A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the slaughter of the innocents. Therein, I argued that some of the skepticism about the account was unjustified. One argument I made was that the number of children killed in Bethlehem would likely have been no more than 20. Though obviously an act of great evil, the killing of 20 children would be much less likely to be noticed by historians of the time than the slaughter of thousands as later traditions speculated.
In response to the post, Peter Kirby asked a few questions. He has patiently waited my response, continuously delayed by work, family, and the completion of my Acts article. Two of the questions had to do with how the amount of 20 was determined. Others with the omission of the account by Luke and the reliability of the tradition recounted by Macrobius. Peter also mentioned that there were other reasons to doubt the story's historicity beyond just the silence of other sources. I h…
As we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have been thinking about U2’s song Pride (In the Name of Love) (hereinafter, "Pride"). The song, of course, concerns MLKJr. (According to U2 Sermons, U2 formerly ran a video of MLKJr giving his “I have been to the mountaintop” speech during the playing of the song.) However, the lyrics of Pride are quite apparently not exclusively about MLKJr.
A visitor to the CADRE site recently sent a question about Paul's statement in Acts 20:35 which records Paul as saying, "And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is better to give than to receive'." The reader wanted to know where Jesus said this. This was my answer:
You are correct in noting that this saying of Jesus quoted by Paul is not found anywhere in the four Gospels. My own study Bible says "This is a rare instance of a saying of Jesus not found in the canonical Gospels."
Does the fact that it isn't stated in the Gospels mean that it isn't reliably from the lips of Jesus? I don't think so. The Apolstle John said at the end of his Gospel (John 21:25): "Jesus did many other things as well.If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." Obviously, this is exaggeration for the sake of making a point, but it means that Jesus di…
[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here.]
Having explained why, as a Christian, I do not hold to what many people (Christian and sceptic) have considered the 'party line' that reason and faith are mutually exclusive, I will now explore this issue from a deeper philosophical perspective.
A Christian (or other religious theist) who accepts a faith/reason disparity will usually do so for religious reasons. His argument that these two aspects must be mutually exclusive (or at least need not have anything to do with each other) will be grounded on positions and presumptions which usually proceed from a devout loyalty to God's status, or from authority of specifically religious leaders, or from the structure of religious ritual, or some combination thereof.
And a sceptic who accepts a faith/reason disparity might do so only because, as far as he can tell, his opposition has chosen that grou…
It is understandable that naturalistic thinkers are uneasy with the concept of miracles. So should we all be watchful not to believe too quickly because its easy to get caught up in private reasons and ignore reason itself. Thus has more than one intelligent person been taken by both scams and honest mistakes. By the the same token it is equally a danger that one will remain too long in the skeptical place and become overly committed to doubting everything. From that position the circular reasoning of the naturalist seems so reasonable. There’s never been any proof of miracles before so we can’t accept that there is any now. But that’s only because we keep making the same assumption and thus have always dismissed the evidence that was valid. At this point most atheists will interject the ECREE issue (or ECREP—extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, or “proof”). That would justify the notion of remaining skeptical about miracle evidence even when its good. The…
Lately, I have been listening to a series of lectures by Hubert Dreyfus, Ph.D., a Philosophy professor at U.C. Berekley, concerning the writings of Soren Kierkegaard. The lecture has been very interesting, and while I think that Professor Dreyfus has some questionable interpretations of the Bible, his discussions have given me a greater understanding of Kierkegaard's view of faith. Most importantly, it has helped me clarify in my own mind the use of the illustration of a Knight of Faith and the example of Abraham and Isaac.
The Two Knights of Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard, the great Danish philosopher of the 19th Century, can be considered the father of modern existentialism. In his work Fear and Trembling, he wrote about the difference between two types of people whom he called the Knight of Infinite Resignation and the Knight of Faith. In Fear and Trembling, , Kierkegaard identifies Abraham as a Knight of Faith. In his lectures, however, I get the sense that Professor Dreyfus, who I ac…
The manger in which Jesus was laid has colored our imagery of Christmas. A manger, "[i]s a feeding-trough, crib, or open box in a stable designed to hold fodder for livestock.” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 674. Usually, we associate the manger with the animals in the story of Christmas or with Jesus’ perceived poverty. I have several nativity sets which include the manger, along with barn animals. Although I am a nativity set enthusiast, there is a much deeper meaning in the manger.
The manger is mentioned three times in Luke 2. Mary lays Jesus in the manger, the angels tell the shepherds that they will find the Savior by seeking the baby lying in a manger, and then the shepherds in fact find Jesus lying in a manger. Obviously, the repetitive references to the manger are indicative of its significance in Luke’s narrative. As Bible scholar N.T. Wright comments:
[I]t was the feeding-trough, appropriately enough, which was the sign to the shepherds. It told them whic…
Money-hungry televangelists taking advantage of the devotion of the poor? Pedophile priests taking advantage of the young? The apocalypse industry? Its syndication in the tabloids? Another big-name preacher succumbs to sexual temptation or to egotism? Christian factions involved in name-calling melee? In-house church politics alienating God-loving members?
Even if they sound familiar, I suspect that none of those will become the next big church scandal. I think there are two huge scandals that we do not see clearly enough. First, that we are not tending our own houses well enough to stop many of these others before they become scandals. We see them coming; where is our outcry? Second, we are not living lives of such active mercy and compassion as to completely dwarf the scandals in comparison.
Wait, but aren't there Christians living lives of mercy and compassion? Sure, and there many of them. Are they notable? Sure, all of them. I don…
During a recent discussion of the origin of
life on Facebook some atheist
friends challenged me to get up to speed on abiogenesis research and understand
that life has essentially been created by scientists in a laboratory. To prove
the point they directed me to an article at the Daily Mail, "Scientists Create Artificial Life."Given that
scientists have created a living bacterium, they suggested, there remains no reason
for thinking that the creation of life requires the intervention of God. So I'm
supposed to think that the mystery of life's origin has been solved and any
suggestion otherwise invokes the "God of the gaps" fallacy. Now as mentioned on the Facebook thread, I had issues with all this, beginning with the article itself: 1.
The misleading headline. There's a huge difference between creating artificial
life from nothing but chemicals, as the headline implies, and reverse
engineering an existing bacterium to produce a "rebuilt" v…
I have always contended that the primary reason to believe in Christianity is because its true. I have said in prior blogposts that if Christianity were false, we should abandon it. Why? Because Christians, who are followers of the one who identified himself as "the way, and the truth and the life" (John 14:6), should be dedicated to the truth above everything else.
Frank Turek, proud purveyor of Cross-Examined, has posted a video entitled "One Question You Should Always Ask an Unbeliever." It is pretty insightful, and the question that should always be asked really does get to the heart of the earnestness of the unbelievers in their views.
If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? It's a pretty straightforward question. The straightforward answer should be either yes or no. In a sane world, I would expect almost anyone answering the question in an equally straightforward manner would answer yes, but Turek points out that some of the people to…