Book Exceprts

Apologetics: Its Wider Scope

Chapter 7 of Contend Earnestly For The Faith

INTRODUCTION

Many defenders of the faith fail to see apologetics in its wider scope. They often focus only on one apologetic methodology, neglecting the other methodologies. Though choosing to specialize in only one type of apologetics is often admirable, ignorance of the contributions of the other methodologies is unfortunate.

In this chapter, an attempt will be made to examine the entire spectrum of the apologetic discipline. There are basically eight distinct apologetic methodologies. They are:

  1. Testimonial apologetics,
  2. Presuppositional apologetics,
  3. Psychological apologetics,
  4. Philosophical apologetics,
  5. Historical apologetics,
  6. Scientific apologetics,
  7. Comparative religious apologetics, and
  8. Cultural apologetics.

TESTIMONIAL APOLOGETICS

Dr. Phil FernandesTestimonial apologetics is used when a person defends the faith by appealing to evidence from either his own testimony or that of another person. Testimonial apologetics contends for the truth of Christianity by employing evidences from transformed lives and/or divine intervention in one’s life. Evidence from transformed lives deals with providing to others the information about how Jesus has changed the lives of those who have trusted in Him for salvation.

Divine intervention pertains to documenting how God has intervened in the lives of people. Examples of divine intervention would include answers to prayer and genuine episodes of miraculous healing. Regardless of what position a person takes in reference to the continuance or cessation of the spiritual gifts of healings, most Christians would agree that God does at times still heal in answer to prayer.

Many people who consider themselves opposed to the practice of apologetics unknowingly use testimonial apologetics. When they evangelize others, resistance to the gospel is often countered by utilizing testimonial apologetics. The use of testimonial evidences is as much a part of apologetics as any other evidences.

PRESUPPOSITIONAL APOLOGETICS

Presuppositional apologetics denies the validity of all other apologetic approaches. This technique for defending the faith teaches that a believer must assume or presuppose the truth claims of Christianity rather than argue for them. On this point presuppositional apologetics is in agreement with fideism. However, presuppositionalists specialize in tearing down anti-Christian belief systems, something true fideists do not do.

The presuppositional methodology is vital to the apologetic task. Still, presuppositionalists need to appreciate the other forms of apologetic argumentation. Presuppositional apologetics is an effective way to defend the faith, but it is not the only way.

PSYCHOLOGICAL APOLOGETICS

Dr. Phil FernandesPsychological apologetics focuses on man’s psychological need for the God of the Bible. This approach appeals more to the will and the emotions of the person than to his or her intellect. This methodology deals with issues such as the meaningless of life without God. It attempts to explain the dilemma of man (man is both great and cruel).

Psychological apologetics targets the thirst within man to transcend his present earthly experience. This seldom-used approach can be very effective when dealing with modern man. Today’s secular thinkers have generally lost confidence in the power of human reason to find ultimate truth. Yet, modern man has not been able to quench his thirst for meaning.

It is here that Christianity has much to offer. For, the gospel makes sense of life and gives meaning to human existence. Without the God of the Bible, mankind is without any real purpose. However, if one assumes the existence of the God of the Bible, then man has eternal significance. What one does or does not do in this life really does matter. Only Christianity can quench modern man’s thirst for transcendence.

PHILOSOPHICAL APOLOGETICS

Philosophical apologetics provides rational argumentation for the truth of Christianity. This methodology has been extremely effective in the past. It can also be very successful today among those who have not lost faith in man’s reasoning ability to find answers of ultimate importance.

Philosophical apologetics serves several purposes. It can be utilized in refuting atheism and other anti-Christian world views, providing evidence for God’s existence, proposing solutions to the problem of evil, and establishing the possibility of miracles. Philosophical apologists also argue for the existence of universal moral laws.

Those defenders of the faith who use this apologetic methodology often use both the reasoning processes of the mind and the facts of experience to prove the case for Christianity. Philosophical apologists, when they have completed their task, often move on to historical apologetics.

HISTORICAL APOLOGETICS

Historical apologetics provides evidence for the historical claims of the Christian Faith. Evidence is provided for the historical reliability and authenticity of the New Testament manuscripts, Christ’s resurrection and deity, and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Christianity is a religion that makes historical truth claims. The truth of Christianity depends on the reality of these assertions. Therefore, it is essential that evidences from history be used to establish the veracity of these claims.

SCIENTIFIC APOLOGETICS

Dr. Phil FernandesScientific apologetics provides modern scientific evidence that confirms certain truths of Christianity. This method of defending the faith also exposes the weaknesses of the evolutionary model. The Big Bang model, the expansion of the universe, and the second law of
thermodynamics (energy deterioration) are often employed to establish the case for the beginning of the universe and its need for a
supernatural Cause. The highly complex information found in even the most simple life forms is used to prove that the supernatural Cause of the universe must possess intelligence.

