Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

Image result for mama bear apologeticsI remember when my son was in 4th grade one night when he was getting ready for bed, brushing his teeth.  He came into the hall, yanked the toothbrush out of his mouth, asked in an exasperating toothpaste filled mouth: “Dad, dad, what happens to those people who never hear about Jesus?”  First, what 4th grader thinks up such a question when they are getting ready for bed. Second, I believe this actually happens more often than we realize.  Fortunately for me, I had pondered that question myself and I was able to give a satisfactory answer to his 4th grade mind, that moved him along to bed. But, I am sure there are parents who have experienced similar incidents from their children, but where not prepared to give an answer.  They either make up an answer, which is almost certainly wrong, or set them up for future failure with the adage: we just have to have faith.

Now, there is a book available for parents who don’t have time to take seminary and graduate level classes on philosophy, theology, and apologetics. And also for parents who need assistance in communicating apologetically and biblically informed answers that are age-appropriate to their children: Mama Bear Apologetics.

Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies released this week. In previous posts under “Apologetic Trends” I covered the trend of Children’s Apologetics and Women in ApologeticsThis book, edited by Hilary Morgan Ferrer, is a combination of both trends.  It is geared toward parents in training their children in apologetics and it is entirely written by women.  With the Foreword penned by the godmother of apologetics, Nancy Pearcey writes that “Until recently, fewer women than men have been interested in apologetics. But that is changing rapidly – especially among women with children.” Pearcey goes on to say that in her view: “mothers are especially well equipped for this task. Why? Because effective apologetics requires empathy.” 

A group of ladies, dubbed Mama Bear Apologetics, was started by Hilary Morgan Ferrer in 2014 when she recognized “that out of all the demographics currently involved in apologetics, moms seemed to make up the fewest participants. She also realized that out of all the demographics that need apologetics, moms are among the most important!” I couldn’t agree more. Hilary, to meet this need, started the website Mama Bear Apologetics which houses a multitude of articles, blogs, and podcasts geared toward parents to train their children and answer their kids’ questions in an age-appropriate way.

With the publication of this book, the ladies of Mama Bear Apologetics have provided another wonderful and needed resource for parents and ultimately their children in answering these questions.  The contributors to this volume include Hilary Morgan Ferrer, Julie Loos, Hillary Short, Teasi Cannon, Rebekah Valerius, Cathryn S. Buse, and Alisa Childers which many of their bios can be read on the Mama Bear website. They cover some of the following issues: how to be a Mama Bear, detecting faulty reasoning, self-helpism, naturalism, skepticism, postmodernism, moral relativism, emotionalism, pluralism, new age, Marxism, feminism, and progressive Christianity.

I am looking forward to reading this book myself, to learn different ways to explain things to my students.  If you can explain it to a child, then you certainly can explain it to an adult.

 

 

 

 

 

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Animated ApologeticsOver the past several years there has been a boom in Christian Apologetic animated videos.  While there are plenty of apologetic videos from debates, podcasts, presentations, etc., here I want to focus on just those videos that are of high animated quality, relatively short (under 10 minutes), and are focused on Christian apologetics. Over at Prove the Bible, the whole website is videos (live and animated) all sorted by topic. It is definitely worth a look. You also can check out some YouTube channels dedicated to apologetics (both live and animated) such drcraigvideos, Sean McDowell, Mike Winger, Whaddo You Meme, Cross Examined, and Acts17Apologetics, amongst others.  Here, I have focused solely on animated apologetics videos.  I sorted them by topic.

God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus

 

 

 

 

Resurrection

 

 

 

Problem of Evil

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science and Religion

 

 

Cults and New Religious Movements

 

 

 

 

Christian Doctrine

 

 

Philosophy of Religion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social/Ethical Issues

 

 

 

 

General

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever come across (or been sent a link via email or facebook) about a giant skeleton discovery that confirms the size of Goliath? I have. Many times.  They have all been internet hoaxes (like the picture below).

Image result for giant skeletons found israel goliath

Over at Epic Archaeology Ted Wright has written an excellent article titled “A Quick Guide to Internet Archaeology” in which he provides some principles “and a plea to Christians to be more cautious and use critical thinking skills when it comes to posting internet articles on archaeological discoveries as they relate to the Bible. Not all archaeological discoveries are equal in terms of weight and evidence.”

He recommends five principles before clicking and sharing a post about an archaeological discovery as it relates to the bible.

  1. Primary and Secondary Archaeological Reporting – Pay attention to who is reporting the excavation.
  2. Avoid Sensationalism – Double check the facts and not be taken in just because it supports one’s preconceived ideas.
  3. Know How Archaeology Works – Do some background reading so you know how archaeology is done; what it can do and not do.
  4. Theological Commitments – Everyone has a theological commitment (or a-theological), so vet the sources, and understand how that commitment colors the excavation.
  5. The Questions of Apologetics – Archaeology has been a powerful ally of the bible, but there are limitations.

It is definitely worth the read given the proliferation of memes, posts, shares, and tweets that are inundating us today concerning biblical archaeology.

He also provides some helpful internet resources on biblical archaeology.  An abbreviated list:

Christian Sources:

Associates for Biblical Research

Epic Archaeology

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Non-Christian Sources:

Israel Antiquities Authority

Heritage Daily 

Biblical Archaeology Society  

Some other suggestions I would add include:

  • Fact check it at some fact checking websites like snopes.com or truthorfiction.com. While not everything is correct at snopes (and they have a theological commitment as well), it is a good place to start to determine if it is an outright hoax.
  • Get the ESV Archaeology Study Bible or the NIV Archaeology Study Bible to see what archaeological insights and confirmational discoveries relate to scripture.
  • Subscribe to the Biblical Archaeological Review, a bi-monthly journal to keep up to date with some of the discoveries.

