Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maximus the Confessor on the Authority of Rome and Galatians 1:8

Maximus Confessor held that since “will” and “activity” pertain to a nature rather than to a person, Christ therefore had a human will and a divine will. In 653 Maximus was arrested, tried for treason and then banished in 655 for not adhering to the idea that Christ has but one will. He eventually had his tongue cut out and his right hand cut off for his refusal to change his position. He died in 662 and became popularly referred to with the title “confessor.”

In the account of his trial, the Eastern authorities questioned him on what he would do if the Roman Church made any sort of agreement with the Byzantines (those who had imprisoned Maximus). Here's how it went down:

7. They said to him, "And what will you do if the Romans unite with the Byzantines? For behold, yesterday there came legates of Rome and tomorrow on Sunday they will take communion with the patriarch; it will become evident to all that it was you who turned the Romans away. Doubtless with you removed, there will then be an easy union." And he said to them, "Those who are coming cannot in any way prejudice the see of Rome, even if they should take communion because they have not brought a letter to the patriarch. And I am not at all convinced that the Romans will unite with them unless they confess that our Lord and God by nature both wills and works our salvation according to each of the natures from which he is, in which he is, as well as which he is." And they said, "And if the Romans should come to terms with them at this time, what will you do?" He replied, "The Holy Spirit, according to the Apostle, condemns even angels who sanction anything against what has been preached" [Maximus the Confessor, Selected Writings (Paulist Press, 1985), p 23].
Notice at the end Maximus quotes Galatians 1:8, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" I'm not saying Maximus was a proto-Protestant, but he certainly had the right idea here about what the ultimate authority truly is.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Athanasius and the Hyper-Preterists 2

Here's another hyper-preterist Athanasius quote:
Athanasius, the "Father of Orthodoxy" (The Athanasian Creed) says that what futurists are waiting for has ALREADY OCCURRED... "The earth IS ALREADY 'filled with the knowledge of the Lord' in fulfillment of Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14; and DEATH IS ALREADY DESTROYED among believers in FULFILLMENT of First Corinthians 15:55" ~ Athanasius, Festal Letter (4th century AD)
The quote above (as found on a hyper-preterist Facebook page) cites "Athanasius, Festal Letter (4th century AD)." The first problem with this reference is that there are multiple festal letters from Athanasius. The second problem is I could not locate any corroboration that the documentation to a Festal Letter is accurate.

After searching around a bit, I would posit the quote in this form is from the hyper-preterist book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? It occurs in the exact form in Chapter Two: If Preterism is True by David A. Green. The contents of this chapter can be found here, posted in this discussion thread by (who appears to be) the author. Mr Green states,
Despite futurist errors regarding various and major prophecy-texts, the church has been, in a very real sense, teaching preterism for nearly two thousand years now. We can find examples of preterism throughout the church fathers...

The Father of Orthodoxy himself, Athanasius (AD 293-373), is a remarkable example of this same phenomenon. We can see from the following excerpts from his On the Incarnation and his Festal Letters, that although Athanasius believed in a yet-future Second Coming and in a Resurrection of the Flesh, he also believed the following: The earth is already filled with the knowledge of the Lord (the gospel) in fulfillment of Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14; and Death is already destroyed among believers in fulfillment of 1 Corinthians 15:55 (O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?).
The quote is not from a Festal Letter, since Mr. Green goes on to present a section specific to the Festal Letters. In fact, the quote isn't an  Athanasius quote at all, but is rather a summary of statement Mr. Green put together from On the Incarnation and the Festal Letters as to what he think Athanasius believed. In other words, each statement represents a quote from Athanasius. Scrolling through the quotes used by Green, these were the references he gives:

"The earth is already filled with the knowledge of the Lord" is from On the Incarnation, 16:3; 40,6-7; 45, 5-6; 48,4; 50,1; 55,3

"Death is destroyed" is from On the Incarnation, 9,4; 27.1, 3-4; 29.5; 31,3; Festal Letter IV,3; VI,9; VI,10

It would certainly be time-consuming to go through each quote cited by Mr. Green.  Some of the citations say nothing more than Christ conquered death by his resurrection. Others say nothing more than the Messiah has come and the Jews are wrong to look for a future Messiah: the prophecies as to his coming have been fulfilled. One quote says nothing more than the knowledge of God pervades all of creation.

Athanasius and the Hyper-Preterists 1

Hyper-preterists typically believe that Satan has been completely defeated: "In chapter 20 [of Revelation] judgment is set, Satan is cast into the lake of fire; and Jesus takes his glorious bride unto himself! This all happened in 70 AD with the full destruction of the Theocracy of Israel, the persecuting city of Jerusalem, the Old Heavens and Earth" [source].  This is not to be confused with other millennial positions that hold Satan is bound now in such a way that while he is still troublesome, he cannot stop the spread of the gospel, and will be eventually cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).

As with my earlier Spurgeon entries,  what I've noticed is that many of those involved with hyper-preterism appear to look for anything written by anybody and use it as proof for their position. Consider the following from Athanasius as found on a hyper-preterist blog:
More FULFILLED ESCHATOLOGY from Early Church Father, Athanasius...
"Now that THE DEVIL, that tyrant against the whole world IS SLAIN...NO MORE DOES DEATH REIGN...now that death and the kingdom of the devil IS ABOLISHED, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness. God is no longer known ONLY IN JUDEA (Old Covenant - FS), but in ALL THE EARTH (New Covenant - FS)..."(The Festal Letters, 4:3)
It's very simple for a hyper-preterist: Athanasius is saying almost exactly what they are about the total defeat of Satan. Sure, there's probably some differences, but Athanasius is more or less saying the same thing about the defeat of Satan... or is he?

When one searches the extant writings from Athanasius, it becomes apparent rather quickly that more often than not Satan is portrayed as an active enemy of the church. For instance, "But the mind of man is prone to evil exceedingly; moreover, our adversary the devil, envying us the possession of such great blessings, goeth about seeking to snatch away the seed of the word which is sown within us"[source]. What's going on then? How can Athanasius say that Satan is slain and abolished on the one hand and then say elsewhere that he's out and about seeking to do harm?

The easy way out is to simply say Athanasius contradicted himself. This possibility of course is not out of the question. But when I look up quotes like this, I don't automatically assume that Athansius was so muddleheaded that he would posit two completely contradictory notions. It could be like Augustine or Luther that his position changed over time. It could be one of the texts in question has variants or is spurious. In this case though, I think if one follows the train of thought and allows for the use of hyperbole, the notion that Satan is defeated and that he's also still active isn't such a stretch in interpreting Athanasius.

The context of this quote can be found here. The source for the quote is a Festal letter, or more commonly known as an Easter letter. He begins by pointing out, "For although the date of this letter is later than that usual for this announcement, it should still be considered well-timed, since our enemies having been put to shame and reproved by the Church, because they persecuted us without a cause, we may now sing a festal song of praise." This notion of "defeated enemies" will find its way right up until the quote in question. He mentions Judith "when having first exercised herself in fastings and prayers, she overcame the enemies, and killed Olophernes." Then Esther: "when destruction was about to come on all her race, and the nation of Israel was ready to perish, defeated the fury of the tyrant by no other means than by fasting and prayer to God, and changed the ruin of her people into safety." And then a conclusion:
Now as those days are considered feasts for Israel, so also in old time feasts were appointed when an enemy was slain, or a conspiracy against the people broken up, and Israel delivered. Therefore blessed Moses of old time ordained the great feast of the Passover, and our celebration of it, because, namely, Pharaoh was killed, and the people were delivered from bondage. For in those times it was especially, when those who tyrannized over the people had been slain, that temporal feasts and holidays were observed in Judaea.
Feasts celebrated the defeat of enemies. Easter is a celebration feast. Christ has risen from the dead, conquering his enemies. Here is where the hyper-preterist quote occurs, which I've bolded. Athanasius states:
Now, however, that the devil, that tyrant against the whole world, is slain, we do not approach a temporal feast, my beloved, but an eternal and heavenly. Not in shadows do we shew it forth, but we come to it in truth. For they being filled with the flesh of a dumb lamb, accomplished the feast, and having anointed their door-posts with the blood, implored aid against the destroyer. But now we, eating of the Word of the Father, and having the lintels of our hearts sealed with the blood of the New Testament, acknowledge the grace given us from the Savior, who said, ‘Behold, I have given unto you to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.’ For no more does death reign; but instead of death henceforth is life, since our Lord said, ‘I am the life;’ so that everything is filled with joy and gladness; as it is written, ‘The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.’ For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept,’ and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness. And God is no longer known only in Judaea, but in all the earth, ‘their voice hath gone forth, and the knowledge of Him hath filled all the earth.’ What follows, my beloved, is obvious; that we should approach such a feast, not with filthy raiment, but having clothed our minds with pure garments. For we need in this to put on our Lord Jesus, that we may be able to celebrate the feast with Him. Now we are clothed with Him when we love virtue, and are enemies to wickedness, when we exercise ourselves in temperance and mortify lasciviousness, when we love righteousness before iniquity, when we honor sufficiency, and have strength of mind, when we do not forget the poor, but open our doors to all men, when we assist humble-mindedness, but hate pride.
The language of Athanasius is filled with celebratory hyperbole. Satan, the enemy of Christ and the church was indeed defeated by the resurrection. The enemy was conquered and "slain." Death was also defeated because Christ rose from the dead. The irony as I see it is that hyper-preterists often attack dispensationalists for a rigid literal hermaneutic. But here with Athanasius, they do the very thing they decry. They ignore a typical use of language only meant to express a basic point about the impact and importance of Easter.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Charles Spurgeon and the Hyper-Preterists

This is a follow-up to my earlier entry, Charles Spurgeon, Full-Preterism, and Figurative Language. In that entry I discussed a Spurgeon quote I found being used by some full-preterists (henceforth referred to as "hyper-preterists"). That Spurgeon quote states:
(On the New Heavens and Earth)
"Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacles, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like THE OLD HEAVENS AND EARTH to the Jewish believers, THEY HAVE PASSED AWAY, and WE NOW LIVE UNDER A NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it." (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354)."
I had thought perhaps this quote was simply a one-time oddity. I was amazed though to hear it being brought up in an old debate between hyper-preterist Don Preston and dispensationalist Tommy Ice on the Voice of Reason radio Show. Here's a brief mp3 clip of the exchange on the Spurgeon quote. You'll notice that neither men had any idea what was was being put forth by Spurgeon in the quote. How could they? Without a context, the quote can mean whatever someone wishes it to.

I also found Spurgeon being cited on a new hyper-preterist Facebook page. Another Spurgeon quote was cited inferring a future restoration of the Jews and this comment was added, "Seems strange to hear him say this after what he says about the New Heavens and Earth." So I asked what was meant by this, and if you scroll into the comments you'll notice the very same Spurgeon quote was brought forth, along with the following commentary:
Some would say that a preterist has pulled this out of it's context. The greater context they are speaking of would be his larger body of thought. The only thing bringing in his larger context is that he is simply inconsistent. So this may not be the best preterist proof text from Spurgeon. If it does anything, it simply calls into question his humanity...James - thoughts on the Spurgeon quote?
My response:

Yes, I have a few comments on that Spurgeon quote you posted from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354. I am in no way any sort of expert on Charles Spurgeon, nor would I even go so far as to claim I've read enough of his writings to really say I'm familiar with him like I am other authors.

I noticed Frank had posted the same Spurgeon quote a few days ago . I would take a guess that Frank posted the quote simply to highlight Spurgeon's use of figurative language as a polemic against dispensational theology. If not, he can correct me. I would also guess Frank took the quote not from any sort of deep study into Spurgeon's writings, but rather snagged it off a secondary webpage (like the one on the Preterist Archive that used the same two Spurgeon quotes Frank used, documented exactly in the same way). As to your usage, it appears to me you see some sort of disconnect between the two quotes from Spurgeon. That is, in some way they contradict each other. If I've misinterpreted your intentions, my apologies. Same to Frank- If I misinterpreted you or your intentions, my apologies.

The sermon is on Isaiah 65:17-19 ("Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind"). The sermon is entitled, God Rejoicing in the New Creation (no. 2211). It can be found in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 37 beginning on page 442. Spurgeon begins:
"THIS passage, like the rest of Isaiah’s closing chapters, will have completest fulfillment in the latter days when Christ shall come, when the whole company of his elect ones shall have been gathered out from the world, when the whole creation shall have been renewed, when new heavens and a new earth shall be the product of the Savior’s power, when, for ever and for ever, perfected saints of God shall behold his face, and joy and rejoice in him" (p.442).
One can see that Spurgeon begins saying the New heavens and earth are future. He goes on to say:
"There is to be a literal new creation, but that new creation has commenced already; and I think, therefore, that even now we ought to manifest a part of the joy. If we are called upon to be glad and rejoice in the completion of the work, let us rejoice even in the commencement of it" (p. 443).
"He has commenced it thus — by putting new hearts into as many as he has called by his Spirit, regenerating them, and making them to become new creatures in Christ Jesus. These the apostle tells us are a kind of firstfruits of this now creation" (p.443).
Spurgeon then goes on to speak of how people should see God in the current world and rejoice in God as creator. Christians should most rejoice in their being a new creation. Spurgeon continues on this theme of Christians being the begining of the new creation, as people who look forward to the new creation coming in its fullness. Then comes the quote you cited. From the context, Spurgeon's figurative language is simply describing the Old Testament rituals and practices that looked forward to Christ. Since Christ has come, he's begun to usher in the new heavens and earth, beginning this work in the hearts of believers, in regeneration.
There certainly isn't any sort of disconnect between the two Spurgeon quotes you cited.

Here was the response:
Notice Chuck’s take on Rev 21:1…
(Rev 21:1 NASB) “And I saw A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is NO LONGER ANY SEA.”
"Scarcely could we rejoice at the thought of losing the glorious old ocean: the new heavens and the new earth are none the fairer to our imagination, if, indeed, LITERALLY there is to be no great and wide sea, with its gleaming waves and shelly shores. IS NOT THIS TEXT TO BE READ AS A METAPHOR, tinged with the prejudice with which the Eastern mind universally regarded the sea in the olden times? A real physical world without a sea it is mournful to imagine, it would be an iron ring without the sapphire which made it precious. THERE MUST BE A SPIRITUAL MEANING HERE. In the new dispensation THERE WILL BE no division…

…the sea separates nations and sunders peoples from each other. To John in Patmos the deep waters were like prison walls, shutting him out from his brethren and his work: there shall be no such barriers IN THE WORLD TO COME (I.E. THE NEW HEAVENS & EARTH). Leagues of rolling billows lie between us and many a kinsman whom to-night we prayerfully remember, but in THE BRIGHT WORLD (New H&E) TO WHICH WE GO there SHALL BE unbroken fellowship for all the redeemed family; IN THIS SENSE THERE SHALL BE NO MORE SEA." ~ "Morning and Evening" (1834-1892)

JAMES: Here Chuck clearly FUTURIZES the New Heaven & Earth and interprets the eradication of the sea as NON-LITERAL (Metaphor - a thing MANY if not all futurists would deplore - but which all Preterists would celebrate).The point here is Chuck’s inconsistency. He wants it both ways. Here is the initial quote again…

"Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacles, or the dedication?”

An obvious reference to the Old Covenant System under Judaism. He continues…

“No, because, though these things were like THE OLD HEAVENS AND EARTH to the Jewish believers, THEY HAVE PASSED AWAY, and WE NOW LIVE UNDER A NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it."

Now here, C.H. clearly accepts a NON-LITERAL interpretation of the New H&E (not a new material creation but a new covenant) and then he proceeds to tell his congregation that they (Christians) are ALREADY (NOW) living in the New H&E!

Well which is it? Is it a FUTURE happening – a thing TO COME or is it a PAST event – a thing that came?

To hold a view that says “BOTH are true; we live in the New H&E Currently and it is also to be realized in a more fashion at a future material consummation is in my humble opinion, pure conjecture.

Mr. S’s handling the LANGUAGE and the TIMING of the New H&E in Isaiah are contradictory of his handling of IDENTICAL language in Rev 21:1. There is no SCRIPTURAL JUSTIFICATION for holding that the Apostle John in Rev 21 was speaking of a FUTURE MATERIAL CONSTRUCT (“New H&E”) - but when Isaiah uses the IDENTICAL TERM in Ch 65:17 he is metaphorically speaking of the New Covenant in Christ - unless one is prepared to say that there are MULTIPLE New Heavens and earths.

For my money - The Hebrew Prophet Isaiah prophesied the EXACT SAME New H&E as the Hebrew Prophet John - only Isaiah said it is far off and John says it near – to arrive upon the consummation of the Old Covenant era – “end of the age” (Mt 24:3; 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 9:26).
And my response:
Thanks for your explanation. Just so I'm understanding you and we're not speaking past each other, these were my previous concerns: Mr. Loomis posted two Spurgeon quotes that appear to be contradictory according to his own writings. I don't think they are at all, and even a cursory reading of the sermons in question don't amount to "The only thing bringing in his larger context is that he is simply inconsistent."

It is my understanding that Rev. Spurgeon was a historic premillennialist. Within that view, as far as I understand it, Spurgeon's use of figurative language in the quotes cited by Mr. Loomis are consistent with historic premillennialism (for a helpful overview of that view, see: George Eldon Ladd, "Historic Premillennialism" in Robert G. Clouse, ed., The Meaning of the Millennium (WI: Intervarsity Press, 1977) pp. 17-40).

In regards to your further citations of Spurgeon, the historic premillennial view has some similarities with the amillennial paradigm of "already and not yet." While you may disagree with this paradigm (either used by amillennialists or historic premillennialists), all of the Spurgeon quotes you've posted are harmonious with it. That is, Charles Spurgeon is not being inconsistent with the historic premillennial view. Swanson's article http://www.spurgeon.org/​eschat.htm does a fine job going through the Spurgeon eschatology maze.

It appears to me your concerns are geared toward whether or not Spurgeon's historic premillennial view is a consistently biblical view. The point of Mr. Loomis appears to me to be that Spurgeon contradicted himself within his own writings. My response has been to the later and not the former. While I'm not fluent in Spurgeon's writings, I do have the desire to see the study of any person in church history as an exercise in the love of God and neighbor. How do we love our neighbor in the study of church history? There probably are many ways, but the one that applies here is in our words. If we bear false witness against our neighbor, we are not loving him. I don't think Mr. Loomis intended to say anything unloving towards Charles Spurgeon, but I certainly think Spurgeon's eschatological thought was not portrayed fairly or correctly here on this Facebook page.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Holiness of God and Substitutionary Atonement are all through the Bible

(Luther would be happy - a future blog that features his nailing of the 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door; tackles apologetic issues with Islam 5 days in a row.)
"Salvation in Islam" by Paul Williams – Intro to his debate with Steve Latham - (no longer available, as Paul Williams has deleted his entire blogs twice in the past few years.)  

