Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Few Comments On The Roman Catholic Usage Of Religious Iconography In Worship

  • Discussion:
          -The Roman Catholic Church contends that its followers are not actually guilty of idolatry as they are simply giving appropriate honor to Jesus Christ, Mary, and various saints. Religious iconography is said to have no power in itself and that only the person whom a particular image represents is the subject of veneration (CCC # 2132). One problem with such provisions is that Scripture does not approve of us making images of God:

        "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman molds an image, The goldsmith overspreads it with gold, And the silversmith casts silver chains. Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman To prepare a carved image that will not totter. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One." (Isaiah 40:17-25)

        The Prophet Isaiah articulates a sharp contrast between the living God and powerless idols carved by the hands of men. It is irreverent to the utmost for us to even compare His unfathomable glory to relics which are the product of our fragile minds. These works are the antithesis of God's majesty. So it is not proper at all for Roman Catholics to use religious iconography to worship Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3).

        Some have appealed to Christ's incarnation to justify the use of images in worship (CCC # 2129-2131), although it is difficult to see how or why such validates this practice. Saints are human beings, and the Old Testament emphatically condemned making statues of them for the purpose of religious devotion. The Lord became angry with the Israelites who had urged Aaron to make a golden calf as a result of their desire to have a physical representation of God (Exodus 32:8). We cannot even determine exactly what Christ looked like. We are not to worship our God in the manner that the pagans do with their false gods:

        "And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place.” You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things." (Deuteronomy 12:3-4).

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Blasphemy Against The Holy Spirit

        The promised Jewish Messiah was said to have the ability to perform miraculous deeds by the power of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 35:5-6).

        The Pharisees attributed the power of Jesus Christ to demons (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:30). In other words, the Jewish leaders had outrightly rejected verifiable evidence that He was sent by God. That is the precise identity of what has been termed the unpardonable sin.

        This scenario is not one that can be replicated today because nobody has seen Christ publicly performing miracles. He is presently sitting at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1). Thus, nobody can actually commit this form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

        On the other hand, persistent unbelief does not receive the forgiveness of God. A person who dies in a state of voluntary opposition to the conviction of heart brought about by the Holy Spirit will be eternally condemned. That sin in a sense is unforgivable. We must repent and place our trust in Christ's work alone for salvation (John 3:16).

Can Astronomy Explain The Biblical Star Of Bethlehem?

"To understand the Star of Bethlehem, we need to think like the three wise men. Motivated by this “star in the east,” they first traveled to Jerusalem and told King Herod the prophecy that a new ruler of the people of Israel would be born. We also need to think like King Herod, who asked the wise men when the star had appeared, because he and his court, apparently, were unaware of any such star in the sky.

These events present us with our first astronomy puzzle of the first Christmas: How could King Herod’s own advisors have been unaware of a star so bright and obvious that it could have led the wise men to Jerusalem?

Next, in order to reach Bethlehem, the wise men had to travel directly south from Jerusalem; somehow that “star in the east” “went before them, ‘til it came and stood over where the young child was.” Now we have our second first-Christmas astronomy puzzle: how can a star “in the east” guide our wise men to the south? The north star guides lost hikers to the north, so shouldn’t a star in the east have led the wise men to the east?

And we have yet a third first-Christmas astronomy puzzle: how does Matthew’s star move “before them,” like the taillights on the snowplow you might follow during a blizzard, and then stop and stand over the manger in Bethlehem, inside of which supposedly lies the infant Jesus?The adoration of the Magi, after they followed that ‘star in the east’ to Jesus.

What could the 'star in the east’ be?

The astronomer in me knows that no star can do these things, nor can a comet, or Jupiter, or a supernova, or a conjunction of planets or any other actual bright object in the nighttime sky. One can claim that Matthew’s words describe a miracle, something beyond the laws of physics. But Matthew chose his words carefully and wrote “star in the east” twice, which suggests that these words hold a specific importance for his readers.

Can we find any other explanation, consistent with Matthew’s words, that doesn’t require that the laws of physics be violated and that has something to do with astronomy? The answer, amazingly, is yes.

Astronomer Michael Molnar points out that “in the east” is a literal translation of the Greek phrase en te anatole, which was a technical term used in Greek mathematical astrology 2,000 years ago. It described, very specifically, a planet that would rise above the eastern horizon just before the sun would appear. Then, just moments after the planet rises, it disappears in the bright glare of the sun in the morning sky. Except for a brief moment, no one can see this “star in the east.”

We need a little bit of astronomy background here. In a human lifetime, virtually all the stars remain fixed in their places; the stars rise and set every night, but they do not move relative to each other. The stars in the Big Dipper appear year after year always in the same place. But the planets, the sun and the moon wander through the fixed stars; in fact, the word “planet” comes from the Greek word for wandering star. Though the planets, sun and moon move along approximately the same path through the background stars, they travel at different speeds, so they often lap each other. When the sun catches up with a planet, we can’t see the planet, but when the sun passes far enough beyond it, the planet reappears.

And now we need a little bit of astrology background. When the planet reappears again for the first time and rises in the morning sky just moments before the sun, for the first time in many months after having been hidden in the sun’s glare for those many months, that moment is known to astrologers as a heliacal rising. A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day.

Thus, the “star in the east” refers to an astronomical event with supposed astrological significance in the context of ancient Greek astrology.Was the star visible just briefly before dawn?

What about the star parked directly above the first crèche? The word usually translated as “stood over” comes from the Greek word epano, which also had an important meaning in ancient astrology. It refers to a particular moment when a planet stops moving and changes apparent direction from westward to eastward motion. This occurs when the Earth, which orbits the sun more quickly than Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, catches up with, or laps, the other planet.

Together, a rare combination of astrological events (the right planet rising before the sun; the sun being in the right constellation of the zodiac; plus a number of other combinations of planetary positions considered important by astrologers) would have suggested to ancient Greek astrologers a regal horoscope and a royal birth.

Molnar believes that the wise men were, in fact, very wise and mathematically adept astrologers. They also knew about the Old Testament prophecy that a new king would be born of the family of David. Most likely, they had been watching the heavens for years, waiting for alignments that would foretell the birth of this king. When they identified a powerful set of astrological portents, they decided the time was right to set out to find the prophesied leader.

If Matthew’s wise men actually undertook a journey to search for a newborn king, the bright star didn’t guide them; it only told them when to set out. And they wouldn’t have found an infant swaddled in a manger. After all, the baby was already eight months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king. The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars)...

Matthew wrote to convince his readers that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. Given the astrological clues embedded in his gospel, he must have believed the story of the Star of Bethlehem would be convincing evidence for many in his audience."

https://theconversation.com/can-astronomy-explain-the-biblical-star-of-bethlehem-35126

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Two Biblical Proofs For The Deity Of The Holy Spirit

"Compare, for example, Isaiah 6:8–10 with Acts 28:25–27. Isaiah presents a statement by Yahweh in his prophecy. In Acts, Paul attributes the statement to the Holy Spirit. In other words, what Yahweh said is what the Holy Spirit said. We see something similar by comparing Psalm 95:7–11 with Hebrews 3:7–11. What Yahweh says in Psalm 95, the author of Hebrews attributes to the Holy Spirit."

https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2019/12/is-the-trinity-biblical/

An Effective Refutation Of Sola Fide Or Just Another Case Of Mere Roman Catholic Sophistry?

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick wrote an article where he attempts to stump Protestants by using texts such as Galatians 5:6. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "(1) Faith prior to justification lacks love, and thus this faith must start off 'dead'. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just an incomplete thing, which is why justification is still needed."

          There is no passage of time between faith and justification. Both occur simultaneously. There is also no such thing as a faith which starts off as dead. So this conclusion is built on a straw man.

          "(2) Justification must be what bestows love, and this seems confirmed by Scripture (e.g. Romans 5:5), and thus the Protestant can no longer say justification is purely forensic, but rather infuses divine gifts into the soul.

          The Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts, which is related to our justification. But this act of the Spirit is not to be equated or conflated with the instance of justification. Grace and faith do have an effect on our love.

           Forensic justification causes things which are not forensic in nature to happen. We obtain peace with God by faith, which includes assurance of salvation and the freedom to pursue holiness in gratitude for what God has done for us. These blessings have a consequential relationship to justification by faith alone.

           The phrase "faith working through love" in Galatians 5:6 implies the existence of a faith that is ongoing. Belief in Sola Fide is not a denial of this. The relationship of God to the unbelieving world is that of a judge to a convict, whereas our relationship to Him is that of a father to a son.

