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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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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We Need More Christian Kids Hearing from Atheists

A Barna Group Study released earlier this year reports some dramatic shifts in how American youth approach the Bible. Today's youth read the Bible much less than young people have even fifteen years ago and fewer Millennials see the Bible as a Holy book, let alone one inspired by God. 1 Of course, the rise of skepticism has only added to young people's disillusionment about God's word. As the Barna researchers noted, the culture has seen a steady rise of skepticism "creating a cultural atmosphere that is becoming unfriendly to claims of faith."2

The skepticism and danger of losing their kids to skepticism and atheism has caused many Christian parents and pastors to try and shield them from non-believing influences. They dismiss any biblical difficulty as something not worthy of consideration or as a sign of faithlessness.

Reactions like this are not new. In 1874, when John W. Haley compiled almost every single biblical discrepancy or troubling passage into a single volume, he answered similar concerns:
Some persons may, perchance, question the wisdom of publishing a work in which the difficulties of scripture are brought together and set forth so plainly. They may think it better to suppress, as far as may be, the knowledge of these things. The author does not sympathize with any such timid policy. He counts it the duty of the Christian scholar to look difficulties and objections squarely in the face. Nothing is to be gained by overlooking, evading, or shrinking from them. Truth has no cause to fear scrutiny, however rigid and searching. Besides, the enemies of the Bible will not be silent, even if its friends should hold their peace. It should be remembered that the following "discrepancies"are not now published for the first time. They are gathered from books and pamphlets which are already extensively circulated. The poison demands an antidote. The remedy should be carried wherever the disease has made its blighting way.3
I think that's well said. While a Christian parent's gut reaction may be to steer their child away from objections or controversies of the faith, it is far better to take them on, take them apart and see how well they stand up in the light of truth. That means your youth group needs to integrate some kind of apologetics teaching into its regular curriculum. Invite an apologist to speak at a mid-week service. Make defending the faith the theme of your next youth retreat. Perhaps even find out how you can participate in one of our Apologetics Missions Trips, where students are trained then taken to a secular environment where they get to interact with atheists and skeptics directly.

We need to prepare our young people for the objections they will face once they head off to college. Kids will her these objections; there's no way to shelter them from the rising cultural animosity toward the Christian worldview. To try and do so may even backfire and produce the very result you had hoped to avoid. However, when you engage the arguments and objections, you may be amazed at how poor they really are. As Haley noted, if Christianity is true, then it has no cause to fear scrutiny. The poison demands an antidote.


1. Barna Group. "The Bible in America: 6-Year Trends - Barna Group." Barna Group. Barna Group Inc., 15 June 2016. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. .
2. Barna Group, 2016.
3. Haley, John W. Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. Grand Rapids,: Baker Book House, 1977. Print. (preface)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bill Maher Whores out the Horus Myth Against Jesus

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. That aphorism is no truer than within the new atheism where people become instant experts because they read something that sounded plausible and agreed with their biases.

Take the charge that the accounts of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection were not only not history, but they are simply a retread of the dying and rising God myths, such as the Egyptian myths concerning Horus. In his movie Religulous, prominent atheist Bill Maher confidently tells some Christians that "the Jesus story wasn't original." The film then moves to a series of texts making the following claims:
Written in 1280 BC, the Egyptian Book of the Dead describes a god, Horus… Horus is the son if the god Osirus born to a virgin mother. He was baptized in a river by Anup the Baptizer, who was later beheaded. Like Jesus, Horus was tempted while alone in the desert… healed the sick… the blind… cast out demons… and walked on water. He raised Asar from the dead. "Asar" translates to "Lasarus." Oh yeah, he also had 12 disciples. Yes, Horus was crucified first, and after three days two women announced Horus the savior of humanity had been resurrected.1
Each of these claims is overlaid on top of a movie clip where Jesus is paralleling the detail.

Which Horus is Maher Talking About?

However, there seems to be something missing from Maher's little tutorial; he offers no citations of the sources from which he's drawing his data. We're left to believe all one needs to do is pick up a translation of one Egyptian Book of the Dead and we'll have everything laid out in front of us. That's the assumption you get from what was presented, right?

You'd be incredibly wrong. Egyptian mythology isn't so neatly unpacked. Much of what was written about Horus in a systematic manner doesn't come from the Egyptians at all, but from Plutarch who wrote them some 30-60 years after the Gospels were composed. Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge explains:
Plutarch, as a learned man and a student of comparative religion and mythology was most anxious to understand the history of Isis and Osiris, which Greek and Roman scholars talked about freely, and which none of them comprehended, and he made enquiries of priests and others, and examined critically such information as he could obtain, believing and hoping that he would penetrate the mystery in which these gods were wrapped. As a result of his labours he collected a number of facts about the form of the Legend of Isis and Osiris as it was known to the learned men of his day, but there is no evidence that he had the slightest knowledge of the details of the original African Legend of these gods as it was known to the Egyptians, say, under the VIth Dynasty. Moreover, he never realized that the characteristics and attributes of both Isis and Osiris changed several times during the long history of Egypt, and that a thousand years before he lived the Egyptians themselves had forgotten what the original form of the legend was.2
Not only have the myths changed, but they've been mixed together, even among the Egyptian texts. John Gwyn Griffiths, in explaining some of the Horus mythology, writes "Little consistency, however, is shown with regard to the genealogy of Horus. He is described as the son of Nut, the son of Geb, and once perhaps as the son of Hathor. Sethe sees Hathor as the original mother of Horus in the Horus-nome of Damanhur-Momemphis, where she is later replaced by Isis who assumes her bovine headdress." 3 Griffiths goees on, but just in that section it sounds like Maher will have an incredibly difficult time demonstrating the December 25 birth date, the born of a virgin claim, or that he was the son of Osirus.

Just before all those assertions that Horus had the original Gospel story some 1300 years before Jesus's birth, Maher authoritatively tells his Christian interviewees how many gods of that era were bor4n on December 25 and they should really "study the religions of the Mediterranean region from a thousand years before." He seems to say they need to shed their naiveté. It is obvious, though, that Maher hasn't studied Horus at all if he thinks a quick read of the Book of the Dead will give you a 1280 BC parallel of the Gospels. You can try it yourself here.

Next time I'll look at Plutarch's version of the Horus myth to counteract any final appeals there. But I think Maher (as well as all those Internet atheists who like to parade these claims) needs to take a bit of his own advice. Perhaps he should at least look into the Horus myth before going off half-cocked with wild-eyed speculations on parallels that don't exist.


1. Religulous. Dir. Larry Charles. Perf. Bill Maher. Thousand Words, 2008. Ill Maher - Jesus, Horus, Mithra, Krishna - Religulous ( 2 Mins ). YouTube, 29 Dec. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.
2. Budge, E. A. Wallis. "IX. The History of Isis and Osiris." Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, Edited with Translations. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner &, 1912. Web.
3. Griffiths, J. Gwyn. The Origins of Osiris and His Cult. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1980. Print. 15.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Do We Mean When We Say the Word "Cult"? (video)

Say the word "cult" and what comes to mind? Perhaps hooded figures keeping people against their will or a maniacal preacher fighting against the government. But the word cult has a religious as well as a sociological sense.

In this short video, Lenny adds a bit of clarity to the term cult, showing how certain belief systems would actually qualify as cults of an established faith.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Taking the Bible Literally is One Way of Abusing the Bible

"Do you take the Bible literally?" I've been asked that question countless times, usually by atheists or skeptics, but sometimes by others who want to understand my point of view. But like most questions about important things, this one is a little over-simplified and unclear. Much of the confusion comes in from the use of the words "take" and "literal."

In asking whether I take the Bible literally, what is it the questioner actually wants to know? Do I hold to a literal understanding of every sentence in Scripture? If that is his question, my answer is definitely no. But that doesn't mean that I don't hold the Bible as inspired, truthful, or authoritative. It doesn't mean that I believe there are mistakes in the Bible. I don't think there are. What it means is, just like any other important text, I must seek to understand the meaning the writers intended to get across.

For example, I once received a response from an atheist to my article "How Do I know the Bible is REALLY from God?" who said the Bible cannot be true by citing Psalm 58:8, which reads "Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime." He claimed this shows a scientific error in the Bible, since we know that snails don't really dissolve as they travel. Of course, my interlocutor was wrong. The Psalms are a collection of Hebrew poetry and as such one should expect them to use imagery and metaphor to make a larger point. It seems pretty evident that even ancient peoples without laboratories would be clever enough to know that snails don't actually dissolve.

In taking this verse literally, the critic actually abused the text. He tried to make it mean something the author never intended. If you doubt this, then start your stopwatch the next time your spouse tells you that he or she will be there "in a minute" and chastise them if they hit 61 seconds or more. Such actions disrespect the person making the statement.

Literalism verses Symbolism

Perhaps the questioner doesn't mean one must take every colloquialism or figure of speech as literal. Perhaps they are asking whether I take the Bible to be understood as literally versus symbolically. But this simply moves the problem back one level. Symbols are part of the Bible's makeup. The "talking snake" that atheists like to deride in Genesis chapter three is explained to be a symbolic reference to Satan in Revelation 12:9. In fact, even the most conservative of Biblical scholars readily acknowledge that Revelation is awash in symbols pulled from other Old Testament books. Similarly, Jesus primarily used parables to teach people about the Kingdom of God and how they should act.

To say that I take the Bible literally instead of symbolically doesn't clarify whether I believe Jesus has commanded to help only people who I find beaten in the street like the Good Samaritan or whether I take his teaching in a broader context. I must place it against all I know about Jesus and what he taught, the context in which he presented the teaching, and the type of literature in which it is presented. Since the Gospels are a form of ancient biography, I can believe that Jesus literally taught the concept of helping even those you see as enemies, but he used a form of symbolism to do so.

Taking the Bible Seriously

So, how do I answer when someone asks "Do you take the Bible literally?" I respond by saying "I take the Bible seriously." I want to know what the authors of those books intended to convey. In want to understand their teaching and learn from it. If they intended the account to be historical, then I will take it as history. If they intended it as metaphorical, I want to take it that way. In all, I want to respect the text and understand it to the best of my ability. That's the proper approach.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Battling the Culture Wars (podcast)

Popular media today has an incredible influence on thoughts and attitudes. From blockbuster movies to superstar pop divas, our minds are being shaped by the values that Hollywood deems important. How can Christians protect their families from such a powerful message?

In this podcast series, Lenny offers ways to provide a counterbalance to culture's corrupting influence.
To see more podcasts, check out our podcast page. You can subscribe to our podcasts via iTunes or using your favorite software.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Trusting in Science Alone will Starve Our Ability to Know

Every group has its biases. Enlightenment thinkers believed reason could provide the ultimate answer to all questions. The Victorians stressed common manners and proprieties. Both were helpful in some ways; manners provided a common framework for engaging with large populations pushed together as modern cities developed and reason is an appropriate way to seek understanding. But they shouldn't be practiced to the exclusion of other ways we understand.

Today, the dominant framework most people assume will provide answers and meaning is neither manners nor reason, but science. Atheists and "freethinkers" especially tend to hold to an over-confidence in science as the path to discovering truth. As an example, I wrote an article entitled "Three Intractable Problems for Atheism" where I pointed out that the origin of universe, the origin of life, and the origin of consciousness are unexplainable if all that exists is matter following physical laws. One comment I received was "We don't know YET, because we've only just in the past century begun to seriously uncover the origins of the universe. If that day comes, and you don't like the answer, what will the next goalpost be?" What those who respond in such ways never say is why they think that science is even the right discipline to answering these questions at all.

Fingers and Forks

In fact, science will never be able to answer these questions because it isn't designed to do so. Let me offer an example. Early cultures primarily used their fingers to eat their food. They would pick and tear at a piece of meat or tear off a hunk of bread. Even in Jesus's day, this was pretty common. But using your fingers has some drawbacks, too. If your hands are dirty, they can contaminate the food. You can't touch things that are too hot, and the buildup of greasy food on your hands means you'll need to wash after a meal.

That's why the fork is such a great invention. It solves health issues that accompany eating only with one's fingers. But it does more than that. It allows one to keep an item from moving so it can be cut, adjusting the size of your bite to fit you individually. It skewers smaller food items, like individual beans, that would be hard to grasp with your hands. It also reflects proper manners, providing a symbol of separation from animals.

Forks have given human beings a great step forward in our culinary history, allowing us to eat in ways we couldn't have without it. However, if the chef places a bowl of tomato soup in front of me, the fork is no longer useful. The benefits that the fork conveys when consuming solid food are the very reason it fails when applied to liquids. To close the tines of the fork so it may hold liquid would rob the fork of its unique abilities to skewer other foods. I need a different tool.

Now imagine a person from "the fork is the only way to true nourishment" camp who seeks to eat the soup with his fork. He tries to eat the soup and quickly becomes frustrated. He can dip his utensil inn the soup for a long, long, time. He'll never get all the soup and probably burn more calories than he consumes trying. At this result, he may then conclude that soup isn't really food at all.

Choosing the Right Utensil When Searching for Truth

Science is like a fork in humanity's quest for knowledge. It can do a lot of things. It has improved our health and allowed us to create new polymers. It has shown us facts about the material universe and its laws. But from where that universe and its laws originate, science cannot answer because it simply isn't designed to do so. It cannot tell us about things like consciousness since consciousness is immaterial.

When pressed, atheists usually try to escape their dilemma in one of two ways: they either claim science will get there eventually (what I call a Science of the Gaps argument). But that's just wishful thinking and as they seriously consider what human consciousness entails—things like the capacity for free will on a purely materialist framework—they begin to deny things like consciousness and free will are real.

Science, like a fork, is useful in the hand of humanity. It can serve us well as we seek to cut into the mysteries of the universe and digest what we discover there. However, it shouldn't be the only tool on the table. To ignore other ways of consuming knowledge is to limit not expand our intellectual palate.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Ignore the Right of Conscience at Your Peril

At the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, we are treated to an ominous scene. Dozens of subjects are marched to the gallows and hanged as an official reads an edict from the local magistrate declaring:
In order to affect a timely halt to deteriorating conditions and to ensure the common good, a state of emergency is declared for these territories by decree of Lord Cutler Beckett, duly appointed representative of His Majesty, the king.

By decree, according to martial law, the following statutes are temporarily amended:
  • Right to assembly, suspended.
  • Right to habeas corpus, suspended.
  • Right to legal counsel, suspended.
  • Right to verdict by a jury of peers, suspended.
By decree, all persons found guilty of piracy, or aiding a person convicted of piracy, or associating with a person convicted of piracy shall be sentenced to hang by the neck until dead.
The message the filmmaker wants to communicate is unmistakable. Unilaterally jettisoning the rights of the people allows despotism to flourish. As we watch even a young boy approach the hangman's noose, we are to recoil at the injustice of it all. We are to understand Lord Beckett as evil.

What About the Greater Good?

The film's portrayal of such measures is ham-fisted, which is to be expected when the heroes are the pirates. In reality, pirates have been and still are real menaces to society. They threatened life, peace, and property. So, would declaring a suspension of rights for the general safety of the colony and the colonists be the right thing to do? I guess it depends on the rights in question and the circumstances necessitating it, but such actions prove to be dangerous.
At the beginning of the Civil War in the U.S., President Lincoln suspended the right to trial for Southern sympathizers in the North who were sabotaging telegraph cables and attacking troops. A U.S. News and World Report article reports how Lincoln believed such drastic action would be limited and for a very short period, with no long-term effects.1 However, the powers in the state of Missouri took martial law to new levels and greedily clung to the efficient effectivelness of forcing the citizenry to its own point of view:
In March 1865, a newspaper correspondent in St. Louis reported that many Republicans in Missouri—not just the state's leaders—had come to admire the efficiency of martial law: "So far from being unpopular, it is believed that a large portion of our loyal people are willing to see a provision incorporated in the charter of the city, requiring six months of martial law to be imposed . . . every five years to clean up all the little cases of outraged justice, loose indictments, public corruption and private peculation, which the ordinary courts cannot reach.2
The article quotes historian Eric Foner that Lincoln found "It is much easier to put these restrictions in place than it is to stop them."3

The Danger of Losing Our Right to Conscience Today

Today, there is a mindset gaining ground in our courts and among our politicians that certain rights are less important than what they perceive as the good of the public. The rights of individuals to exercise his or her sincerely held religious convictions by refusing to participate in same sex union ceremonies has come under attack. Small business owners, like Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, Cynthia and Robert Gifford, Aaron and Melissa Klein, and a bevy of others have felt the power and pressure of the state to violate their beliefs and their consciences in order to two what those in power perceive as an appropriate line.

What makes the states' actions all the more insidious is the fact that there is no imminent threat of "rebellion or invasion" which Lincoln pointed to when issuing his suspension of the law. There aren't even any pirates that threaten one's life, peace, and property. There are only those who assert they must quash such acts of defiance in order to fight "discrimination," as Colorado Civil Rights Commissioner Diann Rice declared in ruling against Masterpiece Cakeshop:
Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be — I mean, we — we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to — to use their religion to hurt others.4
To see the irony of Rice's statement, you should probably read the article "How a Cakebaker Became an Enemy of the State" over at The Federalist. It is Rice and those who think like her who are actually the ones justifying discriminative policies that jeopardize the rights of the citizenry. She sounds very much like the Lord Beckett character, declaring the curtailment of rights simply to "affect a timely halt to deteriorating conditions and to ensure the common good." But what happens when that power is targeted towards other ideas, perhaps ideas that Rice herself holds? She may find that it is much easier to put these powers into place than it is to get rid of them.


1. Ewers, Justin. "Revoking Civil Liberties: Lincoln's Constitutional Dilemma." U.S.News & World Report. U.S.News & World Report. LP, 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.
2. Ewers, Justin. 2009.
3. Ewers, Justin. 2009.
4. Harsanyi, David. "How A Cakemaker Became An Enemy Of The State." The Federalist. The Federalist, 06 Sept. 2016. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Jesus: The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived (video)

If you were asked to choose the most intelligent person in history, who would it be? Einstein? Newton? Socrates? What about Jesus? Jesus valued the life of the mind and it showed as he confronted his critics.

Last month, I had the privilege to give two talks for the Speaking The Truth in Love Conference. Here's my talk entitled "Jesus: The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived, "explaining  how Jesus wants to engage our minds as much as our hearts.

To watch the other video from the conference, click here.
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