Category Archives: James White

Second Response to Dr. James White on John 9:38 and John 20:28

Apologies – I thought I had already posted this video to the site since it got more views than the original video that brought about the discussion in the first place! A few people duly pointed out that the second response hadn’t yet made its way to the main website and already had 4x the views of the original video. 10 days late, but here it is:

There are some interesting comments that came about due to this discussion which I’ll have to write about later on, but at the end of it all, this was a healthy discussion about New Testament Textual Criticism between a Muslim and a Christian. Not many people can fully appreciate how in-depth the discussion got, but it’s a start.

and Allah knows best.

Between Ehrman and Error

Recently on Blogging Theology I posted a video on the tenacity of the proposed ausgangstext which filled the lacuna of John 20:28. The vast majority of Muslims (expectedly) were enthusiastic about discussing the tenacity of Doubting Thomas’ alleged statement. The vast majority of Christians were not, which was also understandable. Then there were those caught in-between, educated enough to know that there had to be, or that there was more evidence behind what I had published, and there were others who were incredulous as to what that evidence could have been. Upon release of my second response video, I took a little more time, some 20 minutes and expanded on the rationale leading to the conclusions I mentioned in my first video on the topic.

Everyone knows about Dr. Ehrman’s famous statement, “copies of copies of copies of copies”. Yet the only two arguments I received in return were quite amusing. The first of which was that some people were curious as to whether Dr. Ehrman had commented on this passage or not. For some reason I have yet to discover, some Muslims’ hold on simple textual criticism of the New Testament is limited to only what Dr. Ehrman says, yet at the same time they are fully willing to simultaneously argue against his famous aforementioned quote. I duly provided a list of scholarship that not only knew of the work I gained the reference from John 20:28 on, I also provided the name of a seminary which uses the work itself, while also foregoing to mention that the scholar in question has been cited by Dr. Ehrman himself – one of the Muslims who opposed me in those comments had perhaps not yet read Dr. Ehrman’s references to this scholar (and his conclusions).

Nonetheless, the second argument I received was that no other variant of John 20:28 existed post p66, although I did point out that this was the case in Codex Bezae, as minor of a variant as it is, the challenge that not one variant exists has thoroughly been debunked (for those unread, the manuscript was eventually edited by a scribe).

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Following from this ignorant argument, was the case that since we know what every text post p66 said, then we must know what p66 itself said. This again, coming from those who agree with Dr. Ehrman’s aforementioned statement. We are therefore left with the following problem. Hence the title, Between Ehrman and Error. We have the following from the gracious Dr. Ehrman (emphasis mine own):

My point has always been (for example, in Misquoting Jesus) that we can’t know with absolute complete certainty what was said in each and every passage of the NT. That point – which I think cannot be refuted – is principally directed against fundamentalists who want to claim that every word of the Bible is inspired by God. How can we say the words were inspired if we don’t know in a lot of cases what the words were???Source.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to these questions.  But they shouldn’t be ignored, as they ALWAYS are (in my experience) by people who want to assure us that we “know the original text in 99% of all cases.”   Really?   Which original?

If it were just up to me, I would say that the “original” is the first form of the text that was placed in circulation.  But since that in fact is not the oldest form of the text, maybe we shouldn’t call it the original. – Source.

One very interesting piece of evidence for this view involves a fact that is not widely known outside the ranks of the professional textual critics.  It is this:  new papyri manuscripts – relatively very old ones – do show up all the time (several in the past few years).  Whenever a new papyrus turns up, it almost NEVER contains a textual variant that is completely new.  The variants are almost always variants that we know about from our later manuscripts.  This shows, the argument goes, that variants were not created later.  Our later manuscripts preserved variants, they didn’t create them.  And this shows, it is argued, that all of the earlier variants are to be found even in the later manuscripts.

This is a terrific argument, and very interesting.  On the surface, it seems pretty convincing.  But in fact, in my view, it does not actually show that we have the original reading or that we can know that we do.  I will explain why in the next post. – Source.

I don’t think our New Testaments are likely ever to change much.  And I don’t think we know in a lot of places what the originals said.  Where’s the contradiction?  I’m not saying that we *know* that we have the original text in 99.9% of the passages of the NT.  I’m saying we *don’t* know – for a wide variety of reasons that I haven’t gotten into very much here.   But I’m emphasizing the word “know.”  We simply don’t know.

Do I *suspect* that most of the time we are pretty close or even there?  Yes, that would be my guess.  But it’s just a guess based on scholarly assumption and suspicion. – Source.

During those 300 years, Mark was being copied, and recopied, and recopied, by scribes.  Until we get our first full copy.  Can we know that this copy from 300 years later was 99% like the version that came directly from the pen of the author?  Of course we can’t know.  How would we know?Source.

Between Ehrman and Error. It’s really as simple as that. Dr. Ehrman used the word “guess”, I used the word “guesswork”. Dr. Ehrman used the word “suspicion”, I used the word “speculation”. Dr. Ehrman repeatedly points out that we cannot know what the original text said. He repeatedly points out that most variant units are decided on guesses and suspicion. So the question begs itself, how far are the conclusions in my video, different from that of Dr. Ehrman’s himself?

The problem presents itself, as he described regarding Mark, we don’t know what version of what copy we received. Given that basic, common sense principle, extend that to John 20:28, given that p66 is our earliest and we have no intermediate text (that is, the text between what the original author(s) wrote and the text of p66 itself), and that it has a lacuna or gap for the famous, “and my God” – then there is no way of certainty of knowing what p66 itself said or what the intermediate text(s) said, what the archetypal text said, or what the autographic text said. To require that we must need a variant before being able to dispute what a missing text says, is essentially self-refuting, the gap itself presents us with a problem, we don’t know what it said and we don’t know if any of the intermediate texts said something variable. We simply cannot know, just as Dr. Ehrman says.

So between Ehrman and Error, I agree with him, we cannot know, it involves guessing and suspicion. Those who disagree, disagree with the very goodly Dr. they appealed to in the first place and are as such, in error.

and Allah knows best.

Ijaz Responds to James White’s Video on Textual Criticism

Here is my response to Dr. White’s criticism of my video on the unreliability of the Bible. Of note are incorrect claims made on his part, conflating my statement of lacunae with his misrepresenting that statement as a ‘textual variant’ for over 40 minutes. Also his facetious and incredulous disregard for the science of higher criticism which he labeled as ‘mind reading’, along with citing or basing his arguments on misdatings of both p52 and p66.

There were a lot more errors on his end, and there was not a single rebuttal to the claims I presented and I was extremely disappointed to see negative comments about my character throughout his video despite both at the beginning and at the end of his video he said that this behaviour should not be condoned.

Nestorianism in Light of Modern Christian Apologetics (Part 2)

In a previous post, I commented on an inter-Christian theological controversy regarding modern Christians and the heresy of Nestorianism. Many Christians were unaware that such a debate existed within their faith today, primarily between the Protestant sects of Lutheranism and Reformed/ Calvinist theology. I had first raised my argument using the study of the philosophy of religion regarding the ontology (nature of being) of the incarnate Christian God during my recent debate with Dr. Tony Costa. Quite a few lay-Christians thought I’d misidentified orthodox Christian beliefs (Dr. Costa and his supporter Anthony Rogers are guilty in this regard), that I as a Muslim did not understand Christian beliefs and as such my claim was based out of ignorance. Rather, through my subsequent posts a number of Christians have come to realise that I had actually raised an argument that Christian theologians themselves had raised, it was in fact the lay-Christians who were ignorant of their own modern day Christological controversies. In his erudite work on Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof wrote:

