Why did God become a man?

Image courtesy of VeronicaRomms

In our previous article we showed how  Allah takes on human form when his Ruh [Spirit] visits Mary “in the form of a man in all respects” (Sura 19:17, Hilali Khan). So if Muslims want to use the objection that a God who takes on human form cannot be God, they need to realise it applies to Allah as well. Even if they they concede that God could become a man, the next question is often – why would he need to?

Right from the beginning in Genesis, it’s clear God has a special affection for human beings. He makes men and women uniquely in His image (Genesis 1:27) and walks and talks with Adam and Eve in perfect relationship (Genesis 3:8). Instead of asking why God became man, ask rather – why ever would God make human beings like God, capable of personally relating with him? Why does He invest us with such dignity and honour? (The Qur’an never says we’re made in God’s image – this is an  important point.)

Disaster strikes when Adam and Eve think they can live independently of their Maker (Genesis 3:6), so God’s image in them becomes tainted. Worse still, as a result of their disobedience, sin and death enter the world. As their descendants  we are all tainted image-bearers, born in sin and subject to death: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And just as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, so we too are excluded from His presence . Sin is catastrophic: it is so much more serious than the Islamic understanding of sin as just mistakes and weakness- it is a deadly disease no human wisdom can cure. Don’t miss the strong language of Scripture: in our natural state we are “dead in transgressions and sins”  (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13) and  “objects of wrath” Ephesians 2:3. We are cut off from God and powerless to change our natural state.

And crucially, sin is unique to humanity. A lion doesn’t sin when it eats an antelope. A lion’s taste for antelope may be a consequence of man’s sin, but it was man who fell, not the lion. So it’s man, not the lion, who is deserving of punishment. And yet, God in his extraordinary mercy, decides that it’s men and women, his image-bearers, who in spite of our depravity and rebellion, that He considers pre-eminently worthy of redemption.

How did God redeem his people in the Old Testament? Through the blood of a lamb. At the Passover, the Israelites were commanded to smear the tops and sides of their doors with a lamb’s blood to spare them from the destroying angel. “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:6) Forgiveness through blood continued via the  sacrificial system under Mosaic law. But none of these sacrifices could provide perfect redemption. Hebrews 10:1-4

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Why was it never going to be enough for a human to be redeemed by an animal? In Genesis 3:15, God hints that the redeemer would be an offspring of the woman – a human – and male. To Satan he says:

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

But it is no ordinary human male; it’s a  male who can crush the head of Satan, something only God can do. A God-Man. To re-iterate: the Bible anticipates a God-Man, not a God-Lion or a God-Beetle -because it is mankind who needs redemption, so a like-for-like sacrifice is required.  Note how carefully this is explained in Hebrews 2:11-18

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[a] 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[b]

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”[c]

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”[d]

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fearof death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[e] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18″

Now let’s turn back to the Qur’an. But why did Allah visit Mary “in the form of a man in all respects”? Why is it only birth of Jesus – not Muhammad – that warrants a visit from Allah in person? The well-explained (Sura 12:111), clear and detailed Qur’an (16:89) doesn’t tell us.

The Bible doesn’t leave us hanging: it teaches that Jesus needed to be fully human, as well as fully God, to be the perfect sacrifice to redeem mankind. He does this because he loves us so much, He would rather die in our place than let us carry on “dead in our sins.” And not only that, but through Jesus’ redeeming work, not just human beings, but one day the whole of creation will be made new:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

Freedom, forgiveness, redemption, peace; adopted as sons and daughters and ushers of the new creation.  John is spot-on when he writes “see what great love the Father has lavished on us!” – and at what cost. Muslims repent and believe in Jesus, our “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (I Cor 1:30) and stop worshipping a confusing and unknowable counterfeit.

Next time: Is Jesus the Messiah of the Old Testament?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Objection 2: How can God become a man?

Image of Jesus with halo

“How can the Creator of everything become a man? How can he limit himself?  It’s just not logical. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Note the phrasing of the objection – “how can God do x?”- puts the questioner above God by implying there are things He shouldn’t be able to do. But why limit God?  Isn’t a better question “why shouldn’t God be able do x?” Someone might respond with a conundrum like  “is God able to create a stone too heavy for Him to lift?” where either answer puts you in a hole. (If yes, God is not all-powerful because he cannot lift the stone: if no, God is not the perfect creator because there is something he can’t create.) But don’t fall down that hole because it’s a conundrum that applies to Allah just as much as it applies to the God of the Bible.  If you’re going to raise objections against the Christian God on the basis of logic, then you have to be consistent and admit that Allah doesn’t conform to human logic either.

And the appeal to logic is disingenuous because Muslims’ highest authority isn’t logic, it’s revelation. They have to believe that Jesus was no more than a human creature not because it’s logical, but because the Qur’an says so. That same Qur’an also claims to confirm the previous Scripture (Sura  2:136, 2:4, 2:41, 3:2-3,  4:136, 5:46-48) which plainly teaches that Jesus is God in the flesh:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (Phillipians 2:6)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

This puts Muslims in a dilemma – to accept that Jesus is God in the flesh in contradiction to the rest of Qur’anic teaching or  accept the Qur’an’s teaching that Jesus is not God in the flesh and reject the teaching of the previous Scripture, which is to risk Allah’s wrath:

O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.” Sura 4:136

(Most Muslims will pick the third way and claim the Bible has been corrupted, which the Qur’an doesn’t say: it was a theory first put forward by 11th century scholar Ibn Hazam.)

Then there is the issue that having a son is actually impossible for Allah:

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can he have children when he has no wife?” (Sura 6:101 Hilali Khan)

Wait – Allah is constrained by his singleness? Even single human beings can have babies if they put their mind to it. Are single human beings more powerful than Allah? It is very odd thing for Allah to say because he shows he is perfectly capable of creating a child when Maryam conceives Isa by his spirit (Sura 66:12). But according to Allah, creating a child is not how you confer sonship; rather sons are something you ‘take’. Sura 39:4:

Had Allah wished to take to Himself a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He doth create:but Glory be to Him! (He is above such things.) He is Allah, the One, the Irresistible. (Sura 39:4 Yusuf Ali)

Given he claims the previous scriptures as his own, it seems Allah has forgotten that divine Sonship has nothing to do with either fathering or adopting a human creature. According to the Bible, God the Father doesn’t ‘take’ a son, in the sense of fathering or adopting a child. Jesus is not a creation of God; he exists eternally as the Son of God and has done so both before and after his incarnation.  But Allah sees sonship in purely human terms, and he is above such things:

“It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He!” (Sura 19:35, Salih International)

While fatherhood might be beneath him, it nonetheless ‘befits’ Allah to come to earth disguised in a burning bush. Sura 27:7-8 re-tells the story of Moses:

Behold! Moses said to his family: “I perceive a fire; soon will I bring you from there some information, or I will bring you a burning brand to light our fuel, that ye may warn yourselves. But when he came to the (fire), a voice was heard: “Blessed are those in the fire and those around: and glory to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”O Moses! verily, I am Allah, the exalted in might, the wise!..”

So it’s logical to believe Allah can be constrained by a burning bush, but not within a human body? But Allah can be constrained by a human body, as we read in Sura 19:17 when the spirit of Allah visits Mary:

She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her our Ruh [spirit] and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.”

So even in Islam, Allah’s spirit becomes a man and is subjected to limitations. This isn’t logical, even by the Qur’an’s own ‘logic.’ How can a monad be constrained? Who is running the universe while Allah is in the bush or talking to Mary? Coming to earth and taking on flesh is not a problem for the Trinitarian God of the Bible – in fact it was predicted He would do so throughout the Old Testament. But why did He?  We will look at this in our next article.

With thanks to Sam Shamoun and David Wood.

Muhammad is not a prophet – 10 Reasons (3)

Jesus Crucifixion stained glassReason 3: Muhammad denies the unique Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ

There are many verses in the Qur’an which affirm the reliability of the Old and New Testaments, the Taurat and the Injil. Allah confirms the Scripture that came before it:

He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth,confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. (Sura 3:3 Sahih International)

Allah even warns Muslims against disbelieving his books (pl):

O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray. (Sura 4:136 Sahih International)

The Gospel is “guidance and light;” the Torah is “guidance and instruction for the righteous:”

And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. (Sura 5:46, Sahih International)

And the Gospel – which the Qur’an confirms, in which Muslims are commanded to believe, which contains “guidance and light,” explicitly DECLARES the unique divine Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Mark 1:1)

“He will be great and be called Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32)

“This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17)

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18)

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1)

Nothing could be clearer from the New Testament. And yet the Qur’an – which confirms the previous Scripture, in which Muslims are commanded to believe, which calls the Gospel “guidance and light – explicitly DENIES the unique divine Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ:

They say: ‘God hath begotten a son.’  Glory be to Him.  Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth: everything renders worship to him.”  (S. 2:116 Yusuf Ali)

“Wonderful originator of the heavens and the earth; How can He have a son when He has no consort?  He created all things, and He hath full knowledge of all things.”  (S. 6:101, Yusuf Ali)

The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah “; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah .” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded? (S. 9:30 Sahih International)

There are many Biblical misunderstandings just in these three verses. First of all, do Christians claim God ‘begat’ a son in time and space, like we beget children? No, Jesus has always existed and continues to exist as the unique Son of God:

“And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:5)

Secondly, why on earth is Allah wondering how someone can have a son without a consort, when in another Sura he grants Maryam a consort-less conception – with ease?

[Maryam] said “how can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste?” Ruh [Allah’s spirit] said: “So your Lord said “that is easy for me.” (S.19:20-21, Hilali Khan)

“Ezra is the son of Allah” said no Jew ever. It is not in the Hebrew Bible, nor in the Jewish commentaries. There is no evidence that is has ever been a Jewish belief. It is an error of the Qur’an.

