Posts Tagged ‘apologetics’

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-11-41-48-amI have notice several posts about getting a degree in apologetics or not.  I find the discussion very interesting.  For clarity, I do not have a degree in apologetics (see my CV here).  I have a degree in history, education, philosophy, and theology.  There are now a host of schools that offer degree in apologetics, so there seems to be a demand for them.  But, several posts have discouraged getting the degree in apologetics.  Interesting debate.  Here are some of posts with a short taste from each:

Don’t Get a Degree in Apologetics by Glenn Peoples

Dr. Peoples is adamant on his blog Right Reason that one should NOT get a degree in apologetics.  He and Max Andrews (who he started this discussion about a degree in apologetics at his blog Sententias Blog which is now dead link), Andrews is a doctoral student in Edinburgh, both discourage a degree in apologetics.  Since Max Andrews site is down, here is a bit of Peoples thought on the subject.

Seriously, don’t get a degree in apologetics.

These are thoughts that I have been dwelling on for many months now. Then Max Andrews told me that he was going to say it (and he did), so I was happy to offer a brief comment in support of what he was saying. And now I’m going to say it too. Don’t get a degree in apologetics. You shouldn’t do it. Could I be wrong about that? Absolutely, but at this point I’ll need to be persuaded of that. Getting an apologetics degree appears to be something of a new development in Evangelical academia, one that is being embraced with zeal, particularly in the United States. That fact alone means that even if I am dead wrong, it is only healthy that there be a good strong push back against this for the young and enthusiastic to consider before they commit to something like that. But I don’t think I am dead wrong at all.

His reasoning that someone should NOT get such a degree is illustrated by a list of great apologists who DON’T have a degree in apologetics:

Think for a moment about your favourite published defenders of the Christian faith of the 20th century or later, if you have any. Think about those who have reputations as being the best apologists out there (whether they use the word “apologetics” or not). Everyone’s list will be slightly different, but the list will probably include names like C. S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, John Lennox, Peter Kreeft, Richard Bauckham and others. Do you want to be a great apologist? Great. Do you think these people are / were great apologists? I agree. OK, now ask yourself what all of these people – along with probably every other person you might add to this list – lack. They probably lack a whole lot of things, but one of the things they lack is a degree in apologetics.

Why Would Anyone Get a Degree in Apologetics? by J. Warner Wallace

Wallace, author of two excellent books on apologetics (Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene) using his training as a cold case detective, differentiates between expert witnesses and case-makers.  Expert witnesses specialize in a particular field such as the New Testament or philosophy, while a case-maker make expert testimony accessible.  His article is reacting to Glenn Peoples post above and to Max Andrews post which is not available anymore.  He elaborates on the role and function of each:

There are very few (and I mean very few) expert witnesses in the Christian community who are also popularly accessible case makers. Let’s be honest about that. Some of these great thinkers are friends of mine, and I think they would acknowledge their role quite happily. Richard Bauckham’s incredibly important work, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, has not been nearly as successful as Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ. In fact, many of these amazing expert witnesses would still be largely unread (and unknown) if they hadn’t appeared in Lee’s work. Case makers make expert testimony accessible and show how the limited evidence offered by these experts fits into the larger case. That’s what Lee has done so brilliantly over the years. It’s no coincidence we’re experiencing a renaissance in apologetics simultaneous with the success of Lee’s books. Great case makers amplify the work of great expert witnesses. In fact, you could take the book sales of everyone mentioned by Andrews and Peoples combined (with the obvious exception of C. S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias) and they wouldn’t come close to the book sales of Lee Strobel or Josh McDowell alone. Lee and Josh are great case makers (neither has an advanced degree in a specialty area by the way); both are relying on the testimony of great expert witnesses.  . . .If you’re better suited as an expert witness, interested in specific fields of study and focused academically, get the degree in biblical studies, history, historiography, theology, philosophy, physics, or chemistry as Andrews and Peoples would suggest. God will use you powerfully to establish the foundation from which a case can be made. But if you’re more interested (and gifted) in communicating the overarching, cumulative case for Christianity (constructed from the testimony of many experts), feel free to pursue a degree in case making (apologetics). The church needs expert witnesses and case makers and these are usually two different sets of people.

Wallace make a great point for the need for both expert eyewitnesses (specialization in a particular field) and excellent case-makers (apologists).  I thought this was a nice even handed understanding both the benefits and limitations of a degree in apologetics.

Should I Get A PhD in Apologetics by Travis Dickinson

Dr. Dickinson serves as Associate Professor of Philosophy and Christian Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary which offers a MA in Christian Apologetics.  I guess since he argues against a PhD in Apologetics, the program that he teaches in that offers the MA in Apologetics does not incongruent with his thesis in the article.

The short answer is “no.” The longer answer is “for almost everyone, still no.” The even longer and needlessly provocative answer is that “any PhD gained by a Christian has (or should have) Apologetics in it.”. . . My advice: don’t get a PhD in Apologetics since the field is just simply too broad and too interdisciplinary.

How Can You Make a Career in Apologetics? by Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell, who has  PhD in Apologetics from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, lists several career options for those “degreeing” in apologetics in the context of Biola’s M. A. in christian apologetics:

Part of the vision of our Biola M.A. Christian Apologetics program is to train apologists to be a resource for the local church. In fact, our dream is that churches would consider the need for a “Pastor or Apologetics” as important as a men’s ministry leader or a youth pastor. Until this dream becomes a reality, here’s a few ways to make a career in apologetics (If you think I have missed any, please let me know): [1. Professor of Apologetics. 2. Ratio Christi. 3. Author. 4. Blogger. 5. Speaker. 6.Christian School Teacher]

I do four out of the six (3, 4, 5, 6) that McDowell lists.

Should I Get a Degree in Apologetics? by Josiah Batten

Josiah Batten, who completed an MA in Apologetics at Luther Rice College and Seminary, makes the excellent point that our goals should help inform us on whether to pursue a degree in apologetics.

In pursuing any degree, we should align our education with our goals, and our goals should be informed by our calling. For the person called to teach at the university, they obviously should pursue one specific discipline and earn a PhD (or the equivalent terminal degree) in that field. I have no argument against that. However, not everyone is called to do that, and so we should not become ensnared into thinking this is the only possible route for apologists.

While a professor should obviously specialize in their field, other goals such as a campus minister for Cru, Ratio Christi, etc. might be perfect for a degree in apologetics.  He concludes:

I am quite ready to admit that not everyone should get a degree in apologetics. Yet for many people, such a degree will prove extremely useful. And for some, it will even be the ideal means for pursuing your calling. As with any degree, we need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Yet, the fact that an apologetics degree is not tailored to helping one earn a PhD does not mean that it is not tailored to helping one do a great many other things which constitute worthy work in advancing the Kingdom of God.

Apologetics Training – Advise to Christian Apologists by William Lane Craig (part 2 here)

William Lane Craig, who is the model par excellence in apologetics and needs to introduction, has provided some helpful advise to Christian apologists: select an area to specialize and get a PhD.

Some popular Christian apologists make the mistake of trying to be a jack of all trades, and so they are master of none. As a result, their knowledge of the field may be very broad, but it is not very profound. While they may be able to present an initial argument for Christian truth claims, they soon wilt under the pressure of critique, especially on the part of specialists. Speaking on a university campus, they may find themselves ridden with anxiety lest a non-Christian faculty member should show up in their audience and raise an objection they are at a loss to deal with. If that does happen, they may not only embarrass themselves but also injure the credibility of the Christian faith. A merely generalized knowledge of Christian apologetics is fine for certain contexts, and certainly better than nothing, but it will limit the horizons of your ministry.

Who am I to disagree with Dr. Craig 🙂

Academic Apologetics Programs by Jacob Allee

Finally, Jacob Allee, a teacher in the Logic & Rhetoric Schools at Christian Heritage School, writer/speaker on Christian worldview at Thinking Christianly blog and podcast, has provided a list of schools offering degrees in apologetics along with some commentary on each.  He starts with programs offering certificates and moves from undergraduate to graduate degrees.  Nice list with commentary.

The Top 10 Graduate Programs in Christian Apologetics by TheBestSchools.org

TheBestSchools.org’s list of 10 top graduate programs in apologetics along with overseas programs and other notable programs.

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My former apologetics professor, Ted Cabal who edited the Apologetics Study Bible, stated that we leave in the “golden age of apologetics.”  I believe that is so with many great books coming out this past year and more to come in 2017.  Leave a comment on what great apologetic books you are looking forward to in the comments below.  Here is a short list of five books I believe are worth reading this year for apologetics.

1.  Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Combating the Challenges to Evangelical Christian Beliefs  by Craig Blomberg (B&H Academic, Nov 2016)

historical-reliability-of-nt

Blomberg, a New Testament professor at Denver Seminary, wrote the influential The Historical Reliability of the Gospels back in 1987 and updated it in 2007.  This one expands his work to include the entire New Testament coming in at 816 pages.  Starting with the formation of the New Testament, he goes on to cover contradictions in the synoptic gospels, corroboration of the synoptics, formation and evidence for the gospel of John, and then precedes to Acts and Paul’s writing.  He then discusses canonicity and and transmission, and the problem of miracles in historical texts.  Thomas R. Schreiner associate dean of the School of Theology and James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary praises the book as such:

“I cannot think of a better person to write a book on the reliability of the New Testament than Craig Blomberg. We do not have the reflections of a novice here but of a seasoned and veteran scholar, one whose work has stood the test of time. All the virtues of Blomberg’s scholarship are on display here: he is well versed in secondary sources, he is unfailingly fair to those who hold different views, and his own judgments reflect careful assessment of the evidence. Blomberg demonstrates that trust in the reliability of the New Testament is reasonable; one doesn’t have to put one’s head in the sand to find in the New Testament writings words that are true and accurate.”

2. A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos  by Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes (Cambridge University Press, Nov 2016)

fortunate-universe

A recently produced book by Cambridge University Press was just released this month by Luke Barnes, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy who completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge, and Geraint F. Lewis, a Professor of Astrophysics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and head of the Gravitational Astrophysics Group, titled A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos that continues this long discussion about fine-tuning.  The foreword by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University, Canberra, and Nobel Laureate in Physics describes the book:

My colleagues, Geraint and Luke, in A Fortunate Universe, take you on a tour of the Cosmos in all of its glory, and all of its mystery. You will see that humanity appears to be part of a remarkable set of circumstances involving a special time around a special planet, which orbits a special star, all within a specially constructed Universe. It is these set of conditions that have allowed humans to ponder our place in space and time. I have no idea why we are here, but I do know the Universe is beautiful. A Fortunate Universe captures the mysterious beauty of the Cosmos in a way that all can share.

3. Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography  by Michael R. Licona (Oxford University Press, Dec 2016)

why-differences-in-gospels

Licona’s last work was back in 2010 with his magisterial study on the resurrection with The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. In this work Licona does a carefully reading of Plutarch’s Lives in order to analyze how ancient biography was written in order to compare it to the biography of Jesus in the gospels.  Here are several reviews of the book from some significant scholars:

“Anyone who has looked at a synopsis of the Gospels will have wondered why the accounts of the same events in different Gospels vary. Michael Licona breaks new ground by arguing that the writers used the same compositional devices as the biographer Plutarch employed when he reworked the same material in more than one of his biographies. This is an illuminating fresh approach to understanding how the Gospel writers used their sources.”-Richard Bauckham, Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies, University of St. Andrews

“How worried should we be by the differences between the Gospels? Do they discredit the whole story? In an exemplary crossover of classical and New Testament studies, Michael Licona shows that the answer is ‘not very worried at all’: when we compare the techniques used in Greco-Roman literature, the striking feature is the Gospels’ consistency rather than their differences. Troubled believers will find this book as important as classicists and New Testament scholars.”-Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek, Christ Church, Oxford

4. Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity  by Stephen T. Davis (IVP Books, Nov 2016)

rational-faith

Stephen T. Davis, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy has been teaching at Claremont McKenna College since 1976.  I really enjoyed his work on the resurrection in Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection.  He has written and edited a host of books in philosophy, theology, and apologetics: God, Reason, and Theistic Proofs, Logic and the Nature of God, a series of interdisciplinary symposiums on the Resurrection, Trinity, Incarnation, and Redemption, and his newly reprinted Christian Philosophical Theology.  In Rational Faith provides an accessible discussion starting with truth, God’s existence, and moves on to cover the bible, resurrection, evolution, and the problem of evil.

C. Stephan Evans of Baylor University states, “In this book, Stephen Davis offers a clear and cogent case for the reasonableness of Christian faith. In a relatively short book, Davis manages to treat just about every issue that an honest person concerned about Christian faith might want to ask, ranging from reasons to believe in God and Jesus as God’s Son to problems connected to science, religious diversity and uniqueness, and evil. Davis is fair to the critics of Christianity and careful not to claim more than his arguments warrant. This is a book that will be helpful to both believers and unbelievers. The tone is personal and down-to-earth; the reader comes away with a sense of having had an enjoyable, stimulating, and possibly life-changing conversation.”  Michael J. Murray,senior visiting scholar, Franklin & Marshall College says that “with characteristic clarity, rigor, and accessibility, Stephen Davis presents a compelling defense of the Christian faith. While taking a fresh look at traditional arguments, Rational Faith also addresses cutting-edge topics in apologetics such as the implications of evolutionary and psychological accounts of the origin of religious belief. This is a valuable resource for Christian believers and skeptics alike.”

5. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical  by Timothy Keller (Viking, Sept 2016)

makingsenseofgod

Finally, Timothy Keller, noted pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, who wrote several years back the bestseller The Reason for Godstates that his previous book, while helpful for many, doesn’t begin far back enough.  It is described as an invitation to ” skeptics to consider that Christianity is more relevant now than ever. As human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives.”  Topics include identity and self, justice, morality, evidence and the nature of faith, the relevance of religion, and hope.  Keller has the ability to make apologetics applicable and personal has he attempts to answer existential questions such as “Why should anyone believe in Christianity?” and “What role can faith and religion play in our modern lives?”

Honorable mentions include:

Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence, and the Abundant Life by Michael Rota

How to be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough by Mitch Stokes

No God but Allah: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

God Among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Teacher by Kenneth Samples

Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale

What would you add to this list?  Comment below.

California Mission Wooden CrosChristian missionaries have been deemed racists, imperialistic, and intolerant, but the truth of the efforts of missionaries has some very interesting seemingly unintended consequences: liberal democracies to name just but one.

While many might view the modern Christian missions movement as an intolerable effort against multiculturalism leading to the exploitation of people groups by proselytizing efforts social indicators has deemed the efforts positive in multiple accounts.

The Myth: Missionaries are culturally insensitive proselytizers.  Thomas S. Abler in The American Indian Quarterly begins by asserting that, “It is convention that anthropologists view Christian missionaries as disruptive agents of cultural change.” (source)  He goes on to report “It is the missionary’s goal to replace indigenous religion with Christianity and to alter other aspects of behavior to the norms of Western society. Anthropologists expect individuals who assume such a role to be personally ethnocentric, possibly to an extreme degree.”

While there is instances of this occurring, it is the exception rather than the rule.  For example, Napoleon Chagnon quotes a Catholic priest as saying the Yanomamo of the Amazon rainforest region as saying, “I believe the Yanomamo are subhuman-they act like animals and lack the essential faculties of being human” in his book Yanomamo: The Fierce People (1983)

But the truth is much more complex and constructive for the indigenous.

The Truth: No doubt, there is the rare antidote of the oppressive missionary, but the truth is the efforts to convert people to Christianity has lead to some remarkable benefits for the recipients, not just for eternity as the missionaries hoped, but for the temporal as well.

