The debate on the so-called “Assumption of Mary”. Sungenis sounds educated but is blinded by the Roman Catholic Church. Please pray for him.
The debate on the so-called “Assumption of Mary”. Sungenis sounds educated but is blinded by the Roman Catholic Church. Please pray for him.
This is a re-blog from Christianpublishing house.com
Edward D. Andrews
The name Lucifer, a Latin translation of the Hebrew word for “day star” occurs but one time (Isa. 14:12) in the Scriptures and only in some versions of the Bible. For example, the King James Version renders Isaiah 14:12: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”
The Hebrew word (hê·lēl) translated “Lucifer” means “light-bearing object in the sky, Shining One, i.e., Morning star or Day star, the planet Venus, prominent in the morning, referring to the majesty and high status of a king.”
The Septuagint uses the Greek word (ἑωσφόρος) that means “bringer of dawn.” Hence, some translations render the original Hebrew “morning star” (CSB, LEB) or “Daystar,” (ESV) or “son of the dawn.” (NIV, NASB) However, the Latin Vulgate of Jerome uses “Lucifer” (light bearer), and this is the reason for the appearance of that term in the King James Bible and other versions of the Bible.
ANGELSThe expression “shining one,” or “Lucifer,” is found in what Isaiah prophetically commanded the Israelites to proclaim as a “taunt [or proverb] against the king of Babylon.” Therefore, it is part of a proverb essentially focused on the Babylonian empire. That fact that the description “shining one” is directed at a man and not Satan (i.e., a spirit person) is further seen by the declaration: “you will be thrust down to Sheol.” “Sheol [is] the Underworld, Hades, the Grave, i.e., a place under the earth where the dead reside, the realm of death.” Furthermore, the following verse from Isaiah 14:16 states, “Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms.’” Unquestionably, “Lucifer” refers to a human, not to Satan, a spirit person. – Isaiah 14:4, 15-16.
Why is such a prominent description given to the Babylonian empire? We must understand that the king of Babylon was to be declared the shining one only after his fall and it was in an insulting remark, in a contemptuous way. (Isaiah 14:3) Selfish pride moved Babylon’s kings to glorify and elevate themselves above everyone else and every kingdom around them. So great was the arrogance of this empire that it is described as boasting: “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” – Isaiah 14:13-14.
second coming Cover AMERICA IN BIBLE PROPHECY_ BLESSED IN SATAN’S WORLD_02 Identifying the AntiChrist
“The stars of God” are referring to the kings of the royal line of David. (Numbers 24:17) From King David forward, these “stars” ruled from Mount Zion. King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem; after that, the name Zion came to apply to the whole city. Under the Mosaic Law, all male Israelites were required to travel to Zion three times a year. Thus, it became “the mount of assembly.” By plotting to enslave the Judean kings and then eliminate them from that mountain, Nebuchadnezzar was disclosing his intention of putting himself above those “stars.” Instead of giving God praise and honor for the conquest of Jerusalem and Judea, he arrogantly puts himself in God’s place. Thus, it is after being humiliatingly cut down to the earth that the Babylonian empire is mockingly referred to as the “shining one.”
The pride of the Babylonian rulers positively reflected the attitude of “the god of this world,” Satan the Devil. (2 Corinthians 4:4) He also strongly desires power and longs to place himself above God. However, Lucifer is definitely not a name that was Scripturally given to Satan. First, let us read for the context,
Isaiah 14:12-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O shining one, son of dawn!
How you have been cut down to the earth,
you who have conquered the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;[q]
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you
and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
who shook kingdoms,
17 who made the world like a desert
and overthrew its cities,
who did not let his prisoners go home?’
18 All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
each in his own house.
19 but you are cast out, away from your grave,
like an abhorrent branch,
clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword,
who go down to the stones of the pit,
like a dead body trampled underfoot.
20 You will not be united with them in burial,
because you have destroyed your land,
you have slain your people.
“May the offspring of evildoers
never again be named.
21 Prepare slaughter for his sons
because of the guilt of their fathers,
lest they rise and possess the earth,
and fill the face of the world with cities.”
Now, on this The New American Commentary says,
14:12 The introductory “How” (ʾîk) in 14:12 (repeating 14:4b) marks the beginning of this new paragraph, reminding the audience that this is a lament for a dead person who has fallen (cf. the lament for Saul in 2 Sam 1:19). The lament mourns the humiliation of one who formerly enjoyed a high position. Being cast down to earth implies a loss of power, status, self-determination, and influence. The “morning star” (lit. “shining one,” hîlēl) probably refers to Venus, which is the “son of the dawn,” the morning star that was sometimes used to represent a divinity in ancient Near Eastern religion. This analogy indicates how high this Babylonian king had raised himself up and how far he would fall. Similarly, religious and political leaders today who claim for themselves undue power and authority will need to resist the temptation to think that they control everything (setting themselves up as gods), lest God cause them to suffer the same humiliating fate.
14:13–14 Why did this morning star fall? An attitude of selfish pride led to an attempt to usurp someone else’s authority. The “I will” clauses trace his arrogant actions: (a) He moved from his proper place to putting his throne above other heavenly beings (“the stars of El”). (b) He enthroned himself in the meeting of the divine assembly on a sacred mountain in the north. (c) He ascended above the clouds. (d) He made himself like the Most High God. Several of these concepts run parallel to stories in myths in ancient Near Eastern religions where one god fought with another god in order to gain greater power and sit on his throne. Some myths had the pantheon of gods assemble at meetings on the northern mountain of Zaphon. The intention of this arrogant morning star was to ascend over the clouds to become equal or higher than the highest deity Elyon. The behavior of the king of Babylon was parallel to what the morning star tried to do, though the poem does not reveal exactly what this king did. In essence he tried to rule the world by supplanting God.
