Apologetics

Are the Ethics of the Bible Just as Bad as Those in the Qur’an?

The Qur’an has ethics which do not belong in any century, you are right, but should not the same be said about the Bible?

No. The same should not be said about the ethics of the Bible. If you think about the ethics of Jesus Christ and the ethics of Muhammad, they are completely different.

Think about Jesus Christ. He lived in a first-century context, a context wherein women were considered chattel. They were on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder. Their testimonies were not considered valid in a court of law. But Jesus takes women and elevates them to complete ontological equality with men in that culture. He has women in His inner circle (Luke 8:1-3).

Not only is this true with Jesus Christ, it is true with the followers of Jesus Christ. Paul famously said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV). Genealogy does not matter. Gender does not matter. Station in life does not matter.

We in fact get the inherent worth of human beings from the Bible — from a biblical ethic. I think if people knew a little bit about history, they would know that we are still benefitting from the ethos and morays of the Bible, which have been thrown to the wind in our culture, but we are still benefitting from them. Even though we are no longer living in the pages of the Bible, we are living in the shadow of the Bible, we are still benefitting from a biblical worldview.

When someone cavalierly says, “The ethics of the Qur’an do not belong in any century and the same thing should be said about the Bible too,” I sometimes wonder whether or not the person is familiar with the Bible, and whether or not the person is able to read the Bible in the sense in which it is intended. I challenge all in the spirit of humility, gentleness, and respect to read the Bible. Perhaps start with the Book of Proverbs.

Every single maxim or principle for successful daily living is encapsulated in the Book of Proverbs. I still remember one time many years ago doing a seminar for a large corporation, and I was extemporaneously quoting the Proverbs. “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts” (Proverbs 24:3-4 TLB). As I was going through proverb after proverb, people were going, “Wow, that is amazing! I’ve never heard such erudite business principles.” Then I told them, “I am simply quoting from Solomon from the Bible.”

— Hank Hanegraaff

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

Is the Qu’ran Credible? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Could the Bible Command a Rape Victim to Marry Her Rapist? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Could a Good God Sanction the Stoning of a Disobedient Child? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Can Christians Legitimize a God who Orders the Genocide of Entire Nations? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Did Muhammad Believe in Women’s Rights? (Mary Jo Sharp)

Five Differences between Sharia and Old Testament Law (David Wood)

Fundamentalist Faith and the Problem of Holy Wars (Elliott Miller)

Hollywood vs. History: Kingdom of Heaven and the Real Crusades (Daniel Hoffman)

Was Israel Commanded to Commit Genocide? (Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan)

Is the God of the Old Testament a Proponent of Total War against Noncombatants? (Matthew Flannagan)

A full-orbed assessment of Qur’anic ethics can be found in MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion by Hank Hanegraaff. More information on how the Bible (biblical ethics in particular) shaped Western civilization can be found in The Book That Made Your World by Visahal Mangalwadi, How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt, and Christianity on Trial: Arguments against Anti-Religious Bigotry by Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett.

This blog is adapted from the October 19, 2017, Hank Unplugged episode “MUSLIM: What You Need to Know.”

Apologetics

Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5:1–11

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.  With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (NIV).

Do you think the account of Ananias and Sapphira is an example of two Christians being Satan-filled?

Remember that, if you are a believer, your temple is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that temple will not be shared by a demon (1 Cor. 3:16–17; 2 Cor. 6:14–18). Remember also that there are so many people that we would look at from the exterior and say, “Wow! That is a really cool believer that I want to emulate and be like.” But we just look at the exterior, God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Judas is always the favorite example because he was in the inner circle of Jesus Christ and he did the things of the Lord, but Jesus lets us know that he was there not because he loved the Master but rather what was on the Master’s table (John 6:70–71; 12:1–8). There are a lot of examples like that in the Bible.

Ananias and Sapphira knew the Holy Spirit’s power. They had experienced the Holy Spirit’s power. They had seen it unfold all around them in their circumstances; yet they purposed to deceive. They were not simply deceiving human beings but they were attempting to deceive God. If you are really attempting purposefully to deceive God, it is an indication you probably do not know Him in the first place.

Do you think God’s punishment of Ananias and Sapphira was too harsh of a judgment?

First of all, I do not think that anything God does is too harsh. It is a perfect blend of His mercy, love, and grace, taking all converging circumstances into consideration. That is precisely what happened in this case.

You have to remember that this is a nonnormative situation because this is the first recorded sin in the life of the New Testament church. Here you have Ananias and Sapphira, who are accountable for allowing Satan to fill their hearts with lies, for breaking the integrity of the emerging New Testament church. Their sin is not only keeping back possessions but deception; they were lying to the church, and lying to the church can be equated to lying to the Spirit of truth. This is a very, very serious sin. They had conspired to lie, which is to say that they had little regard for the Holy Spirit and for the embryonic New Testament church.

This is nonnormative, but taking all the converging factors into consideration, God’s justice is always perfectly meted out with His love.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related reading, please access the following:

The Great Comfort of God’s Wrath (Drew Dyck)

Was the Early Church Communist? (Jay Richards)

Nadab and Abihu (Hank Hanegraaff)

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

This blog adapted from the March 22, 2017, and April 4, 2014, Bible Answer Man broadcasts.

Apologetics

A Look Back at the Legacy of the English Bible

 

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-legacy-english-bible-1

Sacred Scriptures come from the fullness of the Spirit; so that there is nothing in the Prophets or the Law, or the Gospel, or the Epistles, which descends not from divine majesty—Origen

We have the privilege of not only having the Bible in print but now the Bible in an audio format as well.

Think back for a moment to the legacy of the English Bible which had its genesis in the writings of an Oxford theologian named John Wycliffe. He is fondly remembered as being the Morning Star of the Reformation. His translations were the only English Bible until the invention of movable type all the way back to the sixteenth-century. His work profoundly influenced the legacy of what we now possess in terms of an English Bible. He held that the Bible was the exemplar of Christianity and the authority for faith and practice.

As a result of translating the Bible into the English language, Tyndale was roundly condemned as a heretic because back then it was thought that putting Scripture into the hands of the laity was an outrage against the authority of the church. Forty-four years after Wycliffe died—he died back in 1384—Pope Martin V had his bones unearthed, incinerated, and then had the ashes unceremoniously thrown to the wind. But, the legacy of Wycliffe’s English Bible spread, and no single person after Wycliffe made a greater contribution to the legacy of the English Bible than an Oxford-Cambridge scholar. You probably remember his name: William Tyndale.

Tyndale defied the papacy and its traditions very much in the manner of Wycliffe. He wanted to make the Bible available to the commoner so that a boy who drives the plow—this was his sentiment—would be as familiar with the Scriptures as was the pope. Tyndale’s work became the basis for many translations culminating with the King James Version. Tyndale was tried for translating Bible into the English language. I mean that was thought to be an incredible outrage. He was martyred as a result on October 6, 1536. I will always remember that his body ablaze he cries out, “Lord, open the eyes of England’s king.” This is memorable because the prayer finds an answer in King Henry VIII.

Henry VIII authorized an English translation of the greatest volume to be chained to every church pulpit in the land. It is called the Authorized English translation or the Great Bible due to its volume and size.

The Bible was now available to the masses but the problem that many found is that the Bible by the masses was quickly turned into a wax nose because they did not know how to read the Bible in the sense in which it was intended. One of the core values of the Christian Research Institute is not only to get you into the Word of God and get the Word of God into you but to get you conversant with the art and science of biblical interpretation. We have resources available for that. I teach that very discipline in the second half of my book Has God Spoken?

—Hank Hanegraaff

This blog adapted from the January 6, 2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Proverbs, Wisdom and Blessings turned to Curses

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-proverbs-reflectionsI had heard the personification of wisdom mentioned in the Book of Proverbs is a reference to the Holy Spirit. They are one and the same. Is this true?

