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A Second Look at Unveiling Christianity March 11, 2010

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Biblical Studies, Christianity, God, Islam, Muhammad, Religion, Textual Criticism, Uncategorized.
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In this second preliminary article, we will be examining the methodology that Unveiling Christianity uses when writing and posting their historical critiques. To anyone familiar to the field of  history or logical argumentation, whether through academic studies or a passing glance of works in historical methodology, it becomes all too apparent that there is a mishandling of sources.

In the articles posted on Unveiling Christianity’s website, one will notice a pattern of sources that Ibn Anwar uses; those who support his position. Obviously an author is supposed to use scholars that support their position in writing persuasive styles of writing, so with that there is nothing wrong. However, the strength of an argument is seen in one’s ability to formulate good reasons for a position, as well as the ability to tear down an opposing view, all while strengthening one’s own position; and not just by quoting scholars who support one’s position. We’ve noticed roughly three things in Mr. Anwar’s work, that lead to certain fallacies: (i) ignoring a huge group of scholars who disagree with the scholars he has chosen to quote, (ii) the philosophical presumptions and dispositions of the scholars he has chosen, and (iii) formulations of good reasons to take the position he has chosen.

(i) One who is trying to establish historical certainties cannot ignore a huge portion of top academics who do not share his position. Ignoring them does no justice to the beauty of historical narratives, nor does it breed honest academic work. Anyone can write like that and anyone can beef up their own positions on quite possibly any position no matter how absurd the opinion is. (ii) The philosophical positions of those quoted need to be taken into account Mr. Anwar. The majority of scholars we have seen you use do not believe the supernatural can be taken into account historically, and thus they rule out miraculous events found in the Bible, which allow you to take the positions you do.  The opinions you are taken in, are completely naturalistic positions, and unless you apply the same naturalistic standards to the Qur’an, you are committing academic hypocrisy. (iii) Formulating a good position paper requires more than just a list of scholars who somewhat support a position you’re taking. Good reasons are needed, as even the best and brightest scholars may have lack good reasons for taking a particular claim. If one just quote’s scholars, the fallacy of appealing to authority births, along with it, a fallacy of cherry picking one’s sources, and accordingly, the formation of a bad position paper peaks its ugly head, as well as a illusion of a poor grasp of the subject.  So we urge Unveiling Christianity to use a well balanced list of sources, examine the philosophies of the scholar’s quoted, and offer up good reasons, rather than the mere conclusions of academics who may or may not have good reasons for their position.

More to follow up in critiquing Unveiling Christianity.

In Christ,

The Confessors

Is John 16:7-14 Referencing the Holy Spirit or Muhammad? December 31, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, God, Islam, Muhammad, Religion, Uncategorized.
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While blogsurfing the wordpress world, we came across an interesting blog that provides arguments to a somewhat common Muslim claim that is thrown out there.  The entry claims that the Comforter in John 16:7-14 is actually a prophecy regarding Muhammad and not the Holy Spirit like Christians believe. It’s always fascinating to see Islam turn to the Bible, despite their unrelenting attacks against it, to provide “proof” for their beliefs. We attempted to start up a dialogue with its author, but after the second round of going back and fourth all the comments were deleted for unknown reasons. So keeping with the purposes of this blog in mind, we’ll present his arguments and then offer up a response.

His arguments revolve around these four points: (1) A spirit and a prophet can be the same thing (basing this off of his interpretation of 1 John 4) (2) The Holy Spirit has come prior to Jesus (Luke 1:41), rendering this a false statement if applied to the Holy Spirit (3) The Holy Spirit hasn’t guided believers like Muhammad has and (4) once the Qur’an is studied, we will see The Comforter as Muhammad because of the Qur’an’s evidence.

Before we even have to deal with his arguments the whole conclusion runs aground. In John 14:25, it specifically states that the Comforter is the Holy Spirit, contrary to what he argues: “The intention of this writing is to prove to that this prophesy is not referring to the Holy Ghost, rather it is referring to the last and final Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).” This leaves him with one of these three options, (1) conceed that John 16:7-14 is referencing the Holy Spirit, (2) provide good reasons to reject John 14:25’s claim, or (3) provide another string of arguments that can show Muhammad is specifically the Holy Spirit. Since his conclusion is false from the start, the premises are also false and thus can be rejected without even dealing with them; if the he reads this we welcome a response to this.

In Christ,

The Confessors

Round Two of the Use of Jeremiah 10:2-4 December 31, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Christmas, Islam, Religion, Uncategorized.
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Apparently the blogger took notice at our response to the usage and more specifically his usage of Jeremiah 10:2-4 in anti-Christmas tree and anti-Christmas celebration blogs and emails. However, he completely misses the point of the entry, which was more against the proof-texting and manipulating of the Scripture verse to make it appear as if it was specifically addressing Christmas festivities. In this response he tries to make it appear as if he was originally looking at the spiritual message behind the verse; however all one has to do is look at the post to see that if this was his original intention, it wasn’t very clear.

In this new entry he expands the purpose of the original blog, showing that we have to look at the deeper meaning of the verse, worship isn’t just a specific act but could go much deeper in the Islamic view; which any Christian could agree with. He left a comment in his response to another reader, saying: “You see, when the Christian puts up a tree in defiance of God he is worshipping something other than God. It might be the tree, giving it an undo right to be in the house, decorating it beautifully, gathering around it, staring at it for extended periods of time.”  A few things must be stated here (i) While trees in the past have been worshiped, even evergreen trees, Christians started the Christmas tree tradition as a symbol for Christ as a light to the world (hence the lights on the tree).  If we avoided everything that Pagan’s or others have used in their worship rites or worship in the methods talked about above, no one could do anything without invoking Pagan connotations, not even the worship of God in buildings. (ii) Where does God say never put up a tree that isn’t going to be used in religious ceremonies, since we’ve established that Christians don’t use trees in any sort of religious worship or for Pagan tradition? (iii) The statements above would label nearly everything as idol worship, even writing a blog (depending on what is defined as “looking at something for an extended period of time). This definition provided would lable things as decorating ones house as idol house worship, house plants could possibly idol worship, and depending on what could be defined as “decoration,” one dressing up could be doing idol worship. Now, to a Christian, these could indeed become idols if they become something that is placed infront of God, or hinders your relationship with God. Is one spending more time watching tv then with God or is someone more fascinated with the Christmas tree then the birth of Christ? In summery, if the author of the entry would have expanded his commentary on Jeremiah 10:2-4 to explain what he did in the rebuttal to my response, we probably would not of even wrote an entry dealing with the original fallacious usage of the verese.

Some Questions For Muslims December 30, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Islam, Religion, Uncategorized.
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To the Muslim we must ask:  how did the Bible become corrupt when the Qur’an declares the Bible as the “Word of God,” “the Book of God,” “a decision for all matters,” and the list goes on; when according to Surahs 6:34 and 10:64 the Words of God cannot be altered?  Did the Bible become corrupt before, after or during Muhammad’s life, because in Surah 5:47-50 Christians are told to turn to their own Gospel and we are asked to test the truthfulness of Muhammad’s message with the previous message (the Bible) from God, like in Surah 10:94?

Smithsonian Institution’s Stance on The Book of Mormon December 28, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Joseph Smith, Latter Day Saints, Mormonism, Religion, The Book of Mormon, Uncategorized.
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Here is a letter written by the Smithsonian Institution in regards to The Book of Mormon and its relation to archeology and the New World. Although this does not lead to 100% proof, it should at least raise concerns on the historicity of The Book of Mormon. Despite the fact that we at The Confessors do not believe one needs physical evidences for every detail of the Bible, or any religious book for that matter, we do believe something should have been uncovered; as the Book of Mormon is claimed to have recorded about 1,000 years of human history somewhere in the Americas. A Mormon response to the letter can be found here; however, it does little to dispel the issue of historical accuracy and the Book of Mormon.

STATEMENT REGARDING THE BOOK OF MORMON

1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.

2. The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern, central, and northeastern Asia. Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World–probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age–in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

3. Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000 and then settled in Greenland. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.

4. One of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific finding that contacts with Old World civilizations, if indeed they occurred at all, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations, is the fact that none of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time when the early big game hunters spread across the Americas.)

5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.

6. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by no means certain that even such contacts occurred; certainly there were no contacts with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asian and the Near East.

7. No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archaeological remains in Mexico and archaeological remains in Egypt.

8. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines, and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to hare occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Greenland.

Public Information Officer
Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560

PREPARED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY
SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

A Review of “Misquoting Jesus” December 27, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible, Christianity, Islam, Religion, Uncategorized.
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Introduction:

 Bart Ehrman’sMisquoting Jesus was promised (and lives up to that promise) to be the first in  textual criticism that any layperson could pick up and understand (pg.15). Ben Witherington also echoes similar words on his BlogSpot review of the book,” this is material I could happily assign to seminary students wanting to understand the basics of text criticism.” The material, for the most part, was a great read and easy to follow. Anyone who truly wants to understand the basics of textual criticism and New Testament manuscript history, without the intensity and length of scholarly textbooks, would do well to read the first four chapters of this book. After those initial four chapters, the book’s point becomes more apparent (not that it was completely hidden from the get go).

Who He Is:

Dr. Bart Ehrman is a scholar in the field of Biblical Studies, chairing the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina. He is also the author of numerous books on the subject of Biblical Studies. He studied at some of the nation’s best known Christian schools, Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, finishing up his studies under Bruce Metzger at Princeton Theological Seminary. As his introduction reveals, it was these studies that enlightened him to the errors that filled the manuscripts of the Bible, thus in his mind, rendering them uninspired by God. Later he rejected Christianity, becoming an agnostic, after wrestling with the problems of suffering.

The Commentary:

In the introduction of the book, one gets a detailed life story of Bart Ehrman. The reader also will find out the sort of angle he is approaching his studies from. The approach is the typical “guilty until proven innocent” slant. Dr. Erhman clearly reveals that because the manuscripts are error ridden, we should not accept the Bible as an inspired book. On the other hand, he seems to shoot himself in the foot, “Most of the differences [between the textual manuscripts] are completely immaterial and insignificant” (pg.10). He highlights some brief examples of the changes and tells the readers there are approximately 400,000 differences between the textual manuscripts and that some of these differences are intentional changes, although not necessarily for the bad. Seeming to forget what he wrote on page ten, he starts to paint a drab outlook for anyone who puts faith in the Bible.

According to Dr. Craig Blomberg the, “substantial majority of this book provides information already well-known and well-accessible in other sources.” So the issues are not some brand new discovery, nor have they been kept hidden. They are now just more accessible to the public in an easier to read format. Dr. Blomberg believes that Dr. Ehrman spins the data by focusing on the more drastic issues concerning the text. Thus, making it as if there are even greater or many more issues like the ones he points out in his book found throughout the various texts. Despite making it seem like this (which he indeed does), he concedes on page sixty-nine that the other textual differences are in no way the magnitude of the others in the book. Dr.Blomberg also takes issue with Ehrman’s hypothesis, that the scribes of the 2nd and 3rd century did not do as vigilant of a job that the “professional” scribes  did after Emperor Constantine. Submiting that not only is it unprovable that the scribes after Constantine were all professional, but also Erhman’s proposition that the scribes after Constantine where more careful in copying than those before hand, because we simply don’t have the amount of manuscripts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries that we have from the later centuries; stating, “Not only are both of these postulates unprovable (though certainly possible), the actual textual evidence of the second and third centuries, though notably sparser than for later centuries, does not demonstrate the sufficiently greater fluidity in the textual tradition that would be necessary to actually support the hypothesis that we cannot reconstruct the most likely originals with an exceedingly high probability of accuracy, even if that probability remains in the high 90s rather than at 100 %” (Dr.Blomberg).   Dr. Erhman also writes as if the Doctrine of the Trinity leans on the “Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8).” When in reality there are other verses located throughout the Bible that support the Trinity (note: we at The Confessors have never used 1 John 5:7-8 as a verse to support the Trinity, nor have we seen anyone else use it; most Bibles today do not contain the Johannine Comma).

Dr. Bart Ehrman also never gives any supporting arguments to back up his claim that these errors suggest that the Bible itself can’t possibly be inspired by God. The evidence seems to point the other way, “No central tenet of Christianity hangs on any textually uncertain passage” (Dr. Craig Blomberg). Dan Wallace in his review quotes what Bruce Metzger once taught him, “over 90% of the NT is rather well established in regard to its original text, and none of the remaining 10% provides us with data that could lead to any shocking revisions of the Christian credo or doctrine” (Dan Wallace). Norman Geisler and Willam Nix conclude in their book, “A General Introduction to the Bible”, as quoted by Bruce Metzger in “The Case for Christ”, that the text is “a form that is 99.5% pure.” If Dr. Bart Ehrman’s own mentor and “Doctor-Father,” Bruce Metzger, came to the conclusion that the text is 99.5% pure, we should take the conclusion in “Misquoting Jesus” with a grain of salt (Acknowledgments, Misquoting Jesus).

In Conclusion:

“Misquoting Jesus” is a good read and provides a basic understanding of the field of textual criticism in the first four chapters. The Introduction and chapters five through the conclusion reveal he has an ax to grind. Many of his claims are spun out of historical context and un-provable.

For the links to the reviews used above:

Dr.Craig Blomberg’s Review

Dr.Ben Witherington’s Review, with Dan Wallace

Evangelical Textual Criticism’s Review

We also recommend “Misquoting Truth” by Timothy Paul Jones

In Christ,

The Confessors

Christmas Trees Wrong According to Jeremiah 10:2-4? December 26, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Christmas, Religion, Uncategorized.
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As usual, Christmas time brings an influx of anti-Christmas propaganda emails and blogs. They typically promise to enlighten their fellow believing Christians; or for those who aren’t Christians, use this time to attack the Christian faith. The topical subjects of the various blogs and emails usually range from “December 25th is a Pagan holiday” to “decorating Christmas trees is a Pagan act forbidden in the Bible.” We at The Confessors have never done an in-depth study on the history of Christmas, nor are we here to defend December 25th as the day of Jesus’ birth or the usage of Christmas trees. Rather, the purpose of this specific entry is to address the usage of Jeremiah 10:2-4 in anti-Christmas propaganda. We recently came across a quotation of this verse being used to attack the decoration and use of Christmas trees.

” 2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest… 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

As the verse above appears, it could make a strong case against the usage of decorated Christmas trees. However, the first thing we noticed was the “…” portion of the quotation and wondered what it had to say. Here is the full section of the quoted Scripture:

“2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customsa of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

The entire meaning of this quotation changes when one reads what was left out. It isn’t forbidding the decoration of trees, rather, the carving of idols from wood. While we don’t disagree with debating the Christmas celebration origins, we do disagree with creating arguments from bad exegesis of the Scripture and false histories from the imagination rather then the facts (this goes for both sides of any issue).

In Christ,
The Confessors