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.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Did Paul experience a guilt hallucination on the road to Damascus?

Jonathan McLatchie and Alex O'Connor (CosmicSkeptic) recently debated the topic "Theism or Naturalism, which provides a better account of reality?". I want to comment on a couple of issues related to Jesus' resurrection that came up in the debate. I'll address one of those issues here and the other in a later post.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Enfield Miscellany (Part 8)

(See part 1 here for an explanation of what this series is about. Here are the other parts in the series: two, three, four, five, six, and seven. I'll make use of the tapes produced by Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair. I'm using "MG" to reference a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to cite one from Playfair's: MG82B refers to tape 82B in Grosse's collection, GP96A refers to 96A in Playfair's, etc.)

Where The Poltergeist Operated

The large majority of events in the Enfield case occurred inside the Hodgsons' house. But the scope of events outside the house is often underestimated. There were frequent reports of phenomena at neighbors' houses, especially the Nottinghams' and Burcombes', but also on the property of other neighbors. See my earlier post here for some examples. That post mentions some paranormal events that occurred in Grosse's neighborhood in the relevant timeframe, events apparently connected to the Enfield case. Or think of the phenomena produced in a 1982 experiment involving Janet Hodgson at Birkbeck College. It seems that the poltergeist was able to operate at locations as geographically distant from the Hodgsons' house as Grosse's neighborhood and Birkbeck College. And while Janet was present in the latter context, none of the Hodgsons were present in the former. An especially striking example of phenomena occurring with all of the Hodgsons geographically distant was an apparition seen by John Burcombe. Go here for a portion of a documentary discussing the incident. Playfair mentions in his book on Enfield that the Hodgsons were about 50 miles away, on vacation, at the time (This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 237). Presumably, none of the Hodgsons were nearby when the events of 2004 reported by Clare Bennett and her family occurred at the house. Even when one or more of the Hodgsons were home, the events that happened in or near the house were frequently far outside their reach, such as events on another floor of the house or the apports that fell from the sky above the house on May 30 of 1978. The geographical parameters of the poltergeist's activities went far beyond the Hodgsons and their house. Keep in mind that there was an estimated quadruple-digit number of events in the case, so that the phenomena that were more geographically distant could be a small minority, yet still involve a relatively large number. Events that were geographically distant from the house and/or the Hodgsons were reported from the earliest months of the case onward and continued for years.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Agreement Among The Gospels About How Jesus Raised The Dead

One of the reasons why people often underestimate the amount of agreement among the gospels is that they overlook or underestimate the lesser details, because they're so focused on larger issues. An example is a common thread we see in accounts of the resurrections performed by Jesus. We can be so focused on the resurrections that we miss the significance of some of the other details involved in the accounts. When Jesus raised people from the dead, he would tell the person to move in some manner, probably at least in part to demonstrate that a resurrection had occurred. A description of the person's movement follows, which suggests that Jesus' references to "rising" and such were about moving the body after a resurrection rather than the resurrection itself (Mark 5:41-42, Luke 7:14-15, 8:54-55, John 11:43-44; Matthew 9:25 is in agreement as far as it goes, even mentioning that Jesus took the girl's hand, but doesn't say whether Jesus made any comments telling her to move). We see something similar with Peter's raising of the woman in Acts 9:40-41, perhaps in imitation of what Jesus did, but the other resurrections referred to in the Old and New Testaments don't involve any such scenario (1 Kings 17:21-23, 2 Kings 4:34-37, 2 Kings 13:21, Matthew 27:52-53, Acts 20:10, Revelation 11:11).

For other examples of agreements among the gospels, including many that are often overlooked or underestimated, see here.

Friday, May 27, 2022

The Apostolic Documents In The Apostolic Churches

My last post cited some comments from Tertullian in the process of discussing the evidence for Paul's authorship of Ephesians. I want to expand that quote, to include more of what surrounds it, since what Tertullian says has significant implications for the authorship attributions of other Biblical documents as well:

"To sum up: if it is agreed that that has the greater claim to truth which has the earlier priority, and that has the priority which has been so since the beginning, and that has been since the beginning which was from the apostles, there will be no less agreement that that was handed down by the apostles which is held sacred and inviolate in the churches the apostles founded. Let us consider what milk it was that Paul gave the Corinthians to drink, by the line of what rule the Galatians were again made to walk straight, what the Philippians, the Thessalonians, and the Ephesians are given to read, what words are spoken also by our near neighbours the Romans, to whom Peter and Paul left as legacy the gospel, sealed moreover with their own blood. We have also churches which are nurselings of John's: for although Marcion disallows his Apocalypse, yet the succession of their bishops, when traced back to its origin, will be found to rest in John as originator. In the same way also the legitimacy of the other churches is to be tested. So I affirm that among them— and I am not now speaking only of apostolic churches, but of all those which are in alliance with them in the fellowship of the mystery—that gospel of Luke which we at this moment retain has stood firm since its earliest publication, whereas Marcion's is to most people not even known, and by those to whom it is known is also by the same reason condemned." (Against Marcion, 4:5)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Importance Of And Evidence For Paul's Authorship Of Ephesians

I've sometimes brought up the importance of Ephesians 6:1-3 in the context of early Christian eschatology. I've also mentioned the evidence Ephesians provides for Jesus' Bethlehem birthplace. And the letter is valuable in other apologetic and non-apologetic contexts. People typically underestimate the importance of Paul's authorship of the document. They also underestimate the evidence for his authorship.