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

Clay Seal of King Josiah’s Aide Found

Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

Caiaphas Ossuary

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

Image result for So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging WorldSean Mcdowell and J. Warner Wallace have teamed up to bring us a practical guide for equipping the next generation with a biblical worldview in their soon to be released book So The Next Generation will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World(May 1, 2019)

Many books on apologetics and worldviews claim to be a guide in sharing the biblical truth with the next generation, but McDowell and Wallace deliver on that promise: “We’ve written many books that make the case for God and Christianity. Those books describe what is true and why we should believe it. This book is different. We wrote it for a very practical reason: to show you how to teach the truth of Christianity to the next generation.”

In showing how to teach the truth McDowell and Wallace have four target readers in mind: parents, youth workers, Christian educators, and people who love young people. Their intentionality is evident throughout the book.  Suggestions are provided for each group not only in the text of chapter of the book, but with useful sidebars designated for each target group.  These suggestions range from a list of questions parents can ask their kids to polling students for the Christian educator.  The training and preparation McDowell and Wallace provide go beyond theoretical and moves quickly and evidently to the practical.  

For example, in a chapter helping the next generation develop a passion for the truth, one of the challenges is helping young Christians who might be spiritually dispassionate avoid apathy. They suggest the “Two Whys for Every What” approach.  They explain that “as pastors, parents, and educators, we’ve all explained what is true to our young people. What we believe about God? What are the claims of Christianity? What does the Bible teach about important moral issues? . . . simple propositional truths about the nature of God or the claims of Christianity may or may not ignite a fire in our young people.” They suggest that for every “what” you offer young people you follow up with two “whys.” The first why is “why is the claim you’re making true?” Young people (contrary to popular opinion) want to know why we believe what we believe. “If we want them to get excited we need to help them see that the Christian worldview is reasonable and evidentially true.” The second why is “why any of this should matter to them.” After describing “what is true and and why it’s supported by the evidence, take the time to explain why they should care in the first place.” How does this truth impact their lives, what difference does it make in the everyday living? How does this change the way they view themselves? How does it protect or guide them?

Some of the highlights from the other chapters include the challenge of Generation Z (the generation born between 2000 and 2015), balancing truth and relationship, understanding Generation Z, building a biblical worldview, training versus entertaining, providing life changing experiences, and engaging contemporary culture. Each chapter. along with the sidebars for each focus group, includes activities, teaching methods, and constructive tips. It is backed with the latest research to guide the reader to effectively reach the next generation.

This book is not a book on apologetics, you will not learn the different reasons for God’s existence or the evidence for the resurrection, but they include in the appendix a list of resources for gaining that information. And not just a list of other books, but videos, curriculum, conferences, websites, trip resources, sample surveys, and trip itineraries, in the areas of apologetics, theology, and spiritual development.

McDowell and Wallace are keenly equipped to write this book.  Both have years of experience with training not only young people but other youth workers, parents, and apologists. Sean McDowell is an associate professor of apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University as well as a part time high school teacher who regularly blogs at seanmcdowell.org. J. Warner Wallace, a cold-case homicide detective, is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University with years experience as a youth worker.  Between them they have authored, coauthored, and edited dozens of books on apologetics, including:: Evidence That Demands a Verdict,  Is God Just a Human Invention?The Fate of the Apostles (Sean McDowell) and Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime SceneForensic Faith (J. Warner Wallace).

If you pre-order the book and send a copy or screenshot of your receipt to offer@coldcasechristianity.com you will receive further resources including 25 youth training articles, 15 MP3 audio podcasts addressing issues from the book, a previously unreleased youth training video, and a PowerPoint presentation about the unique characteristics of Gen Z. Details for this offer can be found out:

https://seanmcdowell.org/item/so-the-next-generation-will-know-pre-order-offer

This is a fine book that should be a helpful resource in training those who are equipping the next generation so they will know the truth. 

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 9.09.06 PMWe have all heard about the “Dark Ages” between 500 AD and 1500 AD.  Some common descriptions include:

“There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.” – Ruth Hurmence Green (1915-1981, a notable atheist with the publication of her book The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible).  Joseph Lewis in An Atheist Manifesto claims that, “If you do not want to stop the wheels of progress; if you do not want to go back to the Dark Ages; if you do not want to live again under tyranny, then you must guard your liberty, and you must not let the church get control of your government. If you do, you will lose the greatest legacy ever bequeathed to the human race—intellectual freedom.”  Jeffrey Taylor, correspondent for Atlantic Monthly and NPR’s All Things Considered, states in Salon.com, “There is a reason the Middle Ages in Europe were long referred to as the Dark Ages; the millennium of theocratic rule that ended only with the Renaissance (that is, with Europe’s turn away from God toward humankind) was a violent time.”  Even as recently as Catherine Nixey’s book The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World states emphatically that “This is a book about the Christian destruction of the classical world. The Christian assault was not the only one – fire, flood, invasion and time itself all played their part – but this book focuses on Christianity’s assault in particular” (xxxv). (See below for an several extensive reviews and critiques of Nixey’s book.)

The diagram below, which has circulated on the internet, claims to demonstrate that the Middle Ages caused a tremendous hole in advancelearning and advancement caused by Christianity.  Anne Fremantle in her study of medieval philosophers, The Age of Belief (1954), wrote “of a dark, dismal patch, a sort of dull and dirty chunk of some ten centuries.”  Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, who attacked the church, describe the period as one when “barbarism, superstition, and ignorance covered the face of the world.”  Rousseau declared that the era following the fall of Rome caused “Europe [to] relapse into the barbarism of the earliest ages.  The people of this part of the world . . . lived some centuries ago in a condition worse than ignorance.”  The great Roman historian Edward Gibbon called the fall of Rome the “triumph of barbarism and religion.”

