Monthly Archives: September 2021

How to shame Christianity

Lee Strobel

Strobel in 2007

Strobel in 2007

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you wanted to bring Christianity and its Bible into disrepute, how would you do it? If you go to the ‘Comments’ section of this interchange at Online Opinion, What is your view for one to worship humans? there you’ll see how some antagonists do it.

Christianity is currently the world’s largest religion with 2.22 billion followers according to the World Atlas. It includes approximately one-third of the world’s population but its numbers are declining.

clip_image002(Graph courtesy Pew Research Center, Conrad Hackett & David McClendon 2017)

Beginning in the first century AD, after the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity spread through the preaching of Jesus’ disciples, the apostle Paul and other preachers/teachers of the Gospel. You can read about the start of the Christian Church in the Bible’s Book of Acts.

1. Christ changes people

This Gospel’s content deals with the human condition and how it can be changed – permanently: ‘But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ and placing our faith in Christ brings new life – eternal life. This brings changed lives.

There are many examples of those who were sinners who became saints. Manny Pacquiao, former world boxing champion and now a member of the Philippine’s Senate, was defeated by Australia’s Jeff Horn. However, Manny says ‘the best thing that has happened in my life was that I encountered God’.

In this Christianity Today interview, it was revealed that his drinking, gambling and womanising behaviour was overlooked by fans, but those sins ‘were tearing apart his marriage and family’. See his wife’s comments below.

Lee Strobel

Strobel wrote on his webpage (photo from his homepage):

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than 40 books and curricula that have sold 14 million copies in total. He has been described in the Washington Post as “one of the evangelical community’s most popular apologists.”

Strobel was educated at the University of Missouri (Bachelor of Journalism) and Yale Law School (Master of Studies in Law). He was a journalist for 14 years at the  Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, winning Illinois’ highest honor for public service journalism from United Press International. He also led a team that won UPI’s top award for investigative reporting in Illinois.

After probing the evidence for Jesus for nearly two years, Strobel became a Christian in 1981. He subsequently became a teaching pastor at three of America’s largest churches and hosted the national network TV program “Faith Under Fire.” In addition, he taught First Amendment law at Roosevelt University and was professor of Christian thought at Houston Baptist University.

In 2017, Strobel’s spiritual journey was depicted in an award-winning motion picture, “The Case for Christ,” which showed in theaters across America and around the world. The movie is still on Netflix. Strobel won national awards for his books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Grace. His latest book is The Case for Miracles.

He and co-author Mark Mittelberg recently created the Making YOUR Case for Christ video-driven small-group curriculum, which trains Christians how to share and defend their faith. The Christian Post named Strobel one of the top seven evangelical leaders who made an impact in 2017.

Strobel and his wife, Leslie, have been married for 47 years. Their daughter, Alison, is a novelist, and their son, Kyle, is a professor of spiritual theology at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.[1]

C. S. Lewis

Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old Lewis
Lewis, age 48

On the intellectual side of things, G.K. Chesterton had a significant influence on Lewis. As Lewis read The Everlasting Man, he appreciated Chesterton’s humor and was surprised by the power of his presentation. He began to feel that “Christianity was very sensible ‘apart from its Christianity'” (p. 130). Lewis also found that he was drawn to many other authors that had this strange Christian twist:Spenser, Milton, Johnson, MacDonald, and others. In contrast, those with whom he theoretically agreed-Voltaire, Gibbon, Mill, Wells, and Shaw-seemed thin and “tinny.” On top of this, some of the brightest, most intelligent at Oxford were also “supernaturalists.” People like Neville Coghill, Hugo Dyson, and J.R.R. Tolkien were kindred spirits and also Christians. One by one, the arguments that were obstacles to faith were removed.

Once while riding on a bus in Oxford, Lewis had the sense that he was “holding something at bay, or shutting something out” (p. 131). He could either open the door or let it stay shut, but to open the door “meant the incalculable.” He finally submitted himself to God, the most “dejected and reluctant convert” in all England. This belief in God happened in 1929, but it was not until 1931 that he surrendered himself to Christ.

When Lewis finally came to Christ, he at last resolved the “dialectic of desire” he had been struggling with since childhood. Downing points out that Lewis’s first experience at Oxford was highly symbolic. When he exited the Oxford railway station for the first time, he was loaded down with luggage. Mistakenly, he started walking down the street in the wrong direction. As he kept walking, he grew disappointed at the rather plain houses and shops he found. Only when he reached the edge of town did he turn around to see the beautiful spires and towers that constitute Oxford. In telling this story, Lewis says, “This little adventure was an allegory of my whole life.” Boyhood was a “fall” from the joys of childhood. Growing up was even more of following the wrong way. The “path less taken” was a return to wonder and glory and a rejection of the mundane inanities of modern life (p. 153). He needed to look back in order to go forward. Good only comes by “undoing evil;” a wrong sum can be put right.

His faith changed his direction from “self-scrutiny” to “self-forgetfulness.” He rejected the “unsmiling concentration on the self” and was “taken out of my self” to love God and others (p. 156). Downing says: “The real story of Lewis’s conversion, then, is not about dramatic changes in a man’s career but about dramatic changes in the man.”[2]

Hugh Ross (astrophysicist)

image-hugh-ross-465x280

Hugh Rosss (CRU)

Part of his story is:

I delayed making a personal commitment of my life to Christ. Although I knew God with my mind, I struggled to surrender my will to him. What if God changed the direction of my life? What if the people around me found out about my new beliefs?

As I continued to wrestle with the decision, my grades began to drop, and I discovered the meaning of Romans 1:21, which warns that rejecting God’s truth results in a darkening of the mind. After two months of vacillation, I finally turned my whole self to God and signed the “decision statement” at the back of my now well-worn Bible, acknowledging my life now belonged to Jesus Christ, my Creator and Savior.

With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, I went on to complete my undergraduate degree in physics at the University of British Columbia and my graduate degrees in astronomy at the University of Toronto.[3]

Alister McGrath

The Reverend

Alister McGrath

FRSA

Alister McGrath.jpg

Christianity Today stated of Oxford University Professor McGrath:

The relationship between Christianity and science is hotly debated, and both believers and skeptics have appealed to Albert Einstein to buttress their positions. Believers point to Einstein’s many references to God while skeptics note his rejection of revealed religion. Alister McGrath, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University, has written a new book on the famous physicist, A Theory of Everything (That Matters): A Brief Guide to Einstein, Relativity, and His Surprising Thoughts on God (Tyndale).

McGrath also recently published Narrative Apologetics: Sharing the Relevance, Joy, and Wonder of the Christian Faith (Baker), in which he argues that stories are an important but often overlooked resource for commending Christianity. In both books, he contends that the Christian faith has a better story to tell than secular alternatives and offers great explanatory power.

Christopher Reese spoke with McGrath about the interconnected topics of faith, science, and apologetics.[4]

Rosalind Picard

Rosalind Picard

Panel Discussion Close-up, Science, Faith, and Technology Cropped.jpg

Rosalind Picard at the Veritas Forum Science, Faith, and Technology session on “Living Machines: Can Robots Become Human?”

In the British magazine, Premier Christianity, there was an article by Ruth Jackson, “Professor Rosalind Picard: ‘I used to think religious people had thrown their brains out the window.’ She was asked:

How did you become a Christian?

I grew up in a family that never went to church or talked about religion. I thought people who were religious had thrown their brains out the window. I used to babysit for this really cool family – he was a doctor and she was really neat – while they went to Bible studies. They invited me to church and I told them I was sick. Then they invited me again and I told them I was sick. Faking sickness to a doctor really wasn’t working! They caught on that I didn’t want to go and told me that what I believe matters. They asked if I’d read the Bible. I was a straight A student – one of those obnoxious kids who thought myself really smart. So, I thought I should probably read the bestselling book of all time. I agreed to take their advice to read the book of Proverbs, one a day for a month. I saw there was all this wisdom. Not wacky, made-up gobbledygook, but stuff I could learn from. I was humbled. Then I set out to read the whole Bible. And that changed me.

It took time, because I did not want to believe in God. And I resisted. But as I read the Bible, I felt God talking to me. I eventually went to church and the pastor challenged us to consider inviting Jesus to be Lord of our life. That sounded a little wacky to me. But I decided to run it as a scientific experiment: if it’s really stupid, it won’t make any difference, it doesn’t really matter. And if it makes a difference, wouldn’t it be better to have the mind of the whole universe, who knows everything, as Lord of my life? So, I took that step and it made an enormous difference. This load was lifted, I felt amazing peace (25 May 2021).

She is a leading expert in Artificial Intelligence.

Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life

She wrote:

Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life(Nicole Cliffe photo courtesy Christianity Today)

I became a Christian on July 7, 2015, after a very pleasant adult life of firm atheism. I’ve found myself telling “the story” when people ask me about it—slightly tweaked for my audience, of course. When talking to non-theists, I do a lot of shrugging and “Crazy, right? Nothing has changed, though!” When talking to other Christians, it’s more, “Obviously it’s been very beautiful, and I am utterly changed by it.” But the story has gotten a little away from me in the telling.

As an atheist since college, I had already mellowed a bit over the previous two or three years, in the course of running a popular feminist website that publishes thoughtful pieces about religion. Like many atheists (who are generally lovely moral people like my father, who would refuse to enter heaven and instead wait outside with his Miles Davis LPs), I started out snarky and defensive about religion, but eventually came to think it was probably nice for people of faith to have faith. I held to that, even though the idea of a benign deity who created and loved us was obviously nonsense, and all that awaited us beyond the grave was joyful oblivion.

I know that sounds depressing, but I found the idea of life ending after death mildly reassuring in its finality. I had started to meet more people of faith, having moved to Utah from Manhattan, and thought them frequently charming in their sweet delusion. I did not wish to believe. I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.

What I Already Knew

There are two different starting points to my conversion, and sometimes I omit the first one, because I think it gives people an answer I don’t want them to have. It is a simple story: I was going through a hard time. I was worried about my child. One time I said “Be with me” to an empty room. It was embarrassing. I didn’t know why I said it, or to whom. I brushed it off, I moved on, the situation resolved itself, I didn’t think about it again. I know how people hear that story: Oh, of course, Nicole was struggling and needed a larger framework for her life! That’s part of the truth, but it’s not the whole truth.

The second starting point is usually what I lead with. I was surfing the Internet and came across John Ortberg’s CT obituary for philosopher Dallas Willard. John’s daughters are dear friends, and I have always had a wonderful relationship with their parents, who struck me as sweetly deluded in their evangelical faith, so I clicked on the article.

Somebody once asked Dallas if he believed in total depravity.

“I believe in sufficient depravity,” he responded immediately.

What’s that?

“I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved that when we get to heaven, no one will be able to say, ‘I merited this.’ ”[5]

Nicole Cliffe is co-founder and co-editor of the website, “The Toast,” and lives in Utah.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in February 1974

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in February 1974 (photo courtesy Wikipedia).

Christian Life Ministries wrote:

When Alexander Solzhenitsyn received the Templeton Award in 1983, he began his address with these words:

Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: they said,

“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Since then I have spent well near fifty years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own towards the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that has swallowed up sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat:

“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Sixty Million people suffered and died from deprivation, weakness, starvation, famine, cruelty or imprisonment in the concentration camps of Siberia. Solzhenitsyn said that he could not put it more accurately than to repeat:

“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”[6]

How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus (Sarah Irving-Stonebraker)

Doctor Sarah Irving-Stonebraker(photo courtesy Western Sydney University)

Sarah is a Senior Lecturer in Modern European History,
Humanities (Arts)

 

Sarah wrote:

I grew up in Australia, in a loving, secular home, and arrived at Sydney University as a critic of “religion.”  I didn’t need faith to ground my identity or my values. I knew from the age of eight that I wanted to study history at Cambridge and become a historian. My identity lay in academic achievement, and my secular humanism was based on self-evident truths.  As an undergrad, I won the University Medal and a Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake my Ph.D. in History at King’s College, Cambridge.  King’s is known for its secular ideology and my perception of Christianity fitted well with the views of my fellow students: Christians were anti-intellectual and self-righteous.

