Posts Tagged ‘Apologetics’

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!

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?

My Christian Radio Shows

Friday, August 31st, 2007

There are a few Christian radio shows that I listen to regularly, all available for downloading online. I’ve found them each to be in some measure informative, interesting, edifying, encouraging, educational, and/or profitable. (Of course, that doesn’t mean I always agree with everything they say. I have disagreed with all of them. It means I appreciate them enough to listen to them.) In the order in which I discovered them: (1) Stand to Reason, with Greg Koukl, (2) The Dividing Line, with James R. White, (3) The Narrow Path, with Steve Gregg, and (4) Iron Sharpens Iron, with Chris Arnzen.

Keep reading for a nutshell description of each show and links to their online archives.

(Feel free to leave a comment with your own recommendations for good Christian radio available online.)

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On the Trinity and On the Emerging Church

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

I read a couple thought-provoking exchanges today. The first is theologically heavy, and the second is funny, witty, and somewhat profound.

The first is on the Trinity. Greg Stafford, a Jehovah’s Witness apologist, posted an entry with an argument against the Trinity based in part on John 17:3, in which Jesus refers to the Father as “the only true God“. Steve Hays at Triablogue responded, as did Jeff Downs at Countercult Apologetics. Be forewarned, it’s somewhat high-level.

The second is a series of poster wars on the Emerging Church movement. Stand To Reason’s blog alerted me to a set of “motivational” posters satirizing the Emerging Church, using most of the Emerging buzzwords. Some of them are pretty funny, and point out some of the potential abuses and dangers of the movement. Of course, I can understand why some in the movement would take offense. Then an ECer posted a set of posters in response. They have a wonderful tone, and do a good job of explaining some of their concerns. They set forth an image of what the Church should look like. Food for thought.

For those unfamiliar with the Emerging Church: It’s a somewhat hard-to-define movement. It’s associated with the newer generations (teens to early thirty-somethings). It’s a reforming movement, aimed at modifying some of the ways we do things and view things in the Church. It’s a diverse movement, with some heading off into major theological problems (i.e. heresy), and some who are entirely orthodox in their theology but who are concerned with matters of church practice and matters of how we live out our lives as Christians. As with any generation-based movement, there’s a mixture of naiveté and insight–and in the reaction from the “traditional” church, there’s a mixture of dismissiveness and mature wisdom.

If you’re interested in a more thorough introduction, you can read Five Streams of the Emerging Church from Christianity Today, and a paper presented at the Evangelical Theological Society called Essential Concerns Regarding the Emerging Church.

Update: The original satirical posters were created by the folks at the Team Pyro blog.  Here’s the first entry with the posters.  It includes a critique of the Five Streams article.  If you look around the blog, you can also find some entries dealing with Emerging reactions to the posters.