Category Archives: Bible

What if the New Testament Really is God’s Word? Why didn’t God Preserve the Original Documents?

This is a fair question posed by theists and atheists alike. The best we can do is speculate. It has been suggested that the New Testament might be better protected through copies than through original documents (Geisler).

If the original New Testament documents were all bound together that would mean that they would obviously all be in someone’s possession and they could potentially be changed or modified by the owning entity. However, when you have copies spread all over the ancient world, it makes it more difficult for any one scribe or priest or person who owns the originals to change things.

When the New Testament is reconstructed by copies and variants, the changes are rather easy to identify and can be easily corrected. In fact, just about all of the New Testament can be reconstructed from the Church Fathers who quoted it extensively in their works.

It’s a bit ironic, but not having the originals may actually preserve the New Testament better and keep it more accurate than having one solitary bound volume of all original New Testament books in one single volume.

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The Existence of God (without Using a Bible)

If you were to ask me to argue for the existence of God without using a Bible, I would argue along these lines (see my other blog posts for an elaboration of these arguments).

I would argue from a position of conscience, this internal sense of right and wrong that we have written into us; this natural law of the heart that guides us in our moral decisions. And if there are moral laws there is a Moral Lawgiver.

I would argue from a position of design in nature. All that we see and experience in nature has structure built into it. It’s not a random cosmic carwreck that we see; it’s design and if there is design, there is an Intelligent Designer.

I would argue from a position of special revelation or Jesus Christ. Extra-biblical sources verify that Jesus existed during the time period and in the place that he supposedly existed found in the Bible. Furthermore, if he was the Son of God, then there is a First Cause – God the Father.

Finally, I would argue along the lines of the apologetic of human desire. Humans desire truth, beauty, honor, justice, courage, love, heroism. These longings go beyond just our senses. We can’t smell truth or touch love, yet we reach for them. We desire to be free, to discover our self-worth, to correct our immoral behavior, to piece the hurts of life into some larger picture of meaning (Mark Cosgrove). All of these desires are seen clearly in our mass production down through the ages of literature, art, music, worship, and movies, each of them featuring the innermost longings and deepest needs of human beings.

We reach out to worship something, even atheists do. How do you explain this longing for things beyond the natural, empirical realm, and our interest in blogging about them? Just like the presence of appetite presupposes the existence of food, the presence of worship and human longing presupposes that something or Someone exists who can satisfy these longings. And if there are these human desires, then we can conclude that there is a place or experience where they can be ultimately fulfilled – Heaven and a New Earth.

God exists and we don’t even need a Bible to know that this is true. But what the Bible does do for us is that it tells us His Name with specificity and invites us to know Him.

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The New Testament Summed Up for Atheists

I have found that many people, especially atheists, struggle with a comprehensive understanding of the New Testament Bible books. In this post, I mention each of the 27 New Testament books by name; I succinctly in one sentence or less sum up that particular book or authors argument; and I tie it all together in a flowing, historical narrative that reflects the chronology of when books were written. This is literally the product of years of study. Again, I offer it to you free.

Here’s how I would sum up the New Testament for everyone, especially atheists:

After centuries of writing about and waiting for Israel’s expected Messiah (the Old Testament – see The Old Testament Summed Up for Atheist post), He finally arrived (that’s what Christmas is about) as the King of the Jews (Matthew), as the Suffering Servant (Mark), as a Human Being (Luke), as God’s Son (John) and some people slowly began to realize who He was and what He represented as they matched Old Testament teaching with what they had witnessed or heard about in the life and ministry of Jesus and they believed in Him, whereas others, specifically Israel’s leaders, rejected Him as Messiah and had him crucified. This resulted in a postponed kingdom implementation (the actual, literal reign of Christ on earth).

Nevertheless, He was resurrected from the dead, appeared to eyewitnesses to validate his life, prepared His followers for life in his absence and ascended back to heaven, after which His followers, specifically Peter and Paul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, spread the news of what God had done for the world through Jesus Christ (Acts) while building expectation of Christ’s return someday to rule and reign over the world in perfect justice and to love and heal the wounds of mankind.

Until then, those who believed Peter and Paul’s message became a part of the New Community of God, the Church, and needed instruction and training in how to live in this New Community, how to be a new Christ to the world, and what to believe and practice regarding several key beliefs (doctrines), such as the Second Coming of Christ (1 & 2 Thessalonians) and how to live a Christian lifestyle in the world and how to conduct themselves in the local church (1 Corinthians) and how to submit themselves to Paul’s authority (2 Corinthians) and how to be justified by faith and live the Spirit-filled life (Galatians, Romans).

Paul also taught that Jesus is Lord and that we should submit to His Lordship (Colossians), that we should forgive one another (Philemon), that we should live in light of our spiritual riches in Christ (Ephesians) and that we should joyfully serve Christ in a selfless manner (Philippians). Paul also trained leaders in how to lead in the New Community and on what viewpoints they should subscribe to regarding important issues (1 Timothy, Titus) and to stand firm for the Gospel even in his absence (2 Timothy).

James adds that believers are to be obedient to the Lord, even in trials (James) and to stay faithful to the superior Christ even when persecution makes it unpopular to do so (Hebrews, 1 Peter) and to stay ready for Christ’s return (2 Peter), earnestly contending for the faith (Jude), being careful to maintain a fervent love for God and one another in true fellowship (1 John) while exercising cautious support in showing hospitality to those who teach and proclaim the truth (2 John, 3 John) and do all of this in light of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ into the world where He will be glorified in human history after which believers will live forever with Him unhindered by sin in a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation).

And that’s the New Testament summed up for everyone, especially the atheist.

Christianity basically asserts that the end of all religions has come. They are no longer needed to be in a right relationship with God. Even though some choose to practice them, Christ has done all that needed to be done in order to bridge the gap between humanity and God. So “oppressive religion” does not have a monopoly on God’s grace. No religious group can contain what God has done for the world in Jesus. No special sect has a “corner” on the truth.

The truth has been embodied in a person – Christ Jesus, Our Lord. By-pass religion, and go straight to Christ. He will lead you home. And much of the New Testament is written to help those who have by-passed religion and who have come together to “be Christ” in a broken, and lonely world. Until He comes, may we all gather in New Community to be His hands, his feet, his body – to learn how to do life differently than we’ve done it before, to steward the creation, to be agents of redemption in a world of hate and revenge, to keep the memory of Jesus alive, to be the Church, and not just attend one.

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What Makes the Bible So Special?

This is affectionaely dedicated to Richard, Sis Frag, The Tofu, Jeffrey, JJ Ramsey, and of course Notreallyalice

We came by the Holy Scriptures through a process with four aspects:

Inspiration (It was the prophets and apostles or someone closely connected to them under the inspiration of the Spirit that wrote the Bible. In the New Testament, the apostles were those few people that Christ selected to be with him and to be commissioned by him to share the Good News, even after he was gone. The requirement for being an apostle was that you had to be a witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:21, 22; 1 Cor.9:1). New Testament authors were either apostles or sanctioned by an apostle.) →

Canonization (They had to distinguish between authentic writings and heretical texts. This is how creeds came about. “Four forces drove the effort to define which gospel documents bore unique authority for Christians. They were apostolic roots as a ground for truth, widespread use or circulation, the rise of competing views of faith, and persecution (Bock, Breaking, 110).” Not long after the resurrection, false apostles and teachers began to appear, saying things that no one could really verify, and writing things that no one could really document, and so it became necessary to develop a system to protect the body of Christian truth against these alternative expressions of Christianity. One of the main tests in the early church when they were recognizing which books were truly inspired by God and deserved a place in the canon, was that the book had to be written by an apostle or by someone closely associated with an apostle and thus have access to eyewitnesses and this had to be recognized by a wide circulation among Christians (not just a local recognition; these were books that God was obviously using on a broader scale. So the great Church Councils never randomly decided what books would be in the canon; they just simply recognized formally what God was already doing with these inspired books within the community.). →

Transmission (Copyists copied the Scriptures by hand until 1500 AD and the invention of the printing press. There are over 5,000 manuscripts or fragments that support the reliability of the New Testament. Other major ancient texts don’t have anywhere near this many. The Dead Sea scrolls, a 1947 discovery, are dated a thousand years earlier than the oldest Old Testament manuscripts we had. There were only slight variations in the text and word-spelling differences.) →

Translation (This is simply putting the words of Scripture from the ancient manuscripts into a language that people can understand. For a readable translation try the NIV. For really contemporary, try The Message)

Inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation…And that’s why the Bible is so special…

Now, why do we have a Bible…see my post…

https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/why-do-we-have-a-bible/

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Why do we have a Bible?

The Bible is an anthology – it is a collection of 66 books into one book. The Bible is given to us for three primary reasons: to record the facts of history, to help us re-experience story, and to teach us theology.

First, the Bible records the facts of history. What we read in the Bible really happened. It’s not a book of fiction. It is not an attempt to fabricate the truth. Its purpose is not to deceive. When the Bible talks about places and peoples, these are confirmed from extra-biblical sources through archeology and other discoveries. There are ancient manuscripts that have survived the centuries and they are consistent with what we have in our Bibles today. There really was a guy named Jesus who lived, died, and rose again. It is an accurate representation of what happened and of what happens over and over again in human history. We don’t just read the Bible; it reads us. It tells us who we are and what we do.

Second, the Bible helps us to re-experience story. It is full of settings, and characters, and actions. Some characters, we want to be like. Others we want to avoid. But all of them speak to our stories and the Bible never airbrushes out the flaws of its characters (you read about King David’s adultery and the flaws of the apostles; this lends to its credibility). By the way, you are writing a story with your life; Someone out there is bringing the pieces of that story together. And you can bet, if there is a larger story in our lives, there is a Story-Teller. God is writing a story and it hangs together. All of these 66 books move the story along a bit, pushing the plot toward its final completion. For all its peculiarities and unevenness, the Bible has a simple story, among what appears to be several disconnected stories. It was written over a 1500 year period by forty people in three different languages and yet there is a consistency to the overarching story. God made man. Man rejected God at Satan’s prompting. God won’t give up until He wins man back through Jesus. God returns man to his original plan. That is the larger story. “The dogma is the drama,” said Dorothy Sayers. The Gospel has all the elements of a great story. The Bible begins with the creation of all things, it takes a plunge into evil (Genesis 3), it meanders through fallen human history, and tells of one who disguised himself (Jesus) in order to win the love of a girl (the Church). By the time we get to the end, we have a king on a white horse who rides in to rescue the girl just in the nick of time. He conquers all evil, gets the bride (the Bride of Christ) and lives happily ever after in a new city with a new garden in a palace decorated with jewels. What is there that is boring about this story! If we lose the dogma of solid biblical teaching, we lose the drama. Instead of being confronted and changed by the truth, we wallow in therapy with no larger story to live for. Salvation is essentially a story of restoration. You’re invited up into it. It answers our deepest God-Questions: where we came from, what went wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, and how we factor into that plan. The Bible reveals a sacred story. In the beginning, God created us good. Something went drastically wrong and we sinned. But God has sent a Rescuer to deliver us from ourselves. The Bible is a love story, a sacred romance, where Jesus gets the girl.

Third, the Bible teaches us theology; it teaches us about God and truth. When we say that God is personal, we mean that He communicates with us. He has spoken to us, revealing Himself and how He wants us to live. There are two things that stand out about God. He is a self-concealer as well as a self-revealer. God is a self-concealer. He hides – and seems at times – shy to intervene in our world. God must hide in order for a free-will world to be possible. The direct presence of God would inevitably overwhelm our freedom. God gives everyone the room to either choose or reject. He’s a hidden God and He will not force love. Those who want to find Him or be found by Him can, and those who want to reject Him can do that as well. But God wants you to see Him and know him. That’s why we can say that God is not only a self-concealer… God is also a self-revealer God communicates who He is and how He wants us to live. There are two primary books that God uses to communicate and self-disclose or reveal Himself. One is the book of nature. God reveals Himself through His world and what He has made. The other is the book of His Word – the Bible. Looking at God’s world is like looking at a painting that the Artist has painted. Looking into the Bible is like an actual conversation with the Artist Himself. God loves to communicate. He talks through burning bushes and braying donkeys. He sends messages through storms and rainbows and earthquakes and dreams. He whispers in a still small voice. And he also speaks to human authors who then under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote God’s message to us. The Bible is a book of ancient, proven, trustworthy words. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament and endorsed the writers of the New Testament. Prophets predicted things years before they happened and they came to pass. Archeological discoveries have confirmed its accuracy. There are ancient manuscripts to verify their reliability. More than anything else, the Bible is about a Person. In the Old Testament – someone is coming. In the Gospels – He is here. In the Epistles – He is coming again! The Bible is held together by a Person. God creates the world, the world gets lost, and God seeks to restore it in Jesus. That means the Bible is about you and me, whom God also made and lost and seeks. We are not alone on this planet. Someone is out there and He reveals what kind of story we’ve fallen into. And he graciously seeks us out. I guess you could also say that this story holds us together – this Person holds us together. You must have two things in life: a person and a story, and even the story must be about a Person, said one author. God packages theology in story, rather than just raw facts. Don’t make theology into a religion of facts and miss the romance. Stop reducing the text to formulas for personal growth and how I can get rich.

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Considering the Deeper Questions of Life – Spiritual Questions

There are many nagging questions that bounce around inside of us – some are voiced, others lie silent in the deeper recesses of our soul – but all end up impacting our life and how we live. Ultimately, all  our  questions tie back to these: questions like – “What happened eons ago in the universe?” “What makes the Bible so special?” “Why does the life of Jesus matter?” “Why am I here?” “How will it all end?” “Is there life after death?” “Why is family so important?” “Why should I take care of the earth?” “What values do I believe?”  These kinds of questions determine how we think about life and how we live. It also impacts how we invest our time and what we spend our money on and what books we read. It shapes our worldview. A worldview, or a way at looking at life, can be built on how we answer the deeper life questions. Our worldview informs every decision that we make and frames every question that we attempt to answer. Of course, the ultimate spiritual question that we all must have answered is “Am I alone?” All other questions are subservient to this one. Is “a Someone” really out there? Is there any connection between this “Someone” and the God of the Bible? And what is God like really? We crave answers to these things, to know that we are not alone, even in the mystery. I would encourage you to plunge into the mystery of spritual things and try to love the questions themselves. What you may find is that they lead to a Someone and this Somene is trying to get a message through to you. It’s not so much that we find the answer as it is the Answer finds us.

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