Tuesday, June 2, 2009

airport security

This is how I feel sometimes:

god's country

A man in Topeka, Kansas, decided to write a book about churches around the country. He started by flying to San Francisco and started working east from there. Going to a very large church he began taking photographs and making notes.

He spotted a golden telephone on the vestibule wall and was intrigued with a sign that read, "$10,000 per minute." Seeking out the pastor, he asked about the phone and the sign. The pastor answered that the golden phone is, in fact, a direct line to Heaven, and if he pays the price, he can talk directly to God.  The man thanked the pastor and continued on his way.

As he continued to visit churches in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, Milwaukee, and around the United States, he found more such phones with the same sign and the same explanation from each pastor.

Finally, the man arrived in the great state of Texas. Upon entering a church, behold, he saw the usual golden telephone. But THIS time, the sign read: "Calls: 25 cents"!? Fascinated, the man asked to speak with the pastor.

"Reverend, I have been in cities all across the country and in each church I have found this golden telephone, and have been told it is a direct line to Heaven, and that I could use it to talk to God.... But in 20 other churches,the cost was $10,000 per minute. Your sign says 25 cents per call.

....Why is that?

The pastor, smiling kindly, replied: "Son, you're in Texas now and it's a local call."

the preachers son

An old country preacher had a teenage son, and it was getting time the boy should give some thought to choosing a profession. Like many young men, the boy didn't really know what he wanted to do, and he didn't seem too concerned about it.

One day, while the boy was away at school, his father decided to try an experiment. He went into the boy's room and placed on his study table four objects:

a Bible,

a silver dollar,

a bottle of whisky

and a Playboy magazine

'I'll just hide behind the door,' the old preacher said to himself, 'when he comes home from school this afternoon,I'll see which object he picks up. If it's the Bible, he's going to be a preacher like me and what a blessing that would be! If he picks up the dollar, he's going to be a businessman, and that would be okay, too. But if he picks up the bottle, he's going to be a no-good drunkard,and, Lord, what a shame that would be. And worst of all, if he picks up that magazine he's gonna be a skirt-chasin' bum.'

The old man waited anxiously, and soon heard his son's footsteps as he entered the house whistling and headed for his room. The boy tossed his books on the bed, and as he turned to leave the room he spotted the objects on the table. With curiosity in his eye, he walked over to inspect them. Finally, he picked up the Bible and placed it under his arm. He picked up the silver dollar and dropped it into his pocket. He uncorked the bottle and took a big drink while he admired this month's Centerfold.

'Lord have mercy,' the old preacher disgustedly whispered, 'He's gonna be a politician!'


I do not want to make it sound as if no one in any eastern or post-Christian/secular country is interested in humanity. This thought, of course, is not true and it is not the thought I wish to put forth here. The question is not if people who are eastern and/or secular humanistic in their beliefs do care about people or even can care about people. The question, rather, is concerning the basis for human rights and can sufficient basis be derived from certain beliefs. It is my findings that secular humanism--not to be confused with other forms of true humanism--and eastern beliefs [along with Islam which is not normally categorized with eastern beliefs proper] do not provide a sufficient basis to support true human right and human dignity.If it is possible, albeit without sufficient basis, for these worldviews to provide human rights, then from where does this concern come? There are two possible sources: from without and from within. Let us examine the first source, "from without". There are cultures that have vestiges of their former Christian culture. A sort of Christian "residue." Such is the case in the United States and in Europe. While both of these geographic groups could not be defined any longer as Christian themselves, they have practice sand beliefs, though divorced from their Christian context and practice,which are left over. In a limited amount of time--I do not know how long--these last influences will be over and that will be a scary day indeed. The second source for human rights is "from within." That is to say that human concern is built into human nature. This does not present a problem at all for my theory on human rights. This inward angst, in my worldview, is created by God. The very fact that God made mankind in his own image[Genesis 1:27] means that we bear his characteristics--though at times we pervert them, and this we call sin. But the very fact that we possess characteristics that have natural root and basis in our own belief systems only points to the fact that there is a higher being from whom receive these attributes. This is quite a similar thought as C.S. Lewis' moral argument for the existence of God. Go read Mere Christianity.

the east, the west, and human rights

The rights of women, and men, must be established with sufficient basis or else they will be violated in some form or another. Only from the broader category of basic human rights are the rights of women and men derived. Neither secular humanism, in the west, nor eastern mysticism, in the east, can provide a sufficient basis for human rights. Thus, the only reliable and sufficient basis for human rights and dignity is biblical Christianity.

Secular humanism, which is foundationally atheism and philosophic naturalism, cannot rationally provide the basis for human rights.[1] Francis Schaeffer, concerned with the advances of humanistic sciences, summarizes Francis Crick's position on the origins and worth of humanity:
"If man is what Francis Crick says he is, then he is only the product of the impersonal plus time plus chance; he is nothing more than the energy particle extended. And,therefore, he has no intrinsic worth. Our own generation can thus disregard human life. On the one end we will kill the embryo with abortion--anytime anyone wishes--and on the other end we will introduce euthanasia for the old. The one is here and the other is coming."[2]
Crick agrees with Darwin in that man is merely a chance event of chemical reactions that caused an upward progress to the current day where natural selection through the fittest of the species is the deciding factor in the continuing upward direction of what has come to be known as humanity. Hitler, who merely applied natural selection and survival of the fittest to anthropology, and his holocaust are prime examples of secular humanism's view of man. Crick, however, was writing in the nineteen seventies; he is not a member of the Third Reich. Shaffer further says that, with Francis Crick, "the concept [of the biblical understanding of man] is gone. We are in the post-Christian world. Man is junk,and man can be treated as junk. If the embryo is in the way, ditch it. If the old person is in the way, ditch him, if you're in the way and that's what lies before us."[3]

One would think that this form of thinking would be dead today, but it is not. Recently, at a meeting of The Texas Academy of Science, Dr. Erick R. Pianka stated that the earth's population should be reduced by ninety percent through the use of the Ebola virus! What is his foundation for such a statement? He believes that man is "no better than bacteria."[4] From a humanistic foundation, sadly, his claim logically follows.
While secular humanism cannot provide sufficient basis for human worth, eastern mysticism also does not have sufficient basis for human rights. This lack of basis is due to five concepts which form two official reasons.

The first three concepts which form the first reason for a lack of basis are karma, reincarnation, and the caste system. Karma is a fatalistic system of rewards and punishments based on current actions and past life status. In conjunction with karma is reincarnation, which causes the soul to migrate, after death, and become reborn. The new life is higher or lower--better or worse--based on the person's karma. In Hindu thought, the caste system utilizes karma and reincarnation to place someone in the next life in a series of socio-economic categories called castes. People in lower castes are used to do more menial tasks and must strive to ascend the caste system. Lower caste members, however, are treated poorly by members of higher castes. In practice, these three concepts cause a great apathy towards human lives. One dare not interfere with cosmic justice and help another person out thereby blocking judgment upon the needy and adding further bad karma to the almost good Samaritan. If a person dies, they will only come back around again in another life.[5]
The final concepts are pantheism--that everything is divine--and monism--that everything is actually metaphysically one--combine to form the next reason that eastern thought cannot support human rights.[6] The Bhagavad-Gita contains the story of Arjuna who found himself on the front lines of a battle between kinsmen. He began to think that war was needless when Krishna appeared to him and told him to not hold back in battle. His vacillation was only due to his lack of understanding that everything is one. Add to this fact the concept of reincarnation, and there is no reason to hold back from fighting since death--not to mention life and its attachments--is meaningless.[7] The foundations of eastern mysticism do not provide sufficient foundation for human rights. It is in this context that the Hindus practiced sati: the live, self cremation of the surviving woman with her dead husband. This would not only increase his chances of coming back in a higher caste, this would allow her the possibility to come back as a man![8] One should ask with Schaeffer, "but where did our sense of man's dignity come from?" It came from the Judeo-Christian mentality. [9] Only through Christianity's assertion that humanity is created in the image of God can humanity find true worth and value. Women's rights only follow human rights and human rights only follow biblical Christianity.

[1] Though there may be examples of human rights within secular humanistic bodies of thought, these examples are not logically derived from that thought but are mere trappings left over from an older worldview.
[2] Dr.Francis A. Schaeffer, Back to Freedom and Dignity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1972), 23.
[3] Ibid, 23.
[4] Dr.Forrest M. Mims III, "Meeting Dr. Doom," The Citizen Scientist, March 31, 2006,http://www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2006/2006-04-07/feature1p/index.html.(accessed April 3, 2006).
[5] Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998),194-196.
[6] Although the caste system is unique only to the Hindus, pantheism and monism are foundational to almost all eastern metaphysics.
[7] Barbara Stoler Miller, trans., Bhagavad-Gita,by (New York: Bantam Classics,2004), 31-42.[8] Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998),214.
[9] Schaeffer,Back to Freedom and Dignity, 23.

evolution and homosexuality

Why is it that evolutionists are in support of Gay issues? [warning: Characterization following] OK, so evolution is used in support of Atheism--if God didn't create the world, then he must not be there. Atheism is often times used to reject religious morality or to defend personal morality which is in opposition to religious morality. That is to say, if there is no God, I can live as I wish, and since evolution is true, there is no God; therefore I can live as I wish [this is certainly not typical of all Atheists, though there are a number who have gone on record as having said such]. For most areas of morality, this line of thinking--though I obviously disagree--makes sense, at least in the construct of its own worldview. The two areas where it makes the least sense, and these are typically the most contested and sought after issues, are Abortion and Homosexuality.
The problem is not that Atheism cannot support homosexuality or abortion, only evolution can't, which is the usual support for Atheism. I will only comment briefly on abortion. Evolution of the species is based on natural selection and survival of the fittest. This means that one group must gain some advantage over those around them and must pass this feature on to subsequent generations. Thus, in an evolutionary sense, abortion is nearly the same as suicide. The same is true of homosexuality. By definition, homosexuals do not have offspring. Thus, from an evolutionary perspective, homosexuality is feeble. Furthermore, in an evolutionary worldview, reproducing, strong specimens should not try to protect the weak--the homosexual--in any sense of the word.

Why then do those who believe in evolution and the natural progression of the world so very often argue in favor of homosexuality and abortion/infanticide? Those things are least natural to survival. While I do not agree that evolution explains our origins, I do believe that bears us along through history, in a limited sense.


The world judges a great number of things in a state of natural ignorance, the true seat of man. Science has two extremes, which meet. The first is the pure state of natural ignorance at birth. The other is the point reached by those with noble souls who, having explored everything man is capable of knowing, realize they know nothing and return to their original state of ignorance. But it is a wise ignorance of self-awareness. Those who are in between, who have discarded their original state of natural ignorance but who have not yet reached the other, have a smattering of sufficient knowledge, and presume to understand it all. They upset the world, and judge everything badly. Ordinary people and clever people make up the world; the first group scoff at the world and are scoffed at in return. They misjudge everything and the world does not. Pascal Pensees 117

for the more cultured sense of humor

Rachmaninov had big Hands"I Will Survive""Ticket to Ride"Piano LessonAnd the funniest IMO Riverdancing Violinist

the reliability of the new testament_part four: the gnostic gospels

In order to understand the Gnostic Gospels and why we should or should not have them in our canon, one must first understand Gnosticism.
10 Characteristics of Gnosticism
1. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word Gnosis, which means “knowledge”
2. Origins: Greek Philosophy. Thus, the first form of Gnosticism is actually secular rather than the Christian form being discussed today in popular circles. It finds its roots deep in platonic thought. A later “Christian” version was developed, but this only means that they adapted Christ to fit their preconceived Gnostic categories.
3. Physical Matter Is Evil. As a platonic system, Gnosticism posits that physical matter is evil. This is due to #4.
4. World Created by a lesser evil god. Also due to its platonic roots, Gnosticism holds the belief in a series of gods in which a lesser god, and in this case an evil god, created the world.
5. No Resurrection. Since matter is evil, the goal of a Gnostic is to escape the physical world. Jesus, therefore, was not resurrected as the scriptures say. Rather his death was an attempt to escape the prison of his body.
6. Jesus either not divine or not human. If matter is evil then you are left with the problem that a good God cannot take on evil flesh. Thus, Jesus either did not have an actual physical body in the first places—docetism—or he was not full divine, or there were two Jesus’, the divine second person of the trinity and the human person of Jesus in whom the divine placed a lot of power.
7. Salvation is through secret knowledge for the enlightened. This knowledge is mystical and secret.
8. Highly Exclusive. It is only for a select group of people, those people who have the spark of the divine. This is one of the great ironies about those who would suggest that Gnosticism should be universal, or that it was unfairly excluded from orthodox circles, or that Gnostic gospels should be universal in the sense of the NT gospels. They simply are ignoring the fact that Gnostics was a secret belief for a select elite. It never was never, and should not now be, a universal religion or a religion that sought to have its views propagated.
9. Either Ascetic or Libertine. Since this world is evil, Gnostics became ascetic or libertine—typically the later.
10. Challenges true doctrine: creation, incarnation, deity of Christ, Salvation by Grace, Resurrection.
“Gnosticism was a natural fruit of the 2nd cent religious quests with its Greek assumptions,eastern religion, and astrological fatalism”
“Coming into contact with Christianity, they [the Gnostics]took the Christian redeemer and gnosticized him, took the Christian preaching and tore it from its OT roots, …took the Christian convictions about the end and purged away such offensively Jewish features as resurrection and judgment.”Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol 2, 738.
Reasons that the Gnostic Gospels were Rejected.
[Go back to part 3 and review the four standards of canonicity as these points correspond to those]
False authorship.
The Gnostic Gospels, if and when written under an apostle’s name, do not bear the marks of Apostolic authorship.
Late date of writing
Most of them are written about one hundred years too late.
Rejected by Church fathers
The fathers were quite vocal in their rejection of the G. gospels.
Rejected by early church
There is no evidence that any of the Gospels received widespread acceptance in the church.
Are not corroborated by the O.T.
They present no continuing story to the OT. They have no connection to the legacy of the OT.
Presents a worldview that is completely different from Judeo-Christianity.
With its deviant views of creation, incarnation, resurrection and other core doctrines, Gnosticism has no connection with Christianity.
“There is no question of any one’s having excluded them [the Gnostic gospels] they have done that for themselves.” Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol 1, 210
Gospel of Judas

How then does the Gospel of Judas hold up under scrutiny?
Originally written before 180
One surviving text dating to the late third cent.
“It has suffered a material loss by erosion estimated at 10 to 15 percent.” Rudolphe Kasser Gospel of Judas 75
“…we cannot find here any more historical information about Judas Iscariot than we find in the canonical gospels.” Gregor Wurst Gospel of Judas 133
"In this gospel, there is no need to be reconciled with the creator of this world, who is merely a blood thirsty rebel. On the contrary, the need is to escape this world and its creator. That happens once one relinquishes the body that belongs to the creator. Jesus’ death is his own escape. And when we die, we too can escape." Bart Ehrman Gospel of Judas 110
"There will be no resurrection. This is perhaps the key point of all. Jesus will not be raised from the dead in this book. Why would he be? The entire point of salvation is to escape the material world. A resurrection of a dead corpse brings the person back into the world of the creator. …a resurrection of the body is the very last thing that Jesus, or any of his true followers, would want." Bart Ehrman Gospel of Judas 110
If this were the evidence that we had for the NT, evangelicals would be the laughing stock of the world!
Gospel of Judas and the Criteria for Canonization

1. Apostolic Authorship
-No known author
2. Continuity with “Canon of Truth”
-Presents deviant message
3. Universal Acceptance
-Rejected by early church and its leaders
4. Self Authenticating, Divine Nature
-Human in origin and message
-This gospel claims to be secret revelation to Judas. The other Gospels are “in the open.” There are not even historical reference points in the Gospel of Judas as there are in the other Gospels.
The scripture teaches that the true scriptures are produced by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, this is a “more sure” word.
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Pet 1:19-21 ESV
The scriptures warn of coming heresy, heresies similar to what Ehrman and Brown are peddling.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Tim 4:3-4
If you think that the Gnostic Gospels should be equated with scripture, you just need to read them for yourself and compare them to the NT gospels. They will disqualify themselves.

the reliability of the new testament_part three: how did we get the canon?

Here are some more quotes to get us started.
Teabing paused to sip his tea and then placed the cup back on the mantel.
“More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relatively few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.”
“Who chose which gospels to include?” Sophie asked.
“Aha!” Teabing burst in with enthusiasm, “the fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great.”
Quote taken from The Da Vinci Code chap 55, p251.
“We have long known about these debates, and the Gospel of Judas allows us to see one side of them even more clearly—one of the sides that ended up losing. Every side laid claim to sacred books supporting its point of view; all insisted that these views came straight from Jesus, and through him from God. But only one side won. This was the side that decided which books should be considered Scripture, and that wrote the Christian creeds that have come down to us today. Bart Ehrman Gospel of Judas 103
In brief, one of the competing groups in Christianity succeeded in overwhelming all the others. This group gained more converts than its opponents and managed to relegate all its competitors to the margins.
…once it [the group of orthodox believers] had sealed its victory over all of its opponents, it rewrote the history of the engagement—claiming that it had always been the majority opinion of Christianity, that its views had always been the views of the apostolic churches and of the apostles, that its creeds were rooted directly in the teachings of Jesus. The books that it accepted as scripture proved the point, for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all tell the story as the proto-orthodox had grown accustomed to hearing it. Bart Ehrman Gospel of Judas, 118
Is it as Ehrman and Dan Brown claim? Did those who affirmed the canon intentionally and unfairly omit certain gospels? As we begin this search we need to make an important distinction. Many people sufferer in their understanding from a misplaced emphasis. Look at the following phrases and think about the error they make:
Aristotle (Socrates) invented logic.
Isaac Newton invented gravity.
Benjamin Franklin created electricity.
Al Gore invented the Internet… [sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!]
Each of these statements confuses the idea of original discovery with creation and invention. This is a similar mistake that many make when discussing the biblical canon. Thus, the following two statements are true and in order:
The canon is a result of discovery and affirmation rather than invention or creation.
The canon is received from God, not given by man.
These premises could be summed up to say the canon was developed by limiting what was believe to be God’s word—that is to separate out that which is not his word—rather than a voting process through which human writings became divine.
History of the Canon
Why do we even believe the scriptures are from God in the first place or that the books of the NT should be taken as authority? Many people believe that authority and authenticity is never actually claimed by the writers of the NT. Look at the following scriptures [emphasis mine]:
Paul speaking of himself: “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” 1 Cor 14:37 ESV
Peter speaking of Paul: “Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” 2 Pet 3:15-16
Paul speaking: “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1Thes 1:5
Paul speaking: “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” 1 Thes 2:13
Jesus speaking of the things to come: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jn 14:26
Jesus: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” Jn 16:13
John: “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 Jn 4:6
There is the internal evidence. The apostles themselves claimed that their words were from God. Jesus predicted that they would be reminded by his Spirit of his teachings and that they would speak by the unction of the Holy Spirit and not of themselves. Why do we believe the apostles words? They walked with Christ; they were eyewitnesses to his life. Why would we listen to Irenaeus? He is Polycarp’s disciple. But why listen to Polycarp? He is the disciple of the apostle John…
I want to make it explicitly clear that there is no one meeting or one group that decided the contents of the cannon. The following is a list of church fathers and the books they affirmed. By affirmed, I mean that they quoted from those books. Thus, they believed that those books were authoritative. You will notice that there are different books in different lists. Some lists are short and others are long. Why all the change? Part of the differences are due to the fact that there was not widespread circulation of the writings of the apostles—or any writings for that matter—till later. Copies had to be made in order for someone to receive a new book. Thus, many of the earlier fathers may have only known of a few books. The point is that they affirmed the books of the bible in so far as they knew them. You will see as the list progresses there are books that most people affirm and some that only a few affirm. This is important and will be discussed further.
Clement of Rome 60-100 Paraphrases from Acts, Rom, 1 Cor, Eph, Tit, Heb, 1 Pet.
Ignatius 60-117 Gospels and Pauline epistles
Polycarp 69-155 Disciple of John. Affirmed 16 NT books
Justin Martyr 100-165 Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, 1 pet, Heb.
Marcion 85-160 Luke, Rom, 1&2 Cor, Gal, Eph, Phil, Col, 1&2 Thes and Phil.
Irenaeus 130-202 Disciple of Polycarp. Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, 1&2 Pet, Hebrews
Muratorian Canon 190 20 books. Luke, John, Acts, Pauline epistles, 1&2 Pet, Hebrews, Revelation
Clement of Alexandria 155-220. 22 books. Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, 1&2 Pet, Hebrews, Revelation
Tertulian 160-220 24 books
Hippolytus 170-235. 25 books
Origen 185-253 22 books.
Athannasius 296-373 27 books
Origin did the church the service of sorting the books into two categories as follows:
Accepted books
-Four Gospels
-Paul’s 13 epistles
-1 Peter
-1 John
Questioned books
-2 Peter
-2&3 John
This distinction by Origen is important because it shows that the majority of what we now have as the NT was affirmed by the early church as being original writings of the true apostles. Most of the books in question were doubted on the basis of authorship. Once their authorship was established they were accepted. Thus, the canonization process was a process of limitation rather than elevation. On what basis did they limit books? Here are the criteria for Canonization which they used. It is a free world, and one can disagree with their conclusions [As did Luther and many of the reformers who doubted James and sometimes Revelation] or their methods, but what would be a better system than the following rules? What would more accurately tell us which books should be canonized?
Apostolic Authorship—or noteworthy authority
It is hard to have a better standard than that! On what basis should we take the word of someone who had never seen Jesus? It would be foolish and naïve to take the word of someone who was not an eye witness over that of an actual eye witness.
Continuity with “Canon of Truth”
The new writings must be in agreement with the truth claims of the old writings. They must offer revelation that is a completion of the old writings. This is the main reason for which I personally reject the Gnostic Gospels and the Book of Mormon. Neither of those offers anything that advances our knowledge through fulfillment and continuity yet remains faithful to the old texts [the Old Testament].
Universal Acceptance
The writings must be accepted by the church at large. Some books were only sporadically accepted by certain isolated groups. These books were not adopted.
Self Authenticating, Divine Nature
They must have the “earmarks” of being from God. This is perhaps the most fuzzy/subjective of their standards. It was on this basis that Luther did not believe James was canonical. He called it a “strawy epistle.” In comparing the books of the NT, however, to the works of the Gnostics it is easy to see the superiority of the NT.
I will dovetail another post [Part 4 of the series] with this one later about the Gnostic gospels and, specifically, the Gospel of Judas. I will give some reasons that they were rejected and why they ought to be rejected.

the reliability of the new testament_part two

My previous post dealt with the method whereby we received the NT. This post addresses the reliability of that method.
There are many reasons that one can believe the Bible is accurate.
1. There are more manuscripts than any other book from the ancient world.
Below is a chart detailing the number of NT manuscripts compared to other ancient texts. Also compared is the time between the event and the first copy. The NT was written between 20 and 30 years after the events as compared to an average of 1,000 years for other texts. Date of NT Copies Chart
2. There are older manuscripts than any other book from the ancient world.
John Ryland Fragment A.D. 117-138
Bodmer Papyri 200
Codex Vaticanus 325-350
Codex Synaticus 340
See above chart . The earliest manuscript for other writings is 900A.D.
3. More accurately copied manuscripts than any other book from the ancient world.
The Following chart compares the accuracy of the NT and other ancient text by comparing the number of lines to the number of lines in question. Renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson says, “we are only in doubt of about one tenth of one percent.” Frederick Kenyon, a manuscript expert, says, “The number of manuscripts of the new testament, of early translations from it, of quotations of it in the oldest writers of the church, is so large that it is practically certain the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or the other of these ancient authorities. We can say this of no other book in the world.” Finally,Norman Geisler, the great (and current) Christian Apologist says, “You could destroy all 5,700 manuscripts of the New Testament, all 15,000 in Ethiopic, Coptic, Latin and other ancient languages, destroy the 3 billion Bibles now in print and you could still go to any major library and by using the church fathers reconstruct the entire new testament all but third John. But when did you last quote from third John?" For the record, there are over 36,289 NT quotations contained in the writings of the Church Fathers. In other words, the New Testament is not corrupted, but rather can be trusted in its details.   Accuracy of the NT texts chart
Reliability of the writings
More writers (9 eyewitnesses wrote 27books.[Matthew, Mark, Luke John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and the author of Hebrews if he was someone other than Paul or Luke])
Earlier writers (Late 1 cent. books cited. There is internal evidence that the temple had not yet been destroyed. This event happened in 70)  click to enlarge If Acts was written before the destruction of the temple--and there is good evidence that it was--then Luke would have to be written before Acts. Most scholars agree that Mark was written first. This is pushing the date back to the mid-fifties. Accounts of Jesus' life were recorded within 20+ years of his death! There are no other books from the ancient world that can make a claim anywhere close to this. By comparison the only thing we know about the life of Alexander the Great is from two biographers 300-600years after the events... but do you hear anyone questioning his work or personhood?
More accurate writers: They gave minute details accounting time of day and which way the wind was blowing etc. They gave historical reference points--not something you do if you are making stuff up. He are a few verses from Luke: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-2 ESV
Reliability of the writers
Self Incriminating. This was stated in my previous post under the title of principle of embarrassment. They recorded details about themselves that they would have otherwise omitted had they been lying about the events.
Corroborative Their stories [the gospels in particular] can be taken together to make a single comprehensive, non-contradicting story. Simon Greenly who wrote "A Treatise on Evidence," and then wrote"The Testimony of the Evangelists"--the first book discusses the proper method for processing witnesses in a court of law; the second applies that method to the four Gospels--said, “If they had testified on oath in a court of justice, they would be entitled to credit. And their narratives as we have them now would be received as ancient documents coming down from the proper custody. If so,then, it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result by receiving their testimony in all of the extent of its import.”
Non-Harmonization of the writers Although their story can be harmonized, then did not do so in their writings. This is exactly what modern witnesses in a court of law do. They made no attempts to create one exact story.
No Conspiracy Conspiracy theories are untenable
Did not deny testimony under the threat of death All of the Apostles, with the exception of John who died in exile, died as martyrs.
Included 30 historical people not something you do in fictional writing lest someone go and check the details and prove the writer wrong. C.S. Lewis said, “All I am in private life is a literary citric and historian. That’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis that if anyone thinks the gospels are either legends or novels then that person Is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critique. have read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people and I know perfectly well that the gospels are not that kind of stuff.” 
The New Testament is more accurately copied than any other text from the ancient world.
The events of the New Testament have more witnesses and more reliable witnesses than any other text from the ancient world.
If we cannot believe the bible, then we cannot believe any event from the ancient world.
If we doubt the New Testament, then we must doubt all ancient historical figures.
If we doubt the bible, then we are applying a standard to the bible which we apply to no other document.
If we cannot believe the bible, then we cannot believe any event from the ancient world.

One final note of interest: Many other religious books give power to the leaders of the religious sect. The Book of Mormon or the Quran gives their own religious leaders a great amount of power and authority. The Bible, does not do this. This is not to say that no Bible-thumper' has appropriated more power due him; but that is a misappropriation of power, power not granted by scripture since Christ is the head of the church and has left us with only the scriptures.

the reliability of the new testament_part one

I will post my comments about the accuracy of the NT in four posts. The first is on the transmission of the texts. The second is on the reliability of the NT; the third will be on the formation of the NT cannon; and the fourth will be on the topic of the Gnostic gospels and why we don't have them in the NT as many are suggesting that we ought.Here are some quotes to get us started.
Teabing cleared his throat and declared, “The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.”“I beg your pardon?”"Bible is a product of man, my dear, Not of God. The Bible did not magically fall from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.Conversation between Sophia and Teabing in chapter 55 of The Da Vinci Code, 250.
…the earliest period of textual transmission was also the least controlled. This is when nonprofessional scribes, for the most part, were copying our text—and making lots of mistakes in their copies.
My contention is that Christian scribes who opposed adoptionistic views of Jesus modified their texts in places in order to stress their view that Jesus was not human but also divine." Quotes from Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why,129 and 155.
These quotes represent what is becoming the popular belief about the Bible. However, they have no more basis in fact than the belief that there is a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence [perhaps if you believed what you saw in National Treasure, you will also believe the Da Vinci Code]. There are two questions I hope to answer in this post. First, how did we get the Bible? Second, can we trust it?
We begin the story of the N.T with the life of Christ coming to an end around 30 A.D. Following Christ's death the text went through a period of oral transmission. The first and most obvious objection would be on the question of if we can trust these accounts. After all, we have all heard a pseudo-intellectual attempt to make the case that the stories in the Bible were expounded around the campfire much like fishing stories and thus one can explain away anything miraculous. This sort of arm-chair critique of the Bible only betrays the ignorance of those peddling this rubbish. That person knows nothing of the concept of oral traditions or of cultures that use this method as their primary means of preserving history.
First, one must know that oral accounts would have taken on fixed forms. This is what happens in cultures today when still bound by oral means of communications. There are fixed forms of the stories that are memorized by all. Once everyone knows of them there can be no changing them. This is a strategy currently being used by missionaries in non literate societies to do evangelism. They will take several of the leaders and will teach them all the same stories. As these men begin to learn the stories of the Bible it is time for them to demonstrate their command of the material. They each take turns stepping in a circle and telling the stories. If they make a mistake, then one of the other men will push him out of the circle, and tell the story correctly. In this way, messages can be accurately transmitted orally. Furthermore, cultures that are not accustomed to the many technological reminders that we have--ranging from PDA's computers,tape recorders to even things that we often over look such as a written language [as opposed to tribal languages which are not normally written down] not to mention the means with which to write our thoughts--do not have the same struggles in remembering details. Have you ever been around a blind person? One thing you will inevitably notice is that they have great ability remember things. The reason we doubt oral tradition is because of our own memories which are accustomed to the crutch of technology.
Second, one must realize that the disciples couldn't falsify their accounts during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. If they would lie, particularly in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, then they would certainly be corrected. Third, according to traditional writings all of the disciples, with the exception of John, were persecuted severely and finally murdered for what they believed. Sane persons don't die for a lie Fourth, extra biblical records support biblical account it a majority of their details. Here is a list of the details. These come from about a dozen different sources; most of these are not sympathetic to the cause of Christ:
  • Jesus’ Brother was James
  • He was a wise man had large following
  • Reported to have appeared three days after his crucifixion
  • Falsely accused
  • Suffered excruciating punishment
  • Christians were hated
  • Christ was put to death by Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius
  • Christianity broke out again in both Judea and Rome
  • There was darkness at the time of crucifixion
  • Jesus was killed at Passover time
  • That he was accused of being a sorcerer (CF Mark 3:22; John 8:41)
Finally, there is the Principle of embarrassment. That is to say that if someone writes something embarrassing about themselves, then it is probably true. Consider a few of the disciples dumb moments:
  • Thomas doubted that Christ had risen from the grave
  • Peter sank after going out on the water with Christ
  • Peter was called Satan by Christ Peter denied Christ three times
  • The women were the first to discover the resurrected Christ The women were the first to really "get it" when it came to who Christ was and what he was there to do.
  • No one was smart enough to know that Judas was the betrayer even though Jesus told them the betrayer was at the table.
If they were lying then why would they leave these foolish and embarrassing details intact?
Oral tradition carried the burden of the gospel for quite a few years. Written accounts begin to surface around 50-70 A.D. Why so long till written accounts? First hand witnesses were still alive prior to this. Eyewitnesses were beginning to grow old and near death. Prior to this oral tradition was sufficient. Why written accounts? Impending death of eyewitnesses (due to age and persecution). They would not live forever. As the church spread, oral tradition was insufficient. To supply the spread of the church then, there must be written accounts that the missionaries can take with them. Furthermore, heresy was beginning to crop up. Written accounts would give official and accurate accounts of the events. As a part of this writing process distribution is a natural side effect. Even the scriptures themselves indicate that the writings of the apostles were to be distributed:
I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 1 Thes 5:27
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 1 Tim 4:13
And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. Col 4:16
To supply distribution, transmission was necessary. Contrary to Bart Ehrman [see 2nd and 3rd opening quote], there were in fact professional scribes during this time period and, by implication, in the early church . The Masoretic text was being copied in its earlier forms by professional scribes as early as AD 20. These men were Jews. Who were the first converts to Christianity? Jews! Is it possible that some of these scribes were among these early converts? His premise that there were no professional scribes is completely untenable and irresponsible for a man of his academic stature to assert. One must also understand that the Jews have historically been an educated people. Even in Nazi Germany, when they were pushed from their homes into the shanty towns, one of the first things they did was start schools. Illiterate? I think not. One thing that does happen when anything is copied by hand is that differences creep into the texts. There is in fact a 10% difference between all of the texts--from best to worst, mind you. While folks like Ehrman and Dan Brown would like to expose a grand conspiracy the vast majority of differences can be explained by the following [in order from most occurrences to fewest]:
  1. Variant spellings
  2. Varied word orders: Christ Jesus –Jesus Christ; The Good man –the man, the good one [both of these take the legitimate translation of "the good man" in English]
  3. Slips of the pen [this example isn't obvious in English, but fruit and speck are very similar words in Greek] Luke 6:41 “Why do you look at the fruit in your brother’s eye.” [error] “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye.” [correct]
These differences are, for the most part, somewhat easy to sort through--although there are some that require a great deal more effort. Here is an example of how one can sort through differences to find the original meaning:
Christ Jesus is the saviour of the whole world
Jesus Christ s the savior savior of the whole world
Jesus Christ is th savior of the whole world
Jesus Christ is the savor of the whole world
Which one is right? Can you tell. Is it too hard to realize that the original sentence looked like this? Jesus Christ is the savior of the whole world
These differences began to be copied to the point that there are actual "Families of Texts" These families are as follows: Alexandrian, Caesarean, Western, Byzantine . If you really want to know the differences between those families of texts then you will have to read a book on textual criticism.
Was There a Conspiracy then to corrupt the texts? Consider these facts:
  1. The Writers left difficult passages intact. Rather than harmonizing their accounts, they left the differences intact. They can be corroborated , mind you, in much the same way that one can take eye witness accounts in a court of law to establish facts.
  2. The writers did a poor job of covering Jesus humanity. if they were trying to make him out to be god, they sure forgot a lot of stuff that makes Jesus look human as well as divine.
  3. The writers left in incriminating evidence. This is the same as the principle of embarrassment In conclusion, if this was a conspiracy, then it was worst execution of a conspiracy in all history!
Is the number of texts and the differences therein a strength or a liability? Let us consider the Quran in answering. The Quran was delivered directly to Muhammad. All of the writings of his scribes were complied into the book. As it began to be translated differences crept in. Later, one man decided to fix the problem. He collected all of the texts and compiled an official version, the current one. He then burned the rest of the texts. This, in my opinion, presents a big problem. We are left trusting this one man! At best the Quran is this man's opinion of what the Quran ought to be. Without any other text, there is nothing for comparison. By analogy, if the Catholics were the ones who had the only biblical text, then we would be forced to trust that what they said the bible said it did in fact say. Fortunately there are thousands of Greek manuscripts for comparison. Consider also the Book of Mormon. It was translated by Joseph Smith off of Gold plates delivered by the angel Moroni. Later the plates were taken back and once again there is nothing whereby to check the work of young Joseph. What is the problem with this? There are four thousand differences from the first edition to the current edition! Which Book of Mormon is right? We don't know and can't even check.Since there are many Greek NT texts, we can go back and verify things and do not succumb to blind trust in a human mediator.
Continue on and read about the Reliability of the NT in the next post.

historical references to Jesus

I was recently reading through a special edition of US News and World Report. The issue was about the Da Vinci Code--it was released the same time the movie first showed. There were a spattering of"experts" from all sorts of backgrounds. Perhaps most objectionable was the interview with Timothy Freke (a rather unfortunate name...). He was asked, "In your opinion, is there any evidence that Jesus lived?" He replied, "None at all. The only evidence we have is fake. There is no evidence at all for the historical Jesus...." If he were to say that he did not believe in the Jesus portrayed in the NT, that would be one thing. He is denying the existence of any historical Jesus whatsoever. One does not have to believe the NT account of Jesus in order to believe in the historical Jesus. Here are some external sources that attest to the historical person of Jesus.

These quotes also affirm a number of details from the Gospel accounts:

"the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, whose name was James..."
Josephus Antiquities XX 9:1

"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus…Pilate condemned him to be condemned and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship, They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders"
Josephus Antquities XVIII 33

“Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.”
Tacitus (A.D. 55), Annals XV .44

“…the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world…. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws.”
Lucian (2nd cent.), On the Death of Peregrine Suetonius (A.D. 120), Life of Claudius 24.5

“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigations of Christus.”
Thallus (A.D. 52), according to Africanus (A.D. 221)

“Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the time of the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably,as it seems to me.”

"On the eve of Passover, they hanged Yeshu [Jesus] and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.”
The Talmud (A.D.500), Sanhedrin 43a

"What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished... But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."
Letter of Mara Bar-Serapion (after AD 73), British Museum.

Not only do these references show that a person by the name of Jesus,of Jewish origin, living in 1cent AD, in Israel actually existed, but these references also confirm these details from the gospel accounts(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and early church history.
1. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate at Passover
2. He was believed by his disciples to have risen from the dead three days later
3. Jewish leaders charged Christ with sorcery (cf. Mark 3:22; John 8:41)
4. The Christians could not be contained in Judea but spread to Rome
5. Nero persecuted early Christians
6. These Christians denied polytheism, lived dedicated lives according to Christ’s teachings

dumb accountants

Have you ever received a bill for less than a postage stamp? I received one once for .26 from sprint. This was stupid since the postage cost more than the bill. So, I sent them .30 so that their books would be off. If only I could be as smart as this guy:

the philosophical room

Suppose for a moment that you have grown up in a sealed room, no windows, no doors. You have never been outside this room and have no recollection of how you managed to get into the room in the first place. With you in this room are several other people who have also been there all of their lives with no recollection of their origins.

As you grow and live you and your friends begin to think and form theories about your situation. You all talk and decide that the four things around you are called walls and above and below you are called ceiling and floor. On this you all agree. Where you do not agree is on what is outside the room and how you got inside the room. Some say that you have always been there and there is nothing outside of the walls, pure void. Some say that the have no clue how you got there, but whatever the hard stuff is that makes the walls must extend indefinitely. Theory after theory is posited about your present situation, how you got there, and what must be done to get out, if there is an "out" at all.

One day, while you are discussing the ups and downs of your favorite theories something happens. You hear something on the ceiling. This provides no small amount of consternation for those who have said that there is no outside. There is a large cracking sound and suddenly a man falls though the new hole in through the roof hitting the floor with a thud. This man lived with you for a while and joined in your philosophical discussions. He began to contradict some of the theories and teach his own. Some of the best known and most widely accepted theories he didn't like. What to do?

At this point, there is only one thing you must decide. Do you trust him and believe what he is saying, or not?

common errors in interpreting the bible

This list is a very good list concerning Bible difficulties and the common errors that folks make when considering the Bible. These come from a book by Norman Geisler [When Critics Ask].

  1. Assuming that the unexplained is not explainable
  2. Presuming the Bible guilty until proven innocent
  3. Confusing our fallible interpretations with God's infallible revelation
  4. Failing to understand the context of the passage
  5. Neglecting to interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones
  6. Basing a teaching on an obscure passage
  7. Forgetting that the Bible is a human book with human characteristics
  8. Assuming that a partial report is a false report
  9. Demanding that NT citations of the OT always be exact quotations
  10. Assuming that divergent accounts are false ones.
  11. Presuming that the Bible approves of all it records
  12. Forgetting that the Bible uses non-technical, everyday language
  13. Assuming that round numbers are false
  14. Neglecting to note that the Bible uses different literary devices
  15. Forgetting that only the original text, not every copy of scripture is without error.
  16. Confusing general statements with universal ones.
  17. Forgetting that later revelation supersedes previous revelation

christian wealth

Although I cannot endorse all of Rob Bells stuff [he is a pantheist--perhaps inadvertently].  However, as I have been researching Christian finances, I am struck by how little kingdom priority we have as a church.  Southern Baptists, often hailed as one of the most missional denominations, gave on average $9.00 to international missions.  That is $.75 a month.  Most people waste more than that on vending machines...

miniature earth

In 1800 3% of people lived in cities.  That figure had doubled by 1900 to 6%. In 1950 less that 30% of the word lived in cities.  In 2006 50% lived in cities.  By 2025, 60% will live in cities.