Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Debating This Saturday (August 19th) in Philadelphia


For those of you in the Philadelphia area, Robert Spencer and I will be debating Sakhawat Hussain and Sayyid Atiq Ebady this Saturday. Here's all the info you need:

WHO: Robert Spencer and David Wood vs. Sakhawat Hussain and Sayyid Atiq Ebady
WHAT: Debate on the topic "Does the Quran Promote Peace?"
WHEN: August 19th, 2017, 12pm-5pm (Debate starts at 1:30pm)
WHERE: Berean Presbyterian Church, Broad and Diamond Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19122
WHY: Why not?

Ticket's must be purchased. You can get them here.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Is Muhammad a Prophet of God?

Here is my latest debate and a summary of my presentation. I plan to publish it as a booklet in the future.

THE REASONS THE QURAN GIVES FOR MUHAMMAD BEING A PROPHET

Reason 1 - If Muhammad was not a true prophet God would strike him dead.

And if the apostle (Muhammad) were to invent any sayings in Our (God’s) name, We should certainly seize him by his right hand, And then certainly should have cut off his life artery (Aorta). (Qur'an 69:44-46, Yusuf Ali)

Narrated (told by) `Aisha: The Prophet (Muhammad) in his ailment in which he died, used to say, "O `Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison." (Sahih al-Bukhuri: vol. 5, bk. 59, no. 713; 4428)

Reason 2 - Muhammad is a prophet because the Qur’an is in clear Arabic. (Not presented in the debate due to limited time.)

In truth We (God) know that they (Muhammad’s opponents) say, “It is only a mortal who is teaching him.” The speech of the one at whom they hint is foreign, whereas this (the Qur’an) is clear Arabic speech. (Qur’an 16:103, 44:14, Jones)

Reason 3 - There are no contradictions in the Qur’an

Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other than God, they would surely have found in it much discrepancy. (Qur’an 4:82, Yusuf Ali)

Reason 4 - Bring a sura/chapter like it.

Or do they say, “He (Muhammad) has invented it (the Qur’an)”? Say (to them): “Then bring a sura like it; and call on those you can apart from God, if you are truthful.” (Qur’an 10:38, Jones)

Say, “Then bring a Scripture from God that gives you better guidance than the two of them (Torah and Qur’an), and I shall follow it, if you are telling the truth.” (Qur’an 28:49, Jones)

Reason 5 - The Qur’an confirms the earlier scriptures.

O you People of the Book! Believe in what We have (now) revealed (the Qur’an), confirming what was (already) with you. (Qur’an 4:47, 46:12, Yusuf Ali)

Reason 6 - Muhammad is foretold in the Bible.

Those who follow the messenger (Muhammad), the prophet of his community, whom they will find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel in their possession. (Qur’an 7:157, 61:6, Jones)

If you know of any other reasons the Qur'an gives please post them in the comments.

A BIBLICAL ASSESSMENT

Reason 1 - Sura 33 - The Ungodly Privileges of Muhammad

Qur'an 33:4 and 37 - Zaynab

Qur'an 33:50 - Any woman he wants.

Qur'an 33:51 - Not equal time with wives.

Narrated Aisha: ... (Quoting Quran 33:51) ... I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 60, no. 311)

Reason 2 - Muhammad turns people away from reading the prophets.

Islamic Lectures on the Collection and Transmission of the Qur’an

As a Christian I have often been told by Muslims that there is only one perfectly preserved Qur'an.
No other book in the world can match the Qur'an ... The astonishing fact about this book of ALLAH is that it has remained unchanged, even to a dot, over the last fourteen hundred years. ... No variation of text can be found in it. You can check this for yourself by listening to the recitation of Muslims from different parts of the world. (Basic Principles of Islam, p. 4)

While this may be believed at the popular level it certainly is not the view of academic Muslims. The Al-Mawrid Institute has produced an excellent video series that addresses directly the problems Muslims have with the different versions of the Qur'an. I highly recommend this series for your own knowledge of the issues, and because the videos are also very suitable to show to your Muslim friends so that they can hear from a Muslim scholar the extensive issues Muslim academics have with the Qur'an. Al Mawrid lecture series on Qur'an

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Reformation 500th Anniversary Conference in Long Island, N.Y.


For those of you in the New York city area, I will be speaking in Long Island, N.Y. on Friday September 29 and Saturday September 30, 2017. I will also be preaching on Sunday October 1, 2017. We will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

11 Week Seminar on the Book of Revelation

If you live in the Toronto area, I will be teaching an 11 week seminar on the book of Revelation beginning on Sunday September 17, 2017 from 3 pm - 5:30 pm at the Oakwood Wesleyan Church. For more information please contact Pastor Sule Prince at prince_sule@hotmail.com


Another Undesigned Coincidence: Unauthorized Fire, and Touching a Dead Body at Passover

In recent blog articles, I have been documenting various examples of undesigned coincidences throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament. In this blog post, I will reveal another example. Turn with me to Numbers 9:1-8:
And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.” 4 So Moses told the people of Israel that they should keep the Passover. 5 And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the people of Israel did. 6 And there were certain men who were unclean through touching a dead body, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day, and they came before Moses and Aaron on that day. 7 And those men said to him, “We are unclean through touching a dead body. Why are we kept from bringing the Lord's offering at its appointed time among the people of Israel?” 8 And Moses said to them, “Wait, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.”
There is a time stamp given for this Passover in verse 1. We are informed that it took place "in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt." Thus, this was the second Passover.

In verses 6 and 7 we read of "certain men who were unclean through touching a dead body." Someone, therefore, has evidently died among the camp of Israel. Here is where it gets interesting. According to Exodus 38:26, the number of men above twenty years of age -- excluding the Levites -- who paid a tax to the Tabernacle only a short time before its erection was 603,550. According to Numbers 1:46, the number just after the erection of the Tabernacle (at the beginning of the second month of the second year) is exactly the same -- 603,550.

This suggests that the dead body that we read was touched and hence defiled certain men in Numbers 9:6-7 was likely of the tribe of Levi.

Now turn with me to Leviticus 10, in which we read an account of the very same Passover. We know that Leviticus 10 takes place around the time of Passover, since in Exodus 40 we read of the erection of the Tabernacle on the first day of the first month and that at that same time Aaron and his sons were consecrated to minister as priests (Exodus 40:13). Leviticus 8 and 9 concern the particulars of their consecration. Thus, we pick up at Leviticus 10.

In verses 1-5, we read of the death of Nadab and Abihu:
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace. 4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said.
No mention is made in Leviticus 10 of the defiling of certain men by touching a dead body or the instructions given as a result. No mention is made in Numbers 9 of Nadab and Abihu, of the tribe of Levi, who took a censer and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, resulting in their deaths in judgment and their bodies being carried away out of the camp by Mishael and Elzaphan.

Thus, the "certain men" spoken of in Numbers 9 who had been defiled by touching a dead body was most likely Mishael and Elzaphan.

This sort of integration without design is the type of pattern we expect in genuine historical reports, not works of fiction.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tony Costa's Mission Trip to Cambodia





Dear Friends. I will be going to Cambodia from August 21-25, 2017 to teach pastors there on the subject of theology and other false religions. If you can help support my travelling costs it would be greatly appreciated. You can support my trip by clicking  here.  Thank you and God bless.



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Support Needed!

We'd like to take our sons Reid and Paley to a conference where affected children and families meet with the researchers who are working on curing Myotubular Myopathy. The costs for our 2015 trip totaled nearly $9000 (but were completely covered by donors!). We started a GoFundMe campaign for this year's conference. Please chip in if you can.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Using Undesigned Coincidences to Corroborate Biblical History: King Hezekiah's Treasury

In past articles, I have been documenting many cases of undesigned coincidences throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament, and showing how we can use them to corroborate various aspects of Biblical history. Here, I present yet another example of an undesigned coincidence in the Old Testament.

Turn with me to Isaiah 38, in which we read of King Hezekiah's illness and recovery. In Isaiah 39, we have an account of envoys coming from Babylon to congratulate King Hezekiah on his recovery. There is a parallel account of those events in 2 Kings 20 which appear to be textually dependent on Isaiah (or vice versa). Here is the account in Isaiah 39:1-2:
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.
Thus, we learn, King Hezekiah proudly showed the Babylonian envoys his great riches in his treasure house. Hezekiah's pride brings upon him a prophecy of judgment. In verses 3-7, we read,
Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
King Hezekiah selfishly is relieved at the prophecy, thinking to himself that at least "There will be peace and security in my days" (verse 8).

Both the account of this event that we read in Isaiah and that in 2 Kings imply that Hezekiah's fell ill at the time of the invasion by Sennacherib of Judah and before the outcome of that invasion. In both accounts, God promises Hezekiah that he will live and that God will deliver the city from the Assyrians (Isaiah 38:6; 2 Kings 20:6). Thus, the envoys arrived from Babylon after his recovery, and after the danger from Assyria had been averted.

Now let's consider another text in 2 Kings 18:13-16:
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me. Whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king's house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the doorposts that Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.
Wait a minute. So Hezekiah has just made this humiliating tribute to the king of Assyria, having had to offer him "all of the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king's house" and even being reduced to stripping the gold from the doors of the temple and from the doorposts. How then was he able not long after this humiliation to show all of his riches of his treasury to the Babylonian envoys? One could write it off as a contradiction, or we could dig deeper to find the solution - and in so-doing uncover another remarkable undesigned coincidence.

For the solution, let us now turn to 2 Chronicles. 2 Chronicles contains the account of the destruction of Sennacherib's army by the miraculous intervention of the angel of the Lord (which is also found in Isaiah and 2 Kings albeit in different wording and terminology from the account in 2 Chronicles). After these events, 2 Chronicles throws in a unique detail in 32:23:
And many brought gifts to the Lord to Jerusalem and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.
Therein lies our answer. This explains how Hezekiah came to have a full treasury to show off to the Babylonian envoys by the time the Babylonians learned of his recovery. No mention is made of the humiliating tribute to the Assyrians in 2 Chronicles. 2 Kings does mention the humiliating tribute and him showing off his treasury shortly thereafter to the Babylonian envoys, but makes no mention of the gifts that replenished the treasury. Isaiah makes no mention of the tribute or the gifts but mentions his display of his great wealth.

This undesigned coincidence corroborates the historical veracity of these events and also strongly suggests that one of our authors (i.e. either Isaiah or the author of 2 Kings) had access to the court of Hezekiah, and thus knew about the visit of the Babylonian envoys.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Corroborating Biblical History with Undesigned Coincidences: The Building of Solomon's Temple

In a previous article, I introduced an example of an undesigned coincidences relating to Mount Hermon. I discussed Moses' incidental mention in Deuteronomy 3:8-9 of the Sidonian name for the Mountain, which is Sirion (despite the fact that Mount Hermon is geographically very distant from Sidon). The solution, which I discern in my earlier article, is that at its foot there was dwelling a Sidonian colony, who spoke the Sidonian language, of which we read in Judges 18:7. The city was called Laish, but following the conquest of this city by Israel, its name is changed from Laish to Dan. I invite readers to go back and read my earlier article, in order to better make sense of the undesigned coincidence I lay out here.

Turn with me to 1 Kings 7, in which we read of the building of Solomon's temple. Let's zero in on verses 13-14:
And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work.
There is a parallel account given in 2 Chronicles 2:13-14, in which we read of what the king of Tyre wrote in a letter to Solomon:
Now I have sent a skilled man, who has understanding, Huram-abi, the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David your father.
It is clearly the same individual being spoken of here that we read of in 1 Kings 7. However, there is an apparent discrepancy (which I have highlighted in bold font in our texts above) -- the text in 1 Kings asserts his mother to be a woman of the Tribe of Naphtali; the other, in 2 Chronicles, asserts her to be a woman of the daughters of Dan. Now, we could just simply dismiss this as a contradiction on the part of Scripture -- as many liberal critics would like to do. Or we could dig deeper to see whether there is a resolution.

As discussed in my earlier article, six hundred people from the tribe of Dan seized the city of Laish, which was a city of the Sidonians (see Judges 18). We also know that the Sidonians were subjects of the king of Tyre, since in 1 Kings 5:6 we read of Solomon sending to the king of Tyre for workmen, saying,
Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.
As I showed in my previous article, Laish/Dan was close to the springs of Jordan. There is thus evidence to support that Dan/Laish stood in the Tribe of Naphtali, since we read in Joshua 19:32-34:
The sixth lot came out for the people of Naphtali, for the people of Naphtali, according to their clans. And their boundary ran from Heleph, from the oak in Zaanannim, and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum, and it ended at the Jordan. Then the boundary turns westward to Aznoth-tabor and goes from there to Hukkok, touching Zebulun at the south and Asher on the west and Judah on the east at the Jordan.
We are thus told that the outskirts of the territory of Naphtali is said to have been at the Jordan. Again, this implies that Dan/Laish stood in the Tribe of Naphtali.

This, then, makes sense of our apparent discrepancy between 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. The woman is said to be of the Tribe of Naphtali since her hometown, according to 2 Chronicles 2:13, was Dan/Laish -- just as Jacob is also called a Syrian because he had lived in Syria (see Deuteronomy 26:5). By birth, she was of the Tribe of Dan -- the very tribe which had conquered and colonized the city of Laish, renaming it Dan (Judges 18). This also illuminates why her husband is said to have been a man of Tyre (since the Sidonians were subjects of the king of Tyre).

What at a superficial glance appeared to be a contradiction between 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles in fact, on closer inspection, reveals an undesigned coincidence that ends up corroborating the Biblical account. In future articles, I will continue to document cases of undesigned coincidences throughout the Scriptures, thereby further corroborating Biblical history.

Ramadan Bombathon 2017: Five Takeaways

During the 2017 Ramadan Bombathon, jihadis killed nearly 1600 people in the name of Allah. By comparison, all other religions combined didn't launch a single terrorist attack in the name of their respective religions. What can we learn from these results?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The London Mosque Attack: How Politicians and the Media Are Killing Muslims

Early in the morning of June 19, 2017, a 47-year-old man named Darren Osborne plowed a rental van into Muslims who were leaving a mosque after their evening Ramadan prayers. Police are treating the incident as an anti-Muslim terrorist attack. In this video, I explain how such attacks can be prevented.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Rising Price of a Slave: Another Method of Corroborating Biblical History

The following graph is excerpted from figure 43 of K.A. Kitchen's book, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, and can be found on page 643. It shows the rising average price of slaves throughout 2000 years. Another graph, running alongside, shows the Biblical records of the price of a slave at three distinct Biblical time periods. 


The first of those is at the time at which Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery. Genesis 37:28 tells us,
Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
This was the approximate average price of a slave in the 18th century B.C. Before this time, the price of a slave had been cheaper and the price steadily increased over time due to inflation. As shown in the graph, before this time (under the third dynasty of Ur), the commonest price of a slave was only 10 shekels. The prices of a slave in the 18th century (the time of Joseph), according to old Babylonian documents, are within a 15 to 30 shekel range and average at 22 shekels.

The next Biblical time point marked in our graph is the time of the Exodus out of Egypt. If we look at Exodus 21:32, we are told,
If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
In fifteenth century Nuzi and fourteenth and thirteenth century Ugarit, the average price of a slave reached as high as 30 shekels and more. Hence, we see the replacement money that must be paid to the owner, according to Exodus 21:32, given as 30 shekels.

