In the midst of the holiday season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve been thinking about the nature of our traditions and the challenges we often face when engaging friends and family members during the holidays. Most of us, regardless of theistic or atheistic worldview, seek to conserve a number of traditions and values for one reason or another. In this limited sense, all of us have conservative inclinations; we simply disagree about what we choose to conserve and why we choose to conserve it. There are, however, a number of principles (typically associated with conservative, traditional Christians) embraced by just about everyone. I bet most of the atheist, secular friends and family members I’m going to see over the holidays would affirm the following conservative Christian principles as I apply them to myself:
1. I’m Not the Most Important Thing in the World
I understand my place in the world and I understand that I am not personally the most important character in the universe. There are causes, institutions, truths and even people worth defending and dying for. Sacrifice is a virtue. Humility is a necessity. It’s not all about me.
2. I Can’t Have Whatever I Want, Whenever I Want It
There are lots of things I might like to possess, but there’s a difference between “want” and “need”, and I’d be wise to understand this difference. There are lots of things that are more important than the stuff I thought I wanted, and a life without struggle has little or no meaning. I may also have to wait for the things I need. People who don’t understand how to wait are a pain in the butt, and last time I looked, “patience” was considered a virtue by just about everyone.
3. I Must Accept Personal Responsibility
I need to stop asking others to take care of the things I’m supposed to take care of. I shouldn’t expect others to do for me what I could have done for myself. I understand some people fall on hard times. When that happens, I want to help personally. I’m not going to assign my charity to someone else (even when that someone else is the government).
4. I Need to Work Hard, Before I Play (or Spend) Hard
It’s OK to goof off, but not until I’ve taken care of my responsibilities. Work comes before play or I’ll have so much fun playing that I’ll never work! There is joy in work, and I have to make the conscious decision to find joy in the work I’ve decided to engage. I also have to live within my means. Yes, I often wish I had more, but credit needs to be reserved for the most expensive essentials of life (like housing). The only cards I better find in my wallet are debit cards.
5. My Charity Can’t Be Coerced
I’d like to think I’m a generous person and I understand the importance of contributing to our society’s infrastructure; I’m a civil servant, after all. I also want to help those who find themselves in need, but I’d like my charity to be honored rather than coerced. Forced charity is an oxymoron. I’d like the right to decide how best to help those with less.
6. My Character is More Important Than My Comfort
I expect to have to endure some tough times; I’m not afraid of hardship. In the midst of the hardship, however, I know something wonderful will emerge. I understand that character is developed during hard times, so bring it on.
7. I Know It’s Important to Be Thankful and Resist the Urge to Complain
No one likes a whiner. Yes, I might be going through some tough times, but there is always someone who has it worse than I do. So I’ll do my best to shut up and get through it without all the drama. I need to stop taking things for granted; I know I have more than I deserve and there is much to be thankful for. So, while it’s in my nature to complain and bellyache, I’ll do my best to adopt an attitude of gratitude.
8. I Need to Be Faithful
I found a “life mate” and I’m determined to stick with that person for life. That’s why we call them “life mates” in the first place. I have decided to love, even when I don’t feel like it. My marriage means more to me than the person I am married to (and I mean that in a good way). I understand the value of a promise and I want my promise to mean something.
9. Our Children Are of Utmost Importance
Kids are more than just fun to have around (in fact, sometimes their no fun to have around); they are our most important asset. It’s in the context of children that I’ve discovered what it is to sacrifice, wait, love, laugh, hurt and help with homework. I am dedicated to my children and I respect the institutions and traditions we have formed as a culture to protect our kids. When push comes to shove, kids must come first.
10. I Will Sometimes Have to Defend the Truth
Yes, I’m an old fashioned modernist. Truth does exist, even if that idea makes people uncomfortable. Get over it. There will be times when I will simply have to stand up for what’s right, because, after all, some things are right and some things are wrong (and it’s more than simply a matter of my opinion). It’s OK to defend yourself from attack, and it’s OK to take a stand when you have to.
I’ve only been a Christian for seventeen years, but I’ve embraced these core principles for as long as I can remember. As I continue to conserve these ideas and pass them on to my own kids, I recognize their ability to connect with people of differing worldviews. Almost everyone conserves these important principles in the context of their own lives, even though they may sound like distinctly traditional, conservative, Christian values. Because these values are nearly universal, I think they provide us with the perfect opportunity to start talking about the Christian worldview, especially as we sit around the holiday dinner table. Once we recognize and affirm these common conservative values, I think it’s reasonable to ask which worldview best accounts for them. Read back through this list and justify these values first from a Christian worldview, then from a secular, atheist, materialist worldview. Which worldview does a better job grounding these values? That’s a conversation we should have with the people we love during this holiday season.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, Christian Case Making, evangelism, Evangelizing family, sharing truth, starting conversations about God, worldview
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
“So what,” my friend concluded, “people die all the time for things they believe. Sometimes they even go out of their way to become a martyr. That doesn’t prove anything about their beliefs. It just means they’re crazy.” We had been discussing why the first apostles were willing to die rather than renounce the claims they were making, and I could see that my friend still wasn’t seeing the point I was making.
“There’s a difference, though, that you seem to be refusing to acknowledge,” I started. “Sure there are people who are willing to sacrifice their lives because they fervently believe something. But the apostles weren’t talking about beliefs. They were talking about things they had witnessed. If they were lying, you’d have to ask yourself why they would persist in making something up that was known to them to be false, and that was getting them nothing but pain and persecution. That would be like me insisting that God told me to plunder your house. I know he really didn’t, and I know that my telling you this isn’t going to change your view about me taking your stuff, so why would I do it? There’s nothing to be gained.”
“But there is,” he rejoined. “You said yourself that Christianity has changed the world and I agree that much of the change was good. Love your brother, be kind to your enemies, help the poor, all that kind of stuff. Maybe these early Christians wanted to lift up humanity, take it to the next level of development – moral development anyway. Maybe they were willing to die for the sake of a noble lie.” I’d heard variations on that theme before, and it never ceased to amaze me how unpersuasive such a view was. I hoped that drilling down a bit into what he was suggesting might better focus the issue.
“If I understand you correctly, you think the first disciples of Jesus knew that he hadn’t really risen from the dead. They made all that stuff up because they thought he had been a wise man and they liked where his views would take the culture. Is that about right?”
He nodded, so I asked him whether he recognized the problems inherent in such an assumption. He didn’t. I tried to summarize them.
“First,” I said, “I would want to know what profit they saw in that. The Jews of that period had a strong religious tradition and many of these men were well-trained in it. Paul, for instance, was a very learned man. They were expecting a conquering Messiah, not a victim, and they already had a functioning society and a moral structure in place. They could not have foreseen the impact Christianity would have on future generations, and many of them did not themselves appreciate the full impact of the changes that would occur. For instance, though Christians eventually worked to abolish slavery, the earliest disciples didn’t seek to make such far reaching changes. Second, the disciples went about this ‘noble lie’ in pretty peculiar way, including a lot of things that would make their message difficult, if not impossible, to accept. Remember that the disciples are being persecuted for their beliefs. The Romans would have accepted one extra God; the problem was that the disciples were saying that there was one, and only one, God and that they could not accept others. Why would they do that? They could still teach brotherly love without antagonizing the Romans. Also, why would they include what seemed to be barbaric requirements, such as having Jesus say that his followers must eat his body and drink his blood. Why all the promise of suffering that would come from being a follower? These were deal breakers for many of those who heard it. Why would they start a movement by trying to alienate their listeners?”
He didn’t say anything, so I continued. “Third, remember what the disciples were actually claiming – one, that their Lord thought he was actually God. This would make him a lunatic, when you think about it, so it would be hard to square that with the ‘come listen to what my wise friend just taught me about achieving the good life’ message. Two, they also claimed that he visited them after he died and showed them his physical, resurrected body. Why not simply say that Jesus rose spiritually? That way, if the Romans produced the body, they could continue with their claim. Why not say that their teacher had many wise sayings that people should follow, but that sadly he died and remained dead? This is what you would expect if they simply wanted to start a movement. But no, what they said was that they had actually witnessed these things. And whatever it was they witnessed, it certainly transformed them-from cowards hiding in a room to bold evangelists willing to put everything on the line for what they thought was true. On your theory, they are making all this up for no gain. Rather than getting rich or famous, it’s getting them killed.”
I summed up. “I think you’re being influenced by what we today call the ‘prosperity gospel’ – follow Christianity and you will be healthy, wealthy and happy. Quite the contrary was true for the early church. There were predictions from the beginning that following Jesus would be difficult and that it could result in hardship and division of families. So, when you really think about it, it’s simply not the kind of message that would bring hope to humanity – hope in the sense of the ‘noble lie’ – unless one condition were indeed true — that the underlying message they were preaching was actually true. In other words, the only basis for hope in the minds of the disciples wasn’t in the here and now but in the life to come. They were convinced that our eternal destiny depended on accepting Jesus as lord and savior. Consequently, they were willing to suffer here, and encourage others to withstand suffering, because they were convinced that what happens next is more important that any earthly suffering.”
In the end, I don’t think I persuaded him. But hopefully it gave him something more noble to think about.
Posted by Al SerratoChristian truth claims, disciples
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
Not long ago, I had the privilege of meeting a World War II fighter pilot. Now in his late 80’s, in 1944 he took part in a key battle of the war in the Pacific, a last ditch effort by the Japanese to repel the American reoccupation of the Philippine Islands. Known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, it pitted the last remnants of Japanese naval power against a vastly inferior American force, left behind to oversee the American landings while the bulk of American striking power had gone off in search of the enemy. The men who fought that day, on ships and in the air, exhibited much gallantry in facing a determined enemy. Though time had ravaged this man’s body, his mind remained sharp, and before long he was recalling details of that October day those many years ago. As our conversation came to a close, I took a moment to express my thanks for what he did during the war. I thanked him for his service and his courage, and for the opportunity it provided me to live in a more peaceful world.
As I reflected on this later, I realized that his actions in upholding freedom in a war-torn world did not actually involve me. He had done nothing directly for me; I was not yet even born. But I knew that if men and women like him had not risked their lives, and been willing to sacrifice all, I might not ever have been. They had earned my thanks. They, in turn, had people who had come before them, who had done things for them, and to whom heartfelt gratitude would be appropriate. Tracing backward in time, I saw for a moment an endless stream of thanksgiving moving back through the recesses of time to a beginning trapped forever in the mists of forgotten memory.
In that moment, I also saw that my gratitude was personal. It was directed at living, breathing human beings. I did not give thanks to machinery, to the steel that cocooned the pilot in the cockpit of his plane, or to the chemistry that allowed the fuel mixture to propel it forward. Nor did I thank the instruments that provided feedback to him or the gunpowder that charged his weapons. My thanks, appropriately, were directed at people – the ones who forged the steel, who had teased out the secrets of chemistry, who had built the machines and weapons that he used. My gratitude related not to the thing, but to the intelligent source that lay behind it. To a person.
What, I wondered, lies at the end of this seemingly endless chain? If gratitude is owed to a person, to whom did the first man and woman, or the first group of humans, give thanks? Evolution? An undirected process that did not have them in mind? And if much of what we are thankful for exists in nature – as part and parcel of the good Earth and all that is on it – to whom does this thanks belong? Giving thanks to inanimate objects is nonsensical, yet the desire to express thanks is universal. I saw in that moment that the whole idea of gratitude, the innate desire to give thanks, presupposes an ultimate source to whom this gratitude is owed.
While the atheist too can give thanks to people who preceded him, how can he make sense of the end of this chain of personal thanks? With no one there who created the Earth with all its bounty and splendor, what point is there for gratitude? The Christian worldview, by contrast, does make sense of this. It is right and fitting that we express thanks to those who came before us, for their effort and toil paved the way for the good we now experience. But that chain of causation, the progression of events for which we are thankful, does not end a month, a year or a even century ago; it continues to a beginning point, and to a source who was both all powerful and yet quite personal.
In the last analysis, it is God – a person – whom we thank for all that is good. Whether He acts directly, or through the things and people he created, it makes sense to express our gratitude to Him. And what better time to begin than on this weekend set aside to remember… and to give thanks.Thanksgiving
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
I had the opportunity to speak to 600 men at Harvest Church here in southern California last night. These men come together every Tuesday night under the leadership of Pastor Brad Ormonde to study the Word of God; they’ve been examining the life of Jesus for several weeks now. It was a great night and I was honored to speak to Brad’s group. They were energized and interested in the reliability of the gospel accounts describing Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. When a group is engaged and attentive, it’s easy to tackle detailed, thoughtful (and even academic) topics. Brad’s ministry was up for the challenge, but they aren’t typical.
Not every church is interested in Christian Case Making (“apologetics”). If you’re trying to reach your local community or laboring to introduce apologetics into the life of your church, you’ve probably already discovered this. Our Christian culture is either unaware of the important discipline of Case Making, or uninterested. There are many times when the most important case I can make to a church is the need to make a case in the first place. Maybe you feel the same way. At this point in my life as a Christian Case Maker, I want to reach more than just those who are interested; I want to interest those who aren’t. If you feel the same way, consider the following approach:
Establish the Need
In every presentation I give, I begin by establishing the challenge facing us as a Church. If I’m talking about the reliability of Scripture, I might begin with the challenges offered by Bart Ehrman. If I’m talking about the evidential case, I might start with the challenges offered by “new atheists” who claim our faith is unsupported by the evidence. When people recognize the degree of the challenge, they are far more likely to be interested in the appropriate response.
Speak From Your Experience
At every turn, I try to analogize the issues under consideration to my own case work as a cold-case detective. I draw heavily from my own experience and expertise to make the case. People are interested in your personal story, even if you aren’t a detective. When you find ways to analogize difficult issues with examples everyone understands, your audience is far more likely to grasp the topic in a way they can remember and rearticulate.
Make It Visual
I used to think the 9 years I spent in art school were largely wasted. But, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of visual communication in the context of jury trials, youth groups and Christian case making. Visual images (either in the form of media presentations or object lessons) have the power to communicate across the cultural and generational divide. I now present the exact same presentations to both student and adult groups. While the content is challenging, the visual approach makes it accessible.
Displaying Your Passion
More than anything else, I want the Church to get excited about case making. My audiences aren’t going to get excited, however, if they don’t feel my passion for the topic. You can’t manufacture this level of interest; it has to be genuine. If your helping your church embrace Christian case making, pick those areas you’re passionate about and don’t be afraid to express your passion. It’s contagious.
It’s easy to reach those in the Church who are already interested in “apologetics”. That’s no longer my goal. I want to interest the disinterested, challenge those who don’t yet recognize the challenge, and engaged those who feel disengaged. If we hope to change the direction of the Church and grow a movement of thoughtful, intellectually robust Christian ambassadors, we’re going to need to reach those who are disinterested.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, Christian Case Making, Christian worldview, Communication, making the case for Christianity
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
I’m a cold-case detective, but many years ago, while working a “fresh” homicide, I got a call from a woman who wanted to provide important information related to my case. She gave me her name and started confirming some of the details of the murder. She knew a great deal about my victim and suspect, and she seemed to be familiar with many of the important particulars. She also provided a key detail capable of changing the case entirely. I was interested, to say the least. Alas, her “key detail” was a complete fabrication. Yes, she cloaked her lie in a number of true facts, and these truisms made her lie seem plausible. Most of what she told me was true, but not all of it. The more I investigated her claims, the more obvious it was she was lying. I eventually learned she was the killer’s sister-in-law. Her lie was an earnest (although misguided) effort to distract me from her beloved brother-in-law, the man who killed my victim. Clearly
In homicide cases, mostly true is good, but it’s not good enough. When examining the case for Christianity, this important principle is even more critical. Skeptics and critics of Christianity continue to bombard our culture with alternative proposals about Jesus, attacking the reliable New Testament history by distorting the truth to embellish a lie. This summer alone we’ve experienced three such efforts. Reza Aslan would have us believe Jesus was a political revolutionary, “a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords… and ultimately the seditious ‘King of the Jews’ whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime.” Bill O’Reilly would have us believe Jesus was more obviously human than unmistakably Divine, presenting Jesus more as the son of Mary than the Son of God. And most recently, Joseph Atwill would have us believe “the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats” who “fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.” All of these authors (none of whom agree with each other) built their alternative narratives on a collection of truths related to Jesus. Some (like O’Reilly) incorporated more truth than others. But in every case, the authors used some truths to tell some lies.
This has been going on for nearly 2,000 years. In the early centuries of Christianity, a number of groups attempted to co-opt the person of Jesus for their own purposes. There are dozens of late, non-canonical gospels written by authors who used a little truth to tell a much larger lie. Some did this in an effort to fill in the “gaps” left vacant by the canonical Gospels, some did this to support a heresy and others did this in an attempt to acquire power from an esoteric set of “secret” claims. In all these cases, folks driven by a variety of motives used a bit of truth to tell a big lie. Centuries later, other men, driven by motives of their own, repeated the effort. Joseph Smith built an entire religious system (Mormonism) by distorting and adding to the truths of the Old and New Testament. As a result, Mormonism has significantly (and errantly) redefined the truths of Christianity. Other historic figures have similarly distorted the truth in an effort to reshape the person of Jesus, including Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, and John Thomas.
All these storytellers began with the foundational truths of Christianity, but allowed their fallen motivations to shape and distort their message. When asked what he wanted to accomplish with his reinterpretation of Jesus, Joseph Atwill said he hoped his work would “give permission to many of those ready to leave the religion to make a clean break… Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history. To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East.” It’s important to take a close look at the motivations of those who claim to have “new” information about Jesus, just as it was important for me to examine the motivations of the woman who claimed to have “new” information about my suspect. We’ve got to be careful to sift the facts from the fabrications, because people will always use small truths to tell big lies.apologetics, Christian worldview, nature of Jesus, reliability of the Bible, tactics of skeptics, truth of Christianity
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
As a culture, we continue to slide further away from participation in organized religion, satisfying our need to connect with the Almighty with vague commitments to “spirituality.” Many modern parents, thinking themselves egalitarian and having little or no religious grounding themselves, decide that the best course for raising their children is to expose them to all of the leading religious systems and let them make their own “informed” choice. I spoke with someone holding that view and was a bit surprised at how strongly this approach is taking hold. He said, in essence, that there are simply too many belief systems for any one to claim to have the truth. Whether one considers the thousands of denominations and churches of Christianity, or the variety of both old and new faith systems, one can hardly gainsay that all seem to believe that their particular approach is the right one. This, my friend felt, demonstrated both the falsity of claiming to have the “one, true” faith, but also smacked of arrogance and small-mindedness.
Most thoughtful people assessing the challenge can see the unstated reasoning which underlies it. Roughly speaking, what is at play is the notion that because some, or even most, religious people don’t instruct their children correctly about religious truth claims, i.e. they are mistaken about some aspect of their belief, that therefore no religion is true. But the very challenge recognizes that for any one of the believers to be “wrong,” there must in fact be a correct view against which it is compared. True, we may never know for certain on this side of eternity which of us “got it right,” but we seem to intuitively recognize that there must in fact be a “right answer” out there. This is, after all, consistent with our intuitive sense that reality is accessible and knowable. What we must decide is not whether “things” in general can be known, but what kind of thing it is that we are considering.
Let me explain. The non-believer says that he will expose his children to all the world’s religions and let them decide for themselves. This may work well if religion is a question of preference. For instance, you can expose your children to food from various cultures of the world and they can decide whether, for example, Italian or Indian food is best. But this same rationale would not make sense if you exposed them to good food, bad food and poison, just so they can have the full spread of possibilities. For the former, the “thing” in question is types or styles or flavors of food; for the latter, the thing in question is whether it is food at all, or something unhealthy and dangerous.
So, what kind of thing is religion? Are religions just different flavors of food, indigenous to a local area or people and largely a function of “taste”? Or do religions make specific, and oftentimes contradictory, truth claims regarding how to achieve eternal life, or at the very least, rewards in the life to come? Christianity claims to be the only way to salvation, and so does, for example, Islam. Which is correct? We may debate which religion is closer to the actual state of things – just as we can argue about which foods are most nutritious or least unhealthy – but ignoring the question doesn’t make all food safe or equally good for you. The same is true for religion.
Moreover, drawing conclusions about the validity of a religious worldview because some people get the details wrong is not a very effective way to judge the religion. The fact that people cannot rationally explain their faith or make mistakes regarding its tenets tells you something about the people who are doing the explaining and very little about the truth of the doctrine being explained. After all, if a high school freshman botches the explanation of how nuclear power is generated, I would not be wise to conclude that the theory underlying nuclear power is flawed or unworthy of belief. Knowing whether a truth claim is valid requires an assessment of the available evidence, and that takes more work than simply tallying up how many people hold a particular mistaken view about something.
So how do we make sense of the fact that sincere and intelligent people sincerely and strongly disagree with each other? By realizing that questions of certainty and the reasons for holding views are a function of people, and people make decisions on faulty knowledge or with faulty logic or as a result of biases that cloud their judgment. Deciding not to pursue answers to life’s most important questions is an example of flawed thinking.
In the end, I can’t “prove” to any particular person’s satisfaction that my particular belief system is absolutely true and correct. But each of us, as moral actors ultimately responsible for our choices, needs to answer these questions for ourselves, and the only way we can rationally do so is by first informing ourselves. We must make the effort to learn not just what someone else believes, but the reasons for it and the evidence which supports those reasons. As parents, we can’t simply leave it to our children to figure it out on their own. Part of our duty is to explain the truth to them as we have come to understand it. A proper sense of humility requires that we not pretend to be perfect or all-knowing. But leaving it up to them makes about as much sense as letting them decide what foods to eat or what medicine to take.
We owe our children more than that.
Posted by Al Serratochild raising, Christian worldview, competing religions, skepticism
Posted in Writings | 1 Comment »
I worked as a member of our Gang Detail for two years prior to entering our undercover team. It was a great season in my career and I still think of it often. I had a partner who was younger (and more culturally relevant) than I was, and he connected with street gangsters almost immediately. He knew how to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk,” and he had a better understanding of the street language of gangsters. It was several months before I felt comfortable in my assignment; I had to learn an entirely new language (and culture) in order to communicate effectively. I had to learn a new set of expressions and many new definitions. Even more importantly, I had to saturate myself in the street culture, and do my best to understand the desires, ambitions, concerns and motivations of young men who were often on the wrong side of the law.
Now as a Christian Case Maker, I still recognize the need to learn new languages and saturate myself in cultures different from my own. I’m still working with young people, after all. I’ve been thinking about communication a lot this week, as I’ve been attending the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore. This is a very academic environment and the language being used here (as theologians and philosophers present papers on a variety of complex topics) may seem foreign to the uninitiated. There are even times when it’s difficult for me to understand everything being said (and I have a seminary degree in Theological Studies), so I’m sure it would also be difficult for others in the Church (and especially students in youth groups). That’s why it’s so important for us to learn a new language and become good translators.
