Saturday, January 30, 2021

Top 10 myths Muslims believe about Islam

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

The modern self and the sexual revolution

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

An excerpt from the interview to whet your appetite:

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

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

Friday, January 29, 2021

A reader's guide to The Confessions

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

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Harvest Handbook of Apologetics

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

By the way:

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

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

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

Early Christian Access To Evidence We Don't Have

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 25, 2021

Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11:1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Looking at the two Greek words:

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

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

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

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

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

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