Some of the benefits include:

  • increased literary rates
  • mass education
  • civil rights
  • education for  women and the poor
  • better health
  • lower infant mortality
  • lower corruption
  • mass printing
  • liberal democracies

These positive increases in social indicators has been discovered by the work of Dr. Robert Woodberry.  Woodberry, a sociologist, used statistical analysis to uncover the benefits that Protestant missionaries bring to an indigenous people group.  WithBookshelf

Dr. Robert Woodberry has discovered a direct causation (not correlation) between Protestant missions and the rise of stable liberal democracies.  The Christianity Today article titled “The World Missionaries Made” in the January 2014 issue recounts Woodberry’s work on how the efforts of missionaries are the single largest factor in ensuring the health of nations:

Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

Woodberry published his work in the academic journal American Political Science Review showing how Protestant missionaries influence the rise and spread of stable democracies around the world and was crucial in initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms.  Titled “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” Woodberry thesis in the article demonstrates:

historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. . . . The association between Protestant missions and democracy is consistent in different continents and subsamples, and it is robust to more than 50 controls and to instrumental variable analyses.

For a shorter article in World Magazine detailing his discovery AND what happens academically when it doesn’t match up to Politically Correct thought Marvin Olasky:

“Into Exile” World Magazine | Aug 25, 2012

Resources:

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“To suggest that the missionary movement had this strong, positive influence on liberal democratization—you couldn’t think of a more unbelievable and offensive story to tell a lot of secular academics.” (Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame)

“[Woodberry] presents a grand and quite ambitious theory of how ‘conversionary Protestants’ contributed to building democratic societies.  Try as I might to pick holes in it, the theory holds up. [It has] major implications for the global study of Christianity.” (Philip Jenkins, history professor of Baylor University)

“I think it’s the best work out there on religion and economic development.  It’s incredibly sophisticated and well grounded. I haven’t seen anything quite like it.” (Robin Grier, professor of economics and international studies at University of Oklahoma)

Books/Articles/Videos:

“The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy” Robert D. Woodberry, American Political Science Review May 2012 106: pp 244-274
This article received awards for the best article in Comparative Politics, Comparative Democratization, Political Economy (runner up) from the American Political Science Association and best article in the Sociology of Religion from the American Sociological Association.
“The World Missionaries Made” Christianity Today January 2014
This article won first place in the Evangelical Press Association’s General Article: Long category.
“The True Story of Christian Missionaries” by Amy Hall, Stand to Reason Jan 15, 2014
“Into Exile” World Magazine | Aug 25, 2012

Robert Woodberry’s presentation at Berkley Center at Georgetown University in Dec. of 2012.  (5 minutes)

 

A more thorough presentation (40 minutes) at the Center for Independent Studies in Sydney Australia titled “Religion and the Roots of Liberal Democracy” in 2015:

 

Reasonable Faith has produced another high quality animated video on the evidence for God’s existence.  This one is on the ontological argument.

 

This argument dates back to Anselm (1033-1109) in his book Proslogium in which he created an argument for God that included all the superlative attributes: “God is that which no greater can be conceived.”  The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a section on the history of this argument.

While there are different versions of this argument, the one presented in the video is called the Modal Ontological Argument and was developed by Alvin Planting of Notre Dame and Calvin College.  It is structured so:

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
  5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
  6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
Another helpful video by InspiringPhilosophy on the Modal version of the Ontological Argument:
Other arguments for God’s existence can be found here on this website.

Well, they weren’t really lost but I haven’t seen this circulated and after watching them myself I was impressed.  This series of videos with William Lane Craig on Canada’s longest running daily talk show, 100 Huntley Street, was released in 2009.  They are really good.  Ranging from a minute and a half long to five minutes long, they are concise with some nice animation and text illustrating his points.  Take a look:

Relationship Between Faith and Reason

 

The ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster” and Evidence for God

 

Who Designed the Designer: A Response to Richard Dawkins

 

Best Argument for Belief in God

 

Why is Richard Dawkins So Popular?

 

Can We Trust the Bible Written 2000 Years Ago?

 

Is God a Logical Necessity?

 

How Can Christianity be the One True Religion?

 

Can We Trust Religious Experience?

 

Can There Be Meaning Without God?

 

Can We Be Good Without God?

 

 

 

 

Possibly the first Philistine cemetery has been discovered at Ashkelon, Israel.  They have been excavating this known Philistine city for decades, but have just recently uncovered a burial site which could answer many questions concerning the origins and life of the Philistines, the biblical archenemy of the Israelites.  Ashkelon, was a major Philistine city in the ancient world dating from the 12th to the 7th centuries B. C.  Over 200 individuals have been discovered in this cemetery.  They began digging is Ashkelon in 1985 and this discovery is a nice end cap to the several decade long expedition.

Here is a quick video on the discovery:

 

Some articles on the discovery:

“Discovery of Philistine Cemetery May Solve Biblical Mystery,” National Geographic | July 10, 2016

Possibly the first discovery of its times National Geographic reports:

An unrivaled discovery on the southern coast of Israel may enable archaeologists to finally unravel the origins of one of the most notorious and enigmatic peoples of the Hebrew Bible: the Philistines.

The discovery of a large cemetery outside the walls of ancient Ashkelon, a major city of the Philistines between the 12th and 7th centuries B.C., is the first of its kind in the history of archaeological investigation in the region.

“First-Ever Philistine Cemetery Unearthed at Ashkelon,” Bible History Daily | July 10, 2016

Five known Philistine cities have been discovered, revealing artifacts, but this discovery reveals the Philistines themselves:

Now Ashkelon has yielded the Philistines themselves.

Directed by Lawrence E. Stager, Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel, Emeritus, at Harvard University, and Daniel M. Master, Professor of Archaeology at Wheaton College, the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon discovered the Iron Age cemetery in 2013 and began excavating it extensively in 2014. Three seasons of significant investigation have revealed previously unknown details of the Philistines in death—and life. First of all, the cemetery provides a window into Philistine burial practices.

“Story of Philistines Could be Reshaped by Ancient Cemetery,” The New York Times | July 10, 2015

This site has seemingly been undisturbed for several millennia according the the NYT:

After more than 30 years of excavating the remains of a Philistine city, a team of archaeologists says it believes it has found a cemetery belonging to the ancient people on the outskirts of Ashkelon in Israel.

The team has unearthed skeletons and artifacts that it suspects had rested for more than 3,000 years in the cemetery, potentially offering clues to the Philistines’ lifestyle and perhaps providing some answers to the mysteries of where the Philistines came from. Much has remained unknown about their origins.

“When we found this cemetery right next to a Philistine city, we knew we had it,” said Daniel Master, an archaeologist from Wheaton College in Illinois. “We have the first Philistine cemetery that’s ever been discovered.”

Any great discovery is not without its criticism. Questions about it being the first discovery is under discussion.  Live Science reports:

[E]xperts not affiliated with the excavations are not yet convinced of the claim, saying that the identity of the people buried at the Ashkelon cemetery is not clear-cut and the finding itself has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Further muddying the waters, other burials found in known Philistine cities, though never confirmed, also have dibs on the title of “first-discovered Philistine cemetery.”

“First Ever? Discovery of Philistine Cemetery Draws Criticism” Live Science | July 14, 2016

Another quick video on the discovery from CNN:

Here are other posts I have reported on concerning biblical archaeology:

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 2.36.55 PMAs some of you know William Lane Craig from Reasonable Faith has been developing some quality videos over various arguments for God’s existence (three of them can be found here on my webpage).  Here is his latest video on the Leibnizian Contingency argument:

Further explorations in this particular argument can be pursued here:

“Leibnizian Cosmological Arguments” by Alexander R. Pruss in Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology

The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment by Alexander R. Pruss

Argument from Contingency” podcast by William Lane Craig at reasonablefaith.org

Another video a bit longer explaining this argument:

Hezekiah BullaA clay seal stamped with Hezekiah’s name was found recently (actually, it was excavated in 2009, but its significance was just recently discovered).  This royal seal, that would be impressed upon scrolls, is over 2,700 years old.  It clearly has the imprint of Hezekiah’s name upon it, measuring only about a centimeter across. Bible History Daily reports that:

 

The bulla, which measures just over a centimeter in diameter, bears a seal impression depicting a two-winged sun disk flanked by ankh symbols and containing a Hebrew inscription that reads “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.” The bulla was discovered along with 33 other stamped bullae during wet-sifting of dirt from a refuse dump located next to a 10th-century B.C.E. royal building in the Ophel.

In the ancient Near East, clay bullae were used to secure the strings tied around rolled-up documents. The bullae were made by pressing a seal onto a wet lump of clay. The stamped bulla served as both a signature and as a means of ensuring the authenticity of the documents.

“Biblical King’s Royal Seal Unearthed in Jerusalem” by Tia Ghose | CBS News Dec 2, 2015

“Seal Bearing the Name of Judean King Found in Jerusalam” by Ilan Zion | The Time of Israel.

“King Hezekiah in the Bible” by Robin Ngo | Bible History Daily

“A Mark of Power!” by Richard Gray | Dailymail.com

Here is a short video of the archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar, on the discovery:

 

Daily Mail has a good video description of the bulla:

 

 

Here is a Breakpoint audio with Eric MeTaxas discussing the discovery:

I was once sitting in a graduate level seminar when the topic of morality and ethics came up.  One of the doctoral students stated that they believed that societies and cultures struggle through various issue of morality and through that cultural conversation and debate emerges the ethical norms for the community: thus morality is relative to culture.  I remember leaning in and asking, “So, you must think Martin Luther King, Jr. was a wicked individual that deserved what he got?”  Obviously, he expressed surprise and disgust.  “But King went against the culture and societal standard for morality.  He was wrong, because society determined that segregation was ethical, if it is the case that culture determines what is right and wrong.”

It is clear from this example that there is something wrong with moral relativism.  While the majority of philosophers in a recent poll have affirmed moral realism (it seems that the poll results are not available online, but many have referenced: here and here), broader mass culture and society is still steeped in moral relativism.  Dr. Al Mohler recently wrote an article stating that “Moral relativism and the rejection of absolute truth now shape the modern post-Christian mind. Indeed, relativism is virtually taken for granted, at least as an excuse for overthrowing theistic truth claims and any restrictive morality.” Moral realism (the dominant position of philosophers) is the position that there are moral facts that are objective independent of what people might think of them.

Moral relativism is an untenable position that is usually affirmed by sophomores in college, but most reflective individuals can understand that moral relativism is not supportable.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason list seven things you can’t do as a moral relativist:

  1. Relativists Can’t Accuse Others of Wrong-Doing
  2. Relativists Can’t Complain About the Problem of Evil
  3. Relativists Can’t Place Blame or Accept Praise
  4. Relativists Can’t Claim Anything Is Unfair or Unjust
  5. Relativists Can’t Improve Their Morality
  6. Relativists Can’t Hold Meaningful Moral Discussions
  7. Relativists Can’t Promote the Obligation of Tolerance

The website http://www.apologetics315.com states that Stephen Meyer adds a bonus with:

  • Relativists can’t complain about the problem of evil

My brother, Sloan Lee (Ph.D. Wayne State University) lists several internal difficulties with moral relativism:

[Moral] relativism faces many internal conceptual difficulties which lead us to think that this position is mistaken or confused.

Objection A: If ethical relativism is true, then it follows that we can no longer legitimately criticize other groups or cultures. Moreover, it follows that we can no longer criticize our own group’s ethical standards. As a result, the notion of moral reform and moral progress become incoherent. Rather than moral reform or progress, the only result that can be achieved is successive moral change or replacement. However, the ideas of moral reform and progress seem to be perfectly coherent and legitimate. Thus, the results of ethical relativism seem intuitively incorrect. Most think that a society that practices slavery is morally inferior to a society that doesn’t practice slavery. Yet, if ethical relativism is true, then people are wrong to think this. The idea of moral progress only makes sense in relation to some objective moral standard. If there is no universal moral standard then it is not possible to measure (or evaluate) the moral development of any culture. The concept of moral progress only makes sense in relation to a moral standard that can be used to evaluate the progress. Without an objective moral standard, all one can achieve is moral change – not moral progress. This give us reason to reject ethical relativism.

Objection B: If the idea of moral reform is incoherent, then the idea of a moral reformer is incoherent. If cultural relativism is true (which is a version of ethical relativism), then Gandhi and Martin Luther King are not moral reformers. They could not be moral reformers. Cultural relativism considers all of the great moral reformers to be wicked people. In order to be a moral reformer (like MLK) one must go against the prevailing moral currents of the day. On cultural relativism, these are wicked and evil people who are flaunting the moral standards of their respective cultures. Yet, any position that could lead to such an absurd conclusion could not be very plausible. Thus, we have excellent reason to reject ethical relativism.

Objection C: If ethical relativism is true, then genuine moral disagreements seem to be impossible, because different groups (or individuals) all possess correct moral standards. It would make no more sense to criticize a group for possessing their moral standard than to criticize someone for having a favorite color or favorite flavor of ice cream. There would be no moral fact of the matter. However, this runs against our intuitions. It certainly seems that people in different cultures have real disagreements on many issues. If not, then ethical relativists owe us an explanation. Why are they not disagreeing when it seems so clear that they are disagreeing!? Until the relativist can give us an explanation, we have good reason to disbelieve ethical relativism. When the German officers said that it was morally right to exterminate the Jewish population, most people do not think that the officers are just expressing a personal preference (for example, “I like to take long naps.”). Rather, people think that they are saying something false. They disagree with the German officers. However, if ethical relativism is true, then it makes no sense to say that their assertions are false, because there is no real disagreement. This counts as another reason to think that ethical relativism is false.

Objection D: Cultural relativism makes praising another culture impossible. If there is no objective ground upon which to judge the moral judgments of another culture, then there are no grounds for praising the moral judgments of another culture. If we can praise another culture’s morality, then we should think that ethical relativism is wrong.

Objection E: Cultural relativism makes cultures morally infallible. Yet, this clearly runs counter to our moral intuitions. We don’t want to say that the practice of genocide is an infallible moral decision on the part of any culture. If ethical relativism entails this (and it does), then we have excellent reason for rejecting ethical relativism.

Objection F: Cultural relativism gives us no adequate concept of a culture — at least not adequate enough to resolve the moral difficulties it raises. Suppose you were a Black Jewish Communist living in Bavaria during Hitler’s reign. What would be your true culture? The Jews? The Communists? The Nazis? Who? We all belong to many different cultures and it is often the case that there seems to be no way of establishing which culture is primary. So, if we cannot identify our true culture, we can’t use cultural relativism (as a form of ethical relativism) to answer our questions about moral theory.

I hope the student is beginning to see that moral relativism has next to nothing to be said for it. Thus, the surest way to progress in one’s thinking about issues of ethics is to give up the illusions of ethical relativism – to come out of the cave of appearances and to begin looking for the truth.

Books, Articles, and Videos:

Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Midair by Grek Koukl and Francis Beckwith (Baker Books, 1998)

A Refutation of Moral Relativism by Peter Kreeft (Ignatius, 1999)

Ethics and Moral Reasoning: A Student’s Guide by C. Ben Mitchell (Crossway, 2013)

“Rejecting Moral Relativism: There is Such a Thing as Moral Truth” by Michael W. Austin in Psychology Today (Jan 23, 2012)

“Philosophical Problems with Moral Relativism” by Francis Beckwith, Christian Research Journal

Roger Scruton, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and visiting professor in the philosophy department at Oxford University, provides a talk on the problems of moral relativism at the Common Sense Society at Café Gerbeaud in Budapest, Hungary:

 

William Lane Craig on the livability of moral relativism:

 

 

 

Great video by Nabeel Qureshi, former Muslim and author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

I posted about Nabeel before here when he debated on the Trinity.

He is on staff with RZIM:

Nabeel Qureshi is an itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and bestselling author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Since completing his medical degree in 2009, he has dedicated his life to spreading the gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating.

Dr. Qureshi has lectured to students at over 100 universities, including Oxford, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Hong Kong. He has participated in 18 public debates around North America, Europe, and Asia. His focus is on the foundations of the Christian faith, the early history and teachings of Islam, and the interface of science and religion.

Dr. Qureshi holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in Religion from Duke University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in New Testament studies at Oxford University where he lives with his wife, Michelle.