June 2012

Daniel Wallace is a prominent evangelical NT textual critic.  He has written about the field in various places, but never in much detail, and never in a book dedicated to the topic.  So I was very excited when I heard he was editing a collection of essays on the topic.  

Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament is not a general book on the topic of NT textual criticism, but a collection of essays criticizing the analysis and methodology of Bart Ehrman.  Indeed, if you have heard any of Wallace and Ehrman’s three debates, you will already be familiar with much of the material Wallace presents in his chapter.  But it is nice to have that wealth of information put to print and to have access to all of the details Wallace provides in the footnotes.  Here are a few facts about the NT manuscripts that are of note:  (more…)

That is what some Christians and secularists suggest.  They think marriage should be a private institution handled by churches and others, while the government sits by as a neutral observer.  That may salve over the current political and cultural debate over the definition of marriage, but is this a good idea?  Jennifer Roback Morse thinks not, and wrote a three-part series explaining why (1, 2, 3).  She argues that privatizing marriage is not only impossible in practice, but that it would result in more state power and would unnecessarily hurt children.


I woke up this morning hotly anticipating the SCOTUS decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare, fully expecting it to be ruled unconstitutional.  To my dismay, it was upheld (and Roberts, rather than Kennedy, was the deciding vote).  I was happy to see that SCOTUS rejected the government’s claim that Obamacare was a valid expression of Congress’ ability to regulate interstate commerce (although Ginsberg, unsurprisingly, thinks it is), but I was blown away that they considered it a tax.  Seriously?  Talk about legal and semantical obfuscation!  As Wesley J. Smith wrote, “It appears that the Supremes have rewritten the law in order to uphold it.”  With this approach to law and constitutionality, anything can be made legal…the constitution be damned.

Apparently now the federal government can require us to buy whatever they want so long as they call it a “tax” (something Obama and the Dems specifically said it was not). Calling something a tax doesn’t make it one.  Perhaps we’ll all be required to buy, I mean pay a tax for tofu next year.

When Congress can pass such a law, and SCOTUS can uphold it as being constitutional, I fear that we are no longer being ruled by a Constitution but by the whims of those who hold office.  Federalism is dying.  Power is shifting away from the states and to the federal government.  Who needs state governments when the federal government can regulate all of American life?  I fear we are no longer the United States of America.  We are simply America.

In an earlier post I discussed the Qeiyafa Ostracon, identifying it as the earliest extant example of Hebrew writing.  That was what was being reported at the time, but the truth appears to lie elsewhere.  The May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review discussed this inscription, noting the many problems associated with the identification.  


Inclusivism is the doctrine that while no one can be saved apart from Christ, one need not have conscious faith in Christ to be saved.  So, for example, while a good Buddhist may not trust in Christ for his salvation, since he is a good Buddhist Christ applies the merits of His substitutionary atonement to him. 

The NT is opposed to inclusivism.  It is quite clear that one must exercise conscious faith in Christ to experience salvation: 

John 3:14-18  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, [15] that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. [16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 


“[C.S.] Lewis insists that, because science confines its examination to the universe, it’s natural that science discovers nothing beyond it.” — David Bagget and Jerry Walls in their book, Good God.

While I have already written an assessment of Stephen Law’s evil god challenge, after listening to Law engage in an informal debate on the topic with Glenn Peoples on Unbelievable, I have a few more observations to make.

Law seems to take as his starting point the idea that people reject the existence of an evil God based on the empirical evidence: there is simply too much good in the world for an evil god to exist.  Then he reasons that if the presence of good in the world makes the existence of an evil God absurd, people should also recognize that the presence of evil in the world makes the existence of a good God equally absurd.  The success of his argument depends on three assumptions:


“Scripturally speaking, the problem is not that good people do not go to heaven; the problem is there are no good people.” — Trevin Wax, “Inclusivism and Its Effects” in Credo magazine, Issue 2, January 2012, 10.

Given my recent post on falsely assuming that God’s eternality excludes the possibility that He has a cause (and thinking premise 1 of the kalam cosmological argument proves He doesn’t have a cause), I thought it fitting to address atheists who assume that the universe, if it is eternal, is uncaused.  Some atheists reason as follows:

(1) If the universe began to exist, then it has a cause
(2) The universe did not begin to exist
(3) Therefore the universe did not have a cause

This commits the fallacy of denying the antecedent.  The form of the fallacy is as follows:


The English name “Jesus” is an English transliteration of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name of our savior, YeshuaYeshua is an updated form of the old Hebrew name, Yehoshua, transliterated into English as “Joshua.”  That’s right, Jesus’ and Joshua had the same name, and thus Jesus’ name could rightly be pronounced “Joshua” in English!  This is made clear in the Greek New Testament in which the name of Joshua the son of Nun and the name of Jesus of Nazareth are both “Iesous.” 

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. 45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David (Acts 7:44-45, KJV) 

For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. (Heb 4:8, KJV)

Most translations other than the KJV translate Iesous as “Joshua” in these verses since they are clearly referring to Joshua the son of Nun who succeeded Moses and led the children of Israel into the Promised Land.  I used to use these verses as examples of poor translation on the part of the KJV translators since it was clearly Joshua and not Jesus who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, but truth be told the KJV translators were not only accurately translating the Greek, they were doing so in a more consistent manner than most modern translators since they translated every occurrence of Iesous as “Jesus” even when it referred to someone other than our savior. 


I am feeling prophetic today.  Let me make a prediction about the direction of the music industry and music downloading.  The price to download a single track will triple from $1 to $3 within two years, but the price to download an entire album will remain at ~$13.  Why?  Too many people are downloading singles rather than entire albums, and there is not enough revenue coming in for the record companies and recording artists.  Having a higher price for singles will not only create more revenue than today, but it will also provide a good incentive to spend a few more dollars and purchase the entire album.  Watch and see!

The kalam cosmological argument (KCA) for God’s existence goes as follows: 

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause
(2) The universe began to exist
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause

When we consider what kind of cause would be necessary to bring the universe into being, we arrive at an immaterial, eternal, spaceless, personal, intelligent, and powerful being – an apt description of what theists identify as God.  Atheists commonly object and theists often wonder, “Well, then who made God?”  Theists rightly point out that the argument does not claim everything has a cause, but only those things that begin to exist.  As an eternal being, God never began to exist, and thus does not need a cause.  Indeed, the question itself is nonsensical given the kind of being God is. 

We apologists must be careful, however, not to think that the 1st premise of the KCA proves God does not have a cause.  The premise only pertains to things which begin to exist.  We cannot infer anything about the causal requirements or lack thereof for eternal beings from this premise.  While the 1st premise of the KCA does not require that God have a cause, to think it proves God does not have a cause is to commit the fallacy of denying the antecedent:


Many atheists assert that an eternal universe is explanatorily equivalent to an eternal God.  For example, Sagan once asked, “If we say that God has always been, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always been?”[1]  And just recently, two prominent atheists made the same claim.  In his new book, A Universe from Nothing, Lawrence Krauss writes, “[T]he declaration of a First Cause still leaves open the question, ‘Who created the Creator?’ After all, what is the difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one?”[2]  Victor Stenger agrees with Krauss:


In response to various cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of a creator God some atheists appeal to the principle of parsimony—often dubbed “Ockham’s Razor”—to argue that invoking God to explain our cosmic origins is both unnecessary and unhelpful.  Introducing a divine being to explain the origin of the universe is said to be less parsimonious than simply acknowledging that the universe popped into existence uncaused from absolutely nothing.


Would you still serve God if there was no hell in which to be punished for your evil?  Would you still serve God if there was no heaven in which to be rewarded for your good?  Would your behavior change at all?

I would venture to say that most church-going Christians serve God, not out of a desire to be in relationship with God, but out of a desire to avoid hell.  If there was no hell, they would not serve God, or at least would not continue to live the way they do morally speaking.  While desiring to avoid hell is natural and a good motivator for initially deciding to serve God, it is a very poor motivator for continuing to serve God.

I don’t necessarily want you to respond in the comments section with your answers, but I do think this is something worth thinking about in the way of self-evaluation.

Update on 6/21: A new study appearing in the Public Library of Science journal, PLoS ONE, has evaluated crime rates involving 143,197 people in 67 countries over a span of 26 years and found that crime rates are lower in nations that believe in the possibility of some sort of divine punishment after death, and higher in nations that do not (or that only believe in divine rewards after death).