Tag Archives: Darrell Bock

Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Brief Book Review

Still looking for that perfect gift book, for a high school graduate, off on their way to college? Consider Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Challenges to the Bible, by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw.

Young people growing up in the church today face immense challenges from a culture skeptical to the Gospel. Leading the charge towards encouraging doubt is popular author and University of North Carolina religion professor, Bart Ehrman.

If you have never heard of Bart Ehrman before, you need to get out from underneath your rock, and learn about him. Ehrman grew up going to church and attending Christian colleges, but eventually lost his faith in the process. He has since authored five New York Times Bestsellers, and dozens of other books, all aimed at undermining confidence in the reliability of the Bible and its message.

What makes Ehrman’s skepticism so caustic, is that he knows his facts really, really well. He knows his Bible better than most Christians do, and he remains one of the world’s top textual critical scholars of the New Testament. The problem is that the conclusions he draws from his research are not always warranted. There are indeed very good answers to the issues he raises, that affirm the trustworthiness of the Bible.

In Truth in a Culture of Doubt, Köstenberger, Bock, and Chatraw, all evangelical and believing scholars themselves, tackle each of Erhman’s challenges in a very engaging manner, issues that every thoughtful Christian will face, as they seek to share their faith with their informed neighbors:

  • Is God Immoral Because He Allows Suffering?
  • Is the Bible Full of Irresolvable Contradictions?
  • Are the Biblical Manuscripts Corrupt?
  • Were there Many Christianities?
  • Are Many New Testament Documents Forged?

A nice little extra is a quick question and answer guide at the back of the book, that summarizes the basic arguments. Truth in a Culture of Doubt is an updated, more in-depth version of an earlier book by these evangelical scholars, Truth Matters, that I reviewed a few years ago. Though Truth in a Culture of Doubt was itself published back in 2014, the information packed in it is still relevant today, as the issues dealt within are not going away any time soon. Ehrman is still himself writing books, but more and more, any new issues that he writes about move further away from his area of expertise.

In many ways, the topics that Ehrman has been writing about for over fifteen years are not new. They are no more than popular distillations of scholarly, critical views in the history of Christianity, that have been taught in secular departments of religion at private and public universities for nearly a century now. Sadly, it has taken a barrage of these skeptical writings, in popular form, to force the evangelical church to better inform her people, and give better answers.

Read a brief excerpt from Truth in a Culture of Doubt here, then go buy the book for that young person you know, who is facing challenges from a skeptical culture.


The Wrong Jesus for the Right Young Graduate

Greg Monette, a young scholar with Logos Bible Software and the Navigators, has written the perfect book to curious minds to sort out fact from fiction regarding who was and is Jesus.

Greg Monette, a young scholar with Logos Bible Software and the Navigators, has written the perfect book for curious minds to sort out fact from fiction regarding who was and is Jesus.

The Internet. YouTube. Your NewAge neighbor. The History Channel. Morgan Freeman’s The Story of God. Youth pastors. Skeptical friends. Parents. College professors…. Our world is simply bombarded with an untold number of conflicting voices, all telling us who Jesus really was. How do you figure out who the right Jesus is from the wrong Jesus?

If you know of a Christian young person graduating high school or college, you should know that they will be facing challenges to their Christian faith in college, the secular workplace, or just with their iPhone, scrolling through the Internet. Would not the best gift to such a person be something that will help to prepare them to better understand and defend their faith?

I recently picked up a copy of Greg Monette’s The Wrong Jesus: Fact, Belief, Legend, Truth . . . Making Sense of What You’ve Heard. Monette helps the reader to navigate many of the challenges to what the Bible teaches about Jesus, including questions about His existence, His divinity, and His message to a skeptical world.

In past years, I have recommended Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World, by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, Josh Chatraw. This is another excellent book along the same line (Hey, if Veracity co-blogger, John Paine, had dinner with co-author Andreas Köstenberger, it has to be good, right?). In Truth Matters, the authors focus on the popular writings of former evangelical scholar turned skeptic, Bart Ehrman. However, Monette’s book is broader in focus, looking also at archaeological issues, the miracles of Jesus, and how Jesus treated women.

Monette brilliantly defends the faith, but he is also refreshingly candid. The Bible is historically reliable, but the truth of Christianity is not dependent on our ability to figure out every detailed Bible discrepancy and fitting it in with some simplistic view of inerrancy.1 What ultimately matters is that if Jesus really is resurrected from the dead, then this changes everything.

A healthy perspective. A highly recommended book.

Notes:

1. I have written about this topic before, but I feel like this point needs to be repeatedly stressed.


Marcus Borg: Friendly Liberal Critic

One of the most well-known liberal critics belonging to the Jesus Seminar died on January 21, 2015, Marcus Borg. Marcus Borg was an influential writer in liberal Protestant circles, such as in my late father-in-law’s church in the last years of his life, but with respect to Borg’s conservative evangelical critics, like Dallas Seminary’s Darrell Bock, Borg was a respectful and friendly dialogue partner.

My first encounter with Marcus Borg was in a highly recommended book he co-wrote with Anglican scholar N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. N.T. Wright defended an evangelical orthodox position affirming the virgin birth of Jesus, the divinity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of the Lord. Marcus Borg denied ALL of these doctrines of the faith, but he nevertheless endeavoured to identify himself as a Christian, something that most evangelicals find incomprehensible. Borg aligned himself with the Jesus Seminar, which was notoriously known to gather together regularly to “vote” on which statements in the Gospels were actually authentic or inauthentic. Evangelical critics of the Jesus Seminar noted that was basically like using a democratic system of decision-making in order to establish what is true versus what is false, relying on the wisdom of man as opposed to the wisdom of God as revealed in inspired, sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, Borg was always rather cordial in his disagreements with his conservative evangelical dialogue partners.

Gospel Coalition author and blogger Derek Rishmawy best describes the Protestant liberal mindset as of “those who can at best recite the creeds with their fingers crossed. Having embraced the various presuppositions of Enlightenment and postmodern thinking, they are skeptical of supernatural claims and often doubt the very idea of objective truth.” Those who identify themselves as “liberal Christians,” like Marcus Borg, can say that they believe in Jesus, but when honestly challenged, their doubts regarding the supernatural get in the way of them having a full confidence of the genuine reality of a personal Lord and Savior in their lives…well, maybe the theologically sophisticated like Marcus Borg can somehow convince themselves, but in my experience the typical pew sitters in a liberal congregation under the influence of Borg and his followers find it difficult to overcome their doubts.

I, on the other hand, contend that there are other ways to address the question of doubt, as opposed to the way Borg sought to do it. While I am sympathetic that doubt is always something that challenges us in our faith, we can nevertheless move through our doubts and have the confident assurance that “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirt who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) … and this is no mere “spiritual” resurrection. It is bodily full and real! Seeking to move through our doubts is part of the journey of personal discipleship behind the purpose of this Veracity blog.

In honor of this friendly liberal critic, it might be worth observing this classic debate between William Lane Craig and Marcus Borg on the topic, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” Though I do not agree with Marcus Borg, it is nevertheless important to learn from this exchange how to challenge this way of thinking in a manner that is gentle and respectful.

 

 

 

 


More on Newsweek‘s Misunderstanding of the Bible

Plumb LineMy Veracity blogging colleague, John Paine, recently referenced New Testament scholar Dan Wallace’s response to Newsweek author Kurt Eichenwald’s Christmas tirade against Christian “misunderstandings” of the Bible.  Sadly, despite some of the genuine substance Mr. Eichenwald displays to the reader, it is the Newsweek piece itself, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” that bears most of the misunderstanding.

The article has generated A LOT of responses, so many that I think it would be best to list out some of the more prominent ones. The original Newsweek article is extremely long, but it is worth taking some time to go through it as it adequately illustrates many of the most common objections and confusions regarding Christianity and the Bible that you will encounter today among secularly-minded thinkers, or those thinkers who wish to reshape Christian faith to look more “modern.” But you should also read a few of the responses as an aid to help you develop an informed response to Eichenwald’s many complaints. It is great way to get an education on some critical issues in doing Christian apologetics in a skeptical world.  Some of what Eichenwald says presents challenging difficulties for the Christian, while much of what he says, if not the bulk of it, can be answered in a manner that effectively communicates an honorable confidence in God’s Word:

  • Michael Kruger (Reformed Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.) has two articles (#1 and #2 ), but what is most valuable is that Mr. Eichenwald offers some rejoinders to Kruger’s critique in the comments section.
  • Ben Witherington (Asbury Seminary, Kentucky) offers a response from an evangelical Wesleyan perspective.
  • For a response from the more conservative wing of mainstream Protestantism, this detailed response from Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) fills in some of the gaps left by others in their critiques.
  • Kurt Eichenwald has repeatedly said that some of the responses to his Christmas essay from Christians were loaded with “vitriol” and “name calling.” Perhaps Eichenwald has this series of video responses in mind ( you have to scroll past much of the unedited chatter in places, but you can look here: #1 and #2)by Reformed apologist James A. White (Alpha-Omega Ministries), but I will let the viewer be the judge of that.
  • In addition to the well-known agnostic Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Mr. Eichenwald leans heavily on the critical views of Jason David BeDuhn, professor of Comparative Study of Religions, at Northern Arizona University. BeDuhn, in this essay, responds to a critique of the Newsweek article by Southern Baptist Seminary head, Al Mohler.
  • If you want to know what the more progressive end of Christianity is thinking about this, read this by blogger Rachel Held Evans, or this from Old Testament scholar Pete Enns.
  • In my view, the best and most thorough response is from Darrell Bock (Dallas Seminary). If you only have time to read one of these, pick either the Dan Wallace one linked above or this one by Bock.
  • The latest response from Newsweek itself is that they agreed to publish the following rejoinder by messianic scholar Michael Brown. In Newsweek’s introduction to Dr. Brown’s essay, they still stand by Eichenwald’s original story, in an effort to promote discussion. Furthermore, they announced that Dr. Brown has invited Mr. Eichenwald to be on his Line of Fire radio program the week of January 19.

 


Podcasts for the Thinking Christian

Plumb LineJohn’ s recent post on William Lane Craig’s Defender Series of podcasts brought to mind that I should update my list of recommended podcasts for the thinking Christian (here is an earlier list John and I have discussed).  I do not have the time to read books as much as I would like, but the marvel of MP3 players is that I can download audio files and listen to them while I work in the yard or drive to and from work.

John’s suggestion of William Lane Craig as the “graduate school” for the next step following after Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College is very appropriate. Dick was an amazing teacher who continues to impact the world through his unique ability to “put things on the bottom shelf” for people by exploring the basic contours of the Bible. Dr. Craig then makes it more in-depth in terms of helping you grasp and develop your own understanding of God (theology) founded on Scripture and then applied in terms of being able to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics).

But just as there are fine and different academic graduate schools out there, there are different “graduate school” approaches to theology and apologetics. For example, Dr. Craig is probably one of the leading Christian apologists alive today, such that atheist Richard Dawkins awkwardly still refuses to debate him. But Dr. Craig is known for his “Middle Knowledge” approach to the issue of God’s sovereignty vs. free will. He is also known for his classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics.  Without digging too much into those things right now, let me just say that not everybody is totally with Dr. Craig on these issues. But, PLEASE, do not let that dissuade you from digging into William Lane Craig! He is awesome! It is just important to know that there are other approaches that Christians take to these issues. You might want to check out some of the other podcast resources available to get a flavor of what is out there. So here we go!

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