Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Impact 360 has produced a new video titled “What Good Is Christianity?” It explores the question “Has Christianity been good for the world? Learn the truth about what the historical record really says.”  It can be viewed here:

 

It is part of the Explore Worldview online series training that Impact 360 provides which the first session is free online with a total of eight sessions.

Other free resources for going deeper include:

An video interview with Sean McDowell on tolerance: What is tolerance anyways and should Christians embrace it?

Alan Shlemon on “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God”: Determine whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God!

A podcast with John Stonestreet on “How to engage our culture with hope!”

And some book resources:How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity by Rodney Stark and How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt

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Posts from this site on the contribution of Christianity

The Triumph of Christianity

Missionary Myths and the Roots of Democracy

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APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTSMy previous posts in the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil and the Crusades. Today’s post includes my article about the objection that religious beliefs are merely reflections of where one was raised.

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides answers to many of these perplexing questions from the Crusades, religious plurality, and the problem of evil along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

Here is the article:

“Don’t Religious Beliefs Just Reflect Where One Was Raised?”:

Are religious beliefs just a reflection of where one was raised? It’s hard not to notice that people who grow up in India almost always become Hindus and people raised in Saudi Arabia usually become Muslims. Likewise, most Christians accept Christianity because their parents were Christians. Since a person’s religious beliefs most often reflect the dominant religious beliefs of the region in which they were born, many people conclude that all religions are just cultural expressions. In this view, religious beliefs are not the result of reason, evidence, or the movement of God in a person’s life. Rather, religion is just a product of the way you were raised. There are two significant problems with this theory.

First, the origin of a belief does not determine whether or not it’s true. Each truth claim (and hence, each religion) must be weighed independently of questions about its origin. We examine how it matches up to things like history, logic, and data from science. If the belief stands up to examination, it does not matter how you came to hold it. For instance, what if a lunatic told you how to get to New York City? The man believes many wrong things about himself and the world, but if his directions succeed in getting you to the “Big Apple,” you can be sure that his belief about the route to New York was correct. It does not matter that he is certifiably crazy. Your belief originated with a crazy man, yet the crazy man knew the truth.

Second, the skeptical view described above says your surroundings determine your beliefs, and yet this theory cannot explain religious conversions in which a person chooses against their upbringing. Every day all across the world, many thousands of people convert from one religious belief to another. If religious beliefs merely reflect where one was raised, this would not happen. The reality of religious conversion shows that religious beliefs are more than the result of upbringing. People change their religion because they come to question their inherited religious beliefs, examine the beliefs of other religions, and thus choose to reject their cultural influences and upbringing and the beliefs that come with them. The most impressive historical example of this is the spread of Christianity. The Christian faith began as a tiny group of Jews huddled in Jerusalem, but then spread all across the world, traversing many cultures and languages, as people examined the case for Christianity and came to believe it was true.

In conclusion, where you were raised does have an obvious impact on your religious beliefs, but evidence proves that this can be overcome when people reconsider their beliefs in light of evidence and argumentation. While most people’s religious beliefs reflect where they were raised, they still have the freedom and responsibility to consider the evidence and claims of their religion. Christianity excels when people take the time to seriously explore

APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTSMy previous post about the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil. The article was published in the study bible which comes out July 1. Today’s post includes my article about the Crusades.  One of my most visited posts on this blog is “What About the Crusades? Myths and Facts” which includes a nice infographic, video, quotes from experts, and resources for further study about the Crusades.

Presidents to pundits have referenced the crusades as comparable to radical Islamic terrorism, that the crusades were unprovoked Christian attacks on Islamic territories for land and loot.  This is an extreme oversimplification at best and at worst gross negligence of the facts.  The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides an answer to this perplexing question about the Crusades and the truth of Christianity along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

Here is the article:

“What About the Crusades?”:

“In a speech at Georgetown University, former president Bill Clinton claimed that the current increase of Islamic terrorist activity, such as 9/11, is a consequence of the Christian Crusades which occurred almost a thousand years ago. Ask about the Crusades and you will probably be told something like, ‘They were wars of unprovoked aggression by Christian nations against a peaceful Muslim world. The Christians were interested in gaining riches and land.’ In worst-case scenarios, people reject Christianity because they’ve been told that Christian Crusaders murdered Muslims for profit and gain. They conclude that Christianity is a violent religion.

First, and foremost, it must be remembered that Christianity did not originate in the Crusades; it began on the cross of Jesus Christ. Even if the Crusaders performed horrific acts of violence and murder, these acts do not undercut the truth of Christianity nor change its essence. At most the Crusades illustrate that sinful and fallen people are ca- pable of wrongfully using the name of Christ for personal gain.

But the Crusades were not just about gaining wealth and land. One must consider the historical context to more fully understanding the motivations of the Crusaders. The Crusades were not acts of unprovoked aggression by Christians against the Islamic world, but were a delayed response to centuries of Muslim aggression. From the very beginning of the Islamic religion Muslims sought to conquer the Christian world. In fact, the first three hundred years of Islam can be described as a period of military conquest. Muslim armies conquered all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and most of Spain. Christian Europe had to defend itself or else be overcome by Islamic invasion. As Muslim forces pressed into Europe, Pope Urban II in AD 1095 called for the First Crusade in response to pleas of help from the Byzantine emperor in Con- stantinople (now called Istanbul).

In other words, the Crusades were a defensive war, not an aggressive grab for land and loot. In fact, crusading was an expensive and costly endeavor. After the success of the First Crusade nearly all the Crusaders went home. Virtually none of them recovered the cost of crusading. If one wanted to get rich, crusading was definitely not the best route to make it happen.

Many atrocities occurred in the Crusades. Understandably, war can bring out the worst in people. Even during World War II some American soldiers committed atrocities, but this does not mean the war was conducted so soldiers could commit crimes. As for the Crusades, Christians have rightly condemned the wrongs that many of the Crusaders committed.

In summary, the Crusades were not about wars of unprovoked Christian aggression against a peaceful Muslim world, neither were they motivated by a quest for riches and land. The Crusades were defensive wars that aimed to stop Muslim military advance- ment. The West today enjoys religious freedom and democracy because the Christian nations prevailed.

God wants his people to care about justice. As the Prophet Micah reminds us, “Man- kind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mc 6:8).”

Resources (abbreviated):

Articles on the Crusades:

Books on the Crusades:

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 8.32.51 PM.pngThe Tower of Babel is recorded in Genesis 11:1-9.  Critical scholars have traditionally viewed this story as mythical and not historical. There just seemed to not be enough corroborating evidence.

But, recently the Smithsonian Channel’s show titled Secrets aired its first episode of season four titled “The Tower of Babel” which seemingly supports the biblical record.

The episode focused on the Tower of Babel Stele (i.e., stone tablet) from the Schøyen Collection which is the private collection of Norwegian businessman Martin Schøyen. Joseph M. Holden, author of The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Biblestates that “according to most critical scholars, this event [i.e., the Tower of Babel] found in Scripture is mythical and certainly could not have taken place in Mesopotamia, where it is said to have occurred.  Originally, support for this notion was found in the fact that no extra-biblical Mesopotamian record existed that documented such an incredible event.” That is until, apparently, now:

 

On the website of the Schøyen Collection the commentary section on the Tower of Babel Stele states: “Here we have for the first time an illustration contemporary with Nebuchadnezzar II’s restoring and enlargement of the Tower of Babel, and with a caption making the identity absolutely sure. We also have the building plans, as well as a short account of the reconstruction process.”  Apparently the ziggurat in Bablyon was originally built during the time of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC).

The Secrets episode on the Smithsonian Channel states that there is “some very compelling evidence the Tower of Babel was real.”  Professor Andrew R. George, featured in the episode and the professor of Babylonian history at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, states that “This is a very strong piece of evidence that the tower of Babel story was inspired by this real building.”

Related Articles on The Tower of Babel Stele:

Evidence for Bible’s Tower of Babel Discovered” | The Christian Post May 9, 2017

Ancient Babylonian Tablet Provides Compelling Evidence that the Tower of Babel DID Exist” | Ancient Origins May 8, 2017

Smithsonian Channel Spotlights Stone Tablet Believed to Confirm Biblical Tower of Babel” | Christian News Network May 7, 2017

Tower of Babel Discovered? Ancient Tablet Describes Mesopotamian Structure Built By ‘Multitudes’ ” | Breaking Israel News May 8, 2017

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

50 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

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!

 

 

 

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Recently several bloggers, scholars, and apologists have posted videos on the reliability of the bible.  Three such videos are below, in order of lenght (shortest first, then longest)

1. Does the Bible Have Contradictions?

Sean McDowell, Assistant Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University, earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2014 and is the  author, co-author, or editor of over eighteen books including The Fate of the Apostles, and Is God Just a Human Invention?  In this short video (2:50) answers the question “Does the Bible Have Contradictions?”

 

Michael Licona of Risen Jesus ministries and associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University recently published a book with Oxford University Press on the same topic: Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?

2. Are the Gospels Accurate?

J. Warner Wallace, a former cold-case homicide detective and continues to consult on cold-case investigations, applied his investigative skills to investigations the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts.  He wrote about his in his book Cold-Case Christianity. In God’s Crime Scene, he investigates eight pieces of evidence in the universe to make the case for God’s existence.  In this nine minute video Wallace answers the question: “Are the Gospels Accurate?”

 

3. Can We trust the New Testament?

Michael J. Kruger (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) is the president and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary and is author of The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament DebateThe Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford University Press), and Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament BooksIn this video (28 minutes) Dr. Kruger is being interviewed by Ratio Christi on the topic, “Can We Trust the New Testament?” The interview covered a wide range of topics from textual criticism to bible contradictions to the development of the NT Canon:

 

Visit my page titled “Is the Bible Reliable” in which I cover the topic of the when the New Testament was written, the manuscript evidence, archaeological evidence, and non-biblical sources concerning the New Testament.

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“There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.”

-Rod Dreher (The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation)

One commentator (highlighted below) states that The Benedict Option might be”The most important book for Christians in this decade.”

If the death of Christianity occurs in our civilization (and Dreher means in Europe and America) how is Christianity to respond?  Dreher’s Answer: The Benedict Option.

Rod Dreher, has just published his this much discussed strategy (up until March 20 in blog and article form primarily) in book form: The Benedict Option.  Subtitled “A Strategy for Christian in a Post-Christian Nation,” Dreher opens by reminiscing about his 2006 best seller Crunchy Cons which he advocated for “a countercultural, traditionalist conservative sensibility.” He brought up the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre who had proclaimed that Western Civilization has “lost it moorings.”

His introduction recounts the steady decline of Christianity with references to failure of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana followed by a similar failure in Arkansas in 2015.  Two months later the U. S. Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage with an immediate push by activists and political allies for transgender rights: “Post-Obergefell, Christians who hold to the biblical teachings about sex and marriage have the same statue in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.”

So begins Dreher in what is surely to be a much discussed and debated option amongst post-Christian traditionalists and doctrinally orthodox believers.

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time.  If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith, both in thought and in practice.  We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West.  We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways.  In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what the cost.

Dreher provides and Benedict Option FAQ page over at the American Conservative

This sounds like a book that needs to be read.  Much reaction has already being buzzing on the internet, articles, and podcasts concerning Dreher’s book.  Below are just a few samples of this dialogue The Benedict Option:

Sparking Renewal: A Review of ‘The Benedict Option’ ” by Gerald Russello | Intercollegiate Review Spring 2017

Along the way, Dreher has carved out his own space against that toxic culture and has called that space and that which he saw others creating “the Benedict Option.” The name is an homage both to Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI and the famous closing sentence of Alasdair MacIntyre’s influential book After Virtue: “This time . . . the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

This is our cultural moment, despite who occupies the White House or Congress, and with his unerring cultural radar, Dreher has written the book for this new moment: a central point in The Benedict Option is “put not your trust in princes.” Culture is more important than politics, and the currents of modernity did not change on Election Day. And one thing conservatives, and especially Christian conservatives, should understand is that they have lost the culture war, and, indeed, it was their obsession with politics—and their assumption that the culture and major institutions such as big business would always support them—that partially caused that loss.

Exploring the Benedict Option” by John Stonestreet | Breakpoint

Stonestreet concludes his podcast that explores the Benedict Option by saying:

the controversial aspect of the Benedict Option is Dreher’s call for “a strategic withdrawal.” To many, understandably, this sounds way too much like post-Scopes fundamentalism that abandoned the public square to non-Christians.

Dreher insists that it doesn’t mean the same thing, and I hope not. Because escape is never an option for Christians. We should never retreat into our institutions because we’re seeking safety. We should, however, strengthen them out of loyalty to each other and to the true, the good and beautiful, preserving the best of Christian culture so that we can—at some point—gift it back to the world in acts of grace.

Now whether you agree or disagree with the Benedict option, I am thankful that Dreher’s book is igniting a long-overdue conversation about what it means to live in a post-Christian context.

The Constantine Strategy in the Benedict Option!” by John Mark Reynolds | Eidos March 12, 2017

John Mark Reynolds, president of The Saint Constantine School and senior fellow in the humanities at The King’s College, declares that The Benedict Option may be the most important book for Christians in this decade:

Until the muddle or the collapse of this version of America  is settled, the sensible person builds an alternative culture. Rod Dreher thinks we may be at one of those points in the West of the world and argues what needs to be done. Traditional Christianity is hard to live in a decadent America and harder still to live where Daesh is torturing Christians.

and in the list of top Christian thinkers in the post below Reynolds declares “The Benedict Option is not a way, but the only way forward for Christians who wish to be more than nominal in their faith.”

Top Christian Thinkers Reflect on the ‘Benedict Option’ ” by John Stonestreet | Breakpoint

Breakpoint hosts the thoughts of top Christian thinkers on Dreher’s book:

Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option” is one of the most anticipated and talked-about Christian books in recent memory. How do Christians carry on and live out the faith in this “new Dark Age,” as Dreher puts it? We’ve asked leading Christian writers and thinkers to share their thoughts on “The Benedict Option.”

Bruce Ashford, Joshua Chatraw, Greg Forster, Michael Francisco, Tom Gilson, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Peter Leithart, Gerald McDermott, Karen Swallow Prior, John Mark N. Reynolds, Roberto Rivera, John Stonestreet, Glenn Sunshine, Andrew Walker, and Trevin Wax.

The Benedict Option and the Way of Exchange” by Alan Jacobs | First Things March 20, 2017

It would be a mistake, as Alan Jacobs at First Things and distinguished professor of the humanities at Baylor University states, to assume that Dreher’s Benedict Option is pessimistic, despairing, or hopeless:

Therefore, to argue, as many have, that the argument Rod Dreher makes in The Benedict Option is despairing, and hopeless, and a failure to trust in the Lord Jesus, is a category error. It takes a set of sociological and historical judgments and treats them as though they were metaphysical assertions. Anyone in Roman Cappadocia who had said that the culture Basil and his colleagues had built was not bound to last until the Lord returns would not have been deficient in Christian hope. Rather, he or she would have been offering a useful reminder of the vagaries of history, to which even the most faithful Christians are subject. Dreher’s argument in The Benedict Option may be wrong, but if so, it is wrong historically and prudentially, not metaphysically.

“The Benedict Option or the Constantine Project?” (Two part series) by David Kern | Circe Institute

Part 1, Part 2

Kern, the director of our multimedia initiatives for the Circe Institute (an acronym for the Center for Independent Research on Classical Education), hosts a skype call between Rod Dreher and John Mark Reynolds.  While the title sets the two positions as opposed to each other, in reality the discussion results in a much agreed upon strategy between Dreher and Reynolds. It is a 2 parts series

Other Articles and Responses to the Benedict Option:

Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option: Why I Have Mixed Feelings” by Michael Brown | Christian Post March 18, 2017

If Politics Can’t Save Us, What Will?” by Collin Hanson | The Gospel Coalition March 13k 2017

Why We Need the Benedict Option and How It Doesn’t Have to Return to Fundamentalism” by Heather Walker Peterson | Patheos March 9, 2017

9 Most Intelligent Takes on Rod Dreher’s ‘The Benedict Option’ ” | Intercollegiate Review Spring 2017

Reflections

John Calvin - Christian Theologian

John Calvin was one of the great voices of the Protestant Reformation, but what exactly did he believe, and what else did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of John Calvin—and why he still matters today.

Who Was John Calvin?

John Calvin (1509–1564) was born in Noyon, Picardy, France, to a devoted Roman Catholic family. He studied the liberal arts at the University of Paris, but his father wanted him to study law, so he went on to receive a law degree at the University of Orléans. Because John Calvin didn’t want to be a lawyer, he returned to the study of classical literature. In Paris, he left the Roman Catholic Church and became part of the Protestant Reformation movement that was then spreading through Europe. He later moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he became one of the leaders of the emerging Reformed…

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Reflections

Saint Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure was one of the great thinkers of the Middle Ages, but what exactly did he believe and what else did he contribute to Christendom? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of St. Bonaventure—and why he still matters today.

Who Was St. Bonaventure?

St. Bonaventure (c. 1221–1274) was born in the Tuscany region of Italy during the High Middle Ages. Bonaventure studied at the University of Paris and became the most eminent theologian of the Franciscan order (named after St. Francis of Assisi) in the Catholic Church. Like his theological colleague, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure was also one of the great philosophers of the scholastic era, serving as both a scholar and a church official (minister general of the Franciscans). His theological thinking reflected a deep commitment to Augustinianism joined with an acceptance of elements of Catholic mysticism. Some reports convey that he died mysteriously during the…

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Bible History Daily has an updated list of 50 [update] 53 people in the bible who have been confirmed archaeologically.  It is not an exhaustive list.  It does not include Caiaphas or Pontius Pilate or anyone from the New Testament because it focuses on the Hebrew Bible.  The list of 50 53 comprises mainly kings, pharaohs, and officials.  It is a nice list of names which also includes who they were, when the reigned, and where in the bible they are mentioned. Here is a quick screen shot of the list:Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 8.42.46 AM.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purdue University produced a video of professor Lawrence Mykytiuk and his research:

 

 

An article at purdue.edu on his research was also published.  Here is a taste of the article:

Lawrence Mykytiuk cannot document that everything in the Bible took place. What the Purdue University Libraries professor can do is show you that many of the people written about did, in fact, exist.

 “While some would put their hand on the Bible and really mean it when they take an oath, a few revisionist academics would throw it out and say, ‘That’s creative writing.’ I was looking for concrete, objective evidence outside of the Bible that would help build the case,” said Mykytiuk, an associate professor of library science.

The rest can be read here.

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

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

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over at James Bishop’s blog a recounting of William Murray’s conversion to Christianity. William Murray is the son of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the famed founder of American Atheists, who is known for the lawsuit that banned prayer and bible reading in school on behalf of her son.

James Bishop's Theological Rationalism

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Now deceased Madalyn, once known as the most hated woman in America and a title she apparently took great pleasure in (1), fought a war against school prayer and won. It was further ruled in her favour that official Bible-reading in American public schools in 1963 and onward would cease. According to her son Murray (now 70 years of age), as captured on film while still a school pupil during this whole affair, “I am an atheist, and I wish to be an atheist, and I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to stand up and say the Lord’s Prayer” (2). Madalyn subsequently founded the American Atheists and sued the city of Baltimore demanding that the state collected taxes from the tax exempt Catholic church. She also sued NASA arguing that public prayer ought to be banned by government employees in outer space. She would also…

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