Unfortunately, this derision of the Middle Ages being a darkened period, continues into contemporary descriptions.  Such perpetrators include Bertrand Russell, Charles Van Doren, and William Manchester.

Like the myth that the church hindered science, or that everyone in the middle ages believed the earth was flat, or that Galileo was thrown in jail for promoting the heliocentric model of the universe (which you can read about in my previous posts linked); the term “dark ages” is a pejorative term to deride the period as backwards, ignorant, and dismal.  Given that the church and Christianity was the most influential institution in the Middle Ages, to reference that time period as the “dark ages” is in essence to slander Christianity.  Who, in their right mind, wants to associate themselves with “incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness” as Manchester does in his A World Lit Only by Fire.

The problem with this myth is that it is so contrary to the facts.  If the “dark ages” were so unproductive and backwards, how does one explain the proliferation of inventions and developments during this time period.  A simple listing of inventions, discoveries and developments demonstrates the the Middle Ages were anything but dark:

  • The collar and harness for horses and oxen enabled the drawing of very heavy wagons, with increases in speed
  • The invention (8th century) of iron horseshoes that protected the feet of horses but greatly improved their traction in difficult conditions
  • The swivel axel (9th century) was developed that made large transport carts much more maneuverable
  • The invention of the horse drawn furrow plow increased food production
  • The water mill was invented in the Middle Ages
  • The mechanical manufacturing of paper instead of by hand and foot
  • Windpower was harnessed to mill, grind, and to pump water
  • Eyeglasses were invented in 1284 in northern Italy
  • The mechanical clock, a 13th century invention, for centuries existed only in Medieval Europe
  • The blast furnace (12th century)
  • Spinning wheel (13th century)
  • The agricultural revolution of the three-field system
  • Chimneys (12th century)
  • Universities
  • Quarantine (14th century)
  • Musical Notation (11th century)
  • Western Harmony
  • Local Self Government
  • Chartered Towns

Also, perpetuated about the “dark ages” is the loss of literary concern.  Stephen Greenblatt in The New Yorker (promoting his book The Swerve) declares that:

It is possible for a whole culture to turn away from reading and writing. As the empire crumbled and Christianity became ascendant, as cities decayed, trade declined, and an anxious populace scanned the horizon for barbarian armies, the ancient system of education fell apart. What began as downsizing went on to wholesale abandonment. Schools closed, libraries and academies shut their doors, professional grammarians and teachers of rhetoric found themselves out of work, scribes were no longer given manuscripts to copy. There were more important things to worry about than the fate of books.

In truth, the the Middle Ages “did have a thriving literary and intellectual culture in which monks played a crucial, creative, and engaged role.” (source)

Here is a small list of literary, historical, and philosophical masterpieces written during the so-called “dark age”:

  • Alexiad, Anna Comnena
  • Beowulf
  • Caedmon’s Hymn
  • Book of the Civilized Man, Daniel of Beccles
  • The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius
  • Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio
  • The Dialogue, Catherine of Siena
  • La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), Dante Alighieri
  • First Grammatical Treatise, 12th-century work on Old Norse phonology
  • Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People), the Venerable Bede
  • The Lais of Marie de France, Marie de France
  • Mabinogion, various Welsh authors
  • Il milione (The Travels of Marco Polo), Marco Polo
  • Le Morte d’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory
  • Poem of the Cid, anonymous Spanish author
  • Proslogium, Anselm of Canterbury
  • Queste del Saint Graal (The Quest of the Holy Grail), anonymous French author
  • Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich
  • Sic et Non, Abelard
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, anonymous English author
  • The Song of Roland, anonymous French author
  • Spiritual Exercises, Gertrude the Great
  • Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas
  • The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, anonymous Russian author
  • Tirant lo Blanc, Joanot Martorell
  • The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, John Mandeville
  • Troilus and Criseyde, Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, Chrétien de Troyes

A host of other can be mentions but just check out this wikipedia article on “Medieval Literature.”

The fact of the matter is the term “dark ages” is a form of the ad hominem argument.  In short, it’s name calling.  Until one can demonstrate that the middle ages was backward and made no technological, societal, or intellectual advancement (which is not possible given the proliferation of advancement during this time as shown above), the term “dark ages” is just a term of derision that is vacuous of any substance.  One more telling point to demonstrate that the Middle Ages were much more advanced than even our current modern and contemporary age. In the Middle Ages a peculiar institution completely disappeared, but tragically was reintroduced in the modern era: slavery.  This very fact shows that the Modern Age is much more dark than the Middle Ages ever were.

As Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College says at the end of the video below: “Instead of the ‘Dark Ages’ as it is popularly called.  The Middles Ages might better be described as the “Brilliant Ages.'”