How can Muhammad be a true prophet when he fails to understand Christian doctrine, when his revelations are contradictory (S.6:101 and 19:20) and when they contain factual errors?

The saddest thing about Allah’s inability/aversion to begetting children, is that Muslims can never relate to him as children. The most they can hope for in their relationship with him is that of slave:

“It is not suitable for the Most Gracious that He should beget a Son. There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes unto the Most Gracious as a slave.” (Sura 19:92-3, Hilali Khan)

That makes Muslims slaves twice: once to sin, as we all are without Christ, and again to Allah. Compare this to how the Bible describes those who belong to Jesus Christ through repentance and faith in Him as Lord:

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17)

How amazing that God loves us enough to die in our place, give us His righteousness in exchange for our sin, and  adopts us as  sons and daughters as well as co-heirs with Christ! So again we pray and exhort our Muslim friends to come to Christ to set them free.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. (Charles Wesley 1707-1788)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evidential basis for the Book of Acts

The evidential basis for the Book of Acts

Jonathan McLatchie shows how the book of Acts is historically reliable and how it gives credibility to the claim that Jesus really died and rose again.

For further reading on this topic:

Colin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History

John Saul Howson, The Evidential Value of the Acts of the Apostles

Craig Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary

Stanley Leathes, The Religion of the Christ, Lecture 6

Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View

William Paley, Horae Paulinae

James Smith, The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul

Find us on YouTube and Facebook

 

 

Objection 1: Jesus never said “I am God, worship me”

Jesus on the Cross
By Zarateman

Alongside our series ‘Why Muhammad is not a prophet’, we thought we’d answer the top ten common Muslim objections to the deity of Christ. This first objection, popularised by Ahmed Deedat, is way the most common and often the first one a Muslim will raise.  So here’s a quick rebuttal, which we hope you find helpful.

Objection 1 – Jesus never said ‘I am God, worship me.’

  1. This is the ‘exact words’ fallacy.

Just because Jesus doesn’t use these exact words doesn’t mean it can’t be true. Just because the Queen is not on record saying exactly “I am a woman and monarch of the United Kingdom” doesn’t mean she isn’t. The  Qur’an never says “tawhid [Islamic monotheism] is God’s truth, you must follow tawhid” – does this mean the Qur’an doesn’t teach tawhid? No, the Qur’an does teach tawhid. Besides, who are ordinary Muslims to tell Jesus, who they revere as a prophet, what He should or shouldn’t have said?  Why not look at His actual words? This leads us to our next point.

2. Why use an argument from silence instead of going to Scripture?

The Qur’an tells Muslims to believe in that which was sent down to us, Jews and Christians, as well as what was sent to them  (Sura 4:136). Allah says he doesn’t make a distinction between the Qur’an and the previous Scriptures (Sura 2:136), that the previous Scriptures are a guidance for mankind (Sura 3:3-4).  Why are Muslims preferring the words of human beings like Ahmed Deedat over Allah’s words?

3. Jesus does claim to be God in John 8:58 and Mark 14:62

How does Jesus identify himself in John 8:58?  Verses 48-58 give the context.

4The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honour my Father and you dishonour me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS BORN, I AM!” (Greek ‘ego eimi’)59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”

Who does “ego eimi”  (“I am”) refer to in the Old Testament? Isaiah 43:9-13  from the Septuagint (Greek version of OT):

‘All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of them foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, ‘It is true. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord (Greek kyrios, Hebrew YHWH) ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I AM HE (ego eimi). Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. Yes, AND FROM ANCIENT DAYS I AM HE. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’ Isaiah 43:9-13.

“I am” refers to YHWH, the personal name for God as revealed to Moses. YHWH is from ancient days, YHWH is the only Saviour, out of whose hand no-one can deliver.  Jesus is from ancient times (John 8:58, Micah 5:2), Jesus is the only Saviour (Luke 2:11), and no one can deliver out of his hand (John 10:27)! Therefore Jesus is YHWH.

What’s more, the Jews understood perfectly what Jesus meant, hence why they tried to stone him for blasphemy. And it would be blasphemy if Jesus were just a prophet, but Jesus’ claim to be God must be true because Jesus was sinless and not a liar – as the Qur’an also affirms.

27 Jesus’ claim to divinity is even more explicit in Mark 14: 61-64, during his trial before the Sanhedrin:

‘Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 I am,” (ego eimi) said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death.

In Jesus’ answer, note the parallels with the Divine Son of Man in Daniel 7:13 who is worshipped by all nations and peoples as God!

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a]coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language WORSHIPPED him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Why is the ‘son of man’ in Daniel  worshipped if He isn’t God Almighty himself? Jesus is claiming to be this very Person! Now turn let’s turn this objection into a question for Muslims:

4. So if Allah tells you to believe in the previous Scriptures (Sura 4:136), and that Jesus was sinless and not a liar (Sura 19:19)  why don’t you worship Him when He claims to be God?

Lord Jesus open Muslims’ eyes to see you for the glorious God and Saviour that You are.

For more in-depth analysis, read this article by Sam Shamoun