Indiana Jones, Egyptian Chariot Wheels in the Red Sea, The True Cross… and Fringe Archaeology

 

Harrison Ford’s classic character “Indiana Jones,” has affinities with Hans Solo from the Star Wars franchise. A younger version of Harrison Ford’s  Hans Solo character, is the central focus in the 2018 Solo: A Star Wars Story movie.

Now that Hans Solo is back on the pop culture radar….

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is one my favorite movies of all time. Harrison Ford, elsewhere known as Hans Solo, played this iconic, adventurous character, looking for the Ark of the Covenant. Who knew that Bible archaeology could be such fun?

Let us explore how the Bible and archaeological adventures connect, and find out…

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg took the mega-popular Hans Solo character of Star Wars, and put him back on earth in the 1930s, as one Indiana Jones. One of my favorite scenes shows this studious looking archaeology professor talking about the Ark of the Covenant, the great chest of the Old Testament that stored the Ten Commandments, that went missing sometime during Israel’s ancient history. Within minutes after this scene, our Indiana Jones would be traveling the world, fedora hat on head, with bullwhip in hand, chasing trucks, trying to beat the Nazis to recover the missing Ark of the Covenant.

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What Did You Think of The Royal Wedding Sermon?

The May 19, 2018 sermon by U.S. Episcopal bishop Michael Curry, at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, might have been the most watched Christian sermon, in world history. I am not a morning person, so I never bothered to get up for the wedding. But I have listened to a number of people give their opinions about the sermon, including a few evangelical Christians.

It just amazes me that two believers can listen to the same sermon, and get a completely different message out of it. Some Christians heard Bishop Curry give a powerful testimony to the love of God, a fiery display of the nature of the God of the Bible. Others heard a vague call to the power of human love, white-washed with Christian language, a camouflage over the false teaching it really was. Others just registered a “no comment” vote.

It was interesting that Curry appealed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (no surprise, really), as well as the controversial Roman Catholic paleontologist and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was censured by the papacy, in the 20th century, for his writings in support of evolution, but who today has received calls for his rehabilitation, among some Roman Catholics, and other calls to retain his censure.

My thoughts are best reflected by the following witty, intelligent remarks by British evangelist Glen Scrivener (catch his Richard Niebuhr quote — right on!). What did you think of the sermon? Let me know in the comments section below. Bottom line: may we all have discernment and search the Scriptures for God’s Truth.

If you have not seen or heard the sermon, here it is:


Did King James Order His KJV Translators to Conceal the True Meaning of Baptism?

A baptismal font in England, dating back to 1405, large enough to be used for full infant immersion, throughout the Reformation period. Note the table top on the left hand side of the photo, to gain some perspective as to how big this baptismal font really is: Saint Bartholomew the Great Church in London.

This might be a bit nerdy, but it is a pet peeve of mine: Is the proper mode of baptism by pouring, sprinkling, or full immersion? What follows is an example of how an arguably plausible theological doctrine can be improperly justified with a flawed piece of historical “evidence.” The actual history of baptism is far more interesting, and it makes for a good rallying point for discussing the Scriptural mode of baptism.

I recently listened to a YouTube sermon whereby the pastor claimed that King James, the early 17th century English king, who authorized the famous 1611 King James Version translation of the Bible, purposely sought to obscure the true meaning of baptism. King James “did not allow [his Bible] translators to translate [the word] ‘bapto’” into English. The Greek word “bapto” is where we get the English word “baptism,” which is basically a transliteration from Greek into English. Most concordances, such as Strong’s, will translate “bapto” as to “dip” or “immerse.

So, why did King James steer his translators clear from actually translating this Greek word into English?  The pastor went onto explain, “Because the Anglican Church did not practice what [baptism] means. The Anglican Church sprinkled.”

My ears perked up. But the pastor continued…

The problem with leaving “bapto,” or our “baptism,” untranslated is that it has encouraged people to interpret the word however we imagine it to mean. As a result, this ambiguity about “baptism” has led English-speaking Christians, since the time of King James, to be unsure as to how baptism should be practiced in the churches. Should we practice sprinkling, pouring, or full immersion? Readers of the King James Version of the Bible, the pastor concludes, are left in this state of confusion. What a tragedy.

Well, when I heard this, my fallacy-o-meter started to register near the red-zone. I will not link to his sermon, as this is pure bunk. Things like this just annoy me….

Obviously, this pastor rejects any form of baptism that is not full immersion, which would implicitly include most modern practices of infant baptism. My longtime pastor, Dick Woodward, from years ago, told the story of a Baptist kid, who had a cat that had gotten himself entangled in some pile of garbage, and the cat came out smelling just awful! The Baptist kid wanted to wash this cat, before letting him into the house. He tried to immerse the cat into a tub of water, but the cat resisted. He tried to pour water on the cat, but the cat kept dodging the water. Frustrated, to no end, and scratched up by the rebellious cat, the Baptist kid finally uttered, “Cat, you stink so much, that I will make a Presbyterian out of you, and just sprinkle you, and let you go to hell!Continue reading


The Jerusalem Question: What is “Covenant Theology” vs. “Dispensationalism”?

On May 14, 2018 the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the first nation to do so, since the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, seventy years ago. Christians are divided as to the significance of what this means. According to a 2017 LifeWay research study on “Evangelical Attitudes Toward Israel,” many older evangelical Christians support Israel, and their right to the land, based on their understanding of the Bible. Therefore, the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is generally considered to be a good thing. But a growing number of mainly younger evangelical Christians do not share any “strong views” about Israel, based on their understanding of the Bible. These Christians are less enthusiastic about the U.S. move.

Why do Christians not agree about Israel, and Israel’s right to the land, with Jerusalem as its capital?

To get at the heart of the debate, you have to know something about the decades old discussion between “covenant theology” and “dispensationalism.” If you no have idea what “covenant theology” and “dispensationalism” are about, the following video would be a good place to start.

Greg Koukl is the director of Stand to Reason, an apologetics ministry that I find has very helpful resources. If you were looking for a short primer to explain the difference between covenant theology and dispensationalism, then this would be a great investment of less than nine minutes of your time. Greg leans more towards the dispensational side of the equation, but he succinctly and fairly represents both sides.

About two years ago, I embarked on a blog series study on “Christian Zionism,” the idea that God has a plan to restore the ancient borders of ethnic, national Israel. The story of “Christian Zionism” requires a basic knowledge of “covenant theology” and “dispensationalism.” Over the coming year, I plan on posting the remaining drafts of that series, interspersed among other posts. If you want to explore more as to how I got interested in this discussion, you can start here.


Should the Old Testament Be Unhitched from Christian Faith? … (Acts 15 and Andy Stanley)

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. He is stirring controversy again, but he is also getting Christians (like me) to think about stuff that we are not always prepared to deal with.

A lot of skeptics find the Old Testament to be a problem. A lot of Christians, if they are honest, do too.

But at the first great church council, in Jerusalem, in Acts 15, you get the impression that the earliest Christians were willing to get rid of the legal requirements of the Old Testament, in order to reach more people, with the Gospel. Staunch Jewish members of the early church resisted this, wanting Gentile converts to become circumcised, as a condition for salvation. But those like the Apostle Paul convinced the church leadership to conclude otherwise:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well (Acts 15:28-29 ESV)

In other words, if the Gentiles Christians were willing to adhere to these four basic requirements, they could remain in the church, without (at least the men) falling under the knife. At first, this sounds straight forward, until you read elsewhere later in the New Testament, where the exact requirement for abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, appears to be set aside as a “disputable matter,” as explained by Paul in Romans 14 and 15, where Christians can follow their consciences, as long as they do not cause other believers to stumble.

The main point seems to be that Christians should put an emphasis on unity, and that the requirements laid down in Jerusalem were more about keeping peace, than they were about adhering to moral principle.

One of America’s most influential pastors, Andy Stanley, of one of the largest churches in Atlanta, Georgia, North Point Community Church, has gone a step further, in a 2018 sermon that has caused a firestorm of controversy. Stanley lands his message by saying, “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.

Andy Stanley has received quite a bit of pushback (Dr. Michael Brown at Charisma magazine, Wesley Hill at First Things). In understanding the Old Testament to be a problem, for many people today, is pastor Stanley throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

If you look at Acts 15, I find that many modern Christians have a problem with even the basic requirements adopted at the Jerusalem council. With respect to the requirement to abstain from “sexual immorality,” a lot of evangelicals are quick to lament how same-sex marriage, and other traditional, sexual immorality issues are being compromised, in certain quarters of the church.

But with equal force, we see the early church condemning, at least here in Acts 15, the eating of food sacrificed to idols, consuming blood, and eating the meat of animals that still have blood in them (what has [not] been strangled). And yet, how many Christians do you see today worrying about eating any food, in connection with idolatry?

Even more unsettling, and more relevant to modern Christians, what about eating red meat? Do you like your steak rare or medium rare? Are you violating the requirement laid down by the first great council of the church?

What are we to make of the binding force of the Acts 15 decree, for today’s Christians? How are we to relate to the Old Testament, rejecting what is an obstacle to faith in Jesus, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

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