Monday, August 21, 2017

How Come God Does Not Stop Evil Right Now?

"While nearly everyone asks why God doesn’t stop evil, few people ask why God doesn’t stop pleasure. Stopping pleasure would be an effective way of stopping evil while maintaining human freedom. That’s because no one does evil for evil’s sake. We do evil to get good things, such as money, sex, and power. Take away pleasure and the incentive to do evil would vanish. But if God were to stop evil by ending pleasure, would the human race continue? If it did, would anyone like the pleasureless world that remains?"

Frank Turek, Stealing From God, p.142

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Early Christian Belief In A Hell Of Eternal Consciousness

                                                  By Jason Engwer

John Loftus recently posted an article [as of 2006] on Hell that makes a lot of misleading claims and ignores a lot of relevant evidence. I think that some of his errors in evaluating the Biblical evidence should be easy for most readers to discern, but a comment he made about the early church, apparently a reference (in part or entirely) to the church fathers, may not be as easy for most readers to evaluate. Loftus writes the following, though it's unclear whether he's quoting somebody else or writing in his own words:

"L.E. Froom claims that conditional immortality was generally accepted in the early church until its thinkers tried to wed Plato’s doctrine of the immortality of the soul to the teaching of the Bible.' [The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, Herald Pub., 1966]."

I don't know what Loftus has in mind when he refers to "conditional immortality". A person can believe that God needs to extend a life in order for the person to exist eternally, yet also believe that every life is so extended. It's also possible to define "immortality" as eternal life, in contrast to eternal death. Both the person with eternal life and the person with eternal death will exist forever, but one existence is portrayed positively as "life" and the other is portrayed negatively as "death". The life in question has to do with the quality of the existence, not existence itself. This is seen, for example, in the many Biblical and extra-Biblical references to unregenerate men as spiritually "dead". A term like "immortality" can be used differently in different contexts. A reference to the need for God to extend people's lives in order for them to be immortal or a reference to people attaining immortality doesn't necessarily imply that some or all people will cease to exist.

The early patristic sources suggest that belief in a Hell involving eternal consciousness was the general belief, not annihilationism. Somebody like Origen will sometimes express a different view, whether as a speculation or as a belief held with confidence, but that doesn't mean that such a view was widely held. Below are several examples of early expressions of a belief in eternal conscious existence in Hell, and more examples could be cited.

When Polycarp, a disciple of the apostles (more than one apostle, not just the apostle John) was martyred, an account of that martyrdom was written by his church. The account expresses the views of both Polycarp and his church. In that account, we read of the contrast between suffering in a temporary fire and suffering eternally:

"And, looking to the grace of Christ, they [Christian martyrs] despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by the suffering of a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched...Polycarp said, 'Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt.'" (The Martyrdom Of Polycarp, 2, 11)

In contrast to Loftus' distortions of the view of Hell presented in the book of Revelation, notice that both Polycarp and his church (the church of Smyrna, addressed in Revelation 2) were in contact with the author of Revelation, the apostle John. And the passages quoted above make more sense in light of a Hell of eternal consciousness. The eternal fire is being compared to the temporal fire in terms of suffering, not annihilation. If annihilation was in view, we'd expect references to how a temporal fire can't annihilate the soul, whereas the eternal fire can. What Polycarp and the authors of this document seem to be focusing on is the suffering, the burning, associated with fire. It's more natural, then, to read the references to eternality as references to an eternal experience of such suffering, not annihilation or temporal burning followed by annihilation.

Justin Martyr wrote:

"For among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, and Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. And that he would be sent into the fire with his host, and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold....For the prophets have proclaimed two advents of His: the one, that which is already past, when He came as a dishonoured and suffering Man; but the second, when, according to prophecy, He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils....And in what kind of sensation and punishment the wicked are to be, hear from what was said in like manner with reference to this; it is as follows: 'Their worm shall not rest, and their fire shall not be quenched" (First Apology, 28, 52)

Irenaeus illustrates some of the points I made near the beginning of this post. He writes of how God's creation continues to exist only because God so wills:

"For as the heaven which is above us, the firmament, the sun, the moon, the rest of the stars, and all their grandeur, although they had no previous existence, were called into being, and continue throughout a long course of time according to the will of God, so also any one who thinks thus respecting souls and spirits, and, in fact, respecting all created things, will not by any means go far astray, inasmuch as all things that have been made had a beginning when they were formed, but endure as long as God wills that they should have an existence and continuance." (Against Heresies, 2:34:3)

And he continues:

"And again, He thus speaks respecting the salvation of man: 'He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest him length of days for ever and ever;' indicating that it is the Father of all who imparts continuance for ever and ever on those who are saved. For life does not arise from us, nor from our own nature; but it is bestowed according to the grace of God. And therefore he who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him who imparted it, shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and prove himself ungrateful to his Maker, inasmuch as he has been created, and has not recognised Him who bestowed the gift upon him, deprives himself of the privilege of continuance for ever and ever." (Against Heresies, 2:34:3)

Surely this passage supports John Loftus' argument, right? No, because we know, from the surrounding context of Irenaeus' writings, that he believed in eternal consciousness in Hell. As the editor of the edition of Irenaeus quoted above comments:

"As Massuet observes, this statement is to be understood in harmony with the repeated assertion of Irenaeus that the wicked will exist in misery for ever. It refers not annihilation, but to deprivation of happiness." (note 307)

For example, elsewhere Irenaeus writes:

"Inasmuch, then, as in both Testaments there is the same righteousness of God displayed when God takes vengeance, in the one case indeed typically, temporarily, and more moderately; but in the other, really, enduringly, and more rigidly: for the fire is eternal, and the wrath of God which shall be revealed from heaven from the face of our Lord (as David also says, 'But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth'), entails a heavier punishment on those who incur it, - the ciders pointed out that those men are devoid of sense, who, arguing from what happened to those who formerly did not obey God, do endeavour to bring in another Father, setting over against these punishments what great things the Lord had done at His coming to save those who received Him, taking compassion upon them; while they keep silence with regard to His judgment; and all those things which shall come upon such as have heard His words, but done them not, and that it were better for them if they had not been born, and that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the judgment than for that city which did not receive the word of His disciples." (Against Heresies, 4:28:1)

As the references to Sodom and Gomorrah suggest, Irenaeus is referring to degrees of suffering, not annihilation. Thus, what Irenaeus seems to view as enduring forever is the suffering of the wicked, not non-existence.

And elsewhere Ireneaus suggests that experience of "every kind of punishment" will last forever, in contrast to being annihilated forever:

"But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God, He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Those, therefore, who cast away by apostasy these forementioned things, being in fact destitute of all good, do experience every kind of punishment. God, however, does not punish them immediately of Himself, but that punishment falls upon them because they are destitute of all that is good. Now, good things are eternal and without end with God, and therefore the loss of these is also eternal and never-ending." (Against Heresies, 5:27:2)

Irenaeus seems to have viewed the afterlife of the wicked as something consistent. It would endure forever. They wouldn't experience suffering for a while, then cease to exist.

Theophilus of Antioch approvingly quotes the Sibyl, applying these words to the unregenerate:

"Therefore, upon you burning fire shall come, And ever ye shall daily burn in flames, Ashamed for ever of your useless gods. But those who worship the eternal God, They shall inherit everlasting life, Inhabiting the blooming realms of bliss, And feasting on sweet food from starry heaven." (To Autolycus, 2:36)

Theophilus refers to the people in Hell being "ashamed for ever", which would involve consciousness. Notice, also, that Theophilus, like the Biblical authors and other early patristic sources, parallels the eternality of Hell with the eternality of Heaven.