In the first millennium, B.C., the average price of a slave rose as high as 50 to 60 shekels. The Biblical record tells us the redemption price that Menahem had to pay Assyria in the eighth century B.C. Here is what we read in 2 Kings 15:20:
Menahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy men, fifty shekels of silver from every man, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back and did not stay there in the land.
Thus, as K.A. Kitchen explains (On the Reliability of the Old Testament, p. 345),
...our biblical figures in each case closely correspond to the relevant averages for their periods: 20 shekels for Joseph in the early second millennium, 30 shekels under Moses in the later second millennium, and 50 shekels for Assyria under Menahem in the eighth century. This closely matching "graph" is not coincidence.
If the events were being made up centuries later then it would be very difficult for a forger to check the relevant price of slaves at the time of the events he was narrating. This is the sort of thing where it would be very easy for a forger to err, given the rapidly climbing average price of a slave throughout history. This pattern of evidence suggests that the events are being recorded in close proximity to the time and place.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Zakir Naik Claims Muhammad Was a Gay Necrophile

In the Islamic hadith collection "Kanz al-Ummal," we read a disturbing story about Muhammad sleeping with a dead woman to ensure her place in paradise as his bride:
"Narrated by Ibn Abbas: 'I (Muhammad) put on her my shirt that she may wear the clothes of heaven, and I slept with her in her coffin (grave) that I may lessen the pressure of the grave. She was the best of Allah’s creatures to me after Abu Talib' . . . The prophet was referring to Fatima , the mother of Ali."
Since the word "slept" here can refer to sexual intercourse (as in the English sentence, "He slept with her"), some critics of Islam have suggested that Muhammad had sex with a dead woman.

Whether or not that's true, Muslim apologist Dr. Zakir Naik claims that Muhammad was a homosexual and a necrophile (someone who is sexually attracted to dead people). He makes this claim by arguing that Muhammad is mentioned by name in Song of Solomon 5:16 and that the Hebrew word "machmad" is the name "Muhammad." In this video, I point out the obvious implications of Naik's assertions.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Corroborating Biblical History Using Undesigned Coincidences: Isaac and Rebecca Revisited

In a previous article I posted at this site, I argued for the historical veracity of the story in Genesis 24, wherein Abraham sends out a servant to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia in search of a wife for Isaac. I did so using a form of undesigned coincidence which I call the uniformity of expressive silence (please see my article for a full discussion on that). Here, I want to present an additional corroborating case of an undesigned coincidence.

According to our text in Genesis 24, who was Rebecca (the woman who would become Isaac's wife) in relation to Abraham? In verse 24, Rebecca tells the servant,
I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.
Who is Nahor? We find out in Genesis 11:26:
When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Thus, we learn that Nahor is Abraham's own brother! We are also told this in Genesis 22:20. This information is not given to us in Genesis 24, although the servant does say in verse 27,
As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen
The text then does tell us that Rebecca was one of Abraham's kinsmen. For the precise relationship, however, we have to go to Genesis 11:26.

This is rather strange, since it appears then that the grand daughter of Abraham's brother Nahor is to be the wife of Isaac, Abraham's son. Think about what this means. Someone of the third generation on the side of Nahor is to be married to someone of the second generation on the side of Abraham.

How can we make sense of this? Turn over to Genesis 18:11-12, in which we read of the response of Abraham's wife, Sarah, after God promises that “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son,”:
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
In other words, Sarah had been for a long time barren, and she was now well past the age of child bearing. This makes sense of how someone of the third generation on Nahor's side could marry someone of the second generation on Abraham's side. But note that this is not spelled out in the text. It is only by putting these jigsaw pieces together -- from Genesis 24:24, Genesis 11:26 and Genesis 18:11-12 -- that we find illumination of what was going on. This is the sort of pattern we expect in a record of history, not a work of fiction.

Indeed, this case of undesigned coincidence corroborates a miraculous element of the narrative -- namely, that Sarah conceived Isaac when she was of old age, something she would naturally not be expected to do. There are many more cases of undesigned coincidences throughout the Scriptures. I will continue to document them on this blog.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Undesigned Coincidences in the Scriptures: An Argument of Their Veracity



Here is the recording of a presentation I delivered on Saturday to my Apologetics Academy webinar class. The topic is undesigned coincidences in the Scriptures and how we can use them to corroborate Biblical history in the gospels & Acts, as well as the Old Testament, and support the authenticity of the Pauline epistles. Enjoy!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Revisiting the Trinity in Acts 2: A Reply to Dale Tuggy

Image result for dale tuggyA few days ago, I posted an article addressing a blog post that was written by Biblical Unitarian heretic Dale Tuggy, in regards to Peter's preaching in Acts 2. Dale argued that, since Peter makes no reference to the Trinity or deity of Christ in his sermon to the Jews in Acts 2, these doctrines must therefore not be essential to the gospel, and that they moreover must be dispensable beliefs for salvation. In my rebuttal, I showed that Peter's preaching in Acts 2 in fact does affirm the deity of Christ, and, moreover, his gospel presentation is profoundly Trinitarian.

Over at his blog, Tuggy published a response to my article, defending his position that Peter does not affirm the deity of Christ or the Trinity in Acts 2. My friend Steve Hays then joined the fray, publishing a short rebuttal to Tuggy's article. I have to confess to being rather disappointed with the lack of substance or depth in Tuggy's response article, and the misrepresentation of Trinitarian doctrine.
I had made the point previously that the sermon in Acts 2 does not mention Christ's death being an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Thus, applying Tuggy's logic consistently would also make that doctrine dispensable to the gospel. Tuggy replied,
I assume he means here something like a substitutional theory of atonement. That’s right, I don’t think anyone has to believe that in order to be saved. A person doesn’t have to believe any developed theory about the mechanics of forgiveness, i.e. a theological atonement theory, in order to be saved. That is as it should be. All Peter tells them in Acts 2, is if they repent and get baptized, they’ll be forgiven.
Actually, it does not matter what theory of atonement one buys into. Nowhere in Acts 2 does Peter even assert that Jesus died for our sins. Yet no Christian would argue that this indicates that Jesus dying for our sins is not definitional to the gospel. One must also make a distinction between a lack of belief as a result of ignorance or immaturity in the faith, and a considered denial of those doctrines. I do not believe it is necessary to believe in the Trinity to be saved. One might hold all sorts of heretical understandings out of ignorance and yet still be saved. A wilful rejection of the Trinity, however, is something else entirely.

I noted in my previous article that while Peter's sermon in Acts 2 does not use the philosophical categories that would be later developed to convey the idea of the Trinity, Peter's sermon is nonetheless profoundly Trinitarian. Tuggy replied,
Here Mr. McLatchie introduces a red herring, a distraction. The use of “philosophical categories” (i.e. terms) is irrelevant. I would count it here if in any way, the tripersonal God were mentioned as such, or the “deity of Christ” or the two natures of Jesus were taught. The terms needn’t have time-traveled back from Constantinople (381) or Chalcedon (451). Any sort of explicit statement or clear implication would do.
I think my previous article showed just that. As we shall see, Tuggy's rebuttal to my points falls very far short of convincing.

Tuggy continues,
Unfortunately, Mr. McLatchie also introduces a weasel word here, on which the rest of his piece depends: “trinitarian.”
If this means “having to do with the Trinity,” i.e. the tripersonal God, then there is no shred of evidence that what Luke is doing here is trinitarian, nor does my opponent provide any.
If “trinitarian” means just “having to do with the Father, Son, and Spirit” (this triad, however they’re related to one another), then of course all of Acts is “trinitarian.” But this is a trivial point. Any unitarian’s theology will also be thorough “trinitarian” in this loose way of using the word.
He assets [sic] that Peter’s first sermon here is thoroughly “trinitarian.” In the first sense, this is patently false. In the second sense, it is obviously true. This is how weasel-words work. The hope is that you’ll agree to the obvious truth, and then not notice when we switch to the (at best) controversial claim.

Of course, I refer to the former use of the word Trinity -- i.e. defined as a tripersonal God. That is what my previous article proposed to defend. There is no weasling here on my end. Tuggy just doesn't get it.

Tuggy continues,
Next, McLatchie serves up an example of the fulfillment fallacy. The argument is:
1. In Joel 2 Yahweh (truly) promises to pour our his spirit on all flesh.
2. In Acts 2 Peter (truly) says that Jesus poured out God’s spirit on all flesh.
3. Therefore, Yahweh is Jesus (and vice-versa).   (1,2)
Note the vast gap between 1 and 2 and the conclusion 3. The argument is invalid; 3 doesn’t follow from 1 and 2. 1 and 2 could be true while 3 is false in this way: Yahweh pours out his spirit through (the risen and exalted) Jesus. 1 and 2 are merely compatible with the identity of God and Jesus (claim 3). But 1 and 2 do nothing to support 3.
The trouble here is that Tuggy has thoroughly misrepresented my argument. Tuggy sets up my argument as follows:

1. A causes B.
2. C causes B.
3. Therefore, A is C.

Of course this form of logic is invalid. However, that is not my argument. Rather, the argument is that, according to Peter in Acts 2, God promised through the Prophet Joel that God, YHWH, would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Moreover, according to Peter in Acts 2, this promise from the book of Joel has been fulfilled since Jesus has poured out the Spirit as prophesied. Thus, I would argue that Peter is identifying Jesus as YHWH.

Tuggy goes on to commit a massive blunder, which shows that Tuggy lacks the expertise in Trinitarian beliefs to be speaking publicly about the issue. Here it is:
Worse, 3 is incompatible with every Christian’s belief that there are differences between God and Jesus. It’s not even a conclusion which a trinitarian should want! Do you see why?
Amazingly, Mr. McLatchie celebrates having (he thinks) proved the numerical identity of Yahweh and Jesus, and then immediately mentions that they qualitatively differ!
After quoting my statement that Jesus in Acts 2 is presented as distinct from the Father, Tuggy continues,
Right Jesus received the spirit from the Father. (Acts 2:33) The Father didn’t receive his spirit from anyone. It follows that they are numerically two. Mr. McLatchie needs to learn this self-evident truth, the indiscernibility of identicals, and then theologize (and interpret scripture) accordingly.
Tuggy has thus fundamentally misrepresented Trinitarian beliefs. What Trinitarian believes that Jesus is the Father? Indeed, every Trinitarian believes the Father and Son are distinctive personalities. The Father is not the Son, and nor is the Son the Father. Nonetheless, the three distinct persons of the Father, Son and Spirit fully participate in and share the fullness of the divine essence.

Tuggy makes the mistake of assuming that Trinitarians believe that God is Jesus. Such a statement, however, is in error. It is correct and proper to say that Jesus is God, but it is not correct for us to assert that God is Jesus. While the Son possesses all of the divine attributes, prerogatives and qualities that make God God, He does not exhaust all that God is -- there is also the Father and the Spirit.

Tuggy goes on to make the same mistake in regards to my comments about the reference to the name of Yahweh in Joel, and Peter's statements that we are saved through the name of Jesus. Tuggy replies,
But of course, in this new covenant, you return to God, you get reconciled to God through Jesus. This doesn’t imply that God just is Jesus, and vice-versa. Rather, the whole scheme presupposes that God and Jesus are two, since the man Jesus is a mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) between us and God, functioning like a high priest (Hebrews).
But what Trinitarian asserts that "God just is Jesus"? Of course that is ridiculous. God is the Father, Son and Spirit.

Consider an illustration from the Old Testament. In Genesis 5:1-2, we read,
When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them Adam when they were created.
Thus, both Adam and Eve are named Adam by God. Adam, in this sense, therefore, simply refers to the essence of the two individuals Adam and Eve -- i.e. it defines what they are. The other sense in which the name Adam is used, of course, is as a proper name. It is appropriate for us to say that Eve is Adam, but it is not appropriate for us to say that Adam is Eve.

