Monday, February 29, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - Cain, Abel, and Job

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Someone once asked, "How long did Cain hate his brother"? The answer, "As long as he was Abel!" Putting aside the cheap jokes, the Koran records the first murder, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, as follows.
"Then his soul [passion] prompted him to slay his brother, and he slew him, and became one of the Losers [who parish]. Then God sent forth a raven, scratching into the earth, to show him how he might conceal the vile body of his brother. He said, 'Woe is me! Am I unable [too weak] to be as this raven, and so conceal my brother's vile body?' And he became one of the remorseful [repentant]." (Koran 5:33-34)
Rodwell writes, "In the Jewish tradition the raven shews the mode of burial to Adam, not to Cain." (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, footnote 5.16) However, the Jewish scriptures themselves do not recount the instruction of a raven on burial to either Adam or Cain. The scriptures simply record the death and burial of Abel as follows, "And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him." (Genesis 4:8) It is doubtful that Cain would need any instructions on how to hide a body. He was a tiller of the ground and would have know how to dig a hole big enough to hide his brother's body. Muhammad was also wrong to account repentance to Cain when he realized that he lacked even the wisdom of a raven when it came to hiding things in the ground. for we know that when God came to question him regarding Abel's death, he was still not remorseful or repentant of the murder. "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your brother?' And he said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?' He said, 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.'" (Genesis 4:9-10) Even upon hearing his punishment for his crime, his thoughts were not towards repentance and forgiveness, rather he complained about the severity of his punishment. "Cain said to the Lord, 'My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.'" (Genesis 4:13-15) We never see Cain remorseful or repentant for his acts as Muhammad claims; not at the teaching of a raven, not when confronted by God, and not when receiving the punishment for his crime.


The Koran accounts the end of Job's life; when God restored to him all he had lost. Specifically, we see God commanding Job to execute on his wife the words he had previously spoken.
"[And we said] 'Take in thy hand a bundle of rushes [a rod], and strike therewith, and do not fail in [break] thy oath.'" (Koran 38:43)
Rodwell says of this verse, "Thy wife; on whom he had sworn that he would inflict a hundred blows, because she had absented herself from him when in need of her assistance, or for her words (Job 2:9). The oath was kept, we are told, by giving her one blow with a rod of a hundred stalks." (J.M. Rodell, The Koran, footnote 38.15) If Rodwell's understanding of this verse is correct, then there are three thing wrong with this verse. First, we do not see Job ever taking an oath to punish his wife for leaving him in his time of need. Secondly, while Job's wife was not the most supportive of his suffering, it is unclear if she ever physically abandoned him during his suffering. Job later says, "My breath is offensive to my wife, and I am loathsome to my own brothers." (Job 19:17) How can the be if she had left him. Finally, there is the command by God for Job to beat his wife. It is one thing to advocate for wife beating, but it is another to attribute it to the command of God. How can the same God who said, "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also," (Matthew 5:39) then turn to Job and command him to keep his promise to beat his wife? Such actions would be inconsistent and unbecoming of the one true God.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, February 27, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - Adam and Eve

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran records the creation of mankind as follows.
"And when thy Lord said to the angels, 'I am setting in the earth a viceroy [one in my stead].' They said, 'What, wilt Thou set therein one who will do corruption there, and shed blood, while we proclaim [celebrate] Thy praise and call [extol] Thee Holy?' He said, 'Assuredly I know that you know not.'" (Koran 2:28)
One of the things of interest in this passage is God's discussion with the angels. The Jewish scriptures records God's decision to create mankind simply as, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'" (Genesis 1:26) There is no indication that God discussed His intentions with the angels or anyone else prior to Him creating mankind. When God said "let us" He was not talking to the angels but to Himself. We know this because we know the angels had no part in the creation of mankind or of any other part of the creation of God. However, what is of greater interest is the response of the angels. Their first response was to expect sin from God's creation. As far as we know, sin had not entered into God's creation. Even the Devil had not sinned for that did not happen until after man was created. The Koran clearly describes the first sin of Satan saying,
"And when We said to the angels, 'Bow yourselves to Adam'; so they bowed themselves, save Iblis; he refused, and waxed proud, and so he became one of the unbelievers." (Koran 2:32)
Having never witnessed sin, why would the angels expect sin from God's new creation? We know that, according to God, when He looked upon His creation, He "saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:25) Why should the angels assume evil from that which God saw was good?

After creating Adam, God presents him to the angels to demonstration Adam's superiority over them.
"And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then He presented them unto the angels and said, 'Now tell Me the names of these, if you speak truly [are endowed with wisdom].'" (Koran 2:29)
However, the scriptures clearly records that God did not teach the names of each animal to Adam, rather He let Adam choose a name for each animal. "Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name." (Genesis 2:19) Furthermore, there is no evidence from the Jewish scriptures that God ever tried to test the angels or to show them inferior to Adam's knowledge and wisdom. In fact, the writer of Hebrews intimates the exact opposite. "You have made Him a little while lower than the angels." (Hebrews 2:7) While this verse may be taken to speak specifically of Jesus, He nevertheless came as a man and, as a man, was lower than the angles.

After Satan's fall, the Koran tells us that God warned Adam regrading Satan and his desire to deceive him.
"And when We said to the angels, 'Bow yourselves to [worship] Adam'; so they bowed themselves, save Iblis; he refused. Then We said, 'Adam, surely this is an enemy to thee and thy wife. So let him not expel [drive out] you both from the Garden, so that thou art unprosperous [wretched]." (Koran 20:115)
However, there is no account in the scriptures that God ever warned Adam and Eve about Satan, nor was expulsion from the garden ever a part of the original threat. God simply commanded them, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17) In fact, the decision to kick them out of the garden came only after they had sinned. "Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever' —  therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:22-24)

The Koran records the deception of Adam and Eve by the Devil as follows.
"Then Satan whispered to him saying, 'Adam, shall I point thee to the Tree of Eternity, and a Kingdom that decays [fails] not?'" (Koran 20:118)
However, the scriptures teach us that Satan approached Eve, not Adam. "And he said to the woman, 'Indeed, has God said, "You shall not eat from any tree of the garden"?'" (Genesis 3:1) Furthermore, it was not the Tree of Life that they were tempted by, for they already had permission to eat from that tree, but it was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that they had been forbidden to eat of its fruit. It was this tree that Eve perceived to be, "good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise." (Genesis 3:6) It was this tree that caused their fall, not the Tree of Life. Finally, there was no promise of a kingdom by Satan, either temporal or eternal. Such a temptation would have been meaningless since they already had dominion. "God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" (Genesis 1:28 NKJV) The Earth was already their kingdom and their eternal dominion.

Finally, the Koran records their expulsion from the Garden.
"Then Satan caused them to slip therefrom and brought them out of [caused their banishment from] that they were in; and We said, 'Get you all down, each [one] of you an enemy of each [to the other]; and in the earth a sojourn [dwelling place] shall be yours, and enjoyment [provision] for a time.'" (Koran 2:34)
It is unclear what is meant by "get you all down." Some post apostolic writers hinted that perhaps the Garden of Eden was not upon the Earth but in a mid-place between Heaven and Earth. Thus the idea of "getting down" and arriving "in" the Earth. It appears that Muhammad may have shared these beliefs. However, in describing the place of the garden, Earthly landmarks are used which seems to indicate that it was upon this physical Earth. "The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed... Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates." (Genesis 2:8, 10-14) This would lead us to believe that the Garden of Eden was in fact upon the Earth and not on some elevated spiritual plain.

