Thursday, July 31, 2014

Debate: Dr. Zakir Naik vs. Dr William Campbell - The Quran and the Bible in the Light of Science


At 4 hours and 19 minutes this is by far the longest debate I’ve ever watched!

The video is split into two parts, and towards the end of Part 1 they edit a lot out, but then they have the full responses in Part 2. (Part 2 is just before 2 hours 20 minutes).

Dr Naik – a Muslim – has an amazing memory and ability to regurgitate verses of the Qur'an and  Bible. If nothing else he is a brilliant showman. Like a magician who fools children into thinking magic is real he attempts to dazzle the audience with fast talking and arbitrary statements made one after another - only pausing occasionally to soak up the cheers of "Allahu Akbar". 

At one point he rattled off about 6 verses from the Qur’an that supposedly prove advanced knowledge of the hydrologic cycle – but he didn’t take the time to actually read the verses - and when I checked one of the Surah’s it only said something like ‘Allah causes the rain to fall.’ – hardly amazing. But because of his showmanship those who are shallow thinkers might easily be fooled into thinking he had proven his point when really he’d done nothing of the sort.

I’d liken Dr Naik’s style to that of a machine gun that doesn’t stop to reload but just keeps firing. Never mind that he’s a million miles away from all of the targets. It sounds impressive, but in reality anyone who actually takes a moment to look into what he is saying will find he’s way off the mark on pretty much everything he’s said.

Here is a video that carefully reviews 5 minutes of Dr Naik and finds 25 mistakes! 25! 

In contrast Dr Campbell was careful and considered with his words, and backed up what he was saying. While lacking the showmanship of Dr Naik he made up for that with his carefully researched information. It was a shame though that Dr Campbell didn't mention the importance of worldviews or presuppositions when evaluated the Bible, the Qur'an and science.

Exegesis vs Eisegesis

In order to understand what a passage in the Bible means we need to do exegesis. Questions need to be asked such as:
- When was it written?

- Who was it written to?
- Who was the author?
- What style of literature is it?
- What is the context?

The opposite is eisegesis - where a person doesn't ask any of those questions. The only question in their mind is - how can I make this passage mean what I want it to mean? When people do this they end up reading their own preconceived ideas into the text.

I've mentioned those things because Naik does some of the worst eisegesis I've ever seen in his effort to distort the Bible. He said that he wasn't meaning to offend Christians in what he said - but his approach to the Bible was offensive in the way he threw out Scripture after Scripture with no regard for any due exegetical considerations. 

Muslims reading this may think that I'm doing the same thing when I quote from the Qur'an, but I am not trying to make the Qur'an say anything that it isn't actually saying. If a verse in the Bible or the Qur'an is interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what it actually says then something has gone wrong. (Just to clarify - I do not believe that the Qur'an is true - I know that the Bible is true - but in order to critique Islam it is sometimes necessary to show a Muslim that what they believe is contradictory according to their own holy book.)

Days of Creation

Naik raised the problem of whether the days in Genesis are literal or not. Unfortunately Dr Campbell indicated that he does not believe they are literal days (which I disagree with), so he didn’t give an adequate answer to Dr Naik on this issue. The problem of having light before the sun is easily solved – all you need is a directional light source and the rotation of the earth in order to have days. And the Bible says that in heaven God himself will be the source of light.

Surah 7:54 says “Indeed, your Lord is Allah , who created the heavens and earth in six days


The Qur’an and Hadith are also very clear that God made the earth in just a few days. For example:
Sahih Muslim, Chapter MCLV, The beginning of creation and the creation of Adam,
Hadith No. 6707:
"Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (mpbuh) took hold of my hands and said: Allah the Exalted and Glorious, created the clay on Saturday and He created the mountains on Sunday and He created the trees on Monday and He created the things entailing labour on Tuesday and created light on Wednesday and He caused animals to spread on Thursday and created Adam (pbuh) after 'Asr on Friday; the last creation at the last hour of the hours of Friday, ie. Between afternoon and night."

Pillars of the Earth
The reference to the Bible talking about the pillars of the earth is clearly poetic and not to be taken literally any more than we take the phrase “sunrise” to literally mean that the sun rises.

Snake and Poison Falsification Test / Language test

More showmanship from Naik that seemed to fool many. Look at the contexts of the verses and you’ll see why this test is ridiculous. And as Dr Campbell said – we are not to tempt God. It is a sin to put God to the test in the way that Dr Naik is asking for.

Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"” (Matthew 4:7)

Hares / Rabbits chewing the cud?

More supposed problems that aren’t really problems

Insects have 4 feet?

Unicorns in the Bible?

The KJV uses the word unicorn, but they aren’t magical creatures like we often think of today. They were animals with one horn – probably the rhinoceros. Most modern translations use the word “wild ox”.

