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

Trust the New Testament? By the #’s

P52_recto

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.

 

Free Will

FW

What does it mean to have free will? Commonly, persons who hold to the Doctrines of Grace (also known as Calvinism/Calvinists for theological shorthand) are accused of believing that people are robots doing only what they have been programmed to do.  Calvinist are accused of saying that human beings do not have “free will”.

So again I ask, what is free will?  By this, is it meant that humans have autonomous decision making ability? That is to say, a will totally free from outside influences? This is logically untenable and experientially an impossible position for which to advocate. We are so  incredibly fickle as creatures that we make decisions based off of what we ate for breakfast, and how it made us feel physically or emotionally.

The counter to that is to say, “Yes, but what I ate for breakfast doesn’t determine what I do, it just influences it.” Ok, maybe I can grant that, as long as there is the understanding that autonomous decision making does not exist because, by definition, autonomous free will means making decisions without external influence, determinant or not.

So, let me now make the argument that we never do anything that we do not desire to do. “Sure I do,” you may say “I get up and go to work all the time and I hate it, but I do it anyway.” This does not disprove my statement. “When I am dieting, I choose not to eat ice cream even though I desire it.” Again, this does not disprove my point. You are choosing to do the things you desire the most. You desire they paycheck and means to live in the first example, and you desire the benefits of the diet more than the ice-cream in the second example. Take any decision that you make and you will realize you will ALWAYS chose the course of action that you desire the most.

However, to risk sounding contradictory, a persons holding to reformed theology, or at the very least Calvinism, will affirm that human beings are free beings, but limited in our freedom due to our natures. We can only choose the things we desire and simply put, our sin nature does not allow us to chose God, who is the only autonomously free being. He must take out our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh that desires Him.

This truth is commonly mischaracterized by making this merciful action by God analogous to God dragging people into heaven kicking and screaming like He is violating their free will. Ok. If you want to be technical, God is changing your heart “forcefully” but let us be clear, this is an act of LOVE, not violation.

If your friend is unaware that they are headed toward a cliff, it is not a violating act to grab them and change their direction. This saving act would be met with life-owing gratitude. Our response should be the same to God as the friend’s, who was just saved from the cliff, would be…humbled, heartfelt gratitude and thankfulness.

It is also common to accuse those who believe in election of having an arrogant theology. “You think you are so special because God has chosen you. How arrogant!” (in fact, see this article from the satire site Babylon Bee…which I find humorous). While I grant that there are arrogant people who believe in the doctrine of election, it is most certainly not exclusive to reformed theology. If you start reading comment sections on the inter-web you will see the arrogance radiating brightly from both camps…welcome to human sin nature.

If someone is calming to be something other than a wretched sinner in need of God’s saving grace, then they have completed missed the point of God’s electing mercy. We are so worthless and dead in sin that we NEEDED a savior because we could not chose God on our own. This is what is meant when a Calvinist says that human beings do not have a free will: Our will is enslaved to sin.

And where is this doctrine derived? For if it is not in the Bible I want no part. Here are some good references:

“As it is written‘None is righteous, no, not one.'” Romans 3:10

“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:12

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romand 8:7-8

“No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up in the last day.” John 6:44

 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears  much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Eph 2:5

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…” Col 2:13

For other fantastic resource on this topic, (for by-no-means simply take my word on the matter) see Johnathan Edwards essay “The Freedom of the Will”, Martin Luther’s “The Bondage of the Will”, and this sermon by John Piper.

Christian, rejoice in the fact that you are loved and chosen for adoption by God. Understand that faith comes by hearing the Word of God; so go and fulfill the great commission. We are the instruments to whom He has graciously gifted the privilege of spreading His kingdom for the hope of the lost, and the spreading of His glory.

Confessions

Something Christians need to get back to, and thankfully many are, is the reading, memorizing, and reciting of the old confessions and creeds. These documents were drafted by very devout men, who articulated the essential articles of faith in such a way as to be succinct and edifying. Most of the questions people ask of the faith are answered within these creeds and confessions.

If you have never read them before, here is list of some of the best:

Westminster Confession of Faith, as well as the Longer and Shorter Catechisms

The Belgic Confession

The Heidelberg Catechism

The 1689 London Baptist Confession

The Chalcedonian Definition of Faith

The Apostles Creed

The Nicene Creed

None of them take long too read so maybe today, instead of reading about that embarrassment of a game from the Cavaliers, you can read one or two of these creeds and confessions.

(I will embed links, some free some not, but all have free PDF versions somewhere in the interspace. Also, the New Reformation Study Bible [R.C. Sproul General Editor] from Ligonier Ministries has most of these in the back).

Here is an excerpt from one I was reading today, on a topic I believe many churches have lost the understanding, the meaning, and importance of: the sacraments/ordinances.

On the Lord’s Supper from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q.76: What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?

A: It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the suffering and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain pardon of sin and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to His sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven, and we on earth, are not withstanding “flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone”; and that we live, and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.