Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Level Of Detail In 1 Corinthians 15:6

Jesus' resurrection appearance to more than 500, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:6, tends to get underestimated in our day. But there's a lot to commend it and warrant assigning the passage more significance than people often do.

One of the reasons why the passage should be held in higher regard is the level of detail it includes about significant issues. Paul is briefly summarizing several of Jesus' resurrection appearances, yet a series of important details about the appearance under consideration are included even in that brief summarizing context. Paul refers to the relative chronology of the appearance ("After that"), the number of people involved, saying "more than" instead of just leaving it at a rough estimate of 500, specifies their gender ("brethren"), recognizes the significance of their having seen Jesus "at one time" and the importance of mentioning that detail, and followed their lives since the time of the appearance enough to know that "most" are still alive and the value of their still being alive. (See here regarding the likelihood that some non-Christians were present during the appearance.) Paul not only experienced a resurrection appearance himself, but also had a lot of interest in and knowledge about the appearances to others. And the details he shows interest in in 1 Corinthians 15:6 reflect well on him, since they're such significant ones.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Difficulty Of Fulfilling The Predictions Relevant To Jesus' Death

I've written posts over the years about some of the problems with claiming that Jesus' life lined up with Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy by normal means, without anything supernatural involved. For example, the passage involves the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which was done by the Romans, not by Jesus and the early Christians. You can read my previous posts for more about such issues, like here. What I want to focus on in this post is expanding on a point that I think I've only addressed more briefly in the past.

Notice that if Jesus was merely human and wanted to get himself crucified by the Romans to fulfill both Daniel 9:26 and Psalm 22, for example, he would only have partial control of the situation. You can provoke people to kill you by natural means. There wouldn't have to be anything supernatural involved. But you wouldn't have control over how other people would respond to the provocation, and there would be multiple contexts simultaneously in which you'd lack relevant control. You might get a response of mockery or pity, for example, rather than the relevant type of anger. You might get anger, but not enough of it to lead to your execution. Or you might get killed the wrong way. Too soon. Too late. In too humiliating a manner. The gospels illustrate that point. They refer to multiple occasions in which people attempted to do something like throw Jesus over a cliff or stone him. You don't even have to go to a Christian source, like the gospels. Look at what Josephus tells us about how one of Jesus' own siblings was put to death. Jesus could have met the same kind of death as his brother, James, and at the wrong time.

Jesus' fulfilling Psalm 22, Isaiah 50, and Daniel 9, for example, required the Romans, not fellow Christians, to do a series of things the right way. We need to keep in mind that this isn't just a matter of whether Jesus could by natural means try to get people to kill him. The situation is much more complicated than that. If he was merely human, he only had partial control over his fulfillment of the relevant prophecies. The degree to which the fulfillment depended on non-Christian sources was large and evidentially highly significant.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Steve Hays ebooks 2

Another year (or longer), another set of Steve Hays ebooks! The first set is here: "Steve Hays ebooks 1". All thanks goes to Led by the Shepherd for his awesome work.

Where dreams come true

Many thanks to Alex Toland who has made PDFs of all of Steve Hays' fiction (originally posted on Where Dreams Come True). You can download everything here. Thanks again, Alex!

How Rome's Soldiers Served Christ

Though the soldiers of the Roman empire occupied Israel, put Jesus to death, and imprisoned and executed some of Christianity's foremost leaders and many of its followers, those soldiers were unwitting pawns of Christ. Their establishment of their empire brought about the fourth great kingdom predicted by Daniel. Their spitting on Christ, scourging him, crucifying him, and casting lots for his clothing fulfilled what Psalm 22 and Isaiah 50 anticipated. Their crucifixion of Jesus fulfilled Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy, and so did their destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. "Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!' He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them." (Psalm 2:1-4)

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Do Luke 8:55 and Acts 9:40 support praying to the dead?

