Beyond Theology

I have noticed a trend amongst specific Christian apologists who have been making YouTube videos arguing against Transgender people and arguing that sexuality that deviates from the “biblical norm” is a sin. I am amazed when these apologists spend so much time talking about homosexuality and gender identity. When they speak on these subjects, as if by virtue of their theological training, they try to come off as experts. Yet, when Muslims speak about Christianity, or Atheists argue against a theistic deity creating the universe, these same apologists argue that their opponents need to study Christian theology in detail, in effect, become experts.

Okay, maybe not experts, but certainly there is a spoken and unspoken expectation that the Christian apologist’s opponents need to study the subjects that they are attempting to critique. If Christian apologists are to be consistent, then they must be held to these same expectations. Christian apologists must demonstrate an understanding of the subjects of psychology, gender identity, and sexual variation when they are critiquing homosexuals, people who identify as trans, and legitimate psychological research when discussing mental illness.

I have rarely seen Christian apologists do this. Instead, they quote the Bible, literally, in an attempt to comment on the above topics. What is the problem with this? Well, they are quoting scripture written by authors who were not aware of the modern understanding of sexual variation, gender, and psychology. Their theological position prevents them from considering what modern research tells us. The danger of blind faith to spiritual literalism will eventually lead to this blockage in human progress and understanding.

I want to be clear, I am not saying that any Christian need abandon the Bible, or stop believing that persons such as Moses and St. Paul did not receive some special message(s) from the Divine. What I am saying is that Moses was not a psychologist and St. Paul was not an expert in sexuality or gender studies. To derive meaningful understanding of these subjects, and have one’s foundation be based on literal reading of scripture, is not the answer. As a Swedenborgian and Thelemite I view topics of human experience from a spiritual and rational perspective. I do believe that spirituality is important and scripture can teach us about human’s relationship to the Divine. However, when I study psychology and sexuality I look towards modern research and theorists who are not blocked by dogmatic literalism. I would encourage the Christian apologists on YouTube who have been discussing the issues of sexuality and gender to think about doing some actual research and consider the areas of study that they are experts in, and the areas in which they are still learners.

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Symbol of Sun/Star-Swedenborg, Jung, and Crowley

Readers of this blog post need to keep two things in mind at the outset: 1. I am new to the community the follows the Law of Thelema(Thelemites) and 2. I have done my utmost to research this topic and have found a potential void in the information landscape which I wish to fill. If I have missed any previous published works that have commented on the topic of the symbolism of the Sun and Star as understood in this specific comparative study, I apologize in advance. I do not claim to be an expert, rather I claim to be someone who is passionate about comparative mysticism and the psychology of C.G.Jung. I also have access to his Collected Works, as well as the entire standard edition of Swedenborg. My library of Crowley’s works is small, but growing. I will be referencing already published works by other authors and will give them their due credit during the portions of this present essay with which I wish to reflect and summarize. All other works cited shall be from the great books of Swedenborg, Jung, and Crowley.

This present essay assumes that the reader will have some familiarity with the works of the three great men mentioned above. I will not spend time summarizing their entire position but will dive right into topic: the symbol of the sun/star. I recently made the topic of my last Dreaming In Symbols podcast on the subject of the Sun as it relates to Swedenborg, Jung, and Crowley. After publishing that episode to YouTube I began to research the topic in greater detail and discovered even more references that I wished I had interacted with in that Dreaming In Symbols episode. This essay is my attempt to faithfully interact with the primary documents I missed, and to reexamine other previously mentioned works.

The Sun/Star is a symbol which is utilized by the three great thinkers: Swedenborg, Jung, and Crowley. The comparison between Crowley and Jung’s use of the Star symbol as meaning the Self is explained in an excellent way by the online blogger IAO131. His article is can be found by clicking on the link below:

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.10: Archetypes of the Star – or Spark – and the Night-Sky

IAO131 limits his referencing of Jung’s work to Collected Works V0l.8, specifically the essay “The Significance of the Unconscious in Psychology.” He uses this essay, and Jung’s discussion of the Star and how it is used in the context of Alchemy, and by extension, analytical psychology, in a parallel discussion to Crowley’s Liber AL. It is worth reading IAO131’s essay.

I am very happy to see that many Thelemites are using Jung’s psychological theories to enrich their spirituality and to help underline and compliment Aleister Crowley’s works. Such authors as J. Daniel Gunther in his book “Initiation in the Aeon of the Child,” makes repeated mentions of Jung. Dr. David Shoemaker in his book “Living Thelema,” does the same comparison. In Dr. Shoemaker’s book review of Jung’s “The Red Book”, he explains parallels between the symbol of the Sun as found in Jung and Crowley’s works. Dr. Shoemaker’s review can be found here:

Book Review: The Red Book (Liber Novus) by Carl Jung

The purpose of this present essay is to add to the discussion already started by the above authors. I will be quoting from Jung’s “Symbols of Transformation,” and “Memories, Dreams, Reflections(specifically the Seven Sermons to the Dead)”, in a an attempt to illustrate an even richer interaction with the symbols of the Sun and Star. In an comparative context I will also interact with Crowley and Swedenborg’s views to further show how important this symbol was for all three men in their writing about the Divine.

The sun is an ancient symbol that has represented the divine for centuries. Crowley writes: “Thou that art One, our Lord in the Universe, the Sun, our Lord in ourselves whose name is Mystery of Mystery, uttermost being whose radiance, enlightening the worlds, is also the breath that maketh every God even and Death to tremble before Thee.”-Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass. The author IAO131 states: “The common symbol of the Sun, the point in the circle, is itself a symbol of the union of opposites: in this context, the Sun represents the Whole, the One, the All, et cetera.”(IAO131, 2014 pg. 292) In my limited exposure an understanding thus far of Crowley’s views on spirituality, it would appear that the Sun can be interpreted as being a symbol that represents the inner most part of the human psyche/soul as well as the objective divine.

