Archive for the 'Apologetics' Category

Learn how to screw up your worldview

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Green Shiny True Button And Red Shiny False Button With Text And

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A doubter about the existence of God and other things religious wrote that part of his problem,

is that I have a passing academic interest in religion, so pulling things out of that context causes a bit of cognitive dissonance. Theologically I’m very liberal–I know it’s a slippery slope, but it is what it is. I see cultural context everywhere, I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity, I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better, and I’m aware of how diverse early Christianity was. I won’t claim that the version that survived wasn’t the true one, but I definitely see other factors at play in its success. One of those actually may have been divine intervention–it’s intriguing that there are visions associated with both of the people who transformed it (Paul and Constantine), but this is definitely a tangled knot of problems that aren’t going to be solved anytime soon. So I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all the important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion.[1]

This is only part of a post he made to a Christian forum (you can read a continuation of it at footnote #1, but it unveils a considerable amount of information about his perspective. Let’s see if we can unpack some of the issues that are driving his agenda.

A. A liberal resistance to God

What I observe about his perspective, associated with his ‘cognitive dissonance’, i.e. disharmony in his thought processes, is that his …

1. Presuppositions cover up issues

I addressed him directly:[2] I’ve been looking at this paragraph that you wrote and it seems to be overcome with your presuppositions that are preventing your examining the biblical material at face value. Let me pick up a few of them and I’d appreciate it if you would correct me if I’m wrong:

Your passing academic interest in religion and pulling out of context causes cognitive dissonance. I’m unsure if this ‘context’ is the academic interest or context in Scripture or something else. I’m unclear on your content. If your context is ‘academic interest in religion’, then I’ll have to know whether that is a university, seminary, college or Christian setting (and whether it’s a liberal setting) to be able to try to uncover your presuppositions.

2. We know where the slippery slope leads

Image result for clipart slippery slopeFrom where did you get your ‘very liberal’ theological position? Was it from the evidence from Scripture or from ‘very liberal’ sources who/that dumbed down other views, especially those of Bible-believing Christians? You’ve admitted that it is ‘a slippery slope’. This means that that position is doomed to destroy faith and cause disillusionment with people and decline of churches. We know this from the decline in theologically liberal denominations worldwide. Take a look at the Anglican Church here in Australia (outside of the Sydney diocese), Anglican Church in UK, Church of Scotland, United Church of Canada, Episcopal Church (USA), United Methodist Church (USA), Presbyterian Church (USA), American Baptist, etc. See the article, Liberal churches in decline while orthodox ones grow, says study of Protestants in Canada‘.

3. Stuck in a rut

‘It is what it is’ is an unhealthy way of examining or correcting one’s views. I find the better approach is to investigate the evidence from Scripture without imposition of previous beliefs. Are you a postmodern deconstructionist when it comes to your reading of Scripture?

4. Historicity of the Gospels

You say, ‘ I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity’. That seems to be your presuppositional imposition on the Gospels. What primary investigation have you done into the nature of historicity of any document and applying those criteria to the Gospels? Other researchers have gone before you who have already done that and they have come to a positive position on the historicity of the Gospels and the NT. I’m thinking of leading researcher at the University of Manchester, the late F F Bruce: The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (available online). Right beside me on my desk is Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP 2007). What causes you to refuse to accept the historical evidence provided by these scholars?

4.1 John’s Gospel and mysticism

‘I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better’, he wrote. That statement is loaded with your presuppositional agenda. You would have to give me lots of other information for me to understand why you regard John as mysticism. By the way, it’s a very different kind of Gospel to the Synoptics because it was written for a different purpose, ‘The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name’ (John 30 30-32 NLT).

Then you give the thumbs down to Paul (presumably referring to his letters and the history about him in the Book of Acts). Without your telling us why you make that statement, I wouldn’t try to guess what leads you to that kind of view.

5. Leap of faith and unthinking Christianity

You say, ‘I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion’. To the contrary, Christianity does not require you to put your brain/mind in neutral and resort to a ‘leap of faith’ to accept it. All of the historical basis of Christianity can be subjected to the same tests of historicity that you give to any other historical document about Nero, Martin Luther, George Washington, Captain James Cook or the September 11, 2001 disaster in New York City. However, there is the strong dimension of faith, but that is in the person of Jesus Christ for salvation, the Jesus who is revealed in Scripture. If you don’t know who Jesus is (because of theological liberal presuppositions), that leap of faith will be into darkness rather than into the light.

B. His responses to my challenge

In the following I deal with his responses to what I have written above. These are some of his emphases:

1. Liberal bias that opposes one-way religion

Image result for clipart one way Christianity

He wrote:

No formal training, I’ve just accumulated knowledge here and there–mostly of a liberal bias, yes. Not specifically Christianity but religion in general. It’s uncomfortable for me to switch from viewing something as interesting in the greater scheme of world religion to zeroing in on one and saying, “Maybe this one actually is true.” It’s getting less strange with time, but it’s definitely still jarring.[3]

How should I reply? Here goes![4]

I was raised in a religiously liberal home and it wasn’t until my parents were converted from liberalism to biblical Christianity that I was even open to other evidence. I did not pursue the evidence wherever it led until that time of conversion for my parents.

What has caused you to consider that the liberal bias of accumulated knowledge is correct? This indicates that you have censored some important areas for consideration. Why have you done that? Have you ever considered how your ‘liberal bias’ lines up with reality – the truth? Why liberal and not conservative? What attracts you to liberal religion?

You don’t like going from the general (greater scheme of world religion) to the specific of one religion being true. Surely this should not be a difficult thing for you to do because you are forced to do it in everyday life, even with much lesser products. Do you use a mobile phone? If so, surely you have examined a range of mobile phones before concluding a certain one was the best for you. That’s what I had to do recently.

You do this in a whole range of activities. What causes you and me to take medicine prescribed by the Dr and not swallow ‘RoundUp Poison Ivy’:
clip_image002
The purpose of the product influences that choice.
When it comes to the choosing which religion is the truth, it takes care in comparing that religion with reality, facts/truth. What is truth when you examine religion?
Have you found a better search engine on the www than Google? Why does Google seem to be the preferred product over, say, Bing or Yahoo?
Another analogy would be when something happens to the motor of your automobile. Do you choose to take it to a motor mechanic instead of a painter or cabinet maker? You can be narrow in your choices.
When it comes to dealing with the worldviews of any religion, I challenge you to examine which of those worldviews fits reality. See the difficulties with:

 

You face a major hurdle before you can even begin to investigate worldviews, religion and God. You start at the wrong end of your inquiry, by excluding certain evidence. When you start with a liberal bias, you will see liberal views in a much more favourable way and anti-liberal views negatively. This is not a beneficial way to examine evidence.

I hope you realise the self-defeating nature of your view with a ‘liberal bias’. You don’t like one-way religion but you have chosen that view yourself, i.e. religion with a liberal bias. That’s every bit as one-way as biblical Christianity. Do you realise how self-defeating your argument is?
May I suggest a better approach: Pursue the evidence, wherever it leads.

2. Evolution defeats Christianity[5]

I’ll pick up a few things from the early parts of his post.

2.1 Presupposition favours evolution

He wrote: ‘I walked away from Christianity as a child because of evolution’. Go to the science section of this forum to discuss this further if you want. However, to allow Charles Darwin & Co to determine HOW God created and continues to create is a view that has added to Scripture. It’s your presuppositional agenda. I don’t see the origin of species and adaptation (Darwinism) in Scripture, but I won’t discuss further.

See my articles:

2.2 Starting with allegorical interpretation.

Again, his reasoning is, ‘I’m not sure if dropping literalism means dropping conservativism (sic), 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’.

You provide not one piece of documentation for this. It is your assertion. Therefore, it is a diversionary tactic. If you want to interpret Genesis as allegory, then start a thread and raise the issues. 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, ‘I will make of you a great nation’, an allegory that had no relationship to the nation of Israel?

Image result for clipart interpretation public domainHow do you read your local newspaper, whether hard copy or online? Do you read it literally or impose your allegory on it? Take this morning’s article from the Brisbane Times (29 January 2017), Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US.[6]

The article 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 you 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 whether that is the case and the harmful consequences of what that does to any piece of literature, including the Bible.

For further explanations of the meaning of allegorical interpretation and the damage it does, see my other articles:

clip_image004 Is the Bible to be interpreted as literal or metaphorical?

clip_image004[1] What is literal interpretation?

clip_image004[2] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image004[3] Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

clip_image004[4] The wedding at Cana led to divorce

See also:

clip_image006 The danger of allegorical Bible interpretation (Danny Coleman);

clip_image006[1] Sins of Interpretation #1: Allegorical method (Kruse Kronicle/Kenneth

Bailey);

clip_image006[2] Historical implications of allegorical interpretation (Thomas D Ice)

clip_image006[3] The Bible: How should we interpret it? (John Ankerberg interviews Norman Geisler)

2.3 Resurrection, the Bible and truth

He 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.’ But you have already told us about your ‘liberal bias’. How will you ever get to understand Jesus’ resurrection as an historical event without telling us which historical criteria you will be using to examine the evidence?

See my articles:

clip_image008 Can Jesus Christ’s resurrection be investigated as history?

clip_image008[1] Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

clip_image008[2] The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

clip_image008[3] Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

clip_image008[4] Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

clip_image008[5] Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

clip_image008[6] Easter and the end of death

 

2.4 Garden of Eden promotes misogyny[7]

You say, ‘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’.

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 narrative is an allegory. That’s your ‘liberal bias’ imposition.

You have nailed what drives your 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). 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 the postmodern deconstructionist[8] who is deconstructing the text to your own worldview. I urge you to place your presuppositions on the altar of critical examination (I ask the same of all of us on this forum, including myself).

C. Further responses: Distorted reasoning

This person replied and I’ve incorporated his reply in my response.

It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence–I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer! But if you want evidence, I know Clement of Alexandria and Origen interpreted things allegorically, and in Judaism, there’s the Remez approach to interpretation, which appears to be allegorical. There was also apparently a medieval rabbi called Saadia Gaon who said that a passage should not be interpreted literally if that made it contrary to the senses or reason. I am not making any of this up; it is quite ancient and literally biblical. We can go straight to Galatians 4:24, since apparently Paul himself interpreted things allegorically: “Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants.” If Paul wasn’t orthodox, I have no idea what orthodoxy is, haha.[9]

1. Confusion of allegorical interpretation with allegory

You seem to confuse two things:[10] (1) Allegorical interpretation, and (2) A narrative that says something is described as an allegory.
Do you want me to interpret your above information allegorically, by which I make your statements say what I want them to say and not what you have intended them to mean? Let me try one example:

  • ‘It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence—I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer!’
  • By this, Silmarien means that God’s lack of evidence (for Jesus) is merely God’s way of getting through to Silmarien that God has superior knowledge to Silmarien’s beginning inquiries into spiritual things.
  • If I invented allegorical interpretation of everything you wrote, you would have every right to call it baloney or bunkum. Why? Because allegorical interpretation is an illegitimate method of interpretation because it forces into a text what is not there.
  • When Paul states in Gal 4:24 that he was dealing with an allegory. That was a literal interpretation by Paul to confirm the existence of allegory.

2. Genesis and literalism

You wrote:

A critical examination of the Old Testament is very much the problem, though. God creates animals first and humans second in Genesis 1, but in Genesis 2, Adam is created before the animals. Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere and then goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet. I’m sure there are ways to get around all the continuity issues, but for me, it kind of feels like trying to trap God within the pages of a book. Because my problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold.[11]

To the contrary,[12] a careful examination of the OT is not a problem. Every one of the issues you raise here from Gen 1 and 2 has been successfully resolved. The differences in the order of creation are quite easily explained.

  • Gen 1 gives the order of events:
  • Chronological order
  • Outline
  • Creating animals

Then,

  • Gen 2 goes into more detail on the content about what was in ch. 1:
  • There is no contradiction, since ch 1 doesn’t affirm when God made the animals. Ch 2 gives:
  • Topical order
  • Details, and the
  • Naming of animals, not creating animals.

Therefore, Gen 1 and 2 provide a harmonious statement that gives a more complete picture of the events of creation (with help from Geisler & Howe 1992:35).

Determining the source of Cain’s wife is an old chestnut. It is easily solved. Your claim is that ‘Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere’. Were there no women for Cain to marry as there were only Adam, Eve (Gen 4:1) and his dead brother Abel (Gen 5:4)?

Cain probably married his sister or niece because we are told that Adam ‘fathered other sons and daughters ‘ (Gen 5:4 HCSB). Adam lived 930 years (Gen 5:5 ESV) so he had stacks of time to have a pile of children. Was Cain committing incest if he married his sister/cousin? At the beginning of the human race there would have been no genetic imperfections. Genetic defects would have emerged following the Fall into sin. Since only a pair (Adam & Eve) began the human race, Cain had nobody else to marry except a close female relative.

You state that Cain ‘goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet’. It’s time that you read Genesis 5 more carefully. ‘Supposedly nobody to live in it’ is bunk, when you read the text.

You say, ‘My problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold’. Your problems with this statement include:

3. Old Testament reliability

His denigration of Scripture continued:

Regarding historical evidence, I accept logical arguments that take the formula “if not P, then not Q. Q is true, therefore P is true.” Could be applied to the disciples’ transformation, as well as Paul’s conversion. There are plenty of facts that are debatable, but these two are not. I’m also intrigued by extra-biblical evidence in general–Constantine’s vision, Genesis 1 continuing to match up to the Big Bang Theory, but evidence for the Old Testament is probably a bit premature.[13]

Do you affirm the Law of Noncontradiction[14] that ‘A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship’?
Evidence for the reliability of the OT is not premature. Your knowledge seems to have a gap here. Take a read of archaeologist, Egyptologist and historian, Dr Kenneth A Kitchen 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

4. Belief and postmodern deconstruction

This isn’t really an investigation, though, since I actually do believe. Experimentation with prayer has been… pretty conclusive. A lot of it could be attributed to brain chemicals, but when a prayer of “Hey Jesus, if you’re real, can you please help me not be crazy over Calvinism?” results in immediately calming down… well, it can’t be the placebo effect when you don’t actually have faith. The problem is that I already have deconstructed everything–it’s too late to not be a postmodernist when you’ve already torn everything to pieces. I guess all I can do now is try to put it back together in a way that’s reasonably orthodox. I did just order Simply Christian, so hopefully that will help. C.S. Lewis offered some food for thought, but not really on a theological level.[15]

Image result for clipart postmodern deconstructionYou say you actually do believe.[16] What do you believe in? What is the nature of your belief? I’m reminded of a verse that James taught, ‘You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!’ (James 2:19 ESV).

Your claim is that you have deconstructed everything and it’s too late not to be a postmodernist. That fact is not true. What you have written in your post is not postmodern deconstruction. For the benefit of those who don’t understand that language, we should define ‘postmodern deconstruction’.

It means that words and sentences have no inherent meaning in themselves. People who read anything construct their own meaning, which is shaped by culture and life’s experiences. So the author’s intention in the writing is deconstructed, i.e. altered by the reader. The reader determines what the author means. Postmodern deconstruction turns an author’s meaning on its head. The reader determines the meaning.

Silmarien, in your post here, I didn’t read anything that told me I must read it as postmodern deconstruction. I observe how close postmodern deconstruction is to allegorical interpretation. Postmodern deconstruction tears the heart out of any document. You cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get your driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

Therefore, it makes no sense to interpret the Bible, your writing on Christian Forums.net, or your local newspaper using postmodern deconstruction. It’s a great way for any reader to make a writing say anything he/she wants it to say. The fact remains that the true meaning of a text or spoken word is based on what the writer or speaker intended for it to mean. Anything else is an imposition on the text.

So, you do not engage in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’. You are selective in what you deconstruct. That’s your liberal bias coming into play and that bias needs to be exposed if you are going to read the Bible objectively and not impose your deconstructed message on it.

D. More examples of liberal bias intruding

All of us need to be aware of how our presuppositions can interfere with our interpretations of documents.

1. Presuppositions meet a brick wall of liberal bias

He wrote:

I would say that everyone has presuppositions when it comes to reading anything–biblical inerrancy is as much a presupposition as historical criticism, and an equally modern take. I can’t ignore things like Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism or Platonic elements in Christian theology, so my options are 1) abandon all religion as inherently manmade, or 2) accept that cultural influences don’t negate the truth value of a religion as a whole. I’m actually an existentialist with my reading of Scripture–Paul Tillich right now, a bit of Kierkegaard. But when it comes to actual evidence, I do start deconstructing things into meaninglessness. That part is a problem, but the existentialism is kind of necessary for me.[17]

I agree that all of us have presuppositions,[18] but the key to unpacking them is to compare those presuppositions with the evidence from reality.

  • What you’ve done in announcing biblical inerrancy as a presupposition and a modern take, it that this is a throw away line. Why? You provided not one example for us to examine. Norman Geisler’s edited book, Inerrancy (Zondervan 1979), presents biblical and historical evidence to counter your presupposition. Chapter 12 (by Robert Preus) of this book is, ‘The view of the Bible held by the church: The early church through Luther’, in which Irenaeus is cited from his writing, Against Heresies, ‘We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit’ (Against Heresies 2.28.2). Therefore, you are incorrect to state that biblical inerrancy is a ‘modern take’ (‘Scriptures are indeed perfect’, Irenaeus). Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, lived ca. 125-202. That is hardly a modern take in support of inerrancy – the Scriptures are perfect. Chapter 12 of Inerrancy provides other examples from the church fathers in support of inerrancy. Seems like you have a fair amount of research to do to come up with a correct understanding of what the early church fathers believed about the Bible’s perfection in the original documents.
  • Then you provide the unsupported statement of Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism and Platonic influence on Christian theology. That may be so, but you are yet to prove your case. Your assertions merely state your opinions. They don’t provide evidence.
  • Your support of Paul Tillich’s existentialism (I have his Systematic Theology) comes with the critiques of existentialism that don’t make it a worldview to live by. The review, ‘Tillich: An Impossible Struggle’, raises some insuperable difficulties with Tillich’s worldview.
  • Deconstructing into nothingness will lead you to nothingness.
  • Starting with existentialism as being ‘necessary for me’ is a brick wall approach to understanding any world view. You are stuck in a rut of experience that won’t allow you to pursue the evidence wherever it leads because … of your necessity for existentialism. Try existentialism if you are caught speeding and the policeman issues you with a fine. Existentialism is not a world view of reality that leads to payment of the fine.

2. Mysticism’s failures

This inquirer (or stirrer) wrote:

The view of the Gospel of John as a work of mysticism is ancient. It’s only a problem in that it puts me on a different page than most people here–mysticism is one of the major reasons I’m not an atheist. I don’t discount the claims because I think it’s mysticism; I actually take them more seriously. I’m very much on the mystical side, that’s a large part of why taking things at face value does nothing for me. As for Paul… suffice to say that I have no love for 1 Timothy. Apparently there are serious doubts as to its authorship, so that’s one less problem, but there’s still plenty of stuff I’m skeptical about, including his claim to authority when he was never there in the first place. Actually, if you know of any good material on him, I’d definitely appreciate it.[19]

You say,[20] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I acknowledge that the Gospel of John has some different emphases to the Synoptics, but a mystical interpretation, I find, is an imposition on the text. You seem to be engaged in a begging the question logical fallacy. When you start with John’s Gospel as mysticism and conclude with mysticism, you have achieved nothing. It is fallacious reasoning that doesn’t deal with differences between John and the Synoptics.

There are dangers in mysticism. I recommend a read of ‘What is contemplative Spirituality and Why is it Dangerous?’ (John Caddock 1997).

You say ‘taking things at face value does nothing for me’. I wish you luck in trying that approach with buying groceries, abiding by the road rules, reading your local newspaper, or appearing in court to face the evidence?

Concerning the pastoral epistles, I recommend Gordon D Fee’s commentary, ‘New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988). A later edition gives details HERE. Fee has a considerable amount of exposition on the authenticity of the pastoral epistles. See his index on ‘authenticity’. R C H Lenski’s Introduction to the pastoral letters, in my view, more than adequately covers the authorship controversy. See Lenski (1961:473-484).

3. Christian existentialism

Now he launches into a brief statement in support of …

Christian existentialism. 😉 I’m all about faith as the ultimate act of courage. It’s what cured me of my atheism, so when I talk about leaps of faith, shutting off your brain is not remotely what I’m thinking of.

I mention that I’m pretty liberal so that people know what they’re dealing with. I don’t know where to start with conservative scholarship and definitely do want to take a look at the other side of the story. I know there’s a lot of bad blood between the groups, but please leave me out of it, haha. The infighting is part of what’s stressing me out.[21]

What is Christian existentialism?[22] Would you conclude that this is a reasonable summary of Christian existentialism? It may be defined as

a philosophy of its own that is not compatible with either secular existentialism, nor traditional Christianity. There is a wide variety of forms of existential religion with differing doctrinal beliefs. Kierkegaard and later Karl Barth are sited for attempting to make theology, particularly the Christian faith, compatible with existentialism.

Its premise is that a person must submit themselves totally to God without reasoning — that is, true absolute faith must be void of philosophy or intellect. Religious existentialism then states such things as:

  • A person is autonomous and is fully free to make choices and fully responsible for them
  • Rational grounds for theology and divine revelation do not exist
  • True faith transcends rationalism and God’s commandments
  • The true God is not the God of philosophers or of rationalism
  • The destruction of wars throughout human history proves there cannot be rational understanding of God or humanity
  • A Christian must personally resolve within self the content of faith from being a myth or mystery to being realty or truth before they will allow an understanding and acceptance of salvation
  • It is impossible to discover personal Being and faith through rational reasoning (All About Philosophy: Christian existentialism).

If faith is ‘the ultimate act of courage’ for you, I have to ask, ‘Faith in what? The god of Zoroastrianism; the Jesus who was not raised bodily from the grave; a liberal Jesus who loves people but excludes damnation?

Where to start with conservative scholarship is what I’ve stated: Follow the evidence wherever it leads. However, if you are going to impose your liberal bias, mysticism and existentialism onto the biblical text or an author’s views, you will invent your own god and jesus and won’t allow the conservative scholars to present their cases . You’ll come out with a godhead that looks like the very one with which you began.

For an examination of the conservative side of the resurrection of Jesus, I’d recommend:

(1) The debate between Gary Habermas (Christian) and Antony Flew (atheist who became deist). It’s available in: Gary R Habermas and Antony G N Flew 1987. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate. San Francisco: Harper & Row. In this book, there is a response to the debate by Wolfhart Pannenberg (pp. 125-135). Pannenberg is the European scholar on the resurrection that I mentioned previously to you.

(2) Norman L Geisler 1989. The Battle for the Resurrection. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

(3) James L Snyder 1991: In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer. Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.

Yes, there is considerable controversy between liberal and evangelical Protestants. I encourage you not to become involved in slinging matches but to examine the evidence, based on the claims themselves. This will require for both sides to: (a) Examine their presuppositions in the light of reality; (b) Do not impose one’s worldview on the text. (c) Refrain from the use of logical fallacies in challenging an opponent.

Speaking of logical fallacies, do you remember your statement: ‘His [Norman Geisler’s] endorsement of Donald Trump. clip_image009 In all seriousness, I disapprove immensely of the politicization of religion. He seems to mix the two a fair amount, and that makes me believe that I’m not his intended audience’ (Silmarien #29).

Here you have committed a genetic logical fallacy. Any Christian apologist worth his or her salt should be assessing politicians and their policies. You obviously don’t like Trump, but when you dump Geisler’s views because of his support for Trump, you have not engaged in debate of the issues that Geisler raised. Instead, you have wiped his views because of his assessment of Trump’s views. This is erroneous reasoning.

4. Presuppositions about presuppositions

Image result for clipart false teaching public domainHis ducking and weaving among challenges continued, this time with a red herring fallacy,

Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions! I’m comfortable with the idea of miracles, just disinclined to look at them as evidence when I think such claims would have ended up in the stories regardless of whether or not they happened. Just as I think that if prophecies were not fulfilled, the disciples would have started forcing prophecies to fit events (or events to fit prophecies) one way or the other. I don’t accept these things as evidence, but that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the possibility that they’re true.[23]

You say,[24] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I think you need to ask: ‘What is the truth about reality, especially concerning the person of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection, and second coming?’ The answer to that question, along with, ‘What are the attributes of God?’ will unlock a gold mine that will take you into eternity, with the beloved or the lost.

‘What happens one second after your last breath?’ is a dynamite question for which you need answers.
Your posts do read to me like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

Without Christ changing your life, you will not be able to live up to the high moral standards of Christianity. It’s wishful thinking trying to make it on your own.

5. His struggles

In response to what I wrote above, he admitted his struggles. These are his conflicts within:[25]

  • The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for him);
  • Annihilation doesn’t sound bad;
  • Damnation means everyone is in trouble;
  • You can’t magically not struggle with doubt;
  • Why would you take the Bible at face value?
  • ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’.
  • The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect.
  • You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’.
  • · You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in this statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalise away ‘everything’.
  • ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’.

I replied to him this way:[26]

clip_image011 The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for you). This is an example where you are kicking against the pricks – against God’s revelation to you eternally. This is what I’m talking about: ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (Eccl. 3:11 NIV). You may not understand this revelation of eternity, but you need to recognize eternity is right there in your innermost being. I urge you not to resist the wooing of the Holy Spirit in revealing what is there already. An understanding of it is in everyone’s heart – eternity.

clip_image011[1] Annihilation doesn’t sound bad, he wrote. Of course zapping people out of existence at death sounds better than eternal torment in hell/Hades. However, what’s the truth? You’ll read about it in Scripture and not in your or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[2] Damnation means everyone is in trouble, according to his view. This is not so. Biblical facts determine that only unbelievers experience damnation. See: Matthew 25:46 NIV; John 3:36 ESV. I’m sticking with Scripture and not Silmarien’s or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[3] You can’t magically not struggle with doubt is what he stated. Agreed! Thomas doubted (John 20:24-29), but when evidence is provided to counter the doubt, doubt should subside to the point of being pacified or removed. I encouraged him to meditate on Psalm 77:11-15 (NRSV) to help him with his doubt?

clip_image011[4] Why would you take the Bible at face value? That’s because it’s a book of history and should be interpreted like any other historical book. Try taking the bombing of Pearl Harbor or Richard Nixon’s presidency at other than face value! For the same reason, we take Jesus’ death and resurrection at face value.

clip_image011[5] ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’. I think you’ve missed the meaning. It means loving the Lord with your entire being. I hope you and I are more than mystical beings involved in mystical activities.

clip_image011[6] The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect is your perspective. That’s one view. I suggest to you that Christianity involves communicating with your inner being with God and that includes the mind.

clip_image011[7] You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’. That’s the human propensity to doubt the historical and supernatural in Christian experience.

clip_image011[8] You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in that statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalize away ‘everything’.

clip_image011[9] ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’. I found that statement confusing, that you are worshipping a god of Zoroastrianism but you are open to teaching on the bodily resurrection and damnation. Are you wanting to worship a God/god of syncretism?

I thanked him for engaging with me in this challenging discussion. I pray that the Lord will guide him into all truth.

‘But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [Paraclete] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment’ (John 16:7-8 NLT).?

He seems to be a seeker but his filter of liberal bias is acting as a blockage.

clip_image012

(image courtesy Pinterest)

E. Conclusion

This person with a self-proclaimed liberal bias came onto an evangelical Christian forum with an agenda of a ‘couple of questions’. That’s shorthand for a number of questions that were filtered through his theological liberal worldview.

I have attempted to expose his presuppositions, many of which do not harmonise with reality and especially with a literal reading of the biblical text. He confused the use of allegorical interpretation with a literal hermeneutic stating that a section of Scripture is allegory. At least he admitted that liberal presuppositions can lead to a slippery slope, by which he meant that the liberal bias descends into something worse – he gave an example of nothingness as one alternative.

He is stuck in a rut, not able to understand or accept the historicity of the Gospels. His leap of faith takes him into mysticism and existentialism. He does not want to understand the Book of Genesis literally but pursues allegorical interpretation.

He did admit that he engages in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’, to which I responded that he did not state he wanted me to read his posts that way. Postmodern deconstruction falls flat with any document. He cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get his driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

I agreed with him that his posts do look like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

One of the major problems with his liberal bias of a worldview is that it colours all of his investigation of life and the Bible. It is way too easy for him to commit a begging the question logical fallacy, by which he starts with a liberal bias in examining anything and concludes with a liberal bias. That gets him nowhere.

The final section on his struggles demonstrates the inconsistencies in his world view. His liberal presupposition overwhelm his ability to consider the claims of Scripture at face value.

F. Works consulted

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Lenski, R C H 1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (earlier published by Lutheran Book Concern 1937; The Wartburg Press 1946; Augsburg Publishing House 1961; Hendrickson Publishers, Inc edn 2001).

Kurish, N & Fernandez, M 2017. Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US. Brisbane Times, 29 January 2017. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-as-donald-trumps-antimuslim-executive-order-comes-into-force-20170128-gu0p5o.html (Accessed 29 January 2017).

G.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2017. Questions for Christians (Q&A), Silmarien#8. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/couple-of-questions.68199/#post-1292985 (Accessed 21 January 2017).

[2] The following points are in ibid., OzSpen#17.

[3] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[5] This is my reply at ibid., OzSpen#52, #53.

[6] Kulish & Fernandez (2017).

[7] Misogyny means ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women’ (Oxford dictionaries online 2017. s v misogyny).

[8] Deconstruction means ‘detailed examination of a text in order to show there is no fixed meaning but that it can be understood in a different way by each reader’ (Cambridge dictionary 2017. s v deconstruction).

[9] Christian Forums.net 2017. Silmarien#54.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[11] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[13] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[15] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[17] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[19] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#71.

[21] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#72.

[23] Ibid., Silmarien#69.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[25] Ibid., Silmarien#76.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#87.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 February 2017.

Question on religion: Australian Census 2016

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Australian 2016 Census form, Question 19 [1]

Image: question 19 on the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

(The above question is from the Australian paper 2016 Census Household Form)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

One of Australia’s online ejournals, On Line Opinion, agreed to publish my article, Is ‘no religion’ a new religion? (19 July 2016). At the time of last edit of this clip, there were 125 Comments on the article, which is a very high quantity, when compared with other articles. I’d recommend a read of this article to glean my concern over Q 19. ‘What is your religion?’ in the Australian 2016 Census to be taken on 9 August 2016. Instead of placing ‘No religion’ at the bottom of the options, as in 2010, it is now the first option.

Here are some of my own Comments (as OzSpen) to people who responded. They are organised according to topics, so will not be in chronological order:

A.  Definitions of religion

Direction

(image courtesy ChristArt)

designRed-small Space prevents my answering each one of you but I’m noticing some trends in your responses.

1. Ignoring the extended definitions I gave beyond the 1997 Macquarie Dictionary (large 3rd ed). I included information from eminent NT scholar who has taught at Oxford University, Prof N T Wright, and also by Michael Bird and James Anderson.

2. There was a range of logical fallacies committed (this is a limited number of examples):

(a) Appeal to Ridicule (‘Putting your religion on the census form just tells us that you are incapable of making sense of life and have resorted to some pre-packaged explanation for it all’, phanto Tues;

(b) Red Herring Fallacy (Plantagenet, Tues, THOR);
(c) Genetic Fallacy (Cobber the hound, Tues ‘A poor argument poorly made, well worthy of a PHD in religious studies’);
(d) Ad Hominem Fallacy (Suseonline, Tues, ‘Especially the far-right loonie-toons’). All of these involve fallacious reasoning.

3. Jardine (Tues): ‘Everything – every human action – amounts to worldview in action. If you go up the shop to buy some milk, that, according to your definition, is “religion”…. This means your theory is wrong. And useless’. For you to reach that conclusion, you didn’t carefully read the contents I gave of the meaning of religion and worldview.

4. Shadow Minister (Tues): You say that ‘most of us simply don’t believe in anything, and don’t give a crap what anyone else believes as long as they keep it to themselves’. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be making your comments here. Your argument is self-defeating.

Many of you disagree with the perspective I have presented. I didn’t expect much support or unanimity, but I thank you for engaging with the content of my article with OLO (contd).

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:25:33 AM

designRed-small This is a continuation of my observations of some of the comments you have made to my article.

1. AJ Philips (Tues), you say, ‘All the sophistry in the world won’t make atheism a religion’ and then you refused to read the rest of the article in which I defined my understanding of religion and worldview. Your refusal to read the article sounds awfully like a closed mind, yet you still interacted with others who had read the article! Andy Bannister disagrees with you. See ‘The Scandinavian Sceptic (or Why Atheism Is a Belief System)’.

2. One of the rules of OLO is ‘Do not flame’. I found several inflammatory comments: ‘I didn’t bother reading the rest of the article. When you can’t even grasp such basic definitions and concepts, or are dishonest enough to try to fit a square peg in a round hole, then there is no point in continuing’; ‘Environmentalism and the Loony Green Left are the new religion’; ‘the something from nothing brigade are certainly the most irrational believers we have today’; ‘Religion is like a penis’, and ‘Declaring synonymy between the two is blatant, self-serving balderdash’.

3. I will engage briefly with the more lengthy posts by Rational Razor, Form Designer, and Pogi later, as I have time.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:28:58 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor,

I refer to your Tues post. You are sounding more like a supporter of Hugh Harris’s promotion of secularism in schools and elsewhere.

1. Since you did not identify your source for a definition of secularism, I am left to conclude it comes out of the mind of RR. Your view differs from that of the Macquarie Dictionary (1997, 3rd ed. s v secularism), which gives the definition as ‘1. secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship. 2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of the religious element’. It defines ‘secular’ as ‘1. Of or relating to the world; or to things not religious, sacred, or spiritual; temporal; worldly’. My article is contending that secularism is as religious as, say, humanism, environmentalism, consumerism, socialism, etc. The Rationalist Society of Australia’s ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia’ is as forthright an example of a Statement of Belief as I’ve seen in any church or denomination.

2. It is not incongruous to claim secularism is at odds with Section 116 of the Constitution if one understands secularism is as religious as Christianity. If the Rationalists want to impose a secular 10-point plan on Australia, that would violate Section 116 if secularism is considered to be religion, having a worldview and praxis (see my article).

3. Your #3 point here is trumped up. My point is that I’m raising the issue that ‘No religion’ can be very religious once one understands the dynamics of the religious categories. My article has nothing to do with making Christians look better. It has to do with honesty about the nature of religion. (continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:12:23 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor, (continuation)

4. Please provide the evidence for this point of yours (Tues post) that Australia regards religion as relating to ‘some sort of supernatural entity’. Your statement, ‘This is why ethics and philosophy cannot be taught at the same time as fundamentalist religious instruction in QLD Schools’. There is no ‘fundamentalist religious instruction in Qld schools’(I live in Qld). There is Christian religious instruction, Hindu religious instruction, Muslim religious instruction, etc. (depending on the distribution of such students – and availability of instructors). ‘Fundamentalist religious instruction’ is your pejorative imposition.

5. Of course people are entitled to say that they have ‘no religion’ on the Census of 9 August, but I’m raising the issue that it is a misnomer for many of the –isms around, including secularism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. You say, ‘Most secular people are united in wanting an end ot (sic) the conspicuous privileging of outdated and largely irrelevent (sic) Christian religious beliefs in our society’. This is an example of your promotion of a straw man fallacy against the accurate content of Christianity. I hope you live long enough to meet some people whose lives have been radically changed by an encounter with the living Jesus Christ who is not your anachronistic ‘outdated and largely irrelevant Christian religious beliefs’.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:15:40 AM

designRed-small Pogi (Wed),

Your Budget Macquarie Dictionary (3rd. ed 2000) does not agree with the citation I provided. I cited from my hard copy of the unabridged Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion) as I stated in the article. It was the first definition. I wasn’t lying. You have the audacity to quote from the Budget Macquarie Dictionary 3rd ed 2000 but you didn’t bother to check the edition from which I quoted to demonstrate I quoted the truth from Macquarie.
You have invented what I did not say by using a red herring fallacy. You go to a definition of theology, which I did not provide. That wasn’t my emphasis. I provided the definition of religion as ‘a quest for the values of the ideal life’ that involved 3 practices:

(1) The ideal life,

(2) the practices for attaining the values of the ideal, and

(3) the theology or world view relating to the quest for the environing universe (Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion). I didn’t invent any of this in the article. It was obtained directly from Macquarie. You are inventing a straw man when you try to dissociate religion from world view. This is not ‘self-serving balderdash’ (Appeal to Ridicule Fallacy) but what a dictionary designates.

It is obviously not what you like, but your analogies of things flying and things swimming do not float because I was dealing with a definition of how to pursue ‘the quest for the ideal life’ (Macquarie Dictionary). If you think things flying or swimming are a quest for the ideal life, so be it. I’m not into that kind of fantasy or speculation.

You claim, ‘We are made of the same stuff as the stars’. Are you kidding? With flesh and blood?
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:51:07 AM

B.  Census Form – redesign

The 2016 Census paper has the category, ‘No religion’, at the top of Q 19: ‘What is the person’s religion?’ See this comparison of 2011 and 2016 Census Forms (image courtesy Hugh Harris, October 31, 2015, New Matilda):

designRed-small Form Designer,

That’s a creative, alphabetical approach to the ‘What is your religion?’ question 19 on the Census form. I cannot imagine the ABS wanting to do your suggested detailed Q 19 for religion as that would require a similar approach to detail in every other question (but surely that is a reasonable request if the ABS is wanting comprehensive Census data).

If the Question remains – as it will be for Census 2016 – who do you think will be completing the ‘No religion’ category? Atheists, agnostics, secularists, environmentalists, socialists, etc.? My point is that the ‘No religion’ category is so poorly defined that the information gained would be essentially useless to decipher, as it tells nothing about those who comprise this group.

There’s the complicating factor that atheists and secularists (for example) wouldn’t like to be included in the broad definition of religion provided by the Macquarie Dictionary.

Ian Royall’s article in the Herald Sun (‘Campaign for “no-religion” census hits advertising block at major shopping centres’, 13 July 2016) admits this: ‘In the 2011 census, 4.7 million, or 22 per cent, chose the “no religion” box or wrote down atheism, agnosticism, humanism or rationalism in the “other, please specify” box’. At least some acknowledged that atheism, agnosticism, humanism and rationalism fit in the category of ‘other religion’. This is the point that I’m raising. They are religions, but are not often seen as such, but need to be exposed for what they are – religious.

The ‘no religion’ campaign for the 2016 Census is promoted by the Atheist Foundation of Australia Ltd, with campaign sponsors, Rationalist Society of Australia and Sydney Atheists (see http://censusnoreligion.org.au/).
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:43:28 AM

C.  Imposition on biblical text

designRed-small RationalRazor (Friday),

Your razor is not too sharp today with your presuppositional impositions on Christianity. This kind of statement by you is void of historical and biblical content: ‘”Accurate content of Christianity”? Please! Whatever could you mean? The unverifiable metaphysical claims? The fact that even Christians can’t agree with each other on the basic beliefs. Was Jesus born of a virgin? IS there a Hell? Which discrepant gospel is true? Does it not occur to you that the “accurate content” you speak of is founded upon unprovable assertions. As a well known physicist once said – unverifiable claims are “not even wrong.”’

Eminent Australian historian, Christian, and former teacher of history at Macquarie University, Sydney, Dr Paul W Barnett, begs to differ with you when he investigates “Jesus and the Logic of History” (1997. Leicester, England: Apollos). His assessment is that ‘for us today and for all who have lived beyond the lifespan of Jesus, he can only be the Christ of faith. Nevertheless, that those who lived after the first Easter were people of such faith is itself not a matter of faith but a historical fact… We stand on sure grounds of sound historical method when we reply that the Christ of the early church’s faith was, without discontinuity, the truly historical figure Jesus of Nazareth’ (Barnett 1997:35). I can cite eminent scholars who provide similar historical verification for the Old Testament.

Your presuppositional rationalism and secularism seem to be standing in the way of permitting the historical method to be used to assess details about the historical Jesus.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 12:17:48 PM

D.  Secular religion admitted

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small Dear RationalRazor (Thurs),

Thank you for identifying that you are the Hugh Harris to whom I referred. I had a hunch you were that person, based on your style of writing and the content of posts.
You don’t like the idea of secularism being identified as a religion. However, it’s way too late to try to convince me otherwise.

Back as far as the late 1930s, there were writers identifying ‘secular religion’. I don’t like using Wikipedia as a source as it is not all that reliable. However its article on ‘secular religion’ is a starter of identification of the ideology of secular religion. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_religion. As World War 2 was approaching, F A Voigt, a British journalist who opposed totalitarianism, identified Marxism and National Socialism (Nazism) as promoters of ‘secular religion’.

Why? It was because of their fundamental beliefs in authoritarianism, messianic and eschatological views.

Paul Vitz has identified self-worship psychology as ‘secular religion’ (Vitz 1977:145).

Emilo Gentile wrote “Politics as Religion” (2006. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). His first chapter deals with ‘secular religion’. He stated that

the sacralization of politics was given a further impetus during the nineteenth century by various cultural and political movements, such as romanticism, idealism, positivism, nationalism, socialism, communism, and racism, which all put forward global concepts of human existence by adopting various aspects of secular religions intent upon replacing traditional religions. These religions could be defined as religions of humanity…. Any human activity from science to history or from entertainment to sport can be invested with “secular sacredness” and become the object of a secular cult, thus constituting a “secular religion”. In politics, however, the term “secular religion” is often adopted as a synonym for civil religion or political religion…. The concept of a secular religion was therefore already in use by the thirties as a definition for the forms in which totalitarian regimes created political cults (Gentile 2006:xvi, 1, 2).

Therefore, your views promoted in this thread, and consistent with the Rational Society of Australia’s ‘10 point plan for a secular Australia’, fits succinctly under the rubric of secular religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 2:09:38 PM

E.  Confusion of religion with relationship with God

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small G’day Yuyutsu (your Friday post),

You stated, ‘Secularism is not a religion because it does not help its practitioners to come closer to God’. I provided evidence to demonstrate that secularism was a religion or that there are a number of –isms that have been identified as ‘secular religions’.

Since writing my article for OLO, I have located the National Geographic’s, ‘The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion’ (April 22 2016). Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/.

This article states that

‘But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)’

My understanding, as a Christian, is that you seem to have confused religion with relationship. It was Jesus who stated, ‘’My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). The way to move closer to God is to be one of his sheep so that one is able to hear his voice, know who He is, and follow Him. That’s called discipleship – based on a relationship with Jesus – and it is not defined as religion.

The Old Testament gives a similar emphasis: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24) [continued]
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:13:29 PM

designRed-smallYuyutsu (Friday, continued),

However, the Christian faith does believe in pure religion and distinguishes it from worthless religion. This is how it is described: ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:26-27).

So the pure, worthy Christian religion proceeds from a relationship with God the Father. It is behavioural and needs to tame the tongue, care for orphans and widows who are distressed, and keeps the person from worldly pollution This worldliness could include secularism, humanism, environmentalism, Communism, consumerism, unhealthy thinking, etc.

It is other-centred in behaviour and also cares about godliness in the individual.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:16:10 PM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),

You stated: <<We are all related with God, it’s impossible otherwise, but only some of us actively and consciously seek to come closer to Him. ‘Religion’ is the path that we take to approach God: if the path that we are on does not lead to God, then it cannot be called a “religion” – no matter how many dictionaries say otherwise.>>
That is not my Christian perspective that we are all related to God. We all are made in ‘the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) but we are separated from God because of our sin: ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:2).

As for the word for ‘religion’ in James 1:26-27, I am well aware of what the Greek NT says as I read and teach NT Greek.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in Greek, we find some answers.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in secular Greek, we find some answers.

In the next verse, James 1:27, it speaks about ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God’. What is pure and undefiled? So ‘religion’ can be either worthless or worthy.
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta] – related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We find the noun in …
(continued)
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:02:13 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),
(continued)

We also find the noun in …
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta]- related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We also find the noun in …

• Acts 26:5 where Paul states that ‘according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee’ (ESV). What factors caused the Pharisees to be proud about their religion? The Pharisees were very influential at the time of Jesus and Paul. Pharisees meant ‘the separated ones, separatists’. John 9:16 helps us to see what kind of religion they were promoting, ‘Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them’. What did they require Jesus to do on the Sabbath? ‘There were 39 prohibited groups of activities on the sabbath’ for the Pharisees and they stressed the law that ‘contained 613 commandments (248 positive, 365 negative’. So what kind of religion is it from Acts 26:5 that Paul used to practise? It was external religion and that is the negative kind that James is talking about. It’s religion by external appearances.

Thayer’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of threskeia [first e=eta] as ‘primarily fear of the gods; religious worship, especially external, that which consists in ceremonies’, while the noun, threskos [e=eta] refers to ‘fearing or worshipping God; religious (apparently from trew; to tremble; hence properly trembling, fearful)’.[3] So it is possible to perform external religious ceremonies from a correct motive. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

There’s one other verse that uses this word for ‘religion’ in the NT:
• Colossians 2:18 states, ‘Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels’. There’s that word again, threskeia [first e=eta], ‘worship’. Here, worship of angels, which is talking about worthless religion.

James 1:26-27 uses ‘religious’ and ‘religion’ (adjective and noun) from the same root. James is careful to show the difference between worthy and worthless religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:31:55 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu,

You don’t like the idea that religion is defined as ‘belief in deities’. In fact, you state it is a wrong definition.

‘Believe in’ is a legitimate way to describe what one does in relation to God or other deities. We see an example of this in the NT Book of Acts, chapter 16. The context involved the prisoners, the apostle Paul, his friend Silas and the other prisoners in Philippi. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God around midnight and the other prisoners were listening, there was a great earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison, the doors were opened and prisoner bonds were broken.
When the prison jailer (person in charge of the jail) woke to see this, he was so distraught that he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide. Paul shouted, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here’. The jailer’s response was to call for lights and he fell down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. He exclaimed, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

Their response was, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31). ‘Believe in’ is the Greek, pisteuson peri [it should have been epi – my error], meaning, ‘believe upon/in’. It could have been pisteuson eis (i.e. believe into). The meaning of ‘to believe’ in NT terms means to put all of a person’s trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus. By this kind of trust of the inner being (the heart) of a person, he or she throws the personality into Jesus’ arms for deliverance from sin and to receive eternal salvation.

Epi, the preposition, is used to indicate this trust is to rest on Jesus. This is what the jailer had to ‘do’ to be saved.

Thus, ‘believe in’ God is a legitimate way of describing one’s commitment to God.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 1 August 2016 4:03:52 PM

F.  Use of logical fallacies

(image courtesy chopcow.com)

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can throw a discussion way off topic and may even get to the point where continuing a discussion is nigh impossible. It is important to recognise, name and explain how these fallacies are used in discussion.

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday),

You claim ‘the razor is rational’ but then proceed to give a few irrational razors of responses. You suggest ‘beliefs merited by sufficient evidence’. But you violated that immediately with this statement: ‘Surely, you acknowledge that even if one accepts Jesus is a real historical figure, it doesn’t prove anything about God or Christianity? I accept that the balance of Biblical scholarship agrees there was a historical figure of Jesus, but they don’t agree on much more than his baptism and crucifixion’. You leave out a stack of evidence and then skew the evidence to try to justify your own secular, ‘rational’ reasons. They turn out to be irrational in this example.

Here you have used a faulty generalisation logical fallacy, which gives the meaning of this fallacy, ‘When a conclusion based on induction is unwarranted by the degree of relevant evidence or ignores information that warrants an exception’. So you have engaged in fallacious (erroneous) reasoning because you have not provided one scrap of evidence to demonstrate the reliability or otherwise of the OT and NT documents.

Instead, you have chosen to dump your rationalistic, secular, false views on me, by providing not one piece of evidence to show how documents are found to be historically reliable or unreliable. I have already cited Australian historian, Dr Paul W Barnett’s, views to refute your perceptions here (“Jesus and the Logic of History” 1997). Barnett has refuted your irrational reasoning regarding the NT in his other publications: ‘Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity’ (1999); ‘Is the New Testament history? (2003)’; ‘The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years’(2005); ‘Paul: Missionary of Jesus’ (2008); and ‘Finding the Historical Christ’ (2009).
(continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:23:06 PM

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday, continued),

As for the OT, the late Professor Kenneth Kitchen, Personal and Brunner Professor of Egyptology at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, conducted research on the credibility of the OT, writing ‘On the Reliability of the Old Testament’ (2003 Eerdmans). He wrote: ‘We have a consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all’ (Kitchen 2003:500).

You say, ‘The gospels did not form part of the earliest narrative and are wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life, mostly borrowed from ancient myth’. I agree that the Gospels do not form the earliest narratives of the NT. They belong to the Pauline epistles and historian Paul Barnett acknowledged this as the point of entry into historical assessment of the NT in ‘Jesus and the Logic of History’ (1997:41ff). However, you continue with your faulty generalisation fallacies with description of the NT narrative as ‘wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life’ and ‘borrowed from ancient myth’. I grant that a Comment section in OLO is not the easiest place to engage in detailed discussion of the historical viability or otherwise for any document from history. But this is not the place for you to dump your irrational presuppositions regarding discrepant, mythical accounts. Therefore, you have demonstrated that RationalRazor can become IrrationalRazor very quickly.

‘Does hell exist?’ And you want to discuss the Trinity. One of the rules of OLO is to stay on topic, thus violating this rule. To discuss whether hell exists is for a time when you are prepared to examine the evidence for the credibility of the OT and NT documents.

‘Not only is there no evidence, there is no consensus’, you say. That’s a red herring fallacy. This is fallacious reasoning.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 3:58:27 PM

designRed-smallRationalRazor,

It is you who stated that this information came from me: ‘The historicity of Jesus proves the “accurate content of Christianity”‘. I do not believe that; I did not state that; you have invented that about my views.

You are the one being obtuse by inventing something I did not say. So you have created a straw man fallacy about my views by creating a view I do not promote.

We have no basis to continue a rational conversation when you use the fallacious reasoning of a straw man fallacy in regard to what I wrote.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 9:26:18 PM

designRed-small Pogi,

You wrote: <<I think theist motives, when logically examined, are unintentionally acknowledging that the baggage that accompanies religious faith limits resort to logic, hinders rational reasoning and thus is disadvantageous to those so encumbered. Apparently martyrdom doesn’t always satisfy.>>

You have confirmed what a Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley for 30 years, Phillip E Johnson, concluded: ‘One who claims to be a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs’ (1998).

You are sceptical of the views I wrote because of your own contrary set of beliefs.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 30 July 2016 12:14:57 PM

See my articles

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion.

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

coil-gold-sm Christians and their use of logical fallacies

coil-gold-sm One writer’s illogical outburst

coil-gold-sm Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

H.  Conclusion

When I raised the issue of ‘No religion’ on the 2016 Australian Census form as possibly demonstrating that this was opportunity for a ‘new religion’ in an article for On Line Opinion (19 July 2016), the anti-Christians came out of the woodwork to label me with all sorts of false tags. The use of logical fallacies was evident throughout their replies. I don’t recall even one overt Christian who replied.

However, the issue needs to be exposed and even the National Geographic wrote an article this year to expose the ‘No religion’ category that may be rising in the Western world but is decreasing in the African world.

The Scriptures are clear that there are no such people as the ‘no religion’ school who do not know of God’s existence. This is stated clearly in Romans 1:18-20 (NIV), ‘

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

No human being on the planet will be able to stand before God and deny God’s existence because the truth of God’s invisible qualities (his eternal power and divine nature) are clearly seen in creation. This leaves human beings without excuse when they stand before God.

What causes their resistance to God? Romans 1:18 states it clearly: They ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’. From God’s perspective, he does not believe in atheists (see John Blanchard 2000).

I.  Notes

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015. ‘2008.0 – Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016’, released 28 August 2015 (Canberra Time). Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2008.0~2016~Main%20Features~Religious%20affiliation~111 (Accessed 23 July 2016).

J.  Works consulted

(photo The Right Rev Dr Paul Barnett, Moore College, faculty)

Barnett, P W 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Barnett, P W 1999. Jesus and the rise of early Christianity: A history of New Testament times. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Barnett, P W 2003. Is the New Testament history? 2nd rev ed. Sydney South: Aquila Press.

Barnett, P W 2005. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P W 2008. Paul: Missionary of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P 2009. Finding the historical Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Blanchard, J 2000. Does God believe in atheists? Darlington, England/Auburn MA, USA: Evangelical Press.

Gentile, E 2006. Politics as religion. Tr. by G Staunton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

Vitz, P C 1977. Psychology as religion: The cult of self-worship. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 July 2016.

Journalistic bias in an online newspaper

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

 

Newspaper-5

(image courtesy freeimages)

newspaper_aubanel_monnie_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01

By Spencer D. Gear PhD

If a newspaper regularly published articles exposing the negative qualities of Chinese restaurants (one of my favourite foods) but not a word about other restaurants, I’d suspect the publication had a bias.

If the Brisbane Times only published material in favour of the Labor Party and gave no or little coverage to the Liberals/Nationals, there would be an outcry – as there ought to be.

When it comes to Christianity in religious instruction (RI) conducted in state schools in Queensland, it is legitimate for two writers for the Brisbane Times, Amy Remeikis and Hugh Harris, to denigrate Christianity. The purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld (as exposed in these articles) but to demonstrate the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses.

1. Bias beefed up newspaper_aubanel_monnie_01

That is what is happening with the Brisbane Times in its online attack on RI in the state schools. I first noticed it earlier this year with Amy Remeikis, ‘Should religion be part of the Queensland state school curriculum?’ (Feb 28 2016).[1] Here, Remeikis presented the anti-RI perspective. There was not one comment from anyone supporting RI, thus presenting intolerance against Christianity and the content of the RI curriculum.

Remeikis did provide some evidence of the RI requirements in another article, ‘”No plans” to change religious instruction in Queensland state schools’ (March 23 2016).[2] However, the presentation of bias in the name of opposition to RI continued by Ms Remeikis in ‘Religious instruction in state schools “soliciting” children to Christian faith’ (June 6 2016).[3]

Remeikis is at it again with ‘Race elements of religious education materials “highly offensive”: Minister’ (Remeikis 2016). Particularly note the comments in this article from Indigenous Christian users of the Connect curriculum:

“I fully endorse the Connect curriculum for Aboriginal students,” Rev Corowa said in a statement released by the QRIN [Qld Religious Instruction Network].

“I have been using it for many years across all year levels.  I love it.  No student or instructor of RI has ever expressed a problem about the material to me.  I believe that the teaching approach is culturally sensitive to the particular needs of Aboriginal students.

“In particular I agree that Aboriginal students can be most teachable when sitting outside in small groups under a tree.  And I never met any student who did not enjoy a barbecue lunch on a Friday.”

Comment was also anonymously provided from a second “Aboriginal community member and Christian leader” via the QRIN.

“I dispute any attempt to claim the Connect material is racist,” the unnamed defender said.

“…I am grateful that Connect has acknowledged the cultural differences of Aboriginal students and our unique role as first peoples of this land.  I’m also sure that all my students, of any culture, would much prefer any education and yarning take place sitting under a tree with a BBQ lunch afterwards.”

2. Controversial, biased articles

It seemed as though writers for the Brisbane Times were watching for opportunities to pounce on something in the RI curriculum to complain about in the next article. This happened in three contentious, anti-Christian articles from a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Hugh Harris:

(a) ‘Religious Instruction in Queensland schools is discriminatory’ (March 14 2016);[4]

(b) ‘The horrifying religious instruction classes planned for Qld schools (April 20 2016),[5] and

(c) ‘Connect religious instruction says vampires fake but Bible is fact’ (June 27 2016).[6]

There are issues that emerge from these articles in the Brisbane Times that include the fact that not one writer in 2016 has been published prior to 30 June 2016 who supported Christianity’s place in the RI curriculum in the state school system. This is an example of partiality in favour of writers who are antagonistic to Christianity and one who overtly supports the agenda of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

I have at least two major issues with Harris’s article of June 27: (1) He promotes a begging the question fallacy, and (2) His refusal to recognise or demonstrate that Christianity is an historical religion. I will address only the first of these.

2.1 Circular reasoning explained

Circular reasoning 4CWhat is a question begging or circular reasoning fallacy? If you start an article or discussion believing that Australian state schools ought to be secular and your conclusion is the same (schools must be secular), then you have committed the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. This also is called begging the question. Hugh Harris begins with the assumption that schools should be secular and concludes that RI should not be taught because we need secular schools.

We can explain this in a more detailed way. The Nizkor Project[7] demonstrates that this fallacy is one in which the premise includes the claim that the conclusion is true. It generally has the following form:

  1. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
  2. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

It is erroneous reasoning because assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) does not provide evidence to reach that conclusion. Harris’s question begging fallacy follows from his association with QPSSS (Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools) and has this pattern:

Harris: The organisation, QPSSS, does not want Christianity in the Qld state school curriculum. (Note: He provided the link to the QPSSS webpage[8] in the first sentence of his article, thus indicating his support of its position.)

QPSSS: ‘QPSSS is a movement for parents and other interested

persons who would like to see state schools become truly secular as befits a multi-cultural, multi-faith country such as Australia’ (also found on the website of Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc).[9]

Harris: Let me find stories in the Connect RI curriculum so that I can denigrate Christianity in the RI state school curriculum. This included rejecting the aspects of the Bible as history.

QPSSS: ‘Tell us what you think. What role should religion play[10] in state school education?’

Harris: ‘The gravest concern is the contest for children’s souls,[11] which is the clear and explicit focus of the Youthworks Connect RI program’.

[For a simpler explanation of how circular reasoning works, see the ‘Feedback’ section 5 below.]

Of course Harris would conclude with objections to contesting for children’s souls through the Christian Youthworks Connect RI program. Why? That is the premise on which he began his article, with a commitment to secular school education.

When he concludes with his presuppositions, he has not dealt with the issues relating to why there is Christian RI in curriculum time in Qld schools. This is question begging erroneous reasoning that the Brisbane Times should not be tolerating from its writers. To which religion did Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, swear at her coronation in 1953? She is still Australia’s sovereign.

3. Rationalist, secular worldview in action

high-voltage-warningIn addition, as a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Harris affirms the ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia[12] in which ‘all Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. His presupposition as a rationalist is for ‘a secular, pluralistic and democratic Australia’ which is promoting godlessness.

What are some of the other beliefs of the Rationalist Society of Australia?

  1. ‘All Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. Why remove all references to God if God exists and belief in God needs to be supported?
  2. ‘Children not to suffer because of the religious views of their parents’.
  3. ‘Education to be strictly secular, not promoting any particular religion’.[13]

Thus, Hugh Harris’s commitment to secular, atheistic thinking in his worldview influences what he promotes in opposing RI in the state school system. This most definitely is circular reasoning. He starts with the presupposition that Australia is to be a secular, pluralistic and democratic society. This manifests itself in education that is to be ‘strictly secular’ and favouring no one religion. So, it gets up his nose when he finds RI taught in the public school. So he opposes it in print and the Brisbane Times gave him space to present his biased worldview of secular atheism.

3.1 What’s the definition of secularism?

The National Society of Secularism (UK) states that ‘secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law’.[14]

Secularism is not atheism.

Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Secularism simply provides a framework for a democratic society. Atheists have an obvious interest in supporting secularism, but secularism itself does not seek to challenge the tenets of any particular religion or belief, neither does it seek to impose atheism on anyone.

Secularism is simply a framework for ensuring equality throughout society – in politics, education, the law and elsewhere, for believers and non-believers alike.[15]

The Macquarie Dictionary (3rd ed) defines secularism as ‘secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship’ and ‘the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element’ (1997. s v secularism).[16] Christian philosophers, J P Moreland and William Lane Craig explain that secularism is ‘a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith and worship. Its primary objective is the total elimination of all religious elements from society’ (in Got Questions? 2016)[17]

The Rationalist Society of Australia states, ‘It’s time to return Australia to its secular roots’.[18] To the contrary, Australia was founded by Christians through the chaplain on the first fleet, evangelical Anglican clergyman, Richard Johnson,[19] and our roots were affirmed by our current head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, who swore allegiance to the Christian faith at her coronation on 2 June 1953.[20] We have a Governor-General in Australia to represent the Queen and her support of Christianity. Australia’s roots are not secular, but Christian.

Therefore, Harris’s secularist worldview drives his presupposition that schools in Qld should be secular. What is a secular school? He does not answer this and I found its promotion on an atheism website.[21] Therefore, Australian atheists have some bonding with secularists.

Circular reasoning amounts to illogic in action. No Queenslanders should fall for Mr Harris’s erroneous thinking. He wants RI out of the state school system and suspended immediately.[22] That’s the presupposition with which he begins and that’s where he concludes. It’s fallacious question begging reasoning.

3.2 One-way street until….

What did the Brisbane Times do with Harris’s promotion of secularism and call for the elimination of religion from state schools? It gave him several opportunities to ply his rationalist, secularist wares but without opportunity for Christian representatives to respond to expose his tactics. This bias in favour of secularism is exposed in my article. They should have been seeking people from the RI network in Qld to respond to Harris’s allegations.

However, it was only on the day I was writing the first draft of this article (June 30, 2016) that I became aware that the Brisbane Times eventually gave opportunity for Paul Clark, a promoter of RI, to show some of the benefits of RI in ‘Queensland religious instruction gives parents freedom’ (Brisbane Times, June 30, 2016).[23] Clark is ‘acting chair for Queensland’s Christian Religious Instruction Network, a former, decorated teacher, a children’s author and religious instructor’. Rev Clark of Redcliffe Uniting Church, Qld., told me that he had previously submitted an article of reply to the RI antagonism to the Brisbane Times but it was rejected for publication.

4. Am I using the same fallacy?

Could this be the pot calling the kettle black for me, a Christian, when I support Christianity in the RI state school curriculum? It could be seen that way if you didn’t know the facts.

In my education and ministry over the years, I have sought to verify or falsify the tenets of the Christian faith through careful testing of hypotheses relating to Christianity. This was pursued especially in my doctoral dissertation that examined the presuppositions of an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar and I could not verify his conclusions concerning the postmodern Jesus. The Jesus of history will be pursued in another article. However as a starter, see my brief article:

clip_image001 The Bible: fairy tale or history?

Eminent Australian historian (he has been visiting fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University)[24] and former Anglican bishop of North Sydney, Dr Paul Barnett,[25] has concluded that the ‘points of intersection between early Christianity and “secular” history establish that the history of early Christianity is, indeed, genuinely historical and not “mythical” in character’ (Barnett 1997:120).

Barnett as an ancient historian provides evidence that challenges Harris’s attempt to deride the Connect RI curriculum content which states, ‘There aren’t any vampires in the Bible because the Bible is not a made-up book’ (Brisbane Times, June 27 2016).[26] Harris took opportunity to spoof at the curriculum’s statement of the Bible being fact when compared with vampires with language such as, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[27]

5. Feedback

feedback red glossy web iconTwo online newspapers rejected this article.

5.1 Comments, but no publishing of article

I submitted it to the Brisbane Times, 30 June 2016 and was advised on 1 July 2016 that it would not be published because a piece defending RI was published on 30 June 2016. If I wanted to comment on news stories dealing with RI I could send in a comment on that story to make any point I wanted.

This is a fob off because the Brisbane Times had published 6 articles opposed to RI and only one in favour from January 1 – June 30, 2016 as far as I could see and I read that newspaper daily. The editor wants me to make ‘comments’ to RI articles but would not accept a 1200 word article addressing the anti-RI issues.

Imagine it? Encouraging me to write words of comment (generally 20-50 words) to an article and rejecting a full length article challenging Harris’s content, presuppositions and a logical fallacy he used. That’s a cute way to minimise the importance of refuting false reasoning and bias by the Brisbane Times. In taking this line, it censored an opposing view. This is not freedom of the press. It is freedom to gag those who challenge secularism.

5.2 Rejection, but helpful comments

After the rejection by the Brisbane Times, I sent the article to another online newspaper for consideration where it also was rejected and these were the reasons given.

5.3 These are some issues with the article

The editor of this online newspaper wrote:

a. Too close to issue: ‘I’m going to decline it. I think you are too close to the issue and you are not explaining yourself particularly well’.

How can I be ‘too close to the issue’ when I have no connection with RI in the schools and am on no RI board? In this article sent to this magazine (see content above) I stated that ‘the purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld but to expose the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses’. My article was not designed to address RI but the bias of journalism.
Is that not a reasonable critique of what the Brisbane Times did? Or does this online newspaper not like publishing an article that is critical of the content of another online publication?

When I sought clarification from the editor on this, he said that it meant I was not looking at the issue as a member of the general public might. My assumptions about what they might think are wrong were not persuasive. Why? It is because I’m a Christian minister and that is the problem. His view was that I need to try to walk in the public’s shoes a bit better so that I can try to explain what I’m saying in a better way.

My reply to him was that he had assumed too much about my being a Christian minister. It is 24 years since I was pastor of a church. Before my retirement in 2011, I worked 17 years straight as a counsellor and counselling manager with rebel youth and their disillusioned parents. Most of these were with secular clients. I’ve been up to my neck in dealing with out of control youth, drug addiction, severe depression, marriage and family breakdown. I know what it is to walk with the down and out.
However, I’ve spent the last 5 years writing a 488 page PhD dissertation exposing presuppositions of one of the leading postmodern, reader-response historical Jesus scholars. I didn’t tell him that that scholar was John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar.

b. Defend religious instruction in schools: ‘Rather than complaining about the Brisbane Times I think you would be much better off mounting a defence of religious instruction in schools’.

That is not my role or responsibility because I do not work in the RI network or instruct RI in schools. It is for those people to pursue.

c. A lot of Christians think it is badly done, alienating and a waste of time, and that might be worth dealing with as well as the issues raised in the Brisbane Times pieces’.

From where did he obtain that information? What are the stats to back it up? Is this based on his and others’ anecdotal evidence? It seems that more research needs to be done by this newspaper before making those kinds of presumptive statements.

His feedback to me was that he doesn’t have any stats to back up his statement about ‘a lot of Christians’. It is anecdotal evidence, and by ‘a lot’ he was not referring to the majority. His evidence is from priests, lay people and his own kids. This was not meant to be a conclusive statement.

I find this to be poor evidence from the editor of an online journal. Surely he deserves better data than anecdotal evidence. At least he was not publishing this but it was in an email to me.

d. Argument hard to follow: ‘I had some difficulty following your argument about assuming the conclusion as well. Might need to look at that again’.

He is correct that my explanation of the Hugh Harris’ use of circular reasoning was not as clear as it ought to have been. He said he had ‘some difficulty in following my argument’.

In addition, my language was too academic. It should be at the literacy level of a 15-year-old, one journalist has told me, if I want to be published in newspapers. I received similar feedback from another person to whom I sent the article. Thanks so much for drawing this to my attention. I hope this is a simpler way of explaining circular reasoning (question begging fallacy). I have created this example, using some information from Hugh Harris’s articles:

Hugh: Qld state schools need to be secular.
RI instructor: In spite of Hugh’s objections, the Qld government’s legislation provides for Christian RI in curriculum time in state schools.

Hugh: The only way to guarantee multicultural views are heard is for us to have fully functioning secular state schools.

Thus, Hugh began with the secular and he concluded with the secular, which is erroneous circular reasoning, also known as a begging the question fallacy.

e. RI issues with curriculum in Brisbane Times.

As for the RI issues raised in the Brisbane Times, they are for RI people who are familiar with the Youthworks, Connect RI curriculum to respond. However, I plan to write an article that deals with the historical reliability of the Bible when compared with secular history, vampires and fairy tales. Is this editor interested in considering for publication? I asked this of him in my return email.

f. ‘I’m also perplexed that apparently in RI you can’t proselytise. Not sure how this is supposed to work. This is a comment on what occurs, not on your article’.

I think the editor made a valid point when he said he doesn’t know how the RI curriculum is not to proselytise. My view is that any explanation, clarification, instruction on the Christian faith (or any other topic) cannot get away from supporting the content of that topic. How can explanations on the Christian faith be excused from proselytising? However, that’s for the RI people to address.

I offered the editor two further articles:

  • ‘Comments designed as distractions’ (this is addressed to those who comment on online articles and push their own agendas. Too often these are not related to the content of the article. I see this happening with many topics in online newspapers or journals.
  • ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’

The editor is interested in my submitting further articles on, (1) The historical reliability of the Bible and, (2) ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’.

5.4  A friend’s critique

I sent the article to a friend for critique and she responded:

a. ‘I think it is a bit too intellectual and deep to be considered in a newspaper. I think the online opinion spot is a better place for it’.

b. ‘However, the points you make are valid and need to be stated.  If I were writing it for publication in a newspaper, I would keep it simple and focus on the hypocrisy/bad journalism of only covering one side of the argument, and then make a case for the historical place of Christianity and RI in our culture and the case for children to be aware of the most published book in history.  It has shaped our Judeo-Christian government and society (at least up to recent times) and from that standpoint alone is worthy of teaching’.

c. ‘My son majored in philosophy at university, so I am acquainted with the circular reasoning problem and other devices used in discussion.  However, for the “common man”, I think it’s best to use examples and points that they can relate to’.

 

Those are excellent points, some of which have been addressed above. She is correct that only covering one side of the argument is poor journalism. However, when I examined J D Crossan’s presuppositions in my doctoral dissertation, he is a leading postmodern, historical Jesus scholar also is interested in only one side of the argument.

He has a one-eyed view of calling on those who principally are his ‘intellectual debt’. Crossan is clear (at least to me) about his view of which scholars he should call on for support and critique of his views. It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original).

That amounts to bias towards his mates’ views. See my articles that deal with this issue:

clip_image001[1] Crossan’s buddies are his scholarly support

clip_image001[2] Only read authors who agree with you?

6. Fundament issues from this encounter

The issues to emerge from this exposure of the Brisbane Times articles and the bias against Christianity include:

  1. Harris wants to get religion out of the state schools. His is a self-defeating position because he wants Christianity out but wants his own religion of secularism in. That’s hypocritical because both are religious positions.
  2. My view is that the responsibility lies with the Brisbane Times to change to an editorial policy that says, ‘We have a responsibility of fairness and justice in our journalism. That means if we present an anti-Christianity article, we MUST allow a right of reply article’. They needed to seek a person to respond to Remeikis’s and Harris’s articles.
  3. Readers need to be alert to how writers attempt to push their own agendas by the use of illogical arguments, using logical fallacies.
  4. I have learned over many years of freelance writing, that there are more rejections of articles than there are acceptance notifications. This is par for the course for me in submitting articles to newspapers or journals. One experienced Christian scholar gave me some wise advice last year after I had submitted a journal article and it was rejected. He said that you need to take note of any feedback you received with the rejection and then submit it over and over to different journals until it is published. That has been his experience.
  5. I’ve learned that I need to modify my writing style to be more in line with the literacy of a mid teen if I want to get published. The editor of the online magazine reduced that even further by saying my writing and sermons should be at the level of a 12-year-old’s education. However, my articles also require more illustrative material for general audience interest.
  6. How should I respond when Harris was objecting, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[28] What would happen if I did not read Harris’s article with a literal understanding of the text? If he wants me to realise that he is talking about a literal RI curriculum called Connect in which there is a narrative about vampires and the Bible not being a made up book, I have to read his article literally. I can imagine some of the creative nonsense I could get up to and write as a postmodern, reader-response interpreter. If he wants me to read his article literally, he needs to give every Christian the right to read Scripture literally.
  7. Literal interpretation always allows for inclusion of symbols and figures of speech. Literal ‘means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning’ (Mickelsen 1963:33).

7. Christians to maintain the higher ground

Image result for clipart religion public domainWhat are the origins of a civilisation’s greatness and which ‘misguided beliefs’ threaten ‘to unravel its progress’? ‘The Bible transformed the social, political, and religious institutions that have sustained Western culture for the past millennium, and discover how secular corruption endangers the stability and longevity of Western civilization’ (Mangalwadi 2011:rear cover).

7.1 Secularism is a religion

Christians must not allow the secularists to control the debate on secular state schools. Secularism itself is a religion. A ‘religion’ can be defined as:

a. ‘a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects’.[29]

b. ‘the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices’.[30]

c. ‘something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience’.[31]

d. ‘A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion’.[32]

On the basis of these definitions, secularism and atheism can be labelled as religions as they contain fundamental sets of beliefs and practices that people follow with great devotion and build their ethical systems on them. Some beliefs of secularism can be found HERE, while some beliefs of atheism are HERE.

8. Conclusion

I pursued the bias and a logical fallacy of Hugh Harris, an author and member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, in his publications against RI in the Brisbane Times. I tried to demonstrate that he engaged in the use of circular reasoning, which is erroneous logic. When he uses such illogical statements, he cannot reason effectively about the content of RI in the state school system.

Secularism was defined and its influence as a religion on Hugh Harris’s worldview was noted.

I took the opportunity to critique the response from one editor who was making judgments on my article that were not consistent with my content.

The content of RI in state schools needs to be addressed by those who are RI leaders and the RI mass media liaison officers. However, I expect that the antagonists of RI will pursue their agenda to try to get it out of curriculum time in the schools (like has happened in the State of Victoria). I expect them to comb RI curricula with a fine-tooth comb to find something to grumble about that does not fit the secular, rationalist or atheistic agendas.

As long as Christians have the opportunity to present RI in the state school system, I encourage them to do and be what Jesus said:

Flower23  ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’ (Matt 5:13 NIV).

Flower23  ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden’ (Matt 5:14 NIV).

9. Works consulted

Barnett, P 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester, England: Apollos.

Cable, K J 2016. Johnson, Richard (1753-1827), Australian dictionary of biography (online). Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/johnson-richard-2275 (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Got Questions 2016. What is secularism? (online). Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Mangalwadi, V 2011, The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Moreland, J P & Craig, W L 2003. Philosophical foundations for a Christian worldview. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Remeikis, A 2016. ‘Race elements of religious education materials ‘highly offensive’: Minister’, Brisbane Times (online), June 20. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/race-elements-of-religious-education-materials-highly-offensive-minister-20160620-gpnpvi.html (Accessed 5 July 2016).

10.  Notes


[1] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/should-religion-be-part-of-the-queensland-state-school-curriculum-20160227-gn5bwb.html (Accessed 30 June 2016)

[2] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/no-plans-to-change-religious-instruction-in-queensland-state-schools-20160323-gnpv8l.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[3] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-state-schools-soliciting-children-to-christian-faith-20160606-gpcxtw.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[4] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-queensland-schools-is-discriminatory-20160311-gngjyd.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[5] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/the-horrifying-religious-instruction-classes-planned-for-qld-schools-20160420-gobbpk.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[6] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[7] Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html (Accessed 20 June 2016).

[8] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/QldParentsSecularStateSchools/photos/a.1444857872442174.1073741827.1443949422533019/1651201725141120/?type=3&theater (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[9] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[10] Available at: http://pandcsqld.townhallapp.io/en/questions/457 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[11] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[12] Available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/10-point-plan-for-a-secular-australia/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Nationalist Secular Society: Challenging religious privilege, ‘What is secularism?’ Available at: http://www.secularism.org.uk/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[15] Ibid.

[16] This is the same definition as that in dictionary.com (2016. s v secularism). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/secularism (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[17] This quote seems to be from Moreland & Craig (2002) but no page number was cited in the Got Questions article and I was unable to locate the page number through Internet searching.

[18] Loc cit., The Rationalist Society of Australia, ’10 point plan for a secular Australia’.

[19] See Cable (2016).

[20] See details of her commitment to the Christian faith for the Commonwealth countries she rules at: http://www.oremus.org/liturgy/coronation/cor1953b.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[21] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[22] Available at: http://rationalrazor.com/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[23] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/queensland-religious-instruction-gives-parents-freedom-20160630-gpv8o6.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[24] See Barnett, P Listings 2016. Available at: http://www.moorebooks.com.au/ap_barnett_p.html (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[25] See The Right Rev Paul Barnett. Available at: https://www.moore.edu.au/emeritus-faculty/paul-barnett (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[26] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] dictionary.com (2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Oxford dictionaries ( 2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 July 2016.

God reveals Himself in nature to everyone

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

(image courtesy partyrichard.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

 

How would you respond to these statements?

bug ‘There is no such person as an atheist’.[1]

 

bug ‘Most natural theology is metaphysical and the current theories of the day for Science do not really have an impact’[2]?

bug ‘Natural theology is anti-biblical as well as unbiblical’ (Morey 2010:396).

 

The importance of natural theology[3]

Scripture, which is revealed theology, focusses on God’s searching for human beings. According to Romans 1:18-32 (NLT), natural theology involves human beings searching for God through the display of Himself in the cosmos – nature.

How does one define natural theology? By it, I mean that attempts are made from evidence in nature that ‘there is a First Cause or unmoved Mover or cosmic Orderer, without reference to the characteristics attributed to God in Scripture’ (Oden 1987:134).

Since I live in a post-Christian culture, I use natural theology, whenever possible, to point people to the existence of God. Therefore, I do not agree with your statement that ‘most natural theology is metaphysical’.[4]

Most natural theology should be pointing to the revelation of God in nature through which all human beings know of his existence. If there is order and design in our world, we need to test the hypotheses: (1) Who is the one who creates order? (2) Who is the designer?

The argument for natural theology was summarised by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) in his Summa Theologica  (I Q2.3.1, p. 14):

a. The visible world is a cosmos, an orderly unity whose order is constant, uniform, complex, and intrinsic to the universe itself.

b. Such an order cannot be explained unless it is admitted that the universe has a cause that displays intelligence capable of bringing it into being.

c. Therefore, such a cause of the universe exists, which is to say, God exists as the intelligent cause of the universe (summarised in Oden 1987:143).

Part of the Aquinas’ argument was:

The existence of truth is self-evident. For whoever denies the existence of truth grants that truth does not exist: and, if truth does not exist, then the proposition “Truth does not exist” is true: and if there is anything true, there must be truth. But God is truth itself: I am the way, the truth, and the life (John xiv. 6). Therefore “God exists” is self-evident (Aquinas Summa Theologica 1.Q2.1.3).

Even though the Aquinas’ summary argument was made in the 13th century, it is just as relevant to a post-Christian Australia in 2016. I’m in the midst of preparing a submission to the Queensland government against decriminalising abortion at any time up to the time of birth, using natural theology and revealed theology to call on our politicians not to change the criminal code that already allows for abortion if the life of the mother is at risk.

Natural theology has especial benefit when in apologetic discussion about the existence of God. For example, the east coast of Australia (including my city of Brisbane) has experienced the unseasonal ‘Big Wet‘ of torrential rain and destructive winds over the weekend of 4-5 June 2016 (Branco 2016).

What an opportunity to use natural theology to point to God’s existence and his involvement in the cosmos. This is no metaphysical examination but a pointing to the evidence for God’s existence and interventions in nature.

However, Thomas Oden rightly shows that it may lead to confusion if we try to prove God’s existence from natural theology and then later state the specifics of what Christian teaching means by ‘God’. His approach is:

For so long as what one means by “God” remains wholly ambiguous, it is hardly an exercise of great meaning to prove God’s existence. It is less pivotal to biblical faith that an unmoved Mover exists than that the caring God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus lives indeed and acts as attested in Scripture (Oden 1987:134).

So, it is packed with more meaning to proceed from the nature of God revealed in Scripture and to state ‘candidly what Christians mean by the caring God and only then to ask whether that One is as characterized and whether that set of meanings is true to the facts we can gather’ (Oden 1987:134-135).

When we define God as ‘caring holy love’ (Oden’s language), as revealed in Scripture, and then turn to natural theology for evidence of this care, we are on more solid foundations to discuss the nature of God and his actions. My understanding is that the caring, holy, loving God deals with humanity with loving, perfect discipline, which is a discipline that flows from the perfect nature of the one true God who exists and is revealed in Scripture.

For further explanations of the nature of God, according to the Bible, see my articles:

Implications of natural theology

Natural theology, as Romans 1:18-32 (NLT) indicates, is designed to demonstrate:

cream-arrow-small The truth about God is obvious to all people (v. 18);

cream-arrow-small God has made the truth about himself known since the world was created (v. 19);

cream-arrow-small That truth about God is seen in the earth and sky, i.e. in everything God has made (v. 20);

cream-arrow-small All people can see God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power, and divine nature in what God has made (v. 21);

cream-arrow-small Therefore, all human beings have no excuse to say they do not know of the existence of God (v. 20);

cream-arrow-small People do not worship God because they choose to suppress the truth of God’s existence by their wickedness (v. 18);

cream-arrow-small Then they turn to their own foolish ideas about what God is like (v. 21);

cream-arrow-small They worship their own idols (v. 23), and

cream-arrow-small God abandons them to their shameful desires (v. 24) with their many ugly consequences.

If sinful human beings do not pursue the revelation of God in nature (natural theology), God hands them over to their natural, sinful desires with their many wicked consequences. These are described in Romans 1:26-32 (NLT) as including:

flamin-arrow-small  Both women and men abandoning heterosexual for homosexual relationships. This brought negative consequences.

flamin-arrow-small They committed other sin, including greed, hate, envy, murder, quarrelling, deception, malicious behaviour, gossip and were backstabbers;

flamin-arrow-small Thus, they are God haters who are insolent, proud and boastful;

flamin-arrow-small They invent ways of sinning, including being disobedient to parents;

flamin-arrow-small They refuse to understand, break promises, are heartless, and without mercy;

flamin-arrow-small Knowing God’s justice requires that they deserve to die, they continue to practise wickedness themselves and encourage others to join them.

Conclusion

Natural theology is designed by God himself to provide evidence of his existence in creation so that human beings will pursue him. When it comes to judgment day, all human beings will be ‘without excuse’ about whether they know of God’s existence (Rom 1:20 NIV).

Related imageHowever, natural theology does not lead to eternal salvation through Christ. That is obtained by responding in faith to the proclamation or sharing Gospel: ‘God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it’ (Eph 2:8-9 NLT). How does that happen? ‘So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ’ (Rom 10:17 NLT).

 

‘But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them’ (Rom 1:18-19 NLT).

Works consulted

Branco, J 2016. Brisbane Weather: SES prepares for a day of cleaning up. Brisbane Times (online), June 5. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-weather-ses-prepares-for-a-day-of-cleaning-up-20160604-gpbo64.html (Accessed 6 June 2016).

Morey, R 2010. The Bible, natural theology and natural law: Conflict or compromise? Maitland FL: Xulon Press.[5]

Oden, T C 1987. The living God: Systematic theology, vol 1. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Notes


[1] This is adapted from Crossway, ‘Why there’s no such thing as an atheist’, November 02, 2015. Available at: https://www.crossway.org/blog/2015/11/why-theres-no-such-thing-as-an-atheist/ (Accessed 7 June 2016).

[2] Christianity Board 2016. ‘Natural Theology?’ 6 June. Administrator#167. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22653-natural-theology/page-6 (Accessed 6 June 2016).

[3] The following is my response in ibid., OzSpen#168.

[4] His reply, before closing the thread, was: ‘Very well stated….I stand corrected’ (ibid., Administrator#169).

[5] This Press is a publisher for self-publishing of Christian books.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 June 2016.

Logic and Christian discussions

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Can you engage in logical thinking and be Christian? Some ordinary Christians think that logical thinking and spiritual thinking are an antithesis. They don’t want to allow the two.

Yet, Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) could find no conflict between reasoning (logic) and being spiritual, ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’. The NASB and KJV use similar language, while the NIV translates as, ‘”Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD’. However, the principle is the same. God wants to reason with people so they can settle a matter.

Based on this kind of Scripture, Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks wrote, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Geisler & Brooks 1990). Geisler said his first teacher of logic, Howard Schoof, exhorted, ‘The next best thing besides godliness for a Christian is logic’. To this Geisler added, ‘Clean living and correct thinking make a potent combination’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:7).

1.  What is logic?

The use of logic is important in any discussions, including Christian discussions, and especially in Christian apologetics. What is the role of logic in the use of the Christian mind?[1] I’ve been particularly helped in growing in my faith and use of Christian apologetics by Geisler & Brooks book from a few years ago, Come, Let Us Reason (Geisler & Brooks 1990).
Their definitions of logic are:

(1) “Logic really means putting your thoughts in order” (p. 11), or as a more formal definition,
(2) “Logic is the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies, formal and informal” (Geisler & Brooks 1990: 11, 12).

If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?
What’s the point of even raising logic as a necessary part of Christian apologetics?

I am reminded that the term, ‘theology’ is made up of two NT Greek words: theos = God and logos = word or logic. So we could say that theology is the study of the logic of God, or theology is a rational discourse about God (Geisler & Brooks 1990:15).

Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion on this Christian Forum without the use of correct logic?

How do you see logic, reason and the supernatural God and the use of the Christian mind?

But that’s not how some people in the pews see it.

1.1  Christians leap beyond logic, says one

How do you think a Christian would respond to the above definitions and information about logic? Here is the first response:

Logic is a product of the mind.

It can be utilized at times when rightly dividing scriptures, but then again, it takes The Holy Spirit to enlighten the passages for such a thing to be known in the first place.

Additionally, Christians routinely leap beyond logic, in fact, the whole born again experience was a Spiritual experience from GOD that is not understood by the natural man. It cannot be discerned or known by him/her at all.

So no, you wouldn’t see me as an advocate of logic, it relies on the mind, and that is secondary to the Spirit.[2]

Therefore, since logic is a practice of the mind without the Spirit – according to this person – then Christians need to go beyond logic to experience God. So to this fellow, logic would not be promoted as it relies on the mind and thus is secondary to the Holy Spirit. How then does that engage with God’s view, ‘Come, now, let us reason together, says the Lord’ (Isa 1:18)? This fellow is already off base with God’s view.

I’m not suggesting that there is not supernatural, spiritual intervention by God at salvation and at other times, but that is not designed to zap a Christian of the need to practice logic. Logic will always be part of the Christian armour, the spiritual armoury.

There were many more who came to the rescue of affirming the need for logic.

1.2  Christians need to use logic

(image courtesy keyword suggestions)

A person cited Charles Ryrie on basic theology, ‘Reasoning involves using the laws of logic. These include the law of non-contradiction which says that you can’t have A and not-A at the same time and in the same relationship…. The law of non-contradiction is not simply one person’s opinion of how we ought to think, rather it stems from God’s self-consistent nature. God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), and so, the way God upholds the universe will necessarily be non-contradictory’.[3]

clip_image002[1]Another’s view was that meaningful communication was an impossibility if logic is not used. That includes formal or informal logic.[4] Predication is equally impossible without logic, making Science not even possible without it. There really is no escaping logic, though people have tried, and ever failed’.[5]

clip_image002[2]This person found it ‘funny’ in his response to the person who doesn’t advocate logic because he may not realise it but he is using logic to invalidate his statement against logic. ‘Logic is a lot like grammar, even though you may not know anything about it, none-the-less you use it everyday of life without even realizing it’. The person explained that ‘the second you start reasoning is the second you yourself are using logic’. The person provided another definition of logic, ‘Logic is the science that explains what conditions must be fulfilled in order that a proposition may be proved, if it admits proof’ (Carveth Read 1914). I had asked, ‘If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?’ This person’s response was thoughtful and appropriate: ‘It serves to define the guidelines we must follow when defending our faith. It helps us to not make the common mistakes of the “village apologists”. It also aids us in truth and in using it correctly shows us to be reasonable’.[6]

clip_image002[3]The Bible advocates the use of our minds as God created the mind with the marvellous capacity to reason. God has set in place the laws of the physical universe and these include making logic possible. ‘He urges us in the Bible to study, and time after time, particularly through the New Testament letters, he shows us how formidable a well-reasoned and logical argument or discourse can be. Jesus encouraged people to ask questions, Paul encouraged people to think through his arguments, and Peter encouraged people to be ready with an answer to those who ask them of their faith…. My mind must be convinced, and the way that happens is through logic. Fortunately, the Bible and Christianity are very logical and convincing when approached with an open and unbiased mind’.[7]

It’s a self-evident truth that logic is needed in any argument.

clip_image002[4] It is needed for maths to work and it is used in every philosophy to make sense of it. This includes Scripture I’m of the opinion that God gave me a brain, and He expects me to use it – especially in the interpretation of His Word’.

He emphasised that we all need solid reasoning in any argument to make sense and to justify an action. ‘If you do things based on pure emotions, you’re likely to do something completely ridiculous. It just doesn’t work. While humans are emotional beings, we’re also rational beings. It’s important to recognize that rationality should perform over emotion at all times (at least, ideally)’. He used Jesus in the Gospels as examples of His using clear reasoning on many occasions. ‘He didn’t randomly do or say anything; it had a point’.[8]

1.3  So use of logic is a bummer

(image courtesy moving minds)

How should I respond to the fellow who does not advocate the use of logic and places it secondary to the spiritual? I countered:[9]

Logic is a product of language that God has created.

You state, ‘It can be utilized at times’. It must be used all the time if we are to have a reasonable conversation here in English on this forum, according to the definition I gave: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:11).

God put his thoughts in order to give us the Scriptures. You put your thoughts in order for me to be able to read your statements. You used logic and I am doing that as I type these sentences.

So, you won’t advocate logic because it relies on the mind and must be secondary to the Spirit? You were an advocate of logic when you put your thoughts in order to write to me. You may not realise you are doing it, but you have to use logic to be able to communicate.

Human beings didn’t invent logic. They discovered it.

God is the author of all logic. So, technically speaking, God does not flow from logic; logic flows from God…. [There are] statements we make about him [God] that we analyze with logic. Logic simply provides a way to see if those statements are true—if they fit with the reality of who God really is…. God is not being tested by some standard outside himself. Logic flows from God. It is part of his rational nature, which has been given to us in his image. Using logic in theology is simply applying God’s test to our statements about God. It is God’s way for us to come to the truth (Geisler & Brooks 1990:17-18).

Yes, there are rationalists who try to determine truth by ‘reason, evidence, and modern secular, democratic values’.[10] However, Christians try to discover truth, using reason and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Reasonable people use logic to test the truth of their and others’ statements about God.

If we want to continue this discussion, all of us have to use logic. That’s the way God has made us. It is part of his image in us.

The come back to my analysis was:

Logic will never restore a maimed leg.

Our ability to conform to the image of His Son and do those works that Jesus did requires faith given to us, which is something in the realm of GOD, and that is certainly not logical to most, certainly not to the unbelieving.

You can make the case for logic here if you so desire, but it is a limitation to what GOD can do beyond that logic. Most likely you are not interested in that leap beyond logic, which is understandable in these times.[11]

Fortunately another person was on the ball with an appropriate response:

clip_image002[5]’Miracles are not illogical if you believe through logic that God exists. You are almost making a Hume type argument here, but that was fatally flawed once you introduce a Divine Being into the probability equation. In fact, if you watch the Bart Ehrman vs William Lane Craig debate you will see Ehrman make this kind of claim and then William Lane Craig go in for the kill on the rebuttal.

The fact is, what you are espousing here is logic and you don’t even realize it. You use it everyday of your life and don’t realize it. What then is the opposite of logic? It is illogic and I don’t think anyone wants to be claiming that that is what they are using when it comes to apologetics.

I think you just don’t understand how to use logic and belief together, this is where philosophy and a Christian worldview go hand in hand’.[12]

My reply to the concocted view that logic doesn’t restore a maimed leg was:[13]

We are not discussing logic as not being a means of supernatural intervention. However, when the Lord arranged for the recording of miracles in Scripture, what did he do? He used a logical order and arrangement to convey them to us. See the record of the healing of the man born blind in John 9:1-41.

Please remember the definition of logic that I gave when I started this discussion: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’. God put his thoughts in order so that we could read and understand them in all of Scripture, not just in describing the supernatural intervention.

Do you call God’s miraculous intervention ‘the leap beyond logic’? I am not a cessationist, so I believe that God can supernaturally intervene in our world and he continues to give the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t know if this is what you refer to when you speak of ‘the leap beyond logic’.

In saying that there are mysteries in understanding God (I agree), does not indicate God is not interested in logic. Communicating logically means that God puts his thoughts in order and we put thoughts in order when trying to communicate with others.

2. Distorted understanding of logic and Christianity

I was in discussion online with a few people on the role of logical thinking in Christian proclamation and reading of Scripture on another forum where there were more anti-logic promoters. These are some examples of the interactions:

clip_image004 ‘Logic is the carnal mind in action. A function of the thought process’.[14]

It was appropriate that this view was rejected by this person who wrote:

Logic is used regardless of whether or not the mind is carnal. Besides, you are here using logic (it’s unavoidable), which would mean you are thinking carnally (according to you). One would have to throw out the Bible if you were correct…. Logic has always been around. Meaningful communication is impossible without it; staying alive is impossible without it.[15]

The plot thickened:

clip_image004[1] ‘So you’re saying that logic exists independent of the carnal mind. That it just, is. As if logic (obviously) exists also in heaven and the Kingdom realm.

I don’t think that any of us know enough about the Kingdom realm to be able to make that call.

Not everything in scripture is logical. I’m pretty sure logic is carnal.[16]

The logical response has to be that given by this person: ‘Premise, logic exists because God thinks and created it and made languages. Unless you like me posting in really unreadable posts which would be, far, far more difficult to understand’.[17]

I joined this discussion:[18]

Of course, logic – in itself – is not dependent on the carnal mind. There can be carnal philosophers who engage in illogic, but to do that they must have a fundamental understanding of logic to determine it is illogical.
Please tell me if you need logic to interpret these two sentences:

  • Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
  • Jesus’ rose from the grave as an apparition. (Apparition means a vision or ghost-like appearance).

Are those two statements true? If not, why not? He did not respond to this challenge. These are examples of the law of non-contradiction. A cannot be non-A. No two contradictory statements (like the 2 above) can be both true at the same time and in the same sense. So, one cannot agree that Jesus rose bodily from the grave and that Jesus’ resurrection was an apparition. Those are contradictory statements.

You can’t read what I write in this article without following the logical rules of grammar, i.e. using logic. In what kind of language was the Bible written? It is not esoteric, spiritual, illogical, and out of the realm of reality. The Bible is written in human languages for which we need logical, grammatical rules to understand them.

So, the Bible must be interpreted according to fundamental rules of language and these include logical grammar. The Bible is not written in some super-spiritual lingo that needs the esoteric insights of Theosophy, Gnosticism, or occult practitioners.

Therefore, it is not dependent on the carnal mind. It is dependent on the God who invented logic so that we can communicate.

How do you think that person would respond to this information? Here goes!

clip_image004[2] Logic is dependant on the carnal mind, I’ll give you that. But as for the language being logical and the Bible not being able to be written without logic…

Uh, no. None of the earths (sic) languages are logical. (Ok, probably none of them.) But English (was my best subject) is seriously illogical!!

If English was logical, you’d see grammar check alongside spell check. Where is it? Lol the computer can’t make grammar check work.

Your example did not demonstrate logic effectively, but I applaud your effort. The lack of logic is apparent all over the English language, there is no hard & fast rules for our language.

Suppose you kiss your wife. Suppose you give her more than one kiss, what’s that? Kisses, right.

Suppose you have an ox. Suppose you have more than one ox, what’s that? The logical answer is oxes, but English isn’t logical, so it’s oxen. See what I mean, Brother?

And what’s up with silent letters? Either put it in there and pronounce it, or leave it out, geez.

You can demonstrate understanding in language, but not logic. For there is no logic. Where’s the word logic, in scripture? In fact, show me anything logical in scripture!

It says what is and it isn’t logical…but it’s true.[19]

3.1  A ridiculous outburst

How should I respond to such an outlandish tirade? Here goes:[20]

  • You got your first sentence wrong. I did NOT say that ‘logic is dependant on the carnal mind’. I said, ‘Logic – in itself – is NOT dependent on the carnal mind’ (emphasis added).[21]
  • ‘None of the earth’s languages are logical’. You have a strange view of logic. What does logic mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines logic as, ‘a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something’ (s v logic). Therefore, all of the earth’s languages are logical in the sense that they use language to engage in a reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something.
  • You have given examples of: spell check, grammar check, kissing my wife, oxen, silent letter, nothing logical in Scripture. These examples demonstrate that you have a distorted understanding of the role of logic.
  • Whether it is oxes or oxen is a tradition that has crept into English spelling. It has NOTHING to do with whether it is logical or not. It has EVERYTHING to do with convention in spelling. And have a guess what? You need to use logic to be able to read whether your statement about oxes vs oxen is what you want to discuss. Remember that logic is a reasonable way of thinking about something. You think it should be oxes but others consider oxen is the better name. Why don’t you investigate the etymology of why oxen was chosen and not oxes. By the way, here’s a logical explanation of why it is oxen and not oxes. Are you able to use logic to read this article?
  • As for the singular kiss, I’m happy with that logic and with the plural, kisses; that’s convention. How about you investigate why the plural is not kisss?
  • Like it or not, you must use logic in language to obtain understanding. Your distortion of the meaning of logic is coming through.
  • Where’s the word logic in Scripture? Let’s try 3 examples:

6pointblue Isaiah 1:18: ‘”Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

6pointblue Isaiah 43:26: “Put Me in remembrance, let us argue our case together; State your cause, that you may be proved right.

6pointblueMark 11:29-33: ‘And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” They began reasoning among themselves….’

  • By the way, a word doesn’t have to be used in Scripture for its teaching to be there. Try finding Trinity or Bible as words in the Scripture.

Here is another objection:

clip_image004[3] ‘I know it takes a logical mind to read and to understand the literal, but it also takes a Spiritual mind like that of Christ to understand spiritual’.[22]

Since this was directed at one of my comments, I replied:[23] To say that it takes the Spiritual mind to understand the spiritual, is to tell me I don’t have a spiritual mind. You are incorrect. I have a mind subjected to the Holy Spirit and He has provided logical statements in Scripture for me to understand. The ‘Spiritual mind’ which you are exalting seems to infer that I don’t have it and you do have it, and it is a special dynamic given to the spiritual person like yourself. Is that what you are trying to communicate?

Here’s another promotion of the illogical:

clip_image004[4] Can we truly reason the spiritual things with logic, no, for they are beyond our deductive reasoning and that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26.  This is what Jesus said in John 3:12, If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? Nicodemus is a great example of one trying to use logical reasoning as he did not understand that of the spiritual that Jesus was talking about in John 3:1-6.[24]

4.  Reason, spiritual things and logic

Now to a response to that kind of illogical thinking:[25]

Can I ‘reason the spiritual things with logic’? Yep! I need logic to understand the language I speak and to read what you have written here and to read the Scripture. God has invented logic so that we can understand each other when we speak or write. I’m blessed to know that God created logic so that we can communicate with each other and that He can communicate with us.

Now to John 14:26. Its context is John 14:22-29,

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe (John 14:22-29 NLT, emphasis added).

You want John 14:26 (NLT) to mean what it does not mean in context. Jesus told his disciples information while he was still with them on earth, but he was going away and the disciples would need reminding what Jesus told them. Obviously they didn’t have a perfect memory of all that he had told them. For that purpose, the Holy Spirit (the Advocate, Paraclete) would remind them what Jesus had told them. The Advocate would not be giving them new revelation through teaching (your language is ‘that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26’). Not so!

Jesus was addressing Judas (not Iscariot) and the other disciples. He was instructing them about what would happen when he left them. He was not giving information for Christians down to the 21st century to follow. This has caused leading evangelical commentator, D A Carson, to write about John 14:26 (NIV):

The promise of v. 26 has in view the Spirit’s role to the first generation of disciples, not to all subsequent Christians. John’s purpose in including this theme and this verse is not to explain how readers at the end of the first century may be taught by the Spirit, but to explain to readers at the end of the first century how the first witnesses, the first disciples, came to an accurate and full understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ. The Spirit’s ministry in this respect was not to bring qualitatively new revelation, but to complete, to fill out, the revelation brought by Jesus himself (Carson 1991:505, emphasis added).

In context, John 14:26 (NLT) is teaching something quite different to what you want to promote. Careful exposition of the text is necessary, rather than cherry picking a verse to make a point that is not in the text in context.

As for John 3:12, Jesus was speaking to a respected Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who did not know the Lord. He needed his spiritual eyes to be opened. This verse is not telling information that you want it to mean. Again, cherry picking a verse aborts the meaning you are pushing.

As for John 3:1-6 (NLT) and Nicodemus, the issue had nothing to do with dumbing down ‘logical reasoning’ (your language). Nicodemus, a Pharisee, knew Jesus, the Teacher, was sent from God ‘to teach us’, but he needed his eyes opened regarding being born again (John 3:3 NLT). Then Jesus revealed the truth to Nicodemus of the need to be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5-6 NLT). This was an issue of proclamation of the Gospel (even though prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection). These 6 verses are not teaching antagonism to logical reasoning. They are teaching content – the need to be born again to enter God’s kingdom.

5.  Logical fallacies

24x36” Wall Posters(image courtesy www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com)

 

One of the areas of logic that I’ve had to give more attention to in pursuing research studies and on Christian forums has been the use of logical fallacies. Some that I have seen in various readings elsewhere and in forum threads have included:

 

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

clip_image006 Begging the question, where the conclusion is sneaked into the premises. I noted this in my analysis of Jesus Seminar fellow, John Dominic Crossan’s writings, for my PhD dissertation. Crossan also uses….

