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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 www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Stop Dismissing Feminine Values



By any account, Mia Hamm is considered one of the all-time great soccer players. Twice an Olympic gold medalist and twice a World Cup winner, Hamm held the record for most goals scored in international play by a woman until fellow American Amy Wambach broke it in 2013.1 She was even named Female Athlete of the Year at the ESPY Awards.2 When Hamm stepped onto a FIFA football field, she was considered a force to be reckoned with.

However, what if the field that Hamm stepped on wasn't playing by FIFA's rules but those proscribed by the NFL? How would all of Hamm's skills and abilities be judged as she faced off against 250 lb. linebackers? Certainly some of her talents, such as her speed and playmaking vision would be valued, but her standout skills like scoring and dribbling ability would be seen as worthless. No one could see the real value in Hamm's abilities here.

The NFL and FIFA are both called football. Both have great athletes and offer fa participants wonderful opportunities to express their skills. They are, however, two completely different games and to be great in one but not the other doesn't mean you aren't a great athlete. One may be a different kind of player, but equally great at one's chosen sport.

Equality Isn't Everyone Playing the Same Game

I offer this illustration to underscore a point often missed in the gender wars. Lately there has been a lot of noise made about how women are treated unequally. Articles continue to appear complaining about the supposed wage gap between women and men, the lower percentage of women in the sciences, and even how U.S. women's professional soccer players earn only a fraction of their male counterparts. There's also much talk about how media needs to do a better job in portraying women as not simply domestics but warriors who are equally capable of taking out the bad guys in the story.

It strikes me as glaringly obvious that these efforts are using a masculine-tainted yardstick in measuring the worth of women. Alistair Roberts recently made the same point in his article "Why We Should Jettison the 'Strong Female Character'." Roberts focuses his complaint on today's media fascination with portraying women protagonists as action heroes that basically out-man men. He writes:
What is perhaps most noteworthy about most of them how much their supposed 'strength' and independence and their narrative importance often depends upon their capacity to match up to men in combat, requires the foil of male incompetence, villainy, and weakness, or involves the exhibition of traits and behaviors that are far more pronounced in men.

...Herein lies a tragic failure of imagination that weakens both men and women. Women are measured according to an unfair standard that encourages frustration and resentment, as they are pressed to play to their relative weaknesses; men, on the other hand, are ill-served as their strengths must be either pathologized, stifled, or dissembled in order to make women appear equal or stronger. Kickass princesses are an invitation to young girls to pursue their strength in a zero-sum gender game.

...The problem lies with the lack of corresponding films for women, especially films that explore what it means to be a woman who achieves full agency playing to female strengths and according to women's rules. The problem also lies with the lack of female characters that teach men to respect women as women, not only to the extent that they can play to male strengths. Without denying that some women can and do effectively play to male strengths, they should not have to do so in order to be valued as full agents. 3
Roberts goes on to offer a couple of examples to show that women can be valued for those traits where they themselves excel. He leverages Proverbs 31 to underscore his point.

What if Value Is Measured Differently?

When discussing issues of equality, I have often questioned why economic benchmarks are usually the only ones offered in the discussion. Is professional success the only valuable activity? I could just as easily say we need to measure importance by the amount of trust we place on those who are responsible for shaping and molding the most valuable assets we have: our children. Anyone can be indentured to someone else for eight hours a day, schlepping off to do another's bidding just to earn a few dollars for a scrap of bread. The true value lies in the relational bond and power that comes in teaching those who will one day shape our world.

Of course, the example above commits the same error in the other direction. Both men and women are valuable and neither should be considered replaceable. They each have strengths that by and large the other lacks, which is why we decry anyone stifling the voice of either. But let's stop claiming women are equal by telling them they must stop emphasizing those things that differentiate them from men. That isn't equality, is demanding conformity and elevating a man's playing field to judge by.

References

1. "Mia Hamm." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/mia-hamm-16472547
2. Bio.com, 2016.
3. Roberts, Alistair. "Why We Should Jettison the 'Strong Female Character'" Mere Orthodoxy. Mere Orthodoxy, 18 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. https://mereorthodoxy.com/why-we-should-jettison-the-strong-female-character/
Image courtesy Mark Ramelb Flickr source, CC BY-SA 3.0

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

We Don't Need to Recreate the First Century Church



The world in which we live is loud, distracting, and difficult. Attention spans are decreasing and the influence of secular society seems to loom ever larger in our lives. Many believers feel it is becoming harder and harder to honestly live out their Christian faith properly.

Moreover, the Christian church as an institution isn't immune from the influence of the culture. Churches today struggle with balancing a proper worship time with congregational participation. Pastors worry about how much theology they can present in their sermons before it becomes too "heady" and a "turn-off" for the congregant. They also want to figure out just which ministries they should be offering and how much technology should play a part in the worship service.

Given these stresses, it shouldn't be surprising that a common refrain heard in Bible-believing churches is the church needs to simplify. It needs to go back to its roots and look a little bit more like the first century churches. After all, those churches were started by the apostles, making them somehow more pure than the rather complicated practices the modern church adopts in the 21st century.

In fact, there was a big push to return and do church "the way the apostles did it" in the early 19th century, a movement known as Restorationism. It spawned several denominations such as the Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ1. More recently, the Jesus People movement in the 1960s sought in some way to do the same thing, and the very recent house church trend claims to be "a return to first-century Christianity in its simplest form."2

The Problem of Purity

Perhaps you have heard someone say something like "we need to return our church experience to the way the first Christians did it." I've heard the statement from both pastors and the laity. But, I think there's an awful lot being assumed in such a statement. In fact, the first century churches were no more pure than those of today.

Let's begin by looking at what we know about the first century churches from the Bible itself. Several of our New Testament books are letters written to Christian churches of the first century and they give precise details on the real world problems those churches wrestled with. The church at Corinth, which was founded by the Apostle Paul himself, seems to be an absolute mess. There was a scandal rocking the assembly since one of its members had begun sleeping with his father's wife (1 Cor. 5:1). Further, because different members thought the pastor they liked best was the one who should be authoritative. Paul said this caused "jealousy and strife" among the congregation (3:3). Doesn't that sound pretty familiar?

The Corinthians had other struggles, such as the more "mature" members believing they were somehow better than their newer brethren on the matter of what they could or couldn't eat (8:1). Pride and selfishness had even crept into even the celebration of the Lord's Supper (11:21-22). They had already reduced communion to something it was never meant to be, even getting drunk during the service.

Problems Throughout the Churches

Let we believe that Corinth was some singular exception to the rule in the early church, the Bible gives us ample evidence of other churches wresting with various problems of their own. The Galatians were teaching some bad doctrine and thought only those who followed certain Old Testament precepts would be considered true Christians. The letters that Jesus dictates to John in the book of Revelation outline a slew of problems facing the churches in the first century, including wooden doctrinal adherence without love, accepting false teaching without discernment, allowing the cultural heresies to infect the church, operating on only dead works, and even being completely spiritually dead, holding on the only the name of Christian. James rebukes the church for quarreling, gossiping, and showing partiality. Even ion the book of Acts, the church continually wrestled with what to do about the divisions between those who were Jewish converts verses those who were Gentiles.

Main Thing Stays the Same

All of these examples serve to show that the first century church wasn't a panacea. Christians of the first century had as many struggles, complications, personality battles, and confusion as the church does today.They battles issues of sexual sin within their ranks as well as without. They had problems with pride. They mixed up what was cultural convention with what was essential doctrine. The first century church was very much like the 21st century church. Their problems were simply couched in the milieu of their time.

This shouldn't be a surprise to us. The Christian church of the first century was comprised of people and people are very, very fallible. I recently heard one non-believer say one of the reasons he isn't a Christian is because there are so many divergent opinions and practices within Christian denominations and secondly, there are many examples of injustice done by Christians on their fellow man. I cannot argue with either of these points; both are true.

However, as Christians we understand that it isn't the practices of the church we hold as the standard for life, but the example of Christ. It is our love and devotion to the one who sacrificed himself for our salvation that knits us together as a community. In that aspect, Christians of the first century and Christians of the 21st century are identical. We both worship the Son of Man who alone becomes the propitiation for our sins and who rose again on the third day. We recognize that we are sinners deserving to die but we have been reconciled to God. In that, we are as close to the apostles' teaching as the first century church was, and we can walk confidently forward in our faith knowing that is the model one must follow to be authentic.

References

1. Mallett, Robert. "Restoration Movement." The Christian Restoration Association. The Christian Restoration Association, 2003. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
2. Henning, Jefferey. "The Growing House-Church Movement." Ministry Today Magazine. Charisma Media, 31 Oct. 2000. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Another Way Christianity Changed Everything: Human Freedom



People want to be free. In fact, most of the battles now fought in the culture wars are about individuals who feel they have not simply a desire but a right to express their individual freedom as to who they are and how they are seen by others. The transgender bathroom fiasco is a prime example of this.

It is their right, they demand, to present themselves as they personally wish to be presented. They maintain that neither culture nor tradition should trump who they are as individuals and they're pursued various legal strategies to assert individual rights as real and inviolate. But where do those rights come from?

In one sense I agree with the battlers. Culture, tradition and even government cannot bestow rights (properly understood) upon people. Any right that is granted by an institution is not an inviolate right by definition. If the state can create and bestow rights upon an individual, then the state can take those rights away. Such "rights" amount to privileges that the state allows one to exercise.

In fact, throughout much of human history, the individual was subservient to the group. In his book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, scholar Larry Siedentop outlines how all cultures prior to Christ were first built around the family unit which expanded to the city-state, the polis.1 He writes how the Greeks saw devotion to the welfare of the city as the highest virtue. Rome demanded devotion to the emperor and the empire. Conformity to the powers that be was the only thing that made one a worthwhile citizen.

So what changed? Where did this idea that the state should be respectful of the rights of the citizen more than the citizen must conform to the needs of the state come from? Siedentop states plainly, it is Christianity that declared such a radically new concept to humanity:
Paul's vision on the road to Damascus amounted to the discovery of human freedom—of moral agency potentially available to each and everyone, that is to individuals. This 'universal' freedom, with its moral implications, was utterly different from the freedom enjoyed by the privileged class of citizens in the polis.

In his conception of the Christ, Paul brings together basic features of Jewish and Greek thought to create something new. We can see in a famous passage from his letters, the letter to the Galatians, dating from about twenty years after Jesus' crucifixion. Paul uses Jesus' emphasis on the fatherhood of God to insist on the brotherhood of man and, indirectly, to proclaim his own role as apostle to the Gentiles. 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Paul's 'one' signals a new transparency in human relations. Through his conception of the Christ, Paul insists on the moral equality of humans, on a status shared equally by all. And his great mission becomes the salvation of individual souls, through sharing his vision of the Christ - a vision which makes it possible to create a new self.2
Paul grounds his view of humanity as valuable because each individual bears the image of God. People are not simply material beings. If they were, then they could be measured by their value to the group. But as individual image bearers "conventional social roles—whether of father, daughter, official, priest or slave—become secondary in relation to that primary role."3  This stands in stark contrast to how all other cultures saw themselves by either their position in the public sphere and their position within the domestic sphere, which Siedentop explains "was understood as the sphere of the family, rather than that of individuals endowed with rights. The domestic sphere was a sphere of inequality. Inequality of roles was fundamental to the worship of the ancient family."4

It is Christianity that makes any sense of individual rights at all. Without a very specific Christian theology of man, the assertion that human beings are equal and each person has rights is as meaningless as holding that individual cells have certain rights without respect to the body as a whole.  There is simply no other way to anchor the rights of human beings.

I don't agree on the bathroom issue. I believe it is ludicrous to think that one's desire can overrule reality. No matter how convinced an anorexic is that she is fat, the reality is her self-starvation is endangering to her person. The biology of her body is in conflict with her self-concept. Similarly, those with gender dysphoria are at odds with their biology. Restrooms serve a very utilitarian function, wholly built to serve human biological needs. Separating bathrooms by biological sex bathroom doesn't violate one's rights because it is our biology that makes us human. Sex is a real differentiator and shouldn't be ignored. But even more importantly, how can anyone consistently argue for their rights against Christian theology when it is Christian theology that provides the very foundation for having rights at all? The contradiction is striking.

References

1. Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. S.l.: Penguin, 2014. Print. 25.
2. Siedentop, 2014. 60.
3. Siedentop, 2014. 62.
4. Siedentop, 2014. 18.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why Evidence for God Argues for Only One God


Does God exist? There are many different arguments apologists use to make the case for God's existence, such as why the universe exists at all, the fine tuning of the universe, the existence of moral values and duties, the existence of reason, and so on.

Each of these pieces of evidence for God has merit. However, assuming any one of them is a slam-dunk is a bit foolish. The real power in the arguments comes when we look at all of them together. This is known as making a cumulative case for God's existence. Taken together, the arguments form a very strong foundation, making the belief that God exists much more reasonable than its negation.

I've written previously on the strength of a cumulative case for God's existence. However, an interesting objection to the cumulative case argument was voiced by an atheist named Tyler on the podcast of the UK radio show Unbelievable? hosted by Justin Brierley.  Around the 1:09:10 mark, Tyler asked:
What does it mean to make a cumulative case for God? It seems to me the phrase is used to get around one of the oldest debates in recorded history: How many gods are there? I guess you wouldn't have to call them gods; you could just call them supernatural beings. Does the phrase "a cumulative case for God" really eliminate the possibility that the universe was created by one God and the morals by another? Couldn't all of the arguments for God point to a pantheon of supernatural beings that may not ever exist anymore?

Who God is versus arguments for his existence

 Tyler's question is an important one, not only because it shows a misunderstanding of what the cumulative case is, but also a misunderstanding for the arguments referenced therein. Argument for God's existence, like those listed above, are focused on the idea of necessity. For instance, the Kalam cosmological argument argues for why there is something rather than nothing at all. Such an argument is not limited to only the natural world. If supernatural beings exist, one must account for their existence, too. Those beings are either contingent, meaning they rely upon something else for their existence, or they are necessary--they have always existed, that is they are eternal. Christianity holds that God is an always-existing being that anchors all other existences.

To posit only other supernatural entities that may not even exist anymore runs into a host of problems. First, one must ask "Where do such beings come from? Why do they exist?" I imagine one retort would be "They are all eternally existent!" but this won't do the job. If these beings no longer exist now, it proves they are not eternal.

"Fine," one might say, "They continue to exist as well right now." But we still have some problems. First, there cannot be more than one eternal, all-powerful being. Think about this for a moment. If there are even two beings who claim to have all power, the one thing each absolutely couldn't have is power over the other. If they are equal in power, it means their power is limited by the simple fact the other being exists. So they couldn't be all powerful. Two all-powerful beings is a contradiction in terms. And if they are not all powerful, they are in some way contingent for their power is mitigated. One of the two simply doesn't need to exist since the other can do his job for him.

The moral argument plays out the same way. How can one being be creator and another be the foundation of morals? Does this mean the creator-being is obligated to follow the dictates of the morals-establishing being? Along this line of reasoning, one runs smack-dab into the Euthyphro dilemma Plato spelled out. It again makes these beings contingent, reliant upon something or someone outside of themselves.

Why only monotheism is logically coherent

The Christian who offers a cumulative case for God is doing so in part to explain the existence of contingent things. To suppose multiple supernatural beings then forces the question about their existence, given they are contingent themselves. One must either hold to a contradiction or stumble into an infinite regress, wither of which is a reasonable position to take. Only a single necessary being works consistently given all the evidence presented.

One reason understanding the difference between necessity and contingency is so important is it helps the truth seeker save a vast amount of time exploring different religious faith claims. It shows any faith that posits multiple gods as an explanation for the origin of the cosmos is probably incorrect and monotheistic faiths should be investigated first.

Understanding a Cumulative Case

It isn't the phrase "a cumulative case" that eliminates the possibility of multiple supernatural beings; it is the type of case the Christian seeks to explain. Prosecutors offer cumulative cases in court all the time as they mount many, many pieces of evidence against a defendant stating the best explanation that makes sense of all this evidence is the defendant committed the crime. But the type of case we are making for God's existence is one of ultimate origins. What grounds morality as objective? Why is there something rather than nothing? It is in this way cumulative case arguments are powerful. They make the case for why the best explanation for the existence of all things is a single all-powerful, all-good God who is personal, one who chooses to create with intention.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Jesus Ate with Criminals; Why Wouldn't He Bake a Cake for a Gay Person?



The radical shift in society's understanding of homosexual unions has caused a sort of whiplash in our culture. Homosexual activists see any resistance to their agenda as bigotry, yet Christians are caught between the teaching of scripture on homosexual activities and the command of Jesus to love one's enemies. Further, Jesus seemed to embrace people who were marginalized by the religious conservatives of his day. What's a Christian to do?

This tension has played out fairly visibly in the news and in the courts with Christians such as florist Barronelle Stutzman who refused to provide flowers for her longtime customer Rob Ingersoll because those arrangements were intended to celebrate Ingersoll's union with another man or photographer Elane Huguenin, who was told by the New Mexico Supreme Court her free speech rights were secondary to the state's non-discrimination laws when she turned down photographing a lesbian couple's ceremony. Aaron and Melissa Klein's story is perhaps more notable. The Kleins were ordered to pay a $135,000 fine for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple.

Was Jesus an Enabler?

The legal bludgeoning of Christians who as a matter of conscience wish to not celebrate a ceremony that stands in direct opposition to their beliefs is alarming. It has sparked several states to try and balance the anti-discrimination laws which most believe are good things with accommodations for matters of conscience where one may disagree with the message one is being forced to send.

Even here, such moves have prompted a considerable backlash, even among Christians. I recently saw a tweet that tried to argue in just that way. Showing a picture of Florida Governor Rick Scott signing a law protecting pastors, she tweeted: "Jesus ate dinner with criminals and prostitutes and you're telling me you can't bake a cake for a gay person?"

Drury is alluding to the times in the Gospels where Jesus asks to dine with people like Zaccheus (Luke 19:18) and Levi, tax collectors who had a habit of overcharging the citizenry so they could pocket the excess. Mark tells the story: "When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?' And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners'" (Mark 2:16-17, ESV).

I think Drury is simply wrong in trying to claim this incident is a parallel. Certainly, Jesus reached out to those with whom he disagreed and he even ate with them, which would be considered an act of friendship in that culture. However, Jesus very clearly stated why he did these things. He came to call sinners to repentance. In other words, Jesus was trying to get them to change their ways.

Now, imagine a different scenario. After dinner, instead of Zaccheus telling Jesus "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much" he asks, "Jesus, since you are a carpenter by trade, I wish to hire you to build me a tax collection booth so I can continue with my chosen lifestyle. Since your services are available for public consumption, I think you should make my job collecting money from the people easier, even if you disagree with what I'm doing." That's the equivalent scenario. Does anyone believe that Jesus would acquiesce to such a demand?

Forcing one to violate conviction means forcing group-think

In the florist case above, Stutzman never refused to sell to Ingersoll because he was homosexual. He was a regular customer. Instead, she refused to draw upon her artistic talent to celebrate an event she considered to violate here convictions. To participate in a celebration is tantamount to endorsing it. The Kleins were in a similar situation. Huguenin's work included crafting a book that would evoke feelings of warmth and celebration as part of her services. It was a story that she simply didn't believe and therefore wished to refuse.

Beliefs and convictions are important. They matter as they shape who we are. If any of these folks were operating a grocery store and those couples came in to buy film or cake mix or even pre-cut flowers from the store's cart I would say they were wrong in their refusal. But that isn't the situation here. In each of these cases, the business provider would have to participate in some meaningful way in the celebration of the event. It's asking someone to participate in what they think is wrong that is the true violation here. To force someone to violate their convictions is to impose a form of group-think upon those with whom one disagrees. That isn't only wrong, but dangerous for society.

Jesus did eat with sinners, but he never made it easier for them to continue in their sins. He may have healed the woman caught in adultery, but he also commanded her to go and sin no more.

Image courtesy Stephanie Astono Salim (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Use Care, Christian, or You May be Mistaken for a Klansman


The headline read, "Indiana University Students Mistake Priest for KKK Member." Immediately, I had to know more. As Breitbart reported, several students saw a man dressed in a Dominican monk's habit with beads hanging from a long belt and began tweeting about him "to express their fear of the alleged Klansman, who they claimed was carrying a whip, and dressed in 'white robes.'" 1 The reports led residential hall advisor Ethan Gill to write a warning to IU students about the individual, as reported in the university newspaper:
There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip. Because the person is protected under first amendment rights, IUPD cannot remove this person from campus unless an act of violence is committed. Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight, always be with someone and if you have no dire reason to be out of the building, I would recommend staying indoors if you're alone.
Gill would later post a retraction after he saw a picture of the individual:
This is what happens when there is miscommunication. So what happened tonight goes like this: a person saw white robes and what looked to them like a weapon, got scared (rightfully so), warned people, warned staff, which in turn caused me to warn my residents because I need to look out for my residents, which in turn made it spread.
When my residents, terrified, come running to me, saying yeah the report must be true, they saw him and couldn't believe there was a klansmember with a whip. And I see this picture. It's a priest. With a rosary. 2
Of course it would be easy to poke fun at IU students who overacted to a local priest who regularly walks the campus to pray for those enrolled. But instead of looking down on the undergrads, Christians can learn quite a bit from this incident. Here are at least three takeaways:

1. You cannot assume people today know anything about faith

We now live in a post-Christian culture, which makes things harder for Christians who want to be ambassadors for their faith. That means you shouldn't assume other people will know anything about Christianity or even what you mean by the words "faith" or "belief" as you engage in conversations about beliefs. These are constantly caricatured to mean something less than the traditional Christian understanding. Society is becoming appallingly illiterate on matters of religion, and not just the Christian faith. You need to be prepared to explain what you mean by these terms when talking with friends and family.

2. Christian customs and actions can be mistaken as a threat.

Because matters of faith are foreign to so many, it becomes wise for the Christian ambassador to proceed slowly and make sure those with whom they're speaking have a better understanding of not only what they believe, but why that belief matters. Innocuous statements or actions—like a priest walking a college campus to pray for students—can be perceived as a threat by people who in a very real way belong to another culture. Just read this reflection on Christian missionaries in India by a local Hindu to see what I mean.

This misunderstanding has far-reaching consequences, too. The current climate on religious freedom bills, like those passed in North Carolina and Mississippi, and the one vetoed in Georgia, show just how out of touch folks are with the concept of fidelity to conscience being essential to the integrity of a human being. Instead of the first freedom being necessary, they ascribe it to bigotry – a Klansman's garb.

3. Christians need to work harder at bridging communication gaps.

Lastly, as missionaries in what amounts to a foreign culture, Christians really need to spend some time going out into the world and getting to know those with whom they wish to engage. Be there to listen to the questions non-Christians have. The more people interact with loving followers of Jesus who care not simply about witnessing to them but care if they passed their last midterm the fewer misunderstandings will occur. Certainly, you cannot appease everyone; there are people who want to be angry or have a political ax to grind. But you can certainly be open before people and get to know them as people. That's what Jesus did.

References

1. Ciccotta, Tom. "Indiana University Students Mistake Priest for KKK Member." Breitbart News. Breitbart, 06 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/04/06/indiana-university-students-mistake-priest-for-kkk-member.
2. Leeds, Griffin. "Everyone Mistook a Priest for a KKK Member." The Tab. The Tab, 05 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. http://thetab.com/us/indiana/2016/04/05/last-night-white-robed-priest-mistaken-armed-kkk-klansman-1804.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Ignoring the Eyewitnesses to the Resurrection



Is the resurrection account of Jesus true? Skeptic will say no. They hold the resurrection of Christ is fiction, created either by intentional fabrication or through an accumulation of legends, mistakes, and misunderstandings (or some combination of the two). I've recently looked again at why the resurrection could not be an intentional fraud, but what about the possibility of legend?

There are several reasons that place the legend theory in doubt. First of all, it is a concept that runs contrary to the Jewish mindset of that day, yet Jews were the first to accept and spread the belief. Why would such a legend develop if it bucks the expected conventions of the very people who are supposedly falling for it? Secondly, the resurrection accounts themselves appear pretty early after the time the resurrection was said to take place.

There's another point that I don't hear much about in these discussions, though. Even before the Gospel accounts were relatively early, there is a source of information that connects the events as they happen to the Gospel writers' pens. That is the testimony of Jesus's very closest disciples, known in the Gospels as "the Twelve."

In his article "The Circle of the Twelve: Did It Exist During Jesus' Public Ministry?" John P. Meier argues that this circle of twelve people who made up Jesus's most entrusted followers could not be a later invention or legendary. Meier offers several lines of evidence for his view:
  • Unlike the term apostle (meaning "one who is sent") that is applied to Paul, Barnabas, and others in the epistles, the use of the term "the Twelve" is very specific and is used by the Gospel writers, especially Mark and John, to very specifically to refer to those disciples who were closest to Jesus.1 This means from a historical standpoint, attestation of the Twelve exists across multiple sources; it has a stronger level of support.

  • The list of names of the Twelve is remarkable consistent across the different gospels, not only are eleven of the twelve names identical, but even the grouping of the names are always displayed in three sets of four. The only name that has some question behind it is Thaddeus who is called Jude of James in Luke's gospel.2 Meier sees this as evidence for an oral tradition for the Twelve that pre-dates the written accounts of the Gospels.

  • Meier places special emphasis on the Gospel of John's mention of the Twelve: "The fact that the Twelve are mentioned in John is all the more weighty because John has no special interest in the group called the Twelve. The Johannine tradition names important disciples or supporters of Jesus (e.g., Nathaniel and Lazarus) who are not listed in the Synoptic catalogues of the Twelve; and the anonymous "disciple whom Jesus loved," the model of all discipleship, does no apparently belong to the Twelve. The few references to the Twelve that occur in John thus have the air of being relics or fossils embedded in primitive Johannine tradition."3

  • The presence of Judas as Jesus's betrayer also argues for the existence of the Twelve for how else does one explain his betrayal? Without the existence of the Twelve, Judas's appearance is out of place, disjointed. But as Meier notes, the fact that Judas was numbered among the Twelve and the fact that he handed Jesus over to the authorities is multiply attested. Further, it's highly embarrassing for Jesus to be betrayed not simply by a follower, but by one of his own inner circle, the very one with whom he entrusted the ministry finances.4

  • Lastly, emphasis on the Twelve is much more prevalent in the period during Jesus's earthly ministry than it is in the first generation of Christians after Jesus's ascension. Meier writes, "In his epistles, Paul alludes to his interaction with or compares himself to other church leaders… What is glaringly absent in Paul's letters is any mention of the Twelve" with the exception of the 1 Corinthians 15:5, which is a Christian creed formulated within a few years of the resurrection itself.5
It seems that Jesus really did have a circle of Twelve disciples he kept especially close. This inner circle was in a unique position to be the primary source material for the accounts of the Gospels that record their exploits. If the Resurrection accounts are legendary, why would this circle of Twelve develop? How does it fit, especially if the concept of the Twelve is glaringly absent in the other writings of the New Testament authors?

As Richard Bauckham has developed in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, it is the members of the Twelve who provide the link between Jesus, his ministry and resurrection, and the gospel accounts. It is a chain of custody establishing that eyewitness testimony is the thing establishing the resurrection accounts. Because legends cannot explain the existence of the Twelve, they also cannot explain the testimony of the resurrection eyewitnesses.

References

1. Meier, John P.. "The Circle of the Twelve: Did It Exist During Jesus' Public Ministry?". Journal of Biblical Literature 116.4 (1997): 638. Web.
2. Meier, John P., 1997. 647.
3. Meier, John P., 1997. 652.
4. Meier, John P., 1997. 665-670.
5. Meier, John P., 1997. 670.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Culture Has Created a Selfish Kind of Rebel (video)



Modern society has emphasized the individual to an extreme. A person of previous generations aspired to become a certain type of individual, one who placed others before self and understood the culture wasn't there to cater to their personal desires. However, all that changed over the last sixty years as young people began to embrace the "me-first" philosophy that has taken over.

 In this clip, Lenny takes a look at the shift in values modern culture has undergone and he cites the prescient wisdom of G.K. Chesterton, who saw the shift coming within the intellectual elite, which helped propel the cult of the individual.



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