Ancient Bible Critic Reinforces Biblical Truth

One of the strongest supports for Christianity can come, surprisingly, in a backhanded way from its critics. One such is the ancient philosopher Celsus, who wrote a book against Christians in c.175. This work has been lost, but is largely preserved in the writings of Origen, who wrote Contra Celsum (Against Celsus) in 248 AD.

We will show that an ancient critic of Christianity gives some support to some of the most critical aspects of Christian theology.

First, lest we think Origen is falsely quoting or misrepresenting Celsus’ view, we have the statement of the noted scholar Philip Schaff:

But the rule which Origen prescribed to himself, of not allowing a single objection of his opponent to remain unanswered, leads him into a minuteness of detail, and into numerous repetitions, which fatigue the reader, and detract from the interest and unity of the work. He himself confesses that he began it on one plan, and carried it out on another. No doubt, had he lived to re-write and condense it, it would have been more worthy of his reputation. (Philip Schaff, Ante Nicene Fathers, Bible Truth Forum e-edition, 4.394)

We also have the words of Origen himself in the preface to his book against Celsus:

In the language of Celsus there seems to me to be no deceitfulness at all, not even that which is “vain; ”such deceitfulness, viz., as is found in the language of those who have founded philosophical sects, and who have been endowed with no ordinary talent for such pursuits. And as no one would say that any ordinary error in geometrical demonstrations was intended to deceive, or would describe it for the sake of exercise in such matters . . . (Schaff, 4.610)

So here we have Origen being respectful toward his subject. This was no street brawl, but an attempt to show respect for Celsus while showing his mistakes.

Still further, Origin was condemned a heretic for his false views on the nature of Jesus. Therefore we have Origen, who was not afraid to disagree with orthodox Christianity, carefully, respectfully, and tediously quoting Celsus, an admitted critic of Christianity who was trying to destroy it. Yet the writings help support some essential Christian teachings.

For example, William Paley, in one of his apologetic works titled A View of the Evidences of Christianity, shows us that Celsus only quoted books that were part of the canon of the New Testament. Paley gives about a page of references to Celsus’ quoting of the gospel writers, then sums up his point by saying

It is extremely material to remark, that Celsus not only perpetually referred to the accounts of Christ contained in the four Gospels, but that he referred to no other accounts; that he founded none of his objections to Christianity upon any thing delivered in spurious Gospels. (Paley, Christian Evidences, London: 1810, p.282)

Thus we have Origin giving a tedious, exhaustive refutation of an early critic of Christianity who only quoted the same gospels that we have today and none others. For example, when Celsus criticizes the Biblical account of Herod at the birth of Jesus (Schaff, 4.653), he is telling us that the ancient Christian scriptures included the story of Herod murdering the children at the birth of Jesus. When Celsus criticizes Jesus for gathering disciples that were “tax gatherers and sailors” (Schaff, 4.654), he affirms that the gospels include this account. Origen goes on for hundreds of pages, telling us about Celsus’ claims about the Bible.

Celsus’ lengthy descriptions of Bible passages was intended by him as an attack, but turn out to be supportive in some respects. We cannot conclude that the Bible was invented in the later centuries if we have lengthy references from an enemy of Christianity telling us that the Bible includes stories of Jesus virgin birth, death, and resurrection, and reaffirming to us that the books we now have are the same as what was circulated in the years after the events happened, and these were the Books being taught, not others.

 

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What About the Resurrection Body?

The Bible tells us that we will be resurrected. 1 Corinthians 15 mentions 11 times that our bodies will be raised, which naturally raises the question of what the body will be like. Scripture reveals some things to us, and systematic theology tells us more.

First, we must look at Jesus’ resurrected body. After Jesus rose from the grave, the body was gone from the grave (John 20). It was the same body that died on the cross, for it had the same markings (John 20:20, 27) and was recognized by His friends as the same Jesus. Jesus could pick up physical objects (John 21:13), and could be touched and seen (John 20:27). The resurrected Jesus was not a spirit, but was flesh and bone (Luke 24:39)  which could eat regular food (Luke 23:41-43). He could be grasped and hugged (John 20:17).

Second, Philippians 3:20-21 tells us that our resurrection bodies will be like Jesus’. It says “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” 1 Cor. 15 tells us that our bodies will be raised; allusions to “spiritual” in this chapter do not refer to non-physical, for the same term in the same book is used of physical things (see 1 Cor. 10:4; Gal. 4:29). We are also told that we will resurrect physically like Jesus did (Romans 6:5; Phil. 3:11; Rev. 20:5), but will not die again (Rev. 20:6; 1 Cor. 15:42).

Therefore the Bible teaches that our resurrection bodies will be physical, will be able to eat, will be able to be recognized by our friends as the same person, and can do the same physical things we can now.

Systematic theological study can tell us more about our resurrection bodies.

It would appear that beings in the presence of God will sing, as we do now (Rev. 4:8, etc.). Job tells us that “in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:26), therefore we will be able to see with our eyes as we do now.

The Bible also teaches that sin has corrupted the world, including our bodies. With the curse of sin removed, we can conclude that our bodies will be perfect and without defect. Thomas Aquinas describes it this way:

Man will rise again without any defect of human nature, because as God founded human nature without a defect, even so will He restore it without defect. . . human nature will be brought by the resurrection to the state of its ultimate perfection which is in the youthful age, at which the movement of growth terminates, and from which the movement of decrease begins. (ST, III.81.1)

and again,

Each one will rise again at that quantity which would have been his at the end of this growth if nature had not erred or failed, and the Divine power will subtract or supply what was excessive or lacking in man. (ST, III.81.2).  

Therefore those who die as babies or as decrepit will resurrect as they would have as uncorrupted mature people, after full growth but before decay.

We can also safely conclude that the same set of specific individual particles are not required for the resurrected body as prior to death, since all during one’s lifetime specific particles are ingested, become part of the body, then are sloughed off. Therefore the same body can be regenerated without the exact correspondence of all particles. Nevertheless, it would appear from what we stated above that the same body as died will be regenerated and resurrected. We could then conclude that severed limbs or organs will be restored to a state of perfection that would have been had we not been corrupted by sin and death.

Part of our answer to the resurrection of the body is  understood in terms of form and matter. Our soul can be said to be our form, with our body as matter. No matter can exist without form, therefore when the soul returns, the soul conforms matter to itself and the body is restored to perfect union of soul and body. Humans are a soul-body unity. Therefore physical defects incurred in life such as scars or severed parts will be resurrected as they would have been at perfect growth.

For more details on the resurrection body, see Systematic Theology by Norman Geisler, 4.247ff, 4.690-1; and Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.75-86.

 

 

 

 

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Does God Know His Own Future Decisions?

This is another in a series of questions, criticisms, and attacks posed by skeptics.

Question: How can God know His future decisions? If God is all-knowing, how can He make any decisions at all, or choose one thing over another? If He were all-knowing, He would not be able to make a future decision, for He would already know everything. He would not even be able to think.

Response: Perhaps criticisms like this are the root of the claim that atheists do not understand God. Nevertheless, the question is confused and has a rather straightforward answer.

Here, the skeptic is half correct. Since God is all-knowing, it is correct that He does not make future decisions. Further, since time is a measure of change, and God does not change, He is timeless and does not experience before and after as we do. Thus when God acts, He acts from timeless eternity in one unified act. This unified act of God results in many sequenced effects that we experience as present and future.

A simple analogy can illustrate. A doctor can give a single prescription to give medicine three times per day for a week. The one order from the doctor results in many future effects that happen in sequence. There is no logical contradiction in a timeless, changeless God acting from a timeless eternity, yet multiple effects happening in seqence in a changing world.

As for God making decisions and thinking, I have already answered this, which you can find here and also here.

 

 

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Brought to you by Ratio Christi
DEFENDING THE FAITH IN TURBULENT TIMES 

A Conference for Christian Apologetics
This event is designed to help prepare you to make a defense for the Word in turbulent times.
  • How can we reconcile Christianity and Science?
  • Does scripture tell us we are in a battle of ideas?
  • How can God be good when there is so much evil?
  • Are ancient texts reliable?
  • Can we defend the faith and still tell the good news?
Speakers:
Dr. Clay Jones is a writer, speaker, pastor, professor, and radio host. His talk will be on “Why Does God Allow Evil? An Apologist’s Perspective.”
J. Warner Wallace was a professional police officer, working his way from patrol officer to SWAT Team to homicide detective. He will speak on “The Case For Truth: A Detective’s Perspective.”
Dr. Sarah Salviander holds a PhD in  astrophysics and specializes in quasars and supermassive black holes. She will speak on “How Did God Create The World in Six Days? A Scientists Perspective”
Dr. Dan Wallace is arguably the foremost living expert on ancient New Testament document research. He will speak on “In a Modern World, How Can Ancient Be Reliable? A Scholar’s Perspective.”
Glenn Smith is regional director for Ratio Christi. He will speak on “Why Do We Need Apologetics? A Practical Perspective.”
TWO DAY EVENT

FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 7:00 – 9:00 PM
SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

 

Austin Ridge Bible Church
9300 Bee Cave Rd
Austin, TX 78733

 

To register, click the link below. Don’t miss this opportunity. Please forward this message to anyone who might be interested.
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The Book of Daniel

The Biblical book if Daniel is particularly attacked by skeptics and critics, both inside and outside the church. The attacks are due to the very detailed prophesies found in the book, telling precise things about four major world kingdoms. Liberals inside the church attack Daniel by denying miracles before they get to the text, and skeptics outside the church tell us historical details are incorrect — they tell us Darius the Mede was not emperor when Daniel says he was.

As background, Daniel makes clear prophecies about kingdoms which will follow Babylon. These prophecies are quite detailed, and the predictions align with Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

I happen to trust the good scholarship that holds to the early date and inerrancy of Daniel. But if we were to take the minimal facts method of defending Daniel, we can accept merely the most undisputed facts about the book and still have Daniel as a valid book.

