Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Theologian R.C. Sproul on Christmas

"I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history. Originally, it was intended to honor, not Mithras or any of the other mystery religion cults, but the birth of our King."1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. R.C. Sproul, "Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?", Dec. 23th, 2016.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christmas- Pagan or Not?

Does Christmas have pagan origins or not?  Today's post features 3 short and concise articles by apologist and speaker Lenny Esposito that consider this question historically and with up-to-date scholarship.

Esposito writes:

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

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

The articles are as follows:

Pt. 1- No, Christmas Is Not Based on a Pagan Holiday

Pt. 2- The Date of Saturnalia Doesn't Line Up with Christmas

Pt. 3- Christmas, the Solstice, and December 25th

For more on the date of Christmas, see this article by Andrew McGowan, originally published in Bible Review, December 2002.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Courage and Godspeed,

Friday, December 07, 2018

12 Historical Facts About Jesus, 13 Theories to Explain

My wife recently shared this resource with me that was posted by the 1 Peter 4:12-16 Christian Worldview Blog back in November.  The chart was created by Craig Hazen of Biola University.  
The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus includes 12 facts agreed upon by scholars, both liberal and conservative. A reasonable approach is to evaluate those 12 known facts against 13 theories about what happened to determine each theory’s explanatory power (which of the 12 facts it doesn’t account for). The only 2 theories that account for all 12 known facts are:
  1. Jesus was an alien
  2. Jesus was bodily resurrected
Here are the 12 facts (gotten from a presentation by Dr. Craig Hazen):
1.    Jesus died by crucifixion [*** core fact #2]
2.    He was buried
3.    Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended
4.    The tomb was discovered to be empty just a few days later
5.    The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus [*** core fact #3]
6.    The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection [*** core fact #1]
7.    This message was the center of preaching in the early church
8.    This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before
9.    As a result of this preaching the church was born and grew
10. Sunday became the primary day of worship
11. James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed he saw the resurrected Jesus
12. A few years later, Paul was also converted by an experience which he, likewise, believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus [***core fact #4]
Here is a chart of 13 theories that attempt to explain the facts (again, credit is given here to Craig Hazen for this excellent chart):

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Book Preview: Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J. Williams

About the Author

Peter J. Williams (PhD, University of Cambridge) is the principal of Tyndale House and the consulting editor and coordinator of this project. He is also chair of the International Greek New Testament Project, which is producing the largest scholarly edition ever attempted of a single book of the New Testament, namely the Editio Critica Maior of John's Gospel. He is the author of Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels.

About the Book

The Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell the story of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ while he was on earth. But how do Christians know if they are true? What evidence is there that the events actually happened? This accessible introduction to the historical and theological reliability of the four Gospels, written by New Testament scholar Peter J. Williams, presents evidence from a variety of non-Christian sources, assesses how accurately the 4 accounts reflect the cultural context of their time, compares different accounts of crucial events, and considers how these texts were handed down throughout the centuries. Written for the skeptic, the scholar, and everyone in between, this book answers common objections raised against the historicity of the Gospels in order to foster trust in God's Word.


“The wild and unscholarly yet widely accepted assertion by Richard Dawkins that the only difference between The Da Vinci Code and the Gospels is that the Gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction deserves a measured and scholarly response. There is no one better qualified than Peter Williams to provide it, and this book is a masterly presentation of a compelling cumulative case that ‘all of history hangs on Jesus.’”

- John C. Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford

“This much-needed book provides a mine of information for Christians wanting to know more about the historical background to the Gospels and offers a series of challenges to those skeptical of what we can know about Jesus. Peter Williams has distilled a mass of information and thought into this short and accessible book, and it deserves careful reading both inside and outside the church.”

- Simon Gathercole, Reader in New Testament Studies, University of Cambridge

You can learn more about this book here.

Order your copy here.

Courage and Godspeed,

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Video: Dialogue on the Historical Jesus- Mike Licona & John Dominic Crossan

On October 24, 2018, John Dominic Crossan and Mike Licona dialogue on the question "Who was the historical Jesus?"  The questions both were asked to address specifically were "What can be verified about Jesus" and "How can they be verified?"

This public dialogue took place at Kennesaw State University in the Atlanta-Metro area.  After each had delivered their 15-minute opening statements, they dialogued on 4 questions: Can historians investigate miracle claims?  Do the Gospels contain eyewitness testimony?  Who did Jesus think he was?  Did Jesus rise from the dead?1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Text originally found here.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

7 Things You Should Know about Richard Dawkins Before You Buy His Children's Book

There are numerous atheists that I greatly respect as thinkers.   However, I openly confess that Richard Dawkins is not one of those thinkers.  While he certainly is a gifted writer when it comes to matters of science, he has repeatedly demonstrated that he is woefully ill-equipped when it comes to dealing with issues related to philosophy and metaphysics. So imagine my surprise, and disappointment, when I recently read that Dawkins is planning on releasing a children's book titled Atheism for Children.  According to Dawkins, the book, "will be unflinching, not a storybook. Children won't beg parents to buy it for Christmas."  His goal is to "arm them against indoctrination by schools, grandparents and religious books – and against taunting by religious schoolmates. Help them think on evidence..."  

I certainly have no problem with someone encouraging children to "think on evidence," but I am quite skeptical that Dawkins is the best man for the job.  Indeed, I am not sure that he is the best candidate to be teaching children much of anything.  So, before you run out and buy Dawkins' forthcoming children's book, you might want to become a bit more familiar with the man himself. So, here are 7 things you should know about Richard Dawkins before you allow him to teach your children about his atheism (or anything else).

1. His book The God Delusion has been harshly criticized by both atheists and theists for being shallow and ignorant.  Atheist and philosopher of biology Michael Ruse writes:

"Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing...I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation..."1  He concludes, "I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again."2

Philosopher and Christian Alvin Plantinga writes of The God Delusion:

"Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class."3

2. Dawkins has been openly criticized by fellow Oxford don and atheist philosopher, Daniel Came, for refusing to debate philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig, despite being given opportunities to do so.  Came wrote the following to Dawkins in regard to his refusal to debate Craig:

"...the absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part. I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House."

I trust readers can pick up on Came's sarcasm!  Dawkins seems anxious to debate intellectual "lightweights," but seems to go out of his way to debate genuine intellectual "heavyweights" like William Lane Craig and Stephen Meyer.  To be fair, the one notable exception is Dr. John Lennox.

3. William Lane Craig believes that Dawkins' "central argument" in The God Delusion should win the prize of "the worst atheistic argument in the history of Western thought."  In Contending with Christianity Critics he writes:

"Several years ago my atheist colleague Quentin Smith unceremoniously crowned Stephen Hawking’s argument against God in A Brief History of Time as 'the worst atheistic argument in the history of Western thought.'  With the advent of The God Delusion the time has come to relieve Hawking of this weighty crown and to recognize Richard Dawkins’s accession to the throne."5

4. Richard Dawkins believes that to carry a baby to term that has Down syndrome is "immoral" and to abort the child is the"civilized" and "sensible" choice.6  So, I suppose if you have a child with Down syndrome, you might want to think twice about buying them Richard's book!

5. Richard Dawkins has no moral objection to infanticide.  Yes, you read that correctly.  See below:

6. Dawkins believes that "mild pedophilia" or "touching up" causes no lasting harm and shouldn't be judged as harshly as rape or other crimes.7

7. According to Dawkins, rape isn't really wrong, and if you believe it is, that is simply your arbitrary opinion.  Nothing more!  This was evident in an interview he participated in with radio host Justin Brierley. It was as follows:

Brierley: When you make a value judgement, don't you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it's good? And you don't have any way to stand on that statement.

Dawkins: My value judgement itself could come from my evolutionary past.

Brierley: So therefore it's just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.

Dawkins: You could say that...Nothing about it makes it more probable that there is anything supernatural.

Brierley: Ultimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we've evolved five fingers rather than six.

Dawkins: You could say that, yeah.8


Dawkins' book The God Delusion, while popular with layman, has been harshly criticized by philosophers on both sides of the God debate.  Moreover, Dawkins has dodged the Christian faith's foremost debater and some have argued that this is due to cowardice.  Finally, it is my opinion that Dawkins' own views on issues related to Down syndrome children, infanticide, "mild pedophilia" and rape make him unfit to educate children about anything.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Michael Ruse, "Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster," 2009.
2. Ibid.
3. Alvin Plantinga, "The Dawkins Confusion," 2007.
4. As quoted here.  You can read more of Came's thoughts on Dawkins' refusual and the New Atheism here.
5. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Contending with Christianity's Critics, Chap. 1, Aug. 1, 2009.  You can also see Craig's response to Dawkins' argument here.
6. See here and here.
7. See here.
7. As quoted by Frank Turek in Stealing from God, p. 90-91.  You can here the interview here.

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Video: If C.S. Lewis met Richard Dawkins by Peter S. Williams