Question and Answer Part of Debate

During the biblical Flood was the water covering the mountains by 15 feet?

The mountains before the global flood would have been much smaller than modern mountains, and during the latter stages of the flood God raised up the mountains and sank down the ocean basins.

How could they fit all the animals on the ark?

Easy – they didn’t need millions of animals – just a pair of each species at the family group genus level. Around 10,000 animals altogether would have been the probable number.

Furthermore, this question is ironic given the fact that the Qur’an specifically states that 2 of every kind of species was taken onto the Ark, and teaches a worldwide flood.

Why does the Bible say the Earth is flat?

It doesn’t. This is not true. The Bible clearly says that the earth is a circle – which in Hebrew can also mean sphere as they didn’t have two separate words for circle and sphere. Either Naik was not aware of this or doesn’t care and deliberately wants to mock the Bible.

Blood used as disinfectant?

The Bible doesn’t say that at all and he is deliberately distorting the Bible – see  “Naik on the sanitation laws of Leviticus” in this article

Bitter water test for adultery

See – “Naik on the adultery test of Numbers 5:11-31” in same article as above.
daughter unclean double period vs son

Established Theory vs Unestablished

Naik calls the big bang an established fact. However this is not true. It is a widely accepted theory, and one which Christians should reject because it clearly contradicts the Bible. I do agree though that it’s important to make a distinction between established things in science, and theories that are not established. Biblical creationists often talk about observational science vs historical (origins / forensic) science. There is nothing in the Bible that contradicts solid observational science. 

Michel had no children or 5 sons?

It’s most likely a translation error which most modern translations have corrected thanks to the science of textual criticism.

Jesus had 2 fathers?

This is just nonsense. Jesus’ adoptive father was Joseph.

Luke 3:23 (NIV)
“Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli” 

This doesn't mean Joseph and Heli were his fathers - it means Joseph was his adoptive father and Heli was the father of Joseph. 

In conclusion

On closer inspection of Naik's claims they evaporate like smoke in the wind. I wouldn't believe a word that comes out of his mouth based on the research I've done so far. It's a shame that people like Naik get such a wide audience amongst Muslims, and his popularity has more to do with his showmanship than anything else. He says what they want to hear - and never mind about checking the facts or being careful to carefully represent what Christians actually believe.

Further research:

A full response to most of Naik's claims are to be found in these articles:

Answering Zakir Naik by David Wood - Watch all 3 parts. Watch awesome reply of David about Zakir Naik Claims. He exposes Zakir's illogical claims and facts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Connection Between Hamas and the Nazi Holocaust

PLO = Palestinian Liberation Organization. The man referred to is Haj Amin al-Husseini.
This information needs to much more widely known. Spread the word and help stem the rising murderous tide of anti-semitism. Pray for Israel during these troubled times.

Note - the argument coming from some Christians that both sides are evil so let's not support either side just doesn't make sense. It's like someone during WWII saying that they couldn't support America or Great Britain in their fight against Hitler because not all Americans or Brits are Christians.

Part 2 of the video - What is Palestine? Who are the Palestinians?. (15 minute video)

The Association between Naziism and Arab Antisemitism. (7 minute video)

The Fight Against Terror (2 minute video)

That was then...

This is now... what exactly has changed?

While it is very sad that so many Palestinians have died in this conflict it's very difficult to avoid when Hamas are using civilians as human shields. Before Israel attacks any terrorist areas in civilian areas they warn the people well in advance beforehand, but Hamas are encouraging their people to ignore the warnings and to stay put. Then the western media shows dead and wounded Palestinians on TV without mentioning the reasons why they were killed or wounded was because of Hamas.

This one sums up many of the critics of Israel...

Don't be deceived...

Evidence of Palestinians using kids as human shields:

Israel Defense Force said: "We fired a warning shot at this Hamas target in Khan Yunis, a city inside Gaza. In response, these civilians ran to the roof and brought their kids." (23 July 2014)

The choice is clear - life or death, peace or terror. I support peace. How about you?

Further Reading / Study:

Video - the rise of a call for another Holocaust (4 min).
Video - 3 stages of Jihad.
Video Documentary - The Truth on Israel Palestine Conflict.
Slanders Against Israel.
Slanders Against Israel, Part 2.
Hamas intent on destroying Israel.
Maps of Disappearing Palestine.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Biblical Basis for Presuppositional Apologetics

What is Presuppositional Apologetics?

Presuppositional - dealing with what we presuppose - our pre-beliefs (e.g. that our senses and reasoning are basically reliable).

Apologetics - giving a reasoned defense of the Christian faith (1 Peter 3:15).

For a clear explanation of this biblical apologetic see this 9 minute video by Mark Spence from Living Waters ministries: On the Box - Presuppositional Apologetics.

