Thursday, November 30, 2017

Updated: The Usual Suspects- Responses to "Notable" Skeptics

This is a page designed to offer various critiques and answers to the arguments offered up by opponents of Christianity. I will be adding more names to the list. If you have a specific skeptic that you think should be included or an excellent response to one already on the list, please let me know via the comments.

Dan Barker

Answers to Dan Barker's Bible Quiz by J.P. Holding

A Response to Dan Barker's Pagan Christianity by Tyler V

Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith: A Critique by J.P. Holding

Taming Bible "Discrepancies" by Rachel D. Ramer- This article will aid readers in understanding Barker's brand of Bible reading.

Various Essays
by Mariano Grinbank of True Freethinker

Richard Carrier

A Response to "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story" by J.P. Holding

Audio: Unbelievable? Was Jesus created as an ancient myth? Richard Carrier vs David Marshall

Jesus Did Exist: A Response to Richard Carrier by Jimmy Akin

Richard Carrier vs. William Lane Craig Audio Debate- This debate says a lot!

The Problem with Miracles by Kyle Butt

What Should Jesus Do? A Response to Richard Carrier by Carson Weitnauer

Richard Dawkins

A Review of The God Delusion by Bede

Comparing Dawkins' Blind Faith with Flew's Evidence by Peter S. Williams

Darwin's Rottweiler and the Public Understanding of Scientism by Peter S. Williams

Dawkins' Central Argument Once More by William Lane Craig

Debunking Dawkins: The God Delusion by Rich Deem

Does Science Prove that God Does Not Exist?  A Look at Richard Dawkins by Gregory Ganssle

Ed Feser Responds to Richard Dawkins on Thomas [Aquinas'] 5 Ways (Audio)

Freud's Dad & Dawkins' Delusion – C.S. Lewis Responds? by Melvin Tinker (Audio)

Reflections on Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker by Dallas Willard

Richard Dawkins' Argument for Atheism in The God Delusion by William Lane Craig

The Dawkins Confusion by Alvin Plantinga

The Storyteller and the Scientist by Phillip E. Johnson

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Richard Dawkins' Failed Rebuttal of Natural Theology by Peter S. Williams

What would God say to Richard Dawkins? Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett Hunts the Snark by David B. Hart

God, Naturalism, and the Foundations of Morality by Paul Copan

In Defense of Theistic Arguments- William Lane Craig critiques Dennett's arguments against theism (audio)

Book Review by David Bentley Hart: From Bacteria to Bach and Back by D. Dennett

Earl Doherty

Earl Doherty, the Jesus Myth, and Second Century Christian Writings by GakuseiDon

Earl Daherty's use of the Epistle to the Hebrews by Christopher Price Part I Part II

Earl Doherty use of the phrase "According to the Flesh" by Christopher Price

Mike Licona responses to Earl Doherty (Deals with Flemming's film, The God Who Wasn't There)

Bart Ehrman

A Response to Bart Ehrman by Thomas Howe [PDF]

Audio of Mike Licona Responding to Bart Ehrman by Apologetics315 [47 minutes]

Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: An Analysi
Bart Ehrman's Forged: Writing in the Name of God- A Review by Mike Licona

Ehrman Project- This site provides responses to Ehrman's provocative conclusions

Losing Christianity: A New Testament Scholar's Fall from Faith by Stephen J. Bedard

Misquoting Jesus: Does Bart Ehrman Prove that the New Testament is Corrupt? by Daniel McCarthy

Review of Bart Ehrman's Book: "Forged: Writing in the Name of God" by Mike Licona

Why the Followers of Jesus Recognized Him as Divine by Craig Evans (Response to How Jesus became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee)
Brian Flemming

A Review of The God Who Wasn't There by Mike Licona

The Argument that Wasn't There by Melinda Penner

Sam Harris

Among the Unbelievers: The Tedium of Dogmatic Atheism by Christ Lehman, Reason Magazine

Debate Audio: William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris debate, "Is God Good?"  Here, Craig decimates Harris' thesis in his book The Moral Landscape.

If I Debated Sam Harris – a mock debate by Lisa Quintana

Is “Right” and  “Wrong” Simply a Matter of “Human Flourishing”? by J. Warner Wallace

Navigating Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape by William Lane Craig

Sam Harris, Christ’s Resurrection, and the Nature of Belief by Kyle Butt

Sam Harris' Faith in Eastern Spirituality and Muslim Torture by John Gorenfield

Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation: Answer Key by J.P. Holding

Sam Harris' Wrongheaded View of Christian Faith by Lenny Esposito

The End of Faith-a review by Peter Hartwell

The Faith of Disbelief by Dennis Prager

Stephen Hawking

As a Scientist I'm Certain that Stephen Hawking is Wrong. You can't Explain the Universe without God by Professor John Lennox

Has Science Eliminated God? with Dr. William Lane Craig (mp3s)
Part I Part II

Hawking and the Grand Designer MP3 by Peter S. Williams

The Grand Design- Truth or Fiction by Dr. William Lane Craig 

Christopher Hitchens: My Response to god is not Great by Mark Roberts

Debate Video: Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens

Hitchens Doesn't have the Goods by Stand to Reason

Hitchens vs. Hitchens by Peter Hitchens

Is Christianity Good for the World? A discussion between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens hosted by Christianity Today