Athenagoras contrasts the temporal life of animals with the eternal existence of humans:

"For if we believed that we should live only the present life, then we might be suspected of sinning, through being enslaved to flesh and blood, or overmastered by gain or carnal desire; but since we know that God is witness to what we think and what we say both by night and by day, and that He, being Himself light, sees all things in our heart, we are persuaded that when we are removed from the present life we shall live another life, better than the present one, and heavenly, not earthly (since we shall abide near God, and with God, free from all change or suffering in the soul, not as flesh, even though we shall have flesh, but as heavenly spirit), or, falling with the rest, a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere by-work, and that we should perish and be annihilated." (A Plea For The Christians, 31)

Tertullian wrote:

"Think of these things, too, in the light of the brevity of any punishment you can inflict - never to last longer than till death. On this ground Epicurus makes light of all suffering and pain, maintaining that if it is small, it is contemptible; and if it is great, it is not long-continued. No doubt about it, we, who receive our awards under the judgment of an all-seeing God, and who look forward to eternal punishment from Him for sin, - we alone make real effort to attain a blameless life, under the influence of our ampler knowledge, the impossibility of concealment, and the greatness of the threatened torment, not merely long-enduring but everlasting, fearing Him, whom he too should fear who the fearing judges, - even God, I mean, and not the proconsul....When, therefore, the boundary and limit, that millennial interspace, has been passed, when even the outward fashion of the world itself - which has been spread like a veil over the eternal economy, equally a thing of time - passes away, then the whole human race shall be raised again, to have its dues meted out according as it has merited in the period of good or evil, and thereafter to have these paid out through the immeasurable ages of eternity. Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged - the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire -that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. The philosophers are familiar as well as we with the distinction between a common and a secret fire. Thus that which is in common use is far different from that which we see in divine judgments, whether striking as thunderbolts from heaven, or bursting up out of the earth through mountain-tops; for it does not consume what it scorches, but while it burns it repairs. So the mountains continue ever burning; and a person struck by lighting is even now kept safe from any destroying flame. A notable proof this of the fire eternal! a notable example of the endless judgment which still supplies punishment with fuel! The mountains burn, and last. How will it be with the wicked and the enemies of God?" (Apology, 45, 48)

Minucius Felix:

"Nor is there either measure termination to these torments. There the intelligent fire burns the limbs and restores them, feeds on them and nourishes them. As the fires of the thunderbolts strike upon the bodies, and do not consume them; as the fires of Mount Aetna and of Mount Vesuvius, and of burning where, glow, but are not wasted; so that penal fire is not fed by the waste of those who burn, but is nourished by the unexhausted eating away of their bodies. But that they who know not God are deservedly tormented as impious, as unrighteous persons, no one except a profane man hesitates to believe, since it is not less wicked to be ignorant of, than to offend the Parent of all, and the Lord of all. And although ignorance of God is sufficient for punishment, even as knowledge of Him is of avail for pardon, yet if we Christians be compared with you, although in some things our discipline is inferior, yet we shall be found much better than you." (The Octavius Of Minucius Felix, 35)

Cyprian:

"There is no faith in the fear of God, in the law of righteousness, in love, in labour; none considers the fear of futurity, and none takes to heart the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God, and the punishments to come upon unbelievers, and the eternal torments decreed for the faithless." (On The Unity Of The Church, 26)

The historian Philip Schaff wrote:

"There never was in the Christian church any difference of opinion concerning the righteous, who shall inherit eternal life and enjoy the blessed communion of God forever and ever. But the final fate of the impenitent who reject the offer of salvation admits of three answers to the reasoning mind: everlasting punishment, annihilation, restoration (after remedial punishment and repentance)....Everlasting Punishment of the wicked always was, and always will be the orthodox theory....the majority of the fathers who speak plainly on this terrible subject, favor this view....The generality of this belief among Christians is testified by Celsus [an opponent of Christianity who wrote in the second century], who tells them that the heathen priests threaten the same 'eternal punishment' as they, and that the only question was which was right, since both claimed the truth with equal confidence." (History Of The Christian Church, 2:12:157)

The patristic scholar J.N.D. Kelly wrote the following about the later patristic sources:

"As regards the fate of the wicked (that of the blessed will be treated in the next section), the general view was that their punishment would be eternal, without any possibility of remission. As Basil put it, in hell the sinful soul is completely cut off from the Holy Spirit, and is therefore incapable of repentance; while Chrysostom pointed out that neither the bodies of the damned, which will become immortal, nor their souls will know any end of their sufferings." (Early Christian Doctrines [New York: Continuum, 2003], p. 483)

