Tag Archives: Old Testament

Andy Stanley and Jeff Durbin: An “Unbelievable” Discussion About Apologetics

Veracity readers will know that I have posted several times about Andy Stanley, pastor of one of the largest churches in America. Last month, my wife and I attended the Buckhead branch of Andy Stanley’s church in Atlanta, Georgia. Though pastor Stanley was not preaching that week, it was eye-opening to experience how Stanley’s NorthPoint community network of churches function, to reach a large city like Atlanta.

Andy Stanley has become rather “infamous” for coining the phrase that Christians should “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament, a theme present in his bestselling book Irresistible. Despite what one might think of this controversy, Andy Stanley is more fundamentally known as a preacher who engages in what is called evidentialist apologetics, in an attempt to reach the non-believer with the Gospel. Evidentialist apologetics is a way of establishing common ground with a skeptical non-believer, seeking to share the Truth of Christ, by making an appeal to scientific and historical evidences that support the validity of the Christian faith. Some good examples of Christian apologists who make use of evidentialist apologetics include J. Warner Wallace, Frank Turek, Michael Licona, and the most well-known of them all, William Lane Craig.

In Andy Stanley’s particular approach, Andy Stanley says we should not start with the Bible, but rather start with the Resurrection of Jesus. We build our case for Christ by making a series of arguments in sequence, beginning with the reality of Christ’s resurrection, which leads to establishing the divine authority of Jesus, which then leads to the authority of the Bible, and its salvation message. The simplest way to put it is that it is the event of the Resurrection that gives us the text of the Bible, as we have it today, and not the other way around.

So, I was really excited to learn that Justin Brierley, of the British apologetics podcast, Unbelievable?, was able to get Andy Stanley together with presuppositionalist apologist Jeff Durbin, in order to discuss the nature of apologetics. In contrast with evidentialist apologetics, presuppositional apologetics takes a different approach, whereby you begin with the self-attestation of the truthfulness of Scripture first, and only then speak of the various doctrinal claims of the Christian faith, including Christ’s resurrection. Jeff Durbin himself is a pastor in Phoenix, Arizona, who has been mentored by perhaps the most influential presuppositional apologist, of a Calvinist persuasion, of our day, James White, of Alpha Omega Ministries, also headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Durbin, a popular YouTube Reformed apologist, has the unique distinction of being cast in several martial arts movies.

While I do believe that presuppositionalist apologetics does have its place, I am more of an evidentialist. Perhaps that is because that is how God reached me with the Gospel. I tend to differ with Durbin’s brand of apologetics, as presuppositionalist apologetics often begs the question: How do you build a case for Jesus, based on the Bible, when the non-believer does not believe the Bible to be trustworthy in the first place?

Sure, you could begin an evangelistic discussion by asking your listener to pretend that the Bible is reliable and true. But there is a big gap between pretending to believe the Bible, versus actually believing the evidence that exists, to support the authenticity of its message.

Even Christians often come to the Bible with their own negative judgments. An evidentialist approach seeks to build a bridge, that can help the skeptic or puzzled Christian to rethink their own reason for looking down at the Bible, or certain parts of the Bible. A presuppositional approach works great, if the person shares the same presuppositions. But a purely presuppositional approach tends to lead people to talk right past one another. In the worst cases, the presuppositional approach blows up bridges instead of building bridges, in our evangelistic or discipleship conversations.

A more troublesome question for presuppositional apologetics is this: Why start with the Bible? Why not the Book of Mormon? Or the Koran? Or the Bhagavad Gita?

Even if you start with the Bible, as opposed to starting with the evidence for the Resurrection, you still have to figure out which systematic view of the Bible you plan to go with: A Calvinist view? An Arminian view? A dispensationalist view? A charismatic view? Which one?

Andy Stanley’s particular approach does have some problems, as I have discussed before, so it is great to have someone like a Jeff Durbin, with whom I still have more disagreements with, on the other side of the debate, to challenge him. In the end, it is quite clear that there is no “one size fits all” approach to Christian apologetics that works for everyone. The discussion between Stanley and Durbin is great way to figure out where you stand, with respect to how you defend your faith, when engaging a skeptical non-believer. A riveting 90-minutes. This really is an amazing discussion!!


Irresistible, by Andy Stanley, A Review

Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. Pastor Andy Stanley overstates a central theme in his argument, but his critics should learn something from him as well.

A little backstory, as to why I decided to read this challenging book: I am not really the type of guy who would be naturally drawn to a pastor like Andy Stanley. At least, that is what I thought a few years ago.

Andy Stanley is the son of the well-known Atlanta pastor, Charles Stanley, who for years has been an example, par excellence, of classic, traditional Bible Belt preaching. When I think of the oft repeated phrase, “The Bible says… the Bible says…,” I think of Charles Stanley.

But I must confess. While he has had a profound, positive impact on the lives of many, and I am sure he is a wonderful man, Charles Stanley’s teaching never thrilled me personally.

About twenty years ago, I was teaching a Sunday school class on church history. I love studying and teaching church history. It helps deepen my love for God. The history of Christianity is often neglected in evangelical churches, so I was thankful for the privilege to try to fill in the gap, at our church. After a few weeks of examining how God has moved in the lives of influential Christians, across the centuries, one dear, elderly woman confronted me and asked, “It is all about history to you, isn’t it?

Apparently, this woman did not understand why anyone in a Bible-believing church needed to waste their time learning about church history. I responded by saying something along the lines of, “Yes, I do believe that God works in history. Jesus did not just stop working in the world after the completion of the New Testament, and He continues to work in our world today.” This genuinely sweet woman then had that “I-have-no-clue-what-you-are-talking-about” look on her face.

*SIGH*.

The following week, the same woman walked into class, and handed me a whole set of resources from Charles Stanley’s InTouch Ministries to look at. I gulped. In particular, she pointed me to a cassette tape, with a title, something to the effect of why “the Bible alone is the Word of God.”

I got the message: Just stick with the Bible, and forget about this history stuff. “The Bible says” is good enough.

I thanked the woman, as she was kind and well-intentioned, and while I did eventually listen to the tape, and agreed with the teaching message, I was still flustered. For if this woman, who evidently was a big fan of Charles Stanley, was learning that we should disregard the lessons of God’s working over the past 2,000 years, since the closure of the New Testament, then I was not really impressed with what she was being taught.

My less-than-enthusiatic encounter with my less-than-enthusiastic church history student pretty much poisoned me. Frankly, Charles Stanley’s son, Andy, had never been on my radar, at all, until a few years ago. When I learned that Andy Stanley, a former youth pastor, now a mega-church pastor himself, started to rise in prominence, I really had no interest in learning anything from him either. Like father, like son, I supposed. Life is short, and since I can not read or listen to every resource article or sermon someone gives to me, I just left the ministries of the Stanleys at that.

That was until son Andy began making waves among his fellow Southern Baptist, conservative evangelical constituents. Though Andy Stanley continues to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, he no longer thinks that the old evangelical mantra of “the Bible says” really works any more in an increasingly post-Christian society. We simply can not assume today that people believe the Bible.

That is a pretty big shift in message from the elder Stanley…. and it got my attention, because that is the world I live in.

My interest was sparked. Perhaps the younger pastor Stanley has something important to say after all. As it turns out, he does. I am chagrined to think that I never paid attention to this before. Continue reading


Discipleship Candy

The Promise and the Blessing

The Promise and the Blessing: a Historical Survey of the Old and New Testaments, by Michael A. Harbin

One of the really cool benefits of writing a blog like Veracity is all the backdoor sharing. People are constantly bringing things to our attention or sharing some thought, question or resource from their devotional lives.

This week I feel like a kid in a candy store. One of Marion’s coworkers loaned me her copy of The Promise and the Blessing: A Historical Survey of the Old and New Testaments, by Dr. Michael A. Harbin. I haven’t been able to put it down.

Dr. Harbin’s text is used in Old and New Testament ‘survey’ courses in colleges and seminaries. What makes it special is that it ties all the biblical text to the timeline of Judeo-Christian history while maintaining a brisk flow from Genesis to Revelation. The pieces are thoroughly connected. It’s packed full of illustrations and references and has no qualms about taking the reader off on interesting tangents with sidebars. Theological topics are introduced and adequately summarized, with fair treatment given to opposing doctrinal views.

One of my litmus tests for any resource is how much fresh and useful information it contains. I can’t seem to turn anywhere in this text that I don’t get new information or have the parts of the Bible presented in a fresh light.

Normally I advocate electronic versions of books, particularly when they can be accessed in the cloud with tools like Kindle Cloud Reader. Kindle puts all of my books in a library that I can access with any device, including my iPad, iPhone, and computer. The upshot of reading this way is that you can highlight and bookmark the text, and search it electronically. It makes books very portable and eliminates the need to flip through pages manually trying to find some passage you barely remember.

However…The Promise and the Blessing is such a beautifully composited book I recommend buying the hardcopy version, which you can do for minimal expense by clicking here. If you’d like to preview the book before you buy it, here is a link to the Browse Inside page.

Enjoy!

 

HT: Liz Marshall

 


Who Wrote the Bible? (Part 1)

Who Wrote The Bible

Who wrote the Bible?

God…right?  While that may be a profound and direct answer, it’s also overly simplistic. The Bible is God’s special revelation to mankind, delivered through the divine inspiration of human authors. So who were the human authors?

There’s a lot riding on the answer. Not so much in terms of their actual identities, but because many attacks against Christianity are targeted at disproving the reliability of human authorship. What kind of defense can those of us who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God offer regarding the trustworthiness of the authors of the Bible?

It’s not essential that we know the names of the human authors (otherwise they would have laid out their identities in the text with certainty), but it is essential that we know that the Scripture is trustworthy. So with this post we begin a series to help readers appreciate the Bible as an accurate, historical, and trustworthy document. In a companion series we will explore how we got the “Holy Bible,” but for now we’ll begin with the authors.

Let’s lay out one precept: we’re about discovering the truth, not defending traditional notions. For example, it is widely believed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. But that cannot be completely true. Why not? Because the fifth book (Deuteronomy) contains the accounts of his death and post-mortem reflections on his life—so at the very least someone else put the ending on his five books. Likewise, some people who haven’t really read the Bible have notions that God’s inspiration constituted divine dictation. But it is obvious in many passages that the Bible is not dictation from the Creator of the universe. How do we know that? Because the human authors state so—point blank in many verses (see this post for one clear example).

Back to the authors. Ezra was a priest, who mourned over his people’s disobedience to God after they were delivered from the Babylonian captivity. He was also a painstaking historian whose detailed historical records are downright anal-retentive (who counts plates, really?!). Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet—and why not?  You’d weep too if you went through what he endured (by the way, there have been some stunning archaeological finds involving Jeremiah in recent months). Gad was the bag man for David’s bad news. Obadiah is said to have been a descendant of Eliphaz, the friend of Job. And on and on…you get the point.  There are a lot of fascinating biographical details to appreciate about these authors.  Our aim in writing this post is to make them readily accessible.

We created the following Bible infographic depicting the grouping of the Old Testament books, the authors, the approximate dates of writing, and how many chapters each book contains. It’s a snapshot of the construction of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament


So…sticking with just the Old Testament for now, here is a new color-coded table keyed to our original infographic with hyperlinks to articles about the inspired authors of the Bible.  As you’ll read in the linked material (click on the author’s name in the right-hand column), some books have considerable contention about authorship.  But the point here is not to resolve that contention—we simply want to expose you to the biographies of the plausible authors.

The Old Testament

Pentateuch (Mosaic Law)

Genesis

Moses

Exodus

Leviticus

Numbers

Deuteronomy

Moses

Joshua

History

Joshua

Joshua

Judges

Samuel

Ruth

1 Samuel

Samuel, Gad, Nathan

2 Samuel

Gad, Nathan

1 Kings

Jeremiah?

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

Ezra?

2 Chronicles

Ezra

Ezra

Nehemiah

Ezra?

Esther

???

Wisdom Literature

Job

Job?

Psalms

David,

Others

Proverbs

Solomon,

Others

Ecclesiastes

Solomon

Song of Solomon

Major Prophets

Isaiah

Isaiah

Jeremiah

Jeremiah

Lamentations

Ezekiel

Ezekiel

Daniel

Daniel

Minor Prophets

Hosea

Hosea

Joel

Joel

Amos

Amos

Obadiah

Obadiah

Jonah

Jonah

Micah

Micah

Nahum

Nahum

Habakkuk

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Zephaniah

Haggai

Haggai

Zechariah

Zechariah

Malachi

Malachi

In an upcoming post we will give similar treatment to the New Testament  authors, and then review apologetic arguments that defend the trustworthiness of the human authors of the Bible.  Enjoy!

Resources

Areopagus-Journal-Spring-20The spring 2012 issue of the Areopagus Journal is an excellent resource for further study, and we will make use of several articles in our upcoming posts.

HT: Yvonne Brendley, Faith Smagalski


How Do We Know the Old Testament is Valid?

Codex Sinaiticus

Photo Credit: CodexSinaiticus.org


 
I’ve been reading the Old Testament straight through, struggling at times with the accounts reported in the ancient texts.  Admittedly, if someone at a party started telling these stories we’d all think they were loony.

There are essentially three possible pronouncements for the passages in the OT that are represented as factual, either:

  1. They are fictional and/or fraudulent, or
  2. They are (wholly or partly) allegorical and not meant to be taken literally, or
  3. The miraculous is in play and the historical accounts are correct.

There is no half-off sale in Christianity—we can’t have the New Testament without the Old.  Some poor souls work themselves into torturous and indefensible theological positions by cherry picking which parts of Scripture they accept and which ones they discount as allegorical.  Some of them even show up on documentaries wearing clerical collars, affiliated with organizations that have ‘Jesus’ or books of the Bible in their name.  Hmmm…. It’s best to think it through yourself.

Is our faith based merely on the hope that the OT is valid, or is there some intelligent basis of assurance? Continue reading


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