Monday, June 20, 2022

A Two-Week Break from Blogging

I'm taking a couple weeks away from the blog as I enjoy a little summer vacation with my family. Normal posts will resume on Monday, July 4.

Friday, June 17, 2022

A Prayer from Bonaventure

May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Apologetics: The Reliability of the Bible (Part 2)

Seven Sets of Evidence for the Reliability of the Bible

Whereas last week's presentation focused on internal evidences for the inspiration and reliability of Scripture which Christians would find compelling, the following evidences should be compelling even for skeptics:

1.) Early Authorship

Particularly in the case of the New Testament, the texts of Scripture are all written extraordinarily early--within decades (or less) of the events they describe. They thus would be open to negation by eyewitnesses if false, yet no such contrary record exists. According to very early traditions and internal textual evidence, the Gospels and Acts are all written either by eyewitnesses or by authors with direct access to eyewitness testimony. By contrast, the so-called Gnostic gospels, some of which present alternative views of the gospel events, are all written 200-400 later and must be judged less trustworthy based on chronology alone.

2.) Multiple Witnesses

Rather than depending on a single account, for which historians would have very little textual context for judging reliability, the gospel events are attested to in multiple sources, all of which present a very similar picture of those events. The New Testament events are also referenced in a few outside (non-Christian sources) from the period. This sets them apart from many ancient historical texts, for which far less support exists.

3.) Rigorous Criteria for Canonization

The process by which texts became incorporated in the Bible, in both Jewish and Christian circles, was rigorous. For the New Testament, a given book had to fulfill three stringent criteria for inclusion: (1) It had to come from the apostolic generation; (2) It had to agree with the shared inheritance of the apostolic preaching handed down in church traditions; and (3) It had to be widely accepted and in use by all the churches. Since early Christianity was a widespread movement characterized by intense care concerning the passing along of apostolic teachings (see Jude 3), these three criteria would rule out almost any possibility of false traditions or historically unreliable narratives making it into the New Testament.

4.) Manuscript Tradition

The New Testament has an unrivalled excellence in the quantity and quality of its ancient manuscript tradition (this is also true now of the Old Testament too, thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls). Far more New Testament documents exist--many thousands of copies--than any other ancient document (many of those other ancient documents have just a handful of copies, most of them coming very late in their manuscript traditions, yet are regarded as reliable). This allows scholars to compare the process of copying documents through the centuries. The manuscript tradition for the New Testament shows that its scribes were uniquely concerned with preserving its exact form, and by comparison across so many copies, we can be 99.9% sure that we have the precise words the apostles wrote. For all of the exceptions (that remaining 0.1%), we possess every possible alternative phrasing, and no single case of an alternative reading threatens any core Christian doctrine.

5.) Archeological Confirmation

(Specific evidence for this will be addressed in upcoming sessions of this apologetics series.)

6.) Effects on Individual Lives & Society

The Bible has exercised a transformational effect on many millions of lives throughout the ages and has shown a demonstrable pattern of revolutionizing human society for the better, both at the level of underlying cultural values and of social institutions (schools, hospitals, orphanages, the abolition of slavery, etc.).

7.) Traditions of Interpretation

Generation upon generation of Christians have given intense attention to making sure that we are getting the Bible right. We devote hard work to understanding issues of literary genre, cultural context, and the meaning of the text in its original languages.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Evangeliad (25:18-26)

Section 25:18-26 (corresponding to Mark 9:43-50Matt. 18:8-9)

And so I say, as I've told you before,
Beware of sin crouching at your door--
If your hand or foot would lead you to sin,
Better to chop them off than to give in!

Or if your eye to sin would lead you,
Pluck it out, lest sin deceive you!
It's better to enter the kingdom maimed
Than to burn in fire for sin and its shame.

The worm does not die in Gehenna's flame,
Its fire unquenched by night and by day.
And all will be salted, salted with fire,
Like a sacrifice salted on the altar-pyre.

Since sin comes, and all be salted with fire,
Not just in your members, but in your desire,
Have salt within yourselves, and purify,
By peace with each other, your sacrifice."

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Photo of the Week

My life flows on in endless song,
Above earth’s lamentation.
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

- from the hymn "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

Monday, June 13, 2022

Quote of the Week

“The early Christians did not say, in dismay, ‘Look what the world has come to,’ but, in delight, ‘Look what has come to the world!’”

- E. Stanley Jones, 20th-century missionary to India

Friday, June 10, 2022

A Prayer from Francois Fenelon

You know better than I how much I love you, Lord. 
You know it and I know it not, 
For nothing is more hidden from me 
Than the depths of my own heart. 
I desire to love you; I fear that I do not love you enough. 
I beseech you to grant me the fullness of pure love. 
Behold my desire; you have given it to me. 
Behold in your creature what you have placed there. 
O God, you love me enough to inspire me to love you forever;
Behold not my sins--
Behold instead your mercy and my love.