Thursday, September 24, 2020

What Would Your Relatives And Coworkers Think?

"For the people is our master and the great mob; a savage master and a severe tyrant: not so much as a command being needed in order to make us listen to him; it is enough that we just know what he wills, and without a command we submit: so great good will do we bear towards him. Again, God threatening and admonishing day by day is not heard; but the common people, full of disorder, made up of all manner of dregs, has no occasion for one word of command; enough for it only to signify with what it is well pleased, and in all things we obey immediately. 'But how,' says some one, 'is a man to flee from these masters?' By getting a mind greater than theirs; by looking into the nature of things; by condemning the voice of the multitude; before all, by training himself in things really disgraceful to fear not men, but the unsleeping Eye; and again, in all good things, to seek the crowns which come from Him." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On First Corinthians, 12:8-9)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Daniel The Prophet

I think Steve Hays wrote more about Daniel than any of the other prophets. You can find a collection of links to a lot of Steve's material on Daniel here. The page also links many of his other posts on issues related to prophecy. The collection is far from exhaustive, though. You can search our archives for more.

"The Egyptian or Chaldaean prophets, and the other writers, should have been able accurately to tell, if at least they spoke by a divine and pure spirit, and spoke truth in all that was uttered by them; and they should have announced not only things past or present, but also those that were to come upon the world. And therefore it is proved that all others have been in error; and that we Christians alone have possessed the truth, in as much as we are taught by the Holy Spirit, who spoke in the holy prophets, and foretold all things. And, for the rest, would that in a kindly spirit you would investigate divine things - I mean the things that are spoken by the prophets - in order that, by comparing what is said by us with the utterances of the others, you may be able to discover the truth." (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 2:33-34)

"Let [Porphyry] explain the meaning of that rock which was hewn from the mountain without hands, and which grew to be a great mountain and filled the earth, and which smashed to pieces the fourfold image. And let him say who that Son of man is who is going to come with clouds and stand before the Ancient of Days and have bestowed upon him a kingdom which shall never come to an end, and who is going to be served by all nations, tribes, and language-groups. Porphyry ignores these things which are so very clear and maintains that the prophecy refers to the Jews, although we are well aware that they are to this very day in a state of bondage." (Jerome, Commentary On Daniel, Chapter Eleven, vv. 44-45)

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Perennial Jewish Corroboration Of Christianity

What's below are some comments from Augustine on Jewish corroboration of Christianity. Notice that he was writing about 1600 years ago and that his comments are applicable to every century of the church's history. We're sometimes told that people didn't have much evidence for Christianity during most of church history, as if people had little evidence for the religion between the earliest years of the history of the church and the modern era. Supposedly, recent developments in fields like archeology and historical scholarship have brought about a major change. Those who lived in the medieval era, for example, allegedly didn't have much evidence to go by. It's true that they had significantly less evidence than we have, but they had more than is often suggested. Augustine is addressing a significant line of evidence for Christianity that's existed throughout church history:

"Indeed, it is a great confirmation of our faith that such important testimony is borne by enemies. The believing Gentiles cannot suppose these testimonies to Christ to be recent forgeries; for they find them in books held sacred for so many ages by those who crucified Christ, and still regarded with the highest veneration by those who every day blaspheme Christ. If the prophecies of Christ were the production of the preachers of Christ, we might suspect their genuineness. But now the preacher expounds the text of the blasphemer. In this way the Most High God orders the blindness of the ungodly for the profit of the saint, in His righteous government bringing good out of evil, that those who by their own choice live wickedly may be, in His just judgment, made the instruments of His will. So, lest those that were to preach Christ to the world should be thought to have forged the prophecies which speak of Christ as to be born, to work miracles, to suffer unjustly, to die, to rise again, to ascend to heaven, to publish the gospel of eternal life among all nations, the unbelief of the Jews has been made of signal benefit to us; so that those who do not receive in their heart for their own good these truths, carry, in their hands for our benefit the writings in which these truths are contained. And the unbelief of the Jews increases rather than lessens the authority of the books, for this blindness is itself foretold. They testify to the truth by their not understanding it. By not understanding the books which predict that they would not understand, they prove these books to be true." (Reply To Faustus The Manichaean, 16:21)

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Non-Christian Fulfillment And Corroboration Of Christian Prophecies

I've been discussing different approaches we can take toward arguing for Christianity from prophecy. I want to expand on an approach that was mentioned in the post just linked. We can focus on prophecies fulfilled or corroborated by non-Christians. For example:

- Jesus' Bethlehem birthplace (Micah 5:2).
- His close association with Galilee (Isaiah 9:1).
- The arrival during the time of the Roman empire of a kingdom of God that would gradually grow over time (Daniel 2:34-35).
- The initial Jewish rejection of Jesus (Isaiah 49:7, 53:1-8, Zechariah 12:10).
- The scourging by the Romans (Isaiah 50:6).
- The crucifixion by the Romans (Psalm 22, Daniel 9:26, Isaiah 53:4-9).
- The empty tomb (Isaiah 53:9-11).
- The resurrection appearance to James (Isaiah 53:10-11).
- The resurrection appearance to Saul of Tarsus (Isaiah 53:10-11).
- The Romans' destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Daniel 9:26).
- Jesus' popularity among the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1, 42:6, 49:6, Daniel 2:35).
- His popularity among Gentile rulers (Isaiah 49:7, 52:15).
- Ongoing Jewish rejection (Zechariah 12:10, Romans 11:25-32).
- The prominence of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2-3).

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How To Argue For Prophecy Fulfillment

In a post last year, I outlined how I think we should address issues of prophecy fulfillment by starting with the common ground we have with skeptics. Begin with fulfillments that are accepted by both sides. You could also grant much of what critics say about a prophecy for the sake of argument, such as that the passage isn't Messianic in its original context, but argue that Jesus' alignment with the passage in a typological or secondary manner is evidentially significant. And much of Jesus' alignment with the relevant passages comes from facts widely accepted even among non-Christians. I cited Isaiah's Servant Songs as an example of a good place to start. What I want to do here is discuss another approach that can be taken within the same framework.

Instead of using passages, like the Servant Songs, organize your material around topics. That allows you to appeal to material from more than one passage or series of passages. It's also easier in some ways for people to understand and remember the material involved if you take a topical approach. Here are some examples of the topics that could be used:

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Errors Of People Finding Errors In Scripture

Often, some of the best material in a book is found in its notes. Martin Hengel has a great line in a note in a book he wrote about the gospel of Mark. He's addressing modern critics who are overly dismissive of the author of the gospel of Mark because of alleged errors he made on matters like geography and Jewish customs:

"As many and as few mistakes are made in the Gospels as in monographs on the New Testament." (Studies In The Gospel Of Mark [Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003], n 51 on p. 148)

In the same note, he gives an example of a fellow New Testament scholar, apparently, who made a geographical error similar to the ones that are supposed to be in Mark:

"When I visited my distinguished colleague A. Kuschke (to whom I had dedicated the above article on his seventieth birthday) in Kusterdingen, south-east of Tübingen, we were able to admire Pfrondorf to the north, beyond the Neckar. A colleague who had lived for many years in Tübingen asked me, 'Is that beyond Wankheim?' 'No,' I had to tell him, 'it's in the opposite direction.'"

The house my mother is currently living in is the one where I spent most of my childhood. I lived there for a double-digit number of years, and I frequently go back there to visit. I can't name some of the streets closest to the house. There are many aspects of the topography, names of certain neighbors, etc. that I wouldn't be able to provide if asked. But critics often expect Mark to have a much higher level of knowledge about regions of Israel, like Galilee, where we have no reason to think he ever lived. As Hengel comments elsewhere in his book, "His 'deficient knowledge' of the geography of Galilee, which contemporary exegetes like to criticize, in fact simply shows up the [latter's] historical incomprehension: without a map it would be difficult even for a man of antiquity like Mark to establish his bearings in a strange area a good seventy miles from his home city" (46).

Hengel wasn't a conservative, and he wasn't an inerrantist, but he often agreed with conservatives and inerrantists on significant issues. And what he says above about the gospels is also relevant to criticisms that are often brought against the church fathers and other ancient sources. The evidence supports the inerrancy of scripture, and the supposed errors in Mark are often not seen as errors even by people who aren't inerrantists. But the points Hengel makes above should be kept in mind. Since inerrantists often argue for inerrancy by appealing to the general trustworthiness of the relevant documents, without yet appealing to their inerrancy, Hengel's points are relevant accordingly even for those wanting to persuade people to accept the inerrancy of scripture.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Greatness Of The Gospel

How we view the gospel affects our relationship with God, our relationships with other people, our priorities, our objectives, the sense of urgency we have, and many other aspects of life. It should be a foundational motivating factor every day of our lives. It's important that we have a high view of the gospel and think about it often, deeply, and in a multifaceted way. Here are some examples of authors down through the centuries commenting on certain portions of the gospel:

Faith Alone
He Gives Himself
The Incarnation
Gethsemane
Put On Trial
The Cross
The Tomb
The Resurrection
The Defeat Of Satan
Imputed Righteousness
The Benefits Of The Gospel

"An idea has long possessed the public mind, that a religious man can scarcely be a wise man. It has been the custom to talk of infidels, atheists, and deists, as men of deep thought and comprehensive intellect; and to tremble for the Christian controversialist, as if he must surely fall by the hand of his enemy. But this is purely a mistake; for the gospel is the sum of wisdom; an epitome of knowledge; a treasure-house of truth; and a revelation of mysterious secrets. In it we see how justice and mercy may be married; here we behold inexorable law entirely satisfied, and sovereign love bearing away the sinner in triumph. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind; and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it. Ah, dear friends! if ye seek wisdom, ye shall see it displayed in all its greatness; not in the balancing of the clouds, nor the firmness of earth's foundations; not in the measured march of the armies of the sky, nor in the perpetual motions of the waves of the sea; not in vegetation with all its fairy forms of beauty; nor in the animal with its marvellous tissue of nerve, and vein, and sinew: nor even in man, that last and loftiest work of the Creator. But turn aside and see this great sight!—an incarnate God upon the cross; a substitute atoning for mortal guilt; a sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of Heaven, and delivering the rebellious sinner. Here is essential wisdom; enthroned, crowned, glorified. Admire, ye men of earth, if ye be not blind; and ye who glory in your learning bend your heads in reverence, and own that all your skill could not have devised a gospel at once so just to God, so safe to man." (Charles Spurgeon, The C.H. Spurgeon Collection [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], The Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 1, pp. 113-14)

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What Christians and atheists both get wrong about Intelligent Design

I recently had a conversation with a friend who brought up Intelligent Design (ID), and it reminded me of something I’ve mentioned several years ago. Given how much time has passed, I thought it was worth reiterating it now. And that is the strange fact that both atheists and Christians, especially Young Earth Creationists (YEC), both fall into the same error in thinking that ID requires the existence of God.  Atheists use this claim to argue that ID should not be taught in schools.  Christians tend to use ID as an apologetic to defend Creationism against Darwinism.

The problem is that when we see what ID claims, it’s nowhere near requiring a deity.  Put simply, ID states that the evidence we have for evolution does not make any sense if we hold to random processes causing it all.  Rather, the evidence that we see indicates that the way that organisms exist now makes sense only if they were designed to be specific ways.  That is, evolution only makes sense if it is teleological, not random.  (Teleological just means that it has an end or a goal in mind, something which Darwin specifically rejected.)

Now the temptation is that the intelligent designer of ID must be God, but that’s not actually what ID is saying.  ID is only saying that the evidence of what we see indicates that life on Earth has been designed by some form of intelligence.  Given that ID does not require a YEC view of time, this means that it is perfectly consistent with ID to limit the claims of ID strictly to something along the lines of, “The evolution of life on Earth over the past 4.5 billion years came about from an intelligent designer intending a specific outcome.”

Such a designer need not be any more intelligent than human beings already are.  In theory, if we wanted to do so, we could set up labs on Mars and grow some microscopic organisms, guiding their evolution in the lab by selecting certain breeds of organisms over others (the same as people already do for dogs and other animals), genetically modifying those that don’t have the required genetic sequences already in place to form new organisms, and we could release those organisms into the Martian wilderness.  We wouldn’t even really need a few billion years to tinker around with the life forms we’ve introduced there.  If we were to build up a sufficiently advanced life form that was able to be self-aware, and it surveyed its historical settings, looking at fossils left behind and so forth, our intelligent design of those life forms would look indistinguishable from how life forms came about on Earth, in this scenario.

Really, the only thing that is keeping humans from doing this right now is the fact that it takes a lot of time and money to get to Mars, and this isn’t something that very many people would want to spend those resources on.  But it’s easy to imagine an alien race very similar to human beings who might wish to tinker around on some planet.  They discover Earth and set up their labs on Earth, terraforming the planet and guiding the evolution of life until one day humans are on the planet.  Those aliens do not need to have any divine characteristics at all.  In fact, they could even by slightly stupider (on average) than human beings are, and still have a statistical chance of having enough smart aliens to pull off such a scenario.

And since ID is limited solely to the evolution of life on Earth, the fact that the evolution of life on Earth makes more sense from a teleological perspective than from a random perspective does not even imply the existence of God for the rest of the universe, because the aliens who created us may have come about from completely different methods.  Our evolution appears guided.  Perhaps if we saw the evidence of this hypothetical race’s origins, a completely different theory might be proposed that would not require God.

That is why ID is neither proof of the existence of God, nor should it be disbarred from being taught in schools.  It is also why Christian theists need to have better arguments against atheism (and the good news is, we do!).  Sure, ID can disprove Darwinism, but that doesn’t prove God when someone even slightly less intelligent than we are could replicate the results we see on Earth.  So while ID isn’t bad by any means, especially since it does help show how ludicrous Darwinism is, Christians need to be very wary about relying on ID as an apologetic silver bullet against materialistic Darwinists.

More Evidence Of The Evangelical Lack Of Urgency

I discussed the subject of urgency in a recent thread. It wasn't just about Evangelicals, but the lack of urgency among Evangelicals in particular came up. I cited a lot of evidence relevant to issues of urgency, such as polling data, but that can be supplemented by other evidence that's not as extensive as something like a poll.

I've done a lot of work in apologetics over the years, so I have more familiarity with that field than others. I've often written about the negligence of Evangelicals in apologetic contexts (and theological contexts, moral contexts, etc.), including a lack of appropriate urgency. See here regarding same-sex marriage. And here regarding Christmas issues. Here regarding the paranormal. Those are just a few of many examples that could be cited.

Something that people often do in a context like this is cite the work of William Lane Craig, James White, Michael Brown, and other individuals who are doing a lot of good in apologetics and other fields, as if the work of such individuals suggests that Evangelicals in general are doing well. It does no such thing. Rather, Evangelicals are overly dependent on a tiny minority of individuals who are expected to carry an inordinately large burden.

What are you doing? What specific plans do you have in place to accomplish significant things, in apologetics and elsewhere? How often do you speak up? How often do you do little or nothing more than sit back and wait for other people to do the work?

"Strange were it that the physician, or the shoemaker, or the weaver, in short all artists, should be able each to contend correctly for his own art, but that one calling himself Christian should not be able to give a reason for his own faith; yet those things if overlooked bring only loss to men's property, these if neglected destroy our very souls. Yet such is our wretched disposition, that we give all our care to the former, and the things which are necessary, and which are the groundwork of our salvation, as though of little worth, we despise. That it is which prevents the heathen from quickly deriding his own error. For when they, though established in a lie, use every means to conceal the shamefulness of their opinions, while we, the servants of the truth, cannot even open our mouths, how can they help condemning the great weakness of our doctrine? how can they help suspecting our religion to be fraud and folly? how shall they not blaspheme Christ as a deceiver, and a cheat, who used the folly of the many to further his fraud? And we are to blame for this blasphemy, because we will not be wakeful in arguments for godliness, but deem these things superfluous, and care only for the things of earth." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On John, 17:3-4)

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Dying Well As A Christian

One of the many things to be grateful to God for in the life of Steve Hays is how well his life ended. I've written about how he was active in doing apologetics and other important work until the end and how well his life concluded in other ways. As his obituary said, "What he lived by, he died by."

A few years ago, I wrote about some similar themes in the life of T.S. Mooney. You can read those posts here and here.

All of us should periodically review our lives and ask how well we're preparing for death.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

The Missing Urgency

Scripture says a lot about the urgency we should have in religious contexts. Our culture doesn't. Most likely, your closest relatives, friends, and acquaintances don't either.

They're too occupied with the "worries and riches and pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14). The need for urgency is still there (Nehemiah 6:3, Psalm 39:4, 90:12, Hosea 5:15, Matthew 9:37-38, 24:42, Luke 12:20-21, John 4:35-38, 12:35, Romans 13:11-14, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5, Hebrews 10:25, James 4:13-15, Revelation 2:16, 3:11, etc.).

"You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed." (Matthew 25:26)

Friday, September 04, 2020

Craig and Rasmussen on divine aseity and abstract objects

Some might be interested in the following discussion between William Lane Craig and Josh Rasmussen on divine aseity and abstract objects. I haven't watched it yet, and I doubt I'd entirely agree with either Craig or Rasmussen on the topics at hand, but I post it because it might be a thought-provoking discussion on subjects important in philosophical theology.

Asians coming to America to benefit from slavery?

Pastor Jim responds to another Asian-American pastor who made the highly tendentious claim:

What many Asian Americans fail to realize is that our success is largely built on the backs of African Americans themselves. After all, if African American slavery did not exist, the United States may not have been such a desirable country to immigrate to. It was through the enslavement of African Americans that American prosperity was built in the first place.

As an aside, it's interesting there has been an Asian presence in the US since at least the antebellum period. Mainly in California, but some arrived and settled in Hawaii in the early 1800s, though of course this was well before Hawaii became a US state. Many early Asian immigrants were contract workers on plantations and manual labor for railroads.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Michael Haykin

"A Biographical Sketch of Michael A.G. Haykin"

Jiang interviews Poythress

"Vern Poythress on the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, and Revelation with Chinese Subtitles"

"Former Psychopath Dr. David Wood Shares His Astounding Transformation Into Christian Apologist"

Just my own summary:

1. David Wood goes into some depth about his testimony or conversion with Eric Metaxas. It starts at approximately 32:30 with Wood meeting another inmate named Randy who was a Christian. Wood saw Randy always sitting in his bunk reading his Bible. Randy wouldn't do anything the other inmates were doing.

2. One day Wood told Randy he was only reading the Bible because Randy was born in the US. If Randy had been born in China, then he'd be Buddhist. If India, Hindu. If Saudi Arabia, Muslim. Wood also told Randy "people like you believe whatever you're told to believe". Wood had the same idea of Christianity that he had of objective morality - that it's just a false belief that people are told by others, which they accept, because they don't know how to think for themselves. I guess Wood's idea is that Randy is a sheep. Like everyone else. Except for Wood himself.

3. However, Randy was the first Christian to put up a fight against Wood and argue back against Wood. Randy challenged Wood. The most "annoying" thing for Wood was that Randy would constantly question everything Wood himself believed: "Where did you get your idea then?" And Wood couldn't respond to Randy. Other than with silence.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

"Is David Wood's mockery Christ-like?"

1. David Wood defends his satire of Muhammad and Islam (it looks like this was filmed before Wood's most recent "mockery" which involved the "desecration" of the Quran):

The above is an excerpt, but the complete video is here:

2. I left my own comments regarding Wood's latest "mockery" in Peter's previous post.

JIP and WCF

Paul Helm on J.I. Packer and the Westminster Confession of Faith. (There seem to be more than a few spelling and punctuation errors.)

Answering some questions on the theological foundations of modern science

"Answering Some Questions on the Theological Foundations of Modern Science" (James Anderson).

Chris Bolt's book is based on his doctoral dissertation "The World in His Hands: A Christian Account of Scientific Law and Its Antithetical Competitors" which is currently available to download for free via SBTS.

James Gibson

James Gibson, a Reformed Christian and former graduate student in philosophy, has a couple of interesting papers on his website.

Memento mori

Christina Shenvi recounts her husband Neil Shenvi's seizure, which led to the discovery of his brain tumor, which led to surgery, which led to timely reflection:

"Is daddy going to die?" My 10-year-old son looks up at me. Tears well up in his eyes. He looks anxiously back and forth from me to my husband. He's the spit and image of his dad, with dark brown hair, tan, quarter-Indian skin, and hazel eyes. We've just broken the news that the brain tumor, which has lain dormant for 8 years, is starting to grow again. The younger three kids look to their big brother and to us for their cues.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Tribute To John Burcombe


(This post will make some references to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I'll use "MG" to refer to tapes from Grosse's collection, and "GP" will refer to those from Playfair's. So, MG63B is Grosse's tape 63B, and GP40A is tape 40A in Playfair's collection.)

When the Hodgson family first realized that something paranormal was occurring in their home, they headed for the Burcombes' house. It was only after they noticed the lights on at the Nottinghams' house next door that they decided to go there instead. Though none of the Burcombes were present at the Hodgsons' house on the opening night of the case, the first people the Hodgsons thought to go to for help were John Burcombe and his family. They would often be a source of refuge for the Hodgsons as the poltergeist developed.

John Burcombe was the brother of Peggy Hodgson, and he had a reputation similar to his sister's: