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Tag Archives: Jesus

Hindus say: The Truth is One, but the sages speak of it in many different ways.

Buddha said: Follow my eight-fold path and you will discover The Truth.

Mohammed said: The Truth has been revealed to me.

Jesus said: I am The Truth

 

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  

No one comes to the Father except through me.

(Jesus, John 14:6)

Acknowledgement – I first saw this schema of Comparative Religion in a book I read when I was in my early 20’s when I was trying to figure out if Jesus Is God. The book was published by an Anglican publishing house but I can’t remember the name of the book or who the authors are.

American Astronaut Neil Armstrong Became A Muslim

My Muslim friend recently told me that American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, became a Muslim after hearing the Muslim Call To Prayer while standing on The Moon.

This is totally untrue. It is simply a Muslim myth.

Neil Armstrong did not become a Muslim after hearing the Muslim Call To Prayer while standing on The Moon.

Neil Armstrong is not a Muslim at all.

Neil Armstrong has never been a Muslim.

Armstrong himself repudiates this story in his own biography. Here is an excerpt:

I have found that many organizations claim me as a member, for which I am not a member, and a lot of different families — Armstrong families and others — make connections, many of which don’t exist. So many people identify with the success of Apollo. The claim about my becoming a Muslim is just an extreme version of people inevitably telling me they know somebody whom I might know

The myth that Armstrong became a Muslim is in fact denied in a Fatwa authourised  by the Muslim scholar Shaykh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid and published on his website, Islam Q&A.

Shaykh Al-Munajjid makes the obvious point that if Neil Armstrong became a Muslim after hearing the Islamic Call To Prayer on The Moon then he would go around telling everyone all about it and that they should become Muslims too. Since Neil Armstrong has  does none of these things it is obvious that he never became a Muslim or heard the call To Prayer on The Moon.

Here is the Fatwa:

The story about Neil Armstrong, who they say was the first man to step onto the surface of the moon, becoming a Muslim is one of the stories that are passed around among people. We have researched this story and we did not find any reliable source for it.

We have got used to hearing stories like that which then turn out to false, and it seems that this is a deliberate attempt to shake the faith of the ordinary Muslims[…]

If the story of such a famous person becoming Muslim was really true, you would see him calling people to Islam and you would see the scholars and daa’iyahs and the Islamic media meeting him and talking to him, none of which happened in this case.

If you compare the story of Armstrong supposedly becoming Muslim with the story of Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens, the famous British singer), you will see the difference between lies and truth, imagination and reality.

You can read all about the Armstrong Myth here:

First Astronaut To The Moon Worshiped Jesus

In fact, what Armstrong did on the Moon was respectfully watch his crew-mate Buzz Aldrin worship Jesus. As the link above states:

Before Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. stepped out of the lunar module, the Apollo they observed a moment of silence whilst Aldrin read from the New Testament and administered Communion to himself. The Christian ceremony is described in an article by Aldrin in a 1970 copy of Guideposts magazine:

It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements which celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus and which are symbolically eaten in an act of worship to Jesus.

Astronauts Who Have Become Christians 

While there is no record of any person becoming a Muslim in outer space or on The Moon, there are several records of people coming to a deeper faith in Christianity and Jesus Christ while in outer space or on The Moon.

Astronaut James Irwin Became A Christian On The Moon

Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin was what is termed a nominal Christian before his time on The Moon in 1971. A nominal Christian is a person who comes from a Christian family or who may even occasionally attend church, but who has no personal faith in God or true connection to Jesus. Such a personal is not actually a Christian, but James Irwin became a believer in God through Jesus Christ, a Christian, while on The Moon.

While James Irwin was on The Moon he was having trouble getting an experiment to work. He decided to pray God I need your help right now.

Suddenly Irwin experienced the presence of Jesus Christ in a remarkable way, unlike anything he ever felt on earth. “The Lord showed him the solution to the problem and the experiment erected before him like a little altar,” Mary Irwin, his wife, said.

“He was so overwhelmed at seeing and feeling God’s presence so close,” she says. “At one point he turned around and looked over his shoulder as if He was standing there.”

This unusual encounter with Jesus – some 238,000 miles from earth, changed Irwin’s life forever.

Within a year of Irwin’s return from space, he resigned from NASA and formed High Flight Foundation, which is a Christian Missionary organisation

“God decided that He would send His Son Jesus Christ to the blue planet,” James Irwin said, “and it’s through faith in Jesus Christ that we can relate to God. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.’

“As I travel around I tell people the answer is Jesus Christ, that Jesus walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon.”

[Information about James Irwin from the article “Encounter with Jesus on the moon left astronaut changed”, GodReports website , March 7, 2011. Link here.]

 

Astronaut Becomes Christian Missionary After Walking On The Moon

Charles Duke, an Astronaut on Apollo 16 in 1972, had his faith in Jesus Christ immensely strengthened as a result of going to The Moon. He later became active in missionary work. As he explained:

“I make speeches about walking ON the moon and walking WITH the Son [of God].”

Astronaut Becomes A Believer In God While Reading The Bible In Outer Space

Frank Borman was commander of the first space crew to travel beyond the Earth’s orbit, Apollo 8, in 1968. Looking down on the earth from 250,000 miles away, Borman radioed back a message, quoting Genesis Chapter One, the first words in The Bible “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

As he later explained,

“I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us-that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.”

[Information about Frank Borman in this section comes from the article “Astronauts Who Found God” by Chuck Colson on the website ActsWeb. Link here.]

 

Summary

Neil Armstrong did not become a Muslim after hearing the Muslim Call To Prayer while standing on The Moon.

Neil Armstrong is not a Muslim at all.

Neil Armstrong has never been a Muslim.

Muslim scholars agree that Neil Armstrong is not and never has been a Muslim.

Muslim scholars describe the story of Armstrong becoming a Muslim as ‘lies’, ‘false’, ‘imagination’, ‘unreliable’ and a story designed to stop Muslims believing in Islam.

The first act of worship on the Moon was actually a Christian worship service in honour of   Jesus Christ.

The first Holy Book read in outer space was The Bible

The only Astronauts who came to believe in God while on The Moon became Christians, not Muslims.

A Muslim friend recently told me that the coming of Islam is prophesied in the Bible, specifically in Deuteronomy 33:2

And Moses said, “The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”

My friend told me that the three mountains in this verse represent three revelations: that Mt. Sinai represents the law given to Moses, Mt. Seir the Gospel given to Jesus and that Mt. Paran represents Islam because Mt. Paran is located near Mecca.

My friend is incorrect in his thesis for a number of reasons: First, in the Bible, Mt. Seir does not represent the Gospel or Jesus; Second,  Mt. Paran of The Bible is located in the ancient nation of Edom, bordering the Dead Sea, and is nowhere near Mecca and hence cannot represent Islam; Third, the chronology (as opposed to the order of listing or mention) of God’s visitations to these mountains begins in Paran and ends in Sinai, which is the reverse of what of what the Islamic interpretation of these verses requires.

There are additional insurmountable problems with the Islamic interpretation of Deuteronomy 33:2 which I will also discuss below.

Mt. Seir Does Not Represent Jesus Or The Gospel.

While it is true that Mt. Sinai represents the Mosaic covenant, Mt. Seir does not represent the Gospel. Biblically, Mt. Seir represents the nation of Edom. The Edomites are the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Biblical data that ties Seir to Edom is immense, straightforward and incontrovertible. The very first mention of Seir in The Bible states that Seir is the dwelling place of the Edomites.

Esau dwelt in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom. These are the descendants of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. (Genesis 36:8)

Mt Seir represents Edom. It does not represent Jesus.

For the record, the mountain that the Bible associates with Jesus Messiah is Mt. Zion in Israel. Psalm 2:6-9 and Psalm 110 are crystal clear on this, just to name two scriptures of many that could be listed.

Mt. Paran Does Not Represent Islam Or Mecca

In the Bible, Mt. Paran is associated with Teman, which is a region within Edom. Paran is not associated with Mecca.

The Book of Habbakuk places Mt. Paran in Teman and the Books of Jeremiah and Obadiah place Teman with Edom. Hence Paran is located in Edom, not Mecca.

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran
– Habbakuk 3:3

That Teman is a region with Edom is seen from Jeremiah 49:1. Jeremiah uses Teman as a synonym for the nation of Edom, the part representing the whole. The prophet Obadiah does the same (see Obadiah 1:9) .

Concerning Edom. Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Is there no more wisdom in Teman,
has counsel perished from the prudent,
is their wisdom gone?
– Jeremiah 49:1

Since The Bible locates Paran in Edom, Paran cannot be associated with Mecca and therefore does not represent Islam.

Ancient Edom was located on the southern borders of Judah (southern Israel), the Dead Sea and Southern Jordan (ancient Moab). It also extended into the Negev. Edom is nowhere near Mecca.

Paran Is Visited Before Sinai 

Paran is mentioned last in the list of mountains that God visited when he delivered the Sinai covenant to Moses. This is interpreted by Muslims to constitute a chronology of revelation where Sinai is given first and Islam, supposedly represented by Mt. Paran, visited last.

Unfortunately for the Islamic interpretation of this scripture, Paran, while listed last, was actually visited first, before Sinai, not after Sinai.

God’s visitation to Paran is described not only in Deuteronomy 33:2, but also Judges 5:4-5 and Habakkuk 3:3-4. You need to read all these scriptures together to understand how and why God visits Paran and Sinai.

In Deut. 33:2 the picture is of God dawning from Seir and Paran before settling on Mt. Sinai in power in fullness of glory to deliver his blessing. Dawn, of course, occurs at the beginning of a day, not the end. Thus Deuteronomy 33:2 describes a movement of God from one place (Edom) to another (the camp of Israel). The fact that the Lord initiated his Sinai appearance by moving to Sinai from Seir/Paran/Edom is made explicit in Judges 5:4-5, which records the same event as Deuteronomy 33:2

When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
    when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
    the clouds poured down water.
 The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
    before the Lord, the God of Israel.

The movement of God from Edom to Israel is a repeated motif in scripture. It’s prophetic meaning is that Edom, the enemies of God will be destroyed and that God will move to Israel to comfort and bless them after He has finished destroying the enemies of Israel.

So will it be in the future. In the End Times, at Armageddon, God will commence his visitation of Israel by dawning in Edom (Paran – Habakkuk 3:3-4;  Bozrah – Isaiah 63:1) where He will commence his judgement on those that oppose Him and His Messiah.

From Edom, God, by His Messiah, will again move on to visit Israel, this time settling his full glory on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The prophetic picture is fleshed out by reading the complementary prophecies in Deut. 33:2, Habakkuk 3:3-4 and Isaiah 62:11 -63:6.

In Isaiah as in Habakkuk, The Lord God commences his judgement on the nations starting at Edom. Isaiah gives additional detail that at the completion of this judgement, God makes his way to Jerusalem (Mt. Zion). The link between Isaiah 62/63 and Deut 33:2 is the movement of God’s visitation between Edom and Israel (Mt Sinai, then Mt Zion) with the blessing in both cases being reserved for Israel.

The Lord has made proclamation
to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your Savior comes!

Who is this coming from Edom
with his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, robed in splendor,
striding forward in the greatness of his strength?

“…I have trodden the winepress alone;
from the nations no one was with me.
I trampled them in my anger…
It was for me the day of vengeance; (Isa. 62:11-63:4)

Notice that the Lord approaches Zion from Edom after completing judgement. This is a more detailed picture of Habakkuk 3:3-4, first shown in embryonic form in Deut 33:2. Rev. 19:13-16 makes it clear that this Lord with crimson robes is Jesus.

A very readable summary of this prophetic progression is given in this short article The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ To Bozrah.

So, the movement of God in Deuteronomy 33:2 is from Param to Sinai. This means that the chronology assumed by Muslims in interpreting this passage is incorrect.

Deuteronomy 33:2 has nothing to do with Islam.

Paran – The Centrepoint Of God’s Judgement

As noted above, the prophet Habakkuk locates Paran in Teman, a region of Edom. Deuteronomy 33 records that God shone from Paran during his delivery of the Sinai covenant, obviously prior to the events of Deut. 33, which immediately precede the Death Of Moses.

Habakkuk, on the other hand, prophecies that God will again shine from Paran in the future. But God’s future visitation to Paran will not be to deliver a new covenant – it will be for the purpose of exacting God’s vengeance on His enemies, those that hate Israel.

In other words, Paran is the centrepoint of God’s judgement, not, as Muslims would like to say, His chosen people. God will destroy His enemies beginning at Paran. Not bless it. If Muslims wish to insist that Paran represents Mecca then they must explain why the Bible prophecies that God will destroy the people of Mecca and the surrounding areas.

Thus, Habakkuk shows that the Muslim interpretation of Deut. 33 is untenable. It does not account for the explicit Biblical opinion of Paran, that God will destroy His enemies in all the earth, starting from Paran. It is absolutely clear that Paran (meaning Edom) will be totally destroyed by God. Isaiah 34 is just one example of this certainty.

Habakkuk 3:3-4 describes God’s shining forth from Paran in a highly similar way to Deuteronomy 33:2

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.

These initial two verses seem are positive in tone and describe a time of God’s visitation to Paran. But the remainder of Habakkuk 3 shows that God’s shining forth from Paran is a visitation of judgement.

Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble…
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish. (Hab. 3:5-7)

So, Habakkuk prophecies that God beings Plague and Pestilence to Paran, that His judgement extends from there to Midian (north-west Arabia) and eventually extends to all nations (v.12). The nation that is comforted and rescued by God’s saving act is not Muslims but God’s chosen people, Israel

You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one..,I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us. (v.13, 16)

The last two chapters of Habakkuk are devoted to answering the prophet’s question to God ‘what will God do in the face of imminent destruction of Israel by her enemies’. The answer is that though Israel will indeed be invaded and destroyed in Habakkuk’s time, God will in the end deliver His people, comfort and save them and destroy the enemies of Israel

I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us….I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Hab. 3:16-18)

As always, God acts to save his chosen people and nation, which is Israel.

Never Mecca or Muslims.

So Why Is Paran Mentioned In Deuteronomy 33:2 ?

We have noted that biblically both Seir and Paran represent Edom. This is lethal to the assertion of Muslims that Deuteronomy 33:2 represents Mecca and Islam. So, why would God include a reference to Seir and Paran in a scripture which describes the giving of the Mosaic law to Israel at Sinai ?

The answer is that Deut. 33:2 is an embryonic prophecy of God’s judgement on Edom. Just as God’s prophecies about the coming of the Messiah grew in clarity, precision and scope from the first Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15, so does the prophetic treatment of God’s judgement of Edom.

This becomes clear as we read all the scriptures of God’s coming to Paran as discussed above.

Context Of Deuteronomy 33 Does Not Refer To Islam

In the following sections I will present some further reasons why Deuteronomy 33:2 does not refer to Islam.

First, the immediate context of the verse is historical and not the future. Muslims and Christians alike hold to the principle of interpretation of scripture within context. To understand a single verse within Deuteronomy it is necessary in the first instance to read the verses immediately around it and then the entire chapter in which the verse is situated.

So it is that the verses immediately following verse 2 describe the covenant of verse 2. This covenant is the law that Moses gave us (v.4) (not any other covenant or covenants) and the people blessed by the covenant are the assembly of Jacob (v.4), otherwise known as Jeshurun…the tribes of Israel (v.5).

Jeshurun is one of God’s affectionate names for Israel. It is used four times in the Bible and has the basic meaning of ‘upright one’

Verse 5 also makes it clear that the the covenant being delivered in verse 2 is the Law Of Moses, by stating that the events occurred when the leaders and tribes of Israel assembled in God’s presence. This is a reference to Exodus 24. Essentially, verse 2 through 5 all say the same thing in different ways: God has given Israel the Law Of God.

Thus the plain and obvious context of Deuteronomy 33:2 is Moses, Israel and the Jews; not Mohammed, Mecca and the Muslims.

Context Of Deuteronomy 33 Is Israel and The Promised Land

Moving now to the context of Deuteronomy 33 as a whole chapter we see that this chapter is the climax and fulfillment of Moses’s ministry to Israel.

The bulk of the chapter (vv. 6-25) details the blessings that Moses pronounces on the twelve tribes of Israel as they enter the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moses is about to die. Before he dies he gives them blessings from God to sustain Israel in the Promised Land of Canaan. The prologue (vv. 2-5) to the blessings of the individual tribes is Moses describing the blessing on the entire nation of Israel, the blessing which unites them all and which makes them a nation, which is the blessing of covenant relationship with God through the Law which God has given them: the Sinai covenant.

The prologue impresses upon Israel and us that the ultimate source of Israel’s blessing is in their covenant with God. This is the foundation for any and all other blessings that come to individual tribes

The chapter is about Israel. Not Mecca, Muslims or Islam.

Prophetic Content Of Deuteronomy 33 Refers To Jesus

Our Muslim friends are correct, though, that Deuteronomy 33 does indeed contain prophecy beyond the immediate future of Israel in Canaan. But this prophecy refers to Jesus and not to Mohammed.

We have already seen that 33:2 is an embryonic prophecy of the coming of Jesus Messiah to destroy the enemies of Israel and subsequently commence His rule and reign as God and King Of Israel. In addition the coming of Jesus is prophesied in the blessings of Moses.

Look at Deut. 33:7, the blessing given to Judah:

Hear, Lord, the cry of Judah;
bring him to his people.
With his own hands he defends his cause.
Oh, be his help against his foes!

The prophecy is brief, but can and should be understood consistently with the prior prophetic blessing on Judah, given by Jacob in Genesis 49.

The patriarch Jacob in Genesis 49:10 delivered a prophecy that the Messiah of God will come from the tribe of Judah, as follows

The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

So, God through Jacob tells us that a ruler is coming from the tribe of Judah and all the nations will show obedience to this ruler. Mohammed does not descend from Israel let alone from the tribe of Judah. Jesus does – through David.

The first couplet of the blessing of Moses on Judah in Deut. 33:7 is a prayer for the fulfilment of the Messianic promise to Judah, that the Messiah of Israel, promised through their lineage should come. The second couplet refers to the Messiah’s activity as sole agent of Israel’s salvation in partnership with God. (I accept the second couplet also has relevance to Judah within the timeframe of the conquest of the Promised Land in addition to the future activity of the Messiah).

Notice also the promotion of Judah in the position of the tribes. In Jacob’s blessing, Judah is listed in birth order amongst the 12 tribes, in fourth position. In the blessing of Moses, Judah is promoted to second to reflect the additional significance of this tribe. Reuben as first-born son of Israel retains his honour of first mention. Of all other tribes, Judah is mentioned next. This is due to the honour of Judah holding the promise of being the progenitor of the Messiah.

Both of the above elements of my interpretations of Deut. 33:7 – the restatement of Messianic promise and the promotion of Judah due to Messianic promise – are somewhat disputable. The passage is brief and the meaning is not readily apparent. But respected commentators do support the view that Deut. 33:7 is Messianic.

In any case, looking for Mohammed in the Bible is futile. He is simply not there. And to return to the immediate subject matter, the Messianic promise to Judah in Genesis 49 is clear and indisputable. The Messiah, the one to whom all the nations will give obedience comes through Judah. These promises belong to Jesus, son of David the King Of Judah. Mohammed has nothing to do with Judah. Therefore Mohammed is not the Messiah of God, and not the one to whom the nations will give obedience. These promises belong to Jesus.

Mt Seir represents Edom. It does not represent Jesus.

Edomites, The Enemies Of God, Cannot Possibly Represent Jesus, The Son Of God

The Bible says that Jesus is God. John 1:1-14 and Revelation 22:13-16 alone make this abundantly clear.

The Edomites on the other hand are continuously described in the Old Testament as being the enemies of God’s people and of God Himself. There is an enormous amount of scripture which describes how Edom is opposed to God, His people and His purposes, how God is opposed to Edom and how Edom will certainly be destroyed by the judgement of God.

Jesus cannot oppose or destroy himself.

Jesus cannot be represented by His enemies.

Hence Mt. Seir and Mt. Paran, both representative of Edom, cannot represent Jesus.

Edom, The Enemies Of God

This section provides some more detail about how the Bible presents Edom as the enemies of God.

The Bible continuously describes how Edom opposes both God and His people, Israel, how Edom opposes God’s plans and attempts to hinder His work, and states that Edom hates and rejects God Himself.

Edom’s hostility to Israel is first seen on Israel’s journey to the Promised Land after God delivers the Israelites from Egypt. .Israel seek passage through the land of Edom to Canaan, but Edom deny them, presenting an armed force in doing so, thus forcing Israel into a circuitous route around their borders (Numbers 20:14-21).

The Lord’s anger against Edom here is not merely that they inconvenienced Israel but that they denied Israel the rights of family. Since Edom is descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother, and Israel is descended from Jacob, then Israel and Edom were brothers in the sight of God and all Middle Easterners. So Edom should have, and was obliged to, provide support for Israel instead of opposition. This is a serious family insult and very sinful by the standards of Middle Eastern culture.

The motive for Edom’s opposition to Israel was resentment and jealousy because Esau, the older brother of Jacob, had been bypassed by God who delivered Esau’s rights as firstborn son, as well as ownership of God’s covenental promises to Abraham, to Jacob. In jealousy, Edom now sought revenge on Israel by attempting to deny them the fulfillment of those promises, specifically the promise of land given by God to Abraham. In short, Edom was attempting to hinder God’s work and purposes by opposing Israel’s pilgrimage to the promised land of Canaan.

Edom, in opposing God’s purposes, made himself the enemy of God.

Edom’s jealousy of Israel continued even after Israel was established in the land of Canaan. When Israel was attacked, Edom allowed his brother nation to be plundered, indeed, went down to plunder Israel himself and cheered on the enemies of Israel as they destroyed his brother in bloody warfare. Edom hoped to gain from the destruction of Israel by becoming the eventual possessor of the Promised Land for himself.

“Because you said, `These two nations [the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel] and these two countries shall be mine, and we will take possession of them ,’—although the LORD was there—therefore, as I live, says the Lord GOD, I will deal with you according to the anger and envy which you showed because of your hatred against them. (Ezekiel 35:10-11)

It is sad to discover that Edom’s hatred of Israel became a hatred of The Lord Himself. Edom came to hate God because God had favoured Jacob over Esau.

And you magnified yourselves against me with your mouth, and multiplied your words against me; I heard it. Thus says the Lord GOD: (Ezekiel 35:13)

Edom has made himself an enemy of God’s people and of God Himself. Consequently Edom will be judged

As you rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so I will deal with you; you shall be desolate, Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it. (Ezekiel 35:15)

Edom is quite simply the nation with which the Lord is angry for ever. Edom’s judgement is certain and irrevocable.:

If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins, the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, till they are called the wicked country, the people with whom the LORD is angry for ever (Malachi 1:4)

Seir does not represent Jesus or His Gospel

Seir is the home of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who are enemies of God, His purposes and His people, and who stand under God’s decree of judgement.

 

In our place we don’t do Santa.

We have informed the children that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birthday and that Santa is a way people have of remembering the very nice man St Nicholas of Patara who would give presents to poor children for Jesus’s birthday because they had no one to give them presents.

Just The Facts

Objectively this is a factually historically sound precis of the identities of the major personages associated with Christmas and far closer to the truth than the western secular culturally approved Christmas story which is that Christmas is a day when the entirely mythical Santa Claus pilots a team of magic reindeer around the planet and distributes presents to children on the basis of good behaviour, completing his global mission in one night assisted by a team of magical elves.

So on a factual basis my family explanation of ‘Why Christmas?’ beats the objectivity index of the major alternative explanation by about 100-NIL.

Even if you think that Jesus is a myth Himself it is nevertheless true that Christmas Day came into being a celebration of Jesus’s birthday. Yes, yes I know, the actual day was appropriated from a pagan midwinter festival but it wasn’t called Christmas then.

Name That Stereotype

Now if you’re a hard core atheist you despise myths of all kinds so you wouldn’t be wanting to be feeding the children’s minds up with Santa nonsense. You’ll be telling them that Christmas (without the deliberate mis-spelling with ‘X’) is a celebration of a mythical person called Jesus’ birthday ’cause that’s factual, but that in your family Christmas is just about whatever you want to do at Christmas.

And if you’re an agnostic you’ll have no objection to Jesus as a putative historical personage or even putatively as God, so you would have at least no objection to be going with the basic facts about ‘Why Christmas?’, but you might decide to go with the Santa story because its fun for kids to play make-believe.

I guess the ‘Christmas is about Santa’ story would also be adopted to easy-going or less dogmatic atheists like Julia Gillard, Prime Minister Of Australia, who don’t believe in God but who don’t share the relentless atheist insistence on eliminating Jesus from public consciousness associated with, say, Richard Dawkins, and just like to see the kids get entranced in ‘the magic of Christmas’.

And from observation it would also apply to the general Australian public for whom neither Jesus nor atheism nor agnosticism registers at any meaningful resonance.

As far those who believe Jesus is God, such as myself, we obviously want to emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus’s birthday. Some Christian families also integrate Santa into their Christmas Family narrative but in my opinion this makes Christmas worse, not better.

Why Santa makes Christmas Worse

When our kids get a Christmas present they know that Mummy and Daddy have bought it for them, not Santa. So this is tangible evidence that M&D love giving them great stuff, and the greatest stuff that kids get, materially speaking, comes on Christmas Day. Pooh-pooh it if you like but gift-giving is a practical demonstration of love. Why should my kids think that Santa loves them more than M&D ? I think that its a positive for the children that they know that M&D bought them the big shiny bike or the Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Mega-Dino Challenge or the Dora The Explorer magnetic toothbrush with built in compass.

Secondly, the kids express their joy for the gift directly back to M&D and it goes like this WOW! THANKS DAD! THAT IS AWESOOOOMMME! Sorry Santa, you don’t deserve that gratitude since you don’t even exist anyway and I’m sure as eggs not letting you have it. So the M&D’s get to express the full volume of their children’s delight at the Christmas gifts, instead of vicariously filtered via Santa.

Third, we as M&D give Christmas presents to our children because we love them, not on the basis of whether or not they have been good. Our children get validated for who they are, not on the basis of their transitory behaviour. Our children know they do not have to earn the love of M&D unlike that fickle impostor Santa whose favour can at any time evaporate like summer mist.

Fourth, the children get facts not fiction. No matter how you slice it, Santa is made up. A truthful explanation of Why Do We Give Presents At Christmas must include some reference to Jesus, even if He is relegated to myth. Face it, Santa entered the Christmas narrative at some point many centuries after Jesus and doubly so the magic reindeer and elves.

Much as many hate it Jesus IS the ORIGINAL reason for the season and the reason why Christmas exists. Here’s a theoretical question your child may ask:

Child: ‘Mummy, Why DO people go around saying ‘Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all men’ ?
Incorrect Answer A: Because Christmas is a time when we get together as a family.
Correct Answer B: Its because that’s what the Angels said to the shepherds on Jesus’s birthday.

Quite simply, an integrated understanding of Christmas requires reference to Jesus.

Fifth, for those who are Jesus-friendly, awarding Christmas to Santa robs Jesus of richly deserved recognition. Americans have a thing called Martin Luther King Day. Contrary to current popular preferential meaning, this does not commemorate the day when Santa led a Freedom march on Washington DC to eloquently demand equal rights for African-Americans assisted by a team of magical elves. I think you get what I mean. Even if you think Jesus is just a man or even just a myth, why not let the kids admire and learn from His example ?

Santa Is Not All Bad

Ejecting Santa from Christmas is not without cost. My kids do miss out on the awestruck wonder of waiting for Santa to visit and some really great make-believe. And yes, my kids are almost the only ones at school who don’t think Santa is real, which can make them seem like Alien Life-Forms to the others who have been fed the 100% guaranteed Santa myth. Ironic that, but it doesn’t seem to lead to teasing.

But even without Jesus, Christmas is better without Santa (see reasons one, two and three above). Of course WITH Jesus there is another kind of awestuck wonder which happens to be based in historical truth, but even if you really wish to persist with Jesus is A Myth, at least you can tell tell the myth that is related to the actual origins of Christmas rather than the one that originated with Coca-Cola Inc.

Introduction

This is an essay I did for a Diploma-level subject at an Australian Bible College. It got an ‘A’, so it must be good 🙂

Why Do I Take Notice Of The Bible ?

I take notice of the Bible because it is God speaking and God speaking to me.

The Bible claims to be the written record of God speaking to humanity. If this is true, then the Bible is both authoritative and necessary for spiritual life.

By ‘authoritative’, I mean that the Bible has the right or power to command obedience (Milne, 1998, p.26). By ‘spiritual life’ I mean that the Bible instructs us how to enter into right relationship with God, that through the Bible we learn about God’s will for our lives and that the Bible instructs us how to grow in spiritual maturity and insight (Grudem pp. 116-119).

Phrases such as “God said” and “God commanded” fill the Old Testament (e.g. Gen 2:16, Ex. 9:1; Lev 12:1; Num 5:11, Josh 1:1, Judg 1:2, 2 Sam 7:4; Jer 66:1) which affirms that God’s speech and directive word was written down by His prophets and disciples beginning with Moses (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, pp. 138-140) (see Ex. 24:4 referring to Ex 20:22-23:31, Is 8:1, Jer 30:2). Similarly the New Testament (hereafter NT) attests that its own contents are the commands and words of God. For example, Jesus taught that He was bringing God’s message to Israel, that His teaching is superior to all those who preceded Him and is eternal (Matt 24:35; Matt 5:21-22; Matt 15:24).

While it is one thing for the Bible to claim to be the word of God, it is reasonable to ask how this claim can be tested. In my view the authenticity of scripture can be known by the person of Jesus, crucially hinging on His resurrection. (1 Cor 15:13-14)
As Milne puts it:

‘The resurrection is central to the entire Biblical revelation…To
deny it is to empty faith of all content and value’ (Milne, 1998, p.169)

Jesus claimed to be God. This can be seen in many ways including the unique way in which he expressed His relationship of sonship with God, His acceptance of worship and His jaw-dropping appropriation of the name of God through His famous ‘I AM’ statements (McDowell, 1986, pp. 89-102).(esp. John 8:58ff). Since only God has power over life and death then God’s action to resurrect Jesus ratifies His teaching and claims, especially since Jesus had the audacity to stake the authenticity of His teaching on His statements that He would rise from the grave Matt 12:36-42; John 2:18-22(Rom 1:3-4; Acts 2:29-36; Phil 2:9-11)

Given that Jesus’ teaching is ratified by God, let us then consider Jesus’ teaching on the Bible. I will consider this in three parts: The Old Testament (hereafter OT), the Gospels and the remainder of the NT

Jesus endorsed the entire OT as scripture, affirming the accepted categories and hence contents of “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44 NIV). He rebuked the Pharisees for nullifying the OT by their man-made traditions and had complete confidence in its plenary inspiration, even on obscure points such as the death of Lot’s wife. He used the OT to settle points of doctrinal contention, to provoke thought about Himself and passionately defended its verbal inspiration by stressing that not a jot or tittle of the Law could be “dropped out”. He saw his own ministry as confirming and establishing the OT. (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p. 141; Pinnock, 1985, pp. 37-39) Jesus high view of the OT is also demonstrated by how he constructed and understood the course of His Messianic ministry in relation to it. In this I agree with Milne that Jesus submitted to scripture, in distinction to Pinnock who, rightly affirming the scriptures’ witness to Jesus, then places Jesus in relative freedom to them. (Milne, 1998, pp. 41-42; Pinnock, 1985, p. 42).

As God, Jesus’ own teaching as contained in the Gospels are, by definition, scripture. There then remains to demonstrate why the remainder of the NT, written and/or sanctioned by the apostles, is also scripture.

The key to judging the apostles as inspired writers is in recognizing the special commission and empowerment given to them by Jesus. The commissioning of the apostles took place at the Passover Feast prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. They were commissioned to testify about Jesus using the teaching from the Father that Jesus had passed to them and were also promised additional truth by the agency of the Holy Spirit. After His resurrection Jesus gave the twelve a special endowment of the Holy Spirit to carry out the task of proclaiming this teaching. (John 15:27; John 17:8; John 16:12-15; John 17:20; John 20:21-23)

As Erickson points out, there is a strong sense in which many aspects of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apply to believers as a whole (Erickson, 1983, p. 251), but this does not permit us to ignore the localized context of the original commissioning or the manner of the training of the twelve through their three years of intimate personal engagement with Jesus. Jesus personally chose the twelve then employed rabbinical methods of training which impressed on them the fact of being groomed to be carriers of His teaching (Lewis and Demarest p. 144) Jesus also gave the twelve privileged, deeper instruction. (See Matt 13:16). Viewed thus, the Passover passage constitutes the climax of their training – a real handing-over of the task of teaching, training and proclamation.

The apostles clearly understood that they had received the delegated authority to teach with the authority of scripture. Paul distinguished between apostolic writings and the general insights available to the common believer and described his epistles as “the Lord’s command” (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Cor 13:3). He instructed his letters to be read to all believers, who were then exhorted to stand firmly on the truths therein. Those disobedient to Paul could righteously be excommunicated. Peter affirmed Paul’s writings as scripture, who for his part, submitted himself to the apostles of Jerusalem to confirm his own apostolic credentials. (1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Thess 2:13-15; 2 Thess 3:14-15; Gal 1:11-13; 2 Pet 3:16; Gal 2:1-10; 2 Peter 3:2; Eph 3:4-5 )

The connection between apostleship and authoritative teaching is keenly appreciated by Paul who takes pains to demonstrate that he too fulfills the criteria for apostleship by being an eyewitness to the resurrection, by the reception of teaching directly from Jesus the Lord and by the reception of a divine commissioning from Him (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p.106). (Gal 1:11-15; 1 Cor 15:8-9; 1 Cor 9:1)

While not all the books of the NT were written by the apostles, all were validated by the apostles because they were written under apostolic sanction. As Warfield puts it,

“God’s authoritative agents in founding the church gave them
[the non-apostolically authored NT books] as authoritative to the
church which they founded.’ (Reformation Ink website, 2007)

Our friend has also objected that the Bible was written by ordinary people. In what way can human writings be said to originate with God? Theologically, this point addresses the concept of ‘inspiration’.

Inspiration

Milne canvasses the major conceptions of inspiration, namely dictation, accommodation and supervision (Milne, 1998, pp. 49-51). While the Bible does contain instances of divine dictation (Rev 2:8), the model which best fits the biblical data is that of ‘supervision’. This conception of inspiration sees that God exercised control over the biblical authors in their selection and redaction of words and ideas and indeed in their entire life development to fit them for the portions of scripture they were to write (Jer. 1:5; Rom 9:17).

The ‘dictation’ view cannot be reconciled to the Biblical data that shows the source of scripture are as varied as documentary research, collation, redaction, dreams, vision and memory. (Grudem, 1994, pp 81-82; Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p. 140).

The ‘accommodation’ view, on the other hand, is inadequate to explain the high view of scripture displayed by Jesus and the NT writers and sets us on a slippery slope (Erickson, 1983, p.226) ending in the kind of Biblical vandalism demonstrated by Bishop John Shelby Spong (Australian Broadcasting Commission website, 2007), whose idea of a Christian reformation begins with the disembowelment of scripture (Diocese Of Newark website 2007)

In distinction to other conceptions of inspiration, supervision provides both a holistic and high view of the divine-human partnership in scripture. The Bible states that scripture is inspired, meaning literally ‘breathed out’ by God, thus underlining its divine origin (2 Tim 3:16). Complementary to this is Peter’s description of the impetus for scripture being the Holy Spirit who ‘carries along’ the scripture writer.
( 2 Peter 1:19-20). Jesus’ endorsement of scripture validates for us that the process of human mediation of scripture does not compromise the integrity of the inspiration.

Conclusion

The veracity of the Bible hinges on Jesus. Jesus validated all scripture in existence at the time of His incarnation and, as God, provided additional scripture. He also trained, specially commissioned and empowered twelve apostles to deliver all remaining necessary truth. Admittedly, the process of inspiration is a mystery and it is difficult to know where or how the divine ends and the human starts. For example, in Exodus 34:1 Moses was commanded to chisel two stone tablets on which the Lord would write and yet in verse 28 we learn that Moses did the actual writing. All that we can say with certainty is that the origin of scripture is divine – God provides the inspiration and impetus – but that human vessels are used.

The ground for our trust in Jesus is ultimately His resurrection. This is the Father’s great attestation to Jesus, God the Son, and hence ratification of all His claims including Jesus’ endorsement of the Bible as God’s word. That is why I take so much notice of the Bible.

Finally, though, it is admitted that the Bible does not provide a formal proof of its own character. It simply provides assertions about itself. (Grudem, 1994, p. 171) The proof of the divine origin of the Bible is only found in the witness of the Holy Spirit to scripture and this is available only to those redeemed through faith in the object of its message. In the meantime, sin obscures the apprehension of the divine virtue of scripture, a condition even the redeemed must battle until He comes again.

Reference List

Australian Broadcasting Commission website (cited 17 March 2007), ‘Sunday Nights
with John Cleary: Bishop Shelby Spong’, transcript, 17 June 2001,
http://www.abc.net.au/sundaynights/stories/s815368.htm

Erickson M.J, 1983, “Christian Theology”, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids,
Michigan

Grudem W., 1994, “Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine”,
Intervarsity Press, Leicester.

Lewis G.R and Demarest B.A, 1987, “Integrative Theology”, Vol. 1, Zondervan,
Grand Rapids, Michigan

McDowell, Josh, 1986, Revised edn, “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”, Vol. 1,
Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardin, California

Milne B., 1998, 2nd edn, “Know The Truth”, Intervarsity Press, Leicester

Pinnock Clark H., 1985, “The Scripture Principle”, Hodder And Stoughton, London

Spong, John.S., Diocese Of Newark website (cited 17 March 2007), ‘A Call For a
New Reformation’, May 1998, http://www.dioceseofnewark.org/vox20598.html

Warfield B.B, 1889, Reformation Ink website (cited 17-March 2007).
‘The Authority & Inspiration of the Scriptures’,
http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/bbwauthority.htm