Thursday, October 20, 2016

Should The NIV Bibles Be Burnt?

            Erica Campbell, the Christian musician who won the Grammy award for “Best Gospel Album” in 2015, created confusion in the minds of certain Christians. Her Facebook post implied the untrustworthiness or the fallibility of the NIV translation of the Bible.1 Erica Campbell alleged that 45 complete verses were removed from the NIV translation indicating that NIV is not a reliable translation anymore. Is her allegation true? If so, should we discard the NIV Bible?

            The Bible has been translated more than any other book. One such translation of the Bible is the NIV or the New International Version. The NIV was first published in 1978, and further updated in 1984 and 2011. In 2005, the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) was published. The TNIV was a gender-inclusive translation and went out of print in 2009. The 1984 version of NIV is also out of print. The 2011 version of NIV is the only version that remains in print.

Background To The Allegation

            While examining this theme, we should be cognizant of the KJV-Only group, who may have been behind the Erica Campbell allegation. Apologetics Index describes this movement as, “King James Only-ism is an aberrant teaching that considers the King James Version – specifically the ‘1611 Authorized Version’ – to be the only legitimate English-language Bible version.

            Some KJV-onlyists go so far as to insist that people who do not use the King James Version (or even a specific edition of the King James Version) are not saved. In doing so they believe and teach a heresy — one that violates the Biblical doctrine of salvation by adding conditions not taught in Scripture. [See: Essential doctrines of the Christian faith] Those KJV-Onlyists who teach this in so doing place themselves outside the boundaries of the Christian faith, and should be considered heretics.”2

            It is quite possible that the social media campaign against the NIV could have been orchestrated by the KJV-Only movement to discredit the NIV translation.

Understanding The Methods Of Biblical Translation

            There are two broad methods used to translate the language of the source text into another language such as English. In the case of the Bible the source text of the Old Testament is in Hebrew and the source text of the New Testament is in Greek. While translating the Hebrew and Greek text into English, the translators could adopt either of the following methods of translations:  

            Formal Equivalence: Translations such as the ASV (American Standard Version), KJV (King James Version) and the NASB (New American Standard Bible) rigidly adhere to the form of the original language. In other words, Formal equivalence is informally known as a “word for word” translation. This translation style utilizes a formal technique that attempts to preserve the exactness of the translation. 

            Dynamic Equivalence: This is the “thought for thought” translation. This translational style disregards the form of the source language but not the message. The New English Bible (NEB), The Good News Bible or Today’s English Version (TEV), New International Version (NIV) are good examples of dynamic equivalence.

            Although NIV is not a wooden or a literal “word for word” translation, the New Testament scholars affirm that it has accurately translated the message of the source text.

Scholars Affirm NIV’s Credibility

            Was Erica Campbell’s accusation against NIV translation valid?

            Not by any stretch of imagination! New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary heaps high praise upon the NIV translators, “The scholarship behind the NIV 2011 is probably as good as it gets. And the textual basis is both bold and exceptionally accurate.”3 He goes on to affirm the scholarly credibility of NIV, “…the scholarship that produced this version is excellent, both in text and translation decisions. The textual basis and rendering of difficult expressions in the original are bold features that warrant our gratitude. This is no fly-by-night operation. Unspeakable effort has gone into the production of this version of the Bible, with thousands of decisions being made by individuals and committees, all under the purview of the prime mandate of the CBT. For this, believers everywhere can and should thank God for the NIV, because it is what it purports to be: the eternal word of God in the language of English-speaking people today.”4

            Dr. William Lane Craig, when asked to recommend a Bible translation, was suspicious of the distortions in TNIV (Today’s New International Version) but affirmative of NIV’s credibility, “I do not have a recommendation. I myself use the Revised Standard Version. I think that has the literary beauty of the King James Bible but with better manuscripts and more modern translation. But there are others as well. The ESV and NIV are two others. I think it is good to have a number of modern translations. Basically all of these will be responsible translations. They are done by modern committees of linguists who are experts.1

            Followup: I have heard that the NIV is really too much of a paraphrase and in fact it changes the truth just by leaving out certain pronouns or words that we’d think are unimportant but in the Greek could change the meaning.

            Answer: That is true about the TNIV – those who are interested in inclusivist language have changed much of that to eliminate male references and pronouns. I think there you do have some definite distortion. But as for the NIV, I don’t think it will seriously mislead.”5

Response To Erica Campbell’s Allegation

            Both Biblica - The International Bible Society that’s responsible for NIV translation and Zondervan - the publishing house, have always maintained that NIV is reliable, “Biblica denies that HarperCollins, or any other group, has editorial control over the translation: The text of the NIV is entrusted to the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), a self-governing body of 15 evangelical Bible scholars. No outside group — no publisher or commercial entity — can decide how the NIV is translated.

            In keeping with the original NIV charter, the CBT meets every year to monitor developments in biblical scholarship, as well as changes in English usage. Every year, they solicit (and receive) input from scholars, pastors, missionaries, and laypeople.

            Also, Zondervan (the division of HarperCollins Christian that publishes the NIV Bible) disputes that there are any missing verses at all: Often times, readers will come across what they feel are “missing verses” in their NIV Bible. These verses, however, are not really missing. They are included in the footnotes on the same page of the Bible where the “missing” passage is located. During the exacting translation process for the NIV Bible, some verses were found not to be included in the oldest or most reliable manuscripts that the NIV translators had available to use. Most of these manuscripts were discovered after the King James Version was first translated, some 400 years ago. When those verses could not be verified by the more reliable or older manuscripts, the NIV translators moved them to a footnote to reflect greater accuracy.

            Please be assured that your NIV Bible is extremely accurate, trustworthy and reliable. Additional information on the translation process and use of footnotes is located in the Preface of your NIV Bible…”6 (Emphasis Mine).

            By omitting verses that are not found in the older and more reliable manuscripts, the NIV translators exhibit scholarly integrity and a penchant for utmost honesty to the effort of translation. In fact, the omitted verses should offer the readers a greater confidence that the NIV translation is highly accurate. Therefore, we can confidently ignore the allegations against NIV. The NIV translation of the Bible is indeed reliable.

Which Translation Of The Bible Should We Use?

            Christians should use multiple translations, says Dr. Dan Wallace, “My own recommendation to English-speaking Christians is to own more than one Bible. In fact, I usually recommend the KJV (for historic and literary reasons), the NET (for accuracy especially, but also for elegance and readability), and a Bible of their choice (which could be either for reading [NIV, TNIV] or memorizing [RSV, ESV]).7


Websites cited were last accessed on 20th October 2016.








Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What Happens When We Die?

            Do dead people go to heaven or hell immediately after their death? What do the dead people do? Do they reunite with their loved ones upon death? Do the dead know what the living are doing? These questions are of practical importance. 

            The doctrine of intermediate state seeks to understand the state or condition of the individual between their death and resurrection. The Bible offers us essential information but does not go into detail upon the intermediate state; probably because it is non-salvific in nature (this doctrine is not essential to one’s salvation). Hence the examination of intermediate state becomes all the more difficult and controversial in certain situations.

            The Christian belief in “afterlife” is indeed a sound proposition that has been validated by science as well (for more information into this theme, click here). (Christian beliefs are not essentially required to be validated by science, for science cannot validate the metaphysical aspects of life. But if science validates certain biblical notions then we will mention them.)

What Is Death?

            Soul is the principle of life that animates the body. Hence, the body is considered dead when the soul departs from the body.

Doctrines To Reject

            Certain denominations (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists etc.) believe that our soul goes to sleep or becomes unconscious after our death. But the Bible describes soul’s consciousness in the case of rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31). Moreover, the Lord Jesus told the prisoner on the cross, “And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”” (Luke 23: 43, NASB, Emphasis Mine). So the view of soul sleep is flawed.

            Roman Catholics claim that the soul becomes aware of God’s judgment upon death and passes on to heaven, hell or purgatory. Very minimally, purgatory is assumed to be the state of temporary punishment of those who are in a state of grace, but not yet spiritually perfect (not fully free from sins). When the soul arrives at a state of perfection because of “Mass, prayers and good works,” the soul is believed to be released from purgatory and passes into heaven.

            The concept of purgatory implies salvation by works. This contradicts the clear teachings of salvation by grace alone (Galatians 3: 1-4, Ephesians 2: 8-9). Hence we cannot accept the doctrine of purgatory.

            Some believe that unbelievers would be annihilated or destroyed after the final judgment. The annihilationists argue that while unbelievers cannot enjoy the everlasting bliss with the righteous, they do not deserve the eternal torment in hell. This doctrine is flawed because the Bible teaches eternality for the unbelievers, “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1: 7-9). 

            Some believe that the dead are resurrected with the resurrection body instantaneously after death (Extreme Preterism). This view is based on a loose interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5. There are number of passages in the Scripture that teaches the concept of future resurrection of the dead that is accompanied by the Lord’s second coming (Philippians 3: 20-21, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17). Second coming of our Lord is the occasion for our glorification (1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:8). The Lord Jesus also referred to a future time when the dead - both the believers and the unbelievers - will be raised (John 5: 25-29). Based on these passages we can reject the notion that the dead receive their resurrection bodies immediately after death.

Further Scriptural Considerations

            1. The New Testament distinguishes between Gehenna and Hades. Hades receives the unrighteous for the period between death and resurrection. Gehenna is the place of eternal torment (Mark 9: 43-48) where both the body and soul are united after the dead receive their resurrection body at the resurrection. 

            2. The righteous dead do not descend to the Hades (Matthew 16: 18-19, Acts 2: 31).

            3. The souls of the righteous dead are received into paradise (Luke 16: 19-31; 23: 43).

            4. The Bible equates being absent from the body with being present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5: 1-10, Philippians 1: 19-26).

What Happens When We Die?

            1. Upon death, believers of Christ go immediately into a place and condition of blessedness; the unbelievers go into a place of misery, torment and punishment. The souls would remain in existence, but in a disembodied state.

            2. Human beings can exist in either a bodily existence or immaterialized condition. w The immaterialized condition is one in which the soul or the spirit exists independent of a body (disembodied existence).

            The Bible teaches that soul could exist in a disembodied state. For instance, consider the verse Matthew 22: 31-32, “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Emphasis Mine). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead but haven’t yet resurrected to their glorified bodies. Nevertheless Christ termed them as living, which implies that their soul is living without their body.

            3. During the Lord’s second coming (when Christ returns for the second time) the believers will be raised from dead, they will receive their glorified bodies, and then to ascend to be with Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 21-26, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17).

            4. The believer’s resurrected body will be like Christ’s resurrected body (cf. Philippians 3:21). Our resurrected body will be…

            …a physical body with flesh and bones (John 20: 27, Luke 24: 39-40).

            …capable of eating food (Luke 24: 42), not for nourishment but for pleasure and celebration (cf. Matthew 26: 29).

            …a tangible body, “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.” (Emphasis Mine).

            …an immortal body (1 Corinthians 15: 53)

            …a glorious body (Philippians 3: 21).

            …a supernatural body that can move through space (Acts 1: 10-11) and can move through material things (cf. John 20:19).

            5. Like the believer, the unbeliever will also be resurrected. The resurrected body will be a never-dying physical body.

            For questions of practical significance such as “What do the dead people do? Do they reunite with their loved ones upon death? Do the dead know what we are doing?” please click here 

wHuman beings can exist in an immaterialized condition or disembodied state.

Dr. Gary Habermas says, “...After death, the spirit lives separately from the body, until it is given a new, resurrected body.
No, the brain does not die with the body. What is the evidence for these things? One of my primary responses comes from my 30 year study of near-death cases. I have found almost 100 cases that are accompanied by evidence--some so impressive that it has been written up in secular medical journals. For example, some cases involve people reporting verifiable things that happened a distance away, but after they were pronounced dead and lying where they couldn't see these things physically. Others have correctly described a variety of things even while they had no heart beat, no brain waves, etc. This tells me that people seem to live even while their bodies are "dead" and that sometimes they are capable of observing things even while their bodies are incapacitated."


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Does The Bible Promote Violence Than The Quran?

            A recent textual analytics of the Bible and the Quran revealed that the Old Testament and the New Testament contain more references to killing and destruction than the Quran, “Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament than in the Quran (2.8% vs. 2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads—more than twice that of the Quran—in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).”1 This may surprise many, for the Bible may not have been considered as the more violent religious text.

            If the Bible contains more references to killing and destruction, does it mean that the Bible promotes violence? Alternatively, how do we reconcile the biblical notion that God loves us so much so that Christ died for our sins, but the exact same God has mandated a gory killing of many in the past?  

            When people question our total love and commitment to a seemingly bloodthirsty God of the Bible, we, who call ourselves as professing Christians, ought to offer reasonable answers (1 Peter 3:15). Why do we love our God, who appears as bloodthirsty and violent in the verses of the Bible?

            Although the text analytics has compared the Quran with the Bible, this article will only endeavor to represent the Bible in its truthful light.

            Let’s think this through from two vantage points.

            First, I ask myself this question. Why did I not think of God as violent and bloodthirsty, when I read the Bible? As a professing Christian I study the Bible diligently. However, when I encountered the violent verses in the Bible, I did not honestly think of God as horrendously bloodthirsty.

            Here is an excellent instance of violence in the Bible, “Samaria will be held guilty, For she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, Their little ones will be dashed in pieces, And their pregnant women will be ripped open” (Hosea 13: 16, NASB, Emphasis Mine). Wow this is indeed gory!

            But I honestly did not think of God as gory and bloodthirsty when I read this verse. Why?

            As I was reading the Bible, the first unbiased understanding that I had of God was HIS holiness. God, by virtue of HIS holiness, cannot tolerate sins. Sins are, in essence, an assault on God. The Bible also teaches that the consequence of sin is death. I had no problems whatsoever in comprehending this truth.

            When I read the 13th chapter of Hosea, the first few verses revealed God’s love for Israel, the rebellion of Israel, and the judgment of God upon Israel. God loved Israel so much so that HE delivered them and cared for them greatly.

            But Israel, after having enjoyed God’s blessings, chose to rebel against HIM. Hence God announced HIS judgment upon Israel by using the most gory and gruesome similes (a figure of speech), “Yet I have been the Lord your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought. As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me. So I will be like a lion to them; Like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside. I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, And I will tear open their chests; There I will also devour them like a lioness, As a wild beast would tear them.” (Hosea 13: 4-8, NASB, Emphasis Mine).”

            Against the backdrop of God’s great love, HIS people’s mindless rebellion against HIM, and HIS judgment of rebellion, the gory details of God’s judgment, as an entailment of sin, did not consume me. All I cared about then and now is to earnestly understand God’s love for me and to love God more and more. I endeavor to be thankful for all that HE has done for me and not rebel against HIM.

            The Bible is replete with this truth – God’s holiness and HIS love for HIS people demands the utmost voluntary reciprocation of love and faithfulness of HIS people towards HIM. After having received and enjoyed God’s love, if God’s people rebel against HIM, then there is a blatant warning of an impending judgment, which is extremely brutal. Whether we like it or not, this is the equation. 

            Why should God judge? Judgment of God is unsympathetically portrayed in the Bible. Judgment cannot be sugarcoated, for God’s judgment is extremely painful. This pain ought to be portrayed truthfully in its goriest sense; else man will not understand God and HIS judgment.

            Let me merely scratch the surface of this predicament. If God does not judge, then God cannot be holy. If God is not holy, then HE ought to be evil. But God cannot be evil, HE is holy, so judgment is mandatory.

            The consequence of rebelling against God is brutal and painful both from a temporal and an eternal sense. Hence, the Bible emphasizes the gory nature of God’s judgment in no uncertain terms.

            Second, does God mandate HIS followers to kill and murder now? For instance, are we to follow the law in Exodus 22: 20, “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed”?

            No, those laws do not apply to us now. Israel was a theocratic nation (ruled by God) when these laws were instituted. None of the nations of this world are directly ruled by God, so these laws do not apply to us today.

            The New Testament describes the purpose of the Old Testament laws. These laws were intended to lead us to Christ, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3: 24, NASB).

            The laws could be categorized into: Civil, Ceremonial and Moral laws. Civil laws do not apply to us today, since the church is not a nation. Ceremonial laws do not apply to us, since these have been fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection. The moral laws have been summarized by Christ into loving God and our neighbors, ““Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 36-40, NASB).

            How then do we understand the laws that promote killing? Christian apologist Greg Koukl’s words are simple enough to understand this complicated aspect, “Does that mean we can go around murdering people because we’re not under the Mosaic Law? No. The obligation not to murder is universal and should be in any law. Just as our law does, the Mosaic Law included universal moral principles. So we are obligated to follow those moral rules, not in virtue of them being in the Mosaic law, but because they are universal for all people. The Mosaic law included universal moral rules and rules that were limited to the nation who lived under that contract. We have to distinguish between these as we consider how we relate to the Mosaic covenant now.

            Universal moral obligations from the Mosaic Law are repeated in the New Testament. The things that no longer apply to us are not repeated in the New Testament....Virtually every one of the Ten Commandments, save the Sabbath, is also expressed in some way or another in the New Testament as morally obligatory. Other things, like homosexuality are forbidden in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.”2

            In conclusion, the Bible does not promote violence; rather it portrays violence for the greater good i.e. for the edification and the salvation of mankind. The Old Testament largely portrays violence from two major perspectives: God’s judgment and God’s laws.

            The gory portrayal of God’s judgment is necessary for man to understand God. God’s love for man and the consequence of man’s disregard of God’s love and his rebellion against God should be sincerely understood by man.

            To reiterate, God’s laws were meant to lead us to Christ. Moreover, much of the Mosaic law in the Old Testament do not apply to Christians for the reasons stated. It would serve us well if the violence portrayed in the laws were read literarily, taking the genre of the text and the context into account, and not literally.

            If you desire to dig deep into this theme, then please read the following:

1. Paul Copan and Matt Flanagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God

2. David T. Lamb, God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Bible Angry, Sexist, and Racist?






Thursday, September 29, 2016

How To Live In Christ Through Pain & Suffering? (Walking Through The Valley Of Shadow Of Death)

            This is my 200th blog. Our gracious God has enabled me to write every week since January 14, 2013. Since I am continuing to learn much during this period, please permit me to share my most significant learning.

            There are [extended] periods in our lives when God allows us to live through excruciatingly painful moments that the Bible terms as the “valley of shadow of death” (Psalm 23: 4, NASB).  During these painful moments we wonder if God exists and, if so, why HE allows evil upon us.

            We are not perfect. We are sinners. We do not consider ourselves better than others. But if we look around, we observe some of our fellow humans enjoying life to the fullest. In comparison, we are neither very wicked nor more sinful. What have we done to suffer this evil?

            Job’s words reflect our thoughts more appropriately in this context, “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:20, NIV, Emphasis Mine). These are genuine thoughts consuming our minds during our moments of weakness while we stagger through the horrendous impact of evil.

            However, during our stronger moments we genuinely say, ““…Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”” (Job 1: 21-22, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Our moments of weakness are more painful and scar us deeply. Hence, in moments of weakness, we are more liable to commit dreadful blunders or sins.

            The greatest sin we could commit during our suffering is to question God and reject HIM. Job’s wife offered a similar counsel to him, “His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2: 9, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Why God?

            This is not to ask why God allowed this catastrophe upon us. But this is to ask why God should take the blame for the catastrophe. Was Job’s wife right to blame God for Job’s situation? 

            It does seem so! God is sovereign i.e. God is supreme over everything. God, if HE so desired, could have prevented evil to hurt us (cf. Job 1: 10). Hence, we do have a certain right to question God.

            Doesn’t the child have the right to question the parent when something cruel happens to him/her, especially if the parent was in a position to prevent that cruelty upon the child? This is the similar situation between God and the person who is suffering.

            But is it right to blame God for our rather unjust pain and suffering? In other words, what would we gain, if we blame God?

            Those who blame God are rather naïve and immature. I use strong terms such as ‘naïve’ and ‘immature,’ since those who blame God are being extremely temporal in their vision.

            Make no mistake, evil is extremely painful, but the life which we live is not the only life that we are to live. This short life on planet earth is the gateway to the longer [eternal] life (in heaven or hell) that awaits us.

            Christians are not called to be temporal; instead we are called to be eternity-minded, ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14: 1-3, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            As Christians we are not called to possess a worldly perspective on life, but we are mandated to sustain a heavenly perspective of life, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3: 1-2, NIV, Emphasis Mine). We should obey the mandate to sustain a heavenly perspective of this fleeing life. 

            Our life on planet earth is momentary, the Bible elucidates this truth, “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.” (Job 14:1-2, NIV). Apostle James said, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4: 14b, NIV).  

            If our life is momentary, our suffering is also momentary. But the pain we endure in this time and age would not seem as momentary but would seem as long and grueling. However, since we are called to live with a heavenly perspective of this earthly life, we should intentionally look heavenward / Godward – towards the throne of grace where God is seated – when we suffer.  

            It is not easy to live with a heavenward or Godward perspective during our earthly life. This is easier said than done. How then do we live such a life? What is the key to leading such a life?

            Prayer and Bible. That’s it!

            The key to leading a life with a perspective of God and heaven while suffering is to immerse ourselves in reading and studying the Bible and soaking ourselves in prayer. We pray that God enables us to focus on HIM and not our temporal pain while we suffer.

            So when we suffer we could be with God, trust HIM fully or question God, blame HIM and ultimately reject HIM. But what would we gain if we reject God?

            The answer is quite simple. God alone can offer us the strength to live through our suffering. When we reject God, we disconnect our only source of strength and place ourselves in an incredibly dangerous situation.

            While we live our life in pain and suffering, we are expected to make routine decisions for the sake of our family and for ourselves. These decisions could be spiritual (e.g. questioning God, not succumbing to temptations…), financial (e.g. medical expenses) etc.

            Our life should be predicated on truth and patience. We are called to do the will of God in and through our decisions. Patience is the key to doing God’s will. We are to be truthful in God’s presence, not succumbing to a willingly sinful lifestyle.  

            We are not to rush our decisions. There are moments when our plans may appear to fail or be delayed, but we are to remain patient in those moments to allow God to work HIS way in our life. In other words, failure (e.g. joblessness, financial downfall, deteriorating health, false accusations etc.) should not deter us.

            This is a hard learning, for none of us desire to fail in life. But God may allow us to fail, which in HIS parlance is for us to “slow down” for a period of time. (There could be instances where God may allow our plans to fail, since it is not in HIS will, even if we have prayed earnestly for them. So we should abandon these plans. We should not foolishly pursue these plans to make a mess of our life.) So let not delays or failures prevent us from doing God’s will.

            God blesses us while we suffer. For instance, while we suffer, we will learn who our true friends are. God will send true friends to our encouragement and comfort. Suffering cleanses our life of all unworthy friendships. Remember these blessings and be grateful to God.  

            The Bible does not make random statements. When God says that we should rejoice in hope and persevere in pain, HE will enable us to rejoice, persevere and pray while we suffer, “…rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer…” (Romans 12:12, NASB).

            Let us then live by faith in God and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5: 7). If we do not live by faith, then our souls are en route to destruction, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10: 35-39, NASB).

            The Lord will bless and keep those who are living by faith while suffering, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1: 24-25, NASB).  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Would A World Without Satan Lack Evil?

            The question, “Would there be less evil in a world without Satan?” could be relevant, for if the answer to this question is a yes, then we could plausibly ask, “Why did God create angels i.e. Satan, if evil in this world would be lesser without Satan?”

            Within this context, if God had not created Satan, evil would have been less, and our world would have been a good world. However, since God created Satan, could we then infer that God erred in HIS decision to create Satan?

            The entailment to this thought process could potentially debunk Historic Christianity. God (as a maximally great being) cannot err. If God erred in creating Satan, HE cannot be God. Hence God’s existence could be disputed. The infallibility of the Bible that reveals God to mankind could also be thus disputed. We could go on and on.

            Let us discuss this theme by considering the following aspects albeit from a biblical standpoint.

The Source of Sin

            Sin is an evil action or motive that opposes and assaults God. Sin replaces God with something or someone in God’s rightful place of supremacy. Sin entails evil.

            Understanding the source of sin is vital to understanding the theme we are discussing now. If Satan is the source of sin and evil, one could argue that God should have not created Satan to keep the world free of sin and evil.

            The “Animal Nature” of man is the source of sin, claimed British Philosopher and Theologian Frederick R. Tennant. Under this notion, humans possess natural animalistic impulses as a means to human survival that have intensified through natural selection based on their evolution from less highly developed forms. Other theologians have posited other sources of sin. However, each of these views has been found to be largely inadequate.1

            The Bible teaches differently. Sin is not caused by God (James 1:13) but man is responsible for his sins (James 1: 14-15).

            Man possesses certain innate desires. He could either satisfy those desires in moderation or sin by abusing those desires to either hurt himself or the others.
            His ‘desire to enjoy’ could result in an enjoyment of eating in moderation or a sin by being a glutton, whereby he injures himself.  His ‘desire to obtain’ could be satisfied either by legitimately acquiring material possessions or he could sin by exploiting and stealing from others. His ‘desire to achieve’ could be satisfied either through legitimate achievement or he could sin and achieve at the expense of others.

            Man could satisfy these desires in a godly manner by dwelling within the divinely imposed constraints. But man sins when he fails to accept the divine limits to these desires and makes these desires as ends in themselves, which are the cravings of a sinful man (1 John 2: 16).

            While desires are natural, there could be external inducements (Satanic or human) that motivate man to sin. Whatever be the case, man is wholly responsible for his sins. Sin is the choice of the person who commits it.

Function of Satan in Sin

            Satan is a demon (cf. Luke 10: 17-20). He is the tempter and deceiver. Satan opposes God and the work of Christ by tempting and deceiving humans. Satan tempted Adam & Eve, Jesus, Judas etc (cf. Acts 5:3, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 2: 11, Ephesians 6: 11, 2 Timothy 2: 26).

            Sometimes we state that Satan is the source of sins. While making such statements, we use the word “source” informally. In this informal usage, “source” refers to an ‘originator’ or an ‘instigatory cause.’

            If we claim that Satan is the source of all sins i.e. if we use the word ‘source’ to mean, in an Aristotelian sense, the material cause (‘that out of which’) or the efficient cause (‘the primary source of…’), then we posit dualism. Dualism contradicts the Bible, for there are no two equally ultimate powers, one good and the other evil.

            God is the only ultimate power and God is good. God is not the source or the originator of sin or evil. Moreover, Satan was originally created good; hence Satan is not the source of sin and evil. 

Potency of Freewill to Sin without Satan

            If asked differently, the title question would be, “Would Adam & Eve have sinned without Satan?” Since man is responsible for his sins, the answer should be yes.

            The premise on which this argument is also predicated on is the freewill-based rebellion of angels in the heavenly realm. (This premise presupposes the metaphysical similarity of the freewill of the angels and humans.)

            The angels that rebelled against God did not have an external inducement (as Adam & Eve had Satan as an external inducer). There were only two entities during the angelic fall – God and Angels. (Even if mankind was created before the fall of Satan, man was totally incapable of influencing Satan’s fall.)

            Since God can neither tempt nor cause evil, the angelic rebellion was an entailment of their freewill. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to conclude that Adam & Eve had the potential to sin or would have sinned irrespective of the presence of Satan.

            Satan merely accelerated the sin of Adam and Eve. Had Satan not existed, Adam and Eve would have sinned (or eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) sooner or later.


            Satan is not the source of sin. Man’s freewill is the source of sin. Man would have inevitably sinned irrespective of Satan or not.

            Would the quantum and the extent of sins be minimized if Satan was not created? Not necessarily so, for if Satan is to be considered as an accelerant of sin, then there is a possibility that the quantum and the extent of sins would be actualized at a later time. So the quantum and the extent of sins would have been the same with or without Satan, for the potency of man’s freewill to sin is independent of Satan.

            The other possibility is that the quantum and the extent of sins would be lesser without Satan. In which case, the question, “If evil in this world would be lesser without Satan, then why did God create Satan?” gains legitimacy.

            If Satan is the sole cause of evil, then evil would have been absolutely eliminated, had Satan not been created. However, since Satan exists and that Satan is not the sole cause of evil, only God, in HIS omniscient wisdom would be able to determine the extent to which evil would be reduced had angels not been created. 

            But on the other hand, if the good that is to be actualized from the good angels in ministering to people is commensurately immeasurable, then God would be justified to create Satan even with the potential of evil.

            Finally, natural evil, which is devoid of human willing and acting, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis etc. and suffering caused by a host of diseases  such as cancer, cystic fibrosis etc. exist independent of Satan and adds substantial numbers to the victims of evil. The pain and suffering caused by natural evil and diseases are innate in the creational design of this world and the human body.

            The fact of the matter is that evil would not cease to exist if Satan were to be non-existent. Hence, numbers need not matter. When evil exists, the terms ‘lesser’ and ‘greater’ do not gain greater significance, for the world we live in would be evil even if only 1% of the total population (1 out of 10 people) are adversely affected by evil. Moreover, if only 1% of the total population is affected by evil, then there is a certain possibility for evil to increase. 

            Therefore, the question, “Would there be less evil in a world without Satan?” would neither debunk nor harm Historic Christianity.


1 Other theologians have posited various sources for sin. The “Anxiety of Finiteness” was proposed by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). The idea of “Existential Estrangement” was proposed by Paul Tillich (1886-1965), the “Economic Struggle” proposed by the Liberation Theology, and “Individualism and Competitiveness” as argued by Harrison Sacket Elliott (1882-1951).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pastor Joel Osteen’s Sin Or Not?

            Pastor Joel Osteen’s volte-face on homosexuality is certainly intriguing. Initially he said homosexuality was a sin and homosexuals would not inherit heaven. Later he claimed that God approves homosexuals.

            His radical shift is intriguing and damaging as well, for Christians could be led to believe that Pastor Joel Osteen is correct in his views. He is after all a very successful and a wealthy Christian pastor. 

            Should Christians follow or emulate Pastor Joel Osteen especially with regards to his views on homosexuality?

            Here is the background.

            A blog “Joel Osteen's Sin” published by The Huffington Post in the year 2012 was updated this year (2016).1 That blog was an offensive on Pastor Joel Osteen because the blogger quotes Pastor Osteen speaking to Oprah Winfrey in which he echoed the Bible and deemed homosexuals as sinners and that they would not go to heaven unless they repent, “When Oprah asked Pastor Osteen if he thought gay people would enter heaven, he answered, "Yes, if they repent for their sins." Pastor Osteen went on to say that the Bible defines homosexuality as a sin.”2

            However, in the year 2013, Pastor Joel Osteen, when interviewed by HuffPost live’s Josh Zepps, reversed his views on homosexuality. He claimed that God absolutely approves of homosexuals, “Zepps read a piece that he liked from Osteen's new book: "It doesn't matter who likes you or doesn't like you, all that matters is that God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you." Zepps followed up by asking if that included homosexuals. "Absolutely," Osteen insisted, "I believe that God breathed life into every person and that every person is made in the image of God and you have accept them as they are, on their journey. I'm not here to preach hate or push people down."”3

            So Pastor Osteen knows in his heart that practicing homosexuality is a sin. However, it seems to me that because of the tremendous pressure upon him to be politically correct, he diluted the seriousness of the sin of homosexuality and made public statements such as “God approves of homosexuals.”

            I have not watched or attended Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood church services, but I have read media reports that he usually does not preach sin or hell, “Last month Texas megachurch leader Joel Osteen was asked on CBS News' "Sunday Morning" program if he feels "like you're cheating people by not telling them about the Hell part? Or repentance part?" Osteen replied that "No, I really don't, because it's a different approach" and that "I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough."”4

            I personally do not endorse the style of preaching of Pastor Joel Osteen, but then who am I to object to his preaching? He is arguably the most famous Christian pastor and people flock to hear him, and his books are bestsellers.

            Since Pastor Joel Osteen is so famous and successful, Christians who follow him may be well inclined to be like him. They may think that since God has blessed him abundantly, he must be pleasing God, hence it is only appropriate to emulate Pastor Joel Osteen.

            This is an invalid thought process, for God can choose to or allow someone who does not believe in HIM to be abundantly prosperous as well. In other words, those who do not believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ could be abundantly prosperous, for God could have either blessed them abundantly or allowed them to prosper.  

            Worldly success is never a benchmark for genuine Christians. If the unbelievers of Christ could be abundantly prosperous, then prosperity need not be a benchmark for a genuine Christian. Hence let us consider Pastor Joel Osteen as a mere Christian and not as a wealthy or successful Christian pastor.

            To recap, this is the dilemma. Pastor Joel Osteen echoed the Bible to deem homosexuality as a sin. But he neither preaches about sins (e.g. homosexuality) nor about repentance. To top it all, he makes public statements such as “God approves homosexuals.” This is as if to say that God approves the practice of gay sex.

            This then is the drift of the dilemma; if the Bible condemns homosexuality, then how could anyone claim that God approves homosexuals? It is appropriate to say that God loves homosexuals, for HE loves sinners. But it is incorrect to say that God approves homosexuals, for the Bible screams that God does not approve of any sin.

            God hates sins. So the wrath of God is upon the thieves, drunkards, adulterers, homosexuals, and the like.

            A born again Christian would not be a practicing homosexual. He would strive to be straight. A born again Christian may have the urge or the temptation to be a homosexual, but he/she would resist those urges to live a straight life.

            The much acclaimed and renowned Christian leaders are tempted to be politically correct. People like Pastor Joel Osteen succumb to this temptation to refrain from calling sin a sin. The danger of being politically correct is to make sins seem like God-approved deeds. Does Christ mandate us to be politically correct or biblically correct?

            Today, a small fry, or a rather unknown Christian minister can say anything and hardly anyone would notice it. But if this small fry were to be as eminent as Pastor Osteen, then the whole world would become aware of his words and deeds. Would he then have the audacity to say in the public media that homosexuality is a sin? Similarly, if he is given an opportunity to preach in a famous Church, to tens of thousands of people, would he preach that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals ought to repent to enter into the Kingdom of God?

            Known or unknown, wealthy or poor, successful or not, a genuine Christian ought to be biblically correct. A genuine Christian cannot be politically correct so much so that he makes sins appear to be a normative Christian lifestyle that God approves of.

            Should we follow Pastor Joel Osteen or the Bible? Of course, the answer is that we are to follow God and HIS Word - the Bible.  

            Does God approve of homosexuals? No! God loves them, but HE does not approve of their sinful lifestyle. Should we love practicing homosexuals? Yes, absolutely. We should unconditionally love a practicing homosexual. Should a practicing homosexual repent to gain eternal life? Yes, of course! Within this context, should we follow Pastor Joel Osteen or not? Absolutely not!

            Wasn’t it St. Augustine who said this, “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it”? Let us do the right by following God and HIS Word – the Bible. Let us also pray that our leaders would have the courage to do what is right.


Websites cited were last accessed on September 15, 2016.


2 & Oprah Winfrey’s interview of Joel Osteen can be seen here



Thursday, September 8, 2016

So What If Adolf Hitler Was A Christian? (Would Hitler’s Christianity hurt Historic Christianity?)

            The antagonists of Historic Christianity claim that Adolf Hitler was a Christian and that Historic Christianity was the primary cause of the holocaust. The defenders of Historic Christianity counter-argue that Hitler was not a Christian or he may have been an atheist and that his non-Christian worldview was the primary cause of the holocaust.

            The holocaust, masterminded by Hitler and his Nazi regime, devoured 11 million lives, among them were 6 million Jews, and the other 5 million comprising of people with mental and physical disabilities, communists, resistance fighters, Slavic people, homosexuals, priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and anarchists etc.

            If Hitler was a Christian, would Hitler’s Christianity hurt Historic Christianity? In order to think through this theme, let us consider the case for Hitler’s Christianity, the case for Hitler’s non-Christianity, and the interpretation of Hitler’s apparent Christianity.

Hitler Was A Christian

            The high priest of Atheism Richard Dawkins, in response to Pope Benedict XVI praising the British for having fought the Nazi’s, claimed that Hitler was not an atheist but a Catholic Christian. Dawkins quoted Hitler’s 1922 speech wherein he referred to Jesus as “my Lord and Savior.”1

            Popular atheist author Michael A. Sherlock in his article “The Atheist Atrocities Fallacy – Hitler, Stalin & Pol Pot” claimed that Hitler was a Christian, “…Hitler was a Christian.  This undeniable fact couldn’t be made any clearer than by his own confessions…

            To begin, here are just a few of Hitler’s Christian confessions:

            “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.  It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth!  was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.  In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders.  How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.  To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross.  As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice…For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.” [3]

            “The greatness of Christianity did not arise from attempts to make compromises with those philosophical opinions of the ancient world which had some resemblance to its own doctrine, but in the unrelenting and fanatical proclamation and defense of its own teaching.” [4]

            “His [the Jew’s] life is of this world only and his mentality is as foreign to the true spirit of Christianity as is character was foreign to the great Founder of this new creed two thousand years ago. And the Founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of His estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God; because then, as always, they used religion as a means of advancing their commercial interests. But at that time Christ was nailed to the Cross for his attitude towards the Jews…” [5]

            Over and above these solid testimonies, there are other equally strong pieces of evidence that indicate that Hitler was a Christian, like the fact that his soldiers all wore the slogan, ‘Gott Mit Uns’ (God with us) on their belts, that his birthday was “celebrated from the pulpits until his death,” as Hitchens so eloquently put it, and that the Nazis published their own slightly revised Christian bible. [6]…”2

Hitler Was Not A Christian

            As much as the atheist argues for Hitler’s Christianity, there is enough evidence to argue that Hitler was not a Christian.

            Hitler and his Nazi regime were much influenced by the ideology of German philosopher and thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Hitler was consumed by the idea of “Superman” (who has a great “will to power” and would reign over other humans) that was taken from Nietzsche’s work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”

            Nietzsche’s sister, Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche was married to Bernhard Fӧrster, a prominent leader of the German anti-Semitic movement. Elizabeth was also a friend of Hitler. Elizabeth influenced the Nazi regime to an extent that Hitler was influenced by the Nietzschean ideology.

            Hitler was so fascinated by the Nietzschean ideology that he had copies of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” given to all his soldiers between 1933 and 1945. Hitler often visited the Nietzsche museum in Weimar at the invite of Elizabeth and proudly posed for photographs of him staring at the bust of Nietzsche.

            When Hitler began his career, Germany was mostly a Christian nation. So Hitler often referred to himself as a follower of Christ. However, Hitler either imprisoned or executed more than 6000 clergymen on the charge of treasonable activity.

            Significantly, after establishing the “National Reich Church” that projected Hitler as superman / god, Hitler banned the Bible and the cross. Bibles were replaced with copies of Mein Kampf and the cross was replaced with swastika.

            Hitler also printed his version of the Bible, wherein words such as Messiah and Hallelujah were altered. Ten Commandments were revised to 12 Commandments. Hitler demanded worship; the Lord’s Prayer was revised, “Adolf Hitler, you are our great Fuhrer. Thy name makes the enemy tremble. Thy Third Reich comes; thy will alone is law upon the earth. Let us hear daily thy voice, and order us by thy leadership, for we will obey to the end, even with our lives We praise thee; hail Hitler Fuhrer my Fuhrer, given me by God. Protect and preserve my life for long. You saved Germany in time of need; I thank you for my daily bread; be with me for a long time, do not leave me, Fuhrer my Fuhrer, my faith, my light – hail, my Fuhrer.”3 This was recited by the Hitler Youth.

            Hitler systematically gained control over the Protestant churches in Germany to make them an instrument of the Nazi regime. In response, the “Confessing Church” movement gained momentum within the German Protestant Churches to resist Hitler’s attempt.

            Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian, pastor and a founding member of the “Confessing Church.” Bonhoeffer and other leaders of the Confessing Church opposed the Nazi regime and sought to establish the true identity of the Church. Ultimately, Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging.

            Think about this; had Hitler been a genuine Christian what was the necessity for a Christian rebellion against Hitler? Christians subscribing to Historic Christianity fervently opposed Hitler to an extent that they risked their own lives. They were either imprisoned or executed for their anti-Hitler rebellion.

So What If Hitler Was A Christian?

            When our atheist friend argues that Hitler was a self proclaimed Christian, should the defenders of Historic Christianity negate that argument to begin a street fight with the atheist? Debunking Hitler’s Christianity need not be the one and the only option for us.

            The other option is to ask a question, “So What If Hitler Was A Christian?” The atheist primarily posits Hitler’s self proclamation as evidence to his Christianity. Self proclamation is inadequate to one’s identity as a Christian. A genuine Christian not only proclaims himself to be a Christian, but also obeys Christ through his deeds.

            Genuine Christians do not kill as Hitler did. The very extermination of the 11 million people screams against Hitler’s so-called Christianity. Hitler’s execution of the leadership of the confessing church that included Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who actually sought to establish the true identity of the church, is most surely not a genuine Christian’s deed.

            Friedrich Nietzsche was not a Christian; he constantly attacked the Christian ideals. A genuine Christian would not follow the Nietzschean ideology.  

            Significantly, a genuine Christian would not elevate himself into a position of “Superman” demanding worship of any form whatsoever. On the other hand, Hitler, so fascinated by Friedrich Nietzsche, and so desperate to be a superman, demanded that people revere him.

            Therefore, however which way we may want to think, Hitler, even though he may have been a self-proclaimed Christian, was not a genuine Christian. So Hitler’s Christianity does not harm Historic Christianity, and any claim to Hitler’s Christianity can and should be ignored completely.


Websites cited were last accessed on September 8, 2016.