Thursday, December 30, 2021

New Books To Get In 2022

This is the second post in a series I started last year. I'll mention some books I'm looking forward to that are due out next year, and anybody who's interested can add their own books they're looking forward to in the comments section of the thread. You don't have to be expecting to agree with everything in the book or even most of what's in it. These are just new books, coming out next year, that you think are worth getting for whatever reason. And you don't have to be exhaustive. You can mention one, two, or however many you want. I'm hoping these posts will help us be more aware of what books are coming out and to make better plans about which books to get, which to read, in what order, and so on.

Gary Habermas recently mentioned that the first volume of his series on Jesus' resurrection could come out as early as December of 2022. Lydia McGrew has been working on a popular-level book on the evidence for the reliability of the gospels, which apparently will be titled Testimonies To The Truth. It might come out next year. Charles Hill has written a small book on the New Testament canon, for a popular audience, titled Who Chose The Books Of The New Testament?. If it's anywhere near as good as his Who Chose The Gospels? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), it will be well worth reading. The canon is a neglected topic, and it's good to see such a significant scholar writing a concise book on the topic for the general public. I also want to get a book I heard about from one of our commenters, Lucas, last year, Jonathan Bernier's Rethinking The Dates Of The New Testament. It was initially supposed to come out in 2021, but got delayed to next year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Saturday, December 25, 2021

All These Things Accrued To Us Through His Poverty

"Then he proceeds afterwards to the head and crown of his persuasion. 'For ye know the grace of our Lord, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.' [2 Corinthians 8:9] 'For have in mind,' says he, 'ponder and consider the grace of God and do not lightly pass it by, but aim at realizing the greatness of it both as to extent and nature, and thou wilt grudge nothing of thine. He emptied Himself of His glory that ye, not through His riches but through His poverty, might be rich. If thou believest not that poverty is productive of riches, have in mind thy Lord and thou wilt doubt no longer. For had He not become poor, thou wouldest not have become rich. For this is the marvel, that poverty hath made riches rich.' And by riches here he meaneth the knowledge of godliness, the cleansing away of sins, justification, sanctification, the countless good things which He bestowed upon us and purposeth to bestow. And all these things accrued to us through His poverty. What poverty? Through His taking flesh on Him and becoming man and suffering what He suffered. And yet He owed not this, but thou dost owe to Him." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On Second Corinthians, 17:1)

Thursday, December 23, 2021

David's Horn Exalted

One of the passages of scripture I often read at Christmastime is Psalm 89. Jesus' Davidic ancestry is a prominent theme in the infancy narratives, as well as in the accounts of Jesus' adulthood. Psalm 89 says a lot about how David's throne will be eternal (verses 3-4, 29, 36-37). Yet, the psalm concludes mostly with despair:

Videos On Christmas And Paganism

Wesley Huff and Michael Jones recently put out videos arguing against the supposed pagan nature of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Luke 2:39 In Context

One of the foremost objections critics raise against the infancy narratives is the alleged contradiction between Luke 2:39 and Matthew 2. Supposedly, Luke 2:39 suggests that Joseph and Mary had lived in Nazareth prior to being in Bethlehem and stayed in Bethlehem for only a little over a month, after which they returned to Nazareth. So, they shouldn't be in a house in Bethlehem in Matthew 2, and Matthew 2:22-23 shouldn't be worded as it is. I've answered that argument in the past, such as here. But an article I wrote earlier this year adds some points that are rarely made.

As I explain there, Luke's material leading up to 2:39 suggests that Joseph had lived in Bethlehem prior to 2:4, that the wedding of Joseph and Mary occurred there, and that they were in the city for about six months prior to 2:39. In that context, 2:39 can't be saying that Joseph and Mary had both lived only in Nazareth prior to 2:4, and it can't be assuming that they would have had no reason to stay in Bethlehem after the fulfilling of the law referred to in 2:39. If Joseph had lived in Bethlehem prior to 2:4, the wedding occurred there, and they had spent about half a year in the city leading up to 2:39, then the view that there was a larger rather than a smaller amount of time that passed between the fulfilling of the law and the move to Nazareth is more plausible accordingly.

In fact, it makes more sense in the larger context for the family to have stayed in Bethlehem longer. Most likely, Joseph and Mary would have at least gathered their belongings and made other preparations for the move to Nazareth between the time when they fulfilled the requirements of the law and the time when they left for Nazareth. They wouldn't have gone to Nazareth immediately after the last requirement of the law was fulfilled. There's nothing in the context of taking Jesus to the temple prior to verse 39 that suggests the family would uproot themselves from Bethlehem to move to another city and one so far away. The move makes more sense under the circumstances Matthew refers to, and that probably is when it occurred. If the reason for moving occurred in a timeframe not covered by Luke, such as Matthew's timeframe close to when Jesus was two years old (Matthew 2:16), then Luke's not providing a reason for the move becomes more coherent. Furthermore, it's clear that Luke is encapsulating a large amount of time in a short space in verse 40, and Jesus is already at age twelve when we get to verse 42. So, a compressing of a large amount of time into one verse in verse 39 would be consistent with the verses that immediately follow. We have to explain not only the text of verse 39, but also the context. And the context substantially weakens the critics' view of the passage.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Video Of The McGrews And Others Discussing Christmas Issues

Than Christopoulos recently hosted a good Christmas program on his YouTube channel. There were several guests: Tim and Lydia McGrew, another Tim (I don't know his last name), Erik Manning, Bram Rawlings, Lucas (I won't use his last name, since he doesn't use it in the video and may not want it mentioned), and Michael Jones. They made a lot of good points about the historicity of a traditional Christian view of Jesus' childhood and the supposed pagan roots of Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2021

National Geographic's Reconstruction Of Christmas

National Geographic just published an article by the New Testament scholar Antonio Pinero on the events surrounding Jesus' birth. The article often refers to scholars and scholarship without naming names or citing the percentage of scholarship holding a particular view. The author favors liberal conclusions and sometimes mentions views that are only held by a minority of scholars without indicating how unpopular those views are. People often write without providing the sort of information I just referred to, for the sake of saving space, to make an article more readable, or for whatever other reason, but the information is worth noting when responding to an article like Pinero's. It's common for people to think a source like National Geographic or a scholar like Pinero who's writing in such a context is representing more of scholarship and better scholarship than he actually is.

Evidence For Jesus' Genealogies

Peter Williams makes some good points about Jesus' genealogies in the New Testament:

In terms of the different accounts of Joseph’s father, it’s not difficult either today or back then to imagine that someone might have a legal father other than his biological one, especially if Joseph’s biological father disowned him over the shame of Mary’s irregular pregnancy. But there are a few other interesting things to notice about the genealogies. First, though they give different grandfathers for Jesus, the name of his great-grandfather in both genealogies is almost identical: Matthan in Matthew and Matthat in Luke. The only difference is in the final consonant, and this is of a kind that is readily explicable: these names reflect two Hebrew words — mattan and mattat — both of which mean “gift”.

Secondly, taking our cue from this name, we see that a number of the names in Luke’s genealogy share a single root. The name Matthat along with five other names in the genealogy after David come from the Hebrew three-consonant root NTN which means “give”. (Sometimes the Ns are hidden by turning into Ts.) These are Mattathias (3:25), Mattathias (3:26), Matthat (3:29), Mattatha (3:31), and Nathan (3:31). This makes some sense as this is the genealogy through David’s son Nathan. The root for “give” was used to form some of the most popular names of Nathan’s descendants. As is common in families, names are repeated. There are three Josephs, two Levis, two Melchis, and the name Er (3:28), which is only ever attested for the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 38:3). These are features we might expect in a true narrative. We may also note that the genealogy doesn’t blunder by having any of the popular Greek names, such as Philip or Herod, for the period before Alexander the Great.

Thirdly, in both Matthew and Mark we’re told the names of Jesus’s brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55) or James, Joses, Judas, and Simon (Mark 6:3). These differ only in the order of the final two names and in the adaptation of the Hebrew name Joseph to a Greek ending in the form Joses in Mark. However, these names also link with the genealogy in Matthew. Boys were often called after their grandfathers (a practice known as papponymy) and sometimes after their father (patronymy). If Jesus’s name was indeed given by the angel as stated in Matthew 1:21, then neither the father’s nor the grandfather’s name was an option. However, we see both these names used in the family. James is usually understood to be the first son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus’s birth. He was therefore called James, or strictly Jakobos, ie his grandfather’s name Jacob with the Greek noun ending -os. Jakobos evolved into English as James through centuries of sound changes. The next son after Jakobos was named after his father Joseph.

Thus we can see in the names of Jesus’s brothers a tiny coincidence which supports Matthew’s genealogy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Geographical Argument For Christmas

A concise, memorable way to begin a case for a traditional Christian view of Jesus' childhood is to focus on geography. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was raised in Nazareth. He chose to live in Nazareth for a while as an adult. He then moved to Capernaum. During his public ministry, he became closely associated with Galilee more broadly. Since then, he's become highly influential among the Gentile nations. That series of events lines up well with the geography of Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 9:1. (It's also a significant fulfillment of other passages referring to a Jewish messianic figure who will become highly influential among the Gentiles. For discussions of the significance of the reference to Gentiles in Isaiah 9:1 and references to influence over the Gentile world elsewhere in Isaiah, see here and here.) Jesus' living in Nazareth and Capernaum as an adult and his giving so much attention to the region of Galilee in general during his public ministry were things he could have done by normal means without significant difficulty. They were prophecy fulfillments he had a lot of control over by natural means rather than having little or no control. Still, his deciding to do those things provides evidence that he viewed himself as the figure of Isaiah 9:1-7. That's significant in light of what the passage says about that figure's Davidic ancestry, Messiahship, and deity. And being born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth from so young an age and becoming so influential among the Gentiles weren't things he had that sort of control over.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Why Nazareth?

I've written about the significance of Jesus' upbringing in Nazareth as a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1. It should be kept in mind that other cities in the region of Zebulun could have been chosen if the early Christians were fabricating the claim about where Jesus was raised. There was another Bethlehem in the region of Zebulun, for example (Joshua 19:15). Or Cana could have been chosen. It doesn't seem that such alternatives had the bad reputation of Nazareth (Matthew 2:23, John 1:46). The best explanation for why the early Christians claimed he grew up in Nazareth and was there so long (thus making the claim more falsifiable if it wasn't true) is that he did grow up there and was there so long. Earlier this year, I wrote about how the nature of Luke's material on Nazareth and other issues suggests the material is unlikely to be fabricated, which supports some kind of family background in Nazareth:

The scenario I've just outlined is large and complicated, but the evidence warrants a large and complicated explanation. It's not the sort of situation the early Christians are likely to have made up if they were free to have made up whatever they wanted. When the pregnancy is premarital, Mary lives in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem, Joseph is in Nazareth shortly before the wedding in spite of having a home in Bethlehem, etc., the early Christians probably were operating under significant historical constraints that prevented them from giving an account that was as simple and easy as they would have preferred.

See here for an acknowledgment of the significance of one of my points about Nazareth from Christopher Hitchens. Bart Ehrman has gone as far as to refer to Jesus' upbringing in Nazareth as "certain": "Little can be known about Jesus' early life, but one thing that can be said for certain is that he was raised in Nazareth, the home village of Joseph and Mary." (The New Testament [New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012], 269)

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Michael Shermer And Bart Ehrman On Christmas And Christianity

Michael Shermer recently had Bart Ehrman on his YouTube channel. There are too many problems with the comments made by both of them for me to interact with everything. They address a wide range of topics: Jesus' existence, the virgin birth, Trinitarianism, the atonement, the resurrection of Jesus, the problem of evil, etc. But Ehrman was on the program primarily to discuss Christmas issues. He had an online seminar on the subject coming up on December 5, and that was Shermer's main interest. What I want to do in the remainder of this post is respond to some of their comments about Christmas and prophecy fulfillment.

Micah 4-5 Fulfilled In Jesus

I want to have a post that links all three parts of my series in one place:

Jesus' Fulfillment Of Micah 4-5

How difficult was it to determine Jesus' birthplace?

Jesus' Birthplace Outside Matthew And Luke

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Jesus' Birthplace Outside Matthew And Luke

Among the earliest sources, the place of Jesus' birth is discussed most explicitly in Matthew and Luke. But his birthplace is implied elsewhere in the New Testament and is discussed in the early patristic literature, and those other sources get much less attention in modern considerations of where Jesus was born. The evidence from ancient non-Christian sources has been neglected as well. What I want to do in this post is address some of those sources outside Matthew and Luke.

For some important background to this post, see my article on Micah 4-5 and my article on how difficult it would have been for people to determine where Jesus was born. You don't need to read those in order to understand what I'm arguing here, but those other posts will help you understand the larger significance of this one.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

How difficult was it to determine Jesus' birthplace?

I've argued that Micah 4-5 is an eschatological, messianic passage that predicts the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. Issues like whether that prophecy has been fulfilled and whether it's been fulfilled by Jesus in particular are important, but they're rarely discussed in much depth. One of the subjects that doesn't get much attention is what access the relevant historical sources had to information on Jesus' place of birth. How well could they have judged the subject? Were they in a position to pass on reliable information to future generations?

Not enough consideration has been given to how Jesus' birthplace is connected to other issues. His birthplace wasn't an isolated issue about which people either were ignorant or had the most direct, explicit sort of knowledge. Rather, it's a subject with a lot of connections to other topics, so that people could discern Jesus' place of birth and corroborating evidence for it by a large variety of direct and indirect and explicit and implicit means.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Jesus' Fulfillment Of Micah 4-5

A few years ago, I wrote about Isaiah 9:1-7, and much of what I said there is relevant to chapters 4 and 5 in Micah. I won't repeat everything I said in those posts. See here regarding issues like the origins of the Israelite monarchy in 1 Samuel 8 and some material that Isaiah and Micah have in common. In another post, I explained why we shouldn't think Isaiah 9 was fulfilled by Hezekiah or some other Jewish king of the Old Testament era. Some of what I said there is applicable to the material in Micah. Since there's so much overlap between what's said in Isaiah and what's said in Micah, those posts from a few years ago provide a lot of background for this post.

Micah 5:2 is often singled out in discussions of prophecy fulfillment, but the remainder of the chapter and the previous one should get more attention than they usually do. Chapters 4 and 5 are both eschatological and messianic. Chapter 4 opens with a discussion of Yahweh ruling the nations forever from Jerusalem in "the last days", and chapter 5 concludes with a reference to his executing vengeance on the nations. Both are addressing what will happen "in that day" (4:6, 5:10). Some of the same or similar themes are found in both chapters, and they often shed light on one another.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Enfield Miscellany (Part 6)

(See part 1 here for an explanation of what this series is about. Here are links to the other parts: two, three, four, and five. I'll be citing the Enfield tapes of Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair. I'll use "MG" to reference a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. MG44A refers to tape 44A in Grosse's collection, and GP10A refers to 10A in Playfair's, for example.)

Hazel Short's Other Experiences

She's typically discussed in the context of a levitation of Janet Hodgson that Short witnessed on December 15, 1977. The other events she witnessed don't get much attention. An article published several years ago reports:

Hazel, now 65, said: “I was once invited into her [Peggy Hodgson's] house, it was a boiling hot summer’s day outside but inside it was like a freezer, ice-cold.

“Peggy, Janet’s mum, led me through to the downstairs toilet and stuck to the wall was the toilet brush and a bottle of bleach.

“I will never forget what I saw and felt in that house. “It’s just a surprise that the story has taken this long to be turned into a film.”

She seems to be saying that the toilet brush and bottle of bleach were sticking to the wall in a paranormal manner.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Luke 1:56 And The Importance Of Bracketing

In a post about Luke's census account a few years ago, I mentioned the value of bracketing the first three verses of Luke 2 to highlight the fact that Jesus and his family don't enter the narrative until verse 4. Bracketing is often helpful in understanding Biblical passages and working through some of the issues involved. And Luke's material on Jesus' childhood provides us with another example.

As I mentioned in a post earlier this year, Joseph's presence in Nazareth in Luke 2:4 makes more sense if you read 2:4 in the context of 1:56. But people typically don't do that, since the material between 1:56 and 2:4 is distracting them from 1:56 and what led up to it. If you bracket the material about Mary and Jesus in 1:26-56 and the material about Jesus and his family starting in 2:4, you'll have a better understanding of some aspects of what's going on. You can read the post linked at the beginning of this paragraph for an explanation of how 2:4 makes more sense in light of 1:56. Luke had good reason to present the material as he did. The paralleling of John the Baptist and Jesus, going back and forth between the two, accomplishes some good things. But it's helpful to also bracket the material I've mentioned above and read that bracketed material together.

