Monday, July 26, 2021

Apologetics315 Podcast: Molinism with Tim Stratton

In this Apologetics315 Podcast, Brian Auten and I chat with Tim Stratton about his book Human, Freedom, Divine Knowledge and Mere Molinism.

The show notes are as follows:

1:03 – Intro to Tim Stratton
1:41 – Why Molinism on the podcast?
3:20 – Welcome to Tim Stratton
3:54 – How Tim became a Christian
9:37 – God as a maximally great being
10:43 – Tim’s dissertation
11:18 – What does Tim find compelling about Molinism?
12:42 – The Mere Molinism Facebook group
16:14 – What is the problem that Molinism is trying to solve?
22:47 – How to briefly summarize Molinism?
23:41 – Defining terms: Middle knowledge and counterfactuals
31:39 – Scriptures that affirm counterfactuals / middle knowledge
41:53 – Why us the term “mere” Molinism?
46:22 – Can Molinism be applied to salvation?
48:21 – Does this chess analogy work?
52:10 – Objection: Molinism is not derived from scripture
58:23 – Objection: Who cares? That’s just for scholars and theologians
1:02:45 – How Molinism saved Tim’s marriage

You can listen here.

You can order Tim's excellent book here.

Learn more about Tim and his ministry here.

Find more great apologetics resources at Apologetics315 here.

Many thanks to Tim for chatting with us!

Courage and Godspeed,

Related Posts

Book Preview - Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism by Tim Stratton

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Friday, July 23, 2021

Apologetics315 Podcast: Apologetics for Parents with Mike D’Virgilio

In this Apologetics315 Podcast, Brian Auten and I chat with Mike D'Virgilio about apologetics, parenting and his book The Persuasive Christian Parent. 

The show notes are as follows:

0:44 – Introduction to our Mike D’Virgilio and the topic of parenting with apologetics
4:25 – Mike’s background and how he got into apologetics
6:59 – What inspired Mike to write a book on apologetics and parenting
7:50 – J.P. Moreland’s endorsement, and the importance of using apologetics when raising your kids
11:43 – The plausibility of Christianity, and the threat of children falling away from the faith
16:06 – The importance of emphasizing the truth
18:07 – Emphasizing reality and the facts of life experience
20:47 – Embedding right expectations in our kids
23:06 – The outline of topics covered in the Persuasive Christian Parent book
25:23 – Plausibility structures, certainty, and epistemology
29:34 – Ways that we can approach bringing apologetics into our parenting
31:48 – Should we just let our children just find their own way, or are we brainwashing them?
33:30 – Loving the Lord with all our mind, AND training our kids
35:18 – Are there ways you would have raised your kids differently?
35:44 – Modeling and not being afraid to allow your kids to see you fail
37:06 – How to teach kids about controversial topics

You can listen here.

You can learn more about Mike and his work here.  Pick up his book here.

And you can checkout the resources available at Apologetics315 here.

Many thanks to Mike for doing the interview!

Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Nabeel Qureshi's Case for the Deity of Christ in the Gospel of Mark

Muslims often argue that the Gospels evolved over time.  Many take the consensus view that the Gospel of Mark is the earliest and that over time, the accounts of Jesus' life were embellished, and by the time we get the Gospel of John, we have a very different Jesus.  In their estimation, this is due to the fact that Jesus did not start out as God, but this idea was a later Christian invention.1

Before the late Nabeel Qureshi lost his courageous battle with cancer, he wrote a book called No God but One: Allah or Jesus?  In his book, Qureshi argues that "[n]ot only does Mark present Jesus as divine, but the very point of Mark's Gospel is that Jesus is Yahweh."2 In this post, it is my intent to recount Qureshi's argument for those interested in better understanding Jesus' divine claims and to challenge those who would argue that His divinity was indeed a later Christian fabrication.

Qureshi begins by explaining that, "[t]he more I learned about Mark, the more I realized that it was a very Jewish Gospel, written with the Old Testament in mind. If refers to Jewish sources over seventy times, with a strong preference for the book of Isaiah, and never once does it explicitly refer to a Graeco-Roman source."3 And with that foundation, he proceeds in arguing as follows:

"Mark starts with a reference to a passage in the Old Testament: Isaiah 40:3-5.  In that passage, a voice calls out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD [Yahweh]; make straight in the desert a highway for our God!...And the glory of the LORD will be revealed.' So Isaiah prophesies that Yahweh, the God of Israel, will appear, and a voice in the wilderness will proclaim His arrival.  Mark tells us in 1:4 that John the Baptist is that voice in the wilderness-the one whose arrival he proclaimed was Jesus.  In other words, Mark equates Yahweh with Jesus, saying: We have been waiting for a man to proclaim the arrival of Yahweh, our God.  John the Baptist is that man, and he has proclaimed the arrival of Jesus.

