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Various Theology Questions:
Below are assorted, short e-mails I received in 2000-2001 asking various questions on theology. In the following e-mail exchanges, the e-mailers' comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
>Dear Mr. Zeolla
Up until 1 year ago I was an ardent atheist. After reading some apologetics I came convinced, first that there was a moral God and then I accepted Christ as my personal saviour.
I regularly meet with a convinced Christian with whom I pray and read the Bible. For cultural reasons I have not found a Church I am happy with yet.
However, I was challenged by an agnostic friend. He agrees with me that there must be a moral God, but does not agree that the Bible and Jesus, rather than the Qu'ran is the true revelation of God.
I have tried to persuade him with what I believe are the glorious doctrines about the crucifixion and how we are saved by grace, and the nature of the Christian heaven in relation to that of Islam. However, he has rightly shown me that what I have expressed is preference rather than truth.
How can I know that the Gospel is a true and accurate historical account, and that the Qu'ran is not. For either The gospel is true, or the Qu'ran is, or neither is. There is no middle ground.
I am in a turmoil and I eagerly await your response (even if this is to direct me to further reading. I really enjoy reading books on religion, and particularly like CS Lewis and John Stott among others).
Best Wishes and Kind Regards,
You are correct there is no middle ground between Christianity and Islam. There are some similarities between them, most importantly in both of them being monotheist. But there are also some important differences, such as the doctrine of the Trinity and the Person, death, and resurrection of Christ.
So two issues to research would be the implications of the doctrine of the Trinity and the reliability of the Gospels accounts of the life of Christ. Related to the latter would be the general reliability of the Bible as opposed to the Koran.
For doctrine of the Trinity, on my site are many articles defending it from a Biblical and logical perspective. And in my Scripture Workbook. I have additional Biblical proofs, along with a short section showing the important implications of the doctrine.
In addition, Francis Schaeffer's books are excellent in their defense of Christianity. Now a lot of what he writes is a defense of monotheism against atheism and pantheism. So such arguments could also apply to Islam. But he also addresses the important implications of the doctrine of the Trinity.
His books and apologetic books by other authors are listed on the following page of my site: Apologetics Books: Books-A-Million Bookstore Recommendations.
As for the reliability of the Gospels and the Bible in general, I discuss such issues on the Biblical Reliability section of my site.
I also have a short discussion on the Bible's reliability in my Scripture Workbook. And the following page of my site lists books which do the same: Biblical Reliability Books: Books-A-Million Bookstore Recommendations.
As for the reliability of the Koran, that I do not have specific information on. I have read the Koran, but I have never done a detailed study on it. But I am sure there are Christian Web sites that do, along with Islam sites that defend it.
Thanks for the prompt response
>Gary I stumbled upon your website while looking for information on the Trinity. I will assume since you are the website head I will not need to refer to where I get this information from as it all came from your site. However if you want me to I will. Some religions teach that as a child Jesus healed small animals.
I find this impossible since Jesus gave up his Godly powers so he may come to earth in a humane form. This would eliminate the possibility of him performing miracles. This would lead me to believe that His ministry started after His baptism and received the Holy Spirit. It was only through the Holy Spirit that he could perform miracles. Is this a good assumption? So is there any scripture in a reliable Bible that supports this idea?
Thanks for any input you might have.
The idea of Jesus healing animals as a child comes from The Apocryphon of Mary. This is an early "gospel" that purports to be written by Mary but which the early Church rejected as not being genuine. The idea, however, was acted out in the recent CBS movie Jesus.
As for your idea on why Jesus didn't perform miracles as a child, I don't think it is because of the reasons you state. There is much debate as to what the kenosis ("emptying") of Christ entailed, but I don't think it meant Christ couldn't do miracles, nor that He received the ability at His baptism. I think Jesus was just waiting to reveal Himself as His time had not yet come.
I think the strongest argument against Jesus performing miracles a child is John telling us the first "sign" Jesus did was at the wedding at Cana. A miracle before this would contradict this statement.
I have a question for you: What was Satan's lie in the Garden of Eden?
The traditional answer is Satan's statement, "you will be like God, knowing good and evil." However, later God says, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil" (3:22). So the answer is probably elsewhere.
It could be in Satan's previous statement, " “You will not surely die." (3:4). Adam and Eve did not die immediately, at least physically. But they did die spiritually and eventually did die physically. They were probably created to be immortal so they wouldn't have ever died if they hadn't sinned.
Another possibility is more subtle. It could be in Satan's implication that Eve would be better off eating the fruit and especially that she would be better off deciding for yourself what was "good and evil" rather than having God tell her. Satan didn't come straight out and say this, but it is implied in his approach. And that is the best kind of deception, to not actually say something but to mislead someone so that they decided to go in the wrong direction.
>Thanks for your answer, I perceive that you are an honest truth seeker.
I saw that traditional answer you mentioned on several "Christian" web sites and I couldn't believe the blasphemy I was reading! I mean if you really say that everything that Satan said in the garden (i.e. Gen. 3:4-5) is a lie, (they are using John 8:44 to back up this claim that there is Zero truth in Satan) then they also call God a liar in light of Gen. 3:22, Right?
It shows just how subtle (Gen 3:1) Satan really is. I heard once that "He'll tell you 1000 truths just to ensnare you with 1 lie." I mean isn't being like God (i.e. being godly) one of the major teachings of the Scriptures?
In Sunday School today, someone asked how Jesus could have been born sinless if all fallen humans (including Jesus' mother Mary) were born with original sin?
Can you tackle this one for me?
Grace & Peace,
That is a somewhat difficult question. The traditional answer would be that the sin nature is passed on through the father. So by being virgin born Jesus was "protected" from sin. However, in light of today's cloning technology, it would be very possible to produce a child without a father. But I doubt all female clones would be sinless! So that leaves the answer that God somehow performed a miracle and "protected" Jesus from sin.
Now I should mention that it is because of this question that the Catholic Church came up with the idea of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. If Mary were born without sin, then there would be no sin for her to pass onto Jesus.
But this "answer" only pushes the question back a generation and makes it even more difficult. How was Mary conceived if both her mother and father were not sinless? Both of them would have to be sinless as well, and back through the generations on both sides.
So I will go with the idea that the Virgin birth let us know that there was something "special" about Jesus conception, His sinless was one of those "special" aspects.
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