Origin Challenges Pt 2: Theology and Apologetics

Before the hustle and Bustle of Charlottesville, and the answer provided to questions of the Alt-right and its relationship to Christianity, I had started a discussion on origins and Christianity and was taking it in two different directions. The first direction is towards my own growing thoughts on apologetics, something I will call Mere Evangelicalism to honor one of the influences that is leading me in this direction, C S Lewis. Like a lot of apologists, I started reading Lewis as a teller of tales about Narnia, but I have come to understand him as one of the masters of my art.

A Tale of Two Disciplines

When it comes to origins, the question falls into a lot of different disciplines. This includes, for the believer, questions of the exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2, and their impact on the Scriptures throughout the text following. There are also scientific questions, and with this questions of science, and these questions are often resting on unanswered (and perhaps even unasked questions) of philosophy of science. For example, in many cases, Christians are applying an approach to science that is not necessarily considered current, when Christians start discussing evolution they start applying falsification criteria, and seem far more reminiscent of the approach to philosophy of science appealed to by Karl Popper. These in turn point towards other issues, how do we deal with the questions of philosophy, theology, exegesis and science? The scientist, of course, sees his own field as the paramount source of data for a solution, but fails to note that there are no such thing as an unbiased observer and the process of interpreting science has a number of subjective aspects.

 

It seems to me, at least from within a Christian worldview, the questions of origins actually affect two disciplines, one is that of the systematic theologian, who draws from Biblical theology, historical theology, exegetical works, philosophy, etc., and puts forward a statement of how the world came to be and how it fits into God’s economy. Someone who is an Evangelical should at the least make sure this fits within the basic boundaries of orthodoxy, a good test of which are the five fundamentals of the faith. Thus, for example, the moment someone claims the Bible is not infallible, we no longer have a Christian theory to work from.  My argument last time, discussing not that we should weaken our position, but that we should be kinder and more careful about the rhetoric we use when we discuss the issue of origins is primarily based on the way we handle the systematic theological aspect.

A second issue, however, is that of apologetics. Apologetics is a very large field, and like Biblical studies, it requires a great deal of knowledge about a number of different fields, although many apologists, like Lewis have a specialty in some area. Apologists discuss origins from a different angle. A theologian is ultimately interested in the question of which sub-school is correct, an apologist is more interested in the atheist who argues God is unnecessary because of natural selection, and therefore does not exist. There is a danger here, just as theological liberalism developed from Friedrich Schleiermacher and others trying to synthesize Christianity with anti-supernaturalism, it is possible to move into areas that are compromise,[1] but it also means that the apologist must confront different issues from the systematic theologian.[2]   Therefore, I propose a different way of crossing the division to remove systematic theological concerns from apologetics, and apologetics from systematic theological concerns.

 

Mere Evangelicalism

Lewis, in his seminal work, Mere Christianity, which is one of the most influential works outside of the Bible on Christianity, suggested that his goal was not to argue for a specific branch of Christianity. Rather he argued his book was a like a hallway between rooms, and the various rooms were differing denominations and understanding of the faith. While I am unabashedly an Evangelical, I think this makes good sense. While we may, from time to time, defend the trinity with an unbeliever, we do not require someone to be able to write out a theological definition of the trinity before they come to Christ. Nor do we believe someone must understand someone must take a stand on Calvinism and Arminianism—at least not most of us, C H Spurgeon being an eminent exception. Similarly, the apologists concern is not that someone accepts a specific approach to the questions of Genesis, this is something where the complexities of the discussion can be absorbed, to the degree of their ability, as they grown in Him.

Secondarily, as I noted before, I don’t debate inerrancy with an unbeliever, it simply makes no sense. The belief that the Bible contains no errors in faith or no errors in any matter is an important point of Christian theology and frankly, a necessary point for a believer to cross. However, our view of the Bible in theology is itself a conclusion of our belief that the Christian religion is true, we do not believe the Christian religion is true because we believe in the infallibility of the Bible. Therefore, as I’ve noted for some time, I instead want to focus on the reliability of the Bible for apologetics not it’s epistemic and theological character. The latter is important in dealing with heretical forms of Christianity or for answering questions of life and godliness, but to the unbeliever it is as nonsensical as explaining green to someone that has never been able to see.

In apologetics, then, I prefer an intelligent design approach for apologetics rather than discussing a specific theory of origins. While we may need to deal with arguments against Genesis (and we should answer them forthrightly as they come up), the unbeliever will scoff at Genesis not because it is false, but because his understanding is limited to the naturalistic worldview. Jesus did not argue with the woman at the well about where they should worship, He instead shifted the discussion upwards, with unbelievers; the discussions of cosmic fine tuning, for example, are prior to any discussion of biological origins because the universal constants must be in a very narrow band for life to exist at all, micro-biologists such as Behe have noted structures that are not consistent with neo-darwinian evolution, and if evolution were true, it cannot provide an answer to the nature of man (since evolution cannot explain why we like art and literature, our ability to make reliable grounds-consequence statements of belief, nor our moral beliefs). In effect, the goal is to jump over the modern logjam to the questions they do not have an answer for.

[1] Before someone thinks I am going back on my statements in Mea Culpa let me phrase it this way, there is a difference between one who argues there is no error in Genesis, but we have misunderstood it because of errors in translations or because of some point of grammatical phenomenon (ie Genesis does not err, but our interpretation has), and someone who argues that there is a scientific or historical error in the text.

[2]It is true that a theologian may serve as an apologist, and an apologists may do theology, but of course, all this means is that there focus must shift

Vox Day: A Satanic Imitation of Christianity

I recently posted a statement as a Christian response to the Alt-Right in light of the recent domestic terrorist attack during a counter-demonstration against White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m a Christian apologist, not a politician, and this isn’t a political blog, but sometimes apologetics means more than answering an objection or raising an argument in favor of Christianity. Sometimes it means denouncing someone who is bringing the name of the Lord Jesus into disrepute. Therefore, I want to specifically call out Vox Day to repent of his actions, which are increasingly defaming the Lord’s name.

Vox Day is the nom de plume of Theodore Beale, a popular Alt-Right blogger and “thinker,” and  his blog, narcissistically named Vox Popoli appears to be a crossroads of that movement. Day obliquely promotes racism and claims to be a Christian, though he denies the omniscience of God and the Trinity.[1] He will distance himself from men like Richard Spencer (who coined the term alt-right) when it suits him, such as in response to the terrorist attack over the weekend[2] after a rally Day described as “peaceful,”[3] and he also uses claims to be an American Indian to deflect such charges, admitting this is because it is  rhetorically useful.[4]

Day himself has described the Alt-Right with a sixteen point manifesto,[5] included among these are the claims that the Alt-right values Christianity as one of three pillars of Western Civilization (Point 4) and then includes a variation on the “fourteen words” (point 14). For those who may be unaware the fourteen words,[6] originated with David Eden Lane, a Neo-Nazi and convicted domestic terrorist. The fourteen words are something like the verbal equivalent of a swastika, and Day went on to defend its use, without clarifying what the alleged danger is to western culture,[7] by appealing solely to denotation with little regard or attention to either it’s connotation or it’s usage.[8] As someone who claims National Socialism is a “semiotically useful form of German nationalism,”[9] he cannot claim ignorance of this point.  He has also made claims that intelligence may be understood in racial terms:

“It is absurd to imagine that there is absolutely no link between race and intelligence. DNA is already being used to predict race with a 99 percent level of accuracy by forensic crime labs, and there is not a single shred of evidence, empirical, historical, anecdotal or documentary, that suggests intelligence is the sole human attribute which is distributed equally throughout humanity. While the relationship between race and intelligence has not yet been fully understood, there is far more reliable evidence for the existence of such a relationship than there is for many widely-accepted scientific theories, including the theory of evolution, string theory, multiple universes and so forth.”[10]

Some in the alt-right also use a series of parentheses around Jewish names, usually this seems to indicate that Jewish surnames echo through history, which is more than a little reminiscent of conspiracy theorys about Talmudic Judiasm raised by Czars, Nazi’s and Islamo-fascist regimes.  Day engages in this activity, and has apparently had his Twitter account blocked for anti-Semitic behavior.[11]

As I noted last time, this is not in accord with Scripture. Paul’s epistles leave no room for racism, contra-Day,[12] Paul very clearly made it plain that Peter was in sin when he withdrew from fellowshipping with gentiles.[13] Paul also called into question the partisan spirit of the Corinthian church.[14] Throughout his epistles he calls people across different ethnic and class lines to a new life in the Kingdom of Christ.  Of course, Christians may very well take different positions on trade deals, immigration or US foreign policy, but not when taken on the grounds of ethnic segregation.[15] This is in fact contrary to the church, which is the result of the “breaking down of the wall of emnity” between Jews and Gentiles.[16] Even the passage most misquoted by segregationists is itself rooted in an affirmation that we are all one blood.[17] None of this is present in Day’s rhetoric or spirit.

Therefore, whatever else he may be, it is time to unequivocally state, Vox Day is no Christian, his claim should be refuted, and he should be treated as a heathen and a publican.

[1] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2012/03/false-doctrine-of-trinity.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[2]http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/08/stupidity-is-no-substitute-for-strategy.html last accessed 8-14-2017

[3]http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/08/riot-police-called-out-in.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[4] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/08/did-not-see-that-coming.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[5] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/what-alt-right-is.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[6] We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

 

[7]https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/in-defense-of-14-words.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[8]Of course the answer to Day’s dare is that he has not expressed what danger he seems to think threatens my existence or the existence of white children. There is no biological pathogen that I am aware of to target our DNA, no plot put forward for white genocide, and in fact few in America even among the Antifa movement would be willing to consider such an extreme. What is the point except provocation?

 

[9]https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/09/of-alt-west-and-alt-white.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[10]http://www.voxday.net/  last accessed 8-14-2017

[11] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/05/why-i-was-blocked-from-twitter.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[12] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/06/life-in-post-white-not-america.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[13]Galatians 2:11-21

[14] First Corinthians particularly chapters 1-4.

 

[15]Nor are the fears of some cultural genocide rational, Rome was successful in part because it was profligate with it’s citizenship to colonies, and because it intentionally assimilated people and ideas from other cultures, particularly through auxiliary units serving in the legions. This would be an example of how the failure of civic nationalism is not the failure that Day claims, although one may very well question whether the modern American society is able to maintain this stance in a post-Christian age.

[16]Ephesians 2:14

[17]Acts 17:26

A Christian response to the Alt-Right

I have seen some, though likely not all the news about a rally of white supremacists referring to themselves as the “alt-Right” in Charlottesville VA. Blood has been spilt, though I won’t claim to know by whom. I will not claim to know everything on the ground, so I will make no specific statements on what has actually happened, the news feed on the internet is currently providing more commentary than facts, and I don’t have cable. Additionally, since sensationalism sells ads, I want to be careful not to reference some specific fact or statement that might be retracted by morning. I will answer in principle alone.

Christians, however, will almost undoubtedly be drawn in, at the same time as our current president (who is not known for his erudition or careful statements of principles) will have his every statement parsed for hidden sympathy with racism. It will be implied every supporter of his cause, including many white evangelical Christians, will be compared to the Nazis and Klan. Let me be plain. There is no justification for racism in the Bible. Paul clearly states that the goal of the church is spreading the gospel to every tribe and nation (Romans 15), and that the church is to be a place where Greeks and Jews are on equal footing (Galatians), and there is no justification for ignoring this principle on the grounds of skin color. It is true that the visible church has not always been on the Bible’s side in this issue, unfortunately, the Church is culturally situated and it is all too often a problem that worldly philosophies find their way into the church. The book of First Corinthians was written to a church with serious problems, many of them implicitly gained through the culture they were situated in. The same is no less true, unfortunately, for the church today.

Many people may ask why the Church has been so slow to condemn the alt-right, but this assumes that they understand the movement’s true nature, and that the alt-right is honest in describing themselves as a right-wing movement. American conservatives believe in a few basic things, the rule of law (with it strict constructionist interpretation of the constitution, equal treatment of citizens under the law, and a restoration of the checks and balances enshrined in the constitution), a rejection of non-market based economic models (including Keynesian, Marxist and neo-Marxist economic principles, which are rejected on largely empirical grounds) and opposition to totalitarianism.[1] There are other issues that go in and out of favor with conservatives (the principle of peace through strength, concern about the national debt, and a belief that the government needs downsizing in secondary and tertiary functions due to spending). There are also social conservatives who are concerned with public morals and the decline of society, but some of these are political moderates. The Alt-Right rejects conservatism outright, if you don’t believe me read a few alt-right blogs, you will generally find a great deal of antipathy for conservative principles. The thing about Nazi’s and fascists is they are far closer to the early twentieth century progressives than to modern American conservatives.