Regarding my defence of the deity of the Holy Spirit from Acts, Tuggy writes,
The personality and “deity” of God’s spirit is no part of the content of Peter’s message in Acts 2, which is what my post was about.
As I wrote in my previous post, the deity of the Holy Spirit can even be defended from Acts 2, since the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh, implying that the Holy Spirit possesses omnipresence, an exclusive attribute of the divine.

In summary, Tuggy's rebuttal was high on rhetoric but lacking in substance. He, moreover, thoroughly misrepresents the position of Trinitarians such as myself. Tuggy's assertions notwithstanding, the book of Acts -- and in particular Peter's sermon here in Acts 2 -- is thoroughly Trinitarian.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ramadan Bombathon in Iran

The global "Ramadan Bombathon" continues, this time in Iran, where jihadis attacked the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Trinity in Acts 2: A Refutation of Dale Tuggy

Image result for peter acts 2Biblical Unitarian Dale Tuggy published an article at his blog in which he argues that belief in the doctrine of the Trinity and deity of Christ are not definitional to the gospel, and are not essential for salvation. After all, Tuggy, points out, Peter in his proclamation to the Jews in Acts 2 makes no mention of those doctrines.

Tuggy's argument fails for a number of reasons. For one thing, Peter's sermon in Acts 2 also makes no mention of Christ's death being an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Extending Tuggy's logic further, therefore, would require also abandoning that doctrine as definitional to the gospel.

The second problem is that, while Peter's sermon (being addressed to a Jewish audience) does not use the philosophical categories that would be developed later to convey the idea of the Trinity, Peter's sermon is thoroughly Trinitarian. Consider verses 16-21, in which Peter quotes from Joel 2:
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Notice that in verses 17 and 18, Yahweh states that "I will pour out my Spirit". Yet what does Peter go on to state in verses 32-33?
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Thus, the one who has poured out the Spirit, according to Peter, is Jesus Himself! Peter thus has identified Jesus as none other than Yahweh. Jesus, moreover, is clearly distinct from the Father, since Peter says that He has "received from the Father."

Furthermore, in Acts 2:21, Peter quotes Joel as saying,
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
 And yet what does Peter state in verse 38?
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, while Peter has quoted Joel as saying that all who call upon the name of Yahweh will be saved, he goes on to instruct the people to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, Peter goes on to say to the Jewish council in Acts 4:11-12,
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Again, the name given by which we must be saved is that of Jesus.

We thus have clear evidence in this text that Peter is proclaiming the deity of Jesus. But what of the Holy Spirit? In Acts 2:17, Peter has quoted God in the book of Joel as saying "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh." What properties would the Holy Spirit have to possess in order to simultaneously be poured out on all flesh all over the world? Clearly, omnipresence, an attribute of deity.

The book of Acts actually affirms the deity and personal identity of the Holy Spirit a number of times. For example, in Acts 5:3-4, we read,
But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
Thus, the Holy Spirit is here taken to be a personal agent who can be lied to -- in fact, the Holy Spirit is identified as God Himself in verse 4.

Acts 5:32 also has another affirmation of the personal identity of the Holy Spirit:
And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Thus, the Holy Spirit is a witness in the same sense that the apostles were witnesses. This again strongly implies the personal identity of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is identified as both divine and personal in Acts 13:2:
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 
Here, the Holy Spirit speaks as a person and sends Barnabas and Paul. The Holy Spirit says it is the work He has called them to do. This again implies strongly the deity of the Holy Spirit.

The personal identity of the Holy Spirit also comes through in Acts 15:28 at the Jerusalem council:
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements.
The phrase "it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit" (which is taken to be in the same sense that it seemed good to the apostles) implies strongly that the Holy Spirit is a personal agent.

Another affirmation of the deity of the Holy Spirit occurs in Acts 28:25-27:
And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
Thus, according to Paul, the one who spoke to Isaiah in Isaiah 6:9-10 was the Holy Spirit. Yet according to Isaiah 6:8 it is the Lord God himself speaking.

In conclusion, we have seen that, contrary to Dale Tuggy's assertions, Peter's sermon in Acts 2 is profoundly Trinitarian.