The dead sea scrolls have parts of Daniel that date to at least 150 BC, possibly a bit earlier. With that date, even if we take the most skeptical approach, Daniel predicts the disintegration of Rome and the rise of Christianity. Such a prediction given hundreds of years before the event supports the divine origin of Daniel.

As to details such as Darius, several responses can be given. First, whenever the skeptics see the slightest disagreement between the Bible and secular historians, they are quick to blame the Bible. Why not hold the Bible true and the other historians false? Given that the Bible is demonstrated true in so many other places, it is reasonable to consider that there might be an explanation, rather than being quick to blame the Bible. At the very least, it does not follow that we should automatically dismiss Daniel and accept other accounts without carefully balancing the rest of the evidence.

Second, reasonable explanations are possible. The Bible Knowledge Commentary gives at least four possible explanations for Daniel’s account of Darius, all of which are reasonable and fit well into the historical account.

Third, even if we have no explanation for the existence of Darius, it is not reasonable that Daniel merely invented a world leader that the readers of the day would identify as a fairy tale. The Jews especially would have discounted the entire book. Instead, they held Daniel to be a true prophet.

Fourth, even if we were to have no explanation for some details in Daniel, it does not follow that the whole of the book, indeed even the whole of the Bible, should be discounted. As we demonstrated above, taking the most skeptical of approaches and considering even the most minimally true facts, we still find Daniel’s key prophecies to be true.

Lastly, there is some external support for Daniel. The historian Josephus tells of Alexander the Great laying siege to Jerusalem, only to be invited in by the priest and shown the prophet’s account of him. Alexander is said to be so impressed that he spared the city.

In reality, Daniel is complete and inerrant, was written early, and predicts accurate details of history. We would all do well to read Daniel afresh and heed the words God has revealed to us.

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Science and Faith: Who Wins?

Scientists who happen to also be atheists tell us that we must not consider God into the research, for if we do we will kill science. They tell us that by definition, science deals with natural causes and that if we mix in God as a cause or a designer or even as an idea, we have mixed in religion and done away with the foundations of science.

John Lennox, in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? points out that there were many scientists in the history of their fields which were also solid Christians, and it helped their research, and did not hinder it. When Newton published his work on gravity, he did not say “I’ve shown one more reason why we don’t need God.” Rather, just the opposite; he felt that he had shown one more proof of God’s handiwork. Lennox also points out that just because we understand a few things about how the mechanism works, we cannot then conclude that the mechanism was never created by anyone, that it came to be without an ultimate cause.

Lennox also points out the differences in worldview, and how it was theism that made scientific research prosper.

In considering what science is and what it can do, we have scientists who tell us that science only deals with natural things in the world, and in our science we must not consider anything outside of the natural order, since then we are no longer doing science. Actually, this is all well and good, and we have no issues with this. If the scientists wants to define his work as only dealing with natural things, great, have a nice day, those in the Christian camp have no issues with this viewpoint. We do not even have fundamental issues if they try to deal with claims Christians have made about the natural order; this is just the free exchange of ideas. We only have issues when the scientists cross the line they have made and start telling us things about God. For many modern atheist scientists are running around telling us they have started with limiting themselves to exclusively natural things, then concluded things about God, who is outside of the natural world. Men like Dawkins and Harris write books telling us that somehow they have started with observing natural effects and concluded that God does not exist. Not only is this logically absurd, but it violates the rules of the game that they created. They seem to be worried that religion will creep into science, while they are busily hustling science into religion. If they want to keep their science separate, stop making claims about God

In reality, as many have shown, we can view things in the natural world and draw a few, admittedly limited, logical conclusions about what is outside the natural world. We can know, for instance, that the world did not get here by itself, something outside the world caused it. Whatever this cause is, it is powerful and not created. You can find more on this in a great book called Natural Theology by William Lane Craig.

In the end, it is a mistake to view science and faith as in a contest for power, for they are not in a ball game together that has a winner and a loser.

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Atheists Look for Miracles

I have been reading an excellent book titled True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism. The book is a collection of articles by Christians who respond to modern atheists, showing that Christianity is more reasonable than atheism.

One of the chapters by David Marshall points out that when atheists are asked what they would hold as valid evidence for God, they often look for a miracle. If they could witness a fantastic, irrefutable miracle, they would believe. Or so they say. Yet they then attack Biblical miracles as not being reasonable, or as David Hume does, define them out of existence before considering the evidence.

The Biblical writers often give examples of miracles they have witnessed as evidence of the truth for miracles. Regardless of whether someone today believes the eyewitness testimony, we cannot hold the Biblical writers as irrational or illogical, for they provide the very type of evidence that the modern skeptic asks for, and they use the only means available to them at the time to document the evidence.
So whether or not you hold the Biblical evidence to be sufficient, we have the Biblical writers being reasonable by providing what evidence they have to prove a logical point, and the modern skeptics being illogical when they demand evidence, then criticize the Bible for providing just that.

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