Archive | March, 2015

Press Release: Credo Courses Has Launched

We’re so excited to announce that Credo Courses now has its own website! Credo Courses is designed to help people know why the believe what they believe so they can better serve God.

Credo Courses Homepage

The goal of Credo House/Reclaiming the Mind Ministries has always been to make theology accessible. For two years we’ve been working on a plan to accomplish just that. We didn’t want to simply repeat what everyone else was doing, so we intentionally designed Credo Courses to be more in-depth than anything else available.

A Dream Conceived

Since my first day at seminary, I thought, “I need to do everything I can to get this stuff out there… to everyone!”  The depth and level of teaching at seminary was what so many Christians were missing out on. And it wasn’t just Christians who would benefit from what I was learning. Those just seeking to understand Christianity could also benefit.

Many of my professors had wrestled with their faith and come out stronger on the other side. I wanted everyone to be able to learn from my professors.

A Dream Born

Today, the dream of so many years ago had become a reality. You may have heard us talking about it before. You may have even helped Kickstart some of the courses. But now, Credo Courses has it’s own home online where it can focus on serving those interested in taking their religious education even deeper.

Credo Courses Logo

What You Can Expect

While many of the courses are complete, we’re launching with just one, Christian Apologetics 101 from Dr. Doug Groothius. This is the same course that Dr. Groothuis teaches at Denver Seminary.

This launch is very strategic. We’re releasing courses one at a time so that we can learn what our customers need as we go. We’ve put the website through its paces (thanks to all those who have been involved), so your experience should be smooth.

Credo Courses Are Digital First

The popularity of services like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and Pandora shows that digital content is becoming more popular every day. Recognizing this trend, Credo Courses are digital first.

When you purchase a digital audio or digital video version of a Credo Course (and specific lectures as we make that option available), you’ll get the following:

  • Instant Downloads: The audio and video (or both) are instantly available.
  • Streaming Access to Your Course Online 24/7: Don’t want to download all those files? No problem! You can stream your classes anytime you want.
  • Interaction: You can interact with other students by commenting on each lecture.

What You Can Do at Credo Courses

Please visit, take a look at all the courses that are “coming soon”, purchase Christian Apologetics, and let us know what you think (good and bad…but please be nice). If you’re more interested in The Book of Revelation we’ve got a 27-part course from Dr. Mark Hitchcock that we’ve already received rave feedback about.

Christian Apologetics 101 by Dr. Douglas GroothuisThe Book of Revelation by Dr. Mark Hitchcock

Perhaps you’re not ready to jump right in and buy a course. We understand. You may want to signup for the Credo Courses Newsletter so you won’t miss out on the launch of new courses, scholar interviews, and the latest coupons and sales.

We pray that Credo Courses will glorify God by bringing people the truth in a clear, compelling, well-informed way.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns just email

Who Represents True Islam? Moderates or Extremists?

Who Represents True Islam? Moderates or Extremists?

There’s a fight brewing among the cultural left. These people usually agree with each other, especially on important issues. But they’re fighting over Islam. Maybe you heard Bill Maher and Sam Harris duking it out with Ben Affleck[1] a few months ago. More recently, Maher mixed it up with Howard Dean[2] over the same issue. And just what is that issue?

Knights FIghting

Copyright: Grisha Bruev /

In short, Islam has a big problem. It seems to reproduce the worst kinds of radicals and extremists. It appears more prone to this than any other major world religion. Wherever you find a predominance of Muslims, the seed of dangerous extremism is usually taking root.

A typical day in the news includes reports of murderous Muslims killing civilians in cruel ways. This happens with ghastly consistency. We’re pummeled by the unbroken media coverage of this apparently global disease. Many have the unfair but understandable impression that Islam is a religion of death. To one degree or another they see all Muslims as wild-eyed barbarians.

$4.99 – $9.99 The Problem of Islam Digital Download

The Two Sides of the Islam Debate

This is what has liberals bickering with each other. Some “leftists” don’t like any religious people of any sort. They see this violence as another reason we should all be secular. For them, the problem is Islam itself. A greater number on the left want to maintain the politically correct stance. President Obama appears to be in this second group. They seek to separate extremists from Islam entirely. For them, Islam is a religion of peace and love with no connection to the ongoing violence. They say that it’s crazy extremists, falsely claiming to be Muslims, who are responsible.

Who’s Right: Bill Maher or Howard Dean?

So who has the right view of this situation? Maher blames Islam proper for the thousands of murders in the past few years. Is he fair to do so?  Is cruelty and terror a latent feature of the religion itself? Howard Dean disagrees completely. He asserts that none of the terrorist organizations or individuals are actually Muslim. He says we shouldn’t even use that word to describe them. This seems to be a script that those in the current White House seem to be following. Are they right?

Since I generally regard the views of those on the far left as misguided, it should come as no surprise that I think both sides are wrong.  But they’re wrong in different ways. Making sense of the crisis of rampant extremism means understanding some background on Islam.

A Brief History Lesson

Military conquest has been in the Islamic DNA from the start. The birthplace of Muhammad largely rejected his message in the beginning. Muhammad relocated to a city that later would be known as Medina (in his honor). He eventually turned the tide and won Mecca over. How did he persuade those who had spurned him at first? He conquered the city of his birth with a massive army. Islam’s remarkable and rapid spread after the prophet’s death was by sheer military prowess.

The Crusaders Marching Embattled Gainst the Saracens of Graft by C Hassman

The Crusaders Marching Embattled Gainst the Saracens of Graft by C Hassman

Islam, as a religion, followed close on the heels of Islamic military conquests. The newly unified and highly motivated Arab armies won an impressive string of victories. No major religion has ever spread by such strictly military means.

The campaign to establish an Islamic world empire began in Syria. It spread to Persia, Palestine, then to Egypt and other parts of North Africa. Muslims crossed into Europe and captured most of Spain. They conquered almost all the Mediterranean islands from the Italians and Byzantines[3]. They had committed soldiers, a dexterous cavalry, and a secret weapon: the camel. They were a world power to be reckoned with.

The Muslim Identity Crisis

Fast-forward to today. Corrupt and dishonest Islamic cyber-recruiters distort history to sign up ignorant and impressionable youths.

First, they instill a sense of pride in the military prowess of early Muslims. They glory in the early empires these Muslim conquerors built. The Middle East, India, North Africa, and Spain were all under their control. They reminisce about an Islamic golden age when the arts, science, and culture flourished.

Second, the radical clerics paint a vivid picture of how this golden age ended. Naturally, the “infidels” are to blame. These early infidels were Christians, especially European crusaders.

Today the crusades have been vilified. In fact, the crusades were merely a response to Muslim aggression[4]. The aim was to help Byzantine Christians in the east take back the Holy Land. This was some of the land the Muslim armies had acquired by violence. Still, the Crusades feature largely in the propagandistic message of radicals. Osama Bin Laden brought this to everyone’s awareness in his interview with Al-Jazeera. As the Iraq war began he said, “This is a battle of Muslims against the global crusaders.”[5]


Crusader from the Matson Photo Service

This account of history, if it can be called history, is grossly distorted hype. It’s designed to recruit and motivate brainwashed brigades of killers. Medieval Muslim armies were the initiators of conflict with:

  • Byzantine Christians
  • Persians
  • Egyptians
  • Syrians
  • Greeks
  • Europeans

Muslims drew first blood through invasion.[6] Is it shocking that a civilization would respond militarily to hordes of foreign invaders? Can anyone miss the irony? Radical Islamists denounce the European imperialism. At the same time though they praise Muslim imperialism of the High Middle Ages?

It should be added that warfare between Muslims began early a well. History tells a brutal story of infighting going back to the death of Muhammad.

The Sunni and Shia factions originated in the debate about who should succeed Muhammad.[7] When Sunnis and Shias bomb each other we’re seeing an ancient blood feud in action. It’s sadly ironic that radical Muslims are the world’s leading Muslim-killers.

The militarism of modern Islamic extremists is due to a sense of connectedness with an Islamic past they see as glorious. This history is one permeated by fighting. They fought as conquers in order to spread Islam. They fought the “infidels” who opposed or responded to their aggression. They also fought each other for power and control over their growing kingdom.

Who are the “True” Muslims?

If you traveled to an Islamic country you could expect to have a great experience. Just don’t visit one that’s being torn apart by war or strongly affected by radicalism. A couple of weeks in Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, or Indonesia, would be worth your time and money. You’d find regular people going about their business. They are kind and hospitable. Most of them work hard, enjoy a good meal, like to sit in cafes or other places having coffee, smoke a hookah, laugh, and carry on. It’s all very normal. You’d also find certain devoutness among most of them. The men go to nearby mosques to pray daily. Their religious lives are not compartmentalized like we see in American culture. Religion permeates all of life for them.


Copyright: Naufal MQ

Islam’s grip is fairly tight, then, even in these more moderate places. You’d likely notice some things you’d disapprove of:

  • The rights of women would fall below the standard of American acceptance.
  • Attempting to convert Muslims would get you arrested.
  • There are still blasphemy laws in many places.
  • There are occasional ‘honor killings.’

All that being said, in these more moderate Muslim countries, you probably would not feel threatened at all. Unless, of course, you happened to be in Cairo during the ‘Arab Spring’ protests.

You would probably like the people you met in these places. You might even return home with a positive vibe about Muslims as people. This is not to say that you wouldn’t perceive their society as problematic. Specifically, their concepts of rights and freedoms are very different from those in the west.

My homemade, authentic, Arab-style hummus will testify that I’ve had such an experience. I visited the Palestinian territories years ago. This place isn’t usually on any tourist brochures, but I must say that I developed a certain fondness for many of the people I met. So many of them just seemed like nice and normal families who happen to live in a context of political tension.  When I think about these ‘nice’ and ‘normal’ Muslim people, I really want them to be the torchbearers for genuine Islam.

Having meet those people I want to take the politically correct view and declare, with Obama & Dean, that the throat-cutters are not true Muslims. There’s a little wishful thinking involved, to be sure.  Wouldn’t we all breathe easier if we knew that the peaceful majority represents true Islam?
Unfortunately there are some problems staring back at me when I attempt to justify this in my own mind.

Liking Something Doesn’t Make It True

As much as we might want to, we’re not in any position to make a ruling on what ‘true Islam’ is. All we can say is, “This is the Islam that I prefer.” Judging what is authentic Islam is notoriously difficult. The Qur’an is not an easily interpreted text. It is ancient, poetic/lyrical, short, and locked into a centuries-old form of Arabic. Thus it is open to vastly divergent interpretations.

The large body of Hadith literature that came later is supposed to clarify Quranic teaching. Sadly this literature is itself a confusing mess and much debated between Islamic factions. Want to find passages to justify peace, love, and justice? You can do that. Want to find passages to justify war, persecution, subjugation, and cruelty? You can do that as well.

Siege of Jerusalem by Crusaders 1099

Siege of Jerusalem by Crusaders 1099

Thus it is for moderate Muslims to fight the intellectual battle for the definition of Islam. Non-Muslims have little hope of success. Even the best efforts of knowledgeable Muslims are unlikely to persuade the wild-eyed extremists. But at least a credible case would have been made.

What Should Our Perspective Be?

Non-Muslims have no spiritual stake in the internal Muslim debate on:

  • Differing traditions of interpretation of the Qur’an
  • Different collections of authoritative Hadith teachings
  • Allegiances to different Islamic leaders in the world today

Christians believe that all interpretations of Islam are wrong with regard to spiritual and doctrinal issues. Secularists either agree, or they give it no thought at all. For Christians there is no “true Islam” in the strict sense. Presumably there’s a historically accurate understanding of Islam. An accurate view would be based to Islam’s origins and authoritative sources. However, Accuracy does not equal truth. Accuracy doesn’t move the spiritual “needle” any more than inaccuracy.

That being said, other concerns exist for those outside Islam. The most pressing is the heinous brutality and violence that certain participants in the wider Islamic debate justify. They fund, teach and oversee it without remorse. This part of the battle for historic Islam is important to all of us.

Consider a religious comparison. Almost nobody outside of India is concerned with the philosophical or religious debates between different Hindu schools of thought. Few people bother to know about the interpretational differences between Reformed and Orthodox Jews. I doubt most Westerners would care whether a Buddhist coworker was of the Tibetan, Japanese Zen, or Theravada variety. For that matter, few Americans could probably tell you the differences between Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. And they generally don’t care.

Even in society of religious ignorance and apathy, we have a very important reason to understand the different factions within Islam. Simply put, one of the factions is a psychotic death-cult bent on world domination. Those within this faction savagely execute their enemies. Those under their rule live a cruel, repressive, existence. Proponents of the “Islamic State” or “Caliphate” portray themselves as righteous servants of God. They’re certainly not debauched like the Christian and secular west. Or so they claim.

Their depravity runs far deeper than even the worst excesses in the west. They are child molesters, sex traffickers, ritual rapists, thieves, cold-blooded barbaric murderers of women, children, and the elderly, and butchers of hordes of civilians, including scores of Muslims. They’ve constructed a deity who sanctions all their demented and twisted immorality.  They have slick, oily lawyers[8] and politicians who defend them with the most ridiculous and dishonest kind of sophistry. In their minds it’s America’s fault for occupying their land. It’s all so just much blah, blah, blah (or in the Arabic, bla’ah, bla’ah, bla’ah).

Let’s not beat around the bush. Moderate Muslims have to be more frank and vocal in addressing the cancer of violent extremism in their own body. Western media has to muster up enough spinal fluid to lay these issues bare and talk honestly about them. It isn’t “Islamophobia” to address the obvious truth about what is happening every day. A healthy sense of “Radical Islamophobia” is appropriate. It’s rational to be afraid given that young brainwashed sociopaths believe that Allah has given them a license to kill. When the thread is this real, a healthy dose of caution is in order.

In Summary

  1. The world of Islam has a huge problem. Even if the extremist murderers don’t represent “true” Islam, the problem is still uniquely Islamic. Islam is the religion they claim to represent. It’s Islam’s broad theological categories from which they claim to take their views. It’s Islam’s prophet they revere. It’s Islam’s scriptures on their lips and in their writings. And it’s Islam’s deity they hail as “Akbar” while they burn a Muslim civilian alive in a cage[9].
  2. Secularists and atheists use Islamic extremists as a bludgeon against the other 1.5–2 billion Muslims. They then lump other religions in with the dangerous extremists just for good measure. This is an exercise in grossly biased opportunistic stupidity. Bill Maher is capable of making a good point here and there, but his worldview is bankrupt and thus incapable of delivering a healthy and rational critique.
  3. Respectable and well-known Muslim leaders have to make the argument boldly, loudly, and persuasively that extremist nut-jobs are deviant heretics who do not represent Islam. If that’s how the world should see this situation, then the world needs to hear it from strident Muslim voices. Muslims are the only ones who can make this case in a credible and knowledgeable way.
  4. Non-Muslims can then support and spread the counter-message of the moderate Muslim leaders. This can help counteract the recruitment and propaganda of the crazies, and justify the military suppression of extremism. This could all be accomplished without people foolishly thinking that such actions are a war against Islam itself.
  5. Christians have to be honest in maintaining that, to us, no form of Islam accurately represents God, man, history, the Bible, or salvation. Christians believe that both moderate and extreme Muslims are false. However, not all false beliefs are created equal. Christian opposition to radical Islam is not due merely to its false theology; radical Islam is criminal, savage, dangerous, a menace to society, a destroyer of the peace and public good, and has an ocean of blood on its hands. Its leaders are fueled by what seems like a demonic disease of the mind. They must be stopped, and with force, which leads me to my final point.
  6. Governments should make it a top priority to zealously annihilate radical Islam. Every organization responsible for planning terrorist acts should be wiped out with extreme prejudice. One of the chief purposes of political leaders and ministers of justice is to protect peaceful civilians. This means, at least, punishing the worst perpetrators of evil by all necessary means.

Here’s hoping that every radical Islamic leader, hands soaking with so many gallons of innocent blood, will soon depart this world and discover, to their eternal shock and utter horror, that indeed, “God is great.”

  1. RealTime “Real Time with Bill Maher: Ben Affleck, Sam Harris and Bill Maher Debate Radical Islam (HBO)” YouTube video, 10:05. October 6, 2014.  ↩
  2. timedjumpoff “Bill Maher Confronts Howard Dean for ‘About as Muslim as I Am’ Comment” YouTube video, 3:22. January 25, 2015.  ↩
  3. Stark, Rodney. God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. 10.  ↩
  4. Stark, God’s Battalions, 8.  ↩
  5. Laden, Osama Bin. “Transcript of Bin Laden’s October Interview.” Interview by Tayseer Alouni. Transcript. CNN. February 5, 2002.  ↩
  6. Stark, God’s Battalions, 11–34.  ↩
  7. Stark, God’s Battalions, 20–21.  ↩
  8. “Anjem Choudary.” Wikipedia. August 15, 2004. Accessed March 12, 2015.  ↩
  9. Chulov, Martin, and Shiv Malik. “Isis Video Shows Jordanian Hostage Being Burned to Death.” The Guardian. February 3, 2015. Accessed March 12, 2015.  ↩

Four Characteristics of Legalism


Legalism is something we all lean toward in one way or another. Humanity has been plagued by this from the very beginning as we see in Job’s friends. Why is this? Well, we like to have everything under control. We don’t like risk. We don’t like it when things get uncomfortable. And showing grace, to ourselves and others, takes the ball out of our court. Rule, laws, and lists of requirements are so much easier than grace and freedom.

These characteristics of legalism that I am going to list here are not to mean that anyone who ever does any of these things is a legalist. Think of legalism as a sliding scale. Some of us practice legalistic tendencies here and there (I know I sure do). Some can find themselves practicing more of these on a regular basis and are more legalistic. Some can be full-blow legalists in all of these areas.

Here are the four characteristics of legalism (and I have more coming):

1. Legalists Condemn People for Minor Sins while their Lives are Filled with Bigger Sins

One time when I was at church, I was fellowshipping with a group of people. A guy came in and had a confused look on his face. We began to talk to him. As it turns out, he had never been in church before and was seeking some help. He began to tell us about his life and his current difficulties and he thought he might find answers in a church. The problem was that as he was telling us his tragic life story, he started letting out f-bombs left and right. People began to leave one by one. The last lady got up and verbally said, “I can’t take this anymore.” She left. It was only he and I left. He was confused. “Where did they all go? Did I do something?” He should have been confused. The Christians departed and left him. Why? Because he cursed. Whether or not cursing is objectively bad is not the issue. The issues is that some people abandoned their obligation for mercy, love, and evangelism because a guy cursed.

Jesus talked about this tendency many times:

Matt. 7:3:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Matt. 23:24
You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Legalists are able to ignore their own camel sized sins and complain about your speck sized sin. This is characteristic of a legalist. I ask you this: which is worse, the sin of offensive language or the sin of being without mercy and love?

Book Recommendation: Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll

2. They focus on sins of the flesh and ignore the sins of the heart

This is similar to the first, but it needs a category of its own. Legalists are notorious for recognizing sins that can be seen, not the hidden sins of the heart. These sins that can be seen can be called sins of the “flesh” (although Paul has a broader understanding of what “fleshly” means (1 Cor. 3), we will use it in the more narrow sense). Sins of the flesh could include drunkenness, gluttony, fornication, adultery, prostitution, drug abuse, and homosexuality. These are all real sins, some more serious than others, but sins nonetheless. Sins of the heart would include pride, hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, greed, envy, being without mercy, prejudice, etc. Sins of the flesh quickly deteriorate the body. Sins of the heart quickly deteriorate the soul.

Christ says to the Pharisees (the legalists who focused on the sins of the flesh while ignoring their sins of the heart):

Matt. 23:27
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.

And there is the sin of hypocrisy that is always tied to this kind of attitude. Paul follows Christ here in this thought:

Rom. 2:1-3
Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2 We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?

Paul also alludes to this flesh/heart distinction here:

1 Tim. 5:24
The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.

The point is that some people can and do have so many sins in their heart, even though they may not have many sins of the flesh. Sins of the heart are easy to hide. Sins of the flesh are not so easy to hide. Because of this those with sins of the heart normally don’t get a scarlet “A” on their shirt. And because of this, they feel as if they can draw attention to other people’s sins while ignoring their own. How much would the world change if we all walked around with all our sins printed on our shirt. At the very least, humility would abound.

As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither. (Book 3, Part 5)

3. They Separate from You When you Don’t Conform

Legalists are normally separationists when you don’t conform to their demands.

I know a Christian guy who loves the Lord dearly and has a body filled with tattoos. They are all about the Gospel and are designed to walk people through the Bible. Yet his Christian sisters (biological) have not talked to him for more than a decade because they told him to have the tattoos removed (since, to them, it was not Christian to have tattoos). They have separated from him because he did not conform to their standards.

I know a girl who was told by members of her church that she had to quit smoking or she could not come to their Sunday School class anymore. She left, but often tries to call them. These formally good friends won’t talk to her anymore because she smokes and they told her to quit. They said they won’t sit by while she destroys her body.

It is typical among legalists to separate for anything and everything. This is the way it has been from the beginning. These type of people believe that their opinions about your life have authority over your life. If you don’t abide by their demands, they just won’t fellowship with you anymore. In the end, you have to tip-toe around them, letting them know as little about your life and problems as you can in fear that they may demand change or leave.

Book Recommendation: Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

It is little wonder that people sometimes steer clear of Christians. They have been hurt too bad, lost too many friendships and family members to this kind of judgmentalism. I heard about a missionary who was in England attending a missionary conference. The one he was going to was a very conservative Christian conference. But down the street was a liberal missionary conference. When he found out, he bowed his head and in shame went to the liberal conference. Why? Because he wanted to go some place where he could be himself. You really can’t be yourself around legalists. There is too much fear they will judge you. And there is too much fear that they will leave. We don’t like to be left.

4. They would never be called a friend of a sinners

Christ was accused many times of being a “friend of sinners” (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). He hung around tax-gatherers, prostitutes, and drunkards. He did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners (Luke 5:31-32). So who would you expect him to be friends with? It is not as if the Pharisees were righteous and did not need to repent; they just did not recognize it since it is so easy to hide the sins of their heart. If the Pharisees would have recognized their depravity (as some did—John 3ff), then Christ would have come to them . . . and still been a friend of sinners!

I don’t know where I heard this, but, on average, Christians lose all their unbelieving friends within two years of their conversion. My experience says this is true. This is not following Christ’s example. Christ was a friend of the lost. In just about every area, he did what all the legalists thought was taboo. Though Christ would call all to repentance, he would do so at the right time.

Legalists do not have friendships with unbelievers. If they see you hanging out with unbelievers, they will accuse you of the same fleshly sins that they are engaging in or they will say you are condoning their sin by befriending them. At the very least they will say you are “walking the line” of compromise and are sure to give in.

But what the legalist does not realize is this: not only are they following Christ more in befriending sinners (so long as the intension is to be Christ to them), but if they were to come back to the “fold” of the legalist, they would be befriending worse sinners. The only reason Christ did not hang out with the Pharisees is because they did not know how sinful they were and were not falling on their face saying “Have mercy to me, a sinner” (Luke 8:13).

Who do you think Christ would hang around today were he here on earth? Legalists or drunkards and homosexuals? Let me ask you this probing question: Have you ever been accused of being a friend of sinners? If not, why?

Further Reading: “Fourteen Characteristics of Theological Legalism”


Theology Unplugged: The Trinity


Join our hosts as they discuss the doctrine of the Trinity.