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Why Is There Even A Jesus Myth Theory?

By Stephen Bedard

I have spent much of my apologetics activity responding to the Jesus myth theory. My first book (co-authored with Stanley Porter) Unmasking the Pagan Christ and my first journal article were both responses to the Jesus myth theory.

Although generally discounted by scholars, I believe that it is a dangerous theory that is influencing people through the medium of the internet. I am thankful that many apologists see this challenge and are responding to it.

This post is not a response to the specific claims of the Jesus myth theory.

Jesus Myth

My question is: Why is there even a Jesus myth theory to begin with? It does not make sense for people to just wake up one morning and decide they are going to question the historicity of one of the most well known ancient figures. Why do they do it?

I do not believe that there is only one answer to that question. I will present four possible reasons for people to embrace this theory.

1) Atheist Agenda. Atheists by definition deny the existence of God. Traditionally, however, they have accepted the existence of Jesus. They have seen Jesus as either someone who was delusional or someone who was misrepresented (usually by Paul).

More recently, some atheists have begun to question the existence of Jesus as well. Why make this leap? It may be the fault of many Christian apologists. Some apologists, including myself, see the resurrection of Jesus as the best evidence for the existence of God. If the evidence demonstrates that Jesus died and then on the third day was seen alive, something supernatural must have happened.

Instead of attacking each piece of evidence, it may be easier for some atheists to just reject the entire story. There is no need to respond to the empty tomb if Jesus never existed.

2) Anti-Religion. This reason has some overlap with the first but it is somewhat different. Being anti-religious does not require being an atheist. Some people use their love for God to fuel their hatred of religion.

The denial of the existence of Jesus should be seen in the context of attitudes toward other founders of major religions. In addition to denying the existence of Jesus, there are those who deny the existence of Moses, Buddha and Muhammad. Admittedly, those who deny the existence of Muhammad are quite careful in how they express that view.

There seems to be a trend for people to question the existence of every founder of a religion. How long before people question the existence of Joseph Smith?

3) Another Conspiracy. Some people embrace the Jesus myth because of their love for conspiracy theories. We can assume that at some point people knew that Jesus was a myth and then at another point people believed he was real. Someone had to be responsible for this change.

The Church has made many mistakes over the centuries and so they are an easy target. Church leaders must have secretly decided to make Jesus historical, presumably to make money off of the ignorant masses.

Once you add Constantine into the mix, you have both religious and political powers conspiring together. That is the makings of the perfect conspiracy theory.

4) Alternative spirituality. Not everyone who subscribes to the Jesus myth does it for negative reasons. Some use it to replace traditional Christianity with an alternative spirituality.

My introduction to the Jesus myth came through Canadian author Tom Harpur. Harpur is a former Anglican priest. Having read his books and spoken with him over coffee, I have a sense of why he believes what he does. Harpur was deeply disturbed by the exclusivity of traditional Christianity. Belief in Jesus as the only way is, according to Harpur, the reason behind the crusades, inquisition, holocaust and so on.

But what if the story of Jesus was true in a spiritual sense rather than a historical sense? What if there was no historical Jesus to divide Jews, Christians and Muslims? What if there was a cosmic Christ in every human of every religion and of no religion? Then there would be the potential for peace and unity for the human race.

This is not the place to respond to each of these claims. Rather the purpose of this post is to acknowledge that there are different reasons why people accept the Jesus myth. The practical application for apologists is to determine the kind of Jesus mythicist we are interacting with. Their place in each of the four categories will influence how we respond to their questions.

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Necessary Existence of God

By Prayson Daniel

Judeo-Christians understand God as a being that is perfect in knowledge (Ps. 147:5), power (Job 42:2), presence (Ps. 139), acts (Ps. 18:30) and has none greater (Heb. 6:13) nor equal (Ps. 40:6).

Following Anselm’scredimus te esse aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit“¹, God is understood to be a Being that exhibits maximal perfection. God is, borrowing Alvin Plantinga’s words, a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed)

Necessary Existence of God

God is thus understood to be a being having maximal excellence with respect to power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience), presence (omnipresence), and is morally perfect (this is why, for example, God cannot lie or be unrighteous).

From S5 modal logic the existence of such a being(God) is either impossible or necessary. The concept of contingent existence of God is a contradictory idea since (i) necessarily, “a being is maximally great only if it has maximal excellence in every world” and (ii) necessarily, “a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world.” (2002: 111)

Thus either the existence of God is impossible or necessary. The existence of God is not impossible. Therefore it is necessary. Therefore God, as understood by Judeo-Christians, exists.

Is this a persuasive case for existence of such a Being? I think it is not persuasive. Nevertheless it does show that Judeo-Christians’ understanding of God is rationally acceptable. Theists do have warrant in believing in a being with unsurpassed degree of greatness (God).

_____________________

¹ Anselmus Cantuariensis Prologion: Trans. [W]e believe that You[God] are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.

Plantinga, Alvin (2002) God, Freedom & Evil. First published by Harper and Row., 1974. Reprinted 2002.

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Can Science Answer All Questions?

By Paul Rezkalla

In the movie Contact? Ellie told her father that she loved him, but she couldn’t prove it scientifically. That’s because science can’t do that sort of thing. Science can’t show that two people love each other. Science is simply a tool that we utilize to uncover facts about the observable universe. So here’s a fun fact: Science is not omniscient. It cannot answer all our questions. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And the idea that we can’t know anything unless we have scientific evidence for it, is ridiculous. The claim ‘We can’t know anything unless we can verify it scientifically’ cannot, itself, be verified scientifically. That kind of argument is self-defeating. Interesting, no? So when someone says, “There’s no scientific evidence for that, therefore I won’t believe it”, I can respond by saying either:

1. Your face has no scientific evidence

or

2. There are things that we know to be true apart from any scientific evidence.

I find the latter to be more efficient, although not nearly as epic.

Science Questions

Here are 2 categories of facts that we all accept without help from science:

1. Metaphysical Facts

Metaphysics, by definition, lies outside the realm of science. The term ‘Metaphysics’ means ‘meta-physics’ or ‘beyond physics’.  Metaphysical facts include the existence of other minds, the existence of the world outside of your own mind, and the reality of the past. We believe that there are minds other than our own, the external world is real, and the past wasn’t created 5 minutes ago and given only the appearance of having aged as it did. These beliefs are what philosophers call properly basic beliefs. That means that they are foundational. We can’t show them to be true or false. We accept them as facts without question, but they cannot be proven by science.

Science cannot tell me that there are minds other than my own. When I’m in a lecture, I assume that the professor who is lecturing is a real entity with a mind and not simply a figment of my imagination or a part of my dream (as much as I’d like to think so). I treat the world around me as if it is real. I could be stuck in the matrix or I could be a brain floating in a jar of chemicals being stimulated by some crazy scientist who is giving me the illusion of this world. But I know I’m not. I know that the past is real; I was not created 5 minutes ago and implanted with 22 years’ worth of memories. I comfortably believe all of this and yet there is no scientific evidence that confirms it.

2. Ethical Facts

A lot of interest has been generated recently in the field of Evolutionary Psychology. Some experts in this field have argued that we can get morality from understanding who we are as social mammals. The idea of the purely ‘selfish gene’ is slowly being understood to be false, or at least an incomplete picture of who we really are. We are not simply lone mammals on the quest to propagate our DNA at all costs—there is a complex social infrastructure in mammalian groups/herds that has an inbuilt morality for the purpose of helping us deal with each other. Elephants bury their dead, bonobos comfort each other after loss, and most primates understand and operate by the laws of reciprocity and justice. This explains morality, right? Science has given us ethics!

Just a minute, buddy. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This kind of argument commits what David Hume articulated as the            Is-Ought fallacy. You can’t get an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. This means that observing and understanding how things are cannot tell us that this is the way things ought to be. Just because we observe that mammals help each other doesn’t tell us that we should help each other. Well, maybe we can say that we ought to help each other because that increases human flourishing. Right? Ok, but that presupposes that human flourishing is good and should be striven towards. But why is increasing human flourishing good in the first place? Why should we pursue it? Any answer that one gives to that question will not come from science. That’s because science is descriptive, not prescriptive. The ‘should’ or ‘ought’ has to come from elsewhere. Science can’t give us that.

Science doesn’t tell us that rape is evil. Science can’t tell us that rape is evil. The value judgment, evil, lies beyond the scope of the scientific method. Sure, science can tell us that rape can have biological and psychological repercussions on individuals and societies, but to say that rape is evil is not something that science can do. We know that rape is evil wholly apart from science.

Science can’t answer questions beyond those about the observable, testable world around us. Trying to do so is akin to using a yardstick to find the weight of a bucket of water. It won’t work because that isn’t the correct tool. My point here is not to say that science is bad. Not at all. I love science. Science has given us, and continues to provide us with progress in health and understanding the world around us. But we should not try to apply science outside of the fields for which it is meant.

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Did Messianic prophecy inspire the Christmas story?

By Tim McGrew

One of the favorite targets of destructive biblical criticism is the narrative of Jesus’ birth in the first two chapters of Matthew. One distinctive feature of Matthew’s account makes it a particularly tempting target. Matthew’s theological agenda is absolutely overt: over and over in the first few chapters of his Gospel, we get some variation on the phrase, “… all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet…” followed by a quotation of some passage from the Old Testament. Clearly, Matthew is deeply concerned to show the birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Messianic Prophecy Christmas

There are two ways to look at that fact. From a traditional Christian perspective, Matthew, knowing some of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, searched back through the prophets to find passages that would resonate with the events. Jewish interpretive practices in the first century were varied and complex and not always something sober twenty-first-century readers would engage in. Still, Matthew’s use of those techniques (still a debated issue in some circles) is pretty tame by Jewish standards of his time.

It is not difficult, in a quick online search, to find long lists of ostensible messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. Take Hosea 11:1, for example:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

One recent commentary (John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2002), p. 60) reflects on this passage:

Devout Jewish students must have often pondered this Messianic prophecy. How can the Messiah possibly come out of Egypt? they no doubt reasoned.