Resources

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“Nevertheless, serious historians have known for decades that these claims [that the Middle Ages were dark] are a complete fraud.  Even the respectable encyclopedias and dictionaries now define the Dark Ages as a myth.  The Columbia Encyclopedia rejects the term, nothing that ‘medieval civilization is no longer thought to have been so dim.’ Britannica disdains the name Dark Ages as ‘pejorative.’ And Wikipedia defines the Dark Ages as a ‘supposed period of intellectual darkness after the Fall of Rome.’ These views are easily verified.” (Rodney Stark, How the West Won. ISI Books, 2014)

“Let’s set the record straight. From 962 to 1321, Europe enjoyed one of the most magnificent flourishings of culture the world has ever seen.  In some ways it was the most magnificent.  And this was not despite the fact that the daily tolling of the church bells provided the rhythm of men’s lives, but because of it.” (Anthony Esolen, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, p.132)

“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any.” (Tim O’Neill “The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” Strange Notions)

“Western civilization was created in medieval Europe. The forms of thought and action which we take for granted in modern Europe and America, which we have exported to other substantial portions of the globe, and from which indeed we cannot escape, were implanted in the mentalities of our ancestors in the struggles of the medieval centuries.” (Cambridge University historian George Holmes’ Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe)

Books:

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization by Anthony Esolen (Regnery, 2008)

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, by James Hannam. (Regenery, 2011)

Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths, by Regine Pernoud. (Ignatius, 2000)

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity by Rodney Stark (ISI Books, 2014)

Articles:

The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” by Tim O’Neill. Strange Notions n. d.

“5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe about the Dark Ages” by

“Top 10 Reasons the Dark Ages Were Not Dark” by Jamie Frater. Listverse June 9, 2008

“15 Myths About the Middle Ages” by Sandra Alvarez and Peter Konieczny. Medievalists June 27, 2014

“Misconceptions About the Middle Ages Debunked Through Art History” by Bryan Keene and Rheagan Martin. Iris: The Online Magazine of the Getty February 20, 2015

“Myths about the ‘Dark Ages'” by John Tertullian. Contra Celsum April 13, 2011

“How the Middle Ages Really Were” by Tim O’Neill. Huffington Post September 8, 2014

“Top 10 Inventions of the Middle Ages” by Jamie Frater. Listverse September 22, 2007

Review of The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey” by Tim O’Neill. History for Atheists November 29, 2017

6 Reasons the Dark Ages Weren’t So Dark” by Sarah Pruitt. History.com May 31, 2016

 

Videos:

 

 

 

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Review of modern books that perpetuate the Dark Ages myth:

1. The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

Greenblatt’s Pulitzer Prize winning (and National Book Award, MLA book award, swerveamongst others) The Swerve (2011) tells “a literary detective story about an intrepid Florentine bibliophile named Poggio Braccionlini, who, in 1417, stumbled upon a 500-year-old copy of [Lucretian’s] De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things] in a German monastery and set the poem free from centuries of neglect to work its intellectual magic on the world.” (source) While the literary side of the story is commendable (Greenblatt is a Shakespearean expert), it is the historical matter that is problematic. Greenblatt’s view of the Middle Ages continues to it as a dark and shallow intellectual vacuum in which the Renaissance (and later the Enlightenment) overcame its backward and regressive mentality.  Greenblatt declares in his The New Yorker article “The Answer Man: An Ancient Poem was Discovered – and the World Swerved”:

Theology provided an explanation for the chaos of the Dark Ages: human beings were by nature corrupt. Inheritors of the sin of Adam and Eve, they richly deserved every miserable catastrophe that befell them. God cared about human beings, just as a father cared about his wayward children, and the sign of that care was anger. It was only through pain and punishment that a small number could find the narrow gate to salvation. A hatred of pleasure-seeking, a vision of God’s providential rage, and an obsession with the afterlife: these were death knells of everything Lucretius represented.

Unfortunately, Greenblatt hasn’t kept up with modern medieval historiography.  Both Jim Hinch, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Laura Miles, over at Vox, point at his errors.

Why Stephen Greenblatt Is Wrong — and Why It Matters” by Jim Hinch | Los Angeles Review of Books Dec 1, 2012

Apparently, Lucretian was not as obscure in the Middle Ages as Greenblatt represents.  Hinch writes that “Cambridge classicist Michael Reeve pointed out five years ago in The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius, scholars have long detected ‘Lucretian influence in north-Italian writers of the ninth to eleventh century, in the Paduan pre-humanists about 1300, in Dante, and in Petrarch and Bocaccio.’ Greenblatt cites the Cambridge Companion numerous times in his endnotes. Did he read it?” Obviously not.

Greenblatt’s caricature of the (read the quotes with sarcasm) “Dark Ages” as living life as if God is a cosmic kill joy is puzzling to Hinch as well: “Equally untrue is Greenblatt’s claim that medieval culture was characterized by ‘a hatred of pleasure-seeking, a vision of God’s providential rage and an obsession with the afterlife.’ I know Greenblatt has read Chaucer. He’s quoted from him in numerous books. Has he forgotten the ribald pleasure-seeking in The Canterbury Tales? What about the 13th-century French courtly love epic The Romance of the Rose? The twelfth-century Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes? I find no rage in Dante’s complex vision of human morality and providential grace in the Divine Comedy. Nor do I detect an ounce of asceticism in the ravishing unicorn tapestries in the Cloisters Museum in New York. Or in the rose window in Chartres. Or in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Or in the gracious courts of the Alhambra.”

It seems Greenblatt is a good literary scholar, but a terrible Medieval historian, according to Hinch.

Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve racked up prizes — and completely misled you about the Middle Ages” by Laura Saetveit Miles | Vox July 20, 2016

Laura Saetveit Miles, professor at the University of Bergen in Norway, declares that

The Swerve doesn’t promote the humanities to a broader public so much as it deviously precipitates the decline of the humanities, by dumbing down the complexities of history and religion in a way that sets a deeply unfortunate precedent. If Greenblatt’s story resonates with its many readers, it is surely because it echoes stubborn, made-for-TV representations of medieval “barbarity” that have no business in a nonfiction book, much less one by a Harvard professor.

In a very revealing moment in Miles article on The Swerve she declares the book as dangerous: “When I finished, I put down The Swerve on the table, and the academic side of my brain kicked back in. I had let myself read it as fiction. Yet it was supposed to be not fiction. When I thought of it as a scholarly book, and thought of all those thousands and thousands of people out there who read it and believed every word because the author is an authority and wins prizes, I realized: This book is dangerous.” [emphasis added]

Why is it dangerous? Because it is worse the Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code:

Every page of The Swerve strives to present the Renaissance as an intellectual awakening that triumphs over the oppressive abyss of the Dark Ages. The book pushes the Renaissance as a rebirth of the classical brilliance nearly lost during centuries mired in dullness and pain. (In Greenblatt’s Middle Ages, bored monks literally sit in the dark when not flagellating themselves.)

This invention of modernity relies on a narrative of good guys (Poggio, as well as Lucretius) defeating bad guys and thus bringing forth a glorious transformation. This is dangerous not only because it is inaccurate but, more importantly, because it subscribes to a progressivist model of history that insists on the onward march of society, a model that all too easily excuses the crimes and injustices of modernity.

But history does not fit such cookie-cutter narratives. Having studied medieval culture for nearly two decades, I can instantly recognize the oppressive, dark, ignorant Middle Ages that Greenblatt depicts for 262 pages as, simply, fiction. It’s fiction worse than Dan Brown, because it masquerades as fact.

Book Review: The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began” by John Monfasani | Reviews in History July 2012

John Monfasani, professor of history at the University at Albany, State University of New York damning declares that “Greenblatt has penned an entertaining but wrong-headed belletristic tale.”

2.  A World Lit Only by Fire: the Medieval Mind and the Renaissance by William Manchester

Manchester begins his scatthing history of the middle ages by claiming that “The densestImage result for a world lit only by fire medieval centuries – the six hundred years between, roughly, A.D. 400 and A.D. 1000 – are still widely known as the Dark Ages.” (Manchester, 3) William Mancester does admit that modern historians have abandoned that phrase but the “intellectual life had vanished from Europe” and declares in the very first paragraph of the book: “Nevertheless, if value judgments are made, it is undeniable that most of what is known about the period is unlovely. After the extant fragments have been fitted together, the portrait which emerges is a melange of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness.”

The wikipedia entry about the book states that, “In the book, Manchester scathingly posits, as the title suggests, that the Middle Ages were ten centuries of technological stagnation, short-sightedness, bloodshed, feudalism, and an oppressive Church wedged between the golden ages of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.”

Technological stagnation

Short-sightedness

Bloodshed

An oppressive church

Between the golden age of Rome and the Renaissance.

Nothing really new about this negative report about the so-called “dark ages.”  The only problem is that other modern historians have dismissed and criticized the book because of its gross errors, misinformation, and out of date understanding of the era.

Jeremy DuQuesnay Adams, professor and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of Medieval Europe of SMU and Ph.D. from Harvard (Manchester has an BA and MA in English, no training in history or a history degree), grudgingly reviewed the book. In Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, Adams remarked that Manchester’s work contained “some of the most gratuitous errors of fact and eccentricities of judgment this reviewer has read (or heard) in quite some time.” He begins the review by lamenting:

This is an infuriating book. The present reviewer hoped that it would simply fade away, as its intellectual qualities (too strong a word) deserved. Unfortunately, it has not: one keeps meeting well-intentioned, perfectly intelligent people (including some colleagues in other disciplines – especially the sciences) who have just read this book and want to discuss why anyone would ever become a medievalist.

Adams goes on to point out that Manchester’s assertions about clothing, diet, and medieval person’s views of time and sense of self ran counter to the conclusions of established historians of the Middle Ages of the 20th-century.

An example of his errors is with the famed Pied Piper. Manchester claims that the Piper of Hamelin was  “was horrible, a psychopath and pederast who, on June 24, 1484, spirited away 130 children in the Saxon village of Hammel and used them in unspeakable ways. Accounts of the aftermath vary. According to some, the victims were never seen again; others told of disembodied little bodies found scattered in the forest underbrush or festooning the branches of trees.”

Over at The Straight Dope we learn that “Manchester doesn’t footnote this passage” and that their own “research suggests that Manchester got some of the details wrong–among other things, he appears to be off about 200 years on the date.”

Review of A World Lit Only by Fire” Kirkus Review, May 20th, 2010.

This review reveals that Manchester, by his own admission, did NOT master any scholarship on the early 16th century, which ” dooms him to retelling the same old stories recounted countless times before.”

In the book’s “Author’s Note”, Manchester says, “It is, after all, a slight work, with no scholarly pretensions. All the sources are secondary, and few are new; I have not mastered recent scholarship on the early sixteenth century.

So, Manchester, who has no formal training in history, not a medievalist, admits to not using primary sources as well as not mastering any recent scholarship of the early 16th century, has penned a propaganda piece (at best) of the middle ages. Again, another myth that the middle ages were dark.

3.  The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey

The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey is one of the latest publications (2017) propagating the the dark ages myth.  Nixey studied classics at Cambridge and taught the subject for Image result for the darkening ageseveral years before becoming a journalist on the arts desk at the Times (UK). Her book, The Darkening Age, no surprise, focuses on “the Christian destruction of the classical world” (xxxv).  Her prologue characterizes Christians as “destroyers, . . . marauding bands of bearded, black-robed zealots” whose “ . . . attacks were primitive, thuggish, and very effective.” She goes on to say that “these men moved in packs—later in swarms of as many as five hundred—and when they descended utter destruction followed” (xix).

Some of the reviews and reactions to Nixey’s book can be listed:

  • The esteemed historian of Late Antiquity of Oxford Univeristy, Dame Averil Cameron, calls Nixey’s book “a travesty” condemning it as “overstated and unbalanced.”
  • Lecturer of Medieval history at Exeter University, Dr. Levi Roach, stated that Nixey’s book “does not seek to present a balanced picture (…) this is a book of generalisations. (…) Nixey (…) is unwilling to see shades of grey” in his evaluation at Literary Review titled “At Cross Purposes.” He goes on to state in the article that, “to characterize late-antique Christians as ‘thugs’, as Nixey repeatedly does, it perhaps defensible, to call them ‘primitive’ and ‘stupid’, as she also does, is not. All to often Christians are cast as the aggressors, even when, as Nixey acknowledges more than once, they are responding to prior attacks.” And “Perhaps most worryingly, in embracing this line of argument [i.e., over-generalizing] Nixey ends up endorsing the long-debunked view of the Middle Ages as a period of blind faith and intellectual stagnation (which she again, problematically equates with one another.)”
  • Tim O’Neill, over at his website History for Atheists, give a long, detailed analysis of Nixey’s book and concludes, “Good history books, including good popular history, should give the reader a greater insight into the period and the subject. They should make the reader better informed and, in doing so, make them wiser. They should deepen understanding, so that anything else read on the subject from that point tends to add layers to that depth. Watts’ book [The Final Pagan Generation] does this. O’Donnell’s book [Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity] does this. Duffy’s book [The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580] does this. Nixey’s book does not. Anyone reading Nixey’s book is likely to come away thinking they know and understand more but will actually have learned things that would have to be unlearned or corrected later. Nixey’s is not a good history book. It is, as Dame Averil said so pithily, ‘a travesty’.”

Reviews of Nixey’s book:

Review of The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey” by Tim O’Neill. History for Atheists November 29, 2017

When History Turns Anti-Christian” by Bryan Litfin. The Gospel Coalition April 5, 2019

Book review, ‘The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World’ by Catherine Nixey” by Joshua Herring. The Acton Institute December 22, 2017

Blame the Christians” by Averil Cameron. The Tablet September 21, 2017

At Cross Purposes” by Levi Roach. Literary Review November 2017

Reactions to and Reviews of Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age” by Cornelis Hoogerwerf. What is Written October 22, 2017

2 Kings 23:11 – “He [Josiah] removed from the entrance to the temple of the LORD the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.” (NIV)

A clay seal of King Josiah’s aid mentioned in the above passage was found recently found.  According to the Daily Mail, “The seal was found inside a two-storey office building which experts say was burned down by the Babylonians when they conquered the city in 586 BC.”

Nathan-Melech, a high-ranking official in the court of King of Judah, is named in the inscription of one of the tiny clay seals (pictured). It was found inside a two-storey admin building which archaeologists say was burned down by the Babylonians

Nathan-melech, the aide described in the 2 King’s passage, is described as one of Josiah’s officials.  There apparently is little extra-biblical evidence of King Josiah, but this find makes an archaeological connection to this individual.  The inscription on the ring above says, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.”

Here is a short video of the discovery:

 

Other sources concerning this archaeological discovery:

Clay seal of King Josiah’s aide is found in the remains of an ancient office burnt down by Babylonians in 586 BC – adding weight to proof that the king really existed” by Joe Pinkstone | Daily Mail. April 1, 2019

Tiny First Temple find could be first proof of aide to biblical King Josiah” by Amanda Borschel-Dan | The Times of Israel. March 31, 2019

Archaeological discovery: Small seal mentioning King Josiah court official mentioned in Bible found in Israel” by  Michael Gryboski | The Christian Post. April 1, 2019

______________________

Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

Caiaphas Ossuary

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

campus

Being, I suppose, a professional student and spending over fourteen years in undergraduate and graduate education and another seven years as a professor at the collegiate level, it is disappointing the anti-Christian bias that is found on the college campus today.  Instances have ranged from prohibiting Christian clubs from require its leaders (not members), its leaders to be Christian, to being shouted down in class for endorsing Christian views. The rise of anti-Christian bias on campus is evident.  Granted, many of the instances listed here are in no way comparable to what Christians are facing around the world, but an indicator of the rise of this attitude was a 2007 study to discover anti-Semitism on campus. In 2007, the Institute for Jewish and Community Research released a study on the political beliefs and attitudes of college professors. The study was commissioned in part because of concerns that anti-Semitism was rising on campus. Rather than finding anti-Semitism, the Institute discovered that 53% of college professors admitted to “unfavorable” feelings about evangelical Christians.  No other religious group (including Muslims) was even close to this number. Provided are some instances of this “unfavorable” feelings about Christians on college and university campuses today:

1)

“Stomp On Jesus Assignment at FAU” at Townhall – Assignments, not just diatribes by the professor, are part of the “unfavorable” attitudes against Christians.  If it was the name Muhammad, I believe there would have been a very different outcome.

(more…)

Apologetics is not usually known for producing gripping fictional thrillers, but it does have a few.  In fact, I think you might be surprised by how many novel apologetic works are out there.  Here is a sampling.  If you know of any others add it to the list below with a link to its amazon page.

1. A Skeleton in God’s Closet by Paul L. Maier

As far as I know this was the first (and one of the better imho) novels incorporating apologetics.  Paul L. Maier is the professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and has written and translated some important historical works such as Josephus: The Essential Works, Eusebius: The Church History, and In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church.

Amazon describes A Skeleton in God’s Closet: “When an ancient skeleton is discovered in Israel, will it shed new light on the life of Jesus or plunge the world into chaos?”

Dr. Jonathan Weber, Harvard professor and biblical scholar, is looking forward to his sabbatical year on an archaeological dig in Israel. But a spectacular find that seems to be an archaeologist’s dream-come-true becomes a nightmare that many fear will be the death rattle of Christianity.Carefully researched and compellingly written, A Skeleton in God’s Closet explores the tension between faith and doubt when science and religion collide. In the end, it’s a thought-provoking page-turner, driven by one man’s determination to find the truth―no matter the cost.”

I really thought Maier did a fine job on this work.  I just happened to discover codexit for a dollar at a resale shop.  The title caught my attention and I devoured it.  It essentially explores what would happen to Christianity if we discovered that Jesus did not rise from the dead.  He had two sequels to this volume: More Than a Skeleton and The Constantine CodexMore Than a Skeleton explores eschatology and the return of Jesus (it was my least favorite of this Skeleton series) and the Constantine Codex explores what would happen if we discovered missing manuscripts to the New Testament.  Maier even gives cameo appearances of real scholars such as Daniel Wallace and Edwin Yamauchi in The Constantine Codex.

[Caveat] – Maier has also written two books in the historical fiction genre, but he likes to categorize it as a “documentary novel” because the former emphasizes the fiction opilatever the history (many times to the flames of romedetriment to the history) while in his works he has devised a structure that only resorts to fiction to fill in the historical gaps.  Essentially, he is a historian first and a novelist second, while most historical fiction is the other way around.  He has done a fine job in both Pontius Pilate and The Flames of Rome.  As the titles suggest Pilate is about the true story of how and why the crucifixion took place, from the perspective of the Roman politician who changed history.  The Flames of Rome follows the family of Flavius Sabinus, the mayor of Rome under Emperor Nero, in order to capture the tension of the political conflict in Rome before the Great Fire.

2. Five Sacred Crossings: A Novel Approach to a Reasonable Faith by Craig Hazen

Five Sacred CrossingsCraig Hazen, the director of the M.A. program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University and editor of the journal Philosophia Christi, wrote this quick read (168 pages) which has a nice plot while investigating worldview claims of other religions and philosophies.”Professor Michael Jernigan, a Christian, is teaching a religions course at a community college by using a rare text he owns—“The Five Crossings.” Each “Crossing” unveils a universal spiritual question, which only Christianity can satisfactorily address because it is testable, presents salvation as a free gift, paints a picture of the world that matches reality, makes a non-compartmentalized life possible, and has Jesus at the center.”Craig prefaces this novel in his introduction: Defenses [of Christianity] usually come from believing theologians, philosophers, lawyers, and scholars of various stripes. From time to time, however, scholars who are fascinated by presenting reasons for faith have used allegories, analogies, novels, and other modes of storytelling to make specific points about the truth of the Christian view of the world…. This present work certainly does not compare to what [C.S.] Lewis produced except that it fits in the same category of literature.”

3. The Lazarus Effect: A Novel by Ben Witherington III

lazaruseffectThis is a series of six books that doesn’t deal with apologetics proper, but it does touch on archaeology and biblical scholarship, which apologetics interacts with regularly.  Ben Witherington III is professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University, and the author of over thirty-five books.  He begins this series with The Lazarus Effect.  This work has been described as an archaeological thriller.  Apparently, the protagonist of this series Art West is based on Ben’s grandfather, James Arthur West, who was also an archaeologist.  West makes a discovery of a lifetime in Jerusalem finding the tombstone of Lazarus.  This indicates that Jesus raised him from the dead, but the stone is stolen, sold to the British Library, and West is implicated in an antiquities fraud that will lead to a trial.  Other books in this series includes: Roman Numerals, Papias and the Mysterious Menorah, Corinthian Leather, Roma Aeterna, and Ephesian Miracle.

 

4. The Coffee House Chronicles by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett

Dave Sterrett (who I am glad to say I know personally and taught with several years ago) teams up with Josh McDowell to produce this trilogy which follows Nick, a coffeehousechroniclescollege freshman at a state school in Texas. Nick has his spiritual world turned upside-down with what he hears in an introduction to religion class. His questions turn into conversations as he dialogues with professors, friends, and family about the authenticity the Bible, the identity of Jesus, and the historicity of the resurrection.  This series includes: Is the Bible True…Really?, Who Is Jesus…Really?, and Did The Resurrection Happen…Really?
which from the titles you can tell the topics of each book.  Amazon: “The Coffee House Chronicles are short, easily devoured novellas aimed at answering prevalent spiritual questions. Each book in the series tackles a long-contested question of the faith, and then answer these questions with truth through relationships and dialogue in each story.”

 

5. The Owlings: A Worldview Novella and The Owlings: Book Two by Dan DeWitt

owlingDan DeWitt; dean of Boyce College and teaches courses on worldview, philosophy, apologetics, and C. S. Lewis; provides a short young adult story in which Josiah learns that the world is not all there was, is, or ever will be from the most unlikely visitors: Gilbert, a talking owl and three of his friends.

This series, deemed a “worldview adventure” continues in book two.  Josiah returns with Gilbert the talking owl touching on moral themes like poverty, bullying, charity, sympathy, and the like, but its main goal is to demonstrate the limits of science.

 

6. The Chronicles of Adonai series by Braxton Hunter

Dr. Hunter is president of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary and professor of apologetics.  He has written several books on apologetics proper such as Evangelistic Apologetics and Blinding LIghts: The Glaring Evidences of the Christian Faith. Active in the apologetics community, Hunter has debates and blogs on the Christian truth.  and He has dipped his hand into apologetical fiction with his Chronicles of Adonai series. Image result for the chronicles of adonai

Set in a post apocalyptic dystopian society, all references and talk of God is removed by the leaders of the community call Adonai.  A great review by Mark Evans reveals that Dr Hunter “includes the cosmological argument . . .the teleological argument . . . and the moral argument. . . . He also gives a clear explanation of the Gospel and repentance. There are some characters who respond to the Gospel. He also emphasizes the clearness of general revelation (Romans 1.20) Early on in the book one of the characters examines the purpose of all that exists.”

The series is in two volumes: The Colony and The Island.

7. The Testimonium by Lewis Ben Smith

One day as I walked into my local Half Price Books I stumbled upon Lewis Ben Smith, a local author who was personally selling his books at a side table. Lewis has been a high Image result for The Testimoniumschool history teacher for the past three decades at a private school in east Texas. An avid archaeologist, he routinely takes his classes out to tributaries to find arrowheads.  In 2014 he published The Testimonium. This novel explores the questions: What if there were new findings that proved, in today’s science, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true? Smith’s focus is on the archaeology, but The Testimonium begins a series of books called The Capri Team Adventures which follows the excursions of a team of archaeologists as they uncover other earth shattering discoveries. Other titles in the series:

Matthew’s Autograph – The back cover description: “Finding the undisturbed tomb of one of Image result for matthew's autograph ben smiththe Apostles of Jesus leads the Israeli government to call in Duncan’s companions, who had discovered the Testimonium of Pontius Pilate three years earlier. When the three archeologists arrive in Tel Aviv, they discover an amazing document inside the tomb: the end of Matthew’s Gospel, written in the Apostle’s own hand! Excitement turns to pandemonium when they translate the scroll and find the text varies drastically from every copy of the Book of Matthew in existence. Have the New Testament Gospels been altered since they were written? Has this tomb really lain undisturbed for two thousand years? Is this ancient manuscript really . . . MATTHEW’S AUTOGRAPH?

Gnostic Library – Smith’s most recent work concludes the Capri Team Adventures when theImage result for the gnostic library ben smith archaeologists are captured by terrorists when they were investigating the manuscripts of the Gnostics found in Egypt. One Amazon reviewer states that The Gnostic Library is “A fast-paced, globe-spanning novel about human love and inhuman brutality, that mixes ancient history and modern headlines into an edge-of-your-seat thriller!”

 

 

 

 

Impact 360 has been releasing some fantastically produced videos. Here is one of their newest ones:

 

Impact 360 has been running some great videos as well as their camps, residency programs, and training.

Speakers who frequent Impact 360 include: Jonathan Morrow (one of Impact 360’s directors), Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, Brett Kunkle, Alisha Childers, Jay Watts, Alan Shlemon, and others.

They have programing for high school students, gap-year students, and young professionals. Impact 360 has several programs one can experience:

  • Propel (one week) – A student leadership training to impact the world out of their identity in Christ. This experience is designed for teens who desire to lead and disciple their peers.
  • Immersion (two weeks) – A worldview and leadership experience for high school students where they will learn what they believe, why they believe it, and how to live it out in the real world. Similar to Summit Ministries.
  • Fellows (nine months) – A year  that offers a unique combination of worldview studies with experiential learning, international travel, and leadership training.

Impact 360 is based in Pine Mountain, GA (about an hour south of Atlanta). They have a beautiful campus (this links to a nice visual tour) that is partly founded by some of the owners of Chick-fil-a. So eating a Chick-fil-a helps fund Impact 360.

Jonathan Morrow, the director of cultural engagement at Impact 360 Institute, holds a Master of Divinity, Master in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, and a Doctorate all from Talbot School of Theology and is an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University. Some of his publications include:

He has also contributed articles to the bestselling Apologetics Study Bible for Students (which I also contributed several articles: here, here, and here), A New Kind of Apologist, and Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ.

Morrow is doing a fine job at Impact 360. Definitely worth checking out.

Here are some of the other quality videos Impact 360 has produced:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guards at the tomb of Jesus has been either much discussed or ignored in apologetical discourse around the resurrection of Jesus.  For example, here is William Lane Craig answering a question about the guards at the tomb:

 

Dr. Timothy McGrew, professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University,  has a thorough response to the challenge of Matthew’s veracity concerning the resurrection as it pertains to the guards narrative in Matthew 27:62-66.  It is well worth the read as Dr. McGrew picks apart the criticism that Torley provides against the historicity of the guards narrative.  Torley claims that the narrative is unhistorical for three reasons:

  1. It is mentioned only in Matthew’s Gospel, not in the other three.
  2. This account fails to explain why the body could not have been stolen on Friday night.
  3. We are not told why Pilate would agree to the Jewish leaders’ request.
  4. The Jewish rulers would not have made such a request of Pilate, since a gentile employed by a Jew would not be allowed to work on the Sabbath.

McGrew systematically dismantles each of these reasons.  A quick summary of each rebuttal:

  1. Rebuttal: This is an argument from silence; why can’t a single source be adequate for historicity.  As McGrew points out: “Many of the events of antiquity crop up in only one source.”
  2. Rebuttal: This reason is assuming that the request is made on Saturday morning. Again McGrew points out: “it is not even clear from the text that the request was made on Saturday”
  3. Rebuttal: Just because we are not told why something happens, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  McGrew: “this is a very odd way to object to historical evidence. Many narratives recount events without affording us an explanation for them, and sometimes we are left to guess what that explanation might be. So what?”
  4. Rebuttal: “Nothing in Jewish law as interpreted at the time would prevent them from making such a request.”

McGrew lays out a clear rebuttal to these charges against the guards at the tomb and will also answer other charges against the historicity of the resurrection in future posts at the blog site: What’s Wrong With the World? Definitely worth keeping up with.

Image result for guards at the tomb jesus