Answering a Devotee of Mary

Explanation: Working in Ireland, I sometimes receive emails from Roman Catholics. The following message was sent to a devout Roman Catholic, who advocated the veneration of Mary. It may help the reader witness to Roman Catholics. (The name of the reader has been removed from the message).

 

Dear [...],

Thank you very much for your email. In an age of religious apathy, it is good to find one genuinely interested in exploring the truth of God. Obviously, we will not agree, but at least we can disagree without rancor. That is my hope.

You begin by disparaging the Bible, which is not a good start. You assert that “the Bible does not teach the Trinity, etc.” I disagree. If the Bible does not teach those Christian doctrines, I have no business believing them. What you meant perhaps is that the Bible does not teach those doctrines using the precise theological language and terminology that the church has come to use in her creeds and confessional statements. That I can agree with. Nevertheless, the Trinity, to take just one example, is taught throughout the scriptures. The word is not there; the concept certainly is.

The Bible is the Word of God. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (II Tim. 3:16). That the church is the pillar and ground of the truth does not mean that the church invents the truth. The church cannot be the pillar of something that does not precede it. If I ask you to uphold something, that “something” must exist so that you can hold it up. The church exists in the world to hold up the truth that God has revealed. “The church precedes the Bible” is your claim. That is partly true. John, Peter, Paul and others who wrote the New Testament preceded the books that they wrote. However, the church does not precede the truth. God is the truth. Christ is the truth. The Spirit is the truth. God reveals the truth to the church, which then records it (by divine inspiration through the apostles and other holy men) and (in subsequent generations) upholds, proclaims, defends, and even develops, the truth. If any ecclesiastical body or religious organization does not hold up the truth, but holds up lies, it is not the church.

II Thessalonians 2:15 refers to “traditions,” but those traditions were the traditions which Paul and the other apostles had taught (“by word, or our epistle”). Subsequent “traditions” (such as the traditions of the “Church fathers” or the “Medieval theologians” or even the Reformers) must be tested by the Word of God. We do not accept something simply because Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine, or even John Calvin, taught it.  

The “Church fathers,” for example, taught many good (and also many bad) things. The idea that there is “a unanimous consent of the fathers” is a myth. They disagreed on many particulars, even on the interpretation of key texts.

(Some of) the church fathers may have taught that, as Christ is the second Adam (which the Bible teaches), so Mary is the second Eve (which the Bible does not teach), but they were mistaken. That is an example of bad tradition, not tradition to which we should hold fast. (Some of) the church fathers may have taught that, as salvation came through Christ (which the Bible teaches), so Mary brings salvation into the world (which the Bible does not teach). Some Christians may have been praying to Mary before 200 AD (I do not have the resources at hand to check the historical sources), but that does not make it good tradition. That (some of) the church fathers called Mary “Queen” or “Lady” is regrettable, but it does not make it right. The Bible does not give her those titles, and for good reason.

What is important, however, is the Biblical “evidence” you marshal in defense of your position. To those texts I now turn.

First, you appeal to the passage where Mary prophesied, “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). Mary uses the verb makarizoo, which means “to declare blessed” or “to declare happy.” It is also used in James 5:11 (“Behold we count them happy which endure”). The related adjective makarios is translated “blessed” in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12). It is not unique to Mary, therefore, to be blessed. Besides that, Mary does not say, “All generations shall bless me,” or “All generations shall venerate me.” She meant, “All generations shall recognize that God has blessed me.” In a similar vein, Elizabeth declares, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42). The Greek verb is eulogeoo (“to bless”), which appears many times in the New Testament. It, too, is not unique to Mary. Indeed, her blessing to be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah is unique, and we recognize that. Notice, however, she is not blessed “above” women, but “among” women. (Incidentally, Jael in Judges 5:24 is called “blessed … above women in the tent,” but that is another matter). Indeed, one particularly overzealous woman cries out on one occasion, “Blessed (makarios) is the womb that bare thee, and the paps [breasts] which thou hast sucked” (Luke 11:27). Jesus does not disagree with her, but He responds, “Yea rather blessed (makarios) are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (v. 28). In other words, Mary’s blessedness is not so much in her being the mother of Jesus (her unique blessedness, for sure) but in hearing the word of God and keeping it (which is the blessedness of all Christians, and the more important thing).

Second, I think (some of) the fathers, if you cite them correctly, were confused about the “divine motherhood.” What does that even mean? Mary does not have a divine motherhood. The term “Mother of God” is an unfortunate and inaccurate translation of the Greek term theotokos, which is found in the Chalcedonian Creed (451 AD). A better translation of theotokos is “God-bearer.” Why does the Creed call Mary “God-bearer”? It is not to exalt Mary, but to exalt Jesus. The one whom Mary bore in her womb is God, that is, He is the incarnation of the second person of the divine Trinity. Notice the careful language of Chalcedon: “Begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God (theotokos or “God-bearer”), according to the manhood.” Since the divine person or divine nature of the Son of God is eternal, infinite and unchangeable, Mary cannot be the mother of God. Mary was the mother of the Son of God according to His human nature.

I would be fascinated to understand your distinction between “veneration” and “honour,” which you give to Mary, and “worship,” which you withhold from her. Is that not a distinction without a difference?

Third, you claim that Gabriel “honours” her. How exactly does he do that? Gabriel does not fall down prostrate before Mary. He does not worship her. He speaks to her in announcing to her the miracle of the Incarnation. He says “Hail, thou that art highly favoured. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28). The word “Hail” simply means “Greetings.” It is never used in prayer, and prayer is never addressed in scripture to anyone but God. Indeed, Jesus greets a group of women after His resurrection with the words “All hail” (the same Greek verb), and no one suggests that Jesus was honouring them! The other phrase is “thou that art highly favoured,” of which the Greek original is kecharitomene, which you rightly identify. Kecharitomene does not mean “full of grace.” It means, “Favoured one” or “Graciously accepted one.” The ideas that Mary is so full of grace that she has no sin, and that she is so full of grace that she is able to dispense grace to others are absent from the text and absent from the Bible as a whole. Jesus Christ is “full of grace” (John 1:14). He is the fountain of all grace. Mary is an empty vessel, who received grace, as all Christians do. What about the tense of kecharitomene? It is true that the form of the verb is a perfect passive participle, which means that Mary has been favoured of God in the past, which favour continues into the present. The same verb, albeit not the perfect tense (but the aorist, or simple past tense), is used of all Christians in Ephesians 1:6: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted (charitooo) in the beloved.” Being highly favoured is not unique to Mary.

Your next claim is that “In scripture the queen is not the wife of the king, but his mother.” That is a half-truth, at best. The Hebrew word gebirah can be translated “queen mother,” although that is not always the translation. (The Hebrew Old Testament uses the word gebirah in the following verses: I Kings 11:1915:13II Kings 10:13II Chronicles 15:16Jeremiah 13:18 and 29:2. In none of them is “queen mother” the conclusive translation). Maachah, for example (I Kings 15:13), was the grandmother of Asa. The word gebirah simply means “mighty woman.” Besides that, the common Hebrew word for queen is malakah, which certainly designates the wife of the king in several passages. Esther, for example, is called queen throughout the book, and she was clearly not the mother of king Ahasuerus! Bathsheba, the wife of David and the mother of Solomon, is called neither gebirah nor malakah in scripture. It is true that Solomon greatly reverenced his mother (I Kings 2:19) in keeping with the fifth commandment (“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” [Ex. 20:12]), but that is not relevant to the point in hand. I would have you notice that, when Bathsheba attempted to intercede for Adonijah (“He will not say thee nay … I will not say thee nay” [I Kings 2:1720), Solomon did not grant Bathsheba’s request. The one for whom Bathsheba made a petition was put to death (v. 25)! So much for Bathsheba’s powerful intercession! Mary is not a gebirah, powerful and worthy of honour, your fanciful typological exegesis (eisegesis) notwithstanding! (Bathsheba is not a type of Mary, so any parallels you suggest are irrelevant). Mary is a humble handmaid (Luke 1:3848) upon whom God has condescended to look (v. 48). Our Lady and Queen of heaven are not Biblical titles attributed to Mary. Besides that, the bride of Christ is the church. She is the object of Christ’s love (and Mary is but one member of that church).

It is absolutely true that Simeon prophesied to Mary that a sword would pierce through her soul (Luke 2:35). That sword was the sorrow that a mother felt when she saw her son die on the cross. However, her sorrow (great as it was!) was not redemptive, and did not in any way contribute to the salvation of God’s people. Mary did not participate in Christ’s passion. She did not cooperate in His passion. She did not assent to His passion. And she did not offer Him up in His passion. She stood helplessly and passively as her Son died. She could do nothing to assist Him. She could not even offer Him a drink of water or caress His brow, something I dare say she wanted to do. In fact, had Mary had her way, she would most likely have tried to take Him down from the cross. She like most (if not all) of His disciples misunderstood the necessity of the cross. When Jesus died, He died alone. He drank the cup given to Him in Gethsemane alone. He bore the wrath of God in the darkness of Calvary alone. He did not have the assistance of Mary. Only Jesus, as the Son of God, could sustain the eternal wrath of God against sin in His body.

Jesus speaks to Mary from the cross, His last words to her. When Jesus said “Behold thy son” and “Behold thy mother” in John 19, he meant, “Mary, John will be your son now, to care for you;” and “John, care for Mary as your mother.” This is obvious because “from that hour that disciple [John] took her unto his own home” (v. 27). Jesus did not designate Mary the mother of the whole church or the mother of the whole human race. As He was dying, He was fulfilling His filial duties. Indeed, Jesus never calls Mary “mother” in the Gospels: he calls her “Woman” (John 2:419:26) and He rebukes her when she foolishly interferes with His divine mission (Luke 2:49John 2:4Matt. 12:46). Indeed, I would argue that Mary is no longer Jesus’ mother. Earthly relationships cease or change at death. If husbands and wives are not married in the afterlife, why should Jesus still consider Mary His mother in heaven (Mark 12:18-27)? Death cuts all earthly ties, including the mother-son relationship. Jesus recognized that when He committed Mary to John’s care.

There is a huge difference between someone asking a few friends or an entire congregation to pray for him or her while he or she is on earth and the supposed intercession of Mary and the saints in heaven. In Isaiah, for example, Israel prays, “Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting” (Isa. 63:16). They acknowledge that Abraham and Israel (Jacob) do not know them, indicating that departed saints cannot hear prayers. Consider this: if Mary is the great intercessor, she must be able to hear and answer millions of prayers offered around the clock, all across the world, in multiple languages. If she could do that, would she not need to be omniscient? Scripture never teaches us to offer our prayers through the intercession of Mary. The only intercessor in heaven is Jesus Christ: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5); “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1). Bear in mind, also, that the two functions of the priest (Jesus is the high priest) are sacrifice and intercession. Intercession is offered on the basis of the sacrifice. Mary has offered no sacrifice. Therefore, there is no basis for a Marian intercession. Besides, if Jesus, who is the Son of God, who has the Father’s ear, and who has died for my sins, cannot secure for me the blessings of salvation, why should I go to Mary, who is a mere creature? “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16). There is none so merciful to poor sinners as Jesus. Would anyone dare suggest that Mary is more merciful, more compassionate and more gracious than Jesus Christ?

