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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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Men wearing briefs in public


This approach certainly has some merit.

I will also say that the next time I hear of a homosexual group going to a Christian event with signs saying I'm sorry for the way the gay agenda keeps wanting to expose your children to men wearing briefs and playing with sex toys in public will be the first time.
That said, I'm far more partial (as I think Pastor Dusman is) to a presentation of the Law and the Gospel. Mere apologies for how some churches and some church people, with whom I claim only peripheral fellowship if they're going around screaming at homosexuals and refusing to share the good news of forgiveness, new birth, washing, and renewal in Jesus Christ, have treated some homosexuals are not nearly as good as...sharing the good news of forgiveness, new birth, washing, and renewal in Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - My Second Cross-Examination Answer

Despite its popularity and prevalence in Islamic apologetics circles, Muslim critics of the Bible should really learn the ins and outs of textual criticism of the Bible before they speak with such confidence combined with ignorance. Because of his ignorance, this debate has been more of a seminar on biblical textual criticism and history than a debate.

It would also help Saaib if he'd done his due diligence and ensured that his presentations and arguments used consistent premises that wouldn't, if consistently applied, result in the destruction of his own position. Here again we see him relying on naturalistic premises and arguments when he is in fact a theist who has to place a great deal of trust in his god to preserve that god's revelation to mankind.

This is how it should be. We should and must place our trust in God; naturalism and paganism are irrational and impossible alternatives. And since by definition an omniscient, omnipotent God who never lies is a higher authority and a better source of truth than human historical recordings, which are certainly fallible and by necessity vastly incomplete, we have to figure out which God is the right one to follow. This is what Saaib has not yet grasped and thus has not engaged in his arguments.

Saaib finds it difficult to accept that the NASB is 100% the unaltered Word of God. A few clarifications:
1) I mentioned the NASB because it's my favorite, it takes few translational liberties (ie, it is a formally-equivalent translation), and it is based on the latest (more or less) MSS information.
2) There are of course textual variants whose original referents are mysterious and may very well never be known. I already mentioned this in my opening statement. Most are movable "nu"s and other untranslatable particles of Greek grammar.
3) None of these variants affect any doctrinal teaching of the Bible.
4) What does "100% unaltered" even mean? Does Saaib think today's written Qur'an is compiled in the exact order in which each Surah was revealed? It's a statement appealing to an imaginary ideal.
5) Requiring "100% unaltered" is an unreasonable standard, and one that the Qur'an can't meet. Just look at the way Saaib answered my 9 challenges in his last answer. Appeals to faith, every time. How does he know these things? When questioning the credibility of a man on one issue (whether "Mohammed correctly repeated what he heard from Jibril"), don't appeal to other statements he has made that have no other confirmatory evidence as confirmatory evidence of the first statement! That's merely begging the question.

Strictly speaking, "corruption" means that textual variants exist within the extant corpus of NT MSS, but it does not necessarily mean that this corruption is irreversible or that the authentic original reading is undiscoverable. Quite the contrary, and that's what textual criticism is all about. Broadly speaking, even if all 5000+ extant NT MSS agreed with each other, but one of them had a movable "nu" in a different spot, "corruption" would exist. The question is not whether corruption exists in ancient documents. The question is to what extent, and whether the resources are present to overcome it. With thousands and thousands of MSS to cross-reference, I'm afraid that Saaib's objection comes up empty. Saaib needs to give us a good reason to think that
1) God couldn't or wouldn't have used the process of copying that we see in the NT MSS history to preserve His Word,
2) there is good reason to think that some doctrines are placed in doubt and that these are serious, and
3) that he has a better alternative.

Think about it - the Apostle Paul writes a letter to a church. He sends it. It arrives and the church decides to send it out to all the churches they know. They copy it 15 times and send out those 15 copies. Those 15 churches want to send it to the 15 churches they know. Each makes 15 copies and sends it out. Etc. The copying causes the amount of MSS to grow exponentially, and the copies are dispersed all over the world. Thus nobody ever has centralised and final control over the text (unlike Islam) and contrary to what Saaib ignorantly asserted, it was possible back then to cross-reference copies of a given document, and it's possible (and common practice) now.

A few other tidbits:
-The NASB puts the pericope of the adulteress in brackets and leaves a footnote referencing the fact that many earlier MSS do not contain it. That's called full disclosure, and it's impossible on Islam, given the Uthmanic purging of Qur'anic MSS.
Of course it's an interpolation; the question is, was it in the original and removed, or was it added? More probably it was added later, for several reasons. Whether it belongs or not, it affects no doctrine. I personally do not hold it to be authentic.
-A few extant NT MSS are earlier than 200 years after Christ.
-Saaib asserted that the "Pauline epistles present...a problem" but didn't say why or what problem.
-I would never claim that the NASB translators were unbiased. I think it's easily demonstrated that they were fair.
-Saaib falsely claims I contradicted myself in my last cross-examination answer. He needs to read more carefully. "Not necessarily" and "all other things being equal. However, all other things are never equal" should have informed his thinking at that point.
-Memory was backed with writing." Exactly. Same with the NT. Be consistent.
-Saaib says "The companions of the prophet made written copies of Quran. Thus those who listened to the companions had a written book to correct them." Exactly. Same with the NT and Jesus and the apostles. Be consistent.
-Saaib's answer to challenge #6 is bizarre. That's the point: if something is lost, it's not found. This merely demonstrates that Saaib must trust his god completely at this point. Whether he'll admit it is another question.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - Saaib's Second Cross-Examination Question

You made the following statement:
".....If I hold a copy of the NASB in my hand, I will have no problem in saying that this English text, in here, is 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God......"
We know that NASB is a product of 1900s. Does that mean that Christians have been using corrupted scriptures for almost 1800 years. If NASB is based on NA27 then I would say NASB is a product of 1500s, doesn't that mean Christians had been using corrupted scriptures for almost 1500 years. How are you so much sure that NASB is the "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God" when there is every possibility that it can be revised again (in fact it will be). NASB is based on Alexandrian Text (Correct me), whose manuscripts date from 200c (Pauline Epistles). These Pauline epistles present us with a problem, there isn’t enough space (we have 7 missing leaves) to accommodate 1 Timothy (estimated 8.25 pages), 2 Timothy (6 pages)and Titus (3.5 pages). The next manuscript we have is of Gospel of John, Papyrus 66 which lacks the periscope (Note: Saaib meant to say pericope) which, sorry to say, is present in NASB. Comment on this interpolation present in your "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God". Moreover this  "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God" has a preface in which we read the "Fourfold Aim" that "They shall give the Lord Jesus Christ His proper place, the place which the Word gives Him; therefore, no work will ever be personalized." Keeping this in mind, how can you say that the work is an unbiased one when they themselves say something else?

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The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - Saaib's Second Cross-Examination Answer

The question is completely off the topic. Thus I take liberty to make some comments on Rhoblogy's answer to my earlier Question. Rhoblogy writes:
"....If I hold a copy of the NASB in my hand, I will have no problem in saying that this English text, in here, is 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God....."

1. None of the God's revelations were made in English.
2.  "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God"  is copyrighted to Lockman Foundation.
3. "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God" came into being in year 1971.
4. "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God" was edited in 1972.
5. "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God" has some modified versions (published: 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977).
6. "100% the unaltered, pure Word of God" was finally updated in 1995.

Google "NASB" and see the colorful history of the Bible (in their own words). Oopz, God's word has been renamed as "New American Standard Bible". The name speaks by itself. Moving ahead Rhoblogy said:
"....The quality and preferability of a given MSS copy depends on various factors, including its age. Older, ie, closer to the original writing is better, all other things being equal......"
Thus he contradics his earlier statement:
".......You said: "The closer the manuscript is to the source authentic is the manuscript". Not necessarily. You're showing your ignorance about textual criticism. No wonder you're failing to understand and making such basic errors....."
In his reply, "Rhoblogy", confidently, put forward 9 questions. He wants to know how am I confident that:

Q 1) Mohammed correctly repeated what he heard from Jibril?
A: Because he had to recite it back to Jibril. Muhammad (saw) recited the entire Quran in presence of Jibril every year. This was done twice in the last year of his life.

Q 2) Mohammed’s companions correctly heard him?
A: Because they had to recite it back to Muhammad (SAW). Moreover Muhammad (SAW) used to make them read what they had written. Note that there were not less than 42 scribes and remember that Quran used to be recited not less than 6 times a day in the Mosque (in Namaz). Every  year Quran was and is being repeated in public in the month of Ramadhan in Taraweeh. This was (is) done in front of hundreds (millions today).

Q 3) These companions correctly remembered what they heard over the course of decades?
A: Memory was backed with writing. Note: There were thousands of companions who had it embedded inside their hearts, if one erred there were thousands to correct him. Read answer to Q 2 again, that will add to it.

Q 4) Those that listened to the companions correctly remembered?
A: The companions of the prophet made written copies of Quran. Thus those who listened to the companions had a written book to correct them. Note: Every copy of Quran was accompanied with a reciter. Even the pronunciation was thus preserved.

Q 5) These guys correctly wrote it all down?
A: It was already written down. And moreover whatever was in writing was cross-cheked with other copies, very unlike New Testament.

Q 6) Important parts of the written documentation wasn’t lost at some point?
A: Because no one had ever found such case. The reason being, writing was accompanied with memorizing and memorization had support of written mushafs.

Q 7) Satan didn’t influence one or more of those who wrote down what he remembered to write down some false things? (Indeed, Mohammed himself recited revelation from Satan and later recanted it.)
A: He didn't have only one to influence. He had to influence thousands, alas he wasn't even able to influence even one not even Muhammad (saw). I could have answered that God wouldn't allow it but that would make Rhoblogy say that same is the case with Bible. True, but I never talked about Satan influencing the corruption of Bible.

Q 8) Uthman didn’t have any evil ulterior motives when collecting all the Qur’anic MSS?
A: One, Quran was compiled under Abu Bakr not Uthman. Two, Uthman was only one out of the eight who made the second compilation. Note: When Uthman's commission finished the compilation, they compared it with the earlier compilation done under Abu Bakr and both the Mushaf's were exactly the same. The probability of such a miracle is equal to 1/No of words in the Quran (Factorial) which is equal to zero. Thus proving that the Quran was perfectly preserved.

Q 9) Uthman didn’t burn the wrong MSS? ("right" MSS)
A: Uthmanic commission made 8 copies of Quran burning all other copies without checking them. Thus the question doesn't arise.

Thus Rhoblogy's present question already stands answered. But some more things need to be cleared. Quran in the present form was present in Muhammad's (SAW) time. The companions of the prophet put it in one Mushaf. It was not done by those who had not directly heard it from the prophet. This written Mushaf helped Quran to remain preserved in the memories of those who'd heard Mohammed recite it to them, those who'd heard those who'd heard Mohammed, those who'd heard those who'd heard those who'd heard Mohammed, and those who'd heard those who'd  heard those who'd heard those who'd heard those who'd heard Mohammed.

It is evident that not even a single error crept inside the text. The compilation made under Abu Bakr was exactly the same as that which was done under Uthman and I have already told you the probablity of such an occarance is zero. Read the answers to the 9 questions and you will see some more reasons that errors didn't creep in. Reverend Bosworth Smith had to recognize this great reality. He said:
“… we have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation, and in the chaos of its contents, but on the substantial authenticity of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt.”
(Mohammed and Mohammedanism, Darf Publishers, London 1986 pp. 14-15)
Other jaundiced Orientalists also accepted this great reality. Adrian Brockett in his "The Value of Hafs and Warsh Transmissions For The Textual History of The Qur'ân":
''.....The transmission of the Qur'ân after the death of Muhammad was essentially static, rather than organic. There was a single text, and nothing significant, not even allegedly abrogated material, could be taken out nor could anything be put in. This is applied even to the early Caliphs....."
Sir William Muir, echoed that the Bible hasn't remained pure. In fact he says no other scripture other that Quran has remained as  pure as Quran.
"....Yet but ONE KORAN has always been current amongst them.... There is probably in the world no other work which has remained twelve centuries (fourteen centuries now*) with so pure a text.....''
This fulfills Allah's (SWT) promise:
‘’Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Quran) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption).’’
I have exceeded the word limit by 110 words, the reason is that I had to copy Rhoblogy's 9 Question. I could have redirected my audience to his page but that would have been cumbersome.

(Rhology's note - actually copying and pasting my 9 questions probably accounted for ~110 words, so the excessive wordcount is of no importance.)
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - My Second Cross-Examination Question

In between when Islam alleges that Allah revealed the Qur'an to Mohammed and the Qur'an's alleged collection and collation into one allegedly unified text by Caliph Uthman, some years, perhaps even decades, passed, during which the Qur'an was allegedly being preserved in the memories of those who'd heard Mohammed recite it to them, those who'd heard those who'd heard Mohammed, those who'd heard those who'd heard those who'd heard Mohammed, and those who'd heard those who'd  heard those who'd heard those who'd heard those who'd heard Mohammed, etc. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

How do you know that not one single error entered into the remembrance of what would later become the written text of the Qur'an during this in-between time?

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The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - My First Cross-Examination Answer

Either Saaib doesn't really understand or is ignorant of what Ehrman says, he is being disingenuous, or we're having communication problems, but I don't understand his denial, from his first rebuttal:
He started refuting Bart Erhman and wrote an essay on it. What I made was an entirely different argument
Yet here he seems to circle right back to Ehrman's objections, which my first rebuttal wrecked, and Saaib has offered no counterargument.

If I hold a copy of the NASB in my hand, I will have no problem in saying that this English text, in here, is 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God. As for which language, the Word of God is meant to communicate to “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Revelation 7:9).
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and there exists a stream of MSS testimony in those languages. It was translated into Greek in the LXX in the 1st century BC and a separate but overlapping stream of MSS evidence exists for it.
The NT was written in Greek, and textual streams are in place for Greek and then translations later made into all sorts of languages like Latin, Coptic, Syriac, etc.
All of these MSS were taken into account when the NASB was translated into English. All of these MSS were collated, compared and contrasted, and combined to form the standard text we have today. In Greek, that’s the NA27. The NA27 might be hard to find in Pakistan, where Islam's dominance means free thought and exchange of ideas is suppressed, but it's readily available in the USA.

Saaib again demonstrates here his ignorance of textual criticism of the Bible and the history of biblical MSS. Sure, he can cite this or that person, a couple of whom are well-known and several of whom are random people. Sure, he can make arguments from authority without providing those authorities' substantiating argumentation. How does any of this help his case, though?

Thus, Saaib, I will be able to present to you a document which according to me is 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God. No matter whether you agree with me, I will be able to do it.
This turnabout should illustrate the double standards inherent in Saaib’s position. For his own part, he makes naked assertions that the biblical authors didn’t in fact write the books they purportedly wrote. Not that historical, traditional sourcing is inerrant or infallible, but should there not be some argument given to rebut that understanding? Simply arguing that it’s implausible that Moses wrote his own obituary because that would require supernatural intervention doesn’t help anyone, least of all Saaib. Why? Saaib is a theist, as I explained earlier. God can do that if He wants. Don't argue like an atheist.
How could a mere man remember so much? He was inspired by God, as explained earlier.
How could a man’s writing style differ during different parts of his life? The same way yours does when you write a letter to your mother when you’re 11 years old and when you write a theological debate entry when you’re 60.
So what else do these men have? We have yet to see any argument, just authorities.

As for how I know that the Bible is the Word of God, I presented several arguments in my opening statement. Saaib is running out of time to address them substantively. He has not done so; he has merely waved his hands and said “no, that’s not right” or in some cases offered incompetent arguments which he did not rescue from the defeaters I offered, even though he had the opportunity in his second statement.

Due to his ignorance of textual criticism, Saaib may have gotten lost on the idea of “a copy”, as he says in his question. Nobody is claiming that any one extant MSS copy is the Word of God. The quality and preferability of a given MSS copy depends on various factors, including its age. Older, ie, closer to the original writing is better, all other things being equal. However, all other things are never equal. What textual stream it comes from matters. Whether it contains unique or rare readings matters. Etc.
Textual criticism is complicated and I don’t pretend to be anything close to an expert, but I do know enough to know that Saaib is offering to us a line of double standards and poor thinking.

I’ve already done this, but in the hopes of getting through to Saaib, let me reiterate.
How does Saaib know that he has 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God? I know he thinks he does, but let’s discuss some points of doubt.

How does he know that:
1) Mohammed correctly repeated what he heard from Jibril?
2) Mohammed's companions correctly heard him?
3) These companions correctly remembered what they heard over the course of decades?
4) Those that listened to the companions correctly remembered?
5) These guys correctly wrote it all down?
6) Important parts of the written documentation wasn't lost at some point?
7) Satan didn't influence one or more of those who wrote down what he remembered to write down some false things? (Indeed, Mohammed himself recited revelation from Satan and later recanted it.)
8) Uthman didn't have any evil ulterior motives when collecting all the Qur'anic MSS?
9) Uthman didn't burn the wrong MSS?

There are all these places where any critic who took on naturalistic presuppositions could "destroy" the idea of Qur'anic reliability. The point is that Saaib has to trust God to preserve what he wanted to say, and I'd like to ask him, when he is arguing against the debate resolution, to stay consistent and allow me to trust God where we cannot speak from direct observation and evidence, about deep history.

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The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - Saaib's 1st Cross-Examination Question

What exactly is the word of God? If I hold a copy of Quran in my hand, I will have no problem in saying that this Arabic Text, in here, is 100 % the unaltered, pure Word of God (notice my words). No matter whose translation it is, I will be able to do it. Thus I will be able to present to you a document which according to me is 100% the unaltered, pure word of God. No matter you agree with me or not, but I will be able to do it. Can you do the same. Can you tell us that so and so Greek, or Hebrew, or Aramaic, or English is 100 % the unaltered, pure word of God. Can you please tell us exactly that this copy of the text is 100% the unaltered, pure word of God. While doing so, do give us a reason for the same. At the same time you should also be consistent with mainstream Christianity.

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The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - Saaib's first cross-examination answer

There couldn't have been a better question than this one. Before I answer I want make it clear that my answer won't be for a "Reformed Baptist" but for Christians as a whole. The reason:

"...It is difficult to answer, “What is a Reformed Baptist church?”. In the first place, it is difficult to answer because the terms Reformed and  Baptists are often seen to be at odds with one another. Secondly, there exists an ever-widening gulf between churches that call themselves Reformed Baptists...."

Jim Savastio, PastorReformed Baptist Church of Louisville

What parts of the Bible that we have today were revealed by God?

From historical point of view none of its part is from God. As far as Islam is concerned, there are varying opinions. One is that it is a corrupted revealed scripture while the other opinion is that it is not a revealed scripture at all. I personally hold on to the second opinion.

How exactly do I know that this is the case?

What did God reveal?

The names of the four known scriptures are 'the Tawraat', 'the Zabur', 'the Injeel' and 'the Quran'. 'The Torah' was revealed to Prophet Moses (Peace be upon him) not that it was written by him. The Zabur was revealed to Prophet David (Peace be upon him), not that it was written by him. 'The Injeel' which Allah revealed to Prophet Jesus (Peace be upon him), not that it was written by him.

What do we have?

We have five books of Moses which are supposed to have been written by Moses. We have the Psalms which are again supposed to have been written by David while parts of it are from other authors. We have the NT which is, in no way, written by Jesus.

The Biblical books and the Islamic position:

The Five Books which are supposed to have been written by (not revealed to) Moses is not the Tawraat (which the Quran talks about) nor were they written by Moses nor were they revealed to Moses.
As for Psalms which are supposed to have been written by (not revealed to) David is not the Zabur (which the Quran talks about) nor were they written by David nor were they revealed to David.
NT according to Christians themselves has no book attributed to Jesus.

The Evidence:

Books of Moses: The script of Pentateuch was lost which was was found by a priest called Hilkiah. This is not to be believed solely on the grounds that it was found by a priest. Apart from this fact, it again disappeared before invasion of Jerusalem by Nebuchdbezzar. Some Christians have it that it was rewritten by Ezra (which proves that it is Pentateuch of Ezra, not Moses), this book was burnt along with its copies by Antiochus.
We do not find a single place in the Pentateuch which can indicate that the author of this book is Moses or that it was revealed to him. In fact the thirst person has been used for Moses at every place. Moreover, how could Moses have written his own Obituary.
Dr. Alexander Gides says in his introduction to the New Bible (Quoted in Volume 10 of Penny Encyclopedia, also produced in Khulasa Saiful-Muslimeen):
"....I have come to know three things beyond any doubt.......
1. The present Pentateuch is not the book of Mosses........"
Psalms: We do not find any documentary evidence to show a particular man to be its writer. The period of collection of Psalms is also debated (not known actually). Are the Psalms prophetic? Not known. Infact, ancient Christians themselves believed Psalms to have been a work of many hands (with some exceptions though). Writers like Origen believe that Psalms were written by David. Writers like Hilary, Athnasius, Jerome and Eusebius have refuted this view:

"....undoubtedly the former statement is altogether wrong....."

Psalms have a colorful history. One group has it that more than 30 Pslams are from unknown authors (Hilary, Anthasius). Some say that some of the Pslams are from Moses (Eusebius). Jerome has attributed Psalm 88 to Heman and Psalm 89 to Ethan (and none of them is David). Cornet tells us that not more 45 Pslams can be attributed to David. Horne tells us that Psalms have been written by not less than 11 people. Collins' R.S.V. 1971. Pages 12-17 confirms the above facts in the following words:

"....PSALMS: AUTHOR. Principally David, though there are other writers....."

NT: Nothing needed to be said about the books which NT contains because what we need is the Gospel which Jesus preached not what we have (i.e The Biographical accounts, The Acts of Apostles, Pauline Epistles etc.)

What about the truth in the Bible?

There are many verses in the Bible that can be attributed to God but one think that is to be remembered is that they weren't revealed to the particular author who wrote them. The author just put them in his writings. The Bible is actually a written account of Oral Traditions, some of which were right (and can be attributed to God) and some of which were wrong (which can't be attributed to God).

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.

Bible as a Historic Document:

Bible can't even be taken into consideration as a Historical document as to check what the earliest followers of the scripture believed. The reason is the corruption of the scripture. We have only error ridden copies (of the Bible), and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways. We don't have a possible way of knowing the originals (as a historian, as a theologian Quran can help us).

The problem within Christianity (and Judaism):

What exactly is your scripture. Example: the majority of Psalms frequently different in the Masoretic and Septuagint traditions, or missing in one while present in the other.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Conversing with Roman Catholic Phillip Jude

Some comments I left over at Triablogue.


It is totally licit for us to part ways on many subjects. 

How do you know when it is licit to disagree with the Pope and when it is not?

what does it mean to "repent"? What is "baptism"? 

Repent is "metanoia" in the Greek and signifies turning away. From sin and the old man, specifically.
Baptism is what an adult does upon repenting and putting his faith in Christ, and carries all sorts of other meaning.
I don't get it; what's so hard about these? I'm sure you've read the NT. Why didn't you look there to answer your question?

There is real disagreement among Christians.

What is the connection between this statement and the previous one? So what? Do you presume that some people don't get things wrong, or that disagreement necessarily leads to unclarity of explanation? If it does, what of the many internal divisions within RCC?

Who's to say that really constitutes baptism, repentance, belief, salvation, and so on?

The Holy Spirit, in the Bible.

The Roman hierarchy isn't necessary for communion with Christ.

That's not what Cyprian and Boniface said.
These propositions are not nearly as simple as you make them seem. There is real disagreement among Christians. If there wasn't, there wouldn't be dozens of non-Protestant sects. Who's to say that really constitutes submission to the Magisterium?

The Roman hierarchy...is merely a necessary evil

Wow, the only thing I'd change about that is to remove the "necessary". The rest is greatly appreciated.

God Himself could not prevent a monstrous bureaucracy, given the circumstances!

Why do you not have a problem with a "monstrous bureaucracy, given the circumstances" but do have a problem with some levels of disagreement among believers, given the circumstances?

If...the papacy was permanently and utterly erased, I believe the Church would remain united.

Could you please define "united"? Since you lack monolithic beliefs on many important doctrines, as you yourself have even illustrated here, what real meaning does that word have?
1/19/2012 10:46 AM 


I put great trust in a man like Irenaeus

YOu mean you put great trust in what you think Irenaeus wrote and meant throughout his life. That's not the same thing.
You don't know that what Irenaeus said is what the church of his time believed.
You don't know how what Irenaeus wrote was received by other churches. Any mere claims to "we believe thus" are not necessarily true. Not without proof, and more proof than Irenaeus' say-so.
You don't know whether Irenaeus was held in the highest respect by his contemporaries. Maybe you're reading the Charles Stanley of their time - not really all that bad, but quite shallow compared to others, most of the time.
You don't know whether you have all Irenaeus' writings, or even what % his today-extant writings form of the total things he wrote over his lifetime. Thus you don't know if he ever took it all, or part of it, back.
You don't know whether what Irenaeus said in public or in private teachings actually comports with the extant writings you have.
You don't take everything that is extant from Irenaeus and believe it. You believe only the parts that the modern Roman Catholic Church has dogmatised and accepted for modern times. Why call him a "Church Father" at all? Seems to me a traditional nomenclature that fails to take the above into consideration, fails to think through the divide between what he believed and what modern Rome believes, and has served as a useful tool for you, so you decided to keep it. And it is useful - citing "Fathers" sounds so imperial, so high-fallootin', so mysteriously powerful, that often it causes a brain block within the mind of the Sola Scripturist. I myself have experienced this many times.

Hope you don't mind my input.


he was not the Pope when he wrote "Called to Communion"

Does becoming Pope somehow supernaturally grant that one's arguments become better?

the Church allows significant latitude except on issues that are de fide or ex cathedra.

How do you know? How do you know you haven't mistaken what "the Church" allows?
How do you know that the resource(s) you read that expressed that idea to you were not actually outside the pale of acceptable Roman orthodoxy?

The New Testament is not a theological handbook. It was clearly not intended to be an exhaustive explanation of doctrine and dogma. 

And yet it pretty expressly lays out those topics. It's really not that hard.

The definitions you provided are still open to many questions.

So is the code of Canon Law, and it's many 1000s of pages. I don't see what that has to do with anything.

For instance, if the Bible is so clear on the matter of baptism, why can't Protestants settle on a single description of the sacrament? 

1) B/c some people get it wrong. We just went over this.
2) If the Roman Magisterium is so clear on the matter of abortion, why can't RCs settle on a single position on it?
3) You were just a second ago telling me that the Church allows significant latitude except on issues that are de fide or ex cathedra. Why are you acting differently toward my position? Why can't you be consistent?

Get a Catholic, an Orthodox, a Lutheran, a Calvinist, and a Baptist in the same room and ask them about the Eucharist.

True (except that there are Calvinist Baptists. I'm one.)
The Baptist one is correct.
You were just a second ago telling me that the Church allows significant latitude except on issues that are de fide or ex cathedra. Why are you acting differently toward my position? Why can't you be consistent?

bureaucracy is one thing; disagreement -- often intense and stark disagreement -- is quite another. They're two entirely different problems. 

Given that the NT expects disagreement (1 Cor 11:17-19) but knows nothing of a huge church bureaucracy, why wouldn't one be far more concerned about the latter?

We don't lack unity on the important questions

Who decides which questions are important?

1/19/2012 11:31 AM


Only when the Holy Spirit chooses to speak through him.

How can you distinguish between when the HS is and isn't speaking thru him?

Because honest debate has existed among Catholic scholars and theologians from the very start, genuine debate that nonetheless remained within the boundaries of orthodoxy. 

Debate doesn't exist w/o controversy and disagreement, but you've been trying to criticise Prot-ism for having controversy and disagreement. I don't understand what you've been getting at.

***How do you know you haven't mistaken what "the Church" allows?
How do you know that the resource(s) you read that expressed that idea to you were not actually outside the pale of acceptable Roman orthodoxy?* ***

You're getting absurd here. This is common sense. 

That will be my answer from now on whenever you ask me about disagreements between Prots about what the Bible teaches.
Until you provide a real answer, I figure yours is good enough for me.

**And yet it pretty expressly lays out those topics. It's really not that hard.***

Obviously not clear enough, or there would be no divisions among any Christians anywhere.

You're getting absurd here. This is common sense.

The Magisterium is crystal clear. Some Catholics simply choose to deny its plain and straightforward teaching. T

...and yet some RCs don't agree. Right?
Now, take that same reasoning, apply it to the Bible's teaching on Eucharist/baptism/repentance, and voilà! Your criticisms of Prot-ism are now neutered.

On such issues, the Church has established dogma, whereas Protestants cannot get on the same page whatsoever. 

The Bible is crystal clear on these issues. Some Prots simply choose to deny its plain and straightforward teaching.
You're getting absurd here. This is common sense.

***Who decides which questions are important? ***

Scripture and Tradition, as read and interpreted by the Church Universal across space and time.

Those aren't "who"s; they're "what"s. Please answer the question.

This discussion is difficult because we have such intensely different paradigms

Your double standards don't help.
1/19/2012 11:58 AM 


Hi Phillip,

Without a court of final appeal, how do Protestants settle disputes? 

We do. In terms of truth, it's the Bible.
In terms of authority, it's the Bible and the local church. Interestingly, that's what Jesus told us to do and how He told us to do it in Matthew 18.

Why would God allow the potential for such ambiguity in His Church?

Maybe ask Him, but not before reading and meditating on 1 Cor 11:17-19, Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, and the fact that you've admitted here that there exists plenty of ambiguity within the Roman communion.
So I don't know what you're getting at.

If I leave the Church, where do I go?

You're more than welcome at my Baptist church.

Why does the local Baptist church have greater legitimacy than the local Anglican church? 

You're asking one question and implying another, so I'll answer both.
First, the Baptist church has more b/c its teaching is more in agreement with the Scripture.
Second, to say the Baptist church has more is not at all to say that it solely has legitimacy and the Anglican ch doesn't have any. If the local Anglican ch gets it mostly right and gets a few small matters wrong, it's acceptable. It's not all or nothing.

If they are equally legitimate, why do denominations exist at all?

There are many answers to this, and I'm sure you could do some reading in history to find out.
As far as why I persist in my denomination and don't decry their continued existence, tell me what's wrong with them first. Don't appeal to some ambiguous abstract "disunity"; tell me concretely what the problem is.
I am credobaptist. My brother John Bugay is pædobaptist. I think he's wrong in that view, but that's as far as I'm concerned a tertiary doctrine. I don't want to baptise my kids and so I am Baptist, but I wouldn't have any problem worshiping at his local ch if there weren't a decent credobap local ch that were accessible to me. We have unity in the principal things, and that's what matters.

Catholics have many opinions on many things, but the major issues (those relevant to salvation) are set in stone by twenty centuries of consistent teaching.

1) Sola Scripturists have many opinions on many things, but the major issues (those relevant to salvation) are set in stone by twenty centuries of consistent teaching.
2) The claim to "twenty centuries of consistent teaching" is only possible to make when you grossly cherry-pick teachings NOW, identify the ones you chose as "these are our Sacred Tradition, and those other parts aren't" NOW, and then look back and say "See? Consistent!"
That's hardly impressive. Anyone can cherry-pick.
Far better to choose a view like Sola Scripura wherein we recognise that the church throughout time has been variable, unstable at times, and full of disagreements. All things are to be judged by Scripture. Simple.
1/19/2012 12:55 PM 


On the other hand, Protestants rage over matters big and small, issues irrelevant and relevant to salvation

So do Roman Catholics.
The ones that you disagree sufficiently with you'll simply write out of the Roman communion, but you don't have any authority to do that; only the Magisterium does, and the Mag doesn't do a whole lot of excommunicating and defining some really important doctrines infallibly.
So don't act like you're any better off. You're not.

And these fights are not just between denominations, but within them!

And these fights are not just between RCC and EOxy, but within Rome!

And, going back to the issue of authority, there is simply no genuine way of settling disputes except to beat one another over the head with the Bible.

And, going back to the issue of authority, there is simply no genuine way of settling disputes except to beat one another over the head with arcane Magisterial documents that often contradict each other.
Better to argue about the meaning of an infallible Scripture than about the fallible "clarifications" of evil men.

You simply cannot claim that the Bible is crystal clear. It contradicts reality. 

You simply cannot claim that the Magisterium is crystal clear. It contradicts reality.
See how easy the naked assertion game is? Why don't you give us an argument and show your true colors a little more clearly? Namely, it's clear you're not a big fan of the Bible. You love the RCC more than God's Word. Typical, really, and typically sad.

As I see it, you're just functioning as your own Magisterium. 

So are you; you have to interpret Magisterial pronouncements.
Phillip, do you realise that we've seen and dealt with these objections a thousand times? You're unfortunately not breaking any new ground here. I wonder when online RCs are going to come up with some progression in the debate.

What you're really saying is this: "My reading of the Bible is crystal clear. Some Prots simply choose to deny its plain and straightforward teaching." 

What you're really saying is this: "My reading of the Magisterium is crystal clear. Some Roman Catholics simply choose to deny its plain and straightforward teaching."

If I need to choose between the Magisterium of Rhology and the ancient and venerable Magisterium of Rome

Thank God that's a false dilemma.
Thank God also that I haven't made any statement that would reasonably lead a person to that conclusion.

1/19/2012 12:55 PM 


The Bible is very dear to me, but so is the Church. I do not think the two can or should be divided or pitted against each other.

Unfortunately, when the church we're talking about is the Roman church, conflict is unavoidable.
If RCC took more pains to make their dogma comport with Scripture, you could easily say what you say here. *I* can say it, talking about my local Baptist ch (for the most part; nobody's perfect), b/c my Baptist ch's doctrine is in line with Scripture.
Rome's is not, and that's perhaps no more clearly seen than when Roman apologists like yourself go to great trouble to deny the BIble's clarity when in fact the Bible claims clarity for itself.

I concede that a Catholic must "interpret" Magisterial teaching

Thus by your own yardstick, every RC is a Magisterium of one.
Or you could withdraw that silly "Magisterium of one" argument.

I do not think such teachings are nearly as complex or ambiguous as you make them seem. Most dissenting Catholics embrace heterodoxy out of willfulness, not confusion.

And aNOTHER double standard from you.
I do not think biblical teachings are nearly as complex or ambiguous as you make them seem. Most dissenting "Protestants" embrace heterodoxy out of willfulness, not confusion.

the Catholic system...while imperfect, is (a) Scripturally sanctioned 

You haven't really argued that, at least not in this combox.

preferable to the typical Protestant situation, which is doctrinal anarchy of a million miniature magisteriums.

And you've just conceded a few sentences ago that this argument is untenable.
What else you got?

I have already admitted that I am uncertain about papal infallibility

Wait, I thought RCism was preferable to the typical Protestant situation, which is doctrinal anarchy of a million miniature magisteriums. And now you're telling me you're embracing heterodoxy out of willfulness, not confusion?

thus I also entertain doubts about the exact nature of the Magisterium

It's clear that the Magisterium is your final authority, and you don't know what it is?
That's one seriously messed up worldview, my friend.

I know a number of people who have gone to Rome to settle all manner of contested issues.

I've got a very long list of some other issues the Magisterium could settle but never does.

Protestantism is, to my eye, guilty of countless mistakes and errors. 

So is Rome, and far worse actually. Nobody's claiming any church is perfect. The question is: Which one has it right?
1/20/2012 8:48 AM 


Where can I go to receive the Body and Blood of Christ?

Since Christ meant that we eat and drink His body and blood by believing in HIm and coming to Him in John 6, Rome is one place where you CAN'T go for that.
Like I said, my church is always available to you.

? What other congregation shows proper reverence to the God-bearer, the very vessel that carried the Word of God? 

Baptists (and Presbys) do. We show her PROPER reverence.
Rome, however, shows her undue and blasphemous reverence to her by elevating her at times above Jesus Himself and praying to her.

If that's what you think Catholicism comes down to, go spend a weekend at some lovely little rustic abbey chanting the liturgy of the hours with monks who have given their hearts, bodies, and minds fully to the Trinity.

It'd probably be easier (and more representative of practical RCism) to find a lovely little rustic abbey chanting the liturgy of the hours with monks who have given their hearts, bodies, and minds fully to Mary, Co-Redemptrix and Queen of Heaven, our savior from Jesus.

You are clearly more familiar with these apologetical debates than I am. I applaud your skill and erudition. Thank you for humoring me. This is not my turf. You have given me much to consider. Thank you again. God bless.

And thanks for coming by.
I encourage you to seek out answers to the challenges we've laid down here. I believe you'll find, if you search honestly and with a repentant heart, that these challenges have no answer in Rome, that you must come home to a church that loves and honors God's Word above its human reflection and puts its full faith in Christ alone to save.
1/20/2012 8:48 AM 

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - My 1st Cross-Examination Question

Saaib, in your opening statement, you made the following statement:
We have only error ridden copies (of the Bible), and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.

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?

Or does it?

After nineteen years on this planet, throughout which he endured shocking levels of ostracism, abuse and rejection, this week gay filmmaker Eric James Borges decided shit actually wasn't getting better and took his own life. In the It Gets Better video he shot one month ago, Borges describes his lifelong odyssey through various rings of hell-on-earth: he'd been teased since kindergarten, his parents tried to perform an exorcism on him when they learned he was gay, he was bullied throughout high school. (Source)

The "It Gets Better" crowd continues to act counterproductively, as they have increased the visibility of the gay agenda's campaign for super rights.  When has anyone proclaimed "Heterosexual History Month"?  If we are to celebrate historical achievements by remarkable people, why bring up their sexual orientation at all?  What difference does one's sexual orientation make in a great invention or discovery?  Who among us speaks in the following way: "Albert Einstein, a great mind and influential scientist, who was also heterosexual, is the originator of the theory of relativity"?

If people genuinely wish to discourage gay teen suicide, they very much need to rethink their basic assumptions concerning the subject and look at whether gay suicide has increased or decreased with its increased societal visibility and if there is even any direct relationship between the amount of bullying an individual receives and the likelihood that he will kill himself. While I'm sure it must feel very satisfying to blame everything on "homophobes" and insufficient societal admiration, the weight of observable evidence doesn't presently tend to indicate that they have much, if anything, to do with the actual problem.
In the meantime, whoever is behind the "It Gets Better" program should do a much more careful job vetting its spokesmen, since at the moment, it looks an awful lot like an inadvertant homosexual suicide campaign straight out of the movie Heathers. All they need is a video featuring a cheesy 80s band singing "Gay teen suicide, don't do it!" Recruiting unstable young men to lie to teenage boys simply isn't a long-term prescription for success.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - My Second Rebuttal

Saaib begins his rebuttal by disaffirming much reliance on Bart Ehrman's work on textual criticism, and then continues in the same paragraph to affirm that's precisely what he meant to say. Saaib may be a bit confused by Ehrman's contentions.

Saaib says:
I argued that we have copies which are separated from their sources by centuries, that for me means we don't know what exactly the words of God were

But what is the argument, if not Ehrman's? Saaib hasn't made any other argument really, so his denial makes little sense.

Saaib did not respond to the points I made about how Ehrman's argument, if true, destroys the foundations of any trust in the Qur'an as well as the Bible. What is Saaib's answer to Ehrman?

Saaib says:
The argument was on "canons" not what the content is.

A discussion of canon is precisely that - discussion about content.
Saaib needs to let us know why the fact that certain different religious groups accept different canons of Scripture leads necessarily to a conclusion that we don't know what the Bible should be.
After all, there are those who in the past accepted different versions of the Qur'an. Uthman destroyed the copies made by dissenters. So, since no ubiquitous biblical purge exists in Christian history, that's a black mark against the Bible's reliability? Doesn't that, rather, strengthen the Christian position, since we have wide competition and yet still have soberly-considered and scholarly reasons to accept the canon we do accept? No one person, not even one large organisation, has ever had even close-to-exclusive control over the biblical MSS. This independent dispersion of information into the world allows cross-examination of MSS one of another and precludes the possibility of collusion for altering all MSS copies.

I quoted 2 Peter to refute Saaib's tendentious characterisation of "tickled by Holy Spirit". I'm sorry he forgot what he originally said, but Saaib should remember that this is not merely Peter, but God Himself, speaking.

Saaib thinks that S2:75 refutes my point, but it does not. It says "while a **party of them** used to hear the words of Allah and then distort the Torah".
Yes, exactly, I'm happy to concede that A PARTY distorted the Torah. Where's the specific identification of this group? Why does aya 76 set this group apart from "the men of Faith"?
If a Bukhari hadith explains that this does refer to Christians/Jews, how are we to understand the way the context teaches otherwise? And what of the other ayat I quoted in which Allah says that none can alter his words?
Saaib attempts to say that the words of Allah and the scripture of Ahlul Kitab are two different things, but that's not what the Qur'an says. I cited numerous ayat in my opening statement in which the Qur'anic teaching is that the People of the Book were to check the Qur'an in light of the Taurat and Injeel, that the Qur'an is a confirmation thereof. How can Saaib resolve this contradiction?
His later point about the Qur'an's not confirming LXX or the "Pope Damascus Canon" is quite obscure; I don't see the relevance.
Finally on this point, note the deep and profound faith that one must have to accept the Islamic position here. Saaib appeals to something that "Az-Zuhri said that `Ubadydullah bin `Abdullah narrated that Ibn `Abbas said". And this is better and more reliable than the thousands of biblical MSS to which we have access?

I do not understand Saaib's "argument" regarding the donkey. However, he seems to think that my argument that God does not answer to human criticism is "busted". He did not say how so.

He neither provides sound exegetical reasons to expect not-yet-fulfilled prophecies to be already fulfilled, nor correctly understands those that I explained, nor overturns my contention that we must trust God over "history", but merely asserts my position is wrong.

Saaib provides no alternative for what Jesus might have thought He was quoting when He quoted from and alluded to the OT.

In his 1st statement, Saaib quoted some guy asserting Mohammed is found in the Bible. However, naked assertions from obscure Internet personalities are not necessarily sound arguments. Where is Saaib's exegetical argument?

It's unclear how my argument that no one can change God's words is "busted".

Now, a few items to clean up from his first rebuttal:
-Apparently if Saaib were God, he wouldn't have inspired all 4 Evangelists to mention the donkey on which Jesus rode, but he doesn't tell us why or why that matters.

-Cain got his wife from others of Adam and Eve's children - Genesis 5:4.

-Saaib gives us no evidence that Cain stayed in the city he built after building it.

-Jeremiah 36:30 refers to God's promise to end Jehoiakim's royal line. Jehoiachin sat on the throne three months and Jehoiakim's brother took his place after Jehoiachin was captured.

-I and many others call Jesus "Immanuel". Seems like the prophecy was fulfilled just fine.

-God could easily inspire Moses to write about his own death before it happened. God sees the future as easily as the past and present. Or the passage could have been written by later prophets. Why would we think God could not do that?

-The Torah’s existence is not known historically before King Josiah if you beg the question by preemptively rejecting the veracity of the OT. Yet the OT makes numerous references to OT Israelites consulting the Law, knowing the Law, etc.

-Saaib claims the Torah was burned by Antiochus but doesn't give any evidence.

(Word count: 969)
(Link to comment repository post)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Consistent Abolitionist: The Extreme Case of Dr Gisella Perl (Part 2)

Having set the stage and described the context of Dr Gisella Perl's controversial actions in Part 1 of this series, let us proceed to their multifaceted analysis.

The Nazi butchers bear the most blame

Abolitionists of human abortion have made it clear from the beginning that the principal reason to oppose human abortion is that it is nothing less than an assault on the image of God in human beings. It is murder. It is a refusal to submit to God's commandments with respect to how we are to treat other humans; namely, to love them as we love ourselves. Murder is in fact the exact opposite of loving others as we love ourselves.

This is what makes the Nazis' actions so horribly detestable, and this is why modern abortionists' attitudes toward very young humans mirror so closely the Nazis' attitudes toward humans of Jewish ethnicity. (We are oversimplifying the scope of the "Final Solution" for the sake of argument. We are fully aware that other people-designations were singled out for elimination.)

The Nazis arbitrarily ruled out of full humanity a specific segment of human beings. Simply by virtue of their being Jewish, they were no longer to be considered human. Similarly, modern pro-choicers arbitrarily rule out of full humanity a specific segment of human beings. Simply by virtue of being very young and not looking like you and I do, they are not to be considered human. They are "clumps of cells", "products of conception", "uterus contents" etc.

The Nazis carried out an organised assault on the image of God in Jewish people on a scale and with a pointed ferocity that had never before been seen in human history. While modern abortionists have killed ten times that many human beings in the USA alone, it has also required a larger population and geographical area (and thus less population density) and around ten times as much time.

And even aside from the direct murders for which the Nazis are responsible, to reduce human beings made in the image of God to the point of basic survival mode, to withhold from them even the most basic decencies of human treatment, to surround them with death, decrepitude, and violent indifference, is to shoulder a great deal of the responsibility for whatever desperate measures those oppressed people might take. To oppress them for no other reason than their ethnicity is that much worse, in terms of the Nazis' own guilt as well as the provocation of what more "civilised" people (ie, people who have never been in that situation) might call sub-human behavior.

Dr Perl bears some blame

Step inside Dr Perl's shoes, living in Auschwitz, among squalor and death, having seen a terrible and nearly-infallible pattern emerge - pregnant women either burn to death or endure vivisection.
Perl's motivation is defensible - she knew with high probability that the babies and mothers would be experimented upon and the final outcome would be much worse than otherwise.
It was once rightly said of Perl and the situation: "Everyone did things that in normal situations they would never do."

Perl's nearly uniform experience was that pregnant women got especially brutal attention, such that their pregnant status meant their deaths were nearly certain. If they were not pregnant, their death probabilities returned to around the same level as the other death camp prisoners.
Thus, average death camp prisoner's probability of death = elevated.
Average pregnant death camp prisoner's probability of death = extremely high.

Balance that, however, against the fact that it is better to suffer evil than to do evil. The moral dilemma thus arises from the conflict of two prima facie moral duties:
D1:  One ought to help those who are very likely to be killed in the near future, and take measures to prevent their death.
D2:  One ought not to purposefully kill innocent human beings.

The dilemma in this context arises from the problem that to fulfill D1, Dr Perl had to purposefully kill innocent human beings, which violates D2.  In order to fulfill D2, Dr Perl would have had to stand by and watch pregnant women be tortured and killed at the hands of Josef Mengele, which violates D1.  Obviously, this is not an easy choice.  This raises the question of whether or not a solution can be found to the dilemma, on the abolitionist position.

It is important to note that both D1 and D2 are predicated upon the value of human life, and the importance of preserving it.  This is especially true in the context of Judeo-Christian ethics, which was a part of Perl's ethnic and cultural heritage.  Thus, D1 and D2 are expressions of a more fundamental duty, D0.

D0:  One ought to preserve innocent life.

However, it is a violation of D0 to attempt to fulfill D1 by purposefully taking an innocent life.  Thus, the scope of D1, as stated, is too broad for D1 to be coherent with D0.  If D1 is to be kept consistent with its fundamental life-honoring purpose, then it should be reformulated in a manner such as D1', to eliminate these kinds of self-defeating scenarios:

D1':  One ought to help those who are very likely to be killed in the near future, and take measures to prevent their death, short of purposefully killing innocent human beings.

D1' and D2 are not in conflict in the Perl scenario, as D1' does not mandate an action that violates D2, and neither does D2 mandate an action that violates D1'.  As holding D1' and D2 together would have resulted in Dr. Perl refusing to perform abortions, the combination of holding D1' and D2 as an expression of D0 is consistent with the abolitionist position.

One might complain, however, that this is unsatisfactory in the context of Auschwitz.  After all, if Dr Perl had refused to perform abortions, what else could she have done?  The answer is that she probably could not have done much.  She certainly could have refused to tell the camp doctors that the women were pregnant, and perhaps tried to hide the signs of their pregnancy.  But in an environment such as Auschwitz, there was not much that could be done to escape Nazi brutality.

This brings us back to the question of moral responsibility: would Dr Perl have been morally responsible (or culpable) in any sense, if she had refused to perform the abortions?  If there had been no other means available to her (or to her knowledge), short of performing abortions, for sparing the pregnant women of Auschwitz horrific torture and death at the hands of Mengele, would she have been morally culpable to have refused to act (by performing abortions)?  The answer is no.  The moral responsibility of the deaths of both the mother and child lay solely at the hands of the Nazis.  They were the ones seeking the deaths of these innocent Jews.  They were the ones who had no respect for innocent life.  To put it more generally:

C1: It is not a morally culpable act to refuse to purposefully kill an innocent person in order to try to prevent a murderer from murdering another innocent person.

The moral culpability for the deaths lies with the murderer intent on killing both, not the person who could try to foil the murderer's plans by killing one of them ahead of time.  Thus, we conclude that Dr Perl was not morally obligated to perform the abortions.

This brings us to the other side of the issue: was Dr Perl morally culpable for performing the abortions?  Was there any sense in which her actions were morally justified?  To answer these questions, one must consider the intent of Dr Perl's actions, and then the actions themselves.  Dr Perl is to be commended for her desire to save life and prevent the pregnant women of Auschwitz from experiencing further pain and suffering.  While there is something in the intent of Dr Perl's actions that is commendable, that does not mean that the actions themselves are commendable.  A particular type of act may be morally unjustified, but that does not mean that all instances of that type of act bear equal moral culpability.

For example, the legal system distinguishes between acts causing the death of human beings that are intentional and unintentional.  In the case of unintentional deaths, the degree of negligence on the part of the defendant determines the degree of his culpability, and sentences are meted out accordingly.  In the case of intentional deaths, the intent of the defendant determines his culpability, and sentences are meted out accordingly.  Murder committed in the passion of the moment is considered a lesser offense than a premeditated murder committed in cold blood.  So also would we consider that purposefully killing another human being out of a desire to save life (especially in an environment of such death and suffering, where thinking straight would have been practically impossible) bears less moral culpability than purposefully killing another human being out of a rage, or in cold blood.

Thus, there are strong mitigating circumstances that reduce Perl's culpability in performing these abortions, but that does not mean that the abortions themselves are morally justified.  Inasmuch as D2 holds, then there is no circumstance in which abortion is justified.  More generally: 

: By D2, it is a morally unjustified and culpable act to purposefully kill innocent human beings.

In summary, C1 and C2 state the abolitionist position on the moral culpability of abortion in different contexts, and this is grounded on the combination of moral duties D0D1', and D2.  To recap:

1) There is no situation where abortion is morally obligatory, including Dr Perl’s situation in Auschwitz.
2) There is no situation where abortion is morally permissible, though there may be mitigating circumstances that reduce moral culpability in rare, extreme situations.

Principle (2) is especially applicable, as we observed in Part 1, when the surrounding environment is as bad as it was for Dr Perl. We balance the clarity of God's command not to murder against the unimaginable difficulty she must have undergone to think straight even about the most basic of issues when encircled by death and horror on every side.

Two analogies to consider

1) The example of a pregnancy that is extremely hazardous and is days from killing both the mother and the baby. In that case the surgery to save the mother's life is not an abortion; rather, it is a lifesaving procedure with the motivation of saving life. Cf Stand to Reason's excellent analysis.

2) A man hands you a loaded handgun and brings a person with a black bag over their head into the room. He instructs you to shoot this person. If you refuse, he informs you that he will kill not only that person but also that person's mother, and not quickly with a round to the head, but slowly with a knife and a blowtorch.

Some things to note:

-What if some of these babies were aborted mere days before the liberation of the death camp by Allied forces and the relief of these women's suffering? The problem with the business of predicting the future is that we humans cannot do so. How does the doctor know that the high-risk pregnancy will kill the mother and the child? And how did Dr Perl know that any individual pregnant woman would without question be put to death by the Nazis? She did not, and modern doctors do not know until much later than many would like to admit.

-One major difference between the two scenarios is the potential reaction time. In a high-risk pregnancy, a woman who is determined to do all she can to carry her baby to term and give him the best chance at life may put herself under close medical supervision. If the situation becomes unsustainably dangerous to the point that the mother's life will be lost within a matter of hours (or less) and an operation must be performed to save the mother's life, yet the life of the child cannot be preserved, then we would say it is justifiable to save the mother's life, and we mourn the loss of the child as a de facto miscarriage.

On the other hand, taking it upon oneself to commit the murder that another was going to carry out does not excuse the deed. Someone in Dr Perl's position must balance on the one hand:
  • the culpability of killing an innocent person to prevent the probable, more painful death of that person and another, versus, on the other hand:
  • the culpability of obeying God's command not to murder and thus doing nothing to prevent the probable two murders by someone else's hand and leaving the consequences to God.
-In #1 the motivation is the same as Dr Perl's - to save one life rather than seeing two lost.  We must remember, however, that such a surgical procedure is not designed to purposefully kill the unborn baby (whose death is an undesired consequence), while the act of abortion is purposefully designed to kill the unborn child.  Purposefully killing an innocent human being, even for such a noble end as saving human life, is something that is not morally justifiable (per the previous analysis).

Thus we conclude our analysis of the morality of Dr Perl’s actions. Yes, it is very complicated, and that’s part of the point. We have the benefit of the Internet, advanced education, email, cell phones, and freedom of movement and association with which to analyse in depth such questions as these. Dr Perl had some dirty towels and her bare hands.

Dr Perl's idea of God was faulty

That said, Dr Perl did not trust God to be sovereign, as He has revealed Himself to be.
One of the Ten Commandments is: Thou shalt not murder. No mitigating circumstances are named. No "...unless someone pushes you really, really hard".

Let's be honest - we here in the modern West, we modern Christians fail all the time. The tests and trials we experience are nothing like Dr Perl's trials. We fail to trust God.

Dr Perl also failed to trust God. Ultimately, we can trust God to do what brings Him glory, above anything else. Along the way, He will do and let happen many things that are difficult for us to understand. God knows everything. Even such evil as the Holocaust occurred for God's purposes, and will result in His glory. If we are inclined to argue, when we stop and soberly consider, what % of all knowledge do we possess? Can we hope to achieve 0.1% of all that there is to know?

Further, God is perfectly good and knows best what is perfectly good. We trust Him to define good for us. With what moral standard will we judge God? Can we talk back to Him, inform Him that He really didn't know how bad a situation we were in when we decided to violate the commandment not to murder (cf Job 38:1-7 and Job 40:7-14)?

God owes nothing to any of His creation. Yet in her post-Holocaust obstetrics career, Dr Perl made a habit of saying, as she prepared to deliver another baby: "God, you owe me a life - a living baby."

This is understandable, but it is wrong. The Bible clearly describes human beings as guilty, rebel sinners, who routinely spit in God's face and refuse to obey His law. Every second we live, every breath we draw, all is because of God's grace.

Rather, let us give thanks in all things to God for any blessing. What we fallen sinners actually deserve, outside of God's grace, is an eternity of Holocausts.

Dr Perl regretted the necessity of her actions, whereas most modern pro-choicers do not

The statements we have highlighted from her interviews illustrate the vast difference between her attitude toward what she thought she had to do and the general attitude of modern Western people toward abortion. Some are radically supportive of a "woman's right to choose" and celebrate it to a sickening degree. Some set their jaws and harden their gaze when the issue is brought up, ready to defend women from what they consider the oppression of carrying out one of their bodies' God-given, God-designed, and frankly quite amazing functions - that of assembling a new human inside their own bodies. Some shrug away the responsibility, figuring that women are going to have sex, and that it's probably better to go ahead and trim off some societal dead weight rather than allow everyone the chance to be born.

Dr Perl knew and confessed that the Nazis were ending two lives when they sent those pregnant women to the crematorium, and added:
No one will ever know what it meant to me to destroy those babies, but if I had not done it, both mother and child would have been cruelly murdered.

1) Dr Perl was aborting these babies before their mothers' pregnancies became visible, which means that Dr Perl believed that what some call "fetuses" or "products of conception" - very young babies at a very early stage of development - were babies, which she was destroying.
2) One does not murder an appendix, a part of the mother's body. Nor does one murder a non-person or a non-human.

65 years later, busy professionals earn $6-7 figures per year from women who, for the most part, don't want to alter their lifestyles just because they've gotten pregnant. Compare the environment of these women by looking around yourself right now. Is any element of your surrounding context comparable to Auschwitz?

The consistent abortionist's response

This question, while horrible to consider and yet important for a test for consistency, is quite answerable from within the abolitionist framework. The proponent of legalised baby murder, however, if s/he is to be consistent, should respond to this with a shrug. If the modern abortionist gets to arbitrarily choose to remove humanity from a given class of people (the very young), then so do the Nazis. What was so bad about the Holocaust, again? Those weren't humans in those death camps. Their society decided they weren't, so they weren't, just like those aren't humans inside the womb. Aborted babies' society has decided they aren't.

Nobody on the pro-choice side will accept this conclusion, but remember that this subsection is entitled "the consistent abortionists' response". The pro-choice position is fundamentally internally inconsistent.

The consistent abolitionist's response

When pushed to the extreme in probably the most awful, terrible situation that humanity has ever put itself outside the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, what what would any of us do? We'd like to think we would fulfill in our actions what we know to be right, but our own failings given far fewer challenges must give us pause and make as beg for God's mercy.

Yet we must not make hard and fast moral standards out of the most extreme cases. At most we can subject our moral compunctions to the scrutiny of an extreme situation and see if we are able to act our morality out consistently.

And the abolitionist position can do that, even in this case, which is thankfully exceedingly rare and extreme. We do not know how much suffering any life will hold in the future. We trust God to take care of that; we hold to and obey His command not to murder as well as His commands to love our neighbor as ourselves and to protect the weak and helpless.

What else can we learn?

That the exigencies of the 0.0001% of most extreme cases are not well-suited for creating normative ethics for the remaining 99.999% of cases.
That abortion is unjustifiable even if committed by someone many regard as a hero or angel. This is at its base nothing more than an argument from authority.

That the dissimilarities between Dr Perl's situation, motivations, and moral assessment of her actions versus that of the modern pro-abortion movement are so vast as to make her case far more powerful a defense of the abolitionist position than of modern abortioneering.

That a robust abolitionist position can deal consistently with the worst horrors of human existence and emerge with its moral authority and prophetic admonition intact.

(Please leave any comments at the cross-post at the Abolitionist Society blog.)