1. UP TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. The Reformation did not bring any great changes in the doctrine of the person of Christ. Both the Church of Rome and the Churches’ of the Reformation subscribed to the doctrine of Christ as it was formulated by the Council of Chalcedon. Their important and deep-seated differences lay elsewhere. There is one peculiarity of Lutheran Christology that deserves special mention. Luther’s doctrine of the physical presence of Christ in the Lord’s supper led to the characteristically Lutheran view of the communicatio idiomatum, to the effect “that each of Christ’s natures permeates the other (perichoresis), and that His humanity participates in the attributes of His divinity.” It is held that the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence were communicated to the human nature of Christ at the time of the incarnation.

Even prominent Calvinist theologian RC Sproul wrote in, “What Is the Trinity?”:

I have Lutheran friends, and I always refer to them as “my monophysite friends.” They refer to me as their “Nestorian friend,” but I always say, No, I don’t separate the two natures, I just distinguish them.”

It’s not an argument or claim invented by myself, it’s quite a well known common argument that many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christian sects regard Calvinists as Nestorians. It is not difficult to see why. I tried to convey an argument that lay-Christians would be able to understand during my debate with Dr. Costa, but I will have to use a little bit of mathematics to better illustrate my point. The heresy of Nestorianism, entails that despite Christ having two natures, they are distinguished from each other to the point that Jesus becomes two Persons. Jesus with a divine nature and Jesus with a human nature. Surely in Islam, this enters the realm of polytheism. For the time being, let’s express how Reformed/ Calvinistic Theology about Jesus’s Hypostatic Union is Nestorian.

  • Jesus is a Person.
  • Jesus has a Divine Nature.
  • Jesus has a Human Nature.
  • Jesus = {Divine Nature, Human Nature}

If we were to say that Jesus suffered, does that mean the Person of Jesus with two natures suffered? Calvinists would readily say yes, but they would then additionally say, as James White has claimed, that only the human nature suffered. Thus, logically speaking it is a contradiction in thinking.

  • Jesus the Person with a Divine and Human Nature suffered.
  • Jesus the Person’s Divine Nature did not suffer.
  • Jesus the Person’s Human Nature did suffer.

Thus, this in effect breaks Jesus up into two Persons. They speak of Jesus in terms of only his human nature and of Jesus in terms of only his divine nature. Hence, regardless of their cries of orthodoxy, their ideas concerning the nature of Christ are inherently self-defeating and self-contradicting, thus eliciting charges of advocating the Nestorian heresy. In conclusion, as we have seen, Christians themselves did not know of these inter-Christian debates. That’s why I raised the argument in the first place. To bring attention to a problem that only their scholars seem to argue about, I merely wanted to demonstrate that Christians after 2000 years fundamentally disagree about the nature of God and cannot reconcile the God-man doctrine about Christ.

Why wrestle with confusion, when the solution is simply, there is no God but Allah….

and Allah knows best.

Do Christian Apologists Care About Theology?

Many in the inter-faith dialogue community would be surprised to know that most Christian apologists and polemicists do not care about theology. In fact, most of them ban, delete and criticize Christians who try to discuss inter-Christian theological matters. For the purposes of this article, I’m referring to Protestant Christians, since they tend to be the ones engaging most with Muslims. Theology necessarily deals with the doctrines about God, the nature of God, what salvation is, who is saved, and how one should use scripture. These are topics that a necessary for every faithful and devout Christian to have studied. Yet, most Christian apologists and polemicists are agnostic when it comes to declaring their beliefs. Most Protestant Christians fall under Arminian or Calvinist beliefs. The differences between being one or the other are vast, how one is saved, predestination, freewill, redemption, atonement and grace are all disputed between these two doctrines. Believing one or the other, often leads to accusations of apostasy and heresy. So where do Christian polemicists like Sam Shamoun and David Wood fall on these important beliefs?

Sam Shamoun

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Sam doesn’t care whether his explanation of scripture goes against important creeds and doctrines based on the Bible. To him, important doctrines do not matter. So what if an explanation he gives contradicts an important Biblical creed? In his words, so be it!

David Wood

David gets really angry when Christians try to discuss important and necessary topics about Christian beliefs about salvation, he does not identify with either Arminian theology or Calvinist theology, he flutters somewhere in between and is an agnostic when it comes to his theology. During one discussion about the nature of God’s love, he expressed his rage inducing anger on fellow Christians, reacting rabidly towards them:

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Another devout Christian was shocked at David’s disregard for an honest and heartfelt discussion between fellow Christians on the nature of God’s love in Christianity:

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What were the topics David did not want Christians discussing with him? Christian theology, election (how you are saved by God, is it predetermined or not), the perfection of God…..

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What was David’s response to all of this?

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Distract them with Islam! You can only speak to David about Islam! Don’t you dare try to discuss Christian theology, especially salvation and the nature of God, you can only discuss Islam! According to David, his theology concerning the nature of God, salvation, scripture, is all determined by, “the only side I take on this issue is the opposite of whoever is trying to disrupt a conversation…“. So just like Sam Shamoun, David doesn’t care about Christian theology, he flip flops between essential creeds that determine the nature of God and how you are saved, based on whoever he’s arguing with. He doesn’t care about Christian theology, he just prefers distracting Christians with Islam.

Matt Slick, Anthony Rogers, Sam Shamoun and Tony Costa

Recently Anthony went bobbing for apples and drowned in three inches of water. He decided to criticize some of the arguments I used in my debate with Tony Costa. Unfortunately for him, he ended up declaring the beliefs of Shamoun and Slick to be heretical. Regarding my arguments, he realised my arguments were based upon the Christology (what a Christian believes about the nature of Jesus) of his friends, and not on his own personal Christology. This led to the revelation that the beliefs of his Christian apologist friends were heretical. Anthony proclaimed:

However, Tony Costa does not believe in this doctrine of the “communicatio idiomatum” (nota bene: the Latin word is ‘idiomatum,’ not ‘idiomatium’), and that doctrine is not taught in but rather is contradicted by the orthodox definition of the incarnation authoritatively set down in the Chalcedonian Creed (q.v. “inconfusedly,” and “the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather THE CHARACTERISTICS OF EACH NATURE BEING PRESERVED…”).

What’s that? The doctrine of ‘communicatio idiomatum’ is a contradiction of orthodoxy? That makes it heretical to believe in. Yet guess who believes in and defends Christianity using a doctrine that Anthony considers to be…..”contradicting orthodoxy”? His very friends, Sam Shamoun and Matt Slick!

Sam Shamoun uses the doctrine to defend the dual nature of Christ against Muslim objections: Click this link.

Matt Slick who operates CARM and is often featured alongside Sam and Wood on ABN/ Trinity TV also promotes and believes in this doctrine: Click this link.

What did Anthony do when he realised my arguments in the debate with Tony Costa was based on the Christology of his friends? He decided to correct a typo in one of my sentences by dedicating three paragraphs and two comments on YouTube about it. Yet, I persisted, he had made an error. He had wrongly criticized me, and at the same time had claimed that the beliefs of Sam and Matt contradicted orthodoxy, thus declaring them heretics. As expected, realising his error, he quickly left the conversation. The entirety of which can be read here.

Update 4/11/15:

Anthony was kind enough to post the conversation for me. Here’s the link to the images. For some reason he edited out the last two comments of the conversation, and chose not to link directly to the source as I did. As can be noted, when caught out, he resulted to arguing about a single typo. Such is the level of polemics he chooses to engage in, and of which I will not lower myself to.

James White

He’s considered to be one of the leading Calvinist apologists today. Debating Catholics, Jehovas Witnesses, Arminians and more. Yet, when it comes to his very own Christian friends like Sam and Wood, he fails to correct them. Fails to teach them. He’d readily criticize a Muslim for speaking incorrectly about Christian theology, yet he abjectly fails when it comes to educating fellow Christian apologists about central creeds and beliefs necessary for their salvation. It would be interesting to see if White would be consistent this time around. Here we have Shamoun and Wood openly disregarding Calvinist theology. These are statements made in the public domain.

Surely then, White, as a staunch defender of Calvinist theology would not stand for this. Given that he can condemn literally almost every other Christian sect that disagrees with Calvinist theology, it should be expected that he would also in like, publicly reprimand Shamoun and Wood for their gross misconduct regarding core theological beliefs. However, this is unlikely. White would not dare criticize the theology of Shamoun or Wood, regardless of how critical they are of Calvinist theology. If a Muslim had criticized Calvinist theology, we could have expected a 2 hour long Dividing Line episode on their lack of consistency. Such is the standard that White holds himself and his faith up to.

Conclusion

So where does this leave us? These polemicists do not care about Christianity. Studying and defending Christian theology is not important to them. Believing in heretical beliefs is of no importance. They go to extreme odds to prevent discussion about inter-Christian theological differences. The next time a Christian interacts with Sam, Wood, Rogers and Slick, ask them, do you care about your theology? Do they care that none of their Christologies are compatible, that they each differ about the very nature of God and the means of salvation in Christianity? Do they care? The answer is an unequivocal, no.

and God knows best.

Nestorianism in Light of Modern Christian Apologetics (Part 1)

In an earlier article entitled, “Should Christians Appeal to Jesus’s Human Nature to Explain God’s Ignorance or Fallibility?“, I concluded that doing so is to use the heresy of Nestorianism. To demonstrate this, I quoted an example from James White’s The Forgotten Trinity:

“Crucifixion is only meaningful with reference to his human nature (you cannot crucify the divine nature). When Paul speaks of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory, he is speaking of Christ as one person with two natures.” – White, James R. (1998-11-01). Forgotten Trinity, The (p. 160). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Most recently, in my debate with Tony Costa, “Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God?“, I also raised this argument. In response, Tony argued that I didn’t understand what Nestorianism was. In light of this, I began to realise that the more popular Christian apologists did not seem to be aware of what the Church Fathers had written about Nestorianism in light of the doctrine of the ‘communication between the two natures’. Thus, in this short article I’d like to refer both of the aforementioned apologists, to The Anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria which was accepted in the Council of Ephesus (431 CE). He writes:

4. If any one distributes between two characters [προ′σωπα] or persons [υ‘ ποστα′ σεις] the expressions used about Christ in the gospels, etc. … applying some to the man, conceived of separately, apart from the Word, … others exclusively to the Word …, let him be anathema.1

The full text reads:

4. If anyone distributes between the two persons or hypostases the expressions used either in the gospels or in the apostolic writings, whether they are used by the holy writers of Christ or by him about himself, and ascribes some to him as to a man, thought of separately from the Word from God, and others, as befitting God, to him as to the Word from God the Father, let him be anathema.2

Thus, the position that both of these apologists hold to, that they can apply some expressions of Christ (suffering, dying, hunger) to singly his human nature and others singly befitting God, is considered to be Nestorianism. The consequences of which, both of these apologists could be labelled as heretics and anathematized from the Christian faith according to the Church Father Cyril of Alexandria.

Note: Here is a Christian who apostated from Reformed Theology, and has debated James White’s colleague Turretin: click here for the apostate’s exposition on Reformed Theology’s similarities of Noestorian beliefs, and here for the debate. Thus, it seems as if I have inadvertently stumbled upon an inter-Christian debate, leading to the same conclusions I have been arguing all along. 

and God knows best.

Sources:

  1. Bettenson, Henry. Documents of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. London: Oxford UP, 1999. 51. Print.
  2. “Twelve Anathemas Proposed by Cyril and Accepted by the Council of Ephesus.” Twelve Anathemas. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.

Should Christians Appeal to Jesus’s Human Nature to Explain God’s Ignorance or Fallibility?

Question:

When discussing whether Christ was God or a man with Christians, they often explain his “defects” as being due to his human nature. For example, they say if he was hungry, it was due to his human nature, or cursing the fig tree and praying to God, was due to his human nature. What would be your response to this?

Answer:

Assuming that this question refers to interactions with Trinitarian Christians, it is actually a heresy to explain Jesus’s actions exclusively in light of his human nature. In Trinitarianism, Jesus is considered to be both God and man, with his divine nature and his human nature being eternally united, otherwise known as the hypostatic union. In the centuries when the Trinitarian creed was being developed, a popular heresy which existed at that time was to separate these two natures. This was known as Nestorianism. Thus, the Nestorians believed that there were two natures, a divine and human but that they were not joined together in a union.

Trinitarians describe this union as Jesus being one person with two unified natures, sometimes referred to as “fully God and fully man”. Meaning, at all times, he – Christ, was both fully God and fully man. Let’s take the example of Jesus’s crucifixion. If we ask, did the all powerful God suffer, a Christian would say no, as a divine being cannot suffer. Only the human nature suffered. This is the heresy of Nestorianism. They are disuniting the natures, and isolating the human nature from the divine nature. We must remind these Trinitarians of their beliefs, if the human nature suffered, then the divine nature must also have suffered as these natures are eternally united. Modern Trinitarians often use the heresy of Nestorianism when defending the Trinity, without realising it.

Another popular example is Jesus praying. Many Trinitarians would claim that the human nature was praying. This is incorrect, both the divine and the human natures were praying to God, the human nature is eternally united with the divine, at no point can one nature be disunited from the other. When Jesus was hungry, the human nature hungered. This is what Trinitarians claim when we inquire of Jesus’s cursing of the fig tree. Yet, they are once again isolating one of the two natures. We must remind them, both the divine and the human nature hungered, these natures cannot be separated under any circumstances unless one is willing to declare themselves apostates from Trinitarianism and believers in the heresy of Nestorianism. As Dr. James White says in his book, The Forgotten Trinity:

“Instead, the doctrine is misunderstood as well as ignored. It is so misunderstood that a majority of Christians, when asked, give incorrect and at times downright heretical definitions of the Trinity.” – White, James R. (1998-11-01). Forgotten Trinity, The (p. 16). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Interestingly, despite this book claiming to be a defense of the Trinitarian doctrine, Dr. White himself also appeals to the heresy of Nestorianism. In seeking to explain the dual nature of Christ, he says:

“Crucifixion is only meaningful with reference to his human nature (you cannot crucify the divine nature). When Paul speaks of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory, he is speaking of Christ as one person with two natures.” – White, James R. (1998-11-01). Forgotten Trinity, The (p. 160). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In the space of two sentences, a person writing on the very topic of understanding the Trinity, appeals to and accepts Nestorianism. He begins by saying that the crucifixion can only be meaningful in regard to the human nature, yet in the next sentence he states that Paul teaches that the crucifixion is of the person of Christ, the person with two natures. Such a level of confusion and contradiction is rampant throughout Trinitarian teachings. I have previously written about another Trinitarian book that sought to explain the Trinity, which you can read here.

It is interesting that John 14:26 claims that the Spirit would come to explain all things necessary for salvation and to make these things easy to understand, yet all Trinitarians would gladly proclaim that the Trinity is a divine mystery which cannot be understood and that the communication between the two natures (communicatio idiomatum) is a divine mystery. Surely then, the Trinity is not a doctrine of God, and it is something that both Christian scholars and laymen alike, find extreme difficulty in accepting and believing, and it is unfortunate that while they condemn Nestorianism as a heresy, they openly appeal to it in trying to explain Trinitarianism.

and Allah knows best.

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