The truth of the matter is that the Holy Spirit inspired the words of Proverbs; therefore, they are useful for faith and practice. This is what Paul tells Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).*

When you look at a book like Proverbs, you have the principles and maxims for living life in a way in which you can be successful. Not in a hedonistic worldly sense but in a sense in which your success is directly tied to your relationship to the Spirit that lives within.

There are so many wonderful proverbs. Every enterprise becomes wise through planning, common sense, and staying abreast of the facts. “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Prov. 21:30-31). You look at Proverbs 3, which is one of my favorites. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her” (Prov. 3:13-15). Go down a few verses: “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew (Prov. 3:19-20). The Book of Proverbs is just rife with wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit.

One thing I recommend people do is to read one chapter of Proverbs every day and you work yourself through the book once a month on average. Again, all the maxims and principles for successful daily living are encapsulated in the Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 27:14 states, “If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” Why is blessing your neighbor early in the morning considered a curse?

Remember that proverbs are truisms. They are generally true. What is being communicated in Proverbs 27:14 at this point by Solomon is this: If a man loudly—the emphasis is on the word loudly—blesses neighbor early in the morning it will be taken as a curse. Why would that be? Well, think about it? Timing, we might say, is everything. The wrong time for a wonderful action is still a woeful thing. You do not want to curse someone loudly, nor do you want to bless someone loudly, particularly if it’s early in the morning. If you are doing something loudly in the morning it’s going to be taken as a curse.

I think this is related to what you read in Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3:1-8).

There’s a time for everything. All of that of course has to be contextualized. For example, you can lie but only if it’s a greater good. In other words, Rahab purposed to lie to save the Israelites from certain destruction. So the greater good was the saving of life. There’s a time for everything, if you do something at the wrong time, it still would be considered a curse, that’s the point.

What is probably going on in Proverbs 27:14 as well has concerns suspicious motives. It’s probably a hypocrite, someone going to great lengths to create the impression of friendship when in reality there is no real friendship intended. There’s a lot we can read into the possible meaning of that proverb.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, please see the following:

Who is Wisdom in Proverbs 8? (Leland Ryken)

Blog adapted from “In Proverbs 27:14 why is blessing your neighbor early in the morning considered a curse?” and the April 5, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

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

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

On the Clarity and Complexity of the Scriptures

Hanegraaff, Hank-Clarity and Complexity of Scriptures

How can an all knowing and wise God permit people to misinterpret the Bible?

God gave us the ability to think and reason, and He made certain things so clear that you couldn’t mistake them. The essentials of the historic Christian faith, they’re so clear that they’re unmistakable. But, in secondary issues, you have a very complex Scripture that people can misunderstand. The biblical faith is simple enough for a child to understand in terms of its essential Christian doctrine but its deep enough for a theologian to drown.

When you get into something that is a reflection of God Himself—for example the nature of God is such that finite people can never fully comprehend it, we can apprehend it in Scripture but we cannot fully comprehend it—so you can imagine something that is so sophisticated is maybe something that we can misunderstand, unless we spend the time studying the Scriptures.

That’s why as Christians we don’t say, “I’m a lone ranger Christian.” We stand on the shoulders of giants who’ve gone before us, so that we can learn from them. If someone has given their whole life to the study of the Book of Revelation, for example, as a believer and someone who has a keen mind, we do well to listen to what they might give us in terms of insights.

I think you have complexity that leads to misunderstanding and God just doesn’t make us omniscient. He’s made us finite beings and our finiteness cannot bear the burden of omniscience.

Are we then finite so that we’ll seek God and His guidance?

Yes, and we will also spend an eternity getting to understand the God who created us and exploring the universe that He created for us. It’s an on-going process. The difference in eternity we’re going to learn, and grow, and develop without error, but we will not be omniscient, we will not know all things, we will continue to learn and develop.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it (Deuteronomy 30:11-14, ESV).

Open my eyes, that I may behold | wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18, ESV).

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

The Perspicuity of Scripture (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Denomination Should I Join? (John M. Frame)

This blog adapted from Why did God allow for the misinterpretation of his word?

In the News

A MONUMENTAL CONNECTION BETWEEN KIRK CAMERON AND CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTION?

March 27, 2012 marked the debut of actor Kirk Cameron’s latest movie Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure, which is a documentary on “the people, places, and principles that made America the freest, most prosperous and generous nation the world has ever known.” Julie Ingersoll, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida, in an op-ed piece for Religious Dispatches believes viewers shall find “new, more extreme Cameron,” whose views have been influenced by Rousas John Rushdoony and David Barton. In essence she finds in Cameron a “shift from the larger premillennialist evangelical world that he depicted in Left Behind to the postmillennialist dominion theology of the Reconstructionists.” Cameron, however, has not made any formal statement on whether or not his eschatology changed. Nevertheless, Postmillennial Reconstruction is well within the pale of theological orthodoxy.

Postmillennialists anticipate that the advancement of the Gospel will bring forth a semi-golden age before the Second Coming of Christ. Christian Reconstruction is a movement within the postmillennial tradition, which holds to a particular view on the Old Testament Law called theonomy. Kenneth Gentry explains, “The theonomic postmillennialist sees the gradual return to biblical norms of civil justice as a consequence of widespread gospel success through preaching, evangelism, missions, and Christian education. The judicial–political outlook of Reconstructionism includes the application of those justice-defining directives contained in the Old Testament legislation, when properly interpreted, adapted to new covenant conditions, and relevantly applied” (italics in original). [1]

Postmillennialism in all its varieties stands in contrast to premillennialism, the belief that Jesus Christ shall return to establish a future Millennial Kingdom. The most popular form of premillennialism is of the dispensational variety, which affirms two peoples of God (i.e. the sharp distinction between Israel and the Church), and two phases of the Second Coming (i.e. a secret Rapture of the Church, a seven year Great Tribulation brought on by the Antichrist, and a visible return of Christ, which begins the 1000 year reign). Many within the dispensational tradition have become drunk with millennial madness, using newspaper eschatology to make false predictions concerning the time of the Rapture. Some but not all dispensationalists even advocate a type of Christian Zionism which has monumental socio-political implications on the sensitive relations between modern Israel, Palestine, and other nations in the Middle East. John Hagee is an influential teacher advocating Christian Zionism.

Postmillennialism also stands distinct from amillennialism, the belief that the millennium is a present reality for believers between the two advents of Jesus Christ.

Hank Hanegraaff, in The Apocalypse Code, briefly discusses the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 as a type of vindication language, wherein God vindicates those having suffered  for Christ during a short period (i.e. “ten days”) in that they reign with Christ forever (i.e. “a thousand years”). He writes, “though mistaken by many as a semi-golden age of Christian history—leading to much debate over whether the return of Christ will happen before (premillennialism) or after (postmillennialism) the millennium, or whether the millennium is symbolic of the period of time between Christ’s first and second advents (amillennialism)—the thousand years of Revelation are symbolic of the unique and ultimate vindication (qualitative) that awaits the martyrs who died under the first century persecution of the Beast.” [2] Moreover, Hank holds that the proper grammatical principle of biblical interpretation reveals that the great tribulation, spoken of by Jesus Christ in the Olivet Discourse and depicted in apocalyptic images by John in the Book of Revelation, concerns mainly the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70—albeit the Apocalypse also points forward towards the final future to the new heaven and new earth.

Hank and CRI also recognize that the millennium is a secondary issue of eschatology that Christians can debate but not divide over. Nevertheless, ideas have consequences, and what one believes about the end time, whether Left Behind eschatology or Christian Reconstruction, determines how they live, and these are more than just harmless theological concepts relegated to the mind. Moreover, we encourage Christians to study the various positions and, using sound principles of hermeneutics come to a conclusion deemed most biblical (See “Practical Hermeneutics: How To Interpret Your Bible Correctly Part 1,” and “Practical Hermeneutics: How To Interpret Your Bible Correctly Part 2”).

