Apologetics, Journal Topics

The Historically Reliable Bible

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”—2 Timothy 3:16 NIV

To defend the Christian faith, we must be equipped to demonstrate that the Bible is divine rather than merely human in origin. When we can successfully accomplish this, we can answer a host of objections to the Christian faith by appealing to Scripture.

Toward that end, archaeology is a powerful witness to the accuracy of the Scriptures. Over and over, comprehensive archaeological field work since the mid-nineteenth century, coupled with careful biblical interpretation, affirm the reliability of the Bible down to minute details; and skeptics who challenge Scripture are silenced as myriad discoveries point to the accuracy of the biblical accounts. Take, for example, the skeptics’ claim that Jesus was not nailed to the cross but was tied according to the Roman custom. In 1999, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of a young man in his early 20s who was crucified in the first century. His remains attest to a death by crucifixion precisely as described in the Bible: his bones tell the story of open arms that had been nailed to a crossbar, and a large single nail had been driven through both heels. That nail was still lodged in the heel bone of one foot, though the executioners had removed the body from the cross after death. Moreover, the shin bones seemed to have been broken, corroborating what the Gospel of John suggests was normal practice in Roman crucifixions.

Here’s another example. The Old Testament references the Hittites as one of seven Canaanite nations. In fact, Uriah the Hittite is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:39 and is one of King David’s warriors (who is later killed in battle). Yet, prior to the early twentieth century, skeptics said the Hittites were pure mythology. Thus, many were surprised in 1906 when archaeologists unearthed the ruins of Hattutsas in Turkey, the chief city of the ancient Hittites, confirming the biblical references. Or consider the Assyrians who, like the Hittites, were also thought to be a mythological people group. In the nineteenth century, the capital city was unearthed on the plains of Northern Iraq, including the palace of Sargon, the Assyrian King mentioned in Isaiah 20:1. The list of archaeological discoveries that confirm the biblical record goes on and on.

Furthermore, the reliability of the Bible is affirmed repeatedly by the eyewitness testimony of its authors—or close associates of eyewitnesses—to the recorded events (see Luke 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:3—8; 1 John 1:1-3). Additionally, ancient Jewish and secular historians, such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius, also confirm the many events, people, places, and customs chronicled in Scripture.

It is important to note, finally, that while archeological and historical evidences can remove doubts about the factual accuracy of the Bible, the spiritual message of our sin, humanity’s need for redemption, and a loving Creator who interacts in the affairs of humans, providing salvation, must be received by faith. Indeed, as the apostle Paul declared, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NIV).

Hank Hanegraaff

Apologetics, Journal Topics

A Christian View of Human Nature

Consider the following situation. You meet someone: born on the wrong side of the tracks, raised in an abusive home, surrounded by cynical and unbelieving friends who scoff at the Christian faith. If God works miraculously and he comes to faith in Christ, how free is he to really progress in the Christian faith? Should occasions when he falls back into sin be seen as inevitable, given all the influences in his life, or actions for which he is fully responsible? Consider a contrasting situation. You meet someone who believes we are free to be whatever we want to be. Though born a male, this person wants to be female and decides to have a sex change operation as an expression of her freedom to be whatever she wants to be. Are there hard limits to the freedom we have? I will argue (in my article in the current issue of the Christian Research Journal) that a Christian view of human nature sees humans as neither completely free nor totally determined. We have enough freedom to be responsible for our actions, but our freedom is limited by or created nature, and we are influenced by the fallen, dysfunctional world in which we are born, raised, and live.

Which way is our culture heading? Do you see more emphasis on humans being free to become whatever they want to be, or the growth of ideologies claiming that our freedom is illusory and that we are determined by forces outside our control? What evidence could you cite to support your answer? How do we hold others responsible for their choices without overlooking the powerful influences family background, genetic inheritance, and environment exert upon us? What are the hard limits our created nature imposes on us? Is gender fixed at birth? Is physical mortality something we should aspire to?

John S. Hammett, Ph.D., has been a pastor, missionary, and professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, since 1995. He is author of a number of books and articles, including “Human Nature,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B and H Academic, 2007). His cover article in which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription. Tune-into the Bible Answer Man broadcast on April 19 when Hank discusses this article with its author.

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Just War Theory

The recent U.S. military action in Libya brings the issue of a biblical view of war to the forefront again. In 1996 a Christian Research Journal feature considered Just War Theory and the necessity of warfare. What are the biblical principles of Just War Theory? How do we decide when military action is or is not warranted?

–Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Proof Positive

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”—2 Timothy 3:16

scriptureDespite what you might glean from the media, Christians have proof positive that the whole cannon of Scripture is utterly reliable. This is an important point to internalize because in order to effectively defend the Christian faith, we must be equipped to demonstrate to an unenlightened audience that the Bible is not only divine in origin, but also one hundred percent correct.

