Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

by Michael J. Kruger

 

1. “The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess
2. “Apocryphal Writings Are All Written in the Second Century or Later
3.“The New Testament Books Are Unique Because They Are Apostolic Books
4.”Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture
5.“The Four Gospels are Well Established by the End of the Second Century
6.“At the End of the Second Century, the Muratorian Fragment lists 22 of Our 27 NT Books
7.“Early Christians Often Used Non-Canonical Writings
8.“The NT Canon Was Not Decided at Nicea—Nor Any Other Church Council
9. “Christians Did Disagree about the Canonicity of Some NT Books
10. “Early Christians Believed that Canonical Books Were Self-Authenticating

 

HT:ReformationTHeology

Jesus is alive and well

Posted: July 1, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics, Biblical Theology, Christianity, Discipleship

Today Jesus is alive and well, seated on a throne at the right hand of God the Father being worshiped as God by angels and departed saints.

Today Jesus alone rules and reigns in exalted glory as Lord over man and beast, male and female, gays and straights, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, simple and wise, powerful and powerless, Republicans and Democrats, married and single, chaste and unchaste, modern and postmodern, Christians and non-Christians, angels and demons, the living and the dead, every religion, every spirituality, every philosophy, every thought, every word, every deed, every dollar, and every inch of creation, which he claims as his possession under his throne that is over all.

Mark Driscoll & Gary Brashears, “Vintage Jesus

Ht : ofi

A post by Scott Oliphint on a Reformed theology of persuasion in apologetics
the problem in the medieval view was that the effects of sin on our minds was not adequately taken into account. What, for example, does it mean that the mind set on the flesh cannot submit to the law of God (Rom. 8:7)? What does it mean that the natural man is not able to understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14f.)?  Does this only imply that those outside of Christ cannot understand or submit to the gospel? Surely it means that. But can those who are dead in trespasses and sins understand anything properly about a world that is created and sustained by God, and in which God is continually revealing himself through his own creation?
For this reason (among others), during the time of the Reformation, there was a radical shift in emphasis, from the medieval focus on the power of reason as a foundation of knowledge, to a central and foundational focus on the power and necessity of Scripture. This focus was the result, in part, of the biblical teaching of sin’s power. Depravity was not simply a problem of the will, such that we did not want to choose properly (though that is true); it was a problem of the intellect as well, such that we sinfully reject that which we know. Because of sin’s effect on the mind, there was no way that reason could provide a needed epistemological foundation for knowing and believing.
Thus, a central aspect to “re-forming” theology in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries included a renewed focus on Scripture as our only foundation for knowing, believing, and for reasoning properly. In a discussion of the difference in prolegomena (doctrine of revelation) between medieval theology and the Reformers, Richard Muller notes: “This view of the problem of knowledge [during the Reformation] is the single most important contribution of the early Reformed writers to the theological prolegomena of orthodox Protestantism. Indeed, it is the doctrinal issue that most forcibly presses the Protestant scholastics toward the modification of the medieval models for theological prolegomena.” The “modification” that was set forth by the Reformers, against the medieval view, included the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

read the whole piece here

I ran into an old friend from my college days at a conference several years ago.  When I asked him how his new campus ministry was going, this was his response.  “Iain, pray for us.  We’re dealing with a real enemy of the Gospel on our campus.”  Who was he talking about?  He was talking about Bart Ehrman, the distinguished professor of religion at UNC Chapel Hill.  At the time I thought, “is it really fair to call an academic honestly teaching what he believes to be true an enemy of the Gospel?”  However, after reading up on it a bit more over the years, I’m not so sure Ehrman is simply an academic honestly putting forth his views.  Rather, as I read Ehrman I experience someone with a very strongly held agenda who puts that agenda forth as if it were the only possible conclusion a rational human being could make.  Ehrman consistently concludes that orthodox Christianity is an invention of the later church.  However, in putting this view forth, Ehrman is habitually misleading in his depiction of the scholarly world.

In many of his books, Jesus Interrupted, Misquoting Jesus, etc, Ehrman makes many claims that undermine the historical understanding of Christianity.  He claims that the bible is fraught with contradictions that destroy its credibility for any type of orthodox Christian faith.  According to Ehrman, the doctrine of Jesus divinity was created by the later church, but is absent from Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospel accounts.  He asserts that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion are woefully irreconcilable, such that all we can really be certain of is that Jesus was crucified.  He holds forth the idea that New Testament authors were liars masquerading as apostolic writers.  Morover, Ehrman claims that there are dozens of other texts that never made it into the corpus of Scripture, because they didn’t pass one party’s view of early Christianity.  Rather, according to Bart, early Christianity held to an irreconcilable diversity in its claims about who Jesus was.  Of great certainty, according to Bart, is that neither Jesus nor his first followers claimed that he was divine, but rather this doctrine was invented by the church a generation after anyone had ever heard the voice of Jesus of Nazareth in person.  More than that, Ehrman makes the assertion that all real biblical scholars have known all of this for some time.

Ehrman’s views, of course, are fairly commonly held today by scholars and lay people alike.  Furthermore, many of the issues Ehrman takes up in the New Testament need to be dealt with, rather than being simply brushed away as many believers do.  However, Ehrman habitually talks about these issues as if his position is the only conclusion intellectually honest and rational people can come to.

For example, Ehrman calls the authors of the New Testament ‘liars.’  According to Ehrman, “Most scholars will tell you that whereas seven of the 13 letters that go under Paul’s name are his, the other six are not. Their authors merely claimed to be Paul.”  These writings are called pseudipigraphic, a term that Ehrman defines as “writing that is inscribed with a lie.”

At it’s best these claims are mere sensationalism.  As Ehrman well knows, the term pseudipigrapha refers to texts that are attributed to an author who didn’t actually write them.  For example, the most ancient documents of the book of Hebrews have no signature.  Older manuscripts attribute the work to Paul.  As Ehrman well knows, pseudipigraphic writing was common in the ancient world.  Authors often attributed their works to famous people to lend credence to their message.  Ehrman claims, however, that the motivation for these pseudipgiraphic writers was to deceive their audience.  (Ironically, this is indisputably the case for many of those works Ehrman claims were unfairly excluded from the New Testament Canon such as the Gospel of Thomas, The Acts of Peter, etc.).

Moreover, Ehrman’s claim that “most scholars” reject six of Paul’s thirteen letters is misleading.  It would be more accurate to say that there are six Pauline letters whose authenticity is questioned in the scholarly community.  This does not mean that most scholars question each of those six.  For example, the scholarly community is fairly equally divided over whether 2 Thessalonians is genuine or not.  In every case, there are well-respected scholars who uphold the authenticity of each of the Pauline Epistles.  The picture that Ehrman paints of a unified scholarly consensus is overly simplistic to the point of being disingenuous.

You see, it is not necessarily Ehrman’s claim that is misleading, but how he articulates it.  From reading Ehrman, you get the picture that only the most knuckle dragging of Neanderthals could possibly disagree with him.  “But scholars everywhere,” he writes, “except for our friends among the fundamentalists — will tell you that there is no way on God’s green earth that Peter wrote the book.”[1]  Elsewhere, he says, “Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors.”(emphasis added)  What Ehrman fails to acknowledge in these ad hominem attacks is the amount of credible scholarship there is that disagrees with his own radical views.  In fact, Ehrman is a distinct minority in his own academic field of textual criticism, the study that seeks to recreate original ancient documents based on the surviving documents.  The vast majority of textual critics do not uphold Ehrman’s conspiracy theories that the New Testament was fabricated by the early church, but rather tend to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence in favor of the New Testament’s veracity.(For example, see Ehrman’s own mentor, Bruce Metzger.)

Is Ehrman, then, “an enemy of the Gospel?”  I don’t know.  What does seem clear is that Ehrman has an agenda to undermine biblical faith that he feels passionate enough about not to present the full story for critical minds to examine.  This agenda pops its head up consistently in his popular writings, teaching, and speaking engagements.  Of course, orthodox believers who uphold the truth of the Scriptures aren’t completely innocent of the same faults.  We often present only those facts that uphold our side of the story.  In more extreme camps of fundamentalism, the valid issues Ehrman brings up are dismissed as fringe elements rather than being respectfully discussed and debated.  The irony is that in his efforts to combat fundamentalism, Ehrman uses the exact same tactics dismissing valid scholarship that questions his own position.

For further reading, Ben Witherington has provided a more scholarly review of one of Ehrman’s books here.


[1] Of course, the questions surrounding Petrine authorship of 2 Peter are much more universal than with the questioned Pauline letters.  However, what Ehrman doesn’t relate is that the first epistle bearing Peter’s name itself contains the signature of the scribe Silvanus, leading some scholars to conclude that Peter dictated the letter to an amanuensis.

A good read with helpful links to some other posts on the bible. Here is the ending:

In the end, the New Testament canon exists because of an early Christian belief that the apostles spoke for Christ.  That belief led Christians to value apostolic books.  And those apostolic books eventually formed the New Testament that we know today.

http://michaeljkruger.com/ten-basic-facts-about-the-nt-canon-that-every-christian-should-memorize-3-the-new-testament-books-are-unique-because-they-are-apostolic-books/

“The doctrine of Redemption is one of the most important doctrines of the system of faith. A mistake on this point will inevitably lead to a mistake through the entire system of our belief. (more…)

The One hanged on a tree

Posted: June 14, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics, Christianity, Uncategorized

A portion of a sermon preached by Melito Bishop of Sardis around 180 ad

And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled!
He who hung the earth in place is hanged.
He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.
He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree.
The Sovereign is insulted.
God is murdered.
The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand.
This is the One who made the heavens and the earth,
and formed mankind in the beginning,
The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets,
The One enfleshed in a virgin,
The One hanged on a tree,
The One buried in the earth,
The One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven,
The One sitting at the right hand of the Father,
The One having all authority to judge and save,
Through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time.
This One is “the Alpha and the Omega,”
This One is “the beginning and the end”
—the beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible.
This One is the Christ.
This One is the King.
This One is Jesus.
This One is the Leader.
This One is the Lord.
This One is the One who rose from the dead.
This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father.
He bears the Father and is borne by the Father.
“To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.”

Melito Bishop of Sardis, translated and quoted by James White in his book “The Forgotten Trinity”

(HT:AOMIN)

I read this some time ago and thought it was great.  I meant to bring it to your attention, and then Steph and I had a baby and I forgot.  Sounds reasonable enough right?  So, below is an excerpt from Iain’s excellent article.  I hope you’ll click through and read the whole thing.


Saint Anthony apparently lost his keys at one point in time.  He prayed and the Lord revealed to him where they were.  Saint Joseph had trouble selling their house in Nazareth until he stood on his head in his front yard and it sold automatically.  Today, if you lose your keys or can’t sell your house, there is a saint whom you can invoke to solve your dilemma.  Never mind that the powers these saints have incurred have little or nothing to do with their actual history!  In much the same fashion, one of my favorite saints (I’m using the term now in a Protestant sense) is often invoked quite inappropriately.  It’s ironic that one of the sharpest Christian minds of the 20th Century is so often evoked to justify fuzzy theological, biblical or moral thinking.  I’m speaking of C.S. Lewis.

When Lewis was 16 years old, he came under the tutelage of W.T. Kirkpatrick, or ‘The Great Knock’ as he was affectionately known.  Lewis tells of his first acquaintance with The Great Knock.  After a long train ride, Lewis commented that the countryside was not as rugged as he had expected it.  The Great Knock immediately began to question him on what he considered ‘rugged’ and what rational grounding he had for expecting the countryside to be more rugged here than elsewhere.  For three years, Lewis’ mind was shaped under this unflagging rationalist.  It is no surprise that the man’s mind was razor-sharp when it came to logical thinking.  Even still, I have heard Lewis quoted to justify lax thinking in terms of redemption, hell, the authority of the Scriptures, and any number of indispensable Christian doctrines!  I think Lewis himself would be aghast at how frequently his fans invoke his name to dismiss intense theological reasoning.

click here to read the whole thing

Who is this Jesus?

Posted: December 20, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics, Christianity

“And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled!
He who hung the earth in place is hanged.
He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.
He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree.
The Sovereign is insulted.
God is murdered.
The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand.
This is the One who made the heavens and the earth, and formed mankind in the beginning,
The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets,
The One enfleshed in a virgin,
The One hanged on a tree,
The One buried in the earth,
The One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven,
The One sitting at the right hand of the Father,
The One having all authority to judge and save,
Through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time.
This One is “the Alpha and the Omega,”
This One is “the beginning and the end”
The beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible.
This One is the Christ.
This One is the King.
This One is Jesus.
This One is the Leader.
This One is the Lord.
This One is the One who rose from the dead.
This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father.
He bears the Father and is borne by the Father.
“To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.”

-Melito of Sarvis, ( translated by Dr. James White in his book,”The Forgotten Trinity”

Election is best understood in hindsight

Posted: November 15, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics, Christian Theology, Christianity

Bible teacher Donald Grey Barnhouse often used an illustration to help people make sense of election. He asked them to imagine a cross like the one on which Jesus died, only so large that it had a door in it. Over the door were these words from Revelation: ‘Whosoever will may come.’ These words represent the free and universal offer of the gospel. By God’s grace, the message of salvation is for everyone. Every man, woman and child who will come to the cross is invited to believe in Jesus Christ and enter eternal life. One the other side of the door a happy surprise awaits the one who believes and enters. For from the inside, anyone glancing back can see these words from Ephesians written above the door: ‘Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.’ Election is best understood in hindsight, for it is only after coming to Christ that one can know whether one has been chosen in Christ. Those who make a decision for Christ find that God made a decision for them in eternity past.   – Phil Ryken

A friend from Charleston has begun an interesting new community to discuss pressing issues regarding acknowledged or unacknowledged approaches to reality.  Check out there website by following the links below.

Marginal Conversations (MC) is a community building group that encourages reflection about our working theories about reality through conversations in community. MC cultivates continuing conversations at  “third places” , or informal meeting places outside of home and work where people spend much of their spare time and form close community ties. Examples of third places include coffee shops, pubs, smoking shops, places of worship and community centers. Third place regulars can participate in continuing conversations with each other that grow in depth over time (thus the “conversations” in “Marginal Conversations”). But what are “marginal” conversations, and how can they build community?

Think of the margins of a page in a book. When we read a page of text, we’re paying attention to the words, not the blank margins surrounding the text. The margins don’t get a lot of attention, but it would be difficult to read if the margins weren’t keeping the text in alignment. The text is justified against the margins in a way that gives it order and makes it readable. Everybody has a working picture or theory of how the world works that serves as their “text.” The “margins” in our lives are the assumptions that frame our theories and hold them up. Just as we don’t pay attention to the margins of the page when we’re reading the text, we rarely pay attention to our background assumptions about how the world works as we rely on them to interpret our experience. We look through our marginal theories at the world.

Go on over and pay them a visit here


One of the big battles facing the future of Christianity in the West is presenting a Gospel message that meets the harsh and legitimate critiques of a culture that has grown up in a shallow, and if we’re honest, a stupid evangelicalism.  Tim Keller, particularly in the video below, is a helpful model for how Christians can compassionately and intelligently bear witness to the Gospel in our current context.  The whole video (at 94 min!) is worth your time.  It is certainly of more benefit than the latest Desperate Housewives!

The conclusion to L. Goppelt’s examination of the Gospel writers eschaton from

” Theology of the New Testament” [2 vols; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981-82] 2.305

” The Gospel of John emphasized more emphatically than any other document of the New Testament that in Jesus’ ministry the eschaton was present; whoever believed has already passed from death to life! Whoever did not believe was already condemned! This apologetic antithesis did not aim at a perfectionistic decision, but at the faith that found in Jesus everything that was called the salvation of God: ‘ I am the way, the truth, and the life’ Jn 14.6″

This topic is of particular interest to me as more and more of the people at Trinity begin to pick up serious works of theology and report back the tremendous blessing that their theological studies have brought them.  In the words of one person, “Studying theology helps me know God better and I find the better I know him the more I love him.”

Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you in this last book. They all say `the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion’. I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means ‘the science of God,’ and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?

In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, `I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal !’

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion-all about feeling God in nature, and so on-is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Macmillan 1977) pg 135-135

Christian morality without Christian faith

Posted: May 18, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics, Uncategorized

Nietzsche scorned those who said God is dead, then went on living exactly as the same as before. One such person was George Eliot who wrote, ” God is ‘inconceivable’ and immorality unbelievable, but duty is nonetheless ‘ peremptory and absolute’. Nietzsche thought it absurd to have Christian morality without Christian faith.

” They are rid of the Christian God and now they believe all the more firmly that they must cling to the Christian morality… When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet.”

F. Nietzsche ” Twilight of Idols”