Friday, February 15, 2019

Bart D. Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist? Useful Quotes for Christians, part 4 of 4

This is the final post in a series of useful quotes for Christians from Dr. Bart Ehrman's book Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2012).  Posting these quotations is not an endorsement of Dr. Ehrman in general or even of this book in particular, but these quotations are, in my view, indubitably very useful.  Biblically faithful scholarship on the Old and New Testament's inspiration and composition in history can be found here for the Old Testament and here for the New Testament; note the series of classes on the Old Testament and archaeology on YouTube here as well.

Ehrman on the mythicist argument that all the gospel accounts are simply one source, Mark, because of (alleged) literary dependence—the argument invalid even from a theologically liberal bent:

Some mythicists . . . have taken . . . [the] thought among New Testament scholars that both Matthew and Luke had access to the Gospel of Mark and used it for many of their stories of Jesus . . . to a faulty end to argue that all of our Gospel accounts (even John, which has very little  to do with Mark) ultimately go back to Mark so that we have only one source, not multiple sources, of the life of Jesus.  Nothing could be further from the truth. . . . significant portions of both . . . Matthew and Luke . . . are not related in any way to Mark’s accounts. . . . Matthew and Luke record extensive, independent traditions about Jesus’s life, teachings, and death. . . . and so by the year 80 or 85 [the incorrect and false late theologically liberal date for the period of time Matthew and Luke were written; Matthew was probably actually written c. A. D. 40, and Luke c. A. D. 55] we have at least three independent accounts of Jesus’ life . . . all within a generation or so of Jesus himself. . . . But that is not all.  There are still other independent Gospels. . . . The Gospel of John . . . does not appear to have received his accounts from any or all of [the Synoptic Gospels] . . . so within the first century we have four independent accounts of Jesus’s life and death. . . . [T]he famous Gospel of Thomas . . . from the early second century, say 110-120 CE . . . is independent . . . not derive[d] from the canonical texts.  To that extent it is a fifth independent witness to the life and teachings of Jesus. . . . The same can be said of the Gospel of Peter . . . an independent narrative . . . of Jesus’s trial, death, and resurrection . . . a sixth independent Gospel account of Jesus’s life and death. . . . Another independent account occurs in . . .  Papyrus Egerton 2. . . . a seventh independent account. . . . [I]f we restrict ourselves . . . to a hundred years after the traditional date of Jesus’s death, we have at least seven independent accounts, some of them quite extensive.  (It is important to recall:  even if some of these sources are dependent on one another in some passages—for example, Matthew and Luke on Mark—they are completely independent in others, and to that extent they are independent witnesses.)  And so it is quite wrong to argue that Mark is our only independent witness to Jesus as a historical person.  The other six accounts are either completely or partially independent as well.  For a historian these provide a wealth of materials to work with, quite unusual for accounts of anyone, literally anyone, in the ancient world.  And that is not nearly all. . . . [O]ur surviving accounts . . . were based on earlier written sources that no longer survive . . . Luke . . . knew of “many” earlier authors who had compiled narratives about the subject matter that he . . . narrate[s], the life of Jesus. . . . When dealing only with Matthew, Mark, and Luke . . . [w]e are talking about at least four sources:   Mark, Q, M, and L, the latter two of which could easily have represented . . . many other written sources. . . . The most . . . authoritative . . . commentary on Mark . . . contends that Mark used . . . sources . . . even our earliest surviving Gospel was based on multiple sources. . . . The Gospel of John too is widely thought to have been based on written sources . . . [S]cholars have mounted strenuous arguments that . . . the Gospel of Peter [and] the Gospel of Thomas . . . go back to written sources[.] . . .
            All of these written sources I have mentioned are earlier than the surviving Gospels;  they all corroborate many of the key things said of Jesus in the Gospels; and most important they are all independent of one another. . . . We cannot think of the early Christian Gospels as going back to a solitary source that “invented” the idea that there was a man Jesus.  The view that Jesus existed is found in multiple independent sources that must have been circulating throughout various regions of the Roman Empire[.] . . . Where would the solitary source that “invented” Jesus be?  Within a couple of decades of the traditional date of his death, we have numerous accounts of his life found in a broad geographical span.  In addition to Mark, we have Q, M (which is possibly made of multiple sources), L (also possibly multiple sources), two or more passion narratives, a sign source, two discourse sources, the kernel . . . behind the Gospel of Thomas, and possibly others.  And these are just the ones we know about. . . . Luke says that there were “many” of them . . . he may well have been right.  And once again, this is not the end of the story. . . . Form Criticism . . . [indicates that] there were stories being told about Jesus for a very long time not just before our surviving Gospels but even before their sources had been produced. . . . Anyone who thinks that Jesus existed has no problem answering the question . . . [“H]ow far back do these traditions go?[”] . . . [T]hey ultimately go back to things Jesus said and did while he was engaged in his public ministry[.] . . . But even anyone who just wonders if Jesus existed has to assume that there were stories being told about him in the 30s and 40s. For one thing, . . . how else would someone like Paul have known to persecute the Christians, if Christians didn’t exist?  And how could they exist if they didn’t know anything about Jesus?[1]

Ehrman on multiple lines of evidence for Jesus existing:

[I]t should be clear that historians do not need to rely on only one source (say, the Gospel of Mark) for knowing whether or not the historical Jesus existed.  He is attested clearly by Paul, independently of the Gospels, and in many other sources as well:  the speeches in Acts, which contain material that predate Paul’s letters, and later in Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, Revelation, Papias, Ignatius, and 1 Clement.  These are ten witnesses that can be added to our seven independent Gospels (either entirely or partially independent), giving us a great variety of sources that broadly corroborate many of the reports about Jesus without evidence of collaboration.  And this is not counting all of the oral traditions that were in circulation even before these surviving written accounts.  Moreover, the information about Jesus known to Paul appears to go back to the early 30s of the Common Era, as arguably does some of the material in the book of Acts.  The information about Jesus in these sources corroborates as well aspects of the Gospel traditions, some of which can be dated to the 30s, to Aramaic-speaking Palestine.  Together all of these sources combine to make a powerful argument that Jesus was not simply invented but that he existed as a historical person in Palestine.[2]

The value of Paul’s testimony to Jesus existing:

Paul was personally acquainted with Jesus’s closest disciple, Peter, and Jesus’s own brother, James. . . . We have several traditions that Jesus actually had brothers (it is independently affirmed in Mark, John, Paul, and Josephus).  In multiple independent sources one of these brothers is named James.  So too Paul speaks of James as his lord’s brother.  Surely the most obvious, straightforward, and compelling interpretation is the one held by every scholar of Galatians that, as far as I know, walks the planet.  Paul is referring to Jesus’s own brother. . . . [I]n the letter to the Galatians Paul states as clearly as possible that he knew Jesus’s brother.  Can we get any closer to an eyewitness report than this?  . . . Paul came to know James around 35-36 CE, just a few years after the traditional date of Jesus’s death. . . . Surely James, his own brother, would know if he lived. . . . The fact that Paul knew Jesus’s closest disciple and his own brother throws a real monkey wrench into the mythicist view that Jesus never lived.[3]

Mythicists claim falseley that Nazareth did not exist in Christ’s day:

One supposedly legendary feature of the Gospels . . . is in fact one of the more common claims found in the writings of the mythicists.  It is that the alleged hometown of Jesus, Nazareth, in fact did not exist but is itself a myth[.] . . . Many compelling pieces of archaeological evidence indicate that in fact Nazareth did exist in Jesus’s day[.] . . . For one thing, archaeologists have excavated a farm connected with the village, and it dates to the time of Jesus. . . . [A]nother discovery . . . in ancient Nazareth . . . is a house that dates to the days of Jesus. . . . Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of four acres . . . populated by Jews of modest means. . . . No wonder this place is never mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, Josephus, or the Talmud.  It was far too small, poor, and insignificant.  Most people had never heard of it, and those who had heard didn’t care.  Even though it existed, it is not the place someone would make up as the hometown of the messiah.  Jesus really came from there, as attested in multiple sources.[4] 

Miscellaneous statements of value from such a prominent theological skeptic and liberal:

The alleged “Q” document does not exist today:  “Q . . . is a document that no longer survives, but [only] appears to have once existed [to theological liberals, at least].[5]

So far as I know there are no longer any form critics among us who agree with the precise formulations of Schmidt, Dibelius, and Bultmann, the pioneers in this field.[6]

Apollonius of Tyana . . . [was] a historical person, a Pythagorean philosopher who lived some fifty years after Jesus.[7]

Jesus is the most important person in the history of the West, looked at from a historical, social, or cultural perspective, quite apart from his religious significance.  And so of course the earliest sources of information we have about him, the New Testament Gospels, are supremely important.  And not just the Gospels, but all the books of the New Testament.[8]

Daniel 9 . . . [relates] in precise detail what will happen to the people of Jerusalem over the course of “seventy weeks” . . . [t]he weeks are interpreted within the text itself to mean seventy “weeks of years”—that is, one week represents seven years.[9]

[T]he Old Testament prophet Micah said the savior would come from Bethlehem . . . Micah 5:2[.][10]

It is true that we have far more manuscripts for the books of the New Testament than for Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius—name your ancient author. . . . [T]he Gospels are among the best attested books from the ancient world[.] . . . [W]e have thousands of manuscripts . . . we are . . . not . . . lacking manuscripts. . . . If we had no clue what was originally in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels, [an] objection . . . [based on] . . . numbers of variations [in NT manuscripts] . . . might carry more weight.  But there is not a textual critic on the planet who thinks this, since not a shred of evidence leads in this direction. . . . [I]n the vast majority of cases, the wording of these authors is not in dispute.[11]

For . . . the Christian author of the book of Revelation[,] the future kingdom would be earthly, through and through (Revelation 20-21).[12]


[1]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 74-86.
[2]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 140-141.  See his very convincing summary of the evidence on 171-174.
[3]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 144-146, 151, 156.
[4]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 191-197.
[5]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 48.
[6]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 85.
[7]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 209.
[8]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 95.
[9]           Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 168.
[10]          Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 189.
[11]          Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 178, 180-181.
[12]          Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY:  HarperCollins, 2012) 258.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Refreshing Honesty from "Desiring God" on Men Acting Effeminate

I want to keep up my series on Relationship, having finished part one, and I will, but when I saw this article and then read it, I knew I had to write this instead.  I will be coming back to finish the Relationship series, Lord-willing, however.  I don't know how many parts it will be, but it could be many.

Apostasy is a real and ongoing threat to Christianity.  It has never stopped since sin entered the Garden of Eden.  When true believers dwindled to eight out of about eight billion before the Genesis flood, that process took over a thousand years.  Churches don't jump straight to apostasy either.  However, it can happen quickly.  When Jesus wrote to the church at Laodicia in Revelation 3, it had run its entire course in the space of about 40 years, start to finish.

What often occurs did in Corinth with church members' denial of the bodily resurrection.  Corinthian culture declared all flesh evil and bodily resurrection didn't conform.  Due to pressure of various sorts, the church at Corinth straddled mythology with the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Churches see their own beliefs and practices as a threat to their existence.  The world opposes and they negotiate a truce by conceding some of what they believe, convinced that it isn't important enough to preserve.  They relegate biblical teaching that clashes with the world to a secondary matter.

How is apostasy stopped?  Someone like Paul mediates, as he did in 1 Corinthians 15, confronting the problem.  He also revealed the cause of deceit, which were relationships that exposed them to wrong thinking (cf. 1 Cor 15:33).  Likewise, in the six earlier letters to the other churches in Revelation 2-3, Jesus admonished and warned them to repent or face negative consequences.

In the slide toward apostasy, the beliefs and practices that clash most with the world depart first, which of necessity requires a dismissal of biblical authority.  God is One.  His truth is one.  The surrender of any part at least anticipates a total abandonment.  A path of deviation reaches a tipping point, one that seems like a place of no return, where Christianity might not be Christianity anymore.

On February 5, Greg Morse published an article for Desiring God, the organization of leading evangelical John Piper, entitled, "Play the Man You Are:  Will Effeminacy Keep Anyone from Heaven?"  If someone believes the Bible, knows 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and so cares about the eternal soul of a professing Christian man who exhibits effeminate traits or characteristics, he can't let this one go.  What Morse has written, represented by the following tweet on the Desiring God twitter address, follows very close to scripture on a cultural issue.

Men should rejoice in what he's done, his explanation and application of scripture.  I want more of this in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

What Morse wrote, I don't know of any fundamentalists right now who would write it.  I haven't read it anywhere, except here on my blog in a two part series December of 2017 (part one, part two).  Please reread those two posts and compare them with what Morse writes. Very few joined in my concern.  Churches are full of effeminate men and they are doing next to nothing about it.  Leaders are afraid, which will result in more and more effeminate men in churches.

A majority of the comments in the twitter feed under the Morse article are horrific, and he receives little defense.  This opposition is now normal, even for professing Christians.  I get it myself, calling it hateful, hate speech, unloving, and unchristian.  It is one of the reason these articles are not being written.  It is why churches tolerate the behavior.  Churches and their leaders are afraid.  But how could it be hateful to caution someone towards avoiding eternal punishment?  The possible offense is not worse than the terrifying outcome.

I want to comment on what Morse has written.  I agree with almost all of it.  I write to commend it, but also to explain why.  I don't fellowship with John Piper.  Commending the article isn't fellowship. Love rejoices in the truth.  He tells the truth.  I want to draw your attention to it.  I'll go straight to his first section.

What's At Stake?

Morse writes:
We need not concern ourselves with separating one’s “gender expression” from his biological sex. We need not tell men they must dress a certain way and not another (Deuteronomy 22:5) or call them to “act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13) — no such thing exists. I believe this all to be gravely mistaken. 
As unclear as the distinctions may feel in any given culture, the word of God is surprisingly plain: those who gladly, consistently indulge in effeminacy as a lifestyle are in eternal danger (1 Corinthians 6:9, as we’ll see below). Love will dive headlong into all the sinful aspects of manhood to kill whatever sin Satan has tucked under the veils of cultural acceptance.
In the first paragraph, Morse is doing what Paul calls, speaking as a fool, that is, representing how the other side, the foolish side, thinks or expresses itself.  He justifies his article, that church leaders should be concerning themselves with gender expression, even as Deuteronomy 22:5 teaches distinguishes male dress from female, to which he will refer later in the post.  If Paul calls on men to act like men, then there must be a way that men act.  Moses concerned himself and Paul concerned himself, so Morse does too.

Then, just because the culture makes distinctions unclear (and I would add evangelicalism and fundamentalism) doesn't mean they're not.  As Morse says, 1 Corinthians 6:9 says the distinctions are clear enough -- they would have to be -- that an effeminate man would not inherit the kingdom of God.  Because of the culture and then concerns of church growth, the attraction of attendees and continued popularity in the world, churches and their leaders would prefer risking someone's eternal soul than causing waves.

How Satan Covers Sins

Morse writes:
Satan tries to obscure sins by rendering them nearly impossible to define. He smuggles effeminacy into the church by forbidding any specific definition. In the ancient world, effeminacy entailed a moral frailty (acting cowardly or “womanish” in battle), inordinate love for luxury (rendering men delicate and tender), and the sexual deviancy of acting like a woman in one’s demeanor, speech, and gesture. The Bible addresses each, describing men who “become women” on the battlefield (Jeremiah 50:37; Nahum 3:13), go “soft” due to luxury (Matthew 11:7–8), and become sexually deviant (1 Corinthians 6:9). The term effeminacy is not an attack on femininity itself — which is a woman’s glory — but rather on femininity when attached to a male.
What Morse decries here, Satan covering sins, is a norm for evangelicalism, including Desiring God.  It's good he's talking about it, but he's pointing out something that I would hope he notices is right where he lives.  Obeying scripture always requires a second term.  Scripture doesn't define these terms.  The second term comes in a logical syllogism like the following:

Major Premise:  The effeminate man shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Minor Premise:  The effeminate man is a man who acts womanish.
Conclusion:  Therefore, a man who acts womanish shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

It assumes we can know, what I have called, "truth in the real world."  If someone can't do this with scripture, then most of scripture means nothing.  This is an attack on the meaning of scripture, an attack on the application of scripture, and an attack on the truth itself.  In everyone of those, it is an attack on the Word of God, and, therefore, an attack on God.  It is common in evangelicalism as another attack on the grace of God, a cheap grace that is used as an occasion of the flesh.

