Tag Archives: Trinity

Corresponding With a Muslim About Jesus

A couple of months ago I was asked to visit (as a guest) a mosque here in Chattanooga. It was not my intention to debate anyone. For that matter, I did my best to avoid conversation. However, there was a man there who had met my daughter the month before and had discussed with her the divinity of Jesus.  When he found out that I was there this time, he came over and began to talk to me. In other words, he started it, not me.

Hammad used to go a Baptist church, but converted to Islam after reading the Quran. Later he wrote The Evidence, a small book meant to prove that Jesus was never crucified and that He never claimed to be God. When he sat down to talk with me, he was amazed to discover that I had actually read his book. He asked, “So, what did you think about it?”

“Honestly,” I replied, “I thought it had a lot of errors in it.”

A little taken aback by my forwardness and honesty, he said, “Oh, really? Like what?”

From that point I began to point out places in his work where he had misapplied Scripture and made unrealistic claims that were obviously contradicted by other passages in the Bible. I told Hammad that if he really wanted his arguments to carry more weight, it might be good for him to better learn the Bible he was trying to discredit and deny.

One particular claim he made was that none of Jesus’ disciples saw him crucified, therefore there were no actual witnesses. That is why, as he explained, Jesus appeared to the disciples – to prove to them that He was alive…that He had not actually been killed.

I said, “However, there were witnesses to the crucifixion, and one of those was an actual disciple. Jesus even spoke to him.”

“Who was that?” he asked.

“John. Jesus spoke to him and told him to take care of his mother, Mary, who was also there,” I replied.

“I’ve never read that before. Where’s it written?” Hamaad asked.

“In the book of John.”

“Really?” he said as he looked a little stunned. “Can you send me that in an email?”

“Sure,” I said. “I would be happy to.”

We agreed to correspond by email, therefore I sent him an email addressing some questions he’d asked. He sent an email in response, attempting to show me where I was wrong, using the Quran to prove it. He then went on to ask me to answer one question, if nothing else: “Where did Jesus ever say, ‘I am God’?”

I responded with two back-to-back emails, the first one dealing with the authority of Scripture, the second being the one I’m including in this post.

Yes, it’s long, but it’s here if you want to read it. Who knows, you might find something interesting in it.

Please pray for Mr. Hamaad. Pray that he will come to a better understanding of the faith that he left, that he will actually come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior.


Greetings,

In my last email, I primarily focused on one thing: the veracity and authority of the Bible. I hope you understood it was not my intent to be offensive in any way, only to point out the differences between you and me, primarily that we have very different opinions of the Bible and the Quran. I hope it was helpful. It will certainly have a bearing on the subject matter of this email, that’s for sure.

There were some other questions you asked, and there were other issues in your book on which I disagreed, but I guess one question you asked me to address is surely one of the most important: Did Jesus ever claim to be God? It’s along the same line as the question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

I am well aware that one of the cornerstones of your faith is the shahada: “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” I’m also aware of John 17:3, a passage Muslims typically use in an attempt to show that Jesus denied being God.

But aside from John 17:3, which could be debated at another time, I believe you issued the challenge to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually spoke the words, “I am God.”  You were confident that I would never be able to provide you with those exact words, and rightfully so, for those exact words are not found in the New Testament.

However, I would like for you to consider the fact that even though Jesus never spoke THOSE exact words, He did say other words that carried the same meaning, thereby supporting the conclusion that Jesus did in fact believe and say that He was Divine, and Muslim interpretation of John 17:3 is out of harmony with the whole of Scripture.

But again, if at this point you are looking only for those three words – “I am God” – then nothing I say will be helpful. If you have already determined that you will reject similar statements that carry the same meaning, then I guess what I’m writing is futile. However, I will do my best to give you an answer to what you requested.

To begin with, I would like to take you back to the Old Testament, back to where the Messiah was foretold. Before Jesus was ever born, he was spoken of in terms that were nothing short of shocking: He would be “God with us.”

In Isaiah 7:14 we read the prophecy that the promised Son would be born of a Virgin and called “Immanuel.”

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

That this verse was speaking of Jesus was confirmed by Matthew when he recorded the words of the angel of the Lord as he comforted Joseph regarding Mary’s pregnancy:

Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

If Isaiah 7:14 wasn’t clear enough, Isaiah 9:6 states that the coming Messiah “shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Now, stop and think about that verse for just one moment. Who besides God could be called God? There is no other God but God, correct? Who besides God could be called “everlasting”? Even if this verse was not prophetically speaking of Jesus, is there any other person who could fit the bill? Who else besides God is uncreated (“everlasting”)?

Speaking of “everlasting Father,” what is a characteristic of God that no one else can have? There are several attributes that are unique to God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc.), but just looking at this one thing, only God can be eternal, correct? Only God has existed before time was created. Only God has always been, always in the present, eternal.

You asked me to show anywhere Jesus said, “I am God.” Well, based on the above verses, it would seem, then, that a clear example would be found in John 8:58

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus was clear enough to cause them to pick up stones to kill Him. In the present tense and indicative mood He made it crystal clear He was more than a man, more than a prophet, but actually the eternally existent, the “I am.” What did God say to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14)?

I Am that I Am…

The Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus meant when He said that, and that is why they wanted to kill Him.

Again, I believe that what you wanted from me was to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually made the claim or said the words that He was God, correct? However, would you accept any other verses in the Bible that claim it for Him? For example, there is the classic passage of John 1:1-3. There, Jesus is referred to as the Word of God who was “with” God and “was” God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” – John 1:1-3

You know, many like yourself argue that Jesus was a created human being, not eternal. However, the above verses plainly state that all things were made by Him, and nothing that was made (and that would include any created being) was made without Him. Verse 4 of the same chapter goes even further to make this truth clear: Jesus was not just a man; He was the light and life of all men, which necessitated His pre-existence.

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” – John 1:4

And besides the many other places, the Book of Revelation makes it pretty clear Jesus was way more than just another prophet:

Behold, he cometh ewith clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.  I am Alpha and Omega, hthe beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:7-8).[i]

For that matter, it is in Revelation 1:17-18 that we read where Jesus Himself spoke of His death and resurrection: “…Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”[ii]

The “I Am” statements…

Now, if you will notice, just like in the last verse, there are a lot of places where Jesus claimed “I am…” this or “I am…” that.

In seven passages John records the well-known “I Am” sayings where Jesus describes himself using a graphic metaphor: “I am the bread* of life*” (6:35, 41, 48, 51); “I am the light* of the world” (8:12; 9:5); “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, 9); “I am the good shepherd*” (10:11, 14); “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “I am the true vine*” (15:1, 5).[1]

In each one of these statements Jesus was doing a lot more than illustrating with metaphor; He was declaring fact. Jesus didn’t say that He was just a door, or a way, or a light; He claimed to be THE Door, THE Way, THE Light. He emphatically declared that He was THE Truth and THE Life.

By declaring these things, Jesus was saying that all other “truth” was subordinate to Him. He was saying that there was NO other way – no path, no road, no pilgrimage, no hajj – to God but through Him. But even more, He was declaring that He was more than the One who spoke or demonstrated truth; He WAS Truth! The same applied to all the other “I AM” statements.

The “Truth” Claim…

If Jesus had never once said the exact words “I am God,” He essentially said the very same thing with the “I Am” statements. Why? Let’s just consider the word “truth.”

The Bible does not provide a systematic account of the nature of truth in either its theological or philosophical dimensions. Nevertheless great prominence is given to the idea of truth in Scripture because God is the God of truth (Pss 31:5; 108:4; 146:6) who speaks and judges truly (Pss 57:3; 96:13). God is the God of all truth because he is the Creator, and it is impossible for him to lie (Heb 6:18).[2]

If Jesus had been only a man, there would have been an element of untruth in Him. As a matter of fact, 1 John 1:8-10 states that if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Even worse, if we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his Word is not in us! How, then, could Jesus have claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

What man, even a perfect man, could be the actual embodiment of Truth? Only God, who took on flesh, could claim such a thing and not be a total liar.

Like I said in the last email, all that I’ve just written will carry little weight unless you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you approach it as flawed, misinterpreted, corrupted by men, and superseded by the Quran, then does it really matter what Jesus said? If your only accepted record of Jesus is found in a book that was written long after the Gospels, over 400 years after the last book written by John (around 90 A.D.), what does it matter what Jesus said in the Bible? He could have plainly said “I AM GOD!” a thousand times, but it wouldn’t matter to you, would it?

Think about it… You trust the words of a denier of the divinity of Jesus over the record of His own words and those who actually walked with Him.

The only logical way for you to prove to me that Jesus is not God, or at least that He did not claim to be God, is to show it to me in the cannon of Scripture. And as I have just now written, that will be a difficult challenge, indeed.

Please forgive me if I have in any way offended, for I am not fully versed in what is appropriate and what is inappropriate when discussing Islam with a Muslim. It is my hope that since you came from a Christian background, you can discern my intentions are genuine and in the spirit of love.

I would like to close this email by suggesting you ask for a copy of the late Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God but One: Allah or Jesus? Qureshi was a Muslim who converted to Christianity, but only after he was able to answer for himself the question you have asked me. You might find his perspective enlightening.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to correspond, and happy Thanksgiving!

Respectfully,

Anthony Baker


[1] G. M. Burge, “‘‍I Am‍’ Sayings,” ed. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 354.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Truth,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2108.

[i] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:7–8.

[ii] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:17–18.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, God, Theology, Witnessing

“The Shack” (My Review)

To Begin With

To begin with, let’s spell out what we know is true about God and His relationship to mankind. I mean, before I start talking about my impressions of a work of fiction – a movie – let’s talk reality, theologically speaking.

First, God is best understood as existing in trinity:

TRINITY (from Lat. trinitas).† An expression for the revelation of the one God (Deut. 6:4) in three “persons,” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the trinity is a theoretical model intended to systematize various expressions in the Bible. The basis in Scripture on which it was built can be summarized as follows: there is only one God; each of the three divine persons is recognized to be God; God’s selfrevelation recognizes distinctions among these three persons in that there are interactions among them; and these distinctions are not just a matter of revelation (as received by humans) but are also eternally immanent in the Godhead.

Source: Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 1019.

Second, God has spoken and speaks to His children through the revealed and completed work of Scripture (the Bible). Therefore, what contradicts or stands in opposition to the Word of God is contrary to truth, therefore in error.

Third, God also speaks in a general sense through the works and workings of His creation (Romans 1:19-20).

Does God still speak to his children through dreams? I believe it is possible, for God can do anything He wishes, and He’s the same today as He was yesterday. However, does He speak through dreams and visions to His children in the same way which is recorded in the Bible? That’s debatable.

Fourth, God works in ways we can’t always understand…

For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV

Therefore, if He wanted to, there’re’so nothing to stop the Lord from giving a man a dream of being with the Godhead in a shack for a weekend, eating Divinely-prepared breakfasts and dinners, while not compromising what He has already revealed in the completed canon of Scripture. Has He ever done such a thing? I don’t know. But He could.

My Review

Look, I am not a professional film critic. I don’t know much about industry lingo. The best I can do is simply tell you what I think about what I saw.

Despite what many of my Christian brothers and sisters have said, I thought The Shack was a really good movie. I have never read the book on which the movie was based, so I don’t know how it compares. But what I do know is that what I watched did not contradict the overall truths about God as mentioned above. That’s the first big point.

What we have in The Shack is a story about a man who lost his youngest daughter to a terrible sex crime. The aftermath of the loss brought about bitterness, guilt, and questions of God’s character. In short, the lead character felt qualified to judge God.

Instead of being angry or disappointed with the lead character, Mack, we find out that God loved him and wanted to restore joy and wonder to his faith. Even more, God wanted Mack to trust Him. In The Shack we see a God who wants to restore relationships with His children, those who are His, but have strayed as a result of their pain.

There are certain elements in this movie that have been criticized unfairly. One of those is in the way God the Father (“Papa”) is portrayed for a good portion of the film as an older black woman. This alone has cause some to flip their lid. However, should one watch the movie he would find out that there was a practical, personal reason for God appearing as woman – Mack had an abusive father as a child, and it was always an older black lady who comforted him with godly wisdom and fresh-baked apple pie. When Mack asked Papa why He was a woman, she (God) replied: “After what you’ve been through, I didn’t think you could handle a father right now.” Later in the movie when Mack needed the leadership of a man, God assumed the role of a masculine male.

Essentially, no doctrine was compromised by the depictions of God the Father. The film told a story which reflected the same truths as depicted in Luke 13:34 and 15:20…God can be both a mother hen and a merciful father.

Believe it or not, Jesus was portrayed by a mid-30’s, Israeli-born Jewish man. The casting was perfect.

The Holy Spirit was portrayed by a young Asian woman. I didn’t get that one, but it really didn’t matter; if your going to put a physical appearance to the Spirit, an Asian girl is just as logical as an older black woman.

Honestly, before the movie started, I had in front of me a note pad ready to record every blatant heresy I was expecting to see. Yet, when the movie was over the pad was still bank. Frankly, there was only one line in the movie that caused me to pause it and have a quick discussion with my family…(NOTE: Discussion is the important key to watching any movie with one’s family.)…Papa responded to a question Mack asked about punishing people for their sins by saying: “I don’t punish…sin is its own punishment.” I understood the sentiment, but a quick word search on BlueLetterBible.com through some in some wrenches.

The important thing to remember is that the movie storyline clearly indicates Mack never actually, physically, went to the old shack. What we are left with is the question of whether or not God might choose to miraculously step in through a vision or dream and individually speak to a man in order to change his heart. But even that is not the main point of The Shack.

The main point of this movie is to show through admitted fiction that what we think we know about God might be wrong. Even though The Shack does do a good job of reinforcing a biblical description of the Godhead, especially relating to the question of pain and evil in the world, there is an element of danger: If we don’t point people to the Bible to read what God has written about Himself, only cause people to question their perceptions, then we are only left with more questions and more uncertainty.

In conclusion, there are many quality moments in this movie worthy of open discussion. As a Christian, I was certainly blessed by what I watched. My only concern is that, other than showing the main character and his family in the end worshipping together in a Christian church, there are too many loose ends: an unbeliever who watches is not given any distinct instructions on how to experience a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, only an affirmation that it’s OK to trust God, even in the bad times, because He is always good.

I would love to hear your feedback, so share your thoughts in a comment. 

 

 

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Filed under Apologetics, Faith, General Observations, God, Movie review