Friday, 24 June 2011

Another Skeptic's Straw Man Addressed

"The Bible cannot be trusted because the four Gospels were not written by those whose names appear on them."

We often hear this accusation from atheists, skeptics or liberal 'scholars,' (and yes, I include them all in the same category as being equally far from the orthodox Christian faith.) They will claim that these books were originally written anonymously, with the names attached pseudepigraphally (if that is the correct word) at a later date. Now, I freely admit my limited scholarship, but let me give some thoughts on the matter; thoughts that to me make perfect common sense, something that sometimes seems to be lacking in those who attack the Bible just to cast doubts on the Christian fiath.

First of all, so-called religious texts all had names attached to them. Even the false gospels, which were written much later and were true pseudepigrapha, had names; gospels of Peter, Thomas, Mary, etc. So I believe we can be sure that what we know now as the four Gospels would have had names attached to them at the time of writing. If they didn't, then we would have copies or fragments without names, or indeed, with other, varying or different names atached to them. If the names by which we know them now were attached many years later, then others earlier would have referred to various copies by different names, because they would have had to be identified in some way.

It follows, then, that from the earliest times, the Church knew them by their current designations; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The next question then becomes, "Were these men the ones we generally think they are?" In other words, was Matthew written by Matthew the disciple of Jesus? Was Mark written by John Mark of the book of Acts? Was Luke written by Dr Luke and did he also write Acts? And was John (and his three letters and Revelation) written by John, Jesus' beloved disciple?

Was Matthew, for instance, written by the disciple of that name, or some other guy named Matthew? Or was it written by someone who wrote down what he learned from Matthew the disciple? It could still be the Gospel According to Matthew. Does the inspiration of Scripture depend on Matthew writing it down personally? I have no trouble believing that the author was the disciple, but I'm not sure my faith depends on it being so. What is certain, as I said above, the book was surely known by that name, and its authorship accepted, from the very earliest years of church history, as were the others.

The same goes for Mark, but with one further point. If Mark was not the author, but some other anonymous scribe, why attach the name, 'Mark' to it. Mark was a minor player at the time, a follower, so I've heard, of Peter, and someone who, for a time, fell into disgrace in the eyes of the Apostle Paul. An anonymous author would probably have chosen a more famous and glamorous name, such as Peter, or James, or Andrew. Why would he bother with a seeming second stringer like Mark. Again, it is probably known as the Gospel of Mark because Mark actually wrote it, and probably much of it as he learned it from Peter.

Internal evidence indicates that Luke and Acts are the beginning and the continuation of the same story, recorded by Luke from eyewitness testimony and personal experience, and I see no reason to doubt their authorship.

John may be quite a different story, and here is where I may really get into trouble. I am quite prepared to accept that John was not written directly by John himself, but by one of his followers, or students, who either took his dictation, or more probably, recorded his story and teachings. I have heard it claimed, for instance, that the phrase, "the disciple who Jesus loved" is evidence for John's direct authorship, but I think it is better evidence for authorship by one of his devoted followers. It seems to me that for John to refer to himself that way is rather boastful, even narcissistic. But that does not make it any less John's gospel. Also, the entire gospel is written in the third person, except for the switch to the first person in the final verse of the book (21:25). If John, personally, was the author, why the switch? Why not just record the entire book in the first person? The author (or perhaps merely the editor) does acknowledge that the beloved disciple is the one who testifies to these things (the things recorded in the book) and wrote them and that his testimony is true (v 24), but that, in my considered yet totally unprofessional opinion, does not exclude the possibility of a student or follower of the Apostle as the author.

John's three letters, on the other hand, are written in the first person. And fairly obviously with some of the same influence (compare chapter 1 of both the Gospel and the first letter of John), so it is not too difficult for me to accept that John himself wrote the three letters, while someone in his group of followers recorded the Gospel. My thinking would be that the gospel was written some time after the letters.

Finally, Revelation could or could not have been written by the same, "John" as the other books atributed to him. The Bible doesn't specify either way. All we know is that it was recorded by someone named John.

So, my point in this post is not to go all liberal on you. It is to give some thoughts and an answer to someone who might think that by questioning the authorship of these books he has somehow mounted an effective argument against the Christian faith. Bottom line; my question is, "Does any essential part of our faith rest on the actual authorship of the Gospels, or can the term, "according to" mean merely the source of the information?" Whoever might read this and like to comment, I would appreciate any further thoughts.

Take Care

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Summer Break

Temperature 107 degrees. Not Bad.
No, they're not Vegas showgirls I picked up, it's my wife, and daughter #2.
Take Care

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Favourite Biblical Phrases

Sounds like a Jeopardy category, doesn't it?
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
"...for such a time as this."
I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday, an incident that happened during one of our Alpha courses. A woman, who happened to be almost exactly my age, coming to faith in Christ. I believe it was on the Alpha weekend retreat. In any event, this was on the Sunday of that weekend, back at church, after service. There may have been just the two of us or we may have been surrounded by people, I don't recall. I just remember the two of us walking up the side aisle, she in tears and saying, "John, I feel my entire life to this point has been a waste."
I said, "No, your entire life to this point has been leading up to this day."
I remember a phrase that I believe was popular back in the '60's, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." It is almost Christian, but, in the context of coming to faith in Christ, it should read, "Today is the first day of your new life." (cf 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Which brings to mind another verse;
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Wherever you are, and whatever your situation, your first day in God's Kingdom is the first day in a new life. It is a day God has known about since before you were born. It may be a surprise to you, but it is not to Him.

Do not try to wish it were any different.

Take Care

BTW, Pastor Terry, if you see this, and notice the time it was posted, you will know that I drank from the wrong pot.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Is Rob Bell's Relationship With God Not Personal?

In "Love Wins" Rob Bell writes, almost as if he feels he has scored some kind of major coup; as if he has come up with the one unanswerable slam dunk debating point that throws an opponent to the canvas:

The problem, however, is that the phrase "personal relationship" is found nowhere in the Bible.

Nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures, nowhere in the New Testament. Jesus never used the phrase. Paul didn't use it. Nor did Peter, James, or the woman (???) who wrote the letter to the Hebrews.

So if that's it,
if that's the point of it all,
if that's the ticket,
the center,
the one unavoidable reality,
the heart of the Christian faith,
why is it that no one used the phrase until the last
hundred years or so? (Question marks mine, JK)

Well, it brings to mind the fact that the term, "Trinity" is not in the Bible either, but that does not make it any less true. The Trinity is a true fact and a doctrine of the Christian faith, whether it is referred to by name or not. The same goes for a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Whether people in the past have called it that, that is what it is.

Consider the following (and there are many more);

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3) all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

...the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15b)

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.(v16)

The relationship sounds personal to me. The relationship between children and their Father is personal, and those who have it, know it.

Take Care

Monday, 6 June 2011

Those Who Haven't Heard? Are There Any?

Another post on the subject, "What happens to those who haven't heard the gospel," or, "Can God save someone who has'nt heard of Jesus," or, "Is actual conscious faith in Jesus Christ necessary for salvation?" Once again I say, "I don't pretend to know for sure, but I don't rule it out."

Those who insist on the need for conscious faith will sometimes use, as their evidence, these verses;
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10: 14-15a)
Frankly, I believe, taken in context, these are rhetorical questions on Paul's part. As a flippant (and hopefully not an irreverent) example, someone might ask, "How, then, can I get from Toronto to Ottawa if I don't take the 401? And how can I take the 401 if I don't drive a car? And how can I drive a car if I don't have a licence?..." and so on.

Well, the answer is, there are other ways to get from Toronto to Ottawa. One could take alternate highways. One could take the bus. Or one could fly.

Because Paul himself gives the alternative answer to his own questions three verses later, quoting Psalm 19;
But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.” (v 18)

He first asks, "How can they hear?" and then gives the answer, "They have heard, because God has told them in creation." Elsewhere he writes,
This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.. (Colossians 1:23b)
God has given all the world enough evidence, so that anyone who rejects Him is without excuse (Romans 1:20) No one will be able to stand, on the day of judgement, and say, "Nobody ever told me."

Now, a couple of clarifications:
First, there is no other way to God but through Jesus. Jesus said so himself. The question is not whether the only way a relationship with God is Christ's sacrifice on the cross. That is beyond question. But just how much does a person who turns to God, the God who has made Himself so evident to all, have to know or understand of it. Can God draw someone to Himself without their full knowledge or understanding of the details? (I suppose, in a sense, this applies to all of us. None of us had that full knowledge or understanding. or could even truly believe, until we were given the Holy Spirit, and when that happened, we were already, "in the Kingdom," so to speak.)

Second, this lets no one off the hook. Anyone who rejects God in spite of all the evidence He has given would reject Christ if he was told of him. Anyone who does not believe, in the face of all creation, that God exists, would not believe even if he saw someone rise from the dead.
Third, it does not eliminate the need for evangelism, any more than hyper-Calvinism does. In fact less. Calvinists never seem to realize that the logical extension of their position on election is that, in spite of all they say, evangelism is unnecessary, because the elect will be saved no matter what. Nor am I promoting universalism, or Rob Bellism, which says that all will be saved in the end, which also would eliminate the need for evangelism.

I stated in my opening paragraph that I just don't know for sure. Nor does anyone. So we must carry the gospel of Christ to the whole world, for two reasons.

One, just in case. This whole argument might be wrong.

And two, Jesus told us to.

Take Care

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Story of Jonah

From an e-mail sent to my wife.

This little girl looks to be about 6 years old and she gives the best narrative of the life of the story of Jonah that I have ever heard and she plays the part of different characters as she tells the story. Great stuff! At first she appears to be reading, but as the narrative progresses it is apparent that she is not. Watch and Enjoy.

The story of Jonah from Corinth Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Take Care

Song Lyrics as Literature

I was preparing a post critiquing Rob Bell's book, Love Wins. It will need to be a lengthy post, because practically every sentence in it requires a response. But something I did, some slip of the keyboard, erased the entire draft, and try as I might, I cannot recover it. I figure it is either a warning from the Lord or an attack of Satan -- can't figure out which yet.

But the song, "Good Morning Starshine" came on the radio this morning as I was eating breakfast, and I thought I would share some of its most creative lyrics. Steve Allen used to recite popular song lyrics as poetry on his show, so this is my contribution to that tradition.

Why Rob Bell's theological thinking and these lyrics came to be associated with one another in my mind, I cannot tell.

But here they are, from what I gather is the chorus:
Gliddy glup gloopy
Nibby nabby noopy la la la lo lo
Sabby sibby sabba
Nooby abba dabba le le lo lo
Tooby ooby walla nooby abba nabba
Early morning singing song
Pentacostal? I'm not sure.

Take Care

Friday, 3 June 2011

Goodbye Dr Jack

Too bad you didn't have the courage of your own convictions. You could have made a real statement.

By e-mail from my brother this morning:
Interesting to note that the man responsible for man assisted suicide died a natural death…
What's with that??

You would think that on principle alone he would make his death by assisted suicide regardless of how quickly the end was coming. By doing so his final act would serve to convince others that his way was THE way. He certainly spent enough time during his life time pushing his agenda.
He blew the chance of a lifetime.

His publishers and their marketing people will be looking at this as an opportunity lost!

Curious how much easier it is to pull the trigger on someone else.
Thanks D,

Take Care