What is the Proper Way to Do Apologetics?

We are living in what can be considered the golden age of Christian apologetics. There has been more information published defending Christianity in the last twenty five years than in most of the previous twenty centuries. During that time Christian apologists have made a great impact on many people’s lives.

I maintain, however, that many of us in the apologetics community are “doing it wrong.” To be more effective, we must do apologetics more wisely.

When I started this blog, the first time I mentioned the Kalam Cosmological demonstration for the existence of God, the first response I received was very telling. The Kalam demonstration basically says that everything with a beginning has a cause, the universe has a beginning, therefore the universe has a cause. One commenter said that 1) causality is a subjective perception, 2) causality may not be a universal truth , 3) logic might not apply to everything, 4) the physical matter in the universe is actually a projection of meaning. The commenter summed up by saying this:

All beginnings and endings, particles and measurements, feelings and experiences are part of the show but the show itself has no cause and all cause. It’s completely random and it’s perfect fate. It’s everything: it’s the universe.

Now, most of us in the apologetics community can immediately see the flaws in such an explanation, which is more contradiction than sense. Our typical reaction would be to do what I did, which was more explanation of the reasonableness of the Kalam. But here’s the rub: I had already done that. The reader did not need more explanation of the points, for I had made them already in the first post, which was ignored and filtered through a lens of a worldview. I should not expect to make much progress via a computer discussion using logic, for they had already denied that logic applies to reality. Indeed, they had already denied the common explanation of reality itself.

In the book A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics by James W. Sire, the author makes the following point:

Apologetic arguments take place in a variety of contexts. One of the reasons they often do not work–that is, do not persuade–is that they are cast in ways that are inappropriate to the situation. There’s a great difference between an apologist’s presentation of a case for the Christian faith to a large audience and that same apologist’s chat with a small group around a table at Starbucks or one-on-one dialogue with a friend. The tone and temper of the atmosphere, its openness or hostility, its formality or informality, its time constraints or lack thereof are all significant. (p.55)

I think Sire is right, and this is a point that is largely missed in apologetic circles. I attribute the key problems of Christian apologists’ effectiveness to the following:

  • Applying debate principles to personal encounters.
  • Becoming increasingly shaped by electronic, distant communication that is impersonal
  • Not communicating respect to those with whom we are communicating

We apologists tend to take the methods used by men such as William Lane Craig in his on-stage debates and use them with personal encounters with people. We tend to use pure logic in a harsh way to prove other people wrong because that is what we have been shaped to do by the computer medium and studying arguments. Using these techniques in one-on-one conversations are mistakes, and they reduce our effectiveness.

I view this blog as more educational than evangelistic or persuasive because it is via an online web page. Few people take things they read online to heart. Therefore discussions are shut down if they get argumentative or repetitive.

People are much more receptive when a live person is sitting in front of them, someone to whom they have come to know and have some respect. We simply cannot do apologetics the same in an online educational format, a public debate, and in one-on-one encounters. These are all different situations that require different approaches.

Many apologists think that the arguments themselves are persuasive. Perhaps they are to some, but more effective is the way the arguments are communicated. As Sire points out in his book, we must show our audience that we respect them or they will not listen to our arguments.  Only by shaping our communication to the situation and the audience will we be effective in doing apologetics.

 

 

Posted in Apologetics | 6 Comments

Two People Raised Jehovah’s Witnesses Tell Their Story

A Lesson for Apologists and Members of the Watchtower

Here is the personal account of two people who were raised Jehovah’s Witnesses, spent a great deal of time working for their kingdom hall, and lived a life expected by that religion. They continued this way until one day the husband knocked on one particular door.

In this message is a great lesson to Christian apologists trying to reach out to those outside the faith. Often we apologists simply do it wrong……we argue with people even though we tell ourselves that we cannot argue people into the kingdom. If you are a counter-cult apologist, please listen carefully to this account and you will learn a great lesson on how to reach people with apologetics.

