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Can I Really Trust the Bible Cooper

 
You can order “Can I really trust the Bible?” over at Amazon

This is a book that is part of the Questions Christians Ask Series. Previously I have only read one work in this series, “Is God Anti-Gay?” and I thought it was the best compassionate and biblical work I have seen addressing those who have same sex attraction. This book on whether one can trust the Bible is also very good. Over five chapters the author Barry Cooper answers three important questions: (1) Does the Bible claim to be God’s Word? (2) Does the Bible seem to be God’s Word? (3) and does the Bible prove to be God’s Word? Cooper devotes two chapters to the first question, two more chapters to the second question and one chapter to the third question.
One thing I really like about the book is how the author is conscious of nonbelievers and young believers in the faith that would be reading his book. For instance, I appreciate Cooper explaining what verses are and the history of the Bible being divided into chapters and verses. There are helpful small excursuses throughout the book answering questions such as “What’s inside the Bible?” and “Aren’t some of the stories from Jesus’ life just legends and later additions?”
I also think that Cooper does a great job packing this small book with many illustrations that are helpful in supporting his explanation. For instance, in explaining why he begins with the question of what does the Bible claims about itself he gives the illustration of two individuals on vacation talking about the identity of someone they just saw and how it would not make be rational if these two individuals only engage in speculation but never bother to ask the person at all. Likewise it would also be unwise to speculate on what is the characteristic and identity of the Bible if we never look at the Bible’s own claim of itself. In considering the remarkable unity in the flow of redemptive history, Cooper gave this short illustration: “What if multiple authors had each written a single page of this little book you’re holding? What if each author wrote in different genres, in different centuries and in different countries, with no ‘master plan’ for them to consult? What is the likelihood that it would make any sense at all?” (38). Concerning multiple Bible versions, Cooper also made this point: “Jus because there are 15 different English translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, it doesn’t mean we can’t know what Dante meant” (56). Another good one: “The person who never wants the Bible to be hard is like the person who goes to the gym and never want to sweat” (74).
In reviewing this book I must also state my bias as someone who subscribe to Presuppositional apologetics. I am somewhat weary of works by naïve evidentialists who does not give much room for God’s Word to be self-evidencing and who up share evidences without conscious consideration of one’s philosophy of evidence. I was glad that this is not one of those works. I was surprised to see the author in several instances quote from John Frame (a plus!). In particular I was impressed with how Cooper dealt with the objection that an argument for the Bible as God’s Word is circular: Cooper would ask a question that would reveal the interlocutor’s own circular authority and Cooper also noted the nature of any ultimate authority would begin with itself or otherwise if it appeal to another authority, than that new authority is the ultimate authority. It is good to see a book of this size be conscious of the issue of ultimate authority!
In terms of constructive criticism, I wished Cooper could have gone through more Messianic prophecies that was fulfilled in Scripture. Cooper did mention Isaiah 53 and Micah 5:2. But I think Cooper accomplished a lot in 81 pages.
I highly recommend this book.
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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One to one

Have you ever struggled with a Bible reading plan?  Perhaps you may find yourself reading whatever you feel like reading when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed.  Or maybe you do have a Bible reading plan, but would like to read the Bible with someone else in order to built godly relationships with your fellow man.   Well, if you fall underneath one of those categories, this will be a good book to read.  It really is a simple guide for every Christian.  This is a short read that should not be a problem for many.  And yes, even if you have a short attention span, I think you could get through this book with no trouble.  Drink some coffee or do some push-ups; and you will get through this book in no time.

The book is broken down into two major components.  Part 1 of the book deals with who to read the Bible with.  He narrows it down to unbelievers, new believers, and mature believers.  The goal of reading the Bible with an unbeliever is salvation, the goal of reading the Bible with a new believer is maturity, and the goal of the reading the Bible with a mature believer is ministry training.  Now that he establishes that, Helm goes on to recommend what books to cover with one of those three people.  For an unbeliever, the book of Mark would be an asset because Mark covers the humanity and divinity of Christ in raw details.  Explicit details about Christ would be a great benefit to the unbeliever who has questions about Christ.  Genesis would also be a good book to go through with an unbeliever because Genesis will take him to the origin of life, sin, etc.  As for new believers, Colossians would be great because the glories of Christ is echoed and the emphasis on components related to salvation such as reconciliation, redemption, election, and forgiveness, are critical for the new believer’s spiritual walk.  As for mature Christians, he suggests going through the book of Romans.  Romans is filled with deep doctrines that will shake the core of the mature believer.  It will humble one because the book of Romans, requires an extensive amount of time to mine through.

Part 2 deals with Bible interpretation and the importance of implementing proper hermeneutics when engaging different genres of the Bible.  Helm provides two simple frameworks for basic Bible reading and interpretation: Swedish Method and the COMA Method.  The Swedish method looks for anything that stands out; it asks questions, and it applies the truth to the reader’s life.  The COMA method requires that the reader takes into account the context, observations, which leads up the right meaning.  The last point is to implement application.

Another component of this book that I appreciated were the questions that were involved for the different categories.  They are all questions that could be used during the Bible reading discipleship.  The questions will cause the reader to make careful observations of the passages  and observations about their condition before their Holy God.

I recommend this book to anyone who desires to make disciples and to anyone who is struggling to find a Bible reading plan.

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Two weeks ago I wrote about a problematic statement agnostic Bart Ehrman made in his recent book Did Jesus Exist?.  While I appreciate the main thrust of Ehrman’s work, which argues for the historical existence of Jesus, there are nevertheless logical problems such as the one we shall examine  below.

did-JESUS-exist-book

Here I want to focus specifically on his misrepresentation of the fundamentalists/conservative Christians’ position on inspiration and the Bible, and how Ehrman ends up contradicting himself when he criticizes the fundamentalists/conservative position on the Bible’s historicity/factuality.

Bart Ehrman stated that there

are certain agnostics and atheists who claim that since, say, the Gospels are part of Christian sacred scripture, they have less value than other books for establishing historical information.  As odd as it might seem, the nonbelievers who argue this are making common cause with the fundamentalists who also argue it.  Both groups treat the Gospels as nonhistorical, the fundamentalists because the Gospels are inspired and the atheists (those who hold this view) because the Gospels are accepted by some people as sacred scripture and so are not historical.” (Page 72; Emphasis not in the original)

Note what is stated in bold.  Ehrman here is asserting that the fundamentalists’ understanding of the Gospel means:

Inspiration=nonhistorical

Ehrman really said this and it’s not just a quotation out of context.  Earlier in the previous page Erhman writes:

Sometimes the Gospels of the New Testament are separated from all other pieces of historical evidence and given a different kind of treatment because they happen to be found in the Bible, the collection of books that Christians gathered together and declared sacred scriptures.  The Gospels are treated in this way by two fundamentally opposed camps of readers, and my contention is that both of them are completely wrong.  However else the Gospels are used–for example, in communities of faith–they can and must be considered historical sources of information.” (Page 71;  Emphasis not in the original)

Here the two camps refer to the same polarizing groups of Christian fundamentalists and secularized skeptics mentioned on page 72.  Ehrman is going against the fundamentalists because he thinks the fundamentalists’ view of inspiration means the Bible is taken as nonhistorical.  Readers who are fundamentalists/conservatives or even familiar with the works of fundamentalists will no doubt find Ehrman’s claims rather strange.

Point 1: Ehrman should have footnoted and cited some example of fundamentalists who ” treat the Gospels as nonhistorical,” “because the Gospels are inspired.”  As a Reformed Conservative Evangelical, I am not familiar with any fundamentalists who holds to Ehrman’s claim that the Bible’s inspiration means it is nonhistorical.

Point 1a: The demand here in point 1 that Ehrman should provide some kind of citation for his claim is reasonable.  The burden of proof is on him to demonstrate a claim which he even acknowledge is counter-intuitive: “As odd as it might seem, the nonbelievers who argue this are making common cause with the fundamentalists who also argue it” (Page 72; emphasis not in the original).

Point 1b: Again, the demand that Ehrman should have provided a reference to support his description of fundamentalists’ view of inspiration is reasonable.  Throughout the book Bart Ehrman does a really good job documenting and footnoting the position of the Jesus mythicists he is refuting, even when he considers them “nonscholars.”  On page 132 Ehrman himself acknowledges that the fundamentalists camps does have capable scholars. If he is able and willing to footnote and cite the nonscholars he opposes, how much more so then, should he be able to document and give references to fundamentalist scholars and their view of inspiration that he is rejecting.

Point 2: A survey of fundamentalists’ literature would reveal that their doctrine of inspiration presupposes the Bible to be historical rather than nonhistorical in it’s truth claims.  A good case in point can be demonstrated by citing The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a key document expounding a conservative bibliology.

Point 2a: “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Summary Statement 4; emphasis is not in the original).

Point 2b: “We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XII).

Point 2c: “When Adam fell, the Creator did not abandon mankind to final judgement, but promised salvation and began to reveal Himself as Redeemer in a sequence of historical events centering on Abraham’s family and culminating in the life, death, resurrection, present heavenly ministry and promised return of Jesus Christ.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Explanation A; emphasis is not in the original).

Point 2d: “No hermeneutic, therefore, of which the historical Christ is not the focal point is acceptable.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Explanation B; emphasis is not in the original).

Point 2e: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is concern with history, since the word history appears a total of 12 times throughout the document.

Point 3: Oddly enough elsewhere throughout the book Ehrman’s criticism of fundamentalists’ view of the Bible contradicts his claims that fundamentalists does not take the Bible to be historical.  In fact, whether explicitly or implicitly presupposed, Ehrman’s other criticisms of fundamentalists is that they take the Bible in it’s entirety to be historical rather than nonhistorical.  It’s as if Ehrman’s criticism of fundamentalists’ view of the Bible is Schizophrenic.

Point 3a:  After Ehrman claim that fundamentalists ” treat the Gospels as nonhistorical” on page 72, he then contradicts this understanding of what fundamentalist believes about the Bible just two pages later when he wrote: “Once it is conceded that the Gospels can and should be treated as historical sources, no different from other historical sources infused with their authors’ biases, it starts to become clear why historians have almost universally agreed that whatever else one might say about him, Jesus of Nazareth lived in first-century Palestine and was crucified by the prefect of Judea.  It is not because ‘the Gospels say so’ and that it therefore must be true (the view, of course, of fundamentalist Christians)” (Page 74; emphasis not in original).

Point 3b: If fundamentalism did not subscribe to the historicity of the Bible which includes the Gospels, how could he have said the following: “But in a historical and worldwide perspective, highly conservative Protestant Christianity, whether fundamentalism or hard-core evangelicalism, is a minority voice.  It is the voice that says that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, with no contradictions, discrepancies or mistakes of any kind.  I simply don’t think this is true” (Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exists?, 36; emphasis not in original)?

Point 3c: As mentioned in Point 1b, Ehrman acknowledges that scholars who are fundamentalists exists in the area of historical Jesus studies and Pauline studies.  In the chapter arguing that Paul’s epistles contain historical content concerning the historicity of Jesus, Ehrman notes the scholarly consensus about the contribution of the Apostle Paul’s writing to the study of the historicity of Jesus:  “I personally know scores of scholars who have spent twenty, thirty, forty, or more years of their lives working to understand Paul.  Some of these are fundamentalists, some are theologically moderate Christians, some are extremely liberal Christians, and some are agnostics and atheists.  Not one of them, to my knowledge, thinks that Paul did not believe there was a historical Jesus” (Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exists?, 132; emphasis not in original).  Yet if Ehrman is correct that the fundamentalists’ doctrine of inspiration means that Scripture (including the Pauline epistles) are nonhistorical in character, how can they participate in the consensus with other scholars that the Apostle Paul believe in the historical Jesus?

Point 3d: There are more examples one can cite in Ehrman’s book and the corpus of his work of his criticism that fundamentalists believes in the literal and total historicity of the Bible.

Conclusion

Ehrman’s criticism that the fundamentalists’ doctrine of inspiration makes them view the Gospels as nonhistorical suffer from the problem of (1) not being proven by Ehrman, being asserted despite the absent of evidence, (2) is contrary to the evidence found in fundamentalists’ literature and (3) contradicts Ehrman’s own criticism of fundamentalists’ view of inspiration for assuming the Bible to be thoroughly true and historical.  In essence, his misrepresentation of the fundamentalists’ view of inspiration and historicity of the Bible is unfounded and irrational.

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Yesterday I reviewed Luther’s classic commentary on Galatians.  After a reader’s comment, I found several media format one can enjoy this classic!

Martin Luther Galatians

You can download it for free onto Kindle if you click HERE.

If you want to download it to your Apple IBook click HERE.

If you want an Adobe PDF copy click HERE.

If you want to read it online in Html Format, click here for the table of Content.

If you want to hear it courtesy of LibriVox, click here.

Enjoy!

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Sam Shamoun vs Shabir Ally

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Westminster Bookstore is offering Thriving at College by Alex Chediak with a promotion of 50% off for the first copy of this book, 40% off for additional copies. Sale ends April 5.

The publisher’s description:

Going to college can be exciting, anxiety inducing, and expensive! You want your child to get the most out of their college experience—what advice do you give? Thriving at College by Alex Chediak is the perfect gift for a college student or a soon-to-be college student.

Filled with wisdom and practical advice from a seasoned college professor and student mentor, Thriving at College covers the ten most common mistakes that college students make—and how to avoid them! Alex leaves no stone unturned—he discusses everything from choosing a major and discerning one’s vocation to balancing academics and fun, from cultivating relationships with peers and professors to helping students figure out what to do with their summers. Most importantly, this book will help students not only keep their faith but build a vibrant faith and become the person God created them to be.

From the book,

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