Apologetics

Jesus Christ: Fully Divine, Fully Human, One Person.

Hanegraaff, Hank-Jesus Christ Fully Human Fully Divine

Q: I was talking to a friend about the two natures of Jesus Christ. He was telling me that Christ had a human spirit and a divine spirit. Does Christ have two spirits or just one?

A: Remember that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures—fully man and fully God. What does it mean to be fully man? When a woman gives birth, she gives birth to a body/soul unity. Jesus Christ was fully man. We also recognize from Philippians that He was not divested of a single attribute of deity. So, in the incarnation, while He took on the limitations of humanity, He was fully and completely divine.

How that is communicated, I think, is most safely put in the Creed of Chalcedon or in some of the other biblical creeds, like the Creed of Athanasius. This is important in that the church fathers wanted to codify this in language that’s consistent and correct.

There is a mysterious aspect to it; therefore, the language is important. We recognize even with the language that we don’t fully comprehend it, but this is our apprehension of God’s condescension in the pages of Holy Writ. I think we need to be very careful with the language; therefore, once again, I’ll refer you to the creeds that say,

One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledge in two natures…the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son.1

I don’t know if I can say it any better than that. From a historic Christian standpoint, therefore, we are well served to emulate the language of the creeds in communicating what it means that we have one person with two natures fully God and fully man.

For further related study, please access the following:

Does the Bible Claim Jesus is God? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Did Jesus Claim to be God? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Credentials Back Up Jesus’ Claim to Deity? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is the Incarnation Incoherent? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Deity vs. Humanity A Closer Look at Philippians 2:6-7 (Kristen Forbes)


Notes:

  1. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes, sixth edition, vol. II (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 62

Blog adapted from “Did Christ have two spirits or just one?”

Apologetics

Apostles, Prophets and Aberrant Doctrine

Pivec, Holly-Apostles, Prophets, Aberrant Doctrine

Article: JAF075 | Author: Holly Pivec

A book review of Understanding the Fivefold Ministry by Matthew D. Green, editor (Charisma House, 2005).

This review first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 1 (2007). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

Advocates of the growing, controversial New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement believe that God is raising up modern‐day apostles and prophets to lead the church in the end times. They believe that such apostles and prophets will have great authority, supernatural power, and divine revelation to defeat demonic principalities, convert nations to Christ, and establish God’s kingdom.

A central teaching of the movement, called “fivefold ministry”—based on Ephesians 4:11–13—is that God has given the church five ongoing governmental offices: those of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Two of those offices, apostles and prophets, have been ignored since the first century, according to the movement’s advocates.

This oversight is the subject of Understanding the Fivefold Ministry, edited by Matthew D. Green (an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God denomination and the managing editor of Ministries Today magazine), with a foreword written by Jack W. Hayford (president of the Foursquare Church International and senior editorial adviser to Ministries Today). More than twenty Pentecostal and charismatic leaders contributed chapters to the book, including C. Peter Wagner (former professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and a leader of NAR, Ted Haggard (former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals), and J. Lee Grady (editor of Charisma magazine).

Written for a lay‐level readership, the book has six sections: one on each of the five offices and a final section with a self‐test to help readers find their place in the fivefold ministry. Its purpose, according to Hayford, is to “contribute something of substance” to a subject that he believes has been treated recklessly, with many “apostles” and “prophets” becoming preoccupied with “power and position.” Hayford says he hopes the book will refocus the movement on the “servant leadership” that Jesus, the giver of the five “gifts of leadership,” modeled (foreword, p. xi‐xiii). The book does stress the importance of humility among apostles and prophets, but it fails to make a solid, biblical case for the basic issue of the continuation of those offices.

The Case for Modern Apostles and Prophets. Few Christians will object to its chapters on evangelists, pastors, and teachers, so this review will focus on the chapters on apostles and prophets. Understanding the Fivefold Ministry presents two main arguments for the continuation of these offices.

First, it claims that Scripture gives no indication that these offices will cease. Second, it claims that there are contemporary Christians who have all the characteristics of the New Testament apostles, which Green lists in the first chapter as humility and servanthood, the equipping of others for effective ministry, a dramatic call from God, unique giftedness, signs and wonders, and sound theology.

Grady finds both arguments compelling. In his chapter “Stuck on Titles?” Grady says that the question, “Are there apostles today?” is “dumb…since the Bible never says the ministry of apostles would vanish before Christ’s return, and there are so many gifted people functioning in this vital role today” (193).

It is odd, however, that Grady would call this question “dumb,” when, before this movement’s rise in the 1980s, almost all Protestants viewed the office of apostles as one that belonged to the first century. Wayne Grudem, for example, argues in his book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Crossway, 1988) that the purpose for which Jesus called apostles (to found the church, which included writing Scripture) and the criteria for being an apostle (having seen the resurrected Christ and being appointed by Him) limit the office to the first century. He points to Ephesians 2:20 and Revelation 21:14 as support for the role of apostle as foundational. Grudem, however, allows that the word “apostle” may be used today in a lesser sense, to refer to missionaries and church planters. He argues against a modern office of prophet, contrasting Old Testament prophets—who spoke God’s very words and had tremendous authority—with Christians today who have the gift of prophecy, but do not hold that office and whose words are not authoritative.

Some of the book’s contributors seem to believe that modern apostles and prophets have extraordinary authority. Wagner, for example, does not address the authority of modern apostles and prophets in his chapter, but he does address it in his other books (including some that are recommended in Understanding the Fivefold Ministry). In Churchquake! (Regal Books, 1999), Wagner argues that the authority of the apostles cannot be questioned, even by the pastors or prophets under them. (One may wonder why this controversial teaching—held by many in the movement—is never mentioned in the book.)

Cindy Jacobs (co‐founder of Generals of Intercession, a prayer and spiritual warfare ministry in Colorado Springs, Colorado) argues that prophets have great authority to guide world leaders and nations. She compares modern “prophets,” such as Bill Hamon and Chuck Pierce, to Old Testament prophets, such as Elisha and Daniel (see her chapter in Understanding the Fivefold Ministry, titled “Prophets—A Voice to the Nations”).

Other contributors view modern apostles and prophets in the same lesser sense Grudem describes. Eddie Hyatt (author of 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity), for example, argues that modern prophets can’t prophesy God’s will, as Old Testament prophets did. In his chapter, titled “Putting Personal Prophecy to the Test,” Hyatt says that there is no example in the New Testament of a prophet being sought for guidance. He states, “In the New Testament, the indwelling Holy Spirit is the right and privilege of every believer, making the mediation of a special prophet unnecessary” (60). The purpose of prophecy today is to confirm and encourage—not to mediate or legislate, Hyatt says, citing 1 Corinthians 14:3.

Hyatt also opposes the idea that God is restoring apostolic government. His Web site features an article (available at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/article01.html) that states, “No such order or government is either delineated or prescribed in the New Testament. The New Testament writers, in fact, show very little concern for church offices and organizational structure.”

What the Book Doesn’t Say. One wonders why the book doesn’t clarify that some of its contributors are defining apostles and prophets in very different ways. Without these distinctions, readers may be misled to think that all the contributors are in agreement. Also, much of the aberrant teachings that contributors promote in the book, ironically, can’t be found in the book itself. They are found, rather, in books that the authors recommend for further study at the ends of the chapters.

