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Showing posts from December, 2005

Earl Doherty's Failure to Explain Jesus' Second Coming in Hebrews

I have noticed an up-tick in Earl Doherty admiration on the blogs. So, I decided to bring some of the points I made in my articles on the Jesus Myth to the pages of Cadre Comments.

In this post, I examine a passage in Hebrews that proves troublesome to Doherty's theory that the early Christians did not believe that Jesus existed on earth. Hebrews 9:27-28 refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ to earth. Obviously, a description of an upcoming earthly visitation as a second one clearly requires that Jesus had previously come to earth. Here is the NASV translation of the passage at issue:

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
As discussed more fully below, every other translation refers to Christ appearing a “second” time or “again.” So how does Doherty deal with this c…

Layman's 2005 Favorites

Here are my favorite things from 2005. Most of them were produced or released in 2005, but some are things that only came to my attention this year.

Favorite Biblical Studies Books

1 & 2 Corinthians, by Craig S. Keener

One of the first books of the New Cambridge Bible Commentary series edited by Ben Witherington. Keener writes clearly and even simply without sacrificing analysis or interesting asides. One of my favorite commentaries on the Corinthian correspondence.

Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, by E. Randolph Richards

A fantastic exploration of letter-writing practices during Paul’s time and Paul’s practices in particular. Richards describes the materials involved in drafting letters, how ancient letter writers used sources, the procedure of letter writing, the time involved, the use of secretaries, the detection of interpolations, the use of letter carriers, and the distances and means of travel of those carriers. Richards then draws out the practical effect of this kn…

An intelligently designed letter to the editor

Today's Albuquerque Journal published five letters in response to a poorly reasoned editorial entitled ID UNMASKED for What It is— Religion" by Eric C. Toolson, UNM biology professor. The original editorial demonstrated that Prof. Toolson had not read any actual Intelligent Design writings but only the work of people who mischaracterize it when he said, "Intelligent design's adherents start with the assumption that the Bible accurately describes Nature as created by God, and base their entire intellectual construct on that assumption." Nothing could be further from the truth as any reading of the actual writing of ID theoriests such as Michael Behe (not "Hans Behe" as Professor Toolson errantly identifies him -- adding more fuel to the idea that Prof. Toolson hasn't read anything by somehow who actually supports ID) and William Dembski.

Prof. Toolson also states, "Darwin's theory (which deals with how evolution occurs, not whether it occur…

Dover and Out?

I have not commented on the Dover decision because I have not yet had a chance to read it in its entirety. However, I think that Paul Nelson at ID the Future has written a very interesting piece which seems to be in agreement with my some of my preliminary feelings of what happened in the Dover case entitled La Vie Continue, and Somewhere Cicero is smiling -- Reflections on the Kitzmiller v. Dover Decision. I think that Mr. Nelson makes a very interesting point in the essay about the nature of the controversy.

One can readily find similar reactions in the wake of the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision from the Supreme Court. As I commented previously, Stephen Gould said "What else can they do?...It's all over."

But of course it wasn't all over -- see the headlines in your local paper and on the web today, 18 years after Edwards v. Aguillard and 23 after McLean v. Arkansas -- because the debate at hand is not, at bottom, a legal matter. Sure, the federal courts (at al…

Hell, Ghandi, missing the mark and sloppy thinking

In a recent post by Apologia Christi (which was cross-blogged on his own excellent site Apologia Christi), AC made the point that the Christian teaching is that God does not consign people to hell for simply failing to have the right belief system. Your eternal destination is, as Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason so aptly stated, not based on a cosmic pop quiz where if you get the answer wrong you go to hell. I want to spell out my own way of looking at the issue, and point out where people often go wrong.

Christian belief on whether we deserve to go to hell is summed up in Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So, taking Jesus out of the picture for a moment the question is: who is going to hell? The answer is everyone. Why? Because we have sinned -- every single one of us without exception. But what about Gandhi? Wasn't he a really good person? I'm not old enough to have known Gandhi personally, but everything I read suggests that he was…

Teaching my Sons about Jesus

For a humorous episode in the family life of Layman, read my wife's post about how "succesful" we have been in imparting our values to our children.

And then check out the rest of her blog. It is humorous and endearing. A great place to lighten the heart during the day.

Saturnalia: The precursor to Christmas?

Recently, I wrote an essay entitled that discussed the research of Associate Professor of History, William Tighe, of Muhlenberg College which he published in an essay entitled "Calculating Christmas". This essay raised a flood of responses that I have seen both privately and on other webpages. The general tone of the objection was as voiced in a comment to my initial post by Ian Thorpe who said, "In fact the Roman midwinter festival, starting on December 17 and going on for up to two weeks, was called SAturnalia."

While it is certainly true that Saturnalia was celebrated by the Romans at least as early as the First Century A.D. (or C.E., for those of you versed in the new, more politically correct method of describing A.D.), the fact that an ancient Roman festival existed at about the same time as the later Christmas holiday does not mean that the latter is based on the former.

First, the real question that needs to be asked is whether the Christians who arrived at…

"The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state." - Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has given this nation a Christmas present during this Holiday season. In a decision affirming a district court's ruling, the Sixth Circuit upheld Mercer County's right to display in a court house the Ten Commandments along with the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and the National Motto ("In God We Trust"). This is hardly earth-shaking stuff because the law clearly allows for such displays, especially when the Ten Commandments are displayed with other important cultural/legal influences on American history.

What was refreshing about the opinion was the Court's response to the American Civil Liberties Union's repeated incantions of the "wall of separation" in their legal briefs and oral argument. No paraphrase is necessary:

The ACLU makes repeated references to "the separation of church and state." This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Am…

New Article Demonstrating that Paul Knew of Jesus' Suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane

I just finished and added to the Christian Cadre site a new article related to Paul's knowledge of the historical Jesus: Paul's Knowledge of the Garden of Gethsemane Narrative.

From the conclusion:

The evidence that Paul and Mark's narrative of the Garden of Gethsemane are referring to the same event is strong. Both authors are referring to an older, preexisting tradition. The distinctiveness of the phrase, "Abba Father" is so unique that its usage by Paul and Mark is almost certainly not a coincidence. That Paul's reference to the phrase has Jesus’ own crying out to God in mind as its origin is reinforced by the context in which he employs the phrase. The very ability to cry out "Abba Father" is a sign of becoming an adoptive Son of God as Jesus was the Son of God. Not only that, but it is the very Spirit of Jesus that enables us to cry out to God on such a familiar level. The earthly location of Jesus' use of "Abba Father" is atte…

Good reviews of a bad Jesus Myth film

I earlier wrote about the inept Jesus Myth film The God Who Wasn't There in an essay entitled "Reefer Madness and a new Jesus Myth film", where I pointed out that the film's producer, Brian Flemming, was apparently not using a standard version of the Bible in his effort to prove that Paul didn't think that Jesus had ever been on earth. Not surprisingly, I am not alone in my disapproval of the film. Check out these reviews:

Ethics Daily, "MOVIE REVIEW -- 'The God Who Wasn’t There':

Which is worse: willful misrepresentation or incredibly sloppy research? Either way, it’s hard to attach much credibility to the filmmaker, even if he makes a few valid points along the way. Swapping reliability for entertainment has never been and never will be a path to greater illumination … even if you, like Flemming, question the very nature of what lies on the other side.
J.P. Holding's Tectonics, "Great Expectorations -- Or, The Apostate Who Wasn't All Ther…

The Relevance of C.S. Lewis

Has cultural change, especially the emergence of post-modernism, reduced the relevance and usefulness of C.S. Lewis’s work and example? What is the secret of Lewis’s enduring popularity and why is he relevant today? Philip Vander Elst, author of C.S. Lewis: Thinker of our Time, recently lectured on the importance C.S. Lewis brings to the table when critiquing what some might call the "post-Christian" or ever-growing secular culture. Jack, as Lewis liked to be called, not only offered strong apologetic arguments through propositional truth; he also communicated and engaged the imagination through story and infatuation. This diversity and incredible talent translates exceptionally well to a culture of skeptics and cynics for the increase in skepticism brings about a surge in atheists and wondering "spiritual seekers," which can ultimately only be quenched with the Truth, Christianity.

Philip Vander Elst begins his opening remarks by saying, "It is difficult to ex…

Narnian Apologetics

C.S. Lewis was a master apologist. Good apologists recognize that often their task is simply to extend plausibility structures rather than entirely prove their case.

A plausibility structure is the set of ideas of that a person is willing to entertain as possibly true. It is largely a function of the beliefs a person already has.

Lewis demonstrates how to do this in his dialog between the Professor, Susan and Peter in his blockbuster book (now turned movie), The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

I describe the entire dialog in my blog post called Narnian Apologetics.

What I like so much about this conversation is how the Professor, in a gentle but skillful manner, stretches the plausibility structures of Peter and Susan. He does it using the Columbo tactic of asking good questions.

It is an excellent example of conversational apologetics. Who said The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a children's book anyway?

Unjustified Skepticism

The roots of skepticism are well known. Arising from the common Neo-Platonism of the early church (with the allegorical interpretation of Alexandria, Egypt) and moving through the Renaissance and on through the Enlightenment, skepticism began to foster and grow. The emergence and growth of radical biblical skepticism is simply untenable, especially when it comes to historiography as a whole. Its roots are based more in radical empiricism then honest historical investigations. Its refusal to leave open the mere possibility of miracles is skepticism’s, Achilles’ heel. Moreover, radical biblical skepticism is also a reactionary movement to religion, no less so then with Christianity. The failure of certainty in historical matters (no doubt a Platonic influence) has led many biblical critics (unjustified Kantian epistemological agnosticism) to dismiss evidences for the Christianity. No matter what the evidence is for the empty tomb, for example, it will always be insufficient because of i…

Why the baby Jesus is less offensive.

Friend of the CADRE, Tom Tom Graffagnino maintains an excellent site stocked full of poems some of which I have noted from time to time. He sends them to me more regularly than I make reference to them, but I encourage everyone who has a ken for such things to read through some of his poetry which is often quite clever.

In this Christmas season, however, he has written and published a new poem entitled "King Herod's Heart of Darkness"which I think deserves special attention. It examines the fact that it seems as if the baby Jesus is not nearly so offensive to the non-religious as the full grown Jesus. Sure, they try to ban the infant Jesus from being part of Christmas displays in public squares, but can you imagine the outrage if your local department stores started putting up Easter displays that included the risen Jesus exiting the tomb?

Yes, we like our Savior's bleating,
Not returning in the clouds...
No righteous Lion of Judgment,
Can dethrone this Herod-Cro…

Eternal Hell: Supreme Justice or Evil Judge?

The Bible says that the Father is loving. The New Testament affirms the same about Jesus. But can they really be loving while at the same time sending people to hell? After all, Jesus teaches more about hell than anyone in the entire Bible. Doesn't that contradict his supposed gentle and compassionate character? Agnostic Charles Templeton laments, "How could a loving Heavenly Father create an endless hell and, over the centuries, consign millions of people to it because they do not or cannot or will not accept certain religious beliefs?"

Before I continue, I must admit that I am not at all convinced that God simply casts souls into hell "because they do not or cannot or will not accept certain religious beliefs." Instead, I find it beneficial to discuss what modern people cringe at and consider a quaint anachronism: sin. To do that, look no further than to Research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, D.A. Carson. Carson writes, &qu…

Review: Stephen C. Carlson's The Gospel Hoax

Stephen C. Carlson, of the blog Hypotyposeis, has written a book about the Secret Gospel of Mark (SGM) – The Gospel Hoax, Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark. Though relatively short, it is packed with analysis supporting its central conclusion – that the “discoverer” of SGM, Morton Smith, actually forged the document as a hoax on the academic community. (I have previously discussed one reason why I thought forgery was a possibility).

SGM was supposedly discovered by Morton Smith, then a graduate student at Columbia University, in 1958. SGM was reportedly found by Smith while he was cataloging the manuscripts held by the Mar Saba Monastery. To be clear, what was supposedly found was not a new gospel as we understand them, but a 17th century manuscript which quoted a letter written by Clement in the late second-century which referred to the SGM and quoted parts of it.

SGM stirred controversy because it purports to be an early, secret, version of the Gospel of Mark meant for adva…

"Why the Church needs apologetics, even when the lost won't listen"

Mark Coppenger, in an article for the Illinois Baptist State Association, shares his views on why apologetics is good for the church.

He writes,
"But it's been my experience that the will is more often the problem than the intellect. Men don't want a Lord, they don't want someone interfering with their agendas. Rather than admit this (to themselves or others), they toss out arguments to lend their indifference or hostility to God an air of sophistication."I can relate to this in spades, and so can all of the apologists in the Cadre.

Take a look at Coppenger's article. He shares his top 10 reasons why apologetics is good even if the lost won't listen. Some of his reasons resonate with me. Others, less so. How about you?

I wonder what the Cadre's "top 10 reasons apologetics is good for the church" would look like? Maybe I will find out in the comments below.

(Hat tip: The A-Team )

Announcing an Important New Part of the Cadre Website: The Resurrection of Jesus

The Christian Cadre website has added a section devoted to defending the historicity of the Resurrection: The Resurrection of Jesus.

This page provides the best defenses of the resurrection of Jesus available. It includes articles by top scholars and well-known internet apologists, as well as several original articles by CADRE members. It also features a developing section responding to the latest skeptic assault on the resurrection, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

Here are the categories of articles available:

*General Defenses of the Resurrection
*Responding to the Skeptical Book The Empty Tomb
*The Resurrection Appearances
*The Empty Tomb
*Paul and the Resurrection
*Harmonizations of the Resurrection Accounts
*Resources on the Resurrection
*Debates on the Resurrection

As with all pages at the Christian Cadre, we will be adding new articles and are happy to review submissions.

Christmas, Charlie Brown and a time of receiving

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That very small minority of people who think that Jesus Christ never even existed contend that Jesus was simply a copy of some pagan myth -- a "god" who was born again like many other gods of ancient times. Of course, to draw this conclusion requires the advocate to stretch the analogy beyond recognition as has been shown by many well-documented articles. The CADRE's own Mark McFall has written a number of excellent essays which respond to these claims on his site In the Word Ministries -- Frontline Apologetics, and many other essays can be found at our own The Historical Jesus page.

While it is good to know that Jesus' life account is not a copycat by comparing the actual myths of ancient times with the accounts of the life of Jesus given in the Bible, it is also important, especially at this time of year, to focus on yet another difference between the Jesus of the Gospels and the other mythological "dying and rising gods" noted by the Jesus Mythers. It has…

Does God Exist? What Americans Believe

New poll results demonstrate once again that belief in God is wide and deep in the United States. Performed by Gallup, the poll shows the following:

94% of Americans believe God exists.

8 out of 10 of believers are "convinced" that God exists, demonstrating a high degree of certitude.

5% of Americans believe that God does not exist. But only 1% of Americans are certain there is no God. "Hard" atheism, it would seem, is proportionally much weaker than "hard" theism.

Given these results, which are hardly a deviation from other polls, it seems that America remains a religious country to the extent that belief in God indicates religious belief. Given the high number of "convinced" believers in God, it would seem that faith in God is deep as well as widely held.

Atheists, though zealously activist on the internet, make up a very small portion of the U.S. population.

Are planned parenthoods irresponsible care providers?

"Research studies indicate that emotional responses to legally induced abortion are largely positive. They also indicate that emotional problems resulting from abortion are rare and less frequent than those following childbirth (Adler, 1989).

Anti-family planning extremists, however, circulate unfounded claims that a majority of the 29 percent of pregnant American women who choose to terminate their pregnancies (Henshaw & Van Vort, 1990) suffer severe and long-lasting emotional trauma as a result. They call this nonexistent phenomenon 'post-abortion trauma' or 'post-abortion syndrome.' They hope that terms like these will gain wide currency and credibility despite the fact that neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognizes the existence of these phenomena.

"The truth is that most studies in the last 20 years have found abortion to be a relatively benign procedure in terms of emotional effect — except when…

Leland Ryken: Exquisite Article and Captivating Lecture

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Leland Ryken, Professor of English at Wheaton College, takes us on a tour of Narnia through the lens of Lewis' own thoughts on literature in his brand new release of A Readers Guide Through the Wardrobe. He has recently given a short twenty-five minute lecture on his book giving, I think, a proper and informative methodology that stays both true to Lewis' original intent and helps illuminate passages within The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. (Listen by clicking here)

Mr. Ryken has also written an article similar to his lecture entitled, "Reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with C.S. Lewis." In this piece, Ryken highlights what he describes as "the three most important lessons that I learned from Lewis himself as I interacted with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe during the process of writing a reader's guide to the book."

Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi

A law professor makes the logical error he claims for ID

In the November 16, 2005 edition of the Albuquerque Journal, University of New Mexico Law School Professor Sergio Pareja wrote an editorial entitled "ID Adopts Oldest Trick in Lawyers' Book ". Professor Pareja asserts that Intelligent Design is a tactic being used by the "creationists" to move the teaching of creationism into the public schools. Professor Pareja's Op-Ed demonstrates why some law professors should stick to teaching Civil Procedure and not use their degree or position to falsely add a sense of authority to their fallacious reasoning.

Professor Pareja's Op-Ed begins by trying to paint Intelligent Design as an argument from ignorance. He states:

ID takes advantage of the fact that scientists have not proved every detail about how life evolved. Specifically, ID aims to find failings and gaps in evolutionary theory. It asserts that the only explanation for these gaps is some supernatural occurrence or, in other words, an action by God.
Since I …

Welcome to Narnia

The much anticipated first intallment of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, opens today. I am a big fan of the Chronicles, having read them in my youth and several times since. There was some concern among Christian fans of the series that the Christian allegory would be diluted. Ultimately, Disney decided to simply be faithful to the book without enhancing or diminishing the religious themes. So now it is finally here and no expense was spared in its production.

For the most part, the critics like the film, though on more of a B+ scale than an A scale. I found this review from the San Francisco Chronicle particularly informative and informed.

Not everyone is so happy. Apparently some are offended that the movie retains the Christian allegory (how it could be avoided is seldom mentioned). This is hard to understand, because great artistic achievements can come from many different places. The Chronicles of Narnia is a literary accomplishment whethe…

December 25 and the myth of the pagan Christmas

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"From before the advent of Christianity right into the nineteenth century, the winter festival now universally known as Christmas owed its existence to pagan festivals marking the arrival of the winter solstice -- the lengthening of days, the return of light and life." -- (Whyte, Kenneth, "Come mall ye faithful", Saturday Night; Dec96, Vol. 111 Issue 10, p15, 2p, 1c)
It is common knowledge that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, isn't it? After all, what possible reason could there be for Christmas to fall on December 25 -- the date of the Winter Solstice on the old Roman calendars -- then for the reason that the early Christians wanted to ride the coattails of the old pagan holiday? Even the Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to celebrate Christmas because of those pagan ties, right? But the question remains, does the "common knowledge" about Christmas' pagan origins comport with reality?

It appears that the "common knowledge" may, on…