Monday, August 02, 2021

The Impossible Achievement

U.S. Women's Soccer has accomplished the impossible. They have made the majority of red-blooded Americans cheer for a women's soccer team.

It was the Canadian soccer team, but still...

Come Thursday, when the US Women's Soccer team goes to play for the Bronze, Americans will proudly cheer on the Australian team.

One cannot diminish the massive impact of what U.S. Women's Soccer has done.  Virtually any sports team representing their country would have the support of the majority of their country, so the fact that they got nearly everyone to cheer their failure truly is an achievement.

Then again, one can hardly say this was a "sports team representing their country".  That's why I can't just say, "When the US goes to play for the Bronze." Because they do not represent our country. They represent themselves.  

Perhaps that's why the country didn't support them in return.

Rapinoe famously went on a crusade a mere four years ago to eject Jaelene Hinkle from the team because Hinkle is an evangelical who refused to play in a scrimmage after U.S. Soccer required players to wear a rainbow jersey in it. That makes it all the more delightful that Rapinoe just lost to a Canadian team that has a transgender player on it.

Megan Rapinoe once famously yelled, "I deserve this!"

Yes.  Yes you do.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Was the Enfield case faked for money?

The recent release of The Conjuring 3 has brought up issues about the Warrens and their financial interests in the paranormal cases they investigated. I discussed the subject in a post about the latest Conjuring movie several weeks ago. I want to address a related issue concerning the subject of the second movie in the series, the Enfield Poltergeist. What financial motives might the people involved in that case have had? One of the most common motives proposed for any sort of fraud is a desire to make money. That's relevant not just to the Warrens, but also to the rest of the people involved in the Enfield case.

Movies can, and often do, make people wealthy. But The Conjuring 2 came along too late to be a good candidate for motivating anybody to fabricate the Enfield case. The same can be said of the television series on Enfield that came out in 2015. Nobody in 1977 was expecting that sort of television series or movie, much less would anybody have been expecting it to make a lot of money. Something like a movie that comes out nearly four decades after a poltergeist case started offers a poor explanation for why the case originated. What critics of the Enfield case need to be more focused on is the opportunities for making money early on, such as by means of media coverage or the publishing of books.

In the process of discussing these issues, I'll be making reference to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I'm going to use "MG" to refer to tapes from Grosse's collection. "GP" will refer to those from Playfair's. MG64B is tape 64B in Grosse's collection, GP3A is Playfair's tape 3A, and so on.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Does the gospel of John put words in Jesus' mouth?

"Notice, too, that the narrator puts his own gloss on Jesus' words [in John 7:39] - namely, that he was referring to the Holy Spirit - but he scrupulously refrains from putting this gloss into Jesus' mouth….New Testament scholars are far too ready to assume that the evangelists, and John in particular, felt free to put words into Jesus' mouth if they thought that something was what he would have said and was consonant with his other teaching. But this is not what we find in John. Instead, when John has some interpretation to give his readers, he distinguishes his own interpretation from what Jesus actually says, as in this passage." (Lydia McGrew, The Eye Of The Beholder [Tampa, Florida: DeWard Publishing, 2021], 76)

Lydia McGrew also has a lot of good material on John and the other gospels on her YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Priorities Of A Christian

Jesus said that loving God is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38), and similar themes are found elsewhere in scripture (e.g., Proverbs 9:10). We should often ask ourselves how much we're improving the quantity and quality of our thoughts and others' thoughts about God. (For a discussion of some ways to go about doing that, see here. The post just linked is about evangelism, but has broader applications.) People often refer to improving a culture through something like political action, having more influence on the arts, or changing people's moral standards on a particular issue or series of issues. But how people view God is more foundational. If you want to change yourself and change the culture and the world for the better, start with how God is viewed.

To get some idea of how important it is to do that work, see here regarding the state of the culture. (The post just linked is mostly about the United States, but also addresses other countries to some extent.) Most Americans are so ignorant of the Bible (and other subjects) that they can't name the four gospels, among other religious information they're ignorant about. The Department of Labor just released its annual research on how Americans use their time. In 2020, Americans spent an average of 5.53 hours a day on leisure and sports and about 0.09 hours (around five minutes) on religious and spiritual activities. That doesn't mean everybody was involved in religious and spiritual activities, but only to a small extent. Rather, it looks like a large majority of Americans spend no or almost no time on such things, but that the higher level of activity among a small minority of the population raised the average. See the page just linked for further details. How much is God talked about in schools, in the workplace, on television, in the most popular music, on the most popular web sites, at family gatherings, etc.?

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God….

But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. He may be a naturalist, boasting of his ability to dissect a beetle, anatomize a fly, or arrange insects and animals in classes with well nigh unutterable names; he may be a geologist, able to discourse of the megatherium and the plesiosaurus, and all kinds of extinct animals; he may imagine that his science, whatever it is, ennobles and enlarges his mind. I dare say it does, but after all, the most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. (Charles Spurgeon)

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Craig Keener And Michael Brown On Their Upcoming Commentaries

Michael Brown recently interviewed Craig Keener. During the course of the interview, both men talked about some Biblical commentaries they're working on, Keener on Mark and Brown on Isaiah. Go here for the beginning of that discussion and here for some further comments during a later segment of the interview. It looks like both commentaries are a long way from being completed, and Keener's should be a multi-volume one.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Over the Garden Wall

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the miniseries Over the Garden Wall (2014). It's one of the most unique and quirky series in recent memory.

There are a hodgepodge of influences. The setting is predominantly but not exclusively 18th-19th century New England or the Midwest. The specific season is Autumn; I suppose Halloween best suits. Aesthetically it elicits an old timey wimey Americana feel. Other influences I noticed: the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, gothic horror, Peter Rabbit, the Wind in the Willows, Betty Boop, Shirley Temple, Little Nemo, Studio Ghibli, even Disney (e.g. a songbird albeit a sarcastic one). Likewise I detected shades of Dante. For example, the opening chapter begins with the characters lost in a deep dark wood. Our protagonist is "midway" between childhood and adulthood. Also, Beatrice serves as a guide. And the ten shorts seem to roughly correspond to Dante's ten divisions in Inferno.

Story-wise, it's about a pair of brothers on a journey or pilgrimage to return home. One wonders if the story is allegory or reality. Is the pilgrimage in the similitude of a dream (cf. Bunyan) or is it meant to be real - a world between worlds, perhaps a limbo between life and death (cf. Dante)?

The characters are universal archetypes. Wirt is a Byronic hero. Greg is a knight of faith. It's interesting the two brothers are juxtaposed with one another like this - one the prototypical heathen, the other a kind of Christian. The Woodsman is a wild-eyed prophet in the wilderness. The Beast, in my view, is the personification of hopelessness: cue Dante's "abandon hope, all ye who enter here". Same with places and events. For instance, the Unknown seems to represent the afterlife or something like it. At the same time, there's a subversion of expectations in Over the Garden's archetypes (e.g. the big bad wolf is a tame pup).

Pilgrimage stories typically consummate in reaching a destination where the end is the narratival summum bonum. The Pilgrim's Progress' end is the celestial city where God and his people dwell. The Paradiso's end is the beatific vision: "l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle". Over the Garden Wall's end seems to be romantic love in the guise of a girl named Sara. If so, I'm afraid that's a bit of a letdown, for it would suggest (among other things) that even the best secular pilgrimage or journey stories like Over the Garden Wall haven't evolved much since Homer's Odyssey in which Odysseus longs to return home to reunite with his beloved Penelope. Perhaps this is what adolescent or youthful love finds most grand, but then it'd better suit springtime rather than the autumnal themes which are what pervade the entire series. Perhaps this reflects the sad fact that our secular culture has no higher aim or ideal in life to live for than romantic love.

Some recent apologetics resources

Sorry I've been away! I've just been so busy with "normal" life. I'm still busy and "away", but I do like to pop in for a couple of quick posts when I can.

This is just a brief post about several apologetics resources I've recently benefited from that I thought others might benefit from as well:

Bible Trek. A picture is worth a thousand words. And Andrew Ollerton treks across Israel and other biblical lands and shows us these places in person. He offers brief informative talks as he does so too. Ollerton has a PhD in historical theology from the University of Leceister in the UK.

