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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Top Five Apologetics Videos

The Come Reason YouTube Channel continues to grow in viewership and content. Recent news items, such as the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision are part of the reason why our number one video in 2015 focuses on Same-sex unions. Others, such as the Scientology series, were a surprise. Below you can watch any or all of the top five videos of 2015.

  1. Why Did the Culture Shift on Same-Sex Marriage?

  2. Two Questions on Same Sex Marriage

  3. The Evil of Scientology (Part 2)

  4. The Evil of Scientology (Part 1)

  5. Witnessing Tips: Identifying Logical Fallacies

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Atheists, Evidence, and Unreasonable Demands

Yesterday, I tweeted a link to my article "Is There Such a Thing as Rational Faith?" The point of that article was that faith and reason are not contradictory. One reply to that was a tweet by The_Apistevist, who identifies himself as an atheist on Twitter. He asked: "how can belief without evidence be considered rational?" Now, I had never claimed Christianity had no evidence, nor did I argue that one should never seek evidence in matters of faith.  Belief without evidence was his assumption.

Because I've engaged in these kinds of conversations before, I didn't want to retread the evidence for Christianity.  It's well-documented on both the web site as well as this blog. Most of the time, atheists will simply reject the evidence I offer, stating it doesn't count for some arbitrary reason or another. For example, testimony is evidence, but such is usually dismissed out of hand because the content of that testimony is "religious."

So, I decided to take another route. Is it true that no one should believe anything without evidence other than a person's word? Could such a standard work in the real world? Below is the full conversation with The_Apistevist . You can see how his own criteria quickly devolve into an unworkable position.
Of course, at this point, The_Apistevist is caught in an intractable position. I am both demanding evidence AND I'm the one who rules whether or not whatever he offers me counts as evidence. This is exactly the game many Internet atheists play regarding the existence of God. He has no way of satisfying my criteria, so according to his own rules I am justified in stopping the conversation because I cannot believe him when he tells me he is honest.

How would the world worked if everyone took up this position? How could you drive if you couldn't trust other drivers to obey the traffic laws without first demanding evidence? How would commerce work?

I don't believe his claim that he demands evidence for every statement another makes. He simply couldn't function this way. However, he would rather be relegated to an unreasonable position than admit he holds beliefs where he has no evidence other than the word of the person to whom he's speaking. That truly is unreasonable.

Image courtesy and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 (CC BY 2.0) license.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christian Bakers Forced to Pay Fines; Here's What We Can Learn

This morning, the lawyer representing Sweet Cakes by Melissa reported that the couple was paying the fine of over $135,000 levied against them by Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries for not baking a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian doled out the heavy-handed fine, claiming the bakers were being immoral in their stance, inflicting emotional and mental suffering and violating the women's civil rights by discriminating on the basis of their sexual orientation.1 Avakian had prompted the payment by seizing every penny the bakers had in their bank accounts.2

It seems we live in a topsy-turvy world where wrong is called right and right is called wrong. But this shouldn't be a surprise to Christians. I understand that people have a tendency to think of the problems they currently face as new or unique. While for some things this may be true (substituting screen time for real relationships doesn't seem to be a problem of past generations), human beings are a remarkably consistent lot and the early believers faced many of the same trials we do today.

Athenagoras gives us one example. In the second century AD, Christians were being persecuted in various cities across the Roman Empire on trumped up charges. Different city official and citizens objected to Christians not bowing to their gods, which basically meant rejecting whatever morality they themselves deemed appropriate. The officials would put the Christians on trial under false accusations, such as being immoral or being atheists, condemn them in a kangaroo court, and use it as justification to persecute them and seize their belongings.

Charges of immorality are as old as Christianity

The injustice of this all disturbed Christian philosopher Athenagoras so much that in AD 177 he wrote a letter to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the Emperor of Rome himself and argued the case for the Christians. One of the charges brought against Christians was they were engaging in immoral sexual acts. Athenagoras writes, "they have further also made up stories against us of impious feasts and forbidden intercourse between the sexes, both that they may appear to themselves to have rational grounds of hatred, and because they think either by fear to lead us away from our way of life, or to render the rulers harsh and inexorable by the magnitude of the charges they bring."3

Athenagoras goes on to argue that Christians are not immoral at all; they are actually more moral than even the belief systems of their accusers, pointing out how gods the officials worship, such as Zeus, were adulterers and incestuous. He writes that Christians held to a high view of the sanctity of marriage. He then goes on to compare Christians and their accusers. Notice how modern the charges in this paragraph sound:
But though such is our character (Oh! Why should I speak of things unfit to be uttered?), the things said of us are an example of the proverb, "The harlot reproves the chaste." For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure—who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonouring the fair workmanship of God (for beauty on earth is not self-made, but sent hither by the hand and will of God)—these men, I say, revile us for the very things which they are conscious of themselves, and ascribe to their own gods, boasting of them as noble deeds, and worthy of the gods. These adulterers and pederasts defame [people choosing to remain unmarried for life] and the once-married (while they themselves live like fishes; for these gulp down whatever falls in their way, and the stronger chases the weaker…), but it is incumbent on us to be good and patient of evil.

Two Lessons from Athenagoras

While the persecution of Christian bakers is not nearly as severe as what second century Christians faced, I think there are lessons to be gleaned from the parallels between this event and what Christians faced in Athenagoras' day. First, charges against Christians on grounds of morality won't go away. Christian values are not those of the world and no one should be surprised when those who are in charge come against Christians and successfully use the law as a hammer against them. Jesus himself warned us of this when he said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19. ESV).

Secondly, we must make certain as Christians that we consistently live up to our own moral standards. Athenagoras' argument is anchored on the fact that Christians really did value marriage. They held it in the highest regard and shunned things like divorce and adultery. He states Christians are opposed to immorality for entertainment, such as was common in the gladiatorial events.

How seriously do Christians take their entertainment choices? Do you hold your marriage in the highest of regards, seeing it as inviolable until death? Does your life help make the case against persecution or is it undercutting the contrast? We must live as Christ has told us to live, for we will certainly suffer if we bear his name.


1. Rede, George. "Sweet Cakes Owners Pay Damages While Continuing Appeal of $135,000 Bias Case." Oregon Live LLC., 28 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.
2. Starnes, Todd. "Costly Beliefs: State Squeezes Last Penny from Bakers Who Defied Lesbian-wedding Cake Order." Fox News. FOX News Network, 29 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.
3. Athenagoras. "A Plea for the Christians." Chapter 31. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Web.

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Top Ten Apologetics Blog Posts

2015 has been an incredible year for articles and issues requiring Christians to think. From the Planned Parenthood video exposé to atheist memes to natural disasters, there were plenty of questions that needed answering and topics to discuss.

Below are the top ten most popular posts for 2015 from Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. As I began to publish daily, there was a five-fold increase in readership. Some of the articles are specific to news events of 2015, others are general questions about the Bible. All will hopefully help you in your pursuit of truth.

With no further adieu, here are the top ten apologetic posts of 2015, from #10 down to #1.

  1. How Would Stephen Fry Answer His Own Challenge to God?
  2. Planned Parenthood is Selling Body Parts. Here's What You Can Do
  3. Why Would a Loving God Allow the Earthquake in Nepal?
  4. Secularism isn't a Neutral Position
  5. Why Would God Command Women to Marry Their Rapists?
  6. Six Errors Jesus Mythicists Repeatedly Make
  7. Responding to Atheist Critiques of Christian Hypocrisy
  8. No, Christmas Is Not Based on a Pagan Holiday
  9. What Were the Crusades? Busting Some Myths
  10. How to Quickly Debunk the Horus-Jesus Myth

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Infertility And Christian Families: What's The Right Thing To Do? (video)

Many Christian couples yearn for a child but fertility issues have thwarted their efforts. Now, the medical community has undergone an explosion in new reproductive technologies, promising success where there was previously no hope. But with the promise, they also bring new questions on how Christians should approach such techniques.

In this video, Lenny explains various techniques and the potential dangers that accompany them. He also offers specific questions Christians should ask before embarking on in-vitro fertilization. This is the first in a multi-part series on reproductive technologies and the Christian.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Big Deal Over Jesus' Birthday

Last week, I published a three-part series on why the date of Christmas is not based on Roman or pagan holidays. While the claim is popular, history argues differently. As I said there, some want to believe in the paganism aspect so they can hold onto the trappings of a secular Christmas without any charge of hypocrisy.

The reaction I received was surprising. I expected several atheists or skeptics to doubt the claim, but there were quite a lot of people who identify themselves as Christians who were deeply offended that Christmas wasn't pagan and simply didn't want to give up on the idea. They pointed to things like Christmas trees, even ripping Jeremiah 10:1-10 wholly out of context as a command not to have them! They just KNEW Christmas was pagan and they were better Christians than I was because they didn't celebrate it!

While people of the 21st century tend to reduce the celebration of an event such as Jesus's birth to "Jesus's Birthday," Christians of the fourth century had an entirely different motive. They weren't focused so much on marking a birthday as we would be, but marking a pivotal point of history: the day the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The early church wanted to celebrate the incarnation of God into man, which is precisely what Christmas was meant to do. They wanted to uphold the foundational teaching of Jesus as the God-man.

The Heresies Against Jesus's Humanity

People who are open to the evidence believe Jesus existed, even if they don't believe he was divine. Even strong critics of Christianity such as Bart Ehrman maintain that not only did Jesus exist; it is foolish to believe he was mythical. Ehrman even wrote that one shouldn't deny "what virtually every sane historian on the planet—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, agnostic, atheist, what have you—has come to conclude based on a range of compelling historical evidence. Whether we like it or not, Jesus certainly existed."1

The bigger problem the early church faced was not as much whether Jesus lived or if he was in some way divine, but whether he was truly God and truly man at the same time. Many Gnostics taught that Jesus wasn't a physical being at all. He was a spiritual entity that would appear as physical. This view is known as Docetism, coming from the Greek word meaning "to appear."2 Interestingly, Bishop Serapion of Antioch condemns this view in a letter that is dated right at the same time Hippolytus offers the December 25th date for the birth of Christ.

The importance of celebrating Christ's entrance into the world is to recognize that Jesus who existed as God really did humble himself "being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). Jesus was a real human being in every respect, and just like all humans, he entered this world by being born. Because Jesus was born, he is considered a kinsman of Adam, and thus the only one who could redeem all of Adam's offspring from sin, as Paul explains: "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:21). The book of Hebrews agrees, stating ""Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). Paul also tells Timothy "There is One God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). We celebrate Christmas because of the miracle of God becoming man. That's a much different concept than simply having a birthday party.

The Danger Facing Christmas Today

But even if it were true that December 25 was originally a pagan holiday, that doesn't taint the holiday. Taking the date from a pagan celebration doesn't mean those celebrations are pagan any more than it means I'm honoring the Norse god Thor by writing Thursday on my checks or honoring the Roman god Juno by calling the sixth month June. The names of June and Thursday have lost all pagan value and are simply common parlance.

The real danger Christmas faces today is a similar one. We've forgotten why it is absolutely crucial to our salvation that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Those who can rail against the pagan origins of Christmas cannot seem to see the importance of underscoring Jesus's humanity. If we dismiss Christmas altogether, we are in danger of missing part of the story of our redemption. That's something I'm not willing to throw away.


1. Ehrman, Bart D. "Did Jesus Exist?" The Huffington Post., 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Dec. 2015.
2. González, Justo L., and Catherine Gunsalus. González. Heretics for Armchair Theologians. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008. Print. 37-38.
Image courtesy Plum leaves and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Apologetics is Foundational to the Christian Faith

Apologetics is the discipline of thoughtfully and carefully defending the Christian faith. It is not only a calling in the Bible, but a command to which all Christians are obligated. I understand that most Christians won't have the background or the knowledge to become faith defenders in the manner of a C.S. Lewis. Neither will most Christians ascend to the ranks of Billy Graham in terms of sharing their faith. Yet, just as we are all called to evangelize (Matt.28: 19-20), we are all called to defend our beliefs (1 Pet, 3:15.)

Today, as more and more people are skeptical of Christianity and who Jesus was, apologetics has become integral to evangelism efforts. Yet, while Bible-believing Christians may not all share their faith, they usually don't doubt the fact they are called to do so. The same isn't true for defending their faith. They simply don't see such tasks as important. They claim such a task is "just head knowledge" or "a side project, not a necessary part pf Christianity." Nothing could be further from the truth.

In an article entitled "Defending a Defense of the Faith," Dr. Craig Hazen offers several key reasons why such claims fail. The first is that defending the faith is simply part of the original fabric of Christianity, beginning with Jesus and his disciples. Hazen writes:
Perhaps there is no stronger argument that Jesus himself was an extraordinary source for the apologetic impulse in Christianity than the fact that his closest followers, those who so deeply desired to emulate their Master, were such ardent proponents of Jesus' ethos of demonstration. Indeed, Paul, John and Peter seemed almost obsessed with offering evidence, testimony and argument at every turn in order to establish the truth of the gospel message. The case for the apostolic support for the full range of apologetic activity is very well known and has been affirmed by scores of preeminent Christian scholars in the last fifty years. Anyone wishing to downplay the significance of the defense of the faith to the apostles and the early church is truly swimming upstream against an overwhelming current.1
Hazen goes on to list several passages showing how the New Testament writers reinforced the call to apologetics. (You can find a similar list here.) He then writes:
Even if Christ's closest followers had not given direct commands to engage in apologetic activities, they modeled those activities so frequently and unmistakably in Scripture that their actions amount to a clear exhortation for all Christians to go and do likewise. The Gospel writers themselves were carefully attuned to this. Luke, for instance, has an explicitly apologetic purpose in the construction of his Gospel—a special focus he lauys out in the prologue of his book. Here, he highlights eyewitness testimony, careful investigation and accurate reporting all with an eye toward his reader, Theophilus, to know "the certainty" of the things he had been taught (Lk 1:1-4).2
Hazen is absolutely correct. One of the clearest apologetic encounters in the Bible is Paul's engaging the Athenians at Mars Hill in Acts 17:22-31. I've previously demonstrated how scripture records apologetic engagements even by Jesus himself (see here, here, and here).

All of this simply shows that apologetics is foundational to Christianity.  Jesus used apologetics to preach the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The apostles used apologetics to evangelize the lost. We Christians today should follow that example and prepare to know how to give an answer for our hope to anyone who asks.


1. Hazen, Craig. "Defending the Defense of the Faith." To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview: Essays in Honor of Norman L. Geisler." Francis Beckwith, William Lane. Craig, and J..P. Moreland, Eds. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. Print.39-40.
2. Hazen, 1999. 41.

Monday, December 21, 2015

How Can We be Sure Where Jesus Was Born?

Most childhood plays of the Christmas story show a young Mary and Joseph wandering from house to house in Bethlehem, knocking on doors only to be met with a head shaking "no" no the other side. While there is conjecture as to whether they were turned away from an inn or simply couldn't fit in the main living quarters, the story is clearly that Mary gave birth in the town of Bethlehem.

But how certain are we that Bethlehem would truly be the location? Is it more likely Jesus was born in Nazareth and Bethlehem became a later invention? Like all historical facts, nothing is impossible but why would someone believe that Bethlehem wasn't the birthplace of Christ? The Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke are both sources close to the time they record (within one generation), and they had direct access to Jesus's brothers and Jesus's mother. They could ask them directly, which Luke states he did (Luke 1:2).

Further, there are no competing accounts of Jesus's birthplace in any historical record. In fact, as Paul L. Maier notes, even Christian artwork depicting the Nativity shows a wide array of different scenarios that reflect the culture of the artist's day, but everyone seems to agree on some kind of stable or grotto or cave where the animals were kept, just as Luke reports.

The Church of the Nativity Adds Evidence

Interestingly, Maier also believes the Church of the Nativity that thousands of pilgrims visit every year offers good evidence for Bethlehem as the location of Jesus's birth. While the ostentatiousness of its current ornamentation may be off-putting to Western Protestants today, Maier explains that one must look past the modern adornments to the historical tradition of the location itself:
Did it all really happen here—at this spot? Though final proof is necessarily lacking, the surprising answer lurks closer to probably than possibly.

Where there is no direct archaeological evidence—and there could be none in the case of the birth of Jesus—nothing is more important in establishing the authenticity of an ancient site than antiquity: the place must have been regarded as such from earliest times. If the Church of the Nativity had been built here in 600 A.D., for example, its claims to mark the authentic site of the birth of Jesus would be almost worthless. But

Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of Rome, erected the original Church of the Nativity at this place in 326 A.D., over the very grotto that had been identified as the true site by the early church father Origen and, before him, Justin Martyr, writing in 150 A.D. Justin stated that Jesus was born in a cave that was used as a stable-not the typical stone or wooden stable so familiar in Christmas art. Earlier still, in the 130's the pagan Roman emperor Hadrian tried to desecrate the Jewish and Christian holy places in Palestine, but, ironically, thereby preserved identity!

After he had put down an insurrection by the Jewish nationalist and would-be Messiah, Bar-Kokhba, in 135 A.D., Hadrian expelled the Jews Jerusalem and paganized all known holy places of Jews and Christians, erecting a temple to Venus at the site of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and a grove dedicated to Adonis over the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

After visiting the latter in the early 200s, Origen later wrote: "In Bethlehem the grotto was shown where Jesus was born .... What was shown to me is familiar to everyone in the area. The heathen themselves tell anyone willing to listen that in the said grotto a certain Jesus was born whom the Christians revere" (Contra Celsum, i, 51).1

What Other Accounts Count?

For the Bethlehem location to have been venerated in such a noticeable way that Hadrian would intentionally destroy them in 135 means it had been recognized as such for years or even decades prior. That puts the Bethlehem grotto, like the location of Jesus's crucifixion at what is now known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on very good historical grounds. While the tomb is much more likely to be specifically known by the disciples than his birthplace, there is still both archaeological and written support for these locations.

Give the tradition of Jesus's birthplace goes back to the early second century in respect to the grotto, and back to the first century in the Gospel accounts, holding that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as opposed to elsewhere is the most reasonable belief. Dr. Maier concludes similarly, noting "Some critics doubt that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and argue instead for Nazareth or elsewhere. Such opinions, however, are based only on scholarly conjecture, and no source has been discovered to date that disproves Jesus' birth in Bethlehem."2

Maier's point is interesting and one that happens often with those who wish to dismiss the accounts as given in the ancient sources. They offer a competing conjecture, but without a shred of evidence. Just as those who try to deny Jesus was buried in a tomb have no historical evidence for their claim, neither do those who doubt Jesus's birth at Bethlehem. It's all a lot of hand-waiving by people who wish to deny the fact that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Michah 5:2. But history argues against them.


1. Maier, Paul L. In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. Print. 38-40.
2. Maier, 1991. 32.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What Does "Thou Shalt Not Judge" Really Mean? (video)

One of the most often quoted verses in the Bible is also one of the most misunderstood by Christians and non-Christians alike. Just what did Jesus mean when he commanded his followers not to judge in Matthew 7? Does this mean Christians cannot criticize any action by someone else? No; the command was focused on another idea prevalent in Jesus' day.

In this short video, Lenny explains how Jesus' listeners would have understood his words and how we can apply them today.

Image courtesy Jonathunder - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas, the Solstice, and December 25th

Over the last two posts, I've explained how historical research is showing the date for celebrating Christmas was not chosen because of a Roman holiday like Saturnalia, but how the early church linked the date of Jesus's birth to the date of Jesus's crucifixion. That means Christmas is not a response to a pagan celebration such as Saturnalia but it has Christian roots.

However, Saturnalia is not the only candidate offered by critics as why December 25th was the focus of the coming of the Son of God. There is another holiday that actually occurred on December 25 mentioned in antiquity. This was the Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, translated as is the "Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun." It was celebrated on December 25 in 354 AD according to the calendar of Philocalus.1

The Sol Invictus cult followers worshipped the sun. Thomas Talley reports that while Emperor Aurelian did not first introduce Rome to the cult, he popularized it and the celebration day. Previously, local celebrations of Sol revolved around the dedication of the god's temples in August and/or November. In fact, the word Natalis can mean more than simply birthday, but it may also be used for the concept of an anniversary, as Roger Pearse notes:
There is also the question of what "natalis" means. It could mean birthday; but also it can mean "anniversary of the dedication of a temple". This seems to be the meaning for other "natalis" in the calendar. We know that Aurelian dedicated the temple of Sol Invictus. Thus we would get a festival on the anniversary of the dedication of the temple, and thus the idea that the festival was created at the same time by Aurelian.2
Tally tells us the "indigenous Sun cult at Rome does not seem to have been especially sensitive to the winter solstice or any other quarter days."3 Also, Steven Hijmans declares that while Aurelian set the feast, it may not have been set in December until much later:
there is no evidence that Aurelian instituted a celebration of Sol on that day [December 25]. A feast day for Sol on December 25th is not mentioned until eighty years later, in the Calendar of 354 and, subsequently, in 362 by Julian in his Oration to King Helios.4

The Roman Solstice and Who's Borrowing from Whom?

One mistake we must be careful of is placing too much emphasis on the similar sounding words "sun" and "Son." This is a common misstep for English speakers. While the Latin word for sun is "sol, the word translated son is "filius," breaking any ties to a play on words. Yet, Romans did hold to the idea that December 25 was the "birth of the Sun as the days began to noticeably get longer. Schmidt quotes Macrobius who states it was the Egyptians of the 4th or 5th century that developed the metaphor of the sun coming on the solstice as an infant and growing until the summer, where it would then shrink again as an aging man.5

Of course, all of this is well after the 202 to 211 AD mark where Hippolytus ties December 25 to Jesus's birth. If the Natalis was originally celebrated in August or October or November, why was it changed to December? One possibility is that Aurelian dedicated a new temple on that day and thus they celebrated that dedication as a feast day. Thomas Talley gives us an even more interesting possibility:
Halsberghe, without suggesting that there already was a Christian festival on December 25, presents the probability that one item in Aurelian's religious agenda was the provision of an authentically Roman alternative to the increasingly successful Christian mission.6
Of course, there's much much more, but I think you can see that the charge of Christians chose December 25 in order to "Christianize" or even just appease a pagan populous is weak at best. If you want to dig into more of the history, T.C. Schmidt's series is a great place to start, although it is only available via the internet Archive now. He summarized his findings thus:
  • Saturnalia did not occur on December 25 and had nothing to do with the birth of any god or anyone else.
  • A feast to Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun) did occur on December 25, but the earliest evidence for it dates from the mid to late 4th century. There is no evidence that Emperor Aurelian established a Festival of Sol Invictus (or anyone or anything else) on December 25.
  • Egyptians apparently presented an infant as a representation of the newborn Sun on the winter solstice, but this evidence also dates from the fourth and fifth centuries.
  • Hippolytus in 202-211 AD set the date for the birth of Jesus on December 25, because he thought Jesus was conceived 9 months earlier on the Passover, the day in which he also thought the world was created (5500 years earlier), the Vernal Equinox March 25.

    Clement of Alexandria (193-215 AD) quoted various anonymous sources about the birth of Jesus and roughly agrees with Hippolytus, claiming that Jesus was born in late fall to early winter. Clement's sources clearly seem to believe that Jesus was conceived on the Passover and was born roughly 9 months later; in fact the only difference between them and Hippolytus is that they differed on when the Passover actually occurred. However there is a significant possibility that one of Clement's sources was Hippolytus himself because of the preponderance of possible dates he gives that fall on the 25th of a month (He gives 4 of them and then another date on the 24th) which corresponds with Hippolytus' belief that Jesus was both conceived, born, and executed on the 25th of a month.


1. "Part 6: The Calendar of Philocalus. Inscriptiones Latinae Antiquissimae, Berlin (1893) Pp.256-278." The Chronography of 354 AD. Trans. Roger Pearce. The Tertullian Project, 2006. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
2. Schmidt, T.C., "Antiochus of Athens and the Birth of the Sun-update." T.C. Schmidt. 28 Dec 2010. Web.
3. Talley, Thomas J. The Origins of the Liturgical Year. New York: Pueblo Pub, 1986. Print. 88-89.
4. Hijmans, S. E. Sol: the sun in the art and religions of Rome. 2009 Groningen: s.n. 588 quoted from T.C. Schmidt. "Sol Invictus evidently not a precursor to Christmas." T.C. Schmidt. 21 Dec 2010. Web.
5. Schmidt, T.C., "Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and the birth of the Sun." T.C. Schmidt. 19 Dec 2010. Web.
6. Talley, 1986. 89.
7. Schmidt, T.C. "Sol Invictus evidently not a precursor to Christmas." T.C. Schmidt. 21 Dec 2010. Web.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Date of Saturnalia Doesn't Line Up with Christmas

There is a widespread conjecture that the early Christians began celebrating Christmas on December 25 as a response to pagan Roman holidays, such as Saturnalia or the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus. Given that the Gospels do not record any date for the Nativity, choosing one would have been left to a conjecture by the early church fathers, much like an adopted orphan would have a birth date assigned to her when the actual date is unknown.

Yesterday, I demonstrated how it is more plausible to believe the church fathers chose December 25 not in response to pagan celebrations, but because of its tie in to the date of Jesus's crucifixion, which is the pivotal date of all human history in their eyes. Today, I want to look at what we know about the Roman celebrations to see if they were actually celebrated on December 25th. If they weren't, does it make sense to believe that Christmas was meant to replace them?

Roman Time and Saturnalia

Before we get into the texts discussing timing, it is important to understand how Romans referenced time. Unlike modern times, whereby we number every day, the Romans divided a month into three parts: the first of a month, known as the Kalends, the middle or Ides of a month (as in "Beware the Ides of March" from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar), and the space in between them known as the Nones. Other dates were referenced as before these three points, so the 25th of December would be eight days before the Kalends of January.1

When studying the ancient reference to Saturnalia, a primary source we have is written by the Roman Macrobius , who lived in the fifth century. His work Saturnalia provides much of the details of the origin stories of the celebration as well as its customs. Ancient texts scholar T.C. Schmidt highlighted this passage from Saturnalia Book 1, chapter 10 giving the dates of the celebration:
Our ancestors restricted the Saturnalia to a single day, the fourteenth before the Kalends of January, but, after Gaius Caesar had added two days to December, the day on which the festival was held became the sixteenth before the Kalends of January, with the result that, since the exact day was not commonly known—some observing the addition which Caesar had made to the calendar and others following the old usage —the festival came to be regarded as lasting for more days than one.

And yet in fact among the men of old time there were some who supposed that the Saturnalia lasted for seven days…

[But] one can infer, then, from all that has been said, that the Saturnalia lasted but one day and was held only on the fourteenth day before the Kalends of January; it was on this day alone that the shout of "Io Saturnalia" would be raised, in the temple of Saturn, at a riotous feast. Now, however, during the celebration of the Saturnalia, this day is allotted to the festival of the Opalia, although the day was first assigned to Saturn and Ops in common.2

The Addition of Sigillaria

So Saturnalia was a three-day long feast that began sixteen days before January 1st. Their December was 31 days long as is ours, so that places Saturnalia on December 17, far too early to be mistaken for December 25. However, that isn't the end of the story. Macrobius then notes that another celebration, Sigillaria was celebrated after these three days:
I think that we have now given abundant proof that the festival of the Saturnalia used to be celebrated on only one day, the fourteenth before the Kalends of January, but that it was afterward prolonged to last three days: first, in consequence of the days which Caesar added to the month of December, and then in pursuance of an edict of Augustus which prescribed a series of three rest days for the Saturnalia. The festival therefore begins on the sixteenth day before the Kalends of January and ends on the fourteenth, which used to be the only day of its celebration. However, the addition of the feast of the Sigillaria has extended the time of general excitement and religious rejoicing to seven days.
Schmidt in his article provided a translation of chapter ten in its entirety, as dates are referenced throughout. He then concludes:
Macrobius does an excellent job summarizing authorities that were available to him, most of which I think have been lost. His conclusion is quite clear, Saturnalia originally was one day and occurred on the 14th day before the Kalends January, but when Caesar altered the calendar it was extended to three days and started on the 16th, later a new Festival of Sigillaria extended the celebrations to complete seven days, meaning that the Festival ended on either the 10th or ninth day before the Kalends of January depending on how we count. Of course neither of these days fall on the eighth day before the Kalends of January, that is December 25.3

The Dates Don't Fit

Remember, Macrobius was writing in the fifth century AD and we have Christmas sermons from John Chrysostom preached on December 25th from a century earlier. Yet the dates don't correspond. If Christmas was create to supplant Saturnalia, the Christians would have chosen December 17th. Add to that the references I noted yesterday about the December 25th date stretching all the way back to A.D. 200 and you have a very real dating problem with Saturnalia being the origin date for Christmas.

Imagine a modern church seeking to replace Halloween celebrations by having a Harvest festival on November 8. It wouldn't work! People could celebrate one and then attend the other. The concept of substitution would be fairly ineffective.

I haven't yet discussed the one Roman holiday that actually does land on December 25, which is the Sol Invitus or "The Birth of the Unconquerable Sun." I address that particular claim in this post.


1. Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace. "Table of Roman and Macedonian Months." A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series. Vol. 1. New York: Christian Literature, 1890. 403. eBook.
2. Schmidt, T.C., "The dates of Saturnalia (and Sigillaria!) and Christmas". T.C. Schmidt. 18 Dec 2010. Web.
3. Schmidt, 18 Dec 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No, Christmas Is Not Based on a Pagan Holiday

Christmas is a much-beloved holiday, celebrated by billions of people across the globe. In the U.S. Alone, the Pew Center reports that nearly 96% of the population celebrates Christmas, including eight out of ten non-Christians, including atheists, agnostics, and those who have no faith commitment.1 However, Christmas is also a uniquely Christian holiday; its core message is about a personal God taking humanity upon Himself and stepping into the world to redeem sinful human beings who could never redeem themselves. The Christian message is inescapable.

I believe the love of Christmas coupled with the loathing of Christianity is one reason why atheists continue to repeat the claim that Christmas is a repurposing of a pagan Roman holiday. Two of the most popular pagan holidays put forth are the celebration of Saturnalia, which honored the Roman god Saturn, or the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, that is the "Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun." Both of these celebrations were held in the second half of December, making them somewhat close to Christmas.

Looking at the History of Christmas

The claim that the roots of Christmas are pagan is one I hear over and over again, especially in December. The idea isn't even new. The New England Puritans, who valued work more than celebration, taught such.2 Puritan preacher Increase Mather preached that "the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that 'Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian.'"3

When one digs into the actual history however, a much different picture arises. There are two ways to approach the question: one is to see how December 25 became associated with the Nativity, which is how the early church would have referred to the day of Christ's birth. The other one is to look at the celebrations of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. Either approach shows the dubious nature of the claim that Christmas has pagan roots.

Much of the thrust of the "pagan Christmas" claim rests on the idea of a Christianized Rome trying to convert a populace that wouldn't want to give up its feast traditions, akin to the practice of churches celebrating a "Harvest Festival" instead of Halloween. Yet, scholars like Yale University's T.C. Schmidt are finding the marking of December 25 to go much earlier in the Christian history.

When translating Hippolytus' Commentary on Daniel, written just after AD 200, Schmidt notes that five of the seven manuscripts contain December 25 as the date for Jesus' birth and another offers the 25th of either December or March.4 Clement of Alexandria in this same time offers the date of March 25 as the date of the incarnation, that is the conception of Jesus, in his Stromata (1.21.145-146).5 Both works tie the idea that Jesus's death would have happened on the same day as his conception.

Christmas and Easter are Linked

This is the key to the December 25th date. As Thomas Tulley works out in his book The Origins of the Liturgical Year, there was a belief within the early church that the date of the death of Jesus would also reflect either his birth or his conception.6 Augustine wrote of this, saying "For He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before nor since. But He was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th."7

St. John Chrysostom in his writings goes ever further by noting that the Angel Gabriel's announcement of Mary's conception happened while Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist (Luke 1:26). Chrysostom argues that Zechariah's service was the Day of Atonement, thus making the conception of John the Baptist happen in the fall. Add six months and Jesus's conception lands in the spring, e.g March 25. I don't know that this calculation is historically accurate, but it does show how much the early church tied the events together. The idea of randomly choosing a pagan date seems a pretty big stretch.

Here's the thing. If Christians were recognizing the birth of Christ by the beginning of the third century, does it make sense to think that this was a fourth century invention to sway the Roman populous over to Christianity? Christianity was gaining ground in the time of Clement, but it was by no means out from under the shadow of persecution. It also wasn't borrowing much from pagan customs at the time. So why believe they would do so for this date?

In order to get a fuller picture, we must look at the Roman holidays and their histories. You can read  that post here and part three is here.


1. Mohammed, Besheer. "Christmas Also Celebrated by Many Non-Christians." Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 23 Dec. 2013. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
2. Schnepper, Rachel N. "Yuletide's Outlaws." The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.
3. Nissenbaum, Stephen. The Battle for Christmas. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. Print. 4.
4. Schmidt, T.C. "Hippolytus and the Original Date of Christmas" T.C. Schmidt. 21 Nov 2010. Web. 16 Dec 2015.
5. Schmmidt, T.C. "Clement of Alexandria and the Original date of Christmas as December 25th." T.C. Schmidt. 17 Dec 2010. Web. 16 Dec 2015.
6. Talley, Thomas J. The Origins of the Liturgical Year. New York: Pueblo Pub, 1986. Print. 91ff.
7. Augustine of Hippo. On the Trinity, IV, 5. Logos Virtual Library. Trans. Arthur West Haddan. Darren L. Slider, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Image Courtesy Adam Clark and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) License.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Come Reason 2015 Ministry Report

Merry Christmas from Come Reason!

I hope you are beginning to settle in and enjoy the season of Advent. This is a special time of year, not simply because of the festivities surrounding the holidays, but because we celebrate the greatest gift, God's giving of his Son for us. What a blessing it is to recognize how a holy God would humble himself and become a man for our sakes!

 It's why this time is appropriate to reflect on all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us over the year. I wanted to do just that. God has been working mightily through the ministry in 2015. Here are just a few of the highlights:


I had the opportunity to teach in several different areas of the country this year. Most notably, I was able to join Ratio Christi in their student symposium at Charlotte, NC to equip the student leaders of clubs in major secular universities on how to better defend their faith. I truly appreciate all Ratio Christi is doing and I look forward to many more years of ministry partnership.

The "Come Let Us Reason" monthly apologetics class entered its elevenths straight year at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. The church has been a blessing and I invite anyone on the Southern California area to come out to this free class (with childcare!) every second Monday of the month. You can see all the upcoming classes here. I also partnered with Pastor Daniel Eichelberger of Harvest to help teach their Deepening Your Faith series on Sunday afternoons. 2016 looks like a great lineup and you may join us for that, too!


This year, I led a group of students from Harvest on another Apologetics Missions Trip to Berkeley, CA. The interactions were great, and the students really got to sharpen their skills while witnessing to a very lost generation. I also was able to help prepare students from Upland Christian Academy on their upcoming Missions Trip. These are a special passion of mine. If you'd like to know how your church or group can participate, contact me here.

Other outreaches included moderating Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. Fazale Rana in a discussion at the California State University San Bernardino, meeting with Harvest's The Well Club at CSUSB, and answering questions from skeptics at Riverside Community College—not once, but on two separate occasions.

Writing and Online

My writing has been busy, especially with the daily posts at The blog has grown tremendously over the past year, with 50,000 visitors reading nearly 100,000 pages. Add that to the over half a million pageviews the website saw in the last year and our online  presence is making a tremendous impact in nearly every country around the world. The Come Reason Podcast has seen nearly 250,000 downloads since we began and it continues to provide fresh, relevant apologetics content every week.

On other writing projects, Sean McDowell's A New Kind of Apologist, to which I contributed a chapter, is slated to be published in March. You can pre-order copies here, and don't forget to support Come Reason Ministries by using your Amazon Smile account!

Special Changed Lives Series Dec 28-31

There are so many more things I can tell about the ministry that I simply don't have room here! That's why I will send out four special emails from December 28th through 31st. If you aren't on our e-mail list, you can sign up here.


I'm thankful for all the opportunities that God has placed before this ministry; I'm even more excited for the unique things that 2016 offers—more on that next month. But I would like to ask for your support. It is your gifts that provide the income which allows me to minister in these ways. As the year ends, would you consider providing a gift to Come Reason? You may give securely online here. All gifts are tax-deducible as allowed by law. I truly appreciate it and thank you for your kindness and generosity.

Our volunteers and I want to wish you the merriest of Christmases and a blessed New Year.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for November 2015

November proved that sometimes practical posts make a big splash. The top posts of the month include answering a popular meme that's been circulating around the Internet, looking into the claims of biblical inspiration by the New Testament authors, and how to better communicate your viewpoint by offering analogies in your witnessing efforts.

Here then are the top five blog posts for November.
  1. Three Intractable Problems for Atheism
  2. Why Would God Command Women to Marry Their Rapists?
  3. Are Atheist Countries Really More Moral?
  4. Did the New Testament Authors Know They Were Writing Scripture?
  5. Here's a Tip: Use Analogies Cut to the Heart of Controversies

Friday, December 11, 2015

Why Don't We Sing "Joseph, Did You Know?"

One of the more popular modern Christmas songs is "Mary Did You Know?" which reflects upon the ministry, miracles, suffering and sacrifice of Jesus by asking his mother if she understood just who it is she had birthed. It's touching with a tinge of sadness as the joy of a new birth is contrasted with her certain future heartache (ref. Luke 2:35). Those of us who have children of our own can especially feel the poignancy of the vulnerable baby in your arms and the dangers she faces from the world.

However, I often wonder why we don't pause to reflect more on the understanding of Joseph during this holiday season. Joseph, according to Craig Keener, was probably between the ages of eighteen to twenty years old and had the marriage arranged by his and her parents. When Joseph and Mary were betrothed, it would have been in front of two witnesses whereby Joseph declared his intent to marry the girl. This was a legally binding relationship which opened up a year-long waiting period before the wedding. 1 Keener explains:
Betrothal provided most of the legal rights of marriage, but intercourse was forbidden; Joseph is courageous to take his pregnant betrothed with him, even if (as is possible) she is also a Bethlehemite who has to return to that town. Although tax laws in most of the empire required only the head of a household to appear, the province of Syria (then including Palestine) also taxed women; but this would apply only if she owned immoveable property. Joseph may simply wished to avoid leaving her alone this late in pregnancy, especially if the circumstances of her pregnancy may have deprived her of other friends.2
The scandal of Mary's pregnancy would most likely lead people to speculate whether Mary and Joseph were improperly intimate prior to marriage or whether Mary was unfaithful to Joseph completely. Either way, it didn't make things easy for him.

Matthew reports:
Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:19-21, ESV).
Joseph's faithfulness to respond to that dream is truly courageous. I think most people would assume his desire to still marry his pregnant fiancé would imply that it was he who acted improperly and got her pregnant to begin with. The level of scandal and shame such an act would spark should not be underestimated. While Mary was faithful to the call of God, she was also visited by the angel Gabriel, given some instruction on what will happen, and even given a sign as to the truth of these things as her relative Elizabeth was pregnant even though she was past the age of childbearing. Matthew tells us that Joseph had only the dream, and his entire future was riding upon what he did with that.

Has anyone thought about what an eighteen or twenty year old male would be facing in a similar situation? Most young men this age are dreaming of a particular type of future: independent, stable, with a wife who loves him and children of his own. Add to that the fact that Joseph came from the royal line of David, he should have been in a position of comfort and power. That wasn't to be, but knowing how young men think, I'm sure he had dreams of creating a good, stable life for himself and his family.

However, given that Mary's first child would not be his progeny and she became pregnant even before marriage, his future is on a decidedly different track. He took Mary with him on the journey to Bethlehem, possibly to protect her and help her since the odds were out of her favor in the town where they both lived. A stigma of immorality would continue throughout their lives, even following Jesus as the Pharisees alluded to his illegitimacy (John 8:41). Yet, Joseph took the road of self-denial and self-sacrifice. This young man exemplified true virtue in standing beside Mary.

We don't know when and how Joseph died. Given Jesus's charge of his mother to the apostle John in John 19:26, it is assumed that Joseph has already passed away. We read no more about him after the birth narratives. But it would do us well to reflect upon Joseph's stand. This is a model of what a virtuous man looks like. We need to underscore it for the young people in our churches today. Would there be more Josephs in the world.


1. Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993. Print. 48.
2. Keener, 185.
Image courtesy Gabriel Sozzi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Illogic of Atheist Christmas Billboards

It's that time of year again; Christmas is coming. You will see all kinds of people decorating their homes, shopping for presents, and attending company parties as they do every year. Another yearly event now seems to be the anti-theist billboards put up by groups like the American Atheists. Fox 21 reported on the billboards appearing on Interstate 25 in Colorado Springs. They carry the message "Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness sake. Happy holidays!"1 Here's an example:

What should Christians make of these billboards? Is it an attack on Christianity? It clearly holds a message contrary to Christian teaching, but the American Atheists claim they aren't trying to undermine Christmas. According to the channel, American Atheists spokesman Randy Gotovich said "We're trying to be inclusive of everyone in Christmas and saying that anyone can celebrate it. It shouldn't be viewed strictly as a Christian holiday."2


Perhaps Gotovich missed the common referent in the words Christ mas and Christian—the word Christ. While people who are not devout or even Christians may celebrate Christmas, the concept of Christmas falls apart without Christ. The holiday makes no sense. The refrain of "Peace on earth, good will toward men" is a call for every human being to replicate the selflessness and mercy that God showed by sending his son to save sinners. That's why taking the entire quote of Luke 2:14 is important: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (ESV). Only in the Christian worldview does this kind of selflessness make sense. It certainly doesn't work in a world based on survival of the fittest.

Gotovich's statement unwittingly displays something. Atheists ideals cannot exist on their own. Imagine if the American Atheists were more honest and sought to abolish Christmas entirely. Why not say, "We don't need this holiday infused at every turn with religious implications and mythicism. We have Darwin Day. Let's celebrate that instead." How many followers do you think they would attract?

The Confused Message of "Be Good for Goodness' Sake"

Instead of promoting atheism by its own virtues, the American Atheists want to keep Christmas, but corrupt it. AA President David Silverman tried to redefine the holiday on their website by saying "The things that are most important during the holiday season—spending time with loved ones, charity, and being merry—have nothing to do with religion."3 Again, what? Where did he get that from?

First off, ideas like spending time with loved ones should not be seasonal. Charity and altruism are good things. But atheists don't think so if the altruism carries religious implications. In instances such as those, they'd rather shut down food pantries than allow a church the freedom to help the needy.

But the biggest problem with the billboard is whose idea of "being good" is being adopted here? What standard or scale are the atheists using to weigh whether an action is in itself good or bad? They obviously believe that skipping church is a good thing and going to church is a bad thing. But what if they're wrong on that point? Then how can they "be good for goodness' sake" when telling someone to skip church, which is bad?

When the atheists borrowed that line from the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," they misrepresented it. The line is using "for goodness' sake" as an emphatic device, just as you might hear a mother say while scolding her son, "Why do you have to take your brother's toys? For goodness' sake, you have plenty of your own to play with!" By changing the meaning to try and make it say that goodness has its own ontology, that is that goodness exists outside of anything else, they beg the question.

One cannot be good for goodness' sake without knowing first what defines goodness. And therein lies the problem. Atheism has no grounding for goodness. There is nothing to give their pronouncements about what is good or bad any value at all. Everything becomes subjective, like Silverman's claim that "being merry" is an important holiday value. Being merry is nice, I guess, but it isn't a virtue. All it takes to be merry is an open bar at the company Christmas party.

Without the transcendent source of God to anchor goodness, there is no way anyone can be good for the sake of goodness alone. Where does one start? By seeking to leverage the inherently religious principles of Christmas (in which God establishes the foundation of sacrificial love) to try and undermine the practice of religion, the American Atheists have set up a contradiction.

Let them present their own worldview. Let them hold their own holidays. For goodness' sake, why do they keep trying to take the Christian ones? That's simply naughty.


1. Fisher, Kody. "Controversial Billboards along I-25." FOX21Newscom. KXRM-TV, 07 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
2. Fisher, 2015.
3. "Santa Says ‘Just Skip Church' in Atheists' Holiday Billboards." American Atheists. American Atheists, 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Throwing Out the Riches of Christian History

After the discovery of gold in California in 1849, the American west was bristling with gold fever. Prospectors were traveling to both California and Nevada seeking to strike it rich. By 1859, much of the surface gold had been retrieved from the area around the Carson River, but two prospectors, Patrick McLaughlin and Peter O'Riley, sought to mine deeper into the hillsides. 1

They used rockers to extract some gold from shallow deposits, but continued to be vexed by a bluish-black clay that kept clogging their mining equipment. This "annoying blue stuff" had been plaguing miners for over a year, as the equipment had to be continually cleaned of the heavy, sticky stuff so it could be discarded.2 What they didn't realize is they had been throwing away a fortune. When the clay was sent to an assay office in Grass Valley, CA. it was found that each ton of the material would yield $876 in gold, but it held nearly $3,000 in silver! 3 Because the miners only knew about gold, they had been throwing away a fortune.

I think Christians can sometimes suffer from the same problem. It is no doubt that all believers revere the Bible as God's word and it is the most valuable thing we have to know and learn from God. Yet, many Christians only focus on the Bible and they don't learn about the rich heritage of Christian history. Christians of past ages have studies, learned, and argued for their faith even as we do today. They have already worked through manty of the difficulties that we believe are modern in nature and they offer a wisdom and insight into the scriptures that shouldn't be overlooked.

 In fact, many of the supposed "new" arguments against God have been addressed centuries ago. For example, take the Richard Dawkins quote from his 2002 TED Talk: "We are all atheists in most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."4 This is merely rhetoric, and it isn't new.

 In the second century AD, the Christian Athenagoras wrote to the Emperor of Rome complaining about how Christians are being unfairly persecuted. One charge leveled against them was that Christians were atheists, because they didn't believe in the pantheon of Gods. Here's Athenagoras' reply:
As regards, first of all, the allegation that we are atheists—for I will meet the charges one by one, that we may not be ridiculed for having no answer to give to those who make them—with reason did the Athenians adjudge Diagoras guilty of atheism… [for he] openly declared that there was no God at all. But to us, who distinguish God from matter, and teach that matter is one thing and God another, and that they are separated by a wide interval (for that the Deity is uncreated and eternal, to be beheld by the understanding and reason alone, while matter is created and perishable), is it not absurd to apply the name of atheism? …since our doctrine acknowledges one God, the Maker of this universe, who is Himself uncreated (for that which is does not come to be, but that which is not) but has made all things by the Logos which is from Him, we are treated unreasonably in both respects, in that we are both defamed and persecuted.5
In his letter to the Emperor, Athenagoras rightly refutes the charge of atheism with respect to the Roman gods as absurd. The Christians do believe in an uncreated being who is the source of all other things. Therefore, Athenagoras demonstrates the ridiculousness of the argument that not believing in Roman gods would make one an atheist "among other gods." That isn't what atheism means. It means one believes in no god of any kind whatsoever. To claim that I am an atheist concerning "most of the gods" is as much an error as claiming Dawkins is a creationist because he believes most of our modern technology has been intelligently designed. Athenagoras refuted Dawkins' point before 190AD!

This is simply one example of the riches that await the Christian who seeks to study the history of Christian thought. While the Bible is spiritual gold, we ignore far too much silver simply because we don't take the time to dig in and see how valuable such studies can be. Don't make that mistake.


1. James, Ronald. "Comstock Mining District." Online Nevada Encyclopedia. Online Nevada Encyclopedia, 20 Apr. 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.
2. Speed, James. "Discovering the World's Greatest Silver Properties." The Magazine of Wall Street. Vol. 21. 13 Oct, 1917. 212. Web.
3. James, 2009.
4. Dawkins, Richard. "Militant Atheism." TEDTalks. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2002. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
5. Athenagoras of Athens. "A Plea for the Christians." New Advent. Kevin Knight, 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.

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