Saturday, May 25, 2013
"We do not know the name of its author: the title found in our English versions ('The Gospel according to Matthew') was added long after the document's original composition. It is true that according to an old tradition the author was none other than Matthew, the tax collector mentioned in Matt 9:9. This tradition, however, arose some decades after the Gospel itself had been published, and scholars today have reasons to doubt its accuracy. For one thing, the author never identifies himself as Matthew, either in 9:9 or anywhere else. Also, certain features of this Gospel make it difficult to believe that this Matthew could have been the author. Why, for example, would someone who had spent so much time with Jesus rely on another author (Mark) for nearly two-thirds of his stories, often repeating them word for word (including the story of his own call to discipleship; 9:9-13)? And why would he never authenticate his account by indicating that he himself had seen these things take place?…Since he produced his Gospel in Greek, presumably for a Greek-speaking community, he was probably located somewhere outside Palestine…Matthew, an anonymous Jewish leader of the Christian community (assuming that his strong literary skills, indicative of a higher education, gave him a place of prominence there), penned a Gospel narrative to show that Jesus was in fact the Jewish messiah, who like Moses gave the law of God to his people." (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament [New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012], 114-115, 132)
Friday, May 24, 2013
I'm glad that a tiny minority of Christians do study issues like homosexual marriage in significant depth and provide good arguments for the Christian position. And that tiny minority receives support from other Christians to some extent. In that sense, I wouldn't say that the church is asleep on this issue. But given the astonishingly small percentage of Christians who do the sort of work that ought to be done on the issue, it seems accurate to say that the church is drifting to sleep, even if we aren't asleep yet. The culture is rapidly declining around us, and we're still so apathetic.
The same is occurring with a lot of other issues, not just homosexual marriage. As I said in my post earlier this month, we need to adapt to the changes that are occurring. We're not living in an equivalent of the 1950s or 1980s. There's been a significant societal shift, and the vast majority of Christians, as well as many of their allies in some contexts, aren't acting like it. Quoting Bible verses, telling people that your view of something like homosexual marriage is "just obvious", etc. isn't enough.
I also wonder what's going on in the lives of Christian men. Why aren't they showing leadership? Where's their desire to fight? When they see something like that thread at Kevin DeYoung's blog, why don't they have a stronger desire to argue for the truth and defend it against counterarguments? Even if some of them are occupied with other worthwhile things, surely (for reasons like the ones I discussed earlier this month) that can't be said of everybody who's remaining silent in these contexts. There's something radically wrong with the church, especially men, when so many people are so silent so often, with so much at stake.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
But here's the problem. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). Not the parachurch.
Christ is the Head of the church (Eph. 5:23), not of the parachurch.
He gave pastors and teachers for the equipping of saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:11).
The church is created for, founded upon, and united in, its allegiance to the person of Christ who exercises His headship through the specific truths of God's Word (Jn. 8:31-32; 17:17, 21, 23; Eph. 4:4-5). The task of enlisting and cultivating students of Christ has been entrusted to it (Matt. 28:18-20).
Let me rephrase that last thought as a question, and come at it from a different angle. Do you feel the need for instruction, for equipping for service? Do you see how much more there is to learn of Christ, of His person and work, of His will for your life? Are you boggled by the maze of differing and competing views, and longing for guidance and guarding amidst them? Christ already thought of all that, and more. He already made provision for those needs (Eph. 4:7ff.). The provision He made is men who are pastors and teachers, His personal ascension-gifts to His church.
So where do parachurch personnel come in? Well, that's the problem. Their leaders may or may not be (or be qualified to be) pastors.
Can anyone see a parachurch organization in the NT?
[Pope Francis] told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists had been redeemed by Jesus.
"Even them, everyone," the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. "We all have the duty to do good," he said.
"Just do good, and we'll find a meeting point," the pope said in a hypothetical reply to the hypothetical comment...
Of course, if Jesus has "redeemed" "everyone" including atheists, then why is doing good a "duty"? Why bother to do good?
Or are we all redeemed, but some are more redeemed than others?
If so, then I suppose one can do good to merit a bigger mansion in heaven. Or a place closer to the throne of God.
Okay, but still, what's wrong with the atheist who says, "Well, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin in this world, and have a lower place in heaven, thankyouverymuch"?
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Difficult Scriptures: Romans 5:12-17
16 May by Jeff Dunn12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:12-17, NLT)So, we have Paul writing that Adam is a symbol of Christ who was yet to come. Does this symbol have to have been real? Does our faith hang in the balance as to whether or not we believe in a historical Adam?I normally don’t answer my own Difficult Scriptures question, but today I will, and then stand aside to hear your thoughts. To give my answer, I will have to lean heavily on what I learned from Michael Spencer about reading the Bible.The Scriptures were given us for one reason, and one reason alone: To point us to Jesus. When we try to use the Scriptures to prove other points, we are going outside of the scope of its purpose. The story and symbol of Adam show us “little Adams” to be sinners in need of redemption. Redemption comes in Christ’s death and resurrection. If I focus on whether or not Adam is/was real, I take my eyes away from what God intends me to look at: Jesus. So I guess I’m saying it does not matter to me whether or not Adam was really real. The story of Adam points me to a very real Jesus.Now, your thoughts?
The part of 2 Tim 3 that everyone likes to quote and that becomes the bedrock of their doctrines of scripture is, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction…”
Scripture is God-breathed. Yes!But wait! There’s more!Or, perhaps better put–wait, you forgot a part!The verse before this presents a significant qualification: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.”Did you see it?Scripture isn’t just “good.” Full stop. It is good for a particular purpose. That purpose is Christological. Scripture is not rightly read as scripture when it is given its historical, scientific, or critical meaning. It is not rightly read as scripture until it is read as a witness to, or cultivating a wisdom that inclines us toward, the crucified and risen Christ.In Romans, Paul says similar things: the righteousness of God (in the crucified and risen Christ) is borne witness to by the Law and the Prophets; Christ is the end/goal of the Law.Paul is faithful in what he says about Adam, not because he rightly identifies Adam as the biological precursor of all subsequent humanity, but because he sees in Adam a way to understand how the crucified and risen Christ is the beginning of God’s plan for a new humanity at the acme of new creation.What did God breathe? Words of wisdom. Words of wisdom that lead to salvation. Words of wisdom that lead to salvation through faith in Christ.If we read and find only words of science or dogma or ethics or history, the Bible has not yet become for us the living and active and inspired word of God.
The term “myth” has a long history of use prior to the NT, through which it comes to mean a fable or far-fetched story, often about the gods; most importantly, it can stand as a category meaning essentially falsehood (109).
But what about God’s retributive violence–where God exacts swift judgment in the form of physical brutality against his own people for disobeying?The question that is as old as the Christian faith is: “How does all this square with how Jesus speaks of God?” The key word here is forgiveness. The issue is not simply that Jesus says we should forgive each other. Rather, by forgiving each other we reflect the heart of God.Of course, for both the Old and New Testaments, there are other examples we could look at. But the point remains: If Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), how can we hold all this together? How can these two views of God be reconciled? Are they even supposed to be reconciled?One answer will not do, and we need to nip it in the bud: “God can do whatever he wants to, and that includes mercilessly punishing sinners among his own people by killing them.” That misses the entire point. The issue here is how God himself is portrayed differently in the Old Testament and then in the New.
Ray Rogers told me personally that he believed, “Something else was at work with the Maillard reaction,” but he didn’t know what that was and didn’t live long enough to explore it.
Keep in mind, too, that the Shroud would still have high evidential significance for Christianity even if some natural process, like a Maillard reaction, explains the Shroud or part of it. The cloth would still give us evidence for Jesus' existence, the accuracy of early Christian accounts of his death, etc.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Polygamy is no longer an outlier for many social scientists, and much serious work has already been done laying the groundwork for its defense (see here, as well as this recent Slate article arguing for it). Polygamy, however, is small potatoes. Polyamory, the idea that many persons sexually involved with one another should be able to accrue government support, benefits, and legal structure to assist in their lifestyle, has a serious academic following (see here and here ; also note it’s happening in Brazil here). And what about the many “gay marriage” advocates in academia who admit that they want to get rid of – move “beyond” – traditional marriage altogether? (see here and here) What about those in the gay rights movement – not a small number – who believe the “next step” should be to help straight people get over their obsession – the hypocritical obsession! – with monogamous marriage? (see here and here and here). And what about the fact that for many, their conception of “civil rights”, grounded on just what I do not know, is the card that would trump all factual reality? In other words, whether or not children in general do better with a mom and a dad, to take one example, is irrelevant (see here – so what is the point of insisting that conservatives provide evidence that pornography is harmful?). Jerry Sandusky aside, pedophilia has been gradually losing its stigma – as long as it is done ethically of course! – and there have been serious academic books written defending it (see here and here; interesting related links here and here).
*NEW CLASS THIS SUMMER!
Registration is NOW OPEN for The Life of Jesus and the Gospels.
For eight weeks this summer, I will be teaching a weekly class on the life of Jesus and the Gospels at Jesus Bible Institute in New Jersey.
We've also written about hostile corroboration of Christianity in modern times. See, for example, this post about hostile corroboration of modern miracles.