 

(image courtesy theupturnedmicroscope.com)

clip_image006[1] Special pleading – the evidence supporting only one view is cited and the other is excluded. Crossan does this with his statements like, in quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv).

Image result for straw man clipart public domain(image courtesy clker.com)

clip_image006[2] Straw man – drawing a false picture of the other person’s argument;

clip_image006[3] Red herring – evading a question by changing the subject. This is a very common one in Christian discussion. I’ve drawn it to the attention of many posters on Christian forums and one moderator told me to quit using it. He wrote: ‘Please refrain from repeatedly claiming that other members are presenting red herrings and logical fallacies. Address the position with scripture to support yours, and NOT the person whom you are responding to’.[26]

A person replied to this post with this brilliant assessment:

It is quite possible that people have no idea that they are presenting logical fallacies. Pointing out that they have done so and explaining why they are, in fact, logical fallacies, is a means of helping the person avoid such errors in the future and to be able to identify them when others use them to misrepresent reality. This is a particularly valuable tool to be able to apply in a presidential election year when politicians are spewing non-stop nonsense at us from every direction.

Therefore, explaining to someone that their thought process was illogical and how it went awry is showing the person enough respect to assist them in avoiding such errors in the future. It has the potential of providing them with the tools to more effectively deal with every aspect of life. It’s not demeaning or insulting. It’s didactic.

To properly address a position with scripture, one must avoid logical fallacies. Pointing out a fallacy is NOT addressing the person. It is actually assisting the person (by Jim Parker).

However, this post was removed super quickly by a moderator. I wonder why? Jim has provided an extremely insightful diagnosis of why it is necessary to expose people’s illogic when they use logical fallacies in conversations or on a forum like this one.

Red Herring by algotruneman (image courtesy openclipart)

clip_image006[4] Ad hominem – argument by character assassination or personal attack. I see this sometimes in flaming on Christian forums online, but fortunately the moderators are onto this very quickly. However, they are not as alert to the other fallacies being perpetrated.

clip_image006[5] Genetic fallacy – something should be rejected because it comes from a bad source. I often see this in evolution vs creationist debates where an evolutionist states evidence from the Book of Genesis should be rejected because of those fighting fundies (or conservative evangelicals) who want to interpret it literally and they know nothing about science. Genesis is mythology, anyway, they say![27]

Another expressed the problem with use of logical fallacies on Christian forums:

Goodness, I’ve surely encountered every logical fallacy known to man throughout the many years of doing apologetics on internet forums, and been guilty of committing a number of them myself.

I would have to say the most common, are probably Ad hominem, Straw man, and one form of Red herring or another (often appeals to motive, popularity, authority, etc.). Another common fallacy which sometimes grates on my nerves is the…

(image courtesy slideshare.net)

  • false dilemma – where one option which is false is being forced when there remains an unmentioned true option. For example, when discussing the Sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, many argue in terms of options as either free will or hard determinism, without ever considering or mentioning “compatibilist free will” or as I often call it compatibilism. Quite often I believe the reason the fallacy is committed though is just a lack of knowledge, without intentionally excluding.

Faulty generalizations can be really annoying, how many times have you read something and afterwards thought  something to the effect of “no, they’re wrong, and they’re oversimplifying the issue (whatever it might be)”?[28]

For an excellent overview of the use of some of the most prominent fallacies used in writing and speaking, see,

clip_image009

Fallacies

6.  Abuse does not excuse legitimate use[29]

What I think causes some Christians to balk at the idea of using logic in communication is what is seen in liberal theology using the historical-critical method where people promote autonomous human reason to arrive at conclusions that are contrary with Scripture.

This shows how humanistic reasoning can be abused, but it does not negate the use of logic in our communication. Those who are opposing the use of logic, are engaging in a self-defeating exercise. This is because they are using logic in the sentences they write to oppose the use of logic.

Many things in Christian exegesis, theology, apologetics, Bible study, etc., can be abused. The abuse of something does not negate its legitimacy when used for the correct purposes. One or 10 faulty Fords (motor vehicles) doesn’t make every Ford junk – I drive a Toyota Camry.

Abuse does not exclude legitimate use of a thing, theology or issue.

7.  The gifts of the Spirit and logic

Speaking of the ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit, one person wrote:

But it doesn’t require our logic when it is happening….

Utterance by The Holy Spirit is Him (sic) talking through us for the edification of the Body, and it is He superseding our faculties to GOD’s glory. Such events go beyond our mind since it is His mind speaking, not ours.[30]

My reply was: When the Holy Spirit ministers in and through me, he has been doing it according to biblical mandate,[31]

clip_image011 ‘Let all things be done for building up’ (I Cor. 14:26 ESV);

clip_image011[1] ‘Let others weigh what is said (1 Cor. 14:29);

clip_image011[2] ‘But all things must be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor. 14:40).

clip_image011[3] ‘Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up’ (1 Cor 14:16-17).

clip_image011[4] ‘In the church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue’ (I Cor. 14:19).

Here the gifts are seen and demonstrated for intelligibility. To be intelligible, God uses the logic of organised thoughts.

You don’t seem to want to grasp that in all communication, including edification for the local church through the gifts of the Spirit, involves logical thoughts.

Doing it any other way is unintelligible. Even the gift of tongues in the church required interpretation with logical thoughts given in sentences for people to understand.

Logic in sentences and the ministry of the Holy Spirit go together as a hand in a glove.

Image result for Toronto blessing The alleged Toronto Blessing is extremism in action.

(‘Toronto blessing’ photo courtesy bibelfokus.se)

8.  Conclusion

The alleged super spiritual advocates consider that to use logic is to employ the carnal mind and one does not need logic if a person has a spiritual mind. To say that logic is an example of the carnal mind in action is to distort the basic understandings of logic.

This was challenged by those who understood the nature of logic as involving putting thoughts in order. Correct reason and dealing with valid inferences entails attending to logical fallacies, whether formal or informal. It was shown how Christians need to use logic for ordinary conversation and argumentation to take place.

It was shown that human beings did not invent logic but that God is the author of logic. Where does logic appear in Scripture? Isaiah 1:18 speaks of Lord exhorting, ‘let us reason together’. Isaiah 43:26 pursues the emphasis, ‘Let us argue our case together’, and in Mark 11:29-33 Jesus spoke to the chief priests, scribes and elders about the authority he used to perform his miraculous works and ‘they began reasoning among themselves’. These three sets of verses demonstrate that Scripture is not against logic since it encourages reasoning activities.

Examples were given of logical fallacies committed by some Christians in discussion. As for the gifts of the Spirit, they must be intelligible for the congregation to understand. Abuses in these gifts do not prohibit the proper use of the gifts.

So the Christian must use logical reasoning for legitimate conversation, preaching and presentation of Scripture to take place.

9.  Other resources

See my articles:

clip_image013 What’s the place of logic in Christian apologetics?

clip_image013[1] Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion

clip_image013[2] Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

clip_image013[3]Christians and their use of logical fallacies

clip_image013[4]One writer’s illogical outburst

 

10.  Works consulted

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

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. Come let us reason: An introduction to logical thinking. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Read, C 1914. Logic: Deductive and inductive (online). London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd. Available at: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/37/logic-deductive-and-inductive/456/chapter-1/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

11.  Notes


[1] I started this discussion in Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[2] Ibid., ARBITER01#2.

[3] Ibid., golgotha61#3.

[4] Formal logic also is called deductive logic because it moves from premises to conclusions. Informal logic also is known as inductive logic because it moves from statements of evidence to conclusions, but it can extrapolate from the evidence and generalise conclusions.

[5] ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, Apologetic Warrior#4.

[6] Ibid., secondtimearound#5.

[7] Ibid., AndieGirl#6.

[8] Ibid., Audacious#7.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#8.

[10] The Rationalist Society of Australia ‘believes religious doctrine should not override evidence-based reasoning in public policy-making. This does not mean we believe theists and theistic organisations should not participate in the political process – only that their arguments must, like anyone else’s, be based on reason, evidence and modern secular, democratic values’ (Policies: Politics and government, available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/about-us/policies/, accessed 27 May 2016).

[11] Ibid., ARBITER01#9.

[12] Ibid., secondtimearound#10.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[14] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, ‘Scriptural fundamentalism & literal interpretation’, Edward#130. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/scriptural-fundamentalism-literal-interpretation.64665/page-7 (Accessed 25 May 2016).

[15] Ibid., Free#131.

[16] Ibid., Edward#134.

[17] Ibid., jasonc#138.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#139.

[19] Ibid., Edward#154.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#162.

[21] See ibid., OzSpen#139.

[22] Ibid., for_his-glory#141.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#143.

[24] Ibid., for_his_glory#150.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#160.

[26] Ibid., Mike#146. My response to him was, ‘I only address the issue of logical fallacies when a person has committed one of them. I do it because logical discussion is prohibited when erroneous reasoning is used. However, I will obey your command. Instead of saying that a person has, say, committed a red herring, I’ll have to say something like, ‘The issue I raised was that of John 3:3 and regeneration before salvation. Let’s get back to that topic’. Would that be a better approach? (ibid., OzSpen#148).

[27] Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#12. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[28] Ibid Apologetic Warrior#17.

[29] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[30] Ibid., ARBITER01#77.

[31] Ibid., OzSpen#79.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 May 2016.

Contemporary music in church to the lyrics of spiritual death

Monday, May 9th, 2016

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Recently a fellow introduced me to this Christian song by Flame, Start Over‘. You can read its lyrics at Flame Lyrics (2000-2016).

Is this an example of the type of music being heard in your Christian church service?

Has Alistair Begg hit the mark with his assessment of contemporary Christian music (CCM)? See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhCWrdckpc&feature=youtu.be

1. Who is Alistair Begg?

Alistair Begg(photo Alistair Begg, senior pastor, courtesy Parkside Church)

 

His ministry’s homepage states:

Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975. Following graduation from The London School of Theology, he served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church.

In 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.  The teaching on Truth For Life stems from the week by week Bible teaching at Parkside Church.[1]

Alistair Begg is a Scotsman who has been pastor at the one church since 1983 near Cleveland, Ohio. Are you and I ready for that pointed critique of CCM in churches, by this experienced pastor, to address the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing? Three weeks ago,[2] I attended a near-by Baptist church for the first time. What kind of music was presented? The band with 6 female singers up front on the stage, led the congregation in singing contemporary songs (some were identified as from Hillsong) that I had never heard before. The melodies were unsingable for me, a very average singer. The words were available on the digital screen for the congregation to see.

My estimate was that they were meant to be performed and not for congregational singing. We had to stand for about 10-15 minutes as the band took us from one contemporary song to another. I sat down after about 7 minutes as my legs were weary. I’m no youngster.

2. Contemporary music killing theology

CCM is killing theology in song. Sound biblical teaching is rapidly on the descent. Take a read of the lyrics from this song by Jesus Culture (the music ministry from Bethel Church, Redding CA):

Rooftops Lyrics
[Metro Lyrics: Jesus Culture Lyrics]
from Come Away
New! Highlight lyrics to add Meanings, Special Memories, and Misheard Lyrics…
Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song? See my assessment of this song in:

clip_image002 What’s wrong with these CCM songs?

I’ve addressed some of the music issues previously in these articles:

clip_image004 What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?

clip_image004[1] Worldliness in church music

clip_image004[2] Entertainment versus Worship

clip_image004[3] Do words matter in worship songs in church?

I’m not discussing the style of music but the content of the words. In recently written CCM, where is the depth of words such as in these lyrics?

Charles Wesley.jpg(portrait Charles Wesley, courtesy Wikipedia)

And Can It Be That I Should Gain[3]

 

by Charles Wesley

 

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

clip_image006

(music & words, courtesy openhymnal.org, public domain)

3. Crisis point

I’ve been a Christian for around 50 years. I’m considered an oldie by many, including my grandchildren, since I’ve recently reached 70 years of age. I won’t take nonsense behaviour from them and I do not tolerate theological baloney in the lyrics of CCM or older music. Much of what I hear online in the promotion of CCM and what I hear from the platform of contemporary evangelical churches lacks sound theological content. It fails to glorify God in his majesty and point to the cross and the reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’ve presented only a few examples in this article, but it is representative of what is being pumped out by evangelical churches in Australia.

4. Sermons join the light-weight chorus

What is just as alarming is that the sermons from the pulpit are as theologically lite as the songs in the service. My son obtained an MDiv degree from a renowned evangelical theological college in Brisbane, Qld and he was told by one lecturer not to worry about reading any books that were more than 10 years old.

Do you understand what that means? God’s great teachers throughout church history, from Athanasius and Augustine to Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Tozer and many others are irrelevant to the church of today. That’s a theologically noxious view that will poison the biblical life out of any church.

Then you encounter what I was exposed to on a Christian forum on the Internet where a Pentecostal believer told me, ‘I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’.[4] I was discussing with him the theology of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones who died in 1981.[5]

5. The here and now false teaching

I tackled this fellow’s false teaching:[6]

So you ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. Does that mean you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant (and I know you are), you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, who you claim had a ministry that is ‘out of date’. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Lk 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have lived before us – way before us! Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this fellow!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with his ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘ (my emphasis). Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’ short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. It really is pathetic that this person wanted to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.
Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). But this poster excludes them and their influence!

5.1 The here and now promoter in full flight

Here he how he responded to what I wrote immediately above:

I was saved in 1971 under the tutelage of Bob Johnson. He himself was mentored by Dr. C.M. Ward who was greatly influenced by John Wesley. If pedigree is your thing then there’s enough pedigree there for me. The point is that all these men had their Ministry at their time but the only historical characters that I am concerned with are those that are represented in the Bible. Nothing I have ever learned from reading any thing by the ECF’s [early church fathers] and all these men down through history has enlightened me one bit. What does enlighten me is my Bible. It is what has taught me that many of these men taught false Doctrine. I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before, accept as it relates to my Lord and Savior. I don’t denigrate them I just don’t deify them or put them up on a pedestal for everyone to look at. They served their purpose, but they’re dead now and God is not the God of the dead but of the living. If all you have to say is based on your knowledge of what these men taught and you have none of it yourself, then exactly what is it you do know other than what you read in books about them? It’s great that you have been able to recently secure your doctorate and I applaud you for that but that doesn’t mean is that do you need to use all these past Scholars to justify your opinions. Those opinions should be justified and corroborated by the word of God.

The thing you don’t seem to get Oz is that this is a discussion forum with live people and I can’t very well question and discuss with those who are dead and gone as to why they thought what they did. You see I know how to think for myself. Maybe you should try it?[7]

Note his language, ‘I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before’. This is Gnosticism in action. His knowledge is from living in the present, the here and now. The inference seems to be that he does not want the correction of historical teachers. He assumes that ‘many of these men taught false Doctrine’ (i.e. early church fathers), but he gave not one example in that post. Some did promote erroneous doctrine when compared with the Bible such as Origen’s allegorical preaching in which he inserted material that was not in the text. Others taught baptismal regeneration (e.g. Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Ambrose). See the article, ‘Baptism and salvation’.[8] Arius was a Unitarian heretic who did not believe Trinitarian theology, but he was corrected at the Council of Nicea.[9]

However, in what way is that different from today with the teaching of error such as modern Gnosticism,[10] baptismal regeneration,[11] Unitarianism[12] and what is taught in some Contemporary Christian songs? Living in the present without knowledge of history does not preserve anyone from exposure to false doctrine.

6. Conclusion

The best antidote for exposing false doctrine is with a person’s and a church’s thorough knowledge of Scripture. To be able to recognise the false, know the truth.

Contemporary Christian music is feeding modern Christians a new diet of doctrinally light teaching. Much of it is existential, egocentric and focussed on what Jesus can do for ME. We are not being taught theology in song like we did under the songs of Charles Wesley, John Newton, Isaac Watts, Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, and a trail of biblical hymnists who have preceded us.

Pastor Alistair Begg has exposed the repetitive, bland material being sung in many Christian songs in the church services of the twenty-first century. The disease the church is suffering is in the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing. Sadness surrounds the fact that many in the evangelical church accept this music as what is needed in a church that wants to reach young people.

If we ignore the content of the church music we sing, we will become theologically light-weight in our understanding of the Trinitarian Lord God and his mission in the world.

What’s happening in your church? Are you whooping it up with rap music and heading towards spiritual death in your congregation? Or, are you careful about the lyrics you sing and are making sure they conform with biblical integrity? Try raising this issue (at the appropriate time) in one of your church’s cell groups. Please understand that I’m not talking about hymns sung to an organ being superior to contemporary style music. I’m discussing the content of the songs you sing and how they match biblical faithfulness in content.

However, there are elements of insensitivity by musicians to the content of the word s. Today[13] I visited a local Baptist church where the congregation sang, ‘Be still and know that I am God’, which is a meditative chorus that emphasises the need to quieten a person’s heart and meditate on who God is. However, what did the drummer do (he was accompanied by organ, piano and rhythm guitar)? He created a loud, thumping, drumming interlude that was totally out of place for such a meditative song. He sounded more like a drummer for a rock band in a nightclub. Such insensitivity should be addressed by musical directors in a church.

clip_image007

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

Notes


[1] ‘About Alistair Begg’, Truth for Life. Available at: https://www.truthforlife.org/about/about-alistair-begg/ (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[2] I’m writing this on Tues, 2 May 2016.

[3] 2012 HymnsUntoGod.org (public domain USA). Available at: http://www.hymnsuntogod.org/Hymns-PD/A-Hymns/And-Can-It-Be-That-I-Should-Gain.html (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[4] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, 23 April 2016, StanJ#123. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-5 (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[5] See MLJ Trust (Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Available at: http://www.mljtrust.org/meet-mlj/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[6] Christianity Board, op cit., OzSpen#127.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#130.

[8] By Matt Slick, CARM.

[9] See James R White, ‘What really happened at Nicea?’ (CRI 2009). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/what-really-happened-at-nicea/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[10] See Dr Douglas Groothuis’s article, ‘Modern Gnosticism’ (CRI 2016). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/modern-gnosticism/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[11] The Orthodox denomination promotes baptismal regeneration. See the article, ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’, available at: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2015/02/17/born-experience-baptismal-regeneration/ (Accessed 8 May 2016). The Roman Catholic Church endorses baptismal regeneration. See, ‘What is baptismal regeneration?’ Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson 2016. Available at: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/416-what-is-baptismal-regeneration (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[12] Key promoters of Unitarianism today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and the Unitarian Universalist denomination. See ‘Unitarian Christianity’ at: http://www.americanunitarian.org/AUCChristian.htm (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[13] This was Sunday, 8 May 2015, in the greater Brisbane area.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 May 2016.

Should Christians love their enemies by using guns?

Monday, April 11th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

[The shooters’ Ford Expedition SUV, involved in the shootout. Released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, photo courtesy Wikipedia]

How do you think the USA or any other country can prevent or stop mass shootings? Is it possible to live peacefully with others, without having guns for defence?

What provoked this kind of discussion was the horrible massacre of people at San Bernardino CA, USA. Fourteen people were shot dead and 21 were wounded on December 2, 2015, according to the Los Angeles Times article, ‘San Bernardino shooting victims: Who they were’ (17 December 2015). Those who shot the victims were a Sunni Muslim couple who lost their lives in the massacre, shot by police. See ‘They met online, built a life in San Bernardino — and silently planned a massacre’ (Los Angeles Times, 5 December 2015).

It should not be surprising that someone would start a thread on a Christian forum with this title, ‘How Can The U.S.A. Reduce Mass Shootings?’[1]

Standard pro-guns responses

Related imageSince my family and I have lived in USA and Canada for 7 years, we learned how much some Americans love their guns. Some of our Christian friends had guns and would not live without them.

Here are some of the pro-gun responses on that Christian forum:

clip_image002 ‘Gun control will take guns from those who abide by the law. Do you really think bad guys, felons, creeps will say “o i cant (sic) have a gun it is against the law” do you really?’[2]

clip_image002[1] ‘Well I see it like this; If there are 20 people in a place and 10 have a concealed weapon on them and three or four terrorist come in the terrorist are going to lose. if one wont stand and fight they do not deserve liberty and freedom’.[3]

clip_image002[2] ‘While I do agree that we should “fight” it, in some ways, spiritually – we can’t win this without fighting back, in a few ways, that are not spiritual but physical’.[4]

clip_image002[3] ‘Remove legally owned guns from law-abiding citizens, and the criminals still have the guns, with access to more. The same goes for ammo’.[5]

clip_image002[4] ‘It’s all about power. The powerful prey upon the weak. If you have a gun then one type of predator will avoid you but another one will seek to destroy you.
In America 4.5 out of 10 (at a minimum) have a firearm. (There are some that do but refuse to admit that they have one.)
So about half the citizens are armed’.[6]

Massacre at San Bernardino

What happened at San Bernardino CA in the late morning of 2 December 2015? The Los Angeles Times reported on 2 December that a male and a female who were dressed in black masks and tactical gear – armed with long guns and pistols – ‘entered a holiday party for county health workers in San Bernardino as it was in full swing. Before they fled, they had killed 14 people and wounded 17[7] others’.

Four hours later, as fearful residents were ordered to stay home and scores of officers swarmed the streets, authorities chased a black SUV carrying two suspects from a home in the nearby city of Redlands. As TV news stations broadcast live overhead, the chase spilled back onto San Bernardino’s streets, where authorities and the suspects traded gunfire.

When it was over, a man and woman connected to the assault were dead. One body lay in the street, blood pooling. Another was recovered from the vehicle. A police officer also was wounded in the firefight but is expected to survive (Serrano 2015).

The New York Times reported that the perpetrators of the terrorist act, ‘Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik met online and married two years ago, after he presented himself on a Muslim dating site as a devout young man who liked to fix cars and memorize the Quran’ (Nagourney et al 2015).

After the shooting, the couple escaped in a rented vehicle but four hours later police located them and they were killed in a shootout. ‘They died in a crush of bullets in a brutal face-off with the police’ The husband (Farook) was born in Illinois and raised in Southern California. His wife (Malik) was born in Pakistan and recently was living in Saudi Arabia’ (Nagourney et al 2015).

This slaughter and injuries have reignited the USA debate over guns.

Enter an Aussie with the Port Arthur solution

Tasmanian town locator PortArthur.gif(location of Port Arthur where majority of killings occurred, map courtesy Wikipedia)

 

It was on 28-29 April 1996 that there was a massacre of 35 people at Port Arthur, a former prison colony, and now centre for tourism on the south-eastern coast of Tasmania, Australia. Also, 23 other people were wounded. A 28-year-old, Martin Bryant from the Hobart suburb of New Town, was found guilty and received 35 life sentences. There is no possibility that he will be paroled (Hester 1996; CNN 1996).

 

 

 

Image result for photo of gun buyback Australia public domain

(photo of guns bought back, courtesy news.com.au)

As a result of this massacre, the Australian government led by Prime Minister John Howard at that time implemented a buyback of guns. ‘A  national firearm buyback scheme was progressively implemented from September 1996 and ran for 12 months. This was supported by a national firearm amnesty in which people in possession of illegal firearms could hand them in without penalty’ (Ozanne-Smith et al 2004). This buyback took in 660,959 firearms (Hope 2014).

As many USA folks on the forum were discussing the need to obtain and use guns, I dared to raise another perspective that was not much appreciated.[8]

Why don’t you take a read of this article in The New York Times from 4 December 2015, ‘How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings‘.

There is a way to fix most of it, but the sinful human heart will constantly challenge it.

A biblical answer is found in Romans 13:1-7 (ESV):

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.?

If the USA government had the will like the Australian government has, it could implement anti-gun laws like we have. But the gun lobby will resist like they did in Australia. But we’ve had no massacres since we implemented these laws.

Nevertheless, ISIL could change that with its suicide bombs.

Predictably, someone came back with a view that

1. Gun control is a flawed policy

He linked to the article, ‘Australia: More violent crime despite gun ban’ (Nemerov 2009). This article claims:

It is a common fantasy that gun bans make society safer…. In 2002–five years after enacting its gun ban–the Australian Bureau of Criminology acknowledged there is no correlation between gun control and the use of firearms in violent crime: “The percentage of homicides committed with a firearm continued its declining trend since 1969.”

Even the head of Australia’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Don Weatherburn, acknowledged that the gun ban had no significant impact on the amount of gun-involved crime: There has been a drop in firearm-related crime, particularly in homicide, but it began long before the new laws and has continued on afterwards. I don’t think anyone really understands why…. gun control is a flawed policy.

Will Oremus (2012) has responded to this kind of reaction:

What happened next has been the subject of several academic studies. Violent crime and gun-related deaths did not come to an end in Australia, of course. But as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog pointed out in August [2012?], homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent. Studies found a close correlation between the sharp declines and the gun buybacks. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly. Meanwhile, home invasions did not increase, contrary to fears that firearm ownership is needed to deter such crimes. But here’s the most stunning statistic. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.

There have been some contrarian studies about the decrease in gun violence in Australia, including a 2006 paper that argued the decline in gun-related homicides after Port Arthur was simply a continuation of trends already under way. But that paper’s methodology has been discredited, which is not surprising when you consider that its authors were affiliated with pro-gun groups.

