We have seen first-rate historical documents record Jesus of Nazareth claiming to be the eternal, personal, all-powerful and all-knowing God of all creation. Yet anyone can make such outlandish claims. We usually lock a person up who is talking like this. Is there any reason to believe Jesus’ claim to be God is actually true? At least three lines of evidence suggest the answer is ‘Yes.’ If the evidence is solid and confirms Jesus’ claim to be God, the second premise in the argument for inerrancy is verified.
The gospels, now proven to be first-rate historical documents, record what Jesus of Nazareth said and did during his brief time on earth. The second premise in the argument for inerrancy is that Jesus claimed and proved to be nothing less than God in flesh. What is the data to support the truth of this second premise?
We’ve evaluated the gospel accounts according to two of the three tests to determine their historical accuracy, and they are two for two. But there is one test remaining. Do other historical sources written in the same period confirm or contradict what the gospels record? In other words, is the external evidence (evidence outside the gospels themselves) consistent with what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record? Or do other writers of the time contradict them? This is the final test developed by historians to determine the historical accuracy of a document. It is known as the External Evidence Test. So how well do the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus do when evaluated by this third criterion?
The strongest argument in favor of inerrancy begins with establishing the historical accuracy of the four gospel accounts. Last week I looked at the first criterion by which to determine this: how many copies do we have, and how close is the first copy to the original? The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John pass this test with flying colors. But this only tells us we have what these authors originally penned. How do we know they recorded what actually happened? Enter the other two tests of historicity.
I believe there is one rigorous argument for biblical inerrancy, with five premises leading to this conclusion (as discussed last week). The first premise is that the four gospels are first-rate historical recordings of the life of Jesus. This week I’ll discuss why we should treat the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as extremely accurate historical documents.
There are not only bad arguments against inerrancy; there are equally bad arguments for inerrancy. Today I look at three often-heard arguments in favor of inerrancy that I don’t think are good ones. I conclude by suggesting one argument I take to be adequate, and then outline what I take to be an even better argument in support of God’s Word being without error.
I recently heard a pastor share why he changed his mind on a current cultural issue. At root was a change in his thinking on the nature of the Bible. He used to believe it was God’s revealed Word, without error. He had come to reject this view, and so had changed his mind on a number of other issues. Is he right to do so, and should we also? How can we know what the Bible really is?
What is the Bible? Is it God’s revelation of His mind, without error? Does it contain God’s revelation, mixed with errors due to its human authors? Is it the musings of God’s people as they try to understand their experience of God within their cultural contexts? Is it a book written by human authors, through which God graciously chooses to meet us as we read it? These (and more) answers have been given to this critically important question.
It remains to apply the reasoning of the morality of abortion to three other reproductive technologies: embryonic stem cell research, genetic testing, and human cloning. Are there ever morally appropriate uses of these technologies? I believe so in one case, and not in the other two cases. Let me explain why.
In vitro fertilization, embryonic stem research, genetic testing and human cloning are moral issues of our day closely related to the abortion debate. The underlying issues discussed in this series concerning the morality of abortion also apply to these important topics. Whether one takes and essentialist or functionalist view of personhood will also determine the morality of these practices and procedures.
The alternative to life beginning at conception due to a human soul being present is a “functional” definition of personhood. This is the view underlying all pro-choice arguments. If this definition of life is correct, the pro-choice conclusion is completely reasonable. Yet there are at least five problems with the functionalist definition of personhood.
Many object to my conclusion that life begins at conception. The central objection is that we can’t observe a soul, to know when it begins. However, we can observe when certain life-sustaining functions begin. Therefore only when the fetus functions in these ways can we say it is alive. Yet this is well past the point of conception. So life must not begin at conception.
There are at least three responses to this objection.
Before determining the morality of abortion, we must first reflect deeply on what a human person is, and when a human person begins. Last week I discussed the first issue. Secondly, when does human life begin? There are two ways to answer this question. They both come to the same conclusion, yet by different routes. Each has pros and cons, and we should use them in different contexts. Understanding this is essential in developing both our personal and our social ethic concerning this issue.
The first step in determining the morality of abortion is determining what the fetus is. Is it a part of the mother’s body, or is it a distinct human being? To answer this we first must answer two logically prior questions: (1) what is it to be a human person? and (2) when does a human person begin? I’ll tackle these questions in the next few weeks.
“Roe Isn’t Just About Women’s Rights. It’s About Everyone’s Personal Liberty.” was the title of an opinion piece in The Washington Post on July 8. It is one of many articles written about the possibility of a new member of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. How can Christians best think about and discuss this issue with others?
We all want to be faithful to our Lord’s command to see the gospel permeate and change the world. As Christians, we see countless ways things are not as they should be—people alienated from God, one another, God’s good creation, and even themselves. As a result, they live and lead from non-Christian beliefs and values, which results in shattered lives, fractured families, human trafficking, oppressive regimes, and many other forms of alienation from God and one another.
What can we learn from the process of world-renowned atheist Dr. Antony Flew coming to believe God exists? Last week I offered four things we can learn, but I didn’t have room for three more. This week I will conclude this series with three more takeaways, and my thoughts on whether Flew may have finally embraced Jesus as his Lord.