Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

Glenn Beck Spouts Council-of-Nicaea Nonsense

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Ah, the Council of Nicaea.

The main issue at the Council was related to the Trinity & the exact nature of Christ’s divinity.  The issue was that a bishop, Arius, was teaching that Jesus was a created divinity (coming into existence at some point), instead of always existing.  It had nothing to do with the Bible’s canon (i.e. table-of-contents).  The opponents were not Gnostics, nor did it have anything to do with the Dan Brown’s picture of people teaching that Jesus was just a man.  (See What Really Happened At Nicea?)

But in the tradition of the Da Vinci Code, the Council is the subject of rampant speculation, and the target of every accusation of nastiness that anyone might think of concerning the early history of Christianity.  If you can imagine something bad being done by the early church, just say it happened at the Council of Nicaea, throw in Constantine’s name, and you’ll have an instant air of believability.

Perhaps we could call this condition “Nicene Tourettes”?

This week, Glenn Beck contracted the contagious condition.  I knew he had a reputation for populist rhetoric, but this is this first time I know of that he’s gone with left-wing myth & conspiracy theory. (I’d wonder if he’s been reading Dan Brown novels lately, but it has a more obvious source–his Mormon background.) On his radio show, Beck started talking about Council.  He brought up the Dead Sea Scrolls (which were actually buried in a cave before Christ), and the Apostles’ Creed (which preceded the Council by up to one or two hundred years), and said that Constantine used the Council to help him “cobble together an army” (which, you know, being the emperor, he already had.)

RazorsKiss has provided a transcript & response.  You can also hear it with a response by Dr. James White in this mp3, starting at timestamp 1:24.  I would add two things to the written response:

  1. Beck was probably confusing the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are pre-Christian Jewish documents, with the library found at Nag Hammadi, where we found early copies of Gnostic writings.   Dr. White said that some people have speculated that the Nag Hammadi library was a cache created in Constantine’s reign, hiding Gnostic writings to prevent them from being burned.  Beck probably heard that speculation, confused it, and is now repeating it as fact.
  2. Though Beck seems to be making up the executions, some Arians were banished after the Council.  However, see Dr. White’s discussion of the aftermath of Nicaea in the What Really Happened article.  the Council did not manage to suppress Arian teaching, and the power of government was not responsible for its defeat.  Nicene Christianity didn’t win by the power of the sword, as people often think today. After the Council, Arian teaching spread and dominated the empire.  The Nicene Creed won not by the sword, but by the Biblical arguments of the bishop Athanasius–who himself was suppressed by political power & assaulted by 5000 soldiers!

Easter (and other) Apologetics Resources from Triablogue

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Since I’m having so much trouble getting time to write (including the conclusion of my hypocrisy series), here are some links.

The good folk at Triablogue have put together a phenomenal collection of articles & reviews and the like, on the subject of the Resurrection:


While I’m at it, I’ll include some links to their interaction with Bart Ehrman, including his recent book, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them).

Or, if you’re done with that light reading, you could just browse through all of their Ehrman stuff.

Update:

Irony: An Atheist on ‘Skeptics’

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

As a follow-up on my brief entry about the irony of the term “free-thinker”, here’s an article from an atheist, lamenting the credulity of so-called “critical, skeptical people”.  This followed a lecture from Richard Carrier, related to his upcoming book arguing against the historicity of Jesus.

An excerpt:

It concerns me that so many people were convinced to reverse their position on the basis of a single, brief talk without (1) checking Carrier’s sources, (2) reading other scholars on the subject, or (3) reading rebuttals of Carrier’s points.

Mind you, this was a roomful of atheists. Critical, skeptical people, right? Not so! Nearly half of them were willing to be instantly persuaded by a single talk without checking any sources or reading any rebuttals. Many of them were totally unaware of how historical scholarship was even done. I feel like I could have made up a bunch of stuff, claimed that it was held by the majority of historians, and then persuaded half the audience to believe that Jesus was a Persian myth.

[...]

Anyway, this is one of a thousand events that lead me to think atheists are not generally more rational or careful than belivers. Thus, my plea to all people is: Do not be quickly persuaded. Investigate. Challenge. Doubt.

Amen, sir.  Amen.

Ironies: “Free-thinker”

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Atheists & agnostics sometimes use the phrase “free-thinker” or “free-thinking” as a better label for their position.

In other words, to be a free-thinker, you have to come to the same conclusions that they do.

Link on the Mass Resurrection

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.  The tombs also were opened.  And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:51-53)

We tend to view this as an odd passage–and skeptics like to point to it to discredit the biblical record.  After all, they say, it’s only mentioned in Matthew–not in any of the other Gospels, not in any other early Christian writing, and especially not in any non-Christian writing.  Why don’t any Roman historians talk about this spectacular event?  I’ve wondered about this, myself.

Jason Engwer over at Triablogue has a recent entry called, A Bad Argument Against The Resurrection That’s Often Repeated, in which he addresses the issue.   He brought some interesting insights to bear.  An excerpt:

Sometimes critics suggest that the raised individuals would have been naked, would have been wearing deteriorated clothing, would have been similar to zombies, etc. But as I wrote in response to one such critic in my article linked above, “The concept that God would raise people from the dead, but leave them with no clothing or deteriorated clothing, is ridiculous. It’s consistent with the imagery somebody might get from a horror movie, but it’s absurd in a first-century Jewish context. People wouldn’t have been walking around nude, and assuming that bodies would be restored without restored clothing is dubious. Did Jesus have to travel nude for a while, looking for clothing, after His resurrection? Does God raise a person, but then leave him on his own to find some clothing to wear?

[...]

What leads you to view it as something more like a horror movie is your desire to criticize the passage….You don’t ignore the implications of a context just because the text doesn’t spell out every implication. What does a term like ‘raised’ mean in a first-century Jewish context? Does it imply a zombie who walks around in the nude with a partially decomposed body?

[...]

Given that so many other Jewish and Christian documents imply that God provides such things [clothing] (angels in human form are clothed, the risen Jesus is clothed, etc.), and given other factors such as ancient views of public nudity, the idea that risen people would be left naked is less likely.

That makes me wonder.  If you were in Jerusalem at the time, and you didn’t happen to know any of these resurrected people, and you didn’t see them come out of the tomb, how would you know that you were looking at a resurrected person?  How many people in Jerusalem would even be aware that something spectacular had happened?  And of those who did see, how many became believers because of it?

Wouldn’t this event become another rumor about the strange things claimed by Christians?

Something I still wonder about:  What happened to them afterward?  Were they taken up by God, like Elijah?