Posts Tagged ‘apologetics’

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

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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!”

 

 

 

 

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.

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.
“Religion and the Roots of Liberal Democracy” Robert D. Woodberry, The Center for Independent Studies 18 June 2015
“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:

 

 

King Hezekiah’s Seal Impression Found in the Ophel Excavations, Jerusalem: