Tuesday, January 03, 2012

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

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:20-21), “who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:6).

As the affirmer of the resolution, I will present a positive case, and then I will attempt to head off some of Saaib's arguments at the pass. Then, in my first rebuttal, we will take stock of whether he has avoided the pitfalls about which I warned him.
If God has spoken, this affects literally everything. It all matters. If God has not spoken clearly, sufficiently, and in a way understandable to people, then let us eat, drink, and be merry, for neither today nor tomorrow do we know anything about so much; I'd argue we have no basis for ANY objective epistemology or metaphysics.

God and His Word need no defense. This debate is a privilege, blessing for the believer, an opportunity to sharpen our own love for and acquaintance with God Himself and to share the blessings of the truth with others.

An Argument from God's Self-Affirming Authority
God's Word is self-affirming and true by definition because God is God and there is no higher standard of authority. There is only one God and He answers to no one. There is no one beside or above Him.
Hebrews 6:13 - "For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself..." Contrast that and other biblical occurrences (such as Genesis 22:16, Isaiah 62:8, and Jeremiah 22:5 and 44:26) with Allah's swearing by the Qur'an (Surah 36:2, 38:1, 43:2, 44:2, 50:1), by the wind (Surah 51:1), by the heaven (S 51:7), and by the mountain (S 52:1), to name a few.
Who knows more or sees farther than God or can stop Him? Nobody; God is the final arbiter, judge, and lawgiver. What He says, goes. We are obligated to live and abide by God's revelation. Inasmuch as reliable eyewitness testimony is solid evidence in court, so an infallible, all-seeing, all-knowing, always-truthful eyewitness to an event is to be considered foremost in credibility. Further, God is the very basis for and necessary precondition of knowledge, reason, and intelligibility. Thus, without God, as I have argued elsewhere, we cannot know anything.
To demand evidence for one's precondition for reason and intelligibility is to ask for evidence of the very ground underneath one's feet. If it were not there, we could not even ask the question.

An Argument from Fulfilled Prophecy
Predictive prophecies abound in the Bible, and are part of God's testing of false gods, such as in Isaiah 41:21-24. A few examples of already-fulfilled prophecies are found in Daniel 9:25-26, Micah 5:2, Psalm 22 and 34:20, and Zechariah 12:10.
By no means have all the prophecies in the Bible yet been fulfilled, but many have been, and quite specifically. God knows the future and reveals it so that we may know He is the Lord of all.

An Argument from Jesus
The Lord Jesus quoted incessantly from the Old Testament Scriptures throughout His ministry, even when facing diabolical temptation (Matthew 4:4), and usually precedes His quotations with a reverential formula indicating the divine nature of the words He's quoting. Such statements as Matt 5:17-18, Matt 23:23, or "…have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM…?'" (Matt 22:31, emph. mine) indicate Jesus' regard for and opinion of the Scripture. As Saaib holds to the prophethood of Jesus and the Qur'an teaches that, at minimum, He was righteous (Surah 3:46, 6:86, 19:19), Saaib must give us a really good reason to overcome Jesus' opinion of the Bible.

But, the Evidence?
The say-so of the highest authority and truth in the universe, the affirmation of the unchanging and always-truthful God of the universe – there is no higher standard of knowledge or evidence. Compared with that, what good will mentioning archaeological findings of a man dated from the 1st century who was also crucified, or noting that the Evangelist Luke showed remarkably accurate understanding and familiarity of the socio-political geography of his time, etc. do? If the omniscient God has spoken and it seems incorrect to us, mere creatures of terribly limited knowledge, vision, foresight, wisdom, understanding, powers of observation, and instrumentation, are we not in the wrong, every time? Who will be so arrogant as to question God, to put the judge of the universe in the dock as though to judge Him? Will He not rebuke us with explosive power, as in Job 38:1-7 and Job 40:7-14? And can we have any other response than Job's in Job 42:2-6?

How To Prove Me Wrong
The matter before us is about ultimate authorities. God is my ultimate authority, and He has communicated in the Bible. Saaib, as a Muslim, believes that his ultimate authority is God's revelation in the Qur'an and authentic ahadith. Either of us can evaluate the other's worldview based on our own worldview, but what would that tell anyone, but that the one thinks his worldview is incompatible with the other's and he thinks his is correct?
Further, Saaib is not an atheist, or a Hindu, or a Mormon. He is a Muslim, and Islam is, as our Muslim friends so delight in telling us, a detailed and full worldview system. Therefore, Saaib needs to deny the resolution as a Muslim and remain consistent with his worldview. Would not arguing against my position as if he were atheist/agnostic/Pastafarian/Rastafarian serve as tacit concession that his own Islamic worldview is not sufficient for the task before him? Thus, he has two options:

Option 1 – The Internal Critique
Saaib may take on, for the sake of argument, the Christian worldview with all its included presuppositions and beliefs, and from there attempt to demonstrate one or more fatal inconsistencies. This may include attempted demonstrations of contradictions between biblical teachings/passages. Saaib must be careful not to import any external beliefs when taking this route, engage my position (Reformed Baptist-ism, if you will) and not another, and demonstrate adequate and competent exegesis.

Option 2 – The External Critique from Islam
Saaib may simply let us know that Islam judges the Bible as not-the-Word-of-God, and thus leave it at that. To do so, he will need to inoculate his position against foundational and crippling internal critiques that others might offer, show that Islam is indeed internally consistent, and thus give us a reason to examine Islam very fully, as a standalone consistent worldview.
In this particular case, Saaib will need to give us a reason to think that Islam itself does not teach that the Bible is indeed the Word of God, If it could be shown that the Qur'an, for example, teaches that the Bible came from God, Saaib's case will collapse. Here is why.
The Qur'an says the Bible is God's revelation and indeed appeals to it to confirm its own message, thus proposing that it agrees with the Bible. The Bible's teaching differs, however, from the Qur'an's teaching in many fundamental ways. Muslims often propose that the Qur'an was saying that it agreed with the Bible as it existed at the time of Mohammed's ministry and that the Bible was corrupted since then. The problem with this attempted solution is that we know exactly what the Bible said at the time of Mohammed, and indeed well before that, so this solution is untenable. (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 of absence of “movable nu”s, which are so insignificant as to be untranslatable into any other language.)
Since we know what the Bible said at the time of Mohammed, Saaib must show us why the following Qur'anic passages do not lead his position into fatal inconsistency:
Surah 2:86 ...We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit...
Surah 2:89 And when there comes to them a Book from Allah, confirming what is with them...
Surah 2:91 ...humiliating is the punishment of those who reject Faith. When it is said to them, “Believe in what Allah Hath sent down,” they say, “We believe in what was sent down to us:” yet they reject all besides, even if it be Truth confirming what is with them. Say: “Why then have ye slain the prophets of Allah in times gone by, if ye did indeed believe?”
Surah 3:84 Say: ‘We believe in...what has been revealed to us...in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord:'”
Surah 4:136 O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His Apostle, and the scripture which He hath sent to His Apostle and the scripture which He sent to those before (him).
Surah 5:45 If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) Unbelievers. And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein.

If Saaib challenges the equation of “Injil/Injeel” with the New Testament and/or the “Taurat” as the Old Testament or at least the Torah/Pentateuch, he must give us a reason why, from Islamic sources, and not merely his own or someone else's ad hoc imagination, we should think that these refer to something else, and he must tell us what those things are.
Saaib must also solve the problem of Allah's swearing by things inferior to himself, as mentioned above. How is this “Allah” supposed to be taken seriously?
The Qur'an also incorrectly asserts in Surah 7:157 that the Bible mentions Mohammed. It does not. If Allah is all-knowing, why couldn't he read the Bible to know what it actually says?

Pitfalls to Avoid
--Complaints that I have produced no evidence. God's Word is itself of the highest evidentiary value and authority.
--Imputation of positions to me that I don’t hold, such as tritheism, or that “a man became God”, or that “God had sex with Mary”, or that I worship the Bible.
--Irrelevancies such as whether celebrating Christmas on 25 December is of pagan origin, or that we should believe the Qur’an is from God because Mohammed was illiterate.
--Citing prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled as evidence of the failure of biblical prophecy. Nobody is claiming that ALL prophecies ever given have already been fulfilled; some remain still in the future. Saaib would need to perform proper exegesis to show why we should expect that prophecy should have already been fulfilled.
--Trying to convince us that the Qur'an is the Word of God without resolving the aforementioned reliance on the Bible for confirmation of its message, by appeal to such things as the scientific accuracy of the Qur'an.
--Citing instances of Qur'anic scientific accuracy without dealing with the well-known instances of Qur'anic scientific bungling, such as the sun's setting “in a pool of murky water” far to the west, the origin of human embryos as clots of blood, the origin of human semen between the backbone and the ribs, and the classification of meteors as missiles Allah uses to shoot evil jinn.
--Trying to prove lack of clarity in the Bible by appeal to the various sects/denominations in Christianity, as if Sufi, Sunni, Shia, and Druze don't also read the same Qur'an.

(Word count: 1985)
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