If you’ve got a segment of the Church you’re trying to reach as a Christian Case Maker, I bet you also recognize the need to navigate between two cultures and two languages. With academia on the one hand, we’ve got to acclimate ourselves to the terms and concepts described by the best thinkers in Christendom. With laypeople on the other hand, we’ve got to learn their language so we can “throw the ball in a way they can catch it.” I hope my experience as a gang officer might help you traverse the world of academia as you make the case for Christianity to laypeople in your life. Here’s what I did to learn the language and culture of the street gangsters in my beat:
I Spent Time Talking with Them
Like any attempt to learn a new language, nothing substitutes for saturation. If you want to work with a particular group, you’re going to need to jump with both feet and start listening carefully. At some point, you’ll be ready say something, but only after paying careful attention to what they have to say (and how they decide to say it). I drove from gang hangout to gang hangout and spent hours on-duty talking with any gangster who was willing to engage me.
I Spent Time Consulting the Experts
I read everything I could about the gang culture, watched every documentary and talked with every seasoned gang officer I could find. If you want to learn about the culture you’re trying to reach, you owe it to yourself to read what others are writing and hear what others are saying. Make it your passion, your hobby and your mission. Become an expert by consulting other experts.
I Spent Time Caring for Them
Gangsters can tell when you’re disingenuous. If you don’t truly care for the people you’re trying to reach, you’ll never actually reach them. I wasn’t Christian when I was a gang officer, but I was a dad. It broke my heart to see young men who suffered from one common trait: All of them were disconnected from their fathers. I consistently reached out to them from a position of compassion and empathy.
I Spent Time Being Myself
I also recognized I would never be like my partner. I discovered relatively quickly that I couldn’t “walk the walk” or “talk the talk”. I wasn’t as “hip” as the younger man with whom I was working, but I did have something he didn’t. I was a father with a heart for young men. I trusted my paternal concerns for these boys would eventually be self-evident. This became the avenue through which I connected with gangsters.
If you’re trying to reach people as a Christian Case Maker, you’re going to have to learn their language so you can communicate important (albeit complex) topics in a transformative way. You’ll need to saturate yourself in the culture, spend time listening and communicating, study the group until you’re an expert, and pour your heart out from your own unique life experience. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone and into the world of those you are trying to reach.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, Christian Case Making, Communication, culture, making apologetics accessible
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
My secular friend and I had reached an impasse. We were discussing the implications of evolutionary biology, along the lines of my previous three posts. I had taken the position that DNA is a complex, information-rich medium and that there is no way to explain moving from simple to complex life forms via a random, mindless mechanism. Since a truly Darwinian approach to evolution requires that unguided natural processes supply this needed information, and since nature cannot provide information it does not have, I concluded that Darwinism must be false. That is, it cannot explain the presence of life of Earth, or the appearance of increasingly more complex forms of life. My friend and I agreed that an explanation of how life originally arose, and how it moved from simple, single-celled forms to something as complex as a human being was indeed necessary. He argued though that whatever that explanation turned out to be, there was no need to resort to the “god of the gaps” simply because our present knowledge was inadequate to provide it. He used as an example present day knowledge of medicine, as contrasted with the medical arts practiced centuries ago. Doctors then thought that an imbalance of “humours” in the body explained many diseases, but today of course we understand that germs and bacteria and viruses are really the cause. Someday, he concluded, scientists will discover this “self-assembling” characteristic of DNA and put to rest the need to invoke an intelligent designer as the cause.
“Why does it matter?” was the question he ultimately put to me. Why not just accept that science will someday provide the answers to all of life’s questions? With each passing year, more and more of nature’s secrets are giving way to the triumph of the scientific method. Religion, by contrast, is just a vestige of a superstitious age, when men conjured up phantoms to make sense of their world. Why not accept that men invented “God” to explain what they could not otherwise explain?
It matters, I replied, because ideas have consequences. And the idea that science can provide the answers to all of life’s questions is fundamentally flawed. Science is simply a method for obtaining knowledge – through observation and experimentation – and consequently cannot tell us anything about some of the most important questions we face. Is a thing good or evil, for example, is something science cannot answer. Take for example nuclear power – if used to supply energy, it is good, but it also can be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Science cannot tell us why we are here, or what purpose we should devote our lives to, or what we ought to do do when we’d rather do something much different. It cannot inform our morality. Most importantly, it cannot answer the question that has haunted man since he first began to think – what happens to us when we die
Science has an important role to play in society. Its influence has made our lives more comfortable, longer, healthier and more exciting. But expecting science to substitute for God is as foolish as expecting machines to eventually govern men. Science, and machines, can help us to live longer and better, but they can’t tell us how to spend these longer and better lives. They cannot give our lives meaning and they cannot save us when we breathe our last breath.
People of faith are increasingly marginalized in a high-tech society. Many learn to compartmentalize their beliefs and keep their faith lives separate, and silent. But if we allow the new atheists to frame this debate, to lead people to believe that science has eliminated faith – devoured it as the image above symbolizes – we do them, and society generally, a grave disservice.
As believers, we guard a treasure that we have inherited, a treasure based in truth that can transform lives in the here and now and gain us eternal joy in the life to come. But for those who persist in a belief that science has already provided all the answers, this is so much buried treasure which may never be unearthed.
Posted by Al Serratoatheism, Christian truth claims
Posted in Writings | 1 Comment »
This week I’m enjoying the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) Annual Meeting in Baltimore. Each session features incredible thinkers presenting papers on a variety of theological and philosophical issues. I’ll be honest, I usually feel like an idiot in a room full of intellects. These theologians and philosophers are the best Christianity has to offer. They are intelligent, educated and articulate. They know their stuff and they are… how can I say this? Intimidating! There are times when I feel like I could spend the rest of my life studying, researching and preparing, yet never master the materials these professionals comprehend so exhaustively. Have you ever felt that way? If you’re a budding “one dollar apologist” you know what I’m talking about. You’re probably listening to podcasts, reading books and blogs, and doing your best to keep up with the latest research and critical thinking. You may feel like you’re not knowledgeable enough to contribute anything of value to the ongoing cultural conversation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned here this week, however, it’s the importance of your voice in our world today, in spite of the fact you might not be the next William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland or Alvin Plantinga. As I sat in each ETS session and listened to these expert witnesses, I couldn’t help but think about our desperate need for Christian translators.
Expert witnesses have been critical to the cases I’ve worked as a cold-case detective. DNA experts, fingerprint experts, material evidence experts, behavioral science experts; these types of witnesses are often foundational to our criminal cases. But we’re always careful about how we use these kinds of witnesses in front of a jury. There are times when the expertise of these professionals has actually hindered their contribution. Sometimes experienced, highly educated forensic experts have difficulty communicating complex issues to laypeople. Don’t get me wrong, we make every effort to carefully vet our juries and we select the smartest people available, but in spite of this effort, there are still times when the science being described by the forensic expert is difficult to communicate. That’s when prosecutors have to help jurors understand what they’ve heard by translating the testimony of the expert.
It’s not unusual for prosecutors to ask a series of clarifying questions while experts are on the stand. We ask these questions to simplify the concepts for jurors who don’t have expertise in complicated forensic disciplines. During the closing arguments, prosecutors once again re-communicate the difficult, technical statements for the jury. Prosecutors translate challenging concepts, using common language, analogous illustrations and real life examples. While experts are critical to our investigations and criminal cases, they are no more important than the translators who make their testimony accessible the jury.
As a Christian Case Maker, you may not be an expert witness. You probably don’t have a doctorate in philosophy or theology, and you’re probably not teaching at a major university or presenting a paper at the annual meeting of ETS. But you may be even more important than you think. There are hundreds of men and women attending the meeting this week, but there are millions of Christians in churches across America who need these difficult concepts translated. You and I can be those translators. The Church can use a good dose of ETS thinking, but like a criminal jury, they’re going to need these concepts presented in a way that’s engaging and accessible. That’s where you and I come in. If we’re willing to engage the information seriously so we can re-communicate the concepts effectively, we’ll do a tremendous service for the Christian community. While experts (like the theologians and philosophers here at ETS) are critical to Christianity, they are no more important than the translators who make their testimony accessible to the Christians, seekers and skeptics who make the final decision.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, Christian Case Making, Communication, making apologetics accessible
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
Yesterday I posted a number of scientific consistencies found in the Old Testament. While I think there are good reasons why God might not reveal advanced scientific details in Scripture, I do expect God’s Word to be scientifically consistent with the world we experience. One interesting scientific consistency seems to exist in the ancient book of Job. I am obviously not a scientist or astronomer, so I’ll try to provide links to the references you might use to further investigate these claims. As you may remember, Job was extremely wealthy and had a large family. Tragedy struck and Job lost his wealth, his children and his wife. Job eventually began to accuse God of being unjust and unkind. In response to Job’s complaining, God challenged Job’s authority and power relative to His own. God asked the following series of questions to demonstrate Job’s comparative weakness:
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
The text refers to three constellations, Pleiades, Orion and Arcturus (the fourth, Mazzaroth, is still unknown to us). In the first part of the verse, God challenged Job’s ability to “bind the sweet influences of Pleiades.” It’s as if He was saying, “Hey Job, you think you can keep Pleiades together? Well, I can!” As it turns out, the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters) is an open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. It is classified as an open cluster because it is a group of hundreds of stars formed from the same cosmic cloud. They are approximately the same age and have roughly the same chemical composition. Most importantly, they are bound to one another by mutual gravitational attraction. Isabel Lewis of the United States Naval Observatory (quoted by Phillip L. Knox in Wonder Worlds) said, “Astronomers have identified 250 stars as actual members of this group, all sharing in a common motion and drifting through space in the same direction.” Lewis said they are “journeying onward together through the immensity of space.” Dr. Robert J. Trumpler (quoted in the same book) said, “Over 25,000 individual measures of the Pleiades stars are now available, and their study led to the important discovery that the whole cluster is moving in a southeasterly direction. The Pleiades stars may thus be compared to a swarm of birds, flying together to a distant goal. This leaves no doubt that the Pleiades are not a temporary or accidental agglomeration of stars, but a system in which the stars are bound together by a close kinship.” From our perspective on Earth, the Pleiades will not change in appearance; these stars are marching together in formation toward the same destination, bound in unison, just as God described them.
The next section of the verse describes the Orion constellation. God once again challenged Job, this time to “loose the bands of Orion.” God was referencing the “belt” of Orion; the three stars forming the linear “band” at Orion’s waist. God appeared to be challenging Job in just the opposite way he had in the first portion of the verse. Rather than bind the Pleiades, God challenged Job to loosen Orion. It’s as if He was saying, “Hey Job, you think you can loosen Orion’s belt? Well, I can!” Orion’s belt is formed by two stars (Alnilam, and Mintaka) and one star cluster (Alnitak). Alnitak is actually a triple star system at the eastern edge of Orion’s belt. These stars (along with all the other stars forming Orion) are not gravitationally bound like those in Pleiades. Instead, the stars of Orion’s belt are heading in different directions. Garrett P. Serviss, a noted astronomer, wrote about the bands of Orion in his book, Curiosities of the Sky: “The great figure of Orion appears to be more lasting, not because its stars are physically connected, but because of their great distance, which renders their movements too deliberate to be exactly ascertained. Two of the greatest of its stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel, possess, as far as has been ascertained, no perceptible motion across the line of sight, but there is a little movement perceptible in the ‘Belt.’ At the present time this consists of an almost perfect straight line, a row of second-magnitude stars about equally spaced and of the most striking beauty. In the course of time, however, the two right-hand stars, Mintaka and Alnilam (how fine are these Arabic star names!) will approach each other and form a naked-eye double, but the third, Alnita, will drift away eastward, so that the ‘Belt’ will no longer exist.” Unlike the Pleaides clusters, the stars in the band of Orion do not share a common trajectory. In the course of time, Orion’s belt will be loosened just as God told Job.
