An elderly woman tosses aside her walker and sprints around a crowded auditorium amidst thunderous applause. Hundreds of congregants gasp as a faith healer lengthens a man’s shortened leg in the name of Jesus. Throngs of worshipers fall backward, seemingly lifeless, as an evangelist breathes the Holy Spirit on them.
These are common sights on Christian television, meant to convince us that God continues to perform signs, wonders and miracles through His anointed servants.
But are these truly miracles? Is God really at work, or is some charlatan playing on our emotions so we’ll pull out our checkbooks and “release” our faith with a generous donation?
It’s not always easy to tell. Thankfully, Christian apologists Norman Geisler and Frank Turek offer some good advice in their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. The authors remind us that miracles are possible today – God still deals in the supernatural – but it’s important to separate the miraculous from a host of counterfeits.
The Qur’an is Islam’s most holy book. While Muslims believe Allah has revealed many written works, including the Old and New Testaments, these revelations ended with the Qur’an, which supersedes all others.
For all practical purposes, Muslims accept only the Qur’an as the Word of God. They believe Jews and Christians have corrupted Allah’s earlier revelations in the Bible, although they honor the writings of Moses, who was given the Tawrat (Torah); David, the Zabur (his Psalms); and Jesus, the Injil (Gospel).
Where the Qur’an and the Bible disagree with one another, Muslims embrace the Qur’an as true and reject the Bible as tainted.
But what happens when the Qur’an contradicts the Qur’an, as it sometimes does?
A brief look at history and the doctrine of “abrogation” sheds light on the Muslim view of divine revelation.
Some Christian scholars today cast doubt over the canon of Scripture – those 66 books that the Church has long held to be the complete written revelation of God. They justify their views by claiming: (1) that surviving texts of the Old and New Testaments are corrupt and therefore unreliable, or (2) that early Church leaders deliberately excluded certain books for personal or political reasons.
As Craig L. Blomberg responds in his recent book – Can We Still Believe the Bible? – “there is not a shred of historical evidence to support either of these claims; anyone choosing to believe them must do so by pure credulity, flying in the face of all the evidence that actually exists.”
But what if we discovered an apostolic writing that has remained hidden for the last 2,000 years?
For example, in 1 Cor. 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter.
Should the Church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast.
Leaders of the word-faith movement, also known as the prosperity gospel, say they place a high value on scripture. Unfortunately, their unique interpretation of God’s word leads to unbiblical conclusions about God’s design for the Christian life.
A case in point: 3 John 2, which reads: “Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
As prosperity preachers like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen would have you believe, this verse expresses the divine view that every child of God should enjoy financial blessing and perfect health. But is that what the passage really means?
Hardly. In the first place, the Greek word translated “prosper” means “to go well,” not to become rich. Secondly, John uses a common greeting to address his friend, Gaius, similar to salutations we place in modern-day letters.
As Gordon Fee writes in The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels, “This combination of wishing for ‘things to go well’ and for the recipient’s ‘good health’ was the standard form of greeting in a personal letter in antiquity. To extend John’s wish for Gaius to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians is totally foreign to the text.”
While these unbiblical views from our LDS and JW friends are not surprising, it may come as a shock to hear that some leaders of the Christian Word-Faith movement hold a similar view – and quote the Bible to support it
A case in point: Kenneth Copeland and Isaiah 40:12.
Copeland, perhaps more than any other prosperity preacher, has gone into great detail about God’s alleged bodily existence.
In a letter responding to an inquiry on the subject, Copeland lists a number of God’s bodily attributes, including back parts, a heart, hands, a finger, nostrils, a mouth with lips and a tongue, feet, eyes and eyelids, a voice, breath, ears, hair, head, face, arms, and loins.
Further, says Copeland, he wears clothes, eats, sits on His throne, and walks. Copeland has made the outrageous claim that God lives on a planet, of which the earth is an exact copy, only smaller. Says the televangelist: Earth is “a copy of the mother planet.”
Their key message: Islam is a religion of peace.
No doubt many of the world’s Muslims prefer peace to the sword, decrying the acts of Islamist terrorists as perversions of true Islam.
And to be fair, Islam is a religion of peace, as long as peace is defined in Muslim terms.
A case in point: dhimmitude.
He was born into the “T” tribe, known and feared as the Defenders of Islam on the Philippine island of Mindanao.
His father was an Imam, a Muslim spiritual leader.
And it was expected that he would follow in his father’s footsteps, joining his tribesmen in defending the religion Muhammad established 1400 years ago.
But then Mark went to trade school on the Island of Cebu to train in auto mechanics.
Caught up in the Protestant revivalism of his day, Smith inquired as to which of the Christian denominations he should join. None of them, he was told, because they were all wrong. “The Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight,” Smith later recalled.
Smith was urged to take heart. God would use him to reinstate the true church, which had fallen into complete apostasy after the death of the apostles.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints professes to be the restored true church. Its leaders claim that Joseph Smith faithfully rediscovered proper church organization – that is, the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods – and the true gospel, which was lost due to “designing priests” that removed its “plain and precious” truths.
In short, the LDS Church declares itself the one true church, while all other forms of Christianity remain apostate.
The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 changed everything. In minutes this thriving, affluent city was brought to its knees. Roughly 50,000 people died. The sky turned black. Fires raged. Then tidal waves washed over the port, drowning hundreds more.
Later, Voltaire wrote a poem challenging the prevailing view that this was a divine act of judgment. “Whilst you these facts replete with horror view, will you maintain death to their crimes was due?” he penned, adding, “Can you then impute a sinful deed, to babes who on their mother’s bosoms feed?”
Voltaire did not challenge the existence of God. He simply asked what kind of deity would create a world with such design flaws. It’s a question other great thinkers of his day dared to ask as well – a question taken up by today’s angry atheists and carried to the extreme conclusion that God does not exist.
The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004, and a similar disaster that struck Japan in 2011, are more recent examples of what may be described as natural evil. While many atheists concede that moral evil exists in the world, the idea of natural evil seems to prove either that God does not exist or, if He does, He is not a compassionate, all-powerful God worthy of worship.
Not so fast.
Our Mormon friends teach the doctrine of eternal progression. Among other things, it means that all people were born into the spirit world – through sexual relations between God and one of his wives – prior to taking on earthly bodies.
As Mormon.org puts it: “Your life didn’t begin at birth and it won’t end at death. Before you came to earth, your spirit lived with Heavenly Father who created you. You knew Him, and He knew and loved you. It was a happy time during which you were taught God’s plan of happiness and the path to true joy. But just as most of us leave our home and parents when we grow up, God knew you needed to do the same. He knew you couldn’t progress unless you left for a while. So he allowed you to come to earth to experience the joy – as well as pain – of a physical body.”
While this is a troubling doctrine that departs from orthodox Christianity, it is even more disturbing to learn that Mormons claim the Bible supports this belief.
Before I formed you …
Specifically, Mormons cite two passages of scripture.
The first is Jeremiah 1:5, where the Lord declares, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Mormons believe this verse supports the doctrine of pre-mortal existence since God says He “knew” Jeremiah prior to the prophet’s conception.