The Christian Research Journal has also addressed R.J. Rushdoony’s views on the Christian family and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Christians should think deeply about the most pressing social issues of the day. When one does examine the source of all the great innovations of the West (i.e. monogamy, women’s liberation, hospitals, public education, capitalism, etc.), one finds it was the result of minds deeply influenced by the Word of God. Whether or not one adopts all the tenets of Christian Reconstruction, all Christians still must come to grips with thinking christianly about every aspect of life.

— Warren Nozaki

We also recommend the following bookstore resources:

How Christianity Changed the World (B758)
by Alvin J/ Schmidt

Must the Sun Set on the West Audio CD Set (CD955)
by Vishal Mangalwadi

The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views (B115)
edited by Robert G. Clouse

Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (B580)
edited by Darrell Bock

Four Views on the Book of Revelation (B581)
edited by C. Marvin Pate

Revelation: Four Views : A Parallel Commentary (B793)
by Steve Gregg

Notes:

  1. Kenneth Gentry, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell Bock (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 19.
  2. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 274-275, cf. also ibid, 256-257n.
Apologetics, Journal Topics

Extraterrestrials and Christianity

NASA’s highly successful planet-hunting Kepler mission is bringing back to the fore questions about life beyond Earth. Thanks to Kepler, we now know that Earth-size planets orbit other stars like the Sun. Does this mean that life beyond Earth is common? Are there other intelligent beings?

Even before Kepler was launched in 2009, it was already clear that our Solar System is not typical. Our familiar neighbors tend to have circular orbits, with the big planets located safely distant from the small ones. The Solar System is not the template for all planetary systems as astronomers once believed. Does this mean the Solar System unique in its habitability?

In 1996 NASA scientists claimed to have discovered evidence of ancient life in a Martian meteorite. While that evidence has not held up, scientists are still searching. Would discovery of life on Mars have implications for the way we view ourselves? How would it affect the Intelligent Design argument? What about the discovery of an extraterrestrial civilization? Would it render ridiculous the claims of Christianity? Some have claimed it would.

What do our prior Christian beliefs imply about the existence of extraterrestrials? Should Christians be more optimistic or less than atheists?

Guillermo Gonzalez, Ph.D., is an associate professor of astronomy and physics at Grove City College in western Pennsylvania. He is author of nearly eighty scientific papers and co-author with Jay W. Richards of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery (Regnery, 2004). His feature article, “Would Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Spell Doom for Christianity?” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 35, No. 1 special origins issue of the Christian Research Journal available by donation.

For future issues of the Christian Research Journal subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription.

Guillermo Gonzalez will join Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast in February to discuss the pivotal apologetic topic of origins! Tune in daily at 6PM ET at our website, www.equip.org! The Bible Answer Man can also be heard daily on Sirius-XM satellite radio on Family Talk channel 131.The Bible Answer Man can also be heard on local radio stations. Click here for stations and times.

In the News, Journal Topics

Biblical Misconceptions?

I came across a CNN Belief Blog op-ed piece entitled “My Take: The 3 Biggest Biblical Misconceptions” by former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, John Shelby Spong. In it he purports three misconceptions  people have about the Bible that make it hard to understand.

First, he contends “people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.” One reason Spong offers for this assertion is a liberal presupposition that the Gospels were written late, between AD 70–90, making them subject to mythological corruption. The fact, however, that the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament make no mention of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning of the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70is one of several compelling reasons for dating the entire New Testament prior to AD 70. Moreover, even if we were to grant the liberal dating, there still would be no justification for worrying over the accuracy of the New Testament given the remarkable reliability of the oral culture within which the New Testament was produced to transmit history and teaching accurately.

The second misconception, according to Spong, is “the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense ‘the word of God,’ ” which he bases upon the apparent evil of Yahweh ordering the “genocide” of nations, and a fundamental misunderstanding of Old Testament imprecatory psalms.

Finally, Spong suggests people are under the misconception that “biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging,” which he bases upon the apparent difference between the “tribal deity” in Exodus who orders the death of every firstborn male and the God who commands people to love their enemy. The God of the Bible, however, does not change; rather, He progressively reveals different aspects of Himself in biblical history. He is both just, sending wrath upon sinful Egyptians for their mistreatment of others, but also merciful in teaching His people to love their neighbor.  

Is there any basis for Spong’s assertions? None at all. He is, as Hank Hanegraaff puts it, a “fundamentalist on the left.” Hank addresses and refutes Spong’s claims in his recent book, Has God Spoken: Memorable Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

— Warren Nozaki

For further refutation of Spong’s claims,  see the following equip.org resources:

Is The Bible Myth?

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims

Was Revelation Written Before or After the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70?

Moses: The Author of the Pentateuch

How Do We Know That The Bible Is The Word Of God?

Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels

Facts for Skeptics of the New Testament

Does Homosexuality Demonstrate that the Bible is Antiquated and Irrelevant?

When Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water

Hateful Vindictive Psalms?

We also recommend the following bookstore resources:

Has God Spoken
B1045/$22.99

Is God a Moral Monster?
B1030/$14.99

The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ
B387/$18.00

In the News

Literal Interpretations and Reading the Bible for all Its Worth

Dave Lose, author of Making Sense of Scripture, and Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, recently contributed to the Huffington Post an article entitled “4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally.” I took an interest in reading the article, as the biblical writers utilized figures of speech (e.g. hyperbole; metonymy; synecdoche), and that there are instances when “Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water.”

A positive point made by Lose is that the Bible does not idealize humanity, but includes all of our warts and wrinkles. Abraham passed on of his wife twice, Moses murdered, David committed adultery, and Peter denied the Lord. “Whatever their accomplishments,” writes Lose, “most of the ‘heroes of the faith’ are complicated persons with feet of clay. And that’s the point: the God of the Bible regularly uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.” Problems also abound with Lose’ article, as the bulk of it is a disappointing criticism Bible inerrancy.

According to Lose, “There is no hint that the authors of the Bible imagined that what they were writing was somehow supernaturally guaranteed to be factually accurate.” Elsewhere in the article he asserts, “Earlier Christians—along with almost everyone else who lived prior to the advent of modernity—simply didn’t imagine that for something to be true it had to be factually accurate, a concern only advanced after the Enlightenment.” Yet, this makes no sense. If God has spoken to us through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, then it can be deduced that the information communicated would be without error. Common to each of the Gospel is teaching on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; yet, if this teaching is not factually accurate, then the theology is also good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot. Paul gets it when in stating: “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Inerrancy does matter!

What are the so-called “errors” of Lose? One is Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, which the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke record towards the end of Christ’s ministry in contrast to John who places it at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. It is true that the wooden literalist, whether liberal or conservative, stumbles when coming to grips with the chronology of the Gospel writers, the issue is not the four Gospels contain factual errors; rather, the Bible student is to be sensitive to the literary structures inherent within the biblical text noting the unique ways the Gospel writers under the inspiration of the Spirit constructed their account. There is no contradiction with “Christ’s Cleansing of the Temple.” Lose also makes a fuss about the crucifixion occurring on the Passover in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but on “the Day of Preparation” in John. This is simply making a mountain out of a molehill, and John’s “Day of Preparation” is simply a reference to the Passover week. D. A. Carson writes, “ ‘Passover’ can refer to the Passover meal, the day of the Passover meal, or (as in this case) the entire Passover week (i.e. Passover day plus the immediately ensuing Feast of Unleavened Bread” [1].

Lose’s assertion that “Most Christians across history have not read the Bible literally” is correct in so far as it means the wooden literalist interpretation of fundamentalist on the left and on the right only came about in the last hundred and fifty years; however, the allegorical interpretation associated with Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine and other early church fathers can likewise be considered problematic. It is really through the historical grammatical interpretive method that we can come to grips with the intended message communicated through the text.

God has spoken and, while fallible human agents were used to compose the message, these prophets and apostles wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that what was produced was the infallible Word of God. The task of the Bible student is to read God’s Word and using sound principles of hermeneutics, which is the art and science of biblical interpretation, draw out its intended message. For further study on this subject, Has God Spoken by Hank Hanegraaff is highly recommended.

— Warren Nozaki

Notes:

1. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 604.