In the last section of the verse, God described Arcturus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. God challenged Job to “guide Arcturus with his sons.” With this challenge, God appeared to be saying, “Hey Job, you think you can direct Arcturus anywhere you want? Well, I can!” While Arcturus certainly appeared in antiquity to be a single star, in 1971 astronomers discovered there were 52 additional stars connected directionally with Arcturus (known now as the Arcturus stream). Interestingly, God described Arcturus as having “sons” and Charles Burckhalter, of the Chabot Observatory, (again quoted in Wonder Worlds) said “these stars are a law unto themselves.” Serviss added, “Arcturus is one of the greatest suns in the universe, is a runaway whose speed of flight is 257 miles per second. Arcturus, we have every reason to believe, possesses thousands of times the mass of our sun… Our sun is traveling only 12 ½ miles a second, but Arcturus is traveling 257 miles a second…” Burckhalter affirmed this description of Arcturus, saying, “This high velocity places Arcturus in that very small class of stars that apparently are a law unto themselves. He is an outsider, a visitor, a stranger within the gates; to speak plainly, Arcturus is a runaway. Newton gives the velocity of a star under control as not more than 25 miles a second, and Arcturus is going 257 miles a second. Therefore, combined attraction of all the stars we know cannot stop him or even turn him in his path.” Arcturus and “his sons” are on a course all their own. Only God has the power to guide them, just as described in the ancient book of Job.
I doubt it was God’s intention to teach Job astronomy in this passage. Instead, God wanted to challenge Job and remind him who had the power, authority and wisdom to control the fate of the universe. In a similar way, God wanted to remind Job who had the power to control Job’s fate and the wisdom to care for him, even when Job felt unloved. While it wasn’t God’s purpose to reveal hidden scientific truths to Job in an effort to demonstrate His Deity, the ancient text accurately describes the nature of these constellations and stars. Like other Old and New Testament passages, it is scientifically consistent, even if not scientifically exhaustive.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, Biblical reliability, reliability of the Old Testament, science in the Bible
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
As a skeptic, I never personally expected the Biblical prophets (or Jesus Himself) to proclaim scientific truths still inaccessible (and unintelligible) to their audiences. As I read the Bible for the first time, its purpose seemed clear enough: Explain the nature of God, outline the fallen condition of man, and describe the overarching plan to reunite God to the rebellious beings originally created in His image. There are good reasons, in the context of the ancient audience described in the Bible, for God to limit any discussion of science. For this reason, I didn’t expect the Bible to be scientifically insightful or prophetic. I did, however, expect the Bible to be scientifically consistent. In other words, I expected the Biblical text to reflect the truth about the world around me, even if it didn’t explain minute scientific details to an audience clearly incapable of understanding such claims. Scientific consistency was far more important to me than scientific revelation.
This was important to me because I observed the scientific inaccuracy of other ancient religious worldviews. As A.A. MacDonell observes in “Vedic Mythology”, the Hindu scriptures (the Vedas and Uparushads) considered “all the objects and phenomena of nature which man is surrounded, (were) animate and divine.” This included the sun, moon, earth, clouds, rain, rivers, seas and even rocks. According to these ancient religious documents, these objects were alive. Writers of the Buddhist canon also ascribed life to non-living objects like the sun, moon, lightning, rainbows, and mountains. The Taoist and Confucian writings of China contained similar claims. The Quran, the scripture of Islam, written 1,500 years after the Hindu scripture, did not (to its credit) contain many of these ancient superstitions. But its observations of the universe were also questionable at many points. The Quran spoke of seven literal heavens, and these heavens were described as material. These heavens were also said to contain lamps or stars whose main purpose was to be “darted at the devils.” In addition to this, Mohammed said “the sun sets in a sea of black mud.” The descriptions and observations of other religious books are also filled with similar mythologies. It is striking, however, that the ancient contemporary of these mythologies, the Bible, is scientifically consistent (if not always scientifically revelatory). Here are just a few examples:
What is the Shape of the Earth?
While the Bible does describe the “four corners of the Earth,” it uses this expression to describe the expanse of directions available (north, south east and west) rather than to claim the Earth is flat. In fact, while other primitive cultures described the Earth to be flat, the Bible consistently described the Earth as spherical:
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth
How is the Earth Seated in the Cosmos?
Primitive cultures saw the flat earth as something like a table top. The earliest of thinkers and writers tried to understand just how this flat earth was held in place related to the cosmos they observed. Most described this support as some sort of man, elephant, turtle or catfish. A number of ideas such as these were proposed, but the Bible made a striking and remarkable claim:
He spreads out the northern [skies] over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.
Is there a Beginning to Time and Matter (a Cosmological Singularity)?
Philosophers throughout the ages have given great thought to the nature of space and matter in our universe. Many ancient Greek thinkers posited matter and form were eternal and without inauguration. Yet the writers of the Bible consistently claimed all space, time and matter had a beginning; a point at which everything came into being at the will of God. The Standard Cosmological Model (accepted today by the majority of physicists and cosmologists) is the “Big Bang” Cosmological Model. This description of the universe is consistent with the teaching of the Bible:
In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth.
1 Corinthians 2:6-7
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
Is the Universe Something That We Should Fear?
Early religious thinkers were amazed (and often frightened) by what they observed in the skies. Many ancient cultures feared the sun, moon and stars and described them as living beings. The writers of the Bible took a calm approach to the cosmos, consistent with our current understanding of the universe:
…And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them
Are There Valleys in the Seas?
Ancient societies had little information about the ocean floor. Until modern times, people actually thought the ocean bottom was sandy, saucer shaped and deepest at those points furthest from the coastline. The Biblical authors, however, correctly described the nature of the ocean floor:
Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses (valleys) of the deep?
The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains…
Are There Springs and Fountains in the Sea?
The Biblical authors also described “spring” and “fountains” in the sea floor, a feature of the ocean undescribed by many other ancient cultures, but consistent with what we know today (like the springs discovered off the coast of Ecuador in 1977 at an ocean depth of 1.5 miles):
Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.
I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep
Is There Something Called the Hydrologic Cycle?
Ancient cultures were often so mystified by the weather that they attributed mystical or divine forces to everything they saw. In China, Taoist scripture regarded the rainbow as a deadly rain dragon. In Confucius scripture, the goddess of lightning, Tien Mu, flashed light on her intended victims to enable Lei Kung, the god of thunder to launch his deadly bolts with precision. But the Bible authors described the complete hydrological cycle in a measured and accurate way (in spite of the fact they could not observe the evaporative process necessary to complete the cycle):
He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight
He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind
The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again
Is There Something Called “Entropy”?
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a relatively recent observation in the field of science, especially considering the long history of human thinking here on planet Earth. But the Biblical authors wrote in a manner consistent with this law, in spite of the fact their observations of the unchanging night-time sky (and its constellations) should not have revealed this information:
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.
The Biblical text is scientifically consistent, even if not scientifically exhaustive. Perhaps this is why Christianity continues to endure, in spite of our growing understanding of the universe and the molecular world. We would expect God’s Word to be consistent with the world we observe, even if there might be good reasons God would not reveal every detail to the ancient eyewitnesses.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailaccuracy of the Bible, apologetics, Biblical reliability, science in the Bible
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
My last few posts have asked the question, what inference should we draw from the existence of information-rich DNA? I used a few examples, such as the marvel of the human hand, to make the point that things that are designed for a purpose require a designer.
Some have argued in response that the hand is really not that marvelous after all. It’s just a bit more advanced version of other hands that lower life forms possess. Darwinism, they argue, is adequate to the task of explaining this: small changes over time conferred an advantage that natural selection passed on to succeeding generations. Other animals not only have versions of hands, but also use tools, just as humans do. So, pointing to highly complex systems – like the hand specifically or the human body generally – does not, in their view, prove anything.
Part of the problem with discussions of this type stems from the ambiguous use of the word “evolution.” There is no question that evolution in the “micro” sense operates. A living organism can adapt to meet environmental challenges, and cross breeding can result in new forms within a species. It may be, furthermore, that whole new species emerge from previous ones. The problem arises when the term evolution is used not in its limited “micro” sense, but also to say that, using the same processes, DNA just happened to assemble itself. Sure, it took vast amounts of time, they’ll admit, but the process is the same.
Extrapolating in this manner from micro to macro evolution reflects faulty thinking. How something that is already in existence operates – such as a computer running software – is a much different inquiry than how the computer, and the software, was built in the first place. Proponents of intelligent design simply acknowledge that obvious fact: intelligence was required to produce something as complex as DNA. Such as view is consistent with the scientific enterprise. Moreover, Intelligent Design does not require one to adopt a religious or “young earth” creationist view. Indeed, ID arguments retain their validity regardless of whether Christianity is true or false. The point of the argument is that DNA is a form of information, much like the language of a computer program or the set of blueprints that every designed thing has. Who programmed it, and for what purpose,are entirely different questions. Recognizing that it makes sense to look for this “programmer” is the ultimate point – even if there is doubt as to who, or what, that source is; looking for the source makes more sense than continuing to insist that information arose from nothing because the information was found in a living thing and whole lot of time passed.
Returning to the human body, it is humbling to think that contained in microscopic bits of matter are the instructions for building in three dimensions a living being that is ultimately capable of self awareness and thought. Reducing that much information into something so small, and packing it with so much power for adaptation, makes human engineering efforts seem like child’s play by comparison. Take another example: the human brain. Starting from a handful of cells, continual creation of brain cells has to occur to allow for growth and each cell must be connected to other cells, and groups of cells, to create a functional whole. Eventually, it must know when to stop growing. When the process is complete, this assembly of cells will operate as a computer does: capable of performing calculations, of solving problems, and of deciphering sense data from the eyes, ears, nose and skin to provide reliable information about one’s surroundings, all the while laying down memories that can be stored and accessed. A period of sleep is utilized to organize and sort these memories, and certain meaningless memories must be eliminated from conscious thought so as to not overwhelm the thinker. While it is doing all these things, it must also monitor and control multiple functions within the body essential for life, such as breathing and controlling the cardiovascular system. Like the hand, this system bears the unmistakable mark of planning, design and purpose. One can argue that the human brain is simply a better version of a primate’s brain, but that does not answer the question at play: how did any brain arise, when it bears such unmistakable markers of design?
Many similar examples can be made. When skeptics continue to argue that these later versions emerged from earlier versions, they are not yet addressing the question: how did it begin? It is no answer to point at an earlier form and conclude that it “evolved.” It is the earlier form that must first be explained.
The critic will contend that the presence of similar features in various types of life “proves” that evolution occurred. Perhaps in some particular cases such a conclusion is warranted. But saying that examples of evolving features in one form of life proves that all life is the result of evolution is, again, an unwarranted extrapolation. Indeed, it should be no surprise that similar features appear in a variety of life forms. Human designers do the same thing, making repeated use of functional things in a variety of way. A gas engine, for example, can power a lawnmower or a airplane.
Recognizing the possibility that what appears to be designed actually was designed does not make someone ignorant or anti-science. Quite the contrary – science depends on the willingness to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Posted by Al Serratoevolution, Intelligent design, Theism
Posted in Writings | 3 Comments »
We’ve been investigating the late non-canonical gospels to determine why they were rejected by the Christian community even though they often contain nuggets of truth related to Jesus. These elaborate stories, legends and fabrications were written by authors who were motivated to alter the history of Jesus to suit their own purposes. They built these alternative narratives on the foundational truths of the original Gospels, however, and much can be learned about the historic Jesus from these late lies. Today, we’re examining the non-canonical documents falsely attributed to the Apostle Thomas:
The Gospel of Thomas (130-180AD)
This late non-canonical text was first discovered in 1945 as part of a large collection of papyri excavated near Nag Hammadi in Egypt. It is a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus, written in the Coptic language, and attributed to a conversation recorded by “Didymos Judas Thomas”.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
While the text claims to have been authored by the Apostle Thomas, scholars reject this attribution. The Gospel of Thomas appears far too late in history to have been written by Thomas or any other reliable eyewitness of the life of Jesus. The oldest manuscript fragments of the text (found at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt) are dated from 130 to 250AD, and the vast majority of scholars agree that the Gospel of Thomas was written no earlier than the mid-2nd Century. These scholars cite several passages in the text appearing to harmonize verses from the canonical Gospels. This would require the canonical Gospels to be in place before the writing of this text. In addition, scholars believe the Gospel of Thomas borrows from the language of Luke rather than the language of Mark. If this is the case, then this text must have followed Luke, a gospel which is known to have borrowed from Mark (and was, therefore, later than Mark). Some scholars even believe the Gospel of Thomas is dependent on Tatian’s “Diatessaron” (an effort to combine and harmonize the four canonical Gospels, written after 172AD), based on the use of Syriac colloquialisms. Bart Ehrman argues the Gospel of Thomas is a 2nd Century Gnostic text based on the lack of any reference to the coming Kingdom of God and return of Jesus. The earliest leaders of the Church also recognized the Gospel of Thomas was a late, inauthentic, heretical work. Hipploytus identified it as a fake and a heresy in “Refutation of All Heresies” (222-235AD), Origen referred to it in a similar way in a homily (written around 233AD), Eusebius resoundingly rejected it as an absurd, impious and heretical “fiction” in the third book of his “Church History” (written prior to 326AD), Cyril advised his followers to avoid the text as heretical in his “Catechesis” (347-348AD), and Pope Gelasius included the Gospel of Thomas in his list of heretical books in the 5th century.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus?
The Gospel of Thomas presents Jesus as a real person in history and affirms Him as a wise teacher. The teachings of Jesus are paramount in this text and nearly half of its sayings are repetitions and confirmations of teachings found in the canonical Gospels. The Gospel of Thomas affirms Jesus had many disciples and mentions Peter, Matthew, Thomas and James by name. Other Biblical characters (Mary and Salome) are also corroborated, and the text also confirms large crowds gathered to hear what Jesus had to say. Even though the text is simply a collection of sayings, the Gospel of Thomas confirms Jesus was, at the very least, a wildly popular travelling teacher in the areas of Samaria and Judea. The text also affirms Jesus had brothers and sisters and mentions John the Baptist by name.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts?
There are many good reasons to believe the Gospel of Thomas was written by Gnostic believers who allowed their saving trust in hidden, esoteric knowledge to taint their description of Jesus. The text was discovered among other Gnostic works and opens with the words, “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.” Salvation is found not in the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross (nor in “good works”), but is instead found in the secret, hidden words of Jesus if they are properly and insightfully understood. For this reason, the Gospel of Thomas fails to describe any of Jesus’ historic life and focuses instead on His words alone. This connection between hidden knowledge and salvation (or spiritual enlightenment) is characteristic of Gnostic groups of this era.
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (150-185AD)
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, like the Infancy Gospel of James, is an ancient text attempting to details missing from the canonical Gospels. In this case, the author describes details that are absent from the childhood narrative of Jesus (particularly as His childhood was described in the Gospel of Luke). It begins when Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt, and describes the activities of Jesus when He was a child in that country. There are few surviving complete manuscripts of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and most date to the 13th century (although there many fragments dating back to as early as the 5th century). Some scholars believe the document was written in Eastern Syria, but the precise origin is unknown. The text was very popular, and the early Church Fathers were certainly aware of its presence and influence.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
Portions of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas claim “Thomas the Israelite” is the author, but this material appears to be a late addition and it is uncertain if it is referring to the Apostle Thomas. In any case, the document simply cannot have been written by the Apostle, given its late authorship and unfamiliarity with Jewish life and customs of the 1st Century. The text presupposes the Gospel of Luke and must, therefore, have been written after Luke’s text was distributed and well known; the author is dependent upon Luke for his information related to the life of Jesus, the Sabbath and the Passover. In addition, the text describes Jesus as a brilliant child, performing a number of miracles in Nazareth, completely contradicting the portrayal of the Nazoraeans as described in Luke Chapter 4. Luke describes the natives of Nazareth responding in shock to Jesus’ initial messianic teaching, seemingly unfamiliar that Jesus was anything more than a poor carpenter’s son. Irenaeus appears to refer to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and include it in his list of unreliable non-canonical documents described in “Against Heresies” (180AD). Hippolytus and Origen also refer to a Gospel of Thomas in their respective lists of heretical books (although it is unknown if they are referring to this text or the “sayings” Gospel of Thomas mentioned earlier).
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus?
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas attempts to provide details related to the first twelve years of the life of Jesus (details that are unavailable to us through the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2). While much of the text is highly insulting to the character of Jesus as a boy, many facts related to Jesus are acknowledged here. Mary and Joseph are identified as Jesus’ parents and the narrative begins as they are fleeing to Egypt to escape the persecution of Herod. Jesus is described as a miracle worker, even as a very young boy. The text also describes Jesus performing miracles on the Sabbath and drawing the wrath of those who observed this, just as He often did in the canonical Gospels. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas also describes a scene in which Jesus identifies Himself as “Lord”, claims that He existed “before all worlds” and predicts his death on the cross. Jesus is also described as wiser than the Rabbis, and the text also indicates he was worshipped as God by those who saw His power.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts?
There are a number of distorted and disturbing characterizations of Jesus in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Jesus is often described as quick tempered, spiteful and disrespectful, almost as if the author was shaping him to resemble other Greek mythological “trickster” gods and pagan “child-gods” from antiquity. Jesus appears to be far more similar to pagan mythological gods than He is to the Christ we know from the canonical Gospels. Some scholars (such as Ron Cameron) believe that the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was designed as a piece of “Christian missionary propaganda”, intended to demonstrate the divine nature of Jesus in a manner familiar to the pagans proselytized by the early Christians. These non-believers had their own set of Greco-Roman or Egyptian gods; the Infancy Gospel of Thomas compared Jesus to these gods in a manner designed to impress Hellenistic, Egyptian and pagan sensibilities.
While some skeptical scholars would like to include the Gospel of Thomas as one of five early Gospels describing the life, ministry and statements of Jesus, there were (and still are) good reasons to exclude it from the reliable record (along with the Infancy Gospel of Thomas). These documents are late fictions, written by authors motivated to use the name of Jesus for their own purposes. The four canonical Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) are the earliest record of Jesus, written within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses who knew Jesus personally.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapochrypha, apologetics, Biblical reliability, non-canonical gospels, reliablity ot the New Testament
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
My son needed some help the other night on social studies. He was working on the Paleolithic Age – the Old Stone Age – a time when man first started working with stone and bone tools. That got me thinking about the greatest “tool” of all – the human hand. It’s something that most people take for granted, but I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that modern civilization would never have arisen without it.
How can the atheist explain something as complex as the hand? Like the human reproductive system that I discussed in my last post, in his worldview, the hand is the product of random mutations over time. We just happened to be lucky enough for everything to fall into place. But think for a moment about the staggering complexity of the hand. Consider first the intricacy of the nerves that allow not just for feeling but for the fine sensitivity of feeling that exists in the fingertips. Consider its placement at the end of a flexible wrist on an arm that is also flexible. Five fingers provide the ability to grip and to manipulate objects, and the five can be used in unison or individually. Two matching hands are vastly superior to one, and the hands just happen to match in size, shape and function. The opposable thumb may be its greatest feature, as it allows for tools to be gripped. There is a versatile muscular system that allows for objects to be firmly, or lightly, gripped, and a feedback mechanism in the nervous system that allows us to know whether we are gripping something so hard as to crush it or softly enough to caress it. All the while, it provides information on warmth and cold, as finely distributed oxygenated blood keeps the tissue healthy and alive. On and on the list goes. It is truly breathtaking as an engineering accomplishment, and despite the best efforts of modern day scientists and engineers, there is no way at present to even begin to replicate its complexities.
Yet we are to believe, according to the atheist, that this amazing feature of human beings is not the product of an intelligent designer, who foresaw and anticipated our use of the tools all around us, but the result of natural, mindless processes occurring over vast periods of time. By why should this be so? Well, the atheist will say, the hand is simply the descendent of more primitive appendages. Small, random changes conferred an advantage on some descendents, which allowed them to succeed and pass on this modification. Really? If this is so, then why haven’t monkeys, and these other even more primitive forms, gone extinct? Clearly, development of a hand that could use tools, as opposed to one suited for climbing trees, was not needed by them in order to thrive and reproduce. Or conversely, why haven’t modern monkeys, which apparently predate humans, not yet evolved human hands, hands finely suited for using and manipulating tools? Why haven’t at least some monkeys, somewhere, shown up in some intermediate form, on the curve from primate to human?
More importantly, what happened before our “ancestors” with primitive, not-quite-yet-human hands evolved? What was that earlier mammalian life form from which the arm and hand emerged? A squirrel? A rodent? What were these life forms doing when they had mere stumps on the ends of their limbs? Or no limbs at all? How did they survive? And why aren’t there other examples in nature of animals who randomly produced hands? Or animals that have partial hands that are somewhere on the road to evolving a complete hand?
To be fair, atheists probably think they are doing the believer a favor by arguing that science is the source of all knowledge. Since believing in God is simply primitive superstition, there must be natural processes which account for the complexity in life we see today. We just need to keep looking, confident that science will one day provide all the answers. What other choice is there, after all, if an intelligent designer is ruled out a priori. I suspect that most who hold this position have not considered deeply the difficulties it presents. After all, the human hand is just one of dozens of fine-tuned systems in the body, each of which is following millions of lines of coded DNA information that direct the body to grow from a single cell to an adult person capable of intelligent thought. And each system is interconnected and interdependent, operating autonomously which such precision that if called up to consciously control each of our body’s myriad actions, we would not survive. To conclude that all this complexity “just happened” may have made sense in Darwin’s day, when they had no idea that information-rich DNA was directing the process, giving substance and shape to the digital blueprint for a completed life form contained in each cell. If the hand were simply malleable “stuff,” like some type of clay that could be pulled and pushed into shape and retain its vitality, perhaps Darwinism would make more sense. But you can no more reshape the hand by external force than you can make a giraffe’s neck longer by having it reach for the high fruit.
True, science can tell us many things about DNA and how it works. And science will continue to add to that base of knowledge. More and more of nature’s secrets will be revealed about how already existing species undergo change over time, what we recognize as micro-evolution. But macro-evolution? That life generally, or the human hand in particular, assembled itself without any guidance from a pre-existing mind?
No, in the end, it is the atheist position that is in need of a hand.
Posted by Al Serratodarwinism, evolution, Intelligent design, natural selection, primates
Posted in Writings | 5 Comments »
If you’re trying to determine whether or not the Old Testament is historically reliable, archaeology and ancient non-Biblical records can provide “touch point” corroboration of the Biblical text. But the Old Testament claims to be much more than a reliable record of history; it claims to be the very Word of God. In order to assess such a bold claim, we must assess a distinctive feature of the Biblical narrative: prophecy. If a book accurately and repeatedly predicts the future (rather than simply record the past), it moves from reliable to Divine. There are many fulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament, and many websites chronicling these accurate predictions. We’ll focus on some of the better attested examples:
Babylon Will Rule Over Judah for 70 Years
This prophecy is found in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and was written sometime between 626 and 586 BC. It was not fulfilled for approximately 50 years, depending on your calendar calculation.
“…This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever.”
In this passage of scripture, Jeremiah said the Israelites would suffer 70 years of Babylonian domination, and after this was over, Babylon would be punished. Both parts of this prophecy were fulfilled. In 609 BC, Babylon captured the last Assyrian king and the holdings of the Assyrian empire, including the homeland of Israel. Babylon then began taking Israelites as captives to Babylon, and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. This domination of the Israel ended in 539 BC, when Cyrus, a leader of Persians and Medes, conquered Babylon, bringing an end to the empire. The prophecy also had another fulfillment: the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem’s Temple in 586 BC, but the Israelites rebuilt it and consecrated it 70 years later, in 516 BC. Restoring the Temple showed, in a very important way, the Babylonian domination had come to an end.
Babylon’s Gates Will Open for Cyrus
In Isaiah 45:1 (written between 701 and 681 BC), Isaiah made a prediction fulfilled hundreds of years later in 539 BC.
“This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut…”
Isaiah said God would open the gates of Babylon for Cyrus and his attacking army. Despite Babylon’s remarkable defenses, which included moats and walls more than 70-feet thick and 300-feet high (with 250 watchtowers), Cyrus was able to enter the city and conquer it. Cyrus and his troops accomplished this by diverting the flow of the Euphrates River into a large lake basin. Cyrus then was able to march his army across the riverbed and into the city.
Babylon’s Kingdom Will Be Permanently Overthrown
Isaiah 13:19 (written between 701 and 681 BC) contains another prophecy fulfilled in 539 BC.
Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Isaiah said Babylon would be overthrown permanently, and following Cyrus’ destruction of Babylon in 539 BC, it never again rose to power as an empire. Before the time of Cyrus, Babylon had been defeated by the Assyrian Empire as well, but Babylon recovered and later conquered the Assyrian Empire. In light of this, I’m sure many people doubted Isaiah when he uttered this prophecy. In spite of this, and just as Isaiah predicted, the Babylonian empire was defeated, and never recovered from Cyrus’ conquest.
Babylon Will Be Reduced to Swampland
In Isaiah 14:23 (written between 701 and 681 BC), Isaiah made another prediction fulfilled in 539 BC.
“I will turn her into a place for owls and into swampland; I will sweep her with the broom of destruction,” declares the Lord Almighty.
Isaiah said Babylon, which had been a world power at two different times in history, would be reduced to swampland. After Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC, the kingdom was destroyed and the buildings of Babylon fell into a gradual state of ruin during the next several centuries. When archaeologists excavated Babylon during the 1800′s, they discovered that some parts of the city could not be uncovered because they were under a water table.
The Israelites Will Survive Babylonian Rule and Return Home
In Jeremiah 32:36-37, (written between 626 and 586 BC), yet another prophet made a bold prediction (fulfilled in 536 BC).
“You are saying about this city, `By the sword, famine and plague it will be handed over to the king of Babylon’; but this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety.
In this passage, Jeremiah said the Israelites would survive their captivity in Babylon and return home. Both parts of this prophecy were ultimately fulfilled. Many Jews had been taken as captives to Babylon beginning around 605 BC. But, in 538 BC, they were released from captivity and many eventually returned to their homeland.
The Ninevites Will Be Drunk in Their Final Hours
In Nahum 1:10 (written around 614 BC) Nahum predicted the condition of the Ninevites at the time of their demise.
They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble.
In this passage, and once again in Nahum 3:11, Nahum said the Ninevites would be drunk during their final hours, and there is evidence this prophecy was actually fulfilled. According to the ancient historian Diodorus Siculus: “The Assyrian king gave much wine to his soldiers. Deserters told this to the enemy, who attacked that night.” Siculus compiled his historical record about 600 years after the fall of Nineveh, and in doing so, confirmed the Biblical account.
Nineveh Will Be Destroyed By Fire
Once again, in Nahum 3:15 (written around 614 BC) Nahum made an accurate prediction.
There the fire will devour you; the sword will cut you down and, like grasshoppers, consume you…
Nahum said Nineveh would be damaged by fire. Archaeologists unearthed the site during the 1800′s and found a layer of ash covering the ruins. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: “…Nineveh suffered a defeat from which it never recovered. Extensive traces of ash, representing the sack of the city by Babylonians, Scythians, and Medes in 612 BC, have been found in many parts of the Acropolis. After 612 BC the city ceased to be important…”
Tyre Will Be Attacked By Many Nations
In Ezekiel 26:3 (written around 587-586 BC) Ezekiel predicted the attacks on Tyre occurring in 573 BC, 332 BC, and 1291 AD.
therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.
Ezekiel said Tyre, the Phoenician Empire’s most powerful city, would be attacked by many nations because of its treatment of Israel. At about the time that Ezekiel delivered this prophecy, Babylon began a 13-year attack on Tyre’s mainland. Later, in about 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre and brought an end to the Phoenician Empire. Tyre later fell again under the rule of the Romans, the Crusaders and the Muslims, who destroyed the city yet again, in 1291.
Tyre’s Stones, Timber and Soil Will Be Cast Into the Sea
In a remarkable prediction, Ezekiel predicted the stone, timber and soil of Tyre would be thrown into the sea (written in Ezekiel 26:12 between 587-586 BC). This was fulfilled in 333-332 BC.
They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea.
Alexander the Great built a land bridge from the mainland to the island of Tyre when he attacked in 333-332 BC. It is believed he took the rubble from Tyre’s ruins and tossed it (stones, timber and soil) into the sea to build the land bridge. This bridge is still in existence.
The Jews Will Avenge the Edomites
In Ezekiel 25:14 (written between 593BC and 571 BC), Ezekiel predicted the Israelites would eventually have revenge against the Edomites. This was not fulfilled, however, for over 400 years (until approximately 100 BC).
’I will take vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they will deal with Edom in accordance with my anger and my wrath; they will know my vengeance’, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Ezekiel said the Israelites would one day take vengeance on Edom, a nation that often warred with the Israelites. When Ezekiel delivered this prophecy, he and many other Jews were living as captives in Babylon. They didn’t have control of their own country, let alone anyone else’s. But, 400 years later, Israel regained independence for Jerusalem and the surrounding area during the “Hasmonaean Period.” During this time, the Jewish priest-king John Hyrcanus I defeated the Edomites. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition: “Edomite history was marked by continuous hostility and warfare with Jews… At the end of the second century B.C., they were subdued by Hasmonaean priest-king John Hyrcanus I…”
Edom Will Be Toppled and Humbled
In Jeremiah 49:16 (written sometime from 626 to about 586 BC) Jeremiah predicted Edom would be toppled. This was fulfilled in approximately 100 BC:
The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks, who occupy the heights of the hill. Though you build your nest as high as the eagle’s, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah said Edom, a long-time enemy of Israel, would be destroyed. Edom’s capital city, Petra, was carved out of a mountain side and had great natural defenses. In spite of this, it was destroyed and the kingdom of Edom no longer exists. Today, Petra is part of Jordan. The city was conquered by the Romans in the year 106 AD but flourished again shortly afterward. But a rival city, Palmyra, eventually took most of the trade away and Petra began to decline. Muslims conquered Petra in the 7th Century and Crusaders conquered it in the 12th Century. Petra gradually fell into ruin.
The ancient Israelites viewed fulfilled prophecy as a measurement of Divine inspiration. If someone claimed to be a prophet, but uttered inaccurate predictions, his writings were not considered to be divinely motivated:
When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
While archaeology demonstrates the historical reliability of the Old Testament, fulfilled prophecy establishes the Divine character of these texts. Only God can “declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will.” (Isaiah 46:10).
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily EmailBiblical reliability, Divine inspiration of the Bible, fulfilled prophecy, prophecy, reliability of the Old Testament
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
When I first began examining the claims of the Book of Mormon, I was an atheist who had just become interested in the person of Jesus. As a skeptic, I understood the importance of corroborative evidence when trying to determine if a witness statement is reliable. I began looking for corroboration related to both the Christian and Mormon scripture. I was immediately struck by the stark contrast between what has been discovered related to Old Testament history and what has been not been discovered related to the alleged history recorded in the Book of Mormon. There’s a reason for the absence of maps in the Mormon collection of scripture. There are no archaeological discoveries of any cities described in the book of Mormon. Worse yet, there aren’t any discoveries of any of the names of characters mentioned in the 1,000 year span of American continental history chronicled in the Book of Mormon (from 600BC to 400AD). I don’t expect archaeology to verify everything recorded in an ancient book, but I do expect it to verify something.
The archaeological evidence supporting the Old Testament demonstrates a striking contrast when compared to the Book of Mormon in both the generalities and specificities confirmed by archaeology:
Many of the Old Testament accounts bearing strong resemblances to other ancient accounts discovered through the efforts of historians and archaeologists. The Great Flood account in Genesis 6-9, for example, is very similar to Babylonian and Akkadian accounts discovered in the same region of the world. Some of these accounts may even pre-date the writings of Moses, but all describe a catastrophic flood event predating the generation of the authors. In addition, the Sumerian King List records kings who reigned for long periods of time. Following the great flood, this Babylonian document records much shorter reigns, mirroring the life expectancy patterns described in the Old Testament. The 11th tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds sent out during the course of the flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and a sacrifice offered after the ark landed.
In addition to the flood story, there are other non-Biblical accounts recording events found in the Old Testament. The Mesopotamian Story of Adapa tells of a test for immortality involving food, similar to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sumerian tablets record the confusion of language as we have in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). This Sumerian account records a golden age when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the god Enki, lord of wisdom. The Babylonians had a similar account in which the gods destroyed a temple tower and “scattered them abroad and made strange their speech” (Stephen L. Caiger, Bible and Spade, 1936, p. 29). There are many points of agreement in overarching narrative generalities between the Old Testament and the surrounding ancient cultures.
In addition to these generalities, many specific events and historical characters described in the Old Testament have now been confirmed by extra-Biblical sources. Consider the following examples:
The campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak
(1 Kings 14:25-26) is recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.
The revolt of Moab against Israel
(2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) is recorded on the Mesha Inscription.
The fall of Samaria
(2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, is recorded on his palace walls.
The defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II
(Isaiah 20:1) is recorded on his palace walls.
The campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah
(2 Kings 18:13-16) is recorded on the Taylor Prism.
The siege of Lachish by Sennacherib
(2 Kings 18:14, 17) is recorded on the Lachish reliefs.
The assassination of Sennacherib by his own son
(2 Kings 19:37) is recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.
The fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah
(2 Kings 2:13-15) is recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.
The fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon
(2 Kings 24:10-14) is recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.
The captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon
(2 Kings 24:15-16) is recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records.
The fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians
(Daniel 5:30-31) is recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
The freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great
(Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4) is recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
The historical record of the Old Testament is not alone in the history it records. There are other ancient records affirming the overarching generalities and specific details of the Old Testament. There are no such corroborative ancient records providing similar verification for the history of the Book of Mormon. It is the singular lonely voice related to the historical narrative it describes. While archaeology continues to corroborate the Old and New Testament, archaeology only exposes the erroneous nature of the Mormon record.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, archaeology, Biblical reliability, Book of Mormon, is the Bible true, Mormonism, reliability of the Old Testament
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
I’ve learned to test witnesses in my criminal investigations before trusting their testimony, and I evaluate them with the template we typically use in jury trials. One dimension of this template is corroboration: Is there any verifying evidence supporting the claims of the eyewitness? Corroborative evidence is what I refer to as “touch point” evidence. I don’t expect a surveillance video confirming every statement made by a witness, but I do expect small “touch point” corroborations. The authors of the Bible make a variety of historical claims, and many of these claims are corroborated by archaeological evidence. Archaeology is notoriously partial and incomplete, but it does offer us “touch point” verification of many Biblical claims. Here are just a few of the more impressive findings related to the Old Testament:
Related to the Customs of the Patriarchs
Critics of the Old Testament have argued against the historicity of the books of Moses, doubting the authenticity of many of the stories found in Genesis (and sometimes rejecting the authorship of Moses along the way). Skeptics doubted primitive people groups were capable of recording history with any significant detail, and they questioned the existence of many of the people and cities mentioned in the oldest of Biblical accounts. When the Ebla archive was discovered in Syria (modern Tell Mardikh) in the 1970′s, many of these criticisms became less reasonable. During the excavations of the Ebla palace in 1975, the excavators found a large library filled with tablets dating from 2400 -2300 BC. These tablets confirmed many of the personal titles and locations described in the patriarchal Old Testament accounts.
For years, critics also believed the name “Canaan” was used incorrectly in the early books of the Bible, doubting the term was used at this time in history and suspecting it was a late insertion (or evidence of late authorship). But “Canaan” appears in the Ebla tablets. The term was used in ancient Syria during the time in which the Old Testament was written. Critics were also skeptical of the word, “Tehom” (“the deep” in Genesis 1:2), believing it was also a late addition or evidence again of late authorship. But “Tehom” was also part of the vocabulary at Ebla, in use 800 years before Moses. In fact, there is a creation record in the Ebla Tablets remarkably similar to the Genesis account. In addition, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (once thought to be fictional) are also identified in the Ebla tablets, as well as the city of Haran. This latter city is described in Genesis as the city of Abram’s father, Terah. Prior to this discovery, critics doubted the existence of this ancient city. The Ebla discovery confirmed the locations of several ancient cities, corroborated the use of several terms and titles, and confirmed ancient people were capable of being eloquent and conscientious historians.
Related to the Hittites
The historicity and cultural customs of the Patriarchs have also been corroborated in clay tablets uncovered in the cities of Nuzi, Mari and Bogazkoy. Archaeological discoveries in these three cities have confirmed the existence of the Hittites. These findings also revealed an example of an ancient king with an incredible concentration of wealth. Prior to this discovery, skeptics doubted such ancient affluence was possible and considered the story of Solomon to be greatly exaggerated. This discovery provided an example of such a situation, however. Solomon’s prosperity is now considered to be entirely feasible.
Related to Sargon
The historicity of the Assyrian king, Sargon (recorded in Isaiah 20:1) has also been confirmed, in spite of the fact his name was not seen in any non-Biblical record. Archeology again proved the Biblical account to be true when Sargon’s palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. More importantly, the event mentioned in Isaiah 20, Sargon’s capture of Ashdod, was recorded on the palace walls, confirming the history recorded in Old Testament Scripture. Fragments of a stela (an inscribed stone pillar) were also found at Ashdod. This stela was originally carved to memorialize the victory of Sargon.
Related to Belshazzar
Belshazzar, king of Babylon, was another historic king doubted by critics. Belshazzar is named in Daniel 5, but according to the non-Biblical historic record, the last king of Babylon was Nabonidus. Tablets have been discovered, however, describing Belshazzar as Nabonidus’ son and documenting his service as coregent in Babylon. If this is the case, Belshazzar would have been able to appoint Daniel “third highest ruler in the kingdom” for reading the handwriting on the wall (as recorded in Daniel 5:16). This would have been the highest available position for Daniel. Here, once again, we see the historicity of the Biblical record has been confirmed by archaeology.
Related to Nebo-Sarsekim
It’s not just kings and well-known figures who have been verified by archeology over the years. There are thousands of “lesser known,” relatively unimportant characters in the Bible who would easily be overlooked if archeology did not continue to verify them. One such person is Nebo-Sarsekim. Nebo-Sarsekim is mentioned in the Bible in Chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah. According to Jeremiah, this man was Nebuchadnezzar II’s “chief officer” and was with him at the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC, when the Babylonians overran the city. Many skeptics have doubted this claim, but in July of 2007, Michael Jursa, a visiting professor from Vienna, discovered Nebo-Sarsekim’s name (Nabu-sharrussu-ukin) written on an Assyrian cuneiform tablet. This tablet was used as a receipt acknowledging Nabu-sharrussu-ukin’s payment of 0.75 kg of gold to a temple in Babylon, and it described Nebo-Sarsekim as “the chief eunuch” of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon. The tablet is dated to the 10th year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, 595BC, 12 years before the siege of Jerusalem, once again verifying the dating and record of the Old Testament.
Related to Nehemiah’s Wall
Skeptical historians once doubted the historicity of Nehemiah’s account of the restoration of Jerusalem that is found in the Bible. Nehemiah lived during the period when Judah was a province of the Persian Empire, and he arrived in Jerusalem as governor in 445 BC. With the permission of the Persian king, he decided to rebuild and restore the city after the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians (which occurred a century earlier, in 586 BC). The Book of Nehemiah records the completion of this wall in just 52 days, and many historians did not believe this to be true, since the wall itself was never discovered. But in November of 2007, the remnants of the wall were uncovered in an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem’s ancient City of David, strengthening concurrent claims King David’s palace was also found at the site. Experts now agree that the wall has been discovered along with the palace. Once again the Old Testament has been corroborated.
Archaeology is an ever-developing discipline, providing new insight into the past with every new discovery. Many of these findings are featured at the Biblical Archaeology Society and at other similar sources. The claims of Judaism and Christianity are more than proverbial insights; they are claims about the historic past. As such, they can be verified or falsified. Archeology is one way we can test the claims of the Old and New Testament, and this discipline continues to provide “touch point” corroborative evidence affirming the claims of the Bible.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, archaeology, Biblical reliability, evidence for belief, reliability of the Old Testament
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
Many Christians (especially young believers) are unaware of the ancient non-Canonical stories and legends related to Jesus. Maybe that’s why so many are easily shaken by critics who claim these late religious fabrications are true. Some skeptics, like Bart Ehrman, maintain these non-canonical texts describe versions of Christianity lost to the modern world, as if these stories were once considered authentic by those who were much closer to the action. This is not the case. The non-canonical texts were written far too late to be legitimate eyewitness accounts. While they were constructed around the core truths of Gospels (albeit altered and embellished by authors with specific motivations), there are good reasons to reject these texts. I’ve been examining many of these non-canonical stories in an effort to discover how they differ from the reliable accounts, why they were rejected by the Church, and what we can learn about Jesus, in spite of their unreliability. Today, we’ll examine the work of ancient authors who attempted to legitimize their stories by attributing them to Apostle James:
The Second Apocalypse of James (130-150AD)
Like the “First” Apocalypse of James, this Gnostic text was discovered in 1945 as part of the Nag Hammadi collection in Egypt. Scholars actually date the “Second” Apocalypse of James earlier that the “First”. While the manuscript discovered at Nag Hammadi dates to the 3rd or 4th century, scholars believe that the original text was written in the middle of the 2nd century. The Second Apocalypse of James was written as a reported dialogue between Jesus and James the Just (Jesus’ brother) and allegedly recorded by a priest named Mareim.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
Like other Gnostic texts, this document first appears well after the death of the living eyewitness it reportedly represents (James). Scholars do not believe that James is actually the author of the text, and the Gnostic nature of the document fits well within the catalogue of late, heretical, Gnostic texts rejected by the early Church Fathers.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus?
In spite of this, the Second Apocalypse of James acknowledges several truths from the canonical Gospels. Jesus is referred to as “Lord”, the “righteous one”, the “life” and the “light”. He is described as the judge of the world who attained a multitude of disciples while here on earth. He is acknowledged as a wise teacher who is the source of spiritual wisdom from God.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts?
The Second Apocalypse of James is presents a Gnostic view of Jesus, “rich in knowledge”, with a “unique understanding, which was produced only from above” that is “hidden from everyone”. Gnosis is the mechanism through which mortal humans are to be “saved”. There is some confusion in the text as to the relationship being described between Jesus and James. While the First Apocalypse of James clearly describes them as biological brothers of a sort, this text does not seem to affirm the relationship. Interestingly, there is also a scene in the text where Jesus kisses James on the mouth in a manner that is similar to the way that Jesus kisses Mary in the Gospel of Philip. Jesus also calls James His “beloved” here. The text appears to describe this form of kissing as a metaphor for the passing of Gnostic wisdom, and the context of this text coupled with the Gospel of Philip supports this understanding.
The Infancy Gospel of James (140-170AD)
The Infancy Gospel of James (also known as “The Gospel of James” or “The Protoevangelium of James”), is believed by scholars to have been written in the 2nd century. It was very popular during its day and approximately one hundred thirty ancient manuscripts have survived. The earliest copy of the Infancy Gospel of James is a text discovered in 1958 and dating to the 4th century. The manuscript describes the birth and life of Mary, her pregnancy, and the birth of Jesus. It is the earliest non-canonical document to openly claim that Mary was a perpetual virgin (never having had sex with a man, neither before nor after the birth of Jesus).
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
The Infancy Gospel of James claims to have been authored by James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus and son of Joseph from a prior marriage. But scholars have observed the author of the text appears to know little or nothing about the Jewish customs of the 1st century. James would certainly have been familiar with these customs. The Infancy Gospel of James was first mentioned by Origen in the 3rd century. He considered the text to be untrustworthy and said that it was a late heretical work. Pope Gelasius condemned the text in his 5th century “Gelasian Decree”, describing it as one of the books “to be avoided by catholics”. The Infancy Gospel of James is by all accounts a late text, and was not written by James or any eyewitness to the account it describes.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus?
In spite of its condemnation from the earliest orthodox Church Fathers, the text does affirm a number of elements found in the reliable Gospels. The text acknowledges the identity of Mary and Joseph as Jesus’ parents and the sequence of events leading up to the birth of Jesus, including the angel’s visit to Mary, the virgin conception of Mary, the angel’s declaration of this fact to Joseph in a dream, and the census that caused Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem. It also affirms the arrival of the Magi, the sequence of events that led them to find the Christ child, and the response of Herod when the Magi did not return to him.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts?
The Infancy Gospel of James adds a number of details to the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. Like other apocryphal authors of the 2nd century, the writer of this text was also interested in satisfying the curiosity of those who were interested in those areas of the canonical Gospels where detail was lacking. These fictional details often became part of the legends surrounding Jesus. The Infancy Gospel of James includes narratives describing Jesus being born in a cave rather than a stable, describing Joseph as a man who was significantly older than Mary when Jesus was born, and describing Mary as a perpetual virgin.
The Apocryphon of James (150-180AD)
The Apocryphon of James is a mid to late 2nd century text claiming to contain the secret teaching of Jesus to James and Peter following the resurrection, but prior to the ascension. It was first discovered in Egypt along with other Gnostic documents in the Nag Hammadi collection in 1945, and only one damaged copy has ever been discovered.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
Scholars once again date this text far too late to have been written by any eyewitness to the life of Jesus. It was discovered along with other Gnostic texts, many of which are Sethian, and the Apocryphon of James also uses Gnostic terminology. The text fits well within the other heretical late writings that Irenaeus described as “forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish people, who are ignorant of the true scriptures.” Interestingly, the Apocryphon of James, like the Gospel of Mary, describes Peter as incapable of understanding the teaching of Jesus. It is as if the writer of the Apocryphon sought to legitimize his own heretical, secret teaching to James and Mary by attacking the orthodoxy of Peter.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus?
The Apocryphon of James acknowledges many claims of the canonical Gospels, even as it distorts and adds to the orthodox eyewitness accounts. The text presumes Jesus lived, died on the cross, and was resurrected (after which the dialogue of the text is supposed to have occurred). It also acknowledges Jesus had twelve disciples, and the life of Jesus was eventually recorded by these disciples. Jesus is described as the “Son of Man” and His death on the cross is mentioned. The Apocryphon also affirms that Jesus spoke in parables to his disciples, and it even recalls the parables of “The Shepherds”, “The Seed”, “The Building”, “The Lamps of the Virgins”, “The Wage of the Workers”, “The Double Drachma” and “The Woman” by name.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts?
The text is clearly influenced by Gnostic notions related to the power of knowledge with regard to Salvation. Jesus reportedly tells James the secret knowledge He is giving James is necessary for Salvation: “blessed are those who are saved through faith in this discourse.” Jesus tells both James and Peter they should desire to be “filled” with special knowledge and he calls them aside from the other disciples to provide them with this privileged teaching. This is consistent with the high regard Gnostics had for secret, esoteric knowledge.
The First Apocalypse of James (250-325AD)
This document was also discovered in 1945 along with other Gnostic texts as part of the Nag Hammadi collection in Egypt. As described earlier, the “First” Apocalypse of James actually dates later than the “Second” Apocalypse of James and purports to be a dialogue recorded between Jesus and James the Just (Jesus’ brother). The contents of the document include an inference related to the crucifixion and a series of spiritual “passwords” are provided by Jesus so James might ascend to the highest heaven.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
Scholars agree this text appears in history no sooner than the middle of the 3rd century. As a result, it simply cannot have been written by James or anyone else who lived early enough to have witnessed the reported dialogue. Scholars also recognize the existence of theological principles within the text very similar to Valentinian Gnosticism. The teaching of Valentinus (a Gnostic teacher who lived from 100-160AD) was condemned by Irenaeus and Epiphanius, and it is reasonable to assume this text was similarly received.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus?
In spite of its Gnostic inclinations, the First Apocalypse of James does acknowledge a number of canonical truths about Jesus. Jesus is described as a wise teacher who possesses the knowledge of God and the secrets of heaven. He is called “Lord” and “Rabbi” and He is described as having many disciples and followers; Salome, Mary and Martha are mentioned by name. The crucifixion is also inferred and the martyrdom of James is mentioned in the closing lines of the text.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts?
The Gnosticism of the First Apocalypse of James is evident in the manner in which secret, esoteric knowledge is revered and described as the key to ascending to the highest heaven. Like other Gnostic texts, this document describes Jesus more as the revealer of this saving wisdom than as the sacrificial redeemer, although His suffering is inferred. The theology of the First Apocalypse of James centers on the idea salvation is simply the liberation of the soul from the burden of its material, mortal existence. This salvation is attained through the secret wisdom provided by texts such as these.
As with other non-canonical documents we’ve examined (and will continue to examine over the next weeks), there’s an emerging pattern related to dating and accuracy. Earlier documents tend to be more orthodox in their presentation of Jesus than later texts. As time progressed, religious sects of one kind or another co-opted the person of Jesus and “reshaped” Him to fit their particular theological perspective. The later the non-canonical text, the more dramatic the “reshaping”. That’s why the first question we must ask any eyewitness is simply, “Were you really there to see what it is you said you saw?” That’s also why we can trust the New Testament Gospels are the only true eyewitness accounts related to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily EmailApocrypha, apologetics, gospels, non-canonical gospels, reliability of the New Testament
Posted in Writings | No Comments »
Well, it didn’t work that way,” she said. I was in the middle of a conversation with my daughter’s high school biology teacher. As I outlined in my last post, we were talking about evolution and, more specifically, how male and female evolution could occur simultaneously when it appears quite evident that the female reproductive system is much more complex. She had already agreed that complex systems should take longer to evolve….
“Evolution occurred gradually, over time, as the predecessors to humans slowly began to change.”
“Fair enough,” I responded. “So, tell me about that first pair of monkeys, the very first male and female monkey from which you say we evolved.”
“Well,” she began, formulating her thoughts, “it didn’t work that way.” I gave her a quizzical look and she continued. “Those predecessors also evolved slowly, over time, from still more primitive forms of life.”
I was patient. “Like what?” I asked. I don’t think anyone had pressed her for answers like this, but after all I wasn’t worried about getting a grade. My daughter, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t be too thrilled about dad’s efforts at higher learning. Luckily, she wasn’t nearby.
In answer, the teacher started to explain that monkeys had evolved from still lower forms of life. It was a long process with smaller animals making adaptations, adding feature, becoming larger. It all sounded quite vague and fuzzy, as she painted the picture of a planet teeming with life of various kinds, widely dispersed, and being driven by this engine of evolution.
I tried to stay on track with her. Then she made the jump that I was expecting – she started talking about life emerging from the primitive seas. Single celled life forms that began to replicate and pass their DNA on to the next generation. She paused when she saw me starting to shake my head.
“Wait a sec,” I said. “You’re getting ahead of me, or perhaps more precisely, you’re moving back too far. I’ll grant you that life first began in the seas, but even if I grant you the ‘primordial soup’ theory, you’re still making quite a jump. What I want to focus on are the first male and female land mammals. If we wind the clock back, there must be a point on the early Earth in which there are no mammals walking the land. Whatever life exists, it hasn’t yet evolved to sexually reproducing, warm blooded mammals. Before that point, maybe there’s life in the sea, but the land is barren; after that point, the land begins to get populated. You with me?”
“I’d like to know what model science has to explain how that first began. That first couple.”
She was still formulating an answer, so I pressed on. “I can understand that once you have thousands of fully functioning mammals that over time they may begin to change, especially if subjected to some environmental challenge. That makes perfect sense, whether it’s directed by the genes, as I believe was designed into them, or whether it’s a random process. But tell me how the first pair appeared on the land.”
I was hoping to get an answer, because I had been wondering for a while how Darwinists made sense of that rather large step, from single-celled asexually reproducing life to complex, sexually producing mammals. But it was not to be. “Coach.” We both looked in the direction of the voice. The bio teacher was also a coach, and someone was trying to get her attention. She smiled and said, “Let’s continue this later.” Was that a look of relief that crossed her features? Probably, I eventually decided. We never did finish the conversation.
Perhaps Darwinists have a plausible model for this transition, but I have yet to hear it. Instead, what I have heard is always along the lines of what’s recounted above – vague and fuzzy references to a planet teeming with evolving life, and then a jump to the oceans, where DNA first appears. But this jump appears to be a “just so” story, with a vague promise that someday science will make it all clear, will discover these missing links that just “must be there.”
Perhaps I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. Until I do, then, I guess I’ll just keep believing that the incredible complexity of life is what it appears to be – the telltale sign of an intelligent designer that set it all in motion for a purpose. After all, every time I see a complex, highly organized, interdependent system – like a watch or a plane or a car – I don’t struggle trying to figure out how it assembled itself. So, why do people struggle so hard when it comes to something even more complex – like life?
Posted by Al Serratoatheism, evolution, Intelligent design, skepticism
Posted in Writings | 9 Comments »
It’s not unusual for police officers to be called to domestic violence scenes. I’ve responded to many such calls, both as a patrol officer and a detective. My first concern on arrival is the safety of everyone at the scene. Who, if anyone, is hurt? Does anyone need medical attention? Once the situation has been stabilized, I can take the time to figure out if a crime has occurred. As I survey the scene to make sure everyone is okay, children are my primary concern. It’s my duty to make sure the kids are safe and unharmed. I’ve sadly seen my share of neglect and abuse over the years. I’ve also had to remove children from the custody of abusive (or simply neglectful) parents on more than one occasion. I take my responsibility in this regard very seriously. I respect and honor the rights of parents, but I always try to address the rights of children first because they often lack an advocate.
I thought about this foundational duty recently as I read an article written by British journalist Kate Thompson. She proudly describes herself as the world’s worst wife (as the “anti-wife,” in fact). Kate admits she rarely helps her husband, and seldom cooks, cleans or helps with laundry. She even confesses physical “intimacy is reserved only for [her husband’s] birthdays—and then just the ones with a zero.” Although Thompson’s husband works full time, he does nearly everything to take care of their home and their two young boys. In fact, when he leaves on a business trip, he makes sure he’s hired nannies to care for the kids. Kate is not just the “anti-wife,” she’s also the “anti-mom.” Under her direction, the kids are simply “running amok.”
Thompson attempts to excuse her behavior by arguing she has a right to be happy: “After a day of writing, I feel happy and complete; after a day with the children, I am frazzled.” In addition, Kate says her husband knew what he was getting into when he married her. She was a committed workaholic from the day they first met. “You might think me self-obsessed,” says Thompson, “but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for my happiness.” Her husband seems equally willing.
While I certainly think couples have a right to live together as they please, the responding patrol officer in me couldn’t help but look at the sad picture of Thompson’s husband holding their two boys. Neither child looks happy. While Kate’s husband had a chance to make a choice about his wife, Thompson’s children didn’t have a choice of mother. Thompson’s story is yet another example of the desires of adults trumping the rights of children. Her case sounds so extreme that one can’t help but wonder if it’s some kind of hoax. Tragically, though, it’s undoubtedly true that we often neglect the rights of children in our society in favor of our own self-focused wishes.
It’s impossible to deny the fact that children thrive best when raised by two engaged, loving biological parents in a low-conflict home. While other forms of family are also capable of raising children well, statistics continue to demonstrate what we already know intuitively: Kids do best (by every relevant form of measurement) when they are raised by the mother and father who conceived them. Many researchers have come to this conclusion, regardless of their political or philosophical association. According to Child Trends, a non-partisan research group, “An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents. . . .” The Center for Law and Social Policy agreed: “Children do best when raised by their two married biological parents. . . .”
We know, for example, that children raised by their two biological parents are far less likely to become sexually active at a young age compared to every other form of family unit, including stepfamilies. Children who are not living with both biological parents are 50 to 150 percent more likely to abuse drugs than kids who are raised in other types of family units, including stepfamilies like those formed in same-sex unions. In a similar way, studies indicate “children residing in households with adults unrelated to them were 8 times more likely to die of maltreatment than children in households with 2 biological parents. Risk of maltreatment death was elevated for children residing with step, foster, or adoptive parents.” Although adoption is a wonderful and important thing, studies repeatedly confirm the same reality: Children do better when raised not only in two-parent family units, but in two-biological-parent family units.
Even the United Nations has come to recognize this truth about childrearing. In 1989, the United Nations (UNICEF) crafted the foremost human rights document related to children. It is called the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” and it guarantees children the right to be raised by their two biological parents whenever possible (UNCRC Article 7). The ideal form of a family for childrearing (a loving, engaged, low-conflict, two-biological-parent household) is recognized by this internationally accepted human rights group.
Even though we might acknowledge these foundational rights for children, we don’t often provide them to our kids. I came from a broken home; I was not raised by two biological parents. My mom is an amazing woman, and I am truly grateful for her devotion to me as a parent, but our situation was clearly less than ideal. Maybe you had a similar experience. But I’m concerned that our culture is moving even further from the very form of family we recognize as optimal. We champion many forms of parenting and many models of family as though they are equally valuable when they clearly aren’t. We also seem less and less willing to promote the one traditional form of family that best protects the rights of children.
Kate Thompson, assuming her account is true, isn’t all that different from the rest of us. I see many of my own selfish desires in her story. How many times have I placed my own career goals over the best interests of my children? How many times have I given less to my family while overachieving at work? It’s easy to focus on our “right” to happiness and lose sight of the rights of our children. Every time a friend tells me he’s leaving his family because he isn’t happy, I can’t help but think about his children. In a similar way, every time I see our culture embrace yet another form of marriage as equally valuable, I can’t help but think we are once again placing the desires of adults over the rights of children.
Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Emailapologetics, Christian worldview, culture, marriage, parenting, traditional marriage, youth
Posted in Writings | No Comments »