Or consider Jeremiah 31:15:

Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”

Even in Jeremiah’s time, Rachel had been dead for centuries; her mourning is a metaphor. Matthew, reflecting on the small but brutal massacre in Bethlehem, saw history coming full circle again and found in Jeremiah’s description of Rachel’s lament an apt metaphor for events in his own time.

Above all, there is the much-disputed sign promised in Isaiah 7:14:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

As the notes in the NET Bible Synopsis of the Four Gospels inform us, the “Messiah was to be born of a virgin”—and despite what appears to be an unending wrangle over the words almah and parthenos, it is not hard to see how Matthew, learning that Jesus had indeed been born of a virgin, would have taken the event to be a fulfillment of prophecy.

But from a more cynical perspective, this order of looking at things is backwards. Matthew, knowing the Old Testament prophecies, and persuaded that Jesus was the Messiah, invented the stories in order to fit the prophecies. The events did not remind Matthew of the prophecies; the events, in fact, never took place. Rather, recollected prophecies gave rise to the fabrication of the Christmas story.

The simplicity of the skeptical theory gives it a certain superficial charm. Anything Matthew says that cannot be independently verified can be explained away in this fashion. Why does he (but not Luke) send Jesus to Egypt? Because that way, Jesus can be seen as fulfilling the prophecy in Hosea.

Regarding Jeremiah 31:15, George Wesley Buchanan (Jesus, the King and His Kingdom (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1984), p. 292) writes:

Jeremiah was a prophet. Therefore, he would have been speaking only of the days of the Messiah. Why would there be weeping in Herod’s day? Herod must have slaughtered Rachel’s descendants the way Pharaoh had done with the Hebrew children in Egypt.

There is the reversal: Herod “must have” done this, as it is what the prophecy requires; therefore, the story fulfills the prophecy, neatly bypassing actual history in the process.

And for Isaiah 7:14, the skeptical explanation seems ready made. Does Isaiah prophesy a virgin birth for the Messiah? Well, then if Jesus is the Messiah, a virgin birth he must have. To the skeptical eye it is all so so clear, so satisfying.

Except for one small problem. In all of the Jewish literature prior to the advent of Christianity, there is not one scrap of evidence that any Jewish reader ever considered Isaiah 7:14, Jeremiah 31:15, or Hosea 11:1 to be messianic prophecies.

It is not as though we lack evidence of what they did consider to be messianic. We have an abundance of evidence on that front. In an appendix to the second volume of his massive work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfed Edersheim lists 456 passages that are glossed in the Targums or the Talmud as messianic. And not one of these passages makes the list.

I want to express myself carefully here, as there is a risk that I will be misunderstood. I am not saying that, by the standards of first-century Jewish interpretation, these passages could not be taken to resonate with actual events in the life of Jesus. Clearly they could—if those events really transpired, they might well suggest that sort of application of these passages. What I am saying is that, so far as our evidence is concerned, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that an overly zealous first century Jew, intent on making up a story about the birth of the Messiah, would reach for these passages or feel the need to work them into his narrative. There is plenty of other material to work with. But for this hypothetical Jewish-Christian novelist, these three passages are simply not relevant.

The fact that the Jews themselves did not consider these passages to be Messianic is fatal to the theory that the birth narrative in Matthew was fabricated to accord with messianic expectations. One might even reverse the argument. It is not easy to find a good explanation for the incorporation of such material into a fictional account of Jesus’ nativity. Yet there it is. How, then, shall we explain that fact? Why did Matthew feel moved to draw out just those strands from the prophetic writings, unless it was because the parallels were suggested by the events themselves?

Against this, there is always the fundamental fallback position of skepticism, a position that Matthew Arnold puts with admirable bluntness in his Preface to Literature and Dogma (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1883), p. xii:

[O]ur popular religion at present conceives the birth, ministry, and death of Christ, as altogether steeped in prodigy, brimful of miracle;—and miracles do not happen.

With such an antagonist, one knows where one stands. There is no subterfuge here, no pretense that the narratives must be set aside because of the results of dispassionate historical criticism. As G. K. Chesterton observes:

Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. [Orthodoxy (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1945), pp. 278-79]

 

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Jesus’ Birth: How undesigned coincidences give evidence for the truth of the Gospel accounts

By J.W. Wartick

There are many charges raised against the historicity of the birth narratives of Jesus Christ. These run the gamut from objections based upon alleged contradictions to inconsistencies in the genealogies to incredulity over the possibility of a virgin birth. Rather than make a case to rebut each of these objections in turn, here I will focus upon using undesigned coincidences to note how these birth narratives of Christ have the ring of truth. How exactly do undesigned coincidences work? Simply put, they are incidental details that confirm historical details of stories across reports. I have written more extensively on how these can be used as an argument for the historicity of the Gospels: Undesigned Coincidences- The Argument Stated. It should be noted that the birth narrative occurs only in Matthew and Luke. John begins with a direct link of Christ to God, while Mark characteristically skips ahead to the action. Thus, there are only a few places to compare these stories across different reports. However, both Mark and John have incidental details which hint at the birth account. These incidental details lend power to the notion that the birth narratives of Jesus are historical events.

Jesus Birth Undesigned coincidences

Joseph

First, there is one undesigned coincidence that is such a gaping hole and such a part of these narratives most people will probably miss it. Namely, what in the world was Joseph thinking in Luke!? Do not take my word for this–look up Luke chapters 1-2. Read them. See anything missing? That’s right! Joseph, who is pledged to a virgin named Mary (1:27) doesn’t say anything at all about the fact that his bride-to-be is suddenly pregnant. There is no mention of him worrying at all about it.

So far as we can tell from Luke, Joseph, who we only know as a descendant of David here, is going to be wed to a virgin and then finds out that she’s pregnant. He’s not the father? What’s his reaction? We don’t find out until Luke 2, where Joseph simply takes Mary with him to be counted in the census, dutifully takes Jesus to the Temple, and that’s about it. Isn’t he wondering anything about this child? It’s not his! What happened?

Only by turning to Matthew 1:18ff do we find out that Joseph did have his second thoughts, but that God sent an angel explaining that Mary had not been unfaithful, and that the baby was a gift of the Holy Spirit. So we have an explanation for why Joseph acted as he did in Luke. Now these are independent accounts, and it would be hard to say that Luke just decided to leave out the portion about Joseph just because he wanted to have Matthew explain his account.

The genealogies of Jesus that Matthew and Luke include are different, but they reflect the meta-narratives going on within each Gospel. Luke’s narrative generally points out the women throughout in a positive light, and it is often argued that his genealogy traces the line of Mary. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, traces through Jesus’ legal father, Joseph. Now it could be argued that these are simply reflections of the authors’ imaginations within their fictional accounts, but surely including names with descendants tracing all the way back to Abraham and beyond is not a good way to construct a fictional account. No, Matthew and Luke include the genealogies because their accounts are grounded in history.

Incidental Details

Interestingly, the birth narratives of Jesus also help explain the events reported in Mark and John, which do not report His birth. What of the apparent familiarity John had with Jesus in Mark 1:3ff and John 1:19ff? It seems a bit odd for John to go around talking about someone else “out there” who will be better in every way than he himself is without knowing who this other person is. Well, looking back at Matthew and Luke, we find that Mary and Elizabeth (John’s mother) knew each other and had visited each other during their pregnancy. It seems a foregone conclusion that they continued to interact with each other after the births of their sons, which would explain John’s apparent familiarity with Jesus in Mark and John.

Strangely, Mark never mentions Joseph as Jesus’ father. If all we had was Mark’s Gospel, we would be very confused about who Jesus’ father is. The oddness is compounded by the fact that Mary is mentioned a number of times. Well okay, that still seems pretty incidental. But what about the fact that Mark explicitly has a verse where he lists Mary as well as Jesus’ siblings?

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3, ESV)

This verse seems extremely weird. After all, Joseph was a carpenter (well, a more accurate translation is probably “craftsman”) and yet despite Mark explicitly using that word for Jesus, as well as listing Mary and Jesus’ siblings, we still see nothing but silence regarding Jesus’ father. Well, of course! After all, when we turn to the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, we find that Jesus was born of a virgin. Jesus had no human father. Thus, Mark, ever the concise master of words, simply omits Joseph from details about Jesus’ life. But to not mention Jesus’ father in a largely patriarchal society alongside his mother and siblings seems extremely strange. It is only explained by the fact of the virgin birth, with which Mark would have been familiar. However, Mark didn’t see the birth narrative as important in his “action Gospel.” Only by turning to Matthew and Luke do we find an explanation for the strange omission of Joseph from Mark’s Gospel.

Conclusion

I have listed just a few undesigned coincidences to be gleaned from the birth narratives of Jesus. The fact of the matter is that these can be multiplied almost indefinitely if one looks at the whole of the Gospels, and even moreso if one investigates the whole Bible. These incidental details fit together in such a way as to give the Gospels the ring of truth. The way that Matthew fills in details of Luke, Mark demonstrates his familiarity with the birth narratives, and the intimate connections of Jesus and John are all cross-confirmed is both incidental and amazing. The claim is not that based upon these incidences alone the Gospel accounts are true. No, the claim is that those who challenge the truth of these accounts must account for these incidences in a way that is more plausible than that they simply occur when people relate history. It seems that the only way to do that would be to resort to outlandish narratives that involve the four authors sitting together and discussing which portions of stories to leave out so the others can fill them in. No, instead it seems much more likely that these four authors were writing what they had witnessed–or that they received from eyewitness testimony, and just as we do when recounting events (think of 9/11, for example, and the different things people remember) they wrote specific details they felt were important or part of the narrative, while the others found other things more important or had other incidental knowledge related to the events they recorded.

 

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The Cross and the Falsification of Islam

By Samuel Inbaraja

Sura 4:156-159 states:

 

“Allah set a seal upon them owing to their unbelief, so they shall not believe except a few. And for their unbelief and for their having uttered against Marium a grievous calumny. And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa  son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and  they killed him not for sure. Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Andthere is not one of the followers of the Book but most certainly believes in this before his death, and on the day of  resurrection he (Isa) shall be a witness against them.”

The Quran claims that Jesus was not killed. It denies the death of Jesus on the cross of Calvary.

The Crucifixion of Jesus attested by both biblical and extra-biblical evidences.
Cross Islam

1.Biblical Evidence:

Eye-witnesses record

  • Sleepless night of trial in three places – High Priest to Pilate to Herod and Back to Pilate.
  • After being ordered to be executed Jesus was ‘scourged’ by Romans and exhausted by being sent to various places.
  • Carries the Cross to Golgotha – Unable – helped by Simon of Cyrene.
  • Crucified between two criminals  – Crucifixion  – Difficulty to breathing – Break legs – Cannot breath
  • Submits his Spirit to God – Breathes his last
  • Centurion finds he is dead –No respiration – so does not break his bones –Spear thrust into the sides– Water and blood gush out
  • Pilate asks to check if he is dead before handing over to Joseph of Arimathea. Ref:Mark 15:45
  • Death doubly confirmed in eye witness testimony in  the Gospel narratives
  • Earliest Traditions in the New Testament contained in 1 Corinthians 15, date back to early part of the third decade of the first century.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15: 3- 7)

Skeptical Scholar John Dominic Crossan says that the death of Jesus “is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”

2. Scientific Proof 

crucifixion

 “Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials, was flogged, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripe like lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of crucifixion, his wrists were nailed to the patibulum and, after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes), his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly, death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus’ death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier’s spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.”

—  Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA 1986;255:1455-1463)

3. Extra – biblical Evidence

“All human efforts . . . of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus , and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.” – Tacitus

“after him whom they still worship—the man who was crucified in Palestine for  introducing this new cult into the world” – Lucian of Samosata

“In the third book of his Histories, Thallus calls this darkness a solar eclipse. In my opinion, this is nonsense because Jesus died at the time of a full moon, which necessitates a “wonderful sign,” or miracle, instead.” – Julius Africanus .

“What advantage did the Jews gain by executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished” –  Mara bar Serapon

“And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him;”  –  Josephus, Jewish Historian

“On (Sabbath eve and) the eve of Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged. And a herald wentforth before him 40 days (heralding): Jesus the Nazarene is going forth to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and instigated and seduced Israel (to idolatry). Whoever knows anything in his defense, may come and state it. But since they did not find anything in his defense, they hanged him on (Sabbath eve and) the eve of Passover.” – Babylonian Talmud

 

Conclusion

The Quran claims to be the perfect inerrant revelation of God.The Quran denies the death of Christ. History confirms the death of Christ. Therefore Quran is not inerrant; Quran is not the revelation of God. So Mohammed the messenger who delivered the message in the Quran and claimed to be a prophet from God is a False Prophet and Islam which claims to be the true way is proved to be false religion. Thus the death of Christ on the Cross falsifies the Quran and proves that Mohammed is a false prophet and disproves Islam as false cult.

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Essential DNA Required for Life

By Philip Carlson

If one believes in evolution, it is important to know what is required for life. Not just what environmental conditions are needed, but also what biochemical conditions.

It is often quoted that there are 250 essential proteins required for basic life. To have life, you need 250 proteins so it was thought. While those were previous guesses it is now possible to determine what parts of DNA are essential for life. A study released in the journal Molecular Systems Biology provides a method of testing just that. Not only  do they give a method they also performed the test on a “simple” bacterium (Caulobacter crescentus). 

DNA Required Life

The complete genome of this bacterium was sequenced in 2001. Which helps tremendously with the task of determining which parts are essential for its survival. It is important to know that just because the genome was sequenced does not mean that the function of all the pieces is known, just that the nucleobase sequence that makes up the DNA is known.

With the bacteria in hand, these researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine took a close look at exactly what parts of DNA are required for this bacteria to live in the lab.

“This work addresses a fundamental question in biology: What is essential for life?” said Beat Christen, PhD, one of the co-first authors of the new paper and a postdoctoral scholar in developmental biology. “We came up with a method to identify all the parts of the genome required for life.”(1)

What is essential for life from a biochemical standpoint? They came up with some interesting conclusions which dwarf the previous estimates.

In total, the essential Caulobacter genome was 492,941 base pairs long and included 480 protein-coding genes that were clustered in two regions of the chromosome. The researchers also identified 402 essential promoter regions that increase or decrease the activity of those genes, and 130 segments of DNA that do not code for proteins but have other roles in modifying bacterial metabolism or reproduction. Of the individual DNA regions identified as essential, 91 were non-coding regions of unknown function and 49 were genes coding proteins whose function is unknown. (1)

We are told, “that 12 percent of the bacteria’s genetic material is essential for survival under laboratory conditions.” (1) Sounds like a small percentage overall, but keep in mind that this essential genome was 492,941 base pairs long. These are base pairs that are needed for life in this bacterium. This means that 985,882 amino acids were needed in the correct arrangement to allow life for this bacterium. The implications this has for the unaided formation of the first life are staggering. (While we could stop here and calculate the apparent overly absurd odds of this happening, such a calculation would serve little purpose. As a side note, creationist literature often attempts to calculate the absurd odds of things happening the way evolutions claim. Many set up straw men with these types of processes. I think that more often than not those types of calculations oversimplify the problems and ashamedly make a caricature of the opponents position. This type of “argumentation” is best left off the table if any real headway is to be made with this issue. While I do believe that such odds could be calculated at a rudimentary level, it could never be done to complete satisfaction without knowing all the factors involved. We do know, however, that the improbability is greatly increased because of the sheer number of correctly sequenced amino acids needed.) The researches did find 480 protein coding regions that are essential. This nearly doubles the previous estimates of how many proteins are needed for life. While is is a bit of an extrapolation to say that all of those 480 proteins are needed for life I think we can say that if that part of the DNA is needed it stands to reason that so are those proteins. They also found 91 essential coding regions and 49 coding regions that have unknown function.

“There were many surprises in the analysis of the essential regions of Caulobacter’s genome,” said Lucy Shapiro, PhD, the paper’s senior author. “For instance, we found 91 essential DNA segments where we have no idea what they do. These may provide clues to lead us to new and completely unknown bacterial functions.” Shapiro is a professor of developmental biology and the director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine at Stanford. (1)

These 91 essential DNA segments that are of unknown function were still found to be essential to life! This reminds me of the old vestigial organs argument often used in support of evolution. That is right, just because we don’t know the function does not means there isn’t one. See the previous discussion on pseudogenes for another example of that type of thinking.

This new research helps to contribute to our (mis)understanding of an evolutionary origin of life, and, I think, push us toward accepting that the transcendent creator did not use evolution to bring about life.

1. Digitale, E. “New method reveals parts of bacterium genome essential to life”. Stanford School of Medicine news release, August 30, 2011, http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2011/august/shapiro.html

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Jesus, The Bible, The Quran, and The Law of Non-Contradiction

By Derrick Stokes

In the Quran, the Gospel, or Injil, is considered to be from God and is incorruptible. The Bible says scripture is God-breathed. Yet, they contrast on what they say about Jesus. In comes the Law of Non-Contradiction. 

The Law of Non-Contradiction, or the law of the excluded middle, states that

(A) cannot be both (A) and (non-A) simultaneously.

It is logical to have different aspects of (A), but not contradictory aspects.
Example: John is a father. John is in New York. These are different aspects of the same person. However, logic demands that John cannot be in New York and not be in New York at the same time. This would be contradictory. This goes against logic.

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According to the Bible, Jesus died a public death on the cross and rose three days later. All four Gospels testify to the crucifixion referenced below but for the sake of time we will look at John specifically:

Matthew 27:45-60
Mark 15:33-39
Luke 23:44-49

John 19:16-33
16. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.
17. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
18. There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.
20. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
21. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
22. Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
23. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.
25. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”
27. and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28. Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
29. A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
30. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31. Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
32. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.
33. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

As you can see, according to the Gospels, Jesus died. In addition to this the Bible is clear on the importance of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascent into heaven:

1 Corinthians 15 & 1 Timothy 3:16-17

In Islam, the Quran mentions Jesus more than any other Prophet. It states He was born of a virgin (Surah 19), had disciples (5:111-115), ascended into heaven (4:158), and will return as a sign of the end times (43:61). However, unlike the Bible, the Quran states that Jesus did not die:

Quran 4:157-158
That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;

Now, we go back to the logic stated at the beginning. (A) cannot be both (A) and (non-A). Both can’t be true. Here, we have the Bible (particularly the Gospels) stating Jesus died and the Quran stating that He didn’t. Both cannot be true.

But wait, the Quran makes a couple other very important claims.
–God sent the Gospels

3:3
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong)
5:46
And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah,

— The word God sends cannot be changed (corrupted)

6:34
Rejected were the messengers before thee: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until Our aid did reach them: there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah. Already hast thou received some account of those messengers,

Yet, Muslims believe that the Gospels have been altered to show that Jesus died.

What can we say then? The last of the four Gospels, John, can be dated around 80 A.D. The Quran is dated 570 years later at around 650 A.D.

Jesus either did die or didn’t die. Both books can’t be right on this subject. However, looking at the Gospels and what the Quran teaches about the Gospels, the only logical conclusion on the matter is Jesus was crucified. Both texts affirm it when logic is applied!

So let us recount the sequence of events:

Logic: (A) cannot be both (A) and (non-A) simultaneously
The Gospels attest to Jesus dying on the cross
While Quran 4:157-158 says that Jesus did not die
But Quran 3:3 & 5:46 says God sent the Gospels
And Quran 6:34 states the word God sends cannot be changed (corrupted)
So we are left with two conclusions:

1. If the Quran is right about Jesus not being crucified, this would mean it is wrong about God’s word being incorruptible, so the Quran itself loses credibility since it states the Gospels and the Quran were both sent by God.

or

2. The Quran, which was written over half a millennium after the Gospels, is simply wrong about Jesus not dying because it changed the account of Christ’s death and resurrection.

If both texts logically affirm the Gospels; and the Gospels state Jesus died a public death, was buried, and raised on the third day, we have one more reason to believe in the authority of the Christian scriptures. We have more reason to place our faith in the atoning work of Jesus, the Son of God!

In his book, AT THE MASTER’S FEET, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Christian missionary, imagines a conversation between a disciple and Jesus in which Jesus says:

The cross is the key to heaven. At the moment when by My baptism I took the cross upon My shoulders for the sake of sinners, heaven was opened, and by means of My thirty-three years bearing of the cross and by death upon it, heaven, which by reason of sin was closed to believers, was forever opened to them.

By Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

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Convince Me There’s A God: Fine-Tuning

By Mark McGee

I was comfortable as an atheist. I could do anything I wanted to do (or could get away with) and laugh at the masses of people stuck in the merry-go-round of belief in a “higher power.” I laughed at them privately, with friends, and publicly on my radio talk show. So, it came as quite a surprise when I heard that science might support creation of the heavens and the earth by “God.” That was stuff of my childhood, certainly nothing to concern myself as an informed adult, but there it was staring me in the face – creation science.

Fine Tuning

In the early 1970s people like Dr. John Meyer of the University of Louisville (Physiology and Biophysics), Dr. Malcolm Cutchins of Auburn University (Aerospace Engineering), Dr. Kenneth Cummings with the U.S. Consultants Fisheries Service in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (Research Biologist), Dr. Thomas Barnes of the University of Texas, El Paso (Physics), Dr. David Boylan of Iowa State University (Dean, College of Engineering), Dr. Arthur Wilder-Smith of the University of Illinois Medical School Center, University of Geneva School of Medicine, and University of Bergen School of Medicine (Doctorates in Physical Organic Chemistry and Pharmacological Sciences), and Dr. Edward Blick of the University of Oklahoma (Aerospace, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering) were supporting creationism using science as evidence. I found that very interesting since my observation of Christians at the time was they were not educated nor informed in the “sciences.”

The man who introduced me to the fact that many scientists believed in creation had been a professor of Civil Engineering at Rice University in the 1940s and had received his Ph.D. in Hydraulic Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Henry Morris taught at several universities during the 1950s and 60s and helped start the Creation Research Society in the early 60s. He co-wrote The Genesis Flood with Dr. John Whitcomb, which included his belief in the literal interpretation of the world-wide cataclysmic flood that killed all life on earth except for those who rode out the flood in the Ark built by Noah and his sons. Thus, the reason for Dr. Morris’ visit to Florida as he prepared to search for the Ark on Mt. Ararat. All of this seemed ridiculous to me, so I invited Dr. Morris to appear on my radio show in a special two-hour edition where we would dig into the claims of a creator God who destroyed most life on the planet with water.

One of Dr. Morris’ evidences about creationism was the “fine-tuning” of the universe. By that he meant the earth was the only physical place in the universe capable of sustaining higher forms of life. Dr. Morris pointed to the earth’s unique hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere as some of the evidence for that, along with the position of the earth in its distance from the sun and how the earth’s moon and other planets and moons in our solar system orbited the sun in a way that benefited life on earth and served as a protective shield to most of the damaging elements hurtling through space.

Fine-Tuning of the Universe

One of the evidences presented by scientists who believe in creation is known as “fine-tuning.” Dr. Lawrence Henderson of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School wrote about the concept of fine-tuning a century ago in his book The Fitness of the Environment (1913). Other scientists who made scientific discoveries used in the development of the theory of fine-tuning (prior to 1971) included Dr. Hermann Weyl of ETH Zurich (where he was a colleague of Albert Einstein) and Princeton University (Mathematical Physics), Sir Arthur Eddington of the University of Cambridge (Astrophysics), Nobel Prize winner (Physics) Dr. Paul Dirac of the University of Cambridge, University of Miami, and Florida State University, Dr. Carl Brans of Princeton University and Loyola University (Mathematical Physics), and Dr. Robert Dicke of Princeton University (Physics, Astrophysics, Atomic Physics).

The idea of fine-tuning, as was explained to me, is that of the universe being fine-tuned for “life”. Could the universe be so highly tuned for life that the earth was the only place in the universe that could support it? What had we learned from our exploration of the universe through powerful telescopes straining to see as far as many miles and light years as possible? Did we see other planets supporting life? NASA had launched many rockets into space by 1971 looking for signs of life. Did we have “proof of life” in another part of our galaxy or the universe? Not to say that space exploration wouldn’t find life out there somewhere, someday, but it seemed at the time as if we were alone in the universe.

Some of the “large number coincidences” (also known as large numbers hypothesis) were extraordinary in the study of the universe. I traced it back to the early part of the 20th century to something Dr. Hermann Weyl wrote – “the ratio of the electron radius to the electron’s gravitational radius is of the order of 1040. The ratio of the electron radius to the world radius may be of similar proportions”  (H. Weyl. 1919. Ann. der Physik S9129). Eddington, Dirac, and Dicke built on Weyl’s idea of coincidences between extremely large numbers from different origins. Were those coincidences because of the slow change of evolution or something more purposeful?

As an atheist who gladly accepted evolution as the “truth,” I did not believe there was any purpose to life. Why would there be any purpose to billions of years of evolution with its slow process of “natural” selection? There wasn’t. I had no purpose. People I knew had no purpose. The world I lived in had no purpose. I was the product of a more highly evolved life form and could use lower life forms to my advantage. I could also take advantage of similar life forms, but at a certain risk of other life forms taking advantage of me. It was a bit tricky, but I was figuring it out as I went along.

But what if there was a life form that was much higher than humans? What if that higher life form existed in another dimension than the one we experienced? What if that higher life form made demands on humans even as humans made demands on lower life forms?  What if that higher life form had created lower life forms for a purpose? If so, what was the purpose? Was it to take advantage of us in the same way we took advantage of other life forms? Or something else?

I had never looked at life in that way before. Things were so simple in my world. Eat, grow, dominate, reproduce, lose strength and ability to dominate, die. Things only became difficult if something or someone tried to keep me from eating, growing, dominating, and reproducing. Get in my way and I’ll shut you down. That was my basic belief about life at the time. The possibility of something greater than the human race making demands on us got my attention in a big way.

The process of researching something in 1971 was different than today. There was no publicly-accessible Internet, no cable TV with hundreds of channels filled with information, no smart phones and tablets with apps, no personal computers with quick and easy access to the vast online libraries of the world, and no email. If you wanted to research something you spent hours at a library, or purchased books and other materials at bookstores or ordered them through catalogs. I spent a lot of time at libraries.

The more I read, the more I wondered if I had missed something – something big. What if I was wrong? What if the universe was so finely tuned that evolution could not have done it? What if a “higher life form” had designed and created the universe with a purpose? If so, how could I know the purpose? It was an important time in my life. I sensed I was at a crossroads. I didn’t know what it would mean for my life, but I needed to know the truth. Something was pulling me to figure it out.

Would the argument of a finely-tuned universe be enough to change my mind about the existence of God? If that was the only evidence for the existence of God, it might not have been enough. However, there were many more arguments to come. More about those next time.

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Faith: ‘wishful thinking’?

By Steve Wilkinson

I often hear people talk about faith as if it is ‘wishful thinking’. This is especially true in the ‘science vs. religion’ debates. “I have my reason…. you have your faith…” is the general sentiment. I have even heard Christians use a similar way of speaking. In some circles, there seems to be an attitude that you should ‘just believe’ and not question anything.

These views of ‘faith’ are a misunderstanding of epistemology (how we know what we know… what separates a justified belief from simple opinion) on one side, and what the Bible teaches on the other. The assumption from non-believers is that faith has no foundation. The assumption from some Christians is that the Bible teaches us to ‘just believe’ and that searching for reinforcement of our beliefs is some kind of sinful doubting.

Faith wishful thinking

Faith, though… whether in religion or secular… is a very similar thing. If I decide to fly to Chicago tomorrow, I’d go to an airport and travel in a jet. I don’t know for certain that gravity will work the same way tomorrow, and the jet will get to its destination (baring other things which could go wrong). However, I am reasonably confident in what science has discovered about the nature of gravity and its consistency. I am also reasonably confident in flight safety records. My chances of a safe flight are extremely good. If this were not the case, I wouldn’t have so much ‘faith’ in the whole process and would walk or drive.

In this use of ‘faith’, everyone can see what I mean. It is a trust or confidence in what I do know, even if I might have fears, doubts, and lets face it… in this case, some uncertainty. There is no full guarantee or promise that I will absolutely get there; nor can I prove it before I leave! It is, a leap of faith.

Christian faith is similar in many ways. I can’t put it all in a set of test-tubes and beakers in a lab and test it. I can’t, in some complete way, prove it to you. But what, when you think about it, can you ultimately do this with? The set of things is pretty limited. I can’t prove my senses are 100% accurate, though without them, life would be incredibly uncertain. I can’t prove my wife loves me in a ‘naturalistic scientific’ way. There is no lab test for that kind of thing…. any such tests would depend on things we already suppose we know about the way things work.

Christian faith is based on trust in what God has done for us, and will do for us. This is based on our relationship with God, God’s revelation to us, history, science (yes, I said science… more on this in another post), and experience. It may or may not be something I can ‘prove’ to you (depending on what prove means to you), but it is certainly NOT wishful thinking.

Faith is essentially trust. We trust things based on many criteria. Just like the factors involved in my jet flight, or my wife’s love for me, some of these criteria can be ‘proven’ to various degrees, and some are harder to measure. We do this all the time, every day of our lives. Christian faith is really no different. How faith differs from belief, is that we are confident enough in it to put it into action. I might reasonably believe the jet will get me to my destination safely, but until I climb aboard, it doesn’t really become faith. Christians believe in the promises of God in Christ, and then exercise faith by putting their lives (and souls) in Christ’s hands.

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This article was first published at TilledSoil.org. Copyright © 2013 TilledSoil.org. All rights reserved.


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5 Common Objections to the Moral Argument

By Paul Rezkalla

The Moral Argument for the existence of God has been graced with a long tradition of defense from theistic (and atheistic!) philosophers and thinkers throughout the history of Western thought…and a long tradition of misunderstandings and objections by even some of the most brilliant minds. To be fair, the argument is not always as intuitive as theists like to think it is. Essentially, the moral argument seeks to infer God as the best explanation for the objective moral facts about the universe. One of the most popular formulations is as follows:

1. Objective morality cannot exist unless God exists.

2. Objective morality exists.

3. Therefore, God exists.

There are a host of common objections that are usually blown in the direction of this argument, but for the sake of brevity, I will only deal with five. 

Moral Argument Objections

1. “But I’m a moral person and I don’t believe in God. Are you saying that atheists can’t be moral?”

The moral argument has nothing to do with belief in God. No proponent of the moral argument has ever argued that an individual cannot be moral unless they hold belief in God. Rather, the argument deals with grounding, or substantiating, objective morality. If God does not exist, then there can be no basis for objective morality. Sure, atheists can be moral. In fact, I know several atheists who are more moral than some theists! The issue of belief is not pertinent to the argument. The argument simply highlights the fact that there must be a basis– some kind of standard–that is outside of ourselves, in order for there to be objective morality. This objection makes a category error of confusing a question of moral ontology (Is there a moral reality?) with moral epistemology (How do we come to know or believe in the moral reality?).

2. “But what if you needed to lie in order to save someone’s life? It seems that morality is not absolute as you say it is.”

We’re not talking about absolute morality here. There is an important difference between absolute and objective. Absolutism requires that something will, or must, always be the case. Objectivity simply means ‘mind-independent’ or ‘judgement-independent’. When I argue for objective morality, I’m not arguing that it is always the case that lying or killing are wrong; the moral argument does not defend absolute morality. Rather, it contends that there is a standard of morality that transcends human opinions, judgments, biases, and proclivities. Let’s suppose that some nation today decreed that everyone of its homosexual citizens would be tortured to death simply for being homosexual; it would still be the case that, ‘It is wrong to torture homosexuals to death simply for being homosexual’.

The statement, ‘It is wrong to torture homosexuals to death simply for being homosexual’ is true, regardless of whether or not anyone believes it to be true. This is what is meant by objective.

3. ‘Where’s your evidence for objective morality? I won’t believe in anything unless I have evidence for it.’

Well, in that case, you shouldn’t believe that I exist. You shouldn’t believe that your parents gave birth to you. You shouldn’t believe that your closest loved ones are real, actual persons who matter and have feelings. You shouldn’t believe that the external world around you is actually there. After all, how do you know that you are not a brain in a vat being electrically stimulated by a crazy scientist who wants you to think that all of this is real? You could be in the matrix, for all you know (take the blue pill)! How do you know that you weren’t created a couple minutes ago and implanted with memories of your entire past life? How could you possibly prove otherwise?

See where this is going? Denying the existence of something on the basis of, ‘I will not believe unless I have evidence for it’ leaves you with solipsism. We believe in the reality of the external world on the basis of our experience of the external world, and we are justified in believing that the external world is real unless we had good evidence to think otherwise. There is no way to prove (empirically or otherwise) that the external world is real, or that the past wasn’t created 2 minutes ago with the appearance of age, and yet we all believe these to be true and are justified in doing so. In the absence of defeating evidence, we are justified in trusting our experience of the external world. In the same way, I think we can know that objective morality exists on the basis of our moral experience. We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition. Unless we have good reason to distrust our moral experience, we are justified in accepting the reality of the objective moral framework that it presents us with.

4. ‘If morality is objective, then why do some cultures practice female genital mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and other atrocities which we, in the West, deem unacceptable?’

There can be two responses given here:

The first response is that even though not all cultures share the exact same moral facts, most embrace the same, underlying moral values. For example, there are certain tribes that practice senicide (authorized killing of the elderly) due to their belief that everyone in the afterlife will continue living on in the same body that they died with. Thus, in order to ensure that those in the afterlife are capable of hunting, swimming, building houses, etc., the elderly are killed before they become too old to take care of themselves. This act is done with the well-being of the elderly in mind. The moral value that we hold in the West- ”The elderly are valuable and must be taken care of”- is also accepted by these tribes, even though their facts are slightly (well, maybe more than slightly) off.

The second response is that some cultures do, in fact, practice certain things that are straight up morally abominable. Cultures that practice infanticide, female circumcision, widow burning, child prostitution, etc. are practicing acts that are repulsive and morally abhorrent. When a man decides to have his 6-year old daughter circumcised or sold into prostitution, that is not a cultural or traditional difference that we should respect and uphold, rather these are atrocities that need to be advocated against and ended. The existence of  multiple moral codes does not negate the existence of objective morality. Are we to condone slavery and segregation since they were once allowed under our country’s moral code? Of course not. We condemn those actions, and rightly so.

Take the example of Nazi Germany: the Nazi ideology consented to the slaughter of millions, but their actions were wrong despite them thinking that they were right. Tim Keller summarizes this point succinctly:

The Nazis who exterminated Jews may have claimed that they didn’t feel it was immoral at all. We don’t care. We don’t care if they sincerely felt they were doing a service to humanity. They ought not to have done it. We do not only have moral feelings, but we also have an ineradicable belief that moral standards exist, outside of us, by which our internal moral feelings are evaluated.

Simply because a society practices acts that are contrary to what is moral does not mean that all moral codes are equal. Moral disagreements do not nullify moral truths.

5. ‘But God carried out many atrocities in the Old Testament. He ordered the genocide of the Canaanites.’

For starters, this isn’t really an objection to the moral argument. It does not attack either premise of the argument. It is irrelevant, but let’s entertain this objection for a second. By making a judgment on God’s actions and deeming them immoral, the objector is appealing to a standard of morality that holds true outside of him/herself and transcends barriers of culture, context, time period, and social norms. By doing this, he/she affirms the existence of objective morality! But if the skeptic wants to affirm objective morality after throwing God out the window, then there needs to be an alternate explanation for its basis. If not God, then what is it? The burden is now on the skeptic to provide a naturalistic explanation for the objective moral framework.

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Approaching the Existence of God

By Eric Chabot

How do we know God exists?  In the past when I was asked this question  I used to automatically  jump to an argument for God. I would sit down and try to explain it in detail to the individual. I have now decided to take a different approach and back up: I ask the person “How should we approach the existence of God?” or “ What method should we use?”  Now, I know that when you ask a Christian, Jewish person, Muslim, or Mormon how they know what they believe is true, they might just say, “I have faith.” This should cause us to stop and ask if that is an adequate answer. It probably won’t go very far in a skeptical and pluralistic culture. So in this post I want to discuss some of the various ways we can approach the existence of God. I am well aware that there are other methods as well.

Existence of God

#1: The Revelatory Approach

The skeptical issue in our culture mostly enters into the religious dialogue in the following way: In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, what kind of evidence should we expect to find? There is a tendency to forget that the Bible stresses that sin can dampen the cognitive faculties that God has given us to find Him. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13). Thus, people are dead, blinded, and bound to sin.

Christianity stresses that  the God of the Bible is capable of giving a revelation to mankind through a specific medium. One of the most important themes of the Bible is this- since God is free and personal, he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and his actions include already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. Revelation is a disclosure of something that has been hidden– an “uncovering,” or “unveiling.” There are three things that are needed for a revelation to take place: God, a medium, and a being able to receive the revelation.

The mediums God uses in the Bible are General Revelation (The Created Order/Conscience; Rom. 1&2); Special Revelation: Jesus (John 3:16; 14:9; Colossians 2:9; Heb. 1:1-2), The Bible (2 Tim. 3:16); Miracles, Prophecy, Theophanies, Missionaries/Messengers, and other means as well.

But why the need for revelation?  First, we need to know the character of GodHence, we need a clear communication to establish the exact nature of God’s character. Who is God and what is He like? Also, we need a revelation to understand the origin of evil/the Fall. In other words, we need to be educated concerning the reasons for where we are at as a human race. Furthermore, without a clear revelation, people might think they are the result of a blind, naturalistic process instead of being created in the image of God. And without a clear revelation we would not know our destiny.

Also, people often lament that God should just give them direct evidence of Himself in a way that will cause people to follow Him (e.g, write his name in the sky or have a resurrected Jesus appear to everyone today). The problem with this desire is most people don’t know what they are asking for.  Biblically speaking, people can’t see God and live (see Exodus 33:20). Therefore, that is why God picks a specific medium to reveal Himself to humanity. Furthermore, even if people had direct evidence, it does not mean they will love God and follow Him.

Challenges to the Revelation Argument

There is no doubt going to be challenges to the revelation argument. After all, the Bible is considered to be God’s revelation to mankind. However, The Quran, The Book of Mormon, and other holy books are also to considered to be The Word of God. Who has it right? The late Christopher Hitchens said:

Since all these revelations, many of them hopelessly inconsistent, cannot by definition be simultaneously true, it must follow that some of them are false and illusory. It could also follow that only one of them is authentic, but in the first place this seems dubious and in the second place it appears to necessitate religious war in order to decide whose revelation is the true one. [1]

That is why the revelation argument will generally lead us to utilize historical apologetics (see next point).

#2: Historical Arguments/Prophecy

When it comes to historical arguments, we ask if God has revealed Himself in the course of human history? If so, when and where has He done this? We can look at religious texts and see if they pass the tests for historicity. Also, see here. Thus, we enter the domain of historical apologetics.

Let me first expand on the miracles/prophecy issue a little bit: There seems to be a pattern of how God works in the history of Israel. Every time he is doing something new in their midst, he confirmed what he was doing through a prophet. Signs are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God.

We see this is an important feature with Moses and Jesus:

1. God says to Moses, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

2. When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs”: his rod turns into a snake (Exod. 4:3) and his hand becomes leprous (Exod. 4:1–7).

3. Moses “performed the signs before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31).

“Sign” (sēmeion) is used seventy-seven times (forty-eight times in the Gospels). Remember that the prophet Isaiah spoke of a time where miraculous deeds would be the sign of both the spiritual and physical deliverance of Israel (Isa.26: 19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1). Also:

  1. The word “sign”  is reserved for what we would call a miracle.
  2. “Sign” is also used of the most significant miracle in the New Testament, the  resurrection of Jesus from the grave.
  3. Jesus  repeated this prediction of his resurrection when he was asked for a sign(Matt. 16:1, 4). Not only was the resurrection a miracle, but it was a miracle that Jesus predicted (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19).
  4. Nicodemus  said of Jesus “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).
  5. “Jesus the Nazarene was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you  yourselves know” (Acts 2:22).

To see more, see our post “Who Do You Say I Am? A Look at Jesus

Also, former atheist Anthony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen (see There Is A God? How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind(New York: Harper Collins, 2007). Also, to see more on the prophecy issues, See our post: “Who is the one true God: A Look at Prophecy as a Verification Test and The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case  for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

#3 God as an Explanatory Hypothesis?

Paul says that God’s existence and attributes can be “clearly seen” (Romans 1:18-20)  since they have been “shown” to the unbelieving world through “the things that are made” (nature). Notice that Paul never posits that we can view God as a material object. But he does say that people should be able to look at the effects in the world and infer that there is a Creator. When we observe the effects in the world, we can infer
there are two kinds of causes—natural and intelligent. In other words, there  are really two general kinds of explanations for events: intentional accounts  (which demonstrate signs of value, design, and purpose) and non-intentional  accounts (which lack values, design, and purpose). (2)  Generally speaking, there is mass confusion over the difference between Agency and mechanisms.

Agents have goals and plan ahead. Mind or intelligence is the only known condition that can remove the improbabilities against life’s emergence. It is hard to see how a blind, naturalistic, undirected process could anticipate the universe that is required for our life to get started on our present earth and then go on to create life from non-life as well as the genetic code, etc.

C.S. Lewis said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (see The Weight of Glory). To apply what Lewis said, we might utilize what is called inference to the best explanation. The inference to the best explanation model takes into account the best available explanation in our whole range of experience and reflection. An example of this approach is seen in a book like A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the  Genius of Nature by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt.

To see a short example of this approach online, see  The Return of the God Hypothesis  by Stephen C. Meyer or Paul Copan’s God: The Best Explanation

Also, using God as an explanatory explanation is seen in philosophical theology or natural theology arguments. The book The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology does a fine job in handling this issue.

#4: Pragmatic Arguments?

Many people might ask why I would bring this one up. The reason I mention it is because about 70% of people I talk to about Christianity object to it by saying “I don’t understand what difference Christianity would make in my life?” This is a very popular approach. In this argument, many people say their religious beliefs have been tried and tested  in the reality of life. Thus, they think their beliefs correspond to reality because they do make a difference. In other words, “Christianity works because it is true!”

This does have some merit. After all, if the Christian faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues, and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Jesus and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false. Furthermore, the Gospel is not “What Can Jesus Do For Me?” but instead a call to die to ourselves and follow the Lord (Luke 9:23).

It could be that the person is not under healthy teaching/discipleship, or they are living in sin.  So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. Everyone knows Christians have done some amazing things for the world (see here), but we also have some inconsistencies.

Conclusion:

I can say from experience that people  have come to know the Christian faith is true for a variety of reasons.  There are several other approaches to the existence of God. I hope that has caused you to go further in the question of God’s existence.

Sources:

1. Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2009), 97-98.

2. Charles Taliaferro, Philosophy of Religion: A Beginners Guide (Oxford: Oxford Publications, 2009), 70.

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11 Objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument

By Randy Everist

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is one of the most popular cosmological arguments around today. The argument is fairly straightforward and enjoys intuitive support. It goes like this: “Whatever begins to exist had a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore, the universe had a cause.” The argument has several common objections, and eleven of them are listed here, along with some of my comments. I believe each objection can be satisfactorily answered so that one is justified in accepting the KCA.

objections kalam

1. “Something cannot come from nothing” is disproved by quantum mechanics.

Answer: This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the claim. The claim of the first premise is “whatever begins to exist had a cause.” It’s often demonstrated by listing the causal principle “something cannot come from nothing,” or ex nihilo, nihilo fit. Quantum mechanics does not in fact posit something coming from nothing, but rather things coming from the quantum vacuum–which is not “nothing.”

2. Truth cannot be discovered wholly from reason.

Answer: It’s true that one needs some level of empiricism in order to judge many things. However, one absolutely needs reason to judge all things. I just don’t see how this is an objection against arguments, for it must use reasoning (of some metaphysically-ultimate sort, even if it’s a brute fact) in order to tell us reason doesn’t tell us the whole story. Well, how will we know if the reasoning behind this claim is telling us the whole story? The answer: because this is the kind of claim that can be reasoned out. The KCA is just such an argument, by its very nature.

3. Some truths are counterintuitive, and therefore intuition cannot be a guide to truth.

Answer: This is a classic non-sequitur, on par with “some people have incorrect thoughts, therefore thoughts cannot be a reliable guide for truth.” The point is this: why should I doubt my intuition because someone else got theirs wrong? Indeed, why should I doubt my own intuitions even if I have been wrong in the past? I mean, if I am insane or intuiting on things I have frequently been incorrect on, or if there are necessary or empirical truths that overcome my intuition, or even if I have a competing intuition that I hold stronger than the original, then fine: I should abandon it. But otherwise, rational intuition is at the very core of reasoning. It is said that by rational intuition, we mean the way we know “if X, then Y; X; Therefore, Y” is true. Therefore, it may be argued that not only is jettisoning intuition wholesale unjustified, but actually irrational (by definition). “But wait!” I can hear one protest. “Just because you intuit this doesn’t mean I do.” Fair enough. But since I do, I am free to accept the ramifications, unless one of the conditions for jettisoning an intuition apply. In fact, we ought to accept our intuitions in the absence of these undercutters or defeaters, unless there is some reason to suspect our cognitive function is impaired.

4. Since science is not itself a metaphysical enterprise, the arguer cannot apply science to a metaphysical argument.

Answer: That science is not a metaphysical enterprise is, I think, absolutely correct. However, it does not therefore follow that science cannot be employed in a metaphysical claim. This is somewhat akin to claiming philosophy and science don’t mix, which is surely impossible (how can anyone come to a scientific claim or know anything without applying reasoning to what has been observed?). The KCA does not have science itself do the metaphysical work; rather, it simply uses the best and most current science to show that the universe most likely had a finite beginning and does not avoid it. It’s then the philosophy that takes over given this.

5. The first cause is logically incoherent because it existed “before” time.

Answer: First, it should be noted that this is not an objection to either premise, and thus one could claim this and still believe the universe had a cause. Second, the foremost proponent of the KCA, William Lane Craig, points out that the First Cause need not be in existence before time, as there is a first moment–the incoherence runs both ways. So what we have is a timeless, unchanging (because it is timeless) First Cause whose first act is bringing the world into existence. If the objector wants to insist this is impossible because the First Cause existed before time, he must remember that positing a moment before time began is incoherent, so his objection cannot get off the ground. The first moment is itself identical with the first act of bringing the universe into existence.

6. If some metaphysical truth is not well-established, one is unjustified in saying it is true.

Answer: It’s difficult to know what is meant by “well-established,” but it seems to mean something like “gained wide acceptance among philosophers.” But that’s a fairly poor way of evaluating an argument: a poll! Sure, philosophers are more likely than your average person to be able to evaluate the argument properly, but let’s not pretend this is the only way to discover truth. Moreover, this is an impossible epistemology. If no one is justified in believing some metaphysical claim to be true unless a majority of philosophers accept it, then either no such majority will exist (because the vast majority will stick with this claim) or if such a majority exists it will be a “tipsy coachman” kind of group (where they are right for the wrong reasons). Surely this is a poor epistemology.

7. There could be other deities besides the Christian God.

Answer: Again, it must be noted that this is not an objection to either premise and hence not the conclusion. It is an objection to the application of the conclusion. However, it must be noted that the KCA is an argument for natural theology, not revealed theology (cf. Charles Taliaferro, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, ch. 1). It is not the domain of natural theology to discuss, explicitly, the Christian God. Of course, we Christians happen to believe this being is identical to the Christian God ontologically. However, let’s take a look at some of the properties: timeless, spaceless, changeless (logically prior to the Big Bang), immensely powerful, and the creator of the universe. Hmm, sounds far more like the God of Christian theology and the Bible than any of the other alternatives, doesn’t it?

8. There are non-theistic explanations that remain live possibilities.

Answer: This objection attempts to state that although the universe had a beginning, some non-theistic explanation is just as possible (or even probable) as God. The multiverse, aliens, whatever. However, most of these examples (such as a multiverse) can really best be described as objections to the second premise, not the application of the conclusion. The multiverse, for instance, really doesn’t solve the problem, but merely places it back one step. One may reply the multiverse could be identical with Lewis’ plurality of worlds, so that every logically-possible world actually exists, and it was impossible that any such possible world fail to exist. However, this is extremely ad hoc, and there is literally no reason to believe that if there is a multiverse, it is as complete as Lewis claimed (in fact, there’s decent reason to believe such a state of affairs is impossible if identity across worlds holds).

9. Popular-level science teaches the universe had a beginning, but someone says the real science shows it doesn’t.

Answer: This is a bit of an odd claim. We aren’t given any argument as to why it’s really the case that a potentially-successful model for the beginning of the universe shows no finite beginning. We’re simply to take someone’s word for it, when we actually have physicists and scientists admitting these theories don’t work.

10. The KCA relies entirely on current science, and science can change.

Answer: It’s very true that science is changing, and any claim should be held tentatively (even gravity–seems dubious though, right?). However, two points remain. First, simply because some claim remains open to change does not mean that claim cannot be accepted as true. It seems bizarre to say that because some claim is in the purview of science, one should not claim it as true. Of course we can claim it is true! Second, the KCA does not rely entirely on science. In fact, the second premise (“the universe began to exist”) can be defended solely on rational argumentation. One may think these arguments fail, but to claim the KCA rests almost wholly on the science demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the basic defenses of the KCA’s premises.

11. There is some problem of infinite regress of a first cause.

Answer: Presumably, this is the “Who created God?” problem (I can’t for the life of me think of any other problem). I don’t see why this is a problem, given the formulation of the argument. “Whatever begins to exist had a cause.” God did not begin to exist. “Ad hoc!” one might cry. But they would be mistaken. There is a very good reason for stating this. The application of the conclusion demands that the First Cause precede, logically, all else. The First Cause’s act of bringing the universe into existence is the first moment. Hence, if the First Cause was not really the first cause after all, then the first moment of time would already have existed. But it did not exist. Hence, the First Cause was the first.

Each objection has been dealt with by providing an answer. This means that each Christian, and each person, is rationally justified in accepting the KCA. If that is true, then it seems that the KCA’s truth implies God–not just any God, but the God of the Bible!

 

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Tetragrammaton And Jehovah’s Witnesses

By Prayson Daniel

Unwarrantedly Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee added “Jehovah” in 237 places in New Testament. By doing so, New World Translation (NWT), Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible, blurs many passages that depicts Christ Jesus as Lord (Kyrios) of Old Testament.

Tetragrammaton And Jehovah's Witnesses

In Journal of Biblical Literature, Kurt Aland showed that the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, does not appear in any of the 5,255 known New Testament Greek manuscripts (Aland 1968: 184). The Tetragrammaton is also absent in the writing of the early Christians. For example, Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians written ca. 100 A.D quoted Joshua 2 cf. Heb. 11:31(“I[Rahab] know assuredly that the Lord(“κύριος”) your God hath given you this city […](1 Clement 12), Ezekiel 33:11 “For as I live, said the Lord (Ky′ri·os), I do not desire the death of the sinner so much as his repentance”.(1 Clement 8). NWT’s unwarrantedly added “Jehovah” in front of “Lord”.

In the same period, the author of the epistle of Barnabas quoted Exodus 24:18, 31:18, 32:7; Deut. 9:12. and Isa. 42:,6-7, 61:1- 2 in just chapter fourteen and in all times he used “κύριος”(Lord) . While years later Irenaeus quoted Matthew 1:20; 4:10, Romans 11:34, and Acts 2: 25 in Against Heresies using “Lord” and not “Jehovah”, contrary to Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee. Both Philo and Josephus, like New Testament writers and early Christians, probably used the complete Septuagint (LXX ) which had “κύριος”(Lord). Some of older fragments of LXX do contain the tetragrammaton while others simply had blank spaces in place of the tetragrammation (e.g. Papyrus Rylands 458 )

Even though Watch Tower Society do know as entailed by their own question , viz., “[w]hy, then, is the name absent from the extant manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures or so-called “New Testament”?”(Watchtower 1971: 887) that the tetragammaton does not appear in any known Greek manuscripts, they, without warrant, press forward and reject the use of Kyrios (Lord) in 5000+ Greek manuscripts dating from 2rd century and early Christians’ writings as corrupted. Watch Tower Society found their support, that New Testament must have had tetragammation, in 25 Hebrew J Versions of the Bible and 2 non-version (J1 to J27), the translations of New Testaments into Hebrew , which came to scene earliest late 14th century onwards

New World Translation translators should be commend for restoring the tetragrammation in Hebrews Scriptures(Old Testament) but I think from their own reasoning which is in a form of a question and answer, namely:

How is a modern translator to know or determine when to render the Greek words κύριος and θεός into the divine name in his version? By determining where the inspired Christian writers have quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. Then he must refer back to the original to locate whether the divine name appears there.(Watchtower 1969: 18-19)

With the use of Lord and not YHWH (tetragrammaton) in all known copies of copies of originals (since historians have no surviving original or copies of originals) of New Testaments Greek manuscripts, contrary to Watch Tower’s Society, adding of thetetragrammaton in New Testament would not be restoration of God’s name but distorting and blurring the author’s meaning.

Blurring of 1 Corinthians 10:9: Who Is Put To The Test?

One of the passage which I believe Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee blurs with this maneuver is 1 Corinthians 10:9: “Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put [him] to the test, only to perish by the serpents.”(NWT). With this move Jehovah’s Witnesses are led to believe that it is Jehovah the Father that the Israelites put to test and not Christ Jesus who is the rock to which Israelites drank a spiritual drink (v4).

Faithfully Watchtower Society’s translators added a footnote in their translation of this verse. They explained that “Jehovah” appears in Hebrews J Versions of the Bible 18, 22and 23, while Codex Sinaiticus(א), and Vatican ms 1209(B) both of 4th century and Codex Ephraemi rescriptus(C) of 5th century have ton Ky′ri·on (Lord), Papyrus 46 of 3rd century and Bezae Codices(D) of 5th and 6th century have “the Christ” and last Codex Alexandrinus(A), of 5th century has “God.”

“On closer examination,” The NET Bible Bible First Edition Notes explained, “the variants appear to be intentional changed.”

Alexandrian scribes replaced the highly specific term “Christ” with the less specific terms “Lord” and “God” because in the context it seems to be anachronistic to speak of the exodus generation putting Christ to the test. If the original had been “Lord,” it seems unlikely that a scribe would have willingly created a difficulty by substituting the more specific “Christ.”(Biblical Studies Press 2006)

They argued that scribes were likely “to assimilate the word “Christ” to “Lord” in conformity with Deut 6:16 or other passages”.

The evidence from the early church regarding the reading of this verse is rather compelling in favor of “Christ.” Marcion, a second-century, anti-Jewish heretic, would naturally have opposed any reference to Christ in historical involvement with Israel, because he thought of the Creator God of the OT as inherently evil. In spite of this strong prejudice, though, {Marcion} read a text with “Christ.” Other early church writers attest to the presence of the word “Christ,” including {Clement of Alexandria} and Origen.(ibid)

If The NET Bible First Edition Notes is correct, which I believe it is, then Watch Tower Bible translators blurred 1 Cor. 10:9 that depicts Christ Jesus as the Yahweh of the Old Testament by selectively embracing a late 14th century J version of the Bible when convenient. Watch Tower Society ignored places in J versions, for example J14’s reading of 1 Corinthians 12:3, “[…] no one can say “Jesus is Lord Jehovah, except by the Holy Spirit.” and J7 and J8’s reading of Hebrew 1:10; J13 , J14 and J20’s reading of 1 Peter 2:3 which all applied the tetragrammaton to Jesus.

Question To Jehovah’s Witnesses: If the name “Jehovah” was changed to “Lord” in all 5000+ Greek manuscripts ranging from 2nd century, why don’t we have even a single early manuscripts with “Jehovah” nor do the first Christians make use of it?

Note: >> Scroll all the way down to get a Free Resource << To know more about NT Greek Manuscripts, here is a table with a name of a manuscript, its branch, category, content and location arranged by date.

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Bibliography:

Aland, Kurt (1968). Greek New Testament: its present and future editions. Journal of Biblical Literature 87.2: 179-186.

Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (1 Co 10:9). Biblical Studies Press.

Watchtower Society (1969) Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scripture. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

____________________ (1971) Aid To Bible Understanding. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

_____________________ (1984) New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – With References. Rendered from the Original Languages by the New World Bible Translation Committee. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

______________________ (1989) Reasoning From the Scripture. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Brooklyn, New York.

Genocide and the God of the Old Testament

By JC Lamont

Many people take issue with the idea that God commanded the Jewish nation to initiate war against the Canaanites, ordering them to wipe them out and take their land for their own. Not only have some people rejected Christianity over this, but it has even spurred some Christians to leave the faith. Are the critics of the Old Testament and Christianity in general correct when they accuse God of genocide and of slaughtering those who don’t worship Him? How do we as apologists reconcile the God of love with an alleged religious bigot and racist ethnic cleanser?

Genocide God

In researching my book, Prophecy of the Heir, a literary apologetics novel that spans the entire Old Testament through angelic and demonic eyes, I discovered what I believe is a sound defense for God’s actions, which I hope will help those who struggle with this subject matter.

1. 400 Years to Repent

In Genesis 15:13 and 16, when God promises Abraham that He will give the land of Canaan to his descendants, He informs him that it will not take place for another 400 years because their sins “do not yet warrant their destruction.”

What sins was God referring to? History indicates that child sacrifice was rampant in Canaan. Years later, when the Israelites were in the land and began worshipping false gods, it was not until they started sacrificing their children that God sent the Babylonians to take them captive. When it comes to the murder of the innocents, God does not spare even His own people. Why should it come as a surprise then that He would punish the Canaanites for the same crime?

We don’t hear of complaints against God concerning the destruction of Nineveh, the people of whom were given only 3 days to repent, because they were spared due to “turn(ing) from their evil ways and stop(ping) all their violence (Jonah 3:7-10). Note that it doesn’t say they destroyed their idols, or converted to worship of Yahweh. It merely states they were spared judgment for halting their violence. They were never threatened punishment for worshiping false gods.

Why did God give the Canaanites so long to repent? Evidently, He had no desire to wipe them out, and hoped that future generations would stop the violent atrocities learned from their parents. And it should be noted that he warned Abraham that during those 400 years, He would allow His own people to be enslaved (subjected to maltreatment, labor death-camp conditions, and infanticide). It should be noted the similarities in the life of Christ, that God loved those “who were yet sinners” so much that He would allow His own Son to suffer in the hope that mankind would repent.

2. Prophet

Nineveh had the prophet Jonah to warn them, but whom did the Canaanites have? In the heart of Canaan was the city Salem, and its king was Melchizedek, a priest of God Most High (Gen 14:18). Though we know little of Melchizedek, many biblical historians have speculated that He was Noah’s son Shem. If this is the case, the Canaanites were contemporaries with one who had lived in the pre-flood world, who witness firsthand the atrocities of the Nephilim and God’s punishment against the violence that had saturated the world. But regardless of who he was, as king, it is inconceivable that He had little influence in the Canaanite cities surrounding his own, and as the first known priest of God, it is equally doubtful that he did not exhort the peoples around him to forsake violence and child-sacrifice, and to turn to God.

3. Sodom and Gomorrah

Whereas Nineveh was a city that was spared God’s judgment, Sodom and Gomorrah were not. As Sodom and Gomorrah were part of Canaan, why were they not given the same 400 years to repent as the rest of Canaan? In Genesis 18:20-21, God tells Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.”

Many critics are quick to point out that this “flagrant sin” was homosexuality, and that this passage is proof of God’s homophobia. However, nowhere in the Bible does it say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah due to homosexuality. In fact, Ezekiel 16:49-50 cites exactly why God destroyed these cities: “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.”

Though “detestable sins” is not specific (and other translations use the word abominations), the only mention of homosexual behavior in connection to Sodom was the attempted homosexual gang-rape of the two angels searching for enough righteous people in the cities to spare them from judgment. And once again, nowhere in the list of their sins was the worship of false gods.

So why were these cities not given the same 400 years to repent? Perhaps He feared their “flagrant sins” would hold more sway over the other Canaanite cities than Melchizedek’s influence. By eliminating them, He intervened in the course of human history and stacked the odds in the favor of Canaanite repenting.

4. Fire and Brimstone versus War

Would people take as much issue with God if he specifically mentioned He was punishing the Canaanites for child-sacrifice, and had “rained down fire and brimstone” on them rather than using war as his tool of judgment?

It is very possible they would not, and Moses even accosts the Israelites about just that in Deuteronomy 9:4-6: “After the LORD your God has done this for you (given you the land of Canaan), don’t say in your hearts, ‘The LORD has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way. It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The LORD your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You must recognize that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.”

5. Prisoners of War

As an aside, I would like to briefly mention God’s treatment of war when not as a course of punishment but as an inevitable action of mankind. In 2 Kings 6:22, an army that had repeatedly raided towns and villages of Israel, killing men, women, and children, sought to kill the prophet Elisha. When they were apprehended, the King of Israel asked Elisha if they should be executed. The prophet’s response? “Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”

In closing, I hope to have shown reasonable evidence that the destruction of the Canaanites had nothing to do with religious bigotry or ethnic cleansing, and that at every turn, God sought ways to spare them as He did with Nineveh, Sodom, and Gomorrah.

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Presuppositions of Science

By Philip Carlson

Often I am told that science should be the ultimate arbitrator of truth. While it would be nice if this were true it just does not hold up under scrutiny. Science would need to be the final authority on all matters and while that might be a nice thought, it can’t stand under its own weight.

Presuppositions of Science

We should believe only what can be scientifically proven. But is such a statement provable scientifically? What of these other ideas that seem inaccessible by science? Statements such as, “She is beautiful,” “That is wrong,” “Abortion is evil,” “Red is a color,” “One is an odd number” and the like.It is clear that many issues would need to be explored to further vet this idea known as scientism. One of these areas involves the many presuppositions of science itself. How can something claimed to be the sole arbitrator of truth; the only source of knowledge, depend on anything else?

It is easily seen that if P is a presupposition of Q, then P is fundamental for Q, that is, P is a necessary condition for Q. If one is to abandon P, then he must also abandon Q. What are the P of science? It seems that there must exist some presuppositions for science (if you are a scientific realist) to operate.

John Kekes states in his Nature of Philosophy,

“Science is committed to several presuppositions: that nature exists, that it has discoverable order, that it is uniform, are existential presuppositions of science; the distinctions between space and time, cause and effect, the observer and the observed, real and apparent, orderly and chaotic, are classificatory presuppositions; while intersubjective testability, quantifibility, the public availability of data, are methodological presuppositions; some aaxiological presuppositions are the honest reporting of results, the worthwhileness of getting the facts right, and scrupulousness in avoiding observational or experimental error. If any one of these presuppositions were abandoned, science, as we know it, could not be done. Yet the acceptance of the presuppositions cannot be a matter of course, for each has been challenged and alternatives are readily available.”(1)

He makes a good case here as to the failure of scientism. If there are definite things that must be in place for science to hold then those things must be yet more fundamental and foundational to what truth is. Many say that we should go to peer reviewed scientific journals to find reliable true statements about how the world is. This statement assumes the honesty of those reporting the results. This is an assumption that should not be taken for granted as the number of retractions, plagiarism and even criminal prosecutions are seemingly ever apparent for out right fraud on the authors behalf.

There are additional philosophical presuppositions that must be held for science to be done. J. P. Moreland gives a decent list of these presuppositions of science in a number of his works.(2-4) He lists (2) at least ten:

1. The existence of a theory-independent, external world
2. The orderly nature of the external world
3. the knowability of the external world
4. The existence of truth
5. The laws of logic
6. The reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth-gatherers and as a source of justified beliefs in our intellectual environment
7. The adequacy of language to describe the world
8. The existence of values used in science
9. The uniformity of nature and induction
10. The existence of numbers

Each of these serves as a foundation to carrying out science as it is typically thought of. These ideas must be established and argued about before science can be wrought. (At least they must be assumed implicitly.) The consistency and coherence of these presuppositions depend on the worldview of the holder. It is very difficult for an atheist to posit a number of these things in any consistent manner, yet he is likely the one to be putting forth this view (or a version of it).

An entire book could be written about each of these ten items. There are so many positions held, and nuances of position to be explained that to do so in any exhaustive manner would use up more time than one would undoubtedly wish to devote to this topic. We will look over these presuppositions in more detail as well as associated ideas about how science relates to Christianity in general over the next few posts. Rest assured that science will continue to be carried out while we look over the finer debated details of how it is performed.

 

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(1) Kekes, John; “Nature of Philosophy” (Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1980) pp.156-157
(2) Moreland, J. P.; “The Creation Hypothesis” (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1994) p. 17
(3) Moreland, J. P.; Craig, William Lane; “Philosophical foundations for a Christian worldview” (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2003) pp. 346-366
(4) Moreland, J. P.; “Christianity and the Nature of Science” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989)

Atheism and the burden of proof.

By Richard Playford

When someone makes a claim about the world, if they want to convince others, they are required to provide justification for that claim. This is not a contentious or strange idea, but what does this mean for atheism? Is atheism a belief and does it require justification? In this article I will show that atheism is a belief about the world and that it does require a justification in the same way that theism does.

Atheism Burden Proof

When exploring this topic the most important thing to do is to define our terms clearly. Traditionally theism, agnosticism and atheism were seen as the three positions that one could hold towards the existence of God. Consider the claim “God exists.” We have three options that we could take toward this claim. We can endorse it and agree that God exists. We can deny it and say that God does not exist. Or we can neither endorse it nor deny it and claim not to know (or care). These, in theory, are the only three options (although I will come back to this later). The affirmation that God exists is called theism. The denial of God’s existence (the claim that he does not exist) is what is traditionally called atheism. We find this definition confirmed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”[1] Not knowing whether God exists is traditionally called agnosticism; again, we find this definition confirmed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “‘Agnostic’ is more contextual than is ‘atheist’, as it can be used in a non-theological way, as when a cosmologist might say that she is agnostic about string theory, neither believing nor disbelieving it”[2]. Not caring whether God exists is traditionally called apatheism.

If we accept these definitions, then it seems clear that both the theist and the atheist have a burden of proof. Someone cannot simply assert that because there is no evidence for something it must therefore not exist. This does not follow because it suggests that an absence of evidence is evidence of absence. This is not true. Pluto was discovered in 1930.[3] Prior to then, there was no hard evidence that it existed. Did this mean that it did not exist? No! If somebody wants to say that something does not exist then they must provide a justification for that. They cannot conclude that simply because none of the arguments or evidences for a proposition fail, that the proposition is therefore false. The atheist philosopher Kai Nielson agrees and says, “[t]o show that an argument is invalid or unsound is not to show that the conclusion of the argument is false”.[4] This means that, in philosophy, even if all the arguments for a proposition fail, it does not follow that the proposition is false.

One criticism that is often voiced is that proving a negative is impossible; this is not true. I can prove that Santa does not live at the North Pole by going and looking, I can prove that a 30 cm piece of string is not 40 cm by measuring it, and I can show that there are no married bachelors by showing that it is a logically incoherent concept. The same applies for God. If somebody can show that God is an internally inconsistent concept or that it is incompatible with an aspect of the physical world, then this would prove that God does not exist.

Another criticism that is often voiced is that in the case of God an absence of evidence does entail evidence of absence. This criticism is similar to the argument from hiddenness (which is a formal argument against the existence of God to which there are various responses). As such, because this is an actual argument against the existence of God, this criticism does not detract from my argument.

It should be noted that people rarely fit neatly into the categories that I outlined above. Very few atheists claim to know for certain that God does not exist (many theists also would not claim to know for certain that he does). I suspect that it is views like this which lead people to adopt the title “agnostic atheist.” This has been defined in a number of different ways but one definition is “one who does not know for sure if any gods exist or not but who also does not believe in any gods.”[5]The problem with this definition is that it does not give us a complete account of what the person believes. This fails to tell us whether they believe in God’s non-existence (the belief that he does not exist). This is because lacking belief in God is not the same as believing that God does not exist. In general, people who label themselves like this tend to believe that, although we do not know for certain whether God exists, his existence is unlikely. As a result, they must justify the claim that God probably does not exist with a reasonable inductive argument. The lesson, however, is that people must be clear about what they believe and define their terms carefully before entering a conversation, and if they are making a claim about the world, they must justify that claim. We can see that atheism does require justification in the same way that theism does.

 

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[1] Smart, J. J. C., “Atheism and Agnosticism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Available athttp://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/atheism-agnosticism/. [Accessed on 21/05/2013].

[2] IBID.

[3] NASA, “Pluto: Overview”. Available at:http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Pluto. [Accessed on 21/05/2013].

[4] Nielsen Kai (1971) Reason and Practice. New York: Harper & Row.