Bridging the Gap between Muslims and Christians

I found this article in the Mennonite Weekly Review, ‘Praying at the Mosque’, fascinating. It’s about a Christian who prayed at a mosque in Bethlehem twice a week for three months. He built friendships, was invited to homes, and learnt how Christian’s were viewed by those particular Muslim men. He was entirely clear that his faith was in Jesus the entire time; he didn’t seek to compromise his faith, but did respect their practice of their faith.

To me this seemed like a quiet way to build bridges, seek understanding, and genuinely share faith in Jesus. There was no loud advertising or political grandstanding, and no compromise of the Christian message. At the same time, there was genuine respect for the people at the mosque, who welcomed him back in their midst any time.

The article didn’t mention any conversions, but it could be that there was at least a change in perceptions, which maybe might lead to more peaceful relationships if it happened on a larger scale.

It was sad to read how Christians were perceived in that world – when they found the author was from Canada he was asked, ‘But you’re not going to shoot us, are you?’. Christians were seen as obsessed with sex and as being shallow in their faith.

I suspect that not all Christians could do this kind of thing with the kind of respect that would allow relationships to develop.

It’s worth reading about becauses this is a different approach to Muslims, on a smaller scale and more personal, than what we’ve seen from a couple of other Christian leaders lately. These were quite controversial, worrying some Christians that they might be watering down the Gospel or compromising on Jesus in order to reach out, whether that was actually the case or not.

Anyway, do have a read. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this gentle and friendly approach, and on the way Christians are perceived by these people.


192 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap between Muslims and Christians

  1. I CLEARLY HAVE TO SAY THAT AS A CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST WE’VE MISSED IT SOMEWHERE.WE HAVE THE FORM OF GODLINESS BUT DENYING ITS POWER.

  2. I don’t mind what religion is practised as long as it is Peace-loving and tolerant. We have quite a few inter-racial marriages in our family and it works as we don’t push our own religions/beliefs onto people although we are predominately Christian.

  3. I went to the main mosque in Kuala Lumpur many years ago. A man at the entrance welcomed me most graciously and I took off my shoes and went in. It wasnt long though before I was asked if I was a Muslim and then asked to leave. Last year I was invited to a Ramadan feast, I really enjoyed it and people were really interested in discussing the differences between the Muslim and Christian faiths.

    I liked this article. The author seems to have a gift when relating to people of other faiths. I do agree that this approach is a good one, and needed more than ever at this time.

  4. interesting thoughts expressed here … I would like to point out, however, that while all religions in the world could be wrong, only one of them can be right.

    They are all mutually exclusive. Jesus tells us He is the ONLY way after all.

    Without Jesus, we a doomed to hell. I married a woman who grew up in Islam. It is not a peace-loving religion (although most of the people are) but it is a militant religion. It developed a military reason to exist and territory is conquered in the name of Allah, who is definitely not the Father of Jesus.

    While many missionaries interchange God and Allah in everyday conversation, this confuses the issue.

    The ultimate issue is of course, are all religions equally true? Or is there only one true religion?

    If there is only one true religion, which one?

    Once chosen, what do you do with the others?

    Spiritual Experience is derived from:
    Divine Inspiration
    Human Imagination
    Demonic Deception

    The real question for Christians is, where does Islam come from? Is it a Demonic Deception? Because it totally dismisses Jesus as the Saviour.
    It refutes the Substitutionary Atonement. It ignores the claims of the New Testament to Jesus’ Divinity.

    Islam claims that Jesus was only a human prophet, and not the best one!

    To accept Islam means losing the one thing that is not present in any other faith.

    Forgiveness.

    It’s true, Allah is supposed to be forgiving as well. But as his primary attribute is power … he can forgive or condemn on a whim. The only guarantee of Heaven is to die in Jihad, preferably killing as many infidels as possible. Not only do you get to heaven, but you can name 70 relatives and friends to go with you.

    Any territory that once was Islamic, must be reconquered for Allah. No exceptions. Therefore, Israel will always be at war with the Arabs. The best they can hope for is a ten year truce.

    It’s also the reason given for the bombing in Madrid a few years ago. They were claiming Spain in the name of Allah.

    There can never be peace with Islam … until the whole world bends the knee to Allah.

    In Conclusion,
    we either accept that the Gospels are wrong about Jesus, or we have to reject Islam as a false religion.

    Are we willing to put Jesus first or will we compromise?

    ===================================================
    Christians have this expectation of being tolerant of others and supposed to be tactful in what they say.

    Tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Jesus wasn’t tolerant or tactful. Paul wasn’t tolerant or tactful either. Of Jesus even the Pharisees said “you pay attention to no man”

    They spoke the truth. Jesus was a friend to sinners, they were honest with him and he told them to stop sinning. Jesus didn’t get on with the self-righteous Pharisees. They weren’t honest about themselves and continued in their hypocrisy. Jesus hates hypocrisy.
    ===================================================

    Feeling troubled here. 😦

    While the example of the one person reaching out to Muslims is a good example, it is not one that most of us can follow. The risk of compromise with Muslims is very great.

    While we do live in a multi-religious world and do have to get along peacefully with people, we must not compromise our faith to do it. Salvation is at stake. Not just our own, but those who follow on from us.

    A new thread topic “Can we interchange and exchange freely the words Allah and Yahweh when we talk about God? Will this help us when we talk to Muslims?”
    Muslims quite happily talk about God rather than Allah with other faiths as it makes the discussion opaque.
    Rick Warren has tried blending Islamic and Christian names for God in his Inauguration Prayer of course. A christian minister essentially equating the Koran and the Bible as being of equal worth is deadly.

    There is, when all is said and done, only one way to Heaven.

    Jesus Christ.

    No other name counts.

    (All that is after just one coffee! … I think I’ll have another Fair Trade coffee now.)

    Shalom

  5. One of the interesting points with this example, Bull, was that the author did not compromise his faith. It was a form of outreach, in their backyard.

    Even if there were no conversions, he broke some of the stereotypes that exist there about Christians. As a peacemaker, he formed the kind of relationships that could make the world a safer place. None of this meant that he used the term ‘Allah’ or or made any compromise; in fact he seemed careful to talk about Jesus so there was no confusion.

    I think he was aiming for peace, but not unity of faith – he did not even pray in the same way they did, and had his back to Mecca (if I remember correctly). Yet he respected them as people, and was invited into their homes.

    As Wazza pointed out, quite gifted.

    There must be ways of reaching out to Muslims; I think many times they will be relational. Perhaps at other times, God will reach them directly, where we cannot. Big evangelistic rallies and invitations to church services are pretty unlikely to see positive results though, I’d imagine.

  6. BTW – I buy Fair Trade coffee too. It’s often pretty good. So is Fair Trade chocolate, which I get from the Oxfam shop. 🙂

  7. I’ll take my hat off to anyone who can walk the fine line of being faithfull to the Truth whilst also operating in a ministry of reconciliation.

    Not easy!

    Its a bit of a balancing act which we often get wrong. Sometimes the gospel is watered down for the sake of finding common ground. Or else we become too dogmatic and create enmity with people that Christ still died for.

  8. The real question for Christians is how do we do deal/relate to others who have often diametrically opposed views?

    Does it always have to be an “us and them” paradigM?

    Don’t think Jesus operated that, and Bull He did have quite a lot of dialogue with Pharisees – not all of it adversarial.

  9. I was not attempting to dismiss the example, and I acknowledge that Jesus was not always confrontational.

    However, he was not afraid of speaking the truth.

    What I wanted to emphasise was the insanity that some have towards other faiths, as if they are an equally valid way to God.

    If other faiths are an equally valid way to God along with Christianity then we are left with two options … The Bible is wrong about what Jesus said, or Jesus wasn’t telling the truth. I don’t think either option is acceptable to believers.

    Not all people can operate as the person in the example above has done. My concern is not for him or others like him who have been given the grace to do this witnessing, but for those left behind who might get the wrong idea from it all and start thinking of Islam as a sister faith to Christianity (i.e. same Father).

    As long as people know the differences between the two religions … that is enough for me. Go in with eyes open.

    Comparing this person’s witness with Brian McLaren’s observance of Ramadan is very easy. McLaren was dead wrong. Why? Because ordinary Christians will be influenced wrongly by his actions, without bothering to find out the fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity. There will be far too many people who draw the wrong conclusions.

    One anonymous believer who breaks down barriers so he can share his faith is to be welcomed, as long as he knows the faith he is trying to share while knowing enough of the faith he is trying to abolish in others.

    Whosoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved. Those who call on Allah or anyone else will perish. The Bible makes this crystal clear.

    I know … I coming across all Augustine’ian on you.

    Eternal destiny is at stake so get into the Bible before it’s too late!!! The more you get into the Bible the more you get out of it!

    I give thanks for all those who witness to Muslims. I heard one fantastic missionary to Muslims, just a couple of days before the Tube Bombings in London “To me, ISLAM means I Shall Love All Muslims.”

    So the goal is to love them enough to get them into the Kingdom of God, whatever it takes … even going into the Mosque if necessary. However, well known leaders should not do this publicly. That’s not their job. Leaders are to lead spiritually, with prayer, preaching and teaching and all the rest of it.

    Well … that’s it for now.

    Do we love people enough to share the truth with them?

    Shalom

  10. I used to debate alot when I was young ie: with JWs but lately I only debate if someone wants to. I have a couple of atheist friends and we debate on occasion but we have alot of laughs in between and they are v nice people. I just say what the Bible says, they can take it or leave it.

    I have never debated with a Muslim, not that I knew of anyway, but have been studying the Koran a bit. I don’t know whether they would be open to discussion.

  11. Sorry Bull but Allah = God. Dont want to argue with you but you would want me to share the truth in love wouldnt you? 😉

    Allah is just the arabic word for God. When an Arabic Christian prays, they pray to ‘Allah’.

    Sure the two religions are very different and incompatible. I dont deny the existence of some very problematic versus in the Koran and their outworking in the religion. But it makes no sense to say they worship a different God just because they have a different name for Him.

  12. If any religion believes they are right or whatever it’s pretty hard to debate with them. I would like to debate with a Muslim, and Im sure some would, but if they’re fixed on their beliefs, such as JWs, it will be futile. I agree Wazza the only approach these days is understanding and tolerance.

    Being an example of Christ’s teachings. Jesus was angry about the Temple and the pharisees because they were supposed to be examples/role models of the current religion. As the Koran came about 500AD it wasn’t an issue until later.

    Its very interesting how Mohammad came into the arena and Im still studying this. What would Jesus have said to them, I wonder

  13. well whatever “god” you adhere to or believe in everyone thinks they are “right” so, therein lies the difficulty.

    Christianity is unanimous in western culture and in Australia alot of immigrants were Catholic. I think multiculturalism is fantastic and how white australian policy has diminished somewhat, so that’s good.

    With any religion that is extreme and isolated in its views you get issues. Jesus wants us to measure our hearts and our transgressions individually ie: the samiratan lady at the well.

  14. Nice article RP, refreshing. Extraordinary what a little humility can achieve. I really do (mostly) like the faith and practice of the Anabaptists.

    It was once said of the earliest Christians that they comforted their enemies and made them their friends. I guess they had a strong sense of equality, of not being better than everyone else as human beings. They made themselves equal with each other and no greater than everyone else. I think they also weren’t afraid, were secure in their faith which allows for understanding without personal threat (threat to one’s own beliefs), causing the other to be challenged by humility and authentic practice rather than antagonised by judgements and intolerance.

    Tolerance is a good thing. It’s hard to love someone without being somewhat tolerant towards their faults and sins, their peculiarities and foibles, their individual beliefs that differ greatly from our own and I don’t think it’s necessary to compromise our faith to do it. In fact it may open many doors for the Holy Spirit to do His work in people’s hearts. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

    One other quick point, I don’t think it’s necessary to denigrate other peoples beliefs or practice to raise up The Prince of Peace and present His Gospel. It’s tempting, but better to lift Jesus and honour Him, show the fruit of His Life in you and share The Truth that way. There’s no formula and different situations might call for different approaches, but generally speaking, you know what I mean.

    Within our own faith I think we have far more licence to point out error and engage in rigourous debate while maintaining love and respect. It’s a different dynamic when challenging beliefs or practice within the bounds of Christianity.

  15. Greg, my point was about Waaza’s assertions about Allah – nothing about Christianity. You’re nitpicking 🙂

  16. Well Jesus who spoke in Aramaic would have called God ‘Allah’ or ‘Elah’

    There is a religion whose central festival is named after a Pagan fertility goddess, is timed with the phases of the moon as per other pagan spring festivals, and is commonly celebrated with symbols of fertility such as rabbits and eggs.

    That religion is of course Christianity, but does it mean that we worship the same fertility or moon gods?

  17. Wazza, this has been well researched by many scholars.

    “In his efforts to “Christianize” Rome, Constantine encountered considerable resistance from the heathen Roman populace.

    Realizing that he could not utterly remove all of their various feasts, orgies, bacchanalias and observances, he simply stamped Christian names and observances onto the festivities that already existed.

    For instance, the Feast of Ishtar, a Spring Fertility Feast replete with rabbits, eggs and other symbols of fertility, occurred close to the time of the Passover, when Christ rose from the dead.

    The two were effectively mashed together, and the early-risers who went to celebrate the rising of the sun, the rebirth of Tammuz, and his mother Semirimus, called Ishtar, was simply “Christianized” to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

    In fact, it’s pretty spooky that the most significant religious observance of the calendar year still bears her name – Easter!

    And, people in the Christian church still run out to greet the sun as it rises – a form of Babylonish Baal (sun god) worship.

    Anyway (you can see this coming), rather than try to stop the mid-winter Saturnalia feast, called “birthday of the unconquered sun,” Constantine simply imposed the birth of Christ onto that date in order to give it significance for every citizen of Rome, regardless of their personal depth of Christian commitment.

    It was a small matter to change “the sun” to “the Son.” And, in keeping with their penchant for mixing and matching heathen and Christian names and concepts, that holiday came to be known as the Christ-mass.

    The English word “mass” is derived from the Latin “masse,” which is derived from the Greek “maza,” which were small, round barley cakes baked to honor Semirimus as the “queen of heaven.” That name was carried into the Catholic worship service, with its veneration of Mary as “queen of Heaven.” So, when the Mass was performed to honor her child, it was designated the yearly “Christ-mass.” We just call it Christmas.” – Jim McClarty

  18. Teddy, yes I understand that.. it is a good summary of the history. But to an outsider who has little knowledge of the cultural forms, it could easily appear that Christians worship the same Pagan gods that their ancestors did. It takes an appreciation and indepth study of both the religion and of the history to understand what the actuality is.

    Perhaps a similar process occurred in Islam, ie. in order to introduce Mono-theism to a resistant people some of the religious forms of paganism were retained.

    In the end it is impossible to tell whether we worship the same God. Does a prosperity-preacher worship God or Mammon? Probably a bit of both. None of us have the entire truth and therefore probably dont entirely worship the true God.

  19. When you have the Holy Spirit through your conversion, then you have the only true God, who is revealed in Christ. Sounds obvious to me.

    What do you mean by “none of us have the entire truth and therefore probably dont entirely worship the true God.”?

  20. Posted too soon –

    Greg, I didn’t link Jim McClarty’s details but I trust his wealth of insight on these matters.

    I’ve come to a point in my walk with Christ (after years of nonsense preaching), where there are men I can listen to or read, and trust that they are gifted of God to teach. Not perfect of course, and they are the first to admit that of themselves.

    I can trust a man who takes the time to learn arabic, who’s read the koran, who debates muslims, who is well versed in all ancient middle-eastern languages, to have a greater insight into these matters then we do.

    We can all put up attachments to different articles to support our position but at the end of the day, are we arguing for or against Christ Himself?

  21. We are all arguing for Christ of course.

    “None of us have the entire truth and therefore probably dont entirely worship the true God.” – Wazza

    That’s a pretty good point. Do we only worship the ‘true’ God when we know Him? To what extent we finite beings truly know our infinite God? When we say we know God, we only know the extent of Him that he has currently revealed to us, or that we are currently in a position to see.

    For example, sometimes our world view prevents us from seeing aspects of who God is. When our world view changes, our knowledge of God increases (I’m assuming God is directing these changes positively), and we know more of Him. We put our trust in Christ, but when our understanding is faulty, and we believe something about Him that is false (for example that He will curse us financially unless we tithe), are we worshipping the true God? Yes, but our understanding of Him in that area is false.

    Given that some of our prophets are the same as some of the Islamic prophets, I would say that we are talking about ‘the same’ God, but our understanding of Him is so different, that if you went by the description alone, you’d have to say we worship different Gods. But it’s not the name we use that makes them different Gods; it is the different understanding.

    So I don’t have a problem with a Christian praying to Allah, as long as they are not teaching a different understanding about Jesus and the nature of God, His love, and redemption.

    For myself, the term ‘Allah’ is one that I could not use comfortably – it doesn’t bring to my mind the God that I worship. (I don’t use the term ‘Jehovah’ either.) But for someone with a different cultural background, this might not be the case. Also, someone may pray that way out of sensitivity to those they are praying with, yet still be praying to God they know in their heart, with that being just another way for them to call Him God. So long as they are still sharing Jesus, it could be an act of love and consideration, which might make it easier for people to hear about Christ.

  22. I’m not suggesting they know Him, Teddy, or that they can be saved by their understanding.

    Clearly without Christ they are lost.

  23. How would you share your faith with a Muslim? Bang them on the head with a brick bat? That’s what it would be like, telling them that Allah is not God – how much better to admit some of the shared roots, but describe a different revelation, through Jesus.

    Anyway, unless its directed by the Holy Spirit it won’t be of great use – maybe there are times for the sledgehammer approach (metaphorically speaking of course). But given the instruction to be gentle etc, that doesn’t really seem in line with the kind of person Jesus was. When he spoke most forthrightly, it was to the Pharisees, his fellow Jews, who lacked mercy.

  24. Is Calling The Christian God “Allah” Wrong?

    “One of America’s pre-eminent evangelicals is challenging the advice of a retiring Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands who has raised eyebrows worldwide by suggesting Dutch Christians pray to “Allah.”

    Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues that it is inappropriate for Christians to call God Allah based on irreconcilable theological differences associated with the name Allah and core Christian beliefs.

    The key condition behind calling the Christian God Allah is that Allah must refer to the same God as the one in the Bible. However, this requirement presents “a huge problem for both Muslims and Christians,” contends Mohler.

    The theologian pointed out that the Qur’an explicitly denies that Allah has a son, and Islam considers the idea of a triune God to be blasphemy.

    “Thus, from its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim – the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father,” wrote Mohler on his web blog Wednesday.

    “If Allah has no Son by definition, Allah is not the God who revealed himself in the Son. How then can the use of Allah by Christians lead to anything but confusion …and worse?”

    Last Monday, during an interview with a Dutch TV program, 71-year-old Bishop Tiny Muskens promoted the idea of Dutch Christians calling God Allah, believing that it would ease much of the conflict between the Christian and Muslim faiths. Muskens contended that God doesn’t mind what He is called and the arguments over what to call Him is an invention of man.

    “Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn’t we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? …What does God care what we call Him? It is our problem,” said Muskens, according to The Associated Press.

    The retiring bishop was a former missionary to Indonesia – the most populous Muslim country in the world – for eight years, where he said priests used the name “Allah” while celebrating Mass.

    In response, Mohler pointed out that it would be difficult to support the argument that “Allah” can be used as a generic term for God. The theologian said separation of Allah from the language, theology, and worship closely associated with it is difficult. Moreover, even non-Arabic speaking Muslims use Allah when referring to their god.

    Another irreconcilable difference is that Jesus commanded his followers to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    “When this command is taken seriously and obeyed, the whole issue is greatly clarified – a Christian cannot baptize in the name of Allah,” stated Mohler.

    “So Bishop Muskens is disingenuous at best when he suggests that God does not care about His name. This is not a matter of mere ‘discussion and bickering,’” said Mohler.

    “If Allah has no son, Allah is not the father of our Lord Jesus Christ…This is no mere ‘discussion and bickering.’ This is where the Gospel stands or falls,” the theologian concluded.

  25. Yes its all pretty complicated. One of my friends has a son fighting in the middle east. Aphganastan, wrong spelling i think, and she worries about her son. I think what I find hard is how women are treated in this religion, although some women profess to be happy with their lot but still. It’s so antiquated, reminds me of that stereotype of women being submissive etc etc. Very patriarchal, is ours much different in that respect? I hope so

  26. Bull said “So the goal is to love them enough to get them into the Kingdom of God, whatever it takes..”

    Is that love? I have had some experience with people who loved me only enough to get me somewhere, usually the Kingom of God as defined by their church. If you reject their church or their idea, their love seems limited.

    “Do we love people enough to share the truth with them?”

    Yes, and also do we love them enough to listen when they share their version of the truth with us? And if they reject the truth, do we still love them?

    At the Ramadan feast, a young man told me that Christians had misinterpreted the phrase “Son of God”. It is a term applied to many Prophets, he claimed, and it does not mean that Jesus was literally the Son of God. This was offensive to me but I still listened, because I know that claiming that Jesus is God is offensive to Muslims and Jews, as they cannot reconcile it with the idea of one God. I put forward my view, but tried to respect his. Why not, what is the point of telling people they picked the wrong deity? Where does it get us?

  27. Wazza2,

    Islam is not a version of the truth. It is a complete lie.

    Anyone who denies the Son denies the Father and the truth is not in them. Muslims are in spiritual darkness and are going to hell, unless they believe in the Son.

    Isn’t Jesus the ONLY truth?

  28. I don’t get the sense that anyone here is saying that Islam is a version of the truth.

    It seems that we might have good grounds for differences of opinion on this one – the term ‘Allah’ has different historic uses.

    Here’s wikipedia’s entry:

    Allah (Arabic: الله‎, Allāh, IPA: [ʔalˤːɑːh] ( listen)) is the standard Arabic word for God.[1] While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, in reference to “God”.[1][2][3] The term was also used by pagan Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia.[4]

    So a Christian in a certain context might use the Arabic term for God, ‘Allah’.

    At the same time, Islam seems to have tried to monopolise the term – this is only a wild personal guess, but perhaps that reflects their approach to Islam subordinating all other faiths in the long run:

    The concepts associated with the term Allah (as a deity) differ among the traditions. In pre-Islamic Arabia amongst pagan Arabs, Allah was not considered the sole divinity, having associates and companions, sons and daughters – a concept which Islam thoroughly and resolutely abrogated. In Islam, the name Allah is the supreme and all-comprehensive divine name. All other divine names are believed to refer back to Allah.[5] Allah is unique, the only Deity, creator of the universe and omnipotent.[1][2] Arab Christians today use terms such as Allāh al-ʼAb ( الله الأب, “God the Father”) to distinguish their usage from Muslim usage.[6] There are both similarities and differences between the concept of God as portrayed in the Qur’an and the Hebrew Bible.[7]

    So for a Christian to pray according to current Arabic use, it seems we should use the term ‘Allāh al-ʼAb’, to pray to ‘God the Father’.

    Interesting. I didn’t know this before.

  29. The root understanding in common of course, is that we both regard God or Allah to be “unique, the only Deity, creator of the universe and omnipotent” – the caveat being that for us He is the only Deity yet a triune deity.

    A pretty tricky concept to describe.

  30. RP,
    Wazza said this “do we love them enough to listen when they share their version of the truth with us?”
    This is Relativism of course. You have your truth, I have my truth, and we’ll all get to heaven in our own way. … Am I on the right blog?

    David Pawson makes the case for not using Allah in a series of talks available on MP3 from his website.

    The nub of the question is essentially, “Can Allah be used as a generic word for God, or does it describe a specific God … is it a name for God now?”

    Clearly, for us, Allah describes the Muslim god.

    There is a historic precedent as well. During King David’s time, Baal was a generic word that was interchangeable with God, Lord, Husband. Sarah would have used the word regarding Abraham.

    It was incorporated into names and place names too. David used it as part of the name of a place where he holed up while on the run from Saul for example.

    It was generic name that was used to name God too.

    However, eventually, the word Baal became too closely associated with Baalism and came to mean a different God to Yahweh. At that point, the use of the word Baal was completely banned … even to the point at which people’s names had to be changed.

    If we want to use an Arabic word for God, we can use Ilah (or Elah? … I am not certain of the spelling) which is the generic word. The muslim says “There is no Ilah but Allah” in their creed after all.

    We should rather talk about Abba, not Allah. David has actually put forward the idea of a new creed, that distinguishes us from Islam in a very simple way.

    “There is no God but Abba, and Jesus is His Son.”

    Shalom

  31. “Wazza said this “do we love them enough to listen when they share their version of the truth with us?”
    This is Relativism of course. You have your truth, I have my truth, and we’ll all get to heaven in our own way. … Am I on the right blog?” – Bull

    I didn’t take it the way you did, Bull.

    Wazza can speak for himself, but the way I read this didn’t imply that we agree their version of the truth. I took ‘their version of the truth’ to mean ‘what they believe truth is’, which is quite different to ‘what truth is’.

    If I cannot listen to someone describe what they believe to be true with respect – even when I completely disagree with it – how can I ever form a friendship with that person or even live peacefully alongside them?

    How do we demonstrate the kind of person Jesus is with our lives?

    It’s interesting that Wazza has been invited to Ramadan feasts. Maybe one day he may have the chance to share his faith with some of these people; maybe on the other hand his relationships may help some related person hesitate before they engage with a more violent part of the Muslim community. Who knows? But God could move through those relationships in some fashion. I am assuming that Wazza is not compromising his faith and in fact is exercising his faith by reaching out on a personal level in faith.

    But Wazza, if I’m wrong and you are thinking of converting to Islam, do share your thinking with us here!

  32. Yes I have an Iranian friend of a friend, and she is not strict on clothing, socialising etc. Iran is more “westernised” than other countries. She looks like any other person, speaks very good english, and is studying a degree. She is a refugee who had been looked after by our govt (to a certain degree).

    Our family were very strict Catholics at one stage, especially my grandparents, but over the years we have had to adapt to the times. Some of us are still quite modest in our dress/manners but we don’t try and make our children conform. I can remember a time when, in our area, if you weren’t going to the local church etc you were a bit suss (60s,). things have changed and as Christians we need to keep up, not without Jesus. Our family don’t go to church much, except for Christmas or when we need to.

    Christianity is how you live your life, from minute to minute, as C S Lewis says. I feel sorry for anyone caught up in religion without freedom

  33. Yes, I’m not into relativism. There is absolute truth – I believe the Christian (and ancient Hebrew) tradition has established that in our culture. The notion that there is an absolute standard, apart from us, which is God, is fundamental.

    And in my opinion, my beliefs are closest to that truth. This is normal otherwise they wouldnt be my beliefs. And you have the same opinion about your beliefs and so does the Muslim. Thats what I meant about your ‘version’ of the truth, not that the truth changes for each person.

    Even though we believe our beliefs are true, we have to admit they have changed in the past and may again. This is due to greater understanding, usually as the result of a dialog with someone with a slightly different view.

    How is the Muslim going to get the ‘truth’ if we dont dialog with them. And how can we expect them to listen and consider our arguments, if we wont listen to theirs?

  34. Yes I agree Wazza, I used to argue with JWs, always mentioned what their “bible” excluded, sometimes they would listen but not for long, they would take off asap, and then a new one would come. When I was young I would do this. Im older now, maybe lazier ha ha

    In alot of religions they are not allowed to listen to other beliefs, be “corrupted”. I find now the best thing is to make relationships from your own life. At work, through others, family and build from there. Be an example, but be patient, compassionate but honest

  35. John 10:27-30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand, I and the Father are one.”

    The Lord is saving all those he has been given by the Father – we don’t know where the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing. John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit”.

    Unless the Holy Spirit is leading you in witness, of course it’s going to fall on deaf ears. In our zeal, we often run off in wrong direction . Even Paul was stopped by the Holy Spirit from taking the gospel into Asia (Acts 16:6).

  36. Greg says – “We Christians think we have the inside track on truth”

    And we do, it’s revealed in His Word. You really have complicated things for yourself, Greg, if that’s what you believe. From your perspective, Jesus is a liar.

    Sounds like the emergent(sorry Greg)converstion “did God really say that?”

  37. The universalist debate again!

    Well, I currently believe that the Muslim understanding of God had its roots in the same God we worship – however, now their understanding and ours is so different, that naturally I believe we have the true understanding as revealed through Jesus (to the extent that we understand that ourselves) and that they no longer do.

    But because of the common roots, I think that for a Muslim to convert, they don’t have to abandon their God – just come to a different understanding of Him, which includes Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, freedom from law, and of course acceptance of different Holy Writings. They think ours are a joke, so the work of the Holy Spirit is essential!

    Whereas for a Hindu or Buddhist to convert, the common roots aren’t really there.

    Still, all of creation speaks of God. So it is quite possible for God to speak to people of all faiths in some ways, even if they don’t know him. I have a friend who prayed to a God she was suddenly sure was there, then in answer to that prayer, God revealed himself to her as she read scripture, introduced to her by a friend. But her prayer came first, and her faith that God was real. She began to ‘know’ Him, to be aware of Him, before she knew who He was.

    As for Muslims having a place in heaven; without knowing Jesus, I don’t think they do… but you know, if God has some way of introducing Jesus to them so they can put faith in Him at the last moment (like the thief on the cross), then you never know. But they cannot experience the gifts of salvation in this life without Jesus, and they don’t live in the freedom that He paid for on our behalf. (Neither do a lot of Christians.)

  38. “And we do, it’s revealed in His Word. You really have complicated things for yourself, Greg, if that’s what you believe. From your perspective, Jesus is a liar.”

    Um, Teddy – you were saved when you had different beliefs in some areas, when you were part of C3, I would imagine? If its so easy to understand whatever is revealed in the Bible, why do we debate it so much? There’s obviously room for different views on many subjects, plus manipulation and uncontextual readings, plus you can even have very good, solid teachers who have quite different, well thought through views on some things. I wish it were always uncomplicated! Often its those who want to simplify things too much who end up burdened by some of the things Jesus came to set us free from.

  39. It’s not the same God! Islam is a relatively new religion. Ishmael was not a Muslim, his descendents became the majority of the islamic faith, much later.

    God is not capricious, and yes, there are “last minute salvations”, all the work of the Holy Spirit not a man’s “decision”.

    Your friend was given the gift of faith first, she was always going to come to faith in Christ, she was “chosen in Him before the foundation of the earth”.

  40. RP, there never was/is any suggestion other than faith in Christ for salvation at C3 – never. The basic tenets of the faith are there. Different views on charismatic, dipensationalism, end-times, prosperity doctrine etc etc, these are not salvific issues.

    My salvation was determined before the foundation of the world as I said about your friend, Christ brought me to a saving knowledge of Him before I went to church, it has nothing to do with C3, that was just part of the journey. I had been given the gift of faith and knew that Christ was the only way, I had such a hunger to know who He was once I experienced His grace.

    Suggesting that Muslims are saved without Christ is flat out heresy. To suggest there’s a different story going on for them is no different to saying the same of Mormons, Hindus or Buddhists. I have no desire to see anyone perish, but it’s not love to say they don’t need Christ.

    By the way Greg, of course I know Paul was a Jew, who became a Christian at conversion by the way, the church already existed by then.

  41. “By the way Greg, of course I know Paul was a Jew, who became a Christian at conversion by the way, the church already existed by then.” i.e a follower of Christ.

  42. Nitpicking again Greg? He was pointing them to Christ, and the same could be said of Peter, a Jew…. who by the way, as we know, said “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

  43. 1Cor 9:20-23 “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.”

    “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”

    “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

    “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

    Of course I agree with Paul (a Jew) who says “I became AS a Jew” (interesting comment), however Greg, just because they may have seen as a “sect”, the facts are they were converts to a new “religion”, which obviously became Christianity.

    If a Muslim, Jew or Buddhist converts, they don’t become Muslim Christians, Buddhist Christians or Jewish Christians (albeit some may say messianic Jew).

    Would you like to be a Muslim convert to Christianity in Afghanistan/Indonesia etc right now? Would you feel safe, would you think you may get your throat cut or your daughters raped? Praise God in the midst of such persecution He’s drawing many to Himself. At great risk to themselves they openly proclaim His name! There are more Christian martyrs today than at any other time in church history.

    The fact is the whole world is lost without Christ, regardless of their background. It’s our common fallenness with our sin nature.

  44. I don’t think anyone here at the moment disagrees that the whole world is lost without Christ. Actually, I think the Universalist position is that the whole world is saved, but still because of Christ. (I am not a Universalist though.)

    What we call ourselves doesn’t matter, as long as we have faith in Jesus. The term ‘Christian’ is just a label – with meaning – but the label doesn’t save us. Jesus does, because we trust in Him.

    All a Muslim or anyone needs to do, is trust Jesus. This of course means they need to believe in Who He is, and the evidence of that faith will be outworked in their lives if it is genuine. But they can call themselves whatever they like. They may still have some co-existing false beliefs as they work through their salvation. As most of us do, to some degree.

    After all, there are plenty of people who call themselves ‘Christian’ but may well have no idea who Jesus really is – for example, those who pray for the death of President Obama! These people call themselves Christian and so do we. Sometimes it might be better to just say, “I’m a follower of Jesus”.

  45. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

    To enter into the fray…

    The above statement by Jesus is foundational and a cornerstone to my faith and belief. I believe it absolutely insofar as I understand this to be a statement of the risen Christ, the one and only begotten son of the triune God.

    Note however the caveat – if you really knew me…..

    How much do some of the arguments above indicate we really know Him?

    Now for the inswinging yorker.

    What about those people who have not heard of Christ, do not have His Word etc etc

    There must be hundreds of millions, if not billions of these throughout history.

    What about these?

    As Teddy notes scripture indicates that God doesn’t want to see anyone perish, but my reading of scripture is that there will be many – some we expect to, and some we don’t.

    But what about these folk?

    God is merciful and I believe that this will extend beyond what I can see or know.

    But I also believe Jesus is the way.

    How can I hold to these two things?

    Well in the first place my faith is in Christ, and at that point God has got me covered.

    And in the second place it is not my problem – it is God’s – and I am very comfortable that God will do what is merciful and right.

    Am I a universalist? No I am not – not in any shape or form.

    In the meantime where does that leave us in terms of people who have quite different beliefs who we know or have dealings with?

    You know I think that is the hardest question, because we have personal responsibility at that level.

    It is one thing to know what one believes, but is a whole other thing to translate that into the love of Christ for those who may hate Christ and his followers?

    Do we imititate Christ, Peter, Paul et al here or do we just circle the wagons?

    Can we hold to “good doctrine” and show the love of Christ?

    If we can’t the doctrine is wrong.

  46. The word Christian is a convenient label.

    Those who have been redeemed have been grafted into the Jewish Olive Tree. We have been grafted into the chosen people of God.

    Abraham is my father now.

    I disagree that Islam has a common root with Judeo-Christainity. Mohammed claimed to have Angelic visitations with the Arch-Angel Gabriel.

    Why would Heaven send an Angel, 630 years after the Incarnation of God the Son, only to claim that Jesus isn’t the Son, He didn’t die on a Cross and was only a prophet … and not the best one.

    Islam is diametrically opposed to Faith in Jesus Christ. If we go back to my wife’s birth place, she runs the risk of being detained and re-educated in Islam. (this is a very small risk now, as she has been a UK citizen for many years … but when she was a dual-national, she could have been.)

    Muslims in many Muslim countries are not stopped from reading a Bible, or attending Church. However, when they are Baptised, they are kidnapped/arrested and then executed. Moreover, they know what is likely to happen as well.

    No one can find saving faith in Jesus and remain a Muslim. Or a Hindu, or a Buddhist.

    Before you start throwing the holy relics of the goddess at me (eggs and rabbits) or Santa … I don’t buy chocolate eggs at easter. I teach my kids about the Passover and how Jesus is our Passover.

    It’s not my fault that I was born in a society that gorges itself on Chocolate every March/April and on Meat and Alcohol every December.

    Mmmm. Chocolate.

    Sorry … where was I?

    I share the faith of Paul, Peter, John, James, Jude, Matthew, Thomas, Priscilla and Aquila. (All Jewish believers in their Messiah)

    While it is true that the name Allah was a generic word for God, it is now a specific name for a God who is fundamentally different to the Father of Jesus.

    Muslims have to get to know a very different God from the one they came to know in Islam.

    Greg, I have met many converts to Jesus from Islam. They would express these sentiments far more strongly than I. One person I know was studying very seriously to be an Islamic Lawyer. He studied Sharia for a very long time. His conversion to Jesus was really profound. He found God didn’t say “Kill your enemies”, but “love them”.

    Allah is not Yahweh. They are fundamentally different Gods. We have an Angelic visitation portraying God in a very different way to that presented to the Apostles and Prophets. It’s a complete lie, a counterfeit religion designed to enslave multitudes in spiritual darkness …

    Am I the only one (apart from Teddy) to see a demonic hand at work in that?

    It would be naive to assume that all the people in Church every Sunday are born-again but at least they have a chance to hear the truth.

    What chance do people have of getting the truth in the local Mosque Greg?

  47. MN says “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him”> Note however the caveat – if you really knew me…..”

    Who was Christ talking to? He was talking to Thomas who at that time had not received the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit. We are His sheep “I know my sheep and my sheep know Me”.

    Jesus also says Matt 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”

    Mat 7:14 “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

    These are tough words from Christ himself about the past, present and future.

    MN says “You know I think that is the hardest question, because we have personal responsibility at that level.”

    Do we? Is’nt it the work of the Holy Spirit to draw men to faith? Yes, we are saved to do “good works”.
    Called to make disciples. What are disciples? They are converts, a work of the Holy Spirit.

    But then I do hold to the Calvinist position. 🙂

  48. Question for Teddy.

    As a calvinist, what did the writer to the Hebrews mean when he (she?) didn’t answer the question “Can I lose my Salvation?”

    but answered the question “Once Lost, can I regain my Salvation?” The answer was, of course, NO.

    So people can be Saved … but it’s possible to lose what you once had. How does that line up with Calvinist thought?

    … only wondering … 😉

    ====================================================
    To answer the question “what about all those people who have never heard the Gospel?”

    Paul answered that question by saying that we have creation all around us, and a conscience inside of us. How many of us have always obeyed our conscience?

    We’ll be judged by the light we have received says Paul.
    =====================================================

    Shalom

  49. I’ll respond later – I’m watching “Cloverfield”- again! Husband hasn’t seen it, I’ll have to keep him awake.

  50. Husband has taken dog for a walk – so much for “Cloverfield”!

    Bull – I have a little note stuck in my bible that reads,

    “If Christ died for every single person, but not every single person gets saved, then the atonement is limited in power. It did not accomplish fully what Christ meant it to do.

    If Christ died only for the elect, the the atonement did exactly what Christ wanted it to do. It was fully powerful but limited in scope.

    Does this mean Christ’s death on the cross was not completely successful if there are people in hell?”

    Because salvation was instituted by God, empowered by God, sustained by God and an intrinsic part of God’s character and nature, then in order for a saved person to be lost, God Himself would have to change.
    And, that is an impossibility.

    “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (Mal. 3:6)

    “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16-18)

    The Bible testifies to the fact that God does what He wants to do, when He wants to do it, with whomever He chooses to do it.

    If He takes the same lump of clay and makes some vessels for honor and some for wrath, that’s His business. When we find ourselves on the merciful side of that equation, then our business is to worship and adore Him for the God He is and the justice and love that drew us to Him.

    What He does with everyone else is up to Him.

    So we come to Hebrews 🙂

    Hebrews 5:10-6:12 discusses the issue of spiritual maturity. It contains a warning in the book of Hebrews to Jewish people who were intellectually convinced of the gospel, but who had never made a real commitment to Jesus Christ.

    These Hebrews knew the truth, believed it, and were even following some patterns consistent with Christianity. But they were not true Christians. They were warned periodically throughout the book of Hebrews that simply believing things about Christ without a commitment to Him was not sufficient for salvation (James 2:19).

    They were warned after having heard the gospel and becoming so familiar with it without receiving it that they would find themselves falling away into a hardhearted unbelief. It would then be impossible for them to be saved.

    The contrast in Hebrews 5:10-6:12 is not between a mature Christian and an immature one, but between a true Christian and a false one. The term “babe” in Hebrews 5:13 describes an unbeliever – a Jewish person who was hanging on to the Old Covenant. The mature person talked about in verse 14 is one who grows up by putting his faith in Jesus Christ and accepting the fuller revelation in the New Testament.

    Those who were still hanging on to the Old Covenant were warned that if they continued to neglect true salvation, they were in danger of being lost forever.

    This passage has special significance to anyone who comes to the edge of salvation. People can go to church for years and hear the gospel over and over again, yet never really make a commitment to obey Jesus Christ.

  51. Teddy: “But then I do hold to the Calvinist position.”

    So do I.

    But I left a reformed church after 17 years because I got tired of being bludgeoned over the head the instrument of not living up to the doctinal purity required.

    Love the exegetical teaching but hate the result in terms setting people to aspire to an unattainable doctrinal position.

    In answer to Bull’s question:

    “So people can be Saved … but it’s possible to lose what you once had. How does that line up with Calvinist thought?”

    Simple answer is you can’t lose your salvation – if you did you were never saved in the first place.

    To lose your salvation implies that God is dependent on us to achieve His purposes.

    Sorry – that doesn’t happen – – and I happen to hold to that. We may lose God but He never loses us.

  52. There is a tension in the whole business of keeping/losing one’s salvation as there is with Calvinist theology generally.

    It it counter-intuitive for us for example re election and free-will mutually exist. A lot of Calvinists can’t reconcile it and so tend to gravitate to the election side.

    But the answer is in the sovereignty of God – As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    I cannot put God in a box and I hope as I get older I become more steadfast in my resolve to refuse to do so – fail though I will.

    As far as I am concerned we have total free will, and yet God has His elect – I don’t try and understand it _ I don’t need to.

    I am happy to trust God on these things.

  53. MN, one of the most freeing things that happened to me after leaving C3, in coming to an understanding of the doctrines of grace and reformed theology, was the fact I could not lose my salvation. The freedom to love and serve Him comes from that understanding, no longer bound to the “works” mentality to stay in the “club”.

  54. Hmm.

    To say that the people described were not really born again is too neat. How can you say they never had it, when the writer asks “can they regain it”?