Esther O'Reilly. Esther O'Reilly is a pseudonymn for an incisively intelligent and witty woman with an illustrious pedigree. She discusses all sorts of things, but I believe first made her name with essays on public intellectuals like Jordan Peterson and Doug Murray. O'Reilly has a PhD in mathematics from a school that shall remain nameless.

James Bejon. Not entirely sure how to describe what Bejon does. He offers fascinating insights into the Bible in the vein of guys like James B. Jordan, Peter Leithart, and Alastair Roberts. Bejon is a researcher at Tyndale House in Cambridge, UK. He has a background in math and music, but he's working on his PhD in OT.

Mark Ward. Ward primarily discusses Bible translation and Bible design. Ward has a PhD in NT from Bob Jones University. He works for Faithlife, which produces the Logos Bible.

Parker's Pensées. Long form interviews and deep dives into the philosophical and theological with Parker Settecase. Parker asks perceptive questions to various intellectuals. He is working on a masters degree in theological studies at TEDS, though maybe he has finished now.

Sean McDowell. Lots of great interviews with notable Christian scholars. Sean is the son of Josh McDowell. Sean has a PhD in apologetics and worldview studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He's an associate professor at Biola/Talbot.

Truth Unites. Gavin Ortlund's YouTube channel. He's brother to Dane Ortlund (who recently published a fine Puritan-esque devotional Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers) and Eric Ortlund (an OT prof at Oak Hill College in the UK). Interesting that Gavin is a Baptist, Dane is a Presbyterian, and Eric is an Anglican (I think). Gavin did his PhD in historical theology at Fuller. He has great admiration for Anselm. His channel most reflects his interests in historical theology. Gavin serves as a pastor in California.

What Would You Say. I believe WWYS is affiliated with the late Chuck Colson's ministry. As such, it is about Christian apologetics, but it has a noticeable political bent as well. The videos are relatively concise (~5 minutes or so).

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Roman Catholic Respectability Bought At The Price Of Liberalism

I recently had an email exchange that was partly about the idea that Catholicism is more appealing than Evangelicalism to people who are more educated. It's often suggested that converts to Catholicism are more educated than converts to Evangelicalism, that learning more about church history or some other subject leads people to Catholicism, that Catholicism is more intellectually respectable because it's more correct on philosophical, historical, and other matters, and so on. And Catholicism's alleged intellectual advantages in such contexts are often portrayed as evidence that the claims of traditional Catholicism are true, that conservative Catholicism has been vindicated. Really, though, something else is going on instead. During the course of my recent email discussion, I was reminded that many people are unaware of how liberal much of Roman Catholicism has become.

I'm not just referring to political liberalism, though that's part of it, but primarily liberalism in contexts like theology and the historicity of scripture. See here regarding how Catholicism has changed in various ways on a lot of issues, sometimes in a liberal direction. For some examples of recent Popes taking liberal positions on issues, see here. Raymond Brown was one of the most prominent Catholic Biblical scholars in recent decades. He wrote a book on the infancy narratives that's still widely regarded as the standard in the field. The view he argued for there was largely liberal. Here's a collection of posts I wrote in response to Brown. You can find discussions of other examples of liberalism in Catholicism in other posts in our archives (e.g., here).

Religious, moral, and political conservatives are often attracted to Catholicism because it's such a large and respected institution, with so much social standing, educational institutions that are highly regarded, associations with the arts, and other attributes they find appealing. But much of that has been purchased at the price of liberalism or purchased through some other problematic means. Would Catholicism retain its popularity, its associations with so many institutions, the amount of media coverage it gets, and so on if it were more consistently conservative and did substantially more to discipline its people for departing from those conservative standards? Surely not, as individuals like Raymond Brown and Joe Biden and their supporters illustrate. Catholicism often becomes more appealing by becoming overly involved in a culture and too much like the culture. That isn't all that's going on. There are some traits of Catholicism that distinguish it from the surrounding culture and move it in other directions than what I'm focused on here. But there's a large strand of cultural adaptation in Catholicism.

Steve Hays wrote a post more than a decade ago about the difference between seeing the church as a tabernacle and seeing it as a temple. That distinction has some relevance here.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Evidence For Daniel's Prophecies

Jonathan McLatchie recently wrote an article about the dating of the book of Daniel. The article makes a lot of good points and is well worth reading. He's written a lot of other good material as well, which you can find here. He also has a YouTube channel.

Steve Hays wrote a lot about Daniel and the dating of the book. There's a section in the post here that links several examples. You can find more by searching our archives. The page just linked also cites posts we've written on other issues related to prophecy more broadly, and those have some relevance to Daniel. See here, including the comments section of the thread, for other online resources on when Daniel was written. For example, Glenn Miller has written a lot about the manuscript evidence and pre-Maccabean use of Daniel.

I've done some work on the evidence for prophecies of Daniel fulfilled after the Maccabean era, meaning that the fulfillments offer evidence for Christianity even if we accept a Maccabean date for Daniel or a portion of it. You can find some examples here. The post here discusses problems with arguing that Jesus fulfilled Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy by natural rather than supernatural means. When a fourth kingdom arises after Greece, in the form of the Roman empire, Jesus announces the coming of a kingdom of God during the days of that empire, that kingdom becomes popular to the point of being accepted by billions of Gentiles, Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man of Daniel 7, he dies during the sixty-ninth sabbatical cycle after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in Nehemiah 2, that death is perceived early on as making a final atonement for sin, and the Romans go on to destroy both the city of Jerusalem and the temple, you can't explain that series of events that line up so well with Daniel's prophecies by dating the book or a portion of it to the second century B.C.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Good thing the infallible Pope is able to correct the mistakes of the former infallible Pope so Catholics can be certain of their traditions

 Pope Francis abrogates Pope Benedict's universal permission for Old Mass

“Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated.”

I stand along with the Traditionalists in faith that sometime in the next thousand years a Pope will instruct us that Pope Francis is abrogated, so you can go ahead and get the jump on that future proclamation by ignoring Pope Francis now.  Imagine being a Protestant and not having such certainty.  I shudder to think.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Loving God More Than Others Improves Our Love For Others

Here's a good collection of quotes from C.S. Lewis on the subject. It's something that ought to be discussed more.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

An Important Book On Near-Death Experiences

I recently read Gregory Shushan's Near-Death Experience In Indigenous Religions (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), which is an important book in many contexts. You can watch an interview Shushan did with Alex Tsakiris here. The video will give you an overview of the book and a lot of other information about it and some related issues. When I cite the book below, my references in parentheses will be to an approximate location in the Kindle version.

Shushan has argued that near-death experiences (NDEs) and some related phenomena have had a large role in originating and shaping religions. The book under consideration here focuses on three groups of indigenous religions, ones in North America, Africa, and Oceania. He doesn't limit his examination to NDEs as typically defined, but instead includes a broader range of phenomena, such as shamanic activity. You can watch his interview with Tsakiris for an explanation of what he included and why. Since he covers multiple centuries of material, you can see developments over time, such as what these indigenous groups believed prior to coming into contact with Christianity and other movements, how they interacted with Christian missionaries, how their beliefs persisted and changed afterward, and so on.

He provides examples of testimony from these indigenous people that their religious beliefs originated in or were influenced by phenomena like NDEs. On some occasions, these indigenous groups told Christian missionaries that they knew Christianity was false because of their experiences with such phenomena. Some NDEs were of a broadly Christian nature, and some were of a partly Christian and partly non-Christian nature, but it seems that most were non-Christian or even anti-Christian.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Many Reasons For Naming The Gospel Authors

I've mentioned that the early Christians had a need to distinguish among the gospels and similar documents and that the names of the documents' authors are the most likely means by which they made those distinctions. I want to expand upon an aspect of that situation.

It's important to recognize the number and variety of circumstances in which distinguishing among the documents would have been relevant. I often mention the use of the documents in church services and the storing of them in libraries as examples. But the need to distinguish among the writings in question would have been present in other contexts as well.