Swedenborg also held the Sun to be the prime symbol that the divine uses to manifest itself to our limited understanding. In Divine Love and Wisdom Swedenborg explains that God can be viewed as having an almost yin/yang essence that is composed of Love and Wisdom. These two elements of the divine are symbolized by the spiritual and physical sun, that is, the light and warmth are expressions of love and wisdom. The Swedenborgian scholar Odhner stated: “…Ra became identified with the spiritual Sun and with the idea of God as a Man within it. His symbol, the red solar disk with encompassing serpent, signify the Divine Love, surrounded by the Divine Wisdom.”(Odhner, 1914 pg.79-80) I honestly don’t know if Swedenborg ever discussed the symbol of the Star, but we might assume that when he referenced the Sun he also meant the Star as well. However it is clear that Jung and Crowley did reference both symbols(Star and Sun) separate from each other as shall be explored below.

Jung wrote his book Symbols of Transformation the years leading up to his break with Sigmund Freud. It should be noted that Crowley read this specific book by Carl Jung. It is a hefty book which includes descriptions of world religions and mythology as they are related to the dynamics of the human psyche. Upon analyzing the Ms. Miller fantasies, Jung as able to find parallels between her subjective experiences and the objective meaning behind world symbolism and spiritual ideas. As he points out “The libido having turned away away from the concrete object, its object has become a psychic one, namely God. Psychologically, however, God is the name of the complex of ideas grouped round a powerful feeling; the feeling-tone is what really gives the complex its characteristics efficacy, for it represents an emotional tension which can be formulated in terms of energy.”(Jung, 1956, pg. 85)

Jung again states: “I am therefore of the opinion that, in general, psychic energy or libido creates the God-image by making use of archetypal patterns, and that man in consequence worships the psychic force active within him as something divine. We thus arrive at the objectionable conclusion, from a psychological point of view, the God-image is a real but subjective phenomenon.”(1956, pg. 86) Jung continues to reference Christian mystics, mystery religions, Hinduism, and other works that illustrate that the divine, the Sun, and the Star are all synonymous.

What does Jung make of the Star? In his autobiography: “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, Jung includes his Seven Sermons to the Dead. This text is originally included in a much fuller form in Jung’s The Red Book. This text is largely gnostic in character and represents what I could consider to be one of Jung’s most purely spiritual writing. It is derived from a time when Jung faced a spiritual crisis which resulted in his production of The Red Book. The Seven Sermons to the Dead occur near the end of this intense psycho-spiritual experience. Within the text are mentions of the Sun, Star, God, and gods. As I continue to study Crowley I will no doubt have more to say on Jung’s Seven Sermons, but for now I will quote one section from the 7th sermon:

“This Star is the god of and the goal of man. This is his one guiding god…To this one god man shall pray. Prayer increaseth the light of the Star.” (Jung, 1961 pg. 389)

As I stated above, my knowledge of Crowley and Thelema is at the stage of that of a novice. However, I hope this essay can be a humble addition to the growing comparative field that is informing modern day discussions in the context Thelema and O.T.O. It is amazing to see that three great spiritual minds: Crowley, Swedenborg, and Jung each approached and perceived the divine as symbolized by the Sun and by extension: a Star. As Crowley states:

“Every man and every woman is  a star.”-The Book of the Law





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Tradition and Textual Criticism


In the discussion of the historicity of a religion, particularly in the context of the development of scriptural manuscripts. How did we come to possess the Bible and the Qur’an? Do we have the original copies of these scriptures, or can the originals be deduced from the manuscript evidence? Is it possible to see changes and scribal errors that occurred in the various manuscripts we possess in different library collections around the world?

There are many answers to these questions, but they essentially boil down to “yes” or “no.” Perhaps denial of the originals being present in the existing manuscript traditions or a resounding demonstration of the manuscripts containing the originals. This is a science that has been practiced and investigated in Christianity for many years. It would seem that in recent years the study of Qur’anic manuscripts has become an important topic, with many scholars and apologists exploring and debating. This is important since the Bible has been under study in the context of textual criticism for years and it seems a worthy goal to apply the same standards of study to the Qur’an and indeed all sacred scripture.

However, there is one obstacle in the way of studying the textual transmission of the Qur’an, and perhaps other scriptures. Tradition. This was illustrated best in the debate between Jay Smith and Adnan Rashid. Early on in the debate Rashid appealed to hadith to prove that there were Companions of the Prophet Muhammad who acted as scribes and wrote down the Qur’an during the 7th century. The hadiths have been debated and scrutinized by many scholars and the topic of debates. For example, the debate between James White and Adnan Rashid, is an excellent example of the utilization of these documents. However, Jay Smith took a different approach. He pointed out that the focus of the debate should be on the physical manuscripts and the scientific procedures used to determine the time frame in which the manuscripts were created.

It appeared to me, while I was watching this debate, that both men were talking past each other. It didn’t help that Adnan was constantly calling Jay a liar and Adnan’s friend Ali(?) kept interrupting the debate with his loud comments. Also, Jay Smith’s female friend also interrupted. Needless to say, this would not have happened in a formal debate, but this is Speakers Corner, and typical debate rules apparently do not apply.

