Notes From Tonight’s Lesson

Here are my notes from tonight’s lecture.  I used notes from reading Tim Keller’s Reason For God, as well as notes from other apologetics classes I have had at RTS.  Feel free to ask questions.

 

What is Scripture?  God’s Word, Infallible and Inerrant.

-Word from God.  Because God is relational, and we are made in his image, it should follow that we are also to be relational.  And if both God and his image bearers are relational, it follows that he should communicate with us.  He does this in the Bible.  

-If the Bible is God’s Word, it must share the same attributes as Himself.  

 

How do we know that the Bible we have today is the real Bible?

-We can approach this in a couple of ways, because just spouting facts is not going to change a person’s mind about the issue.  There has to be a philosophical/worldview level rationale for why we believe the Bible is truly the infallible and inerrant word of God.  

-First, Evidential Reasons:

First Objection Raised: There are more errors in the NT than words.  How can you trust something like that?

-This is true.  

-BUT, it shows a lack of how the Bible was produced.  

-You have a room of scribes, all writing down what is being dictated.  These are professional scribes.  They trained for years to this.  It is not a slacker job.  

-There was great importance put on accuracy.  There are correctors that go around and check the scribes work.  We have corrector marks in even the earliest of manuscripts.

-There are a number of ways to write the same thing in greek.  The use of the definite article, and word order are well over 95% of these “errors.”  The problem with this accusation is that the meaning of the sentence is not changed at all.  

-How did we come up with so many mistakes you ask?  We have an enormous number of manuscripts.  And we are talking the early manuscripts, the ones dating 400 AD and earlier.  We have close to 6 thousand manuscripts of parts of the NT.  Majority of them are the popular books, just as they are today, like the Gospels, Paul’s letters, BUT we also have a large number of all the others.

-If every manuscript had just a few mistakes, you add those up over the sheer number of manuscripts, and you have more mistakes than words.  But the meaning, despite the perceived mistakes, remains unchanged.

-Its interesting that this argument is used against the Bible, and then they compare works of Homer, Plato, etc. and say, these only had a hundred or so errors.  Those works are never doubted in their authenticity or reliability.  

-What is wrong with this?  There are at best, twenty copies of the most popular work from the time period we are taking manuscripts into account.  Twenty compared to 6 thousand.  Of course the number of errors will be less.

-You can’t have it both ways: What were to happen if we only had a handful of copies of the NT, and they only had a number of these “errors” that changed no meaning whatsoever?  They would say, there is not enough evidence, we need more manuscripts. 

-Second Objection: The NT is just a bunch of legends:

-The Timing is far too early for the gospels to be legends.  

-Why? Eyewitness accounts. Not only are the supporters of Christ still alive during the writing of the gospels, but also those adamantly opposed.

-It would have been impossible for this faith to spread if it had no credibility. Why? The content.  Why would these writers want this stuff spread around?  It involved something so counterproductive: the leader dying? the followers hiding away? women discovering Jesus’ tomb? Not something you want to get out if you want to spread quickly 

-This actually leads to another point: the Gospels are too detailed to be legends.  

Second, Cultural Reasons:

-What are we to do with passages that say, as in Eph 6:5ff, “Slaves, obey your masters?”  

-These are the passages that usually cause outrage, and people to turn from Scripture.  Why is that?  We immediately think of African slave trade, the civil war, and the struggle for equal rights in the mid 20th century.  

-When we think of that, and then read this passage, we then associate the Bible as teaching that slavery was allowed, and even desired.  

-This is a classic case of ignoring the cultural and historical distance between us and the writer/readers of the original text.  

-In the Roman Empire, especially during the first century, slaves were not distinguishable from others by race, speech, or clothing.  They looked and lived like everyone else.  Financially, they made the same as regular laborers.  They were not poor.  And only in very rare instances were they slaves for life.

-In “New World” slavery, the slave became property of the master, and could have anything done to them that the master wanted.  This could mean beatings, rape, or even death.  This slavery WAS race based, and its default mode was slavery for life.  This slave trade started and continued through kidnapping, which the Bible explicitly prohibits in multiple places in NT and OT (1 Tim 1:9-11, Deut 24:7).

-This type of slavery was campaigned to be abolished by Christians.

 

Another cultural objection: We are more “progressive” in today’s culture than the Bible

We think of the Bible as primitive.  Heck, we think of the pilgrims as primitive.  But think about it, someday, our views will be seen as primitive.  

-How can we use our time’s standard of “progressive” as the plumbline, the guiding point, by which we decide which parts of the Bible are valid and which are not?  

 

-What about the debate about gender?  This is a hot issue today.  What do we do when someone says, “I can’t accept what the Bible says about gender roles.”  This is an objection that often says more about what they don’t want to give up, and what is more important to them than any idea of seeking truth.  Also, consider that there are Christians who differ on this topic, but they still confess the Apostle’s Creed and that Jesus rose from the dead, and his death on the cross forgives the sins of those who believe in Him.  

-The response to this question then is this: Are you saying that because you don’t like what the Bible says about sex that Jesus couldn’t have been raised from the dead? If they say, yes, then they are basing their argument on nothing logical, but rather solely on emotion.  This is someone trying to pick apart Christianity (or make their objection to it easier to swallow) because they don’t want to change their lives in any way.  

-What happens if you say, You don’t have to believe that part of the Bible?  You create a stepford God.  You create a religion based on your preferences rather than truth.

 

-These objections often come out of either a misunderstanding of a textual issue or disagreement with a moral issue.  The big objection is about the character of God. It looks like this: “How can the Bible have a God who judges people and eternally damns them to hell?  My God is a God of love.”  

-While this might seem ridiculous, know that much ink has been shed discussing this question, and ones like it, and as recently as a year or two ago, a “prominent” pastor, a term I use loosely with this individual, wrote a book on the issue titled Love Wins.  The book rejected the idea that anyone goes to hell, and the attempt to cover up the blatant universalism was seen by appealing to “educated” and “culturally progressive” arguments.  

Objection: A God of Judgement Simply Cannot Exist

-This objection really did not come along until the last hundred years, with the rise of the individual and individualism.  This lead to the idea that truth is relative, and that each person needs to discover their God on their own, and should not be coerced.  Its interesting that no one has a problem with a God of Love, but mention judgement and suddenly everyone objects.  

-There is a cultural shift that has taken place.  In ancient times it was understood that there was a transcendent moral order outside the self, built into the fabric of the universe.  If you violated this order, there would be consequences.  Modernity reversed this.  Ultimate reality was seen not so much as a supernatural order but as a natural world, and that was changeable.  Instead of trying to shape our desires to fit reality, we now seek to control and shape reality to fit our desires.  

-An example: take someone with a stress/anxiety problem caused by overworking.  Ancient times would look to a spiritual character change that must be made.  Modernity said, you need stress management techniques.

-This idea of modernity gave us the responsibility to determine right and wrong, which has gone from reshaping our physical environment to reshaping a metaphysical environment.  

-We believe so deeply in our right to our personal rights in this realm that the very  idea of a divine Judgement Day seems impossible.  

-The question to ask is this: Why aren’t you offended by a forgiving God?  Westerners get upset at the mention of hell, but love the Christian teaching of turn the other cheek.  In traditional societies, the teaching about turning the other cheek would make no sense.  For them, though, the doctrine of judgement would not be a problem at all.  That society is repulsed by aspects of Christianity that western people enjoy, and are attracted by the aspects that secular Westerners can’t stand.

-For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Christianity is not the product of any one culture but it’s actually the trans cultural truth of God. If that were the case we would expect that it would contradict and defend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place.

 

Objection: A God of Judgement Can’t Be a God of Love

-Many believe that God cannot both be a God of love and of justice.  The question looks like this: “How can a God of love be also a God filled with wrath and anger?  If he is loving and perfect, he should forgive and accept everyone. He shouldn’t get angry.”

-Problem: All loving persons are sometimes filled with wrath, not just despite, but because of their love.  If you love someone and you see someone ruining them, even they themselves, you get angry.  

-The bible says that God’s wrath flows from his love and delight in his creation.  He is angry at evil and injustice because it is destroying peace and integrity. Psalm 145:17,20, says, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving towards all he has made…The Lord watches over those who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.”

-Consider this though: If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence, that God would not be worthy of worship.  In fact, it is the lack of belief in a God of vengeance in which we see people “secretly nourish violence.”  If I don’t believe that there is a God who will eventually put all things right, I will take up the sword and will be sucked into the endless vortex of retaliation.  Only if one knows that there is a God who will settle rights and wrongs one day, can I refrain from taking vengeance.  Best example for this is in Communist and Nazism communities.  Loss of belief leads to brutality.

 

Objection: A Loving God would not allow Hell

-This issue is held mainly because of how a person understands how hell works.  They think that God gives us time, but if we haven’t made the right choices by the end of our lives, he throws us into hell forever.  And as we fall through space, we cry out for mercy,. but God says, “Too late! you had your chance, and now you must suffer!”  This shows a very big misunderstanding of the very nature of evil. 

-The biblical picture of evil is that sin separates us from the presence of God, which is the source of all our joy and delight, wisdom, or good of any sort.  If we were to lose the presence of God totally, we would be in hell, because we would lose our capability for giving or receiving with joy.  

-What is the common image of hell? Fire. But the problem with that is that fire burns things up and they disappear.  Think more along the lines of this: How paranoid and self-absorbed, envious, and bitter can you be?  Now think, what if when we die, we don’t just stop being, but spiritually our lives live on for eternity?  Hell, then, is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on forever.

-Think about the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:24-31.  This is the type of self-absorbed, self-centered person that makes a great example for hell.  What is astonishing is that their statuses have now been reversed, the Rich man seems to be blind to what has happened. He still expects lazars to be his servants and treats him as soon as Waterboy. He does not ask to get out of hell, yet strongly implies that God never gave him and his family enough information about the afterlife.  Commentators have noted the astonishing amount of denial, blame shifting, and spiritual blindness in this soul and hell. They also noted that the rich man, unlike Lazarus, is never given a personal name. He is only called a rich man, strongly hinting that since he had built his identity on his wealth rather than on God, once he lost his wealth he lost any sense of a self.

-Hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God, on a trajectory into infinity.  We see this process in the “smaller” addictions: to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography.  

-First, there is disintegration, because as time goes on, you need more and more of the addictive substance to get an equal amount of kick, which leads to less and less satisfaction.  

-Second, there is the isolation that occurs, because you increasingly blame others and circumstances in order to justify your decisions.  This leads to denial, delusion, and self-absorption.  

-CS Lewis illustrates this picture well in The Great Divorce.  We see individuals riding from hell up to the foothills of heaven, but the whole time they are complaining and trying to find ways to go back.  Even those who stick around to talk to these spirits end up getting back on the bus to go to hell, because they want to.  

-This is why it is wrong to picture hell as a place where people are crying, “I’m sorry! Let me out!”  The people on the bus in Lewis’ book would rather have their “Freedom” as they define it, than salvation.  The delusion is that if they glorified God, they would somehow lose their freedom and power.  Ironically, their choice has ruined their own potential for greatness.

-Lewis says, Hell is the greatest monument to human freedom.  

 

Claim: I Believe in a God of Love

-The idea that God is love can only be found through understanding the Christian God. All other gods lack the attribute of love.  There are no other religious texts outside of the Bible that said God created the world out of love and delight. Most ancient pagan religions believe the world was created through struggles and violent battles between opposing gods and supernatural forces.

-Buddhism, despite it’s great emphasis on selflessness and attached service to others, did not believe in a personal God at all, and love is the action of a person.

-The very idea of God’s love, and having a personal relationship with God that is loving, is completely foreign to Muslims. In fact when you say that God is love they actually find it very disrespectful because you speak of God in a personal way, which is impossible for them.

-Today, many skeptics will say they can’t believe in the God of the Bible, who punishes and judges people, because they believe in a God of love. You have to ask though, what makes them think God is love?  Can they look at life in the world today and say, “This proves that the god of the world is a God of love?” Can they look at history and say, “This all shows that the God of history is a God of love?”  Can they look at the religious texts of the world and conclude that God is a God of love? By no means is that the dominant, ruling attribute of God as understood in any of the major faiths.  It must be concluded that the source of the idea that God is love is the Bible itself.  And the Bible tells us that the god of love is also a God of judgment who will put all things in the world right in the end.

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