Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

Shahbaz Bhatti Video

this is the video I shared in the sermon on 3/13/2011

Shahbaz Bhatti was an outspoken Christian as a member of Pakistan's elected National Assembly. As Federal Minister for Minorities Bhatti came to the defense of religious minorties and sought to reform Pakistan's Islamic based blasphemy laws and Sharia law. He recorded this video in case he was assasinated for his faith. In the interview Bhatti shares his resolve for the gospel. Shahbaz Bhatti was martyred on March 2, 2011.

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Praying for North Africa

As we watch the news unfold in Egypt and Libya most of us are not quite sure what to do with it.  Who are these people?  What’s at stake?  Why is there so much unrest?  Why do our nation’s leaders seem to hold it at arms length?  I am sure there are a myriad of political responses to these questions, but I think there is one question that seems silent in the midst of the chaos.  What does this mean for the church and the gospel?

North Africa holds deep historical significance not only for the narrative of the gospel, but also for the early church.  An angel told Joseph in a dream to flee from Herod and take Jesus and Mary to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15).  In church history Augustine of Hippo was from modern day Algeria.  Augustine was an influential theologian who shaped much of we believe about election, predestination, sin, and justification.  And it was from North Africa, either Egypt or Libya, that Arius developed a Christology that said that Jesus was of a different essence than the Father and as such could not be equal.  In reaction to Arius Constantine called for the council of Nicaea in 325.  There the council formed a powerful statement that accurately expressed the early church’s orthodoxy that indeed Christ was of the same essence as the Father and as such was equal with Him.  Heresy is great for orthodoxy!  And it was Origen, who taught in Alexandria, Egypt, whose extensive writings and commentaries helped give evidence of early church acceptance or rejection of certain books.  His work was instrumental in the canonization of the New Testament. 

From Jesus and throughout the first several centuries of the development of Christianity North Africa holds an important place in the spread of the gospel.  Currently North Africa has little to no gospel witness.  Living under the tyranny of oppressive regimes and strong Islamic influence, the flame of the gospel in North Africa has almost been extinguished.  Yet, as always, there is a remnant.  The American media is not interested in the story, but the church is suffering heavy persecution during the current unrest.  We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to survive.  Yet when the chaos subsides, what sort of regimes will gain control in North Africa?  Will they welcome free speech and religion?  Will they allow the people to investigate faiths outside of Islam?  Will the gospel be welcomed back?  Will the church re-emerge?  These are the issues that Christians in the state need to focus their prayers upon.  We need to pray for peace, the safety of the people, and the power of the gospel.  While we watch the news coverage let us not simply stand a world away and watch, but may we bow our knees to the sovereign God of nations and history that He will once again open up a door for the gospel in North Africa that no one is able to shut.
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Subbing "The Son of God" (part 3)

(Continued from Monday: a response to Collin Hansen's Article in Christianity Today, "The Son and the Crescent")

Substituting or paraphrasing “Son of God” is not only a question of translation, but it is one of missiology. It is right to make the Bible more palatable in a cross cultural context? This is not the same issue as translating the text into the native language. Translating the text is missonal, changing the text is not. Should we render a version of the Bible for the evolutionist that doesn’t pick up the text until Genesis 4? Obviously, we should not.

Some would object to my point here by saying that missionaries and translators have always borrowed from the native tongue to make the Bible readable. Hansen alludes to this in his article. Yet I would contend that when it comes to subbing “The Son of God” it is not the same. The problem is not that Muslim people cannot understand the phrase, the problem is that they object to it. This leads to the theological problem inherit in the issue. If Jesus is not the Son of God, who is He? If He is not the Son of God, then it cannot be said of Him that He is the Savior in the same sense that the Bible teaches. One can easily see how translation and theology are so closely connected in I John 5:1-5,

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

In Hansen's article, the supporters of subbing "The Son of God" raise the issue of meaning. As you can see from 1 John 5:1-5, if Jesus is not “The Son of God” the meaning of salvation, Jesus, Christology, sanctification, justification . . . all of it changes because it all hinges on the reality that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus being the Son of God is not simply an issue for His conception, but it is also an issue for His cross.

I know that in my previous article “Deceived” I called for us to hear from our missionaries on reaching out to the Muslim world. Ironically, this week, Christianity Today has answered. Yet, in my opinion, it seems that some of our missionaries and translators, on this issue at least, have it wrong.
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Subbing "The Son of God" part 2

(continued from Friday: a response to Collin Hansen's Article in Christianity Today, "The Son and the Crescent")

I admit that I am a novice to the issue of evangelism and the Muslim people. I yield to our missionaries and translators in this and I take seriously what they have to say. Yet in my study of Islam it appears that removing misunderstanding of the Biblical text is not a translation issue, but an authority issue. The Muslim people believe the Bible to be a revelation of Allah, but one that has been severely corrupted. The Quran appreciates the Bible, but according to Allah, the Quran is the correcting revelation that supersedes it. This being the case, the “Son of God” language contained in the New Testament is a tertiary issue at best. If the Quran is the final revelation then it is important to engage the Jesus of the Quran before we compromise the Jesus of the Bible.  The Jesus of the Quran is worlds apart from the Jesus of Scripture. They are not the same person.  I will speak to this as well.  For now, we should recognize that subbing "The Son of God" does nothing to remove Muslim skepticism that the Bible is a corrupted document or to correct their misguided understanding of Jesus.  In fact, subbing "The Son of God" may actually serve to reinforce Muslim criticism that the Biblical text has been compromised.

From conversations I have had with Muslims, another paraphrase of the text only reinforces their rejection of the Bible as a true and authoritative revelation from God. Muslims do not translate the Quran. It is read, studied, and memorized in its original language. Muslims equate translating the text to changing it. Over time, they believe that the frequent translations of the Bible have distorted its true meaning.  Substituting “Son of God” or paraphrasing it when any elementary reading of the Greek can see that it plainly and unmistakably says “Son of God” is dishonest, misleading, and affirms the Muslim critique. Any astute Muslim could read about this highly publicized issue, or do a minor bit of homework on the translation and tell that we are at it again. The intent and immediate result may be noble here, but I detect that in the end changing the translation may do far more harm than good.

It may be more beneficial, for the sake of missions, to compare the Jesus of the Bible with the Jesus of the Quran and Hadith. A cursory reading of the documents will help one to see that this is not the same man. In Phil Parshall’s book, The Cross and the Crescent, Kenneth Cragg offers a summary of the comparison of the Jesus in the texts,

“Consider the Quranic Jesus alongside the New Testament. How sadly attenuated is this Christian prophet as Islam knows Him! Where are the stirring words, the deep insights, the gracious deeds, the compelling qualities of Him Who was called the Master? The mystery of His self-consciousness as the Messiah is unsuspected: the tender, searching intimacy of His relation to his disciples undiscovered. Where is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ in this abridgment? Where are the words from the cross in a Jesus for whom Judas suffered? Where is the triumph of the Resurrection from a grave which was not occupied? We have in the QurYan neither Galilee, nor Gethsemane; neither Nazareth nor Olivet. Even Bethlehem is unknown by name, and the story of its greatest night is remote and strange. Is the Sermon on the Mount to be left to silence in the Muslim’s world? Must the story of the Good Samaritan never be told there; the simple, human narrative of the prodigal son never mirror there the essence of waywardness and forgiveness? Is ‘Come unto Me all ye that are weary . . and I will give you rest’ an invitation that need not be heard, and is Jesus’ taking bread and giving thanks as negligible tale? Should not all mankind be initiated into the meaning of the question: ‘Will ye also go away (Cragg 1964, 261-262)?”

The Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of the Quran and Hadith are not the same.  If we offer the Muslims a translation of the Bible in which Jesus is not the Son of God, we return to square one.  Subbing "The Son of God" may render a more palatable Jesus, but He is still not the Biblical Jesus.  To substitute or paraphrase “Son of God” only serves to foster this glaring theological identity crisis and to reinforce Muslim skepticism that we have corrupted the Biblical text.

(To be continued on Tuesday)
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Subbing "The Son of God": A Response to Christianity Today (Part 1)

On Wednesday night (2/2/11) I compared the Muslim and Christian understandings of Jesus from the Quran/Hadith and the Bible respectively. In short Muslims deny that Jesus is the Son of God, not so much because of who Jesus is, but because of who God is. In the Muslim faith it is blasphemous to allege that God could be anyone’s father, especially that anyone could have been conceived in the womb by Him. The word “son” naturally carries with it strong biological connotations and to think that God would or could relate to any human being biologically is heretical to the Muslim understanding of the nature of God. The Quran teaches that Jesus is at best, the messenger of Allah, one of his great prophets. Muslims believe that the Christian teaching of Jesus as the divine Son of God is a doctrinal corruption of the early church (S. XIX:29ff, S. V. 75-77, S. IV. 157-158).

In the February issue of Christianity Today, Collin Hansen, in his article “The Son and the Crescent”, reports on the controversy surrounding new translations of the Bible that make the gospel more palatable to Muslims. The translations do so by substituting the phrase “Son of God” for alternatives such as “Christ”, “beloved son who comes from God”, “Christ of God”, “spiritual son of God”, or “the Christ, the Beloved One of the Living God.” Hansen reports that these translations have been notably effective in the formation of “fellowships” as Muslim people have “found faith in Jesus.” Obviously this choice of translation has caused debate between missionaries, translators, and theologians. Rick Brown, associate area director for Sil-Erasia, a linguistic expert and international translation consultant, endorses the use of these substitute phrases for “Son of God” and compares it to what has been done with many English paraphrases such as The Living Bible. Paraphrased versions of the Bible make the Scriptures more readable. Richard Grady, missiologist for OC International is quoted by Hansen, “My father never read the Bible until he got a copy of The Living Bible.” “We are finding the same with some of the paraphrases being done for Muslim audiences.”

Is this merely a paraphrase or does substituting the use of “Son of God” in the Muslim context do serious theological damage to the gospel as revealed in the Biblical text? I would submit that at heart, our translators and missionaries are trying to do a good work and bring Muslim people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I do not think they are intentionally trying to hijack the gospel. I fully support them in their intent. Yet, I do think that substituting or paraphrasing the Son of God in the Biblical text does serious theological damage to Jesus and the gospel.

I have two elementary aged daughters. Both of them have expressed faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, but neither of them understand the sexual side of the Christmas story. Jr. High and puberty loom large on the horizon for one of them. I dread this! Until this point when asked what “virgin” means we have been able to safely say, “Mary wasn’t married” and move on. So the question becomes does a person have to affirm or understand the nature of Jesus’ conception and birth in order to be saved? Yes and no. “No” in the sense of there were a lot of things about Jesus I did not fully understand when I was saved, but “Yes” in the sense that I do not think a saved person would or could, in good conscience, deny that Jesus is the divinely conceived Son of God.

I assert that Hansen inadvertently misrepresents the issue with “Son of God” for the Muslim people. Yes, it is blasphemous to them, but it is not because of a Biblical translation. The blasphemy is not rooted in the Biblical text, but rather in the Quran and the Hadith. These books are the source of teaching that make the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth into a divine sexual scandal. The Bible obviously represents the conception of Christ as a biological act in that a fertilized egg was implanted into the womb of Mary, but the act was more spiritual in nature than sexual. Contextually, ontologically, theologically, and linguistically there is no warrant in any of the Greek to suggest that God had sex with Mary. Again, the phrase “Son of God” is not the problem, the problem is with Muslim teaching. In his writing, Muslim historian and commentator Ibn Kathir demonstrates the misguided liberties the Quran, the Hadith, and Muslim clerics take with the conception narrative,

“Allah, the Exalted, informs about Maryam that when Jibril had spoken to her about what Allah said, she accepted the decree of Allah. Many scholars of the predecessors (Salaf) have mentioned that at this point the angel (who was Jibril) blew into the opening of the garment that she was wearing. Then the breath descended until it entered into her vagina and she conceived the child by the leave of Allah. Muhammad bin Ishaq said, "When she conceived him and filled her water jug (at a well), she returned (to her people). After this, her menstrual bleeding ceased and she experienced what the pregnant woman experiences of sickness, hunger, change of color and there was even a change in the manner of her speech. After this, no people came to visit any house like they did the house of Zakariyya. The word spread among the Children of Israel and the people were saying, `Verily, her partner (in fornication) was Yusuf, because there was no one else in the temple with her except him.' So she hid herself from the people and placed a veil between herself and them. No one saw her and she did not see anyone else.''

Instead of omitting or substituting the phrase “Son of God” perhaps a better strategy would be to confront the source of the blasphemy and to clarify the Christian understanding of the text. The substitute translation may make the text initially palatable to the Muslim people, but for the greater work of salvation, at some point, Jesus as the divinely conceived Son of God cannot be dismissed. If He is not the “Son of God” He is not the Savior. The reality of Jesus as the virgin born Son of God does not simply affect the birth narrative, it is a truth that also permeates the way we understand His teaching, His authority, and eventually His work of atonement on the cross. For Jesus to be anything other than the Son of God is a blatant corruption of the gospel.

(to be continued on Monday)
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Clarifying Our Investigation of Islam

I had a subtle feeling that our current series “Investigating Islam” may receive a notable amount of curious attention.  I was right.  Thus I want to share a short post to clarify my intent, content, and direction for the series as well as answer a barrage of questions I have received in a few short hours this morning.
The series is designed to be an eight week general overview of Islamic doctrine with responses from the Biblical text.  As the pastor of a Christian church, I am not interested in my congregation becoming experts on Islam as much as I am interested in helping them to answer questions that may be posed to them from the Islamic community.  The people of our church go to work and school with members of the Islamic community.   Peter tells us in I Peter 3:14 – 16 that the church should live a compelling life that invites questions.  Those questions should be answered with a very measured demeanor, “gentleness and respect.”  Being prepared and educated fosters confident conversations that are measured with “gentleness and respect” rather than fear.  As such this series is not antagonistic or incessantly critical of the Muslim faith.  In actuality, with the exception of the first night of the series on “The History of Islam”, I will concentrate most of my teaching on Christian doctrine rather than Muslim doctrine.  The general points of Muslim doctrine I am sharing are readily available in a plethora of books and online articles.  For instance, last night’s teaching was entitled, “Holy Texts” and focused on what Muslims believed about the Qu’ran and what Christians believe about the inspiration of the Bible.  My motive last night, in concluding my comments, was so that the Christian church could be certain that it can stand on the truth of the Word of God as the one and only guide for living a life that is pleasing to God.  Furthermore, I wanted  the congregation to know that all of the revelation God has shared with us, as recorded in the Bible, is designed to do one thing, point people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
That said, I want to make a statement that should be surprising to no one, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, or otherwise.  I believe every person needs to come to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith in order to be saved.  Without Jesus we are condemned to eternal punishment in the lake of fire by the Holy God.  I believe Jesus gives us life more abundantly and that when we come to Him, He gives us His Holy Spirit who gives us life now and forevermore with Him in eternity.  I believe Jesus is the only way of salvation in accordance with the teachings of the Bible.  I hope that as a byproduct of this series our congregation will have more of a heart for the Muslim people, for all people, and that we may become more effective evangelists, sharing with the world the good news of the gospel, that Jesus Christ has come to seek and save the lost. 
Last night Ashfaq Taufique, President of the Birmingham Islamic Society, along with four or five other colleagues, attended our service.  One of his colleagues called ahead of time, early in the afternoon, to alert me of their desire to come.  These men were respectful and kind.  At Ridgecrest Baptist Church, they were welcomed.  I met a few moments after the service with Mr. Taufique and hope to meet with him again in the near future.  Mr. Taufiqe did not teach any portion of last night’s session and is not scheduled to do so next week.  At this time, he is not scheduled to share in any of our sessions.  He, and his associates are welcome to attend any of our services.  I want everyone to hear the gospel.  I am not ashamed.
By meeting with Ashfaq Taufique I am not seeking an ecumenical dialogue on how we all, in essence, worship the same God.  As per our conversation last night, Ashfaq agrees with me that doctrinally there are irreconcilable differences between Christianity and Islam.  With only a cursory study of the Bible and the Qu’ran it is easy to see that our beliefs about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and salvation are not even close.  Being honest about these differences is not unhealthy and it is a dialogue I would welcome.  I do believe that in opening up the conversation it will not only improve our sense of community here in Birmingham, but that it will develop relationships necessary to spreading the gospel.  Without apology, that is my motive.  I follow Jesus, I cannot think and do otherwise.      
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History of Islam (notes)

Here is the quick copy of the notes I used for teaching on 1/12/2011, "The History of Islam."

Short History of Islam
  • Muslim means “one who seeks wholeness, or one who submits to God.”
  • Islam is an infinitive form of the same term and means “to seek wholeness.”
The Life of Mohammad
1)  In the sixth century AD, north of the Arabian Peninsula two great powers were locked in a seesaw power struggle. The Christian Byzantine kingdom, successors of the Roman Empire controlled the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa and the lands of Palestine. To the northeast lay the Zoroastrian Persian kingdom. Both the Byzantine and Persian kingdoms had client Arab tribes allied to their cause of trade and conquest.  
The Arabian Peninsula became a land of refuge for those seeking escape from both of these empires. Heretic Christian sects like the Nestorians, and Jewish tribes escaping the oppressive Byzantines found refuge in the protective deserts and cities of the Peninsula.  
2)  Arabia was divided into tribes and cities. Each city had gods and goddess. Once a year the tribes and cities of Arabia would meet in the city of Mecca during an event known as the Hajj. In Mecca, the Ka’aba (Cube), a large cube shaped building housed 360 idols from all the tribes of Arabia. The Ka’aba was the center of Arabian religious life. Here all the warring tribes would put aside their differences as they circled the Ka’aba. From the Ka’aba they would proceed to the other shrines outside of Mecca during this five day religious event. The Hajj was a tradition that Arabs of the peninsula remembered going back hundreds of years. 
3)  Muhammad was born about A.D. 570 in Mecca.  His family was the keepers of the Ka'aba, a stone used for pagan sacrifice.  His father died before he was born, his mother when he was six.  His grandfather cared for him for two years until he also died.  Muhammad spent the rest of his childhood with his uncle.  Muhammad never participated in the pagan activities of Meccan life.   
4)  At the age of 12, young Mohammed was taken on a caravan-trading venture to Syria and experienced the world outside of Arabia for the first time. Here Islamic tradition informs us that a Christian monk named Buhaira, proclaimed Mohammad as the last prophet and warned him about the Jews. For the next 13 years little is known of Mohammad’s life except that he was involved in caravan trading.
5)  As a young man Mohammad married a wealthy widowed woman (Khadijah) who owned a caravan company.  She was15 years his senior.  He was married only to her for 25 years until she died when Mohammad was 50.  It was not until after her death that he began to take multiple wives.  Because he married into wealth Mohammad had plenty of time to meditate.  He spent much of the next 15 years of his life in meditation.
7)  His uncle introduces him to a clan Arabs known as the Hanefites.  Hanefites were Arabs who rejected idol worship and were searching for the true religion. They looked to the religion of the Jews and Christians as being close to the goal. The Hanefites abandoned their idols and would retreat to the caves of Mecca in meditation and prayer.
8)  At age 40 Mohammed had his first vision in the year 610 AD. He was in a cave on Mt. Hera and thought he was demon possessed. He went to his wife Khadijah and told her about the event. She consulted with her uncle Waraca, a Hanefite who converted to Christianity, who assured them Mohammed vision was from God. Waraca declared Mohammed was a prophet to the Arab peoples, Waraca died 2 years later never becoming a Muslim.
9)  Mohammed proclaimed Allah as the one true god and rejected the idol worship of Mecca. Khadijah, his wife, was Mohammed first convert to Islam. Few listened to Mohammed’s message and animosity grew against him as he confronted the idol worshippers and preached his religion to Mecca. Abu Talib his uncle and his tribe the Hasims protected him during this early Meccan period. In 619 Khadijah and Abu Talib died. Abu Talib headed the Hasim clan, which Mohammed was a member. The new leader of the Hasim tribe his uncle Abu Lahab refused to protect Mohammed. During the next 3 years Mohammed would fear for his life. He sought refuge and protection in nearby cities.
10)  Then in 621 during the Hajj, Arab tribes from the city of Yatrob later to be called Medina, came for the annual pilgrimage. They met Mohammed and thought him to be a prophet and invited him to their city to bring peace and settle disputes between the warring tribes. These men secretly convert to Islam.  Yatrob was founded by three Jewish tribes and the idea of monotheism was familiar to its Arab tribesmen. The Arabs of Medina had been told by Jewish tribesmen about the coming Messiah who would one day conquer the world including the Arabs. The Arab tribes hoped to find this individual before the Jews. Meeting Mohammed they thought he was the one.  Men from Medina on pilgrimage to Mecca secretly convert to Islam believing Mohammad to be the Messiah.
11)  As Mohammad's revelations were resisted his visions grew from being more inviting to being more militant, making people believe by the edge of the sword.  Mohammad's visions also grew more contradictory to the Hebrew Scriptures, but his most controversial vision is one in which he claimed to go from earth to heaven meeting all the great prophets including Moses and Jesus.  It was at this point that the leaders of Mecca decided to assassinate Mohammad as a way to put an end to his growing sect.  
12)  Mohammad flees from Mecca to Medina, this flight is known as Hijra.  His protection during this flight is used by Muslims to confirm Allah's protection of their prophet, they use it to point to the validate of their faith.  While in Medina Mohammad gains popularity, grows a military, and it is here that his visions become even more militant in nature.  
13)  He grew in military might gaining control of much of the Arabian peninsula, yet his business floundered and he lost financial support through the caravan trade.  Justifying himself as an attacker of those who rejected Allah, he would attack caravans for not only control but for wealth.  The more victory the more confidence he gained that his agenda was justified.  He grew more merciless and demanded that anyone who criticized him or rejected Allah must die.  There are many stories of the cruelties of Mohammad during these years.  In anything he did he felt justified because he was fighting for Allah.  He came to believe that one of the ways he experienced forgiveness was by fighting Jihad for Allah. 

14)  A historical sidenote here is Mohammad’s many wives.  Although he practiced ethics slightly better than the tribal leaders of the time, Mohammad certainly had a questionable relationship with women.  He married his first wife out of love and remained true to her for 25 years until her death.  After her death he married 10 other women and took 2 concubines.  Of his wives one was 9, one was his cousin, and yet another was his daughter in law. 

15)  In 628 Mohammad signs a peace treaty with the leaders of Mecca allowing him to pilgrimage there.  In 630 the truce was broken and several allies of Mohammad are killed.  Mohammad marches 10,000 men to Mecca slaughtering any who resist.  His rival converts to Islam, pagans gods are destroyed and Ka’aba is established as the center of Islam.  After destroying all the idols Mohammad declares that there is only one god.  
The Development of Islam Post-Mohammad
Abu-Bakr (632 - 634)
  • He was Mohammad’s father in law, justified his visions as from God early one.  One of Mohammad’s first converts.
  • He continued Jihad
    • Secured the Arabic peninsula from revolt
    • Preserved Mohammad’s message with the first written version of the Quran
    • fulfilled Mohammad’s vision in conquest in that “no two religions are to exist in the Arab Peninsula.”
Umar (634-644)
  • Conquered Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Persia.  Jerusalem also submitted to Muslim control.
  • Wrote “laws of mercy” for Christians and Jews in the land.  Yet in the laws of mercy there are restrictions that Christians cannot build new places of worship, cannot renovate old ones, that Muslims can confiscate them, and that they could be destroyed in conquered lands. 
  • The laws also stipulated that anyone who did not adhere to the laws would not be protected and could be killed.
Uthman (644 - 56)
  • Killed Umar
  • Codified the Quran into its current form.
  • Was hated
  • Killed while reading the Quran and his body left unburied for days
Ali (656 - 61)
  • Cousin of Mohammad
  • Aishah, widow of Mohammad resisted, caused civil war
  • Followers of Ali were called Shiites and traditional Muslims were called Sunnis.
  • Assasinated in 661
Expansion under Jihad (661-1095)
  • during this period Islam gained great expansion and wealth
  • Dome of the Rock built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to show superiority over Judaism
  • The Great Mosque of Damascus built in Syria to replace the Cathedral Church of St. John to show superiority over Christianity
The Battle of Tours (732)
  • Islam had already expanded through North Africa and Spain and was headed for France.  If France fell Italy was next, which at the time was the center of Western Christianity.  Charles Martel (The Hammer) halted the invasion at Tours.
The Crusades (1095 - 1291)
  • Pope Leo IV (847) had declared that Christians who fought infidels would be granted eternal life.  (It was essentially a form of Christian Jihad).
  • Subsequent popes affirmed Leo’s declaration
  • In 1064 7,000 Christians were ambushed on the way to worship in Jerusalem and slaughtered
  • Out of vengeance the Crusades began
  • Christians became every bit as brutal as the Muslims
  • Result was that Christianity diminished and Islam grew in strength
  • The Crusades were a cataclysmic theological and tactical mistake
1298 - 1515
Rise of the Mongolian empire diminishes Islam even though by the 14th century Islam was the official religion of the empire
1515 - 1919
  • the Ottomans defeat the Christian Byzantine Empire and capture Constantinople
  • Constantinople is renamed Istanbul
  • Spain was regained in control of the Catholic church (late 1400’s)
  • The Russians fight the Turks for control of the Balkans (late 1700’s)
  • Arab and Muslim expansion ends with WWI (1914-18).
  1. War has always been the main vehicle for Muslim expansion not evangelism
  2. In the minds of many Muslims the Crusades never ended.  Western culture continues to be seen as a corrupting threat to the Muslim world.
  3. In 1524 Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier wrote in his book “On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them”, Turkish Muslims “cannot be overcome by our doing, neither by sword or by fire, but alone with patience and supplication, whereby we patiently await divine judgment.  - he was put to death for his views.
The Cross and the Crescent, Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind by Phil Parshall
Unveiling Islam, Ergun and Emir Caner
Islam and the Bible, David Godmann

PDF copy of notes
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Does Israel Care About Peace?

While the White House hosts a new round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Jews enjoy the beach.  When it comes to peace, Israel is apathetic according to Karl Vick in his article, “The Good Life and Its Dangers” which appears in the 9/13 edition of TIME Magazine.  Vick’s article and its accompanying illustrations of families in the park, conversations in coffee shops, and lazy days at the beach, paint the picture of an Israel that is economically booming, secure, and happy.  “In a 2007 survey, 95% of Israeli Jews described themselves as happy, and a third said they were “very happy.”  I interpret Vick’s point to be that Israel is too happy to care about peace.  The cover of Time reads in reference to the article, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.”  For Vick, a prosperous and happy but otherwise apathetic Israel is detrimental to peace.  “Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask), don’t Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity?”  The article insinuates that without a sense of urgency Israel has no reason to negotiate for her security. 
If you read that first paragraph correctly, you should now chuckle at the irony!  If you do not find this somewhat humorous allow me a moment to dissect the joke.
It has become as routine, over the last 35 years, for U.S. Presidents to call for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians as it is for high school students to annually attend the Junior/Senior prom.  This is what they always do.  This is how it always goes.  Israel concedes land, makes political concessions for prisoners or trade routes, and/or makes civil concessions such as housing or water rights, and a few months later their concessions become launch pads for rockets and they get bombed.  Israel concedes, but it is never enough for the controlling militant factions who use the Palestinians as incendiary devices to kill Jews.  For the Islamic controlled nations that surround Israel, most of which also fund terror, land is not enough.  They want Israel dead.  For Iran, who sees the Palestinian state as a launch pad behind enemy lines, conceding land will never satisfy their thirst to see Israel obliterated.  For Iran, who funds Hezbullah and Hamas, there is only one end that will bring peace, a nuclear sized hole in the map where Jews once lived. 
It may not be so much that Israel is too happy to care as much as it is they have no good reason to believe the Palestinians will do as they say.  The result is that Israel has moved on with life.  Vick quotes Teddy Minashi, “We’re not really that into the peace process, we are really, really into the water sports.”  “People here now concentrate on improving their lives, in the sense that they don’t think too far ahead.”  “Me, myself, I don’t believe in this era we’ll achieve peace with our neighbors.  So now we concentrate on what we can do, how we can improve our lives.”
For Jews these talks may also be off the radar simply because of the insignia on the invitations.  Vick points out that Israel has not had a suicide bombing in 2 ½ years and that their economy is booming.  The reason for this is because Israel knows what to do with her borders and she knows what to do with her money.  There has not been a White House administration in quite some time, especially the current regime, that has demonstrated it knows what to do with either.  As America’s borders crumble, her states become warzones, and the economy dies a slow death, why would Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu look across the table at President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton and possibly want to do it their way?  Neither Obama nor the Clintons have demonstrated that they have Israel’s best interest in mind.  Why should Israel trust either of them?  Yet, don’t forget that according to Karl Vick 95% of Israelis are happy with Israel.  If you follow the approval ratings of most things America, there is a growing sense of disapproval amongst the electorate.  Why would Israel want to join in the misery?  Furthermore, why would Netanyahu want to look at any of his Islamic neighbors who rule over states where the crowns hold the cash, the people are in poverty, there is growing sense of unrest, and epidemic human rights violations, and want to do it their way?  I am not sure Israel is as apathetic as they are laughingly entertained by the thoughts that somehow surrendering sovereignty to the less than successful will assure them of a better future. 
My purpose for writing these responses to TIME Magazine is not necessarily to wax political.  My purpose is to shed Biblical light on current issues.  The impact of the peace process with Israel, from a Biblical perspective, is not difficult to discern.  This process is a key component to prophecy.  Where will this round fit in, I’m not sure, but it is somehow a precursor to a raw deal, a false sense of peace, and the loss of Israel’s national security and sovereignty.  It is a lens that clarifies for the discerning reader that politically this peace process is fundamentally flawed and prophetically what the Bible says is to come is entirely possible.  Somewhere along the line Israel will no longer be apathetic.  She will be betrayed.  From a cursory scan of Biblical texts like Daniel, Jesus’ teaching on the Mount of Olives, or the Revelation, one will find that this peace process will be the mechanism that ushers in the end.  Vick’s article should only help to reinforce the believer’s faith that the Bible is not the fictitious story of a fantasy land, it is the unfolding story of this one, our reality – our current issue of TIME Magazine.  We live between the covers of Scripture, the beginning and the end.  This is our story.  We should read it, believe it, and seek to end it faithfully.  May we pray for Israel and Jerusalem.      
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A phobia is an irrational fear.  In this respect “phobia” is a commonly used suffix attached to any one of a long list of words that make your fears seem more professional, or at the very least can make it appear to others that you have a good grasp on Latin.  Add to the list a new phobia, Islamophobia.  Congratulations to Bobby Ghosh for coining this one.  I am not sure he is the originator, but I haven’t heard it as frequently used as I did on the Sunday morning news shows following the release of the 8/30/10 edition of TIME magazine, which simply reads on the cover, “Is America Islamophobic?”
The controversy over the building of an Islamic mosque at Park 51, near the site of Ground Zero, has resulted in anti-Islamic sentiment in the US of A getting press.  During political seasons, where there is controversy there will be polls.  61% of Americans oppose the Park 51 mosque vs. 26% who are in favor and 13% who either don’t know or didn’t answer.  The popular translation of this data is that most Americans are Islamophobes.  Last week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for an investigation of the opposition.  Ghosh’s article in TIME cites anti-Islamic rhetoric from small town city halls and bakeries to conservative religious and political leaders like Franklin Graham and Newt Gingrich.  “The concern now is that the mosque protests and the attention they have drawn from politicians may have brought Islamophobia firmly into the mainstream.”  The tone of Ghosh’s article seems to be that the protests of Park 51 are fueled by an irrational fear of the Muslim faith and that they raise, “larger questions:  Does the U.S. have a problem with Islam?  Have the terrorist attacks of 9/11 - and the other attempts since - permanently excluded Muslims from full assimilation into American life?”  
Labeling one’s opponents as phobic is a page out of the political correctness playbook.  If you can make a man who has strong convictions against homosexuality seem as silly as a big man who is afraid of spiders, you can easily ignore his arguments because after all, he is irrational.  It is easier to call a man insanely scared and paint him a coward than it is to deal logically with his reasons.  Most people who oppose proposition 8 are not irrationally afraid of gay people, they are morally against homosexuality.  It is the same with Isalmophobia.  Is it irrational to believe that most of the 61% of those who are against a mosque near Ground Zero have good reasons for their opposition?  If we were going to find a term to accurately describe the protest it would not be “irrational fear.”  I am sure there are some people who are afraid, but given what happened at Ground Zero, “irrational” is no longer a fitting term.  
People have good reasons for being against Islam.  What is irrational is the attempt by pop-media to convince America that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam.  It is also difficult to deny that Islam is not only a religious ideology, but a political one as well.  Islamic states do not have a good international track record for human rights, freedom, or diplomacy.  Ask Israel.  Let’s not forget there is an Islamic holy site and a mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Why not build another one at Ground Zero?  Why is America anti-Islam:  Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Afganistan . . . look up the track record of almost any nation that is a part of the 57 member Organisation of the Islamic Conference and you will not find irrational fear, but good reasons why America does not want to be heavily influenced by Islam.  In most of these states there is rampant and severe religious persecution.  Now, who is the phobic?  Take a field trip and find visit First Baptist Saudi Arabia.  No one in New York or America is saying “you can’t build a mosque.”  What they are saying is, “Build it, but don’t build it here.”  Petition the Saudi government and ask them where you can build a church.
Another page out of political correctness propaganda is to immediately play the race card.  Equating opposition to racism is another quick way to discredit someone’s argument and exile them from the public forum because they are insane, archaic, and irrational.  Racism is irrational, sinful, and idiotic.  Yet, the public outcry against a mosque at the WTC has nothing to do with race, but patriotism.  I have not heard anyone angry because people in the mosque are Arabic, Indonesian, African, or Pakistani.  My understanding is that it is the desire of Muslims for Islam to be very eclectic.  How then can this possibly be a race issue?  If Islam does not see itself as a “race thing” then why is it when you protest against it that it suddenly is?  The opposition is over the tenants and ideology of Islam, one (even if it is an extremist minority) expression of which was largely responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans.  As much of a misunderstanding of Islam as many claim this to be, it is hard to deny the context at Ground Zero.    
If America is anything, it is not Islamophobic.  It may be hypocritical, but it is not Islamophobic.  If we are Islamophobic then we are even more so prayer-in-school-ophobic, God-ophobic, nativity-scene-at-the-courthouse-ophobic, and Merry-Christmas-ophobic.  Why are we so suddenly passionate to publicly protect Islamic belief in God when we have all but dismissed Judeo-Christian ones from the public arena?  Our hypocrisy further expresses itself in that we are suddenly constitutionally savvy toward Islam when we seemingly could not find a copy of the constitution during the health care debate, TARP, or banking regulation.  Furthermore, Islamophobia is suddenly getting press because people do not want a mosque at Ground Zero.  Are we also Greek-Orthodoxophobic?  Apparently, St. Nicholas church, which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, has been trying to rebuild near Ground Zero for 9 years.  What is the rationale behind ignoring that story?  Does the constitution apply to the folks at St. Nicholas?  Why doesn’t President Obama issue a statement of their constitutional rights?  Apparently he has been asked to do so.  Did you know that if you try to share the gospel peacefully outside of an Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan that you will be arrested?  What’s the phobia there?
As much as we hate to admit it, America is not actually free.  We can only drive so fast.  We can build only when and where we have permission.  There are good reasons for not allowing a strip club to build next to an elementary school.  It has nothing to do with irrational fear.  There are good reasons we don’t want poker halls next to churches, or candidates at voting precincts, or coal plants in nature preserves, or mosques at Ground Zero.  It has nothing to do with phobia.
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