Apologetics of Jesus: Interview with Author Patrick Zukeran

Written by Probe Ministries Administrator

Question: This is a very interesting topic, The Apologetics of Jesus. What inspired this book?

Zukeran: While I was in a doctoral class with Dr. Norman Geisler, he stated one day in class, “You may be surprised to discover, the greatest apologist is Jesus Himself. Someone needs to write a book on the apologetics of Jesus. In 2000 years of Christian history, no one has written on this subject.” The idea of studying the apologetic methods of Jesus and knowing that no one had written on the subject really stirred my interest. It thus became my doctoral project.

Question: You said that after you finished, you realized this would be an extremely important book for the body of Christ. Why do you feel this is a critically significant work?

Zukeran: There is a lot of confusion regarding the role and the need for apologetics in ministry. Many Christians believe our faith in Christ involves a blind leap of faith. In other words, our faith calls for acceptance of Christ without any reason or evidence. Therefore, in evangelism Christians should simply preach the gospel and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. When Christians are challenged by other worldviews or ideas of the culture, we often fail to offer well-reasoned and substantial answers. Often I hear Christians say, “You just need to believe” or “You simply need to have faith.” That is not a good answer to an unbelieving world or even to Christians who are questioning their faith because they have been confronted by a challenge to the credibility of Bible or the claims of Christ. Jesus commanded us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Answers like these simply do not exemplify what it means to love God with our minds. Apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith. Apologetics uses reason and presents compelling evidence to communicate the message of Christ, defend the message of Christ and challenge unbelief. Apologetics was an essential component in the ministry of Christ and if it was important in His ministry, it is crucial for Christians as we engage our world for Christ as He commanded and modeled.

Question: Many Christians do not realize Jesus was an apologist. Scores of books have been written on His teaching methods, leadership skills, prayer life, etc… Few realize apologetics was an important part of His ministry. Why is that?

Zukeran: Apologists defend the message of Christ but when it comes to Jesus, He was the message. Perhaps that is why this aspect of His ministry is overlooked. When you study the life of Christ, He made some astounding claims and He did not expect or want people to take a blind leap of faith. He presented reasons and compelling evidence to support His claims.

Question: People may be asking, since Jesus was God incarnate, why did He need to give a defense of His claims?

Zukeran: As our creator, Jesus understood that we are created in the image of God. God is a rational and morally perfect being and we reflect His nature. Jesus understood that we use reason and evidence to make our daily decisions. For example, when you see two fruit stands how do you decide which one to go to? If one looks clean, has bright looking fruit, and the owner is neatly dressed while the other one looks dirty, the fruit does not look as fresh and you spot a few flies buzzing in the area, which stand will you choose? Here’s another example. What if you enter a hotel lobby and see two elevator doors open. One elevator has lights, the music is playing and people flow in and out of it. Next to it the elevator has no lights on, there is no music playing and you do not see people entering it. Which elevator will you choose? We examine the evidence and use our reasoning ability to make daily decisions. We do the same when it comes to deciding what we will believe and who we will entrust our life and eternal destiny to. Jesus understood that when it comes to persuading people to believe in His message, He would need to provide good reasons and compelling evidence and He did.

Question: What are some of the apologetic methods of Jesus?

Zukeran: Jesus used several apologetic methods. He used reason and presented logical arguments to defend His claims and expose error. He used the evidence from the Scriptures, prophecy, His miracles, the resurrection and more. When you study His apologetics, you really appreciate the brilliance of our Lord. He truly was the greatest thinker as well as a powerful communicator.

Question: There are some passages that appear to teach against the use of reason and evidence such as Matthew 12:38-39. When Jesus was asked to perform a sign by the He rebukes them saying, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (12:39). Jesus refused to show them evidence. Isn’t this a passage that speaks against the use of apologetics?

Zukeran: One of the chapters in the book addresses several alleged anti-apologetic passages. There are no passages that speak against the use of reason and evidence. Jesus and the apostles did not ask people to make a commitment to Christ without good reasons. For example, to understand Jesus’ response, you must understand the context. Christ had already performed numerous miracles (Matt. 4:23-25, 8:1-4, 5-13, 28-34, 9:1-7, 9:18-26, 11:20). In fact, this confrontation occurs closely after Jesus’ healing of a man’s withered hand (12:13), and the deliverance of a demon–possessed individual (12:22-23). Despite these miracles, the Pharisees demanded that Jesus perform another sign. Knowing they were not sincere in their demand, He refused to appease them. Misunderstanding passages like these confuse Christians and their understanding of apologetics.

Question: What was it like writing this work with Dr. Geisler?

Zukeran: I have read many of Dr. Geisler’s works and he has had a great influence on my life. I consider him one of the premier defenders of the faith of our generation. It was a great privilege to work on this book with Him and Dr. Ron Rhodes. They would not let me get away with weak arguments and often pointed out areas and questions I needed to address. It is too bad some of those issues are left out of the book, but they really challenged me to write and think at a higher level. Perhaps you could compare it to football player receiving a chance to play under the great Tom Landry or a basketball player learning under John Wooden, or an investor working with Warren Buffett. I learned a lot but also realized I still have a lot more to learn. It was valuable to see the precision in their arguments, and their foresight in anticipating how opponents may respond. These were valuable examples for me to learn from.

Question: How do you hope this book will impact the body of Christ?

Zukeran: One of the concerns of Christian apologists is that the body of Christ is neglecting the mind. Since the Great Awakening and the preaching of men like Charles Finney, there has been a shift in evangelical Christianity. We have moved to a more emotional faith based on a moving experience. But, an emotional faith can only take you so far. Sooner or later, you will need reasons upon which to base your faith when it is challenged whether through a tragedy or an intellectual challenge. The unbelieving world also needs to see that the Christian worldview offers the best answers to the issues we face in our culture. I hope when Christians read this book and see that Jesus modeled how to love God with our minds, they will be encouraged to engage their minds with their faith in Christ.

Question: Some may see this as an intellectual book. However, you state that there are a lot of practical lessons we can apply from the study of Jesus’ apologetics. What are some examples of lessons we can learn and apply?

Zukeran: Since we use our reasoning capacity in daily life, apologetics is tremendously practical in our evangelism. If we are going to have ministries that will engage a lost world that is in rebellion to God, we will need compelling reasons but we will also need to know how to present our case to various audiences, often a hostile one. Jesus was the master at this. This does not mean He was always successful, but He did show us how to communicate a powerful message. Each chapter ends with practical applications we can apply when engaging our culture for Christ. Hopefully, we will all be more effective witnesses for Christ as a result of studying the model of Christ.

© 2009 Probe Ministries


Critique of “The Shack” – A Christian Theologian’s Perspective

The Shack

Dr. Zukeran commends the author on attempting to make the gospel accessible. However, from a Christian theologian’s perspective, he also warns us that the book presents confused pictures of the nature of God, the Son, and the way to salvation. The book can act as a great starting point for discussion, but do not rest your theology upon the pages of this fictional book.

The Shack by William Young has become a New York Times bestseller. Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C. writes, “The book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good.” Many Christians say that the book has blessed them. However, others have said that this book presents false doctrines that are heretical and dangerous. The diversity of comments and questions about the book created a need to research and present a Biblical critique of this work.

William Young creatively writes a fiction story that seeks to answer the difficult question of why God allows evil. In this story the main character, Mackenzie Allen Philips, a father of five children, experiences the unthinkably painful tragedy of losing his youngest daughter to a violent murder at the hands of a serial killer. Through his painful ordeal he asks the questions, “How could God allow something like this to happen?” and “Where was God in all this?”

One day he receives an invitation to meet God at the shack where his daughter was molested and killed. There he meets God the Father who appears as a large African-American woman named Papa, God the Son who appears as a Middle Eastern Man in a leather tool belt, and God the Holy Spirit who appears as an Asian woman named Sarayu. In this place over the course of a few days Mack asks each member of the triune God difficult questions about life, eternity, the nature of God, evil, and other significant issues with which every person struggles in their lifetime. Through several dialogues with each member of this “Trinity,” Mack receives answers, and through these answers we learn about the nature of God and the problem of suffering and evil.

COMMENDABLE FEATURES

The Shack creatively addresses a relevant and difficult issue of God and the problem of evil. Young answers the problem of God and evil with the free will argument, which states that God created people with the free will to commit evil. Young also emphasizes that God has an ultimate plan for our lives which cannot be overcome, even by acts of evil. As humans, we are limited finite creatures who cannot see how all things can fit together or how even evil events might somehow fulfill God’s ultimate plan. God is good, and God is love. Therefore, what He allows is filtered through His love and infinite wisdom. God permits individuals to exercise their free will even if they choose to go against His commands. In His love, He does not impose His will on us. When we choose to do evil, these actions hurt Him deeply. Often we cannot understand events that happen in our lives; however, we are asked to trust God even when we cannot see or comprehend why He allows things to happen. In fact Young points out that taking away our freedom would not be the best thing for God to do. I believe Young does a decent job of tackling the difficult issue of evil. He does attempt to answer a very difficult question in a creative way that many will find engaging.

Young also emphasizes the intimate relationship we are to have with God. There is a danger that a believer’s faith can become cerebral and neglect the emotional, heart aspect of one’s walk with God. A faith that is only centered on knowing doctrine only can be a cold kind of faith (Rev. 2:4-5).

CRITICISMS OF THE SHACK

I commend Young for attempting to wrestle with a difficult issue in a creative manner. Young is not a trained theologian or Bible scholar. He wrote this book for the purpose of sharing his experience and insight as he worked through personal tragedy in his life. He does attempt to be orthodox in his theology but there are some apparent errors. I do not doubt his sincerity or his relationship with God. He is a brother in Christ and it is my goal to present an accurate critique of his work.

In seeking to address the issue of God and the problem of evil, the author presents flawed theological views that confuse the nature of God. One of my concerns is the emphasis on experience and how it is given emphasis equal to or stronger than the Bible. Young refers to the Bible superficially; however, his primary focus in this work is on experience. In fact, he unfortunately makes some critical remarks regarding the sole authority of the Word and the training needed to interpret it properly:

In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen and follow sacred scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. (p. 65)

Throughout the book, he criticizes Biblical teachings as “religious conditioning” or “seminary teaching” (p. 93). Young’s intention may be to encourage the audience to break stereotypes in their thinking about God. This is commendable, for we must constantly examine our theology of God and evaluate whether we have adopted false stereotypes in our understanding of God. It may not have been the author’s intent to devalue the word of God or theological training. However, comments like these give that impression.

Our theology must be consistent with God’s Word. God will not reveal Himself or communicate in ways that are contrary to His Word. God is not limited to words on a page; He also communicates through His creation or general revelation (Rom. 1). However, God has given us special revelation and communicated specific truths about His character in His Word. If God reveals and communicates information that is contrary to His Word, then He could not be a God of truth. There are truths that are not mentioned in the Bible, but those facts should be consistent and not contrary to the Word of God. It was unfortunate that there were more critical remarks made on biblical training and not a stronger emphasis to study and exhort believers to be diligent students of the word (2 Tim. 2:15).

Confusion Regarding the Nature of God

Young presents several incorrect and confusing teachings regarding the nature of God and salvation. In this story, God the Father appears as a large African-American woman. In contrast, the Bible teaches that the Father never takes on physical form. John 4:24 teaches that God is spirit. 1 Timothy 4:16 states, “God, the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings and Lord or lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see.” To add to this, God appears as a woman named “Papa.” It is true that God is neither male nor female as humans are, and both feminine and masculine attributes are found in God. However, in the Bible God has chosen to reveal Himself as Father and never in the feminine gender. This gender distortion confuses the nature of God.

In the story, God the Father has scars on His wrists (p. 95). This is contrary to Biblical teaching in which only Jesus became human and only Jesus died on the cross. It is true the Father shared in the pain of Christ’s suffering, but God stood as the judge of sin, not the one who suffered on the cross. Christ bore the burden of our sins; God the Father was the judge who had to render His judgment on His Son.

God the Father says “When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human” (p. 99). Young teaches that all three members of the Trinity became human. However, scripture teaches that only the Son, not all members of the Trinity, became human. This distorts the uniqueness and teaching of the incarnation.

Confusion Regarding the Son

In this story, Jesus appears as a Middle Eastern man with a plaid shirt, jeans, and a tool belt. In the Bible, Jesus appears as a humble servant veiling His glory (Phil. 2). After the resurrection, Jesus retains His human nature and body but is revealed in a glorified state. He appears in his glorified and resurrected body and His glory is unveiled (Revelation 1).

As the incarnate Son of God, Jesus retained His divine nature and attributes. His incarnation involved the addition of humanity, but not by subtracting His deity. During His incarnation He chose to restrict His use of His divine attributes, but there were occasions in which He exercised His divine attributes to demonstrate His authority over creation. However, in The Shack God says:

Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost – the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence. . . . So when He healed the blind? He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus as a human being had no power within himself to heal anyone (p. 99-100).

First, it is not true that Jesus “had no power within himself to heal anyone.” Jesus, as the incarnate Son of God, never ceased being God. He continued to possess full and complete deity before, during, and after the incarnation (Colossians 2:9). He did do miracles in the power of the Spirit, but He also exercised His own power (Lk. 22:51; Jn. 18:6). Young appears to be teaching the incorrect view of the incarnation that Christ gave up His deity, or aspects of it, when He became human.

Confusion Regarding the Holy Spirit

In this story, the Holy Spirit appears as an Asian woman named Sarayu. In contrast, the Holy Spirit never appears as a person in the Bible. There is one time when the Holy Spirit appears in physical form as a dove at the baptism of Jesus. Moreover, the Spirit is never addressed in the feminine but is always addressed with the masculine pronoun.

Confusion Regarding the Trinity

The first inaccuracy regarding the Trinity is that in this story, all three members of the Trinity take on human form. This confuses the doctrine of the incarnation, for Scripture teaches that only Jesus takes on human form.

The second inaccuracy presented in The Shack is the idea that the relationship taught between the members of the Trinity is incorrect. In the book, “God” says, “So you think that God must relate inside a hierarchy like you do. But we do not” (p. 124). Young teaches that all three members of the Trinity do not relate in a hierarchical manner (p. 122-124).

In contrast, the Bible teaches that all three members of the Trinity are equal in nature while there also exists an economy, or hierarchy, in the Trinity. It describes the relationship of the members of the Godhead with each other, and this relationship serves as a model for us. The Father is the head. This is demonstrated in that the Father sent the Son. The Son did not send the Father, (Jn. 6:44, 8:18, 10:36). The Son also is the one who sends the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:7). Jesus came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of the Father (John 6:38). The Father is the head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). 1 Cor. 15:27-28 speaks of creation being in subjection to Jesus, and then in verse 28, Jesus will be subjected to the Father. The Greek word for “will be subjected” is hupotagasetai which is the future passive indicative. This means that it is a future event where Jesus will forever be subjected to the Father. These passages teach that there is indeed a hierarchy within the Trinity in which all three members are equal in nature, yet the principle of headship and submission is perfectly displayed in the Trinity. This critical theological principle is incorrectly taught in The Shack.

Confusion Regarding Salvation

In this story, Young appears to be teaching pluralism, which is the belief that there are other ways to salvation beside faith in Jesus Christ. In this story Papa states:

Those who love me come from every system that exists. They are Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved. (p. 182)

Young states that Jesus has no desire to make people of other faiths Christians, or disciples of Christ. One then wonders what this “transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa” entails. What does it mean to be a son or daughter of Papa?

Jesus commanded us in the Great Commission to “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Being a disciple of Christ requires us to know and obey the teachings that God has revealed in His Word.

Mack asks Jesus, “Does that mean all roads will lead to you?” To this question, Jesus replies, “Not at all. . . . Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you” (p. 182). Although pluralism is denied here, there is confusion regarding salvation. It is a strange statement by Jesus to say, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere.” In actuality Jesus stated in the Gospels that most roads lead to destruction when in Mt. 7:13-14 He says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Young fails to mention eternal judgment for those who do not receive Jesus whereas Jesus makes it clear in John 14:6 that He is the only way to life; all other roads lead to destruction.

Things are further confused when the Jesus of The Shack states, “I will travel any road to find you.” The message appears to teach that Jesus will reveal Himself to people no matter their road or religion. Jesus does not ask them to leave that road and follow the narrow path of salvation.

Moreover, in a later conversation on the atoning work of Christ on the cross, Mack asks, “What exactly did Jesus accomplish by dying?” Papa answers, “Through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world” (p. 191-2). Mack is confused and asks if the whole world has been reconciled or only those who believe. Papa responds by saying reconciliation is not dependent upon faith in Christ:

The whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two-way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship but it is the nature of love to open the way” (p. 192).

