Friday, January 22, 2010

The Center of the Whole Bible

[Click through to Circumpolar to get the video.]

In Grad School one of my professors referred to D.A. Carson as the Michael Jordan of biblical theology.  Since then I have read a few of his books.  He is pretty cool.  So when he comes out with a teaching sermon titled, “The Center of the Whole Bible,” it’s going to get my attention.

The center he proposes is Romans 3:21-26.  Carson’s four main points are below.  “If you get these four points well and truly absorbed into your way of thinking about the cross you’ll find it transforming.”

1.  Paul sets forth the revelation of God’s righteousness in its relationship to the Old Testament. Rom. 3:21

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

2.  Paul sets forth the availability of God’s righteousness to all human beings without racial distinction, but on condition of faith. Rom. 3:22-23

the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

3.  Paul sets forth the source of God’s righteousness in God’s gracious provision of Christ Jesus as the propitiation for our sins. Rom. 3:24-25a

and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

4.  Paul sets forth the demonstration of God’s righteousness in the cross of Christ. Rom. 3:25b-26

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Download the audio or the video.  Made available through the Resurgence.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Muslim Followers of Jesus? continued

Following Jesus from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.

Is it possible to find salvation in Jesus Christ and also be a faithful Muslim?” 

This is easily the hottest topic in global missiology right now.

Muslims comprise 1/4 of the world’s population and are perhaps the most resistant religious group to the gospel.  So in talking about our unfinished mission of making disciples of all nations, this topic was bound to come up at some point.  Unfortunately, most of the conversation is very emotional and uncivil with shallow thinking on the subject itself.  Just see these responses.

This is a continuation of my previous post Muslim Followers of Jesus? Lausanne Global Conversation.  The brief articles included in the conversation are:

  • Joseph Cumming (Main Article) - Muslim Followers of Jesus?
  • Martin Accad - Away with Sterile Debates!
  • John Azumah - The Main Question is Identity
  • Mazhar Mallouhi - A Muslim Follower of Jesus
  • John Travis - God is Doing Something New
  • Phil Parshall - The Bible is Our Guide

    There are presently over 50 subscribers to this blog.  I am very interested to hear from you and what your thoughts are on this topic.  Go ahead and leave your comments!


  • Identity and Community
  • Defining Cultural and Religious Identity
  • Sunday, January 17, 2010

    The Islamic View of the Transmission of the Qur’an

    Below is a concise, accurate presentation about how the Qur’an was written down, according to majority Islamic belief:


    There were many versions of the Qur’an all of which were burnt by Uthman (R.A.) except for one. Therefore is it not true that the present Qur’an is the one compiled by Uthman (R.A.) and not the original revelation of God?


    One of the most common myths about the Qur’an, is that Hazrath Uthman (R.A.), the third Caliph of Islam authenticated and compiled one Qur’an, from a large set of mutually contradicting copies. The Qur’an, revered as the Word of Allah (swt) by Muslims the world over, is the same Qur’an as the one revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). It was authenticated and written under his personal supervision. We will examine the roots of the myth, which says that Uthman (R.A.) had the Qur’an authenticated.

    1. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) himself supervised and authenticated the written texts of the Qur’an

    Whenever the Prophet received a revelation, he would first memorise it himself and later declare the revelation and instruct his Companions who would also memorise it. The Prophet would immediately ask the scribes to write down the revelation he had received, and he would reconfirm and re-check it himself. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was an Ummi who could not read and write. Therefore, after receiving each revelation, he would repeat it to his Companions. They would write down the revelation, and he would re-check by asking them to read what they had written. If there was any mistake, the Prophet would immediately point it out and have it corrected and re-checked. Similarly he would even re-check and authenticate the portions of the Qur’an memorised by the Companions. In this way, the complete Qur’an was written down under the personal supervision of the prophet (Pbuh).

    2. Order and sequence of Qur’an divinely inspired

    The complete Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years portion by portion, as and when it was required. The Qur’an was not compiled by the Prophet (Pbuh) in the chronological order of revelation. The order and sequence of the Qur’an too was Divinely inspired and was instructed to the Prophet (Pbuh) by Allah (swt) through Archangel Gabriel. Whenever a revelation was conveyed to his companions, the Prophet (Pbuh) would also mention in which Surah (chapter) and after which ayat (verse) this new revelation should fit.

    Every Ramadan, all the portions of the Qur’an that had been revealed, including the order of the verses, were revised and reconfirmed by the Prophet (Pbuh) with Archangel Gabriel. During the last Ramadan, before the demise of the Prophet (Pbuh), the Qur’an was rechecked and reconfirmed twice.

    It is therefore clearly evident that the Qur’an was compiled and authenticated by the Prophet (Pbuh) himself during his lifetime, both in the written form as well as in the memory of several of his Companions.

    3. Qur’an copied on one common material

    The complete Qur’an, along with the correct sequence of the verses, was present during the time of the Prophet (Pbuh). The verses however, were written on separate pieces, scrapes of leather, thin flat stones, leaflets, palm branches, shoulder blades, etc. After the demise of the Prophet (Pbuh), Abu Bakr (R.A.), the first caliph of Islam ordered that the Qur’an be copied from the various different materials on to a common material and place, which was in the shape of sheets. These were tied with strings so that nothing of the compilation was lost.

    4. Uthman (R.A.) made copies of the Qur’an from the original manuscript

    Many Companions of the Prophet (Pbuh) used to write down the revelation of the Qur’an on their own whenever they heard it from the lips of the Prophet (Pbuh). All the verses revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) may not have been heard personally by all the Companions. There were high possibilities of different portions of the Qur’an being missed by different Companions. This gave rise to disputes among Muslims regarding the different contents of the Qur’an during the period of the third Caliph Uthman (R.A.).

    Uthman (R.A.) borrowed the original manuscript of the Qur’an, which was authorised by the beloved Prophet (Pbuh), from Hafsah (may Allah be pleased with her), the Prophet’s (Pbuh) wife. Uthman (R.A.) ordered four Companions who were among the scribes who wrote the Qur’an when the Prophet (Pbuh) dictated it, led by Zaid bin Thabit (R.A.) to rewrite the script in several perfect copies. These were sent by Uthman (R.A.) to the main centres of Muslims.

    There were other personal collections of the portions of the Qur’an that people had with them. These might have been incomplete and with mistakes. Uthman (R.A.) only appealed to the people to destroy all these copies, which did not match the original manuscript of the Qur’an in order to preserve the original text of the Qur’an. Two such copies of the copied text of the original Qur’an authenticated by the Prophet are present to this day, one at the museum in Tashkent in erstwhile Soviet Union and the other at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

    5. Diacritical marks were added for non-Arabs

    The original manuscript of the Qur’an does not have the signs indicating the vowels in Arabic script. These vowels are known as tashkil, zabar, zair, paish in Urdu and as fatah, damma and qasra in Arabic. The Arabs did not require the vowel signs and diacritical marks for correct pronunciation of the Qur’an since it was their mother tongue. For Muslims of non-Arab origin, however, it was difficult to recite the Qur’an correctly without the vowels. These marks were introduced into the Qur’anic script during the time of the fifth ‘Umayyad’ Caliph, Malik-ar-Marwan (66-86 Hijri/685-705 C.E.) and during the governorship of Al-Hajaj in Iraq.

    Some people argue that the present copy of the Qur’an that we have along with the vowels and the diacritical marks is not the same original Qur’an that was present at the Prophet’s time. But they fail to realise that the word ‘Qur’an’ means a recitation. Therefore, the preservation of the recitation of the Qur’an is important, irrespective of whether the script is different or whether it contains vowels. If the pronunciation and the Arabic is the same, naturally, the meaning remains the same too.

    6. Allah Himself has promised to guard the Qur’an

    Allah has promised in the Qur’an: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly Guard it (from corruption).” The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 15, Verse 9

    Dr. Zakir Naik


    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Showing the Spirit

    Almost everyday I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing trying to advance the gospel among Muslims.  The last few years I have been yearning for God to make that possible.  And yearning for more of God has at times led me to a deeper understanding of the gift of the Holy Spirit in my life.

    One short book that helped me last year was Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan.

    Another book I am reading from tonight is Showing the Spirit by D.A. Carson.  This quote below was especially encouraging and instructional in a “big picture” kind of way so I thought I would pass it on to you in the hope that a deeper understanding of the enabling presence of God through the Holy Spirit would stimulate your ministry to Muslims.

