October 2011


Whale evolution is supposed to be one of the best documented cases of gradualism in the fossil record.  No doubt, when you stack the fossils up next to each other, you can see what appears to be a morphological transition from a terrestrial mammal to an aquatic whale (see the graphic below).   (more…)

A 7 year old boy who is living life as a girl is being allowed to join the Girl Scouts of Colorado (GSOC).  Initially he was rejected, but when the media began inquiring over the decision, the organization reversed course.  According to GSOC they are “an inclusive organization.”  Come on!  It’s called “Girl” scouts because it is meant for girls, not boys.  Have we become so insane with political correctness that we’ll treat people according to what they feel to be, rather than what they are?  What’s next, allowing humans to compete in dog shows because they feel like a canine?

That was the headline of the Daily Mail.  While I am fully aware that not all conservative Christian teens practice abstinence, I was stunned at the idea that there is virtually no difference in the rates of premarital sex between Christians and non-Christians.  According to Relevant magazine, a 2009 study revealed that 80% of evangelicals between 18-29 years of age had sex, compared to 88% of their peers.

Do you find this statistic shocking?  Do you have reason to doubt the validity of these findings?  Assuming the stats are accurate, I’m not too surprised myself.  In a sex-crazed culture like our own, it takes a lot of moral fortitude to abstain from sex before marriage.  And when you couple that with a culture that discourages young adults from marriage until their late 20s or early 30s, it’s no wonder so many young Evangelicals are succumbing to this sin.

UPDATE: Kevin DeYoung provides some good reasons to trust the accuracy of this report.

There has been an on-going and interesting exchange between Sam Storms and Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen on the issue of the charismata.  Storms has written a good article giving 10 bad reasons for being a cessationist and 10 good arguments for being a continuationist.  Patton has responded with his case for cessationism.  Unlike most traditional cessationists, Patton doesn’t claim that the Bible teaches cessationism per se.  He admits that his primary reasons for holding to cessationism are experiential in nature: both his own lack of experience of the charismata, as well as the general lack of the charismata throughout church history.  He calls this a de facto cessationism.  This differs from traditional cessationism in that it claims the gifts have ceased as a matter of fact, rather than because of a matter of necessity.  While he finds Biblical support to show reasons for this de facto cessation of the charismata, he does not believe the Bible demands that the charismata cease.

Storms also has a great treatment of tongues, clearing up many of the misconceptions about the gift, as well as demonstrating how so many of the non-charismatic criticisms of the gift miss the Biblical mark.  Patton also addressed tongues, which Storms’ responded to.  I would highly recommend reading through the dialogue.

PETA knows no end to their antics.  They are known for their “holocaust on a plate” and naked celebrity “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaigns.  Now they are suing to free five killer whales from Sea world on the grounds that they are persons, and should be protected by the 13th Amendment’s prohibition against slavery.  According to one of PETA’s lawyers, Jeff Kerr, “By any definition, these orcas are slaves – kidnapped from their homes, kept confined, denied everything that’s natural to them and forced to perform tricks for SeaWorld’s profit.  The males have their sperm collected, the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young which are sometimes shipped away.”

If the court grants these whales personhood, then I hope authorities will immediately arrest one of the whales, Tilikum, for murder.  After all, we have video footage of him dragging a Sea World trainer under water in 2010, and held her there until she drowned.  And this wasn’t his first victim.  He killed two other people as well.  Tilikum is a mass-murderer, and I believe justice should be served.  What would a jail cell look like for a whale?  It would have to be small and full of water.  Hey, Sea World sounds like an ideal place for that.

UPDATE: On February 8, 2012 a federal judge in San Diego dismissed this lawsuit.

Hitler was responsible for killing approximately 11 million people as part of his Final Solution (of which the Holocaust was a part).  He is railed against as one of the most evil men in the history of the world, and rightly so.  Anyone with any moral sense would agree that the world would have been a much better place had Hitler never been born.  What if you had the ability to make that sentiment a reality?

Imagine for a moment that you discovered a way to travel through time, making it possible for you to ensure either that Hitler never be born, or that if born, he would not live long enough to rise to political power.  Under what circumstances do you think it would be morally justified to kill to prevent the Final Solution (and for those who can’t get past the emotional problem of what it would be like to personally pull the trigger, assume that you could send someone else to perform the deed)?:

  1. (more…)

A team of artists, medievalists, theologians, biblical scholars, and art historians headed up by Donald Jackson “brought together the ancient techniques of calligraphy and illumination with an ecumenical Christian approach to the Bible rooted in Benedictine spirituality” to produce an illuminated, hand-written Bible (New Revised Standard Version).  Such an undertaking has not been made in centuries.

Six scribes have been at work writing in a modern calligraphic script using hand-cut quills on calfskin vellum.  Each page is 3’ tall and 2’ wide.  Work began in 2000.  The final volume of seven volumes (includes the Pauline and catholic epistles and Revelation) was just recently completed on May 9, 2011.  The final product is ~1150 pages, contains 775,000 words, and weighs 165 pounds.  The project cost about 8 million dollars.  You can get a facsimile for the small sum of $140,000! Put that on your Christmas wishlist!

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We’re still here, and Harold Camping is still a false teacher.  I wonder what his excuse will be this time for his failed prediction.

In several previous posts (here, here, and here) I addressed the problem of differences in the Gospels, pointing out that what are often taken for contradictions are really just examples of 21st century Westerners trying to impose unrealistic and modern standards of historical reporting on ancient Easterners.  Here is another one.

Mk 14:47-54  But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. 53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. (See also Mt 27:55-8)

In verse 50 we are told that “all” the disciples fled the scene, and yet in verse 54 we are told that Peter followed Jesus from a distance.  Because both statements appear in the same Gospel no one complains.  But what if Mark only said that all fled, and Luke only said that Peter followed Jesus from a distance?  People would claim it was a contradiction.  How could Peter be following Jesus if he fled the scene?  Of course, the Christian would respond by trying to harmonize the two texts.  We would propose that all of the disciples did flee the scene when Jesus was arrested, but Peter returned, and followed Jesus at a distance.  Our critics would say we are being imaginative, and the only reason to offer such a harmonization is to avoid concluding that the Gospels are, indeed, contradictory.  But when both statements appear in the same Gospels within just a few verses from each other, no one claims contradiction. And guess what, most would agree that Peter must have fled with the rest of the disciples, but returned shortly afterward to learn of Jesus’ fate.  Indeed, that would explain why he followed from a distance.  He did not want to be seen by the guards lest he be arrested too—the very reason he fled in the first place.  I think this goes to show both how overblown the charge of “contradiction is,” as well as why harmonization is a perfectly legitimate enterprise when it comes to reading historical reports.

Many people think religious claims are untestable, making it impossible to make an objective, reasoned choice as to which religion you should adopt.  You just have to pick the one that fits your personal preferences, your family tradition, etc.  Mark Mittelberg challenges this view in his book, Choosing Your Faith In a World of Spiritual Options.

Mittelberg starts with a question that religious people often do not even consider: Why choose any faith at all?  His answer is interesting: because you don’t have an option.  We all place our faith in something.  The question is whether or not that faith is justified or not; true or not.  Contrary to popular belief, answering this question is possible.

Before he delves into the principles by which we can test worldview claims, he discusses and evaluates six faith paths that most people use to determine their beliefs, showing how each is deficient: (more…)

People often talk about “struggling” with some particular sin.  What they want you to believe is that they are really trying to stop doing X, but keep being overcome by the sin despite their strong desire to the contrary.  It’s not their fault; sin made them do it!  While there is no question that we genuinely struggle with sinful desires, when we sin, we always sin by choice.  So the next time someone wants to make excuses for their sin by labeling it a struggle, call them on the carpet.  What they are really struggling with is the conviction they feel whenever they choose to sin.  To lessen the guilt they call it a “struggle,” and claim to be sin’s victim rather than its perpetrator.  Do they want to stop sinning?  But if one continues in the same sin, it is probably due to the fact that their desire to keep sinning is stronger than their desire to stop sinning.  None of us is forced to sin.  Paul said God will always provide a way of escape when we are tempted.  We sin by choice.  Let’s not try to kid ourselves or others by continuing in our sin and labeling it a “struggle.”

In the former post I mentioned The Burial of Jesus, a collection of essays published by the Biblical Archaeology Society.  All but one of the essays in that collection addressed ancient tombs.  One essay, however, written by Richard Bauckham and titled “All in the Family: Identifying Jesus’ Relatives,” attempted to provide information regarding Jesus’ family in the early history of the church from both Biblical and extra-biblical sources.  I found the topic and article quite interesting, and wanted to share Bauckham’s findings with you here.

The NT tells us very little about Jesus’ family.  First Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19 speak of “the brokers of the Lord.”  Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 identify them by name: James, Joseph/Joses, Judas, and Simon.  They also tell us Jesus had sisters, but do not specify how many or identify them by name (although I would argue that Matthew’s reference to “all His sisters” makes better sense if Jesus had at least three sisters since one would ordinarily refer to a group of two individuals using “both” rather than “all”).  The Protoevangelium of James 19:3–20:4, the Gospel of Philip 59:6–11, and Epiphanius Panarion 78.8.1 and 78.9.6 identify Jesus’ sisters as Mary and Salome.  Since the name Salome was very popular in Palestine and very rare outside of Palestine, this tradition may be historically accurate.

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In California, minors are no longer able to use tanning beds even if they have their parent’s consent, but of course they can still obtain abortions even without their parent’s consent.

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I recently read The Burial of Jesus, a collection of essays published by the Biblical Archaeology Society (the organization that publishes Biblical Archaeology Review).  It provided very valuable archaeological data regarding ancient Jewish tombs, and assessed whether or not the Garden Tomb or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre could possibly be the tomb of Jesus. What follows is a summary of the articles, as well as my own personal contribution.

The Gospels tell us that after Jesus’ death, He was hastily buried in a cave tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who was also a member of the Sanhedrin (Mt 27:57-60; Mk 15:42-46; Lk 23:50-53; Jn 19:38-42).  Only upper-middle and upper class Jews could afford a rock-hewn tomb.[1]  The poor in the 1st century buried their dead in trench tombs.  Trench tombs were about 5-7’ deep, and had a niche in the bottom for the bodies.[2]  Bodies would be wrapped in a shroud (and sometimes placed in wood coffin) and lowered into the niche.[3]  Had Joseph not buried Jesus, Jesus may have been buried in a trench tomb, or thrown into a field as the Romans were oft to do with crucified victims.

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In October 2008 Richard Dawkins funded an atheism advertising campaign.  On buses all over England there were signs reading: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.”  Fast forward to 2011.  William Lane Craig is about to go on a UK speaking tour, sponsored by Premier Christian Radio.  They are advertising for one of the venues via a bus advertisement that—you guessed it—plays on Dawkins’ ad (see below).  It reads: “There’s probably no Dawkins.  Now stop worrying and enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre.”  (more…)

There were many messianic movements in the first and second centuries.  All of them ended with the death of their messiah, with one exception: the messianic movement centered around Jesus of Nazareth.  This is a historical anomaly that requires explanation.  Jews expected the coming Messiah to be a political and military victor, among other things.  He was to set Israelfree from Roman rule.  The fact that Jesus was crucified by the Romans rather than triumphing over them in a military victory should have been proof positive to any followers of Jesus that He was not the Messiah.  His group of followers should have disbanded in despair, and set their sights on finding the true messiah.  And yet, unlike all other messianic movements, Jesus’ disciples continued to believe that He was the Messiah, and some even gave their lives for that belief.  Why?  According to their own testimony, it was because they saw Him raised from the dead.  Even many skeptics who deny a real resurrection of Jesus will admit that Jesus’ disciples must have had experiences in which they thought they saw Jesus alive from the dead.  So what did they see and experience, if not the resurrected Christ?

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I have often said that when you think marriage is arbitrary and can be defined any way a society chooses to define it, then marriage can mean and be anything.  I have even predicted that if marriage can be redefined to include same-sex couples, then marriage could be redefined to be a temporary institution.  I must be a prophet, because this is exactly what Mexico City is proposing (and it is important to note that Mexico City also legalized same-sex marriage in 2009).

If you don’t want marriage to be until death do you part, Mexico City will allow you to enter into a two-year marriage.  At the end of the two years the marriage will expire, and each of you can go your separate ways without any hassle of divorce paperwork if you choose not to renew the contract.  How convenient!  The article notes how half of the marriages in Mexico City end in divorce after two years.  So how exactly will this help?  It will not curtail marital dissolutions; it will simply not call them “divorces.”  It will make marital dissolution even easier, which always spells “bad news” for the children involved.  Shame on Mexico City.

Once you abandon the notion that marriage is a natural institution that is recognized, not defined, by the state, marriage can become anything, and ceases to be something.

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