    He tells the Hebrews they “Crucify Him afresh” and “there is now no more sacrifice for sin”.

    Why was Hebrews written?

    To keep Hebrews believing in Jesus. Because it was more than likely written to the Hebrew believers in Rome “everyone from Italy sends greetings” and it was before people were being executed for their faith “you have not yet resisted to blood” but were being imprisoned for following an illegal religion “remember those in prison” then we are reading about a period in history where the church was being persecuted by the Jews who were legal.

    So. What was happening? The Messianic Jews had a way out of the trouble … by going back to the Synagogue.

    They and their families would be safe but the one thing they had to do was deny that Jesus was the Son of God in front of everyone in the Synagogue.

    We are talking about people who “tasted that the Lord is Good” and “experienced the powers of the age to come” (or is that last bit in Peter?)

    Anyway, very similar language in Peter to describe born-again, spirit filled believers is used to describe these Messianic Jews who were under enormous pressure.

    See if you can feel it. Your kids are being beaten up in school by the other kids, and when they complain to the teacher then they are beaten by the staff.

    Your business is being targeted and your windows are being smashed. Your home is being attacked and windows smashed, excrement spread on the walls and even your house is burned down.

    You can make that all stop … by going back to the synagogue … and your family will be safe.

    All you have to do is say “Jesus is not the Messiah”.

    That’s the whole reason for the letter to the Hebrews.

    What kind of faith do we need to go to the Lions for Jesus? What kind of faith would cause us to watch our kids being tortured to death?

    Only one that ties our faith to our eternal destiny.

    Were all the martyrs wrong?

    To say the faint-hearts were not really born-again doesn’t cut it. Not for nothing does revelation condemn cowards.

    This is pretty tough isn’t it. 😦

  55. Very tough. I read somewhere that those who were most compassionate towards Christian’s who had denied Christ in Roman times, under extreme pressure, were those Christians who had not denied him under pressure, and somehow survived. Has anyone else stumbled across that anywhere? I read it a long time ago – could be wrong.

    ******

    I used to have debates about pre-destination vs fore knowledge with a Calvinist friend of mine way back in High School.

    My own position is pretty similar to MN’s. I don’t try to figure it out any more and I trust God in it. But I believe predestination, free will and forknowledge all exist as part of the picture.

    I’ve never doubted my salvation that I can recall, for which I am grateful to God. Don’t have to be a Calvinist to not doubt. Just need Jesus as your friend and Saviour.

    That scripture that Teddy quoted:

    “1Cor 9:20-23 “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.”

    This is one of the cruxes of the issue. To go into a mosque to pray, for the right Christian, can just be ‘to the Muslims I became as a Muslim, in order to win Muslims’.

    I can’t see a problem with this – as long as Jesus is not denied. But if a Christian felt that by doing so they were praying to a different God, then they should not do it. It is really a matter of conscience, and direction from the Holy Spirit. Also, God sees our heart. He knows who we are praying to.

    It would be different if someone were actually attempting to unite these two very different faiths however.

    Yes, I also think Islam has a demonic origin. And the way Bull described it certainly drew some parallels with other things! Very pointed. I’m not going to use that opinion to evangelise with though. It’s a conclusion people have to come to according to their own faith.

    Respecting other people does not require unity of faith (or doctrine). Some people seem to feel it does. This leads to conflict. I don’t see why I can’t offer respect to someone just because they are a fellow human being, regardless of what they believe. We are to love all, including our friends and enemies.

    I wonder how people around Jesus reacted when he told the story of the good Samaritan to illustrate who was the true neighbour?

    Based on the Samaritan Torah, Samaritans claim their worship is the true religion of the ancient Israelites prior to the Babylonian Exile, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel, as opposed to Judaism, which they assert is a related but altered and amended religion brought back by the exiled returnees.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan

  56. It’s not easy reaching other people groups. Anyone who can go into a mosque while retaining their integrity … I applaud and want uphold in prayer.

    However, reaching Muslims in this way is not the job of an Elder/Church leader. It is the job of a missionary/apostle/”sent one”.

    (distinguishing Paul the Apostle and Joe an apostle here.)

    Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman. Several things we miss in that story.

    1) Jesus was tired and thirsty. “Give me a drink Woman.” That’s His humanity right there.

    2) He pointed out that she lived an immoral life. Multiple marriages and now she was living with a man not her husband. “Don’t ask Me to judge your religion when you ignore it in your own life.”

    3) She was amazed by Him, but then went on to immediately ignore what he said. “Don’t tell anyone about me.” She immediately went to gather a crowd.

    4) And … if I remember rightly, it doesn’t say she got Him the drink of water he asked for!

    She was not an evangelist for Jesus. She missed the point of everything He said to her and didn’t do what He asked her to do.

    Regarding predestination and freewill, I believe both are true … best summed up in this Paraphrase:

    “Keep yourselves in the Love of God, for he is able to keep you.”

    We keep Faith in Him and He will keep us. While we can’t imagine going to the Lions, we just need to keep faith in the little things now and He will give us the grace when the big test comes.

    Shalom

  57. Bull

    I don’t see denial under pressure as terminal – that’s not to encourage woosing out.

    Every time we sin we deny Christ.

    Peter denied Jesus three times and still lived to faithfully serve his God, until a very horrible end.

    It’s one of those things that Scipture on the whole talks about in two what seems to be quite different ways.

    We’re told each one must work out their own salvation, faith without works is dead, but there is the elect and grace. There’s the stuff in Hebrews which Bull has quoted.

    1 Cor 5 tells the story of the bloke who had his father’s wife, and he was to handed over to Satan but that he will be saved when the Lord returns.

    But I mean really – is my salvation dependent on whether I verbally deny Christ under terrible circumstances?

    In which case I’m probably screwed then.

    My faith is not in what I have done, can do, or not say under pressure, but what Christ has done for me.

    Yes we should work at making certain our salvation, but lucky for me it is not dependent that work.

    Can he dies for me twice?

    No.

    How should we treat the gift that we’ve been given?

    Carefully and respectfully.

    Do we honour that gift with every breath we take?

    You can answer that for yourselves.

  58. “….I read somewhere that those who were most compassionate towards Christian’s who had denied Christ in Roman times, under extreme pressure, were those Christians who had not denied him under pressure, and somehow survived. Has anyone else stumbled across that anywhere?”

    Hi RP, It was a controversy a few times after persecutions ended. Cyprian (who was himself eventually martyred) might have pleaded the cause of those who had denied Christ but don’t quote me cause I can’t remember. At least one of the ante-nicene fathers pleaded on their behalf. In any case many where received back into the fold and forgiven and some churches (sects) required people to be re-baptized. It wasn’t easy though, as we can imagine. Those that survived the persecutions either because they were imprisoned awaiting death or sent to slave labour or simply managed to avoid being arrested, where deeply traumatised no doubt. Many had seen loved ones brutalised beyond belief. Yet they were willing to receive back the ones that had denounced Christ. But that’s what Christians were like. How could they not, in the end, forgive someone asking for forgiveness?

  59. MN says “My faith is not in what I have done, can do, or not say under pressure, but what Christ has done for me.”

    Spot on, it’s all about Christ, it’s all for His glory. Isn’t grace wonderful?

  60. “Anybody who is a believer has come to know the truth, understand the truth, believe the truth, embrace the truth and love that truth.”

    One thing can be said about a Christian. He knows the truth, he loves the truth, he worships the God of truth, exalts the Christ of truth, is indwelt by the Spirit of truth and obeys the Word of truth.

    Having that truth, you will not deny Christ, it’s impossible. We don’t suffer from spiritual schizophrenia.

  61. Psalm 139:7-12 “Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you”

    Try escaping that love!

  62. When I get confused I just think of Love is our greatest commandment.

    Love is patient, Love is kind, Love never fails 1Cor13:4,8

    Just hard to practise sometimes hey

  63. Wazza: “So if a Christian denies Christ he/she can still be saved, but if a Muslim does it he/she cannot?”

    Part A: “So if a Christian denies Christ he/she can still be saved”

    I would suggest a couple of things come into play here.

    Whether a real commitment was made in the first place – parable of the sower and all that. Paul talks about a number of people who fall away.

    How does God view a verbal denial under torture?

    This could be rolled around endlessly.

    I certainly think the Bible and therefore God strongly encourages us to hold to our convictions in all circumstances – this clearly is the right and best option.

    What I think is the case though is that what we think is not relevant. IT IS WHAT GOD THINKS. You know, don’t judge and all that – God’s job in the eternal sense, not ours.

    Yes we try and understand and act in accordance with that but there are limits.

    Part B: “but if a Muslim does it he/she cannot?”

    I repeat: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

    Such as these have never made a commitment in the first place to deny Him after the fact which is what we are talking about – the concept of losing one’s salvation – as opposed to never having had it in the first place.

    As to whether God chooses to exercise mercy on those who haven’t heard of Jesus – my personal belief is that God may actually do that – for some and on His terms – but I can’t give you a firm basis for that.

    We are required to go out into all the world, but many people through out history have not been reached. Again I ask what about these?

    I repeat I am not in any shape or form a universalist. Those who have heard the Gospel are without excuse./

    Those who have not are also without excuse – Rom 1: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

    So what does this mean for those who have responded to creation, but who have never heard of Christ?

    I don’t know – but I am happy to leave it to God.

    Does this mean I put forward something other than Christ alone?

    No – I will always put forward Christ alone – see the quote from John above.

    All I am saying is that there are some things that clearly fall to me to try and understand there are some things I will never know or understand. Re the latter I am content not to try and fill that void with my own understanding when the final decision about those matters can never be mine, and always Gods.

  64. And we mustn’t forget we have the Holy Spirit to empower us as we struggle, love, and live. As has been said before, we are such silly “sheep”.

  65. The feet of Jesus uses the earth as His footstool, His head abides with the father in the Throne of God (the third Heaven). We have access to the father through Christ. The body of Christ fills “all things” between His feet and head (in the first and second heavens).

    “All things?” all of creation, all relationships, all political systems, all economic systems, all work, all leisure etc etc. Jesus is in all things, through all things, above all things, all things are held together by Him. Nothing was made that wasn’t made through Him.

    Is it possible that we access and therefore get to know the father through the body of Christ – in other words, through His teaching, His life, His creation, the systems and patterns and struggles in life that have established by God from the beginning?

    If so, how does a muslim interact with the Body of Christ? If they are involved in a loving marriage, is this a pattern that was set by Christ in the beginning? If so, are they in some way interacting with a part of His Body? Can they get to know and have access to the father through sharing a loving relationship and therefore access God through the body of Christ without realising it?

    Would this make the atonement of Christ perfect because it allows anyone some kind of access to the throne of God?

    I don’t know! For me it is safer to believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Christ is Lord.

  66. By the way it was a revelation given to me by the Holy Spirit that has allowed me to realise that Christ is Lord. But I was engaging with His body a long time before that, without realising it. It wasn’t through christian churches and christian relationships either.

    So are there aspects of the muslim religion that allow them to interact with Christ before they receive a revelation that He is the Messiah?

    And if that happens, what religious practices need to change, and what new religious practices should they swap them with?

  67. I think that all humans interact with God all the time, even if they don’t realise it, because all of creation including us, has been made by Him, and as Muppet points out, all things are held together by Him.

    I do know that sometimes some people are aware of God through those things, as I know people who have come to faith because of them. So it makes sense to me that someone of another faith would hear God speak through these things, but they might attribute it to their own God. The Holy Spirit would need to intervene for that to change, I think.

    I’m only speculating here. But it does seem scriptural to me to believe that people hear God through creation at times.

    In this way, they may get to know some aspects of God, even without knowing Who He is.

    Also, in a sense everyone has access to the throne, because God can hear all cry out. People do cry out instinctively to God at times, even if they are unsure if they logically agree with His existence. I think God hears and even answers some of those prayers, and people can come to know Him that way.

    I think this is part of God’s love and mercy to mankind. It doesn’t make people ‘saved’, but it can help them to head in that direction.

  68. RP – so are our names for God important?- Yahweh, God, Allah etc or is it how we relate to who we think God is?

    We all only know God in part. What is the cut off between getting to know God better and pursuing a lie?

    What practices / fruits / truths make the difference?

  69. Yahweh or Jehovah is not the name of the God of the Bible, it comes from יהוה which is rendered as YHWH. The Hebrews seem to have purposely given Him a name with no vowels so that no-one can pronounce it. The word Yahweh was proposed in the 19th Century.

    Allah and God are obviously not names as such, they are titles made into a name.

    Probably a good idea not to have a name for God. Trouble is once you name something you think you can define it. We try to define Him by a book and by a group of followers.

  70. ohmi, just been on c3 site some quotes: “Epilepsy – demonic” interesting, “the devil loves going to church” ok
    you have to “switch your faith on to connect with God” (yes its all about you) “demons in depression, suicide” (good to mention if you’re counsellig someone) and then “You can’t medicate demons, you cant counsel demons” So ok, don’t go to a GP or counsellor.

    And finally, before I had to check out, The devil comes in when you let him……….

    argggggggggggg what the

  71. Wazza2,

    your last message I find really quite alarming.

    You said this “We try to define Him by a book and by a group of followers.”

    Surely you are not suggesting that Abba Father had nothing to do with defining Himself in the Bible?

  72. Are you saying that Mohammed is a valid prophet of God?

    Are you saying that Jesus or other people lied in teh Bible?

  73. Come on guys – surely we know enough of Wazza by now to know that he does not believe Mohammed is a prophet, or that Jesus etc lied!

    He’s making a point, but I’m sure that’s not it!

  74. I thought Wazza’s point was fair enough. Obviously God chose to relate to Israel and all the characters of the Bible and have it documented so that we could get a good grounding of His nature and character (as well as insights into our own character).

    But I think Wazza was pointing out that He is far bigger than what we are able to understand of Him through the Bible and through watching other groups of Christians relating to Him.

  75. This link is about Christians who call God Allah:

    http://www.pastorblog.com/2007/08/16/should-christians-call-god-allah/

    “The Bishop of Breda, Tiny Muskens, wants people to start calling God Allah. He says the Netherlands should look to Indonesia, where the Christian churches already pray to Allah. It is also common in the Arab world: Christian and Muslim Arabs use the words God and Allah interchangeably.”

    I understand Malaysian Christians often also call God, ‘Allah’. The people on the website linked to above, seem to hold the position that Christians who speak Arabic can call God Allah, but the rest of us shouldn’t.

    I think we should be careful not to be legalistic about what we call God. It really comes down to the context of the situation.

    As long as there is no misunderstanding about Who we are talking about, and we are not compromising our faith in Jesus – then fine. I read that some even evangelise by explaining that Jesus is Allah! Obviously they are not talking about the understanding of God that Islam has. This can only be explained by the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Since ‘Allah’ has been used for centuries as a word meaning ‘God’, we can’t just excise it from everyone’s language.

    Context is vital. We get frustrated by people who make doctrine by taking scripture out of context; lets not make laws by separating an action – calling God, ‘Allah’ – out of its context. There are situations, such as the one described in the post at the top of this page, where this can allow relationships to develop which ultimately advance the cause of Jesus, and in no way compromise it. There are other situations, where the name of Jesus is obscured, where a compromise is made which could be misleading.

    So we can’t just assume its automatically wrong, though it might very well be something we ourselves aren’t comfortable with in our own context.

    The last thing we want to do is remove support and prayer from those Christians who are in fact building real relationships with those of other faiths, without compromising their own faith in Christ.

    I think what Wazza is doing is great, and to hear that someone who blogs here is building this kind of relationship is encouraging. 🙂 I have another friend who was a missionary to Muslims, both overseas and in Australia. He did this by living amongst them and building relationships, which wouldn’t have happened had he not been able to relate respectfully.

  76. RP: “I read that some even evangelise by explaining that Jesus is Allah!”

    I have no trouble preaching this, with my understanding of Allah meaning ‘God’. I even prove it from there own scriptures! It is there if you read the Koran.

  77. “This is news from the past that we reveal to you. You were not there when they drew their raffles to select Mary’s guardian. You were not present when they argued with one another.
    The angels said, “O Mary, GOD gives you good news: a Word from Him whose name is `The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. He will be prominent in this life and in the Hereafter, and one of those closest to Me.’

    “He (Allah) will teach him the scripture, wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel.”
    As a messenger (Jesus) to the Children of Israel: “I come to you with a sign from your Lord – I create for you from clay the shape of a bird, then I blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by GOD’s leave. I restore vision to the blind, heal the leprous, and I revive the dead by GOD’s leave. I can tell you what you eat, and what you store in your homes. This should be a proof for you, if you are believers.

    “I confirm previous scripture – the Torah – and I revoke certain prohibitions imposed upon you. I come to you with sufficient proof from your Lord. Therefore, you shall observe GOD, and obey me.
    “GOD is my Lord and your Lord; you shall worship Him alone. This is the right path.”

    When Jesus sensed their disbelief, he said, “Who are my supporters towards GOD?” The disciples said, “We are GOD’s supporters; we believe in GOD, and bear witness that we are submitters.”
    “Our Lord, we have believed in what You have sent down, and we have followed the messenger; count us among the witnesses.”

    They plotted and schemed, but so did GOD, and GOD is the best schemer.
    Thus, GOD said, “O Jesus, I am terminating your life, raising you to Me, and ridding you of the disbelievers. I will exalt those who follow you above those who disbelieve, till the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is the ultimate destiny of all of you, then I will judge among you regarding your disputes.”

    (Surah 3:42-55)

    He said, “I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you a pure son.” (pure meanling spotless)
    She said, “How can I have a son, when no man has touched me; I have never been unchaste.”
    He said, “Thus said your Lord, `It is easy for Me. We will render him a sign for the people, and mercy from us. This is a predestined matter.’ “
    (Surah 19:19-21)

    We responded to him and granted him John; we fixed his wife for him. That is because they used to hasten to work righteousness, and implored us in situations of joy, as well as fear. To us, they were reverent.
    As for the one who maintained her virginity, we blew into her from our spirit, and thus, we made her and her son a portent for the whole world.
    (Surah 21:90-1)

    Koran also alludes to Christ as Messiah. Messiah meaning the ‘final revelation of God’.
    Many Muslims believe that Christ will come again FROM heaven. But to judge the Jews. And in this they will declare his love for him as the one who will slay them. I did not know this until a Muslim lady at my work informed me, rather excitedly about this delight in seeing the destruction of the Jews.

    I just found it ironic that she was looking forward to the destruction of the Jews while she just confessed her love for Jesus: The KING OF THE JEWS. It’s all quite absurd really.

  78. I think most western Muslims wouldn’t even know what the Koran really says just as “christians” don’t know what the Bible says.

  79. The hardliners won’t even allow the Koran in the local language … like old Catholics only allow the Bible in Latin.

    Serious students of the Koran who become believers in Jesus simply end up condemning the Koran as a mixture. Some truth, a lot of lies but the mixture is toxic.

    In the passage quoted above, that’s straight out of the gospel of Judas … where Jesus as a child kills animals with a word, curses a boy who pushed him over in the street and fashioned birds out of clay, blew on them and they became living creatures.

    The problem with all this, of course, is that Jesus is presented as a perfect man, without sin, who performs all his miracles, not in his own innate strength and power, but through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who came to Him at His baptism.

    If the Gospels we have are to mean anything to us, they have to demonstrate the complete travesty of the presentation of Isa in the Koran. Mohammed clearly got all his information from gnostic heretics … which doomed his attempts at being accepted by the true church as an Apostle. (Thanks be to God for that!)
    Thus he turned to military force to coerce people to join his new religion.

    Shalom

  80. The Koran does explicity deny the Trinity and that Christ was God. Mohammed also appears to think that the persons of the Trinity are God, Jesus and Mary. It dosent seem to me that he knew much about Christianity before he rejected it.

    A travesty? maybe, I think of it more as ignorance.

    There are a lot of other verses in the Koran that are problematic, and are even less defendable. The idea that denying Islam should be punished by death is absolutely inexcusable.

    Anyway I’m off for a holiday, bound for South Australia. Thanks to all for a great discussion.

  81. Do you have a low view of scripture Greg? God has decreed the contents of the bible but I have a feeling you might refute that.

  82. One of the major problems in the church today is that, Christian leaders (and some “christians” in general) have been conditioned to treat God’s Word as a fallible human work — even though many would claim it to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God.

    Even though the Bible was written down in the background of past cultures, it is the Word of God that is for all people for all time — it stands forever. Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever”.

    Remember Psalm 138:2: “For you have exalted above all things your name and your word”.

    Greg says …”look at what early Israel did to it’s surrounding neighbours – wiped them out…same smell, different colour!” Again God’s decree not man’s decision.

  83. It depends on what you mean by indefensible.

    Values and morals are not the sort of thing that can be proved good or bad by logical reasoning or argumentation. Logical argument always has to start at some set of simply given, simply accepted but unproved presuppositions. Logic can tell you if your beliefs are logically consistent but that is all, it can not say if your beliefs are morally good or bad.

    The mathematician Kurt Godel proved that for purely mathematical systems (except for the most trivial) there will always be a set of axioms outside the system which cannot be derived from inside it (shattering many mathematicians dreams in the process). For human values systems of good and bad it’s even worse.

    At best you can say you personally disagree with biblical morality but even in principle you could never prove it false, all you can do is say you personally don’t like it or that it disagrees with your own.

    I think that one way man is made in the image of God is that we can chose our own moral system which we will believe right (albeit we probably won’t live up to it ourselves). If you disagree with God’s morality who is to arbitrate between you and God? I tend to think God is right though but that’s just me (and God too of course).

    What you can question with logic is whether or not a moral system is logically consistent. You probably think that God ordering Israelis to slaughter varies tribes in the old testament at various times is somehow inconsistent with New Testament morality. I can quite easily show that it isn’t (to my satisfaction no doubt not to yours).

    Things to keep in mind are that God is a fundamentally different order of being to us, he is God we are not. God can moral gives us orders to obey that are not for him to obey, or orders for me to obey that are not for you to obey. God says do not murder, that does not preclude God having the right to judge people and order their execution.

    Gods instruction “do not judge your neighbour lest you be judged by the same standards and found equally guilty” (my paraphrase) does not preclude God as perfect sinless creator of all from judging all. We are the ones not to judge, not God, judging IS very much his right.

    I’ll also point out that the right “eye for an eye” etc still stands today but as per previous paragraph it brings the same back. We Christians have a special deal going on in which we have a get out of jail free card but the flip side is that we give up the legitimate right which we have to demand justice on those who trespass against us (God warns us against this not because we don’t have the right but because we’ve been saved by his grace). The point is not that vengeance is bad or immoral but that it is the Lords not ours. When God exercises that right he is not being immoral but moral.

    Note also that when Jesus returns he will personally slay millions at Armageddon. It’s not that God no longer slayers armies of evil doers in the New Testament just that he’s not doing it quite yet, he will one day.

    The muslim’s main problem is that they simply take orders from the wrong guy. They are mistaken about what God has commanded not so much what he has the right to command, as I see it.

  84. Well said phoenix, I dont agree but very well put.

    My view is that we have the Holy Spirit and a conscience that is sometimes inspired by God, and we should also use that when reading scripture. The words of scripture dont just jump off the page into our heads and spirits, they have to be interpreted.

    So when there is a problematic passage like 2 Kings 2:23-24, where Elisha curses some teenagers for calling him ‘baldy’ and they then get mauled by bears, how do we interpret it?

    Did God really send those bears because some teenagers were a bit disrespectful to a prophet? Or is there some other explanation? I’d say there has to be another explanation.

  85. “The words of scripture dont just jump off the page into our heads and spirits, they have to be interpreted.”

    Exactly. Which is obviously one reason we have so many sects of Christianity who all acknowledge scripture as inspired by God, but who differ in their opinions on scriptural issues.

    One difficulty (a good one though) is that in Christ we aren’t to use the Bible as law (according to my interpretation, anyhow). The Bible reveals to us God’s patterns for things, and is a guide to how to live within those patterns. Yet when we obey Jesus commands to love both God and our neighbour, there will sometimes be similar situations where we will do quite different things, letting love and the Holy Spirit be our guide in each instance. While these things will be in accord with scripture, Jesus gave examples which don’t pertain to every situation in our lives, leaving room for interpretation, and the great need to rely upon abiding in Him as we go.

  86. Oh really Wazza! So he is not a god of wrath and judgment? So he didn’t kill all the firstborn of Egypt? He didn’t send a flood? He didn’t allow Job to suffer? What’s the “other explanation” (apart from God’s decree)?

    William Gurnall 1660 “When I consider how the goodness of God is abused by the greatest part of mankind, I cannot but be of his mind that said, the greatest miracle in the world is God’s patience and bounty to an ungrateful world. If a prince has an enemy got into one of his towns, he doth not send them in provision but lays close siege to the place and doth what he can to starve them. But the great God that could wink all His enemies into destruction bears with them and is at daily cost to maintain them. Well may He command us to bless them that curse us who Himself does good to the evil and unthankful. But think not, sinners, that you shall escape thus. God’s mill goes slow but grinds small. The more admirable His patience and bounty now is the more dreadful and unsupportable will that fury be which ariseth out of His abused goodness. Nothing smoother than the sea yet when stirred into a tempest, nothing rageth more. Nothing so sweet as the patience and goodness of God and nothing so terrible as His wrath when it takes fire.”

    When God killed Ananias and Sapphira, we could say, “Well, how can God be so cruel?” when the fact is, the whole lot were sinners.We are so used to God’s mercy and we are so used to abusing His grace we’re offended if God isn’t merciful! Unfortunately that’s the truth – He chooses times not to be merciful

  87. I’m attempting to write form an unbiased point of view (with my logical/analytical cap on, viewing things from a detached point of view as I and those of my personality type love to do).

    As a Christian I believe that there actually is intrinsic good and bad and that God is intrinsically good and not just good because he is God and hence all powerful.

    I agree with the vital role of the Holy Spirit in enabling to understand scripture, beyond just a put your brains thinking cap on thing.

    I respectfully disagree about the bear bit though. Personally I believe that God really did send bears because some teenagers were a bit disrespectful to God’s representative on earth (the office holder not the person – I believe that in God’s eyes the office is not just “some prophet”. This is the same God who executed a guy for trying to stop the ark falling off a wagon because touching the ark was disrespectful. It’s also the same God who killed some New Testament church goers for lying about financial matters).

    To understand these cases I think you have to understand how seriously God takes matters of holiness (would like to word that better). God isn’t just the guy on the corner smoking a cigarette like some recent song makes out. Yes Jesus did humble himself and come down from heaven and wash our feet and even die for us, but in Pente circles I think we can also downplay the majesty and awe of God side a bit.

  88. How do we interpret scripture? With scripture.

    Acts 8:26-40 Philip and the Ethiopian

    “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a]eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.

    The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

    “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
    “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
    In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

    The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

    As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.”

    Exactly what Phillip did, using Isaiah 53:7-8.

  89. “How do we interpret scripture? With scripture.”

    And yet we are still wily enough to make it say what we want it to say, by interpreting scripture with scripture in some most peculiar ways.

  90. There are tried and tested methods relied on through history by emminent theologians. And yet we sit back, in these days of such low regard for the word of God, and dare suggest “did God really say that?” No wonder the church is in the shape it’s in today!

    A bible that is open for various interpretations is no standard at all, and God would not expect us to obey it. The Word of God is clearly written and simple to understand. How precious a gift he has given us, a gift that cost Him something, His Son.

    Jesus , Himself, when he walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, didn’t say “shazaam” it’s Me! He used the OT scriptures to point them to the truth of His time of visitation, so to speak, THEN their eyes were opened.

    It becomes more and more frustrating for me as I research the current Christian church movements or trends just how far we’ve drifted. If the Lord has placed a bible in my hands (not the message bible or some other life application bible), a well-trusted version such as the NASB or ESV etc, then I’m very happy to trust His ability to put it there.

  91. By the way, there’s nowhere in the Bible where we are instructed to “interpret” the Bible. The assumption by the writers of the Bible is that you will just read what they said because that’s what they meant to say or they would not have said that!

    So I don’t “interpret”, I just read, it’s what the writers said that’s important.

    Another thought, why where the Berean called “noble”? Because they were rich, royal or highly educated?

    The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians because “they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

  92. Teddy, one example of different interpretation of scripture is tithing doctrine. Over the centuries, emminent theologians and church leaders even built this into the law of England! Yet a thorough examination of scripture by other well respected theologians (and in my view, correct ones), debunks tithing doctrine and rather focuses on giving under the New Covenant, which goes beyond tithing for many people.

    Perhaps one of the problems is that even very sound people, ignore ‘tried and tested’ methods at times when it suits them. Or else, just plain see what they think is there, through a particular worldview, differing from what scripture originally intended.

    It’s not that God is imperfect, or that scripture is wrong, but we simply cannot get past our own biases and cultural eye glasses all in one go. Usually, we aren’t even able to see our own biases – once we do, we may change.

  93. Fair enough, but the tithing “doctrine” is not a foundational doctrine.

    The foundational doctrines are all summed up in the person and work of Christ

    Paul wrote in 1 Cor 3:11, “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”. Christ Himself embodied or established every doctrine that is essential to genuine Christianity and salvation.

  94. “The foundational doctrines are all summed up in the person and work of Christ”

    Agreed, of course.

    Mind you, some do seem to regard tithing as a foundational doctrine, or you wouldn’t have them commenting that they doubt people are really Christian (followers of Jesus) unless they do tithe.

  95. Aha, wolves in sheeps clothing!

    It’s fascinating reading “Junker Jorge”‘s experience in this area

    “I never questioned tithing until I attended RHEMA Bible Training Center in Oklahoma. There they taught the tithe on the same level as the Blood of Jesus. They constantly scratched out Scriptures about sickness in the Old Testament, but when it came to tithing, they preached on it day and night. Tithing was the key to God’s Grace and Blessings. I became so terrified and legalistic about tithing to the penny, that as soon as I got paid, I would race to the church to drop off my tithe so that nothing bad would happen to me. Years of Word of Faith teaching on tithing had brainwashed me into believing that tithing was a critical part of my relationship with God.”

  96. By the way, do you think it might make for interesting discussion about offering money spent on pastoral “junkets?” The government gets rapped on the knuckles, what about pastors?

  97. Teddy: “By the way, there’s nowhere in the Bible where we are instructed to “interpret” the Bible. The assumption by the writers of the Bible is that you will just read what they said because that’s what they meant to say or they would not have said that!

    So I don’t “interpret”, I just read, it’s what the writers said that’s important.”

    I’m going to open a can of worms here.

    Teddy – that is straight up a rubbish statement and politely I think a little self serving.

    I understand you come from a background that taught what you now think is rubbish theology.

    But a statement such as the one you made is both factually and logically wrong. Yes I agree with you that if you hold to the inerrancy of Scripture as I and many others do that God put the exact words that He wanted into the canon of scripture. Yes it has probably changed a little over the centuries, but I have faith that if God is who He says He is that He can preserve what He wants to, AND we should treat it very seriously AND with great respect.

    But to go from that to a position that says:

    a)we didn’t get an instruction to interpret, so just read it and understand it; and

    b)we just have to read it with your implied position that anyone can understand it

    is just dumb, and shows a breath taking lack of respect to people who have spent through centuries THEIR WHOLE LIVES trying to know God and understand what His Word says AND means both in a general sense for everyone and for themselves.

    Finally I absolutely agree that the core principles of Christianity – who God is, His Creation, our fall, and our redemption through the death and resurrection is reasonably clear that any who read and God has blessed with normal wholeness of senses and intellect can join the dots with the unction of the Holy Spirit (yes it is important what the writer says), but….

    Everybody interprets, and it is a nonsense to suggest otherwise.

    That is also why we have teachers – who interpret it for us – and pass that understanding on for testing and consumption as God through the Holy Spirit leads – more interpretation

    Further for the 10% of the Bible which we may largely agree is prescribed, 90% is descriptive, often symbolic, and often open only to an informed interpretation that we hope may be right – to be approached with a humility in the Spirit because as as sure as God made little green apples – we will plump for an interpretation today and be proven wrong tomorrow on many things.

    You may be happy to be out of WoF environs, and into a reformed one for good reasons.

    But interpretation is there every step of the way. To deny this is arrogant with the potential for a number of very serious problems now and into the future.

    Footnote: we’re not expected to know everything, just what God needs us to, hence faith

    Mt 13

    The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

    He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
    “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

    In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
    ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

  98. I stand by what I said even if you find that “just dumb, and shows a breath taking lack of respect to people who have spent through centuries THEIR WHOLE LIVES trying to know God and understand what His Word says AND means both in a general sense for everyone and for themselves.”

    There’s a discussion going on here with various views about interpretation mainly stemming from Wazza’s statement –

    “So when there is a problematic passage like 2 Kings 2:23-24, where Elisha curses some teenagers for calling him ‘baldy’ and they then get mauled by bears, how do we interpret it?

    Did God really send those bears because some teenagers were a bit disrespectful to a prophet? Or is there some other explanation? I’d say there has to be another explanation.”

    There’s two different approachs to our understanding of “interpretation” going on here.

  99. Interesting the way the discussion has gone:

    I’d like to take time to say the following …

    We can get so caught up in trying to understand (fit ‘awkward’ bits into our pre-suppositions/culture/post-modernist understanding) the Bible that we sometimes miss what is written in very simple language.

    Using the word ‘interpretation’ does imply that the Bible is in some sort of mysterious code that is impenetrable to ordinary punters (the laity) and so we need trained theologians (the clergy) to tell us all what it means.

    Very often, this produces super-christians who fit the Bible into their own doctrines. See WOF, NAR, Prosperity-Theology and so on.

    However, the Bible was written in such a way that even uneducated, simple-minded people can read it and be blessed and be saved.

    So, in a sense, Teddy is completely correct. Just read it.

    However, since it relates situations and events that happened 2,000 to 3,500 years ago and older verbal histories as well, our difficulty is in getting back to those times and reading the words, not through our own cultural, environmental, post-modern glasses but through the eyes of those who were directly affected by those events.

    Our difficulty is to see Abraham, Moses, David and yes Jesus as real, breathing, bleeding, dying human beings. We need to empathise with them, we need to understand them as real people and see those they interacted with as real people.

    Paul’s letters are actual letters he sent for real reasons relating to doctrinal and social problems in Church. He sent letters to Timothy and Titus, primarily to hurry them along so that they would join him again in Rome before his execution. But they had to stay to get the right leaders in Ephesus and the right members in Crete.

    Real people in real situations. The key word shouldn’t be interpretation, it should be understanding. Why was this book written? Who wrote it and who was it written to and what response was hoped for?

    These are all valid questions and when those questions are answered, every single word in the book can then be understood in it’s context.

    Here’s another question for the ‘liberals’ …

    Is Hell a real place? Why would a God of Love send anyone to Hell?

    Here’s the bonus question … Why will adultery in a non-believer condemn them to hell but adultery in a believer is ok?
    I.e. the Christian is living with his mistress while his wife and kids are wondering if he will ever come home.

    There’s more … but answer those questions first.

    Shalom

  100. I used to go to Bible studies which were little more than a pooling of ignorance. In the group someone would say, “Well, I look at this and I feel this is saying…” It doesn’t matter what we feel. That has nothing to do with it it’s not a matter of what we think it means to us.

    Don’t mean to sound too harsh about this but around the time Rodney Howard Browne hit Sydney, the place would go crazy with bizarre “interpretations”!

    1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who work hard in the Scripture are worthy of double honor.” We need to avoid fanciful (and I’ve heard some!)interpretations.

    The question is, what does it mean if I don’t exist? What did it mean before I was born? And what will mean it after I’m dead? What does it mean to people who will never meet me? What does it “mean” is the issue.

  101. Bull says – “Real people in real situations. The key word shouldn’t be interpretation, it should be understanding. Why was this book written? Who wrote it and who was it written to and what response was hoped for?”

    Ecclesiastes 1:9
    “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

    Same problems then and now = same solution then and now. He’s the same, yesterday, today and forever.

  102. Well, I think we need to both understand, and interpret. There’s a case for ‘just reading’, but boy have we got into trouble at times in the Pente churches for ‘just reading’ and not cross checking or understanding context etc.

    By understand, I mean as much as possible in the way Bull says – context, time, etc. Interpret in the sense that the Bible also uses parables, types and stories which relate to Kingdom life… I guess that could be called understanding too, but there is a shift from an illustration in scripture into our everyday circumstance which sometimes requires more than just ‘understanding’ the original context.

    But perhaps this is just a conversation about semantics.

    I agree with MN that we all ‘interpret’ and can’t help ourselves. Many of us don’t even begin to understand – or are only beginning to understand – the Hebrew worldview of Jesus time, which is pivotal, for example, having been brought up our entire lives with a Platonic view. I have, that’s for sure. Then there’s our view of family life affecting how we read about God as our Father etc. It’s got to have some kind of influence.

    I think its very important that we acknowledge all this, as how can we otherwise maintain a humble attitude that allows us to be corrected? If we assume that the only ‘interpretation’ or ‘understanding’ is our one, we will never learn.

    Also, is it ‘humble’ to assume that the teaching at your church is the only correct understanding of the Bible? Many people are able to feel ‘humble’ about their own understanding – so they abrogate it to the leadership in their church, while being disrespectful of wide bodies of teaching outside their church where there may well have been centuries of thought already put into a matter… is this a genuinely humble attitude that allows us to be corrected?

    Sometimes those centuries of thought are wrong! But there is most likely then to be another strand of thought that is also centuries old that presents the alternative.

    I agree that we know what God decides we need to know, if we humbly follow Him and care less about men’s opinions than we do about following Him. We can trust Him to show us what we need to know over time.

  103. Teddy: “Same problems then and now = same solution then and now. He’s the same, yesterday, today and forever.”

    Well, yes … and surprisingly … no.

    Some situations may be the same so we can look those up and say … yes, that’s what God did then, so he is likely to do the same thing now, or our response needs to be the same as theirs to be blessed abundantly etc.

    However, we need understanding in order to see that situations in life may not be the same. In response to David Pawson’s prophecy of an Islamic take-over of Britain, people said to him “You are talking like a Jonah … and the church will repent and this won’t happen.”

    This is possible, however David himself was given the understanding that this is more a Habakkuk situation. The Babylonians are coming and it’s all the fault of God’s people not heeding the warnings and living immorally.

    You see, the church needs to repent. But no one in leadership in the UK is willing to acknowledge this publicly. Largely because we don’t want to upset people and we don’t want our churches to shrink and collections to go down and for everything to decline. So uk leaders are cowards.

    Deep down, people are still moral creatures even if they don’t acknowledge God. So, when confronted by Christian namby-pambyism compared to Islamic Vigour and “intolerance” towards immorality … a lot of people who don’t want to look like gay-bashers and so on, suddenly find a way for their “prejudice” to have an outlet in a negative way.

    Before you start thinking that Bull has lost the plot, you have to remember that I am talking about the UK. Sharia courts are already operating. The relentless drive to absorb the different cultures in the UK will inevitably allow for the differences between Sharia and Common Law.

    The next thing to go will be the law against Bigamy. Once you say to someone, “you can’t have 2 wives as you are an atheist” but say to someone else, “hey you’ve got 4 wives … fantastic!”

    That kind of thing can’t be sustained … so before you know it, Sharia will start to be applied over all UK subjects.

    Anyway, totally hijacked this thread. Different people mean different things with the word “interpretation” … so I don’t think that is a word that is helpful to clarity of thinking about this issue.

    To some, it means understanding … to others it is a confirmation that God’s Word is a fallible human document that can’t be trusted.

    Honest and clarity is very important in these discussions … isn’t it?
    I am not casting aspersions towards anyone who has been commenting by the way. I am simply trying to identify the broad spectrum of opinion that exists about biblical knowledge and how our perceptions might colour our understanding of different words.

    Jesus Christ means something completely different depending on whether you are Born-Again, Mormon, JW, Muslim, Hindu … etc

    Shalom

  104. Teddy, I don’t agree with Wazza’s position on alternative explanations for unpleasant events – e.g the one about Elisha.

    I think to go down that path is in fact trying to look for an easy way of understanding things that are unpleasant and don’t at face value sit with the picture of a loving God that is often portrayed to the exclusions of other elements of His character. God is more complex than that.

    I think someone indicated earlier in this thread that as a starting point….

    How do we interpret scripture? With scripture.

    I am more inclined to agree with you.

    However as far as I’m concerned your comments about interpretation were in actual fact some cheap arm twisting with an unsustainable premise because you don’t agree with Wazza.

    Interpretation is and always will remain something we do for large chunks of Scripture until He comes again because we don’t get it.

    Jeepers – we can’t even agree on the easy stuff a lot of the time, forget a lot of the tougher, culturally specific or prophetic stuff.

  105. Let me get the order right….

    Teddy, I don’t agree with Wazza’s position on alternative explanations for unpleasant events – e.g the one about Elisha.

    I think to go down that path is in fact trying to look for an easy way of understanding things that are unpleasant and don’t at face value sit with the picture of a loving God that is often portrayed to the exclusions of other elements of His character. God is more complex than that.

    I am more inclined to agree with you.

    However as far as I’m concerned your comments about interpretation were in actual fact some cheap arm twisting with an unsustainable premise because you don’t agree with Wazza.

    Interpretation is and always will remain something we do for large chunks of Scripture until He comes again because we don’t get it.

    Jeepers – we can’t even agree on the easy stuff a lot of the time, forget a lot of the tougher, culturally specific or prophetic stuff.

    I think someone indicated earlier in this thread that as a starting point….

    “How do we interpret scripture? With scripture.”

    And then we lean on other people’s understanding quoting books, links, etc

    And then we have to take intellectual and personal responsibility after that for what it means for us seeking the Holy Spirit’s illumination to sort the wheat from the chaff – which will take most of us into eternity.

  106. MN says – “However as far as I’m concerned your comments about interpretation were in actual fact some cheap arm twisting with an unsustainable premise because you don’t agree with Wazza.”

    I’ve never been accused of cheap arm twisting before!

    During the many years at C3, the only way we “seemed” to be taught to rightly divide the Word was through PP’s personal interpretation. Scriptures constantly taken out of context or one seemingly random scripture and 40 mins of pop physchology.

    Coming to the position I hold now was an extremely painful journey. If I learned anything in the last two years it’s to exegete the Bible in its historical, contextual presentation. Of course some of it is a mystery to me, most particularly “grace”.

    Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

    Can we apply that to ourselves? God keeps things to Himself because He needs no counsel and kings should seek out God”s ways to know what they must do in order to rule righteously. We can apply that principal to our lives. Here I’m not assuming I’m a king/queen as some do in pente churches – but there’s “glory” attached to the searching out a matter. We have the Holy Spirit to lead us in spirit and in truth.

    One more thing, many find the Book of Revelation a mystery yet 1:3 says “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heeds the things written in it; for the time is near.”

    There is a “truth war” going on now in the churches these days, and one of its major causes is the “conversational, did God really say that?” approach to the Bible – as I have said previously in another comment.

  107. The problems that arise in this “truth war” are compounded by men like Tony Jones, Rob Bell, Brian Mclaren, Doug Pagitt etc, the movers and shakers in the emergent village culture, causing more problems than they are solving. They seem to believe they are bringing about another “reformation”. To quote Rob Bell –

    “After launching Mars Hill in 1999, they found themselves increasingly uncomfortable with church. “Life in the church had become so small,” Kristen says. “It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working.” The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—”discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. “The Bible is still in the center for us,” Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

    “I grew up thinking that we’ve figured out the Bible,” Kristen says, “that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again—like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.”

    These guys are embracing theological liberalism not mystery!

  108. “During the many years at C3, the only way we “seemed” to be taught to rightly divide the Word was through PP’s personal interpretation. Scriptures constantly taken out of context or one seemingly random scripture and 40 mins of pop physchology.”

    That’s what I experienced during my time at PP’s church, with the addition of home group leaders teaching. I left when it seemed ‘stale’ to me (after a time when it majored on nothing except giving). My experience wasn’t as extreme as yours though Teddy, because the next church I went to had a much better teacher in charge. However, it was painful once I pulled the tithing thread and the entire garment then fell to pieces.

    After this, I can’t subject myself to any sole version of understanding. To me, the attitude of some of the reformed teachers seems to presume that they have the definitive truth. This lack of humility really puts me off. They can’t have everything right when they portray themselves as the ‘kings’ of biblical understanding the way they often do.

    As we keep saying, the fruit is what we need to look for. If I see arrogance and superiority, that’s not a good fruit. I used to have a teacher like this, and he turned out to be an utter hypocrite. Isn’t it interesting that apparently Jesus was the first person in history to use the term ‘hypocrite’ in the sense we know it today, talking about the Pharisees. This is because Jesus looks upon the heart. So lets have humble hearts about our understanding, and look for that in those who lead or teach us. If its not there, they are missing the point somewhere.

    To imbue any group with the stature of the ‘best’ interpretation, is dangerous. We run the risk of elevating men to Pope-like status, and shut down our thinking.

    To generalise about any group and put all its leaders in the same extreme category simplifies life to black and white, but writes off lots of good teaching and points which are probably needed to balance the extremes.

    Insinuation and innuendo about emergent church leaders, putting them all in the one barrel, ignores the spectrum of views that are out there, and probably dismisses some of the good things that God is doing through these peopel. When I hear Mark Driscoll talk about emergent church, he seems to dump them all in the one barrel. When I hear Phil Jensen (years ago) insinuating that tongues are from the devil (no, he wouldn’t actually say it, just appeared to imply it), then its pretty much the same thing. There is a raising up of themselves above those they criticise, implying that their way is the safe one, the good one, the right one. They are the safe, good and right teachers.

    Safer than some perhaps. But they are just men. God has distributed gifts across the entire body, not just in one movement.

  109. Regardless of how we might want to embrace any and all who claim to represent the gospel, the truth is, not everyone who says they are in Christ truly are!

    It is a very timely commentary from Mike Ratliff on his blog, “Possessing the Treasure”.

    ” The Truth War is an ugly thing. Those attempting to dismantle Biblical truth and reform it to their own philosophies use tactics that could best be termed as deceitful. They accuse without any substance to their attacks. Their entire focus seems to be to muddy the waters and cast doubt using verbiage designed to discourage the warriors of the truth while confusing everyone else. Now I ask you, who does that sound like? Of course, it is our enemy who is behind this. He is a liar and a murderer. Those who serve him are spiritually blind and have been deceived. Our enemy is quite clever in that he attacks the truth from every conceivable angle and platform. Some of his minions are atheists. Others are pagans. Others are professing Christians, but they are not the genuine article. There are hundreds of different forms of Christianity, but there is only one true faith. The religion of genuine Christianity teaches that Christians are saved by justification by faith alone. There are hundreds of false prophets who have invaded the visible Church who teach vastly different false doctrines. However, there is one common denominator in them all. They teach in one form or another that salvation belongs to them because they have done something that has earned them recognition as Christians or as the emergents say these days, “followers of Jesus.”

    And this just came up this morning after I had already posted my comments here.

  110. If men are preaching “another gospel”, I don’t believe “that God has distributed gifts across the entire body, not just in one movement”.

  111. So?

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    Do you think this is new? This has Been going on for millenia.

    And yet we are still here.

    Tell me who are you more concerned about?

    Following Jesus or rooting out those who have it wrong?

    Cause if it is the latter we’re all consigned to hell.

    And those left look increasingly look like those fundamental Muslims we are frightened of and feel powerless about.

    Finding out the truth including biblical truth is actually more important than finding out what is not.

    Other than that I agree with RP.

    You quote Bell: ““The Bible is still in the center for us, “Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

    You put that up as a statement that we should be concerned about. Why? What frightens you about that?

    Frankly I find that thought quite liberating, but I don’t see it as an excuse to get out doing what I can to get to know God better.

    I am probably less well read than most if not all who regularly contribute to this site, and I hope to remedy that one day, but I have been around long enough in evangelical/reformed milieu’s to know that they have their own measuring yardstick about who’s in and who’s out as the pente’s do.

    Different unit – theological understanding – same result – pecking order and judgement as an exercise in power and feeling better about oneself.

    I am wary of the two extremes – those who pick apart – the liberals who believe in nothing really – and those who hold it together at all costs – the latter because the truth is no longer the gold standard rather the position that is currently being espoused.

    And as RP commented on – to lump people all together is – and I am prepared to say this – in God’s eyes wrong.

    And Teddy while you speak of grace occasionally most of what you write about is in judgement of others.

    (Probably would have to put myself in that one as well).

  112. Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, MN?:)

    So any discernment is wrong? How do we judge anything, what measure do we use if not the Bible or do we just hope it all “pans” out in the end?

    The “nothing new under the sun” refers back to a comment Bull made.

    “And Teddy while you speak of grace occasionally most of what you write about is in judgement of others.”

    Wow, that comment sounds pretty judgmental to me!

  113. MN, read 2 Peter, it’s only three chapters. I’m interested to know what you think of chapter 2 in light of the current teachings in most churches (particularly mega-style) today. But perhaps Peter was being too “judgmental”.

  114. “If men are preaching “another gospel”, I don’t believe “that God has distributed gifts across the entire body, not just in one movement”.” – Teddy

    Teddy, to clarify my understanding of what you currently believe, do you then limit the ‘body of Christ’ to those in just one movement?

    Also, are you suggesting that only one defined movement actually represents Jesus?

    I agree that there are false teachers and prophets etc; what I’m trying to say is that in Pente churches, in emerging churches and in Calvinist churches, wherever Jesus is actually taught as Lord, there will be gifts amonst His people.

    Within the Pente churches, are those who teach Jesus, and those who teach ‘extras’ in order to be saved. Not all Pente churches can be grouped in quite the same way. Within Calvinist aligned churches, there are those who have domineering ministers, and arrogant leadership; then there are those who really do seek to serve their communities and equip their congregations, with a humble heart.

    In every movement, in every gathering, there will be strengths and weaknesses. Where a movement or gathering becomes arrogant, it will become deaf to contributions from the wider body of Christ which could actually help prevent it succumbing to those weaknesses.

    A false doctrine is a damaging weakness. One false doctrine (unless its salvational), doesn’t mean everything taught there is out of line with Christ.

    Arrogance and fear prevent people from hearing from God about it. Some movements have a lot to offer other movements, if they’d only listen, and none have a monopoly on rightness. C3 still teaches Jesus as Lord, according to you, Teddy, so there must be gifts among them, as there are among those Calvinists who teach Jesus as Lord. These two groups have their inherent strengths and weaknesses; where they are humble, they might (shock, horror) even be able to receive from one another.

    However, as you have said, there are also false teachers who are into building their own kingdoms rather than participating in God’s; these don’t want to learn from anyone. They are like Simon the magician, who thought he could buy the gifts of God with money.

    I am rambling here.

    MN – just out of interest – what did I say that you disagreed with? Maybe I need to correct my understanding!

  115. MN says – “You quote Bell: ““The Bible is still in the center for us, “Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

    You put that up as a statement that we should be concerned about. Why? What frightens you about that?”

    What gives you the impression that I’m “frightened”!

    Forewarned is forearmed, so to speak. I have the same concerns about the Joel Osteens of this world, who, by the way, is the latest Twitter PP wants the C3’s to follow.

    Stop getting mad at me MN, and start caring about what is going on out there. To quote a famous line from an old movie “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_(film)

    Seriously, the people leaving C3, are leaving for the same reason we did, no Gospel being preached and a low view of scripture. We’re tripping over them everywhere lately (the exiting congregation), and they all end at in churches that simply preach the Bible in an God-honouring way with Christ at the centre and not us.

  116. In case there is any doubt here, when I use the term, ‘the body of Christ’, I am referring to those who put their faith in Jesus as their sole Lord and Saviour, relying upon His grace and nothing else to save them. If a church is teaching any kind of additional work, then it is no longer ‘Christian’. However – even in those places, because they do use the Bible, there could well be many Christians, who just don’t yet realise that the place they love has distorted the gospel.

  117. RP, I think MN agrees, not disagrees, with you.

    RP, I limit the body of Christ to those that the Lord is saving and guess what? I don’t know who He’s saving!!! However He does warn of false teachers rising up and people having itchy ears etc.

    I’m pretty sure you, RP, could walk into some churches today and would run, kicking the dust off your feet, after 30 mins there because your discernment is set very high too.

  118. LOL! All I know is right now, I can’t even step inside. At the moment God has a different place for me. But you never know… one day.

    Got the newsletter from the local Anglican church in my new suburb yesterday. It all sounded very nice; lovely serving community. But then I saw the paragraph about “Our Vision”… ‘By 20xx, we will be a community of 500 believers’ or something similar…

    Nothing intrinsically wrong with that desire. But the mere mention of ‘Vision’ was enough to put me off. I think you can understand why.

    Maybe I’ll do a post on the subject at some point.

  119. Yes, I know what you mean. Someone mentioned
    “dreaming” our future and I was so annoyed. Just the old hang ups from C3 colouring my worldview lately because it’s really OK to dream in an Anglican sort of way 🙂 !

  120. This is a quote from James, which seems pertinent to many aspects of this thread – from knowing who really does walk in wisdom and understanding, to sowing in peace so far as we are able:

    James 3:13-18
    13Who among you is wise and understanding? (Q)Let him show by his (R)good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

    14But if you have bitter (S)jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against (T)the truth.

    15This wisdom is not that which comes down (U)from above, but is (V)earthly, (W)natural, (X)demonic.

    16For where (Y)jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

    17But the wisdom (Z)from above is first (AA)pure, then (AB)peaceable, (AC)gentle, reasonable, (AD)full of mercy and good fruits, (AE)unwavering, without (AF)hypocrisy.

    18And the (AG)seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

  121. “The foundational doctrines are all summed up in the person and work of Christ

    Paul wrote in 1 Cor 3:11, “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”. Christ Himself embodied or established every doctrine that is essential to genuine Christianity and salvation.”

    Love this! Amen!

  122. MN, what is your “religious” affiliation or background? Just curious, it’s interesting to know why we can bring our perceptions to the table.

  123. I’ll do better.

    I was brought up by my grandmother in 60s and 70s because I am a bastard child. I give my mother credit for not getting coat hanger job.

    I spent from ages 10 to 26 in various independent evangelical churches all of which were pre-trib fanatics, doctrinally shit scared of charismatic tongue speakers, and totally convinced all the good music was of the devil (although mostly I prefer hymns these days for worship – I miss them greatly).

    This latter church split down the guts in my in final years there over a doctrinal dispute about reformed theology. Very ugly.

    They wouldn’t have any of it, and in the spirit of some of your comments steadfastly refused to read some fo the words on the page and even acknowledge that they were there.

    I started off being on the Arminian side, but because in large part had more intellectual exposure courtesty of an arts degree in history and literature with a heavy philosophical component, over time and the Holy Spirit’s promptings could no longer ignore the words on the page. Neither side however covered themselves in glory in this debate, with little or no love on either side.

    When I got married we left that church which as a church failed to offer much support, and went to a Westminster Presbyterian fellowship down the road for the next 17 years.

    There was some great teaching, but progressively overtime and with changes in pastors etc and with a marriage that was slowly deteriorating found the reformed theology great, but its application judgemental, inflexible, and a great burden around our necks that were slowly pushing us underwater and drowning us.

    I got seriously tired of the one-eyed judgmentalism that in early years had even resulted in a friend phycially tryng to strangle me, because as much as I wouldn’t yield, he was never wrong – ever – he went on to minister of which his first two pastorates resulted in him being asked to leave – quite different to the pente way I know.

    We left eventually after starting counselling which lasted five years – this was the person who said that the Bible is 10% prescriptive, and 90% descrptive, and is one of the two or three people in this world whose judgement I most value.

    We went to a Baptist church where it was immediately noticeable that the judgementalism experienced as an overwhelming pall for years at WPC was absent, and never went back.

    Things I really struggle with these days as in pet peeves:

    those who write off great slabs of people whether those who do the writing off are the ungodly or the churched – I will struggle politely with this for a while, and am then inclined to call it for what it is;

    those who diminish the word of God or as you might say – did God really say that; and

    in the same way those who seek to impose their understanding of Scripture out of fear to protect God or that the world is crumbling, or a desire to use Scripture for their own selfish purposes, when in fact it is quite clear that it is not clear.

    None of these things are of Christ, but present within all churches and all denominations to varying extents – it is in our nature. The issue then is whether God has called us to that place or not.

    And I am exceptionally wary of those who start to believe their own publicity – always a worrying sign.