After Cambridge, I was elected to a Junior Research Fellowship at Oxford.  There, I attended three guest lectures by world-class philosopher and atheist public intellectual, Peter Singer.  Singer recognised that philosophy faces a vexing problem in relation to the issue of human worth. The natural world yields no egalitarian picture of human capacities. What about the child whose disabilities or illness compromises her abilities to reason? Yet, without reference to some set of capacities as the basis of human worth, the intrinsic value of all human beings becomes an ungrounded assertion; a premise which needs to be agreed upon before any conversation can take place.

I remember leaving Singer’s lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism.

I remember leaving Singer’s lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism.  But I knew from my own research in the history of European empires and their encounters with indigenous cultures, that societies have always had different conceptions of human worth, or lack thereof.  The premise of human equality is not a self-evident truth: it is profoundly historically contingent.  I began to realise that the implications of my atheism were incompatible with almost every value I held dear.

One afternoon, I noticed that my usual desk in the college library was in front of the Theology section. With an awkward but humble reluctance, I opened a book of sermons by philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich. As I read, I was struck at how intellectually compelling, complex, and profound the gospel was.  I was attracted, but I wasn’t convinced.

A few months later, near the end of my time at Oxford, I was invited to a dinner for the International Society for the Study of Science and Religion.  I sat next to Professor Andrew Briggs, a Professor of Nanomaterials, who happened to be a Christian.  During dinner, Briggs asked me whether I believed in God. I fumbled. Perhaps I was an agnostic?  He responded, “Do you really want to sit on the fence forever?” That question made me realise that if issues about human value and ethics mattered to me, the response that perhaps there was a God, or perhaps there wasn’t, was unsatisfactory.

With the freedom of being an outsider to American culture, I was able to see an active Christianity in people who lived their lives guided by the gospel: feeding the homeless every week, running community centres, and housing and advocating for migrant farm laborers.

In the Summer of 2008, I began a new job as Assistant Professor at Florida State University, where I continued my research examining the relationship between the history of science, Christianity, and political thought. With the freedom of being an outsider to American culture, I was able to see an active Christianity in people who lived their lives guided by the gospel: feeding the homeless every week, running community centres, and housing and advocating for migrant farm laborers.

One Sunday, shortly before my 28th birthday, I walked into a church for the first time as someone earnestly seeking God. Before long I found myself overwhelmed.  At last I was fully known and seen and, I realised, unconditionally loved – perhaps I had a sense of relief from no longer running from God.  A friend gave me C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and one night, after a couple months of attending church, I knelt in my closet in my apartment and asked Jesus to save me, and to become the Lord of my life.[7]

2. Resistance from everyday people

I blog on Christian forums and meet open and honest people who have trouble with believing in Christ and they question the Bible’s reliability. There are others who are hard-headed atheists who won’t listen to any reasonable argument in support of Christianity.

Foxy tried it on me in this online blog:

Not everyone believes that what is written in the Bible is the literal word of God. After all The Bible was written by men and it’s their interpretations that are recorded. Therefore can you really claim that it is what God stated? Isn’t it just what you happen to believe? Therefore you are not in any position to preach to any one else. You are merely preaching your interpretations and beliefs. Other people have their own and don’t need you to educate them.

My reply was: Nice try, Foxy! Not one line of your response had anything to do with the content of what I wrote.

So, you committed a red herring logical fallacy. It is faulty reasoning because you attempted to redirect my argument to your doubting Thomas views about the Bible, God and interpretation. This is a deliberate diversion from my topic.


When you engage in the use of a logical fallacy, this flaw in reasoning undermines the validity of your arguments. It makes it impossible to have a productive conversation.

I could provide an answer to all of your questions and assertions, but that wouldn’t address the content of my post, to which you replied.

You have given me a few of your anti-Bible presuppositions in your post. Why don’t you use a few of these in an article for Online Opinion? Slam dunk God, the Bible and interpretation.
Then we can have a discussion that is related to your topic.
[8]

Foxy’s response was:

On the contrary – it was you were gave the Bible references. I merely stated what many theologians have stated. And yet you took that as an attack of some sort on the Bible. It wasn’t at all and what I personally believe or do not believe you have no way of knowing therefore your assumptions are not correct. But I agree that a rational, well reasoned intelligent discussion with you it seems would be pointless.
Cheers.
[9]

My response was:

Foxy,
Again you’ve not dealt with the content of what I wrote about your use of a red herring fallacy against me.

We cannot have a rational discussion when you continue to use this logical fallacy. It is your flawed reasoning that is contributing to this.[10]

Foxy came back:

OzSpen,
Could you be a tad more specific.
Exactly what red-herring fallacy are you referring
to that I provided?
Or are you stating that your quotes from the Bible
are a red herring fallacy?
[11]

I replied:

Foxy,
You don’t seem to understand the nature of the red herring logical fallacy you committed: See:
https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/150/Red_Herring
When you responded to my post with very different content and did not address what I wrote, you changed topics to address what you wanted to say. Thus, it you committed the red herring fallacy.
It had nothing to do with my quoting Bible verses. It was what you stated in response to me.
[12]

You can read my further discussion with Foxy and others in this thread on the Bible and rejection of it as God’s Word.

3. Antagonism from atheists and agnostics

The trainer of Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach, who has trained him for 15 years, says he is an agnostic/atheist, so he has seen Pacquiao’s change firsthand.

He told The Guardian, Australia Edition (5 October 2014),

“I’m happy because I found the right way, salvation, born again. We are required to be born again, all of us. Christ said unless we are born again we cannot enter the kingdom of God. So it’s very important to me. Jesus Christ said: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ There is no other way. The only way is through Jesus.”

“Pacquiao once was not so righteous. He once was an all-night hound dog, taking his pleasure where he pleased, ignoring all advice to respect the sanctity of his marriage vows and determined to squeeze as much fun from life as was available to someone who was born into grinding poverty. Those were his hardcore inclinations until only a few years ago”.

Eminent scientist and atheist/agnostic, Richard Dawkins, has been called the ‘High Priest of Unbelief’. His view is that

not only do we need no God to explain the universe and life. God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor,[13] fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable (emphasis added).[14]

Is that so? Science can explain nature but explanation has no creative power. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University and a Christian, responded to this view: ‘Physical laws on their own cannot create anything; they are merely a description of what normally happens under certain given conditions’.

5. Disinterest from those who don’t give a hoot about religion

There’s a story in the New Statesman:

Jonathan Derbyshire writes: Jeremy Bentham, his disciple John Stuart Mill once wrote, would always ask of a proposition or belief, “Is it true?” By contrast, Bentham’s contemporary Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mill observed, thought “What is the meaning of it?” was a much more interesting question.

Today’s New Atheists –Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens principal among them – are the heirs of Bentham, rather than Coleridge. For them, religion – or the great monotheistic faiths, at any rate – are bundles of beliefs (about the existence of a supernatural being, the origins of the universe and so on) whose claims to truth don’t stand up to rational scrutiny. And once the falsity of those beliefs has been established, they imply, there is nothing much left to say.

The New Atheists remind one of Edward Gibbon, who said of a visit to the cathedral at Chartres: “I paused only to dart a look at the stately pile of superstition and passed on.” They glance at the stately pile of story and myth bequeathed to humanity by religion and quickly move on, pausing only to ask of the benighted millions who continue to profess one faith or another that they keep their beliefs to themselves and don’t demand that they be heard in the public square.[15]

6. Shame Christians by using logical fallacies

Foxy did it above with his red herring logical fallacy.

Jayb wrote:

OzSpen: When the Gospel was proclaimed after Jesus’ death and resurrection,
I think you better do some reading up on History. The Gospels weren’t written until about 100 years after the death of Yeshua (Jesus) None of the people who wrote the Gospels had any direct contact with Yeshua. . . I guess you gotta be a Southern Baptist, Ay.
[16]

Jayb committed the argument from silence fallacy as I explained:

<<OzSpen: When the Gospel was proclaimed after Jesus’ death and resurrection, I think you better do some reading up on History>>.
It’s too late to tell me I need to read up on history. I’ve taught Church history and its place in secular history – at the college level. I have a university PhD in NT, with emphasis on the historical Jesus.
You argue from silence (which is a logical fallacy) when you don’t know my background. You stated:


<<The Gospels weren’t written until about 100 years after the death of Yeshua (Jesus) None of the people who wrote the Gospels had any direct contact with Yeshua>>.


That is false. John is described as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ (John 21:20).
Your claim of no Gospel written before AD 100 is challenged. Dr Paul Barnett is a visiting fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University, Sydney. His research indicates that:
** ‘by the late fifties a number of written texts – Mark, Q and L (and others?) – were in existence. . . . We do not know precisely when these traditions reached written form’ (Paul Barnett 1999. Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity, InterVarsity Press, pp 380).
** The infamous John A T Robinson of Honest to God fame has published some magnificent research on Redating the New Testament.


After the research, he concluded that all NT books were written before AD 70. They began with the Book of James (ca. 47-48) and concluded with the Book of Revelation (ca. late 68-70). That challenges your historical-critical belief that the Gospels weren’t written until after AD 100.


<<All the branches of Christianity established by the Apostles were eliminated by the Pauline branch after the Nicene Council by the Pauline Bishops>>.
That’s your hypothesis that needs to be verified or falsified through research.
<<I guess you gotta be a Southern Baptist, Ay.>>
Again you argue from lack of knowledge.
[17]

See my other articles dealing with this topic:

matte-red-arrow-small Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion[1]

matte-red-arrow-small Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

matte-red-arrow-small Christians and their use of logical fallacies

matte-red-arrow-small One writer’s illogical outburst

matte-red-arrow-small Why Christianity is NOT a religious myth promoted by dim-witted theists

7.  Notes

[1] The Lee Strobel Center, Colorado Christian University, accessed 12 September 2021, https://www.ccu.edu/strobelcenter/.

[2] A book review by Art Lindsley of The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis’s Journey to Faith, accessed 12 September 2021, https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/node/48. Page numbers refer to this review.

[3] “My Story: Dr Hugh Ross,” CRU, accessed 12 September 2021, https://www.cru.org/us/en/how-to-know-god/my-story-a-life-changed/hugh-ross.html.

[4] Christianity Today, “Alister McGrath: Both Science and Stories Declare God’s Glory,” December 4, 2019, accessed 12 September 2021, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/alister-mcgrath-science-and-stories-declare-gods-glory.html.

[5] Nicole Cliffe 2016, Christianity Today, “Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life,” May 20, accessed 12 September 2021, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/june/nicole-cliffe-how-god-messed-up-my-happy-atheist-life.html.

[6] Christian Life Ministries, Scarborough WA, Australia, “A Man of Enormous Christian Faith,”

[7] Sarah Irving-Stonebraker 2017.The Veritas Forum, “How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus.”

[8] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 5 July 2018 5:29:03 PM.

[9] Posted by Foxy, Thursday, 5 July 2018 6:15:54 PM.

[10] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 5 July 2018 8:50:29 PM.

[11] Posted by Foxy, Friday, 6 July 2018 11:42:20 AM.

[12] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 6 July 2018 5:38:58 PM.

[13] Thor was an ‘American comic strip superhero created for Marvel Comics by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. The character derived from a Germanic god of the same name’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2020. s.v. Thor).

[14] R Dawkins 2006. Edge (online). Why there almost certainly is no God, 25 October. Available at: https://www.edge.org/conversation/richard_dawkins-why-there-almost-certainly-is-no-god (Accessed 13 June 2020).

[15] New Statesman 2013, “After God: What can atheists learn from believers?” 27 March, accessed 12 September 2021, https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/culture/2013/03/after-god-what-can-atheists-learn-believers.

[16] Posted by Jayb, Friday, 6 July 2018 11:25:05 AM

[17] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 6 July 2018 7:30:59 PM.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 September 2021.

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Why Christianity is NOT a religious myth promoted by dim-witted theists

The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible (mid-15th century)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Is Christianity based on mythology? Are Christian believers dim-witted followers of their alleged Almighty God?

I was persuaded to pursue this subject, based on a ‘Comment’ made by Daffy Duck in response to my article on Jesus’ resurrection in On Line Opinion. This person wrote that of ‘the usual dim-witted “theists”’ and ‘dim-witted “religion”’. The latter designation is from another author.

Daffy wrote: ‘the multivarious (sic) “religious” myths of humankind, especially in the case of “Jesus” then everything that one says is mere conjecture and hearsay’.[1]

It was my suggestion that the person write an article to support his ideology: ‘Why Christianity is a religious myth promoted by dim-witted theists’.[2]

1. Elements of mythology

The third edition of the Australian, The Macquarie Dictionary (1997:1425), gives this as the first definition of myth: Myth is

a traditional story, usually concerning some superhuman being or some alleged person or event, and which attempts to explain natural phenomena; especially a traditional story about deities or demigods and the creation of the world and its inhabitants.

One such scholar who pursues this understanding of myth in the Gospels is Burton Mack. He stated that “the narrative gospels can no longer be viewed as the trustworthy accounts of unique and stupendous historical events at the foundation of the Christian faith. The gospels must now be seen as the result of early Christian mythmaking” (1993:10).

Please understand that this perspective contains Mack’s presuppositions about the Gospels. He admits that in the early church ‘an explosion of the collective imagination signals change’ in the creation of these new myths that formed the gospels.

These are indeed challenging days when postmodern deconstructions like these intrude into discussions about Scripture and the historical Jesus.

Using this kind of definition of myth, scholars of the Jesus Seminar or of similar persuasion, have made comments like this by John Dominic Crossan:

What happened after the death and burial of Jesus is told in the last chapters of the four New Testament gospels. On Easter Sunday morning his tomb was found empty, and by Easter Sunday evening Jesus himself had appeared to his closest followers and all was well once again. Friday was hard, Saturday was long, but by Sunday all was resolved. Is this fact or fiction, history or mythology?

Do fiction and mythology crowd closely around the end of the story just as they did around its beginning? And if there is fiction or mythology, on what is it based? I have already argued, for instance, that Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical. He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals. We can still glimpse what happened before, behind, and despite those fictional overlays precisely by imagining what they were created to hide. What happened on Easter Sunday? Is that the story of one day? Or of several years? Is that the story of all Christians gathered together as a single group in Jerusalem? Or is that the story of but one group among several, maybe of one group who claimed to be the whole? . . .

The Easter story at the end is, like the Nativity story at the beginning, so engraved on our imagination as factual history rather than fictional mythology. (Crossan 1994:160-161).

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “myth” means: “A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events” (lexico.com 2021. “myth”).

This dictionary provides various subsidiary meanings including, “A widely held but false belief or idea”; “A misrepresentation of the truth”; “A fictitious or imaginary person or thing”; “an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing” (lexico.com 2021. “myth”).

Therefore, because of these multitudinous meanings, I find it confusing to use in attempting to define the truth of Christianity.

2. Differences between myth and narrative

A narrative refers to “a spoken or written account of connected events; a story” (lexico.com 2021. “narrative”). The narrative of Captain Cook’s voyages to what was to become Australia is not myth but historical narrative. Cook’s voyages could be called mythology but that confuses the meaning of myth and narrative.

3. Show Christianity does not have these elements

Christianity does not have a foundational myth or falsehood but historical narrative of its beginning and spread in the Middle Eastern territory – to begin with. See the Book of Acts for examples of the early expansion.

4. Christianity is a historical religion.

Christianity is a historical religion because it intersects with historical persons and events of the Old and New Testament era.

This is fleshed out in my articles,

3d-red-star-small Old Testament documents confirmed as reliable again[1]

3d-red-star-small The Bible as reliable history.

3d-red-star-small Does the New Testament contain history or myth?

5. Enter logical fallacies to obscure the argument

If you want to frustrate a discussion, try the use of logical fallacies. That’s what Daffy did here:

3d-red-star-small To speak about ‘dim-witted theists’ reveals: (a) his use of an ad hominem (abusive) fallacy. These people need to be called out for what they do to a discussion.

3d-red-star-small and (b) demonstrates his presuppositions of shaming Christian religion, but without providing evidence to support his claims. To call a theist a ‘dim-wit’ without evidence is to demonstrate shallowness of the claim.

6. Works consulted

Crossan, John Dominic 1994. Jesus: A revolutionary biography. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Mack, Burton 1993. The Lost Gospel: The Gospel of Q & Christian Origins. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

7.  Notes


[1] Daffy Duck’s comments on 4 April 2018 to the article, “Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter ‘treat’” by Spencer Gear. Available at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=19656&page=0 (Accessed 5 Apil 2018).

[2] ‘Cynicism about Jesus …’, OzSpen, 5 April 2018. My penname is OzSpen.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 September 2021.

Scott Morrison’s failure to integrate faith with politics

Morrison in 2009

By Spencer D Gear PhD

See Acts 5:29 (NLT), ‘But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority”’. The NRSV has a similar translation.

1. Prime Minister Scott Morrison doesn’t mix religion with politics.

Before the 2019 election,

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his “faith is not about politics”. . . . Asked directly . . . if he believed gay people go to hell, Mr Morrison replied: “I support the law of the country.”

“I don’t mix my religion with politics or my faith with politics and it’s always been something that has informed how I live my life and how I seek to care for and support others,” he said. “That is what I always seek to do”

The Liberal leader abstained from the final vote on the floor of Parliament.

“It’s law. And I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives. That’s what I’m happy about” (Bagshaw 2019).

2. I find Morrison to be a disobedient Christian

Firstly, ScoMo is to be commended that he abstained from the final vote on homosexual marriage.

However, the position, “I don’t mix my religion with politics or my faith with politics” is in violation of Acts 5:29.

How is it possible for him to have a Christian faith that “has informed how I live my life and how I seek to care for and support others,” and yet not affect how he votes in Parliament.

The biblical view is that “we must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29 NLT). Therefore, He is not a holistic believer in Christ. However, I must admit that it’s a tough job being an evangelical, Pentecostal Christian in a secular, democratic society. I’ll be surprised if he survives the next election.

However, some extreme statements have been made about Morrison’s rise as a PM at the last election:

Pastor Adam F Thompson from Voice of Fire Ministries and Adrian Beale from Everrest Ministries told a congregation of Hope City Church that Morrison’s elevation to power was divinely inspired.

Thompson, who says he can interpret dreams and that supernatural signs and manifestations accompany his ministry, said he’d received a message from God that Morrison and the Coalition must win the election (Hutchens 2018).

Is Thompson prepared to make a signs and wonders prophecy for the next Australian election?

3.  Could this be one of those jobs?

Could this be one of those positions where it would be better not to take such a position, even though Christians are desperately needed in the political process?

Here’s a Christian ethical dilemma:

Do homosexuals go to hell? If a journalist asks this question, how should Scott Morrison reply?

First Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV) states:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[1] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Here homosexual male acts are included with other wrong-doing such as sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, theft, greed, being a drunkard, slanderer and swindler. It doesn’t say such sinners will be sent to hell but that they “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

What is the message in Romans 1 regarding homosexuality? See Rom 1:21-31 (NIV) where male and female homosexuals “received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (v. 27). They “invented ways of doing evil” (v. 29). What is the result of such actions? “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen” (v. 25).

There are consequences for doing such evil. They will not “inherit the kingdom of God” and will receive “the penalty for their error.”

  • This is a journalistic question, “Do you believe homosexuals go to hell?” where it would be appropriate for ScoMo to respond: “Go read your Bibles! Particularly read Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6. That’s where you’ll find the answers.”

Could this be a job as an MP to avoid? I don’t think so. Instead, ScoMo needs to practise the Matt 10:16 (NLT) principle, “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”

4. Conclusion

In my view, Morrison has failed to integrate his Pentecostal faith with his day-time job of Prime Minister. At least he took a step in not voting in the final vote on gay marriage. But he admitted his perspective, “faith is not about politics.”

To the contrary, all that he does has to do with his relationship with Jesus. His values must be informed by the Acts 5:29 requirement.

5.  Notes

[1] “The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”

6. Works consulted

Bagshaw, E 2019. ‘I support the law of the country’: Debate over sexuality and religion creeps into election campaign. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 13 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/i-support-the-law-of-the-country-debate-over-sexuality-and-religion-creeps-into-election-campaign-20190513-p51mxm.html (Accessed 16 September 2019).

Hutchens, Gareth 2018. “’Darkness’ coming if Scott Morrison not re-elected, Pentecostal leader claims,” The Guardian Australian Edition, 7 September. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/07/darkness-coming-if-scott-morrison-not-re-elected-pentecostal-leader-claims (Accessed 11 September 2021).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 September 2021.

Prime Minister’s call to prayer is ‘offensive’

At the 2019 Lowy Lecture, Scott Morrison argued that the “distinctiveness of independent nations is preserved within a framework of mutual respect”.

By Spencer Gear PhD

In a speech in Albury NSW, NewsCorp (through AAP) reported on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call to prayer. He said . . .

he was praying for rain in drought-affected areas, and he urged those who “believe in the power of prayer” to pray too.

“I pray for that rain everywhere else around the country. And I do pray for that rain. And I’d encourage others who believe in the power of prayer to pray for that rain and to pray for our farmers. Please do that,” he said.

“And everyone else who doesn’t like to do that, you just say, ‘Good on you, guys. You go well.’ Think good thoughts for them, or whatever you do” (Livingston 2018).

Ridiculing the PM’s Christian call to prayer

Angus Livingston, the journalist could not report on this Christian call to prayer to break the drought, without some scoffing words!

blue-corrosion-arrow-small The article’s heading was, ‘Love each other, PM preaches’;

blue-corrosion-arrow-small  ‘Scott Morrison tells Christian conference he was called to do God’s work as prime minister’;

blue-corrosion-arrow-smallScott Morrison is a genuine Christian – of course he’s going to pray’;

blue-corrosion-arrow-smallScott Morrison’s sermon was a carefully planned speech, not a moment of unguarded sincerity.”

This is a subtle attack on some Christian methodology. It is not needed if objectivity is the goal of reporting. It also infers another world view of the journalist and it’s not Christian.

For outrageous statements and ridicule about Morrison’s call to prayer, see the more than 1,000 comments in The Guardian Australia’s, ‘Scott Morrison invokes Menzies and ‘power of prayer’ while on Liberal pilgrimage’ (6 Sep 2018). A sample includes:

design-gold-small ‘Separation of any “religious” crap from our secular state is desperately needed. Too much religious/church influence with these LNP muppets’;

design-gold-small ‘The power of prayer is the power of delusion. It’s worrying that another PM should be that gullible and naive. Religion has no place in government, or in fighting climate change.

design-gold-small ‘Did he say: “Can I get an amen..!”’

design-gold-small ‘the power of PRAYER!?? no No NO! honestly this effing pulpit thumping twit has to go!

The call to prayer is ‘offensive’ because . . .

‘To pray for rain is offensive’: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/why-it-was-offensive-for-the-prime-minister-to-call-for-prayer/10245992

Scripture predicted that would happen

The above brief samples put in a nutshell what Scripture predicted would happen:

‘Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires’ (2 Peter 3:3 NLT).

Jude 1:18 (NLT) gives a similar message: ‘They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires.’

I find it unpleasant when stated before my eyes and when experienced as an apologist for the Christian faith. I accept that Scripture proclaims this as coming.

There is a biblical response for all Christians:

You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen (2 Pet 3:17-18 NLT).

In an Australian culture that is so antagonistic to the things of God, Christians need one another for support and encouragement.

First Thess 5:11 (NLT), ‘So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing’.

John 13:34-35 (NLT), ‘So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT),

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

What are you doing to encourage and assist your brothers and sisters in Christ? How can you help them tell you their specific needs for prayer and practical support?

I have a husband and wife who voluntarily visit with me for encouragement. They visit weekly or phone every few days. This is a supreme example of encouraging me. My family also phones to check how I’m going in aged care.

Works consulted

Livingston, A 2018. Love each other, PM preaches. News.com.au (from AAP) [online], 6 September. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/love-each-other-pm-preaches/news-story/892b8b738d5a0bd5882c61541829c4d4 (Accessed 11 September 2021).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 September 2021.

Problems with doubt

September 11 attacks

Part of terrorism in the United States and the War on Terror

A montage of eight images depicting, from top to bottom, the World Trade Center towers burning, the collapsed section of the Pentagon, the impact explosion in the South Tower, a rescue worker standing in front of rubble of the collapsed towers, an excavator unearthing a smashed jet engine, three frames of video depicting American Airlines Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon

Top row: The Twin Towers of the
World Trade Center burning

By Spencer D Gear PhD

On the “Response Form” to my homepage, I received this reply:

I have been distressed over this all year and have been truly worried that the Holy Spirit may not be with me, and I know that if one does not have the Holy Spirit they are not a child of God. I have had doubt and feelings and moments of unbelief throughout the years but I pray that my confusion and lack of faith was not symptomatic that I am severed from Christ. I realize you do not know me but if you have the time I would appreciate a response. I just want to repent and be sure that I am in Christ.

How should I reply?

Expect some doubts

We don’t live in a world with God’s kind of absolute knowledge. He has not provided us with a sure-safe way of avoiding doubt.

This is where our relationship with God begins and ends: “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Heb 11:6 NLT).

Be an honest doubter

God already knows that we are doubters. Our calling is not to pretend we have no doubts, but to trust Jesus even with our doubts. Do you doubt that God can improve your marriage? Have you become content with your anger or rudeness, suspecting that God cannot help? Do you trust Jesus, but puzzle over why Scripture and sermons don’t move you? Bring these doubts to the Lord and to trusted spiritual friends. Learn to help others be honest with their doubts by receiving your friends’ doubts with Christ-like tenderness (“Helps for Doubting Christians”).

Don’t run on your feelings!

Feelings depend on circumstances and are a very unreliable indicator of how you should live your life. When I feel good I’m likely to make decisions based on that elation. When things go bad in my life, I’ll feel down in the dumps. This is not the way to a godly life.

Throughout my Christian life of 55 years, I’ve had periods of doubt, mainly surrounding:

(a) The existence of so much evil in our world,

(b) My wife of 48.5 years committing adultery with the pastor of the church we attended in 2016, divorcing me, remarrying him, and dying of leukaemia 7 weeks later in June 2020. I had doubts about the authentic faith of my wife and my failing her in marriage.

My wife’s actions were those of a woman who had slipped in her faithful relationship with the Lord and with my failing to be a reliable husband.

I recommend the Focus on the Family article, “Wrestling with doubt and disbelief.”

The John 17:17 answer

John 7:17 (NLT) states: “Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.”

I read the Scriptures and find that their description of my world fits like a hand in a glove. This is called the teaching of truth.

Jesus said in John 14:6 (NLT): ‘Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”’

1.    I am the truth

  • He is not stating that He is the Messiah or Son of God in this instance. Although he is Messiah, that is not His point here.
  • He is not saying this is truth about Me.
  • He is not saying I am one way to truth.

He is saying: I am the truth. It could not be clearer.

2. What is truth?

https://i2.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/Y/i/G/Z/3/R/truth-md.png?w=625This was Pilate’s great question to Jesus Christ (John 18:38).

One dictionary definition is: Truth is “genuineness or veracity”; “that which is true; a fact; a reality; that which conforms to fact or reality; the real or true state of things.”[1] Another dictionary adds that truth is “conformity with fact or reality; verity.”[2]

This is confirmed by my Greek word studies of aletheia which state: “John uses aletheia regularly in the sense of reality in contrast to falsehood or mere appearance … The revealed reality of God.”[3] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of aletheia: “The word has an absolute force . . . not merely ethical truth, but truth in all its fulness and scope, as embodied in Him.”[4]

When we apply this to Jesus, this is an amazing statement. Jesus is saying, “I am ultimate reality. I am the root of what was, what is, what will come, I am the foundation of all that is genuine, factual and real in the world. Everything flows from Me.”

Jesus is the truth.

God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14). To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58) and they wanted to stone Jesus. No wonder. He was not claiming to be like God, or sent by God, but he was claiming to be Yahweh — the “I AM.”

When I speak out against abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality; make a stand for justice for oppressed people; when I proclaim the atonement and salvation through Jesus Christ alone; when I practise biblical ethics on the job; when I write letters or articles for newspapers or magazines, my aim is never to promote my own opinion.

My sole desire is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the ultimate reality of all that exists and has existed and will exist.

We do the greatest disservice to you, and especially our young people, when we ask them to experience Jesus without an understanding that we are talking about truth.

The world wants to separate faith from knowledge and reason. Christians don’t want to mix faith with reason. “Thou shalt not think” seems to be the 11th commandment. And yet, what did the apostle Paul do when he proclaimed the Gospel? I read through the Book of Acts and this is the kind of language I appears:

  • explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:3)
  • “he was reasoning in the synagogue. . . trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (18:4). cf 17:2,4; 18:19; 19:8, 26
  • solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (18:5). cf 20:21, 23
  • “This man persuades men to worship God” (18:13).
  • “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (18:28).

What drove Paul to be such a defender of the faith? Second Corinthians 5:10-11 (NIV) gives us the key: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (NASB).

Yes, Paul was a gifted apostle. Most of us do not have such a gift. But what drove Paul, must drive us:

All Christians will appear before Christ’s magistrate’s court one day to be judged for our rewards. If you know what it is to fear the Lord, you must be involved in persuading people of the God who exists, who they are before Him, and how they can be set free from a life of sin and enter into eternal life by repenting of their sin and trusting Christ as Saviour and Lord — this will mean that your life must be as salt and light in this world.

This is quite in contrast with the scientific world where a Carl Sagan, of the Cosmos TV series, could so arrogantly say: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”[5] Western civilisation was built on the foundation that there is a God of truth who gives objective truth that is ultimate reality. This is the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Here are two recommended resources for an analysis of the nature of truth:

Conclusion

Doubts will come as a matter of being human and without the absolute knowledge of God. Answers can be found by pursuing them in Scripture and with the help of apologetics’ ministries.

We need to answer: What is truth? We will discover that it is more than the opposite of falsehood. It is that which conforms to reality and Scripture provides such a world view.

See my article, What is truth?

Notes


[1] Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged). Collins World, 1977.

[2] Dictionary.com 2021. “truth.”

[3] Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol 3). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, pp. 889, 891.

[4] W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. London: Opliphants, 1940, p. 159.

[5] In Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (Vol. 5). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982, p. 439.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 September 2021.

Peter Sellick promotes fake theology[1]

 Photo of Peter Sellick

Peter Sellick an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences.

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article by Sellick in On Line Opinion (20 February 2019) was loaded with Sellick’s presuppositions – “The origin of facts.” We’ll examine some of them.

Firstly, why have I designated Sellick’s teaching as ‘fake theology’? The Oxford English Dictionary defines fake news as: ‘False information that is broadcast or published as news for fraudulent or politically motivated purposes’ (lexico.com 2020. “fake news”).

So, what would fake theology be? Rev Dr David contends that ‘fake theology [is] even more dangerous than fake news’.[2]

We live in a world where extreme views can be propagated easily through social media channels. These views are sometimes supported by very dodgy theology, and Christians today need to be able to recognise these distortions of the gospel and to counter them. . . . [They] use four key techniques: distraction, confusion, power and lying’.[3]

I find Sellick’s theology to be manipulative because of his imposition of his theological liberal world view on the text. Let’s see how he does it.

1. Who made this comment?

Who, do you think, could have said this? “When we declare the miracles which God has wrought, or will yet work, and which we cannot bring under the very eyes of men, sceptics keep demanding that we shall explain these marvels to reason. And because we cannot do so, inasmuch as they are above human comprehension, they suppose we are speaking falsely.”   Could that be Billy Graham, John MacArthur, Jr. or Benny Hinn?

It was written by St. Augustine who lived in the fourth & fifth centuries [ca. AD 354-430], and was one of the most prominent church leaders in his era (Augustine 2004, City of God, 21.5).

Have you seen a miracle lately?  Do we pray in church for miracles to happen?  Is it the will of God for miracles to be happening around the world in answer to believing prayer?  What was the last miracle you saw happen to people in this church?

I made a lot of comments as Oz in the “Comments” of this article.

1.1 He promotes false theology

Please understand my presuppositions. They are: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV). I start with the premise God inspired the writing of Scripture through human agency (2 Peter 1:20-21) and God is a perfect Being. That which He composes is truthful.

1.2 Impoverished and suffocated imagination

Sellick’s liberal Anglican view is that

At the centre of this impoverishment is the suffocated imagination. When you have facts, or think you do, then you do not have to have imagination. The fabric of the faith is set out in rational terms accompanied by verifiable facts. Of course, none of these facts are verifiable since we are dealing with events that occurred two thousand years ago and it is the nature of biblical texts to be more preaching that modern historiography. The rich brocade of centuries of theology is reduced to points of fact (emphasis added).

Sadly, the shoe’s on the other foot. It is Sellick’s “impoverished imagination” that adds to the biblical text and does not allow it to speak for itself. There are valid historical indices that can be used on any data from ancient history to determine the reliability of that history.

I have explored some of them in Evidence for the afterlife. He claimed “none of these facts are (sic) verifiable since we are dealing with events that occurred two thousand years ago. This is a false view of historiography as all of the facts of faith can be tested by the indices of historiography. These are explained in,

1.3 Assent to “facts” displaces faith.

Sellick continued (emphasis added):

The problem is that once these “facts” have been established, assent to them displaces faith. Faith then demands that we sacrifice our intellect and believe in the impossible. A great chasm opens between how we experience the world and our beliefs. We do not experience the power of prayer or the performance of miracles. In our world, bodies do not rise from the dead nor are they propelled into space. This is how Christianity has become a laughing stock in our time and why the Church is falling apart all around us.

clip_image001Mangrove red snapper / Mangrove Jack

To the contrary, faith in catching Mangrove Jack is bolstered if I fish where I’ve seen them being caught. I have faith in my Mitsubishi taking me places because it exists in fact and I’ve used it for that purpose.

Faith in Jesus Christ requires Him to have existed, lived on earth, being crucified for our sins and raised for our justification (Rom 4:25 NIV). If the facts surrounding Jesus did not happen, our faith is in an imaginary being.

Paul also confirmed this in 1 Cor 15:16-18 (NLT), “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost!”

Sellick seems to pursue a faith based on fantasy, wishful thinking, a leap of faith rather than on facts. His view is:

  • We do not experience the power of prayer or the performance of miracles” (emphasis added). They are Sellick’s presuppositions and are not based on factual evidence. Miracles are excluded from his world view because of his theologically liberal position. It is not based on the Scripture that says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 NIV).

If my faith in Jesus is not based on fact, it is fantasy – without any foundation.

  • He wrote: “In our world, bodies do not rise from the dead nor are they propelled into space.”

That should read, “In Peter Sellick’s world, bodies do not rise from the dead nor are propelled through space.” After Jesus returned to the Father, He said, “I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (Jn 14:12 NLT).

  • The works done by Jesus on earth included miracles, but Sellick denied that could happen for believers now. That’s his theologically liberal world view speaking with its low view of Scripture.
  • What are the “greater things than these”? It seems to me nothing would be greater than resurrection from the dead, so “greater things” could refer to greater in quantity. D A Carson explained:

The works believers are given to do through the power of the eschatological Spirit after Jesus’ glorification, will be set in the framework of Jesus’ death and triumph, and will therefore more immediately and truly reveal the Son. Thus greater things is

constrained by salvation-historical realities. In consequence many more converts will be gathered into the messianic community, the nascent church, than were drawn in during Jesus’ ministry (cf. 15:26-27; 17:20; 20:21, 29) [Carson (1991:496)].

I would never attempt to place my faith in a chair with faulty design. I check the facts of a Kensington Pride mango without “bad signs” on the flesh before I sink my teeth into it.

See my article, Are Miracles Valuable?

1.4 Bodies do not rise from the dead nor are they propelled into space.

Again, these are statements from Sellick’s theologically liberal world view. Bodies do not rise from the dead if John 14:12 is discarded as making Christianity a laughing stock.

The disruption that the gospel causes in the world is not a disruption in our understanding of how the physical world works but in what may be called “the ways of the soul” those habits in life that seek security at all costs. Whereas the gospel would have us let go of all false security, one of the hallmarks of faith, fundamentalism would tie us to a written word that displaces the Word to which it is a witness. We must remind ourselves that the bible is not the centre of faith but that it is a witness to the centre: Jesus Christ. In being a witness, it uses all of the facilities of the ancient world; rhetoric, story, poetry and legend. What it does not do is to give us dot points pertaining to facts. (emphasis added).

Let’s pick up on these emphases to examine Sellick’s presuppositions that overwhelm his interpretations.

1.4.1 The disruption of the Gospel

Sellick considers the disruption the gospel causes is a disturbance of “the ways of the soul.” That is not how Scripture sees it:

  • Jesus said: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:26 NLT). The soul is related to the whole person who can be lost. The Gospel changes everything about a person, including goals in life.
  • I agree that the Gospel disrupts the normal, natural ways of the soul by bringing a new, supernatural focus.
  • Sellick’s false understanding of Fundamentalism is it “would tie us to a written word that displaces the Word to which it is a witness.” Again, he’s barking up the wrong tree. Fundamentalists / evangelicals regard the written Scriptures as one of God’s way of speaking to individuals.
  • Over more than 50 years as an Evangelical believer, the Lord has spoken numerous times to me from Scripture but it has never been a message contrary to what is in Scripture.

1.4.2 Fundamentalists and the Word of God

Let’s survey a few verses that have two emphases: (1) True believers are led by God’s Holy Spirit; (2) Do not add to God’s Word (for the Old Testament).

  • Rom 8:14 (NLT), “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
  • Proverbs 30:5-6 (NLT), “Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.”
  • John 17:17 (NLT), “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NLT), “Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.”

These 4 sets of verses demonstrate God’s written word is truth and we are not to add to it (Prov 30:5-6). Also, in agreement with Sellick, there are those who can be led by the Spirit of God. Having the boundary of Scripture is a solid “fence” against false doctrine.

Jesus warned – even people like Peter Sellick would arise: “For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones” (Matt 24:24 NLT). Therefore, it is necessary to have theological boundaries that are rock solid as the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV).

1.5 How about after Apostles’ deaths?

Have there been miracles recorded after the death of the Apostles?

1.5.1 St. Augustine of Hippo

Here are a few examples of miracles, performed by the power of God, described in The City of God.

Augustine of Hippo

Triunfo de San Agustín.jpg

The Triumph of Saint Augustine painted by Claudio Coello, c. 1664

a) In Milan, when Augustine was there,

a blind man was restored to sight. . . .  the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius. . . .  By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day” (City of God, 22.8).

This miracle involved the use of relics associated with the bodies of martyrs. I will address this issue of relics shortly.

(b) Innocentius at Carthage had a bowel condition, was “treated by medical men” with surgery but it was not successful.  Second surgery was threatened with the surgeons saying “he could onle be cured by the knife.  Agitated with excessive fear, he was terrified.”  There was such “wailing” in the house.  It seemed “like the mourning at a funeral” because of “the terror” the “pains had produced.”  He was exhorted “to put his trust in God.”  Then they “went to prayer ” with “earnestness and emotion, with what a flood of tears, with what groans and sobs.”  When it came time for the proposed surgery, the surgeon searched and searched but there was no disease found.  Augustine writes: “No words of mine can describe the joy, and praise, and thanksgiving to the merciful and almighty God which was poured from the lips of all, with tears of gladness. Let the scene be imagined rather than described!” (The City of God, 22.8)

(c) A woman had breast cancer and her breast was to be removed because the “physicians” said it was “incurable.”  This godly woman went to “God alone by prayer.  [At] Easter, she was instructed in a dream to wait for the first woman that came out from the baptistery after being baptized, and to ask her to make the sign of Christ upon her sore. She did so, and was immediately cured.”  When the physician examined her and now found no cancer, he asked her what “remedy” she had used.  When she told him, he spoke “with a contemptuous tone” and she feared that “he would utter some blasphemy against Christ.”

He said that he thought that she would tell him of “some great [medical] discovery.”  “She, shuddering at his indifference, quickly replied, ‘What great thing was it for Christ to heal a cancer, who raised one who had been four days dead’” (City of God, 22.8).

2. An objection, with a difference, by Forster

Forster worries that since the resurrection is the cornerstone of Christian belief, (I agree) then if it was found not to have happened then the Church will fall. The irony here is that the Church has already fallen. All Nicene denominations that I know of have a critical shortage of priests/ministers who serve smaller and smaller congregations. The Church is spurned by educated men and women because it is presented by Evangelicals as a collection of beliefs that, ironically, do not connect with our experience of the world. These beliefs trail questions behind them too numerous to count. This means that the Church loses its authority because it is plainly irrational. Modern epistemology, applied to biblical texts, produces nonsense and trails unsolvable questions in its wake. The damage to the Church is inestimable.

How should I reply?

  • “The Church, after Nicea, has already fallen.” I agree, but that’s not because it is Evangelical. It has fallen because theological liberalism has torn the heart out of the church.

2.1 Theologically liberal churches declined.

The general trend is for liberal churches to be declining in numbers and Pentecostal and Evangelical churches growing. The exception is the Presbyterians which were the biggest losers in this survey. Take a look at these Australian statistics:

Some Australian denominations are in rapid decline while others are growing. According to our calculations based on various surveys, between 1996 and 2006, the numbers attending on a typical Sunday in Australia declined in the following denominations:

-36% Presbyterians,

-31% Uniting Church,

-25% Lutheran,

-19% Catholic,

-12% Anglican, and

-1% Seventh-day Adventist.

“The Church of England is just one generation away from extinction‘, (said) the former Archbishop of Canterbury” (Lord George Carey).

When John Shelby Spong was Bishop of the Episcopalian Church, Newark NJ, the Episcopalian Church lost 40,000 people. “His works infamously speculated that the Virgin Mary was impregnated by a Roman soldier, that St. Paul was a self-hating homosexual, and that Jesus’ unresurrected body was torn asunder by wild dogs.”

The numbers attending the following denominations grew:

+88% Oriental Christian denominations,

+27% Pentecostal denominations,

+25% Brethren,

+11% Baptist, and

+3% Salvation Army.

The Christian Brethren is a very conservative denomination that closes down women in public ministry in the church service, yet it grew by 25%. There are various levels of conservatism in the Christian Brethren, ranging from the Exclusive (Plymouth) Brethren to the Open Brethren.

2.2 Shortage of ministers

I agree there can be a shortage of ordained ministers in some denominations. My view is that it is related to an unbiblical view of the need for a one-person main pastor. The early churches were house churches where all believers were encouraged to minister. See:

2.3 Serving smaller congregations

That is so for theologically liberal congregations. In the greater Brisbane suburb of Burpengary, on Pitt Rd, there is an old Anglican church and a much larger and more modern Baptist Church building almost opposite each other. The Baptist Church tells which is the more prosperous.

2.4 “Evangelicals do not connect with experience of the world.”

If they don’t, they have moved away from Jesus’ model of being the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth.”

2.5 “Church is plainly irrational.”

Yes, it can be if we are not thinking Christians who engage in apologetics in defence of the faith. Church that becomes touch-feely and into feelings can sound like irrationality. My personal experience is that I’ve experienced that dimension in some charismatic churches.

The Christian faith is rational. See: Logic and Christian discussions.

I must admit I’ve battled to see apologetics as an important dimension of most churches’ ministries. See: The battle for apologetics in Christian thinking

2.6 “Modern epistemology applied to biblical texts produces nonsense.”

What could he mean by “modern epistemology”? Epistemology means “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion” (Oxford English Dictionary 2021, “epistemology”).

The Christian theory of knowledge is comprehensive, including origins of all life, divine revelation of God and his universe, origin of values, a comprehensive world view, and destiny for life and creation. One does not have to like God’s view but it is not nonsensical. In fact, the Christian view of truth is that which coincides with reality.

What could be “nonsense” about a Christian view of contemporary epistemology? It seems he could be pointing to:

2.6.1 What is truth?

See: What is truth?

Truth, aletheia, is that which conforms to reality.

Here are two recommended resources for an analysis of the nature of truth:

2.6.2 It is crucial that we understand Christianity as truth.

Down through the centuries, people have tried to find answers to life through the biblical world view and hundreds of other philosophies. But we have reached utter despair in Australia today. I see it in kids who are high on all kinds of drugs, youth who are committing suicide as a phenomenal rate. When I was working for the international Christian-based drug rehabilitation and counselling agency, Teen Challenge, Canberra, we as staff were confronted with three attempted suicides referred to us in one week. There is a sense of hopelessness and disillusionment in Australia. Families that are busting apart. Crime on the increase. Approximately 100,000 unborn babies slaughtered in Australia every year through abortion. That’s about one every seven minutes.

This should not be surprising when our society is influenced by the Eastern mysticism and occult of the New Age Movement, or straight secularism — this life is all there is to live for and then you die you (your body) rot. So eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. In eastern mysticism you seek meaning within yourself. For secularism, it is this life — so rip into it and use and abuse people, yourself and your environment. Who cares? You only go round once.