Lawrence Krauss 

A Universe From Someone: Against Lawrence Krauss by Peter S. Williams

"A Universe From Nothing" with William Lane Craig; a 3 pt. podcast

Fifty Shades of Nothing by Ed Feser

Not Understanding Nothing by Ed Feser

Pale, Small, Silly Nerdy: NY Times Give a Devastating Smack to New Atheists' Favorite Cosmologist

Scientists Should Tell Lawrence Krauss to Shut Up Already by Ed Feser

What Part of "Nothing" Does Lawrence Krauss Not Understand? by James Barham

John Loftus

Debate Video: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? - John Loftus vs. David Wood

Debate Video: John Loftus v. Abdu Murray- Was Jesus Raised from the Dead?

Loftus: Apologist to Atheist by Norm Geisler

Unbelievable? Does Christianity pass the Outsider Test? David Marshall vs John Loftus

What is Biblical Faith? by Chad Gross

Jeffrey Jay Lowder

In my opinion, Lowder is a top notch defender of metaphysical naturalism.  He is fair-minded and rigorous in his arguments.  Even as a Christian theist, I have found his work personally challenging and helpful.

Answers for Jeffery Lowder by David Marshall

Assessing Lowder’s Argument for Naturalism:     Part 1  Part 2

Debate Video: Jeff Lowder vs. Frank Turek- What Better Explains Reality: Naturalism or Theism?  My review is included.

Looking at the totality of the evidence: a response to Jeffery Jay Lowder via Uncommon Descent 

Jesus Seminar

Darrell Bock on the Jesus Seminar (MP3 Audio) by Apologetics315

Five Gospels, but No Gospel: Jesus and the Seminar by N.T. Wright [PDF]

Marcus Borg: a Critique by J.P. Holding

Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar by William Lane Craig

Response to J.D. Crossan: Doing Justice to Jesus by N.T. Wright

The Jesus Seminar and the Gospel of Thomas by James White

The Jesus Seminar Under Fire by Greg Koukl

Unmasking the Jesus Seminar by Mark D. Roberts

William Lane Craig vs. Marcus Borg: The Resurrection(MP3 audio) by Apologetics315

Michael Shermer

A Summary Critique: Why Science Can't Explain Morality by Paul Copan- Book review of The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule

Michael Shermer and Ben Witherington Discuss the Gospels by Mariano Grinbank

Michael Shermer- The Moral Argument for Embarrassment by Mariano Grinbank

Michael Shermer, "Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against ID" (Lecture) Corrected by Doug Groothuis

Shermer's Conflicted Message by Casey Luskin

John Shelby Spong

Debate: William Lane Craig vs. John Shelby Spong: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Audio Video

Spong Kong Phooey by Brent Hardaway

What is Wrong with Bishop Spong? by Michael Bott and Jonathan Sarfarti

G.A. Wells

A Summary Critique: Questioning the Existence of Jesus by Dr. Gary Habermas

Courage and Godspeed,

Note to Readers: The use of the film The Usual Suspects is simply for creative fun! This is not meant to imply anything about skeptics themselves.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Jesus

In the subject post, J. Warner Wallace provides a summary of each of the following heresies:

Eutychianism (Monophysitism)

Wallace writes that "the more we understand these classic heresies related to Jesus, the better prepared we will be to spot counterfeits when they re-emerge in our culture."

You can read the full post here .

Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

Charles Spurgeon on Intelligent Faith

“I have noticed that whenever a person gives up his belief in the Word of God because it requires that he should believe a good deal, his unbelief requires him to believe a great deal more. If there be any difficulties in the faith of Christ, they are not one-tenth as great as the absurdities in any system of unbelief which seeks to take its place.”

Courage and Godspeed,

HT: Always Be Ready

Related Posts

Do Atheists Believe in Miracles Without a Miracle Worker?

"Mere Christianity" Made Simple

Former Atheist Lee Strobel on Atheism vs. Christianity

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Video: The Truth about Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Atheist Joel Marks on God and Morality

"The long and the short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality.  I call the premise of this argument 'hard atheism.' ... A 'soft atheist' would hold that one could be an atheist and still believe in morality.  And indeed, the whole crop of 'New Atheists' are softies of this kind.  So was I, until I experienced my shocking epiphany that the religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God.  Hence, I believe, there is no morality."1

Courage and Godspeed,


1. Joel Marks, "An Amoral Manifesto I," Philosophy Now 80 (August/September 2010): 30 as quoted by Abdu H. Murray in Grand Central Question.

Related Posts

The First Premise of the Moral Argument

Counterpoints: Alvin Plantinga and Michael Ruse on Morality

Video: God and Arguments from Morality by Chad A. Gross

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Article: 5 Common Objections to the Moral Argument by Paul Rezkalla

Taken from here with permission from Apologetics315:

The Moral Argument for the existence of God has been graced with a long tradition of defense from theistic (and atheistic!) philosophers and thinkers throughout the history of Western thought…and a long tradition of misunderstandings and objections by even some of the most brilliant minds. To be fair, the argument is not always as intuitive as theists like to think it is. Essentially, the moral argument seeks to infer God as the best explanation for the objective moral facts about the universe. One of the most popular formulations is as follows:
  1. Objective morality cannot exist unless God exists.
  2. Objective morality exists.
  3. Therefore, God exists.
There are a host of common objections that are usually blown in the direction of this argument, but for the sake of brevity, I will only deal with five.

1. “But I’m a moral person and I don’t believe in God. Are you saying that atheists can’t be moral?”

The moral argument has nothing to do with belief in God. No proponent of the moral argument has ever argued that an individual cannot be moral unless they hold belief in God. Rather, the argument deals with grounding, or substantiating, objective morality. If God does not exist, then there can be no basis for objective morality. Sure, atheists can be moral. In fact, I know several atheists who are more moral than some theists! The issue of belief is not pertinent to the argument. The argument simply highlights the fact that there must be a basis– some kind of standard–that is outside of ourselves, in order for there to be objective morality. This objection makes a category error of confusing a question of moral ontology (Is there a moral reality?) with moral epistemology (How do we come to know or believe in the moral reality?).

2. “But what if you needed to lie in order to save someone’s life? It seems that morality is not absolute as you say it is.”

We’re not talking about absolute morality here. There is an important difference betweenabsolute and objective. Absolutism requires that something will, or must, always be the case. Objectivity simply means ‘mind-independent’ or ‘judgement-independent’. When I argue for objective morality, I’m not arguing that it is always the case that lying or killing are wrong; the moral argument does not defend absolute morality. Rather, it contends that there is a standard of morality that transcends human opinions, judgments, biases, and proclivities. Let’s suppose that some nation today decreed that everyone of its homosexual citizens would be tortured to death simply for being homosexual; it would still be the case that, ‘It is wrong to torture homosexuals to death simply for being homosexual’.

The statement, ’It is wrong to torture homosexuals to death simply for being homosexual’ is true, regardless of whether or not anyone believes it to be true. This is what is meant byobjective.

3. ‘Where’s your evidence for objective morality? I won’t believe in anything unless I have evidence for it.’

Well in that case, you shouldn’t believe that I exist. You shouldn’t believe that your parents gave birth to you. You shouldn’t believe that your closest loved ones are real, actual persons who matter and have feelings. You shouldn’t believe that the external world around you is actually there. After all, how do you know that you are not a brain in a vat being electrically stimulated by a crazy scientist who wants you to think that all of this is real? You could be in the matrix, for all you know (take the blue pill)! How do you know that you weren’t created a couple minutes ago and implanted with memories of your entire past life? How could you possibly prove otherwise?

See where this is going? Denying the existence of something on the basis of, ‘I will not believe unless I have evidence for it’ leaves you with solipsism. We believe in the reality of the external world on the basis of our experience of the external world, and we are justified in believing that the external world is real unless we had good evidence to think otherwise. There is no way to prove (empirically or otherwise) that the external world is real, or that the past wasn’t created 2 minutes ago with the appearance of age, and yet we all believe these to be true and are justified in doing so. In the absence of defeating evidence, we are justified in trusting our experience of the external world. In the same way, I think we can know that objective morality exists on the basis of our moral experience. We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition. Unless we have good reason to distrust our moral experience, we are justified in accepting the reality of the objective moral framework that it presents us with.

4. ‘If morality is objective, then why do some cultures practice female genital mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and other atrocities which we, in the West, deem unacceptable?’

There can be two responses given here:

The first response is that even though not all cultures share the exact same moral facts, most embrace the same, underlying moral values. For example, there are certain tribes that practice senicide (authorized killing of the elderly) due to their belief that everyone in the afterlife will continue living on in the same body that they died with. Thus, in order to ensure that those in the afterlife are capable of hunting, swimming, building houses, etc., the elderly are killed before they become too old to take care of themselves. This act is done with the well-being of the elderly in mind. The moral value that we hold in the West- ”The elderly are valuable and must be taken care of”- is also accepted by these tribes, even though their facts are slightly (well, maybe more than slightly) off.

The second response is that some cultures do, in fact, practice certain things that are straight up morally abominable. Cultures that practice infanticide, female circumcision, widow burning, child prostitution, etc. are practicing acts that are repulsive and morally abhorrent. When a man decides to have his 6-year old daughter circumcised or sold into prostitution, that is not a cultural or traditional difference that we should respect and uphold, rather these are atrocities that need to be advocated against and ended. The existence of  multiple moral codes does not negate the existence of objective morality. Are we to condone slavery and segregation since they were once allowed under our country’s moral code? Of course not. We condemn those actions, and rightly so.

Take the example of Nazi Germany: the Nazi ideology consented to the slaughter of millions, but their actions were wrong despite them thinking that they were right. Tim Keller summarizes this point succintly:
The Nazis who exterminated Jews may have claimed that they didn’t feel it was immoral at all. We don’t care. We don’t care if they sincerely felt they were doing a service to humanity. They ought not to have done it. We do not only have moral feelings, but we also have an ineradicable belief that moral standards exist, outside of us, by which our internal moral feelings are evaluated.
Simply because a society practices acts that are contrary to what is moral does not mean that all moral codes are equal. Moral disagreements do not nullify moral truths.

5. ‘But God carried out many atrocities in the Old Testament. He ordered the genocide of the Canaanites.’

For starters, this isn’t really an objection to the moral argument. It does not attack either premise of the argument. It is irrelevant, but let’s entertain this objection for a second. By making a judgement on God’s actions and deeming them immoral, the objector is appealing to a standard of morality that holds true outside of him/herself and transcends barriers of culture, context, time period, and social norms. By doing this, he/she affirms the existence of objective morality! But if the skeptic wants to affirm objective morality after throwing God out the window, then there needs to be an alternate explanation for its basis. If not God, then what is it? The burden is now on the skeptic to provide a naturalistic explanation for the objective moral framework.

About Paul Rezkalla

Paul graduated from NYU with degrees in Religious Studies and History. He is now studying for an MA in Philosophy of Religion & Ethics at the University of Birmingham in England. He enjoys history, philosophy, and theology.

For more great apologetics resources like this one, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Related Posts

Presenting the Moral Argument Clearly

Article: Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God? by Peter S. Williams

Video: The Moral Argument- Good without God?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why Do You Defend the Traditionalist Position on Hell?

 Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Bible Project: How to Read Revelation

I've recently been preparing for speaking to the youth at our church about the book of Revelation.  I had asked them previously for topic ideas to focus on. One of the students mentioned that they have a hard time reading Revelation.

One resource that I have found very helpful in my own understanding of Revelation and other books of the Bible is the Bible Project.  They provide brief videos with interesting diagrams that break down the book to give the reader a high level overview of what it's about.

Below are two videos for Revelation that can be accessed via YouTube.  You can also download "posters" as supplemental resources when studying the Bible.

The Revelation poster can be found here.

God Bless,

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Preview- Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique

About the Authors

This massive volume (1008 pages) is edited by:

J.P. Moreland
Stephen Meyer
Chris Shaw
Ann Grauger
Wayne Grudem

You can learn more about the editors and the contributors here.

About the Book

The debate about biological origins continues to be hotly contested within the Christian church. Prominent organizations such as Biologos (USA) and Faraday Institute (UK) insist that Christians must yield to an unassailable scientific consensus in favor of contemporary evolutionary theory and modify traditional biblical ideas about the creation of life accordingly. They promote a view known as “theistic evolution” or “evolutionary creation.” They argue that God used—albeit in an undetectable way—evolutionary mechanisms to produce all forms of life. This book contests this proposal. Featuring two dozen highly credentialed scientists, philosophers, and theologians from Europe and North America, this volume provides the most comprehensive critique of theistic evolution yet produced. It documents evidential, logical, and theological problems with theistic evolution, opening the door to scientific and theological alternatives—making the book essential reading for understanding this worldview-shaping issue.

You can order your copy here.

An free online excerpt can be found here.  You can hear more about the book here.

Evolution News explains why you should consider reading the book here

J.P. Moreland discusses the book here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Related Posts

Common Objection #7- "Intelligent Design advocates do not publish their work in the appropriate scientific literature."

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Article: 8 Ways Christians Can Understand Mass Shootings by Mark Perez

Today's featured article is from Mark Perez, a retired deputy chief from the Los Angeles Police Department who holds a master’s in philosophy of science from California State University-Los Angeles, a CSU certificate in critical thinking, and a master’s in public administration from American Military University.

Mr. Perez's piece offers a Christ-centered and practical response to this tragic and heart-wrenching issue.  He writes:

"The recent string of mass shootings in the US and worldwide has understandably rattled people’s nerves. Many wonder what they can do to protect themselves and, more importantly, what they can do to make sense of such acts of terror. I spent 36 years in law enforcement, retiring last year from the Los Angeles Police Department as a deputy chief of police. I am also a Christian. As a police officer, I’ve been trained to engage in direct combat in the event of such attacks, and I’ve worked with experts in how mass-murderers think and operate. In light of my background, I want to offer eight tips on how Christians can be both shrewd and compassionate in our response to terrorism."

Checkout the entire article here.  Many thanks to philosopher Ken Samples for sharing this helpful piece.

Courage and Godspeed,

Related Posts

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Book Preview: Why Does God Allow Evil? by Clay Jones

J.P. Moreland on the Existence of Evil

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein on the Laws of Nature

"The greatest delusion of modernity is that the laws of nature explain the universe for us.  The laws of nature describe the universe, they describe the regularities.  But they explain nothing."1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. As quoted by John Lennox in his presentation, "Atheism Can't Account for This!."  You can find it here.

Related Posts

Physicist Paul Davies on the Laws of Physics

Greer Heard Forum: Robin Collins - "God and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Discovery"

Book Preview: Signposts to God- How Modern Physics and Astronomy Point the Way to Belief by Peter Bussey

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Importance of Training to Recognize Enthymemes

In Socratic Logic, Peter Kreeft writes the following:

An enthymeme is a syllogism with one of its three propositions implied but not stated.

He then quotes Parker & Veatch, Logic as a Human Instrument:

The search for the tacit premise is excellent intellectual training . . . [for] most arguments are enthymemes, because almost all arguments entail unexpressed premises or assumptions. And in this broader sense the habit of searching for the tacit assumptions which are the silent determinants of one's htoughts takes on an extremely important aspect; it should be consciously cultivated.1

 Stand firm in Christ,

1. Kreeft, Peter, Socratic Logic (South Bend, ID, St. Augustine's Press: 2014), p. 264.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: Talking with Your Kids About God by Natasha Crain

When Natasha Crain started a blog in 2011, she was just hoping to meet "like-minded parents and exchange ideas about raising faithful kids" [p. 22].   However, as the popularity of her blog continued to grow, something unexpected began to happen.  She started receiving comments from skeptics of the Christian faith.  And these skeptics were asking questions that Crain, a lifelong Christian, found herself unequipped to answer.  Then, the realization came. She realized that her kids were going to be facing these very same questions. As a result, she committed herself to the study of apologetics and became a Christian case maker.

Like Mrs. Crain, I believe most Christian parents possess a genuine desire to talk with their kids about their Christian faith, but many are afraid to do so for various reasons.  Some are afraid to wrestle with the questions themselves.  Others simply feel ill-equipped to deal with many of the objections leveled at the faith.  However, we as parents must realize that we are the most important teacher in our children's lives and it is our high calling to teach them how to make a case for what they believe and how to defend it.  As the author herself contends, parents are:

"...called to the all-important role of leading our kids to know Jesus, we can't afford to just 'give it our best shot' and see what happens, with a possible do-over next spring.  Too much is at stake, and good intentions are not enough.  We have to know what we're doing" [p. 20]

Perhaps you are one of those parents who aspires to teach your child a Christian worldview, but you have no idea where to begin.  I am happy to reveal that in her latest book, Talking to Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have, Natasha Crain has made this task easier than ever.

Crain's book is divided into five parts.  Part I deals with questions pertaining to the existence of God. Part II addresses the topic of science and God.  Part III bears upon questions about God's nature.  Part IV answers questions on pluralism and Christian living.  Finally, Part V tackles questions germane to the meaning of life, evil and biblical hope.

Each chapter begins by addressing a question about Christianity or some other worldview.  This reviewer was very pleased to see the questions addressed by the author in this work.   The questions are not simply current atheist "meme-like" claims like 'I just believe in one less God than you do," but substantive questions such as "Do science and religion contradict each other?" or "Why does God seem so harsh in parts of the Old Testament?"  By discussing these issues, with Natasha Crain as their able guide, parents and children will not only be prepared to make a case for what they believe, but they will also better understand their own convictions.  The truths learned and acquired therein will ground both the parent and children's faith with an evidential confidence.  As a result, their convictions will be grounded in what they have good reason to believe is true.

The question section of the chapter is followed by a "Conversation Guide" that has three sections: "Open the Conversation," "Advance the Conversation," and "Apply the Conversation" [p. 24].

Crain's explanation of each section offers an outstanding example of how helpful this work can be and how thoughtful her writing is throughout:

"In 'Open the Conversation,' you'll find one or two questions intended to get your kids thinking about the subject.  Resist the temptation to dump a chapter's worth of knowledge on them at this point. Instead, listen to your kids' answers and ask follow-up questions to learn more about their thoughts.

In 'Advance the Conversation,' you'll find two or more questions to help you probe the key ideas from the chapter.  These questions will not cover every detail you read.  They'll give you the opportunity to highlight the most important points, then it will be up to you to decide how deep to take the conversation.  Discussion tips are offered with most of these questions.

In 'Apply the Conversation,' you'll find a quote from a skeptic of Christianity that pertains to the subject.  Most are taken from conversations between Christians and skeptics online.  They're the kinds of comments your kids are most likely to run into on their own eventually.  After reading the quote together, ask them to respond to it based on what they learned from the chapter.  Don't shy away from doing this, no matter how old your kids are.  If you help your kids apply their learning by responding to these quotes, I have no doubt you'll find this activity to be one of the most valuable parts of this book" [p. 24-25].

The statistics are clear.  As Mrs. Crain reports, "Research has shown repeatedly that at least 60 percent of kids from Christian homes turn away from faith by their early twenties" [p. 21].  Various authors and thinkers have offered reasons why they believe this "exodus" from the church is occurring.  I believe Natasha Crain is absolutely right- we parents need discipline and direction so that we can be confident when discussing the truth of the Christian faith with our children.  The answer to the so-called "youth exodus problem" begins with parents training their kids in the Christian home.  We will never be perfect; however, we are called to be faithful.  And Crain has done much of the preparation for you.  She has provided the tools.  Now it is up to us to wield them.

Talking to Your Kids about God is a most worthy follow-up to Natasha's Crain's first work, Keeping Your Kids on God's Side.  There is no other resource like it and I highly recommend it.

You can order your copy here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Related Posts

Article: 30 Things You Can Do This Summer to Deepen Your Kids’ Faith by Natasha Crain

Book Review: Keeping Your Kids on God's Side

Natasha Crain on Young People and Spiritual Training

Thursday, November 09, 2017

59 Confirmed or Historically Probable Facts in the Gospel of John

Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel examines John's Gospel verse by verse and identifies an abundance of historical details and facts.

The facts and details are as follows:

1. Archaeology confirms the use of stone water jars in New Testament times [John 2:6].

2. Given the early Christian tendency towards asceticism, the wine miracle is an unlikely invention [2:8].

3. Archaeology confirms the proper place of Jacob's Well [4:6].

4. Josephus [Wars of the Jews 2.232] confirms there was significant hostility between Jews and Samaritans during Jesus' time [4:9].

5. "Come down" accurately describes the topography of western Galilee. [There's a significant elevation drop from Cana to Capernaum.] [4:46, 49, 51].

6. "Went up" accurately describes the ascent to Jerusalem [5:1].

7. Archaeology confirms the proper location of Bethesda [5:2]. [Excavations between 1914 and 1938 uncovered that pool and found it to be just as John described it. Since that structure did not exist after the Romans destroyed the city in A.D. 70, it's unlikely any later non-eyewitness could have described it in such vivid detail. Moreover, John says that this structure "is in Jerusalem," implying that he's writing before 70].

8. Jesus' own testimony being invalid without the Father is an unlikely Christian invention [5:31]; a later redactor would be eager to highlight Jesus' divinity and would probably make his witness self-authenticating.

9. The crowds wanting to make Jesus king reflects the well-known nationalist fervor of early first-century Israel [6:15].

10. Sudden and severe squalls are common on the Sea of Galilee [6:18].

11. Christ's command to eat his flesh and drink his blood would not be made up [6:53].

12. The rejection of Jesus by many of his disciples is also an unlikely invention [6:66].

13. The two predominant opinions of Jesus, one that Jesus was a "good man" and the other that he "deceives people," would not be the two choices John would have made up [7:12]; a later Christian writer would have probably inserted the opinion that Jesus was God.

14. The charge of Jesus being demon-possessed is an unlikely invention [7:20].

15. The use of "Samaritan" to slander Jesus befits the hostility between Jews and Samaritans [8:48].

16. Jewish believers wanting to stone Jesus is an unlikely invention [8:31, 59].

17. Archaeology confirms the existence and location of the Pool of Siloam [9:7].

18. Expulsion from the synagogue by the Pharisees was a legitimate fear of the Jews; notice that the healed man professes his faith in Jesus only after he is expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees [9:13-39], at which point he has nothing to lose. This rings of authenticity.

19. The healed man calling Jesus a "prophet" rather than anything more lofty suggests the incident is unembellished history [9:17].

20. During a winter feast, Jesus walked in Solomon's Colonnade, which was the only side of the temple area shielded from the cold winter east wind [10:22-23]; this area is mentioned several times by Josephus.

21. Fifteen stadia [less than two miles] is precisely the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem [11:18].

22. Given the later animosity between Christians and Jews, the positive depiction of Jews comforting Martha and Mary is an unlikely invention [11:19].

23. The burial wrappings of Lazarus were common for first-century Jewish burials [11:44]; it is unlikely that a fiction writer would have included this theologically irrelevant detail.

24. The precise description of the composition of the Sanhedrin [11:47]: it was composed primarily of chief priests [largely Sadducees] and Pharisees during Jesus' ministry.

25. Caiaphas was indeed the high priest that year [11:49]; we learn from Josephus that Caiaphas held the office from A.D. 18-37.

26. The obscure and tiny village of Ephraim [11:54] near Jerusalem is mentioned by Josephus.

27. Ceremonial cleansing was common in preparation for the Passover [11:55].

28. Anointing of a guest's feet with perfume or oil was sometimes performed fro special guests in the Jewish culture (12:3); Mary's wiping of Jesus' feet with her hair is an unlikely invention [in easily could have been perceived as a sexual advance].

29. Waving of palm branches was a common Jewish practice for celebrating military victories and welcoming national rulers [12:13].

30. Foot washing is first-century Palestine was necessary because of dust and open footwear; Jesus performing this menial task is an unlikely invention [it was a task not even Jewish slaves were required to do] [13:4]; Peter's insistence that he get a complete bath also fits with his impulsive personality [there's certainly no purpose for inventing this request].

31. Peter asks John to ask Jesus a question [13:24]; there's no reason to insert this detail if this is fiction; Peter could have asked Jesus himself.

32. "The Father is greater than I" is an unlikely invention [14:28], especially if John wanted to make up the deity of Christ [as the critics claim he did].

33. Use of the vine as a metaphor makes good sense in Jerusalem [15:1]; vineyards were in the vicinity of the temple, and, according to Josephus, the temple gates had a golden vine carved on them.

34. Use of the childbirth metaphor [16:21] is thoroughly Jewish; is has been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls [1QH 11:9-10].

35. The standard Jewish posture for prayers was looking "toward heaven" [17:1].

36. Jesus' admission that he has gotten his words from the Father [17:7-8] would not be included if John were inventing the idea that Christ was God.

37. No specific reference to fulfilled Scripture is given regarding the predicted betrayal by Judas; a fiction writer or later Christian redactor probably would have identified the Old Testament Scripture to which Jesus was referring [17:12].

38. The name of the high priest's servant [Malachus], who had his ear cut off, is an unlikely invention [18:10].

39. Proper identification of Caiaphas's father-in-law, Annas, who was the high priest from A.D. 6-15 [18:13]-the appearance before Annas is believable because of the family connection and the fact the former high priests maintained great influence.

40. John's claim that the high priest knew him [18:15] seems historical; invention of this claim serves no purpose and would expose John to being discredited by the Jewish authorities.

41. Anna's questions regarding Jesus' teachings and disciples make good historical sense; Annas would be concerned about potential civil unrest and the undermining of Jewish religious authority [18:19].

42. Identification of a relative of Malchus [the high priest's servant who had his ear cut off] is a detail that John would not have made up [18:26]; it has no theological significance and could only hurt John's credibility if he were trying to pass off fiction as the truth.

43. There are good historical reasons to believe Pilate's reluctance to deal with Jesus [18:28ff.]: Pilate had to walk a fine line between keeping the Jews happy and keeping Rome happy; any civil unrest could mean his job [the Jews knew of his competing concerns when they taunted him, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar," 19:12]; the Jewish philosopher Philo records the Jews successfully pressuring Pilate in a similar way to get their demands met [To Gaius 38.301-302].

44. A surface similar to the Stone Pavement has been identified near the Antonia Fortress [19:13] with markings that may indicate soldiers played games there [as in the gambling for his clothes in 19:24].

45. The Jews exclaiming, "We have no king but Caesar!" [19:15] would not be invented given the Jewish hatred for the Romans, especially if John had been written after A.D. 70. [This would be like New Yorkers today proclaiming "We have not king but Osama Bin Laden!"]

46. The crucifixion of Jesus [19:17-30] is attested to by non-Christian sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, and the Jewish Talmud.

47. Crucifixion victims normally carried their own crossbeams [19:17].

48. Josephus confirms that crucifixion was an execution technique employed by the Romans [Wars of the Jews 1.97; 2.305; 7.203]; moreover, a nail-spiked anklebone of a crucified man was found in Jerusalem in 1968.

49. The execution site was likely outside ancient Jerusalem, as John says [19:17]; this would ensure that the sacred Jewish city would not be profaned by the presence of a dead body [Deut. 21:23].

50. After the spear was thrust into Jesus' side, out came what appeared to be blood and water [19:34]. Today we know that a crucified person might have a watery fluid father in the sac around the heart called the pericardium. John would not have known of this medical condition, and could not have recorded this phenomenon unless he was an eyewitness or had access to eyewitness testimony.

51. Joseph of Arimathea [19:38], a member of the Sanhedrin who buries Jesus, is an unlikely invention.

52. Josephus [Antiquities 17.199] confirms that spices [19:39] were used for royal burials; this detail shows that Nicodemus was not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, and it also demonstrates that John was not inserting later Christian faith into the text.

53. Mary Magdalene [20:1], a formerly demon-possessed woman [Luke 8:2], would not be invented as the empty tomb's first witness; in fact, women in general would not be presented as witnesses in a made-up story.

54. Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener [20:15] is not a detail that a later writer would have made up [especially a writer seeking to exalt Jesus].

55. "Rabboni" [20:16], the Aramaic for "teacher," seems an authentic detail because it's another unlikely invention for a writer trying to exalt the risen Jesus.

56. Jesus stating that he is returning to "my God and your God" [20:17] does not fit with a later writer bent on creating the idea that Jesus was God.

57. One hundred fifty-three fish [21:11] is a theologically irrelevant detail, but perfectly consistent with the tendency of fisherman to want to record and then brag about large catches.

58. The fear of the disciples to ask Jesus who he was [21:12] is an unlikely concoction; it demonstrates natural human amazement at the risen Jesus and perhaps the fact that there was something different about the resurrection body.

59. The cryptic statement from Jesus about the fate of Peter is not clear enough to draw certain theological conclusions [21:18]; so why would John make it up? It's another unlikely invention. [1]

When one considers these above historically confirmed or historically probable fact and details, how reasonable is it to doubt that the author of John's Gospel [who I believe was John] was an eyewitness or at least had access to eyewitness testimony?

For more from Dr. Blomberg on the reliability of the Gospel of John, see here.

Our thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing us with a copy of Blomberg's important book.

Courage and Godspeed,


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

84 Confirmed Facts in the Last 16 Chapters of the Book of Acts

Scholar and historian Colin Hemer has identified 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of the Book of Acts that have been confirmed by historical and/or archaeological research.

They are as follows:

1. the natural crossing between correctly named ports [Acts 13:4-5]
2. the proper port [Perga] along the direct destination of a ship crossing from Cyprus [13:13]
3. the proper location of Lycaonia [14:6]
4. the unusual but correct declension of the name Lystra [14:6]
5. the correct language spoken in Lystra-Lycaonian [14:11]
6. two gods known to be so associated-Zeus and Hermes [14:12]
7. the proper port, Attalia, which returning travelers would use [14:25]
8. the correct order of approach to Derbe and then Lystra from the Cilician Gates [16:1; cf. 15:41]
9. the proper form of the name Troas [16:8]
10. the place of a conspicuous sailors' landmark, Samothrace [12:14]
11. the proper description of Philippi as a Roman colony [16:12]
12. the right location fro the river [Gangites] near Philippi [12:13]
13. the proper association of Thyatira as a center of dyeing [16:14]
14. correct designations for the magistrates of the colony [16:22]
15. the proper locations [Amphipolis and Apollonia] where travelers would spend successive nights on this journey [17:1]
16. the presence of a synagogue in Thessalonica [17:1]
17. the proper term ["politarchs"] used of the magistrates there [17:6]
18. the correct implication that sea travel is the most convenient way of reaching Athens, with the favoring east winds of summer sailing [17:14-15]
19. the abundant presence of images in Athens [17:16]
20. the reference to a synagogue in Athens [17:17]
21. the depiction of the Athenian life of philosophical debate in the Agora [17:17]
22. the use of the correct Athenian slang word for Paul [spermologos, 17:18] as well as for the court [Areios pagos, 17:19]
23. the proper characterization of the Athenian character [17:21]
24. an altar to an "unknown god" [17:23]
25. the proper reaction of Greek philosophers, who denied the bodily resurrection [17:32]
26. Areopagites as the correct title for a member of the court [17:34]
27. A Corinthian synagogue [18:4]
28. the correct designation of Gallio as proconsul, resident in Corinth [18:12]
29. the bema [judgement seat], which overlooks Corinth's forum [18:16ff.]
30. the name Tyrannus as attested from Ephesus in first-century inscriptions [19:9]
31. well-known shrines and images of Artemis [19:24]
32. the well attested "great goddess Artemis" [19:27]
33. that the Ephesian theater was the meeting place of the city [19:29]
34. the correct title grammateus for the chief executive magistrate in Ephesus [19:35]
35. the proper title of honor neokoros, authorized by the Romans [19:35]
36. the correct name to designate the goddess [19:37]
37. the proper term for those holding court [19:38]
38. use of plural anthupatori, perhaps a remarkable reference to the fact that two men were conjointly exercising the functions of proconsul at this time [19:38]
39. the "regular" assembly, as the precise phrase is attested elsewhere [19:39]
40. use of precise ethnic designation, beroiaios [20:4]
41. employment of the ethnic term Asianos [20:4]
42. the implied recognition of the strategic importance assigned to this city of Troas [20:7ff.]
43. the danger of the coastal trip in this location [20:13]
44. the correct sequence of places [20:14-15]
45. the correct name of the city as a neuter plural [Patara] [21:1]
46. the appropriate route passing across the open sea south of Cyprus favored by persistent northwest winds [21:3]
47. the suitable distance between these cities [21:8]
48. a characteristically Jewish act of piety [21:24]
49. the Jewish law regarding Gentile use of the temple area [21:28] [Archaeological discoveries and quotations from Josephus confirm that Gentiles could be executed for entering the temple area. One inscription reads: "Let no Gentile enter within the balustrade and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his consequent death."]
50. the permanent stationing of a Roman cohort [chiliarch]at Antonia to suppress any disturbance at festival times [21:31]
51. the flight of steps used by the guards [21:31, 35]
52. the common way to obtain Roman citizenship at this time [22:28]
53. the tribune being impressed with Roman rather than Tarsian citizenship [22:29]
54. Ananias being high priest at this time [23:2]
55. Felix being governor at this time [23:34]
56. the natural shopping point on the way to Caesarea [23:31]
57. whose jurisdiction Cilicia was in at the time [23:34]
58. the provincial penal procedure of the time [24:1-9]
59. the name Porcius Festus, which agrees precisely with that given by Josephus [24:27]
60. the right of appeal for Roman citizens [25:11]
61. the correct legal formula [25:18]
62. the characteristic form of reference to the emperor at the time [25:26]
63. the best shipping lanes at the time [27:5]
64. the common bonding of Cilicia and Pamphylia [27:4]
65. the principal port to find a ship sailing to Italy [27:5-6]
66. the slow passage to Cnidus, in the fact of the typical northwest wind [27:7]
67. the right route to sail, in view of the winds [27:7]
68. the locations of Fair Havens and the neighboring site of Lasea [27:8]
69. Fair Havens as a poorly sheltered roadstead [27:7]
70. a noted tendency of a south wind in these climes to back suddenly to a violent northeaster, the well-known gregale [27:13]
71. the nature of a square-rigged ancient ship, having no option but to be driven before a gale [27:15]
72. the precise place and name of this island [27:16]
73. the appropriate maneuvers for the safety of the ship in its particular plight [27:16]
74. the fourteenth night-a remarkable calculation, based inevitably on a compounding of estimates and probabilities, confirmed in the judgement of experienced Mediterranean navigators [27:27]
75. the proper term of the time for the Adriatic [27:27]
76. the precise term [Bolisantes] for taking soundings, and the correct depth of the water near Malta [27:28]
77. a position that suits the probable line of approach of a ship released to run before an easterly wind [27:39]
78. the severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape [27:42]
79. the local people and superstitions of the day [28:4-6]
80. the proper title protos tes nesou [28:7]
81. Regium as a refuge to await a southerly wind to carry them through the strait [28:13]
82. Appii Forum and Tres Tabernae as correctly placed stopping places on the Appian Way [28:15]
83. appropriate means of custody with Roman soliders [28:16]
84. the conditions of imprisonment, living "at his own expense" [28:30-31]1

With these facts in mind, it seems reasonable to conclude that the author of Acts [who I believe was Luke] was an eyewitness of the events recorded or at the very least had access to reliable eyewitnesses.

It is also of interest that in the Book of Acts, the author records 35 miracles.

Courage and Godspeed,