Young appears to be saying all people are already reconciled to God. God is waiting on them to recognize it and enter into a relationship with Him. These dialogues appear to teach pluralism. Although it is denied on page 182, the ideas presented by Young that Jesus is not interested in people becoming Christians, that Jesus will find people on the many roads, and that the whole world is already reconciled to God presents the tone of a pluralistic message of salvation. Thus, the book presents a confusing message of salvation.

Emphasis on Relationship

Throughout the book, Young places an emphasis on relationships. He downplays theological doctrines and Biblical teaching and emphasizes that a relationship with God is what is most important. However, Jesus stated, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23-24).

It is not possible to have a relationship with God that is not based in truth. In order to have a meaningful relationship with God, one must understand the nature and character of God. Truth is rooted in the very nature of God (John 14:6). A relationship with God comes through responding to the truths revealed in His Word. Thus, a believer must grow in his relationship with God through seeking emotional intimacy as well as growing in our understanding of the Word of God.

Throughout his book Young emphasizes the relational aspect of our walk with God and downplays the need for proper doctrinal beliefs about God. It is true that Christians are to have a vibrant relationship with God, but this relationship must be built on truth as God has revealed in His Word. Seeking a relationship and worship of God built on false ideas of God could lead one to discouragement and even false hope. As one grows in Christ, one’s understanding of God should move toward a more accurate understanding of God’s character that is revealed in His word.

An essential part of growing a deep intimate relationship with God involves the learning of Biblical and doctrinal truths about God. The Apostle Paul refers to this in Ephesians 4:13 when he says, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Simply knowing doctrine without the involvement of the heart leads to a cold faith. I believe Young was trying to emphasize this point. However, a heart religion without truth as its guide is only an emotional faith. We must have both heart and mind. In fact, Jesus commanded Christians in Matthew 22:37 to “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Conclusion

The Shack attempts to address one of life’s toughest issues: the problem of God and evil. Although this is a work of fiction, it addresses significant theological issues. However, in addressing the problem of evil, Young teaches key theological errors. This can lead the average reader into confusion regarding the nature of God and salvation. I found this to be an interesting story but I was disturbed by the theological errors. Readers who have not developed the skills to discern truth from error can be confused in the end. So although the novel tries to address a relevant question, it teaches theological errors in the process. One cannot take lightly erroneous teachings on the nature of God and salvation.

I believe this book would make a great subject for discussion groups. The topics presented in the book such as the problem of evil, the nature of God, and salvation are worthwhile topics for all believers to discuss. We can often learn and become more accurate in our beliefs when we analyze error, compare it with scripture, and articulate our position in light of the Bible. I do not believe Christians need to run from error as long as they read and study with discernment.

© 2008 Probe Ministries


“Is Christianity a Male-Dominated Religion?”

What is your view of Christianity as a male dominated religion?

Unfortunately many have this misperception due to abuses of Bible verses made by some Christian leaders or just a misunderstanding of the text. The Bible teaches that men and women are equal in nature but different in their physical makeup and their roles. Men and women are equal in nature and value but complementary to one another in their design. Where the present day feminist movement goes wrong is the teaching that says men and women are essentially the same. The Bible teaches they are equal in nature but different in many ways. Just looking at the physical anatomy of men and women shows they are different.

Of all the world views, only Christianity gives the woman her full God-ordained dignity. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” Man and woman each are created in the image of God. In Genesis 2:18 God makes woman as a “helper suitable for him.” The term “helper” means one who will complement the other. In other words, Eve would be a complement to Adam, not an inferior being. 1 Peter 3:7 states, “Husbands, in the same way be considereate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as co-heirs with you of the gracious gift of life…” Women here are co-heirs in Christ with their husbands. They are not inferior, they are equal in nature and fellow heirs in Christ.

What a contrast to Islam, which teaches that only men go to heaven and women are allowed to be beaten by men if they are disobedient. Also remember, when the New Testament writers were writing, the Jewish faith did not look highly on women. In fact there was a prayer Jewish men prayed: “Lord, thank you that I was not born a Gentile, a dog or a woman.” In contrast, the New Testament writers give women their full dignity as co-heirs to the kingdom of God.

Also, Jesus and the apostles are the first to give women such a prominent role and raise their value in society. The first evangelists to proclaim the gospel are women. This is important to realize because the testimony of women was not considered credible in Jewish society at that time, yet Christ appoints them to be the first to proclaim the resurrection. The apostles are shown to be hiding from the authorities while the women go to the tomb. Luke records the prominent role women had in the ministry of Jesus. Paul and Peter constantly call on husbands to treat their wives with respect and honor.

So once we understand the biblical teaching, we can see that Christianity teaches men and women are equal in nature. However, Christianity also fully acknowledges the differences of men and women and teach the differences to be complementary.

I agree that the leadership role of the family and the church fall on the men. However, that in no way means that men do not or should not listen to their wives, nor does it mean women cannot have a prominent role in the church. Husbands are to listen and honor their wives and they are to honor them in the church as well. There are some tough passages that many misuse but when understood correctly, they in no way devalue the role of women.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries


“Why Do the Gospel Accounts Contradict Each Other?”

I understand that if 4 people saw an accident, they would each have a different story. You said that was why Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had slightly different accounts of the resurrection. But isn’t all of the Bible inspired by God? Didn’t He tell those four guys what to write? And also, some parts still seem a bit different… like inside of the tomb… how many angels were there and did they sit or stand? I know that’s probably not very significant, but it still bothers me.

Yes, the four gospel writers are inspired of God and provide different but not contradictory details of the life of Jesus. Inspiration does not mean they must have identical accounts. Inspiration means they have different but not contradictory accounts. When put together, they complement nicely and fill in details the others leave out. Let’s consider the example of an accident. If one witness stands to the north side of the accident, he sees the accident from his vantage point. Now the other witness stands on the south side, the opposite side of the street, he sees different details because of his angle. Now would both men have identical accounts? Of course not, the one on the south side cannot see what happens on the north side of the accident nor can the man on the north side see what happens on the south side. However, when you put the two accounts together, you get a more complete picture of the accident. Both men include different details but they should not be contradictory.

That is what we have in the gospels. The writers include different, but not contradictory, details. Inspiration does not mean the four gospels must be identical in every way. That would be quite boring to read four accounts tht are exactly the same. Each writer includes details he feels are necessary for the audience he is addressing. Matthew, writing to the Jews, must include all the Old Testament prophecies, while Mark, writing to the Greeks, does not include many prophecies but writes on the action of Jesus’ life. Is that a contradiction? No, it’s just that each writer included details he felt were necessary and left out others he felt would not be necesary for his audience. Alleged contradictions are explained when one studies the accounts and puts each event of Christ in its chronological order.

Matthew records one angel, Luke and John record two. The answer is this. Where there are two there must be one. Get it? There were two angels at the tomb but Matthew only writes about one in his account. Is this a contradiction? No, because where there are two, there must be at least one. Luke includes two, but Matthew only includes the one that spoke with Mary. He keyed in on that one and left the other angel out. Luke and John include the other one. We do that in our reporting. If Clinton and Gore appear on the podium but only Clinton talks and Gore says nothing, some newspapers will say “Clinton appeared and said such and such” and not mention Gore. Other papers will say, “Clinton and Gore appeared and Clinton stated ….” Is there a contradiction? No, just some reporters mentioned one person while another chose not to.

Hope this helps. Keep studying the word!

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries


“My JW Friend Needs a Blood Transfusion and Won’t Allow It!”

I have a friend who broke his back riding a motorcycle last week. He needs a blood transfusion so he can have an operation to get the feeling back in his legs. He won’t let them give him blood. How can I show him he’s wrong in a loving manner? I did copy Patrick Zukeran’s article on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Trinity to share with his wife who isn’t a Christian. I think she can get the gist of it.

Dear ______,

We at Probe will be praying for your situation. It is all too common among Jehovah’s Witnesses. First of all, I believe there is a law for doctors that if a JW needs blood, they have the right to overrule the wishes of the JW church and family members and give blood. Make sure your doctors are aware of this law. It applies in the U.S.; I don’t know about other countries.

Second, the Bible in the Old Testament law, Leviticus 3:17 and other passages, forbid the eating of blood. Also in Acts 15:20, the apostles wrestled with the whole issue of eating meat with blood. One thing to understand here and make this very clear, eating blood and receiving a blood transfusion are two different things. When you eat blood it goes down the digestive tract into the stomach. When we receive a blood transfusion, it goes into an entirely different system, the cardiovascular system, the blood veins to the heart. We are talking about two different system, one the digestive system and the other the cardiovascular system. The Old Testament law forbids the eating of blood (the digestive tract), but it does not forbid blood transfusion (the cardiovascular tract), to save a life.

False interpretation of the Watchtower does have its consequences.

“Lord, may you equip ______ to defend your word of truth and give her words of wisdom to share with her JW friends that the life of this man may be saved. Empower ______ to share your truth with love and power. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.”

God Bless you _______.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries


“What’s a Good Evangelism Training Curriculum?”

Can you recommend any curriculum I could use to train young people in evangelism?

I think one of the best evangelism training out there is “Becoming a Contagious Christian” by Willow Creek. “Evangelism Explosion” (www.eeinternational.org/) is also another very good tool.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries


“Scriptures That Prove Trinitarians Wrong”

I dare you to put this on your website!

As I see it, I could write thousands of words to try and prove a Trinitarian wrong. The reason I say this is because the Trinity belief changes depending on which Trinitarian you talk to. There exist hundreds of Trinity-teaching churches, all of which have different interpretations of what the Trinity is or is not. I have heard that Jesus was a Man-God, despite the scriptural reference that no man has ever seen God. I have heard that they (God the Father and Jesus) are the same, but NOT the same..????

In actuality, there is no clear-cut description of the Trinity Doctrine. It itself is written in such a way that you could come up with literally hundreds of combinations to make it work. And believe me, that has been done. Catholics, Mormons, Prodestants, Lutherans and countless other religions have their own interpretations of the Trinity teaching. How can that teaching be right if all these differing opinions exist on its meaning? Is not at least ONE of them absolutely right?

Here are a few points of view that should inspire any honest-hearted, truth-seeking person to carefully examine in an effort to shed light upon this teaching. Please keep in mind that the earliest DOCUMENTED proof of the Trinity teaching dates back to the Nicene Creed, a government-sanctioned document the purpose of which was to unify a splitting house of worship…notedly, the Roman Catholic Church. All other reports are speculation as to the meaning of certain author’s beliefs. All pre-Nicene opinions that I am aware of (not saying that I am familiar with them all) are from “fathers” of the Roman Catholic Church. It was the Nicene Creed that for the first time put it into an official, chuch stand.

All scripture quoted is from the New Internation Version of the Holy Scriptures. I invite you to read your own version of the Bible to compare to these quotes.

JESUS IS AN EQUAL PART OF THE GODHEAD

2 Peter 1:17 : “For he received honor and glory from the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This scripture not only tells where Jesus’ glory came from, but also when…and it is critical. Jesus did not possess any glory on his own, it was given by the Father to him when he was 30 years old in front of witnesses at Jesus’ baptism. If he was deity in his own right, he would not have needed the Father to give glory to him, nor would he have had to wait until his baptism to receive it. Here, it is stressed in the scriptures that Jesus is God’s SON, not God himself. This points to Jesus’ subordinate place along the side of his Father. It is therefore reasonable to deduce that they are NOT equal.

John 14:28: “You heard me say ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” Jesus here points out in no uncertain terms that he and the Father are not equal. In contrast to other scriptures that only insinuate a point, this scripture is direct in nature and states very clearly that the Father is greater than Jesus. They are NOT equal!

Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”

God did the exalting and did so to his OWN glory. This entire passage speaks to God’s sole authority to do what He wants, in this case exalting His own Son. Jesus is NOT the exalt-ER, but the exalt-EE. One cannot exalt another unless there is superior position, rank or authority. Jesus is clearly the lesser of the two.

1 Corinthians 15:25-28: (speaking of Jesus) “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God Himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him that put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” Can a logical person even conceive that these two, God the Father and his Son, Jesus are equal from this scripture? This is one of the most direct passages describing their relationship in terms of rank, or position. Any part of the Godhead described by most Trinitarians is equal to the power of the other. This directly rejects that teaching. Here, in these verses, it is crystal clear who has the authority and who has been given authority. They CANNOT be equal.

JESUS IS ALL-KNOWING, AND THEREFORE IS GOD

Matthew 24:36, Jesus speaking: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” While Jesus was certainly blessed by God with extraordinary powers, the claim that Jesus is all knowing is completely and utterly denied by Jesus’ own words here. Jesus does not know the hour in which the actual end will take place. If he were God, he most certainly would know for it is his (God’s) master plan. There exists no scripture, let alone Jesus’ own words, that says he is all-knowing. Some apostles asked Jesus that, since he knew all things, would he please explain this or that…but to claim that these scriptures say Jesus knows all would be in direct conflict with Jesus’ words here. We know it has to be one way or the other, so which is it? For me personally, I will trust in Jesus’ words that he does NOT know the hour of the coming of the end and therefore does not know all things.

[Note:. . .And six pages of verses and commentary from Revelation edited]

Thank you for your response and I will enjoy putting this on our web site. I can tell you are zealous in what you believe and I sense a strong disdain towards those who differ from you. I am sorry that with my heavy schedule I cannot address all your points but let me address just a few. Your response is typical of JW’s who have misunderstood the doctrine of the Trinity and have used Bible verses out of context.

Let’s take a look at a few.

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is one God who has revealed Himself in three distinct persons all are equal in nature. They are distinct in person. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. One God revealed in three distinct persons. JW’s mislead people when they say the trinity teaches Jesus and the Father are one in the same person. They are distinct in person, but equal in nature.

In regard to the passage from John 6:46 states, “No man has seen God…” you interpret this to mean no man has ever seen God at all. Let’s take a look at some passages and see if this is the case. Isaiah 6 states, “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on the throne, high and exalted….” Isaiah appears to have seen the Lord. In Exodus 3, Moses speaks with God at the burning bush. Deuteronomy 34:10 states, “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” There are other passages where men have seen and spoken with God. So what John 6:46 is saying is, no one has seen God in His full glory. That no one could withstand. However, God has revealed Himself in veiled form, which we could see and withstand. Jesus is God the Son veiled in flesh. Philippians 2 if you read the entire passage states, that Jesus emptied himself or made himself nothing. He temporarily clothed himself in flesh and revealed himself to us. Later in Revelation 1, we see Jesus in glory.

The allegation that the Trinity was not taught until the Nicene council is incorrect. The Watchtower printed this in their magazine ‘Should You Believe in the Trinity.” There they quote pre-Nicene fathers as rejecting the Trinity. One interesting note, the Watchtower does not footnote any of it’s references. They use endless dots …. why are there no footnotes or references pointing to the exact location of these quotes. Typical Watchtower deception. In my article on the Probe web site called “Why You should Believe in the Trinity,” I quote several pre Nicene church fathers and give the exact reference. Here are a few the Watchtower misquoted.

Justin Martyr (165 A.D.): “…the Father of the universe has a Son; who being the logos and First-begotten is also God” (First Apology 63:15).

Irenaeus (200 A.D.) : (referencing Jesus) “…in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, . . .” (Against Heresies I, x, 1).

Clement of Alexandria (215 A.D.): “Both as God and as man, the Lord renders us every kind of help and service. As God He forgives sin, as man He educates us to avoid sin completely” (Christ the Educator, chapter 3.1). In addition, “Our educator, O children, resembles His Father, God, whose son He is. He is without sin, without blame, without passion of soul, God immaculate in form of man accomplishing His Father’s will” (Christ the Educator Chapter 2:4).

Tertullian (230 A.D.): “…the only God has also a Son, his Word who has proceeded from himself, by whom all things were made and without whom nothing has been made: that this was sent by the Father into the virgin and was born of her both man and God. Son of Man, Son of God, …” (Against Praxeas, 2).

Hippolytus (235 A.D.): “And the blessed John in the testimony of his gospel, gives us an account of this economy and acknowledges this word as God, when he says, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ If then the Word was with God and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two persons however, and of a third economy, the grace of the Holy Ghost” (Against the Heresy of One Noetus. 14).

Origen (250 A.D.): (with regard to John 1:1) “…the arrangement of the sentences might be thought to indicate an order; we have first, ‘in the beginning was the Word,’ then ‘And the Word was with God,’ and thirdly, ‘and the Word was God,’ so that it might be seen that the Word being with God makes Him God” (Commentary on John, Book 2, Chapter 1).

Not only in these instances, but also throughout their writings the ante-Nicene fathers strongly defend the deity of Christ.

I would challenge you to ask the leaders at your kingdom hall, Why doesn’t the watchtower magazine, on Page 7 footnote their references? Also, where exactly are these quotes located in the writings of the church fathers? If you know a little about church history, you will know that the early church suffered persecution under the Roman Empire. It was not until Emperor Constantine converted that they could have a church council. At Nicea then, they simply articulated what they already believed and taught.

2 Peter 1:17, states, “For he received honor and glory from God the Father….” Take a look 17:5 where Jesus prays, “And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Now take a look at Isaiah 42:8. God says, “I am the Lord, that is my name. I will not give my glory to another…” God will not give his glory to another. Yet Jesus shared in God’s glory before the world began. He shares God’s glory because He is in nature God.

Let’s look at John 14:28 where Jesus says the Father is greater than I. Greater refers to position not to nature. For example, you would agree with the statement, “George Bush is greater than you or I.” As the chief executive officer of our country, that is indeed true. But is George Bush a superior being to you or I? No. Greater refers to position, not nature. In the Trinity, there is an economy, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are equal in nature, greater refers to position. In Hebrews 1:4 it states, “So he (Jesus) became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” Here Jesus is not an angel because He is superior in nature to them. Or as the New World Translation states, “So he has become better than the angels,” Jesus is better, meaning superior in nature to the angels. If Jesus was an inferior being to the Father, He would have said, “the Father is better or superior than I.”

Let’s take a look at the verse you quoted in Philippians 2. You begin at verse nine, but you need to look at the verse in its context. Begin at verse 1. Paul is exhorting the Philippians to exemplify humility as Christ did. How did Christ demonstrate humility? Verse 6 states, “Who (Christ) being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped.” The Greek word there is “morphe” which means essential attributes. In other words, Jesus essential attributes was the nature of God. He humbled himself unto death and was exalted by God at the resurrection and sits at the Father’s right hand. Another interesting note, verse 11 states, “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” In Isaiah 45:18 God states, “I am the Lord and there is no other.” Yet here when every tongue confesses Jesus is Lord, it brings glory to the Father. We can’t have two Lords and if God states, He is the only Lord and Jesus has that title as well, what must we conclude?

In regard to the Revelation passages, it would be helpful to outline the book of Revelation. State the theme and how it plays out through the book. The Watchtower has interpreted it incorrectly in many areas. In Chapter 1:7 Jesus is coming to the earth. In verse 8 it states, “I am the alpha and the Omega, says Jehovah God, the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.” God the Father is never referred to as coming soon. the one who is coming is Jesus. Verse 8 refers to the one coming soon in verse 7 who is Jesus. Jesus is called God in verse 8. The whole theme of chapter one is the Son of God. Even if you want to say verse 8 refers to Jehovah and not Jesus, look at 22:12-16. Who is the alpha and Omega there? Jesus. Jehovah is the Alpha and Omega in chapter one. You cannot have two Alphas and Two Omegas. You can only have one. It is Jehovah in chapter 1, Jesus in chapter 22. So we conclude Jesus is God the Son. In 1:17-18 it states, “I am the First and the Last. I am the living one; I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever.” The First and the Last here is Jesus who died and rose again.

In Isaiah 44:6, Jehovah says, “I am the First and the Last; apart from me there is no God.” You cannot have two firsts and two lasts. You can only have one. Once again, Jesus is God the Son for He shares the same title. Just a study of Chapter one of Revelation reveals the deity of Christ. I would study Revelation without the Watchtower articles to see what it says for itself. It is the Watchtower interpretations that led to the numerous false prophecies of Jesus second coming in 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975. Their record of false prophecies alone should have one question the credibility of this organization.

Sorry I do not have time for a detailed study of the rest of your passages. Perhaps at a later time. Thanks for your reply.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries


“You Anti-Mormons Haven’t Come Up with Anything New Since 1830”

I was briefly looking over your site. I find it amusing when I have nothing else to do to see if you anti-Mormons have come up with anything new since 1830. It appears you have not. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints like myself, we indulge in the challenge of finding answers to such shortsighted claims as are found on your site. To help in these boring times I would ask for something different. To start out if you would quit using phrases like “orthodox christians”, and “historic christianity”, it would first eliminate a great deal of confusion for those whom you would blind by your craftiness. After all what does it matter if people believed something for thousands of years. If it is wrong it will always be so. Thus, just because “orthodox christians” believed in the trinity for hundreds of years that doesn’t make it any more true than when it was spawned by uninspired men. This will force your mind to think of new lies to tell people as you divert them from the Spirit of Truth. However I’m sure you will misconstrue and misrepresent my words. But at least you will know that you had to shade the truth to advance your own cause.

Thanks for reading the article on Mormon Doctrine of God. It is difficult to take your response seriously since you are simply making personal attacks, which involve name-calling and cynical remarks. This hardly represents the attitude the Bible teaches believers to have. 1 Peter 3:15 states, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the hope you have, but do this with gentleness and reverence.” I see none of that displayed in your remarks here. Your conduct and attitude says a great deal about your religious faith. I hope this is not typical of the attitude of the Mormon Church. A biblical critique of my article on a more scholarly level would be more profitable. Not only a biblical critique of my work but also a biblical defense of your position leaving out the sarcasm and personal insults would be very profitable for all parties. Until then, I cannot take your comments seriously.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries


“The Doctrine of the Trinity is Stupid”

I want to make it clear that I am not a Jehovah’s Witness, yet when considering this Nicean doctrine, it way amazes me how people can define the form of a God that Jesus confirmed that no one had seen at any time, neither have we seen his shape, what makes it rather annoying is that people seem to patronize you and in the process try and undermine one’s faith in a loving God. I have a question for you.

Is God subject to Jesus as Jesus is subject to God?

I believe that there is God and he reveals himself in these last days by his Word (Jesus), Hebrews 1:1-2. Where do you see Jesus sending God to do something or the Holy Spirit telling God to do something? Jesus said he could do nothing of self, Jesus confirmed that the Holy Spirit can do nothing of self, but all power belongs to God.

In the book of Corinthians 14:11-24, you would see that there is a time when the power that was given and I stress that word given to Jesus will be submitted on to God. I wish for once you Trinitarians will allow the Holy Spirit to reveal who God is by his Son and not through pulpits.

Frankly speaking if you have to have the Holy Spirit reveal all things you would find the doctrine is stupid, and hey if the Jehovah Witness is right in this instance so be it, even in the time of Christ our Lord he acknowledged the Pharisees to be right in at least one instance, it didn’t do anything to his pride, and I believe that that is the example we must follow.

Thank you for your response. I believe you have misunderstood the doctrine of the Trinity. Simply stated it is, There exists one God who has revealed Himself in three distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We see throughout scripture the Father is called God. However, the Son is called God as well, John 20:28, Matthew 1:23, Titus 2:13 and many other passages. The Son is worshipped, has authority over areas only God has authority over. The Son shares in the attributes only God can have. The Holy Spirit is also called God, Acts 5:3-4, Romans 8, Genesis 1:2, Matthew 28:19. All three are equal in nature yet there is an economy among the persons of the Trinity. The Son submits to the Father and the the Holy Spirit submits to the Son. 1 Corinthians 11:3 states, “…the head of every woman is man…” Does that mean that women are inferior to men? By no means, men and women are equal in nature, yet there is an economy of headship and submission in marriage, where the man is head over his wife. In the same way God the Father is head over God the Son. They are equal in nature, but different in position as illustrated in marriage.

Regarding the fact that no one has seen God, you are quoting John 1:18. “No one has seen God, only the begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” This verse means, no one has seen God as He really is in all His glory and splendor. There are several passages in the Bible where men have seen God. Exodus 24:9-11, Deuteronomy 34:10. However, they did not see Him in His full glory but in a veiled form that could be withstood. Same with Jesus, He is God the Son revealed in veiled form. Regarding this verse, the JW’s have been dishonest in their translational work. The Greek reads, “Theon oudies eoraken popote monogeneies theos…” they translate it “No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten god… ” Why do they use a little “g”? They do this to make it match their theology, but this is dishonest translation. They feel they can justify using a little “g” because theos has no article or is anartharous. However, in the beginning of the verse “God” or the Greek Theon is also anartharous, it has no article. So the JW’s should translate it “No one has seen god” but they do not. They use a capital “G.” Once again, dishonest translation by the Watchtower. When you honestly look at this verse, it supports the deity of Christ, He is God the Son incarnate as stated in John 1:1. The translation properly reads, “No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten God (capital G) who is in the bosom of the Father has made him known”.

Thanks for your inquiry.

Patrick Zukeran

Probe Ministries


“Evidence that Jesus Didn’t Become the Christ Till Centuries Later?”

I was recently at the A&E (aande.com) website when I came across a set of videos that they offer. One of them titled “Unknown Jesus” caught my eye. I read the short description and they claim to have found evidence that Christ wasn’t assigned the title of Christ until many centuries later by the Greeks and that he may not have existed until a couple of centuries after his proclaimed death. This is supposed archaeological evidence also. Can someone please write me back with your comments please? Thank you.

Thanks for your question. Although I have not seen the tapes, I am familiar with similar arguments. Unfortunately, these men are presenting poor and biased research. The claims they make will not be taken by any serious historian.

Jesus definitely existed in the first century. We have several Jewish and Roman sources clearly telling us so. Josephus, a Jewish historian, recorded the events of Israel for the Roman Empire from 37-100 AD. Not a follower of Christ, he wrote, “Now there appeared about this time Jesus, a wise man if it be lawful to call him a man. He was a doer of wonderful works … He was the Christ and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had him condemned to the cross…” Tacitus, a Roman historian who wrote in 115 A.D., recorded Nero’s persecution of the Christians. He wrote, “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of the procurators, Pontius Pilatus…”

Here these historians confirm the existence of Jesus and even give him the title “Christ” in the first century. There are several other historical accounts outside the New Testament that verify the existence of Jesus. Pliny the Younger, Thallus, Suetonius, etc… We also have the gospels which were circulated in the first century. We have a fragment of the book of John dating as early as 125 A.D. This fragment proves how early the books were written and circulated by the first century. Finished copies of the gospels were around as early as 70 A.D. The gospels base their entire account on a historical person: Jesus and his acts, they clearly claim, happened in the context of history. If their claim was false and Jesus never existed, the gospels would have been refuted by the enemies of Christianity and they would never have lasted because their claims would be proven false. They were written in the generation of the eye witnesses who could have easily disproven their accounts. It is amazing no one doubts or questions the historical existence of Jesus until many centuries later. It is not that Jesus did not exist till centuries later, it is the critics who make this assertion whose arguments do not appear till centuries later. If Jesus never existed, why was this argument not around in the first or second century?

Whatever new archaeology has been found, I do not believe can counter the overwhelming evidence for Jesus being a first century person.

Thanks for writing. I hope this helps.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries