Image

Atheist David Fitzgerald Wrong About John the Baptist

12 Nov 0

Do you meet all of the following conditions?
-under 35 years old
-an atheist
-debate Christians on the Internet
-have attended a talk put on by the Secular Student Alliance

If you answered yes to all four, chances are, you know David Fitzgerald. You might also know Dave if you are a Christian apologist who is involved with campus ministry. Apparently, William Lane Craig knows. David is the author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All? and promotes the Christ-Myth Theory, which claims Jesus Christ never lived.

I debated (informally) David on three different occasions in 2013. In our second conversation, he made a claim that John the Baptist was a failed Messiah. This claim came in the flow of an argument he was making about  Jesus (supposedly) not having the same amount of historical corroboration as so-called “loser Messiahs”. I asked Dave for evidence or a source for his take on J to tha B. He mentioned the Clementine Recognitions, saying it backs him up. Watch the debate here and note our dialogue between 12 and 13 minutes.

Next:
-pause the video
-read sections 155 and 160 of Book I of the Clementine Recognitions
(it’s pasted in below and I’ve underlined the most relevant lines but you can read more here)

 

1.54 — Jewish Sects.
“For when the rising of Christ was at hand for the abolition of sacrifices, and for the bestowal of the grace of baptism, the enemy, understanding from the predictions that the time was at hand, wrought various schisms among the people, that, if haply it might be possible to abolish the former sin, the latter fault might be incorrigible.
“The first schism, therefore, was that of those who were called Sadducees, which took their rise almost in the time of John. These, as more righteous than others, began to separate themselves from the assembly of the people, and to deny the resurrection of the dead, and to assert that by an argument of infidelity, saying that it was unworthy that God should be worshipped, as it were, under the promise of a reward. The first author of this opinion was Dositheus; the second was Simon.
“Another schism is that of the Samaritans; for they deny the resurrection of the dead, and assert that God is not to be worshipped in Jerusalem, but on Mount Gerizim. They indeed rightly, from the predictions of Moses, expect the one true Prophet; but by the wickedness of Dositheus they were hindered from believing that Jesus is He whom they were expecting.
“The scribes also, and Pharisees, are led away into another schism; but these, being baptized by John, and holding the word of truth received from the tradition of Moses as the key of the kingdom of heaven, have hid it from the hearing of the people.
“Yea, some even of the disciples of John, who seemed to be great ones, have separated themselves from the people, and proclaimed their own master as the Christ. But all these schisms have been prepared, that by means of them the faith of Christ and baptism might be hindered.”
1.60 — Disciples of John Refuted.
“And, behold, one of the disciples of John asserted that John was the Christ, and not Jesus, inasmuch as Jesus Himself declared that John was greater than all men and all prophets.’If, then, ‘said he, ‘he be greater than all, he must be held to be greater than Moses, and than Jesus himself. But if he be the greatest of all, then must he be the Christ.’ 
“To this Simon the Canaanite, answering, asserted that John was indeed greater than all the prophets, and all who are born of women, yet that he is not greater than the Son of man. Accordingly Jesus is also the Christ, whereas John is only a prophet: and there is as much difference between him and Jesus, as between the forerunner and Him whose forerunner he is; or as between Him who gives the law, and him who keeps the law. Having made these and similar statements, the Canaanite also was silent.
“After him Barnabas, who also is called Matthias, who was substituted as an apostle in the place of Judas, began to exhort the people that they should not regard Jesus with hatred, nor speak evil of Him. For it were far more proper, even for one who might be in ignorance or in doubt concerning Jesus, to love than to hate Him. For God has affixed a reward to love, a penalty to hatred. ‘For the very fact,’ said he, ‘that He assumed a Jewish body, and was born among the Jews, how has not this incited us all to love Him?’ When he had spoken this, and more to the same effect, he stopped.”

Re-listen to David’s claims about John as a failed Messiah – does the source (which is a late work falsely ascribed to Clement of Rome) match his claims?

 __________________________________________________________________________________________

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He is married to Nicole and together they have adopted four boys. Vocab can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone

 

Image

CELSUS vs. THE EARLY CHRISTIANS (177-180 AD)

1 Nov true

WHO WAS CELSUS? Celsus

No discussion on critics of the ancient church would be complete without the most salient of them all – the pagan intellectual Celsus.

He wrote a polemical tour de force titled True Doctrine (also translated as True Word, True Account or True Discourse), published in the late second century (ca.  170 AD). Celsus’ attack was the first all-out – and informed – salvo we have on Christianity. More than a passing comment or a veiled allusion; it was a collection of objections contra Christianity.

Initially, Celsus seems to have been overlooked by Christians but a century later Origen felt it was prudent to respond to the work in his Against Celsus (ca. 246 AD). The strange thing about Origen going toe to toe with the ghost of Celsus is both were essentially Platonists! They held in common many presuppositions, though Origen saw God as personal and Celsus did not, for Celsus believed Christianity’s “doctrine of a divine intervention in history is incompatible with Platonic axioms”.[1] Celsus, a a philosopher of the Middle Platonist school, did not reject everything in Christianity outright (e.g., the Logos doctrine, certain ethical principles, etc.).

I have a begrudging respect for Celsus and readily admit some of his arguments went unanswered by Christian apologists, even the illuminative Origen. In a twist of history that would probably surprise both men, the way we have Celsus’ True Doctrine preserved today is because Origen quoted Celsus at-length in his response work, Contra Celsum.

 

ORIGEN

ORIGEN

WHY DID CELSUS ATTACK CHRISTIANITY?

Celsus attacked the church out of genuine love for the Roman Empire, which he felt was being undermined. Celsus chided Christians as “sectarians “. Celsus was annoyed, perhaps even frightened that Christianity was not linked to any one state or place. Henry Chadwick says “Celsus was the first known person to realize this non-political, quietist, and pacifist community had in its power to transform the social and political order of the empire” and that “it aimed at the capture of society throughout all its strata” [2]. This is something Celsus did not want.

Celsus – like many Roman gentlemen – was a social conservative in a certain sense of the word. Celsus had misgivings about polytheism but still defended more traditional Roman religious views. Celsus claimed at hero shrines, the gods can be seen in human form and they do not appear only once “in a secretive and stealthy manner like the fellow who deceived the Christians” [Origen, Against Celsus 7.35]. Celsus lists positive benefits some have experienced from oracles: wisdom, revelation, miracle signs, appearances, health, and prophetic utterances which are fulfilled [Against Celsus 8.45].

This general Roman attitude, which Celsus displayed, was one reason the Romans gave Jews a degree of freedom in their religious practice – it was old: “”As the Jews, then, became a peculiar people, and enacted laws in keeping with the customs of their country, and maintain them up to the present time, and observe a mode of worship which, whatever be its nature, is yet derived from their fathers…” [Against Celsus 5.25]. Christianity was novel, though, and Celsus even mocked this new faith for not having buildings!

Celsus discerned Christianity was not like Judaism: it was not limited to a certain ethnic group; people of all backgrounds were converting to Christianity. Celsus explained Christian unity in light of sociology: “Their agreement is quite amazing, the more so as it may be shown to rest on no trustworthy foundation.” The thing that binds them together, Celsus believes, is persecution; this helps their cause.

 

HOW DID CELSUS KNOW ABOUT CHRISTIANITY?

Generally speaking, Celsus did not uncritically repeat wild rumors floating around about Christianity. Instead, Celsus launched attacks where it would hurt. He was not given to attacking straw men, for Celsus “was a man who relied not on rumors and hearsay evidence but on personal observation and careful study” [3]. Celsus took time and effort to study Christianity to dissect it properly. He studied the Hebrew Scriptures and some of the gospels (he at least knew Matthew, Luke and 1 Corinthians).

He probably had personal contact with Christians. He claimed he knew what appear to be hyper-Charismatics (Montanists, perhaps?) in both Palestine and Phoenicia – he even quotes some of their ecstatic utterances [Against Celsus 7.9].

It is possible Celsus had even been witnessed to by some Christians. The evangelistic zeal of the early church is something that annoyed him: “Christians with little or no education seized every opportunity to witness to people, and when confronted by educated pagans they still would not stop pushing their opinions” [4].

Not only was Celsus familiar with Christian evangelists but he was also familiar with some of the work of Christian apologists, the heretic Marcion, and some of the gnostic sects. Celsus is acquainted enough with Marcionism that he uses the clever tactic of leveraging the Christian’s own heretics against the orthodox Christians.

 

Celsus-Bust_philosopher_LouvreWHAT DID CELSUS SAY AGAINST CHRISTIANITY?

Contra Celsum 2.6: “Jesus kept all the Jewish customs”.

Celsus says the praxis of Jesus stands in contradistinction to the praxis of Christians. Of course, Celsus had his fair share of criticism for the Jews and their Scriptures! Celsus probably borrowed some of his verbal ammunition from Jewish sources (an unknown Jewish anti-Christian polemical tract?). In the course of an attack on Christian doctrine, Celsus introduces a Jewish character (Origen called him “the Jew of Celsus”) who repeats common Jewish jabs against Jesus [Against Celsus 1.32]. By this method, Celsus even includes the charge that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a soldier named Panthera.

Contra Celsum 1.38: “there he learned certain magical powers which the Egyptians are proud to have. He returned full of pride in these powers, and gave himself the title of God”.[5] 

Celsus also says Jesus studied magic and practiced sorcery in Egypt. [6] Celsus uses more elements from the life of Jesus against the Christians here. Celsus refers to both the miracles and some of the (misconstrued) background of Jesus in a very real, albeit negative, way.

Contra Celsum 6.34: “If Christ had been thrown down a cliff or pushed into a pit, or strangled with a rope … then they would speak of a cliff of life, or a pit of resurrection, or a rope of immortality”.

Celsus mockingly confirms the death of Jesus as well as the method. Celsus made fun of Christian references to the cross as a glorious thing. Celsus questioned the logic of the crucifixion, wondering why the so-called “Son of God” would let himself be killed that way. Celsus pointed out that Christians would not worship Zeus because his tomb was right there in plain sight in Crete, yet their “god” was supposedly resurrected from his tomb.

Celsus did not believe in the resurrection; in his mind, it was a decidedly disgusting and repugnant belief. Celsus wondered why Christians worshipped a dead man as immortal. Further, Celsus argues that Christian doctrine twisted the Greek concept of immortality of the soul into the resurrection. Celsus felt the doctrine of the resurrection was based on an incorrect interpretation of reincarnation. Celsus chided the Christians for rejecting the traditional gods on one hand and then worshipping a mere man on the other. Worse yet; the man had lived recently: “If these men worshipped no other God but one, perhaps they would have a valid argument against the others. But in fact they worship to an extravagant degree this man who appeared recently” (Contra Celsum 8.12).

Not surprisingly, Celsus honed in on the central feature of Christianity: the worship of Christ. He criticized Christians for being inconsistent: how can they claim to worship the one true God, reject polytheism, and yet then offer unto Jesus hyperthreskeuousi: “excessive worship”?[Against Celsus 8.12] Besides, there were other men more worthy of worship than Christ, such as figures from ancient Greece. If that is not bad enough, this man was a convicted criminal who had been disgraced and executed. It is not hard to see why Celsus thought these were better candidates when he viewed Jesus, the lowly carpenter who was, “a pestilent fellow”, a liar and a wicked sorcerer (remember, Celsus claimed Jesus learned magic while studying in Egypt).

Against Celsus 4.3: “What could be the purpose of such a visit to earth by God? To find out what is taking place among human? Does he not know everything?”

Celsus fundamentally rejected the incarnation. He accused Christians of exalting Jesus the man to godhood status in order to ignore any real god – a Christological cop out. For Celsus, it was ludicrous they thought this was consistent with monotheism!

CELSUS AND THE CHRIST-MYTH THEORY

Celsus was willing to use historical elements from the life of Jesus against Christianity; a clever tactic. The Christ-Mythicist should see that if Jesus never existed, Celsus would have been more than willing to say so. Why did he not just say, “Your Messiah never even existed”? Furthermore, Celsus mocked the Hebrew Scriptures for being chock full of stupid myths and silly fables. This is important because Celsus never made a similar charge about the existence of Jesus. Although he had great suspicions about the alleged supernatural aspects to his life, such as the virgin birth and the fulfilled prophecies attributed to him, Celsus never questioned the existence of Jesus.

NOTES

[1] Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (New York: Penguin Books, 1967), 116.
[2] Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (New York: Penguin Books, 1967), 69.
[3] Stephen Benko, Pagan Rome and the Early Christians (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1986), 148]
[4] Tim Dowley, Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1977), 87.
[5] Ibid., 1.28 Alternate translation: ” “…having tried his hand at certain magical powers he returned from there, and on account of those magical powers gave himself the title of God”.
[6] Both of these thoughts can be found in the Babylonian Talmud(b. Sanhedrin 67a; 106a; cf. The Toledoth Jesu). See Peter Schafer, Jesus in the Talmud (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007).

 __________________________________________________________________________________________

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He is married to Nicole and together they have adopted four boys. Vocab can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone
Image

THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE vs. HISTORICAL REVISIONISM

29 Oct Ohenypl

HISTORY OF SCIENCE ROCKIN’ ON YOUR RADIOOO!

The pop culture consensus is generally unaware of the history of modern science and its Christian origins. To make matters worse, many internet atheists engage in historical revisionism when engaging this issue. For example, see the hard secular polemics of Richard Carrier, who is following in the footsteps of his outdated, outmoded and outlandish forebears, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson.

Dr. Jonathan Sarfati (Creation Ministries International) was on Backpack Radio (link) to discuss the Christian roots related to the rise of modern science. I was on an episode of Apologia Radio to discuss the same thing and respond to some criticism of the claim. Apologia’s website says the show, “will hopefully cause praise to flow from your lips to God Who is the very foundation of any pursuit of scientific discovery.” My sentiments exactly. On this post, I share some thoughts on the history and development of modern science.

ONWARD TOWARDS RECOGNIZING A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Many pioneers of modern science were Christians. In fact, many were specifically informed by their Christian worldview as they pursued science. This is important. Why? When someone observing history notes that modern science arose from a decidedly Christian view of God, creation and humanity, a doubter arises and claims the observer is committing the fallacy of correlation (eg, History of Modern Science and Two Fallacies).

This is a common mistake people make once they learn the concept of logical fallacies: they falsely call non-fallacies, fallacies. It’s not a display of critical thinking, it’s a rhetorical shortcut disguised as a counter-argument. When someone says something is wrong – when it is not – it is falsely calling a fallacy. In this case, the fallacy of correlation.

There are a ways we can show there is a causal relationship between the Christian world of ideas and the rise of science.

-One way to determine causality is by investigating intention, purpose and motivation. If an acting agent expressly declares why they are doing what they are doing, we have a statement of intention. In the case of many of the pioneers of modern science, we have this – read their writings! It’s easy, they tell us. Listen to them:

Johannes ‪‎Kepler‬ (1571–1630): “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational‬ order and harmony which has been imposed on it by ‪‎God‬ and which He revealed to us in the language of ‪‎mathematics‬.” [1]

Kepler also wrote that “God, who founded everything in the world according to the norm of quantity, also has endowed man with a mind which can comprehend those norms.”

Nicholas Copernicus: “The universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”

French philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) spoke of “certain laws which God has so established in nature and of certain notions which He has impressed in our souls.”

On a slightly different note, but still too fun to leave out, the preface of Isaac ’s Principia states this “will be the safest protection against the attacks of , and nowhere more surely than from this quiver can one draw forth missiles against the band of godless men.” [2]

The list goes on. It is long, not short. These kind of comments in trail blazing scientific writings are purposeful, frequent and in-depth, not accidental, occasional and off-hand.

-Another way to determine causality is via deductive reasoning; we can link certain premises of scientific pioneers with certain conclusions. This means we can see where their line of reasoning will lead – or not. We can trace out where Christian monotheism vs. animism or pantheism leads; we can walk out a biblical doctrine of creation vs. an ancient pagan one. Try it. Here is an example relating God’s sovereignty over sinners and his sovereignty over matter:

“The view of sinners as passive inspired a parallel view of matter as passive. Matter was driven not by internal rational Forms but by the sovereign commands of God. The freedom of God in bestowing salvation inspired a parallel view of His freedom in creation and providence. God was not restricted by any inherent necessity; He freely bestowed order according to His own will and design.” [3]

-Another way to determine causality is historical investigation. Especially one in which we take ideas, events and even people as data and then compare and contrast them. For example, comparing one civilization with another and asking: what are the similarities and differences? Then we can further investigate and ask: what factors did the differences play in the different outcomes? Historians of science do this all the time and most non-positivist historians come to relatively similar conclusions: Christian thought was instrumental in the invention of science as an institution.

Other doubters will charge that the Christian conflates necessary and sufficient conditions. Here is the question: what do people need to believe about the world first in order for science to get off the ground? Unless the revisionist can sketch a bullet list of the necessary conditions for people to believe in and then engage in scientific discovery, then it seems the charge is not an argument at all … but more of a baseless accusation. Christianity does supply both the necessary and sufficient conditions needed to under gird the scientific enterprise.

9 Ideas The Christian Worldview Provides for Science:[4]

1. Creation is Real:
Finite objects are not mere appearances of the Infinite or any other similar concept; they are not illusory but real.

2. Creation is Good:
Genesis, Psalms, etc. portray a high view of creation. God made the material world good. Therefore, work is valuable, a way to serve God.
3. Creation is Not God:
Creation is not to be an object of worship but rather an object of study. It is valuable but not divine or ultimate.
4. Creation is Orderly:
Events occur in reliable, predictable fashion. NOTE: this presupposition rests not merely on the existence of a god but specifically on the trustworthy and dependable character of this God.
5. Humans Can Discover The Order:
God created humans with the powers of observation and reasoning necessary to gain reliable knowledge of natural world. Knowledge is possible because of a corresponding capacity created in us by God (cf, Herman Dooyeweerd)
6. Creation Obeys Laws:
All natural occurrences are lawful, intelligible. A rational God means the world must be lawfully ordered; the world reflects God’s rationality.
7. Creation’s Laws Can Be Stated:
This can be done using precise mathematical formulas. Belief in God is a guarantee of consistency; it guarantees the logical validity of mathematical concepts. Mathematics are a God-given means for perceiving reality; analogous to sight, sense, touch, hearing and smell. No one “invents” geometry; and that’s part of the point. This idea ties mathematics to real world.
8. Creation is Intelligible:
Creatio ex nihilo means there is no pre-existing substance with its own independent properties to limit what God can do. God created the world exactly as He willed. (cf, R. G. Collingwood). Structure, existence of universe contingent upon free, transcendent will of God. So, we must experiment and observe to discover what’s there.
9. Goal of science:
Glory of God and benefit of mankind. Humans are free to manipulate creation, theoretically in mathematical formulas, practically by experiment. Christianity provided the intellectual framework and motive for technology (Gen. 1-2).

*Note this list is not identical to the Aristotelian worldview.

ATHEIST LISTS, ATHEIST AXIOMS
Any list an atheist gives of the basic philosophical assumptions needed for science will mismatch with their worldview. That is to say, it will not match up with their actual axioms somewhere. It may sound like common sense because in the West, we generally take our starting place for granted. But look deeper and you will discern it is ad hoc at key junctions because the evidence from metaphysics is against their metaphysics. 

For example, they want order in their worldview but all they have is chaos, randomness and chance. But wait – the actual universe displays order! Of course the atheist realizes this and understand how important order is for science (for example, in repeating experiments, making predictions). What do they do? They acknowledge this reality and try to artificially attach order to their worldview somewhere (“order is merely a construct of the human mind”, etc.) or just shrug their philosophical shoulders and say, “I don’t know, but it works … besides, your answer is no better!” There is a disconnect between what they have – and what they need.

No atheistic worldview can supply the atheist with the preconditions needed for science. This news ain’t new – except to the 21st century atheist. David Hume will tell you this. Hume held that any case of A causing B is a mere verbal convention borne from mental habit. Most scientists can’t tell you this; as a general rule, they haven’t give it a second thought.

“YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE”! (OR, “MAYBE YOU CAN, YOU JUST DIDN’T HAPPEN TO…”)
Does anyone truly think that any ol’ worldview contains the needed axioms for scientific thought? I have actually heard from a number of atheists there is nothing unique about one worldview over another; specifically, that there is nothing distinct about Christianity that led to scientific exploration. Really? Please don’t be needlessly stubborn and act as if you could get identical axiomatic principles out of Hinduism, Buddhism, animism or polytheism.

Who can say with a straight face that Christianity just “happened” to be the dominate religion when science took off?  It’s unfathomable how folks can glibly make such statements – but they do. The evidence of history (and yes, metaphysics) is against these naive revisionist claims.

This particular disagreement often looks like mere head-shaking on the part of many atheists; it appears they simply say ‘no’ over and over again for the sake of obstinacy (either that or repeating, “luuucky”). A great example is Richard Carrier’s appearance on Unbelievers Radio - it amounted to haughty (but unfounded) scoffing and naked contrarianism – and a rather shallow contrarianism at that.

Philosophy of science is a legitimate second-order academic discipline.* Pay attention to it. The history of science is ever before us. The keen observer takes note that the history of science is not merely a happenstance invention here and a fortunate discovery there; no, the history of science is the history of ideas - how they are played out in real time.

NOTES
[1] Cited in Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture, Oxford, 1953, p 96
[2] Written by Roger Cotes, in the Preface to 2nd edition
[3] from The Soul of Science, referencing/describing Gary Deason’s chapter “Reformation Theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature”, in God and Nature, ed. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Univ. of Calif. Press, 1986), pp. 167- 191).
[4] Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton pointed out ideas which are needed for people to believe in science; some of these points are a reader’s digest/summarized version of some of their points in The Soul of Science.
* For a great intro to this, Science & Grace is an underrated, controversial and paradigm-shaking book towards a philosophy/theology of science.

 __________________________________________________________________________________________

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a semi-retired hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He has been married for 10 years and has adopted three boys. Vocab and his wife enjoy going to Comicon in full cosplay. He can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone
Image

Ministry to Muslims ARIZONA UPDATE 2014

23 Oct VM_MuslimOutreach (1)

MINISTRY UPDATE!

MINISTRY TO MUSLIMS recently completed its fourth annual outreach trip to Phoenix, Arizona. For four days (October 16-19), we prayed together, trained together, witnessed together, learned together and worshipped together. I was part of it; this is what happened:

TRAINING
Wonderful speakers helped equip attendees for the outreach. Here is a partial list:

Speakers
Sam Shamoun:
Sam resides in Chicago and is well-known for his many debates and articles. A fellow apologist dubbed him “The Assyrian Encyclopedia”. Read his many articles at Answering-Islam.org here

Al Fadi: A passionate, Saudi Arabian-born Muslim who providentially lived with a Christian family during college. Al Fadi is now an author and speaker for reaching out and understanding Muslims. His website and book can be found at TheQuranDilemma.com

Anthony Rogers: Anthony became a Christian and was immediately drawn to evangelism and apologetics. He is currently pursuing a seminary degree and writes articles for Answering-Islam.org. View his YouTube channel here

Topics
-Do’s and Don’ts
-Facing the Islamic Challenge
-Answering Islamic Objections
-Why the Muslims?

THE DEBATESa rogers
There were also two moderated debates on Saturday between Anthony Rogers and ex-atheist Muslim-convert, Andrew Livingston. Andrew is a Muslim apologist and a writer for TAQWA Magazine. The two topics were, “What Did Jesus Say About Himself?” and “Was Muhammad a True Prophet?” More than 50 people listened intently. We had a wonderful time with Andrew; for example, we enjoyed some fine Middle Eastern Cuisine at Fattoush together and talked … Star Wars! I pray that Andrew truly experienced a taste of what a grace-filled and gospel-centered Christian community looks like up close. Check out Andrew’s articles at the TAQWA website

OUTREACH!
Outreach was the main purpose of our trip. We went to several strip malls and struck up conversations at local Muslim-owned shops in the area. About 15 people did this in key areas of the city for a large part of Thursday. On Friday, about 20 of us passed out Arabic/English copies of John’s Gospel at local mosques.

One Muslim man asked a MINISTRY TO MUSLIM team member this as he exited the mosque: “What kind of excuse are you guys going to have when you stand in front of God?” Even though we hear things like this often, it’s still an insight to the way a devout Muslim thinks. One man told us, “I say this with all sincerity and respect toward you guys, but what you are doing out here is the absolute worst crime you can commit – persuading people to commit the sin of shirk.” (Shirk is associating partners with Allah and Muslims believe Christians blaspheme this way when we ascribe deity to Jesus Christ.) Overall, we had some powerful conversations. One brother who was part of the team was a wheel-chair bound Egyptian Christian. It was a blessing to witness his compassion and wisdom for the people he spoke with – both in English and Arabic!

10408161_747706021931603_1235649016642040851_n

Stoopid w/Anthony, Luis, Sam @the Arab Fest

Saturday and Sunday nights our team came out in full force to Arizona’s ARAB-AMERICAN FESTIVAL. We partnered with several local churches, a few from downtown Phoenix, another from Mesa and yet another from Tucson. Together, we were able to rent TWO vendor booths, where we took professional pictures for festival-goers at no charge. The booths were filled with gospel material in both Arabic and English, which we passed out everywhere we could to everyone who would take one. We distributed literally thousands of tracts and multiple-language Jesus movie DVDs.

bprCOVER-211

Hear Jamal on Mid-Eastern Christians!

GOSPEL PARTNERS 
I thank the Lord for moving in his people’s hearts to mobilize and unite for God’s glory and the sake of the gospel. Especially Pastor Jamal Bishara of First Arabic Baptist Church,  a Palestinian-born Christian who has been laboring for 30 years in this field. The Lord used him to bring together Christians from multiple denominations, multiple ethnicities and multiple nationalities. The congregation graciously let us use their campus for the event and were very generous all around. (Listen to Jamal’s interview on BPR by clicking the picture)

Will you prayerfully consider being part of the Phoenix trip in 2015, either by going or sending?

Contact George Saieg at 

http://www.ministrytomuslims.org/join-us.html

 

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Mathew 9:36-38, NASB)

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a Christian hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He is married to Nicole together they have adopted four boys. Vocab can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone

Emperor Marcus Aurelius & Fronto vs. The Early Christians

8 Dec Marcus Aurelius

CORNELIUS FRONTO 

An interesting account we have of early criticism towards Christianity has been preserved for us by Marcus Minucius Felix, circa 210-230 AD.  It can be read in the Ante-Nicene Fathers 4.02.01-04 and it is about a Christian named Octavius Januarius debating a pagan named Q. Caecilius Natalis. 

Marcus Cornelius Fronto (100-166 AD) was a Latin rhetorician and a tutor of Marcus Aurelius. Most scholars agree that we have a fragment of Fronto’s words on Christianity preserved in Minicius Felix’s Octavius (31.1-2; cf. 9.5-6), via the anti-Christian speeches from the character named Caecilius.

It is a brief piece of slander that claims Christians feast once a week until the “flame of impure lust and drunkenness has been lit”. Then, Fronto via Caecilius claims those gathered entice a dog that has been tied to a lampstand to “jump and dance by a little cake tossed beyond the area of its tether”. This has the intended effect of extinguishing the light and then people of all ages – including family members – have sex with the first person they bump into in the dark. As Fronto reports, they “embrace one another in their unspeakable lust as chance brings them together and … all alike are incestuous…”. In the second century, the charge of incest was a common one against Christians and could even be found on the lips and pens of educated Romans.

Caecilius accused Christians of all sorts of mischievous behavior: secret signs, clandestine meetings, arrogance, ignorance, exclusivity, gullibility, anti-social tendencies, boorish, uncultured, rude, sexually promiscuous, drunken party animals, infant killers and cannibalism. The following are notable: “I hear that they adore the head of an ass” and “some say they worship the genitals of their priests”, although he does admit he is unsure if these rumors are true. Caecilius even used a primitive form of Hume’s “wicked or weak” argument against the Christian god in light of human pain and suffering (especially amongst the Christians themselves!).

Caecilius made fun of the idea of resurrection and was especially annoyed with the idea of this nosy and bossy (omnipresent and omniscient) god. Many of these critiques were nothing new; for similar arguments were most likely found in the now lost works of Fronto (see Edward Champlin, Fronto and Antonine Rome. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980, 64-66).

More basic were Fronto’s put downs (again, via Minicius Felix’s character Caecilius) towards Christians as people “who lack education and culture, and are crude and ignorant”[Octavius 12] and who propagate “sick delusions”, a “senseless and crazy superstition”, and an “old-womanly superstition”. The crucifixion also finds its way into Fronto’s critical cross-hairs: “To say that their ceremonies center on a man put to death for his crime and on the fatal wood of the cross is to assign to these abandoned wretches sanctuaries which are appropriate to them and the kind of worship they deserve” [11.1; 13.5; 9.4.].

FOR THIS SECTION, I AM INDEBTED TO STEPHEN BENKO’S CHAPTER ON “PAGAN CRITICISM OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY AND ETHICS”, 140-162.
-For great overview of this narrative, cf. Henry Wace and William C. Piercy A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography: A Reference Guide to Over 800 Christian Men and Women, Heretics, and Sects of the First Six Centuries (Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 727-730 and for a commentary on this literature, see G.W. Clarke, The Octavius of Minucius Felix (NY: Newman Press, 1976), especially pages 1-14.
-For a helpful discussion on a terminus a quo on Octavius, see Michael E. Hardwick, Josephus as an Historical Source in Patristic Literature through Eusebius Brown Judais Studies 128 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989), pages 20-23.

MARCUS AURELIUS

words-from-marcus-aurelius

Fronto’s former pupil, Marcus Aurelius, became emperor in 161 AD. He reigned until 180 AD. Marcus was a Stoic philosopher critical of Christianity.  There are a few citations against Christian practices in his Meditations (1.6; 3.16.1; 7.68; 8.48; 8.51.2; 11.3) but Meditations 11.3 is the most explicit. 

Marcus begins by saying it is “admirable” for the soul to be ready when facing death. He says “this readiness must come from its own decision, not from mere opposition like the Christians, but rationally, religiously, and so as to persuade others, without dramatics”. Marcus admires the person who looks death calmly in the face – but not out of sheer force of will but despises the Christian who dies with excessive flair out of an irrational and contrarian compulsion. His view of Christian martyrs was they were “playing the tragedy-hero” and in doing so “are immature and insincere” (Robert M. Grant, Greek Apologists of the Second Century. Philadelphia, Westminster Press: 1988, p 78). Marcus thought the reason Christians faced death with such eagerness was non-sensical, unattractive, and done more out of the rebellious nature of their religion than of any individualistic determination.
Marcus persecuted the church during his reign and had probably witnessed his fair share of martyrs. Most likely he was annoyed by the bible verses, prayers and preaching that often came before the Christian’s last breath.
 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a semi-retired hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He has been married for 10 years and has adopted three boys. Vocab and his wife enjoy going to Comicon in full cosplay. He can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone

Lucian of Samosata: THE FIRST ANTI-CHRISTIAN SATIRIST

24 Nov

Lucian of Samosata (circa 115-200 AD) was a Greek satirist. He wrote On the Death of Peregrinus, also translated as Passing of Peregrinus.  Lucian parodies what he sees as the inherent naïveté in Christians and in their doctrine; he depicts Christians as lackeys and dolts. Lucian directs no small amount of mockery towards Christians, calling them “poor wretches” who have “persuaded themselves that they will be immortal”.

lucian

Lucian says Christians are gullible and accept “all their doctrines without accurate demonstration”. In fact, “any charlatan or trickster” who comes to them “quickly becomes rich by imposing on simple people”. Lucian’s satire features Peregrinus Proteus – one such huckster who takes advantage of the Christians stupid generosity. The Cynic-philosopher-turned-religious-hustler lives it up for a while until he is caught eating (forbidden) food that was sacrificed to idols; this results in his expulsion from the community.

Lucian says the Christians “revered him as a god … next after that other whom they still, worship, the man crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world”. The “him” in this passage is the character Peregrinus who had infiltrated the Christian community in order to take advantage of these “misguided creatures”.

In another portion of the work, Lucian tells the story of the fraud leader Peregrinus being imprisoned. Lucian says the Christians rushed to help him immediately and “at daybreak one could see aged widows and orphan children waiting by the prison”. It is interesting Lucian specifically mentions these two groups of people (widows and orphans) as comprising the church, especially when Lucian tells us that Peregrinus gets rich off the church. Lucian says the church officers bribed the guards to sleep in the prison with Peregrinus.

Lucian speaks of Christ as “their first legislator” who convinced them that “once they have transgressed by denying the Greek gods” then they “are all brothers of one another”. Lucian says the Christians “have thrown over the gods of Greece”, instead “worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws” (Peregrinus 13). 

One reason why this sarcastic satirist’s works are noteworthy is his word for crucifixion: anaskolopisthenta. This word does not mean “crucified” but rather “impaled”, which technically can be said of a crucifixion victim. This word is not the same word used in the gospels for crucifixion, which was usually stauroo (σταυρόω). This shows Lucian may have received his information from a non-Christian source. It is also one more subtle way for Lucian to parody the silliness of this simple superstition based around a sophist who had been crucified in Palestine.

Lucian is an interesting critic because he almost has more sympathy than disdain for Christians. He portrays them as generous, gullible, and guileless except for their leaders, who are comprised of sophists and charlatans. Even more notable, though, is the fact that he “thought his readers would have heard something about Christians and would enjoy a story told at their expense” (Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003, 490).

For more on Lucian, see Francis G. Allison, Lucian: Satirist and Artist (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1963) and H.W Fowler, The Works of Lucian of Samosata (Oxford: Clarendon, 1905).

 __________________________________________________________________________________________

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a semi-retired hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He has been married for 10 years and has adopted three boys. Vocab and his wife enjoy going to Comicon in full cosplay. He can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone

Early Critics of the Ancient Church: Epictetus & Galen

24 Nov

THE EARLIEST PAGAN CRITICISM OF THE ANCIENT CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS THE MOST INSIGHTFUL OF ALL PERIODS.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to write mini-blurbs about some of the main pagan critics from that early period. Most of my selections come before The Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Church historian J.G. Davies comments on the late fourth century: “With Theodosius’ victory on 6th September 394 the pagan resistance collapsed and the unsuccessful struggle for a lost cause came to an end” (The Early Christian Church: A History of its First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980 reprint), 215). 394 AD can be delineated as a sort of terminus ad quem for paganism proper, as Christian orthodoxy became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Theodosius. Eventually, Theodosius even prohibited most pagan forms of religious expression (see Charles Freeman, A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State. New York: The Overlook Press, 2009). 

I have not included every single negative statement uttered by any pagan critic; some statements are either so brief or cryptic as to barely warrant much notice. Some of these include Crescens, the Cynic philosopher who called Christian “atheistic” and “impious”, per Justin Martyr; Apuleius, the North African author of the Golden Ass (ca. 127-171 AD); possibly Juvenal, where he says that “Syrian Orontes flows into the Tiber”; and maybe even the historian Dio Cassius. There are also minutes from court proceedings where the prosecutors make disparaging remarks against the plaintiff’s Christianity. I  survey some of the criticisms of key figures, especially those who wrote whole works against Christianity. Here are some of the guys I will cover:

 Epictetus, 135 AD
Galen, 199 AD
Fronto, 160 AD
Marcus Aurelius, 166 AD
Lucian of Samosata, 200 AD
Celsus, 170 AD
Porphyry, 300 AD 

 ImageEpictetus the Moralist

Epictetus (died circa 135 AD), an ex-slave who became a Stoic moralist, refers to Christians once (that we know). In a lecture recorded by a student named Arrian, Epictetus makes this statement: “If madness can produce this attitude toward these things, and also habit, as with the Galileans, can no one learn from reason and demonstration that God has made everything in the universe, and the whole universe itself, to be unhampered and self-sufficient, and the parts of it for the use of the whole?”

Epictetus is observing that Christians are crazed and live a lifestyle reflective of a detached attitude towards material things, family ties, and even life itself (this is the context of the discussion surrounding these comments in Discourses 4.7.6).

ImageGalen the Physician

The philosopher physician Galen (130-199 AD) viewed Christianity as a school in which blind faith triumphed over evidence and reason: “the followers of Moses and Christ order them to accept everything on faith…” (as quoted from an Arabic version of On the Prime Unmoved Mover in Richard Walzer, Galen on the Jews and Christians. London: Oxford University Press, 1949, 13-15.) For this reason, Galen says it is pointless to talk to people like this. In his indictment he lumps physicians with unprovable theories in with both Jews and Christians (De Pulsuum Differentiis 2.4; 3.3). In one place, Galen says the cosmogony of Moses is better than that of Epicurus but he still condemns the former’s reliance on intelligent design as a sort of “god of the gaps theory” (this is my slightly anachronistic reading of section 11.4 in On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body, circa 170 AD).

Even though Galen is critical of many biblical ideals, he is more curious than hostile. Galen even pays Christianity a philosophical compliment (of sorts) by viewing it more as a school of philosophy rather than a deranged foreign cult (like some of his contemporaries). Galen has a smidgen of begrudging respect for its practitioners: “…we now see the people called Christians drawing their faith from parables and miracles, and yet sometimes acting in the same way as those who practice philosophy. For their contempt of death and of its sequel is patent to us every day, and likewise their restraint in cohabitation.” He goes on to say this includes both men and women and says they have “self-discipline and self-control in matters of food and drink, and in their keen pursuit of justice, have attained a pitch not inferior to that of genuine philosophers” (from Galen’s Libr. Ord. as quoted in Walzer’s Galen…, p 15). From this, it is clear Galen respected the moral lifestyle of many Christians but found their underlying reasons ignorant and blind.

 _________________________________________________________________________________________

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a semi-retired hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He has been married for 10 years and has adopted three boys. Vocab and his wife enjoy going to Comicon in full cosplay. He can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers

%d bloggers like this: