Can We Still Believe the Bible?

Can We Still Believe the Bible?.  Greek scholar Daniel Wallace reviews chapter 1 of Craig Blomberg’s book, Can We Still Believe the Bible?, where Blomberg skillfully takes on Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus. Wallace blogs about the first chapter, “Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?”

Excerpt:

In this chapter, Blomberg rightfully shows the misrepresentations of the situation by Bart Ehrman, in his book, Misquoting Jesus. For example, of the approximately 400,000 textual variants among New Testament manuscripts, many who read Misquoting Jesus get the impression that this one datum is enough to destroy the Christian faith. But the reality is that less than one percent of all variants are both meaningful and viable. And even Ehrman himself has admitted that no cardinal doctrine is jeopardized by these variants.

Blomberg lays out a compelling argument, with much nuance, about the reliability of the NT and OT manuscripts. His chapter on the text of the Bible is organized as follows:

Misleading the Masses
The Truth about Variants (New Testament, Old Testament)
Did Originals Originally Exist?
Comparative Data
Avoiding the Opposite Extreme
Conclusion
In the opening section, the author takes on Bart Ehrman’s wildly popular book, Misquoting Jesus. In characteristic fashion, Blomberg critiques both what Ehrman does and doesn’t say, doing all with wisdom and wit. He points out, for example, that virtually nothing in Misquoting Jesus is new to biblical scholars—both liberal and evangelical, and all stripes in between. Non-scholars, especially atheists and Muslim apologists, latched onto the book and made preposterous claims that lay Christians were unprepared for. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss. Earlier in the chapter when Blomberg mentioned that there are as many as 400,000 textual variants among the manuscripts, he bemoans: “It is depressing to see how many people, believers and unbelievers alike, discover a statistic like this number of variants and ask no further questions. The skeptics sit back with smug satisfaction, while believers are aghast and wonder if they should give up their faith. Is the level of education and analytic thinking in our world today genuinely this low?” (13).

 

Posted in Apologetics, Bible is not corrupted, Historical reliability of the Bible, Reliability of the Bible | Leave a comment

Dr. James White asks Mitchell Pacwa some pointed questions about the Roman Catholic priesthood

The issues:

1.  Is the office of priesthood a legitimate church office?  It is not even in the New Testament.

2.  1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10 teaches and shows us that all Christians are considered priests.

3.  The book of Hebrews does not mention a NT office of priests, but does mention Jesus Christ as our only high priest.

4.  Mitchell Pacwa admitted that Roman Catholic Priests cannot be married.  (except for the eastern catholic rites, and a few Roman Catholic priests who were married before they converted to Roman Catholicism.)  This obligatory rule is a “discipline” (but not a dogma), but it is still contradictory to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, where the elders/ministers were expected and assumed to be married.  Some people have the spiritual gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7), but for the Roman Church to make that a rule is very contradictory to Scripture.  All the apostles were married, except for the apostle Paul.  (1 Corinthians 9:1-5)

5.  Mitchell Pacwa admitted that Roman Catholic priests who are married are expected to abstain from sexual relations, at least in the early church and middle ages.  Wow.  Is that still true today?  What a contradiction to 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; Genesis chapters 1-2, Proverbs 5:15-23, and the Song of Solomon, a book that celebrates romantic sexual love in marriage.

5.  Mitchell Pacwa thinks that the Roman Catholic priesthood has as much Scriptural basis as the doctrine of the Trinity.  Wow.  That is truly amazing.

6.  A Roman Catholic priest is considered an “alter Christus” = “another Christ” in Roman Catholic theology, one who can, like Christ, offer sacrifices and perform grace giving powers – like speaking the words in Latin over the bread and wine and causing them to change into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, hearing someone’s confession, proclaiming forgiveness of sins over a person.

7.  It seems that the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) would have mentioned the office of priest, if it was suppossed to be God’s plan for local church leadership.  They mention elders (presybuteros) and overseers/bishops (episcopos) and deacons, but not priests.  The elders and overseers are the same office.  (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4)   Even other early church writings such as 1 Clement (96 AD), the Shepherd of Hermas (140-155 AD ?), and the Didache(70-120 AD), all very early, point to only 2 offices in the church – elders/overseers and deacons.  1 Clement 44 shows that the presbyters and overseers/bishops/episcopais are the same office.  There was no mono-episcopacy (one bishop over the college of elders) in the NT nor in the earliest church history.  (“earliest”, meaning earlier than Ignatius (107-117 AD) – so “earliest” history is mainly in the canonical Scriptures (48-96 AD),  1 Clement (96 AD) and the Didache (70-120 AD).   I realise there is some time overlap in here with Ignatius and the Didache and Shepherd of Hermas; and also 96 AD is very close to 107-117 – they are contemporaries.  But in Ignatius we see a distinct change from the church government of Clement of Rome to Ignatius’ writings.  Ignatius does not mention a mono-episcopate bishop (bishop over the college elders) when writing to the church at Rome, at that time, which is very interesting, because he does mention a mono-bishop in all the other churches that he writes to.  The evidence for the college of elders in Rome is also in The Shepherd of Hermas.  Later, Jerome, around 400 AD, even admits that the elder and bishop are the same office, and that is was “custom” and “not divine appointment” that created the office of the mono-episcopate (one bishop over the college of elders).  (see below in addendum *)  The Roman Catholic Church claims that a priest is a development later in church history of the word “presbyter”.  There are many problems with this, especially adding the sacrificial aspects of the office.  They seem to apply the OT ideas of a mediator and priest and possibly the Roman pagan ideas of the culture onto the idea of elder/presbuteros.

You can order the entire debate here.  

* Addendum 1 – Jerome’s comments on bishops and elders:

“When subsequently one presbyter was chosen to preside over the rest, this was done to remedy schism and to prevent each individual from rending the church of Christ by drawing it to himself.” (Jerome, Letter 146:1)

“A presbyter, therefore, is the same as a bishop, and before dissensions were introduced into religion by the instigation of the devil, and it was said among the peoples, ‘I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas,’ Churches were governed by a common council of presbyters; afterwards, when everyone thought that those whom he had baptized were his own, and not Christ’s, it was decreed in the whole world that one chosen out of the presbyters should be placed over the rest, and to whom all care of the Church should belong, that the seeds of schisms might be plucked up. Whosoever thinks that there is no proof from Scripture, but that this is my opinion, that a presbyter and bishop are the same, and that one is a title of age, the other of office, let him read the words of the apostle to the Philippians, saying, ‘Paul and Timotheus, servants of Christ to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi with the bishops and deacons.’” (Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Titum, “Commentary on the Epistle to Titus”, PL 26:562-563)

And:

“Therefore, as we have shown, among the ancients presbyters were the same as bishops; but by degrees, that the plants of dissension might be rooted up, all responsibility was transferred to one person. Therefore, as the presbyters know that it is by the custom of the Church that they are to be subject to him who is placed over them so let the bishops know that they are above presbyters rather by custom than by Divine appointment, and ought to rule the Church in common, following the example of Moses, who, when he alone had power to preside over the people Israel, chose seventy, with the assistance of whom he might judge the people. We see therefore what kind of presbyter or bishop should be ordained.” (Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Titum, PL 26:563)

Dr. White cited these Jerome passages in his response to Paul F. M. Zahl, who argued for the Anglican-Episcopal -mono-episcopate church government. (Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity, Edited by Chad Owen Brand and R. Stanton Norman; Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2004, p. 252-252) [my emphasis and bolding]

Addendum 2:

For more details on early church history related issues, see here:

An Evangelical Introduction to Church History – Part 1 – http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/12/evangelical-introduction-to-church.html

Part 2 – http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/12/evangelical-introduction-to-church_15.html

Part 3 – http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/06/between-orange-and-trent.html

Part 4 – http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/06/scripture-over-church.html

Historical Developments that led to the eclipsing of the doctrine of justification by faith alone until the Reformation.  

 

 

Posted in Apologetics, church history, Roman Catholicism | Tagged | 6 Comments

Still looking for two references to famous Al Ghazzali quotes; the essence of differences between Islam and Christianity

Paul Bilal Williams said that the Bible’s statement, “God is love” is incoherent, non-sense, and incorrect grammar, for English, and says it should be “God is loving”.  But I pointed out that we go by the Greek text and not by the English text.  The Greek word is definitely “the love”, a noun, a concept.

Love is a noun, a concept. “to love” is a verb.

In Greek is used as a noun

” . . . ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. 9 ἐν τούτῳ ἐφανερώθη ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν, ὅτι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἀπέσταλκεν ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα ζήσωμεν δι’ αὐτοῦ.  (from 1 John 4:8-9)

” . . . for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

 

Hey Paul, I thought you believed in intellectual scholarship and that scholars should study the original languages to prove religion? Muslim theologicans and apologists study the original language of Arabic, etc. and Christians [should more than actually do] study the original Greek of the New Testament to base apologetic and theological issues on.

The second usage of the Greek noun is even more clear, with the definite article “the” = ‘η = pronounced, “hey”

“7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”   1 John 4:7-14

But, it is reported that Al Ghazzali, one of the most famous Muslim theologians and Sufi’s in history, said that Allah does not love.  So what is it?  Yet there are verses that say “Allah loves those who love Allah” and “Allah does not love the unbelievers”, etc.   One of the 99 names of Allah is “wadood” ودود, which is more like, friendly, warm-hearted, congenial, according to several Arabic speakers I have asked over the years.  I remember Georges Houssney telling me this, personally.  He is a national Arabic speaker from Lebanon.  But the word in Arabic that comes closest to the Greek word, agape / αγαπη, is the Mohabah/Mohabat/hobb words.  محبه – محبت – حب

That root word is used in the Qur’an to describe Allah’s love of those who believe in Him and follow Him and obey Him first; but the Qur’an does not have anything like the Bible, the principle of “God loves sinners” first and takes the initiative, and “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8  

Does Islam have a god who is love or loving or neither?

Al-Ghazzali reportedly said: “Love is to sense a need of the beloved and since Allah cannot be said to have a need or an experience of a need, it is therefore impossible that Allah should love”.

I wish that someone would give the exact reference for this.  The book, page no. , date when written, etc. and even the original Arabic or Farsi.  Al Ghazzali was a Persian/Iranian from the city of Tus in northern Iran. Did he write his works in Arabic or Farsi?

Also:

Abdullah Kunde, at the end of one of his debates with Samuel Green, said something to the effect that Allah can change His mind at the last second and sent all the good people to hell, and all the bad people to heaven, and that we have no right to question.  (see the last video section. During the question and answer time, beginning at the 8:25 mark. )

This is one of the best debates out there, in my opinion.

Does anyone know where the quote from Al Ghazzali is found?

Abdullah Kunde quoted it at the end on the last video section of questions from the audience.

“If on the day of judgment Allah decides to send all the good people (believers in Allah) to hell and all the evil people to paradise, He can do that, and we have no right to question.” (I am remembering it from memory, so it may not be an exact quote.)

Can anyone  track that down and publish the reference? 

If all or even most Muslims agree with that statement that it is Islamic theology and not much disagreement; then that is enough for anyone not to want to become a Muslim, for it reveals the arbitrary and capricious nature of Allah and that His capricious will is above His nature/character and any promise or word to be faithful to that promise that He would give to believers.

But the God of the Bible cannot lie and is faithful to His promises.

Titus 1:2
God cannot lie.  What a wonderful verse ! – God cannot do anything that is against His nature.

James 1:13-14
God cannot sin, and is not tempted by sin.

I guess that is why Muslims do not really have real peace in their hearts, for they know that Allah can “outwit” / deceive / trick them on the final day.

Allah is the best of deceivers/schemers/tricksters” (Quran 3:54; 8:30; 10:21)  الله خیر المکارین 

The verses in the Bible that seem to say that God has decieved only mean that God sovereignly allowed humans and demons to deceive people.  But maybe that is what the Qur’an and Muslims believe also.

Yet, Jesus promises true peace (John 14:27, Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 5:1-11) and eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 20:30-31; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10, many others.

Another side point:  Abdullah Kunde also revealed why the west should never allow Sharia law to be introduced – he admitted that it is a rule that Christians cannot build new churches, in Islamic territories. (based on the Pact of Umar) What an unjust religion and exposes the agenda that many Muslims in the west.  In history, once the Muslims take over an area, through war and Jihad, and they are victorious, there is no freedom to evangelize or witness to Muslims or build new churches.  That is where the development of the doctrines and principles of “Dar al Islam” (The territory or abode of Islam and peace) vs. “Dar Al Harb” (the territory or abode of war, that it is acceptable to attack that area in war) came from, some time later in Islamic history.

I recommend the discussion I had with Paul Williams and other Muslims in the com boxes of Paul’s article were he critizes the doctrine of substitutionary atonement in the Bible and Christianity. Eventually, Paul stopped allowing my comments to go through.  I wonder why?  It seems he cannot deal with reason and good responses to his attacks.

In criticizing the atonement and Jesus taking on the wrath of God for sin and John Piper’s sermon, the part that Paul Williams leaves out is that Jesus the Son of God voluntarily chose, out of love to become flesh (John 1:1-5, 14; 17:5) and die for our sins and take on the wrath of God against our sin. He chose voluntarily to take the punishment, the curse.

John 10:18
Jesus said:  “No one takes My life from Me, I lay it down voluntarily on My own initiative. . . ”

Galatians 3:13-14

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Muslims then accused Jesus of committing suicide!

It was not really a suicide, since Jesus’ goal was to obtain redemption, forgiveness, and salvation for people. It was not a suicide, because suicides are sinful and tainted with self-pity, lack of faith in God and lack of hope; despair. Jesus counted the suffering and shame as nothing (Hebrews 12:1-2), “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, counting as nothing the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Rather it was the highest act of love in history for human beings; for sinners from all the nations. (Revelation 5:9; 7:9) Christ’s work on the cross accomplished two things 1. the atonement for sin (verse 24) and 2. Jesus is modeling how to respond to injustice; unjust suffering.

Jesus is the greatest model for mankind, not Muhammad.

Christ is our Example:

19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:19-25

The second person of the Trinity, the Word کلمه الله , the Son, took on a body and human soul, so God did not have a body in eternity past obviously (John 1:1-5; Philippians 2:5-8; John 17:5), but He (the Son, the Word, NOT the Father) took on a body and had a body on the cross, yes.

Posted in Apologetics, famous Muslim theologian, Gospel Truth, Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Islam, Muslims, The Atonement of Christ | Leave a comment

Excellent question by a Pakistani Christian for Shabir Ally

Shabir needs to read the book of Acts more carefully:

29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Acts 2:29-36

Posted in Apologetics, Gospel Truth, Historical reliability of the Bible, Islam, Muslims, Reliability of the Bible, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

Jesus is like bread for the hungry and water for the thirsty – the only one who can meet your spiritual need

John Piper preaching in the gospel of John.  John 6:27-40 – “Behold, Believe, Be Raised”

“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”    John 6:27-40

 

Posted in Gospel Truth, Spiritual growth | Leave a comment

We hope the Hollywood movie on Noah will get people to read the Biblical text

I have not seen the Noah film yet.  Here is an interesting critique of it.  Ben Shapiro saw the film Noah, and criticizes it for leaving out the main issue (Gen. 6:5, 6:11-12 –  sin and corruption in the heart) from the Biblical text. (see the video and article here)   The “radical modern environmental agenda” was there, but, according to some, not as prominent as some people say it is.

The main issue of the Noah narrative is the sinfulness of mankind deep in the thoughts and motives of the heart- Genesis 6:5-12; and that God is faithful to judge sin; and also merciful to some to not judge them for their sin.  Noah first found grace in eyes of the Lord, and then Noah was able to do good and live righteously and walk before God in fear and truth.  Good works don’t save, but they are the necessary fruit and result of true faith.

5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

In the future, God is going to judge the earth again, not by water, but by fire. After that, it will be too late. There is still to repent, until the second coming of Christ. 2 Peter 3:1-18

The film, according to many, portrays the main sins of mankind as environmental issues, like, not taking care of the environment, pollution, eating animals, and building cities, etc. (obviously the makers of this film are motivated by the modern Environmental movement and issues like “Global Warning”, etc.)   There is also protrayal of massive violence and corruption.  Obviously to Bible believing Christians, we do believe we should take care and manage the environment properly, for that is what God means in Genesis 1:26-28, when He says, “have dominion over the earth”.  But that is not obvious to many outside the church.   But the modern environmental movement, the “Global Warming”/”Climate Change” histeria, Al Gore’s massive hypocrisy, and the whole green energy agenda to try and completely get rid of all crude oil, coal, and nuclear- based industry, is unbalanced.  The film seems to have a subtle political agenda.  But from someone close to me who has seen the film (my brother); he said it also protrayed the seed of sin in the heart of man accurately also.  But I don’t think my brother could recognize the Gnostic elements that Alan Kurshner discerned.

The Biblical emphasis is on the evil thoughts and imaginations in the heart of man (Genesis 6:5; 8:21), – the lust, pride, selfishness, jealousies, anger, violence, greed, corruptions all start in the heart of men and woman and come out in evil words and evil deeds. (see also Mark 7:20-23) Even after the flood Noah gets drunk, and his son Ham does something wrong regarding nakedness, lewdness, mocking his father, disrespect, etc. (It is unclear exactly what it was, only that is was sinful, negative and relates to the Jewish OT idea of “uncovering your father’s nakedness”). (see Genesis chapter 9)   After the flood, the seed of sin is still in man from childhood (Genesis 8:21), even from conception in the womb. (Psalm 51:5, 58:3, Romans 5:12) The point of the Biblical narrative is to show that even those 8 people on the arc still had the seed of human lust and selfishness and pride deep in their hearts. Only Christ the Lord and Savior can give us a new heart. (Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 3:1-21; 2 Corinthians 5:17) We must realize this sinfulness and guilt before God (Romans 3:9-23) and repent (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:1-5; Acts 17:30-31), and turn to Christ and His atonement and resurrection to save us from our sins. (Romans 3:24-26; John 3:16-18; 5:24; Romans 10:9-10; John 20:30-31)

Hopefully, more people who see the movie will also go to the text of Scripture and see the emphasis on sin in the heart, and that it was still in the heart even after the flood, and how consistent that is with the New Testament teachings on sin, repentance, and the need for the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Posted in Hollywood cultural agenda, moral corruption of culture, Noah and the flood, Original sin | Leave a comment

The Truth of the Nicean Council (325 AD) and Arian Controversy- 318-381 AD

Paul Bilal Williams has reposted an article on the Council of Nicea by Unitarians, that is very skewed and inaccurate. 

The Unitarian source is inaccurate and skewed.  These 2 statements make the article not credible.

1.   “It was 325 A.D. at Nicea that the doctrine of the Trinity was rammed through by Athanasius . . . “

2.  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Constantine himself presided, actively guiding the discussions and personally proposed the crucial formula expressing the relationship of Christ to God in the creed issued by the council, of one substance with the Father.”

Both of these statements are inaccurate.

Paul needs to get up to speed and be more scholarly and read this book.

I wonder why Paul Williams didn’t let my comments through, which documents more accurately the events of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD?

R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God:  The Arian Controversy: 318-381 AD

Athanasius was only a deacon at the council of Nicea in 325 AD.  The main theologians and leaders were Ossius of Cordova (Spain), Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, Egypt (bishop over Athanasius), Eusebius of Caesarea, and Eusebius of Nicomedia, presbyters Victor and Vincentius as representatives of the bishop of Rome, Eustathius of Antioch, Marcellus of Ancyra, and Macarius of Jerusalem, and others. There was a lot of discussion between homoi-ousian (like substance) vs. homo-ousian (same substance). There were about 300 or 318 bishops there (historical sources vary as to the exact number) were debating the Biblical texts of John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8; John 14:9 (if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father).  The Council of Nicea did not just suddenly happen as to the content of the doctrine and creed without recognizing the wealth of writings and evidence for understanding the Biblical texts and interpretations of earlier Christian writers – early church fathers and writers such as Origen (250 AD) and earlier (Ignatius (110 AD), Justin Martyr (150 AD), Ireneaus(180-200 AD), Tertullian (200 AD), Clement of Alexandria (215 AD).  They all held to the Deity of Christ.

The issue at Nicaea was not exactly the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity (three persons (hypostasis) in One substance (ousia); rather it was mostly about how to understand the relationship of the Son/Word to the Father; the Deity of Christ, and was the Son/ the Word with the Father from all eternity past.  Although the Nicene creed does say “We believe in the Father, . . . and the Son, of the same substance of the Father, and we believe in the Holy Spirit . . . etc. – a Trinitarian organization of the creeds’ doctrines, it has not defined yet how to understand the 3 hypostasis (persons) with the One essence (ousia).

Here are some choice quotes from one of the top, if not the top historians of the Nicean Council and Arian controversy:

“Athanasius was certainly present as a deacon accompanying Alexander of Alexandria.  He tells us himself that he was present.  But it is equally certain that he can have taken no prominent or active part, in spite of later legends to this effect and the convictions of some scholars that he was the moving spirit in the Council.  A deacon would never have been permitted by the bishops to play a prominent part on such an occasion, and though he came with Alexander he was then by no means Alexander’s natural and clearly designated successor. ” (page 157, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, 318-381 AD, by R. P. C. Hanson, T & T Clark, 1985, Baker Academic, 2005.)

Athanasius himself “unmistakably witnesses that it was Ossius” (or also written Hosius) of Cordova, Spain who was the “presiding spirit at the council”. (Hanson, p. 154)

“The presence of Constantine was inevitable. He was not baptized: It is doubtful if he was even a Christian catechumen.  [ yet] But he had summoned the Council, had paid all its expenses.  He was a highly interested spectator.”  (Hanson, p. 157, ibid)

 

So Constantine was not the one guiding and controlling the Council in matters of theology.  He just kept the peace and wanted the bishops and theologians to work it out between themselves.

 

For several pages Hanson describes the Melitian controversy (about church discipline and allowing people who had apostatized during the persecution of Diocletian from 303-311 back into the church too quickly) and the different groups of these 300-318 bishops, who had more nuanced takes in between the issues of understanding Jesus as homoi-ousian (of like substance) or homo-ousian (of same substance) and other debates over words and phrases.  There was also the Donatist controversy, similar to the Melitian controversy.

 

After this discussion, Hanson notes, “This at least informs us that the Creed by produced by the Council was carefully and thoroughly debated, and not merely imposed by Constantine.” (ibid, 162)

 

So it was not imposed by either Athanasius nor guided by Constantine, nor was the phrase, “homo-ousias”, proposed by Constantine. He was not a theologian; he wanted unity in his empire.   Constantine called the Council because of several controversies that had broken out over Arius teaching since 318 that “there was a time in the past, when the Son/the Word did not exist) and the Melitian controversy in another area in Egypt and the different conflicts all over – many having to do with accepting people back into the churches too quickly after caving during the persecution of Diocletian in 303-311 AD.

 

In fact, Constantine did not “impose” his view, but in actuality, Eusebius of Nicodemia and [Eusebius of Caesaria (had a middle view between the 2 sides] Constantine favored the Arian view, and that is why later, after being persuaded by Arians, he favored the followers of Arius and more controversy broke out for 60 years with the Arians taking over in political power and becoming the bishops and Athanasius being exiled 5 different times.

 

After Nicea, there is some truth to the charge that Athanasius responded in anger and employed questionable tactics after he was exiled and after the Arians took over after Nicea by political maneuvering. He was human and responded in anger, yes.  Later evidence has come out, by archeological finds of the enemies and opponents of Athanasius, that he used “gangsterism” (hiring thugs, stirring up mobs) and arrogant and self-willfulness and refusing to show up at the Council of Tyre in 335 AD. (Hanson has a whole chapter on this – chapter 9 – The Behavior of Athanasius”, pages 239-273.

 

Even so, Athanasius sometimes bad behavior should not be seen as the main factor for the eventual victory of the doctrines of the Deity of Christ and the Trinity in 381 AD, which the Unitarian article seeks to assert. (and which is what you (Paul Williams) assert from the start.) Since there was lots of writings of others, and continued wrestling with the texts of Scripture and the writings of early church fathers and traditions, and the work of Gregory of Nyssa (335-395 AD), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390 AD), and Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD), and evidence from Cyril of Jerusalem (313 to 386 AD), and Hilary of Poitiers (300-368 AD) – they all contributed to the theological development from Nicea in 325 to Constantinople in 381 AD – the how to understand the texts of Scripture as pertaining to the doctrine of the Trinity.  But they were wrestling with the Scriptures, which were written between 48 AD to 96 AD.  So the doctrine was not suddenly thought up or forced by the Council of Nicea in 325, nor by the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD.

The Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

Muslims need to watch this and retire once and for all using the bad argumentation of the late Ahmad Deedat and Sheikh Awal. The Council of Nicea had nothing to do with the canon of Scripture and did not come up with the doctrine of the Trinity or the Deity of Christ. Also Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion; Constantine declared it legal and that they would not persecute the Christians anymore in 313 AD. It was a later Emporer, Theodosius 1, in 380 AD, who made Christianity the state religion. The film provides the excellent histocial evidence for anyone to find and research and understand that the Deity of Christ was believed long before the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Not only do we have clear New Testament verses on the Deity of Christ, which were written between 48 AD and 96 AD, but we have Ignatius of Antioch in 107-117 AD, Justin Martyr around 150 AD, Irenaeus and Tertullian in 180-220 AD and many others testifying to the Christian doctrine of the Deity of Christ. (Cyprian 250 AD, Clement of Alexandria – 215 AD, Origen, 250 AD, and others.) The only criticism I have of most portrayals of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, both in the film, and most paintings, is that they are anachronistic paintings done in the 1600s – 1900s, and show the bishops with mitre hats. The bishop’s mitre hat did not start being used until the 11 Century!

“Worn by a bishop, the mitre is depicted for the first time in two miniatures of the beginning of the eleventh century. The first written mention of it is found in a Bull of Pope Leo IX in the year 1049. By 1150 the use had spread to bishops throughout the West; by the 14th century the tiara was decorated with three crowns.” (from the article linked to above)

 

Posted in Apologetics, church history, The doctrine of the Trinity | 3 Comments