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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Craig Blomberg, Can We Still Believe The Bible, An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions.

Op-Ed and Theological Analysis by David Farnell
Baker Brazos: Grand Rapids, 2014.  287 pages.
Craig Blomberg has written a new work, Can We Still Believe the Bible?,  Baker hails the book in the following terms, “Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals.  In this volume . . . Craig Blomberg offers an accessible and nuanced argument for the Bible's reliability in response to the extreme views about Scripture and its authority articulated by both sides of the debate. He believes that a careful analysis of the relevant evidence shows we have reason to be more confident in the Bible than ever before. As he traces his own academic and spiritual journey, Blomberg sketches out the case for confidence in the Bible in spite of various challenges to the trustworthiness of Scripture, offering a positive, informed, and defensible approach.”  He dialogues in questions of textual criticism, canon issues, translations, inerrancy, genre interpretation, and miracles, offering various solutions to various problems that center in these topics.  This book is highly commended by Scot McKnight (Northern Seminary), Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary), Paul Copan (Palm Beach Atlantic University), Craig S. Keener (Asbury Theological Seminary) and Leith Anderson (National Association of Evangelicals).  Bock himself encourages the reader to “read and consider anew how to think about Scripture” on the back cover.
            Blomberg immediately tips his hand regarding the true nature of this work when the dedication page says, “To the faculty, administration, and trustees of Denver Seminary who from 1986 to the present have created as congenial a research environment as a professor could hope for, upholding the inerrancy of Scripture without any of the watchdog mentality that plagues so many evangelical institutions” (p. v).  This statement reveals the dual nature of this work in that it not only reveals Blomberg’s unusual take on inerrancy but is intended to deride those who would dare question Blomberg’s positions that he sets forth in the work. 
In evaluating this book, several thoughts immediately come to mind:  Perhaps the term most summarizing the book is “angry rant” against anyone who would dare disagree with a critical British-trained scholar.  The hubris and over-estimation of the writer is stunning that constitutes a basic warning of Paul to believers (Rom. 12:3--For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  Does not the Scripture warn against pride?  Very little humility is displayed in this work, but an attack mode is maintained throughout the work.  He less than subtely compares “A handful of very conservative Christian leaders who have not understood the issues adequately” as having “reacted by unnecessarily rejecting new developments (pp. 7-8).  In this logic, disagreeing with Blomberg or those in the fraternity of critical scholarship means being too labeled ignorant as well as Nazi-like since he tells of a teacher’s warning to avoid “the far left or the far right” as being related to “Nazism and Communism.”  Apparently, this indicates that Blomberg has found the proverbial Goldilocks position of perfect middle ground of understanding of biblical issues.  He is enlightened as no one else is who is not a critical evangelical scholar.  Rogers and McKim took a similar position in 1979 when they wrote about the 20th century, “In this century both fundamentalism and modernism sometimes took extreme positions regarding the Bible” (Rogers and McKim, The Authority and The Interpretation of the Bible, Harper and Row, 1979, p. xxiii).  This present reviewer had Deja vie all over again when he read Blomberg at many places and recalled Rogers’ and McKim’s similar arguments to Blomberg.
In terms of Blomberg’s take on inerrancy, he attacks “extremely conservative Christians” who continue to insist on following their modern understandings of what should or should not constitute errors in the Bible and censure fellow inerrantists whose views are less anachronistic” (p. 10).  Blomberg’s loophole in the question of inerrncy, however, is “genre” (pp. 10-11).  He relates something that immediately causes the reader to take pause: “Most important, simply because a work appears in narrative form does not automatically historical or biographical in genre.  History and biography themselves appear in many different forms, and fiction can appear identical to history in form” (p. 11). He relates that “the way in which the ancients wrote history is clearer now than ever before. Once again the result is that we know much better what we should be meaning when we say we ‘believe the Bible,’ and therefore such belief is more defensible than ever” (p. 11).  He attacks “ultraconservatives” who do not abide by his assessment in the following terms, “once again, unfortunately, a handful of ultraconservatives criticize all such scholarship, thinking that they are doing a service to the gospel instead of the disservice that they actually render” (p. 11).  This attack continues in his attack on The Master’s Seminary as an questionable reaction to Biola/Talbot: “founding of the Master’s Seminary and breaking away from Biola University and its Talbot Theological Seminary in protest against their retreat from fundamentalism.” (p. 143).  He did this also in 2000 with his book, Solid Ground (Leicester:Apollos, 2000) when he almost word for word attacked in angry, livid terms not only The Masters’ Seminary, but the motives of those involved in its founding, including its President, John MacArthur (Solid Ground, p. 315-315) where he advocated censorship of any book or opinion that would dare disagree with renown British scholarship as he exemplifies, “I can hardly imagine such a book [i.e. The Jesus Crisis, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998] ever being published by a major Christian press in the UK and that “I do think that British evangelicals, however, have better developed mechanisms for formal co-operation and joint scholarship ventures.