Jesus used Presuppositional Apologetics (PA), Paul and the Apostles used PA, and God uses PA. If you think that PA is just another tool in the evangelism toolbox then you don't understand PA - it is the toolbox, and the table, that holds all of the tools up.

Not just one Presuppositional Apologetic approach

It's important to clarify that there is not just one PA approach. There are different PA approaches being used by different people, and even with the same person different approaches and different conversations take place depending on the person we are talking with. Sye Ten Bruggencate is currently the most well known person using PA but there are others such as Jason Lisle and Jeff Durbin who use it in a more laid back fashion than Sye. (Check out this 11 minute video for an excellent example of PA in action: Militant Atheist vs Jeff Durbin). It's also worth noting that Sye's approach varies depending on who he is talking to and the context. When he is talking with people who are open to the truth the encounters are much more relaxed. One problem is that many professed atheists are not really interested in the truth and are very militant - especially many online atheists. I've noticed this myself too - when talking with people who are open and wanting to learn they thank me and tell me how interesting what I'm saying is. But then I'll ask the same question to someone who is not interested in truth and just wants to argue and they'll get defensive, angry, and generally do everything they can to derail the conversation and attack Christianity.

Presuppositional Apologetics is for all Christians

I'd also like to state that PA does not belong exclusively to Calvinists. Although many who use and teach PA are Calvinists, I am not, and I don't agree with those who say that I can't use it effectively because of that. I believe that God loves everyone, and that the verses about God hating Esau is referring to his actions. (It also seems to be referring to the descendants of Esau - the Edomites - rather than Esau as an individual, and the Hebrew word here may actually mean "loved less" rather than hated - see here and here. The Edomites come up again further down in this post. Also see Luke 14:26 for another example of where the word "hate" is used in a hyperbolic non-literal way when understood in context). My understanding is that verses that talk about God's predestination of the saints are to be understood more generally and refer to service rather than salvation - God predestined from the beginning to save lost sinners through Jesus Christ and those who would be saved would be predestined to do good works of service.

Whether you are a Calvinist or not it's important that you don't become too passive in your faith and simply accept everything that happens to you as if it were God's will. If a door in your life seems closed then sometimes it's a good idea to try and bust it down and to challenge the status quo. For more on this see the Wisdom section of my website and the teaching on toxic religion.

Jason Lisle has stated that PA can be used by all Christians as it is the biblical approach, and to this I totally agree. In the AiG article Testing Worldviews, the Bible, and Doctrine Jason said:

I believe the presuppositional approach can be used by any legitimate, non-heretical Christian denomination. Furthermore, I believe it should be used by all Christians because it is how the Bible itself tells us how to do apologetics (e.g., Proverbs 26:4–5). It is interesting that some denominations seem to be more inclined to use the method. It may be that they feel more comfortable using a technique that was refined so cogently by people sympathetic to their specific denominational views (such as Bahnsen and VanTil).
But let me point out that the method itself (in its most basic form) is not based on any modern denomination or modern individual. Rather, it dates back to biblical times. Jesus and the apostle Paul used the presuppositional approach masterfully in their respective earthly ministries. They dealt with the Christian worldview as a whole and never accepted the pagan standards of the day (“don’t answer”), while showing the self-refuting nature of such standards (“answer”). Paul’s apologetic to the Greeks in Acts 17:18–34 is a great example of this.
We at Answers in Genesis are comprised of Christians from many different denominations. We have friendly disagreements on things such as Calvinism-Arminianism, eschatology, and so on. Yet we, as a ministry, are presuppositional. We agree that presuppositional apologetics is the most effective and biblical way to defend the faith.

So let's have a look at some specific scriptures relating to the use of PA in the Bible...

Jesus used Presuppositional Apologetics

Jesus presupposed the truth of God’s word, took it as being literally and historically true and accurate, and preached it as such. He often asked questions and taught in such a way as to expose the faulty presuppositions of people who were denying God.

What's more, Jesus never used an evidential approach to try and prove the truth of the Scriptures based on evidence, and when asked for evidence by the devil to prove his deity he refused to put God to the test, but simply quoted Scripture to refute the devil.

Jesus put the Pharisees in the horns of a dilemma

“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”  So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

(Matthew 21:23-27)

Have you never read?

“Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
(Matthew 21:42)

This was said to the Pharisees, chief priests, and elders who spent most of their lives reading the Scriptures and would have been highly offensive to them! It would be like someone in a debate at Westminster Theological Seminary asking Scott Oliphint (a presuppositional theologian) - "Haven't you ever read the Bible verse where it says... ?" 

Jesus sometimes refused to give evidence

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.  He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’  and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.” (Matthew 16:1-4)

Jesus refused to give evidence (a sign) when asked for it by those just wanting to test him.