If you are currently a member of a kingdom hall, please take the time to listen to this true story of two people who were raised in good standing with the Jehovah’s Witnesses since childhood. It is merely them telling their story.

Posted in Apologetics | 1 Comment

Is the Resurrection Credible?

The skeptic David Hume gave what is perhaps the greatest attack on the Bible ever given. Many of today’s Bible critics are borrowing from Hume’s ideas, even though most of them have never read Hume.

In section 10 of his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume states:

It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle . . .

Here Hume is defining miracles out of existence by simple assertion. He is stating that no one has ever experienced a miracle, and this uniform experience is a proof. Of course, this statement is used to discount the eyewitness accounts of the people who did experience a miracle, namely that many people claimed to have seen Jesus alive after He was killed. In other words, Jesus did not rise from the dead because we all know people do not rise from the dead, therefore all the eyewitness accounts of Jesus rising from the dead must be wrong. Modern atheists repeat such poor logic, only they are much more adept at ridicule and name-calling. If used on any other subject, a first-year philosophy student would not pass.

Hume goes on to attack the credibility of the eyewitnesses, saying that we all know that accounts of miracles are from uneducated people in far away places that cannot be verified or are proven false upon examination.  Such a tactic is also a favorite of modern-day atheists, for it posits the Biblical account as something it is not. Reading what we are actually told in the resurrection accounts, the risen Jesus appeared in a city during a major feast with large numbers of visitors and in front of many educated people and government officials, even those who were attempting to disprove the event.

The resurrection of Jesus is indeed an unusual event, to say the least. But can we reasonably dismiss it out of hand?

The spouse of a co-worker of mine was once pregnant. Extensive pre-natal tests in one of the finest hospitals showed a major medical defect. Repeated tests confirmed the situation, and the parents were prepared for a major surgery on the baby as soon as it was born. Many Christians were in prayer, and the parents were highly stressed. Upon birth, the medical team was in place, but examination of the newborn showed a perfectly healthy baby, an absence of the condition that the same tests showed existed just a few days earlier.  I, perhaps being more attuned to skeptics than I should, begged the parents to obtain copies of the medical records so they could document a miracle.  But the parents were of course more relieved in a healthy baby than they were worried about skepticism, so they never asked for copies of the records. Can I document this miracle? No.  Are some of the accounts like these false? Assuredly so.  Do the vast majority of sick people never see a miracle? Right again. Are there religious con-men that fake miracles for personal gain? Yes. Can we dismiss all miracle accounts out of hand as impossible?  Try to tell that to those who were actually there.  These were top doctors, in modern times, with parents who have technical degrees from major universities.  They all saw the tests. We cannot dismiss all these cases out of hand as impossible by using a-priori logical fallacies.

In the case of the apostles who witnessed the risen Jesus, they spent the rest of their days telling others about this man Jesus.  Doing so cost them their lives and their livelihoods.  A reasonable person will read their accounts of what they saw, touched, and heard, and realize that the evidence is on the side of the truth of what we read in the Bible. On this coming Easter, I urge you to read about Jesus.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Is Daniel Accurate About the Attack of Nebuchadnezzar?

The book of Daniel is very accurate prophecy concerning history and the coming messiah, Jesus. As such, it is much attacked by critics. Daniel 1:1-2 say the following:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

 

The critic challenges this passage with the following:

  1. The tone of Daniel 1 is that of a fictional story.
  2.  The proper spelling is Nebuchadrezzar, not Nebuchadnezzar, which is a later form of the name. This would indicate a later authorship of the book of Daniel.
  3. The third year of Jehoakim was 605 BC. But in that year, Nebuchadnezzar had not been crowned king yet. Instead, he was leading the battle of Carchemish against Egypt. He would not have been distracted in an attack on Jerusalem.
  4. Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem only twice, once in 597 BC and again in 586 BC.
  5. Thus Daniel missed the historical account, saying the siege of Jerusalem was in 605 when it actually was in 597.

