Blog - Articles

The Virgin Birth

November 16, 2009 - 3:58 PM


"It's Still About the Virgin Birth"

December 2005

By Chris Arch



It seems as though all the buzz in the domestic news of late has been the controversy surrounding whether schools, school boards, or school districts will be allowed to include the theory "Intelligent Design" into the curriculum presently monopolized by another concept on human origins.

The wonderful account of the birth of Christ, as recorded in Luke 2, tells of Mary's utter amazement at the angel's proclamation in her response: "How can this be since I am a virgin?" (v.34). Gabriel's classic reply infuses the appropriate answer: "For nothing will be impossible with God." (v.37).

It seems as though the most frequent and vociferous objections to the virgin birth of Messiah is that it is believed to be biologically impossible. This objection, however, if looked at closely, is rooted in a naturalistic presupposition of a closed universe. Both the anti-theists as well as the Deists of old (and new) would have difficulty with the concept of the virgin birth for both biological as well as theological reasons. Biologically, one could have difficultly with the concept of the virgin birth because according to biological laws conception is impossible without insemination. Theologically, both the anti-theist, naturalist, etc., as well as the Deist would reject the notion of a personal God "intruding" into the affairs of man. The Christian, arguing from the standpoint of revealed revelation would confidently assert that both have taken place.

However, do either of these presuppositions raise an insurmountable objection to the Christmas story? I don't think so. In truth the naturalistic presupposition cannot be tested to a degree of total certainty, a charge often leveled at those holding to a supernaturalistic one. It is theoretical at best and in disagreement with both biblical theology, as well as philosophy and methodology. In the words of RC Sproul; "That something cannot be duplicated in a controlled laboratory experiment does not mean that it never happened." (Renewing Your Mind, Sproul, p. 101) It's impossible for a lab to completely eliminate the realm of all possible variables. In the question of the virgin birth, there is the amazingly complex variable known as God's alternative. With that alternative, science may make a pronouncement in relation to the probability of the virgin birth, but it cannot of its possibility. If one looks to probability, the virgin birth must be regarded as unique.

However, the unique event is a significant aspect of the Christian faith. And, interestingly, in both the Old and the New Testaments miracles (of which the virgin birth would assuredly be!) are not treated as commonplace events. Miracles, by definition, are unique. It is that uniqueness that distinguishes Jesus Christ from all other people. Christmas, no matter what the marketing magnates want us to focus on this "Holiday Season" is still about the incredible, miraculous, virgin birth!


Death of Conscience

November 16, 2009 - 3:58 PM
"Terry Schiavo and the Death of Conscience"

By: Pastor Chris Arch

Certainly it is only a matter of days, if not hours, before Terry Schiavo, the severely disabled Floridian, will succumb to imposed starvation. As I write this article (3-31-05) the US Supreme Court has declared it will not hear the Schiavo case, thus dashing the last hopes of the Schindler family, as well as millions of Americans intent of seeing the value and dignity of life preserved in this nation.

Just a week ago, while watching one of an endless number of news reports I've witnessed surrounding this case, an eager reporter earnestly stated after a court ruled against re-inserting Terry Schiavo's feeding tube: "There you have it, both the doctors and lawyers have spoken." What that young reporter was saying shines critical light upon the greater cultural debate the Schiavo case is an essential part of. In his mind, apparently only the legal and medical professions are qualified to give an opinion and insight into the condition of those with disabilities or at another level defining what criteria constitutes life. I am sorry, but for the last two thousand years Western society and culture has also been influenced by Biblical ethics and morality. The clergy in particular, and the Christian community in general has a great deal to contribute to the national debate surrounding Schiavo's case.

One of the functions of the Church (universal and not just local) is to be a prophetic voice in its community. God is terribly concerned about social and ethical injustice, hence much of the ministry of the Old Testament prophets. Within Israelite society the strongest power structure with which the prophets had to deal was the monarchy (government). "The prophets were often pitted against society not so much because they were societal reformers, but because they were theological reformers whose basic motivation was generated within their commitment to the fundamental laws of God." (1) Is this not what motivates many Christians surrounding the Schiavo case? Is this not what motivates many of us in attempting to designate dignity to others with similar disabilities or even those yet born? "The prophets (OT) arose to the defense of the poor and oppressed as a consequence of the call from a God whose nature demanded justice. The prophets bore no hatred of their society, rather, they wanted to see the social decay reversed and devotion to God restored." (2)

Micah 6:8 declares the "Golden Rule of the Old Testament", "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (NASB) What does this passage contribute to our society's debate? If nothing more, it clearly states that there is a transcendent God to whom we are accountable. One of the ways in which we are clearly accountable is in how we treat our fellow man with dignity and respect, recognizing God is in fact the Author of his or her life.

The mission statement of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada can offer us a sound path of insight through the ethical quagmire our nation now treads: "It becomes every man who purposes to give himself to the care of others, seriously to consider the four following things: First, that he must one day give an account to the Supreme Judge of the lives entrusted to his care. Second, that all of his skill is a gift from God and should be exercised for His glory and to the good of mankind. Third, let him reflect that he has undertaken the care of no mean creature...but of inestimable value for whom the Son of God died to ennoble it with His divine dignity. Finally, knowing that he is also a mortal man, the doctor should be diligent and tender in relieving the suffering of his patients, inasmuch as he himself must one day be a like sufferer." (3)

It is incumbent upon Christians to speak out in matters of ethics and morality in society and culture. If we don't, it will not only be the death of Terry Schiavo, it will be the death of conscience itself.


Notes & Bibliography:

Bullock, C. Hassel. An Introduction to Old Testament Prophets, (Moody Press, Chicago, 1986). (p.25)


Patrick, John. Hippocrates and Medicine in the Third Millennium, ( (p.3)


Why Did Christ Come

November 16, 2009 - 3:58 PM
"Why Did Chris t Come? To Give us a Clear Conscience."

April, 2007

By Pastor Chris Arch

Over the years I have seen at least one desire that has effect both the old and young alike: the desire for a clear conscience. I have seen this desire in the earnest eyes of a child, seeking forgiveness for an offense and the accompanying restoration the cleansed conscience brings. I have also see this desire in the pleading eyes of the elderly, not long for this world, seeking reconciliation and restoration before entering the next.

The problem of a dirty of blemished conscience is as old as man himself. Was it not our first parents, Adam and Eve, who through their sin in Eden brought on the ruinous guilt of sin and its accompanying defilement of conscience? What was the result of such a plagued conscience? Adam and Eve attempted to hide from God (Gen. 3:8). The defilement of conscience ruined Adam and Eve's relationship with not only God, but each other - they blamed, as well as the internal peace they had experienced - for the first time they felt shame.

All throughout the Old Testament, conscience was an issue that plagued man. A system of sacrifice was incorporated, and yet, the sacrifice of animals never could cleanse the conscience of the guilty offender (Heb. 9:9-10). In foreshadowing the coming work of Chris t, God accounted the blood of the animals as sufficient for cleansing the flesh - the ceremonial, but never the conscience.

As I alluded to earlier conscience is an issue individuals still struggle with today. In some religions, their devout adherents cut themselves, others cast their offspring into a "sacred" river, or spend hours of effort in various forms of penance. Others may attempt to assuage their conscience through giving massive amounts of money to organizations such as the United Way or Salvation Army. Some may attempt to find their fix through acts of service or community involvement: helping out at the homeless center or volunteering at the public library. All of these activities may in their own right be good, and yet no matter how much we attempt to do or give in order to cleanse, the stained conscience remains.

The old hymn offers the only sound advice that cleanses the conscience as effectively today as it first did 2000 years ago: "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" (1) All of our pride, our envy, our jealous, our strife causes us to look to Someone or Something outside of ourselves and our dead works. When we see the Man of Calvary dying in our stead we realize the truth of Heb. 9:14 and how it applies to my own life: "How much more will the blood of Chris t, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (2)


End Notes

1. Lowry, Robert; "Nothing But the Blood"; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, Word pub., Nashville , 1986.
2. Piper, John; The Passion of Jesus Chris t, Crossway Books, Wheaton , 2004.

Pope Innocent III

November 16, 2009 - 3:58 PM
Pope Innocent III:

An Evaluation of the man who brought the Papacy to its Zenith.


Rev. Christopher C. Arch, M.A.


Introduction and Background:


Pope Innocent III was born "Lothar of Segni", in 1160 or 1161. His was a wealthy family, being born to the Count of Segni, and was related to a distinguished Roman family, the Scotti, through his mother.


Lothar's early education took place at the monastery of St. Andrew at Rome . "His advanced education took place at the universities of Bologna and Paris where his teachers included Huguccio and Peter of Corbeil, some of the greatest theologians of the time." (1) It was at these schools, and under the tutelage of such talented men, that Lothar blossomed into a fine theologian as well as specialist in canon law.


Like many religious devotees of his era, Lothar made a pilgrimage to the shrine of a dead saint. The tomb of the murdered Archbishop, Thomas Becket, of Canterbury was his destination in 1187 AD. (2) The impact of this pilgrimage is unknown, but must have been significant to this twenty-six year old young man. In fact, in just two more years, in 1189 AD, Lothar was made cardinal by Gregory VIII. "Under Celestine III, with whose policies he seems to have had little sympathy, the cardinal was chiefly employed as an auditor, or judge, in the papal court." (3) "On the day that Celestine III died, the College of Cardinals unanimously elected Lothar pope. Lothar, who was barely thirty-seven years old, presented a strong contrast to his nonagenarian predecessor: an aristocrat by birth as well as in mind, he was without exaggeration, one of the greatest popes of the Middle Ages." (4)


Innocent III views on the Papacy and the Church:


The policies of Innocent III were a reflection of his theological opinions surrounding the papacy and the Church. Long before his time, the idea of world dominion had died with the emperors, but that policy would be brought to life again under this pope. "This is the pope under whose rule


the western Church was imposed on Constantinople, who placed both England and France under the interdict, who launched the "Inquisition" or Spanish Crusades, who extracted from the rulers of England, Aragon, Portugal, as well as several Italian states, the surrender of their sovereignty to become fiefs of the Holy See, excommunicated King John, and then later the supporters of the Magna Carta." (5)


This ambitious foreign policy was a direct result of Innocent's view of the papacy and the Church. His pontificate was the natural fulfillment of a papal theme that had been evolving. "To him, the pope was the true Vicar of Christ on earth, a designation current since his pontificate. He therefore brought into clearest possible relief the exclusively legal function of the pope as the successor of St. Peter, at the same time making precise the definition of Petrine powers as vicarious powers of Christ Himself." (6) It has even been stated that Innocent III referred to himself in a sermon, describing the pope as: "lower than God, but higher than man, and that Peter had been given power over not only the universal Church, but the whole word to govern." (7) In that sense, Innocent III saw himself as something of a Melchizedek, being both priest and king in one.


It is not suprising, therefore, that the dominant model of the Church during the reign, and subsequent generations following Innocent III, was that of the Church as institution. As an institution, in fact, as the institution specially ordained by Christ (Mt. 16:18-19), Innocent III brought organizational and administrative genius. This genius led to the reorganization of the administration of Rome that had all but evaporated under the Hohenstaufen policies. "It was the pope's resoluteness and tenacity, as well as his skill in exploiting both the sudden collapse of German rule in Italy upon the death of Emperor Henry VI, and the hostility of the Italian people to German rule, that restored the papal state an independent entity and led to its expansion." (8)

Three Critical Issues facing Innocent III's Papacy:


Three urgent problems faced Innocent III upon his succession to the pontificate: "the succession of the Holy Roman Empire , the renewal of the crusade, and the increasing menace of heresy." (9) The succession of an infant to the throne of the Empire was clearly out of question to the electors who met to vote on Henry VI's successor. Ultimately, this group of men chose Henry's brother, Philip, Duke of Swabia, who was also at that time under the sentence of excommunication. Three months later a rival claimant appeared in the person of Otto of Brunswick. Both men appealed to Innocent III to legitimize their claim. In January of 1201, Innocent III declared for Otto. (10) This decision ultimately led to civil war, and Otto was defeated on the battlefield. However, upon his victory, Philip of Swabia reconciled with the pope, and his offenses were absolved. Philip, however, was soon murdered, and Otto was elected to the throne. "Otto proved to be a disappointment to Innocent III, and at once began to attempt to lay claim to the Italian lands. Unwilling to be out-maneuvered, Innocent III excommunicated Otto and persuaded Frederick to make a bid for the throne. With the pope's help, Frederick overcame Otto at the Bouvines in 1214, and promptly gave the Holy See his assurances not to renew claims on the Italian lands.


Apparently having placed the issue of succession to the German throne behind him, Innocent III focused his attention on the matter of renewing the Crusades. "The First Crusade began under Urban II in 1096 AD, in an attempt to remove the control of the Holy Land by the infidels." (11) Although ultimately never effective, the idea of crusade continued through the reign of Innocent III and beyond. It was under Innocent III, in 1204 AD, that the Fourth Crusade was set forth. The goal of the crusade was Egypt , an attempt to crush Saladin's chief strength. However, wealthy Venetian businessmen, with interests in Constantiople, funded the flotilla, and ultimately had the

army first attack Constantinople with the attempt of gaining an Eastern Emperor who would be compliant to their economic wishes. Innocent III either actively supported, or quietly complied with this attack, and the sacking of Constantinople took place. This event, at once, seemed to fulfill the Latin Church's desire to restore Christendom under the unquestionable rule of the Bishop of Rome. (12) Ultimately, the conquest of Constantinople was a disastrous defeat for the cause of Christ in the East. The Byzantine Empire was dealt a crushing blow in this attack from which it never regained strength, and ultimately opened the door for the invasion of the Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD. The Greek Church continued to operate under its own Patriarch, and openly defied (when it could without the threat of Latin military retribution) Rome 's designs. The Greek masses loathed the Latins and the rift between the two wings of the Church widened instead of closed. In 1261 AD the Byzantine Empire retook Constantinople , and the imposed Latin state rule came to an end.


Having apparently secured his position in the East, Innocent III took up another form of crusade, a crusade against "heresy". Again, it is important to remember the model by which Innocent III defined the Church. The Church was an "institution", and as such, unquestionable leadership was secured in himself, and all doctrines contrary to the official teaching of the Church and her tradition were to be silenced for the benefit of apparent unanimity. According to Innocent III's estimation, heresy was seen as "high treason committed against the divine majesty." (13) In fairness to Innocent, it must be stated that although he demonstrated cruel retribution on some "heretics", he also demonstrated farsightedness with others, stating that what really mattered was the "real faith" of those charged. (14) In doing so, he won back to the fold the Humiliati in Northern Italy and the "Poor Catholics" (Waldenses). In this reconciliation the pope was aided by the preaching and teaching ministry of St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi , two of only three orders (the other being the Trinitarians) that Innocent allowed during his pontificate. (15)

One group that apparently did not meet with such merciful foresight was the Albigenses. The Albigenses believed in a form of dualism believing in two opposing forces in the world, one being good and the other being evil. The evil spirit was credited with creating the world. Although their doctrine was heretical, they did place an emphasis on virtues such as bodily purity, the rejection of wealth, devotion to the gospel, and the condemnation of violence and power. In many ways, this sect was a reaction to the growing power of the Church as an institution whose primary concern was the making of money and materialism with an utter disregard for human needs. (16) A fanatical form of this sect condemned marriage, procreation, war, civil government, and the use of objects in worship. The result was Innocent's use of the Inquisition, the establishment of mendicant orders, and a revival of crusades against the movement until it was ultimately crushed. Great ferocity and brutality was exhibited by Rome against the heretical sect with corresponding massacres.




Innocent III's Legacy:


Responding to the problem of the heretics as well as a Catholic interpretation for Innocent's zeal for souls, the pope summoned a general council to meet in Rome on November 1, 1216 AD. This council, attended by four hundred bishops, eight hundred abbots, representatives of the Kings of several European states, became known as the "Fourth Lateran Council". (17) This council would influence the Church for centuries due to its important rulings in several areas. Theologically, the most important ruling to come out of the Fourth Lateran Council was the authoritative use of the term "transubstantiation" for the Eucharist. Certainly this ruling held monumental significance in the mind of the latter Protestant Reformers, being a doctrine seen as undefendable from their theological viewpoint. Besides this decree, there were sixty-nine others that would influence the life of the Church for centuries. Included in these seventy decrees was an official ban on the formation of any new religious orders, an approval of the suppression of heresy, and the official start of the Inquisition.


The Fourth Lateran Council was not without its influence on political as well as theological matters. During this council a fourth crusade was approved. Also, the Magna Carta of England was condemned in a dramatic turn-around from Innocent's original view while the unrepentant King John was still excommunicated, and England was under the "Interdict" (1208 - 1214 AD).

Also politically significant was the confirmation of the election of Frederick II as the emperor-elect, as well as the transfer of county of Toulouse to Simon de Montfort. (18)


Thus, it is in this duel realm of the Church's influence over spiritual as well as secular (political) matters that the legacy of Innocent III's pontificate must be analyzed. Certainly Innocent attempted to fulfill the vision and interpretation he had for the Church as well as the papacy. Just as he was quoted by Margaret Deanesly as saying: "The Lord Jesus has set up one ruler over all things as His universal vicar, and as all things in heaven and on earth shall bow the knee to Christ, so should all obey Christ's vicar..." (19), Innocent's reign was an attempt to fulfill what he believed. Due to the political power vacuum of his era, he was able to accomplish much of what he believed for the Church and the papacy. Innocent III successfully hand-picked the succession of Frederick, he placed England and her king, John, under the Interdict as a result over the squabble surrounding Stephen Langton, and he secured several nation states as fiefs for the Holy See.


From a religious standpoint Innocent's rule was transformed and revitalized the papacy. His organizational genius, as well as his exceptional abilities in canon law must still place him as one of the greatest popes of all time. Innocent's farsightedness in dealing with the Waldenses, and his

employment of St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi was a stroke of genius for a Church that had rarely ever sought to debate what was in its opinion "orthodox".


However, upon evaluation of many of Innocent's successes, the roots that would bear future failures of the Church of Rome were also present. The emphasis on the Crusades split the East and West wings of Christianity to the point that there has never been a return to a common, unified leadership. This distrust, although arguably not the direct fault of Innocent's, still finds its proper placement on the Roman Pontiff due to the fact that his influence could have averted the crisis of the sacking of Constantinople. Second, the Crusades were an illegitimate action to be taken by a spiritual entity such as the Church. The murder and pillage of such carnage has more in common with the Jihad of the Islamic faith than the "Law of Love" of the Christian faith. It is understandable why to this day Muslims still bear a resentment and distrust of Christians. The Crusades depleted valuable resources of a yet underdeveloped Europe . This was not only in monies, but also in manpower, and yes, ultimately, under the little known "Children's Crusade" (1212 AD), the lives of as many as three-hundred thousand of Western Europe 's youth. (20) Even within the Crusades, the seeds were sown that would eventually help to inspire the Reformation. Prior to this time Europe 's population was relatively closed, yet with the years of Crusades, and the hundreds of thousands of men who traveled, an education was opened to these minds for the first time that helped to lay a foundation that questioned papal authority. Finally, the loss of revenues incurred by the Crusades and the desire to fill the Vatican 's coffers helped in time to begin the unbiblical practice of the sale of indulgences, arguably the greatest impetus for Luther's revolt against Rome .



Eventually, Innocent's involvement in the political events of nation states built resentment that helped to foment dissent against the Roman Church. Innocent's humiliation of England and King John, and then his later rejection of the Magna Carta and the supporting barons, did little good in raising the estimation of the Church in England . Second, Innocent's imposed taxation of England in the thirteenth century caused a bitter hatred of the papacy by the English. This involvement of the papacy was also evident in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire as previously discussed herein. When the flames of reformation came to the Church three centuries later, no more fertile fields than Germany and England were found to foster rebellion against Rome .


Finally, the Church of Innocent III 's pontificate represents an internal contradiction. The Roman Church was "so structured that all power and authority came from one person; a Church which was brutal and violent through the Crusades and the Inquisition; a Church which showed service to the poor and needy through the Franciscans and Dominicans; a Church that stood for no opposition in its theological authority; a Church which patronized centers of higher learning where men such as Aquinas would develop new ways of theological reflection." (21) Thus, Innocent's Church was a behemoth institution filled with contradiction.


While traveling to northern Italy on July 16, 1216, to preach the crusade, Innocent III died suddenly. Under Innocent III, the Church had reached its position of zenith in its history. Yet this zenith would be the very precipice from which the Roman institution would begin its descent and demise.



1. Elwell, Walter, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Hants, England: Baker Books, 1985).

2. Fisher, H.A.L., A History of Europe , (London: Edward Arnold, 1955).


3. John, Eric, The Popes, (New York: Hawthorn Cooks, 1964).


4. Koszarycz, Yuri, Innocent III and the Great Schism, (article downloaded from World Wide Web, Catholic University of Australia , 1997).


5. Latourette, Kenneth S., A History of Christianity, vol. I (San Francisco: Harper's Press, 1975).


6. no author listed, New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol.VII (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967).



End Notes



1. New Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 521

2. John, p. 223

3. ibid.

4. New Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 521

5. Fisher, p. 259

6. New Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 521

7. Koszarycz, p. 4

8. New Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 522

9. John, p. 223

10. ibid.

11. Latourette, p. 410

12. Latourette, pp. 411-412

13. New Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 522

14. ibid.

15. ibid.

16. Elwell, p. 26

17. John, p.225

18. ibid.

19. Koszarycz, p. 4

20. Latourette, p. 412

21. Koszarycz, p. 13

Critical Response to The Christian World View

November 16, 2009 - 3:58 PM


A Critical Response to: Building a Christian Worldview


Rev. Christopher C. Arch, M.A.




In their book Building a Christian Worldview, vol. 1, W. Andrew Hoffecker and Gary Scott Smith attempt to demonstrate the importance of worldviews and epistemologies in the basic thought processes of peoples and cultures. Certainly Hoffecker is correct when he states: "Underlying all that we think, say, or do are basic assumptions that form what we call a worldview." (1) These worldviews govern the way one considers life, thought, academic disciplines, the arts, religion, politics, etc. In fact, no topic is left out of consideration in relation to one's worldview because every dimension of one's life; intellectual, physical, social, economic, and moral, is governed by his or her worldview.


In Building a Christian Worldview, Hoffecker and Smith explain several basic worldviews while also trying to help the reader formulate his or her own presuppositions about life. This is done, however, not by merely examining the various philosophical systems or worldviews, but by placing these views in their historical framework of chronology, thereby allowing the reader to see the emergence and development of these ideologies on the world's stage. Along with this chronologically accurate overview, the editors divide the text into two sections: the first focuses on the various worldviews as they relate to arguably the most important, or at least individually and culturally telling topics of study, theology and anthropology; the second section explains the epistemological basis of the various views. Thus, Hoffecker's stated goal of "combining historical and topical approaches to enable us to evaluate the interplay between ideas in their social settings and subsequent development.", is met in the text. (2) This method of evaluation enables the reader to see the fluid nature of history, and especially the history of ideas, as brilliant men of old (and some of modernity) impact not only their times but also influence the thinking of subsequent generations.


Strengths of the text:


Certainly Hoffecker and Smith's work, Building a Christian Worldview, has significant merit in various areas of study, including: apologetics, philosophy, history, anthropology and theology. Not only are the various contributing scholars accurate and adept in the discussion of their assigned topic(s), they are able, for the most part, to leave personal bias out of an explanation of the major tenets of the differing worldviews. This allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusions about the various views or epistemologies by means of honest comparison, rather than subtle manipulation.


Hoffecker and Smith identify the most significant worldviews in relation to their contribution to Western culture and thinking. These views include: Classical Greek Humanism, a divided Biblical view focusing first on the Old Testament and later the New Testament, a developing Christian view including Nicea, St. Augustine, and later St. Thomas; the Reformation, the Renaissance, and finally Naturalistic Humanism. Again, part of the strength of the text is the fact that it outlines these various views in relation to their chronological development and impact on at least Western society. As a result, Hoffecker and Smith wisely weave a history of thought that helps to explain the development of the predominant Western worldviews.


Another strength of Building a Christian Worldview, is its emphasis on epistemology. Contributing to the text, V. James Mannoia defines epistemology as "the quest for the source of certainty". (3) In other words, this is the attempt to study and understand what exactly is the nature of knowledge. Epistemology attempts to distinguish between that which "is certain and not simply belief, or opinion, or probability." (4) Epistemology became almost an obsession in the era of the Renaissance as Enlightenment man began to think he had liberated himself from the constraints of a Heavenly Father. It was during this period of Western Civilization that "pure science" began to replace the prior "Queen of the sciences", theology, as the preeminent field of study. Although upon reflection the quarrel was more with the illogical and unbiblical excesses and proclamations of the Catholic Church, this "rebirth of reason" associated with the Renaissance resulted in an attempt to discount much of Christianity and revive classical Greek philosophies of humanism. Thus, to a greater or lesser degree, the emphasis of the origination of knowledge and knowing shifted from a theological to an anthropological point of reference with the rise of Rationalism and Empiricism. With this shift and emphasis on an anthropological point of reference, according to Kant, "epistemology gave the mind of man the active role of creating knowledge rather than the passive role of just discovering it..." (5) Needless to say, this emphasis has resulted to one degree or another, in the relegation of God to the proverbial "broom closet" of not only the sciences, but also the experiences of much of everyday life in Western society.


Weaknesses of the Text:


Depending on the reader, one of the greatest strengths of Building a Christian Worldview could easily be one of its greatest weaknesses. Admittedly Hoffecker and Smith have not written a text that is an easy read for either the average church member or the inquiring agnostic. At times the book's emphasis on splitting the fine hairs of philosophical ideologies becomes a tad bit tedious. It is at least possible, and most likely probable, that the average adult without a college education will be completely lost in a discussion of, and relatively unconcerned with, the writings of Hume, Locke, Descartes, or Kant. Thus, depending on the audience, the highly technical and academically challenging nature of the text could prove to be both a strength or a weakness.


Another slight criticism of the text is found in the opening pages of the book. Again, this criticism is relatively minute, being only a criticism in its failure to further identify and illustrate an idea that it inspired in this reader. On pages three and four, Hoffecker introduces an idea that if further illustrated, would have been greatly appreciated. Stating, "Anthropocentric periods have been characterized by cultural fragmentation and decline...because societies have lacked a unified and coherent foundation.", Hoffecker seizes upon one of the most brilliant arguments of the text in favor of a Biblical, or at least theistic, worldview. (6) If this argument could have been further fortified with examples from history supporting the positive benefit a culture receives when taking a theocentric posture, as it undoubtedly could be, the effect would have been monumental in its support of a Biblical Christian worldview. However, the effect of the argument was not unlike that of one's sampling of cotton candy at the county fair: the exhilaration and excitement of the first taste is almost immediately replaced by the evaporation of supportive substance. Undoubtedly, and arguably, this missing "substance" is exactly what Hoffecker and Smith proceed to give the reader in the remainder of the text, though developing over hundreds of pages. Certainly the text could have provided a more immediate and lasting pleasure had the author taken the time to illustrate this brilliant statement.


Another minor criticism that can be leveled at this otherwise excellent work relates to a few statements Smith wrote in chapter nine, Naturalistic Humanism. After developing a thoroughly insightful article on Naturalistic Humanism, and the various intellectual and cultural dangers associated with this view, such as: its inconsistency in defining and understanding human nature as well as cosmic order, the promotion of moral relativism, a repudiation of the belief in heaven or hell, and a denial of personal immortality as well as the existence of God; Smith then states that Christians should become "allied" with humanists in promoting causes of mutual interest. This statement seems to be naive at best, especially in light of Hoffecker's assessment of the influence of one's worldview when he says, "A person's view of God affects and reflects his or her belief about human nature and its capacity to understand reality." (7) It seems as though Smith would have been better suited to state that Christians could at times become co-belligerents with humanists for the promotion of a certain belief. However, encouraging an "allied" relationship with a group of people who hold virtually no core values in similarity with Biblical Christianity carries the appearance of absurdity.


A Brief Interaction with a Key Point of the Text:


Hoffecker and Smith have given the Christian community in specific, and the academic community in general, an excellent text for the study of the chronological development of worldviews and epistemology. The difficult task in a review such as this is not attempting to find significant points of interest to discuss, but rather, limiting the points of interest to a manageable few. With this in mind, the review will be limited to one significant point of interest.


One of the most enjoyable and enlightening aspects of the text is its exploration of the views held by two of the greatest theologians of antiquity, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and Thomas Aquinas, the thirteenth century doctor of the Catholic Church. Although these men lived nearly eight hundred years apart, their respective theologies had an inestimable influence on the Church. Comparing the two men and their worldviews as well as the means by which they developed their epistemologies is quite helpful in understanding the background of the Protestant Reformation.


The life experiences of these two giants of the Church could not have been more different. Augustine went through a series of crisis after crisis, seeking new philosophies to follow while rejecting Christianity and leading a debauched life, until his conversion at around thirty years of age. Contrast this to Aquinas, who at the age of five was placed in a Benedictine monastery to study and apprentice for the ministry. (8) Later, however, Aquinas was removed from the monastery by his parents and placed in the secular University of Naples , where he became a Dominican. Certainly the background of these two men influenced their respective worldviews and epistemologies to the point of radical differences. These differences will now be discussed in greater depth.


Augustine's starting point of theology was the Holy Scriptures. To him, the Bible was the written Word of God, that had been uniquely and verbally inspired by the Lord. (9) His approach was deductive, based on the authority of the Bible (and to a degree the Church), believing that the Bible revealed the Trinitarian nature of God in ways that Greek and Roman philosophy had not.

Thomas, however, placed a greater emphasis on the "spiritualization" of texts of Scripture, a practice with long precedence in the Catholic Church. In the intervening eight hundred years between the two men, the Catholic Church had freely intermingled Platonic with Biblical thought. Thus, it was neither uncommon nor unusual that Aquinas would have himself mixed Greek philosophy with Christian theology. As a result, Thomas adopted and attempted to adapt Aristotelian logic to Christian theology in hope of rescuing it from the pagan Muslim philosopher Averroes. (10) Yet, this influence led Aquinas to deny the ability to develop an accurate view of God by using the Scriptures alone. " Instead, he used Scholastic categories of thought , which were an adaptation of Greek rationalism, in order to explain the Christian faith." (11)


Knowing Aquinas' theological starting point was not a single-minded focus on the Scriptures, it is easy to see where further differences developed between himself and Augustine. Again, being influenced by Greek philosophy, Thomas "advocated a popular medieval principle call via negativa." (12) This "way of negation" denied that man can know God's essence and thus if we are to know Him, we must deny those qualities we believe to be most inappropriate to Him. However, at this point Aquinas demonstrates his decision to place human reason above the written revelation of the Scriptures as the authority into the Person of God. Thus, Aquinas did not attempt to develop his view of God by a simple reliance upon the Bible alone.


Ultimately, this difference between Aquinas and Augustine naturally leads to a discussion of their various views of man. Focusing primarily upon the Scriptures for his understanding of the nature of man, Augustine drew differing conclusions than his thirteenth century counterpart. Unlike the Greek philosophers that preceded him, Augustine argued for the unity of the whole man, condemning any Platonic soul-body dualism. Augustine believed that Adam had a free will, and prior to the fall, was able to do right. However, after the fall, the image of God was so marred in man due to sin, that man's natural inclination was towards evil. Sin, according to Augustine, was a result of unbelief, and not a matter contained within the body. Thus, after the fall, Adam not only lost his ability to do good, but even his very moral judgment was affected as well as his very freedom. (12) Augustine disagreed sharply with the teaching of his contemporary, Pelagius, a British monk and teacher who wielded great influence in Rome . The Pelagian school taught the following doctrines: people were able to come to faith in God on their own because Adam's sin injured only himself, newborn children are at the same state as Adam was prior to the fall, people can be saved through obedience to the law as well as by believing in the Gospel, prior to Christ's coming certain individuals lived a sinless life. (13) Ultimately, Pelagians taught that man's nature was essentially good and unaffected by the fall. To these statements Augustine could not have disagreed more.


Where did Thomas Aquinas stand in relation to the gulf created by Augustine and Pelagius on the issue of man's nature? He stood squarely in the middle. Aquinas, using his Scholastic Synthesism, attempted to blend the teaching of Aristotle, Augustine, and Pelagius. From Aristotle, Thomas argued for a union of the body and the soul. Yet the real point of struggle, for which Thomas never fully gave an answer, was how serious are the effects of original sin? What effect does this have on the will? What affect does this have on man's reason? Yet, in the midst of this synthesis, Aquinas held to some of Augustine's main doctrines such as original sin and salvation by God's grace. Conversely, however, Aquinas also clung to Pelagian elements of an unscathed reason, a partially debilitated will that remained morally free in all choices except those requiring supernatural assistance, and salvation being infused into man by God through the sacraments. (14)


It was the Catholic Church's view of salvation by infusion of the various sacraments, and not by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, that ultimately led to Luther's Reformation. It can be argued that Aquinas' synthesism of Pelagian, Augustinian, and Aristotelian teachings helped to further bolster the Catholic Church in its error with regard to not only the ultimate authority of the Scriptures, but also the nature of God, the work of Christ, as well as the nature of man. Thus, in part, the Reformation was in some ways the logical result of a conflict between the ideologies and views of Augustine and Thomas and those who would seek to synthesize Biblical truth with error.


It should be stated that although Aquinas' synthestic approach to the nature of man, God, and epistemology was flawed, apparently his motives were good. His approach was an attempt to make Christianity relevant to those within the Scholastic movement by taking Aristotelian logic away from the "infidels", and demonstrating the faith's ability to be reconciled with Greek philosophy and learning. Yet, when truth is mixed with error, it is truth that becomes diluted. This is exactly what transpired as a result of Aquinas' sythesism.


The Value and Significance of this Work:


Building a Christian Worldview must be commended on various grounds. In the text, Hoffecker and Smith have set a sturdy foundation upon which can be built further investigative ventures and comparisons into the history and impact of various worldviews and epistemologies. This is especially helpful in that these views are placed in their proper historical perspective. This perspective allows the serious student to trace the natural rise and fall of various viewpoints while also determining how and why certain groups of people at certain time periods thought the way they did.


Christians in specific should demonstrate gratefulness to Hoffecker and Smith for this work. Unlike most texts, Building a Christian Worldview affords the concerned Christian the opportunity to succinctly understand the operative and influential ideas of various views in competition with Christianity. Knowing how others think is essential to being able to effectively share the message of Christ. Often conversations between Christians and non-Christians fail to develop because the conversation is on different planes. By being informed of these various ideologies and epistemologies, the interested and intentional Christian can bypass many troublesome hurdles and engage their friends and acquaintances more directly. Thus, the editors must be applauded for their excellent and informative work that helps the reader to better determine how various groups tackle the issues of theology and anthropology. Having tackled these monumental issues, and by further explaining how various groups determine epistemology, Hoffecker and Smith have given the Christian community a valuable tool in the battle for the mind of the culture.






1. Elwell, Walter, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Hants, England: Baker Books, 1985).


2. Hoffecker, W. Andrew, Building a Christian Worldview, vol.1, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1986).





End Notes


1. Hoffecker, p.ix

2. ibid., p. xiv

3. ibid., p. 261

4. ibid., p. 261

5. ibid., pp. 274-275

6. ibid., pp. 3-4

7. ibid., p. 185

8. Elwell, p. 1091

9. Hoffecker, p. 87

10. ibid., p. 99

11. ibid., p. 103

12. ibid., p. 90

13. ibid., p. 93

14. ibid., pp. 107-108

Basic Tenants of Islam

November 16, 2009 - 3:50 PM


"Background and Basic Tenets of Islam

with Christian Insights"

October 21, 2001

Rev. Christopher C. Arch, BS, MA, M.Div.




Born around the year 570 AD, at Mecca, Mohammed was the posthumous son of an almost unknown father, and his mother died when he was only six. (1) Apparently, a variety of family members helped to raise Mohammed during the early years of his life, including his grandfather, and later an uncle, Abu Talib. A great deal of speculation has been raised as to his early years, however, all that we can apparently be certain of is that he was raised as an orphan and at the age of twenty-five married the wealthy widow fifteen years his senior, Khadija. (2) The union with Khadija seemed pleasant and successful, lasting twenty-five years until her death at about sixty-five years of age. Apparently several children were born to the couple but only one daughter, Fatima, survived childhood.

Mohammed demonstrated a strong tendency towards religious endeavors as an adult, retiring to caves for seclusion and times of meditation and prayer. It was during this time period that he began to demonstrate a propensity towards dreams and visions. It was also during this time that Mohammed began to become unfulfilled with the prevailing polytheism of his native peoples of Mecca, and began uncompromisingly convinced of monotheism. "How much of this conviction he owed to Christianity or Judaism it seems impossible to determine. Monophysite Christianity was widely spread through the various Arab Kingdoms; the Byzantine Church was represented by hermits dotted about the Hirjaz with whom he may well have come into contact; Nestorians were established at al Hira and in Persia; and the Jews were strongly represented in Medina, Yemen and elsewhere." (3) Monophysitism was a heretical brand of Christianity that was denounced at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. (4) This group, led by Cyril of Alexandria, taught that Jesus Christ had but one nature, and not two, as the orthodox opinion attested. (5) There is little doubt that during this, if not another period of Mohammed's life, he was influenced greatly by the teachings of various Christian sects as well as Talmudic sources.


The Character of Mohammed

At about the age of forty, the first revelations of the Koran were said to have come to Mohammed. It is recorded in the Qur'an (Koran) that three times a voice bade him to read or recite in the name of the Lord. (6) It was two years later that suddenly, when passing through a period of spiritual depression which made him to contemplate suicide, he is said to have seen a vision of the angel Gabriel which sent him home to his wife, Khadija for comfort. (7) It seems however, that even Mohammed himself was first doubtful of the sources of these revelations, fearing he had been possessed by one of the "Jinn" or sprites commonly believed in Arab world before and even now, during, the Islamic period.

As to an evaluation of the sincerity of Mohammed's teaching and earlier prophetic career there are various opinions. "Most scholars explain his earlier revelations in terms of wishful thinking: depicting the misery and frustration of his earlier life and the deep conviction he held that the Arabs, like the Jews and Christians, needed a law and a law-giver. (8) Other views of the man Mohammed include: an epileptic (as stated Byzantine authors), a subject of hysteria as stated in The Life of Mohammed, by Aloys Sprenger (Allahabad, 1851), or in more general terms a "pathalogical case", as stated by Prof. D.B. MacDonald, p. 72, Aspects of Islam. (9) Others have suggested an even further evaluation, stating that Mohammed underwent what demonstrated intermittent spirit-possession, as claimed by modern spiritist mediums.

Many have suggested that Mohammed, in the later Madinese Suras adopted a conveniently applied double-standard based upon his supposed prophetic office. "This conclusion is only confirmed when we find that in his later life personal (and other) problems were repeatedly solved by a divine revelation of the most convenient kind: unlike others, Mohammed was granted the right to more than four wives (sources reveal eleven to fourteen and several concubines) (Sura 33:49); he dispensed with the normal obligation to divide his time equally between them (Sura 33:51); he escaped criticism when, in defiance to Arab custom, he married the divorced wife of his adopted son (Sura 33:36-38); his wives were bidden to veil themselves (Sura 33:53); these same individuals were threatened with double punishment for unchastity (Sura 33:30); and were forbidden to remarry after his death (Sura 33:53)." (10)

One of the lesser known and more disturbing facts about Mohammed was his marriage to his wife Ayesha (A'isha) when she was six years old. In Sahih Bukhari, vol. 8, book 73, number 33, Ayesha narrates an event wherein she recounts her jealousy towards Mohammed's deceased wife Khadija, who had died three years before "the Prophet married me". This would correspond to the year (about) 622 AD, when Mohammed was fifty-one years old. Three years later, when Mohammed was fifty-four, and Ayesha was nine years old, the marriage was consummated. (11)


Mohammed's View of Christianity

An initial reading of Mohammed's grasp of Christianity seems to indicate a very superficial understanding of the faith. Various traditions state that when Mohammed was twelve years of age he went to Syria with his uncle and there met a Christian monk by the name of Bahira. (12) Beyond this contact, and the assumed contact he had while a young man with the heretical Monophysite Christians, as well as his on-going contact with Jews in Medina, we cannot be certain as to Mohammed's direct interaction with either Christians or Jews. Unfortunately, this superficial understanding of Christianity seemed to have resulted in a completely erroneous knowledge of the faith.

In its defense, Islam paints a very strong picture of the person of Jesus Christ. "Isa", is the name for Jesus in the Qur'an. According to the Qur'an, "Isa" was the Messiah, was born of a Virgin, was called God's "Word", and a "Spirit from God". (13) Mohammed also seems to have been influenced by some of the pseudepigraphical works, such as the apocryphal books, etc. Although these texts might contain some historically correct accounts, they were not received as canonical by the defining Councils due to their spurious quality. Jesus was also called a great miracle worker, and one of the greatest of the Prophets.

However, the Qur'an falls well short of an accurate appreciation of the Savior. According to Mohammed, Jesus expressly disclaimed His deity and emphatically denies having died on the cross to save man from his sins. (14) Neither claim can be supported by any historical document of antiquity, other than by the vested interests of the Qur'an.

It also seems to leave little doubt that Mohammed held an inaccurate view of the Christian Trinity. It seems as though he believed Christians to believe in a Holy Trinity that consisted of the Father, the Virgin Mother, and their Child. (15) The Ah'arite statement: "God is One God, Single, One, Eternal... He has taken to Himself no wife or child," as well as several verses in the Qur'an (including Suras 5:116; 4:169; 5:77-79; 19:35; 19:91; 62:3) seem to support this misunderstanding. As a result of this misconception, it is natural to understand why Mohammed denounced the Sonship of Christ. Apparently Mohammed thought Christians believed Jesus to be the natural product of a physical union between God and a woman. Which if it were believed to be the case, would be repugnant. Other Islamic aberrations of the Christian Gospel include a belief that Jesus will come again to marry and have children and acknowledge Islam, and that Jesus never did die on the cross. This bizarre viewpoint, as stated in Sura 4:156-158, recreates the crucifixion account by stating that God the Father lifted Christ off the cross, then threw His likeness on another who was crucified in His place. Regardless, it must be clearly stated that the Christian and the Muslim do not believe the same things about the Person of Jesus Christ. This is a watershed division and cannot be overlooked by either faith.


Basic Beliefs of Islam

Islam does not have an official article of faith although much has been written on the topic. "For our purpose, however, the summary attributed by tradition to Mohammed himself can conveniently be adopted, that a Muslim must believe in God, His angels, His books, His Messengers, in the Last Day,...and in the Decree of both good and evil." (16) The God of Islam is self-sufficient, maintaining creation moment by moment in a continual miracle, He is the source of both good and evil in the world, His will is supreme, He forgives and punishes whoever He wishes, His nature and qualities are summarized in His "ninety-nine most beautiful Names" which are repeated by the faithful as they finger their rosaries. (17)

As stated, a belief in angels is to be firmly held by the devout Muslim. If anyone denies this core doctrine, he or she is to be treated and regarded as an infidel. The four archangels Islam believes in include: Gabriel, Michael, Israfil, and Izra'il. Each of these hold a different function as the messenger of inspiration, the protector of the Jews, the summoner of the resurrection, and the messenger of death, respectively. (18) Angels are believed to have been created out of light. Islam also teaches that two angels attend every man, one on his right to record his good deeds and one on his left to record his evil deeds. Another pair of angels, Munkar and Nakir visit every newly buried corpse, examining the faith the corpse had in this lifetime. If the corpse held to the Islamic faith, it is allowed to sleep in peace, and if it did not, it is severely beaten. (19)

A unique creation of Islam is a belief in a multitude of creatures call "jinn". These creatures, supposedly created from smokeless flames are neither humans nor angels. They are divided into two categories, good and evil, perform a variety of functions. Good jinn perform the religious duties of Muslims. (20) Jinn can apparently take on the forms of cats, serpents, and even humans. It is also recognized that a human can become possessed by jinn.

Islam, like Christianity, believes in the existence of the devil. The devil in Islam is thought to be either a fallen angel, or a jinn who was disobedient to the command of God. The devil is now the tempter in the world as well as the progenitor of evil jinn.

Islam has a great reverence for the various prophets. Orthodox Islam is divided on the exact number of prophets there have been, some holding to 124,000 whereas others believer there to have been 248,000. (21) Of the twenty-eight prophets mentioned in the Qur'an, most are Biblical. The six greatest prophets in Islam are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isa (Jesus), and Mohammed. Islam believes that there are four major Scriptures: the Law sent down to Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospels to Jesus, and the Qur'an to Mohammed. The Qur'an states these all contained the same central message in their original forms. (22) Conveniently, Muslims state that both the Jews and the Christians have corrupted their Scriptures, a charge which is untenable academically.

Belief in a final judgment is another controlling feature of the Islamic faith. "The last day (the resurrection and the judgment) figures prominently in Muslim thought."(23) In similarity to Christianity, the day and the hour of this event is a secret to all. However, Muslims believe there are twenty-five different signs that will announce its approach. Those who are fortunate enough to be admitted into Paradise, and there is no guarantee as to who will (with the possible exception of dying in Jihad), will find their sensual pleasures appeased. Although the use of alcohol is expressly forbidden the Muslim in this life, in the next his system teaches that he will recline on soft couches drinking cups of wine handed to him by the "Huris", or maidens of Paradise. The number of these virgins are limitless and a man may take as many as he desires for physical pleasure in eternity. (24) There is no stated evidence in the Qur'an as to whether or not women (if they attain to Paradise) are given their own male counterpart(s) of the Huris.

The last of the basic beliefs of Islam is that of a belief in the "Decrees of God." According to the Muslim, Allah ordains the fate of all. Muslims are then seen as fatalistic, replying "If Allah wills it.", in almost every situation. (25)


The Five Pillars of Islam

Succinctly put, the ritual observance of Islam include the following five items: a. the recital of the Creed (Shahada), b. Prayer (As-Salah), c. Fasting (Siyam), d. Almsgiving (Zakah), e. the Pilgrimage (Al-Hajj). The recitation of the Creed is simple. Stating the following, "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the Prophet of God" is sufficient in the minds of many adherents to make one a Muslim. Ritual prayer is an important element in the daily life of the devout observer of Islam. The devout is required to pray five times a day, at stated hours. These times of prayer may be alone or in a company of believers, or in a mosque. Prayers are to be in Arabic and must follow a set form of words and a strictly prescribed ritual of stances, genuflexions and prostrations which differ slightly between the four orthodox schools of the religion. (26) Particularly important are the Friday, noontime prayers at the mosque. Attendance at this service is expected of every adult male in a large enough community. Islamic prayer must be offered in state of ritual purity, so their various books of law contain detailed rules concerning the different rules for purification. It has been noted by at least one scholar that Islamic prayer, at least in its prescribed form, seems to be more a continual act of acknowledging God's sovereignty than the Christian form of enjoying communion with the Sovereign of the Universe. (27)

The Islamic emphasis on fasting takes place during the month of Ramadan (this is the ninth month of the Muslim year). All Muslims except the sick, travelers, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children are required to fast from first light until sundown. This fast involves a complete abstention from all forms of food, drink, smoking, and sexual intercourse. On the whole this month is rigidly observed. The fast is seen as a demonstration of self-control and a way of identifying with those who are destitute. However, some have disputed the effect of the fast, noting with a complaint: "It can be observed in passing that the average family spends nearly twice as much in Ramadan on the food they consume by night as in any other month on the food they consume by day." (28)

A very positive aspect of Islam is Mohammed's emphasis on care for the poor and destitute in their lands. Since Mohammed himself was an orphan, it is not unlikely that his own hardships may have been a motivating factor in the establishment of this practice. Regardless, the worthy Muslim is required to give 2.5% (1/40th) of his money and merchandise. (29) This most assuredly is a blessing to the poor and needy of Muslim nations, many of which do not have the systems of social welfare as prevalent in Western nations.

The fifth pillar of Islam is the Pilgrimage to Mecca. The Pilgrimage is required of every able-bodied Muslim and who can afford it. No non-Muslim is allowed to visit Mecca or witness the hajj. The season begins in the tenth month, the month following Ramadan, and lasts through the middle of the twelfth month. Muslims associate the origin of the Hajj and the founding of the Ka'aba with Abraham, who was believed to have built the Ka'aba. Rituals begin 5 miles from center of Mecca. No non-Muslims are allowed any further. Muslims prepare, bathe and do a brief salat. Each man puts on two seamless white cloths, one round waist, the other over shoulder. He states his intention (niat): "O Allah, I purpose to make the hajj; make this service easy to me, and accept it from me."

In the Ka'aba, he goes around it seven times, the first three quickly (running), the other walking. He performs a brief salat at a point where Muslims believe Abraham and Ishamel rebuilt the Ka'aba. Outside the mosque, pilgrims run between two hills, Safa and Marwa, 400 yards apart, in memory of Hagar running to find water for Ishmael. (30)

One final religious duty, besides the first five pillars, is the duty of Jihad, or Holy War. Jihad is incumbent upon all adult Muslims who are male and free to answer any legally valid summons to war against the infidels (non-Muslims). "From the earliest of times Islam has divided the world into Dar al Islam, where Islam reigns supreme, and Dar al Harb (the Abode of War), where Islam must be spread by the sword." (31) One of the great criticisms and longest lasting causes of animosity between the Christian and Muslim communities was the disastrous Crusades called for by the Christian Church during the Middle Ages. Christians recognize, and many have officially asked forgiveness from Islamic nations for this awful period of their history. The Crusades were unbiblical and sinfully in contradiction to everything Jesus Christ stood for in this world. However, the same cannot be said of Islam. Within the first two centuries of its existence, North Africa, arguably the strongest center of Christian faith at that time, was decimated by the Muslim hordes. This domination continued into Spain, and its effects were only ultimately reversed at Granada in 1492. (32) Atrocities in the name of Islam have continued throughout history, i.e. Armenia, and in our present day, East-Timor, and the Sudan. It is important to realize that there is no ethical conflict between the Qur'an and the advancement of the Islamic faith by means of violence and intimidation. In fact, such violence is encouraged in verses such as: Sura 9:14 "Fight them and God will punish them, torment them by your hands and cover them with shame."; Sura 48:29 "Mohammed is Allah's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another."; Sura 9:73 "Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and hypocrites and deal rigorously with them." Hadith vol. 9:50 "No Muslim should be killed for killing a Kafir". The same case can not be made with regard to Biblical Christianity.

Interestingly, Islam's call to kill is not restricted to the opposing "infidel", but it also encompasses those who have chosen to renounce Islam. In the Hadith, vo. 9:57, Mohammed is quoted as having said: "Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him."


A Brief Christian Evaluation of Islam

This brief evaluation of the Islamic faith should cause the Christian to realize the Muslim and the Christian do not worship the same God, nor are their theological beliefs compatible. Islam's "gospel" is a very different gospel then that of the Christian faith. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet, however, it denies His deity. Islam denies that God has come in the flesh in Jesus Christ, yet the Bible makes this very clear (Jn. 1:1-4, 14; Col. 2:9). A Biblical interpretation of Mohammed's activities and pronouncements would include the founder of Islam in the class of false prophets. I Jn. 4:1-3 tells the Christian to test and not believe every spirit so as to determine whether or not that spirit is from God. Very clearly in this passage of Scripture the Christian is told that anyone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ having come in the flesh from God is of the spirit of antichrist.

