September 2009


If you are like me, you have encountered countless individuals who “argue” for their point-of-view based on some experience, rather than providing good reasons.  These people just know that they know that they know what they believe is right because of some experience that brought them psychological confidence that they are right.  While this approach to the issue of truth is endemic in Pentecostal circles, it is not limited to us by any means.  Mormons, Baptists, Hindus, Muslims, and just about every other religion today claims to have had an experience, and argue that their experience justifies the validity of their truth-claims.  When two people claim to have had an experience, and both use that experience to give validity to their opposing truth-claims, either one or the other is right, or both are wrong.

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I have noticed over the years that the only Christians who tend to oppose theological training, the importance of learning Greek/Hebrew, or studying philosophy/apologetics are those who have not had formal theological training, have not studied Greek/Hebrew, and have not studied philosophy/apologetics.  I have never met someone who has theological training, learned Greek/Hebrew, or studied philosophy/apologetics who will tell you that such training is not helpful and important for the advancement of Christianity.  I find this quite interesting.  How can one evaluate the worth of endeavors for which they have not participated in?  Could the devaluing of these fields be little more than justification for one’s own ignorance?  Hmm.

“Never argue against a viewpoint until you understand it well enough to argue for it.”—Anonymous

I think we could all learn from this one!

This post has been updated to include additional content on 10/2

TargetSome Christians believe that while the Bible is without error when it speaks to spiritual matters (God, salvation), there may be errors in those sections that speak to scientific and historical matters, which should not concern us.  This view of Biblical inspiration is often called limited inerrancy.

While it would be worthwhile to examine each of the purported scientific and historical errors in the Bible to determine if they are indeed errors, the notion of limited inerrancy can be evaluated in a more fundamental way.  Greg Koukl has observed that it makes little sense to believe what the Bible says in matters we cannot test (such as miracles, resurrection, incarnation), when the Bible is shown to be untrustworthy in those matters we can test.  That’s not to say the presence of errors would necessarily invalidate every truth claim the Bible makes, but it is to say that it would make it much more difficult to trust its spiritual claims.  If God was not able to ensure that the Biblical authors accurately transmitted matters of history and science—which were naturally more accessible to them—why think He was able to ensure that they accurately transmitted spiritual matters?  I see little reason to do so.

(The following content has been added as of 10/2)

It’s a credibility issue.  Credibility is earned.  It is gained by being right, and lost by being wrong.  Limited inerrantists are telling us that we should trust everything the Biblical authors tell us about spiritual matters, but we cannot trust everything they tell us about non-spiritual matters because they have proven themselves to be mistaken in various ways on such matters.  But if they have proven themselves to make mistakes in areas that we can test them on, why should we think they haven’t made any errors on matters that we can’t test them on?  The limited inerrantist can’t respond by saying God’s involvement ensures that they will not err on such matters, because God is involved in the whole process.  If He couldn’t keep the authors from erring on non-spiritual matters, there is no reason to think He could keep them from erring in spiritual matters. 

A limited inerrantist might respond that God was only involved in those sections of Scripture dealing with spiritual matters.  But this portrays an absurd picture of inspiration.  Scripture goes back and forth between non-spiritual and spiritual claims.  Surely God’s involvement was not iterant so that when the author writes a word about geography God checks out, but when he is about to write a few words on spiritual truth God checks back in!  Even if this were possible, what reason would God have for deciding to inspire only those words dealing with spiritual matters?  He knew that people would question the credibility of the religious claims if His authors flubbed up their facts on non-spiritual matters.  So why wouldn’t God, in the interest of giving more credibility to the spiritual claims, superintend what His authors wrote about all matters?

James Anderson of Analogical Thoughts has a nice post on 12 prima facie reasons for taking Adam to be a genuine historical figure, as opposed to a myth or metaphor.

Speaking of James Anderson, there is another James Anderson you should check out: the James Anderson of Evidential Faith.  And while I’m plugging my friend’s blog, I should also direct your attention to another one of my friend’s blogs: Chad Moore’s Bookesmore

 

HT: Justin Taylor

It has been popular for 100 years for liberal scholars to claim there was no Christian orthodoxy from the beginning of the church.  Rather, they claim, there existed a bunch of disparate community-based theological movements loosely centered on a historical—but mythologized Jesus—each vying with the other to become the orthodox version of the Christian religion.

According to these theorists, the Jesus tradition spread rapidly to different geographical regions.  Each local community would re-tell the Jesus story, but the re-telling of the tradition was wild and uncontrolled, so that the Jesus of history quickly became swallowed up by the various and competing Jesuses constructed by each community.  With no way of knowing (and perhaps little concern for) which version of Jesus was accurate—if any—the battle for orthodoxy in the first 300 years of the church became more of a political battle than a theological and historical quest.  Recent and popular proponents of this view include Bart Ehrman, Marvin Meyer, and Elaine Pagels.

In the way of critique, this thesis has an extremely weak historical and logical foundation.  It is based largely on the (more…)

Christianity is unique in that its veracity depends on the reality of particular historical events.  Christianity is not a philosophical religion.  Christian faith is not faith for the sake of faith, but a particular understanding about the significance of particular historical events—events that were either supernatural in character, or pregnant with supernatural significance.  If these purported historical events are actually fictional or mythical in nature, the very foundation of Christianity crumbles.

While our faith depends on the veracity of particular historical events through which God revealed Himself and His purposes, there is no question that we believe much more than can be demonstrated historically.  Historical and archaeological investigation can only verify and bolster some of the Bible’s historical claims.  While it can cover a lot of ground, the remaining gaps still must be transposed by faith.  That faith is not a blind and absurd leap as Kierkegaard suggested, but a reasoned judgment in reality based on the evidence available to us.

double-standardElizabeth at the Life Training Institute blog writes of the double standard in the media regarding abortion.  When later-term abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered by a pro-life man a few months ago, it was a media frenzy.  Everybody was talking about it, and speculating that this may be an intimation of where the pro-life movement is heading. 

Last Friday, when a 63 year old pro-life activist, Jim Pouillon, was killed by a pro-choicer in Michigan because he didn’t like the man’s pro-life sign (which had a baby on it with the words “life”), crickets could be heard chirping in the major media.  No one was suggesting that this is an intimation of the future of the pro-choice movement. 

I don’t doubt for a moment that the major media published the daylights out of the George Tiller murder because they knew it would tarnish the pro-life cause, but are mum on the pro-lifer’s murder because that would tarnish their own cause.  I guess news is whatever they say it is!  

Every denomination or religious tradition has its doctrinal peculiarities.  Not only may these be unique to the religious tradition in question, but they are often thought of as strange to outsiders.  Usually these doctrinal peculiarities are based on some Biblical text, but they either distort that text, fail to read it in light of other texts, or overemphasize it to the point that it becomes a distortion.  And yet, people who were raised in that tradition not only accept it as true, but will work up all the intellectual muster they can in defense of it.  While they manage to convince themselves with their reasons, they often fail to convince most others.

We need to be on guard that we do not become so intent on protecting all the teachings/traditions of our own particular religious tradition, that we will come up with, and actually settle for subpar arguments in their favor.  Are there things we believe and argue for simply because they are part of our religious tradition – things we would not believe if we were raised in a different tradition, and would not be persuaded of if presented with the same evidence that we use to justify the teaching/tradition?

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Please note, I updated this post on 9/26/09 to make some needed changes and clarifications per reader feedback.

Given my last post, I thought it would be helpful to examine some of the historic Christian creeds, showing which parts are acceptable to Oneness Pentecostals (black font), which parts are not (strikethrough), which parts are questionable (red font), followed by some brief comments.

A little bit about my method: The parts I have struck out, I have struck out because I cannot agree with the terminology.  The parts I have kept, I have kept because I can agree with the terminology, even if I do not mean the same thing by those words as the drafters of these creeds meant by those words.  Furthermore, by striking out some words, I did not necessarily intend to create a new context, so do not try to read through the creeds using only the words that remain, thinking that it will make sense on its own.  In some cases it will, but in other cases it will not.

I’ll begin with the Apostles’ Creed:

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

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Nicaea_iconHistorically speaking, “creeds” and “Oneness Pentecostal” have not gone hand-in-hand.  We have typically eschewed creeds, viewing them quite negatively.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First, creedal statements have often been invested with an authority equal to that of Scripture, and we do not believe anything is equal in authority to the revealed Word of God.  Secondly, and more importantly, we have objected to the Trinitarianism that is either the backdrop of, or subject of the creeds.

