Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

The following is an updated version of a Facebook note I wrote in September of 2012.  As this issue is once again hitting the media, I thought it important to republish this:

As I got online today, a trend on Facebook caught my attention:  It was a story of an ancient papyrus known as “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”  I mentally sighed as I thought about having to deal with a new round of Dan Brown style conspiracy theories.  I read the article, knowing I would soon be asked about this find.

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“It is not possible to be intellectually honest and believe in gods.
And it is not possible to believe in gods and be a true scientist.”
-Professor Peter Atkins

The above quote reflects what is the assumption of Western culture:  There is a deep and necessary conflict between science and religion.  To adopt a religious perspective is to cease to be scientific, to be scientific is to abandon religion.  Faith and science, it is assumed, are antonyms.  Like many assumptions of our popular society, this one is widely accepted, often repeated, has an aura of intellectual respectability, and is entirely wrong.

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The question of what the Bible teaches regarding homosexuality is one of tremendous importance and heated dispute in the current era. An increasing number of professing Christians are questioning traditional teaching on this topic, and the culture at large has strongly rejected traditional Christian teaching on it. Nonetheless, it is my contention that this questioning is not based on the biblical text, but is based on cultural predispositions to reject any form of sexual constraint. Among professing Christians the key question must always be “What does the Bible teach?” We are not permitted to disregard Scripture on a cultural whim.

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One of the most vexing questions people ask me is “What is your argument against abortion?” This is vexing not because I don’t have an argument, but because I have several arguments against abortion. I don’t think we’re limited to just one here.

But one argument I’ve thought about is based on Kant’s categorical imperative, namely the formulation of it that states we should only act in a way that we could universally will to become a standard for all other people. That is, if we can’t will that others act in the same way we do in every single case, we should not act this way.

So consider this argument:
1. If we will for one woman to get an abortion, we should will for all women to get abortions.
2. If all women get abortions, we will go extinct.
3. We should not will for our own extinction.
4. Thus, we should not will for all women to get abortions.
5. Thus, we should not will for any woman to get an abortion.

This is really just an extended edition of modus tollens, and we could break the argument into two arguments:
1. If we will all women to get abortions, we will our own extinction.
2. We should not will for our own extinction.
3. Therefore, we should not will for all women to get abortions.

And argument two:
1. No person should be exempted from universal moral laws.
2. It is a universal moral law that abortion is wrong (see the argument above).
3. Therefore, no individual woman should be permitted to get an abortion.

Now some people might object and say “Perhaps abortion is only permissible under Circumstance X, Y, or Z; and we could universally will that any individual under those circumstances get an abortion.” Kant had little room for this type of reasoning, he did not tend to allow exceptions to moral laws based on circumstance.

I am not quite as intense as Kant in that regard. But that’s not the point. Suppose there are circumstances under which abortion should be permitted, there is a vast difference between permitting something and willing it. I may permit my football team to kick a field goal, but I will for them to score touchdowns. It is only in non-ideal circumstances that abortion should even be considered permissible (and I would argue these are relatively few in number). But I still don’t will it, and given any other choice I would likely opt for that.

In the United States, most abortions are not out performed out of medical necessity, and so the arguments presented here would at least eliminate vast numbers of abortions. Additionally, I’m not aware of too many people that want to argue for the extinction of the human race. Hence, they’ll have to attack Kant’s categorical imperative, and it’s a surprisingly defensible rule of thumb.

God bless,

Joey

As someone who has fought for years against recreational dating (As a side, notice how many of my friends have got engaged and married lately? The answer is a heck of a lot), let me say with all the gentle tenderness that I can muster that the author of this article knows nothing. The Greek word for men in his category is something like “dim wit” or “moron.” The Hebrew word might be translated like “fool.”

First, chivalry is not dead. Granted, it is in exile from the cultural mainstream, but it’s not dead.

Second, the author asks “What happened to paying for dinners and drinks? What happened to pulling out chairs and holding doors? What happened to walking on the outside, closest to the street and all that sh*t? Where did we lose the chivalrous touch? When did it become acceptable to just text a girl, inviting her to come bang? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about those instances, I’m just saying, why have we strayed away from what has been established as the norm?”

