Trinity on Thursday – Trinitarian and Unitarian debate transcript

As promised the debate transcript PDF of last Thursdays posted debate is available today.

I really enjoyed listening to the debate on my journey back from the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast in south west Wales.

sanders

If you knew Fred Sanders you’d know how good a likeness this is – Click it to download the debate transcript PDF.

I highlight a section which really resonates with my thinking and often features in my discussions with fine muslim people. It drives me to say “if Jesus is not actually divine, then we have major problems with the text of the Bible”. True for discussions with muslims who generally reject the reliability of the Old and New Testaments and also true for discussions with unitarians who generally accept the reliability of the Old and New Testaments.

God’s Glory Kept for God by Doctrine of the Trinity
Let me say this: one of the consistent strands that I hear in Professor Buzzard’s entire approach is a concern for monotheism, for the one-ness of God and for the God-ness of God; the fact that God is a jealous God who doesn’t give his glory to another. Isaiah is full of this stuff: “There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior,” “There is none except me,” “Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth,” “I am God, there is no other,” “I have sworn by myself, the word has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness, it will not turn back,” “To me, every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” “They will say of me, ‘only in the Lord are righteousness and strength’,” “I am the Lord, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another.” This is the concern of the Bible: the unity of God, that jealous, “I will not give my glory to another,” one-ness of God.

The problem with the view of Jesus Christ presented by Socinianism (or Arianism) is that it takes all of God’s glory – all of his prerogatives, his being the one to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess – takes all of that and gives it to Jesus Christ. It takes the man Jesus Christ and puts him on the throne of God, in the driver’s seat of the universe, as the consummator of the covenant of God’s ways with the world. It hands all this over to a man. And at that point, when Muslims look at Christianity and misunderstand it – they look at Christianity and see it as Socinian – they say, “You just handed all the glory of God to a man, a mere man. You’re an associator; you’ve associated someone with God.” I submit that the only way out of that is if God doesn’t give his glory to another because the Son is not an “other;” not another being; not something else, but is God; God the Son.

Page 30-31 of this transcript.

Trinity on Thursday – Trinitarian and Unitarian Debate

Here is a debate hosted on a Unitarian (non and anti-trinitarian) website that took place sometime in the mid 2000’s between Professor Anthony Buzzard (real name) and Dr. Fred Sanders. Is God one person or three? The sound quality is not brilliant. There  is a transcript available somewhere and I will post that next week.

For image source go to donaldsweblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/follow-directions.html

Click the image for the debate

Text Tuesday – Information and Invitation

gods-word-is-love

Click image for source

Speaking about the Bible

The word which God addresses directly to us is (like a royal speech, only more so) an instrument, not only of government, but also of fellowship. For, though God is a great king, it is not His wish to live at a distance from His subjects. Rather the reverse: He made us with the intention that He and we might walk together for ever in a love-relationship. But such a relationship can only exist when the parties involved know something of each other. God, our Maker, knows all about us before we say anything (Psalm 139:1-4); but we can know nothing about Him unless He tells us. Here, therefore, is a further reason why God speaks to us: not only to move us to do what He wants, but to enable us to know Him so that we may love Him. Therefore God send His word to us in the character of both information and invitation. It comes to woo us as well as to instruct us; it not merely puts us in the picture of what God has done and is doing, but also calls us into personal communion with the loving Lord Himself.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer IVP 1973 Page 99

The Trinity on Thursday – One single verse?

OneVerse

For source click image.

I keep coming back to Fred Sander’s book Embracing the Trinity (UK title to his book The Deep Things of God). Reading it for the fourth time. It sparkles each time I read it but has yet to become part of my bloodstream (dolt me!).

From his College’s online magazine at Biloa USA here’s an article on the search for the single all emcompassing Trinity verse.

The Trinity is a biblical doctrine, but let’s admit it: There’s something annoying about how hard it is to put your finger on a verse that states the whole doctrine.

The Bible presents the elements of the doctrine in numerous passages, of course: that there is only one God; that the Father is God; that the Son is God; and that the Spirit is God. We can also tell easily enough that the Father, Son and Spirit are really distinct from one another, and are not just three names for one person. If you hold all those clear teachings of Scripture in your mind at one time and think through them together, the doctrine of the Trinity is inevitable. Trinitarianism is a biblical doctrine and all the ingredients are given to us there: Just add thought and you have the classic doctrine.

Like most evangelicals, though, I would prefer to have a doctrine be stated clearly and concisely in one place. I like my doctrines verse-sized. I sometimes wish there were one verse that said, “God is one being in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The doctrine of the Trinity, though, is simply not verse-sized. Sometimes that feels like a disadvantage, but in fact it’s an advantage. The doctrine of the Trinity is a massive, comprehensive, full-Bible doctrine that serves to expand our minds as readers of Scripture. In Scripture, God is leading his people to understand who he is as Father, Son and Spirit.

For example, set aside for a moment the desire to fit the doctrine into one verse. Look instead at how it shows up in a slightly larger (three verses) passage, Galatians 4:4-6: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son … to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Paul is describing God’s greatest acts in the history of salvation, and those acts are specifically Trinitarian: The Father sends the Son and the Spirit to save.

Or think even bigger: In a crucial passage of Romans, Paul summarizes his message in five verses, and there is a necessarily Trinitarian cadence to his summary: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. … We rejoice … because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:1–5).

Or try to take in 12 verses at once: Ephesians 1:3-14 is one gigantic sentence (in Greek) that surveys all of God’s plans and intentions from eternity past, through our present salvation, and on to final redemption. Three times it points us to the kind intention of God’s will, and three times it points us to the praise of his glory. The fundamental movement of the passage, though, is from the Father’s choosing and predestining us in love, through the beloved Son’s death for our forgiveness, to the Holy Spirit’s work sealing us for redemption.

Once you learn to see the Trinity shaping these larger stretches of Scripture, you’re ready to notice how entire books of the Bible are structured by the same Trinitarian logic. In Galatians, for example, Paul proves his gospel of faith against salvation by works in a three-part argument: The Galatians received the Spirit by faith, God promised Abraham that he would justify the Gentiles by faith, and Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. The great arc of Romans runs from the Father’s judgment through the Son’s propitiation to the Spirit’s deliverance.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the Trinity as the big story behind the Bible, the best thing to do is to read the Gospel of John fast, in one sitting. Your dominant impression during the first half will be that the Father and the Son love each other, and in the second half the Holy Spirit will burst into your attention as the fulfillment of the revelation.

There are a handful of verses where the three persons are named in one place, such as Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14. These classic passages have the advantage of being comfortably verse-sized. But when we move on from the partial glimpses of the Trinity we can get from single verses, we are led on to larger stretches of argument, wider vistas of insight, and a more inclusive expanse of God’s self-revelation through Scripture. And that prepares our minds for the biggest Christian thought of all: The whole Bible is one complete book that reveals the Trinity. That fact is what the ancient church fathers meant when they summarized the Christian faith in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father … and in his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ … and in the Holy Spirit.”

The Trinity is a biblical doctrine, therefore, in a very special sense: not in any one verse, but as the key to the entire book.

Fred Sanders is an associate professor of theology in Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute; Sanders’ latest book, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, was published in August 2010.

This artcle & others can be found by clicking here.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files 4

chinese

Click image for source

Amy Hall from the useful apologetics website and ministry Stand To Reason [Click here to go there] has picked out a piece of Dan Wallace’s critique of the Newsweek/Eichenwald Christmas piece. She has bullet pointed this short section for ease of reading and comprehension.  

I think this is an important point from Wallace as I encounter word game / Chinese Whispers / Telephone Game models being proposed as fact with regard to how the books of the New Testament and particularly the gospels were transmitted.

Click the word response below to get to Dan Wallace’s full treatment.

In his response to the now infamous Newsweek article by Kurt Eichenwald attacking the Bible, Dan Wallace succinctly explained why the transmission of the Bible was not like a game of Telephone (bullet point formatting added by me for ease of reading):

The title of Eichenwald’s section that deals with manuscript transmission is “Playing Telephone with the Word of God.” The implication is that the transmission of the Bible is very much like the telephone game—a parlor game every American knows. It involves a brief narrative that someone whispers to the next person in line who then whispers this to the next person, and so on for several people. Then, the last person recites out loud what he or she heard and everyone has a good laugh for how garbled the story got. But the transmission of scripture is not at all like the telephone game.

  • First, the goal of the telephone game is to see how badly the story can get misrepresented, while the goal of New Testament copying was by and large to produce very careful, accurate copies of the original.
  • Second, in the telephone game there is only one line of transmission, while with the New Testament there are multiple lines of transmission.
  • Third, one is oral, recited once in another’s ear, while the other is written, copied by a faithful scribe who then would check his or her work or have someone else do it.
  • Fourth, in the telephone game only the wording of the last person in the line can be checked, while for the New Testament textual critics have access to many of the earlier texts, some going back very close to the time of the autographs.
  • Fifth, even the ancient scribes had access to earlier texts, and would often check their work against a manuscript that was many generations older than their immediate ancestor. The average papyrus manuscript would last for a century or more. Thus, even a late second-century scribe could have potentially examined the original document he or she was copying.

If telephone were played the way New Testament transmission occurred, it would make for a ridiculously boring parlor game!

Friday Fundamentals – Control & Decay

Wendy from Theology for Women has written with some insight. Click her name to get to the original piece. Keep it coming Wendy.

Fifty Shades of Genesis 3:16.

Well, Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out on Valentine’s Day.  Oh, what a warped view of love we have. I doubt Christian women need a lecture against reading the book or going to the movie. I can’t imagine anyone is going because they think it is a morally good thing to do.  It will be a blockbuster hit because there is a deeper issue in our hearts, and it is that deeper issue that I prefer to address.

The Twilight Series was a lighter version of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Call it what you want – erotic fiction, BDSM, or in the Twilight Series, paranormal young adult fiction.  But the bottom line of both series is the same — Good Girls fall in love with Bad Boys.  These particular series made the news because the individual books and movies reached a mass market audience, but “romance” novels involving the “hero” treating the girl badly and the girl wanting him anyway (with the hope of reforming him) have been hugely successful among women for hundreds of years.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t surprise me, because God predicted it in Genesis 3.  The woman’s desire or strong craving (addiction if you will) will be for the man, and he will rule over her. THAT is why Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Series, and countless other lesser known masochistic “romance” novels have flourished over the years.   When Christ is removed from our relationships, that is what is left – men oppressing women and women lapping it up, even if it’s just in fiction.  I imagine men will not appreciate that characterization any more than women will. Yet, apart from Christ and God’s common grace among unbelievers, this is where both sexes default in my humble opinion, and I think history affirms my view.

This is not to say that, apart from Christ, we don’t have countless societal coping mechanisms for dealing with this phenomenon.   I see feminism as the major coping mechanism. I’m thankful for aspects of feminism, particularly the first wave of feminism.  I see it as a great manifestation of God’s common grace.  Feminism didn’t change anyone’s heart, but the movement did help to restrain sinful oppression of women in many countries and in many different walks of life.  But for every educated, take charge feminist woman you know, there remain hundreds in the shadows of life contributing to their own sexploitation.  After 3 waves of feminism, countless laws, and much education, millions of women would still run after the sulky vampire in their fantasies, choosing to suck blood for the rest of their lives rather than living in the light.

As for Fifty Shades of Grey, while it is in many ways like Playboy for men, there are motivating factors for women that are very different than a man’s for pornography. I think that understanding the reason that so many women are flocking to this book/movie can be a powerful tool to pointing them back to the gospel’s answer for the dark longings in their heart. To that end, I hope this analysis is helpful.

For many women reading this (and men too), a lot of this may sound completely foreign. If you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not MY husband or MY history,” then praise God! Perhaps as a child you were raised to know Christ and His Word. You recognized early on your creation in His image and your worth as His honored son or daughter. For the most part, that’s our family, though occasionally I get glimpses into my tendencies apart from redemption. I would have lapped up the Twilight Series hook, line, and sinker during my teenage years. I thank God regularly that He kept me from the kind of guys I would have been willing to date when I was too naïve and immature to recognize this in myself.

There is something much better than secular coping mechanisms that are helpful in some ways and detrimental in others though.  Christ has broken the curse and is slowly but surely redeeming His children from its effects. In Christ, women have the rescuer we need. We have a need to submit, and we need one who dominates our life.  But only One, Christ Himself, can fill those needs in a way that invites light, not shadow. I’m reminded in all this that we will offer our best solutions spiritually when we best understand the root issue.

My heart aches for women longing for their Christian Grey. That is not his real form, and he morphs into something dark and disturbing when you least expect it.  In Christ, we can recognize this dark fantasy for what it is and then move away from the dark towards the light to live in the real relationships God has given us.

It helps a lot if you understand Genesis 3:16.

This is a reworked version of a post I first wrote in 2012.

Friday Fundamentals – Functionally liberal non-liberals

Function

For source – click image.

Is your church functionally liberal?

From Ray Ortland’s blog, a very pertinent question. Click to visit his blog.

“It is one thing to hear God’s Word.  It is another to fear it, heeding all God’s warnings, trusting all God’s promises, and obeying all God’s commands.”

Philip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations (Wheaton, 2001), page 551.

The liberal churches I’ve known are not openly hostile to the Bible.  They like the Bible.  They want their preacher to use the Bible.  They have home Bible studies.  What makes them “liberal” is that the Bible alone is not what rules them.  They allow into their doctrine, their ethos, their decisions, other complicating factors.  The Bible is revered, in a way.  But it is not the decisive factor.  It is only one voice among others.

This lack of clarity allows unbiblical ideas and behavior to get traction.  In a liberal church no one stands up, with an open Bible in his hand, and says, “Hey guys, we just don’t say/do things like that around here.  It isn’t biblical.”  That simple clarity just doesn’t exist in such a church.  There is no authority towering over all else, rallying the people to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Only the Word of God, received with meekness, can prevent a church from sinking lower and lower into mediocrity, irrelevance, conflict and sheer boredom.

Is the dominant mentality of your church functionally liberal?  Whatever your church’s commitment might be on paper, what is it that, in real terms, leads and guides and defines your church culture?  All our churches should see themselves as potentially unfaithful.

We who lead are responsible to keep our churches in constant, repentant realignment with Scripture alone.  The only effective safeguard against spiritual erosion is not our doctrinal statement on paper but personally to swallow the Word whole.  We must never stop being eager to learn and change and grow under the Sunday-by-Sunday impact of biblical preaching.  Let’s keep on following the Lord, according to his Word alone, going further with him than we’ve ever gone before, further than we’ve ever dreamed of going.

As we enter the new year of grace, 2015, let’s humble ourselves before the Word of God.  After all, the message of this unique Book is good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files

Over the next number of Tuesdays I am going to reblog a number of posts that respond to the pre-Christmas Newsweek slammathon on the Bible and Christianity. Although it was the pre-Christmas edition, it’s theme of ‘Christians and their everyday reading of the Bible stink, like really badly’, is not just for Christmas. It seems that it is for life.

The extensive Newsweek piece (8500 words – 14 pages), labelled by many as Newsweak because it was so badly researched, biased, unbalanced and unrepresentative of widely available credible scholarship is actaully a wonderful encapsulation of what a lot of people believe already. Typically this is because they’ve heard someone say the same sort of things many, many times before or read them somewhere like Newsweek – typically in the pre-Christmas or easter edition. Ever noticed that coincidence of the publishing industry.

So looking at thoughtful, thorough responses can be a useful exercise for the open-minded and edifying for the Christian believer.

Think

Before I link to a response to the piece, here is the link to the article which is available online by clicking here.

Go there, let it confirm some of your own thoughts, biases or whatever but then give New Testament scholar Michael Kruger a hearing by clicking his name. It’s part one of two responses by him. He is thoughtful, generous and corrective where he needs to be. Enjoy.

Text Tuesday – Is the Bible limited to 66 books?

Before my blog-break last October I had been posting (mostly re-posting other people’s thoughtful work) on the text of the new testament in particular and the Bible in general.

I plan to occasionally do that again and today is such a day. Before re-posting Rob Phillips‘ work I will give some personal context. I dialogue infrequently with some great Muslim chaps and they do love to try and tear apart the New Testament as we have it today. Howver, their concerns and criticisms have lead me to investigate this important part of the Christian faith more deeply. Much of what convincingly speaks to me has been re-posted on the Tuesday Text series – see Textual Studies in the Categories on the right hand side of the screen if you want to see more.

six

Click image to source

However I love to refine my understanding and position on things as I go along. While I have regularly told muslim friends if an early letter by Paul or similar was found and could be authenticated I would be happy for it to be added to the New Testament (as such). This post has given me pause for thought on this matter. Over to you dear Baptist brother.

Rob Phillips: click here to get the source of this material

Some scholars today cast doubt over the canon of Scripture — those 66 books that the church has long held to be the complete written revelation of God. They justify their views by claiming: 1) that surviving texts of the Old and New Testaments are corrupt and therefore unreliable or 2) that early church leaders deliberately excluded certain books for personal or political reasons.

As Craig L. Blomberg responds in his book “Can We Still Believe the Bible?”: “… there is not a shred of historical evidence to support either of these claims; anyone choosing to believe them must do so by pure credulity, flying in the face of all the evidence that actually exists.”

But what if we discovered an apostolic writing that has remained hidden for the last 2,000 years?

For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter.

Should the church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast.

The New Testament offers hints of the process of canonization, but little more. As Jesus prepares His followers for His passion and return to heaven, He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who will enable the disciples to remember Jesus’ teaching (John 14:26), testify further about Him (John 15:26) and proclaim truth (John 16:13).

In other words, the same Holy Spirit who authors Scripture will ensure that authentic testimonies about Jesus are written, preserved and shared.

Some New Testament books receive a great deal of scrutiny before their inclusion, most notably Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude and Revelation. And some don’t make the cut for a variety of reasons, such as the gnostic gospels of Judas, Barnabas and Thomas.

So, what criteria did the early church use as a guide? Blomberg notes three predominant requirements: apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy.

Apostolicity

This does not mean that every book is written by an apostle, but rather that each book is written during the apostolic age.

In addition, no book in the New Testament is more than one person removed from an apostle or another authoritative eyewitness of the life of Christ.

