Showing posts from June, 2004
Companionship and Same Sex Unions

One of the points made by people opposing the blessing of same sex unions by the Christian church comes out of Genesis 2:18. In that verse, God has created Adam, but as has not yet created Eve. In Genesis 2:18, God says: "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." A couple of verses later, God takes the rib of Adam and creates Eve as a suitable helper for him. The Biblical account continues:

The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2:23-24.
Many view these verses as evidence that God created woman for man and thus marriage should be reserved for people of the opposite sex. In this understanding, it is not good that a man should be alone so God created the woman specific…
Groundbreaking Conservative Scholarship?

In an earlier blog, I wrote about why many scholars do not accept that The Acts of the Apostles was written by a companion of Paul—despite the weight of evidence supporting that proposition. I concluded that there were two likely reasons. The first is a desire to avoid the apologist, or perhaps “conservative”, label. The second, and perhaps more weighty motive, is the desire to avoid confining one’s research and theories to well trampled ground.

One thing I learned in my undergraduate studies of political science and history, and just as well in law school, was that there is little glory (or grants, headlines, professorships, speaking engagements, tenure tracks, lecture invitations, published law review articles) in advocating tradition. It is the new take, the new theory, the debunking of conventional wisdom or sacred beliefs, the novel, that impresses. Unfortunately, conservatives can go to the other extreme. Walling ones’ self in with…
The Disciples "Coming Out" Party

I just finished reading an article about my least favorite group of academics, the Jesus Seminar, entitled "The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics: Another Take". In the article, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary makes a note that is too often ignored by most agnostics: the disciples believed that Jesus rose from the dead.

"Most scholars in fact do hold that the disciples believed that Jesus was raised from the dead and that their behavior changed radically as a result. The key question is what caused them to form that belief, including a belief in a doctrine that had no real precedent in Judaism or pagan religion, an immediate, bodily resurrection outside of the time of the judgment at the end."
The disciples' decision to come out in favor of their hope in the risen Jesus is a very interesting (and largely incontrovertible) historical fact. Why would a group of Je…
Till We Have Faces

None of us fully comprehend the depths of depravity into which we have sunk. Paul did, and that is why he referred to himself as the worst of all sinners. Even though he was more in touch with God than most Christians are today, he recognized that he was still far from God. Likewise, Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Christian thinkers ever, stopped writing after a religious experience where he (according to reports) spoke first hand with God. When asked why he stopped writing his great work, he answered: "Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value." A confrontation with God leads one to recognize that their great works are like straw by comparison.

C.S. Lewis wrote similarly in his (in my opinion) great work Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. In the novel, which is a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche, the main heroine of the story spends her entire life writing a book condemning the god…
Why so much skepticism? Acts and the "We Passages"

Despite the significant amount of time I have spent studying the New Testament and interacting with online skeptics, I continue to be impressed by the rigidity of skepticism to the idea that Acts was written by a companion of Paul. In verses 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; and 27:1-28:16, Acts transitions from describing events from the third person perspective ("they") to narrating them in the first person ("we"). Obviously, the author claims that he participated in these events. Many scholars and layreaders recognize this and accept it as evidence that Acts was written by someone who spent some time traveling with Paul. So why does the skepticism persist for so many?

First, some have accepted Vernon Robbin's theory that the we passages are a literary device which were used to describe sea voyages whether or not the author really was present. But this notion has been refuted again and again by cont…
Was Jacob (Matthew 1:16) or Heli (Luke 3:23) the father of Joseph and husband of Mary?

(Category: misunderstood the Hebrew usage)

The answer to this is simple but requires some explanation. Most scholars today agree that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph and Luke gives that of Mary, making Jacob the father of Joseph and Heli the father of Mary.

This is shown by the two narrations of the virgin birth. Matthew 1:18-25 tells the story only from Joseph's perspective, while Luke 1:26-56 is told wholly from Mary's point of view.

A logical question to ask is why Joseph is mentioned in both genealogies? The answer is again simple. Luke follows strict Hebrew tradition in mentioning only males. Therefore, in this case, Mary is designated by her husband's name.

This reasoning is clearly supported by two lines of evidence. In the first, every name in the Greek text of Luke's genealogy, with the one exception of Joseph, is preceded by the definite article (e.g. 'the' He…
Relying on the Experts

Obviously, an appreciation of history, culture and language can give us an understanding for what people of the past were trying to convey when they wrote things down. This is true of Biblical studies.

However, I think that one can rely too heavily on experts. In the homosexuality area, for example, my church is presently involved in such a study put out by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As part of the study, the church has issued an in-depth Biblical review of the verses related to homosexuality. If I were to indiscriminately rely upon the arguments made by these august scholars, I would conclude that the Bible has nothing meaningful to say on the subject, but I find that the conclusions that they draw are not really supported by the known facts. In other words, they have done work in the field which gives some light and meaning to the texts, but their biases (as demonstrated by various points they make and omit) make their conclusions unreliable.

Random Thoughts on the Archaic Nature of Punishment

In response to one of my posts, an anonymous person commented:

"Interestingly, reading this has made me realise that I think punishment is an archaic concept, one that I reject entirely. Henceforth, I recognise that legal systems require consequences in order to operate, but will endeavour to remove the word and concept "punish" from my vocabulary.

- (atheist, whose opinion on the matter is therefore of questionable validity)"

While I am not trying to turn this into a discussion board, I do want to make a couple of comments in return.

First, the poster's closing note that as an atheist, his or her "opinion on the matter is therefore of questionable validity". I want to assure the atheist that his (and from this point forward I will use the male gender as default hoping not to offend) opinion matters. It doesn't mean that it is right, but I love a robust exchange of ideas. Moreover, if I didn't …
A New Look at the Titantic

This is just for fun: Titanic in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.
L.A. Bends in the Culture Wars, Part Tres

June 8, 2004

"If people want to keep the cross, they need to remove the Democrats,"
says CCF

Los Angeles - Faced with an outpouring of public outrage, three Democrats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors rejected the cross and the people today when they re-affirmed their decision to strip the cross from the county seal in order to satisfy the ACLU. Voting to remove the cross on the five-member board were Democrats Gloria Molina, Yvonne Burke and Zev Yaroslavsky. Voting to keep the cross were Republicans Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe.

Today's hearing attracted more than 1,000 supporters of the cross, who gathered inside and outside the supervisors' chamber. In the two-and-a-half hours of public testimony, virtually all the speakers favored keeping the cross. Among them were syndicated talk-radio hosts Dennis Prager and C…
The Uniqueness of the Biblical Manuscripts has a page of quotes which it can be rather interesting to rummage through. One of the quotes is from Sir Frederick Kenyon about the uniqueness of the Biblical manuscripts.

"In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest extant manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament. The books of the New Testament were written in the latter part of the first century; the earliest extant manuscripts (trifling scraps excepted) are of the fourth century - say, from 250 to 300 years later. This may sound a considerable interval, but it is nothing to that which parts most of the great classical authors from their earliest manuscripts.

We believe that we have in all essentials an accurate text of the seven extant plays of Sophocles; yet the earliest substantial manuscript upon which it based was written more than 1400 years after the poet's death. Aeschylus, Aristop…
L.A. bends in the culture wars--Part Deux

From the Thomas More Law Center:

LA County Sued in Federal Court For Removing Cross From Official

ANN ARBOR, MI - The West Coast regional office of the Thomas More Law Center, a national, public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a lawsuit today in federal district court in California, seeking to prevent Los Angeles County officials from removing the cross from the County's official seal. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Mr. Ernesto Vasquez, a County employee, who objects to the removal of the cross because it sends a government-sponsored message of hostility towards Christians in violation of the United States Constitution.

This appears to be a tact similar to what I was suggesting a couple of posts ago. I suspect that the ACLU will argue that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was intended to protect against the endorsement of the religion which is held by a large number of present-day believers, no…
Who's Responsible for Sin?

In my most recent discussions on Christianity with skeptics, I have come across a number of people who acknowledge that while moral crimes, i.e. sin, ought to be punished, God, as our maker, has no right to punish us for the sins that he has left us capable of committing. Let me backtrack.

One of the tactics I use when discussing Christianity with people is one that I learned through Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. In our of his lectures, he talks about speaking to a Jewish prosecutor about the reason that we need to believe in Jesus to be saved. Greg asked (paraphrasing): "Do you believe that people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?" The prosecutor replied "Since I am a prosecutor, yes." Greg responded, "So do I." He then asked, "Have you committed any moral crimes?" The prosecutor then admitted to having done so and Greg again replied, "So have I. Do you know what I call that? Bad news. We have bot…
L.A. County Surrenders to Political Correctness:

Here is a story I picked up from

The hyper do-gooders at the ACLU have successfully pressured the County of Los Angeles into changing its seal:

Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday ended an emotional debate over the symbolism of the tiny gold cross on the county seal by deciding to remove it rather than defend it against a threatened ACLU lawsuit. ...

"Where does it all end?" lamented Supervisor Don Knabe, who said that changing the county seal would be tantamount to "rewriting history" in a region shaped by Catholic missionaries. "I do not think we should capitulate. As the largest county in America, if we roll over, what's next?"

Another CADRE member noted:

"To top things off, the center of the seal has some Roman pagan goddess (about 100 time larger than the cross) on it. However, the ACLU found nothing wrong with promoting pagan worship."

It seems to me that a pot…