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, , , , , , , , , , ,

J.P. Moreland lectures on “Love Your God With All Your Mind”

Dr. J.P. Moreland

Dr. J.P. Moreland

If I had to pick a few lectures that really changed my life, then this lecture by J.P. Moreland would definitely be on that list.

The MP3 file.

Topics:

  • How J.P. Moreland become a Christian
  • How evangelism drove his efforts to answer skeptics
  • How can evangelicals be so numerous, and yet have so little influence?
  • When did the church stop being able to out-think her critics?
  • How studying and thinking can be a way of worshiping God
  • Romans 12:1-2 – what does this passage mean?
  • Are your beliefs under the control of your will?
  • Can you “try” to believe something by an act of will?
  • If not, then how can you change your beliefs?
  • Changing your mind is the only way to change your life
  • Matthew 22:37 – what is this passage saying?
  • How can you love God by using your intellect?
  • How can you defend God’s honor, when it is called into question?
  • In a debate, should you quote sources that your opponent doesn’t accept?
  • Should you only study the Bible, or should you study rival worldviews?
  • 1 Pet 3:15 – what does this passage mean?
  • If you knew you were going to be in a debate, what should you do?
  • How can you be bold in witnessing? Where does boldness come from?
  • What should the church do to make bold evangelists?
  • 2 Cor 10:5 – what is this passage talking about?
  • The passage talks about destroying fortresses – what are the fortresses?
  • List of some of the speculations that we are supposed to be destroying
  • What does the phrase “spiritual warfare” really mean?

And here is a longer version of the same lecture (MP3) presented to an audience of university students and faculty.

By the way, the title of his lecture comes from a book that he wrote, which is now in its second edition.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , ,

Jonathan McLatchie: advice to young aspiring apologists

Lots of good advice from someone who I think is the most promising Christian apologist aged 25 and under.

About the writer:

Jonathan has been a Christian since 1996, having had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home. He has become interested in Christian apologetics over the last 4 or 5 years. He holds an honors degree in Forensic Biology, and a Masters (M.Res) degree in Evolutionary Biology. He is a proponent of the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID), about which he has written extensively on Evolution News & Views and Uncommon Descent, in addition to being involved with the Centre for Intelligent Design UK. He is also a contributor to various apologetics websites, including CrossExamined.org, AllAboutGod.com, and GotQuestions.org. He has participated in a number of summer internships: those have been with the Discovery Institute in Seattle, with AllAboutGod in Colorado Springs, and with Frank Turek in Charlotte. He is also a graduate of the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA) and the Discovery Institute’s student summer seminar program. Outside of his academic interests, he is also a tournament chess player, with a FIDE (International Chess Federation) rating of 1855.

The post lists 13 lessons, here is one:

Lesson 1: Be Careful How Early You Enter into the Public Arena

It’s perfectly natural that, when you have a new idea, you want to share it with the world. Over the last decade or so, there has been an explosion in the popularity of online blogging, which has given people the ability to spread ideas and information quickly. This has its obvious advantages, but it also has some significant risk factors and draw-backs, especially for young people. Among these is the fact that what you publish publicly on the internet is effectively public material forever.

Why might that be a risk-factor for young people? When you’re young, your views and ideas are still in the process of crystallising. Being less wedded to a given paradigm than those of the older generation means you are more likely to revise your position or change your mind on certain issues. I, for one, have seen an evolution in my own views and arguments over the past five years. Your arguments also become more refined and sophisticated over time as you learn from the experience of defending them and conversing with people who are better acquainted with a given field than you are. You also become increasingly better informed as you read more and more about a subject. Imagine the frustration, then, when someone Googles your name, and the first hit is to an article you wrote some four or five years ago, articulating views or argumentation which you would no longer defend. You may well have expressed your current views and better refined arguments elsewhere, but that is not necessarily the first thing people will see. Things you said years ago can come back to haunt you for years. So, exercise caution!

A second danger here is that some areas relating to apologetics present particular risk factor when seeking employment in certain professions. For example, in the academic environment in which we currently find ourselves, being overtly public about your views on biological design may land you in seriously hot water when it comes to building a career in that field. The modern formulation of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has become so entrenched in modern academia that people do not want to put their own careers in jeopardy by being associated with someone who has public affiliations to intelligent design. Similarly, as we have seen with increasing frequency, public criticism of same-sex marriage may land you in hot water in certain career paths.

My advice would thus be to give careful consideration to how early you enter into the public arena to express your views. Think about allowing them to crystallise first. Otherwise, a pseudonym or alias may be a relatively safe option.

It’s true for any profession, as this week’s Brendan Eich story proved. I really recommend that younger Christians consider using an alias when writing on controversial topics. You do not want people to search for your name and find Christian views that are no longer popular in the culture as a whole. People do screen you for “fit” with a company. And Christian conservatives do not fit with many companies. Just ask Mozilla. Even giving a donation is now enough to get you labeled.

Sometimes the consequences for speaking out under your real name can be even worse than not getting a job, or getting fired. Some countries have Human Rights Commissions, which are tribunals where groups favored by the left can sue conservative and/or Christian persons for offending them with speech. And if you write about Islam under your real name, you might get a visit from some angry extremists. These are all things to consider before you write under your own name.

Filed under: Mentoring, , ,

Does the Qur’an predict modern scientific discoveries?

Another great, original post from Jonathan McLatchie, posted on the Christian Apologetics Alliance blog. He surveys a number of passages from the Qur’an that are said to predict scientific discoveries.

Here’s one:

The Trajectory of the Sun and Moon

Dhul-Qarnain, traditionally identified by Qur’anic commentators as Alexander the Great, is spoken of in Surah Al-Kahf. In verses 83-86, we read,

They ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say, “I shall now recite to you an account of him. Surely, We gave him power on earth and gave him means to (have) everything (he needs). So he followed a course, until when he reached the point of sunset, he found it setting into a miry spring, and found a people near it. We said, “O Dhul-Qarnain, either punish them or adopt good behavior with them.”

Thus, according to the Qur’an, Alexander the Great traveled so far that he reached the place where the sun sets (a pool of water) and even found a people that lives nearby it! He was even able to reach the place of sunrise, according to verses 89 and 90 of the same chapter:

Thereafter he followed a course, until when he reached the point of sunrise, he found it rising over a people for whom We did not make any shelter against it.

Surah Ya-Seen 38-40 is even more clear:

And the sun is quickly proceeding towards its destination. That is the designing of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. And for the moon We have appointed measured phases, until it turned (pale, curved and fine) like an old branch of date palm. Neither it is for the sun to overtake the moon, nor can the night outpace the day. Each one is floating in an orbit.

Am I misinterpreting? Surely Muhammad — the Messenger of the Almighty Allah — knew that the sun doesn’t actually move in relation to the earth, right? We need only go to the ahadith sources to find out. According to Sahih Bukhari vol.4 book 54 ch.4 no.421,

Narrated Abu Dhar: The Prophet asked me at sunset, “Do you know where the sun goes (at the time of sunset)? I replied, “Allah and His Apostle know better.” He said, “It goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates itself underneath the Throne and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return when it has come and so it will rise in the west. And that is the interpretation of the Statement of Allah: “And the sun Runs its fixed course for a term (decreed). That is the Decree of (Allah) The Exalted in Might, The All-Knowing.” (36.38)

In Sunan Abu Dawud (3991), we also read,

Abu Dharr said: I was sitting behind the Apostle of Allah who was riding a donkey while the sun was setting. He asked: Do you know where this sets? I replied: Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: It sets in a spring of warm water.

As any astronomer will tell you, this is a point on which Muhammad was dead wrong. Such an error may have been excusable for a seventh century Arab, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for the Qur’an being the revealed word of God.

This is a good post to store away in case you get asked about this topic. I’m sure that Muslims can be nice people, but that doesn’t mean that their religion is true. We have to settle that question by comparing the claims of their holy book with what we know from science. You can affirm the goodness of a person while still recognizing that their beliefs are false, as a matter of fact. And you can still treat a person nicely even though they have false beliefs. Tolerance for people, but not for false ideas.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , ,

Pastor Matt discusses his past experiences as an atheist – part 2

Here’s another post from Pastor Matt that I think offers some more helpful insight into how we should approach young people with Christianity. The point of this post is that relationships matter.

Excerpt:

When I was attending North Hollywood High in the fall of 1990, there was a kid in one of my classes who often followed me on my walk home to my apartment off of Magnolia Boulevard.  He did the Four Spiritual Laws and Roman Road presentation.  He spoke about he and his family’s faith in Jesus and wanted to know if I would come with them to church.  But he never asked a single question about me personally.  I always declined his invitations and eventually he moved on to someone else.

[...]Looking back, I had a very fuzzy understanding of the Gospel.  I (and I think many people who call themselves Christians) are what theologians call “semi-Pelagians.”  I believed anyone could come to the altar but if they wanted to continue to be welcomed in the pews, they had to clean up their act and do so almost overnight.  The culture of Christianity at large appeared to me to be that if you came to faith and continued to struggle with lust, a foul mouth or whatnot then there was just something wrong with you.  I felt the church was more about behavior modification than grace.

I needed someone who I knew loved me to sit down with me long before all of these problems arose, look me in the eye and tell me how easy and how difficult it is to be a Christian.  I needed someone cared for me to unpack 2 Corinthians 5:21 and point out that by being “in Christ” I would be judged by Christ’s perfect life instead of my own.  I needed to know that the faith is not about “keeping the rules” but about doing things and not doing certain things to show my love and gratitude to God for what He did for me.  I needed to be able to read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, in a way that always pointed to Jesus Christ.  I needed to understand that God has graciously given us the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, serving the poor, worship, etc. to help me grow.  I needed to hear that all Christians struggle with sin and will, to a certain degree, until they go to be with the Lord or He returns to be with us.

I needed good theology, good spiritual practices, good apologetics and good relationships.  I needed  knowledge and it needed to come from someone who I knew loved me even though I was thoroughly unlovable.  You can’t just leave this to the church staff because they do not have to time to meet with everyone and people with a chip on their shoulder about the church (like I had) feel like they are just doing it as part of their job.  All young people in the church, especially the “troubled kids” need this.  It is a lot of work but anyone’s eternity is worth it, isn’t it?

I think that I do my best work away from the blog when I take on atheists or new Christians or Christians who want to grow one on one and focus on them for long periods of time. Sometimes, it’s talking to them on Skype. Sometimes, it’s rewards for doing well in school or in their Christian lives. But all the best work is done one on one. That’s when you really get a chance to get to know people and to care about them.

I think the most important thing you can tell a young Christian is to focus less on mere following of the rules. I always ask them more about making a plan for their lives that achieves something amazing for God’s kingdom, while still not breaking any of the rules. The following the rules is not the key thing to focus on. The key thing here is your relationship with God. So you should find out what needs doing, and just do it. If it’s intelligent design research, then do it. If it’s finding early NT manuscripts, then do it. If it’s working for the ADF defending religious liberty at the Supreme Court, then do it. If it’s becoming a Christian professor at a secular university, then do it. If it’s debating an atheist cosmologist, then do it. If it’s promoting the free market system which alleviates poverty, then do it. If it’s protecting democratic countries from aggression by being a soldier, then do it. Stop making Christianity a dull prison, and start making it a blank canvas for a masterpiece.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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