COMPARATIVE RELIGIOUS APOLOGETICS

Comparative religious apologetics specializes in the investigation of opposing religions and cults. Evidence is provided to demonstrate that these other belief systems contradict Christianity on essential issues. The comparative religious apologist will attempt to establish both the truth of Christianity and the falsehood of any non-Christian faiths. Often, the refutation will be based upon an appeal to biblical data. Still, philosophical, historical, or scientific evidences are at times called upon to disprove these false belief systems.

CULTURAL APOLOGETICS

Finally, cultural apologetics attempts to prove the superiority of the Christian world view by pointing out the positive consequences of applying Christian principles to a society, as well as the negative consequences of either rejecting the Christian world view or accepting other belief systems. The impact of different religions (including Christianity) on governments and societies will be examined. I will also argue that the rejection of God by Western Civilization will lead to devastating consequences for the West, and that, apart from repentance, Western Civilization will crumble. The cultural apologetics of Christian thinkers C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer will be discussed.

CONCLUSION

Dr. Phil FernandesDefenders of the faith often suffer from one of two common misconceptions. First, many Christians verbally oppose the entire field of apologetics. However, unknown to themselves, they often do this while making use of one of the lesser known apologetic approaches (usually testimonial, presuppositional, or psychological). Second, many apologists refuse to acknowledge a methodology other than the one they choose to employ. It has rightfully been said that “all truth is God’s truth.” Therefore, evidences for the Christian faith should not be limited to one area of knowledge. Apologetics can draw from the wealth of information in many different fields (philosophy, history, science, psychology, etc.). Apologists from each methodology should respect the efforts of other defenders using different approaches. Christians can never succeed in the apologetic task by arguing among themselves. Many philosophical apologists (i.e., Geisler, Moreland, Craig, etc.) also utilize historical and scientific evidences. This combinational methodology is a healthy approach for the apologist to take.

A Priori Knowledge

From A Priori Knowledge and Miracles
by IBD Vice President Matthew J Coombe

Essentially there are two types of knowledge,1 a priori (“from the earlier” or “before the senses”) and a posteriori (“from the later” or “after the senses”). The distinction between the two types is purely epistemic in nature. The most telling difference between the two, as described by Kant is, a priori knowledge is independent of all experience,2 and includes propositions such as, “all bachelors are unmarried males,” and “7 + 5 = 12.3

Classically, many philosophers have accepted a priori knowledge but recently it has received much scrutiny and even some have attempted to reduce it to pure linguistics.4 The skepticism results from the failure to distinguish a clear and coherent account of the classical conception of a priori knowledge from a general theory of knowledge.5 Kitcher PhilipTo properly distinguish and apply a priori knowledge one must ask two questions, 1) what is the primary target of the analysis? 2) Does the analysis of the primary target presuppose a general theory of knowledge?6 If the target requires a theory of knowledge then it cannot be considered truly a priori. Some epistemologists, such as Phillip Kitcher, not only argue that propositions have no intrinsic meaning,7 (and therefore there is no a priori knowledge) but that a priori knowledge is experientially indefensible8 and therefore cannot even be proven at all.

A priori knowledge, if it exists, must be known independently of experience. Several issues are quickly brought to attention, is it possible for man to have knowledge independent of experience? If the answer is “no” then Hume’s a priori rejection fails. If the answer is “yes,” then it must be discerned if the type of knowledge utilized by Hume is indeed free from experience. So then, the issue before the house is. is knowledge contingent upon experience? If one incidence of knowledge can be determined to have occurred apart from experience then a priori knowledge is possible.

Consider a primitive alien planet. On this planet, Gog and Harry (two aliens) are looking at a pile of roldals (the closest equivalent to these on earth are apples). Gog places two roldals on the ground; though to delineate “two” Gog does not utilize the word “two” but rather “glue.” Likewise Harry grabs “glue roldals” and places them next to Gog’s roldals. Now they want to figure out how many they would have if they were to combine them. They designate a stick to be a “+” sign and a rock to be an “=” sign. Further they decide the number four shall be known as “horse.” Therefore: glue roldals, stick, glue roldals, rock, horse roldals— two plus two equals four.

James BeebeDid experience aid in the formulation of the previous conclusion? It would seem that certain mathematical claims are universal and necessary. James R. Beebe examines if things like mathematical proofs are indeed “putatively a priori necessities.9” Beebe argues that due to pervasive nature of empiricism (or rather a posteriori knowledge) there exists an inherent tendency away from a priori knowledge;10 this tendency is not prima facie against a priori knowledge but rather for a posteriori. Beebe’s thesis is to investigate if this penchant is indeed justified. Instead of focusing on basic principles, most of the skepticism applied to a priori knowledge is concerned with impractical linguistic word play syllogisms. For example: 1) If I know that 2 + 3 = 5, then I know that I am not involved in any subject whose a priori beliefs are massively and constantly in error due to skeptical circumstances. 2) I do not know whether or not I am affected by such skeptical circumstances. 3) Therefore, I do not know that 2 + 3 = 5.11 Beebe sites Wittgenstein and Descartes as those who pose the type of skeptical circumstances that prevent such knowledge. For example, Descartes argues in his Third Meditation that it could be possible for God or some deity to deceive every instance of reliable knowledge12 (such is the basis for the previously mentioned syllogism). The problem is, even the proposition, “I should be skeptical concerning a priori knowledge because my environment could be fake, contrived, and/or deceiving,” is in fact an instance of a priori knowledge. Further, even if the most hyper-skeptical environment existed, it would in no way negate the veracity concerning mathematical principles. Consider the aliens once again, but in this instance suppose that they are in a completely computer generated environment and everything around them is fake. Even in this skeptical and false world, the number of rodals, when properly added, will always remain the same. Ultimately, Descartes viewed hyper-skepticism as a menace that restricted intellectual discourse and argued that it was not a useful epistemic tool.13

To determine the connection between a priori knowledge and miracles we need to question the relationship between “before the senses” knowledge and experience. While a priori knowledge can be independent of a hyper-skeptical world, this in no way ensures a unilateral connection between the two—a connection would be required if miracles were either to be accepted or objected via a priori knowledge. Confusion surround the nature of a priori thought further conflates the issue.

Merely because something is a priori, this does not entail that it must necessarily be devoid of any a posteriori components in order for it to remain an instance of a priori knowledge. For example, Plantinga argues that if there were five passengers in a car crash and two survived the crashed, we can know the number who died in the crash a priori is three. The a posteriori knowledge factors in when one considers, what a car crash is or what it means to “survive,” or “die.” Since the combination of the two types of knowledge do not contradict each other, then the combination in no way invalidates the instance of a priori knowledge.14

Consider four scenarios, in each of these scenarios there is a car crash of which there are five passengers, three victims, and two survivors. In the first scenario, the accident took place in a movie, the second was reported on during the evening news, the third was told from a friend who had witnessed the accident (though this friend is known for embellishing) and you witnessed the fourth scenario. The ability to obtain a priori knowledge in each of these scenarios is in one sense contingent upon the a posteriori and in the other independent from it. The veracity of a priori knowledge (in these incidences) is dependent on the efficacy and types of source accounts and evidence.15 In the movie example, the a priori knowledge is sound, but the event is not actual. The other three scenarios likewise result in consistent a priori knowledge iff the sources are accurate.

Therefore, a priori knowledge can be predicated on a posteriori knowledge and the burden of proof in these scenarios is on the a posteriori and not the a priori.16 Further, there is a link between experience and a priori knowledge. This link is not necessary, but when it does occur the veracity of the a priori knowledge is not contingent upon itself, but rather the veracity of the a posteriori presuppositions and justification is the contingency. Thus, to question certain instances of a priori knowledge is merely to question the justification for the a posteriori. It is because of this justification requirement that some epistemologists have argued for the superiority of a priori knowledge.1718

Joshua_ThurowThe final question concerning the link between the two types of knowledge is to answer the question if experientially justified a priori knowledge is capable of being defeasible or to question if it is able to be overturned. Epistemologist Joshua Thurow argues that if a priori knowledge is possible then it is defeasible by non-experiential evidence (due to its very nature). However, if it is defeasible by non-experiential justification then it would likewise be overturned by experiential evidence.19 This conclusion however seems unmerited. To determine if a priori knowledge is defeasible or not, the nature of the claims associated with it should be detailed to a further degree.

All necessary truths are incidences of a priori knowledge,20 but not all incidences of a priori knowledge are necessary. For example the law of excluded middle is a necessary truth that can be known a priori; it is necessarily the case that something cannot be both true and not true in the same sense at the same time and one is able to know this without examining anything in physical reality. For example, someone cannot rightly deduce, “I cannot know truth,21” because if true, her premise fails, and if false then truth can be known and would result in an instance of a priori knowledge. Further, this would be an example of an a priori truth that is also necessary.

Some a priori truths might be instances of knowledge but not necessarily true. The only types of a priori truths that are not necessarily true are those that are true by definition. “All bachelors are unmarried males,” is driven by a definition that need not necessarily be true—there could be a possible sub-culture where “bachelor” means a newly married male. What makes such an instance actually a priori knowledge is because “all bachelors are unmarried males” is true by definition and therefore requires no research or experience—thus, a priori.

Some have attempted to reduce necessary truths to pure linguistics.22 But as argued concerning the example of necessarily or axiomatic truths (of which to deny is self-refuting) such examples cannot be reduced to pure linguistics. While some necessary truths can be reduced to tautologies, this by no means entails all necessary truths are reducible to merely linguistically significant statements.2324 Even Thurow eventually concedes that instances of necessary truths which are defeasible by experience are of the “true by definition” variety and therefore the linguistic factor could affect the truth value, but, iff the definition were equivocal.25

In conclusion, a priori truths can be necessary or true by definition and either can be justified depending on the usage or if is predicated on some a posteriori truth. Necessary a priori truths are irrefutable but are limited in scope. True by definition a priori truths are contingent upon language and in some cases limited by a posteriori foundations (such as the example of car accident). Even before examining Hume, it seems unlikely he would consider his objection as “necessary” therefore, if his objection has merit it would have to be a true by definition or a posteriori contingent a priori truth.

1Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function (Oxford University Press, USA, 1993).2

2Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, and Matthias Steup, A Companion to Epistemology (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). 1

3Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function. 3

4Ibid. 3

5Albert Casullo, “Analyzing a Priori Knowledge,” Philosophical Studies 142, no. 1 (January 2009): 77–90, doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/10.1007/s11098-008-9302-5.

6Ibid. 77

7Philip Kitcher, “Knowledge, Society, and History,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 23, no. 2 (June 1, 1993): 155–177, doi:10.2307/40231815.

8Philip Kitcher, “A Priori Knowledge,” The Philosophical Review 89, no. 1 (January 1, 1980): 3–23, doi:10.2307/2184861.

9James R. Beebe, “A Priori Skepticism*,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83, no. 3 (2011): 583–602, doi:10.1111/j.1933-1592.2010.00488.x.

10Ibid. 584

11Ibid. 595

12René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (NuVision Publications, LLC, 1960). 12

13Harry M. Bracken, Descartes (Oneworld, 2002).15

14Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function. 3

15Casullo, “Analyzing a Priori Knowledge.” 89

16Ibid. 79

17Darragh Byrne, “A Priori Justification,” Philosophical Books 48, no. 3 (2007): 241–251, doi:10.1111/j.1468-0149.2007.00447.x.

18Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function. 8

19Joshua Thurow, “Experientially Defeasible A Priori Justification,” The Philosophical Quarterly 56, no. 225 (2006): 596–602, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9213.2006.461.x.596

20Albert Casullo, A Priori Justification (Oxford University Press, USA, 2003). 88

21Paul A. Boghossian, Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers, Text is Free of Markings (Oxford University Press, USA, 2008). 177. Boghossian is less inclined to believe something so specific can be known via a priori knowledge, but he is willing to allow statements such as, “I am currently entertaining a thought,” which equally argues for my point concerning propositions that are necessarily true because to deny the proposition ultimately affirms it.

22E. D. Klemke, “The Laws of Logic,” Philosophy of Science 33, no. 3 (September 1, 1966): 271–277, doi:10.2307/186275..

23Ibid. 273

24Alfred J. Ayer and Sir Alfred Jules Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, 2nd ed. (Dover Publications, 1952). 16

25Thurow, “Experientially Defeasible A Priori Justification.” 600

Why The Gnostic Texts Were Rejected

Excerpt from Chapter 11 of The Atheist Delusion

 

Many contemporary popular writers reject the first century a.d. portrait of Jesus as God, Savior, and Messiah. Instead, they proclaim Jesus as somewhat of a guru who imparted secret knowledge to His followers. This was the false Jesus of the Gnostic writings.

Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragmentThe Gnostic writings were rejected by the early church for numerous reasons. First, the Gnostic writings (i.e., the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary, etc.) were written much too late. The earliest possible date given to some of these books is about 140 ad, over one-hundred years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Hence, they lacked apostolic authority and did not come from eyewitnesses or anyone who personally knew the eyewitnesses. Hence, the information was written far too late to contain reliable information about Jesus and His teachings.

Second, these writings were deceptive. They are often classified as pseudepigrapha because they were forgeries. The unknown authors were not the persons they claimed to be. No New Testament critic, not even the liberal critics of the Jesus Seminar, believes that these books were actually written by Judas, Thomas, Philip, or Mary Magdalene. The authors were lying; they claimed to be someone they were not.

Drawing of the leontocephalineThird, the Gnostic writings were considered heretical by the early church, and therefore could not be added to the canon. The Gnostics rejected salvation through faith in Jesus and instead taught salvation through secret knowledge. (The word “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means knowledge.) The ancient Gnostics rejected the Old Testament as an evil book written by an evil god. They taught that matter is totally evil and the spiritual realm is totally good. Since the Old Testament God created the material universe, the Gnostics deemed Him to be an evil god. Whereas biblical Christianity has always considered itself to be the completion or fulfillment of the Jewish Faith (i.e., the Old Testament), the Gnostics were opposed to the teachings of the Old Testament and the God of the Jewish Faith. Hence, the early church rejected the Gnostic writings as being heretical; these writings were not in agreement with previous revelation. Hence, as heretical works, the early church believed the Gnostic texts were not edifying for true believers. Since God inspired or guided the early church to write His Word, He also guided the early church to recognize which books belonged in the canon (i.e., the list of books which belonged in the Bible). The Gnostic writings were written too late to be authoritative records of Jesus’ ministry and life. They were heretical, and they were forgeries. There was and is no reason to include the Gnostic writings in the New Testament. The Jesus of the Gnostic writings is a false Jesus. The Gnostic Jesus is not the true Jesus of history.

Fulfilled Prophesies of the Bible

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fernandes’ book
Content Earnestly For The Faith“.

The Bible claims repeatedly to be the Word of God. One of the most powerful witnesses to the truth of this claim is the many fulfilled prophecies proclaimed in the Bible. This work has already examined a sample of prophecies fulfilled by Christ. Here, a few more of the many biblical prophecies that have already come to pass will be discussed.

Content Earnestly For The FaithThe Bible has made many predictions concerning the future of great nations and cities. The following is a brief discussion of a few of the prophecies fulfilled concerning these cities and nations. Around 590—570BC, the prophet Ezekiel predicted that the city of Tyre would be destroyed and never be rebuilt, and that it would become a barren rock which fishermen would use to mend their nets (Ezekiel 26:4, 5, 14). Though Tyre was destroyed and rebuilt many times throughout history, it was ultimately devastated in 1291AD by Muslim invaders. Today, all that is left of the ancient site of Tyre is a small fishing community which uses the barren ground to dry their nets.

In the sixth century BC, Ezekiel also predicted that the city of Sidon would suffer much violence and bloodshed throughout her history, yet remain in existence (Ezekiel 28:23). Though Sidon has been invaded and defeated numerous times throughout her history,
the city still exists today. In 625BC, the prophet Zephaniah predicted that the city of
Ashkelon would someday be destroyed, but that it would eventually be inhabited by the Jews (Zephaniah 2:4, 6). Ashkelon was destroyed in 1270AD by Sultan Bibars. The city remained uninhabited for centuries until the nation of Israel was reestablished in 1948. Now, the
Jews have rebuilt and re-inhabited Ashkelon.

Philistine Captives at Medinet HabuZephaniah also predicted that the Philistines—a powerful enemy of the Jews throughout much of the Old Testament—would be totally wiped out. Though they continued to prosper for many centuries, they eventually became extinct in 1200AD (Zephaniah 2:5). The prophet Obadiah, writing in either 841BC or 586BC, prophesied the extinction of the Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau and enemies of the Jews (Obadiah 18). When the Romans devastated the city of Jerusalem in 70AD, they also defeated the remnants of Edom (called the Idumeans at that time). At that time, all traces of the Edomites disappear.

In 740—680BC, the prophet Isaiah predicted that Egypt would still be a nation in the last days (Isaiah 19:21-22). In spite of the many wars Egypt has encountered throughout her four-thousand year history, this ancient nation remains in existence to this day. In 1410BC, Moses predicted that Israel would be scattered among the nations of the world (Deuteronomy 28:64). The prophet Hosea, in 710BC, predicted this dispersion of Israel as well (Hosea 9:17).

History records that after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, the Jews were scattered throughout the world. Both Isaiah and Ezekiel prophesied that Israel would be regathered in her land in the last days (Isaiah 11:11-12; Ezekiel 37:21). This happened in 1948AD when the nation of Israel was reestablished. The Jews continue to return to their land to this day. God told Abraham that those who cursed Israel would be cursed by God (Genesis 12:3). This prophecy has been fulfilled many times.

Israel 6 Day WarBabylon, Assyria, Philistia, the Roman Empire, and Nazi Germany are a few examples of nations or empires that persecuted and oppressed Israel. While the tiny nation of Israel still exists today, Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany have collapsed and are no longer in existence. During the 1930’s and 1940’s, Nazi Germany had slaughtered six-million Jews and its war machine was devastating Europe. By 1948, Nazi Germany was nonexistent and the Jews had control of their homeland—the nation of Israel— for the first time since 586BC. Each of these prophecies has been fulfilled to the detail.

Many other biblical prophecies have also been fulfilled. It should also be noted that no futuristic prophecy of Scripture has ever been shown to be false. This separates the Bible from false prophets such as Edgar Cayce and Jean Dixon. Their success rate is much lower than the perfect accuracy of the predictions made by the Bible. Henry Morris made the following comment: It seems reasonable to conclude that the phenomenon of fulfilled prophecy constitutes a unique and powerful evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible.

The evidence provided above for the Bible being God’s Word is threefold. First, Jesus (who is God) taught that the Bible is God’s Word. Second, the Bible contains insights that go beyond mere human wisdom. Third, the Bible made numerous predictions, many of which have been fulfilled. None of these predictions have proven false (though some prophecies have yet to be fulfilled). In short, there are good reasons for believing the Bible is God’s Word. Those who reject the divine inspiration of the Bible have failed to explain the three factors above.

Seven Great Apologists: Walter Martin on the Unity School of Christianity

This is an excerpt from chapter six of Dr. Fernandes’ 2011 book, Seven Great Apologists.

THE UNITY SCHOOL OF CHRISTIANITY

Unity LogoThe Unity School of Christianity is an offshoot of Christian Science. Founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, this cult teaches that man is divine; all have the “Christ-consciousness” within them. Unity views Jesus as merely a man who exercised his Christ consciousness more than any other man. Sin, the devil, and eternal punishment do not exist; they are illusions. Salvation in the Unity cult is through reincarnation, and everyone will eventually be saved. Unlike Christian Science, the Unity School of Christianity does believe in the existence of the physical world.

Unity CircleThe teaching of the Unity cult can be refuted in much the same fashion as those of Christian Science. However, a scriptural refutation of reincarnation should be added when dealing with Unity. The Bible teaches that it is appointed for a man to die once, not many times (Hebrews 9:27). The Word of God makes it clear that Jesus alone was punished for our sins (Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18); man does not need to be purged for his own sins through reincarnation. Jesus clearly taught that a deceased person cannot return to this world for a second chance (Luke 16:19-31).

Is Hell Forever?

Does the Bible teach that Hell will be Annihilation or Eternal Torment?

Is Hell ForeverIn September of 2013, Dr. Phil Fernandes debated Chris Date on the matter of Hell. Dr. Fernandes supported the Traditional View in which Hell is understood to be Eternal Conscious Torment. Chris Date argued in favor of Conditionalism (Also known as Conditional Immortality or Annihiliationism).

The entire debate is available in paperback on Amazon. Readers will find the debate both enlightening and informative. Scriptures will be examined and assumptions about the nature of life, and death, confronted. Think you know the whole story? Maybe you don’t.

The Three Main Views of the Origin of the Synoptic Gospels

Excerpt from Chapter 6 of “Hijacking the Historical Jesus

There are three main views concerning the origin of the Synoptic Gospels: the Markan Priority Hypothesis, the Two-Gospel Hypothesis (which views Matthew as the first Gospel written but accepts a literary dependence between the Synoptic Gospels), and the Literary Independence Theory. The Literary Independence theory is by far the oldest theory of the origin of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I will argue that this theory (the Literary Dependence Theory) should not have been abandoned by many contemporary evangelical New Testament scholars. But, first I will comment briefly on the two newer theories.

Malmesbury BibleAdherents of the Markan Priority Hypothesis believe that Mark was the first to write his Gospel based upon Peter’s preaching. Mark himself was not one of the original apostles. There are two subcategories within the Markan Priority Hypothesis: the Two-Source View and the Four-Source View. The Two-Source View declares that Mark’s Gospel and a no longer extant document called “Q” formed the foundation for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Two-Source adherents believe that Matthew and Luke received much of their material from Mark, but the material common to Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark came from a hypothetical document called “Q.” No one has ever found a copy of the supposed ancient document called “Q.” In fact, many New Testament scholars doubt it ever existed.

The Four-Source View within the Markan Priority Hypothesis posits the existence of two additional hypothetical documents called “M” and “L.” According to this speculative theory, “M” was an ancient source used by Matthew in addition to Mark and “Q.” And “L” was supposedly an ancient source used by Luke in addition to Mark and “Q.” Like “Q,” no copy of “M” or “L” has ever been found. Again, many New Testament scholars doubt that these hypothetical documents ever existed.

Carmina Cantabrigiensia Manuscript CThe Two-Gospel View of Synoptic Dependence claims that Matthew was written first, followed by Luke and Mark. Supposedly, Luke utilized Matthew as a source, whereas Mark “borrowed” from both Matthew and Luke. What the two Markan Priority views and the Two-Gospel View have in common is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were not written independently of each other. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were dependent upon each other.

The Literary Independence Theory disagrees. This view accepts the unanimous testimony of the early church fathers that the Synoptic Gospels were written independently of each other. The main reason for the origin of the various dependence theories of the Synoptic Gospels is to discredit the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts. It is therefore surprising that so many evangelical New Testament scholars would embrace these dependence theories. I agree with Robert L. Thomas and F. David Farnell (two New testament scholars from the Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California) in their assessment that evangelical scholars should never have forsaken the Literary Dependence Theory. Their ideas are spelled out in The Jesus Crisis and Three Views on the Origins of the Synoptic Gospels.

Hijacking the Historical Jesus: Chapter 17 (excerpt)

The Main Themes of Jesus’ Teachings:

The Kingdom of God

Most New Testament scholars, liberal and conservative alike, believe the main theme of Jesus’ teachings is the Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven). Both John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). But, what exactly is the Kingdom of God? First, a kingdom is the domain (or sphere of rule) of a king. Second, since God is the King of His Kingdom, then the Kingdom of God is wherever God rules.

