Atheists Challenge to Biblical Ethics (2 Kings 2:23-25)

~ See near the bottom, Joshua and the Canaanites.

“Cursed them – Nor was this punishment too great for the offence, if it be considered, that their mocking proceeded from a great malignity of mind against God; that they mocked not only a man, and an ancient man, whose very age commanded reverence; and a prophet; but even God himself, and that glorious work of God, the assumption of Elijah into heaven; that they might be guilty of many other heinous crimes, which God and the prophet knew; and were guilty of idolatry, which by God’s law deserved death; that the idolatrous parents were punished in their children; and that, if any of these children were more innocent, God might have mercy upon their souls, and then this death was not a misery, but a real blessing to them, that they were taken away from that education which was most likely to expose them not only to temporal, but eternal destruction. In the name – Not from any revengeful passion, but by the motion of God’s Spirit, and by God’s command and commission. God did this, partly, for the terror and caution of all other idolaters and prophane persons who abounded in that place; partly, to vindicate the honour, and maintain the authority of his prophets; and particularly, of Elisha, now especially, in the beginning of his sacred ministry. Children – This Hebrew word signifies not only young children, but also those who are grown up to maturity, as Genesis 32:22, 34:4, 37:30, Ruth 1:5.”

~ Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible by John Wesley [1754-65] (Source)

I was in a recent [now not so recent] debate about Biblical cruelty/ethics and the person brought up a verse that has not been brought up in conversation with me yet. It provided a fun learning curve on a specific verse and topic that opened up culture and manners of the early Biblical leaders and prophets of Israel. Mind you the person — involved in the debate — could not ground his presumed premise that this act would be morally wrong. In other words, without a Divine Law that both he and I can access to know an act was truly wrong, so I pointed to the idea that rape is really [if this skeptics position was correct] a natural outgrowth of a species surviving. I speak to this a bit in a chapter from my book:

How does the “carnal” person deal with the unnatural order of the homosexual lifestyle? Since it is a reality it is incorporated into their epistemological system of thought or worldview.[1] Henry Morris points out that the materialist worldview looks at homosexuality as nature’s way of controlling population numbers as well as a tension lowering device.[2] Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous;[3] rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success.[4]

[….]

Ethical Evil?

The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically.[5] Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival.[6] Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo.[7]


[1] Worldview: “People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By ‘presuppositions’ we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic worldview, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions. ‘As a man thinketh, so he is,’ is really profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world. Then, having thought, a person can bring forth actions into the external world and thus influence it. People are apt to look at the outer theater of action, forgetting the actor who ‘lives in the mind’ and who therefore is the true actor in the external world. The inner thought world determines the outward action. Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what worldview is true. When all is done, when all the alternatives have been explored, ‘not many men are in the room’ — that is, although worldviews have many variations, there are not many basic worldviews or presuppositions.” Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1976), 19-20.

[2] Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 136.

[3] Remember, the created order has been rejected in the Roman society as it is today. This leaves us with an Epicurean view of nature, which today is philosophical naturalism expressed in the modern evolutionary theories such as neo-Darwinism and Punctuated Equilibrium.

[4] Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), 71, 163. See also: Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).

[5] Nancy Pearcy, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 208-209.

[6] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 2002), 162-163.

[7] Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 176-180.

Scientism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe. D’Souza points this a priori commitment out:

Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment — a commitment to materialism [matter is all that exists, nothing beyond nature exists]. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Dinesh D’Souza points to this in his recent book, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).

The debater never engaged his a priori assumptions. This being said, I want to deal with the verse at hand we discussed. The important presumptive idea behind dealing with any literary work is to understand how one is to approach a text of antiquity. I deal with this quite well in a paper on the matter, and any apologist should become familiar with this idea (click the latte). Using the principles involved in the Aristotelian dictum, let us try and figure this seemingly horrid verse.

2Kings 2:23-25

He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

Here the skeptic posits God’s wrath on 42 children, presumably innocent in that their greatest offense was calling someone a “bald-head.” It would be similar to a guy being called “four-eyes” by a bunch of kids and then whipping out an AK-47 and mowing them down… and then expecting you to view him as a moral agent. In accessing the following books,

✦ The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times;
✦ Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times;
✦ An Introduction to the Old Testament;
✦ The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament;
✦ Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament;
✦ A Popular Survey of the Old Testament;
✦ New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties;
✦ Hard Sayings of the Bible;
✦ When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties.

I noticed something was missing. That is, a bit more of what is not said in the text, but we can assume using and accessing what any historical literary critic would with the principles that predate Christ — mentioned in the above “latte” link. Mind you, many of the responses in my home library that I came across were great, and, in fact they made me dig a bit further. (I do not want the reader to think that I place myself on a higher academic level that these fine theologians and professors.)

The word Hebrew translated here as “children” (na’ar) often means official or servant and doesn’t necessarily even refer to age at all. Mephibosheth’s servant Ziba is referred to as na’ar (2 Samuel 16:1), yet he has fifteen sons. The man that Boaz has positioned as boss over his fieldworkers is na’ar—not a position one grants to children (Ruth 2:5-6). The word na’ar is translated as “servant” over fifty times (roughly a fifth of the times it appears in Scripture).

(Source)

Three big points stuck out from texts I reviewed:


1) “LITTLE KIDS”

“Little children” is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew expression neurim qetannim is best rendered “young lads” or “young men.” From numerous examples where ages are specified in the Old Testament, we know that these were boys from twelve to thirty years old. One of these words described Isaac at his sacrifice in Genesis 22:12, when he was easily in his early twenties. It described Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was seventeen years old. In fact, the same word described army men in 1 Kings 20:14-15…these are young men ages between twelve and thirty.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible)

2) HARMLESS TEASING/PUBLIC SAFETY

A careful study of this incident in context shows that it was far more serious than a “mild personal offense.” It was a situation of serious public danger, quite as grave as the large youth gangs that roam the ghetto sections of our modern American cities. If these young hoodlums were ranging about in packs of fifty or more, derisive toward respectable adults and ready to mock even a well-known man of God, there is no telling what violence they might have inflicted on the citizenry of the religious center of the kingdom of Israel (as Bethel was), had they been allowed to continue their riotous course. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)

The harmless “teasing” was hardly that–they were direct confrontation between the forces of Baal and the prophet of YHWH that had just healed the water supply (casting doubt on the power and beneficence of Baal!). This was a mass demonstration (if 42 were mauled, how many people were in the crowd to begin with? 50? 100? 400?):

“As Elisha was traveling from Jericho to Bethel several dozen youths (young men, not children) confronted him. Perhaps they were young false prophets of Baal. Their jeering, recorded in the slang of their day, implied that if Elisha were a great prophet of the Lord, as Elijah was, he should go on up into heaven as Elijah reportedly had done. The epithet baldhead may allude to lepers who had to shave their heads and were considered detestable outcasts. Or it may simply have been a form of scorn, for baldness was undesirable (cf. Isa. 3:17, 24). Since it was customary for men to cover their heads, the young men probably could not tell if Elisha was bald or not. They regarded God’s prophet with contempt….Elisha then called down a curse on the villains. This cursing stemmed not from Elisha pride but from their disrespect for the Lord as reflected in their treatment of His spokesman (cf. 1:9-14). Again God used wild animals to execute His judgment (cf., e.g., 1 Kings 13:24). That 42 men were mauled by the two bears suggests that a mass demonstration had been organized against God and Elisha.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

3) ELISHA’S MISSION-HELPING NEEDY

The chapter closes with two miracles of Elisha. These immediately established the character of his ministry–his would be a helping ministry to those in need, but one that would brook no disrespect for God and his earthly representatives. In the case of Jericho, though the city had been rebuilt (with difficulty) in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34, q.v.), it had remained unproductive. Apparently the water still lay under Joshua’s curse (cf. Josh 6:26), so that both citizenry and land suffered greatly (v. 19). Elisha’s miracle fully removed the age-old judgment, thus allowing a new era to dawn on this area (vv. 20-22). Interestingly Elisha wrought the cure through means supplied by the people of Jericho so that their faith might be strengthened through submission and active participation in God’s cleansing work. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)

MORE CAN BE FOUND HERE:

Elisha and the Lads of Bethel
Question…wasn’t Elisha very cruel when he sent those bears against those little kids who were teasing him about being bald?
Positive Atheism – Cliff Walker: Weak Bible Week Poster, part 4 of 7.


All good stuff, but something is missing. During the course of the debate I pieced together some truths, using culture and history as keys to a “crime scene.” Again, I want to stress what some of the habits were in this small town where this group of people came from:

Molech was a Canaanite underworld deity represented as an upright, bull-headed idol with human body in whose belly a fire was stoked and in whose arms a child was placed that would be burnt to death. It was not just unwanted children who were sacrificed. Plutarch reports that during the Phoenician (Canaanite) sacrifices, “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries and wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”

Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 177.

This crowd of persons was older than what is typically posited by skeptics. Secondly, this group was a very bad lot. But didn’t explain why bald-head was egregious enough for God to call 42 scurvy bastards to judgement. To be fair, I sympathize with the skeptic here. That being said, there is more to the story.

I want us to view some artistic drawings of historical figures from Israels history: priests, prophets, spiritual leaders, and even Flavius Josephus.

What did you notice above in the cover to an A&E documentary? Yup, a turban as well as a cloak which covers the heads of the priests and prophets. Take note of the below as well.

I posted multiple images to drive a point home in our mind. The prophet Elisha would have had a couple cultural accoutrements that changes this story from simple name calling to an assault. He wouldn’t have been alone either, in other words, he would have had some people attached to him that would lay down their lives to protect him. And secondly, he would have had a head covering on, especially since he was returning from a “priestly” intervention. So we know from cultural history the following:

  1. He would have had a head dressing on — some sort of turbin;
  2. and he would have had an entourage of men to dissuade any attack or mistreatment of a priest of Israel on a journey.

One last point before we bullet point the complete idea behind the Holy and Rightful judgement from the Judge of all mankind. There were 42 persons killed by two bears. Obviously this would require many more than 42 people. Why? What happens when you have a group of ten people and a bear comes crashing out of the bushes in preparation to attack? Every one will immediately scatter! In the debate I pointed out that freezing 42 people and allowing the bears time to go down the line to kill each one would be even more of a miracle than this skeptic would want to allow. So the common sense position would require a large crowd and some sort of terrain to cut off escape. So the crowd would probably have been at least a few hundred.

Also, this holy man of God was coming back from a “mission,” he would have had an entourage with him ~ as already mentioned, as well as having some sort of head-covering on as pictured above ~ as already mentioned.

QUESTION:
So, what do these cultural and historical points cause us to rightly assume?

ANSWER:
That the crowd could not see that the prophet was bald.

Which means they would have had to of gotten physical — forcefully removing the head covering. Which means also that the men with the prophet Elisha would have also been overpowered. So lets bullet point the points that undermine the skeptics viewpoint.

✔ The crowd was in their late teens to early twenties;
✔ they were antisemitic (this is known from most of the previous passages and books);
✔ they were from a violently cultic city;
✔ the crowd was large;
✔ the crowd had already turned violent.

These points caused God in his foreknowledge to protect the prophet and send in nature to disperse the crowd. Nature is not kind, and the death of these men were done by a just Judge. This explains the actions of a just God better than many of the references I read.

Your welcome.

I do want to end this post by inviting you to read an excellent treatment of this topic over at TrueFreeThinker: “Positive Atheism – Cliff Walker : Weak Bible Week Poster, part 4 of 7.


Joshua and the Canaanites


This is an update of sorts, and it deals with the idea that God ordered ALL persons to be destroyed (men, women, and children) in the book of Joshua. But is this the directive from God? Scripture does not support this idea as a whole, and we shall take this journey together to find a solution to a seemingly tough subject.

There is a very important principle involved with reading the Bible… it is one of the first things taught to seminarians as well as layman. And it is this:

  • “The Bible interprets the Bible.”

It is that simple. Now of course there are some other basics one must account for as they mature as a Christian, see my post on hermeneutics for instance. But let’s start with that simple sentence above. We will take a short quote from the larger portions that will end this small caveat. The book is by Paul Copan, and is entitled: Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God.

(May I also recommend this article, a summary of Copan’s three chapters from his book: “How Could God Command Killing the Canaanites?“)

Here is the excerpt with the portion highlighted:

The books of Joshua and Judges suggest that taking the land included less-than-dramatic processes of infiltration and internal struggle. Israel’s entrance into Canaan included more than the military motif. Old Testament scholar Gordon McConville comments on Joshua: we don’t have “a simple conquest model, but rather a mixed picture of success and failure, sudden victory and slow, compromised progress.”

Likewise, Old Testament scholar David Howard firmly states that the conquest model needs modification. Why? Because “the stereotypical model of an all-consuming Israelite army descending upon Canaan and destroying everything in its wake cannot be accepted. The biblical data will not allow for this.” He adds that the Israelites entered Canaan and did engage militarily “but without causing extensive material destruction.”

I will repeat that: “The Biblical data will not allow for this.” Another short excerpt taken from pages 170-171 reads thus:

Notice first the sweeping language in Joshua 10:40: “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.” Joshua used the rhetorical bravado language of his day, asserting that all the land was captured, all the kings defeated, and all the Canaanites destroyed (cf. 10:40-42; 11:16-23: “Joshua took the whole land . . . and gave . . . it for an inheritance to Israel”). Yet, as we will see, Joshua himself acknowledged that this wasn’t literally so.

Scholars readily agree that Judges is literarily linked to Joshua. Yet the early chapters of Judges (which, incidentally, repeat the death of Joshua) show that the task of taking over the land was far from complete. In Judges 2:3, God says, “I will not drive them out before you.” Earlier, Judges 1:21, 27-28 asserted that “[they] did not drive out the Jebusites”; “[they] did not take possession”; “they did not drive them out completely.” These nations remained “to this day” (Judg. 1:21). The peoples who had apparently been wiped out reappear in the story. Many Canaanite inhabitants simply stuck around.

Some might accuse Joshua of being misleading or of getting it wrong. Not at all. He was speaking the language that everyone in his day would have understood.

As you read on you will notice that God seems to contradict Himself, so does Joshua. UNLESS there is a cultural explanation that 21st century geeks do not notice. Again, I write more in-depth on this here.

That all being said, here are a few pages from the selected chapter. And may I say that the three chapters on the Canaanites were so enlightening. Why? Because they opened up the Scriptures more by dealing with what seem to be inconsistencies in Scripture but are explained well by Scripture. the following few pages show this to be the case, that is, exegesis (click each page to enlarge… if you right click your mouse and choose, “Open Lin In New Tab,” you will be able to enlarge the text dramatically — for older eyes):

(AGAIN, click to enlarge)

Prager Makes A Common Mistake In Regards To Jesus’ Divinity

Listening to the Dennis Prager Show the other day, Dennis said two things that caught my attention. They are:

a) he likened Jesus to other Messianic figures;

b) he said the Gospel of John was the only place Jesus called himself “Divine,” God.

Here is the Audio:

To be clear of what is below.

  1. First, that Jesus refers to himself as Deity (GOD) in the Gospel of Mark;
  2. Second, how did ancient rabbi’s view Isaiah 53;
  3. Then I show Jesus referenced himself as Diety in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

While I deal with two points, the third (Psalm 110) deals both with Jesus being different than past Jewish Messiah’s, as well as showing Prager’s statement about the Gospel of John to be wrong.

