Biblical Theology, New Testament, Old Testament, Pauline Theology, Uncategorized

Justification by Faith-Basis of the Christian Life

The foundation of the Christian faith is found in the words sola fide: justification by faith alone. Since the Reformation, sola fide has been present as Paul lays out in Romans.  In both the Old Testament and New Testament, repeated are the words, “…just (righteous) shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4Romans 1:17Galatians 3:11Hebrews 10:38) For Martin Luther (1483-1546) so pivotal is the doctrine of faith, he described it as articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae or “the article by which the church stands or falls”.[1]

By understanding the role that Christ’s atoning death and resurrection (Romans 4:23-25; 10:8-12) plays in the believer’s salvation process, it becomes easier to understand how God’s justice is unveiled both in the condemnation and punishment of sin, and how it is balanced by His wisdom and mercy through the pardoning and acceptance of sinners. Justification works harmoniously with Christ as the Mediator. (Romans 3:23-26)[2] The exclusivism which exist before Christ death on the cross of Calvary no longer does and with His resurrection, there is hope for everyone. (Gal. 2:15-16). This hope exists through justification by Christ, which is the basis for Christianity.[3] The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the doctrine of justification by faith is central to the Christian faith. In Scripture, it is revealed a believer is unable to save themselves by personal merit, and he or she is declared righteous before God.

Faith and Works versus Faith Alone

            When it comes to the discussion of whether justification is based on faith and works or by faith alone, first a look at James and Paul’s writings to bring some perspective for Paul’s case of sola fide.  There are four possible explanations which are brought up in the book, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters where it is proposed one can simply deny any knowledge of Paul and James writings regarding Abraham, Genesis 15:6 and works altogether.  There is a counter argument, Paul is either correcting or distorting James position regarding faith and works. James could, on the other hand, be the one contradicting Paul and/or have had knowledge of Romans during his own period of writing. Then there is the position James is responding to a misunderstanding about Pauline teaching.  This position is supported by M. Hengel who proposed James writing as being early.[4] Paul and James both use the Greek word erga which when translated comes to mean “works” or “deeds.”

However, two differences emerge in James and Paul’s interpretation of works. Reading James’s work in context, a theme of faith being manifested in the form of good deeds is the central point. Paul’s writing indicates that he is addressing a specific type of works based on legalism or religious work. Unlike James, Paul uses the phrase “of the Law” as well as the Greek word noms which does not appear in any of James writing. This is the first indication, although both are writing about faith and works, they are addressing different topics. For Paul, the definition of works meant following the Mosaic Law such as circumcision, observance of the Jewish holy days and dietary laws. James writings emphasized works as a manifestation of the believer’s faith in God’s righteousness. Contrasting Paul, James makes no mention of work based observations for one’s salvation. While James focused on a faith with works, the works he writes about reflects faith and love for Christ manifesting itself into works. For Paul, faith is a commitment to Jesus as Lord from which it is also based on love, but from love a response to God’s grace and mercy.

Both cite Abraham and Genesis 15:6 in their writings. This is considered a major point both in Romans, but also in James writings, suggesting both men were aware of each other’s positions. In James 2:14-26, James is citing how Abrahams offering of Issacs at the altar suggests a lifetime of both obedience to God and charity to others; Like Abraham, Rahab (Joshua 2) is cited by James due to her showing hospitality to the spies. She is presented, due to her “work” and thus, she and her family were saved by God. Paul’s emphasis is on Abraham alone. In Romans 4:3,9, 22 and Gal 3:6, Paul refers both to Abraham and his covenant with God. Their presentation of Abraham almost appears to have opposite views, however, both recognized Abraham role as a spiritual father to the Jewish community and through God’s covenant to all nations.

While Paul’s writings reflect his dealings with pressures within the early church for members to undergo circumcision to supplement their belief, James writings reflected a time where there is no pressure to conform to previously held Jewish traditions. James writings shows a clear definition of faith alone. (Jas 2:19) In James 1:6 and James 2:1, the definition which emerges, is defined as a personal commitment stemming from faith and obedience. [5] Paul is specific in his writings as seen in Romans 10:9-10. For Paul, faith is defined as a living commitment to the living Lord Jesus and a confession of faith. Later he explores this in Galatians 5:6, where he brings up how through Christ, faith is a result of working through love. This same theme reoccurs later in 1 Corinthians 13:13 and 1 Thessalonians 1:3,3:6.

Exegesis of Romans 3:21-26

21 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the Prophets
22 —that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction.

23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

25 God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to

demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.

26 ⌊God presented Him⌋ to demonstrate His righteousness now, so

that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. [6]

With an exegetical look at Romans 3:21-26 and a brief consideration of the doctrine of justification by faith, the idea justification by faith alone is explored both in context of scripture and history. There are several factors which stand out regarding what Paul wrote about justification, but the basic fact is justification is about God pardoning and accepting believing sinners (Ps. 32:1-5;130; Luke 7:47-50;18:9-14; Acts 10:43;1 John 1:7-2:2) without personal merit, but through righteousness by God.

In verse 21, Paul uses the words, “but now” creating a sharp contrast to what he had previously stated in Romans 3:20, “For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law because of the knowledge of sin [comes] through the law”. [7] What Paul has done is reinstated Romans 1:17 which briefly touched on the idea of the doctrine of justification and he is now returning to it in Romans 3:21-26. In Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul had taken a detour from the main line of argument to show the importance of God’s intervention.[8] He returns to his argument for justification by faith and expounding on the doctrine. When closely examine, there is noticeably similarity between Romans 1:18 and Romans 3:21.

Paul uses the language of “righteousness,” “justify” and “just” predominately through the passage to reflect his focus on justification. Moo notes, Paul is playing with several variations regarding the theme of justification.[9] (Romans 3:25b-26) The words Paul uses has the same Greek word “dikai-” forming the core of Paul’s writing in Romans. In these first two verses (Romans 3:21-22a), Paul is revealing to the believer the heart of the good news which is God’s righteousness being available to everyone. This is the same righteousness he alludes to in Romans 1:17. Paul’s use of the word, righteousness is written in a definitive manner and shows a shift in salvation history as related to Christ is coming. [10]In the NIV translation, it is inferred God has revealed a new kind of righteousness from the Mosaic Law, while the NAB uses “God has been manifested apart from the Law.” [11] It is pointed out in verse 22, Paul reiterates a point made in Romans 1:17 which is God’s righteousness is available only through faith.  Romans 4 expounds on the faithfulness of God as revealed in Romans 3:21. This presents a deeper revelation of the relationship between God and the believer.  Abraham’s righteousness does not come from the observance of the Mosaic Law, but through God proclaiming him (Abraham) righteous due to his faith and obedience.

Verse 22 is an interesting verse from Romans and contains a phrase that has led to scholars debating its meaning. Moo writes in the NIV Application Commentary, the debated construction is a genitive: pisteōs Iesou Christō̂i. Several views presented about the objections is 1) Jesus Christ is the object of the noun “faith”, 2) He (Jesus Christ) is the “subjective genitive” of which Jesus is the subject of “faith”, 3) In verse 4:16, there is an identical construction, pisteōs Abraam which means “the faith Abraham exercised” due to Abraham is considered an example of faith. For the Jewish community and Gentiles Abraham is revered as a spiritual father due to his covenant with God and the many nations, God has promised him.

Verses 22b-23 is an exploration of the idea God’s righteousness is available to all. Using the word, diastolée (Romans 10:12), Paul reminds believers God has no distinctions when it comes to people. In addition, the word glory is used in the phrase, “…the glory of God.” This is referring to the Greek word doxa or dokeo (Romans 8:18, Phil 3:21, Thessalonians 2:14). Also, mention is pantes hemarton same as used in Romans 5:12.[12] This is a translation of “for all have sinned” and is used by Paul to address there is no difference or privileges which will exclude anyone from God’s condemnation.

Verse 24 is a consideration of the grammatical structure of Romans 3:21-26. For different translations, there are subtle differences. In the NIV, a comma is used showing v.24 is a continuation of v.23. In the HCSB, a period is used instead. In the NASB and ESV, there are no differences and is like the NIV. Moo suggests an opinion, the use of a period instead of a comma helps makes v.24 a new sentence.[13] In this same verse, the word justify is used as a verb. Per Paul, God’s justification is provided freely. Here he uses the Greek word, “dōrean” (as a gift) is used and when translated shows there is no stipulation to God’s “gift” to believers other than just faith. The Greek word for justifying is dikaioo which when translated means to render just or innocent. Another meaning of the word is free, or be righteous. Using the word justify brings verse 24 back to God’s righteousness (dikaiosynē) while in verse 22a, there is an emphasis in God’s justifying work. Twenty-nine occurrences of the verb “Justify” in the New Testament are found in the Pauline epistles or attributed to Paul. [14]

For God to declare a person righteous, He would need an objective basis which would be the redemption that can only come from Jesus Christ. [15] Two points are addressed in v.24, 1) Humanity is justified by God’s grace and 2) The basis is in Jesus and God’s redemptive work in humanity. For Paul, grace or charis is a key theological idea. (Rom. 4:4; Rom 4:16; Eph. 2:8). Since charis is used to imply all is done freely, it is led to believe there is nothing a believer can do to earn this from God.

In Romans 3:25-26 Paul presents a description of how, because of Christ’s sacrifice, God’s justice redeems people in Christ. Here Christ is presented as the sacrifice of atonement. The KJV and NASB, the Greek word, hilastḗrion, is used as a noun and can be found in Hebrews 9:5.

Other examples of atonement in the Bible include the use of goat’s blood on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:15). Jesus death on the cross of Calvary is the final sacrifice. Here the Greek word hiláskomai (“to satisfy by a sacrifice, to propitiate”) is used in Luke 18:13 and Heb 2:17 with the noun version is used in 1 John 2:2;4:10). Through this Paul explains why God had Christ on the cross of Calvary to redeem people by a costly method. Unlike in the New Testament, God did not punish with the same severity as in the Old Testament, because no one could fulfill the prophecies as Christ could on the cross of Calvary. Christ being the sacrifice atonement, could pay the price for the sins of all people, before His time (v.25b) and after (v.26a).[16]

Conclusion

            There is vital importance in both believing and understanding this concept of sola fide.  Schreiner writes, “We are justified by faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. Sola fide reminds believers it is not by personal merit they are saved; Salvation is of the Lord.”[17]

In the moment of faith, before God, the believer is free of their old identity as a sinner condemned by sin, seen as a child of God, and through Christ, declared righteous before the Lord. For the follower of Christ, a practical application when it comes to justification by faith and the salvation process is concluding, there is nothing we can do by ourselves for salvation; All which is done is through faith alone of God’s redemption of us. There is no question, justification by faith plays a central part, particularly for evangelical Protestant belief in a believer’s salvation.

Written by V.Clark

Copyright 2008 @By Grace In Faith; @solagratiacoffee
Original Published Date for this Article: December 14, 2016

 

Bibliography

Caneday, Ardel B. “Judgment, behavior, and justification according to Paul’s gospel in Romans 2.” Journal For The Study Of Paul And His Letters 1, no. 2 (September 2011): 153-192. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials (accessed November 23, 2016)

Chester, Stephen. “It Is No Longer I Who Live: Justification by Faith and Participation in Christ in Martin Luther’s Exegesis of Galatians*.” New Testament Studies 55, no. 3 (jul 2009): 321.  http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/197140943?accountid=12085 (accessed December 3, 2016)

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Gaebelein, Frank E., ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Volume 10) – Romans through Galatians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977.

Hannah, John D. “The Meaning of Saving Faith28: Luther’s Interpretation of Romans 3.” Bibliotheca sacra, 140, no. 156 (Oct – Dec 1983): 323. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost. (accessed November 27, 2016)

Hawthorne, Gerald F., Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993

Howard, Jeremy Royal ed., HCSB Study Bible, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Romans 3”. (access November 28, 2016)

Moo, Douglas J. Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.

Polycarp. “Polycarp.” Early Christian Writings http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/polycarp-lightfoot.html (accessed November 30, 2016 )

Schreiner, Thomas R. “Justification by Works and Sola Fide.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19, no. 4 (Winter 2015): 39-58, http://www.sbts.edu/resources/journals/journal-of-theology/sbjt-194-winter-2015/justification-by-works-and-sola-fide/ (accessed November 14, 2016)

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001.

Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: an Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983.

Wright, N T. (Nicholas Thomas) Bp. “Justification by (covenantal) faith to the (covenantal) doers: Romans 2 within the argument of the letter.” The Covenant Quarterly 72, no. 3-4 (August 2014): 95-108. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 3, 2016).

Footnotes

[1] J.I. Packer, “Justification,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic,2001),643.

[2] J.I. Packer, “Justification,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic,2001),643.

[3] Packer ,643.

[4] Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

[5] Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

[6] Rom. 3:21-26 (Holman Christian Standard Bible). Unless otherwise noted the biblical passages referenced are in the Holman Christian Standard Bible version.

[7] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: an Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 450

[8] Moo,125.

[9] Wright, N T. (Nicholas Thomas) Bp. “Justification by (covenantal) faith to the (covenantal) doers: Romans 2 within the argument of the letter.” The Covenant Quarterly 72, no. 3-4 (August 2014): 126, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 23,2016)

[10] Douglas J. Moo, “Introduction,” The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,2000), 125.

[11] Ibid, 126.

[12] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: an Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 450.

[13] Douglas J. Moo, “Introduction,” The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,2000), 128.

[14] Elmer L. Towns, “Soteriology,” Theology for Today, edited by Michele Baird, Maureen Staudt, Michael Stranz (Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008),458.

[15] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: an Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 451

[16] Douglas J. Moo, “Introduction,” The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,2000),130

[17] Thomas R Schreiner, “Justification by Works and Sola Fide.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19, no. 4 (Winter 2015): 39-58, http://www.sbts.edu/resources/journals/journal-of-theology/sbjt-194-winter-2015/justification-by-works-and-sola-fide/ (accessed November 14, 2016)

 

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Apologetics, Book Review, Moody Publishers, Uncategorized

Images and Idols {Book Review}

81o-q1-sufmr-lWhen one thinks about Christianity, creativity may not be one of the ways the Christian faith would have been described, but a look through history shows how through Christianity, not only is science explored, but the very essence of the idea of beauty.  Perhaps a picture of Christianity may evoke images of dryness or stereotypical lack of appreciation, but a look through Scripture and even in the world around us, is the discovery God’s creation is around us and He speaks to humanity through the essence of unique creativity.Dr. Holly Ordway writes in her book, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination, “Literature and the arts, for instance, can provide a glimpse of the world as Christians see it, so that a skeptic can for a moment see the world in the light of Christ.”1

Through the medium of imagination, there is an ability to develop bridges between non-believers and believers, and open up conversations or convey ideas about the Christian faith. This is especially helping in creating foundations for discussions versus direct discussions which in some cases can lead to arguments. Prime examples are Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia known for its rich symbolism and cross-cultural appeals.  Even in the Bible are examples of creativity given to humanity by God. One example can be found in Exodus 35:30-35:

Mosesthen said to the Israelites: “Look, the LORD has appointed by name Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.
31 He has filled him with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every kind of craft 32 to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze,
33 to cut gemstones for mounting, and to carve wood for work in every kind of artistic craft. 34 He has also given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.
35 He has filled them with skill to do all the work of a gem cutter; a designer; an embroiderer in blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen; and a weaver. They can do every kind of craft and design artistic designs.

Exodus 35:30-35 is a description of how Bezalel, whose filled with God’s Spirit is able to create with excellence inspiring objects for the Israelites and with it the ability to teach them as well. This is an excellent reminder for us as Christians, creativity is a tool, a gift, given to us by God and not something to be shunned or fear, but embraced and can be used for His glory. Recently at an Apologetics event, the concept of “Beauty in Faith” through music was explored, but with Images and Idols, creativity and how it is tied with the Creator, God is explored within lavishly decorated pages.

A 143 page, beautiful designed and rich-filled book exploring creativity and Christianity, Images and Idols explores the tie between creativity and Christianity and how as Christians the world of creativity does matter for us and has become an underexplored element. Not only is creativity a way for Christians to explore and express worship to God, but it also serves as a bridge between Christians and non-Christians in many avenues and particularly in the modern world. With various forms of entertainment and technology along with traditional methods of music and art, Images and Idols encourages Christians not to fear or reject, but to embrace creativity as an element of the Christian faith.

The book is written by Thomas J. Terry and J.Ryan Lister and is hardbound in a leather like cover which evokes images of traditional old books and elegant covers which served more than simply to cover the pages within, but often served as works of arts themselves. Thin and an easy read of 143 pages, Images and Idols immediately draws the reader in first visual and then followed with both text and images within its covers. Broken into five chapters followed with acknowledgements and a well laid out notes which details the references used within the book, Images and Idols is a book which both challenges the reader to think about the role of creativity while being a work of art on a visual level for the reader.

One of the author, Thomas J. Terry is the owner and artist of Humble Beasts. He is a spoken word artist, member of Beautiful Eulogy and also an Executive Pastor. J.Ryan Lister, author as well of Images and Idols is an associate Professor of Theology at Western Seminary and an author of another book, The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives. He is also the Director of Doctrine and Discipleship for Humble Beast. Together they have written a book exploring an underexplored topic in Christianity and the Christian faith: creativity. As they write in the book, “Creativity begins and ends with God. This has two implications: one centering on God’s glory, the other on His goodness.” (37)

Obviously anything created by God and used by humanity is subject to exposure to ultimately the brokenness of humanity as we all have fallen short of the glory of God (Ro 8:23) and with this fallen state, so has creation fallen short from God’s original design.  This does not mean as we embark in the daily act of sanctification,the tools provided by God such as the gifts of creativity and other elements can’t be used as part of our personal Christian growth and an expression of the Christian life; But obviously creativity like anything is at risk of being used as an idol which is addressed in Chapter 3: The Corruption of Creativity.

The five chapter each covers a different topic, The first chapter explores the Creator of creativity: God, the second chapter is a look at humanity and creativity, the third chapter addresses corruption and creativity, the fourth is a look at Jesus and what He has to do with creativity and is followed with the final chapter, a look at the new Creation and what it has to do with humanity and creativity.

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Photo Copyright @2008 @solagratiacoffee (V.Clark)

Each chapter is a creative form of doxology in it takes basic doctrine and interlaces it with creativity to bring Christians in this journey from fearing or not knowing what role creativity plays in the Christian faith and bringing Christian to an understanding how to embrace creativity and the Christian faith. Examples are used throughout the book to reinforce how Scripture supports the use of creativity, but at the same time, expressing timeless truths about God and the Christian faith.

Images and Idols is a symphony, a musical piece, of God and how He can be revealed in creation through creativity and through the honoring of the tools He gives humanity.

The uniqueness of the book is each chapter begins with quotes designed to bring the reader into a new phase of the journey and as the reader goes through the new chapter, imagery brings to life the topics being explored by the authors. Even the cover itself is provocative with the overtones of different shades of black and grey which draws the eye not only to read the book itself, but explore visually what the cover artist seeks to convey about the book itself. As Images and Idols expresses at one point, “…the point of glorifying God through your creativity isn’t that you make great art for Him. Rather, it’s that He uses the gifts He has given you to make you into one of His masterpieces.” (139)

Images and Idols spurs people to take another look into creativity and how can they infused not only their ministry, but even their daily lives using gifts given to them by God. There is fair warning, art is not about us or “our needs, assumptions, desires and purposes” (132), nor is it an attempt to replace God. This is addressed in the final chapter about the New Creation and us and how creativity is not about our future, God is. Creativity is about a reflection of Him.

Completing the book, my teenager wanted to read the book as well. Immediately drawn by the cover, but also the intrigue of how creativity and the Christian faith can go hand in hand, served as a reminder a book like Images and Idols is good not only for those in ministry or even studying to be in ministry, but for those who are new to the Christian faith, or in this case, adolescents with gifts in the creative arts such as music, art, photography and even in technology such as video games. Creativity is not limited to a specific medium, but in the daily acts of simple crafts to more complex projects such as a symphony or in mundane cases the creation of a story and even a video game. This book helps shows it is okay to be creative and there is a way to use ones creativity to glorify God.

 

1. Holly Ordway, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Living Faith)(Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), 150.

 

 

Bible Inerrancy, Biblical Authority, Biblical Theology, New Testament

New Testament Canon and Authority

One of the primary doctrines of Christianity as stated in 1 Timothy 3:16 is the inerrancy of the Bible. However, it is not unusual to see the common argument that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. Instead, some would argue that the Bible is a group of books selected by fallible human beings on the basis of their personal agendas. In today’s world, there is often news a revolutionary thought process or book guaranteed to shed new light on the Bible. Like the early believers the modern church finds itself dealing with the rise of cults and false teachers who manipulate the Gospel and replace the word of God with their own false teachings. Although the Christian church had the established the doctrine of the Old Testament, there was a need to find common ground in the new teachings of the Gospel. Unlike the Old Testament, there was no written New Testament. Church leaders depended on the Old Testament, the Greek version of it, the “Septuagint” or teachings passed down via oral tradition. Church fathers recognized the need to understand, in light of growing cults, the common beliefs which made up the Christian faith. Although it took several centuries of careful consideration and selections of the books to include as canon, through the inspiration of God, the books chosen became the New Testament creating a unifying teaching for the body of Christ.

Open BibleTo understand what lead to the creation of the New Testament, it is important to address if the Scriptures are inerrant and inspired or are if they are simply the works of men. 2 Timothy 3:16 states clearly “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” while in Hebrews 1:1, believers are reminded there are many ways in which the word of God is written and conveyed to believers. Although believers do not have the original autographs or letters, nor do many know how to read the original Greek and Hebrew it is understood this is not needed to believe in the Scriptures as being the divine Word of God. As laid out by 2 Timothy 3:16, all of the words are given and breathed by God and God does not lie or mislead by His words (John 17:17). Spiritual discernment is needed (1 Corinthians 2:14), but God reveals His words in several ways. For example, such as speaking directly to the author (Revelations 2:1, 8, 12), through interviews and writings (Luke 1:1-3) and via the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Wayne Grudem writes:

And if the Bible cannot be trusted, then God himself cannot be trusted. To believe that the Bible affirms something false would be to disbelieve God himself. To disbelieve God himself is to place yourself as a higher authority with a deeper, more developed understanding on a topic or topics than God himself. [1]

Inerrancy and error are theological terminology. Biblology or the study of the doctrine of the Bible recognizes the Bible has a dual authorship written by men in their own languages and time and upheld by the supernatural process which is guided by the Holy Spirit so what is written isn’t by the desires or agenda of imperfect men, but guided without error or mistake by God. Towns writes in Theology for Today this is based on the presupposition that there is a God. With this reality, what is being conveyed to mankind is not riddled by mistakes. The Bible was not merely written by men and based on their personal ideologies. If this was true, then the Bible would only undermine the need and message of redemption from God.[2] In order to believe the Bible is true and is the word of God involves the need for faith and belief in the existence of God and the understanding He never contradicts Himself.

When it came to the authenticity and trust of the Old Testament, there was little question or doubt. Jesus used the Old Testament when dealing with the Pharisees and teaching to the masses. While in his letters Paul, a Pharisee himself, refers to the Old Testament as a source of authority as seen in the book of Romans. However, as Christianity grew and become a part of society, the growth of heretical cults became a problem for the Christian faith. In the latter part of the first century, Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch began the move from using oral traditions to pass on the teachings of the Gospel to documenting the teachings in written format. Justin Martyr records in the second century not only the Old Testament writings being read at meetings, but the memoirs of the apostles.[3] It is established that Jesus is the standard for authority when it came to the accepted Gospels or words used to convey the basics of Christianity. By the end of the second century, several letters of Paul and what are known as the Synoptic Gospels record the life and resurrection of Jesus were referred to as the Scriptures.

At the same time, within the church body, there was the growth of heretical groups such as the Gnosticis which Irenaeus included the Ophites, the Valentinians and the Caporcatians. All were groups teaching a mystical form of Christianity. Individuals known as the church fathers (which included Irenaeus and Hippolytus) were concerned about the growing threat from within Christianity and the teaching of false doctrine. Marcion of Pontus, around 140 A.D. is considered a formidable concern and heretic to the Church fathers due to his belief the Old Testament was not reconcilable with the growing acceptance of the new canon, later to be known as the New Testament. With the rise of heretical groups claiming the name of Jesus, but under false pretenses, it is recognized there was an immediate need to be able to establish the true doctrine of Christianity from amidst the untruthful claims which were causing confusion among Christians.

Although Marcion is considered a heretic and did not believe the Old Testament was reconcilable with Christianity, it is important to note his work helped begin what is considered the early development of a fixed, written canon. Ironically, his writings could be said to be the catalyst for the movement to developing a new canon in addition to the Old Testament. Throughout the development of a fixed canon, the Gospels have been influenced from within the church, as well as by external forces such as heresy and persecution.

Overall, in church history, the first seven councils in the East were called by emperors. In the West, a series of councils were called by the Pope. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 broughtbmore focus on settling and clarifying viewpoints regarding the two natures of Christ. In 325 A.D., the first ecumenical council known as the Council of Nicea was convened by the emperor Constantine in response to the rise in Arianism and the belief Jesus was not perfect or of immutable substance and subjected to moral changes. Later in 381 A.D. at the Council of Constantinople, the orthodox views held in Nicean were reaffirmed and the Christian church begin to see the establishment of a fix set of books considered as authoritative canon. In 1740, a historical document called the Muratorian Canon, named for its discoverer, Ludovico Antonio Muratori, was recovered and revealed to have been written at the close of the second century. The document is considered a comprehensive list of New Testament writings that included the Gospel of John. However, it was not until the fourth or fifth centuries when a more sanctioned canonization process emerged that the final list of accepted books would be formalized. Athanasius of Alexandria is believed to have first used the term “canon” at this time period to address the accepted list as the authoritative fixed list of documents. Later in 1545 A.D., the New Testament, consisting of 27 books finally came into official use by the church at the Council of Trent. Here Scripture and tradition were formally identified and recognized by the church.

P.D. Feinberg writes, “The question of authority is central for any theology”.[4] Christian history is filled with appearances of false teachers and with the growing new belief of Christianity, there was a lack in identifying the doctrinal stance of the church body. The formalization of New Testament canon took nearly 350 years in which the process defended the true faith against the heretical views permeating the society of the times. There is no denying the tremendous influence that the word of God has had on culture, despite both internal and external forces attempting to distort the true Gospel of Christ.


[1] Wayne A. Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, ed. Elliot Grudem (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 15.

[2] Elmer L Towns, Theology for Today, 2nd ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001), 27-30.

[3]Martyr First Apology 67.3, quoted in Anthony Frost, “Tracing the Emergence of a Canon of Holy Scripture in Churches to 451 Ce,” abstract, Anglican Historical Society Journal 57 (April 2014): 26-39, Frost, Anthony. Tracing the emergence of a canon of Holy Scripture in churches [online]. Anglican Historical Society Journal, Vol. 57, Apr 2014: 26-39.

[4] P.D. Feinberg, ed., “Bible, Inerrancy and Infallibility of,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2001), 156-59.

 

Reflections

Survived Week 2 of Fall Classes-2018.

There’s a funny meme posted on Facebook. At first glance, I laughed, nodded and scrolled past the meme. However, as I went on with my day, I stopped and thought about how true the meme described  college or my case, graduate student’s life and the preciousness of time.

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Funny, but true meme from Facebook

We have 24 hours/7 days and each moment we spend it, each decision we make, has consequences, both good and bad. In addition, it is not only our time, but other people, my case, immediate family, friends, church and the list goes on.

We also lose time we can’t get back unless we have a time machine, T.A.R.D.I.S., wormhole, something to bend time and space.

The time we use has to be spent wisely and with care and respect of ourselves and others. My husband shared these wise words (not quoted and heavily paraphrased by me), I need to consider my wish list, my immediate needs, immediate goals, short term goals, long term goals and what is the priority of any given item.

Some people have asked how do I get it all done. Chocolate and coffee. Just kidding…not really.

Well, I don’t some of the time.

There are times due to being too busy, I overlook something minor to me, major to someone else, or I can’t get to something and I have to choose sleep, because we need rest in our lives, even on Sundays.

First and foremost thought, I rely on God.

My faith in Him has helped in good times, bad times and even really hard times.

Even if I don’t feel like it due to being tired or emotionally and spiritually exhausted, I still turn to Him even if the prayer is composed of simply, “Help”. He hears us and through it all helps us find the strength, encouragement and in some cases, the need to drag us kicking and screaming through life.

Second, I am a paper planner girl and a digital planner. I rely on the:

  • Post it Notes which goes on my laptop, my planner, the wall, the refrigerator, etc.
  • Write in my “planner” for my planner” Yes. I have a blue planner I can carry with me, keep notes in etc. and everything gets reviewed and transferred to my main planner.
  • My official paper planner. I keep it open and check the month for an overview, look at the to-do list, prioritize to the best of my ability, address this week’s actions and needs and then daily.
  • Write it on the desktop calendar and/or calendar on the refrigerator
  • Add it to the digital calendar

My official title might as well be a “Multi-Administrative Assistant” to everyone.

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Photo Credit: V.Clark  Copyright @2018 By Grace, In Faith

I have a home, family, marriage, parenting,graduate school, volunteering, member of a church, serving God responsibility and “Oh, I already forgot”, I lead a Bible study group for ladies.

No, I’m not Wonder Woman, but I learn very early  the importance of keeping a:

  • To-Do/Priority List
  • Schedule and plan every quarter; As a matter of fact, my paper planner is divided into quarters so I look at three months in advance.
  • I keep a year at a glance
  • Utilize and ask for help and try not to do it all myself (fast way to burn out)
  • Be realistic
  • Have a plan and a goal always

I couldn’t do this (go to graduate school and everything else) if I waited last minute.

Some cases there are things that  require flexibility and ability to change at the last minute. But I also know there are things set in stone and has to be done before, not during or after and realistically if I know or plan at least a month ahead, I can be considerate of God’s time, my time, my family and everyone else.

The best way I feel one can fail is to not be able to at least know what to expect and have some idea of a schedule.

So as soon as my classes syllabuses are released, I’m the girl who prints them and instructions out before classes begin (all my classes are currently online), write down due dates on everything, but the wall (wait, I need to invest in a dry erase board then I can write on the wall, sort of.), and set goals and how to meet them.

This is not a guarantee for success, but if I know ahead of time what to expect, I can break things down to small, manageable actions and not lose myself in the process. This doesn’t eliminate of knowing what my limits are and sometimes saying, “I’m tired, I need support, etc.” and having a support system when I could use encouragement myself.

This fall, I’m taking my first three graduate level classes. The way the online classes are setup, I take eight week (intensive!!) classes, with the first two classes being:

    • CHRI_5330: HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY
    • CHRI_5360:  OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY

The last class for this fall will be about Acts and the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

Already I have two papers due this week and the rest of the last five weeks means writing a lot of paper for me.

The key for me is not procrastinating, taking care of what I can now and working ahead.

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Photo Credit: V.Clark Copyright @2018 By Grace, In Faith

I’m still nervous about the idea of weighing Master level classes with everything else in life so I have to make sure I get rest and have a good support system.

The point of all this is we are going to have busy seasons in our lives.

We also have to choose how to handle those busy seasons.

As a Christian, I rely first and foremost in trusting God and His will for the bigger picture.

I follow this with also being realistic about limitations and how can I ask someone whose better equipped than me to help so I can breathe a little for the Fall semester.

I will  say I  survived my second week of Fall, Master level classes.

I can say I realistically worry about failing my classes at the same time.

Or not keeping up.

Or forgetting.

End of the day, I’m not Wonder Woman.

I’m a human being like everyone else with faults, successes and a desire to push forward.

 

 

 

 

Reflections

Thoughts on Harvey

One year ago, today Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Coast. Countless lives were changed over the following days, weeks & months.

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Everyone who lived through those days has a story relating to that monster of a storm & how it impacted their lives. Periodically throughout this past year my wife has asked me to write down my thoughts about my experiences during, and immediately after the hurricane moved into & through the Houston area.

I captured some brief thoughts & a few pictures on almost a daily basis via Facebook during this time, which in & of themselves, are probably more informative than anything I may write today.

By the grace of God my family & I were virtually unaffected by this storm. I am very resistant to writing this & am hesitant to share what will be the final draft. I don’t care for public attention especially when it’s related to just doing what is right.

I have always been the type of person to run towards the chaos while most people with any common sense are running in the opposite direction. Without a doubt, this was a key factor in my decision to join the U. S. Marine Corps as a young man. Since that time, I have struggled to find what I consider a meaningful purpose in the civilian world. This is a common feeling that many veterans struggle with upon separating from military service as they attempt to assimilate back into civilian life.

In late May of 2017 my family & I moved to a new home in a different city near Houston, TX. We had previously lived in Dickinson, TX for over a decade. Dickinson would soon make national news as the city became an epicenter for high water rescues related to the flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey.

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Late in August of 2017 Hurricane Harvey made landfall around Rockport, TX. I used to go duck hunting down in Rockport & have fond memories of the area. This storm was huge & there were some meteorologist that were calling for significant destruction to be caused by the storm.

My thoughts were that yes, Rockport & those areas south of Houston would be hit hard, but that this hurricane was just going to dump some rain on Houston & move on.

(In case your keeping score, I was wrong.)

With all this in mind my family & I had been invited to a friend’s home to watch a UFC fight & enjoy some brisket & ribs he had been smoking all day. We would only be about a block from our house should it start to rain, so off we went. It began to rain & it didn’t stop for days. The satellite reception went out so no fight.

The rain was literally coming down in sheets & my wife & I began to think we should get our family back to our home. We got soaked but made it home without incident. As we woke the next morning the predictions of a major flood event were being talked about on the local news channels. Little did any of us know what the following days would hold for the city & the surrounding areas.

As I have said my family & I were new to the neighborhood in which were living at this time. However, I knew there were some folks who had hearts for service & were itching to get into the fray to do something to help the people being affected by this devastating storm. I wanted to find those people.

A neighbor who is a pastor at a local church was standing in his garage with a group of men who looked like they had been out in the storm all day.

They were wet & looked exhausted. I stopped immediately & went to find out what was going on. They had been out doing water rescues & helping people evacuate their homes before the water reached a level that would prevent escape. I was in before I even spoke to any of them.

These folks had kayaks, paddleboards, a bass boat & 4×4 pickup trucks. They also had every intent to be out in the storm & help anyone that they could that

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needed assistance. We all resolved to gather our gear & meet the next morning at 5 AM to load up & start helping people. Before we did that though we were approached by another neighbor whose mother in law was trapped in a gated retirement community & the water was rising. She needed help immediately.

We responded & ended up traversing a golf course in a kayak to retrieve the lady, a few of her possessions & her dog. Things were getting serious & it appeared that it was only going to get worse. Of course, the flooding did get worse & we headed towards Dickinson, TX which had already begun to flood.

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Photo from YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng54uOtEnFo

There’s a famous photo of dozens of boats motoring down FM 517 in Dickinson that exemplifies exactly what we were encountering. People from every walk of life & from all over were running towards the chaos to rescue strangers from the rising waters.

Military vehicles, police vehicles, bass boats, jet skis, kayaks…. anything that could traverse the waters was being launched near the donut shop I had gotten breakfast at on many a weekend in previous years.

The sound of rotary blades could be heard overhead as military helicopters conducted rescues & reconnaissance. Things had gotten real in a hurry. We conducted rescues & pulled people out of apartments & delivered them to Army National Guard trucks or nearby shelters. We met some incredible people who were conducting rescues & some incredible people who were being rescued. We helped a lot of people that day. Finally, some purpose.

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Photo taken by V. C. Image copyright by @2018 By Grace, In Faith

We had decided not to perform night time rescues as they presented special challenges that we were not necessarily equipped to tackle, although had we been aware of a specific need I have no doubt that to a man we would have gone out into the night to do whatever we could to help.

So, with the sun setting we made our way back to our island neighborhood.

We never flooded, only lost power for a few minutes & had home cooked meals & hot showers every evening.

This was totally surreal given what we had seen throughout our day. We resigned to perform rescues daily for the foreseeable future.

My wife is the industrious & organized type, God knows I am not. Hence, he gave me her to help me at least appear to be organized on occasion. She had been on the phone & internet all day talking to people who wanted to help or who knew of people that needed help. She even had people from outside the state coordinating information to pass along to teams about rescue needs, gasoline availability, hazards or government warnings. All in all, it was amazing to witness.

The men I had been working with the day before met bright & early the following morning. Coffee in hand we worked on a plan for the day & said a prayer before we departed. Overall, we knew it was bad outside our subdivision. We had no idea how bad it might get or what we were going to run into today. We rescued several people in the Friendswood, TX area this day.

The most memorable was in a secluded neighborhood adjacent to a creek. Obviously, any home near a body of water was going to be affected by the deluge. I never even knew this neighborhood existed.

The homes must have been close to a million dollars in value, Harvey didn’t care.

We couldn’t get the boat into the far back of the neighborhood due to the stone walls & decorative stonework near the homes. Should we have damaged the prop we would have been out of commission & rendered mostly ineffective in future rescue efforts. Fortunately, we had a paddleboard & a canoe. We waded for about a half a mile to a large home at the rear of the subdivision.