           "(3) Dead faith prior to justification becomes living faith after justification by the addition of love to faith, and herein is the essence of a justified believer. This would mean it isn't Christ's Imputed Righteousness that makes all the difference, but rather the presence/absence of love, and thus suggests your justification (salvation) hinges upon what you do with that love. This is why texts like Revelation 21:8 list "unbelief" as one of the many sins that can damn a person, because it's possible to have faith and be damned by other grave sins."

           The presence of love serves as evidence of a regenerate heart. In addition, the reason that "unbelief" is listed as one of several damnable sins in Revelation 21:8 is that it is the opposite of belief. Faith is the instrument by which God justifies us. Thus, that passage is perfectly consistent with the doctrine of Sola Fide.

           "Given the above, when Paul says we are "justified by faith," he isn't saying we are "eternally saved by faith," rather he's saying that we receive God's love within us by believing in the Gospel, and that this is just the beginning of our salvation (Rom 13:8-14; Gal 5:13-14)."

           We would agree with the above comments. The moment of conversion is simply the beginning of our salvation. Justification is an aspect, but not the entirety of the process. What we would argue against is the idea of man earning the grace of God on the basis of good works.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Critique Of Roman Catholic Mortal And Venial Sin

  • Discussion:
          -The Roman Catholic Church maintains a sharp distinction between venial and mortal sins. The former category is said to be a less serious offense in the sight of God and does not result in loss of salvation. The latter category is said to be a grave violation of God's Law (CCC #1855) and results in a loss of all sanctifying grace (CCC # 1861). In Roman Catholic theology, mortal sins are deadly to one's relationship with God.

          While Scripture does speak of different degrees of sin, the payment for all is the same--spiritual death (Genesis 2:16-17; Ezekiel 18:4; 20; Romans 6:23). Even our smallest violations of God's Law are acts of treason against Him (Matthew 5:21-22; James 2:10-11). He is perfect and holy. He is true to Himself. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and so have incurred the sentence of spiritual death. In judging us, God literally takes into account every spec of our lives (Matthew 12:36). Therefore, the Roman Catholic differentiation between venial and mortal sins is an unbiblical one. Sin as a whole separates mankind from God. Sin by its very nature is fatal to us.

          All sin is paid for by the same shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10-14; 1 Peter 3:18). Sin does have both spiritual and earthly consequences. One may suffer a loss of rewards in eternity, but remains saved. A murderer suffers capital punishment. A thief receives a jail sentence. An adulterer will lose his or her spouse and potentially the entire family. But there are no distinction between mortal and venial sins.

          Once a man has placed his trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he is justified before God and forgiven of all sins. This is not intended to communicate that a Christian stumbling into sin is permissible, when in reality it is not. The Lord does chasten those whom He loves. Moreover, the grace of God teaches believers to resist sin (Titus 2:11-14). Another dilemma for the Roman Catholic concept is that if we view most of our sin as being "venial" in nature, then we will essentially minimize or overlook our sin nature and the need for God's continual providing of grace.

Atheists Sound The Alarm: Decline Of Christianity Is Seriously Hurting Society

"Only a few years ago, the aggressive “New Atheist” movement was on the march, with rhetorical brawlers like Christopher Hitchens and renowned biologists like Richard Dawkins leading the charge against religion and the last vestiges of Christian faith in the West. Religion, Hitchens famously stated, “poisons everything,” and could only be considered, at best, humanity’s “first and worst” attempt to solve existential questions. If these cobwebbed superstitions could be blasted away by the refreshing winds of reason and the Enlightenment, a fundamentally better society would rise from the ashes—or so the thinking went.

But as Christianity fades further and further into our civilization’s rear-view mirror, many intelligent atheists are beginning to realize that the Enlightenment may have only achieved success because it wielded influence on a Christian culture. In a truly secular society, in which men and women live their lives beneath empty heavens and expect to be recycled rather than resurrected, there is no solid moral foundation for good and evil. Anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens mocked and reviled the idea that mankind needed God to know right from wrong, but scarcely two generations into our Great Secularization and we no longer even know male from female.

It would be interesting to know how the late Hitchens would have responded to the insanities that have proliferated since his passing, and whether he would have come to realize, as some of his similarly godless friends have, that one does not need to find Christianity believable to realize that it is necessary. Douglas Murray, who has taken to occasionally calling himself a “Christian atheist,” has publicly argued with Hitchens’ fellow “Horseman of the Apocalypse” Sam Harris over whether a society based on Enlightenment values is even possible without Christianity. Harris holds out hope that such a society is possible. Murray is sympathetic, but skeptical.

Increasingly, Murray admitted, he believes the atheist project to be a hopeless one. When he joined me on my show recently to discuss his latest book The Madness of Crowds, he reiterated that he believes that in the absence of the secularist’s ability to hammer out ethics on fundamental issues such as the sanctity of life, we may be forced to recognize that returning to faith is the best option available to us. There is a very real possibility, he noted, that our modern concept of human rights, based as it is on a Judeo-Christian foundation, may very well outlive Christianity by only a few short years. Cut off from the source, our conception of human rights may shrivel and die very quickly, leaving us fumbling about in a thick and impenetrable darkness.

Without the Christian underpinnings of our society, it will be up to us to decide what is right and wrong, and as our current culture wars clearly illustrate, our civilization will tear itself apart before it regains consensus. Many optimistic atheists recently believed that once God was dethroned and banished, we could finally live as adults and get on with the utopian project of creating a society based on faith in ourselves. These skeptics were unfortunately skeptical about everything except the goodness of humanity, despite the fact that they had no metaphysical or even Darwinian basis for this easily disprovable assumption. Jordan Peterson’s phenomenal popularity is partially based on his recognition that people are not generally good, and that the past century proves this with the blood of millions.

It is the abject failure of this thesis that is leading some prominent atheists to begrudgingly admit that perhaps Christianity was more necessary than they thought. As recently as 2015, Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) was arguing that children needed to be protected from the religious views of their parents, and made a series of alarming comments regarding the rights of parents to educate their children in the tenets of their religious faith. By 2018, however, Dawkins was warning that the “benign Christian religion” might be replaced by something decidedly less benign, and that perhaps we should take a step back to discuss what might happen if the evangelical secularists are successful in destroying or banishing Christianity. Other atheists and agnostics, from Bill Maher to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have echoed Dawkins’ sentiments. This is a radical shift in only a handful of years—and the fact that atheists are sounding the alarm should be a warning to Christians about the consequences of our ongoing secularization.

Dawkins has now come out and repudiated his previous belief that Christianity should be banished from society even more firmly. In fact, he told The Times, ending religion—once his fervent goal—would be a terrible idea, because it would “give people a license to do really bad things.” Despite the fact that Dawkins has long argued that the very idea of the God of the Bible being necessary as a basis for morality is both ridiculous and offensive, he appears to be backtracking. “People may feel free to do bad things because they feel God is no longer watching them,” he said, citing the example of security cameras as a deterrent to shoplifting. One wonders if he has heard Douglas Murray remind people that the Soviets murdered their millions in the firm belief that there was no Judge waiting for them when the killing was over."

https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/atheists-sound-the-alarm-decline-of-christianity-is-seriously-hurting-society

Monday, December 2, 2019

Why Did The Watchtower Society Become An Associate Member Of The United Nations In 1992 Until 2001?

"Before posing this question as an attack on the organisation it is best to prepare the way otherwise the effect can be lost. Start by asking why JWs are not allowed to participate in political affairs. Then move on to asking them why they hate the UN so much. Getting them to confirm first how the UN is so opposed to Jehovah’s kingdom before dropping the bombshell that that the Watchtower Society joined it increases the effect. They may well deny that this actually happened but just ask them to speak with their elders to confirm it or research it themselves. Leave the question to simmer in their minds."

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/10-questions-to-ask-a-Jehovah-s-Witness

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Comments On The Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation Rendering Of Hebrews 1:6

  • Discussion:
          -Hebrews 1:6 was translated in the following manner in the 1961 edition of the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation:

          "Let all God's angels worship him."

          How the passage from Hebrews is rendered in modern editions of the New World Translation:

          "And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

          The Greek word translated into English as "worship" is proskyneo. It goes beyond giving somebody honor, especially when employed in a religious context. That is indeed the case with Hebrews 1:6.

          Consequently, the rendering of proskyneo as "do obeisance" (instead of worship) in the New World Translation is wholly inappropriate. This is a clear example of the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society taking liberties with the text.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Major Problem For The Jehovah's Witness Belief That Jesus Is Michael The Archangel

  • Discussion:
          -The Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Interlinear Translation renders Hebrews 1:3 as follows:

          "[Jesus] is the reflection of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being."

          If Jesus Christ is Michael the Archangel as the Jehovah's Witnesses believe, then, according to the logic of the above quoted Scripture passage, that would mean the essence or nature of God must be that of an angel.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Do Occurrences Of Brain Damage Refute The Immateriality Of The Soul?

        Critics of mind-body dualism (the position that the mind is immaterial, body is physical, and both are separable) argue that changes in brain function rule out the existence of a soul. It is claimed that instances of the brain influencing our behavior prove consciousness to be illusory. A common assertion made in neuroscience is that the mind and the brain are one in the same.

       There is a relationship between the mind and brain, but that does not mean both are the same. The brain is the instrument by which we access our consciousness. Thus, the mind is dependent in a sense on the brain. Organic brain damage may hinder our overall performance. Just as a broken computer which is unable to access the internet does not prove such to be nonexistent, so a damaged brain does not disprove the immateriality of the soul. Following are a few excerpts from secular sources that expressly reject mind-body dualism but argue the mind transcends the brain:

        "...neuroimaging studies may not be as objective as some would like to think. There are still large gaps between observation and interpretation – gaps that are ‘filled’ by theoretical or methodological assumptions. It is then no surprise that researchers have difficulty replicating experimental findings, and that one lab may often find results that contradict those found in another lab where researchers have slightly different biases and make different methodological assumptions (Miller, 2010). This is not to dismiss neuroimaging studies altogether, but rather to suggest that there needs to be more skepticism about what grandiose conclusions we draw from them." (http://modernpsychologist.ca/the-mind-does-not-reduce-to-the-brain/)

        "...The brain plays an incredibly important role. But our mind cannot be confined to what’s inside our skull, or even our body, according to a definition first put forward by Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of a recently published book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human." (https://qz.com/866352/scientists-say-your-mind-isnt-confined-to-your-brain-or-even-your-body/)

        "...the mind is not just a product of brain activity. If it were, it would be impossible for changes in psychological functioning to bring about changes in the brain, in the same way that it would be impossible for changes in the images on a computer screen to bring about changes to the circuitry of a computer. This highlights the fact that the psyche is a phenomenon in its own right, with its own features, its own structures and patterns. It can’t be entirely reduced to neurology. It has to be studied in its own terms."(https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201701/why-the-mind-is-more-the-brain)

        Following is an excerpt from a source that does argue for mind-body dualism:

        "Penfield’s observations bring to light a perplexing aspect of epilepsy — or at least an aspect of epilepsy that should be perplexing to materialists. Seizures always involve either complete unconsciousness or specific activation of a non-abstract neurological function — flashes of light, smells, jerking of muscles, specific memories, strong emotions — but seizures never evoke discrete abstract thought. This is odd, given that the bulk of brain tissue from which seizures arise is classified as association areas that are thought to sub-serve abstract thought. Why don’t epilepsy patients have “calculus seizures” or “moral ethics” seizures, in which they involuntarily take second derivatives or contemplate mercy? The answer is obvious — the brain does not generate abstract thought. The brain is normally necessary for abstract thought, but not sufficient for it." (https://evolutionnews.org/2016/04/wilder_penfield/)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Do The Incorruptible Bodies Of The Saints Prove Roman Catholicism?

"The most commonly used example of an incorruptible body to argue for Catholicism is the example of St. Silvan who was martyred in the fourth century. It is claimed that his body has not decayed in over 1,700 years and you can still see the gash on his neck where he was killed.

But this “incorruptible body” is actually a wax sculpture. His real remains are located below this wax figure...

In the vast majority of these incorruptible bodies, there is a wax mask placed over the face to hide the signs of decay. If their bodies are truly incorruptible, then why is the wax mask necessary? One of the most common examples of an incorrupt body is that of John Vianney. But what those websites who use his body to argue for Catholicism won’t tell you is that his face is actually a wax mask.

But for those bodies that are not wearing a wax mask, their faces have been preserved by a miraculous process called embalming. If the process of embalming proves that Catholicism is true, then Communism is also true because the body of Vladimir Lenin is incorrupt as well."

https://jamesattebury.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/do-the-incorruptible-bodies-of-the-saints-prove-roman-catholicism/

Monday, November 25, 2019

Commentary On John 1:16

"...what does the phrase "grace for grace" actually mean? The preposition translated "for" in Greek is anti, which could readily be translated "in place of." The idea is that when one supply of grace is used, there will be another to take its place. There is constant and uninterrupted replenishment of the grace of God for the believer. Thus his sins are never exposed; they are under the blood of Christ all the time. Let us not hesitate, therefore, to invoke God's grace constantly. God never wants us to be lacking in His grace. We must have His fullness. Let us not be afraid that we shall ever exhaust the grace of God. In Him there is an inexhaustible supply."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 309

Commentary On John 1:12

"The verb translated "gave he" in this verse, edooken in Greek, comes from the same root as the words dosis and dooron, meaning "gift." Therefore edooken in this context has the implied notion of giving freely. There is no restriction to God's giving. Divine authority can become ours freely, without restriction in its outflow and without the necessity of our having to pay for it. And this exactly describes the attitude of God toward us in our sinful state. It is sin which has made us the children of the devil. No matter how great our sin, God's giving of grace is sufficient to meet it."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 236

Why The Author Of The Fourth Gospel De-Emphasizes John The Baptist (In Upholding Christ's Deity)

"At the time when John was writing his Gospel, in the latter years of the first century in Ephesus, the sect emerged whose followers called themselves Hemerobaptists, a Greek word meaning "daily bathers" or those who were baptized daily. Between the time when Paul preached the gospel in Ephesus and the time of the writing of John's Gospel, the person of John the Baptist, who had died as a martyr for the faith, had assumed proportions which threatened the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Some people believed that he was not merely the forerunner of the Messiah, but that he himself was the Messiah. As J. B. Lightfoot says, "His baptism was no more a single rite, once performed and initiating an amendment of life; it was a daily recurrence atoning for sin and sanctifying the person." (St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 403). And then he goes on to say, "In the latter half of the first century, it would seem, there was a great movement among large numbers of the Jews in favor of frequent baptism, as the one purificatory rite essential to salvation" (p. 404)."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 166-167

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Commentary On John 1:3

"...there are those who teach that Jesus Christ is the first creature of God the Father and also the Creator of the world. But this teaching contains both a logical and Scriptural inconsistency. One cannot be both a creature and the Creator. The second part of John 1:3 excludes the possibly that Jesus Christ was both a creature and a creator in His pre-incarnate state. After stating that "all things through him came into being," John goes on to say, "and without him was not any thing made that was made." The "him" refers to Jesus Christ. The "all" of the first part of the verse and the "not any thing" of the second part are all-inclusive, i.e., they cover the entire creation and have no exception anywhere in the created universe."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 134

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Human Mind, Robots, And Self-Awareness

        If the sophistication of artificial intelligence continues to develop, then would that not mean robots would eventually have the ability to feel self-awareness?

        Not exactly. Every question or statement that a robot can process had the answers programmed into it beforehand by a human being.

        Moreover, a computer system does not grasp the meaning of concepts as does a brain. We have subjective elements that simply cannot be possessed by machinery. We actually have feelings and intentions.

        "Thinking is not computation. In fact, thinking is the anthesis of computation. Thought always has meaning, and computation inherently lacks meaning. That is what makes computation so versatile—it imparts no meaning of its own to the tasks to which we apply it." (https://mindmatters.ai/2018/08/the-brain-is-not-a-meat-computer/)

        There is much more to consciousness than having high intelligence and memory storage. At best, a computer can be a simulation of a mind that is conscious. Cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian gives the following observations:

        "...How physical phenomena, like biochemical and electrical processes, create sensation and unified experience is known as the “Hard Problem of Consciousness”, and is widely recognized by neuroscientists and philosophers. Even neuroscientist and popular author Sam Harris—who shares Musk’s robot-rebellion concerns—acknowledges the hard problem when stating that whether a machine could be conscious is “an open question”.

        There is a theological overlapping to all this. A Christian would maintain that consciousness is not possible for a robot because such a condition would require an immaterial soul. That is how God created man. The consciousness of metal and wires assumes that humans are simply material matter.

Addressing A False Charismatic Teaching On The Baptism Of The Holy Spirit

  • Discussion:
          -There is a false teaching present amongst charismatics that Holy Spirit baptism is a separate event from conversion that not every Christian necessarily experiences. In other words, it is believed by some that we must strive for a second blessing from God after receiving His unmerited gift of justification. The problem with this doctrine is that it does not accord with Scripture. No distinction is made between believers who have received the Holy Spirit and others who lack Him.