Finally, you argue that Mary was sinless, which, you say, is the work of God. The Bible does not breathe a word about Mary’s supposed immaculate conception. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Mary was not. Jesus is free from all sin. Mary was not. When the Bible speaks of universal sin, guilt and depravity, it excludes only Jesus, never Mary. The reason Jesus is sinless is (1) He is the Son of God and (2) the operation of the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). You might think, as many Roman Catholic theologians like to theorize, that it is fitting that Mary be sinless, stainless and pure in order to accommodate Jesus in her womb. The Bible does not teach that such a thing is necessary or fitting. The Holy Spirit shielded Jesus from any pollution in Mary’s womb. Was the ark stainless, as you suggest? If you mean the ark of Noah, I highly doubt it: it was full of animals! Besides, where does the Bible ever draw a parallel between the ark of Noah (or the ark of the covenant) and Mary’s womb?

Scott Hahn says Mary is God’s masterpiece, which is a nice thought, I suppose, but nowhere taught in the Word of God. The Bible calls all believers God’s “workmanship” (Greek: poieema) “created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10). However, we do not venerate one another because of it. Certainly, God graciously prepared Mary for her role as the mother of Jesus. However, He does not command us to venerate her. An artist might not be offended when we praise his painting, but God is offended when we worship the creature instead of the Creator.

I mean no disrespect to Mary. She was, like many in the Bible, an admirable example of faith and piety. There is much that we can learn from her, but I will not go further than the Word of God allows. I will not pray to or venerate her. I will not seek her intercession. I will not give extra-biblical or anti-biblical titles to her.

I quote from the Reformed tradition, which does not replace, supplement or supersede the Word of God, from Belgic Confession, Article 26, Of Christ’s Intercession:

But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between him and us, ought in no wise to affright us by his majesty, or cause us to seek another according to our fancy. For there is no creature either in heaven or on earth who loveth us more than Jesus Christ; who, though he was in the form of God, yet made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a man, and of a servant for us, and was made like unto his brethren in all things. If then we should seek for another Mediator, who would be well affected towards us, whom could we find, who loved us more than he, who laid down his life for us, even when we were his enemies? And if we seek for one who hath power and majesty, who is there that has so much of both as he who sits at the right hand of his Father, and who hath all power in heaven and on earth? And who will sooner be heard than the own well beloved Son of God?”

Thank you again for your email, to which my response is longer than I intended. I did, however, want to answer your points as fully as I could. In addition, please respond if you have further questions or objections you would like to raise. I appreciate the opportunity to explain the scriptures.

______________________

This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 

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A Father’s Day Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven,

Our hearts overflow with gratitude to Thee that we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we can call Thee Father. We thank Thee that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are Thy children and heirs.

Knowing that, we praise Thee as the true and perfect Father; a Father who takes pity on us who fear Thee; a Father who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy; a Father who doth not deal with us after our sins, nor reward us according to our iniquities; a Father who hast removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west.

We thank Thee, Father, that in Thy love for us Thou dost chasten us. Though for the present that chastening does not seem joyous, but grievous, and though we are tempted to faint, to have our hands hang down, to have feeble knees, so that we despise Thy chastening, yet we are thankful for it. We thank Thee for the assurance this is that we are not bastards but sons. We thank Thee that Thou dost do it for our profit, that we might be partakers of Thy holiness. Cause it to yield in us the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

We thank Thee, Father, that Thou knowest our need of earthly things. As Thou dost feed the fowls of the air, so Thou dost feed us. As Thou dost clothe the lilies of the field, so Thou dost clothe us. Keep us from taking thought and being anxious for the morrow. And strengthen us to seek first Thy kingdom and its righteousness.

On this Father’s Day, we give Thee thanks for the faithful fathers of our flesh. We thank Thee that they reflect Thy Fatherly love in their love for us, and that they show us that love, tell us about that love, and surround us with the proof of that love. We thank Thee for their nurture of us, for their instruction of us in wisdom’s ways, for their godly example, for their faithful use of the rod and reproof, for their encouragement, for their advice and guidance. We are thankful that Thou hast used them to point us to Thee, our heavenly Father, and to Thy Son, Jesus Christ.

Continue, Father, to raise up strong fathers in our homes and churches. Work in the hearts of our sons so that they love Thee, love their wives as their own flesh, and love their children. Keep them from provoking their children to wrath, lest the children be discouraged. Equip them to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of Thee.

And, Father, comfort those whose hearts grieve in this day. Give grace upon grace in this day to those of Thy poor, wounded sons and daughters who carry the memory of a cruel, unloving, abusive father or a deadbeat father. Show Thyself a Father in this day to the lonely widow and the fatherless children. Bear up in this day those with the godly desire to have children and be a father, but whom Thou hast led down the path of single life or of the barren womb.

Uphold each of us, Thy children, in our journey home. Do not leave us orphans, but comfort us. And bring us to our place in Thy Fatherly house of many mansions.

We come to Thee in the name of Thy only-begotten Son, the Son of Thy bosom, whom Thou in Thy love hast sent to the cross for us, 

Amen.

__________________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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A Spiritual House Preserved

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A Spiritual House Preserved: A Century in the River's Bend (1916-2016)

This is the story of a church of our Lord Jesus Christ with very humble beginnings on the extreme western edge of Kent County near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Isolated by its location in a hook-like bend in the Grand River she faced many challenges. On one occasion the church’s membership of mostly poor farmers recorded in their minutes, “The question was asked if we were going to continue as a congregation, and the answer was yes.”

With that “yes” recorded in the tenth year of their existence they plodded on as a fledging congregation with little hope for the future. But God is at times a God of little things. Little did they know, or could they have imagined at the time, that God had many more years in store for them: years in which they would face numerous building projects and the regular birth pains of bearing three daughter congregations to address her consistent membership growth.

But this one-hundredth anniversary book of Hope Protestant Reformed Church is more than a record of Hope’s history. More importantly it reveals the secrets of why she continues as a faithful church of our Lord Jesus Christ today: secrets which if heeded gives Hope and like-minded churches hope for tomorrow.

  • edited by Calvin Kalsbeek
  • 752 pages
  • hardcover
  • ISBN 978-1-944555-06-01    
  • Retail: $44.95

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(***Note: This book will NOT be automatically sent to Book Club members, however, Book Club discount may be used on this title.)

     

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    Help! What Should I Do? (2)

    Last week I wrote the first of a handful of posts on the subject of making decisions and seeking to determine the will of God for our lives. In considering this topic, I had in mind especially high school and college graduates who are sailing on unfamiliar waters. But the principles laid out are for the old as well as the young, as we inevitably come to the crossroads and plead, “Help! What should I do?”

    In that first post, my point was simply to state that at some point we are all going to face a major decision, one that we alone are responsible for making.

    Before getting to the actual process of how we make a decision (that’s the next post, God willing), I want to point out what it is that causes the decision-making process to be so difficult.

    The fact that determining the will of God is difficult hardly needs proving. Most of us have been there and know what it’s like. It’s just plain tough. Inside rages a ferocious struggle: “Do I go with Option A or Option B?” We marshal all the pros, and agonize over the cons. We feel nervous, worried, anxious, scared. We sweat just thinking about our predicament. We cry hot tears of anger and frustration. We toss and turn in bed until the wee hours of the morning. And still we don’t know. “Which is it, A or B?”

    The fact is that making big decisions is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do.

    But why? Why is it that making these decisions is so tough?

    I think the difficulty lies in the fact that we can’t see the future. Or, to put it another way, it’s the uncertainty of it all. If only we could take a peek into the future, then making these decisions would be the proverbial piece of cake. If we could have just a quick glance into the future, then we could see the consequences of our choices. We could see whether our choices were going to be right or wrong, whether we would be happy or miserable. But, because we can’t see the future and we can’t protect ourselves from wrong decisions and bitter consequences, we agonize over what to do.

    Some mistakenly think that God will show them the future. They think that God will somehow mysteriously tell them what they ought to do. They think God is like a magic eight ball who will somehow reveal to them in a special way what they are supposed to do in a difficult situation. And until they get that special revelation from God, they are going to sit and wait and postpone every major decision and do nothing.

    But God does not work that way. God does not whisper in our ear and tell us what college we are to attend or what major we are to pursue or what house we should buy. And we are wrong to expect that of God. God is too wise to reveal to us the future. Obviously, God could do that, because, as Isaiah 46:10 says, God “declar[es] the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” But God does not do that, and because he doesn’t we can expect that making a big decision is going to be tough.

     

    Other posts in this series:

    Help! What Should I Do? (1)

    _________________

    This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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    Islam (3)

    If you read the Qur’an, you will learn very little about Jesus Christ.

    The New Testament presents Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, true God and true man. It records details concerning His birth, His childhood, His public ministry, His miracles and His teachings, and it devotes a lot of attention to His sufferings, His death, and His glorification (especially His resurrection from the dead). The Qur’an, on the other hand, contains very scant details about Jesus. It seems that Mohammed had very limited knowledge (and perhaps no knowledge at all) of the New Testament scriptures. Never does he interact with the New Testament scriptures, for example.

    This in itself is striking, for the Qur’an speaks of something called the Injil, which is the gospel: “We sent after them Jesus, the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the gospel [Injil]” (Surah 57:27). “It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went down before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel [Injil] (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion (of judgment between right and wrong” (Surah 3:3). If the Qur’an itself recommends the gospel [Injil], why is Mohammed ignorant of the gospel, and why does the Qur’an not interact with the clear teachings of the New Testament?

    The Qur’an presents Jesus Christ as a creature, as a mere man, who is a prophet or messenger of Allah. Time and time again, the Jesus of the Qur’an denies that he is anything more than a messenger. “Christ the Son of Mary was no more than a Messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make his signs clear to them: yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!” (Surah 5:75). “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, ‘Be’ and he was” (Surah 3:59). “Christ Jesus the Son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him … far (Exalted is He) from having a son” (Surah 4:171). “They say: ‘Allah hath begotten a Son!’—glory be to Him! He is self-sufficient! His are all things in the heavens and on earth! No warrant have ye for this! Say ye about Allah what ye know not” (Surah 10:68).

    The Qur’an clearly rejects the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, but does the Qur’an give any evidence that Mohammed understood what Christianity means by the confession, “Jesus is the Son of God”? Sadly, we have another example of a “straw man fallacy” in Islam’s “holy book.”

    Consider these texts from the Qur’an: “To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: how can He have a son when He hath no consort? He created all things, and hath full knowledge of all things” (Surah 6:101); “Exalted is the Majesty of our Lord: He hath taken neither a wife nor a son” (Surah 72:3). A consort is the spouse of a king or queen. Clearly, the writer of the Qur’an understands begetting a son to require a husband and a wife; and since Allah has not taken to himself a female consort (wife), he could not have begotten a son.

    However, Christians do not have any carnal conception of the Sonship of Jesus. This is something that we must explain to our Muslim neighbor when we witness to him. No Christian has ever taught, for example, that Mary is the consort of Allah, or even of God the Father. The Christian church taught in her historic creeds, centuries before Mohammed allegedly received the revelations that make up the Qur’an, what the Bible means when it calls Jesus “the Son of God” or “the only begotten Son of God.” Between 325-381 AD, the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople defined that Jesus is the Son of God in this sense: “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father; by whom all things were made...” In 451 AD, the Council of Chalcedon defined the orthodox Christian position in these words: “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead…”

    Jesus is the eternal, only begotten, uncreated Son of God.

    By the term “Son of God” the Bible does not mean merely that Jesus is like God. The term “Son of God means that Jesus has the same essence as the Father and the Spirit (recall the word homoousion from the last blog post on this subject), the same attributes as the Father and the Spirit, performs the same works as the Father and the Spirit, and receives the same worship as the Father and the Spirit. Indeed, He has the same life as God. In other words, if Jesus is the Son of God, He is God.

    The Bible says some wonderful things about the relationship between the Father and the Son: According to Hebrews 1:3, the Son of God is “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of [God’s] person.” Colossians 1:15 calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

    Another reason why this is difficult to understand is our experience of fathers and sons. Would not God the Father be “older” than God the Son? And if God is the Father of Jesus, does He not need a wife or a consort, in order to “beget a son”? And if God is the Father of Jesus, does that not make God the Creator of Jesus, and does that not make Jesus a creature, like an angel? Many religious groups reject or corrupt the teaching that Jesus is the Son of God with such misconceptions.

    First, the Bible is clear that Jesus is the eternal Son of God—which means that He does not have a beginning. He is not younger than God the Father. He is eternal. About God, scripture says, “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God” (Ps. 90:2). About the Son of God, scripture says, “Out of thee [Bethlehem] shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). The Son of God has no beginning or ending. He has no eternal mother, only an eternal Father. He always was. He always is. He always shall be.

    Second, the Bible calls Jesus the only begotten Son of God. That term “begotten” needs explanation.

    A person might be the son of his father in different senses. A person might be his father’s son biologically—a DNA test would verify the biological parentage. A person might be his father’s son legally—by the act of adoption, a man could bestow the rights and privileges upon one who is not biologically related to him.

    Similarly, the Bible uses the term “son of God” in different senses. The angels, for example, are the created sons of God. Jesus is not the created Son of God. Believers are the adopted sons of God. Jesus is not the adopted Son of God.

    Jesus is begotten, indeed, only begotten. The verb “beget” describes the activity of a father in bringing forth a son. In begetting a son, a man brings forth one who is of the same being as himself but who is personally distinct from himself. When a human father begets a son, for example, he does not beget a horse or a cat—he begets another human person. Since God the Father is spiritual, He does not beget a physical Son—He begets the Son in an eternal, spiritual act. Within the infinite spiritual being of God, the Father begets the Son, who is the image of the Father, and the object of the Father’s eternal love and delight. And no consort or divine mother is involved.

    Thus, the Father brings forth the Son eternally within His own being. Never is the Father without the Son. Never is the Son without the Father. The Bible says of Jesus, “He is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18). Let us not have any carnal conception of this great wonder!

    Next time, DV, we will explain what we mean by the Incarnation of the Son of God, something about which Muslims have many misconceptions.

    _________________

    This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 

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    New Book Release: God's Goodness Always Particular

    NEW RELEASE!

    What does the Bible teach regarding God’s attitude to the reprobate ungodly? What are the implications that God has an attitude of favor to the wicked? Do the Psalms support or give the lie to the theory of common grace? Does Zwier’s “triple cord” of biblical texts hold firm, or is it cut to ribbons? Read and gain new appreciation for the truth that God’s goodness is always particular.

    • 144 pages
    • paperback
    • ISBN 978-1-936054-90-9
    • also available in ebook format

    Note: This book will not be automatically sent to our Book Club members.

                         

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    Help! What Should I Do? (1)

    For many, the end of May and the beginning of June means one thing: school is out. The week gone by or the week to come marks the end of the school year and the beginning of three months of bonfires and baseball, swimming and sleepovers.

    But for some, this time does not signal a season of leisure without any responsibilities. Some have graduated from high school. Others have received a college degree. And now they face difficult, life-altering decisions.

    And the desperate cry is heard, “Help! What should I do?”

    This is not just the case with graduates. There are times in the life of every child of God when he is forced to make difficult decisions. We’re not talking here about the small, insignificant choices we make all the time, such as, “What am I going to have for lunch?” We’re talking here about the serious, wring-your-hands, can’t-sleep-at-night decisions.

    And from our lips is heard the cry, “Somebody, help! What am I supposed to do?”

    In this and a few other posts, I’d like to consider a few guiding principles that help us make decisions and determine what is the will of God for our lives.

    To start, I simply want to state the obvious: we must expect that we will have to make major, life-changing decisions.
     
    The high school graduate faces difficult questions regarding college:

    • Are you going to go on to college or not?
    • If you are, where are you going to attend? A secular university? A Christian college? A community college?
    • Are you going to attend a college close by or are you going to enroll at a school that is far from home? Are you going to live with dad and mom or live on-campus?
    • What are you going to go to school for? What are you going to major in?

    Others face difficult questions regarding their career path:

    • You’ve decided not to attend college, but what are you going to do for a job? You’ve finished college, but what specific line of work are you going to pursue?
    • What are you going to do with the money you’re earning? Are you going to buy a house? Are you going to get a new vehicle? Are you going to save it?
    • Where are you going to live? Are you going to take a job around home, or are you going to move to a different part of the country?

    There are decisions that have to be made about relationships:

    • Are you looking to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend? And if so, who are you going to date? What kind of person are you looking for?
    • If you are dating someone seriously, when do you think you are going to get married?
    • If you are dating someone from a different church and want to get married, whose church are you going to join?
    • If you are dating someone from a different part of the country and want to get married, are you going to move?

    What often adds to the difficulty of these decisions is that we have to make them on our own. Yes, there are others that can give advice and help point us in the right direction. But usually the difficult decisions are ones that no one else can make for us.

    This is a new experience for a young person. When you were a child, your parents made most of the tough decisions for you, sometimes without your even being aware of it. But such is not the case when you reach adulthood. Part of maturing and becoming an adult means being placed in situations where you will be forced to make important decisions. You might be tempted to dump these decisions on your parents or tempted not to make a decision at all so that you can postpone growing up, but you cannot live the rest of your life as a child, bringing every tough decision to dad and mom to make for you.

    So, expect to be in situation where an important decision must be made.

    Next time, I want to mention a few more things that make these decisions so difficult.

    _________________

    This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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    The Only-Begotten Son of God…Begotten, not Made

    Ligonier Ministries and its founder, R. C. Sproul, and at least one of its contributing writers have some explaining to do. The May 16, 2016 edition of Tabletalk, published by Ligonier ministries is devoted to John 3:16 which is quoted on the front cover of the issue.

    FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.

    The word begotten is missing. No explanation is given why this translation of John 3:16 that omits the word was chosen. Writer Scott Swain, appointed to write about the portion of the text that refers to Jesus as God’s Son, entitled his article “His Only Son” instead of “His Only-Begotten Son.” Swain also makes no mention of the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father in the body of his article. Again no explanation is given for this omission. But the omission of begotten may not go unnoticed or unexplained. Those who would elide begotten from John 3:16 (or any of the other passages that traditionally include the word) need to answer the following questions.

    • Why do they translate only one part of a Greek word that has two parts?

    The translation of the Bible that the May issues of Tabletalk used for John 3:16 translates the Greek word monogenes as ‘only.’ The first part of the word, mono, indeed means ‘only.’ But the second part of the word, genes, is derived from the Greek verb that means ‘to beget.’ The only way to translate monogenes accurately is to render it as ‘only begotten.’

    • How can the meaning of John 3:16, namely the greatness of God’s love, be understood without identifying God’s gift as his only-begotten Son?

    In John 3:16 the greatness of God’s love corresponds to the greatness of the gift he has given for the salvation of his people. The greatness of the gift is not adequately expressed as God’s giving of his “only Son.” Swain tries to explain God’s gift of Jesus as a great gift without referring to his begetting by the Father. He mentions “Jesus’ filial relationship to the Father as the second person of the Trinity.” He describes the relationship between the Father and Son as “eternal” and says “the only Son’s relationship to the Father is a relationship of equality.” That the Son is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father is true. But one cannot say that John 3:16 teaches us these truths if it merely says Jesus is the “only Son” of God. He does not have to be co-eternal and co-equal with God to be his only Son. An only Son could be a mere creature. And if God’s gift is merely a unique creature, then his gift is not as great as John 3:16 intends to teach, and his love is also minimized. One might say that comparing John 3:16 to other parts of scripture confirms that Jesus is not merely a unique creature. This is true. But John 3:16 itself teaches God’s great love is displayed in the great gift of one who is himself God by using the word begotten. Leaving begotten out attacks the teaching of scripture in John 3:16 about the greatness of God’s love and gift in the giving of Jesus Christ.

    • Why do they choose a translation that obscures one of the ways that scriptures teaches the divinity of the Son?

    This question is similar to the one above, but it deserves separate attention. Satan loves to attack the truth that Jesus is God. Under his direction the enemies of the truth of the Trinity attack the term begotten. They hate the idea that the Son is of the same essence as the Father because he is eternally generated by the Father. So they favor the idea that the Son was created or made by the Father as the first creature. Since the truth that the Son is begotten by the Father and therefore co-equal and co-essential with the Father and the Spirit, why would anyone who professes to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity want to give up the term?

    • Why do they choose a translation that threatens the threeness of God?

    The church of Jesus Christ confesses one God who is three in person. The Belgic Confession explains it this way in Article 8, “we believe in one only God, who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The Article goes on to teach us what some of the incommunicable properties of the three Persons are. The Son is the Word. The Father and the Spirit are not the Word. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son do not proceed from any of the other persons of the Godhead. Article 10 speaks of the personal property of the Son that he is “begotten from eternity, not made nor created.” Article 11 teaches that the Holy Spirit “from eternity proceeds from the Father and Son; and therefore is not made, created, nor begotten, but only proceedeth from both.” That the Father alone begets and that the Son alone is begotten is one of the important ways that the three Persons of the Godhead are distinguished from each other. To deny that the Son is begotten by the Father raises the question of how the Father and Son actually differ from each other. If the Arians are on one side rooting against the idea that the Son is begotten so as to deny his divinity, the Sabellians are on the other side rooting against the term to erase the distinction between the Father and the Son. For the sake of maintaining the truth that God is three in person it is necessary to confess that the Son’s personal incommunicable attribute is that he is begotten by the Father.

    • Why do they choose to translate John 3:16 in a way that makes an incorrect statement, when the traditional translation accurately and clearly teaches the truth?

    Jesus is not the only son of God. Swain understands this. He explains that the relationship of the Son to the Father is “unique” in comparison to the relationship that saved sinners have with God. He is the only “natural” Son of God while they are “adopted” sons. But the translation Swain uses of John 3:16 does not indicate that this is the difference between Jesus and others who are also the children of God. The translation he uses unnecessarily teaches that God has no other children besides Jesus. And it will not help to change the word only to “unique.” That does not help us to understand what the difference between Jesus and the other children of God is. There is one term that helps us understand that the difference is indeed between a natural Son and adopted sons—BEGOTTEN. Calling Jesus the only-begotten Son is not only completely true but it is also comforting. That Jesus is the only-begotten Son does not give saved sinners any reason to doubt that they are also the children of God.

    • Why do they not feel compelled by the Church’s Creeds to interpret scripture as teaching that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God?

    That Ligonier, Sproul, and Swain have some explaining to do does not mean they need to explain themselves to me or to any other individual. They must explain themselves to the church of Jesus Christ. Begotten is part of the church’s vocabulary in her creeds. The apostolic church has officially interpreted scripture to teach that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God. The Nicene Creed is especially of importance regarding this truth. The church confesses to believe “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds…begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” Theologians may not treat begotten as if it is one of their own words to accept or reject as they wish. It is not a term they may choose to criticize in or ignore in their writings. If they believe the term needs to be rejected, they need to bring their sentiments to the church, and until they do so they may not write or teach anything contrary to the church’s confession.  

     

    Appendix

    Creed

    Statement of Faith

    Nicene Creed

    And in one Lord JESUS CHRIST, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds…begotten not made.

    The Symbol of Chalcedon

    We, then, following the holy fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect Godhead and also perfect in manhood…begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead.

    The Athanasian Creed

    The Son is of the Father alone: not made, nor created: but begotten.

    Luther’s Small Catechism

    I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity…is my Lord.

    2nd Helvetic Confession

    “…we believe…the Father has begotten the Son from eternity, the Son is begotten by an ineffable generation.”

    The Heidelberg Catechism

    Question 33. Why is he called God’s only-begotten Son, since we are also the children of God? Answer. Because Christ alone is the natural Son of God; but we are children of God by adoption through grace for his sake.

    Belgic Confession

    We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made nor created.

    Westminster Confession of Faith

    The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

     

    ____________________

    This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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    Islam (2)

    In the last blog post on this subject we noticed that many Muslims do not understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. This is because their book, the Qur’an either deliberately or ignorantly misrepresents the doctrine. We call this a “straw man” argument—a “straw man fallacy” occurs when a person creates a misrepresentation of his opponent’s position and attacks it instead of the true position of the opponent. Christians must not be guilty of such fallacies. The Ninth Commandment of God’s Law forbids “falsify[ing] any man’s words” (Heidelberg Catechism, LD 43).

    When the Qur’an presents Christians as worshipping Jesus and His mother “in derogation of Allah” (Surah 5:116) or presents Christians as joining “other gods with Allah” (Surah 5:72-73), the Muslim’s supposedly inspired text grossly misrepresents what Christians believe. The Trinity does not consist of Allah, Jesus and Mary, and the Trinity does not consist of many gods. Consider another text from the Qur’an: “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except one God” (Surah 5:73).

    Two concepts in Islamic theology make it very difficult for the Muslim to understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity—in addition, of course, to the natural depravity of the human heart. Those two concepts are tawhid and shirk.

    Tawhid is the absolute oneness of Allah—Islam is a religion of absolute, non-negotiable, Unitarian monotheism. Muslims view other religions (except Judaism) as polytheistic. Hinduism, for example, is polytheistic, for Hindus do indeed worship many gods. Christianity, however, is not polytheistic, for Christians worship only one God. However, when Muslims hear that Christians worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit (or when they imagine that Christians worship Allah, Jesus and Mary!), they conclude wrongly that Christians are polytheistic.

    Shirk is the unforgivable sin (in Islam) of associating others with Allah. Muslims fear the sin of shirk above all other transgressions. Allah can forgive adultery, murder and every other sin, but Allah will not under any circumstances forgive one who has died in the sin of shirk: “Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him, but He forgiveth anything else to whom he pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed” (Surah 4:48). “Whoever joins other gods with Allah—Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the fire will be his abode. There will for the wrongdoers be no one to help” (Surah 5:72).

    No wonder that the Muslim is especially prejudiced against Christianity—it has been ingrained into him that Christianity is shirk! What the Christian needs to do, therefore, in witnessing is to demonstrate to the Muslim neighbor that the doctrine of the Trinity has nothing to do with shirk. And the Christian must pray that the Spirit of God might open the heart of the Muslim neighbor to receive the truth. Ultimately, we can only present the truth. We cannot convince anyone of the truth. That is the work of God’s Spirit, who blows where He wills in the hearts of God’s elect (John 3:8).

    The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, but that should not disturb us, for every field of knowledge has technical vocabulary and terminology. The word Trinity is shorthand for theological concepts that are found in the Bible. The word Trinity explains who God is—in a certain sense, He is one; and in another sense, He is three. He is one God in three distinct persons. This is basic Christianity, but the Muslim will find it confusing.

    The Bible teaches that there is only one God. This is the teaching of the Old Testament. When the Gentiles worshipped many gods, Israel confessed and worshipped only one God. “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and beside me there is no Saviour” (Isaiah 43:10-11). This is also the teaching of the New Testament—Christians did not jettison their monotheism even when they confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord. They continued to confess and worship only one God, the same God as the God of the Old Testament. The Greeks and Romans worshipped many gods, but the church steadfastly remained monotheistic. “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

    Nevertheless, the Bible does not hesitate to give the name of God, ascribe the attributes of God, attribute the works of God, and present the worship of God to three individuals—to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

    The Bible gives the name of God to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. The Bible ascribes the attributes of God to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. The Bible attributes the works of God to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And the Bible presents the worship of God to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

    Many texts could be cited to prove the points above, but I forbear for lack of space. The point, however, is this—the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Holy Spirit is called God, and yet there is only one God. (Notice, by the way, contrary to the misrepresentation of the Qur’an, that it is not that Allah is called God, Jesus is called God and Mary is called God. Nor is that the Son is called God and joined as a secondary God to Allah. Nor is that others are worshipped as gods alongside Allah. The doctrine of the Trinity means that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equally God).

    To explain the truth of the Trinity, the early church needed to use terminology. In what sense is God one, and in what sense is God three? The theological terms on which the church settled were being or essence, and person. Of course, the early church used Greek terms (ousia and hypostasis). These terms became all the more important because of the presence of false teachers in the church. For example, a heretic called Arius (d. 336) agreed to call the Son of God homoiousion, which means of a similar essence or being to the Father, but he baulked at the word homoousion, which means of the same essence or being as the Father. (The astute reader will notice that the difference between those two words, and therefore the difference between heresy and orthodoxy, is one letter—the smallest Greek letter, iota!). These theological debates occurred long before Mohammed’s birth, as I explained in the last blog post on this subject.

    The being or essence of something makes it what it is, and distinguishes it from every other being. Everything apart from God is creature. The divine being of God is unique—and one. There are not two, or three beings called God. There is one God, one divine being, or one indivisible Godhead.

    A person is a conscious, intelligent, active individual distinct from other persons. The writer of this blog post is a person. The individual reader is another, distinct person. This world has billions of human persons in it.

    The difficulty is this—in our human experience, one human being is also one human person. No analogy or illustration exists in which one being is more than one person. Yet that is who God is—He is three distinct persons subsisting in one divine being. To understand something of that, or to grasp that, is to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father is not the same person as the Son or the Holy Spirit, yet He shares the same being as the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son is not the same person as the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet He shares the same being as the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the same person as the Father or the Son, yet He shares the same being as the Father and the Son.

    Is that deep and mysterious? Absolutely! Is that illogical, contradictory and impossible to reconcile with human reason? Absolutely not!

    There are two more significant truths about the Trinity that we must bear in mind.

    First, the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity is one of equality. Christians do not worship one person “in derogation” of the other persons. Christians view the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as coequal in power, glory and majesty—there is no gradation of being or difference of rank. The Father is not more divine than the Son or the Holy Spirit, for example. The Father is not higher, and the Son is not subordinate to the Father in the being of God. Remember the word homoousion—of the same essence. There is also no time in the Trinity—the Trinity is eternal, which means that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal. The Father is not before the Son or before the Spirit.

    Second, the relationship between the persons of the Trinity is one of perfect love and fellowship. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not rivals, but holy family. The Father loves the Son in the Holy Spirit, and the Son loves the Father in the Holy Spirit. God, therefore, is not a lonely deity, but He is the living God, full of life, love and fellowship, within Himself, within His own being. It is because of this love of God within the being of God that God is capable of loving the creature.

    This God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—is the God of our salvation.

    Next time, DV, we will explain what we mean by the Christian confession that Jesus is the Son of God, something about which Muslims have many misconceptions.

    _________________

    This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 

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    Islam (1)

    Because of multiculturalism and increased immigration, especially in Europe, Muslims are increasingly common in the post-Christian West. This makes Muslims our neighbors, those whom God has placed on our path. Many Christians view Muslims as their enemies. Nevertheless, the command of Christ is clear—love your neighbor, and even love your enemy.

    Part of the love that the Christian owes his Muslim neighbor is to present the gospel to him. Many Christians are ill equipped to do so. In a series of blog posts, I intend to introduce the reader to the doctrines of Islam, so that we can better understand our Muslim neighbor, and so that we can witness to him about Jesus Christ. You might find that the Muslim is more interested in hearing the gospel than the hardened “lapsed Christian.”

    One problem in witnessing to Muslims is that Muslims misunderstand what Christianity is. They have wrong notions about the Trinity, the Son of God, and other Christian truths. Not only do they reject them, but their Qur’an misrepresents them. This is a formidable barrier, but it can be overcome when we plainly state the truth.

    A good place to begin is with history. The Qur’an was written during the lifetime of Mohammed (c. 570-632 AD). A lot of very significant church history took place before Mohammed’s birth. First, the Christian church defined from the scriptures the doctrine of the Trinity (the Council of Nicea in 325 AD and the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD). Second, the Christian church defined the relationship between the one person and the two natures (human and divine) of Jesus Christ (the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD).

    The reason that these dates are significant is simple—the church had defined from the New Testament who God is and who Jesus Christ is over a century before Mohammed’s birth. (We do not mean that the church invented these doctrines, but that the church officially defined them out of the inspired scriptures). Therefore, the Qur’an, which Mohammed allegedly received as divine revelation, should accurately reflect what the church had defined. If the Qur’an shows evidence of ignorance of Christian doctrine or deliberate misrepresentation of it, the Muslim is faced with very serious questions about the authenticity of his “sacred book.”

    Consider the following citations from the Qur’an against the Trinity:

     And behold, Allah will say: ‘O Jesus, the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?’ He will say: ‘Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldest indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Thine. For thou knowest in full all that is hidden’ (Surah 5:116).

    O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not Three: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One God: glory be to Him: (far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs (Surah 4:171).

     They do blaspheme who say: ‘God is Christ the son of Mary.’ But said Christ: ‘O children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ Whoever joins other gods with Allah, Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrongdoers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily, a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Surah 5:72-73).

    The reader will notice that the writer of the Qur’an views the Trinity very differently from the official statements of the Christian church. “Worship me and my mother in derogation of Allah.” The Qur’an’s “Trinity” is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but Allah, Jesus and Mary! Moreover, the Qur’an views the Trinity as “join[ing] other gods with Allah.”

    This misrepresentation of the Trinity is inexcusable because the church defined the Trinity as one God in three distinct persons centuries before Mohammed wrote one word of the Qur’an. No Christian has ever defined the Trinity as the Qur’an does. It is, however, easy to imagine how Mohammed could have jumped to such a conclusion. Mohammed observed churches; he saw statues and icons; and he conversed with Christian merchants of various heretical sects. There is no evidence, however, that he was familiar with the Nicene or Chalcedonian creeds. In fact many believe that Mohammed was illiterate.

    I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made … And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

    How could Mohammed have been unaware of a theological controversy that had been resolved in the Christian church two centuries before the Qur’an was written, if he is (as Islam claims) the prophet of God, and if the Qur’an is (as Islam claims) the inspired word of the all knowing, all seeing Allah? For Mohammed to disagree with Christian orthodoxy is one thing; for him to be ignorant of or deliberately to misrepresent it is quite another.

    Next time, DV, we will explain what we mean by the Trinity so that we can properly present the truth that Jesus is the Son of God to our Muslim neighbor.

    ______________

    This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 

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