Blog Archive


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.

Powered by Blogger.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are the Books of Moses Forgeries

From the 19th century onward, there has been a theory floating around known as the documentary hypothesis that claims the first five books of the Bible, known collectively as the Pentateuch or the Torah, weren't penned by Moses as is commonly believed. German scholars had pronounced that these were a compilation of at least four different authors (known in academic circles as J, E, P, and D) whose works were mixed and matched by later editors to form some cohesive whole.

Author David Hazony, who is Jewish, prides himself on his faith as well as his reason. He states (and I agree) that these can coexist without too much difficulty. However, he says that when the question of the Bible's authorship comes up, it is the thing that has the potential to trip him up. So he began to look at the claims of the documentary hypothesis, but not merely from an academic point of view. He used his real-world experience as an editor to show how a claim like the one made by the German critics tries to prove something they could never actually do. He writes:
It all started a few years back when, as the senior editor of a Jerusalem-based journal of public thought, I ran into trouble on a 10,000-word, brilliantly researched essay about Israeli social policy composed by the sweetest man on earth who, unfortunately wasn’t a stellar writer. 
I spent a few weeks rewriting, moving things around, adding and cutting and sweating. Finally I passed it up the chain to Dan, my editor-in-chief.

"Hey Dan," I said. "Could you take a look at this? I added a whole paragraph in the conclusion. Tell me what you think."

A few days later I got it back, marked up in red ballpoint. On the last page, in the conclusion, he had written the words “This is the paragraph you added,” and drawn a huge red arrow.
But the arrow, alas, was pointing at the wrong paragraph.

You see, it turns out that it’s not very easy to reverse-engineer an editing job. To take an edited text and figure out, in retrospect, what changes it went through — it’s about a million times harder than those tenured, tortured Bible scholars will tell you.

Language is fluid and flexible, the product of the vagaries of the human soul. When an editor has free rein, he can make anything sound like he’d written it himself, or like the author’s own voice, or something else entirely. It all depends on his aims, his training, his talent and the quality of his coffee that morning. A good editor is a ventriloquist of the written word.

That’s when I started to suspect that what Bible scholars claim they’re doing — telling you what the "original" Bible looked like—might be, in fact, impossible to do.

Think about it. My case was one in which the author, editor and reader are all known entities (in fact, they all know each other personally); the reading takes place in the exact same cultural and social context as the writing and editing; and the reader is himself a really smart guy, Ivy-league Ph.D. and all, who had spent a decade training the editor to be a certain kind of editor, with specific tools unique to the specific publication’s aims.

Not only that, but he was even told what kind of edit to look for, in which section. And still he couldn't identify the change.
I think this common-sense approach is wise.  While I believe that we have some strong evidence in favor of Moses being the author (for example, Jesus quotes from several different sections of the Pentateuch and attributes each to Moses), Hazony doesn't go that far.  But he can see that the claims of a multiplicity of authors is really unsupportable, which is honest and fair.

While Hazony only discusses the Pentateuch, we have even greater evidence for the New Testament being authentic. For a more complete look at the subject, you may want to check out How Do I Know the Bible is REALLY From God? and Who Chose What To Include in the Bible?

So, as you reflect on the events surrounding the Israel's exodus from Egypt and the passion week of Christ, be assured that we have good reasons to believe the Bible is written by authoritative sources.

You may read David Hazony's entire article at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

10 Commandments of Social Networking

This evening, my friend @BrendanStark came up with his "10 Commandments of Social Networking" which I thought were very appropriate. Even in an apologetic context, these will help you to be a better witness and open more doors of conversation with those you hope to reach.  Comment below and let me know what other commandments we should be obeying while living the digital life.

10. Thou shalt not abuse "friends" with MLM/home business sales.

9. Don't use your social networks as a confessional.

8. Don't lie.

7. Don't be a troll.

6. Don't steal another person's name with any "fake" accounts.

5. Take a sabbath break from the Internet.

4. Don't make an idol out of a celebrity (or your fans/followers a la @ladygaga).

3. Show some love. RT once in a while.

2. Don't be online "friends" with people who can screw up your marriage.

1. Use an internal filter. Think before posting things that will embarrass God, you, your family, or your friends.
Image courtesy sman5612 and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) License.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scientists Clinging to Blind Faith for All to See

I've had several recent discussions with folks who hold that science is superior to religion because science is all based on experimental evidence and facts while religious people just cling to "blind faith." Richard Dawkins recently reiterated this view in a debate held in Mexico City when he made the statement:
[Those who believe in God] like to point to the origin of the universe and say ‘Well, science can’t explain the Big Bang or scientists can’t explain where the laws of physics come from.’ Physicists are working on that. That’s what scientists do. They don’t lie down and pathetically say ‘Oh, we don’t understand it so God did it."
Somehow, those who hold to this view seem to forget that scientists are people, and as such they are subject to the same faults and biases as the rest of humanity.  Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in a recent panel discussion of leading scientists on defining life (see video below).  Held at Arizona State University and hosted by The Science Network, this panel was comprised of luminaries such as Dawkins, world-renowned genome expert J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, NASA planetary scientist Chris McKay, and physicists Paul Davies and Lawrence Krauss.  A stellar group to be sure.

The discussion starts by moderator Roger Bingham asking if it is necessary for us to agree on a proper definition of life before we go looking for it in space, so that we can know what we're looking for. McKay almost flippantly dismisses the idea and says we should just start looking! Imagine using that same criteria in medicine — we don't need criteria as to whether a person is still alive, we'll just make it up as we go! This is why excluding philosophers from these discussions is so detrimental.

But the more interesting parts happen starting around the 9:00 mark of the video. As Evolution News pointed out, Dawkins and others have claimed that all life uses the same DNA vocabulary for living creatures. In the video, Venter disagrees with this statement and says that science is showing the concept of all life stemming from one standard DNA vocabulary is not accurate. "The tree of life is an artifact of some early scientific studies that aren't really holding up...So there is not a tree of life." (See the article linked above for the specifics on this claim.) Dawkins is aghast at the suggestion and Paul Davies tries to understand how this could be, but Venter sits calmly and confidently by his statement. This is a pretty earth-shattering admission by Venter, but it's not my main point.

Dismissing Scientific Evidence in the Name of Science

The very next question to the panel is if science were to discover the origins of life and the origin of consciousness, would that sway religious believers or would they continue to cling to their concepts? Dawkins and Krauss both respond that it wouldn't matter; religious people are going to believe what they've been "indoctrinated in childhood" to believe. Dawkins even says that "Well, it obviously ought to have the effect that the questioner says, but I don't think it will." Immediately after that exchange, Chris McKay at the 14:50 mark states that he doesn't believe Venter's view that the tree of life is obsolete, but he still holds to Dawkins' 1980's claim that all life uses the same genetic vocabulary.

I want you to catch that. McKay, whose specialty is geophysics and not genetics, is dismissing the findings of one of the pre-eminent geneticists in the world because he doesn't like where it would take him. The scientist is ignoring the findings of science because the findings threaten his views on the origins of life. McKay is guilty of exactly what Dawkins and Krauss were poo-pooing religious believers about!  As the Evolutionary News article points out, we know that Mycoplasma DNA uses the UGA codon not as a stop as in human genes, but to code for the amino acid tryptophan.  That's like the difference between the saying "Mama die!" in English and saying "Mama die!" in Dutch, which means "Mom, I want this one!" It's a different vocabulary, a different message.

So, the next time you hear that scientists are bias-free and  objective while religion leads to only blind faith, don't you believe it.  The evidence is available for all to see.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What a New Testament Church REALLY Looks Like

I’ve listened to many pastors and church leaders talk about how they model their church after the early Christian churches.  They want “a church that looks like the church of the New Testament” they say. The idea that we are closely aligning ourselves to the model that James, Peter, Paul and others had of church is appealing to the modern mind, especially as a reaction to the formal, liturgical structure that had become prevalent for so many centuries.  Indeed, even cults like Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses make the same claims, following the Restoration Movement of the early 19th century.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to align ourselves with the teaching of the apostles as closely as possible; in fact I think it’s laudable.  But for all the talk about modeling ourselves after the early church, I don’t think many truly capture what those early Christians had to give up for their Lord.  A good example of that early Christians did face can be found in the story of Said Musa. Musa is a citizen of Afghanistan who converted the Christianity about eight years ago and is now sentenced to death for the “crime” of his conversion. While serving in the Afghan Army, he had one leg amputated, an experience which he then used to counsel other amputees while working for the Red Cross.

A recent National Review article paints his picture well:
He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.

Any and every human being who is imprisoned, abused, or tortured for the free and peaceful expression of their faith deserves our support, but Musa is also a remarkable person and Christian. In a letter smuggled to the West, he says, “The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head.”

He added a thing much more important to him, that they “mocked me ‘he’s Jesus Christ,’ spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. . . . Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me.” (View the full letter here)

He has not, in fact, even appealed to be released, only to be transferred to another prison. He has also stated that he is willing to give his life for his faith. “Please, please you should transfer me from this jail to a jail that supervises the believers. . . . I also agree . . . to sacrifice my life in public [where] I will tell [about my] faith in Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, [so] other believers will take courage and be strong in their faith.”
To me, this is the true face of Christianity. Musa’s story reads like something right out of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. I laud him for his faith and his willingness to die for it, but it shouldn’t be this way.  You see, this is no longer the first century and Christians are no longer in the minority.  The United States is a nation built upon Christian principles and, given our presence and influence in Afghanistan now, WE should be able to help Said Musa.  But help doesn’t seem to be coming.  President Obama felt justified to personally step in when a single pastor threatened to burn some Qur’ans in Florida, but he remains silent on Said Musa –even after Musa pleaded with him directly in his letter. The losing soldiers trying to help establish the Afghanistan government; and yet they insist on perpetrating this flagrant violation of human rights. Does this make sense at all?  Silence by our president in such an instance is atrocious.

Said Musa’s attitude in the face of martyrdom, like Stephen’s in the book of Acts, shows what true Christians look like who have given everything for their Lord. I wonder to what degree our own government will allow the persecution of Christians and Christian ideals to continue without comment before all Christian churches start to resemble the New Testament church in ways that we may not like.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Christians and Birth Control - A Thoughtful Analysis

Many decisions Christians make as we live out our lives have consequences well beyond what's apparent. Our ability to control our environment and even our biology has had profound implications on not only our individual persons, but on our ethical understanding of how the world works and even social implications regarding others.

We tend to compartmentalize decisions that we do in the open as "public" and those that involve our home life as "private" but this is an artificial construction since all choices have a reverberating effect to some degree within the greater societal framework. In fact, many people don't even think about personal decisions having a broader social impact, but they do and therefore, as thinking Christians, we should consider all effects of every choice we make, whether a public or private action.

One such sensitive (and controversial) topic is that of family planning. Of course abortion is a hideous blight on our society and I'm hopeful that with continued effort we can turn the tide on this despicable practice. But other topics such as IVF, surrogacy, and birth control need to also be weighed appropriately in the context of a Christian worldview.  Many Christian women, I'm sad to say, feel that surrogacy for a stranger is doing a Christian service, when they never really understand all the aspects of such a procedure, including the possibility of killing some of the babies in utero or the difficulties of extra fertilized embryos kept frozen.

What's Controversial About Birth Control?

Birth control, while seemingly more benign that other aspects of family planning, has its share of complications to consider. Recently, Douglas Wilson posted a new article entitled Eleven Theses on Birth Control.  There, he took a thoughtful look at some of the aspects and points of contention among Christians about issues associated with birth control. It's a great read and provides a lot for us to think about. An excerpt:

The rise of our birth control-friendly culture and our abortion-friendly culture happened as twin parts of the same zeitgeist. This was all part of our cultural apostasy, and our rejection of the Christian view of marriage and family...

While the Scriptures don't say anything definitively about birth control as such, they do teach an enormous amount about the blessing of faithful covenant seed. This is one of the three main reasons for covenant marriage -- the begetting of a godly seed (Mal. 2:15). This should be taught and emphasized in the church, and is the only really effective way to counter the world's anti-child bigotry. If this is effectively done, visitors to your church will think you must teach against birth control, and they will think this because of the large teeming population at the three foot level that they can see during fellowship hour.

Wilson is careful, though not to pigeon-hole Christians into a rigid "no-birth-control-ever"  mantra.  He writes:

"Notwithstanding, the Scriptures say nothing definitively about birth control considered as such. Despite the anti-family bias that created the default assumptions of the world around us, we still have to be careful not to go beyond what is written. We especially have to take care not to go beyond what is written. Slavish following of the world is bad, but so is knee-jerk reaction to it."

He also tackles the problem of birth control techniques that are abortifacients and the issue of Onan (no pun intended).  Overall, it's refreshing to see a look at this topic with a thoughtful eye—something modern Christianity needs more of these days.

Image courtesy Ceridwen and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 France license.
Come Reason brandmark Convincing Christianity
An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
Check out more X