Let's consider some objections to my post earlier this week about whether Jesus and Peter offered support for praying to the deceased when they spoke to people they raised from the dead in the gospels and Acts. Probably the two best passages that could be cited in support of interpreting this material in a way that supports prayers to the deceased are Luke 8:55 and Acts 9:40. Luke 8 mentions the return of the girl's spirit to her body after mentioning Jesus' comment to her. Acts 9:40 says that Peter turned to the woman's body just before speaking to her, and we don't normally refer to a living person with a phrase like "the body". Rather, it's more common to use that language when referring to a corpse. Shouldn't we conclude, then, that Jesus and Peter were speaking to the dead in these passages, which offers support for praying to the deceased?

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Adding Unjustified Qualifiers To Historical Sources

The Other Paul has posted a good video addressing some bad arguments often used by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other proponents of the veneration of images. They often use the same kind of argumentation on other issues as well (e.g., praying to saints). They'll claim that a source, such as a church father, who's cited against their position is only criticizing a belief or practice in a narrower context, not in a broader context that's applicable to their position. So, for example, a church father's comments against the veneration of images are only meant to condemn a pagan form of image veneration, not the Catholic form. The Other Paul makes some significant points that should be taken into account whenever any issue like this comes up, not just with the veneration of images.

Miracles That Are Closely Associated, But Come From Different Sources

We often find out that we have physical abilities we previously didn't know we had, like the ability to recover from an illness better than the average person or an ability to lift more weight than we thought we could. And our physical abilities often develop over time, such as the growth of muscles as a result of exercise. Similar things could occur with our souls. We have latent abilities we're unaware of, which are activated under certain circumstances. Or the more a spiritual ability is exercised, the stronger it gets. We often speak of discerning and developing our own or other people's spiritual gifts, for example. Similar concepts are found in paranormal research. People who have near-death experiences often report an increase in paranormal activity in their lives afterward. I've discussed examples of a similar nature that I've come across in my research on the Enfield Poltergeist. See the section on telepathy in the article here, for instance, and the discussion of scientific experiments with Janet Hodgson here.

One of the reasons I'm bringing this subject up is its relevance to how we interpret certain paranormal events. People often treat paranormal events as having come from one source when there's a significant chance that they came from different sources instead. Paranormal activity caused by source A could trigger some paranormal activity by source B, yet people will assume that all of the activity came from A.

Think of a Marian apparition, for example. As I've discussed many times, there are historical problems with the views of Mary that are held by the groups most associated with Marian apparitions. And the apparitions often behave in problematic ways, such as how visually unclear, noncommunicative, and noninteractive the Zeitoun apparition was. Sometimes apparitions, Marian and other types, behave in ways that are reminiscent of stone tape phenomena or seem more like what you'd expect from a projection of the human mind than what you'd expect from a source like Mary or a demon. But what do we make of something like a healing, precognition, or something else that's paranormal that accompanies the apparition?

One of the explanatory options we should consider is that the experience with the apparition activated other paranormal events that didn't come from the same source. An experience with an apparition could trigger an ability somebody has to heal, for example, to heal himself or heal other people.

Whether that's the best explanation in a given case has to be judged by the details involved. My point here is that it's one of the potential explanations we should keep in mind.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Did Jesus offer support for praying to the deceased by speaking to people he raised from the dead?

He did often make comments like "arise" to those he raised from the dead, as I've discussed elsewhere. But as that post argues, it's likely that he was telling the people to move in some way in order to demonstrate that they had been brought back to life (e.g., telling Lazarus to come out, after which Lazarus walked out of his tomb). Since the focus in these passages seems to be on physical demonstrations that a resurrection has occurred, interpreting a phrase like "arise" or "come out" as a command to come back to life is at best a secondary interpretation. Jesus may have been simultaneously telling these people to rise from the dead and to move their bodies in the relevant ways. But a "may" scenario is a reference to a possibility, not a probability. I see no way to demonstrate that it's probable that Jesus was speaking to dead people in these passages.

