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)