For example, anybody studying the gospels - reading them, looking up passages in them, comparing one gospel to another, or whatever else - would have need to distinguish among the documents. They would need to be distinguished in conversations, oral or written, as well. I've discussed the early Christian practice of distributing copies of the gospels, presumably often involving more than one gospel. They would need to be distinguishable in that context also. So, the need for distinguishing among the gospels and the opportunities for and appeal of placing titles on them, attaching identifying tags to them, and so forth would have existed early and in a large number and variety of contexts.

We should consider the early gospel authorship attributions in light of that background. Not only does that background tend to be overlooked or underestimated, but so do many of the earliest authorship attributions. The combined effect is that people tend to think the evidence for the attributions is much weaker than it actually is. Here are some comments I posted at another blog several years ago about some of the early attributions that are often neglected. Familiarize yourself with that evidence (and there's more like it, which I've discussed elsewhere) and the surrounding context I addressed above.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Video Of The Charlton House Haunting Apport

Sometime within the last few years, I read an interview with Melvyn Willin in which he commented:

A BBC Video Diary programme wanted to film Maurice [Grosse] attending an investigation. ASSAP organised one such event at Charlton House and a cup was caught exploding in a darkened room on video in a locked room with a camera man, Maurice and one other investigator witnessing it. BBC Radiophonic Workshop tested the sound patterns and concluded that it was NOT the sound of a cup being broken in the usual way and further experiments failed to replicate the circumstances. It seemed to implode rather than explode.

In my tribute to Maurice Grosse that I posted a couple of years ago, I linked some videos of the opening segments of that Video Dairies program. To my knowledge, the second half of the show, which includes the material Melvyn refers to, wasn't available on YouTube at the time. But the full program was recently put up, which I saw linked on the Twitter account of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Go here to see the beginning of the relevant segment of the program. The event in question happens at 32:12. After the event, you see some discussion of what happened among the people there at the time and a discussion among some members of the SPR's staff. (Including an argument between Grosse and Mary Rose Barrington, accompanied by a cup-throwing experiment in the SPR's facility!) There's then some intervening material on other subjects, so you can go here to see the remainder of what's relevant to the topic of this post.

For further background about Charlton House and the event under consideration here, read this article at the Occult World web site. I want to quote some comments Guy Playfair made about this incident, then conclude with some comments of my own:

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Creating A God Who Doesn't Exist

This is a much bigger problem than atheism in modern America, despite all the attention atheism gets among Evangelicals:

"We may be responding not to the real God but to what we wish God and life to be like. Indeed, if left to themselves our hearts will tend to create a God who doesn't exist." (Tim Keller, Prayer [New York, New York: Dutton, 2014], 62)

For some ideas about how to address the problem, see here for a brief summary and here for a lengthier discussion (including in the comments section of the thread). The thread here (again, including the comments section) on whether Christianity is a demonic deception makes some relevant points as well.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

How Difficult It Would Have Been To Fake The New Testament's Historical Details

The political condition of Palestine at the time to which the New Testament narrative properly belongs, was one curiously complicated and anomalous; it underwent frequent changes, but retained through all of them certain peculiarities, which made the position of the country unique among the dependencies of Rome. Not having been conquered in the ordinary way, but having passed under the Roman dominion with the consent and by the assistance of a large party among the inhabitants, it was allowed to maintain for a while a species of semi-independence, not unlike that of various native states in India which are really British dependencies. A mixture, and to some extent an alternation, of Roman with native power resulted from this arrangement, and a consequent complication in the political status, which must have made it very difficult to be thoroughly understood by any one who was not a native and a contemporary. The chief representative of the Roman power in the East—the President of Syria, the local governor, whether a Herod or a Roman Procurator, and the High Priest, had each and all certain rights and a certain authority in the country. A double system of taxation, a double administration of justice, and even in some degree a double military command, were the natural consequence; while Jewish and Roman customs, Jewish and Roman words, were simultaneously in use, and a condition of things existed full of harsh contrasts, strange mixtures, and abrupt transitions. Within the space of fifty years Palestine was a single united kingdom under a native ruler, a set of principalities under native ethnarchs and tetrarchs, a country in part containing such principalities, in part reduced to the condition of a Roman province, a kingdom reunited once more under a native sovereign, and a country reduced wholly under Rome and governed by procurators dependent on the president of Syria, but still subject in certain respects to the Jewish monarch of a neighboring territory. These facts we know from Josephus and other writers, who, though less accurate, on the whole confirm his statements; they render the civil history of Judaea during the period one very difficult to master and remember; the frequent changes, supervening upon the original complication, are a fertile source of confusion, and seem to have bewildered even the sagacious and painstaking Tacitus. The New Testament narrative, however, falls into no error in treating of the period; it marks, incidentally and without effort or pretension, the various changes in the civil government—the sole kingdom of Herod the Great,—the partition of his dominions among his sons,—the reduction of Judaea to the condition of a Roman province, while Galilee, Ituraea, and Trachonitis continued under native princes,—the restoration of the old kingdom of Palestine in the person of Agrippa the First, and the final reduction of the whole under Roman rule, and reestablishment of Procurators as the civil heads, while a species of ecclesiastical superintendence was exercised by Agrippa the Second. Again, the New Testament narrative exhibits in the most remarkable way the mixture in the government—the occasional power of the president of Syria, as shown in Cyrenius’s “taxing”; the ordinary division of authority between the High Priest and the Procurator; the existence of two separate taxation—the civil and the ecclesiastical, the “census” and the “didrachm;” of two tribunals, two modes of capital punishment, two military forces, two methods of marking time; at every turn it shows, even in such little measures as verbal expressions, the coexistence of Jewish with Roman ideas and practices in the country—a coexistence which (it must be remembered) came to an end within forty years of our Lord’s crucifixion. (George Rawlinson)

Thursday, July 01, 2021

How The Battersea And Enfield Cases Are Similar And Different

The BBC ran a series of podcasts on the Battersea Poltergeist earlier this year. It's gotten millions of streams and downloads and has been widely discussed, and a television series is under development. Comparisons between Battersea and Enfield came up periodically during the podcast series and have often been brought up elsewhere. I want to discuss how the two cases relate.

I've been studying Enfield extensively for a few years now, but I know much less about Battersea. I've read Shirley Hitchings and James Clark's The Poltergeist Prince Of London (Great Britain: The History Press, 2013) and some recent articles on the case, I've listened to the BBC series mentioned above, and I've watched some videos on the subject. Clark's book is good and is the best resource I'm aware of on the case. It had to have taken a lot of time and effort to sort through all of the material involved in such a large and complicated case and to present it so well. I recommend starting with Clark's book, then listening to the BBC series. The podcasts will be easier to follow if you have the background knowledge the book provides, and some of the material covered in the podcast series happened later than the timeframe the book covers.

Unless I indicate otherwise, references related to the Battersea case below will be to the approximate location in the Kindle version of Clark's book. I'll be citing some of Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I'll designate Grosse's tapes with "MG" and Playfair's with "GP", so that MG23B is Grosse's tape 23B, GP90A is Playfair's tape 90A, and so on.

I'll briefly discuss what I think of the authenticity of the Battersea case, then address how Battersea and Enfield relate and make some miscellaneous comments about the BBC series on Battersea and other issues. To keep this post from being longer, much of what I'll be saying will be summaries of my conclusions. I can expand on the points I'll be making if anybody wants me to.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Choosing A Song For Your Funeral

Justin Taylor has been posting a series in which he asks "a few godly leaders I trust and respect for one song that they would like to have played at their funeral". That's a good idea. He's posted entries from Joni Eareckson Tada, Russell Moore, Michael Reeves, John Piper, and Scott Swain. I don't know how many more entries there will be.