In fact, Mark combines his reference to Isaiah 40:3-5 with Malachi 3:1, where the text says explicitly that the messenger (again, John the Baptist) will appear before the Lord Himself comes to his temple. As in the Isaiah reference, this equates the Lord with Jesus.  For added emphasis, the Book of Malachi ends a few verses later by saying that if the Israelites do not accept the messenger, God Himself will come.

Thus, at the very beginning of his Gospel, Mark equates Yahweh with Jesus using multiple Old Testament references.  For the attentive Jewish reader, Mark's prologue functions very much like John: It proclaims that Jesus is God Himself.

Mark continues in 2:3-10, telling us that Jesus forgave a paralyzed man his sins. The Scribes at the scene thought to themselves, He is blaspheming, Who can forgive sins but God?  For the Jews, to blaspheme against God is an accusation that someone is not giving God His due respect, most commonly by saying the name Yahweh or by claiming divine status for oneself. Clearly, Jesus neither insulted God here nor uttered the divine name.  Their charge of blasphemy can mean only that Jesus thought Himself to be God by claiming the divine prerogative of forgiving sins.

In response, far from denying the blasphemous claim to be God, Jesus shows them His authority to forgive sins by healing the paralytic.  Not only did this demonstrate His spiritual authority, but also it reminded the Scribes, who know well the Hebrew Scriptures, of Psalm 103:2-3, which says, 'Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases" (emphasis mine).

When Scribes charge Jesus with claiming to be God, instead of denying it, He goes even further by healing a paralytic, thereby doing what only Yahweh does in Psalms.

Later in the same chapter, referring to Himself, Jesus says, 'The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28).  Unless we know the Old Testament well, it is easy to miss the fact that the Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8). When Jesus refers to Himself as Lord of the Sabbath, He is claiming lordship over the Ten Commandments even though there is only one such Lord: Yahweh.

In Mark 4:35-41, we find the troubled disciples out on the water in the midst of a storm with waves so high they broke over the boat and began to flood it. Amid adversity they call out to Jesus.  Jesus rebukes the wind and says to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' whereupon the sea is claimed and waves are hushed (v. 39). The disciples ask themselves in amazement, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!' (v. 41).  By now, we should realize that Mark expects us to answer these rhetorical questions by turning to the Old Testament. In Psalm 107:25-30, men are on a stormy sea so perilous that their courage has melted and they are at their wits' end. 'Then they cried out the LORD [Yahweh] in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed' (vv.28-29).

So in the Old Testament, when men are caught in a storm at sea and fearing death, they call out to Yahweh, who calms the storms and hushes the waves. In Mark, when the disciples are caught in a storm at sea and fearing death, they call out to Jesus, who calms the storms and hushes the waves. Once again, Mark equates Jesus with Yahweh.

In another seafaring passage, Mark 6:45-52, the disciples are struggling to row against the wind. Amid the stormy waves, Jesus walks to them on the water. For those who know the Old Testament, the allusion is clear: In Job 9:8, when Job is speaking about Yahweh, he says, 'He alone stretches out the heaven and treads on the waves of the sea.' What Job says only Yahweh can do, Mark shows Jesus doing.

Having discussed the highlights of Mark 1-6, we see Mark's endeavor is clear: He portrays Jesus as Yahweh. But regardless of the clarity and multiple allusions, I was not yet convinced. What convinced me that Mark portrayed Jesus as Yahweh was the climax of the Gospel-Jesus' trail.4

He continues:

"In Mark 1:55-64, Jesus has been brought before the high priest and the Sanhedrin. Those who brought Jesus to this trail have been seeking to destroy Him since a time early in his ministry (3:6).  They hope to incriminate Him through His words against the temple, but without sufficient witnesses or a consistent accusation against Him, the trail is going awry (14:55-59). Then the high priest stands and demands that Jesus tell them who He is. It appears the high priest hopes Jesus can be incriminated through His identity claims. When Jesus responds, He gives the Sanhedrin more than they hoped for.

Jesus' words are: 'I am...And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.' The meaning of His words will not be clear to us if we do not know the Old Testament, but for the Jewish Sanhedrin, it was so clear that they condemned Him to death for blasphemy. What exactly did Jesus says? In Mark 14:62, Jesus makes a two-fold reference to the Old Testament, claiming the privileges and position of Yahweh for Himself. The first reference is to Daniel. Jesus quotes Daniel 7:13-14, an apocalyptic vision of the prophet Daniel, which states, 'In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

In this passage from Daniel, a being who looks human (one like a son of man) approaches God. Although he looks human, his entrance is on clouds-an entrance reserved for Yahweh in the Old Testament. Then the one like a Son of Man is given everlasting dominion, glory, and a kingdom, even though only God is supposed to have dominion and glory in the everlasting kingdom. Finally, this passage says that all people will serve the Son of Man, but this word 'serve,' whether in Hebrew and in Greek, always denotes a service due to God.

Thus, Daniel 7 introduces a Son of Man who rides the clouds, as only Yahweh can; He then receives everlasting dominion and glory over His own kingdom, as only Yahweh has; there, all people will serve Him with a divine service, as only Yahweh deserves. The Son of Man in Daniel 7 is a divine Son of Man. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, starting at 2:10, Jesus has called Himself 'the Son of Man,' though He never explicitly defines what He means by the term. In Mark 14:62, the climax of the Gospel, Jesus finally reveals to everyone who He is by quoting Daniel 7:13-14: He is the Son of Man from Daniel 7. He is Yahweh.

But claiming the title 'Son of Man' was not the only blasphemous act He commits before the Sanhedrin. As if to remove all doubt, Jesus also says He has the right to sit on the throne of God. When He says that they will see the Son of Man 'sitting at the right hand of power,' He references Psalm 110:1, which says, 'The LORD says to my lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'

Sitting at the right hand of God was a right that no one had dared claim, nor dared impute to anyone else, up to this point in Second Temple Jewish history. It implied sitting on the very throne of God, and it was tantamount to claiming to be God's heir, someone who shared sovereignty with God. According to a scholar of the Psalms, 'Sitting at the right hand of God,' ...has a very definite meaning: 'the king is installed into an associate rulership; in this position of honor in the power structure of God he becomes a participant in Yahweh's strength in battle and victory.'

After learning all this, I understood why the Sanhedrin wanted to crucify Jesus for blasphemy. When Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man from Daniel 7 and the Lord of David from Psalm 110, 'Both claims imply divine status, authority and power.' In response to the question 'Who are you?' Jesus' response is essentially: 'I am the One who deserves eternal worship from all mankind in My own kingdom, where I will sit on the very throne of God. I am Yahweh.'5

Qureshi concludes:

"After reading Mark through the lens of Jewish scripture I could not longer avoid the obvious. From introduction to climax, Mark's Gospel is an exposition of the deity of Jesus. The first biography of Jesus ever written is designed to teach that Jesus is Yahweh."6

So, when the totality of the evidence is considered, it seems that those claiming that Jesus does not become divine until the Gospel of John are mistaken. The deity of Jesus Christ is powerfully present in our earliest gospel. 

For a great debate on this topic, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. As Qureshi points out, this is also a position taken by famous scholar Bart Ehrman in his published work.
2. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, p. 252 (Advanced Reading Copy).
3. Ibid., p. 252.
4. Ibid., p. 252-255.
5. Ibid., p. 256-258.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Apologetics315 Podcast: Rhetoric with Jim Beitler


In this podcast, Brian Auten and I interview Jim Beitler of Wheaton College about the importance of rhetoric in the life of the church.  

The show notes are as follows:

0:27 – Introduction to rhetoric and Jim Beitler
4:36 – Jim’s background and books
5:37 – What is rhetoric?
6:32 – How Jim got interested in rhetoric
7:18 – How has rhetoric been taught, and how has that changed?
10:20 – Can rhetoric be taught?
11:48 – Why should anyone care about rhetoric in the church?
14:20 – Are you an effective communicator or not?
15:44 – Doesn’t the Bible argue against using rhetoric?
19:11 – How the book is laid out and the ground it covers
22:52 – C.S. Lewis as a rhetorician
25:25 – How we need rhetoric now more than ever
27:19 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer on preaching and rhetoric
30:37 – Rhetoric in sermons and preaching
33:37 – How to apply the tools of rhetoric with discernment
38:20 – Modern thinkers and communicators we can learn from
41:49 – Being culture makers
42:40 – Some pitfalls to avoid
45:13 – A teaser for Charitable Writing

Listen and learn more here.

You can order Jim's book on the topic here.

You can find more podcasts and great resources at Apologetics315.

Many thanks to Jim for doing the podcast!

Courage and Godspeed,

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Monday, July 05, 2021

Apologetics315 Podcast: Biblical Archaeology with Ted Wright of Epic Archaeology


In our latest podcast, Brian Auten and I interview Ted Wright of Epic Archaeology.  This was a fun podcast that covers topics such as:

0:29 – Introducing Ted Wright of Epic Archaeology
2:00 – What got Ted into archaeology?
4:00 – What you’ll find at
6:12 – More about Ted’s background in apologetics
9:44 – What is the actual job of an archaeologist?
15:30 – Being chased by Nazis
19:03 – The role that archaeology plays in defending the Bible?
23:00 – “Archaeological evidence for Jesus does not exist…”
29:40 – What sorts of things in the Holy Land are legit?
35:43 – Unpacking archaeological evidence for the exodus
48:39 – Dating of the exodus
56:04 – How to think through the accounts of “the Canaanite genocide question”
1:03:00 – Cool archaeological discoveries that support the Old and New Testaments

We even got to discuss Gozer!  If you don't know who Gozer is, see Ghostbusters (1984) or here.  We love GB on the Apologetics315 podcast!  

You can listen in and get further details here!  

And if you haven't checkout Ted Wright's work yet, you can do so here.  I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Ted for joining us!

Courage and Godspeed,

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Thursday, July 01, 2021

Common Objection - "If your God really existed, you wouldn't need arguments."

Twitter is an interesting place to share random musings.  It seems that no matter what you post, regardless of how non-controversial or benign, it can potentially bring ridicule and scorn down upon you.  I recently tweeted:

"If you have a good argument, why resort to personal attacks?"

Now, you might think that would be something all could agree on, but you, like me, would be wrong!  However, among the various replies, one individual asserted:

"If your god really existed, you wouldn't need arguments."

And while I think I understand the general sentiment, from the perspective of a Christian theist, I find this objection less than compelling. 

In this brief post, I will offer an argument that I believe successfully removes the teeth of such an objection.

The person who makes a claim like the one above is essentially arguing, "If God really existed, and He wanted us to know it, He would make it more obvious and arguments wouldn't be needed."1  Oddly enough, this type of objection reminds me of the late journalist, Christopher Hitchens.  "The Hitch" was a master rhetorician and was well-known for his forceful attacks against his debate opponents.  One such attack occurred when Hitchen's opponent would make a claim about God and Hitchens would reply, "Do you claim to know the mind of God?"  And the point was not lost on the audience - "How can this mere human claim to know why God did X?"  But do you see the irony?  When one claims that God, should He exist, should have created a universe in which arguments are unnecessary to demonstrate His existence, they are claiming to know the mind of God!  Furthermore, on Christian theism, there is no inconsistency between God existing and Him ordaining arguments as one way people might seek after Him.  As a matter of fact, this is entirely consistent with what Paul tells the philosophers in Athens about God!  He states:

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  and he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him."2

Here, we see Paul informing the philosophers that it is God's desire that we seek Him.3  The further significance of these verses should not be missed.  As the late Bible commentator Albert Barnes explains:

"The design of thus placing them on the earth...was, that they should contemplate his wisdom in his works, and thus come to a knowledge of his existence and character. All nations, though living in different regions and climates, have thus the opportunity of becoming acquainted with God..."4

Surely, we can all agree that when one sincerely considers some of the various arguments offered through the centuries for the existence of God, that they are, at the very least, contemplating "his wisdom in his works" in hopes they will "come to a knowledge of his existence and character."5

Therefore, arguments for the existence of God are completely consistent with the God who Christians believe has revealed Himself in the Bible and assertions that claim otherwise, in my estimation, fail.  And those who claim that God should have created the universe in a certain way, are claiming to know the mind of God (and His purposes) while lacking adequate justification.6

Courage and Godspeed,

1. It should be noted that the Bible itself claims that God's existence is obvious to those who are opened to Him.  See Romans 1:18-23.  However, for the sake of this post, I will take the position that arguments are a way to seek God and that this is completely consistent with the God revealed in the Bible. 
2. Acts 17:24-27; ESV.
3. For numerous examples, see here.
4. Taken from "Barnes' Notes on the Bible," found here.
5. This is especially relevant when one considers some of the philosophical arguments offered for the existence of God aim to demonstrate that His moral perfection.  In other words, arguments for the existence of God, if successful, demonstrate both His existence and His goodness (character).
6. Understandably, the skeptic may push back and say, "But you are claiming to know the mind of God!"  Not exactly.  We are claiming that God has revealed Himself through the Bible; therefore, we can know somethings about God, but this certainly does not give us access to all of God's thoughts and intents.  And if we are right about the Bible, then this claim to some knowledge is justified.

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