Archive for category Apologetics
What do we make of the story of the wise men following a magical star from the East to the newborn king in Bethlehem? Sound a bit far-fetched and fairytale-ish? I used to think so as well.
Many deny the possibility of a supernatural explanation to begin with. This is unnecessary. If God can bring the universe into being with divine decree and raise the dead at will, then I see no reason why he could not have also sent a bright star that first Christmas.
However, must we rule out all naturalistic explanations? A little historical and cultural background of this story also reveals some very plausible scientific theories as to what this astronomical/astrological phenomenon might have been. Perhaps under God’s wise sovereignty and foresight, that “star” that led the magi to Bethlehem was a combination of natural astral activity in concert with God’s supernatural sending of his son “when the fullness of time had come” (Gal 4:4). Let’s take a look.
First, these were not “three kings” as the song goes. They were “magi” from the East — most likely superstitious astrologists perhaps from the royal court of the Babylonian empire. It does not specify how many. The ancients assigned great significance to the art of reading and interpreting the movements of the skies. They kept careful records of the notable celestial activity, and with computer technology today we can calculate exactly where each star and planets were in the sky accurately all the way back 2,000 years and beyond.
Second, the scientific records indicate some pretty interesting astral activity occurring around the time of Jesus’ birth. Read the rest of this entry »
Check out Trevin Wax’s review of Tim Keller’s latest book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (Penguin, 2009). I recently read Keller’s bestselling The Reason for God and found him a very insightful, articulate writer bringing clarity to very complex theological issues. He is a gift to the church and a newfound favorite among my preferred authors.
I want to whole-heartily recommend this book for further exploration of the foundational issue of modern-day idolatry. More great coverage on this hot-topic in the media today can be found at Out Of Ur. Here’s snippet:
There is nothing like a recession to put Americans in a reflective mood. Unemployment and a devalued stock market have led many to consider whether money is the pre-eminent form of American idolatry. New York Timescolumnist David Brooks has called for a new culture war, a “crusade for economic self-restraint” in a self-indulgent age. Adam Sternbergh wonders whether thrift is a virtue that can be developed or a trait that must be inherited. ABC’s Nightline invited Mark Driscoll to discuss the allure of celebrity and corporate idolatry. And Tim Keller has turned his attention to rooting out idolatry with his latest book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.
For Keller an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything which absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” Elaborating on the book’s title, Keller writes that a “counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life, that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.” What does Keller have in mind? Well, everything: family, children, career, earning money, achievement, social status, relationships, beauty, brains, morality, political or social activism—even effective Christian ministry.
Below is great introduction to Tim Keller. Keller was invited to speak at Google’s headquarters on his book “The Reason for God.” A lively, engaging discussion ensued. Enjoy!
On his death bed, just before he breathed his last, the Buddha gathered his disciples around him and offered these last words of wisdom:
“You are a light unto yourself. Seek not any external refuge. Salvation is found in no other place than yourself.”
I’ve been taking the advice of a good friend, and dabbling in the primary texts of other belief systems. In our day and age, it is very unpopular to try to summarize or categorize complex belief systems too narrowly. No one likes to be labeled, or stereotyped. Yet, there are some larger, more basic categorizations that are legit, and necessary to define when we begin distinguishing between differing worldviews.
I was recently reading a book by Os Guiness entitled “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life“. He identified varying ways people seek meaning or purpose in life. Here’s a terribly insufficient summary: Read the rest of this entry »
Bart Ehrman and friends are making the rounds with their books attempting to undermine the reliability of the New Testament witnesses to the life of Jesus. Have you bought their rhetoric? Have you joined the chorus of skeptics in an age of unbelief? Here’s a challenging rebuttal by Dr. Ben Witherington III to consider.
(This lecture was given at the Greer-Heard Forum last Saturday at New Orleans Baptist Seminary after the presentations the previous day by Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans.)
I listened to my scholarly colleagues yesterday give us a variety of answers as to whether the Gospels are historically reliable when it comes to their portraits of Jesus, debate differences in the accounts and their significance, talk about how we derive historically responsible conclusions about Jesus, and speak with passion and conviction about their subject matter, and one might add, also some exasperation. They were both exasperated with flat, insipid, overly literalistic fundamentalistic readings of the four canonical Gospels served up by the right Rev. Billy Bob Proverb all too regularly on a cable network near you. And I understand and share that exasperation. But at the end of the day I was also frustrated with what I heard from both Bart and Craig yesterday to some degree, and I will now explain why.
We are all products of our education, and in case of myself and indeed all of us, we were all trained to analyze the Gospels in detail using source, and form, and redaction criticism. Now these methods have their pluses and minuses. They can be useful in getting at certain aspects of things about the historical Jesus, but unfortunately these methods cannot help us very much to deal with the canonical Gospels if we seek to treat them as they were intended to be treated by their original inspired authors. More on that in a minute.
These Gospel authors were not operating with the canons of modern secular historiography which tends to have an anti-supernatural bias with its practitioners regularly muttering astoundingly dogmatic things like “that didn’t happen because those kind of things don’t happen. People don’t rise from the dead.” I have to say that that sort of dogmatic statement puts the dog back in dogmatic just as much as the dogmatic statements of some fundamentalist TV preachers. It is especially proper to ask persons who are dogmatic in modern secular anti-supernaturalist ways, just as it is proper to ask persons who are dogmatic in others ways— ‘How do you know things like that don’t happen?’ And if the answer is ‘I have never seen such a thing happen’ then we realize we are dealing with persons who needs to get out more, see more of the world of human experience, but have the arrogance to assume that his or her private, individual experience exhausts what is possible when it comes to the limits of historical reality. This person is in fact saying “talk to the hand with your miracle reports, the face is not listening.” What is even worse is when such scholars then take the next step of suggesting that if you don’t have these sorts of presuppositions you are not a critical scholar, and are not doing proper historical analysis of the Gospels. Read the rest of this entry »
This is a repost I thought worth sharing again. -JB
I had a great conversation today with an old high school friend. She is a not a Christian, very unreligious and, as she said herself, “totally clueless when it comes to religion, Christianity, church, the Bible and stuff.” So, while she is not conversant in things spiritual, she is extremely passionate and articulate in two other realms of life: outdoor/wilderness sports and physical healthy and fitness.
She can talk for days about backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and so on. As she put it, “I feel most alive when out in nature.” Furthermore, she has advanced degrees in physical therapy and is passionate about the pursuit of physical health and wellness. I would say she is downright “evangelistic” about this topic.
In other words, we have very different interests. She is most alive being physically active outdoors in nature. I am most alive when exercising my mind muscles while indoors surrounded by books. (Now that spring is almost here, I will soon be bringing my books outside to read!)
I wanted to bridge the gap between our very different passions in life, and guide the conversation to things spiritual. As we talked I discovered that there was a very natural connecting point between us just waiting for me to point out to her. You see, whenever we see each other (maybe once a year) she is always concerned about our physical health. She asks if so-and-so has lost the weight they had put on, and if I am staying physically active and working out. (Do I look fat to you?) She is deeply, genuinely and passionately concerned — and not afraid to share it. Read the rest of this entry »
I came to the United States to attend a small state college.
I planned to go on to medical school. My first year of college was perfect. I was getting great grades, and I had a girlfriend and lots of friends. And I was quick to point out to people that I had all of this without relying on anyone but me.
I knew plenty of Christians. In fact, I read the Bible often, just so I could argue with Christians. I wanted to know what they believed so I could break down their reasons for believing. For example, my biophysics professor was a Christian. He would tell me about the miracles in his life, the ways he supposedly saw God’s work in the world. But I thought he was way off. I’d argue with him, and try to convince him he was foolish to believe in Jesus. His faith was a joke to me.
It didn’t take long for God to change my mind. During my junior year of college, everything in my world started to fall apart. My girlfriend broke up with me, I ran out of money and I had to drop out of school. So much for having it made. I thought about going back to my family in Sri Lanka, but I didn’t want to face them when I’d failed so miserably.
One night, I sat in the college library, trying to come up with ways to get out of my situation. The only solution that seemed “reasonable” was suicide. But as I sat there thinking of the best way to kill myself, I heard a voice say, “Have you ever asked me for help?”
Read more of Sam’s story here.
He’s everywhere. His books are bestsellers. He’s stirring up trouble and leading many astray. Who is Bart Ehrman? Dan Wallace shares a little perspective on who he is and his sneaky publishing tactics.
Bart Ehrman has become the new media darling of the 21stcentury. He’s been on seemingly every major media outlet, from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show to the Washington Post. Publisher’s Weekly ran an article not too long ago called “TheEhrman Effect,” showing that books by Ehrman as well as those stimulated by hiswritings (both pro and con) have captured a very large market. Beginning with Misquoting Jesus (2005), followed by God’s Problem (2008), and most recently, Jesus, Interrupted (2009), Ehrman’sbooks have sold by the hundreds of thousands, garnering a very high spot on the New York Times Bestseller’s List more than once.
What makes him so popular? Essentially, he’s a former evangelical who is becoming increasingly outspoken about leaving the faith, and he’s a bona fide biblical scholar. The media are fascinated by him. Read the rest of this entry »