Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Cameron's Preface To The Jesus Family Tomb
02/28/2007 - James SwanDr. White described James Cameron's preface to The Jesus Family Tomb as "Wide-eyed acceptance of absurd claims joined with a gross and abysmal ignorance of simple historical facts and methodology." I thought a few examples would solidify his point.
During interviews, Cameron has made sure to point out he is not a theologian. He proves this in his preface: "At Christmas we celebrate the birth of a man who called to the spark of goodness that exists within all of us, a man who gave the world hope two thousand years ago." Perhaps he gleaned this insight from an apocryphal book. It certainly is not a Biblical concept. He asks, "But who was this Jesus? Read on. You're about to meet him." You will meet a Jesus in the Tomb book, but not the Jesus of the Bible, nor his message.
In speaking of Jesus, Cameron says, "Until now there has been zero physical evidence of his existence." I would simply ask Mr. Cameron to apply this standard to any historical figure mentioned in the first century. He can't seriously be suggesting physical evidence of the actual body of Jesus, or any other person from the first century is an important standard by which to validate history.
In speaking of the Gospels, Cameron states, "Historians, however, now view them as composite works, each created by several authors and based in turn on oral traditions carried on for decades, possibly half a century, after Christ's actual ministry. There is no historical evidence that any of the authors, if in fact they were individuals, actually heard the words of Jesus from his own lips." What Cameron fails to tell you is only certain historians hold this view. He ignores an entire group of serious scholars who would repudiate such ideas. For instance, W.F. Albright, a leading Biblical archaeologist has noted, "In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 and 75."
In speaking of his research on his movie The Titanic, Cameron states, "As a result of this twelve-year investigation, I have come to realize that history is a consensus hallucination. It is a myth upon which we all agree to agree. The truth is a moving target: new evidence must always be weighed." I would simply ask Cameron to apply this standard to his own work. He suggests a truth that truth is a moving target. Is this statement not a moving target as well? Cameron uses a spurious methodology that posits certainty can never be achieved. In terms of the Biblical material, he assumes God has not spoken.
Of the transmission of the Gospels, Cameron states, "...[T]hey have been edited by Church fathers, centuries after the original words were spoken, to conform to their subsequent vision of orthodoxy." This statement shows a deep ignorance of the science of textual criticism. The amount of Biblical manuscripts from different times, places, and languages prove the reliability of transmission. The New Testament has more manuscript evidence than any other piece of literature from antiquity.
In speaking of Gnostic Gospels repudiated by the Christian church, these receive two thumbs up from Cameron for reliability. ..."[T]hese precious and astonishing books show the rich diversity of early Christian thought and give clues to the historical story not available in the Big Four of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John." The bias against the canonical Gospels is blatant. Scholars have taken the non-canonical books apart, demonstrating their historical and doctrinal unreliability. Cameron though finds them precious and astonishing. His champion writing, The Acts of Philip, dates much later than the Biblical Gospels, yet this he treats as a vehicle for historical clues. Ian Wilson said this book, "...has no special claim to an early date, and may be merely a fantasy of a type not at all uncommon among Christian apocryphal literature of the third and fourth centuries" [Jesus: The Evidence (San Fransico: Harper & Row, 1984), 96-97].
If There Was Ever An Unfair Fight, This Is It
02/26/2007 - James SwanThe recent tomb controversy serves as a reminder of how much skepticism the Christian church has endured. The fact that God has spoken, and has done so reliably confounds non-believers. They've tried so many different angles to suppress this truth and hide the fact they are responsible to His Holy Word.
In 1778, H.S. Reimarus argued Jesus was a Jewish zealot failing to set up his Messianic kingdom. To help keep the cause alive, the disciples stole his body and fabricated stories about the resurrection. In 1835, David Strauss published an influential book entitled, The Life of Jesus. He presented a work seeking to discredit the reliability and historicity of the gospels. The historical accounts of Jesus were myths. One couldn't trust the Bible to present any accurate information about Jesus. In 1901, William Wrede published The Messianic Secret. Wrede posited Mark added fictitious material of Jesus being the Messiah. In 1906 Albert Schweitzer released: The Quest of the Historical Jesus. His work concludes, "...[I]t is not Jesus as historically known, but Jesus as spiritually arisen within men who is significant for our time and can help it." So much for the historical records.
And of course there was the onslaught of form criticism. These critics argued the oral tradition containing the historical facts about Jesus suffered considerable corruption. By the time it was written down, the Gospel accounts were nowhere near being historical truth. The early church was so devious, they couldn't be trusted to give an accurate account of the life of Jesus. They even mixed in stories and elements from non-Christian ancient literature. They controlled the facts and put forth what they wanted to. The form critics, bowing at the alter of Rationalism, defined miracles out of existence.
And of course, lets not leave out the supposed suppressed evidence about Jesus. Facts and tidbits from spurious later non-biblical gnostic material somehow or other present the bigger picture of the true Jesus. These later apocryphal traditions rejected by the early church find their place front and center for such modern works like The Lost Years of Jesus. Jesus spends 17 years in India, even though the gospel accounts ask, "Isn't this the carpenter's son?" Shouldn't they be asking, "Isn't this the mystic from India?" And it gets sillier and sillier. Morton Smith from Columbia University explained Jesus was a magician. He used illusion and hypnosis to leave his mark on history. Perhaps the most bizarre was the hypothesis of John Allegro, the Semitic scholar who wrote The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. Jesus wasn't a real historical person, but was rather a code name for a hallucinogenic mushroom. The men who wrote the New Testament were the ancestors of the New Age hippies, working out cryptograms for an ancient fertility cult. Then in the early 1980's the world was given Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The book argues Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had 6 kids. Years later the same fiction made millions being retold in the Da Vinci Code.
Like dominos falling, all these arguments, spanning hundreds of years have failed. They differ in hypothesis, and many with each other, proving they can't make sense of the evidence they are evaluating. Now we're going to get a chance again to tune to the Discovery Channel (home of such notable epics as "The Search for Bigfoot") to see the same futile efforts. Scholars, philosophers, and historians failed to conquer Jesus and keep Him buried; now filmmakers will be shooting their cap guns at God. At the heart of this new documentary is a worldview positing a denial of sola scriptura. The latest tomb controversy is simply another attempt to run from the fact that God has spoken. Rather than being scared by this new documentary, I look forward once again to watching God and His Word prove its reliability and authority. The Psalmist said, "Your word, O Lord is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." Imagine, filmmakers versus God. Now, if there was ever an unfair fight, this is it.
02/24/2007 - James WhiteOnce again I wish to thank everyone who has expressed concern, and support, with reference to the break-in a few weeks ago. A lot of progress has been made. If it is a computer in my office, it is now cabled down securely. Our doors are finally in. In fact, here is a shot I just saved from our security cameras a few moments ago of Rich, master of all tasks, painting the new door outside of his office. The doors are steel, thick, and heavy. They have full length hinges and double industrial strength dead bolts. Full length astricle as well. As you can see, there are bars on all the windows now as well. So we have been quite busy on that front, to be sure.
Most of what was stolen has now been replaced. The tablet PC I use so often while traveling is no longer made, so I went with two refurbished units instead, each about half the price of a new one. This way I have a backup. An unexpected blessing that came along with this route was that one of the two units came with a docking station. This allowed me to restore my system from my backups very easily and quickly (the last time it was quite a chore, requiring shipping of the unit to Texas!). So I am thankful for that. In the same way, replacing my mp3 voice recorder means the new unit, which was cheaper than the original, is actually a better unit, with much more recording time on it. So, I try to look at the bright side as much as possible!
But let us not forget justice has yet to be done. I showed this picture to a worker at a local restaurant and they identified him as the one who had robbed them as well. Rich mentioned the guy to someone at a local lock company and he described him perfectly without even seeing his picture as the thief who robbed the restaurant while he was there! So I would think that someone as active in the criminal realm as he is will eventually make a mistake. Of course, given that God's law is so despised in our nation today, and justice is so little seen as a reflection of God's nature and His glory, criminals like this are rarely punished. But God will not be mocked. Justice will be done. I have a sign in the window of my office with this man's picture, warning him of the wrath of God, and inviting him to knock on the front door during business hours so that he can learn what he can do to be made right with God.
Please continue to pray for the work of the ministry and the security of our offices. We know that all the measures we can take will not stop a determined criminal. Only God can provide real protection, and so we trust Him in this matter.
Tuesday Morning Odds and Ends
02/20/2007 - James WhiteWe've seen it coming for a while now. With the entrance of Mitt Romney into the 2008 presidential election, the subject of Mormonism would be front and center. But, given the mind-set of Secular America (might as well capitalize it: it's the official religion of the nation), I for one expected exactly what we are getting. First, anyone who dares assert that there is truth in the area of religion (resulting in the logical necessity of the existence of error in religion) will be laughed to scorn before two sentences can be uttered. Our society has a 3 second timer built into its thinking when it comes to someone trying to make a theological assertion in public dialogue. Only in "Christian" media will there be any willingness for a serious discussion of the teachings of Mormonism, and even then, there will be resistance to the promulgation of any firm conclusions. For secularists, Mormons are Christians, period, end of discussion, move on.
But on the second front, the theological ignorance of Christians, joined with the widespread incapacity to express theological postions succinctly and with clarity, results in this kind of embarrassing result:
Was anything accomplished here? Outside of mockery of the entire idea that Mormonism does, in fact, present a false God, Christ, and gospel, not really. Political town-halls are not the venue for a discussion of the fundamentally non-Christian nature of the LDS Church. That will require sober, sound, accurate discussion by individual believers in the market place of ideas, and, of course, that first requires a solid grasp on the necessity and importance of biblical monotheism to all of the Christian faith. And given the willingness of many post-evangelicals to throw the Trinity under the bus as an irrelevant dogma of the past anyway (witness the continued popularity of Phillips, Craig and Dean on your local "Christian" station), I'm not overly optimistic about the over-all conversation we will be enduring for the next number of months. Of course, no matter how badly that goes in the over-all culture, you and I as believers are responsible to glorify our Lord in the matter all the same. ...
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Catholic Answers Responds to "Who Has The Fullness of Truth?"
02/18/2007 - James SwanThe folks over on the Catholic Answers board came across my entry, Who Has The Fullness of Truth? The first set of criticisms concentrate on the differences I noted between Biblical conversion and Roman Catholic conversion. First I was said to miss the need for baptism in my citations of Acts 8:35 and 16:14. While indeed there is a Biblical mandate for believers to be baptized, Scripture does not teach that baptism regenerates. Neither of these chapters in Acts states that conversion is brought about by baptism. My critic then states, "Next he goes on with the typical Romans 4 verse but again, he fails to note why or how this is in conflict with Catholic teaching. He is most likely promoting faith alone in a drive by manner but this article doesn't do justice to the issue of conversion." The majority of Catholic interpretations I've seen on Romans 3-4 attempt to limit Paul's concern to the Jewish ceremonial laws. But such an interpretation misses Paul's contrast between working and believing, as Romans 4:4-5 clearly demonstrates.
I was then criticized for referring to the "gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15), "The Eph 6 reference is also interesting considering it's in the context of Paul teaching Christians to prepare for the daily struggle they will encounter in trying to live a holy life, this is perfectly inline with Catholicism." This criticism neglects the distinction between justification and sanctification. This distinction is set forth earlier in Ephesians 2:8-10. Paul goes on to describe Christ as "our peace" (2:14) and notes we are now members of God's household (2:19-20), not that we will later become such people by "trying to live a holy life." My citation of Colossians 1:20 pointed out salvation is the result of Christ's atonement. My critic cited Colossians 1:22-23 and 2:18-19 and noted, "It is clear this is an 'IF' situation, 'IF' you continue in your faith...nothing guarantee here...in fact the second quote says explicitly you can be disqualified...in total contradiction to what [Swan] asserts." Note that Colossians 1:21 speaks of the believer as reconciled and presented as holy in His sight. "If you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel" is descriptive and not prescriptive as the context shows.
Finally, my point that a Protestant converting to Catholicism goes from certainty of salvation to uncertainty of salvation befuddled my critic. The point was simply to contrast the message of the Biblical gospel with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Ludwig Ott notes a Roman Catholic cannot know if one is saved. 1 John 5:13 states, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."
Phoenix: Do You Know This Man?
02/03/2007 - James WhiteAnyone in the Phoenix area: do you know this man? He is our thief. Last August he stole my tablet PC and a number of other items from my office. This morning, at 7:49am, he did it again. My tablet, once again, is gone. He took a very nice travel bag as well (with various connections and the like, my only mp3 recorder, etc.), but, he only did that to hide the tablet as he made his get-away. He went straight to the same door he got through last time. How on earth could he have done this twice? Because we have asked to have the door replaced for five months (we only rent this facility), but, it has yet to be replaced. We put a huge bolt on the door and made other modifications, but we had expected those measures to be temporary. I had never dreamed it would take over five months to replace the door. Ironically, we had been told last week the doors had finally arrived. But, no one had called to arrange the installation. The alarm system worked, but, this is Phoenix, and I arrived before the cops did!
I am truly at a loss as to what to say. Obviously, given another break in, the processes that had begun back in August of last year will get a little "bump" in priority. The doors will be replaced with high quality security doors this week. Maybe the fence issue will finally be addressed. But, knowing how things normally work, that extra energy will be temporary. As for me, I do not think I will ever feel safe leaving anything here over night. As I sit here at my desk my mind is racing, looking around my office, asking myself, "What else is missing?" It took over a month for me to identify all the items stolen last time.
If you recognize this man, please call the Phoenix Police. I know my tablet is gone. It's already been sold to someone for drug money or the like. But this man needs to be apprehended. Sadly, my cynicism tells me he would probably never even see jail time anyway.
Here is the video:
Quick Humorous Link
02/02/2007 - James WhiteOne of my RSS feeds is Bill Dembski's Uncommon Descent. This morning he has linked to a very well done spoof of Richard Dawkins, The Dawkins Delusion. I am now convinced that Dawkins does not exist, how about you?
02/01/2007 - James WhiteOn the DL today I will be making reference to various kinds of manuscripts and styles of writing. So here are some graphics.