As a result, the Australian culture and much of the world are morally exhausted. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the suicide rate, sexual promiscuity, divorce rate, premarital pregnancy rate, abortion and euthanasia, sexually transmitted diseases (in 1988, there were 51 STDs. Now we are approaching 60 STDs, with a new one discovered about every 9 months.)[4]  Australia and the Western world are morally destitute.

It is critical for Christians to understand that Christ is the truth, ultimate truth. This will alter your view of Christianity and the nature of the world. Your university studies, the environment for political and ethical decisions, your personal worth and significance, the whole of life, need to be measured by Him. If a personal God is not there, who is? When Charlie Chaplin heard that there was no life on Mars, he said, “I feel lonely.”[5] Ultimate questions are too horrid to contemplate if there is no meaning apart from me and the universe. Thank God we have this revelation:

Jesus Christ says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The beginning and the end flow from him. The past, present and future are His.

Colossians 1:15-17 says: “And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This Jesus, who said, “I am the truth; I am the beginning and the end” and “all things hold together through Him” is also the one who said, “Sanctify them by the truth; [the Father’s] word is truth” (John 17:17 NIV).

2.7 Leaves unsolvable questions trailing.

Not for me. It leaves questions for which I seek answers. Old Testament scholar, Dr Gleason Archer, would not accept the Bible’s inerrancy until he had answers for all the biblical doubts he had about certain passages. Read his conclusions in Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.

There are not unsolvable questions, but questions for which answers need to be sought and found.

2.8 Damage to Church is inestimable

I would put it in the realm of challenges to the Church to provide answers for the young people of a new generation. In addition to Gleason Archer’s book, I recommend:

Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter C Kaiser Jr., Peter H Davids, F F Bruce, and Manfred T Brauch. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1992.

3.  Works consulted

Carson, D A. The gospel according to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991.

Sellick, P 2019. The origin of facts. On Line Opinion (online), 20 February. Available at: https://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20167&page=0 (Accessed 16 September 2019).

Whitford, Chris 2020. Christchurch Clarendon Park. ‘Fake theology: even more dangerous than fake news?’ Available at: https://www.christchurchcp.org.uk/fake-theologyeven-more-dangerous-than-fake-news/ (Accessed 12 July 2020).

4.  Notes


[1] Sellick (2019).

[2] Chris Whitford 2020. Christchurch Clarendon Park (online). ‘Fake theology: even more dangerous than fake news?’ Available at: https://www.christchurchcp.org.uk/fake-theologyeven-more-dangerous-than-fake-news/ (Accessed 12 July 2020).

[3] Ibid.

[4] John Ankerberg & John Weldon, The Myth of Safe Sex. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993, p. 53.

[5] In Charles Colson, The Body, p. 161.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 September 2021.

Why the Apocrypha should not be in the Bible.

Copies of the Luther Bible include the deuterocanonical books as an intertestamental section between the Old Testament and New Testament; they are termed the “Apocrypha” in Christian Churches having their origins in the Reformation.

By Spencer D Gear

Which books should be in the canon of Scripture? Should the Apocrypha be included?

1. Meaning of canon[1] of Scripture

‘Canon’ refers to a collection of books that describes the faith and practices of the Christian Church, e.g. Old and New Testaments. In classical Greek (prior to NT koine Greek), the word referred to ‘a straight rod’, ‘a rule’ in a fairly wide sense, such as ‘the rule of the Church.’

The first known use of ‘canon’ to refer to the Scriptures was by Amphilocius (ca. AD 380) where he referred to ‘the rule by which the contents of the Bible must be determined’. It also referred to the index of the books in the Bible

(Smith’s Bible Dictionary 1901. s.v. Canon of Scripture, The).

2. What is the Apocrypha?

See Gleason L Archer Jr, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (rev ed) 1974.

Renowned theologian and early church father, Athanasius (ca. AD 298-373) made a clear distinction between the books of the canon and those not included in the canon with these words:

But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple (Select Works & Letters of Athanasius, Letter 39, in A.D. 367, Available from: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.xxv.iii.iii.xxv.html).

2.1 Bibles and the Apocrypha

The Roman Catholic Church includes the deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha). See the Roman Catholic translations here to check out the deuterocanonicals (second canon):

pink-arow-small Original King James Version of 1611 with Apocrypha.

pink-arow-small Douay-Rheims Bible with Apocrypha (Roman Catholic Bible)

pink-arow-small New American Bible with Apocrypha (Roman Catholic Bible)

pink-arow-small New Jerusalem Bible with Apocrypha (Roman Catholic Bible).

Also,

pink-arow-small Good News Translation

pink-arow-small New Revised Standard Version

Revised English Bible (update of New English Bible) – unable to locate online

pink-arow-small Revised Standard Version

pink-arow-small The Common English Bible

pink-arow-small Third Millennium Bible (updated KJV 1611)

pink-arow-small The Great Bible (1539)

pink-arow-small Wycliffe Bible (1382)

Deuterocanonical books are supported by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

A person asked on a Christian forum:

How or why did the disagreement of which books belong in the OT begin 1500 years later if us (sic) Christians have known since the 1st Century which books belong in the OT? Did God change his mind 1500 years later (which is when the dispute started)?[2]

Why did the debate about the content of the canon of Scripture become more intense around the Reformation period? It was because of a formal statement made by the Roman Catholic Council of Trent and the Protestants responded with a strong voice. What is contained in the canon is relevant in the 21st century because to have a legitimate faith, one must have a legitimate canon from which that faith gains content. The legitimacy of faith is in the balance.

The Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent (1546 – 1563), decreed certain apocryphal writings to be canonical (authoritative). The books of the Apocrypha included were…

1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees. Greek additions to Esther and several additional sections of Daniel, including the Prayer of Azariah, the Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.

Twenty-two books in Old Testament

Josephus (ca. AD 37-100) indicated in his writing that this was the view that was generally accepted in his day about fellow Jews. He wrote:

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from, and contradicting one another: [as the Greeks have:] but only twenty two books: which contain the records of all the past times: which are justly believed to be divine.  And of them five belong to Moses: which contain his laws, and the traditions of the origin of mankind, till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years. But as to the time from the death of Moses, till the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the Prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times, in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God; and precepts for the conduct of human life. ’Tis true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly; but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers; because there hath not been an exact succession of Prophets since that time. And how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation, is evident by what we do. For during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold, as either to add any thing to them; to take any thing from them; or to make any change in them. But it is become natural to all Jews, immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain divine doctrines; and to persist in them: and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them (Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, 1.8, emphasis added).

What were contained in these 22 books?

In their efforts to force fit the Old Testament Canon into the alphabetic pattern, the Jews had to combine certain sets of books. This was very natural in most cases because some books, like First and Second Kings, were originally undivided. Likewise, the Twelve Minor Prophets, known since ancient times as the Book of the Twelve because they were written on a single scroll, could naturally be counted as one book. But when all such books were combined and the tally taken, the total came to twenty-four. To arrive at the desired set of twenty-two books, they had to combine two more pairs, which turned out to be Judges with Ruth, and Jeremiah with Lamentations according to Jerome in his Prologue to Samuel and Kings clip_image002. The first pair made some sense because they treated the same time period (which is the reason given by Jerome), and the latter pair made some sense because they were written by the same prophet. But the combination just would not stick (The Twenty-Two Books of the Jewish Canon, Richard McGough).

In The Twenty-Two Books of the Jewish Canon Richard McGough stated these early church fathers accepted 22 books in the OT Jewish canon:

  • Melito 170 AD, cited in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14
  • Origen 210 AD (in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, 6.25).
  • Hilary of Poitiers 360 AD, Tractate on Psalms, Prologue 15
  • Cyril of Jerusalem, 386 AD, Catechetical Lectures 4.33
  • Epiphanius 400 AD, Del Nensurius et Ponderibus, 4

Jerome’s statement in support of the OT canon, which did not include the deuterocanonicals, was:

And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is, five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have twenty-four books of the old law. And these the Apocalypse of John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb, and with downcast looks offer their crowns, while in their presence stand the four living creatures with eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the future, and with unwearied voice crying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who wast, and art, and art to come (Jerome, The Books of Samuels and Kings).

Why did the Protestants have to defend the OT Scriptures excluding the Apocrypha after the time of Reformation? It relates to the anathema pronounced by the Roman Catholic Council of Trent on those who did not accept the deuterocanonical / Apocrypha books:

And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one’s mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according [Page 19] to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.

But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately condemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church (The Council of Trent, Fourth Session, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scripture, emphasis added).

Assessment of the Apocrypha

I don’t plan a detailed assessment as others have done that.

With such a curse pronounced by the Council of Trent, ‘If any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts . . . Let him be anathema,‘ it was important to make sure that all Christians had the correct books in the Bible. As it has turned out, it was the Roman Catholic Church that has added to the Scriptures of the OT, based on the evidence provided above.

For an excellent overview of how to determine which of the religious books of the world’s religions is the most reliable, see Got Questions Ministries (2019): How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God, and not the Apocrypha, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, etc.?

Notes


[1] ‘Canon’ must not be confused with ‘cannon’ which is ‘a heavy automatic gun that fires shells from an aircraft or tank’ (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2019. s.v. cannon).

[2] Christianity Board 2016. When did the universal Church first mentioned in 110AD stop being universal?(online), 13 October, tom55#243. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/when-did-the-universal-church-first-mentioned-in-110ad-stop-being-universal.22752/page-13#post-284648 (Accessed 4 April 2019).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 09 September 2021.

Religious Instruction is needed in the school curriculum

Spencer D Gear PhD

1. Religious Instruction (RI) teaches moral/ethical values. See, “Religious Education Should Be a Part of the School Curriculum?”

2. RI helps to challenge misconceptions, prejudice and ignorance about Christianity and other religions, which can divide society. Is Christianity the only exclusivist religion (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)? Or, are all religions exclusivist? What are the core theologies of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Confucianism on which they will not budge? Investigate whether all religions are exclusivistic. They are.

Exclusivism is ‘the action or policy of excluding a person or group from a place, group, or privilege’ (Lexico.com 2020. s.v. exclusivism).

3. Christianity is the underpinning of Western society and students need to know these foundations and why Christianity leads to a better, more stable society.

4. What drives church people to be engaged in social welfare at home and overseas?

5. Christianity understands truth as that which matches reality. How come?

6. Christianity’s world view demonstrates the 4 essentials of life in society: (1) The origin of life; (2) How to have meaning in life; (3) Basics for morality; (4) Destiny – where is human life heading?

7. Aims of religious education in the UK include:[1]

clip_image001 “Christian denominations . . . and other religions and their denominations, reflecting the principal religions of the area.”

clip_image001[1] “Religious education given in accordance with the agreed syllabus.”

clip_image001[2] “Monitors the provision and quality of agreed syllabus RI and the effectiveness of the syllabus itself.”

clip_image001[3] “Provides advice and support on teaching agreed syllabus RI.”

clip_image001[4] “Considers whether changes need to be made to the agreed syllabus.”

clip_image001[5] “Offers advice to Qld Education (QE), and through the QE to its schools, concerning how an existing agreed syllabus can be interpreted so as to fit in with a broad, balanced and coherent curriculum.”

