Saturday, June 28, 2008

This man is the most liberal person in the U.S. senate. He is running for president. He openly opposed the The Born Alive Infant Protection Act which would have saved little babies that somehow survived abortions in Illinois. He was also against the partial-birth abortion ban. He has received a 100% rating from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). No one who fights against the rights of babies should receive a vote.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Everything MUSN'T Change

So over the past decade or so, there has been an extremely large number of books trying to redefine how to preach, do church, approach theology, and Christianity as a whole. These authors make the charge that we need to change Christianity in order to reach the emerging post-modern culture. All of the authors endorse one another's books, and claim they are having a "conversation" about how to be Christians. They claim we've approached it incorrectly for many years. I would argue that this movement is not only negative, but wrong at its core.

One of the favorite claims of these authors is that Jesus' death on the cross wasn't to pay for our sins. The reason Jesus suffered and died on the cross, according to these people, was to show us an example, and also show us the injustice in the world. Really? They need to ask Paul why he wrote in Romans 3:24-26:

being justified as a gift by His grace through the
redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The word "propitiation" in Greek is hilasterion, which refers to assuaging God's wrath by being an atoning sacrifice. In fact, in the NIV, it translates that word "atoning sacrifice." This doctrine, called "substitutionary atonement," is affirmed by the Bible in numerous other places such as Isaiah 53, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 2 John 4:10, and many many more. One of the authors, Steve Chalke, has gone so far as to call this act of God "cosmic child abuse" in his book The Lost Message of Jesus (pg. 182). I would point him to John 10:17-18:

"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may
take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My
own initiative I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it
up again. This commandment I received from My Father."

Brian Mclaren, probably the most outspoken figure in the emergent church movement, endorsed Mr. Chalke's book. He has stated that "clarity is overrated," but in his book The Secret Message of Jesus he clearly asserts that the church has always misunderstood the message of Christ. Really? So two thousand years later, and McLaren has finally figured it out!? Oh thank goodness.

The fact is that McLaren and these other emergent writers are focused on this world, as evident in McLaren's book Everything Must Change. He offers his alternative explanation that "the Bible instead is the story of the partnership between God and humanity to save and transform all of human society and avert global self-destruction" (94). They all are very humanistic and focus on this world and disregard parts of the Bible they don't like (i.e. hell, which Jesus talked about more than heaven). They say Jesus' focus was on helping people in this world and helping the physical environment (one of McLaren's big issues is global warming). Jesus made it clear that His kingdom was not of this world. Humanity has a sin problem. He came to save us of our sins.

That being said, we should ABSOLUTELY help the poor, the suffering, the hurting. We are also to be good stewards of what God has given us. We are commanded to show Christ's love to the world. We should want to sacrifice for others because of what Jesus did for us. That's one thing I agree with McLaren and the other emergents on. Perhaps some in the church recently haven't focused on this enough, although I think they overstate this. The church in general has given massive amounts to charities and does tons for the suffering not only in the US, but all around the world. The Christian church is historically responsible for hospitals, universities, charities, etc. However, you can build mud huts and feed people till the sun goes down and they will still not be saved. The ultimate focus shouldn't be on this world. While feeding and providing for people, you need to share the gospel. Christ came to save their souls from eternal suffering and separation from Him. Jesus is "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 b).

Thursday, June 12, 2008


If you read Matthew 14, you run across the very familiar story of Jesus walking on the water. This is the second of three amazing miracles recorded in this chapter. After feeding 5,000 people with nothing but 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, Jesus sends His disciples ahead of him in their boat to sail to their next destination. After Jesus sends the crowd away, he prays.

Meanwhile, the disciples are dealing with a storm on the sea. Now, in verse 25, Matthew writes that Jesus went out to them. He walked to them ON THE WATER! Wow! The disciples saw Him, but from a distance and through the storm, they couldn't tell it was Jesus at first. The first thing I want to point out here is what Jesus says to comfort them. "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." The phrase "it is I," according to my Bible footnotes, can also be translated "I AM." (See Exodus 3:14) I checked my handy dandy E-sword and sure enough the Greek word eimi can be AM and ego can be I. Some interpret this as a claim to deity. I don't speak Greek, but it wouldn't surprise me that Jesus is trying to console His disciples by telling them, "Hey! I'm God! You're lives are in My hands!"

Also, in the midst of this storm, they are told to "be of good cheer." Is it because it's a pleasant situation they're in? Nope. It's because Jesus is there with them.

So anyway, Peter at this point may have realized what Jesus was saying about being I AM. He was, after all, the first disciple to affirm that Jesus is the Messiah. He tells Jesus that if it is Him, allow him (Peter) to come out to Him (Jesus) on the water. Here Peter had faith in Jesus. So guess what, Peter got to walk to Christ on the water. But then, Peter got distracted. There was a storm going on after all. He saw all the problems and hubbub going on around him, and he began to sink. "Lord, save me!" That's all he said, and Christ rescued him.

"O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Why did Peter doubt Jesus? Because he got distracted. Things around him took his eyes off what really matters--Jesus! After Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the storm stopped (another amazing miracle) and the disciples worshipped Jesus.

This whole narrative is all about maintaining your faith in Christ. We all start to sink at times. Life distracts us with its stresses and worries. Life also distracts us with suffering and death. But through it all, Christ has promised to never leave or forsake those who have faith in Him (see Hebrews 13:5). Through the hard times when we start to sink, we need to call out to the Lord like Peter did, and He will bring us through whatever our situation may be.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Comfort gospel?

Are people supposed to be comfortable with the gospel? I think this is a common misconception in the church today. People go out with the idea that they should make the gospel a warm and fuzzy thing. They present it as a way to make life on this earth better. "You will have a happy, fulfilled, joyful life if you ask Jesus into your heart," is a popular way of presenting it. But all you have to do is look at the persecuted church in places like China and some Islamic countries to see that isn't the case.

We aren't supposed to come to Christ because we could become happy. Don't get me wrong, happiness and inner joy and inner fulfillment are a result of becoming a Christian, but that isn't the reason Christ came and suffered and died on the cross. Jesus said "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10) We have broken God's law. As a holy and just and loving God He must punish us for that. But also being a merciful and loving God, He has provided the way of salvation. Jesus was sent to pay our penalty. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

I am always just dumbfounded when I think about this. God came down from heaven, became a man, and then lived a sinless life. Then he was brutally executed for our ugly, hideous sins! "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

My point here is not to tell everyone that shoving the gospel down people's throats in a "fire-and-brimstone" manner is how to do it. This is also not saying that our lives will definitely be awful either. But, life may not be always be super happy as a Christian. You may be chastised, persecuted, tortured, or killed. Remember, 11 out of 12 of the original apostles were martyred for their beliefs.

There's a somewhat contemporary saying that accompanies pictures of Jesus sometimes. Even though it is not in the Bible, I believe it sums it up pretty good. "He never said it was going to be easy, He just said it would be worth it."

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Reliability of the New Testament

I did this as my big research paper for my English class last semester. It's a quick yet informative read. Have fun.

Many ideas abound today about the historical reliability of the Bible. Many think it is an outdated book full of stories that don’t apply to society anymore. Some people think it was written and compiled in a dark room by powerful men who wanted to use it to subvert the weak. Others see it as a book with good rules to live by but nothing more. Still others hold it to be the inerrant and infallible written word of God. Overall, though, there is a profound ignorance about the origins and reliability of the Bible. There is simply a profound lack of knowledge of the best selling book in history.

Historians view the Old and New Testaments separately because “…much of the evidence is different” (McDowell 69). The New Testament, the focus of this paper, tells the story of Jesus’ ministry and the subsequent ministry of His apostles. The New Testament can be proven reliable through textual criticism, internal evidence in the texts, and external evidence including ancient extra-biblical writings and archaeology.

The original manuscripts, or autographs, of the New Testament are gone. They have most likely “…disintegrated into dust more than a thousand years ago” (Jones 19). The manuscripts we do have are copies of copies, and no two manuscripts are exactly the same. So how can we know they are reliable, and how is the original meaning of the text reached? The answer is through textual criticism.

Textual criticism is “[t]he study of various copies of a manuscript with the goal of determining the wording of the autograph” (Jones 18). Since textual criticism involves comparing manuscripts, the number of manuscripts available to compare has a great deal to do with how accurately you can determine what the original text said. It is actually one of the most important aspects in textual criticism. In his book The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell quotes F. E. Peters: “On the basis of manuscript tradition alone, the works that made up the Christians’ New Testament were the most frequently copied and widely circulated books of antiquity” (34). McDowell goes on:

"There are now more than 5,686 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and at least 9,300 other early versions, and we have close to, if not more than, 25,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today." (McDowell 34)

The number of New Testament manuscripts dwarfs any other work of antiquity. “Next to the New Testament, the greatest amount of manuscript testimony is of Homer’s Iliad…There are fewer than 650 Greek manuscripts of it today” (Strobel 60). Scholars rarely, however, question the reliability of The Iliad’s text.

Another important point to consider in textual criticism is the age of the documents being examined, and how far removed they are from the original autograph. Again, the Bible is the clear winner compared to other books of antiquity in terms of the closeness of the copies available to the originals. The Iliad was written around 800 B.C. The earliest copy is from around 400 B.C., a 400 year gap. Other popular ancient manuscripts such as those from Herodotus and Plato are separated from the originals by at least 1,000 years. In comparison, the Bible was written from A.D. 50-100. The earliest fragment is dated around 114, while an almost complete copy has been dated to 250 (McDowell 38).

Skeptics often point out the numerous differences between the ancient manuscripts of the Bible. Since all ancient manuscripts were hand copied by fallible human beings, discrepancies naturally entered the text. Most scribes tried to copy manuscripts faithfully, while others did minor, and sometimes major, editing. Well known Christian-turned-agnostic, Bart Ehrman, says in his book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, “Scholars differ significantly in their estimates—some say there are 200,000 variants known, some say 300,000, some say 400,000 or more” (89). This, however, may be a little misleading.

"Ehrman’s estimate of 400,000 variants among the New Testament manuscripts may be numerically correct—but what Ehrman doesn’t clearly communicate to his readers is the insignificance of the vast majority of these variants.
Most of these variations stem from differences in spelling, word order, or the relationships between nouns and definite articles—variants that are easily recognizable and, in most cases, virtually unnoticeable in translation." (Jones 43, italics his)

The way variants are counted also adds to these high numbers. For instance, when counting variants, if one word is misspelled in 1,000 manuscripts, it’s counted as 1,000 variants (Strobel 64-65). As amazing as it sounds, there are 20,000 lines that make up the New Testament, but only 40 of them in dispute (Bible Manuscripts). The level of accuracy shown by the New Testament is unrivaled by any other ancient document. Even in the 40 disputed lines of text, no doctrine of Christianity is put in jeopardy.

Many think the text of the Bible provides enough evidence internally to explain away most questions. John Warwick Montgomery argues that scholars need to follow “Aristotle’s dictum that the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself” (Montgomery 29). The gospels were written by people who were eyewitnesses, or were recording eyewitness testimonies of the ministry of Jesus. All of these people were equally reliable sources (Montgomery 29-30). Since the writers used primary sources, their writings should be considered reliable. Additionally, the Pauline epistles, which were written several years before the gospels, confirm many aspects of all the gospels. Take, for example, the creed found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8:

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. "(NKJV 1 Cor. 15.3-8)

This agrees with the resurrection accounts in the gospels, giving the gospel accounts greater credibility.

Writings of early church leaders and early non-Christian historians outside of the New Testament also help confirm the New Testament’s reliability. Citations of Scripture by early church fathers in the Patristic period (A.D 100-400) aren’t primary sources, but they do serve two very important secondary rolls. First, they support the existence of the twenty-seven authoritative books of the New Testament canon. While their quotations were often loose, in some cases the Fathers were very accurate. Nonetheless, they at least reproduce the significant content of the original writings. Second, the citations are so numerous that if there were no manuscripts of the New Testament in existence, the New Testament could be reproduced using the early church Father’s writings alone (McDowell 42-43).

In addition, Papias, the bishop of Heirapolis in A.D. 130, was alive at the same time as the apostles. He recorded the sayings of “the Elder” (the apostle John):

"The Elder used to say this also: 'Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he (Peter) mentioned, whether sayings or doings of Christ, not, however, in order. For he was neither a hearer nor a companion of the Lord; but afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who adapted his teachings as necessity required, not as though he were making a compilation of the sayings of the Lord. So then Mark made no mistake writing down in this way some things as he (Peter) mentioned them; for he paid attention to this one thing, not to omit anything that he had heard, not to include any false statement among them.'" (McDowell 53)

Other early church writers include Irenaeus, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and many others.

Non-Christian writers and historians of the first century mention the church and some events that are recorded in the New Testament. Although some of these writings were actually attacking Christians, they ironically end up affirming that the early church did believe what the church of today believes, contrary to some critics.

Josephus was a first century Jewish historian. His writings do much to affirm the Bible as a whole. He confirms the existence of Jesus and His brother James, when writing about the High Priest, Ananias: “...he assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others…” (qtd. in McDowell 56). He also confirms the existence of John the Baptist when he wrote: “Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and very justly, as punishment of what he did against John, who was called the Baptist” (qtd. in McDowell 56).

Another non-Christian writer, Pliny the Younger, a Roman author and administrator, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan in A.D. 112 describes early Christian worship practices:

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. (qtd. in McDowell 58)

Finally, archaeology has provided remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Bible. Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archaeologist has written: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference” (qtd. in McDowell 61). W.F. Albright also states:

"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history." (qtd. in McDowell 61)

In other words, historians of the past who have used archaeology to try to discredit the Bible have been proven wrong with recent archaeological discoveries.

Archaeological discoveries that support the historical reliability of the New Testament include the court in which Jesus was tried by Pilate. The court had been buried for centuries, but was discovered recently to be the court in the Tower of Antonia. Another example is the Pool of Bethesda, recorded previously only in the New Testament. Found in 1888, it has been identified near the Church of St. Anne. The discovery of Yohanan, a victim of Roman crucifixion, corroborates the description of the crucifixion in the New Testament, including nails in the wrists and feet, and crushed legs. For years, historians doubted the existence of Pontius Pilate. Then in 1961, Italian archaeologist Antonio Frova discovered an inscription on a stone slab at Caesarea Maritima. On it was written in latin, “Tiberium; Pontius Pilate; Prefect of Judea.” These are just a very few examples of the archaeological evidence that supports the Bible (McDowell 66-67).

Do these facts prove 100% the historical reliability of the Bible? No, just like no historical fact could ever be proven 100%. But, through textual criticism, internal evidence in the texts, and external evidence including ancient extra-biblical writings and archaeology, the support for the reliability of the New Testament as an historical document is unparalleled compared to any other ancient document.

Research Paper Bibliography

"Bible Manuscripts." All About the Journey. 20 Apr 2008 .

Ehrman, Bart. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

Jones, Timothy. Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus". Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.

Montgomery, John Warwick. History and Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964-1965.

The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Inc, 1997.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.