Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - My Closing Statement

I'd like to thank Saaib again for participating in this debate, and the readers for reading. Please remember that our closing statements are to be posted more or less simultaneously, so no rebuttal to each others' closers will be possible.

Let's begin by revisiting:

Saaib's opening statement
His poor understanding of biblical history began to become clear therein:
This Bible came into being during the Reformation, nearly 900 years after the advent of Islam. One wonders how the Qur'an or the hadith literature can endorse a Bible that came some 900 years after them... The truth is that no one had defined the limits of the Bible until the (Catholic) Council of Trent, 1546.
Having read this statement the sixth time or so as I'm writing my final statement, I'm struck anew by its foolishness.
The various books of the NT existed from the time that the human author received the Holy Spirit's inspiration and put pen to paper. Then, as I've mentioned, the books were copied and distributed widely, only to be copied again and widely distributed again, etc. God subtly and gradually brought His people in all parts of the world to a consensus that was reached without a centralised authority structure mandating that the Canon of the New Testament be set in stone.
I've already refuted Saaib's allusion to the Council of Trent, but also, Trent's Canon of Scripture disagrees only with the Protestant Old Testament. Even Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy hold to the same NT Canon.

Saaib's statement even misunderstands the implications of the Qur'anic texts I quoted. If nobody knew the limits of the Bible until well after the Qur'an's writing, why would the author of the Qur'an to refer People of the Book to the Injeel or the Taurat? What is the meaning of the very appellation "People of the Book" if they didn't know what the Book was? How could the author of the Qur'an or ahadith know that corruption existed in the Bible's text if the limits were not known? If nobody knew whether the book of Isaiah was Scripture, why did they even pay attention to it any more than they paid attention to the textual history of their cookbook or a teenage novel?
Saaib shows no sign of having thought this objection through, and yet it is perhaps one of his two main objections to the resolution.

Later, he said:
as the individual books (Biblical Canon), their contents and their order vary among denominations.
Which books did he have in mind? Sure their order varies occasionally, I guess. But the individual books' contents vary? If he means that Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics accept a longer version of Daniel and Jeremiah, I suppose that's true, but there are numerous reasons to reject those longer versions, and weak reasons to accept them. Saaib's limited English may have prevented him from properly distinguishing between the words "denomination" and "religion", but in no way do I accept that Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy are different denominations. They are different churches, heterodox and heretical. They have no part with me and I none with them. Saaib needed to argue against my position, and find a Romanist later if he wants to debate about Rome.

Saaib goes on to say:
What Did The Bible Look Like In Arabia During The Advent Of Islam? No one can answer this question, and the fact remains that no one has ever.
This is completely untrue, however. Hundreds of MSS copies predate the rise of Islam. Three extremely important and extremely complete codices predate it by 300 years - Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus.

As for the Islamic sources, some interesting snap-shots of the contents of the Christian Bible are also seen in Ibn Hisham's Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah.
Wait, didn't Saaib just finish telling us that no one knows the contents of the Bible at Mohammed's time? How can he contradict himself just a few sentences later, unless his objection is actually untenable?

The miracles of Jesus speaking in infancy and giving life to birds made out of clay are usually dismissed by the missionaries as "apocryphal" but these were perfectly acceptable to Christians in Arabia during the advent of Islam.
In reality, these are quotations from Gnostic works, not Christian at all. It may be true that some Christians ignorantly/naively accepted these works as canonical at that time, but it is demonstrably not true that all did. Why weren't any of these works included in the great codices I just mentioned? Why did early church writers such as Irenæus (2nd century AD) write long works such as Adversus Hæreses, which was written at least in large part to combat Gnosticism? Would anyone familiar with the NT's savage rebuttals of Gnosticism found in Colossians, 1 John, and the Corinthian epistles also go ahead and accept Gnostic works as seamlessly compatible with them?
It is ironic, I pause to note, that the majority of events from Jesus' life that the Qur'an mentions are derived from Gnostic works, and then it goes the exact opposite way of the clear teaching of all four Gospels regarding Christ's crucifixion, getting it totally backwards. It would be difficult to get any less accurate than the Qur'an gets it.

Finally, he cited "Rabbi Ben Abrahamson" in some article that I was never able to track down, making a vague allusion to how Mohammed is indeed prophesied in the book of Daniel. Saaib gave no argument, however, and so I don't know how that is supposed to help him. Mere appeals to authority seem to be Saaib's specialty, but in formal debate, arguments need to be substantiated.

My first rebuttal
-I refuted Ehrman, whom Saaib quoted approvingly to bolster his other main argument. Saaib responded by denying he was relying on Ehrman, only to repeat Ehrman's argument later.

-I turned the tables, indicating that the Muslim needs an argument to overturn Ehrman's contentions, given that the textual history of the Qur'an includes MSS copies that are not in 100% agreement, despite Uthman's purge. Saaib did not address this.

-I turned the tables in another way: Since the Qur'an teaches that the people of the Book are to judge the Qur'an by the Injeel and the Taurat, and since the Qur'an claims that it is a confirmation of those, and since none of us can know, even with our vast numbers of MSS discoveries from vastly varied geographical areas, what the Injeel said (per Ehrman), that means Mohammed couldn't know what the Injeel said, nor could the people of the Book at Mohammed's time. So Allah's command becomes meaningless and literally impossible to follow. Yet it's a central piece of Allah's argument with respect to persuading people of the Book to follow Islam.
Saaib never addressed this.

-I asked: If the fact that the majority of the MSS are "centuries removed" from the original writers, what does that tell us about the Qur'an, which is actually in a worse position in that respect?
Saaib never answered.

-Saaib insisted on the grossly unfair characterisation of the Holy Spirit's inspiration of the biblical writers as "tickled by Holy Spirit". Is this the action of a man who wants to know the truth and is willing to test the best his opponent's position has to offer?

-The fact that Allah swears by his creation in the Qur'an shows that Allah considers his word less important and authoritative than Yahweh considers His own word. How can the Qur'an have been existent from eternity past when Allah's oaths appeal to things that were created at a point in time, which didn't exist at times when the Qur'an did? Saaib never answered.

-Saaib judges Yahweh morally faulty for some of His activities. Though requested to, Saaib never let us know on what authority he throws God into court. Rather, he simply mocks the idea with a wave of the hand and a "Busted".

-Saaib fell into the warned-about pitfall of citing unfulfilled prophecy without giving, as stated, "proper exegesis to show why we should expect that prophecy should have already been fulfilled." I reminded him he needed to do so but he never did.

-Saaib said "history tells us". Does Saaib think we should trust "history" (whatever that means), or the Word of God? I don't know, for though I asked, he didn't answer.

Saaib's second statement
-He merely brushed aside my argument from the Qur'anic affirmation of the truth and divine origin of the Bible, without an argument as to why.

-He attempts to argue that the Injeel and Taurat that the Qur'an affirms are totally different documents than what we know today.
1) But we do know what each of them were in Mohammed's time.
2) If this is true, these books were lost to history. They are gone. Allah did not preserve his communication with mankind. If Allah is willing to let his previous revelations go thus, what makes Saaib think that Allah is faithful to preserve the Qur'an? Just because Allah said so? He said the same about the Injeel and Taurat, and look what supposedly happened.
3) Where is Saaib's evidence? Did nobody keep any record of these books such that we don't even have one single extant MSS copy today?

-He repeated his claim that Old Testament not known historically. Gets destroyed twice.
Refutations of this can be found above.

-He made several other bizarre and/or irrelevant arguments, as mentioned in my second rebuttal.

His answer to my first cross-examination question
I asked:
What parts of the Bible that we possess today (remember, I'm a Reformed Baptist; don't talk about Rome or other religions), if any, were originally sent down by God and from God, and how do you know?
He began by casting doubt on the concept of a Reformed Baptist. If he'd bothered to do any research other than quoting some pastor in Louisville I've never heard of, he'd know that it actually is very easy to distinguish Reformed Baptists. They hold to confessions of faith. I'm pretty partial to the London Baptist Confessions of Faith of 1646 and 1689.

He began to answer the question by simply assuming his idiosyncratic view of history is true, that Moses didn't write the Taurat, that David didn't write any of the Psalms, etc. His main justification for his denial of Mosaic authorship was: how could Moses have written his own Obituary.
Here is where Saaib argued like an atheist, about which I warned him earlier. Does he think that all Qur'anic revelation came through Mohammed's natural abilities, or does he think that many of them were obtained through supernatural revelation? Why couldn't God simply have Moses write prophetically about his death before it happened? What's so hard about that?

Saaib turned the whole thing into a bit of a laugher when he said:
The script of Pentateuch was lost which was was found by a priest called Hilkiah.
How does he know that? Because that's what the text of the OT says!
But I thought that he just told us that From historical point of view none of its part is from God.
So Saaib walked right into a trap there. Ouch.
Did Saaib give us a reason to think that it's untrue simply that the books of the OT, as they were inspired and written down, became part of Israel's deposit of faith and revelation, that the Torah was lost for a time because some copies were hidden in the wall of the temple whereas faithless Israel had otherwise forgotten about or destroyed many of its other copies? Until Hilkiah found the copy in the wall later?
How could Saaib possibly know this?

He went on:
this book was burnt along with its copies by Antiochus.
How does he know that all the copies were burnt? He didn't say.

the thir(d) person has been used for Moses at every place.
This author knows that it is possible to write consistently in the third person.

the majority of Psalms frequently different in the Masoretic and Septuagint traditions, or missing in one while present in the other.
That is simply untrue. The majority are numbered differently, sure, because the LXX divides one of them up into two, and that occurs fairly early on in the book. So what?
As for his implication that a large chunk are "missing"... I'd need to see some evidence.

Finally, he said:
As for us Muslims, whatever goes against Quran (and the authentic Hadith) is not from God, and whatever is confirmed by it could have been the word of God.
Oops. As we've seen above, the Qur'an actually does confirm that the OT and NT are from God, so Saaib's position is completely incoherent.

Our final two interactions
Saaib fixated on what he thought was a good point but what was actually yet another demonstration of his gross ignorance pertaining to textual criticism and how MSS are collated, compared and contrasted, and combined to form the standard text we use today to translate directly out of into the destination language, whether it be English, French, Urdu, Swahili, or Bambara. Since he never dealt with the point I made in my opening statement, that:

The presence of textual variants, while not to be ignored, does not impact the doctrinal presentation of the Bible. The vast majority of all variants in the New Testament, for example, are the presence o(r) absence of "movable nu"s, which are so insignificant as to be untranslatable into any other language;
he did not understand what I meant when I claimed that the NASB (among numerous other solid translations) is 100% the Word of God. I also pointed out that his use of the term "unaltered" needs extremely serious qualification, which I do not believe he is knowledgeable enough to make.

Finally on this point, notice that I was honest with you, the reader, and Saaib wasn't. My doubts about the proper transmission of the Qur'an and the point of my second cross-exam question were to provoke Saaib into revealing his faith commitments. Look at his answers. How does Saaib know:
1) Mohammed repeated it back to Jibril?
2) His companions recited it back to Mohammed?
3-5) Their memory was backed with writing?
6) No case of lost written documentation occurred?
etc? One word: Faith.

I have been and will be honest that my appeal is rooted in God, in faith that He preserves His Word. Saaib also has faith, but won't admit it. Further, Saaib's position's trustworthiness goes back to one single person - Mohammed. Mine goes back to the hundreds of people who heard Jesus and spoke and wrote about what they saw, heard, and touched.

Following Islam will lead nobody to eternal life. Islam says: "Live for God. Do not sin. Do good deeds. Allah might honor the balance of your good deeds unless he unilaterally decides to turn your heart from good to evil and damn you."
Yet the Injeel teaches:
Galatians 3:19Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made...21Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Romans 5:6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

You can never do enough to be right with God. One sin will suffice to condemn you as a lawbreaker, as imperfect and unworthy to live forever in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God of the universe. Haven't you sinned even today? Always prayed when you were supposed to? Never lied? Never lusted after a woman, money, cars, toys? Always been 100% content with what God has given you?

Come clean - you have broken God's law. You need a Savior. The Injeel, which, as we've seen, you have no reason to distrust and every reason to believe came straight from God, tells us of that perfect Savior, Who can save and cleanse lawbreakers like you and me. God Himself exercised His power, took on flesh, and suffered for you and me.

1 Peter 2:24He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

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