CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The Royal Society of Medicine (RMS) has made a statement about the manner of Jesus' crucifixion. Now, before proceeding, let me hightlight the following quote from the article: "The authors do not express any doubt on the act of Jesus' crucifixion itself." That is so important to note in any article about Jesus crucifixion in the age of travesties like The Jesus Papers. Anyway . . . .

The bottom line of the news article entitled "Image of Jesus' crucifixion may be wrong, says study" is that we cannot be certain that Jesus was crucified in a head up, arms extended position as depicted on many crucifixes and paintings of the crucifixion. The Romans did not always crucify people in the same way, and the means of crucifixion may have varied depending upon the status of the person being crucified and the crime they are accused of having committed.

Their crucifixion methods probably evolved over time and depended on the social status of the victim and on the crime he allegedly committed, says the paper in April's issue of the RSM journal.

The cross could be erected "in any one of a range of orientations", with the victim sometimes head-up, sometimes head-down or in different postures.

Sometimes he was nailed to the cross by his genitals, sometimes the hands and feet were attached to the side of the cross and not the front, or affixed with cords rather than nails.

"If crucified head-up, the victim's weight may also have been supported on a small seat. This was believed to prolong the time it took a man to die," says the study, co-authored by Matthew Masien, also of Imperial College London's medicine faculty.

For purposes of apologetics, I find this article interesting, but say "so what?" It really does not make any claims that counter what the Gospels portray -- Jesus was crucified and had nails driven through this hands (probably the wrists) and feet (probably the ankles). The fact that the Romans may have crucified people using different techniques over time and dependent upon the nature of the offense does not in any way show that Jesus was not crucified in exactly the manner shown in the Gospels.

Dateline Sunday, April 2:

It started with a provocative— and many say preposterous—claim that Jesus was married. Now get ready for a new theory: Michael Baigent, author of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” alleges that Jesus may not have died on the cross. And there’s more: he says, there are actual letters written by Jesus himself. Dateline’s Sara James tracks down the facts behind 'The Jesus Papers.' Dateline, Sunday, April 2, 7 p.m.


National Geographic Channel, Sunday April 9:

WASHINGTON, March 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Discovered by chance in the 1970s, a document that lay hidden for nearly 1,700 years emerges today as the "The Gospel of Judas," which will be first presented during a press conference at the National Geographic Society in early April.

On Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT (encore at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT), the National Geographic Channel (NGC) premieres the first documentary look at the Gospel of Judas. "The Gospel of Judas" is an exclusive, two-hour global event that traces the incredible story of what has happened to the document since it was found, the recent authentication process and analysis, and key insight gleaned from its laborious translation and interpretation. Dramatic recreations portray and clarify the complex story of intrigue and politics of the earliest days of Christianity, and portray the contents of the Gospel itself.

"The Gospel of Judas" presents a newly discovered account of the life of Jesus Christ. But how can its authenticity be verified? When was this gospel written and by whom? The research and documentary will reveal fascinating details contained within the document as well as key sections translated from its ancient Coptic script. It will also examine the modern history of the document since it was found, including the exhaustive restoration and conservation process. The manuscript will be returned to its country of origin, Egypt.

(HT: Dave Johnson of Contend for the Faith and Thor Lundberg)

The March 28 edition of the Today show included an interview with Michael Baigent, author of a book entitled The Jesus Papers>. Mr. Baigent is also one of the authors of the age old discredited book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and one of the people suing Dan Brown over the Da Vinci Code.

In the interview, Mr. Baigent makes several rather interesting (I would say absurd) claims about Jesus. He claims:

1. Jesus and Pilate conspired to fake Jesus' crucifixion because Pilate couldn't have him crucified when Jesus was advocating paying taxes to the Romans.

2. A painting in a church demonstrates that the disciples removed the living body of Jesus from the tomb on the night he was supposedly crucified.

3. Papers exist which shows incontrovertibly that Jesus was alive in 45 A.D.

4. Jesus wrote a letter which he has seen saying that he wasn't the Son of God.

5. It was not until the Council of Nicea that Jesus was given divine status.

WOW! That sounds like a great book . . . for what is obviously fantasy literature. I have requested the book from my local library and will give it a review once I have a chance to read it. In the meantime, you can (for a limited time) watch the MSNBC Interview for yourself.

The doctrine of the Trinity is an example of where many non-Christians and Christians often dispute over the validity and soundness between the relationship of God the Father being equal with God the Son and God the Spirit. There is a tendency to revert from thinking because using the mind nowadays is resembles how the Gnostics did: evil because of it's reliability on humans, which is material. However, this Pelagean view of rationality is itself an intellectual argument against the limitation of our mind; ergo, the self-refuting nature behind this challenge.

In postmodern theology there is a common and deeply concerning strategy generally: using the finite limits of the human mind as an excuse for ignoring or supplementing what God has said in His Word. Shouldn't the fact of our finitude move us in exactly the opposite direction, so that our admitted inabilities make us more careful about only believing what the Bible says about God?

Update:

Kim Riddlebarger writes about a new case to be considered in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) on the feminizations of the Trinity:

"According to an article in the Christian Post, the PCUSA will consider a proposal this summer to allow for a greater use of the doctrine of the Trinity in worship by speaking of the three persons not as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," but as "Mother, Child and Womb." And no, I'm not making this up!"
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Presbyterians this June will be asked to ratify a new report on Trinitarian theology that describes the cornerstone doctrine in various metaphorical terms, including a controversial description of the triune God as “Mother, Child and Womb.”

“[The report] aims to assist the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in reclaiming the doctrine of Trinity in theology, worship and life,” the introduction to the 40-page report, “God’s Love Overflowing,” states.

The report, which has been underway since 2000, includes theological and liturgical sessions that are meant for use in study sessions on the doctrine.

“The doctrine is widely neglected or poorly understood in many of our congregations,” the statement reads. “The members of our work group are convinced that the doctrine of trinity is crucial to our faith, worship, and service.”

Describing the Trinity has often proved contentious in mainline denominations, with some adhering to the classical Biblical description of the Triune Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and others adopting more liberal terms such as the Triune “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.”

From the onset, the report acknowledges such differences over “new ways of speaking of the Trinity,” but goes on to say that no name, no metaphor, no set of words or phrases – however thoughtful, poetic or profound – will ever be able to say everything that could be said about the mystery of God's love made known to us above all in Jesus Christ and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

In what is likely the report’s most controversial segment, the panel explores the “female imagery of the Triune God” – a suggestion that is sure to draw fire from conservative Christians.

"The overflowing love of God finds expression in the biblical depiction of God as compassionate mother (Isa 49:15; 66:13), beloved child (Mt 3:17), and life-giving womb (Isa 46:3),” the report states. “The divine wisdom (hochmah in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek) is portrayed in the Bible as a woman who preaches in the streets, gives instruction, advocates justice, builds houses, and acts as a gracious hostess (Prov 1,8,9)."
Think you can handle the rest of this article? Proceed with a mind bucket to dump it out as soon as you are finished reading. Click here: Presbyterians Consider Triune 'Mother, Child, and Womb'


Cross-Blogged at Apologia Christi

M.S. Bruce at Bruce4Truth.com has written a brief review of a lecture he heard by Bruce Ehrman in defense of his book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why". Our own Layman has already written his own Non-Flattering Review of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus which I recommend everyone interested in this book read. What is interesting about M.S. Bruce's blog entry is that (I have it on good information) he is a theology student, and rather than review the book, he is describing what he heard at a lecture defending the book. His take -- very similar to Layman's take.

His concluding paragraph gives quite a bit of the flavor of his account of the lectures and the question and answer session:

In closing I would like to know, Mr. Ehrman, how do you draw these conclusions from the textual variants? How can we trust any ancient text by the standards that you judge the New Testament? On what grounds do you identify additions to the text? Why do you make blatant and erroneous denials regarding the Deity claims in the synoptics? Why can't you understand basic metaphysics regarding the Trinity? Why would almost all of the apostles die for what they knew to be a lie? Most of all, why do you base your personal beliefs that Jesus was not God and that there was no resurrection on such poor arguments that are laced with untruths, circular reasoning and unwarranted conclusions?

The ideal of political equality arose from the Enlightenment's insistence that since no one has access to absolute truth, no one has a moral right to impose his or her values and beliefs on others. In other words, "I don't know what the absolute truth is, but I also know for sure that you don't know what absolute truth is either." The recognition of this necessary equality of ignorance about absolute truths is one the insights that undergirds the Declaration's assertion that all men are created equal. This moral discovery by the Founders opened the space that has allowed human individuality and human particularity to flourish as never before in history.

The quote, above, is from "Created Equal?" by Ronald Bailey which is published on Reasononline. (Does anyone else find it funny that skeptics find it necessary to perpetually reaffirm for themselves that they are allegedly the rational ones by always having to name all of their publications and websites with some word related to "rationality" or "open minded"? I mean, if it were so obvious, don't you think that everyone would realize it? Ah, but I digress . . . . ) The only problem is that this view of the origin of the words "self-evident" as used in the Declaration of Independence ignores both history and the intended meaning of the phrase as used by the founders.