And it helps to do the same in other contexts. A major example outside of Luke that I've often cited is John 7:53-8:11. That passage shouldn't be included in John's gospel, but when it's present, it's important to bracket it to assist in reading 8:12 in light of 7:52 and what led up to it.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Appreciating The Accomplishments Of Past Generations

I see the years like billows break
Upon the passive strand of time,
And as they break, sweep off in turn
Man's works of every age and clime.
Who, what am I amid the wreck
Of all this beauty, love, and power,
O'er which I weep, but whose decay
I cannot hinder for an hour?
The true is never obsolete,
The never old is never stale;
I guard the gold of ancient mines,
And gather gems, though few and pale;
I call them fair - as fair as when
They dropped from God's bright heaven for men.
(Horatius Bonar, "The Silence Of Faith", Hymns Of The Nativity [London, England: James Nisbet & Co., 1879], 53)

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Light Of His Eternal Glory

"Indeed, it is adversity on the outside that is often the catalyst for regained fellowship with God on the inside (Ps. 119:67). In 1745 Boston pastor Benjamin Colman's daughter died, following the death of another daughter, the debilitating illness of his wife, and the death of his associate pastor. [Jonathan] Edwards wrote a moving letter to Colman with a desire that 'when you are thus deprived of the company of your temporal friends, you may have sweet communion with the Lord Jesus Christ more abundantly, and that as God has gradually been darkening this world to you, putting out one of its lights after another, so he would cause the light of his eternal glory more and more to dawn within you.'" (Dane Ortlund, Edwards On The Christian Life [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2014], 118)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Precedent For Metaphorically Drinking Blood And Eating God

Do a Ctrl F search for "John 6" in Glenn Miller's article here. In a video here, Steven Nemes makes a lot of good points about the eucharist and whether Christ is physically present in it. My main interest in this post, though, is his examples of precedent for viewing the eucharist in a way that doesn't involve a physical presence. We often apply the same sort of reasoning in other areas of life (when speaking of the Passover elements, when referring to how an actor is the character he represents, etc.).

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

He Gives His Rest Under A Yoke

I've been reading John Piper's recent book on providence. As he continues to produce so much good work in his retirement years, it's useful to look back at a poem he wrote about retirement and the dangers of sloth shortly before he retired. If you go here, you can read the poem, with an introduction explaining its background, and watch a video of Piper reading it.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Don't Underestimate Prophecy Fulfillment

Prophecy fulfillment is often underestimated in a lot of contexts for a lot of reasons. For example, it seems that people often underestimate the value of prophecy fulfillment that's occurred since the Biblical era, and there's probably more than one reason why that happens. We hear more about the postbiblical era than the Biblical era, since we have more evidence for the former and it's closer to our time. We become more accustomed to it accordingly, and we often grow increasingly less appreciative of something the more we're accustomed to it. And we don't have any Biblical passages informing or reminding us that the prophecies have been fulfilled and how significant those fulfillments are, since the fulfillments occurred after the Bible was written. I suspect there's also an overreaction to false claims that have been made about alleged prophecy fulfillment in our day and in previous generations. People overreact to those false claims by going too far in the other direction, so that they neglect the fulfillments that have occurred.

Here's a post I wrote a couple of years ago that provides some examples of postbiblical prophecy fulfillment and how to argue for it. And this post goes into more depth about how to think through and articulate the principles involved. Here's one that lists some examples of prophecies fulfilled by non-Christians and/or whose fulfillment is acknowledged by non-Christians. The list includes some postbiblical fulfillments.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

If Jesus was teaching a physical presence in the eucharist, why didn't he explain it better?

Advocates of a physical presence of Christ in the eucharist often suggest that he couldn't have made the concept much clearer than he did, that he should have made some other view of the eucharist clearer if he had some other view in mind, and so forth. For example, we'll be asked what could be clearer than what Jesus said in John 6. Or if Jesus wasn't teaching a physical eucharistic presence there, then why didn't he clarify that fact, especially after people expressed their opposition to such an interpretation of his comments (6:52, 6:60) and some abandoned him (6:66)? Or what could be clearer than Jesus' words at the Last Supper? And so on.

There are a lot of problems with that sort of reasoning. I'm not going to address all of those problems here, but I want to discuss some of them. The primary issue I want to address here is that a lack of clarification from Jesus is more of a problem for the physical presence view than for views of the eucharist not involving a physical presence.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Where have you been?

"All that I beg for is this, that you would step aside oftener to talk with God and your own heart; that you would not suffer every trifle to divert you; that you would keep a more true and faithful account of your thoughts and affections; that you would seriously demand of your own heart at least every evening, 'O my heart, where hast thou been today, and what has engaged thy thoughts?'" (John Flavel, Keeping The Heart [Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2019], 111-12)

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Making Good Use Of People's False Priorities

When Christians are talking about younger generations - Millennials, Generation Z, or whoever - there's a tendency to focus on issues like those associated with the LGBTQ movement and racial controversies. We'll often be told that those are the issues people in those generations are the most concerned about, are talking about the most, or some such thing.

But why defer to the judgment of younger people on these issues, since they are, after all, younger people who tend to be less wise, less experienced, and so on? It's like the polls asking people what man or woman they admire most. Many will name somebody like the President, the First Lady, or the Pope, whichever names quicky and easily come to mind and seem like respectable answers at the moment. It's not as though they've given the issue much thought.

And it doesn't make sense to think that something like transgenderism, race relations, or legalizing marijuana is the most important subject in life or what we should be talking about most. I want to focus on another point, though, which should get more attention than it does.

We ought to be using the false priorities of people as an argument against their worldviews and those of the people influencing them. If what you're most concerned about in life is something like transgenderism or race relations, what does that suggest about your priorities? If the people influencing you the most - your relatives, your friends, Hollywood, academia, the media, and so on - keep neglecting God, the afterlife, and other issues that are so obviously so much more important than what the people most influencing you talk to you about the most, what does that suggest about their trustworthiness? We should make more of an issue of how unloving and irrational it is for people to be so negligent about what's most important in life while giving so much attention to matters that are so much less significant. The fact that young people are so focused on the issues they're most focused on is itself a strong line of evidence that they've been misled and should be questioning the sources who have taken them so far astray. It's not difficult to explain to people why subjects like God and the afterlife are so important. And it's not difficult to demonstrate that those subjects have been highly neglected by the relevant sources, who keep encouraging people to focus on matters of much less significance.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

The Treasures Of John

The upcoming Christmas season is another good reason to read Lydia McGrew's recent book arguing for the historicity of John's gospel. (There's now a Kindle version of it.) See here regarding the fourth gospel's underestimated material on Christmas issues.

Imagine a young man, heir to a fortune, who has been told for years that certain portions of that fortune must not be used, claimed, or relied upon. Some of his most beautiful and pleasant properties, some of the loveliest treasures left to him by his ancestors, must never be treated as if they are really his. He may appreciate them aesthetically from a distance, but he may not live on the estates or handle the precious objects, and he is not free to spend any of those treasures for his most serious needs. His earnest advisors tell him (at least initially) that this is not because they themselves think that there is anything questionable about his right to these properties. But, they say, there are learned geographers who doubt that most of the lands even exist. Some lawyers question whether the heir has proper title to the lands; his advisors therefore worry that he will be evicted should he take up residence. Others, eminent financiers, believe that the property in question will disappear in some complex financial fashion if he should attempt to claim it. So the young heir learns to live on a far more modest inheritance and to act in practice as though he does not even possess some of his own property. Even some beautiful places and things that his father particularly wanted him to have do not come into his hands, for he has been taught not to claim them.

Now, suppose that some of his own advisors one day begin to say that they, too, have decided that he does not really own this great portion of his patrimony, that it is a chimera, or that it has disappeared in a financial crash. Will the man be likely to check out their statements? Is he not more likely to conclude that nothing much is at stake? After all, he has lived without this property for many years. He has had to behave as if he did not own it. Why should he bother to find out whether his current advisors are wrong or right, now that some of them also question this property?

In just such a way deference to credentialism and the persistent practical refusal to rely upon John’s Gospel create psychological indifference to its historicity and a passive willingness to let it be taken from us by scholarly skepticism. Yet if John’s Gospel is historically reliable, it is a very great treasure, far dearer than mere houses or lands or any earthly gold or silver. It tells us much that the other Gospels do not relate about the teachings and doings of Jesus Christ, and, if it belongs in the canon of Scripture with all of its overt claims to be the product of witness testimony, then these unique historical stories are gifts that our heavenly Father wanted us to have for our spiritual needs. They cannot truly satisfy those needs if they are merely pious fictions. Should we not then rouse ourselves to investigate the question of whether or not we can rely upon John?

(Lydia McGrew, pp. 18-19 here)

Monday, November 01, 2021

A Day Living With A Poltergeist

One way of conveying what it's like to live with a poltergeist is to walk through the events of a particular day. And I've been wanting to write more about the events of May 30, 1978 in the Enfield case, since it was one of the most significant days in the case and has received much less attention than it should.

In the process of discussing what happened that day, I'll be citing Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I'll refer to Grosse's tapes with "MG", meaning that MG31A is a reference to tape 31A in his collection. And I'll refer to Playfair's tapes with "GP", so that GP68B is a reference to his tape 68B.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

No Bishop Of Bishops

"For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only one that has the power both of preferring us in the government of His Church, and of judging us in our conduct there." (Cyprian)

As you can see on the page linked above, dozens of other bishops at the council spoke after Cyprian made his comments. Nobody voiced any disagreement with what he said. They often appeal to scripture and reason to justify their position on the matter before them, but nobody appeals to papal authority. And nobody gives any indication of thinking that such an office existed or that departing from it or operating independently of it needed to be justified.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Lessons From Other Holidays

We can learn some lessons from other holidays about how to make the most of Reformation Day. Holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are as influential as they are partly for reasons that are applicable to Reformation Day as well. Themes like risking and sacrificing and individuals laying down their lives for a good cause resonate with people, earn their respect, and often move their emotions, form lasting memories, and motivate them to do good things they wouldn't do otherwise. The principles, events, and movements of the Reformation should be discussed, but also the stories of the individuals involved.

A good resource to use in homes, churches, and other contexts is Ken Connolly's documentary The Indestructible Book. It's about the history of the Bible, especially how it got to America in the English language. It starts at the time of Moses and concludes with Plymouth Rock. It doesn't go into much depth, but it's good for introductory and motivational purposes. It often touches on themes like the ones I mentioned in the opening of this post, and there are many segments of the documentary that would be good to use in that context. It's good at conveying the work that went into giving us the Bible, the significance of scripture, and the cost many people paid to bring it to us. Some parts of it, like the segments on John Wycliffe and the ones on Thomas Bilney and other martyrs around the time of the Reformation, are especially moving. You can watch the whole thing here. It gets especially good starting here, with the material on Wycliffe. And here's a section on the martyrdom of Wycliffe's followers. Here's an account of Bilney's conversion, and here's the segment on his martyrdom. Those are just a few examples. The whole thing is worth watching, though the quality varies from one portion to another.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Forerunners Of The Reformation

Gavin Ortlund just put out a good video on reform groups in the centuries leading up to the Reformation, especially the Waldensians. You can find some material on medieval agreements with Protestantism in our archives, such as some discussions of medieval sources in my article on the history of sola fide. I'm more familiar with the patristic era than the medieval era, but I've occasionally addressed medieval issues, in the article just linked and elsewhere. Go here for an example of a Catholic scholar acknowledging belief in some of the Protestant solas prior to the Reformation. A different, but related issue is how well some Protestant beliefs were initially received at the time of the Reformation. See here. If Protestantism is as much of a departure from earlier history as its critics often claim, why do we see groups like the ones Gavin Ortlund discusses and beliefs and circumstances like the ones discussed in my articles linked above?

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Luke Against Roman Catholic Mariology

I've written a lot of material over the years about inconsistencies between Luke's writings and a Roman Catholic view of Mary. I thought I'd post a collection of some of that material and add some further comments. Since the posts I'll be linking address other subjects as well, you'll have to look for the relevant content, such as by doing a Ctrl F search. And these are just posts with relevant material, not exhaustive treatments of each subject.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Steve Hays' Work On Reformation Issues

I've written about his contributions to Christmas and Easter. With Reformation Day approaching, it's worth mentioning his contribution to Reformation issues as well.

There are far too many examples for me to link more than a small percentage of them here. But I do want to provide some examples. Here's something he wrote on Biblical passages supporting Reformed theology. He wrote similar posts responding to passages cited in support of Roman Catholic authority claims and Catholic Mariology. He also addressed changes in Catholic belief and practice over the centuries. Here's one he wrote about papal support of untraditional views of the authorship and dating of Biblical books. And here's something he wrote on Catholic miracle claims. He had a lengthy exchange with a Catholic philosopher on sola scriptura, which became an e-book. He also had many other exchanges with Catholics, reviewed Catholic books, and so forth, and you can find that material in our archives.

Much of his work on these issues has been preserved here and elsewhere. If you've benefited from that work, pass it on to other people. Link it, use the arguments, evidence, and other material Steve gave you when you have discussions with other people, or disseminate it in some other way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Good Discussion Of How Christians Should View Near-Death Experiences

Jordan Cooper just did a two-part series of videos on near-death experiences (NDEs), here and here. The first is about the evidence for the paranormality of NDEs. The second is about how Christians should view them, and it's the more important of the two. His view is somewhat different than mine, but he provides one of the best overviews of NDEs I've seen from an Evangelical. For my own articles on the subject, you can go here.

I left two comments in the thread following the second video. The first comment explained my view of NDEs and why I prefer it to Jordan's. The second comment expanded on a point Jordan made in his second video. The first comment disappeared shortly after I put up the second one. I suspect that's a problem with YouTube reacting to my posting twice in a short period of time. I don't know if that first comment went into moderation, was deleted, or whatever else. The second comment is still there, though.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Jerome On Isaiah 22 And Eliakim

Roman Catholics often claim that Matthew 16 should be interpreted in light of Isaiah 22, which supposedly should lead us to the papacy. I've discussed some of the problems with that sort of argument in the past, such as in the comments section of the thread here. It's often noted that there is no support for such a reading of Isaiah 22 in the earliest centuries of church history and that Revelation 3:7, a passage discussing Jesus, is more reminiscent of Isaiah 22 than Matthew 16 is. In his commentary on Isaiah, Jerome not only sees Jesus as the equivalent of Eliakim, but even cites Revelation 3:7 in the process of discussing the passage in Isaiah. He sees Peter in the passage, but as one of the cups of Isaiah 22:24, along with the other apostles:

Eliakim means "God rising again," or "resurrection of God." Therefore, that God rising again, who is the son of Hilkiah, that is, "of the Lord's portion," will take your [the Jewish law's] place, and will be clothed with your robe, and will be strengthened by your sash, so that what you had in the letter, he possesses in the Spirit; and he will be father of those who inhabit Jerusalem, that is, the "vision of peace," which means the church, and the house of Judah, where there is the true "confession" of faith. This is why he says to the apostles, "Little children, I am with you a little longer" [John 13:33]; and to another, "Son, your sins are forgiven" [Matt 9:2]; and to another, "Daughter, your faith has saved you" [Luke 7:50]. Also, I will give to him, he says, the key of the house of David, "who opens, and no one shuts, who shuts, and no one opens" [Rev 3:7]. And this very key will be upon his shoulder, that is, during the passion. This accords with what is written in another passage: "Whose sovereignty is on his shoulder" [Isa 9:6]. For that which he will have opened up by his passion cannot be closed, and what he will have enclosed in Jewish ceremonies, no other will open….

This is also why in the Gospel it is written, "All the people were hanging from him [like hanging from the peg in Isaiah 22:24]" [Luke 19:48]. Indeed, this happened not merely at that time, but it is fulfilled up to the present day, that they hang various kinds of vessels from him, as if from the word of God, wisdom, justice, and all things by which Christ is designated….I think that the cups [in Isaiah 22:24] are the apostles, filled with the life-giving waters, of which it is said, "Bless the Lord from the fountains of Israel" [Ps 68:26]. (Thomas Scheck, trans., St. Jerome: Commentary On Isaiah [Mahwah, New Jersey: The Newman Press, 2015], p. 376, section 7:41 in the commentary)

He goes on to say that verse 25, as it applies to Christ and the church, will be fulfilled in an eschatological falling away.

You don't have to agree with all of Jerome's comments in order to recognize that he makes no reference to papal implications in the passage and that his understanding illustrates how easily the passage can be interpreted differently than Roman Catholics interpret it once we head down the path of this sort of interpretation.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Healing Of Amputees, Nature Miracles, And Such Today

Sean McDowell recently interviewed Craig Keener about miracles, especially modern ones. Keener published a two-volume work on the subject a decade ago, which I've discussed at length, and he has a shorter and updated book on the topic coming out later this month. Here's a portion of the interview that discusses the healing of amputees and other modern miracles that people often consider to be of a higher nature (walking on water, etc.). For more about the healing of amputees, see here. Keener also discusses examples of miracles of the Biblical era that we don't see today. It's also worth noting that there are other ways in which the Biblical era is distinguishable from and superior to the postbiblical era in the context of miracles, and I get into some of those issues in my material on Keener's book. See this post in particular. Much of what happens with postbiblical miracles is connected to and dependent on the Biblical era, such as prophecy fulfillment and other miracles that affirm the Bible and the authority figures and events of the Biblical era in some way.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

How To Argue For Miracles And Demonic Activity In Particular

Here's something I recently wrote in private correspondence about miracles. I was addressing a large number and variety of issues and providing links to articles that say more, so I didn't go into a lot of depth in the correspondence itself. I wasn't attempting to cover every category of miracle or every related issue.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Did Hippolytus pray to Daniel's companions?

Roman Catholics and other advocates of praying to the dead often appeal to a passage in Hippolytus as evidence of the supposed earliness of the practice. For example, Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott wrote:

"The invocation of the saints is first attested by St. Hippolytus of Rome, who turns to the three companions of Daniel with the prayer: 'Think of me, I beseech you, so that I may achieve with you the same fate of martyrdom.' (In Dan. II, 30)." (Fundamentals Of Catholic Dogma [Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1974], 319)

There are a lot of problems with that use of Hippolytus, and I've discussed some of those problems before. What I want to do in this post is address a line of evidence I don't recall having seen anybody else mention.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

The Leaders Of The Reformation And Evangelicalism

One of the means of accomplishing significant things is to surround yourself with good examples to learn from and emulate. John Piper has produced some good audio biographies of some of the leaders of the Reformation and later Evangelicalism.

"through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4)

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Feed The Sheep By Any Hand

Here's a good article by Greg Morse about overcoming envy and other sins in Christian work.

Holding Critics Of Sola Scriptura Accountable

Critics of sola scriptura often apply objections to the concept that, if valid, would also work against their alternative to sola scriptura (objecting to relying on your own interpretation of scripture while they rely on their own interpretation of their rule of faith; objecting to arriving at a canon of scripture by means outside of scripture while they arrive at the canon of their rule of faith by means outside that rule of faith; objecting to interpreting scripture by means outside of scripture while they interpret their rule of faith by means outside that rule of faith; etc.). An easy, concise way of getting at those inconsistencies and getting critics of sola scriptura to think more deeply and more consistently is to tell them, "Scripture is to me what your rule of faith is to you." If they claim to not understand how scripture functions for an Evangelical in a particular context, or they say that they think a particular Evangelical practice violates sola scriptura, for example, tell them to apply the same reasoning to their own rule of faith and, after they do so, tell you whether they still think their objection is a good one. Part of the problem in so many discussions of sola scriptura is that critics of the concept haven't thought much about it or their own rule of faith. Getting them to think more deeply and consistently and to be more self-critical is important. It's often helpful to use a line like "Scripture is to me what your rule of faith is to you."

Sunday, October 03, 2021

The Evidence For The Reformation And Evangelicalism

Reformation Day is coming up at the end of the month. Several years ago, I posted a collection of resources on the historical roots of the Reformation and Evangelicalism. I occasionally update it. Here's a collection of posts about the papacy, and you can go to the comments section to see what's been added over the years, including some that I added within the last several months. And here's one I recently added on ecclesiology. Here's one on Josephus and Roman Catholicism. And this one discusses Catholicism and liberalism.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Further Testing On The Enfield Knocking Phenomena

In 2010, Barrie Colvin published an article documenting that some knocking phenomena in several paranormal cases had a different acoustic quality than normal knocking. More recently, John Fraser did some research on the subject and wrote about it in a book he published last year, Poltergeist! (Washington, United States: Sixth Books, 2020). Chapter 6 of that book discusses some work he did with James Tacchi to replicate Colvin's findings. Colvin, Fraser, Tacchi, and others who have written on this subject over the past several years have made suggestions for further research and added further qualifiers to Colvin's initial findings. For example, Tacchi was able to duplicate the acoustic properties of paranormal knocking by normal means when the audio recorder was around 15 feet away. But the distinction between normal and paranormal knocking seems to hold up when the recording device is closer to the source of the knocking. You can read Fraser's book and the other relevant sources if you want more details.

I don't know much about acoustic issues. I've been able to follow some portions of these discussions, but haven't been able to follow others. However, I've done a lot of research on a poltergeist case, Enfield, for which we have a large amount of relevant information and audio recordings. I want to discuss some examples of relevant incidents and information from that case that Colvin, Fraser, Tacchi, or anybody else who's interested could look into. For example, as Fraser mentions in his book, it's important that we know how close the audio recording device was to the source of the knocking, and it would be good to have a knock done by normal means in the nearby context for the sake of comparison. I know of some incidents on the Enfield tapes that meet one or more of the relevant criteria, and there's a lot of potential to find more such incidents on the tapes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Steve Hays ebooks 1

Over a year ago, I mentioned there'd be forthcoming Steve Hays ebooks. I'm terribly sorry it took such a long time! But here's the first batch:

Steve Hays chose most of the ebook covers as well as wrote all the prefaces shortly before his death. The prefaces are new and won't be found elsewhere.

There are a total of six ebooks in the current batch. Just quickly eyeballing it, it looks like Steve had somewhere around 50 ebooks. So there should be ~44 more ebooks to come, give or take. I don't know when the next batch will come, but it might be a while.

I must note, though, that I didn't do any of the work. Rather it was done by Led by the Shepherd - all the credit goes to him! Led by the Shepherd approached me to see if he could lend a hand and I'm so thankful he did because I've been quite busy in my personal life and I didn't have the time or energy to do the ebooks. May the Lord reward Led by the Shepherd for his faithful work to honor Steve's own work!

Finally the great John Hendryx has likewise generously hosted these ebooks along with a lot of other material by Steve Hays over on his world famous Many thanks to John as well!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Why weren't the early Christians thinking of an assumption of Mary?

I've written some posts over the years about various historical problems with the claim that Mary was bodily assumed to heaven. See here, here, and here. While reading Stephen Carlson's book on Papias, I was reminded of a passage in Irenaeus that ought to be highlighted in this context. While discussing individuals who have been "translated" or "assumed" to heaven, Irenaeus cites the examples of Enoch, Elijah, and Paul. As I document in the articles linked above, we see the same pattern with other patristic sources for hundreds of years. They keep citing Enoch, Elijah, and Paul as individuals who were assumed to heaven, but never use Mary as an example. Irenaeus isn't just citing Enoch, Elijah, and Paul because they didn't die, as the surrounding context demonstrates. For example, he refers to "the translation of the just" and "the assumption of those who are spiritual" in general, regardless of whether those individuals had died. So, the disagreement among Catholics about whether Mary died prior to her assumption doesn't seem relevant here. And it's noteworthy that Irenaeus refers to how "the elders who were disciples of the apostles" passed down information on the subject Irenaeus is discussing (Against Heresies, 5:5:1). So, those disciples of the apostles Irenaeus refers to can be added to the list of sources who made relevant comments.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

My Labor Is With My God

"I see exceeding small fruit of my ministry, and would be glad to know of one soul to be my crown and rejoicing in the day of Christ. Though I spend my strength in vain, yet my labour is with my God (Isa. xlix.4). I wish and pray that the Lord would harden my face against all, and make me to learn to go with my face against a storm….If God have given you the Earnest of the Spirit, as part of payment of God's principal sum, ye have to rejoice; for our Lord will not lose His earnest, neither will He go back or repent Him of the bargain….Peace of conscience, liberty of prayer, the doors of God's treasure cast up to the soul, and a clear sight of Himself looking out, and saying, with a smiling countenance, 'Welcome to Me, afflicted soul;' this is the earnest that He giveth sometimes, and which maketh glad the heart, and is an evidence that the bargain will hold." (Samuel Rutherford, Letters Of Samuel Rutherford [Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012], 43-44, 46)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

There Are Treasures In The Scripture Passages You've Neglected

Last week, I quoted a passage in John Chrysostom in which he comments on the significance of Paul's remarks in 1 Corinthians 16:9. People often neglect passages like 1 Corinthians 16, where there are references to the Biblical authors' travel plans, lists of names, farewells, etc. But there's a lot of valuable material in such passages, which we'll miss if we're not attentive enough.

In addition to the example of 1 Corinthians 16:9, think of what I wrote last Easter season about the implications of 1 Corinthians 16:20 for the objectivity and physicality of Jesus' resurrection appearances. Or the references to Mark and Luke close by each other near the close of some of Paul's letters (Colossians 4:10-14, 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24), with implications for the authorship of two of the gospels, their relationship with each other, and Paul's knowledge of the issues addressed in those gospels. Or think of how many undesigned coincidences involve material in such portions of scripture. These are just some examples among many others that could be cited.

"As in gold mines one skillful in what relates to them would not endure to overlook even the smallest vein as producing much wealth, so in the holy Scriptures it is impossible without loss to pass by one jot or one tittle, we must search into all. For they all are uttered by the Holy Spirit, and nothing useless is written in them." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On John, 36:1)

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Some Undesigned Coincidences Related To Peter's Names

Jesus gave Simon the name Peter (Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14, John 1:42), yet Jesus often refers to him as Simon (Matthew 16:17, 17:25, Mark 14:37, Luke 22:31, John 1:42, 21:15-17). In fact, Jesus refers to him as Simon more often than he refers to him as Peter in the records we have in the gospels. Why would Jesus give Simon a new name, yet keep reverting to the original name?

Only two of the gospels report that Jesus had a brother named Simon (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3), but his having a brother with that name makes his interest in the name Simon, even when he had given the individual a new name, more coherent. And his use of the name Simon occurs in Luke and John as well, not just in the two gospels that name Jesus' brothers. Even in Matthew and Mark, the reference to a brother named Simon is brief and occurs in passing, and that brother didn't have the sort of later prominence that James and Jude had. So, Jesus' ongoing use of the name Simon in those two gospels has some significance accordingly. Jesus' tendency to keep using the name Simon, even after giving him a new name, seems best explained as something the historical Jesus did. Not only is it reported by all of the gospels, but his having a brother named Simon makes the ongoing use of that name more coherent.

It's also noteworthy that James referred to Peter as Simeon (Acts 15:14). Scholars often date Paul's letter to the Galatians close to the time of the events of Acts 15. Contrast how Paul never refers to the disciple as Simon in Galatians, but instead keeps referring to him as Cephas or Peter, with James' choice to refer to him as Simeon in Acts 15. So, we need to explain both Jesus' preference for Simon, even though Jesus is the one who gave that disciple his new name, and James' preference for Simeon, even though James was speaking at a time in church history when Peter was the more common way of referring to the disciple, as we see in Galatians. If both Jesus and James were drawing a connection to the name of one of their brothers, that's an efficient explanation for the use of that name by both Jesus and James when they address Peter.

One potential reason why the name Simon would stand out to Jesus and James is that Simon was their youngest brother. He's mentioned last in Mark 6:3, which may be because he was the youngest, though his being mentioned third instead of last in Matthew 13:55 complicates the situation. Youngest children often get treated differently because of their status as the youngest. Jesus may have had more affection for his brother Simon accordingly. And that may have been a factor not only in Jesus' referring to Peter as Simon so much, but also in his choosing Simon to begin with, giving him such a prominent position among the disciples, and giving him a second name.

It's also striking that the angel who appears to Cornelius in Acts 10 not only refers to Peter as Simon (verse 5), but does so in a context in which there was another Simon from whom Peter had to be distinguished (Simon the tanner). The angel refers to Peter as Simon, only to go on to add a qualifier to distinguish him, which could have been avoided by just referring to him as Peter. The angel didn't have a brother named Simon, as Jesus and James did. But who would have sent the angel? God, perhaps Jesus in particular. And an angel might have deference for Jesus' preferred way of referring to Peter even if Jesus hadn't been directly involved in the sending of that angel.

The situation is somewhat reminiscent of Jesus' frequent references to himself as the Son of Man, a title rarely applied to him by the New Testament authors. Those authors, with the exception of James, also seem to have not had as much interest as Jesus had in referring to Peter as Simon. The difference isn't as pronounced as in the Son of Man context, but there is a significant difference in both contexts.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Greater Suffering Producing Greater Zeal

"Let us then, when we desire to effect any thing great and noble, not regard this, the greatness of the labor which it brings, but let us rather look to the gain. Mark, for instance, Paul, not therefore lingering, not therefore shrinking back, because 'there were many adversaries;' but because 'there was a great door,' [1 Corinthians 16:9] pressing on and persevering. Yea, and as I was saying, this was a sign that the devil was being stripped, for it is not, depend on it, by little and mean achievements that men provoke that evil monster to wrath. And so when thou seest a righteous man performing great and excellent deeds, yet suffering innumerable ills, marvel not; on the contrary, one might well marvel, if the devil receiving so many blows were to keep quiet and bear the wounds meekly….So then, though we be in peril, beloved, though we suffer ever so greatly, let us with the greater zeal apply ourselves to our labors for virtue's sake." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On First Corinthians, 43:6)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Resources On Prayers To The Dead

We have collections of resources on the topic here and here, including many discussions of the patristic and other extrabiblical evidence. Jordan Cooper has been producing some videos on the subject that make many good points. See here, for example, and you can find more by running a search on YouTube. The Old Testament prohibitions of attempting to contact the dead tend to be neglected in these discussions. The passages either aren't brought up or get dismissed for inadequate reasons. Gary Smith has some helpful comments in the first volume of his Isaiah commentary, in his discussions of Isaiah 8:19 and 19:3 (Isaiah 1-39 [Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2007], 230-31, 357). The passages seem to be condemning all attempts to contact the dead, not merely certain forms of it, like going to a medium.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Timing Of The Conversion Of Jesus' Brothers And Their Witness To The Resurrection

I've discussed the subject before, such as the significance of John 19:26-27, which implies that Jesus' brothers either weren't Christians yet or had only recently become Christians. Another issue that should be raised is what best explains the broader pattern of references to the brothers.

They're referred to in several places in the gospels, Acts, and Paul's letters, and we have two letters attributed to the brothers (James and Jude). They're mentioned in multiple places in the gospels as unbelievers. And there's an implication that they're believers in Acts 1:14. They're mentioned many times after Acts 1 (in the remainder of Acts, in Galatians, etc.). But they aren't mentioned in contexts in which close relatives often would be mentioned leading up to and just after the resurrection (e.g., Jesus' trial, the cross, the burial). Jesus' mother is referred to as present at the cross in John 19, but his brothers aren't mentioned there or in any other relevant context. Because of her gender and older age, we'd expect Mary to be less present in these contexts than Jesus' brothers would be, but she's more present instead. And it's striking how wide a diversity of individuals are mentioned in these contexts: Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, the women at the tomb, the men on the road to Emmaus, all of the Twelve, etc. So, the absence of any reference to the brothers of Jesus, especially in light of their later prominence in church history, is significant.

It's possible to reconcile all of this evidence with an earlier conversion of Jesus' brothers. But the issue isn't what's possible. The issue is which explanation is best. A later conversion of Jesus' brothers, one later than the events immediately following his death, makes better sense of the evidence. But the lateness also has to account for evidence like Acts 1:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:7. The best explanation seems to be that one or more resurrection appearances, like the one in 1 Corinthians 15:7, brought about their conversion. They might have converted on the basis of what others told them about the resurrection or on some other such basis, but that explanation has less explanatory power than something like 1 Corinthians 15:7.

Given the plural "brothers" in Acts 1:14 and 1 Corinthians 9:5, the high status of the individuals mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:5, and the inclusion of a letter of Jude in the canon, a resurrection appearance to at least one brother of Jesus other than James, at least Jude, seems likely. Maybe Jesus appeared to more of his brothers than James and Jude, but it seems probable that he at least appeared to those two.

I suspect all of the appearances to Jesus' brothers happened later rather than earlier. The appearance to James is mentioned fourth among the five chronologically ordered pre-Pauline appearances in 1 Corinthians 15. Furthermore, it would make sense for the gospels to give more attention to the earlier appearances than the later ones, since the earlier ones most closely follow the preceding events and would tend to involve the most intense reactions to the resurrection, since the witnesses' knowledge of the event was so new. The absence of references to the brothers of Jesus in the gospels' resurrection accounts makes more sense if the appearances to Jesus' brothers happened later rather than earlier. I suspect they occurred during the latter half of the forty days referred to in Acts 1:3.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Eben Alexander And Gary Habermas Discussing Near-Death Experiences

They just appeared on Cameron Bertuzzi's Capturing Christianity channel on YouTube. For those who don't know, Eben Alexander had one of the most famous near-death experiences (NDEs) in recent years, and Gary Habermas is a scholar who specializes in the study of Jesus' resurrection and has done a lot of research on NDEs. Here's a comment I wrote in the YouTube thread.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Men Checking out of College

The Wall Street Journal today has an article called "A Generation of American Men Give Up on College".  In it, we find such statistics as: women make up 59.5% of college students today.  In fact, for the 2021-2022 school year, 3,805,978 women applied to colleges compared to just 2,815,810 men.  That's just under 1,000,000 more women than men, despite the fact that men actually make up 51% of the college-aged population in the US.

White it is true that women have a higher enrollment rate than men for nearly every racial and economic group, the most impact is found in the lack of white men enrolling.  As the article states, "Enrollment rates for poor and working-class white men are lower than those of young Black, Latino, and Asian men from the same economic backgrounds." Given the demographics of the United States, the fact that white men aren't even bothering to enroll in college while white women are is enough to result in the numbers we see.

The article goes on about how perhaps there needs to be support groups for men too, despite the fact that the objection has been, "Why would you give more resources to the most privileged group on campus?"  I find it ironic that the article actually quotes this without realizing the quote itself gives the reason why white men aren't going to college.

After spending K-12 being told that you are responsible for all that is evil in the world for free, why would you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to be told the same thing for four more years?  Higher education made an environment intentionally focused on preaching hatred of white men, and now they discover that white men don't want to be there.  Insert surprised Pikachu face here. Furthermore, why would anyone willingly subject themselves to such psychological abuse when the classes taught in universities have, by and large, made a university degree completely worthless anyway?

You want a specific demographic to show up in a place? Start by not hating them. A lesson that can be applied in all areas of your life too, if you really want to.

The History Of The Veneration Of Icons

Gavin Ortlund recently posted a video that provides an overview of how the veneration of icons was viewed during the first several centuries of church history.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Overestimating The Prior Improbability Of Miracles

Stephen Braude wrote:

First, it is moot whether psi phenomena violate any important scientific theory. Only from an already suspect reductionistic perspective would they seem to pose a threat to received science. It is more plausible that psi phenomena, like organic phenomena and the phenomena of consciousness generally, simply fall outside the domain of physics. Second, even if psi phenomena did violate some major scientific law(s), there is nothing sacred about received science. Like the received science of days past, much of it may require modification or rejection, even if only to countenance everyday mental processes such as volition and memory. Third, subjective probability assignments concerning scientifically anomalous phenomena carry little weight, as the history of science amply demonstrates.

Moreover, we know very little about ostensibly paranormal phenomena (especially, I suppose, if they are genuinely paranormal) but a great deal about misperception, naiveté, fraud, etc. But in that case, our assessments of the probability of the latter should be given greater weight than our assessments of the probability of the former. After all, we often have a solid basis for judging the likelihood of misperception, etc., occurring in spontaneous cases. But we have virtually no basis for deciding the likelihood of an event occurring - in the absence of fraud, misperception, etc. - that at least appears to violate some fundamental scientific law or metaphysical assumption. We do know, of course, that phenomena discovered in the past have deeply changed the course of science, and we know that phenomena considered impossible or highly improbable on received scientific principles have been found to be possible or not so improbable after all. So we know that genuine scientifically anomalous phenomena may occur, some of which eventually get incorporated into the science of the day. But earlier on, when the phenomena are still extraordinary and poorly understood, we lack the kind of information customarily needed to assess the probability of their having occurred. To judge whether a given event is likely in a particular circumstance, we must first know something of the event's nature and limits. That is how we determine the likelihood of misperception, fraud, etc. We know what sorts of situations might motivate fraud or encourage misperception, and we can make reasonable and well-informed judgments about their likelihood in the circumstances in question. In fact, we have a substantial and clear background of data to which we can appeal when making these judgments. But it is just this sort of background information that we lack in the case of ostensibly paranormal events. So it seems reasonable to decide the likelihood of an ostensibly paranormal event having occurred on the basis of the evidence against the occurrence of misperception, fraud, etc. (The Limits Of Influence [Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997], 46-47)

He goes on to quote some comments from C.J. Ducasse:

…assertions of antecedent improbability always rest on the tacit but often in fact false assumption that the operative factors are the same in a presented case as they were in superficially similar past cases. For example, the antecedent improbability of the things an expert conjurer does onstage is extremely high if one takes as antecedent evidence what merely an ordinary person, under ordinary instead of staged conditions can do. The same is true of what geniuses, or so-called arithmetical prodigies, can do as compared with what ordinary men can do. And that a man is a genius or a calculating prodigy is shown by what he does do, not the reality of what he does by his being a genius or prodigy. This holds equally as regards a medium and his levitations or other paranormal phenomena. (47)

Braude then comments:

It would be almost transcendentally foolish to maintain that the unprecedented mnemonic abilities reported by Luria (1968/1987) are unlikely to be genuine, due to their antecedent improbability (based on the population of normal human beings). With reasoning such as this, we could forever avoid acknowledging the existence of exceptional human abilities. But then it is presumably equally indefensible to distrust nearly a quarter-century's worth of reports of decently-illuminated table levitations by D.D. Home, on the grounds that the antecedent improbability of that ability is overwhelmingly high. (47)

Thursday, September 02, 2021

The Worrying State of Medicine

I spent about four hours today at a local Urgent Care facility. Without going into too much detail, the reason I had to do this was because the doctor's appointment I had scheduled for yesterday got canceled because my doctor got sent to cover ER shifts because of labor shortages in the medical industry. The immediate problem I was seeing her for is that my oxygen saturation levels, especially early in the morning, were getting worryingly low, and after starting a new medication I had gained six pounds in a single week, which could be seen as visible swelling in my legs. Since I was measuring my O2 levels with my own pulse/ox, I used the patient portal to say, “This is what I'm measuring. What should I do for the next two weeks before our rescheduled appointment?” Thus, today, I received a call where my doctor informed me I should go to the Urgent Care facility to get examined to make sure there wasn't anything major going on.

Now the fact that my primary doctor wasn't available for a scheduled appointment due to workplace shortages of medical professionals isn't the main focus here. It is certainly worrisome, but I think what might even be more so is the exchange I had with the doctor at the Urgent Care clinic. Since I wasn't getting enough oxygen and had obvious fluid retention from swelling, he ran a litany of tests on me including EKG and a chest X-Ray, even the universal COVID test, all of which came back as “good news” (thank God). But after he got the results back and he was explaining them to me, the doctor mentioned at one point that they'd had a little difficulty with one of the tests because my chest is so large. He then immediately said, “Not that I'm saying there's anything bad about being so large.”

And this is the point I want to bring up. I actually immediately said, “No, I know it's bad. In fact, the increased weight is precisely one of the very things I pointed out to you that had me so concerned.” I immediately saw his demeanor change, as if he was relieved to be able to speak honestly instead of being terrified of offending me, and he said, “Yes, if we could get rid of that weight, it would almost certainly help across the board with everything else here.”

So why did I find this exchange so problematic that I decided to write a blog post about it, especially given that it means I had to divulge (albeit obscurely) some health details I'd rather not talk about? Because I just experienced a doctor telling me something we both knew was a lie because he was afraid that I might be offended had he told me the truth.

There's real danger in this, though. I could have easily come away from that conversation telling everyone, “I went to Urgent Care and the doctor said my weight is fine” when the reality is the exact opposite. If he was so unwilling to state the objective fact that being overweight is detrimental to one's health, then what else are doctors afraid to tell patients? It's extremely worrisome if doctors will lie for the sake of one's ego instead of telling the truth for the sake of one's life.

In the meantime, I still have a case of “We Don't Know”, but at least I know my heart and lungs are sound right now, and I don't have Wuhan Bat Lung either. Prayers would be appreciated that someone in the medical field discovers what the proximate cause is. Or, God could just zap me. I'm fine with that too.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Some Neglected Evidence For The Enfield Voice

This month and next, I want to discuss a couple of unresolved issues in the Enfield case. My post this month, this one, will address a subject I'm more pessimistic about, and next month's post will be about a topic that's more promising. Something the two posts will have in common is that I'm largely ignorant about some aspects of the issues I'll be discussing. Part of what I'm doing in these posts is bringing these issues to a larger audience with the hope that other people will be able to bring about some progress in the contexts involved.

About 20 years ago, Will Storr went to Philadelphia to spend some time with Lou Gentile, a self-described demonologist who was going to take Storr along with him on some cases Gentile was working. Storr was a British journalist and a skeptic of the paranormal. He didn't expect anything supernatural to occur during his time with Gentile. He thought he would be writing a humorous article about the delusions of a demonologist. Instead, he had some unsettling experiences that he considered supernatural, and he went on to spend a year researching the paranormal and writing a book about it, Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural (New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006). You can listen to Storr discussing his experiences with Gentile here, in an interview several years ago.

There was a subject Gentile brought up in his discussions with Storr, and it would be a recurring theme with other individuals Storr came across in the process of doing his research. Gentile mentioned a poltergeist case Storr should look into: "The Enfield case was just insane. One of the biggest, best-documented poltergeist cases in history. A real bad demonic case. Man, you should check that one out." (page 8 in Storr's book) He would check it out, to the point of interviewing Janet Hodgson, often considered the center of the poltergeist, and twice interviewing Maurice Grosse, the chief investigator of the case. Near the end of the second interview, Grosse played a recording of the poltergeist's embodied voice, and it was at that point that Storr recognized a connection between Enfield and the cases he was involved in with Gentile:

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Increasing Diversity By Killing It

Veritasium recently highlighted what he calls "The Longest-Running Evolution Experiment" on YouTube. The experiment uses E. Coli bacteria and it's been running for 33 years.  This means that there have been 74,500 generations of bacteria.

To put that in perspective, assuming a generation in humans takes about 20 years, it would take humans 1,490,000 years to have this many generations.  For the record, if you ask a Darwinist, they will say that modern humans have only been around for 300,000 to 800,000 years.  Indeed, going back 1.5 million years, our ancestors would be Homo erectus.  The point is, there are huge differences between H. erectus and H. sapiens that supposedly came about in those roughly 75,000 generations.

On the other hand, if you look bacteria after the same 75,000 generations, they are basically unchanged to this day.  Not only that, but E. Coli can be found back well before this 33-year-old experiment began too. And in all that time, no mutant bacteria formed which would be classified as anything other than E. Coli.

But this is a bit aside the point I wanted to make in talking about this bacteria now.  The point raised by the video is that the E. Coli that exists today ought to have evolved to better fit into the environment of the laboratory, and comparing older strains with modern strains show that modern strains of bacteria are, in deed, "more fit."

This is, in fact, how evolution is typically presented. Organisms become "more fit" in their environment.  The problem is that this overlooks one extremely obvious point: becoming more fit for a particular niche environment does not mean that you are more fit as an organism, as a whole.  What I mean can be seen if we hypothesize a bacteria that has 50% capability of survival in a lab and 50% capability of surviving in a kitchen and 50% capability of surviving in a bathroom.  After thousands of generations, we measure that the bacteria now has a 95% capability of surviving in a lab, and that's all we measure. We then declare that the organism is "more fit", despite the fact that for all we know the new organism has a 0% capability of surviving in a kitchen and in a bathroom now.

The point can be even more readily made by considering what happens when a human feeds wildlife.  Birds, for example, may learn that to get food they just eat the seeds from a feeder all winter long. But what happens when the old woman who used to feed them dies and there's no more seeds?  The birds die too, because they have lost the ability to get food on their own.

So the question is, can birds that learn to eat seeds from a feeder be considered "more fit" than birds that know how to search for food on their own?  Only in the extremely specialized context of that specific environment and only assuming that environment never changes could such a bird be considered "more fit."  In all other points of view, it's actually harmful to the bird to make it dependent upon humans.  

E. coli naturally lives in the intestines of a human being.  Would we still consider the E. coli to be "more fit" if we discovered that all these lab grown bacteria would die if placed back into an intestine?  Does the fact that they are the best at living in the lab really mean the organism is "the best" itself, given that without being able to survive in humans, all of these bacteria have no ability to survive the instant there is no more funding for this experiment?

The reason that becomes important is more than just semantics. Evolution is supposed to explain why organisms become more complex over time, yet all these experiments actually show is organisms adapting to a single variable that we have artificially decided is the only thing we should measure for.  In fact, it ought to be predicted that they would become simpler as a result.  After all, if E. coli doesn't need to survive in the stomach because it's environment is now restricted to a laboratory, then the ability to survive in any other environments is wasted effort on the part of the organism.  It's better to streamline the organism and remove that ability.  But, clearly, this is reducing the available functionality, not increasing it.  And in fact, natural selection is a winnowing process by definition.  Death is not a creative function.  You do not increase diversity by killing off something.

So can you really call this an experiment in evolution?  Only in the sense that the bare-bones definition of "evolution" is change through time, and certainly these E. coli have changed through time. But to try to extrapolate from that some grand scheme of Darwinian progression is simply pushing the data way too far from what it actually provides.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Does the Old Testament anticipate two comings of the Messiah?

Here's a good video by Michael Brown on the subject. I'd add that the Christian understanding of two comings makes more sense of the stone that gradually grows to cover the earth in Daniel 2:35, the figure who already has enemies on earth and is waiting with God in heaven for the subjection of those enemies in Psalm 110:1, and the coming of God in power after having been pierced by his people in Zechariah 12:10.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Lest You Forget...

The current President has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office; he cannot rise to meet challenges large or small. Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us.

That's a pretty harsh indictment of Biden.


That was the letter signed by more than 200 retired generals against Trump last year?


Well, at least there are no mean tweets anymore. 

Surely this isn't evidence that God is upset with people who preach, but do not practice. Who tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and give rules like "don't misgender" and "check your privilege." God's not going to be upset with people who do their good deeds on Twitter for all to see while in secret they grope their interns. These people who cross sea and land to gain a single convert, and once they have that convert they turn them twice as woke as they themselves.

Don't harsh my buzz, and other things Boomers say. God is love. He understands you did your best.

I mean, you didn't, but you would have if it hadn't been for Netflix.  And that's the important part.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Vastness of Space

Last month, the Pentagon released its report on UFOs. Since then, I've been musing a bit on whether or not extraterrestrial life could exist. In itself, this is probably a pointless excursion, given that God can do whatever He wants and He may or may not have made other life out there somewhere without telling us. But something struck me as I thought about the various arguments put forth.

One argument is that there surely must be life out there since there are so many trillions of stars that there must be countless planets just like ours in solar systems far away, and if evolution can have life form here then surely life can form in these other planets too. Setting aside the fact that evolution already presupposes the existence of life in the first place and therefore can't create it, this argument seems to fly in the face of the “anthropic principal” presented by secularists. That is, the anthropic principal is the claim that the necessary fine tuning of all the variables needed in our local solar system for life to exist on Earth is not evidence of design, but rather is simply the result of the vastness of space. Given how big the universe is and how many “rolls of the dice” individual locations were enabled to have, some place had to have the ideal conditions which resulted in our existence.

The reason these two explanations run counter to each other is easily displayed by a simple question. Which is it? Is life so easy to form that the vastness of the universe is why aliens are probably out there, or is life so difficult to form because it needs such precise values that the vastness of the universe is needed for us to exist in our seemingly designed location?

The sad thing is, I don't think most secularists even realize these two views are at odds with each other.

When Your Breath Shall Grow Cold

"Youth, ordinarily, is a post and ready servant for Satan, to run errands; for it is a nest for lust, cursing, drunkenness, blaspheming of God, lying, pride, and vanity. Oh, that there were such an heart in you as to fear the Lord, and to dedicate your soul and body to His service! When the time cometh that your eye-strings shall break, and your face wax pale, and legs and arms tremble, and your breath shall grow cold, and your poor soul look out at your prison house of clay, to be set at liberty; then a good conscience, and your Lord's favour, shall be worth all the world's glory. Seek it as your garland and crown." (Samuel Rutherford, Letters Of Samuel Rutherford [Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012], 287-88)