How To Play A Game?

How do you win in a game? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As long as I can remember, I have been playing games. I am now 41 years old and I am still an avid gamer. If you are playing a game against someone else, and I don’t care what it is, there is a rule to follow. You could play a board game like Monopoly, Chess, or Connect Four. You could play a card game like Uno or Poker. You could play a sporting event like baseball or football. You could play a video game as simple as Pong or more like Halo or Smash Brothers. How can one rule apply to all of these? It can easily.

Be aware of how your opponent can respond to you.

It’s really that simple. This would even work in a real-life dangerous situation. Before the military goes in somewhere, I guarantee you they prepare for any counter-responses that could happen. The police are prepared for as many contingencies they can think of before approaching the suspect’s residence.

So now let’s talk about Raymond Bradley, author of God’s Gravediggers. One saying he has in chapter 3 is about Christian philosophers who hold to inerrancy. I do plan on reviewing the whole chapter, but this one quote is worthwhile.

“Are these guys serious? What would be their line when confronted by 2 Chronicles 4:2, which gives a false value for the mathematical constant pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter)? What would they say about countless inconsistencies the Bible contains? For example, between 2 Samuel 24:1, which says the Lord commanded King David to “number the people of Israel”, and 1 Chronicles 21:1, which says it was Satan, not the Lord, who issued the command. What account would they give of scientific absurdities such as that of a six-day creation, the fixity of species, and the world-wide flood, an event that some biblical genealogists calculate as occurring on the 27 February 2267 BCE, an event that, as Australian geologist Ian Plimer points out, was “spitefully” ignored by the Egyptians of the time? I simply don’t know what answers these notable theistic philosophers would give. They proclaim inerrancy as a general doctrine without considering its specific applications. They preach it from their pulpits yet ignore it in their philosophical writings. Yet where inconsistencies abound, so does falsity; for at least one of each inconsistent pair must be false.”

Let’s even go through these.

How about pi? Hint: If you can find something answered on a google search, don’t use it. I have no reason to think Purple Math is a Christian site, but even if it is, this is still an answer to this kind of question. Just take a look.

In the case of Chronicles and Samuel, I actually don’t think Satan refers to the being, but rather the word means an adversary. In both cases, God used an adversary to rise against David such that he wanted to count his army to prepare for battle. You may not think that is true, but it is an answer and even a potential answer is enough to refute the idea that something is a contradiction.

The Genesis information all assumes that everyone holds to a YEC worldwide flood account. I don’t. I would hope many YECs would even accept that there are Christians who disagree and are simply trying to be faithful to what they think the text and other data indicates.

The only complex one is the Exodus. Well first off, nations would have a tendency to not want to report their slaves getting the best of them. There is also material available like here.

Now here’s the thing. If Bradley were debating me and he says “I have no idea how he would answer these” and I pull up these responses, Bradley has to come up with something on the fly. Odds are, it will not be convincing. Why? Because he doesn’t know what I really think.

That is the main issue here. I could be wrong in everything I said, which I don’t think, but even if I am, I at least do have a response. I would also need to anticipate what he could say in response to this.

However, if Bradley has no idea how anyone would reply, he really shouldn’t be arguing. Not only that, it tells me he hasn’t really looked at the material. These objections are not new. They have been debated back and forth for centuries. Even the rabbis and early church, for example, debated how to read Genesis.

If you are a skeptic of Christianity then, you need to read Christian books to argue against Christians. “Well, I think all that stuff is stupid!” Okay. You might think the material is stupid and no rational person could believe it. Your opponent thinks otherwise and not only that, the people who agree with him think so and if they can tell you don’t know what they believe well, they won’t take you seriously. When I encounter someone who espouses Jesus mythicism or the pagan copycat thesis, I know to not take them seriously. (That includes Bradley.)

You see, Bradley does have a doctorate, but I notice when he argues against what I believe, he treats mythicism like a serious contender. Since I have studied this and know that that’s nonsense, I am less inclined to take his argument seriously in other areas because I have to wonder about the research he did. This is shown further to me when the first time he gives the cosmological argument, he first phrases it claiming that everything that exists has a cause. No serious defender of the argument has ever treated it that way.

I have hammered the skeptics today, but Christians do the same thing. Many of you are incredibly skeptical of evolution for example, which is fine, but I am sure that the staunchest YEC scholar would agree with me on this. If you argue against evolution without studying it to someone who has studied it, you will make embarrassing mistakes and they won’t take you seriously. Why should they?

This is also why you should be careful sharing information online that you haven’t checked on. Imagine you share a story about a political event that your opponent can see is a hoax with just a couple of minutes of research. Then you tell them that you believe God raised someone from the dead 2,000 years ago? They can’t answer that in a couple of minutes, but if they saw you false on the simple matter, why spend all the time on the deeper one?

Don’t be like that.

If Bradley then is in a debate sometime and pulls out weak objections and gets tough replies back, only two words need be said.

Game over.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Ignorance Is A Weak Excuse

Should you know what the other side says? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been going through Raymond Bradley’s book God’s Gravediggers and I plan to do a fuller look chapter by chapter, but I saw one quote that I wanted to highlight. It is about Christian philosophers who hold to inerrancy.

“”Are these guys serious? What would be their line when confronted by 2 Chronicles 4:2, which gives a false value for the mathematical constant pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter)? What would they say about countless inconsistencies the Bible contains? For example, between 2 Samuel 24:1, which says the Lord commanded King David to “number the people of Israel”, and 1 Chronicles 21:1, which says it was Satan, not the Lord, who issued the command. What account would they give of scientific absurdities such as that of a six-day creation, the fixity of species, and the world-wide flood, an event that some biblical genealogists calculate as occurring on the 27 February 2267 BCE, an event that, as Australian geologist Ian Plimer points out, was “spitefully” ignored by the Egyptians of the time? I simply don’t know what answers these notable theistic philosophers would give. They proclaim inerrancy as a general doctrine without considering its specific applications. They preach it from their pulpits yet ignore it in their philosophical writings. Yet where inconsistencies abound, so does falsity; for at least one of each inconsistent pair must be false.”
There’s one part in here worth highlighting.
“I simply don’t know what answers these notable theistic philosophers would give.”
Anyone should really know at this point to not take Bradley seriously.
Unfortunately, Bradley is not in the minority. Normally when I speak to atheists, I ask them if they have read such and such that disagrees with them and I am told that they have not. Most usually make some excuse and it really is presuppositional atheism. After all, everyone knows science is the only way to truth and anything that disagrees is automatically stupid. Why bother looking into a case for a miracle if it’s just so obvious they never happen?
Getting back to Bradley, he is talking about Old Testament questions. No one is saying that these questions shouldn’t be asked, but these are not new. The early church often debated passages that seemed to contradict and tried to work out apparent discrepancies.
The problem is that Bradley has no idea what would be said and this is too often something that can happen. A person can come up with what they think is an objection to a position and say to themselves, “I can’t think of any possible counter to this, therefore there isn’t one.” Consider what happens with the problem of evil. “Why would God allow this evil?” If no answer can be found immediately, well then there just obviously isn’t an answer. Right?
By the way, this is not to say that Christians don’t do the same thing. Christians absolutely do and that’s a travesty on our side. The mindset of Bradley is one that no one should really have.
Also, I would encourage Bradley to instead go to some Old Testament scholars instead of philosophers. Go to people like Walton or Longman or Christopher Wright or others. Go to a seminary and ask to see the library and read some commentaries on the passages in question.
When it comes to the age of the Earth, even the rabbis had been debating the interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Rudimentary forms of evolution were even discussed in those times. The information we can have is new, but the debates are really old. While it looks like Bradley grew up with young-Earth creationism, even the most ardent YEC would know other Christians have other interpretations and while they don’t agree, I hope they would say they understand these people are trying to be faithful to Scripture who disagree.
Something I often say about skeptics I encounter is they are not true skeptics. They believe what agrees with them 100%. They only question what disagrees with them. This also applies to politics also where it’s easy to go in with a bias and find something that supports your side and ignore the rejoinders to it.
Bradley is not a skeptic. He honors it with his lips, but his head is far from it. He has simply abandoned one loyalty to a position and replaced it with the same loyalty to another position.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Ancient Scripture, Ancient Views

How should we interpret an ancient document? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of Deeper Waters and a personal friend as well sent me this video. I was surprised when I got to the end because I thought it had a lot of good stuff to see that it was also Mormon apologetics. Does that mean everything said is wrong? No. If a Mormon says 2 + 2 = 4, I’m going to agree with them. I just do want that disclaimer up there. Just because a group overall has wrong beliefs, it doesn’t mean that everything they say is wrong. (Thank you, Weird Al.)

What do we do when the Bible speaks about ancient science but says ideas that disagree with modern science. We realize that the Bible is not trying to teach us that science at that point. It is using language acceptable by people at the time. Some we still use today. A weatherman talks about sunrise and sunset even though we know that’s not what literally happens. Many a love song today can talk about loving someone with all their heart, even though we know the heart doesn’t do that.

Keep in mind I am not at all saying that the Bible has limited inerrancy where it errors in science but everything else is okay. What has to be asked is what is the Bible trying to each? When the Bible says to love the Lord your God with all your heart, God is not trying to give instructions of where love comes from, but to instead love the Lord with all you have.

The speaker in this video uses this I think accurately to critique the Flat Earth view. Fortunately for me, I haven’t really encountered people arguing this view yet. I know they’re out there, but I guess I have just been fortunate to not bother dealing with them.

Let’s make a brief statement about the whole statement about Latter-Day prophets that are cited in the end. Is everything the prophet of the Mormon Church says wrong? No, but we need to look at what they say in their own context as well and even then, there are still problems.

My biggest problem with the LDS movement is really the material they have that goes against the Bible and is also a problem with just good philosophy. Eternal progression, the idea that God was a man who eventually became God and good Mormons are to have the same experience is extremely problematic. There are a lot of problems in the Book of Mormon, but if you really want to see the esoteric doctrines, it’s in places like the Doctrines and Covenants.

Mormonism falls on other grounds. Many people have used the Book of Abraham as the ultimate Achilles’ Heel of Mormonism. However, I do think we also need to treat it the same way in that we look at the culture of the time and also with the Book of Mormon, we need to consider it in light of the claim that it is supposed to be an ancient document. Does it match ancient documents of the time and does it have claims that match them? (Materials used, for example.)

So in the end, I do ultimately agree with what was said. However, I do think this provides more problems for Mormonism as it doesn’t really mirror the ancient world that well. Mormonism falls on other grounds, but that’s for other blogs.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

A Response to Ben The Amateur Exegete

Is Matthew an eyewitness account? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of Deeper Waters a few weeks ago shared a video wanting my response to it. I just recently took the time to watch it. I found it interesting, and in some ways more informed than other skeptics, but also lacking. It was a response to J. Warner Wallace on eyewitness testimony and can be found here.

So let’s start with something minor. In the video, he shows Wallace saying he thought before his conversion that the Gospels were second century works. Ben, the person making the video response, says “Really?” and that’s it. I see no reason to think Wallace is lying on this point and if Ben thinks there is, he really needs to demonstrate that.

Ben does make a statement about how good something like Wallace sounds if you believe in inerrancy. I have no idea why inerrancy is made an issue here, other than the usual that it’s treated as an essential to Christianity and if you destroy it, you destroy Christianity. This is not at all the case and yet too many skeptics do have this kind of approach.

However, Ben chooses to look at Matthew. He has three points to what he says ultimately. I find all of them lacking. Let’s look at the first. The first is that the writers do not use a 1st-person in their work. You don’t see Matthew saying “Jesus said to me, follow me.” Jesus instead speaks in third person. Isn’t this unusual?

Sounds good, but really, this is an old objection. It goes all the way back to the time of Augustine even.

Contra Faustum 17.1

 

  1. Faustus said: You ask why we do not receive the law and the prophets, when Christ said that he came not to destroy them, but to fulfill them. Where do we learn that Jesus said this? From Matthew, who declares that he said it on the mount. In whose presence was it said? In the presence of Peter, Andrew, James, and John—only these four; for the rest, including Matthew himself, were not yet chosen. Is it not the case that one of these four—John, namely—wrote a Gospel? It is. Does he mention this saying of Jesus? No. How, then, does it happen that what is not recorded by John, who was on the mount, is recorded by Matthew, who became a follower of Christ long after He came down from the mount? In the first place, then, we must doubt whether Jesus ever said these words, since the proper witness is silent on the matter, and we have only the authority of a less trustworthy witness. But, besides this, we shall find that it is not Matthew that has imposed upon us, but some one else under his name, as is evident from the indirect style of the narrative. Thus we read: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and called him; and he immediately rose up, and followed Him.” [Matthew 9:9] No one writing of himself would say, He saw a man, and called him; and he followed Him; but, He saw me, and called me, and I followed Him. Evidently this was written not by Matthew himself, but by some one else under his name. Since, then, the passage already quoted would not be true even if it had been written by Matthew, since he was not present when Jesus spoke on the mount; much more is its falsehood evident from the fact that the writer was not Matthew himself, but some one borrowing the names both of Jesus and of Matthew.

 

Augustine replied: What amazing folly, to disbelieve what Matthew records of Christ, while you believe Manichæus! If Matthew is not to be believed because he was not present when Christ said, “I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill,” was Manichæus present, was he even born, when Christ appeared among men? According, then, to your rule, you should not believe anything that Manichæus says of Christ. On the other hand, we refuse to believe what Manichæus says of Christ; not because he was not present as a witness of Christ’s words and actions, but because he contradicts Christ’s disciples, and the Gospel which rests on their authority. The apostle, speaking in the Holy Spirit, tells us that such teachers would arise. With reference to such, he says to believers: “If any man preaches to you another gospel than that you have received, let him be accursed.” [Galatians 1:9] If no one can say what is true of Christ unless he has himself seen and heard Him, no one now can be trusted. But if believers can now say what is true of Christ because the truth has been handed down in word or writing by those who saw and heard, why might not Matthew have heard the truth from his fellow disciple John, if John was present and he himself was not, as from the writings of John both we who are born so long after and those who shall be born after us can learn the truth about Christ? In this way, the Gospels of Luke and Mark, who were companions of the disciples, as well as the Gospel of Matthew, have the same authority as that of John. Besides, the Lord Himself might have told Matthew what those called before him had already been witnesses of.

Your idea is, that John should have recorded this saying of the Lord, as he was present on the occasion. As if it might not happen that, since it was impossible to write all that be heard from the Lord, he set himself to write some, omitting this among others. Does he not say at the close of his Gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written”? [John 21:25] This proves that he omitted many things intentionally. But if you choose John as an authority regarding the law and the prophets, I ask you only to believe his testimony to them. It is John who writes that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ. [John 12:41] It is in his Gospel we find the text already treated of: “If you believed Moses, you would also believe me; for he wrote of me.” [John 5:46] Your evasions are met on every side. You ought to say plainly that you do not believe the gospel of Christ. For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel.

  1. Faustus thinks himself wonderfully clever in proving that Matthew was not the writer of this Gospel, because, when speaking of his own election, he says not, He saw me, and said to me, Follow me; but, He saw him, and said to him, Follow me. This must have been said either in ignorance or from a design to mislead. Faustus can hardly be so ignorant as not to have read or heard that narrators, when speaking of themselves, often use a construction as if speaking of another. It is more probable that Faustus wished to bewilder those more ignorant than himself, in the hope of getting hold on not a few unacquainted with these things. It is needless to resort to other writings to quote examples of this construction from profane authors for the information of our friends, and for the refutation of Faustus. We find examples in passages quoted above from Moses by Faustus himself, without any denial, or rather with the assertion, that they were written by Moses, only not written of Christ. When Moses, then, writes of himself, does he say, I said this, or I did that, and not rather, Moses said, and Moses did? Or does he say, The Lord called me, The Lord said to me, and not rather, The Lord called Moses, The Lord said to Moses, and so on? So Matthew, too, speaks of himself in the third person.

And John does the same; for towards the end of his book he says: “Peter, turning, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also lay on His breast at supper, and who said to the Lord, Who is it that shall betray You?” Does he say, Peter, turning, saw me? Or will you argue from this that John did not write this Gospel? But he adds a little after: “This is the disciple that testifies of Jesus, and has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” [John 21:20-24] Does he say, I am the disciple who testify of Jesus, and who have written these things, and we know that my testimony is true? Evidently this style is common in writers of narratives. There are innumerable instances in which the Lord Himself uses it. “When the Son of man,” He says, “comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8] Not, When I come, shall I find? Again, “The Son of man came eating and drinking;” [Matthew 11:19] not, I came. Again, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live;” [John 5:25] not, My voice. And so in many other places. This may suffice to satisfy inquirers and to refute scoffers.

Xenophon does the same in Book 3, Chap. 1 of Anabasis.

“There was in the army a certain Xenophon, an Athenian, who accompanied the army neither as a general nor as a captain nor as a private soldier; but Proxenos, an old acquaintance, had sent for him.”

See also Anabasis 1.8.15; 2.5.40; 3.1.10, 47, etc.

Ben says that Thucydides refers to himself in the first person. Look at chapter 26 of Book 5.

I certainly remember that all along, when the war began and until it ended,
there were many who prophesied that it must last thrice nine years. I lived
through all of it when I was of an age to comprehend and had my mind
engaged, in order to know with some exactness; it also happened that I was
exiled from my city for twenty years after the command at Amphipolis
and, being present at the activities of both sides, especially the Peloponnesians, unoccupied because of my exile, I understood these all the more.
Accordingly, I will relate the disagreement after the ten years and violation
of the truce and how the war was fought from then on.

That sounds good. However, let’s look earlier in that section.

The same Thucydides, an Athenian, has recorded these events as
well, in the order that they occurred according to summers and winters,
up to the point when the Lacedaemonians and their allies overthrew the
empire of the Athenians and captured the long walls and the Peiraeus.

In the Jewish War account by Josephus in 2.20.4, he does the same thing.

4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.

And in book 7, chapter 1, of the Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar, we find the same thing.

When it was reported to Caesar that they were attempting to make their route through our Province he hastens to set out from the city, and, by as great marches as he can, proceeds to Further Gaul, and arrives at Geneva. He orders the whole Province [to furnish] as great a number of soldiers as possible, as there was in all only one legion in Further Gaul: he orders the bridge at Geneva to be broken down. When the Helvetii are apprized of his arrival they send to him, as embassadors, the most illustrious men of their state (in which embassy Numeius and Verudoctius held the chief place), to say “that it was their intention to march through the Province without doing any harm, because they had” [according to their own representations,] “no other route: that they requested, they might be allowed to do so with his consent.” Caesar, inasmuch as he kept in remembrance that Lucius Cassius, the consul, had been slain, and his army routed and made to pass under the yoke by the Helvetii, did not think that [their request] ought to be granted: nor was he of opinion that men of hostile disposition, if an opportunity of marching through the Province were given them, would abstain from outrage and mischief. Yet, in order that a period might intervene, until the soldiers whom he had ordered [to be furnished] should assemble, he replied to the ambassadors, that he would take time to deliberate; if they wanted any thing, they might return on the day before the ides of April [on April 12th].

(All of these are cut and paste and so I have not made any changes to the texts cited.)

E.P. Sanders is not wanting to give a defense of Christianity, but when writing about why a first person is not used in the Gospels says:

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’  – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

Ben will need to tell why these other writers didn’t follow the same pattern or didn’t always. For now, let’s move on to the second crack supposedly. What about events for which Matthew was not an eyewitness.

Are we at best dealing with knowledge that is secondhand for those accounts? Yes.

And the problem is?

No one is claiming that Matthew was an eyewitness for everything in the Gospels by saying the Gospels are eyewitness accounts any more than Josephus could possibly be an eyewitness for everything in his account of the Jewish War or Thucydides and eyewitness for everything in the Peloponnesian War. This would be all-or-nothing thinking if done this way. Matthew certainly would not have been an eyewitness of the virgin birth, which I do affirm, but some examples Ben gives are odd. How would Matthew know what was said in the Sermon on the Mount?

For one, no one thinks the whole of the sermon is recorded in the account, save perhaps diehard fundamentalists. For another, if you are a speaker, you know you give a talk you know well more than once. Finally, this was a public event. There were numerous people who could corroborate. How did Matthew know about what happened with Judas giving the money to the priests or the account of the Sanhedrin trial? He could very well have relied on Joseph of Arimathea or any of the priests and Pharisees who we hear came to faith in Acts. Again, if you think everything Matthew reported had to be firsthand, then that is your problem. I do not share it.

Also, the evangelists never name themselves, but what of it? Plutarch doesn’t name himself either. Perhaps this was something done in Greco-Roman biography. It would be fascinating to see if any research has been done on that. However, that there is at least an exception in Plutarch should give us pause on making a big deal about this, as well as E.P. Sanders’s quote. Also, just because the author is not named in the body of the work does not mean he would not be named in some other way on a scroll being delivered to be read. (And keep in mind, Paul is named in several letters that skeptics insist he did not write.)

Finally, what about the relationship between the book of Matthew and Mark? The case for Marcan priority in Mark being the first Gospel is that most scholars hold to this. That is certainly a good point, but it is not by any means final. I myself have not really looked at the Synoptic Problem yet, but I do know enough to know that it is not a done deal. There are those who do hold to Matthean priority.  So what about similarities between Matthew and Mark?

What of it? Why should we think none of the Gospels ever used another Gospel. Why would Matthew use Mark if he did? Because Mark includes accounts from Peter that Matthew would not be present for and could use. Furthermore, why reinvent the wheel? If Matthew likes how Mark has phrased a matter, why change it? If the situation is reversed, the same applies. This really isn’t troubling.

Finally, Ben says if the edifice falls, everything falls, but most scholars do not build their case on inerrancy even if they focus on the Gospels and many use the epistles of Paul instead. The accounts are still safe.

I also find it disappointing that Ben nowhere interacts with Richard Bauckham’s work on this topic, a real scholar who has the most in-depth research on this. Another good read would be Keener’s Christobiography. I do appreciate he does give some citations, but I find the case again lacking.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge Conclusion: Politely Rejecting The Bible

What are my concluding thoughts on Kapr’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So how do we end this? For starters, I will say this book is indeed true in the statement of politely rejecting in that the author is not nearly as antagonistic as most other authors who argue against Christianity are. I also appreciate that the accusations are not so simple as others. This is far better than say, David McAfee’s Disproving Christianity, which I have reviewed here, where the author simply throws out a bunch of contradictions with very little weight attached to them, thinks that he’s disproven Christianity, and then goes off triumphantly from there.

I am also pleased to see that Kapr has taken the time to at least interact with contrary thought. Too many skeptics tell me that there’s no evidence and then when I ask them what they’ve read on the other side, I get crickets. If you say there’s no evidence and yet you’re not looking, that’s hardly a surprise. One will not find what they are not looking for.

At the same time, it’s still lacking overall. Niceness does not equal an argument necessarily. Granted at times it can give a rhetorical push, it doesn’t work overall. I also would have liked to have seen more said about the resurrection of Jesus. There are still several Christians who do not hold to inerrancy but in many ways are conservative in their beliefs, say with regards to sexuality, and still hold to the resurrection of Jesus regardless.

Do I think Christians should interact with this and books like it? Yes. At the same time, I think this would be good for many skeptics to read to at least get somewhat of a higher class than the usual drivel that’s out there arguing against Christianity.

I also hope that this will get people interested in the second edition of Defining Inerrancy. Yes. It’s coming out soon. We have updated a few items adding information that wasn’t in the last one and I have included in it my tribute to Norman Geisler on his death.

We’ll see what next week brings!

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge Part 12: Politely Rejecting The Bible

Is God truthful? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In our household, April Fool’s Day is a big event and the major goal is to try to trick my mother. One of the best ones I ever pulled on her was to tell her I was going to be evicted when I lived in an apartment with a roommate. This year, we tricked her into thinking I had been accepted into a school in Romania and would have to move.

Every year she says she will not be tricked that day and lo and behold…

It reminds me of this:

It is also something that comes to mind when I read this objection from Kapr about God using lying spirits, most notably in 1 Kings 22. He does give a reference to Holding’s web site where this is said:

“The alleged problem: If God finds lying to be horrible, why does he put lying spirits into the mouths of prophets and delude people?

Where is the contradiction here? It appears that this objection is asserting that the fact that God does not like lying necessarily implies that He could not use this evil for His own ends as a judgment. This is hardly a valid syllogism. One’s feelings toward something don’t have any connection with whether it is possible to use that something towards one’s own ends.

The question is one for exegesis and theology, and it is a good question that is addressed in commentaries. But as we are dealing with allegations of contradiction here and not theology, this whole point is a non-issue from the standpoint of contradictions. As such, no further discussion is required on this point.”

Unfortunately, Kapr didn’t look too closely. This article was written by an Eric Vestrup. It was not by Holding.

However, for the most part, I agree with the assessment. God is going out of His way to tell Ahab, “Look! You’re being lied to!” If God had truly wanted to lie to Ahab, all of his prophets, including Micaiah, would have said the same thing. God gave Ahab a choice and even told what the outcomes would be depending on what Ahab chose.

The same is going on I think in 2 Thess. 2 with the people who are sent a strong delusion. What’s going on? Well, if you don’t believe the truth, what will you believe? By necessity, something else. If people reject the truth, then God just lets them go further their own way. They make the choice first.

Kapr also brings up Romans 3 and asks that we read the passage slow. No one seeks God? No one understands? I consider Romans 3 an extreme picture. It doesn’t mean that man is continuously evil and hopeless. Jews often spoke in hyperbolic terms. Let’s sum it up this way. Man is extremely wicked and fallen. Kapr sadly reads it in a very fundamentalist sense.

He also brings up 2 Kings 3 where Israel was told they would win a battle, but such great wrath comes against them that they are said to flee. In reality, the sacrifice of the child of the king of Moab indicated that a plague was coming on to his city. Israel would have seen this and known it was time to get out since the plague would end the battle. It is not that wrath came against Israel, but that there was indignation and strife among the camp upon hearing about this.

Next time we will conclude our look at the book as I give summarizing thoughts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge Part 10: Politely Rejecting The Bible

What about the name of God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The next big contradiction is with the name of God in Exodus 6. Was the name of God known? In this chapter, I really see no interaction with what is meant by a name. For example, it would not make sense to say that Moses is to say to the Israelites “YHWH has sent me to save you” if they’re going to be left asking “Who is that?”

But how was God’s name known in a unique way by the Israelites in Egypt? Surely, God had been known to provide salvation, as Jacob himself thought when God delivered him from Laban and from his brother Esau. Also, God had done miracles already in the case of the miraculous birth of Isaac and of the provision of sheep for Jacob. We can’t rule out judgment as the flood had come, the languages had been confused at Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed.

So what is new? It is that all of these are now combined together and God is acting on another nation in a salvific way to fulfill the covenant promise that had been made to Abraham centuries ago. God wasn’t just working for the good of certain individuals. God was using His power now to rescue a whole people that had never experienced God in this way. Most other gods were thought to be limited to the nations they were in, but now God would prove Himself to be sovereign over even the gods of Egypt.

What about saying the name would now be fully known. This does not mean that they would have a full and complete knowledge of God. We got a far deeper knowledge of God in the incarnation, but even after that, no one will ever have a full knowledge of God. Even in eternity, we will never be able to know God exhaustively for if we could do that, He wouldn’t really be God.

What I take this to mean is a sort of way of saying “Now I’m going to show that I’m the real deal and make my power truly known to them.” It wouldn’t make sense for the writer of the work, or as Kapr would think, an editor, to say that they had perfect theology as it doesn’t take long in the narrative of Exodus before we find the Israelites grumbling and complaining, hardly fitting for a people who have a perfect theology.

So once again, while I appreciate that Kapr does seem to spend a lot of time on certain contradictions instead of just doing the usual activity that many skeptics do which is to present a whole list of 101 Bible contradictions without any digging into them whatsoever, I still do not think Kapr’s case is sufficient. Even if it was, the most that would be needed would be to change a doctrine of inerrancy. Christianity would still be safe entirely as Jesus would have still risen from the dead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: 7 Things I Wish Christians Knew About The Bible

What do I think of Michael Bird’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have to say that every time I read something about Michael Bird, I get a treat. Michael Bird is an author with keen insights and a pastoral heart as well, but he also has a great touch of humor and will say so many statements that make you laugh all throughout the book. I would be thrilled to see him team up with Andy Bannister to write a book.

This is a book written for Christians, though I think it can be helpful for non-Christians as well. In it, he gives seven different statements that many of us might think are old hat, but in reality, there are people who treat the Bible this way even if they know it’s not literally so. For instance, the first one is that the Bible didn’t fall out of the sky.

Really, even if we don’t know how the Bible came about, somehow, we all know that it didn’t. In reality though, we do often treat it that way. The Bible is a divine book to be sure, but it is also a very human book. That’s actually the second, This gives us more of how the Bible was written by people and has their own personality styles in the text.

Third is that the Bible is normative and not negotiable. In this, he wants us to realize that Scripture is the place of authority. We don’t just pick and choose. Too many “churches” today have the idea that the Bible is authoritative when it speaks properly, which by the way, happens to be the times that it agrees with them. Amazing!

Next is that the Bible is for our time, but it’s not about our time. This is especially the case with modern prophecy experts who think everything going on is talked about in Scripture, they are shown to be wrong, but then a year or two later, the exact things happen again. I am not just talking about so-called prophecy experts. I am also talking about laypeople who read the Bible this way. (Sometimes, they sadly commit the unpardonable sin of calling the final book “Revelations.”)

The fifth is that the Bible should always be taken seriously, but not literally. Somehow, we live in a time that thinks that literal interpretation is the best way to read the Bible every time. The early church really enjoyed allegory, for example. Too many atheists also make a big deal about literal interpretation.

The sixth is that the purpose of the book is to give us faith, hope, and love. Now here, I would have liked to have seen Bird say something about the fake view of faith as belief without evidence or something similar. Still, Bird’s point is entirely valid. As much as an academic like myself wants to gain a lot of knowledge and as much as some people might go to the Bible wanting to get personal advice on how to live, and neither of those are bad in themselves, the main goal is to produce the character of faith, hope, and love.

Finally, Christ is the center of it all. However, saying that, he wants us to be careful to not forget the Father or the Spirit. He also wants us to make sure we don’t just read Christ into everything without first understanding what the text says in itself. Also, he thinks we should be able to teach Jesus as Messiah from the Old Testament, which I agree with.

Bird’s given us a great gift in this one. I highly encourage you to go and read this one. You’ll laugh a few times and you’ll learn something.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Book Plunge Part 9: Politely Rejecting The Bible

How did the Field of Blood get its name? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This objection is from the field of blood. How did it get its name? In the book of Matthew, we are told that the field was bought using money that was used to betray Jesus. In the book of Acts, we are told that it was called that because of how Judas died there when he fell on a field and his body burst open.

Seeing as he references an article by J.P. Holding on this, I figured it was fair to email JPH and let him say something about this.

First, he summarizes Kapr’s position:

Duh, but if this is right, “then we should be able to omit the clause about Judas’ bloody death without destroying the inner logic of the passage. But when we do this, the result is very odd: Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness. . . . This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood. Suddenly the mention of blood comes out of nowhere.”

Okay. So what does Holding say in response?

This is the objection of Dan Kapr, and it is just the sort of thing we’d expect from a fundamenatalist who is also a comedian. In case Kapr forgot, Matthew relates the origins of the “field of blood” name without any reference to Judas’ guts blowing out. Matthew gets the etymology from the payment to Judas being “blood money” — a payment for turning Jesus over. And Luke relates that episode in his own gospel. So no, the reference to blood doesn’t “come out of nowhere” at all; it alludes to the prior account Luke provided of Judas being paid for his treachery, Kapr’s inability to make sense of the writings of a culture removed from him by time and priority notwithstanding.

Kapr finds it “strange” that I wouldn’t connect Judas’ death in Luke with a lot of blood, but that is his problem, not mine. Luke himself didn’t mention blood gushing from Judas, and he didn’t say it became known as the “Field of Spilled Intestines.” In other words, it is clear enough that it wasn’t the blood that caught his attention. Kapr needs to break out of his fundamentalist notions that only what he thinks the text “clearly says” is what matters.

I can agree with this, but I would like to add something else. The name is the same. Could it not be for both reasons? I say this because the Jews happen to like puns a lot. (It’s worthwhile to note that people who have a great sense of humor really appreciate puns. Just saying.)

Could they not say, “Oh. Isn’t this ironic? This traitor who bought a field with blood money ended up spilling his own blood on that field?” This would be seen as a fitting judgment from God on someone like this. If anyone asked why the field had its name, the Jew could just tell them about the traitor who betrayed His own rabbi and then paid for it in his own blood.

These chapter reviews might seem short, but really Kapr spends a lot of time arguing one point and if you just address that one point, then not everything else matters. Again, it’s still often fundamentalist, but not as bad as many other authors thankfully.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge Part 8: Politely Rejecting The Bible

What of Jude’s use of Enoch? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the next few chapters, we will look at the biggest objections that Kapr has to the doctrine of inerrancy. This is in the book of Jude when the author, presumably Jude and we will assume him for the sake of this article, gives a prophecy that comes from Enoch. It’s not the prophecy that is being called into question but that Jude references Enoch as the source of this prophecy.

There are a few points to consider.

First, Kapr considers it difficult to think that an oral tradition would last this long and be referenced just around the time when 1 Enoch itself shows up and then starts being quoted, but is this really that unthinkable? Oral tradition lasts a long time in the ancient world and it could be that this was an oral tradition and it was written down around this time. I’m not saying it was and I don’t see how you could make a case, but it would be interesting to have done. Either way, just saying you don’t find it plausible does not mean it is implausible.

Second, we don’t really know what Jude believed about the book. We do know that he certainly found the prophecy useful. I don’t even think we could say he certainly agreed with the prophecy, but he found it worthwhile to quote. Now why would he do this?

It could be that the opponents he is dealing with in this book do think Enoch came from Enoch and do view it as authoritative and do use it. Thus, Jude could be saying “So you know, Enoch, the seventh from Adam Enoch, yeah. That one. The one that you read and cite regularly? He himself condemned what is going on and the people who are doing what is going on.”

If so, then this is kind of like Paul on Mars Hill quoting various poets and saying “See? Even your guys accept my viewpoint.” Enoch could have agreed with what Enoch said. He could have thought the author of Enoch was smoking mushrooms. Either way, he found the quote useful.

In reality, we don’t know enough about what Jude believed about Enoch. The same could be said about the Assumption of Moses? Did Jude believe the story? Maybe. Maybe not. He could again be using material his audience accepts to make the point. All we have is one quote of each of these and we don’t know enough based on that.

Some might think not enough has been said here to solidly answer the charge, but keep in mind as the one in the defensive position in this as Kapr is making the charges, I just have to show a possible solution to a problem. Again, the reality is we don’t know in this case and that’s okay to say. Maybe we will learn more in future research. Maybe we won’t. Either way, I do not see a hard defeater here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)