On the sign for a true believer
In this paper we will be addressing another one of Bassam Zawadis alleged Bible discrepancies (*).
He writes regarding the longer ending of Mark 16:
Actually this challenge is only to those Christians who believe that Mark 16:9-20 are part of scripture. Because you have others such as Bruce Metzger that say that this passage is interpolated(Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, p 226 as cited Shabir Ally in his debate with Joseph Smith in Atlanta in October 2000)
We will show that there is no genuine contradiction even for those who accept that the longer ending is originally part of Mark 16. He continues:
And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues.....
Now according to Jesus, one of the signs of a true believer is that he would have the ability to drive out demons in his name.
"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
Apparently, someone could have the ability to drive demons out in Jesus' name and yet not be a believer.
Zawadi commits two mistakes at this point. First, he doesnt quote the context and the reason is obvious:
"John answered, Master, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us. But Jesus said to him, Do not forbid him; for he that is not against you is for you." Luke 9:49-50
The same story is found in Mark as well:
"John said to him, Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us. But Jesus said, Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me." Mark 6:38-39
In light of this, how does the misunderstanding of a disciple impact the accuracy or meaning of Mark 16:17 especially when Jesus corrected John for what he did?
Second, the episode with John occurred long before the statements of Mark 16:17 which were given after Christs resurrection. By that time Johns understanding had obviously grown in comparison to before.
He next quotes Matthew 7:21-23:
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Apparently there are also people who would have the ability to drive demons out in Jesus' name and yet Jesus would not accept them because they were not true believers.
So was Jesus' criteria for a true believer in Mark 16 wrong?
Zawadis logic goes something like this:
Let us repeat what Mark 16:17 says in context to see why the problem lies not with the texts, but with Zawadis erroneous logic:
"And he said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen." Mark 16:15-20
Now that we have looked at the context the following questions need to be asked:
Did Jesus say that only true believers would perform signs? No.
Did Jesus say that false believers would not be able to perform signs? No.
Did Jesus even say that unbelievers who follow different religions would not be able to do miracles? No, not at all. In fact, this is what he did say about unbelievers and false prophets:
"And then if any one says to you, Look, here is the Christ! or Look, there he is! do not believe it. False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand." Mark 13:21-23
Where then is the contradiction? Had Jesus said that signs would accompany only those that truly believe than Zawadi may have had a case. Since Jesus didnt say this it is rather evident that Zawadi is simply grasping at straws.
Mark 16 is a command to the followers of Jesus to go and preach the Gospel to the entire world, and it contains a promise of what will happen if they do. It speaks of the authority that Jesus will give to those who proclaim his message. It was never meant as a list of criteria to separate true believers from false believers. That is the basic misunderstanding of Zawadi in regard to this passage.
Nevertheless, the reader may be wondering how then can one know if a person is a true believer or not when even unbelievers can perform miracles in Jesus name? Christ himself in the very same context of Matthew from which Zawadi quoted provides the answer:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, I NEVER KNEW YOU; depart from me, you EVILDOERS (anomian- "without law" or "lawless ones"). Every one then who hears these words of mine AND DOES THEM will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine AND DOES NOT DO THEM will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it." Matthew 7:15-27
"Go therefore AND MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them TO OBSERVE ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
Thus, a true believer according to Jesus is not necessarily one who performs miracles in his name. A true believer is one who obeys the commands of Christ, holding to the correct doctrine taught by Jesus through his disciples:
"To those outside the law I became as one outside the law -- not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ -- that I might win those outside the law." 1 Corinthians 9:21
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1-2
"Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:16 cf. James 2:14-26
In other words, a genuine believer is not a lawless person, is not one who disregards the Law of Christ.
Now to see a real logical error, a gross logical fallacy that is found not in the Holy Bible but in the Quran, we recommend that the readers consult the following article:
Rebuttals to Answering-Christianity
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page