In response to these attacks, we will demonstrate that these criticisms are false.

First, regarding the tone of the chapter, the literary scholars would disagree. (See here). We will accept the professional opinion of those qualified to make such judgements, namely those whose careers have been in evaluating fiction. According to Lewis and Ordway, the Bible accounts read like that of history, not fiction.

Second, regarding the distinction between Nebuchadrezzar and Nebuchadnezzar, we provide the following:

His name in Heb. (neḇūḵaḏre’ṣṣar) transliterates the Bab. Nabū-kudurri-uṣur, meaning perhaps ‘Nabû has protected the succession-rights’. The alternative Heb. rendering (nebūḵaḏne’ṣṣar; cf. Gk. Nabochodonosor) is a not improper form of the name.1

So the distinction in the names is apparently due to the “Babylonian form” of the names. This is no surprise, as all of Daniel and his three friends had their names changed, and the book of Daniel mentions both forms.

Third, regarding the sieges of Jerusalem, a simple view of a map shows that for Babylon to get to Egypt, they must go through Israel. The critic has no proof here except mere speculation that Nebuchadnezzar would not attack Jerusalem. A much more practical battle strategy, as done in numerous military campaigns throughout history, would be to subdue any significant city in your path, which would prevent an attack from a rear flank during a major battle. It would have been militarily foolish for Nebuchadnezzar to bypass Jerusalem on the way to Egypt.

The fact is that Babylon attacked Jerusalem three times, as supported by the following:

While in the field Nebuchadrezzar heard of his father’s death and rode across the desert to claim the Bab. throne, which he ascended on 6 September 605 bc.

In the following year, the first of his reign, Nebuchadrezzar received tribute in Syria from the kings of Damascus, Tyre and Sidon and others, including Jehoiakim, who was to remain his faithful vassal for only 3 years (2 Ki. 24:1; Je. 25:1).2

And more directly:

The Egyptians met him at Carchemish, where a furious battle was fought, resulting in the complete rout of the Egyptians, who were driven back (Jer. 46:2–12), and Syria and Phoenicia brought under the sway of Babylon (B.C. 606). From that time “the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land” (2 Kings 24:7). Nebuchadnezzar also subdued the whole of Palestine, and took Jerusalem, carrying away captive a great multitude of the Jews, among whom were Daniel and his companions (Dan. 1:1, 2; Jer. 27:19; 40:1).

Three years after this, Jehoiakim, who had reigned in Jerusalem as a Babylonian vassal, rebelled against the oppressor, trusting to help from Egypt (2 Kings 24:1). This led Nebuchadnezzar to march an army again to the conquest of Jerusalem, which at once yielded to him (B.C. 598). A third time he came against it, and deposed Jehoiachin, whom he carried into Babylon, with a large portion of the population of the city, and the sacred vessels of the temple, placing Zedekiah on the throne of Judah in his stead. He also, heedless of the warnings of the prophet, entered into an alliance with Egypt, and rebelled against Babylon. This brought about the final siege of the city, which was at length taken and utterly destroyed (B.C. 586).3

The first deportation of the people of Jerusalem was in 605, the second was in 597, and the third was in 586, which was accompanied by the destruction of Jerusalem.4

So the critic is accurate in that in 605 Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king and was engaged in a battle with Egypt. However, it is a gross misrepresentation to leave it there, for the Babylonian army cut a swath through Palestine, then Nebuchadnezzar’s father died and he was suddenly called back to Babylon to be crowned king. Surely after he left the army, the soldiers settled business between Egypt and all other cities back to Babylon. So it is true that Nebuchadnezzar captured the whole of Palestine in 605 and was crowned king within days of the battle. So just as Daniel 1:1 says, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

An important note about the phrasing of Daniel 1:2. As Thomas Howe puts it:

Notice that the text does not use the covenant name of God, Yahweh. Rather, Daniel uses the term ‘Adonai.’ It is not as the covenant God of Israel that God gives them into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand, but as the Lord and Master Who is in control and Who is rendering judgment upon the people and the land. Nebuchadnezzar does not take the land or the vessels of the temple. Rather, they are “given” (wayyitten) by the Lord into his hand.

Therefore even if Jerusalem was not a major target of Nebuchadnezzar in any of his campaigns, the one in control was God, who was judging Israel by sending Babylon in to destroy the idolatry that become rampant.

As a side note, God was judging Israel because they had adopted the pagan idol worship of the people of Canaan, including child sacrifice to Molech. If Israel had obeyed God years earlier by destroying Canaan, the subsequent death and judgment would not have happened. (see here)

In the end, the Bible is shown to be true. Our only question is why do we not trust it and submit to its guidance.

(Note:  for the best examination of the dating of kings in the Old Testament, see Edwin R. Theile’s book The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (new revised ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1983))

1(D. J. Wiseman, “Nebuchadrezzar, Nebuchadnezzar,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 810.)

2(NBD, 810)

3(M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893)

4(Howe, Thomas A., Daniel: A Commentary, Analysis, and Critique of Preterist Interpretations of Daniel (Kindle ed., 2013)

Posted in Apologetics, Bible | 1 Comment

How Should We Respond To Violent Muslims?

As I write this, a terrorist bomb has gone off in Belgium. The news reports are still early, but so far they tell us that at least 31 people are dead and dozens more injured. The bombs were in a crowded airport and a jammed rush-hour commuter train. People were killed as they went about their regular daily activities, coming home from work, traveling to see relatives, headed out on a business trip, going sightseeing. Regular people who never bothered anyone, for as far as I know, the people of Brussels have not gone on any rampages to hurt other nations in recent weeks.

This is on the heels of the terrorist attacks in Paris about four months ago that killed 130 and wounded 368, and the attacks in the offices of a Paris magazine a year ago that killed 17 and wounded 22.

Those responsible for this latest attack in Belgium have not yet been determined. Let’s see if we can guess the responsible party. Perhaps marauding Methodists? Radical Presbyterians bent on a rampage? Maybe it was insane Baptists pushed over the edge by the idea of someone dancing across town. Or maybe it was crazy Buddhists who had meditated too long. Violent Bahai’s? Jealous Jews? Murderous followers of Confucius?

Somehow I do not think so. If the pattern holds, it will be followers of Islam, which those in America have labeled “the religion of peace.” If the pattern holds, those on the social left will be quick to tell us that most Muslims are peaceful and that the US is not at war with Islam. This is true of course. But they seem to fail to recognize that some members of Islam have been at war with us for quite a while now. They also fail to tell us that a small percentage of Islam, perhaps 15 percent, are following a long, long historical tradition of violence that is bred in that religion. If 85 percent of Muslims are peaceful, the violent 15 percent makes up over 200 million people in the world who have declared war on western civilization and are actively seeking to kill innocent people who are going to work, playing with their children, or sightseeing.

Today’s news quoted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as saying “We are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.” While an iron boot to the throat of the violent Muslims will perhaps do some good — Saddam Hussain kept the peace by killing them in the back room — we are fighting a war of ideas, one for which a secular west is quite unprepared.  Only until we return to fighting as Thomas Aquinas did in his work Summa Contra Gentiles will we have a chance of ultimately winning. That work was a manual for missionaries who were going to interact with a culture influenced by Islam.

Posted in Culture | 2 Comments

Does the Bible Speak of a Virgin Birth in Isaiah 7 and Matthew 1?

In Christianity, the virgin birth of Jesus is an essential doctrine since the sin nature is passed along from father to son. A natural-born person would have sin and thus not be able to save himself, let alone others. Since the miraculous virgin birth is an essential doctrine, it comes under attack from critics.

Matthew 1:18 says “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” A few verses later, 1:22 – 23 say “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

Matthew 1:23 is quoting Isaiah 7:14. The full sentence goes from v.14 to 16:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.

In the next chapter, we find the following in Isaiah 8:3-4:

And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.

Of course, Bible critics are never far away. A common criticism goes something like this:

  1. The Hebrew and Greek words used for “virgin” actually mean “young maiden” and therefore Isaiah 7 is not a prophesy of a Jesus being born a virgin. Isaiah used the Hebrew word almah, which means maiden. For example, Deuteronomy 22:13ff is specifically speaking of virgins, and uses bethulah. Genesis 24:43 is not speaking specifically of virgins and uses almah. So Isaiah could have used the Hebrew word bethulah, which means virgin, but instead he used almah, which means maiden.
  2. Just because a young maiden gets pregnant does not indicate any predictive power of prophesy. This happens all the time when virgins have sex.
  3. Isaiah’s prophesy was to King Ahaz. A prophesy about Jesus being born centuries into the future would have meant nothing to Ahaz.
  4. Isaiah 8:1-4 shows the fulfillment of the prophesy in Isaiah 7:14. In chapter 8, Isaiah repeats the same prophesy and has a child. The prophesy in Is. 7:14 is about a current event that was fulfilled right there at the time.
  5. So the passage that Matthew quotes from Isaiah has nothing to do with Jesus. Before Jesus came, people who read Isaiah would have no way of knowing this was predicting a messiah, since it was a local prophesy that was already fulfilled in Isaiah’s day. Matthew was manipulating a text to make it look like it fit Jesus.

This is quite a list of claims. However, once we look at what the passages actually say, we find that these criticisms are hollow. We will show how the passage does indeed point to Christ Jesus. The claims against Matthew are baseless, poorly researched, and without merit.

 

 

The Words for Virgin

The critics make a big case about the Hebrew almah and the Greek parthenos supposedly meaning young maiden, while the Hebrew bethulah supposedly meaning virgin. However, the case made by the critics is simply incorrect as the language scholars demonstrate.

First, neither almah nor bethulah distinguish clearly between virgin and young maiden in every instance. To wit:

  • bathulah (Strongs 1330, 1331) the KJV translates this virgin 38 times and maid or maiden 12 times.
  • Almah (Strongs 5959) the KJV translates this virgin 4 times and maid or damsel 3 times. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon says of almah: “virgin, young woman of marriageable age”

Lengthy articles on both almah and bethulah can be found in The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999))  Summary points are as follows.

Speaking of Deut. 22:13ff and the use of bethulah as virgin: “one must concede that bĕtûlîm or bĕtûlâ does not clearly speak of virginity in this disputed text. (p.138)

* * *

But in Joel 1:8, where the bĕtûlâ is called upon to lament the death of her baʿal “husband,” it probably does not mean “virgin” for elsewhere baʿal is the regular word for “husband” and its usual translation by “bridegroom” in the versions is otherwise unattested. Likewise in Est 2:17 the bĕtûlōt who spent a night with King Ahasuerus are not virgins, unless it is a “shorthand” for “those who had been virgins.” In a parable Ezekiel speaks of Oholah and Oholibah playing the harlot and their bĕtûlîm breasts being handled (23:3). Here too the notion of virginity would be inaccurate. Finally in Job 31:1 even the NEB translated our word by “girl” because it would not be sinful for Job to look on a virgin. Unless it is an epithet for a Canaanite goddess it probably designates a young married woman (cf. vv. 8ff).(p.295)

* * *

Since bĕtûlâ is used many times in the OT as a specific word for “virgin,” it seems reasonable to consider that the feminine form of this word is not a technical word for a virgin but represents a young woman, one of whose characteristics is virginity (p.672)

* * *

There is no instance where it can be proved that ʿalmâ designates a young woman who is not a virgin. The fact of virginity is obvious in Gen 24:43 where ʿalmâ is used of one who was being sought as a bride for Isaac. Also obvious is Ex 3:8. Song 6:8 refers to three types of women, two of whom are called queens and concubines. It could be only reasonable to understand the name of the third group, for which the plural of ʿalmâ is used, as meaning “virgins.”(p.672)

So the language scholars here would decidedly disagree with the critics. Their articles have much greater length with citations, so the reader is encouraged to look to their work for additional support.

Further, a proper rendering of Is. 7:14 is “The virgin shall be with child” (NASB, NIV), not “the virgin shall conceive.” The distinction is not that a virgin will someday get pregnant, but that the virgin woman will be pregnant. To show this, the following translations:

NIV: “The virgin will be with child”

New Century Version: “The virgin will be pregnant”

Lexham: “the virgin is with child and she is about to give birth”

NIrV: “the virgin is going to have a baby”

Young’s: “The virgin is conceiving”

Of the English translations I have, twelve use virgin and two say young maiden, both with a footnote about virginity. To insist that almah does not or cannot mean virgin flies in the face of the vast majority of language scholarship and is without merit in the literature.

The critics also have quite a bit of presumption, for their claims would lead us to believe that they hold dozens of translators as not knowing what they are talking about, but somehow these critics are greater language scholars than the bulk of the people doing translation full time.

 

Virgins, Children, & Prophecy in Isaiah 7 – 8

When Isaiah 8 says that the prophetess conceived and bore a son, he was apparently speaking of his wife, for the text mentions nothing of Isaiah marrying twice or going to a harlot. Isaiah and his wife had already had a son, Shear-jashub, mentioned in Is. 7:3. So the woman mentioned in Is. 8:3 had most probably already had a son, thus not being able to fulfill the prophesy of a virgin being with child given in 7:14-16. This alone is enough to reject Isaiah 8 as a fulfillment of Isaiah 7.

Second, the child born of the virgin in Is. 7:14-16 name is Immanuel, which means God With Us. Isaiah’s second child from 8:1-4 is named Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.” Whatever the second name means in context, it is obviously not “God with us.”

Third, the prophesy of the child in 7:16 was about “before the child knows how to refuse evil and choose good.” The child in 8:4 was “before the child knows how to cry “my father” or “my mother.” These do not align well.

Fourth, it is possible that the child in 7:16 Isaiah could mean his first son, Shear-jashub. Earlier in the same chapter, God had told Isiah to bring Shear-jashub with him, so the child would have been there in 7:14-16.

Fifth, the prophesy in Is. 7:13 is to “the house of David” which means the extended family of David. The child in Is. 8 was not of David’s household.

Sixth, the Septuagint in Isaiah 7:14  uses the Greek parthenos (Strongs 3933) which is used in Luke to indicate virgin. Parthenos is the technical word for virgin, as the Greek lexicon’s support. For example, Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich (BDAG) says “one who has never engaged in sexual intercourse, virgin, chaste person. Female of marriageable age with focus on virginity.”

Further, the Septuagint was not a Christian document, having been completed c.132 BC, well before Christ. So it could not have been translated with some later bias from the Christian church.

Seventh, we are assured that the New Testament passage means virgin, for Mary asks the angel “how can this be, as I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34)

Lastly, we consider the criticism that the prophesy of Isaiah 7 was to King Ahaz and he would not have known what it meant if it were for the messiah many centuries in the future. This criticism shows a simple lack of reading the text in context. Isaiah had approached Ahaz in 7:10-11, and the person speaking through Isaiah was God Himself. In v.3, “The LORD said to Ahaz…” God tells Ahaz to request anything he wanted, a request even as high as heaven. Such a request could have included any sign, not just a local one.

In addition, four times in Isaiah 7 God uses the phrase “in that day” (v.18, 20, 21, 23). This was a common phrase used throughout the Old Testament prophets to mean the last days. So there are indeed textual clues in Isaiah 7 that would lead the hearer to think of a much later time.

 

Conclusion

Several reasons lead us to conclude that the critics are wrong.

  • Both almah and bethulah can mean virgin or young maiden. The context gives us clues.
  • The Hebrew grammar in Isaiah 7 leads us to conclude that the woman will be with child while she is a virgin.
  • The child in Isaiah 8 cannot be the fulfillment of the child predicted in chapter 7, for there are too many differences in the two accounts.
  • The prophesy has all the same textual clues as other prophesies about the future.

We therefore hold that the Bible can indeed be trusted, and the Bible is indeed telling us that Mary will be a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth. The critics are simply incorrect on this issue and the Bible is once again proven correct and true.

Posted in Bible, Skepticism, Theology | 3 Comments

Dead Musicians, Dead Culture

As I write this, I have just learned that Keith Emerson blew his brains out last week. Emerson was a rock superstar, one of the biggest, highest-demand rock acts of the 1970’s. He joined the list of famous rock stars that have killed themselves: Ronnie Montrose, Graham Bond, Kurt Cobain, Wendy O. Williams, Sid Vicious, and a list of others. Add to that the number who have died prematurely, such as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Shane Gibson, Paul Gray, Duane Allman, and too many more to list.

To those lists, add the list of rap singers who have died. That list includes an especially large number that never made it out of their 20’s: 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. are but a couple out of dozens.

Deaths are never easy to take for those who we love, and early ones are especially difficult.

Rap music seems to parallel it’s lyrics, with one sub-genre labeled “horrorcore.” It would seem that the lyrics self-fulfill, with songs telling of violent deaths, beatings, knifings, and shootings by the score. Many of the rap lyrics are too violent and vulgar to repeat here. The rock bands are no stranger to similar ideas, with bands being named things that would make a sailor blush. Jared Anderson was only 30 when he died in his sleep, having been a member of Hate Angel and Hate Eternal, two of the more mild band names.

Keith Emerson was part of the group Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, which was what could be labeled a super group, drawing sellout crowds in the largest stadiums around the world. By modern standards their lyrics were rather tame, but nevertheless telling. One of their songs, Karn Evil 9, speaks of “rows of bishop’s heads in jars” and “a sight to make you drool, seven virgins and a mule.” The group’s beliefs came out plainly in Greg Lake’s song “I Believe in Father Christmas.” The song speaks plainly of Jesus and the Christmas account being a fairy story. Of course, Father Christmas is England’s version of Santa Claus. The message was clear, making a parallel between Santa and Jesus. (for some historical evidence of the Bible’s truth, see here)

Popular musicians, especially Rock and Rap, have made a lot of money pushing the cultural envelope. They make a fortune from impressionable teenagers by making ideas more shocking, more edgy, more extreme. Once the edge of the envelope is broken, there is no more room to push except into tearing down social structures. The rap stars deaths are sickly understood — if you teach violence, you die by violence.

The rock stars have pushed the envelope for sixty years. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, for years expressing atheist philosophy in their song lyrics, must in the end live with what they taught. The final line of I Believe in Father Christmas says “Be it heaven or hell, the Christmas you get you deserve.” Karn Evil 9 includes the lyrics “he laughs until he cries, then he dies, then he dies.” I find it awful to think that they would look themselves in the mirror and believe that Emerson really got what he deserved. I also wonder whether Emerson is actually ready to face hell so easily. More probably they lie to themselves, convincing themselves that their atheism is true and they will not someday face their maker.

In the end, the atheist philosophy in Emerson’s songs rings hollow, in fact it is so hollow it does not ring at all. It is one thing for these rich musicians, at the prime of their youth, to tell us that life is one big party so rebel against your parents. It is quite another thing to realize that they as miserable as the guy next to you on the bus. Looking into a casket, the mantra of rap and rock is useless and empty.

We are now two generations deep into these pop stars destroying the old culture for their own gain. They will soon be all dead and forgotten, as Emerson was mostly forgotten already, and the old Judeo-Christian culture will be forgotten also.

The question for you is this: You will face your maker someday. Are you ready to face heaven? If not, click on the link above that says “Bad News/Good News.”

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