8. Purposes of RI:[2]

The following purpose statements underpin the syllabus, which is constructed to support pupils and teachers in fulfilling them:

  • Religious Instruction (RI) contributes dynamically to children and young people’s education in schools by provoking challenging questions about meaning and purpose in life, beliefs about God, ultimate reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human.
  • In RI pupils learn about religions and beliefs in local, national and global contexts, to discover, explore and consider different answers to these questions.
  • They learn to weigh up the value of wisdom from different sources, to develop and express their insights in response, and to agree or disagree respectfully.
  • RI teaching therefore should equip pupils with systematic knowledge and understanding of a range of religions and beliefs, enabling them to develop their ideas, values and identities.
  • It should develop in pupils an aptitude for dialogue so that they can develop religious literacy and participate positively in our society, with its diverse religions and beliefs.
  • Pupils should gain and deploy the skills needed to understand, interpret and evaluate texts, sources of wisdom and authority and other evidence. They should learn to articulate clearly and coherently their personal beliefs, ideas, values and experiences while respecting the right of others to differ.

9. Based on the Preamble[3] of Australia’s Constitution, this is a country with a Christian-theistic foundation: “WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.”[4]

Students need to have knowledge of the basis of this underpinning in Christianity, which leads to Christianity being taught by Christian followers.

Imagine trying to understand physics and chemistry without foundational knowledge of atoms and molecules. It’s the same with trying to understand the Westminster system of government in Australia without its Christian world and life view.

10. Because Australia has become a multi-faith society as a flow on from multiculturalism, various faith groups should be encouraged to present RI for each of those groups. This is supported if there are enough children of that religion in the school and availability of instructors.

Notes


[1] The following points are adapted from the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, “Religious Education,” Standing Advisory Comittee on Religious Education (SACRE)

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Oxford English Dictionary provides one of the meanings of “preamble” as: “The introductory part of a statute or deed, stating its purpose, aims, and justification” (2020. s.v. preamble).

[4] Parliament of Australia, “Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act,” 9 July 1900.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 09 September 2021.

Why Ravi Zacharias?

File:Ravi Zacharias speaks at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay  130917-A-MS942-255.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I have to be sensitive as I begin this topic as I don’t know what went on between Ravi and God in the last minutes before the end of his life. Did he genuinely seek God’s forgiveness and repentance? All of that is in the realm of the unknown to me. Only God knows it. All we can deal with is what the Scriptures state and Ravi’s double standards before he died.

A friend and I had a light-weight chat over the ‘fall’ of Ravi Zacharias from grace before and after his death. Well, the knowledge of the “fall” that emerged after his death is explained below.

Ravi Zacharias will be in heaven

My friend, a Baptist, said, “I believe I’ll see Ravi in heaven.” Without thinking about it, I agreed. However, I’ve thought further as to what my friend could know that would lead him to believe Ravi is in glory.

Further research by lawyers and investigative journalists from Christianity Today have revealed his unethical sexual behaviour had continued for about a decade but with no actions taken by his ministry RZIM or the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Ravi will be in heaven on the basis of a once-saved-always-saved theology!

Once saved-always saved

Rod Halliburton teaches:

The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” teaches that it is not possible for a child of God to sin in such a way that he will be lost. Many people, who undoubtedly are very sincere and possess a desire to do what is right, find tremendous comfort in this doctrine. This doctrine, however, is not taught in the Bible. It is an erroneous doctrine that provides a false comfort and a deceitful feeling of security (Halliburton 2019).

We can cherry-pick a few verses to try to gain comfort in Ravi’s certainty of being in heaven. Halliburton raised these verses some use to support once-saved, always saved. These include:

We can cherry-pick a few verses to try to gain comfort in Ravi’s certainty of being in heaven. Halliburton raised these verses some use to support once-saved, always saved. These include:

  • I Peter 1:5 (NIV), “who through faith are shielded (present tense, active voice) by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  • II Peter 1:5-9 with the answer of II Peter 1:10:

2 Peter 1:5-9 (NIV):

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

The answer is in 2 Pet 1:10 (NIV), “Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[1] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.”

  • Hebrews 3:12 (NIV), “See to it [continuous action], brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
  • John 10:27-28 (NIV), “My sheep listen [continue to listen] to my voice; I know [continue to know] them, and they [continue to ] follow me. 28 I [continue to] give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
  • I John 3:9 (NIV), “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”
  • I Corinthians 9:27 (NIV), “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
  • Galatians 5:4 (NIV), “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

However, those verses cannot survive . . .

The Thunderstorm of Opposition

  • Jesus said, “He cuts off every branch in me that (continues to) bear no fruit, while every branch that (continues to) bear fruit he prunes[2] so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:2).
  • Jesus went on to say, “If you do not (continue to) remain in me, you are like a branch that is (continuously) thrown away and withers; such branches are (continually) picked up, (continually) thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:6 NIV).

The thunderstorm against once-saved-always-saved

Heb 6:4-6 (NIV) provides the thunderstorm against once-saved-always-saved:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen [3] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

See my exposition of this passage at: Contentious theology: Falling away from the faith.

The double-life of Ravi Zacharias

This is what we are dealing with.

Zacharias in 2015

clip_image001Zacharias talks to Pastor Joe Coffey at Christ Community Chapel (Hudson, OH) about answering objections to Christianity

A prominent evangelical defender of the faith worldwide, the late Ravi Zacharias, was declared an apostate – posthumously – by both his evangelical denomination (The Christian & Missionary Alliance) and by the ministry he founded RZIM.

This Christianity Today article begins: “A four-month investigation found the late Ravi Zacharias leveraged his reputation as a world-famous Christian apologist to abuse massage therapists in the United States and abroad over more than a decade while the ministry led by his family members and loyal allies failed to hold him accountable” (Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation, February 11, 2021).

clip_image003 The Christian and Missionary Alliance has revoked his ordination posthumously (after his death) – “Ravi Zacharias’s Denomination Revokes Ordination

clip_image003[1] RZIM organized research by lawyers and concluded: “Guilt beyond anything that we could have imagined.” It was “once the largest apologetics ministry in the world.” Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) will stop doing apologetics work this year” (Christianity Today, March 10, 2021, “RZIM Will No Longer Do Apologetics.”)

We see the demise of an eminent apologist to that of what seems to be an apostate or one who could not control his sexual appetites.

How could that happen to a born-again Christian who spoke at the funeral service of Dr Norman L Geisler?

He didn’t practice what he preached?

How do we know Ravi is now experiencing eternal life with Jesus?

The error of a certain doctrine

The error of once-saved-always-saved would cause my Baptist friend to consider he will see Ravi Zacharias in heaven. I’m not convinced of such as it’s not a biblical doctrine.

See my article on Arminius on perseverance of the saints

We don’t know what happened before his last breath.

I repeat how I began the article. We do not know Ravi’s final actions before God, but his life (revealed after death) points to a person who was not practicing the fruit of the Spirit in his life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal 5:22-23 NIV).

The evidence discovered after his death points to a person who lacked sexual self-control and disgraced the Lord he proclaimed.

Works consulted

Halliburton, Rod. Religious Reflections, “Looking at the doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved,’” February 1, available at: https://www.camdenarknews.com/news/2019/feb/01/looking-doctrine-once-saved-always-saved/ (Accessed 8 September 2021).

Notes


[1] “The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family.”

[2] “The Greek for he prunes also means he cleans.”

[3] Or, “if they fall.”

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 September 2021.

Why I walked away from Christianity[1]

Stoning - Wikipedia

(Saint Stephen, first martyr of Christianity, painted in 1506 by Marx Reichlich (1460–1520)
(Pinakothek of Munich)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Some prominent apostates included:

clip_image002 Charles Templeton

clip_image004(Image courtesy Pinterest)

Chuck Templeton became a convert to Christ/Christianity in 1936 and then became an evangelist. He founded Avenue Road Church of the Nazarene in Toronto, Canada in 1941.

In 1945, he met with Torrey Johnson at Winona Lake, Indiana to form a group that became Youth for Christ. Billy Graham was hired as its first full-time evangelist. He and Templeton engaged in an evangelistic tour of Western Europe.

He attended Princeton Theological Seminary and hosted a weekly religious television show on CBS, Look Up and Live, in the 1950s.

He struggled with doubt about the Christian faith and in 1957 he announced he had become agnostic. This publicity caused reactions in the evangelical community.

He made forays into politics in Canada but spent much of the rest of his life as a journalist in public life.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the late 1990s and passed away from disease complications in 2001.[2]

A couple years before he died, Lee Strobel of A Case for Christ fame interviewed Charles Templeton. Some of Templeton’s replies to Strobel included the following:

[Strobel asked]: “And how do you assess this Jesus?…”

“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”

I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.

“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . .

” . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’

“Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”

That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!

With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept. . . .

Templeton fought to compose himself. I could tell it wasn’t like him to lose control in front of a stranger. He sighed deeply and wiped away a tear. After a few more awkward moments, he waved his hand dismissively. Finally, quietly but adamantly, he insisted: “Enough of that” (Charles Templeton: Missing Jesus, The Gospel Coalition).

What penetrating statements from one who had committed apostasy by rejecting God and Jesus!

clip_image006(Photo of an elderly Charles Templeton, courtesy The Gospel Coalition, U.S. Edition)

When Christians have doubts about anything relating to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the life of a Christian, the place to begin addressing those doubts is not to head into the darkness of agnosticism – I don’t know if God exists. That’s a fence-sitting position with no hope of resolution.

A better way to go, I suggest, would be to tackle these doubts one at a time and with the counsel of wise biblical theologians and apologists. In this era with the Internet, it’s so easy to obtain information to deal with doubts.

However, the Holy Spirit’s personal ministry to all Christians is especially in these actions:

John 14:15-18 (NIV)

‘If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’.

John 15:26 (NIV)

‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me’.

Romans 8:9 (NIV) 

’You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.’

The NT Greek word for Advocate, parakletos,[3] in various occurrences in the NT, means Helper, Intercessor and Convincer. In John’s Gospel only is the Holy Spirit called ‘the Helper’ (Jn 14:16, 26; 16:7). There is a damaged fragment of the Greek MSS for 1 John 2:1 that is in all English translations. It reads, ‘My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (ESV).

So here Jesus Christ has the role of being an advocate. In pre-Christian and extra-Christian literature, the word has the meaning of ‘one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper’ (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon 1957:623-624).

I recommend this article to help us in ‘understanding the Role of the Holy Spirit as our Helper.

Another who was once an evangelical Christian and from present indications is an apostate. I speak of

clip_image002[1] Professor Bart D. Ehrman.

clip_image008(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

He attended Moody Bible Institute, known for its evangelical Christianity and the liberal arts, and Wheaton College (Billy Graham’s alma mater).

Today Ehrman is a theologically liberal professor in a university. He could not be clearer about his view today:

I have not called myself a Christian publicly for a very long time, twenty years or so I suppose. But a number of people tell me that they think at heart I’m a Christian, and I sometimes think of myself as a Christian agnostic/atheist. Their thinking, and mine, has been that if I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, in some respect I’m a Christian, even if I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God, or that he was raised from the dead, or that… or even that God exists.  In fact I don’t believe all these things. But can’t I be a Christian in a different sense, one who follows Jesus’ teachings? (The Bart Ehrman Blog, March 6 2017).[4]

With backgrounds from training in Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, both stalwart evangelical institutions, Bart Ehrman knows that good works and rejection of God’s and Jesus’ existence and attributes do not suffice for entrance into God’s kingdom.

He has written books antagonistic to the Christian faith:

In his works, I have found Ehrman to set out to destroy evangelical Christianity and promote his own brand of liberal, agnostic religion. In a YouTube clip he claimed that he moved from fundamentalist Christian to liberal Christian who went to church, to an agnostic and humanist. He says he became an agnostic because of the problem of suffering in the world.

In an interview in 2018, Ehrman stated: ‘I feel like I’ve gained a lot by becoming an atheist, but I’ve also lost a lot, and there’s no reason, in my mind, to deny that’ (An Interview with Professor Bart Ehrman, Author of The Triumph of Christianity, Friendly Atheist, 15 August 2018)

There you have the slow movement of Bart Ehrman from evangelical Christianity, to liberal Christianity, to agnosticism and atheism.

It began with his doubts about the accuracy of the Bible and not having a biblical solution to the problem of evil in the world.

1. Evolution defeats Christianity[5]

I’ll pick up a few things from the early parts of his post.[6]
He wrote: ‘I walked away from Christianity as a child because of evolution’. To allow Charles Darwin & Co to determine HOW God created and continues to create is a view that is added to Scripture. I don’t see the origin of species and adaptation (Darwinism) in Scripture.

It’s the theory of evolution that has now become the facts of evolution.

clip_image010For further examination of the evolution-creation debate, I recommend this series of books by a Christian lawyer (Philip E Johnson) and a non-Christian biologist (Michael Denton):

(photograph Michael Denton, courtesy Discovery Institute)

clip_image012Michael Denton, Evolution: A theory in crisis (Burnett Books 1985);

clip_image012[1]Michael J Denton, Evolution: Still a theory in crisis (Discovery Institute 2016); hear a podcast of this issue (YouTube).

clip_image013Michael J Denton, Nature’s destiny: How the laws of biology reveal purpose in the universe (The Free Press 1998);

clip_image013[1]Phillip E Johnson, Darwin on trial (InterVarsity Press);

clip_image012[2]Phillip E Johnson, Reason in the balance: The case against naturalism in science, law & education (InterVarsity Press);

clip_image014Phillip E Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by opening minds (InterVarsity Press);

clip_image013[2]Phillip E Johnson, Objections sustained: Subversive essays on evolution, law & culture (InterVarsity Press).

See also my articles:

clip_image016Challenges to evolutionary ‘factual’ evidence

clip_image017Has evolution been proved by science?

2. Does literal interpretation mean you are conservative?

Again, his reasoning is, ‘I’m not sure if dropping literalism means dropping conservativism (sic),[7] because there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism’.[8]
He provided no documentation for this. It is his assertion. Therefore, it is a diversionary tactic. Do you want the first man and woman to be an allegory? Are you going to treat Noah and the flood as an allegory? How about Abraham? Is God’s promise to Abraham an allegory that had no relationship to the nation of Israel: ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing’ (Gen 12:2 NIV)?
How do you read your local newspaper, whether hard copy or online? Do you read it literally or impose your allegory on it? Take this article from The Sydney Morning Herald (29 January 2017), Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US.
[9]
The story began:

New York: President Donald Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night (Saturday AEDT). Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.?

What would stop the person on the forum from making this an allegory where you force your own meaning onto it to make it say what you want? That’s what allegorical interpretation does. It imposes a meaning from outside of what the text states. It is far too easy for you to say,

There have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism. I didn’t know that this stuff could be read in layers when I was seven, but I certainly know it now’.

So you are already accepting the ‘layers’ of allegorical interpretation without investigating the harmful consequences of what that does to any piece of literature, including the Bible.

3. His liberal bias

He[10] continued: ‘If I decide the Resurrection happened, I can then start working on the question of how much of the rest is true, but that seems a bit backwards as a starting point.’

My comeback was he already told us about his ‘liberal bias’. How will he ever get to understand Jesus’ resurrection as an historical event without telling us which historical criteria he will use to examine the evidence?
He asked,

Can you be conservative and read the Garden of Eden metaphorically? I find it a very powerful statement when viewed symbolically, but when taken literally I think it’s blatantly misogynistic. My liberal bias very clearly lines up to the reality that Eve has been used as an excuse to justify the oppression of women throughout all of Judeo-Christian history.

How can I respond to someone who wants to interpret the Bible his way – metaphorically? Here goes!
You can’t be a legitimate biblical interpreter and make the Scriptures mean what you want them to mean. When you impose a metaphorical hermeneutic on the Garden of Eden, you introduce your own story into the narrative.

That’s called a red herring fallacy because it takes us away from what the narrative states. There is no indicator in the text of Gen 1-3 (ESV) that tells us the Garden of Eden account is an allegory. That’s your ‘liberal bias’ speaking.

4. Driven by this agenda

He nailed what drives his agenda: ‘I lean towards the liberal view that the Word of God was filtered through a patriarchal culture and picked up some of its bias’.

Again, that’s imposition on the text. It’s eisegesis (putting your meaning into the text) instead of exegesis (getting the meaning out of the text).[11]

Unless you put your presuppositions up for examination and follow the evidence wherever it leads, you are going to have difficulty in pursuing this investigation. I see your foggy worldview of liberalism blinding you to the reality of what the text states.
When you pick and choose what you want to make allegory, you are a postmodern deconstructionist who is deconstructing the text to your own world view. I urge you to place your presuppositions on the altar of critical examination – crucify them (I ask the same of all of us on this forum, including myself).

5. I chose to accept Christ’s offer of salvation

Why have I (this writer) chosen not to follow Charles Templeton and Bart Ehrman in their rejection of Christianity? Scripture confirms that the Templeton and Ehrman examples were anticipated in Scripture. See Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) and my article Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again, which exegetes these verses.

I was raised on two sugar cane farms near Bundaberg, Qld., Australia. My parents were ‘religious’ Methodists who took the 3 children with them to Sunday School and church. However, in 1959 real Christianity came to live in our house when Mum and Dad responded to the Gospel invitation through the preaching of Billy Graham. Billy preached in the Brisbane Ekka grounds and his voice came through the loud speakers at the Bundaberg Show Grounds (called Fair Grounds in the USA).

They sat in their old Ford Prefect utility and at the Gospel invitation they went forward to receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Our household was changed from that day. Jesus so changed my parents’ lives that all 3 children became born-again Christians, not through coercion, but through the free offer of salvation made available to the children. We have each grown in various dimensions down through the years.

Through Mum and Dad’s influence and the teaching in a local Baptist church I responded in faith to Jesus and was baptised as a believer in 1962.

That was the beginning of my journey of over 50 years of growth and failure in the Christian life. By ‘failure’ I refer to the years in my late teens and early 20s when I went astray but later returned to the faith. During the remaining years I’ve also failed others and myself in not living up to the standards of the teachings of the NT.

My faith has continued to grow as have my gifts as a Bible teacher and apologist. This homepage should demonstrate how I have chosen to pursue Jesus with all my heart and to seek answers when doubts and questions arise.

5.1 Faith founded on facts

In this era when facts are being denied with the promotion of a post-facts’ world, there are facts historical and contemporary that are denied at our peril.

Post-fact is an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ (Lexico/Oxford Dictionary 2019. s.v. post-fact).

My faith is not founded on a leap of faith but on facts of God’s existence; Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection; the historical reliability of the Old Testament and New Testament, and the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Neither is my faith established by how I feel about the Trinitarian God. Feelings are unreliable in establishing truth because they can change so rapidly.

Historical facts about the world of the Old Covenant Israelites and the New Covenant Scriptures have been demonstrated in historical research. See:

clip_image019 Kenneth A Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans).

clip_image019[1]Walter C Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (InterVarsity Press).

clip_image019[2]Craig L Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (InterVarsity 1986)

clip_image019[3]Craig L Blomberg presentation, Historical Reliability of the Gospels (YouTube).

clip_image019[4]Craig L Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (B&H Academic).

clip_image019[5]Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Eerdmans).

I understand challenges to the Christian faith as opportunities to engage with antagonists to better understand their world views, expose inconsistencies, and discover their presuppositions that drive their anti-God agendas.[12]

See especially the topics covered in Apologetics index.

My faith was openly challenged when I took a Christian position in a doctoral class at a secular university on the evolution-creation issue. I pointed out an apparent discrepancy in the text book being used. The professor, in front of the class, shouted at me: ‘Your views are b… s..t’ and he did not abbreviate. The next day he spoke to me privately and apologised for what he said. However, he never expressed regret to the class.

I was shocked by his attack and eventually withdrew from that university’s program in counseling psychology as I couldn’t see that professor treating me objectively in the future. I’ve thought about what I should have done:

  • He committed an Ad Hominem (Abusive) logical fallacy. He attacked me rather than dealing with the issue. It was erroneous reasoning and that by a university professor teaching in a doctoral program in the USA.
  • I should have left class immediately and gone straight to the academic dean of the department to make a complaint against the prof. However, I was too nervous and inexperienced to do that. Thirty five years since then have taught me a great deal about identifying logical fallacies that side-track a discussion.
  • I could have challenged him further with evidence but I did not know enough about the evolutionist-creationist discussion.

clip_image021(photograph, Norman Geisler, courtesy Norman Geisler International Ministries)

My mentor at a distance has been Dr Norman Geisler who went home to be with the Lord on 1 July 2019, at the age of 86, 20 days shy of his 87th birthday. He taught me so much through his books, online material, and debates.

5.2 The fact of human free will choices

Dr Geisler was one of the finest advocates for the biblical basis of human beings having free will, the power of contrary choice. He advocated this position in one of his finest publications, Chosen But Free (Bethany House Publishers).

He explained further:

Thomas Aquinas, keenly observed why there is no contradiction between God knowing future free acts and their being freely chosen. It is simply because a contradiction occurs only when something is both affirmed and denied of the same thing at the same time in the same relationship. But the relationship here is not the same. For “Everything known by God must necessarily be” is true if it refers to the statement of the truth of God’s knowledge, but it is false, if it refers to the necessity of the contingent events.

Since God is an omniscient being, He knows with certainty what we will do freely. The fact that He knows “in advance” from our temporal perspective does not mean that the event can not happen freely. For God can know for sure that the event will occur freely. The necessity of His knowledge about the contingent event does not make the event necessary (i.e., contrary to free choice). It simply makes His knowledge of this free event an infallible knowledge. In brief, the same event can be viewed in two different relationships; one in relation to God’s foreknowledge and the other in relation to a human being’s free will. Since the relationship is different, the law of non-contradiction is not violated (Norman L Geisler, Is God an Android? (2011).

6. Works consulted

Kurish, N & Fernandez, M 2017. Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US (online). The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/world/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-as-donald-trumps-antimuslim-executive-order-comes-into-force-20170129-gu0p5o.html (Accessed 29 January 2017).

7.  Notes


[1] This person’s question and some responses are at Christian Forums.net 2017. Couple of Questions (online), Silmarien#29. Throughout this article I address this individual personally as ‘you’ and ‘he’. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/couple-of-questions.68199/page-2 (Accessed 19 October 2018).

[2] The above biographical information is from Wikipedia (2018. s.v. Charles Templeton).

[3] The ‘e’ in this transliteration is the Greek letter eta and not epsilon. The normal transliteration of eta is an ‘e’ with an ellipse (straight line) above it. Unfortunately, when I upload from MS Word to my webpage, all ellipses for transliteration become question marks. I have not learned how to stop that from happening.

[4] Available at: https://ehrmanblog.org/why-i-am-not-a-christian/ (Accessed 18 October 2018).

[5] This is my reply at ‘Couple of Questions’, OzSpen#52, #53.

[6] Christianforums.net 2017. OzSpen 29 January 2017.

[7] The correct spelling is conservatism. See Oxford Living Dictionaries (2019. s.v. conservatism).

[8] Silmaren, Christian Forums.net.

[9] Kulish & Fernandez (2017).

[10] Silmaren (as above).

[11] See the differentiation between exegesis and eisegesis in What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? (Got Questions Ministries 2019).

[12] See examples of how I attempt to do this with my comments as OzSpen in this thread, Was Izzy Folau moral? On Line Opinion, 1 July 2019.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 September 2021.