Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

Bruce Waltke and the Reformed Theological Seminary

April 12th, 2010 No comments

[Update]Check out Bruce Waltke: Myth, Evolution and Genesis 1-3, an new note from Dr. Waltke. [/Update]

Bruce Waltke, professor emeritus from Regent College, has resigned from the Reformed Theological Seminary because of making statements about “why the church must accept evolution” (even if he would rather have said “should” as opposed to “must”). There have been a number of blog posts and comments in response to this news. Many of them, which I will link to below, have said things much better than I so I will keep my comments short. Both parties have been very amicable in the split; you can read Waltke’s statement here and RTS’s statement here. As I said, very cordial in nature. But being mature Christians and wanting to avoid any unnecessary schisms and problems within the church doesn’t give RTS a free pass here.

If you have read my blog before, you know that I have a background in the sciences and definitely don’t buy into the Young Earth Creationist stories. I believe they have incorrectly interpreted Genesis and its creation narrative. Waltke is an expert in Old Testament Theology and Genesis is something that he has spent lots of time around. He is definitely one to understand the cultural and literary context of the creation narrative. If he can find a place for evolution in that narrative, I think we should be fine with it as well.

A few of the blog posts worth checking out:
John Stackhouse: RTS, Bruce Waltke, and Statements (and Non-Statements) of Faith:

Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) has dismissed Dr. Bruce Waltke because he recently stated publicly two radical convictions: (1) that a Bible-believing Christian could believe in evolution; and (2) that the church needs to beware of becoming a cultural laughingstock for retaining anti-evolutionary views that cannot be supported scientifically.

What’s pathetic about this action is that those points weren’t even radical in the nineteenth century, when Darwin himself had a number of orthodox defenders. So RTS apparently is not quite ready to catch up with almost two centuries of theology/science dialogue.

Read the full post. There are also some good discussion happening in the comments (along with a number of asinine comments as well).

Regent College’s Cosmos by Ross Hastings: Resignation of Bruce Waltke over issues of science and faith:

Our own majority view on this Cosmos project is that Genesis 1 and 2, as interpreted in light of its literary genre and in light of its ancient near eastern context, is about theology and not chronology. As such it permits a harmonization with the best theory true science can offer for the way in which our cosmos and humans came into being. Do we insist as a faculty at Regent that all must hold to this to teach here? This would be to exalt a non-confessional issue as a ground for unity in a manner that mitigates against the apostolic appeal for unity which is based on foundational, Trinitarian essentials (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Wonderfully said! I think this is a key distinction that Creationists miss: interpretation in light of literary genre and cultural context. Creationists seem to think they don’t interpret, they just have a “plain reading” of the text. They say this without realized that they ARE making an interpretation when they make those statements.

Conrade Yap: Another Video Bites the Dust (On Dr Bruce Waltke’s Resignation from RTS):

From day one, the Internet has the potential to provide both information as well as misinformation. Given the spread and ease of information distribution electronically, it is important for us to be wise and discerning on the use of information. Right use leads to enlightened minds and grateful hearts. Abuse leads to unhealthy controversies and bitter arguments.

Thanks for providing some perspective Conrade!

Anyone want to add their $.02? Any Young Earthers want to chime in?

Some of my previous and related posts:
The God of the Bible is also the God of Science
Creation Science
Science vs. Religion

Also, some notes from Waltke and Peterson’s Regent Tradition Conference back in 2005.
Feel free to check them out!

The Word: How the Bible Came About

May 8th, 2008 3 comments

I thought I would post this PowerPoint presentation I used last night in a talk I gave as part of a trilogy of talks about the Bible at a UCF Pizza Theology. The presentation doesn’t stand very well on its own; it is best accompanied by a good explanation… which you don’t really have here. Feel free to ask me any questions about what I have to say. It is also somewhat similar to a talk I gave in a Bible study a while back. Also, for the bloggers out there, I was able to embed a powerpoint (or many other files actually) directly into the post using (my profile there), you might want to check it out.

The Word: How the Bible Came About
The Canon and the Community of God
Text and Translation
(download: 4.9 MB)

The Word

Categories: Apologetics, Religion, Theology

Post-Modernity and Systematic Theology

January 18th, 2006 2 comments

I started a Systematic Theology class today with John Stackhouse and he started out talking about why we do Systematic Theology and all that intro type stuff… One of the things he touched on was the difference between the Modern world and the Post-Modern world. The modern world recognized the tension and irreconcilability of living as different personae in different spheres of life. While this didn’t necessarily mean that people would stop living differently, they would most likely recognize that strain (and might even feel guilty about it). Those of the post-modern frame of mind will often not even see the inconsistencies and are perfectly fine living what would traditionally be considered “fragmented” (so, of course, have nothing to feel guilty about).

In post-modern society we don’t have to worry about resolving inconsistencies. One example Stackhouse gave was a statistic from Canada (I will assume that the US has similar stats) that (roughly, as I can’t remember exactly) a very large portion of Canadians considered themselves Christian (I think it was as high as 80 or 90%) but that some 20% of those people also believed in reincarnation. This type of inconsistency within Christianity seems absurd to the traditionalist (or more conservative Evangelical) but it seems that many in the (post-modern) church don’t mind holding such views.

A solid understanding of systematic theology will help move to an if this, then that mode of thinking instead of something more fragmented. The indicative and the imperative. If I believe this, then I should act in that way. If I know this, then I should do that. We need to look for what is true, what actually is the case instead of holding belief in anything just because we think we can. Systematic theology must be a cogent theology, it must be both persuasive and significant, both non-trivial and well evidenced, well warranted. If people had a cogent systematic there would be less room for fragmented and inconsistent belief.

Along with fragmented beliefs, post-modernity brings along its distrust for authority. People are not as willing to just believe what the pastor up front has to say. This is something Christians must take seriously. Not only should we take it seriously, we should recognize that that isn’t entirely bad because we must affirm that all human authority is in the hands of sinners. Truth must still be spoken into that context.

Relationships are more important than systematic theology but in order to have a real, well founded relationship it must be based in something solid. We can’t be a very good human if we are running on bad ideas. Having an understanding of systematic theology will provide that foundation as well as allow fragmentation to be ruled out so a more healthy and cohesive belief in the One can be held.

-Matt Jones

Origins of the New Testament

December 11th, 2005 6 comments

A while back I did a Bible study on the origins of the New Testament and so I thought I would post some of that here as a brief introduction for those who haven’t had any background before. I think the Christmas season is a good time for something like this.

VERY brief time-line (approximate dates):
•AD 30: Jesus is crucified.
•AD 51: 1 Thessalonians Written - the first of Paul’s epistles
•AD 67: Paul is martyred.
•AD 68-70: Gospel of Mark written (most likely to be the first Gospel written).
•AD 110 (although some say as late as AD 140): 2 Peter written - the last book in the NT canon to be written

Textual Witnesses:
There have been no autographs (originals) of any of the New Testament books found so the Word must be based on copies. Not all copies are made equal. Both age and location of the copies (or “witnesses”) found are factored in to their “quality”. These “Text-Types” and their relative autorities are more intelligently discussed elsewhere, so I will just say that the Alexandrian text-type are genearlly considered more authoratative and accurate. The following are types of witnesses found with the oldest (which are often given the most weight) first:

Papyri: (Indicated by a script P) These are the oldest sources made from plants and written in the II-VII centuries. 116 different papyri have been found. P52 seems to be the oldest from around 125-150AD (John 18, size of credit card). P46 being one of the more important finds which included all of Paul (less pastorals) and Hebrews from around 200AD: this work showed that even at that early time, Paul was being circulated. Some are individual pages, some are scrolls or codices (books). A 1 page papyrus cost about a day’s wage.

Uncials: IV-IX centuries. 300 have been found. Written in all capitals with no spaces between words. Written on newer parchment or vellum surfaces (often animal skin). א, A, B (Codex Vaticanus - 4th Century), C, and Θ being the most reliable and complete.

Lectionaries: X century onward. 2100 have been found. These are usually larger collections of scriptures. Many are translations from the Greek into other languages. One of the most notable is Jerome’s Latin Vulgate – 383AD.

Versions: Other language versions from II century onward. Syriac, Latin, Coptic, etc. 7 found.

Church Fathers: II century onward. Church fathers who have copied various scriptures.

Variant Readings
There have been over 6000 of these manuscripts found (NOTE: I think it is important to point out here that this is vastly more witnesses than any other ancient work.). Within these 6000 manuscripts, variant readings - disagreements from one version to another - creep in: some 150-250,000 of them! There are two different kinds of variants: intentional and unintentional. Intentional alterations: scribes trying to improve grammar, spelling, theology, reducing tough readings, harmonizing of the gospels. Unintentional errors: skipping a line, writing a line twice, mistaking similar letters, aural errors. How do we read GODISNOWHERE: “God is now here” or “God is nowhere”?

Criteria for NT Textual Criticism
How do we decide which variant is more original and correct? This is what textual criticism is all about. There is a tendency to prefer older versions that the newer (but not necessarily the case). External Criteria: Judging the “originality” of variant readings based on the quality of the NT manuscripts date of manuscripts, usually P or early Unicial codices. Scholars tend to prefer texts that come from the Alexandrian family. (King James was from the Eastern) The Western family also tends to be earlier and more reliable than the Eastern. Internal Criteria: judging the “originality” of variant readings based on…
Lectio Difficilior – usually the rougher reading is earlier and more original.
Lectio Brevior – usually the shorter reading is preferred. Scribes will conflate or explain.
•Non-harmonistic reading. Scribes had strong tendency to read the wording of one Gospel into another.
•Stylistic agreement – Koine vs Attic Greek reading. Style should be consistent with an author.
These criteria don’t always all have to be there and don’t necessarily mean much on their own, but when put together they can usually make a strong case for a particular reading.

A Few Notes on Variants
There are many that get worried about variants or differences in the text. But one of the most amazing things about all this is that none of these differences cause problems for primary theology. There was great care taken in the preservation of these manuscripts – most areas are in agreement - epsecially when it comes to foundational theology. 6000 manuscripts attest to the importance of the Word – doctrine does not change by these variant readings. There is absolutely no other writing that comes close to the witness of the Bible. Thanks be to God! A look at a specific variant (Luke 2.43) can be found at the bottom of this post.

A few images some found manuscripts (click for larger version):

Biblical Witnesses

I hope this has made sense and has introduced you to the complexity that goes into determining the Greek New Testament! Let me know if you have any questions or just want to know more!

Bryan’s Biblical Links: A great page of links for further study.
Early Greek Bible Manuscripts Project: lots of info on the earliest sources.
Guide to Early Church Documents
A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism
The Textual History of the Books of the New Testament
Bible-Links Page: Papyri - wide variety of other information is available here as well

Merry Christmas!
-Matt Jones
לְחַיִּים 'To Life!'

Variant example from Luke:

This variant reading from Luke 2.43 is probably an intentional scribal error to “correct” or “clear up” doctrine.

41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
42 And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast;
43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it,
44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances.

Verse 43:
καὶ τελειωσάντων τὰς ἡμέρας, ἐν τῷ ὑποστρέφειν αὐτοὺς ὑπέμεινεν Ἰησοῦς ὁ παῖς ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ, καὶ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν οἱ γονεῖς (“knew the parents”) αὐτοῦ.

NA27 (Nestle-Aland 27th Edition - let me know if you want to know more about this) shows that the textual reading is supported by א, B, D, L, W, f1, etc. The variant reading is also shown: “knew Joseph and the mother” and is supported by A, C, Ψ, f13, M, etc. All the “א, B, D, L, W, f1″ stuff probably won’t make sense - the just of it is that different manuscripts will support a different reading.

Which is correct (better?)? Must look at dates, locations, and reasons the variant could have crept in. Seems that the reading of the variant is not is strong because of location and date. Its introduction can also be explained because of a intentional scribal error: the scribe wanted to clear up doctrine so that the Virgin Birth was not as ambiguous. So it is easy to explain why “parents” was changed to “Joseph and (his) mother”. It would be difficult to explain why “Joseph and (his) mother” was changed to “parents”. We can also look to Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament for his suggestions.

Does that make sense?

Categories: Apologetics, Religion, Theology

Science vs. Religion

August 13th, 2004 4 comments

This is something I wrote quite a while back but thought I would post it here and see if anyone else has anyone to say. :) (If you want to read any of the previous comments, head over here. [Sorry, the post and comments are no longer available]) [EDIT: I have made some additional remarks at my post Creation Science]

Since physics and astronomy have been a big portion of my life and interest, I enjoy thinking and writing about such subjects. The “String Theory” post was the first attempt at such a discussion on my blog. There is much discussion in and out of the Christian community about such things as the age one the universe / earth, evolution, big bang, “creationism” and other such scientific (and un-scientific) theories. This will be my first attempt to tackle such issue all at once. Obviously I won’t be able to address everything and I will try and be as concise as possible (I tend to ramble and I will apologize for that now). This will probably be a long post so bear with me (or not, your choice). Also, one thing to say before people jump on me for not supporting some of my claims with specifics – I will try and do the best I can to make references but I am moving soon so my books are packed up and are not at an easy reference point. If need be I will reference them after I move. So here it goes.

There are many Christians who believe in Creationism or Creation Science. I am not one of those people. This in NO WAY implies that I doubt their salvation. This merely means I disagree with some of their beliefs, these beliefs are not primary to salvation and therefore essentially DO NOT MATTER. That being said, I am a science guy and enjoy discussing such things and believe that people should always be furthering their understanding of God and His universe. What I have learned and believe does not fall in line with some of the main tenants of Creation Science. I guess the purpose of this entry is to suggest to both Christians and non-Christians that someone who is saved can still believe in the Bible as well as what science tells us.

It seems that most Creation Science is primarily used to go against evolutionist ideas as well as big bang theories (among others). The goal of Creation Science, I think, is good. It is an attempt to ratify things seen in the universe and to mingle them with ideas in the Bible. The problem that I see is that they don’t always really look at everything seen in nature. I suppose I should start with evolution. Evolution is the subject that I know the least about as it has not really been part of my studies so I will attempt to keep this brief. There has never been any proof that macro evolution (the changing of species from one to another) actually happens. This theory is followed like a religion and takes just as much faith to follow. Micro evolution (the adaptation and genetic changing of a species) has had reasonable evidence to suggest that it is possible and does indeed happen. Logically speaking it would be a fallacy to suggest that because micro evolution happens so does macro. On this topic I would probably be siding with the Creationist as there is little evidence to support this theory. The problem that arises is that evolution is often associated with the age of the earth because it takes millions and / or billions of years for evolution to take place. It is at this point that I generally break with beliefs of both evolutionists as well as Creationists. I do believe that the earth is approximately 4 billions years old but not because evolution mandates that. The evidence collected from both the earth and moon in a variety of ways suggests this age. I do, however believe in the timeline suggested in the Bible since the birth of Adam. The Bible puts forth that there is about 6000 years from Adam’s birth to current day. I have no reason to believe that the Bible would not be literal about these ages.

So why do I believe that humans have been since Adam about 6000 years ago while I do not believe that the age of the earth is similar? Because I believe in the Bible and in science. Let me start with the Bible.

Genesis 1.5: God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

The Hebrew yom is translated primarily as “day” and is from a primitive root meaning day, but it is also translated as many other things such as age, always, Chronicles, completely, continually, eternity, forevermore, lifetime, period, some time, years, and multitudes of others, but you get the idea. To me it is clear that the mere use of the word yom does not necessarily imply a single day. It must be read in context in order to correctly translate the word. So how do we read Genesis in context so we can understand what “day” should actually mean to us? The Creation narrative tells us where we come from and that we are under God’s authority. I think ultimately the usage of “day” comes from the fact that it is something we can understand. The 7 day week we are used to, we understand the Sabbath and that there is a division between the days. I think that this usage helps us follow along with the narrative. There doesn’t seem to be anything explicit about the passage that would let us know exactly. It is not a simple matter of taking the text literal or not it is a matter of listening to the narrative and the narrative is not explicit about what a “day” means. I suggest, then, that we should turn to science to see when the universe did begin.

Research into the age of the earth yields an age of around 4.5 billion years. Determining this age can be difficult because of the earth’s molten core that causes surface features to be replenished. Even though many features change there have been rocks found that date to around 3.5 billion years using different radiometric dating methods. This therefore establishes a lower limit on the earth (which is much older than many Creationists assert). Because it is hard to directly measure the exact age of the earth, indirect methods must be used. The best way to do this is determine the age of the Solar System which should roughly have the same age as the earth. Meteorites that have fallen to the earth can be used to find the age of our system and generally turn out to consistently be between 4.3 and 4.5 billion years (I know I am not citing sources, I apologize, you can find them for yourself.). Also, magnetic “markers” at the mid-Atlantic ridge show an age of around 80 million years. This follows from the fact that as magma emerges from the mid-Atlantic ridge the earth’s magnetic field essentially imprints its signature into that rock. As is spreads away from the ridge on either side there are locations where the magnetic field drops to 0 and then comes back with the opposite polarity (Magnetic north becomes magnetic south and viceversa). This reversal has been observed some 170 times. There is some inaccuracy here because it is not completely know how long it takes for the earth to change its magnetic field (meaning the 80 million years is essentially an estimate). This age is definitely not the best in determining the age of the earth because of replenishment of the earth’s core as well as the inaccuracies of determining how long it takes for the magnetic field to flip. That being said, it still seems to suggest that it is older than what Creationists suggest. (note: it has also been directly observed on the sun that magnetic fields do flip)

What is my point? My point is simply that scientific evidence cannot be ignored. It is also that when you don’t ignore scientific evidence you don’t have to throw the Bible out. They can indeed coexist. Even if you want to argue the age of the earth it is now nearly impossible to argue the age of the universe (at least a minimum age). The Big Bang theory has significant evidence to suggest that it (or at least a form of it) is correct. Direct observations in the sky lead to an age of the universe of about 13 billion years. The big bang theory always blows my mind because to me it fits perfectly with Christian theology. It always confuses me when it is used by scientists to suggest that it shows Christianity is wrong and thrown away by Christians because they say it doesn’t fit with the Bible. To me, both parties are blind to what the big bang really tells us about God’s creation.

Big Bang theory suggest that at a quantum singularity (normal physics breaks down at a singularity, it should also be noted that this did not happen IN space as there was nothing at all before the big bang, not even space) 13 billion years (or so) in the past “exploded” (which is not the best description as it didn’t really explode, it just became and started to expand) and the universe came into existence.

Genesis 1.1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Ummmmm…. These two beginnings seem remarkably similar. The age can be extrapolated from current expansion of the universe as well as ages of stars and galaxies. All measurements of expansions lead to a singularity where density and heat are essentially infinite (check the Hubble Law as an example of such evidence). Cosmic microwave background radiation also points to a single creation event as the radiation is fairly smooth and even in all directions.

Personally, everything I have learned about physics and astronomy have drawn me closer to God and given me even more reason to believe. It blows my mind that some scientists can study the same things and not see a divine creator. It would be too much to go into here, but the complexities of the universe, cosmologically speaking, are so amazing that to deny a divine creator seems ludicrous. Similarly, it seems blind to me that many Christians can deny what legitimate science indicates. The science supports the Bible, it does not change it or challenge it.

There may have been a few more subjects I wanted to discuss, but it is getting late and I have forgotten what they are! I know this is a bit long, but I hope it has at least made sense. I really look forward to any comments that are out there. I will try and respond to them as I really do enjoy discussion. I probably won’t post another blog entry for a while as this is pretty involved and I do need to focus on getting ready to move to Canada, so possibly in another week I will try and get something else up. I named this entry “Science vs. Religion” because that always seems to be the argument, but indeed, they can coexist. Science cannot prove a religion but it can definitely support it.

I look forward to hearing from you! Shalom!

Original Post with extensive comments [UPDATE: Original post and comments are no longer available. :( sorry!] and visit my newer post Creation Science for additional remarks.

Categories: Apologetics