Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Quran

Islam is said to be the fastest growing religion today. Western Christians can expect to find Muslims in their daily lives — neighbors, coworkers, and even relatives. So we have questions. What do Muslims believe? Do they really worship the same God as Christians? Why do they react like they do to insults to the Qur'an (or Koran) or Mohammed?

James R. White has given the Church a great gift with his What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an. In it he answers many of our questions and more using extensive quotes from Muslim scriptures and other religious writings.

He explains why Muslims object to the doctrine of the Trinity — and how it's based on the Qur'an completely misunderstanding it. He shows why they think the Jewish and Christian scriptures are corrupted — even while the Qur'an claims otherwise, which calls into question their claims that the crucifixion is a lie. He shows that the alleged biblical prophecies of Mohammed cannot be talking about him. And more. And he does this all using their own writings.

He doesn't approach this as a way to beat Muslims over the head but in hopes of gently opening conversations with them about places where their scriptures go wrong. That's something we should all be able to do.

This book isn't perfect by any means (I think the organization should be re-thought, for starters), but it is well worth your time if you want to learn more about Islam and engaging with our Muslim neighbors.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Difference Does Easter Make?

Even if we believe Jesus was raised from the dead, so what? What difference does the resurrection make? Why does Easter matter?

Fortunately, we don't have to guess; Jesus told us.

During his ministry, people kept asking Jesus for a sign to validate his authority to teach what he was teaching. He always pointed them to his resurrection (eg, Matt 12:38-40, John 2:18-19). The resurrection was Christ's vindication.

What did he teach that concerns us today?

First, he taught that there will be a day when we will all be judged by God. And we will be judged according to three things:

We will be judged according to our works — the deeds we have done (eg, Matt 5:17-20). We will be judged according to our heart — why we did what we did (eg, Matt 5:21-30). And we will be judged according to how we responded to Christ (eg, Matt 7:21-23). The good news is that responding to Jesus — ie, choosing to trust in and follow him — will mean that you won't be judged according to your actions but his (eg, John 3:16).

Second, he taught that the end is coming. A time will come when people will no longer have a chance to decide what they want to do with Jesus. The choice will have been made. Everyone will, based on how they are judged, experience either everlasting life or everlasting punishment (eg, Matt 13:36-43).

If Christ was really raised from the dead, then how we live our lives matters, and we will be held accountable.

But trusting Jesus means that we are safe from the judgment — Christ has already been held accountable for my sin. Now I will be given credit for his righteousness.

And for those who have trusted in Christ, the resurrection means something else. It means death has been defeated. Death doesn't have to be permanent any more. One day Jesus' people will again live in physical bodies, bodies that will no longer be plagued by the limits of our bodies like age, sickness, or disability. The resurrection means he won, and because he won, we will too.

Sin, where are your shackles?
Death, where is your sting?
Hell has been defeated
The grave could not hold the King! 1

1 from Arise My Love by Eddie Carswell, cf 1Cor 15:54-55.

You may also be interested in:
What is Easter?
Why Do I Believe in the Resurrection of Christ?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Is Your Bible "Translated and Re-Translated?"

"The Bible's been translated and re-translated so many times, no one knows what it means."

I was in college the first time I heard those words. The accusations went on: "Modern Bibles just change the King James into modern English, and it was translated from Latin. No one knows what the Bible said when it was written."

It's hard to believe someone can fit so many inaccuracies into such a small space.

While I'd grown up in church, I had only recently started reading the Bible for myself. Being the nerd that I am, I had read a very under-read section of the Bible: the preface.

The first sentence reads, "The New International Version is a completely new translation of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts." Every modern (protestant*) version has similar verbiage.

Once upon a time Bibles were translated from the Latin because that was what they had available. Since then, thousands of copies of the New Testament in Greek have been discovered. We also are better able to translate those Greek texts. (Finding people who still speak ancient Hebrew is comparatively easy.)

But in truth the Bible has been translated and re-translated many, many times. And that's a good thing. We don't just have Greek texts and research showing what those Greek words mean. We have translations into Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and many other languages made by people who spoke Koine Greek like a native. When they translated the Greek into Latin, they told us what they thought that Greek word meant. The rich tradition of translating the Bible into local tongues is a priceless gift to Bible translators.

Don't let people snow you. Any mainstream Bible you can put your hands on is a good translation of (to a high degree of certainty) what the prophets and apostles wrote into our modern languages.

If you want to go into more detail on the subject, I recommend How We Got the Bible, which goes into the history of how we got the manuscripts used for modern translations, how we use them to reconstruct the original text, and how we translate them into modern tongues.

* Roman Catholic Bibles are apparently still translated from the Latin Vulgate (which was translated from the Greek texts).