Featured site: The Western Experience

I had plans of writing lots of wonderful posts on foreign policy when I started this blog. But when I tried to do so, I found out that watching all the episodes of Danger Man and Secret Agent, together with my wargaming experience, was no preparation at all for being able to blog on current events!

And that is why I am glad to tell you about a relatively new blog called The Western Experience, that started up around the same time I did. The blog features great posts on foreign policy, and it’s off to a fast start in terms of readership!

Here are some of The Western Experience’s recent posts:

Blogging about foreign policy is hard. So I really appreciate Jason’s work on these issues.

Gary Habermas explains the earliest source of resurrection facts

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UPDATE: Western Experience has video of Gary Habermas in action here.

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Do you just skim right over 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 when you read your Bible? Did you know that this passage is the best passage in the entire Bible when it comes to defending the resurrection? Let’s take a look at a lecture where historian Gary Habermas explains the importance of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 for defending the bodily resurrection of Jesus as a historical event.

Recall that there are certain criteria for deciding what passages of the New Testament writings are historically reliable. Here is a great article from Gary Habermas that explains all of the criteria. Below, I’ll list some of the criteria from that article.

Early attestation

Early sources include: 1) 7 of the 13 Pauline books that are unanimously accepted as being authored by Paul, 2) the “Q” passages which are shared by Matthew and Luke, but that are not in Mark, and 3) certain short creedal passages from the book of Acts. The 7 reliable Pauline epistles are Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philipians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians and Philemon.

Habermas writes:

With regard to the historical Jesus, any material between 30 and 50 AD would be exemplary, a time period highly preferred by scholars like those in the Jesus Seminar.

Reports from such an early date would actually predate the written Gospels. A famous example is the list of Jesus’ resurrection appearances supplied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Most critical scholars think that Paul’s reception of at least the material on which this early creedal statement is based is dated to the 30s AD. Other examples are supplied by the brief creedal statements that many scholars find embedded within the Book of Acts, which Gerald O’Collins dates to the 30s AD. From the so-called “Q” material in the first and third Gospels, another instance is the statement of high Christology found in Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22. Further, Paul’s earliest epistles date from the 50s AD.

Eyewitness testimony

Habermas writes:

Whenever these early sources are also derived from eyewitnesses who actually participated in some of the events, this provides one of the strongest evidences possible. Historian David Hackett Fischer dubs this “the rule of immediacy” and terms it “the best relevant evidence.” When scholars have ancient sources that are both very early and based on eyewitness testimony, they have a combination that is very difficult to dismiss.

In our previous example, one reason critical scholars take Paul’s testimony so seriously is that his writings provide both a very early date as well as eyewitness testimony to what Paul believed was a resurrection appearance of Jesus. This is even conceded by atheist scholar Michael Martin. Other crucial instances would concern any eyewitness testimony that can be located in the Gospel accounts.

Multiple attestation

Habermas writes:

Independent attestation of a report by more than one source is another chief indication that that a particular claim may be factual. Ancient historian Paul Maier asserts that: “Many facts from antiquity rest on just one ancient source, while two or three sources in agreement generally render the fact unimpeachable.” The Jesus Seminar emphasizes items “attested in two or more independent sources.”

Several important examples might be provided. Of the five sources often recognized in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ miracles are reported in all five, with some specific occurrences reported in more than one. Jesus’ crucial “Son of Man” sayings are also attested in all five Gospel sources. And the empty tomb is reported in at least three, if not four, of these Gospel sources. This helps to understand why these items are taken so seriously by contemporary critical scholars.

Timeline of New Testament sources

You can only use the data that pass these criteria when you are constructing historical hypotheses in a debate setting. But the passage of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is special, because it has the markings on an ancient creed. As Habermas explains, Paul received this creed within five years of the crucifixion. Paul verified this creed twice with eyewitnesses, Peter, John and James, in Galatians 1:11-24 and Galatians 2:1-10.

So, let’s set the date of Jesus’ death as being 30 AD. Then ask the question: what sources are closest to the event? We need to have multiple early sources in order to be able to surface minimal facts that can be used when debating skeptics and atheists. Here’s the timeline, using the absolute latest possible dates for the sources:

  • 30 A.D.: Jesus is crucified. (+0)
  • 31 A.D.: The early creed originates around this time
  • 35 A.D.: Paul receives the early creed from Peter, John and James in Jerusalem
  • 55 A.D.: 1 Corinthians (+25)
  • 70 A.D. Mark (+40)
  • 80 A.D. Matthew (+50)
  • 85 A.D. Luke (+55)
  • 95 A.D. John (+65)

My preferred dates on the gospels are at least 5 years ealier than the skeptical dates. So, your earliest source for minimal facts about the resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. I explained before how to leverage the facts in 1 Cor 15, and other minimal facts, into a case for the resurrection.

Personal application

You really need to be able to talk to your friends and co-workers about the resurrection. That is our obligation as Christians. When you talk to non-Christians, you cannot use the entire Bible on faith. Your opponent is not going to allow you to use the entire text as a source because they don’t assume that it is inerrant. You need to argue from minimal facts that pass the standard historical criteria.

So, you need to learn how to explain how scholars extract the minimal facts from the Biblical sources. You need to list the criteria, explain why they are generally accepted, and then apply them. You need to know the dates and authors of the New Testament writings. You need to know which passages are considered to be minimal facts. And then you can make you case on those facts.

I think the most promising strategy is to argue from a supernatural creator and designer, using some recent scientific discoveries, and then go on from there to historical concerns once the existence of a deistic God has been firmly established.

Further study

First, listen to the 30-minute lecture delivered at California Polytechnic State University in 2008 by Gary Habermas, on 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Then, check out N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection. Then listen to this lecture delivered at California State University in 2005 by William Lane Craig, on arguing from the minimal facts.

And finally, you can check out some debates on the resurrection. I recommend the debate between William Lane Craig and Roy Hoover. But it is important to read the N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection first! There is a cross-examination section in the debate, so if you’re into that, as I am, then get your fix here.

Green policies will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs per year

Gateway Pundit has the story here.

He cites Heritage Foundation research for these figures:

Perhaps the most alarming part is the price tag associated with attempting to reduce such a small part of the atmosphere and something we really cannot control. Our analysis shows the cumulative GDP losses for 2010 to 2029 approach $7 trillion. Single-year losses exceed $600 billion in 2029, more than $5,000 per house¬hold. Job losses are expected to exceed 800,000 in some years, and exceed at least 500,000 from 2015 through 2026. It is important to note that these are net job losses, after any jobs created by compliance with the regulations–so-called green jobs–are taken into account. In total, the “climate revenue” (read: energy tax) could approach two trillion over eight years. Keep in mind, this is all for negligible environmental benefits.

The Heritage Foundation piece also makes clear how much of an impact this will have on the planet’s temperature:

Out of the entire atmospheric makeup, only one to two percent is made up of greenhouse gases with the majority being nitrogen (about 78 percent) and oxygen (about 21 percent). Of that two percent, “planet-killing” carbon dioxide comprises only 3.62 percent while water vapor encompasses 95 percent. And of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, humans cause only 3.4 percent of annual CO2 emissions.

They have a nice graph that shows these numbers.

Ace of Spades also has nice graphs of solar activity and how well it coorelates to planetary temperature. You know, exactly in the way that CO2 doesn’t. (And Ace has a graph for that, too).

Further reading

I blogged about the United Nations’ plan to stop global warming with global wealth redistribution here. More on how much your energy prices will rise, the democrats plan to impose carbon-tariffs on imports, scientific dissent from catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, Al Gore’s refusal to debate and Obama’s plan to raise taxes on oil production.

Democrats vote to force health care providers to perform abortions

Sen. Tom Coburn
Sen. Tom Coburn

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Story here, at Gateway Pundit. One of my favorite senators, Tom Coburn, proposed the amendment to protect the conscience rights of health care providers.

Here’s the purpose of the amendment:

To protect the freedom of conscience for patients and the right of health care providers to serve patients without violating their moral and religious convictions.

And here’s the roll call.

Senate Democrats voted down the Coburn Amendment #828 tonight.

The vote was 41 to 56 against the amendment.
Senators Snowe, Collins and Specter voted with democrats on the amendment.

The description of the amendment is up at Coburn’s blog.

Excerpt:

This amendment ensures that the funds made available through the budget’s health care reserve fund will not be used to violate the conscience of health care providers or to allow government bureaucrats to make health care choices for patients, including which doctors they may see.

But the Democrats are not the only ones who disagree with the right to conscience. Commenter ECM sent me this story from the Anchoress on abortion. Rev. Ragsdale, the new Dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts has a peculiar belief about the place of abortion in Christianity. The Anchoress cites a sermon on her blog in which she states her views plainly.

Here is Rev. Ragsdale on abortion:

…when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

I want to thank all of you who protect this blessing – who do this work every day: the health care providers, doctors, nurses, technicians, receptionists, who put your lives on the line to care for others (you are heroes — in my eyes, you are saints); the escorts and the activists; the lobbyists and the clinic defenders; all of you. You’re engaged in holy work.

And in a different place, Rev. Ragsdale writes about medical personnel who refuse to perform abortions due to conscience:

Let me say a bit more about that, because the religious community has long been an advocate of taking principled stands of conscience – even when such stands require civil disobedience. We’ve supported conscientious objectors, the Underground Railroad, freedom riders, sanctuary seekers, and anti-apartheid protestors. We support people who put their freedom and safety at risk for principles they believe in.

But let’s be clear, there’s a world of difference between those who engage in such civil disobedience, and pay the price, and doctors and pharmacists who insist that the rest of the world reorder itself to protect their consciences – that others pay the price for their principles.

