Monday, August 15, 2011

Carl Henry: Empiricism and God

"Because theological and ethical statements cannot be verified by empirical methods does not mean, as the positivists erroneously and arbitrarily conclude, that they are beyond verification. Such a judgment stems purely from the metaphysical theory that only empirical experience supplies evidence about reality."

-Carl Henry

God, Revelation and Authority, Volume 1, p. 247

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Philip the Apostle

Tomb Discovery

Hurriyet Daily News reported that Professor Francesco D’Andria, is thought to have found the tomb of Philip the Apostle, one of Jesus' original twelve disciples. BAR Magazine (Biblical Archaeology Review) has the full story here.

According to D’Andria, “Until recently, we thought the grave of St. Philip was on Martyrs’ Hill, but we discovered no traces of him in the geophysical research conducted in that area. A month ago, we discovered the remnants of an unknown church, 40 meters away from the St. Philip Church on Martyrs’ Hill. And in that church we discovered the grave of St. Philip,” The excavation of the tomb is expected to begin sometime in the near future. 

An Eye Witness Testimony

Not to be confused with Philip the Evangelist, Philip the apostle was preaching the Gospel in northern Asia which culminated in him being scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, on a tree upside down with irons in his heels and ankles in Hierapolis in Asia Minor, in A.D. 54. Once again, the importance of such a faithful witness to the resurrected historical Jesus breaks forth on my mind. The old question, could the disciples have been willing to die for a lie, is just as applicable today as ever. One might suggest that numerous people would be willing to die for their beliefs, take Islamic Jihadists for example. There is an important difference, however, the disciples were contemporaries of Jesus and actual eye witnesses of his resurrection. As such, Philip's martyrdom becomes more than just a human interest story, it is a powerful testimony to the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  

The Gnostic Gospel of Philip

Before I go on, I thought it important to mention that neither Philip the Apostle nor Philip the Evangelist authored the Gospel of Philip, which is a Gnostic book of the Nag Hammadi Library. These texts are not based on the life of Jesus, rather they are collections of sayings which were put together long after the New Testament Gospels were written. They are not only unreliable, they are also in complete opposition to the doctrines of the Apostles and were rejected by the early Christian church. Because these Gnostic writings use the Apostle's names it can be very misleading to the unaware.

Philip and Undesigned Scriptural Coincidences

Now then, there is something that has recently captured my attention in regard to the textual reliability of the Gospels and it pertains to our Apostle. Professor Timothy McGrew has recaptured what is called, undesigned scriptural coincidences, as he explains, "it is a cumulative case argument that the Gospels reflect, to an important extent, independent knowledge of actual events." In other words, as the Bible continues to be the target of liberals' attacks, questioning its reliability and historicity, this becomes powerful evidence of the trustworthiness of the Gospels.

In this instance, the setting is the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus and his disciples were going away for a rest and in John 6:5, it reads, 'Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?"' So the question is, why would Jesus ask Philip of all people? Why not Peter or John? There is nothing that stands out in the context that would offer an explanation. Furthermore, if we cross examine the parallel passages, we still would find no hint to help us and they omit this little detail altogether. 

Just imagine for a moment, if we were to write our own gospel account, we might find all sorts of reasons to use another disciple's name, especially if it were just a made up story. We could say that James and John the sons of Zebedee were fishermen and might be familiar with some of the trading posts, not to mention that this Gospel does bare John's name. Of course, Matthew was a tax collector and may also have something to say. Then there was also Judas, the treasurer. Peter is always the most outspoken of the disciples, why not him? Whoever we may choose, as one who is almost completely ignored in the Gospels, Philip would be a most unlikely candidate.

As it turns out, if we turn to the parallel passage in Luke's Gospel we find a new tid bit of information, it says that "he [Jesus] withdrew... to a city called Bethsaida" (Luke 9:10). Now this is where it gets interesting. If we turn back over to John 1:44, when Jesus is selecting his disciples, we discover that "Philip was from Bethsaida." The reason why Jesus asked Philip where to buy food was because he was from Bathsaida. There is no way that this could have been intentionally crafted by the authors considering the way it is laid out. This speaks to the credibility of the Gospel reports as first hand eye witnesses.

To dig deeper into these undesigned scriptural coincidences, Tim McGrew has some interesting material available here and here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Science as Religion

Science as the sole bedrock of truth, carries with it certain presumptions. Scientism is the view that science is the single source of knowledge and understanding of reality. Empiricism, verification and falsification have their benefits, as does the other trademarks of science, but they are in no way capable, either individually or together, of offering an exhaustive comprehension of reality. Modern science is made to work under the constraints of methodological naturalism and thereby confined to a particular metaphysical point of view; when viewed as the single arbiter of truth, it can no longer be taken as a scientific discipline, it becomes religion.