There's some value in all of the songs that are mentioned, but I like Piper and Swain's answers the most. Swain mentioned my favorite song, "The Sands Of Time Are Sinking", which is derived from the writings of Samuel Rutherford. But the video Taylor linked has a different tune than the one I prefer and less than half the verses. I prefer the first tune here, and that site shows all nineteen verses. Some of my favorite ones aren't included in the video Taylor posted. But I think Piper's answer is the best so far. The best song for a funeral isn't necessarily your favorite song. You have to take contextual factors into account, like the nature of the situation and what you want the audience to go away with. Piper's song is a good choice because of the importance of its themes and how concise, clear, moving, and memorable it is.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

We Die But Ill Or Well Once

"Have all in readiness against the time that ye must sail through that black and impetuous Jordan [death]…ye can die but once, and if ye mar or spill that business, ye cannot come back to mend that piece of work again. No man sinneth twice in dying ill; as we die but once, so we die but ill or well once." (Samuel Rutherford, Letters Of Samuel Rutherford [Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012], 75)

On dying well, see here.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

A Christian First

"Oh I would not have it said of any of you, 'Well, he may be somewhat Christian, but he is far more a keen money-getting tradesman.' I would not have it said, 'Well, he may be a believer in Christ, but he is a good deal more a politician.' Perhaps he is a Christian, but he is most at home when he is talking about science, farming, engineering, horses, mining, navigation, or pleasure-taking. No, no, you will never know the fullness of the joy which Jesus brings to the soul, unless under the power of the Holy Spirit you take the Lord your Master to be your All in all, and make him the fountain of your intensest delight." (Charles Spurgeon)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Problems With Transubstantiation In The Last Supper's Context

Mike Winger just posted a good video on the subject. And here's a post in which I discuss some other problems with transubstantiation in the earliest Christian contexts. On later sources, see here.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Modern Scholars Who Accept The Traditional Gospel Authorship Attributions

Here are some recent comments by Mike Licona on Markan authorship. On Luke's authorship of Acts (and its implications for the authorship of the third gospel), see Craig Keener's comments here. Even though modern scholarship is so overly skeptical of Christianity, there's still such widespread acceptance of some of the gospels' authorship attributions. We should be more concerned about the evidence than we are about the views of modern scholars, and the evidence supports the traditional attributions of all four gospels. It's noteworthy, though, that skeptics often overestimate how much the traditional views are rejected by modern scholarship.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Supposed Lateness Of The New Testament Documents

Mike Licona recently posted a video relevant to the subject, in which he makes some good points that should be brought up more often. The amount of time between the events referred to in the New Testament and the time of the writing of the documents isn't as problematic as critics often make it out to be. We frequently see examples of that in our everyday lives. An especially significant way of illustrating that fact is to cite examples of the critics themselves relying on their memories and others' memories involving comparable amounts of time. Keep in mind, too, that many of the significant events in the New Testament occurred later than the timeframe covered by the gospels. A Pauline document referring to the miracles performed by Paul is referring to events more recent than those of the gospels. The latest events in Acts, including miracles (and ones the author refers to as having occurred when he was nearby), took place about three decades after Jesus' death.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Republic Of Heaven

"Let them read our commandments in the Prophets, Gospels, Acts of the Apostles or Epistles; let them peruse the large number of precepts against avarice and luxury which are everywhere read to the congregations that meet for this purpose, and which strike the ear, not with the uncertain sound of a philosophical discussion, but with the thunder of God's own oracle pealing from the clouds….If the kings of the earth and all their subjects, if all princes and judges of the earth, if young men and maidens, old and young, every age, and both sexes; if they whom the Baptist addressed, the publicans and the soldiers, were all together to hearken to and observe the precepts of the Christian religion regarding a just and virtuous life, then should the republic adorn the whole earth with its own felicity, and attain in life everlasting to the pinnacle of kingly glory. But because this man listens and that man scoffs, and most are enamored of the blandishments of vice rather than the wholesome severity of virtue, the people of Christ, whatever be their condition—whether they be kings, princes, judges, soldiers, or provincials, rich or poor, bond or free, male or female—are enjoined to endure this earthly republic, wicked and dissolute as it is, that so they may by this endurance win for themselves an eminent place in that most holy and august assembly of angels and republic of heaven, in which the will of God is the law." (Augustine, The City Of God, 2:19)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Apologetics Illustrated During Church Services

Church services provide some good opportunities for pastors, Sunday school teachers, parents, and others involved to teach and reinforce apologetic concepts. Since services often involve various types of repetition (e.g., regularly celebrating communion), there's more opportunity for reinforcement accordingly. For example:

- In the process of turning to a passage in the Bible, we distinguish one book from another. We distinguish among the gospels by the names of their authors. That's relevant to the popular modern claim that the gospels initially circulated anonymously. We have a lot of evidence that the gospels were distinguished from each other 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. The need we have today to distinguish among the gospels in order to turn to a passage in one of them existed in the first century as well, and that provides evidence against the claim that the gospels circulated anonymously at the time.

- Baptism offers evidence for early interest in Jesus' burial and the empty tomb. We see that in Romans 6:4, for example. That's relevant to claims about the alleged lack of interest in and lack of references to the empty tomb among the earliest Christians. For further discussion, see here.

- Some portion of 1 Corinthians 11 will often be read or referred to during the celebration of communion. Verses 23-26 are valuable in some apologetic contexts. They illustrate Paul's knowledge of various details in Jesus' life, in agreement with the gospels. And these verses provide an example of Paul distinguishing between his own words and those of Jesus (verse 26 and beyond) rather than putting whatever he wanted to convey into Jesus' mouth.

These are just a few examples. Others could be added. I'd recommend mentioning concepts like these more than once. But even mentioning them only once could be enough to create an association in somebody's mind between an apologetic concept and a particular aspect of a church service. The association can then be reinforced many times over the years as that aspect of the church's services is repeated.

Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice

Gavin Ortlund recently posted a good video about a principle in Romans 12:15 and some comments made by Richard Wurmbrand on the subject. What he discusses in the video shouldn't be our only or primary source of joy or something we're thinking about all of the time, but it is one good approach to take among others.

Thou wouldst rejoice to leave
This hated land behind,
Wert thou not chained to me
With friendship's flowery chains.

Burst them, I'll not repine.
No noble friend
Would stay his fellow-captive,
If means of flight appear.

The remembrance
Of his dear friend's freedom
Gives him freedom
In his dungeon.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, cited in H. Clay Trumbull, Friendship: The Master Passion [Birmingham, Alabama: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005], 374)

Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Discussion Of The Eye Of The Beholder

Lydia McGrew will be on Cameron Bertuzzi's YouTube channel at 1 P.M. this afternoon to discuss her book, The Eye Of The Beholder (Tampa, Florida: DeWard Publishing, 2021). It argues for the historicity of the fourth gospel. It's a great book, and you can order it here.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

There's Always Another Election Just Around The Corner

One of the reasons for the problem I referred to in my post yesterday is that the media, talk radio, and other sources keep treating political issues (and some cultural ones) with such disproportionate urgency. Last year, I wrote some posts about how people don't have enough urgency in religious contexts (here and here). But there's so much more urgency in other contexts, like politics. And the nature of life and our political system is such that there's always going to be another election, another legislative controversy, another court decision just around the corner. We should have urgency about those matters up to a point. But that urgency needs to be less than the urgency we have for religious issues.

One of the questions Evangelicals (and everybody) should ask themselves is how much the work they're concerned about is already being done. How we ought to proportion our work to the work of others is one of the factors we should take into account, yet it's often neglected. People keep giving disproportionately more attention to political and cultural issues that are already getting far more attention than religious issues that are more important. They'd rather be the fifty-millionth person to comment on an issue in presidential politics than be the fifty-thousandth person to comment on a religious issue that's more in need of attention. They'd rather be the thirty-eight-millionth person to comment on the latest racial controversy the media (including the conservative media) are telling them to be so concerned about than be the thirty-eight-thousandth person to comment on a religious issue that's been far more neglected.

It makes sense to discuss more popular and less neglected issues to some extent. Sometimes we can't avoid it even if we wanted to, for example. But we need to be careful about it. Part of being careful about it is to take these proportioning issues into account. And we should recognize how misleading the culture's urgency about politics and other matters can be and often is.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Religion Is Upstream Of Culture

It's true that culture is upstream of politics. But that fact should be supplemented by the more important fact that religion is upstream of culture (e.g., religion is more important; religion has more potential to be influential; religion has been more influential in some significant contexts). Yet, on television, Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere, people give far more attention to political issues and non-religious cultural issues than they do to religious ones. That includes the large majority of Evangelicals.