For example, three different contributors—Jacobs, Green, and Grady—recommend Bill Hamon’s books, including Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God (Destiny Image Publishers 1997). This is troubling, since this book, which has a foreword written by Wagner, teaches that Christians need new doctrinal revelation. Hamon says, “He [Paul] also reveals that this anointing for divine revelation was not just given to the prophets of old but has now been equally given to Christ’s Holy Apostles and Prophets in His Church” (Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, 140). Extrabiblical revelation in Hamon’s book includes the teaching that modern apostles and prophets are going to become so powerful that Christians who come into their presence with sin will be struck dead.

Dismissing Concerns. Despite the book’s silence on these controversial issues, Doug Beacham (executive director of church education ministries for the International Pentecostal Holiness Church) seems to be aware of them. In his chapter, titled “The Leadershift,” Beacham expresses concerns that modern apostles may use their authority to promote “authoritarianism” and that prophets may attempt to give new doctrinal revelation.

In response to Beacham’s concerns, Wagner agrees that preventing apostles from abusing their authority is a challenge. He reassures readers that the International Coalition of Apostles—a network of over 330 apostles led by Wagner—is addressing the issue.

Wagner’s response, however, is inadequate. Are Christians simply to trust that the International Coalition of Apostles will provide its own oversight? Some of these same “apostles” have already abused their positions by teaching that they have great authority and the ability to give new doctrinal revelation.

Wagner also agrees that Beacham’s concern about new doctrinal revelation is legitimate. Wagner says that, in the past, some “prophets” and “apostles” claimed to give revelation that “superceded” Scripture, such as the Book of Mormon. Wagner assures readers, however, that the apostles he knows “would tremble at the thought that new truth that they receive would in any way violate the integrity and the authority of Scripture” (31).

Wagner’s response, nonetheless, sounds hollow, since he currently promotes “apostles” and “prophets” who proclaim new doctrinal revelation. This includes Hamon, whom Wagner elsewhere calls one of his “closest prophetic colleagues” (Changing Church [Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2004], 11).

Final Thoughts. Some contributors, such as Haggard, commendably acknowledge abuses among modern “prophets,” such as proclaiming false prophecies and “explain[ing them] away” (35). Contributor R. T. Kendall (former pastor of Westminster Chapel in London) encourages teachers to promote the written Word over prophetic words. Kendall also urges readers to contend for sound doctrine—the faith “once for all” delivered to the saints, which is refreshing in light of the book’s endorsement of those who promote new doctrinal revelation.

Hayford’s endorsement of the book, likely and unfortunately, will cause many Christians to feel safe accepting the aberrant teachings associated with the NAR movement. It is troubling to see Hayford’s credibility used in this way.

 

Holly Pivec holds an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University and is the managing editor of Biola Connections. She has a blog at spiritoferror.wordpress.com, which examines the apostolic and prophetic movement.

Apologetics

Does the Bible Permit Homosexual Activities?

Hanegraaff, Hank-Homosexuality Parameters

Q: Can you be a practicing homosexual in good standing with God? Was Leviticus 18 really condemning the ritualistic sex done by Baal worshippers? Was not this prohibition really against pagan idolatry as opposed to modern homosexuality?

A: I think the whole passage, Leviticus 18, has to do with unlawful sexual relations and not only talks about homosexual relationships, but also it says “Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it” (Lev. 18:23).* Leviticus 18 is then talking about all kinds of sexual improprieties.

Leviticus 18 is not an isolated passage. If it were, maybe you could try to make the case that you can’t have homosexual relationships in the sense of worshiping at the altar of Baal or something like this; however, the Bible in general warns against these kinds of practices.

If you look at Romans, Romans aptly describes not only the perversion of these kinds of relationships but the penalties that are associated with them. When Paul says, “their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Rom. 1:26-27).

So I think the point is God has set parameters around our lives so that our lives would indeed be full. I don’t think that it takes someone with an advanced degree in physiology to appreciate the fact the human body is not designed for homosexual relationships.

Homosexuality is not an identity it’s a behavior. It’s a behavior that has associated with it all kinds of attendant problems. But, you know, you have to ask yourself the question: How could God have made this point any clearer? There’s not a single unambiguous passage in Scripture that affirms homosexuality, but what you find is the Bible universally condemns it. So the Bible is as clear as it can be on this particular subject.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

Does Homosexuality Demonstrate that the Bible is Antiquated and Irrelevant? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Speaking of Homosexuality: A Christian Response to the Arguments of the Gay Rights Movement (Joe Dallas)

Answering the Gay Christian Position (Joe Dallas)

Is Arsenokoitai Really that Mysterious? Homosexual Sin in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (C. Wayne Mayhall)

Is There a Gay Gene? (Donald F. Calbreath)

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Robert A. J. Gagnon)

The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread The Bible (Joe Dallas)

* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

Blog adapted from “Can you be a Christian and actively practice homosexuality?

Apologetics

Michael Baigent and the Gnostic Tactic: Fantasy Posing as Fact

JAJ033-Michael Baigent and the Gnostic Tactic

Summary Critique: JAJ033 | by Paul Maier

Michael Baigent, The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover‐Up in History (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006). This review first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 1 (2007). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

A cavalcade of books on Jesus have appeared over the past fifty years that claim to give a new and more accurate portrait of Christ, but deliver a crude caricature instead. Jesus shows up as a Passover Plotter (H. Schonfield), a Radical Revolutionary (S. G. F. Brandon), a Mushroom Cultist (J. Allegro), Master Magician (M. Smith), Senescent Savior (D. Joyce), Happy Husband (Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh), Divine Divorcee (B. Thiering), Subversive Sage (J. D. Crossan), and Misrepresented Mortal (D. Brown). After coauthoring Holy Blood, Holy Grail—the principal source for Dan Brown’s notions about Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene—in 1982, and losing his lawsuit against Dan Brown in 2006, Michael Baigent is back. His book The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover‐up in History unveils what might be called “the Surviving Savior.”

Why the Baigent book was published under the category of nonfiction rather than fiction is a mystery to me. Perhaps his publisher, HarperSanFrancisco, anticipated that reviewers would share this concern, since they refused to send out advance review galleys of the book, as is customary.

Sensationalism in these pages is rife from the start. The book jacket blares:

“What if everything we have been told about the origins of Christianity is a lie?”

“What if a small group had always known the truth and had kept it hidden…until now?” “What if there is incontrovertible proof that Jesus survived the crucifixion?”

Except for the last line, these what‐ifs seem so directly lifted out of another book of falsehoods, The Da Vinci Code, that Dan Brown might well consider a reverse lawsuit against Baigent! But he would also lose, since this has been the standard formula for pulp fiction about Jesus ever since the Gnostics invented the genre in the second century A.D. In fact, all of the books with caricatures of Christ that are spawned today on a conspiracy‐happy public merely demonstrate that Gnosticism, the earliest Christian heresy, is alive and well in the twenty‐first century.

Author of the Arcane. Born in New Zealand in 1948, Michael Baigent emigrated to England in 1976, where he received an M.A. in mysticism and religious experience from the University of Kent. In the years since his 1982 best‐seller, Baigent has traveled throughout the Mediterranean world, hobnobbed with antiquities dealers and private collectors, searched excavations and tunnels for lost documents and hidden archives, and zealously pursued his attempts to rewrite the history of Jesus. Even the flap copy of his latest book deems him “a leading expert in the field of arcane knowledge,” which serves as a forewarning of the repackaged Gnosticism that lies at the heart of the book’s thesis.

However preposterous many of his claims, Baigent does hold the reader’s attention as he snakes his way through hidden tunnels and ancient passageways. His descriptions of the historical and cultural settings in the ancient world are largely on‐target. He offers colorful anecdotal material about his research, and no less than fifty‐five color photographs illuminate these pages, although most of them have absolutely nothing to do with the book’s basic theses.

Despite his literary flair, Baigent fails the test of serious scholarship. The book is filled with hypotheses that turn into “facts,” conjectures that reflect creative imagination rather than hard evidence, hearsay in place of primary sources, and sensationalism in place of sense. At times he is honest enough to frame his theories in the form of a question, for example, “Could Jesus have?” or “Might Jesus have?” In the case of one impossible scenario on what Jesus was doing in Egypt, Baigent admits he is “indulging in pure speculation” (p. 265). This should have been the subtitle of the book itself!

Most scholars try to curb their natural biases as much as possible in the interest of conveying the truth. Not so Michael Baigent. Early on, he refers to “the myth about Jesus Christ” (14). He later mentions “the Vatican and its relentless need to protect its fraudulent picture of Christ and Christianity” (88). He states, “Our New Testament gives us a sanitized, censored, and often inverted view of the times” (63), and again, “Certainly the New Testament is bad history. This is impossible to deny. The texts are inconsistent, incomplete, garbled, and biased” (123). Baigent’s formula is obvious: in order to clear the way for his weird (at places grotesque) theories—all of which are opposed by the New Testament’s sober record—he must first blast away the biblical bases. This is the common strategy of all radical revisionists, biblical or secular: attack the opponent’s sources.

“Amazing” Allegations. The basic scenario proposed in The Jesus Papers runs as follows. Jesus spent much of His youth in Egypt (rather than Galilee), where He learned religious mysticism and incorporated it into His teachings. Later, when He changed water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, the event itself was to celebrate His own marriage to Mary Magdalene, whose subsequent leadership in the church is cited in the Gnostic gospel bearing her name. On Good Friday, Jesus survived His own crucifixion, assisted by close friends and in collusion with Pontius Pilate. He was taken down from the cross, still alive, and placed in an empty tomb. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus came by night with medicines, revived Him, and removed Him from the tomb.

Baigent is not dogmatic about what happened next, but speculates that Jesus and His wife went to Egypt, where they settled in or around the Temple of Onias, some twenty miles from today’s Cairo. Troubles that arose there around A.D. 38 caused Jesus and Mary to go perhaps to Narbonne in southern France, where some other Jewish families claimed Davidic descent.

These wild claims have not a spark of supporting evidence. Let us dismantle them one by one. For years, imaginative authors have had young Jesus saddled with a case of wanderlust and traveling everywhere from Egypt to India, without a shred of evidence, when in fact, He grew up in Galilee. Later, at Cana, Jesus and His disciples were specifically invited to the wedding feast (John 2:2), a verb hardly used for one’s own wedding! There is not a scintilla of evidence in any ancient (even Gnostic!) source that Jesus married anyone, let alone Mary Magdalene. Jesus would have been a perfect example for St. Paul to include in 1 Corinthians 9:5, where he lists Peter and others who are in the marital category, but Jesus clearly is not listed. Furthermore, on Good Friday, how could Jesus provide for His mother Mary, but fail to do so for his wife, if that’s what Mary Magdalene was, when she too was standing at the foot of the cross? Mary Magdalene obviously was no “Mrs. Jesus.”

Pontius Pilate never could have been involved in any plot to save Jesus after publicly condemning Him to the cross. Such a scheme would have been far too dangerous politically for any Roman governor, especially one who already had a record of turbulence with his Jewish subjects, as did Pilate; moreover, he had no motive for doing this, despite Baigent’s unconvincing efforts to find one.

Finally, that Jesus truly died is beyond debate. The Romans were deadly efficient at crucifixions, and victims did not escape by feigning death or indulging in charade. The pike piercing Jesus’ heart area was the executioners’ final gesture to make doubly sure of His death.

One wonders if Baigent is not using the fanciful events and locations he conjures up for Jesus as an excuse to take the reader on long deviations from any serious presentation on his alternate Jesus. Endless pages are devoted to a travelogue of the author’s explorations in Africa, Israel, and Italy, meeting mysterious people, climbing mountains, or spelunking through caverns and tunnels without Jesus once being mentioned. The truest statement in the entire book comes after a long section that has nothing to do with Jesus: “These matters may seem far too arcane to have any relevance whatsoever to our story, which, after all, concerns Jesus and the source of his teaching” (208).

A Catalogue of Errors. The listing that follows should not be regarded as nitpicking on the part of a jaundiced reviewer, but rather as a sad commentary on Baigent’s sloppy scholarship and his publisher’s editorial failures. Baigent claims that the following italicized statements are true:

The first‐century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus “defected to the Roman side” during the Great Jewish War with Rome, committing “treachery against his own people” (34). In reality, however, Josephus was a commander of Jewish forces in Galilee and fought against the Romans until captured by them; he did not defect, and was not a traitor.

In A.D. 68, “Nero was murdered. After him, two emperors came and went in quick succession” (49). In fact, however, Nero committed suicide, with the assistance of a faithful servant, and it was not two but three emperors who quickly succeeded Nero: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius.

“So far as can be ascertained, the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias took place in A.D. 35. Hence John the Baptist was executed in A.D. 35. So Jesus must still have been alive at this date” (52). He certainly was, as the resurrected Lord, but the rest of this chronology is as much as six years in error, and is shared by no knowledgeable scholar on earth.

Constantine, the first Christian emperor “was only converted to Christianity himself on his deathbed” (88). This is totally false! Constantine was a proven (though controversial) Christian for more than 25 years before his death. He was baptized on his deathbed, but only because people in those days had the strange idea that, since baptism wiped people’s slates clean of sin, people should do all of their sinning ahead of time, and only then receive baptism so that they could go to heaven with a clean passport!

“We can be certain of only one thing: wherever it was that Jesus lived [during His ‘silent years’ as a youth], it could not have been in Israel” (133). All evidence supports the fact that young Jesus grew up in Galilee (Israel), and nowhere else.

“Unfortunately, there is no evidence whatsoever that Nazareth even existed in Jesus’s day” (134). Aside from the obvious references to Nazareth in the Gospels, archaeologists at Caesarea recently discovered a list of first‐century synagogues, including one in Nazareth.

“…the death of the famous Cleopatra in 60 B.C.” (141). Cleopatra instead died in 30 B.C.

The “Gospel of Mary of Magdala…like the Gospel of Thomas…has as much claim to validity as the Gospels in the New Testament” (241). This statement is an outrage. All apocryphal, Gnostic writings such as these were authored later than were the New Testament Gospels, are derivative of the true Gospels, are not eyewitness documents, have false authorship attached to them, and contain grotesque addenda that are incompatible with Christianity. The Gospel of Thomas, for example, claims that women will not inherit the Kingdom of God!

The Dead Sea Scrolls are virtually “early Christian documents” (262). In actuality, no relationship to Christianity is contained in them.

“The Dead Sea Scroll materials…reveal a long hidden reality, embarrassing to both Judaism and Christianity, a reality that had long been manipulated by a small group of scholars” (247). Now that all Scroll texts have been made available to the worldwide scholarly community, this tired old calumny can be put to the rest it so richly deserves.

Such disregard for factual truth on the part of both author and publisher is more than evident in this abbreviated listing. This is not to say that all of Baigent’s stinging criticisms of Christianity are unwarranted. For parts of church history, particularly the medieval period, they are justified indeed, as church historians long have admitted.

The “Jesus Papers”? But whence the title of this book? The author reserves that surprise for a concluding chapter. Baigent claims to have learned from an unnamed Israeli friend, during one of Baigent’s many trips to Israel, about two papyrus documents in Aramaic that the friend said he had discovered in the early 1960s while excavating the cellar of a house he had bought in the Old City of Jerusalem. The house was in the area where the temple was situated in early Christian times.

The documents were two letters to the Jewish Sanhedrin written by someone who called himself bani meshiha – “the Messiah of the Children [of Israel?]” (a designation that does not appear in the New Testament Gospels). The writer seemed to be defending himself against a charge that he had claimed to be “son of God.” In the first letter, the writer said that he did not mean to suggest he was “God,” but that the “Spirit of God” was upon him, and that he was an adopted “son of God” in a spiritual sense. Baigent does not tell us what the second letter purportedly contained.

As Baigent proceeds with his story, it becomes even more sensational: when archaeologists Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad supposedly confirmed the authenticity of these documents, Pope John XXIII allegedly asked that they be destroyed. Baigent’s friend refused to do this, but promised not to release them for 25 years. After that quarter‐century had long expired, the friend told Baigent that releasing the documents would only create problems between the Vatican and Israel, and inflame anti‐Semitism. He did, however, purportedly show Baigent the two documents, both about 9 x 18 inches large and framed under glass.

I do not intend to impugn Baigent’s basic honesty; however, this seems to be part of the same song sung throughout the book. Every time some apparently important documents that could help prove Baigent’s theses appear, they are never either quoted for the reader or supplied to the scholarly world so that it could gauge their possible authenticity. The personalities involved are unnamed or they disappear into the thin air of the past, as do the documents themselves, leaving only the author’s hopes that they might be revealed in the future.

However “sensational,” then, I am totally unimpressed by these “Jesus papers.” The one message cited doesn’t at all sound like Jesus—He was never deferent to the Sanhedrin in this manner. The language instead sounds exactly like a liberal New Testament critic explaining “the son of God” designation today. In a city such as Jerusalem that seems to mushroom with forgeries, this appears to be more of the same, if the alleged documents even exist.

Baigent suitably summarizes the religious mysticism that he imposes on Jesus throughout (which Jesus supposedly learned in Egypt) in his explanation of Jesus’ statement, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Baigent comments, “And how does one travel within? This much we know: by entering the silence. Jesus has returned us to the concept of incubation and the still, dark, silent underground crypts and caves where a seeker can be initiated into the world where the dead live—the Far‐World“ (228).

This, of course, is Michael Baigent at his purely autobiographical best. It is not Jesus of Nazareth.

Christianity rests on fact, not on fantasy, but Gnostic writers, now just as then, remain eager to superimpose their own image and fantasies onto the facts of history. The Jesus Papers is a prime example.


Paul L. Maier is the Seibert professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and a best-selling author of books that correlate sacred and secular sources on Christianity. He also wrote, with Hank Hanegraaff, The DaVinci Code—Fact or Fiction? (Tyndale House).

Apologetics

When is it Proper to Tell Mormons the Truth?

JAM200-Mormon Tell Truth

Review: JAM200 | by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

Book review: David L. Rowe, I Love Mormons: A New Way to Share Christ with Latter‐day Saints (Baker Books, 2005). This review first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 6 (2006). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

David L. Rowe, a professor at Salt Lake Theological Seminary and a Utah resident since 1975, has pooled his ministry experiences into a “how to” manual for Christians who are interested in sharing their faith with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints (LDS, Mormons). Rowe describes Mormons as having “their own culture, lingo, and worldview” (back cover).

There are positive aspects to I Love Mormons. The catchy title may prove to be a stumbling block, however, at least for some readers. Many Latter‐day Saints, after all, dislike being called “Mormons” and often complain that this term is only a nickname. The book’s subtitle, A New Way to Share Christ with Latter‐day Saints, may be problematic as well because many Latter‐day Saints think Christ already is the central figure of their religion. The subtitle also might be puzzling to Christians who have been witnessing to Mormons long before this book was published. Rowe’s “new” evangelism model centers on creating relationships with Mormons, which appears to be simply an offshoot of the “friendship evangelism” model that was popularized several decades ago. Is the subtitle implying that Christians who use the “old” model have failed to share their faith with Mormons? Or is it implying that those who use tactics other than relational evangelism hate Mormons, or that they have failed to “learn and respect LDS culture,” as the back cover puts it?

Rowe’s main point in the book is that Christians should avoid the “traditional way” of evangelism, which utilizes what he calls a “warrior saint” approach that uses “jousting games,” because it results in the three‐part sequence of “‘discussion,’ recoil, and shutdown” (17). He seems to jab mainly at the few vocal Christian street preachers who frequent Salt Lake City during the LDS Church’s general conferences, which are held twice a year. He wonders if these “wannabe zealots” may be exhibiting “unharnessed anger hurling imagined God‐bombs at people with a smug pride” (129). He adds, “Generally, ‘Bible bash’ evangelism with its heresy‐hunting rationalism simply squashes the life out of relationships and builds walls, not bridges” (154).

The impression Rowe gives, however, is that anyone who uses tracts or any other “confrontational” methods is not evangelizing using the recommended “wiser, gentler” tactic. If Rowe is merely trying to highlight the fact that Christians can be insensitive by cramming Bible verses down a Mormon’s throat and using inappropriate tactics, then we are in full agreement. Rowe does a disservice, however, to many Christians who practice bolder evangelistic methods while simultaneously exhibit‐ ing a sweeter spirit than those to whom he specifically refers.

Rowe states that Christians generally should not initiate theological discussions with Mormons, but he does not mean that we should not discuss doctrine. In fact, Rowe wants to hammer home” the idea that Christians “need to prayerfully seek and sensitively seize the doors of opportunity God grants us in which our theological knowledge truly counts” (68). We agree wholeheartedly; but there are occasions when there is not enough time to develop long‐lasting relationships, such as when sitting next to someone on a plane or talking to a clerk in a store. Do we set aside our sense of urgency to share important biblical truths merely because we do not have a relationship with the person? The mistaken message Rowe conveys—whether intentionally or unintentionally—is that successful evangelism can take place only after years of friendship.

Culture vs. Cult. One of the more controversial emphases in I Love Mormons is that Mormonism is a culture rather than a cult. Rowe practically apologizes for having his book listed under the category of “cults” that is printed above the barcode on the back cover. He writes, “As an author I have no control over this practice and the institutional bias that drives it. I’m arguing it’s high time we rethink this bias” (29).

This is where we have our sharpest disagreement with Rowe: Mormonism certainly has its own cultural characteristics, but this does not diminish the fact that Mormonism has characteristics that historically have warranted categorizing it as a cult. This designation historically has been applied to groups that insist that they truly represent Christianity while they deny or distort the basic biblical tenets that historically have defined Christianity. We should not intentionally use the designation “cult” as a pejorative, but it does apply to modern‐day Mormonism.

It may surprise some to know that LDS leaders have used this label to describe other groups. For instance, 10th LDS president Joseph Fielding Smith used it to refer to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints (later changed to the Community of Christ) based in Independence, Missouri (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:284). Twelfth president Spencer W. Kimball described fundamentalist polygamists as cultists (Conference Report, October 1974, 5). Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie even went so far as to say that all Trinitarian Christians had a “false system of worship” with “a false Christ” and were therefore “a false church” and “a false cult” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, 48).

For years the word cult has clearly marked the boundary between orthodox and unorthodox groups. It has served as a warning sign to those who may not understand the sometimes confusing doctrines and ideologies of certain groups. Does it really serve the general public, or the Christian church for that matter, to insist that the designation does not apply to the LDS Church just because it might offend someone?

Is Mormonism Changing? Rowe believes that the LDS Church is moving “away from the unorthodox, radically Mormon claims we do not find in the Bible” (166). He insists that the “subject matter of these changes is not just trivial but deals with central, crucial teachings of the LDS Church.” To bolster his point, he compares the 1978 edition of the LDS Church manual Gospel Principles with the more current 1992 and 1997 editions. Rowe correctly notes that the rhetoric on doctrines such as the potential for men to become gods has been toned down.

We would like to share Rowe’s enthusiasm over these changes, but we cannot over‐ look the fact that Gospel Principles is a basic overview of LDS teachings that is used to instruct new converts and those who are investigating the church. The LDS Church often prints this manual in a new language even before they translate the complete set of the LDS standard into that particular language. It is meant to be an introduction to the Mormon faith, so it is not surprising that the LDS Church might deemphasize or even omit doctrines from the manual that might unnecessarily alarm potential converts. Church manuals meant primarily for the instruction of LDS members, on the other hand, fail to demonstrate a departure from Mormonism’s historically heretical positions.

For example, the idea that men may become gods still can be found in the Doctrines of the Gospel, Student Manual: Religion 430 and 431 (which carries a 2004 copyright date). The student manual cites President Spencer Kimball: “Man can transform himself and he must. Man has in himself the seeds of godhood, which can germinate and grow and develop. As the acorn becomes the oak, the mortal man becomes a god. It is within his power to lift himself by his very bootstraps from the plane on which he finds himself to the plane on which he should be. It may be a long, hard lift with many obstacles, but it is a real possibility” (52) (from The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 28).

We would love to see the LDS Church leadership cease promoting heretical teachings, but the evidence from LDS conference speeches and church manuals is not encouraging. Just because a doctrine is not being emphasized fully does not mean it is being denounced.

Shared Concern. Despite our disagreements with I Love Mormons, we do believe that Rowe has a genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of the LDS people. His understanding of the Mormon mindset and the LDS belief system is, for the most part, accurate. Readers who plan to move to Utah or who have LDS friends or relatives certainly will benefit from Rowe’s personal experience of living among the LDS people.

It is unfortunate that the book comes across as offering the only legitimate method to evangelize Mormons. Christians, of course, should treat Mormons respectfully, but we should never think that friendship, apart from the truth of the Word, will convert anybody. Despite its many good points, I Love Mormons seems to be too cautious in this department. We personally know far too many ex‐Mormons who, after being confronted with the doctrinal errors of Mormonism, became Christians because someone who barely knew them spent the time and effort to share the truth in love. Different people and different circumstances sometimes demand different methods of sharing God’s love with the lost.


Bill McKeever lives in Utah and is the founding director at Mormonism Research Ministry (MRM). Eric Johnson is an associate at MRM and teaches high school, college, and seminary classes in Southern California. Together they wrote Mormonism 101 (Baker, 2000).

Apologetics

Job and the Power of Satan

Hanegraaff, Hank-Job and the Power of Satan

Q: Does the Devil have creative powers? Does the enemy Satan have no powers to cause infirmities and the like? Yet in the Book of Job it seems like Satan has the power to cause storms or cause armies to go out and kill people, can you help me on this?

A: I think, first of all, that it is Satan inciting God. “Though you incited me against him,” against Job, “to ruin him without any reason” (Job 2:3)* is the retort of God when Satan appears again in chapter 2. This is by the power of God.

Certainly Satan can take the Sabeans or the Chaldeans and tempt them. We are well aware that Satan has the power to sit on our shoulders, whisper into our ears and tempt us to do all kinds of things. It is not the physical ear, but the ear of the mind. There is mind to mind communication that takes place. We do not know how that works anymore that we can explain how the mind can cause the physical synapses of the brain to fire; however, it is biblically incontrovertible that temptation through mind to mind communication takes place.

What’s going on here in the Book of Job is that God is permitting Satan to do what he’s doing.

Only God has creative power, and that’s why when the resurrection of Jesus Christ took place, the Lord was able to say, “a spirit does not have flesh and bone as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). If Satan had creative power, he could have masqueraded as a flesh and bone substitute for the resurrected Christ. (If that is true about Satan, we would lose epistemic warrant for the central truth of Christianity.)

God can use Satan as His agent, but God is always the author. As I said so often, Satan is a lion on a leash the length of which is always determined by our Lord

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

 Does Satan Have Access to Our Minds? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Satan Always the Cause of Sickness? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Armor (Hank Hanegraaff)

Spiritual Warfare—God’s Way (Elliot Miller)

The Covering by Hank Hanegraaff

Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

This blog adapted from “How much power did Satan have in the book of Job?

Apologetics, In the News

Unproven Assumptions with the Story about the Universe Teeming with Life

Hanegraaff-Hank-Universe-Teaming-with-Life-Story

I wrote the forward to Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design by Thomas Woodward. In the forward, I point out that it was Thomas Kuhn, who was the philosopher of science that popularized the concept of paradigms. A paradigm is a way of seeing reality. What Kuhn showed is that dominant paradigms, prevailing metanarratives, or master stories, appear to possess infallibility in their fields. The difficulty whether for scientist, philosophers, theologians or laypeople is that we do not think about our paradigms nearly as much as we think with our paradigms. In subtle, powerful, and almost always unconscious ways our paradigms filter and frame our perceptions, and that ends up blinding us to disconfirming data.

Imagine in this context the audacity of Michael Denton, who was the founder of what became known as the Intelligent Design Movement. He dared to attack Darwinian dogma as an empirically empty shell propped up by the sociological forces of a paradigm. The reality is this: neither pf the two fundamental axioms of Charles Darwin’s macroevolutionary theory—the concept of the continuity of nature and the belief that all of the adaptive design of life has resulted from a blind random process—neither have been validated by one single empirical discovery since 1859, the time of Darwin.

I say all of that because I was reading a guest blog in Scientific American. It was titled “Maybe Life in the Cosmos is Rare After All.” It got my attention because the narrative you read not only in academic journals but also in popular media is that life is teeming in the cosmos. But this piece written by Paul Davies, a theoretical physicists at Arizona State University, specializing in applied quantum physics, astrophysics, cosmology, and astrobiology, points out as the title of the article indicates that maybe life in the cosmos is rare after all. The conclusion being that the universe is teeming with biology only on the basis of theory and unproven assumptions. He is an agnostic, concerning the existence of God, he has no qualms whatsoever about Darwinian Evolution, once life begins, but he’s questioning how life can begin in the first place. He thinks that is a significant obstacle. He writes,

When I was a student in the 1960s almost all scientists believed we are alone in the universe. The search for intelligent life beyond Earth was ridiculed; one might as well have professed an interest in looking for fairies. The focus of skepticism concerned the origin of life, which was widely assumed to have been a chemical fluke of such incredibly low probability it would never have happened twice. “The origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle,” was the way Francis Crick described it, “so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” Jacques Monod concurred; in his 1976 book Chance and Necessity he wrote, “Man knows at last that he is alone in the indifferent immensity of the universe, whence which he has emerged by chance.”

Today the pendulum has swung decisively the other way. Many distinguished scientists proclaim that the universe is teeming with life, at least some of it intelligent. The biologist Christian de Duve went so far as to call life “a cosmic imperative.” Yet the science has hardly changed. We are almost as much in the dark today about the pathway from non-life to life as Darwin was when he wrote, “It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter.”

A common argument is that the universe is so vast that there just has to be life out there somewhere. But that argument is dwarfed by the odds against forming even simple organic molecules by random chance alone. “If the pathway from chemistry to biology is long and complicated it may well be less than one-in a trillion trillion planets ever spawns life,” thus concludes theoretical physicists Paul Davies, “If life really does pop up readily, as [Carl] Sagan suggested, then it should have started many times on our home planet” and “It would take the discovery of just a single “alien” microbe to settle the matter.” But, we don’t have that.

I salute Scientific American for publishing this guest blog by Paul Davies. It’s honest, forthright, and really calls into question the evolutionary paradigm. That’s one of the reasons we offer Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design because Intelligent Design as a movement wants truth to lead wherever it will.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please consider the following:

Ten Urgent Questions and Answers about Origins (Hank Hanegraaff)

JAF9351 – Would Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Spell Doom for Christianity? (Guillermo Gonzalez)

Thinking Clearly About God and Evolution (Jay Richards)

Objections Overruled: Responding to the Top Ten Objections against Intelligent Design (William A. Dembski & Sean McDowell)

Unlocking the DNA Enigma (Stephen C. Meyer)

Darwin’s Doubt and the Case for Intelligent Design (Stephen C. Meyer)

God and the “Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics” (William Lane Craig)

See also these recommended e-store items:

The Creation Answer Book (Hank Hanegraaff)

Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (Stephen C. Meyer)

Darwin’s Dilemma DVD (Illustra Media)

The Privileged Planet DVD (Illustra Media)

Unlocking The Mystery Of Life DVD (Illustra Media)

Icons of Evolution DVD (Illustra Media)

This blog was adapted from Hank Hanegraaff’s monologue on the May 27, 2016 edition of the Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Does God Speak to Us Through License Plates?

Does God Speak to Us Through License Plates

Q: I believe here that God speaks to you in many different ways. Now, recently I’ve been driving, and I’ve been asking God to speak to me, but somehow I’m drawn to the license plates of the cars that are in front of me…One day I was in the car, I was praying to God. I was like, “You know God, I really want my husband to be restored and I want him to be saved,” when I see a license plate that said, B-R-S, which I took it as “Believe in Restoration and Salvation.” Now is this just my mind?

A: Yes. It is your mind.

What you want to do is not look for God’s message on license plates, but rather to listen to God as He speaks to you though His Word. He gave us His Word and He gave us His words in the Bible. So what you want to do is not use subjective experiences as your guide, but rather use the objective Word of God as your guide.

There is no promise in Scripture that a marriage is going to be restored but there is a promise that if you live faithfully, you are going to follow a faithful God who ultimately will restore the years the locust have eaten. Ultimately God will give you complete satisfaction in His presence here and now. Although it’s not a panacea, He’ll give you peace in the midst of the storm. One day He’ll give you total peace in eternity.

Your goal is not to look for mystical meanings in license plates but to understand the Word of God, the precious 66 love letters that God has written to you etched in heavenly hand writing. Get to know the foundation of your faith in His Word and when you do all the pieces will fit together.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Adapted from Can God Speak to us Through License Plates?

Apologetics

About America Going to Pot

Hanegraaff, Hank-America Going to Pot

America’s downward spiral is nothing short of breath taking. Think of the popularization of “the pill,” i.e. birth control medications, in the 1960s, it had ramifications. It ended up paving the way to the horror of Roe v. Wade in the 1970s. Now we can think of the implications of that today—60 million lives is the number that comes to mind. Then acceptance of same-sex sexuality in the 20th century has mutated into legalization of same-sex marriage in the 21st century. Ideas have consequences. Today as I speak the legalization of medical marijuana in many, many different states has morphed into legalization of recreational marijuana in many other states as well, like Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. I think there are very good reasons to reject the reefer culture

Put it plainly, when smoking or eating pot there is simply no objective way to control dosages of the psycho-active-chemical that’s inherent in marijuana. What people do, by in large, is partake until they achieve a subjective sense of “high,” the danger of course being that feel is hardly real.

There is another issue that I want to bring to your attention, which is the psychological problems that have been well documented, problems like diminished cognitive function, memory impairment, psychotic episodes, and sleep deprivation. The physical maladies can range from cardio-vascular disease to detectable alterations in the structure and chemistry of the brain. That’s not just blowing smoke. The reason I bring that up is because The University of Western Australia News reports that scientist have identified how using cannabis can actually altar a person’s DNA structure causing mutations which can expose users to serious illness and not only that but be passed on to their children and future generations. Think about those implications.

The research of associate Professor Stuart Reece and Professor Gary Hulse from the University of Western Australia’s School of Psychiatry and Clinical Sciences “completed an extensive analysis of literary and research material to understand the likely causes and uncovered alarming information.” Reece indicates, “Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA.” The researchers also found that “Although a person may appear to be healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also be passed on to their children and cause illnesses for several generations to come.”

Think about the fact that “even if a mother,” as this research shows, ““has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father’s sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,” and “mutations…can lie dormant” and as I said, “affect generations down the track.” This is an alarming consequence.

Marijuana use has serious implications for fetal development, you don’t know what is going to happen in the future, and yet we are legalizing marijuana not only just for medical use—there may be some warrant for medical use in controlled environments—but there is certainly no good reason for anyone thinking clearly to suggest that eating or smoking pot is like having a glass of wine. It is not. Research is just starting to open Pandora’s Box. There are some grizzly consequences in that box. Just because it is becoming legalized in America, don’t fall for it, there are all kinds of wacky things that are being mandated by law and by edicts in our country today that are severely detrimental. In some sense we can say if we don’t watch it America will not just be going to pot, but will have gone to pot.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resource:

What Should Christians Do As America Goes to Pot?” by Elliot Miller

Other recommended readings include:

“Is America going to P-O-T?” by Hank Hanegraaff in The Complete Bible Answer Book: Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated.

“Medical Marijuana: Miracle Drug or Spiritual Poison?” by Richard Poupard in 37-5 of the Christian Research Journal.

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Why Science Can’t Explain Morality

Copan, Paul-Naturalism Ground Genine Moral

Review: JAS275 | By Paul Copan

This review first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 6 (2006). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, is a best‐selling author whose books include Why People Believe Weird Things and How We Believe. The Science of Good and Evil (Henry Holt and Company, 2004) is yet another engagingly written book by this former “born‐again Christian” and “born‐again atheist” who currently holds the view of “agnostic nontheist” (p. 3). He believes that, “by the criteria of science and reason,” God is an “unknowable concept” (4). After all, we cannot “prove or disprove God’s existence,” says Shermer, although he is open to some proof of the divine materializing in the future (p. 5).

Shermer distinguishes between morality, which “involves issues of right and wrong thought and behavior,” and ethics, which “involves the study of right and wrong thought and behavior” (7). The first half of his book covers “The Origin of Morality,” and the second half covers “A Science of Provisional Ethics.” Shermer believes that religion evolved as a social structure to reinforce rules regarding altruism and cooperation. Instead of accepting supernaturalism, Shermer opts for an evolutionary basis for connecting God, religion, and morality. He thus approaches evolutionary ethics (a subdivision of evolutionary psychology) in a “scientific” manner, drawing on anthropology, sociology, social psychology, and evolutionary biology.

Taking the position of a “transcendent empiricist” (19), Shermer claims that he can (a) “leave God out of the ethical discussion altogether” and, in order to avoid pure relativism or culturally determined ethics, (b) “adopt the methodological naturalism of science” (17). Morality, he claims, exists “outside of us”; it is a universal human trait (18). The impersonal force of evolution created our moral sentiments and behaviors, even though we may fine‐tune and tweak them according to our cultural preferences and historical circumstances (18–19). The existence of morality, according to Shermer, is not the result of religious influence, although religion creates social institutions that canonize and reinforce moral principles. Evolution generates moral sentiments, and culture (including religion) helps codify these principles into societal rules.

Shermer argues that moral rules are not absolute (i.e., they do not apply to all people in all cultures under all circumstances all of the time), but that they are not relative either. They are provisionally true (i.e., they apply to “most people in most cultures in most circumstances most of the time” (20–21) and operate according to various provisional moral principles (which I will discuss below).

Shermer preserves a place for human freedom and moral responsibility despite evolution (19–22), and appeals to scientific evidence to bolster his claims. He explores such issues as the myth of the noble savage in light of warfare and hostility as well as ecocide among primitive civilizations (ch. 3).

The following will summarize some of Shermer’s key points. More important, it will address some of the most philosophically and apologetically significant problems in his work.

The Problem of Moving from Is to Ought. Shermer holds that somehow we are morally obligated to act according to drives that have been genetically passed down to us, which create certain moral feelings within us and are reinforced by group pressure (56–57). To ask “Why should we be moral?” is like asking “Why should we be hungry or horny?” Shermer insists that “the answer is that it is as much a part of human nature to be moral as it is to be hungry, horny, jealous, and in love” (57). If so, then all Shermer can do is describe how human beings actually function, but he can’t prescribe how humans ought to behave. There’s no difference between whether I ought to be moral and whether I ought to be hungry since both are functions of evolutionary hard‐wiring. These states just are. Naturalism ultimately can give us a description of human behavior and psychology, but it can’t ground genuine moral obligation. Moral obligations in a world of naturalistic scientific descriptions are odd indeed. They fit quite nicely into a theistic world, however.

Furthermore, Shermer’s belief that human persons are self‐aware, reasoning, morally responsible agents who possess free will and human rights actually is better explained against the backdrop of a supremely self‐aware, rational, good, free, personal Being (who made us in His image) than that of a nonconscious, nonrational, valueless, deterministic series of material causes and effects.

The Problem of Knowing vs. Being. Shermer asserts throughout his book that “morality need not be the exclusive domain of religion” (64). Shermer approvingly cites biographer Jared Diamond, who says, in light of three decades of research in New Guinea, that he has “never heard any invocation of a god or spirit to justify how people should behave toward others” (36). Shermer devotes chapter 5 to the question, “Can We Be Good without God?” He claims that most believers think people cannot lead moral lives “without recourse to a transcendent being” or construct ethical systems “without religion” (149), but that, regardless of a person’s religious views (or lack thereof), “certain moral principles hold” (156).

One section reveals Shermer’s confusion here. He asks, “What would you do if there were no God?” (154); would you rape or murder or rob? Without God, however, this is a meaningless question, for there would be no rights‐bearing, intrinsically valuable, morally responsible humans. How could blind, valueless processes produce such beings? Shermer wrongly thinks he can rest content in knowing moral truths concerning human rights and obligations (i.e., in the realm of epistemology) and yet ignore the basis for those truths (i.e., the realm of metaphysics). Theism, on the other hand, acknowledges that metaphysical basis, which gracefully transfers from a supremely valuable Creator to His valuable human creatures who have dignity and rights. Thoughtful theists agree that people can know and live by objective moral values even if they do not believe in God or have the Bible. This is so because theists and nontheists alike are made in God’s image.

The Problem of Freedom and Responsibility vs. Determinism. In chapter 4, Shermer points out that there are varying degrees of guilt; morality is not black‐and‐white. He devotes a good deal of space to John Hinckley, who, in order to get the attention of film star Jodie Foster (his obsession) tried to assassinate former president Ronald Reagan. Hinckley’s actions involved a combination of free will alongside factors that were beyond his control—namely, severe mental disorders.

If we are the products of evolutionary forces, then, how did moral freedom and responsibility emerge? Shermer claims that sometime during the Paleolithic period, humans shifted from being under “mostly biological control to mostly cultural control” (47). He observes that “it is obvious that there are necessitating forces at work in history,” and “it is equally obvious that contingencies push and direct historical sequences” (136). Shermer matter‐of‐factly asserts, “We can make a difference. Our actions matter” (137). He believes that the contingencies and necessities of atoms moving about in space suggest a “helpful analogy” (136) for deterministic evolutionary forces and free human actions as they shape the course of morality.

The more pressing matter, however, given the radically different natures of mindless atoms and human agents (which make for a very unhelpful analogy) and given our supposed materialistic, deterministic origins, is how free will or moral freedom emerged. How did thinking, conscious beings emerge from mindless, nonconscious processes?

Naturalists such as Jaegwon Kim, Colin McGinn, and Ned Block admit that they are baffled that consciousness exists at all. Beyond this, many naturalists simply deny free will precisely because science has no place for personal agency. New York University philosopher Thomas Nagel believes there is “no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements”; naturalism strongly suggests that we are “helpless” and “not responsible” for our actions.1 Atheist John Searle admits that we have intuitions of free will, but says free will itself does not exist, since it interferes with the “scientific” idea of “the causal order of nature.”2

Shermer, therefore, cannot simply assert that free will is possible because of contingency and necessity in nature, because the metaphysical context of his view suggests otherwise. Theism, on the other hand, which posits that we have been created by a free, personal Being, offers an excellent context for affirming free will and moral responsibility.

The Problem of Absolute vs. Provisional Morality. Shermer defines “absolute” morality as an inflexible set of rules for right and wrong thought and behavior derived from a social group’s canon of ethics (158), which he believes leads to people establishing themselves as the final arbiters of truth and morality. (Shermer offers many negative examples of popular religious extremism, but he ignores the more nuanced, thoughtful, and reflective voices within the Christian community.) “Relative” morality is a set of moral rules that is defined by a social group and is dependent on situation and culture (161). Shermer advocates a “provisional” morality or ethic (which he believes is analogous to scientific facts), to which we can offer “provisional assent” and aim to do the best we can (167), since “absolute morality” cannot be lived out in the real world. There are, nonetheless, “absolute” morals: it always is wrong to torture babies for fun, to abuse children, and to rape. I doubt that Shermer really thinks that these are provisional.

In chapter 7, Shermer elaborates on four principles or higher moral values of provisional morality: (1) The ask‐first principle: to find out if an action is right or wrong, ask first (e.g., asking your spouse if it is okay to commit adultery likely will elicit a firm negative response). (2) The happiness principle: seek happiness with others in mind, never pursuing happiness for yourself when it leads to unhappiness for another. (3) The liberty principle: seek liberty with others in mind, never pursuing liberty for yourself when it leads to loss of liberty for another. (4) The moderation principle: avoid extremism and promote moderation.

The Problem of Misunderstanding Theistic Ethics. Shermer points out the difficulties in biblical ethics, particularly in the Old Testament (e.g., 36–40, 182–85), but he does not appear to appreciate the nuances and historical/ theological contexts that bear on reasonable solutions to these difficulties (see the writings of Christopher Wright, Gordon Wenham, and Walter Kaiser for such solutions). Shermer believes, for example, that not all killing (murder, manslaughter, slaying in self‐defense) is the same, but fails to realize that believers can agree with him in this.

He also considers it morally permissible to deceive Nazi soldiers in order to protect innocent Jews, but does not seem to understand that Christians find this permissible as well. Scripture permits deception under certain conditions; for example, in warfare (e.g., 2 Chron. 20:22, where God Himself sets ambushes) and when there is criminal activity or innocent life is endangered, such as when the God‐fearing Hebrew midwives deceived Pharaoh (Exod. 1) or when Rahab hid the spies and deceived the authorities (Josh. 2) or when God Himself gave Samuel a deceptive excuse against the capricious Saul (1 Sam. 16:1–2). Most Christians, as well, have no problem turning on houselights at night when they go out for dinner!

Theistic ethicists, moreover, often allude to the existence of prima facie duties; that is, they believe that certain moral obligations self‐evidently supersede other moral obligations, and that one should fulfill lesser moral duties (e.g., never to deceive) as long as they do not conflict with greater moral duties (e.g., to save innocent life). In instances where one must choose, say, between deception and saving a life, then deception is permissible. Another area Shermer discusses is abortion. Here, again, he dislikes the either/or, binary thinking of the absolutists. He says the matter of “when a fetus becomes a human” is “difficult to resolve” (203). Science is very straightforward on this matter, however; the fetus is always human. Shermer makes the mistake of assuming that human functions (e.g., brain activity, thinking, and self‐awareness) are more fundamental than human nature. Humans, however, do not lose their value when they are asleep or unconscious. Our functions do not make us what we are; our nature does.

Shermer further supports the preferences of women over those of the unborn, because women can voice their preferences; the unborn cannot (207). He ironically points out that when it comes to rights of animals, even though chimps cannot speak, we can observe their nonverbal communication when they are placed in cages —“they are none too pleased about such arrangements” (221). Ultrasounds of unborn infants being aborted, however, reveal their fierce resistance to invading lethal instruments; these voiceless humans—I write this with deep sadness—“are none too pleased” about their pain. Finally, why should Shermer pit mother against unborn and support only the former? If the unborn are human, he should support them as well. Is it not a mark of virtue to care for all those who cannot care for themselves?

Shermer goes on to fault Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., for their “morally ineffective, even dangerous” turn‐the‐other‐cheek ethic because they paid for their beliefs with their lives (the “sucker’s payoff”): “Turning the other cheek only works if the opposition is inherently benevolent or has chosen a purely cooperative game strategy” (59). Of course, a slap on the cheek in Matthew 5:38‐42 is more of an insult than an act of violence, as Lamentations 3:30 suggests. Some Christians may interpret this passage differently, but one can make a good case that self‐defense or stopping an evil aggressor in a just war situation (e.g., against Hitler) isn’t in view here. Indeed, the passage “do not resist the evil one” in Matthew 5 is better translated “do not resist by evil means,” which is precisely the point of other biblical passages harking back to the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Rom. 12:17–21; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 2:21–24). Christian peacemakers are to return good for evil; we aren’t vengefully to use evil means, but good means to overcome evil. We are to resist the devil (James 4:7), and Jesus himself everywhere resists evil— even when He, though innocent, is physically struck in a law court (John 18:22‐23)!

Shermer’s dismissive comments reveal a naturalistic ethic that cannot truly “rise above” (the title of chapter 8) to reach the level Christ modeled of loving and doing good to one’s enemies, of going beyond the call of duty, or of laying down one’s life for another. These are out of step with self‐preservation and self‐interest (or group‐interest).

The Problem of Inadequacy. Other problems and oversights pepper Shermer’s book. For example, he presents the logical problem of evil (i.e., the alleged contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of an all‐powerful and all‐good God) as if he is unaware of existing philosophical discussion (66). Though evil is a challenge for any worldview, the logical problem of evil is passé in philosophical circles (especially if God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil). Atheist William Rowe observes: “Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of the theistic God. No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim.”3

Shermer correctly points out (in ch. 3) the error in considering certain persons “pure evil” and others “good,”4 because people with no history of deep evils, in certain circumstances, can end up committing horrendous acts. Shermer recognizes the potential depths of human depravity that Scripture affirms. On the other hand, Shermer’s explanation for evil falls short. Philosopher Gordon Graham observes that naturalistic concepts (i.e., those of “statistical abnormalities” or “deviations”) cannot describe profound, horrendous evils adequately.5

Despite Shermer’s sometimes helpful insights and perspectives, his naturalism leaves us looking for something more. That something is the Christian theism that he once embraced, but that he also, it seems, misunderstood.

Paul Copan (PhD) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is author and editor of various books, including (with William Lane Craig) Creation Out of Nothing (Baker/Apollos, 2004), The Rationality of Theism (Routledge, 2003), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of religion (Routledge, forthcoming), and Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues (Blackwell, forthcoming).


NOTES

  1. Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 111, 113.
  2. John R. Searle, Minds, Brains, and Science (1984; repr., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), 87–88, 92.
  3. William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly 16 (October 1979): 41n.
  4. Augustine pointed out that evil is not a substance, but the absence or corruption of goodness in God’s creation.
  5. Gordon Graham, Evil and Christian Ethics (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000).