Was Abraham the father of the three major religions in the world- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? I would say that he was the father of only one modern religion, on the basis of two reasons. First, the Jewish Tanakh, which is the Christian Old Testament and mentioned in the Qur’an as the “Holy Scriptures,” is an incomplete work. Even with the addition of the Talmud, the other collection of writings that are central to Judaism, Judaism is an incomplete religion because it both awaits its promised Messiah and does not explain how God can be quick to forgive without leaving the guilty unpunished. Christianity piggy-backs off of Judaism by acknowledging the writings of the Tanakh, the Old Testament, as holy writings. Islam attempts to similarly piggy-back off of Christianity by acknowledging both the Old Testament and the New Testament as holy writings- calling them the “Holy Scriptures” and the “Gospels”- and by relegating Jesus Christ, who the New Testament claims is the Tanakh/Old Testament’s promised Messiah, to the status of a prophet.
Secondly, according to the apostle Paul only one of the three religions is based on the faith of Abraham. So, although he may be the physical ancestor of all three religions, on the basis of faith he can and should only be seen as the father of one.
Our questions are these: Is the Christian claim to being the fulfillment of Judaism valid? Is Christianity complete, unlike Judaism? Is the Islamic claim to being the fulfillment of Christianity valid? Which of the three major religions has the faith of Abraham, and therefore is truly the heir of “father Abraham?” Last and most importantly, was Jesus the Christ, the Messiah that was promised in the Tanakh/Old Testament?
As I said before, Judaism is incomplete because at the close of their holy writings there is no Messiah. And because, without the Messiah, there is no explanation as to how God can forgive without letting the guilty go unpunished. That forgiveness is necessary assumes the guilt of those needing forgiveness. This mystery, which I am stealing from Mark Dever’s book “The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made,” is very clear in Exodus 34:6-7:
“The LORD passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.'”
As we see there, the LORD promises to forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin. However, He then says that He will “by no means clear the guilty.” I agree with Dever’s assessment that this can only be understood in connection with a Messiah who would take the guilt of God’s chosen people upon Himself. Just as the sacrificial system of the Old Testament allowed reconciliation between God’s chosen people who had faith in God, and by faith that God would forgive their sins on the basis of the animal without blemish that was sacrificed. The death and blood of the animal paid the debt that was brought on by the sin. Since animals and their blood can accomplish nothing without the willingness of the living God, who is loving, merciful, and gracious beyond measure, the sacrificial system was really about the faith of God’s people and His willingness to forgive. However, modern Jews no longer participate in the sacrificial system. And they believe that their Messiah has not yet come. This begs the question, whereby does reconciliation with God and forgiveness of their sins come, with no sacrifice and no Messiah? Just as the religious writings leave off incomplete, with no reconciliation or forgiveness the Jewish religion is similarly incomplete.
The Christian New Testament claims that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of the Tanakh/Old Testament’s promised Messiah, and that through Jesus alone can the mysterious mercy without excluding justice be possible. He took upon Himself the sins of God’s chosen people on the Cross. Therefore, they are no longer guilty before God and He is able to forgive without letting the guilty go unpunished.
Christianity does leave off with a few mysteries, but they are mysteries that are promised to be understood when Jesus the Messiah returns. Therefore Christianity is not incomplete and does not need fulfillment the way that Judaism is incomplete and wanting fulfillment. We do not know when the Messiah will return, but we know who He is and that He will come. However, Islam attempts to piggy-back off of Christianity anyways. Islam does not deny the holy writings that are known as the Old Testament and the New Testament within Christianity. Neither do they deny that there was a man named Jesus who had supernatural abilities and was an extraordinary teacher. They accredit the Christian holy writings as the “Holy Scriptures and the Gospels” and Jesus as a prophet, who the Qur’an says lived flawlessly. However, there are two main ways in which Islam and Christianity cannot be reconciled. First there are things in the Qur’an that are irreconcilable with the Christian writings. For example, the Qur’an instructs its followers to kill “infidels” (unbelievers) if they will not convert to Islam. Secondly, they relegate Jesus from Messiah to prophet. Jesus taught that He was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except by Him. Islam and this statement from the lips of Jesus cannot both be true. In order for Islam to be true, Jesus must be relegated, as they attempt to relegate Him, to merely a prophet. And the Cross, where Christians find the essence of meaning, must be relegated to a meaningless event. If Jesus is not the exclusive way to God, then the Cross was unnecessary.
Paul says that by his faith righteousness was credited to Abraham, and Christians are to similarly trust the God of Abraham, who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Judaism and Islam are both works-based religions, whereby righteousness is a reward for living righteously. However, neither religion accounts for unrighteousness. Christianity is the only religion that calls for faith, like that of Abraham, by which Christians will both receive the necessary righteousness to stand justified before God and their unrighteousness will be accounted for, as by their faith their sins were paid for by Jesus on the Cross. Therefore, only Christianity can claim to be an heir of Abraham because it is the only religion that is based on the faith of “father Abraham.”
I chose to address this question last, although this changes the order in which I introduced them, because I wanted to save it for last. The true test of which of the three religions contains Truth is the identity of one Man. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, then Christianity and not Judaism contains Truth. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and not merely a prophet as Islam contends, then Christianity and not Islam contains Truth. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, then the Truth of the Tanakh/Old Testament continues to the Christian New Testament. If Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, then the Truth of the Old and New Testaments stops there, and does not continue to the Qur’an.
Although the Cross is arguably the most significant event for Christians- for by the Cross alone can we be forgiven of sins and reconciled with God- the Resurrection of Jesus is the most significant here. Many men died by Roman crucifixion. The Resurrection proves that only one of those men was the Son of God. I argue for the resurrection here.
I believe with every fiber of my being that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that Jesus was the Tanakh’s promised Messiah. I believe that there is a God, and that He is holy and just. I believe that our sins against God have both angered Him and caused separation between mankind and God. I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no man comes to the Father but by Jesus. Jesus’ substitutionary death satisfied the righteous anger of God and paid the death penalty warranted by our sins, and by that death alone can we have eternal life.
Trust in Jesus, He is the Lord of the universe He created. Confess with your mouth that He is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved!
This is an email that I just sent to the website http://www.godhatesfags.com, website of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS. The church is known for picketing funerals with outrageous signs, such as the one for which they named their site: “God Hates Fags.”
First let me say that I think you guys are absolutely right. God has a hatred for homosexuals. A hatred that will end with them spending eternity in hell if they do not repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, and Forgiver of sins. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 would support us in this regard: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
So not only does God hate homosexuals, but He also hates all people who unrepentantly sin. But keep reading:
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
From this it seems that some of those that Paul was writing to in the Corinthian church may have been homosexuals before coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Is this not the end that we hope for, brethren? That they will turn from their homosexuality and be “sanctified” and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God?”
You and I may not have ever engaged in homosexuality, but James tells us that if we are guilty of any sin, then we are transgressors of the law. And he tells us to speak and act “as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” Why? Because “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:8-13).
I admire that you guys speak boldly as you ought to about the truths of the Word of God. However, I fear that the way that you do so may cause people to reject the Truth- not because of the Truth itself, but because of the offensively outspoken manner that you employ in proclaiming it.
The goal is not only to proclaim the Truth, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also to proclaim it in a way that will lead sinners to repent and believe.
Where is the compassion of Moses in Exodus 32:32? Where is the compassion of Paul in Romans 9:3? We will all stand before God on the ultimate Day of the Lord. James tells us that those who do not show mercy will not receive mercy. When we stand before God, we will all be found wanting- but for the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.
You who have received mercy and forgiveness by that blood begrudge the mercy of God by turning away from the God who has cancelled your debt and turning to whip your servant for not being able to pay his debt (Matthew 25:14-30).
One last point: Jesus told us that the world will know we are his disciples if we have love for one another (John 13:35). He also told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior should make us look different from the world- moreso than it does in most churches. However, what sets us apart should be first our love for one another, and second that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
I would love to hear your thoughts on these texts, and where picketing funerals with outrageous (albeit true) signs is encouraged by Jesus or His apostles.
I wrote a blog about evolution being taught in public schools and my belief that it should either be taught differently or not taught at all. An extremely intelligent atheist named Ron responded to my blog, and we began a discussion that has accounted for most of the 60 comments on that blog.
The discussion with Ron, along with my thoughts on why God allows Christians to sin, led me to contemplate both why a loving God would allow Christians to sin and why He would allow enormous tragedies such as the Holocaust, as well as how I could declare that God is just although He allows both sin and tragedies to happen.
The short answer to the “why?” on both issues is for the glory of God. I would have given that answer before the discussion with Ron, because I have been told that all things happen for the glory of God and I believe that to be true. But I could not have begun to answer how allowing those things to happen glorifies God. I believe that I can now answer the “how?” on both of those issues in a way that is at least satisfactory for me and hopefully will benefit others.
How does allowing Christians to sin glorify God? God hates sin. God would prefer for us not to sin. God could prevent us from sinning if He wanted to. But we do sin. Why? God can do all that He pleases, therefore it must be pleasing to God for some reason and in some way to allow Christians to sin. A better way to say that, I believe, is that there must be something that is more preferable to God, for the sake of which God allows Christians to sin. There must be another variable that comes into play, and for the sake of that variable, God prefers to allow us to sin. That variable, I believe, is God’s honor, or to say it in another way, His glory and His name.
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. –Romans 1:21
And because “they” did not honor God as God or give thanks to Him, God gave “them” over to all this. So when people do not honor God as God and give thanks to Him, God allows them to sin. This applies to Christians and non-Christians alike, and in all people this glorifies God. The question then is: “how does this glorify God?” This glorifies God because when we honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, He gets the glory; not us. When we do not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, we get the glory. Therefore, it is just and good and loving of God to allow people to sin when they do not honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, because He is worthy of honor and He is the giver of all. If we were able to abstain from sin apart from God, then we would do so at the expense of God’s name and God’s glory. If we were able to overcome sin apart from God, on the basis of some quality that we possessed, then we would not need God.
If I overcome sin on my own and apart from God, then my name and my glory are inflated, and God’s name and God’s glory are insignificant and unnecessary. Therefore, for the sake of His name and His glory, God must allow us to sin when we do not honor Him as God and do not give Him thanks. Although He hates sin, allowing us to sin is preferable to the defamation of His name and His glory. And that is why each and every strategy for overcoming sin that is not centered on honoring God as God and giving Him the thanks that He so greatly deserves will fail.
So we now move on to the Holocaust.
I believe that all evil in the world that is performed by the hands of men is an example of what I have just discussed. And, I believe that the rest of Romans 1:21 and verse 22 shed more light on this subject:
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools
Futile thinking and foolish hearts. Does that sound like Hitler and the Nazis? Did they not claim to be wise? The blood of the victims of the Holocaust is unquestionably on the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. However, if there is a loving God, then He either refused to prevent the Holocaust from happening or He was unable to. This is the issue that Ron brings up, and it is a big one. I can very easily identify with Ron on this one. If He didn’t have the power to prevent it, then He’s not worthy. And if He had the power to prevent it but didn’t, then He’s not worthy. I believe that He is worthy, so I have some reconciling to do.
Some might try to “get God off the hook” here, so to speak, and say that God didn’t want the Holocaust to happen. That angle leads to what I just mentioned- if God didn’t want it to happen, then He was either unable or unwilling to prevent it from happening. Saying that God was unable to prevent it from happening, either based on evil in the world or the free will of man that God cannot interfere with, paints a picture of God that I really don’t like. That view of God implies that God is at the mercy of evil in the world or the free will of man, and if that is the case I might have to side with Ron and say that that God is unworthy.
However, I do not believe that to be the case. I do not believe that God was unable to prevent the Holocaust from happening. Which leads us to the question: “If God was able to prevent the Holocaust, why didn’t He?”
I believe that the answer to that question is the same as the answer to why God allows Christians to sin. Just as God allows us to sin, even though He hates sin, when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, He allowed the Holocaust, even though He hated the Holocaust, because Hitler and the Nazis failed to honor Him as God and give Him thanks. His name and His glory are so important to God, that He allows both sin and tragedy to take place when He is not given the honor and thanks that He deserves.
So, God allows us to sin when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, even when our sin will affect others who had nothing to do with the sin. And when governments and leaders fail to honor God as God and give thanks to Him, the results of their sins can affect a great number of people.
Just as Pharaoh did not honor God and let the Israelites go, until His refusal brought down plagues on His people that culminated in the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian, so Hitler and the Nazis’ failure to give honor and thanks to God resulted in the Holocaust. And just as Pharaoh and Hitler’s decisions resulted in an unfathomable amount of innocent bloodshed, so the failure of America to give honor and thanks to God has resulted in the murder of 40 million innocent babies in the name of Roe v. Wade. Pharaoh, Hitler, and any leader who believes that “the woman’s right to choose” supercedes the life of an innocent, defenseless, unborn baby may believe that they are wise, but they are fools, with futile thinking and darkened hearts.
Honor and thanks be to God, who is the Creator of all and the Giver of every good and perfect gift!
What is the Best News that God, the Bible, and Christianity have to offer?
God created this world, and it is magnificent. But is that the Best News?
Hell is more infinitely terrible than our simple brains can fathom, and in Jesus, God gives us a “get of hell free” card. But is that the Best News?
Heaven is as infinitely great as hell is infinitely terrible and then some, and God tells us in His Word that by putting our faith in His Son we can spend eternity in heaven. But is that the Best News?
God loves us and wants us to be happy, and as our Father He wants to bless us with every good thing and every perfect gift. But is that the Best News?
Those are all included in the great news that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but John Piper would say that none of those things qualify as the Best News that God, the Bible, and Christianity have to offer. Piper would say that the Best News is that, through Christ, we are able to have an intimate knowledge of God and enjoy Him forever. And after listening to his two-part message called “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ”, I joyfully concur.
What I love about John Piper is how Biblically solid he is and how he always strives to exult Jesus Christ. Because he backs up what he says with the Word of God (and usually with multiple texts), it is often impossible to both accept that the Bible is the Word of God and logically disagree with Piper. And because he strives to ceaselessly exult Jesus, I rarely leave his books or sermons without a desire to imitate him in that fashion.
The “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ” messages were intended to give his audience the best way to Godly sexuality, but the Supremacy of Christ was indubitably the central theme. And the Supremacy of Christ is essential to both living the Christian life and combatting the sins of this world. Therefore, although the message was intended to encourage Godly sexuality, the messages can definitely be applied to all areas of the Christian life.
Turns out they have the internet over here in Paris, so I figure we might as well blog a little…
Paris is amazing! I have pretty much seen everything that I wanted to see so far- and I’ve only been here for 4 days! But, in seeing everything that I knew that I wanted to see ahead of time, I came across a few things that were added to the list. So far I have been to the Luxembourg Garden- one of my favorites because I recently read Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”- as well as The Tuileries Garden, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower (during the day, lit up at night, and sparkling during the first 10 minutes of every dark hour), Sacre Coeur, and today I spent about 7 hours in the Louvre- and barely put a dent in everything there is to see there! I took about 5 zillion pictures- quite a few were paintings and sculptures of either the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, Jesus, or John the Baptist’s head on a platter, which seem to be pretty common themes there. I plan to get them posted soon, so hold your breath on those.
On the flight over I read some Eusebius, and I am very much drawn to the stories of the martyrs of the early Christian church. One such Eusebius early Christian church martyr story was about a guy named Polycarp who was the leader of the church in Smyrna. Eusebius only says Smyrna is in Asia, but I have since learned that it is in Turkey. His story was very inspirational (and I think would make a great movie), and his martyrdom led to an end of the persecutions for a period of time in Asia. So I thought I would post a couple excerpts from the story here (and I decided to go ahead and change all of the thee’s and thou’s to you’s and so forth).
Chapter XV- Under Verus, Polycarp with Others suffered Martyrdom at Smyrna
(I cut out part of the beginning of the story- there were other martyrs in Smyrna, and Polycarp is being sought after.) “But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard of these things, continued undisturbed, preserved a quiet and unshaken mind, and determined to remain in the city. But being persuaded by his friends who entreated and exhorted him to retire secretly, he went out to a farm not far distant from the city and abode there with a few companions, night and day doing nothing but wrestle with the Lord in prayer, beseeching and imploring, and asking peace for the churches throughout the whole world. For this was always his custom. And three days before his arrest, while he was praying, he saw in a vision at night the pillow under his head suddenly seized by fire and consumed; and upon this awakening he immediately interpreted the vision to those that were present, almost foretelling that which was about to hapen, and declaring plainly to those that were with him that it would be necessary for him for Christ’s sake to die by fire.”
(Polycarp moves once more to a second farm, but refuses to move again and says, “The will of God be done.” His pursuers find him at the second farm…)
“But he did not hesitate, but immediately gave orders that a table should be spread for them. Then he invited them to partake of a bounteous meal, and asked of them one hour that he might pray undisturbed. And when they had given permission, he stood up and prayed, being full of the grace of the Lord, so that those who were present and heard him praying were amazed, and many of them now repented that such a venerable and godly old man was about to be put to death.”
(Polycarp is brougt to the city, and the captain of the police and the captain’s father try to persuade him to recant, but he does not. Fast forward to when Polycarp is led into the stadium)
“Finally when he came up, the proconsul asked if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, he endeavored to persuade him to deny, saying, ‘Have regard for your age,’ and other like things, which it is their custom to say: ‘Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the Atheists.’ (They called Christians “atheists” because they would not worship the rulers, i.e. Caesar, as their gods) But Polycarp, looking with dignified countenance upon the whole crowd that was gathered in the stadium, waved his hand to them, and groaned, and raising his eyes toward heaven, said, ‘Away with the Atheists.’ But when the magistrate pressed him, and said, ‘Swear, and I will release thee; revile Christ,'”
“Polycarp said, ‘Fourscore and six years have I been serving him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?'”
“But when he again persisted, and said, ‘Swear by the genius of Caesar,’ Polycarp replied, ‘If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, feigning to be ignorant who I am, hear plainly: I am a Christian…”
“But the proconsul said, ‘I have wild beasts; I will throw you to them unless you repent.’ But he said, ‘Call them; for repentance from better to worse is a change we cannot make. But it is a noble thing to turn from wickedness to righteousness.’ But he again said to him, ‘If you despise the wild beasts, I will cause you to be consumed by fire, unless you repent.’ But Polycarp said, ‘You threaten a fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is quenched; for you know not the fire of the future judgment and of the eternal punishment which is reserved for the impious. But why do you delay? Do what you will.’”
“[The crowd] cried out and asked the [president of the games] Philip to let a lion loose upon Polycarp. But he said that it was not lawful for him, since he had closed the games. Then they thought fit to cry out with one accord that Polycarp should be burned alive. For it was necessary that the vision should be fulfilled which had been shown him concerning his pillow, when he saw it burning while he was praying, and turned and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, ‘I must needs be burned alive.'”
“…then the materials prepared for the pile were placed about him; and as they were also about to nail him to the stake, he said, ‘Leave me thus; for he who has given me strength to endure the fire, will also grant me strength to remain in the fire unmoved without being secured by you with nails.’ So they did not nail him, but bound him. And he, with his hands behind him, and bound like a noble ram taken from a great flock, an acceptable burnt offering unto God omnipitent, said, ‘Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of you, the God of angels and of powers and of the whole creation and of the entire race of the righteous who live in your presence, I bless you that you have deemed me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Christ, unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. Among these may I be received before you this day, in a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you, the faithful and true God, have beforehand prepared and revealed, and have fulfilled. Wherefore I praise you also for everything; I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom, with him, in the Holy Spirit, be glory unto you, both now and for the ages to come, Amen.’”
“When he had offered up his Amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire; and as a great flame blazed out, we, to whom it was given to see, saw a wonder, and we were preserved that we might relate what happened to the others. For the fire presented the appearance of a vault, like the sail of a vessel filled by the wind, and made a wall about the body of the martyr, and it was in the midst not like flesh burning, but like gold and silver refined in a furnace. For we perceived such a fragrant odor, as of the fumes of frankincense or of some other precious spices. So at length the lawless men, when they saw that the body could not be consumed by the fire, commanded an executioner to approach and pierce him with the sword. And when he had done this there came forth a quantity of blood so that it extinguished the fire…”
- "The Dawkins Letters"
- "The God Delusion"
- 2 Samuel 20
- 2008 Presidential election
- Acts 17:24-31
- Anglican Church
- Anthony Flew
- Australian Christian music
- Ayn Rand
- Charles Darwin
- child of God
- Christ crucified
- Chuck Norris
- Church History
- David Robertson
- Desiring God
- Doers of the Word
- Dr. Jim Hamilton
- expository preaching
- Gene Robinson
- glory of God
- I Was There
- Intelligent Design
- James Hamilton
- Jesus Christ
- Joel Osteen
- John Piper
- justification by faith
- King David
- Lee Strobel
- Mark Driscoll
- Mars Hill Church
- Mike Huckabee
- Nathan Tasker
- preach the Word
- Psalm 1
- Richard Dawkins
- roe v. wade
- seminary professor
- Sermon on Mars Hill
- Sex and the Supremacy of Christ
- the apostle Paul
- the Bible
- The Case for Faith
- The Law of the Lord
- the rebellion of Sheba
- The Resurrection
- the Word of God
- William Tyndale