What if?

What is a sign of emotional doubt? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Imagine you’re a Christian with some background in apologetics. Now you have someone who is coming to you who’s also a Christian and is doubting and you present a case to them and make it clear throughout that this is where the overwhelming evidence leads. The person you’re trying to help agrees that all that evidence is extremely strong, but ah, here comes the objection.

“But what if?”

This person isn’t disputing all the evidence you’ve brought forward. They have no argument against it. There’s just this little thing in the back of their mind that says “Yeah, but what if all of that is wrong?” When this happens, you can be sure that you are dealing with an emotional doubter.

It has been said that emotional doubt is the most common kind of doubt. Based on my experience, I agree with it. Men and women can both be emotional doubters. For women, they have the advantage that they usually know that. Men are more stubborn and wanting to say “It’s not my emotions. It’s not my emotions.” I have encountered a number of men telling me their doubts are intellectual and I’m listening to them and hearing all the warning signs with my mind telling me “Emotional doubter. Emotional doubter. Emotional doubter.”

For instance, my former roommate and I once regularly met with someone who was agnostic and tried to answer his questions, to which I think we did successfully. At one point, we were out having lunch with him and his Christian wife when he said “I know in the end you two are just going to fall back on your feelings and experiences to confirm Christianity,” to which both of us immediately went “NO!” It is a kind of approach we both couldn’t stand and still can’t. He was quite surprised at that not knowing how to handle it.

So what is to be done with this kind of doubt?

First off, it can happen to anyone. Being an atheist does not make you less emotional. Being a Christian does not make you more emotional. There are emotional atheists and unemotional Christians. There are Christians who believe for emotional reasons. There are atheists who disbelieve for emotional reasons. To be clear, I consider it wrong to believe or disbelieve for those reasons.

Second, when one is in a state of high emotion, it’s not the time to be making decisions that are major, including choosing to follow a religion or abandon it. Around our house, when one of us is in a state where we know the emotions are taking the lead, it’s important to let the other person be the surrogate frontal lobe as it were. Let the person whose mind is not clouded at the time speak and help the other. Of course, this is still resisted to a degree, but it is an important step. If you can’t trust your thinking at one time due to emotion, then talk to people you do trust. At times, this could be a wise professional counselor as well.

Third, realize that this does not mean emotions are bad things. We should be thankful we have them. I do have a friend who is actually a sociopath. Not in the sense that he’s a vicious murderer or anything, but in the sense that he really feels no emotion. When he has lost loved ones in the past, he has not felt anything about the event. I am quite thankful I am not like that. I have a friend who is in ministry who has said that the relationship I have with my wife is unusual on the spectrum and says I should thank God every day that I am a lover. Sometimes I forget, but I try to give thanks every day. It’s a good thing!

Fourth, remember the parable in Luke 14 of building a tower and the king going to war. The choice for Christ is best not to be made as a sudden decision, although growing up in the church many of us did that. One should really consider what one is getting into (Or in the case of apostasy getting out of) before one decides.

Fifth, trying reason might not work. That is, arguing against yourself. It can often be best to realize this is a season and it will pass. Let your emotions die down. You don’t stay on edge forever. Until you’re not on edge, you can always rely on others.

Next time, we’ll look at more about emotional doubt and dealing with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Who Was Jesus?

Is Wright right and Spong wrong? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I am an avid fan of N.T. Wright and try to read absolutely anything that he writes. My latest read of his came from reading “Fabricating Jesus” where Evans dispenses with people like Barbara Thiering yet says N.T. Wright has written a response to her in “Who Was Jesus?”

That’s enough to get me looking for that on my next library visit!

Thiering is not Wright’s only target. Wright has other chapters on A.N. Wilson and John Shelby Spong.

It’s hard to read this book without thinking that seeing N.T. Wright go after these guys is like watching a tank be used to squish an ant.

Wright’s book starts off with a brief summary of Jesus studies to this point, largely by looking at what Schweitzer did. He goes on from there to say where the studies have led us and then brings out Thiering, Wilson, and Spong as examples of how not to do these kinds of studies, all the while still commending some good points that can be found in them.

Reading Thiering, it’s a wonder how such a work as hers got published. Thiering’s idea is that practically everything in the gospels is code and the way to understand the code is by looking at the Dead Sea Scrolls. As Wright points out, Thiering is quick to dispense with her idea of a code whenever it is convenient for her to do so. Based on her reading, Thiering has dates on when Jesus escaped death, married Mary Magdalene, later left her and married Lydia of Philippi, (Seriously. I’m not kidding), and eventually died.