More to come...
David Robison

Friday, February 26, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - Satan's deception

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran records the temptation, deception, and fall of mankind. Recording it from Satan's perspective, Muhammad writes,
"Then Satan whispered to them, to reveal to them that which was hidden from them of their shameful parts [nakedness]. He said, 'Your Lord has only prohibited you from this tree lest you become angels, or lest you become immortals.'" (Koran 7:19)
The Jewish scriptures tell us nothing of the intent of Satan when he appeared to deceive Adam and Eve. However, the Jewish narrative of the event does not seem to support the claim of Muhammad that the Devil's motive was to reveal to the man and the woman that they were really naked, as if they did not know it already. It appears from the scriptures that the Devil had a two part plan, first to get the man and the woman to doubt God and then to get them to disobey God; the end result being their forfeiture of life, their separation from God, and their expulsion from the Garden. When Satan came to Eve, he asked her, "has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1) something he well know God had not said. Eve responds by correcting the Devil's error, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" (Genesis 3:2-3) At this point, the Devil openly charges God with lying and lying for His own purposes and to the harm of the man and woman. "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5) The temptation was never that they would become angels for they could no more become an angel as they could become a fish. Nor was the temptation that they would live forever for they had eternal life as long as they partook of the Tree of Life which was also in the center of the garden with the Tree of  the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The temptation he used was that they would be like God in wisdom and knowledge; knowing right from wrong.

Muhammad records the actual fall and its immediate results as follows.
"So he led them on by delusion [deceits]; and when they tasted the tree, their shameful parts [nakedness] revealed to them, so they took to stitching upon themselves leaves of the Garden." (Koran 7:21)
"Let not Satan tempt you [bring you into trouble] as he brought your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their garments [raiment] to show them their shameful parts [nakedness]." (Koran 7:25)
Muhammad implies that, though they were naked, somehow their nakedness was hidden from them. He refers to their outer raiment being stripped from them as they partook of the forbidden fruit, and that, as they discovered they were naked, they were ashamed and tried to hid their shame by covering up their nakedness.

The scriptures in no way indicate that Adam and Eve were somehow deceived about their nakedness, that they did not know they were naked, or that they had some kind of outer clothing that covered their nakedness prior to their fall. The scriptures clearly say that, "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." (Genesis 2:25) No mention of not knowing they were naked and no mention of any clothes to cover their nakedness. After their sin, it says that, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings." (Genesis 3:7)  This is a fairly enigmatic scripture and hard to understand being nearly six thousand years separated from the events which it records. For one scripture seems to indicate that they knew they were naked and were not ashamed, yet the other speaks of their eyes being opened and them seeing their nakedness. What did they see which they had not seen before? How did their perception of their nakedness change from when they saw it and were not ashamed? I think the secret lies in their action and their reaction.

The result of them seeing their nakedness was to sew fig leaves together to cover their private parts. This reminds me of another man who covered himself lest people should see him. "It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai... that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him... When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face." (Exodus 34:29-31, 33) Paul says that Moses veiled himself, "so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away." (2 Corinthians 3:13) I believe that, in the same way, Adam and Eve, prior to their sin, shown with the glory of God and, in this glory, they were not ashamed of how God had made them, for He had made them naked and they were not ashamed. However, after their sin, this glory failed and the recognized what they lost. Their naked flesh apart from the radiant glory of God testified to them of their sin and they sought to hide their unradiant flesh lest everyone should know what they had done.

I believe this is further evidenced by their response to God when they heard Him passing by. They hid themselves and when God asked why Adam said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." (Genesis 3:10) Their response was not shame but fear. They were not ashamed that they were naked but they feared God for their nakedness testified of the sin they had committed. The end result was not, as Muhammad claimed, the revelation of their shameful parts (how can one be ashamed of what God has created) but the fear of judgment that was the result of their sin. Any shame that was there was not the shame of nakedness but the shame of sin, the shame of failure, and the shame of disobedience.

More to come...
David Robison

Thursday, February 25, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - The fall of Satan

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran records the fall of Satan as follows.
"We created you, then We shaped you, then We said to the angels: 'Bow [prostrate] yourselves to Adam'; so they bowed [prostrated] themselves, save Iblis -- he was not of those that bowed [prostrated] themselves. Said He, 'What prevented [hindered] thee to bow thyself, when I commanded thee?' Said he, 'I am better [nobler] than he; Thou createdst me of fire, and him Thou createdst of clay.' Said He, 'Get thee down out of it; it [Paradise] is not for thee to wax proud here, so go thou forth" (Koran 7:10-12)
"And when We said to the angels, 'Bow [prostrate] yourselves to Adam'; so they bowed [prostrated] themselves, save Iblis; he was one of the jinn, and committed ungodliness [revolted] against his Lord's command [behest]." (Koran 18:48)
Iblis is the Koranic name for Satan or the Devil. We shall discuss angles, jinn, and their differences later when we look at the doctrine of Islam, but here it is unclear if Iblis was a jinn or an angle. The Koran never speaks of them in interchangeable words, so these passages are unclear and a bit contradictory as to which species of supernatural beings Satan was. Also, it speaks of him being created by fire, something which the Jewish scriptures do no corroborate. The scriptures never explicitly state if Satan was an angle, only that he had a host of angles with him. "And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Revelation 12:9) As for the actual expelling fall of Satan, there are a few direct references and an indirect reference to its occurrence,

Adam records God's judgment upon the serpent for his part in deceiving Adam and Eve. "The Lord God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.'" (Genesis 3:14-15) This last reference is clearly a reference to Jesus' victory over Satan and that Satan would bruise His heal in leading Him to the cross but that Jesus would bruise his head by triumphing over him in His resurrection. It is unclear from this scripture if Satan was already expelled from heaven prior to this event of if this was the event that lead to his expulsion.

John records the event as seen in a vision as follows, "And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven." (Revelation 12:7-8) Again it is unclear if this was the actual first expulsion from heaven of the final casting down of him upon the earth, It clearly describes some kind of war in heaven between the devil and his angles and the angles of God, John immediately follows these words with the following, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night." (Revelation 12:10) This would seem to indicate that, at his throw down, Jesus had already been presented as the Christ and already had followers upon the earth. This seems like a later throw down then one that might have occurred at the beginning of time.

After the disciples returned from their mission that Jesus had sent them on, they were excited over the power they had to do miracles and the authority they had to command devils to flee. Jesus responded, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning." (Luke 10:18) This falling of Satan also seems to be in the time frame of Jesus' ministry upon the Earth and not at the beginning of time.

The one indirect reference to the fall of Satan is a prophesy against the King of Tyre,  "You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering... You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you... Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you." (Ezekiel 28:12-17) Many believe that this is also the story of Satan's fall since much in this story cannot be said of any man. However, its precise timing in history is left in question. Also, we see in other scriptures where, even though cast out of heaven, Satan still makes command appearances in heaven from time-to-time. "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' Then Satan answered the Lord and said, 'From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.'" (Job 1:6-7)

What must be understood from these various stories is that the exact nature and timing of Satan's fall is unclear and non-distinct in the Scriptures; certainly not as distinct and sure as in the story in the Koran. The other problem with the Koranic story is the idea that angles were commanded to worship man. This is troubling for three reasons. First, because such a story is not related to us by either of the Jewish or Christian Scriptures. Secondly because we are told that God made man, "a little lower than the angles." (Hebrews 2:7) It is inconceivable for the greater to be told to worship the lesser. Thirdly, we are only ever told to worship God and no one else; not man, not an angle, nor another god but only the Lord. Why then would God command an angle to worship an man? Muhammad's story does not make since when compared with the rest of the scriptures that came before and is therefore suspect at best.

More to come...
David Robison

Monday, February 22, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - The Judgment of Antiquity

This is part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
A good portion of the Koran is written to set forth the retelling of many of the well know stories from the Jewish and Christian scriptures. In the Koran we see all the familiar faces, such as, Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and others. However, many of the stories which we have learned from childhood have been changed and/or altered in the Koran. Not only do they contain omissions, which are to be expected, but they also contain embellishments, new details, and even contradictory narrations from the old stories we have all known and loved. The questions is, which re-telling should we trust? The record from antiquity or the modern versions as told by Muhammad? It is possible that new and corrected revelation was given to Muhammad except for two issues which will give us pause to believe the record of antiquity over the retelling of Mohammad.

First is that the recorded history we have in the Jewish and Christian scriptures were written by those who lived when the events actually occurred. While not everyone of them was a true eye-witness, they lived in the time where they could have received reliable information and a correct narrative of the events as they occurred. Even some of the most ancient writings in the Jewish scriptures were recorded in written form for the accurate preservation of the contained historical facts. In fact, there is ample evidence that the book of Genesis was merely compiled by Moses and was written by the people who are named within the book, such as, Adam, Noah, his sons, Abraham and his son, etc. Even today we have over a thousand complete documents dating well before the Birth of Moses which are still legible and readable today. Writing, in that part of the world, is very ancient  and there is reason to believe that, even the most ancient books we have received, were written by the contemporaries of the events contains in the books. For this reason, when it comes to the accuracy of the historical record, preference must be given to antiquity over fresh and new narratives that are modern in comparison.

Secondly, never before, in any of the Jewish or Christian scriptures, has God revealed to one generation the history of another generation. The fact that God would come to Muhammad and recount ancient history to him, a history that is contrary to ancient record, is new and novel and had never been done before. One could say that there is a first time for everything, but these new retelling of history are quite convenient in their interpretation as they almost always serve to justify Muhammad's position and to lend credence to him as being a prophet. As a prophet, it is one thing to predict the future for such a prophesy can easily be judged by its coming, or failing to come, to pass. However, predicting the past is nothing but self-serving as one can never prove what one cannot go back and experience. Seeing that, prior to Muhammad, God has never operated this way before leads me to require the confirmation of antiquity before I'll believe his new and diverging histories of Muhammad.

So why does history matter so much? Why should we care if the Koran gets some of its histories wrong? It is because of what the Koran claims about itself, that it is thee word-for-word translation of the Arabic Mother Book in heaven; that it is the inerrant, word-for-word, directly prophesied written record of the voice and message of God.
"By the Clear Book, behold, We have made it an Arabic Koran; haply you will [that ye may] understand and behold, it is in the Essence of the Book [a transcript of the archetypical Book], with [kept by] Us; sublime [lofty] indeed, wise [filled with wisdom]" (Koran 43:2-3)
Furthermore, the Koran claims to be fully compatible and in full agreement with all that came before it, including the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Koran claims for itself that it came to confirm everything that came before it, not to introduce innovation.
"Yet before it [this Koran] was the Book of Moses for a model [rule] and a mercy; and this is a Book confirming [it], in Arabic tongue, to warn the evildoers, and good tidings to the good-doers." (Koran 46:11)
"In their stories [history] is surely a lesson [example] to men possessed of minds [of understanding]; it is not a tale forged [new tale of fiction], but a confirmation of what is before it [previous scriptures], and a distinguishing of every thing [explanation of all things], and a guidance, and a mercy to a people who believe." (Koran 12:111)
Herein lies the truth of the matter and the reason why historical analysis of the Koran is so important. If, in even the smallest amount or in the slightest detail, the Koran can be shown to be wrong in its historical accounts, then it is most certainly not the directly prophesied word of God and Muhammad is not a true prophet of the true God. The Koran must stand on its historical accuracy. Either it is one hundred percent accurate, or it is not the inerrant word of God as it claims to be.

As we look to judge the Koran by the histories it contains, some may find it tedious and some may find it amusing, but I hope everyone will find it interesting.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - A holy house

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Towards the end of Paul's ministry, he journeys back to Jerusalem where, upon finding him worshiping in the temple, the Jewish people laid hands on him for they believed that he had defiled the temple. "The Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, 'Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.'" (Acts 21:27-28) The religion of the Jews had devolved into a religion of laws, things, places, and works. In the same way, Islam is not only a religion of works but also a religion of places and things. The most holy of these places and things is the holy temple in Mecca, the Kaaba. Muhammad describes the Kaaba as not only the most holy place to worship but also the first temple established by, and to, God.
"The first House [temple] established for the people [mankind] was that at Bekka, a place holy, and a guidance to all [human] beings." (Koran 3:90)
Muhammad describes the Kaaba as as place of worship for all people, not only the Muslims, and, in fact, people worshiped at the Kaaba long before the founding of Islam as a religion. Living in Mecca, Muhammad was well aware of the worship at the Kaaba long before he received his first revelation from God. Muhammad believed that it was Abraham who built the Kaaba at the direction and commissioning of God.
"And when We settled [assigned] for Abraham the place of the House: 'Thou shall not associate with Me anything. And do thou purify [cleanse] My House for those that shall go [in procession] about it and those that stand, for those that bow and prostrate themselves [in worship]." (Koran 22:27)
"Therein are clear signs -- the station [standing place] of Abraham, and whosoever enters it is in security. It is the duty of all men towards God to come to the House a pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there." (Koran 3:91)
It must be clearly understood that there is no evidence in either the Jewish or Christian scriptures that Abraham was ever directed by God to build the Kaaba or that he ever built any temple in which to worship God. In fact, there is no mention in either of these scriptures of the Kaaba at all. The first time we see any mention in the Jewish scriptures of the desire to build God a house is when King David sought to build a temple to God. God refused his offer saying his son, Solomon, would build His house. God remarks to David, "Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, 'Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?'" (2 Samuel 7:5-7) God clearly states that, as late as the reign of King David, He had no established house of worship nor had He ever asked anyone to build Him such as house, not even Abraham!

Muhammad believed that the Kaaba was to be the focus of worship and that, when ever you prayed, you were to turn your face and heart towards its site in Mecca.
"Turn thy face towards the Holy Mosque; and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it." (Koran 2:139)
"From whatsoever place thou issuest, turn thy face towards the Holy Mosque; and wherever you may be, turn your faces towards it, that the people may not have any argument against you, excepting the evildoers of them" (Koran 2:145)
This is an interesting commands since, nearly two thousand years before, Solomon made Jerusalem the focus of our worship and attention. "That Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, 'My name shall be there,' to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive." (1 Kings 8:29-30) If the Kaaba had truly preceded the temple built by Solomon, would he not, in obedience to God, directed the people's attention to the most holy temple in Mecca? However, Solomon seems completely oblivious to any other temple to God; any other temple worthy of the prayers and attention of the people of God other than the one he had built in Jerusalem.

However, Muhammad believed that the Kaaba in Mecca was the place God had chosen for His most holy temple; a place built by Abraham and a place for people to journey to to offer their prayers, offerings, and ornaments.
"And when We appointed the House to be a place of visitation for the people, and a sanctuary, and: 'Take to yourselves Abraham's station for a place of prayer.' And We made covenant with Abraham and Ishmael: 'Purify My House for those that shall go about it and those that cleave to it, to those who bow and prostrate themselves.'" (Koran 2:119)
"God has appointed the Kaaba, the Holy House, as an establishment for men, and the holy month; the offering, and the necklaces" (Koran 5:98)
However, the Jewish scriptures are clear that the place people were to journey to to appear before God was Jerusalem and not Mecca. "Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses" (Deuteronomy 16:16) and it is clear that He has chosen Jerusalem for His place to dwell. "but I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there." (2 Chronicles 6:6) God never chose anywhere else in all the Jewish scriptures to place His name, as a resting place for His presence, other than Jerusalem.

Beyond all this, it is important to understand, that with the coming of Christ, God no longer see places as sacred or common; He no longer has special places towards which we are to offer our prayers or before which we are to appear to worship Him. The woman Jesus met by the well said to Him, "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." (John 4:20) yet Jesus' response was, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24)

God is no longer worshiped in temples, He is no longer found in places. There are no places that are more holy than others; no places that are sacred to God. Where ever we are is holy and where ever we are God is there because now we are the true temples of God. Paul says, "For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" (2 Corinthians 6:16)

Muhammad, thinking the Kaaba was special, believed that the judgment of God was upon anyone who would seek to destroy it, prevent people from journeying to it, or hindered anyone trying to approaching it.
"Those who disbelieve, and bar [seduce others] from God's way and the Holy Mosque that We have appointed equal unto men, alike him who cleaves to it [abides therein] and the tent-dweller [stranger], and whosoever purposes [seeks impiously] to violate it wrongly, We shall let him taste a painful chastisement [a grievous punishment]." (Koran 22:25-26)
However, Paul rightly understands that now people are the temples of God and His judgment is on those who would seek to harm them. "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) God is not concerned with buildings but with people. God has not chosen to place His name and presence within temples but within people. Since we are now the temple of God, for what reason should we journey to some physical building since it is a mere shadow of the true and living temples of God? Why should I journey to find the presence of God when His presence already resides within me? What more need have we of temples? None!

David Robison

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Sacred months

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Most religions have their sacred days, times, and months; times of celebration, remembrance, and, for some, times of religious obligation. Muhammad believed that these times were fixed by the command of God and not subject to change or alternation. Muhammad pronounced this judgment on those who felt otherwise.
"The month postponed [to carry over a sacred month to another] is an increase of [growth in] unbelief whereby the unbelievers go astray; one year they make it profane [forbid it], and hallow [allow] it another, to agree with the number that God has hallowed, and so profane what God has hallowed." (Koran 9:37)
This is most likely an indictment against Christians of his day and their celebration of Easter for the day of its celebration varied from year to year and was not always in the same calendar month as it was the previous year.

Muhammad claimed that there were four sacred months set by God.
"The number of the months, with God, is twelve in the Book of God, [since] the day that He created the heavens and the earth; four of them are sacred. That is the right religion. So wrong not each other during them." (Koran 9:36)
The most holy of all the months was the month of Ramadan in which fasting was added to its observance. This month was special because it was the month in which Muhammad received his first revelation and it was the beginning of the giving of the Koran.
"the month of Ramadan, wherein the Koran was sent down to be a guidance to the people, and as clear signs of the Guidance and the Salvation. So let those of you, who are present at the month, fast it" (Koran 2:181)
Muhammad calls the keeping of sacred months "right religion" but Paul calls it the elemental principals, or rudimentary teachings, of the world rather than being true religion towards God. Paul warns us "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8) and he reminds us that we "have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world" (Colossians 2:20) including the keeping of months and sacred fasts. Further more, Jams teaches us that true religion is not in keeping months and other religious duties but rather, "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) The mere keeping of months and times of fasting cannot make our religion pure and undefiled.

There was a time when God did set times and dates to teach the nation of Israel to distinguish between holy and common, sacred and secular. For example, in the establishment of the Sabbath God taught mankind to rest even as God rested on the seventh day. However, with the coming of Christ those old shadows of religion have passed away and now all is holy and sacred. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: 'and God rested on the seventh day from all His works'" (Hebrews 4:4) Here God establishes the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a holy day of rest. However, with the coming of a new covenant, He establishes a new day as being holy, "He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, 'Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.'" (Hebrews 4:7) Then, only one day was holy, now all days are holy. Then we were obligated to keep one day a week, now we are called to keep every day and to live holy and pious before God everyday and at all times. We no longer need to observe days and months for everyday is a Sabbath and every day is a sacred day before God. Days and months are but shadows of what was to come, but now we have the fullness. Therefore, what need have we to return to shadows again?

More to come...
David Robison

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Giving alms

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
We live in a fallen world and poverty is just one of the aspects of its fallenness. From almost the beginning of time, the poor have been with us and Jesus promises us they will always remain with us until the end of this age. When Judas was incensed at the woman who poured a full bottle of perfume on Jesus' feet rather than selling it and giving the money from its sale to the poor, Jesus said, "For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me." (Mark 14:7) Poverty is a reality of the world we live in and it is the responsibility of pious and religious people to help those whose stuck in poverty; those who cannot clime out of it on their own. This is true for Christians as it is for Muslims.
"If you publish [give openly] your freewill offerings, it is excellent; but if you conceal them, and give them to the poor, that is better for you, and will acquit you of your evil deeds; God is aware of the things you do." (Koran 2:273)
Muhammad promises that if we give to the poor, God will acquit us of our evil deeds. In many religions, including Islam, the offering of alms is a form of penance; a way of paying for our sins. Consider the case in the Koran where one of the acts of penance for breaking an oath is the feeding of the poor.
"God will not take you to task for a slip [a mistaken word] in your oaths; but He will take you to task [punish you] for such bonds as you have made by oaths [taken seriously], whereof the expiation is to feed ten poor persons with the average of the food you serve to your families, or to clothe them, or to set free a slave; or if any finds not the means, let him fast for three days. That is the expiation of your oaths when you have sworn; but keep your oaths. So God makes clear to you His signs; haply you will be thankful." (Koran 5:91)
Alms are not only prescribed for the sake of love and compassion, but for the sake of cleansing our soul from sin and wrong doing. 

Jesus never prescribed penance for anyone seeking forgiveness and neither did any of His apostles in their teachings or their letter to the churches, even when dealing with issues of sin in those letters, The giving of alms, nor any other work, was ever given as the means to acquit us of our sins and to cleanse us of our wrong. When a sinner came to Jesus, He simply forgave them and sent them on their way. "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2) In telling a parable of the differences between a proud man and humble man, He says, "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'" (Luke 18:13) Jesus tells us, "this man went to his house justified rather than the other." (Luke 18:14) Repentance brought forgiveness without the need for penance. Furthermore, John teaches us that, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) It is confession that cleanses us from unrighteousness not penance or the giving of alms.

One other point of interest, the Koran makes no distinction between alms given publicly and those given in private. One may be better than the other, but both accrue to us as benefits.
"Those who expend their wealth [give away their substance] night and day, secretly [in private] and in public, their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow [be put to grief]." (Koran 2:275)
However, Jesus clearly taught us, "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:2-4) Those who give their alms publicly, to be seen by men, have their rewards already from the approbation and praise of men, There remains for them no other reward in heaven or from God; they have it in full already.

Jesus taught us, not to give our alms out of obligation, as through religious duty, or out of greed, as looking forward to the increase that might accrue to us, or out of pride, looking for the praise of men, rather to give our alms out of love. Paul reminds us, "if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:3) Let love be our sole motivation for giving alms and for caring for the poor.

More to come...
David Robison

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Watch what you eat

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Like most religions, Islam has particular dietary requirements that must be observed by all the faithful.
"O men, eat of what is in the earth lawful and good; and follow not the steps of Satan; he is a manifest foe to you [avowed enemy]. He only commands you to evil and indecency [wickedness], and that you should speak against God such things as you know not." (Koran 2:163-164)
God has not promised all food to be enjoyed and received with thankfulness, but only that which He has permitted us. It is Satan that would lead us, or cause us to desire, that food which God has forbidden. Such eating is evil and wicked in the sight of Allah.

While the Jewish dietary laws were quite explicit and expansive, the Muslim law of foods is much smaller.
"Say: 'I do not find, in what is revealed to me, aught forbidden to him who eats thereof except it be carrion [died of itself], or blood outpoured, or the flesh of swine -- that is an abomination [unclean or profane] -- or an ungodly thing that has been hallowed to other than God;" (Koran 6:146)
"Forbidden to you are carrion [that which dies of itself], blood, the flesh of swine, what has been hallowed to [sacrificed under the invocation of any] other than God, the beast strangled; the beast beaten down [killed by a blow], the beast fallen to death, the beast gored, and that devoured by beasts of prey -- excepting that you have sacrificed duly [made it clean] -- as also things sacrificed to idols, and partition by the divining arrows; that is ungodliness [impiety]." (Koran 5:4)
It is interesting that, building upon the Jewish scriptures, Muhammad would keep the prohibition of eating pork, yet would abandon all other prohibitions such the eating of camels, gnats, certain sea animals, etc.

As with many provisions in the Koran, obedience is required, except in the case where you are forced to sin, then it is permissible.
"These things only He has forbidden you: carrion [what dies of itself], blood, the flesh of swine, what has been hallowed to [slain in the name of] other than God. Yet whoso is constrained [forced], not desiring [lusting] nor [willingly] transgressing, God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate." (Koran 16:116)
Muslims are not expected to resit the compulsion of others to sin to the point of persecution and death. When pressed, they could sin without being judged as evil doers by God. You would never see a Muslim persisting in their religion to the point of death as we say hundreds and thousands of first and second century Christians do as they remained faithful to God and brought glory to Him and His message. Muslims do not have to suffer for their religion, they just have to do their best.

What Muhammad did not know and what he did not understand is that God had already, six hundred years earlier, proclaimed all foods to be clean and acceptable to mankind. Jesus, speaking of food and of eating said to the religious elite,
"Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated? That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man." (Mark 7:18-23)
In remembering these words of Jesus, Peter reminds us, "Thus He declared all foods clean." (Mark 7:19) This message, that all food is now clean, was reinforced to Peter some years after. He was sitting on the roof of a house and fell into a trance and saw a vision.
"The sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.'This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky." (Acts 10:11-16
Peter understood that, what God had called clean, he was to no longer conciser unclean. All foods were now to be received with thankfulness and nothing was to be rejected simply on religious grounds, Paul echoes these words when he said, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Regardless of what Muhammad says, God's words are higher. Muhammad's dietary laws are a retreat away from liberty and back into law and bondage. Keeping the Muslim dietary laws may look like religion, but they are dead old works and devoid of any real power to save, cleanse, or make one holy.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Pilgraimages

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
As part of a Muslim's religious obligations there is the making of pilgrimages and visitations to the holy temple in Mecca. These pilgrimages were instituted my Muhammad in the Koran.
"They will question thee concerning the new moons. Say: 'They are appointed times [periods fixed] for the people, and the Pilgrimage.'" (Koran 2:185)
"and proclaim among men the Pilgrimage, and they shall come unto thee on foot and upon every lean beast [fleet camel], they shall come from every deep ravine that they may witness things profitable to them and mention God's Name on [the appointed] days well-known over such beasts of the flocks as He has provided them." (Koran 22:28-29)
Their destination was to be the Caaba in Mecca; A square shaped house, or temple, that Muslims believe was built by Abraham at the direction of God.
"And when Abraham, and Ishmael with him, raised up the foundations of the House: 'Our Lord, receive this from us; Thou art the All-hearing, the All-knowing" (Koran 2:121)
"The first House [temple] established for the people was that at Bekka, a place holy, and a guidance to all being. Therein are clear signs -- the station [standing place] of Abraham, and whosoever enters it is in security. It is the duty of all men towards God to come to the House a pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there." (Koran 3:90-91)
Pilgrimages to the Caaba are imposed upon all Muslims as a duty; a duty they were not to neglect.
"Fulfil the Pilgrimage and the Visitation unto God; but if you are prevented, then such offering as may be feasible." (Koran 2:192)
Rodwell describes the differences between the Pilgrimage and the Visitation. "The greater Pilgrimage, which every Muslim is bound to perform once in his life, is the Hadjat el Farz (the one obligatory Pilgrimage), or the Hadjat el Islam. The Umrah, or little pilgrimage, may be performed at any time except the pilgrimage season, its their ceremonies are much fewer." (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, Footnote 2.76) As part of their service at the Caaba, they were to bring with them necklaces, or ornaments, of garlands that they were to offer at the house.
"O believers, profane not God's waymarks [rites] nor the holy month, neither the offering, nor the necklaces [ornaments], nor those repairing [who press on] to the Holy House seeking from their Lord bounty and good pleasure." (Koran 5:2)
Their behavior along the journey was to be pious and they were to abstain from anything that would defile them. They were even to refrain from sex with their wives and their slaves while making the journey.
"The Pilgrimage is in months well-known; whoso undertakes the duty of Pilgrimage in them shall not go in to his womenfolk nor indulge in ungodliness and disputing in the Pilgrimage." (Koran 2:193)
They were also not permitted to hunt for game while on their pilgrimage, although they could fish for food along the way.
"Permitted [It is lawful] to you is the game of the sea and the food of it, as a provision for you and for the journeyers; but forbidden [unlawful] to you is the game [to hunt] of the land, so long as you remain in pilgrim sanctity [pilgrimage]; and fear God, unto whom you shall be mustered [assembled]." (Koran 5:97)
Such pilgrimages are fixed, not only in the religious calendar of Islam, but in the expectations of Allah as to their necessity in making one worthy and a true believer. This idea of the necessity of pilgrimages was foreign to the teachings of Christ and the life of the early church. Even King David understood that God was everywhere and that wherever God is, which is everywhere, is holy. David wrote, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You." (Psalms 139:7-12) Paul acknowledges that, speaking of God, "He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist." (Acts 17:27-28) Even Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is not a place; it does not reside in a region, a nation, a city, or a building but "indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21 NKJV

If we live our entire lives within God, and if God also lives within us, then what need have we to journey to find that which is already within us? If what makes something, or some place, holy is the presence of God, then we are already holy and everywhere we go is holy. Everywhere we are is the destination of our pilgrimage for we have come to where God is, for He is forever within us. Jesus never taught or enjoined upon us the need for pilgrimages, neither did His Apostles, nor did the early church show any regard for pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, or any other place deemed to be holy. Muhammad did not understand the reality of God living with us, or the coming of "Immanuel... God with us." (Matthew 1:23) Had Muhammad know the truth, he would have not erred when it came to the duty of the pilgrimage.

More to come...
David Robison

Friday, February 12, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - External cleansing

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
We have all heard the old adage, Cleanliness is next to Godliness. While this saying does not exist in either the Jewish or Christian scriptures, it does appear that the God of Islam is very concerned with external cleanness and requires it of all who would draw near to Him.
"O believers, when you stand up to pray wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads, and your feet up to the ankles. If you are defiled, purify yourselves; but if you are sick or on a journey, or if any of you comes from the privy, or you have touched women, and you can find no water, then have recourse to wholesome dust and wipe your faces and your hands with it." (Koran 5:8-9)
"O believers, draw not near to prayer when you are drunken until you know what you are saying, or defiled -- unless you are traversing a way -- until you have washed yourselves; but if you are sick, or on a journey, or if any of you comes from the privy, or you have touched women, and you can find no water, then have recourse to wholesome dust [pure sand] and wipe your faces and your hands" (Koran 4:46)
The problem with external cleansing is that it does nothing to effect the inside of a person, where in is the seat of all sin, lust, and out of which our sinful behavior proceeds. We can wash all we want, but, unless we have come to faith in Jesus and have had the Spirit of God cleanse us on the inside, we sill remain dead and decaying within. Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders about their eagerness to dress up the outside while ignoring the inside, saying, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:27-28) External cleansing is nothing more than an attempt to appear righteous on the outside but leaves our dead and decaying soul untouched on the inside. Similarly, Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders about their ritual and ceremonial washing and cleansing, saying, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." (Matthew 23:25-26)

God does not care what we look like on the outside. He does not demand that we first wash and clean ourselves up before coming to Him. He sees us through and through and what He is concerned about is our inward state not how dirty we may appear on the outside. It is what is inside that defiles a man, not his outward condition.

There was a time when the Pharisees and scribes criticized the disciples to Jesus asking, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" (Mark 7:5) They assumed that their hands were defiled because they had not been properly washed. Mark tells us that, "the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots." (Mark 7:3-4) However, Jesus rebukes them saying, "Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man." (Mark 7:14-15) Muhammad did not understand this truth but perpetuated the error of the Pharisees and scribes down to his own day.

God does not care about our outward cleanliness, He cares about our heart. When you come to pray, clean your heart not your hands. Consider what is on the inside and don't worry about how you appear outwardly. If you have uncleanness of the heart, take care of that first and then return to pray. Just like Jesus taught us, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." (Matthew 5:23-24) Let us not get side tracked with physical cleansing or improvements, let us focus on what is inside and we will do well.

More to come...
David Robison

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Deeds of Righteousness

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran thus defines those who will be granted entrance into Paradise at the end of the age.
"But those that believe, and do deeds of righteousness [things that are right], them We shall admit to [bring into] gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein dwelling for ever and ever" (Koran 4:121)
In Islam, faith alone is insufficient to secure for oneself a beneficial outcome at the end of ones life. It is not enough to believe in God and His message, but you must do the requisite works of righteousness to earn your spot in paradise.
"Those who believe and do deeds of righteousness the things that are right], and perform the prayer, and pay the alms [the legal imposts] - - their wage [reward] awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow [grief]." (Koran 2:277)
"But those of them that are firmly rooted in knowledge, and the believers believing inwhat has been sent down to thee, and what was sent down before thee, that perform [observe] the prayer and pay the alms [of obligation], and those who believe in God and the Last Day -- them We shall surely give a mighty wage [reward]." (Koran 4:160)
Notice that the blessings the believer enjoys in the life to come are call the wages (rewards by Rodwell) earned by the believers through the deeds of righteousness they performed while alive. For a Muslim, Paradise is not granted, but is earned through works. Paradise is not a gift given to us by God but rather a payment for our performance while here on the Earth; it is an obligation from God not a favor of grace.

So, what are the deeds of righteousness that the Koran requires us to perform if we are to hope to earn Paradise? We have seen some already, but they start with faith.
"O believers, obey God, and obey the Messenger [apostle] and those in [invested with] authority among you. If you should quarrel on anything, refer it to God and the Messenger [apostle], if you believe in God and the Last Day; that is better, and fairer [way of settlement] in the issue." (Koran 4:62 )
"O believers, believe in God and His Messenger [Apostle] and the Book He has sent down on His Messenger [Apostle] and the Book which He sent down before. Whoso disbelieves in God and His angels and His Books, and His Messengers [Apostles], and the Last Day, has surely gone astray into far error." (Koran 4:135)
In addition to faith in God, faith in other spiritual realities is also required, such as faith in angels and the last day.
"It is not piety, that you turn your faces to the East and to the West. True piety is this: tobelieve in God, and the Last Day, the angels, the Book [Scriptures], and the Prophets, to give of one's substance, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveller, beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform the prayer, to pay the [legal] alms." (Koran 2:172)
It is interesting to note that the Koran, along with the Jewish and Christian scriptures, make little distinction between believing and obeying. One cannot, and does not, believe if one does not also obey. We see this in the letter to the Hebrews when the writer writes, "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief... Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience." (Hebrews 3:18-19, 4:6) Here disobedience is linked to unbelief just as obedience is to faith.

In Islam, it is not enough to believe in God, one must also believe in all his messengers, including Muhammad, and one must believe and obey all that has been sent down, including the Koran. You may believe in God but if you don't believe in Muhammad and the Koran, you cannot be saved. This is different from the Christian faith where the most important thing is to believe in God. The scriptures and the messengers are all sent for one purpose, to bring us to faith in God. This is why Jesus chastised the religious elite in His day when He said, "You diligently study  the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40 NIV)

On top of faith, there are the prayers.
"Perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun [sunset] to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn [daybreak reading]; surely the recital of dawn [daybreak reading] is [has a] witnessed. And as for the night, keep vigil a part of it, as a work of supererogation for thee; it may be that thy Lord will raise thee up to a laudable [glorious] station." (Koran 17:80-81)
The fixed times of prayer are clearly linked to the hope of a good resurrection. Prayer is essential to all religions, but was never made a condition of salvation for either the Jews or the Christians. Prayer maintains our communion with God and keeps our spirits attentive to what is going on around us. This is why Jesus taught us to, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) Prayer is useful and laudatory, but its benefits are for this life not the life to come.

On top of the prayers the is also the giving of alms and the paying of the impost.
"Perform [observe] the prayer, and pay the [stated] alms, and obey the Messenger [Apostle]" (Koran 24:55)
"Those are the signs of the Wise Book for a guidance and a mercy to the good-doers [righteous] who perform the prayer, and pay the alms [impost], and have sure faith in the Hereafter [believe firmly in the life to come]." (Koran 31:1-3)
There is a difference between the alms and the impost. J.M. Rodwell writes, "to pay the impost, [was] required by Muhammad of his followers as a religious duty, and different from the alms." (The Koran, footnote 31.3) One was out of charity and compassion, the other out of religious duty. It is interesting to note that in the Christian scriptures, while many freely gave to those in needs, there is no requirement to give to the poor. Even the law of the tithe, as a religious requirement, is completely missing in the teaching of the apostles and the history of the early Christian church.

To the imposts, there was also the pilgrimages and ritual fasting.
"Those who repent [turn to God], those who serve, those who pray [praise], those who journey [fast], those who bow, those who prostrate themselves, those who bid to honour and forbid dishonour, those who keep God's hounds [bounds] -- and give thou good tidings to the believers." (Koran 9:113)
The religion of Christ was not a religion of ceremony, including ritual fasts and the necessity of pilgrimages to sacred or holy places. When a Samaritan woman asked Jesus where was the proper place to worship, Jesus said, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father... But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24) While the early church did at times come together for fasting, it was a voluntary fast and not one instituted by Christ as a religious obligation.

Finally, along with all the other things required, there is the requirement to expend what you have, your wealth and yourselves, in the service of God. This includes in the battle and in warfare.
"O believers, shall I direct you to a commerce [merchandise] that shall deliver you from a painful chastisement [sore torment]? You shall believe in God and His Messenger [apostle], and struggle [do valiantly] in the way [cause] of God with your possessions and your selves. That is better [best] for you, did you but know." (Koran 61:10-11)"Those who believe in God and the Last Day [will] ask not leave of thee, that they may struggle with their possessions and their selves; and God knows the godfearing." (Koran 9:44)
Such a requirement to be faithful in war, as directed by the prophet, is wholly foreign to the teaching of Jesus, His apostles, and the early church. The idea of a holy war, and that one is obligated to expend his wealth and possessions in its execution, is completely absent from the Christian scriptures. In fact, when Jesus' disciples rose up to try and prevent Him from being arrested and crucified, Jesus rebuked them and said, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52) There is no call to arms in the Christian faith, only a call to love.

More to come...
David Robison

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Earning prosperity and life eternal

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran teaches a life that is very much a life of works where we earn our blessings and prosperity through our works of good and where chastisement and punishment are the wages of our evil works as well. One's outcome in this life, and in the life to come, is determined by their works and deeds performed in this life while on the Earth.
"who do deeds of righteousness [the thing that are right], that theirs shall be a great wage [reward]" (Koran 17:10)
"Surely those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness [the things that are right] -- surely We leave not to waste the wage [rewards] of him who does good works;" (Koran 18:29)
While I am not an Arabic scholar, it appears form the various translations of the Koran that I have read that the terms of "reward" and "wage" are often used interchangeably. This is similar to Paul's use of these two words when he wrote, "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:41) Here the word "reward" in the Greek could have just as easily been translated "wages."

A person's wages of prosperity or chastisement do not flow from parents or grandparents but are the direct result of what we do, not what someone else has done.
"that is the recompense [reward] of the self-purified [him who hath been pure]." (Koran 20:78)
We are the one's who must purify ourselves; we are the ones who must work good works that we might reap their benefits. These benefits do not reap good for this life alone, but we earn our peculiar state in the life to come by our works here and now. Our future is purchased by our works today.
"And thou shalt see the sinners that day coupled [linked together] in fetters, of pitch their shirts [garments of pitch], their faces enveloped by the Fire, that God may recompense every soul for its earnings [as it deserveths]; surely God is swift at the reckoning." (Koran 14:50-51)
Paradise is something that someone earns, it is not a gift or a promise made without constraints and requirements. It is a possession that is fully dependent upon our works in this life, be they good or evil. Our future life is decided by the balances of justice. If our good outweighs our bad, then we are reward with good things. However, if our bad outweighs our good, then evil things are the wages of our life.
"The weighing that day is true [with justice]; he whose scales are heavy -- they are the prosperers [shall be happy], and he whose scales are light -- they have lost their soul for wronging Our signs." (Koran 7:7-8)
"Whosoever comes [presents himself] with a good deed [works], he shall have better than it [shall be a reward beyond their deserts]; and they shall be secure from terror that day. And whosoever comes [presents themselves] with an evil deed, [they shall be flung downward on] their faces shall be thrust into the Fire: 'Are you recompensed [rewarded] but for what you did?" (Koran 27:91-92)
For Muslims, their only hope of prosperity in this life, and Paradise in the next life, is to live in such a way that, in the end, your good outweighs your bad. There is no grace, there is no providence, there is just working and the receiving of wages.
"And whosoever does a righteous deed [what is right], be it male or female, believing, We shall assuredly give [quicken] him to live a goodly [happy] life; and We shall recompense them their wage, according to the best of what they did [best deeds]." (Koran 16:99)
In fact, the only way to expunge ourselves of past sins is to make up for them with better deeds. The Koran leaves us constantly trying to pay for past sins while still having enough good deeds left over to purchase peace and blessing in the life come.
"Those are they from whom We shall accept the best of what they have done, and We shall pass over their evil deeds." (Koran 46:16)
"If you avoid the heinous sins that are forbidden you, We will acquit you of your evil deeds, and admit you [to enter Paradise] by the gate of honour." (Koran 4:35)
However, all these teachings are contrary to the teachings of Christ and to the Gospel he came to reveal to us. While it is true that there will be degrees of rewards in heaven, our entrance into heaven and the life to come is not purchased by our deeds but granted as grace by God and given to all who believe. "If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:14-15) There will be rewards in heaven, but our salvation, our entrance into heaven, is not determined by our good deeds or the comparative "weight" of our good verses our evils. Our salvation is not based on works or deeds of the flesh, but by the grace of God and our faith in Him. Paul wrote, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." (Romans 4:4-6)

Heaven is not our reward or the just wages of our labors. One cannot earn heaven nor receive it as a reward for his good works. The truth is that we are all sinners and, even if all our good should be laid aside all our bad, we all would be found wanting. Even if we tried, we can never do enough good deeds to outweigh our bad. We are all hopelessly lost, hopelessly sinners, hopelessly condemned. Our only hope is in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24) The Koran teaches us to work real hard and maybe, in the end, we will earn heaven for our reward, Jesus says to stop striving and working and believe and we will receive eternal life both here and now as well as in the life to come.

More to come...
David Robison

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Holy rites

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Central to the religion of Islam is the religious obligations, disciplines, and ceremonies that are required by all the faithful. The Koran refers to these as "holy rites." It is through these works of religion that Muslims remain faithful to God, honor God, acknowledge God, and remember God.
"And when you have performed your holy rites remember God, as you remember your fathers or yet more devoutly." (Koran 2:195)
Certainly, traditions and religious observances, can be aids in remembering God and all He has commanded and done for us. During the Last Supper, when Jesus inaugurated what we call communion, He said to His disciples, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me... This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) However, there is a difference between that which is observed because of law than that which is invited because of grace. The law defines that which one must do to be acceptable before God. Paul, speaking of the Law, says, "For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness." (Romans 10:5) However, Jesus came to establish for us a righteousness that is not dependent upon the law. "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, 'The righteous man shall live by faith.' However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'He who practices them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us." (Galatians 3:11-13) Jesus came, not to confirm or establish new holy rites, but to offer us a way to righteousness that does not depend on law, observances, or works. The new covenant is not  a covenant of holy rites but a covenant of faith and grace.

Part of the holy rites prescribed in the Koran include animal sacrifices.
"There are things [cattle] therein profitable to you unto a stated term; thereafter their lawful place of sacrifice is by the Ancient House. We have appointed for every nation [people] a holy rite, that they may mention [commemorate] God's Name over such [brute] beasts of the flocks as He has provided them." (Koran 22:34-35)
Animal sacrifices were practiced under the old Jewish law, but such sacrifices ended with the advent of the Gospel of Jesus and the New Covenant.
"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:11-14)
Jesus was the end of the sacrificial system, offering Himself as the one true sacrifice able to take away every sin and to cleans the sinner from all unrighteousness. Having offered Himself once and for all there remains no need for further sacrifices and offerings for sin. Such sacrifices as the Koran prescribes are meaningless and powerless to effect any true holiness and righteousness. "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4) Such sacrifices and holy rites may appear to be religious, but are actually a mere reflection of natural religion and unable to affect any real change in the doer.
"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Colossians 2:20-23)
The Koran also identifies the holy rites with a nation's identity. The Koran teaches that God has given to each nation their own set of holy rites to follow and observe.
"We have appointed for every nation a holy rite [observances] that they shall perform [observe]. Let them not therefore wrangle [dispute] with thee upon the matter, and do thou summon unto thy Lord; surely thou art upon a straight guidance [on the right way]." (Koran 22:66)
Muhammad was instructed not to worry about what the other nations were doing or to let them judge him and his followers for their religion and religious practices. As each nation has been given their holy rites, so Muhammad and his followers had been given theirs and they were their's to follow even if other nations did not or had differing ordinances and holy rites given to them by God. This is certainly consistent with the law given to Israel through Moses. The law set Israel apart from other nations. They had different laws, different ceremonies, and different obligations than the nation around them. The law was truly their holy rites and not that of other nations. The nation of Israel was called to keep their laws and observe them as their own. However, they were not called to try and convert the world to their way of living. It was a law for them which they were to observe, but they were not to concern themselves with what God has required of other nations around them. If we are to believe the Koran, then it would be just as wrong for us to try and convert Islam to our way of life and our religious ways as it would be for them to convert us. Interestingly, the history of Islam has not shown any regard to this belief. 

This idea of a nations holy rites and the importance of national identity as it relates to religion, ignores the prophetic declaration of God and the reality of universal brotherhood that Jesus came to establish.
"I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'You are my God!'" (Hosea 2:23)
"I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you." (Romans 10:19)
God no longer sees nations, He sees people. The Gospel did not come to a nation, it came to a people, to all who would believe upon Jesus. God does not prescribe this holy rite to this nation and that holy rite to that nation, but He calls all men to faith, faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Muhammad saw religion in the context of nations and tribal communities, but God came to save the whole world and to establish a universal brotherhood not based upon works and observances but based on faith, grace, and love.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Keep the Law

This is part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran teaches that there are three parts to every believers life: the Law of Moses, the Gospel of Jesus, and the Koran. Only by keeping all three is one to be considered righteous and acceptable before God. It is the infidels that neglect the three pillars of religion and those who reject any one of them will not be accepted into Paradise but find for themselves severe chastisement in the age to come.
"Had they performed the Torah [law] and the Gospel [Evangel], and what was sent down to them from their Lord, they would have eaten [have their fill of good things] both what was above them, and what was beneath their feet. Some of them are a just nation [among them who act right]; but many of them -- evil are the things they do... Say: 'People of the Book, you do not stand on anything [have no ground to stand upon], until you perform the Torah [Law] and the Gospel [Evangel], and what was sent down to you from your Lord.' And what has been sent down [the Book] to thee from thy Lord will surely increase many of them in insolence [rebellion] and unbelief; so grieve not [be thou not troubled] for the people of the unbelievers." (Koran 5:70, 72)
The Koran correctly understand that there were two laws previously enacted by God: the Law of Moses, given to the Israelites as both their governmental and moral laws by which, as a nation, they were to abide by, and the Law of Christ given through Jesus to all who would believe upon His name. However, Muhammad incorrectly viewed them as not serial, one replacing the other, but rather compounding, one building upon the other. He also incorrectly saw the Koran as another compounding of the Law and the Gospel that came before. To him, Muhammad believed that all must be observed for righteousness, but is this truly the case?

Paul, speaking of the difference between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ, speaks thus of the law: he calls it a Law of "works" (Romans 3:27) and a "law of sin and of death." (Romans 8:2) It's not that the Law was sin or sinful, but that it's effect upon us was to awaken sin, to give it vent and opportunity, and by it to bring forth death in our lives.
"But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died." (Romans 7:8-9)
However, of the Gospel, Paul calls it "a law of faith" (Romans 3:27) and "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:2) James refers to it as simply "the law of liberty." (James 1:25) What's important to note is that the Apostolic writers did not see the one following upon the other but the one supplanting the other. The writer of Hebrews clearly teaches that, long before the coming of Christ, God spoke of a new covenant that would replace the old covenant; one not supplying to the old but replacing the old.
"For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, 'Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah'... When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." (Hebrews 8:7-8, 13)
Paul writes that the law is incapable of making us righteous; not because of any deficiency in the law itself but because of the weakness of our flesh and our inability to keep the law. The Law is good and right but we are unable to keep it that we might gain its benefits. God's solution to this problem was not to refine the law or add more to the law, but to replace it with a different kind of law.
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:2-4)
This new law is not a law of works but a law of faith, faith in Jesus Christ, His love for us, and His substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Romans 3:27-28) Everything changed with the coming of Christ. Through Moses we received the law but through Jesus, "grace and truth were realized." (John 1:17) Those who have received and believed upon Jesus have been freed from the Law. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)

Having been freed from the Law and given a new law, a law of faith, what further need have we for another law or to bind ourselves to an old law that has already been made obsolete? What need have we for the Koran and its law and its requirement that we hold to the old Law of Moses? For those who have yet to find faith in Christ, such laws may be helpful, but for those who have new life in Christ, they have no further need for law, be it the Law of Moses or the Law of Muhammad. Instead we should seek to remember and practice the words of Paul when he said,
"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Colossians 2:20-23)
We have been freed from the law, therefore let us not find ourselves again enslaved to law, whether it be the Law of Moses of the Law of Muhammad. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

More to come...
David Robison