Another way of evaluating which interpretation is more likely, aside from the factors I've mentioned above and what's discussed in the post I linked, is to look at how often Jesus, Peter (who did the same kind of thing in Acts 9:40-41), and other relevant figures speak to the dead elsewhere. Though scripture gives us many and explicit references to praying to God, there are no examples of praying to the dead. That larger context makes it likely, even highly likely, that these resurrection passages weren't meant to support praying to the dead.

And I want to reiterate a point I've made many times before. What does it suggest about the weakness of the case for praying to the dead when arguments like the one I'm responding to in this post have to be resorted to by advocates of such prayers?

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Does Matthew 27:47 support praying to the saints?

Remarkably, some Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cite the passage to that end. Let's think about the passage from a few different angles.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Is Paul praying to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:25?

Obviously not, in any relevant sense. But I recently saw somebody raise 1 Thessalonians 5:25 in a discussion about praying to saints and angels. For whatever reason, it's common for Roman Catholics and those who are sympathetic to Catholicism to claim that Catholics don't pray to saints. Rather, they just ask the saints to pray for them. And I saw somebody bring up 1 Thessalonians 5:25 as an example. The passage not only doesn't support the Catholic practice of praying to saints and angels, but even illustrates one of the problems with the practice.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Did the resurrection witnesses have an opportunity to recant?

Skeptics occasionally suggest that the people who claimed to have seen Jesus after he rose from the dead may have been willing to renounce that claim, but were never given an opportunity to do so. Or it will be suggested that we should be agnostic on issues of recantation, since we don't have enough evidence to go by.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Bad design

I recently got into an impromptu debate with an atheist and evolutionist (i.e. a materialist or naturalist and neo-Darwinist). Well, calling it a debate might be too generous, since he didn't make arguments so much as assertions. One of the things he asserted was bad or suboptimal design demonstrates that intelligent design (ID) is bunk and that God doesn't exist. Or it demonstrates it's evil design from an evil designer.

My reply was along these lines:

  1. As far as ID goes, the claim isn't that ID necessarily demonstrates God designed the entity (e.g. a biological organism). Rather ID makes a more modest claim: the inference is to design without necessarily identifying the designer(s).
  2. Bad or suboptimal design could still be intelligent design. A Ford Pinto is just as intelligently designed as an Alfa Romeo despite the former cars being badly designed. A clunky and defective Gateway computer is just as intelligently designed as the world's best supercomputer despite the Gateway being a badly designed computer.
  3. If (arguendo) bad or suboptimal design is somehow evidence of evil design, and by implication an evil designer designed it, it'd still be design. An iron maiden chamber, bamboo torture, and crucifixion might imply an evil mind designed these instruments of torture. Nevertheless there's an intelligence or mind behind them. ID doesn't make any certain claims about the moral values of the designer(s).
  4. An argument from a design inference to the Christian God as the designer requires additional steps. These arguments exist. For example, Stephen Meyer's book The Return of the God Hypothesis argues for God as the designer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Death Of Michael Heiser

I still don't know a lot about him, and I haven't read any of his books yet, but I listened to his Peeranormal podcast for years. I'm grateful for the work he and his colleagues on that podcast did to address some issues that have been so neglected by so many Christians. He'll be missed.

When Religious Content Is Popular In Secular Contexts

I recently saw some people discussing the phenomenon of religious content being well received on a YouTube channel, television show, or some other context that's generally secular. And that raises the question of why religious content is so much less popular when it's placed in a more religious setting (e.g., a religious YouTube channel). I think the situation is multifaceted, and I'm not going to try to explain everything that's going on, but I want to mention a few of the factors that seem likely to be involved.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

The Witnesses' Willingness To Suffer For Belief In Jesus' Resurrection

The issue often comes up in discussions of the resurrection, and it should, as evidence pertaining to the witnesses' sincerity. I've written a lot about the subject in the past, such as a brief overview I wrote 17 years ago here and a lengthier treatment focused on the death of the apostles that I wrote 11 years ago here. What I want to do in this post is briefly reiterate or expand upon some of the relevant points.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Rejection Of The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary Before The Reformation

We're sometimes told that nobody denied the perpetual virginity of Mary before the Reformation. Or we'll be told that only some small number of people denied it during that timeframe. It may be suggested that Tertullian and Helvidius were the only ones, for example.

