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Showing posts from 2004
More on the Census in Luke 2

Over at Hypotyposeis, Stephen C. Carlson continues his exploration into his alternative reading of Luke 2:2 ("this became a very important registration when Quirinius was governing Syria"). In his latest argument, Carlson focuses on the implications of the context of Luke 2:1-7 on his translation. Therein, he makes a point I had earlier made -- the "decree" of Augustus ("Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth") should not be understood to require a single one-time census. Carlson states:

If full credit is given to the precise and apparently deliberate usage of the present vs. aorist infinitives in this passage, then it looks like the writer is not envisioning that Augustus's decree or decision (δόγμα) has inaugurated a single-census to be conducted all at once but a policy of conducting censuses throughout the whole civilized world, which to a chauvinis…
LDS Tops Google Search for "Jesus Christ"
Some other search engines have different results that are, at heart, the same.

UK blogger Adam Warnock has noted that if you search Google putting in the name "Jesus Christ", the first position is held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, i.e., the Mormon church.

Searching Google for "Jesus Christ" shows the Mormons as top

Wesleyblog wonders wether listings at Google are rigged and asks "how did the Mormons get the top spot?". Well the answer is no the results are not rigged but yes they are very sensitive to links especially those found on blogs.

The mormon site will appear at the top for the search "Jesus Christ" simply because more websites link to that page with the words Jesus Christ in their link. A few sites down is a Campus Crusade site about Jesus from the film. Thus, if you would prefer to see this site as top rather than the mormons simply add a link to the page which is…
Top Religious Events of 2004

The year is about to close and tradition demands that we discuss the top religious stories of 2004. I thought a good place to start would be a USA Today article that discusses the top seven religious stories of 2004. I list them below, noting why USA Today picked it and adding some of my own comments:

1. Conservatives Flex Their Political Muscle

This notes the conservative influence over the 2004 Presidential election, noting that Bush won big among Protestants and Midwestern Catholics, and that Kerry had to watch his step as a Pro-Abortion Catholic candidate.

Good or bad? Good, in my opinion. People should not be criticized for supposedly voting their “values” over their self-interest.

2. Gibson’s The Passion Stirs Passions

Many Christians loved it, some people criticized it as anti-Semitic. Fears were raised that it would increase anti-Semitic acts in the United States. It did not.

Good or bad? I thought it was an excellent film, though not…
A Humerous Review of _The Da Vinci Code_
by Laura Miller at Salon.com

Perhaps because it is such an easy target for debunking, Ms. Miller has quite a bit of fun in this review of _The Da Vinci Code_, and while some of it might be considered over the top, several of her points are quite apt. The fact that it is a clear rip off of _Holy Blood, Holy Grail_, though not unknown, is one that is likely to get considerably more attention, as the authors of the latter seem prepared to take the case to court. But here I would like to offer a few of the gems I found in this review, as it is my hope that anyone reading this book remains open to valid arguments against many of its claims.

"Fortunately, Bart D. Ehrman, who chairs the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has just published "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code" (Oxford University Press), a book-length expansion of his list of 10 errors in Brown's novel, first circu…
Piltdown! Man the Gates
A humorous poem by Tom Graffagnino

Tom Graffagnino, an artist (and it looks from his website like he is a pretty good one) sent us an e-mail with a humorous poem he has written about the struggle by the purveyors of Darwinism to guard the gates of science, entitled "'More Gators in the Moat!' or ('Piltdown! Man the Iv'ry Towers!')". Here is a portion of the poem:

The Supernaturalists are coming!
Egad! By land!...
....By sea and boat!
Piltdown! Man the Iv'ry Towers!
Quick! .....
More 'gators in the moat!


Don't they know our Theory's Fittest!?
How dare they challenge you and me!?
O my Gawd! Can you imagine!?
We shan't allow this Heresy!


Call the Bio-Bishop Council!
Convene the Cardinals from their perch!
Yo! Onward Evo-Soldiers!
We must defend Pope Darwin's Church!


Kids today know how we got here....
It took a while....
But they believe!
Magik Microbe straight to Shakespeare!
What more could "Lucky Mud"…
The Ressurrection of Christ: Historical? Or Hisotry Making?

Prologomina to Resurrection Arguments on Doxa



I. Overview:my position


A. Religious Symbol and Historical Likelihood.

I affirm the literal resurrection of Christ, as I affirm the Nicene creed. Unfortunately, affirming it and proving it are two different things. Many apologists try to use the Resurrection as proof in itself that Jesus was the Son of God. The problem is, the event itself has to be proven, and is of equal dispute to the claims of Christ deity. Thus, I doubt that it makes a great tool for verifying the claims of the faith, since it is itself such a claim. On the other hand, let us ask ourselves, "was the true purpose of the resurrection as a proof of Jesus validity?" I think not. I think the true purpose was not offer modern scientific "courtroom evidence" of the event, but to confirm in a religious way, for insiders, by provision of an important symbol. Tillich says that a symbol participates in…
Tsunamis and Theodicy: Thoughts on the Problem of Evil

As my friend Bede has noted, atheists have wasted no time in attempting to exploit the tragedy of the tens of thousands of deaths resulting from the tsunamis spawned by the 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean. I could not even wish our readers a Merry Christmas without a skeptic raising the subject. Nevertheless, the deaths of up to (or more than) 100,000 human beings as a result of a geological event does raise certain questions. How can we believe in a good God who allows such evil to occur?

The typical response to the question of evil is to argue that God has given humans free will and sometimes they abuse it. Though persuasive regarding evil caused by humans -- such as murder or rape or bitterness -- does it have any relevance for evil caused by nature -- such as earthquakes, floods, or tsunamis? One Christian response has been to link human abuse of his free will to natural evil. Josh McDowell’s comments are representa…
Adult v. Embryonic Stem Cells
There should be a mercy rule in this game

Suppose the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Chicago Cubs in a baseball game, and the score in the game was 56-0. If you were like me, you'd go home. Game over. Nothing left to see here.

Well, according to our friends at Imago Dei, that is the score in the adult v. embryonic stem cell battle to find cures for various diseases.

Speaking of the mainstream media and confusing "potential" and "actual", Newsweek makes this error in their year-end "Periscope" segment:

Stem cells Even Nancy Reagan and Christopher Reeve couldn't budge Bush from limiting life-saving research. Ah-nold to the rescue.

You may think it difficult to make a large error in a one sentence statement, but Newsweek does not let us down. "Life-saving research" implies that human lives are being saved from this research. Yet, as The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics explains, not one human…
A Criticism of my Essay Responding to a Counter-Clockwise Paley
It really isn't much of a criticism

Several months ago, I read an essay by a gentleman who I consider to be a rather articulate defender of atheism, Kyle J. Gerkin. He has written an essay which is available over at the Secular Web entitled "A Counter-Clockwise Paley." I wrote a rather lengthy response (too long, now that I am re-reading it) to his essay which I entitled "Trimming the Wrong Hedge" which can be found on the CADRE site on the Answering Skeptics page.

In "Trimming the Wrong Hedge", I got right to the heart of the defect in Mr. Gerkin's argument: the argument assumes that God had to be a created being. I said:

While I believe he too easily dismisses the two objections, Gerkin completely overlooks a third possibility, to wit, that the intelligence may not be “the product of” anything. The intelligence that could be in existence may have been the “uncaused cause” or “uncrea…
Is the ACLU Increasing Giving to Religious Organizations?
Is it response to attacks on religion in the public square?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an editorial entitled "Whence Came The U.S. Tradition To Give and Give?" in which it discussed the historic generosity of the American people in the form of charitable giving. Daniel Henninger, the author, notes that "[o]rganized American giving--philanthropy and charity--is almost wholly salvific. When we donate money (several hundred billion dollars annually), as individuals or institutions, we strive to ensure that someone gets uplifted."

In an on-line essay by Christopher Price entitled "Pagans, Christianity and Charity", he makes a great case that the charitable giving is the natural result of our common Christian heritage. It points out very nicely that the pagan world was not interested in charitable giving, and it was historically the result of Christian charity that has led us to be interesteded …
Merry Christmas from Layman

I have been defending the nativity narrative of Luke for a few days now. But today I'll refer to a passage from Matthew that I think nicely captures the significance of the incarnation and the reason we should celebrate this day with joy:

"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." -Matthew 1:23.


Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas

I cannot speak for the other bloggers, but I will be off-line to spend time with my family for the next few days. I hope to blog again early next week. In the meantime, may the love and joy of our risen Savior's birth warm you this Christmas.
Pool of Siloam located
It doesn't prove Jesus actually cured the blind there, but . . . .

From the Herald Sun comes an article entitled "Miracle Pool Identified" which reports that the Pool of Siloam has been identified.

Archeologists in Jerusalem have identified the remains of the biblical Siloam Pool, where the Bible says Jesus miraculously cured a man's blindness.

The archeologists are slowly digging out the pool, where water still runs, tucked away in what is now the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan. It was used by Jews for ritual immersions for about 120 years until the year 70, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple.

* * *

In the past four months, archeologists have revealed the pool's 50-metre length and a channel that brought water from the Silwan spring to the pool.

The miracle of Jesus that takes place at the Pool of Siloam is described in John 9:1-11.

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, …
Owner of "James Ossuary" to be Indicted for Fraud

Oded Golan, the man who owns the Ossuary bearing an inscription "James, the Brother of Jesus," will be indicted by the Israeli Government for fraud in connection with the Ossuary and several other artifacts. Six other people will be charged in the case as well.

The Ossuary made a big splash when several scholars and anqituities experts concluded that it was authentic and therefore the most important archeological find related to the New Testament. The Israeli Antiquities Authority thereafter concluded that the inscription was a fake. Lines were drawn in the sand and, as far as I know, some experts still support authenticity and the IAA is still maintaining that it is a fraud. No word on whether the indictment will change any minds.

Golan maintains his innocence.
Another Alternative Translation of Luke 2:2

On his blog today, Stephen C. Carlson states his disagreement with the translation of Luke 2:2, favored by Nigel Turner and N.T. Wright (among others) which has Luke referring to a census "before" the one under Quirinius. I recently posted about this translation and on the likelihood that there could have been an earlier census. Nevertheless, Carlson agrees that the more common translation, "first registration, taken when Quirinius was Governor," is problematic. He agrees that the entire passage is -- as he puts it -- "exegetically challenging." As a result, Carlson would translate Luke 2:2 to state:

This registration became most prominent when Quirinius was governing Syria.

or

This [decree to get registered] became the/a most important registration when Quirinius was governing Syria.
So, Carlson has Luke writing about the registration process begun by Augustus, but continuing over the years until the more wel…
Have Archeologists Found the Site of Jesus' First Miracle?

According to the AP, archeologists digging at modern day Cana in Israel have "found pieces of large stone jars of the type the Gospel says Jesus used when he turned water into wine at a Jewish wedding in the Galilee village of Cana." They have determined that the shards date from the Roman period when Jesus was ministering in Galilee.

The miracle story is found at John 2:1-11. Defending the significance of the find from more skeptical colleagues, Israeli archeologist Yardena Alexander notes that the diamter of the jars (12-16 inches in diamater) are similar to those described in the Gospel of John: "Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each." 2:6.

Alexander, whose find competes with an American execavation also claimed to be the site of cana, points to other indications that this was the Biblical Cana:

Other evide…
Religious Doctors Helping Patients Feel Better

As it turns out, most doctors are quite religious. A news article titled, "Science or Miracle?; Holiday Season Survey Reveals Physicians' Views of Faith, Prayer and Miracles" reports on a survey of more than 1,100 U.S. doctors. The survey found that U.S. doctors overwhelmingly believe in miracles, pray for their patients, and think religious is a valuable and necessary guide to life.

Some of the highlights:

-72% believe that religion provides a reliable and necessary guide to life.

-74% of doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 73% believe that can occur today.

-58% attend worship services at least one time per month.

-55% believe that medical practice should be guided by religious teaching.

-55% said that they have seen treatment results in their patients that they would consider miraculous.

-59% pray for individual patients.

And what are doctors proscribing in addition to medicine?

-67% encourage th…
My Amazon Review of Earl Doherty's The Jesus Myth

I've been meaning to write a lengthier review of The Jesus Puzzle for some time, and I have penned several lengthy articles about specific shortcomings in his theories (here, here, here, and here). But I finally bit the bullet and wrote a shorter review for Amazon.com, here.

If you like it, please give it a helpful vote. If you hate it, give it an unhelpful vote and tell me why with a Comment. If you are not sure, ask any questions or make any comments here as well.

Here it is in full:

Clever, Expansive, and Unconvincing (& check those endnotes), December 21, 2004

Though dead among scholarly circles - even among moderate and liberal ones - the idea that Jesus never existed has visceral appeal to many with negative attitudes towards Christianity. Though not a serious academic work (it's published by the "Canadian Humanist Publications", whose bias is obvious and shared by the author), this book distinguish…
Random Designer
A new look at God's interaction with Nature

Recently, I wrote a short essay which arose out of an article in the Wall Street Journal concerning Prof. Colling. Since that time, he and I have opened up a dialogue, and I wanted to express my appreciation for the tone of the dialog we have been having. I (in case you haven't noticed) am a strong supporter of I.D. As such, I was critical of his comments on the issue in the Wall Street Journal story. I have now learned that Prof. Colling has a book that he has just released, and I am looking forward to picking up a copy after Christmas (I put it on my Christmas list, so I don't want to buy it only to get it as a present, too). In the meantime, I wanted to pass along the website for his book to our readers in the even it is of interest to you, too.

At least as of this moment, I am not endorsing the ideas of the book (not yet having read it), but his e-mails to me have encouraged me that our differences may not be t…
Could There Have Been An Earlier Census? -- Further Thoughts on Luke's Nativity

Even if Luke is properly translated to refer to a registration which occurred before the famous one under Quirinius, it is argued that it is impossible that there was any census in Judea prior to the one under Quirinius. This is mostly an argument from silence based on the fact that -- other than Luke's reference -- there are no direct mentions of any such census. Since arguments from silence are problematic, especially when -- as here -- our records and history are incomplete, critics attempt to bolster this argument by arguing that there were no census' in client-kingdoms under Roman rule. That is, though under the control of Rome, Rome let a local king run the province. At the time of Jesus’ birth, that king was King Herod. However, there are at least two responses to this argument. First that Herod conducted his own system and second that Rome ordered such a census be conducted. I wil…
I Don't Get the Praise for Thomas Paine
Beyond authoring Common Sense, what did he do?

It never fails. Whenever a discussion comes up about the faith of the founders of the country (the "Founding Fathers"), someone will point to that most famous of phantoms, common knowledge, to say that they were largely deists. Almost certainly, they will support that proposition by citing four things: 1) Thomas Jefferson's rather interesting views on religion, 2) James Madison's anti-Christian prattlings, 3) Benjamin Franklin's view and 4) Thomas Paine. Much can be said about each of these gentlemen and what they had to say, but I want to focus for a moment on Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine, in his later years, wrote much which attacked Christianity or promoted his atheistic/deistic views. You can find links to much of his material on the Internet Infidels website's Thomas Paine page. But it wasn't for these materials he was considered a founding father.

What exactly d…