Live peacefully with everyone

Let’s examine Rom 12:18 (ESV) in context: ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’.[9]

In Rom 12 we are dealing with living life in presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2), how to demonstrate gifts of grace (Rom 12:3-7) and how to live out the Christian life (Rom 12:8-21). Rom 12:18 is in this latter section that includes ‘bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse’ (Rom 12:14) and ‘repay no one evil for evil’ (Rom 12:17). Romans 12:18 (ESV) states, ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’.

The close connection of Rom 12:17, Rom 12:18 and Rom 12:19 should be self evident. These verses exhort believers not to engage in behaviour that has a negative impact on them. From v. 17 we learn that ‘no one’ should be paid evil by us for evil done by them. In v. 18, we are to live peaceably ‘with all’. What did Jesus urge upon us according to Matt 5:9, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’?

Image result for peace public domainFrom the context of Rom 12:18, we don’t know the specifics of whether there was a situation in the church of Rome that caused the kind of teaching of Rom 12:18, but Rom 12:14 is clear enough that we should be blessing those who persecute us. Could these Roman believers have been experiencing persecution and needed this instruction? Could be!

Jesus made it clear that ‘I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). Paul in Rom 12:18 is acknowledging that for the Christian, conflict is not possible to avoid, but he adds this double qualification, ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you’ – leave peaceably. I, as a believer, have a responsibility to live at peace with those who oppose me.

The application is that Paul is saying that persecution is inevitable but he doesn’t want Christians to use this certainty of opposition to them and their faith to be an opportunity for them to engage in behaviour that needlessly inflames the conflict. He doesn’t want us to see the unavoidable persecution and opposition as a reason for giving up on a positive witness to those who are opposing us.

It may be impossible for the Christian to live peacefully with all people. Christians may be attacked by evil people for their proclamation of the Gospel, truth and the good. In those circumstances, ‘if possible’ the Christian is to be a pacifist while he or she may be an activist for Christ and the truth. The Christian is to start no strife or hostility. It is the sinful flesh that initiates discord. Yes, the Christian will become involved when another initiates a brawl.

I cannot see Rom 12:18 being used as justification for opposing a gun wielding person by using your own gun. The context in Rom 12:14 indicates that the Christian is to ‘bless those who persecute you’.

Surely the next verse is a stunning answer to the issues some raise with regard to v. 18, ‘ Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”’ (Rom 12:19).

Using guns amounts to avenging ourselves. God’s instruction to us (my paraphrase) is: Don’t do it with a gun. Leave vengeance to the Lord. The Lord will repay with his own retribution.

Works consulted

CNN World News 1996. Australian gunman laughs as he admits killing 35 (online), November 7. Available at: http://archive.is/WAYM3 (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Hester, J 1996. Aftermath of horror death toll climbs to 35; Tasmaniac is charged. New York Daily News (online), 30 April. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/aftermath-horror-death-toll-climbs-35-tasmaniac-charged-article-1.724745 (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Hope, E 2014. Kaechele tunes in to help old home with massive gun buyback. The Mercury (online), October 12. Available at: http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/kaechele-tunes-in-to-help-old-home-with-massive-gun-buyback/news-story/f9d774827cbb5da6d3bd26294f941efd?nk=447736ec10caab2ce01813e7aaf44ad7-1460416786 (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Lenski, R C H 1936. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (this was originally published by Lutheran Book Concern, assigned in 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House. This is a limited edition assigned to Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, second printing 2001).

Moo, D J 1996. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Romans. N B Stonehouse, F F Bruce & G D Fee (gen eds, each over various years). Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Nagourney, A; Lovett, I; Turkewitz, J; and Muellerdec, B 2015. Couple Kept Tight Lid on Plans for San Bernardino Shooting. The New York Times, December 3. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/us/san-bernardino-shooting-syed-rizwan-farook.html (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Nemerov, H 2009. Australia experiencing more violent crime despite gun ban. Free Republic (online), 8 April. Available at: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2225517/posts (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Oremus, W 2012. After a 1996 Mass Shooting, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Similar Massacre Since. Florida Sportsman (online), December 16. Available at: http://forums.floridasportsman.com/showthread.php?89618-After-a-1996-Mass-Shooting-Australia-Enacted-Strict-Gun-Laws-It-Hasn-t-Had-a-Simila&s=cca9dffd2606b6f1e87d455f8e3d0d21 (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Ozanne-Smith, J; Ashby, K; Newstead, S; Stathakis, V Z & Clapperton, A 2004. Firearm related deaths: the impact of regulatory reform. Injury Prevention 10(5), 280-286 (online). Available at: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/10/5/280.full (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Serrano, R A 2015. Authorities identify couple who they believe killed 14 at San Bernardino holiday party. Los Angeles Times (online), December 2. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-up-to-20-shot-in-san-bernardino-active-shooter-sought-20151202-story.html (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, December 6, 2015. iLOVE#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/how-can-the-u-s-a-reduse-mass-shootings.62365/ (Accessed 19 December 2015).

[2] Ibid., reba#5.

[3] Ibid., Roro1972#9.

[4] Ibid., Pizza#18.

[5] Ibid., AirDancer#25.

[6] Ibid., JohnDB#55.

[7] This has been updated to 21 others (Nagourney et al 2015).

[8] This content is at Christian Forums.net, OzSpen#43.

[9] I posted this to Christian Forums.net, OzSpen#238. I gained some assistance from Moo (1996) and Lenski (1936).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 April 2016.

 

Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Simon Dewey, He Lives, painting

(Simon Dewey, ‘He Lives’, copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher)

Easter has come and gone! As expected, there were articles in the popular press about the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, it’s also the time when junk about Jesus passion-resurrection is dished up. I do not use the term ‘junk’ to disparage any person. I am using ‘junk’ to refer to the content of the writing, based on one of the Oxford dictionary’s definitions: ‘Worthless writing, talk, or ideas: I can’t write this kind of junk’ (Oxford dictionaries 1.1, 2016. s v junk, emphasis in original).

1. Can you doubt the resurrection and be Christian?

Kimberly Winston (2014) wrote a provocative and sceptical article about the resurrection of Jesus for the National Catholic Reporter (‘Can you question the Resurrection and still be Christian?’). Here are a few points Winston makes in the article:

  1. From the Nicene Creed, the words, ‘On the third day he rose again’, is ‘the foundational statement of Christian belief’. It gives a ‘glimmer’ of eternal life promised to believers and is ‘the heart of the Easter story’ in 7 words.
  2. Interpretation of the 7-word statement has caused ‘deepest rifts in Christianity’ and ‘a stumbling block’ for some Christians and sceptics.
  3. Was Jesus’ resurrection literal and bodily, according to traditionalist and conservative Christians? Or was the rising symbolic, indicating ‘a restoration of his spirit of love and compassion to the world’? This latter view is that promoted by ‘some more liberal brands of Christianity?
  4. Many Christians struggle with the literal versus metaphorical understanding of the resurrection. ‘How literally must one take the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumph to be called a Christian?’ Is it possible to understand the resurrection as metaphor (or perhaps reject that it happened at all) and still claim to follow Christ?
  5. He quoted the Barna research from 2010 in which it found that ‘only 42 percent of Americans said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection; just 2 percent identified it as the most important holiday of their faith’.
  6. Fr. James Martin, in his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage [2014. HarperOne, New York Times bestseller], stated, ‘But believing in the Resurrection is essential. It shows that nothing is impossible with God. In fact, Easter without the Resurrection is utterly meaningless. And the Christian faith without Easter is no faith at all’.
  7. For an opposite view, Winston obtained a comment from Professor Scott Korb of New York University, aged 37 at the time, a non-practicing Catholic, who moved from a literal to a symbolic resurrection. His concept of the resurrection is, ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’. For Korb, this change from literal to metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’. For him the metaphorical view allows people to return to the story year after year and find new meaning in it.
  8. By contrast, Reg Rivett, aged 37, and a youth minister in an evangelical house church, Edmonton, Canada, said that he believed Jesus literally rose from the dead and this is central to Christian identity. But he has conflicting feelings about how the resurrection is used in some circles, especially when it is tacked on the end of Christian events and turns the sacred into the very common. This saturation makes it ordinary. Instead, Rivett believes the church should ‘build’ towards the resurrection event throughout the year in the biblical storyline (which he called saga).
  9. Winston turned to retired Episcopal, unorthodox, liberal bishop, John Shelby Spong and his ‘famously liberal interpretation of Christianity in his 1995 book, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? that ‘caused a dust-up’ with his question, ‘Does Christianity fall unless a supernatural miracle can be established?’ Spong’s answer is, ‘No’ when he rejected the physical resuscitation interpretation in favour of, ‘I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence’ (not his physical body) was manifested to certain witnesses’.
  10. He agrees with Rivett that the resurrection needs to be placed in context to be understood. In Spong’s Bible studies that included 300 people, he ‘tried to help people get out of that literalism’ through laying the groundwork, people asking questions, and building on this framework.
  11. Spong said. ‘They [the people at his Bible studies] could not believe the superstitious stuff and they were brainwashed to believe that if they could not believe it literally they could not be a Christian’.
  12. So, according to Spong, a Christian ‘is one who accepts the reality of God without the requirement of a literal belief in miracles’. The resurrection says ‘Jesus breaks every human limit, including the limit of death, and by walking in his path you can catch a glimpse of that’. For Spong, ‘I think that’s a pretty good message’.

2. Issues with Winston’s article

Now to some of the main points of critique, based on the above 12 points:

2.1 The one-sided agenda of this journalist.

It seemed to be balanced because Winston cited two people supporting each of the two sides: (a) In support of the literal and bodily resurrection of Jesus was Father James Martin, an author, and youth pastor of a house church, Reg Rivett; (b) To promote the symbolic/metaphorical resurrection there were two scholars in the field, Professor Scott Korb and controversial retired Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong.

From this article, it is evident Winston (2014) was pushing an anti-literal resurrection agenda. How do I know? He dealt with the content of the metaphorical or symbolic resurrection by two scholars in the field, Professor Scott Korb and John Shelby Spong, retired bishop. He mentioned 2 supporters of a literal and bodily resurrection, Fr James Martin and a house church youth pastor, but an exposition of the main points by anyone supporting a bodily resurrection was not given. What Reg Rivett said was reasonable, but it did not contain statements of why the literal, bodily resurrection is the interpretation given in the four NT Gospels.

There was not one scholar interviewed or reference made to their publications in support of a literal, bodily resurrection. I’m thinking of George Eldon Ladd (1975), Gary Habermas & Antony Flew (Miethe 1987), Wolfhart Pannenberg (1996), Davis et al (1997), Norman Geisler (1989), and the massive volume of 817 pages on the resurrection of the Son of God by N T Wright (2003). We’ll get to some issues surrounding this perspective below. Some of these scholars are no longer alive (e.g. Ladd, Flew, Pannenberg) but their publications are available. Others mentioned are alive and able to be interviewed (Habermas, Geisler, Davis et al, and Wright). Instead, what was given? There was an interview with Korb and consultation made with Spong’s publication. These are two prominent liberals who support a symbolic metaphorical resurrection and reject Jesus’ miraculous resuscitation after his death (Korb and Spong).

2.2 Resurrection details are invented

What was Korb’s interpretation of the resurrection? ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. What has this change from literal to metaphorical understanding done? It has ‘given the story more power’, says Korb.

Where does this meaning of resurrection related to the low parts of our lives and finding a way out come from? Howe do we know Easter is expressed in community and in compassion to others? Who determines that this metaphorical meaning gives the story more power?

According to Spong, the resurrection says ‘Jesus breaks every human limit, including the limit of death, and by walking in his path you can catch a glimpse of that’ (Winston 2014).

I have read the Gospel stories over and over, including the passion-resurrection of Jesus for about 50 years. Not once have I read these details in the Gospel accounts in Matthew 27 and 28; Mark 15 and 16; Luke 23 and 24, and John 19 and 20. Not a word is found in these chapters, along with the resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 to provide anything that looks like Korb’s and Spong’s interpretations of the resurrection. I’ll examine biblical details below.

2.3 Out of a postmodern mind

From where have Korb’s and Spong’s interpretations come? They are inventions out of postmodern minds and creative, free play interpretations. The postmodernists often use the term reader-response as the means of determining the meaning of a text. Thus, the writer of the text does not provide the meaning, according to this view. Instead, as Lois Tyson explains,

Reader-response theorists share two beliefs: 1) that the role of the reader cannot be omitted from our understanding of literature and 2) that readers do not passively consume the meaning presented to them by an objective literary text; rather they actively make the meaning they find in literature (Tyson 2015:162).

What is a postmodernist interpretation? It’s a slippery term and the mere task of defining postmodernism violates its own principles. This is my brief definition: Postmodernism is an outlook or perspective that is sceptical about society’s metanarratives and, therefore, attempts to deconstruct them. A metanarrative is an overall, broad view that attempts to explain the meaning of individual or local narratives. A metanarrative or grand narrative (a term used by postmodern developer, Jean-Francois Lyotard), meant an overarching theory that tried ‘to give a totalizing, comprehensive account to various historical events, experiences, and social, cultural phenomena based upon the appeal to universal truth or universal values’ (New World Encyclopedia 2014. s v metanarrative).

Thus if Judaism, Christianity or Islam attempts to offer a “grand” narrative of God’s dealings with the world which provides a frame of reference for understanding “local” (e.g. personal or community) stories of guilt, suffering, redemption, love, joy, folly or whatever, this falls under suspicion as an imperializing instrument for power that is in actuality no less “local” but purports to be the story of the world, an ontology[1] or an epistemology (Thiselton 2002:234).

Postmodernism, a movement since the 1960s-70s, developed amongst challenges to beliefs systems and structures in art, literature, science and other disciplines. It is antagonistic to any fixed interpretation and so promotes freedom which it defines as ‘the freedom to create one’s own values set against submission to an absolute truth, the autonomy of human beings set against obedience to a transcendent God, and the free play of interpretation set against belief in any final, authoritative meaning’ (Ingraffia 1995:6).

Postmodernism deals with stretching the boundaries on interpretations, as seen with the examples by Korb and Spong. A postmodern view is that ‘since interpretation can never be more than my interpretation or our interpretation, no purely objective stance is possible. Granted this conviction about the nature of the interpretive enterprise, philosophical pluralism infers that objective truth in most realms is impossible, and that therefore the only proper stance is that which disallows all claims to objective truth’ (Carson 1996:57).

John Dominic Crossan, a postmodern, historical Jesus scholar associated with the Jesus Seminar, defines postmodernism as an interactive approach: ‘The past and the present must interact with one another, each changing and challenging the other, and the ideal is an absolutely fair and equal reaction between one another’ (Crossan 1998:42). How does that work when applied to Jesus? Crossan’s interpretation of Jesus’ resurrection is parallel with that of Korb and Spong: ‘Bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in this world. That life continued, as it always had, to form communities of like lives’ (Crossan 1998:xxxi).

Korb and Spong could not have said it better than Crossan’s metaphorical-symbolic view of the resurrection.

2.4 It is deconstructing the biblical text

Korb, Spong and Crossan have deconstructed the biblical text to make it say what it does not say, but what they want it to mean. They have engaged in a core aspect of postmodernism – deconstruction – in which the reader determines the meaning and the writer does not establish the meaning of a text. The intent of the writer’s meaning is not affirmed. Crossan uses the term ‘reconstruction’ for deconstruction, by which he means that ‘something must be done over and over again in different times and different places, by different groups and different communities, and by ever generation again and again and again. The reason, of course, is that historical reconstruction is always interactive of present and past. Even our best theories and methods are still our best ones. They are all dated and doomed not just when they are wrong but especially when they are right’ (Crossan 1999:5, emphasis in original).

So Korb’s statement that Jesus’ resurrection means that ‘we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again – that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me’ is none other than postmodern junk created by Korb himself and it has no relationship to the biblical text. He has invented it out of his own mind. It is a postmodern deconstruction, as is his statement that the Resurrection ‘is expressed in community, and at its best through the compassion of others’. His addition, that the metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’ is a Korb creative, free play that is in no way related to what is stated in the Gospel texts.

The same applies to Spong’s statements, ‘I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence’ (not his physical body) was manifested to certain witnesses’. The key to Spong’s postmodern reconstruction perspective is in the statement, ‘I think it means….’ Of course he thinks that. It is his postmodern reconstruction and he did not get that meaning from the text of the NT Gospels.

I will be accused of being a literalist in my understanding, but that is what I am. I am a literalist in reading Scripture because that is the only way to obtain meaning for any document read. Imagine reading this statement from the Brisbane Times of 28 March 2016 in a postmodern, reader-response way. The story online states:

A light aircraft has crashed off the runway at Redcliffe Airport at Rothwell.

Emergency services were called at about 12.30pm to reports the two-seater plane had gone off into a ditch off the runway.

A plane lies to the side of a runway at Redcliffe Airport at Rothwell.

Police, fire and ambulance all attended the scene to find everyone had safely gotten out of the aircraft.

It is believed there were only two people on board and that neither passenger received any serious injuries (Brisbane Times 2016).

This means that in spite of apparent affliction, there is hope beyond the difficulties. The salvation received is designed to encourage all who are depressed and feeling down at this Easter time. Rescue the perishing is the theme and meaning of this crash.

If I gave that meaning to this story of a plane crash, only about 10km from where I live, you should take me to the nearest mental health facility for an assessment. However, that’s the type of interpretation that postmodernists like Korb, Spong, Crossan and others do with the biblical text. They deconstruct the metanarrative (failures of mechanical devices) and make them mean whatever they want in a reader-response free play. For Korb and others to interpret the biblical narratives metaphorically as they have, invites other readers like me to deconstruct Korb’s, Spong’s and Crossan’s words in the same way. To do this makes nonsense out of what a person writes. Imagine doing it to Shakespeare’s writings!

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3. The resurrection in the New Testament refutes postmodernism

How do we know that the metaphorical/symbolical resurrection of Jesus is the incorrect one? We go to the Gospel texts and find in his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus:

  • Jesus met his disciples in Galilee with ‘Greetings’ (Matt 28:9);
  • They ‘took hold of his feet’ and Jesus spoke to them (Matt 28:10);
  • ‘They saw him’ and ‘worshiped him’ (Matt 28:17);
  • Two people going to the village of Emmaus urged Jesus to stay with them. ‘He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them’ and their eyes were opened concerning who he was (Luke 24:28-35).
  • Jesus stood among his disciples and said, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39).
  • ‘He showed them [the disciples] his hands and his feet’. While they still disbelieved, Jesus asked: “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them’ (Luke 24: 42-43).
  • Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ and told them that ‘you are witnesses of these things’ – Jesus suffering and rising from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:45-48).
  • Jesus said to Mary [Magdalene], ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (John 20:17);
  • Jesus’ stood among his disciples (the doors were locked) and said to them, ‘”Peace be with you.” When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord’ (John 20:19-20) and then Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
  • Doubting Thomas was told by the other disciples that ‘we have seen the Lord’ but he said, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe’ (John 20:25). Eight days later, Thomas was with the disciples again and Jesus stood among them and said to Thomas, ‘”Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”’ (John 20:27-29).

This string of references from the Gospels (and we haven’t included the plethora of information in 1 Corinthians 15) demonstrates that in Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he demonstrated to his disciples that ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39). There is an abundance of witness here that Jesus’ resurrection was that of a bodily resurrection. His post-resurrection was a body was one that spoke, ate food and could be touched. It was a resuscitated physical body and not some metaphorical/symbolic event.

What Korb and Spong promote is a postmodern, reader-response free play invention, according to the creative imaginations of Korb and Spong. It does not relate to the truth of what is stated in the Gospels of the New Testament.

4. My postmodern reconstruction of Korb & Spong

Since both Korb and Spong rewrite the resurrection of Jesus to replace the bodily resurrection with a metaphorical perspective, what would happen if I read Korb and Spong as they read the resurrection accounts?

Let’s try my free play deconstruction of Korb. According to Winston, Korb said of Jesus’ resurrection, ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’ but this metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’.

What he means is that when people reach the end of the drought declared outback field, they are about to receive cash from the government as a handout to relieve this sheep-rearing family from the death throws of drought. The resurrection is into new hope for the family and the community of that outback town in Queensland. At Easter, the compassion from the government has reached that community and family. This metaphorical, postmodern, deconstructed story of what Korb said is powerful in giving that town hope for a resurrected future.

That is the meaning of what Easter means to me, as told by Scott Korb. Why should my reconstruction not be acceptable as Korb’s? Mine is my reader-response to Korb’s statement as much as his was of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.

My reader-response is destructive to Korb’s intent in what he said. The truth is that what Korb stated needs to be accepted literally as from him and not distorted like I made his statements. Using the same standards, Korb’s deconstruction of the Gospel resurrection accounts destroys literal meaning. He and I would not read the local newspaper or any book that way. Neither should we approach the Gospel accounts of the resurrection in such a fashion.

Therefore, the biblical evidence confirms that Jesus’ resurrection involved the resuscitation of a dead physical body to a revived physical body.

See my articles that affirm Jesus’ bodily resurrection:

clip_image005 Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

clip_image005[1] Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

clip_image005[2]Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

clip_image005[3] The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

clip_image005[4] Jesus’ resurrection appearances only to believers

 

5. Is belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus necessary for salvation?

 

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(Jesus’ bodily resurrection best explains the data: factsandfaith.com )

Since I have demonstrated from the Gospels that Jesus’ resurrection appearances involved a bodily resurrection, we know this because,

5.1 People touched him with their hands.

5.2 Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

5.3 Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for ‘food’).

5.4 Take a look at the wounds in his body.

5.5 Jesus could be seen and heard.

There are three added factors that reinforce Jesus’ bodily resurrection. They are:

5.6 The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body (Geisler 1999:668).

In that magnificent passage of I Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999:668).

5.7 Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12). That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, ‘from the dead’. Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus being raised ‘from (ek) the dead’ (John 12:1). In this case there is no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried. Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999:668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

5.8 He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ ‘appeared’ to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul ‘as to one abnormally born’.

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an ‘appearance or was it actually ‘seeing’ his physical being? These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh; he died in the flesh; he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a form of ‘spiritual’ existence. Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987:728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’ (Acts 1:3).

6. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection, the bodily resurrection, of Jesus.  Paul told the Corinthians: ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised , our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia, just published by Oxford University Press, says that by midcentury there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world´s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion or whoop it up in a carefree way of eating, drinking and being merry.

British evangelist and apologist, Michael Green (b. 1930), summarised the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection…. [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter.  If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light.  If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.  In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990:184).

7. The bodily resurrection is absolutely essential for these reasons:

7.1 Belief in the resurrection of Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation

Romans 10:9 states: ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ. You are saved from hell.

Your new birth, regeneration is guaranteed by the resurrection. First Peter 1:3 states that ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’.

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection. Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection; he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Romans 4:25 states that Jesus ‘was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’.

Your salvation, being born again, justification, having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do. Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom. It was a real, physical body. If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.

Also,

7.2 Christ’s resurrection proves that he is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign. According to John 2:19-21, ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”… But the temple he had spoken of was his body’.  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body – of the man Jesus – destroyed and three days later, he would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; and Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

7.3 Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, ‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live’. If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

Another piece of evidence to support the resurrection as a central part of Christianity is:

7.4 Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that    believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection. First Cor. 6:14 states, ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’.

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the Christian’s own bodily resurrection, Paul states that Christ is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Cor. 15:20).  What are ‘firstfruits’? It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like. The New Living Translation provides this translation of 1 Cor. 15:20 to explain it in down to earth terms, ‘But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died’.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection?

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection. Among those is Dr Albert Mohler who provides a summary of the essential need for Jesus’ resurrection:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion–whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14]. Furthermore, “You are still in your sins!” [v. 17b]. Paul could not have chosen stronger language. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” [v. 19].

Yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been under persistent attacks since the Apostolic age. Why? Because it is the central confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God, and the ultimate sign of Christ’s completed work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Those who oppose Christ, whether first century religious leaders or twentieth century secularists, recognize the Resurrection as the vindication of Christ against His enemies (Mohler 2016).

See my article: What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

8. Junk from the laity online

About the resurrection, one fellow on a Christian forum wrote:

Personally I believe there needs to be some Biblical criteria and guidelines on this subject before it can be discussed intelligently,… otherwise it is all just personal opinions and we all know in the Greek the word for opinion is heresy.
Before we can discuss resurrection, life needs to be addressed, when we understand the Biblical signification of life and how God intended us to understand it, then the meaning of resurrection can be understood, without the correct understanding of life and its principles resurrection will never be understood.[2]

My response was: ‘Why don’t you start us off with some of the biblical criteria and guidelines that you had in mind? You stated: ‘we all know in the Greek the word for opinion is heresy’. How is it that ‘we all know’? I read and have taught NT Greek and that’s not my understanding of ‘heresy’.[3] This was his reply:

The reason I say, from my rudiment (sic) understanding of Greek, the signification (sic) of heresy is opinion is taken from what Paul says to the Corinthians,
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Cor 11:18, 19
Thayer gives the definition of heresy as, choosing, choice, that which is chosen, a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party) dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims
Doesn’t that mean heresy can mean, is (sic) an opinion?
Who do we find in the NT that were sects or parties with their different opinions, was it not the Pharisees and the Sadducees?
Is not Paul saying these heresies cause divisions in the Body of Christ?
Since he says there will be heresies, how will we know which to believe, heresy or Truth, how will we know what the Truth is if we don’t examine it under the Light of the Word? Isa 8:20
Since I have tried to explain where I’m coming from in my bumbling way, may I please ask you what is your understanding of heresy?[4]

The ESV translation of 1 Cor 11:18-19 is, ‘For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions [schismata] among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions [haeresis] among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized’. The ESV rightly translates the word ‘heresies’ (KJV) as ‘factions’, which is consistent with the usage given by the Greek lexicons and the context of what was happening in the Corinthian church.

This was my understanding of this issue and I stated it this way:[5] The most authoritative NT Greek lexicon is Arndt & Gingrich and its definition of hairesis (heresy) is ‘sect, party, school (of philosophy)’; it refers to that of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17); later of an ‘heretical sect’; ‘dissension, a faction’ (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20); ‘opinion, dogma, destructive opinions (2 Pt 2:1)’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:23). Therefore, heresies in the NT refer to sects that promote doctrines and dissension attacking foundational faith of the Christian community, along with destructive opinions. General opinions by human beings in normal conversation are not regarded as heresies. The Greek word, haeresis, is referring to destructive opinions that lead to dissension, with teachings that are contrary to biblical orthodoxy.

A heresy is a teaching that attacks one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Harold O J Brown (1984) in his extensive study on Heresies assessed that

“heresy” came to be used to mean a separation or split resulting from a false faith (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). It designated either a doctrine or the party holding the doctrine, a doctrine that was sufficiently intolerable to destroy the unity of the Christian church. In the early church, heresy did not refer to simply any doctrinal disagreement, but to something that seemed to undercut the very basis for Christian existence. Practically speaking, heresy involved the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ – later called “special theology” and “Christology” (Brown 1984:2-3).

So some kind of skirmish or division (schismata), whether that be over baptism, the nature of the Lord’s supper, eschatological differences, or women in ministry would not be regarded as heresy in the early church.

9. Resurrection heresies

Which heresies of the resurrection have been taught historically and on the contemporary scene? Here are a few:

9.1 The Sadducees’ heresy was that this group did not believe in any resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8);
9.2 David Strauss (1808-1874), a German, liberal Protestant theologian, wrote: ‘We may summarily reject all miracles, prophecies, narratives of angels and demons, and the like, as simply impossible and irreconcilable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events’ (1848, Introduction to The Life of Jesus Critically Examined). Thus, according to Strauss, Jesus’ resurrection would be considered an impossible miracle which could not be harmonised with universal laws.

9.3 Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), German liberal Lutheran scholar, claimed the resurrection ‘is not an event of past history…. An historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable’ (Bultmann, et al:1961,1.8, 39). His anti-supernatural presuppositions prevent his accepting the miraculous bodily resurrection of Jesus.

9.4 It is certain that people in the first century believed in the resurrection, but ‘we can no longer take the statements about the resurrection of Jesus literally…. The tomb of Jesus was not empty, but full, and his body did not disappear, but rotted away’. These authors called this an ‘inevitable conclusion’ because of ‘the revolution in the scientific view of the world’. Thus, all statements about Jesus’ resurrection ‘have lost their literal meaning’ (Lüdemann & ?zen 1995:134-135, emphasis in original). Who said so? This is Lüdemann & ?zen’s imposition of their naturalistic, scientific worldview on the text. It does not relate to what the texts themselves state when interpreted according to normal principles of hermeneutics for reading any document.

9.5 The rejection of Jesus’ bodily resurrection continues to the present. John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar claims that Jesus’ resurrection ‘has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of the tomb’. It was not human flesh that was resuscitated, but ‘bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in this world’. ‘That life continues, as it has done for two millennia, to form communities of like lives’ (Crossan 1999:46; 1998:xxxi). Thus, there is no physical resurrection in the flesh, but it is a metaphorical understanding of

(a) the presence of salvation in the world that
(b) is powerfully effective, in and through
(c) the community of Christian believers.

There’s plenty of controversy/heresy there to keep us discussing, debating and proclaiming our differences until kingdom come.

9.6 At Easter (25-27 March) 2016, we got this junk from journalist, Nathaneal Cooper of the Brisbane Times: ‘Churches around the region were filled to capacity as the pious mourned the death of Jesus Christ before, according to popular belief, he got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’ (Cooper 2016).

I call it junk, not to ridicule the person of the journalist, but because it is biased reporting relating to Cooper’s statement, ‘according to popular belief, he [Jesus] got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’. This is junky theology because,

  • when we compare it with the record of what actually happened according to the record in the Gospels;
  • it amounts to Cooper imposing his presuppositional bias against the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection in his writing for the Brisbane Times;
  • This is not an objective journalist reporting what happened in churches on Good Friday 2016 in Brisbane, Qld., Australia.

10. Is it true that Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb?

Let’s examine the Gospel evidence to consider whether Cooper is accurate in his statement that Jesus ‘got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’ than his death. Do the Gospels support his claim?

flamin-arrow ‘Now after the Sabbath, towards the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it’ (Matt 28:1-2 ESV). Here the evidence is that of a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone. It was a supernatural action that removed the stone to Jesus’ tomb.

flamin-arrow This supernatural event was of such trouble to the guard of soldiers and elders in Jerusalem that they invented this story:

‘And when they [some of the guard of soldiers] had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day (Matt 28:12-15 ESV).

flamin-arrow When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to Jesus’ tomb when the Sabbath had finished (after Christ’s crucifixion), they found the large stone at the entrance of the tomb had been rolled away (Mark 16:1-4). On entering the tomb, a young man dressed in a white robe was sitting in the tomb. His message to the women was, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him’ (Mark 16:5-6). Information from Mark 16:9-20 is not used here as it is not considered to be part of the earliest manuscripts of the NT.[6]

flamin-arrow Luke 24 contains a similar emphasis where the women went to the tomb on the Sunday morning (the day after the Sabbath) and they didn’t find the body of Jesus.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest (Luke 24:5-9 ESV).

Here is evidence that supernatural events were happening at the time of Jesus’ resurrection, but a journalist dares to state that ‘he [Jesus] got up and walked out of his tomb’. Was this some natural event of Jesus, the dead one, ‘getting up and walking out of the tomb’? Was he not dead? What was really happening on that Easter Sunday in the first century? Acts 1:3 (ESV) records that Jesus ‘presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God’. The infallible proofs included Jesus’ bodily post-resurrection appearances recorded at the end of each of the 4 Gospels.

10.1 Who raised Jesus from the dead?

In the resurrection accounts at the end of each of the four Gospels, this is not stated clearly. However, there is evidence in other portions of Scripture that provide this information.

10.1.1 Remember what Jesus said when he was on earth concerning his own body? According to John 2:19 (NIV), ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”’. So Jesus was prophesying that he would raise his own body. So Cooper is correct in attributing Jesus’ resurrection to Jesus himself, but Cooper left out further information.

10.1.2 Then there is evidence that God raised Jesus’ body. See Romans 10:9 (NIV), ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. This is further confirmed in 1 Peter 1:21 (NIV), ‘Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God’. So here we have God (often understood as the Trinitarian God) raising Jesus from the dead.

10.1.3 There is evidence that God, the Father, resurrected Jesus. Galatians 1:1 (NIV) states, ‘Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead’. See also Ephesians 1:17-20 (NIV) where Paul speaks of God the Father who had incomparably great power for those who believe, the power ‘he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’.

10.1.4 The third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead according to Rom 8:11 (NIV), ‘And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you’.

Therefore, the Trinitarian God raised Jesus from the dead. All three members of the Trinity were involved. Huston (n d) rightly states that ‘the act of raising Jesus from the dead was not the operation merely of one person within the Trinity but was a cooperative act done by the power of the divine substance. The fact that the Bible teaches that God raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus raised Himself is yet another testament to Christ’s divinity’.[7]

11. Cooper continues his blunders

Cooper continued his inaccuracies by quoting Catholic Archbishop Coleridge, ‘All the tears of the world are gathered up on Cavalry (sic) and then when Jesus is raised form (sic) the dead we are saying there is something more. That is the genuine hope that satisfies the human heart, not the cosmetic hope that is a dime a dozen.’ (Cooper 2016).

The correct spelling for the hill on which Jesus died is Calvary and NOT Cavalry. A cavalry is ‘the part of an army that in the past had soldiers who rode horses and that now has soldiers who ride in vehicles or helicopters’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary. S v cavalry).

This misspelling is a demonstration of a journalist’s ignorance of the Christian information about Jesus’ death on the most important day of the Christian calendar. Or, it is careless spell checking and a typographical error was included. The latter is a definite possibility as the journalist also wrongly spelled ‘from’ in the statement, ‘… raised form (sic) the dead’.

Cooper’s blunders demonstrate his wanting to rewrite the content of the Gospel narratives on Jesus’ resurrection. He seeks out others like Archbishop Coleridge to confirm his inaccuracies concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Yes, an Archbishop has diverted attention away from the real meaning of the resurrection with his saying that ‘when Jesus is raised form (sic) the dead we are saying there is something more. That is the genuine hope that satisfies the human heart, not the cosmetic hope that is a dime a dozen.’ (Cooper 2016).

12. Genuine hope

What is the ‘genuine hope’ of Jesus’ resurrection? Nothing could be clearer than what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 (NLT), ‘If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins’. The hope that relates to Christ’s resurrection was not expressed by Archbishop Coleridge in what was cited by Cooper, ‘genuine hope that satisfies the human heart’ and not the cheap cosmetic hope. The latter was not defined. Was it a hope so? The fact is that if there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is futile, worthless or useless and all human beings are still in their sins. This means there is no forgiveness and cleansing for sins and so no hope of eternal life with God. It is serious business to deny or reconstruct the resurrection. It is redefining Christianity to make it something that it is not.

First Corinthians 15 (NLT) gives at least 8 reasons why Jesus’ bodily resurrection is more than that expressed in Cooper’s (2016) article:

a. Christ’s resurrection is tied to the resurrection of believers who have died (15:12);

b. If Christ has not been raised, preaching is useless (15:14);

c. If no resurrection, faith is useless (15:14);

d. If Jesus was not resurrected, those who have preached the resurrection are lying about God and the resurrection (15:15);

e. No resurrection of Jesus means faith in Jesus is useless and all unbelievers are still guilty in their sins (meaning there is no forgiveness for sins) (15:17).

f. If Jesus was not raised, those who have already died are lost/have perished and there is no future resurrection for them (15:18).

g. If we have hope in this life only with no hope of future resurrection, Christians are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (15:19).

h. BUT, the truth is that Christ has been raised from the dead (not metaphorically, but bodily), and He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died (15:20).

13. Golgotha or Calvary

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(courtesy biblesnet.com, public domain)

The New Testament uses the term Golgotha (see Matt 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17) for the place where Jesus died. Golgotha is the Greek, golgotha, and is based on the Aramaic, gulgata (see Num. 1:2; 1 Chr. 23:3, 24; 2 Kings 9:35), ‘which implies a bald, round, skull-like mound or hillock’.

How did the term, Calvary, come to be identified with Golgotha? Calvary is the Latin name, Calvarius, for Golgotha and it translates the Greek word, kranion (only found in Luke 23:33). Kranion is used to interpret the Hebrew, gulgoleth, ‘the place of a skull’. The Latin name of Calvary, based on the Latin Vulgate translation, which means ‘bald skull’ enters the picture in Luke 23:33. Modern Bible versions use the translation, ‘the Skull’ (ESV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NLT, NAB, NJB, HCSB, NET, ISV, CEB, Darby, WEB). The Wycliffe, Tyndale, King James, and Douay-Rheims versions used ‘Calvary’. However, Golgotha and Calvary refer to the same place. There are two main explanations for the identification of the place of the Skull where Jesus was crucified:

(a) It was a place where regular executions took place and there were many skulls to be seen;

(b) It was a place that looked like a skull and could be viewed from the city (Dingman1967:317).

Where was Golgotha located? The post-apostolic tradition does not agree with the information in the Gospels. Matt 27:33 and Mark 15:22 locate it not far from the city as it required Simon of Cyrene to take the cross (he was compelled) to the place of the Skull, suggesting it was close to the city of Jerusalem. John 19:20 confirms it was close to the city. Dingman stated that it was located outside the city ‘on the public highway, which was the type of location usually chosen by the Romans for executions. Tradition locates it within the present city’ of Jerusalem (Dingman 1967:317). Hebrews 13:11-13 confirms that Jesus died ‘outside the camp’, indicating outside Jerusalem.

The exact site of Calvary is a matter of dispute. Two sites contend for acceptance, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is within the walls of the modern city; and the Green Hill, or Gordon’s Calvary, in which is Jeremiah’s Grotto, a few hundred feet NE of the Damascus Gate. The first is supported by ancient tradition, while the second was suggested for the first time in 1849, although much is to be said in its favor (Tenney, ‘Calvary’, 1967:142).

clip_image011

(Gordon’s Calvary & the garden tomb, courtesy Patheos)

If one is to accept the authority of the Scripture, as I do, then the first suggestion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the hill of Calgary is rejected because it is within the present city. However, is the present city of Jerusalem located on the same site as that of ancient Jerusalem? The evidence is that this city is

different from most cities that have witnessed great historical events over many successive centuries, Jerusalem has always remained on the same site. Specifically it is located at 31º 46’ 45” N lat., and 35º 13’ 25” long. E of Greenwich. It is situated 33 miles E. of the Mediterranean, and 14 miles W of the Dead Sea, at an elevation of 2,550 feet above sea level (Smith 1967:418).

Therefore, the biblical evidence points to a hill location outside of the city of Jerusalem, known as the Skull (Golgotha, Calvary), as the location of Jesus’ crucifixion near Jerusalem.

Golgotha and Calvary are used as synonymous terms for ‘the place of the skull’, the hill on which Jesus was crucified.

14. Evidence is compelling for Jesus’ supernatural resurrection

Andrina Hanson has summarised the evidence:

The claim by Christian apologists that belief in Jesus’ resurrection is a rational belief can be summed up as follows:

  • There is good reason to believe God exists (source);
  • If God exists, then God could have supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead;
  • The following seven (7) lines of historical evidence demonstrate to a reasonable degree that God did, in fact, raise Jesus from the dead:

I4.1 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of Jesus being seen alive in a resurrected body on at least twelve (12) separate occasions by more than 500 witnesses, including at least two skeptics (James the Just and Paul fka Saul) (source)

14.2 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of Jesus’ tomb being found empty (source)

I4.3 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of the transformation in the lives of Jesus’ disciples from fearful fleers to faithful followers who endured great persecution and became martyrs for their faith (source)

I4.4 The resurrection best explains why even Jewish leaders and skeptics converted to Christianity after Jesus was crucified, even though Christianity was foundationally centered on Jesus’ resurrection

I4.5 The resurrection best explains why there is no evidence any site was ever venerated as Jesus’ burial site even though it was common practice in that day to venerate the burial sites of religious and political leaders

I4.6 The resurrection best explains why the early Church centered its teachings and practices around a supernatural event like the resurrection instead of something less controversial like Jesus’ moral teachings

I4.7 The resurrection best explains the sudden rise and expansion of Christianity so soon after Jesus death even though Jesus had been crucified by the Romans as a political traitor and declared a religious heretic by the Jewish religious leaders

Over the last 2,000 years, skeptics have proffered various alternative theories to attempt to explain away the historical evidence of Jesus’ supernatural resurrection. However, as discussed in the above-linked articles, Christian apologists maintain none of the proposed naturalistic theories adequately explain the totality of the historical evidence and none of the theories are rationally compelling. Since there is a rational basis for believing God exists (source) and since Jesus’ supernatural resurrection is the one explanation that adequately explains the totality of the historical evidence, Christian apologists maintain there is a reasonable basis for believing God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead as reported by multiple independent sources in the New Testament (Hanson 2014).

15. Conclusion

In §5, §6 and §7 above, the bodily resurrection of Jesus was defended, in opposition to the metaphorical/symbolic view. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus defended in Scripture is his bodily resurrection. Any other view is an invention – a heresy.

Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? There have been those (as pointed out in this article) who have redefined (deconstructed) the resurrection to make it metaphorical or symbolic. Korb, Spong, Coleridge and Crossan have done that as Christian representatives. Thus they have doubted and denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Their reconstructions have caused them to engage in a reader-response invention of their own making. They have invented what the resurrection means. It is a meaning out of their own minds and worldview. It is not a perspective based on a historical, grammatical, cultural interpretation of Scripture.

Reasons have been given in this article to demonstrate that a person must believe in the bodily resurrection to receive eternal life. Otherwise faith and preaching are useless; people do not have their sins forgiven, and hope is hopeless (see §7 and §12).

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God…  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Cor. 15:13-15, 17, 19).

The conclusion is that if Jesus has not been bodily resurrected, faith is faithlessness because it is a useless faith. Now to answer the question of this article: Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? No! Your faith is useless or vain if you doubt or reconstruct the bodily resurrection. You may not like my conclusion, but I’ve provided the evidence above that leads to that biblical conclusion.

See my articles on the heresies promoted by retired USA Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong:

clip_image013 Spong promotes salvation viruses called ‘offensive’ and ‘anathema’

clip_image013[1] Spong’s deadly Christianity

clip_image013[2]John Shelby Spong and the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia)

clip_image013[3] The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong [1]

clip_image013[4] Spong’s swan song — at last! [1]

Bishop John Shelby Spong portrait 2006.png

(John Shelby Spong, photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

16. Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Brisbane Times 2016. Two-seater aircraft crashes off the runway at Redcliffe (online), 28 March. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/twoseater-aircraft-crashes-off-the-runway-at-redcliffe-20160328-gns9e0.html (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Brown, H O J 1984. Heresies: The image of Christ in the mirror of heresy and orthodoxy from the apostles to the present. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Bultmann, R and five critics 1961. Kerygma and myth. New York: Harper & Row.

Carson, D A 1996. The gagging of God: Christianity confronts pluralism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Cooper, N 2016. Brisbane churches packed for Good Friday services. Brisbane Times (online), 25 March. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-churches-packed-for-good-friday-services-20160325-gnr55d.html (Accessed 25 March 2016).

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Davis, S; Kendall D; & O’Collins, G (eds) 1997. The resurrection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dingman, B P 1967. Golgotha. In M C Tenney, gen ed, The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 317. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The first epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N L 1989. The battle for the resurrection. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Geisler, N. L. 1999. Resurrection, Evidence for, in N L Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Green, M. 1990. Evangelism through the local Church. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Hanson, A 2014. Is Belief in Jesus’ Supernatural Resurrection Rational? Introduction & Summary of the Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. Facts & Faith: The Blog (online), February 27. Available at: http://factsandfaith.com/is-it-rational-to-believe-in-jesus-supernatural-resurrection/ (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Huson, B n d. Did Jesus raise Himself from the grave or did God do it? CARM (online). Available at: https://carm.org/jesus-raise-himself (Accessed 5 February 2017).

Ingraffia, B D 1996. Postmodern theory and biblical theology: Vanquishing God’s shadow. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ladd, G E 1975. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lüdemann, G & ?zen, A 1995. What really happened to Jesus? A historical approach to the resurrection. Tr by J Bowden. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Miethe, T L (ed) 1987. Did Jesus rise from the dead? The resurrection debate: Gary R Habermas & Antony G N Flew. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Mohler, A 2016. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Gospel (online), March 25. Available at: http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/03/25/the-resurrection-of-jesus-christ-and-the-reality-of-the-gospel/ (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Pannenberg, W 1996. History and the reality of the resurrection. In G D’Costa (ed), Resurrection reconsidered, 62-72. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications.

Smith, W S 1967. Jerusalem. In M C G Tenney (gen ed), The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 417-427. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Tenney, M C (gen ed) 1967. Calvary. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 142. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Thiselton, A C 2002. A concise encyclopedia of the philosophy of religion. Oxford: Oneworld.

Tyson, L 2015. Critical theory today: A user-friendly guide, 3rd ed. Abingdon, Oxford/New York, NY: Routledge.

Winston, K 2014. Can you question the resurrection and still be a Christian? National Catholic Reporter (from Religion News Service), April 17. Available at: http://ncronline.org/news/theology/can-you-question-resurrection-and-still-be-christian (Accessed 26 March 2016).

Wright, N T 2003. The resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Zenit 2001. World Christianity on the rise in 21st century (online. Available at: https://zenit.org/articles/christianity-on-the-rise-in-21st-century/ Accessed 29 March 2016.)

17. Notes


[1] ‘Ontology denotes the study of being, or of what is’. It is the study of things that exist. So, it appears alongside epistemology which ‘embraces a variety of theories of knowledge…. It includes issues concerning the sources, limits and nature of knowledge, and modes of knowing’ (Thiselton 2002:217-218, 76).

[2] Christian Forums.net 2015. ‘What do we believe about the resurrection?’ Karl#18. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/what-do-we-believe-about-the-resurrection.58279/ (Accessed 19 February 2015). Please excuse the way this poster expressed his views online. Grammar and manner of expression are somewhat informal and idiosyncratic.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[4] Ibid., Karl#22.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#26.

[6] After Mark 16:8, the English Standard Version states, ‘Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20’. Most modern Bible versions contain a similar statement.

[7] These four points are based on the Scriptures provided in a brief article by Brad Huston (n d).

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’, 4th rev and aug ed, 1952 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 February 2017.

 

 

How to Cut Christ out of Christmas

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

https://charlespaolino.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/manger.jpg?resize=492%2C369

(Nativity scene, courtesy Charles Paolino, public domain)

 By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you wanted to pollute Christmas and distort its true meaning, how would you do it? It has been done all around the world for centuries with the Santa Claus commercial phenomenon.

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(courtesy www.marines.mil)

How did the legend of Santa Claus begin? According to history.com,

the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick….

St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas) (www.history.com 2016. S v Santa Claus).

A.  A special Christmas attraction

Here is how a local business in northern Brisbane, Qld., Australia, took the Christ out of Christmas – for commercial reasons. This is one way that this shopping centre advertised the season and how to support its enterprise.[1] The event had been promoted by this shopping centre, MarketPlace, at Warner Qld, for a couple of months. It was advertising that on December 15, 2015, the ‘Car-istmas Giveaway closes on Friday at 5pm! Zoom zoom in for your remaining chances to enter’. It was giving away ‘a Mazda 3 Maxx’, supplied by a local Mazda dealer. It promoted, ‘Or 1 of 20, $100 MarketPlace Gift Cards. Simply spend $15 or more in any’ store there or $50 in Aldi or Woolworths. It advertised some ‘Car-istmas give away conditions of entry’.[2]

B. What had this business done with Christmas?

I was concerned with how the ‘Christ’ in Christmas had been replaced by ‘Car-ist’, so I wrote this email to the management of MarketPlace Warner on 17 November 2015, with the subject heading, ‘Your sacrilegious attack on Christ’:

Centre Management
MarketPlace Warner

Dear management members,

Since I live in North Lakes, I read your full-page advertisement in the North Lakes Times, November 12, 2015, p. 12. As a marketing ploy, the advertisement had the heading, ‘CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway’. I have now seen your link online at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/car-ristmas-giveaway-second-draw/

I write to object strongly to the way you have desecrated the name of Christ for commercial purposes. You may have thought ‘CAR-ISTMAS’ was an attention-seeking headline, but I as a Christian am offended by what you have done to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a special season of the year for the Christian community for the celebration of Christ’s birth, not for a marketing grab to eliminate Christ from the season, which is what your MarketPlace advertisement has done.

I urge you to quit this sacrilege immediately. If you tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?

I added this P.S.: Sacrilege is ‘an act of treating a holy thing or place without respect’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v sacrilege). I also included my home phone number.

C. Response: ‘We are all Christians here’

The next morning (18 November 2015), I received a courteous phone call from a woman in the office of MarketPlace Warner, saying, ‘We are all Christians here’. Interesting that she included, ‘all’. I took this to mean ‘all in management’. I urged her to get the management to remove the emphasis of this advertising immediately. She did not respond to my gentle request. However, the advertising in the North Lakes Times continued the following week with ‘Car-istmas’ on 19 November 2015 (p. 8):

On 18 November after the phone call, I sent this email to MarketPlace Warner:

Dear management staff,

Thank you for the phone call I received this morning about my email from yesterday regarding the sacrilege of your use of CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway in promotion of MarketPlace.

However, my disappointment with the phone call is that no attempt was made to admit that you got it wrong and that CAR-ISTMAS takes the CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS and you will eliminate such a sacrilegious statement from your present advertising.

I commend MarketPlace for its nativity scene at a time when such are disappearing from shopping centres.

This is how MarketPlace Warner advertised on its homepage at Christmas 2015:[3]

clip_image004

Notice the emphasis. The ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting (online) is with Santa and not with the nativity scene. So much for ‘we are all Christians here’! If they were, Christ should have received a more prominent place.

The woman who phoned told me that MarketPlace Warner has a large nativity scene at the centre, which she said was more than I would find at most other centres. As a result of this conversation, I checked on what was displayed at my local Westfield Shopping Centre, North Lakes, and found a very small nativity scene (near the NAB Bank entrance to the mall), but there was no wording to say what it represented. Instead, Santa was large as life near the food court and he had children lined up with parents for the children to be photographed with Santa.

D. Newspaper letter’s censorship

I adapted the letter sent to MarketPlace Warner in a letter-to-the-editor, North Lakes Times. My letter, sent on 17 November 2015, with the heading, ‘Sacrilege at Christmas’, read:

I read the full-page advertisement for MarketPlace Warner, with the heading, ‘CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway’ (North Lakes Times, Nov 12, page 12).
I object strongly to the way MarketPlace has desecrated the name of Christ for commercial purposes. It may have thought ‘CAR-ISTMAS’ was an attention-seeking headline.
I as a Christian am offended by what this business has done to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a special season of the year for the Christian community for the celebration of Christ’s birth, not for a marketing grab to eliminate Christ from the season.
I urge MarketPlace Warner to quit this sacrilege immediately. If it tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?

How do you think the North Lakes Times published this letter? Here is a Print Screen copy that appeared in the North Lakes Times, 26 Nov 2015, ‘Conversations’, p. 8, with the changed heading, ‘Reason for the season’:

clip_image006

1. The nature of the editing

Notice what the North Lakes Times did with my letter. It censored the last paragraph which read, ‘I urge MarketPlace Warner to quit this sacrilege immediately. If it tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?’

2. Is this an important issue?

Is this a trifling issue? Have I made a mountain out of a mole hill? I don’t think so, for this primary reason. Jesus told Christians:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:13-16 NIV).

a. Salt and light are indispensable

SaltIn the world of the first century and extending to the twenty-first century, salt has the qualities of a sharp taste and preservative power. It is this latter quality, ‘the potency of salt as an antiseptic, a substance that prevents and retards decay, upon which the emphasis falls here, though the subsidiary function of imparting flavor must obviously not be excluded (see Lev. 2:13; Job 6:6; Col 4:6)’. The negative function of salt is seen in how it combats deterioration. Christians should be in seen in action against moral and spiritual decay (Hendriksen 1973:282). Why would a woman in the office at a reasonable sized shopping centre own up to, ‘We are all Christians here’, if it were not for my challenge to that centre? As of 2 January 2016, there had not been one letter of opposition published by the newspaper to the content of my letter.

The qualities of light should be self evident in exposing the darkness. In Scripture, we see light associated with true knowledge of God (Ps 36:9, Sun Rays 4cf Matt 6:22-23), goodness, righteousness and truthfulness (Eph 5:8-9); joy, gladness, true happiness (Ps 97:11; Isa 9:1-7). From Eph 5:8 we know that Christians are ‘a light in the Lord’. Believers are reflections of Christ who is the true light (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46). Jesus’ words were, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12 ESV).[4]

I consider I was being salt and light in action in exposing the censorship of Christ at Christmas, all in the name of commercialism. This is engaging in the ministry of cultural apologetics. The Colson Center for Christian Worldview has stated that cultural apologetics involves the ‘working to transform the rhythms and practices of our culture – including the culture of our Christian communities – to reflect the beauty and desirability of Christ’ (‘Cultural Apologetics’).

E. Conclusion

What lengths will a significant sized business go to promote the commercialism of Christmas and take Christ out of Christmas?

MarketPlace Warner decided to attract customers to its shopping centre for Christmas 2015 by engaging with a local Mazda car dealership to put customers in the draw to win a motor vehicle if customers would make a certain amount of purchases. Of course, there was advertising chosen to promote this commercial venture that was designed to attract people to that shopping centre.

In doing this, MarketPlace Warner deliberately downgraded the Christ of Christmas to replace him with the Car of Christmas. This is sacrilegious marketing, in my view. In spite of the claim by an administrative staff member that ‘we are all Christians here’, I wouldn’t know that from the nature of the Christmas advertising in the full-page advertisements in the North Lakes Times (Nov 12, 2015, pp 12-14 and Nov 19, 2015, pp 8-9). There were half-page advertisements that I noticed on 10 Dec, 2015, p. 8 and 17 Dec, 2015, p. 2.

When I submitted a letter to the editor of the North Lakes Times, it was published, but the newspaper censored the portion when I compared it with what would happen if it did a similar thing to Muhammad at Ramadan.

The end result is that this message was nowhere to be found in the promotion of Christmas by MarketPlace Warner on its website or in the commercial (full page advertisements) in the North Lakes Times. This kind of proclamation was excluded, ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’ (Luke 2:10-11 NLT).

You may say, of course it would be eliminated because that is not a viable message to sell goods at Christmastime. That’s my very point. Christmas is not a time for commercialism but for declaring Messiah’s coming into the world, becoming flesh, and this led to the provision of salvation to come through his sacrificial death on the cross (Matt 26:28), available to those who put their faith in Jesus.

Works consulted

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Notes


[1] Facebook. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/marketplacewarner/posts/534421553374133?fref=nf (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[2] MarketPlace Warner 2015. Available at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/file/2015/11/MPW-CARISTMAS-GIVEAWAY-2015-TERMS-CONDITIONS.pdf (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[3] Available at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/merry-christmas-from-the-team-at-marketplace-warner/ (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[4] These Scriptures and emphases were supplied by Hendriksen (1973:284).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 January 2016.

The battle for apologetics in Christian thinking

Friday, December 25th, 2015

(The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis, courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why would a group of Christians want apologetics and theology be seen as parallel disciplines. I challenged this combination of ‘Apologetics & Theology’ on Christian Forums.net (CFnet). They are in some ways related but in other primary ways are different disciplines? The following enumerates how I pursued this encounter with the moderators of this forum.

What is ‘apologetics’? William Lane Craig defines apologetics as ‘a theoretical discipline that tries to answer the question, What rational defense can be given for the Christian faith? Therefore, most of our time must be spent in trying to answer this question…. The use of apologetics in practice ought rather to be an integral part of courses and books on evangelism’ (Craig 1994:xi).

Edward John Carnell integrates apologetics with theology: ‘Apologetics is that branch of Christian theology which answers the question, Is Christianity rationally defensible?’ (Carnell 1948:7, emphasis in original). Norman Geisler, an active apologist, exegete and theologian, provided this definition: ‘Apologetics is the discipline that deals with a rational defense of Christian faith’ (Geisler 1999:37, emphasis in original).

How is ‘theology’ defined? Theologian Henry Thiessen considers that ‘theology is used in the narrow sense of ‘the doctrine of God’ and ‘the broad and more usual sense …, all Christian doctrines, not only the specific doctrine of God, but also all the doctrines that deal with the relations God sustains to the universe’ (Thiessen 1949:24).

A more recent theologian stated that ‘systematic theology is any study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today?” about any given topic’ (Grudem 1999:17, emphasis in original). Millard Erickson defines theology as ‘that discipline which strives to give a coherent statement of the doctrines of the Christian faith, based primarily upon the Scriptures, placed in the context of culture in general, worded in a contemporary idiom, and related to issues of life’ (Erickson 1985:21).

I suggested to one of the moderators of CFnet that ‘Apologetics’ should become a separate discipline to ‘Theology’ on that forum and he suggested discussing it in an open forum of ‘Questions & Suggestions for CFnet Staff’. Therefore, I began a topic, ‘Separate apologetics from theology’.

That really got the juices flowing after I began the topic with this entry:[1]

No need to quote Scriptures in apologetics

Since I’m an active Christian apologist in the Australian secular world, I would like to ask a few questions about the ‘Apologetics & Theology’ directory in which Scriptures are to be given in responses, to follow CFnet guidelines. This is not possible in the apologetic world in which I engage people because these sceptical Aussies do not want Scripture quoted as many of them don’t believe the Bible. They want engagement at a different level because of the nature of their questions or comments:

  1. ‘Your Bible is nonsense; it’s nothing more than a fairytale, myth from the Iron Age’ – quoting Scripture will not answer this issue. I need to engage with them on how to determine the accuracy and dependability of any document from history. Quoting Scripture doesn’t help them on this part of the journey.
  2. ‘It’s foolishness trying to convince me of your god when there are so many gods in the world, including Allah, Buddha and thousands of other deities. Promoting your one God is nothing more than giving me your indoctrination’. This means I have to begin this discussion way before reaching the Bible.
  3. The occasional more informed person raises issues such as: ‘Your Reformation hero John Calvin agreed to the slaughter of the Geneva Reformer Michael Servetus who was burned to death for heresy. One of your leaders is as guilty as the ISIL terrorists in killing those who oppose them’. Therefore, this is not the point to begin by quoting Scripture. I have to begin way back before I can come to Scripture.

I would like to encourage CFnet to separate apologetics from theology and not to require the quoting of Scriptures for every post that starts or continues an apologetic topic. Even in theology there are topics that may encourage starting or continuing with a discussion that doesn’t directly cite Scripture at the beginning. I’m thinking of the way that postmodernism is influencing theology. A refutation of postmodern theology (which Millard Erickson has done magnificently in the latest edition of his Christian Theology) may not involve the quoting of Scripture in various aspects as responses.

I urge you to broaden your view of Apologetics so that you can equip believers to engage with the secularist who is raising strategic issues that need to be addressed by the Christian community. A requirement to quote Scripture is not always the best starting point when we are finding common ground. If we do this, CFnet can be more actively involved in equipping apologists for the challenges of the secular world.

I do hope you will give positive consideration to these matters I’m raising here.

Here is a sample of responses:

Change it to ‘Christian apologetics’

One of the administrators wrote:[2]

We have actually discussed this a bit among ourselves. One thought has been that maybe we should change the title of the forum to “Christian Apologetics and Theology” rather than “Apologetics and Theology.” Adding “Christian” to the title might be more accurate because the rules here at CFnet do not allow non-Christians to attempt to undermine our beliefs therefore, using the Bible as the source of our defense is appropriate. Very few non-Christians debate in this forum and I suspect this is partly why.

Mars Hill as an example

(Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul‘s Areopagus sermon, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Another quoted from the gotquestions.org website:[3]

The biblical significance of Mars Hill is that it is the location of one of Paul’s most important gospel presentations at the time of his visit to Athens during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:16–34). It was where he addressed the religious idolatry of the Greeks who even had an altar to the “Unknown God.” It was this altar and their religious idolatry that Paul used as a starting point in proclaiming to them the one true God and how they could be reconciled to Him. Paul’s sermon is a classic example of a gospel presentation that begins where the listeners are and then presents the gospel message in a logical and biblical fashion. In many ways it is a classic example of apologetics in action. Paul started his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting the gospel message to them.[4]

This is well said.[5] We can expect that what Paul said on the Areopagus to the people of Athens is not detailed in full in Acts 17:22-34 (ESV), however there is enough here to indicate that he started with common ground:

  • He ‘observed the objects of your worship’ (v 23);
  • ‘I found also an altar with this inscription, “To the unknown god”‘ (v 23);
  • Then he moved to the known ‘God who made the world and everything in it’, etc.

This is the kind of passage with emphases what we face in post-Christian societies where we have to deal with non-Christian issues that people use as blocks to consider Christ. I am convinced that we need to clear the debris before we get to the Gospel presentation. Paul did that on the Areopagus.

Please don’t remove the Scriptures

Another moderator:[6]

One thing I wouldn’t want to see is any removal of the scripture requirement from the guidelines of the forum that we have now. Even though this has created a lot of editing work and drawn terrible fire from some members against the mods (yours truly in particular lately! clip_image001), it has also done a lot to stop the horrible fighting and verbal abuse that had been taking place there at one time. To me it’s worth the time and effort, so perhaps there are some ways we can make it even better now.

For me, the issue is not that of removing the Scripture in a discussion. It is a matter of separating the topics of two separate disciplines. At times on this forum,[7] I do not see the rules facilitating the ministry of apologetics when there is a mix and mash with theology. We can have people squabbling over Arminian vs Calvinistic views of election and another thread dealing with the existence of God – all in the same directory.
I’m of the view that having a separate apologetics directory would allow specifics of apologetic topics to be pursued with vigor and focus. Then the controversy of Arminianism vs Calvinism could be placed in another directory that has nothing to do with apologetic topics – a theology directory.

What is apologetics?

Steven B Cowan is the general editor of Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Publishing House 2000). In his introduction to this book, he wrote on ‘the nature of apologetics’:

‘Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity. Indeed, the very word apologetics is derived from the Greek apologia, which means “defense.” It was a term used in the courts of law in the ancient world. Socrates, for example, gave his famous “apology,” or defense, before the court of Athens. And the apostle Paul defended himself (apologeomai) before the Roman officials (Acts 24:10; 25:8). As it concerns the Christian faith, then, apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct way s. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g., the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. This apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purposes is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter, called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God’s existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these. Of course, some apologists, as we will see, contend that such arguments are unnecessary or perhaps even detrimental to Christian faith. These apologists focus primarily on the negative task and downplay the role of positive apologetics. Nevertheless, most, if not all, would agree that the apologetic task includes the giving of some positive reasons for faith’ (Cowan 2000:8).

That is an especially useful format for a book on apologetics. It provides expositions on 5 different methods:

  1. The Classical Method, William Lane Craig;
  2. The Evidential Method, Gary R Habermas;
  3. The Cumulative Case Method, Paul D. Feinberg;
  4. The Presuppositional Method, John M. Frame; and
  5. The Reformed Epistemological Method, Kelly James Clark.

I enjoy this format because following the exposition of each method, the other 4 apologists provide their responses.

Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler have edited a very practical volume to address issues at the local church level, Is Your Church Ready? Motivating Leaders to Live an Apologetic Life (Zacharias & Geisler 2003).

Apologetics for reaching non-Christians

One moderator was onside with me in this kind of comment:

Since apologetics is mainly for reaching non-Christians and is quite different than mere theological discussion, it makes sense to have the two as separate forums. Even Other Religions and the Science forums could be grouped under an Apologetics forum. The point being that while apologetics does make use of theology, it also makes extensive use of philosophy and other disciplines to make a good and proper defense of the Christian faith. As such, not all of it can necessarily be directly supported by Scripture.[8]

This moderator explained further that, even though apologetics is grounded in Scripture, there are apologetic arguments that use philosophy and extrapolations from Scripture. For this kind of defense, using direct statements from Scripture is not necessary or advantageous. When unbelievers dismiss the Bible outright – not caring what Scripture says – we can appeal to their reason to demonstrate how their arguments are weak and don’t work. This is designed to gain their ears. With other discussions there may be situations where we use Scripture extensively. This is especially so with those from other faiths and the cults. He reinforced my view that with theology, it is generally a discussion among Christians where it is necessary to use Scripture. His view was that apologetics defends our theology but goes beyond it because of apologetics’ outward focus.[9]

My issue[10] relates to the discipline of apologetics and how one interacts with non-Christians who ask penetrating questions for which the initial point of contact is not for an answer from Scripture. I have a very high doctrine of Scripture, so the issue is the nature of apologetics. People ask me these kinds of questions or assert these kinds of things:

  • Who created God?
  • Why your God and not Allah?
  • That Bible of yours is from the Iron Age and is nothing more than a fairytale.

For these kinds of questions, I do not start with the Scripture, but I eventually get to the Scriptures and their reliability.

My challenge to one of the forum moderators was: Please help me to understand how you will use an apologetic response, with your requirement for quoting Scripture, to answer the statement from a non-believer, ‘Your Bible is junk. It’s from the Iron Ages and is a fairytale. You can’t rely on anything in the Bible’.[11]

Here is one of the issues in a secular society:[12] I invite you to come Down Under and begin discussions on biblical topics on one of the commons in the centre of the city or go to any university campus and you’ll find that there are many non-believers who are biblically naive and ignorant of the Scriptures, but they have significant antagonism towards religion and especially the Christian faith.

Apologetics is not theology

(Acropolis of Athens view from Areopagus hill, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

The issue I raised on this forum[13] was the difference between apologetics and theology. They are two separate disciplines. Apologia is Greek for a defense; in this circumstance it is a defence of the Christian faith. However, many people in Australia and other parts of the world are a long way from discussing Scripture and as a proactive apologist in my country, I find I have to start way before citing Scripture – like Paul did on the Areopagus, recorded in Acts 17:22-34 (ESV). But CFnet in its current format won’t allow me to do that because of the requirement to quote Scripture.

I also have a very high view of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I’m not debating the authority of Scripture. My discussion surrounds the differences between the ministry of apologetics and the ministry of theological explanation. I’m suggesting that Apologetics becomes a separate directory from Theology and that there not be a requirement placed on those in the Apologetics directory to cite Scripture always.

I asked a moderator: How would you answer the question, ‘Who made God?’, when discussing with a non-Christian who raises this topic.

I understand the Lord is affirming an approach that seems to be foreign with verses such as:[14]

  • Isa 1:18 (ESV): ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’.
  • Eph 4:23 (ESV): ‘to be renewed in the spirit of your minds‘.

However, my experience with evangelicals through over 50 years as an evangelical Christian is that reason seems to be forbidden fruit with some evangelicals.

I expect[15] that apologetic questions should go in an Apologetics forum and not in ‘Questions for Christians‘. The issue could be easily addressed with a separate Apologetics forum, but with strict requirements for posting (flaming/goading is prohibited), but there is no requirement to quote Scripture. If I were to interact in an Apologetics forum, I would eventually get to Scripture because I’m convinced that the Christian world and life view fits like a hand in glove with reality.

Therefore, I’m suggesting establishing:

  1. A separate Apologetics forum;
  2. That deals only with apologetics topics and not inclusive of theological topics;
  3. A separate Theology forum;
  4. Maintain strict requirements for manners and etiquette in how people interact. I would not use the word ‘guidelines’ but would make them ‘requirements’.

I would expect that ‘Questions for Christians’ could include some apologetic type questions, but its breadth of questions would be much wider than apologetics.

Rules and legalism are not Christian

In the above kind of discussion, it wasn’t long before this kind of comment arrived: ‘More rules, more legalism, less Christianity. Doesn’t sound like a Christian forum to me’.[16] That is not what I’ve been advocating but it is how he is interpreting the moderators’ responses.

I replied:[17]

All conversations need rules. It’s not legalism, but a requirement for healthy dialogue. I can’t and wouldn’t use bullying tactics of swearing at a fellow employee on the job. I have boundaries for conversation at work and at church. On this forum, it should be no different.

Imagine what it would be like if there were not fundamental rules for the playing of football, tennis, cricket and baseball. I have to abide by the rules of driving on Australian roads, for obtaining a driver’s license and then the speed and boundaries of driving on the road.

‘More rules’ do not necessarily lead to ‘more legalism’. Rules are at the core of Christianity. John 14:6 (ESV) and Acts 4:12 (ESV) could be defined as ‘more rules, more legalism’ but it is core Christianity. There are some very definite rules in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7).

It is most definitely a Christian forum if rules are required because boundaries (rules) are necessary for disciplined Christian living, an example being, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless’ (James 1:26 ESV). So the legalism of bridling the tongue is a demonstration of religion that is worthwhile before God.

His retort was: ‘You might find yourself in a forum all by yourself’.[18] He has obviously missed the point of my discussion in raising and continuing with this topic.

So, apologetics is really evangelism?

This is how one person viewed this topic of apologetics:

Perhaps I’m incorrect here, but Apologetics, imo, is believers defending their beliefs and differing ideas in a theological discussion using the Bible to “prove” their point.
Evangelism is what comes to mind for me when I read the OP [original post], this is dealing with non believers, witnessing to them and talking to them about our faith. Instead of changing A&T [Apologetics & Theology], perhaps an Evangelism section would be better suited, this way we all learn how to approach those non-believers when they ask questions similar to those presented in the OP.[19]

My response was:[20] Since I live in a very secular, post-Christian country, I find that sharing the Gospel will lead almost immediately into non-Christian challenges that can be quite inflammatory at times, like:

  • ‘That’s garbage (and followed by a string of expletives)’;
  • Myth! Trash! Nonsense!
  • Science has proven your creation myth to be to be just that – myth – that is found in many of the stories of mythology.

If you were here, I wonder what kind of response you would get by using the Bible to prove your points. These antagonists do not believe the Bible and my experience tells me that quoting it won’t engage them in conversation.

This afternoon I travel by train to the inner city Town Hall for a meeting of The Gospel Coalition. I’ll engage the person beside me on the train in conversation and I’ll try to get onto a Christian topic, but I don’t plan on engaging that person by quoting the Bible. They are way back further than that in initial contact.

No need for quoting Scripture in apologetics

Bible Open To Psalm 118One administrator was persistent: ‘So if I understand you correctly, by applying the guidelines the way we have, you are saying we have eliminated apologetics from the A&T [Apologetics & Theology] forum to the point that it is now just a theology thread’.[21]

How should I respond?[22] That is the case, generally, where I live. By requiring me to address apologetics topics on CFnet by insisting on the quoting of Scripture, we have moved into theology when I would like to deal with apologetics with resistant or antagonistic people. You and I know that it will take a compulsory ministry of the Holy Spirit to change a person’s heart.

I agree with the application of rules but it is the requirement or guideline to use Scripture that I find unnecessary in finding common ground with post-Christian secularists.

For example, some non-Christians and even Christians on CFnet use logical fallacies in their responses. I find it necessary to show what the fallacy is and how they use it by linking to a logical fallacies’ site, but to do this does not need a Scripture reference.

Another moderator who said she did not have much education and was intimidated by members who were smarter than she was,[23] told us how fed up she was: ‘I really do not understand why there are 4 pages here of some one trying every avenue possible to not want to use scripture in a Christian forum…in the only forum on the site that requires them’.[24]

This was like a red rag to a bull to me.[25] You have misread what I’ve written. I am NOT promoting the view NOT to use Scripture in a Christian forum. I’m addressing the ministry of apologetics which deals with objections to the Christian faith. To begin or continue an apologetic discussion with somebody objecting to some dimension of Christianity, it often is not helpful to begin with a ‘thus says the Bible’ answer. I’ve given a good number of examples in this thread to demonstrate that some objections to the faith do not require us to start with the Bible. Please go back through this thread to see the specific examples I have given.

I do not appreciate it when you misrepresent what I said. I am most definitely NOT advocating the elimination of Scripture in a Christian forum. I’m advocating that Apologetics is a separate discipline to Theology and that Apologetics needs to be more open. It does not need a requirement or suggestion to always use Scripture.

By the way, I have a very high view of Scripture and quote Scripture often in the forums on which I participate on CFnet. The issue is Apologetics and not needing to always quote Scripture.

Apologetics and theology differ

At least one moderator got the emphasis I was trying to convey. However, he lives in Canada, a country with a similar secular environment to Australia. He wrote:

The two main issues are these, as have been stated several times in this thread:

1. Apologetics and theology are two different subjects, and both are fairly large subjects at that. They should never really have been made into one forum in the first place. Having a separate Apologetics forum would allow for arguments to defend the faith to be gathered in one place, and therefore be effective in helping train those who are interested in defending the faith.

2. Not all apologetic arguments rely directly on Scripture. Defending traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life can be based on both arguments from Scripture and arguments not at all based on Scripture; the problem of evil is largely argued without Scripture; some of the arguments for the existence of God are not base[d] on Scripture; etc. Not to mention the fact that many non-Christians dismiss the Bible and won’t listen if one only tries to argue from Scripture. That’s just a fact of the world we live in. One of the main points of apologetics is to get people to a point where they will be willing to listen to Scripture. More often than not apologetics is a necessary component of evangelism these days. It would be of great service to the Christian community to have a place where Christians can learn and get trained.[26]

Conclusion

This discussion among Christians, especially by moderators who want Scripture to be quoted every time on an apologetic topic, was pointless – apart from the assessment by the last moderator quoted. He was able to conclude that apologetics is designed to answer people’s objections with the hope of bringing them to consider the message of Scripture.

As for the others, I was simply spinning the wheels and going nowhere. They are so fixed in the view that the topics of apologetics and theology on this Christian forum require that Scriptures be quoted. In 86 posts, there was no movement by the overall tone of the moderators to move the goal posts to separate apologetics from theology. One was on side with me.

My view is that a Christian is to find common ground with a non-Christian and begin where that person is, to answer questions applicable to that unbeliever. Most often that does not start with the Scriptures here in Australia.

See my other articles relating to this topic:

clip_image003 Why is apologetics in such low demand in the church?

clip_image003[1] Christians stuck for answers

clip_image003[2] When Christian thinking becomes fuzzy

clip_image003[3] Did God create evil?

clip_image003[4] Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion

clip_image003[5] Secular assaults on the Bible: The inerrant Bible battles

clip_image003[6] Why does God allow floods to devastate Australia?

Works consulted

Carnell, E J 1948. An introduction to Christian apologetics: A philosophic defense of the trinitarian-theistic faith. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Cowan, S B (gen ed). Five views of apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Craig, W L 1994. Reasonable Faith: Christian truth and apologetics. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.[27]

Erickson, M J 1985. Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Geisler, N L 1999. Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leister, England: Inter-Varsity Press (published by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Zacharias, R & Geisler, N (gen eds) 2003. Is your church ready? Motivating leaders to live an apologetic life. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2015. Questions & suggestions for CFnew staff, ‘Separate apologetics from theology‘, 21 July, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/separate-apologetics-from-theology.60500/ (Accessed 23 July 2015).

[2] Ibid., WIP#2.

[3] Ibid., Deborah#3.

[4] GotQuestions?org ‘What happened at Mars Hill in the Bible?’ Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/Mars-Hill.html#ixzz3gXRpbHQ8 (Accessed 23 July 2015).

[5] CFnet, ibid., OzSpen#32.

[6] Ibid., Obadiah#4.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#34.

[8] Ibid., Free#11.

[9] Ibid., Free#17.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#31.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#40.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#41.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#43.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#49.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#55.

[16] Ibid., Rollo Tamasi#59.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[18] Ibid., Rollo Tamasi#64.

[19] Ibid., Abigain123#65.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[21] Ibid., WIP#72.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#73.

[23] Ibid., Reba#74, Reba#76.

[24] Ibid., Reba#76.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#80.

[26] Ibid., Free#79.

[27] This is a revised edition of the original edition published in 1984 by Moody Press.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 November 2015.

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