    The rest of this post is a block quote from Carson:

    “Under the old covenant, God dealt with his people in what we might call a tribal fashion. Despite remnant themes, the Scriptures picture God working with his people as a tribal grouping whose knowledge of God and whose relations with God were peculiarly dependent on specially endowed leaders. The Spirit of God was poured out, not on each believer, but distinctively on prophet, priest, king, and a few designated special leaders such as Bezalel. When these leaders stooped to sin (e.g., David’s affair with Bathsheba and consequent murder of Uriah) the people were plunged into the distress of divine judgment.

    But Jeremiah foresaw a time when this essentially tribal structure would change.

    “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

    Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes— his own teeth will be set on edge.”

    “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

    It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers.…

    This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.

    “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:29–34)

    In short, Jeremiah understood that the new covenant would bring some dramatic changes. The tribal nature of the people of God would end, and the new covenant would bring with it a new emphasis on the distribution of the knowledge of God down to the level of each member of the covenant community. Knowledge of God would no longer be mediated through specially endowed leaders, for all of God’s covenant people would know him, from the least to the greatest. Jeremiah is not concerned to say there would be no teachers under the new covenant, but to remove from leaders that distinctive mediatorial role that made the knowledge of God among the people at large a secondary knowledge, a mediated knowledge. Under the new covenant, the people of God would find not only that their sins were forgiven but that they too would know God in a more immediate way.

    The same kind of hope is set forth by Ezekiel, who quotes the sovereign Lord in these terms:

    “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezek. 36:25–27, italics added; see 11:19–20)

    Elsewhere, we read:

    “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

    They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. One will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name of Israel.” (Isa. 44:3–5)

    The same theme pervades many Old Testament texts that anticipate what we might generically label the messianic age. Moses himself recognizes that the desideratum [something desired as essential] was a universal distribution of the Spirit; for when Joshua complains to him that Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp and indignantly demands that they be stopped, the aged leader responds, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:27–29).

    It is of this that Joel prophesies (Joel 2:28–32 in English versions); and according to Peter, it is this that is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). But that means Joel’s concern is not simply with a picky point—more people will prophesy some day—but with a massive, eschatological worldview. What was anticipated was an entirely new age, a new relationship between God and his people, a new covenant; and experientially this turns on the gift of the Spirit. Put more generically, what the prophets foresaw was what some have labeled “the prophetic Spirit.” All who live under this new covenant enjoy the gift of this prophetic Spirit; and this is no mere creedal datum, but a lived, transforming, charismatic (in the broad, New Testament sense of that word identified in my first chapter), vital experience. It is in that sense that all who live under the new covenant are prophets: they enjoy this enduement of the Spirit, with various rich and humbling manifestations distributed among them.

    It is the dawning of the new age that was signaled by Pentecost, and that is why Peter’s quotation of Joel’s prophecy is so significant. According to all four Gospels, John the Baptist predicted that Jesus Messiah would usher in that age: he would baptize his people in the Holy Spirit. Jesus, especially in the Gospel of John, explicitly connects his death, resurrection, and exaltation with the coming of the Spirit. His return to the Father via the cross and the empty tomb is the necessary condition for the Spirit’s coming (e.g., John 7:39; 16:7). Indeed, the Holy Spirit, that “other Counselor,” is in certain respects Jesus’ replacement during this period between the “already” and the “not yet” so characteristic of New Testament eschatology; he is the means by which the Father and the Son continue to manifest themselves to believers (e.g., John 14:23). The same theme is picked up by Peter on the day of Pentecost: “Exalted to the right hand of God, [Jesus] has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). It has been shown in some detail that for Luke the coming of the Spirit is not associated merely with the dawning of the new age but with its presence, not merely with Pentecost but with the entire period from Pentecost to the return of Jesus the Messiah” (pg. 151-155).

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Jesus as The Word of God

    In the Qur’an, Jesus is called the Word of God (3:39, 45; 4:51).  Muslims take this to mean that God spoke and Jesus was.  Thus the Prophet Jesus is the “Word of God” because he was miraculously conceived in Mary simply by God’s speech:

    "She (Mary) said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.' He (God) said: ‘So (it will be) for God creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: ‘Be!'- and it is" (3:47).

    "Verily, the likeness of Jesus in God's Sight is the likeness of Adam. He (God) created him from dust, then (He) said to him: ‘Be!'-and he was" (3:59).

    Here is how John 1 uses this title for Jesus:

    “To the Greeks the ‘logos’ was the purpose or meaning of existence. To the Jews the ‘logos’ was God’s Word — the truth or moral absolutes at the foundation of all reality. In the beginning of his gospel John addresses both world-views when he speaks of a divine ‘Word’ that was the source and foundation of all creation. But then he says something that floods the banks and bursts the boundaries of all human categories. He tells Jews that the truth and self-expression of God has become human. He tells Greeks that the meaning of life and all existence has become human. Therefore, only if you know this human being will you find what you hoped to find in philosophy or even in the God of the Bible. The difference [between any other great figure and Jesus] is the difference between an example of living and one who is the life itself.”

    – Charles Williams, quoted by Timothy Keller in Gospel Christianity, Course 1 (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 49-50.

    HT: Of First Importance

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide?

    At the Common Ground (Insider) conference I asked this question to the presenters, “Where I live, Islam is all about Mohammed and he is highly venerated.  How can a Muslim who comes to faith in Christ remain in Islam if Mohammed is viewed as the savior?”  The answer I got was, “Well, that is up to the Muslim Believer to decide.  His conscience will guide him.

    I have struggled in forming a biblical view of conscience for years.  Below is generally the principle I have held to, articulated in David Mays’ book notes on 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe.  Listed as the 7th dumbest(sp?) thing is “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide:”

    "The idea that our conscience is a trustworthy moral guide is a myth." (108) "Our conscience doesn't tell us if we're violating God's standards. It tells us when we're violating our standards." (109) "Our conscience is also easy to reset." (110) Our sin nature clouds our understanding of spiritual truth and God's leading. It puts static on the line and creates spiritual blind spots. Over time, if we continue in sin, it can become callused and loses its sensitivity. Our ability to feel guilt goes away. (115) Prisons are full of people who let their conscience guide them. And the same is true in church. Business people break their word to make a deal. They think they have to. Many times someone's conscience is clear because it is no longer working. Our conscience is a valuable early warning device, a yellow light. But it's a terrible green light.

    I have never seen a really good article on the biblical view of conscience.  Does anyone know of one?

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    A Muslim’s View of Christian “Missionaries”

    Thought this was an interesting article of one Muslim’s interpretation of Christian “missionary” activity called Christian Missionaries Sweeping the Islamic World.  For example the article starts like this:

    Let us first discuss some of the new ways that Christian missionaries are using in the Islamic world, these new methods have been applied because the old methods did not prove as effective as the Christian missionaries thought they were. Some of the problems were the great gap between Islam and Christianity such as the principle of trinity and escalation of Jesus PBUH. Some of these new ways are :-

    1) Misguiding, making similar, lying (taDDlel, khida3, labs Al-7aqaiq) Many books have been written for Muslims, keeping the belief of Muslims, their ideas and general princeples in mind. The book “shahadat Al-Quran” which was distributed all around the Islamic world, even in Saudi Arabia. This book was taken from the book “The Lord is one” for Zakariya Boutros. This book talks about the similarities between Islam and Christian faith. They, for example, quote the verse that refers to prophet Jesus PBUH as a prophet, a word and a spirit. They say that is originaly the same trinity! Of course this is a false interpretation, a lie. Allah said he blew in Adam of his own spirit, allah gave his word to Moses, David, Ibraham, Adam, Mohammad PBUT and not only to Jesus. The missionaries base this whole theory on the fact that there are three nouns, ie just because of the number. One of their other arguments that they say that “In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful” means three gods!! not one! that is a worst liethan the one before, they ignore that Allah has 99 names that we know, and many more that Allah promised to tell his prophet at the day of judgment…

    Read the whole thing.

    HT: John Stringer

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Review of Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend

    Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend, by Joy Loewen   Forward by Brother Andrew   (Buy)

    Woman to Woman, Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend, Joy Loewen, 978-0-8007-9483-5

    Chosen Books, January 2010, 208 pages, ISBN 978-0-9483-5

    I believe this book will revolutionize our approaches in reaching the Muslim women with the genuine love of Christ.” – Samuel Naaman, D.Miss., Department of World Missions and Evangelism, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago

    This book is more than delightful - it is a `must read' for men as well as women. Why? If we fail to grasp the message of this book we will never really understand Muslims or their culture at all. So, whatever good books are on your reading list, move this one to the front. It will be worth it!” -Dr. Ed Hoskins, Physician and author of "A Muslim's Heart"

    Woman to Woman is a book that primarily uses narrative to show how to help Christian women befriend and share Christ with Muslim women who are living in North America.  The book has a dual purpose; (1) to introduce the reader to the personal lives of Muslim women, and (2) to introduce the reader to a North American woman’s journey of discovering and embracing the lives of Muslim women.  So the book is as much about the author as it is about Muslim women. 

    Thankfully, the author Joy Loewen is a shining example of a missional Christ-follower who has more than 30 years experience in Muslim ministry.  Woman to Woman is not a formal treatise on Muslim evangelism, but a series of enjoyable and interesting stories that pauses frequently to explain issues related to the lives of Muslims that average church-goers in America might not understand.  The tone of the book and Joy’s approach towards Muslims is irenic, sensitive, and respectful. 

    The intended audience of the book is for those who care about Muslims but who have little or no understanding of non-western culture or the Islamic worldview.  In a time where approximately 20% of Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) in the world are female, more books like this are timely.  (I have heard the most unreached bloc of people on the planet are Muslim women.)

    Being of such an introductory nature, I think the book would be more accessible if it were shorter.  I would have also appreciated more discussion around the issues of trying to integrate MBBs into the church, and more examples of contextual witness and church planting.  But again, the book is mainly a first read for a Christian woman who is curious about the Muslim women living around her.  For this kind of reader I recommend Woman to Woman because it could help many “move from fear to love and compassion.”

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    The Role of Works in Salvation

    From the January 2010 issue of EMQ, A Muslim-Christian Dialogue on Salvation: The Role of Works, by Paul Martindale:

    One principle of effective witness with Muslims is listening and allowing them to identify the issues which they find important in the discussion. It is then up to us to formulate our biblical understanding for them in those areas. At a recent meeting betwaeen [sic] Muslims and Christians on the topic of salvation, the role of works became central in the ensuing discussion.

    The two main objections expressed by the Muslims present centered upon the apparent lack of works necessary for salvation in Christianity and the carte blanche Christians seem to have for sin in their lives after conversion…

    Both the Muslims and the Christians present were in agreement on the following formulation for the role of works:

    Faith + Works + Allah’s Mercy = Salvation

    Faith + Grace = Salvation + Works

    …Our dialogue with Muslims has forced us to clarify our theology of works. The biblical emphasis we place on faith and grace in salvation is certainly appropriate. However, this is not true when it is taken to the extent that the role of works in the life of the believer is ignored or becomes extinguished in our theology or praxis. For Muslims, this appears to be a central issue, and they need to see how the role of works is affirmed in Christianity…

    Read the whole thing (requires a subscription to EMQ).

    I would probably add to this the need to teach Muslims about regeneration- we receive new spiritual life when we are “born again.”  Our natures, lives, and desires and completely changed when we come to Christ.

    We are not just trying to get Muslims to make a decision for Christ; we are trying to get them to change their affections to Christ.  Aim for a heart change.  Instead of simply asking, “How can this Muslim get saved?”, the question should be, “How can this Muslim become a follower of Jesus?”  Disciples who embrace Christ as their supreme treasure are heaven-bound; but those who insincerely make a decision for “an easy road to heaven” may not.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Preventing Discouragement and Keeping Church Planters Productive on the Field

    From the EMQ January 2010 issue: Preventing Discouragement and Keeping Church Planters Productive on the Field, by David A. Diaso:

    The responses to a survey I conducted [of 180 workers interviewed] demonstrated that church planters are more likely to be motivated to continue if the following are in place:

    • a clear definition of the criteria for success;
    • a clear description of tasks required to plant a church;
    • training, coaching, and mentoring in tangible church-planting principles; and  
    • consistent encouragement and feedback from the mission agency and team leader/supervisor.

    Diaso then gives 4 recommendations based on his research:

    1. Mission agencies and team leaders/supervisors must provide a clear definition of the criteria for success.
    2. Mission agencies need to provide for a clear description of tasks required to plant a church.
    3. Mission agencies need to provide training, coaching, and mentoring in tangible church-planting principles.
    4. Mission agencies and team leaders/supervisors need to provide consistent encouragement and feedback.

    Read the whole thing (requires a subscription to EMQ).