Having said that, it was interesting that halfway into the video Adnan Rashid produced an article on his phone, written by Professor Nicolai Sinai of Oxford University. Rashid claimed that Professor Sinai’s article demonstrated that there was good reason to think that we can have confidence in the Uthmanic textual transmission. Smith asked Adnan to elaborate and explain HOW Professor Sinai arrives at this conclusion. Rashid refused multiple times, claiming that the article was 100 pages, and he wasn’t willing to even summarize. Amazing! You provide evidence in a debate, but you don’t explain to your audience the main points of the evidence you are providing? Instead he said he would email the article to Smith. They agreed to return for a second debate. This happened 2015, no sequel debate has occurred, at least to my knowledge.

It was interesting that Adnan Rashid left the debate before it was over. I wonder if he ever did email Jay Smith the article by Professor Sinai. What article was it? What evidence did Professor Sinai give to make us feel that Uthman’s version of the Quran exists today? These are questions that need to be answered. However, Jay Smith did highlight an excellent point. When discussing the manuscript evidence for the Qur’an, we need to pay attention to the most recent scholars who are during current investigation. While it is important to study the research done by previous scholars who had a different theories about textual transmission, we need to be clear about theory, tradition, and physical scientific study of manuscripts.

My takeaway from this debate is the importance of clarity when having discussions such as this. Are we debating the reliability of historical tradition? Or are we focusing on the physical manuscripts and the scientific procedures used to analyze them in the context of textual criticism? One side was obviously championed by Adnan Rashid, the other by Jay Smith. No wonder the debate ended the way it did.

Moving forward: When discussing the textual transmission of the Qur’an we need to be aware of hadith but also the defense and criticism of these historical materials. We also need to be aware of the evidence of the analysis of  the Qur’anic manuscripts as a separate area of study. In my opinion we need to be aware of these two, but the issue is trying to force the hadith narrative onto the physical evidence. The danger of this forceful position is the stunting of formal dialogue and debate and the furthering of knowledge regarding the textual history of the Qur’an.


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Reading and Understanding Scripture

I have noticed a trend, particularly amongst Christian Apologists who typically attack Islam, that there is inconsistency in their utilization of Tafsir and commentary on the Qur’an. Recently I spent time watching a number of videos featuring a number of well known apologists on Youtube. The pattern I noticed the most was the utilization of Tafsir and commentary when reading verses that dealt with Jesus, Christians, and the Gospel. However when it came to verses regarding fighting, military action, violence, the literal reading was preferred over the consultation of Tafsir/commentary. Why is this important to note? It allows us to observe the bias and inconsistency in the behavior of certain apologists on the internet.

Reading Tafsir and modern commentary is important for readers of the Qur’an. It allows us to see the evolution of opinion and understanding of all verses contained in Islam’s holy text. We are able to observe the change in opinions issued by various Muslim scholars throughout the centuries. It is also a good reminder that not all Muslims view all versus the same and that there has been change in the way Muslims approach the interpretation of the Qur’an.

If one does not look at modern commentary(e.g. Asad and Yusuf Ali) there is a loss of conceptualization of verses of even whole chapters of the Qur’an. If a Christian apologist wishes to simply read off violent verses from Chapter 2 or more likely Chapter 9, they can paint their desired picture, namely: Islam allows wholesale aggressive fighting against all nonbelievers. However, if one consults the commentary from 20th and 21st century scholars, we see the harmonization of chapters and verses and an interpretation that doesn’t offer the aggressive narrative postulated by Christian apologists.

I have noticed that it is rare that online personalities and even authors in print, will consult with Tafsir, particularly modern commentary when reading or discussing fighting verses in the Qur’an. Yet, these same folks will search for additional commentary, hadith, sirah, and historical sources to help understand verses in the Qur’an that speak about Christianity, Christian, Jesus, and the scripture of the People of the Book. This again is inline with certain apologists/polemicists who wish to tell a narrative of aggressive Islam and historical blunders regarding Christian history and theology.

I want to be clear at this point. I think it is fine for these apologists to want to research the Qur’an and even argue against a theology they disagree with. However I see this type of methodology, this selective utilization, as patently dishonest when it comes to discussing comparative religion. Not everyone has to agree with the sources they are using, and absolutely they should be clear about this when forming an argument. But the important thing is to be clear with your audience that these views exist that Muslim scholars and lay people read these commentaries and perhaps base their theology on them.

I recently heard another apologist saying that Muslims get their religion from the Qur’an Sunnah(hadith). This is also incorrect. Most Muslims I know also get their religion from reading Tafsir, modern commentary, Fiqh, and the opinions of scholars. They also think for themselves. In an age where the threat of ISIS is very real and the threat of prejudice against average Muslims is also very real, we need to be careful in our discussion of Islam’s theology and source material. I understand that most of these Christians on Youtube are trying to convert Muslims from Islam to Christianity. They have their right to try. But for the love of God, be consistent and honest about it.



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iERA and The Bible(Revised and Expanded)

So Adnan Rashid from iERA contacted me on Twitter and wished to discuss my previous article which he called: “not a very impressive rebuttal.” I am honored that he took time out of his busy schedule to not only read my blog post but also engage with me on Twitter. I will highlight some of the statements made by Adnan towards my previous post and will clarify my position, and also correct any errors on my part. I want to be very clear: I have no dog to lose in this particular topic. As a Swedenborgian I don’t really mind that we don’t know the authors of many of the book contained in the Bible. My approach to sacred text is not riding on accurate attribution to authorship. If we don’t know who wrote The Odyssey, The Vedas, The Tao Te Ching, The Bible, or the Qu’ran FOR SURE, that doesn’t bother me in the least bit. It makes me wonder who is the audience for iERA’s video? No doubt Muslims seeking confirmation bias without doing any research on their own, and Christians whom iERA is no doubt hoping will not know about the subjects of contested authorship of the gospels and the textual transmission of the New Testament and will be so shocked and amazed that they will drop kick Christianity to the curb and be ready for their Shahadha. My assumption is based on the fact that near the end of the video Hamza and Adnan essentially state that they are doing this to “educate people who don’t know,” and they are very much concern for people(i.e. Christian’s) salvation.

  1. One can argue that most sophisticated scholars and theologians accept the fact that we don’t know FOR SURE who actually wrote the gospels. They are also aware of the textual criticism of the New Testament and yet this does not affect either their faith, or their appreciation for the sacred scripture of Christianity. There are traditions recorded and attributed to various early church fathers who claim they know the original authors of the gospels. Do we know for certain that these traditions are accurate? Well until someone builds a time machine or bumps into Doctor Who, we will never know FOR SURE. Yet, tradition is a very interesting thing indeed. As humans we seem to have this psychological necessity for wanting to know the origins of… well…everything. Hence why people search for historical evidence and come up with theories as to the original authorship of such texts as the Bible, Qu’ran and Vedas. Again, just because we cannot be 100% certain of the authorship of these text, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater as the saying goes.

That brings me to my re-assessment of iERA’s video based on further pondering and considering Adnan’s tweets towards me. One thing that irks me, as a comparative religion nerd is when someone doesn’t tell their audience the full story. In my previous post I went out of my way to mention Daniel Wallace, James White, and Michael Kruger. Why? Because these three scholars study the topics of the textual transmission of the Bible, the authorship questions and the issues of the canon and yet they do not reach the skeptical position that Bart Ehrman does in his works. Why is this an important thing to highlight? Because the gentlemen of iERA only cited Ehrman and Metzger without bothering to (1) mention the other scholars in the field that have challenged Ehrman on several fronts and (2) addressed the question of: does Metzger’s works actually sync with the way they are used by iERA. No. Hence why I posted the debate between Wallace and Ehrman, Kruger’s site and the interview of Bruce Metzger before his death. I think it is great that iERA is reading Bart Ehrman, I personally own most of his works and consider him an obvious scholar in the field of textual criticism, but is he the only game in town? No.

I asked Adnan on Twitter if he has read Kruger or Wallace and he, well, didn’t answer. Maybe he has, but he prefers Ehrman’s argumentation. That’s great! But at least mention to your audience that there are scholars in the field who do not agree with Ehrman’s conclusions of the hyper-skeptical approach to the textual transmission of the New Testament. Rather, it would be good for everyone to read as many scholars in a particular field that represent the entire spectrum, and then derive one’s opinions based on that particular exercise.

Some videos on this subject:(NOTE: I don’t necessarily agree with everything stated by Kruger in this clips, but I do think people should read and listen to what he has to say on this subject as opposed to just relying on Ehrman.)

2. Adnan asked me if there was any false claims made in their video. At the time I was writing my original blog post I was not accusing them of being “false.” However I would like to clarify now that I thought their video left out other elements of the topics they were discussing. They only mentioned and used two scholars(as previous discussed in this post) and did not bother informing their audience of the nuances of the authorship, canonization and transmission of the New Testament. I have an issue with that in particular. So no Adnan, nothing FALSE, but certainly selective.

3. He then tweets to me that I was being selective with the Tafsir links I provided regarding Surah 2:79, which Adnan himself quoted in the iERA video to demonstrate, from his interpretation, that the Qu’ran teaches the corruption of the scripture of the people of the book. I took issue with that, because I recalled that many tafsirs do not take that interpretation(for this specific verse), but rather state that Surah 2:79 is to be understood as the idea that the Jews changed the descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad which was supposed to be in the Torah. Now granted the Tafsirs I quoted do not all agree 100% on how exactly these things were changed, but I digress. The point is Adnan tweets to me: “as for tafsir, if you read your links carefully, there were varying reasons why scriptures were changed. Why choose one”- I linked the tafsirs where in they specifically commented on Surah 2:79 since that was the Quranic verse quoted by Adnan himself. I am not sure what he means by only one? Only one what? One verse? One interpretation? I would need Adnan to tell me which tafsir is the preferred one.

4. Now coming to the most important part of this article. I will admit to one error on my end: on Twitter I said that Adnan made it sound like Papias was the ONLY witness to the authorship of the gospels. I was in error in saying that. Rather in my original blog post I clearly demonstrated that at minute 7:26 Adnan states ONE MAN, Papias attributed the authorship of the four gospels. He then contradicts himself but later stating at minute 10:15 that there are more witnesses than Papist but he is the EARLIEST. I simply pointed out this contradiction. So yes, sorry Adnan, I didn’t mean to say that you ONLY said Papias was the lone witnesses, but you still contradict yourself in this video and that needs to be mentioned. Now if you are saying that your latter statement at minute 10:15 is your correct view, then that is fine.