In the next paragraph, Morse gives effeminate traits of men and describes a way that people will condone those traits -- excusing each individual trait as not being enough to make a man effeminate.  It is essentially defending effeminate traits or explaining them away.  By doing so, Morse rightly observes, no one can even judge whether a man is effeminate or not, which just can't be the case.

I can't rewrite what Morse wrote.  Just read it.  He provides these as effeminate traits in our culture and being effeminate is cultural.  Cultures are required to create those differences. Godly cultures will.  Effeminate characteristics he gives are (each of these picked out of his words):

  • acting cowardly or “womanish” in battle 

  • inordinate love for luxury 

  • acting like a woman in one’s demeanor, speech, and gesture 

  • lispy sentences, light gestures, soft mannerisms, and flamboyant jokes 

  • American culture associates pink with women, as it does dresses 

  • to walk down the street holding hands with another man 

  • a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him 

  • peak flamboyantly, gesture lightly, or wear lipstick

  • The Gay Vibe

     Morse writes:
    On a recent family vacation to Orlando, I witnessed men blatantly, boldly, proudly play the woman in public. What did I observe? They did not commit any sexual acts before me. What I observed was not homosexuality but effeminacy. They were effeminate, sending out what Doug Wilson calls “the gay vibe.” They were living out of step with their nature, and out of step with our cultural expressions of maleness, and denying in their behavior their God-assigned manhood.
    A part of the problem here, as I've witnessed it, is that Christians make playing the woman no issue today, as if it can't really be done anymore, when men know it is done.  We should not be giving this behavior a pass -- those who exhibit effeminate qualities.

    Sex Governs ‘Gender Expression’

    In the midst of this section, Morse comes back to Deuteronomy 22:5, something we just don't hear today from either evangelicals or fundamentalists, but it is true:
    From the beginning, God clearly wed sex and sex-expression. Under Moses, Deuteronomy 22:5 expresses a timeless prohibition that stood true long before the old covenant and long after the coming of the new covenant: “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” God means, in the strongest terms, for men to dress as men, and represent themselves as men, because he desires no observable confusion between the sex he gave and our expression of it.
    For women to put on a male garment there has to be one designated and for men to put on a female garment, there must be one.  Earlier, Morse said men don't wear dresses.  It is true.  Of course, all readers here know that women don't wear pants either.

    I like the way Morse ends it with his section on honoring God's design.  He gets the brunt of the issue.  Believers want to honor God.  Those rebellious against God, we see in Romans 1 are rebellious against God's design.  This is also how this subject relates to salvation.  Someone is not worshiping the Creator, is not thankful, when he does not want to fit with, conform to, glorify God's design.

    Sunday, February 10, 2019

    Relationship, pt. 1

    Most often happiness tops the list of what people want.  Most say happiness is the result of strong relationships.  Without strong relationships, people say they aren't happy, and they want to be happy more than anything.  Even if people want happiness and require strong relationships to be happy, should happiness and strong relationships be the goal for people?

    Sometimes people are not happy, because they don't have strong relationships.  They wanted a strong relationship more than anything else, it never happened, so now they're not happy.  Is it possible that strong relationships were the wrong goal?

    Knowing the power of the word "relationship," taking into consideration what people want, Vox, a left wing political blog or news site, reported the following trend in evangelicalism:
    Recent attempts by churches to be more attractive to secular populations have led cool churches to emphasize “relationship” over “religion.” This “seeker sensitive” approach to church has its roots in the megachurch movement of the 1980s and ’90s — churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek — that sought to make church more attractive to nonbelievers by playing songs that weren’t hymns, offering preaching that was relevant to daily life, and designing churches that didn’t look particularly religious, including no crosses or stained-glass windows, no pews, and pastors wearing street clothes instead of collars. 
    “The Jesus message is not one of religion but of relationship,” Rich Wilkerson Jr., pastor of Miami’s Vous Church and the officiant at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding, wrote in his book Friend of Sinners
    Carl Lentz, a Hillsong pastor and close friend of Justin Bieber, said, “We don’t use the word ‘religion,’ because it’s hard to get people excited about religion. … Religion has no power. But a relationship with God is a superpower.” 
    This tonal shift within evangelicalism away from the dour restrictions associated with religion and toward the freedom and dynamism of a relationship has been ushered in by this new breed of Instagram-friendly, celebrity-surrounded pastors. But with the spread of Hillsong in America — it now has campuses in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Orange Country, and San Francisco — we’re starting to see more and more figures like Lentz in paparazzi photos or Instagram posts with celebrities like Bieber. Some of these pastors are themselves the focus of buzz and reality TV, such as Wilkerson’s short-lived Oxygen series Rich in Faith.
    These hipster evangelicals are so transparent in their attractionalism that even Vox gets it -- it's that obvious.  Is Vox right?  Yes.

    Even though the word "relationship" is not in the English Bible, the concept of "relationship" is.  Relationship itself is important, but it also can be pirated by professing churches or religious groups like those above that know what people want.  They pander to people, taking advantage of the hunger for relationship.  It is a kind of bait and switch, because they are offering is relationship, but it isn't the relationship of God that God reveals in His Word.  It is a placebo relationship that inoculates its victims against the real thing.

    God created us for relationship, but not just any relationship.  The temptation of relationship sends people away from what God wants, which is defined by scripture.  Because people are duped by proposals of relationship, they would do well to know what the Bible does say about it.

    The world says that relationship is based upon mutual attraction.  There are qualities that each person likes about the other.  The relationship is not about what each thinks or feels is best for the other, but based upon support no matter what each one chooses to do.

    Earlier this year, I preached a short series on Trinity at our church, and then I wrote one post in July, entitled, Who Is God? Trinity the Identity of God.  I didn't use the word "relationship" in the post, but I wrote that God is most identified as Father and then Son, and to be Father and Son, an eternal relationship existed between them.  I didn't write this in that post, but if I had turned it into a series, I would have, and, that is, relationship was the basis of God's creation.  God said, "let us make man in our image" (Gen 1:26).  The members of the Trinity, the Godhead, agreed to create mankind.  Before God created mankind, the Father was already loving the Son, as seen in John 17:24 and 1 John 4:8-9:
    Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 
    He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
    In that same post, I said:
    God is love is accompanied by God sending His Son into the world, so love is also associated with the Son.  God was already loving the Son and then He manifested His love toward us through His Son, giving life to us through the Son.  The Father gave His glory to the Son, loving Him before the foundation of the world.
    As one works his way through scripture, he will see that the relationship the Father has with the Son is one He also wants with men, Adam being a sort of second son to Him.  Even as the Father and Son have an eternal relationship, they created man in their image, as expressed by plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26, "us" and "our."  That relationship was ruined by sin, but can be returned through the first Adam, the Lord Jesus, so that men can become sons again. The relationship between the Father and the Son can't, so won't, be ruined by sin, what ruins relationships.

    The relationship of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father is the model for relationship with God and relationship between people.  God, the Author of relationship, lays out His requirements for relationship in the first and second tables of the law, also represented by the commands, love God and love your neighbor.  These are God's rules for a right relationship, rules that people can only keep by the grace of God.

    People want happiness and think relationship will bring it.  Since relationship originated with God, we need to look to Him in His Word to find out what relationship is supposed to be.  Without a right understanding, it can be a powerful tool in the hands of the wrong people.

    Saturday, February 09, 2019

    Kent Brandenburg and Frank Turk Debate on the Preservation of Scripture -- Part Two

    Introduction to the Debate    Part One (please reread the end, Mr. Turk's question answered here)

    by Kent Brandenburg

    To Answer Q1

    The KJV translators in their preface do not disclose the rectitude of the original language text from which they translate.   On a completely different subject, they do comment on the caliber of their translation.  However, we cannot logically assume their opinion or belief about the condition of the original language text upon which they relied for translation by their mere silence concerning it.  In general, no inferences can be drawn from a lack of evidence. This is often summed up in epigrams such as “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  Their silence could as well be interpreted as assent to the purity of the text, since men in that day believed in the perfect preservation of God’s Words.

    In his Institutes of Elenctic Theology (I:71), Francis Turretin (1623-1687) wrote:
    For if once the authenticity . . . of the Scriptures is taken away (which would result even from the incurable corruption of one passage), how could our faith rest on what remains? And if corruption is admitted in those of lesser importance, why not in others of greater? W ho could assure me that no error or blemish had crept into fundamental passages? Or what reply could be given to a subtle atheist or heretic who should pertinaciously assert that this or that passage less in his favor had been corrupted? It will not do to say that divine providence wished to keep it free from serious corruptions, but not from minor. For besides the fact that this is gratuitous, it cannot be held without injury, as if lacking in the necessary things which are required for the full credibility...of Scripture itself. Nor can we readily believe that God, who dictated and inspired each and every word to these inspired . . . men, would not take care of their entire preservation.
    More important than the answer to the question of the negative is the question itself.  The question defies accurate definition of terms.  The King James Translators did not use a singular “volume of the textus receptus.”  They did not rely upon a “volume produced by Erasmus.”  There was no single edition of the textus receptus that was the basis for the KJV; however, the Greek words behind the KJV are nearly identical to Bezae 1598 with relatively few exceptions.

    Mr. Turk also errs, I believe, in his representation of the work of Erasmus.   First, saying he “produce[d]” the Greek NT doesn’t fit what actually occurred.  Kenneth W. Clark asserts:
    We should not attribute to Erasmus the creation of a “received text,” but only the transmission from a manuscript text, already commonly received, to a printed form, in which this text would continue to prevail for three centuries.
    Kurt and Barbara Aland themselves admit:
    [W]e remember that in this period [the textus receptus] was regarded as preserving even to the last detail the inspired and infallible word of God himself.
    My opponent also speculates that Erasmus “produced” an edition of the TR from “dissimilar texts.”  Kenneth W. Clark, a scholar who actually looked at the edition of the TR that Erasmus sent to the printer, wrote: “The Erasmus text is largely a printing of Codex 2, just as the Westcott-Hort text is largely a printing of Codex B.”

    Of course, that was the text that Erasmus sent to the printer.  In his preface, Erasmus claimed to have consulted the oldest and best manuscripts (p. 100).  Another scholar says that “he collected many manuscripts, surrounded himself with the commentaries of the best of the fathers.”  Descriptions vary greatly about what Erasmus did.  We do know that it was not that edition of the TR that confessing Christianity settled upon.  “Among the editions printed about the middle of the sixteenth century those of Robert Stephens claim a special notice, from his having collated many manuscripts which had not before been consulted.”  Since God has promised certainty in His Word, we have no basis for receiving a reading that was, for instance, in Erasmus’ second edition and then never appeared again, versus a reading that is practically in every TR that is in print.

    Lastly God’s people did not receive the books printed in the original 1611.  They rejected the Apocrypha as non-canonical.  They did, however, receive the Words of the textus receptus as canonical.

    To Comment on A1

    Mr. Turk did not answer my question, one that did not make any assumptions, contrary to his accusation.  In assertion-[1] he admits that we do not have and have not had one copy of the Greek NT with all of God’s Words in one place at one time.  That uncertainty contradicts the second part of his own assertion.  He separates “errors” from the “wrong words,” that is, the Greek NT could have the wrong words and yet be without error.  What if he applied this same view to inspiration?  He would reject verbal inspiration.

    In assertion-[2], he embraces some kind of preservation of concepts, theology, or history.  He still won’t believe that we know what all the Words of Scripture are, even though God expects us to live by all of them (Matthew 4:4).  He doesn’t believe that God has preserved the letters of Scripture, despite God’s explicit promise in Matthew 5:17-19.  Based on the only possible usage of “grammatical promises” out of the four on the entire world-wide web, Mr. Turk would be saying that God didn’t make any promises to anyone in the Bible (Genesis 12:1-3?).

    In his last paragraph he writes that Scripture has no theological or historical errors in it, which he separates from actual words, so that in his estimation, the words can be non-Divine and yet still give inerrant theology and history.  Essentially, he is saying that the Bible is God’s theology and history but written in man’s own words.  Based on that definition, unless “Word” means something different than “Word,” Mr. Turk opens “Man’s Word” to find God’s theology and history.

    A comparison of the TR with the UBS indicates something different than Mr. Turk’s disconnect of theology/history from words.  When someone changes words, he changes theology/history.  For example, in Matthew 1:7-8 the KJV/TR reads, “And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat,” etc. The UBS changes “Asa” to “Asaph,” and thus takes king Asa out of the line of Christ to put the Levite Asaph, the author of some of the Psalms, in instead. This is a clear historical/theological error.

    The last line of my opponent’s “answer” says that he doesn’t believe that God kept every copyist of Scripture from making errors (strawman I too reject).  The Bible warns about adding and taking away from God’s Words (Revelation 22:18-19) because men add to and take away from God’s Word (2 Corinthians 2:17).   However, men can’t add or take away words from an unsettled and uncertain text.  Because copyists make errors, we depend on God for the preservation of His Word.  Of course, that shouldn’t make any difference to Mr. Turk—based on his last assertion he believes that biblical theology and history are actually separate from words at least and perhaps from grammar too.

    Since verbal inspiration is required for Scriptural authority, then verbal preservation is also mandated.  Bart Ehrman understood and pushed the eject button on Christianity.  Daniel Wallace understands, so he simply denies Scripture teaches its own preservation and then he relegates inerrancy of Scripture to a tangential doctrine.  My opponent presently evades the question.  Rather than believing what the Bible teaches about its own preservation, he chooses as “evidence” the uncertainty spawned by modern criticism of Scripture.

    Is the Bible evidence, and if so, is it superior to all other possible or potential evidence from all other sources?


    by Frank Turk (I cut and pasted this straight from Mr. Turk, so anything you see is him)

    I don't want to contradict Kent so early in this exchange, but when I said, "God didn't make any grammatical promises to anyone in the Bible," I did in fact answer his question. If his concern is that I didn't cite any Scripture to support this affirmation, you can't cite what isn't there.

    To answer the first half of his second question plainly, I would say this:
    The Bible is not merely evidence, but it is in fact testimony, and as testimony it falls into the unique category of revelation.
    I make this qualification to point out that the Bible is not merely a list of true things, or a place where truth resides among other things, but it is in fact Truth. As we work forward in this 10-question exchange, we'll find that this is a very significant problem for the KJVO advocate.

    To answer the second part of Kent's question plainly:

    When we reference the Bible, we are referencing the only text which God Himself has breathed-out. Ontologically, this makes the Bible not only reliable, but metaphysically authoritative.

    The issue of "evidence" is of course an interesting category, given Kent's first answer. For example, Kent has cited Turrentin as an alleged supporter of his (Kent's) view of the TR, but let's double-check the link Kent has supplied for us, because Turretin also wrote this:
    Although we give to the Scriptures absolute integrity, we do not therefore think that the copyists and printers were inspired (theopneustous), but only that the providence of God watched over the copying of the sacred books, so that although many errors might have crept in, it has not so happened (or they have not so crept into the manuscripts) but that they can be easily corrected by a collation of others (or with the Scriptures themselves). Therefore the foundation of the purity and integrity of the sources is not to be placed in the freedom from fault (anamartesia) of men, but in the providence of God which (however men employed in transcribing the sacred books might possibly mingle various errors) always diligently took care to correct them, or that they might be corrected easily either from a comparison with Scripture itself or from more approve will be wiser to acknowledge our own ignorance than to suppose any contradiction.
    And also again, that same link said this:
    An authentic writing is one in which all things are abundantly sufficient to inspire confidence; one to which the fullest credit is due in its own kind; one of which we can be entirely sure that it has proceeded from the author whose name it bears; one in which everything is written just as he himself wished. However, a writing can be authentic in two ways: either primarily and originally or secondarily and derivatively. That writing is primarily authentic which is autopiston ('of self-inspiring confidence") and to which credit is and ought to be given on its own account....The secondarily authentic writings are all the copies accurately and faithfully taken from the originals by suitable men....
    While Kent may want to appeal to some parts of Turretin as somehow a part of his reasoning, it turns out Turrentin didn't believe anything like what Kent believes about the texts of the NT which we possessed either in his day, or today -- the real irony being that Turrentin was not a native-language English speaker, probably didn't read the King James, and lumped it in with the various "veracular translations" as "not authentic formally ... yet they ought nevertheless to be used in the church because if they are accurate and agree with the sources [notice the plural], they are always authentic materially and as to the things expressed."

    Let's keep that distinction between "formally authentic" and "materially authentic" in mind as we discuss this matter.
    It seems, Kent, that you have overlooked something in the KJV translators' preface, which I will cite here:
    The translation of the Seventy dissenteth from the original in many places, neither doth it come near it for perspicuity, gravity, majesty; yet which of the Apostles did condemn it? Condemn it? Nay, they used it, ...which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had been unworthy the appellation and name of the Word of God.
    And so on -- to help me to obey my word count, you can read it at this link.

    True: not a comment on the question of variant Greek texts of the NT, but a clear comment on their view of the apostolic use of a plainly-aberrant text.

    How should we apply the KJV translators' view of the LXX to modern translations of the NT?

    Friday, February 08, 2019

    Intelligent Design advocate Michael J. Behe’s new book Darwin Devolves with a free video course and other extras by Dr. Behe

    Dr. Michael J. Behe, professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University, has written a new book called Darwin Devolves. 

    Dr. Behe is considered the father of the intelligent design movement, and his books Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution and The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, do a great job arguing that living system at the molecular level are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design. 

    Right now Dr. Behe’s Darwin Devolves is on prepublication. If you purchase a copy while it is still on preorder, and the book is very reasonably priced, you will also get for free a high quality course taught by Dr. Behe entitled "Michael Behe Investigates Evolution and Intelligent Design."

    The course costs $49.95— which in itself is not too bad— but if you preorder this book for under $20 you will get the course completely free, as well as some other bonuses described at the Darwin Devolves website.

    You can preorder Dr. Behe’s book at multiple online retailers — I would recommend always going through an Internet portal to purchase books or just about anything else online to get the best possible price, as described here, in combination with the book pricing tool here —  and then send the proof of purchase in at in order to get the free course and the other free extras.

    As an intelligent design advocate, Dr. Behe does not say who the Designer is— he does not identify Him as Jehovah, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Lord of all and Author of all the intelligent design in nature, nor does Dr. Behe take the Biblical view that the earth is young, Noah’s Flood covered the earth, etc. In other words, he is not a consistent creationist like Dr. Raymond Damadian, inventor of the MRI scanner, or like the many other scientists who consistently defend the Biblical worldview (see the "Scientists who Believe the Bible" link).  Nevertheless, his books contain incisive and scholarly critiques of Darwinism, and are valuable in strengthening the faith of Christians in the necessity of God's creative work for the existence of complex biological systems and in leading atheists, agnostics, and other skeptics who base their faith on Darwinism to consider whether the facts are really on their side.

    If you speak to people for whom evolution is a stumbling block to receiving Christ as Lord and Savior – a sadly high percentage of the population – Dr. Behe’s books and his free course are very worthwhile. I commend his Darwin Devolves to you, especially right now when you can get a free course with it and other extras that on their own are far more valuable than the book's purchase price.

    Note also the Discovery Institute's webpage where one can find Dr. Behe's responses to critiques of the concept of irreducible complexity.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2019

    Rearranging the Deck Chairs: Negotiating or Managing the Demise of Evangelicalism

    “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” which describes futile activity in the face of impending catastrophe, first appeared in print in 1969 in Time Magazine and with reference to reforms in Roman Catholicism.  Its origination is appropriate for the parallel with the present sinking of evangelicalism.  An equivalent metaphor might be a spy keeping a handy cyanide capsule.  I was reminded of this condition of evangelicalism when reading the latest 9Marks Journal, Feburary 2019 edition, titled, Ecclesiology for Calvinists (pdf edition).

    I like the nine marks of 9Marks.  In 2008 I wrote the article, Missing the Mark: 9 Marks Aren’t Enough, at the Jackhammer Blog.  I extol the original nine that Mark Dever listed.  All things considered, I would have enjoyed the Nearer My God to Thee played by the string ensemble in the face of approaching doom.  I wish the most recent edition of the 9Marks Journal signaled repentance and change, a return to biblical belief and practice.

    Jonathan Leeman, the editorial director for 9Marks, gives introduction with two big concerns I also share with him:  revivalism and pragmatism.  I'm right with him in his explanation, so much so that my jaw was dropping.  Momentarily my hopes were buoyed, but as I continued to read, I could hear the sickening creaking of the ship and the chill in the air.

    With few exceptions, the first article was an excellent one by Michael Lawrence, entitled, "Hey Calvinist, Enough of Your Revivalism," and it started with the question, "How do you grow your church?"  So much was good.  He even names names throughout, which could have an effect of separating himself from those he identifies. The following quotes are a good sampling:
    In other words, it’s the fruit of the Spirit, not enthusiasm or momentum, that demonstrates God is at work. 
    The tools of modernity produce the culture of modernity, not the kingdom of God. As survey after survey revealed, our growing churches were not filled with the results of Spirit-wrought revival, genuine converts characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, but were filled instead with the results of modern revivalism, religious consumers characterized by the spirit of the age.
    Contemporary Christian music emerged from the culture of modernity.  Of what was wrong, displaying a contradictory lack of understanding to what was just written, he wrote in the last paragraph:  "There’s nothing wrong with having culturally appropriate music," conflicting with this line earlier in his piece.
    From the camp meetings, altar calls, and anxious bench of the Second Great Awakening, to the marriage of emotionally powerful preaching and singing in the ministry of Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey, to the stirring rallies of Billy Graham, the style of revivalism has shifted to match the changing culture.
    "Culturally appropriate music" is 'worship' that "has shifted to match the changing culture."  It wasn't appropriate for godly, premodern reasons, and not now.  Finney pandered using music.  Worship should conform to God, just like everything else in the church.  The disconnect baffles me about as much as how good the rest of the article is.

    Despite the inconsistencies and a desire for underlying exegesis, Michael Lawrence was refreshing for someone in the Conservative Baptist denomination on the West Coast.  I don't read this much from evangelicals.  I'm not sure the 9Marks crowd sees the ship sinking.  When they should be manning the life rafts, their eschatology, what they consider a second or third tier doctrine, gives them false hope.

    Evangelicals fail to see the pragmatism of managed or negotiated evacuation.  Collin Hansen, who in 2018 authored the landmark book, Young Restless and Reformed, wrote in "Still Young, Restless, and Reformed?  The New Calvinists at 10":
    Mohler’s [Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] teaching on theological triage helped YRR pastors avoid some mistakes of previous generations. Men like Graham and Henry were not primarily known as local church figures. There are some uses for mere Christianity, or lowest-common-denominator evangelicalism. But it led to confusion and the neglect of the local church and denominations that had succumbed to liberalism. 
    Mohler’s triage distinguishes between first-, second-, and third-order issues so that we will learn how seriously we should regard disagreement. By contrast, lowest-common-denominator evangelicalism offered meager resistance to assaults on the character of God such as open theism and universalism. This triage helped sound the alarm bells of such first-order threats as Rob Bell’s Love Wins, published in 2011. 
    At the same time, triage also helped the YRR avoid the belligerency and isolation of fundamentalism. Second-order doctrines such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, charismatic gifts, and polity are still vitally important, even if we don’t agree on every conclusion.  Triage helped us identify serious flaws in each other without condemning our friends and historical heroes to hell. Otherwise, the YRR would be cut off from much of Christian history and the global church in a kind of untenable Donatist purity. Finally, theological triage sidelined in the YRR certain issues that had formerly divided churches, such as questions surrounding the rapture and millennium. That’s where being connected to history helped. Not everything that seemed so important in late-19th and early 20th centuries is a hill to die on today or going forward. 
    But triage doesn’t solve all our problems. And now, we’re seeing major disagreements in and among YRR, even within the same churches. Evangelicalism may not survive this transition.
    Theological triage itself is pragmatism.  Scripture doesn't teach it.  It is rearranging the deck chairs, which Hansen himself concludes in the end, saying, "Evangelicalism may not survive this transition."  If scripture teaches separation from false doctrine, it's pragmatic not to separate to avoid either condemning historical heroes to hell or Donatist purity.  Donatist purity was the cure for what Hansen would see as first order heresies.

    Both evangelicalism and fundamentalism are belligerent.  I don't seen any difference between the two.  Isolation is a caricature of the doctrine of separation.  It's a term neo-conservatives use to smear nationalist foreign diplomacy.  Biblical separation isn't isolation.  It is true unity.  It fellowships based on the truth, not by cutting the living child in two, something Solomon never planned to happen.

    I can be happy that evangelicals know something is wrong.  That is evident in this 9Marks edition of their journal.  Some of the teaching in it is very good.  To save the ship, much more is needed.  Even to save what they call first order doctrines, they will need to separate, what Hansen calls "isolation" as a preventative for plugging the gaping hole.

    Hansen's book was of such impact that several articles and other books proceeded from it (here and here, among others).  He coined  both "young, restless, and reformed" and "new Calvinist."  In 2009 Peter Masters, pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, wrote a scathing criticism of the new movement, entitled, "New Calvinism - The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness."  New Calvinism is another iceberg that will sink evangelicalism even faster.

    To preserve organizations like 9Marks, doctrinal and practical triage is necessary.  To preserve the truth and the church, separation is necessary.  You won't save them by just rearranging the deck chairs.


    Dever and Leeman discuss this edition of their journal here.  You can listen to a podcast on it.  Take out Calvinism in this instance and think instead "the Bible" or God-centered thinking and it is very good.  They are not being totally honest in my opinion, but they are so deluded in many ways, they might not be able to hear.  I wish they could.  It's interesting that Dever mentions Spurgeon's church as an example of what they're talking about.  You wonder if they might consider where Peter Masters is right now in that actual place.