Author Archives: Curly

A Silly Assertion

As Easter approaches, a particularly annoying assertion masquerading as an argument seems to be constantly rearing its ugly head this year. I’ve stopped counting the times I’ve heard or read it.

Here it is: “The Gospel accounts can’t be considered historically reliable because they were written by men who believed that Jesus was God”.

The implication of this statement is that the authors must have been too biased in favor of their subject to record true accounts. It is intended to place the burden of proof of the reliability of the Gospel accounts on we who believe them, and to further place the bar of authenticity so impossibly high as to be unachievable.

It fails miserably in many ways. The first is presenting it as an argument that requires refutation. It is not, and I’ll explain.

An argument posits a conclusion that logically follows from one or more premises. An example is:

All bikers ride motorcycles.

Curly is a biker.

Therefore, Curly is a biker.

In the example argument, if all bikers do in fact ride motorcycles and Curly is in fact a biker, then it MUST be true that Curly rides a motorcycle. If either of the two statements are not true, then Curly is not a biker. This is an argument.

The statement “The Gospel accounts can’t be considered historically reliable because they were written by men who believed that Jesus was God” is not an argument; it is an assertion. Assertions are not conclusions based on logic or truth. They are simply statements of belief. The burden of proof therefore lies upon the person making the claim.

But beyond that, the statement is nonsensical.  The implied premise is that anyone claiming to be writing an account of a person or event cannot be telling the truth if the writer believes what he or she is writing.

For example, the following statements are logically equivalent to the assertion in question:

“Carl Sandburg cannot possibly have written an accurate account of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency because he believed that Lincoln was actually President.”

“There was a story in the newspaper yesterday about a bank robbery, but I can’t give it any credibility because the author believes the bank was robbed.”

Notice that the above statements carry no information or premises to support it. It is the proper responsibility of those making the assertion to provide evidence to support it. It it entirely reasonable for someone objecting to it to consider the statement false unless supporting arguments can be supplied.

My objection to the “the Gospels aren’t true because the authors believed in Jesus” assertion isn’t primarily about whether the Gospels are true or not; it is the sloppy logic and intellectually lazy idea behind it. It is simply an assertion that does nothing but reveal the unwillingness or inability of the person stating it to think through what they are saying.

Sadly, it is increasingly apparent that many college age and younger people are both. Pointing out the deficiency of their statement as gently and objectively as possible, and more often than not they react as if you are personally attacking them. Be prepared, but don’t back down. Truth matters, and this kind of fuzzy thinking rarely leads to the truth. Simply stating that something is so does not MAKE it so.

The evidence (as shown in previous posts) for the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts – and therefore the resurrection of Christ – is better than that for any other ancient text. It is our job to point that out as cheerfully and gracefully as possible when it is contested.

The Forbidden Topic

Among most Christian nonprofit organizations (such as Warrior of Faith) there is one topic that is taboo – politics. 

There are two good reasons for this, the primary one being one of law and regulation. While there is some debate whether the Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional or not, the fact is that it is currently the law of the land. In short, in order to retain tax-exempt status, the organization may not engage in endorsement of political candidates. Many organizations, although this is not stated in the law, extend that to silence on ANY political issue.  This is mostly due to either a misunderstanding of the law, or the second reason.

This second reason is a desire to be able to minister to the widest demographic possible. Simply put, any political stand will automatically alienate a significant number of those a ministry is trying to reach.

However, I believe that the time has come for us as serious disciples of Christ to take a firm stand in the political arena. But before I elaborate, I need to make something crystal clear:

IT IS THE OFFICIAL STAND OF WARRIOR OF FAITH THAT THE ORGANIZATION IS POLITICALLY NEUTRAL, AND NO MEMBER SHALL ENGAGE IN POLITICAL ADVOCACY WHILE ATTENDING WOF FUNCTIONS OR REPRESENTING THE ORGANIZATION.

Having said that, be aware that the rest of this article is the opinion of Curly, and is NOT to be understood to be that of WoF as an organization. I post this out of concern for the future of God’s people in the USA, and not as a spokesman for Warrior of Faith. I speak for myself alone.

So let’s get started. The first thing to keep in mind when thinking about politics is that for the Christian, politics really isn’t primarily about politics!  My topic for this article is politics, so I won’t be talking about Church, Family, or other considerations except as how they relate to the topic at hand. Our priorities when it comes to political issues is that our loyalties and focus MUST be in this order:

GOD FIRST : 

While God’s people are consistently throughout Scripture instructed to be good and loyal citizens of their country, we are also consistently reminded that our first loyalty ALWAYS must be to our Creator and Savior. Any politician or political party that as a basic principle of their platform is in direct, willing violation or encourages their constituents to violate this non-negotiable tenant of life must be opposed. While it is rare to find a politician that does not stray into ethical grey (or even black) areas, if their fundamental political goals oppose or hamper the ability of God’s people to live as He intends, then for an informed Christian to vote for that individual or party is to willingly oppose God. 

After God, COUNTRY:

As stated above, it is our duty as Christians as well as citizens to be good, law-abiding citizens of our country. However, it goes well beyond that; to properly represent Christ we must also actively seek to uphold the laws and norms that support the security and well-being of our country and citizens. 

We live in a country that is a Democratic Republic. In short, we as legal citizens vote for politicians to represent us, and those politicians (at least on a Federal level) enact and enforce laws that they deem best represents their constituents and the country as a whole. On the state level, we often have the opportunity to vote on individual legislation as well. At least, that’s how it is supposed to work. 

There are Constitutional safeguards against government overreach (as well as the ballot box) to repeal, replace, or nullify laws which we feel violate our rights or which are unacceptable for other reasons, but unless those laws force us to directly disobey God’s revealed directives we are obligated to obey those laws until they are changed, or (rarely) disobey as a an action to obtain ‘standing’ to challenge that law in court.

Then, POLITICAL PARTY:

Keep in mind that God’s priorities and commands for church, family, and community MUST inform and drive your decision of party affiliation. While NO political party in the US can be considered “Christian”, there are parties that uphold Christian values more than not, and some that are blatantly anti-Christian.

Thankfully, I live in a state that allows me to register and an Independent, and I have chosen not to align myself with any particular party. While it makes informed voting much more difficult than for someone who votes a straight party line, I find that in many cases there have been Democrat, Libertarian, Republican, and Tea Party candidates that were more qualified and aligned with Christian values than those running for that position from other parties.

At least until now. This last year, one of the major political parties has gone so far opposed to not only Christianity and national security but the rule of law that for the first time ever, I feel compelled to speak out against ANY candidate from that party simply because for anyone to represent that party they must effectively reject Christ. Strong words, I know, but consider the evidence.

-) Not only has the Democratic party adopted “reproductive rights” – a euphemism for abortion at any time for any reason – but by repeatedly voting en masse in Congress AGAINST legislation to ensure that every infant born alive be given life-saving medical attention has embraced both pre-born and newborn infanticide as a core party value.

To be clear – the Democratic party stands for not only the murder of unborn babies, but the murder of unwanted LIVE babies as well. Make no mistake. Murder is commonly defined as the deliberate ending of an innocent human life. Abortion and the killing of unwanted newborn babies is murder, and the Democratic party supports such murder. This is indefensible.

-) The United States is unique in that it has from the founding of the country had remarkably lax immigration restrictions, especially compared to socialistic, communistic, and totalitarian states. However, as any country that cares about the safety and security of citizens and legally admitted aliens (foreign citizens) there are laws against harboring and aiding those who enter the country illegally.

It is historical (and contemporary – look at the violent mess in much of Europe) fact that any country that fails to significantly secure its’ borders from illegal encroachment will eventually be either economically bankrupt, overpowered by hostile forces, or descend into chaos from sheer numbers.

It has become the official stand of the Democratic Party that there should be no restrictions on who enters our country, regardless of whether they are simply looking for a peaceful life for their families, terrorist operatives, drug runners, or violent criminals. Couple this with the party’s consistent efforts to largely dismantle our military as well as disarm the civilian population and it is hard to argue that the Democratic party has any real regard for the safety and security of the country.

-) The Democratic Party has, especially in the last year, shown a callous and blatant disregard for the rule of law whenever their agenda is opposed. Elected Democratic congresspeople have not only publicly called for support for but encouraged violent actions taken by two gangster groups : Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA. Note that I’m making no comment on their political aims; I’m calling attention to the fact that rather than work to change laws and policies they oppose by legal, peaceful means they choose to riot and loot – and the Democrats who encourage them are not sanctioned by their party, but applauded for it!

-) Finally, the policies and methods used by the Democratic Party are increasingly that of what they prefer to call “Democratic Socialism”. These methods and policies are almost indistinguishable from those of the National Socialist Party of Germany in the mid 20th century, the U.S.S.R., and many other totalitarian states. Sadly, the historically inevitable outcome of any political system based on the forced redistribution of wealth is that of a totalitarian state that is diametrically opposed to any religion that does not make itself subservient to the State, and to Christianity in particular. This is readily apparent in the rhetoric and legislation proposed by Democratic lawmakers; by their own admission, it is their position that any religious expression that actually points out sin and the need of a Savior must ALWAYS be silent when opposing the leftist gods of ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’. This is even taken to the extreme that many elected Democratic Congresspersons contend that adherence to Christianity should make candidates ineligible to serve as a Federal Judge!

To sum up, for these reasons, it is my belief that to support any candidate that identifies as a Democrat is to support the Christless, Godless ideology that is a grave danger not only to the security of the United States but the rule of law and will ultimately lead to not only the descent of our society into chaos, but a system of state-sponsored persecution as well.

Something to think and pray about.

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There are WAY too many news articles, relevant quotes, and historical articles to link to, so rather than including a link list that would be longer than the post itself I encourage you to use Duckduckgo, Bing, Dogpile, or even Google to do a search on a variety of topics mentioned. Here’s a short list of topics to get you started:

The Johnson amendment

Abortion

ANTIFA violence

Black Lives Matter violence

German National Socialist Party

US illegal immigrant crime rate

Democratic party and religion

United States Electoral College

Elected officials and infanticide

The Word and Weed

Note: This article was originally posted in early February, but both it and the comments on it inexplicably disappeared a few days ago, so I’m reposting now.

One of the reasons for the length of time between this post and the last is simple disobedience. I KNEW the God wanted me to write this; I simply didn’t want to because of the reactions I am almost certain I’ll get from most readers.

And, no, it wasn’t because I was afraid of offending anyone or because I was overly concerned with being taken the wrong way, or even that I would be ignored or my stand rejected without consideration. Even though the majority of conversations I’ve had on this topic (which is coming up quite often lately) gets one of those responses, my main excuse for not posting this is because, based on previous conversations, I felt it was a waste of time.

Why, Lord,” I asked, “Should I put all this effort into something that I know will just come to nothing?

And, of course, the answer was the same as always in these cases. “Because that is what I want you to do, and I know the outcome – you don’t. Read your Scripture and thing back on church history. Are you so arrogant to think that you are the only one I’ve asked to do something that seems silly at the time? Get on with it!

So, there are really two questions to be answered. You will notice that the second presupposes a “yes” answer to the first, and that a “no” answer to the first makes the second irrelevant. Here they are:

“Is it OK for a Christian to use recreational marijuana in those states that have legalized it?”  and “How much of a buzz can I get without sinning?”

Before I answer, I want to make it VERY clear that I am NOT addressing the issue of medical marijuana. I am looking at the use of recreational marijuana, even if used for medical reasons but without a prescription. There are legitimate PRESCRIBED MEDICAL uses for it, most of which do not contain significant amounts of the compound primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects.

The reason I stress PRESCRIBED AND SUPERVISED MEDICAL USE is because over thirty years in various ministries and two decades of my wife working at a resident teen treatment center I can without reservation state that of all of the many acquaintances, friends, and family members that I have observed self-medicating with controlled substances (including both alcohol and marijuana), it has NEVER turned out well.

Back to recreational use. As a follower of Christ, the primary authority should be the Bible. However, Scripture does not directly mention marijuana. Therefore, we must look at what God has said in His word about similar substances, and draw a correlation from that.

There are two topics in the Bible that most directly relate to the issue: sorcery, and alcohol.   The first requires a bit more explanation, so let’s look at sorcery first.

Although Scripture does not explicitly mention narcotic and mind-altering drug use other than alcohol, extra-Biblical writings of the times as well as the writings of early church fathers and contemporary historians indicate that the use of such drugs was an integral part of many sorcerous practices. For example, sorcerers and magicians frequently used psychoactive potions to induce visions and help in divination.  The Bible very clearly forbids the practice of sorcery and occult magic in Ex. 22:18, Mal 3:5, and Gal 5:19-21

As for alcohol, we are repeatedly reminded that we are not to get drunk. A few passages that emphasize this are  Rom. 13:13,  1 Cor 6:9-10,  Eph. 5:18, and 1 Thess.5:7-8.

So, the obviously most valid conclusion from these and other passages is that we are forbidden by God to purposely become intoxicated. In other words, getting high and getting drunk are equally sinful.

But, I’ve been asked, since we aren’t forbidden from the use of alcohol as long as we don’t get drunk, doesn’t the same apply to recreational use of other drugs?

That’s a good question, but when the effects and common uses of non-prescribed mind-altering drugs such as cannabis are examined, it becomes clear that the real questions is “Can I use marijuana anyway?”.

Here’s the BIG difference: while for the average adult it takes about two to 4 servings of an alcoholic beverage to become intoxicated, for cannabis clinical studies have concluded that in order to become intoxicated to the point of impaired judgement and reflexes takes on average 4 – 6 puffs. In other words, most adults will get a buzz from less than one joint, and a full one can get you flat out high unless you are using it frequently enough to build up a tolerance.

Coupled with the fact that no one I have interviewed or read accounts from uses cannabis in cooking (brownies or cookies, y’all?) does it as a flavor enhancer or for any reason other than to get high, it is safe to conclude that there is no safe, legitimate, or Biblically sound used for recreational marijuana. Remember, as I said before – self medicating with controlled substances has, in my observation, never turned out well.

But there are other reasons to refrain from recreational use. First of all,  in Romans 13:1-2 Paul reminds us that we are to obey the laws of the land. While Scripture does give us the obligation to break this general rule when obeying the law forces us to violate GOD’S commands, this practice clearly does not fall under that exception. So, since use of recreational use of marijuana is still prohibited under Federal law anytime you use cannabis without a prescription you are willingly disobeying the law.

Finally, Paul spend a large portion of his letter to the  Romans (Rom. 14) giving instructions about how just because we CAN do something it is often the case that we SHOULDN’T.  He emphasized that if indulging in something that is pleasurable or even possibly personally beneficial in some way is likely to cause a sibling in Christ to stumble in their relationship with God WE SHOULD NOT DO IT. 

Additionally, we must keep in mind that Jesus, in Luke 9, talks about the necessity of personal sacrifice even to the point of death and torture in order to be an authentic disciple. If we as Warriors of Faith are not willing to sacrifice even in relatively small ways by refraining from what is clearly not in keeping with God’s will or commands, then are we truly ‘warriors’ at all? I think not.

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For those who either dispute my assessment of the physiological effects of cannabis, or are unfamiliar with the research, here are a couple of sites to take a look at:

Here is a link to a clinical study discussing average amount needed for intoxication as well as some other information to think about.

Lifehacker has a fairly comprehensive article on the physiological effects of weed

Quick Thought -Bible Conspiracies

There’s been a lot published on the Internet lately about the “Jesus is really Apollonius” theory lately. It has been popularized by an hour long documentary recently been made available through Amazon Prime Video entitled Bible Conspiracies.

Released in 2016, the so-called documentary was written and narrated by Philip Gardiner, a former Marketing Director turned conspiracy propagandist. It is full of undocumented, unverified, and debunked drivel that I and others have rebutted at length repeatedly. The “Jesus is really Apolonius the Greek” is just another in a long line of conjectures made up of whole cloth. 

Even in looking at a number of internet articles on the subject, I could find not even one primary source, or even a reliable secondary source, cited to back up any more than superficial link between the alleged stories about Apollonius and the Biblical narrative about Jesus.

But to get back the film itself. It is a little over one hour of Mr. Gardiner (who never appears on camera) reciting a litany of supposed ‘facts’ about the Bible with a series of still images and short film snippets as backdrop. He cites no primary sources to support his assertions; in fact, his very, very few reference to source material are all passing remarks, and he gives no information as to authorship or level of expertise in the field for ANY of his sources. If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve actually researched most of his speculations and therefore knew where some of his stories originated, I would have assumed that he’d made it all up himself.

Some of the ideas he throws out are:

* Jesus never existed, and is both (!) a recycled Horus myth and was really a Greek philosopher/healer named Apolonius, as well as a physician trained in healing arts in Egypt

Real consistent there, isn’t he? But wait – there’s more!

* The Bible teaches reincarnation

* Jesus was married, and the wedding where He performed His first recorded miracle was His own

* The gospels were written by Gnostics

* Monothiesm was a Christian ‘invention’

….. and on and on and on.

In short, anything concerning the Bible or the Church citing either this film or Gardiner as a major source is very suspect. It is at best poorly researched and logically and historically bankrupt. It is a pastiche of misinterpretation, twisted logic, false statements, and fanciful concoctions that deserves to be ignored.

More Mythicism – The Horus Hoot!

Well, Thanksgiving has barely passed and already the Jesus Mythicists are trotting out what seems to be their current favorite “older pagan god that proves the Gospels are just rehashed myths” character Horus yet again.  The sad thing is that the whole Horus as a proto-Jesus myth argument has been so thoroughly refuted for so many years, yet it still remains popular with the mythicists. Even so, once you look at it carefully, it is so ridiculous that it would be hard to laugh at it except for the poor souls who are so deceived by it. But first, a light-hearted overview of the argument compliments of Lutheran Satire:

Since I’ve already been confronted with this atrocity multiple times in the last couple of weeks, this is a good time to give you all some facts about the Horus disproves Jesus nonsense. I’ll start with a short summary and history of the argument, and then the best refutation of it.

So, here’s the basic premise: There is a god who was

* Born of a virgin on Dec. 25th

* Performed miracles such as walking on water, healing the sick, etc.

* Had 12 disciples

* Was crucified

* Rose from the dead after 3 days

… and it wasn’t Jesus. It was the Egyptian god Horus, who predated Jesus of Nazareth by thousands of years. Therefore, Jesus was nothing more than a recycled pagan myth, certainly wasn’t God, and may not have existed at all.

Popularized by the films Zeitgiest and Religulous, this has been trotted out every Christmas and Easter for quite a few years now, and inexplicably (to me, at least) doesn’t seem to be waning in popularity even though, to quote another fable, “the emperor has no clothes”.

First of all, the source citations for the premise are virtually nonexistent. Religulous cites not sources at all, and the cited sources from Zeitgiest and mythicists popular on Youtube and the lecture circuit cite either each other or Gerald Massey. There is no reference to primary source material on Horus at all!

But wait, doesn’t Massey us primary sources? The definitive answer to that question is,”not in any scholarly or factual way, if at all”. 

Let me explain: Gerald Massey was a 19th century poet, amateur Egyptologist, Socialist (follower of Marx), and Spiritualist. His most well known and referenced books by mythicists is Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World and The Natural Genesis. Both promote the Horus as the basis of Jesus story. 

The problem with Massey is that his citations are not only sparse, but sloppy to the point that his source material cannot be determined. Not only that, but his ‘translations’ of the primary sources he does adequately cite are disputed by EVERY contemporary professional as well as modern Egyptologist that have examined the source documents.

Thus, since Massey does not point to verified primary (or, in the vast majority of citations, secondary) sources for his assertions, to cite Massey as a source is to give no source other than Massey’s imagination!

The only way to verify whether it is valid or not is to examine the primary sources relating to Horus from the earliest writings up to the time of Christ.

What we find is that although there were various accounts of the Horus story throughout ancient Egyptian history, and even regional variations of the mythology of Horus, NONE of them contain any of the points given above save one: he was said to have performed miracles.

* Horus is not said to be born of a virgin in any of the accounts. There are slight variations, but the basic story is that his mother was impregnated by the (mostly) reassembled body of his father Osiris. His birthdate is fixed on different days by various accounts, usually around the solstice.

* Horus is said to have performed various miracles, but this is a common attribution of almost any deity. It is inconsequential in establishing a correlation on in and of itself.

* In the few accounts where the number of disciples or followers Horus had is mentioned, the number given varies, with four the most common. NONE of the accounts give the number 12.

* Not only do no sources prior to Massey refer to Horus as being crucified, that form of execution originated in Persia, and was not practiced in Egypt until it fell under Roman rule.

* Horus is not, in the primary sources, ever depicted as having been resurrected from the dead as he is never said to have died at all.

So when you see this kind of thing on the internet or television, or it is trotted out by skeptics or mockers you’re talking to, ask yourself (and them, gently) what their sources are and whether they have any idea what the actual hieroglyphic documents we have available say.

Then, gently point out that just because something similar is written about prior to an event doesn’t necessarily imply, much less prove, that the event in question didn’t happen. One of my favorite examples is the popular list of similarities between presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. Some of the ‘facts’ in the list are not true (unlike the Horus list in which MOST are fanciful), and most of the rest are either clear coincidence (like dates) or stated so broadly that they could apply to the majority of U.S. Presidents. 

So, are we then to conclude that the stories about Abraham Lincoln prove that John Kennedy did not exist? I don’t think so.

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Here are some additional resources for your viewing and reading pleasure:

Here’s a video of William Lane Craig, a noted scholar and apologist, responding to this argument

If you have the time and stomach for it, this links to Zeitgeist the movie

This video is appropriately named Zeitgeist Debunked

The Wikipedia biography of Gerald Massey is the most balanced I could find. Most paint him as either a spiritual and historical genius or a hopelessly deluded nutcase. There doesn’t seem to be any other objective bios of him out there.

The Straight Dope is certainly not friendly to Christianity, but it is even more critical of this argument

The Ancient History Encyclopedia article on Horus gives a good overview of what the source material actually says.

The ComeReason Ministries article “How to Quickly Debunk the Horus-Jesus Myth takes a slightly different approach than I do, and is well worth looking at.

Council, Constantine, and Canon, Oh My!

After many months of not fielding any apologetics related questions that I haven’t written about before, the same topic has come up in conversation multiple times in the last few weeks.

The assertion, which was popularized a few years ago in The Davici Code, is that the accepted canon of Scripture was dictated by Emperor Constantine to the Council of Nicea and that both the canon and the doctrine of the deity of Christ were formulated at that council and passed by a narrow vote.

 

To summarize, the argument is:

1 – The books to be included in the Bible were dictated by Constantine and ratified by the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325               
2 – Both the doctrine of the deity of Christ and the canon of Scripture were formulated at the Council.
3 – These ‘new doctrines’ were passed by a slim majority vote of the bishops present.

For the benefit of those of you who don’t want to wade through some potentially boring history, I’ll say this up front and you can skip to the links at the end watch the video I’ve linked to: EVERY one of the above assertions is not only false, but not even close to truth.

What follows is summary of what the Council of Nicea was all about, and Constantine’s role in it. For more details, check out the links at the end.

Background and Purpose of the Council

After ending the civil war in 324 and becoming the sole ruler of the Roman empire, Constantine called for a council of bishops to address the problem of divisions in the Christian church. Eusebius quotes him as declaring that “Division in the church is worse than war.”

The council convened on May 20, 325 and adjourned on June 19 of that year. Constantine opened with a speech on the necessity of unity in the church, and presided much as a committee chair would today. In other words, he would introduce topics on the agenda and call on speakers but had no vote or official say in any decisions made. Over 1,000 bishops from across the empire were invited; although no exact count was made, estimates of the number in attendance are between 250 and 318, plus support staff including deacons and secretaries.

The Council agenda included the question of the Arian teaching (more on that later), the date of the Easter celebration, the leader of a minor sect (Meletus), and various matters of church discipline (more on that later as well).

We’ve already established that Constantine did not dictate what books should or should not be included in the Canon at Nicea; not only did he not have a vote in the Council, but the question of the Canon was not even addressed there!

On to the formulation of the doctrine of the deity of Christ:

The Council did not ‘formulate’ ANY doctrine. What the council addressed (and ultimately voted on), was the question of whether Arian’s Christology was orthodox or heretical, and how to present ALREADY ACCEPTED doctrine in such a way as to be unambiguous about the deity of Christ. Again, the Council did not formulate doctrine; it formulated a statement defending preexisting and accepted doctrine. Thus, the writing of the Nicene Creed, which recognized a Christology articulated as far back as the the first century, and stated throughout the New Testament.

Arianism, which stated that Jesus was a created being, was a doctrine that was less than a century old at the time. Which view would you consider ‘new’?

Oh, and about that close vote. There was no vote per se – bishops in attendance were either signed the final draft of the Creed, or didn’t. Out of a conservative estimate of 250 bishops present, only three did not sign it. 247 to 3 in favor is hardly close!

The council did produce 20 “canons”, which were declarations of church law – practices either prohibited or commanded by the church, and rules regarding church discipline. None of these 20 edicts had anything to do with the contents of Scripture.

In conclusion:

Not only did Constantine NOT dictate the canon of Scripture or the doctrine of the deity of Christ, but he deferred to the consensus of the bishops in regards to statements concerning the nature and deity of Christ.

The inclusion or exclusion of any books in the Bible was not addressed at the Council at all.

Finally, the wording of the Nicene Creed was approved by almost 90% of those attending the Council.
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Useful Links, in no particular order:

Here is a link to Dr. Michael Heiser's video on What Really Happened at the Council of Nicea and this is an abridged print version of the above with a link to a better quality but much shorter video

James R. White has a well-written synopsis of the events and decisions made at the council at the Christian Research Institute.

Paul F. Pavao has a series of articles on the Council; this is the first. If you read all 4, you will notice that he lists FIVE bishops (rather than three) who did not sign the creed. This is because he lists two bishops whose actual attendance at the council is disputed.

Finally, I list the Wikipedia article simply because it cites a very large number of sources that you can either link to or look up.

How Do We Deal With a “Post Truth” Mentality?

Most of us, if we have been actively sharing the Gospel at all, have run into a rather troubling attitude increasingly more often – especially with those under the age of 30.

I’m referring to what I call the ‘post truth mentality’, and it is a direct result of the relativistic naturalism propaganda foisted upon us by the public school system, colleges, and mass entertainment media for the last three generations.

The logical result of an ingrained belief that all moral truth is relative is a mindset that believes that feelings are paramount – and any ‘truth’ must be subservient to them.  Therefore, any moral or spiritual truth statement is not evaluated upon the merits of its truthfulness or falsehood, but upon whether it feels right (“feel the Force, Luke”).

And so, we should not be surprised when discussing topics such as the truth of the Gospel, abortion, and especially LGBTQ issues that a common response is something like, “well, that may be true, but it doesn’t feel right (or good) to me”.

Sadly, another common response is to call anyone who disagrees or objects to their view as hateful, bigoted, or racist.

I’m always a bit shocked by this response, especially since I try very hard to show Christ’s love and am careful to present my arguments opposing their lifestyle as concern for their welfare – but I shouldn’t be.

You see, we’re seeing the results of education, entertainment, and political systems that have consistently taught us that truth is an illusion, self is paramount, and anything that makes a person less than superior in every way (especially in moral and spiritual choices) is hurtful, and if it goes against the current cultural obsession is hateful and must be silenced.

No wonder when you point out that there is not only objective truth, but objective spiritual truth that you are labeled intolerant and hateful. Should you point out that those denying you the opportunity to voice and defend that view are just as hateful and intolerant as you are being accused of being, then you are obviously a bigoted bumpkin.

So how do you best present the gospel to someone who has been indoctrinated to be aggressively offended by anything that suggests that their feelings could possibly be wrong?

First of all, be aware of three things :

1 = There are no quick or easy answers

2 = I don’t have all of them, and

3 = None of the suggestions I have will work every, or even most of the time.

But that’s OK – we’re called to present the gospel in the most effective, winsome, loving way we can;  the results are up to God. My attitude is this: 

Our job is to present and live out Truth as consistently and godly as possible so that we don’t get in God’s way while he works on the hearts of the lost and doomed people we meet.

That means that in most cases, we’re in it for the long haul. It may be YEARS before we see any “progress” or “results” – but that isn’t our primary concern. Our PRIMARY concern in presenting the gospel to those locked into this destructive and illusory world view is to give them God’s truth (and all real truth is His) presented in a manner and with an attitude that reflects Christ’s nature.

So, how do we do that? Well, I have a few suggestions, given in no particular order:

-) LISTEN and ask questions designed to make them clarify and explain their position. Questions like “what do you mean by that?”, “are yo saying that….?”, and “If that is true, then isn’t _____ also true?” asked with an inquiring attitude rather than a judgmental attitude are good ways to get them to think about the logical results of their statements.

-) Don’t be bullied, and don’t be a bully. Sometimes, you will be personally attacked and called hateful, bigoted, etc. The best response is to calmly point out the error of the assessment, and that whether they chose to believe that or not, you will not stop treating them with love and respect just because they disagree with you.  While not always the case, it is usually a good idea to leave your disappointment with their unwillingness to do the same unsaid.

-) Present the Gospel and a Biblical world view as clearly and concisely as possible. 

-) One thing that I find myself saying more and more often when presenting a Biblical world view is “I don’t believe the Bible because it  makes me feel good or because I like it, but because it is historically and factually true.” 

-) As much as possible, be thoughtful, loving, firm, and consistent. What you DO and HOW you do it is often more telling than what you say.

Did Jesus Ever Claim to be God?

It seems objections to the Christian faith that are uniformed, poorly (if at all) researched, logically incoherent, and just plain unconvincing to any examination keep coming back no matter how definitively they have been refuted.

The claim that “Jesus never claimed to be God; that’s just an invention of the church” is one of the latest.

The reasoning takes one of two paths. The first, which is the more convincing, is that since the Gospels are second century texts or later all of the passages in which Jesus claims deity are fabrications, and he never actually made any such claim. I’ve dealt extensively with why the late date/scribal inventions argument about the Gospels is not valid here and here, so I won’t rehash that argument.

What I do want to address is the second path, which is that even if the Gospel accounts are reliable, Christ never claimed to be God. As one young man I was talking to rather smugly stated, “You can’t show many any verse where Jesus says, “I am God”.

While he is technically correct – the words “I am YHWH” are never recorded as coming out of the mouth of the Christ, there are so many passages where He clearly claims to be God that I won’t even try to list them all here.

The confusion for many comes from an ignorance of context. To actually believe that Jesus never claimed to be God, one must have little or no knowledge of the Biblical text, first century Jewish culture and religious belief, and ancient Hebrew idioms.

First of all, Jesus’ claim to equality with God is not limited to mere words – His primary method of declaring His diety was with deeds. While the best and most compelling of these was His resurrection, Matthew 11:2-5 explains the reason for His many miracles. It was to prove his divine nature. Also, in Matthew 9:2-7 and in the parallel passage in Luke 5 Jesus forgives the sins of a man that He healed. The Pharisees understood that He was claiming to be God; they intended to stone Him for it.

Actually, one of the best clues to Christ declaring his Godhood is the reaction of the Pharisees to what He does and says. Every time their reaction to His deeds is to kill him, it is because they recognize one of his statements or demonstrations of His deity. Some examples in addition to this incident are John 8:23-24 and John 10:25-33.

At the trial before the Sanhedrin, Matthew 26:63-64, Mark 14:61-62, and Luke 22:66-72 all record Jesus as answering a direct question as to whether He was God by with the expression “You have said it”(Literally, “you yourself have said it”), and it bore the same meaning then as our modern version : “you said it, man!”. In other words, a definitive affirmative answer.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the titles ‘Son of Man’ and Son of God’, in the mind of first century Hebrew theologians as well as the general Jewish populace were titles reserved for God and the Messiah. While some believed the Messiah to be a representative of God much like a prophet (only much more powerful), the other prominent belief was that the Messiah would be God himself. Whenever Jesus referred to him as the Son of Man, or as God as His Father, both the Pharisees and the disciples would recognize His claim to be divine.

And finally, one last point. The jews of the time were very adamant that the worst kind of blasphemy possible was to appropriate for oneself the worship and adoration reserved for God alone. Yet not once did Jesus rebuke anyone for worshipping him. That silence in and of itself is another of His claims of deity.

So, when someone tells you that Jesus never claimed to be God, you can clear up that particular misconception quite easily!

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Here is a short list of some of the passages that refute this rather lame argument:

Matthew 9:2-7, 11:2-5, 12:1-8, 16:13-18 and 24-28, 17:1-12, 19:28-29 and 63-64, 28:16-20

Mark 1:2-12 and 24-28, 8:29-30, 9:30-31, 14:22-25 and 61-62

Luke 2:54-49, 5:20-25, 7:20-22 and 48-50, 9:18-22

John 3:13-15, 5:17-24, 8:23-24, 8:57-59, 10:25-33, 14:9-10, 20:28-29

“Mythicism” Revisited

Every Easter season, we are inundated with the inevitable litany of TV shows, blog posts, and newspaper and magazine articles attempting to debunk or deny the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

And every year, there is one particular rather ridiculous idea that crops up and just frustrates me no end that anyone can seriously repeat, much less profess to actually believe.

But, once again, the trope that not only are the Gospel accounts of the life of the Christ not historically accurate, but that Jesus never even existed is being trumpeted all over the internet and in print as well.

The reason it frustrates me so much is because not only has the idea that Jesus never existed been definitively refuted, but even among atheist circles, it is considered a ‘fringe’ argument because the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth existed is so compelling.

But first, let’s take a look at the “the story of Jesus is nothing more that previous mythology and folktales repackaged to appeal to a first century audience” argument. This argument proposes that the Apostles and their followers took nativity stories from Horus, Mithras, and other pagan deities and created a Messianic figure for personal fame and fortune.

I have three objections to this argument. First, the primary audience of the Apostles were the Jews. Jewish culture and religious teachings both were passionately opposed to entertaining ANY foreign religious mythology; it not only was expressly forbidden by their sacred texts, but was scrupulously shunned as the main reason for their enslavement at the hands of pagan governments in the first place. No Jew would expect anything resembling pagan God myths to be accepted by either the leadership or the populace. The best they could hope for would be utter rejection.

Second, the argument both ignores the many and significant differences between the Gospel accounts and the pagan myths that they supposedly borrowed from AND asserts that if there is any similarity between a fictional (or mythological) account and a later narrative presented as history, the latter story must also be false.

By that line of reasoning, it can be demonstrated that the wreck of the Titanic never happened: Fourteen years before the maiden voyage of the Titanic, Morgan Robertson wrote a novel in which a ship named the Titan sank in North Atlantic in the month of April. This fictional ship was similar in size to the Titanic, was traveling at the same speed, there were not enough lifeboats for the number of passengers aboard, the ship struck an iceberg, and more than half of the passengers and crew died. Since this was written before the wreck of the Titanic and there are so many similarities between the events related the only reasonable conclusion is that the wreck of the Titanic is nothing more than a well-told retelling of the previous story. Absurd, isn’t it? So is this line of reasoning when applied to the Gospels.

Third, the entire Roman empire would have to be populated by unthinking morons for the apostles to be able to pull of inventing a mythical, nonexistent man and then write and preach about him and his exploits and getting anyone over the age of 6 to believe them.

They were writing while hundreds of eyewitnesses to the events (or lack of them) had happened! While there are non-Biblical documents referencing Jesus from the first century, NONE of them deny that he existed.

Try this as an exercise if you think the argument holds water: Walk into a church, synagogue, bar with regular customers, local grocery store, or any other place with a large number of people who regularly go there. Now, tell them the story of how Christopher Bloomenpuddle walked into that establishment last Sunday at 12:30 and turned a glass of water into beer, healed Jim Smith of Parkinson’s disease, and then proceeded to give away 150 ice cream sandwiches that he pulled out of his back pocket.

How long do you think it will be before the people who actually were present at that location at that time will refute your story?

Anyway, happy Easter – Jesus DID exist, and He is risen indeed!

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Here are some interesting links related to this topic:

A Wikipedia article summarizing the Robertson novel and the similarities between it and the Titanic

This article by Robert and Marilyn Stewart starts out with a concise definition of Mythicism, and then outlines a brief history of the belief and gives refutations of it from many sources.

This is probably the only time you’ll ever see me quote a Reddit thread here, but this one is too good to miss: A parody (I hope) of the Mythicist position “proving” that Abraham Lincoln never existed!