14:15–21 The beginning of the previous paragraph about the morning star indicates that pride led to failure and the arrogant one was eventually cast down to earth in shame (14:12). This new paragraph begins with ʾak similar to 14:4b and 14:12, but it applies this same fate to “you,” meaning the king of Babylon, because the king will end up in the same place as the morning star (14:15). Instead of replacing God in the heights of the sacred mountain in the north, the king of Babylon will go to Sheol, even to the remotest depths of the pit of Sheol. Elsewhere the “pit” is a synonym for Sheol (Ezek 26:20; 32:18–24), but here it seems to be a particularly distant place in Sheol, the furthest place one can get from the heights of heaven.
In light of the king’s great accomplishments and pride, the people on earth (or the kings in Sheol) will be astonished at how far this great king has fallen (14:16). He will be utterly humiliated and shamed by what will happen. Once he had the power to cause any nation to tremble in fear and could change the course of history for any city he might attack. He was a ruthless tyrant who could turn a defeated city into a desert place without inhabitants and he could treat people unmercifully (14:17). But now in Sheol he has absolutely no power to do anything at all.
A second sign of his humiliation is related to his disgraceful burial (14:18–19). His shameful treatment of others will come back to haunt him. Instead of having an impressive burial chamber or an elaborate gold-filled tomb dedicated in his honor like most kings, this king will have no glory at all after his death. He will have a dishonorable burial; there will be no royal tomb because he will be considered a “rejected, loathed” (nitʿāb) branch. This picture contrasts with the messianic shoot or sprout in 11:1; he is full of the Spirit and will rule the nations in justice.
Explaining the Doctrine of the Last ThingsThe imagery in 14:19 is not that clear. The idea of being “cast out of your tomb” does not coincide very well with the rest of the verse. Wildberger suggests that “the OT normally speaks of the corpse being ‘cast forth’ in situations in which no one is able to bury someone who has died or else no one wishes to do so (cf. 1 Kgs 13:24f; Isa 34:3).” Thus the whole verse seems to picture the Babylonian king as one among many who were slain in battle and left unburied by a victorious enemy. This great “shoot, branch” (a symbol of a king as in 11:1) will be loathed as his body rots among the dead bodies of fellow soldiers who died trying to defend the king. The state of the “trampled corpse” (kĕpeger mûbās) is unknown, but if a body was trampled underfoot by men or horses, this treatment would do grave injury to the corpse, desecrating and humiliating the dead. This kind of desecration of a dead body was especially shocking in the ancient Near Eastern world where honoring the dead was very important. To go unburied and be left on a battle field for the dogs and vultures to eat was the greatest fear of every soldier (Ezek 39:4, 17–20). Leaving people unburied was the ultimate way to disgrace their memory (Jer 22:19; 36:30). The spirits of those slain (including this proud king) will descend to the “stones of the pit,” an enigmatic phrase that probably does not refer to the practice of burying people by piling stones over them (Josh 8:29; 2 Sam 18:17). Stones always go down to the very bottom of any hole, so if one goes down to the stones, that person is as low as one can get in the pit of Sheol.
The Babylonian king’s final humiliation will involve being rejected by his people and family (14:20–21). Even if enemies might defeat a king in battle or shame a king at his death, usually his own people would rise up to defend his honor and support him. He would be considered a military hero who valiantly and sacrificially gave his life for his people. At the very least, the king’s own family would tell stories of his great character and honor his memory with monuments and parades. But this evil king will never receive even the slightest recognition from anyone, not even from his own offspring. This will happen because it will become very clear to everyone that the king’s selfish actions caused the destruction of his own nation and the deaths of thousands of his own people. Instead of blaming their destruction on their vile enemies, his own people will realize that the Babylonian king killed thousands of them by his foolish actions. Although leaders may be able to fool their followers for a time, eventually people can see through the rhetoric and realize that some leaders in the past and today are more interested in their own power than anything else. They really do not care if they destroy a nation, a company, a seminary, or a church; all they want to do is to further their own cause and create a name for themselves.
Consequently, the king’s ideal of being buried in the family tomb with his ancestors and children will not happen (14:20a). Instead, this king’s name and the name of his children will not be mentioned ever again. No one will want to remember the tremendous shame he brought on the nation, so every attempt will be made to remove his name. One way of wiping out a name is to kill all the children of the king, so that none of them will ever restore the family name to power (14:21; see 2 Kgs 10:17). The urgency of the situation is in the demand that “they must not rise and must not inherit the land.” The people themselves will conclude that it is best to exterminate this family line so that none of the king’s heirs will come back at a later time and try to make a legitimate claim to authority. A second reason why the children will be killed is because of the sins of their father. This indicates that evil and pride were characteristic of several Babylonian kings in this family. A third justification for this action is that the people did not want another king to follow the same pattern by going on the offensive again and trying to conquer all the cities on the earth (14:21b). It appears that the people just wanted to live in peace and were not interested in empire building by planting powerful Babylonian cities over the whole inhabited world.
Now, let us look at the Holman Old Testament Commentary,
14:11–19. Glittering royal robes gave place to hungry maggots and worms. This was all because of Babylon’s pride, trying to occupy the throne of God. The Babylonian king is mocked with a lament. The word How often introduces a statement of grief and bereavement. This lament is mockery, a song of joy. The evil king tried to portray himself as the morning star—that is, as the planet Venus understood by Israel’s neighbors as a god. Now such delusions of grandeur disappear in the realism of Sheol. What a fall! Certainly, he was not anything like the Most High.
This is not the fall of Satan, but the fall of a proud human being who tried to usurp divine authority and divine worship. One who wanted to join the assembly of the gods must content himself with a bed of worms. Even Sheol’s occupants stand amazed at such a fall from world domination to worm food. The situation was the same on earth. Babylon’s own people did not give him the normal honor of a common burial, much less a regal interment. He had to lie on the battlefield in the pile of battle casualties. Nor could he expect a king’s normal heritage—a son left on the vacated throne. Instead, his sons would never receive mention; they would vanish from history. The only dynasty Babylonia would establish would be in the realm of the dead.
CPH BIBLE EDUCATION
Another fine post by Dr. Dave Miller Ph.D, of Apologetics Press Copyright 2005
Violence and the Quran
by Dave Miller, Ph.D.
One would expect an uninspired book to contradict itself or speak ambiguously on various subjects, at times appearing both to endorse and condemn a practice. So it is with physical violence in the Quran. Yet, despite the occasional puzzling remark that may seem to imply the reverse, the Quran is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. For example, within months of the Hijrah, Muhammad claimed to receive a revelation that clarified the issue:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah 2:190-194, emp. added).
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah 22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explains the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah…. If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them…. And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not…. O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence…. It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, and let them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you” (Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even in self-defence [sic]…. (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword (2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
The Quran appears to have been somewhat influenced by the Law of Moses in this regard. For example, the Quran states: “If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted” (Surah 16:126). Similarly, “O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female…. And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil)” (Surah 2:178-179). One is reminded of the lex talionis [literally “law as (or of) retaliation”] of the Law of Moses. However, whereas the Quran appears to enjoin retaliation, the lex talionis were not intended to promote retaliation. Enjoining retaliation would be in direct conflict with the nature of God. God is never vindictive. The New Testament law does not differ with the Old Testament in the areas of proper values, ethics, mercy, and justice. The “eye for an eye” injunctions of the Old Testament were designed to be prohibitive in their thrust, i.e., they humanely limited and restricted legal punishment to a degree in keeping with the crime. That is, they prevented dispensers of justice from punishing too harshly or too much. They were intended to inculcate into Israelite society the principle of confining retribution to appropriate parameters.
The fact that the author of the Quran failed to grasp this feature of God’s laws is evident in various quranic injunctions: “As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise” (Surah 5:38, emp. added).
The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment…. And those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony—They indeed are evildoers (Surah 24:2,4, emp. added).
These latter verses conflict with Mosaic injunction on two significant points. First, on the one hand, it doubles the more reasonable and appropriate forty stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3)—a number that the Jews were so concerned not to exceed that they counted thirty-nine and stopped to allow for accidental miscount (2 Corinthians 11:24). On the other hand, this eighty increases to one hundred for adultery. Second, the requirement of four witnesses is an unreasonable number. The two or three witnesses of the Bible (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19) strikes a logical medium between the precariousness of only a single witness on the one hand, and the excessive and unlikely availability of the four witnesses required by the Quran.
It is true that the God of the Bible enjoined violent, armed conflict for the Israelites in the Old Testament. He did so in order to eliminate the morally corrupt Canaanite civilizations that inhabited Palestine prior to the Israelite occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12; Leviticus 18:24-25,27-28). There simply was no viable solution to their condition except extermination. Their moral depravity was “full” (Genesis 15:16). They had slumped to such an immoral, depraved state, with no hope of recovery, that their existence on this Earth had to be ended—just like in Noah’s day when God waited while Noah preached for years but was unable to turn the world’s population from its wickedness (Genesis 6:3,5-7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-9).
Additionally, since the nation of Israel was also a civil entity in its own right, the government was also charged with implementing civil retribution upon lawbreakers. However, with the arrival of New Testament Christianity—an international religion intended for all persons without regard to ethnicity or nationality—God has assigned to civil government (not the church or the individual) the responsibility of regulating secular behavior. God’s people who live posterior to the cross of Christ (i.e., Christians) are not charged by God with the responsibility of inflicting physical punishment on the evildoer. Rather, civil government is charged with the responsibility of maintaining order and punishing lawbreakers (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Observe Paul’s explanation of this dichotomy:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1-7, NKJV, emp. added).
One translation (NIV) renders the boldface type in the above quote “an agent of wrath to bring punishment.” But this assignment of judicial and penal retribution to the government is a contrast in Paul’s discussion with what he wrote in the three verses prior to this quotation:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21, NKJV, emp. added).
Notice that the very responsibility that is enjoined on the government, i.e., “an avenger to execute wrath” by use of the sword in 13:4, is strictly forbidden to the individual Christian in 12:19, i.e., “do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath.” To “give place to wrath” means to allow God’s wrath to show itself in His own appointed way that, according to the next few verses, is by means of the civil government.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is the submission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into all the world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “ ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder a substantial number of Muslims manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks…. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed…. And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. What though ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?…. So those who…fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).
Although the Bible does not directly mention the word “abortion”, one can conclude that abortion is wrong, directly from the pages of the Bible;
1. The Bible reads that it is wrong to murder a person.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.
19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”
2. The unborn are persons.
Luke 1: 44
4 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.
Psalm 51: 5
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
3. Jesus was a baby at conception.
Matthew 1: 20
“But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” The fact that the angel tells Joseph that “the Child who has been conceived” is “of the Holy Spirit” indicates that Jesus certainly was a person at the moment of conception.
4. The unborn are named children.
Luke 1: 41
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
5. Scripture states that children are protected by the same punishment as adults are.
Exodus 21: 21-23
“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life .
6. The unborn are known personally by God.
Jeremiah 1: 5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
The following verses support that God has the right to do with His creation as He desires:
Job: 37: 6-13
6 “For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
And to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong.’
7 “He seals the hand of every man,
That all men may know His work.
8 “Then the beast goes into its lair
And remains in its den.
9 “Out of the south comes the storm,
And out of the north the cold.
10 “From the breath of God ice is made,
And the expanse of the waters is frozen.
11 “Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud;
He disperses the cloud of His lightning.
12 “It changes direction, turning around by His guidance,
That it may do whatever He commands it
On the face of the inhabited earth.
13 “Whether for correction, or for His world,
Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.
Psalm 135: 6
6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
Mark 4: 11-12
1 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.”
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.
26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
There are many more scriptures to support God’s sovereignty.
Whenever a critic wants to suggest that God does not “predestine” individuals for salvation, you can defend the accusations by citing the following verses, and there are much more than these:
Act 2: 22-23; 22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Acts 4: 27-28; 27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
Romans 8: 29-30: 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Ephesians 1: 4-5; 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Does God love everyone? Scripture appears to contradict itself, or does it?
Read Psalm 5:5 The Boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity
Now read 1 John 4:8 “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love”
No God does not love everyone. So what about 1 John 4:8? It reads that “God is love” It is in God’s nature to love. It would be a paramount misunderstanding of the scripture to believe that God loves “everyone”.
He does not give a free pass to everyone. Read Romans 9: 15; For He says to Moses,”I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”
Please check out the website http://www.mrm.org/ for an informative site on the dangers of Mormonism. We must pray for the Mormon followers as they are being led down the road to hell by the tour guide Joseph Smith!
Mormonism Research Ministry
PO Box 1746, Draper, UT 84020-1746
(801) 572-2153 email@example.com
Here is a good article and good apologetical reference from Kyle Butt of Apologetics Press:
Defending the Bible’s Position on Prayer
by Kyle Butt, M.Div.
In their efforts to discredit the Bible, skeptics often attack its teachings concerning prayer. They claim that certain statements made by Jesus regarding prayer can be proven to be inaccurate, and thus all rational people should reject both Jesus and the Bible. Skeptics routinely quote Jesus’ words, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). After quoting this verse, the skeptic usually mentions praying parents who asked God, in the name of Jesus, to save their sick children; but the children died in spite of the prayer. The skeptic then argues that the children’s death is proof positive that Jesus was a liar and His statements about prayer cannot be true. In addition to John 14:14, skeptics often use Matthew 21:22 in a very similar way. In fact, Dan Barker, during the audience question and answer period in our debate, quoted this verse: “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Butt and Barker, 2009). According to the skeptic, if a person asks for a million dollars every day, truly believes in his heart that he will get it, and tacks the name of Jesus on the end of the prayer, then if God does not answer that prayer, Jesus lied and the Bible is false.
Is it true that the Bible’s teaching on prayer cannot be reconciled with what we see happening in daily life? Did Jesus make false statements to His disciples about the efficacy of prayer? Is the skeptic’s interpretation of Jesus’ statements accurate and justified? The answer to these questions is a resounding “No.” An honest, critical look at the Bible’s teachings regarding prayer reveals that its teachings are internally consistent and correspond perfectly with reality.
QUALIFYING A STATEMENT
Most of us understand the concept of attaching qualifying remarks to a statement. For instance, hypothetical syllogisms constructed with “if-then” clauses are good examples of qualification. Suppose a person named Bill makes the statement: “If John works for eight hours, then I will give John $50.” If John demands payment from Bill without doing the work, he has misunderstood the qualifier. He could contend that Bill said: “I will give John $50.” Even though, technically speaking, John’s quotation is correct, his argument would fail because he disregarded the qualifying statement: “If John works for eight hours.” Without the first condition being met, the person making the statement is not responsible for fulfilling the second condition.
The skeptic readily understands this concept, since it must be incorporated to understand the skeptic’s own writings. For instance, Dan Barker, in godless, included a chapter titled “Dear Theologian.” The chapter is a satirical letter supposedly from God to theologians. In that chapter, Dan has God saying: “I created the universe with all kinds of natural laws that govern everything from quarks to galactic clusters” (2008, p. 149). Are we to conclude that Dan really believes that God created the world and its natural laws? Of course not. We must qualify Dan’s statement by saying that he does not really believe in God, and that his “letter” is satire. Again, in godless, Dan made the statement: “What has theology ever provided? Theology has given us hell” (p. 220). From Dan’s statement, should we conclude that Dan really believes in hell and that he credits theology with originating it? Certainly not. Dan does not believe in heaven, hell, God, or Satan. Whatever statements a person chooses to pick out of Dan’s book to “prove” he believes in God or hell must be qualified by other statements elsewhere in his books, other writings, or debates that show he certainly does not believe in the existence of God or hell. In a similar way, even a superficial reading of the New Testament shows that many of Jesus’ statements concerning prayer are qualified by certain criteria that must be met in order for that prayer to be effective.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
A systematic study of everything the Bible says on prayer is beyond the scope of this article. A look at a few Bible verses on the topic, however, will show that the skeptics’ attack on prayer is ill-founded and vacuous. In truth, John 14:14, one of the skeptics’ favorite verses to quote along these lines, can be used to show one of the primary “qualifying” concepts concerning prayer. In that verse, Jesus told His disciples: “if you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (emp. added). It is extremely important that we understand how the Bible uses the phrase “in Jesus’ name.” The way the skeptic understands this verse, the phrase means that as long as a person puts the words “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer, then God is obligated to answer that prayer positively. Attaching Jesus’ name on the end of a prayer, however, is not what the Bible means when it says that a prayer is to be offered “in Jesus’ name.” The phrase “in Jesus’ name” means that whatever is being said or done must be done by the authority of Jesus. Earnest Bible students have long understood this to be the proper use of the phrase. In fact, Colossians 3:17 makes this clear: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” This verse does not mean that you should proclaim before every action or sentence that what follows is being done “in Jesus’ name.” It means that whatever actions are taken or words are spoken should be in accord with Jesus’ teachings and by His authority.
To illustrate, suppose a man bangs on your door and yells: “Open this door in the name of the Law.” Should you open the door for this man? That depends. If he truly is a policeman who has a warrant and has been authorized by the government to enter your house, then you should. However, if he is a civilian off the street who simply added the phrase “in the name of the Law” to his sentence to make it sound more forceful, then you should not open the door. The phrase “in the name of the Law” only has force if the person using it is actually authorized by the government to perform the action. In the same way, the phrase “in Jesus’ name” (or “in the name of Jesus”) only has power if what is being prayed for truly is authorized by Jesus. For instance, if a person prayed, “Lord, please forgive me of my sins even though I will not forgive others of their sins, in Jesus’ name, Amen,” would Jesus comply with such a request? No, because He explained that God will forgive only those people who are willing to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). Including the phrase “in Jesus’ name” does not give a prayer some magical power that allows the request to bypass the authority and teachings of Christ.
In the book of Acts, we see an extremely effective illustration of this truth. Paul, Peter, and the other apostles were preaching and doing miracles “in the name of Jesus.” Their healing activities were authorized by Christ, and their message was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Seeing how effectively Paul accomplished such miracles, “some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying ‘We adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches’” (Acts 19:13). The itinerant Jewish exorcists had fallen into the same misunderstanding as the modern skeptic. They thought that by simply tacking Jesus’ name onto their activities, that would qualify as doing things “in Jesus’ name.” The result of their misuse of Jesus’ name quickly became apparent. When seven sons of Sceva attempted to invoke Jesus’ name, the evil spirit answered: “‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:14-16). Simply adding Jesus’ name to actions or requests that Jesus has not authorized does not qualify as doing something “in Jesus’ name” as the Bible instructs. [NOTE: Even though the skeptic does not believe the story in Acts to be true, he cannot deny that the story provides a valid illustration and explanatory commentary on what the Bible means by saying or doing something “in Jesus’ name.” If the skeptic is going to attack the Bible’s position on prayer, he or she must allow the Bible to explain itself.]
ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL
It is inexcusable for a person to attack the Bible’s position on prayer, but then to avoid many of the paramount concepts associated with the Bible’s teaching on the subject. You can know that any person who pulls verses out of context about prayer, and does not turn to primary passages, such as Matthew 6:9-15, is either unaware that such passages are in the Bible, or is intentionally being intellectually dishonest. If you really want to know what Jesus taught on prayer, you simply must consider all that He taught about prayer, not just the few scattered verses skeptics want to rip from their contexts.
In Jesus’ instructions to His disciples regarding prayer, He explained that they should include in their prayers the idea that God’s will should be done (Matthew 6:10). The apostle John, who would have been well-aware of Jesus’ teaching on prayer, stated: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15, emp. added). Notice that if we do not include verse 14 of 1 John 5, we could make the passage say, “whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Yet to do that would be to leave off the important qualifying statement that the request should be in accordance with God’s will, and should be offered from a heart that is humble enough to accept God’s will—even if that means that the request is denied. When the skeptic pulls snippets of verses from the gospel accounts concerning prayer, he or she is guilty of leaving off just such important qualifying information.
When we consider the idea of praying “according to God’s will,” we can see how important this qualifier is. No requests will be granted that attempt to violate or circumvent God’s ultimate will. For instance, suppose a person were to pray: “God, please save my mother even though she does not believe in Jesus Christ and refuses to repent of her sins, please let her go to heaven anyway, in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Would God grant that petition? The Bible is clear that He certainly would not, because to do so would be to violate His ultimate will that salvation is through the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).
Furthermore, certain events and actions in this physical world are required for God to accomplish His will on this Earth. For instance, if one of Jesus’ apostles had asked God to spare the life of Jesus and not let Him die on the cross, that request would not have been in accord with God’s ultimate will and would not have been answered in the affirmative. Mark 8:33 provides an excellent example of this when Peter rebuked Jesus for predicting His own death. Jesus responded to Peter, saying: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Whereas Peter most likely thought his actions were in accord with God’s will, they were not. To further illustrate, the many events in the life of the Old Testament character Joseph may have seemed unfair at the time. No doubt Joseph prayed to be freed from slavery or to be released from jail. But at the end of Joseph’s life, we see that God’s will was to make him a great leader in Egypt and to save the Jewish nation through him. Joseph recognized this, and said to his brothers who had sold him into Egypt: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s slavery and incarceration were the vehicles by which God brought Joseph to power, accomplishing His will.
THE SKEPTIC’S RESPONSE
Knowing that the Bible plainly teaches that prayer must be according to God’s will, Dan Barker has attempted to respond. He stated: “It does no good to claim that many prayers are unanswered because they are not ‘according to his will.’ Even prayers that are clearly in line with the expressed ‘will of God’ are rarely successful. Even if this reasoning were valid, it makes prayer useless as a means of changing nature” (1992, p. 108). First, it should be noted that Dan often conveniently neglects to inform his audiences that he knows the Bible includes statements that qualify Jesus’ statements that Dan and his fellow skeptics take out of context. Second, notice that Dan made sure that he included the phrase “the expressed ‘will of God.’” The question then arises, does God have certain plans that He has not expressed to humans, but that are part of His will on Earth? Absolutely. Moses wrote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Is there any indication that God revealed to any humans His plans for Joseph before they were carried out? No. Is there any indication that God told any humans about His conference with Satan and His plan for Job prior to the events? None. Is God obligated to express to humans all the various facets of His will? Certainly not. That is one of the points Jesus was attempting to make in His teachings on prayer. Even though we may not know the specific will of God for our lives, we must pray with a heart that is ready to accept the events God allows, understanding that God has a will to which we are not always privy.
Notice that Dan is forced to concede the point, but then attempted to attack prayer from a different angle when he stated: “Even if this reasoning were valid, it makes prayer useless as a means of changing nature” (1992, p. 108; see also Templeton, 1996, p. 147). It is important to be clear that once the skeptic is honest enough to admit that certain qualifications do apply to prayer, he must alter the entire argument against it. Instead of the Bible’s position being internally inconsistent or at odds with reality, the skeptic must drop back and demand that, even though it cannot be proven to be such, it is “useless.”
Again, however, the skeptics’ assertion that praying according to God’s will renders the prayer useless to change nature is groundless. Could it be possible that multiple outcomes to certain events or situations fit into God’s will? Surely. To illustrate, suppose that a father was getting a child a drink from the refrigerator. The father had various nutritious options from which to choose including juice, milk, or water. Could the child request water and that option be according to the father’s will? Sure. If the child requested juice, could that option be equally as acceptable as water? Yes. But suppose the child requested something not in the refrigerator, or something harmful to drink. While those options would be outside the father’s will, the other three choices of milk, water, or juice would all be possibilities. Thus, if the child wanted juice, and asked for it, then the child’s request (prayer) would be effective. [NOTE: The skeptic may attempt to say that since God knows everything, He should know what His children want before they ask. But the Bible articulates this very point in Matthew 6:8. While it is true that God knows everything (Psalm 139:1-6), it is also true that God has instructed His children to ask for what they desire (Matthew 7:7). Numerous reasons could be given for why God wants His children to present their requests to Him. One is simply that God wants humans to understand their dependence on Him (Acts 17:28).]
To illustrate, there are several biblical examples in which God’s will for people involved considerable latitude in what He could allow to happen. For instance, 2 Kings 20:1-11 gives us the story of Hezekiah’s terminal sickness. The prophet Isaiah informed Hezekiah that he was going to die. Hezekiah then turned his face to the wall and prayed that the Lord would extend His life. The Lord listened to his prayer and extended Hezekiah’s life for fifteen years. Here we have an example of two outcomes both of which were consistent with God’s will on Earth: Hezekiah living and Hezekiah dying. Without Hezekiah’s prayer, he would have died of his sickness. Because of his prayer, however, God intervened and allowed Hezekiah to live. Contrary to the skeptics’ false assertion, Hezekiah’s prayer certainly did have the power to “change nature.” It is also interesting to note that Hezekiah’s sickness was healed through natural means. Isaiah instructed the king’s attendants to place a poultice of figs on Hezekiah’s boil. When they did so, Hezekiah recovered. This story provides an excellent example of a person who prayed according to God’s will. That prayer drastically altered nature, and God worked through natural means to accomplish His purpose. [NOTE: While the skeptic may refuse to accept the truthfulness of this Bible story, he cannot refute the fact that the story provides at least a theoretical explanation as to how a person could pray in accordance with God’s will and alter the course of nature.]
BELIEVING YOU WILL RECEIVE
Another widely recognized qualification for effective prayer is that the one praying must honestly believe that God can and will grant the prayer, if it is according to His will. As Jesus stated in Matthew 21:22: “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (emp. added). Of course, this verse does not mean that believing is the only prerequisite for having a prayer answered. Factors that we have mentioned such as asking by the authority of Jesus and according to God’s will (as well as others we will mention later in the article) are necessary as well. But this verse and others teach us that belief is a necessary component of effective prayer. According to James 1:5-8:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (emp. added).
It is often the case that the skeptic will contend that millions of good Christian people regularly pray for things that they do not receive. The skeptic usually stresses that the people truly believed that they would receive them, and yet their prayers were ineffective. The skeptic claims to know for a fact that the petitioners in question honestly believed their prayers would be answered positively. Yet it must be stressed that the skeptic has no possible way of knowing who, in their hearts, truly believes that God will answer their prayers. Even some who claim to believe in the outcome could be harboring doubts about God’s power and promises in regard to prayer. In truth, a person would need to be able to search people’s hearts and minds to be an accurate judge of belief. And since the Bible explains that only God is capable of knowing the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21), then only He would be in a position to gage a person’s true belief. While it is true that other factors such as praying according to God’s will and by the authority of Christ influence the effectiveness of prayer, it is also true that fervent belief in God’s willingness and ability to answer a prayer are also necessary for the prayer to be successful.
THE PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS PERSON
The Bible writers stress throughout the text, from the Old Testament to the New, that sinful, rebellious people should not expect to have God answer their prayers in a positive way. Only penitent, obedient followers of Christ are promised God’s listening ear and His active hand in their lives. As James 5:16 states: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (emp. added). Peter stated:
He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:10-12).
The unnamed blind man Jesus healed summarized this position well when he stated: “Now we know that God does not hear sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). The writer of Proverbs noted: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (15:29).
The book of Ezekiel provides further evidence that humility before God is a required element of effective prayer. During Ezekiel’s day, the elders and leaders of the Jewish nation had begun to worship idols. Yet, in their troubled times, they also attempted to seek the true God along with their idols. Ezekiel 14:1-4 states:
Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are estranged from Me by their idols.”’”
The Bible clearly and plainly teaches that those who are not faithfully following God are not promised an answer to their prayers. It should also be noted along these lines that, although many people feel that they are faithful followers of Christ, they have not obeyed God’s will (see Lyons and Butt, n.d.). As Jesus stated:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23).
It is often the case that a bulk of the people that skeptics claim are faithful followers of Christ simply have not obeyed God and, according to the Bible’s teachings, should not expect Him to answer their prayers because of their rebellious lives.
SELFISH MOTIVES AND DESIRES
Suppose that a person prays that God will give him ten thousand dollars every day for the rest of his life so that he can spend that money only on himself to gratify his physical pleasures. Even if he adds the phrase, “in Jesus’ name” to the end of that prayer, and honestly believes that God will answer the prayer, is God obligated to comply with such a request? The way the skeptic has twisted the Scriptures, he or she must contend that God is bound to grant such an absurd appeal. Yet an elementary understanding of the biblical doctrine of prayer quickly sets such a conclusion on its head. One of the key concepts regarding prayer centers on the reason for which the petitioner is making the request. If the one making the request is driven by selfish, impure motives, then he or she cannot expect God to grant the plea. James made this point abundantly clear when he wrote: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (4:2-3). Selfish ambitions unmotivated by a sense of spiritual concern nullifies the effectiveness of prayer.
Acts 8:9-25 provides an adequate illustration of this truth. In this passage, a man named Simon had been practicing sorcery in the city of Samaria. Many of the Samaritans had been convinced by his deceptive, “magic” tricks. When Philip visited the area, however, and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a host of the Samaritans believed and obeyed the truth, including Simon the sorcerer. After a while, the apostles came to the area and laid their hands on some of the disciples for the purpose of imparting spiritual gifts to them. When Simon saw this power, he offered the apostles money, requesting to purchase the ability to give people spiritual gifts. He had not purged himself of old habits of selfish ambition. Peter rebuked Simon and explained that he needed to repent and beg God to forgive him for the wicked thoughts and intents of his heart. Simon’s request for the power to impart the gifts of the Holy Spirit was denied, not only because it violated the will of God, but also because it apparently was issued out of purely selfish motives.
Jesus further documented the fact that prayers which issue from selfish motivations will not be effective. In the Sermon on the Mount, He stated: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5). The hypocrites’ showy prayers designed to garner public approval negated the effectiveness of their requests.
The persistence of the petition is another factor that the Bible indicates has a bearing on the efficacy of prayer. In Luke 18:1, the gospel writer stated: “Then He [Jesus—KB] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (emp. added). The parable Jesus told in this context was about a widow who made a request to an unjust judge. Her request was noble and right, but the unjust judge did not feel obligated to comply with her appeal. Due to her persistence, however, and her “continual coming” to the judge, he finally granted her petition. Jesus then commented that if an unjust judge can be swayed by persistence, how much more effective is the persistent prayer of a virtuous person when addressed to the righteous Judge of all the Earth.
Additionally, Jesus told of a man who visited his neighbor at midnight requesting bread to feed a guest. Initially, the neighbor refused the request, but eventually he complied. Jesus stated: “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs” (emp. added). Jesus then coupled this parable with the instructions to be persistent in requests to God (vss. 9-13). In fact, throughout the Scriptures, persistence plays a prominent role in effective prayer (see Philippians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Luke 2:37).
THE PRAYER EXPERIMENT
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins caustically attacked the concept of the effectiveness of prayer to accomplish any real world results. He focused primarily on a “prayer experiment” in which approximately 1,800 heart patients were divided into three groups: “Group 1 received prayers and didn’t know it. Group 2 (the control group) received no prayers and didn’t know it. Group 3 received prayers and did know it” (2006, p. 66). The results of the experiment suggested that the prayers that were offered for groups 1 and 3 did not favorably affect the successful results of their surgery or recovery. Dawkins focused on these negative results, insinuating that such an experiment proves that prayer is useless and the Bible’s teaching on the topic is at odds with reality. Dawkins quoted one of the religious people who had offered some of the prayers, who stated that the results did not dissuade him from his belief in the efficacy of prayer. Dawkins then sarcastically retorted: “Yeah, right: we know from our faith that prayer works, so if evidence fails to show it we’ll just soldier on until finally we get the result we want” (2006, p. 66).
Dawkins assessment of the experiment, however, shows a glaring ignorance of the Bible’s true position concerning prayer, and a complete failure to approach the subject with any type of scholarly rigor. Every critique of a scientific experiment must certainly include a knowledge and understanding of the factors that would “skew” the results of the study. For instance, if the Bible plainly says that the prayers of a righteous person and those of an unrighteous person differ in their efficacy, then such information must be considered in order for an accurate assessment of any prayer experiment to take place. Furthermore, if the Bible specifically details that the motives driving a particular request have a bearing on the answer, then the “experimental” format in which the prayers were offered would itself be called into question and would adversely affect the accuracy of the report. In addition, if the Bible clearly states that those who are praying must truly believe that God, according to His will, will comply with the request, then the level of belief held by each of the members in the “prayer groups” must be factored into the critique of the experiment.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. It is impossible to know or compare the faithfulness of a prayer group, much less each individual’s level of belief. Nor would it be feasible to attempt to study the various lives of the ones who were being prayed for and try to systematically document how their health or sickness would factor into God’s will on this Earth. I am not suggesting that the experiment could have been arranged better so that more accurate results could have been obtained. A negative result to prayer cannot prove that prayer is ineffective, but only that at least one of the biblical criteria was lacking. I am suggesting, however, that Dawkins’ failure to comprehensively view the Bible’s qualifications about prayer, and his dishonest (or ignorant) glossing over of the true facts concerning prayer, would not be tolerated in any critique of a scientific experiment, and should be shown to have absolutely no value in discrediting the Bible’s position on prayer. [NOTE: It is unfortunate that even some religious people have so misunderstood the Bible’s teachings about prayer that they would even attempt such an experiment. We would be wise to consider that many people who profess to be defending the Bible’s position on subjects such as prayer are actually doing more harm than good by misrepresenting the truth.]
“TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO THINK”
In Losing Faith in Faith, Dan Barker discussed a book that he wrote for children that contained these words: “No one can tell you what to think. Not your teachers. Not your parents. Not your minister, priest, or rabbi. Not your friends or relatives. Not this book. You are the boss of your own mind. If you have used your own mind to find out what is true, then you should be proud! Your thoughts are free!” (1992, p. 47). Noble sentiments, indeed!
But as one digs deeper into Barker’s book, it quickly becomes clear that those sentiments do not find a willing practitioner in the person of Dan Barker. In his chapter on prayer,
Don’t ask Christians if they think prayer is effective. They will think up some kind of answer that makes sense to them only. Don’t ask them, tell them: “You know that prayer doesn’t work. You know you are fooling yourself with magical conceit.” No matter how they reply, they will know in their heart of hearts that you are right (1992, p. 109, emp. in orig.).
From Barker’s statement about what should be “told” to those who believe in prayer, it is easy to see that he does not necessarily believe his previous statement that “no one can tell you what to think,” or that a person should use his own mind “to find out what is true.” In fact, what Barker is really trying to say is that a person should only think for himself if such thinking will lead him to believe that there is no God, or that prayer does not work, or that all religion is nonsense. If thinking for himself leads a person to believe in the efficacy of prayer or the existence of God, then that person should be “told” what to believe. It is not the Bible’s position on prayer that is internally inconsistent, but the skeptics’ attack on the Bible that fails to adhere to sound reasoning and rational thinking.
To document the millions of incidents in which people’s prayers have been answered positively would be virtually impossible. The Bible offers a multitude of examples in which the prayers of God’s faithful followers were answered, and modern Christians could detail countless examples of such in their personal lives. It is true, however, that God does not always respond positively to all those who petition him. The skeptic delights in pulling out scattered verses, misrepresenting the Scriptures’ true position on prayer, and demanding that the Bible cannot be God’s Word, since its teachings concerning prayer are “contradictory” and do not accurately represent what occurs in the real world. A critical look at the skeptics’ claims, however, quickly and clearly reveals that much is amiss with their allegations. It is only the feeble straw man built by the skeptic’s own imagination that can be effectively demolished. An accurate representation of the Bible’s position concerning prayer reveals complete internal consistency and perfect correspondence to real world events. The Bible explains that prayer is not a magic incantation that can be spouted out to accomplish selfish ambitions. Instead, the effective prayer comes from a righteous person, who prays persistently, by the authority of Christ, according to God’s will, out of unselfish motives, believing he or she will receive the petitions requested.
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
Templeton, Charles (1996), Farewell to God (Ontario, Canada: McClelland and Stewart)
Joseph Smith had stated many heretical quotes, and here are a few of them;
1. Smith stated there are many gods:
“Hence, the doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible . . . Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many . . . but to us there is but one God–that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all,” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 474). “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 5).
2. Smith stated that God was once a man:
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens . . . I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form–like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a man . . . it is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see . . . and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 3).
3. Joseph Smith boasted that he did more than Jesus to keep a church together:
“God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil–all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet . . . ” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 408-409).
4. Joseph Smith stated that the Book of Mormon was more correct than the Bible.
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book,” (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461).
5. Joseph Smith stated that there are men living on the moon:
“The inhabitants of the moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker style and are quite general in style or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming generally, near a thousand years. This is the description of them as given by Joseph the Seer, and he could ‘See’ whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see”
Please pray for the followers of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. The Cult following of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is leading people to hell. The Book of Mormon has undergone almost 4000 changes in its history. Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was “translated by the hand of God”, so why would changes be necessary? Why would anyone believe in this heretical book, and the words of Joseph Smith?