Muslims, although stating several positive things about Christ, deny His most fundamental accomplishment. Islam, not being able to conceive of a God willing to die for His creation has invented a story that has Him mysteriously removing Jesus from the cross and putting on another to take his place. Therefore they also deny that He rose from the dead. However, Jesus very clearly stated that His purpose in death was to create a "New Covenant", the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31, out of His own blood. (Mt. 26:28)

Herein we see a fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity. Islam is like most all other religions in the world. It is an attempt on man's behalf to work his way towards some type of approval by God. However, in their system, no Muslim has assurance of the attainment of salvation (with the possible exception of death in Jihad) due to the completely unknowable god they serve. The Christian can appreciate the Muslim's view of their god as being totally "other worldly" and transcendent, yet after these points we must take a divergent view. The Christian realizes that God is holy and just, and left to our own devices we are completely unable to save ourselves. Yet, instead of merely relying on a fatalistic phrase "If Allah wills.", the Christian relies on God's grace, His unmerited favor, showered on us in the Person of Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2:1-10; I Jn. 5:1-5, 12-13) It is because of Christ's sinless perfection, His obedience and sacrificial death on the cross, and His bodily resurrection from the dead, that new life and the forgiveness of sin can be given to those who were spiritually dead.

To deny this message is anathema to the Christian. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul made this clear in his Galatian letter when chastising them, he said: "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed."(Gal. 1:8). Does Mohammed preach the same "Gospel" as the Apostle Paul? No! So, according to the Christian understanding the prophet of Islam is regarded as "accursed" by the God of the universe. How could this have happened? Was Mohammed deceived? The Christian must come to the conclusion that he was. Mohammed supposedly received his message through the angel Gabriel. Yet, II Cor. 11:14 says "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." Since Satan was defeated once and for all at Calvary, why should it surprise the Christian that he would desire to deceive as many as possible from the true message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This, it must be concluded, is what he attempted in Mohammed.

"Is Allah, this stone idol, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?", is a question one man has asked? (33) Just because Mohammed says he is does not make it so. Mohammed says that Allah chose Hagar and her son Ishmael for his covenant. The God of the Bible chose Abraham's other son, Isaac, as heir to His covenant. (Gen. 17:18-22) Allah, according to the Qur'an, is not knowable. He is utterly impossible to approach. It is no wonder that the doctrine most absent in Islam, as opposed to Christianity, is the doctrine of God as love. The orthodox Muslim cannot say from experience or from the pages of the Qur'an that Allah is a love. Yet, the God of the Bible befriends people like Abraham (Is. 41:8) and talks with them (Gen. 18:22ff). (34) However, the Christian knows that God loved him so very much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us to reconcile us unto Himself! (Jn. 3:16; I Jn. 4:7-10).

Allah is a god that cannot be known by his adherents personally. There are laws and practices to obey and to submit to. When the Muslim prays he always prays for mercy because he does not know the source of mercy, the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:1, 6:23, 8:1) The God of the Bible delights to show His boundless mercy and His message is not an enslaving code of rituals and regulations based on fear. Rather, His Gospel is the "good news" of grace and redemption and forgiveness. (Titus 3:4-7). Whereas Allah requires total obedience to Islam and weighs the deeds of man, the God of the Bible can only be reached, yet with assurance (I Jn. 5:13) by trusting in Jesus Christ alone.

"In the light of Allah's actual origin and his radical difference from the God of the Bible, we must conclude that Allah is not God. Nor is the "Allah" a generic Mideast name for God, as many Christians think. Allah is the name of a false god who cannot save anyone from anything." (35) Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father. (Jn. 14:6)



End Notes

1. Anderson, p. 6

2. Sura 93:6ff

3. Anderson, p. 54

4. Curtis, p. 49

5. Dowley, p. 176

6. Sura 96:1-5

7. Sura 74:1

8. Anderson, p. 57

9. MacDonald, p. 72

10. Anderson, p. 59

11. Silas, Answering Islam Web Page

12. Anderson, p. 53

13. Sura 4:169 etc.,

14. Sura 4:156

15. Anderson, p. 62

16. Ibid., p. 78

17. Ibid., p. 79

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., p. 80

20. Sura 72:1,2,15,16

21. Anderson, p. 81

22. Sura 26:95; 35:28; 46:2, etc.

23. Anderson, p. 81

24. Sura 44:54; 55:56,58,70-74; 56:34-36; 2:23; 3:13; 4:60

25. Carlson, p. 110

26. Anderson, p. 83

27. Ibid.

28. Anderson, p. 84

29. Carlson, p. 111

30. Answering Islam web page

31. Anderson, p. 85

32. Palmer, p. 69

33. Carlson p. 113

34. Ibid.

35. Carlson, p. 115




1. Anderson, J.N.D., The World's Religions, (London: Inter-Varsity, 1950).


2. Answering Islam web page - Index Listing "H" for Hajj. (


3. Carlson, Ron & Decker, Ed, Fast Facts on False Teachings, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994).


4. Curtis, A. Kenneth, The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.)


5. Dowley, Tim, Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.)


6. The Koran, (London: Penguin Group, 1990).


7. MacDonald, D.B., The Aspects of Islam, (New York: MacMillian Press, 1911).


8. Palmer, R.R., A History of the Modern World to 1815, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984).


9. Silas, (no other name given) Muhammad, Aisha, Islam, and Child Brides, (

The Lord's Supper and the Use of Leavened Bread

November 16, 2009 - 3:48 PM
A Brief Paper on:

The Lord's Supper and the Use of Leavened Bread

by Rev. Christopher C. Arch, MA

Pastor of the Good News Bible Church

May 11, 1998




Good News Bible Church was compelled to examine the Biblical appropriateness of the use of leavened bread (bread with yeast as an ingredient) in the Lord's Supper on the morning of May 3, 1998. It was at this time that a visitor to the congregation stated his inability to partake of "leavened bread" in the Supper due to the fact that leaven represents sin in the Old Testament and Seder Supper, and its use would be "hypocritical" for the Christian partaking in communion. Therefore, it is my intention as the teaching elder and pastor of Good News Bible Church to research this matter in this paper and review the appropriateness of the use of leavened bread in the Lord's Supper.


I. The Purpose and Practice of the Lord's Supper


Before one considers the appropriate use of various elements within the Lord's Supper (or commonly referred to as "Communion") attention must be given to the purpose and practice of this memorial or ordinance in the Church. First it must be stated that Christians are not in agreement on what to even call the Lord's Supper or its spiritual value. Some traditions refer to the Supper as a "sacrament", a term that has popularly come to mean "a conveying of grace", rather that an event

that helps men to relate through faith to Christ. ( 1) This view is most commonly seen in the Catholic Church's view of communion known as "Transubstantiation", as well as the Lutheran Church's similar view known as "Consubstantiation". Aside from most Lutheran and Anglican groups, Protestant Christians view the Lord's Supper as either: a memorial, a view popularized by Ulrich Zwingli during the Reformation, or an ordinance, which was the view held most in keeping with that of Reformer John Calvin. It was Zwingli's and Calvin's influence on the Protestant Church which attempted to reject the Catholic notion of the Christian eating the physical body of Christ and drinking the physical blood of Christ in the Supper. Calvin further clarified this position by stating that Christ's presence in the Supper was "by contemplation of faith" and not "in essence and reality" (2) As a Protestant congregation, Good News Bible Church thoroughly rejects the notion of our Savior's body and blood being physically present in the Supper elements. These elements are symbols. Communion is an experience in which the Christian partakes and is strengthened in his or her faith by contemplation and reflection, not in essence and reality.


The Importance of the Communion Elements:


Understanding the purpose and practice of communion is foundational for further study with regard to this subject. If one sees the Supper as a sacrament or means of grace, then there can be no variation from the use of the original elements since the elements themselves confer grace regardless of the spiritual receptivity of the participant. If however, one sees the event as a memorial or ordinance in which he or she willingly and joyfully participates (under the restrictions of I Corinthians 11: 23-34), then the importance is placed on the participant's heart attitude, contemplation of the Savior's meritorious sacrifice, and spiritual receptivity, and not the strict and inflexible use of certain elements.


The Use of "Leaven" in the Old Testament:


The issue of objection raised in the communion service of May 3, 1998, was that "leaven" is seen as a type of sin in the Old Testament, and therefore must not be used in the New Testament service of the Lord's Supper because it would correlate our Lord's body with sin (which according to II Cor. 5:21 was in fact the case). This is a good and sincere question which must be examined in light of the evidence of Scripture, and not one's personal bias or tradition. Therefore one must give attention to the occurrence and usage of the term "leaven" in the Old Testament in order to either support or disprove this statement.


The New American Standard Bible uses the term "leaven" eight times in the Old Testament, while it uses the similar term "leavened" thirteen times. The use of "leaven" is seen in a negative light in verses: Ex. 12:15; 12:19; 13:7; Dt. 16:4 in specific relation to the Passover. "Grain Offerings", Lev. 2:11; 6:17; were also not to be made with leaven. However, it must also be clearly stated that the wave offering used in the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, was specifically commanded to be made with leaven (Lev. 23:17). Also, the peace offerings of Lev. 7:13 were specifically stated to be made with leaven(ed). Therefore, it is inappropriate to emphatically state that leaven is always sin, or else the Lord God Himself would have caused the nation of Israel to sin, a notion know to be patently false (James 1:13). It should also be clearly stated that the Jews commonly used leavened bread in their daily diet, and traditionally only set this aside for the period of seven days surrounding the Passover celebration (Ex. 12: 17-19).


Next, one should examine the occurrence and usage of the term "leavened" in the Old Testament to further confirm or disprove this assertion. This term is used thirteen times in the first thirty-nine books of the Bible, with the vast majority of its use found in Exodus 12 and 13, all passages relating to the observance of the Passover. Hosea uses the term in an obscure manner in 7:4, which places no real focus on the use of the term except as an illustration. Amos also uses this term in 4:5, by way of illustrating the unfaithful heart of the people of Israel, who although sacrificed in the prescribed manner, and with apparent zeal, was far from God in their hearts.


Thus, it must be clearly stated that although the term "leaven" or "leavened" can be seen as a "type" of sin in the Old Testament, this typology must not be overstated. It is hermeneutically incorrect to do so in a blanket statement. It is apparent, however, that in certain occurrences, most notably the Passover celebration, that leaven can be labeled as a type of "sin".


The Use of "Leaven" in the New Testament:


Having considered the usage of the term "leaven" or "leavened" in the Old Testament, an examination of the use of the term in the New Testament must be made. The New Testament uses the term "leaven" thirteen times in the NASB. Of these instances, six times the term is used in connection with the teaching of the Pharisees (Mt. 16:6, 11, 12; Mk 8:15( 2 times); Lk. 12:1). The next major usage of the term in a negative fashion is found in I Corinthians, where Paul uses the term four times in the space of three verses (vv.6-8). Although a strong connection can be made between this passage and Christ and the Passover, it is obvious that the first use relates to boasting or the immorality spoken of in I Cor, 5:1-5. The second use of the term is found in verse seven. This use is clearly a figure of speech used to exhort the Corinthians to remove the wickedness from their lives. Finally the term is used two (or three if "unleavened" is counted) more times in verse eight as a figure of speech or analogy for the malice and wickedness of the Corinthians. The "unleavened" bread spoken of herein is certainly not physical bread, for Paul states with all certainty that it is a figure of speech employed for his desire to see sincerity and truth manifested in the lives of the believers at Corinth.


Again, it must be stated that not all of the uses of "leaven" in the New Testament are negative. In both Mt. 13:33 and Lk. 13:21, Jesus specifically states that the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God can be compared to leaven, in that a relatively small amount has a great impact on a much larger body. It would be a terrible misinterpretation of Scripture to state that since leaven is sometimes used as a type of sin in the Old Testament, that therefore the Kingdom of God is to be seen as a Kingdom of Sin in the New Testament!


The Institution of the Lord's Supper:


The Bible records for us that the Lord's Supper was instituted on the night before His crucifixion (Lk. 22:19-30; Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25). This event took place at the celebration of the Passover dinner, which was the most important celebration in the Jewish faith. It was a deliberate and sovereign part of God's plan that Christ be so intrinsically identified with the Passover celebration, especially as the Paschal Lamb. Yet, it is also unmistakable that during this celebration, which obviously used unleavened bread, Christ was beginning something new. Lk. 22: 19-20, sees Jesus establishing a "new covenant" with His followers. The power and importance of this statement cannot be overestimated for He was making a definite break with the Jewish system in favor of that which would be accomplished in His bodily death, burial, and resurrection in the three days to come. Thus, although the Seder, or Passover Supper, has clear spiritual significance in its fulfillment in Christ's death, it is ultimately a different celebration or event from the New Testament practice of the Lord's Supper, with the one seen foretelling while the other seen fulfilling.




The Scripture makes no appeal as to the specific elements that must be used in the celebration of the Lord's Supper (Lk. 22: 19-30; Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; ICor. 11:23-34). It can be accurately inferred that the type of bread Christ used in the initial Lord's Supper, was the unleavened bread of the Passover meal. However, there can only be inference from Scripture as to this practice from that point onward.


As a symbol, unleavened bread would serve the typology of the Passover and Christ's fulfillment thereof. Also, it would be most in keeping with the bread Christ apparently used in the initiation of His Supper. Yet, a symbol is ultimately only important in what it represents, and not in and of itself. The merit of the symbol does not reside in the symbol, but rather in what the symbol represents.


Also, there is substantial evidence in the New Testament that no food is to be seen as either sinful or unclean. Peter was taught this lesson in Acts 10:9-16; and the Church as a whole was reminded of this at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. This monumental conference of the Church decided not to lay upon the Gentiles the law of the Moses, but only exhorted the Greek believers to "abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication." v. 29. Again, the argument of an appropriate symbol in relation to the Lord's Supper can be used, but an attempt to legalistically imply a specific food item being "sin" is not in keeping with the teaching of the New Testament.


If someone has a legitimate objection to the use of "leavened" bread during the communion services of Good News Bible Church, that individual should be encouraged to study the whole counsel of the Scripture with the pastor or elders of the congregation. If this issue continues to be a stumbling block for an individual desirous of fellowship within the congregation, then the principle from Romans 14, especially verses 13-21, which commands the pattern for our behavior in this type of matter, could be applied, not as a result of any sin inherent in the elements, but rather for the sake of the "weaker brother".



End Notes


1. Erickson, p. 965


2. ibid. p. 656




Erickson, Millard, The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Baker Books: Hants, UK 1985).


*All Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Version, the Lockman Foundation, copyright 1979.

Switzerland's Luther

November 16, 2009 - 3:48 PM
Ulrich Zwingli: Switzerland's Luther


Rev. Christopher C. Arch, M.A.




"After Luther and Calvin, the most important early Protestant reformer was Ulrich Zwingli.", states Dr. Walter Elwell, of Wheaton College. (1) Unlike his two more well known contemporaries, relatively little is known of Zwingli by the modern Christian. Yet, Zwingli played a prominent role in the Protestant Reformation, helping to shape beliefs that are still held as precious by many a Christian.


Huldrych (or Ulrich) Zwingli was born in 1484, the same year as Luther, in Wildhaus, forty miles from Zurich. Although from a peasant heritage, both Zwingli's father and grandfather had served as chief magistrate for their district, and at least his father became a man of considerable means. It was in this Swiss upbringing that nurtured young Zwingli with the values of his people: sturdy independence, strong patriotism, a zeal for religion, and an interest in scholarship. (2) This scholastic interest was first developed under the ample tutelage of his uncle Bartholomew Zwingli, a former priest, and later dean of Weesen. Bartholomew Zwingli influenced his nephew into a Renaissance, or New Learning, education that removed many of the shackles of the mediaeval structure. Next, Zwingli was sent to Basel for further studies before enrolling in the University of Vienna. By 1504, Zwingli had earned his B.A. and continued on in school for another two years so as to earn his M.A. (3)


The year 1506 was crucial to the development of certain life-long theological beliefs Zwingli would hold. It was during this year, after completing his M.A., that Zwingli attended a series of lectures presented by Thomas Wyttenbach on Sentences, by Peter Lombard. This lecture series would cement within the Swiss Reformer two cardinal doctrines of his belief system: 1. the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures, and justification by grace through faith. (4)


Zwingli's Ministry:


It was during this personally monumentous year of 1506 that Zwingli received a call to his first pastorate, in Glarus. Zwingli would remain in Glarus ten years, and although the parish was by no means small, he had ample time to continue both humanistic and theological studies. During the decade at Glarus, Zwingli would become more interested in the question of mercenary service, a profitable business in his country, due to the reputation of the Swiss for hardiness and military prowess. (5) This mercenary service was resulting in a serious moral deterioration within Switzerland, and some were beginning to oppose it as a system. At first, Zwingli protested the mercenary system in all cases except those under the command of the papacy. In fact, in 1512, 1513, and 1515, Zwingli offered his services as a chaplain for the Papal armies. The travel associated with these responsibilities was to play a significant role in the transformation of Zwingli from parish priest and chaplain of Papal armies to Protestant preacher and chaplain/leader of Protestant armies. These travels led him to Italy, where Zwingli witnessed the Church's activities and life, with which he was less than impressed.


A curious benefit of Zwingli's service as chaplain in the Papal armies was a pension. With this extra income Glarus' priest increased his library, focusing especially upon Renaissance scholars and other new publications. It was also during this time that a lengthy correspondence with Erasmus, the leading Christian humanist of the Reformation era, was begun. It was Erasmus who helped to undermine Zwingli's faith in the traditional system of the Catholic Church. (6)


Zwingli's last year at Glarus in 1516, was of immense importance to his life and ministry. It was during this year, and with much human credit being given to Erasmus, that Zwingli underwent an evangelical conversion. It was this period that marked a turn in Zwingli's interpretation of Scripture from a traditional church position to that of an evangelical. It must be stated that this conversion was not merely intellectual, but rather affected him spiritually and morally, especially as to how he found relief in his evangelical faith from the sensuality that had always plagued him. (7) With this new-found faith, and at the behest of many of the French Papal pensioners in his parish whom he had irritated with his opposition to the mercenary system, Zwingli accepted a call to famous pilgrimage village of Einsiedeln. (8) Einsiedeln prepared Zwingli as a preacher, and the swelling crowds coming to the pilgrimage shrine of the Virgin Mary, went back to their homes praising the fine young preacher of the village. This acclaim helped to build Zwingli's reputation and influence, which in later years would help him to spread evangelical teaching throughout other cantons.


Although an enviable post, with obvious benefits to Zwingli's ministerial skills and reputation, Einsiedeln could not hope to hold Zwingli for long. In 1518, Zwingli would be called to be "people's priest" at one of the greatest churches in his nation, Great Minster, in Zurich. At the very outset of his appointment to Great Minster, Zwingli set out on a radical (for the time period) course of action, preaching expositional sermons from the Bible. This teaching from the Gospel of Matthew, helped prepare the ground for the eventual work of reform. It was through the preaching of this series of sermons that Zwingli began to distance himself more and more from the Catholic Church's practices that he viewed as unscriptural. Over the next five years, Zwingli, with the help of the town council, would overturn the influence of the Catholic Church on Zurich by: giving the priests freedom to preach from the Scriptures, rejecting the authority of the Bishop of Constance over their canton; rejecting key Catholic doctrines such as: salvation by works, monastic orders, the celibacy of priesthood, purgatory, and the sacrificial character of the mass; also Church lands were confiscated; and ultimately the mass was no longer allowed. It was also during this period, 1524, that Zwingli married Anna Meyer, herself a widow, who bore him four children. (9) Although it is true that Zwingli was involved in the political life of Zurich and surrounding cantons, he was primarily a preacher of evangelical truth and not a political statesman. "It is true that Zwingli did exploit the instinctive desire of the Council to achieve autonomy in ecclesiastical affairs. It is also true that he made use of his influence on the Council to put the various reforms into practical effect. But it is no less true that the real secret of Zwingli's success was his ability to direct the religious thought of the city from the Minster pulpit." (10)


Zwingli's Theology and Contributions to the Reformation:


"Zwingli's theology was a more rationalistic and biblicistic variation of Luther's theology." (11) Issues central to Zwingli's theological position of importance included: supremacy of the Holy Scriptures, justification by grace through faith, an emphasis on divine sovereignty, the doctrine of the Church, baptism, and the Lord's supper. Each of these six key theological beliefs helped to define Zwingli as a Reformer on his own merits. Certainly his views were arguably more rational and Biblically centered than Luther's due to his interest in Renaissance learning, and the important influence Erasmus had upon his philosophical and theological outlook.


Zwingli was certainly a Protestant Christian in the truest sense. As a Protestant, Zwingli placed primary importance on the Scriptures, or Sola Scriptura, as was common with other great Reformers. This position, as stated previously, was cemented upon completion of his M.A., while listening to a series of lectures on the works of Peter Lombard. It was at least in part the influence of Erasmus who emphasized a rational interpretation of the Scriptures that would characterize Zwingli's preaching in Glarus, Einsiedeln, and as priest of Great Minster, Zurich. Zwingli believed that the Word would give light and life to those who read it, but not to everyone who read it. "It does so only where a true response is kindled. In other words, it calls for a decision of faith." (12) This work could only take place, in Zwingli's estimation, as a result of the illumination of the Holy Spirit.


The second key doctrine for Zwingli, and another foundational belief within Protestantism, was justification by grace through faith. With this belief, Zwingli repudiated Rome's teaching that external baptism could of itself cleanse from sin. Zwingli's interpretation of the Scriptures led him to believe that "if salvation was by grace, if even faith was a direct work of God by the Holy Spirit, then there can be no place for schemes of religious life or thought which allow either for the merit of human works or for the ex opere operato efficacy of sacramental observances." (13) "Justification became the sovereign and creative declaration of God by which those who are elected to faith in Jesus Christ are accepted as righteous on the merits of Christ." (14) This was a monumental shift for anyone to make in opposition to the Catholic Church's traditional view of soteriology, and thereby earned Zwingli a position alongside Luther and Calvin as a Reformer in his own right. Zwingli even made the proper distinction between rational, intellectual assent, and the necessity for a movement of the whole nature by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. Zwingli's insistence on justification by grace did not mean the negation of the Law. The Law was still seen as a part of God's will for man as a guide to the believer and a warning to the unregenerate. "What Zwingli did negate was legalism, and especially that mediaeval form of legalism which had given rise to such corrupt and fictional notions as purgatory, indulgences, the power of the keys, the treasury of merit, prayers for the dead and the merit of works or supererogation." (15)


The third defining doctrine of Ulrich Zwingli was his emphasis on divine sovereignty. Divine sovereignty was one of the two foundational theological presuppositions, along with the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures, upon which Zwingli's theology was built. Arguably, these presuppositions gave Zwingli's theology a "clarity and consistency which are not always apparent in the diffuse if more profound writings of Luther." (16) Insistence on divine sovereignty was the unifying element of this Reformer's theology. Unfortunately, like Calvin, the result of this insistence led Zwingli to his greatest theological difficulty: "including the fall of man in the providential ordering of the universe and also to assert a rigid predestination both to life and perdition." (17) Yet, Zwingli should be defended on two issues surrounding this insistence. First, Zwingli was correct in the fact that God's providence must include every act and event within its sphere of operation. Second, if God is God, then no man can either sin against or know God, without God. "The error of Zwingli was perhaps that he asserted the direct or sole causality of God, not that he asserted His supreme or over-ruling causality." (18)


The fourth significant emphasis of Zwingli's theology was the doctrine of the Church. Understandably, Zwingli's teaching on predestination and election helped to influence his understanding of the Body of Christ, the Church. According to Zwingli, the Bible taught "the true Church is not at all co-terminous with what the visible organization or complex of organizations which is its outward expression in the world." (19) According to Zwingli, the Church is the whole group of elect and redeemed individuals as called out from every age and place. The Church is only holy and one with Christ by virtue of its union with Christ. "It is catholic only in that it is not restricted to any particular epoch or locality." (20) To Zwingli, the Church is "apostolic" not on the basis of succession, but through insistence on and practice of the faith and of the apostles. "To this inward Church of the elect Zwingli applied the term "invisible". (21) By this definition Zwingli certainly did not mean that the "invisible church" did not find expression in the visible community, but rather, and contrary to the Catholicism of his day, and the definition of many within Protestantism today, its membership cannot be known merely by the measure of the external tests of man. Thus, to Zwingli, the Church is a field planted with both wheat and tares, professors who are not true believers, and possessors of a living faith in Christ. Interestingly, Zwingli developed his ecclesioloy in relation to the doctrine of the incarnation, realizing the Church had both a divine as well as human side along with a certain unity of these two separate natures. Finally, to Zwingli, the function of the Church was threefold: 1. preaching of the Word of God, 2. the due administration of the sacraments (communion and baptism), 3. the administration of church discipline.


Zwingli's distinction on baptism was the fifth significant position within his milieu. Again, Zwingli's Protestantism ran full in the face of Rome's teaching of baptismal regeneration as discussed previously in this paper. According to Zwingli, and the traditional Reformed theological position, the sacrament of baptism is simply a covenant sign. However, Zwingli could not agree that the purpose and effect of such a sign was to confirm faith. Thus, baptism was an initiatory rite symbolizing, though not in itself effecting an inner change to those receiving or being administered it. Of course, Zwingli's emphasis was on the baptism of infants, again a standard issue within the Protestant Church known as "Reformed". It is here that arguably, much of Zwingli's reliance upon exegesis seems to falter. Based on the argument of "covenant sign", and with relative silence from the Scriptures, the reformer Zwingli stated that baptism was more an issue for the family than the individual, as was his understanding of the issue of circumcision in the Old Testament. Although no clear texts could be given, Zwingli felt as though there was enough inference from Scripture to allow for the baptism of infants. Zwingli differed from some later Reformers in his rejection of original guilt (sin) in infants, with baptism being the sign of remission. To Zwingli, the child was born with an "inherited frailty" which inevitably would give rise to a sin nature in each person. "To Zwingli, baptism was more a pledge of what we ought to do rather than a testimony to what God has already done for us." (22) Although Zwingli was apparently weak in developing a theology of baptism, especially in relation to its sacramental effectiveness, certainly he helped to lay the groundwork that would be built upon by later Reformed theologians.


The last of the six defining elements of Ulrich Zwingli's theology, and arguably the one he is best remembered for, is the Lord's Supper. Again, Zwingli's preaching and writing took place in a world that had long been taught by the Catholic Church that the communion elements literally became the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This view, known as "Transubstantiation", taught that "the elements of the bread and wine were changed into the body and blood of Christ while the accidents- i.e., the appearance, taste, touch, and smell, remained the same." (23) This led to an unhealthy mysticism, superstition, and form of idolatry being promoted by the Church that in many ways enslaved the laity to the priesthood. A secondary view that was also being promulgated at the same time as Zwingli, was Luther's view known as "Consubstantiation". Luther varied somewhat from the Catholic Church by stating with regard to the Supper that "it is real bread and real wine, in which Christ's real flesh and real blood are present in no other way and to no less a degree than the others assert them to be under their accidents." (24) Obviously, this view was and is very accommodating to the Catholic position, with a degree of variance being made with relation to there being a mix of make-up in the actual elements.


Zwingli reacted strongly to both the teaching of the Catholic Church as well as the teaching of Luther. Undoubtedly, Zwingli's position on the Lord's Supper was influenced by his interaction with Erasmus, and his continuing bent towards the humanism of his day. This humanistic learning (to be distinguished in some degree from the school of thought sharing the same name today) discarded the mystical elements of Catholicism and Lutheranism in an attempt to see the Scriptures, and in this case the elements, for what they were, using the rational mind. Thus, Zwingli, in his theology surrounding the Eucharist, attempted to free Christians from the traditions and superstitions of man with a strict adherence to the Scriptures. "The chief differences between Luther and Zwingli theologically were Luther's inability to think of Christ's presence in the Supper in any other than a physical way and a heavy dualism that runs through much of Zwingli's thought." (25) To Zwingli, no physical element could affect the soul, only the sovereign working of the grace of God. Thus, he drastically departed company from both Catholics and Lutherans. The very idea of eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ was seen as absurd and repugnant to the senses, with a weak hermeneutical understanding of the Scripture. Thus, Zwingli's "Memorialism", focused attention on remembering the work and words of Christ, rather and feasting on the body and blood of Christ. Many have criticized Zwingli for an apparent lack of appreciation for the real presence of Christ in the elements and state that this perceived extreme was corrected later by Calvin.


Reflections on Zwingli's Contribution to Christianity:


Before his death in the Battle of Kappel between warring Swiss cantons, Ulrich Zwingli had secured for himself a position as one of the great Reformers. Although Zwingli was not, nor is today, as well known and influential as Luther or Calvin, he was or is not without influence on the Protestant Church. Zwingli's theological dualism is one area that still influences the Protestant Church. Zwingli made the distinction between the visible Church and the true or real Church. Second, Zwingli's "Memorialism" view of the Lord's Supper continues to be a theological view held by many in today's Church. Zwingli also influenced the Church by renewing the practice of expository preaching while a priest at "Great Minster". Prior to his time there had been a great lull in this type of preaching, and his expositions of the Gospel of Matthew helped to chart the course of Reformation preaching. Expository preaching is still one of the main elements of the evangelical and fundamental Church today. Along with his preaching was Zwingli's careful attention to the study of the Scripture with an attempt at correct hermeneutical interpretation. As a result of his being influenced by rationalism and humanism, and yet with an immovable conviction in the sovereignty of God and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, Zwingli brought theological distinction that attempted to strip Christianity of much of its then middle ages mysticism and irrationality. Again, Zwingli has been condemned for a possible extreme insistence in this area, yet one must again recall the era in which he wrote and his reaction to what was the norm of his age. As a result of these and a litany of other accomplishments and anecdotes, Ulrich Zwingli continues to influence the Protestant Church from the grave.





1. Bromiley, G.W., Zwingli and Bullinger, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953).


2. Dowley, Tim, Eerdmans' Handbook to the History of Christianity, (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans', 1977).


3. Elwell, Walter, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Hants, England: Baker Books, 1985).


4. Latourette, Kenneth S., A History of Christianity, vol. II (San Francisco: Harper's Press, 1975).


End Notes


1. Elwell, p. 1203

2. Bromiley, p. 13

3. ibid., pp. 13-14

4. ibid., p. 14

5. ibid., p. 15

6. Dowley, p. 379

7. Bromiley, p. 16

8. Latourette, p. 748

9. ibid., p. 748

10. Bromiley, p. 29

11. Elwell, p. 1204

12. Bromiley, p. 55

13. ibid., p. 34

14. ibid., p. 34

15. ibid., p. 35

16. ibid., p. 37

17. ibid., p. 37

18. ibid., p. 38

19. ibid., p. 35

20. ibid., p. 35

21. ibid., p. 35

22. ibid., p. 127

23. Elwell, p. 653

24. ibid., p. 654

25. ibid., p. 655