Sunday, April 18, 2021

Agreement Among The Gospels About Some Practices Of Jesus

When discussing issues like the credibility and consistency of the gospels, matters such as Jesus' language and teachings often get a lot of attention, as they should. For example, he frequently refers to himself as the Son of Man in the gospels, whereas he's referred to that way much less often elsewhere. Another category that ought to be brought up in this context is what the gospels report about various nonverbal practices of Jesus, such as his posture:

"Here I am drawing attention to the Gospels' agreement in both John and the Synoptics that it was Jesus' habit to look up to heaven when praying [Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:41, 7:34, Luke 9:16, John 11:41, 17:1]….Though lifting up one's hands to heaven was also a possibility, the Gospels do not say that Jesus did that; they mention only that he looked up to heaven. They did not have to note his physical gestures in prayer, and it is interesting that when they casually do so in the course of telling a story, they note the same gesture and that John agrees with Mark on this point, though in different contexts." (Lydia McGrew, The Eye Of The Beholder [Tampa, Florida: DeWard Publishing, 2021], 386)

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Significance Of The Early Patristic Sources

They support a high view of the New Testament documents, such as their authorship, genre, historicity, and Divine inspiration. Because of that, skeptics often try to cast doubt on the significance of those patristic sources. Critics will often take an unusually negative view of the dating of the documents, their authorship, the quality of the sources they had access to, the quality of their information, the degree to which they disseminated the more valuable information they had, etc. So, it's important to evaluate and reevaluate those issues from time to time.

There's an element of truth to the approach skeptics often take toward these sources. As a general principle, earlier sources are better than later ones. And even the earliest patristic sources are patristic sources, meaning that they generally postdate the New Testament documents. Memory fades over time. Though some contemporaries and eyewitnesses of Jesus and the apostles would have lived into the late first century and beyond, there were fewer of them as time passed. Some apostolic documents and other relevant literature would have been preserved over time, but there would be fewer such documents available later than earlier. Some patristic sources were significantly close to the apostles relationally, chronologically, geographically, and such, but others weren't. From a Christian perspective, the New Testament documents were Divinely inspired in a way in which the patristic sources weren't. And so on.

However, much more can be said on the other side, in support of the value of the early patristic sources, than skeptics suggest. There's a danger of overestimating these sources, but also a danger of underestimating them. And even some Christians underestimate them, as a result of overreacting to Roman Catholicism or for some other reason.

For example, there are some passages in First Clement that ought to receive more attention than they normally do in this context. Section 5 refers to the martyrdom of Peter and Paul as having occurred in "our own generation". The admonition in section 44 that it would be unjust to remove church leaders who were appointed by the apostles and have served well in those offices seems to assume that some leaders appointed by the apostles were still alive. Section 63 refers to messengers being sent who "from youth to old age have lived blameless lives among us". So, we have one apostolic church (Rome) writing to another (Corinth) and mentioning the presence of witnesses who had been part of their community "from youth to old age", which would go back to the middle of the first century. Those witnesses were contemporaries of the apostles, close witnesses of the apostles' interactions with the Roman church and more (they witnessed the activities of close associates of the apostles, like Mark and Luke, related to Rome; they witnessed apostolic documents sent from Rome, not just documents written to that city; etc.).

I've written elsewhere about similar evidence pertaining to Papias, Polycarp, Quadratus, etc. You can search our archives for other examples.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Problem Of Ignorance Of The Church Fathers

"Far too many Evangelicals in the modern day know next to nothing about these figures [the church fathers]. I will never forget being asked to give a mini-history conference at a church in southern Ontario. I suggested three talks on three figures from Latin-speaking North Africa: Perpetua, Cyprian, and Augustine. The leadership of the church came back to me seeking a different set of names, since they had never heard of the first two figures, and while they had heard of the third name, the famous bishop of Hippo Regius, they really knew nothing about him. I gave them another list of post-Reformation figures for the mini-conference, but privately thought that not knowing anything about these figures was possibly a very good reason to have a conference on them! I suspect that such ignorance is quite widespread among those who call themselves Evangelicals" (Michael Haykin, Patrick Of Ireland [Scotland: Christian Focus, 2017], 9-10)

That ignorance causes major problems in interactions with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, atheists, Muslims, and other people whose beliefs and practices are highly relevant to the church fathers. The situation isn't as bad everywhere as Haykin's experience in Ontario, but it doesn't have to be so bad in order to be a significant problem.

I wrote an overview of how to study the church fathers several years ago. And I'll have more to say about the earliest fathers later this week.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Marcion's Corroboration Of Lukan Authorship

Given Marcion's high view of Paul and low view of the other apostles, his acceptance of the gospel of Luke while rejecting the other gospels makes the most sense if Marcion thought the third gospel had a close connection to Paul.

Concerning Marcion's corroboration of the authorship attributions of the other gospels, see here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The Beloved Disciple's Galilean Interests

I recently finished reading Lydia McGrew's The Eye Of The Beholder (Tampa, Florida: DeWard Publishing, 2021). There are portions of the book in which she interacts with Richard Bauckham's arguments that the author of the fourth gospel was a disciple of Jesus named John, but not the son of Zebedee, one who lived in Jerusalem and didn't travel much with Jesus. You can read Lydia's book for a lot of good responses to Bauckham's case. I want to highlight some points here that I don't recall seeing in Lydia's book. But some of my points are closely related to hers, and I may be forgetting some of what she said.

Monday, April 05, 2021

A Good Discussion Of Many Resurrection Issues

Last week, Jonathan McLatchie did a question and answer session with Tim and Lydia McGrew on Jesus' resurrection. A lot of issues came up during the discussion, and it's worth watching.

You may also want to occasionally check Lydia's YouTube channel for updates, since she keeps adding new videos, like her recent ones on the historicity of the fourth gospel.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Hope Cherished By The Nations

"And it is in Him, too, we already see the concluding expression of the prophecy fulfilled: 'In His name shall the nations hope.' [Isaiah 11:10, Romans 15:12] And by this fulfillment, which no one can deny, men are encouraged to believe in that which is most impudently denied. For who could have hoped for that which even those who do not yet believe in Christ now see fulfilled among us, and which is so undeniable that they can but gnash their teeth and pine away? Who, I say, could have hoped that the nations would hope in the name of Christ, when He was arrested, bound, scourged, mocked, crucified, when even the disciples themselves had lost the hope which they had begun to have in Him? The hope which was then entertained scarcely by the one thief on the cross, is now cherished by nations everywhere on the earth, who are marked with the sign of the cross on which He died that they may not die eternally." (Augustine, The City Of God, 20:30)

Thursday, April 01, 2021

How To Begin Studying The Enfield Poltergeist

Different people have different interests, so I'll recommend a broad range of resources. You can choose which ones are best under your circumstances (e.g., what sort of balance of written, audio, and video resources you want).

It's helpful to have some background information on poltergeists in general, so you could start with a Psi Encyclopedia article that provides an overview of the subject. A good book on the topic is Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell, Poltergeists (United States: White Crow Books, 2017).

I wrote an article that outlines some of the evidential issues involved in evaluating the credibility of witnesses. It provides many examples from the Enfield case.

It's good to know the layout of the house where most of the activity occurred. You can find an image of a floor plan online here. Look over it before you start studying the case, and have it on hand to consult when needed. If you want a paper copy, you can print the one just linked or find it in the first edition of Guy Playfair's book mentioned below. The latest edition of the book, which I'll be recommending below, doesn't have the floor plan.

After you've consulted however much of that background material you're interested in, watch this BBC television segment from November of 1977 as an introduction to the case. It's about twelve minutes long.

The best documentary is one that aired on BBC Radio on December 26, 1978. The host, Rosalind Morris, was an eyewitness of some of the events, she interviews a lot of other eyewitnesses, and they're given a lot of time to speak. It's the earliest and most accurate of the documentaries, and it doesn't have the bad reenactments and sensationalism of later ones.

If you want a video documentary, start with Interview With A Poltergeist, which came out in 2007. Another one aired on the Paranormal Channel the following year. It's not as good, but each has some strengths the other one doesn't have.

I've written tributes to four of the most important figures in the case. Those tributes will give you a lot of information about those individuals, their involvement in the case, and their credibility: Peggy Hodgson, Maurice Grosse, Guy Playfair, and John Burcombe. Those posts provide a lot of biographical information and references to other sources you can consult, but the posts aren't biographies. They're tributes that focus on the individuals' involvement in the Enfield case. Though the post on Peggy Hodgson is the longest, it's the one you should read if you only want to read one of them. She's the most important witness in the case, and she's often been underestimated and misrepresented.

The two books to get on Enfield (as opposed to poltergeists in general) are Guy Playfair's This House Is Haunted (United States: White Crow Books, 2011) and Melvyn Willin's The Enfield Poltergeist Tapes (United States: White Crow Books, 2019). Read them in that order.

For an introduction to skepticism about the case, you could start with Anita Gregory's review of Playfair's book mentioned above ("This House Is Haunted, An Investigation Of The Enfield Poltergeist", Journal Of The Society For Psychical Research, vol. 50, 1979-80, pp. 538-41). You can access the article at the Library of Exploratory Science site. Other skeptical overviews have been written by Joe Nickell and Deborah Hyde, among others. You can listen to a 2017 edition of the MonsterTalk podcast to hear from a few skeptics discussing Enfield.

If you want to research the case further, see my series of posts here. That material goes beyond an introductory level (e.g., discussing Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's audio tapes recorded during their investigation of the case; addressing Anita Gregory's doctoral thesis, which covers Enfield). I reference a lot of articles, books, videos, and other resources along the way, so you can find many more sources to consult there. The page just linked includes descriptions of some of the contents of each post, so you can use Ctrl F to search for what you're interested in, in addition to using a search engine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Garden Of Suffering For Our Joy

"Every time we walk in a garden I think we ought to recollect the garden [of Gethsemane] where the Saviour walked, and the sorrows that befell him there. Did he select a garden, I wonder, because we are all so fond of such places, thus linking our seasons of recreation with the most solemn mementoes of himself?" (Charles Spurgeon)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Contrasting Ordinariness And Extraordinariness Of The Risen Jesus In Luke

I've often referred to the significance of the ordinariness of Jesus' body in the resurrection accounts in the gospels and Acts (e.g., here). An especially striking example is what we see in Luke's writings. The ordinariness of Jesus' resurrected body comes between the glorious appearance of the angels in Luke 24:4-5 and the gloriousness of Jesus' resurrected body after the ascension in Acts 9:3 (see, also, 26:13-14). Luke recognized the significance of that sort of impressive appearance and wanted to highlight it in passages like the ones I just cited. But he doesn't refer to Jesus as having had such a body prior to the ascension. Instead, he and the other gospel authors describe Jesus' pre-ascension resurrection body in more ordinary terms. That's best explained as a historically accurate memory of what was experienced with Jesus after he rose from the dead, a memory that was contrary to common expectation and reflects significant restraint on the part of the early Christians. We see that in sources other than Luke as well, but what's significant about Luke is how Jesus' ordinariness there contrasts so much with the extraordinariness of the appearance of Jesus and other figures in the nearby context.

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Beloved Disciple, A Fisherman

I've addressed this subject in the past, but Lydia McGrew has a fuller and better treatment of it in her new book on the fourth gospel:

Then there is the story of the disciples rowing across the Sea of Galilee…According to John 6.19, it was "about twenty-five or thirty stadia," which is simultaneously more precise than the Synoptics and also not hyper-precise. It is, in fact, just what one would expect from someone who was there, was capable of estimating distance under the unpropitious circumstances of a storm at night, and had a mind that tenaciously retained such details.

The mention of the Sea of Galilee relates to another matter: The Beloved Disciple does not seem to be a landlubber. Not only does he know multiple names for the Sea of Galilee (6.1), he has a good idea of how far the disciples had rowed when they were about halfway across it. Even more striking, when Peter decides in 21.3 to go fishing, the Beloved Disciple is one of six who immediately decide to go with him. While a normally stay-at-home Jerusalem disciple [like the one proposed by Richard Bauckham] probably would have traveled to Galilee to meet Jesus after the resurrection (cf. Matt. 28.10), it does not follow that he would jump at the chance to stay up all night fishing in Peter's boat [John 21:3-4]. Why would he? A "Beloved Disciple" from Jerusalem who was neither the son of Zebedee nor a traveler would presumably not be a fisherman and would have no particular reason to go on such an expedition. The disciples are not planning to see Jesus on this particular occasion nor expecting a miraculous catch of fish. They're just going fishing. It seems a reasonable inference from all of this that the Beloved Disciple was familiar with and comfortable on the Sea of Galilee, and even perhaps that he was familiar with fishing, which again does not fit well with the hypothesis that he was a non-itinerant Jerusalem resident. (The Eye Of The Beholder [Tampa, Florida: DeWard Publishing, 2021], 146-47)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Where To Begin In Discussions Of Gospel Authorship

I've become increasingly convinced that Luke 1:1-3 is a good place to start in discussions about gospel authorship. Luke refers to his use of prior sources in the opening of his gospel, and the written nature of his own work makes it unlikely that he's referring only to oral sources. (To read more on the subject, go here.) There's widespread agreement that Luke used at least one of the other canonical gospels as one of his sources. And once two or more gospels of such prominence were in use, there would be a need to distinguish among them in libraries, when using them during church services, and so on. We have a lot of evidence that the gospels were distinguished in such contexts by means of authorship attributions from the second century onward. And continuity is more likely than discontinuity. It makes more sense that the gospels were distinguished by means of author names in the first century than that they weren't. That scenario better explains the widespread acceptance of the practice later and the absence of any comparable or better alternative. If somebody is going to argue that the gospels circulated anonymously early on, he should be asked how he thinks the pre-Lukan documents Luke refers to in the opening of his gospel were distinguished from one another (the pre-Lukan context) and how Luke's gospel was distinguished from those other sources (the context from the time of Luke onward).

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Unusual Agreements In Terminology In Easter Passages

Peter Williams has noted that there are some Easter passages in the Synoptics and John that have some unusual language in common. Jesus addresses his disciples as "my brothers" in Matthew 28:10 and John 20:17. The gospel of John doesn't repeat what the Synoptics reported about Jesus' comments on letting the cup pass in the Garden of Gethsemane, but John does have Jesus referring to drinking the cup in 18:11 (Can We Trust The Gospels? [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2018], approximate Kindle location 1782).

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Hearing And Touching The Resurrected Jesus

Discussions of the resurrection appearances tend to focus on seeing Jesus. The tradition of referring to them as appearances is one factor, and there are other reasons for the focus on sight. People tend to value sight above the other senses. Paul focuses on seeing the risen Jesus when addressing his apostleship in 1 Corinthians 9:1, and other resurrection passages similarly emphasize sight (e.g., Mark 16:7, John 20:18). For these and other reasons, discussions of the resurrection appearances are often highly focused on the visual aspect of the encounters, often inordinately so. Critics of Christianity have an interest in simplifying the accounts, as if only a visual experience needs to be explained. And you sometimes come across the claim that only Luke and John refer to people touching the resurrected Jesus, with the suggestion that such details were fabricated in later accounts. The allegedly more developed nature of Luke and John's material is cited as evidence for the evolution of the gospels over time. What I want to do in this post is address some neglected evidence for the involvement of other senses, namely hearing and touch, in the encounters with the risen Jesus.

I'm going to discuss why we should think the resurrection appearances likely involved hearing and touching even if some or all of the resurrection accounts in the gospels and Acts are rejected. Those accounts shouldn't be rejected, and we and others have argued for that conclusion in depth elsewhere. But it's significant that the concept that the resurrection appearances only involved sight doesn't hold up well even under highly skeptical views of the material in the gospels and Acts.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Another Reason Why A Resurrection Body With Wounds Wouldn't Be Fabricated

I've written about the significance of how Jesus is portrayed as having retained his crucifixion wounds after his resurrection in the gospels of Luke and John. Here's another reason why the early Christians are unlikely to have made up such a detail:

"They [critics of resurrection] also make eager use of all the deformities and blemishes which either accident or birth has produced, and accordingly, with horror and derision, cite monstrous births, and ask if every deformity will be preserved in the resurrection. For if we say that no such thing shall be reproduced in the body of a man, they suppose that they confute us by citing the marks of the wounds which we assert were found in the risen body of the Lord Christ." (Augustine, The City Of God, 22:12)

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Neglected Evidence For The Empty Tomb

Disputes over the historicity of the empty tomb usually focus on the gospel accounts. But there's a lot of evidence outside the gospels that should get more attention.

Notice the number and variety of contexts in which Christians were interested in Jesus' burial long before the gospels were written: prophecy (Isaiah 53:9), creeds (1 Corinthians 15:4), theology (1 Corinthians 15:36), ceremonies (Romans 6:4), tracking the location (the tradition behind the Holy Sepulchre site). And notice that these contexts involve more than the mere fact that Jesus was buried. If the empty tomb tradition that's so widely attested from the time of the gospels onward isn't the same tradition that was of such early and widespread interest to Christians before the writing of the gospels, then where is that earlier tradition? Did it universally disappear and get universally replaced by what we see in the gospels? Continuity is more likely than discontinuity. For more about these pre-gospel sources, see here.

The letters of Peter also contain some material that tends to be neglected in this context. See here regarding those letters.

Justin Martyr provides some evidence that's typically not discussed. He not only refers to Jewish corroboration of the empty tomb, as Matthew's gospel does, but also cites a first-century Jewish source in the process. And he refers to how the empty tomb was corroborated not only by the earliest Jewish opponents of Christianity, but also by pagans. For a discussion of all of this material in Justin, see here.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Steve Hays' Contribution To Easter

"he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6)

When Steve went through last year's Easter season, he knew he was going to die soon. You couldn't tell from looking at how productive he was.

In a post about Steve last year, I mentioned that some of my earliest memories of him come from the context of working with him on This Joyful Eastertide, an e-book about Jesus' resurrection. Some of his other e-books and many articles he wrote over the years also addressed the resurrection. And he did it in a lot of depth. He often discussed the subject in private correspondence as well. He wrote a post in 2017 summarizing how he would make a case for the resurrection. Over his lifetime, he must have written thousands of pages of material on the subject, often interacting with the latest scholarship and skepticism.

He enjoyed light and often wrote about the subject. Thinking of his legacy in the context of Easter, I'm reminded of one of the great Old Testament passages about resurrection, with its reference to stars:

"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake…Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (Daniel 12:2-3)

This joyful Easter-tide,
Away with care and sorrow!
My Love, the Crucified,
Hath sprung to life this morrow.

My flesh in hope shall rest,
And for a season slumber;
Till trump from east to west,
Shall wake the dead in number.

Death’s flood hath lost his chill,
Since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill
My passing soul deliver.

Had Christ, that once was slain,
Ne’er burst His three day prison,
Our faith had been in vain;
But now hath Christ arisen,
Arisen, arisen, arisen!
(George Woodward, This Joyful Easter-Tide)

"Sunrise lies beyond the setting sun. It cannot be reborn in the east unless it dies in the west. And once it dies, there's nothing left to keep us here. Only darkness remains. Unbelievers rage against the dying light. But for the saints, our light must die below to then ascend to the zenith of meridian glory. Before we rise to light everlasting, our sun must set." (Steve Hays, A Backward Providence, 21-22)

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Pierce on Dr. Seuss

Jeremy Pierce:

Here is what I don't see a lot of people saying in response to the Dr. Seuss books that the publisher will no longer be making. Theodore Geisel was a very progressive, liberal-minded person, anti-racist in the most literal sense of that term. Yet he portrayed people in ways that we today recognize to be stereotypical and somewhat offensive. People have been calling him a racist for years, when his views were anything but. How could the author of the Sneetches, an explicitly anti-racist story in the literal sense of that term, be counted as a racist just because he had absorbed some of the stereotypical imagery of his day and brought it out in his depictions of people from around the world when wanting to expose children to multi-cultural stuff and to think more globally?

A Good Discussion Of First Clement

James White recently had a good discussion with Stephen Boyce about First Clement. They talk about the letter's significance with regard to Trinitarianism, the canon of scripture, justification, church government, and other subjects.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Easter Resources 2021

Last year, I wrote a short post about which evidence for Jesus' resurrection we should be most focused on. A few years ago, Steve Hays wrote a lengthier article about how to make a case for the resurrection. Those are a couple of places you could go to start the process of studying Easter issues.

And here are some examples of other relevant issues we've addressed over the years:

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Does everything we do have eternal significance?

What Really Matters in Life
James Bejon

What follows is an article written for my church newsletter. It is heavily influenced by thoughts prompted by David Field's "Not the Least Lash Lost", which I consider to be a simply superb and must-read piece of work.

Scripture does not provide us with many details about the afterlife, but it is profitable for us to think deeply about the fact and nature of it. Absent an afterlife, life is 'vanity'. The world goes round and round in circles, and who knows whether our brief lives' accomplishments will profit the wise or the foolish in the days to come? (Let us eat and drink, for 'tomorrow' we die.) Yet, as Christians, we have a sure hope. Our actions and their consequences continue on into the next world in some way. But in what way? Insofar as they are rewarded (or not) at the judgment seat? In part, no doubt. But might there not be more to it than that? Martin Luther is reported to have said, "If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree today". Would we? It all depends on how we view life's continuity-discontinuity questions.

Consider the flood. The flood was a major discontinuity in world history. But the people who left the ark were the same people who boarded it. Like every other man in history, Noah was a product of his past life and past decisions. What he did before he boarded the ark determined the kind of man he would be when he left the ark and stepped out into God's new creation. (People, after all, are not abstract entities; they are the sum products of their pasts and past decisions.) So, what about the day of the Lord's return and of the Resurrection? To what extent does our pre-resurrection life affect our post-resurrection life? Might not what is true of Noah be true of us? Let us put the question in more practical terms. Does everything we do have eternal significance? Or just some things? Cooking the dinner, disciplining our children, doing a good day's work, caring for a relative who may or may not be saved: Are these tasks ultimately irrelevant necessities? Or is there more to it than that? My suspicion is as follows: everything we do, in some way or other, reverberates on into eternity. At times, Scripture emphasises the discontinuity between the present world and the world to come (e.g., 2 Pet. 3), while, at times, Scripture emphasises the continuity between the two worlds. (At Christ's return, for instance, the kingdoms of the world become his kingdoms, and the deeds of the saints follow them into the heavenly realms and clothe in preparation for their return, and the kings of the earth thereafter bring their glory to the city of God: Rev. 11.15, 14.13, 19.8, 21.23-26.) Both sides of the coin are vital for us to appreciate.

Consider, by way of illustration, Jesus' resurrection body—a body whose appearance marked the genesis of a new age. Weren't the hands with which Jesus broke the bread en route to Emmaus in some sense the same hands which were nailed to the cross a few days before hand? And which fashioned wood in Nazareth? And which Mary and Joseph held as they walked Jesus as a young child? Wouldn't Jesus have looked like Mary and inherited certain traits from her? Didn't Mary's actions in that sense at least survive on into the resurrection world? (And might not similar things be able to be said of our own hands and what they have done?) Consider, in this connection, Paul's statements in 1 Cor. 15. The bodies which we commit to the earth when we die are the same bodies which are raised. (Continuity and discontinuity again.) Our bodies together with whatever has affected them are the raw materials of the resurrection. What grows in the resurrection depends on what seed is planted. And, as a result, Paul says, our toils are not 'in vain' (15.58). Now, does that word 'vain' remind you of our initial reference to Ecclesiastes (vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas)? The reminiscence, I suspect, is deliberate. Precisely those labours which are rendered vain by death—the labours of planting and plucking up, healing and punishing, keeping and casting away, weeping and laughing—are redeemed and preserved in value by the resurrection. As one writer puts it, "When we are raised,...the work we have done in the present, in the service of [our] new master, will, [no doubt to our great surprise], turn out to be part not only of who we are, but of the new world he will have brought into being".

But what about our sins? Well, we will not live in eternal regret at what we did or failed to do in the present life. (Our sins will not be 'remembered' against us.) Of that much I am sure. But just as, here on earth, our consciousness of our sins affects—and even heightens—our sense of gratitude as we worship (Luke 7.41-47), so too, I believe, they will do in eternity. When we sing, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain', we will know exactly what he was slain for, since the more we know about Christ's work, the more we will appreciate it. The nature of our failures will inform Christ's people of the scope and glory of Christ's work of forgiveness, just as the nature of our frailties and disabilities will inform Christ's people of the scope and glory of Christ's work of restoration. We may not all have the same ministries, bodies, or abilities as one another, but everything we do in life ultimately matters.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

When everyone did what was right in his own eyes

"Applying the Christian Ethic to Specific Issues" (James Anderson)

Book and ebook

John Piper's new book Providence is available. I trust it'll be a good book and worth reading, but that's not the primary reason I'm mentioning it. The primary reason I'm posting about it is because if you order Piper's book through WTS Books, then, according to WTS Books:

Order the hardcover version and receive the eBook FREE. Download link will be emailed after purchase is completed. eBook does not need to be in cart if purchasing hardcover edition.

I think this is a good idea in general, though I could see exceptions where it might not be a good idea. At least I think it might be a promising way for some publishers and bookstores to push back against companies like Amazon, which apparently controls around 80% of the US book market (isn't that effectively a monopoly?). That is, publishers and bookstores offering both the book and the ebook bundled together in some way might be able to attract customers away from Amazon and to their bookstores as well as to give customers who have purchased their book-ebook bundle real ownership over what they've purchased. I think many customers are concerned that Amazon could just "disappear" their purchased ebooks if Amazon wanted to. This would help quell those fears or concerns.

I assume the main concern from publishers is that giving away free ebooks along with physical books (or just bundling an ebook together with a physical book and marketing the ebook as free but really charging for both) could open the door to people pirating ebooks if the ebooks have no DRM protection. I'm not sure how to fix this. Perhaps one could put in place legal requirements that Amazon (and other booksellers) must adhere to before they can remove purchased books if they don't already exist? However, even if publishers prefer DRM protection (or something like it) for their ebooks, offering a physical book + ebook would reassure customers that they own their books because they possess a physical book even if the ebook is removed.

Of course, all this assumes a lower price point for the bundle than for the ebook-book if each was purchased separately. Otherwise there'd be no advantage for people buying the book-ebook bundle.

I guess Amazon could follow suite and do the same. Unless they're broken up somehow.

Anyway I just think we should try to find new ways to have more diversity in the book market and not have to rely on near-monopolies like Amazon.

Update: Desiring God has made Piper's book free to download as a pdf.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

The Eye of the Beholder is out

Jason already noted that Lydia McGrew's latest book The Eye of the Beholder is out.

I wanted to point out Lydia has released a short trailer about her book too:

In addition, Lydia has a meaty post about her book. Her post includes free material like the book's table of contents, its first chapter, and its conclusion. Not to mention endorsements by very notable NT scholars like Stanley Porter and Tom Schreiner. Schreiner is the icing on the cake for those of us who are Reformed, I think.

Finally, since it might be of interest to Triablogue readers, a friend who already has Lydia's book informs us that Lydia has a dedication to Steve Hays in her book and cites him in her book too.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

We live in a novel, not a computer simulation

Here's a great interview with James Anderson on the simulation hypothesis and the authorial analogy for the God-world relation. By the way, Parker Settecase's Parker's Pensées podcast is fun and interesting if you enjoy musing on philosophy, theology, and/or philosophical theology from a Reformed perspective. Not to say these are always the subjects under discussion in his podcast, but I think that's his inclination. Parker has had a number of fascinating guests as well as topics on his podcast. He seems like a good guy to grab a beer with too.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

To boldly go where no one has gone before

My aim is to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else's foundation (Rom 15:20 CSB).

I appreciate the apostle Paul's attitude about his ministry of missions, church-planting, evangelism, apologetics. He wants to go where no one has gone before with the gospel. He wants to go to those people who have never heard the good news. He wants to be the first in a mission field. The first to share the gospel with a people in a place that hasn't heard about Jesus. That's a noble desire.

I think what the apostle Paul said could be taken on as a kind of principle by other Christians too. Let's consider apologetics. Apologetics paving the road for evangelism or used in concert with evangelism. Of course, there are many commonly used arguments in defense of Christianity and/or in order to critique other worldviews. Nothing necessarily wrong with a Christian apologist using these bread and butter arguments.

However, it likewise would be a good idea for Christian apologists to develop novel arguments, develop novel approaches to old arguments, revitalize retired arguments, and so on. For example, Jason Engwer and Steve Hays have done significant apologetic work involving the occult. Another example is Tim and Lydia McGrew have revitalized the argument from undesigned coincidences. These are the sorts of thing I have in mind.

Of course, what those arguments might be could vary depending on where or when one is ministering. The apologist needs to know their audience, as it were. The apologist needs to be like "the Issacharites, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do" (1 Chron 12:32). Arguments involving science and religion might better suit a secular college student on a typical US campus. Arguments involving fulfilled messianic prophecies might better suit an orthodox Jewish friend. Arguments about Jesus' power over evil spirits might better suit Papua New Guineans. Arguments involving the historical Jesus might better suit Muslims. And there's tremendous room for creativity within these classes of arguments.

Point being, I guess I'm not really saying much in my already long-winded post, only that it's good to use commonly used apologetic arguments, but it's also good to push boundaries (within orthodoxy) in developing new arguments, honing old arguments, etc. We can advance the kingdom of God in terms of apologetics too, I think. At least, those promoting other worldivews don't usually stand still, neither should we.

McLatchie on Swamidass

Jonathan McLatchie comments on Joshua Swamidass' theory regarding Adam and Eve and human evolution:

An innovative and provocative attempt to harmonize evolutionary theory with an historical Adam and Eve has recently been proposed by computational biologist Joshua Swamidass of Washington University in St. Louis. [10] Swamidass proposes that Adam and Eve lived approximately six thousand years ago, in accordance with the traditional creationist understanding. He argues that Adam and Eve did not have parents and were in fact created de novo, as described in Genesis 2. Consistent with a face-value reading of Genesis, Swamidass proposes that Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and Eve from Adam’s side. However, Swamidass argues that Adam and Eve were not the first humans. Rather, their genomes became ‘mixed’ with the rest of the human population outside of the garden through interbreeding (that is, humans who, unlike Adam and Eve, arose naturally through evolutionary processes), such that all extant humans can be said to trace their genealogical ancestry back to Adam and Eve, even though their genetic ancestry includes other lineages, unrelated to Adam, as well. Swamidass points out that universal genealogical ancestors (that is, individuals to whom all modern humans can trace their ancestry) are common, arising often throughout human history. Swamidass proposes that “Adam and Eve are to work as priestly rulers alongside Yahweh Elohim, to expand the Garden across the earth. Civilization is rising, and a new era is coming. Their purpose is to welcome everyone into their family, in a new kingdom of God.” [11] Swamidass distinguishes between what he calls “biological humans” and “textual humans.” [12] For Swamidass, “Biological humans are defined taxonomically, from a biological and scientific point of view. From at least AD 1 onward, they are coextensive with textual humans.” [13] On the other hand, “Textual humans are the group of people to whom Scripture refers. I argue that this group is defined by Scripture to be Adam, Eve, and their genealogical descendants, including everyone alive across the globe by, at latest AD 1. They are a chronological subset of biological humans, meaning that some biological humans in the past are not textual humans, but all textual humans are biological humans.” [14]

While Swamidass’ model is superficially attractive in that it does not require positing thousands of gaps in the Genesis genealogies, the problems that it raises are too intolerably great for me to commend Swamidass’ solution. For one thing, in what sense, if any, can non-Adamic biological humans be considered to be fully human? Are they affected by original sin, and did Jesus die to save them? Swamidass conjectures that these biological humans bear God’s image but “are not yet affected by Adam’s fall. They have a sense of right and wrong, written on their hearts (Rom. 2:15), but they are not morally perfect. They do wrong at times. They are subject to physical death, which prevents their wrongdoing from growing into true evil (Gen. 6:3).” [15] The Scriptures, however, make no such distinction between biological humans and textual humans. Swamidass’ view would seem to suggest logically that those individuals who were biological (but not textual) humans are qualitatively indistinct from other animals. But in that case it makes no sense to call their deeds evil, or to postulate that they had a sense of right and wrong. Moreover, if they, as Swamidass suggests, “do wrong at times”, then does this not suggest that Adam’s fall is but one of many falls that have occurred in human history? The theological ramifications that accompany this scenario are too severe for me to entertain Swamidass’ proposal.

Handing orphans over to sodomites

"Major Evangelical Adoption Agency Will Now Serve Gay Parents Nationwide"

An Overview Of The Eye Of The Beholder

Here's a new video in which Lydia McGrew provides an overview of her book that just came out on the historicity of the gospel of John. You can order the book at Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

Monday, March 01, 2021

How The Personality Of The Enfield Poltergeist Differed From The Personalities Around It

I said a lot about the subject in my 2019 article on the poltergeist voice. I want to expand upon what I wrote there in relation to a certain aspect of the poltergeist's personality.

The poltergeist communicated in a variety of ways (e.g., speaking, knocking, writing), and it communicated through a variety of sources. Most significantly, the poltergeist voice manifested through multiple individuals, not just one, and sometimes was manifested in a disembodied form or through a dog. And some fraud hypotheses would propose that more than one person faked the knocking and writing incidents, for example, which means those hypotheses propose that multiple personalities were behind those phenomena. Even those who believe in the authenticity of one type of phenomenon sometimes reject the authenticity of another (e.g., accepting the knocking while rejecting the voice). So, when there's continuity across multiple types of phenomena and multiple individuals manifesting the phenomena, that continuity can have some significance for a wide variety of views of the case. That's especially true if the continuity involves something that seems to differentiate the poltergeist from the individual(s) thought to have faked the case or thought to have produced the poltergeist through psychic activity.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Watch Over Your Heart

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). The heart of man is his worst part before it is regenerated, and the best afterward; it is the seat of principles, and the foundation of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of the Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it. The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God." (John Flavel, Keeping The Heart [Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2019], 13)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

"When Amazon erased my book"

As many know, conservative Catholic political philosopher and ethicist Ryan Anderson (PhD, Notre Dame) had his book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment removed from Amazon mere days ago. This represents the latest battle in the culture wars. A battle which is all the more pressing in light of Biden's Equality Act. The left and its sympathizers will seek to cancel even the most reasonable, informed, and charitable voices if the voices dissent from leftist convictions or commitments. Anderson writes about all this and more in his First Things article "When Amazon erased my book". I don't agree with everything, but it's still worth a read.

For now, people can still purchase Anderson's book on Encounter Books (the book's publisher), Christian Book, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores.

Update. From Ryan Anderson:

Update 2. From Abigail Shrier:

Read the rest of the thread.

Lydia McGrew on Pastor Coates

"We must obey God rather than men" (Lydia McGrew)

The Greatest Song Will Always Be The Song Born Of Suffering

"Suffering will stop, but singing will not. But suffering will not be forgotten. Because we will sing about it for all eternity — not ours, but Christ's. [Revelation 5:9-10]… Singing will remain, rooted in suffering, forever. The greatest song will always be the song born of suffering. We will never forget the price Jesus paid so that forgiven sinners could sing with everlasting joy. So, take heart. Though singing is sometimes stopped by suffering, nevertheless, our most common experience in this world is that singing sustains in suffering. And if the slain Christ is your song, then for you (and all the redeemed) the day is coming when suffering will be no more, and singing will follow the end of suffering forever." (John Piper)

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Inconsistencies In Some Anti-Christian Views Of The Paranormal

Bruce Greyson, one of the leading researchers of near-death experiences, recently wrote a book on the subject, which is coming out soon. You can read a story from the New York Post about it here. The book and the media coverage of it provide further reasons for Christians to be prepared to discuss paranormal issues.

Here are some relevant comments from a recent discussion I participated in:

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Laymen's Lounge interviews Frame

Here's a brief but edifying interview with Prof. John Frame. (And I never would have guessed Prof. Frame's favorite movie is Casablanca! A classic movie I've never seen.)

By the way, for those who don't already know, the Laymen's Lounge has a lot of good interviews and other resources.

The two deaths of Ravi

"Apologetics After the Two Deaths of Ravi Zacharias" (Doug Groothuis)

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Natural law arguments against same-sex marriage

Jason Engwer and Lydia McGrew, among others, recently made several helpful comments about same-sex marriage and related issues. Their comments are well worth reading and taking to heart.

Lydia alluded to natural law arguments against same-sex marriage. Here's Tim Hsiao outlining the general argument:

Making sense of the Ravi Zacharias scandal

I've read and seen several Christians reflecting on the Ravi scandal. I think the person who gets closest to what I'd want to say is David Wood. It's a long video, but Wood makes several insightful observations and as is often the case Wood is keen in his psychological analyses.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Akedah

Regarding God testing Abraham's faith by telling Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering in Genesis 22:

I think there's dramatic irony in Gen 22. The events of the story turn out to be the opposite of what one would have expected at the climax of the narrative.

My understanding is human sacrifice to various gods occurred among many ancient Neareastern cultures. An ancient Neareasterner (like Abraham) might not unreasonably expect Yahweh to be like these other gods too.

Yet Gen 22 has a twist ending. The twist ending of the story is that Yahweh isn't like other gods.

Quite the contrary. Yahweh doesn't demand Abraham sacrifice Isaac. Rather Yahweh "provides" a ram caught in a thicket by its horns for Abraham to sacrifice. As such, Abraham learns Yahweh is the God who "provides", not a god who takes. Yahweh is the God who unilaterally blesses his followers, not a god who requires things in a quid pro quo fashion from his followers. Yahweh is the merciful God, not a god who must always exact his pound of flesh. Yahweh blessed Abraham because Abraham trusted Yahweh, not because Abraham literally killed and sacrificed his son Isaac in exchange for blessings like a pagan god might wish. These are the kinds of lessons Yahweh imparted to Abraham - and to us.

So this was a happy reversal of fortunes from Abraham and Isaac's perspective. They didn't have to do what they thought they had to do.

What's more, this happy reversal of fortunes in turn points to the One who reversed their fortunes - namely, Yahweh. Such that Abraham and Isaac, along with the audience, are led to ask: what kind of God is this, this Yahweh? Yahweh is not like heathen gods. Instead Yahweh is the God of promise, provision, blessing, grace.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ed May's Materialism

Alex Tsakiris recently interviewed Stephen Braude. He makes a lot of significant comments during the interview, but a segment I found especially interesting was one about Ed May. You can click on the link just provided to watch that segment on the YouTube video of the interview. Braude's comments about his private interactions with May are worth hearing. You can listen to Tsakiris' interview with May here. And here's a post I wrote about the significance of the interview.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

How To Argue Against Same-Sex Marriage

It's still important to argue against it, though few people are doing it. See here for an overview of some of the relevant arguments. And here's a post where I discussed how I expected the issue to develop after the Supreme Court's 2015 decision, given the nature of the American people. Much of what I said there is still applicable. But we've now had several more years of political developments, and the large majority of Republicans and Christians have shown themselves unwilling to discuss the subject much, if at all. Life consists of more than politics, though, and how people view marriage is important in non-political contexts, not just political ones. Changes outside of politics can, and often do, lead to political changes. But the arguments for a Christian view of marriage ought to be made, even if we don't get the political changes we want.

See here for some comments I made about the significance of holidays like Valentine's Day in this context.

Friday, February 12, 2021

A Good Discussion Of The Death Of Judas In Matthew And Acts

James Bejon recently wrote a Twitter thread on the subject, which I had seen linked by Peter Williams. And here's a PDF of the text in the thread, if you'd prefer that. However many of Bejon's points you take a position on or agree with, there's a lot of valuable material there to consider.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

If The Type Gives Confidence

"The angel feared the blood [Exodus 12:23]; for he knew of what it was a Type; he shuddered, thinking on the Lord's death; therefore he did not touch the door-posts. Moses said, Smear, and they smeared, and were confident. And you, having the Blood of the Lamb Himself, are ye not confident?" (John Chrysostom, Homilies On Hebrews, 27:1)

Sunday, February 07, 2021

New Recommendations For Biblical Commentaries And Other Resources

Steve Hays' Old Testament and New Testament bibliography is no longer being updated, but one of the resources he recommended there is. Denver Seminary recently updated their own Old Testament and New Testament bibliographies. Steve kept his bibliography updated until close to the time of his death, and it's still a great resource. But you should supplement it with other resources that address what's come out since Steve's death. He included references to upcoming commentaries of interest, and you can supplement those recommendations with Denver Seminary's.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Demonic deception

jay-dog asks an intriguing question in this post:

I have noticed that when presented with miracle claims from other religions, Christian apologists will suggest the possibility that they could just be attempts by demons to deceive us. However, couldn't people from other religions say the exact same thing about the evidence for the Ressurection? Here are some blog posts where I heard this idea and I wanted to get your response. Thank you.

Sorry I didn't read through the posts you linked to, but I think there's enough material in your question to address. Here are my thoughts on the question:

Friday, February 05, 2021

An interview with Andrew Torba on Gab

Mark Dice interviews Andrew Torba about Gab. Torba is the founder and CEO of Gab. Both Dice and Torba are conservative Christians (e.g. Torba even seems to follow Doug Wilson). Torba regards what's happening today with the left, big tech, social media, and the mainstream media as part of a spiritual war. I applaud and support what Torba is attempting to do with Gab: that is, make Gab the free speech alternative to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, reddit, various web browsers including Google Chrome. I pray for his success and the success of others (especially other Christians) like him. If he succeeds, I think it'll prove good for many people including Christians. Torba will need all the help he can get.


It may not seem like it, but I think the message of our secular popular culture is a message more about death than life.

After all, is it not praiseworthy in our popular culture for a woman to choose to end her baby's life?

Is it not noble to end one's life if one sees fit to do so for almost any reason whatsoever?

What does popular culture think about the elderly? Is their wisdom valued? Why are the elderly more likely to be portrayed as out of touch more if not ready to be put out to pasture than they are to be portrayed as sagacious or at least worth giving a fair hearing to? (By contrast, why does popular culture all but worship youth?)

What does popular culture say about the environment and overpopulation? Isn't the fear that climage change is going to cause coastal cities to be flooded? Isn't the fear that overpopulation will mean scarce resources will be even more scarce (e.g. food)?

What about pets? Why does popular culture seem to care more about pets than children? Why are children often portrayed to be annoying? Why are pets often portrayed as acceptable in lieu of children? Why was there so much more of an outcry for Harambe than for "the boy" whom Harambe was dragging around like a ragdoll? Do most people even know the name of the 3 year old boy without having to search for it?

I could go on. But popular culture's message seems to me to be a message more conducive to death than to life.

By contrast, Christians have a message of life. We are pro-life. We value life. We are for life in all its glorious manifestations. We possess a life-giving and life-changing message. We love life. And we can hold forth life to a dying world.

With all this in mind, see this recent post: "The Other Pandemic Sweeping Across Our Globe" (Akos Balogh).

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Helm reviews Live Not By Lies

Paul Helm reviews Rod Dreher's Live Not By Lies.

The lesson of Trump

William Lane Craig:

The case of Donald Trump is an object lesson how a man’s flawed character can lead to his own undoing. Given his considerable accomplishments—such as the appointment of three Supreme Court justices, brokering a Mideast peace agreement, engineering a revival of the US economy, revitalizing the US military, confronting China’s economic and military threat, stemming the tide of illegal immigration, and much more—he could have been a great US president. But he has been his own worst enemy. Like a figure in a Greek tragedy, his nemesis is his own deeply flawed character, which has contributed to his downfall. This should be a lesson to every Christian, but especially to those in leadership positions, to be mindful of our character development, to try to recognize, as best we can, our own sinful proclivities, and to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in conforming us to the image of Christ, lest we bring disrepute upon His name.

Chad McIntosh:

Craig is right about Trump’s accomplishments, but wrong about the lesson of Trump’s presidency. There have been previous occupants of the Oval Office with worse character. The lesson is that Democrats and their enablers in media, entertainment, education, and even ostensibly non-partisan institutions like the FBI are unquestionably the biggest threat to America as an economically prosperous country of liberty with law and order that puts its own citizens first. There is no backward or unjust law they will not support or moral perversion or mental illness they don’t want to normalize, and they will use any means necessary to get what they want. That is the lesson. Trump was a bigger obstacle to them than previous milquetoast Republicans, so they went harder than ever against him.

But make no mistake: the next Republican candidate for president, no matter how upright or milquetoast, will also be literally Hitler. And so will the one after. And after. It’s not about character at all. It’s about how serious of an obstacle one is to the evils of progressivism.

False Claims About John's Gospel

Lydia McGrew recently posted a good video on the subject. Her book on the fourth gospel is due out soon.

On the theme of similarities between John and the Synoptics, here's a post I wrote that discusses Jesus' use of the phrase "the light of the world" in Matthew 5:14 and in John's gospel, how Matthew and John treat Jesus' fulfillment of Isaiah 9 so similarly, and some other common ground. Here's a post on the soteriological similarities among the gospels, including John. That post addresses some similarities between Jesus' language in the Synoptics and his language in John, but it discusses other kinds of similarities as well. Or see this post on how John agrees with the Synoptics on issues related to Jesus' childhood. Here are fifty agreements among the resurrection accounts, with many of them involving John. And there are a lot of other posts in our archives discussing how John and the Synoptics overlap in other ways.

Keep in mind that the earliest Christians of the patristic era who had a close relationship with John (his disciples, churches who had been in contact with him, etc.) held a high view of the Synoptics, which is best explained by John's having held such a view himself. Papias even quotes a man he refers to as "the elder", probably John, speaking highly of Mark's gospel (cited in Eusebius, Church History, 3:39). My post on Papias just linked documents some examples of Johannine characteristics in Papias' language, which even those who (wrongly) deny that Papias was a disciple of John should acknowledge to be evidence that Papias was highly influenced by the Johannine literature. And Papias thought highly of the Synoptics. See here regarding an account Clement of Alexandria received from some early elders in the church regarding how highly John thought of the Synoptics. And here's a post about how Christians were distributing copies of the gospels in the late first and early second centuries, a practice that makes more sense if John held a more positive view of the Synoptics than many people suggest today. You wouldn't expect Christians to be distributing copies of the gospels in that manner if the gospels came from authors who were antagonistic toward one another, from competing communities, etc. See section 103 of Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho for Justin grouping the four gospels together in a conversation he sets around the year 135. In section 67 of his First Apology, he refers to how the gospels, collectively, are read during church services. Beliefs and practices like these were widespread long before Irenaeus and other later sources wrote, later sources who are often portrayed as having been more influential than they actually were.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Enfield Miscellany (Part 5)

(See part 1 here for an explanation of what this series is about. And here are the other parts in the series: two, three, and four. When I cite Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes below, I'll use "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. So, MG1B refers to tape 1B in Grosse's collection, GP94A refers to 94A in Playfair's, etc.)

The Absurd Logistics Of A Fraud Hypothesis

Part of what makes poltergeists so interesting, and has the potential to make them so evidential, is the variety of phenomena involved. And the Enfield case has a much larger number and variety of events than the average poltergeist. Faking such a large and varied case would be more difficult accordingly. I've written about many of the traditional categories involved: levitations, apparitions, fires, etc. But some of the events don't fit into a traditional category. Or they do, but with one or more characteristics that stand out as highly difficult to fake. Those events add to the variety of the case, and they illustrate the absurdity of a fraud hypothesis that would have one or more of the Hodgson children being skilled enough to so successfully fake such a variety of phenomena. (For documentation of how often critics try to explain the case by attributing the events to trickery on the part of one or more of the Hodgson children, see the first paragraph here.)

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Top 10 myths Muslims believe about Islam

10. The Quran contains miraculous scientific truths.
9. The Quran is a literary miracle.
8. Muhammad was sinless.
7. Islam is anti-slavery.
6. The Quran contains no contradictions.
5. Islam is a religion of peace.
4. Islam is pure monotheism.
3. Islam promotes women's rights.
2. Islam is spreading rapidly due to conversions.
1. The Quran has been perfectly preserved.

The modern self and the sexual revolution

"A conversation with Dr. Carl Trueman on the modern self and the sexual revolution"

An excerpt from the interview to whet your appetite:

[Charles] Taylor is one of those enviably polymathic people. He’s been a politician. He’s a political philosopher. He’s a straight down the line philosopher. He’s a scholar of the German philosopher Hegel. He’s a historian. I found him particularly useful on two fronts. One, Taylor correctly identifies Romanticism as the key move in Western society where inner feelings become constitutive of who we are. He sees that as leading to the formation of a particular notion of the self which he calls the expressive individual. Essentially, what he means by that is that the self comes to be thought of as that which we feel inside, and the self manifests itself when it’s able to behave outwardly in accordance with those inner desires. That’s where we get the language of authenticity. Today in society, we often use the language of authenticity when we’re talking about people. A good example is Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner in his interview with Diane Sawyer when he was talking about transitioning. He made the point that ‘finally I’m going to be able to be who I always have been.’ Essentially saying, ‘finally, I can be authentic. Finally, I’m not going to be living a lie anymore.’ Now, you don’t have to be a transgender person to identify with the notion that ‘I want to be outwardly that which I feel to be inwardly.’

Second is Taylor’s notion of what he calls the social imaginary. I found this extremely helpful. The social imaginary points to the fact that most of us don’t relate to the world around us in terms of first principles. Life is not a syllogism. I don’t get up from my chair and think, ‘Okay, where do I need to exit the room from? Oh, there’s a door over there. I’ll go through the door.’ I get up and instinctively leave through the door. The social imaginary gets to the idea that that’s how we think about an awful lot of things. It’s how we think about morality. We tend to pick up the intuitions of the world around us, internalize them, and make them our own. We don’t alway think in terms of first principles when we think about morality. A good example might be provided by the gay marriage issue. Most people have not come to find gay marriage acceptable by reading heavy tomes of sexual ethics or sociology. Most people have gay friends or have seen attractive images of gay couples and things like the sitcom “Will and Grace.” It’s not that they’ve been convinced by argument. It’s that their intuitions have been shaped by broader cultural patterns. I found that very helpful in approaching this notion of the modern self. It’s not that we get up one morning and decide ‘Let’s be expressive individuals.’ The very air we breathe shapes, tilts, and bends our intuitions towards that result.

Friday, January 29, 2021

A reader's guide to The Confessions

Zach Howard at Desiring God has put together a basic but helpful reader's guide to Augustine's The Confessions. If you want to compare different English translations, then this post might prove useful. The Latin text of The Confesssions is available here.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Harvest Handbook of Apologetics

The Harvest Handbook of Apologetics is currently on sale for $1.99 on Amazon Kindle. However, if you don't wish to support Amazon (who could remove access to your purchased ebooks if they wish), then the ebook is also available elsewhere. Such as on Christian Boook for $1.59. The book is a collection of essays on various apologetics issues from scholars like Bill Dembski, Stephen Meyer, Guillermo Gonzalez, Gary Habermas, J.W. Montgomery, Norman Geisler, Walter Kaiser, Edwin Yamauchi, etc.

By the way:

1. I don't know if it's legal or illegal in the US to remove DRM on DRM-protected ebooks if someone has purchased the ebook for their own personal use. Maybe a lawyer can comment if there are any lawyers around.

2. At the same time, even if it's illegal, there are unjust or unethical laws. Perhaps it's arguable the DMCA or certain sections of the DMCA are unjust or unethical.

3. That said, I'm not implying it's necessarily licit for Christians to break laws even if the laws are unjust or unethical laws.

Early Christian Access To Evidence We Don't Have

In some ways, we're in a better position to judge issues pertaining to the truthfulness of Christianity than people in the ancient world were (advances in knowledge in relevant fields, the development of technology that helps us evaluate the issues, etc.). But there are other contexts in which the people who lived in the ancient world, or some subset of them, were better off than we are. One of the advantages they had that people today often underestimate is access to writings that are no longer extant.

There's a patristic document that provides many illustrations of that advantage, but that document doesn't get discussed much. I suspect few people involved in apologetics and other relevant contexts have read it. I'm referring to Jerome's Lives Of Illustrious Men. It has 135 sections, but they're short, so it doesn't take long to read. He provides brief overviews of the lives of individuals who lived during the first few centuries of Christianity, mostly Christians. The primary value of the document in this context is what Jerome tells us about what those individuals wrote. Many of the writings he refers to are no longer extant. But they were available to the earliest Christians and shaped what they believed.

You can read Jerome's entire document on one page here, but without any notes. Or you can read it with notes and with each section on a separate page here.

His list of individuals is far from exhaustive. And there are some documents he doesn't mention that were written by the people he discusses. Martin Hengel noted, "of the second-century Christian writings known to us by title, around 85% have been lost. The real loss must be substantially higher." (The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], 55)

Monday, January 25, 2021

Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11:1:

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (ESV)

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (NIV)

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see." (NET)

"Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen." (NASB)

"Now faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the proof of things not seen." (LEB)

"Now faith is the substance of what is hoped for, the evidence of what is not seen." (KJV)

"Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen." (CSB)

"Now faith is the ὑπόστασις/hypostasis of what is hoped for, the ἔλεγχος/elenchos of what is not seen." (Greek/Greek transliteration)

1. I'm no biblical scholar let alone a Hebrews scholar. I'm just a simple layperson sharing what (little) I've learned about Heb 11:1 in a brief personal and devotional "study" I did earlier this morning. So please feel free to correct me.

2. The words I've bolded in Heb 11:1 seem to have been translated in either a subjective or an objective fashion.

a. The subjective seems to emphasize the person who has faith's state of mind. Their psychological state. Their "assurance", "confidence", or "conviction" in what is hoped for and what is unseen.

b. By contrast, the objective seems to emphasize the objective reality of what is hoped for and what is unseen. In this respect, "faith" seizes upon a solid object that can't be seen at the present time but will be seen in the future.

By the way, in context, what is hoped for and what is unseen seem to be about time rather than space, though perhaps it's both. That is, what is hoped for and what is unseen seem to point to the future, to eschatological fulfillment, not to the spiritual realm, per se. Although of course we Christians believe there is an unseen spiritual realm (e.g. 2 Kgs 6:17).

3. Looking at the two Greek words:

a. ὑπόστασις/hypostasis. Cf. Heb 1:3 about Christ's "nature": "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature [hypostaseos]" (ESV). I presume there are good arguments for the subjective emphasis in translation, but I don't know what they would be. My reason for thinking the objective emphasis is the better translation is the example of "the people of old" "commended" for their faith in Heb 11. They seem to be illustrative examples of faith, of Heb 11:1. It seems to me they thought of faith in an objective reality (at least that's where the emphasis would seem best tilted), not faith in a subjective state of mind which would seem to come close to saying faith in faith. But perhaps a combination of the subjective and objective with a stronger degree of emphasis on the objective would be a reasonable translation? Say something like this: "Now faith is being sure of the reality of what is hoped for...".

b. ἔλεγχος/elenchos. As I understand it, elenchos has reference to demonstrating something is true or someone passes muster after detailed cross-examination. Interestingly, the Socratic method or Socratic debate is also known as "elenctic" debate. The idea seems to be scrutiny or cross-examination of someone or something to see if they or it is true or false, proven or disproven, accurate or inaccurate. So "elenchos" in Heb 11:1 seems to be saying that "what is not seen" has been proven to be true after examination or scrutiny. What may have once been debatable or disputable has emerged demonstrably proven.

c. Perhaps a reasonable translation of Heb 11:1 could be: "Now faith is being sure of the reality of what is hoped for, proof after examination of what is not seen."

4. It's interesting that Heb 11:1 defines faith as the direct opposite of what militant atheists typically think faith is. Militant atheists say faith is blind faith. A leap of faith. A leap into the dark or unknown. Faith without reason or evidence. Faith based primarily or solely on emotions or feelings.

However, Heb 11:1 contradicts these notions of faith. Heb 11:1 teaches that faith is trust in an objective reality. An objective reality that we can't see at present, but nevertheless it is an objective reality based on demonstrably proving its truth in light of intense examination. A subjective feeling or emotion like assurance or conviction comes after the fact and in light of having demonstrated the reality of faith's object.

This is another piece of evidence that Christianity has always been an apologetic faith: we defend our faith, we examine our faith, we prove our faith, etc.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Inciting violence"

I recently got into a debate with a notable Christian leader (whom I won't name) who argues Trump did "incite violence" with the Capitol Hill "rioters", which of course is one of the bases for why Trump has been impeached again. Here are my (edited) replies.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Money Interests In Matthew's Gospel As Evidence Of Authorship

Matthew himself was traditionally identified as a tax collector, and Matthew's Gospel shows the greatest level of financial interest, including numerous references to money and treasure that Matthew alone records:

- The magi, with their rich gifts (2:11)
- The parable about hidden treasure (13:44)
- The parable about the discovered pearl (13:45-46)
- The scribe compared to someone bringing out old and new treasures (13:52)
- The account of Peter and the temple tax collectors (17:24-27)
- The parable of the servant who was forgiven a huge debt of ten thousand talents and who refused to forgive a fellow servant a debt of a hundred denarii (18:23-35)
- The parable of the workers in the vineyard, discontented with their pay of one denarius for a day because the same was given to late arrivals who had worked less time (20:1-16)
- The parable about talents (25:14-30)
- Judas's betrayal money (27:3) and what was purchased with it (27:7)
- The bribe given by the chief priests to the guards at Jesus's tomb (28:12)

(Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust The Gospels? [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2018], approximate Kindle location 1349)

There's some merit to Williams' argument, but it should be qualified.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Democracy" in America

If we want to know who's really in power, then perhaps one way to know is to think about who or what we cannot openly criticize in a reasonable manner...

...without being shouted down.

...without being publicly shamed.

...without being called false names.

...without losing our reputations.

...without made into social pariahs in our own communities.

...without being ostracized in our own nation.

...without having our speech curtailed or even silenced.

...without being fined.

...without losing our jobs.

...without being imprisoned.

...without being forcibly "re-educated".

...without unjust corporeal punishment.

...without being "disappeared" in the middle of the night.

...without being publicly executed.

...without being (shall we say) "canceled".

In China, it is the CCP.

In North Korea, it is the Kim family.

In Russia, it is Putin.

In Iran, it is the ayatollah.

In many Middle Eastern nations, it is Islam.

In the US, are we still able to openly criticize in a reasonable manner people, organizations, institutions, the government, and so forth without significant cost to us or our families?

[O]ne theme in particular dominated all others: the growing tyranny of the majority, the ever-increasing and most formidable barriers raised by the majority around the free expression of opinion, and, as a result, the frightening oneness of American thinking, the absence of eccentricity and divergence from the norm.

A perfect liberty of the mind exists in America, said Tocqueville, just as long as the sovereign majority has yet to decide its course. But once the majority has made up its mind, then all contrary thought must cease, and all controversy must be abandoned, not at the risk of death or physical punishment, but rather at the more subtle and more intolerable pain of ostracism, of being shunned by one's fellows, of being rejected by society.

Throughout history kings and princely rulers had sought without success to control human thought, that most elusive and invisible power of all. Yet where absolute monarchs had failed, democracy succeeds, for the strength of the majority is unlimited and all pervasive, and the doctrines of equality and majority rule have substituted for the tyranny of the few over the many, the more absolute, imperious, and widely accepted tyranny of the many over the few. (Richard Heffner, Democracy in America)

Monday, January 18, 2021


David Wood doesn't care about big tech demonetizing and deplatforming him. He's going to continue speaking the truth, exposing Islam, exposing big tech, exposing the mainstream media, and so on. I think that speaks volumes about Wood's character.

At the same time, Wood has a large family (by modern western standards) to provide and care for including two special needs kids if I recall correctly. Last I heard he lives in NYC which isn't exactly an affordable place to raise a family nor a friendly place for conservatives of any stripe. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be more prudent for Wood to be less provocative, but I suppose then he wouldn't be who he is nor accomplish all the good he has accomplished.

Regardless, when leftists talk about fighting for freedom, I'd say David Wood (and the many others like him) is far closer to what fighting for freedom looks like today than, say, leftists taking selfies at Antifa protests (let alone burning down local businesses and violently attacking other protesters) so decades later they can tell their kids or grandkids that they particpated in "the revolution". I just hope history remembers that they took part in what should be shameful activities, but even if history doesn't, God sure does.

Sunday, January 17, 2021


Here's an interview with Andrew Torba, the founder and CEO of Gab:

People can listen to the same interview here (starts at approximately 12:30):

Gab is an alternative to Twitter and similar social media. Torba is a conservative Christian.

It's maddening how Gab and even Torba as a person have been treated by big tech and others. I fear Torba is right that we're only a step or two away from the Bible being considered hate speech by the left. Same goes for what conservative Christians say online. If that happens, then it's possible to see (for example) a conservative church website or an apologetics ministry "canceled" by big tech and having to face all the sorts of battles Torba and Gab have faced. I guess "social justice" doesn't apply "equally" to conservatives.

This interview took place on July 14, 2020. Of course, things have only gotten worse since then.

The Tax Collector's Gospel

The traditional authorship attribution of the gospel of Matthew is sometimes disputed on the basis that what the author says about the calling of Matthew in chapter 9 is too similar to what's found in Mark and Luke or isn't detailed enough. I've responded to such objections elsewhere, but I want to add some points I didn't make there.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Should we dismiss unbelievers because of their bias?

Stephen Braude wrote:

Moreover, it is not clearly to the skeptic's advantage to rely heavily on the Argument from Human Bias. For one thing, because human biases are not limited to the domain of the paranormal, the application of the argument extends beyond the boundaries of parapsychology. For example, we could use the argument to challenge every scientific lab study based on instrument readings and ordinary human observation. After all, scientists have at least as much at stake, and therefore at least as many reasons for perceptual biases, as do witnesses of psi phenomena. In fact, they may have more, given the intimate connection between their lab work and career interests. Furthermore (and even more important), the Argument from Human Bias cuts two ways, against reports by the credulous and the incredulous. If our biases may lead us to malobserve, misremember, or lie, then we should be as suspicious of testimony from nonbelievers as from believers. If (based on their favorable dispositions) we distrust reports by the apparently credulous or sympathetic that certain odd phenomena occurred, we should (by parity of reasoning) be equally wary of reports by the incredulous or unsympathetic that the alleged phenomena did not occur (or that cheating occurred instead). Although philosophers and scientists who fancy themselves to be tough-minded and impartial are often reluctant to concede this point, there have been exceptions. (The Limits Of Influence [Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997], 26-27)

He quotes C.J. Ducasse:

…allegations of detection of fraud, or of malobservation, or of misinterpretation of what was observed, or of hypnotically induced hallucinations, have to be scrutinized as closely and as critically as must the testimony for the reality of the phenomena. For there is likely to be just as much wishful thinking, prejudice, emotion, snap judgment, naiveté, and intellectual dishonesty on the side of orthodoxy, of skepticism, and of conservatism, as on the side of hunger for and of belief in the marvelous. The emotional motivation for irresponsible disbelief is, in fact, probably even stronger - especially in scientifically educated persons whose pride of knowledge is at stake - than is in other persons the motivation for irresponsible belief. (27)

Braude goes on:

Ducasse's caveat about irresponsible disbelief is buttressed by a wealth of evidence. For one thing, according to Stevenson (1968, p. 112), experiments have revealed some interesting ways in which peer pressure and other contextual factors can apparently influence a person's perceptions or perception reports. But even apart from the experimental evidence, the history of parapsychology chronicles an astounding degree of blindness, intellectual cowardice, and mendacity on the part of skeptics and ardent nonbelievers, some of them prominent scientists. (27)

Regarding the significance of bias in general, whether the bias of believers or unbelievers, see here.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The purge

So the purge is on:

1. Just as many conservatives predicted: if the Democrats win the White House and the Senate, then the left will seek to silence opposition or dissent. That's what's happening right now.

Specifically, as many know by now, Twitter banned Trump and locked the POTUS account too. They won't reinstate the POTUS account until Biden takes office. This is despite the fact that Trump is still the sitting president. And not only has Trump been banned, but many of his supporters too, even though many of his supporters haven't said anything that would incite riots or racism.

In addition, big tech companies removed alternatives to Twitter like Parler and Gab. I can no longer download either app via Google Play or the Apple Store. These apps can still be downloaded via a site like APKPure. However, if Parler and Gab have their businesses ended, thanks to big tech's concerted effort to destroy their businesses, then there's no point downloading either app.

In a way, it feels more like this is communist China, not the United States, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will "direct" all "loyal" Chinese including Chinese companies to do what the CCP deems best for "the people", then Chinese companies and other organizations immediately comply.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

John Piper On Reading, Writing, And His New Book

Kevin DeYoung recently interviewed John Piper about a lot of issues related to reading and writing, including which books have most influenced him, his experiences in writing books, and his upcoming book about providence. They discuss some pastoral issues as well.

Friday, January 08, 2021

The Alleged Pagan Roots Of Holidays

David Wood recently interviewed Michael Jones (of InspiringPhilosophy) about the supposed pagan background of Christmas. Michael has done a lot of research on the topic, and they discussed many of the issues that are often brought up in this context (the origins of the December 25 date, whether certain Biblical passages are opposed to Christmas trees, etc.).

I've done some work on the history of the December 25 date, but I haven't looked into most of the other issues much. That's partly because I don't think a lot is at stake. Even if things like Christmas trees and the use of mistletoe in the context of Christmas had the sort of pagan roots that people often allege, the association with paganism would be too distant to have the implications those people often suggest. Similarly, there are distant pagan connections to the calendar names we use (names of months, names of days, etc.), the food we eat, the clothing we wear, and so on. The people who are so upset about the supposed paganism of Christmas don't seem nearly as upset, if they're upset at all, about other pagan connections, like the ones I just mentioned. Meat sacrificed to idols had a relationship to paganism, but Paul considered it acceptable to eat such meat (1 Corinthians 8, 10). The relationship was distant enough to not be significant.

Many good points are made during David's discussion with Michael, and a lot of what they discuss is relevant to holidays (and other issues) in general, not just Christmas. Apparently, Michael has done similar work on Valentine's Day and Easter and is planning a discussion of objections to the history of Thanksgiving. I don't know enough about some of the Christmas issues they discuss to make much of a judgment of the accuracy of Michael's conclusions, but there's enough good material during the program to make it worth listening to.