Any man with a brain functioning at about 10% of average capacity realizes the answer is in the question. What happened to all of those things is PRECISELY that it became “acceptable” in our culture’s eyes to “just text a girl, inviting her to come bang”. What happened is that little boys like John Picciuto stopped complaining about such evils. A culture centers around what it worships, and a materialistic and hedonistic culture is incapable of sustaining any true form of chivalry for any length of time. That, my friends, obviously takes a Christian culture, and the type that we have not had for at least the last 100 years or so.

Finally, “The real problem here is that women, for one reason or another, have become complacent and allowed men to get away with adhering to the bare minimum.”

No sir, the REAL problem here is that you’re a cotton headed ninny muggins. Men lead, and you don’t get men to lead the culture back into chivalry and courtship by denying one of the fundamental truths necessary for chivalry and courtship. You don’t get men to take responsibility by denying that men are actually responsible. You can’t clamor for chivalry and sacrificial responsibility by pinning males failures off on females (which is really irresponsible).

On this fine snowy evening, I have come across Dr. Eric Seibert’s article titled “When the “Good Book” is Bad: Challenging the Bible’s Violent Portrayals of God.”  You can access it and Dr. Owen Strachan’s response to this foolishness via the links at the bottom of this post.

In respectable dialogue, it is characteristic to be friendly, courteous, and generous.  But this is the type of dialogue that takes place in peer-reviewed journals or over a drink at Starbucks.  When someone kicks in my front door and is threatening the welfare of small children, or when a wolf has entered the pasture and is not exactly considering a respectful dialogue with the sheep, our mode of engagement must be different.  We don’t at that moment start making coffee, we cock the Remington.  We land staff blows to the head.  To employ respectable discourse at this stage would be an act of surrender akin to parleying while Sauron’s army stands in the Pelennor Fields (see Douglas Wilson, “A Serrated Edge,” p. 11).

Some well-meaning but strategically challenged Christians will, no doubt, treat this as a tactical battle about how we interpret Scripture.  But this is no tactical battle at all.  It is a strategic one not about how we interpret Scripture (as important as that is), but about what Scripture itself is.  Seibert has left the Evangelical camp and is now lined up with the Philistines.  We Evangelicals take the Bible to be God’s inspired Word, and therefore to be inerrant.  Seibert takes the Bible to be a book that can be judged false by the standards of fallen man.

Of course, I should be thankful that unlike other theological liberals Seibert doesn’t actually pretend to esteem the Bible.  At least he is honest when he says “To put it bluntly: not everything in the “good book” is either good, or good for us” (Emphasis original).  If not everything in the “good book” is good, we can discern quite easily that it’s not exactly the “good book” (Seibert’s quotation marks here a good hint to his view on this as well).  But if the Bible is not the “good book,” what is it?  If it is not the very inspired and inerrant Word of God, what claim can it possibly make to our allegiance and trust?

Certainly Seibert does not look to the Bible as the source of his ethical standards.  In fact, it is the ethical teachings of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, with which Seibert has a problem.  So he does not take it as a valuable source of man’s moral duties.  Nor does he accept it as a source of truth about God’s character, for he says it portrays God in unacceptable ways.  I should certainly like to know the source of Seibert’s revelation about the nature of God.  If he rejects the Bible, which he obviously does, he is left without any standard for learning who God is and what He is like.

One might here say that Seibert doesn’t reject the whole Bible, but only parts of it (as it turns out, all the parts he happens not to like).  But the Bible is not the sort of book we can sever into distinct parts, some of which we accept while others of which we do not.  The claims and teachings of Scripture are an integrated and cohesive whole.  To reject the commands of God in the Old Testament as immoral is to reject the very God of Scripture Himself.  To say God is not able to command a life be taken is to say that God is not God at all, but a weak, ineffective sort of being held in check by a standard above Himself.  And if the commands of the Old Testament are rejected, the very need for a Savior is also rejected.  If God is not the source of morality, if we have not offended our Creator by our sins and disobedience to His commands, then the sending of His Son is an entirely pointless affair.  In short, we can’t reject the Old Testament commands without also rejecting the New Testament Savior.  And once we have done both of those, we have robbed Christianity of its core.

Some might here claim that it is just about believing in Jesus and the moral example He set, not about any other doctrinal baggage.  But  here again, Seibert does not have this road open to him.  If the Old Testament is as bad as Seibert claims, then Jesus was no moral example.  Jesus esteemed the Old Testament in the highest regard, living His entire life in light of its commands and claiming that not one iota would pass from the law and prophets until the end of all things (Matthew 5:17-20, an “iota” is the smallest written letter of the Greek alphabet).  If the Old Testament is immoral and teaches us bad things about God, but Jesus came to fulfill it and taught that it is completely true and the law is good, then Jesus Himself is implicated as a propagator of immorality and falsehood.

It is often said that God made man in His image, and man has been making God in his image ever since.  This is, unfortunately, a basically true statement.  As fallen men, we tend to paint a God who looks just like we do.  Theological liberals often say “Your God seems to hate all the same things you do.”  But the opposite is also true.  It’s funny how Seibert’s god tends to sound a lot like a 21st Century theological liberal.  Historically speaking, it is the conservative view of God that has always challenged the broader culture on issues like homosexuality, gender roles, the ownership and treatment of slaves, etc.  The liberal view of god has always matched the culture perfectly on these things.  The conservative view has been steady and consistent over millennia.  The liberal view varies in accordance with the polls.  Conservatism, by its nature, hasn’t done much in terms of changing its perceptions of and teachings about God.  Liberalism has changed and, by its nature, is always changing what it teaches about god(s).  Liberals are a thermometer that tells us what the cultural temperature is like.  Conservatives are a thermostat that sets the cultural temperature itself.

Ultimately, we must ask ourselves whether the Bible is revealed truth about God.  If we answer yes, our duty is to discern that truth, but never to sit in judgment upon it.  We, by the power of the Spirit, interpret what is said and apply it, but our job stops there.  The finite and limited must not attempt to correct the infinite and unlimited God.  If, however, we answer no, then we are left to despair in our meaningless state.  We will never be able to make sense of things, being ruled only by our own desires, impulses and arbitrary whims.  We will be able to make a god in our own image, but he will be a weak, powerless idol.

My message to Seibert is to repent of his idolatry and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  God abounds in mercy, despite the fact that Seibert argues otherwise.  His blasphemies against the character of God can be forgiven.

My message to my Christian brothers and sisters, perhaps confused and fearful about this whole fracas, is to learn how to better defend your faith.  An excellent book on this topic is Paul Copan’s “Is God a Moral Monster?”.  Additionally, we must always exercise great discernment.  There is no lack of wolves in sheep’s clothing, even at supposedly Christian colleges and even in Biblical studies departments.  Stand firm in your faith by the power of the Spirit, and learn to recognize the strategies and tactics of the enemy for what they are.  Expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).  Grow in the Lord and in the knowledge of the truth.

Sincerely,

Joey

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/02/when-the-good-book-is-bad-challenging-the-bibles-violent-portrayals-of-god/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtlife/2013/02/can-a-messiah-college-ot-professor-really-teach-the-bibles-immoral/

As I got online tonight, an article on my MSN homepage caught my attention:  It was a picture of an ancient papyrus with a caption below it reading “Did Jesus Have a Wife?”  I mentally sighed as I thought about having to deal with a new round of Dan Brown style conspiracy theories.  I read the article, knowing I would soon be asked about this find.

This issue is important for several reasons.  If Jesus had a wife, serious questions are raised about the reliability of the Canonical Gospels, why wouldn’t they mention such a fact?  Why has the dominant tradition throughout chuch history not recognized this marriage?  Would there be something that the church was trying to hide?  If Jesus was married, does this compromise the Christian Gospel?

These are the sorts of questions Jesus being married would raise.  But was Jesus actually married?  It is my position, and I believe this is the historically accurate view, that Jesus was not married.  We need to take these sorts of positions based on evidence, not on wild conspiracy or sensationist reporting.  We will now briefly turn to this evidence.

First, notice that the papyrus itself is from the 4th Century.  This is very important.  As we all know, various false teachings and myths about Christ had begun to arise by the 4th Century.  There was no lack of heretics at this time.  In fact, there was no lack of heretics in the 1st and 2nd Centuries.  So supposing this papyrus is authentic (and based on the information I now have, it does not seem to be a forgery), it is not very early historically speaking.  The Canonical Gospels have manuscript fragments that have been dated to the 1st Century for Mark, and to the early 2nd Century for John.  Now if John was the last Gospel written, and most scholars believe it was, that means it was likely written 95 AD at latest.  The other Gospels date even earlier than this, likely to the 60s AD.  Thus all four of the Canonical Gospels are 1st Century documents, some of which have manuscript fragments from that same century!

In contrast, this new papyrus is from the 4th Century, and Karen King believes it is a copy of a 2nd Century text.  Thus, in terms of when the original works were written and the span of time to the first surviving manuscripts, the Canonical Gospels compare incredibly favorably in historical terms.  We are looking at 1st Century documents with at least one manuscript fragment from that same century and comparing them to (at best) a 2nd Century text with only one small manuscript fragment some 200 years later.  There should be no question on these grounds about which texts offer better historical information about Jesus Christ:  The Canonical Gospels win the historical battle, far and away.

Second, notice that the new papyrus is very small and the information on it incomplete.  That the manuscript reads “‘Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'” really proves nothing historically.  It MAY indicate that some sect beginning in the late 2nd Century proposed Jesus was married, but this is not even much of a new claim (remember what I said about Dan Brown?).  But there’s not very compelling reasons to suppose the text has to be read this way.  Perhaps the full manuscript has Jesus referring to the Church as His wife.  This is not an implausible idea, given that in the New Testament one of the most common terms for the Church is the “Bride” of Christ.  The simple fact is we don’t know what this manuscript actually says when completed.  But even if it postulates that Jesus had a literal wife, why should we believe this one sole, late manuscript over the earlier and better authenticated witness of the Canonical Gospels, of the Pauline Epistles, of Peter, of John, of Jude, of James?  Are we to believe that NONE of these people who were closest to Jesus thought it relevant to mention the fact that Jesus had a wife?  This is especially the case in light of 1 Corinthians 9:5; if Paul knew Jesus had a wife, surely he would add this in the question, since he does add Jesus’ brothers in this question.

Third, the papyrus raises a question about whether Jesus had a woman disciple.  This is quite easy to answer:  Jesus had many women disciples, and the New Testament records as much (such as in Luke 8:1-3).  In the letter of Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan, Pliny writes about interrogating certain female deacons to discover more about Christian beliefs and practices.  The earliest discoveries of the empty tomb following Christ’s crucifixion are, in each Gospel, made by women!  Certainly there is no question about whether Jesus had women disciples.  I think what people really want to know is if Jesus had women apostles (among, or in equal standing with, the 12 Apostles).  We can state, quite quickly, that there were no women among the 12 Apostles.  But women did play a prominent role in the early church.  Whether there were actually women apostles in the New Testament really depends on Romans 16:7, and this current papyrus doesn’t shed any light on that.

In the end, I felt compelled to write this not because of the papyrus itself, but because I’m anticipating what our society will do with this discovery.  Sensationalist reporters, ill-informed skeptics, and questioning seekers will begin wondering of the Church’s view of the historical Jesus remains a legitimate option.  People will make speculations about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene.  People will say the early Gospel writers attempted a cover up, and that the Church has carried on the cover up.  In light of the wild claims that will be forthcoming (despite Karen King’s best efforts to urge caution to the media), we as Christians have to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.  The interest that this papyrus will spark stands as a great opportunity to share the true faith and to show the rich historical resources that Christianity possesses.  I hope this note equips you all to be more faithful witnesses in a culture of doubt.

God bless!

Josiah

PS:  The Article I reference is here:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49075679/ns/technology_and_science-the_new_york_times/