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, , ,

Is the Qur’an the Word of God?

Jonathan McLatchie writes about it at the Christian Apologetics Alliance blog.

Here is his argument:

  • Premise 1: Either the Bible is the Word of God or it is not.
  • Premise 2: If the Bible is the Word of God, the Qur’an is not.
  • Premise 3: If the Bible is not the Word of God, the Qur’an is not.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, the Qur’an is not the Word of God.

Premise 3 is the one that needs to be defended. Jonathan argues:

The Qur’an, over and over again, affirms the Christian Scriptures, claiming consistency with them, and asserting that the Torah and the Gospel (the “Injil”), and also the Psalms, are previous revelations from Allah.

He offers some quotations from the Qur’an to substantiate that claim, then he looks at the most common proof texts offered by Muslim apologists to show that the Christian documents do have something to say about Muhammad.

Here is one of the passages quoted by Muslim apologists, along with Jonathan’s response.

Another favorite is the Advocate or Helper promised by Jesus to the disciples in John 14 and 16. In John 14:15-16, we read the following words of Jesus:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

It is extremely difficult to read Muhammad into this text, since the promised Helper is said to be with Jesus’ followers forever and in them, something not accomplished by Muhammad. The Muslim interpretation also utterly ignores the overall context of the text. Jesus here is speaking to his disciples. If the promise refers to Muhammad, then it was fulfilled six hundred years later. Thus, everything said by Jesus to the disciples would not be relevant to them.

In John 15:26-27, we read more about this coming Helper:

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Was Muhammad sent by Jesus? Does he proceed from the Father? Moreover, the disciples bearing witness is directly linked to the coming of the promised Helper, and thus the fulfillment of this promise must be found in the disciples to whom the promise was made. John 16:7-14 provides yet further difficulties:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

This text makes it even more clear that the Helper is sent by Jesus and comes to these specific disciples to whom Jesus is speaking. Muhammad did not come for a further six centuries. We are also told that the Helper will glorify Jesus. Muhammad certainly did not glorify Jesus.

Jonathan then addresses the idea that the text of the Bible was corrupted or lost, which some Muslim apologists assert. But the problem is that the Qur’an assumes that the texts used by Jews and Christians around 600 A.D. were reliable.

Here’s one quote:

  • Surah Al-Maeda 68: “Say, “O people of the Book, you have nothing to stand on, unless you uphold the Torah and the Injil and what has been sent down to you from your Lord.” What has been sent down to you from your Lord will certainly make many of the most persistent in rebellion and disbelief. So, do not grieve over the disbelieving people.”

So the Qur’an assumes that the text of these rival religions was reliable and consistent with the message of Islam.

There’s more in the article, and I found it just fascinating because of the quotations from the Qur’an itself. Definitely a post worth reading, and not something you would find anywhere else.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Two mentoring posts from Amy Hall and Melissa Cain Travis

I found a couple of posts from two women apologists that I wanted to highlight for you today.

Amy Hall

Let’s start with Amy Hall, who blogs at Stand to Reason’s blog.

She found a quotation from Richard Wurmbrand, which I will reproduce in full.

But first, let’s see who he is (I had never heard of him).

Excerpt:

The founder of the Voice of the Martyrs, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, loved people. He and his wife, Sabina, had a great passion to lead others to Christ.

 

We have written about his courage as he stood alone among more than 1,000 leaders to denounce the control of Romanian communism. The communists had closed Sunday schools and oppressed the church. Pastor Wurmbrand resisted the communists’ control of the church and went underground. He held services for youth attending his church in front of the lion’s den at the Bucharest Zoo to prepare them for battle with the world. Pastor Wurmbrand led his little Lutheran congregation, composed of many Jewish converts, to the Bucharest train station to toss Russian Gospels into the windows of passing trains filled with invading Russian soldiers. The soldiers kept the Gospels. For many such acts of aggressive love, he and his wife both went to prison.

When Richard and Sabina began the work of VOM in October 1967 in America, some might think they would have been changed by living in an open, wealthy nation where everything could come easy for famous, gifted people. But their love, their burden — whether for helping those persecuted abroad or right next door — remained the same.

Pastor Wurmbrand woke up early in the morning with long lists of names of people. One by one, he would pray for them. He and Sabina fasted one day a week.

One night there was a great crash. Richard, now in his 70s, had fallen on the bathroom floor and fractured his skull. The next morning in his hospital room, he began to pull on his clothes to leave. The frantic nurses came in to tell him he could not get up. He said, “How can I sit in bed with only a little pain in my head when I am supposed to speak in Berlin where the people suffer much more than I do?” At the time, Berlin, Germany, was a walled-off city surrounded by the East German communist military. He flew to Germany.

After coming to America, Pastor Wurmbrand never owned a house or a car. Being older, he took driving lessons but was kindly told by the instructor that it would be better to save his money. On one of their trips flying overseas, he and Sabina would approach an airline counter with about 12 suitcases of clothes they had purchased at a used clothing store, clothes to be carried into communist Eastern Europe for persecuted Christians. The stunned airline agents crumbled under their heartfelt appeal and let them take the clothes.

When Richard and Sabina passed from earth, the house they lived in was sold and the funds used for international ministry. They had moved to an eternal house.

I know I am not as good as this man, but I do admire him. I’m grateful for his courage and focus.

Now let’s see what Amy quoted from Pastor Wurmbrand in her post.

Excerpt:

What shall we do about these tortures? Will we be able to bear them?… And here comes the great need for the role of preparation for suffering which must start now. It is too difficult to prepare yourself for it when the Communists have put you in prison.

I remember my last Confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, “Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ.” They had tears in their eyes when they said yes.

We have to make the preparation now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. You are undressed and given a prisoner’s suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets, or nice curtains. You do not have a wife any more and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes life pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has not renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.

Then Amy has some very stirring, sober words for us, which you can read in her post. I recommend you click through and read her last four paragraphs. I liked what she had to say, but I also think that we should redouble our efforts to preserve the liberty we have in the face of attacks from the secular left. The communists in Romania were on the secular left, much the same as our own Democrat Party are today. Persecution does bring out the best in some, but I would prefer not to be persecuted, or to see others persecuted. Let’s try our best to keep our freedoms until there is no alternative left.

Melissa Cain Travis

The second post is from Melissa Cain Travis on her blog Hard Core Christianity. Melissa is a famous science apologist, lecturer at HBU, and author of apologetics books for children. Her post offers advice to apologists.

She writes:

A year or so into my grad school work, I tentatively assumed the role of public apologist. The landmark day was in the summer of 2010, when I instituted this blog to formally make myself available to both believers and non-believers struggling with questions about the alleged truths of Christianity. Not surprisingly, as I’ve worked to educate others, I have learned many valuable lessons on what to do and what not to do in apologetics ministry. For the benefit of apologists of all levels, I’d like to share a couple of important insights that may change the way you see and practice this discipline at the interpersonal level.

I’m going to tell you what your job is NOT.

Here’s one of the things your job is NOT:

You are not a spoon-feeder. I have found that many folks, abrasive atheists/agnostics in particular, aren’t willing to undertake serious research on their own. They’re armed with a hundred pop-atheism talking points that have long been answered, which goes to show they haven’t investigated the opposing viewpoint at all. Instead, they expect you to take a significant amount of time out of your schedule to distill your entire bank of knowledge on a topic into a few paragraphs and then relay it to them on social media or by email. If you do go to the effort, they often wave their hand at your response and change the subject. Don’t fall into this trap. Pay attention to verbal cues and the attitude of the individual to determine whether or not they are sincerely interested in your answers, give them a sentence or two to chew on and then direct them to a book, article, or lecture by a reputable scholar. If they come back at a later date, having studied the sources, further dialogue is warranted, so long as they maintain a respectful tone. If they simply dismiss your words and suggestions with poor logic, make snide comments about the scholars you recommend, or change the subject, cut off the conversation and stop wasting your time. Such a person is a distraction from ministry, not a legitimate beneficiary. Often, such persons will try to goad you into arguing with them further by questioning the depth or breadth of your knowledge or even your credentials. Don’t succumb to the temptation to defend yourself. Never forget that one of the strongest tactics of the Enemy is to keep you busy with futile business.

Click on through for the rest. The rest of the advice is just as good. The whole post is worth reading if you are finding yourself frustrated in your discussions.

I know several people who are just starting out in apologetics who keep spending time on people who are not interested in doing any serious studying.

Earlier this year, I was mentoring a young lady from Canada who was constantly focusing on discussing apologetics with atheists with no academic background. I kept giving her scientific papers and the like, and she would never give those to the atheists. She would just offer her opinions, and then her quarry would reply with a quote from some atheist comedian or a Youtube video and around and around it went. It was like she was afraid of offending them with complicated material. I think the best thing to do is to stand up atheists with peer-reviewed papers at the start and then let them rant at it with their opinions and leave them to it. People reading can tell the difference between Science Daily and the Daily Show. Don’t reply to any replies that are not related to the evidence. You’re wasting your time if you do. There is a lot of stand-up comedy in the world of atheism, and if that clowning around what people are impressed by, it’s best not to talk to them at all.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , ,

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