Not only have we rejected the ancient creeds in particular, but we have rejected the notion of “creed” in general.  This is most unfortunate.  Not only are creeds useful as brief summations of the Christian faith, but they are Biblical as well.  We find several apparent creeds and creedal affirmations in the Bible:

arrogantChristians think their religion is true, and everybody else’s religion is false.  They think you have to believe in Jesus to be saved.  How arrogant, right?  Actually, no.  While there may be some Christians who are truly arrogant, thinking Christianity is the only true religion is not arrogant in itself.  When you think about it, everyone one of us thinks we are right in the things we believe.  If we didn’t think what we believed was true, we wouldn’t believe it.  After all, nobody believes things they think are false!  Of course, we could be mistaken in our beliefs.  What we think is true may actually be false, but everybody who believes something believes it because they think it is true.  And by force of logic, if what we believe is true, all contrary views must be false.  So if arrogance is defined as thinking one’s own view to be right and contrary views to be wrong, then everyone is arrogant – not just Christians.

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The NT authors often quote an OT passage, and say it was fulfilled in Christ.  Many Christians use these fulfillments as evidence for the veracity of the Christian faith.  For example, I’ve heard it claimed that the probability of just one man fulfilling 48 different prophecies is something like 1:10157.  It is reasoned that no man could match those odds unless the Biblical prophecies were divine in origin, and thus Jesus must be who He claimed to be.  The problem with this apologetic is that the vast majority of these “messianic prophecies” are neither prophetic, nor messianic in their original context.

Consider, for example, Hosea 11:1 – “When Israel was a young man, I loved him like a son, and I summoned my son out of Egypt.”  Matthew quotes this passage in reference to Jesus’ return to Nazareth, saying, “In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled ‘I called my Son out of Egypt.’” (Matthew 2:14-15)  When one examines the original context of Hosea 11:1, however, they will quickly recognize that this passage is neither prophetic nor messianic.  It is a mere historical recounting of the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt.

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During the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage, it’s common to hear conservatives speak of the “definition of marriage,” but what exactly do we mean by the “definition” of marriage.  Are we talking about the purpose of marriage, its form, or both?  Most Americans (including conservatives) seem to be referring to marriage’s form: one man and one woman (for life).  I submit to you that this is the wrong place to begin the debate.  If we allow the discussion to center on marriage’s form, we are sure to lose.

I am persuaded that one of the main reasons we are facing the social and moral predicament we are is because we have reduced the “definition of marriage” to its form, losing sight of its purpose.  Without understanding the particular purpose of civil marriage in society, its traditional form is not necessary.  When we understand the purpose of civil marriage, however, the traditional form logically follows.

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J. Budziszewski noted that sometimes we deny what we know to be morally true by improperly pitting two moral principles against one another.  Consider marriage and fairness.  We recognize both to be moral goods.  Those who advocate for same-sex marriage, however, pit them against one another, arguing that if we are going to be fair we must permit same-sex couples to participate in the institution of marriage.

The problem is in their understanding of fairness.  They understand fairness to mean everyone must be treated exactly the same.  This definition is flawed, however.  Fairness requires that we do not arbitrarily treat people differently, or arbitrarily treat them the same.  In the case of same-sex marriage, we are not arbitrarily treating same-sex couples differently than heterosexual couples.  There is a principled reason for our discrimination: as a rule, heterosexual couples procreate while same-sex couples do not (and the principal reason government is involved in regulating marriage in the first place is because they are interested in the production and socialization of children).  To say it is unfair to preclude same-sex couples from marrying is like saying it’s unfair to allow one baseball team to beat another.  The purpose of baseball is competition, so it is fair to allow them to compete.  Likewise, the purpose of marriage is procreation, and it would be unfair to treat relationships that cannot procreate as equal to those that can.

Sorry for not posting much as of late.  I’ve been involved with so many projects, I have had computer issues, and I took an excursion to Lake Tahoe.  As I get caught up over the next few days, I’ll begin posting again.  Here’s a short post in the interim:

Back in May of this year, Greg Koukl had some insightful comments about being labeled a “modernist” for believing in truth and logic that I’d like to share with you.  Greg wrote,

Yes, I believe in the legitimacy of reason, but this doesn’t make me a modern simply because the Enlightenment period exalted reason to idol statues.  Pre-moderns of all stripes…trusted reason not because it was a pop idol, but because it as an undeniable feature of reality.

Exactly.

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