“The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.   He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”   Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.”  (Mark 8:11-13)

This came just after he fed the 4000! I'm not sure whether the Pharisees were there when that sign took place but even if they were they wouldn't have believed it, and just like many professed atheists today they'd have found some way to explain it away. As the scriptures say in Luke 16 in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man:

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:27-31)

Jesus used Reductio Ad Absurdum

Reductio ad absurdum means to reduce the argument of an opponent to absurdity by taking their position to it's logically absurd conclusion. This is a powerful form of debate all great debaters use, including Jesus. I use it in evangelism and have used it in my website

An example of Jesus using reductio ad absurdum is when he told the Pharisees that they obeyed the law to the extreme - even tithing their garden herbs - but they neglected the most important part of the law - loving God and loving people. (Luke 11:42-46).

The purpose of reductio ad absurdum is to expose the foolishness of the false beliefs people are believing in the hope that they will abandon them and embrace the truth. (See Refuting Compromise and the section on the  'Challenge-Reposte Paradigm'.)

Paul used Presuppositional Apologetics

Before Agrippa and Festus (Acts 25-26)

Apostle Paul On Trial by Nikolai Bodarevsky, 1875. Agrippa and Berenice are both seated on thrones.

Although Agrippa was a Roman and well educated under the Roman system he was a Jew. He was part of the line of Herod and was ethnically an Idumean - an Edomite descended from Esau. So because of this he treated Jews very sympathetically, but in reality he was a puppet ruler put in place by the Romans and so had to tow the official party line in terms of Roman laws.

According to another article about Agrippa the II:

"At least while he was in Judea he showed a superficial respect for Jewish religious practices; some scholars even claim that he was the Agrippa whose attachment to Judaism was praised by the rabbis."

Understanding Agrippa's Jewish roots helps to understand a bit better the context of this passage in Acts 26. Paul is also speaking to Festus and a number of other high ranking officials. (Acts 25:23)

“Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8)

The above question was asked by Paul to King Agrippa who could not believe the resurrection – Paul didn’t give him circumstantial evidence for the resurrection – he just boldly proclaimed the truth of it. If you accept the presupposition that God is God and created the whole universe then it's not a big deal to believe that he can do miracles such as raising a person from the dead.

Later in Acts 26 Paul recounts how God asked him 'why are you persecuting me?' Eventually by the end of the chapter Festus was so convicted he interrupted Paul.

"At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane." (Acts 26:24)

This reminds me of some professed atheists who realise they can't give a good answer to our questions and so get angry with us and accuse presuppostionalists of being idiots!

Paul then asked him another presuppositional question:

"King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do." (Acts 26:27)

This put Agrippa in the horns of a dilemma - if he said "Yes," then Paul would be able to press him as to why he didn't believe in the one they prophesied about. If he said "No," then he'd be in trouble with the devout Jews who believed in the prophets as having spoken the very word of God. (Credit goes to my NIV Study Bible notes for that gem).

And Agrippa's response is very similar to many unbelievers when challenged with PA - avoid the question and mock:

"The Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" (Acts26:28)

Paul in Athens (Acts 17)

Acts 17 is another great example of Paul using PA. Paul in his argument presupposed the existence of the biblical God that all people know through general revelation, polemically argued against their false conceptions about God, and ended by challenging them to repent. This passage is rich in background and there is so much in it. Greg Bahnsen dedicates a whole chapter to discussing it in his excellent book on PA called Always Ready.

God uses Presuppositional Apologetics

Think about the many questions that God asked people in the Bible. Most of them were designed to expose to the people their presuppositions and false beliefs.

God to Adam:

"Where are you?... Who told you that you were naked?" (Genesis 3:9,11)

God knew where Adam was and that he was hiding because he had sinned but God wanted to help Adam to come to that realization himself. God must have been so grieved because of the broken relationship Adam and Eve had created by sinning, and like a loving father who catches their child doing something terribly wrong he wants them to take responsibility for what they've done - of course they played the blame game - Adam blamed Eve (and God - "the woman you gave me") and Eve blamed Satan.

“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”   The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”   Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:9-13)

God to Cain

  "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" (Genesis 4:6-7) God knew why Cain was angry - but he wanted Cain to think about it and realise he had no good reason to be angry.

God to Elijah

"There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”" (1 Kings 19:9)

These are just a very small sampling of the times God asked searching questions to try and get people to face up to their sin and lies.

The Certainty of Biblical Faith

PA argues for the certainty of Christianity based on God's word as the ultimate authority, as opposed to evidential approaches that argue for the strong probability of Christianity based on the evidence. (There's nothing wrong with using evidence, but it should be used wisely within a PA framework that recognises that the core issue is the authority of God's word.)

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13 NIV)

“Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
(Luke 1:3-4)

"....this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
  (John 17:3)

“For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”
(Luke 21:15)

"Peter proclaimed, Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him [Jesus] both Lord and Messiah
" (Acts 2:36).

"But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ."
(Acts 9:22) NASB

For more on certainty - see "Certainty" - by John Frame.