In fact, archaeology is a powerful witness to the accuracy of the Scriptures. Over and over, comprehensive archaeological field work since the mid-nineteenth century, coupled with careful biblical interpretation, affirm the reliability of the Bible down to minute details.

Skeptics who challenge Scripture are silenced as myriad discoveries point to the accuracy of the biblical accounts. Take, for example, the skeptics’ claim that Jesus was not nailed to the cross, but was tied according to Roman custom. In 1999, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of a young man in his early 20s who was crucified in the first century. His remains attest to a death by crucifixion precisely as described in the Bible: his bones tell the story of open arms that had been nailed to the crossbar and a large single nail had been driven through both heels. That nail was still lodged in the heel bone of one foot, though the executioners had removed the body from the cross after death. Moreover, the shin bones seemed to have been broken, corroborating what the Gospel of John suggests was normal practice in Roman crucifixions.

Here’s another example. The Old Testament references the Hittites as one of seven Canaanite nations. In fact, Uriah the Hittite is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:39 and is one of King David’s warriors (who is later killed in battle). Yet, prior to the early twentieth century, skeptics said the Hittites were pure mythology. Thus, many were surprised in 1906 when archaeologists unearthed the ruins of Hattutsas in Turkey, the chief city of the ancient Hittites, confirming the biblical references.

Or consider the Assyrians who, like the Hittites, were also thought to be a mythological people group. In the nineteenth century, the capital city was unearthed on the plains of Northern Iraq, including the palace of Sargon, the Assyrian King mentioned in Isaiah 20:1.

The list of archaeological discoveries that confirm the biblical record goes on and on. The reliability of the Bible is affirmed repeatedly by the eyewitness testimony of its authors—or in some cases close associates of eyewitnesses—to the recorded events. Secular historians also confirm the many events, people, places, and customs chronicled in Scripture.

It is important to note that while archeological evidence can remove doubts about the historical accuracy of the Bible, the spiritual message of our sin, man’s need for redemption, and a loving Creator who interacts in the affairs of men, providing a means of salvation, must be accepted by faith. Indeed, as the apostle Paul declared, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Hank Hanegraaff

For Further Study CRI Recommends:

Flip Chart: LIGHTS on Your Path

Basic Bible Reading Tool Kit

Book: How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth

Article: Biblical Archaeology: Factual Evidence to Support the Historicity of the Bible

Journal Topics

Seventh-day Adventists and the Sabbath

Think you’re ready to engage Seventh-day Adventists on the question of Sabbath observance? Be careful you don’t step into a minefield.

Before arguing about the Sabbath, Evangelicals should first clarify the nature of the Mosaic Law and its relationship to Christians today. At issue are fundamental questions about the scope of the law, its purpose in the new covenant, and whether we can distinguish between those aspects that are morally binding (eternal) and those that are not. Adventists have persuasive answers to these questions. Indeed, my own thesis is that evangelicals who contend for the continuity of the Mosaic Law in whole or in part and, at the same time, argue for the discontinuity of the Sabbath command, lack biblical support and face an almost intractable consistency problem. Conversely, evangelicals who argue for discontinuity—namely, that within the context of salvation history, the entire Mosaic Law is fulfilled in Christ and thus has no direct claim on the believer—provide a biblically sound foundation for addressing the Sabbath question.

If the Mosaic Law remains binding for New Testament believers, what pressing question must evangelicals face head-on? What view of the Mosaic Law gives evangelicals the best foundation for addressing the Sabbath question? Why?

Scott Klusendorf is president of Life Training Institute and holds an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University. His feature article in which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription.

Journal Topics, Reviews

The Adjustment Bureau

Adjustment BureauLast weekend I went to see the new Matt Damon and Emily Blunt film, a romantic thriller called The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13*). Loosely based on a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick called the “Adjustment Team,” the film’s themes center around “God,” free will and determinism. The film causes viewers to wonder does God exist and if so, does He change His mind? Do human beings have free will? Is there a plan for human lives that has already been pre-determined by God before we were born? Do we have guardian angels watching over and affecting our lives? And can human choices change the mind of God?

Even though director and screenwriter George Nolfi had no intention of making a movie with explicitly religious or Christian themes, he nevertheless raises the age-old question of do we truly have free will?

In the upcoming Volume 34 No. 3 issue of the Christian Research Journal, contributing writer Brian Godawa will offer his take in a review of the film and its themes. You won’t want to miss Godawa’s analysis so please subscribe to the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription.

Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor, Christian Research Journal

For further study we recommend:

Book: Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment

Review: God of the Possible

Article: Neotheism: The Dangers of Making God in Our Image

Book: God Under Fire

Book: Their God Is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God

* Film contains strong language, an implied premarital sex scene, female lead in short skirt/plunging neckline dresses.

Apologetics, Journal Topics, Reviews

Review: On Guard by William Lane Craig

On Guard by William Lane CraigOn Guard is a fencing term. It’s also the title of a book written by Dr. William Lane Craig, with the subtitle of “Defending your Faith with Reason and Precision.” He attempts to show the skeptics/atheists that their position needs to be supported with evidence and not mere rhetoric.

I found this quote on page 41 to be very interesting: “If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.” I agree with the statement. Yet many atheists I’ve encountered think they aren’t missing anything in life. In many ways, they think my life is a model for dullness and despair. I wonder, is there an effective approach that could best be utilized to illustrate how their lives are truly based on insignificance?

Eric Johnson is a researcher with Mormonism Research Ministry and coauthor of Mormonism 101(Baker, 2000). He is also an associate editor for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students (Holman, 2010).

His review of On Guard on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription.

For Further Reading We Recommend:

On Guard

Apologetics, In the News, Journal Topics

Gay Groups and Evangelical Colleges

A recent online article from Christian Century reports that at some Evangelical Colleges, acceptance of gay groups is growing perhaps due to the efforts of the gay activist group Soulforce. In 2009, the Christian Research Journal published an in-depth article on Soulforce by Joe Dallas. As Dallas writes, “But an error Christians often make when dealing with homosexual activists is to overindulge their desire for us to hear their concerns, while offering none of our own.”

Do you think acceptance of gay groups on Evangelical college campuses is inevitable? How can Christians dialog with groups and maintain fidelity to biblical truth? Should we be in dialog with these groups?

—Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor

Recommended Resources on Homosexuality:

Desires in Conflict
The Gay Gospel?: How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread The Bible
The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Mormonism and Christianity

This week The Washington Post published two articles in its On Faith blog musing on Mormonism and Christianity and politics. Will Mormonism impact the 2012 presidential election? One post gives a Christian case for Mormon values. The other post gives a case of Mormons and Christians as political “blood brothers.” Even in our own CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, contributing writer, Francis J. Beckwith, wrote an op-ed in 2007 called, “Is It Permissible for a Christian to Vote for a Mormon?”

But is Mormonism Christian? The answer is a firm and resounding no. CRI has published in-depth research on Mormonism since the inception of our ministry 51 years ago. You can search this website for many free articles on Mormonism. In a succinct YouTube video, Elliot Miller, editor-in-chief, gives just two distinctions that demonstrate Mormonism is not Christian. As Elliot says, “Mormonism is Mormonism.”

Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor

For more CRI resources on Mormonism we recommend:

Mormonism 101
Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons
The Lost Book of Abraham

Journal Topics

Stephen Hawking on Science and God

Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, in their latest book The Grand Design, claim that science has now progressed to where it can explain everything, even including “The Big Bang” by which the universe was created.  Thus there is no longer need for a Creator God to explain the existence of the universe.  Even before the book was released this past September, these claims generated instant worldwide controversy and a rush to judgment.

My article, featured in the latest issue of the Christian Research Journal, attempts to take a different approach.  Although I strongly believe in the Creator as the cause and reason behind the existence of the universe, I believe a book by someone of Hawking’s stature deserves careful study before forming judgments.

I find The Grand Design, as a book on the progression of scientific thought written by two eminent scientists, to be exceptionally informative and worthwhile reading.  It describes the progression of scientific thinking from Aristotle to quantum physics, and how it may eventually result in a unified theory explaining the behavior of everything from subatomic particles to celestial bodies.

But where the authors go too far, I believe, is in claiming that the origin of the universe was governed by principles of modern science.  They observe that in the first tiny slice of time in its existence, the universe was particle of subatomic size.  And since the behavior of subatomic particles is governed by quantum physics, it follows that the birth of the universe was governed by quantum physics.  Thus we no longer need a Creator to understand the universe’s origin.

In rebuttal, I contend that although the universe was a tiny particle for a tiny instant, the universe in that first tiny instant was actually in extremely rapid transition from absolute nothingness to something immeasurably huge, still expanding 13.7 billon years later.  Rather than being governed by laws of quantum physics, I think it is far more likely that the Big Bang was an utterly unique event, one not “governed” by any “laws” other than those known to the Supreme Maker.

What is YOUR view on “science versus religion”?  Will science eventually be able to explain everything?  Or is God the cause and reason behind the creation, and science a significant means by which we discover the mysteries He wrought?  If such questions intrigue you, I think you’ll find this article very worthwhile. 

A Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics, Stephen Howe retired from his career in Aeronautical Engineering in 2006, and has since been engaged in full-time independent studies and writing in Christian theology.