I have in my collection a great little book entitled Defending the Declaration by Gary T. Amos. The subtitle of the book is "How the Bible and Christianity Influenced the Writing of the Declaration of Independence." The book is an absolutely great overview of the political and philosophical history of some of the more notable phrases as used in the Declaration, including phrases like "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God", "unalienable rights", and "the pursuit of happiness". Each of these topics has an entire chapter devoted to them.

The chapter on the phrase "self-evident" makes it clear that historically, people like reasononline have no leg to stand on. Consider the following from pages 77 and 78 of Defending the Declaration:

Seventeenth-century Enlightenment rationalists did not coin the term "self-evident." Medievil theologians used the term centuries earlier, tracing their views of "self-evident" to the teachings of St. John of Damascus (d. 749), author of De Fide Orthodoxa. John was the last of the Greek fathers and the first theological encyclopedist. "Self-evident" knowledge for the medievalists was that which was "naturally implanted" in men, such as "first principles." It was truth known intuitively, as a direct revelation from God, without the need of proofs. The term presumed that man was created in the image of God, and presumed certain beliefs about man's rationality which traced as far back as Augustine in the early fifth century. For example, four hundred years before John Locke, Thomas Aquinas wrote:

The precepts, therefore, contained in the Decalogue are those the knowledge of which man has in himself from God. They are such as can be known straightway from first general principles . . . and those which are known immediately from divinely infused faith . . . . (T)wo kinds of precepts, the primary and general, which being inscribed in natural reason as self-evident, need no further promulgation . . . . These two precepts are primary and general prcepts of the law of nature, self-evident to human nature.

In Aquinas, man is not the source of self-evident knowledge, God is. Certain things become self-evident to man because God has created man in His own image and inscribes the requirements of His law on man's heart in spite of man's sin. Certain truths are evident in men's selves, because God makes it evident by promulgating it to them. Aquinas's view is drawn directly from the Apostle Paul.

Mr. Amos then proceeds to draw a connection between the thinkers and writers of the medievil church straight to the authors of the Declaration. In doing so, he comes across one stumbling block -- John Locke -- who is largely accepted to be the author of the term "self-evident" in the period of the enlightenment. Mr. Amos takes this view of Lock on head-on and demonstrates in a fairly compelling fashion that Locke's use of the phrase was not different in any significant way than the use by the medievil thinkers. I will write more on Amos' elaboration on Locke's ideas next time. In the meantime, I recommend anyone who can find a copy of this book read it -- it is very "enlightening".

Sometimes apologetics can be mildly depressing. Not because of difficult arguments or challenges, but because you feel obligated at times to respond to very stupid ideas. For example, I have seen it argued and even received emails about how Moses and Jesus were pot users and endorsed pot use. This "idea" has reached the zenith of folk-lore status by being championed by ill-informed editors at Wikipedia (where zealousness often prevails over education).

Thankfully, blogger Edward Cook at his blog Ralph the Sacred River, provides a realistic assessment of the credibility of the pot-Jesus and pot-Moses claims -- they are without merit and cannabis does not appear in the Old Testament or New Testament. Like, duh man.

As most people interested in the historical Jesus are aware, a lawsuit was filed in Italy claiming that the Roman Catholic Church was misleading the public by claiming that Jesus actually existed. The lawsuit was filed by a rather (being charitable) not-particularly-smart individual named Luigi Cascioli whose writings can be found on his website. As I commented previously, his writings show that his work is fraught with errors, and the pleadings and memorandums he has filed in the lawsuit read like a person who is on the verge of inasanity. I am certain it didn't take much time for the judge in the case to decide on his course of action -- dismiss the lawsuit and ask the government to look into the question of whether Sr. Cascioli ought not be prosecuted for a form of malicious prosection.

Well, Sr. Cascioli has now shown an incredible lack of discernment concerning how badly he has been shot down. According to a banner flashing across his website, Sr. Cascioli has filed an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights as of March 18, 2006. He has apparently finally obtained a lawyer who may be able to spin his work to make him look a bit more sane, but I suspect that since all of the papers and pleadings that Sr. Cascioli filed on his own behalf in Italy become part of the record on appeal, the European Court of Human Rights will quickly come to the same conclusions as the Italian judge. A copy of the Application Under Article 34 of the Euopean Convention on Human Rights and Rules 45 and 47 of the Rules of Court can be found on Sr. Cascioli's website. I look forward to the time that the Statement of Facts and Argument which contains the substance of his claims is finally posted so that everyone can see for themselves the lack of substance of this appeal.

Incidentally, it appears that Sr. Cascioli is being a bit disingenuous with the European Court of Human Rights. His Application states

The object of the application is to establish by a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights that the Respondent Government has infringed and is continuing to infringe the Applicant’s rights in breach of Article 6 of the Convention, and to obtain just satisfaction for such breaches, including declaratory relief, and financial reparation for the moral prejudice caused to him, together with the legal costs and expenses incurred herein.

That, however, does not appear to be Sr. Cascioli's motivation at all. I suspect that his motivation is actually three-fold (the first two of which are based on my own speculations about his motivation). First, he is trying to sell his book -- a book that is apparently self-published and is not carried (at least, last time I checked) on any of the major Internet book sites like Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or borders.com. Second, he wants to push his atheistic agenda on the rest of society.

Sr. Cascioli's third objective I have discerned from his own admissions -- he simply wants to try to hurt the Roman Catholic Church. In a document on his website which was apparently filed with the court entitled "Comments of Luigi Cascioli about the hearing kept on 27th 22of January", he states (typos included):

Whatever is the decision of the Court of Strasburgo, (knowing the tentacles of the "Great Piovra" even if everything is possible, to thing is certain however: the Church will go out out from there tattered and with the broken bones. and this already me enough to be able to say: "The didn'ts live in vain!".

Let's face it. This is not about proving that Jesus didn't exist. This is not about Sr. Cascioli being denied his rights. This is admittedly about Sr. Cascioli's fall away from the Roman Catholic Church and his efforts to get even! He is like a divorcee who is wanting to hurt his ex-spouse. Ask any divorce attorney and they will tell you that many, many people who are divorced don't think clearly when they are going to court. Against all common sense, their goal is to hurt their former spouse no matter what the cost. They want to argue over nonsense if it will cause their spouse pain. Sr. Cascioli simply wants to hurt the Roman Catholic Church, and he doesn't care if what he says is the truth.

Sad.

Most Americans agree that our intervention in Afghanistan was justified and has been succesful. Most Americans agree that Afghans are better off now than they were under the Taliban. And most Americans were likely baffled to learn that despite our efforts and sacrifices an Afghan man faces execution because he converted from Islam to Christianity.

The trial of the Afghan Christian was news on talk shows and blogs for a few days before someone -- not a reporter but a citizen during a town-hall type meeting -- asked President Bush about it. President Bush's response was somewhat general -- it is an awkward situation for the U.S. -- but indicated that the Administration was paying attention (see this news article):

I'm troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account. That's not the universal application of the values that I talked about. I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship.

It was more encouraging today to learn that the United States is putting pressure on the Afghan government at the highest levels. Secretary Rice personally spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to seek "a favorable resolution at the earliest possible time." According to a State Department spokesperson:

[T]he United States stands forthrightly for principles of freedom of worship, freedom of expression, and that these are bedrock principles of democracy around the world, these are principles that are enshrined in the Afghan constitution and they're principles that are enshrined in the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

This is encouraging, but I hope even stronger statements are being made in private. In the meantime, we should be praying for the man's release. His story is one of courage. He converted several years ago while working with a Christian aid group. The prosecutor offered to drop the charges if he recanted, but the Christian refused.

Many websites for Christian apologetics quote 1 Peter 3:15 as providing the trumpet charge to go forward and defend the Christian faith to skeptics, i.e., "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear..." 1 Peter 3:15. Here's the problem: 1 Peter 3:15 doesn't start with the words "be ready". 1 Peter 3:15 is part of a chain of thought that begins back in 1 Peter 3:13. The entire section of text as translated in the New American Standard Bible version (removing the verse numbers) reads:

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

Looking at the verse in context gives it a different flavor. No, it doesn't take away the central portion of the message: be prepared to give an accounting of the reasons for your faith in Jesus. The passages central focus remains being prepared to (1) make a defense and (2) give an account for the hope that is in you. But what surrounds this oft-quoted verse is equally important to these two directives.

First, there is a exhortation to recognize that there is no need to fear when you are doing what is right, i.e., telling people the Gospel. After all, according to the Bible verses cited immediately prior to 1 Peter 3:13, God is with the righteous, but he is against those who do evil. But as the verses continue, there is no promise in this that a person standing up for the Gospel will not be harmed or even killed. 1 Peter continues "But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness . . . ." This is a clear acknowledgement that a person who is speaking for the Gospel can and will experience dangers.

