21 Jun

By Vocab Malone

I mainly include books that are, in some way, paradigm shakers – even if it’s only one big idea I takeaway. My list has books that have strongly shaped the way I think about things; “big picture” books (no, not books with pictures). I did not include Scripture in this list, as it stand in a different category altogether. The Bible has influenced me differently and more significantly than any book on the below list – by far.

1. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John M. Frame
Good biblical introduction to epistemology and other philosophical issues, all from a theological persepective.

2. Competent to Counsel: Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling by Jay E. Adams
Sparked a revolution in pastoral care. Still the most plain, most straightforward, and most convicting introduction to biblical counseling.

3. Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper
Will ignite a passion for missions in the Christian’s soul! Provides a biblical and God-centered view of missions and evangelism.

4. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Clear, user-friendly and fun-to-navigate. A resource to turn to again and again. Fair, balanced, and based on Scripture.

5. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl
Equips the Christian for wisdom and effectiveness in conversational evangelism. Learn how to ask questions to make people think about what they are saying.

6. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chappell
No other approach to teaching God’s Word has influenced me as much as this one. Biblical, practical, pastoral, gospel-centered, and Christ-focused.

7. One Race, One Blood: A Biblical Answer to Racism by Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware
Genesis, creation, history, Adam and Eve, the imago dei, DNA, biblical anthroplogy and more – this book brings it all to bear on the question of racism, unity, and humanity.


8. Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel by Mike Cosper
Why do we worship? How do we worship? How do we tie together creativity, church history, liturgical elements, and the gospel into our music and worship?

9. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J.P. Moreland
Challenges pastors, congregations and all Christians to take seriously the life of the mind in relationship to Christian discipleship, growth and our sanctification.

10. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel
This book shows how a skilled communicator can make important apologetic issues engaging and interesting for a wider audience. Covers all the basic categories about Jesus.

11. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books by Michael J. Kruger

(All book covers are linkable to the respected book.)


Materialism and Modern Martyrs

30 Jan

When we compare common Roman misunderstandings about Christians from the first to the twenty-first century, some details are different but there are also many commonalities.

How many times have we heard criticism in the media about Christians desiring to see a nuclear holocaust, as it would usher in the end times? Or that Christians have no interest in the planet’s health because it will get blown up anyway? I am not denying an element of truth in these charges (in some Christian sectors more than others) but they have to do with misunderstandings of Christian eschatology. These issues are not the only examples.

Sometimes, when things go wrong politically, Christians are blamed. This is more so the case in other countries but in the US, one may hear people accusing Christians of “creating terrorists” or fostering terrorism for various reasons. In the US we do not experience these things as intense as in Europe but the sentiment is still present.

On a similar note, the most common thread from then until now is the persecution of Christians.

Voice of the Martyrs is a global organization which supports persecuted Christians throughout the world. They help make others aware of the needs these believers face and find ways to network Christians who can help, whether it is through medical assistance, legal representation, or smuggling Bibles. Recently, I scanned a few back issues of the Voice of the Martyrs magazine to get a sense of modern day persecution. What follows are mini-profiles I created to help give a quick snap shot of modern day persecution.

*CHINA: Shuying, 77. Tortured and imprisoned for her faith. Her husband died the day after she was released.
*INDIA: Vasant. Ex-radical Hindu, persecuted Christians. Now an evangelist, locked away by his family, poisoned by his mother, but continues to pass out 25-30 tracts a day in remote areas.
*NEPAL: Shyma Kumar. Teenager who was severely burned while attending church and it was bombed by Hindu extremists.
*PAKISTAN: Pastor Joseph. Bound for praying with a beggar. Preached to his attackers as they beat him.
*NORTH VIETNAM: Pastors Phan and Trang. “Running pastors” who flee from tribe to tribe, conducting services, baptisms, and communion for small rural congregations.
*SUDAN: Mary Achai. Kidnapped, sold into sex slavery, burned, leaving her arms “frozen”.
*SOMALIA: Musa. House church leader. His two oldest sons were beheaded after their father gave a prominent Muslim woman a Bible which resulted in her conversion.
*NIGERIA: James Kake. Muslims burnt his church down then “macheted” his hands and wrists after they asked him if he was an infidel and he said “yes”.

This demonstrates a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that the world would hate and persecute us. It will always be relevant because these things are still happening in our world today and will continue to happen until the Lord returns.

In our own day, we see the same disconnect between Christian values and those of the world in the areas of exclusivity and religious pluralism/relativism. This cultural pressure has influenced some Christians to soft-peddle the gospel, altering the sobering aspects and down playing judgment. It has also led some to embrace the interfaith movement, wherein all religion is portrayed as similar and equal. I detect no such compromise allowable in the New Testament. On a practical level, when the gospel gets watered down into a more culturally attractive message, it does not usually result in growth but decline. A case in point would be the decline of the mainline denominations and the rise of evangelical Christianity in many parts of South America, Asia, and Africa.

Personal Spiritual Formation and Studying Ancient Church History

Modern martyrs have a precedent in the early persecution. In studying the ancient church, one feels greatly impacted by their singular devotion to Jesus Christ and how that led them stand against their culture at almost every turn. This aspect of the early church jumped out at me on almost every page of ancient church history books and challenges me as I reflect on it. It causes me to wonder how influenced by my culture am I and how dedicated am I to Christ? Would I be willing to face that level of ridicule and sacrifice? Would I be willing to be hated so intensely; to be an outlaw for no good reason? The earliest Christians in general gave up so much it is hard for me to fathom; would I do the same? For the most part, I can answer in the negative, as I see how much I enjoy being a blessed American and how much I put above Christ. I see how so many things fight for my affection towards Christ and realize that I have been influenced by my culture in ways incalculable.

Nonetheless, one atheistic friend of mine wrote this about why people “join religion”:

some of the biggest motivating factors for people becoming involved in either a church or a gang.
1. People want answers.
2. People want easier lives.
3. People want somewhere to turn when they have problems.
4. People look for these things where they’ve been taught to look for them.

As far as the 2nd issue (PEOPLE WANT EASIER LIVES) … I guess you could say this may be true only in America as of the past few hundred years or perhaps during the Medieval Era in Europe. Other than that, it’s very difficult to ascertain what he means taken in a broader historical context. In China, if you become a Christian who is not part of a government sanctioned church, you risk long-term imprisonment. It is no secret how the Chinese government views Christians in their country. In a variety of Islamic Republics, if you “switch” from Islam to Christianity, you are either A) killed immediately or B) put on trial and killed, unless you can get off by way of insanity.

You may say, “I don’t mean only Christianity but rather religion in general” … even if this is true, you still have to explain many of the Communist regimes (both past and present) which deemed all Theism as illegal and would persecute any non-atheistic belief … in these environments many individuals still come to faith and suffer for it. Even in America, the whole “easier life” charge only makes sense if one is to embrace the Health and Wealth Prosperity “gospel” portrayed on TV and the like. Biblical Christianity teaches that “If anyone would come after me [Jesus], he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23).

Christianity is viewed as subversive by most governments worldwide ever since its inception. So the question is, how does becoming an enemy of the state (converting to Christianity) make one’s life easier? My main point is that in most social settings becoming a Christian makes one’s life more difficult. Honestly, if we look outside of the U.S., this really isn’t a debatable point.

Building Your Hebrew Israelite Library

19 May

Over the past few years, I have gathered a large amount of resources related to the “Hebrew Israelites” and their theology: websites, video/audio resources, journal articles, dissertations and books. There are no publications dedicated to the modern incarnation of Hebrew Israelitism with its uber-aggressive street “preaching” tactics. No books deal with the recent upsurge in self-publishing, whether it is through books or online materials. No books hash out all the distinctions among the different modern sects. No books give a theological analysis or gospel-based solutions. There are no books which wholly support a biblical approach. However, there are books which support pegs in an overall argument, below are some examples.

From Every People and Nation by J. Daniel Hays, One New Man: Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology by Jarvis Williams, Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian by John Piper are all excellent books for getting a biblical perspective on people groups, culture, and ethnicity. These books lay out a biblical anthropology and then apply that to the issues of ethnic divisions in our world. They are helpful in understanding how the Bible (and therefore the Creator) views people and what that means for the church. This is important because Hebrew Israelites tend to have an unbiblical view of nations and it shows up in their extremely bigoted view of others.

One Human Family: The Bible, Science, Race and Culture by Carl Wieland and One Race One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism by Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware cover some of the same territory but also add an additional help: science. Both books are written by authors with a background in creation science and they apply both Scripture and some basic scientific facts (such as genetics) to issues of people and ethnic groups. These are a unique resource and relate to the implied Hebrew Israelite claims about genetics (I have noticed that BHI’s rely on genetics only when it supports them).

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The next three books touch on the same territory (genetics) but in a much more in-depth way and from a non-Christian but still very helpful perspective. Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People by Harry Ostrer, Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People by Jon Entine and Jacob’s Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History by David B. Goldstein are secular academic and stellar works which give the actual science and genetic studies which – if properly synthesized and applied – will refute many of the Hebrew Israelite claims about who and who isn’t an actual child of Abraham.

Two standard (or they should be!) works in this field are Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions by Jacob S. Dorman and Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem by John L. Jackson, Jr. are published by Oxford and Harvard, respectively, and are excellent at giving the historical rise of these groups. The latter work even has four pages on “camps”; the names given to different sects of Hebrew Israelites with their separate local chapters.

Surprisingly, there is a considerable amount on this subject by non-Christian authors, often by secular black or Jewish scholars. Some are helpful, but none go deep into exegesis. None offer spiritual answers. Hardly any deal with the current adherents who have gained strength the past few decades; the more militant who use street-style tactics and “do-it-yourself” methods more than their forebears. Here are some of this class of book: The Church of God and Saints of Christ: The Rise of Black Jews by Elly M. Wynia; Brother Love: Murder, Money and a Messiah by Sydney P. Freedberg; Black Jews in Africa and the Americas by Tudor Parfitt; The New Ship of Zion: Dynamic Diaspora Dimensions of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem by Martina Koenighofer; The Black Jews of Africa: History, Religion, Identity by Edith Bruder.

Most books written from the Hebrew Israelite perspective are not professional but they represent their beliefs on key matters. Many are self-published; some are only e-books. Other books are not Hebrew Israelite authors proper but are either friendly towards their positions or have been co-opted. A great example is Satan’s Angels Exposed by Arabic Christian Salem Kirban. The book was even distributed by Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerrullo. Yet, it is in the online resource library of a Hebrew Israelite group known as The Gathering of Christ’s Church (see video below for some BHI insider recommends).

 A few books by Hebrew Israelites of the more explicit variety include The Power to Define: God, The Black Man and Truth by Ben Ammi and especially Hebrew Israelites for Dummies: The Family of Messiah by “The Judahite”. The latter is poorly type-set and difficult to read due to its extremely “helter skelter” layout but is by far the closest I have seen to a Black Hebrew Israelite “systematic theology”. Even though it is not very systematic, it does cover the big issues most important to the modern Black Hebrew Israelite and has a liberal dose of graphics, picture and even Internet memes – it is a very visual book and that makes it helpful.


Notable publications by “allied” authors are: From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of Ancient Black Races by Rudolph R. Windsor; Lost Tribes and Promised Lands: The Origins of American Racism by Ronald Sanders and We The Black Jews: Witness to the “White Jewish Race” Myth by Yosef ben-Jochannan. These books are the most frequently recommended books on Black Hebrew Israelite affiliated websites – they are close to standard works and many BHI members have read at least one. They give the BHI groups a basic vision of world history. However, they are older and do not represent some of the contemporary nuances in the BHI movement the past decade.

A small but important class of book – the three all-too-brief ones by ex-members: A Burden Has Been Lifted by Frede’ Rica; Israel’s Secret Cult: The Incredible Story of a Former Member of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem by Mahaleyah Goodman; Why I Abandoned the Hebrew Israelite Religion by Hannah Spivey.

There are Christian books which touch on relevant subjects to countering many Black Hebrew Israelite claims regarding the Sabbath Day ; The Law; The African Church; the black church in the US; bigotry, diversity, and ethnicity. Some books which are helpful in this regard are The Blessing of Africa: The Bible and African Christianity by Keith Augustus Burton; Africa and the Bible by Edwin M. Yamauchi; Beyond Roots: In Search of Blacks in the Bible and Beyond Roots II: If Anybody Ask You Who I Am: A Deeper Look at Blacks in the Bible, both by William Dwight McKissic, Sr.; A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present by Elizabeth Isichei; How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden.  There are a few online resources as well.

As you can tell, there are no Christian books strictly on the “Hebrew Israelites”. However, there are a few apologetic books which mention them and two which even discuss them for a few pages: Black Man’s Religion Black Man’s Religion: Can Christianity Be Afrocentric? by Glenn Usry and Craig S. Keener and Urban Apologetics Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City by Christopher W. Brooks. There is a demand for this material but very little supply. By God’s grace, I hope to see a new generation of urban apologists who help rectify this situation – and soon!

Book Reviews: Every time I finish a book related to the subject, I go on Amazon and leave a mini-review; I have completed nine (as 5/18/16). This as a public service of sorts: people looking into this will know what is good and what is bad, or at least they will have a warning or endorsement.  People can also comment on Amazon reviews, so it is a way for adherents to engage me and defend or critique the book. simply look for book reviews by VOCAB MALONE.






1 May

The “Hebrew Israelites” are an unorthodox religious group who target disenfranchised minorities in the inner-city. Yet there are very few resources on this group. I am working on creating a guide for Christian leaders and church members so they can better:

  • Understand the appeal and claims of the “Hebrew Israelites”.
  • Know how to answer the challenges to Christian faith “Hebrew Israelites” raise.


  • The “Hebrew Israelites” are a religious group which is growing in visibility, activity and influence in many urban areas, including metropolitan Phoenix, AZ. 
  • There are no in-depth apologetic resources for Christian leaders or church members to adequately understand or answer the claims of the Black Hebrew Israelites.
  • My goal is to generate and distribute such a resource, foremost of which is a physical and digital guide or manual.
  • I also plan on generating and distributing online resources (blog posts, memes) and multimedia resources (audio, video). A few of the resources will be directed towards the “Hebrew Israelites” themselves, such as customized evangelistic tracts.

To reiterate, the problem is there are no apologetic books published on the subject of Black Hebrew Israelites and Christian doctrine. There are only a few scattered online articles. There is a void and I want to help fill it by explaining BHI doctrine to others, as well as refuting their teachings. I want to help vulnerable Christians be protected and prepared. I want to give practical answers to BHI questions and use these in real life evangelistic encounters with BHI members.

WHY DO PEOPLE JOIN THIS GROUP?10451119_1182188515140685_6518594777697587983_n
Many people become members because they are disillusioned with their church experience. Almost all I have met have been poorly churched. They have been at churches where it’s entertainment-driven, where money is the main focus, or where the leadership is the focal point. Those who embrace BHI doctrine often place a high value on Scripture and crave deeper teaching. These churches did not provide serious exposition and it left the (now) BHI members wanting. They also place a value on the law, and many went to churches where holiness was not valued. Church discipline was non-existent and the moral standards were not enforced in any meaningful way. Another problem has been the mainstream evangelical church: they have often ignored or minimized the concerns of the minorities in large American cities. This applies to both historical and current events and attitudes.

Over the past decade, there has been a noticeable increase in activity, visibility and energy from BHI groups. The main venues they utilize are city blocks, the corners where they set up and yell. There are more groups doing this more frequently. I have witnessed an increase in the amount of YouTube videos uploaded by these groups. Online videos are a key way they spread their message. The videos have greatly increased in production quality recently.

I have also seen an increase in the output of BHI media: especially in the area of book publishing but also music and graphics. Lastly, I have uncovered more of these groups being able to afford physical spaces, renting store fronts and the like. Historically, these groups have mainly been nomadic, meeting in coffee shops and the like. Now more are able to rent low budget buildings where they give regular teachings.

The rise in these groups affects the global church of Christ. The doctrines preached by the BHI affect Christians specifically in large cities of both the United States and the U.K. There are some ramifications for the church in Israel and on the continent of Africa (especially Liberia, Ethiopia, South Africa and counties in West Africa). BHI members have been led astray in a hateful and heretical group and are now leading others astray.

For example, I was on a BHI message board and saw a post from a BHI man asking if he had to divorce his wife. There was no other reason given other than she was white – an “Edomite”, to use their vernacular. Their unanimous answer from the community was yes, he needed to divorce her.


  • What are the key beliefs and practices of the Black Hebrew Israelites?
  • What are some notable variations and divergences in doctrine and practice between distinct “Hebrew Israelite” groups?
  • What has contributed to the recent rise of the “Hebrew Israelites”?
  • What are common profiles of the average “Hebrew Israelite”?
  • What is the appeal of the “Hebrew Israelites”; why do people join?
  • What can city-dwelling Christians and urban churches do to counteract BHI?

Studying this movement equips Christians to better understand their theology. Writing a Black Hebrew Israelite guide fills a gap in apologetics resources. Access to a BHI guide assists Christians in urban ministry (evangelism, discipleship). After I create the BHI guide, I will distribute it to urban Christians (especially church and ministry leaders) and create mechanisms by which I can receive feedback.



Some “Hebrew Israelite” Related Links

29 Apr

Hey, Internet. Maybe you’ve heard: I’m studying the “Hebrew Israelites”. Here is a list of everything I’ve done so far. More links to come:


Interviews/Debates/Discussions (audio/video)

Slim Jim of The Veritas Domain’s excellent notes on my BHI street convo

Apologetic Resources on “Hebrew Israelites”

10 Apr

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus lays out the Great Commission. It includes the command to “make disciples of all nations”. The Greek word translated “nations” is ethnos, connoting peoples (as in “all peoples”) or people group. Black and Hispanic Americans both constitute people groups. Part of fulfilling the Great Commission is to ensure there are disciples from all peoples. If there are common hindrances hindering certain peoples from believing the truth of the gospel message, disciples of Christ should labor to remove said hindrances.

There is a stran2016-0320-BHI-e1458515908874d of teaching – “Hebrew Israelite” doctrine – which is becoming a serious hindrance towards young black and brown men in the inner city from coming to Christ. They target “minorities” and are thriving in the inner-city. I ran into them on the street and had an hour long debate. I posted the audio online and it garnered a large amount of downloads. Since then, I have received numerous pleas for help from friends who have been negatively affected by this group.

The Great Commission’s charge entails aiding all peoples to become disciples; combating false historical and cultural narratives falls under this mandate. An example is from the ministry of Jesus in John 4, where Jesus encounters Samaritan doctrinal idiosyncracies (“which mountain is the right one to worship on?”). As a despised minority in Israelite society, the Samaritan woman’s objections were tied up in historical and cultural considerations. There is a parallel to be drawn between a group like the Samaritans of Israel and black and Hispanic Americans.

In 1 Peter 3:15, the apostle exhorts Christians to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Different people in different contexts get asked different questions about the hope that is in them. A black Christian living in the inner-city is more likely to hear these questions:

Look at this picture of this white man. Why do you worship a white Jesus”?
“Don’t you know your Bible is a history book of the black Israelites”?
“Why do you go to a church building, listen to a con man and pay him money”?
“Do you call the white man your brother and attend church with the Devil”?

Most white Christians do not face these objections. Yet, a Hebrew Israelite (and others like them) will ask these questions – and more. This movement especially affects the traditional black church, but also Christian congregations made up of diverse peoples. The black Christian community has been negatively affected by the mini-exodus of young black men from their midst. There are few apologetic resources to help black Christians as they seek to receive and give wise answers. In order to help other Christians obey 1 Peter 3:15, some Christians need to be writing and speaking on the Hebrew Israelite heresy so as to provide the relevant information.

There has been almost nothing done to combat this teaching by orthodox Christians. Still, there are a few books which provide some assistance in dealing with them, although very few books deal with their claims directly (the first two). Here is a small bibliography:



Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City
– Christopher W. Brooks (2014)
Black Man’s Religion: Can Christianity Be Afrocentric? –
Glenn Usry and Craig S. Keener (1996)
How Black is the Gospel? –
Tom Skinner (1970)
Beyond Roots: In Search of Blacks in the Bible
– William Dwight McKissic, Sr. (1990)
Beyond Roots II: If Anybody Ask You Who I Am: A Deeper Look at Blacks in the Bible
– William Dwight McKissic, Sr. and Anthony T. Evans (1994)
Introducing Black Theology: Three Crucial Questions for the Evangelical Church
– Bruce L. Fields (2001)


From Every People and Nation – J. Daniel Hays (2003)
One Race One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism – Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware (2010)
Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian – John Piper (2011)
One Human Family: The Bible, Science, Race and CultureCarl Wieland (2014)
One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology – Jarvis Williams (2010)
Christ and the Dominions of Civilization – Love L. Sechrest (2009)

The Blessing of Africa: The Bible and African Christianity – Keith Augustus Burton (2007)
Africa and the Bible – Edwin M. Yamauchi (2004)
A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present – Elizabeth Isichei (1995)

Israel and the Nations – FF Bruce (1963)

Five Views on Law and Gospel – Stanley Gundry, editor (1999)
What Do Jewish People Think About Jesus? – Michael L. Brown (2007)
40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law – Thomas R. Schreiner (2010)
From Sabbath to Lord’s Day – DA Carson, editor (1999)



9 Apr


“Hebrew Israelite” groups gather and proselytize in metropolitan areas. This group is usually made up of black and brown Americans who claim to be the true Israelites and that modern day Jews are impostors. Their presence has been more noticeable over the past 2-3 years. They have stepped up their efforts and are growing locally. This is a current cultural issue, especially in the urban community in Phoenix.

If you live in a major city and haven’t met a “Hebrew Israelite” yet, give it time – you will. Whether clad in camo or purple and gold, the Hebrew Israelites go where you go. Yelling, swearing, debating, pointing, and loudly pontificating; they go hard. The light rail stop at Camelback and 19th in Phoenix is a favorite spot. I’ve seen them at the State Fair, Super Bowl XLIX, ASU, and Occupy Phoenix protests. They’ve been known to storm in churches and disrupt services. 

Some think this group is so obscure, they’re irrelevant. Amar’e Stoudemire disagrees. The former Phoenix Sun and NBA star identifies as a Hebrew Israelite. When SB1070 (a controversial immigration bill) was the hot topic in Arizona, Stoudemire tweeted out his disagreement with the legislation. The reason? The “Latin community” is part of “the 12 ttribes of Israel,” which is, “one nation under Yah.” Stoudemire is an executive producer of “Village of Peace”, a documentary about Chicago-based Hebrew Israelites moving to Israel in the 60’s. He’s applied for Israeli citizenship and is part owner of an Israeli basketball team. I could go on: St. Louis rapper Chingy of “Right Thurr” fame and Antoine Dodson of “Bed Intruder” fame both came out as Hebrew Israelites. Boyz II Men crooners Shawn Stockman and Wayna Morris claim this faith. Hebrew Israelite influence outweighs their numbers.

If you run into a “Hebrew Israelite”, you’d be wise to know what they believe. Even though they often yell and curse, knowing something about their ideology can assist you in having a more productive dialogue.


10 Hebrew Israelite Beliefs

1: “Hebrew Israelites” believe those whose ancestors were put in bondage during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade are the true descendants of Biblical Israel.

2: “Hebrew Israelites” believe modern day Israelites and Europeanized Jews are impostors and not the real descendants of true Israel.

3: “Hebrew Israelites” usually hold the King James Version of the Bible as authoritative. Some only hold to the Old Testament. Most hold to the Apocrypha as well.

4: “Hebrew Israelites” believe the “time of the Gentiles” means “the time of the white Europeans”, whom they refer to as Edomites. They believe this time is almost over; America and its allies will soon be judged.

5: “Hebrew Israelites” believe righteousness is achieved by keeping the Law. Strict Sabbath-keeping, dietary restrictions and a certain physical appearance is important (e.g., beards are good).

6: “Hebrew Israelites” believe Jesus Christ (although they use a different name for him) was a black man.

7: SOME (not all) “Hebrew Israelites” believe “Edomites” (white people) can’t be saved. They are destined to be slaves for Hebrew Israelites after the Messiah returns. Others believe that “Gentiles” (non-Hebrew Israelites) can be grafted into the Kingdom if they keep the law and are under the authority of a Hebrew Israelite.

8: “Hebrew Israelites” believe both heaven and hell are conditions – mere “states of mind”. Neither are viewed as metaphysical realities as they are in orthodox Christianity.

9: “Hebrew Israelites” believe you must refer to God as some other name and Jesus as some other name but their preference depends on their individual sect (which they call “camp”).

10: “Hebrew Israelites” believe by spreading their message they are helping to gather the scattered Israelites who do not yet know the truth of their ancestry and heritage.


Five Common Practices/Characteristics

1. The “Hebrew Israelites” members on the street tend to be boisterous, belligerent and bold. They blurt, blare and bellow. If you engage a  member on the street, be prepared for a noisy encounter. They often enjoy shouting obscenities at pedestrians and onlookers, especially those whom they deem to be morally repugnant (e.g., women wearing pants, black-and-white couples, etc.).

2. “Hebrew Israelites” craft their own signage. Common images include politicians with devil horns, “white Jesus” portrayals, images of slavery (men with scarred backs, slave ship diagrams, etc.) and the all-important 12 Tribes of Israel genealogy chart. For example, the Tribe of Judah are said to be the ancestors for black folk,
Isaachar for Mexicans and Gad for North American Indians.

3. “Hebrew Israelites” travel in groups. I’ve seen anywhere from three to a dozen congregate.

4. “Hebrew Israelites” members love to carry tattered old Bibles. Their message is often peppered with various Scripture passages. Usually, there is a primary speaker and then a Scripture reader. The speaker will shout a verse to the reader, then the reader yells it out – loudly.

5. Most “Hebrew Israelites” will engage you – to a certain extent. If they view you as “having a demon” (a common accusation they make against opponents), they will act dismissive and aggressive. If they see you as interested (but not too “talky”), they love the chance to lecture and even “cross-examine.”


If you are a Christian, you should engage “Hebrew Israelites” when you see them. Why? They will benefit from well-informed brothers and sisters in Christ dropping knowledge. If you call yourself a Christian but don’t know your stuff, study up and come back later – they eat the biblically ignorant alive!

Remember, it’s not just knowledge they need; the “Hebrew Israelites” need to see authentic love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and patience. If you are going to converse with them, ask the Lord for a double-dose of the last one – patience.

If you know the Bible well and are quick on your feet, they may show some extra respect to you, but then again, they may become more irritated than usual – it all depends on the makeup of the group and the nature of the crowd. As you can imagine, engaging a Hebrew Israelite in this environment can be intimidating.

My main goal in this piece was to give the reader the basic about the “Hebrew Israelites”. It is not intended to be an all-out rebuttal; I’m writing more in the vein of “heads up, they are coming at you.” In the future, I’d love to tackle some of the truth claims “Hebrew Israelite” adherents make.


Learning Shariah at a Phoenix Mosque

21 May

There is a well-known mosque in Phoenix, Arizona. It is north of Orangewood and east of 27th Ave. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both killed when they attacked a Draw Muhammad Contest in Texas, attended this mosque.Hassan Abujihaad, convicted of handing over military intelligence to al Qaeda, attended this mosque.

I didn’t know all that then. On Friday, December 16th, 2011, I was passing out copies of the Gospel According to St. John on a public sidewalk near mosque. The team I was with was there to discuss Islam and Christianity with Muslims for the purpose of having all peoples call Jesus Lord and be saved from their sins. Here’s how we proceed: I usually ask the men leaving prayer as they are on their way to their vehicles if they have read the Holy Injil. Most people pass by but sometimes they take one and say “thank you”, while other times they say “no” – in so many words or less. However, if they stop or inquire further I say, “This is Gospel According to Saint John in Arabic and English”. Sometimes, we talk more.

One man I spoke with that day was ‘Miraj’, who was visiting Phoenix from the midwest. We spoke for about one full hour. The first 50 minutes were very cordial. I told him he was nice and respectful numerous times. I apologized once for cutting him off in my excitement. He was very patient and understanding. This is not to say I was not troubled by some things he said. Miraj told me Muslims had proof for their beliefs while Christians utilized “blind faith”, that mosques have been burnt down in the United States, and that persecution in countries such as Pakistan was not bad at all (in fact, he claimed the laws there usually protect Christians). Most troubling was this exchange:


Me: “What if I said anything like that [like what a Muslim apologist I just quoted said about Jesus] about Muhammad in an Islamic country?”
Him: “You cannot say that because the punishment is very clear, like if you say that such thing, you will be beheaded – that’s the punishment and it is clear – there is no two opinions about it – that’s very clear.”
Me: “Listen, my name is Mark. What is your name?”

Him: “Miraj.”
Me: “Miraj?”

Him: “Yeah.”
Me: “Miraj, we just shook hands and we’re talking, we’re calm, I’m not making fun of you, you’re not making fun of me – this is good. But right now if I said something dirty about Muhammad what should happen to me?”

Him: “Well, because here I don’t have all the …”
Me: “What should happen to me under God’s law?”

Him: “Well, then in Islamic law, it’s clear, if you insult Prophet Muhammad, then the punishment is you should be beheaded”.

Shortly after this, a tall young man (pictured in the video below briefly, wearing all white) interrupted us. I had already spoken with this young man the week prior briefly – he was rude and not well-informed. I did my best to get the conversation with Miraj back on track. I asked the tall man to please refrain from interjecting and we could talk again next week.  He said he was going to leave but then did not and loudly dominated the conversation. Whenever he told me to stop and listen to him, he would place his rather-large hands on my shoulders in a less than gentle manner. This tall man said the following to Miraj:  

“Good job, brother. You handle it. Yeah, just stick to the truth like that.  Don’t worry. Don’t be like salty Muslims and be like, ‘oh, no, in Islam we don’t have these things’”. 

I responded: “No, no, he said I should I should be beheaded if I say something dirty. He said this; so you would be happy about him.” 

The tall man said back to me: “Well, of course – you can’t. In a Muslim state that’s the punishment; no one talk about the messenger of Allah.”

I noticed Miraj became more aggressive the minute this other man arrived. He began saying things like this: “It doesn’t matter what you like and don’t like, what matters is what God likes and what he wants. Your opinion doesn’t count – you are no one.” This comment was in regards to my distaste for Sharia Law. This may not seem like a very big deal but for the most part Miraj was not saying things like this before. For example, at one point he even said that Pakistan applied some of its blasphemy laws in an unfair manner against Christians. We continued on like this for a few minutes and the tall man quickly lost whatever patience he had and said the following:

“Here’s what: Islam is the fastest growing religion no matter if you like it and it’s going to dominate the whole world – no matter if you like it. You’re going to be paying the jizyah when that time comes. You’re going to be paying the jizyah.”

I replied: “And you know who is going to judge you?”

“God. Only God.” 


“You’re going to be paying the jizyah, buddy. It’s going to dominate the whole thing.”

“And this is your dream.”

“It’s going to dominate everything.”

“And this is your dream.”

“It’s not a dream, it is already happening. Yup, it’s already happening.”

Shortly after, the mosque president stormed out, demanding to know what church I was from. He asked if I was from Calvary. He did not believe me when I told him I was not. He told me I could come and talk about Jesus but then asked me not to quote anything from the Qur’an. He said I had to make sure people knew what they were getting was not Islamic. He told me I was deceiving people. Not wanting to be viewed as purposefully deceiving people, I turned to Miraj and asked him if he knew what he was getting; unfortunately, he would not give a straight answer. It did not help that the tall man was still throwing his two cents in. I pointed out that the one article I had said printed on it. He asked me why it had verses from the Qur’an. I told him because Muslims are not supposed to throw it away that away. In response, he got right up in my face and ripped up the paper – five times. As we continued to speak, he accused me of being a liar and said I was not welcome. I told him I was on a public sidewalk and as long as there was no Sharia Law, I was allowed to be there. The mosque president and I spoke for about five minutes, then he turned and left. The other two men followed suit.

After listening to the audio, there are things I would have done differently. For example, I noticed when the man downplayed Islamic persecution of Christians all over the world, I became agitated. He even mocked the idea of Christian persecution and said Christians do the exact same thing. Even though this issue is dear to me, misinformation is no excuse for me to be rude. Christians must be bold with Muslims, yes, but I also must give them a chance to hear the truth – but only in love. 

NOTE: Some of the audio quoted in this piece can be downloaded right here, on a radio broadcast I did on the topic. Some of the names and such have been changed.


7 May

We all wonder what makes a killer* tick. People want to know what goes on in the mind of a terrorist. I can shed light on one: Elton Simpson; my former co-worker and frequent debate partner.

The Christian must think theologically about such people. The Christian must not think the murderer – or any sinner, for that matter – is so different, so much worse. The Christian must remember that outside of Christ, we too face God’s judgment for our sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Still, not everyone is ready to drive across the southwest United States to commit murder as Elton was. Why? That is the question. The answer: Elton’s theology.


“Are you a Wahabist?”, I asked. Elton waved his hands emphatically: “That is the name Orientalists [British scholars of Islam] gave to those who practice true Islam. I am a Salafi.” Non-Salafi Muslims consider the Salafi understanding of Islam to be strict, rigid, limited, and narrow. Salafis believe Salafi Islam is closest to the Islam of Muhammad and his companions. Estimates indicate Salafi Islam is the fastest-growing form of Islam; the headlines indicate Salafi Islam is also the most violent.

Elton Simpson was a Salafi Muslim – and proud of it.


Zakir Naik, arguably the most prominent Islamic apologist alive, is a Salafi Muslim. Naik, along with Ahmed Deedat (deceased), were Elton’s favorite two Islamic apologists. I learned this when I name dropped the high-minded apologist Shabir Ally. Elton’s response: “We don’t all like Shabir, you know.” I asked who he did like: “Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat”.

Elton’s response illustrates the divide between academic discussions of Islam and Islam in real-life.
Ally: an intellectual; a professor with an elite pedigree.
Naik: only debates opponents whom he knows he can defeat.
Deedat: notoriously shoddy arguments which suffered from a lack of logical rigor.
Why then are the latter two considered the YouTube Islamic champions of debate? Passion. Rhetoric. Intensity. Perceived devoutness. 

Elton preferred apologists like Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat over Shabir Ally.


Very early in our relationship, I asked Elton his opinion of Bin Laden. “Hero.” Elton gave his answer almost before I finished saying the name. I paused; he looked at me and waited with sincere eyes. He wasn’t goading me; he wasn’t toying with me; he wasn’t playing. Elton was for real.

In Elton’s mind, Osama Bin Laden was clearly a hero – no qualifications needed.


During one talk, I brought up Islamic republics. Elton quickly told me none of the current countries calling themselves Islamic Republics actually were; he found the idea laughable. I wondered what nation could meet his standard, so I asked. Elton answered: “Pre-2001 Afghanistan.” Elton did not think this was debatable, he viewed it as self-evident.

Elton believed pre-2001 Afghanistan was the only true modern Islamic Republic.


When I expressed frustration with Elton about the nature of shariah law, he seemed exasperated: “We don’t follow shariah to please man; it is the command of Allah. Allah’s law is not there to make you feel nice and cozy. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.” Elton’s Twitter handle was “Shariah Is Light”. How tragically insightful! He understood shariah to illumine humanity’s path about how we should live. 

Elton believed all people should submit to shariah law for their own good.


Surah 5:51 instructs Muslims not to take Jews or Christians as friends. I asked Elton if he could take a Christian as a friend. He indicated “no”. If I remember correctly, Elton waffled a bit. Perhaps he was considering another interpretation of this aayat (verse), such as “don’t take them as ‘protectors’”? I don’t know.

I do know that later on in our first (rather lengthy) conversation, Elton said he would potentially marry a Christian girl. That struck me as odd.

Me: “How could you marry a Christian? I thought you said you couldn’t take a Christian as your friend?”
Elton: “I said I couldn’t have one as my friend. I didn’t say I couldn’t have one as my wife.”

I figured Elton was simply being arbitrary. Since then, I learned there is Hadith precedence for this ruling. Elton wasn’t out of line with Islamic thought; Islamic thought itself is what’s out of line.

Elton’s theology of marriage: your wife is not your friend.


Before his death, Elton Simpson went to great lengths to stop an act of free expression: drawing pictures of Muhammad. I do not consider events of this nature to be wise or kind. However, I believe events like this should be allowed. So should the Book of Mormon musical. Same goes for Piss Christ.

Islamic thought holds that creating an image of anything with a soul is haram (forbidden). Drawing Muhammad is especially forbidden. I imagine Elton viewed this art contest as too flagrant to allow; too blasphemous to let stand; too disrespectful to let go unfettered. Somebody had to do something to stop this shameful event – but nobody seemed to be doing anything.

garland-shootingElton must have thought he was the one. This was his time, his chance. Elton Simpson was willing to kill others and let himself be killed in order to defend his Prophet’s honor. For Elton, it was worth it to protect Muhammad’s name. 

In one chilling moment, Elton told me jihad was not one of the Five Pillars of Islam, “jihad was the pinnacle of Islam.” He was explicit: he did not mean an “inner struggle”, he meant a physical struggle against the House of War (the non-Islamic portions of the world).

Elton embraced jihad. Elton embraced death.

                                                                                                                                                                Published 05/06/2015

*I don’t feel entirely comfortable calling Elton a killer; he didn’t actually kill anyone. Yet, I know that was his intention. I know Jesus says “out of the heart come evil thoughts” and “murder” (Matthew 5:19).


Vocab Malone has a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is a Doctoral student at Talbot School of Theology. He has many recorded debates. His hobbies include reading, coffee, and geek culture.


6 May

I knew Elton Simpson.

On Sunday, May 3, 2015, Elton and a friend opened fire at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas. He was shot and killed shortly after. Elton and his friend drove from Arizona to Texas to attack a gathering celebrating free speech — by displaying artistic depictions of Muhammad. Images of Muhammad are considered highly offensive to Muslims.

No, Elton was not insane. Elton was not mean. Elton was not rude. Elton was not wild-eyed. Elton was not constantly angry. Elton never threatened me. Elton was calm, level-headed, smart, and studious. He was generally kind and well-mannered.  Bright and articulate, he spoke smooth and easy. Elton was not a poor unwanted outcast; a down-and-outer he was not. Neither the simplistic narratives of the right or left work for him.

Elton Simpson


I am convinced the secular world will never properly understand people like Elton because the secular world will never properly understand Elton’s theology.

Secularist presuppositions cause many people to seek in vain for a non-theological answer for “radicalization”: economics, insanity, politics, personal nastiness, family problems, blood lust, revenge. Certainly, some of those factors play into some aspects of some people who commit what we know as terrorist acts. But these are not the core.

The core is theology. The core is taking Muhammad, his words and his actions, seriously. Elton took Islam seriously.

How do I know? Elton and I worked for the same company. We spent time together at our mutual workplace. For example, I once asked Elton if he was going to take a certain job promotion:

“Why not?”
“They would ask me to trim my beard.”
“Why must you keep your beard?”
“To be like the Prophet.”
“Why? You don’t worship him.”
“No, but he was the best example of what it means to live as a Muslim. Do you know what ‘Muslim’ means?”
“Yes – one submitted.”
Yes, submitted to Allah’s will – like Muhammad was.”
“Is that why you wear your pants this way?”
(Elton wore his pants slightly above the ankles)
“Yes, The Prophet never let his garment drag on the ground.”

Elton’s understanding of Islam was such that Muhammad’s example (as found in the accepted Hadith) was paradigmatic for the proper practice of Islam. The way he went about this was very matter of fact. Elton exhibited such a cool confidence in his interpretation of Islam, it is easy to imagine him convincing others to adopt his positions. I once witnessed Elton’s casual yet charismatic sway on display.


First, some context: Elton and I conversed at his local mosque a few times. Yes, I have been to the mosque Elton frequented in north Phoenix. Yet, I am not a Muslim. I was at Elton’s mosque to share the gospel with Muslims as they left Friday prayer. I am a Christian; a pastor and a seminary graduate. I engage in evangelism. This is how I ran into my friend at the mosque.

One Friday afternoon, some fellow Christians and I were at the mosque Elton attended, doing what we often did: quietly and peacefully handing out bilingual (Arabic/English) copies of the Gospel of John to all takers. We stood out of the exit paths, on the public sidewalk. We had an established protocol: when someone said “No”, we responded in clumsy Arabic – “Barak Allahu fik” (a common way of expressing thanks to a person) – and then moved on.

Some days, no one would speak with us or accept our offer of the Holy Injil (what Muslims call the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). This day was not like that – it seemed as if every other person was willingly taking a book – it was fantastic. Elton changed all that. He briefly spoke with me as he came out of prayer and then quickly turned to his fellow Muslims. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but after a brief but friendly-looking conversation, they would hand over the Gospel of John they had just received. Elton went around to as many folks as he could in a very short amount of time, smiling and chatting all the way. Almost every person handed over their book to him. Elton was in the adjacent parking lot by this time. Being that it was private property, we stayed put. Elton then slowly turned towards me and slyly smiled – he held up two hand-sized stacks of gospels and threw them all in the trash. Elton single-handedly stopped 30 people from having a chance to read the Gospel of John.

Mosque Evangelism
our mosque evangelism team after an outreach

As I left that day, I was rather depressed. A bleak feeling settled over me as I sat in my car, waiting at the stop light on 27th Ave. and Glendale. As I looked to my side, I saw Elton. We recognized each other immediately. I quickly rolled down my window and we had a brief conversation till the light changed. I asked him why he was so afraid of his friends reading one book out of the New Testament. I don’t recall his precise reply, but I believe it was something to the effect of, “I’m not afraid, I am just warning them about poison.” 

I believe Elton was genuinely concerned for the Muslims at his mosque. That is why he did what he did that day. I also believe Elton was genuinely concerned for the honor of the one he deems a Prophet – and that is ultimately why he did what he did on May 3rd.

Even though I was surprised by what Elton did – drove from Phoenix to Dallas to kill people who were supporting drawing pictures of Muhammad – I can’t say I was shocked. 

Why? I knew Elton’s theology.

                                                                                PUBLISHED 05/06/2015 ~ PHOENIX, AZ


Vocab Malone has a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is a Doctoral student at Talbot School of Theology. He has many recorded debates. His hobbies include reading, coffee, and geek culture.
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