Friday, June 04, 2021

This Is The Time For Contest And For Fighting

"Let us not then seek relaxation: for Christ promised tribulation to His disciples and Paul says, 'All who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.' [2 Timothy 3:12] No noble-spirited wrestler, when in the lists, seeks for baths, and a table full of food and wine. This is not for a wrestler, but for a sluggard. For the wrestler contendeth with dust, with oil, with the heat of the sun's ray, with much sweat, with pressure and constraint. This is the time for contest and for fighting, therefore also for being wounded, and for being bloody and in pain. Hear what the blessed Paul says, 'So fight I, not as one that beateth the air.' [1 Corinthians 9:26] Let us consider that our whole life is in combats, and then we shall never seek rest, we shall never feel it strange when we are afflicted: no more than a boxer feels it strange, when he combats. There is another season for repose. By tribulation we must be made perfect." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On Hebrews, 5:7)

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Don't Forget About Josephus

There are some contexts in which Christians should be giving Josephus more attention than they typically do. Because Josephus was a non-Christian, he had no dog in some of the fights among the Christians of his day or later generations. And since he was writing so early (the late first century), his comments are more valuable accordingly.

As Steve Mason (a non-Christian scholar who specializes in the study of Josephus) noted, "He [Josephus] also confirms, in case there was any doubt, that James was distinguished by being Jesus' actual brother - a significant point in view of later Christian thinking about Mary's status as 'perpetual virgin' and speculation as to whether Jesus' 'brothers and sisters' were really only spiritual relatives or more distant physical relations." (Josephus And The New Testament [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005], 248) For more about how Josephus supports Mary's giving birth to other children after Jesus, and does so in multiple ways, see Eric Svendsen's Who Is My Mother? (Amityville, New York: Calvary Press, 2001).

On page 214 of his book cited above, Mason quotes Josephus' comments on how the baptism of John the Baptist was non-justificatory and non-regenerative: "They must not employ it [baptism] to gain pardon for whatever sins they had committed, but as a consecration of the body implying that the soul was already cleansed by right behaviour." (Antiquities Of The Jews, 18:5:2) Given the close relationship between John and Jesus and John's baptism and Christian baptism (as illustrated by John 3:26-30 and Peter's comments in 1 Peter 3:21 that are similar to those of Josephus, for example), it makes more sense to think that there would be more rather than less continuity between the two baptisms. The New Testament evidence suggests that John's baptism was non-justificatory and non-regenerative, and Josephus gives us further reason to reach that conclusion.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

How much did Irenaeus influence our view of the gospels?

Critics often suggest that Irenaeus had an inordinately large influence on what gospels were considered canonical, what authors those gospels were attributed to, and other gospel issues. However:

"Irenaeus hardly adopted precisely these four Gospels randomly, especially given his emphasis on church tradition; and is it an accident that he chose the four Gospels more reflective of first-century Judean traditions than our other extant gospels (the 'apocryphal' gospels and gnostic sayings treatises)?" (Craig Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, Volume I [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2012], 399)

Martin Hengel mentioned a line of evidence that's rarely discussed:

"Claus Thornton has shown that this [a passage in Irenaeus about gospel authorship] is an earlier tradition, which must be taken seriously; as the geographical references and references to persons show, it is written throughout from a Roman perspective....As Thornton has demonstrated, it corresponds to the short notes about authors in the catalogues of ancient libraries, of the kind that we know, say, from the Museion in Alexandria. Presumably this information comes from the Roman church archive." (The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], 35-36)

Here's the passage in question:

"Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia." (Against Heresies, 3:1:1)

Notice how unnecessary the reference to Peter and Paul's work in Rome is. I don't recall anybody else describing the timing of the composition of the gospel of Matthew that way. Similarly, connecting the origins of Mark's gospel to the apostles' work in Rome ("After their departure") is unnecessary. Just before what I've quoted above, Irenaeus refers to how the apostles had spread the gospel "to the ends of the earth", so the shift to such a focus on Rome is somewhat contrary to the context. Irenaeus probably was citing a Roman source along the lines of what Hengel refers to above. So, Irenaeus is citing an earlier source that presumably made its claims independently of Irenaeus, a source that was well positioned to have significantly reliable information (the Roman church).

For more about how Irenaeus' influence is often overestimated in these contexts, see here, here, and here.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Justification Apart From Baptism After The Time Of The Apostles

Gavin Ortlund recently posted a YouTube video about the common assertion that baptismal regeneration was universally accepted by the early church. Ortlund is a credobaptist, as I am. He discusses some of the relevant Biblical passages, whether infants should be baptized, and other issues, but not much is said about early views of the relation between baptism and justification. Some commenters beneath the video mentioned that they hadn't come across many discussions of such topics, presumably meaning that credobaptists rarely address the relevant patristic issues.

We've been discussing the issues here for many years, and I want to link some of those threads for anybody who's interested. See here for an overview of the history of belief in justification through faith alone between the time of the apostles and the Reformation. Read the comments section of the thread as well, since other relevant information is discussed there. Regarding how passages like John 3:5 supposedly were universally interpreted early on, see here. Timothy Kauffman has argued that the church fathers have often been misinterpreted on baptismal issues like these. I disagree with many of his conclusions, but you can go here for links to his material and my brief response to it. Ortlund often referred to 1 Peter 3:21 in his video. I don't think the salvation mentioned by Peter is justification, so the reference to salvation isn't even relevant, but what the passage goes on to say probably contradicts the concept of justification through baptism. See here for a discussion of that passage and other Biblical material. You can find many other posts about the relevant Biblical passages elsewhere in our archives. See here on Galatians 3:27, here on the idea that baptism isn't a work and the notion that it should be assumed to be present in passages that don't mention it, and so on.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Significance Of Galatians 2:9

I've often discussed how unlikely it is that Galatians 2:9 would have been written if the earliest Christians had believed in a papacy. Not only is Galatians a good place to go when addressing the doctrine of justification, but it's also a good place to go when the papacy is being discussed. But notice that Galatians 2:9 is also significant in the context of the historicity of the gospels and Acts. Those documents portray Peter, James, and John as the most prominent members of the Twelve (for non-papal reasons), frequently putting Peter and John together, and Galatians 2:9 has Peter and John together as reputed pillars of the church (James the son of Zebedee being dead by then). And the prominence of James the brother of Jesus in Galatians 2:9 is what we'd expect from Acts. So is the placing of Paul and Barnabas together. There's other relevant material in Galatians as well, but 2:9 is a good passage to remember as one that concisely illustrates so much.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Overcoming The Temptation To Take Revenge

"Awe your heart, then, with the authority of God in the Scriptures; and when carnal reason says, 'My enemy deserves to be hated,' let conscience reply, 'But doth God deserve to be disobeyed?' 'Thus and thus hath he done, and so hath he wronged me'; 'But what hath God done that I should wrong him? If my enemy dares boldly to break the peace, shall I be so wicked as to break the precept? If he fears not to wrong me, shall not I fear to wrong God?' Thus let the fear of God restrain and calm your feelings….Set before your eyes the most eminent patterns of meekness and forgiveness, that you may feel the force of their example….Remember that by revenge you can only gratify a sinful passion, which by forgiveness you might conquer. Suppose that by revenge you might destroy one enemy; yet, by exercising the Christian's temper you might conquer three - your own lust, Satan's temptation, and your enemy's heart." (John Flavel, Keeping The Heart [Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2019], 82, 84)

Friday, May 21, 2021

Deeply-Rooted Doctrines

"Beloved, our condition needs much endurance; and endurance is produced when doctrines are deeply rooted. For as no wind is able by its assaults to tear up the oak, which sends down its root into the lower recesses of the earth, and is firmly clenched there; so too the soul which is nailed by the fear of God none will be able to overturn." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On John, 54:1)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Conjuring 3 And The Evidence Against The Warrens

The third installment in the Conjuring series is coming out in late May in England and in early June in the United States. The first two installments were among the most popular horror movies ever made. Like other popular movies, their influence overflows into other contexts. One of those other contexts is the predictable discussions of Ed and Lorraine Warren that come up whenever a Conjuring movie is released.