My response is in Blue.
Islam places great stress on God as a God of mercy and forgiveness whom the individual can approach directly without the need of any mediator or priest. God says in the Quran:
‘O My servants, who have transgressed against their souls. Do not despair of the mercy of God, for He forgives all sins, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’
(39:53). From this understanding, which was shared by Jesus, flow certain critical observations regarding the later Christian view of the necessity of Jesus’ alleged vicarious atonement.
Jesus clearly taught about His future atonement on the cross – Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28; Luke 22:20; then after His resurrection - Luke 24:46-47. Repentance and God's mercy and forgiveness is also taught in parables - yet leaving out the exact words that you demand, is not a contradiction to the atonement. Your demand that every parable has to contain every teaching before the historical event of the cross is an unreasonable demand – it is like the same demand that Ahmed Deedat and Zakir Naik and many other Muslims make – that there has to be the exact words from Jesus’ mouth, “I am God; worship Me!” Who are you to demand that parables have to contain all future theological truth?
The Christian idea that guilt can be removed from a wrongdoer by someone else being punished instead is morally grotesque.
For someone who claims to be a former Christian and Evangelical – this is a very dangerous statement for your own soul. It means you never really understood your own sin nor the holiness of God; and now you trample on the grace of Christ demonstrated at the cross. Your turning from the grace and love of God and insulting that love means that you seem to be under the judgment of these verses: Hebrews 10:28-31. Your words that God's love (Romans 5:1-11) are "morally grotesque" are similar to the late atheist Christopher Hitchens' comments about it also.
Or if we say that God in the person of God the Son punished himself in order to be able to justly forgive sinners, we still have the absurdity of a moral law which God must satisfy by punishing the innocent in place of the guilty. As the medieval theologian St Anselm wrote in his work Why God Became Man (Cur Deus Homo), ‘it is a strange thing if God so delights in, or requires, the blood of the innocent, that he neither chooses, nor is able, to spare the guilty without the sacrifice of the innocent’.
I believe the basic fault of the Christian understanding of salvation is that it has no room for divine forgiveness.
God is clear that He forgives sin, based on His character and Holiness and satisfaction of His wrath, all throughout the Bible from beginning to end. You have no right to chop the Bible up and divide it and abuse it against itself.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God killed an animal to make skins for them to cover their shame and nakedness. Have you forgotten about Genesis 3? From that point on, the shedding of the blood of an innocent victim for the guilt of humans was instituted as a principle and covers the whole Bible narrative and does not have to be repeated in exact words all the time at your demand. The theme of God’s mercy and forgiveness based on the satisfaction of His holiness and justice in the substitution of an innocent victim (sheep, goats, rams, bulls, lambs, etc.) is continued in the almost sacrifice of Isaac, and the substitution of the ram in Genesis 22 (which Islam agrees with in principle in Qur’an 37:107 and has a major feast every year at the end of Hajj in order to commemorate this Scriptural event; yet distorts the meaning and significance of it; and changes some details also, teaching that it was Ishmael that was to be sacrificed. Genesis 22 is so much more older than Islam theology. Even the Qur'an actually never specifically names Ishmael in the context around the text in Surah 37:107, yet it does mention Isaac nearby); at the Passover in Exodus 12; the Levitical sacrifices (Leviticus chapters 1-7), the day of atonement in Leviticus 16-17; to the temple sacrifices in Solomon’s day (I Kings 8); to the prophesy of the Messiah to come (Daniel 9:24-27; Isaiah 53:1-12) – all point to God’s mercy and forgiveness and based on the satisfaction of His holiness and justice first.
For a forgiveness that has to be bought by the bearing of a just punishment, or the offering of a sacrifice, is not forgiveness, but merely an acknowledgement that a debt has been paid in full. The Cross is not a symbol of forgiveness at all: on the orthodox Christian view, it denotes the repayment of a debt, as the infinity of Original Sin is atoned for by the infinite sacrifice of God’s own temporary death. But what humanity really needs, as we look back over our long record of disobedience, is a model of true forgiveness by a God who does not calculate, who imposes no mean-spirited ‘economy of salvation’ worthy only of accountants and bookkeepers. As the Bible teaches: The letter killeth – the spirit giveth life.
Paul Bilal Williams calls the holiness and justice and character of the God of the Bible, “mean-spirited”! The letter of the law kills – yes – God’s holy law and judgment and holiness is going to kill you(in hell), unless you repent and receive God’s mercy and grace and love that was demonstrated at the cross in the atonement of Al Masih. The Spirit gives life = “only the Holy Spirit can change a sinful heart and give that person to power to obey the law". The attitude of the Pharisees is the Islamic way (Sharia) on this earth – heavy on force, rituals, hiding secret sins, and external punishments. Which system has more of “the letter of the law kills” ? in history and in today’s world? You misinterpret 2 Corinthians 3:6 – “servants of the new covenant” – Paul is saying the old covenant, which is the law of Moses, is total justice and holiness and does kill sinners; (which is sort of what you have in Islam with Sharia and the harsh punishments and why so many Muslims are longing to be free from the strict Sharia law societies that kill. Indeed, the law does kill. (That is why too many Muslims, not all, but way too many - just kill people whenever they feel like it - honor killings, Islamic terrorism - Islam is law with not much grace and not much love because it has no atonement or justice, as the truth does in Christ and His propitiatory atonement - Romans 3:25-26) The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23; cf. 3:23) But the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; Ezekiel 36:25-27) provides grace and power so that we can have forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit to change us so that we can actually obey the law of God, however imperfectly.
But in the authentic teaching of Jesus to be found in the synoptic gospels (that is the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke)
Interesting the inconsistency you use with the Synoptics, because they are all negative against the Pharisees, yet you affirm them (The Synoptic Gospels) when it suits your purpose. What criteria do you use for accepting the synoptics on some issues and then rejecting them on the issue of the Pharisees?
there is, in contrast, genuine divine forgiveness for those who truly repent. In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to address God directly and to ask for forgiveness for our sins, expecting to receive this, the only condition being that we in turn forgive one another.
Of course Christians believe in repentance and God’s forgiveness, and we know about the basis for God’s forgiveness, in that He Himself first provided the sacrifice and shedding of blood of the animals to make skins for Adam and Eve. (Genesis chapter 3) It is you who are demanding exact words again in the Word of God, where God Himself clearly teaches on this issue in other places.
In Psalm 51, David’s amazing Psalm of true repentance, in verse 7, he said, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” What is hyssop? It is the tree branch used as a brush for applying the blood of the lambs – for example on the doorposts in Exodus 12:22. David knows that God’s mercy and forgiveness is based on the sacrificial system and the holiness and justice of God being satisfied first. But he also knows that just presenting a sacrifice in a ritual without real inward repentance and guilt and sorrow over offending God, is not right either. (Psalm 51:16; Psalm 40:6; see also Matthew 9:13 and Hosea 6:6.) The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart” – Psalm 51:17 – when there is true repentance first, then one can offer sacrifices in the temple – Psalm 51: 19 – “Then, You will delight in righteous sacrifices . . . “ You use Matthew 9:13 and Hosea 6:6 and Psalm 40:6 a lot in your arguments against Christianity, but you are abusing the verses. Of course bare entering into the temple and paying money and offering a sacrifice without at the same time an inner brokenness over one’s sin and repentance is abhorrent to God, just as Pharisees hiding their secret sins in their hearts and saying ritual prayers, just as many Muslims do what the Pharisee did in Luke 18:9-14 – hiding sins while performing rituals.
There is no suggestion of the need for a mediator between ourselves and God or for an atoning death to enable God to forgive.
Not if you demand to force the words into the prayer 2000 years later, and also ignore everything else in the Bible; but the overall context of the Bible taught this, even alluded to in the prayer. The disciples of Jesus know of God’s character in the OT; and they know about the sacrificial system and God’s demand for holiness and justice. That is why the prayer starts with that, “May Your name be treated as holy” – see Leviticus 10:1-3; Deuteronomy 32:51; Numbers 20:12 and 14:11. Before asking for forgiveness, Jesus begins with God’s holy character and worship of Him and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 8:13)
One of the most famous of all Jesus’ parables is found in Luke’s gospel: the so-called parable of the prodigal son. It is a story about how God treats repentant sinners. Note that the father when he sees his repentant son returning home does not say ‘Because I am a just as well as a loving father, I cannot forgive him until someone has been duly punished for his sins’, but rather he had compassion, and ran and embraced him and welcomed him home. So God does not need a sacrifice in order to forgive anyone.
Not if you demand to force your own exact words into the parable, and ignore everything else in the Bible; but the Jews of Jesus’ day know about the sacrifice of the animals to provide covering for Adam and Eve; they know about Genesis 22; they know about Exodus 12, they know about Leviticus chapters 1-7 and 16-17; they know about the sacrifices in the temple (I Kings 8), etc. It was not necessary for Jesus to repeat the principle inside a parable in order to meet your demands for exact words 2000 years later!
As the English convert from Christianity to Islam Ruqaiyyah Maqsood wrote: ‘the split-second of turning from Christianity to Islam is the realisation of the truth of the parable of the Prodigal Son. In the parables, God is loving enough to forgive directly. That was the whole glory of the Judaism which Jesus upheld.’
Another example is to be found in Luke’s story of the tax collector and the Pharisee, the tax collector standing far off would not lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner’. Jesus declared that this man went home justified before God. Jesus insisted that he came to bring sinners to a penitent acceptance of God’s mercy: ‘Go and learn what this means, he said, quoting God: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Matt 9.13)
You don’t know how to exegete Luke 18:9-14 properly. The spirit of Islam is more like the spirit of the Pharisee who boasts of his rituals and prayers and tithing and fasting. That is what Islam teaches – that you be good enough and clean enough by washing and saying the right words in Arabic and doing the right rituals. You are also taught to hide your sins, especially secret and shameful sins – as your own article on “Veiling sins” and the quote from the Hadith that Hamza Yusuf quoted. (still waiting for that reference, by the way.)
When the tax-collector prays, “God be merciful to me the sinner!” – the word “be merciful” can also be translated “be propitious to me”and is the same basic root as the word for atonement and propitiation – the satisfaction of the wrath/anger/justice of God against sin. The cry for mercy is based on God’s propitiation. The word is used regarding Jesus’ atoning death on the cross – Romans 3:25-26; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; I John 4:10. So right there in that parable is the deeper teaching of the atonement. Also, the use of the definite article “the sinner” shows that the tax-collector recognized he is a sinner by nature and deserves death and does not deserve mercy, and is consistent with the doctrine of original sin (Romans 5:12; Psalm 51:4-5; Genesis 6:5; Ephesians 2:1-3) but he also knows that God’s mercy is based on His providing an atonement, starting in Genesis 3 onward.
I will address Paul’s other points from Matthew 18 and other issues later, Lord willing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Muslims are taught to not confess their sins, but to hide them

Update:  Oct. 31, 2015.  No longer there, as Paul Williams has deleted his blogs twice.  He is now on his third blog.  www.bloggingtheology.net

Paul Williams wrote: (quoting Hamza Yusuf)
We must remember that if a person has done wrong his spiritual path is not severed. There is recourse. One seeks repentance with God. One should not confess or broadcast what one has done. If God has veiled one’s wrongdoing, do not tear the veil down.
There is a hadith in which a man came to the Prophet (upon whom be peace) and said “I committed a sin,” and he meant adultery. “So punish me.” But the Prophet (pbuh) turned and walked away. The man pursued the Prophet (pbuh) and told him again that he wanted to be punished for his sin. The Prophet (pbuh) finally looked at him and asked him if he made ablution and prayed. He was telling him that Islam purifies. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever does indecency, let him veil his acts with the veiling of God and let him make repentance.” He also said, “Whoever comes to our faces and admits them, then we will punish them.”
As of January 26, 2012, I am still waiting for the Hadith reference on this. (see the combox, as of Jan. 26)
This, the cultural tendency for Muslims to hide their sins, because of Islam and the external honor is more important than internal change and humility and confession of sins; is something I have noticed in 27 years of dealing with Muslims in evangelism, church planting, and discipling new believers. Muslim culture seems to teach Muslims to cover and hide their sins. This Hadith reference seems to confirm this for me as to where it comes from. But it would be nice to get the exact reference.
In contrast, Christians are taught to confess their sins to God – I John 1:9, Psalm 51:1 ff, 32:1 ff, 38:1 ff; James 5:16, Proverbs 28:13
If one has sinned against a person, they must go to them and confess their wrongdoing and make restitution (for example, pay back what was stolen, etc.) and seek reconciliation if possible. (James 5:16; Matthew 5:23-26; Matthew 18:15-20)
Yes, formal Islam does teach somewhere else that they must confess their sins to Allah; but it seems to be a general cultural tendency for Muslims to hide their embarrassing sins, and this Hadith seems to give foundation for that cultural norm. It is a human trait in other cultures also to hide one’s sin, just look at how Bill Clinton lied about his adultery and sex with Monica Lewinsky. So, I am not saying that other cultures don’t naturally hide their sins; I am just saying that Islam seems to provide religious justification for it, whereas Christianity does not.
The Bible teaches more clearly than Islam that the problems with the world are the human hearts of men, pride, selfishness, anger, lust, deception, jealousy, greed, hatred – the inner hidden motives and attitudes are the problem. Islam emphasizes the external rules and rituals and obeying authorities in society, but not the sinful attitudes in the heart. Islam’s Sharia (law) emphasizes externals and obedience and has harsh punishments and executions for certain sins. The problem with adultery is internal lust, not women not covering up enough. Granted the west has violated biblical norms of modesty and has gone too far the other way. You cannot clean your heart of pride and lust and anger and hatred by washing your hands or face or feet before you pray and then reciting a memorized prayer. God sees the heart, and the God of the Bible diagnoses the problems with the world more accurately than Islam does. Islam talks about internal sins, but not very much; it is not an emphasis. Islam takes a human trait of pride and honor and embarrassment over sin, shame (see Genesis 3 – the response of Adam and Eve to their sin, guilt, and shame) and takes that human tendency and institutionalizes covering up the problems and not dealing with internal sins. Islam lessens and denigrates the holiness of God, and makes light of it, when it boasts that man can clean up his life and work and do rituals correctly and somehow make themselves acceptable to God.
That is one reason why Sufism had to arise; because they recognized that external religion that emphasized cleaning the outside creates hypocrisy and dead rituals and internal corruption.
But there is no power of the Holy Spirit on the inside in the heart in the Islamic religion to change people’s nature. Sinners need a new heart, not a new set of rules and rituals to follow, thinking they can earn their way to get God’s acceptance, which is the height and depth of pride. (Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:1-8; Ephesians 2:1-10)
Isaiah 64:6
Romans 3:9-23
Diagnosis of Man’s problem in the hearts – internal root sins.
Matthew 23:25-26
Matthew 5:22-26
Matthew 5:28
Mark 7:20-23
Genesis 6:5
Jeremiah 17:9
Proverbs 4:23
I Samuel 16:7
The whole eastern and Muslim "honor and shame" cultural tendency comes from evil human arrogance and pride deep in the heart.
"whoever is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord" - Proverbs 16:5

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Qur'an never says the text of the Bible was corrupted

HT: David Wood at www.answeringMuslims.com. Others are embedding this also, I have noticed. It seemed good to me also to spread the word here.

Since by God's Providence this seems to be "Islam week"; here is another post on Islam, an excellent presentation by a former Muslim.

A good example of communication with Muslims from within their own worldview.

"Istaqfr'allah" استغفر الله = "I seek the forgiveness of God"; Iranians use it to say, "God forbid!" or "May God forgive you!"

In the first videos, notice the difference between "lafz" لفظ (word) and "Ma'ani" معنی (meaning).  We have the Arabic word "lafz" لفظ in Farsi also, which indicates the "word" or text (متن = matn) has not been changed. And we have the word "ma'ani" معنی also in Farsi which means "meaning". Some Christians and Jews changed the "meanings" of the text/word, by their wrong oral interpretations ("with their tongues" - Qur'an 3:78) but the text has not been changed or corrupted or lost.

He uses the exact same main verses that I would use to show that the Qur'an does not say that the text of the Bible was corrupted. (Surah Al Ma'ida 5:47; 5:68; Yunus 10:94; 10:64 - "There is not changing the words of Allah")

Here he quotes a lot of famous and early Muslims, to confirm this truth. Ibn Abbas, the cousin and one of the companions of Muhammad, Ibn Kathir, Imam Al Razi, Al Tabari (the historian of Islam), even Ibn Taymiyya. He says that the idea that the Bible was corrupt was started by Ibn Khazem (died in 1064 AD), which is way after the foundational period of Islam.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Interaction with Abdullah Kunde

Interaction with Abdullah Kunde on the Incarnation and his debate with Dr. White:
This was in the comboxes at Paul Bilal Williams Blog, whom I have mentioned before, who is a British convert to Islam, and claims to be a former Evangelical.
Abdullah Kunde’s demeanor is very good; Paul’s is most of the time; when he sticks to issues and arguments, and Eric Fadli’s is generally O.K.
The same cannot be said about particularly two other Muslims, “Rambo John” and “Rehan Ullah”, who are full of anger and hate and dirty mouths. Islam gives them great power of moral behavior, right?
Getting back to the subject of the incarnation –
Abdullah Kunde wrote:
I said Divine = independent, unique, unlike anything else, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc
Yes, we also believe that of the Divine Nature of Jesus.
Created (human) = dependent, similar (to other humans), ignorant, powerless
The human nature of Jesus came into existence in the womb of Mary, and has those qualities, yes.
These attributes are mutually exclusive.
But since Jesus has both a fully Divine Nature and a fully Human Nature (He got tired, He ate, He drank; He slept; He cried; -since He has both in one person, it is not a mutually exclusive concept.
One cannot have a ‘square-circle’.
True; but if the Word of God ceased to be the Word/eternal Son/divine, and changed into only a human, then that would be true, and your argument would have merit; but that is not what the Bible says, nor what Christians believe. So it is not a “square -circle”.
Likewise, one cannot be independent-dependent or all-knowing-ignorant. These statements are meaningless.
but if the independent chooses to temporarily lay aside His independence and live as a dependent for 33 years, there is nothing contradictory or meaningless about that; and if the All knowing chooses voluntarily to temporarily be not all-knowing – He knew a lot of things, He was not totally ignorant. Anyway, by choosing voluntary for 33 years to not use His divine attributes (Philippians 2:5-8), but doing miracles and knowing the secret hearts of people (John 2:23-25), then raising Himself from the dead (John 2:19-22; John 10:18), and being restored to that glory He had with the Father in all eternity past, (John 17:5), then it is not a contradictory thing or meaningless statement, as you say.
akunde said, on January 6, 2012 at 4:25 am
The conversation has degraded a bit,
[ that was a massive understatement! At least another Muslim named Erik Fadli tried to warn Rehan Ullah and Rambo John about their rude behavior, but they did not listen to him at all.]
but I’ll respond to the question I was asked prior.
…but if the independent chooses to temporarily lay aside His independence and live as a dependent for 33 years, there is nothing contradictory or meaningless about that; and if the All knowing chooses voluntarily to temporarily be not all-knowing – He knew a lot of things, He was not totally ignorant. Anyway, by choosing voluntary for 33 years to not use His divine attributes (Philippians 2:5-8), but doing miracles and knowing the secret hearts of people (John 2:23-25), then raising Himself from the dead (John 2:19-22; John 10:18), and being restored to that glory He had with the Father in all eternity past, (John 17:5), then it is not a contradictory thing or meaningless statement, as you say…
Well, it is meaningless, you’re still maintaining that two contradictory things can exist at the same time.
Your get out clause is to attempt to suggest that the Divine could ‘not use His attributes’ and the re-use them later (at a whim).
When He isn’t using them, where do they go? How does he reacquire them?
Precisely what attributes can He choose to not use? Existence? You’ve already said He can give up life, knowledge, power, uniqueness. Why not existence?
The bottom line is there is no genuine basis for these ideas, beyond trying to reconcile contradictory Biblical statements.
Thank you Abdullah for good conversation and good demeanor –

Abdullah Kunde wrote:
Well, it is meaningless, you’re still maintaining that two contradictory things can exist at the same time.

Christians throughout history have read and meditated on all of those verses I cited above and have found profound meaning and awe in them; that God (the Word of God from eternity; the eternal Son of God) humbled Himself and came down and was willing to become flesh (human) and live for 33 years among us, be subjected to hunger, thirst, temptation (Matthew 4:1-11, but not sin, Hebrews 4:15); mockery, rejection, suffering, pain, and torture and death. It is amazing love. It is not contradictory to me at all, and many others. I understand that you think it is contradictory. The redemption/ransom at the cross is both amazing love for sinners – that Jesus would allow Himself to be killed by sinners; and the redemption/ransom at the cross is also amazing justice against sin. God showed His full justice and His full wrath. If you study and meditate on all the verses above, including Genesis 22, Hebrews 2:14-18 and here; and why He had to become human, in order to save us; and that Yahya called Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – John 1:29 and see His love for all the nations, tribes, languages, and peoples – Revelation 5:9 – how His holy blood bought redemption and was a ransom for all nations – and that it was fulfillment of the foreshadowing and prophesy of Genesis 22, which the Qur’an 37:107 alludes to and retains an aspect of the substitutional atonement of the innocent (the ram/lamb/sheep) for the guilty humans (symbolized in Abraham’s son); hopefully you could see that this is not meaningless nor contradictory, but an amazing wonder of God’s justice and love accomplished at the same time. 

Your get out clause is to attempt to suggest that the Divine could ‘not use His attributes’ and the re-use them later (at a whim).
When He isn’t using them, where do they go? 

They are not some kind of substance or thing like glue or water or air. Philippians 2:5-8 explains it well enough; that we can grasp this idea by faith as God’s nature cannot be destroyed or cease to exist. 
How does he "reacquire" them?
 [ I don't agree with that particular terminology, but for the sake of argument . . . ] In the resurrection and the glorification of Jesus – explained by all the verses put together – also John 17:5 is clear. Jesus was made alive by the Spirit – I Peter 3:18. He also raised Himself up from the dead, as we have given the verses before. (John 2:19-22; 10:18) Many other verses say that God the Father raised Him up from the dead. All three persons of the Trinity were involved in the resurrection.

Precisely what attributes can He choose to not use? Existence? 

No; we accept John 10:18 and John 2:19-22 (and every other Bible passage that relates to this issue) as inspired words and truth, so we don’t struggle with God’s ability to do this whole thing that we are talking about. (Both incarnation and redemption at the cross and resurrection) 
Also, even all other human beings cannot give up existence. Our souls continue on after death. Don’t you believe that? Doesn’t Islam teach that souls continue and will be re-constituted with their bodies for the day of resurrection and face the judgment Day and that the wicked suffer for eternity in hell; and the righteous go in paradise / heaven? 

[Addendum: Indeed, soon after I wrote the above, Paul Williams then posted this article, which illustrates that Muslims believe about the day of resurrection where all human beings will stand before God and give an account for their lives - judgment day. This is one of the six articles/pillars of faith/believe in Islam, that is obligatory for Muslims to believe in. ]
You’ve already said He can give up life, knowledge, power, uniqueness. Why not existence?

already answered above.
The bottom line is there is no genuine basis for these ideas, beyond trying to reconcile contradictory Biblical statements.
Faith and the power of Jesus to open minds/hearts ( see Luke 24:45; John 6:44; Acts 16:14) is the victory that reconciles this amazing mystery. Keep on meditating on large portions of the Injeel (the NT) and ask Jesus Al Masih to reveal Himself to you. Ask the one whom you read about as you read the gospels and epistles of the NT and see His character and sinlessness and love and high teachings to reveal Himself. 

Thanks again for proper attitude in discussion, both you, Abdullah and Paul – I pray for you both. 

I sincerely wish peace to you both (and to all Muslims) – the peace that only Jesus Al Masih can give.
John 14:27
Romans 5:1-11

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Muslim agrees with the Greek of John 1:1, that the orthodox/Traditional interpretation is the right one

A Muslim confesses that the Orthodox / Traditional Interpretation of John 1:1 is the correct meaning of the Greek text. (That Arian and Jehovah's Witnesses' treatment of this text is wrong.)
Now, this Muslim, Paul Williams, does not believe that John 1:1 is "God-breathed" or inspired, or that the apostle John actually wrote the Gospel of John, and he does not believed it is truth, but he does admit that the traditional /orthodox interpretation is the right one of the intention of the Greek text; and that is a great start in communication.
Since very few Muslims bother to learn New Testament Greek, it is refreshing to find one who says he knows Koine Greek, and claims to have even memorized John 1:1-18 in the original. That is quite remarkable and a real breakthrough. One of the things that probably facilitated this is that this person claims to have been a Christian before, and converted to Islam a few years ago. (His name is Paul Bilal Williams, a British convert to Islam, who is the Director of the Muslim Debate Initiative. The Muslim Debate Initiative is a team of Muslim Debaters including Abdullah Al Andalousi, Sammy Zaatari, and Abdullah Kunde)
From the combox discussion and back and forth with several Muslims, including Abdullah Kunde, and Paul Bilal Williams, in a Muslim’s article about the Debate on the Incarnation between Abdullah Kunde and Dr. James White:
Notice the “exemplary behavior” of 2 particular Muslims, one who goes by “Rambo John” and another who is named, “Rehan Ullah”.  [ No longer there, as Paul Williams has changed his web-site several times over the past few years.]

Dr. White mentioned on a recent Dividing Line about Shabir Ally being motivated by Dr. White’s challenges to him to study NT Greek again. I remember that at the time I watched that particular debate. That is very refreshing to learn that Shabir is willing to do that. Hopefully, he will be able to them correct all the mistakes of Ahmed Deedat and Zakir Naik’s butchering of John 1:1 from their approval of Jehovah’s Witnesses kind of treatment of that and other verses.
Paul Bilal Williams says he can read the Greek New Testament and admits that the Arian and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ interpretation of John 1:1 is wrong.
Paul wrote:
“I find it somewhat curious that you feel yourself competent to judge a scholarly translation from the quranic Arabic but do not read Arabic yourself as you have confessed!
[ I admitted I don't know Arabic, but I do know Farsi, and can recognize all the Arabic words in the Qur'an that have come into the Farsi language. ]
At least when I write about the NT I can read the original!”
Paul Bilal Williams wrote:

“Just look at parts of the King James Old Testament – it is often unreadable because it sticks too closely to the original.”
My Response: No. It is difficult today because we don’t speak that way in English anymore. But there are more “word for word” translations in modern English, like the New American Standard version, the English Standard Version, and the New King James, and the NIV is a good translation also (the old one, not the “gender neural ones”; the NIV is a more dynamic equivalent translation, although it leaves out the connector “gar” (for) γαρ too many times, among other issues. But all of those translations are fine and good translations of the Bible in English.
If you can read Greek, then do you really understand John 1:1; and since you claim to read Greek and understand it, can you explain the significance of the word order, the Predicate nominative issue, and why the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation of John 1:1 is wrong?

Paul Williams said, on January 11, 2012
“if you can read Greek, then do you really understand John 1:1; and since you claim to read Greek and understand it, can you explain the significance of the word order, the Predicate nominative issue, and why the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation of John 1:1 is wrong?”
Claim? Lol. I know the prologue of John 1 in Greek by heart and Yes, I do understand 1:1 and Yes, the JW translation is wrong and Yes, I accept the traditional translation of the verse:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
So what?
My response:
Very good Paul; I commend you for that – Mash’allah!
Explanation of "Mash'allah!" ماشاءالله [“Mash’allah” is said in a positive way in all Muslim cultures for encouragement for something well done or well said. In Iranian culture is the equivalent of “bravo” or “way to go!” or “good for you!”. It literally means, “Whatever Allah wills”. The meaning is like, “God has willed you to do good or give a right answer.”
Here is an online explanation from a Muslim:
" "Mash'allah" literally means 'Whatever Allah (God) wills'. It is often used in occasions where there is surprise in someones' good deeds or achievements. For example people say Mashallah when someone does very well in their exams.” ]

I am glad you recognize that the JW translation and interpretation is wrong of John 1:1. 
You know all of John 1:1-18 by heart in Greek? حافظه ؟ (Hafezeh) – by memory?
 If so; very good. Double Mash’allah !

I wrote this little article a while back:
If one only has a beginning knowledge of Greek, it is very dangerous. The grammar and Greek syntax of John 1:1 determines the right theology. The doctrine of the Deity of Christ and the eternality of the Son is based on Scripture, not the Council of Nicaea. The Council of Nicaea is based on Scripture, and derives secondary authority from the only infallible authority – the Scriptures.
 Another Roman Catholic, “Nick the Catholic” also has an article with a title that claims that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were right about John 1:1. “JWs are correct about John 1:1; Jesus is not God” ( !!!) 
Then he clarifies later from his controversial, heretical, and inflammatory title. He says they were right if they mean “the Father is not Jesus”; ie the same person; but they are not right in that the JWs deny that Jesus is God or Deity.
 The predicate nominative issue is the key interpretive issue, more important than the definite article issue.

and the Word was God. 

καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

And God was the Word. 

Daniel Wallace has a good word on this issue: 
“We know that “the Word” is the subject because it has the definite article, and we translate it accordingly: “and the Word was God.”
Two questions, both of them of theological import, should come to mind:
1) Why was θεὸς (Theos) thrown forward? And
2) why does it lack the article?

In brief, its emphatic position stresses its essence or quality: “What God was, the Word was” is how one translation brings out this force. Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the Word ( Jesus Christ) with the person of “God” (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has; lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father. John’s wording here is beautifully compact! It is, in fact, one of the most elegantly terse theological statements one could ever find. As Martin Luther said, the lack of an article is against Sabellianism [Modalism]; the word order is against Arianism.

To state it another way, look at how the different Greek constructions would be rendered:

καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν ὁ θεὸς = “and the Word was the God” ( ie, the Father, Sabellianism, [or Modalism])

καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν θεὸς = “and the Word was a god” (Arianism) [also Jehovah’s Witness theology]

καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος “and the Word was God” (orthodoxy) [sound, Biblical doctrine)

Jesus Christ is God and has all the attributes that the Father has. But He is not the first person of the Trinity. [the Son is not the Father] All this is concisely affirmed in καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. “ 
Basics of Biblical Greek, William D. Mounce, Zondervan, 1993, p. 28-29. (Quoting Daniel Wallace)

So, here we have the principle of Sola Scriptura as the basis for all sound doctrine and theology. The first four Ecumenical councils were right, only because they got the Bible right. We don’t need Popes or any idea of an “infallible church council”. The Scriptures themselves teach us sound doctrine, and the good and right decisions in the Ecumenical councils derive their rightness from Scripture itself. Only Scripture is infallible. Here we see the Greek grammar and syntax teaching us the distinction between nature and person. God revealed the doctrine of the Trinity based on the Scriptures alone; Sola Scriptura stands.