How does one reconcile the two? Very simply -- the kingdom of God is not of this earth. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

A friend of mine works for a hospital where he constantly encounters people who are dying and who have questions about the healing power of Jesus. They want to know why Jesus doesn't heal the sick. While there are lots of ways to answer that question, he approaches it from God's point of view -- heaven is a better place than earth. The only reasons that we fear death is (1) we fear the pain associated with death and (2) we are not certain of what lies beyond death. If we realized that our lives on this earth are very short in comparison to eternity, and if we realized that what awaits us beyond is infinitely better than what awaits us here, we would not fear death at all. In the words of 1 Corinthians 15:55, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is gone because of the victory of Christ.

So, when God says in 1 Peter 3:13 that we have nothing to fear, He is not talking about not having concerns over whether we will be hurt, tortured or even killed. He is talking about the fact that as Christians we have the assurance of eternal life. And with that assurance we can approach evangelism without fear because nothing on this earth can do us everlasting harm. At best, the slings and arrows of this world can only wound us for a time. As Peter says, "do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled".

How do we avoid being intimidated and troubled? We do so by "sanctify[ing] Christ as Lord in [our] hearts". Do we, as Christian apologists and evangelists put God in the central place in our hearts? Do we, instead, preach our own Gospel and hope that it comports with God's Word? Do we say a prayer for inspiration of the Spirit before entering the fray? Do we, instead, trust our own knowledge and insight to lead someone to knowledge of the truth? I leave these questions to your own heart.

As you may remember, in October 2002 there was great fanfare as a new archeological find was announced. With the support of top scholars, Biblical Archeological Review announced that an ossuary bearing the inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," was found near Jerusalem. Shortly thereafter, however, other scholars began to express doubts about the validity of the find. In June 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority examined the ossuary and determined it was a forgery. Because the IAA failed to issue a full report about their examination, however, the controversy over authenticity continued.

As more doubts were raised, the tide shifted against authenticity. Then, in December 2004, Israel issued an 18-count indictment against Oded Golan, the owner of the James Ossuary, and four other men, accusing them of forging antiquities, including the Ossuary. The indictment was reported on this blog, but what has happened since then?

News reports are scarce, but here is what I have been able to piece together. First, I will provide some of the specifics about the indictment:

The charge sheet, which ranges from forgery to suborning others to commit perjury, lists Golan in various combinations with his co-defendants: Robert Deutsch, who owns three antiquities shops in Tel Aviv and Jaffa; Shlomo Cohen, who used to run a Jerusalem antiques shop; Rafi Brown, a former conservator at the Israel Museum; and Faiz El Amlah, a West Bank Palestinian. The 18 charges cover the James Ossuary and the Joash Inscription, as well as various inscribed pottery shards, clay seals, a jug, a bowl and a decorative lamp.

The above link is to an article by David Rowan which provides details regarding the evidence involved, as well as Mr. Golan's continued claim that he is innocent and that the James Ossuary is authentic. It is well worth checking out, though it is dated (having been written in May 2005). In short, the Israeli government is pursing this case aggressively and has amassed a voluminous amount of evidence, though direct links between the alleged conspirators seem to be lacking (which the author notes may just be par for the course in this kind of forgery operation).

The trial has started and is moving rather slowly. A September 2005 article from the London Telegraph reported about some witnesses, including an Israeli art collector and an Egyptologist who works for the British Museum, who were being called to testify at the trial. Although the art collector, considered the leading private collector of biblical antiquities, insists that none of the millions of dollars worth of antiquities he bought from the alleged conspirators is suspect, the prosecution is expected to focus on a piece that he refused to buy because he was suspicious of its origins. Prosecutors also expect to cast doubt on some of the other items he purchased. Obviously, the art collector has an interest in the reputation of the antiquities he purchased.

One witness who has testified is Ada Yardeni an expert in the field of Aramaic and Hebrew palaeography. I do not know what his testimony was, but he wrote a piece for BAR concluding that "I am confident that the James ossuary inscription is authentic." Dr. Yardeni, however, did have doubts about the inscription on another relevant piece. Moreover, it was Dr. Yardeni's transcription of the inscription on the James Ossuary that appeared on the cover of BAR.

Another witness who may have testified by now is Lenny Wolfe, a Jerusalem based dealer in antiquities whose expertise is reportedly in seals and bullae. Mr. Wolfe would appear to be a prosecution witness.

The latest I have seen is from blogger and pastor Jim West, who reports that the trial is moving along at a snail's pace, but that one of the defendants has pleaded guilty.

In sum, fewer scholars are willing to speak in support of the autheniticy of the James Ossuary; the owner of the James Ossuary and others have been indicted and zeaolously prosecuted by the government of Israel for fraud and forgery; the authenticity of the James Ossuary is an important issue in the trial; and one of the defendants has pleaded guilty to all charges (though I have no specifics as to what statements he may have made in connection with his plea or the James Ossuary).

UPDATE: I found this article from the Society of Biblical Literature website which has a thorough description of the indictment. It includes this description of the defendants:

1. Oded Golan: a collector from Tel Aviv who is accused of fabricating and selling inscriptions.
2. Robert Deutsch: an antiquities dealer who has also completed course work in archaeology and epigraphy. In addition, he teaches courses as an adjunct instructor at the University of Haifa.
3. Rafael Brown: an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem.
4. Shlomo Cohen: an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem.
5. Fayez al-Amaleh: a Palestinian antiquities dealer.

I believe it is Mr. al-Amaleh who has pleaded guilty.

The article also provides descriptions of the significant artifacts alleged to have been forged, including the James Ossuary. Helpfully, the article matches each defendant with the artifacts that each is alleged to have been involved in forging or selling. Mr. Golan alone is listed as forging the James Ossuary. It would seem, therefore, that Mr. al-Amaleh's confession may tell us little that directly bears on the James Ossuary.

Recently we announced the addition of a new CADRE page dedicated to responding to issues raised by The Da Vinci Code book and forthcoming movie. We just added a new section to that page, "Online Audio Files About The Da Vinci Code."

"So they made a covenant at Beersheba; and Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days." Genesis 21:32-34.

Some have suggested that the mention of the Philistines in Genesis 21:32-34 and Genesis 26:1-18 demonstrates that Genesis is not historical because, they reason, the Philistines were not in Canaan at the time of Abraham. In fact, it is contended, the Philistines were not even a people at the time. To some it may seem a little odd to be asking whether the Philistines existed when Abraham was alive for several reasons. For those who are Biblical inerrantists, the fact that the Philistines are mentioned in Genesis 21:32-34 and Genesis 26:1-18 resolves the question. But even for those who don't accept Biblical inerrancy, it seems pretty difficult to determine if the Philistines existed at the time of Abraham because historians and Biblical experts cannot come to a concensus as to when the Exodus occurred. Consequently the dates of the events prior to the Exodus are equally uncertain. If the dates of the Genesis events are uncertain, then how can we determine with any certainty whether the Philistines were around?

In order to answer this question, we must first come to some type of idea as to the time frame for the life of Abraham. Several dates have been suggested, and some of these dates are listed in "Abraham: An Introduction to His Life and Times" by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, who notes,

Depending upon how one views the evidence, Abraham might fit into Middle Bronze I (2100-1900 BC, Nelson Glueck and William F. Albright), Middle Bronze II (1900-1550, Ephraim A. Speiser), or the Amarna Period of the Late Bronze Age (early 14th century, Cyrus H. Gordon).

So, before someone can object that the Philistines were not in Canaan at the time or that they weren't even in existence, they have to show that the Philistines were not in Canaan during the Amarna period. In my view, if they are taking the affirmative position of saying that the Philistines were not in Canaan, they bear the burden of proof for that position. Of course, it is true that it is impossible to prove a negative, so their argument becomes untenable. But because I don't want to win this argument on a debating point, I think it is appropriate to see if there is any evidence that establishes a Philistine presence in Canaan and what the evidence suggests was the date that the Philistines first came to Canaan. To answer those questions, we must ask who were the Philistines and where did they come from?

Bryant G. Wood, Ph.D. of the Associates for Biblical Research has written a fascinating article entitled "The Genesis Philistines" for the March 2006 ABR Electronic Newsletter (no article link available) which investigates the Biblical Philistines and makes a case that the Philistines have been around as a people for a long time and had ties in ancient Canaan very early in recorded history.

First, who were the Philistines and where did they come from? According to the Jewish Encyclopedia,

"The Biblical record states that [the Philistines] came from Caphtor (Amos ix. 7; Deut. ii. 23), that they were Caphtorim (Deut, l.c.), and that they were "the remnant of the seacoast of Caphtor" (Jer. xlvii. 4, Hebr.). The table of nations (Gen. x. 13, 14) names the Philistines and the Caphtorim as descendants of Mizraim. The gist of these references leads one to look for Caphtor as the native land of the Philistines. There is a variety of opinion as to the location of this place. The Egyptian inscriptions name the southern coast of Asia Minor as "Kefto." The latest and with some plausibility the best identification is the island of Crete. The Septuagint makes the Cherethites in David's body-guard Cretans. Others have identified Caphtor with Cappadocia, or Cyprus, or with some place near the Egyptian delta. The prevailing opinion among scholars is that the Philistines were roving pirates from some northern coast on the Mediterranean Sea." (Emphasis added.)

Dr. Wood's article provides the evidence that supports Crete as the ancient home of the Philistines. The article begins by examining the Phaistos Disk -- a "6.5 inch diameter, 0.5 inch thick, baked clay disk with undecipherable inscriptions on both sides (Robinson 2002: 297-315)" "discovered in 1908 by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in the ruins of a Minoan palace in southern Crete." The disk has a depiction of a warrior with a feathered headdress which is "very similar to the depiction of the later Philistines in reliefs on the walls of Rameses III’s mortuary temple in Medinet Habu, Egypt (T. Dothan 1982: 22; T. and M. Dothan 1992: 35-36). This is not an isolated find, as identical signs, including frontal views of the feathered warrior, have been found inscribed on an axe found in a cave in Crete (Robinson 2002: 306-307)."

The significance of the Phaitos Disk is that it, at minimum, ties Crete in as a base (if not the home) for the Philistine people. Since a consensus exists that the Egyptian depiction of the warrior in the feathered headdress is a Philistine, the Phaitos Disk coupled with a similar finding of an axe with the same depiction is evidence that Crete was the home of the Philistine people. But to add to the significance of the Phaitos Disk, it is strongly believed to have been made prior to 1700 B.C. -- establishing that the Philistine people were in Crete earlier than 1700 B.C.

So, what else do we know about these ancient inhabitants of Crete? For one thing, we know how scholars generally reference them -- Minoans. However, according to Dr. Wood, there is no reason to believe that the people of Crete called themselves Minoans. That name was given to them by "Arthur Evans, excavator of Knossos, a major site on Crete, based on Minos, an ancient ruler of Crete known from Greek mythology." The Minoans

"engaged in maritime trade throughout the Levant in the Middle Bronze period (ca. 2000-1500 BC). Some of this evidence suggests that they established trading colonies in Syria, Canaan and Egypt. A small, but growing, number of finds in Palestine provide tangible evidence for contacts between Canaan and Crete long before the 12th-11th century Philistines. (Emphasis added.)"

So, were the Minoans the people that the Bible calls the Philistines? The Phaitos Disk and the archaeological research that has provided information about the Minoans and their lifestyles and trading partners suggests that they may have been one and the same.

But were the Minoans present in Canaan? Is there any reason to believe that these Minoans occupied the portion of Canaan attributed to the Philistines? Yes, says Dr. Wood. The account of Isaac's visit with the Philistines in Genesis 26 speaks of the city of Gerar which was the home to the Philistine king Abimelech (who is also mentioned in Genesis 21). Gerar, it turns out, has been "identified as Tel Haror, 17 miles east of Gaza in the western Negev (Oren 1992: 989)." Many archaeological digs have been conducted there, but Dr. Wood focuses on the following major connection between Tel Haror and the ancient Cretes/Minoans:

Of particular interest is a Minoan graffito found in the sacred precinct dating to ca. 1600 BC. Analyses of the sherd determined that it originated in Crete, most likely the south coast (Day et al. 1999; Oren et al. 1996). There are four Minoan signs on the graffito, inscribed prior to firing, which represent a bull’s head, cloth, branch and figs (Oren et al. 1996: 99-109). In addition to the graffito, an unusual chalice of Canaanite shape and fabric was found in a room on the east side of the sacred area. What makes the chalice unusual is its high arching handles, a well-known feature of Minoan chalices, but not of Canaanite (Oren et al. 1996: 95, 96; Oren 1993: 581).

Thus, once again, there are signs of connections between the Minoan culture and the city that is identified as the home of the Philistine king in Genesis. Moreover, the existence of the graffito (which is the singular form of "grafitti") from around 1600 A.D. suggests that the Minoans were living in Gerar and had been for a significant time prior to that date (when building a new settlement, painting Minoan reliefs would hardly be among the first tasks undertaken, but would probably only happen after the city has been firmly established).

Remember, that the range of dates for Abraham extended from the Middle Bronze I (2100-1900 B.C.) through the Amarna Period of the Late Bronze Age (early 14th century). While the Middle Bronze I period may still be problematic, it seem evident that the evidence presented by Dr. Wood, if believed, would certainly support a Minoan/Philistine presence in Canaan during at least the Middle Bronze II period, and possibly earlier. Thus, it appears that the case can be made for the Philistines' presence in the land of Canaan during the times of the Patriarchs -- exactly as shown in the Bible.

One last thing: someone may think that the evidence presented by Dr. Wood is pretty sketchy -- a disk here, a hammer there, a chalice and graffito elsewhere. I agree that it isn't much to go on. But one must remember that a lot of archaeological discoveries are based on fairly small bits of evidence. The farther back in time the archaeologist investigates, the less likely it is that any significant evidence will survive. Much of the archaeological reconstructions of ancient civilizations, their dates and their lifestyles, is based on little more than building foundations and pottery shards -- rarely are written records found. It may be that the identification of the Philistines with the Minoans and indisputable proof of a Philistine presence in Canaan can never be established with strong certitude. However, the evidence is good enough to state with certainty that such a view -- while not indisputable -- is supportable.

One of my favorite New Testament scholars, Ben Witherington, has posted a review of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus on his blog. The review is by Dr. Dan Wallace of www.bible.org. Wallace has excellent online introductions to all of the New Testament books as well as many other informative articles.

Ehrman's main point seems to be that the New Testament manuscripts were so corrupted in their transmission that we cannot be sure about many of the core teachings of Christianity. Although most scholars will concede that there are some uncertainties in the manuscripts, those same scholars will also state that the discrepancies between some verses in the different manuscripts are relatively few and do not call into question any of the theological doctrines of traditional Christianity. Witherington quotes the preeminent textual scholar of our time, Bruce Metzger, as saying, "over 90% of the NT is rather well established in regard to its original text, and none of the remaining 10% provides us with data that could lead to any shocking revisions of the Christian credo or doctrine."

Ehrman, however, though apparently conceding the point about the minority status of disputed passages, claims that several important doctrines are called into question by discrepancies. As Wallace points out, however, there really is little doubt about the language of the original document in Ehrman's chief examples. Wallace concludes:


In other words, the idea that the variants in the NT manuscripts alter the theology of the NT is overstated at best. Unfortunately, as careful a scholar as Ehrman is, his treatment of major theological changes in the text of the NT tends to fall under one of two criticisms: Either his textual decisions are wrong, or his interpretation is wrong.

After quoting Wallace's review, Witherington enters the fray and expounds on the shortcomings of Ehrman's book. He reinforces Wallace's own conclusions and leaves the reader wondering just what Ehrman was thinking when he made such unsupportable arguments, some of which seem to border on misrepresentations. Witherington has an answer for that too, noting that according to the book, Ehrman's spiritual journey began as a conservative Protestant Christian but had departed significantly from that point of origin. Witherington concludes:

In his scholarship he is trying now to deconstruct orthodox Christianity which he once embraced, rather than do 'value-neutral' text criticism. In my own view, he has attempted this deconstruction on the basis of very flimsy evidence-- textual variants which do not prove what he wants them to prove.

On the plus side, both Wallace and Witherington believe that Ehrman's early chapters about textual criticism are well-written and informative. But so are other works about the same topic, including perhaps the leading treatise on the issue, Bruce Metzger's The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration.

I ran across this article in USA Today, by liberal columnist Phillip Longman. We often hear about declining birth rates in secularized Europe. Most such articles and books note that birth rates in the United States have declined much less dramatically and remain above replacement levels. But to Longman the most notable feature of birth rates may be the disparity within the United States.


Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families.

Today, fertility correlates strongly with a wide range of political, cultural and religious attitudes. In the USA, for example, 47% of people who attend church weekly say their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, 27% of those who seldom attend church want that many kids.

Longman concludes that the disparity will lead to far-reaching changes.

This correlation between secularism, individualism and low fertility portends a vast change in modern societies. In the USA, for example, nearly 20% of women born in the late 1950s are reaching the end of their reproductive lives without having children. The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and '70s, will leave no genetic legacy. Nor will their emotional or psychological influence on the next generation compare with that of people who did raise children.

But even if the secuarlists and the leftists are not bearing many children, might not they influence the children of the religious and conservatives so as to perpetuate their belief systems? Kind of like the borg who reproduce through assimilation. Not according to Longman.

Why couldn't tomorrow's Americans and Europeans, even if they are disproportionately raised in patriarchal, religiously minded households, turn out to be another generation of '68? The key difference is that during the post-World War II era, nearly all segments of society married and had children. Some had more than others, but there was much more conformity in family size between the religious and the secular. Meanwhile, thanks mostly to improvements in social conditions, there is no longer much difference in survival rates for children born into large families and those who have few if any siblings.

