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Showing posts from September, 2007

Testing the waters

Here is a very helpful resource for evaluating Internet sources of information. Since a very active and often aggressive debate over the existence of God and the rationality of belief takes place on the Web, with multiple blogs and websites competing for visitors and influence, it is extremely important to pay close attention to what exactly these sites are offering. It should be a truism that 'just because it's online doesn't make it true', but sadly it seems that many times this point has to be made again and again. Readers of this blog and any other would do well to evaluate it by the standards the author outlines (I am confident in the case of this particular blog, however, that it would pass with flying colors:)

Is Alexander the Great a Fictitious Character Based on Achilles?

A common tactic among Jesus Mythers, and not a few liberal New Testament scholars, is to approach with suspicion any part of Jesus’ life or teaching that recalls Old Testament stories or prophecies. The theory is that the early Christian communities invented actions and teachings of Jesus to match Old Testament expectations.

New Testament Similarities to the Old Testament

There are many problems this approach, and especially with those who take it to the extreme to argue that Jesus himself was a mythical figure. I have pointed out these problems here and here. In the most recent post, I explained three reasons that early Christian authors would refer to historical events in ways that recalled the Old Testament.

1. Christians were given to recounting actual events in ways that reminded them of the Old Testament. Which events in an episode to highlight, what terms to use to describe those events, and how to summarize events or speeches could be used to emphasize the continuity of a…

What Does Life Expectancy Tell Us About the Availability of Eyewitness Testimony?

A friend mentioned to me that he ran into an argument I had not heard for a while. Apparently, in A World Full of Gods, Keith Hopkins states that given the extremely low lifespan of the average Middle Eastern person, the eyewitnesses to Jesus must have died out fairly quickly, maybe even by the fifties AD. It goes like this: since the average life expectancy during ancient times was low, reports of eyewitness authors of the gospels or eyewitnesses speaking about Jesus' life in the second half of the first century are unreliable. According to the average life expectancy, no one would have lived that long.

How likely is it that eyewitnesses to Jesus' life survived the 50s? A 20 year old at the time of Jesus' death would have been 49 in 62 AD. A 25 year old would have been 54 by that time.

How likely is it that Papias--reportedly living from 60-135 AD-- had access to eyewitnesses? A 20 year old would have been 65 in 77 AD. A 25 year old would have been 70 by that ti…

Resource: Understanding Islam

From Understanding Islam Sermon Series:

Since the Islamic influence worldwide can no longer be ignored, what do we do? Christians can know how to respond, and must react with a biblical worldview approach.

A set of five-part messages on “Understanding Islam” is available for download to help educate and prepare today’s Church regarding this major influence on today’s culture worldwide. Prepared by a CEN ministry partner, these messages can be used, referenced and distributed…consider offering them as a resource to your church in response to September’s National Preparedness Month.

The five topics are: Islamic History, Islamic Scripture (The Qur’an), Islamic and The West, Islamic Followers, and How to Minister to Muslims.

As stated by the messages’ author Dr. Stan Reeder, “We can’t just sit around and do nothing. As John Wesley says, ‘The church has nothing to do but to save souls; therefore spend and be spent in this work.’”

Developed and preached the summer of 2007 to his congreg…

Bart Ehrman Swallows the Camel

"You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23:24)
Bart Ehrman, author of the surprisingly popular book Misquoting Jesus recently had an article written about him in the Danville Register Bee entitled Bible's words up for debate. In typical newspaper fashion, the article is entirely too gracious to him -- accepting his words without any serious attempt to determine if there is any substance behind them. (Which brings to mind the question: why has the press lost all ability to question people about religious statements unless they are evangelical Christians?) In fairness to the reporter, Susan Elzey, she probably doesn't have the knowledge base to be able to challenge Ehrman. So, as usual, it's left up to us to point out some statements reported in the newspapers are . . . well, let's say a little bit suspect.

In this article, Ehrman makes the following point:

"The only way to spread [the books of the New Testament] around then was to make copies,…

The Great Debate: Bahnsen -vs- Stein on MP3 for 1 penny

Free (Almost) Debate on MP3.

Here is the description:

"This is the famous formal debate between Dr. Bahnsen and atheist promoter Dr. Gordon Stein held at the university of California (Irvine) in 1985. Hear how hard it is to deny God's existence and how intellectually rigorous the Christian position actually is."

Get it here.

I have a scholarly friend who tells me this is the best debate to listen to in order to learn the transcendental argument. He tells me he has listened to it 15 times.

I just downloaded it onto my ipod. I am on my first of fifteen hearings. ;-)

(Hat tip: The Christian Mind)

Meanwhile, One of the Old Atheists Has Converted to Theism

When it was first announced that Anthony Flew -- perhaps the leading atheist philosopher of our time -- had converted to theism (though not orthodox Christianity), atheists responded in a number of ways. One such way was to claim that he was a nice enough fellow, but he was old after all, and perhaps was mislead by some dastardly Christian apologists and had recanted his conversion in any event.

Thankfully, Anthony Flew has written a book explaining his beliefs about God and how he arrived at them. It is not-so-subtly titled: There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. That should leave little room for doubt that his conversion real and enduring.

From Amazon's book description:

In one of the biggest religion news stories of the new millennium, the Associated Press announced that Professor Antony Flew, the world's leading atheist, now believes in God.

Flew is a pioneer for modern atheism. His famous paper, Theology and Falsification, was fi…

Write an atheistic bestseller (and disprove the existence of God while you're at it!) in eight easy steps

Much has been said (often with good reason) about the failing of popular-level Christian apologetics. I must admit that I have trouble surpressing a sigh when I pick up a volume by McDowell or Zacharias and find the same oft-refuted cliches repeated over and over, with no attempt to seriously engage the issues with sophistication and intellectual modesty. But of course that is also true of popular (and even more sophisticated) atheist apologetics as well. When I heard of the forthcoming publication of Victor J. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis, given his training in physics and previous engagement with religion-and-science (see his Has Science Found God?) I was expecting a major new defense of atheism that would take a great deal of thought and effort to refute. To say I was disappointed when I finally picked it up is an understatement. The book is short, simplistic and unsatisfactory at every turn. But I'm not going to review the book here. I want instead to list (in a ra…

Revival in North Korea?

I ran across a report on Christianity in North Korea in the most unlikely place. One of the websites I frequent is Strategypage.com, a website that "provides quick, easy access to what is going on in military affairs. We cover armed forces world wide, as well as up to date reporting on wars and hotspots wherever they may be." It is a good clearing house to get facts from around the world, but it does not usually cover religious news. That is, unless they relate to military affairs. In this case, they provide a brief account of developments in the North Korean army:

September 5, 2007: The North Korean Army has started a special propaganda effort to discourage soldiers from practicing religion. There's apparently an outbreak of Christianity in the ranks, and it's so widespread that the generals are getting nervous.
As best I can tell, the Strategypage folks have contacts in military and intelligence services in the United States, and perhaps in other countries. They…

Has An Original Sworn Statement About Jesus Been Found?

One of the biggest claims leveled by skeptics against the accuracy of the New Testament is that it represents copies of copies made over a long period of time. Certainly, no one believes that we have the original handwritten copies of the New Testament documents, and often the battle is over whether the copies we have accurately reflect the original writings or if the New Testament documents contain significant changes written in by the early church.

Now, however, David Walker, president of Right Hand Ministries, believes that he has found a document that is an original sworn testimony to Jesus. In an article published in the Herald Tribune entitled Lost, and found, in Bible translation by Cynthia Kane, it is reported that a document has been recovered from a Judge's legal chambers from the first century A.D. which may be very important in Biblical studies -- at least according to Walker.

His theories are based on Greek translations he completed of a photocopied document believed to…

Walking Through Earl Doherty's Jesus Puzzle

Darrell Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, will be "walking through the Jesus Puzzle: Twelve Points, One at a Time." Over at his blog.

Ethics and the Third Person--a question of salvation

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine (not CoJ incidentally), originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic.

The topic of this Section of chapters [beware!--long summary paragraph approaching! {g}] is ethical grounding; and in the first several entries I analyzed crippling problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation, including general theism. After this though, I returned to the argument I had already been developing for several hundred (currently unpublished) pages, and used those developed positions to begin solving the philosophical dilemmas I had covered in previous entries. Along the way, I ran into a potential problem last seen back in my (unpublished) Section Three; but slotting that problem into my developing argument allowed me to discover that I should believe that a 3rd Person of God exists. Having covered some introductory infer…

Was the Gospel Tradition Like a Game of Telephone?

I recently gave a favorable review of Mark D. Robert’s Can We Trust the Gospels? His approach, though well-informed, is more pastoral than academic. One of his examples that I found particularly helpful was about the “Telephone game.” You have probably heard skeptics refer to this as an argument against the Gospel's reliability. As Dr. Roberts explains about “Telephone” on his website,

That’s a game where one person writes out a sentence, and then whispers it secretly to the next person, who whispers it secretly to the next person, until it comes to the end of the line. The sentence uttered publicly by the last person is usually an obvious and humorous corruption of the original. “There you have it,” the skeptics conclude. “The Gospels can’t be trusted.”
I do remember playing this game in elementary school, with a humorous example about the teacher’s cat. I have also seen skeptics raise it as an example of why the Gospels are unreliable. They are, it is supposed, the end produ…

Ethics and the Third Person--results of the Fall

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine (not CoJ incidentally), originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic. The topic of this Section of chapters is ethical grounding; and in the first several entries I analyzed crippling problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation, including general theism. After this though, I returned to the argument I had already been developing for several hundred (currently unpublished) pages, and used those developed positions to begin solving the philosophical dilemmas I had covered in previous entries. Along the way, I ran into a potential problem last seen back in my (unpublished) Section Three; but slotting that problem into my developing argument allowed me to discover that I should believe that a 3rd Person of God exists. Having covered some introductory inferences regarding the 3rd Person's relationship …

Ethics and the Third Person--the original sinners (and I)

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine (not CoJ incidentally), originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic. The topic of this Section of chapters is ethical grounding; and in the first several entries I analyzed crippling problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation, including general theism. After this though, I returned to the argument I had already been developing for several hundred (currently unpublished) pages, and used those developed positions to begin solving the philosophical dilemmas I had covered in previous entries. Along the way, I ran into a potential problem last seen back in my (unpublished) Section Three; but slotting that problem into my developing argument allowed me to discover that I should believe that a 3rd Person of God exists. Having covered some introductory inferences regarding the 3rd Person's relationship …