Book Review of Joel Rosenberg’s The Last Jihad

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Fast Moving and Gripping Political Thriller

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

In this book – the first of five – in the Last Jihad series, Joel Rosenberg writes a fast moving and gripping political thriller. In a televised interview the author says that his goal in writing is “for the reader to not be able to put the book down – and stay up until the wee hours of the night until the book is finished.”

I didn’t stay up all night reading this particular book (I’ve only done that three times in my life: Reading John Grisham’s The Firm; R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God; and Randall Arthur’s Wisdom Hunter). However, if I didn’t have to go to work in the morning I probably would have, and could have read the book all the way through without a break. 

The narrative involves an assignation on the POTUS; a wall street multi-millionaire; Iraq, Iran, Israel, and various characters from the C.I.A., the President’s cabinet, a billion dollar corporation, and various other interesting characters like Saddam Husein.

What I like most about Rosenberg’s book is how he ties together contemporary events, people, and geo-political realities and tells a feasible and realistic thriller. He is an excellent story-teller and weaves in some good insight and wisdom along the way. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the next four books in the Last Jihad series.

Biography Of The Author of The Last Jihad

Joel C. Rosenberg (www.joelrosenberg.com) is a New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels and five nonfiction books, with over 5 million copies sold.

He has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including ABC’s Nightline, CNN, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN, Fox News, MSNBC, The History Channel, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and The Glenn Beck Show. His articles and columns have been published by National Review,FoxNews.com, CNN.com, the Jerusalem Post, World magazine, and the Washington Times, among others. He has been profiled by the New York Times, the Washington Times, and the Jerusalem Post.

Joel has spoken to audiences and met with religious and government leaders all across the U.S. and Canada and around the world, including Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, India, South Korea, and the Philippines. He has also addressed audiences at the White House and the Pentagon, addressed members of Congress on Capitol Hill, members of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and a conference held at the European Union Parliament in Brussels.

He is the founder and chairman of The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com), a nonprofit educational and charitable organization he and his wife launched in 2006 to mobilize Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.”

Joel’s books, most of which are published in numerous languages, include:

FICTION

The Last Jihad (2002)

The Last Days (2003)

The Ezekiel Option (2005)

The Copper Scroll (2006)

Dead Heat (2008)

The Twelfth Imam (2010)

The Tehran Initiative (2011)

Damascus Countdown (2013)

The Auschwitz Escape (2014)

The Third Target (January 2015)

The First Hostage (December 2015)

Without Warning (March 2017)

The Kremlin Conspiracy (March 2018)

The Persian Gamble (March 2019)

The Jerusalem Assassin (March 2020)

NONFICTION

Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future (2006; revised version, Epicenter 2.0, released in 2008)

Inside The Revolution: How the Followers of Jihad, Jefferson & Jesus are Battling to Dominate the Middle East and Transform the World (2009)

Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time? (2012)

Israel at War: Inside the Nuclear Showdown with Iran (2012)

The Invested Life: Making Disciples of All Nations One Person at a Time, written with Dr. T. E. Koshy (2012)

He has produced two documentary films, based on two of his nonfiction books, Epicenter and Inside the Revolution.

Several of his books have won national awards:

The Ezekiel Option—ECPA Gold Medallion Award for Best Novel of 2006.

Epicenter—Retailers’ Choice Award for Christian Living (Christian Retailing magazine)

Dead Heat—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

Inside the Revolution—Retailers’ Choice Award for Social Issues

The Twelfth Imam—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

The Tehran Initiative—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

The Auschwitz Escape—finalist in the 2014 GoodReads Choice Awards for Best Historical Fiction

Several of his books have reached the top or near the top of national bestseller lists:

The Last Jihad hit #1 on the Amazon.com bestseller list. Dead Heat reached #4 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. The Third Target hit #4 on the Publishers Weekly hardcover fiction bestseller list and spent two months as the #1 bestselling work of fiction in the Christian market in North America. The First Hostage was also the #1 bestselling work of fiction in the Christian market in North America.

Joel was born in Syracuse, New York. His father is a first-generation American from a Jewish background whose parents and grandparents emigrated from Russia and settled in Brooklyn, New York. His mother, a Gentile, was raised in Rome, New York. When Joel was two, his parents moved to a community just outside of Rochester. He grew up in the small town of Fairport and graduated from Fairport High School in 1985. He attended Syracuse University (1985–1989)—spending one semester of his junior year studying at Tel Aviv University (August 1987 to January 1988)—and graduated from SU with a BFA in film drama in May 1989.

Joel married his college sweetheart, Lynn, in June of 1990. Together, they made their home in the Washington, D.C., area for 24 years. They and their four sons—Caleb, Jacob, Jonah, and Noah—now live in Israel.

For more information on conferences Joel organizes, please visit www.epicenterconference.com. You can find his weblog at https://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @joelcrosenberg.

 

Last Hour: An Israeli Insider Looks At The End Times by Amir Tsarfati 

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Fascinating Israeli Perspective on the End Times 

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

This book is a good introduction to how the Bible culminates prophetically with a special emphasis on doctrines on the Rapture; God’s plan for Israel; and Armageddon and the last battle according to Ezekiel Chapters 36-39.

Amir Tsafarti has some fascinating takes on the key players of the last days and has some good insights of what is transpiring concurrently on the prophetic calendar in the Middle East and in Europe. Without using the theological terms – he is staunchly pre-millennial and pre-tribulational and defends this position throughout the book. In other words, he believes that the church (all believers in Jesus) will be raptured before the Tribulation period and that after the duration of seven years the church will return with Christ to reign for a literal thousand years before the final rebellion known as Armageddon.

