Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Trusting Bible Manuscripts

When pondering ancient texts, people wonder why we should trust biblical manuscripts. After all, we do not have the originals. We do have copies that have been passed down through time. Lots of them. In fact, there are far fewer copies of works by Plato, Caesar, and other ancient writers, and there is a tremendous gap between when they were written and the oldest manuscripts — and people trust their authenticity for some reason. What makes the Bible more reliable?

People wonder why we should trust the Bible since the manuscripts are so ancient. There are many reasons to be certain that God has preserved his Word.
Section of P-45 Greek papyrus manuscript of the Gospel of Luke via Wikimedia Commons
It has been suggested that since people tend to worship and idolize things, God has not made the originals available. That may also be the reason the body of Moses was buried by God (Deuteronomy 34:5–6). For that matter, I heard someone say that if a miracle happened on a particular spot, people would adore the spot instead of the one who performed the miracle. I'll allow that this is all speculation, but it makes sense.

Biblical manuscripts have been found that date way back yonder, and older copies have been discovered as well. When compared, there are no significant differences, and nothing has ever contradicted major Christian doctrines. Jewish scribes took their work very seriously, and it wasn't just a matter of corralling several manuscripts and picking those based on personal preference, nor was it like a supervisor tossing a copy on a desk and telling the scribe, "Here, copy this. And try not to spill your soy latte on it this time!" It was a sacred duty. Also note that Christians do not attempt to hide known variations. That is why you will see footnotes in your Bibles.

Those ancient scrolls are mighty fragile. One was recently "read" through imaging technology. The scroll is essentially the same as what is available today.

There is an area of scholarship called textual criticism where manuscripts are evaluated. (This is not to be confused with higher criticism, which utilizes circular reasoning based on secularist presuppositions.) It has been shown that God has indeed preserved his Word.
Why does my reference Bible have notes at the bottom of the page that say things like “Some manuscripts add . . .” or “some early manuscripts omit . . .”?
This is not a minor issue. Headed by Bart Ehrman, a growing movement claims that we cannot be sure what the original Bible said.
First off, there is no other ancient literature so well attested by so many manuscripts (handwritten copies of the original text) over such a length of time, as the Christian’s Bible. But since we don’t have the originals, written by Isaiah or Paul for example, would the many copies made over the years introduce thousands of mistakes, as Erhman and others believe?
Let’s check it out so you know what to say next time someone makes this claim.
To read the rest or download the audio, click on "Trusting the Text". The author is Brian H. Edwards, and you may be interested in some of his related material, here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Malevolence and Meditation

The word meditation has many connotations, and if you study on it, you will see that it has a variety of meanings. Some folks might think of formal meditation practices used in Eastern religions, but others may be pondering something and call that "meditating". Meditation is popular nowadays, but what do people really mean by it?

There are many forms of meditation in use today, but they can lead to unpleasant experiences and occult influence. Christians are told to meditate, but we must do it the right way.
Credit: Unsplash / Yogi Madhav
If you spend a great deal of time thinking and focusing on something (or someone), you're meditating on it. Take a gander at what people are doing and see if you agree with me. They meditate on church activities, politics, global climate change hysteria, sports, a favorite musician, sex, and so on. (I remember hearing a caller to a political talk radio show and the host exclaimed, "Your religion is liberalism!" The caller replied, "Yes!") This can also have a negative thrust. I can name a few atheists and anti-creationists who essentially meditate on their hatred for God's Word. See Psalm 38:12, for example.

We have to be careful when using Christian meditation. There are people who will tell you to avoid it because New Agers, Eastern yogis and other occultists use meditation techniques. That can be guilt by association; occultists breathe air, too, shall we avoid that because they do it? (I'll allow that my example is hyperbolic, but I hope it gets the idea across.) However, caution is advised.

I used to oppose the concept that people can get into certain states of consciousness and open themselves up to occult influences. Even materialists are seeing negative effects resulting from meditation. Notice also that such practices are often used by people who are indulging in other occult and paranormal practices.

You may be surprised to learn that Christians are told to meditate. The main point is to focus on the Word of God (Psalm 1:2, Psalm 77:12, 1 Timothy 4:15 KJV), not on ourselves or other things.
What is meditation? It can be very different things. It can be an attempt to empty the mind. Or, by contrast, it can be the purposeful attempt to focus the mind with certain kinds of thoughts, to the exclusion of other thoughts. The word meditation by itself needs modifiers to be meaningful. The intuitive picture people have of meditators is that they are sitting in some kind of lotus position, with eyes closed, doing something. But what? And what are the consequences of whatever they are doing in their inner selves?

At New Scientist, Donna Lu reports that “A quarter of people who meditate experience negative mental states.” That’s a surprisingly high percentage for an activity widely advertised to be beneficial.
 To read the entire article, click on "Some Meditation Practices Can Be Scary".

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Problem of Evil and the Biblical Worldview

One of the biggest problems for unbelievers and Christians alike is what is often called the problem of evil. People have different concepts of what they consider evil, but those are essentially based on trends in cultures or even personal preferences.

People say that something is evil, but they need a consistent standard. This is a way to deal with it and to realize that we are finite; we cannot understand everything. We live by faith.
Credit: Freeimages / createsima
The candies I'm chawing right now are evil because I'm not supposed to have them, but it's my fault for eating the things. The bird that flew away with Captain America's hot dog was evil. There are some Christians who consider rock music to be evil because, well, because. Others consider country music evil. Those examples are personal preferences (and a bit of sarcasm), not there is no actual evil involved.

Natural disasters are evil because of the destruction of property and loss of life, but that is really nature doing what nature does. Terrorists are evil, but from their perspective, they are seeking some kind of greater good. Brian Sims acts like pro-life activists are evil, but pro-life people consider him evil for advocating the murders of unborn children. One tinhorn considers biblical creationists liars and evil because we present evidence refuting his deep time and idolatrous position.

There has to be an ultimate standard for good and evil. This cannot be found in an evolutionary or atheistic worldview, since they think we are simply responding to our chemical impulses; when they complain that something is evil, they are standing on the biblical creationist worldview! I challenged the tinhorn mentioned earlier that, if I was indeed lying, why would that be wrong according to his worldview? He was defeated because he could not give a cogent answer, and displayed his subjective opinion instead.

There are people who reject God because of evil in the world. After all, why doesn't he do something about it? God is the Creator and he is sovereign. We are not entitled to understand everything he does, but what kind of God would he be if his finite creation could fully understand him? Christians are to respond in faith that he has purposes and that ultimately, everything glorifies him. No, that is not an ego thing where he wants us to applaud his every move. The glory of God is far deeper than that.
Perhaps the most frequent argument used by skeptics against the Christian faith is that a good, loving, and all-powerful God wouldn't possibly allow evil (along with sorrow, pain, bloodshed, etc.) into his world. Evil obviously exists in our world. It is all around us. Thus, the biblical God can’t possibly exist. If he did, and he was indeed omnipotent, he would obviously do something about it! It is not only skeptics, however, who struggle with this “problem of evil.” The Christian who shares his faith will find that this question probably causes more people to doubt the validity of the Bible and the Christian faith than any other. This author, based only on his own anecdotal experiences, would argue that it is a greater stumbling block to people than is even the creation-evolution debate. Therefore, the Christian must be prepared to explain the existence of evil. Fortunately, within the Christian worldview it is possible to do just that. Outside the Christian worldview, it is not. There are no adequate explanations for evil in other worldviews.
To finish reading, click on "Creation and the Problem of Evil".

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Make a Bible Casserole with Current Trends

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Christians who believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible have been scorned for centuries. Many of us have been persecuted in varying forms, even to the point of death. People do not want to be reminded that there is a Creator who is also their Judge, and they are accountable to him. We could make it easier by giving in on certain areas.

When we mix the Bible with cultural and secular science trends, we are elevating those above God's Word. Some folks think we should just give up and get with the times.
Credit: RGBStock / John Byer
Get with the times, don't be on the wrong side of history! Society changes, so should religious people, right? Not hardly! Cultures can change quickly. What was scandalous a few years ago is acceptable today. And back again. It was acceptable to be ant-Semitic in Germany, but that fell out of fashion, except that it is becoming acceptable for American leftists and Louis Farrakhan. Should we join in or is there an ultimate standard?

Women can be pastors despite what Scripture says. Atheist women can be pastors despite the Bible (and rational thought). Marriage can be redefined to include marriage to yourself, your pet, someone of the same sex, or whatever despite what God established — and societies accepted for millennia. Science is being hijacked to support leftist causes such as transgenderism and denying scientific facts of differences between men and women. Should we saddle up and ride with everyone else?

Science has shown that Earth is billions of years old, universal common ancestor evolution is a fact, everything began with the Big Bang, and so on. We don't need the clear teachings of the Bible, and we can pick whatever "science" confirms our biases. All that scientific evidence for the young earth and refuting evolution can be discarded so we can just get along with everyone. Should we join in?

While we're compromising, we may as well keep going. "Science has shown" that the virgin birth could not have happened. Miracles cannot happen at all because atheism. Obviously, Jesus could not have been raised from the dead. After all, Jesus as just a man of his time. Same for Paul, Peter, and the other New Testament writers, so all of them were limited in knowledge and made mistakes. Scriptura sub scientia using naturalistic (atheist) interpretations of ever-changing man-made science philosophies. God can take a nap in the next room, we'll call him if we decide he is necessary.

Group hug, everybody!

When people reject the Bible's authority, they make it into a casserole:
  • obtain sciencey foundation as your large dish, making sure to select leftist trends and evolution to help undermine notions of biblical inerrancy
  • insert things that you want to believe
  • add a generous dose of cultural trends
  • select views from various religions for flavor
  • bake in the fires of Hell until golden brown
  • top with opinions of the moment
  • serve 
Variations on this recipe have been used for many years, but the acceleration toward evolutionary thinking and secularism have added more buffalo chips than it had in the past.

Without our biblical foundations, we have no basis for science and logic (which may be a reason so many secularists and leftists are unskilled in critical thinking). More than that, our faith is worthless — not only are we wasting our time, but we are without hope facing eternity.

Who do you want to please? I don't pay no nevermind to those who think I am a fool for Jesus and for the Word of God. Any Christian who believes the Bible should focus on the author and finisher of our faith, not the opinions of men and women. Those who reject the authority and inerrancy of the Word need to repent.

This article was inspired by one from Dr. R. Albert Mohler. I recommend for your edification "Should Christians Just Admit That The Bible 'Got It Wrong' And Move On?"

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Thought Experiment: Rebuilding Science

The thought experiment concept has been around for a very long time, even before mathematics became a formal discipline. Scientists use it for a "what if" approach to imagine the results of an event or procedure. Here, we start with an apocalyptic event.

Read a thought experiment where the world is devastated and we have to rebuild. However, we also need to rebuild science. We can do it - because we still have the Bible.
Credit: Pixabay / Pete Linforth
In a sudden global catastrophe, our nice planet gets wrecked. (In my version, atheists tried to destroy all creation science materials through special bombs, but they backfired and destroyed all science and many other things.) Yep, something terrible happened. We have to commence rebuilding, but we don't have science to work with.

So we have to rebuild science as well.

The Shivas were not able to destroy our Bibles, much to their chagrin. But the Bible contains what we need to make a new beginning. We can learn theology, logic, that the nature of the universe is predictable, and more. Atheists and other anti-creationists can help, but we cannot use their views for our foundations because science is impossible without God.

What follows is a set of three articles presenting the thought experiment and working through it.
Imagine that humanity has emerged from the rubble of a nuclear holocaust. All the science textbooks are gone. Years have passed and many things have been forgotten. In many cases, we don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. Is the earth round or flat? Does the earth go around the sun, or is it the other way around? We don’t have access to any of the sources we would normally turn to with questions like this, and if we want to find out, we have to build the tools to do so from scratch. But as you stagger forward from the ruins of civilization, you’re not completely bereft of everything, because you’re still holding a Bible, and your thinking is shaped on a fundamental level by the culture that arose from it.
To read the rest, click on "Dystopian science Part 1: Why the Bible enables science to work". Don't forget to come back for next two parts.
We know that the Bible can give rise to science in our dystopian scenario, because it has already given rise to science in the real world. From history, we know the founders of most of the branches of modern science were Christians. They were doing science because they believed they were, in the words of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” They were using these very assumptions, and these assumptions are what underpins the entire field we call “science”. We can now go out and perform experiments, and then extrapolate those results logically (since logic is based in the Person and Word of God) to come up with conclusions about how the world works. So it is not illogical to suggest that in a dystopian scenario, the Bible would again give rise to science, as long as there were still people around who wanted to “think God’s thoughts after Him.”

. . .

Science advances as older, sometimes flawed ideas are challenged and replaced with better ideas. And the Bible allows for this, because, while it is not a science textbook, it gives us a framework and a mandate for science. It also gives us a way of thinking that should enable us to more and more closely approach the truth, or at least to disprove false ideas.
You can read all of this installment by clicking on "Dystopian science Part 2: Conspiracy theories require a magical world". We have one more after you get back.
God is a God of order (c.f. 1 Corinthians 14:33), and we can easily see this in Scripture. For example, He made the sun, moon, and stars “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14)—that assumes knowledge of astronomy, physics, mathematics, a concept of linear time, a calendar system, rationality, and the ability to make empirical observations—all in one verse! Thoughts like this help us to understand that there is a normative order in nature and provides the basis for a pragmatic, practical use of science.

Our thought experiment has turned out unexpectedly optimistic! God has given us all the foundation we need in Scripture to do science and to test the claims of others who claim to be authorities. So where do we start?
To read the final article in its entirety, click on "Dystopian science Part 3: Rebuilding science from the ground up".