Tuesday, July 05, 2022

More Than The Church Fathers

When Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are discussing early church history, it's common for them to make misleading claims about the scope of the relevant evidence. For example, they'll say that all of the church fathers agreed about a particular issue, even though the fathers aren't the only relevant sources, or that nobody denied a certain belief, even though what they mean is that no church father denied it. What they allege about the fathers is often wrong, but what I want to focus on here is the neglect of other sources.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Incidents Involving Music In The Enfield Poltergeist

Music didn't have much of a role in the Enfield case, but it was involved to some extent. And it's an aspect of the case that's been neglected.

As I discuss the subject, I'll be citing the tapes of Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair. I'll use "MG" to refer to one of Grosse's tapes and "GP" to refer to one of Playfair's. Therefore, MG1B is Grosse's tape 1B, GP70B is Playfair's tape 70B, etc.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Epiphanius Did Not Affirm The Assumption Of Mary

It's become popular in some Roman Catholic circles to cite Epiphanius out of context in order to make it look as though he affirmed the Assumption of Mary. Somebody in the comments thread following Gavin Ortlund's recent video on the Assumption cited Epiphanius that way. You can click the link just provided to read his comments. Here's the response I posted there:

If you read the larger context, Epiphanius isn't claiming that Mary was assumed to heaven. He goes on, just after what you quoted, to compare Mary to the apostle John, even though she wasn't the same as John in every characteristic of John he mentions (Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion Of Epiphanius Of Salamis, Books II And III; De Fide [Leiden, The Netherlands: SBL Press, 2013], 641). He goes on to say "Elijah is not to be worshiped, even though he is alive. And John is not to be worshiped, even though by his own prayer - or rather, by receiving the grace from God - he made an awesome thing of his falling asleep." (ibid.) Epiphanius also mentions Thecla, a martyr, in this context. It seems that he's comparing Mary to three different figures - Elijah, John, and Thecla - whose lives ended in three different ways, the same three ways he mentions elsewhere when he says that nobody knows how Mary's life ended (ibid., 635). He's not claiming, in the passage you've cited, to know that Mary remained alive and was taken up as Elijah was, which would contradict what he said earlier about how nobody knows what happened at the end of her life. Rather, he's repeating what he said earlier about our ignorance of the end of her life. That's why he goes on to compare Mary to John and Thecla, just after what you misleadingly quoted. Just as his comparing Mary to John and Thecla doesn't require that Epiphanius believed that Mary died, his comparing Mary to Elijah doesn't require that Epiphanius believed she didn't die. Rather, he's repeating his earlier point that Mary's end could have been like the end of any of those three individuals.

Furthermore, his earlier statement about how nobody knows what happened at the end of Mary's life goes beyond merely whether she died. He also discusses other matters related to the end of her life, like whether she died as a martyr and whether she was buried. In an earlier passage, he writes of how in scripture we "neither find Mary's death, nor whether or not she died, nor whether or not she was buried", and he goes on to refer to how scripture is silent about the details of her living with John (ibid., 624). So, Epiphanius seems to be addressing the end of her life in general, not just whether she died. Thus, Epiphanius' statement that nobody knows what happened at the end of Mary's life seems to be a contradiction of Roman Catholicism's claim that Mary's assumption at the end of her life is an apostolic tradition always held by the church.

Historical Problems With The Assumption Of Mary

Gavin Ortlund just put out a video on the subject that makes a lot of good points. One of the things he brings up is that ancient sources often discussed assumptions and similar events among other figures (e.g., Enoch) without mentioning Mary in the process. He cites some material from Tertullian as an illustration. I've gathered many such examples over the years, and you can find discussions of them in the posts linked here, for example. The nature of the argument is such that it gains significantly more force when more sources are cited, so it's important to address a larger number of sources. We've also discussed some other evidence Gavin doesn't address much or at all in his video, like in the post here on Marian relics. You can find an archive of our posts on the Assumption of Mary here.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Is God more honored or dishonored in the world?

The question is a variation of the issue of whether there's more good than evil in life, and it's a good variation that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. John Piper addressed it and made some good points in the process on a recent edition of "Ask Pastor John".

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Some Problems With Singling Out Mark 13:30

Critics of early Christian eschatology often allege that Mark 13:30 makes a false prediction that Jesus' second coming will occur before the end of his generation. There are multiple contextual problems with that interpretation, as I've discussed on other occasions (verse 29 excludes the second coming from the "all these things" of verse 30, and verses 32-33 deny that a date can be set for the second coming). But what if a critic would suggest that we remove verse 30 from its surrounding context and take it as a genuine record of what the historical Jesus taught, whereas the surrounding context I've referred to is inauthentic?

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Was Jesus a false prophet?

Here's a really good video by Than Christopoulos and Bram Rawlings on the claim that Jesus and the early Christians falsely predicted the timing of the second coming. This is a topic that critics of Christianity often bring up, but Christians typically don't respond nearly as well as they could. Bram makes many significant points, and I recommend keeping a record of the URL for future reference. (He also writes for Think Christian Theism, and you can find some posts there on these eschatological issues.)

Thursday, June 16, 2022

If You Love People, Lead Them To God

"For our good, about which philosophers have so keenly contended, is nothing else than to be united to God. It is, if I may say so, by spiritually embracing Him that the intellectual soul is filled and impregnated with true virtues. We are enjoined to love this good with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength. To this good we ought to be led by those who love us, and to lead those we love. Thus are fulfilled those two commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul;' and 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' For, that man might be intelligent in his self-love, there was appointed for him an end to which he might refer all his actions, that he might be blessed. For he who loves himself wishes nothing else than this. And the end set before him is 'to draw near to God.' And so, when one who has this intelligent self-love is commanded to love his neighbor as himself, what else is enjoined than that he shall do all in his power to commend to him the love of God?" (Augustine, The City Of God, 10:3)

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Gaining Interest For My Master

"When I ever hear a young person say 'I'm bored', my response to them was always 'I haven't been bored since 1978.' There is no reason to be bored in this world as a Christian. You have so much that you can and should be doing." (James White)

"We should all have work to do for our divine Master. True, our everyday labor ought to be so done as to render honor to his name, but in addition to that, every Christian should be laboring in the Lord in some sphere of holy service. I shall not enlarge, but I shall pass the question round to each one. 'What are you doing for Jesus Christ?' I pray each one here who makes a profession of faith in Jesus to answer the question, 'What am I doing in the work and service of the Lord?' If you are doing nothing, I pray you bewail your slothfulness and escape from it, for talents wrapped in napkins will be terrible witnesses against you….I do not think a man is doing all he can do if he is not attempting more than he will complete. Our vessels are never full till they run over. The little over proves our zeal, tries our faith, casts us upon God and wins his help. That which we cannot do of ourselves, leads us to call in divine strength, and then wonders are wrought….What is there worth living for, I say, beneath yon stars? But there is a something that makes it worth while existing and makes life grand and noble. It is this: if I may crown with praise that head which for my sake was crowned with thorns, if I may honor him who was dishonored for my sake, if to the manifestation of the glories of Jehovah I may have contributed a share, if at the reading of the records of all time it may be found that I put out my talent as a faithful servant, and gained interest for my Master, it shall be well." (Charles Spurgeon)

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Evidence For The Early Dominance Of The Canonical Gospels

The canon of gospels in the New Testament is often questioned or doubted. Why include those four gospels and not others? It's sometimes even suggested that there was no majority support for elevating the canonical gospels above others until around the time when Irenaeus wrote in the late second century or the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, for example.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

How Ephesus Causes Problems For Skepticism

In an earlier post, I discussed some evidence for Paul's authorship of Ephesians. It was largely about the history of the Ephesian church and those who interacted with that church in the earliest decades of Christianity. I was focused on the Pauline authorship of Ephesians in that post, but some of the issues discussed there have bigger implications as well. I want to discuss those implications here and expand upon some of my points in that earlier post.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Did the resurrection accounts develop in a suspicious way?

In the debate I discussed in my last post, Alex O'Connor raised a common objection to the resurrection accounts in the gospels. Supposedly, the earliest gospel, Mark, has the simplest material on Jesus' resurrection, and each gospel after that gets increasingly advanced in the claims it makes on the subject. See Alex's comments here. He especially discusses an increase in the number of resurrection appearances in each gospel - in the order of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John - though he doesn't limit his development argument to that issue.

There are a lot of problems with that sort of objection. As Jonathan McLatchie mentioned in the debate, the material on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 predates all of the gospels, yet is more advanced in some ways. I want to add some other points.