I think Amir is especially insightful in talking about some key players in the end times: Israel, Russia, Iran, Damascus, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others. He also makes a good case for the Antichrist coming from Europe. At several points in the book he makes an excellent case for God’s plan for Israel as distinct from the Church – especially with reference to their land promises from the Old Testament. Tsafarti writes, “How the Church treats Israel is a litmus test of its temperature, readiness and doctrine. A rejected Israel reveals a sick Church. You cannot love God and hate that which God loves, you will end up loving that which God hates.”

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in biblical prophecy. It’s especially written for beginners. What makes this book unique is his grasp of Middle East and European current events in relationship to the Bible from an Israeli perspective. 

Book Review on Dr. Emerson Eggerichs – “Love and Respect”

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Your One-Stop Handbook for a Biblically Based Marriage

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig 

As someone who has been happily married for 28 years my wife and I have made a habit on reading and discussing at least one book on marriage a year. It’s a shame that so many people will spend 8-11 years getting graduate degrees and studying for thousands of hours and yet do not make the slightest effort to prepare for and make the best of their marriages. This was our third time reading through this book – which I can say without hesitation is the best single book on marriage I’ve ever read (and I’ve read around 50 books on marriage).

What makes this book worth reading? It’s based on a biblical principle from Ephesians 5:22-33. The principle is that what a husband needs most from his wife is respect; and what a wife needs most from her husband is love. Eggerichs fleshes this principle out thoroughly, clearly, and practically. He was a pastor who after writing this book ended up devoting his whole ministry to teaching the principle of “Love and Respect.” 

In Part One of the Book Eggerichs discusses what he calls the “Crazy Cycle.” The crazy cycle is what happens to a couple when the wife is not respecting her husband and the husband is not loving his wife. This results in a habitual punishing cycle where lack of love (what the wife most needs) and a lack of respect (what the husband most needs) are perpetuated in a vicious circle. In seven chapters Eggerichs discusses why, how, and when this happens. He gives an abundant amount of real life examples to show how both husbands and wives get on the crazy cycle and how this cycle spins around and around as a result.

In Part Two Eggerichs discusses how to get off the crazy cycle and onto the “Energizing Cycle.” In chapters 8-14 he uses the acronym: C-O-U-P-L-E to show the husband how he can get off the crazy cycle by specific ways to meet her greatest need to be loved. Each chapter takes each letter of C-O-U-P-L-E to help the man practically and actively love his wife. The letters stand for: (1) Closeness – She wants you to be close; (2) Openness – She wants you to open up to her; (3) Understanding – Don’t try to “fix” her, just listen to her; (4) Peacemaking – She wants you to say, “I’m sorry” (5) Loyalty – She needs to know you are committed; (6) Esteem – She wants you to honor and cherish her.

In chapters 15-22 Eggerichs specifically addresses the wife and how by using the acronym C-H-A-I-R-S she can demonstrate respect to her husband (what he most needs from her). The letters in C-H-A-I-R-S stand for (1) Conquest – Appreciate his desire to work and achieve; (2) Hierarchy – Appreciate his desire to protect and provide for you; (3) Authority – Appreciate his desire to serve and lead ; (4) Insight – Appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel; (5) Relationship – Appreciate his desire for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship ; (6). Sexuality – Appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy.

The book closes with what he calls the “Rewarded Cycle”. Ultimately, as a Christian whether you are single or married you live in submission and obedience to Jesus. He encourages those in lousy marriages to be obedient to Jesus in unconditionally loving or respecting your spouse regardless of whether or not your spouse responds to you. In most cases spouses do respond better when we unconditionally and habitually love or respect them. However, no matter how our spouse reacts or responds to the way we treat them, it’s important to know that God is pleased with our obedience to Him.

Love and Respect in my opinion is the best book on marriage available today. If you only read and apply one book on marriage, this is your one-stop handbook for taking a bad marriage to good, and a good marriage to great! I can give testimony after 28 great years of marriage that God’s principles work – a husband was designed by God to need respect and a wife was designed by her Maker to need love. Eggerichs gives a plethora of illustrations, examples, and biblically fleshes out how to do these things in a way that is pleasing to God and beneficial to the flourishing health of a biblical marriage based on God’s perfect design of “Love and Respect.”

 Tim Keller’s – Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism

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A “Must Have” Handbook for the Modern Preacher

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

Tim Keller is as Bostonians say “Wicked Smart.” He has also demonstrated humility, wisdom, and faithfulness through much suffering and success in planting one of the most successful and model ministries for City Churches of the world – Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, New York. He has also blessed Christians around the world with wonderful Christ centered and gospel centered resources.

I have read this book twice – in English and Spanish, I am also taking several bi-vocational pastors and elders in my church through this book. In my opinion it is the first go-to handbook for preachers in the 21st Century. Why? Let me give five reasons:

(1) Tim Keller practices what he preaches (a) Tim Keller preaches the Word – he has been preaching for over 45 years in both a semi-rural context and a large city context and knows how to preach to “blue-collar” and “white-collar” congregations; (b) He always preaches the gospel in every sermon; (c) He always preaches Christ whether he’s preaching from the Old or New Testaments; (d) He preaches culturally relevant messages without compromising biblical truth; (e) He preaches so as to help you love Christ with your mind; (f) He preaches so as to stir the soul/heart, which leads to real life change and Christ-like transformation; (g) He preaches with the unction or power of the Holy Spirit.

(2) Tim Keller gives examples, illustrations, principles, and theological reasons for why and how to do all of what he models in his own preaching (see #1 above).

(3) The extensive footnotes are worth gold. Make sure you don’t only read the book – read the footnotes! About 30% of the material in this book is in the notes. There is great stuff in the notes – you will feel like you are sitting with Tim over coffee with what he shares in the notes!

(4) Much of what Tim writes about you will not get in Bible college or Seminary. I didn’t get 80% of what he writes about in Bible college or seminary – I did get about 50% of what he talks about with a month sabbatical I spent taking preaching courses at Westminster Seminary. However, if you didn’t attend a seminary that is reformed you most likely missed how to get to Christ from all of the Scriptures.

(5) The last chapter of the book is also extremely helpful – he gives ample example, principles, and illustrations to help you write and preach an expository sermon.

Tim Keller knows what he’s talking about – when he’s pretty much talking about anything. However, what Keller is best at is preaching. You have the opportunity in reading and studying this book to learn from one of the best preacher’s of our time. 

My Ten Favorite Books By R.C. Sproul by David P. Craig

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Since R.C. Sproul’s promotion into the presence of Christ’s glory on December 14, 2017 I have had mixed emotions. No single person has had a greater influence on my understanding of the Triune Nature of God, the Gospel, the Bible, Reformed Theology, Philosophy, Apologetics, teaching, and preaching than R.C. Sproul. There have been a lot of great tributes to R.C. in recent days, but I have been out of sorts since his passing. I have sorrowed as if I lost a blood brother and comrade in the ministry. He was the mentor who has most influenced me by far – especially intellectually – helping me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. The way I am going to pay tribute to R.C. is by writing about the books he wrote that influenced me the most. I have read over 60 of his books.

At one time I could keep up with his writing and let him know at a book signing table at a Ligonier Conference (early 90’s) that I had read all his books and he said to me, “I bet you haven’t read Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology: Fetschrift for John Gerstner; a book I edited for my Mentor in 1976.” He was right, I hadn’t read this book. I’ve since read his chapter in that book entitled “Double-Predestination.” But I was never able to keep up with his writing while he was alive. Since his death I have been re-reading some of his books, articles, watching videos, and listening to his audio recordings. I am so grateful that Ligonier Ministries has such a plethora of his resources available so that maybe before I die I can catch up on all the great writing, teaching, and preaching of this amazing Theologian and friend in Christ.

I never thought I would be so sad at someone’s death that I only met a few times “live”. I attended four Ligonier Conferences and was able to say hello to him each time and thank him for his ministry in Fullerton, and Pasadena in CA; and Orlando twice. I also got to spend some time in a smaller group setting with him at WTS in Escondido while working on my D.Min. there. Dr. Sproul was always humble, gracious, and kind. He treated me with dignity and respect and modeled what he taught. As others have made great tributes to him, I’d like to give my “two-cents” with the hope that maybe I can influence others to read, or listen to him. I can honestly say that I love R.C. and can’t wait to see him on the other side. I am grateful beyond words for what he has meant and will continue to mean to me and has tremendously deepened my relationship with Jesus.

I will write a little blurb on each of the 10 books he wrote that have impacted me the most:

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(1) Apart from the Bible itself – no other book has made a greater impact on me than The Holiness of God. At the time (summer of 1986) I had never heard of R.C. Sproul. I was a second year student my sophomore year at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I was working at a church near my home as an intern that summer working with college students. On my day off I went first thing in the morning to read a book at my favorite spot in a cove in Corona Del Mar near my home in Huntington Beach. On the way to the beach I stopped by the bookstore (Pilgrim’s Progress Bookstore – long since out of business, unfortunately) and R.C.”s book caught my eye. I was fascinated by the topic and decided that I would read it at the beach.

I don’t know how long it took me to read the book, but by sunset I was reading the last words at the beach and found myself literally on my knees weeping over my sin in repentance before this Holy God of which Sproul knew so well. I realized that though I had been a follower of Christ from the age of six; I was in practice full of unconfessed sin; a great idolater; and desperately needed to elevate my view of God and His character and attributes.

Since 1986 I’ve probably read this book a dozen times. It’s my go to book when I need to re-charge my spiritual batteries. It’s also set the tone for my personal life; relational life, ministry, teaching, and preaching. Reading this book helped me strive to place God at the center of all of life and seek to live “Coram Deo” – before the face of God and for His glory.
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(2) A close second to R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God in impact is his classic Chosen By God. Like many young college or seminary students I wrestled with the concepts of predestination, foreknowledge, free will, faith, election, and how all these work together. I was definitely (though I’d never heard the term before) a Semi-Pelagian or Arminian before reading this book. R.C. brilliantly and cogently helped me see that I was dead in my sin and that I needed nothing short of the miracle of God’s electing grace to save me from a destiny banished from Him – had He not sovereignly  graciously and mercifully intervened. I’ve given at least 100 copies of this book away over the years and it’s my go to book to recommend to anyone who wrestles with how God saves His chosen ones. If anyone wants to understand the biblical doctrine of predestination – this book is an outstanding introduction.

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(3) Shortly after reading Chosen by God while in Bible college I read a book called the Psychology of Atheism by R.C. Sproul which I found in the school library. The book has been re-published under the title: If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists? This book peaked my curiosity because at the time I had an ongoing ministry with philosophy students at a college department across town called Reed College. There was a period of time where I would drive over to Reed College once a week and wait outside the Philosophy Department to talk with Philosophy students (most of whom adhered to Atheism or Agnosticism). R.C. Sproul’s book is essentially a practical exposition of Romans 1. It makes a great case for the fact that people are atheists not because of the evidence of atheism, but because they want to live in sin. I found this to be the case then; and I still find this to be the case. In our secular culture I consider this book “must” reading for believers who take evangelism and apologetics seriously. It gives one a deep understanding of the psychological makeup of those who are in rebellion against God.

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(4) Another book that has helped me tremendously in the area of apologetics and evangelism is Reason to Believe. I read this book when it was titled Objections Answered when I was doing a lot of evangelism with professing Agnostics and Atheists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I still think this is the best book available to give to lay-people to help them answer the 10 biggest objections to the Christian faith. R.C. is famous for making the complex simple via his use of language, illustrations, and biblical theology and exegesis. I have used his arguments in this book hundreds of times over the years in evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.

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(5) Pleasing God. I can’t remember the first time I read Pleasing God, but it’s a book I’ve read and used in counseling, teaching, and preaching many times over the years as a great introduction to the biblical doctrine of sanctification. In this book Sproul tackles the greatest enemies in the battle of our seeking to please Christ: the battle with the flesh; the world; and Satan. Laced throughout this book is the reality of God’s grace and practical ways to please God. I still think this is the best introduction available on the biblical doctrine of sanctification.

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(6) I have read this book on the Attributes of God as it has transformed into three different titles over the years: One Holy Passion; Discovering the God Who Is; and most recently Enjoying God. There simply is no better introduction on the character, nature, and attributes of God than this book. R.C. does a wonderful job of explaining the major concepts of how God is different than us and worthy of our worship and passion.

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(7) The best introduction to how to read and study the Bible is still Knowing Scripture. In this short book R.C. gives a plethora of helpful information for anyone who wants to know how to read, interpret, and apply the Scriptures.

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(8) One of the most comforting and practical doctrines for Christians to understand is the providence of God. R.C. has helped thousands of believers around the world be comforted through his teaching on the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign working to bring about His ends for our good and God’s glory in all things in his classic The Invisible Hand of God.

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(9) The least understood Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. In The Mystery of the Holy Spirit R.C. handles the biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit with great clarity and makes the complex and controversial issues related to the Spirit understandable and practical. I know of no other better introduction to the Holy Spirit than this great work by Dr. Sproul.

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(10) In 2012 I had a brutal bout with cancer. I read several books while undergoing treatment and wrestling with pain, unemployment, and even death. I have read a lot of books on suffering over the years, but this is still my first choice to give caregivers, people in pain, and those helping people understand the biblical purposes and practical ramifications of suffering.

I feel sort of bad because I’ve left out a lot of great books by Dr. Sproul. Even though many books of R.C. are introductory in nature. They are all deep, profound, cogent, and full of helpful theological truth that are practical, weighty, and lead one to becoming more and more like Jesus each day. It seems that almost every book R.C. Sproul wrote was well written, thorough, and yet he never said too much. I have given away more of his books as gifts than any other author by far. I’ve also recommend his books more than any other author. He was so omnicompetent it’s just hard for any modern writer or theologian to match him on just about any subject. I will continue to read Sproul’s books, listen to his teaching, and watch his videos. He had a unique style, was always interesting, and always taught me something new about the glory and grandeur of God. I can’t wait to see him in heaven and listen to him chatting it up with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and the many he influenced along the way – like me.

How Do Jesus and Muhammed Compare?

 

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Series: Comparing Christianity & Islam – Jesus versus Muhammed

Chart Compiled by Dr. David P. Craig

JESUS MUHAMMAD
IDENTITY Creator (Col. 1:16) Creature
CLAIMED TO BE God & Son of God Prophet
SINCE Eternal (John 1:1,14) Khadija (wife) said he must be a prophet because he was hearing voices
CLAIM IS Proven by the Resurrection Disproven by false prophecies
RAISED The dead to life (Luke 7:12-15) An army to put many to death
LIED TO None Many (taqiyya) – lying to infidels to advance and protect Isalm – considered a virtue and a duty
MISTOOK None Satan’s voice as Allah’s
ROBBED None Many
FORGAVE Everyone None who offended
HEALED Thousands None
WALKED ON Water (Matt. 14:25) The blood of those he slaughtered
HISTORY His life is rooted in historically documented facts Mixed with myth and legend
SAID OF OTHER Warned of his kind (Matt. 7:15-17) Praised Jesus
SINNED Never (2 Cor. 5:20-21) Constantly
EPITOMIZED Love (John 15:13; 1 John 4:10) Violence
SACRIFICED Himself to save others Others to save himself
KILLED No one Thousands. For example, when the Jews of Banu Qurayza surrendered to him in 627 AD after a 25 day siege, Muhammed had all of the approximately 900 male captives bound and beheaded.
NATURE God Incarnate (John 1:14,18) Merely Human
MISSION Redeem Sinners (Mark 10:45) Promote Submission to Allah
PROPHECY Fulfillment of hundreds None
WIVES None 12+ 595 AD: Married Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwailid (she died in 619 AD); 619 AD: Married Ai’sha, the daughter of Abu Bakr (she was 6 years old, when he was 50); 619 AD: Married Sawdah, the daughter of Zama; 624 AD: Married Hafsah, the daughter of Omar; 625 AD: Married Zaynab, the daughter of Gahsh and the wife of Zayd (see above);

626 AD: Married Salmah, the daughter of Abu Ummaiah Sohail; 627 AD: Married Zainab, the daughter of Khuzaima; 628 AD: Married Ramlah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan; & Married Gawariah, the daughter of al-Harith; 629 AD: Married Hind, the daughter of Abu Umayah; & Married Safiah, the daughter of Huyay; 630 AD: Married Maimunah, the daughter of al-Harith; 631 AD: Married Maria, a gift from the king of Egypt

MESSAGE “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~  Matt. 11:28-30 (1) There is only one God (Allah); (2) All people must live in submission to God; (3) Humans will be held accountable at the last judgment
ROLE Servant, Savior, and Lord Orphan, Caravan Driver, Husband & Father, Spiritual Seeker, Prophet, Soldier, Governor, Ruler
CURRENTLY Resurrected (1 Cor. 15:4) Dead
FUTURE Eternally Enthroned as King (Revelation 22) Divine Judgment

R.C. Sproul’s What Is The Trinity?

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What The Triune God Isn’t and What He Is

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

If you were asked to clearly define what it means that God is Triune could you do it? In this short book (60 pages) Sproul helps you to understand the biblical doctrine that God is one in essence and three in person. In his inimitable style Sproul gives a lucid  and cogent defense of the Trinity as articulated in key passages of Scripture and as has been defended in the great early Church Council’s of Nicea and Chalcedon.

One of the most helpful sections in this book is when Sproul explains what the Trinity is, by explaining what it isn’t. He gives a brief history of the different early heresies with reference to the early teachings of the church in trying to articulate a unified understanding of the doctrine of God – His character, nature, and essence. He explains and shows the weaknesses of all the major early heresies with reference to a misunderstanding of the Trinity: Adoptionism, Monarchianism, Modalism, Monarchianistic Modalism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, and Dynamic Monarchianism.

I highly recommend this book on the Trinity as a good place to start in trying to comprehend the biblical doctrine of how God can be one in essence and three in person. Don’t let the shortness of this book turn you away. Sproul is always deep, clear, biblical, theologically precise, and easy to understand. You are sure to learn something new and practical to help you in your walk with Jesus.

Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views

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A THOUGHT PROVOKING EXPLORATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig  

If the latest world religions statistics are accurate the questions and answers that are raised, debated, and defended in this book are of monumental significance. In this “Counterpoints” book (a growing series of books on important topics by Zondervan Publishing in Grand Rapids, MI.) four views are defended and debated by five top notch theologian/philosophers.

The first two views promote the idea that Muslims, Jews, and Christians do indeed worship the same God. In the first essay of this book Wm. Andrew Schwartz (professor of process and comparative theology at Claremont School of Theology) and John Cobb, Jr., (professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology) give several reasons for why they believe that these three major religions worship the same God by defending what they call the “Religious Pluralistic View.” Some of their main points in defense of their argument our as follows:

(1) Theology is not static. Theology is not uniform. Neither are the world’s traditions. In other words (as they are process theologians) they say that it is impossible to nail down any theological absolutes – because of the continual changes in God and in our studying, knowing, and worship of Him.

(2) The Fallacy of the Perfect Dictionary and Problem of Sameness. In addition to recognizing the complexity of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian identity, we should take note of the same ambiguity surrounding the words worship, same, and God. In other words the author’s suggest that it is impossible to agree upon the exactness of what or who God is when there is no perfect definition to be agreed upon. They write, “We should assume that YHWH of Judaism, Allah of Islam, and the God of Christianity are different ways of referring to one and the same divine ultimate…So, in one sense ‘same’ can imply no difference, and in another sense it can incorporate difference.” 

(3) They articulate that from a historical perspective all three religions worship the God of Abraham.

(4) Schwartz and Cobb also argue that all three religions worship a “Loving Creator” – what they call “The Divine Character Argument.” They affirm that in all three religions it is agreed upon that (a) God is One; (b) God is knowledgeable and relational; (c) God is loving and merciful; (d) God is creator; and (e) God is mysterious. They conclude in this section: “we find that parallel descriptions of God across the traditions greatly strengthen the likelihood that the God described and revered in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism is one in the same—the one and only loving and merciful Creator who knows our innermost beings.”

(5) Schwartz and Cobb defend the Ontological Argument – that there is only one being we call God. Here’s there summation of this reality, “If we begin with this declaration, the question as to whether all three worship the same God is strange indeed. After all, what would it mean for them to worship different Gods if there is only one God? From an ontological perspective, if there is, in fact, only one God available to worship, then it is reasonable to conclude that Muslims, Christians, and Jews worship the same God—that is, the only God…If there is only one God, then, for Christians, Muslims, and Jews to worship some God is to worship the same God.”

(6) The Singular Ultimate Reality. Scwartz and Cobb say that all three religions worship the same ultimate reality that they all call “God.” 

(7) Lastly, Schwartz and Cobb write that if Muslims, Jews, and Christians were to agree that we worship the same God it would result in the following: (a) A more peaceful world; (b) Generosity and humility; (c) Mutual transformation; and the (d) Importance of dialogue.

As with most of the Counterpoint books each essay is then responded to by the other essay writers, followed by a rejoinder in response to the other essayists critiques. I have to say that I thought the essayists in the first view wrote well and used some good analogies and arguments and yet I found their argument unpersuasive for two primary reasons: (1) I think their own view of “God” was defective and lacking. It was the equivalent of describing an object in only one dimension – when in reality God is multi-faceted. (2) It articulated a relativistic approach to truth and reality. In honing in on the “sameness” of beliefs of the three religions they left out the multiplicity of “differences” and contradictions of the three religions – which the final two essayists brought into play so very well.

The second view (essay) is presented by Francis Beckwith (professor of philosophy at Baylor University) and is entitled: “All Worship The Same God: Referring to the Same God View.” Beckwith bases his whole essay on a fictional group of students who are atheists and then who ultimately become a Jew, Muslim, and Christian for different reasons based on believing more or less the same things about God: “He is the absolute, uncaused, perfect, rational, unchanging, self-subsistent, eternal creator and sustainer of all that which receives its being from another…He who is metaphysically ultimate and has underived existence.”

Beckwith proceeds to give some historical and biblical points of agreement between the three religions and concludes: “because Christianity, Judaism, and Islam get the divine nature right (based on his definition of God above)—the absolute underived unconditional source of all contingent existence—their disagreements over the Trinity and the incarnation are appropriately viewed as contrary beliefs about the same God to which each faith refers…I am arguing that because there can only in principle be one God——the absolute underived unconditional source of all contingent existence—and because the theologies of each of these faith conditions refer to that one God, it stands to reason that they all worship the same God, even though they disagree about aspects of that God as a result of what each believes is special revelation.” In the final analysis Beckwith concludes his essay: “in recognizing that the three distinct religious traditions refer to the same God one is not contending that they share the same faith.”

Between the first two essays I would be more inclined to say that Beckwith’s was more logical and less abstract – yet still found that he made the same mistake as Schwartz and Cobb. He emphasized that which was similar in the beliefs of the three religions and minimized their radical differences. His last sentence was very telling: “the three distinct religious traditions refer to the same God one is not contending that they share the same faith.” However, those differences in faith most definitely point to a very different God – especially the “God” of Muslims and that of Jews and Christians – which we find defended in the last two essays.

The third essay by Gerald R. McDermott (Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School) is called “Jews and Christians Worship The Same God: Shared Revelation View.” I found this essay to be the most profound and interesting of the four. 

McDermott straight away emphasizes the differences of beliefs related to the character and nature of God between Muslims and Jews/Christians:

(1) The first thing that must be said is that the love for God is never commanded by the Qur’an and rarely even mentioned. McDermott writes, “Daud Rahbar and other scholars agree that the Qur’an mentions love for God, it never commands it. Instead of love, fear of God is commanded by the Qur’an…Rahbar argued that the central theme of the Qur’an is God’s justice, and its most common exhortation is to ‘guard yourselves fearfully against God’s wrath.’” On the other hand the emphasis in the Bible is that God is love. According to both Sufi and non-Sufi Muslims, God does not have unconditional love for humans generally. God’s love is conditional, expressed only toward those who do righteous deeds.

(2) Another huge difference is the contrast of love for one’s neighbor in the Qur’an and what the Bible consistently teaches. The first is that the Qur’an contains repeated admonitions to Muslim believers not to make friends with non-Muslims (3:118). Whereas the greatest commandment in the Bible is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). God models love for us in the Bible especially in the greatest act of history where the second person of the Trinity is sent by the Father to model the ultimate act of love – to be punished for our sin in exchange for His righteousness “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” ~ 1 John 4:10

(3) At the heart of the dispute between Muslims and Christians in particular is the deity of Jesus Christ. The triune nature of God helps us understand the essence of God as One and yet the distinction of God in His persons. McDermott writes, “the works of the triune God are not divided [among the persons] is helpful. It reminds us that the Father’s works are not to be divided from the Son’s. The Son helps identify the character of the Father, for the Father’s character is revealed by the Son: ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). If the Son told his disciples that God loved the world (John 3:16), that they should love God with all their hearts (Matt. 22:37), and that they should love everyone including their enemies (Matt. 5:44), we can infer that the Father has said and commanded the same. This Father is clearly different, then, from Allah of the Qur’an.” 

(4) McDermott then goes on to talk about the Jewishness of Jesus and Paul. With reference to Jesus he writes, “In sum, Jesus was not rejecting the Judaism of his day but illustrating its inner meaning. Therefore the Gospels do not support the notion that Christians worshiping Jesus as the Son of God are worshiping a God different from the God of biblical Judaism.” In respect to Paul he writes, “In one respect, Paul was even more Jewish than Jesus: he took a more positive approach to Pharisees than we see in the Gospels. He proudly presented himself as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). 

(5) Christianity is not a new religion but the continuation or fulfillment of Judaism. The whole Old Testament. McDermott states, “I have tried to show that Jesus and Paul did not think they were starting a new religion to replace the Judaism they grew up with. They did indeed teach that the Messiah had finally come in Jesus, and that for that reason the Judaism of the first century had reached an epochal moment when the greatest promises had begun to be fulfilled.” 

Continuing in this vein he writes, “Judaism was finding its inner meaning and great climax because the perfect Israelite [Jesus] had appeared as the embodiment of the Law and of Israel herself. But this does not mean that Judaism was being replaced by another religion of a fundamentally different character, it means instead that the God of Israel was bringing the people of Israel to their promised apogee when their messiah was revealed as the Son of God, the meaning of all they had ever known. Rather than opposing Jewish law, Jesus and Paul observed it, even as they testified that Jesus was its living embodiment.”

In the final part of the essay McDermott talks about how some rabbi’s and Jewish traditions allow for the possibilities of the distinct doctrines related to God as revealed in the New Testament: the incarnation, resurrection, and Trinity. He concludes, “The God of Israel had long been known to be one being with internal differentiation. Hence the early church could claim that it was worshiping the God of Israel, but with new clarity about the identities within that differentiation….”

He closes his provocative essay in this manner, “Yet Paul regarded even those Jews who differed on Jesus but worshiped the God of Israel as having a zeal for the same God but ‘without knowledge’ (Rom. 10:2). They needed to hear and receive the gospel (Rom. 1:16), but they were worshipping the same God…

While the God of Israel is the Father of Jesus Christ and shares the same being and character as Jesus, Allah does not. YHWH forgives and saves through sacrifice as prescribed by Torah, and then through the perfect Sacrifice that was foreshadowed in the sacrifices of Torah. He shows in both Testaments that his people should forgive and love their enemies. He is Father to his people, love in his essence. This is true of the God revealed in both Testaments. None of this character can be found in Allah. While Christians and Jews share all (for Jews) or the vast majority (for Christians) of their scriptures, Christians and Muslims share none. For all these reasons, we must say that Christians do not worship the same God designated by Allah, but that Christians worship the same God as those Jews who regard the Old Testament as the Word of God.”

McDermott has written a very thought provoking and provocative essay. I am inclined to say that I agree with most of what he has written – In essence he is saying that those who are completed Jews – Messianic Jews – like the Apostle Paul, indeed worship the exact same God. Jews who have yet to believe in God as revealed in the New Testament via the explicit teachings of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and Triune nature of God have the genesis of these teachings in the Old Testament but need the New Testament to complete the Painting or Puzzle that centers on the Person and Work of Jesus as divine and thus worthy of worship.

I think the most logical, theologically precise, biblically based and philosophically cogent view is the final essay presented by Jerry L. Walls (professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University). The view Walls espouses is entitled: “None Worship The Same God: Different Conceptions View.” 

Walls grapples with the following questions: (a) Do Muslims and Christians refer to the same God? (b) Is it necessary for Muslims and Christians to refer to the same God in order to worship the same God? (c) Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe essentially the same thing about God? (d) If they do not, are these differences of belief about God necessarily reflected in essentially different forms and expressions of worship? (e) Can Jews and Muslims be saved even if they are not worshiping the same God as Christians?

(1) Walls first of all makes a powerful case that if Christianity is true, there had been a reference shift in the Muslim use of “God” from God to fiction. He writes, “just as the name Santa Clause originated with a historical character (Saint Nicholas) and underwent a radical reference shift to a fictional character, in a similar way ‘Allah’ underwent a profound reference shift in Islam to the point that ‘Allah’ no longer referred to God, but rather to fiction, which is to say it refers to nothing at all.” 

Walls continues, “As someone who thinks Christianity is true, I am inclined to think there has in fact been a reference shift in the case of Islam but not of Christianity. That is, the dossier for ‘Allah’ includes claims that are so radically at odds with core Christian truth claims that a reference shift has occurred such that ‘Allah’ does not refer to God. Since Christians and Muslims do not even refer to the same God, they do not worship the same God.”

(2) Walls second major point is that “Sameness of Reference Is Not Enough for Sameness of Worship.” He demonstrates this principle in the idolatrous worship of the golden calf and the breaking of the first two commandments from Exodus 20. The point is that to worship a false god – or anything that is not true of God – is idolatry. Only Yahweh is “the one to be praised and worshiped for this signal act of salvation [God’s love revealed in delivering the Israelites from slavery as depicted yearly in the Passover], but Yahweh must never be confused with a golden calf. To worship him and to honor him for this act of salvation requires refraining from even the making of idols, let alone confusing them with Yahweh or bowing down to them and worshiping them.”

(3) The New Testament revelation of God is a game changer. In the New Testament Walls writes, “The God of the Old Testament has revealed to us in the New Testament revelation that he has an eternal Son who was incarnate in Jesus, and who provided salvation on our behalf through his death and resurrection. Indeed, this is God’s supreme act of love on our behalf. Walls continues, “Starting with the resurrection of Jesus and ending with the Trinity, Jews and Muslims deny all distinctively Christian revelation about God. The hard fact of the matter is that the fundamental claims of these three religions  are simply logically incompatible, and they cannot all be true. At least two of these religions are profoundly mistaken in what they believe about God and what he requires of us in terms of obedience and worship.”

(4) In the fourth major point of Walls’ essay he states this, “It is noteworthy that the most ecumenically central act of Christian worship, namely, the sacrament of communion, is a celebration of the death of Christ for our salvation and a looking forward to his return.”

(5) Walls goes on to show biblically how impossible it is to worship God unless you are fully worshiping who He is: the Triune God of the New Testament. He explains, “The radically different beliefs that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have about God do entail essentially different forms and expressions of worship. Stressing this point is imperative. It is precisely the fact that these different expressions of worship are praised on radically different beliefs about who God is and how he has revealed himself most clearly that lead us to conclude that Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not worship the same God.”

(6) I will quote Walls at length on his final argument which is very persuasive: “New Testament worship requires that all worshipers of the God who is fully revealed only in the New Testament humbly acknowledge that he has an eternal Son who was incarnate in Jesus, and that Jesus provided salvation in our behalf through his death and resurrection, and they offer grateful praise for this when properly informed of these truths…

The notion that our response to the incarnate Son is decisive for determining whether we truly know and worship God is major theme of the Gospel and Epistles of John…While it is true that the God who is the Father of Jesus is the same God who called Abraham and spoke to Moses, and that those who worship both the Father and Son are worshiping the same God who spoke to Abraham and Moses, it is no less true that those who refuse to believe and worship Jesus are not worshiping the God who called Abraham and revealed himself to Moses. The coming of Jesus has radically altered the terms of what is required to worship and obey the God of Abraham. This is the same point Paul makes in Romans 9-11, where he draws a distinction between ethnic and true Israel. The chief issue is that ethnic Israel has stumbled over the stumbling stone, which is Christ. It is highly significant that in the context of Romans 9:33, Paul is quoting passages from the Old Testament in reference to Yahweh himself and applying them to Christ. So, to reject Christ is to reject Yahweh!

(7) Walls finishes his essay with a formal agreement and then goes on to defend his formal argument. Here is the formal argument he presents:

  1. No properly informed worshiper who consciously rejects the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus is a worshiper of the God who is fully revealed only in the New Testament.
  2. All properly informed Jews and Muslims consciously reject the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus.
  3. No properly informed Jews and Muslims are worshipers of the God who is fully revealed only in the New Testament.
  4. If no properly informed Jews and Muslims worship the God who is fully revealed only in the New Testament, no properly informed Jews and Muslims worship the same God as those who worship the God who is fully revealed only in the New Testament.
  5. No properly informed Jews and Muslims worship the same God as those who worship the God who is fully revealed only in the New Testament.
  6. All properly informed Christians worship the God who is fully revealed only in the New Testament.
  7. No properly informed Jews and Muslims worship the same God as those who worship the God whom properly informed Christians worship.

In the final analysis one’s salvation hinges on the narrow door and the narrow way that is through Jesus. As Peter preached in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Or as the Apostle shared with the Christians in Corinth, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:1-6); or as Jesus himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The only way to really know the God who has made Himself known is to believe the REAL God as He revealed Himself from Genesis to Revelation. 

I highly recommend this book as a thought provoking and deep study in the doctrine of God. No matter where you are coming from in your world view, this book will challenge you, make you think, and hopefully help you make a life changing decision leading you into accepting the truth that can change your life both now and for eternity.

The Testament by John Grisham

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A DEEP PROBING INTO THE MEANING OF LIFE

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

Rarely does a work of fiction delve into the philosophical, existential, and theological realm with such insight and wisdom. Grisham, a great story teller, also weaves in this hard to put down novel, a contrast of two world-views: Materialistic Naturalism vs. Judeo-Christian. Jesus in Matthew 16:25-26 put it this way, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

This book brilliantly contrasts the wasted life characterized by the bulk of characters in the book: a multi-billionaire who leaves behind eleven billion dollars, all of his ex-wives, adult children, and a lawyer who has been in and out of rehabilitation for drugs and alcohol – who also has left behind a wake of disastrous and broken relationships. In the midst of this a lone figure stands as the hero of the story – an unselfish missionary doctor in an obscure area of Brazil who has spent the last eleven years of her life ministering to a primitive group of Indians.

Grisham paints a vivid picture of how greed, envy, addictions, lust, and selfishness destroy. He contrasts this with how someone at peace with God, and who loves unselfishly is fulfilled, satisfied, and full of joy. Those who gain the whole world in the end lose everything, and the one who lives for Jesus gains everything. Without being preachy, overtly theological, or even quoting a single Scripture – Grisham tells the biblical story without using a single biblical character or reference. It’s a story of redemption, hope, and purpose. I highly recommend The Testament as a testament that reveals two contrasting viewpoints of reality in a powerful and compelling way.

“Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi

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Riveting Testimony of God’s Redeeming Grace

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

I had no idea what kind of a treat I was in for in reading this book. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a riveting auto biography. Nabeel Quereshi tells his story of what it is like to grow up in Scotland and America as a a second generation immigrant from Pakistan. It took me two days to read the book because it is close to 400 pages and I’m a slow reader, but I had a hard time putting it down. Nabeel is a phenomenal story teller and has a witty and fantastic intellect.

This book has it all: drama, humor, depth, pathos, wisdom, and fantastic spiritual truths.  Nabeel has a way of bringing you into the story so that you feel like you are in each scene. I laughed, cried, and laughed and cried some more.

This book helped me immensely in the following ways: (1) It gave me tremendous insight into what it’s like to be a second generation Muslim living in America; (2) It helped me to better understand the beliefs, culture, sociology, and religious practices of Islam; (3) It gave me a greater compassion for people of the Muslim faith; (4) It motivated me to befriend, understand, and help Muslims; (5) It motivated me to know what I believe and why I believe it (as a Christian) more than I do; (6) It gave me an excitement to go deeper in my study of Islam and Christianity and how they are similar and different; (7) It made me want to delve deeper into being able to give numerous reasons for and evidences of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and evidences for the Deity of Jesus and why this matters immensely for everyone.

I think any Christian, Muslim, or a person of any belief can benefit from reading this book. It will stir in you a desire to know what you believe, why you believe it, and motivate you to seek the truth. Nabeel has a story that will motivate you, liberate you, excite you, and can radically change your life! I can’t recommend this book highly enough – absolutely outstanding. It’s a book I will read again and again for encouragement, motivation, and transformation.