          Christians are identified as being equally and completely (in the past tense) members of God's church (1 Corinthians 12:13). Everybody who receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior possesses the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14). Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:16-19). Thus, we are to walk continually in Him. The example of Cornelius serves as a perfect illustration of believers simultaneously receiving salvation and the Holy Spirit  (Acts 10:43-48). There is one Lord, faith, and baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6). The Holy Spirit fully indwells every believer at the moment of conversion. The baptism of the Spirit is not separated from conversion.

          The handful of episodes of the Holy Spirit falling on people who were already followers of God that we encounter in the Book of Acts are a unique historical event. They took place during an important transition of salvation history. Christ had ascended into heaven and was glorified by the Father. The scope of redemption was expanded to the Gentiles. What we see described in biblical history is not to be treated as a prescriptive standard for doctrine. Moreover, what happened at Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. This event is not to be repeated or ongoing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Confessions Of A Former Charismatic

"I believe God can do the miraculous. He can grant someone the ability to speak a foreign language. He can heal the sick without the intervention of medicine. But I don’t believe God guarantees that He will always do this. Instead, the Word indicates we can expect persecution, tribulation, distress, and famine (Romans 8:35). Indeed, God ordains sickness and trials in order to glorify Himself (Genesis 50:20; John 9:3). And there are harsh words in the New Testament regarding those who seek signs and wonders (Luke 11:29; John 2:23-25; John 4:48).

One of our problems is that we have become so used to God’s grace in our lives, we fail to recognize the miracles He is working in our midst every day. The fact that our propensity for sin is restrained, the fact that hard-hearted sinners become lovers of God and servants of Christ, the fact that the penalty for my sin has been paid by Another—these are all miracles, no less remarkable than the raising of Lazarus from the dead. And what was the raising of Lazarus other than a sign pointing to that greater wonder: the resurrection of dead souls to new life in Christ?

My study into the gifts of the Spirit have lead me to the conclusion that the sign gifts displayed and described in the New Testament were given at that time for a specific purpose. Nothing in the Scriptures convinces me that those gifts were intended to be permanent. They served the purpose of establishing the church and validating the message of the Apostles. We have that message in Scripture, and we have the confirmation of that message in the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, testifying to us of the truth of the gospel. First Corinthians 12-14 is not a manual on how to use spiritual gifts, but was written to correct the abuse of those gifts within the church at Corinth. While those gifts are no longer functioning within the church, the truths Paul preaches regarding the supremacy of love and the necessity for order within the church are certainly applicable to us today."

https://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2014/02/04/confessions-of-a-former-charismatic-part-2-why-im-no-longer-a-charismatic/

Monday, November 18, 2019

A Dilemma For The Jehovah's Witnesses And Their New World Translation

  • Discussion:
           -In the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation, the word "Lord" (Greek: kurios) is oftentimes rendered as Jehovah. However, that term was not used by biblical writers (nor has any support from known Greek manuscripts). Moreover, the Greek term is not translated as Jehovah in texts such as Romans 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, 1 Peter 3:15, and Revelation 22:21.

           That point highlights the inconsistency in translation and the fact that the Watchtower Society's emphasis on the unbiblical word Jehovah as the divine name is misguided. If the Greek word kurios was translated in a consistent fashion, then Jesus Christ would be called Jehovah.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ehrman's Equivocation And The Inerrancy Of The Original Text

                                                       By Peter J. Williams

The idea of an inerrant or even an infallible original text of Scripture has been a matter of wide controversy. In part such controversy has merely reflected fundamental divisions over the nature of Scripture, its historical reliability, and the extent and essence of its authority. However, it is the contention here that the controversy has partly been complicated by the multivalence of key terms being used by advocates of inerrancy. This means that, while advocates of inerrancy are carefully presenting nuanced arguments that are exegetically well grounded and logically compelling, there are stumbling blocks to their message other than the sheer offensiveness of a doctrine of inerrancy. Advocates of inerrancy need to adopt clearer terminology to ensure that the doctrine is correctly understood at the popular level. In addition, this essay argues that the burden of proof should be on those who distrust the basic integrity of the New Testament text. The work of Bart D. Ehrman is used to illustrate the problems that can arise through terminological confusion and when the burden of proof is wrongly shifted onto those who maintain the basic integrity of the New Testament text.

Bart Ehrman and the Inerrancy of the Originals

The story of Bart Ehrman has become well known through his autobiographical Introduction to his best-selling book Misquoting Jesus.1 After a conversion experience in his teens, Ehrman studied at two well-known institutions committed to biblical inerrancy: Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. Through his studies, especially subsequently at Princeton Theological Seminary, Ehrman abandoned belief in biblical inerrancy and developed a prominent and successful career as a textual critic. As a leading textual critic and ex-inerrantist he has critiqued the idea of biblical inspiration on many occasions, not least on the ground that it is meaningless to attribute the property of having being inspired to a document (the original) that is now lost.2

From observing the reception of Ehrman's writing and speaking it is clear that in mounting this critique he is touching what for many people is a raw nerve. His message can be summarized as follows: many Christians hold to the absolute authority of the original text of the Bible, but this is lost and they are therefore left with no absolute authority. Or to put it more succinctly: Christians follow something they do not have. This message is clearly attractive to many skeptical of Christianity, and worrying to many adherents of the faith. It appears that not only does Ehrman think that he has correctly represented Christian belief, but also that many Christians believe he has done so too.

I will maintain that in several ways Ehrman's case gains force through the logical fallacy of equivocation, namely the confusing of two separate meanings of the same terms. The key problem seems to be that central terms used in discussing a doctrine of Scripture - terms such as "Bible," "text," and "original" - can have both physical and non-physical meanings.3 The focus of Ehrman's critique can often shift indiscriminately between valid but doctrinally irrelevant assertions that we do not have certain physical documents and doctrinally relevant but historically questionable assertions that we do not have the wording of the New Testament, which is of course non-physical. We consider key terms that may facilitate this confusion.

In addition, Ehrman's case gains force by unwarranted shifting of the burden of proof onto those who wish to maintain the integrity of an ancient text and by focusing on small areas of uncertainty while ignoring large and increasing areas of certainty.4

Equivocations Examined

The Term "Bible"

"Bible" is a multivalent term and a relative newcomer among theological terminology, arguably existing for only about half of church history, and in one of its senses for just over a third. There have been considerable shifts over time in the terms Christians have used for their sacred writings. In English only a few centuries ago "holy writ" and "holy Scripture," or "the Scriptures,"5 were more common. However, the English term "Bible" (variously spelled) has also been used for the best part of a millennium and since at least the fourteenth century has carried two different meanings: the one referring to the collection of books that constitute holy Scripture, the other referring to a physical copy of these books. It is in this latter sense that the secondary plural developed, so that one may talk of a collection of Bibles. The Oxford English Dictionary (s.v.) thus gives the first definition as "The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament" and the second as "A copy of the Scriptures." The term is, of course, derived ultimately from Greek mediated via the Latin plural biblia, which changed into a singular in various Western European languages, facilitated by the fact that Latin biblia could be reanalyzed as a feminine singular and there was no corresponding singular *biblium to prevent this.6 It was only after it had been a singular for some time that a secondary plural developed.

The importance of this is that proponents of biblical inerrancy believe in the inerrancy of the Bible in only one of the two senses of the word "Bible," namely when it refers to the collection of books or Scriptures, not to a physical document containing those books.

Consider the following hypothetical exchange:

Enquirer: Do you believe the Bible is without error?

Inerrantist: Yes.

Enquirer (holds up a particular Bible translation): Is this the Bible?

Inerrantist: Yes.

Enquirer: So you believe that there are no errors in this Bible . . .

Inerrantist: Well, actually there may be errors because it is only a translation of the Bible.

This highlights the awkwardness with which at the popular level it may seem necessary to qualify an initial statement of the inerrancy of Scripture. The exchange has, however, only been possible because of a level of multivalence in the word "Bible." If the exchange were adapted with the word "Scriptures" substituted for "Bible" it is likely that less awkwardness would be felt because the term more obviously puts the focus of discussion on the books as writings rather than on any particular copy or translation, and the enquirer would have had to ask "Is this a copy of the Scriptures?" It would be obvious therefore that one could not dismiss the inerrancy of the Scriptures simply by reference to a physical copy of them. Some people may be put off by the term "inerrancy" through what they perceive as backtracking: the proponent of inerrancy initially makes a bold statement - "the Bible is inerrant" - and then proceeds to list numerous qualifications. This procedure may be necessary, but we should at least consider whether there are alternatives.

There seems to have been a shift over time toward use of the term "Bible," particularly in popular parlance, and this results in a mismatch between the terms used in doctrinal definition and those used in common Christian parlance. As an example of technical discourse we may take the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.7 This statement uses the term "Scripture" fifty-seven times and the term "Scriptures" fourteen times (four times each qualified as "holy"). By contrast it uses the term "Bible" a mere sixteen times, "biblical" seven times, and "biblically" once. However, in the culture at large the proportions are rather different, and when large corpora of English are searched we see that the term "Bible" clearly now predominates over "Scripture" or "Scriptures":8

Occurrences in large corpora
American English British English
sg. pl. sg. pl.
Bible 11009 572 1941 106
Scripture 2399 1005 390 290

To illustrate the growth of the term "Bible" through time we may note that articles of faith dealing with Scripture in historic Reformed confessions entirely lack the word "Bible."9 However, more recent evangelical statements of faith show a tendency to include this word. An example of this shift can be seen in the widely used doctrinal basis of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF; formerly Inter-Varsity Fellowship) in the UK. The article on Scripture had originally read:

The divine inspiration and infallibility of Holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.10

But when the article was revised for the sake of modernization it was replaced with the following:

The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.11

"Scripture" was replaced by "Bible," which is obviously intended in the sense of the OED's first meaning - the "Scriptures of the Old and New Testament." The change of wording therefore involves no shift in primary referent, but it does at least facilitate a shift of focus, since the new term introduced, namely "Bible," is multivalent and allows a focus on the physical object rather than on the words of the books themselves.

Although this shift does not by itself cause Ehrman's arguments to work, it does allow them to gain rhetorical force. After all, his contention appears to be that Christians adhere to a holy book they do not have, and the proof that they do not have it is the lack of a physical copy of the book. If Christians more widely spoke of the "inerrancy of the Scriptures" or the "inerrancy of Scripture" I imagine that Ehrman might find the target at least a little harder to hit.

The Term "Original"

A further term that provides ammunition for Ehrman is the word "original."12 Of course, in the time of John Owen or Matthew Henry, "original" could mean simply "origin," especially in the phrase "divine original," but it is no longer used in this way. However, when the word "original" is used in an unqualified way adjectivally we must ask what noun is implied. Are we to understand it as original language (or tongue), original text, or original manuscript? Whatever noun we supply it is clear that earlier writers wrote about the original as something they possessed. For instance, commenting on 1 Corinthians 16:11 Matthew Henry says

Conduct him forth in peace, that he may come to me, for I look for him with the brethren (v. 11); or I with the brethren look for him (the original will bear either), ἐκδέχομαι γὰρ αὐτὸν μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν.13

Clearly Henry knew that he did not have the original manuscript (autograph), so we can eliminate that as a possible meaning for what he said. It seems that for him, as for many earlier writers, "original" was defined by contrast with what was translated. "Original" was not an absolute term; it could be made absolute by speaking of the first original.14

By contrast with Henry who saw the original as something he possessed, we have Ehrman who takes it to be something lost. In writing of his own struggle with inerrancy he says:

I kept reverting to my basic question: how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don't have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes - sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don't have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.15

This is a fairly confused section. Ehrman claims that we do not have the words God inspired, but he has not demonstrated that to be the case. If John the Evangelist or his amanuensis wrote the letter sequence εναρχηηνολογος (John 1:1) then we have the words he wrote, whether we have the words in our minds or in a modern printed edition. One thing that Ehrman never seems to do is to attempt to show that we do not have (either in our minds or in manuscripts) all of the words that the authors wrote. In fact, the situation for the New Testament text is that there are no words that are known or even widely believed by textual critics to be missing from the New Testament text.16

Though Ehrman does show what is widely known, namely that there are variants in the manuscripts, this does not amount to a demonstration that we do not have the words God inspired. To do this he would have at least to demonstrate that some words that were alleged to be inspired have been lost, and at most to demonstrate that all words that were alleged to be inspired have been lost.

Then when he glosses the word "autographs" with the explanation "originals" it is clear that he is using the word "original" in a different sense from Henry. Clearly he means a physical entity - an actual manuscript. The problem here is that it is to misrepresent Christian belief to suggest that a physical manuscript was somehow inspired by God. Rather it was the words on the manuscript that, according to Christian belief, were inspired. Most importantly, when the sequence of words found on the autograph is copied onto another manuscript it does not become less inspired through being copied or written out a second time (Exod. 34:1; Jer. 36:28) and Scripture even allows for Scripture to be lost for a time (2 Kgs. 22:8). In other words, Ehrman has simply mistaken what a Christian doctrine implies.17

A further difference between Henry and Ehrman is probably one of the burden of proof. Given that Ehrman does not distinguish clearly between the first manuscript and the wording on the first manuscript, we have to reconstruct his view. However, he frequently states that we have only "copies of the copies of the copies of the originals."18 This implies a contrast between "original" and "copy," which probably would not make sense of what Henry says. Moreover, it seems that whereas Henry assumes that the words transmitted to him are those of the autograph unless shown otherwise, Ehrman takes the view that the words of a copy cannot be supposed to be those of the autograph under any circumstance. We will return to this below.

The Term "Text"

Aside from its recently acquired meaning of "text message," the word "text" is used in popular parlance both of a physical entity, an artifact with writing on it, and of the non-physical entity of writing abstracted from its physical context. In strict technical parlance it normally means the non-physical entity alone.19

Ehrman uses Galatians as a prime example of the problem of the idea of an original text. He says:

Even at the point of the original penning of the letter, we have numerous difficulties to consider, which may well make us sympathetic with those who want to give up on the notion of knowing what the "original" text was. Galatia was not a single town with a single church; it was a region in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in which Paul had established churches. When he writes to the Galatians, is he writing to one of the churches or to all of them? Presumably, since he doesn't single out any particular town, he means for the letter to go to all of them. Does that mean that he made multiple copies of the same letter, or that he wanted the letter to circulate to all the churches of the region? We don't know.20

Ehrman's example may not be well chosen, since Paul's call to recognize his extra-large handwriting (Gal. 6:11) most likely points to a single physical document being taken round the churches. But Ehrman's point is this: for some works it is likely that there was more than one "original text" and that in any case we cannot now have the original text or know what it was. Since Ehrman connects any conception of inerrancy with the idea of an original text (as he understands it) the non-existence of the original text makes inerrancy untenable.

From a rather different angle A. T. B. McGowan complains about the emphasis on the autographa, which we do not possess, in Warfield's doctrine of Scripture. He says,

The second argument against inerrancy concerns the emphasis placed on the autographa by those in the Warfield tradition. If textual inerrancy is so vital to the doctrine of Scripture, why did God not preserve the autographa or precise copies of the same? Indeed, if inerrancy only applies to the autographa (which we do not possess), then surely it is a somewhat pointless affirmation? Everyone accepts that there are errors in the extant manuscripts and translations. What is the point of insisting that there once existed (very briefly) perfect versions of these texts, if we no longer possess them? Those who emphasize the inerrancy of the autographa are thus faced with a difficult question: "What was the point of God acting supernaturally to provide an inerrant text providentially if it ceased to be inerrant as soon as the first or second copy was made?"21

Though Ehrman and McGowan have very different perspectives on the scriptures they have in common a perception that supporters of inerrancy attribute inerrancy to something we do not have, namely the original text or autograph. Since Ehrman never engages with formal statements of evangelical doctrine, we may surmise that he is responding to evangelical doctrine as he perceived it during his youthful days as an evangelical. In the case of McGowan he is specifically responding to "those in the Warfield tradition." In this latter case it might at least be worth raising an initial query as to whether the question of the autographs is really so prominent within the Warfield tradition. At least in the case of Warfield himself the core ideas to which he returns are revelation and inspiration, not the original text, and it would be quite wrong to say that he holds, in McGowan's words, that "inerrancy only applies to the autographa."

When Warfield did come to define a text in his Textual Criticism of the New Testament it is clear that he held to the immaterial definition of text. In fact he chose to open his book, remarkable for its lack of explicit theology, with a definition of "text" that runs for more or less four pages. The book begins:

The word "text" properly denotes a literary work, conceived of as a mere thing, as a texture woven of words instead of threads. It designates neither, on the one side, the book which contains the text, nor, on the other side, the sense which the text conveys. It is not the matter of the discourse, nor the manner of it, whether logical, rhetorical, or grammatical. It is simply the web of words itself. It is with this understanding that the text of any work is concisely defined as the ipsissima verba of that work.22

After explaining the origins of the word "text" Warfield goes on to say:

There is an important distinction, however, which we should grasp at the outset, between the text of a document and the text of a work.23

The text of a document is the words on that document; the text of a work is "what ought to be the ipsissima verba of all the documents or copies that profess to represent it, - it is the original, or, better still, the intended ipsissima verba of the author. It may not lie in the document before us, or in any document. All existing documents, taken collectively, may fail to contain it. It may never have lain, perfect and pure, in any document. But if an element of ideality thus attaches to it, it is none the less a very real thing and a very legitimate object of search.24

Shortly later he says:

Such are the limitations of human powers in reproducing writings, that apparently no lengthy writing can be duplicated without error. Nay, such are the limitations of human powers of attention, that probably few manuscripts of any extent are written exactly correctly at first hand. The author himself fails to put correctly on paper the words that lie in his mind.25

What is striking here is that Warfield shows full awareness of all of the arguments that over a century later Ehrman would use as objections to inerrancy. However, it is important not to mistake what Warfield believes. In the penultimate quotation he uses the word "original" and then states his preference for the synonymous phrase "the intended ipsissima verba of the author." Warfield makes it clear that this phrase was "better still" than "original." Thus it would hardly go against the flow of Warfield's thought to dispense with the word "original" entirely. Moreover, since Warfield states so clearly that these intended ipsissima verba of a work may never have existed in a physical copy, this opens the question as to whether a follower of Warfield would need to believe that the intended words of divine Scripture ever needed to have existed in their perfect and exact form in an actual document at the time of the human author in order for the necessary conditions of the making of Scripture to have been fulfilled.

If so, then McGowan's suggestion that followers of Warfield put emphasis on the autographa is not relevant for Warfield himself. An autograph is a physical entity. The text of an autograph is not only immaterial, but is also the text of a document. By Warfield's definition, the text of a document should not necessarily be equated with the text of a work of literature.

Here Warfield, though not mentioning the doctrine of Scripture, or even the text of the New Testament, shows full awareness of the view that to speak thus of the text of an author may seem idealistic. Yet his emphasis on the text as an immaterial entity that need not have a physical manifestation is hardly just an example of Platonism in theology (not that having echoes of Plato necessarily means that a view is wrong!). There are a number of biblical texts suggesting the primacy of the immaterial word over its physical copy. The Ten Words (Ten Commandments) were given orally first, and then in written form. When the only physical copy of the Ten Words was destroyed by Moses (Exod. 32:19), this did not make the words cease to exist or become uninspired; they were simply given again (Exod. 34:27-28). When Joshua spoke (to others or himself) the text of the book of the law, then the book was said to be in his mouth (Josh. 1:8). The book was wherever it was spoken, even though a physical copy might be absent. Similarly God's words to Jeremiah were clearly inspired before being written down (Jer. 36:18), and could not be destroyed even if one eliminated all physical copies of them (Jer. 36:28). In a rather different way John 1:1 and 1:14 stress the existence of word prior to physical form. In other words, Ehrman's insistence that inspiration is not a meaningful belief unless one can produce to him a perfect physical copy of a text not only fails to recognize that Christian doctrines are not focused on physical copies, but also makes a rather arbitrary insistence on the necessity of a physical copy of God's words in Ehrman's own vicinity.

The focus on the immaterial nature of God's words also accords with modern studies of orality in the ancient world including the Old Testament. Ancient reading was generally out loud,26 and our tendency to see the written in opposition to the oral is not therefore appropriate. Oral communication may exist without writing, but written communication did not generally exist without oral communication. So while writing is important to spread and transmit God's words, there is no sense in which God's words become more inspired by virtue of being written down.

All this means that Warfield with his stress on the significance of the intended wording of the author is a very long way from stressing the significance of a physical lost document as he has sometimes been understood to have emphasized.

Resultant Ambiguity

We have seen so far that three of the key terms used in discussion of the inerrancy of Scripture, namely "Bible," "original," and "text," suffer from multivalence, and that there is a danger in each case that friend or foe of inerrancy alike may understand inerrancy to apply to one of these terms in a meaning that is not appropriate. One of the results of this discussion is that we can see that any emphasis that attributes inerrancy to a document (physical entity), rather than to the text of a document, is misguided. However, even the text on a document needs to be distinguished from the text of a work. It is to the text of the work, not of the document, that inerrancy applies. Therefore it is wrong to see inerrancy as having an emphasis on a physical entity that we no longer have.

The Burden of Proof: Do We Have the Wording or Not?

Having established that it is the wording, not the physical autographa, that matters, we need to consider whether or not we can have confidence that we have the wording of Scripture. This is partly a question of epistemology and of the burden of proof. Between the time of Matthew Henry and Bart Ehrman there clearly has been a significant shift from emphasizing what we have to what we do not have. For Ehrman it appears that one does not have the authorial wording until a proof is produced that one does have it. One also wonders whether there could ever be a proof that would demonstrate to Ehrman's satisfaction that we had the authorial wording. On the other hand, Henry seems to hold to the position that what is brought to him by the testimony of manuscript witnesses is the authoritative wording. To dissuade Henry of this position we may imagine it would be necessary to adduce actual manuscript testimony.

Although the position of believing that what you have received is the intended wording of the author may appear more credulous than not believing it to be so, we may at least notice one difference between these approaches. Those who actively refuse to believe the wording to be that of the author and prefer to remain agnostic, are in an epistemically invulnerable position. This may seem to be its strength, but it is also a weakness since it means that no amount of textual evidence could ever move one from agnosticism to active belief. Their approach thus allows little room for falsification.

A further disadvantage with the skeptical position is that it has no (or little) forfeit if it is wrong. In most areas of life, such as investments or medicine, there are consequences both to right and wrong beliefs. However, in the discipline of history as now conceived skepticism is not penalized, but actively encouraged. Thus whereas there is a potential benefit or loss for an investor involved with adopting both the belief that the market will go up and the belief that it will go down,27 for the historian there is a quite disproportionate loss of reputation for affirming something to be true when some doubt remains and no loss of reputation for disbelieving something when there is some limited evidence for its truth.

In addition we may note that Ehrman is unreasonably demanding proof concerning a negative if he asks others to demonstrate that the text has not changed, and in this case the negative is not possible to prove. When we work from the manuscript evidence we actually have, we observe the point made by both Warfield and Ehrman (among many others) that when a document of any significant length is made by copying, it is likely that errors are introduced. However, when we take the history of transmission we also see that the rate of introduction of errors, even in the earliest centuries, is not such that it creates a situation in which any part of the wording of the work is more likely to have been changed through transmission than preserved. Whether we work from late-fifteenth-century manuscripts of the New Testament and measure the rate of change from earlier documents, or consider the range of difference among the very earliest papyri and versions, we see that change in the wording through transmission is generally rarer than stasis.

In general, then, the presumption that we have the authorial wording until evidence arises to the contrary seems a more reasonable position than to refuse to believe that we have the authorial wording until an impossibly high level of proof be obtained that we do. The rational status of belief in the correctness of the text is that of a disprovable presumption.

However, one can put the case for textual reliability much more strongly than this. Here we simply outline a number of different lines of argumentation that can be used to establish a high degree of confidence in our knowledge of the authorial wording of the New Testament.

It is possible to use many forms of a fortiori argumentation based on high levels of scholarly confidence of the wording of other ancient or classical works. In an overwhelming number of cases witnesses for the books of the New Testament outstrip other ancient works in number, geographical diversity, and age. The New Testament text also shows up in a great variety of material forms: papyrus, parchment, paper, stone, pottery; codex and scroll; majuscule and minuscule; continuous text, lectionary, and extract.

The New Testament writings are also almost invariably attested in a greater variety of languages than other ancient writings. For instance, John's Gospel existed in eight different dialectal versions of Coptic,28 and in two pre-Jerome Latin versions,29 the Vulgate, and in the Old Syriac and Peshitta versions, to mention early versions in just three languages. In the case of other ancient writings any one of these versions would, on its own, be taken to give scholars a reasonable level of confidence as to the content of a work.

In addition to manuscripts and translations (versions) we have extensive quotation of the New Testament by church fathers.

Any one of the three main categories of witness (Greek manuscript, versions, church fathers) on its own would be sufficient to be able to have detailed discussions of matters such as the grammatical style of the authors. Taken together these provide a mass of data allowing us to reach rational conclusions about how texts were transmitted. When we consider how we know texts were transmitted based on actual evidence, and extrapolate the same processes back into the short period before our earliest witnesses, we do not reach radical uncertainty about the wording of the books of the New Testament.

We are able to make a number of genealogical observations about the interrelationship of witnesses and thereby trace the occurrence of errors in manuscripts and discount them from the editions that we make.

The existence of manuscripts such as P52 and P90, containing parts of John 18 dating from the second century and coming from Egypt, suggests that large numbers of copies of parts of the New Testament were made in a short time. It would be logistically almost impossible for anyone to enter systematic changes into the text of any book once a significant multiplicity of copies was spread over a wide area.

For those who express confidence in their ability to reconstruct sources of the Old or New Testaments (e.g., Q as a Gospel source), an a fortiori case can be made for confidence in our knowledge of the text of the New Testament.

The history of the study of the wording of the New Testament gives us a high degree of confidence in that wording. The printed wording of the first Greek New Testament of Erasmus, based on seven manuscripts from the twelfth century or later, and on no more than four in any one instance, is relatively speaking reasonably close to the wording of modern critical editions. This means that the text that would be produced if we disposed of nearly five centuries of discovery would still be relatively similar to the modern text. In broad terms, if one were to dispose of our earliest 5,000 or so witnesses and then to make a critical text based on what remains, the difference between the text thus produced and critical editions such as the Nestle-Aland 28th edition would probably be less than the difference between the Textus Receptus of Erasmus and the Nestle-Aland edition.

The text of the New Testament does not depend on any single witness. We could ignore a favorite witness such as Codex Sinaiticus from the fourth century. How much would this change our text? The answer can be found by considering the edition that Tregelles made of Matthew and Mark, which differs relatively little from the Nestle-Aland edition. In fact, the editions of Tregelles, Tischendorf, and Eberhard Nestle were made without knowledge of the papyri that are now important for the text of the New Testament. Nevertheless, their editions do not differ greatly from those in the later twentieth century (Nestle-Aland 26th edition), which are made using knowledge of such papyri. Thus we can say that even the discovery of quite important witnesses makes only a small impact on the shape of the New Testament text in contemporary editions.

If one had grounds for rational confidence in the text in the sixteenth century, when the gap between the earliest available manuscripts and the time of composition of the New Testament was over one millennium, a fortiori one may have confidence now that the gap is a mere 250 years at most for any part of the New Testament and usually much less.

The history of textual criticism also gives us confidence because the discovery of significantly earlier evidence has not added new large points of uncertainty in the New Testament text. This being the case, the assumption that yet further evidence would not reveal new uncertainties about the New Testament is justified. Doubts about Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53–8:11 have been known in parts of the church since patristic times. The same applies to many smaller disputed passages. The vast increase in number and age of manuscripts over the last four centuries has not added more passages of uncertainty.30 This leads naturally to the prediction that, based on the evidence we have already collected, we do not anticipate that new discoveries are likely to throw up previously unknown uncertainties about passages of significant length.

Ehrman's own text-critical and exegetical work often depends on his being able to establish one form of the text as prior to the others. In fact the text that Ehrman affirms differs relatively little from that found in modern editions of the Greek New Testament.

Although Ehrman's soundbite the "Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" has been widely received, he has in fact demonstrated how little deliberate corruption went on. The number of examples of deliberate corruption that he alleges is rather limited, and we must remember that Ehrman brings these examples together from all manuscripts. Without even allowing for the fact that many of his examples may in fact be wrong,31 it is amazing to find so few cases even of possible deliberate corruption when searching across so many manuscripts. Thus Ehrman's own research shows how overwhelmingly scribes did not seek deliberately to change the text.

When we are dealing with our uncertainties as to the identity of the original text, we are dealing with known unknowns.

The Possibility of Translation

It is often suggested that the need for translation is a significant objection to any doctrine of the inspiration of the original wording. As Ehrman says,

If he [God] wanted his people to have his words, surely he would have given them to them (and possibly even given them the words in a language they could understand, rather than Greek and Hebrew).32

Behind this seems to be the suggestion that something significant is lost in translation, but even Christians may wonder what is the use of believing in an inerrant autographic wording if most believers are not able to read that wording. Are advocates of inerrancy putting undue emphasis on a purely theoretical entity that has no bearing on most believers?

The strange thing behind Ehrman's suggestion above is that Christians believe that God has given people words in languages they can understand because God has allowed his word to be translated. God's word (singular) does not cease to be his word in translation, though one cannot speak of his words (plural) in translation in the same way. As for the suggestion that God might give words in multiple modern languages so that people would understand them, this would run foul of Ehrman's objection that a doctrine of inspiration is meaningless unless there's a single fixed wording. Thus Ehrman's objections do not appear to be internally consistent.

In response to this contemporary Angst about the possibility of translating the scriptures we may say the following:

Since at least the third century b.c.e., there has been belief in the value of translating Old Testament scripture. New Testament authors quote in Greek Old Testament scriptures originally written in Hebrew as having direct application to their Greek-speaking hearers (e.g., 1 Cor. 9:9-10).

Many translations such as the kaige revision of parts of the Old Testament, Aquila, the Targumim, the Harclean Syriac have involved both the conviction of the value of translation and simultaneously a strong affirmation of the value of the wording of the original language. Thus affirming translation does not involve denying the authority of the original.

There seems to be no comparable contemporary Angst about the value of translating other texts, as if books and films lose their purpose or effect in translation.

Uncertainty in one area of translation does not spill over into all areas of translation. We regularly appreciate films or literature or follow instructions even though, for whatever reason, we have missed part of the information given. We recognize that the significance of what we have missed is limited.
When we are dealing with unresolved questions of translation we are dealing with known unknowns.

Proposals

The sorts of criticisms that Ehrman has made of inspiration are significant and require response. However, the fact that the critique has resulted in part from misunderstanding should also goad inerrantists to check that their own formulations have been as clear as they can be. The contention here is that they have not, and that we need to engage in debate as to what terms might serve well at both the popular and the scholarly level in the future. These are my initial proposals:

Where possible we should seek to make the older terms "Scripture" and "Scriptures" more current rather than the term "Bible" when speaking of the doctrines of inspiration and revelation since Scripture and Scriptures have a narrower focus and avoid physical associations.

We should avoid the term "text." This can be replaced by "wording" since, again, "wording" avoids the physical focus. It is easier for someone to deny that we have the original text (which might mean original document) than it is for them to deny that we have the original wording.

However, even the word "original" has its ambiguities, having earlier been used in opposition to a translation. In some instances it may be possible to replace this by the word "authorial," so that we might speak of "authorial wording" rather than "original text."

We should not speak of text of the autographa, but of wording on the autographa, or use other similar formulations that distinguish clearly between the message and the physical carrier of the message.

The purpose of all of these proposals is not merely to use precise language for doctrinal formulation among theologians, but also to introduce a shift of emphasis in common Christian parlance away from formulae that suggest or emphasize that we believe in the inerrancy of something nonexistent. The Word of God does not die or age when it is copied, nor is it less powerful when it is spoken without reference to a physical copy. It is not made less certain by our uncertainty as to its identity, nor is there a compelling reason why our own uncertainty as to the identity of one part of it should make us uncertain as to the identity of another part.

Notes

1 Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 1-15; UK edition: Whose Word Is It? The Story Behind Who Changed the New Testament and Why (London: Continuum, 2006). Ehrman also puts a personal testimony of his deconversion at the beginning of his other popular titles: God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 1-15; Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know about Them) (New York: HarperOne, 2009), ix-xi, 15-18; and Forged: Writing in the Name of God - Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 1-5. There is at least as much tension between these different narratives as there is between the different synoptic portrayals of Jesus.

2 Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 211.

3 The seeds of some of these thoughts are expressed in an online review of Misquoting Jesus located at http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2005/12/review-of-bart-ehrman-misquoting-jesus_31.htm and in various postings on http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com.

4 Evidently during Ehrman's evangelical days he believed that "objective proofs" for the faith must exist, and he seems to have understood the term "proof" in a hard sense (Ehrman, Forged, 4). Thus Ehrman has probably ascribed an unwarranted burden of proof to Christianity since before his deconversion. There is no evidence in Ehrman's writings that while being an adherent he ever properly understood either (a) evangelical doctrines of Scripture, or (b) classic evangelical epistemologies.

5 Capitalization, though there have been some significant shifts in usage over the centuries, is ignored here.

6 Max Pfister, Lessico Etimologico Italiano (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 1984-), 5:1467-68, knows of just one occurrence of the singular biblium.

7 The problem with the name of this statement and of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy is not one of content, but of branding. If "Bible" has two meanings then "biblical" is capable of relating to both of these meanings and as said earlier it is only in one of these two meanings that "Bible" may properly be said to be inerrant. A related issue is the definite article: "the Bible" is more generally used synonymously with "the Scriptures" whereas "a Bible" almost always designates a copy of the scriptures, which may contain some errors. Of course, we may defend the use of the term "biblical" by claiming that it generally relates to the Bible as a work, not to a Bible as a document.

8 Based on searches on 7 May 2010 of the British National Corpus, www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk, containing about 100 million words, and the Corpus of Contemporary American English, www.americancorpus.org, containing over 400 million words. I discuss the term "Bible" further in "The Bible, the Septuagint, and the Apocrypha: A Consideration of Their Singularity," in Studies on the Text and Versions of the Hebrew Bible, ed. G. A. Khan and Diana Lipton (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

9 Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson, eds., Reformed Confessions Harmonized: With an Annotated Bibliography of Reformed Doctrinal Works (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 10-19.

10 http://www.ciccu.org.uk/docbasis.php, accessed 15 June 2010. The Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union preserves the earlier form and calls it the doctrinal basis of the UCCF, without showing awareness that UCCF has officially adopted revised wording.

11 http://www.uccf.org.uk/about-us/doctrinal-basis.htm, accessed 15 June 2010.

12 The field of textual criticism has been widely influenced by Eldon J. Epp's article "The Multivalence of the Term ‘Original Text' in New Testament Textual Criticism," HTR 92 (1999): 245-81, so that the term "original text" is now generally avoided. Many of Epp's objections to the term, based on the works of Helmut Koester, Bart D. Ehrman, and William L. Petersen, are unconvincing if one is not already convinced of the models of early Christianity proposed by those scholars. For instance, part of the evidence cited from Koester (Epp, "Multivalence," 256) is that his comparisons of the Secret Gospel of Mark and canonical Mark help him to discern an earlier form of Mark behind canonical Mark. But if the Secret Gospel of Mark is in some way inauthentic then this is hardly a firm foundation on which to question the notion that there was an original text. My objection to the term "original text" is not the conviction that there was no original text, but that the expression itself is unclear.

13 Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the New Testament, vol. 8 (London: William MacKenzie, n.d.), 156. Cf. also the statement in the KJV preface: "The translation of the Seuentie dissenteth from the Originall in many places."

14 For instance, Matthew Poole, Annotations on the Holy Bible (1685; repr. as Commentary on the Holy Bible [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1962]), commenting on Genesis 6:15 and arguing that all the creatures would have been able to fit on Noah's ark, says "That the differing kinds of beasts and birds, which unlearned men fancy to be innumerable, are observed by the learned, who have particularly searched into them, and written of them, to be little above three hundred, whereof the far greatest part are but small; and many of these which now are thought to differ in kind, in their first original were but of one sort, though now they be so greatly altered in their shape and qualities, which might easily arise from the diversity of their climate and food, and other circumstances, and from the promiscuous conjunctions of those lawless creatures" (emphasis added).

15 Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 7.

16 The situation for the New Testament is somewhat different than for the Old, where it is widely held that wording is missing from a text such as 1 Samuel 13:1. For those who want to argue that some wording has been lost from the New Testament, the suggestion that an earlier ending of Mark's Gospel was once located after 16:8 surely provides a showcase. However, even in this case many scholars are convinced that the Gospel ended at 16:8 and there are no patristic sources that are clearly quoting lost wording. So while one cannot prove that nothing has been lost, equally one cannot prove that something has been.

17 In addition to the problems noted here the word "original" has seemed to some less appropriate for the Old Testament, where it has not appeared adequately to allow for even minor editorial activity after composition (see Michael A. Grisanti, "Inspiration, Inerrancy, and the OT Canon: The Place of Textual Updating in an Inerrant View of Scripture," JETS 44 [2001]: 577-98). The problem can in part be reduced by remembering that original earlier was used in opposition to a translation and by recognizing that both final and original can refer to the same stage of a text.

18 Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 10.

19 Dictionaries, e.g. OED, Collins Dictionary of the English Language (2nd edition) appear understandably reluctant to admit this physical meaning. However, one can find numerous examples on the Internet where text is used to denote a physical object, e.g., "he held a text in his hand" (Catherine McGregor, "Bring It to Life: Youth Performing Socio-Politically in a Northern Urban Environment" [Ph.D. dissertation, Simon Fraser University, 2007], 358 [http://ir.lib.sfu.ca/bitstream/1892/4202/1/etd2800.pdf, accessed 18 June 2010]), or "the text weighed over ten pounds" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrik_Christian_Andersen; accessed 18 June 2010).

20 Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 58.

21 A. T. B. McGowan, The Divine Spiration of Scripture: Challenging Evangelical Perspectives (Nottingham: Apollos, 2007), 109.

22 B. B. Warfield, Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1889), 1.

23 Warfield, Textual Criticism, 2.

24 Warfield, Textual Criticism, 3-4. Similarly, John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2010), 243, says "what is at issue is not primarily the autographic document, but the autographic text. The text is a linguistic object that can be found in any number of physical media."

25 Warfield, Textual Criticism, 7.

26 For classical references see Annette Weissenrieder and Robert B. Coote, The Interface of Orality and Writing: Speaking, Seeing, Writing in the Shaping of New Genres, WUNT 260 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), x.

27 I am aware that for hedge fund managers the forfeits do not depend on the rises or falls in the market, but the point still holds that there are consequences, including forfeits, for unwise choices.

28 C. H. Askeland, John's Gospel: The Coptic Translations of Its Greek Text (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012).

29 Philip Burton, The Old Latin Gospels: A Study of Their Texts and Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 74.

30 Gesa Schenke, "Das Erscheinen Jesu vor den Jüngern und der Ungläubige Thomas: Johannes 20,19-31," in Coptica - Gnostica - Manichaica: Mélanges offerts à Wolf-Peter Funk, ed. Louis Painchaud and Paul-Hubert Poirier (Louvain: Peeters, 2006), esp. 902, argues that a Coptic manuscript (Ms Copt e150p from the Bodleian Library in Oxford) might possibly be a witness to a Greek text of John's Gospel without John chapter 21. However, an unpublished critical analysis of the manuscript has suggested that this is most unlikely: Christian Askeland, "Was There a Coptic Translation of John's Gospel without Chapter 21?," paper presented at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting, Christianity in Egypt: Scripture, Tradition, and Reception section (21 November 2009).

31 For instance, I argue that his claim that orgistheis was deliberately corrupted into splanchnistheis in Mark 1:41 is unwarranted in "An Examination of Ehrman's Case for orgistheis in Mark 1:41," NovT 54 (2012): 1-12.

32 Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 11.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2019/11/ehrmans-equivocation-and-inerrancy-of.html

An Additional Response To Catholic Answers On Romans 2:6-7 And Sola Fide

  • Discussion:
          -Karlo Broussard of Catholic Answers wrote a second article for the purpose of interacting to a further extent with a few claims made by Ron Rhodes on Romans 2:6-7 as it relates to Sola Fide ("faith alone"). Following are excerpts from the Roman Catholic apologist alongside with a critique:

          "It’s only after we’re in grace that good works play a role in our salvation...The immediate context of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2:10 deals with initial salvation. Consider, for example, what Paul says in verses four and five...The immediate context of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2:10 deals with initial salvation. Consider, for example, what Paul says in verses four and five...Paul here is speaking of that initial transition from death to life in Christ. And it’s this initial stage of salvation where Paul thinks good works play no role."

          Whenever Paul speaks of our faith in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians, he is making reference to our justification (Galatians 2:16; 3:11; 22). Ephesians 2 definitely matches this context. The point of contention is whether justification is meritorious. However, it is made evident by scriptural statements on seeking justification by the Law that such is not the case.

          In Ephesians 2:10, the phrase "for good works" means that good works constitute the purpose of being created in Jesus Christ. This is a sanctification verse.

          The irony of this author claiming that good works "play no role" in the "initial stage of salvation" is that it is accomplished through baptism, which is a work.

          "But Paul doesn’t say anything about works attesting to saving faith [in Romans 2:6-8]. He explicitly states that the good works performed in patience and the seeking for the gifts of glory, honor, and immortality are the reason for God granting eternal life. In other words, the good works are real causes that bring about a real effect: the granting of eternal life."

          God will certainly give eternal life to those who display good deeds. When God judges us, He examines all of the details concerning our personal status with Him. However, those works are not meritorious. God owes nothing to us sinners, nor can we take credit for anything that He accomplishes through us. Salvation in Scripture is described as an unmerited gift of grace and not something that we can earn, even in part (Romans 3:24; 5:15; 17; 6:23). The gospel is received on the basis of faith which results in one's justification before God (John 20:31; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 3:15).

          "This principle is made even clearer in verse eight, wherein Paul contrasts the aforementioned good works with bad works: “[F]or those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.” Disobedience and wickedness are not merely manifestations of a degenerate heart, but are causes that bring about the effect of wrath and fury."

          It is true that our sin brings about the wrath of God. It is also true that our works provide a general description of our state of heart. Moreover, the author being critiqued has not successfully shown how justification is a process.