The reason why the church has not spoken more loudly, is the problem of our modern political propaganda machines.[2] The word “racist” is sometimes used so freely that it has become somewhat meaningless. If a politician or a commenter calls someone a racist, then it immediately moves his opponent to the defending himself, and the accuser wins points in the propaganda battle. The boy has been crying wolf, and now when a real wolf has departed the fringes of American society (where they have been napping), the cries have been ignored. Maybe Charlottesville will change that. Most Christians probably had very little idea to what the Alt-right was because they weren’t paying attention.  I may disagree with liberals on the wisdom or the justness of their ideas about the means to dealing with racial bigotry, but the ends are not different.

Let it be clear I denounce any group that claims racial superiority, as this denies that man is made in the image of God. I repudiate anyone who attempts to identify this movement with the cross of Jesus Christ as an ugly heresy, to oppress another with the symbol of freedom from sin by the torture and death of the Lord of Life is a crime and should be met with excommunication. I repudiate as both a Christian and an American any attempt to use violence to forward a political end in a stable democracy. Totalitarian brings with it great evil, and I oppose the alt-right, white nationalism, and any such group for their racism. I also oppose any other totalitarian groups who oppose free speech or are willing to use violence to further their ends, including the modern fascist movement known as “Antifa.”

[1] I am not here to defend conservative positions, though I am a conservative. These are not listed for debate, that is the role of a political blogger, I note this only for definition and clarification.

[2] In fact, the worst possible outcome of Charlottesville will be continued appropriation of the matter for political advancement, particularly by extremist groups that are equally bad to the white nationalists in Charlottesville. Sometimes Communist movements are treated as early victims or early principled opposition to Hitler in the rise of the Third Reich, but in many senses, they weren’t all that different. Like the early Nazi’s, the communists had their brigades of stormtroopers, their attempted violent coups and overthrows of the government, and their lists of enemies to be killed. Part of Hitler’s strategy during the thirties was the highlighting of martyrs to the Nazi cause to paint himself in a sympathetic light. Some of these martyrs, such as Herbert Norkus were murdered by members of the Communist Rote Jungfront (the communist counterpart to the Hitler Youth). In a war between the White Nationalists or the Antifa movement, whoever wins, America will be the poorer.

Origin Challenges Part 1: Clarification and Cordiality

I’ve recently been published in Answer’s Research Journal, a peer-reviewed young earth academic journal connected with Answers in Genesis. The piece they published was a rebuttal of one author connected to a movement that seems to be reintroducing a new model of theological liberalism as a substitute for Christianity. Before discussing the piece, though, I want to lay out where I currently am in discussions of the article I published entitled Mea Culpa a year ago, and this discussion, again, opens another issue, which is my own growth in the understanding of an apologist’s mission, limits and the distinctive role an apologetic ministry carries with it.

The issue is charity not change

I was and am a young earth creationist, and while I always am willing to re-review the scriptural data, the presence of thorns in fossil layers with dinosaurs and the problem of evil[1] to me indicate that a Young earth model is still the most self-consistent with a Christian worldview. There are scientists who have filled in gaps and built a Young Earth model that demonstrates how this consistently fits with the scientific evidence, though I will leave those discussions to those who are experts in those fields, this is an issue I will discuss in a later article. The point of the piece I entitled Mea Culpa wasn’t a change in my position, it was a change in my rhetoric, stemming from a discussion with the professor who was running my colloquium, Dr.  Ted Cabal, who has recently published a book on the controversy of the age of the Earth within the church. There is this long running habit among believers to draw interest to a topic by escalating the importance of the issue, this happens with baptism,[2] with eschatological positions,[3] or with Calvinism and Arminianism. My discussion with Dr. Cabal convinced me that I was part of a way of discussing this issue that I already believed was destructive, and also that I was previously using the word “compromise” in a different way than others were.[4]

Please note, I said “I already believed was destructive.” I am a part of a group on facebook called the Christian Apologetics Alliance, (along with a few other groups I would like to spend more time with, but work, school and family already take up much of my time). I’ve noticed when issues involving origins come up, it is difficult to wade through the character assassinations to get to the main point. More often then not, therefore I avoid those discussion after a bad experience on that board two or three years ago. While Dr. Cabal’s work focused on this in terms of the Young Earth movement, I’ve seen similar things from Progressive creationists and from theistic evolutionists. Quite frankly, far too often these discussions produce more heat than light, and there is a certain degree of hubris we should all avoid; Evangelicals should hold themselves to be imperfect interpreters of an infallible text.

