The Age of the Earth and the Age of the Argument

My friend Paul is hilarious.

He is the guy that can post a random status and instantly get close to 100 likes in the first hour. He is no celebrity, so in my eyes that is mighty impressive. He is the social butterfly with the charisma to attract a room. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love him. One of my favorite things that Paul does (and I promise I haven’t gotten sick of it yet) is when he says that everything is based on a true story. Last week a few of us were talking about going to see the opening show for Guardians of the Galaxy, and then Paul chimes in: “I hear that’s based on a true story.”

The joke is funny, because everyone knows the movie with talking raccoons, personified plants, and outer space awesomeness is anything but non-fiction. Everyone who hears the joke knows this, because they have a firm grasp not only of reality but also of movie genres. One can look at a movie preview and get a feel of where it is at in the spectrum of real and wonder. And even more so than that, people can even watch movies based on true stories and see where there is added drama to make the movie more entertaining – otherwise it would be a documentary. Understanding this doesn’t take away from the historicity of the event. Understanding this is to understand the purpose of the product – whether it is to inform, persuade, or entertain the viewer.

I think this is where the controversy lies with Michael Gungor and the comments he made about his view of the “literal” interpretation of the Old Testament – specifically in reference to Creation and a historical Adam and Eve. Many people read the bible as though it were meant to be historic by our standards, as though the earth can be dated through genealogies, and as though the text was INTENDED to be scientific. The people who hold these opinions strongly and don’t understand why others might think differently do so because they either don’t understand biblical genres or the purpose of biblical texts. I’m not saying that all people who claim to believe in a young earth do so out of ignorance. What I’m saying is that they are being ignorant if they think there isn’t a rational reason to think otherwise.

In Gungor’s response to the recent criticism, he even makes reference that at least some of the biblical authors believed the earth was flat and stood on pillars. Not every passage in the Bible is intended to be taken literally. Many prophecies and psalms and texts use imagery to convey truths in a way that is more engaging. Using anthropomorphic language to describe the attributes of God doesn’t mean that God actually has a physical form, but it is relating God to man in a way that he understands. Does this take away from the legitimacy of the text? No. Does this mean the text isn’t inspired? Not at all. What it does mean is that God’s intention wasn’t to be scientific, and then, like now, God speaks to people in ways that they understand. I don’t understand why Gungor is getting all this heat for telling people they shouldn’t be so quick to judge others. And I commend him for coming out and saying what he believed. I’m sure he knew there would be some backlash. He, like many silent evangelicals, knows that there is a price to sticking by your convictions – especially if you’re in the minority.

Being in the minority and standing by convictions never stopped others from holding the same beliefs that Gungor holds. St. Augustine of Hippo seemed in the middle in terms of the age of the earth. At least to him it wasn’t something that deemed someone a heretic. And there are other early church fathers who hold the same beliefs. There are even more credible people in recent years that hold to a similar belief as Gungor – one being CS Lewis. Lewis was very skeptical of the historicity of the Old Testament and believed that the Creation story wasn’t intended to be taken literally. He even ventured to say that other Old Testament passages such as Job, Esther, and possibly even Jonah were mythologies and stories of fiction. We don’t burn Lewis’ books. We don’t call him a heretic. Because Lewis was a writer, he looked at the Bible as literature and knew that different stories from different time periods of different genres were meant to be read different ways. And most importantly, Lewis’ view of the Old Testament didn’t affect his view of the New Testament. He believed that the Gospels were inspired, and he believed in the resurrection.

Even my own denomination, the Assemblies of God, doesn’t hold to a literal 6-Day young earth interpretation of the Creation account. I’m glad my denomination understands that this isn’t a hill to die on. Even in the past several years, the A/G has invited its members to conferences surrounding “faith and science.” The Assemblies used to hold firmly to a literal 6-Day Creation, but now they just have three truths they hold on to: 1) God is the Creator, 2) He created the universe ex nihilo, and 3) Humanity is the apex of creation. Whether or not one wants to believe God created the earth millions of years ago or several thousand years ago is only secondary to these three points.

If you look at the Creation account in Genesis compared to the creation accounts in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, you’ll notice something – that they are VERY similar. Maybe the Creation account was meant as a response to other beliefs on the world’s formation. While some people believed that the universe was birthed from both good and evil, the bible says that God’s intention was for creation to be good from the get go. It wasn’t evil that had corrupted creation, it was man that corrupted creation by succumbing to evil. While other cultures worshiped the sun, God made light on day one but didn’t create the sun until day four – the sun ultimately points to the splendor of God and not the splendor of itself.

What ultimately points to the splendor of God? For Christians, I don’t think it matters whether God created the universe in six days or several billions years – the importance is that God is the Creator of it all. While the scientific naturalist is a slave to his theories in order to explain away a deity, Christians know that God is still miraculous whether that miracle is done in a short amount of time or a long amount of time. Jesus’ resurrection would’ve still been miraculous if Jesus resurrected on day two instead of day three. We don’t take away from the Bible or God’s miraculous power by believing in an old earth instead of a young earth. There is much more that I would like to say. This is one short article, but I know there are countless books written on this subject. Luckily for me, there are many people more qualified than me who have talked about this matter. I just wanted to write a short challenge to think outside the box. Where do you stand, and why do you stand there on the issue?

Egalitarianism and the Jim Crow Laws of the Church, Part Two.

Things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

That is how I ended my previous blog post. In that post, I took a view throughout Salvation History and looked at women in the Old and New Testament, and the implications of water baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to show that women deserve more recognition in the church. In this post, I will look into several women that Paul mentions in his letters, and Paul’s household codes.

If we look at how Paul treats women individually, then maybe we can make more sense of some of his more generalized statements that are made to women as a whole within certain areas. If Paul ends up having even a slightly altered view of women, we then have to consider that maybe Paul’s generalized statements were more meant for the specific cultures he was writing to at that specific time in history. This would mean that some of these writings of Paul don’t hold eternal truths within them, but again, give us a glimpse at how the early church was founded by giving us a look into their struggles during the first-century.

Paul and Women in Ministry:

In 1Corinthians Paul gives some instructions to the church on how to maintain orderly worship. Among them, Paul tells women to keep silent in the church (1Cor 14:34). However, Paul says enough things about women within the church that it (along with an extrabiblical understanding of 1st-century culture in Corinth) seems he is not stating this as an eternal truth. Dr. Craig Keener (graduate of my alma mater) states in his work, “Paul, Women, and Wives,” that he thinks that the women of Corinth were uneducated in regards to proper etiquette in Christian worship and did not know when it was appropriate to ask questions. Also, in chapter 11 of the book, Paul assumes that women were prophesying in the local assembly. For him to all of the sudden revoke this right as a whole seems to not make sense in context with the rest of the book.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is another popular example where Paul says that a woman should not teach or be in a place above a man. But again, by looking throughout biblical theology as a whole and also looking at outside sources, such as the Church Fathers (below), makes it seem like Paul was not speaking an eternal truth. These verses should be taken the same way that 1 Corinthians is taken – that Paul was addressing something specific that Timothy had to deal with within the church in Ephesus. Some try to use the word “submit” and relate it to how Paul talks to wives in Colossians and Ephesians, but that was a household code written for wives whereas this was directed to women – they can’t be clumped together as concerning the same cause. In verse 12 the word that is used as “to use authority over” is a hapax legomenon, meaning that this is the only time that this word is used in all the New Testament. To try and understand what this word fully means within the context of Timothy or to Paul would leave the text wanting for more. This text is probably the strongest argument for the complementarian cause, but with the rest of the New Testament to consider, it does shift the burden of proof into the complementarian’s hands.

Since both of these texts which are against women being in ministry remain unclear at best, we now need to look at some of the other things Paul says concerning women in general and also women in ministry. If immediate context seems unclear, one then needs to move to general context, and from there to all the author’s works, until looking at the Testaments, and finally the Bible as a whole. In some of the cases I am about to present, the original manuscripts were altered because male scribes didn’t understand how Paul could say some of these things about women (which I will discuss below). However, if Paul had such a high view of women and assumed them to be in places of prominence in ministry,  then some of these passages which might lack clarity or don’t harmonize with the rest of Pauline thought were merely cultural to the places that Paul was writing to at that time.

The book of Romans is the most important book to look at when discussing the role of women in ministry. In Paul’s conclusion in Romans 16, Paul speaks of nine women specifically among the 26 people that are mentioned. Not only so, but he gives notable praise to seven of these women, which is more than the men! There is a group of four people that Paul gives praise to for working hard, among three of whom are women. Also, among the group Paul gave praise and recognition to, was possibly two married couples who appeared to be doing ministry together – Prisca and Aquila, and Andronicus and Junia. Chrysostom, who is one of the most well attested Church Fathers, says in regards to this section of Romans: “The women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake. In this way they went traveling with them and also performed all other ministries.”

Phoebe (16:1-2) is mentioned as being a “servant” of the church. The word in the Greek (here: “ousan diakonon”) literally means “servant,” but in Christian circles and to Paul here it obviously meant “deacon” (Phil 1:1; 1Tim 3:8, 12). Some people call Phoebe a, “ deaconess,” to give light to her role, but that term was not popular until the second to third century. She is the first recorded Church deacon in the bible actually! The first deacon ever mentioned is a woman. And though this might mean that she was in a lower position in the church under an elder or overseer, it should be noted that for some reason she was the only one mentioned in Paul’s final words to the church.

Phoebe is also mentioned as a woman who is a “patron.” This could point back to her in the role of deacon or could even mean that she owned or possessed some kind of property and hosted people at her home. Some believe she might have even gave Paul a place to stay during one of his missionary journeys (Acts 18:18). Though some find this hard to believe, there are other women in the bible who are mentioned as having possession of land (Nympha in Colossians 4, who arguably also might have been a pastor or overseer), and again, some scholars claim that women in Rome actually had more rights than women in the Eastern empire (Witherington, Balsdon). Caesar Augustus actually tried to put restrictions on women in Rome during his reign, which could mean that women might have been not following what we think to be the cultural norms of the time. Regardless, Phoebe is seen as both a deacon and a patron and as the person with whom Paul is sending his most attested letter. That says a lot for a woman.

Junia (16:7) is another highly-esteemed woman mentioned in Romans as being noted among the apostles and recognized as being imprisoned for her faith. Though some manuscripts disagree to whether Junia should be read as the obscure masculine name Junias, it is easier to explain why someone would change the text from a woman to a man rather than vice versa. NT Wright says in regards to this: “Don’t be put off by some translations which call her ‘Junias’, as if she were a man. There is no reason for this except the anxiety of some about recognizing that women could be apostles too.” Junia is mentioned along with her potential husband as being “among the apostles.”

Junia was not just well noticed in the eyes of the apostles as though she were outside the apostles, as some read or translate it. As Church Fathers Chrysostom and Origen attest, she was considered to be among the apostles, and not only so, but notable among them! She was an apostle. And being related to Paul, this would make sense because that would mean that she would also be Jewish – as all the Twelve Apostles were.

Paul then says that Junia and her husband actually knew the Lord before Paul – meaning that they were apostles before Paul (Paul calls himself the “last of the apostles” in 1Corinthians 15). For this and other reasons, some scholars, R. Bauckham notably, think that Junia might be the Latin name for Joanna mentioned in Luke 8. Joanna would be the Greek name for the Jewish name Yohanna. This was common in first-century Rome and is why Paul (Greek) goes by Saul (Hebrew) when he is among the Jews after he is saved, but then when he goes on his first missionary journey to the Gentiles he then goes by his Greek name Paul. If Junia is Joanna from Luke 8, this would make sense with how Junia came to the Lord before Paul and how she could be an apostle, and it also means that she would have been part of the group to have actually seen the risen Lord! She and her husband are given higher praise than any other people mentioned in the conclusion of Romans!

“The conclusion then follows that Paul has no problem with women as teachers (Priscilla) or leaders, proclaimers, or missionaries of the Good News. Indeed, it is hardly likely that a woman would be incarcerated in Paul’s world without having made some significant public remark or action. Junia said or did something that led to a judicial action.” – Ben Witherington

Paul and Women at Home:

Paul only references or talks about household codes in Ephesians (5:22-6:9) and Colossians (3:18-4:1). 1Corinthians 7 has a portion on marriage, but this was more generalized, cultural, and not in the form of a “code” like Ephesians and Colossians. Since both of these books are so alike (the two closest books in Pauline literature if not the whole New Testament), I will only focus on one – Colossians.

The first thing to note is that this is a household code specifically talking about husbands and wives – not men and women in general. If Paul was making a distinction that this was for men and women in general, he would have said so. This is specifically a “household” code. Another thing to remember is that Paul wrote with the assumption that these people (Wives/Husbands, Children/Fathers, Slaves/Masters) were living according to an already understood Christian ethic. Something to ask is, “who is the code intended for?” Is it intended for everyone, or did Paul have someone specifically in mind when he included this code in his letter?

Paul was obviously accepting norms and standards that were not arguable in that day, but even with that considered, Paul altered the way people perceived their household code of ethics. Notice that of the three pairs mentioned, the superordinate in all three would be considered one and the same person – the head of the household. The head of the household would not only be the husband, but he would also be father and slave master. With this in mind, it seems like Paul intended to limit the role of the superordinate – giving less restrictions and more rights to women, children, and slaves. This makes sense with the Pauline thought in Colossians, Ephesians, and elsewhere that all people are now equal because they are “in Christ” (Col 3:11; Gal 3:28). Should we today accept these roles as they are and even still allow slaves, or should we keep Paul’s spirit and lessen restrictions as the culture and time allows it?

With further context it makes sense now why women are told to “submit themselves” instead of the husband forcing the wife to submit. The verb (present/middle/imperative) is clearly in the middle voice and, according to James Dunn the words that are used are less harsh in the Greek than when Paul instructs children to “obey” their Fathers in the verses that follow (harsher word and a  present/active/imperative verb). Women were not expected to follow their husbands blindly as the children were more instructed to. And again, note that Paul expected that all of these people mentioned were to act Godly, in the way Paul instructed earlier in the letter. Consider that by husbands and wives each obeying their end of the instruction, the other one prospered: “From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield” (Chrysostom).

A friend told me the other day that he did not want to make a rule to allow women to lead and serve places in ministry because of an “exception” to the rule that seemed to permeate the New Testament – that only men should be in places of leadership. By looking at the New Testament, it seems that women were not an exception at all, but that they were an assumed and integral part of the growing church and had an equally active role within their homes.

It might be that I was saved because of the preaching and ministry of a female pastor. It could be that I like to be controversial. But with all the evidence considered, this is the conclusion I came up with; that women are equal – no separation of rank or submission. The Bible, along with an acute psychological and sociological understanding, has led me to this conclusion. If you are not sure where you stand on this situation or disagree, I challenge you to study it for yourselves and to ask yourselves the questions that people try to ignore. Again, things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

To women,
Those who stand up for what they believe in,
Those through which churches meet and are grounded,
Those who are among the apostles and are seen well-noted,
This is for you.

Egalitarianism and the Jim Crow Laws of the Church, Part One.

Rosa Parks sat unmoved in her seat. A woman known to be so soft-spoken had apparently had enough. One can imagine how so humbly and quietly she would explain to the driver of the bus that she was not going to move from the seat she was in. What those in Montgomery might have called “separate but equal” was only separate. It surely was not equal. And Rosa knew that it was her right to stand up for what she believed in by staying seated where she was. When she was arrested that day, she probably didn’t realize the impact that she would have on her community and throughout the country. From the day of her arrest for over a year after, the Montgomery Bus Boycott took place, and momentum was building in what we now know as the Civil Rights Movement.

The problem with the Jim Crow Laws was that being separate wasn’t really being equal. The laws were taxing on all people in the African American community. Children were forced sometimes to walk to schools further away because the schools closest to them were for whites only. Some were refused jobs and services merely because the color of their skin. And it took the quiet yet unmoved voice of a meek woman in Alabama to stir the hearts of the people to finally say that enough was enough.

Today, in the church, I feel like there is a spirit of the Jim Crow Laws still alive but manifested within another group within society – women. Complementarianism believes that men and women are equal, but that God created them separately, and, with that, they have separate roles. With this they make sense of passages like that in Colossians and Ephesians where wives are told to submit to their husbands, and passages like that in Corinthians and Timothy where women are told not to speak in church, teach, or be in a spiritual position over a man.

But are men and women really equal if we force different roles on them?

How do we decide what these roles are?

Are they birthed within us or oppressed on us by centuries of conditioning?

And what does the Bible really say about the roles of men and women?

There are many passages in the Bible that can be taken as being for complementarianism or for egalitarianism. I will address important women throughout Salvation History before going into Paul’s letters, where things get more controversial. In this post I will specifically look into the Old and New Covenants. I apologize if I leave anything out, but for time’s sake, I can only write so much. I will try not to sound too scholarly or come across as condescending. Feel free to comment if you want to add to anything I address whether it is positive or negative.

The Old Testament:

In Genesis both man and woman are said to reflect the image of God (Gen 1:27-28). And though Eve was the one who ate the apple, Adam is seen as the type or the personification of sin within the world (see Romans 5) – a man once made in glory contrastingly seen as the carrier of sin in the world. This is seen more theological here rather than historical, but truth be told, I think that about most of Genesis. Genesis is written in the form of a myth – meaning that though many of the things said are true in some aspects, they aren’t meant to be literal or historical (especially the Creation story) so to make doctrinal statements on gender roles solely based on this passage would not suffice for either camp.

Rahab and Ruth are both women of importance in the Old Testament for a couple reasons. The fact that they are women mentioned in the Bible for helping bring along Salvation History is of importance, the higher importance being that neither of them were Israelites. The fact that God would use non-Israelite women to tell the story of how He was working within His Covenant people is phenomenal when considering all its implications theologically. Later, these women will even be included in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels.

There are also many other notable women worth mentioning in the Old Testament. There are too many for me to mention them all, but here are a few. Deborah is both a judge and a prophetess, and she delivers the Israelites in a way equal to Gideon and Samson and others (Judges 4). Along with that, the prophesy in Joel 2 considering the outpouring of the Holy Spirit talks about it being imparted on both male and female. Esther is another woman of some notoriety, being used by God as a vessel – playing out further the story of Salvation History. There are more women who are of prominence in the Old Testament, but to say much of many of them would be speculation at best.

The Gospels:

The Gospels, believe it or not, have some pretty interesting things to say about women and their potential role in society. In Matthew chapter 1, like mentioned above, there are several women mentioned in Christ’s genealogy – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (though not by name), and Jesus’ mother, Mary. Luke’s gospel is especially full of instances where Jesus treats women (any person marginalized in society actually) differently in terms of the norm of his day. Luke 8 talks about Mary Magdalene traveling with the disciples. This is enhanced even more in Luke 10, when Mary is sitting with the apostles learning at the feet of Jesus. In this specific reference, Martha, her sister, gets rebuked for getting mad at Mary for not doing what was “assumed” of her by hosting and helping Martha serve the guests.

Also, in Luke 24, Mary and other women are attested as being the first women to witness the resurrected Lord. At the time, women’s testimonies were seen to be of low value (they couldn’t even hold testimony in court!). So, the fact that the Gospel writers include women testimonies in their letters is astounding. These are not only mentioned in Luke, but there are references of women in the other resurrection accounts as well.

The only other Gospel account of relatively high prominence is the Samaritan woman in John 4. In this passage, Jesus talks to a woman who is living in adultery. In this pericope, Jesus tells her that worshipers of God won’t be judged by the nationality they were born in or what Temple they worshiped at, but that God is now looking for people who will worship in Spirit and in truth. In all of the Gospels, this is the most plainly Jesus ever speaks of who he is as Christ and Lord. For him to say that to a woman is again crazy to contemplate!

Marks of the New Covenant:

Some people look at what Paul says in 1Corinthians 14 and 1Timothy 2 to say that women should never speak in church or be in a role of leadership, but Joel’s prophesy that is fulfilled in the New Testament at Pentecost seems to differ. At Pentecost, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was given as a mark of the New Covenant – God’s Spirit now dwelling within each believer. God’s Spirit isn’t just given to men but also to women, and both were expected to exercise those gifts (Acts 2). Acts 21 mentions women who were known for prophesying. Women were seen as an integral part in the early church and were expected to exercise in spiritual gifts, some of which I will specifically note in my next post.

Another mark of the New Covenant was baptism. Baptism at the surface doesn’t seem to be equalizing men and women, but I think that it is a minor theological point that God was putting across at the New Covenant. Let me explain. The people of God in the Old Testament were the Israelites. To be a part of the people of God one had to be born in. The mark to show that one was an Israelite, a follower of God, was specifically circumcision. The mark of circumcision was started in Genesis 15 when Abraham made his covenant with God. God said He would bless the whole world through Abraham. A mild problem with circumcision though was that it was a sign that only the men had within the community.

The sign that a person is now part of the people of God, the church, is baptism. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change of status within believers. And all believers, man and woman, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, were all linked in water baptism and by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The sign was no longer only something that Israelite men could possess, but it was an act that all people could willfully participate in! To be a believer meant to break the tradition of the former practices that separated the people of God from the outside world, and to now embrace the old and “new” traditions which are now to bring all people together in Christ. This is at the heart of the Gospel and almost every other book of the New Testament.

The church today doesn’t have a problem having a woman in an unpaid position. They just don’t call her a pastor but a “pastor’s wife.” But as soon as she is officially recognized and given a salary, the gloves come off. Many within the church also don’t have a problem if a woman works as a children’s pastor (in some churches it is expected!), but they have a problem when a woman is put in a position over men who are her own age. This is inconsistent if one is using 1Corinthians or 1Timothy as a basis for their “complementarian” claim.

Just as Rosa Parks opened the door for the Civil Rights Movement, there are many women who recently have opened the door for women’s rights and women in ministry within the church. Some of the first people to start the Pentecostal Movement in the early 1900’s were women. Aimee Semple McPherson is another woman evangelist who reached prominence in the 1920’s and 1930’s. There are also many women missionaries throughout the years who should not be forgotten either.

There are so many women who have not only impacted the church, but they have impacted Salvation History and the history of the world at large. I don’t think that God has a problem with women in ministry; if he doesn’t have a problem then neither should we. And even though this is only half of the argument, I encourage you to study the subject yourself. Dig into the Scriptures. Study them for yourself. There are so many questions that need answered theologically, philosophically, and psychologically. But let’s not be afraid to push the door open. Things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

Science on the Scales, Part Two.

I was recently asked if I considered myself a skeptic…

I guess I do.

So, imagine me at a conference called, “Skepticon.” Hearing the name of this event, I was so excited to go! By the title, one would think that the conference was a place for people to come together and talk about different ideas and theologies rationally, and for them to decide on beliefs themselves based on all the facts considered. So, you can imagine how upset I was to find out that this was not a conference for skeptics. It was a conference for atheists to come and make mostly ad hominem attacks on theism and, more specifically, on God himself.

In my previous blog, I laid down an argument against Naturalism, stating that empirical science fails because it cannot prove itself. I also stated that these “sciences” have at their foundation an atheistic understanding, which most people use to disprove the existence of the supernatural a priori, and with it, God. But, with this philosophical framework crumbling at its foundation, there is lying amidst the rubble an idea that has been long forgotten – buried by time. And though some people in the Western world still believe in God, it is seen as folklore and fanciful, good for some but not to be pressed upon others.

There are people waiting to rebuild from the rubble.

At the crux of Christianity lies the doctrine of the resurrection. In 1Corinthians 15, Paul says that without the resurrection, Christianity would be worthless! Many have used the previous understanding of naturalism to disprove the resurrection, and in doing so, diminish Jesus and his message of a future hope for the world. But is the resurrection rational?

There are few that disagree with the historicity of the Bible – stating that Jesus was merely a myth. Most of them think that 1st century Christians (mainly Paul or Mark) saw prophesies of the past and formed them into this myth of “Jesus.” However, the gospels weren’t written as though they were myths – they were written as historical narratives. There were also no Jews that believed that their messiah would die and resurrect before Jesus came… and just because there is a correlation between these prophesies and what happened doesn’t mean that the material is therefore fabricated. Correlation does not mean causation.

Some people think that the life of Jesus was distorted, and that what we have now is an exaggeration of his life. They go from this hypothesis and try to decide which sections of Scripture Jesus “really did and said.” However, their argument is biased from the beginning, and therefore clouds their vision as they decide arbitrarily what they think is “historical.” There are also almost a countless number of manuscripts that attest to the Jesus of the Gospels. As far as manuscripts are concerned, there is more proof for the legitimacy of Christ than there is for the lives and writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Homer. There are far more documents about Jesus, written closer to the time he lived than there are for many figures in ancient history. But we don’t question these men’s existences.

But what about the Jesus of the Gospels, God incarnate, resurrected from the dead?

There are many things that make the resurrection the most plausible solution for one to consider. Of all the possibilities that are available, the empty tomb is the most likely option. Many Christian Apologists make this claim, and all of my “evidence” will be based from their arguments. I think if one leaves open the possibility for the miraculous, then Jesus makes a whole lot of sense with reference to the world in which we live.

Many people in the New Testament claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Aside from the 12 disciples and witnesses mentioned in the gospels, there are others, such as Paul and James, who have witnessed the resurrected Messiah. Paul is written in Acts as a persecutor of Christians until he experiences a vision from Christ. James is one of the brothers of Jesus, and previously didn’t believe his brother was the Messiah (Mark 3) until after Jesus’ resurrection where after James proclaimed him to be the risen Lord.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, Christ’s mother, were also the first to witness Jesus resurrected. Though this doesn’t seem important, women at the time were not seen as being “higher up” in society. Why would Mark say that women were the first to see Christ if he were fabricating the resurrection? Wouldn’t he want to put someone whose testimony would be more credible in his gospel if he were making it up? He could have put Peter, or any other disciple, or even a Jew high among society as the first witness of the empty tomb, but instead it was two women who first saw the risen Lord.

And let’s consider the changed lives of Jesus’ disciples. There are many people who are willing to die for what they think is true, but the disciples died for what they knew was either true or false. If the resurrection were fabricated, then roughly a dozen men died for something they KNEW was not true. I might die for something I think to be true, but I wouldn’t die for something I knew to be false!

Lastly, I think it is important to notice that there is continuity in Jesus’ character in the gospels. If you read the life of Jesus, a man performing miracles and teaching the way he did, and even claiming his own divinity, you shouldn’t be surprised to read that later he would be resurrected from the dead. Not to mention that Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection.

Maybe you thought that Jesus was a great teacher but never before considered him to be who he claimed to be – Lord. C.S. Lewis does a great job explaining that there are only three options of Christ’s character: that he was a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord. If you have never considered Jesus to be Lord, I ask that you look into it. Read the bible. Listen to some debates. Truly seek for what might be true, without having any presuppositions.

And if you are a Christian, remember to have some tact if you are telling someone about Jesus. We can win some arguments but lose the person in the process. We have at our hands the message of hope to the world! Let’s not have our pride or let condescending remarks get in the way. The world should know who we are by our love.

Be challenged – whether it is to know more or to love more. And maybe through that we can change the world.

Science on the Scales

“Those today who claim that science or historiography denies the possibility of miracles are repeating not scientific observations but philosophic premises stemming from Hume.” … “Examining the philosophic underpinnings of these modern assumptions is important, since those who reject the possibility or miracles often assume that they are working on the basis of scientific discovery, when in fact the issue is one of the philosophy of science rather than empirical data per se.” – Dr. Craig S. Keener, “Miracles”

Most people spend their Friday nights hanging out with friends or going out on the town. I spent this past Friday sitting on my couch watching a live stream debate between Dr. William Lane Craig (Talbot) and Dr. Alex Rosenberg (Duke). Their topic was: “Is Faith in God Reasonable?”

By the end of the night, Craig was unanimously crowned the victor, which came as a shock to me. This is mostly because Craig is a theist and Rosenberg an atheist. But regardless, a panel of professionals (4-2), the live audience at Purdue (1390-303), and the people watching online (734-59) voted Craig victorious in the debate, by a majority vote.

I think where Rosenberg was the weakest was in his idea of the power behind science, scientific naturalism, and the scientific method. One of Rosenberg’s main points was that science alone could disprove the existence of God. The problem with this though is that science cannot do this. His main point was self-refuting. Rosenberg was trying to prove philosophically that God didn’t exist but claiming it in the name of science. I see this problem with a lot of atheists in today’s society.

Talk to some people on the street. I am sure you’ll hear some say, “I only BELIEVE in science.” Saying you “believe” in anything is not only a presupposition, but it is also a statement grounded in philosophy rather than science. This is because it cannot be tested. Beliefs cannot be tested. It is sad that most people do not realize that science itself has philosophy at its foundation. Scientific Naturalism (or Modernism or Empiricism), especially, has at its core an atheistic understanding that God doesn’t exist, and since God doesn’t exist, miracles don’t exist either.

And though this understanding is circular and nonscientific, it is deemed as both. It is viewed this way not only by the lay person but also by many professionals worldwide. This is something that Dr. Craig Keener addresses in his book “Miracles.” It is shocking to know many progressive scientists throughout history were theists – men who knew that God could work within nature despite of norms, since it was He that made the “laws” of nature. Nature was subject to God, not God to nature. These men include such greats such as: Boyle, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, and Kepler.

So what can science prove? Science can’t deductively prove or disprove anything that cannot be tested empirically – it can just make observations, create norms, and come to conclusions inductively. To make any deductive conclusions or beliefs from these norms would no longer be what we call “empirical science” but would jump into the realm of “philosophy” or more specifically, the “philosophy of science.”

And that is fine. I love philosophy. Humankind couldn’t survive without “logic” or “ethics.” Nothing would make sense without philosophy. But to say it is “science” alone would be naïve and not fully true in the way we view and define science today.

So is faith in God reasonable?

We can use science as evidence, but to base our beliefs on this evidence alone would seem lacking. Science itself remains agnostic. Science has been found wanting, and the world needs to know that having “faith” in God can be “reasonable.”

If you are seeking and trying to decide whether God exists, I ask that you will wipe your presuppositions clean. I ask that you learn how to properly harmonize faith and reason. And I ask that you search every caveat possible until “sufficient reason” is found. I pray that those who know God will strive to know him more. I pray that you will realize that Evolutionary Theory cannot and does not disprove God, and neither does the Big Bang Theory. We can be scientific and still hold on to our convictions.

Christians and Atheists alike can be close-minded if their arguments are “unfalsifiable.” Christians need to realize that if God is Truth, then if we seek truth, we are ultimately seeking God Himself. Let us seek to know God together, hand in hand, and take those who disagree with us along for the ride. It’s a scary adventure, but ultimately that is our aim. By knowing God, we glorify Him. By Glorifying Him, we are honoring Him.

To Him be the glory, and honor, forever and ever. Amen.

Forward

I am involved in politics, because I hate politics.

I hate politics because most people see it as their way of making a difference in their nation. If they get the person they want in political power then maybe things will look up. And in a democratic republic if everyone thinks this, then the losers will feel discouraged or offended – as though someone wanted their opinion but then ignored the advice they had to give.

I hate politics because people think that ALL of the principles they hold dear have some foundation in objective truth. Some policies and principles do. However, if you want to biblically talk about an economic structure and what would be ideal for our country, it seems that the bible is pretty silent. Christ told his disciples to pay high taxes to Caesar, the disciples and followers of Christ shared all their possessions within their faith community, and the parable of the talents shows that we should work to make profit. Biblically, socialism has more “evidence” than capitalism if what is said in the text doesn’t apply only to its initial readers or the immediate context.

But what I hate most about politics is that people seem to have it all wrong. Christians seem to want to change the world from the top-down. Churches hire and fire pastors like it’s nobody’s business without thinking that maybe they should invest more time or resources into their church. And Christians vote at the polls thinking that changing the President will change the people of the nation.

I don’t think the world works like that.

What if the church tried to change the world from the bottom-up? Isn’t that what Jesus did? I think he hung out with tax collectors, sinners, adulterers, fisherman, and the like. I believe that regardless of the Emperor worship that was mandatory of all Romans during the first century, that Paul and Peter and John didn’t write epistles that were directed towards the government, but that were encouraging the people at a local level.

Though a President has the potential to shift the foundations of our country, I believe the people have a greater power. If we can start with helping the poor ourselves, feeding the hungry, and taking care of widows, then maybe we will have a right to be upset when socialism fails (if it does). And maybe if you start being involved in fields that are critical to child development (such as teaching) you’ll start seeing more of a difference in the future. It takes more to change the future than going to a place and getting a free sticker twice a year. And though there is a paradigm shift with the different policies passed, these policies were voted on by the people.

“WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the Common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

The Prime Optimist

Vincent Van Gogh was not alive long enough to see his fame. In and out of the mental hospital, cutting off his own ear, and painting a style of art that repulsed his critics, you wouldn’t imagine at the time that this man some day would be held in so high of a regard. It is shocking to find out how impoverished Van Gogh was while he was alive.

In the 19th-century, the famous impressionist movement was born. Like previously stated, the movement got criticism by nearly every “professional” in the field. With Claude Monet at the forefront of the movement, those who painted impressionism were sick of the way art had always been done before. Popular art until this point were pieces crafted in a studio, with fine strokes, posed and poised people, with high contrasts and usually (but not always) a religious nuance.

Impressionism was art for art’s sake. They looked at the world in a different light. They took the easel out of the studio and into the gardens and fields. They used heavy brushstrokes to convey motion in their art. They knew that the human eye could only focus on one point at a time, and their art reflected that, in showing textures over details, emotions rather than messages.

I like impressionism though not because of the brushstrokes or the flowing paints or the textures, but because I feel like the painters truly understood the world that they were trying to convey in their masterpieces.

I feel like there are a lot of people who truly don’t understand the workings of the world. For arguments sake, I will only discuss the most ignorant of these people – “immature optimists.” I HATE “IMMATURE OPTIMISTS”…

I know, such a pessimist thing to say. (and yes, this is a hasty generalization)

And I may sound macabre, but I hate when I have something constructive or cynical to say, and I am glared at by this ignorant fool. And then they turn a deaf ear as I try to explain my well rounded, realist view – knowing it to be a tool used by the “pessimist” to shift the “immature optimist’s” worldview. But what I hate the most about the “immature optimist” is this:

They refuse to believe that ANYTHING bad happens in the world.

After Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ in Mark 8, Jesus begins to tell the disciples in simple and understandable terms what is going to happen to him. He tells them of his suffering, his sacrifice, and how he will be rejected. After talking about all of this, Peter pulled Christ aside and rebuked him.

I feel like Christians today are trying to escape the idea of death. Many atheists say that Christians use heaven as a coping mechanism to escape the idea of their imminent death, and I don’t completely disagree with them. Many people want the cross without the sacrifice. They want eternal life without an earthly death. They want a rapture without a tribulation.

Jesus didn’t circumvent death to redeem our souls. He died on a cross. And more than that, he is risen from the dead!

So many people talk about a spiritual death to self, a death to their sinful nature, but they are running from the death of their earthly bodies. Christ didn’t ignore tribulation or suffering. He faced death. And that is the beauty of the gospel.

Christ defeated death!

The “immature optimist” looks for immediate happiness. The worldview itself is just an ignorant rouse a few simple shakes away from hedonism. They want a deathless cross. They want a resurrection without the defeat of death. They want redemption without a fall. The “immature optimist” has tunnel vision.

We need to expand our vision to the Vision of Christ – that there are bad things that happen in this world. There are diseases, there are wars, and there are sinners. It is up to us to be the change for a better tomorrow. We keep thinking that if we put the right person in a political office, or if we vocalize our opinions without action, that the world will change. Or even worse – we think if we ignore the outside world, home school our children, and donate to the Salvation Army at Christmas that we are changing the world.

The only way to defeat “immature optimism” is by grasping a cold, hard helping of the truth.