    But as I get older I am less concerned about things that people might have wrong, and more interested in what they might have right.

    This is ultimately why I could change from Arminian to reformed to both free will and God’s sovereignty all at the same time, and never by into that crap about all tongues are evil – a stance held by most evangelicals from my background, and probably still most reformed people as well.

    To me the ability even if I am a slow learner to change views overtime is a grace from God.

    It is a sign to me that He has never left me, and remains with me as I wrestle through the issues of the day that I think I won’t get through.

    And as I have gotten older I think my faith has become simpler in that all I have to know is that Jesus is all sufficient for me.

  124. And there some very fine Christians at all churches referred to above that did support me/us, and who I greatly respect for their ability to serve for the long haul in what I think are in many ways difficult places to be.

    And even after that most of the people I know there I would think are “saved” even if it didn’t work out from my side of things

  125. Your background has been more challenging then mine, probably, MN, but I am so with you in your conclusions.

    God bless, and thank you for sharing your background.

    I couldn’t agree more that part of God’s grace is how He changes our views over time. Only he can see our hearts.

  126. Thankyou MN, I wish I could share as openly as you have. Some here know more (not all) of my issues than most – there’s family members very near and dear to us that has been deeply affected by our decision to leave C3. And in that regard lies a glaring lack of pastoral management (I’m being kind) by PP – so I’m personally dealing with an extremely unchristlike anger.

    In spite of that, the family members are going from strength to strengh, as the Lord takes them in amazing directions. How long they remain there will be interesting.

    I’m sorry if I seem harsh and judgmental to you but again if you knew all the details, you may be more sympathetic, or maybe not – who knows?

    I think I may have mentioned in other comments over the past months, that I do not hold to the cessationist position in regards to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, however what’s operating at C3 in particular is unbiblical and causing a lot of problems. Case in point – Franc Manhattan among others. There are some great things happening there in individual lives apart from any “gospel” imparted there and there may be some great changes on the horizon for C3, God willing.

    We went along for the ride believing and supporting all the programmes for many years. The hardest part was not been the leaving but the way it happened, so shocking and unexpected and definately God. The pendulum swing is correcting itself finally and we find ourselves in a very good place, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

    Reformed theology resonates with us now for many reasons, and had nothing to do with being in an Anglican church – though the church we find ourselves in, is great. Still feel like kids who won first prize!

    To be able to sit in a church and be moved by the Holy Spirit powerfully without any beat up by “music” or hype is still amazing.

    I do spend a lot of time researching church movements with an open heart (which feels like breaking at times) and what I see does disturb me, but I also believe it’s a “sign of the times”.

    We will have to agree to disagree on some things, MN, but to brought under your judgment is more than a little unfair as I have found this blog very helpful in venting and sharing. We all bring our “sinful nature” to the table.

    I’m not becoming the “Clayton’s” Facelift here am I?

  127. I think Fl was a genuine bloke, but ultimately could not take his doctrinaire approach to things where most things pente were whiter than snow.

    It is very difficult to be in a place where you desperately want things to happen for all the right reasons, but its not gonna happen.

    Extra grace required.

    We each have our crosses to bear in that respect.

  128. I miss not having the family I never had sometimes, so it would be much, much worse to miss the family you do have

  129. I think that in our spiritual lives, as well as physical lives, we do have to go through forms of travail, to grow or to birth things. Most of us at one time probably didn’t see the church as a place where we would experience part of that travail, but as a haven where we would find respite and encouragement.

    Churches go through seasons as well (back to Ecclesiastes again).

  130. MN, it is really sad to hear about your original family. That might make it even tougher when you do have issues with your church family.

  131. Every one has their own issues which they have to negotiate.

    There are times when I get really angry at my father (whom I’ve only ever met once) because where the hell is he – how am I supposed to know what to do, and who do I talk to?

    But on the other hand, God has been with me the whole way, and I know that when I’m not too busy being self absorbed.

    And in any case my story is not that bad – there a millions of people who have it much tougher.

    Its one thing having issues with the church you go to or whatever – it is a whole other issue when that contributes to family difficulties and splits.

    Teddy has her story as I’m sure do thousands of others.

    I am well off in that context.

  132. Thanks for you guys being open with your testimonies. They were beautiful. Only once in heaven can you hear mine. Wish I could share.

    Been a lovely trip to Lake Understanding.

    Now.
    Back to Allah.

    You for him or against him?

  133. wow…

    I feel particularly humbled.

    RP, send me the message from FL … I am sure that God wants me to see what FL has to say. Do you have my email address?

    The real question about the use of Allah depends ultimately on the context within which it is being used and the country within which it is being used.

    I don’t believe it is helpful in the context of the UK. I actually think that using the word God isn’t particularly helpful in multi-cultural Britain when you then have to say “The Father of Jesus” or “the God of Israel” or “The God of the Muslims” and so on.

    Allah is the name of the God revealed to Mohammed so is a specific name for a different God.

    However, in a Muslim country, it may make sense for Christian Missionaries but I am in no real position to question that, but I will make a point of raising this question with a person I know who is currently out there

    We shall see how it all pans out, I am sure.

    We carry stuff with us and perhaps we will never off-load it. My Dad suffered from strokes in the last ten years of his life. Meanwhile, I became a Christian.

    What happened? I was 25 years old when he had a severe stroke. Afterwards, he could only speak in Welsh. As I cannot speak welsh, that kinda limited our conversation. 5 years later, he was dead.

    That broke me.

    It was suddenly too late to have that “significant conversation” … it was too late to find out where he was spiritually … it was too late.

    I was given a hunger for the Bible which has only grown stronger. Perhaps it was an attempt by myself to get an anchor that I didn’t know I needed. But whatever the significance of getting into the Bible, I knew I could only rely on Abba Father now … even though my dad was in no fit state for 5 years.

    Shit happens, but do we knuckle down or buckle under?

    I knuckled down.

    But I can never forgive myself, because I can’t forget that I wasted 11 years as a Christian before taking the Bible seriously.

    Don’t put off that significant conversation. You may never get another chance.

    Shalom

  134. There’s certaily a deeper yearning when one experiences death/illness to their loved ones. My father died of a stroke when I was in my early 20s, v suddenly, he didn’t smoke, didn’t drink much, very God fearing, so it was like, wow why him, but it did make me search more, although at the time it wasn’t much fun, especially for my mother. But you do get through it and get a deeper sense of “life” because you sort of have to. Thanks for sharing Bull/Mn

  135. “The real question about the use of Allah depends ultimately on the context within which it is being used and the country within which it is being used.” – Bull

    I think context is the key as well.

  136. how about this from the independent

    Christian hoteliers charged after argument with Muslim guest

    By John Fahey, Press Association

    A pair of Christian hoteliers who argued with a Muslim guest have been charged with a racist offence.

    The couple, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, run the Bounty House Hotel but claim takings are 80 per cent down because of the row, which has forced them to sell the business.

    Trouble started at the hotel in Aintree, Merseyside, over breakfast one morning in March.

    The unnamed guest, who was staying at the hotel while being treated at a nearby hospital, came down to breakfast wearing a hijab – the traditional Muslim head-dress.

    The couple had never seen her wear the religious clothing before and a discussion ensued.

    It is alleged Dutch-born Mr Vogelenzang said Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was a warlord.

    He denies the claims.

    It is also claimed that Mrs Vogelenzang, 54, who has run the hotel with her husband for six years, described the hijab as a form of bondage.

    The guest complained to police and the couple were charged under the 1986 Public Order Act – with using “threatening, abusive or insulting words” which were “religiously aggravated”.

    They will stand trial at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 8 December.

    The Vogelenzangs were unavailable for comment but are being backed by The Christian Institute.

    Spokesman Mike Judge said: “Important issues of religious liberty and free speech are at stake.

    “We have detected a worrying tendency for public bodies to misapply the law in a way that seems to sideline Christianity more than other faiths.

    “Nobody was being threatened and while the Vogelenzangs were fully aware that a robust exchange had taken place and the woman had been perhaps a little offended, they were shocked when the police became involved.

    “We feel their treatment has been heavy-handed and it is not in the public interest to go ahead with this prosecution.

    “People see the police standing by when Muslims demonstrate holding some pretty bloodthirsty placards, but at the same time come down hard on two Christians having a debate over breakfast at a hotel.

    “We are just hoping the magistrates use their common sense and find them not guilty.”

    He added the couple were “absolutely distressed by it”.

    hmm… while the muslim woman was clearly offended and perhaps the Christians shouldn’t have commented so freely, is this a criminal matter?

    Well, it is in the UK clearly. The UK is not a Christian country. I am a stranger passing through …

  137. I don’t know why they had to say anything to her about her Hijab. I mean, people should be able to go about their business in their religious/cultural head-dress without being subjected to, “Mohammed was a warlord” or ” your in bondage to whatever”. Surely there’s a time and place for “discussion” but it sounds like the two hoteliers where having a go at the patron and her religion and certainly crossing the line for people involved in the hospitality/ service industry.

    It’s the sort of thing you might bring up with a friend under the right circumstance but not with a sick person visiting your establishment, I think.

    During the “robust exchange”, she probably started to feel threatened and abused.

    I can imagine if I were visiting a hotel, wearing a cross around my neck, and the hotelier saw fit to point out to me that ” Jesus was a figment of peoples imaginations” and his partner chirped in that I was, ” a slave to religion”, I think I’d feel at the least, unwelcome, even discriminated against. If they then persisted to create a heated argument against my religion while I was trying to eat my breakfast and drink my coffee in peace, in their establishment, I’d have to conclude that they really didn’t like Christians at all and might even be slightly unhinged.

    I think at the least it defies good manners to bring up controversial matters of religion or politics with a customer or guest who should be able to expect impartial service without religious criticism.

    That’s my opinion about it anyway. As for the law, I don’t know about that. No doubt a judge will decide.

  138. From your description the hoteliers sound either uninformed or “stoopid” – either way they invited trouble and got it – Christian or otherwise.

    As for the capacity for legal action it seems heavy handed, but there would be the ability for legal recourse here in Oz.

    I think the only genuine issue here is whether there is a wider tendency to appeasing Muslims while coming down hard on so-called Christians.

    I think the same thing happens here a bit – there is an annual imbroglio of some sort over what people can do at Christmas and what they can’t here.

    Often some well meaning unreligious person (or someone chicken) trying to avoid confrontation who buys it with their actions anyway by banning something traditionally Christian, which then the local Muslims and Jews have often turned around and said “You’re kidding”.

    I can’t help but think UK setting is a bit different to here, but still variations on a theme.

    Maybe the difference is I don’t see Australia as a Christian country, rather a very secular one.

    I think the real issue is what do those of us who are Christians in either place do? How do we manifest our faith and our God? Are we prepared to both stand up for our God, and love our enemy (if that is in fact the case) and anyone else in the face of quite possible harm?

  139. I agree with you MN – I also see Australia as a secular country, rather than a Christian one.

    Also, I think the separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’ is very important – we’ve seen what happens historically when this is not the case.

    Let’s hope this continues to apply, whether it be separation of state and Christian churches, or separation of state and Islamic groups, or whoever.

    I wouldn’t want to see anyone jailed for insulting someone (unless it becomes public vilification or violent) – not that I agree with insults. Its just that where do you draw a line? How does a court define where an insult stops and starts?

    Anyway, I do agree with Hal that the couple would have been better off saying nothing at all; if the hijab was a statement meant to provoke them for some reason, they could perhaps have taken the opportunity to practice our faith by turning the other cheek.

    I know that’s easier said than done sometimes, depending upon the situation. Perhaps if there is a climate of provocation, Christians would be helped by dwelling on Jesus commands to love our neighbours as ourselves, to forgive our brother seventy x seven, and to turn the other cheek etc – in other words, be challenged to seek transformation on the inside in these areas.

    We really do need to see each person as someone created by our Lord, and treat them accordingly, wherever possible. It’s part of our witness.

    I have definitely said and done things I regretted in the heat of the moment, and its pretty hard when you can’t rewind the clock and do it over better. It can certainly give anyone whose agenda is opposed to you ammunition.

  140. Thanks for the link to the article, Teddy.

    The article is not clear on how public the conversation was, but if it was a private discussion, then jail or criminal charges would be highly inappropriate. If two couples of different faiths were discussing their differences in a heated way, I still think jail and criminal charges are highly inappropriate.

    This case is probably worth following.

    Bull, I’ve not seen any cases like those brought up in the Australian newspapers. Is the British media helping to heat up the conflict unhelpfully for their own benefit do you think?

  141. Thanks for the article Teddy.

    Very difficult to know what is going on, although it would appear as per Bull’s concerns there is a legitmate question over whether Christians (or anyone else) can express their faith.

    Again not sure why this would even come up in the context of a conversation in a hotel breakfast area with the owners.

    Not sure if this appropriate being certainly different to the function of this thread and indeed blog, but ABC Radio National have been running a series on creative thinking.

    The most recent which I haven’t listened to yet is with a Dutch thinker who suggests the European response to Islam is similar to the appeasement of fascism in the 30s.

    Here’s the link for anyone interested.

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/saturdayextra/stories/2009/2689714.htm

  142. The interesting thing is that this couple were a Dutch couple.

    We brits tend to be more reticent (cowardly?) …

    Should they have initiated the conversation at all? We need Godly wisdom in our conversation too don’t we.

    The European (as opposed to Christian) response to Islam is very fluffy. We need people to come and work and pay taxes so that we get a state pension after all!

    The Kingdom of God is growing in Europe, but so is Islam.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not dismayed at the Kingdom of God, I am dismayed that the Church isn’t up to the job of extending it.

    There are isolated glorious examples but the overall picture is lousy.

    Ah well … more incredibly strong coffee

  143. I don’t think we should ever cower or be ashamed or deny our faith for peace or expedience. It’s just that defending our faith doesn’t necessarily need to involve pointing out the faults in someone else’s religion. It might sometimes, but it seems like too often the first response is to attack.

    I don’t like laws that criminalise an opinion or the expression of that opinion even if it is offensive to some people, perhaps the majority of people. That’s not how a free society is supposed to work. I think laws against assault and threats, intimidation and the like are sufficient to protect people. Laws that impinge on religious freedom and expression aren’t good for anyone.

  144. Hey Bull! The way you’re going with all your strong coffee’s you’ll never be a bulldozer. (grown now!)

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