 (Solid Ground, 313).
Because of limited space in a review, Chapter 4, “Don’t These Issues Rule Out Biblical Inerrancy” (pp. 119-146) and Chapter 5, “Aren’t Several; Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical” (pp. 147-178) deserve special scrutiny for any one who would affirm belief, and especially inerrancy, in the Bible.  Blomberg here addresses the “fundamentalist-modernist controversy.”  He claims that the idea of inerrancy as understood by American efforts is largely an American phenomena: “Other branches of evangelicalism, especially in other parts of the world not heavily influenced by American missionary efforts, tend to speak of biblical authorityinspiration, and even infallibility, but not inerrancy” (p. 119).  He relates that some have “consciously rejected inerrancy as too narrow a term to apply to Scripture” (p. 119).  He relates that these misunderstandings  about inerrancy emerge especially “among those who are noticeably more conservative or those who are noticeably more liberal in their views of Scripture than mainstream evangelicalism” (p. 119).  He mentions the following who, in his belief, have misunderstood inerrancy because they are too conservative: “from the far right of the evangelical spectrum, Norman Geisler, William Roach, Robert Thomas, and David Farnell attack my writings along with similar ones by such evangelical stalwarts as Darrell Bock, D. A. Carson, and Craig Keener as too liberal, threatening inerrancy, or denying the historicity of Scripture.” (p. 120).  In response to this, the writer of this review would urge the reader to examine the latest book from Geisler and Farnell, The Jesus Quest The Danger From Within (Xulon, 2014) to make up their own mind as to the interpretative approaches of Blomberg and these scholar especially in terms of inerrancy (we report, you decide). Blomberg addresses the effect that creeds and confession of Christendom especially in terms of inerrancy (p. 120-121).
He relates that “[t]here are two quite different approaches [to inerrancy], moreover, that can lead to an affirmation that Scripture is without error” (p. 121).  These two approaches are “inductive approach” that “begins with the phenomena of the Bible itself, defines what would count as an error, analyzes Scripture carefully from beginning to end, and determines that nothing has been discovered tha would qualify as errant” (p. 121).  The “deductive approach” that begins with the conviction that God is the author of Scripture, proceeds to the premise by definition that God cannot err, and therefore concludes that God’s Word must be without error” (p. 121).  He reacts negatively against the deductive approach of “evidentialists and “presuppositonalist” by noting that these two terms “ultimately views inerrancy as a corollary of inspiration, not something to be demonstrated from the texts of Scripture itself.  If the Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), and God cannot err, then the Bible must be errant.  Hence, the inductive approach to Blomberg requires that the Bible prove that it is inerrant through critical investigation of the texts themselves rather than the others that just assume the texts are inerrant.  Thus, he shifts the burden of proof from the Bible to that of the scholar.  It is the critical investigator that must establish whether the text is truly inerrant.  Importantly, Blomberg believes that the real debate on inerrancy is one of “hermeneutics” (p. 125).  Thus, under this logic, one could hold to inerrancy but believe that a particular event in Scripture is really symbolic and not to be taken as literally an event in the time-space continuum (creation in six days (126).  As a result, “Gensis 1 can be and has been interpreted by inerrantists as referring to a young earth, and old earth, progressive creation, theistic evolution, a literary framework for asserting God as the creator of all things irrespective of his methods, and a series of days when God took up residence in his cosmic temple for the sake of newly created humanity in his image.  Once again, this is a matter for hermeneutical and exegetical debate, not one that is solved by the shibboleth of inerrancy” (p. 126).  One must note, however, that Blomberg reveals his startling differences with inerrancy as defined by ICBI in 1978: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship. “  Here Blomberg’s position is neither grammatical, historical, or literal, for Blomberg argues, “defenders of inerrancy do not reflect often enough on what it means to say that nonhistorical genres are wholly truthful” (p. 128).  He also reflects adeja vue mantra of Rogers and McKim who wrote in 1979, “But often without realizing it, we impose on ancient documents twenty-first century standards that are equally inapproapriate.”  Rogers and McKim, said “To erect a standard of modern, technical precision in language as the hallmark of biblical authority was totally foreign to the foundation shared by the early church” (Rogers and McKim, The Authority and Intepretation of the Bible An Historical Approach, p. xxii).  Blomberg also supports elements of speech-act theory also maintains that “Vanhoozer’s work is indeed very attractive, but it is scarcely at odds with the Chicago Statement” (p. 136).  The reader is referred here to Geisler/Roach evaluation of Van Hoozer for a different perspective, “Kevin Vanhoozer on Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy Defended, p. 132-159.  One wonders at this statement of Blomberg, since Van Hoozer denies the grammatico-historical approach, and as Geisler/Roach conclude, “[Van Hoozer] also claims to affirm much of the ICBI statement as he understands it.  But that is precisely the problem since the way he understands it is not he way the framers meant it, as is demonstrated from the official commentaries on the ICBI statements” (Geisler/Roach, Inerrancy Defended, p.
The practical result is genre can be used to deny anything in the bible that the interpreter finds offensive as a literal sense.  The allegorical school did such a thing, the gnostics did it to scripture and now Blomberg applies his updated version of it with genre being applied to hermeneutics.  Blomberg’s use of genre, to this present review, smacks of an erie similarity to Rogers’/McKim’s deprecation of literal interpretation when they noted Westerner’s logic that viewed “statements in the Bible were treated like logical propositions that could be interpreted quite literally according to contemporary standards” (Rogers and McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, xviii).  In Chapter 5, Aren’t Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorial,” his use of hermeneutics continues to be the means by which he can redefine what normal definition of inerrancy would be, and he uses it to deny the plain, normal sense of Genesis 1-3 (p. 150), while advocating that we must understand the author’s intent in such passages, with the key question from Article 13 of ICBI, “standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.”  Applying a completely wrong understanding of this clause of ICBI as well as the original intent of the founders of ICBI, Blomberg advocates that idea that “the question is simply one about the most likely literary form of the passage” (p. 150).  From there, he proceeds to allow for non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 that are, in his view, fully in line with inerrancy, e.g. Adam and Eve as symbols for every man and woman (p. 152), evolutionary and progressive creation (pp. 151-153), a non-historical Jonah (p. 160), the possiblility of three Isaiah’s (p. 162), Daniel as Apocalyptic genre rather than prophetic (p. 163-164), fully embracing of midrash interpretation of the Gospels as advocated by Robert Gundry as not impacting inerrancy (pp. 165-168) as well as pseudepigraphy as fully in line with inerrancy in NT epistles under the guide of a “literary device” or “acceptable form of pseudonymity (168-72).  He argues that we don’t know the opinions of the first century church well-enough on pseudepigraphy to rule it out: “[B]arring some future discovery related to first-century opinions, we canot pontificate on what kinds of claims for authorship would or would not have been considered acceptable in Christian communities, and especially in Jewish-Christian circles when the New Testament Epistles were written.  As a result, we must evaluate every proposal based on it s own historical and grammatical merits, not on whether it does or does not pass some pre-established criterion of what inerrancy can accept” (p. 172).
Several summaries after reading Blomberg’s work are in order:
First, under the logic of Blomberg, one would wonder if Galatians would not have been accepted by evangelical communities since in it Paul has quite a few charged statements against the Judaizers that today’s evangelicals might seem unfair such as “If I or an angel from heaven preach to you a different gospel than that which you heard, let them be anathema: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which isreally not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-10).  In Galatians 5:12 Paul says in Galatians 5:12 that those false teachers who advocate circumcision, “I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves where Paul advocates that the false teachers who proclaimed works in salvation through circumcision should slip with their knife and cut off some important member.  In the Philippians, Paul calls out two ladies who are bickering with each other by name, I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.  In the Pastorals, Paul calls by name heretics and delivers them over to Satan, Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme. In 2Tim. 4:14 lexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.  Would Paul’s warning to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5) not call for rigorous examination of all evangelical positions that we might be faithful to God’s Word (1 Cor. 4:4).  What about Jude’s warning about false teaching that “crept in unnoticed” or 2 Peter’s language of no uncertain terms, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.  Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Pet. 2:3-4).  Would critically trained evangelicals advocate such language as too harsh, too censorious or even Nazi-like.  Surely Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23 was within the bounds of evangelicalism today, one would hope at least.
Second, it is not only very poor logic, highly unprofessional to name call evangelicals who are concerned for inerrancy issues as “Nazism and Communism. “(p. 7).  In light of the Scripture verses quoted above about certain NT books defending the faith, would some critically-trained evangelicals call Paul’s concern for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word in such terms?  Surely Paul’s warning (2 Tim. 4:2-4) that false teaching would arise would cause these evangelicals to have a concern: “each the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. Does an seminary education, Ivy league or critically-trained, immunize one from these concerns?
Second, Blomberg shows a remarkable lack of understanding the ICBI 1978 and 1982 statements, and, at times, clearly is in opposition to them.  He clearly does not accept them as originally intended or as a guideline that he will abide.
Third, this book, published by Baker, is an angry rant rather than a scholarly discussion.  Blomberg’s anger completely overwhelms his discussion to the point of absolute distraction.  His arrogance in his own personal assessment of himself as a evangelical critical scholar who truly discerns the issue strikes one very negatively.
In conclusion, perhaps a better title for this Baker book should be Can We Still Believe Evangelical Critical Scholars?  Why?  They some, like Blomberg, say that they believe in inerrancy, but Blomberg’s book leave much doubt as to whether they really do believe it the way the church has traditionally maintained that doctrine throughout the millennia.  Indeed, the present review challenges all to re-read Rogers’ and McKim’s work (1979), as well as Rogers, Biblical Authority(1977) to discover startling parallels in many thoughts between their position and that of critical evangelical scholars like Blomberg today.  It is painfully obvious in this book that Paul’s warning of not to be taken captive by philosophy has been totally overlooked, ignored and disregarded by Blomberg (Col. 2:8--See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.) as well as Paul’s warning to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5—“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”

He Cares For You

by William MacDonald - Source Link
Jan 1 2015
An excerpt from William MacDonald’s devotional One Day at a Time
The Bible is fairly full of tokens of God’s marvelous care for His people. During Israel’s forty-year trek through the wilderness, they ate food from heaven (Exodus 16:4), had an unfailing supply of water (1 Corinthians 10:4), and were equipped with shoes that never wore out (Deuteronomy 29:5).
It is the same in our wilderness journey. To prove this, our Lord reminds us how His care for us is so much greater than His care for birds, flowers, and animals. He speaks of sparrows, for instance. He provides their food (Matthew 6:26). Not one of them is forgotten before God (Luke 12:6). Not one falls to the ground without Him (Matthew 10:29), or, as H. A. Ironside said, “God attends the funeral of every sparrow.” The moral of the story, of course, is that we are of more value to Him than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31).
If He clothes the lilies of the field more beautifully than Solomon was ever attired, He will much more clothe us (Matthew 6:30). If He makes provision for the care of oxen, how much more will He care for our needs (1 Corinthians 9:9)!
As our High Priest, the Lord Jesus bears our names on His shoulders—the place of power (Exodus 28:9-12) and on His breast—the place of affection (Exodus 28:15-21). Also our names are engraved in the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), a fact that inevitably reminds us of the nail wounds He sustained for us at Calvary.
He knows the exact number of the hairs of our head (Matthew 10:30). He numbers our tossings at night and keeps count of our tears in His book (Psalm 56:8).
Whoever touches us, touches the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). No weapon formed against us can prosper (Isaiah 54:17).
Whereas the heathen carry their gods on their shoulders (Isaiah 46:7), our God carries His people (Isaiah 46:4).
When we go through the waters, the rivers, or the fire, He is with us (Isaiah 43:2). In all our afflictions, He is afflicted (Isaiah 63:9).
The One who guards us neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3-4). Someone has called this characteristic of God “the divine insomnia.”
The Good Shepherd who gave His life for us will not withhold any good from us (John 10:11; Psalm 84:11; Romans 8:32).
He cares for us from the beginning of the year to the end (Deuteronomy 11:12). He bears us even to old age (Isaiah 46:4). In fact He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God really cares!
How The Lord Cares For His Sparrows…
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. — Luke 12:6-7
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. —Matthew 10:30-32
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah. — Psalm 84:2-4

Question: I have encountered a minister who considers himself to be a non-practicing homosexual. He has said that his sins are forgiven. Will he be accepted by God into heaven? I do understand that having faith in Jesus Christ for what He has done for us recognizes that He has nailed our past, current, and future sins to the Cross. This minister considers himself to still be a homosexual but says he isn’t involved with the sinful homosexual acts. My question is this: If a homosexual is not involved in those sinful homosexual acts but still considers himself a homosexual, will he/she go to heaven?

by TBC staff - Source Link - thebereancall.org
Jan 1 2015
Response:  The individual you mention may be deceived by the idea that homosexuals are born that way and cannot change. But one of the glories of the power of the gospel is that we  can  be changed. Drunks can cease to be drunks, homosexuals can cease to be homosexuals. The habits of a lifetime may be extremely difficult to overcome, but the Scriptures assure us that we can be changed. One of the worst ideas humanity has ever come up with is that one cannot change. For example, 12-steps programs teach that one will always be an “alcoholic.” Where is the victory that we are promised in Christ? In fact, 2 Corinthians:5:17 states, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a  new creature: old things are passed away; behold,  all things are become new  (emphasis added).”
With this in mind, in 1 Corinthians:6:9-10 Paul lists those who will not inherit the kingdom of God: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” This means active involvement in these practices. And lest anyone feels hopeless about shedding the image attached to his former sin, Paul continues in verse 11: “And such  were  some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
This minister states that he lives a celibate life. This is good and is perhaps an indication that he truly has been saved. What he says about remaining a homosexual, however, puts him in direct conflict with Scripture. It’s one thing to say that you’re not a practicing homosexual, but is that action the result of a changed heart? Does he fully understand how God views homosexuality? God was very clear in the Old Testament about this matter, calling it an abomination (Lv 20:13, et al.). He is equally clear in the New Testament, particularly in Romans:1:18-32, on the consequences of giving oneself over to that lifestyle. And yet, in both the Old and New Testaments, God’s directions are explicit regarding those who belong to Christ who sin: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prv 28:13); “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn:2:1).
If this man is truly a born-again believer (even though deceived by popular but unbiblical ideas), he will go to heaven. But even so, he still needs to discard the world’s ideas and embrace the promises of God. What a testimony he will have if he yields himself entirely to the Lord to forgive him, wash him, and make him as “white as snow”!

In Defense of the Faith - What Year Was Jesus Born?

by Dave Hunt - Article Link
Dec 1 2014
What Year Was Jesus Born?
Question:  Matthew says Christ’s birth was during the reign of Herod [the Great] (Matthew:2:1). Herod died, by all accounts, in 4 BC, so Christ could not have been born any later than that. Yet Luke says that Jesus had just turned 30 years old in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar (Luke:3:1, 23), who began to reign in AD 14. So that would mean Jesus was 30 in AD 29? and thus was born in 1 BC, three years after Herod’s death, thoroughly destroying Matthew’s timing! In a further contradiction, Luke puts Christ’s birth when Cyrenius was governor of Syria, but he didn’t take that office until AD 6. Episcopalian Bishop John S. Spong of Newark, New Jersey, says that such contradictions prove the Bible isn’t reliable. I believe the Bible is true. Can you help me?
Response:  The seeming contradictions you mention (as well as many others) have been eagerly (in .fact, too eagerly) raised by a number of skeptics as “proof” that the Bible contains errors and thus cannot be God’s Word. One needs to remember that the Bible has been “proven” wrong many times on the basis of then-available knowledge either of science or history. However, in every case, when all the facts were at last uncovered, the Bible was vindicated and the critics were red-faced. It is the same here.
Quirinius—Cyrenius Was Govenor of Syria Twice
First of all, the dates that Bishop Spong and other critics use in this presumed refutation were never by any means certain. Historians did not accept them. It would be foolish to throw away one’s confidence in the Bible on the basis of dates that are questionable at best. For example, Will Durant, in  The Story of Civilization,  Volume III, indicated that he did not know when Quirinius (another spelling for Luke’s Cyrenius) began his governorship over Syria. If Durant, one of the most highly respected of all historians, said the exact date was unknown, I would be suspicious of a critic who, in order to “prove” the Bible wrong, states dogmatically that Quirinius began his reign in AD 6!
Furthermore, on the basis of new evidence since Durant wrote his history, as already noted, other historians such as A. W. Zumpt are convinced that Quirinius was governor over Syria  twice,  the first time from at least as early as 4 BC. That governorship ended in AD 1. John Elder believes Quirinius’ first time as governor began as early as 7 BC. Christ’s birth, of course, had to be no later than 4 BC, which would have been when Quirinius was governor the  first  time, exactly as Luke states.
As for Tiberius Caesar—Most Interesting!
As for the alleged problem with the date of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, the historical evidence for its resolution has been well-known for many years. Yes, Augustus Caesar died in AD 14, and that date is therefore generally listed as the official beginning of the reign of his successor, Tiberius Caesar. However, the skeptics are so eager to find a flaw in the Bible that they fail to dig deeply enough to discover the perfectly sound reason for an earlier date.
In actual fact, Tiberius, though technically not yet the Caesar, had already begun to rule the empire some years before Augustus’ death, because the latter was elderly and in poor health. Rebellions had cost the lives of those possible successors closest to Augustus. Left without either aide or successor, Augustus had in AD 2 adopted Tiberius as his son and coregent. Subsequently, Tiberius had been sent out by Augustus to put down the rebellions and had done a masterful job. Will Durant writes:
When he [Tiberius] returned in AD 9, after five years of arduous and successful campaigning, all Rome, which hated him for his stern puritanism, resigned itself to the fact that though Augustus was still prince, Tiberius had begun to rule.
Counting his rule as having actually begun in AD 9, “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke:3:1) would be AD 24–25. If Jesus was born 4 or 5 BC, just before Herod’s death and during the  first  governorship of Cyrenius over Syria, that would make Him 29 years of age in AD 24–25, at the beginning of His ministry. Notice that Luke says that He “ began  to be  about  thirty years of age.” Of course, if He was born in 6 BC, He would have been 30 sometime during AD 24. We don’t have precise dates, but what we know certainly confirms the accuracy of Luke’s testimony.
The above demonstrates once again how mistaken and deceitfully  biased  are the wishful criticisms of the supposed scholars such as those of the Jesus Seminar (and apostate religious leaders such as Bishop Spong) who claim that the New Testament cannot be relied upon because it was not written until centuries after the time of Jesus. In fact, the dating Luke gives, which archaeological discoveries took years to verify, could not possibly have been known and recorded with such precision even decades, much less centuries, later, as the critics insist. It could only have been known to eyewitnesses on the scene at the time, which the Bible writers claim to have been.
—  An excerpt   from  In Defense of the Faith (pp. 91-94)  by  Dave Hunt
Why Did God Allow Seeming Contradictions?
Question:  You Christians seem to have a way of somehow coming up with a “reconciliation” of whatever contradictions and inconsistencies “unbelievers” are able to discover in the Bible. However, no matter how con-vincing the “reconciliation” may seem to be, I am left with a question: Why should there be so many problems that you have to work so hard to solve? It seems to me that the very fact that there are so many inconsistencies (even if you supposedly solved every one) is in itself ev-idence that the Bible is badly flawed and therefore could not possibly be God’s Word.
Response:  On the contrary—the many  seeming  contradictions and inconsistencies constitute a very convincing proof of the reliability of the Bible. If three witnesses who claimed to have seen an accident each described it in exactly the same language, word for word, one would have good reason to suspect collusion and to throw out their testimony. However, if each described it in his own words and from his own perspective, one would tend to believe them. Moreover, if there seemed to be some conflict in their testimonies, but if that conflict were resolved by probing deeper into the incident, that would add significantly to the trustworthiness of their testimony. So it is with the seeming contradictions in the Bible.
Irwin Linton, in  A Lawyer Examines the Bible,  puts it well: “The frank and artless narratives of the Bible are so obviously indifferent to the appearance  of consistency, and show so clearly that irregularity which is the sure mark of honest handwork in the Oriental rug and of spontaneity in human testimony, that they have often lured opponents into attempts at destructive cross-examination which have only brought the Bible’s truth and consistency into clearer light.”
One of the Bible’s great strengths, then, is the reinforcing power of  apparent  inconsistencies, which, in the reconciling, prove the truthfulness of the narrative.
William Paley draws attention to this fact in his writings:
Now, in historical researches, a reconciled inconsistency becomes a positive argument. First, because an impostor generally guards against the appearance of inconsistency; and secondly, because when apparent inconsistencies are found, it is seldom that anything but truth renders them capable of reconciliation.
The existence of the difficulty proves the absence of that caution which usually accompanies the consciousness of fraud; and the solution proves that it is not the collusion of fortuitous propositions which we have to deal with, but that a thread of truth winds through the whole, which preserves every circumstance in its place.
—  An excerpt   from  In Defense of the Faith (pp. 94-95)  by  Dave Hunt

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014 from the Haas Family!

Dear Family and Friends,
     Well, as you can imagine, 2014 brought many amazing changes to our lives again, and we are continually amazed at God’s plan and provision.
     On March 7th, Josiah Shannon Haas was born! It was quite an exciting day, as Penny was in labor for about 24 hours before they decided to have an emergency c-section. It is a good thing they did! He was coming out face first, which the nurse later told us is the rarest presentation! He was a big baby, and still is. He is nine months old now, crawling, standing, and trying to walk already! He has been such a blessing in our lives. He is a very happy and cuddly baby. What a blessing.
StroyOfChristmas6     Ezra is now three (will be four in February) and Evelyn is two. They both call each other “sissy” and can be found doing a number of things: running, coloring, singing, dancing, cuddling, and fighting. They of course get into arguments at times, but neither of them like to be without the other! We are glad they are built-in best friends.
     You are probably sitting there thinking, “Wait…they have three kids ages three and under?? How do they manage?” Well, we are glad you asked that question! God made it clear to us that working as a full-time high school English teacher and being the mom of three very small children was not going to work. Penny quit her job at Wisconsin Dells High School after the 2013-2014 year ended. We were apprehensive, of course, but knew this was God’s calling. Penny was very happy, however, to be a stay at home mom. The apprehension was “How will we make it with one less salary?”
     God deserves all the glory for this! We tried to sell our home, knowing that a less expensive one would help greatly, but we still have not been able to. God has literally provided for us in ways we would never have imagined! We have been able to pay all the bills and we continue to enjoy life through the ups and downs!
     Our ups have included fun with our children and family…we enjoyed the summer camping and going to tourist destinations in our town. One down was when Evelyn crashed our van! Even though it was off and the keys were not in the van, she pulled it out of park, and it rolled down the driveway and hit a tree! Thank God she was okay (and so was Ezra who was running circles around the van!).
     Penny is now working as a stay at home mom, and has done some tutoring, runs a small daycare, and just started a business with Younique. She loves being with her kids and loves the fun she gets from running her own business.
     Shannon has been working with Brunner Manufacturing for almost five years now and still enjoys it. He has continued to amaze Penny and the family with his projects. He built Penny a beautiful clothesline, a huge sandbox for the kids, a custom kennel for our dog, Bear, stools for the kids this Christmas, and converted our shed into a heated workshop! He is an excellent craftsman (like his dad!).
     We are wondering if life will slow down for a bit, or not? We were married about five and a half years ago, and in that time we have had two job changes each, three kids, bought a house, and have now outgrown it! Life is very active, but always a blessing. Even difficult times are a blessing because God teaches us how to trust Him! How incredible it is to be able to have peace even when things are scary, hard, and we don’t know what is going to happen. This is why Philippians 4:6-7 has been in our minds throughout the year: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Shannon, Penny, Ezra, Evelyn, and Josiah Haas