I also want to thank you for telling me to re-watch your video starting at minute 10:05 because I picked up on an TWO additional errors that I missed during my first viewing. (1) At minute 10:15-10:19 Adnan and Hamza state that Papias(being the earliest) made the attributions of authorship. On Twitter Adnan even challenges me to produce an earlier authority than Papias regarding the authorship of the FOUR gospels. Papias doesn’t even discuss the authorship of the gospels of Luke and John, but only discusses Mark and Matthew. So it would be an error to make this challenge. At minute 7:24 Adnan says one man(Papias) attributed the authors of the four gospels. This is an error on Adnan’s part. One would have to go to other church father’s on a discussion of Luke and John. Again I want to point out that at minute 8:08-8:20 that the attribution of the four gospels rests on ONE man, that is Papias. This again is not only FALSE, but is contradicted later by Adnan at minute 10:15. (2) When Hamza asks Adnan how did Papias justify his testimony and Adnan replies(speaking for Papias): “well this is my view….” and Hamza interjects: “That’s it!” Adnan replies: “That’s it yeah…” Really!? If one checks Euseibus’ Ecclesiastical History: Book 3 Chapter 39 we see that Papias knew Polycarp . He also states that while he didn’t hear these things from the disciples directly but that he heard them from “elders” and “intimate friends” of the disciples and apostles. Papias goes on to name Aristion and John the Prebyter as giving him detailed information regarding the disciples and that Mark was the author of the gospel bearing his name. Papias also mentions meeting and talking with Justus(mentioned in the Book of Acts) and the daughter of Phillip. My source for this is “Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History-complete and unabridged-New updated edition-translated by C.F.Cruse pages. 103-106. So we can see that contrary to Adnan’s statement in the video, Papias did not just say “these are my views” regarding what he knew of the previous generations understanding of scripture and other topics, but actually knew important people and gained knowledge from them.

In closing the only “mistake” or “error” on my part that Adnan alluded to on Twitter is when I stated that he makes it sound like that Papias was the ONLY authority to mention the authorship of the gospels. This was an error on my part and I admit it. However I made that error on Twitter and NOT in my previous post. As stated above, I previously mentioned that Adnan contradicts himself in the iERA video. At one point he states that it is ONLY Papias, but then later says Papias is EARLIEST. If Adnan, as he stated on Twitter, claims that at minute 10:05- 10:15 he was clearly clarifying his point,  then I have no problem. I also apologize for making my own reasons for writing my previous post known to the readers. I hope that this article will clarify not only my own reasons for analyzing this video but also continue the excellent discourse on these topics. I want to thank Adnan again for taking the time to engage with me on Twitter and for reading my article even if he found it: “not a very impressive rebuttal.”

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iERA and the Bible

The gentlemen at iERA/Mission Dawah are at it again. In the above video they go about trying to disprove the Bible by discussing textual criticism and other related topics. I would like to highlight some of their arguments and show not only some issues with what they present but also illustrated their double standards. If we take iERA’s approach to the Bible and use it against the Qu’ran, we would have probably have to reject both text.

Before diving into my analysis of this video I would like to direct your attention to the debate between Adnan Rashid(who is in this video) versus Dr. James White on the topic of the textual transmission of the Bible and the Quran. I think you will see that Dr. White’s arguments are much more solid than Adan’s, and many of the arguments presented by Dr. White refute the assertions of this video. They can be seen by following the links below:

Now to the present video. At minute 1:11 Adnan and Hamza discuss, from their Muslim point of view, how they view the Bible based on the teachings of Islam. They mention Qu’ran chapter 2:79 and attribute this to the Bible being corrupted. Do early Muslim scholars agree with this? Check out the below links to see some classical Tafsirs(commentary) on the subject:

It would seem from the above Tafsirs that the majority understand this verse to be talking about the Jews and their tampering with the description of the Prophet Muhammad in their scripture. Now this is a different topic, namely: did the Torah ever contain a description of Muhammad?, but for now we see that the idea that the whole Bible is suspect is something only suggested by Ibn Kathir.

To be fair, both Hamza and Adnan say that SOME truth may be in the Bible, but the original revelations have been corrupted, a human element. They say the Qu’ran is the criterion of the older scripture.

At 4:50 they then begin to discuss the textual transmission and criticism of the Bible. They do admit that the majority of the differences between the biblical manuscripts is minor, but they then go on to discuss major additions to the manuscripts. They talk about the gospel of John chapter 7, the long ending of the gospel of Mark. Now at 6:09 Hamza says “but they would argue these don’t have any significance theologically.” Adnan responds: “They do!” Really? Adnan then says that the episode of the woman taken into adultery is used by Christians to illustrate that Jesus didn’t uphold the Law of Moses and therefore, according to Paul, Christians don’t need to follow the Torah. Even if that is true, what about the countless other places in all four gospels wherein Jesus acts contrary to the Torah as the Pharisees understood it? What of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus reinterprets the Law of Moses? I think this is a very weak strawman that Adnan has created to make it look like John chapter 7 is somehow a huge problem theologically because it doesn’t appear in the oldest manuscripts. I beg to differ.

At 7:26 Adnan states that ONE MAN-Papias attributed the four gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Really!? And at 8:17 Hamza clarifies, as he rightfully should!, by asking that the atttribution of the four gospels as far as authorship rests on ONE man from the early 2nd century, meaning Papias. He says yes. But is this true? That this claims rests on the testimony of just this one man? Below are links that utterly disprove this assertion by Adnan:

It would appear that Papias is NOT the only early Christian to attest to the authorship of the gospels, contradicting what Adnan states in this video.

At 9:46 Adnan goes on to say that we don’t have enough evidence to suggest that the authors of the gospels were eyewitnesses to the events and therefore we cannot be sure that they are the actual words of Jesus. He also mentions, albeit in passing, the Qu’ran and hadiths and implies that we CAN trust these two sources. Really? He even says the MOST polemical wouldn’t doubt that the Qu’ran. In “light of recent scholarship…” that the Qu’ran comes from the time of Muhammad. Oh really? I would direct your attention to the recent scholarship done by Gabriel Reynolds on this subject(specifically based on the Birmingham findings):

It should be noted that many scholars in the field of Islamic Studies are not totally convinced by the traditional narrations regarding the evolution of the Quran. Please see the following video by the YouTuber Klingschor for an excellent book list that everyone should take note of:

I should mention the above sources also do not accept the hadiths and sirah as presented by Islam’s traditional narrations. I would advise Adnan to read these books so that when he again compares the Bible and Islam’s textual sources, he can see them in equal light as opposed to making assumptions to one religions text over the other’s.

At 9:46 Adnan states that if we had a document from the time of the author, then that would be evidence. He should probably have the same attitude about the Qu’ran and hadiths right?

10:15-Contradiction! Adnan states that there were more than ONE authority regarding who wrote the gospels, but then says the EARLIEST is Papias. I am sorry Adnan, you cannot have it both ways. Which one is it? (1) ONLY or (2) EARLIEST?

At 10:26 Hamza asks Adnan about the cannon of scripture. Did the early church fathers agree on the canon. Adnan replies: “No.” He claims the list of the canon of the New Testament varied from place, time, and person. He lists Origen, Ignatious, Clement, etc. their lists differed from each other.  The links below will show that Adnan is very much simplifying this discussion regarding the Canon of the New Testament:

Adnan quotes Ehrman and Metzger throughout, either directly, or via text on their screen. I would ask Adnan this question: Would Metzger agree with that way in which he has utilize the scholar as a source in this video? After reading the following interview with Meztger, I would personally say no:

Further, the debate between Daniel Wallace and Bart Ehrman should cast doubt on anyone who takes Ehrman 100%:

At 14:32 Adnan says that he has met Priests in Africa who don’t know about the authorship and textual criticism of the NT. Funny, I know a number of Muslims who don’t know about the critical scholarship being done on the Qu’ran and hadiths. I suppose many people need to be educated!

15:21- Adnan implies that the motivation for engaging with Jews and Christians on this topic is regarding their salvation. Glad to see we have found the main motivation for iERA’s work!

I would also like to point out I agree with the idea of educating oneself on the topic of the evolution of scripture as it has come down to us throughout the centuries. However I disagree with these tactics done by iERA. If I apply the same standards that Adnan uses to the Bible on the Qu’ran, then I would have to reject BOTH documents outright. However I do not take these extreme view. I don’t just quote a couple scholars but read many scholars from the vast spectrum of academia. If I wanted to base my argument on authority I could simply cite Daniel Wallace and Kruger and be done with it. However I think that is a disservice to the topic. Further, I must agree with James White, that we need consistency, something he illustrated in his debate with Adnan, as linked above, but something that apparently Adnan has not caught onto yet. Perhaps with time and patience he will see things differently.

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Like two ships passing in the night

I recently watched this debate between two atheists(Krauss and Shermer) Vs. two Christian Theists(D’Souza and Hutchinson.) Interesting enough both sides made compelling arguments that I agreed with, and yet I thought both sides were talking past each, hopelessly unable to see things from each other’s perspective. Perhaps I exaggerate the severity of these two ships passing the night, but I found it to reflect the current example of the typical discourse/debate raging regarding the topic of religion. On one hand we have the fundamentalist/dogmatic religious approach. On the other side, the atheist(skeptic/reductionist.) Both sides at the core contradict each other when it comes to the topic under discussion.

The subject of the debate was, does science disprove God. The first fundamental issue with this topic is the focus, science, being the lens by which a person would try to understand or prove God. One thing I run into in studying psychology and psychotherapy is the difference between qualitative and quantitative proof. This is also something that comes up for philosophy as well, in the context of metaphysics.  Quantitative proof is typically objective in nature and is used by the the  majority of scientific disciplines: physics, biology, chemistry etc. Qualitative proof is used in psychology, psychotherapy, and forms of philosophy, and are subjective in nature. Now granted I am generalizing, and speaking in a typical fashion. Obviously both types of proofs  can be attempted to be utilized by various disciplines. One example is psychology. There are sub-disciplines within psychology that focus on quantitative/objective proofs: such as experimental, cognitive, and physiological/biological psychology. Research labs use qualitative methods to test hypothesis regarding human behavior and cognition. However Clinical and Counseling psychology focus on qualitative/subjective case studies to understand what is happening internally with clients/patients in the context or therapy and psychopathology. One can naturally see where both types of proofs can intertwine, as they regularly do in psychology, but there are apparent preferred methods depending on the context. We must keep this in mind when discussing metaphysics and religion.

The current issue surrounding the discussion of God is when both sides(reductionist/skeptical and dogmatic theism) focus on science(objective/qualitative) to discuss the subject. People look at nature and the cosmos to prove or disprove religion and the divine. One side looks at the material world objectively and claims that there is no physical evidence for God. The other side argues back and claims that science can point believers towards the divine, or even go so far as the literally look at scripture and attempt to apply passages to supposed scientific concepts. Both sides are using objective reasoning to boost their position in the debate. That is why they find themselves in conflict, because they are joining together in this particular game of theoretical chess.

Shermer in his closing statement actually reduces God to a natural concept. He argues that if God were a natural being or interfered with nature, there should be physical evidence of this particular action. He then states that if there is a God, and if we were to know this God, it would have to be a part of nature. He suggests that a totally transcendent God cannot be known by us, one that is above nature. He also states that we create the concept of God in our minds. I will deal with both of these arguments and offer two alternatives to these points raised.

  1. God above nature: known or unknown?: Immanuel Kant suggests that God can be known although he is utterly transcendent. When it comes to objective metaphysics one cannot point to the typical proofs of God which do focus on physical reality or nature. However when it comes to the subjective, we can know God via priori ideas that are transcendent, which motive us to engage in self-exploration and moral improvement. God may be known based on intuitive subjective knowledge and experiences. This is in the realm of the qualitative proof. This would be a response to the notion proposed by Shermer in his closing argument that to know a metaphysical deity would demand God to be observed in nature. Kant would argue that anything metaphysical is beyond our limited cognition, and thus is purely objective speculation which cannot prove anything. Rather it is to the realm of the subjective we must focus our attention.
  2. In the are of Jungian psychology we can now turn to Shermer’s second statement regarding our minds creating God. Carl Jung declared that each person subjectively creates details of the God-Image archetype which each person has within their psyches. This archetype stands for the spiritual experiences people have, the great mystery or “oceanic” feeling we have which is purely on the subjective level. Jung, like Kant, would say that these subjective psychological elements cannot be used to make objective metaphysical claims, rather they create a purpose and stand for something spiritually experienced. We cannot use psychology, or the argument that humans “create an idea of God” to disprove or prove something metaphysically objective.

Both arguments I have proposed understand that our cognition is limited when it comes to objective, transcendental ideas. Priori ideas, archetypes of the collective unconscious, and primordial images(from Plato) are experienced subjectively but cannot be used to prove anything objective or metaphysical. If one adopts both of these areas, one based on philosophy, the other on psychology, one can see why the above debate leaves one unable to relate fully to either side. That is why, when I watched it, I found both sides making excellent arguments, but missing each other. For me, my perspective was like a third boat, observing the other two passing each other in the night. I will no doubt write and Vlog more on this particular subject, but I felt that in watching the debate it was a good starting point.

For a detailed understanding of a Kantian way of looking at religion see this link:

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Tom Holland on Muhammad

The above video struck me as one of the most objective of it’s kind that I have seen in years. Tom Holland, famous historian who wrote a book entitled: “In the Shadows of the Sword” and was responsible for the documentary: Islam-The Untold Story, does an excellent job of discussing the current issues with ISIS and Islamic extremism. He doesn’t cherry pick verses or blame liberal Muslims or extremist Muslims. He focuses his argument on the future evolution of Islam and how might the religion change in the modern era.

I boil down his arguments into two points:

1. Muslim’s must rediscover their traditions which have been suppressed or neglected by the current Reform movement of Salafism(i.e. a Renaissance). They must focus on the aspect of Muhammad’s life that are not aligned with the highlights that could be used by ISIS. As Holland puts it, Deradicalizing Muhammad.

2. Muslims must engage in critical analysis on their own religion. This can be done by accepting and investigating the works of both non-Muslim and Muslim scholars who critically look at the origins of Islam, the Quran, and the Hadith. Instead of viewing this as a threat to religious identity, which surely it is for many believers, they must see this as natural historical investigation. In essence: when one has a natural critical skeptical view of one’s own faith, the less likely one will be to promote a literal dogmatic version of the religion in question.

Both points highlighted above will certainly lead Islam into an age of Enlightenment. Now I am aware that there are critics that do not agree with the parallel analysis of the evolution of Islam with Christianity or Judaism, but the parallels can hardly be ignored. Islam’s reformation is here. We are living it right now as a global community, I argued this in a previous post, and I am glad to see that others are pointing this out to large audiences.

Is there hope for Islam? I think so. I may not be a member of the faith any longer, but I certainly see the critical analysis, if accept by most Muslims, leading the way to not losing one’s religious identity but certainly letting go of any temptation for a literalistic/dogmatic religious approach. Will dogma ever truly go away? Certainly not, one only has to look at modern Christianity to establish that even though the religion experienced the Enlightenment and healthy criticism, there are still those who hold onto the literal/dogmatic approach. But did the modern investigation into the Bible, the early history of Christianity, and the dogmatic theology help many Christians establish a more critical/liberal approach to faith? Yes. And it is with that hope that the same can happen with Islam.

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Defending Freud…against Sam Harris!?

My most recent YouTube video was a book review of Sam Harris’ book “Waking Up.” In giving the book review I was unable, considering the length of the video, to cover everything I wanted to discuss. As I previously said in the video, I agreed with most of what Harris wrote in his book. There were a few places, such as metaphysical concepts, or hypothesis as I would like to call them, that we obviously will not agree on. Another place that I found surprising was his discussion, albeit brief, on Sigmund Freud.

On page 75 of his book he says: “The realization that the unconscious mind must have some cognitive and emotional structure was the foundation of Freud’s work and also the stage upon which he erected an impressively unscientific mythology.” Really! I now find myself having to defend elements of Freud and psychoanalysis against Sam Harris? I really didn’t see that coming!

As some of you might know, I am more of a Jungian than a Freudian. But I must confess that ever since entering my Masters in Counseling program and studying the theories in depth and also working with clients, I have established an appreciation for psychoanalysis and the writings of Freud. Do I agree with everything Freud wrote or said? No. Thank goodness. Do I think it’s great that modern day psychoanalysis has evolved his theories and therapeutic techniques when working with clients? Yes! Having said that, I think it is strange that Harris outright dismisses Freud’s contribution to the study of the human mind, consciousness, and behavior. Many aspects of Freud’s theories, in the field of psychotherapy and psychology are a given. I would say that instinct is something we might not be able to study in a lab(the favorite place for Harris to establish the truth as per “Waking Up”) but when it comes to working with client’s and observing the psyche in terms of behavior, many aspects of his theories are fact.

Take the id, ego, superego structure of the psyche. In recent psychoanalytical literature and thought, this conflict of the psyche is a given. Take this example:

-Colin sees the newest book by Sam Harris in his local bookstore and wishes to own it. He loves books, and he happens to be very interested in Sam Harris and his thoughts at this point in time, he has already devoted two YouTube videos to responding to Sam Harris and wishes to study more so he can make potential future videos. He has a problem, the book cost $26.00. He doesn’t have cash on him, it is near the end of the month, bills will be due soon. He doesn’t want to spend money from his checking account and face the reality of money he SHOULDN’T spend, going out. He struggles with this very nerdy dilemma and then realizes he can just charge it on his credit car, obtain the book, and worry about the money issues at a later date.

This story above illustrates Freud’s views on the conflict of the psyche. The id(impulsiveness wants what it wants), the superego(the moral objection and reminder of the economics of the situation) and the ego( the balancing act to finally come up with a compromise are represented.) I daresay that many of us can relate to this very subjective and yet very real experience, but in a variety of different contexts.

I would like to point out that the only “mythology” that Freud can be credited with is his outdated notions of the literal application of the Oedipus Complex as being the source for the structures within the psyche. Many modern psychoanalysis do not approach his theories literally and take many aspects with a grain of salt. Having said that, psychoanalysis is still a very popular and widely used form of psychotherapy and Freud is still the foundation for many theoretical and practical aspects within the field. Does that make him totally right? No of course not. But, that doesn’t mean we should dismiss him outright as I see Harris doing in his book. If anything Depth Psychology(Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian) can offer great insight into the exploration of the psyche and consciousness studies, something that Harris wishes to see as he expressed in his book, namely: people taking a greater interest in the investigation of the final frontier of the human mind.

In ending this article I also want to point out that in Harris’ own field there is a bridge being extended to my own(psychotherapy) and psychoanalysis in particular. That of Neruo-psychoanalysis. I wonder if Sam Harris has looked into their investigations when it comes to the human mind and behavior? Below I will post some links to their various organizations. Enjoy! Thanks for reading!

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Sam Harris on Big Think

Before you read this post I would encourage you to watch the following video on YouTube:

I made a recent video on my YouTube channel which critiqued Harris’ critique of a non-literal understanding of scripture, be it the Bible or the Quran, Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

His book, “The End of Faith” was published in 2005 and this was this source of his critique. However, I stated in my video that perhaps Sam Harris changed his views on on this subject, and referenced his more recent book, “Waking Up.” I will discuss this newer book in a future post or video. For the purpose of this post I want to discuss a clip from Big Think which featured Sam Harris discussing this very subject of understanding of scripture that was uploaded in 2011. Being a more recent by Harris on this subject I would like to critique it as well.

I will proceed to give the minute and second mark where I am offering a critique of Harris’ statements in the video regarding understanding and reading of scripture.

From the very beginning of the video from 0:0-0:40 Harris mentions the criticism that Atheists only focus on the literal reading of scripture, no better than fundamentalists. Indeed, like Harris mentions at this point, in my own recent video I made the claim(phrasing it as Reductionist Vs. literal dogmatic) , that many people ignore the sophisticated Symbolic reading of scripture.

Harris doesn’t appear to deny this criticism but instead at 0:48 says that for those, like myself, who would make this criticism, we are failing to recognize just how many people do look at scripture literally. Some people might fail to look at this, but in my own video I state clearly that Harris’ book does a great job of criticizing this exact perceptive, that of the dogmatic literalist. However many of us in the Symbolic/Allegorical camp DO NOT ignore this fact, the fact that many people in our current age DO read text literally. We go so far as to say that 1) this is an issue and 2) we represent a different way of approaching scripture.

From minute 1:09-2:01 Harris discusses various forms of literalism, some take the whole body of scripture literally, some take aspects of the text literally while viewing others supposedly in a non-literal light. He mentions religious people who cherry pick or ignore passages. Some look at passages in their historical context. I agree with Harris that many religious people do approach the text in the various ways he mentions, but for the purposes of this article and my critique, I am more interested in the literal vs. non-literal reading of scripture, which the questions posed to Harris originally sought to discuss.

He then goes on to argue that outside modern pressures are forcing religious people to reevaluate their understanding of scripture. I think this is true for some, but for many, they haven’t been reading the majority or all of their scripture literally but rather Symbolic or Allegorically. This tradition of non-literal approach has been around for many centuries, well before the modern era. This is something that really needs to be remembered when studying the history of scriptural interpretation.

At minute 4:42 the question is asked of Harris if God could have been speaking in metaphor. Harris totally ignores this question. He instead critiques the idea of God authoring a text or inspiring one. He doesn’t even touch the question of speaking in symbolism of metaphor. I find this very interesting and telling. As I mention in my video on YouTube, the reductionist critical camp and the literal dogmatic camp approach scripture, at least in the majority, in a literal context. This is due to the fact that to look beyond the manifest content requires serious study in systematic allegorical interpretation which can be found in all religions.

If we are talking about Jewish Mysticism, some of the early Church Fathers of Christianity, Swedenborg, Islamic Tafsirs, the Upanishads, psycho-spiritual/psychoanalytically, and modern commentary, the concept of thinking of scripture in a deeper fashion has been and is still done by spiritual and religious people. It requires one to be a serious student of this tradition and approach and is not something that everyone is good at, or perhaps cares to engage.  I do think Harris represents a camp that is unwilling to either 1)engage in this particular style of reading scripture 2) or worse, is woefully ignorant of it. I can only hope that this article and my current video on YouTube will inspire people to see past the two warring camps of Reductionist and Dogmatic Literalist and see the potentiality of the Symbolic/Allegorical approach to scripture.

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