A family of 4 needed rescue and we were going to get them out. As we were making our way to their home I took a step & ended up in chin deep water.

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Photo taken by C.W. Clark. Copyright @2018 By Grace, In Faith

I am 6’0” tall, a former lifeguard & have surfed for many years but this development kind of freaked me out. I regained my composure & we made it to our destination.

The mother & 2 teenage daughters along with 2 dogs were going with us.The father refused to leave his home.

The first story was flooded & he had no power but just couldn’t bare to leave his property to the unknown.

I don’t know what happened to him but often think of stopping by that home to hear their story.

We evacuated the ladies & went forward with more rescues. Some areas were impassable in our boats, so we were limited by that factor.

Do you think my wife would be ok with me buying an airboat?

Those guys did some amazing work & could go anywhere. In the subsequent day or 2 we performed more rescues & decided that we would not travel outside of our local area due to the needs within our immediate community.

The rains stopped & the water began to recede in some areas. I was losing my purpose.

God had other plans for me. My home church was collecting supplies like bleach, paper towels, gloves, dust masks, cleaning solutions.

The highway I traveled to get to work was under 6-10 feet of water, so I was not going in to work any time soon. If I recall correctly this was a Wednesday…I don’t know for sure though. I gathered what supplies we had & made my way to my church. I dropped of those supplies & asked how I could help. I was told I had just helped & that if I wanted to do more I could fill out a form & they would call me.

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Come again???

The world outside my door looked like an over budget poorly scripted Kevin Costner movie & you want me to fill out a form to help.

I departed with a bit of an attitude.

I just so happen to have to drive by my pastor friend’s church. The parking lot was packed. What are they doing I thought? I pulled into the parking lot & made my way inside.

The music minister & his wife said hello & asked if I was here to help. Why yes, I am, even though I only knew one person in the entire congregation. So, I was placed on a team, was given a sack lunch, a case of water, tools & several addresses of people who needed assistance mucking out their homes. God supplied me with more purpose than I could possibly have handled on my own.

For the next several days I worked on teams with people I had never met, cleaning out homes for people I had never met. We worked hard & laughed & ate & prayed together. I am holding back tears as I remember those times.

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One of the many sites affected by the flooding. Photo taken by C.W. Clark. Copyright @2018 By Grace, In Faith

There are some great stories relating to those times, the group of Mormons who helped us & got to be on the receiving end of talking about our true Lord & Savior.

Or the guy who was an amateur taxidermist who literally had a house full of stuffed ducks.

Or the retired couple who owned a home directly across from the Baptist camp I worked at as a teenager.

Too many to recall here.

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Photo taken by V.C. Copyright @2018 By Grace, In Faith

The Houston area was drying out & I was told that I needed to get back to my real job. I took a week of vacation instead, so I could keep doing the job God was calling me to do.

The folks at The Harbor, the church I was working with, made me a team leader & eventually a site evaluator.

Within approximately 12 days our teams had mucked out 200 homes in the local area. I worked on maybe 10 of those with dozens of amazing people.

Towards the end of the last week of work I was told by some of the elders & a couple of pastors that I wasn’t allowed to come back until I took a day off.

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One of the homes affected by the flooding. Photo taken by C.W. Clark @2018 By Grace, In Faith
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The author at one of the Harvey affected sites. Copyright @2018 By Grace, In Faith

I am sure I looked like a zombie & most definitely smelled like one at the end of most days. Begrudgingly, I took the following day off & joked that I would see if the local Kingdom Hall needed volunteers.

We had church that Sunday before I went back to work & I felt so close to God & my neighbors.

I am thankful beyond words that God put me in the middle of that storm. I would do that kind of work every day if I had the opportunity.

God saw us through one of the costliest natural disasters in modern history.

He spared me & my family for which I am eternally grateful. Most of all I am thankful that for the 2 weeks in which He gave me an incredible sense of purpose.

I still struggle to fit in to this world in which I live.

Some days are harder than others.

I am certain that God knows my purpose, all I must do is listen, trust & act.

What’s your purpose?

Mark 12:30-31 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Addendum by V.C:

At the time during Harvey, I was taking classes via Liberty University online, working on my degree in Christian Ministry with minor in Biblical Studies. In the process, I became a part of the Ratio Christi-Liberty chapter. Ratio Christi is a student campus apologetic alliance and its close to my heart and that of my family.

C.W. and I have supported, prayed for and made friends whose have become like family through Ratio Christi.

So I wanted to post a “shout out” to them and to the Liberty University professors and fellow classmates for their prayers and support for the Texas Gulf Coast area.

One year later and there’s still work to be done in the Rockport, Houston and surrounding areas, but the people here are #TexasStrong.

Apologetics, Book Review, Zondervan

{Book Review} Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: a Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

Qureshi, Nabeel Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: a Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. S.l.: Zondervan,368 pages, 2018.

Immediately in the opening pages of Qureshi’s book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, the

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

tone of the book is set. “What would you do if someone challenged the very core of your deeply held beliefs?” (13) In the introduction to Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, provides a glimpse of the person who was Nabeel Qureshi and the discoveries encountered along the journey of faith which unfold within the pages of the narrative biography. 368 pages, available with bonus content as both a paper bound copy and Kindle, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a personal journey opening with the beginning of Qureshi’s odyssey of faith into Christianity.

 

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi held an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School and later received his MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, along with an MA in Religion from Duke University. With an interest in the foundations of the Christian faith, ancient Judaism, early Islam, and the interface of science and religion, Nabeel pursued a doctorate in New Testament studies at Oxford University. He was also a part of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and lectured to students at multiple universities. He is the author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity and the books: No God, but One and Answering Jihad.

Opening with an introduction by Lee Strobel, a prologue by Nabeel Qureshi and followed by ten parts, each part is a detailed look into Nabeel’s life before becoming a Christian. Throughout each of the chapters, there are many side notes with definitions of the terminology used to better acquaint the reader with the Islamic terms which describe Nabeel Qureshi’s life prior to becoming a follower of Christ. The additional material in this revised version, included Expert Contributions ranging from evangelists to a distinguished Quran scholar. Nabeel shares that three of these experts played a personal role in his life and their contributions are expanded upon in the book. Each contribution plays a part to one of the ten parts which divides the book and helps add supplemental understanding of some of the discussions Nabeel shares in his autobiography.

Another interesting aspect of note pertaining to the book is that at the end of each chapter Nabeel refers to the reader either to the expert contributions at the end of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus or other related books to expound on some of the theological discussions which are found throughout his autobiography.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus ends with an epilogue by Nabeel Qureshi and an added afterword by Mark Mittleberg who recounts his last moments with Nabeel. Also included are notes from Nabeel’s wife, Michelle and his friend, David Wood. David is a pivotal figure in the middle act of the book and his friendship with Nabeel displays the possibilities of a bond based upon mutual respect and a quest for understanding and answers.  The book closes with a culmination of the expert contributions referenced throughout which are amazingly detailed and worth taking the time to read, as well as a glossary of the terminology Nabeel uses throughout his narrative autobiography.

The book as a whole is a personal and revealing insight in the life of Nabeel Qureshi, a thorough look at the role his family’s faith played in his upbringing, a transparent look at a different faith and culture, along with the impact his own family, his friends and his peers played in life and the life-changing impact Christianity had on Nabeel.  Nabeel writes in the prologue how the answer to his prayer to God would, “forever change my heart and the course of my life.” (26) Nabeel writes with emphatic honesty and conveys on paper the intellectual, spiritual and the heart-based curiosity which set the course for his life. Nabeel is clear that he is writing a narrative biography in which the reader is at once drawn into as he shares moments of his life and bares personal insight into Islam.  The addition of the side notes at the end of each chapter provide guidance to the reader to keep exploring and search for answers to the questions raised during the reading.

After reading Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, it becomes easy to forget one is reading a narrative biography and Nabeel’s writing style is conversational without condemnation or controversy, but instead is intended to inform and to engage the reader. There is a scholarly appeal to Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, but without taking on the appearance of a textbook writing. Nabeel attempts to share all the contributing factors which led to him to eventually convert to the Christian faith. During the first reading of the book, I found myself unable to put the book down and with no lamp nearby I used the light of my phone, so I could continue finish reading it late into the night.

The reader becomes drawn in first with the compelling descriptions of Nabeel’s early life, his interactions with his family and later as he began to have questions about his faith. There are moments when the reader is drawn into Nabeel’s narrative it becomes possible to feel the emotional conflict earlier in his story and as he goes through the process of asking questions and discovering answers, the reader finds themselves not merely observing the journey, but becoming part of the journey and in the space of reading, seeing both sides of the world and faith as Nabeel. Reading Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus without also reading Nabeel’s other book, No Other God But One seems impossible.

Although described as a narrative biography, Nabeel’s book is an informative, apologetics-based book where he gives a personal insight into the traditions, culture, and beliefs of the Islam faith, while taking readers on a personal journey of his own search into Christianity and doing his own form of comparative study. Filled with personal anecdotes, his own insights in cross-cultural interactions and even sometimes the barriers which can prevent open dialog and discovery, Nabeel uses his book to open both sides of the world of Christianity and Islam to readers.

The use of the side notes throughout the book helped engage the reader in understanding basics about both faiths and open doors for discussions which is also the goal of the book. Toward the end, reading the Expert Contributions, brought a deeper understanding not only of the method Nabeel and others used, but also introduced cultural awareness which may not have already factored in prior to reading.

Midway through the book, it was difficult not to become emotionally connected and invested which makes it difficult for a reader to put the book down and at the same catch a glimpse of the soul and character of Nabeel Qureshi. His love for his family, for his friends, his peers and more than anything, his faith, is clearly captured within the pages of his book. At the same time, Nabeel invites the reader while joining him in reading his journey, to step outside their comfort zones and ask questions and discovered the answers themselves.

As Nabeel stated in the beginning of the book, he wrote the book to focus on  sharing personal insights, his experiences and heart in his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus  and in the end created an informative book with a look behind the veil of a culture very few may have personal experiences themselves, while sharing what he discovered himself as he sought to understand the Christian faith.

 

Apologetics, Culture

Does our culture still believe in sin?

Does our culture still believe in sin?

One might look around and think that as a society we must have no concept of sin. Murder, rape, abortion, homosexuality, unethical business practices, adultery, theft and violence pervade our modern society. Greed and promiscuity are elevated as characteristics to be emulated instead of being treated as failings. Our televisions bring an agenda of anti-Christian counter culture into our family rooms for hours on end.  Should one disagree with an idea or concept that is contrary to Biblical teachings then they are intolerant. And of course we all know that intolerance is the scarlet letter of our day. Tolerance in today’s society seizes on the idea of offense and holds that one must never offend anyone else by expressing disapproval of any aspect of his or her behavior or ideas.[1] The internet brings pornography, violence, hatred and debauchery into our lives on every size screen we own and anywhere we may find ourselves. But I’m a good person is what many people will tell themselves. Surely I’m not nearly as bad as my neighbor or that creepy guy who works in accounting.  We as a society seem to have a very skewed view of our own personal sin in comparison to the rest of humanity and are unwilling in many cases to call sin just that…sin.

The prosperity gospel of the modern day with its’ feel good message and watered down teachings permeates our culture. How many times have you heard the man with the glimmering smile and the perfect hair on the television on Sunday morning talking about sin in his sermon? More likely he’s telling about how God wants you to be happy, how you just have to love and believe more and all your worries will disappear and of course, that his ministry desperately needs your donations and that you should buy his latest book.  Pastors who don’t want to preach about sin, how it’s wrong and the consequences of that sin. Houston we have a problem.

Finally, as a society we no longer seem to have any shame or even guilt in relation to our sins. So called superstars are in some cases, known for nothing more than a scandalous escapade uploaded onto the internet and are suddenly celebrated as role models. Our leaders lie, cheat and steal and are still elected to office. Cultural icons, sports heroes, politicians, luminaries from all facets of our society might well be associated with immorality and unethical behavior. We have no moral compass in many instances and do not seek one out. Sin saturates our world and our culture and all too often we turn a blind eye. Isaiah 59:2 states, “But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen.” Sin creates a barrier between man and God. Our unwillingness to acknowledge our sin, let alone repent of it will not end well for our culture.

By C.W. Clark

A follower of Christ, husband, father, son and brother. A former Marine, one time railroad man , now a manager in the oil & gas industry. More Peter than Paul. Far from perfect and saved only by the grace of God.

 

[1] Lennox, John C. “The World View of Babylon.” In Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism, 74.  Monarch Books, 2015.