Jesus Teaching his ApostlesTo be more specific, we need to look at what Jesus said about God’s Kingdom. Jesus often taught in parables. Parables are true to life stories that teach spiritual truth. In Matthew, chapter thirteen, Jesus taught the people parables about the Kingdom of God, telling them what the Kingdom would be like. In the parable of the sower, Jesus said that people could accept or reject the word of the Kingdom. Those who accept the word of the Kingdom would bear much fruit (Matthew 13:18-23). In the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven, Jesus explained that the Kingdom of God would start out small but would grow to the point of filling the earth (Matthew 13:31-33). In the parables of the tares and the net of fish, Jesus preached that, in God’s Kingdom, the unsaved would mingle with the saved until the harvest on the last day when the Son of Man would send God’s angels to separate them, sending the unsaved into a “furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:36-43; 47-50). In the parables of the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure, Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was worth more than everything a person owned (Matthew 13:44-46).

These parables teach us that the Kingdom of God has two distinct phases or stages. First, the Kingdom of God apparently has a present stage in which God’s Kingdom (the church) is growing throughout the world. During this stage, God’s Kingdom grows until it fills the earth. Still, nonbelievers live side by side with believers during this stage. Second, the Kingdom of God has a future stage in which the Son of Man will come and send His angels to separate the unsaved from the saved, sending the unsaved into eternal torment.

The Apostle Paul spoke of the present stage of God’s Kingdom when he wrote, “For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Hence, the present stage of God’s Kingdom is a spiritual stage—God ruling in the hearts of believers.

The New Jerusalem: 14th Century French TapestryThe future stage of God’s Kingdom is spoken of in the following manner: “And the seventh angel sounded [his trumpet]; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15). Revelation, chapters nineteen and twenty, tell us that Jesus will bring God’s kingdom to earth by reigning on the earth and shepherding the nations with an iron rod for one-thousand years (Revelation 19:11-20:15). Hence, the future stage of God’s Kingdom is when God’s Kingdom physically comes to earth when Jesus returns to rule on earth (Matthew 24:29-31; 25:31-32). Jesus taught the apostles that they would sit on twleve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the coming Kingdom (Matthew 19:28), and that many Jews would not make it into God’s Kingdom, whereas some Gentiles would sit and feast with the Jewish patriarch Abraham (Matthew 8:10-12). Jesus told Nicodemus that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). To be born again, a person has to believe in Jesus for salvation (John 3:16-18).

From these passages we can gain insight into God’s Kingdom. In its present stage, God rules in the hearts of believers—those who trust in Jesus alone for salvation. But, in the future, Jesus will return and bring God’s Kingdom to earth, and He will reign on the earth for one-thousand years. The Kingdom of God coming in all its fullness was prophesied in the Old Testament and will be fulfilled by Jesus at His return when He conquers the enemies of Israel and establishes God’s Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:1-5, 9-21; Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:6-7; 11:4-9; Zechariah 9:9-10). Jesus instructed believers to pray for God’s Kingdom to come to earth (Matthew 6:10).

The True Jesus of the Bible

An excerpt from Hijacking the Historical Jesus

The True Jesus of the Bible—Four Key Doctrines

It is now time for us to examine the biblical portrait of Jesus, the traditional Jesus. The Bible teaches that Jesus always existed as God, the second Person of the Trinity (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). At a point in time, He became a man by adding to His Person a human nature (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:5; Philippians 2:5-8). He did this without ceasing to be God. Four key doctrines proclaimed by the early church may help shed light on the biblical perspective of Jesus. It is important to note that these doctrines were not “created” by church leaders, nor did these doctrines slowly evolve into existence. The components of these doctrines were clearly and originally taught in the New Testament, but had to be systematized in a coherent fashion in order to refute false views of Jesus.

TrinityThe Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is only one true God, but that this one true God exists throughout all eternity as three co-equal Persons (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity. Only He became a man. The Father did not become a man, nor did the Holy Spirit become a man. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons; yet they are only one God. They are not each one-third God; they are each fully God. Still, though they are one in nature, they are three in Personhood. Throughout all eternity, they existed as three distinct Persons, yet as only one God.

Though no single passage of Scripture exhaustively teaches the doctrine of the Trinity, the sub-points that comprise the doctrine of the Trinity are clearly taught throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament. The Bible repeatedly and unambiguously teaches us that there is only one true God (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6; 46:9; 1 Timothy 2:5). The Father is called God (Galatians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2). The Son is called God (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Philippians 2:6; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; John 1:1; 20:28; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 14:5). And, the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 3:16). Yet, they are spoken of as three distinct Persons (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; Matthew 3:16-17; Isaiah 48:16). Therefore, the one true God exists throughout all eternity as three equal Persons. It would be a contradiction to say that God is one God, but three Gods. It would also be a contradiction to say that God is one Person, but three Persons. But, it is not a contradiction to say that God is one God, but three Persons. God is one in nature, yet three in Personhood. Hence, according to the Bible, God is three Persons, and Jesus is fully God, the second Person of the Trinity.

The Incarnation is the doctrine of the Bible that teaches that God the Son became a man. Several passages mention this truth (Philippians 2:5-8; John 1:1, 14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:22-23; Galatians 4:4). It is not a contradiction to believe that God the second Person of the Trinity, while retaining His infinite divine nature, became a man by adding a finite human nature.

Ravenna Mosaic of Jesus ChristThe Hypostatic Union teaches that Jesus is one Person with two distinct natures forever. In other words, He is fully God and fully man. To be fully God, Jesus continues to have all the attributes or characteristics that are essential for God to have. To be fully man, Jesus has to have all the characteristics that are essential for humans to have.

It is not possible for God to cease to be God. We know that Jesus retained His divine nature while becoming a man, since Scripture commands us and the angels to worship Him even after He became a man (John 5:22-23; Hebrews 1:6), and He continued to be called “God” after He became a man (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). As a man, He still claimed to be equal to the Father (John 5:17-18; 10:30-33). He also claimed to be omnipresent (Matthew 28:20). The Biblical portrait of Jesus clearly indicates that He is fully God.

Still, Scripture also declares Jesus to be fully a man. He is called a man (1 Timothy 2:5), was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4), and experienced the limitations of human existence (Mark 13:32; Luke 2:52; John 4:6; 19:28); yet, He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Therefore, Jesus had two natures: one human and one divine. These two natures remained distinct; they did not blend. If His natures blended, He would not be fully man or fully God; He would be a hybrid. Jesus is not half-God and half-man, but fully God and fully man. Was Jesus limited? Yes, but only in His human nature (Mark 13:32). Was Jesus unlimited? Yes, but only in His divine nature (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is one Person with two distinct natures forever.

Jesus and the Children stained glass from St. Michaels ChurchThe Kenosis is the doctrine that teaches that Jesus veiled His glory and humbled Himself by becoming a man (Philippians 2:5-8). Though Jesus did not cease to be God when He became a man and though He retained all of His divine attributes, He voluntarily chose to refrain from using some of His divine attributes while on earth. Instead, He depended on the Father for any supernatural assistance He needed (John 5:19-21, 30). Jesus did not use His divine powers to His advantage while on earth. In His human nature He could learn things and grow in knowledge (Luke 2:52). Even though He continued to be the all-knowing God, He chose to not tap into His divine wisdom while on earth.

These four doctrines are biblically based. They help us to understand the true identity of the Jesus of the Bible. The Bible teaches that there is only one God, but this one God is three Persons (the Trinity). God the Son became a man (the incarnation) to save mankind by dying for our sins. The Son added a human nature without losing His divine nature. Therefore, Jesus is fully God and fully man (the hypostatic union). Still, He veiled His glory by choosing to not utilize some of His divine powers while on earth (the kenosis). Instead, He lived a life of total reliance on the Father and the Father’s will.

Hijacking The Historical Jesus: Opening

On September 11th, 2001, Islamic extremists hijacked American commercial airplanes and flew them into the twin towers and the Pentagon. Another hijacked plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Many commentators claimed that these terrorists had “hijacked” the Islamic faith. In reality, these Muslim terrorists seemed to take the violent commands of the Koran very seriously. They had not hijacked the Islamic faith; instead, they passionately obeyed the unethical commands uttered by Muhammad in the Koran.

However, the past few generations have witnessed a real hijacking: the hijacking of the historical Jesus. The historically reliable New Testament portrait of Jesus has been replaced with varieties of a politically-correct Jesus, New Age Christs, and other false Christs. In most cases, these false Christs were created in the image of the people who promote them.

Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene and did He appoint her to lead His church? Or, was Jesus merely a man who never claimed to be God? Maybe Jesus was merely a legend or myth—He never really existed? In short, is traditional, biblical Christianity a perversion of first century Christianity? Today the traditional view of Jesus has been replaced by a myriad of false conceptions of Christ that look nothing like the true Jesus of the Bible. The traditional view of Jesus has been hijacked, and the Christian church needs to respond. We need to defend the true Jesus of history—the true Jesus of the Bible.

Today, two of the leading false pictures of Jesus in the Western world are being proclaimed by Dan Brown, author of the best-selling novel The DaVinci Code, and by the radical left-wing scholars who comprise the Jesus Seminar—a think tank dedicated to presenting an alternative, politically correct Jesus to the world. The next two chapters will examine their work and refute the false Jesuses they promote. Other false portraits of Jesus will be refuted as well.

In this chapter, we will examine ancient Christological heresies (i.e., ancient false views of Jesus), the liberal “Christian” view of Jesus, the cultic views of Jesus, and the mistaken views of Jesus found in the world religions as well as in postmodern circles. We will then briefly discuss the true biblical view of Jesus. In later chapters, after refuting the work of the DaVinci Code, the Jesus Seminar, and other recent attacks on the historical Jesus, we will build a strong case that the true Jesus of the Bible is identical with the real Jesus of history.

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is fully God and fully man. He always existed as God the second Person of the Trinity, but at a point in time He added a human nature. Throughout the history of the church there have been those who have rejected this biblical view of Jesus and have instead promoted false Christs who cannot save.

An excerpt from “The True Jesus of the Bible”, chapter one in the Institute’s latest book: Hijacking the Historical Jesus.