The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Beginnings

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” — Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” — John 1:1

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” — 2 Corinthians 5:17

Happy New Year from the GeoChristian!


All Scripture from New International Version 1984.

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Christianity, Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments

Another Christian leader who believes the Bible does not require a young Earth — Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor is senior vice president of Crossway Books, a theologically conservative Christian publishing company. Crossway is best known as the publisher of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible, along with the ESV Study Bible, perhaps the most comprehensive theologically conservative study Bible ever produced for a general Christian audience.

Justin Taylor believes the Bible. And Justin Taylor does not believe the Bible requires us to believe Earth is only roughly 6000 years old. He has outlined his reasons for believing that the Bible is silent on the issue of the age of the Earth on his blog Between Two Worlds, which is part of The Gospel Coalition‘s web site:

Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods

The arguments Taylor gives for accepting an old Earth have nothing to do with the geological column, radiometric dating, or the big bang theory. Instead, Taylor lays out a completely Biblical case for an ancient universe, mostly following the analogical days interpretation. Here are a few quotes from Taylor:

Contrary to what is often implied or claimed by young-earth creationists, the Bible nowhere directly teaches the age of the earth.

—————

I want to suggest there are some good, textual reasons—in the creation account itself—for questioning the exegesis that insists on the days as strict 24 hour periods. Am I as certain of this as I am of the resurrection of Christ? Definitely not. But in some segments of the church, I fear that we’ve built an exegetical “fence around the Torah,” fearful that if we question any aspect of young-earth dogmatics we have opened the gate to liberalism.

—————

God is portrayed as a workman going through his workweek, working during the day and resting for the night. Then on his Sabbath, he enjoys a full and refreshing rest. Our days are like God’s workdays, but not identical to them.

How long were God’s workdays? The Bible doesn’t say. But I see no reason to insist that they were only 24 hours long.

How old is the Earth? The Bible does not say, so Christians should not dogmatically insist that it is only 6000 years old.

An important conclusion is that the age of the Earth should not act as a stumbling block to someone who is considering whether or not Christianity is true.

Grace and Peace

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Notes:

To be “theologically conservative” means that one holds to the inerrancy of the Holy Bible, and the core historical teachings of Christianity, as summarized by the ancient creeds of the church, such as the Trinity, deity of Christ, virgin birth, crucifixion of Christ, his resurrection and ascension, and the necessity of spiritual rebirth through Christ.

The opposite of theologically conservative is theologically liberal. Liberals usually start by denying the reliability and authority of the Bible, and end up denying many of the core doctrines of Christianity.

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Creationism, Old-Earth creationism, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , | 3 Comments

Advice for Christians who have doubts

Many Christians go through a time when they are troubled in their faith when confronted with challenges from skeptics and unbelievers.

Christianity today has posted the testimony of Gregory Alan Thornbury, who almost gave up his faith when challenged by the teachings of people beyond the liberal fringe of Christianity such as Marcus Borg, a member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars devoted to cutting the Bible apart to create a new Jesus that is more to their liking. The thing that “saved” Thornbury was a book, in this case God, Revelation, and Authority by Carl Henry. Read more about it on the Christianity Today website: How I Almost Lost the Bible.

My advice to Christians who struggle with intellectual doubts:

  1. Read. Read, read, read. Search for answers as if you were digging for treasure. There are plenty of compelling reasons to stay in the faith. Read apologetics books by Keller, Geisler, Craig, Blomberg, Wright, and many others. There are answers.
  2. Doubt your doubts. The skeptics want you to doubt your faith. It is equally valid–or perhaps more valid in many cases–to doubt your doubts.
  3. Pray. There are spiritual aspects to the battle that you and I cannot see.

If you are doubting whether or not Christianity is true, there are answers. Is there a book that will “save” you from falling away? There is only one way to find out.

Grace and peace

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 3 Comments

Why the latest Newsweek blast against Christianity is nonsense

Think of some idea that you think is loony that other people believe in and adamantly support. My list would include alien abductions, the face on Mars, conspiracy theories about the Apollo moon landings, and thinking that Che Guevara or Hugh Hefner are cool.

Your list would probably differ from mine. That’s OK; I hope we can still have civil conversations. I have friends who believe things that I think are completely wrong.

newsweekcover2015-225x300I consider the latest religious offering from Newsweek to be in the same category as belief in the Loch Ness monster or a flat Earth — The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin, by Kurt Eichenwald. It is common for American news magazines to celebrate Christmas and Easter by printing articles that attack Christianity, and they typically have a sensational news article about something like the discovery of an obscure fourth century manuscript claiming Jesus had a wife. These ideas come and go, but they seem to sell magazines, so we can expect this trend to continue.

Eichenwald doesn’t get off to a good start, lumping Christians all together as hateful bigots:

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

Most of us don’t fit that description. It makes me wonder if Eichenwald knows any Christians (except perhaps progressives who read John Shelby Spong and Bart Ehrman).

As I read the article, my jaw dropped in disbelief that Newsweek would publish an article that contained such blatant errors about any topic, not just Christianity. Eichenwald’s description of how the Bible got to us was the “telephone game,” where one person whispers something in someone’s ear, who passes it on to the next person, so on down the line, until the message becomes completely garbled. That is not even remotely how stories are passed on in oral societies, and is completely irrelevant to how the New Testament was compiled (and one could make a case that it is irrelevant to how the Old Testament was compiled as well). In addition, Eichenwald described our modern English translations as having been produced as translations of “a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies.” Again, this is utter nonsense. I guess the editors of Newsweek don’t know much about the history of how the Bible got to us, and this all sounded like a nice story to them, so they went ahead and published it.

I’m not saying that everything Eichenwald wrote in the article is bad or false. We all need to be aware, for example, of our tendency to pick and choose what parts of the Bible we are going to follow, rather than letting the Scriptures inform our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Rather than going through Eichenwald’s article myself, I am going to refer you to other reviews, written by people better qualified than myself.

The most succinct summary I’ve read is at Internet Monk:

Newsweek (yes, it’s still around) decided to celebrate Christmas by publishing the most insulting and ignorant article I have seen put out by a mainstream publication. If you are a Christian (at least a conservative one), this is your portrait: “They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school…They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.” Yeaaaah. And that is the opener. It goes on for 34 pages, taking every angle to cast doubt on the scriptures and lambast the stupidity of anyone moronic enough to think they actually can be a guide for life. The author, an atheist journalist who writes mainly in the area of finance, seems to have no actual knowledge of the issues except what he read from Sprong and Ehrman. I won’t link to the article, (you can find it easily enough) but I will point out the incredibly measured and patient analysis of the article by Dr. Michael J. Kruger here and here.

Here are some quotes from the Michael J. Kruger articles:

A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 1) by Michael J. Kruger, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary

However, the recent Newsweek cover article by Kurt Eichenwald, entitled “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” published intentionally (no doubt) on December 23rd, goes so far beyond the standard polemics, and is so egregiously mistaken about the Bible at so many places, that the magazine should seriously consider a public apology to Christians everywhere.

Of course, this is not the first media article critiquing the Bible that has been short on the facts. However, what is stunning about this particular article is that Kurt Eichenwald begins by scolding evangelical Christians for being unaware of the facts about the Bible, and the proceeds to demonstrate a jaw-dropping ignorance of the facts about the Bible.

——————————

Eichenwald attempts to discredit the Bible by pointing out problems in its transmission. However, the real problem is not with the Bible but with Eichenwald’s misinformed accusations. For instance, he claims:

About 400 years passed between the writing of the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament.

This is patently false. Collections of New Testament writings were functioning as Scripture as early as the second century (and, to some extent, even in the first).

——————————

Eichenwald seems utterly unaware that this whole course of argument is incorrect and drawn directly from internet chat rooms and books like the Da Vinci Code.

——————————

In sum, the first part of Eichenwald’s article is an unmitigated disaster.

A Christmas Gift from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 2) also by Michael J. Kruger

Notice that Eichenwald offers no historical evidence about the mass killing of Christians by Christians within the first few centuries (we are talking about the pre-Constantine time period). And there is a reason he doesn’t offer any. There is none.

Sure, one can point to instances in the medieval period, such as the Inquisition, where Christians killed other Christians.  But, Eichenwald claims that Christianity began this way: “for hundreds of years after the death of Jesus.” This is another serious historical mistake that needs correcting.

——————————

Up to this point, Eichenwald’s article has been an epitomized by imbalanced and straw-man accusations against the Bible. Unfortunately, in the section on homosexuality Eichenwald reaches a new low. At no point is it more obvious that he is driven by his own entrenched ideological commitments and not by an honest attempt to understand what evangelicals believe.

——————————

By way of conclusion, it is hard to know what to say about an article like Eichenwald’s. In many ways, it embodies all the misrepresentations, caricatures, and misunderstandings of the average non-Christian in the world today.

Some other critiques:

Daniel B. Wallace — Predictable Christmas fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible — “Eichenwald’s grasp of conservative Christianity in America as well as his grasp of genuine biblical scholarship are, at best, subpar. And this article is an embarrassment to Newsweek—or should be!”

Justin Taylor — The many sins of Newsweek’s expose on the Bible  —

Eichenwald seeks to demonstrate that the Bible is “loaded with contradictions and translation errors and wasn’t written by witnesses and includes words added by unknown scribes to inject Church orthodoxy.” Eichenwald insists his article is not an attack on the Bible or Christianity. Rather, Eichenwald wants to rescue the message of Jesus from “God’s frauds,” those manipulative fundamentalists who don’t read or understand their Bibles but abusively twist it in order to create misery for others.

Even with a generous 8,487 words, Eichenwald reveals he is out of his depth for this subject matter. Though he doggedly advances his predetermined thesis from a mishmash of angles, experts quickly showed online that Eichenwald has not really done his historical homework or read his Bible carefully.

Albert Mohler  — Newsweek on the Bible — So Misrepresented It’s a Sin

When written by journalists like Newsweek‘s former editor Jon Meacham or TIME reporters such as David Van Biema, the articles were often balanced and genuinely insightful. Meacham and Van Biema knew the difference between theological liberals and theological conservatives and they were determined to let both sides speak. I was interviewed several times by both writers, along with others from both magazines. I may not have liked the final version of the article in some cases, but I was treated fairly and with journalistic integrity.

So, when Newsweek, now back in print under new ownership, let loose its first issue of the New Year on the Bible, I held out the hope that the article would be fair, journalistically credible, and interesting, even if written from a more liberal perspective.

But Newsweek‘s cover story is nothing of the sort. It is an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective leveled against the Bible and, even more to the point, against evangelical Christianity. It is one of the most irresponsible articles ever to appear in a journalistic guise.

My advice to Christians — Do not be thrown off by attacks against your faith, even if they seem to be scholarly.

My advice to non-Christians — Don’t read anti-Christian diatribes such as the Newsweek article and think you can dismiss Christianity.

Grace and Peace

=============================

Notes:

The Internet Monk quote says that Eichenwald is an atheist. I’m not sure that Eichenwald considers himself to be an atheist. [In a comment on Kruger’s second blog article, Eichenwald calls himself a “red letter Christian.”]

I am trying hard to avoid labels. Please note that I feel comfortable saying that I feel certain ideas are “loony,” but am not calling people who hold to those ideas “loonies.”

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , | 2 Comments

Reading the Bible in 2015

(This is a re-posting from 12/31/2013)

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:4 ESV

It is through the Scriptures that we can know God, Christ, ourselves, and how to live in regards to God and our neighbor. I cannot think of any greater thing in life than to know the Creator of the universe and Redeemer of my life.

Many make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution. Often what happens is that one starts reading in Genesis, and things go well for a while. A month or two later they hit the latter part of Exodus, and perhaps they make it into Leviticus. Though there is a lot of good material in this section of Scripture, I confess that my eyes can glaze over as I go through chapter after chapter of “He also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.” (Ex 37:10 ESV).

If Bible reading is new to you, I would recommend starting with the life of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament Gospels. These four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—each present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but with different emphases and styles. The Gospel of John would be a good place to start. Move on from the gospels to the rest of the New Testament. I would recommend Romans as a good place to start after reading the life of Christ in the Gospels.

I read in the Bible every day, and could probably count on my fingers and toes the number of days I have missed in the past thirty plus years. I would like to pass on to you some attitudes and tools that have helped me to do this.

  1. I set realistic reading goals. Though I read the Bible regularly, I have never read the entire Bible in a year. My general goal is to read the New Testament every year and the Old Testament once every two years. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament, so reading a chapter per day (a five to ten minute investment of one’s time) will easily get one through that portion of Scripture in a year. There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament, so I have to average a bit more than a chapter a day to meet my objective of getting through the OT every two years.
  2. Many have been helped by using a one-year Bible reading plan. Here’s a plan that will get you through the entire New Testament in a year. There are many other day-by-day reading plans out there, such as the Discipleship Journal one-year reading plan, or many others listed by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition. Or if you want a challenge, you can try Glenn Brooke’s Read the Bible in 30 Days.
  3. I usually use a Bible reading checklist to track progress toward my goals. One advantage of a checklist over a calendar-based plan is flexibility. I can speed up my reading or slow down. Another advantage of a checklist is that if one misses a few days, they don’t need to feel overwhelmed because they are behind schedule. One can pick up where they left off without feeling any pressure to catch up.
  4. After doing my reading for the day (which I usually do in the evening), I try to go back and meditate and pray about something that stood out to me.
  5. I take notes on my reading. The way I do it is by writing in the margins of my wide-margin Bible. Others keep a journal.

These things have worked for me. We are all wired differently, but I think that, with modification, there should be some ideas here that will be helpful to most followers of Christ.

As important as Bible reading is to me, I realize that it is much more important that the Word be in me than that I be in the Word. One can read the Bible every day and learn lots of facts and end up being a self-righteous hypocrite. So my prayer is that you and I would be transformed by prayerful, humble, meditative reading of the Scriptures. May you know Christ and his salvation better through the intake of his Word.

Grace and Peace

——————————————————————————————————-

Here are a couple of Bible reading tools I have created — a Bible reading checklist, and a reading plan for going through the New Testament in a year.

1. The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off the chapters as I read them.

biblechecklist.jpg

Bible_Reading_Checklist

This system gives me greater flexibility than a day-by-day schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. Two advantages of using this system over a schedule is that I can vary my pace, and don’t get frustrated if I get behind the schedule.

The checklist has two pages; I like to print it on two sides on heavy paper, fold it, and stick it in my Bible.

2. Read the New Testament in a year bookmark

NT_bookmark

NT_bookmark

This can be printed two-sided (I print mine on card stock) and inserted in your Bible.

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Christianity | , , | Leave a comment

Reading the Bible in 2014

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:4 ESV

It is through the Scriptures that we can know God, Christ, ourselves, and how to live in regards to God and our neighbor. I cannot think of any greater thing in life than to know the Creator of the universe and Redeemer of my life.

Many make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution. Often what happens is that one starts reading in Genesis, and things go well for a while. A month or two later they hit the latter part of Exodus, and perhaps they make it into Leviticus. Though there is a lot of good material in this section of Scripture, I confess that my eyes can glaze over as I go through chapter after chapter of “He also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.” (Ex 37:10 ESV).

If Bible reading is new to you, I would recommend starting with the life of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament Gospels. These four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—each present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but with different emphases and styles. The Gospel of John would be a good place to start. Move on from the gospels to the rest of the New Testament. I would recommend Romans as a good place to start after reading the life of Christ in the Gospels.

I read in the Bible every day, and could probably count on my fingers and toes the number of days I have missed in the past thirty plus years. I would like to pass on to you some attitudes and tools that have helped me to do this.

  1. I set realistic reading goals. Though I read the Bible regularly, I have never read the entire Bible in a year. My general goal is to read the New Testament every year and the Old Testament once every two years. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament, so reading a chapter per day (a five to ten minute investment of one’s time) will easily get one through that portion of Scripture in a year. There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament, so I have to average a bit more than a chapter a day to meet my objective of getting through the OT every two years.
  2. Many have been helped by using a one-year Bible reading plan. Here’s a plan that will get you through the entire New Testament in a year. There are many other day-by-day reading plans out there, such as the Discipleship Journal one-year reading plan, or many others listed by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition.
  3. I usually use a Bible reading checklist to track progress toward my goals. One advantage of a checklist over a calendar-based plan is flexibility. I can speed up my reading or slow down. Another advantage of a checklist is that if one misses a few days, they don’t need to feel overwhelmed because they are behind schedule. One can pick up where they left off without feeling any pressure to catch up.
  4. After doing my reading for the day (which I usually do in the evening), I try to go back and meditate and pray about something that stood out to me.
  5. I take notes on my reading. The way I do it is by writing in the margins of my wide-margin Bible. Others keep a journal.

These things have worked for me. We are all wired differently, but I think that, with modification, there should be some ideas here that will be helpful to most followers of Christ.

As important as Bible reading is to me, I realize that it is much more important that the Word be in me than that I be in the Word. One can read the Bible every day and learn lots of facts and end up being a self-righteous hypocrite. So my prayer is that you and I would be transformed by prayerful, humble, meditative reading of the Scriptures. May you know Christ and his salvation better through the intake of his Word.

Grace and Peace

——————————————————————————————————-

Here are a couple of Bible reading tools I have created — a Bible reading checklist, and a reading plan for going through the New Testament in a year.

1. The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off the chapters as I read them.

biblechecklist.jpg

Bible_Reading_Checklist

This system gives me greater flexibility than a day-by-day schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. Two advantages of using this system over a schedule is that I can vary my pace, and don’t get frustrated if I get behind the schedule.

The checklist has two pages; I like to print it on two sides on heavy paper, fold it, and stick it in my Bible.

2. Read the New Testament in a year bookmark

NT_bookmark

NT_bookmark

This can be printed two-sided (I print mine on card stock) and inserted in your Bible.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Christianity | , , , , | Leave a comment

Days, nights, Jonah, and Jesus

I recently had a GeoChristian reader raise the issue of “Bible inconsistencies and errors” in a comment. Specifically, they brought up the reference in the Gospel of Matthew to “Jesus being in the tomb for ‘three’ nights.” If Jesus was crucified on Friday and resurrected on Sunday, isn’t it an error to say that he was in the tomb for three nights?

My basic approach to “Bible contradictions” can be found in my article Dealing with an apparent Bible contradiction, in which I shared my story of how I had to work through an apparent discrepancy between the accounts of the calling of the disciples in Matthew and John. This caused a brief crisis in my faith, but quickly led to a strengthening of my confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the Scriptures. I am now at a point where, though I cannot give an explanation for every difficult passage in the Bible, I have had enough answers that I no longer struggle just because I don’t understand something.

Let’s take a look at the “contradiction” in question this time. In Matthew 12:39-41, Jesus stated,

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (ESV)

Was Jesus literally in the tomb for “three days and three nights?” The answer seems to be “no.” Christians traditionally hold that Christ was crucified on a Friday afternoon (Good Friday) and rose from the dead early on Sunday (Easter). There was part of one day (Friday afternoon), a night (what we would call Friday night), a full day (Saturday), and part of a night (what we would call Saturday night). Then Jesus rose from the dead. There was only one full day and almost two full nights. It doesn’t matter whether one counts days using the Jewish or Roman systems; it doesn’t add up to a literal “three days and three nights.”

So is this an error in the Bible?

The first part of my answer has to do with the competence of the writer of the first Gospel, traditionally (and justifiably) regarded as the apostle Matthew. Basically, one can only read this passage as a contradiction by assuming that Matthew was somewhat of an idiot. Either he was a competent writer who could follow the relationships between what he wrote in chapter 12, and what he recorded later about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 26-28); or he was a sloppy writer who couldn’t keep his story straight. Given the quality of the writing in Matthew, one should assume that if there were a contradiction, the author would have caught it. If Matthew and the early Christian writers didn’t see a problem, we should not either.

The second part of my answer has to do with differences in culture and language. Knowing that Matthew was a competent story-teller, one can look for better solutions, rather than concluding that his Gospel contains an error. One scenario that has been suggested is that Jesus was not crucified on Friday, but perhaps on Wednesday. This would account for three full days, but then there would be four nights, so it doesn’t really work. Plus, it doesn’t explain how Friday came to be regarded as “Good.”

A more reasonable answer is that “three days and three nights” was a figure of speech that meant “three days, counting the first and last.” Good Friday was the first of these three days, then came Saturday, and Easter Sunday the third. It is a very plausible solution to the “problem.” We don’t have any first century Aramaic-English phrasebooks laying around, but there is external evidence that the Jews of that time used the phrase “three days and three nights” in this way, so I am quite satisfied with this solution.

If this is correct, it is an example of where we cannot read our culture into someone else’s culture. A modern example of this is how to answer the question, “How old are you?” My answer to the question would be, “I am 52.” But in some eastern Asian countries, a person born on the exact same day as me would truthfully answer, “I am 53.” Why? Because they count the day a person is born as their first birthday, whereas in Western societies we consider a person’s first birthday to be one year after they were born. Different cultures have different ways of counting things. We should not find it surprising that two thousand years ago the Jews used the phrase “three days and three nights” differently than we do.

There are plenty of skeptics who will tell you that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. For most of these it can fairly easily be shown—as in this case—that it is the skeptics who are in error, not the Scriptures. Even those “contradictions” that are more of a challenge should not cause us to disregard the Bible as God’s Word, as the difficulties are likely due more to our ignorance than anything else.

Grace and Peace

————————————————————
Notes:

The ESV Study Bible notes for Matthew 12:40 state,

“Three days and three nights in Jewish reckoning is inclusive, meaning no more than three days or the combination of any part of three separate days. Jesus was raise “in three days” although he was buried Friday afternoon and resurrected Sunday morning (i.e., part of Friday is day one, all of Saturday is day two, and part of Sunday is day three).”

John MacArthur writes,

“The matter of three days and three night is often used either to prove Jesus was mistaken about the time He would actually spend in the tomb or that He could not have been crucified on Friday afternoon and raised early on Sunday, the first day of the week. But as in modern usage, the phrase “day and night” can mean not only a full 24-hour day but any representative part of a day. To spend a day, or a day and night, visiting in a neighboring city does not require spending 24 hours there. It could refer to arriving in the late morning and leaving a few hours after dark. In the same way, Jesus’ use of three days and three nights does not have to be interpreted as 72 hours, three full 24-hour days. The Jewish Talmud held that “any part of a day is as the whole.” Jesus was simply using a common, well-understood generalization.” — The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 8-15, p. 329.

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , , | 4 Comments

Around the web — 3/31/2013

Hristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

The empty tomb — Here are 14 Evidences for the Resurrection. This is a central teaching of Christianity. Put all other issues aside for a while—questions about evolution, biblical inerrancy, gay rights, or whatever else keeps you from Christ—and give some thought to the most significant person in all of history: the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The result is a very strong case that Jesus (a) died, (b) was buried, (c) rose from the dead, and (d) appeared alive to a variety of persons.

Wasps spoil YEC picnic — Naturalis Historia describes wasp cocoons found in dinosaur egg fossils.

Young earth creationists paint a picture of half-crazed dinosaurs running around to escape the next giant wave washing new layers of sediments over the world and laying nests in barren sand layers and then running off to try to find higher ground. What we find in this nest contradicts everything about this explanation. Here we find that a well-organized preserved nest in which one of the broken eggs has these cocoons preserved in it.

The YECs might respond with their “They only look like wasp cocoons” tactic. That doesn’t help them; dinosaur nests simply do not fit into their flood geology model.

Richard Dawkins practices survival of the fittest — Dawkins is quite willing to tell the Arabic newschannel Al-Jazeera that the the God of the Old Testament is a hideous monster, but didn’t have anything bad to say about Allah in the Quran. Perhaps he hates Christianity worse than he hates Islam. Perhaps he wants to live a little longer. See In defense of Richard Dawkins.

Don’t worship the Bible — C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen has some good thoughts about Evangelicals, inerrancy, and the Bible — The Father, Son, and the Holy Bible.

Persecution of Christianity continues — Bible Burning Spreads to Another Former Soviet State. “The newest report on Kazakhstan suggests that a recent court order to ‘destroy’ 121 books (mostly Bibles) confiscated from a Baptist could be the first-ever religious book burning in the country.”

Persecution of Christianity questioned — CNN posted a story today — Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians? — that reported nothing new to anyone who has actually read church history. Official persecution of Christians by the Romans was sporadic, and most Christians in the Roman Empire never faced a real threat of martyrdom. But when the Romans did move into action against Christians (e.g. Nero), they could be quite brutal. Like today, however, there could be a lot of social pressure against becoming a Christian.

Landsat 8 — The Landsat Data Continuity Mission has released the first images taken by the satellite. It will be renamed Landsat 8 once it has completed all of its tests and calibrations. See First View from the New Landsat Satellite on the NASA Earth Observatory site.

landsat8

Grace and Peace

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Around the Web, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Around the web 1/12/2013

THOU SHALT COMMIT ADULTERY — Parchment & Pen Blog has Bible translation bloopers and typos throughout the ages. An example:

“Wife-Beaters’ Bible” (Matthew’s Bible, 1537):
A footnote to I Peter 3:7 is rendered “And if she be not obedient and healpeful unto him, endevoureth to beat the fear of God into her head, that thereby she may be compelled to learn her duty and do it.”

COMET OF THE CENTURY? — Coming to your night skies in November: 2013 comet may be brightest ever seen. But then again, I remember Comet Kohoutek in 1973. Or I should say, I remember lots of hype about Comet Kohoutek, but I don’t remember seeing anything. It was the mega-flop of the century.

WHITE HOUSE REFUSES TO BUILD A DEATH STARWhite House responds to Death Star petition: No.

And some accused the Bush administration of being anti-science.

THE TRUE CAUSE OF NOAH’S FLOOD??? — Here it is, from a pastor named Scott Lively: Wedding songs for homosexual marriages.

Here’s what the Bible says about God’s reason for sending the flood:

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” — Genesis 6:5-7 (NIV 1984)

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. — Genesis 6:11-13 (NIV 1984)

I guess Scott Lively thinks Genesis has it wrong. Genesis  singles out violence, but since he knows that homosexual behavior is worse than violence, God’s reason for the flood must be homosexual wedding songs, despite what Genesis actually says.

HT: Internet Monk Saturday Ramblings

Grace and Peace

January 13, 2013 Posted by | Around the Web, Young-Earth creationism | , , , | 1 Comment

Reading the Bible in 2013

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:4 ESV

It is through the Scriptures that we can know God, Christ, ourselves, and how to live in regards to God and our neighbor. I cannot think of any greater thing in life than to know the Creator of the universe and Redeemer of my life.

Many make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution. Here is what works for me. Rather than using a reading schedule, with a listing of what chapters to read each day, I use a Bible reading checklist:

The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off the chapters as I read them.

biblechecklist.jpg

Bible_Reading_Checklist

If Bible reading is new to you, I would recommend starting with the life of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament Gospels. These four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—each present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but with different emphases and styles. The Gospel of John would be a good place to start.

This system gives me greater flexibility than a day-by-day schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. This year I plan on reading the New Testament (much of it twice), the historical books of the Old Testament (Genesis through 2 Chronicles) and the poetical books (Job through Song of Solomon). Two advantages of using this system over a schedule is that I can vary my pace, and don’t get frustrated if I get behind the schedule.

I also intend to do some more intensive study and meditation in a few New Testament books.

The checklist has two pages; I like to print it on two sides on heavy paper, fold it, and stick it in my Bible.

Feel free to download and print this for yourself and pass it on to others:

The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

As important as Bible reading is to me, I realize that it is much more important that the Word be in me than that I be in the Word. One can read the Bible every day and learn lots of facts and end up being a self-righteous hypocrite. So my prayer is that you and I would be transformed by prayerful, humble, meditative reading of the Scriptures. May you know Christ and his salvation better through the intake of his Word.

Grace and Peace

——————————————————

P.S. Here are some good Bible reading schedules if you prefer that over using a checklist:

December 29, 2012 Posted by | Christianity | , , , , | Leave a comment

The authenticity of the New Testament text — strong and getting stronger

From Dallas Theological Seminary: Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered?

On 1 February 2012, I [Dr. Daniel Wallace] debated Bart Ehrman at UNC Chapel Hill on whether we have the wording of the original New Testament today. This was our third such debate, and it was before a crowd of more than 1000 people. I mentioned that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. These fragments will be published in about a year.

These fragments now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts. But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.

It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist. Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament.

———————

How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say? We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new reading has commended itself as authentic. Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading—but one that is already found in the manuscripts.

Most conservative Biblical scholars advocate that most of the New Testament (NT) was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that the NT was completed by roughly A.D. 90. If true—and there are no solid reasons to believe otherwise—then the entire NT was written and distributed widely within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. This is extremely significant, as it provides evidence that what we have in the NT is true to the original teachings of Christ and the apostles, and gives authentic witness to who Jesus was and the events of his life.

Liberal and non-Christian Biblical scholars have long advocated that there was a period of theological development and diversity between the life of Christ and when someone in the church started to write these things down. The discovery of earlier and earlier manuscripts of NT portions, however, is placing this entire framework under increasing stress. That we have NT fragments from the early second century, and perhaps even from the first century, does not leave time for the incorporation of myths surrounding the life of Christ. No doubt there were competing teachings about Christ (e.g. the incipient gnosticism countered by Paul’s epistle to the Colossians), but there was a body of eyewitnesses and the first generation of their followers who knew what to keep and what to weed out.

The evidence is increasingly on the side of those of us who hold to the NT as originating with the apostles who were eyewitnesses of the events described, or from their associates, such as Luke. If this is so, then no one has an excuse to believe that the four gospels do not paint an accurate picture of what the apostles believed about the life and teachings of Christ, and the significance of his death and resurrection.

Grace and Peace

February 12, 2012 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 2 Comments

Reading the Bible in 2012

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:4 ESV

I read the Bible every day. It is through the Scriptures that I know God, Christ, myself, and how to live in regards to God and my neighbor. I cannot think of any greater thing, except that in eternity I will know all of these much better than I do in this life.

Many make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution. Here is what works for me. Rather than using a reading schedule, with a listing of what chapters to read each day, I use a Bible reading checklist:

The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off each chapter as I read.

biblechecklist.jpg

This system gives me greater flexibility than a schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. This year I plan on reading the New Testament (probably twice), the wisdom and poetical books (Job through Song of Solomon) and the prophets (Isaiah through Malachi). Two advantages of this system over using a schedule is that I can vary my pace, and don’t get frustrated if I get behind in a reading schedule.

I also intend to do some more intensive study and meditation in a few New Testament books.

The checklist has two pages; I like to print it on two sides on heavy paper, fold it, and stick it in my Bible. The document is in “Landscape” orientation, but may print in “Portrait” orientation for you. You can change that in the “print setup.” Sorry, I’m not sure how to fix it on my end using Excel 2007.

Feel free to download and print this for yourself and pass it on to others:

The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

As important as Bible reading is to me, I realize that it is much more important that the Word be in me than that I be in the Word. One can read the Bible every day and learn lots of facts and end up being a self-righteous hypocrite. So my prayer is that I, and you, would be transformed by prayerful, humble, meditative reading of the Scriptures. May you know Christ and his salvation better through the intake of his Word.

Grace and Peace

——————————————————

P.S. Here are some good Bible reading schedules if you prefer that over using a checklist:

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Christianity | , , , , | 2 Comments

Job 28 — Mining for gold, mining for wisdom

From the 28th chapter of Job —

1 “There is a mine for silver
and a place where gold is refined.
2 Iron is taken from the earth,
and copper is smelted from ore.
3 Man puts an end to the darkness;
he searches the farthest recesses
for ore in the blackest darkness.
4 Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft,
in places forgotten by the foot of man;
far from men he dangles and sways.
5 The earth, from which food comes,
is transformed below as by fire;
6 sapphires[a] come from its rocks,
and its dust contains nuggets of gold.
7 No bird of prey knows that hidden path,
no falcon’s eye has seen it.
8 Proud beasts do not set foot on it,
and no lion prowls there.
9 Man’s hand assaults the flinty rock
and lays bare the roots of the mountains.
10 He tunnels through the rock;
his eyes see all its treasures.
11 He searches[b] the sources of the rivers
and brings hidden things to light.

12 “But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
13 Man does not comprehend its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed in silver.
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,
with precious onyx or sapphires.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,
nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;
the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;
it cannot be bought with pure gold.

20 “Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds of the air.
22 Destruction[c] and Death say,
‘Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.’
23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
28 And he said to man,
‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.’”

Footnotes:
[a] Job 28:6 Or lapis lazuli; also in verse 16
[b] Job 28:11 Septuagint, Aquila and Vulgate; Hebrew He dams up
[c] Job 28:22 Hebrew Abaddon

New International Version 1984

October 30, 2011 Posted by | Archeology, Christianity, Geology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reading the Bible in 2011

Many make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution.

Here’s what works for me. Rather than using a reading schedule, with a daily listing of what chapters to read, I usually use a Bible reading checklist:

The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off each chapter as I read.

biblechecklist.jpg

This system gives me greater flexibility than a schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. This year I plan on reading the New Testament (probably twice), as well as reading the middle to late historical books (Judges through Esther) and the prophets (Isaiah through Malachi). Two advantages of this system over using a schedule is that I can vary my pace, and don’t get frustrated if I get behind in a reading schedule.

The checklist has two pages; I like to print it on two sides on heavy paper, fold it, and stick it in my Bible. The document is in “Landscape” orientation, but may print in “Portrait” orientation for you. You can change that in the “print setup.” Sorry, I’m not sure how to fix it on my end using Excel 2007.

Feel free to download and print this for yourself and pass it on to others:

The GeoChristian Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file

My hope and prayer is to encourage you to be in the Word in 2011, and that you would know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ better because of it.

Grace and Peace

——————————————————

P.S. Here are some good Bible reading schedules if you prefer that over using a checklist:

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Christianity | , , , | Leave a comment

“Apologetics Study Bible for Students” on the age of the Earth

I recently paged through the Apologetics Study Bible for Students from the Southern Baptist B&H Publishing Group, and was pleased to see a balanced approach to the questions of the age of the Earth, the extent of the flood, and even somewhat on the role of biological evolution.

Here’s the section on the age of the Earth:

How Old is the Earth?

Chris Sherrod

There are two main views among Christians. Old earth creationists (OEC), also known as progressive creationists, believe God created the universe and all life forms in stages separated by long periods of time. They believe the geologic record accurately portrays a very long earth history. Young earth creationists (YEC) believe the universe and all life forms were created in six successive 24-hour days, meaning earth is only thousands of years old. Major arguments for each view include the following:

OEC

  • Speed of light measurements and the distance of stars indicate an ancient universe.
  • The Hebrew word yom (day) does not always mean a literal day (e.g., Gn 2:4).
  • Genesis 1:12 says the land produced vegetation on Day Three, indicating growth from seed to maturity. That takes longer than 24 hours.
  • There is too much activity on Day 6 to fit in 24 hours (see Gn 1:24-31; 2:15-25).
  • Many animals are specifically designed to prey upon other animals. This indicates that by God’s design, animal death preceded the fall of Adam and Eve.
  • The sun was created on Day 4; thus Days 1-3 could not have been 24-hour solar days.
  • The testimony of nature powerfully indicates an ancient creation.

YEC

  • The usual meaning of yom is a literal 24-hour day.
  • “Evening came, and then morning,” seems to indicate a literal day (Gn 1:5, etc.).
  • Sabbath rest (Ex 20:11) seems to imply six literal days of work during Creation week.
  • The sun was not created until Day 4, but there was life on Day 3 (Gn 1:11-13). Life cannot exist for long periods without sunlight, and so the days were not long ages.
  • Plants were created on Day 3 and animals on Day 5. The interdependence between plants and animals implies that their creation was not separated by long ages.
  • If death is an enemy (1Co 15:54), was God’s original paradise free from killing, or was it filled with violence, decay, and death? Man was not permitted to eat animals until after the Flood (Gn 9:2-3).
  • If decay and death were originally part of creation, why is creation looking forward to liberation from bondage to decay (Rm 8:20-22)?

Despite these differences, Christians in both groups are committed to God’s supernatural creation of all things. Similarly, both are committed to the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Also, it is important to note that even if earth is many millions of years old, this still is not enough time for life to arise naturally and then evolve into the complex species we have today.

Though Christians sometimes passionately disagree about the age of earth, we should not break fellowship about issues of peripheral importance (Rm 14:1). Both parties can work together, support common ground (such as Intelligent Design), and work “side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Php 1:27). We can have friendly “in-house” debates, graciously discussing our viewpoints in a spirit of love while standing united against the world’s deceitful philosophies (Col 2:8).

I think the author could have made a stronger Biblical case for the possibility of an old Earth, but it wasn’t bad for a very brief introduction. Also, there are other old-Earth options than progressive creationism, but I suppose the author had to keep it to one page.

The approach taken here is excellent for teaching the topic of origins to students. I believe that the typical if-the-Earth-isn’t-6000-years-old-the-Bible-ain’t-true approach of many in the church sets up our students for a fall. When they figure out that the young-Earth creationist interpretation has all sorts of problems, they often throw out their Christianity along with their young-Earth views.

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students allows for the possibility of a local flood rather than a world-wide deluge. On the question of evolution, young-Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, intelligent design, and theistic evolution are presented as four ways in which Christians have responded to the question of biological evolution.

“It is important to emphasize that each of these four views confronts Naturalism and holds that God is the maker of all: ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good’ (Gn 1:31). Ultimately, the merits of each view depend on how faithfully they’ve handled the testimonies in Scripture and nature.”

From what I saw, I would certainly recommend the Apologetics Study Bible for Students as a gift for a teenager or young adult you know.

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation.

Grace and Peace

September 4, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 1 Comment

Reading the Bible in 2010

It is not too late to make a Bible-reading goal for 2010! Many make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution.

Here’s what works for me.

Rather than using a reading schedule, with a daily listing of what chapters to read, I usually use a Bible reading checklist:

Kevin’s Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file (44 kb)

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible with their chapters. I mark off each chapter as I read.

biblechecklist.jpg

This system gives me greater flexibility than a schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals. This year I plan on reading the New Testament (probably twice), as well as reading the Old Testament historical and wisdom books (Genesis through Song of Solomon). One advantage of this system over using a schedule is that I can vary my pace.

biblechecklist2

Feel free to download and print this for yourself and pass it on to others:

Kevin’s Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file (44 kb)

My hope and prayer is to encourage you to be in the Word in 2010, and that you would know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ better because of it.

Grace and Peace

——————————————————

P.S. If you are really hungry for the Word, you can try Glenn Brooke’s Read the Bible in 30 Days.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Christianity | , , | 3 Comments

The Conservative Bible?

Further wackiness from Conservapedia (the conservative alternative to Wikipedia): The Conservative Bible.

This Bible will get rid of liberal bias in Bible translations, such as the inclusion of that liberal “woman caught in adultery” passage in John 8.

Some further objectives:

  • express free market parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  • identify pro-liberal terms used in existing Bible translations, such as “government”, and suggest more accurate substitutes
  • identify the omission of liberal terms for vices, such as “gambling”, and identify where they should be used
  • identify conservative terms that are omitted from existing translations, and propose where they could improve the translation
  • identify terms that have lost their original meaning, such as “word” in the beginning of the Gospel of John, and suggest replacements, such as “truth”
  • preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio

Was the Bible written to defend “free market principles?” Is government a liberal concept? I thought God instituted government (Rom 13). Is the objective of good Bible translation to have “conservative” terms? Is there any good rationale for changing “In the beginning was the Word” with “In the beginning was the Truth?” (John 1:1)?

This Bible will be an update of the King James Version. The translation will be done by the leading, um… the site doesn’t say. Which Greek and Hebrew scholars are going to be doing this? Or will it be leading “conservative” scholars? And will being politically conservative be more important than Biblically knowledgeable?

Here’s some great perspectives from the blogosphere:

Right wing dementia marches on apace. Some of this has a grain of sense to it, as ideological madness always does. For instance, the dumb attempts to feminize Scripture are pernicious and need to stop. But seriously: the story of the woman taken in adultery is “liberal”? Free market as Sacred tradition? Liberal wordiness? — Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It.

————————————–

You really need to read the whole Conservapedia entry to grasp how crazy this is. It’s like what you’d get if you crossed the Jesus Seminar with the College Republican chapter at a rural institution of Bible learnin’. — Rod Dreher, Crunchy Con.

I laughed really hard at Dreher’s comment.

Let the Bible say what it says. It is just as wrong to translate the Bible with a politically conservative agenda as it is to do so with a politically liberal agenda.

Wow.

HT: World Magazine

Grace and Peace

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | , | 8 Comments

Dealing with an apparent Bible contradiction

“You cannot believe the Bible because it is full of contradictions.”

I’ve heard this stated many times; you have probably heard it as well. You may be one who uses “Bible contradictions” as one of the reasons for rejecting Christianity, or you may be a Christian who struggles because there are things in the Bible that seem to be inconsistent.

There are various kinds of “Bible contradictions.”

  • Internal factual — What were the names of the twelve apostles? How many angels were at the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead?
  • External factual — Was Belshazzar the son of Nebuchadnezzar? How could Quirinius have been governor of Syria when Jesus was born?
  • Doctrinal — Is there a doctrinal contradiction between Paul (save by faith) and James (saved by works)?
  • Ethical — Was it right for David and his men to eat bread consecrated to the Lord? What about the conquest of the promised land under Joshua?

Many of these are easy to deal with and have obvious answers. Most of the rest have plausible answers as well. There are a few that I really don’t know the answer to, but that does not mean there is no answer. These sorts of things really don’t bother me much any more.

THE CALLING OF THE DISCIPLES

Here is my story of how a “Bible contradiction” challenged my faith, and how I came through that experience with a much greater confidence in the Bible as the reliable and trustworthy Word of God.

I came to a full understanding of  the Gospel (good news) through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ when I was an undergraduate student. The basic message that I came to embrace was that humans have broken their relationship with God throught their sin, that Christ (fully God and fully man) died on the cross as our substitute, and that by faith in Christ we take on his righteousness. Campus Crusade placed a strong emphasis on the truthfulness—or inerrancy—of the Scriptures. Shortly after this, I started attending an independent, fundamentalist Bible church, in which the inerrancy of Scriptures was a central doctrine.

A year or two later I was at home in the church I grew up in; this was probably in about 1982 or 1983. It is not that the gospel was never preached there; it was embedded in the liturgy and I know the senior pastor at this time believed this good news with all his heart. If I did not understand the Gospel before, it was because of the hardness of my own heart, not because it was not proclaimed.

On this particular Sunday, however, the younger associate pastor was preaching. The topic was “The calling of the disciples,” and the pastor compared the account in John with that in Matthew. In John 1, Peter, Andrew, and others were introduced to Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist, who was baptizing people along the Jordan River:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:35-42, ESV)

In Matthew 4, the calling of the disciples occurred on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where Peter, Andrew, John, and James were working as fishermen, with no mention of the ministry of John the Baptist:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22, ESV).

The pastor read these passages, and then commented, “These two passages contradict each other; we don’t know which of them gives the true story.” I don’t remember the rest of the sermon, but I was devastated. After church, I went into my bedroom, closed the door, and wept. The Bible was the foundation of my Christian faith, but what kind of foundation would there be if I didn’t know whether or not what I read was true? I agonized in prayer, read the passages again, and prayed more earnestly.

As I read the passages more closely, I noticed something important. This was not an either-or situation. The liberal pastor (by “liberal” I mean theologically liberal) presented it as a contradiction: that either Matthew gave the true story or John (or I suppose “none of the above” would have been an option to him as well). But there was another possibility that the pastor hadn’t seen: why couldn’t both passages be true? Why couldn’t these be two separate events?

As I read the texts more closely, it became more apparent that I had found a very natural solution to this apparent contradiction. What happened was that the disciples were first introduced to Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist. John said, “Look, the Lamb of God,” and Peter and his friends went and spent some time with Jesus. Nowhere in John does it say that the disciples left everything at this point to follow Christ. Some time later these men were back in Galilee working as fishermen. Jesus walked up and said, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At this point they left their homes and work and followed Christ. There is absolutely nothing in the passages that causes any problem with this interpretation.

At this revelation, my anguish was replaced with joyful exuberation. My faith had been challenged, and by God’s grace my faith had been strengthened.

That evening, I was back in my college town, and went to the Sunday evening service at my church there (Grace Bible Church, Bozeman, Montana). The message from the pastor that evening was on the topic of the calling of the disciples! The pastor addressed the same “contradiction” and presented the same conclusion that I had come up with through tears and prayer. This was a mighty confirmation to me that I hadn’t just made this all up, that the Bible was reliable, and that my faith rested on a solid foundation.

CONCLUSION — HOW I DEAL WITH “CONTRADICTIONS”

This experience greatly strengthened my confidence in the trustworthiness and accuracy of the text of the Bible. There have been other challenging passages, but I have been able to work through most of them. Most of these have come through my daily reading of Scriptures rather than from being confronted with contradictions from skeptics.

Now when I am faced with what appears to be a contradiction in the Bible, I approach the problem with the following principles in mind:

  • My starting assumption is that I assume the Bible is right. This is not because I have a blind faith, but because my experience has been that once I understand the text, culture, and historical context, the Bible turns out to be accurate.
  • Another principle is to assume that the authors of the Bible knew their world, with its culture and history. Skeptics often assume that the authors of the Bible were idiots. They weren’t. I have to assume, for example, that when John wrote about the calling of the disciples, he not only remembered his experiences, but he was also aware of what had already been recorded about this event in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which were written before John wrote his gospel. When John wrote about the disciples meeting Jesus through John the Baptist, we have to assume that he was also aware of the calling of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, because he was there!
  • We don’t know everything. For example, skeptics have charged that the lengths of reigns of the kings of Judah in the Old Testament make no sense. This went unanswered for quite some time. It has been shown, however, that the numbers make perfect sense once one considers that sons often served as co-regents with their fathers, so there was often considerable overlap in their listed reigns. The concept of co-regency was common in the ancient Near East, and there are precedents for counting years in reigns simultaneously. It is likely that a number of remaining difficulties in Old Testament chronology and archeology fall into this “we don’t know everything” category.
  • We cannot force our cultural concept of what is acceptable in narrative literature to match that of Biblical cultures. For example, there are a number of places in the Old Testament where stories are arranged in a non-chronological order. If you try to read Jeremiah, for example, expecting a chronological story of Jeremiah’s life and teaching, you will be hopelessly confused. The book of Jeremiah is arranged topically, with chronology being a secondary consideration. Likewise, none of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is chronological, as far as we know. This is a source of many apparent contradictions that are not contradictions at all. Did Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry (John 2) or in his final week (Mark 11) (or did he do it twice?). Biblical writers felt free to rearrange events to make certain points. There was nothing dishonest about this, and only our own cultural biases would cause one to call this a contradiction.
  • Differences in wording are not contradictions. Did Jesus say, “Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6) or did he say “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt 5)? Either he said both on different occasions, or the writer paraphrased a bit.
  • Parallel passages are often written in different literary genres. Genesis 1 and 2 are not in the least bit contradictory. Either one of these or both of them are non-chronological, but that does not make them contradictory. A similar example would be Judges 4 and 5, which records the victory of Deborah. Chapter 4 records a narrative of this event, and chapter 5 records the battle in poetic form. One could find all sorts of apparent contradictions between the two chapters, but there are no real contradictions. Poetry is poetry, and narrative is narrative.

These are a few things that help me as I wrestle with the issues of apparent contradictions in the Bible. With application of these principles, most apparent contradictions are easily taken care of. None of the remaining issues are unsolvable.

CONCLUSION #2 — THE ELCA

ELCA_steeple2

As the ELCA was voting on its unbiblical agenda, a tornado knocked the cross off of the steeple of the ELCA church next door to the convention center where they were meeting. ELCA may now stand for Every Liberal Crazy Agenda. "E" cannot be for Evangelical, nor can "L" be for Lutheran.

The sermon by the liberal pastor which pointed out the “contradiction” between John 1 and Matthew 4 was one of the most influential sermons I have heard in my life, though not in a way that the pastor intended. This sermon was preached in a church that was part of the American Lutheran Church (ALC), which was one of the denominations that merged to form today’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). The ALC officially stated belief in Biblical inerrancy, but that was widely ignored. The present apostasy of much of the ELCA—the recent homosexual ordination vote is just one expression of this—had its roots in abandoning Biblical authority decades ago.

This saddens me deeply. First, it saddens me because I grew up in the ALC/ELCA and see that much that was good has been lost. I would love to see the ELCA return to its Biblical Lutheran roots. Second, it saddens me because as an Evangelical, an important part of my heritage includes Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. In fact, unlike most in my denomination, I identify more closely with Luther than with Calvin.

A Lutheran’s perspective on the ELCA’s slide away from Biblical Christianity: How the ELCA Left the Great Tradition for Liberal Protestantism (from Christianity Today). This article points out how the liberals built certain things into the ELCA at its inception, such as a quota system for voting delegates,  that would ensure the triumph of their un-Biblical agenda.

Grace and Peace

September 5, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 48 Comments

Bible reading in 2009

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 ESV)

They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11 ESV)

New Years Day is coming in two weeks, and many make a resolution to read in the Bible more consistently than they have in the past, and many don’t stick to that resolution.

Here’s what works for me.

Rather than using a reading schedule, with a daily listing of what chapters to read, I usually use a Bible reading checklist:

Kevin’s Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file (44 kb)

It has all sixty-six books of the Bible, with their chapters, and I put a slash through the numbers as I read.

biblechecklist.jpg

This gives me greater flexibility than a schedule does, yet still helps me to reach my reading goals, which include making sure I read the entire New Testament every year. In 2008, I focused my Old Testament reading on the later historical books, such as 1 & 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; as well as the wisdom literature: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. In 2009, I plan to focus on the prophets and then go back to Genesis. One advantage of this system over using a schedule is that I can vary my pace.

biblechecklist2

Feel free to download and print this for yourself and pass it on to others:

Kevin’s Bible Reading Checklist – PDF file (44 kb)

My hope and prayer is to encourage you to be in the Word in 2009, and that you would know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ better because of it.

Grace and Peace

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P.S. Here are some reading schedules for those who are more inclined that way:

ESV Bible Reading Plans — several different ways to get through the Bible or just the New Testament in a year.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading schedule — twice through the NT & Psalms, once through the OT

More reading schedules

December 17, 2008 Posted by | Christianity | , , | Leave a comment