Tag Archives: history

Did Jesus Exist?

[HT Wintery Knight]

Some deny that Jesus ever existed and I find that odd. Bart does too and Bart isn’t a Christian! I believe people deny the existence of something (God, Jesus, the soul, etc.) when they don’t want to study it and/or deal with the ramifications of their study.

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Catch 22: The evolutionary explanation of religion

No matter where you go in the world you are confronted with the fact that mankind is a deeply religious creature.

The religious behaviour may be a misfiring, an unfortunate by-product of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful. On this view, the propensity that was naturally selected in our ancestors was not religion per se; it had some other benefit, and it only incidentally manifests itself as religious behaviour.

-Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion pg 174

This is a particularly difficult problem for materialists like Mr Dawkins to deal with since the historical evidence speaks strongly against the notion that everyone is borne as an atheist, or blank slate per John Locke.

To answer this, many evolutionists like to suppose that notions of religion arose out of the overriding need for survival.

However this presents a problem for the evolutionist. If it is true that religion is merely a survival mechanism, then it demonstrates the fact that the primary goal is not the production of true beliefs. If it is false, that religion is merely a survival mechanism, then we cannot dismiss it as merely a delusion.

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Why faith matters

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Case for Christ

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Archeological evidence for the resurrection of Jesus

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Where did the Bible come from?

A friend on Facebook recently asked me how the Bible came to be in it’s present form and how Irenaeus decided which books to throw out and which books to keep.

Here’s my response:

Thanks for the question. I always love a challenge, especially since its bee a while since I’ve studied Irenaeus or the formation of the NT canon.

The first thing I would point out is that Irenaeus didn’t come up with the canon. Even though it is a popular argument from critics that Irenaeus arbitrarily chose the 4 gospels “because there are 4 winds”, the truth is that the gospels were already in widespread circulation long before Irenaeus came on the scene.

Irenaeus wasn’t the only one to list the books that were considered canonical, there were several writers that listed the accepted canonical books of the NT.

In fact, two of the biblical authors, Paul and Peter, cite eachother’s books as Scripture. Which means that by the time Paul wrote to Timothy that all Scripture was God breathed and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16), he already considered at least some of the letters that the other apostles had written to be included along with the OT.

The second thing I would point out is that the “missing gospels” like Judas, Thomas, etc. were never really missing nor were they unknown by the majority of Christendom. They were known and, in the case of Judas, they were soundly rejected at the very beginning by the early believers because they simply did not meet the criteria already established for authoritative writings. Some of those criteria were:

  • clear authorship
  • written within the author’s lifetime1
  • and it must be internally consistent
  • it must be consistent with both the OT as well as the already accepted texts of the NT

The earliest collections of writings passed around included the apocryphal and deuterocanonical writings. These were in the earliest editions of the King James bible and they still exist in Catholic and a few other denominations’ Bibles. However, these writings were never considered canon by the church until after Martin Luther in the 1500s challenged some of the practices of the church of Rome. Then the RCC canonized a few of the apocryphal writings to strengthen some of their practices such as praying to saints, the exalted view of Mary, etc.

Finally, I would note that the best place to begin if you are searching for the historical basis of Christianity is to examine the gospels as historical evidence in the same fashion as any other ancient source. From this historical approach it is worth asking one central question which is “Who was Jesus?”.

The reason this question is important is that the whole of the Christian faith rests on one historical event (1 Corinthians 15) and if that event is found to be false, then all of Christianity is rendered invalid. So if you are looking for a place to start, I would highly encourage you to start with that one question, keeping in mind that the gospels in the NT are separate documents which each present an eyewitness account of one man’s life, death, and resurrection.

After examining the Gospels in light of the question above, I am willing to wager that the answer as to why other books were not accepted as canonical will be readily apparent as their goal is not the same as the gospel writers to, as Luke puts it, “provide an orderly account” (Luke 1:3) of historical events.

Here are some excellent resources regarding the formation of the NT if you are interested:

Bonus: Here is the history of our English Bible.

Extra credit: Here is a 30 part lesson series to answer the question of “Are the New Testament Gospels Reliable?”

  1. by contrast the earliest known copy of the gospel of Judas is dated to the 2nd century, long after Judas’s death []
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The original burn a Koran day

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Al Mohler on the history of the SBC

[HT SBTS]

Mohler makes several points worth noting here, including:

  • The SBC has a unique legal and organizational structure
  • Membership in the SBC is voluntary and centered around the Cooperative Program to maximize evangelistic efforts
  • The SBC is a huge cooperation (Al didn’t say this, but it is clear from the SBC’s history and current practice)

The SBC has a lot of promise, but only insofar as it remembers it’s roots in a decentralized cooperative among equal churches. If the SBC continues down it’s road towards towards centralized leadership that gives directives to local churches.

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My obligatory “what does this Christian think about Halloween” post

It seems that few holidays are more divisive within the Christian community than Halloween. Countless Churches have, by this time, already had their “Fall festivals”, many more will have theirs this weekend, and an enterprising few will have theirs the week after (for anyone whose sweet tooth has not yet rotted out).

The internet abounds with articles spelling out the evils of Halloween and why Christians should avoid it like the plague-ridden un-dead corpses many will dress up as. However, instead of adding yet another insulting post on why you will be visiting the hell many will re-enact this coming Halloween, I want to tell you why our fascination and struggle with this cultural holiday makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

First, it makes me laugh to think that we (that is, the Christian community) are going to make a dent in what is now the second-largest commercial holiday in America through our sour-puss moralizing and incessant preaching at our “heathen” neighbors whose adorable kids come to our door seeking fistfuls of candy.

It’s not that we shouldn’t point out the pagan roots of Halloween (particularly the history of Halloween in America) and how many of the fascinations it promotes are unwholesome and unhealthy1, but we must ask ourselves whether we are helping educate those around us or merely alienating them by appearing to be killjoys rather than bearers of salt and light.

A co-worker of mine who helps out at a local animal sanctuary brought me a pamphlet the sanctuary’s owner handed out that described the evils of Halloween. Unfortunatly, the very tone and intent was enough to keep him from reading any of it’s content. Rather than inform him, it merely served to reinforce the notion that Christianity is merely a giant list of dos and don’ts.

That’s a shame because it’s a far cry from the freedom we find in Christ.

Finally, it makes me sad that many Christians honestly think that Halloween is our biggest battle worthy of consuming so much of our time and energy. As with the faux-outrage over “Holiday Trees” during the winter solstice, err Christmas, I have to wonder where these same people are the day after their beloved holiday when the season changes but the same cultural evils such as abortion, rampant sexual immorality (in our own homes!), and general apathy to any and all cultural issues continues unabated.

I can hear many thinking at this point “well, shouldn’t we be concerned with cultural issues?”. Well yes, yes we should. However we ought to be consistent in what we choose to be outraged by which means if you think shielding your child from the evils of Halloween is a worthy thing, don’t let me catch them playing Grand Theft Auto or watching just about any movie that’s been made in the past couple of decades. Heck, if you are going to refrain from Halloween because of it’s pagan influence, why not refrain from Christmas as well?

Sadly, some would take that as an admonition to refrain from what I’ve listed above as if it were a checklist conferring greater holiness to those who manage to check off more “I don’t do..” items (Christian moralizing strikes again!). That’s not what I’m advocating either, lest we fall into the equally dangerous trap of thinking that our holiness is directly tied to how much we disconnect from the world around us (more on this at another time, but it will suffice to call it Christian isolationism for now).

candyThis Halloween you’ll be able to find my family and I going door to door with large bags with which to collect massive amounts of candy.2 I’m only sad my 3rd child isn’t here yet so I can dress him up and collect even more candy (CANDY!).

What you won’t find me doing is preaching against my atheist co-worker and his Zombie Jesus costume (which, the more I think about it, the funnier it gets). Why? Because 1.) it’s not the most pressing issue and 2.) it is a huge and needless distraction.

So now you have, for what it’s worth, this Christian’s position on Halloween and those who choose to practice it.

Happy Halloween!

  1. I’m thinking here specifically about the emphasis Halloween places on the occult and death in general. []
  2. Why? Well, I have plans to feed it all to my kids and have them operate a dynamo connected to a generator which should theoretically power our house for years on the amount of energy they will produce 😛 []
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