Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

How reliable are the speeches in the book of Acts?

Jonathan McLatchie writes about it on the Christian Apologetics Alliance web site.

Excerpt:

Much of the book of Acts — about 50% — is comprised of speeches, discourses and letters. Among them, a total of eight speeches are given by Peter; a total of nine speeches delivered by Paul; there is Stephen’s famous address before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:2-53); a brief address at the Jerusalem Council by James (Acts 15:13-21); the advice given to Paul by James and the Jerusalem elders (Acts 21:20-25); in addition to the letter to the Gentile churches from the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:23-29) and the letter to Governor Felix from Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:27-30).

An interesting question that we can investigate pertains to whether these speeches and other addresses are historically authentic, or whether they instead represent the invention of Luke, the author of Acts. It is this question with which this essay is concerned.

Jonathan lists some of the reasons why we should trust Luke as a historian, such that he was a companion of the eyewitness Paul. But then he goes over the speeches of Stephen, Peter and Paul in detail to see what reasons there are to accept or reject them.

For example, look how closely what Peter says in Acts lines up with what he says in 1 Peter:

  1. “…by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge…” (Acts 2:23) //“…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God…” (1 Peter 1:2)
  2. “Silver or gold I do not have…” (Acts 3:6) //“…it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…” (1 Peter 1:18)
  3. “…the faith that comes through him…” (Acts 3:16) //“Through him you believe in God…” (1 Peter 1:21)
  4. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”(Acts 3:19-21) //“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (1 Peter 3:11-12)
  5. “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism…” (Acts 10:34)//“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially…” (1 Peter 1:17)
  6. “…whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead…” (Acts 10:42) //“But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:5)

It looks like the speeches that are attributed to Peter in Acts match closely with what he says in 1 Peter.

Read the whole thing.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

Mary Eberstadt: why Christians should promote policies that strengthen marriage

Here’s an interesting post about a new book by Mary Eberstadt. The post is written by historian Benjamin Wiker.

Excerpt:

As the West has become increasingly secularized, the loss of faith has coincided with the destruction of the natural family. The sexual revolution, higher and higher rates of divorce, cohabitation, same-sex marriage—all have combined to make life-long man-woman marital unions an increasing rarity.

Clearly, the rejection of God has led to a rejection, or radical redefinition, of the family.

But in her How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt bids her readers to look at things from the other end as well. The “decline of the natural family” in the West is not only the effect of the loss of faith, but the cause as well: “the ongoing deterioration of the natural family has both accompanied and accelerated the deterioration in the West of Christian belief.”

Briefly put, “family decline…helps to power religious decline.”

One affects the other because the two go together, argues Eberstadt, like the spiral ladder of the double helix. The fortunes of family and faith correlate, and causation goes both ways. Across the board, regardless of social status or income, the religious tend to have more children than the secular-minded. And the more children a couple has, the more likely they are to go to church.

But that means, of course, that those who are most secular are least likely to have children, and those who are unmarried and/or have no children are least likely to be religious.

That correlation explains the precipitous decline in the birth rate for the most secularized countries of Europe, but allows us to see it in a new light. It is not just that secularization has led to plummeting birth rates in Europe. Europe’s demographic collapse is actually speeding up its secularization.

This is not a correlation that exists only in recent history. The French Revolution gave the West the first self-consciously secular government at the end of the 1700s, and one of its first revolutionary acts was to liberalize its marriage laws. But what people may not realize, was that France was the first country in Europe to experience a decline in fertility rates within marriage, and an increase in cohabitation and illegitimacy, decades before the French Revolution. In the early 1700s, over a half century before the Revolution, illegitimacy was only at 1%, but by the storming of the Bastille, which ushered in the Revolution, France’s illegitimacy rate had climbed to 20% overall, with a 30% rate in the boiling pot of Paris. The French Revolution’s successful attack on Christianity, and the consequent secularization of France, was, in part, the result of the prior erosion of the family.

We see the same pattern in the UK, argues Eberstadt. “In Britain…the decline in births started a century later [than in France] at the very height of Victorian England,…Bit by bit…the same family trends already established in France—fewer births, more divorces, more out-of-wedlock births—also began reshaping the world of Britain. By our own time, over half of all children in Britain are born to unmarried people, and the fertility rate stands at 1.91 children per woman.” Not surprisingly, Britain’s churches are, like those of France, largely empty.

In the Scandinavian countries, like Sweden, where marriage rates are lowest, and divorce, cohabitation, and single-family households, and out-of-wedlock births are the highest, we find the greatest degree of secularization.

The obvious lesson we must draw, says Eberstadt, is “Vibrant families and vibrant religion go hand in hand.”

America is no exception. On the positive side, the baby boom after World War II brought with it a kind of “boom” in religious practice in the US.

But the negative side of the correlation between family and faith is now more evident. Eberstadt quotes the findings of sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, “The recent history of American religion illuminates what amounts to a sociological law: The fortunes of American religion rise with the fortunes of the intact, married family.”

Now here’s the part that I think is interesting. When you walk into a church, you will find very little, if any, education about the kinds of policies that cause marriages to actually not happen or actually break up.  The trouble is that most pastors are so focused on reading the Bible, and only the Bible, that they have no idea what sorts of policies and incentives cause people to not marry or to not stay married. In order to know that, they would have to be reading outside the Bible, in the scientific literature, and then communicating that knowledge to their flocks to get them to make better decisions and to vote more intelligently.

I think that we need to read more widely in order to know how to reach our goals (promoting marriage, in this case) in a practical way. What can we say to people to show them how to get to marriage? What decisions should they be making now, in order to be ready for marriage later? What policies should we be supporting to nudge people towards marriage? What policies should we be against that make it easier for people to dispense with marriage?

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

Muslims drag 25-year-old Coptic Christian woman from her car and murder her

From CNS News.

Excerpt:

Eyewitnesses have given a harrowing account of the murder in Cairo of a young Coptic Christian woman, hauled out of her car and beaten and stabbed to death by a Muslim mob, apparently targeted because of a cross hanging from her rear-view mirror.

The incident occurred in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams after mosque prayer services on Friday, when police clashed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters angered by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s decision to run for president.

An eyewitness appearing on “90 minutes,” a program on the al-Mehwar satellite network, said 25-year-old Mary Sameh George was attacked in her car near a church, where she planned to deliver medicine to an ill and elderly woman.

Protestors climbed onto her car, collapsing the roof, then hauled her from the vehicle, beating and mauling her – to the extent, he said, that portions of her scalp were torn off. She was stabbed multiple times, her throat was slit and when she was dead, the mob torched her car.

One Coptic outlet said that according to the health ministry, the young woman had been stabbed at least a dozen times.

The death of Mary Sameh George received little coverage in Egyptian newspapers.

Keep in mind that the Muslim Brotherhood was supported by the Obama administration.

Here’s a story from David Limbaugh about those two women who were imprisoned in Iran in 2009 for their Christian faith. (H/T Frank Turek)

Excerpt:

On Sunday, two remarkable Christian women, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, spoke at our church, describing their harrowing tale of imprisonment by the Iranian regime because of their Christian faith.

Both were raised in Muslim homes in Iran but never embraced Islam. As young adults, they became Christians and met each other while studying theology in Turkey in 2005. When they returned to Iran, they began evangelizing together for several years, covertly distributing Bibles to some 20,000 people and starting two secret house churches. In March 2009, they were arrested in Tehran for promoting Christianity, which is punishable by death.

The regime officially charged them with apostasy, anti-government activity and blasphemy, and they were sentenced to execution by hanging. Before being cleared of all charges and released in 2009 as a result of worldwide prayer and international pressure, they endured 259 days in Evin prison. Thereafter, they moved to the United States and wrote a book together describing their horrendous experiences, “Captive in Iran.”

In Evin, which is notorious “for torturing, raping and executing innocent people,” they experienced brutal and humiliating treatment, poisoning and illness. They each endured solitary confinement and were interrogated once a week for eight or nine hours at a time. All the while, whether together or separated, they prayed for each other.

The first week, they were horrified and prayed to be released. But soon, they came to see their presence in prison as an opportunity to witness to other prisoners, many of whom were prostitutes and addicts and “so hopeless and sad.” Maryam and Marziyeh prayed for them and saw God work in their lives as they cried and confessed their sins. It became “like a church for us,” said Marziyeh.

[...]At any time, they could have secured their own release by simply renouncing their Christian faith, but they each emphatically refused, saying, “We will never renounce our faith.” Marziyeh told one Muslim prisoner who said they were “silly” for not renouncing their faith: “Our insistence on our faith is not out of stubbornness. … I have lived with God for many years. … He is my all. We are inseparable. My life has no value without him. I love God so much that denying him would be denying my own existence. How could I ever deny something that is in every cell of my body? I would rather spend the rest of my life in prison if that’s what it takes to stay close to him. I would rather be killed than kill the spirit of Christ within me.”

I blogged about them way back in July of 2009. Nice to see that there is a happy ending here, but not without costs.

Most young Christians that I speak to who come from a church background seem to have this idea that all religions are basically the same because the main goal of religions is to make people “nice”. Well. Maybe instead of having their heads stuck up their butts, they should be reading stories like this to inform themselves about the real differences between Christianity and Islam in places other than their safe Western suburbs. The content of the beliefs matter, and the contents of beliefs are different between religions. Christians would rather be killed than deny their faith, and Muslims would rather kill and imprison others who have a different faith. It’s not the same thing, is it?

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

An exchange on purpose from one of William Lane Craig’s early debates

The full transcript of this 1991 debate is here on the Reasonable Faith site. Keep in mind that this is young William Lane Craig  against old, experienced Kai Nielsen.

Nevertheless, here is an exchange I wanted to highlight.

William Lane Craig:

The chief purpose of life is not happiness per se, but the knowledge of God. One reason the problem of evil seems so puzzling is that we tend to think that the goal of human life is happiness in this world. But on the Christian view this is false. Man’s end is not happiness as such, but the knowledge of God–which in the end will bring true and everlasting human fulfillment. Many evils occur in life which seem utterly pointless with respect to producing human happiness, but they may not be unjustified with respect to producing the knowledge of God. Innocent human suffering provides an occasion for deeper dependency and trust in God, either on the part of the sufferer or perhaps those around him. Whether God’s purpose is achieved through our suffering all depends on how we freely respond.

Kai Nielsen:

The first thing you should come to recognize is that there can be purposes in life that are perfectly intact even if there is no purpose to life. If there is no God or telos of any sort, there is no purpose to life; you weren’t made for a purpose. But even if you weren’t made for a purpose, you could find plenty of purposes in life, things worth doing and having and believing and struggling for. Some religious people will say, “That’s all right for little individual small purposes, but you can’t have any overarching purpose in life without belief in God. You can little, fairly trivial things, but no really deep and pervading conception of a purpose in life without God.” But that’s not true. There are many atheists who have had such overarching purposes. They’ve fought relentlessly “the plague” (to use Camus’ metaphor). They’ve sought to lessen the sum total of human suffering, of human degradation, of blighted hopes; they’ve positively sought to bring about a world with more happiness in it and more understanding of each other–more human flourishing, more human solidarity, a brotherhood and sisterhood. They’ve sought, in short, to bring about a classless, raceless, genderless world. Those big purposes – overarching purposes in life – are perfectly available to anyone who is an atheist as well as to someone who is a theist. I don’t deny that believers haven’t done that, but you don’t need God to have either small purposes in life or an overarching purpose in life.

William Lane Craig:

First of all, I have never denied that you can have subjective purposes in life, but what I am arguing is that there is no objective basis to assume the moral worth of your purpose in life on an atheistic view. All purposes in life you choose are morally equal–whether you want to live a life as a doctor caring for the poor or choose instead to be a Ferdinand Marcos. There’s no objective basis for assessing the moral worth of those purposes.

Kai Nielsen:

He says that I don’t meet his objection that moral purposes in life all are perfectly arbitrary without God. I don’t see the slightest reason for that. Some of them are arbitrary if they are silly and thoughtless purposes. Some purposes, if they are integrated, carefully thought-out, related to everything else we know, reflective (where human beings work through long traditions, including working with Christian traditions, in which you put together everything you know and think carefully about these purposes), are perfectly objective. And they are the only kind you can give much sense to.

You’ll note that what counts as a good purpose on Kai’s view is not objective. Every purpose that he mentioned (e.g. – genderless world) was meaningful to him. But do these purposes have any significance, ultimately?

Consider the heat death of the universe:

The ‘heat-death’ of the universe is when the universe has reached a state of maximum entropy. This happens when all available energy (such as from a hot source) has moved to places of less energy (such as a colder source). Once this has happened, no more work can be extracted from the universe. Since heat ceases to flow, no more work can be acquired from heat transfer. This same kind of equilibrium state will also happen with all other forms of energy (mechanical, electrical, etc.). Since no more work can be extracted from the universe at that point, it is effectively dead, especially for the purposes of humankind. 

This is how the universe ends, on atheism. No purpose achieved by any atheist matters, ultimately – the end destination is the same. Humans are going to die out individually and collectively on atheism, nothing anyone does to affect anyone else is going to change a thing. Nothing atheists do matters.

Atheists like to make much of this life being all they have, and to live it to the fullest, etc. But nothing ultimately matters if atheism is true, because the end result of the universe is the same. Nothing they do matters to them, because they’re dead. Nothing they do matters to anyone else, because we’re all dead. It will be as if we never existed or did anything, one way or the other.

In Christian theism, however, what you do in this life has ultimate meaning beyond our earthly lives. What you choose affects your afterlife. What you do with others affects their afterlife. Plans made with respect to that objective goal of knowing God do stand the test of time. They matter, even if they don’t feel good now. If your actions help to turn someone towards God or away from God, it makes a huge difference. A difference that lasts.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

Matt Walsh urges everyone to avoid the “Noah” movie

This movie review on Matt Walsh’s blog should save you some money.

He writes:

On Friday, my wife and I had a very rare date night.

Naturally, we decided to spend it being pummeled by the blaring condescension of the most insipid, absurd, unimaginative, clumsily contrived piece of anti-Christian filmmaking to come along since, well, probably just last week.

[...]Noah is a major Hollywood blockbuster, made by an atheist director best known for his previous flick where a mentally disturbed lesbian ballerina goes insane and bleeds to death on stage. Already, a critical person might be slightly concerned about his handling of the Bible, considering what he just did to the ballet.

These concerns grew from suspicion to reality before it was even released, when the man himself came out publicly and professed Noah to be both an environmentalist propaganda piece, and the “least Biblical” Bible film ever made.

He wasn’t lying.

But he forgot to mention that it’s also a terrible film.

Matt continues the review by through the movie and explaining the worldview they are trying to push in it. You have to read the whole post if you want the details, but the summary is that this movie has nothing at all to do with the Biblical story of Noah. It’s something that could have been made by animal rights activists and global warming alarmists.

Here is the conclusion:

I’ve heard the movie compared to Titanic and Gladiator. Personally, I’d say it’s more of a cross between Mutiny on the Bounty and The Shining. Only far less coherent than any of them.

I’ve also heard some “Christian leaders” endorse this steaming pile of heretical horse manure. I’m tempted to accuse them of being cowardly, dumb, or dishonest, but I’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they slept through the most troubling parts — like the part at the beginning, and the end, and all of the parts in between.

It’s true that it might be a bit difficult to discern the “message” in a film so filled with explosions (the Bad Guys have bazookas, naturally), monsters, and infanticide, but any supposed Christian “leader” ought to try a little harder. Pay a little closer attention. If you do, you’ll see a tale that entirely perverts the nature of God, while flipping sin and immorality on its head.

Aside from a brief glimpse of something that appeared to be either rape or cannibalism, wickedness is portrayed as mostly a matter of eating meat and mining the earth for resources. Noah — a righteous man in the Bible — is stripped of his righteousness in favor of obsessiveness. God is stripped of any characteristics at all, apart from vindictiveness.

It’s not that ‘Noah’ strays from the text — of course it does, the actual text is only a few pages long — it’s that the movie completely and utterly distorts the message and meaning of the original story.

If you are thinking about watching this movie, I urge you to reconsider. That money would be better spent on something else. Really, anything else would be better. It’s a fine movie for people who like to see Bible stories butchered by atheists who are pushing an Earth-First environut agenda, but it’s not a good movie for believing Jews and Christians. When an atheist director claims to have made “the least Biblical film ever made“, you should believe him.

This is an issue of stewardship – why would you give your money to someone who hates your worldview, when there is no possible purpose for it other than entertainment? Be a good steward of your money and don’t hand it to people who are tearing up your religion. There are plenty of better things to do with it than hand it to people who are opposed to the God of the Bible. You don’t have to watch a movie just because it’s new and a lot of money was spent making it.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , ,

Wintery Tweets

Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 3,935,785 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,716 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,716 other followers

%d bloggers like this: