Development in Apologetics—George Trumbull Ladd


One of the paradoxes of human existence is that, while there is nothing new under the sun, nothing stays the same. And so it is in the world of ideas. It is no less so in the realm of religious belief, even when the object of belief is eternal and changeless.

As long as Christian belief has been proclaimed it has had to adjust to the challenges unique to each period of proclamation. And wherever it has been propagated, it has needed to respond to the immediate conditions of its propagation. Changes in circumstance call for new methods of commending Christian belief.

In an article on “Modern Apologetics,” published in 1903, George Trumbull Ladd (1842-1921) explained the need this way:

“Now, that Christian apologists should alter their methods, and even many of their claims, in order the better to defend their religion amidst altered circumstances, is no new thing in the history of apologetics. On the contrary, changes in the points attacked and in the methods of attack call peremptorily for changes in the points where the defense is concentrated and in the methods of defense. The vitality of Christianity has always shown itself in its adaptability to meet https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/97/George_Trumbull_Ladd_cph.3b32185.jpg/150px-George_Trumbull_Ladd_cph.3b32185.jpgthe new requirements with a reconstructed apologetics. In the time before the political triumph of the church under Constantine, the history of Christian apologetics shows it to have been constantly engaged in a vigorous and almost life-and-death struggle with a series of determined and powerful hostile forces. But both the form of these forces and the form of repelling them have long since passed away and are never to return. To defend the Christian faith against the modern scientific, philosophical, and sociological objections by recurring to the arguments of the church fathers would be as unskilful and ineffectual as would be the use of the weapons of war belonging to the same centuries in a contest with the modern rifle and modern artillery. Mediaeval apologetics was, from the intellectual point of view, a comparatively tame affair—a dialectical contest over the comparative merits of the different religions, which, however, became realistic and bloody enough when it was waged in the political field against rival heathen, Jews, and Moslems. Even the apologetics which introduced the modern era, and which consisted in a defense of the older orthodoxy against the modifications attempted by the older deism and rationalism, is thoroughly unfitted for present use. Both the attack and the defense of a hundred years ago are now largely antiquated.”

– George Trumbull Ladd, “Modern Apologetics” (1903), 523-24

Ladd was trained at Western Reserve College and Andover Theological Seminary. He was pastor in Congregational churches in Ohio and Wisconsin. He later taught philosophy at Bowdoin College for a few years and philosophy and psychology at Yale University for several more years. He served as a kind of ambassador for the United States in Japan in the last decade of the 19th century. He wrote extensively in psychology, philosophy, and religion.

The complete text of Ladd’s essay may be found at this link. Today, July 1, is the anniversary of this publication.

‘Born Bad’: How the idea that we’re all sinners has shaped Western culture – The Washington Post


‘Born Bad’: How the idea that we’re all sinners has shaped Western culture – The Washington Post.

Read this book review by Michael Dirda and consider where the argument about original sin and the history of Christian doctrine errs.

Your observations are welcome. Feel free to share using the comments box below.

The New Apostolic Reformation—Announcing Two New Books


Maybe you’ve heard of it—the New Apostolic Reformation. Or maybe you haven’t. Either way, you probably know someone involved in the movement. It’s even possible that you attend a church that is part of a vast network of churches and ministries promoting the cause of modern-day apostles and prophets. You may be supporting missionaries and Christian organizations that have joined this cause.

Whether you’re sympathetic, concerned, or just curious, I urge you to take a close look and consider how you will respond. This movement is worldwide. Its mission is ambitious. It seeks to control the key sectors of society, including government, education, and the media. And it claims to act with unique authority from God, who has re-instated the New Testament offices of apostle and prophet to usher in the kingdom of God.

Scores of people are drawn to NAR claims that God is now revealing himself through an army of prophets and that they are producing miracles on a scale never seen before in Church history. The signs and wonders performed by the new apostles and prophets, they say, are greater even than the miracles wrought by Jesus.

Scores of people have been injured by this movement. It has divided families. It has left people in financial difficulties they never imagined. It has fostered disappointment with God, who failed to deliver on his alleged promises. It has even left some with a bitter taste about Christianity of any kind.

The major media have been talking about it. But there hasn’t been a serious and detailed investigation of NAR claims until now.

I’ve just completed two books, co-authored with Holly Pivec, about the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement ignited by C. Peter Wagner and now spreading like wildfire beyond the limits of his own influence. We offer a full exposition of the major teachings of movement leaders, and we examine them in detail, testing them against the teaching of the Bible. We conclude that their claims are false and misleading. Some are dangerous.

If you’re looking for an overview of the movement and you want a concise biblical evaluation of the movement, then you might begin with our book God’s Super-Apostles—Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want a fuller exposition of NAR teachings and a more complete examination of the movement, then you’ll want to read A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement. In this second book we offer detailed documentation for our description of the New Apostolic Reformation. And we carry our examination further, with fuller arguments to support our assessment.

I want to thank Holly for enjoining me to research this movement with her and for collaborating on two books that we believe will be of real service to others, including Christians and non-Christians. Both books are in production now and will be out in October or November. Already people have been placing advance orders with the publisher, Weaver Books.

In the days ahead I’ll be sharing more about the NAR. Meanwhile, you may want to visit Holly’s blog spiritoferror.org.

My First Published Dialogue—”Can and Would God Speak to Us?”


My most recent publication is the opening chapter in the new book In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of the Bible, edited by Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder (B&H Academic, 2013).

The full title of my chapter is “Can and Would God Speak to Us? A Dialogue on Divine Speaking.” Writing in dialogue format was a new venture for me. I enjoyed listening in on what “Chad” and “Danielle” had to say in conversation with each other. (What they say about learning something new during the process of writing is true!) I was challenged by the format, but I hope to try my hand at it again sometime.

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I encourage readers interested in sophisticated responses to contemporary challenges to biblical authority to read this book. Each chapter stands on its own as an important contribution on a specific topic. There’s something here for everyone, with topics ranging from canonicity to supposed contradictions in the Bible, from biblical archaeology to biblical criticism, from issues of slavery and sexism in the Bible to issues of genocide in the Bible. There are discussions of the Bible and ancient pagan myths, the historical reliability of the two testaments, the quality of biblical manuscripts, the interpretation of Scripture and its role as a source for theology, and science and the Bible.

The Docetist Heresy—Implications for the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus


A question about christology was posted in the “About Doug” section of this website. It seems fitting to copy my reply here.

That questions seems to assume a view about Jesus Christ known as “Docetism.” Docetism is a heresy that confronted the early Christian church and was summarily condemned at the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Convened by Emperor Constantine, this Council took place in modern-day Turkey at a place called Bithynia.

A major sector of Docetists held that the man born to Mary in Bethlehem was merely a man, and that the Spirit of God, after some fashion, imbued this man with divinity. Some held that Jesus only appeared to be human. (The word “Docetism” derives from the Greek word <em>dokeo</em>, meaning “to seem”.) Docetism was deemed a heresy because the traditional and orthodox doctrine is that Jesus, one and the same person, had two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, so that he was fully God and fully man at the same time from the beginning.

There is evidence that an incipient form of Docetism was already at large during the first century. 1 John 4:1-3 and 2 John 7 address the threat that some deceivers deny the literal incarnation of Jesus Christ, holding that as the divine Son he had not come in the flesh. This is probably the first heresy to be addressed by the Christian church. Through the prevailing influence of Gnosticism, Docetism and other heresies continued to flourish in some quarters. By the 4th century it was clear that official condemnation of the heresy was needed. This would curtail attempts by Docetists to pass their doctrines off as the truth about Jesus Christ.

Thus, it was the physical body of Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man, that was literally raised from the dead. This is the teaching of Scripture and so it has been the orthodox position of the Christian church from the beginning.

Addendum:

Some early converts to Christianity may well have been Docetists before their conversion. Perhaps they had heard of “Christ,” and, under Gnostic influence, did not then associate the Christ with the man Jesus.

Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, had known of Jesus and preached about Jesus in the synagogue at Ephesus. Though much of what he preached was accurate, some things were amiss. We don’t know what these things were, but two Christians, Priscilla and Aquila, “took him aside and explained the way of God more accurately.” It’s said in the Acts of the Apostles, a New Testament book, that he left with their blessing to preach that “the Christ was Jesus.” See Acts 18:24-28. So it’s possible that Apollos had been confused on this point. But he was persuaded of the truth through his association with the church at Ephesus, and he left, with their blessing, for Achaia to preach this truth from the Scriptures. This was in refutation of Jews he encountered along the way, and so, apparently, many of them had misunderstand the truth about Christ.

I speculate that because Gnosticism was well-ensconced in the region, when Christ was preached some simply accommodated this preaching to their Gnostic perspective. Others who were not Gnostics, but who lived surrounded by the ideology of Gnosticism, assumed that the Christ was somehow to be understood in gnostic terms. Apollos may have been one of these, and yet had accepted much that he had heard about Jesus. And other Jews, who were more reluctant to accept the official story about Jesus that had been filtered by the Gnostic community, were not prepared to believe any of it. Having been set straight about Jesus Christ, Apollos then began to preach to fellow Jews, by appealing to their Scriptures, that “the Christ was Jesus.”

Mind you, this is speculation about the details of the situation. But Apollos, a Jew who anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, was familiar with the preaching of John the Baptist about Jesus. (See Acts 18:25.) But his knowledge of Scripture and his understanding of Jesus were somewhat confused, until Apollos’ meetup with believers at Ephesus.

Just a short time later in Acts, we’re told about a group of twelve individuals who also had heard and believed the message of John the Baptist. See Acts 19:1-7. There they are called “disciples,” but they may only, at the time, have been disciples of John the Baptist, or, because they soon came to believe the truth about Jesus Christ, and were to become disciples, they are here called disciples because that is what they were at the time of Luke’s account of what happened. It appears that Paul had doubts that they had yet believed the Gospel. Or at least he wanted to be sure that they understood the Gospel. So he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered something like this, “The Holy Spirit? What Holy Spirit?” Subsequently Paul learned that their knowledge had up to then been limited to what they knew of John the Baptist’s message, which, of course, preceded the message Jesus delivered during his earthly life. Though they were expecting the Messiah, and likely would have known prophesies in their Bibles of the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit, these men probably had not even heard of Jesus. It was time they knew the rest of the story!

John the Baptist had foretold the soon arrival of the Christ, that is, the Messiah, so they were naturally anticipating this. Apparently, they had not yet heard that John’s words had already been fulfilled in Jesus, and that his Spirit had been given at Pentecost. Imagine the thrill it must have been for them to hear such news! Right there on the spot, it says, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” And thus they received the Holy Spirit.

What these men had believed exactly, prior to their encounter with Paul, is not quite clear. But apparently they hadn’t quite gotten it sorted it out yet that Jesus was the Christ.

I’m not suggesting that they had accepted a heresy up to that point. Rather, I recount these facts to indicate that at the outset Jesus Christ was known by the church to be God’s Messiah in the flesh.

There were others, though—under the influence of Gnosticism, I believe—who knew of Jesus and claimed to believe in the Christ, but had explicitly dissociated the two. This is suggested in a non-canonical book known as 2 Clement. Paul had spoken of a “Christ-party” in his first and second letters to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 2:12; 2 Cor. 11:13, 23). Without true belief about Jesus, these were false prophets who disguised themselves as apostles of Christ. This, one may think, suggests that they misrepresented Jesus Christ in their preaching. More likely, they preached Christ without reference to Jesus, and the church of Jesus Christ was being disturbed by their activities.

In any case, it didn’t take a 4th-century council to set things straight about Jesus Christ and his nature.

Doug on Day of Discovery Broadcast/February & March 2013


Day of Discovery is re-airing a couple of programs that included Doug’s participation. The programs are “What Jesus Said About God: Is There a Higher Power?” and “What Jesus Said About Life After Death.”
Following is the upcoming broadcast schedule:
 
Sunday, February 24, 2013         “What Jesus Said About God”
Sunday, March 3, 2013               “What Jesus Said About Life After Death” 
 

As a reminder Day of Discovery can be seen on Ion TV Sundays at 7:30 a.m. Eastern and Pacific, and 6:30 a.m. Central and Mountain time. A listing of local station air times can be found by visiting the website at www.dod.org and following the “Where to Watch” link in the left column. Additionally, the program is available to view at no cost via the Day of Discovery website.

If you watch and have comments or questions, feel free to return to this post and use the Comments box below.

Rev. Giles Fraser Catches Out Richard Dawkins in Dispute about Christianity in Britain


On Tuesday, BBC 4 hosted an occasionally heated exchange between Richard Dawkins and Rev. Giles Fraser. In their exchange, Fraser takes exception to the design of a survey conducted by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He suggests that the survey, which purports to establish that Christianity is rare in Britain, shows no such thing. The Dawkins survey revealed that nearly two out of three who consider themselves Christians were unable to name the first book of the New Testament. (The correct answer is supposed to be the Gospel According to St. Matthew, but that depends on what you mean by “first”!) Fraser put the Dawkins test to work on Dawkins himself and asked if he could name the full title of The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. Though he said he could, Dawkins stumbled when trying to quote the full title of his own secular Bible. Some British journalists are having laugh at Dawkins’s expense.

For audio of the interview (less than 7 minutes) click here. The story is reported at the Huff Post, with a transcript of the embarrassing bit, here.

Many, no doubt, will remark with glee on the embarrassing incident. But this isn’t quite fair, in my opinion. True, Dawkins should know the full title of Darwin’s seminal work. Dawkins is, after all, a former Oxford University professor who has published extensively in defense of Darwinian evolution. He is also the author of a 23-page Introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of The Origin of Species and the Voyage of the Beagle, published by Alfred A. Knopf. But it surely is a sad commentary on the state of literacy in Britain that so few who call themselves Christians can name the book that appears first in most copies of the New Testament.

There is a larger point that should not be missed. There was a time when knowing that sort of thing was widespread among believers and non-believers alike. But the fund of “common knowledge” has been compressed to the dimensions of a thimble so that now what counts as literacy is up for grabs. Christian or not, shouldn’t a literate person know enough about the world’s great literature to be able to declare with confidence the name of the first Gospel of the New Testament?

Virtue vs. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism


Mike Austin has a new post today at Being Good.com: Virtue vs. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. MTD is a challenge to America’s teenagers and emerging adults. It is a challenge to parents. And it is a challenge to America’s churches. I urge you to read Mike’s post!

Radio Interview: The Janet Mefferd Show


Beginning at 11:00 a.m. CT today, Doug will be interviewed on the Janet Mefferd Show.

400th Anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible


The first page of the Book of Genesis from the...

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The world’s best-selling book of all time, the King James Version of the Bible, is 400 years old this year. Introduced in 1611, this elegant English translation has a storied history, and an influence on Western culture beyond that of any person or object.

Today, a friend and colleague of mine gave a brief presentation on the history and influence of the KJV to the faculty at my university. Dr. Clinton Arnold is a New Testament scholar with numerous books to his credit. For a beautiful book that surveys the history of the English Bible, I recommend his neatly organized and amply illustrated book How We Got Our Bible.

If you want to read up on the King James Bible, I recommend two books:

The general topic matters for two basic reasons:

  1. Some uninformed critics think that the existence of diverse English translations counts against the divine origin of the original manuscripts of the Bible.
  2. Many, believers and nonbelievers, are not familiar with the history of the “canon” of the Bible. They do not know how the various books of the Bible, written by many individuals over a period of centuries, came to be regarded together as the written word of God.

Whether or not you use the King James Version, whether or not you read the Bible, I encourage you to commemorate this anniversary of the KJV with a little study of the history of the Bible. Here are some sources for that purpose:

Related:

Christians Who Behave Like Atheists


Augustine

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In my recent post Are Atheists Haunted by the Possibility of Being Mistaken?, I suggested that it may be common for atheists to entertain severe doubts about their atheism, and contemplate the possibility that God does exist and is worthy of belief and even worship.

It would be easy for Christians to explain atheistic belief in terms of rebellion against a God whose existence is only too obvious and personally offensive. But I would encourage Christians to consider that something resembling this may be found among believers, as well.

Any refusal to face the facts about God in the light of ample evidence is rebellion and idolatry. So one may believe that God exists, but refuse to believe certain things about God. Or one may believe certain things about God but then act in defiance of such a God. And one may assert the existence of God, even argue vehemently that God exists, and yet remain indifferent toward God on the personal level.

A believer, then, should be careful not to apply a double standard in comparing himself with nonbelievers. He should reflect on the possibility that he is like the typical skeptic in fundamental ways.

There are varieties of triumphalist apologetics. One form chastens nonbelievers for attitudes that one would find in oneself if one simply looked closely enough.

Henry Boynton Smith (1815-1876)


February 7

On this date in 1877, Henry Boynton Smith died in New York City, age 61. This theologian, who was born in Portland, Maine, studied at Bowdoin College and at Andover and Bangor theological seminaries. Later, he studied in Germany, getting to know Friedrich Tholuck and Hermann Ulrici at Halle, and August Neander and Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg at Berlin.

I have long had an interest in Tholuck (1799-1877) for his work in Christian apologetics as a German evangelical. Henry B. Smith lectured in apologetics at Union Theological Seminary during the academic years 1874-1875 and 1875-1876. His course of lectures was published in 1882 by A. C. Armstrong & Son.

Smith adopted a three-fold division of Christian apologetics:

  1. Fundamental Apologetics
  2. Historical Apologetics
  3. Philosophical Apologetics

His system is sophisticated and worthy of close study. He begins with the question whether the supernatural can be known (considering first general questions of epistemology) then moves on to “the proof of the Being of God” (p. 46).

Here is how he begins to address the question, “How can we know God?”

The very question implies some knowledge. Unless we had some conception of God we could and would nevermore ask, How can and do we know God? Unless man had some belief in God he would not ask, any more than an animal, Can you prove His being—can you demonstrate His existence?

The questions implies a need, a craving—seeks for an answer to a demand of our rational and moral being. This is the very least that can be said. There is a strong subjective belief—that is the starting-point; and the question is, Is there a corresponding objective reality? Are there sufficient grounds for full belief, binding on all rational and moral beings?

Hence the question is not at all about knowing some unknown thing, about proving the existence of a mere abstraction—as a theorem in geometry. It is as to the proving the existence of a being in whom, somehow, in some wise, we already believe. It is not going from the known to the unknown—but showing that there are valid and final reasons for a strong, universal, native, human belief.

—Smith, Apologetics: A Course of Lectures (1882), pp. 71-72

Later, Smith writes:

  1. As the starting-point show that man’s whole nature and man’s whole history prove the need to him of a God; that man by nature and reason is irresistibly prompted to seek for Deity, and cannot else be satisfied. This is not the proof of God’s being, but the basis of proof.
  2. That all the phenomena and facts of the universe (so far as known) demand the recognition of a God as their source and unity—a personal God, the necessary complement of the world.
  3. That man’s reason (a priori) demonstrates the existence of a real, infinite, absolute being.
  4. The combination of 2 and 3 gives is the result and proof.

In its ultimate philosophical principles the proof for the being of God consists of three arguments resting upon three ideas:

(a) The ontological argument, on the idea of being.

(b) The cosmological argument, on the idea of cause.

(c) The teleological argument, on the idea of design.

—Smith, Apologetics, p. 87

In chapter 4, Smith distinguishes between “the Supernatural” and “the Miraculous.” He develops the case for Christian miracles against pantheism and materialism, which both consider the impossibility of miracles to be an axiom. Not only are miracles possible, but on sufficient evidence, it is reasonable to believe that miracles have happened.

Smith says, “Besides having an adequate cause, miracles have also a sufficient end or object, and are never to be considered apart from, or dissociated from that” (p. 102).

Miracles are:

possible, if there is a God;

probable, if a positive revelation is needed; and

they have been [i.e., they have happened], if Christ and his apostles can be believed.

(p. 104)

Smith held that “Christian Apologetics is essentially Vindication. It seeks to vindicate, and in vindicating to establish, the value and authority of the Christian faith” (p. 118). His published lectures are a credit to his effort to do just that.

Note: It was also on this date, in 1664, that Gottfried Leibniz completed his master’s degree in philosophy.

 

Gottfried Leibniz

Clever Edit of Mexico Debate a Challenge to Richard Dawkins


Apparently, Birdie.com has edited the YouTube video made of the debate in Mexico from November 2010, in which I, Bill Craig, and David Wolpe debated Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Matt Ridley. The aim of this 6 minute feature is to show the mistakes that Richard Dawkins made in understanding and assessing our case in that debate.

If you wish to see this clip, click here.

“Does God Exist?”—A Debate at Penn State, Fayette, November 11, 2010


Doug will debate Michael Shermer at Penn State Fayette, November 11, 2010.

Topic: “Does God Exist?”

For details, go here and here.

If you plan to attend the conference, Doug welcomes the opportunity to meet you and to hear from you in the comments box of this post.

Debate with Michael Shermer at Northern Arizona University


If you attended tonight’s debate at Northern Arizona University, I want to thank you for coming, and let you know that I welcome your comments or questions.

Please feel free to post them here in the comments box.

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