Sunday, April 8, 2018

The New Testament Writers Were Concerned About Truth: An Argument from Omission

The only concern of the writers of the New Testament was accurately recording the history of Jesus and presenting the truth of the gospel. A few of the common reasons given to show that they were concerned about representing Jesus accurately are: The inclusion of embarrassing details about themselves and Jesus, the inclusion of the demanding and difficult sayings of Jesus, the inclusion of historically verifiable names and locations (over 30 of which have been confirmed), and the matter of fact way that they describe miracles just like they would describe any other historical event; without embellishment or exaggeration.[1]

The apostles were not driven by the pursuit of power.  Being a leader within the Christian community was a liability; not an asset.  The nonbiblical histories and writings related to the lives and ministries of the twelve apostles consistently proclaimed that the apostles were persecuted and eventually martyred for their testimony.[2]

Two portions of Luke’s gospel also illustrate this point.  Luke 9 (as well as Matthew 10 & Mark 6) records Jesus sending out the twelve apostles, as well as their return. Luke 10 does the same with the sending and return of the 72.  In all cases the New Testament writers leave out any specific stories of what theydid on their journeys; focusing instead on what Jesus taught them.  

Luke records that Jesus gave the disciples power and authority over all demons and diseases and told them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Luke also writes what Jesus told the disciples to take with them, where to stay, and what to do if a particular town did not believe them. When the disciples return, Luke simply states that they told Jesus what they did. Nothing is said about who did what, how many demons were cast out, or what diseases where healed.  If the writers were concerned about gaining power, they would have written about all the incredible things they accomplished on their time away from Jesus.

Matthew adds a few more specifics to the instructions Jesus gave before the twelve left including the warnings about being persecuted, but Matthew also leaves out any mention of what the apostles did on their journeys.  Mark adds the simple statement that the disciples “cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”[3]

If the apostles were concerned about gaining power and prestige in a new “invented” religion, they would have reported what they did on their journey to show how spiritual they were.  Mark (traditionally the scribe writing for the apostle Peter) should have listed all the great and wonderful things that Peter did, Matthew should have written about all the demons he cast out, and Luke (traditionally one of the 72) should have listed all the diseases he cured when he went out with the 72.  Because none of them did this (and instead included embarrassing details about themselves and Jesus) we can have confidence that they were concerned with reporting the truth about Jesus and not concerned with their power and reputation.

Luke 10 even records a rebuke from Jesus to the 72 about thinking that what they were doing is something they should boast about.
            
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.[4]

The writers of the New Testament documents were concerned with accurately representing the history and teachings of Jesus.  They were not concerned with gaining prestige or power.  Check out these other blogs (listed below) that discuss the historicity and accuracy of the New Testament documents.

Argument for New Testament Reliability





[1]Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Crossway Books, 2004
[2]J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity, David C Cook, 2013, page 245-246
[3]Mark 6:13 ESV
[4]Luke 10: 17-20 ESV

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Jesus of Testimony

Excellent documentary on the historicity of Jesus, the New Testament documents, miracles, the Resurrection, and the reason that Jesus came.  Very well done!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Who Created God?

I recently answered an on-line forum question asking for a “well-respected proof for God” by giving the following version of the Cosmological Argument. 

Premise 1:  Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
Premise 2:  The universe began to exist
Conclusion: The universe has a cause of its existence.

This is a proof for a theistic god since all matter, energy, space, and time (the universe) came into existence, and the cause must be non-material, spaceless, timeless (since these things did not exist prior to the universe existing), and able to create; which is the basic definition of a theistic god.

The main objection to my post was the retort, “Who created God?” This blog will be focused on several answers to this common question.

To respond to the Cosmological Argument by asking “Who created God?” is to misunderstand the argument, and in this case, to misunderstand Premise 1.  The argument does not presuppose that everything has a cause.  Premise 1 states that only those things which begin to exist must have a cause. Since God is defined as existing eternally and without a beginning, the response “Who created God?” is really asking, “Who created the thing that is defined as uncreated?”

Quite often, after giving this explanation, the next response will be that you are using special pleading to make your case.  The reason this is not special pleading is that it doesn’t apply only to God, it would apply to anything that does not begin to exist.  For example, if the universe did not begin to exist, then the universe would not need a cause!  Current scientific observations and modern cosmology support Premise 2, that the universe did begin to exist. Click here to read my previous blog about the beginning of the universe. Click here to read J. Warner Wallace’s article on the beginning of the universe.

Taking a quick look at three other proofs for the existence of God will further demonstrate the futility of asking “Who created God?”

1.     Edward Feser’s Aristotelian Proof
Since change actually occurs, and change is defined as the actualization of a potential, there must exist something that can actualize potentials without itself being actualized.  Even quantum events are merely potentials until the universe actualizes them. The uncaused, first cause is purely actual because it lacks any potentiality. Any actualization of a potential requires a cause, whereas what is pure actuality does not. This is the “unmoved mover” of Aristotle, characterized as God.[1] 
To ask “Who created God” is to require an answer to the nonsense question, “Who actualized the potentials in the thing that is pure actuality and thus never had potentials that needed actualizing?”[2]

2.     Edward Feser’s Neo-Platonic Proof
Things that we experience are composite; the ultimate cause of composites must itself be non-composite, or absolutely simple. Composite things require a cause because there must be some principle outside them that accounts for the composition of their parts. What is non-composite has no parts to be put together, therefore could not be caused.  Neither the universe, or even a multiverse could be uncaused, necessary, or self-explanatory because they are composite.[3]
To ask “Who created God” is to require an answer to the nonsense question, “Who put together the parts of the object that is not made up of composite parts?”

3.     Edward Feser’s Thomistic Proof
For any of the contingent things of our experience, there is a real distinction between its essence and its existence.  Nothing like this could exist unless it was caused to exist by something in which there is no such distinction. Something whose essence just is existence need not have existence conjoined to its essence and therefore does not need a cause. The universe, Big Bang, quantum events, or laws of nature could not be uncaused causes.  Only something whose essence just is existence could be an uncaused cause.[4]
To ask “Who created God” is to require an answer to the nonsense question, “What unites the distinct essence and existence in that which has no essence distinct from its existence?”[5]

Hugh Ross, in his book The Creator and the Cosmos, uses scientific concepts to show that it is pointless to ask “Who created God?”[6]

The universe is confined to one single direction of time. Since dimensions always have two directions (forward and back, left and right, in and out), the single dimension of time that the universe experiences is only half of a dimension. This confinement to half of a dimension means that there had to have been a starting point, or a beginning, which requires the universe to have been created. The necessity for God to have been created would only apply if God were confined to half a dimension of time.  Both the Bible and General Relativity speak of at least one additional time dimension, since effects existed before time in this universe began. Any entity which exists in two dimensions of time would be free from having a beginning; hence would not need to be created.[7]

In the equivalent of two or more dimensions of time, an entity is free from the necessity of being created. If time were two dimensional, for example, both a time length and a time width would be possible. Time would expand from a line into a plane. In a plane of time, an infinite number of lines running in an infinite number of directions would be possible. If God were to so choose, He could move and operate along an infinite time line that never touches or crosses the time line of our universe.  As John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17, and Hebrews 7:3 say, he would have no beginning and no end.  He would not be created.[8]










[1] Edward Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Ignatius Press, 2017
[2] Ibid, page 251
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] Ibid, page 251
[6] Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, Reasons to Believe, 2018
[7] Ibid, page 127
[8] Ibid, page 128

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Five Proofs of The Existence of God

* summarized from Edward Feser’s book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Ignatius Press, 2017

1.     The Aristotelian Proof
Since change actually occurs, and change is defined as the actualization of a potential, there must exist something that can actualize potentials without itself being actualized.  This something is purely actual because it lacks any potentiality. Any actualization of a potential requires a cause, whereas what is pure actuality does not. This is the “unmoved mover” of Aristotle, characterized as God.  

2.     The Neo-Platonic Proof
Things that we experience are composite; the ultimate cause of composites must itself be non-composite, or absolutely simple. Composite things require a cause because there must be some principle outside them that accounts for the composition of their parts. What is non-composite has no parts to be put together, therefore could not be caused.  Neither the universe, or even a multiverse could be uncaused, necessary, or self-explanatory because they are composite.

3.     The Augustinian Proof
Universals, propositions, possibilities, and other abstract objects must ultimately be grounded in a divine intellect.

4.     The Thomistic Proof
For any of the contingent things of our experience, there is a real distinction between its essence and its existence.  Nothing like this could exist unless it was caused to exist by something in which there is no such distinction. Something whose essence just is existence need not have existence conjoined to its essence and therefore does not need a cause. The universe, Big Bang, quantum events, or laws of nature could not be uncaused causes.  Only something whose essence just is existence itself could be an uncaused cause.

5.     The Rationalist Proof

There cannot be an explanation of the existence of any of the contingent things of our experience unless there is a necessary being. The universe is contingent rather than necessary and thus could not provide an ultimate explanation.