Monthly Archives: March 2015

More Bad Blood Moon Rising?

A year ago on Veracity, we covered the story of the popular “Four Blood Moons” prophecy being promoted by pastors Mark Biltz and John Hagee.  But in a story that has become even more bizarre a year later, it appears that John Hagee has released a movie to be shown in theatres across America as we near the third of the four lunar eclipse events coming early (briefly) Saturday morning, April 3rd, 2015, on the North American east coast.

It appears that the producer of a Mark Biltz book about the same subject, World Net Daily’s Joseph Farah, on behalf of Biltz, has threatened some sort of potential legal action against Hagee for the claim made in Hagee’s movie that the San Antonio, Texas megachurch pastor made the “discovery” of the prophecy himself. Biltz, who also made a relatively smaller movie in comparison on the same topic, was actually the one who supposedly made the “discovery” of the prophecy by looking at information from NASA.

I find it strangely odd that two men and their representatives would be quarreling about which one of them speculated on this rather convoluted, supposed “prophecy” first.

(…Placing palm on forehead…)

If someone can enlighten me on how this whole affair can possibly preserve the integrity of Christian witness and bring honor to our Lord, I am all ears.

Some wisdom from the words of Jesus are appropriate here to encourage responsible Christians not to wander into such territory: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7 ESV)

At least to his credit, pastor Hagee did invite astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross to interact with him in the movie and express some scientific and biblical criticisms.  Here is a two part analysis by Hugh Ross concerning the blood moon theory (#1 and #2).

If you are still curious but have no interest in going back to read the original post from last year for more detail, I would encourage you at the very least to view this video critique of the blood moon theory:


Discipleship Sandwich

SandwichIt’s easy to approach our spiritual lives like a sandwich. We just add the ingredients we like and leave out those that we don’t. We eat until we are satisfied—then we are done. We can fall into pretty humdrum routines where we eat the same sandwich over and over.

For the past nine weeks, I have had the privilege of sharing some thoughts and resources for personal discipleship with an amazing adult Sunday school class. They are ‘amazing’ because most of them have studied the Bible thoroughly and devotionally, and it shows in the way they think and live their lives. They have inspired me for years.

In putting this class together, I had several goals. First, to share the incredible resources that are instantly available to us now through the Internet and other technologies. We are spoiled with an embarrassment of riches for personal discipleship and Bible study. A modern toolbox can include: videos from the greatest pastors, theologians, apologists, and philosophers; apps that read the Bible and books to us while we drive or go for a walk; multimedia Bibles that help us see the context of Scripture; podcasts to challenge our thinking; websites that contain enormous volumes of theological and devotional material; online research sites that go well beyond simple biblical commentaries; apps for journaling and note-taking that help us retain what we have studied; electronic books and magazines (that are electronically searchable); free online seminary courses; map-based websites that can fly us into ancient archaeological sites; and digital videos that inspire our souls and challenge our minds.

Secondly, to expose mature Christians to contemporary (and not so contemporary) challenges to the Christian faith, and give them a flavor for how well our faith stands up to scrutiny and attack. Many of us tend to shake a bit when some intelligent-sounding pundit (or coworker at the water cooler) attacks our beliefs. What I really want to share with people is that these attacks are in the mainstream culture, and there is nothing to fear if we know the appropriate responses.

Thirdly, I wanted to expose the class to apologists, researchers, theologians, and philosophers on the front lines who are blazing trails with their debating, research, and publishing. People like J. Warner Wallace, Daniel Wallace, and William Lane Craig. (During the course, Clarke Morledge and I updated our Top 10 Scorers list to make these people and their resources easily accessible.)

Granted, all of the material presented leans heavily towards the intellectual. Unapologetically. One of the great wonders of Christianity is that it succeeds both on very simple and very complex levels. You don’t need to know a lot to be saved, but diving deep can produce great appreciation for Christianity as an objective truth.

A Baptist preacher friend says, “Not everybody needs that (intellectual rigor).” While I completely agree, there’s more to it than that. Several other friends make statements to the effect that they believe the claims of Christianity, and they don’t need all the navel gazing and logic chopping. Got it. But here’s the deal—it’s not about us. While deeper study will produce deeper appreciation for the reality of our beliefs, and that is a VERY good thing, it’s about being good disciples.

Personal Discipleship is all about making the best sandwich you can. Not for yourself, but for somebody else.

Week-9

Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

 
 

HT: Ken Petzinger, Clarke Morledge, Joe Webers, Judy Williamson, Marion Paine, Dave Rudy, CommunityTable.com (sandwich image)


Henry Morris and the Case of the Missing Signature

Henry M. Morris (1918-2006). Along with Grace Theological Seminary's John C. Whitcomb, this engineer was one of the fathers of the contemporary Young Earth Creationist movement.

Henry M. Morris (1918-2006). Along with Grace Theological Seminary’s John C. Whitcomb, this engineer was one of the pioneers of the contemporary Young Earth Creationist movement and a leading figure in the inerrancy crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s.

The pen lay undisturbed on the table. The document needed one more signature. Others had scribed their name in ink. But Dr. Henry Morris had left the room. The hope for having a unified front in defense of the inerrancy of the Bible were dashed at that moment.

The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) had accomplished so much. In 1977, this group of Bible scholars and teachers had drafted a document affirming a set of principles that sought to expound on the meaning of Biblical inspiration and authority. Christian leaders from across the widest denominational spectrum had agreed to put aside their relative doctrinal differences to stand on what Francis Schaeffer had understood to be the “watershed of the evangelical world“. Against the tide of a creeping liberalism in the churches that would compromise God’s Truth, these leaders had pinned their hopes on the banner of inerrancy to unite the evangelical church.

But it was now 1982, and despite how well things had gone, the unique opportunity for a consensus was gone. How did we get here, and what went wrong?
Continue reading


Inerrancy and Infallibility

We cannot explain or resolve all parts of Scripture. However, to surmise that apparent conflicts in the Bible must be ‘errors’ is an arrogant and dangerous supposition. Too many people give up too easily—if it doesn’t make sense they aren’t willing to dig deeper. Or to trust. Bible

A few years ago I listened as wise, godly friends discussed the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. All of them are mature Christians. The issue was not the authority of Scripture for faith and practice. The issue was whether it is necessary and/or appropriate to include in our statement of faith that the Bible contains the ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’ word of God.

While I try not to get too personal with this blog, the most that I can contribute on this topic is personal. Specifically, the more I study, the more it all makes sense. Not just in a little way, but in one “Oh wow!” realization after another. Many (not all) passages that at one time confused me or caused me to wonder if the text was correct came into sharper focus with deeper study. This detailed-study-leads-to-edification process has happened so many times that my views on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible have strengthened considerably.

Just one example—I audited an apologetics course entitled Creation and the Bible by Reasons To Believe. Dr. Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist and the founder of Reasons To Believe states in his testimony that he became a Christian by reading the foundational books of the world’s religions and discarding them one by one based upon scientific errors apparent in their text. When he got to the Bible, however, he found 13 scientifically accurate statements about the creation of the universe in the first chapter of Genesis. If you take the time to dig, the details are amazing and dramatically support the case for ascribing inerrancy and infallibility to the Bible.

There’s no shortage of opinions on the accuracy of the Bible. Our post-modern culture promotes individual opinions and disharmony over conformity and agreement. Fine. Got it. No one wants to give a straightforward yes or no to the question of Biblical inerrancy, and actually that should be the case. What do you do with translation differences, poetry, allegorical statements, the use of Koine (slang) Greek, textual criticism, differing accounts of the same events by different authors, a lack of modern technical precision, observational descriptions of nature, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, and so on? It takes a fair amount of clarification before we can get to a yes or no response.

But the concepts behind these adjectives are extremely important, and there are those who have done a very good job building a case for unity on this topic. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is a document worthy of very careful reading. Before I read it, I had my own unfocused views on the subject. After reading it and thinking it through, I’m in. I support the Chicago Statement.

So back to the question of whether it is necessary or appropriate to include that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in our statement of faith. In its constitutional context, the Williamsburg Community Chapel’s statement of faith is reduced to eight points about which we believe so strongly that we would break fellowship with those who would disagree. In this context, personally I believe it is appropriate—but not necessary—to include these terms (see Article XIX of the Chicago Statement). In other words, would I break fellowship with someone who was struggling with the genealogies of Christ in Matthew versus Luke? No. Would I break fellowship with someone who insisted that the differences in these genealogies prove the errancy of the Bible? Absolutely. More importantly, do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible, inspired word of God? Yes.

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2015 Personal Discipleship - Week 8
Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

HT: Dave Rudy


Responding to Textual Criticism

VilifyWhen someone confronts us in a particularly offensive manner or strikes at a deeply held conviction or belief, most of us have a natural inclination to fight back. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to let anger and emotions get the better of us.

Like it or not, we live in a world where there is little tolerance for people who think differently. From a purely cultural perspective, we are far less apt to listen and empathize than we are to attack and vilify. To win is to vanquish our enemies. Or is it?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”
Matthew 5:38-47, NKJV

In our Personal Discipleship class we have been studying contemporary challenges to the Christian faith. One of the more prominent challengers is Bart Ehrman, a popular skeptic who calls himself an agnostic, but who more accurately fits the mold of an angry, deconverted Christian. (Ehrman has a big beef with God over the problem of evil and suffering.) His books achieve best-seller status, and he is quoted by atheists and skeptics as an authority on the unreliability of the Bible. He is revered by friend and foe alike for his skill in textual criticism. His research is largely undisputed, but his premises and conclusions are highly biased. Nevertheless, he strikes a chord with those seeking to discredit the trustworthiness of the Bible.

While it’s very difficult for some to listen to abrasive skepticism, it is encouraging to see how rigorous scholarship can turn back the skeptic’s wrath. Well-articulated truth is a powerful antidote to skepticism, particularly when it follows the apologetic ethic of gentleness and respect. Here is a debate you can buy (sorry, there is no good quality video currently being served online) between Ehrman and Dan Wallace on the reliability of the text of the New Testament. It was at the time the largest debate ever held on the reliability of the New Testament text. (For some interesting background, see the video in this post.)

Wallace Ehrman Debate
Dan Wallace is amazing in this debate. He is honest, well-informed, learned, respectful, humorous, and makes a convincing case for the reliability of the New Testament text. His response to Bart Ehrman is a model of what Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount (quoted above). Wallace’s response is not angry—although he is deeply concerned about the effects of Bart Ehrman’s influence on our culture. Wallace has the proper response to textual skepticism. He doesn’t vilify Bart Ehrman—he doesn’t need to. It is amazing what we can do when we take the time to study the facts and respond in obedience, with an appreciation of the right ethics.

And finally, for those following our Personal Discipleship class or otherwise interested in Textual Criticism, here are the class notes.

Personal Discipleship Class-Week 7
Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

HT: Daniel B. Wallace, Marion Paine


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