Category Archives: Apologetics

Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.
Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.

That question, “Do Muslims worship the same God as Christians?” is not a new one, but has been in the Christian news (at least) recently over the controversial suspension of a black female professor at Wheaton College.  I haven’t written specifically on this topic, though I touched upon it in Does DA: Inquisition’s Imshael have anything to do with Ishmael and Islam?  In that article I point out how Islam rejects God’s plan for humanity, as provided by God in the Old Testament through Isaac, and openly celebrates this rejection through their holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  How can it be claimed that Muslims worship the same God when they reject biblical scriptures and even God’s plan for humanity?  As any bible student knows, God’s plan is interspersed throughout all of the Old and New Testaments, so to reject it and then claim you worship the same God makes no sense.  Yet the Wheaton professor, besides showing solidarity with the repression of women (which is not biblical), claims that Muslims worship the same God as Christians.

Continue reading Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

English: Michal lets David escape from the win...
English: Michal lets David escape from the window. A painting by Gustave Doré, 1865. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a feminist, but it doesn’t take a feminist to see the mysogeny in some Judeo-Christian circles when King David is so glorified while persons like Michal, David’s first wife, are vilified.  If Michal can be so maligned, then any woman can.  David treated Michal (and his other wives) like his property in more ways than one, and many “believing” men still see David’s actions in a righteous light.

King David, Israel’s most revered king [1], who was chosen by God for that role and for his part in God’s redeeming plan, was a poet and a bit of a prophet, but he did things that God did not approve of and which are utterly un-Christlike/un-Christianlike [2] (read about Judah and others that God used and you’ll see that He didn’t forcefully make them “saints”).  As always, we should recognize and praise the good, but we need to also recognize the bad and not repeat it.  We are also called to recognize and help the oppressed.

Background

What got “me going” on this subject at this time was a biography of David.   In the introduction the author claimed that the only thing David did wrong was have Uriah the Hittite murdered because he wanted the man’s wife (Bathsheba).  Though the author didn’t provide the reference for his claim, it comes from 1 Kings 15:5:  For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.  Since there are other things written in the Old Testament that David did that displeased God, this statement can be taken as a generalized commendation, just as other kings received generalized condemnations; and “in the case of Uriah the Hittite” David committed many deep sins, not just one.  (Note, however, that this particular verse seems to have been added to scripture later since it is not in the oldest versions of the Greek Old Testament).

Continue reading Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

Who Will Enter God’s Kingdom?

bad trees don't produce good fruit
Bad fruit — it can look good on the outside while it’s rotting on the inside. With God’s help in discernment, we should be able to recognize bad fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Jesus, in Matthew 7:18).

I was reading Matthew today and came across the below group of verses.  It made me think about my own salvation and if I’m on the right track.  I have these times where I wonder if God expects more of me, if I’m letting Him down, and if He’s really paying attention to me anymore.  I think all believers go through times with thoughts like that.  I do believe I’m saved, as Paul wrote: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).   But I also think Paul wrote his passages about persevering  for a reason, that people can indeed fall away from the faith (become apostate).  One example from Hebrews (12:1-3):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The following passages from the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, consisting of three paragraphs and concepts, is a good reminder to consider:  where we’re at in our faith; if our faith is matched by our actions; and, if our righteous-looking actions are hiding unrighteous motives.  It is that last bit that is the scariest.  Those persons who do NOT enter God’s Kingdom, even though they seemed like they were powerfully working for God, seem to be surprised.  Perhaps it is yet just another deception they are trying to pull off, or, they are so deluded they can’t even tell the difference.

Continue reading Who Will Enter God’s Kingdom?

Prof. Wm Lane Craig on Obergfell v. Hodges

family-iconPhilosophy professor William Lane Craig maintains a web site, Reasonable Faith, where he has apologetics articles and answers people’s questions.  He answered someone’s question about the recent gay marriage supreme court ruling, and I’ve reproduced much of it here.  See Craig’s site for the full response.


I’m going to use your question, R.C., [as] an excuse for addressing the Supreme Court’s tragic and misguided decision to re-define marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

We need to understand clearly that that is exactly what the Supreme Court has done. By ruling that same-sex unions can count as marriage the Court has implicitly redefined what marriage is. Marriage is no longer taken to be essentially heterosexual, as traditionally conceived, but has been implicitly redefined so that men can be married to men and women to women.

The Court’s majority opinion, written by Anthony Kennedy, shows a clear consciousness of what the Court is doing. Referring to the traditional view, Kennedy writes, “Marriage, in their view, is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world” (my emphasis). It is this view which Court’s majority declares is now obsolete.

Continue reading Prof. Wm Lane Craig on Obergfell v. Hodges

New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

Happy In Church

This is the second part of New Testament Views of Women: 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Due to the length of this study, I decided to divide it up. Please see Part 1 here [forthcoming] as they relate to each other.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women [or she] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

There is so much seemingly wrong with this passage in relation to basic Christian doctrine and belief that it seems hard to take it seriously. If the epistle is authentic—which not all early church leaders believed was the case–Paul surely wrote it for a specific local situation and/or a particular false teaching. Verses 13 and 14 read: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” There are at least two implications here, so let’s go through them in detail.

Eve was Deceived: Why?

Continue reading New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

“Which Libtard said That?” (hint: the Bible is involved)

Detroit. Perfect example of greed gone amok. Unsourced photo of abandoned Detroit packing house; quote added.
Detroit. Perfect example of greed gone amok. Unsourced photo of abandoned Detroit packing house; quote added.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  James 3:9

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  James 1:22

Why this Post

Far more often than is good for me, I see people cursing other people on the internet. I see this most often on Twitter, but it happens everywhere (I just happen to be on Twitter . . . too much). Most disturbing, of course, are the instances of this that come from those who claim to be Christian. Now, I’m not referring to heat-of-the-moment squabbling. I’m referring to the pre-meditated and consistent cursing of people “other” than themselves, like conservatives calling liberals “libtards,” liberals calling conservatives “homophobes,” and liberals (mostly, from what I have seen so far) saying moderates are stupid and/or smug (apparently for rejecting them).

People have always had a problem with the “us vs them” mentality, so I don’t know if it’s worse now in the U.S. than before (it seems so), but, followers of Christ ought not to be in this worldly way. We are to reach people for Christ’s kingdom, not push them away. With these thoughts in mind, I have read conservatives curse people who have a concern for others, concerns and desires that God Himself commands us to share.   There are liberals who also curse conservatives for being pro-life and anti-gay, and no doubt this is why some conservatives can’t see anything good coming from the liberals. Part of it, though, is that some conservatives either don’t know the biblical teachings regarding the poor and wealth, or they choose to ignore them. This only serves to add fuel to the anti-Christian fire.

In fairness, however, “What homophobe said that?” will be posted as a separate article (due to length). Many liberals either ignore God’s teaching on physical love and marriage, or else try to explain it away (even some liberal Christians do this). However, God’s attitude toward homosexuality from the old to the new testaments didn’t change, and passages about its sinfulness are not taken out of context, despite what critics say. That article will include passages supporting the “pro-life” stance as well.

Here are “140 characters or less” quotes, but more often paraphrases (those entries with no quotation marks), of biblical passages along with the actual passage reference and who uttered them. Feel free to use them on Twitter or elsewhere, but it would be nice if you shared my article url.

Continue reading “Which Libtard said That?” (hint: the Bible is involved)

New Testament Views of Women: Overview

Veiled and Silenced, amazonChrist is primarily known as the savior of the world – his sacrifice being for all who want to dwell with God (Jesus’ blood removes our sin so that we are able to be in the presence of the sinless God). But Jesus did something quite significant and often overlooked (as evidenced throughout the writings of the New Testament): He raised the status of women to the same level as men. Many would argue that men and women have a few different responsibilities in regard to the family and church, but in God’s sight the sexes have equal standing: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

There is a great deal that can be written on this topic–including the contradictory teachings of, and actions by, some church leaders and Christian men. But first, let’s look at some social mores that exhibit the status of women in Israel and the surrounding cultures at the time Jesus walked the earth, and some that are still with us today in various parts of the world.

Female babies are of low worth: In past and present non-Christian cultures, female worthlessness is widespread. Female babies were commonly the victims of infanticide. While that continues today, in places where ultrasound is available many more female fetuses are aborted than male fetuses (especially in China and India). Christians do not value females less than males and do not abort or kill female babies.

  • Polygyny and divorce: Polygyny was permitted though not very common in ancient Israel; it was relatively common elsewhere. In Greece, a man had one wife but he also had a legal mistress (so, essentially, a 2nd wife). Polygyny was not approved by God, though there are a number of instances of it recorded in the Bible. The NT clearly reiterates God’s will that one man be married to one woman; polygyny is not allowed in Christianity. A man could divorce his wife easily in ancient Israel, but the NT does not allow for this.
  • Complete control of wife and children by father or husband: In Rome, fathers had total control over family members, and a husband had absolute power over his wife; he could sell a daughter to her future husband. All these powers became illegal some years after Christianity became legal in Rome (374/313). Women also were granted the right to own property and have guardianship of their own children. In Greece, wives had segregated quarters and could not visit male guests of her husband’s in her own home. As in ancient Israel, women in Greece were not to speak in public. Women simply had a very low status in Greece and ancient Israel, and in Israel at the time of Christ, women’s legal witness was virtually non-existent. This obviously changed with Christ’s work.
  • Clitoridectomy: The removal of the female clitoris, and often other genital parts, is a common practice in many African countries (and is found in countries where Africans have immigrated to). This is condemned and outlawed in Christian-based countries.
  • Binding feet, China: In order to be more attractive to men, girls used to have their feet bound so that they remained “small.” The fact is, the foot only became very disfigured and it often became severely infected. Because of Christian missionary pressure in the 19th century, the Chinese government outlawed the practice of female foot binding in 1912.

There are other practices around the world (past and present), like burning or burying widows alive (in India), arranging marriages of female children (this still occurs in China, India, and parts of Africa), maintaining double standards for adultery, and the forced wearing of veils, that make obvious the widespread low status of women but which are condemned by Christianity. As Alvin Schmidt, author of How Christianity Changed the World, said in an interview, “Geroge Sarton, a historian of science, once said, ‘The birth of Christianity changed forever the face of the Western world.’ As far as I know, Sarton had no love for Christianity. He merely said what history revealed to him. Another historian, for instance, has said, ‘The birth of Jesus Christ was the turning point in the history of women.’”

Now let’s look more specifically at how women were viewed and treated by Israel when Christ lived, and what Christ did to elevate women. Today when we read the New Testament (NT) text alone, we simply cannot understand how radical so much of what Jesus did was; our culture reflects in so many ways the changes that Jesus began. The radical things Jesus did seem normal to us now, so we must look into the context of the times to fathom the changes that he wrought.

At the time of Christ¹ women existed for the pleasure of men. If a woman did not bear a male child or didn’t please her husband in some way, he could divorce her with ease. A woman could not divorce her husband. Women were not to speak in public with men (men should not even give a greeting to a woman in public), they were not to testify in court, they were not supposed to read the Torah (Law), nor were they to be taught. As a rabbinic teaching advised (Sotah 3.4), “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to a woman . . . . If a man teaches his daughter the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery.” Also, women were set apart from men in synagogue worship, either by a partition or by being in separate rooms.

Each one of the above negative aspects of womanhood in ancient Israel was reformed by Jesus, as it was never God’s will that such treatment of women exist. First, regarding a man’s ease in divorcing his wife, Jesus told his disciples that it was not to be—that instead a man could divorce his wife for unfaithfulness only (Matthew 19:4-9). Second, what about women speaking to men in public? To the great shock of his disciples, Jesus not only spoke to women in public, but also to a Samaritan woman publicly (she was very shocked as well) (John 4:5-29)–both no-nos in ancient Israel. In speaking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus also taught her. Jesus both spoke and taught to Martha in public (John 11:25-26). Jesus taught Mary, Martha’s sister, and commended Mary for wanting to learn from him (Luke 10:38-42). Another woman followed Jesus in order to be healed. She was not only healed by him, but he talked with her and blessed her publicly (Mark 5:25-34).

These are not the only interactions that Jesus had with women. There are very many recorded in the NT. Of very real significance, however, is Jesus’ appearing to women first after his resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18). This put women in a whole new realm of being chief witnesses. Remember, women could not testify or be a witness in court. The fact that Jesus appeared to women first, and told them to go and tell the male disciples of his resurrection, had to have really driven home the message of women’s spiritual equality to the disciples—once they accepted the truth of Jesus’ resurrection that the women were telling them. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the believers, both male and female, met and prayed together (Acts 1:14). As the fellowship of believers grew they met in houses for “church,” and many of these houses were owned by women. The possibility of the women as leaders in these early churches will be included in another of this series.

_________

Note 1. How Israelite men viewed and treated women changed and varied through time, and was no doubt influenced by the cultures that surrounded them. This essay is interested only with the status of women at the time of Christ.

The second and third articles in this series can be found here:

New Testament Views of Women: 1 Corinthians 14:34-36

New Testament Views of Women: Paul’s Co-workers

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Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Anonymous. “Women in Ancient Israel.” Bible History Online. n.d. http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/women.html (accessed June 2011).

Cabal, Ted, General Editor.  The Apologetics Study Bible.  Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Cowles, C.S. A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church. Kansas City : Beacon Hill Press, 1993.

Dunn, James, General Editor. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Faulkes, Irene Bonney. “Question of Veils in India.” Dr. Irene Faulkes Articles. 2011. http://revirene.org/Question%20Of%20Veils.htm (accessed June 2011).

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Schmidt, Alvin John. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

—. Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1989.

Zondervan. “Interview with Alvin J. Schmidt.” Zondervan. n.d. http://www.zondervan.com/media/interviews/product/pdf/0310264499_authintrvw.pdf (accessed June 2011).

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012  (This is an edited version of a series of articles first posted at Examiner.com, 2011, and transferred from withchristianeyes.com)

Review: “God According to God”

Cover of "God According to God: A Physici...
Cover via Amazon

God According to God, by Gerald Schroeder (HarperOne 2009)

If the discoveries in physics over the past century are correct, then that physically condensed energy of the big-bang creation is totally the expression of metaphysical wisdom (cited in Gen. 1:1) or information (J.A. Wheeler) or idea (W. Heisenberg) or mind (G. Wald).  Physics not only has begun to sound like theology.  It is theology (p 156).

God According to God, written by a MIT trained physicist and applied (Jewish) theology professor Gerald L. Schroeder, is a fascinating read (even if the subtitle, A Scientist Discovers We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along, seems a bit of a stretch).  It’s an important read, too, if one takes the accolades on the cover seriously.   For example, “A remarkable book.  The science as well as the meaning of this universe and of life are discussed with insight, rigor, and depth,” says Nobel Prize (physics) awarded Charles H. Townes.

What’s really amazing about this book is that it combines modern science with theology in such a human way.  It’s written for the layman, yes, but it is written to show that not only is belief in God not inimical to science, but that modern science is actually proving God (or at least the metaphysical), and that taking God and the Bible seriously (and not simplistically or superficially) reflects reality and how we are to live in it.  The God of the Bible is simply not the god the critics so energetically and often vehemently criticize.

“The world gets its share of free reign and when a mess arises, the God of the Bible may enter to aid in the repair.  Nipping the potential evil before allowing it to flourish would be a compassionate world-management system, but that fails to match the blueprint brought by the Bible.  The logic lies in the need for an unhampered free will.  God hides the Divine presence sufficiently to allow each of us to make our own choices, for better or worse, freely within the confines of our physical and social landscape . . .“ (p 205).

After the introductories, Schroeder presents issues regarding the origin of life, and how much “science” popularly held is not accurate or true.  For instance, there is no logical reason why RNA would have developed on its own in our prebiotic world; everything is against it happening.  He refutes Stephen Hawking’s (and Scientific American’s) embarrassingly optimistic view of life happening on its own, providing data on how it would be impossible for random mutations to create the variety of proteins used in earthly life.

Earth itself is unique and improbable.   The elements in our universe that make life possible are surprising and improbable too, with carbon being the most unlikely.  While carbon is common, it is not at all easily made.   The astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, who was an agnostic before the means by which carbon could be abundantly formed was discovered, later said:  “Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly miniscule” (p 62).

For the Christian who has read other layman-oriented resources regarding origin of life and evolution issues, and facts about the specialness of earth, I recommend reading this book as well.  In combination it is about the most informative and wonderfully written as you’ll find.   Also for the Christian, Schroeder offers some eye-opening insights into Genesis and the possibility of nature as rebel (his other biblical interpretations from the Jewish perspective are also very much worth chewing on).  He ties in the possibility of nature rebelling with what we are learning of nature at the quantum level.  We now know that atoms are not the smallest units of matter, but the particles that make up atoms do not behave like matter.  They may even be waves, and they seem to behave in way that indicates “mind.”

The European conception of “evolution” includes the metaphysical, and apparently many leading scientists are leaning toward the view that nature has “mind.”  Neurosurgeon Frank Vertosick, Jr., talks of the “microbial mind,” Freeman Dyson (physicist, Institute for the Advanced Study, Princeton) and others show that “Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances.  They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities . . . .  It appears that mind . . . is to some extent inherent in every atom” (p 95).  Mathematician and physicist Sir James Jeans wrote (pp 90-91):

“There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.  Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter.  We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”

We cannot see or understand this “mind” in nature, and we cannot even understand our own brain-mind connection.  We may know that chemical reactions take place in our brain that are related to specific activities, but we still do not understand how we remember, think, or imagine.  Just as there is something else to nature than predictable natural laws, there is more to us than the physical.  “The dogmatic myth of materialism has been proven to be wanting, more fantasy than fact. . . . in the words of Nobel laureate and biologist George Wald, ‘The stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff.  It is mind that has composed a physical universe’” (p 151).

Schroeder’s thesis can be summed up thusly:

“Within the subatomic world, there is a probabilistic pattern established by the laws of nature.  Individual quanta, however, may ‘choose’ not to follow the given path.  So too is the history of humanity.  Torturous though the trend may be, God has a plan for humanity.  The microengineering of that plan is largely up to us.  There is a flow from pagan barbarity toward the elusive goal of peace on earth, goodwill to all.  Each of us, as individuals, chooses whether to enhance or impede the flow toward the Divine goal” (p 215).

 

Authors Cited

Dyson, Freeman.  “Progress in Religion” (acceptance speech, Templeton Prize), March 2000.

Heisenberg, Werner.  Physics and Beyond (New York:  Harper & Row, 1971).

Vertosick, Jr., Frank.  The Genius Within (New York:  Harcourt, 2002).

Wald, George.  “Life and Mind in the Universe,” Quantum Biology Symposium, International Journal of Quantum Chemistry 11 (1984):  1-15.

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012 (prior publication at Examiner.com, 2011, and at withchristianeyes.com)

Review: “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate”

Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover
Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover

by Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press 2009)


“This straw-targeting of Christianity is now drearily commonplace among academics and intellectuals—that is to say, among those who would not allow a first-year student to get away with the vulgar caricatures in which they themselves indulge with such insouciance”
(p 52).

Terry Eagleton’s invective against anti-theist’s claims about religion, and Christianity in particular, is one of wit, humor, and sauce.  One hopes that those that are curious about the popular anti-God rhetoric, but who are basically outsiders—neither informed and faithful Christians or card-carrying anti-theists—will be the prime readers and beneficiaries of this “lecture series” book.  Not that there isn’t a good deal that those in the other groups can get out of it.  Indeed, as the Booklist review asserted, “serious Christians may be [Eagleton’s] most appreciative readers.”  But on the opposite side Eagleton himself opined that there was not a “hope in hell” that Ditchkins, that is Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, would read his work or be moved by it.

Eagleton, who is a professor both of English literature and culture theory, and who also writes philosophically (in fact, this book has been rated as important in philosophy), presents how the various arguments against religion that Dawkins and Hitchens vehemently espouse are very seriously misinformed and flawed.  “. . . the relations between these domains [poetry and other language types] and historical fact in Scripture are exceedingly complex, and that on this score as on many another, Hitchens is hair-raisingly ignorant of generations of modern biblical scholarship” (p 54).  He shows how Dawkins’ views, which reflect Victorian era progressivism, are simply unreasonable and unrealistic.

“We have it, then, from the mouth of Mr. Public Science himself that aside from a few local hiccups like ecological disaster, ethnic wars, and potential nuclear catastrophe, History is perpetually on the up.  Not even beaming, tambourine-banging Evangelicals are quite so pathologically bullish.  What is this but an example of blind faith?  What rational soul would sign up to such a secular myth?” (pp 87-88).

Regarding Ditchkins and science, Eagleton discusses how “Dawkins falsely considers that Christianity offers a rival view of the universe to science” (p 6), and that “His God-hating is by no means the view of a dispassionate scientist commendably cleansed of prejudice.  There is no such animal in any case” (pp 65-66).  “[Scientists] are peddlers of a noxious ideology known as objectivity, a notion which simply tarts up their ideological prejudices in acceptably disinterested guise” (p 132), and Dawkins, for example, “castigates the Inquisition . . . but not Hiroshima” (p 133).  While anyone is welcome to criticize superstition, the current culture has sunk into scientism, which refuses to take anything seriously that “cannot be poked and prodded in the laboratory” (p 72).  “Ditchkins does not exactly fall over himself to point out how many major scientific hypotheses confidently cobbled together by our ancestors have crumbled to dust, and how probable it is that the same fate will befall many of the most cherished scientific doctrines of the present” (p 125).

In chapter 1, Eagleton presents basic Christian beliefs not only to show that Ditchkins does not have an understanding of them, but to also promote them as quite respectable.  Of course, throughout his book Eagleton gives little quarter to “fundamentalists;” he praises Jesus and his radicalness, and those who actually follow His teachings to help the poor and seek justice.  He also contrasts this Christian mandate to love socially to the liberal humanist (of which Ditchkins is an example) legacy of love being kept private.  Yet another significant difference between Christianity (and for persons like Eagleton who hold a more socialist view) and the liberal humanism of Ditchkins is the matter of sin and redemption.  To Ditchkins, there is nothing to redeem.  Humanity is steadily progressing, even if catastrophes like World War II have happened.

“In my view,” Eagleton writes,  “[scriptural and orthodox Christianity] is a lot more realistic about humanity than the likes of Dawkins.  It takes the full measure of human depravity and perversity, in contrast to . . . the extraordinarily Pollyannaish view of human progress of [Dawkins’] The God Delusion” (p. 47).  Christianity believes that there are “flaws and contradictions built into the structure of the human species itself,” and so violence in history is not just due to historical influences; and Christianity is hopeful.  It is “outrageously more hopeful than liberal rationalism, with its apparently unhinged belief that not only is the salvation of the human species possible but that, contrary to all we read in the newspapers, it has in principle already taken place.  Not even the most rose-tinted Trotskyist believes that” (pp 48-49).

There are all kinds of fun passages like those already quoted in Eagleton’s book.  It can be very useful to Christians who want to be able to cite a seemingly non-Christian critique to the anti-theist crowd.  Conservatives be warned, however, that Eagleton presents and is supportive of Liberation Theology (he is a Marxist who aligns himself with “tragic humanism”), and is very critical of modern capitalism and western foreign policy.  He has good, though general, arguments for the atheism of capitalism and the disconnect between the West’s religious rhetoric and its actual practices (which, interestingly, he often places on liberal humanism).   Indeed, Christianity’s lack of following its leader has brought much criticism upon itself, “Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive” (p 55).

Eagleton points out the good that historic Christianity has done, which Ditchkins refuses to acknowledge, while pointing out hypocrisies of some liberals.  Some examples:

“The values of the Enlightenment, many of them Judeo-Christian in origin, should be defended against the pretentious follies of post-modernism, and protected, by all legitimate force if necessary, from those high-minded zealots who seek to blow the heads off small children in the name of Allah.  Some on the political left, scandalously, have muted their criticism of such atrocities in their eagerness to point the finger of blame at their own rulers, and should be brought to book for this hypocrisy” (p 68).  

“Such is Richard Dawkins’s unruffled impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has ever flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false . . . . and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry” (p 97). 

Speaking of empiricism and truth, I found chapter 3 more interesting the second time I read it.   It’s really a pleasant read and borders on the mystical in places.  Eagleton writes lucidly on how we understand truth and what is reasonable and rational.  A set of examples about what is reasonable and rational, relative to what is true, is (1) that of humans previously thinking that the sun circled the earth – since it certainly looked that way it was rational to think – and (2) what we know of certain nuclear particles in our present time.  These particles are said to go through two different spaces at one time.  This is not rational or reasonable, yet we think that it is true.  He continues with a discussion that promotes the concept of “love” being a precondition of understanding, concluding that “The rationalist tends to mistake the tenacity of faith (other people’s faith, anyway) for irrational stubbornness rather than for the sign of a certain interior depth, one which encompasses reason but also transcends it” (p 139).

“Yet the Apocalypse, if it ever happens, is far more likely to be the upshot of technology than the work of the Almighty. . . .  This, surely, should be a source of pride to cheerleaders for the human species like Ditchkins.  Who needs an angry God to burn up the planet when as mature, self-sufficient human beings we are perfectly capable of doing the job ourselves?” (p 134).

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© Vicki Priest 2012 (previously posted by author at Examiner.com, 2011, and at withchristianeyes.com)

Is it Rational to be a Christian? (2 of 2)

Anastasis, symbolic representation of the resu...
Anastasis, symbolic representation of the resurrection of Christ. Panel from a Roman lidless sarcophagus of the “Passion type”, ca. 350 CE. From the excavations of the Duchess of Chablais at Tor Marancia, 1817-1821. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is the second half of a relatively long (but actually concise) treatment of evidences or evidential steps for the view that the Christian faith is rational, and even desirable, to hold (the first half is here).   The introductory paragraph is repeated for clarity.  Thanks for reading, and may the God of all creation bless you.

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For the person who wants to know that there is reason to believe a holy book–that there is evidence to back it up–different areas of apologetics have those answers.  In fact, there is more evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible today than ever before, excepting when the events actually occurred.  This essay assumes that the person searching for a legitimate holy book already believes that there is a deity of some sort; it does not cover arguments for the existence of God.  What this essay does cover, in concise form, are the issues of reliability of the Old and New Testaments, fulfilled prophecies, miracles, and Christ’s resurrection.

Miracles

What is a biblical miracle, and what is its purpose and meaning? In the Judeo-Christian context, a miracle is a work of God outside of the patterns of normalcy. Miracles of healing and of being saved from death obviously show the intervention of a God who loves. Biblical miracles consistently show three things. One, they display God’s glory (they also have the effect of showing to God which persons react faithfully to His glory, and which do not). Two, they are proof that the person “performing” the miracle is from God (the source is God, not the person). And Three, they display God’s benevolence. Some examples of such miracles are found in Exodus 14:13-18, Daniel 3:16-30, Mark 2:1-12, and John 11:38-44.

Do miracles happen today? Yes, they do! Most people think they don’t because they aren’t reported in mainstream media. I knew a lady personally, one of the most stable and intelligent ladies I have ever met, who told me the story of her daughter being healed from a terminal illness. The Lord did an emotional healing of myself, and I felt His work in my whole body (I will not explain further here). Open Doors USA reported on its website, in 2002 (April 7), a cancer completely healed in China: “one young woman was healed from cancer. The doctor treating her had fainted from the shock of seeing the cancerous growth gone. We all laughed at that.” Pastor Andrae Crouch was healed of cancer (Nappa  1999). In September 2001, The Voice of the Martyrs wrote of a healing in its magazine/newsletter: a young Pakistani Muslim man was hit by a car while riding his bike, and his leg was broken. A woman came out of the crowd and prayed for him, in Jesus’ name. He felt energy move throughout his body and his leg was healed (later, she gave him a bible and was never seen again, and he became a follower of Christ).  I have read of many other miracles, too, occurring at the time of a person’s salvation and others that happen that save a person from death.  Some medical miracles can be read about at the World Christian Doctors Network.

What about miracles outside of the Judeo-Christian faith? There are some amazing and unexplained things that happen in the world that people might say are miracles, but which do not meet the criteria that show that they are from God. Some of these may not be explained yet, and others may be the activity of fallen angels. The magicians of Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7 performed seeming miracles. A girl had a spirit that told the future in Acts 16 (16-24), but the spirit in her was not from God. The book of Revelation foretells of someone who will perform ungodly miracles (13:11-14). So, if “miracles” happen that do not seem like they are from God, that may in fact draw people away from God, we should not be surprised.

There are some Buddhist scriptures with interpretations that record possible miracles, but since the miraculous activities are self-aggrandizing and do not point to God (such as the changing of physical things to other physical things, flying, reading minds, passing through solid matter, etc.), they are not Godly miracles.   A modern day Hindu “miracle” happened in 1995, which was apparently reported from all over the world (Hinduism Today, November 1995 [as cited in Powell 2006]). A man in New Dehli dreamt that the Hindu god Lord Ganesha wanted milk. So the man went to the temple and told a priest, who then gave the statue of Ganesha some milk. The statue “consumed” the milk. People heard of it and started offering milk to Ganesha statues all over, and the statues “consumed” the milk. This went on for 24 hours in India, but longer elsewhere. The “miracle” seems useless and it lacks benevolence; indeed, God is not transcendent in Hinduism belief and so any such displays are supernormal, not supernatural. In the Quran, it is written that Muhammad did not perform any miracles.


The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I wonder if other Christians feel the same as I, that for some odd reason Jesus’ resurrection does not need explaining? The reality of Christ’s resurrection is a very significant topic in apologetics, however, since it is such a hard to believe event for the unbeliever. A subissue is the disharmony of the differing gospel accounts as to what happened at the empty tomb. (This issue had led me to read Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus [Carla Ricci 1994], and I highly recommend it!) Women were very involved in Jesus’ ministry, he taught them much as disciples, and women were the first witnesses of His resurrection. This happens to play an important role in showing the reality of the resurrection, explained below, along with other rationales for accepting the resurrection as fact.

If the resurrection did not happen, how can anyone explain the beginning of the church? That may seem like an overly simple question–after all, there are many religions today that begin and grow for what seem to be very shallow (and unreasonable) reasons. Well, today, people in the Western World, at least, do not become lion chow in a public arena, are beheaded, or are crucified, for having beliefs counter to those of the government or religious elite. In conditions like that, one would be much more careful about choosing one’s beliefs!

Today, Muslims die (kill themselves) for a belief they think is true. People will die for the truth (and, in fact, Christians do die perhaps every day in countries that are hostile to their faith). But if some critics are correct that the Apostles were promoting false beliefs, why would they die for a lie (almost all were killed for their faith)? Who would do that?  The Apostles and very many early believers died for their faith, knowing it to be true; it would be absurd to die for a cause that you knew to be false. Paul, as an apostle, is very hard to explain indeed, if the resurrection had not happened. Paul was not one of Jesus’ followers, but an ardent persecutor of Christians! He had a great education and was a Roman citizen—in short, he had a privileged life and his future was bright prior to his conversion. Because of his encounter with the living God and after convincing the other apostles that he was sincere, Paul served His Lord (and thus His church), and for this he was eventually beheaded by Nero.

So there was an empty tomb . . . that doesn’t prove Jesus was resurrected, or does it?  A lot of people must think the evidence pointing to Jesus’ resurrection is good, since they try and come up with all kinds of explanations countering the event. Some, like the alien theory, are down-right silly. But what of the evidence? It’s interesting that the Jews tried to cover up the resurrection right from the beginning, knowing that Jesus’ body was gone. This is more significant when one considers that the tomb had been guarded by Roman soldiers who would forfeit their lives for this kind of negligence, and, that the Jews never did find Jesus’ body (you can bet that they tried) (Matthew 27:62-65, 28:11-15).

Another bit of evidence comes to us in a less obvious way. Some critics try to claim that the story of the resurrection was made up and developed through some time by the gospel writers. Even though there is good argument against this in general, we know that in fact Paul wrote of the resurrection early on, within 20 years, at the most, after Jesus died (and prior to the gospels being written). This is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, where Paul tells of the many witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, many of whom were still living at that time (readers and hearers of his letter could go and ask these people if what Paul said was true).

One of the evidences is of a type that people of today cannot appreciate unless they know the historical context of New Testament times. At that time, women were held in very low regard amongst the Jews. Sometimes it is hard to see or fathom this from the texts, since women do not seem to have trouble following and supporting Jesus. But women at that time did not testify in court as the men deemed them unworthy witnesses. Yet here, women are indeed the first witnesses to the resurrection. The men at first dismissed what the women had to say about the resurrected Jesus. One can imagine, in this social context, that the men had a very hard time writing the gospels with the women’s stories included. At that time, including their witness would be the opposite of what one would present in order to prove something, and something as important as Christ’s resurrection. The fact that the women’s accounts in each of the gospels varies is also telling—it shows that the writers did not collaborate to try and come up with a totally coherent and slick story that sounded official and convincing (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8 [and perhaps 9-11]; Luke 24:1-12).

Sir Lionel Luckhoo, who during his lifetime won 245 consecutive murder trial acquittals (for this he is in the Guinness Book of World Records), is not alone in his thinking and assessment of Jesus’ resurrection:

“I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt” (Anon 2012).

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© Vicki Priest 2012 (this is a modified and edited version of a series of articles published by the author at Examiner.com, 2011)

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Bibliography and Recommended Reading (for both article parts)

Anonymous. “Why should I believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” GotQuestions.org. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html (accessed March 2012).

Arlandson, James. “Do Miracles Happen Today?” American Thinker. January 13, 2007. http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/01/do_miracles_happen_today.html (accessed March 2012).

Chong, Timothy. “Bible, Canonicity.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hinson, 101-102. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.

Dowley, Tim, Editor. Eerdman’s Handbook to The History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Geisler, Norman, and Ed Hindson. “Bible, Alleged Errors.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hindson, 97-100. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Gleghorn, Michael. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” bethinking.org. 2001. http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/intermediate/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian.htm (accessed March 2012).

Hart, David Bentley. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Kennedy, D. James. “Christ: The Fulfillment of Prophecy.” In The Apologetics Study Bible, by Ted, General Editor Cabal, xxviii-xxix. Nashville: Holman, 2007.

MacDonald, William. “Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” In Believer’s Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald, xviii-xxiii. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 (1989).

Nappa, Mike. True Stories of Answered Prayer. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1999.

Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006.

Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus . Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Sailhamer, John H. Biblical Prophecy. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998.

Yates, Gary E. “Bible, Transmission of.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ed, and Ergun Caner Hindson, 107-110. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.