Tomorrow's children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

I am not sure that Longman has effectively countered this point. Afterall, if enough children who are raised in typical conservative families go to college and abandons their religions or adopt a more liberal political ideology, then birth rates will not play king maker in the so-called culture war afterall. While the broader culture of their state or city may be more conservative, the more immediate culture of their college and peer group may challenge their traditional beliefs.

I think, however, that this effect -- though no doubt real in many cases -- will not be sufficient to remedy the disparity in birth rates. Polls show that most evangelicals have attended college, with a quarter obtaining degrees and another quarter obtaining graduate degrees. That is a lot of evangelicals who "survived" college with their religious beliefs intact. That is also a lot of well-educated evangelicals sending their children to college. The caricature of the religious and sheltered child going off to college to face new ideas that they have never encountered does not seem to apply anymore (if it ever really did).

Additionally, enrollment at Christian colleges is surging. From 1994 to 2000, colleges affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (which can fairly be described as of a conservative bent) saw their enrollment jump by 71%, or by more than 800,000 students. Other religious schools saw enrollment increase by a less dramatic but still strong 27%. The growth rate at public universities, on the other hand, was around 13%. Thus, more and more children raised in devout homes are choosing to go to Christian colleges. Obviously, Christian students sent to Christian colleges are not in danger of being deconverted by the secularist establishment.

So, while I do not dismiss the possibility of mass "defections" of Christians who go to college, I do think that it is far from inevitable and may be more wishful thinking on the part of secularists than present-day reality. Nevertheless, this does highlight the importance of raising up Christian children not only of good moral character, but also of strong mind.

One consideration that I believe Longman overlooks in his article is his failure to account for immigration. While the U.S. birth rate is near replacement levels, its population is growing. This is mostly due to immigration from predominantly Catholic countries, though a significant portion includes Christians from Korea and Middle Eastern nations. Latino immigrants to this country are largely Catholic, but according to Philip Jenkins in The Next Christendom, their children will be at least 30% evangelical Protestants. Those many who remain Catholic will be more culturally conservative than secularists and leftists, though they may be politically liberal on some important ecomonic issues. Therefore, it does not appear that immigration patterns will prevent the lower birth rate of secularists from eventually decreasing their numbers, though it may counter some of the "conservative" trend of Longman's birth-rate analysis.

This discussion is, of course, speculative. We work with demographics and statistics because we do not know the future. They have their shortcomings and often fail to account for some variables and misjudge others. Still, the case does seem to be a good one that the Christian value on family and children will have a practical affect on American culture and even politics. Already, so-called "Red States" have gained political representation because, in part, of higher birth rates. There are some illustrative comparisons from the 2004 Presidentical Election. In 2004, President Bush carried the 19 states with the highest birth rates while Senator Kerry carried the 16 states with the lowest birth rates. Moreover, President Bush had a 20 point advantage over Senator Kerry among married parents.

The divide is real. Religious Americans, including recent immigrants, are having many more children than their secularist compatriots. But, there appears to be one question whose answer will govern the impact of this fact. Are they going to retain the faith and values of their upbringing in large enough numbers to maintain the advantage the birth rate seems to give to religious Americans? There are some promising indicators, but ultimately the answer rests in the hands of the millions of Christian parents across the country and how effective they are in raising and equipping their children.

The CADRE is launching a new page dedicated to the literary and soon-to-be cinematic phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code. It includes links to the best online resources responding to the book from a Christian or historical perspective, as well as references to books that do the same. Here is the page's self-description:

Wildly successful, The Da Vinci Code has created a stir despite its fictitious nature. Its negative portrayal of Christianity rests on erroneous statements of history that many have unfortunately taken to be true. Herein, the CADRE provides resources that critically examine the story so that Christians will be able to correct misconceptions spread by the story and, more importantly, use discussions about the story to share the truth of Jesus Christ.

Check it out and let us know what you think. If you have any suggested additions to the page, please email me.

I was again the guest of Just A Woman radio, where I discussed recent trends in Pro-Life legislation. Obviously, the interview was related to this recent post. You can obtain the audio for free here.

Bill Tammeus, a columnist for The Kansas City Star, has written an interesting piece entitled "For all we know, Jesus may have been apocalyptic prophet", in which he opines on the work of historians seeking the historical Jesus starting with Albert Schweitzer. After noting that Schweitzer concluded (wrongly, in my opinion) that history can tell us nothing about the historical Jesus, Mr. Tammeus then makes a rather interesting observation.

The authors of [Jesus biographies based upon a search for the "historical" Jesus], it turned out, were using new scholarly tools called historical and textual criticism — ways to dig beneath the words to understand more about their historical context.

But there was something odd about the Jesus these writers found: He very much resembled them. This Jesus easily could have taught theology in a German seminary and fit right in.

In other words, historians looking for the historical Jesus inevitably found, instead, the historian’s Jesus. And that Jesus might not have much to do with the person Christians call son of God, lord and savior.

So scholars began to divide Jesus. They spoke of the Jesus of history on one hand and the Christ of faith on the other, as though the two had precious little to do with one another.

This is a remarkably accurate assessment. Marcus Borg, one of the scholars in the process of redefining Jesus, talks about his own struggles with orthodox Christianity in his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time : The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith . In this book, Borg admits that he is not a Christian in any orthodox sense of the word. Borg is quoted on Faith Future's Marcus Borg biography page as saying:

When I was a child, I thought that being a Christian was about "believing," and belief was no problem. When I was an adolescent and young adult, I struggled with trying to believe, and finally was no longer able to do so. Now I see that it is not a question of belief, and there is much that I do not believe. I do not believe that Christianity is the only way of salvation, or that the Bible is the revealed will of God, or that Jesus was the unique Son of God. Rather, I now see that the Christian tradition—including its claims about Jesus—is not something to be believed, but something to be lived in. I see the Bible and the tradition as "icons," mediators of the sacred. The point is not to believe them, but to be in relationship to that which they mediate: God, the Spirit, the sacred. My own journey has thus been "beyond belief." It has moved from belief through doubt and disbelief to relationship. For me, to be a Christian is to be part of a community that tells these stories and sings these songs. It feels like home.

Apparently, Borg didn't like Christianity as it has been passed down through the ages, but he wanted to continue to be associated with the Lutheran Church where he was raised. Thus, being unable to broaden his mind enough to intellectually reconcile his doubts with the Jesus taught in the Bible, he began the process of redefining that historical Jesus in order to justify his "faith" in whatever it is he has faith in. By redefining Jesus as something other than the unique Son of God (as clearly taught in the Bible), Borg is able to create God in his own image. Or, to paraphrase Mr. Tammeus, "Borg looking for the historical Jesus inevitably found, instead, Borg's Jesus. And that Jesus did not have much to do with the person Christians call son of God, lord and savior."

In my view, Marcus Borg -- like all of the scholars of the Jesus Seminar vein -- is not really interested in the historical Jesus. He is interested in reinventing the Jesus of the Bible -- who is the historical Jesus -- in order that he can pick and choose from His teachings while still being able to sit around the campfire and sing "Kum Ba Ya". The only trouble is that the Jesus he is calling upon, if he is as Marcus Borg claims, is incapable of kum ba yahing because the Jesus of Marcus Borg was just another human being who could do nothing to save himself or Borg.

I have heard the mantra for years: "Don't talk about polygamy when you talk about gay marriage. They are not related." Well, yes and no. I continue to agree that they are not related in one sense, but in another sense the issues follow one from another because both involved a compromise of the definition of marriage.

For centuries, marriage has been defined as a covenant between a man and a woman. Now, gay activitists are slowly turning the tide in communities across the world and making the idea that marriage should not be limited to two people of opposite gender, but rather should be based upon a covenant of love and commitment regardless of gender. People immersed in the theology of personal rights believe that people should be able to love and commit themselves to whoever they desire and that we should not be so close-minded as to limit marriage to being between a man and a woman. The important thing, it is argued, is the commitment and love that the couple shares. The all-too-politically-correct Ellen Goodman makes this point in one of her columns entitled Same-Sex Marriage:

As Anne and Chad Gifford, former head of Bank of America, wrote this week in The Boston Globe, their son's wedding "brought home the reality that marriage is about two people who love each other and who desire to commit to a life together."

Of course, there have been people who have argued that once you define marriage in the manner voiced by Anne and Chad Gifford (and cited favorably by Ms. Goodman), then what is left to limit the number being married to two? Why not three or four? No, no, no, say that gay rights activists, we aren't talking about that -- we are talking only about the right to two people to get married. For example, in a piece entitled "Gay Marriage, then Polygamy?" on the Independent Gay Forum, author Paul Varnell argues that the two are definitely unrelated. He says,

Gays are not arguing that people should be able to have whatever marital arrangement they want. They argue only that everyone should have access to marriage as it is now commonly understood. Nor are gays arguing for any legal rights other people do not have. They argue that they are uniquely denied a right everyone else already has — the right to marry someone they love.

By contrast, an advocate of legal polygamy cannot argue that he (or she) is seeking anything akin to traditional marriage — unless the Old Testament is considered "traditional." Nor can he argue he is being denied a right that everyone else has. He would have to argue that he desires and deserves a new right that no one currently has. Perhaps that argument could be made but it has not been so far.

The problem with Mr. Varnell's viewpoint is that he is not arguing for gays to be given a right that everyone already has because it is not true that marital laws already give everyone else the right to marry someone they love. It gives them the right to marry someone of the opposite sex if they are of sufficient age, unrelated, etc. Mr. Varnell, in fact, adopts the very definition for the right to marry that the polygamists would love to see adopted -- people should have the right to marry whoever they love. And despite his dismissal of the polygamist arguments as having "not been made so far", it is obvious that if marriage is defined as Mr. Varnell defines it, these arguments are coming. In fact, they have already come.

The March 20, 2006 issue of Newsweek has an article entitled Polygamists, Unite! which says:

[Marlyne Hammon ], who's involved in a polygamous relationship, is a founding member of the Centennial Park Action Committee, a group that lobbies for decriminalization of the practice. She's among a new wave of polygamy activists emerging in the wake of the gay-marriage movement—just as a federal lawsuit challenging anti-polygamy laws makes its way through the courts and a new show about polygamy debuts on HBO. "Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle," says Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization TruthBearer.org, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.

The gay rights movement has always claimed that their arguments don't lead to polygamy. I, for one, have never believed that contention, and it appears that the polygamists don't agree with that contention either since they are building on the foundation laid by the same-sex marriage advocates. If these same-sex marriage advocates really, truly believe that their arguments aren't arguments for polygamy, I expect that they will shortly be taking a strong stand against these polygamist advocates. I will be anxiously awaiting the gay rights advocates rallies in support of the two person marriage. For some reason, however, I won't be holding my breath.

More states are taking up the gauntlet and passing or considering greater abortion restrictions, including outright bans of the procedure. Herein, I go through the most prominent and near-term changes state-by-state and then discuss the likely result.

South Dakota

South Dakota is leading the way. Its legislature has passed and its governor has signed a law banning all abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger or she is faced with substantial bodily harm. The bill is intended to be a direct assault on Roe v. Wade and the legislature has appealed to the latest scientific findings to support their actions. "DNA testing now can establish the unborn child has a separate and distinct personality from the mother,” said a sponsor of the bill. “We know a lot more about post-abortion harm to the mother."

Mississippi

Mississippi seems next in line. One house of its legislature has already passed a law which bans abortions except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, and in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Prospects look pretty good for passage.

Tennessee

The State Senate of Tennessee passed a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would remove its right to abortion. In their own version of Roe v. Wade case law, the Tennessee Supreme Court has found that the state constitution provides an even broader right to abortion than that established by Roe. If passed by the state assembly, the voters of Tennessee will then have the opportunity to vote on whether they want to remove the right to abortion from the state constitution. The goal of the sponsoring legislators seems to be to take the issue away from the state courts and place it in the hands of the elected branches of state government. No outright ban would come into effect even if the amendment is adopted and the federal courts and federal right to abortion would still be an obstacle.

Missouri

The governor, Matt Blunt, has called a special session of the legislature in part to consider new pro-life legislation. The laws under consideration have to do with parental consent and some health regulations on abortion providers.

Also, I do not know if this bill will be voted on soon, but a Democratic state law maker introduced it and it would ban most abortions.

Indiana


Indiana Bill 1096 is under consideration and would ban abortion except when the woman’s life would be in danger or her health is threatened by “substantial permanent impairment.” The bill’s sponsor bluntly says it is a direct assault on Roe v. Wade. In his own words, "On an issue that's this personal, it should be decided as local as possible," the assemblyman said, "We either want these procedures, or we don’t…and I don't."

Another bill that has a greater likelihood of passing this term is a measure that would require informed consent (in writing), meaning that the abortion provider would have to inform the woman seeking an abortion that human life begins at conception and that the unborn fetus may feel pain during the abortion. The bill has a lot of Democratic support. According to State Senator Mike Delp, “this issue is the human-rights issue of our day.”

Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky are also said to be considering new legislation against abortion, but I have not been able to track down the specifics of such attempts to see how serious they are or how soon the respective legislative bodies may vote on them.

What is behind these legislative actions?

It would seem that Pro-Life legislators and governors in many states have been emboldened by the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Assuming that Chief Justice Roberts votes like former Chief Justice Rehnquist and that Justice Alito is more conservative than former Justice O’Connor, the Court likely has moved in a more conservative direction. However, there appears to be a five-Justice majority to affirm Roe, assuming that the liberal Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Stevens, and Souter vote as expected, and that swing-vote Justice Kennedy votes – as he has done in the past – to affirm Roe v. Wade.

However, we can count on these states to emphasize that advances in medical science have given the state a more persuasive and compelling interest in protecting unborn human life. We can also count on them to gear their arguments directly at Justice Kennedy – who is Catholic and was once thought to be Pro-Life – in an attempt to get him to switch. Another important part of the argument will be the value of precedent and how deferential justices like Roberts and Alito will be to a decision that is “established law” but with which they disagree.

Will Kennedy change his vote? At least one Constitutional Law professor thinks it is possible and makes the interesting point that Justice Kennedy split with Justice O’Connor and voted with the minority that would have affirmed a Nebraskan ban on partial-birth abortions. Does this indicate a shift in perspective or simply a distinction in Kennedy’s mind as to the more viscerally objectionable procedure? Additionally, we should not dismiss out of hand the possibility that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito will prove to be more persuasive advocates to their colleagues for reversing or limiting Roe v. Wade than their predecessors.

All this assumes, of course, that the issue will reach the Supreme Court. District Courts and Appellate Courts are likely to strike down quickly the new laws. After that, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether they are interested in taking the issue up again. I think it unlikely that we will see any of these challenges significantly affect abortion law barring a change in Justice Kennedy’s heart or the appointment of another new Justice. One thing is sure, however. The Pro-Life movement is flexing its muscle and showing that it still has influence and life, especially in certain parts of the country. Ironically, they may have made the next Supreme Court nomination – assuming it is by a Republican – more difficult, because everyone will know that Roe v. Wade is truly hanging in the balance.

UPDATE: There is an interesting article in The Weekly Standard about Chief Justice Robert's first few months on the Court. Early returns indicate he may be more influential on his fellow Justices than was Rehnquist, and that his making more time for the discussion of cases amongst the Justices may lead to more considered opinions.

I recently blogged on a text known as the Gospel of Judas here. This apparently ancient document revisits the story of Judas Iscariot and treats Judas -- who the Gospels describe as a thief and a betrayer -- in a much more favorable light. In this newly discovered Gospel of Judas, Judas is said to be Jesus' most favored disciple who betrays Jesus as part of the will of God, meets with Jesus where he gets forgiveness, and ultimately doesn't kill himself as the true Gospels report.

Now, James M. Robinson, "emeritus professor at Claremont (California) Graduate University, chief editor of religious documents found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and an international leader among scholars of Coptic manuscripts", has reviewed the Gospel of Judas and given it a big thumbs down as having any type of impact on the veracity of the Gospels. Why? Because while it is old, it is not old enough. According to "Expert Doubts Gospel Of Judas" by Richard N. Ostling:

He says the text is valuable to scholars of the second century but dismissed the notion that it'll reveal unknown biblical secrets. He speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of "The Da Vinci Code" -- a fictional tale that centers on a Christian conspiracy to cover up a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

"There are a lot of second-, third- and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles," Robinson said. "We don't really assume they give us any first century information."

Ah, yes. The Da Vinci Code. How does this soon-to-be-released-major-Hollywood-blockbuster have to do with the Gospel of Judas? Could it be that the reason that this text is being released at this time is, as Dr. Robinson suggests, to take advantage of the release of the film to push book sales? The manuscript translation is due to be released in late April, and the movie is to be released in May. Hmmmmm. Is this coincidence?

Stephen C. Carlson, of the very fine Hypotyposeis suggested that there was different type of link between the Gospel of Judas and the Da Vinci Code way back in April 2005. In a post entitled Gospel of Judas in the News, Stephen made the following observation:

Nevertheless, that did not prevent the article having its Da Vinci Code moment:

The Roman Catholic Church limited the recognised gospels to the four in 325 AD, under the guidance of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine.

Thirty other texts - some of which have been uncovered - were sidelined because "they were difficult to reconcile with what Constantine wanted as a political doctrine", according to Mr Roberty.

Not this canard again. The canonization of the New Testament was a long process that began well before Constantine and ended decisively decades after him. As early as Irenaeus in the 180s, the direct precursors of the 4th cen. orthodox Christianity (whom Bart Ehrman calls the "proto-Orthodox") had already limited the gospels they recognized to the four we know today: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Constantine's political doctrines had nothing to do with the selection of the four or the exclusion of the others (many of which did not circulate widely and were not even known to the proto-Orthodox).

So, it appears that the idea of the Gospel of Judas plays nicely into the old canard of questioning the canon by accusing other supposedly equally valid "Gospels" from being left out for political or theological reasons. This is very much the same idea that is behind the plot of The Da Vinci Code as well as any number of other Holy Blood, Holy Grail-type books. The release of the Gospel of Judas around the same time will only play into the idea that there are other equally legitimate Gospels running around that should have been included in the New Testament but for the religious or political leanings of the participants of the Council of Nicea.

I am betting when the text of the Gospel of Judas is realeased, there will be a spate of articles talking about the "other gospels" and writings of the ancient church that were excluded from the canon. It seems inevitable.

Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi

"There are no foolish questions, and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions." ~Charles Proteus Steinmetz quoted at Quote Garden


With all due respect to Charles Steinmetz (and the thousands of teachers who say there are no foolish questions), there are such things as foolish questions. Some are pretty obvious, like the salesman who sees the dog inside the house barking at him and asks, "Is that your dog?" Or when someone says "I'm going to Aunt Jennie's funeral," and the other person foolishly asks, "Oh, did she die?" My own kids regale me with foolish questions every day. They ask questions like, "What are we having for dinner?" when they are watching me grill hot dogs on the barbecue.

These questions are foolish because the person asking the question would, with a little bit of thought or awareness (or, perhaps, research), recognize that the answer to the question is extremely obvious. If a question isn't obvious, then I think that the question isn't foolish. Thus, when someone asks "how can a God of love exist when there is so much evil and suffering in the world?", I don't consider that a foolish question but a very profound one that takes a bit of time and thought to fully resolve.

But there are some questions that skeptics ask that are foolish. For example, Triablogue makes note of the fact that a skeptical blogger (who claims to have studied under Dr. William Lane Craig) posts a series of questions that pastors hate to answer in a post titled "Your Post Stunk When The Christian You Tried to Debunk With Your Awful Junk ". While some of the questions are decent questions and deserve some thought, many of the ten questions are completely foolish. Among the questions are the following:

(5) "Why does the Apostle Paul, who writes most of the New Testament, NEVER quote Jesus, tell a story of his life or death, discuss a miracle or teaching?"

(6) "Why does neither Mark nor John know anything about Jesus birth, while Matthew and Luke do but tell contradictory stories?"

(7) "Why does Paul only say Jesus was born of a woman like everyone else?"

(8) "Did Paul ever spend five minutes with the real human Jesus?"

(9) "Isn't it strange the man who writes most of the New Testament and tells us all how to live, think and believe about Jesus, never met him, while the Twelve who did, vanish into thin air and write nothing?"

Paul Manata, one of the writers for Triablogue and the author of this piece, does a fine job of answering these foolish questions (even though I think that he was a bit hard on the poor questioner). He says:

(5) Paul "NEVER" quotes Jesus? Paul quotes Jesus many times in Acts 20:35; 22:7-18; 26:14-18; and in I Corinthians 11:24-25. Wow! A Masters from a Seminary. A former pastor. A former apologist. With pastors and apologists like Loftus, who needs atheists! He "NEVER" tells a story of Jesus' death? What is Paul doing in I Corinthians 15 then! He "NEVER" discusses a miracle? What do you call his discussions of Christ's miracle in his life on the road to Damascus? What do you call his discussion of Christ's miracle of resurrecting Himself in I Corinthians 15? He "NEVER" discusses a teaching by Jesus? What do you call his teaching on the Lord's supper? What do you call his mentioning Jesus' teaching that it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). Wow! Loftus boasts about his knowledge of the Bible and uses it to try and act as if he can speak with authority. If Loftus thought this way as a Christian he was an embarrassment to Christian theologians and apologists. Now, as an atheologian, he is surely an embarrassment to atheologians. Anyway, ANSWER: Paul does, you nit wit.

(6) Hmmm, how do Mark and John not "know anything" about Jesus birth. I'd love to see the argument for that one. Does it go like this: "Mark never mentioned Jesus' birth, therefore he doesn't know anything about it!" Indeed, Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was Mary's "son" which would imply that, at least, Mark knew something about Jesus' birth -- that he was born to Mary! So, you can't say that he knew "nothing."

Same with John.

With regards to Matthew and Luke, where are the *contradictions?* Show me A and ~A in the same sense and relationship. And, if there are some, who cares. Remember, logic may be a myth, according to Loftus. ANSWER: The did "know" of his birth. What, do you think that they thought he just "popped" into existence? Silly.

(7) Huh? Jesus was born of a women like everyone else. Show me a person after Adam and Eve who did not come out of their mommy's tummy. Does Loftus think some people are born from wolves? ANSWER: Because he was.

(8) Well, so far he's spent a couple thousand years with the real human Jesus. I also assume that the road to Damascus experience lasted longer than 5 minutes. What, does Loftus not think Jesus was "human" anymore after He resurrected? Sounds like it. And he was a trained Pastor? ANSWER: Probably, but if it was 4 and 1/2 minutes, who cares?

(9) Is this guy for real? Who did Paul meet on the road to Damascus then? Oh, he must be presupposing that that story is myth. How convenient! Also, what do you mean the other twelve never wrote ANYTHING??? What do you call Matthew, Mark, and John? Did the Bible Loftus used as a pastor not have those books in it? Did he ditch school on the days that they taught and read from the Gospels? ANSWER: Is this guy for real?

As Paul Manata's answers point out, each of these questions is ultimately quite foolish. Question 5 is an example of simply not knowing what Paul says and making assumptions by what is written on "Jesus Myth" websites. Question 6 is an example of an argument from silence, i.e., because Mark didn't talk about the birth of Jesus he knew nothing about it argues that Mark's silence is the same as ignorance. Question 7 is an example of someone trying to argue a point based upon a stilted reading of the language used by the Bible. Question 8 is an equivocation because the writer probably means the pre-resurrected Jesus, because I am sure that Paul spent quite a bit of time with Jesus in prayer, in person and through the Holy Spirit. Finally, question 9 demonstrates a precommitment to the idea that the Gospels were written a long time after Jesus' life -- a viewpoint that is, at best, suspect.

Please note that the questions I am not saying every objection raised to the existence of God or the divinity of Jesus is foolish. I don't think that, and I don't think that we should approach witnessing in that way. It should be noted that I started my review of the questions posed by the skeptic with question 5. I did so because the first four questions are much more legitimate and much less foolish than these last five. But occasionally questions arise which we, as Christian apologists, should identify as foolish. Let's heed the advice of Titus 3:9 and not become involved in foolish controversies -- give straight answers to these questions and move onto the real issues over the truth of God.

After a delay (caused largely by my work schedule), I am finally getting around to posting the first Vox Apologia Weekly (a mere 30 hours late). As with any start-up, the submissions were few, but the submissions were of good quality. So, without further adieu, here are the entries responding to the question: How is Jesus' death a Sacrifice?

The first to post on this topic was an excellent blogger (and CADRE member) Andrew of Theo Geek with his post entitled "Jesus' Death as a Sacrifice". In this post, Andrew reviews the stages of development of sacrifices in religious traditions, and examines Jesus' sacrifice as both a cultic sacrifice and a moral sacrifice -- a very interesting view.

The next post is by one of my favorite bloggers and a former contributor to CADRE Comments, Weekend Fisher. Her post entitled "VA Weekly: Why Jesus' Death is a Sacrifice" is very short and references readers back to a post she wrote in October 2005 entitled "On Atonement". The latter post examines the question of why God chose to sacrifice the Son of God as the means of salvation. As usual, very thoughtful.

RazorsKiss contributed to the Vox Apologia Weekly by submitting "Was the Death of Jesus really sacrificial?" His own synopsis reads: "I think you're asking the wrong question. Since Jesus is God - of course He knew His death was not permanent. However, that is not the operative factor in why it was important - nor does it matter. The importance of His death lies in His identity and His perfection - not in His knowledge." Another must read.

Finally, I have submitted my own entry, entitled "Jesus' death as sacrifice". I believe that the question as posted is a little too vague, and try to look at a couple of ways that Jesus' death is a sacrifice while also providing an answer to a deeper question I often encounter when discussing the crucifixion with skeptics.

That's it. The next Vox Weekly will be . . . well, delayed for at least a week (making it the Vox Semi-Weekly, I suppose). Details will be posted when available at RazorsKiss' blog.

Sacrifice - Pronunciation: 'sa-kr&-"fIs, also -f&s or -"fIz
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin sacrificium, from sacr-, sacer + facere to make -- more at DO
1 : an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially : the killing of a victim on an altar
2 : something offered in sacrifice
3 a : destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else b : something given up or lost
4 : LOSS
5 : SACRIFICE HIT


Merriam Webster's On-line Dictionary



This week's Vox Symposium asks the question: How was Jesus' death a sacrifice? While I think that there is a certain vagueness to the question, I think that Jesus death can be seen as a sacrifice on several levels. The first level is the more obvious identification of Jesus' crucifixion as an act of offering to a deity something precious. The second is God's surrender of something valuable on earth. The third relates to the short duration of the "pain" felt by the one making the sacrifice.

