to be clustered in the East (where reincarnation is taught), not throughout the world (as we'd expect). (2) If we forget our past lives, what purpose does reincarnation serve for self-improvement? (3) Assuming reincarnation (with an infinite past series of rebirths), then we've all had plenty of time to reach perfection. Why haven't we? (4) Reincarnation doesn't solve the problem of evil, as some claim, but only infinitely postpones it (and in some Eastern schools, evil is just an illusion anyway). (5) Reincarnation makes incoherent the Eastern idea of monism, which says that everything is one without distinction, by presupposing distinctions between (a) individual souls, (b) the karmas of individual souls not having yet reached enlightenment, (c) the enlightened and unenlightened, and (d) individual souls and the One (ultimate reality).

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Notable Christian Apologist: C. S. Lewis By Ted Cabal

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) enjoyed a distinguished career at Oxford and Cambridge. He was also a notable literary critic and author of science fiction and children's literature (including the Chronicles of Narnia). In addition, Lewis was arguably the most influential Christian apologist of the twentieth century. Remarkably, he was a committed atheist before his conversion to Christ in 1929.
Lewis authored a number of important apologetic works, such as Miracles, The Problem of Pain, God in the Dock, and The Abolition of Man. In his most famous work, Mere Christianity, Lewis presented powerful arguments for the truth of the Christian faith. Originally broadcast as several BBC talks during World War II, Mere Christianity notes that even people who deny objective right and wrong cannot refrain from believing in them. Moreover, people are unable to live out the moral law they know they should. Lewis argued that this moral law, coupled with humanity's inability to fulfill it, allows Christianity to begin to "talk." The forgiveness God offers in Christ makes sense in the real world.

Lewis also maintained that Jesus Christ claimed to be God, undercutting popular notions that Jesus was something like a good teacher. Either He was who He claimed, or else He was a liar or lunatic. But the life of Jesus does not betray the character of a liar or the mentality of a lunatic. Lewis contended that the most reasonable understanding of Jesus is that He is the Lord.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

What Is Divine Revelation? By Gordon R. Lewis

Revelation is an activity of the invisible, living God making known to finite and sinful people His creative power, moral standards, and gracious redemptive plan.
First, God discloses Himself and His power to everyone by the marvels of His creation-the amazing life support system of planet earth. We can discover some things about painters from their paintings. Similarly, in the magnificence of creation, with its microscopic complexities and cosmic expanse, we realize our dependence upon the Creator's powerful existence and intelligent design (Ps 19:1-6; Rm 1:19-20).

Second, God makes plain His moral nature and ethical principles for our well-being by implanting oughts and ought nots in every human spirit. Even people who do not have Moses' Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-20) feel an obligation to obey those universal principles of right and wrong and suffer guilt when they do not (Rm 2:14-15). God's moral principles restrain evil and prompt all to seek and find Him (Ac 17:27). However, everyone sins, worships, and serves the creation rather than its Creator (Rm 1:25; 3:10-23). Our habitual failure to live up to God's laws demonstrates our need for His mercy and redeeming grace.

Third, God made His merciful redemptive purposes known centuries before Christ both through mighty acts such as delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt (Ex 12) and through the reliable messages of His prophetic spokesmen (Heb 1:1). Criteria by which to distinguish true from false prophets included the logical consistency of teaching with previous revelation (Dt 13:1-5) and the verification of visible signs (Dt 18:20-22). God promised to send His anointed One to defeat Satan's destructive purposes in many ways. The Messiah would be a son of Eve (Gn 3:15), a descendant of Abraham (Gn 22:18) and David (2 Sm 7:12-16), and would be born of a virgin (Is 7:14) in Bethlehem (Mc 5:2). Because those who chose the way of sin chose a way that ends in death, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. So believing citizens of Israel pictured Christ's coming sacrificial atonement for sin by animal sacrifices and the Passover.

Fourth, God made His just and loving plan of redemption known supremely in Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah. "No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son-the One who is at the Father's side-He has revealed Him" (Jn 1:18). To appreciate more fully what God is like, study the life, words, works, and atoning death of Jesus. At Calvary, the guiltless Savior substituted Himself for the guilty. In doing so He defeated Satan and provided the just basis for His reconciling mercy and grace He sat down (Rm 3:25). Then the risen Christ demonstrated His saving power over sin, guilt, death, and Satan (Rm 1:2-4; 10:9-10)!

Fifth, after Jesus' ascension to heaven, God communicated His redemptive purposes neglects poses through spokesmen called apostles. Jesus taught and trained them for three years and they were eyewitnesses of His resurrection (Ac 1:21-22). Through Paul, an apostle who later saw the risen Christ, God revealed His plan to unite both Jewish and Gentile believers in one body, the church (Eph 2:11-22).

Sixth, the King of kings will be revealed in all His power and glory at His second coming.