Actually, the evidence suggests that the doctrine was contradicted by several New Testament authors and many extrabiblical sources prior to the Reformation. Tertullian and Helvidius were two of them, but not the only ones. See here for a thread (including its comments section) that addresses the sources most often discussed. And see here for a discussion of other sources, who are brought up less often.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Jesus' Fulfillment Of Psalm 22

One For Israel recently produced a video on Psalm 22 that makes a lot of good points. One of the issues that comes up is Jesus' use of the "brothers" language in the resurrection accounts, which probably was influenced by Psalm 22. For more on that issue, see my post here. And here's an overview of Psalm 22 that I wrote several years ago. It covers some issues not addressed in One For Israel's video. And the video covers some material I didn't discuss, so I recommend watching it and reading my two posts linked above. We should keep in mind that, under normal circumstances, a document written several centuries before the closing of the B.C. era shouldn't have been able to anticipate so many details of such unusual penal practices that would be implemented by the Roman empire and the results that would follow from one of its executions, with such close alignment with other prophecies (Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy, Isaiah's Servant Songs, etc.).

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Videos Of Demon Possession

Cameron Bertuzzi recently interviewed Richard Gallagher, a psychiatrist who's worked on a lot of what he believes to be cases of demonic possession or something closely related (e.g., demonic oppression). The issue of video footage was brought up by somebody in the audience. Go here to watch the relevant segment. Gallagher says that he's seen some videos, but that they're "generally" not "unequivocal" in terms of their evidential value. I haven't done much research on videos of alleged demon possession, but I've seen some, and none of the ones I've seen have the sort of evidential significance that I'd expect to change the mind of the typical critic. However, I'm more familiar with video footage of some other types of paranormal phenomena. See the cases discussed in a post I wrote a few years ago, which includes links to where the videos can be viewed for free online.

I want to expand on some of the other comments Gallagher made. I'll begin with something he said in the context of video footage, then move on to something else.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Is your citizenship on earth or in heaven?

"This world never looked like a friend upon you: Ye owe it little love. It looked ever sour-like upon you. Howbeit ye should woo it, it will not match with you; and therefore never seek warm fire under cold ice. This is not a field where your happiness groweth; it is up above….set your heart on the inheritance. Go up beforehand, and see your lodging. Look through all your Father's rooms in heaven" (Samuel Rutherford, in Faith Cook, Grace In Winter [Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989], 33, 56)

Sunday, February 05, 2023

The History Of Belief In Justification Apart From Baptism

We've written far too much on the subject for me to link everything here. But I want to provide links to some examples of our more important posts on the topic. I plan to supplement this post with more links in the future when warranted. You may want to periodically return here to check for updates.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

The Early Development Of Baptismal Beliefs And Practices

Advocates of baptismal justification and some other views of baptism (e.g., infant baptism) often speak of their views as if they were universally agreed upon in earlier centuries. Some of the groups involved even claim that they belong to an institution that's always held all apostolic teaching in unbroken succession throughout church history, that the institution is infallible, that all or a large percentage of the church fathers were part of their institution, and so forth. So, it's significant accordingly if we see early baptismal theology being more developmental and varied than claims like the ones I just mentioned would suggest. And for those who think there was an early departure from apostolic teaching on one or more baptismal issues, evidence of development and variation in early views of baptism can provide significant evidence for their position accordingly.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Baptism And Justification In The Odes Of Solomon

The Odes Of Solomon is more difficult to judge than other sources in some ways. It's a songbook, consisting of poetry, and poetic language is often less exact and more difficult to interpret. And the speaker in the odes sometimes seems to change, even within a single ode, and it's sometimes hard to tell who's doing the speaking. For reasons like those, we have to be more cautious than usual in interpreting the document accordingly.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Baptism And Justification In Aristides

Aristides is one of the most neglected of the earliest church fathers. He seldom gets mentioned in patristic discussions, and I don't remember ever seeing anybody bring him up in the context of soteriology in particular. He didn't write much about soteriology, but he did make some comments of significance that are worth discussing.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Baptism And Justification In Polycarp

It's often claimed that belief in justification through baptism was universal among the church fathers, that everybody between the time of the apostles and the Reformation held that view, or something similar. I've periodically responded to that claim over the years, such as here, and I added some other posts on the subject last year. I want to add a few more this year before collecting links to some of these posts in one place for future reference.

Polycarp's Letter To The Philippians occasionally discusses soteriological issues, but not in a lot of depth. For example:

"'In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;' into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that 'by grace ye are saved, not of works,' but by the will of God through Jesus Christ….If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, 'we shall also reign together with Him,' provided only we believe." (1, 5)

The focus is on faith, but he requires works in some sense as well, probably in the sense of works being the fruit of justifying faith. Just before what I quoted in section 1 of the letter, Polycarp refers to how "the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days long gone by, endureth even until now, and bringeth forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ". He had noted that justification is "not of works". He connects that comment in section 1 of the letter to 1 Peter 1:8, which refers to believing in Jesus. In that passage, Peter is addressing the present faith of people who are already Christians, so he doesn't have some sort of combination of faith and baptism in view. Polycarp refers, in section 1, to how people want to "enter" the joy referred to in 1 Peter 1:8, so his references to faith and the exclusion of works probably are focused on the beginning of the Christian life at that point. Near the end of Polycarp's letter, he refers again to those who "shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ" (12). There's no reference to being justified through baptism, being justified in the context of baptism, or anything like that anywhere in the letter. The most natural reading of the references to faith is that they're meant in an unqualified sense, not in the qualified sense of faith accompanied by baptism, faith at the time of baptism, or some such thing.

The letter isn't long, and there isn't much relevant material in it. But what's there leans against baptismal justification rather than in favor of it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Setting Of Justification Excludes Baptism And Other Works

Disputes over justification often focus on what the source in question refers to as the means of justification and what that source tells us is excluded. For example, Romans 3:28 includes faith while excluding works of the law. I've argued many times, such as here, that other factors should be getting more attention than they typically do. The tax collector in the temple in Luke 18:10-14 wouldn't have been baptized in that context, the thief on the cross wasn't baptized on the cross, and so on. The contexts in which people are justified often exclude baptism and other works. We shouldn't just argue over what terms like "faith" and "works of the law" mean in passages like Romans 3:28. We also should take a broad range of other relevant evidence into account, like what I just referred to. What I want to do in the remainder of this post is discuss one of those lines of evidence, one that gets much less attention than it should.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

God Before Other People

"Being 'under sin' [Romans 3:9] is first and foremost a ruined relation with God. Not, first, a ruined relation with other people….Fix this firmly in your mind, sin is mainly a condition of rebellion against God, not mainly a condition of doing bad things to other people. This is why it is so sad and so pointless when people argue that they are pretty good people, and so don't need the Gospel. What they mean is that they treat other people decently: they don't steal, kill, lie much, or swear much, and they give to some charities. But that is not the main question. The main question is: Do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? Do you love his Son, Jesus Christ? God is the most important person in the universe.…And it doesn't matter what we do for people; if we treat the King of the universe with such disdain, we may know that we are profoundly 'under sin.'" (John Piper)

Thursday, January 19, 2023

A Multipersonal God In Genesis

Than Christopoulos recently posted a good video about the Angel of the Lord in Genesis. And here's another video he recently did with Caleb Jackson about a healing of stomach paralysis with medical documentation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Updated Recommendations For Bible Study Resources

Here's Denver Seminary's 2023 update for their Old Testament bibliography, and their updated New Testament bibliography can be found here. Steve Hays regularly updated a bibliography of his own until shortly before his death in 2020. You can find that bibliography here. One of the resources he recommended was the Best Commentaries site.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Protestants Are More Consistent With Matthew 16

Peter isn't just singled out in verses 16-19, which Catholics highlight. He's also singled out in verses 22-23. No other apostle is called Satan. Does it follow that Peter was uniquely Satanic, more evil than anybody else or any other apostle or something akin to that? No. For one thing, Peter can be singled out in verses 22-23 without having any relevant sort of primacy. It could be, and it probably was the case, that Peter was singled out in verses 22-23 because he singled himself out by speaking up. It wouldn't make sense for Jesus to respond to Peter by talking to Thomas. It doesn't follow that Peter was singled out because of being more Satanic than anybody else or some such thing. Since we know in the abstract that something like being singled out in verses 22-23 in the manner in which Peter was singled out doesn't imply primacy in any relevant sense, and the evidence as a whole suggests Peter didn't have the primacy in question (e.g., the evidence we have that Judas was more Satanic than Peter), we conclude that a Satanic primacy most likely isn't being referred to. The passage could be referring to such a primacy, but that possibility isn't a probability. Just as Peter's personality, such as his outspokenness, can explain, and seems to best explain, his being singled out in verses 16-19 without the involvement of something like an additional church office, the same is likely true in verses 22-23.

Protestants apply the same sort of reasoning to verses 22-23 that they apply to verses 16-19. Catholics, on the other hand, are less consistent.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Does Peter's name suggest papal authority?

Catholics sometimes make claims like the ones I came across in a recent discussion about the papacy: "He spoke to Peter first, and changed his name and gave him the authority specifically. At no other point does God change someone's name and it does not denote new authority and responsibility."

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Cumulative Case For The Resurrection Account In Matthew 28:9-10

I've written some posts over the years about some of the reasons we have for believing in the historicity of the resurrection account referred to in Matthew 28:9-10. See here, here, and here. To summarize:

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Isaiah 9 Resources

The first seven verses of Isaiah 9 are highly significant, but usually underestimated, in a lot of important contexts. They have implications for Jesus' identity, how he viewed himself, who he claimed to be, how he was perceived early on, the continuity between the gospels' accounts of his childhood and their accounts of his adulthood, some prophecy fulfillments that are highly evidential, and other significant issues. I've written many posts on Isaiah 9 over the years, and I want to produce a collection of links to some of those posts, so that they can be accessed more easily in one place. I expect to update this post periodically when warranted.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Angels & demons

From Randy Alcorn:

Question from a reader:

Have you ever been personally aware of being in the presence of demons? Have you ever been aware of a guardian angel doing something on your behalf?

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

[1a] Regarding demons, two things in particular stick out. One was when we were in Egypt, staying with a missionary family. After we’d been there maybe five days, when there was no more jet lag and we’d been sleeping fine, one night Nanci and I were troubled and fitful and unable to sleep all night. It was a heavy presence of evil that was palpable. We prayed quietly, for protection of our daughters and ourselves, and got almost no sleep. In the morning our missionary friends said, “You didn’t sleep last night, did you?” We were surprised, since we hadn’t been making noise. How did they know?

Our friends told us, “We couldn’t sleep either. There are nights here where the demonic presence is so great no Christian can sleep.”

[1b] Another time, Nanci and I were in Hawaii. We had an interview scheduled at what we thought was a Christian radio station. But the moment we walked in the front door, it took our breath away. There was a dark oppressive spirit in the place, one like I have felt only a few times in my life. (Another place, with exactly the same throat clenching darkness, is outside an abortion clinic.) It turned out to be a New Age station with pictures on the wall of various eastern mystics and religious leaders. We understood why we had felt what we had when we walked in. They wanted to talk about my book—they must have misunderstood what it was about—but all I talked about was Jesus being the Son of God, and how he was the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Him. (That’s the benefit of a live interview—if it had been prerecorded they would have just tossed the tape!)

[2a] As for righteous angels, I’ll never forget driving too fast as a teenager, looking down at something that distracted me, and then looking up to see all yellow in front of me. I swerved to the right, bumped along in a field, cut back onto the road and saw in my rear view mirror the school bus that had come to a complete stop in front of me. I knew immediately, the situation was impossible—I simply could not have been that close to the back of a school bus, where all I saw was yellow, going at that speed and not have crashed into it. Yet I didn’t. God had graciously delivered me, and I suspect some day I’ll find an angel or two were involved in the rescue.

[2b] My family stayed with the Shel Arensen family in Kenya back in 1989. Shel grew up attending Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. During our visit, Shel told me a story I’ve heard since, about something that happened there in the 1950’s. Herbert Lockyer wrote of it in his book on angels, and I think it’s in Billy Graham’s book on angels too. Shel’s family was living there at the time. He pointed out to us where the events of that night unfolded.

That particular night during the “Mau Mau rebellion,” the ruthless warriors of the Mau Mau tribe gathered to climb the hill up to the missionary school (RVA) to capture and kill the missionary children and teachers, and fulfill their vows by eating the brains of white men, who they considered their oppressors.

Word got out about this plan, but it was too late to evacuate the school or to get outside protection. Desperate phone calls were made and people around the world were called upon to pray for God’s intervention. The night went on, with teachers and children huddled at RVA, praying and fully expecting to be attacked, and likely killed, any moment.

But nothing happened. The warriors never made it to the school, and no one was harmed.

No one knew the rest of the story until sometime later, when a Mau Mau warrior was in jail, and on trial. At his trial, the leader of Mau Maus, who led that attack, was asked, “On this particular night did you intend to kill the inhabitants [of the missionary school]?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Why didn’t you?”

His answer? “We were on our way to attack and kill them, but as we came closer, suddenly between us and the school there were many men dressed in white, holding flaming swords.” He said he and his warriors were all terrified, and fled down the hill, never to return.

Sure, sometimes God chooses not to answer our desperate prayers exactly as we wish. But how many times has he answered when we haven’t realized he’s moved heaven and earth—and maybe a company of righteous angels—to do it? Had the human warriors not told what they saw, who ever would have known what really happened that night.

Were the gospel titles added when all four gospels were first collected?

Walter Wilson's recent commentary on Matthew refers to the similarities among the titles of the early manuscripts of the gospels (e.g., "The Gospel According To Matthew") and claims that "the inscriptiones [titles] were affixed to all four gospels at a single point during the process of aggregation, that is, when they first began to circulate as a collection, in order to distinguish them from one another." (The Gospel Of Matthew, Vol. 1, Matthew 1-13 [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2022], approximate Kindle location 1208) Earlier, he had written that the title of the gospel of Matthew was "affixed to the document in the early second century CE as a way of both differentiating it from the other gospels and affirming its authenticity as a witness to the apostolic faith." (605) So, Wilson apparently thinks that the titles were applied when "all four gospels" were collected in the early second century.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

The Seed And The Kingdom

"John [the Baptist] was the last of the goodly succession of prophets and righteous men who had faithfully sown the seed of the word of God but had not lived to see the harvest. Then came Jesus, proclaiming the arrival of the divine kingdom which they had foretold. He came as that kingdom in person, the autobasileia, as Origen so finely put it, the very embodiment of the good news which he brought. He is the Sower par excellence; more than that, he is himself the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying, so as to produce an abundance of fruit (John 12:24). It is the privilege of his disciples in all generations to reap the harvest that continues to spring from this good seed." (F.F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles Of John [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1983], 115)

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor….The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 4:34-38, 12:23-24)

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Where should Enfield research go from here?

This is the last of my monthly posts on the Enfield Poltergeist, though I intend to continue posting about the case periodically as circumstances warrant it. There's another Enfield documentary on the way, and I suspect there will be more around the time of the case's fiftieth anniversary in 2027. I expect to post about those. But this marks the end of the monthly posts I've been doing for most of these past six years in which I've been writing so much about Enfield. I want to offer some concluding thoughts here and outline what direction I think future work on Enfield should take.