Allen Clayton writes:

"Some scholars have argued that a notion of the annihilation of the wicked, and not eternal punishment, is present in the writings of such thinkers as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Arnobius. The textual evidence, however, does not seem to bear the weight of this conclusion. The overwhelming majority of Christian writers held that the wicked were to be eternally punished." (in Everett Ferguson, editor, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], p. 517)

G.S. Shogren writes:

"If the extant literature is any indication, then an overwhelming majority within the ancient church were persuaded that damnation leads to everlasting, conscious suffering." (in Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, editors, Dictionary Of The Later New Testament & Its Developments [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997], p. 461)

The beliefs of mainstream professing Christians were sometimes different from the beliefs of the church fathers, and the fathers themselves held a variety of views of the afterlife in general and Hell in particular. However, the concept that Hell involves eternal consciousness for every person who goes there is a Biblical concept and is supported by the best patristic evidence. We see it early, in many locations, and advocated by people with a variety of backgrounds and personalities. The reason why men like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus can be quoted out of context to make them seem to have opposed a Hell of eternal consciousness is because their affirmation of the concept was accompanied by some reservations and some of the common philosophical beliefs of their day. Still, they did affirm the concept of eternal consciousness in Hell, and the best explanation for that affirmation is that it was a concept taught by Jesus and the apostles.

2 Peter 2:7-8 And Imputed Righteousness

       "and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)." (2 Peter 2:7-8)

         Lot's righteousness is certainly not displayed in an experiential or observable manner. He in the Genesis narrative is not said to be a practically righteous man. Thus, the emphasis on him being "righteous" most naturally would mean a status that he has in God. This excerpt brings into light a few other points worthy of consideration:

         "There was spiritual weakness in Lot (Gen. 19:6), e.g., immorality (Gen. 19:8) and drunkenness (Gen. 19:33–35). His heart was in Sodom (Gen. 19:16), yet he did hate the sins of his culture and strongly sought ways to protect God’s angels from harm. He obeyed the Lord in not looking back at Sodom (Gen. 19). In both of the illustrations where God rendered a wholesale judgment on all living people (once on the whole earth, and once in the whole region of the plain S of the Dead Sea), Peter pointed out that God’s people were rescued (v. 5; cf. v. 9). The Gr. word for “oppressed” implies that Lot was troubled deeply and tortured (the meaning of “tormented”) with the immoral, outrageous behavior of the people living in and around Sodom and Gomorrah. Tragically, it is ordinary for believers today no longer to be shocked by the rampant sin in their society."

         The "righteous" position or standing of Lot can only be explained as being an imputed righteousness, since his character is never exemplified as righteous in Scripture. The exception would be in the smaller detail of reproving the mob in Genesis 19. 2 Peter 2:7-8 can be used as a supporting passage for the doctrine of imputed righteousness. He had the same righteousness as Abraham which comes by faith (Genesis 15:6).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

1 Corinthians 4:15 Does Not Justify Calling Roman Catholic Priests "Father" Or The Popes "Holy Father"

        "Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel." (1 Corinthians 4:15)

        Apologists for the Church of Rome sometimes cite this text as a biblical proof-text for the Papacy, namely as a defense of using religious titles of honor. It has been argued by some that since the Apostle Paul referred to himself as a "father" figure, that the priests and head of the Roman Catholic hierarchy have been given the same right to be exalted with titles through apostolic succession.

        The apostles only thought of themselves as being "fathers" in a strictly spiritual sense, which is entirely different than parading around religious titles for honor. The word "fathers" in the text of 1 Corinthians 4:15 is used metaphorically to denote that the apostles raised and educated converts in the principles of the faith.

        Converts were made through the preaching of the gospel and were thus led to eternal salvation. The apostles worked to establish, preserve, and build up the Christian church of the first century so that it could continue to thrive successfully by God's grace in future generations. The phrase "countless guides in Christ" is to be understood as hyperbole.

Friday, August 11, 2017

59 Confirmed Or Historically Probable Facts In The Gospel Of John

1. Archaeology confirms the use of stone water jars in New Testament times [John 2:6].

2. Given the early Christian tendency towards asceticism, the wine miracle is an unlikely invention [2:8].

3. Archaeology confirms the proper place of Jacob's Well [4:6].

4. Josephus [Wars of the Jews 2.232] confirms there was significant hostility between Jews and Samaritans during Jesus' time [4:9].

5. "Come down" accurately describes the topography of western Galilee. [There's a significant elevation drop from Cana to Capernaum.] [4:46, 49, 51].

6. "Went up" accurately describes the ascent to Jerusalem [5:1].

7. Archaeology confirms the proper location of Bethesda [5:2]. [Excavations between 1914 and 1938 uncovered that pool and found it to be just as John described it. Since that structure did not exist after the Romans destroyed the city in A.D. 70, it's unlikely any later non-eyewitness could have described it in such vivid detail. Moreover, John says that this structure "is in Jerusalem," implying that he's writing before 70].

8. Jesus' own testimony being invalid without the Father is an unlikely Christian invention [5:31]; a later redactor would be eager to highlight Jesus' divinity and would probably make his witness self-authenticating.

9. The crowds wanting to make Jesus king reflects the well-known nationalist fervor of early first-century Israel [6:15].

10. Sudden and severe squalls are common on the Sea of Galilee [6:18].

11. Christ's command to eat his flesh and drink his blood would not be made up [6:53].

12. The rejection of Jesus by many of his disciples is also an unlikely invention [6:66].

13. The two predominant opinions of Jesus, one that Jesus was a "good man" and the other that he "deceives people," would not be the two choices John would have made up [7:12]; a later Christian writer would have probably inserted the opinion that Jesus was God.

14. The charge of Jesus being demon-possessed is an unlikely invention [7:20].

15. The use of "Samaritan" to slander Jesus befits the hostility between Jews and Samaritans [8:48].

16. Jewish believers wanting to stone Jesus is an unlikely invention [8:31, 59].

17. Archaeology confirms the existence and location of the Pool of Siloam [9:7].

18. Expulsion from the synagogue by the Pharisees was a legitimate fear of the Jews; notice that the healed man professes his faith in Jesus only after he is expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees [9:13-39], at which point he has nothing to lose. This rings of authenticity.

19. The healed man calling Jesus a "prophet" rather than anything more lofty suggests the incident is unembellished history [9:17].

20. During a winter feast, Jesus walked in Solomon's Colonnade, which was the only side of the temple area shielded from the cold winter east wind [10:22-23]; this area is mentioned several times by Josephus.

21. Fifteen stadia [less than two miles] is precisely the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem [11:18].

22. Given the later animosity between Christians and Jews, the positive depiction of Jews comforting Martha and Mary is an unlikely invention [11:19].

23. The burial wrappings of Lazarus were common for first-century Jewish burials [11:44]; it is unlikely that a fiction writer would have included this theologically irrelevant detail.

24. The precise description of the composition of the Sanhedrin [11:47]: it was composed primarily of chief priests [largely Sadducees] and Pharisees during Jesus' ministry.

25. Caiaphas was indeed the high priest that year [11:49]; we learn from Josephus that Caiaphas held the office from A.D. 18-37.

26. The obscure and tiny village of Ephraim [11:54] near Jerusalem is mentioned by Josephus.

27. Ceremonial cleansing was common in preparation for the Passover [11:55].

28. Anointing of a guest's feet with perfume or oil was sometimes performed fro special guests in the Jewish culture (12:3); Mary's wiping of Jesus' feet with her hair is an unlikely invention [in easily could have been perceived as a sexual advance].

29. Waving of palm branches was a common Jewish practice for celebrating military victories and welcoming national rulers [12:13].

30. Foot washing is first-century Palestine was necessary because of dust and open footwear; Jesus performing this menial task is an unlikely invention [it was a task not even Jewish slaves were required to do] [13:4]; Peter's insistence that he get a complete bath also fits with his impulsive personality [there's certainly no purpose for inventing this request].

31. Peter asks John to ask Jesus a question [13:24]; there's no reason to insert this detail if this is fiction; Peter could have asked Jesus himself.

32. "The Father is greater than I" is an unlikely invention [14:28], especially if John wanted to make up the deity of Christ [as the critics claim he did].

33. Use of the vine as a metaphor makes good sense in Jerusalem [15:1]; vineyards were in the vicinity of the temple, and, according to Josephus, the temple gates had a golden vine carved on them.

34. Use of the childbirth metaphor [16:21] is thoroughly Jewish; is has been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls [1QH 11:9-10].

35. The standard Jewish posture for prayers was looking "toward heaven" [17:1].

36. Jesus' admission that he has gotten his words from the Father [17:7-8] would not be included if John were inventing the idea that Christ was God.

37. No specific reference to fulfilled Scripture is given regarding the predicted betrayal by Judas; a fiction writer or later Christian redactor probably would have identified the Old Testament Scripture to which Jesus was referring [17:12].

38. The name of the high priest's servant [Malachus], who had his ear cut off, is an unlikely invention [18:10].

39. Proper identification of Caiaphas's father-in-law, Annas, who was the high priest from A.D. 6-15 [18:13]-the appearance before Annas is believable because of the family connection and the fact the former high priests maintained great influence.

40. John's claim that the high priest knew him [18:15] seems historical; invention of this claim serves no purpose and would expose John to being discredited by the Jewish authorities.

41. Anna's questions regarding Jesus' teachings and disciples make good historical sense; Annas would be concerned about potential civil unrest and the undermining of Jewish religious authority [18:19].

42. Identification of a relative of Malchus [the high priest's servant who had his ear cut off] is a detail that John would not have made up [18:26]; it has no theological significance and could only hurt John's credibility if he were trying to pass off fiction as the truth.

43. There are good historical reasons to believe Pilate's reluctance to deal with Jesus [18:28ff.]: Pilate had to walk a fine line between keeping the Jews happy and keeping Rome happy; any civil unrest could mean his job [the Jews knew of his competing concerns when they taunted him, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar," 19:12]; the Jewish philosopher Philo records the Jews successfully pressuring Pilate in a similar way to get their demands met [To Gaius 38.301-302].

44. A surface similar to the Stone Pavement has been identified near the Antonia Fortress [19:13] with markings that may indicate soldiers played games there [as in the gambling for his clothes in 19:24].

45. The Jews exclaiming, "We have no king but Caesar!" [19:15] would not be invented given the Jewish hatred for the Romans, especially if John had been written after A.D. 70. [This would be like New Yorkers today proclaiming "We have not king but Osama Bin Laden!"]

46. The crucifixion of Jesus [19:17-30] is attested to by non-Christian sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, and the Jewish Talmud.

47. Crucifixion victims normally carried their own crossbeams [19:17].

48. Josephus confirms that crucifixion was an execution technique employed by the Romans [Wars of the Jews 1.97; 2.305; 7.203]; moreover, a nail-spiked anklebone of a crucified man was found in Jerusalem in 1968.

49. The execution site was likely outside ancient Jerusalem, as John says [19:17]; this would ensure that the sacred Jewish city would not be profaned by the presence of a dead body [Deut. 21:23].

50. After the spear was thrust into Jesus' side, out came what appeared to be blood and water [19:34]. Today we know that a crucified person might have a watery fluid father in the sac around the heart called the pericardium. John would not have known of this medical condition, and could not have recorded this phenomenon unless he was an eyewitness or had access to eyewitness testimony.

51. Joseph of Arimathea [19:38], a member of the Sanhedrin who buries Jesus, is an unlikely invention.

52. Josephus [Antiquities 17.199] confirms that spices [19:39] were used for royal burials; this detail shows that Nicodemus was not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, and it also demonstrates that John was not inserting later Christian faith into the text.

53. Mary Magdalene [20:1], a formerly demon-possessed woman [Luke 8:2], would not be invented as the empty tomb's first witness; in fact, women in general would not be presented as witnesses in a made-up story.

54. Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener [20:15] is not a detail that a later writer would have made up [especially a writer seeking to exalt Jesus].

55. "Rabboni" [20:16], the Aramaic for "teacher," seems an authentic detail because it's another unlikely invention for a writer trying to exalt the risen Jesus.

56. Jesus stating that he is returning to "my God and your God" [20:17] does not fit with a later writer bent on creating the idea that Jesus was God.

57. One hundred fifty-three fish [21:11] is a theologically irrelevant detail, but perfectly consistent with the tendency of fisherman to want to record and then brag about large catches.

58. The fear of the disciples to ask Jesus who he was [21:12] is an unlikely concoction; it demonstrates natural human amazement at the risen Jesus and perhaps the fact that there was something different about the resurrection body.

59. The cryptic statement from Jesus about the fate of Peter is not clear enough to draw certain theological conclusions [21:18]; so why would John make it up? It's another unlikely invention. [1]

Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 263-268

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Topical Scripture Cross Reference Study On Love Of God And Neighbor

  • The Greatest Commandment:
          -"When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, 'Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?' He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40)
  • Testimonial From Leviticus:
          -"You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:17-18)
  • Testimonial From Deuteronomy:
          -"Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5)
          -"Now, therefore, Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you but to fear the Lord, your God, to follow in all his ways, to love and serve the Lord, your God, with your whole heart and with your whole being." (Deuteronomy 10:12)
  • Testimonial From Joshua:
          -"But be very careful to observe the precept and Law of Moses, the servant of the LORD, enjoined upon you: love the LORD, your God; follow him faithfully; keep his commandments; remain loyal to him; and serve him with your whole heart and soul." (Joshua 22:5)
  • Testimonial From 1 Kings:
          -"if with their whole heart and soul they turn back to you in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, the city you have chosen, and the house I have built for your name." (1 Kings 8:48)
  • Testimonial From Romans:
          -"...and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, [namely] 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:9-10)
  • Testimonial From Galatians:
          -"For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
  • Testimonial From James:
          -"However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well." (James 2:8)
  • Testimonial From First John:
          -"We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death." (1 John 3:14)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Who Bruises The Head Of The Serpent In Genesis 3:15?

  • Discussion:
          -Has anyone ever wondered why there are many Roman Catholic images of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, standing with her foot on the head of a serpent? Quite simply, these portraits exist because throughout history Roman Catholics have traditionally interpreted the biblical text of Genesis 3:15 to mean that she has enmity with the devil. In other words, they believe that since Mary was supposedly immaculately conceived (and therefore sinless), that she must be the figure who stands in direct contradiction to the traits of the devil.
          -Many Catholics reason that Mary must be the paragon of holiness, whereas the devil is the ultimate source of evil. Genesis 3:15 has commonly been connected with the immaculate conception of Mary by adherents to the dogmas of Roman Catholicism. Thus, the purpose of this article is to explain how the mainstream Roman Catholic interpretation of this passage is in error and has in fact been rejected by recent Roman Catholic biblical scholarship.
  • Consider The Words Of The New Catholic Encyclopedia In Regards To Genesis 3:15:
          -"Much confusion has resulted from the fact that the second half of this verse was inaccurately translated in the Vulgate to read, “She shall crush your head.” This translation, which has strongly affected the traditional representations of the Blessed Virgin, is today generally recognized to be a mistake for “it [or “he,” i.e., the seed of the woman] shall crush...”, and consequently can no longer be cited in favor of the Immaculate Conception." (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, page 378)
  • The New American Bible Revised Edition Has This Footnote On Genesis 3:15:
          -"[3:15] They will strike…at their heel: the antecedent for “they” and “their” is the collective noun “offspring,” i.e., all the descendants of the woman. Christian tradition has seen in this passage, however, more than unending hostility between snakes and human beings. The snake was identified with the devil (Wis 2:24; Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2), whose eventual defeat seemed implied in the verse. Because “the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8), the passage was understood as the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind, the protoevangelium. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. A.D. 130–200), in his Against Heresies 5.21.1, followed by several other Fathers of the Church, interpreted the verse as referring to Christ, and cited Gal 3:19 and 4:4 to support the reference. Another interpretive translation is ipsa, “she,” and is reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. “She” was thought to refer to Mary, the mother of the messiah. In Christian art Mary is sometimes depicted with her foot on the head of the serpent."
  • Logical Dilemmas For The Roman Catholic Interpretation Of Genesis 3:15:
          -To have "enmity" means to be hostile, filled with hatred, or to stand in a position of opposition. Not only would the devil possess enmity towards the "seed of the woman" that is mentioned in Genesis 3:15, but he also hates all of God's people (Romans 16:20; James 4:4). So, if we accept the Genesis text as being a reference to Mary, and the mere existence of enmity proves that Mary is sinless, then would this not mean that all Christians are free from sin in the same sense, as well?
  • Who Bruises The Head Of The Serpent? :
          -The simple answer to this question is that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who crushes the head of the serpent. It is He who stands in direct opposition to the devil. It is Jesus Christ who is infinitely more powerful than the devil himself. Jesus Christ was born of a woman. Christ is the Savior of those who believe on Him, whereas Satan is the father of all lies. Both figures are diametrically opposed to each other in every way. But it is Christ who has overcome the power of Satan. This is the meaning of the woman's seed crushing the head of the serpent. However, giving Mary or anybody else a position of sinlessness harms the uniqueness of Christ in comparison to mankind. The blasphemous idea that Mary was immaculately conceived by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit can only pose a distraction to the people who give Christ the devotion, honor, and praise that only He rightly deserves. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Could Solar Eclipses Be Evidence For God?

Solar eclipses are a spectacular sight to behold. But they have also contributed significantly to scientific discovery. The sun’s corona, the star’s outer atmosphere, becomes observable only during a solar eclipse. This has allowed scientists to conduct experiments during solar eclipses, and this has enabled researchers to use spectroscopes to discern the spectra of stars.

In 1919, a solar eclipse led to the confirmation of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity that he had proposed three years earlier. If Einstein's theory was right, starlight should bend as it passes the sun. Researchers, one group led by Arthur Eddington and Edwin Cottingham on Principle Island off the West African coast and another group in Brazil led by Andrew Cromellin and Charles Davidson, set out to determine the changes in the position of stars in the sky near the sun relative to their position before and after the eclipse. Their data ultimately confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity. These results have been borne out by subsequent experiments conducted during solar eclipses.

Examining ancient records of solar eclipses at known places and times has also enabled scientists to elucidate the Earth’s past rotation rate. This has even allowed historians to translate ancient calendar systems into a modern calendar system.

It is clear, then, that solar eclipses have played an important part in the scientific endeavour. Is it merely an uncanny fortuitous state of affairs that the one planet in our solar system on which there are observers also happens to be the one planet with perfect solar eclipses that appear to provide optimal conditions for scientific discovery?

In their book The Privileged Planet, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay W. Richards elaborate on this and many other uncanny coincidences that suggest that there is significant overlap between the conditions necessary for habitability and those that are conducive to measurability.

While this striking phenomenon does not by any means clinch the design hypothesis, it certainly adds to a growing cumulative body of data that suggests that our Universe was designed for intelligent life.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Could-solar-eclipses-be-evidence-for-God

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Things Required For Honest Self-Examination

  • Scripture Does Speak Of Professing Christians Examining Themselves:
          -"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • We Need An Honest Heart:
          -One must objectively evaluate findings regarding personal status with God.
          -We must hate every false way.
          -Truth must be our top priority.
  • The Standard Of Truth Used In Self-Analysis:
          -Conscience is a valuable instrument, though liable to error.
          -Divine revelation is infallible.
          -Therefore, Scripture is to always function as our final authority in spiritual discernment.
  • Purposes Of Self-Examination:
          -Seeking spiritual purity
          -Seeking forgiveness from God
          -Verifying whether conversion is genuine
  • The Meaning Of Being In The Faith:
          -Maintaining biblically orthodox doctrine
          -Remaining faithful to God