The two great dangers are that we choose to fight no battles for the purity of the faith, or we choose to treat every issue as a Fundamental. Paul on the one hand warned against teaching any other doctrine, and that those who preached another gospel were to be accursed, but he also warned that the heretic after the second admonition was to be excommunicated as well, the underlying term referring to a person who bring division (contextually perhaps unnecessary division) and strife. Ironically, it is always easier to see this in others rather than in ourselves, and yet seeing it in ourselves is often where understanding it is most crucial. It is ironic how many of the critics of the radical wing of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement so often sound like the very radicals they claim to be crusading against. Whether one is a radical IFB supporter of the King James Bible, anti-calvinism, and premillennialism, or alternately the anti-IFB crusader declaring premillinialism heresy or claiming the IFB movement is somehow the fall of the American church, the message sounds the same. As James warned us, the wars in our midst often come from our flesh. This does not mean we must give up doctrinal discussions or debates, but rather the tone in which the discussion happens.

What does this mean

I’m taking this discussion in two separate directions, both stemming from what I have laid down here. The first will be a brief discussion of my own (developing) riff on CS Lewis as he has influenced my own development as an apologist, and that is the need to divide theological issues from the “mere evangelicalism” of our apologetic. In a sense, we need to remember that people need not understand the full panoply of faith to be a believer at the point of their entrance, there are elements of growth that come later. The second, however, is to remember that Satan has his army at the gates of the castles, along with the sappers digging underneath, and there is a particular problem developing within the issue of the Bible’s discussion of origins that must be challenged.

[1]The problem in a sense is that the theistic evolutionists is forced to give up the “freewill defense” in dealing with the deductive problem of evil or in dealing with the various inductive approaches one must forego “freewill theodicy.” It is true that this particular problem is less problematic for one group of progressive creationists, the gap theorists, who argued that the fall of Satan had led to the destruction of a primeval world, which God then recreated, the problem with this theory is that it was based on a faulty understanding of the language of Genesis 1, but it does seem peculiar to my way of thinking that the fall of Satan is not a larger topic of discussion during these debates. Yet even this approach as a weakness, the system requires the assumption that the fall of Satan was before Genesis 1, but if this is the case, how is everything that has been created “good” on day seven?

 

[2]One occasionally hears it argued that infant baptism leads to the collapse of denominations into apostasy, but one sees the same argument raised by those in favor of infant baptism insisting the real danger is treating children as if they are not part of the church until they make a profession of faith.

[3]One currently hears amillenial believers talking about how new premillennialism is (usually disconnecting the modern premillennialists from the early church’s similar position which they refer to as “chilism”). Yet premillenialists have often noted that the amillenial position evolved out of an attempt to deal with passages that show Rome in a bad light during the age of Constantine.

[4]For the record, I have never thought that Gleason Archer, Bruce Waltke or others who hold different positions were intentionally changing or watering down the faith. I’ve always felt arguments about B B Warfield by modern Young Earthers were a bit myopic, it is difficult to argue one of the nineteenth centuries most prolific defenders of inerrancy was somehow intentionally compromising inerrancy.

My point was always that as Christians in a non-Christian world, it is easy for us to borrow from the beliefs present in our cultural context uncritically. Nor was this merely attacking opponents, as I study theology this one of several issues that is always in the back of my mind when I try to navigate thorny issues, creationism included. Quite frankly, this is simply an area where guilt from my past reminds me to be cautious in my present.

Is Islam a Religion of War

We regularly find the message being spread that Islam is a peaceful religion; that most Islamic people are peaceful, or that terrorists do not reflect on the Islamic faith. Few Christians are expert enough at Islamic interpretation to make a bold, irrefutable claim about the nature of the Quran; such would be hubris. There are areas of Islamic interpretation, such as discussions of the doctrine of abrogation that affect Islamic interpretation of the Quran in ways that conflict with the application of an Evangelical understanding of the New Testament. It takes very little time online to realize that Muslims regularly make ridiculous arguments about New Testament (particularly when they discuss textual criticism), and Christians stepping into Quranic interpretation face the same dangers, due to a lack of expertise. Of course, many terrorist organizations make it clear that, at least their understanding of Islam is such that they believe Islam to be a religion of war; not peace, including Isis and Al Qaeda. Many western or westernized Muslims suggest that the interpretation of Islam put forward by Isis is incorrect, but western most western Christians faces the same problems as one arguing that Islam is a religion of peace, namely: Christians are not experts in the Quran or the Hadiths. It is unjust to accept the “non-radicalized” Muslim Imam, trained in Paris, over the radical Wahhabist Imam, trained in Saudi Arabia, simply because the westerner fits Western prejudices.

