Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Notes on Islam: Jihad and Terrorism

Probably the one Islamic term more Americans know than any other is jihad. However, what this word means and its implications for Islam are often misunderstood. To many Americans, it means “holy war,” and it is the motto of Islamic terrorism. In this post we I will examine what the Quran actually says about jihad, warfare, and terrorism.

The Meaning of Jihad
Jihad comes from the Arabic root jahada, “putting forth a great effort to achieve a goal.” Those who practice jihad are called mujahidin. The word jihad actually occurs only four times in the Quran (9:24; 22:77-78; 25:48-52; 60:1), and in none of these instances is it explicitly about violence. For most Muslims, jihad refers to the spiritual struggle to live according to the teachings of God.


Warfare in the Quran
There are many references to literal warfare and combat in the Quran, and in Islamic tradition. But is it true that terrorists like Usama bin Laden are simply obeying the Quran?

According to some critics, the answer is yes. “Islam does in fact have an essential and indispensable tenet of militaristic conquest. The terrorists were not some fringe group that changed the Qur'an to suit political ends. They understood the Qur'an quite well and followed the teachings of jihad to the letter." (Unveiling Islam, p. 184).

It is especially common to find websites which isolate verses in the Quran that talk about making war against unbelievers, sometimes called the “sword verses.” The most widely quoted is Surah 9:5:

5 When the [four] forbidden months are over, wherever you encounter the idolaters, kill them, seize them, besiege them, wait for them at every lookout post…

Curiously, many critics of Islam fail to quote Surah 9:5 in its entirety. Here is the rest of the verse, along with the following verse:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Galatians 6:11-18 Notes


The conclusion of Galatians differs from the conclusion to Paul’s other letters in many respects:
  • There is no mention of future travel plans.
  • There is no request for prayers on Paul’s behalf.
  • There are no greetings to individuals among the Galatians.
  • There is no doxology (statement of praise to God).

This may simply be because this is Paul’s first letter, and therefore it is unfair to compare it to the others. But it could be due to the stark issues at stake in the letter. While this conclusion is different from that of his other letters, it does serve the important purpose of summarizing the key arguments in the letter, such as the ulterior motives of the Judaizers and the sufficiency of the cross.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Twenty-Five Years of Preaching - What I Wish I Had Done Differently

On May 14, 1989, I preached my first sermon as a “full-time” preacher. I can’t believe it has been 25 years! I have so many wonderful memories of my first work with the Oak Hill church outside of Mount Sterling, KY. And to be honest, I have been spoiled by the members everywhere I have preached. God has blessed me with wonderful relationships through the years in the various churches I have worked with.

Since this is a milestone year of sorts for me, I have been reflecting on what I would do differently if I was just now starting full time ministry in the word. Knowing what I know now, with a quarter century’s worth of hindsight, here are some random reflections. I hope that these thoughts can be of help to any younger men who are considering preaching or who have already begun to preach. And of course, I would love for those of you who have been preaching even longer than I have to share your thoughts as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Galatians 6:1-10 Notes


In this passage Paul continues to discuss walking by the Spirit rather than the flesh. Many commentators see these admonitions as random exhortations, but I believe they are tied into the overall context of the book. In 5:16-26 we noticed that Paul focused on issues of conflict within the community. The issues he raises here in 6:1-10 have the same theme: how those who walk by the Spirit should treat each other.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Galatians 5:16-26 Notes

Introduction
As is often the case in his letters, having established key doctrinal positions, Paul now turns to the practical implications of those doctrines for his readers. Gal. 5:16-6:18 contain the imperatives for how those who are free in Christ should live.

The key phrase in 5:16-26 is “walk by the Spirit,” which serves as an inclusio in 5:16 and 5:25. Often we minimize the mention of the Holy Spirit due the extreme positions taken by others. This robs us of valuable insight into God’s word. Just as the Old Testament promised the coming of a Messiah and a new covenant, it also promised the coming of the Holy Spirit (notice a few examples: Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 36:26-27; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29).Living by the Spirit is part of the total package of blessings the OT promised in the Messianic age. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Galatians 5:2-15 Notes



Paul now turns to the practical implications of the arguments he has made in Gal. 1-4. In particular, he focuses on how the Galatians should treat each other. The introduction of the teaching of the Judaizers was destabilizing and led to division (2:11; see Acts 15:2).The unity of the church was threatened, which may explain why Paul says so much about love and warns so much about factionalism in these two chapters (5:6; 5:13-15; 5:20; 5:22—23; 5:26; 6:1-2). In some respects 5:2-15 is a bridge between the arguments Paul made and the applications he intended to make.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Notes on Galatians 4:21-5:1

Paul concludes the middle section of the letter with an allegory. Allegories are extended metaphors, and they were an accepted form of argumentation in the rhetoric of the first century. Paul’s allegory revolves around the stories of Sarah and Hagar, and their sons, Isaac and Ishmael.

It is interesting that the first century Jewish writer, Philo, made an argument based on a similar allegory with regard to education. He compared Hagar to the elementary subjects we must learn, and Sarah to the deeper knowledge of virtue (The Preliminary Studies, I-V).

It may very well be that Paul is responding to an allegorical argument made by the Judaizers, who may have concluded that since Ishmael and even foreigners had to be circumcised (Gen. 17:23-27), that Gentiles even in the era of the gospel had to be as well.