Sunday, November 27, 2016

Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God?

I just came across the above video where Albert Mohler, R.C. Sproul, and others answer gospel questions. At time reference of 11:26 minutes into the video, someone asks the following question: “We hear from many sources that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God. How should we respond to that assertion?” To this Albert Mohler proceeds to give the following answer (transcribed from the video, abridged).

You know this frustrates me because it comes back again and again and again, … and repeatedly we are being told you know you have got to somehow smooth out the theological rough places, so you hear people saying—obviously the controversy recently at the Wheaton College and elsewhere—where they say, Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Well, we don’t. And it is not a question of linguistics, it is not a question of Allah … but the Allah taught of Islam. That Allah … is incompatible with the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have his testimony for this, Jesus Christ who just for one example in John chapter 9 says, “If you don’t know me you don’t know the Father; and he was speaking to Jewish leaders who came to rebuke him. … Here is the question: Can one reject Jesus Christ as the Son and truly know the Father? The answer to that fundamentally and logically has to be No. But biblically we have got Jesus saying it himself in John chapter 9. We don’t have to extrapolate this, all you have got to do is to read the Gospel, and Jesus makes that clear. And then I have people come back to me all the time and say, Well then, you are saying the Jews do not worship the same God? Simply, I don’t say anything. Jesus said that if you reject him, and you do not thereby know him, you do not know—and in another place says, never knew—the Father. I am with Jesus. I don’t know anything to say other than what Jesus said. I think that is abundantly clear.

Mohler’s problem is that he doesn’t appear to have a very good idea of what Jesus said. I will tell him what Jesus said:

John 8:

52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.

Here Jesus is acknowledging that the wicked Jews who were calling him the devil, and wanting to kill him, worshiped the same God as Jesus did. The fact that they may have had the wrong theology does not mean that they were therefore worshiping the “wrong God,” or a “different God”. It simply means that they may have had some wrong ideas about him. It doesn’t make “their” God a “different” God. That is absurd logic. Here is another example:

John 4:

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye [Samaritans] worship ye know not what: we [Jews] know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

Here again Jesus is acknowledging that the Jews (and Samaritans) were worshiping the same (right) God. The fact that one side or the other (or both) may have had some wrong ideas about him, doesn’t mean that they were worshiping the “wrong” God, or a “different” God. 

Mohler is basically saying that if two people have different theological ideas about God, then they are worshiping two different Gods, which is absurd logic. If two people assert that there is only one God, and they both claim to be worshiping that one God, then assuming that such a God does actually exist, the logical conclusion has to be that they are worshiping the same God. The fact that they may have different ideas (or even wrong ideas) about him does not alter that fact. It doesn’t mean that they must be worshiping “different Gods”. That is just absurd. To suggest that they are worshiping “different Gods” would negate the fundamental theological position of both, that there is only one God. They can argue about what kind of being that one God is; but they can’t argue about who is worshiping which God—if both agree that there is only one of them around. The only way that they could be worshiping “different Gods” would be either that the “one God” didn’t exist, and they were worshiping different imaginary gods; or else that there are in fact more than one God, and they were worshiping different ones without realizing it.

If two American citizens had radically different ideas about the character and personality of the President of the United States (and one of them was an Arab, and called him رئيس and the other one was Hebrew, and called him נָשִׂיא), does that mean that they literally and physically have two different Presidents of the United States? If they decided to write a letter to him, would they be addressing it to two different people, sending it to two different postal addresses, and getting their replies from two different Presidents of the United States? To suggest that Jews, Muslims, and Christians worship “different Gods” just because they have different ideas about him is about as stupid and idiotic as that. (I used Google Translate by the way, so don’t blame me if the Arabic and Hebrew words are wrong! 😁).

But the ultimate question is, does God hear and answer the sincere prayers of a Jew or a Muslim, even though they may have differing (or even incorrect) theological ideas about God? The answer is, Of course he does! If he answered the prayers of Cornelius who was a pagan, and did not even adhere to a monotheistic religion, he is more than willing to answer the sincere prayers of a Jew or a Muslim. God does not answer people’s prayers according to their “theological correctness”. If he did that, nobody’s prayers would be answered, because nobody has a perfect theological understanding of the nature of God. He answers them according to their faith, sincerity, and the righteous desires of their hearts (and actions), as Peter said of Cornelius:

Acts 10:

34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation [including religion] he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

That is the basis on which God answers people’s prayers, not according to their “theological correctness”—according to Mohler and Sproul of coursewho else. These folks are teaching a whole bunch of false doctrines and leading people astray. Cornelius the pagan was obviously praying to and worshiping the same God as the Christian God, otherwise that God would not have told him to go and become a Christian. Which God were the pagan people of Nineveh praying to when they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and God spared them?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What is the Gospel?

There is a first and last to everything! In the above video, which I had linked to and discussed in my previous post in relation to the first question that was asked; the last question asked is also of some interest, and worth discussing. The last question asked was, “What is the gospel?” The complete question was as follows:

“What is the gospel? I have learned it is an event. I have heard, Live the gospel, pray the gospel, experience the gospel, the kingdom of God is the gospel, the Old Testament, New Testament is the gospel, the whole Bible is the gospel. I am confused!”

To this R.C. Sproul gives the following answer (extracted from the video as best I could, emphasis added):

“That person is not the only one that is confused. I mean I would teach in a Doctor of Ministry program at St. Clair, and had the same experience I am sure when we would have clergy in there, and I would ask them to define the gospel; and if I got 10% of them to give an adequate answer to it, I would be happy; because that word is thrown around so much that it has died the death of a thousand qualifications. In New Testament terms the gospel is the proclamation of the person and work of Jesus Christ, plus how the benefits of that work can be appropriated to us by faith and by faith alone. So the gospel has a narrow definition; it is the message about Jesus. Now there are other good tidings, the kingdom of God, all of that, but specifically if you look at what we call the kerygma in the New Testament, the Apostolic Proclamation of the gospel, it focuses on Christ—who he is, what he did, and how we receive his benefits.”

That statement is correct (for the most part) except for the highlighted bit. The Bible’s verdict is, “Be ye doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). The gospel of Jesus Christ is a doing gospel, not just for hearing or believing. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). The emphasis is all on doing, not believing only. There is no salvation without repentance and keeping God’s commandments:

Matthew 4:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Mark 6:

12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

Luke 5:

32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 24:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Acts 2:

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The gospel is not just for preaching or believing, but also for obeying:

2 Thessalonians 1:

8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 4:

17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

The Reformed false theology of “faith alone” is the very antithesis of the gospel, and leads to damnation rather than salvation. It goes against the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ taught in the Bible. The Book of Mormon gives the most correct and complete definition of the word gospel that exists in any literature today (punctuation revised):

3 Nephi 27:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you: that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me; that as I have been lifted up by men, even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given; and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily I say unto you, this is my gospel. And ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do, that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do, even that shall ye do.
22 Therefore if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

We all have something to learn from the Book of Mormon, including R.C. Sproul!