Some Key Verses that are Important for Presuppositional Apologetics

Don't Answer / Do Answer Strategy

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”
(Proverbs 26:4-5)

Everyone Knows God Exists

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles."
(Romans 1:18-23)

"But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water."  (2 Peter 3:5) (Other versions say "willingly ignorant",  "willfully ignorant", "deliberately suppress"...)

God is Necessary for Knowledge

"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments." (Colossians 2:2-4)
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)

God is Necessary to Account for the Uniformity of Nature / Induction

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." (Genesis 8:22)

 “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3)

God is Necessary to Account for the Reliability of the Senses / Reasoning

We are made in "the image of God" (Genesis 1:27) and so we know that our senses are generally reliable because God is a logical, consistent, and rational God.

“Ears that hear and eyes that see—the Lord has made them both.” (Proverbs 20:12)

“Come now let us reason together…” (Isaiah 1:18)

God is Necessary to Know Truth

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17)

 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16)

 "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

God vs "not-God" - There is No Neutrality - No Neutral Ground

Matthew 12:30 "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Psalm 96:5 “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.”

Exodus 8:23 “I will make a distinction between my people and your people…”
Malachi 3:18 “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Ephesians 4:17-18 “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.   They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Some Presuppositional Questions to Think About

- According to scriptures such as Romans 1, does everyone know that God exists?

- Do people reject God's existence primarily because of a lack of evidence or because of their rebellion against God?

- Is the God of the Bible the conclusion of our argument or the necessary presupposition to begin any argument? (Proverbs 1:7)

There are so many other verses relating to Presuppositional Apologetics in the Bible. Let me know in the comment section below if I've missed any important verses that help illustrate PA. 

For Further Reading / Research:

See my other blog posts:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Is Annihilationism an Unbiblical Side Issue? A Response to Cowboy Bob

Image Source: - a website I highly recommend
Recently I've been advocating on Facebook for the doctrine of annihilationism (aka Conditionalism) as I believe it's the most biblical position on hell. I've been leaning towards that position for some time now, but after seeing someone on Facebook raise the issue of a Christian friend of theirs who was seriously doubting their faith due in large part to the traditional doctrine of hell (eternal conscious torment) I felt it was right to suggest that this person could be encouraged and strengthened in their faith by looking into annihilationism. I also had come to the point where I no longer wanted to keep quiet on such an important topic just to keep the peace.

I wrote about this view on hell about a year ago in my blog post Misconceptions about Hell.
Not long after I wrote that article I got involved in a Facebook theological discussion group which I thought would be somewhere that people would be open to discussing different views on hell. Boy was I wrong. The discussions would go fine at first but as soon as we started to scratch below the surface and the biblical case for annihilationism became clearer many people became more and more defensive. In the end they shut down and deleted the two threads I'd started - "the discussion is over" I was told after it had only gotten up to 50 or 100 comments. I found out later that the group was a Calvinist group, and that it was not for open discussion about topics that were 'false doctrine'.

When a belief system is afraid of discussion something is seriously wrong. While I don't agree with everything in the following short trailer it raises the kind of issues I'm referring to.

Hellbound? (2 minute trailer)

So when I started openly challenging the traditional view of hell I was expecting a backlash. It didn't take long before I got banned from one Creationist page for basically asking too many questions. Then Bob Sorensen wrote an article that is attempting to address my 'false teaching'. Bob doesn't mention my name, but given the circumstances and the timing it's clear to me that the article is a direct response to things I've been saying recently. I feel a bit like Mr Fudge - see the following movie trailer...

Hell & Mr Fudge Trailer

So I'd like to respond to Bob's article and will respond to each section. Before beginning my critique of his article I'd like to assert that I see Bob as a brother in Christ and even if he continues to hold to the traditional view on hell I will continue to have a great respect for him and his ministry.

Bob's article is in bold, and my response is interspersed beneath each section.

Hell, Creation and Side Issues, by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This article will undoubtedly upset some people.

Do creationists have any business complaining about others who emphasize theological "side issues", when creation science is one of them? Absolutely! There are different kinds of side issues, some marginal importance and others with tremendous importance.

I agree that the topic of hell is a side issue, and I also agree that it has tremendous importance. I'm a little upset at the way Bob seems to lump my beliefs on hell in with cults but I know that he is simply doing what he believes is right in terms of defending what he sees as the truth. I would like to know if he has watched any teaching videos, seen any debates, or read any books on this topic - or done a Bible study that carefully looks at every reference in the Bible to hell, destruction, sheol and hades. From reading his whole article I am concerned that he hasn't really done his homework but has simply reacted in a knee-jerk fashion to what he sees as an attack on the Bible.

What is a "side issue"?
People have their own opinions about and definitions for the term "side issue". One frequent connotation is that a side issue means something is not important. People are offended when they are told that the item they brought up is "just a side issue" and dismissed. For me, the best usage of "side issue" means that the subject under discussion is not essential to salvation. For example, belief in a literal six-day recent creation, belief in annihilation as opposed to eternal punishment in Hell, social concerns, speaking in tongues, forms of baptism and so on are not essential to salvation. The importance of those and other topics can be discussed.

I agree with what has been said here about side issues. However, based on what follows he seems to think it's much more than just a side issue. 

Whom do they glorify?

Sometimes nonessentials become elevated in people's minds so that little else matters. People may gravitate toward those things because it makes them feel good. The foundations of the Word of God, preaching the gospel, sound doctrine and so forth are pushed aside in the pursuit of the "cause". (Note that there is nothing wrong with giving emphasis to learning about a new topic for a while, as long as things do not get out of balance.) There is often an element of pride where people want to "be right" and look down on others who do not believe the way they do. The principle of, "In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, love", is absent. This also goes for Calvinists who act like cultists, trying to convince other Christians that the Reformed view is the only correct one. Angry Arminians who condemn all Calvinists to Hell are also guilty of unchristian attitudes. Above all, we are to be glorifying Christ, not ourselves.

I don't have any serious issues with what has been said here, although the unspoken feeling I get is that Bob thinks I'm in danger of glorifying myself and doing this to make myself feel good. This is a logically fallacious argument because he cannot know my motives. Only God knows my heart. If I wanted merely to feel good I would not have risked rocking the boat by speaking out against the status quo and risked alienating myself from many Christians in the process. To me what matters most is doing what I believe is right in the sight of God and pleasing him. I know that Bob also is motivated by this same love for God and desire to do what is right.

Division in the Church
People lacking discretion are known to give undue emphasis on unimportant side issues, creating strife and division. While truth is divisive by nature (Matthew 10.34-39), dividing over unimportant matters and pride is unchristian (John 13.35).

My father was a pastor in the liberal (and now thoroughly apostate) United Methodist Church many years ago. He was strongly opposed to people speaking in tongues in the church, since he had seen them get so wrapped up in it that the issue divided churches.

I'm not trying to create division, but truth has a higher priority than keeping the peace. We live in a day and age when for many people the greatest sin is seen as saying anything controversial that goes against the majority view. While we should not cause unnecessary arguments about trivial things there is a time when arguing for the truth is biblical. See my blog post - Is it Wrong for Christians to Argue?

A Note of Hell
The subject of Hell has been coming up lately. It had been put aside by "seeker-friendly" and liberal churches and by people who are simply uncomfortable with it. While it is good to preach the love and forgiveness of Jesus, that is an incomplete gospel. All have sinned (Romans 3.23), and all deserve death (Romans 6.23, Matthew 13.41-43) and need to repent (Luke 24.46-47 NASB). We need to tell people why Jesus died on the cross and bodily rose on the third day (Ephesians 5.6). Hell is real (and some of my atheist critics wish that it is real enough for me to go there — which is not possible).
I agree that hell is real and the topic shouldn't be avoided. I also agree that liberalism is an attack on the authority of the Bible.

Some people are teaching the heresy of Universalism, where everyone is saved anyway.

I agree that universalism is unbiblical. However, I'm concerned that labeling something as heresy can sometimes be a cover to avoid dealing with the uncomfortable questions that are being raised that those holding to the traditional view of hell don't want to deal with.

Others teach the unbiblical doctrine of annihilationism, which says every condemned sinner is burned up and consumed. This minority viewpoint flies in the face of the plain reading of the Scriptures (for example, Luke 3.17). Instead, they use amazing eisegesis and hermeneutical gymnastics to finagle ways around what the Bible says (i.e., it is cultural, symbolic, a false doctrine that infiltrated the church &c). So, their special interpretations tell you what the Bible really says and means. Annihilationism is considered by some to be an outright heresy. Personally, I believe it is heterodox.

Now we get to the real beef Bob has - annihilationism is in his view unbiblical heterodoxy. That's the real issue - is it unbiblical or not? An increasing number of people are saying that it's not unbiblical at all. Bob calls it a minority view - which is true - but as Bob will know it's a logical fallacy to imply that something is wrong based on how many people believe it.

From my study of the issue it is the traditional view that "flies in the face of the plain reading of the Scriptures" and it's the traditional view that has to do eisegetical "gymnastics" to leap over what the Bible actually teaches. For example the Bible says in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin are death (not eternal conscious torment). And Jude 1:7 says that Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example for those who will suffer the punishment of eternal fire (not the punishing of eternal fire). We know that Sodom and Gomorrah aren't still burning today, and we know that fire consumes that which it burns, so the plain reading of this text is that the eternal fire will be eternal destruction in terms of its results, not in terms of its ongoing punishing - i.e. the annihilation of the wicked.

He then gives one example to back up his whole argument as if one "proof-text" can dismiss my whole position. (An all too common practice amongst those holding to the traditional view). So let's look at the verse in Luke 3:17 that he's offered as a proof-text:

"His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

The plain reading of this scripture seems clear to me - the wicked will be burned up like chaff - and when chaff is burned up it is consumed and becomes no more. The fire is unquenchable means that God's judgement cannot be stopped, just like a fire that cannot be put out until it has consumed everything. For more on this verse see this article:

I am not into "guilty by association", but there are some things to consider. First, annihilationism has always had a minority viewpoint throughout Christian history. Second, cults like various Adventist groups, Armstrongites (the former Worldwide Church of God), Jehovah's Witness and the like hold to this view, which I though should give someone a reason to pause before embracing this view. Also, many cults that hold to annihilationism also believe in another heterodox item called "soul sleep".

If you aren't into guilty by association then why are you using this logical fallacy? If you want to play that game then let's not forget that Islam and a number of cults such as Mormonism believe in eternal conscious torment. Jehovah's witnesses also claim to believe in God and the innerancy of scripture. By your logic we should also abandon these beliefs. As for soul sleep, this is a tangent to the main issue as not all annihilationists believe it, but it is a belief that has strong biblical support and was held to by Martin Luther amongst others. (See here for more on soul sleep).

Some are abrasive and do not even have their false doctrine correct.
I have yet to see convincing evidence that Hell is a Roman Catholic invention
that is not based on "guilt by association".
They believe in the Trinity, should we discard that, too?
Kind of pushy, this was posted at The Question Evolution Project, of all places.

I agree that this person has been quite strong in their assertions, and the word heresy is a loaded term. However, they aren't name calling and are asking a legitimate question. If the Bible doesn't teach eternal conscious torment as annihilationists believe, then it is unbiblical and an argument can be made that it has come from the Catholic church. Augustine seems to be the first person to teach eternal conscious torment and following him the rest of the Church by-in-large followed suit.

This short video discusses early church fathers in relation to conditionalism.

It is distressing when people will promote annihilationism and leave their original calling. I have seen people who were doing apologetics and evangelism lose their focus so they could argue with other Christians and try to "convert" them to their point of view. Some people are primarily known for arguing annihilationism with Christians, and doing little else.

I agree that the gospel is our primary calling. But I also believe that everyone has different callings. I can imagine during the Reformation the Catholics criticising Luther and saying he was spending too much time trying to convert Christians to his point of view when he should be out prosyletizing, but history has shown he was doing God's will in bringing reformation to the Church. I believe that the Reformation didn't go far enough and that further reformation of the Church is needed on the doctrine of hell amongst other things. We need to come back to the word of God.

One annihilationist said that it's important to "have a right view of God", or "proper understanding of the Bible". To me, that implies, "I have the right view of God/the Bible because I believe in the annihilation of the wicked, and your view is wrong". One Christian was saying how annihilationism was ridiculous and simply did not make sense (a sentiment I agree with), and the annihilationist tried to make the other guy look like a faulty Christian. The annihilationist was accused of acting like an atheist. Well, he did use atheist tactics of turning the subject around, avoiding questions put to him, and trying to put the other guy on the defensive.

We all think that we have the right view. Bob thinks that his view is right, and it could be - but based on the study I've done I'm pretty confident that eternal conscious torment is not biblical. I believe this comment is directed directly at me, and unfortunately I cannot provide a screenshot of the conversation because I was banned from the page and my comments deleted. I wasn't using atheist tactics at all (more guilt by association), but was simply challenging the person to back up from the Bible what they were saying.

EDIT: People sometimes use the word "torture" when discussing Hell. That is wrong, misrepresenting Hell and also God. Torture involves sadistic pleasure at the pain of someone else, and God is not like that. Hell is eternal punishment and justice, not a matter of God getting thrills from inflicting pain.

The traditional view seems pretty much to me like it's making God out to be a torturer. If the soul is not intrinsically immortal then God has to miraculously sustain the soul of the sinner in hell in order to continue their torment. I agree though that the traditional view is not saying that God gets sadistic pleasure out of punishing the wicked. I wonder what traditionalists think about this question - will the redeemed be able to see the lost in hell being punished for all eternity? Doesn't sound like heaven to me.

The big question is whether or not annihilationism is biblical. And a key question to think about is this - is the punishing eternal or is it the results of the punishment that are eternal (as in eternal destruction and becoming no more)?

Commonality with Old-Earthers
Theistic evolutionists and other old-earthers compromise on the integrity of Scripture and elevate the current trends of science philosophies above it. That is, "science" interprets Scripture. They, too, require eisegesis to force their views into the Bible, and want to get biblical creationists to compromise and embrace old-earth views. Things that old-earthers and annihilationists have in common include efforts to recruit others to their viewpoint, eisegesis, pride, and requiring acceptance of their understanding of the Bible because humanity now has the wisdom of science.

Woah. More guilt by association. I'm not an "old-earther" (old earth creationist / OEC). I'm a young earth creationist (YEC). Neither do I believe I'm doing eisegesis or being prideful. I believe it is precisely because of my love of scripture that I've been compelled to believe in annihilationism. From my point of view it is those who hold to the traditional view who are doing eisegesis and reading scripture through the worldview glasses of eternal torment.

Cultic Attitudes
Several marks of cults can be found in some of the people who hold to side issues. The ones that stand out are:

   - Belief in having the only correct view
   - Anger at having unimportant side issues kept as unimportant
   - Exclusivity, where people who do not agree are "not as good as us"
   - Special revelation or new understanding of the Bible
   - Persecuted minority, their view is right but has been suppressed by Christianity for many years (this does not mean that just because a view is commonly accepted that it is right, since organized religion suppressed teachings of the Scriptures for many years, and opposed making the Bible available to the people)

Cultic attitude? Woah - for someone who says he isn't into guilt by association there is a whole lot of it going on. I'm open to the possibility that the traditional view is correct, and I'd be happy if Christians would just accept annihilationism as a valid biblical alternative to the traditional view.

How is Biblical Creation Science Any Different?
For the most part, biblical creationists hold to the authority of Scripture. Creation scientists will disagree about the interpretations of facts and about their models of, say, Flood geology or explanations for the distant starlight question, but they uphold the Bible.

Genesis is the foundation, as all major Christian doctrines are found there. Creation science, the global Noachian Flood, the age of the earth, six-day recent creation, death entered the world only after Adam sinned — these are indeed side issues because they are not essential to salvation. They are, however, extremely important to understanding Scripture and avoiding the domino effect of compromise.
Agreed. However to suggest that belief in annihilationism is compromising biblical authority is unfounded.

Also, you do not need a code book or massive eisegesis to make sense of Genesis. There are resources available to make our understanding more complete, but unlike the annihilationists, old-earthers, cults and so on, biblical creationists appeal to the plain reading of Scripture.

Yet more guilt by association! I appeal to the plain reading of scripture too - and it's exactly because of that I'm convinced that annihilationism is true.

For another response to Bob's article please refer to EJ Hill's article - A Response to "Hell Creation and Side Issues" by Bob Sorensen, and Part 2 here. EJ goes into a lot more detail about the scriptural backing for conditionalism and reasons why Bob's articles fail to seriously challenge it. He also rightly pointed out that one of the fallacies Bob used was the motive logical fallacy.

I'd like to add that in all of this I plead with opponents of conditionalism to actually do some research on the topic before automatically discounting it based on their presupposition that eternal conscious torment must be true because it's the traditional view and seems in your opinion to be supported by the Bible. Even if such research doesn't change your mind on the traditional view I hope that at the very least it will help you to see that conditionalism is not an attack on the Bible but is a valid scriptural view that attempts to be faithful to what the Bible says.

If you hold to the traditional view, try for a while to take off your eternal torment glasses and put on the conditionalist glasses and you might just realise that the conditionalist glasses are a much better fit. The cartoon below is on a different topic but illustrates the nature of cognitive bias that one must overcome in order to try to understand a position that differs from your own. I'm not saying that it's a no God vs God's word issue in this case of course, but to get an idea of what I think is the problem replace the 'no God' glasses with glasses that say 'TRADITION' and the top speech blurb with 'You annihilationists are so biased when you look at the Bible.' 

Another thing I'd like to add are 3 reasons why this is a very important issue:

1. If eternal torment is not correct then it is misrepresenting the character of God - something that God would not be pleased about.

2. If eternal torment is not correct then it is creating an unnecessary stumbling block for evangelism - it is often mocked by unbelievers as contradicting the love of God and being cruel and inhumane.

3. If eternal torment is not correct then it is hindering the discipleship process for Christians who struggle to sense God's love for them.

So to sum up - annihilationism is not unbiblical, and while it is a side issue in a sense that one is not saved by having a right view of hell, it is still a very important issue because it relates to evangelism and the character of God.

Thanks for reading this important article. Please also take a few seconds to vote on my poll on hell on the top right corner of the blog.

For further research:

Check out They have a lot of great articles, information, and a very interesting video debate on this topic. There is also a Rethinking Hell Facebook page, and Rethinking Hell Facebook group where you can ask questions and explore the topic further.

I also recommend this YouTube video for a very civil and relaxed discussion of the issues:
Hellbound debate - Universalism vs Eternal Torment vs Annihilationism.

And this YouTube debate is very good:
Debate on the Doctrine of Hell: James White vs Roger and Faith Forster.

This is an excellent teaching video:
Lecture - Edward Fudge - The Fire that Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of Hell.