This isn’t particularly complicated. If your conscience forbids you to carry arms, don’t join the military or become a police officer. If you have qualms about animal experimentation, think hard before choosing to go into medical research. And, if you’re not prepared to provide the full range of reproductive health care (or prescriptions) to any woman who needs it then don’t go into obstetrics and gynecology, or internal or emergency medicine, or pharmacology. Choose another field! We’ll respect your consciences when you begin to take responsibility for them.”

Laura at Pursuing Holiness explains how to get the sermon here since it was quickly deleted by Rev. Ragsdale:

… Ms. Ragsdale deleted the sermon, but on the intarweb things have a zombie-like way of coming back to get you. Cached copy is here. And for posterity, here’s a PDF of the cached page with Our Work Is Not Done.

Laura goes on to make these admirable comments:

Yes. I am so sick of this postmodern “what’s true for you” mindset that prevents people from calling out evil in the name of tolerance.  Aside from “Katie Rags” blessed sacrament of abortion, though, obviously the American church continues to weaken.  We’re so seeker-sensitive, tolerant and multi-culti we scarcely bother to defend it. Success is too often defined by butts in the seats – an easy metric to quantify – not true discipleship, which is less metric and more “I know it when I see it.”

I agree with you, Laura! And I’d go further. My readers already know what I think about the feminized church, its anti-intellectualism, and its refusal to engage. I also wrote about how to talk about your faith with others, even in the workplace. Please check out my index of posts on Christianity for more on how to defend your Christian beliefs in the public square.

Christianity and the birth of modern science

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Super-commenter ECM sent me this post from Pamela Geller’s blog, Atlas Shrugs. I thought that this was something wonderful because this is not an area of expertise for me, although it is something that I do get questions about, because atheists believe that Christianity is anti-science, and I need to know how to respond. The post discusses an essay by the blogger Fjordman.

And here’s how it starts:

Neither Roman, Egyptian, Chinese nor Indian civilization created the Scientific Revolution; they all stagnated after making initial gains in knowledge. This is because the natural human tendency is to want immediate results. If the research does not yield reasonably quick benefits, interest wanes. Yet you needed a critical mass of accumulated knowledge before the Scientific Revolution could be ignited. The Bible commands mankind to subdue the Earth, but in order to do so, men need to understand how the world works. In addition to this, the Bible portrays God as a Creator who made the universe work according to rational laws. Since God’s laws are immutable, it remains for us to discover them. Many of the scholars who created modern science, including Galileo and Newton, believed that they were honoring God by studying his Creation. They saw science as a religious duty.

Now, I’ve blogged on the vital importance of scientific progress to the Christian worldview. Let me be clear. We are in a period of economic abundance which exacerbates arrogance, hedonism and disdain for theology and morality. We absolutely must avail ourselves of every sign of creative and/or intelligent activity in the natural world. And that means science must progress.

The essay then cites an Oxford University Press textbook by James Evans as follows:

“…Kepler went on to become the most outstanding mathematical astronomer of his generation. His greatest gifts were inexhaustible patience, great calculating ability, and a relentless drive to understand. But his motives for astronomical research always involved a quest for higher knowledge. Everywhere, he sought for connections between apparently disparate realms of thought. He wanted to know God’s plan for the cosmos….”

Fjordman then continues:

While leading scholars during the Scientific Revolution such as Galileo, Kepler and Newton were indeed inspired by the mathematics of the ancient Greeks, their Christian world view made the connection between mathematics and the natural world even more powerful and explicit. Isaac Newton spent a great deal of time looking for hidden codes in the Bible, and undoubtedly believed that he was studying both of God’s Books: The Bible and the Book of Nature. Nothing similar happened in East Asia, or indeed in any other civilization.

But wouldn’t any old monotheism do in order to ground natural laws? Agnostic sociologist Rodney Stark says no:

…Rodney Stark agrees that Islam does not have “a conception of God appropriate to underwrite the rise of science…Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but is conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes in the world as he deems it appropriate. This prompted the formation of a major theological bloc within Islam that condemns all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy in that they deny Allah’s freedom to act.”

Fjordman continues:

In contrast [with Islam], for Jews and Christians, God has created the universe according to a certain logic, which can be described. Kepler firmly believed the Solar System was created according to God’s plan, which he attempted to unlock. Sir Isaac Newton was passionately interested in religion and wrote extensively about it.

And it ends with this:

Does mathematics have an independent existence in nature or does the human mind invent it? The answer potentially has huge philosophical implications. The people who created modern science lived predominantly in Europe, an overwhelmingly Christian continent with an important Jewish minority. They apparently had an advantage when they assumed the universe to be designed by a rational Creator. I admit this is a challenging dilemma for those of us who are not religious: Why can nature apparently be described mathematically and rationally if it has not been designed by a rational Creator? As a non-religious man, this is the only religious argument that I find difficult to answer.

It’s an interesting essay. It made me think of this article by Walter Bradley in which he talks about the relationship between mathematics and nature as a pointer to an intelligent designer. For those interested in the relationship between Christianity and science, please take a look at the index of Christianity-related posts.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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