Seventh, all the above sources of revealed truth have been preserved for us in Holy Scriptures.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

What Does It Mean That God Inspired the Bible? By Gordon R. Lewis

To say that God inspired the Bible is to say that the Holy Spirit supernaturally motivated and superintended the prophetic and apostolic recipients of revelation in the entire process of writing their scriptural books.

Many other books have coauthors, so we need not imagine that Scripture has to be either a human or a divine production. The Holy Scriptures originated, not with the will of its human writers, but with the will of God the Holy Spirit (2 Pt 1:20-21). Over 3,000 times biblical writers claimed to have received their messages from God. God the Holy Spirit "inspired" (breathed out or originated) the Scriptures through the human writers (2 Tm 3:16).

God prepared these conscious, active prophetic and apostolic spokesmen (and their secretaries) providentially by their heredity, character, vocabularies, and writing styles. At the appropriate time, in all the processes of writing, they were "moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pt 1:21). This technical meaning of inspiration does not apply to any alleged revelations outside the Bible or to any literature that in a more general sense may be said to be inspiring.

God commissioned His true prophets to write, including Moses (Ex 17:14; 34:27), Joshua (Jos 24:15-26), Samuel (1 Sm 10:25), Isaiah (Is 30:8), Jeremiah' (Jr 30:2; 36:2,17,28-29), Ezekiel (Ezk 43:11), and Habakkuk (Hab 2:2). Hence the Bible was not a result of Israel's quest for God; it is God's witness against Israel (Dt 31:26). Zechariah laments the fact that Israel "made their hearts like a rock so as not to obey the law or the words that the LORD of Hosts had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets" (Zch 7:12).

The collection (or canon) of biblical books began to be formed as inspired writings were placed alongside the ark of the covenant in which were contained the Ten Commandments (Dt 31:24-26; Jos 24:25-26; 1 Sm 10:25; 1 Kg 8:9; Is 8:20; 29:18; 34:16).

The Lord Jesus Christ validated the OT's inspiration by quoting from all three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Lk 24:44). He endorsed the inspiration and authority of the OT in detail (Mt 5:17-18). The Lord also prepared His disciples for the coming of the NT (Jn 16:12) and so endorsed it in principle. Paul received revelation pertaining to redemption (GI 1:11-17) and expected his writings to be received as from God (2 Th 2:13,15). Peter classified Paul's writings with the inspired OT (2 Pt 3:16).

What the authors or their close associates originally wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek was inspired. Although their original manuscripts have not been discovered. we know what they wrote. In numerous available copies, quotations, and translations, there is amazing agreement. Through some 20 centuries of laborious copying and printing, there have been no substantial variations of any important fact or doctrine.

So, in the twenty-first century, we can rely on serious translations to convey what believers need to be "equipped for every good work" (2 Tm 3:17). The Holy Spirit attests to the truth of this written revelation and uses it like a sword to convict of sin, draw sinners to Christ, build them up, and send them out to bless the world (Heb 4:12).

As a result of its inspiration, all that the Bible affirms is true.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

How Is Jihad Understood in Islam? By Ergun Mehmet Caner

The Arabic, the term jihad means "to strive," and "to fight." In Islam, the verb carries two levels of meaning that affect the individual Muslim.

First, the individual Muslim must strive (jihad) against his flesh. Surah al Tawbah 9:20 says, "Those who believe and suffer exile and strive [jihad] with might and main in Allah's cause ... have the highest rank in the sight of Allah." In this dimension, the jihad is against oneself. The Muslim must learn to control his sinful impulses and desires. In this dimension, jihad is a means for the Muslim to earn salvation. The aforementioned verse ends with this promise, "they (who jihad with might) are the people who will achieve salvation."

Second, however, jihad has a corporate dimension. The Qur'an teaches that jihad is warfare in the cause of Allah. This fighting (also jihad in Arabic) is required for Muslims, even. if they do not want to do it (Surah 2:216). The nature of jihad is unambiguous in the Qur'an. Surah al Tawbah 9:29 says, "Fight [jihad] those who believe not in Allah nor in the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the people of the Book until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission."
In this corporate dimension, jihad is clearly seen as warfare. Specifically, Islam teaches that jihad is fought against those who do not recognize Islam as the only truth. In the context of Surah 9:29, jihad's purpose is for either the conversion of the infidel, or the control of the non-believer. If a non-believer will not believe, he must pay a tax, called jizyah, as a sign of his submission.

Jihad as warfare has parameters in Islam. Muslims who are blind, lame, or terminally ill are exempt from holy war (Surah 48:17). Muslims must give a warning of four months (fatwa), telling the infidel to convert or surrender. After these "forbidden months," the Muslim warriors must "seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them, in every stratagem of war" (Surah 9:1-5). Some Muslims cite Surah al Baqarah 2:256 ("there is no compulsion in religion") but earlier in that same ' chapter, Allah says, "and slay them whenever ye catch them and turn them out from where they have turned you out" (Surah al Baqarah 2:191). Once jihad begins, it must be fought until victory or the surrender of the unbelievers (Surah 47:4). The Muslim who dies in jihad is promised heaven (Surah 47:4-6).

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

How Should a Christian Understand the Role of Government? By Charles Colson

Christianity is about much more than salvation; it speaks to all of life. "Jesus is Lord" was the earliest baptismal confession. Scripture mandates taking dominion and cultivating the soil (Gn 1) and being salt and light (Mt 5:13-16).Abraham Kuyper, former Dutch prime minister and theologian, famously said, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry out `Mine!"'

No area of cultural engagement is more important than government and politics: We are commanded to submit to governing authorities (Rm 13); Jesus Himself said, "Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mt 22:21). This means Christians must be good citizens, pay taxes, obey laws, and serve (as called) in government. Augustine argued that Christians are to be the best citizens: what others do only because the law demands, we do out of love for God.

Because government is ordained by God to preserve order and do justice, we're instructed to honor the king (1 Pt 2:13-17) and pray for those in authority that we might live peaceful lives (1 Tm 2:1-22). The only thing worse than bad government is anarchy.

The authorities are established by God, Paul said. Hence, John Calvin accorded the magistrate's office as having one of the most important roles in any society working as a servant for good (Rm 13:4). It's a noble calling for Christians to enter public service. Contrary to common caricatures of politicians, some of the finest public servants I've known are serious believers who live out their faith in office without compromising their convictions.

The cultural mandate means the church has an important role to play with respect to political structures-working for justice, speaking prophetically, and often being the conscience of society, even when this means persecution, prison, or death, as it did for many in the confessing church in Nazi Germany. Though there have been times when the church has failed in this responsibility, thankfully today it's at its post, the strongest voice in American society in defense of life and human rights. The church is also the agency that, in this age of terrorism, prophetically holds government to the moral boundaries of the just war tradition (see the article. "Does the Bible Support a Just War?" Norman L. Geisler). Though in America we observe a strict separation of church and state (the state shouldn't establish a state church or restrict the free exercise of religion), there should never be a separation of religion and public life. The public square needs religious influence; indeed, the Christian faith has played a critical role in shaping our institutions. Reformation doctrines sphere sovereignty (government doesn't rule alone; all structures-the family, the church, private associations-have ordained responsibilities) and the rule of law made Western liberal democracy possible. Our Founding Fathers respected the "laws of nature and nature's God," recognizing that without a moral consensus resting upon Judeo-Christian tradition, virtue could not be maintained and self-government would fail. Noted historian Will Durant wrote that he could find no case in history where a nation survived without a moral code and no case where that moral code was not informed by religious truth.

But the church must approach its public role with caution and sensitivity. Pastors and other church leaders, for example, should never make partisan endorsements of candidates (which can divide our ranks and politicize the faith) or allow themselves to be in the hip pocket of any political party. That said, the pastor should never hesitate to speak boldly from the pulpit about pressing moral concerns.

There are clear dangers in dealing with politics. Among my duties as special counsel to President Nixon was winning the support of special interest groups. I found religious leaders easily impressed with the trappings of office. And later, watching from the outside, I saw Christian leaders succumb to these allures. There's a fine line here. It was wrong when, for most of the twentieth century, evangelicals stood apart from politics; so too it's wrong to allow ourselves to be married to a political party.

Christians individually and through organizations must engage in the political process, always preserving their independence and fulfilling the prophetic office (which may mean calling friends to account). Though Christians are to be the best of citizens, our first loyalty is not to the kingdom of man but to the kingdom of God.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

Notable Christian Apologist: Augustine By Ted Cabal

Augustine (A.D. 354-430) was born in northern Africa (roughly modern Algeria). Monica, his devout Christian mother, raised him in biblical truth, prayed for him faithfully throughout her life, and remained an important influence on Augustine until her death. His brilliant but restless mind, however, wandered away from his Christian roots. This journey away from God (detailed in his classic Confessions) included giving himself to sensual pleasures. Augustine, seeking intellectual and spiritual fulfillment, wandered in succession through pagan philosophies such as Manichaeanism and Neoplatonism. Manichaeanism combined elements from several religions, teaching that reality is ultimately grounded in two gods, one evil and one good. Neoplatonism, however, taught that all reality emanated from "the One" (an impersonal, unknowable god).

Augustine eventually realized the intellectual and spiritual failure of his search through paganism. After his soul came to rest through conversion to Christ, Augustine would become the greatest theologian and apologist of the first Christian millennium. He powerfully refuted prevailing pagan philosophies (including Manichaeanism) as well as heresies that threatened to divide and corrupt the church. In The City of God, Augustine brilliantly confronted the pagan charge that Christianity was responsible for the downfall of the Roman Empire. He focused the blame, where it belonged by exposing paganism's spiritual bankruptcy. Moreover, in so doing, Augustine constructed a grand philosophy of history in observing that the crisis of his day was only part of a larger whole. The "City of the World," comprised of those chief love is the self, stands in sharp contrast in every age to the “City of God,” of those who love God.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.