So how should moderns judge the real nature of Islam? It is unwise to choose between the two based on what we want to believe, nor can we simply assert all religions are ultimately the same; the proposition that all religions is unproven, and in studying religion, I believe it to be unfounded. It is possible, however, to adduce some facts on the discussion concerning whether Islam is a religion of peace or of war without beginning with an assumption that Christians can be experts in the interpretation of the Quran. Recent surveys indicate, for example, that Christian refugees are facing persecution in a variety of forms, inflicted by Muslim refugees,[1] and that those converting to Christianity in Islamic dominant countries, such as Lebanon, face persecution:[2] so much so that some choose to wait to accept baptism until they have relocated into Western lands.[3] In most Islamic dominate countries, Christians do not have the full rights to practice their religion in Saudi Arabia,[4] Egypt,[5] and of course in areas dominated by ISIS. Similarly, there are issues of honor killings in the West as well as in the middle east, and these cannot be so easily written off, and the evidence is abundant.

Nor is this simply a modern phenomenon, historically, the facts indicate that the war school of Islam has a long-standing pedigree. It is fashionable to claim that Islamic radicalism is a response to the Crusades, but the Crusades, themselves were an extension of the response to more than three hundred years of Islamic aggression.[6] The persecution of Christians (along with Jews and other religious minorities), the destruction of Christian holy sites, and the persecution of Western pilgrims[7] within the Islamic caliphate were important causes for the Christian response.  Following the Crusades, Islam continued to advance by the sword; not by sending missionaries to other places. The conquest of Turkey in the fifteenth century was followed by attempts to invade Europe, before being driven back by Western European coalitions.

Whatever may be the truth about the correct interpretation of the Quran, the views espoused by terrorists appear to represent the historical practice of Islam, and while some moderns call for a “reformation” within Islam, on the wonders if, in fact, ISIS is Islamic reformation; but that will be a question for later historians if the Lord tarries.

So what do we do with this information? My goals aren’t political; the questions of the United States government’s policies on vetting of refugees is not something I will claim expertise at doing. Westernized Muslims exist, and it is dangerous to tarnish them as collaborators with ISIS. Nor will I make an argument that westernized Muslims are somehow dishonest or are closet Jihadists. My point instead goes to a deeper question, is Islam true? In a sense, this question itself isn’t answered by the question of whether Islam is a religion of peace or a religion of war, but it should at least lead to question the idea that all religions are alike, or that all religions lead to the same place, it gives us a reason to examine the truth claims of both. In another sense, perhaps our revulsion at the types of crimes and violent behavior related to Islam is something that the Creator has placed in us, a rejection of what we know to be wrong, even if we deny He who taught us what is right and wrong.

 

[1]Jill Nelson, “Danger follows Christian Refugees.” World Magazine Online posted 10-26-14. https://world.wng.org/2016/10/danger_follows_christian_refugees_to_germany Accessed 28-May. Mansfield, Katie. “Hundreds of Christian Refugees Sexually Abused and Beaten by Muslims in German Camps.” Express.co.uk, October 21, 2016. http://www.express.co.uk/pictures/galleries/2974/Fight-against-ISIS-Daesh-ISIL-Islamic-State-militants-pictures. Accessed 28-May“Persecution Continues in Germany for Christian Refugees.” The Stream, October 22, 2016. https://stream.org/persecution-continues-in-germany-for-christian-refugees/. Accessed 20-May, 2017.

 

        [2] “Why Some Muslim Syrian Refugees Are Converting to Christianity.” Public Radio International. Accessed May 27, 2017. https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-03-02/why-some-muslim-syrian-refugees-are-converting-christianity. Accessed 28-May 2017.

 

                        [3] Kasinof, Laura. “A New Home and a New Religion in Germany.” The Atlantic, October 14, 2016.  Acceshttps://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/10/christian-refugee-iran-germany-merkel/504092/. Accessed 28-May (www.dw.com), Deutsche Welle. “Christian Refugee Converts in Germany Face Violent Attacks | Germany Guide for Refugees | DW | 05.05.2017.” DW.COM. Accessed May 27, 2017. http://www.dw.com/en/christian-refugee-converts-in-germany-face-violent-attacks/a-38725243. Accessed 27-May 2017.

 

[4] Lodge, Carey, “Muslims converting to Christianity in Saudi Arabia, despite intense persecution.” Christianity Today May 31, 2016. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/muslims.converting.to.christianity.in.saudi.arabia.despite.intense.persecution/87220.htm Accessed 1-July 2017.

[5]  Raymond Ibrahim “Egypt: Muslim Convert to Christianity rots in prison.” May 26, 2015 https://www.jihadwatch.org/2015/05/egypt-muslim-convert-to-christianity-rots-in-prison Accessed 1-July 2017.

[6]Rodney Stark. God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades. (New York: Harper-Collins E-books, 2009), 12-53.

[7]Rodney Stark. God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades. (New York: Harper-Collins E-books, 2009), 55-97.

Islam and the New Testament

              One of the perennial arguments that I find Muslims making is that the gospels have been altered and changed since they were originally written. Usually this is argued from discussions of textual criticism, and it has one major advantage for the Muslim apologist: textual criticism is a highly technical area of New Testament studies, and most people don’t really understand the subject well enough to refute their arguments, of course, this also goes for those making the argument being raised that the gospels and New Testament letters did not originally teach the deity of Christ.  

 

              There are usually two ploys made to make an argument against the Bible, the first is to discussion a few serious textual issues, and the second is to discuss the number of textual issues. The latter is largely unimportant, since most textual problems are so minor, they don’t even impact the way the text is translated. For example, in Greek the adjective can be placed after the noun or before, and it’s not uncommon for a scribe to make the mistake of reversing the order. Similarly, some forms are interchangeable and it is very easy for a scribe to confuse one for the other. This is particularly common in the New Testament because the books of the New Testament are so well documented from the standpoint of Textual Criticism. The New Testament has more evidence for its transmission than any other body of literary work from the ancient world, and it is closer in time to the authorship than anything comparable in the ancient world. Because there are so many extant copies, there are simply more minor scribal errors that are the result.

The second line of argumentation is to take four to six passages where there are textual issues involving the deity of Christ, and somehow equating this with the teaching of the whole. The problem with this last part is that it has a big emotional weight, but to someone who studies the Bible in the long term, it becomes apparent that these issues are really not that significant for Christian theology, because there are so many passages that corroborate the same doctrines. For example, I once had a Muslim argue that without 1 John 5:7, there was no proof of the Trinity, I find this rather interesting, however, since the passage was not cited by the trinitarians at the council of Nicea – if it is such an important point, why did they not quote it? Nor are these passages proof of a conspiracy (and if they were, there is no proof of what type of conspiracy we have, some Christians argue there was a conspiracy to remove the deity of Christ from the Bible, there is no good evidence for either position).

 

              The thing that the Islamic apologist is missing is that the doctrine of the Deity of Christ is written throughout the New Testament, they are arguing, essentially, that four to six textual critical problems is sufficient reason to believe that hundreds of texts have been forged and altered despite a complete lack of evidence of such a forgery; this becomes a conspiracy theory of epic proportions.  This is simply not credible, particularly given how many copies of the New Testament in existence, to argue that such a change occurred and of there is no evidence in the thousands of copies of the text is simply not a credible argument. For the argument to work, they would need to be able to demonstrate that most of the passages discussed in the deity of Christmas are later additions, not merely enough that they can be counted easily on one”s fingers.

Hiroshima and C S Lewis

Wars will always raise ethical questions, both in terms of when it is justified, and for actions taken during a conflict, justified or not. One of the most prolifically questioned actions during war was the dropping of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These two events have raised numerous arguments and defenses over the years, and the questions are not as easily answered as they might appear at first. For example, Japan was actively training its civilian populace to attack American troops upon an invasion of the home islands,[1] and it is often noted that more Japanese lives[2] would have been lost without the dropping of Atomic weapons (and certainly there would have been more American casualties in such a scenario), but does this justify the action? How does a nation weigh decision between protecting one’s own troops and avoiding harm to civilians? Is there a distinction between the bombing of Hiroshima (the site of a major Japanese army base) and Nagasaki (a purely industrial city)? Does the possibility that this was about revenge for the numerous war crimes committed by the Japanese against allied servicemen and Chinese civilians change the moral and ethical dimensions of the discussion? While these are important questions, I think there is a more interesting one: would we be having the same discussion if Japan won the war by dropping a weapon of mass destruction on San Francisco?

This is not an arbitrary question; Japan did have an active atomic weapons program that was somewhat hampered by problems in needed materials; the Japanese military was actively seeking Uranium for its nuclear program, including requests to its ally Germany.[3] While it’s atomic program was not successful, the Japanese biological warfare program was quite effective. During the war, Japanese units (particularly the notorious unit 731) infected human beings with various pathogens, and then performed autopsy’s without anesthetic on the infected to understand the mechanisms of the diseases. Japan also used biological weapons against China, and did in fact have a plan to drop rats with infected fleas onto San Francisco in hopes that it would kill tens of thousands of American civilians later in 1945 (a plan known as “Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night”), a plan that was at the least foiled by the end of the war (and Japan might not have had the resources to carry out the attack by this point anyway).

While we cannot know precisely what might have been, or what ethical questions might have been raised given such a scenario, we do have a good idea about the matter. Japan, as a matter of policy, still denies or refuses to apologize for war crimes committed during the second world war,[4] much to the irritation of her Asian neighbors. These include not only the possibly hundreds of thousands of Chinese killed by biological weapons, but also comfort women, the rape of Nanking, abuse of POWs, etc. There have even been controversies involving Japanese governments suppressing facts about atrocities in Japanese history textbooks. Whatever else might be true, the Shinto/Buddhist worldview does not seem to produce openly the same questions about war conduct that the West, under the influence of Christianity’s discussions of a just war and just conduct in war find themselves compelled to ask. Or rather, the Shinto/Buddhist tradition means those questions get resisted – after all, Japan continues to find it necessary to deny the allegations not only to those abroad, but to its own people, which sounds a bit like guilt, albeit misplaced guilt.[5]

C S Lewis, in discussing the objectivity of morality in Mere Christianity, notes that subjectivist moral systems may work in theory, but we cannot help treat morality as objective, at least when we are on the receiving end. The Japanese government demonstrates this when they note their own victimization of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but will not admit to victimizing Chinese laborers, soldiers, women and children. This is not unique, the nations of the world and people in general are always ready to proclaim their victimhood or the victimhood of their ancestors, but rarely do they take responsibilities for their own aggressors, the natural response is to justify actions out of personal protection or tribal loyalty. This is in fact an unusual moral contribution of Christianity, Christians question not only the behavior of others for perceived gain or restitution, but that of ourselves, as well.

 

[1]This raises to my own mind a question I don’t see asked, does this mean that the civilian populace were still civilians, or were they transformed into a militia?

[2]One additional difficulty, of course, is that it is unknowable whether it is true or not; while the battle of Okinawa suggests this might have been the case, as does the philosophy of Japanese militarists, it is hard to say precisely what would have happened.

[3]There is a famous incident involving the surrender of a German Sub, U-234 which was carrying Uranium Oxide along with other weapons between a nearly defeated Germany and her ally in Japan.

[4]To be clear, this is neither an indictment of the Japanese government nor an attempt to dismiss ethical questions about the atomic bombs, questions I am uncertain how to answer from a Biblical ethic; questions of how to wage war appear far more complex during the conflict then afterwards when historians can evaluate matters with more facts at hand. Moderns, for example, have a grasp on the horrors of radiation poisoning that the generals and politicians in 1945 were unaware of at the time. Nor, in point of fact is the US innocent in the cover-up of Japanese biological weapons, the US government appears to have protected war criminals involved in the Japanese biological warfare in exchange for knowledge of that program, just as various narratives limiting guilt of Imperial Japan to key military officials were useful fictions for the rebuilding of the nation.

[5]To be clear, this guilt is misplaced; there may be shame in an ancestors sin, or the dismay that always disappoints us when those we love profoundly disappoint us, but this is not guilt, as the Old Testament defines so clearly, we are not to punish the children for the guilt of the fathers.