Jesus as offering

First, as the definition notes, a sacrifice can be an act of offering to a deity something precious. In the case of the Gospels, Jesus was/is the second person of the Godhead. Certainly, if all life is considered precious, how much more precious is the life of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God?

The Bible supports this concept of Jesus Christ as sacrificial lamb from almost the very beginning. The account of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 where Cain's offering was not seen as good as Abel's offering. (Explaining why Abel's sacrifice was more acceptable is a bit of a longer task than I want to undertake here, but the important thing to note for this post is that one sacrifice can be seen as more acceptable or perfect in the eyes of God). The Old Testament law speaks of offering the spotless lamb as sacrifice because we shouldn't offer anything less than the best to God.

Jesus, as the one perfect man, died on the cross in offering to God for the forgiveness of sins. In that very straightforward sense, Jesus' death was a sacrifice.

Jesus death as God's surrender of something valuable

Jesus' crucifixion was pretty graphically depicted in Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. The Passion account of Jesus shows that Jesus suffered horribly in the final few hours of his life on earth. It concluded with his death by crucifixion -- a horrible way to die by any comparison. But when we focus on the suffering, we miss the main point -- Jesus' didn't have to die at all but for to save our sins. If God didn't want to save our sins, he wouldn't have sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay for those sins, and there would be no sacrifice at all.

"The wages of sin is death . . . ." (Romans 6:23) All people die -- or, at least, we have no evidence that anyone is presently living who is even a short two centuries old and no reason to believe that anyone presently living today is going to live this life forever. The reason people die is sin. If not for the Fall (Genesis 3), there would not be any death for humans. Jesus was different. If Jesus was sinless (and the Bible teaches that he was in Hebrews 4:15), then it follows that he did not earn the death that he suffered. Yet, he voluntarily gave up that life when he had no obligation to do so. That is a sacrifice, plain and simple.

The continuing sacrifice

The usual objection to Jesus' suffering and death as sacrifice that I have seen goes something like this: Jesus didn't really sacrifice anything because His suffering only lasted a very short time in relation to eternity, and He knew that heaven awaited Him (where we can never be as certain as Jesus was). These are two separate objections, but both responses miss something important -- timelessness.

Let me first say that I am speculating a bit in the following because the Bible does not make it clear exactly what heaven will be like. It gives us hints and glimpses, but just as God has not made himself perfectly known, heaven -- being the place where we are intimately involved in God's love -- cannot be made clear without God being made clear. Thus, what I am about to say is, in my opinion, reasonably inferable from the Scriptures, but I cannot say with any certainty that it is absolutely right.

Remember that God lives in a place (heaven) which is beyond time and space as we know it. I cannot comprehend how events occur in heaven -- whether they are temporal in some sense -- but it seems apparent that time as we understand it was created with the universe. God lives in some type of eternal everlastingness where he sees all that has happened, all that will happen, and all that might happen as though they are here and now.

In this timelessness, there is something that becomes immediately apparent -- there is really no past in the sense that we think of it. All is present. Did you go to the store yesterday? In God's eyes, you are at the store right now and will be at the store forever. There is no time and so all that happened is happening now and will be happening eternally for God. Obviously, if this viewpoint is accurate, then everything that God has happened or will happened has been happening from God's point of view from eternity past, is happening now, and will be happening everlastingly into the future.

Now, consider the ramifications from this viewpoint for Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus was tortured by the Romans, brutally beaten and hung on a cross to die a slow painful death. From our earth=bound point of view, these events took place over a period of 24 hours. But from God's point of view, Jesus' suffering and crucifixion has been taking place from eternity past, is happening now, and will be happening in the future.

Is that enough of a sacrifice?

Last night's Academy Awards show included Jon Stewart and George Clooney talking about whether Hollywood was "out of touch" with the general public. My friend Lores over at Justawoman.org asked specifically whether this years Oscars presentation show indicated that Hollywood was out of touch. Lores points out that none of the films nominated for Best Picture have come close to making the box office that The Chronicles of Narnia made in 2005.

A commenter on Lores' blog, to whom I responded, made the point that none of the top-ten grossing films this year were Oscar-worthy (though I disagree re: Narnia – it should at least have gotten more nominations). I thought it a fair argument, but ultimately it may not rebut Lores’ point. A better sample would be to look at the adjusted all-time box office to see whether Hollywood was able to make artistically accomplished movies that appeal to the broader culture. Here are the Top Ten:

1. Gone with the Wind
2. Star Wars
3. The Sound of Music
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
5. The Ten Commandments
6. Titanic
7. Jaws
8. Doctor Zhivago
9. The Exorcist
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, and Titanic all won Best Picture.

E.T., The Ten Commandments, Jaws, Doctor Zhivago, and The Exorcist were all nominated for Best Picture. And all of them won significant Oscars in other categories.

From the next fifteen all-time adjusted:

Ben-Hur (13th all time), The Sting (15th all time), The Godfather (21st all time), and Forrest Gump (22nd all time) won Best Picture.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (16th all time), The Graduate (18th all time), and Mary Poppins (23rd all time) were nominated for Best Picture.

So, of the top-25 grossing movies of all time, 15 were nominated for or won Best Picture. When you remove animated films like 101 Dalmatians, Snow White, The Lion King, and Fantasia, as well as the always disfavored Sci-Fi epics like Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, we see that most of the most popular films of all time also were nominated or won Best Picture awards.

Next, let us look at this from the other side. Here are the most award winning movies of all time:

Ben Hur 11 Oscars
Titanic 11 Oscars
Return of the King 11 Oscars
West Side Story 10 Oscars
Gigi 9 Oscars
English Patient 9 Oscars
Gone with the Win 8 Oscars
From Here to Eternity 8 Oscars
On the Waterfront 8 Oscars
My Fair Lady 8 Oscars
Gandhi 8 Oscars
Amadeus 8 Oscars
Shakespeare in Love 7 Oscars
Dances with Wolves 7 Oscars
Schindler's List 7 Oscars

Almost all of these movies were box office successes, with many of them being very succesful.

But lest we think that this is simply a product of the “good old days,” focusing on a few more recent examples is illustrative. Shakespeare in Love was released in 1998 and garnered more than $100 million. Schindler's List made close to $100 million in 1993. Both were rated R yet passed that mark. Forrest Gump was released in 1999 and was a huge box office success. Gladiator won Best Picture in 2001. The Lord of the Rings, Return of the King, won Best Picture in 2003.

Clearly, Hollywood can and often has produced great award winning films that are commercially successful. Clearly, the movie-going public can and often is attracted to movies that are artistic successes. But lately, with the exception -- in my opinion -- of Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Hollywood seems to be making fewer movies that are artistically celebrated and appeal to broader audiences. Or at least Hollywood is nominating fewer of them for Best Picture awards.

If we look at 2004 nominees in addition to the 2005 nominees for Best Picture, the result is much the same:

The Aviator
Million Dollar Bab
y (the winner)
Finding Neverland
Sideways
Ray

Only two of these films passed the $100 million mark and those two (The Aviator and MDB), only barely passed it. Moreover, significant amounts of those two’s takes were post-nomination -- and in the case of MDB, post-award -- and they would not have passed that mark without the help.

As for this year’s Crash ($53 million), no movie has won Best Picture with a lower box office since 1987’s The Last Emperor ($43 million). In adjusted dollars, however, it appears that no movie has won the award for Best Picture for at least 25 years and perhaps longer. The same seems true of the slate of nominees, though I would need more time and resources to prove it up. (One could argue that these movies have yet to realize their full bumps from the recognition they have received, but it does not appear that this year's slate is enjoying much of a bounce).

So while the box office does not decide what the Best Picture was for any given year, it may be telling that this year’s list of nominations was among the lowest grossing ever and the winning picture was one of the lowest grossing in years.

I have made no judgment on the artistic merit of any of the recent nominees and could not have. The only contendor (though not nominated) I saw last year was Walk the Line (which I liked). My ultimate point is simply that there does seem to be a growing divide in the preferences of Hollywood and the public. Simply claiming that this is the typical result of the public not appreciating artistically meritorious films does not appear to be an adequate explanation for this divide.

UPDATE: Just saw this article about one of the greatest actors of our time: Sir Anthony Hopkins. He criticizes Hollywood for making "condescending" films. He does not buy the line that audiences only want mindless dribbel: "Audiences aren't so mindless as movie-makers think."

Perhaps some in Hollywood see a two-tier film making procses. One tier for the artistic films that they and a few enlightened others will enjoy and can celebrate and award. The other tier of mindless action or comedy movies that entertain the masses and so make lots of money. The largess from the latter provides the means to make the former? In any event, Sir Hopkins left no doubt about his opinion of who is "out of touch." From the article:

I can't get caught up in the self-importance. People bow to your every wish and you forget where you come from and what you're doing," he told the magazine.

I recently worked with two actors who wouldn't come out of their trailers for some reason.

Can you figure that out? It's insanity. Or they complain because their trailers aren't big enough.

Bulls***. It's a job, like any other, so don't make a big deal. Be polite, treat the crew with respect and don't think you're different.

More grist for the mill.

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