The hallmark of Williams’ responses to Ehrman was his use of common sense, both in presenting his own case and in responding to Ehrman’s objections. Williams’ case for the reliability of the Gospels in this debate is based in part upon a compendium of fascinating external confirmations, such as name statistics, measurements, and topography. Pace Ehrman, these small details do constitute evidence that, as Williams says in his book Can We Trust the Gospels?, the authors knew their stuff. The small, difficult things that the evangelists get right are all the more impressive given the major upheavals in social customs and culture in Palestine, and the dispersal of the inhabitants, after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70…
This emphasis on details is highly relevant to Ehrman’s attempts to characterize the Gospels as unreliable because they were, he says, written at multiple removes from the events they describe and hence corrupted over time by a “telephone game” process of transmission. In making this argument Ehrman repeatedly tries to emphasize the fact that the Gospels were written down several decades after their events. Williams rightly counters by pointing out that the Gospels do not have specific dates on them and that we should look at the evidences within them of their coming from those close to the events. Even though Luke, for example, was not an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, it does not follow that Luke recorded stories that had been repeated many times as in the telephone game–a point Ehrman repeatedly ignores. Continue reading “Peter Williams Shows the Right Way to Debate Bart Ehrman”
Celebration in Contemporary Worship These days it is not uncommon to come across worship meetings where song leaders vigorously urge the congregation to freely give praise to God in the name of celebration. The songs chosen in these meetings seem to engender a euphoric, if not jubilant mood. Emotional spontaneity becomes palpable with lines of bodies swaying along to the loud beat of the drum. The high point of celebration-worship comes when members are urged to ‘sing in the spirit’ as they follow cues from the musical team giving notes of ‘chords progression’. The crescendo is rounded off with a flourish of ‘clap offering’.
It would be churlish to doubt the appropriateness of celebration-worship today. Christians who have been battered throughout the week need to be emotionally and spiritually recharged, and what better way to recharge them than through celebration in church worship? Indeed, many visitors to church testify that they come because they are attracted by the celebrative spirit of our services. Who can resist the contagion of joy?
It is common for young seminarians to entertain the strange notion that biblical studies is superior to theology because biblical scholars build their interpretation on objective exegesis while theologians spin theories out of thin air. The notion is misguided as sound interpretation of the Bible requires both exegesis based on rigorous linguistics studies and theological analysis that is logically coherent and informed by insights gained from historical theology.
It is arguable that the lack of theological depth is characteristic of much contemporary biblical scholarship, and that this lack is a serious impediment to good exegesis. A similar criticism may be leveled at theological analysis that is not founded on solid exegetical groundwork.
The analysis of Rom. 5:12 given below provides a excellent model of well-rounded and nuanced interpretation based on robust exegesis and coherent theological analysis.
I. The Context of Romans 5:12-21
In verses 12–21 the apostle Paul outlines how Adam as the head of the present human race is analogical to that of Christ as the head of the new humanity. He uses the occasion of sin entering the world to compare the effects of Christ’s obedience which brings righteousness and life, with the effects of Adam’s disobedience which brings sin and death. The basis for the analogy is given in verse 14 where Adam is described as “the type of the one to come.”/1/ Continue reading “Original Sin (Part 2/3): Death in Adam, Life in Christ (Rom. 5:12-21)”
A. Original Sin Defined
Society is in a mess. Evil abounds. It’s manifestation ranges from cases of small time swindlers cheating gullible investors in Ponzi schemes to big corporations exploiting helpless workers. Evil is magnified when terrorists massacre defenseless villagers and the authorities abuse the law to punish innocent citizens. The list goes on.
The Christian doctrine of Original Sin explains that evil entered human society during the Fall when Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God’s command at the Garden of Eden. The result is that every descendant of Adam has become morally corrupt and stands guilty before God. We are powerless to rehabilitate ourselves. Only God can rescue us from this moral quagmire.
The scope of the doctrine of Original Sin includes : 1) the guilt of the first sin in Adam, (2) the corruption of human nature resulting from the first sin, and (3) actual transgressions or sinful actions which result from corruption of human nature. Continue reading “Original Sin (Part 1/3): Introduction”
Sometimes people wonder why I choose to highlight the danger of liberal theology when Christians are expected to be polite and tolerant nowadays. The concerns of these people is that polemical debates are counter-productive. Good Christians should be nice and polite and avoid any semblance of being quarrelsome. We should engage in “conversation” rather in debates.
We should be courteous in defending our faith. But is it not the case that critical thought entails serious debates, if not polemics? This is especially true when the stakes of the debates are high, as they pertain not to secondary customs and practices, but to the central truths of Christian salvation.
J. Gresham Machen, the author of the classic book, Christianity and Liberalism (1923) understood the stakes of the debate better than any of his contemporaries. I strongly recommend every church leader read his clarion call to church leaders to be faithful in discharging their duty to hold fast to the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus and guard the good deposit that is entrusted to them (2 Tim. 1:13-14). Continue reading “Why Confessional Faith Must be Vigorously Defended Against Liberal Theology”
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 4
If ‘sex’ was the impolite word which should not be raised in Victorian cocktail conversations, ‘heresy’ is the unmentionable word among ‘progressive’ Christians today. [Re: Post on ‘Progressive’ Christianity Beware*] Perhaps this is a reaction to the spirit of dogmatism, authoritarian and legalism found among leaders who are defensive about their faith when they perceive the Christian community to be a besieged and embattled minority. Doctrinal defensiveness is the outcome of a “Christ Against Culture” manifestation of Christianity. It is easy for these leaders to become unnecessarily alarmist as there could be genuine doctrinal disagreements which should not be stigmatized as departures from orthodoxy. Not every doctrinal or theological error is a heresy. Continue reading “The Concept of Heresy Arises from the Fellowship of the Church and not From a Lack of Love (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)”
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 3
I feel a sense of ambivalence whenever I read Roger Olson. His expertise in historical theology is beyond doubt. He is an excellent communicator which is not often found among theologians. But I find him rather intemperate and lacking measured judgment in his polemics against Reformed theology.
Surprisingly, I find myself nodding my head in hearty agreement when I read Roger Olson’s post on the subtle dangers of so-called ‘progressive Christianity.’ Surely, there must be truth when a Calvinist is in agreement with an Arminian! I invite my readers to ponder carefully some of Olson’s observations on ‘progressive Christianity’ given below:
CLASS ON CHRISTOLOGY – 19 March-23 March 2018 The Person and Work of Christ: Classical and Contemporary Christology Lecturer: Dr. Ng Kam Weng
This course begins with an examination of the foundations of Christology found in the portrayal of the Jesus Christ as the God-Man in the gospels, and as the crucified but risen Lord in the Pauline epistles. It then analyses how the doctrine of Christ developed as the early church responded to heresies like Gnosticism and Arianism which culminated in the formulation of the Nicene Creed. Further attention is given to the subsequent Christological controversies that include Apollinarism and Nestorianism and the doctrinal resolution at the Council of Chalcedon. Continue reading “Class on Christology by Malaysia Bible Seminary and Kairos Research Centre”
It is possible to conclude from the last paragraph of my previous post, “Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology,” that I am suggesting that evangelical Christianity has no interest in becoming relevant to contemporary society. This misunderstanding should be set aside as evangelicals seek to present a Gospel that is not only relevant to society, but also faithful to Biblical revelation.
Historically, liberal theologians ended up transforming or rather trans-mutating the Gospel to accommodate its teaching to the sensibilities of society and culture. In contrast, evangelical theologians engaged in translating the unchanging revealed truths of the Bible as they present a Gospel which confronts society and culture. In short, the issue between liberal and evangelical theology is whether the truth of Christian revelation has been preserved or transformed in the process of making Christianity relevant to modern society.