Episode 5: Churches and the Bible. Why?

In this episode we talk about the Bible and common myths. Is it full of errors? Yes. What!? Watch and find out!

 

 

Resources Referenced in the Video:

Dan Wallace vs Bart Ehrman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVlapUsHxhg

James White vs Muslim on Reliability of the New Testament vs the Qur’an: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MThl8qxAc2k

Dan Wallace Shorter video on New Testament Reliability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lEmch2OAhs

Be sure to check out the documentary “The God Who Speaks”. It’s free if you have an Amazon Prime membership!

And check out our website: https://theologybrewers.com. I (Samuel) have done a couple lectures on this topic as well.

Outreach Part 2: More in Depth on The Reliability of the New Testament and also a Christian Theology of “The Problem of Evil”.

This is the second part of the Sunday School class I taught at Christ the King Presbyterian Church. I cover more in depth why we can trust our New Testaments, and then also a Christian Theology of the Problem of Evil.

 

Here are some additional resources that I have posted before but are still incredibly useful and good to go over frequently:

 

 

Also, If you are in the Saint Petersburg Florida area check out my church!

http://www.ctkpcaseminole.com

 

Samuel

Because the Church said so…

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Here is a statement that Catholics and Protestants can both eagerly affirm (though most Protestants don’t know it yet):

“We can trust that the books we have in the Bible are the correct ones because the church has recognized them to be such.”

All the Catholics just said “Amen” and many Protestants veins are beginning to swell.

There are multiple ways to to approach understanding why Christians have acknowledged certain books to be included in the Bible and have rejected others. We call certain books canonical and others-we call them many things, let’s just go with “not scripture” for now.

The canonized books are the ones we believe are the books written by chosen individuals inspired by the Holy Spirit and are “God-breathed”.

As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the word of God. We also believe that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit lives and works in His church. These things are related. The fact that the church for centuries has accepted these books as canonical is reason for confidence that we indeed have the Word of God.

This conversation around canonicity is normally talked about from the historical perspective. The topic of which lists of books should be included, which church councils debated the topic and how they differed, and how many hundreds of years it was after the time of the Apostles that we finally had a “completed” Bible are all legitimate approaches, but I want to emphasize a particular approach, and that is the acceptance of the books by the church.

The Catholic apologists loves to tell the Protestant that they often bite the hand that fed them. “You reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church yet she is the one who gave you your Bible that you use to try to refute her doctrines !”

Many struggle with this charge because it is true that it was in large part the work of church councils lead to the compiling of the books we consider to be Scripture-but that is not what the Catholic claim is actually saying.

What underlies this statement is a claim of ultimate authority. To the Catholic, the Church determined what books where biblical and which ones were not. This leads to the drastic difference between how the Prostestant can agree with opening assertion and the Catholic. The Catholic claim is elevating the Church to a level equal-to, and functionally superior-to, the Scriptures.

This is a grave error because the Catholic Church has misunderstood her role in the development of the canonized Bible. The Church was not the determiner, she was the receiver. The books of the Bible are canonical because they are Scripture, not because the Church declared them to be so.

To deny the work of the church in the work of bringing about the Bible as we now have it would be ridiculous however, it must be recognized that the church was brought only to realize what was already cannon, she did not create it. Michale Kruger eloquently stated it like this: “The church reflects and responds to the Word of God in Her midst”.

In other words, God had His cannon and He used the church to recognize which writings they were. The Church is not the thermostat determining the temperature, she is the thermometer recognizing what is already Scripture by the Holy Spirit. It is not because the Church said so-it is because God revealed so.

And why would the fact that the church recognizing which books are Scripture gives us confidence that it is, be a hard thing for Protestant to affirm? Does God work in the hearts of individuals via the Holy Spirit to help them recognize and apply His word? Why would He then not do so corporately in His church? The church is not infallible but she is most certainly used by God to accomplish His purpose here on earth; and how else, or through whom else, would you have expected God to deliver His word?

Now, I would be negligent if I did not at least mention the differences in the Protestant and Catholic Bibles. I will address this in a later post more in depth, but suffice for now to say that the additional books in the Catholic Bible are symptomatic of their view on authority. These books are not scripture and as stated before, even if the whole church accepted them to be such (which she does not) the church is not infallible.

So to summarize, we can confidently accept the books we have in our Bibles are the complete and actual Word of God because His bride, the church, has recognized-not determined-them to be  such. This is because the Holy Spirit lives within and works within His people.

Open your Bible and hear what He has to say.

 

 

Of Suffering and Evil

I was visiting my parents home in Pennsylvania about a month ago and was blessed by the fact that both of my brothers were there as well. This rarely happens anymore so it really was a special time. Naturally, my mom had scheduled us to sing in church together, seeing that all of us can at least change notes…and sometimes carry a tune (them more than I).

So my brother Seth chose a Shane and Shane song called “Though You Slay Me”. I love this song. It is melancholy and hopeful at the same time, and there is a reason for that.

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Christianity has a theology of suffering. In fact, the “problem of evil” was a very large part of my embracing the Doctrines of Grace. God either has to be in sovereign control over all things or the following two options are true: suffering is meaningles-or God is impotent (or both). These options though are not able to be derived from the Bible, which is were we draw our knowledge of God. So we are left with option 1: God is in sovereign control of evil.

Many Christians would acknowledge this, but to varying degrees. I would guess that the majority of Christendom would advocate that God is sovereign over the ends, but what about the means? God must have to let it ride because- you know, free will.  BUT is this what the Bible says?

Genesis 50: 19-20 “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

God most certainly controlled the ends…but He also most certainly was not passive in the means.

What does Paul tell us to expect as Christians?

Phil 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

This is part of God’s plan. Not some uncontrollable thing that God has to work around.

To address the immediate objection: “Doesn’t this make God the author of sin?” I will most quickly and emphatically answer “NO!”

To use an analogy I have heard; No one in their right mind would condemn Shakespeare for the murder of King Duncan. Shakespeare may have wrote the play but Macbeth done dood the deed.

This is just a fraction of the level of disparity between our level of existence and God’s. He is the play writer but He does not commit the sins in the play Himself. God was not surprised by Adam and Eve’s sin. He had planned to redeem mankind before He had ever created the world. (Rev 13:8) Why? Because everything is about God showing His glory, His awesomeness, and His holiness. And so as not to confuse anyone, it is not about God needing to receiving glory  (see Austin Fischer’s book “Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed”, and also see the following interactions between Kevin DeYoung and Austin) but rather about Him showing His glory. No action did this greater than the cross.

We suffer now, but there will be a day when all sorrow will cease, where there will be no suffering. Those whom God saved will live eternally in peace in His presence.

So until then, we can quote Romans 8:28 with full confidence because we know that God also controls the means. No suffering is pointless, though we may not see or understand. Take heart Christian, your Lord loves you; so cry out with Job “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”

Trust the New Testament? By the #’s

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I was re-watching a presentation given by Dan Wallace, the CEO of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, on the reliability of the New Testament.  Every time I look at this topic I am increasingly more amazed by the truth the data presents. (Note: the information in this post comes mostly from the presentation linked below, but some of the numbers have been updated according to the CSNTM website’s most recent information).

Let me drop a few numbers here:

-We have just around 5,900 hand-written Greek Manuscripts (the language the NT was written in) containing the New Testament, either in part or in whole.

-We have over 10,000 Latin Manuscripts, one of the 1st languages the NT was translated into.

-We also have somewhere between 5-10 thousand manuscripts of varies other ancient translations such as Syriac, Coptic, etc. That may seem like a large disparity (between 5 and 10 thousand) but the truth is we just are not sure how many there actually are.  We do know that it is no less than 5,000.

Why is this impressive? Because for the average ancient work, we have no more than 20 manuscripts. That is not a typo- 20, a two and a zero, and this is being generous. Homer is the only exception but even Homer’s 600 is a far cry from the 20,000-25,0000. Oh, and that 20+thousand doesn’t even include the quotations from earlier church fathers. We could reproduce the NT several times over just off of their quotes alone.

Oh, and there is one more thing- time.

The earliest, again being generous, copy of any other ancient work comes from over 500 years after the document was originally written, this time including Homer.

For the New Testament we have a fragment, P52 (pictured above) of John from no later than 150 AD, and some papyrologists have dated it as early as 90 AD. That is a mere several decades after the events described took place! We have quite a few manuscripts from the first several centuries as well, some being entire copies of the NT.

This is an unprecedented amount of textual evidence that is entirely unmatched in historical academia.

There is nothing in all of the ancient world that comes even close to having the historical veracity of the New Testament.  If you believe that Julius Caesar existed, than there is no historical grounds for denying the events of the NT. If you believe anything you learned in history about Egypt, Babylon, Rome, or Greece; than it is intellectually obtuse to disbelieve the accounts in the NT. I am not trying to name-call, I am simply stating that if someone denies that the NT, as we have it today, contains what the original authors wrote; they are either ignorant of the information, or coming at the information with a strong bias.

Remember, because of the way the texts were copied-by anyone who could write, and from all over the place geographically-there was never one group in control of the text to make wholesale edits. If someone would have tried to insert a doctrine, or take a doctrine out, it would have been immediately discovered because it wold be the only one of its kind, and when compared to the rest of the manuscripts, it would stand out like the Pope at a cowboy church (I would love to see the expression on the Pope’s face when he sees them baptizing in a water trough filled from the garden hose attached to the stage).

It has been cleverly said that we have a 10,000 piece puzzle with 10,001 pieces. Nothing has been lost from the original autographs so, even though we do not posses the original manuscripts, we can with the utmost confidence trust that we have the word of God as written by the followers of Christ.

This is just the tip of the iceberg because there are textual variants and differences, but again, we have more information than needed, not less.

All this to say: Christian, trust the Bible; non-Christian, trust the Bible.

It contains the Words of Life. No man comes to the Father except by Him who is declared through out all of its pages, that is Jesus Christ; who died and rose so that we may have eternal life and fellowship with God. Something not possible without Him, for He forged in blood the way for the defiled to commune with the Holy.

The words contained inside the Bible our true and this is what these words are for:

“Now Jesus did many other sign in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

Here are some additional resources for those interested in going deeper. As always, feel free to ask questions.

Books: The King James Only Controversy by James White

Videos:

 

Also check out Daniel Wallace’s short videos on iTunes U about textual criticism.

 

The Testimony of Witnesses

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I do not know the who the author of the chart above is, but it conveys fantastic information pertaining to the veracity of the Gospels. As a follow up to my previous post on “Q”, I want to explain why the synoptic gospels are written the way they are, and why a testimony of witnesses does not equal a contradiction.

If you look at the chart, you will see that there is a great deal of similarities and differences between the accounts. Some have claimed that they seem to all come from a single source document and then the authors of the synoptics just added or changed things dependent on what they wanted to teach. Note: this is to say in addition to Jesus’ teachings. I deny this claim. For some reason, when it comes to the Bible, critical scholars like to throw out normal rules and run with a presuppositional agenda when review the information. There is nothing wrong or academically dishonest about harmonizing various testimonies of the same events.

For example: You, me, and a friend of ours become part of the presidents personal entourage and travel with him everywhere for 3 years. Later in life, we decided to write about our experiences. If one were to read these accounts they would be able to substitute our names into the chart above. We are all going to tell the story of our 3 years from different perspectives and with different details, but as a whole, the accounts will be the same.

Now, let’s take a specific example from the Bible that Muslims apologists have to used:

In Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 we have 2 accounts of Jesus and the faith of the centurion. The short version is: the centurion came to ask Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus marvels at the faith of the centurion, and heals his servant. However, the dispute arrises as to whether like in Luke, Jesus went with the centurion, or like in Matthew it would seem to indicated that He did not go, but just declared the paralyzed servant healed.

Here are the keys:

1.Jesus never actually goes to the centurions house in both accounts but proclaims the paralyzed servant healed before ever getting there.

2.Can anyone say that my summary of the account is in error or contradictory to the one in Matthew and Luke? No,  it is just summarized.

3.Same with Matthew. Matthew did not seem to consider it relevant for his purposes to communicate that specific of details. Matthew does not specifically say “Jesus didn’t go”.

4.Luke is a physician who also writes like a historian. It is no surprise he was more detailed in his account.

They both tell them same story from different perspectives. This is not a contradiction. When reading the Bible, it is ok to harmonize. We need to realize that yes, the Bible is the word of God, but it was inspired not dictated.

This highlights in essential difference between Muslim belief and Christian in regards to Holy Scriptures. To a Muslim, the Qur’an is the exact, verbatim word of God (in arabic), Muhammed just wrote it down. To the Christian, the Bible is also the word of God but He used men to write it. Men who wrote through the lens of their experiences; men who wrote through their personalities; men who wrote according to their gifts; and men who wrote according to how the Spirit lead.

All this to say, you can trust the Bible. There is no contradiction with having different witnesses tell the same story from different perspectives. Some may have more detail, some may have less but I say again, THAT IS OK! We do not have 4 different gospels as the Muslim may suggest, nor do we have contradictions like the secularist claims. There is one gospel: Humanity is dead in it’s sin, it needs a savior, Jesus is that loving savior, believe and have eternal life.

Q Who?

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Aside from being a beloved — well, a reoccurring character in the Star Trek franchise, there is also in our world a mysterious entity known as “Q.” Or rather, there isn’t.  Time and time again in my conversations with people who are somewhat up-to-date on Biblical textual criticism, “Q” comes up. But what is Q?

Unlike the seemingly undefeatable Borg, who are first introduced in the episode titled “Q Who,” the “Q” document/manuscript that is reported to exist and threaten all that Christendom holds dear in the inspiration of scripture is not actually very threatening. Primarily because… it doesn’t exist.

It is dangerous to make absolute claims of this type, especially in regards to manuscripts, because, as more and more searching is being done, more and more manuscripts are being found. Currently, modern scholarship has access to over 5,800 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. Many of these are only fragments, but what also is important is how early we can date some of these manuscripts. There are manuscripts in our possession that we can date to at least as early as 125 AD, if not earlier. This is absolutely incredible! There is no other work for which we have anywhere even close to this kind of attestation. For the Bible, we have thousands upon thousands of manuscripts, and some of these are incredibly close to the original writings.

Why does this matter?  Well, in modern, unbelieving scholarship, there is a desire to undermine the Bible’s claims. It is that simple. One of the ways these scholars attempt to undermine the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is to claim that they come from this single source, “Q”. This would deny the independent attestations these gospels’ claim to be of the life and teachings of Jesus. This theory promotes the idea that whoever wrote these gospels simply modified this source document to fit whatever they were trying to preach or sell.

If this were true, it would mean that the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke really are not independent witnesses of the same events, but the writings of men with independent agendas based off some single document. Since this would prove there was a lot of tampering with the text, it would deny these books a place as scripture or as reliable attestations of the events they record. “Q” is said to be that ultimate source from which the other synoptic gospels are derived.

As in Star Trek, “Q” is this pesky idea that keeps floating around and has been generally accepted in the academic community.  Muslim apologists in particular love the idea of “Q” and will quote Bart Erhman till the sea runs dry. There is only one tiny problem. Actually, it is barely a problem at all, so it’s really not worth mentioning but… “Q” doesn’t exist!

“Q” is a theory – a theory derived from a presupposition that the Bible cannot be the Word of God so, despite the textual evidence, there needs to be an explanation that would bring the conclusion that is being sought. This is bad science. Q doesn’t exist (have I mentioned that before?).

Again, I understand the dangers of making such an absolute statement because I cannot know everything that is buried where, but I think it is an incredibly safe conclusion to make based off the hard, tangible data. For those who worship science and empiricism, this is for you. As mentioned before, we have over 5,800 Greek manuscripts. This does not include other translations or other ancient works where scripture is quoted (the early church fathers, for example). Plain and simple, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke were derived from a single source document, “Q”, we would have found it already.

So as not to be accused of distorting the facts, I want to reiterate that not all 5,800+ manuscripts are complete, nor do all of them have Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This also doesn’t matter. The Bible was mass-copied all throughout history, so the likelihood of “Q” not being copied itself to a point where we would have at least found a fragment is so improbable it defies reasonable belief.

If one believes the the Roman Empire existed, that Hannibal crossed the mountains with elephants, and that “Et tu Brute?” was uttered in a final gasp, then disbelief in the veracity of the Bible is not only silly, but intellectually dishonest. To deny the Bible to be the independent attestations that it claims to be, and that we have ample evidence with which to back up that claim, is the same as if someone looked at the colosseum in Rome, touched it with their hands, then stuck their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes, and just kept yelling, “It’s actually a Ferris wheel!  It’s actually a Ferris wheel!” But the ruling elites have issued their edict: “You will be assimilated.”

 

 

Christians, Muslims, Jews and God

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(Photo credit: muslims4peace.org )

In recent days, thanks to a controversy involving a professor at Wheaton College, there has been no shortage of debate in the blogospheres as to who worships what God. The question is commonly phrased: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” After all, can’t Christians utter the first part of the Shahada along with Mulsims? I do not believe I will be adding any new material here, but I wanted to expand the question, as others have, to include adherents of Judiasm. Dr James White, in a video here, covers the Mulsim/Christian dynamic of this inquiry fully, so I will focus mainly on the question: “Do Jews worship the same God as Christians?”

I think instinctively, if you’re a Christian, you want to say “Yes, of course we do. We are Judeo-Christians after all.” If you are not a Christian, you may also think this for the very same reason. You may also think that all gods are the same, we just approach them differently. “All roads lead to Rome” right? (I know for a fact though that I80, I40, and I10 do not…although I40 gets close in Georgia) Back to the Christian: As you think about it a bit longer, you may then be tempted to change your answer thinking: “Well, I would not say modern adherents of Judaism are saved, so maybe not?” Brifely, I am going to argue that the question is not as cut and dry as it first appears, then I am going to argue that it actually is.

It isn’t as cut and dry as it may first appear because we claim to believe in the same God Abraham worshipped, namely, Yahweh. Modern Jews claim this as well (incidentally, Muslims also claim to worship the same God as Abraham).  Jesus says in Luke 16, when telling the story of the rich man and Lazarus, that the rich man, speaking from Hades, asked Abraham to send someone back from the dead to warn his brothers so that they may avoid the place of torment that he was currently in. Note Abraham’s response : “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them“, and again “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29,31).

What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that what was revealed in the Law and the Prophets was enough for salvation (As a side note, this is one of the reasons I hold to a reformed perspective concerning the salvation of Old Testamnet saints. I believe the Bible teaches that Old Testament saints are saved in the same way as New Testament saints, and that is by looking to the cross. The Old Testament believers looked forward in faith and hope to the coming Messiah’s work, though they did not fully understand what it would be; and New Testament believers look back on the finished work of the Messiah, Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. However, this is is topic for another time.).

So, if a Jew could be saved by what was revealed in the Law and the Prophets, do they not indeed worship the same God as Christians? This is where the answer does become as cut and dry as it appears.

No doubt that “Abraham believed God, and is it was counted unto him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3) , but what does Jesus say in John 5, 6, and 8? Let’s start with 5:46: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”, and then in 6:40 “…everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life…”, and finally 8:39-42 “They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me…”. So what is the point? Simply: A denial of Jesus is a denial of the Father.

I have been specific in my wording above as I have repeatedly referenced “modern Jews”, for I believe that the Jews of the Old Testament did believe in the same God as Christians, that is to say Yahweh. But this was only in so far as He had revealed Himself at that time. In the New Testament, Christ claims to be Yahweh (see my early post). (Another side note, this is another reason I am reformed. I do not believe God changes or that the New Testament changes the Old Testament, rather, it is a continuing revelation. Jesus Himself says He did not come to abolish the Law and Prophets but fufill it (see Matt 5:17). Again, another topic for another time).

To deny Christ is to deny Yahweh. Simply put, this means that modern Jews and Muslims do not worship the same God as Chritsians because they deny the deity of Christ. Incidentally, so do Momorns and Jehovahs Witnesses and I reject these groups  being identified as branches of Christianity. The Bible is clear:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phillipians 2:9-11)