Yes. Wright takes the time to dispense with such a bizarre theory as this. One cannot help but imagine the reaction these three authors might have had knowing who was critiquing their work.

A.N. Wilson comes from another angle. For Wilson, Jesus was a Galilean holy man, but Paul came along and messed everything up! Wilson does have more right than Thiering (Granted, not much of an accomplishment), but there is still too much that is wrong. Wilson does not interact with the latest of scholarship on the issue and gives the impression of being stuck in works from the 1960’s. Amazingly, some parts of his writing are quite accurate and had I not known they were from him, I would have thought they were from a conservative Christian.

One of Wilson’s great weaknesses is his idea about seeking unbiased sources. As Wright points out, they don’t exist. Everyone wrote with a motive. No one is neutral on the Jesus question and it is a mistake to think anyone is. Yet as Wright has said elsewhere, even if the sportscaster has a bias for which team he thinks is the best and wants to win, that doesn’t mean you must doubt the score he reports.

Furthermore, if we wanted an unbiased work, it would not be Wilson who makes it clear he has a hammer to use against anything that is religious. As usual, it is the ones who are claiming the most to have no bias who in fact do have the most bias.

Finally, we come to Spong, who has a hang-up over the virgin birth. Wright is just perplexed, as am I, over the idea that Spong has that we today know better. As Wright points out, they might not have known as many details about sex as we do, but they certainly knew what it took to make a baby. That’s why Joseph sought to divorce Mary at first. He knew what it took to make a baby, and he knew he hadn’t done it.

Spong also has a vendetta against literalism, which I can understand, but yet praises the Reformation and goes against the ECF. Yet it was the ECF who were more pron to going with an allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures and the Reformers who wanted to return more to a literal interpretation.

Spong also includes a comment about what Midrash is, an account that Wright thinks is nonsense, and that scholars of Midrash would disagree with. Like the other writers, Spong can sound impressive on paper and the notes and bibliography of the books Wright comments on can make them seem scholarly, but it is only a veneer. The real heart of the works is anything but.

As with any Wright work, I do recommend this one. Wright gives an excellent example of how to deal with so much misinformation in the popular culture. It is a shame more people will read Thiering, Wilson, and Spong, but never get around to Wright. I am thankful for Wright and thankful indeed that Wright is right and Spong is wrong.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheist Delusions

What’s my review of David Bentley Hart’s “Atheist Delusions?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Psalm 11:3 “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Indeed. What can the righteous do? When picking up Hart’s book, one might expect a lengthy reply to various new atheist arguments and criticisms of their approach. One will certainly find that, but not where one would expect. It will be in the first section of the book and the last section. The majority of the book does not even mention them at all. Do not come here if you are expecting a critique of Dawkins’s bogus 747 argument for instance.

Yet Hart does not hide his opinion of modern writing. The first chapter, “The Gospel of Unbelief”, has a number of great statements. The Da Vinci Code on page 4 is described as the most lucrative novel ever written by a borderline illiterate. On the same page, we are told Christopher Hitchens’s “talent for intellectual caricature somewhat exceeds his mastery of consecutive logic.” There’s Richard Dawkins who “despite his embarrassing incapacity for philosophical reasoning–never fails to entrance his eager readers with his rhetorical recklessness.” Describing Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith” on page 8, Hart says “It is little more than a concatenation of shrill, petulant assertions, a few of which are true, but none of which betrays any great degree of philosophical or historical sophistication. In his remarks on Christian belief, Harris displays an abysmal ignorance of almost every topic he addresses.”

Yes. Hart does not hold back and he gives more of the same in the end, but there is no need for Hart to waste time on those of the new atheists who have just as much faith if nor more than the fundamentalist preachers and believers that they are so quick to condemn. There is a sharp dichotomy with them. No goodness can be attributed to religion and no evil can be attributed to non-religion. If something works religiously, it has a “scientific basis.” If something goes wrong with a system of non-belief, that is because the part that went wrong has a “religious basis.”

What Hart wants to deal with is the foundations. These beliefs are being removed by the new atheists from their position of faith. It is a system of materialism that cannot allow anything contrary to its unproven presuppositions. If something seems outside of the material universe, it’s either just wrong or we’ll find an explanation for it someday.

It is a position that upholds the value of science but then takes that and turns it into a deity. Science is the new priesthood with its own standards of canonicity (No religious belief allowed) and its own statement of faith (No gods allowed) and built on a number of creedal statements (Religion poisons everything. Faith is believing something without evidence) and bad evangelistic slogans. (I just believe in one less god than you do.)

Keep in mind the very term “There is no God”, while it could be true for the sake of argument, cannot be determined by science, any more than the claim “Love is the highest virtue” cannot be proven by science. This is not because science is wrong. It is because science is the wrong tool. It is no more an insult to science to say this than it is an insult to hammers to say they are not recommended for treating a toothache.

While it might be said that a Christian will hide from a scientific discovery, and no doubt many do, it is just as true that the modern atheist tends to hide from anything that indicates any truth of a religious claim. Such can be found in how many even make it a mantra that Jesus never even existed. What is accepted as thoroughly proven amongst NT scholars and ancient historians and is practically a universal consensus, is disregarded, while the new atheists mock the Christians who do not accept the scientific consensus on evolution, held even by some Christians. Once again, which conclusion should be accepted depends on the presupposition. All of science is good and all of religion is wrong and biased.

Hart goes to great lengths to show that the problem is not really with science or religion. Men have a great proclivity to do evil and will accept any reason to do so. That reason can be religious or scientific. We must simply ask which one has had a greater power to curtail that evil within human beings. His argument is that Christianity has had that power.

To show this, he deals largely with myths of history and shows how Christianity changed the world through the building up of moral character based on the example of Christ. Hart contends that today, we accept many moral truths, but would we have accepted them if Christianity never came into the world? Probably not, except for perhaps Jewish people. Just look at the Greco-Roman world. Men and women weren’t equal. Some were by nature slaves. Unwanted children were to be left in the wild to die at the hands of wild animals. People watched other real human beings fight and die in the Coliseum for entertainment purposes. Did Christianity erase all of this immediately? No. But Christianity did set the seeds in place that eventually did so.

What happens then when these ideas that are rooted in Christian beliefs lose their Christian foundations? Will the belief itself live on? It could be a nice dream to think that it would, but where is the evidence? The 20th century has been the most secular century of all, and at the same time the most bloody century of all. If we are people to go by the evidence, then the evidence is in. At this point, when Christianity is removed, people have a greater propensity to return to their base desires.

Consider for instance the idea of what to do with the least of ours. The Romans and Greeks would leave their children to die in the wild if they weren’t wanted. Are we that barbaric? It could be, we’re worse. Peter Singer and others argue today that we should have the right to kill our own disabled children up to a certain time. As someone who is an Aspie, as is my wife, I take this claim quite seriously. Christianity, on the other hand, would hold that this one that is said to be useless in the sight of the world and holding us back from genetic success, fully bears the image of God and is worth more than the entire universe. Indeed, one could argue that in their weakness, many disabled people reveal the nature of God, the God who in Christianity took on human weakness in the incarnation, than many of us “healthy” ones do.

Hart does not hold out much hope for our society as he does not see how such a revival can take place. Perhaps it is just for me that hope springs eternal, but I think it is possible. I think we are on the verge of a golden age in apologetics. If the apostles could change the Greco-Roman empire, why not think that we all today can do the same in our own world? The question is not the ability. We have the means to reach the world. The question is not the knowledge. We have the information that we need to do so. The question is the will. Are we willing?

Ultimately then, it comes down to a question of obedience. Christ has given us our marching orders in the Great Commission. There is no plan B. We have been told what to do. The question could then be said to be “How much do we believe in Christ? How much are we truly Christian?”

If we claim Christ is Lord of all and He has the power to change the culture, then let us go out there and do so. If we do not do so, it could be because parts of us don’t really believe that the Christ can do so through the proclamation of His message. This would be, as I’ve argued before, due to a lack of instilling of the importance of having a total Christian worldview to our churches rather than just teaching that we should be good people. Christians are to be good people, but we are to be not just good people. We are to be Christian people.

If I had a criticism of Hart’s work, it would be I would like to have seen more claims properly noted. There are many notes, but there are many claims I would have liked to have seen more noted. I also disagree with him that both Arians and Trinitarians could make a case from the Scriptures. They speak with one voice and they say “Trinity.”

Despite this, I do overall highly recommend the work to deal with a number of atheist statements of faith. The style is witty and engaging, yet it is certainly not simplistic, and one will learn plenty from reading a volume like this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/8 2013, Lighting Up Dark Ages Science

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We had hoped to get Mike Licona to join us, but he is with his mother who is in the final stages of brain cancer. We ask for your prayers for her and the rest of our family in this time.

Instead, it looks like our guest is going to be James Hannam. James Hannam is the author of the book “God’s Philosophers”, also known as “The Genesis of Science.” In this book, Hannam takes a look at the period of time known as the Dark Ages where the church led the world and as a result, science and education languished while people dwelt in superstition, until finally came Galileo along to renew an interest in science.

That’s the popular belief, and as is often the case with many such beliefs today, it is entirely false. Hannam goes to great lengths in this book to demonstrate that the Christian church not only encouraged science, but carried it forward so that people like Galileo were just standing on the shoulders of those who came before them.

We will hopefully be talking about people such as Andrew Dickson White who kept going the myth that in this time there was a warfare between science and religion. This could include also discussing how modern disciples of ignorance, such as the new atheists, keep these claims going.

We will find that certainly not everything the medievals believed about science and nature was accurate, but it wasn’t because they were blinded by religion. If anything, it was because they did not have the best information available, yet for what means that they did have to obtain knowledge, they made several excellent observations that we still hold today.

We will be looking at the way Scripture did play a role in this. Did it hinder the learning that took place or did it encourage it? Was it a rule that the Scriptures had to be interpreted “literally” or did the church allow for a variety of ways in which a passage could be translated? Were there any real conflicts going on between science and religion?

Were those who were doing science supported by the church or where they doing their work in isolation? If you had a sickness, could it have actually been better for you to go to your local priest rather than to the actual medical doctor? Were cadavers allowed to be used for the study of the body?

And of course, some time will have to be spent on Galileo. Was he really the victim of persecution from the church trying to put a stop to his science, or was there something more going on?

In the end, I suspect you will be surprised to find that the so-called dark ages were not really dark at all. If anything is actually in the dark today, it is the idea that is spread perpetually by those who wish to paint the time period as a time of great ignorance.

Please join in from 3-5 EST this Saturday to listen to the podcast here

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Fabricating Jesus

Is Craig Evans’s book worth reading? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In Fabricating Jesus, Craig Evans takes a look at how modern scholarship mislead the populace and miss the real Jesus. Evans’s work is witty and engaging and the bluntness with which he speaks I find extremely appealing. How can you not love a work that has a chapter all about hokum history with after reviewing a claim saying something like “Let me get this straight.”

Yet in that, there is also a pastoral heart. Evans, for instance, writes about Ehrman’s deconversion experience and how it started with a paper he wrote on Mark 2. (For details, most any book of Ehrman’s seems to have it in there.) Evans says he has empathy for Ehrman, but is just puzzled by what happened. I wanted to cheer when Evans said what I’ve been saying for awhile, that Ehrman is still a fundamentalist.

Evans looks into the writings of a number of scholars and points out how they held a faith in childhood that never seemed to grow up. What you learn in Sunday School is often quite basic and should be subject to change, but these scholars had equated what they learned with what Christianity was entirely. In the work, he discusses other scholars who left the Christian faith such as Robert Funk, James Robinson, and Robert Price.

Evans also says he can’t believe he’s having to write against some of the arguments that he is dealing with. It would be more understandable if some of them were being shared by just popular writers or your internet atheists, but a few are actually held by people who are scholars!

For instance, Evans wants to know how the Jesus of the Jesus Seminar would have got himself crucified. What great threat was he? Why should he consider Secret Mark or the Egerton Gospel or the Cross Gospel or the Gospel of Thomas reliable sources the way Crossan does? This is especially so with the first one since a conclusive case has been made that it’s a forgery. Why should he also think that Jesus was a cynic sage wandering around Israel?

Evans also covers other topics such as other gospels that supposedly didn’t make the cut and the misuse of Josephus by modern scholars. Furthermore, he deals with the idea that there were lost Christianities by explaining many writers *cough* Bart Ehrman *cough* take a second century idea and transplant it into the first century. The first century church had its divisions, yes, but nothing like what we see in Lost Christianities.

An amusing section is that on hokum history. In this one, he deals with claims such as those of Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, claims that were highly influential on a book like The Da Vinci Code. Claims that no one in their right mind should believe, but claims several people do believe and this largely because of the Da Vinci Code popularizing them.

Included in that section is James Tabor. While Tabor is a scholar, his arguments in the Jesus Dynasty contain some quite unscholarly claims, such as the reliance on a 16th century mystic. Of course, Tabor rules out at the start any idea that maybe Jesus actually was virgin born and was resurrected.

The final chapter, aside from appendices, is a statement on who the real Jesus is, which is a powerful and moving piece. Evans concludes that the gospel does stand up to scrutiny and he’s convinced that more real scholarship will further show there is no division between the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history. Perhaps it could be the strange case that the gospels really did get it right and modern scholars with modern presuppositions have often got it wrong?

Fabricating Jesus is another book that I cannot recommend enough. Anyone interested in learning about how modern scholars go wrong on the historical Jesus owes it to themselves to pick up a copy of this work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is Emotional Doubt?

What is the problem being discussed today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I wrote about intellectual doubt. Emotional doubt is a different animal, but one that can be closely related. Emotional doubt usually likes to hide behind intellectual doubt. No one really likes to admit that they are an emotional doubter. Thus, the presence of an intellectual question does not preclude emotional doubt. I would like to spend some of this series looking at various objections raised by emotional doubters and ideas on how to handle them, but first, we must discuss what the problem is.

I used the example of phobias yesterday. A phobia takes a fear that has a slight bit of truth to it and magnifies it out of proportion. The effect does not fit in with the cause well at all. Is it possible that the plane could crash. Yes, it is, but statistically you are safer in the air even more than when you are driving, and most people don’t panic as much about driving as they do about flying.

Emotional doubt works the same way and can come about for all manner of reasons. It could be because one is sick with something and their thinking is not as sound. It could be one is in a personal crisis in their life and in an unbalanced state is examining truth claims. It could be one just hasn’t got sufficient sleep or has an insufficient diet. It could be hurt feelings from an event or comment of someone else.

A way you can usually recognize these is that they get presented with a solid intellectual answer and then ask a “But what if?” You can answer that and you’ll get a “But what if?” The chain of “What ifs” never dies. There is no reason that it should. This kind of person wants to have absolute 100% certainty on everything that they believe.

This doesn’t just have to be about the truth of Christianity. One can be absolutely sure that Jesus rose from the dead and still be unsure about one’s relationship to Him. “Maybe when I prayed the prayer to accept Christ, I didn’t say the right thing.” Fortunately for many Christians, they can take comfort in that doubt about salvation is extremely common. This also doesn’t depend on if you’re a Calvinist or Arminian. People on both sides of that fence can doubt.

Thus, as we look at emotional doubt, we will not be looking at answers for questions so much as what is causing the questions. What is the emotional root that needs to be plucked in order for the person to be able to access the question on their own? Also, none of us have perfected these techniques as each person is prone to emotional difficulties from time to time. I personally still have to practice the techniques that I am going to be recommending to you. As the old adage goes, those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, teach gym.

Let’s hope it’s not entirely like that. With the techniques I am giving, the problem is not going to be them themselves, but our inability to follow through on them. When we learn to practice good control of our emotions, we will find ourselves better able to reason.

One final note. None of this should be seen as anti-emotional. Emotions are good, but they are to be in a balance. Too often, it is the cart that is pulling the horse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Intellectual Doubt

What’s the solution for intellectual doubt? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I recently wrote about dealing with doubt. Intellectual doubt is often thought to be the most common, but in reality, it isn’t. Matters can have a start that is intellectual, but can move beyond the intellect. This happens in paranoia and phobias for instance.

To use a personal example, when my spouse and I went on our honeymoon, we went to Ocean Isle Beach. My wife loves the water. I don’t really. I enjoy the beach because of the beauty and I can handle the waves lapping at my feet, but not much beyond that. Allie wanted to see me do more, so she got me out into waist high water in the ocean. That was scary enough.

Even more scary was the pool. I never go beyond 4 feet and I never move away from the edge. To put matters in perspective, I’m about 5’7″. I also should point out I cannot swim a lick and I never even go underwater, yet Allie wanted me to hold on to her as I went out into the 5′ section with her.

Did I do it? Yep.

Thinking the whole time? “This is it. I’m going to die right here.”

Rational? Not at all. Even if I had slipped, Allie would have rescued me, but there is still an intellectual seed in there somewhere. It’s the idea that people can drown in water and die. That’s true. If you can’t swim, you’d be more prone to drown, that’s also true.

Yet looking at what happened, it’s quite clear that the emotions took hold of what I was thinking and blew it out of proportion. A good way to see this is the constant raising of “What if?” questions. One can have a good intellectual answer but still come back with a “Yeah, but what if?” This often happens with Christians who doubt their salvation for instance.

In reality, doubt that is intellectual is the easiest to treat. Just learn more. If all your learning doesn’t answer your doubt any, you could have emotional doubt instead. Only you and God know that one. It is important to note that emotional doubt often disguises itself under intellectual doubt.

It could be your view is incorrect and then you would have to change it. If you are intellectually convinced Christianity is false, then don’t be a Christian. If you’re just unsure, then by all means keep looking. As a Christian, I am confident the answers are out there, but I have no problem telling you to keep an open mind. No Christian should. If what you believe is true, further study should bring that out.

There are times reading apologetics books will not do any good. That is with strong emotional doubt. Your mind will dismiss everything you read then. If not that, it will often think it has also explained it away when it could possibly be a quite sound defense of what you doubt. The dealing of emotional doubt will be covered later so that is not to be addressed now.

Besides, it can not hurt any of us to be more informed not only of what we believe but of what others believe. This is one reason I encourage people to not read the new atheists for instance. That includes atheists! The new atheists do not know what they’re talking about and present an uninformed critique. I in fact think the church should thank God for them. They’re getting the discussion in the public square and they get a weak demonstration of it out there as well. (To be fair, too many Christian apologetics works do the same thing.)

The cure for intellectual doubt then? More knowledge? That doesn’t work? Then it could be your doubt is only masked by intellectual difficulties. We’ll deal with that another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Reinventing Jesus

What do I think of this book by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I have read a number of books on the Historical Jesus that defend my own view, a conservative Christian view, but most of them are rather passe in many ways. You can hear the same old, same old, as if the writers just want to give you the mere basics of the case so you can make it. Now for some people, basics are good and necessary, but so often I really would like to read something more substantial from the conservative side and something that will give them a lot of firepower.

I picked up Reinventing Jesus not knowing what to expect, but found myself impressed thoroughly by this work. The authors lay out a powerful case and even better, they deal with the popular critics that will be mentioned in water cooler conversation. These are the ones largely quoted on the internet. Scholarship doesn’t really take their claims seriously, but such a situation has never stopped ignorant people on the internet from touting off the claims with the same degree of certainty as they condemn in a fundamentalist revival preacher.

So do you want to see Dan Brown dealt with? Got it covered! How about Acharya S.? She’s answered? Earl Doherty? Taken to task. Frank Zindler? Robert Price? Freke and Gandy? Aside from Price, who is on the fringe of scholarship, these are names not taken seriously, but that does not mean they should be ignored. It’s extremely important to show the massive ignorance that is often pontificated on the internet.

The authors start off with the case for oral tradition, which is an excellent start since the average lay reader knows little about this and can often think of modern concepts of memory which don’t really apply to an ancient society. In doing so, they show that the teachings of Christ would have lasted at least to the time of writing.

Well how about that time? Maybe the writings are wrong? That’s when we look at textual criticism and this section is an excellent tour de force. The authors have up-to-date statistics on when the NT manuscripts were written and how they were copied and deal very well with the popular criticisms that work against the idea as well as scholarly concerns. Let it never be stated they only deal with popular claims. They deal with scholarly ones as well.

What about the books that were copied? How do we know the canon was right? Again, this is an excellent topic that is not discussed often in literature. The writers put forward a presentation that demonstrates the integrity of the early church and show that they did not just blindly attribute authorship to a writer. They had the highest of standards. Much of this information I found immediately useful.

Did those books reflect the truth about Jesus? Extremely beneficial here is a look at what went on in the Council of Nicea to show that Nicea did not change everything. Also, there is abundant information to show that there was an early high Christology showing Jesus was perceived as included in the divine identity and that He Himself made such claims.

Supposing that’s the case, did the Christians not just rip off other pagan myths like Osiris and Mithra? I was extremely pleased to see a section on this! This is one of the most preposterous claims that goes around the net by people who have never read an original source on the topic. The writers have done us a service by giving a superb presentation to show that there has been no copying, unless you count copying by others of Christian claims and language.

In conclusion, I recommend this fine work without reservation. If I was to teach a class on NT apologetics, this book would no doubt be required reading.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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