Mark, for example, is not an apostle, but he is a traveling companion of both Peter and Paul. Early church tradition attributes much of Mark’s Gospel to the memoirs of Peter.

Luke, in a similar manner, travels with Paul and interviews eyewitnesses of Jesus.

Catholicity

This has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. The word “catholic” simply means “universal.” Catholicity means that believers throughout the world to which Christianity was spreading were in agreement on the value of these books –- and used them widely.

No books that were found only among one sect of Christianity or in a single geographical location are included in the New Testament canon.

Orthodoxy

This refers to the faithfulness of the books to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Blomberg writes, “It is a criterion that could not have developed if people had not recognized that the heresies afflicting the church in its earliest centuries were parasitic on orthodoxy. That is to say, the heresies developed in response to apostolic doctrine –- modifying it, challenging it, trying to refute it, supplementing it or simply rejecting it.”

By the late second century, we see lists of 20 to 22 books accepted as authoritative, increasing to 23 early in the third century, and finally to 27 by no later than AD 367, when Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, writes his Easter encyclical to the rest of the church and lists the books that Christians still accept today.

So, back to our original question: What if Paul’s earlier letter is discovered? While the letter would be instructive, and might pass the tests of apostolicity and orthodoxy, it would fail the test of catholicity. There is no evidence this letter was read widely in the early church.

The key is to remember that the Holy Spirit ultimately fixes the canon of Scripture. The tests of apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy do not determine which books are inspired; they simply help us discover them.

Text Tuesday – Bible & Qur’an

I had the privilege of watching a live stream of the fascinating debate between Dr. Shabir Ali and Jay Smith – held in Toronto Canada last week. Fascinating because of the aterial questioning the widespread claims of muslims that the Qur’an was sent down, is unchanged and that the Qur’an of today is the Qur’an of yesterday.

Dr. Ali shocked us all by sidestepping the material and it could be said appeared to concede a number of matters rasied by Jay Smith and spent a huge amount of his main presentation time talking about the extraordinary numerology associated with the Qur’an or at least a particular version/reading of it.

I hope to link to it soon so you can peruse. In the meantime here is an argument that has some weight to it. I might have made some points differently but none the less there are some good questions here that require answering.

Text Tuesday – Proper principles lead to proper evaluations

I am grateful for my encounters and discussions with people of other faiths and their questions about the Holy Book I submit to. Particularly valuable are the encounters with lovely folks from the unfortunately ever newsworthy Islamic faith. Without their comments and questions, at times insightful, sometimes ridiculous, I never would have gone on this journey of seriously thinking about what exactly the Old and New Testaments are; what they look like and consequently what they can’t look like (obviously, though often missed, because of what they actually look like.) Key travelling companions on this new journey which is just at its very beginning are Expectations and Weighing Scales seasoned with a generous dollop of the wonderful word ‘appropriate’.

I am learning how to understand what the Bible itself is and isn’t, and how to evaluate it with appropriate expectations. If you have a wrong understanding of anything, a wrong evaluation tool and the wrong expectations in the first place then you will misread many things, misterpret somethings and miss the whole point of the actual thing.

In understanding what the Bible itself is  & isn’t – we can say the Bible is never less than a work of history, a work of a faith community, a work of man – never less than that but always more – a work of God. Other supposed works of God are proposed as just that, only that – never less or more than that. A work of God only. It’s important to notice what a thing is, is supposed to be according to itself and what it is understood to be by those most closely connected to it. In my career I have been paid to notice things. Now as a very amateur theologian I am starting to notice things more easily. Noticing what a thing purports to be and what it is said to be, by the community with familiarity and allegiance to it, is vital. This will set an appropriate understanding, an appropriate scales for evaluaton and ultimately an appropriate relationship to the thing in question – in this case the Old & New Testaments.

scales

For image source – just click it

J. Warner Wallace (a former detective – I am married to a sort of detective – more on that another day) sets out some principles for evaluation a Text which is the work of God & man. Both. If it’s the work of both God and men (and the men have not been somehow roboticised or become some kind of fitful autoscribes (neither have ever been suggested of the men who have penned the Jewish and Christian scriptures) then the principles should do justice to it being the work of God while at the very same time accommodating it being the work of men in history, writing in literary genres with the ear of the hearing audience in mind. Though narrowly focused I find these principles to have the wisdom to bear broad application. Here’s the start of Ten Principles When Considering Alleged Bible Contradictions with the click to his site to catch the rest – I never know if it’s ok to reblog it all. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I have not today but have linked to it – he was a detective afterall.

Ten Principles When Considering Alleged Bible Contradictions

As a detective, I’ve learned to accept the variation I see between eyewitness accounts. I’ve interviewed witnesses of crimes (occurring just hours earlier), only to find what appeared to be significant “contradictions” between the accounts. It’s my job, as the investigator, to determine why the eyewitnesses appear to contradict one another, even though there is doubt the event occurred and the witnesses were telling the truth. There are times when similar variations (or alleged “contradictions”) are observed in the Biblical accounts. It’s our job, as Christian Case Makers, to apply a few simple investigative principles to determine whether or not these differences impact the reliability of the accounts. I want to offer a few investigative principles and filters for investigating these alleged Bible contradictions. These principles are not outrageous or unusual. They’re not specific to the Bible. They’re not Christian tricks or devices used to cover up inadequacies. They are straightforward tools and approaches useful when examining any ancient document or piece of evidence. If we objectively examine the Scriptures with these principles in mind, we’ll not only grow in our understanding of the Bible, but we’ll better comprehend and resolve the difficulties:

Principle #1: Begin With A Fair Attitude
Imagine you’re driving down the street and you come to a stop sign. You don’t assume the sign is wrong. Even if you don’t see opposing traffic or you don’t understand the reason for the sign being at that particular corner, you still stop for the sign. Even if no other car shows up at the intersection, you don’t simply blow through the sign. You give the sign the benefit of the doubt. In essence, you don’t assume a street sign is wrong until proven right. When you begin to read the Bible and examine what it says, it’s important to start off with a fair attitude. You don’t need to treat it as something unquestionable and beyond examination, but you do need to afford it at least as much consideration as you would afford a street sign, a box of macaroni or a friend. Before you jump up and call it a liar, take a second to examine what it says fairly.

The Example of Biblical Genealogies
As an example, let’s examine Biblical genealogies. Some have tried to use the Biblical genealogical lists with a particular Click here to get to the full article at the J. Warner Wallace’s site.

Changing word Unexpected into Expected

For image source – click it.

Tuesday Text 15 – Canon Misconceptions

From the wonderful and surprisingly young scholar Michael J. Kruger over at Canon Fodder.

Each one is hyperlinked to the original and bears some time getting to know each one more fully.

  1. The Term “Canon” Can Only Refer to a Fixed, Closed List of Books
  2. Nothing in Early Christianity Dictated That There Would be a Canon
  3. The New Testament Authors Did Not Think They Were Writing Scripture
  4. New Testament Books Were Not Regarded as Scriptural Until Around 200 A.D.
  5. Early Christians Disagreed Widely over the Books Which Made It into the Canon
  6. In the Early Stages, Apocryphal Books Were as Popular as the Canonical Books
  7. Christians Had No Basis to Distinguish Heresy from Orthodoxy Until the Fourth Century
  8. Early Christianity was an Oral Religion and Therefore Would Have Resisted Writing Things Down
  9. The Canonical Gospels Were Certainly Not Written by the Individuals Named in Their Titles
  10. Athanasius’ Festal Letter (367 A.D.) is the First Complete List of New Testament Books

Text Tuesday (14th in the series)

Continuing the Text Tuesday series (even though last weeks post had 4 talks for your perusal. This week – no audio or video – just words.

Recently within the Tuesday Text series, I posted the fine work of others – a series by Tim McGrew speaking at Calvary Bible Church Kalamazoo. I had the priviledge of meeting him on the weekend here in London town and what an impressive scholar he is. More from Tim another time.

magic-book-1204250-mI am very comfortable with the approach of Jonathan Dodson on the Bible and it’s errors. We must remember that the Bible is a collection of ancient manuscripts, copied and handed down. It is however superintended by God in it’s provision. Are there errors in the Bible? Yes. But that’s not the end of story; merely for the open minded, it’s the beginning of knowledge. Does it have errors of the kind that are detrimental to its purpose, its narratives, its characters, its themes? Not that I can see.

The Bible translation I have in my home has errors – in fact it uses space on its pages to point to many of them. Not problematic for a document, written in history, by human authors even as supervised by God. But this would be very problematic for a magically arrived at book – a book without human authorship, human characteristics, stylings, nuances, faithfulness to human genres, with all it’s strengths and weaknesses. A ‘magically arrived at’ book is supposedly downloaded actively from on high through the merely passive human recipient(s). Such a book can carry no errors. For if it does the errors belong fully and soley to the Divine downloader – it’s only author. The bible has errors but not in the way that the non magical advocates should be worried. Let’s be careful not to make category errors and expect one species of book to behave and function like another.

And now over to Jonathan K. Dodson [check out his links also].

What to Say When Someone Says “The Bible Has Errors”

Most people question the reliability of the Bible. You’ve probably been in a conversation with a friend or met someone in a coffeeshop who said: “How can you be a Christian when the Bible has so many errors?” How should we respond? What do you say?

Instead of asking them to name one, I suggest you name one or two of the errors. Does your Bible contain errors? Yes. The Bible that most people possess is a translation of the Greek and Hebrew copies of copies of the original documents of Scripture. As you can imagine, errors have crept in over the centuries of copying. Scribes fall asleep, misspell, take their eyes off the manuscript, and so on. I recommend telling people what kind of errors have crept into the Bible. Starting with the New Testament, Dan Wallace, New Testament scholar and founder the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, lists four types of errors in Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning.

Types of Errors

1) Spelling & Nonsense Errors. These are errors occur when a scribe wrote a word that makes no sense in its context, usually because they were tired or took their eyes off the page.Some of these errors are quite comical, such as “we were horses among you” (Gk. hippoi, “horses,” instead of ēpioi, “gentle,” or nēpioi, “little children”) in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 in one late manuscript. Obviously, Paul isn’t saying he acted like a horse among them. That would be self-injury! These kinds of errors are easily corrected.

2) Minor ChangesThese minor changes are as small as the presence or absence of an article “the” or changed word order, which can vary considerably in Greek. Depending on the sentence, Greek grammar allows the sentence to be written up to 18 times, while still saying the same thing! So just because a sentence wasn’t copied in the same order, doesn’t mean that we lost the meaning.

3) Meaningful but not Plausible. These errors have meaning but aren’t a plausible reflection of the original text. For example, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, instead of “the gospel of God” (the reading of almost all the manuscripts), a late medieval copy has “the gospel of Christ.” There is a meaning difference between God and Christ, but the overall manuscript evidence points clearly in one direction, making the error plain and not plausibly part of the original.

4) Meaningful and Plausible. These are errors that have meaning and that the alternate reading is plausible as a reflection of the original wording. These types of errors account for less than 1% of all variants and typically involve a single word or phrase. The biggest of these types of errors is the ending of the Gospel of Mark, which most contemporary scholars to not regard as original. Our translations even footnote that!

Is the Bible Reliable?

So, is the Bible reliable? Well, the reliability of our English translations depends largely upon the quality of the manuscripts they were translated from. The quality depends, in part, on how recent the manuscripts are. Scholars like Bart Ehrman have asserted that we don’t have manuscripts that are early enough. However, the manuscript evidence is quite impressive:

  • There are as many as eighteen second-century manuscripts. If the Gospels were completed between 50-100 A.D., then this means that these early copies are within 100 years. Just last week, Dan Wallace announced that a new fragment from the Gospel of Mark was discovered dating back to the first century A.D., placing it well within 50 years of the originals, a first of its kind. When these early manuscripts are all put together, more than 43% of the NT is accounted for from copies no later than the 2nd C.
  • Manuscripts that date before 400 AD number 99, including one complete New Testament called Codex Sinaiticus. So the gap between the original, inerrant autographs and the earliest manuscripts is pretty slim. This comes into focus when the Bible is compared to other classical works that, in general, are not doubted for their reliability. In this chart of comparison with other ancient literature, you can see that the NT has far more copies than any other work, numbering 5,700 (Greek) in comparison to the 200+ of Suetonius. If we take all manuscripts into account (handwritten prior to printing press), we have 20,000 copies of the NT. There are only 200 copies of the earliest Greek work.
  • This means if we are going to be skeptical about the Bible, then we need to be 1000xs more skeptical about the works of Greco-Roman history. Or put another way, we can be 1000 times more confident about the reliability of the Bible. It is far and away the most reliable ancient document.

What to Say When Someone Says “The Bible Has Errors”.

So, when someone asserts that the Bible says errors, we can reply by saying: “Yes, our Bible translations do have errors, let me tell you about them. But as you can see, less than 1% of them are meaningful and those errors don’t affect the major teachings of the Christian faith. In fact, there are 1000 times more manuscripts of the Bible than the most documented Greco-Roman historian by Suetonius. So, if we’re going to be skeptical about ancient books, we should be 1000 times more skeptical of the Greco-Roman histories. The Bible is, in fact, incredibly reliable.”

Contrary to popular assertion, that as time rolls on we get further and further away from the original with each new discovery, we actually get closer and closer to the original text. As Wallace puts it, we have “an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the biblical documents.” Therefore, we can be confident that what we read in our modern translations of the the ancient texts is approximately 99% accurate. It is very reliable.

For Further Study (order easy to difficult):

Text Tuesday 7 – What is the truth about alleged contradictions in the Gospels?

Week 5 and last in this valauble series from Dr. Timothy McGrew hosted by Calvary Bible Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Alleged contradictions in the Gospels? is the subject.

I have loved this series and not just because of Dr. McGrew’s jumpers (pullovers / sweaters) but also getting to write the lovely word kalamazoo 6 times – this being the sixth.

Week 05, Powerpoint, Feb 17, 2013.pdf

Week 05, Resources, Feb 17 2013.pdf

Text Tuesday 6 – What about the alleged errors in the Gospels?

Week 4 with the Dr. Timothy McGrew series at Calvary Bible Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Alleged errors in the Gospels? is the subject.

Resources:

Week 04, PowerPoint, Feb 10 2013.pdf

Week 04, Resources, Feb 10 2013.pdf

Text Tuesday 5 – Is there Internal Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels?

Week 3 of the McGrew series at Calvary Bible Church Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This week the question being addressed is Is there Internal Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels?

Resources:

Week 03, PowerPoint, Feb 03 2013.pdf

Week 03, Resources, Feb 03 2013.pdf

Text Tuesday 4 – Is there external, historical evidence for the truth of the Gospels?

Continuing the series by Dr. Timothy McGrew delivered over at Calvary Bible Church Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This is week 2 of their series – Is there external, historical evidence for the truth of the Gospels?

 

Resources referenced in the talk available in PDF form.

Week 02, PowerPoint, Jan 20 2013.pdf

Week 02, Resources, Jan 20 2013.pdf

Text Tuesday 3 – Who wrote the Gospels?

This is the first of a very good and well resourced series of talks entitled The Gospels & Apologetics by Dr. Timothy McGrew who delivered this series at Calvary Bible Church in Kalamazoo Michigan USA.

The series is accessible but demands attention and is worthy of return trips. The resources accompanying the series – capturing and going beyond the series are invaluable and great to find in one place.

Here is the outline of the 5 week series which I hope to host here each Tuesday:

1) Who wrote the Gospels?

2) Is there external, historical evidence for the truth of the Gospels?

3) Is there internal evidence for the truth of the Gospels?

4) What is the truth about alleged historical errors in the Gospels?

5) What is the truth about alleged contradictions in the Gospels?

All the delivery work is by Dr. McGrew and the setup over at Calvary Bible Church by their team, whom I am grateful to for their work – which I am just posting here to make available to my readership, such as it is.

Dr. McGrew’s resources for Who wrote the Gospels? is as follows:

Week 01, PowerPoint, Jan 13 2013.pdf

Week 01, Resources, Jan 13 2013.pdf

Text Tuesday 2 – Ten Basic Facts About the New Testament Canon

Calling serious christians – do check out these Ten Basic Facts About the New Testament Canon that Every Christian Should Memorise below and get all the links directly at Michael Kruger over at Canon Fodder

Dr. Kruger is a very important scholar and thinker in the world of New Testament canon and textual studies. Spend any time with a thinking or reworking atheist or muslim and you will know these are real issues. A reworker is someone who hears something somewhere – usually on the internet – and just repeats it ad infinitum inspite of any clarification or counter arguments offered.

Without prior thought, the christian can be so easily and unecessarily disadvantaged and left stuttering our way through an awkward discussion – with a one way train of false understandings bearing down on you. In the world of healthcare there is a very famous piece of academic work entitled ‘Information, a Prescription Against Pain’. In the world of ‘truthcare’ the same is true. Have good information to offer to questions, assertions and false notions. Actually that’s what the Humble Donkey blog is about. Resources – a presciption against Pain.

Clicking any of the Ten below will bring you to the full treatment of that fact. Thank you Dr. Kruger.

Michael Kruger

For the last month or so, I have been working through a new series on the NT canon designed to help Christians understand ten basic facts about its origins.  This series is designed for a lay-level audience and hopefully could prove helpful in a conversation one might have with a skeptical friend.

Given that there are already four installments in this series, I thought would be helpful to have them listed all in one spot.  Thus, I will list the current installments below, and plan to update this list as the series progresses.  Also, note that the bottom left of my website has a link to all my blog series.

#1: “The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess”

#2: “Apocryphal Writings are All Written in the Second Century or Later”

#3: “The New Testament Books Are Unique Because They Are Apostolic Books”

#4: “Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture”

#5: “The Four Gospels are Well Established by the End of the Second Century”

#6: “At the End of the Second Century, the Muratorian Fragment lists 22 of our 27 NT books”

#7: “Early Christians Often Used Non-Canonical Writings”

#8: “The NT Canon Was Not Decided at Nicea—Nor Any Other Church Council”

#9: “Christians Did Disagree about the Canonicity of Some NT Books”

#10 “Early Christians Believed that Canonical Books were Self-Authenticating.”

Truth is so obscured nowdays