So lets deal with this two fold then. I will deal with “B” first, as it is a short response, needing only one example to show Prager’s assumption to be wrong (and remember, he loves truth for truths sake). He seemingly accepts the typical attribution to the age of the books by modern Biblical critics because he accepts their premise that John is the only book Jesus claims divinity. Then, using the attributed idea that Mark is the oldest book and is itself from “Q” material, any claims of Divinity in it should be THAT MUCH MORE powerful (early).

Mark 14:60-64

Here is Josh McDowell intimating an encounter many years ago he noted in his now classic apologetic work, “More Than a Carpenter.”

So, that short, succinct, recapping of a challenge I the university class room by a professor is just one example to show a clear claim to Divinity by Jesus in another Gospel other than John.

Now to the larger response, “A.” Jesus is not, was, not, like any other Jewsish pseudo Messiah, He, yes He, is much different. Why? Because he alone has fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in Scripture.

Isaiah 53

The first thing that came to mind about this comment from Prager is how Jewish people/culture have changed the book of Isaiah over time to mean something different than the earlier Rabbis believed. Here, we get into some reading, I will of course put some video to it as well… but a serious subject requires a bit of reading, and I was impacted by Chuck Smith’s and Mark Eastman’s work on the subject, “The Search for Messiah,” of which the following is from…. again, it is long (13-pages to be exact).

This post is meant for the serious student, or Dennis Prager:

In the book of Isaiah there are a group of passages called “The Suffering Servant Songs.” These four vignettes are found in Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 50:4-9; Isaiah 52:13-53:12. We will focus on the fourth suffering servant song since it is the most disputed portion of Isaiah.[1]

“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider. Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare his generation? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people he was stricken. And they made his grave with the wicked; but with the rich at his death, because he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief. When You make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. By his knowledge My righteous servant shall justify many, for lie shall bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and lie bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

From the time of the development of the written Talmud (200-500 C.E.) this portion of scripture was believed to be Messianic. In fact, it was not until the eleventh century C.E. that it was seriously proposed otherwise. At that time Rabbi Rashi began to interpret the suffering servant in these passages as reference to the nation of Israel.[2]

One of the oldest translations of the Hebrew scriptures is known as the Targums. These are Aramaic translations of very ancient Hebrew manuscripts that also, included commentary on the scriptures. They were translated in the first or second century B.C.E. In the Targum of Isaiah, we read this incredible quote regarding the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:

“Behold, My servant the Messiah shall prosper; he shall be exalted and great and very powerful. The Righteous One shall grow up before him, lo, like sprouting plants; and like a tree that sends its roots by the water-courses, so shall the exploits of the holy one multiply in the land which was desperate for him. His appearance shall not be a profane appearance, nor shall the awe of an ignorant person, but his countenance shall radiate with holiness, so that all who see him shall become wise through him. All of us were scattered like sheep… but it is the will of God to pardon the sins of all of us on his account…Then I will apportion unto him the spoil of great nations… because he was ready to suffer martyrdom that the rebellious he might subjugate to the Torah. And he might seek pardon for the sins of many.”[3]

According to this commentary, the Messiah would suffer martyrdom, he would be, “The Righteous One” and would provide a way for God to forgive our sins. This forgiveness would be accomplished, not because of our goodness, but on account of the righteousness of Messiah. As we shall see, this is the very message of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament!

A reading from a Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah prayer book contains this passage:

“Our righteous anointed is departed from us: horror has seized us, and we have none to justify us. He has borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression. He bears our sins on his shoulders, that we may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wound, at the time that the eternal will create the Messiah as a new creature. 0 bring him up from the circle of the earth. Raise him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time on mount Lebanon, by the hand of Yinon.”[4][5]

In this beautiful prayer, a commentary on Isaiah 53, we discover several of the ancient beliefs on the mission of God’s righteous Messiah:

1) He would apparently depart after an initial appearance: “Our righteous anointed is departed.”

2) The Messiah would be the one who justifies the people:[6] “Horror has seized us, and we have none to justify us.”

3) The Messiah would be wounded because of our transgressions and would take upon himself the yoke or punishment of our iniquities.[7] 

“He has borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression.”

4) By his wound we would be healed when he reappears as a “new creature.”

“We shall be healed by his wound, at the time that the eternal will create the Messiah as a new creature.”

In the Babylonian Talmud there are a number of commentaries on the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. In a discussion of the suffering inflicted upon this servant we find the following statement:

“This teaches us that God will burden the Messiah with commandments and sufferings as with millstones.”[8]

In another chapter of Sanhedrin we find a discussion on the name of the Messiah. In this remarkable portion of the Talmud we read:

“There is a whole discussion in the Talmud about Messiah’s name. The several discussants suggested various names and cited scriptural references in support of these names. The disciples of the school of Rabbi Yehuda Ha’ Nasi said ‘The sick one is his name,’ for it is written, ‘Surely he has borne our sicknesses and carried our sorrows and pains, yet we considered him stricken, smitten, and afflicted of God.'”[9]

In the Midrash we again find reference to the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. In characteristic fashion we read one rabbi quoting another in a discussion of the Messiah’s suffering:

“Rabbi Huna in the name of Rabbi Acha says: ‘The sufferings are divided into three parts: one for David and the fathers, one for our own generation, and one for the King Messiah, and this is what is written, `He was wounded for our transgressions.”‘[10]

In a portion of the Midrash, called the Haggadah (a portion which expounds on the non-legal parts of Scripture) in the tractate Pesiqta Rabbati[11] we read an interesting discussion of the suffering of the Messiah:

“And the Holy One made an agreement with the Messiah and said to him, ‘The sins of those which are forgiven for your sake will cause you to be put under an iron yoke, and they will make you like this calf whose eyes are dim, and they will choke your spirit under the yoke, and on account of their sins your tongue shall cleave to your mouth. Are you willing to do this?’ Said Messiah before the Holy One: ‘Perhaps this agony will last many years?’ And the Holy One said to him: ‘By your life and by the life of my head, one week only have I decreed for you; but if your soul is grieved I shall destroy them even now.’ But the Messiah said to him: ‘Sovereign of the world, with the gladness of my soul and the joy of my heart I take it upon me, on condition that not one of Israel shall perish, and not only those alone should be saved who are in my days, but also those who are hid in the dust; and not only should the dead of my own time be saved, but all the dead from the first man until now; also, the unborn and those whom thou bast intended to create. Thus I agree, and on this condition I will take it upon myself.'” (Pesiqta Rabbati. chapter 36)

Another section of chapter 37, Pesiqta Rabbati, says the following:

“The Patriarchs will one day rise again in the month of Nisan and will say to the Messiah: ‘Ephraim, our righteous Messiah, although we are your ancestors, you are nevertheless greater than we, for you have borne the sins of our children, as it is written: `Surely he has borne our diseases and carried our sorrows; yet we regarded him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our sins, bruised for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that makes us well, and through his wounds we are healed.’[12] Heavy oppressions have been imposed upon you, as it is written: ‘As a result of oppression and judgment he was taken away[13]; but in his day, who considered that he was torn from the land of the living because of the transgressions of my people?’ You have been a laughing stock and a derision among the peoples of the world, and because of you they jeered at Israel, as it is written, You have dwelt in darkness and in gloominess, and your eyes have not seen light, your skin was cleaving to your bones, and your body withered like wood. Your eyes became hollow from fasting, and your strength was dried-up like a potsherd, as it is written.[14] All this happened because of the sins of our children, as it is written: ‘And Jehovah laid on him the iniquities of us all.’ ” (Isaiah 53:6)

In these fascinating portions of the Midrash we see language which closely parallels Psalm 22.[15] he writer specifically ties together the sufferings of the pierced servant in Psalm 22 (tongue shall cleave to your mouth… dried up like a potsherd) with the servant in Isaiah 53, whose sufferings provide a way for the children of Israel to be saved. The fact that the writer of this portion of the Midrash would tie the sufferings of the servant in Psalm 22 (the pierced one) and Isaiah 53, the despised and rejected one, is nothing less than astonishing. Clearly at least some of the rabbis of the ancient Midrashim believed that the Messiah would suffer and that the sufferings found in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 belong to the same person.

In the eleventh century C.E. the rabbinical interpretation of Isaiah 52-53 began to change. Rabbi Rashi, a well-respected member of the Midrashim, began to interpret this portion of scripture as a reference to the sufferings of the nation of Israel. However, even after this interpretation took root, there remained many dissenters who still held onto its original, Messianic view.

In the fourteenth century Rabbi Moshe Cohen Crispin, a strong adherent to the ancient opinion, stated that applying the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 to the nation of Israel:

“distort[s] the verses of their natural meaning…As then it seemed to me that the doors of the literal interpretation [of Isaiah 53] were shut in their face, and that ‘they wearied themselves to find the entrance’, having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers, and inclined after the ‘stubbornness of their own hearts’ and of their own opinion, I am pleased to interpret it, in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis, of the King Messiah, and will be careful, so far as I am able, to adhere to the literal sense: thus possibly, I shall be free from the forced and farfetched interpretations of which others have been guilty. This prophecy was delivered by Isaiah at the divine command for the purpose of making known to us something about the nature of the future Messiah, who is to come and to deliver Israel,”[16]

Rabbi Isaac Abrabanel (143 7-1508), a member of the Midrashim, made the following remarkable declaration regarding the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:

“The first question is to ascertain to whom this prophecy refers, for the learned among the Nazarenes expound it of the man who was crucified in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple, and, who according to them, was the Son of God and took flesh in the virgin’s womb, as is stated in their writings. Jonathan ben Uzziel interprets it in the Targum of the future Messiah; and this is also the opinion of our learned men in the majority of their Midrashim.”[17]

Two centuries later we find the comments of another member of the Midrashim, Rabbi Elijah De Vidas, a Cabalistic scholar in sixteenth century. In his comments of Isaiah 53 we read:

“The meaning of ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities,’ is, that since the Messiah bears our iniquities, which produce the effect of his being bruised, it follows that who so will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities must endure and suffer them for himself.”[18]

We have also the writings of the sixteenth century Rabbi Moshe el Sheikh, who declares in his work “Commentaries of the Earlier Prophets,” regarding the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:

“Our rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.”[19]

These remarkable references from the ancient rabbis leave no doubt that the suffering servant in Isaiah 52:13­53:12 was indeed believed to be the Messiah. Even more remarkable is the fact that the suffering servant of Isaiah is connected with the suffering servant of Psalm 22. Finally, we find the ancient rabbis claiming that the suffering and death of the Messiah would have the effect of freeing us from our sins. This is in complete agreement with the Christian concept of the Messiah!

Even without these ancient references, there are several other reasons why the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 could not be the nation of Israel.

First, the suffering servant is an innocent person without sin:

“And they made his grave with the wicked; but with the rich at his death, because he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.” Isaiah 53:9

Israel has an admittedly sinful past; the Hebrew scriptures even admit this fact. Psalm 14:2-3 says:

“There is none that does good, no not one.”

I Kings 8:46 says:

“…for there is no one who does not sin.”

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says:

“For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.”

Secondly, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 suffers on account of the sins of others.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4)

Thirdly, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is willing to suffer.

“He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

In the entire history of their nation, the Jews have never suffered willingly.

Finally, the suffering servant’s end was death.

“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and lie bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

The nation of Israel has suffered much, but she has never died. In fact, the nation of Israel was re-gathered back into the land after nearly 1900 years of world-wide dispersion, an event unprecedented in world history.

“Let Israel now say; Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth; Yet they have not prevailed against me.” (Psalm 129:1)

Finally, listen to the words of nineteenth century Jewish scholar Herz Homberg;

“This prophecy is disconnected with what precedes it. According to the opinion of Rashi and lbn Ezra, it relates to Israel at the end of their captivity; the term `servant’ and the use of the singular number referring to the individual members of the nation. But if so, what can be the meaning of the passage, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions?’, etc.? Who was `wounded?’ Who are the ‘transgressors’ Who `carried’ the sickness and ‘bare’ the pains? And where are the sick? Are they not the same as those who are ‘smitten’ and who ‘bear?’ And if ‘each turned to his own way’, upon whom did ‘the Lord lay the iniquity of them all?’ The Ga’on, Rabbi Sa’adyah, explains the whole Parashah of Jeremiah: and there are indeed numerous parts of Scripture in which we can trace a great resemblance to what befell Jeremiah while persecuted by the false prophets. But the commencement of the prophecy, ‘He shall be high and exalted and lofty exceedingly’, and similarly the words ‘with the mighty he shall divide the spoil’, will not admit of being applied to him. The fact is that it refers to the King Messiah, who will come in the latter days, when it will be the Lord’s good pleasure to redeem Israel from among the different nations of the earth…and even the Israelites themselves will only regard him as `one of the vain fellows’, believing none of the announcements which will be made by him in God’s name, but being contumacious against him, and averring that all the reproaches and persecutions which fall to his lot are sent from heaven, for that he is ‘smitten of God’ for his own sin. For they will not at first perceive that whatever he underwent was in consequence of their own transgression, the Lord having chosen him to be a trespass-offering, like the scapegoat which bore all the iniquities of the house of Israel. Being, however, himself aware that through his pains and revilings the promised redemption will eventually come at the appointed time, he will endure with a willing soul, neither complaining nor opening his mouth in the siege and distress wherewith the enemies of Israel will oppress him (as is pointed out from the passage here in the Haggadah).”[20]

Here we have in the clearest term possible the belief that the prophet was speaking of King Messiah. Furthermore, Homberg states that the Messiah, when he comes, will be rejected “as one of the vain fellows, believing none of the announcements which will be made by him in God’s name.” Finally, he sees the rejection and death of the Messiah accomplishing the role of the trespass-offering for the sins of the people. The Messiah suffers not because of the sins of himself, but on account of the sins of the people. Through Messiah’s suffering and death “the promised redemption will eventually come!”

As we will see, in his understanding of Isaiah 53, Herzog has pointed out the very heart of the Christian message!


FOOTNOTES


[1] Messianically applied in Targum of Jonathan, written between first and second century C.E.

[2] See The Messianic Hope, Arthur Kac.

[3] See comments on Isaiah 53 in Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix IX.

[4] Yinon is one of the ancient rabbinical names of the Messiah.

[5] See The Messianic Hope, Arthur Kac, The Chapter of the Suffering Servant.

[6] To justify is to make one acceptable and righteous in the sight of God.

[7] i.e. Our individual sins.

[8] Talmud, Sanhedrin 93b .

[9] Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b.

[10] The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim, Appendix IX.

[11] Compiled in the ninth century, but based on writings from Talmudic times from 200 B.C.E.- 400 C.E.

[12] A reference to Isaiah 53.

[13] A reference to the death of the Messiah.

[14] A reference to Psalm 22:15-16.

[15] In fact, there is no other portion of scripture that parallels the language in Pesiqta Rabbati chapter 37 as closely as does Psalm 22.

[16] A Commentary of Rabbi Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin of Cordova. For a detailed discussion of this reference see The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters, preface pg. x, S.R. Driver, A.D. Neubauer, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., New York, 1969.

[17]The Messianic Hope“, by Arthur Kac, pg. 75.

[18] ibid, pg. 76.

[19] ibid, pg. 76.

[20] From the exposition of the entire Old Testament, called Korem, by Herz Homberg (Wein, 1818). 

  • Mark Eastman and Chuck Smith, The Search for Messiah ([Co-Published] Fountain Valley, CA: Joy Publishing, 1996; Costa Mesa, CA: Word for Today, 1996), 16-28.

  • Dr. Erez Soref – The Messiah is the purpose of the Torah

Psalm 110:1-7 ~David’s Son and David’s Lord

A Psalm of David. The affirmation of Jehovah to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make thine enemies thy footstool.’ The rod of thy strength doth Jehovah send from Zion, Rule in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people are free-will gifts in the day of Thy strength, in the honours of holiness, From the womb, from the morning, Thou hast the dew of thy youth. Jehovah hath sworn, and doth not repent, ‘Thou art a priest to the age, According to the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord on thy right hand smote kings In the day of His anger. He doth judge among the nations, He hath completed the carcases, Hath smitten the head over the mighty earth. From a brook in the way he drinketh, Therefore he doth lift up the head!

In Matthew 22:41-46 (Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44), citing Psalm 110, Jesus said, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’ [Messiah]?” Jesus stumped his skeptical Jewish questioners by presenting then with a dilemma that blew their own neat calculations about the Messiah “Lord”(as he did in Ps. 110), when the Scriptures also say the Messiah would be the “Son of David” (which they do in 2 Samuel 7:12.)? The only answer is that the Messiah must be both a man (David’s son or offspring) and God (David’s Lord). Jesus is claiming to be both God and human, at the same time!

Here is the Matthew verse:

While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?” “David’s,” they told Him. He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit,[a] calls Him ‘Lord’:

The Lord declared to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand
until I put Your enemies under Your feet’?

“If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his Son?” No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him anymore.

It is bullet pointed thus:

  • Double-question by Jesus (42a)
  • Answer by Pharisees (42b)
  • Second double-question by Jesus (43–45)
  • Silence (46)

Richard B. Gardner, Matthew, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1991), 329.

Matthew Henry notes the importance of this verse as a call to reflect on WHO Jesus is:

22:41-46 When Christ baffled his enemies, he asked what thoughts they had of the promised Messiah? How he could be the Son of David and yet his Lord? He quotes Ps 110:1. If the Christ was to be a mere man, who would not exist till many ages after David’s death, how could his forefather call him Lord? The Pharisees could not answer it. Nor can any solve the difficulty except he allows the Messiah to be the Son of God, and David’s Lord equally with the Father. He took upon him human nature, and so became God manifested in the flesh; in this sense he is the Son of man and the Son of David. It behoves us above all things seriously to inquire, What think we of Christ? Is he altogether glorious in our eyes, and precious to our hearts? May Christ be our joy, our confidence, our all. May we daily be made more like to him, and more devoted to his service.

Walter A. Elwell also notes that “Only a person who recognizes Jesus as both God and man could understand and answer the question of verse 45.”

Jesus is truly the son of David (1:1–17), but not merely so. For he is preeminently the Son of God (16:16) and thus David’s Lord. As Jesus now reveals, the Old Testament itself (Ps. 110) witnesses to Messiah’s deity, to both the distinction of person and the identity of being between God the Father (“the Lord”) and God the Son (“my Lord”). The Pharisees do not acknowledge Jesus’ messiahship, much less his deity. Only a person who recognizes Jesus as both God and man could understand and answer the question of verse 45.

Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), Mt 22:41.

See also Hebrew University professor Israel Knohl’s supposed discrepancy with this idea and Jesus’ geneology, here. Also, a greate xcoriation of this Psalm comes via The Rosh Pina Project, and, while it is a longer article, his opening is worth the posting here:

This is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament (about one-third of quotes from the Tanach come from this Psalm.) For example Psalm 110:4 in Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:3, 11, 15, 17, 21, 24, 28). Words about sitting at God’s right hand are echoed in Mark 14:62, Acts 2:34ƒ and Hebrews 10:12ƒ.

Psalm 110 is also a very disputed psalm. There was a time when few did not consider this a Messianic Psalm, today the few are those that continue to affirm the Messianic nature of this Psalm.

Modern Liberal scholars who presume that foretelling prophecy does not exist approach this text with a bias. They say it must all speak of a contemporary situation from the time of the writer. There is some truth to the fact that this must have meant something at its time of writing. But, there is implicit in this a failure to accept the essential futuristic foretelling aspect that defines prophetic writing as prophecy.

The fact that the Psalm starts with נְאֻ֤ם יְהוָ֨ה “ne’um Adonai“, a classic prophetic phrase, firmly fixes the prophetic nature of this Psalm.

…read it all…

Defeating Atheism with Science ~ Spike Psarris

From the video’s description:

Many atheists claim that science disproves the Bible. Despite these claims, science is actually quite consistent with Scripture.

Christians often feel unequipped to defend their faith in this area — but this need not be so. Instead, any Christian can defend his or her faith against any scientific claim from an atheist, even without knowing the details of that particular claim. Why? Because science itself disproves atheism.

Atheism, when taken to its logical conclusion, denies the fundamental assumptions and requirements of science. Therefore, if science is valid, then atheism must be false.

In this presentation, engineer and former atheist Spike Psarris will present on “Defeating Atheism with Science,” showing why this is true. Join us as we discuss how Christians can defend their faith in all areas of science. After a brief discussion of specific evidence like fossils, radiometric dating, and intelligent design, we’ll dig deeper and see how science itself disproves atheism. Understanding a few fundamental ideas about science are all that’s necessary for any Christian to be well-equipped in this area.

About the Speaker:

Spike Psarris was previously an engineer in the United States’ military space program. He entered that program as an atheist and an evolutionist. He left it as a creationist and a Christian. He now speaks on creation and Christian apologetics, equipping believers to defend their faith and glorify their Creator.

Oxford Professors vs New Atheists: Atheism, Science and God (Part 1)

This is the “official” part one.

Philosophy, Science and the God Debate (Part 1) ‘Science disproves the existence of God’ – and thanks to high profile scientists – many people unquestioningly believe it. But top Oxford Professors, John Lennox, Alister McGrath and Keith Ward effectively challenge this widespread belief and show that science and faith in God are not incompatible. ‘Science disprovers the existence of God’ – and thanks to high profile scientists – many people unquestioningly believe it.

Oxford Professors vs New Atheists: Evidence, Faith and Knowledge

Chris Jervis interviews scientists, theologians and philosophers John Lennox, Keith Ward and Alister McGrath on the meaning of faith in Christianity. Is Christian faith blind? Is it against evidence? Lennox, Ward and McGrath respond to many claims made by the New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (author of God is not Great).

Poet and Radical, Maya Angelou, Dead at 86 ~ Supported Butchers

The problem with the above video is that the idea leftist have of “love” are never born out in their lives. It is used, rather, as a cover for their more radical ideals, which in thew twentieth century have been the bloodiest in all of history.

(Click Pic)

Gateway Pundit notes that “Angelou was a talented poet. She also was a hardened leftist who supported killers Fidel Castro and Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Here is more via Discover the Networks:

In the early 1960s, Angelou championed Fidel Castro‘s rise to power in Cuba. Her first published story appeared in the Cuban periodicalRevolucion. In September 1960, she was deeply moved by the sight of Castro’s exhuberantly warm public embrace of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in New York, where both men were attending a United Nations session. “The Russians were O.K.,” Angelou laterreminisced. “Of course, Castro never had called himself white, so he was O.K. from the git. Anyhow … as black people often said, ‘Wasn’t no Communist country that put my grandpappa in slavery. Wasn’t no Communist lynched my poppa or raped my mamma.’”

Also in the early Sixties, Angelou supported the anti-South African apartheid movement and worked as a journalist and editor in Egypt and Ghana.

During the ensuing decades, Angelou gained enormous renown for her writing. She authored seven autobiographies—most famously, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)—as well as several collections of essays, theatrical works, and volumes of poetry. In 1993, at the request of president-elect Bill Clinton, Angelou composed an original poem, titled “On the Pulse of the Morning,” which she read at Clinton’s inauguration.

In 1994 the NAACP presented Angelou with the prestigious Spingarn Medal, which has been described as the “African American Nobel Prize.” In 2009 Angelou was again honored by the NAACP, receiving an Image Award for her book, Letter to my Daughter.

In 1995 Angelou spoke at the Million Man March organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. That same year, she lent hersupport to the convicted cop-killer and former Black PantherMumia Abu-Jamal. Indeed, Angelou joined such luminaries as Alec Baldwin,Derrick BellNoam ChomskySpike Lee, and Norman Mailer in signing a full-page New York Times ad advocating a new trial for Abu-Jamal.

In a 1997 interview, Angelou lamented: “A black person grows up in this country — and in many places — knowing that racism will be as familiar as salt to the tongue.” Reasoning from that premise, she lauded affirmative action and Head Start as programs that were not only “good for the country” but quite necessary—because, she said, “the playing field” had been “terribly unlevel, terribly unfair for centuries.” In the same interview, Angelou was asked if she thought “our free-market system—capitalism itself—creates divisions and inequality,” to which she replied: “Yes. Absolutely. Unfortunately, I can’t find many other ‘isms’ that don’t do the same thing.”

In March 2006 Angelou participated in a New York City event honoring the late Rachel Corrie, an American anti-Israel activist who had been accidentally killed while trying to block an Israeli anti-terror operation in 2003. Angelou praised Corrie as a “peace lover” who possessed exceptional “courage.” Others who spoke at the New York gathering included Anthony ArnoveHuwaida ArrafBrian Avery,Eve EnslerHedy EpsteinAmy GoodmanVanessa RedgraveOra WiseHoward Zinn, and James Zogby….

…read more…

Nature of Apologetics, Douglas Groothuis (S.S. Part 1)

This is a three-parter that is quite long, and technical. (It is the first part of a previous set [second, third].) You may also want a dictionary ready, this is a seminary level presentation. If you taken with this presentation[s] — knowledge of how we should better interact with our world and our culture comes through for those In His Service — ΙΗΣ.


Introduction


Part 1

“Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature. Attractive because it promises true good.” — Blaise Pascal, Pensées, #12/187.

I. The Definition of Apologetics

A. The rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true and existentially or subjectively engaging. More generally, to commendation of Christianity in the face of unbelief or doubt.
B. Concerns defining Christian truth-claims that one must believe in order to be a Christian

1. Essentials of orthodoxy: Trinity, Incarnation, biblical authority, justification by faith, etc.
2. Truth-claim: propositions affirming the existence or nonexistence of certain states of affairs

a. Different than a sentence; many sentences affirm of declare the same proposition (More on this in D. Groothuis, Truth Decay, chapter four)
b. Truth-claims are different than questions, emotive utterances, commands, etc.

II. Relation of Apologetics to Theology

A. Apologetics is dependent on theology for its content (essential doctrines), which are defended as true
B. Theology’s ideal is to systematically and coherently articulate what Scripture teaches
C. We need a theology of apologetics’

~ Theological truths (such as human depravity, general revelation, divine transcendence and immanence) guide one’s understanding and application of apologetics

III. Relation of Apologetics to Philosophy

A. Comes under one category of philosophy—philosophy of religion: the rational investigation of religious truth-claims

~ But not all philosophy of religion is Christian apologetics; may be done in service of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism, etc.

B. Attempts to rationally justify theological statements through philosophical means (theistic arguments, defending the coherence of doctrines, such as the Trinity or Incarnation, etc.)

~ Need not be propaganda or proselytizing, but may be

C. Resurgence of Christians in philosophy in the last two-three decades. See James Kelly Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe (InterVarsity Press, 1993); Thomas Morris, God and the Philosophers, ed. (Oxford, 1995). Academic journals: Faith and Philosophy; Philosophia Christi

IV. Relation of Apologetics to Evangelism

A. Apologetics used when necessary to remove obstacles to evangelism: doubts, misunderstandings (Matthew 28:18 — 20)
B. Evangelism declares Christian truth and invites unbelievers to embrace it; apologetics defends Christian truth and clarifies its meaning
C. Apologetics as pre-evangelism (Francis A. Schaeffer)


Part 2

V. Two Types of Apologetics

A. Negative apologetics (two senses)

1. Find intellectual weaknesses in non-Christian world-views—naturalism, pantheism, deism, etc.
2. Respond to anti-Christian intellectual assaults on Christian truth made by Muslims, Freudians, pagan feminists, postmodernists, pantheists, etc.

B. Positive apologetics

1. Give constructive reasons and evidences for defining Christian truth-claims

~ Arguments for objective truth and morality, the existence of God, reliability of the Bible, supremacy of Jesus, etc.

2. Give a cumulative case of various rational arguments for Christian truth

C. Whether something is deemed positive or negative apologetics may depend on the angle at which you look at it
D. A full-orbed Christian apologetic combines positive and negative apologetics

VI. Reasons or Justifications for Christian Apologetics

A. The glory of the one true God (Exodus 20:1 — 7; Matthew 22:37 — 40; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)
B. The defense of the Christian faith in order to reach the lost for Christ

1. Give a reason for our hope in the gospel (1 Peter 3:15 — 17)
2. Contend for the once-for-all revealed truth of God (Jude 3)
3. Refute false philosophies (Colossians 2:8 — 9; 2 Corinthians 10:3 — 5; 1 John 4:1 — 4)
4. Build up believers who doubt (Matthew 11:1 — 11; Jude 22 — 23). See Douglas Groothuis “Growing Through Doubt” sermon available though Hope for Today (www.hopefortoday.com)
5. Encourage holiness in knowing and defending God’s truth (Matthews 22:37 — 40)
6. Apologetic example: Paul at Athens (Acts 17:16 — 33)

a. On this see, D. A. Carson, “Athens Revisited,” in D. A. Carson, ed. Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 384-398.
b. Douglas Groothuis, “Christianity in the Marketplace” (Acts 17:16 — 34) parts I and II, sermons available from Hope for Today: (www.hopefortoday.org)

7. Apologetic example, exemplar: Jesus (throughout the Gospels)

a. On this see Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus (Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, 2003), chapters one and three, especially
b. Douglas Groothuis, “Jesus and the Life of the Mind” sermon available from: (www.homefortoday.org)

VII. The Spirituality of the Apologist: Truthful Humility

A. Humility (see D. Groothuis, “Apologetics, Truth, and Humility” in syllabus hot link)

1. Humility by creation: total dependence (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1 — 3)

~ See Andrew Murray, Humility: The Heart of Righteousness. Devotional classic.

2. Humility by redemption: you are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20)
3. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23)
4. Hold the truth firmly and humbly (1 Timothy 2:24 — 26)
5. We know in part and are in process (1 Corinthians 13:12)
6. Be courageous, but meek; don’t offend unnecessarily (Matthew 5:5; 2 Corinthians 4:7)

B. Have a spirit of committed dialogue (Paul throughout Acts)
C. Glory in the gospel, not apologetic prowess; win people to Christ, not just win arguments (Matthew 28:18 — 20)
D. Passionate, but patient, yearning for the salvation of others (Romans 9:1 — 3; 10:1)
E. Importance of moral/spiritual character in ministry: watch your life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16)
F. Reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (Acts 1:4 — 5; John 16:13)G. Importance of individual and corporate prayer for apologetic integrity (Ephesians 6:10 — 18; Colossians 4:2 — 4)
H. Openness to God’s supernatural work in opening the eyes of unbelievers (Acts 26:17 — 18; Acts 13:1 — 12)

Developing an Apologetic Mind, Douglas Groothuis (S.S. Part 2)

This is a two-parter that is quite long, and technical. (It is the second part of a previous set [first, third].) You may also want a dictionary ready, this is a seminary level presentation. If you taken with this presentation[s] — knowledge of how we should better interact with our world and our culture comes through for those In His Service — ΙΗΣ.


Part 1

I. Six Enemies of Apologetic Engagement

A. If apologetics is biblical and logical, why does it flounder? Why so ignored in the church?
B. “Six enemies of apologetic engagement” (D. Groothuis article on syllabus hot link)

1. Indifference
2. Irrationalism
3. Ignorance
4. Cowardice
5. Arrogance and intellectual vanity
6. Superficial techniques or schlock apologetics

II. Jesus as a Philosopher and Apologist (D. Groothuis, On Jesus, Chapters 1, 3)

A. What is a philosopher?
B. Was Jesus a philosopher?
C. Did Jesus disparage rationality (Michael Martin)?
D. Jesus’ use of argument: our model intellectually

1. Escaping horns of dilemma (Matthew 22:15 — 22)
2. A fortiori arguments (John 7:14 — 24)
3. Jesus’ use of evidence (Matthew 11:1 — 11)
4. Reductio ad absurdum arguments (Matthew 22:41 — 46)
5. Jesus defended truth rationally; lived it out existentially

~ Had a well integrated worldview; didn’t duck rational arguments

III. Worldviews and Christian Faith

A. Three kinds of (or aspects of) faith (W. Corduan, No Doubt; see also J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind)

1. Saving faith: justification—either/or (Ephesians 2:8 — 9)
2. Growing faith: moral sanctification—incremental (Ephesians 2:10)
3. Knowing faith: epistemological sanctification (Colossians 2:2 — 3)

a. Relationship of faith and reason: not antithetical (Isaiah 1:18)
b. Reasoning in Scripture (Romans 12:1 — 2; Matthew 22:37 — 40)
c. Some texts used against reasoning: (1 Corinthians 1 — 2; Colossians 2:8; Isaiah 55:9)
d. Biblical value placed on knowledge outside Scripture (Amos 1 — 2; Daniel; Romans 1 — 2; Acts 17:16 — 34)

B. The nature of genuine Christian faith, subjective believing

1. Assent (fides): belief that “P” (essential gospel truths) is true (Romans 10:9 — 10)
2. Trust (fiducia): belief in “P” as true and trustworthy (Romans 10:11; John 1:12)
3. Disposition, orientation (action-producing): believe “P” is true and trustworthy, therefore act in a faithful way (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14 — 26)

C. The unity of truth (Corduan) and a well-integrated worldview

1. “All truth is God’s truth”—general and special revelation (Psalm 19:1 — 11)
2. Know “P” through authority (but must identify a qualified authority)
3. Know “P” through argumentation, reasoning, evidence
4. No dichotomy of religious and secular truth: a unified, integrated, worldview
5. Developing a well-integrated worldview

a. What is a worldview and why is it important? (James Sire, chapter 1)
b. What is a Christian worldview? Touchstone proposition (William Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy)

~ The universe (originally good, now fallen, and awaiting its divine judgment and restoration) is created and sustained by the Triune God, who has revealed himself in nature, humanity, conscience, Scripture, and supremely through the Incarnation.


Part 2

IV. Truth Decay: Understanding the Problem (D. Groothuis Truth Decay, introduction, chapter one)

A. The importance of truth

1. Truth: desired and feared by mortals east of Eden
2. Truth and integrity
3. People of truth; truth in jeopardy
4. Screwtape’s ploy: remove the very category of truth from the mind

B. The seven acids of truth decay

1. The end of the enlightenment vision/project
2. A unified world view is impossible today because of our cosmopolitan, media-saturated environment
3. A unified world-view is impossible today because of the great diversity of religious viewpoints available
4. Postmodernity does not allow for a fixed sense of personal identity
5. Language is contingent on human beings and cannot communicate objective truth
6. Written texts have no objective, determinative meaning or truth value (deconstruction)
7. “Truth” is a function of power relationships, not an objective reality

V. The Eighth Acid of Truth Decay: Television (See D. Groothuis, Truth Decay, appendix)

A. Understanding the nature of television and how it contributes to truth decay “The medium is the message” (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media)

1. Moving image trumps or humiliates the written and spoken word (Exodus 20:1 — 4; John 1:1)

a. Images are limited in their power to communicate truth: second commandment (Exodus 20). Jesus’ appearance is never described in the Gospels
b. Power of deception through image manipulation: my TV interview about channeling. Malcolm Muggerridge: “The camera always lies.” See his Christ and the Media
c. Prefabricated presentations: shrink events into sound bites and memorable images that may be false or misleading
d. Cannot watch the Bible on video. You must learn to master the written texts. Church librarian in Denver laments that parents check out “Christian videos” instead of books for children

2. Discontinuity, fragmentation: “a peek-a-boo world” (Neil Postman) (Luke 1:1 — 4)

a. No continuity, coherence, development of ideas: “And now this…”
b. Leads to intellectual impatience, recklessness, distraction
c. ADD/ADHD: a national problem. Medical warnings about TV and infants. Pediatrics, Vol. 113 No. 4 (April 2004)

~ Conclusions: Early television exposure is associated with attentional problem at age 7. Efforts to limit television viewing in early childhood may be warranted…”

d. Biblically, the primacy of a coherent, orderly view of reality (Luke 1:1 — 4)

3. Hypervelocities: video equivalent of caffeine (Psalm 46:10)—jump cuts, scene changes, special effects

a. Out of sync with God-given natures: pathology of velocity, plague of rapidity
b. Stimulation, agitation—not edification instruction (usually). Ken Burns programs are somewhat different, though
c. Decrease in attention spans: sermons, classes, conversations; but this may be challenged—through good preaching
d. Biblical importance of pacing, stillness. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

4. Entertainment orientation—amusement dominates all other values (2 Timothy 3:4)

a. The demand of all areas of life: religion, politics, news, education; amuse means “no thought.” “Laugh track is always running” (Jean Baudrillard, America)
b. Amusement is not appropriate for many things; loss of gravity, sobriety, rectitude; orienting our subjective response to the objective nature of what we experience
c. Biblically: don’t be a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God (2 Timothy 3:4). Get serious.

B. Conclusion (more on this in “Christian Ethics and Modern Culture” class)

1. Engage in television fasting
2. Decrease drastically television watching
3. Replace with thoughtful reading

Resources for growth and discernment

1. Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay (InterVarsity, 2000). The appendix addresses the nature and effects television in the context of postmodernism.
2. Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds (Baker Books, 1994). Excellent Christian critique of anti-intellectualism in the church, which addresses television and other truth-decaying agents.
3. Arthur Hunt, III, The Vanishing Word: The Veneration of Imagery in the Postmodern World (Crossway, 2003). Christian perspective on a pervasive but often ignored problem.
4. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (Penguin, 1985). The best secular critique of the nature and effects of television; it is more insightful than most Christian books.
5. Douglas and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis web page: www.ivpress.com/groothuis/doug

Worldviews, Truth & Knowledge, Douglas Groothuis (S.S. Part 3)

This is a two-parter that is quite long, and technical. (It is the third part of a previous set [first, second].) You may also want a dictionary ready, this is a seminary level presentation. If you taken with this presentation[s] — knowledge of how we should better interact with our world and our culture comes through for those In His Service — ΙΗΣ.


PART 1

I.What is an Argument (Anthony Weston, Rulebook for Arguments)?

A. Philosophical argument: means of rational persuasion
B. Premises
C. Logical form
D. Conclusion
E. Validity and soundness
F. Clear language, consistent terms
G. Goal of good arguments: knowledge: justified, true belief

II. From Modernism to Postmodernism (Truth Decay, chapter two). See also Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism (InterVarsity, 2001), chapter two.

A. Distinguishing social conditions (-itys) from philosophies (-isms)
B. The premodern era (premodernity) – premodernist worldview
C. The modern era (modernity) – modernist worldview
D. The postmodern (postmodernity) era – postmodernist worldview
E. Postmodernism as a philosophy

1. No objective, universal, absolute truth; embrace of relative, pragmatic truths
2. Rejection of metanarratives; embrace of micro/mini-narratives
3. Rejection of essences, foundations; embrace of shifting surfaces
4. Language creates reality, does not reflect objective facts; self-enclosed, non referential, “prison-house of language”
5. Truth as “the new obscenity” (Os Guinness, The Journey)

F. Postmodernity as a social condition

1. The continuity with modernity regarding broad social forces
2. Breakdown of religious consensus; emergence of greater pluralism
3. The saturation of the self through communication technologies
4. Loss of cultural authority; Christianity loses it public face and voice
5. Surface over depth; image all the way down; factoids all the way down; etc.

III. The Christian View of (A) Truth and (B) What is True

A. Clarify the concept of truth, before getting to content of truth (Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There)
B. General concept and Christian: correspondence view of truth (more in Truth Decay, chapter four)
C. Biblical words for truth

1.Hebrew
2.Greek

D. Biblical Concept of truth: radical monotheism (Deuteronomy 6:4)

1. Revealed—not constructed, created by us (Hebrews 4:12)

a. Supernatural and personal source of knowledge
b. Not all is constructed; some is revealed, received, discovered
c. Language as God’s vehicle to convey truth

~ God as Logos (John 1:1 — 3), human in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)

2. Objective—not only merely subjective (Romans 3:4)

a. Truth above cultures; truth as judging all cultures equally
b. Some things can be known as they are in themselves
c. Not based on preference only—comfortable, uncomfortable
d. We are entitled to our own opinions, not our own truths

3. Absolute—not relative (John 14:1 — 6)

a. Invariant, noncontingent, nonnegotiable
b. No exceptions, exemptions, exclusions

4. Universal—not situational (Matthew 28:18 — 20; Acts 4:12)

~ Cross-cultural realities: reconciliation with God and others

5. Eternal—not trendy or trivial (Isaiah 40:8; Malachi 3:6)

~ Not ephemeral, fragile, conventional

6. Antithetical—not synthetic (Matthew 12:30)

a. Law of identity
b. Noncontradiction
c. Law of excluded middle
d. Law of bivalence
e. Not a matter of taste but of truth

7. Systematic, not fragmentary, ad hoc, arbitrary, piecemeal

~ All Scripture inspired; God cannot lie (2 Timothy 3:16 — 17; Hebrews 6:18)

8. Truth is not completely knowable by fallen mortals (Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Corinthians 13:9 — 12)


Part 2

IV. Relativism: Roots and Refutations (Corduan, chapter two)

A. Four laws of logic/thought/communication

1. Law of identity: “A” is identical to “A”
2. Law of contradiction (sometimes called the law of noncontradiction): “A” is not identical to “non-A”
3. Law of excluded middle: Not both “A” and “non-A”; not third option
4. Law of bivalence: any unambiguous proposition “A” is either true or false; not neither true nor false, not both true and false
5. Logic and God (see also, Geisler and Brooks, Come Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking, chapter one)

a. God is logical; does not break the rules (Isaiah 1:18: John 1:1
b. This is no limit on God, but a virtue. God cannot deny or contradict himself or tell a lie.
c. Omnipotence does not and can not entail actualizing logical contradictions

B. The challenge of relativism

1. Denies law of contradiction for statements
2. Or: makes truth relative to individuals or cultures
3. Conceptual relativism: every concept is relative
4. Moral relativism: only moral concepts are relative

a. Normative relativism
b. Individualist relativism

C. Six roots of relativism

1. The information explosion makes objective, absolute, universal knowledge impossible
2. The claim to objective, absolute, universal knowledge leads to totalitarianism and intolerance
3. The sincerity of religious believers means they cannot be wrong
4. “Buddhist logic” allows for contradictions to be true; only “Western logic” disallows this
5. Having individual rights means I can determine my own truth
6. Humility requires relativism; otherwise dogmatism

~ Tolerance requires relativism

D. Moreland against relativism

1. Descriptive relativism a weak thesis concerning principles
2. Against normative relativism

a. What is the morally relevant culture? Indeterminacy problem
b. May belong to more than one culture. Indeterminacy problem
c. Reformer’s dilemma; reductio ad absurdum
d. Some acts are clearly wrong whatever society you are in: we have knowledge of particular moral truths
e. One society could not blame another morally, given this theory; reductio ad absurdum

V. The Christian World View—Objectively: The Faith (Sire, chapter two; Groothuis, On Jesus, chapters 4 — 7)

A. World-view: assumptions about the basic make up of the world (James Sire, Universe, 16). See also David Nagle, Worldview: The History of Concept (Eerdmans, 2002)
B. Importance of world views, meta-narratives—for individuals and cultures
C. The Christian world view (J. Sire, chapter two)

1. God is infinite and personal (triune), transcendent and immanent, omniscient, sovereign and good.

~ Jesus’ worldview…

2. God created the cosmos ex nihilo with a uniformity of cause and effect in an open system.

~ Jesus’ worldview…

3. Human beings are created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27] and thus possess personality, self-transcendence, intelligence, morality, gregariousness and creativity.

~ Jesus’ worldview…

4. Human beings can know both the world around them and God himself because God has built into them the capacity to do so and because he takes an active role in communicating with them.

~ Jesus’ worldview…

5. Human beings were created good, but through the Fall the image of God became defaced, though not so ruined as not to be capable of restoration; through the work of Christ, God redeemed humanity and began the process of restoring people to goodness, though any given person may chose to reject that redemption.

~ Jesus’ worldview…

6. For each person death is either the gate to life with God and his people or the gate to eternal separation [hell] from the only thing that will ultimately fulfill human aspirations.

~ Jesus’ worldview…

7. Ethics is transcendent and is based on the character of God as good (holy and loving).

~ Jesus’ worldview…

8. History is linear, a meaningful sequence of events leading to the fulfillment of God’s purposes in history.

~Jesus’ worldview…

9. Touchstone proposition: “The universe (originally good, now fallen and awaiting its divine restoration) is created by the Triune God, who has revealed himself in nature, conscience, Scripture, and through the Incarnation.” (D. Groothuis revision of Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason)


Appendix

I. Components of Knowledge (Corduan, chapter 3)

A. Need for an epistemology
B. Self evidence and epistemology

1. Analytic, necessary truths
2. Basic beliefs, religious experience
3. J.P. Moreland on religious experience (Scaling, 231 — 240)

a. Causal argument: explaining a changed life
b. Direct perception argument: sensory perception and numinous experience: seven common features

4. Immediate sensory awareness
5. Self-evidence is a necessary but not sufficient test for the truth of a world view; need more than self-evidence and religious experience

C. Rationality and epistemology

1. Logical deduction
2. Rationalism: Plato, Anselm, Descartes, Gordon Clark
3. The ontological argument: a priori argument extraordinaire. See Stephen Davis’s chapter in God, Reason, and Theistic Proofs (Eerdmans, 1997).
4. Rational deduction is a necessary, but not sufficient test for a true world view; need more than deduction

D. Sensory information and epistemology

1. Empiricism: open and closed
2. Teleological argument, naïve version (J.P. Moreland’s in Scaling is far better)
3. Sensory information is a necessary, but not sufficient test for the truth of a world view: need more than sensory information

E. Workability and epistemology

1. Pragmatism: it’s true if it works
2. Pragmatism and religious truth: conflicts
3. Evaluation of pragmatism; cannot be the meaning or definition of truth. Is one element of testing truth claims.
4. Workability a necessary, but not a sufficient test for the truth of a world view: working doesn’t make a belief true

F. A combination of criteria are needed to test the truth of a worldview

An LDS Workbook for “Celestial Marriage” Explaining gods Attributes

This post is intimately tied to my chapter in my book on the Mormon concept thusly the attributes assigned to “god.” It is from a seminary level book all seminary level LDS have to read. Right click and choose “open link in new tab” in order to see it larger. The first three smaller scans are the publishing date and rear/front covers. I also cataloged these as part of my “Conversation Series” because the link to my chapter is partly from an actual conversation I had with two LDS missionaries. (I will also be importing and beefing up my “Mormon” tag.)

The larger pages (below) are the meat of the issue dealt with and specifically referenced (and thus explained) in my chapter in my book, linked directly below. I was just reading veraciously on this topic then and was fine-tunes to respond, so, enjoy the read if you link to my chapter on it: