Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"The Bibliographical Test Updated" by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, Associate Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, has been working on updating the bibliographical evidence for the New Testament documents. His work is now finished and the results have been published in the The Christian Research Journal. They are making "The Bibliographical Test Updated" available online, you can find it here. For those familiar with the work of Josh McDowell, you should remember this test. The bibliographical test is used as a means of establishing the New Testament’s transmissional accuracy. Clay Jones explains:

"Christians argue that if historians will consider an ancient document to have been accurately transmitted whose manuscripts are few and far between the date the autograph was penned and its earliest extant copy, then they should accept documents as accurately transmitted whose manuscripts are comparatively many and comparatively near their autographs. For many years Christian apologists have employed the bibliographical test to argue that since the NT surpasses all other ancient documents in sheer number of manuscripts and the nearness of the date between the autographs and extant manuscripts that the NT has been accurately transmitted." 1

3. Fragment of The Gospel of Matthew

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Alvin Plantinga vs. The Grey

I like Liam Neeson as an actor, Les Misérables (1998) is a favorite of mine, and so this winter I checked out The Grey at the local library. Unfortunately, the language was so bad that I had to practically mute the sound and opted for the closed captions instead. Unlike The Chronicles of Narnia, this is not what I would call "family friendly" entertainment. It is a rather haunting movie, the kind that stays in your head for a while, so I thought a lot about the underlying philosophy. In the end, the film is more about man's existential predicament and the hiddeness of God, than it is about survival.

After the long painstaking fight for survival, watching each one of his comrades die, one by one, from the wreck, related injuries, wolf attacks, the weather, falling out of a tree, exhaustion, despair, suicide, drowning, being without food, water, shelter, survival gear, rest and subject to the elements of nature, "the unlikely hero Ottway" lays on the ground, looking into the sky in desperation and cries out to God, "Do something. Do something!" After no response, he trails off in the bitter reality of being utterly alone to contend with the forces of nature, stating, "I'll do it myself." We then see him kneeling in the snow going through the pictures in the wallets of the men who are dead. He looks at their families and then considers his own wife. With his wife being deceased, he only has her memory to give him any semblance of meaning, everything else is gone, including his hope of survival. At this point the wolf pack is upon him and the future is already played out. He remembers his father's poem and knows he must make his own choice and that with courage. Allowing fear to paralyze him is not an option. Meanwhile, he has no real reason to live, except for the sake of survival itself, no matter, he will make his choice and stand his ground, however futile it may be. He will not allow his circumstances to dictate his actions, he will not lay down and give up. This is our hero! 

The Amazon reviews are pretty black and white, either people liked it or hated it and I think it is the meaninglessness and futility of it all that most people found so disturbing. It is more than having wasted two hours, it is becoming emotionally interested in the characters only to have all possible hope of survival dashed to pieces, but then the film goes on to take it another step further, in which it attempts to capture the finality of death and thus the essential meaninglessness of life. Francis Shaeffer has talked a lot about this despair. In The God Who is There, he explains how many atheists have tried to live as if there is no meaning in life, but their attempts have been utterly futile. Meanwhile, some antagonists accuse Christians of using a crutch, but it is just a simple fact that none of us can live under the psychological stress that atheism places man under, that is to say, it is impossible to live as though there is no meaning.

There is an interesting wilderness story that Alvin Plantinga relates in his Spiritual Autobiography that relates to our hero's search for God. "There has been only one other occasion on which I felt the presence of God with as much immediacy and strength. That was when I once foolishly went hiking alone off-trail in really rugged country south of Mt. Shuksan in the North Cascades, getting lost when rain, snow and fog obscured all the peaks and landmarks. That night, while shivering under a stunted tree in a cold mixture of snow and rain, I felt as close to God as I ever have, before or since. I wasn't clear as to his intentions for me, and I wasn't sure I approved of what I thought his intentions might be (the statistics on people lost alone in that area were not at all encouraging), but I felt very close to him; his presence was enormously palpable. On many other occasions I have felt the presence of God, sometimes very powerfully: in the mountains (the overwhelming grandeur of the night sky from a slope at 13,000 feet), at prayer, in church, when reading the Bible, listening to music, seeing the beauty of the sunshine on the leaves of a tree or on a blade of grass, being in the woods on a snowy night, and on other kinds of occasions."

I find this to be a most interesting contrast of character representations. You have renown Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, who takes great comfort in knowing God's presence, especially when forced to face nature's fury, and then there is the angry atheist existentialist who chooses to completely isolate himself as he contends with his certain dismal fate.

Mount Shuksan

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Illusions of Atheism

Alex Rosenberg, an advocate of scientism, recently debated William Lane Craig At Purdue, too bad I missed it, and it was in my own back yard. Tom Gilson of Christian Apologetics Alliance wrote an interesting examination of Rosenberg's book, The Atheist's Guide to Reality.  

When atheists try to define the mind as a mere physical object, the person (or soul) is essentially reduced to electricity and everything he or she thinks is actually illusory. 

Gilson notes in his article, "Rosenberg says that science proves our brains and our thoughts are purely physical, and thus we have to give up thinking our thoughts are about anything." Rosenberg puts it in the question, "How can one clump of stuff anywhere in the universe be about some other clump of stuff anywhere else in the universe…?" He concludes, "Since there are no thoughts about things, notions of purpose, plan, or design in the mind are illusory…" (The Atheist’s Guide to Reality). But, it doesn't end there, this strict physicalism goes on to dictate that such thoughts as romance, love, justice, virtue, empathy, kindness, morality, and reason, must also of necessity be mere illusion. That is to say, when you tuck your baby girl in bed at night and tell her you love her as you kiss her on the forehead, it is all just an illusion. You only "think" that you love her, but alas, it is only a mirage. For Dawkins & Company, this is just the cold hard facts about life. And yet, which one of the new star-spangled pseudo-heroes actually have the courage to live like this?

The fact is, no one lives like this. No one can live like this. It contradicts everything that it means to be human. I would even go so far to say that it even contradicts the Humanist Manifesto. The only way to embrace the richness of humanity is to recognize the creator's indelible imprint on his creation. There are certain areas where methodological science comes to a philosophical impasse, that is to say, the gateway closes in on itself, it locks itself in. And they say, religion impedes the progress of science...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Descent of Atheism

Atheists have long argued that they are not necessarily morally inferior to Christians on account of their 'lack of faith.' Other philosophers such as Christian thinker, Dr. William Lane Craig would consent to that line of reasoning. Meanwhile, atheists such as Richard Dawkins and company would make the claim that atheists are actually morally superior. Of course, we have no idea just where Dawkins derives such moral standards, but from his own self appointed moral superiority. He seems to have at once claimed the heritage of Christian morality while at the same time prescribing secular naturalism in a pure undaunted authoritarianism. For Dawkins, it is fine for churches to go on in their meaningless existence so long as they do not preach out of the Bible.

But just what exactly does atheism have to offer our world?