There's a large amount of material on the web discussing the case The Conjuring 3 is based on. The best articles I've come across are this one in the Washington Post that was published in 1981, shortly before the trial of Arne Johnson began, and this one published in 2014 in the Hartford Courant. And here's a more recent article that summarizes how various aspects of the case have developed over the last few decades.

I want to quote and comment on some portions of the first two stories linked above, since I found those portions especially pertinent to evaluating the genuineness of the case. First, from the Washington Post story:

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Moral Value Of Intellectual And Apologetic Work

"On the one hand, writing the way [the apostle Paul] usually writes - developing precise arguments with cogency and clarity - is not, in my view, morally neutral. It is a sign of honesty. To give reasons for what you believe and to strive for clarity that reveals what you truly think are marks of integrity." (John Piper, Why I Love The Apostle Paul [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2019], 94)

Friday, May 14, 2021

Some past correspondences with Steve Hays

A longtime Triablogue reader and a friend of Steve Hays thought some of their past email correspondences might be beneficial for others to read. He granted us permission to post these correspondences. He preferred to be anonymous so I've edited and anonymized the content. Of course, "SH" refers to Steve Hays.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Jesus' Fulfillment Of Prophecy Wasn't Faked By Him Or The Early Christians

Sean McDowell recently posted a brief video on Twitter responding to the idea that Jesus lied about being born in Bethlehem. You can see a somewhat longer response in the original YouTube video. His comments are good as far as they go, and he's deliberately being concise, but much more could be said.

I have a collection of resources on the evidence for Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, and I'll be saying a lot more about the subject during the Christmas season later this year. However, there's more evidence for, and more ancient and modern non-Christian acknowledgement of, Jesus' background in Nazareth and Capernaum, which fulfills Isaiah 9:1. See here regarding problems with alleging that Jesus or the early Christians made up the claim that he was raised in Nazareth. And you can go here to read my interaction with a skeptic on these issues in a thread last year. Here's an interaction with a skeptic in the Sean McDowell thread.

There are a lot of other prophecy fulfillments that are similarly unlikely to have been fabricated by Jesus or the early Christians. See here for a collection of examples.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

One good teacher or more than one?

"In considering whether Jesus said something or not, we should remember that it is simpler to suppose that one genius came up with remarkable teaching than to posit that multiple people had brilliant ideas and all independently attributed them to the same prior teacher….If we want to say that Jesus told none of the parables, we need to have at least three individuals who created different parables in order to explain those unique to each source. This is problematic when we know that soon afterward, parables were not a popular form for early Christian authors to use. If we suppose that Jesus told some of these parables and others were put on his lips by followers, again we have multiple parable tellers at different periods, with parables suddenly going out of fashion among Christians….Some of Jesus's parables, such as the parables of the sower, good Samaritan, and prodigal son, are viewed as masterpieces of composition. It is far simpler to suppose that the founding figure of the new religion was the creative genius for these stories than to suppose that several later creative geniuses all credited their less creative founder with their great compositions." (Peter Williams, Can We Trust The Gospels? [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2018], approximate Kindle locations 1712, 1725)

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Maybe it's time to give the Germans a break

One question often brought up in studying World War II is the question of how the average German could have allowed the Gestapo and the S.S. to take over their country and kill so many people unopposed.

Perhaps we should ask the Canadians.

The Lord Is Your Home

"Be not discouraged to go from this country to another part of the Lord's earth: 'The earth is His, and the fulness thereof.' This is the Lord's lower house; while we are lodged here, we have no assurance to lie ever in one chamber, but must be content to remove from one corner of our Lord's nether house to another, resting in hope that, when we come up to the Lord's upper city, 'Jerusalem that is above,' we shall remove no more, because then we shall be at home. And go wheresoever ye will, if your Lord go with you, ye are at home; and your lodging is ever taken before night, so long as He who is Israel's dwelling-house is your home (Psa. xc. 1)." (Samuel Rutherford, Letters Of Samuel Rutherford [Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012], 43)

Friday, May 07, 2021

Deceptive Nostalgia

Nostalgia is often misleading. Our reasons for valuing something in the past were trivial or sinful. One of the questions Christians should ask themselves is how Christian their nostalgia is. And how much has it matured over time? If your most valued memories are trivial ones, that's a problem. If the memories that move your emotions the most and the ones you want to talk to other people about the most are sinful or are focused on less significant aspects of life, that should change.

There's nothing wrong with being nostalgic about holidays spent with relatives, a trivial song, or whatever. But are those things accompanied by nostalgia about your relationship with God, time spent doing more significant things in life, music of a more Christian and mature nature, etc.?

When I hear people talk about their most valued memories, their best experiences in life, and so forth, I'm often astonished at how immature they are. Even Christians often express sentiments of such an immature, and sometimes even anti-Christian, nature. What's going on in your life if what you most value has so little to do with God and has matured so little over time?

I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Is it a moral imperative to get off of Social Media yet?

For the past five months, I've stayed off Facebook completely and I am happy to report that the world did not end. I did not go crazy or suffer at all for this. In fact, I think I am probably more sane than before.

Even setting aside the political aspects that are so simple to dive into when it comes to Facebook and Twitter in particular, Social Media is really better described as Antisocial Media because it makes it easier for people to engage in their depravity. To that end, it serves as a great illustration that Calvinism has something going for it, insomuch as basically good people left to their own devices would end up shaping a social media platform that is basically good too. But what you actually find when people are left to their own devices is that they group together to bully those they disagree with, create cancel mobs to attack individuals who “step out of line”, will willfully pass on things they know are lies if it serves their own goals, and the more anonymous they are, the more corrupted they become.

The greatest irony of living in a culture where the average person has the most access to every single bit of information that they ever had in history, is that the average person will ignore all of it. It used to take a research team months of combing through dusty books in the reference section of libraries to find out information about what, say, a 19th century historical figure once said. Today, we can find that information in a thirty second long internet search, and that's “too much work”. So rather than check to see if Ronald Reagan really said, “Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary”, we pass it on in our timeline because the meme looked cool. (For the record, the quote, which I actually did see on a picture of Ronald Reagan on Facebook, does indeed have an attribution, but it wasn't said by Reagan. The attribution is: Marx, Karl & Engels, Friedrich. “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League.” London, England. March 1850.)

But while I can make my argument about the objectively evil nature of Social Media without touching on the political aspects of Social Media, the reality is that the political aspects cannot be ignored either. And it's those political aspects which drive the question I asked in the title. Silicon Valley very clearly has an iron grip on Social Media platforms, and Silicon Valley very definitely has a specific political bent. They are also not shy about using their power to enact that political change. The problem is the political change they implement is almost universally contrary to Biblical principles. And lest there be confusion, I don't mean in the sense of setting up a theocracy. I'm talking about the basic, bare-bones aspect of civic governing which the Bible condemns as being evil even in countries which were never in a covenantal relationship with Him are being promoted by the policies being pushed forward by Silicon Valley.

Naturally, one can still use those platforms to push for the Gospel. In that regard, one could make the claim that Social Media is like the printing press. It makes it possible to spread either good or evil messages, but the person who writes the message is the one responsible for whether or not it is used for good or evil.

Except that there are certain truthful statements that you can write on Facebook—statements which are merely affirmations of the Gospel—which will get your account banned. In that way, it's not like the printing press, for the printing press doesn't have editorial control over what people use it for. Mark Zuckerberg does have that control over what you say on Facebook. Jack Dorsey does have that control over what you say on Twitter. Susan Wojcicki does have that control over what you say on YouTube.

Also, we must be cognizant of the fact that these “free” platforms constitute the richest companies in the world right now, and you must ask yourself how is it possible for a company that does not charge users to access it to not only make money, but THAT MUCH of it? It's scarcely hidden that everything you do or say on those platforms is feeding social algorithms designed to modify your behavior, primarily into purchasing more things. That is, the platform is not the product—it is the bait. You are the product being sold to the advertisers.

But it's not just advertisers who are willing to buy your attention. If Microsoft, Toyota, or Dasani can purchase manipulation efforts to get you to buy their product, what makes you think a foreign government couldn't pretend to be a corporation seeking advertising when they are really pushing subversion? And what's to stop Silicon Valley from doing it themselves when they want more power under our own governmental structure?

Manipulation occurs on that level as well. Specific viewpoints are promoted while others are suppressed. This isn't an accident. This is the whole point of the Social Media ecosystem. This is designed to make you feel isolated and alone simply for holding to positions that they do not want you to hold, and it's designed to amplify positions they want you to hold far beyond their actual power. Look no further than the astonishing power that LGBT advocates have when the May 2018 Gallup poll showed that only 4.5% of Americans identify as LGBT. Now, if you “misgender” someone, you can actually lose your job, and the fact that everyone knows this despite the fact that those who live outside of cities (that is, the majority* of people in the US), rarely have even met a transgendered person.

This manipulation does have an effect, as evidenced by the way that people's views on social issues such as homosexual marriage have so rapidly shifted in recent years. True, one could argue the LGBT movement has always had a disproportionate amount of political power, but it is undeniable that things have changed much faster since the inception of Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005, bought by Google in 2006), and Twitter (2006).  It is not primarily through the influence of Hollywood, which has been blamed in the past. The numbers for the entertainment industry are in free fall, and they've burned off most of the cache of support they used to have. But regardless, pressure from Hollywood remained the same from the 90s through the early 2000s.  Yet Obama ran in 2008 on a platform opposed to gay marriage. By 2012, those who agreed with Obama's position a mere four years previously, were getting banned on the social media platforms. And by 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was now affirmed.

Today, social ideas, especially those relating to the so-called “Woke” movement, are still gaining traction at a rapid pace even through historically conservative Christian institutions. This is almost certainly traceable to the fact that those who are presenting woke content on social media are being promoted on the platform, while the voices of those who object to it are being banned. The disproportionate banning of voices from the right—voices who are nowhere near as extreme as the voices on the left which are being promoted—certainly is shifting the Overton Window ever more quickly to the left.

So, is it a moral imperative to avoid social media? I'll let you come to your own decision. But if you want to use it, for your own mental health, remember that the audiences there are not real. That is, they are not representative of how people really think. They are the cultivated result of social manipulation, and they are specifically designed to influence you on your own feed. The fact that you see some of what your friends have written on Facebook, for example, may make you think that you're getting a genuine sample of what your friends really think. You are not. Facebook commonly does not share every post that your friends have written, and often when they do display it to you it's hours or days later—anyone who uses the platform has run into the experience where they see a post from someone five days after they wrote it, while the entire time they saw the same four posts at the top of their feed. This is intentional, not accidental. Facebook is using their algorithms to decide when to parcel out data they have problems with so they can claim neutrality by delivering it while still manipulating you so you don't respond quickly or see it when the post is most relevant. And only a fool would think they are smart enough to avoid being manipulated when that manipulation is the basis by which Facebook is a multi-billion dollar company.

The only way to actually avoid the manipulation is to avoid social media altogether.


* And if you're wondering why I say that the majority of the US doesn't live in cities, according to https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2020/05/america-a-nation-of-small-towns.html, 39% of the US population lives in cities with more than 50,000 people (which comprise only 4% of all “incorporated places” in the US). Contrast that with the 37% of Americans who don't live in “an incorporated place” at all. The rest live in small towns, of which 76% have fewer than 5,000 people, and 42% of those had fewer than 500 people.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Reports Of Disembodied Hands

In my post yesterday, I quoted some comments by Stephen Braude about how reports of paranormal events are sometimes "similar in so many peculiar details" (The Limits Of Influence [Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997], 26). An example I've noticed that goes across multiple types of paranormal phenomena is the involvement of disembodied hands. The appearance of disembodied hands is a recurring theme in Braude's discussions of various mediums in his book cited above (43, 142, 146, etc.). As I've discussed elsewhere, disembodied hands were sometimes reported in the Enfield Poltergeist. The post just linked refers to how Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell discuss the appearance of disembodied hands in their book on poltergeists and hauntings.

It wouldn't be too hard for people to occasionally lie or be honestly mistaken about seeing a disembodied hand, but the frequency with which it's reported and the highly credible nature of some of those reports are significant. It seems more likely that something paranormal is going on than that all of the witnesses have been mistaken in the same unusual way.

Monday, May 03, 2021

How The Nature Of A Miracle Can Be Evidential

"Even if witnesses were biased or predisposed to experience paranormal phenomena, that would not explain why the biased misperceptions or reports are similar in so many peculiar details. One would need an elaborate psychological theory (to say the least) to explain why people of dissimilar backgrounds and cultures, with apparently no common needs to experience bizarre phenomena of any sort, independently report (for example) 'raining' stones inside a house or the intense heat of apports." (Stephen Braude, The Limits Of Influence [Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997], 26)

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Religious And Occultic Aspects Of The Enfield Poltergeist

In a conversation in 1978, Margaret Hodgson told Guy Playfair that she'd seen an apparition in the context of using a Ouija board a few years earlier, apparently in 1974, and that she'd recently seen the same apparition in the context of the Enfield case. See the relevant section of my post here for more about what Margaret and her sister reported regarding their use of a Ouija board leading up to what's typically considered the poltergeist's onset in August of 1977. Margaret's experience in 1974 could be identified as the start of the poltergeist instead, depending on what standards you apply. And both the use of a Ouija board leading up to late August of 1977 and the girls' impression that their Ouija board use was connected to the poltergeist make it relevant to an evaluation of the case. But it doesn't get discussed much.

There are many other aspects of the case that are of an occultic or religious nature that have likewise been neglected. More research needs to be done on the subject, but I want to provide an overview of what I know at this point. Some of what I'll be citing comes from Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I'll make reference to them by using "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. MG32A is Grosse's tape 32A, GP41B is Playfair's 41B, etc.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Drifting Off Course Into Comforts

"Is this not a beautiful thing, when a man has a great, worthy, single passion in life and burns for it all the way to the end?...I would rather see a man die abruptly, on his way to one last conquest, than to see him drift off course into the comforts of old age." (John Piper, Why I Love The Apostle Paul [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2019], 28)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Good Resource On The Virgin Birth

Nick Peters just started a new web site on the subject. It features collections of material supporting the virgin birth in written, audio, and video form. If you have any ideas about other material to include, he's taking suggestions.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Death for Life

I have often heard the charge from atheists that the idea of divine justice requiring the death of Christ in order for us to be saved is simply a ludicrous belief to hold to. Of course, this conundrum isn't limited to atheists as there are many non-Christian theists (and even some who call themselves Christian) who have issues with substitutionary atonement as well, but I am most familiar with the atheist objections given the circles that I run in. Regardless of who makes the complaint, the objection seems to boil down to the fact that it seems to be illogical for someone to gain eternal life at the expense of the life of an innocent person.

What has struck me is that not only is it not illogical to have this understanding, but it's actually the way things already are in our everyday life. Recently, I've been in some discussions regarding diet. Specifically, I had surgery on my feet back in November, and through the recovery process I need to maintain a lot better control over blood sugar levels in my diet. As a result of this need, the wound care clinic that provides the post-op care required me to attend a diabetes nutrition class. Ironically enough, the dietitian in that class came to the conclusion that I need to eat even more carbohydrates. In fact, she recommended that I have upwards of 250 grams per day. I think anyone who's ever had to control their blood sugar ought to realize just how ridiculous following that advice would be. (Incidentally, I usually maintain around 50 grams of carbohydrates per day and still have fasting blood sugars that are a tad higher than they want.)

Anyway, the point is that I've been thinking about diet lately, so it was natural for my brain to consider that topic when I thought about the objection that penal substitution makes no sense. I made a simple observation, one that is obvious, but which most of us do not think about. That is, whether you are consuming meat products or vegetable products, you are eating things that were, at one point, alive.

We do not consume inanimate objects, like dirt. Our food is the product of living beings. And it's not just byproducts—some of which we can eat (e.g., milk, honey, fruit, etc.), but none of which provide enough nutrients on their own to sustain life. To live, we need to eat animals and entire plants, killing those creatures in the process.

In other words, to consider that eternal life requires the sacrifice of an eternal living Person is somehow incomprehensible is to ignore the fact that our mortal life already requires the sacrifice of mortal beings. We live every day because animals and plants have died. It didn't have to be this way. Plants, after all, can use photosynthesis and get their energy directly from the sun. In that aspect, there's no reason why God couldn't have created human beings, and even all other animals, with photosynthesis. So I have to think that the very fact that we consume plants and animals was already meant as a picture for us of the coming sacrifice Christ would make on our behalf as well.

Which, as a further thought exercise for the future, might also have some bearing on the supralapsarian vs. infralapsarian debate too. I leave that thought exercise up to the reader.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Jesus' Career Reflected In His Teachings And Early Christianity

In a 2005 article ("What was Jesus' occupation?", Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 48, no. 3 [September 2005], 501-19), Ken Campbell argued that Jesus and Joseph should be thought of as builders rather than carpenters. They would have worked with wood, but mostly with other materials. What I want to highlight here, though, are some points Campbell makes about the characteristics of Jesus' teachings and how consistent they are with a traditional Christian view of Jesus' background. They're what you'd expect from somebody like Jesus. I wouldn't go as far as Campbell does (e.g., referring to his conclusion about Jesus' occupation as "incontrovertible"), but the information Campbell cites is useful. You'll have to read his entire article to get the full picture, but what's below is a portion of what he wrote. I'll follow his comments with some of my own:

Friday, April 23, 2021

Other Agreements Among The Gospels About Jesus' Nonverbal Characteristics

In my last post, I discussed how the gospels agree about an aspect of Jesus' posture in the context of prayer. Because the gospels are documents about a teacher, they give a lot of attention to what Jesus said, and readers have a tendency to focus on those parts of the gospels. So, we're more likely to notice patterns in the verbal aspects of Jesus' life than in his nonverbal characteristics. And I think far more research has been done on the former than the latter. But I want to provide some other neglected examples of agreements among the gospels about Jesus' nonverbal characteristics.

He sometimes wept publicly (Luke 19:41, John 11:35).

He sometimes used spit in his healings (Mark 7:33, 8:23, John 9:6). Though spit was viewed positively at times in ancient sources, it was often viewed negatively as well. Raymond Brown referred to how "[Matthew] is in confrontation with Pharisees and in his account of the ministry [of Jesus] he is most careful not to give them anything they can use against Jesus (e.g., his omitting the spittle miracle narrated in Mark 8:22-26)." (The Birth Of The Messiah [New York, New York: Doubleday, 1999], n. 28 on 143) So, including that sort of detail in these healing accounts caused unnecessary offense.

And notice something else about the healings in Mark 8 and John 9. Both involved blind men, and both healings were done in multiple stages. So, not only do Mark and John agree in having Jesus use spit, but they also agree that he used it in the context of healing the blind in particular and that he sometimes healed the blind in multiple stages. That's a highly unusual series of agreements, and it's highly unlikely that Mark and John (and/or their sources) hit upon such agreements by chance in the process of making up stories.

Jesus was sometimes very confrontational, as we see with the temple cleansings (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-22). It's likely that he cleansed the temple twice, not just once. Something that can get lost in the controversy over how many times he cleansed the temple is that all of the gospels are agreeing that Jesus had such a character that he behaved that way and did so in such a public context.

And he seems to have been good at avoiding crowds and avoiding the assaults of his enemies when he wanted to (Matthew 8:18-23, Mark 1:35, 6:31-32, Luke 4:30, 5:15-16, John 8:59, 10:39). Notice the overlap between those nonverbal characteristics and his verbal skills of a similar nature (e.g., Mark 4:1-12, Luke 20:19-26, John 6:60-66). The harmony between his words and actions is striking. He seems to have been both physically and mentally agile.

These are just several examples. Much more could be said about agreements over Jesus' moral character, interests, ways of handling particular types of situations, etc. I've been focused on the gospels, those documents give us the most material to work with, and some of the agreements exist only among the gospels. But we should also look for overlap among other sources (e.g., Old Testament theophanies that we think involve Jesus, Old Testament prophecies about him, Acts, comments about Jesus in the New Testament letters, Revelation).

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The 6%

George Barna teamed up with the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University and conducted 30-minute long interviews with 2,000 people designed to discover what worldview they profess to hold, as well as what worldview they actually end up living in their lives (link to study here). It should not be much of a surprise that they found 88% of Americans “embrace an impure, unrecognizable worldview that blends ideas from these multiple perspectives.” In fact, “Biblical Theism” only scored a whopping 6% in the survey...but that still managed to get the majority out of the worldviews presented.

Those worldviews are:

  • Biblical Theism (6%)
  • Secular Humanism (2%)
  • Moral Therapeutic Deism (1%)
  • Postmodernism (1%)
  • Nihilism (1%)
  • Eastern Mysticism/New Age (< 1%)
  • Marxism/Critical Race Theory (<1%)

This study shows one of the problems with trying to pigeonhole people into one of these worldviews. The vast majority of people are Syncretists, wherein they grab a mishmash of things they like from various worldviews and smash them all together. Barna even explicitly labels them as such in his own results.

Of even greater concern than just the fact that only 6% of Americans can be considered Biblical Theists is the fact that when you take the numbers of characteristics that match “a moderately high number of beliefs or behaviors that meet various worldview specifications, but not quite enough to qualify as being a true adherent of that worldview” then the highest scoring trend in the US is those who hold to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism at 38%. Biblical Theists are in second place at 31%. This means that not only are 94% of Americans not Biblical Theists, but 69% of them aren't even close to being Biblical Theists.

It would be easy to say that syncretism isn't that bad. There's quite a bit of overlap between various views that people hold to, and besides Exodus 20:3 just says not to have another god before Yahweh, not to not have any other gods at all.

Of course the command in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me”, does not mean “Yahweh must be first on the list, but the other gods are okay after that.” “Before me” has a different understanding in older English, meaning “in the presence of”. For example, “I am going to be presented before the king.” Thus, the passage in Exodus carries that connotation, as in: “When you are present before me, you shall have no other gods.”

Still, I gather most readers here already know that. What may be a bit less obvious is the fact that when Israel committed most of her sins against God, such as those that led up eventually to the Babylonian captivity, Israel never really turned her back completely on God. That is, they didn't cease to offer sacrifices to Yahweh in order to add sacrifices to Baal. They simply sacrificed to both. Elijah points this out in 1 Kings 18:21, for example, asking the people of Israel, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

More could be mentioned, but I believe the point is made for the purposes of this post. Namely, the sin that caused the downfall of Israel was the very sin of syncretism that currently plagues the United States. God never made a covenant with the United States, even though He has made a covenant with His Church. How do you think a post-Christian American society will fare in the grand scheme of history?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Humanists Being Humanists....

American Humanist Association Board Statement Withdrawing Honor from Richard Dawkins

[Richard Dawkins's] latest statement implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent, while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient. ...Consequently, the AHA Board has concluded that Richard Dawkins is no longer deserving of being honored by the AHA, and has voted to withdraw, effective immediately, the 1996 Humanist of the Year award.

I'm sure he's devastated by the removal of something he probably forgot he received since it is worth exactly zero cups of coffee down at Starbucks. Frankly, it's somewhat ironic that you have the AHA "withdrawing honor", something which in the atheistic universe is just made up and has no basis in objective reality according to their own criteria.

Actually, I guess it makes perfect sense as to why criticizing something that was just made up and has no basis in objective reality would result in the removal of an award which is just made up and has no basis in objective reality after all...

Still, we live in a world where something can be memory-holed and treated like it never happened due to something you say 25 years after the fact. Isn't progress grand?

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.