Dr. Frank Turek Coming To The Ohio State Campus, October 12th, 2015

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

Is Christianity actually true?
Does being raised in a Christian home make Christianity true?
Does your faith make Christianity true?
Do atheists have faith?
Does it take faith to trust that blind, undirected, natural processes can explain many of things we observe in reality?
What explains reality better? Theism or atheism?

Perhaps you are already saying, “I have never thought about these issues.”

That is why I am pleased to announce that Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance will be hosting an apologetics event at The Ohio State University. Dr. Frank Turek will be coming back to the campus on October 12th, 2015 to do a presentation on his book which he co-authored with Dr. Norman Geisler called I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. Dr. Turek is also the author of the new book,Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case .

Dr. Turek is president of Cross Examined and has debated well known atheists Michael Shermer, David Silverman, and the late Christopher Hitchens.

He has been to the campus twice before and this event always draws alot of interest. The event is free and open to the public. Invite a friend!

It is important to note that Frank is a classical apologist. The classical method operates in a two-or three step process (philosophical, theistic, and evidential). Working from the vantage point of certain undeniable foundational principles, such as the laws of logic and self-existence, certain philosophical questions are addressed, such as truth, reality, meaning, and morality. Since a belief in God as creator is essential for an individual to become a Christian (Hebrews 11:6), the primary goal is to help the unbeliever understand reality untainted by false assumptions. The second step offers evidence for the existence of God, usually in the form of traditional theistic arguments and empirical data such as manuscript and archaeological evidence. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist is an example of a classical method.

The outline of the book goes like this:

1.Truth about reality is knowable
2. Opposites cannot both be true
3. The theistic God exists
4. Miracles are possible
5. Miracles performed in connection with a truth claim are acts of God to confirm the truth of God through a messenger of God
6. The New Testament documents are reliable
7. As witnessed in the New Testament, Jesus is God incarnate
8. Jesus’ claim to divinity was proven by an unique convergence of miracles/his resurrection
9. Therefore, Jesus was God in human flesh.
10. Whatever Jesus (who is God) affirmed as true, is true
11. Jesus affirmed that the Bible is the Word of God
12. Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God

We notice in Point #1 that Geisler and Turek are aware that we are living in a somewhat post-modern culture. That is why they point to the issue that truth is knowable. As seen above, the classical apologist generally starts with the evidence for God outside the Bible and then works his way to demonstrating that such a God would want to reveal more of Himself to the human race through special revelation/ a miracle. Of course, the classical apologist knows that many faiths try to use miracles to validate the truth of their religion. Therefore, the classical apologist demonstrates that many of the miracle claims outside the Christian faith are lacking in historical/evidential support.

Here are the official details:
Location: The Ohio State University
Ohio Student Union: Grand Hall Meeting Room
Time: 7:30 pm
Date: Oct 12th, 2015
Note: Dr. Turek wil not be doing the same presentation on both nights. The first night will be on Truth, The Existence of God while the second night will be on miracles and the reliability of the New Testament. The reason it is broken up into two nights is to cover the material from his book I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.

The Grand Hall Meeting Room holds about 500 people. I suggest getting there early. Frank will also take your questions.

A Look at Early Christology

Anyone who studies historical method is familiar with what is called historical causation. Historians seek out the causes of a certain events. For example, there is no doubt that historians can observe the effect- the birth of the Jesus movement pre-70 AD. What must be asked is what has better explanatory power for the birth of a early  as well as a very high Christology in a very short time period after Jesus’ resurrection.  As historian Paul Barnett says, “The birth of Christianity and the birth of Christology are inseparable both as to time and essence.” (1)

We must not forget that within Judaism there is a term called “avodah zara” which is defined as the formal recognition or worship as God of an entity that is in fact not God i.e., idolatry. In other words, the acceptance of a non-divine entity as your deity is a form of avodah zara. (2) As of today, traditional or Orthodox Judaism still upholds the position that Jewish people are forbidden to pray and worship anyone other than the God of Israel (Ex. 20:1–5; Deut. 5:6–9).

In light of this issue, one theory is that Jesus’ deity can be attributed to an apotheosis legend. In an apotheosis legend, a human becomes one among many gods. The New Testament seems to show the rejection of an apotheosis category for Jesus given that the early Jewish followers of Jesus refused worship (Acts 14:15) as did angels (Rev. 22:8–9). There are also references to the negative views of gentile polytheism (Acts 17: 22-23; 1 Cor 8:5). Gentiles were regarded as both sinful (Gal 2:5) and idolatrous (Rom 1:23). To read more about this, see Paul Eddy’s essay called, Was Early Christianity Corrupted by Hellenism?

In their book  The Jesus Legend, The: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy say,

 “During the reign of Pilate and Herod, when Caiaphas was high priest, we find a Jewish movement arising that worships a recent contemporary alongside and in a similar manner as Yahweh-God. To call this development “novel” is a significant understatement. In truth, it constitutes nothing less than a massive paradigm shift in the first century Palestinian Jewish religious worldview.” (3)

The earliest records we have for the Christology of Jesus are Paul’s letters.  And 1 Cor. 15:3-8 and 1 Cor. 11:23 along with other, short Christian creeds include II Timothy 2:8, and Romans 1:3-4 show that the core  teachings of the Gospel (Jesus died for our sins and rose again) pre-date Paul. Hence, the core of the Gospel was being circulated very early and even before Paul was a believer.

Let’s look at Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 8: 5-6:

“For though there are things that are called gods, whether in the heavens or on earth; as there are many gods and many lords; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we live through him.”

Here is a distinct echo of the Shema, a creed that every Jew would have memorized from a very early age. When we read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which says, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is our God, the Lord is one,” Paul ends up doing something extremely significant in the history of Judaism.

A glance at the entire context of the passage in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 shows that according to Paul’s inspired understanding, Jesus receives the “name above all names,” the name God revealed as his own, the name of the Lord. In giving a reformulation of the Shema, Paul still affirms the existence of the one God, but what is unique is that somehow this one God now includes the one Lord, Jesus the Messiah. Therefore, Paul’s understanding of this passage begets no indication of abandoning Jewish monotheism in place of paganism.

For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity. Furthermore, it would have been no problem to confess Jesus as prophet, priest, or king since these offices already existed in the Hebrew Bible. After all, these titles were used for a human being. There was nothing divine about them.

Larry Hurtado  describes the early devotion to Jesus as a “mutation.” (4) One of the primary factors that Hurtado presents for the cause of this “mutation” in the context of Jewish monotheism is the resurrection itself and the post-resurrection appearances. Some of the features in the early Jesus devotion are as follows:

First, there are hymns to Jesus ( Col 1:15-20; Phil.2:5-11) which are exalted things about him done in song.

Second, there are prayers to Jesus: we see prayer to Jesus in prayer-like expressions such as “grace and peace” greetings at the beginning of Paul’s letters and in the benedictions at the end. Also, the early followers of Jesus are seen “calling upon” the name of Jesus as Lord (Acts 9:14, 21; 22:16;1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 10:13), which is the same pattern that is used in the Hebrew Bible where it refers to “calling upon the Lord” (Gen. 12:8;13:4 ;21:23 ; 26:25; Psalms 99:6;105:1; Joel 2:32). (5)  Allow me to expand on this:

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-8, Paul says, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  So here is Paul, a staunch Pharisee who was raised to call nobody ‘Lord’ expect the God of Israel. But despite this,  he is asking Jesus the ‘Lord’ to help him.

As Baker”s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology notes:

“While kyrios was common as a polite, even honorific title for “sir” or “master, “calling Jesus “Lord” to imply divine associations or identity was by no means a convention readily adopted from the Roman world. In Jesus’ more Eastern but militantly monotheistic Jewish milieu, where the title’s application to humans to connote divinity was not only absent but anathema, the title is an eloquent tribute to the astonishing impression he made. It also points to the prerogatives he holds. Since Jesus is Lord, he shares with the Father qualities like deity ( Rom 9:5 ), preexistence ( John 8:58 ), holiness ( Heb 4:15 ), and compassion ( 1 John 4:9 ), to name just a few. He is co-creator ( Col 1:16 ) and co-regent, presiding in power at the Father’s right hand ( Acts 2:33 ; Eph 1:20 ; Heb 1:3 ), where he intercedes for God’s people ( Rom 8:34 ) and from whence, as the Creed states, he will return to judge the living and dead ( 2 Thess 1:7-8 ).” (6)

What about “The Name”?

What is even more significant is the statement in Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other NAME under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” How could Jesus be declared as the only one whom God’s salvation is effected? In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identification of the being and essence of its bearer.  James R. Edwards summarizes the importance of this issue:

“In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identification of the being and essence of its bearer. To the Jewish people, an idol could not properly have a “name” because it has no being represented by the name (Is. 44:9-21). The “name” to which the apostles refer does not signify an event, but a person, in whom the authority and power of God was active in salvation. The saving activity of God was and is expressed in the name of Jesus Christ.The name of Jesus is thereby linked in the closest possible way to the name of God. “No other name” does not refer to a second name of God, but to the unity of God with Jesus, signifying one name, one nature, one saving activity. The shared nature of God and Jesus is signaled in the most striking way by the custom of the early church to pray to God in the name of Jesus.” (7)

So just as in the Hebrew Bible where the name of God represents the person of God and all that he is, so in the New Testament “the Name” represents all who Jesus is as Lord and Savior. Furthermore, as Jean Danielou says:

The beginning of the Christology of the Name are already found in the New Testament. On the one hand Old Testament texts mentioning the Name are frequently quoted in the New Testament. Thus Acts 15:17, quoting Amos 9:12, reads:  ‘All the Gentiles upon my Name is called….’ Paul (Rom 2:24 mentioned Is. 52: 5 ‘The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’ The same Epistle quotes Ex. 9:16: ‘that my Name might be published abroad in all the earth’ (Rom. 9:17). ….In these various quotations the Name can in fact only mean Yahweh, but it is hard to see why these texts should have been collected in messianic dossiers unless the Name had appeared to have some relation to Christ. There are, moreover, some passages in which this relationship is explicitly stated. Thus Joel 3:5: ‘Whoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved’ is quoted in Acts 2:21 and 4:12 in a somewhat indeterminate  sense. But the same text is repeated in Rom 10:12,as follows: ‘(Christ) is the same Lord (Kurios) of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever, shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Here the Name is clearly that of Christ;…. (8)

Furthermore, In Acts 7:59-60, Luke records the following about the prayer of Stephen, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. The word translated “prayed” in the NRSV (as well as the NIV) is a form of “epikaleo,” which literally means to “call on” someone. (9) And when this word is used in religious contexts of appealing to supernatural beings for divine help, “epikaleo” is a technical term for prayer. (10) Stephen is actually seen as entrusting the “Lord Jesus” with his very spirit. The immanent theologian Jaroslav Pelikan said the following about Stephen’s willingness to call upon Jesus as Lord: “For Stephen to commit his spirit to the Lord Jesus when the Lord Jesus himself had committed his spirit to the Father was either an act of blatant idolatry or his acknowledgment of the kurios Iesous [Lord Jesus] as the fitting recipient of the dying prayer of Stephen.(11).

Paul also says the following

Another passage that stands out is 1 Corinthians 16:22: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha.” Maranatha means “Our Lord Come!” Because this liturgical expression was present at the worship gathering for Jesus to come eschatologically, it is evident that this was a plea that was a widely known feature of early Christian worship that started among Aramaic-speaking believers and had also become a part of the prayers among Pauline Christians. Hurtado says, “What is even more significant is that there is nothing in comparison to a corporate invocation to Jesus to any other group related to a Jewish tradition at that time period.” (12)

As I said, one thing that can be observed by the historian is cause and effect. In other words, a historian can observe the effect- the radical shift in the devotional practice of the early Christian community. While the Jesus devotion of the early Christian community is related to the disciples experiences with Jesus before the resurrection, there is no doubt that Hurtado’s comments about Jesus’ messianic work by being raised from the dead certainly lends credence to the fact that He was worthy of their worship and devotion.

The Cause for Jesus Devotion? Paganism, Hellenism, Mystery Religions?

Now I know the skeptic will try to find some naturalistic explanation to explain the “shift” in the devotional practice of these early Jewish believers. As I said, there are also references to the negative views of gentile polytheism (Acts 17: 22-23; 1 Cor 8:5). Gentiles were regarded as both sinful (Gal 2:5) and idolatrous (Rom 1:23). To try to say that during the Second Temple period that the early Jewish believers were syncretistic is problematic.  I have discussed these issues elsewhere. I have also written elsewhere that it is doubtful a dead, crucified Messiah wouldn’t jump start the early Christology.

Conclusion

So what has the best explanatory power for birth of Christology? The answer to this question can’t be determined apart from a person’s presuppositions. If one has decided to not rule out any explanation that isn’t naturalistic, then I concur with Hurtado that it is the resurrection itself and the post-resurrection appearances that provides the best hypothesis for the birth of Christology.

Sources:
1. Paul Barnett, The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2005), 8.
2. David Berger, The Rebbe, The Messiah And The Scandal Of Orthodox Difference, 160-174.
3. Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 2007), 132.
4. Larry Hurtado, One Lord, One God, Early Christian Devotion And Ancient Jewish Montheism (Philadelphia, PA. Fortress Press. 1988), 100-124.
5. Ibid.

6. ” Robert W. Yarbrough, Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of” This is available online at http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/jesus-christ-name-and-titles-of.html

7. James R. Edwards,  Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2005.

8. Jean Danielou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, trans. John A. Baker (London,: Darton, Longman&Todd; Philadephia,: Westminster Press, 1964), 149.

9. R. M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski, Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 49.

10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Hurtado, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion And Ancient Jewish Monotheism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 100-124.

Do College Students Care About Truth?

Over the last several years I have done outreach on a major college campus (The Ohio State University which has close to 60,000 students). I have had hundreds of spiritual conversations with students and direct an apologetics ministry called Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance. It is no secret that many apologists have written books on the Truth question. In other words, the statement “we are living in postmodern times” has almost become cliche in today’s society. Hence, because of the impact of post-modernism, many seem to assume that college students are not interested in objective truth. So the supposed fallout is that people are not asking whether Christianity is true. Given my experience on the campus, I will respond to this issue. So the good news is that I am  speaking from personal experience.

I will go ahead and give some definitions of truth here. These are taken from Dr. Norman Geisler’s Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, pgs,741-745.

Here we see Dr. Geisler comment on what truth is not and then give an argument for the correspondence theory of truth.

Geisler says:

 Truth is not “what works.” One popular theory is the pragmatic view of William James and his followers that truth is what works. According to James, “Truth is the expedient in the way of knowing. A statement is known to be true if it brings the right results. It is the expedient as confirmed by future experience.” That this is inadequate is evident from its confusion of cause and effect. If something is true it will work, at least in the long run. But simply because something works does not make it true. This is not how truth is understood in court. Judges tend to regard the expedient as perjury. Finally, the results do not settle the truth question. Even when results are in, one can still ask whether the initial statement corresponded to the facts. If it did not, it was not true, regardless of the results.

 What Truth Is: Correspondence with Reality Now that the inadequate views of the nature of truth have been examined, it remains to state an adequate view. Truth is what corresponds to its referent. Truth about reality is what corresponds to the way things really are. Truth is “telling it like it is.” This correspondence applies to abstract realities as well as actual ones. There are mathematical truths. There are also truths about ideas. In each case there is a reality, and truth accurately expresses it. Falsehood, then is what does not correspond. It tells it like it is not, misrepresenting the way things are.

Also, as J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig say:

“In relation to truth, both the Old and New Testament terms for truth are emet and alethia. In relation to truth, these words are associated with fidelity, moral rectitude, being real, being genuine, faithfulness, having veracity, being complete. (7) According to a Biblical conception of truth, a proposition is true only if it accords with factual reality. There are numerous passages that explicitly contrast true propositions with falsehoods. The Old Testament warns against false prophets whose words do not correspond to reality. For example Deuteronomy 18:22: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”, and the ninth commandment warns against bearing false testimony.”-Moreland, J.P. and W.L. Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003, 131-132.

So after reading these tests for truth, what do I see out there?

The most popular view today seems to be a pragmatic view of truth. I see it everywhere! Many people tell me that all that matters is the benefit of a religious belief. In other words, if it makes a difference and helps someone is the test of truth. So what does this mean for us? Realistically speaking, I suppose Mormons can testify as to why Mormonism helps them have strong families. Black Muslims can testify in prison that Islam has helped them be more responsible. I could go on with more examples.

Hence, many people  are not asking whether it is objectively true. Comments like “I don’t see what difference Jesus would make in my life” and “I don’t think it is relevant whether God exists or Jesus is the Son of God” are somewhat common.

This shouldn’t be surprising given our entire culture is built on pragmatism. After all, people go to college to get a job that will work for them to make a good living. Furthermore, the Church has been embracing pragmatism for a long time. John MacArthur wrote an article called Church Pragmatism a long time ago. Not much has changed.

So what about atheists?

The one bright spot is that since popular atheists started writing their books and we saw a more aggressive approach towards atheism on the campus, I so see some interest in the truth question. In other words, atheism has caused some people to ask whether a belief is objectively true and corresponds to reality. Ravi Zacharias once said,

“There is just enough of the modern worldview left so that reason still has a point of entry. But we have to use this knowledge wisely. We cannot give an overdose of argumentation.”- “An Ancient Message, Through Modern Means To the Postmodern Mind” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, 2002, p. 27

What is my solution?

So you may say well it is nice that we have some success with our apologetic speakers. But what about all those people that just don’t care or don’t respond to apologetic arguments?

My response is the same as it has always been. I share the Gospel, answer objections and if I see people are lapsing into a pragmatic or subjective view of truth, I simply say “So the first question is whether the Christian story is actually true.” In other words, I just bring the person back around to the issue of objective truth. Believe it or not, many people say tell me that once they think about what I am saying it is clear that it does matter if Christianity is objectively true. How they feel about whether God exists or the resurrection of Jesus won’t change the fact as to whether it is objectively true and corresponds to reality. So I think it is incumbent upon me to explain what objective truth is and how the person can’t avoid it!

Why not stick with pragmatism?

So why not ask the question as to whether religious beliefs can be tried and tested out in the reality of life? This does have some merit. After all, if the Christian faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues, and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Jesus and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false.

So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. If I was to stick with the pragmatic view of truth, sadly, when it seems Christianity doesn’t work, people tend to leave the faith and pick another spirituality. Trust me, it happens all the time. So in conclusion, I think that apologists are responsible for taking people back to the correspondence theory of truth. It is this test for truth that we live our lives by on a daily basis.

A Look at Messianic Prophecy: A Look at the Timing of the Messiah’s Coming: Genesis 49:8-12: The Universal Rule of the Messiah

Introduction

Anyone who has studied evidential apologetics will see that many apologists have laid a great emphasis on messianic prophecy as one of the keys to demonstrating Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. One thing that is left out of these discussions is that when it comes to prophecy, it is not always predictive. The Greek word for fulfill is πληρόω (pleroo) – which has a much broader usage than “the prediction of an event.”

For example, in Matthew 5:17- Jesus says he came to “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets. In this passage “fulfillment” has a sense of embodying, bringing to completion, or perfecting. Fulfillment is one of the main themes of the New Testament, which sees Jesus and his work bringing to fruition the significance of the Hebrew Bible. However, let’s look at a case of predictive prophecy.For a prophecy to be predictive it must meet the following criteria.

1. A biblical text clearly envisions the sort of event alleged to be the fulfillment.

2. The prophecy was made well in advance of the event that was predicted.

3. The prediction actually came true.

4. The event predicted could not have been staged but anyone but God.

5. Clear Prediction: Is the prophecy publicly available with a reliable text and evident interpretation?

6. Documented Outcome: Is the prophecy documented by publicly available facts?

7. Is there evidence for it in world history?

8. Proper Chronology: Is there empirical evidence that is available presently and publicly to document that indeed the prophecy does predate its fulfillment? [1]

It must be remembered that the strength of this evidence is greatly enhanced if the event is so unusual that the apparent fulfillment cannot plausibly explained as a good guess.

One of the most pivotal texts that speak to a time frame about the first coming of the Messiah is Gen. 49:8-12:

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Gen 49:8-12)-KJV: NOTE: I chose the KJV here because most other translations replace “Shiloh” with “until he comes to whom [obedience] belongs.” Please read on:

In the previous context (Gen. 49: 1-7) we see the following issues:

1. Jacob, prophesied various details as to the fortunes and fates of the descendants of these men.

2. God is revealing to Jacob the future history of his descendants.

3. The older brothers are disqualified from the birth-right (i.e., Reuben, Simon, Levi).

4. Jacob foretold a future for the tribe of Judah that pictures him as the preeminent son – the prominent tribe.

5. Judah: is the name of the son of Jacob/or the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel.[2]

We see the following about this passage:

1. The Messiah has already been declared to be a man, descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18)

2. His descent is now limited to being a son of Judah

3. He is going to be a King

4. The rule of Judah is envisioned by Jacob as extending beyond the borders of Israel to include the entire world.

5. The nations of the earth shall benefit (i.e., on the idea of a beneficial rule see comments on v. 11, 12) is in keeping with the author’s view of God’s covenant promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: “in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

Let’s take Genesis 49:8-12 and see what outside Jewish literature says (i.e.,The Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, The Talmud, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Rashi, and the Targumim). This is a similar approach that Michael Brown has taken in his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume Three: Messianic Prophecy Objections.

First of all, let me introduce what is called a Targum:

1. Targums are the Aramaic Translations of the Jewish Scriptures (The Tanakh), that were read in the synagogues on the Sabbath and on feast or fast days.

2. Scholars usually assume the Targums were needed because the loss of Hebrew fluency by Jewish people growing up during the exile.

3. Targums are supposed to represent rabbinic Judaism after C.E. 70. Targums originated in Palestinian Judaism but later editions were done in Babylon.

4. All of the extant Targums seem to date from 2nd century C.E. and later, yet a number of the translations would preserve readings that were current in the first century. [3]

Let’s see how a couple of Targums read Genesis 49:8-12:

Targum Onkelos

The transmission of dominion shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from the children’s children, forever, until the Messiah comes, to whom the Kingdom belongs, and whom the nations obey. He binds the foal to the vine, his colt to the choice vine; he washes his garment in wine, and his robe in the blood of grapes. He shall enclose Israel in his city, the people shall build his Temple, the righteous shall surround him, and those who serve the Torah shall be with him. His raiment shall be of goodly purple, and his garment of the finest brightly -dyed wool. His fountains shall be red with his vineyards, his vats shall drip with wine; his valleys shall be white with corn and with flocks of sheep.”

Targum Psuedo Jonathan

Kings and rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah, not scribes teaching the Torah from his seed, until the time when the youngest of this sons, the Messiah, shall come and because of him the peoples shall flow together. How lovely is the king Messiah, who is to rise from the house of Judah.”[5]

Also, Midrash Rabbah 97 says the following about the prophecy:

Furthermore, the royal Messiah will be descended from the tribe of Judah as it says [quoting Isaiah 11:10]. Thus the tribe of Judah were descended from Solomon who built the first Temple Zerubbabel who built the second Temple and from him will be descended the royal Messiah who will rebuild the Temple. Now of the Messiah it is written [quoting Psalm 89:37]. [6]

Even Rashi who was a leading Tanakh and Talmudic exegete of the Middle Ages says about Genesis 49:10:

The Scepter shall not depart from Judah from David and thereafter. These (who bear the scepter after the termination of the kingdom) are the exlilarchs (princes) in Babylon, who ruled over the people with a scepter, who were appointed by royal mandate…nor the student of the law between his feet. Students: these are the princes of the land of Israel…until Shilo comes the king Messiah , to whom the Kingdom belongs. [7]

David Baron (1857 – 1926) a Jewish believer and scholar was author of “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah”, “ Types Psalms and Prophecies,” and “The Servant of Jehovah” says the following about Gen. 49:8-12:

With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX Version [Septuagint—KB]; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of “Bereshith Rabba;” and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, “Until Shiloh comes,that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom.”[8]

It is also worth noting that The Dead Sea Scrolls help shed some light on this text as well: In 4Q Patriarchal Blessings, the interpretation of the Genesis text reads:

A ruler shall not depart from the tribe of Judah while Israel has dominion. There will not be cut off a king in it belonging to David. For the staff is the covenant of the kingship; the thousands of Israel are the feet, until the coming of the Messiah of Righteousness, the branch of David, for to him and his seed has been given the covenant of kingship over his people for everlasting generations.” [9]

A Closer Look at the word “Scepter” and “Shiloh”

The precise meaning of “Shiloh” is challenging. It is either a reference to a place, as it is elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 18:1,8,9; 19;51; I Samuel 1:13, etc.), or, it may refer to q proper name for the Messiah. This is seen in the Talmud in Sanhedrian 98b which answers the question of what the Messiah’s name is by saying, “Shiloh is his name, as it is said, “Until Shiloh Come.”[10]  In Judaism, Names describe the nature of the Messiah’s mission.

The NIV may have the best translation which says NIV: “until he comes to whom it belongs.” In this case, “Shiloh” is taken as a possessive pronoun. This translation favors the LXX (Greek Septuagint) reading. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 21: 25-27,  Ezekiel uses the Shiloh text as part of a judgment oracle directed against Zedekiah to declare the Lord’s intention not to put a ruler on David’s throne ‘until he comes to whom it belongs.’ Since both Genesis 40:10 and Ezekiel 21:27 deal with Judah and the government or ownership of that tribe, the argument becomes quite compelling.[11]

We see in the prophecy that “Scepter” is a “symbol of kingly authority” and will remain in Judah’s hand until “Shiloh comes.” In the minds of the Jewish people, “Scepter” was linked with their right to apply and enforce the law of Moses upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment. The prophecy declares that Judah will finally lose his tribal independence, and promises a supremacy over at least some of the other tribes until the advent of the Messiah.

When did Judah lose their tribal independence?

Judah did have possession of the scepter and staff until Herod obtained kingship over Israel in 38 B.C. While Judah ceased to be an independent tribe, they did still continue to be a self-governing nation within the Roman Empire. They did lose the right to administer capital punishment. This is seen at the trial of Jesus in that it was the Romans who enforced the death sentence. This transfer of power is even mentioned in the Talmud: “A little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews.“–Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, filoi 24.[12]

What Are the Strengths of Prophecy?

1. This verse indicates that He (The Messiah) will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

2. The rabbis passed laws which would preserve the identity of the tribe of Levi, but Jews from other tribes lost their identity.

4. Therefore, the Messiah will have to come before 70 A.D.

5. The “Scepter” did depart in the sense that at the coming of Jesus we see the Jewish people lost their power to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment.[13]

 But let’s look at another aspect of the prophecy:

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen 49:8-12)-NASB

We have been discussing the temporal element of this prophecy. Remember, “Until” in vs 10 is inclusive in the sense that the dominion of the tribe of Judah would not end with Shiloh’s  coming, but would continue on after the arrival of this divine world ruler. In other words, Shiloh himself must belong to the tribe of Judah.

But there is another aspect of this prophecy that remains partially unfulfilled. Apparently, an individual from Judah’s seed came who will rule over both his own nation Israel and the “peoples” of not just Israel but the rest of the world (also see Gen 17:6; Exod. 15:16; Deut. 32:8).  In other words, the Gentile nations will come to him in submissive obedience! We should note that part of this prophecy has not been fulfilled. While there are many Gentiles who have submitted to the rule of Messiah (Jesus) in their lives, all the nations are not under the universal rule of the Messiah. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that Jesus is not the King right now. He most certainly is but there is more to his future rule than the present.

Thematic Correlation

Numbers 24:17-19:

Let’s now look at Numbers 24:17-19 where we see a similar theme is seen in that a ruler shall arise out of Israel and how a descendant of Jacob will have universal dominion:

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob,  A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,  And tear down all the sons of Sheth. “Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly.“One from Jacob shall have dominion, And will destroy the remnant from the city.-NASB

The Messianic Interpretation of this prophecy is the following:

1. The context is about Balaam’s oracle. In vs 7 we see that there shall come forth a man who shall be Lord over many nations and his kingdom shall be exalted in Gog.

2. Balaam references two important points: First, “a star shall come from Jacob” and “a scepter comes forth from Israel.”

3. The figure is visible in the term” scepter” who is an earthly king who will use his earthly power to subdue the earth.

4. “Star” may refer to his heavenly origin. (see John Metzger, Discovering the Mystery of the Unity, 385-386).

What does the Outside/Extra-Biblical Literature Say About This Prophecy?

Targum Onkelos:” When a king shall rise out of Jacob, and out of Israel Messiah shall be anointed.”

Targum Jonathan: “When a valiant King shall rise out of the house of Jacob and out of Israel, Messiah, and a strong Scepter shall be anointed.”

John Sailhamer notes that there is a thematic correlation between Gen 49:8-12 and other passages in the Tanakh. He says:

The plural word “nations” rather than singular suggests that Jacob had a view of Kingship that extended beyond the boundaries of the Israelites to include other nations as well. In any case, later biblical writers were apparently guided by texts in formulating their view of the universal reign of the future of the Davidic king. For example, “Psalm 2:8 “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance”; Daniel 7:13-14, “There was one like a son of man…he was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him.” (see John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Zondervan, 1995), 235.

It should be noted that “Son of Man” is a messianic title. As we see in Daniel 7: 13-14:

I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.  “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Once again, we see that the nations will come under the universal rule of the Son of Man. Note: To see more on the Son of Man and the issue of messianic prophecy, click here:

Psalm 2

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!  (NASB)

After reading this, a few things stand out:

1. The figure in the Psalm is called “The Lord’s Anointed” (v 2), his King (v 6) and his Son (vv. 7, 12).

2. Psalm 2 should be read as a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) and today marks the moment of the king’s crowning.

3. Is this passage referring to King David? God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8).

How does Jesus fulfill this text?

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints :Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 We see the following:

Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).

Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

But once again, in relation to Psalm 2, we can ask if this figure has been given universal rule over the entire world, has this taken place yet? In one sense, yes. Many people have bowed their knee to the Messiah. And even if all the nations don’t acknowledge it, Jesus participates in God’s sole rule over all things:

Phil: 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

Eph. 1:21-22: Paul speaks of Jesus being ”far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet…”

But after reading Genesis 49:8-10, Psalm 2 and Daniel 7:13-14, we need to remember what is called “prophetic telescoping.” These texts are part of several texts in the Hebrew Bible where part of the text is fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

Conclusion:
We should be thankful for God’s actions within human history. If God has brought to pass the first coming of His Son, He will surely bring to pass His glorious return. May we all wait with eager anticipation.

Sources:


[1] Points 1-8 are pointed out in  R. D. Geivett and G.R. Habermas, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case For God’s Actions in Human History (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 1997), 221-223.

[2] Michael Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010),  47-48.

[3] John Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology (Peabody Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 9-10.

[4] See Samson L. Levy , The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation,(New York: Hebrew Union College, 1974). Targum Onkelos covers the Pentateuch and probably has many authors. Along with Targum Jonathan, they are both considered as an “official” Targums in the sense that  they both represent rabbinical Judaism after C.E. 70. For more on this topic, see Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology, 10-11.

 [5] Ibid. Targum Jonathan consists of the Former and Latter Prophets. Targum Jonathan has traditionally been subscribed to Jonathan Ben Uzziel who lived in first century C.E. However, many scholars think that it may have been a product of more than one author and may have continued to modified into the fourth century. For more on this topic, see Rolling, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology, 10-11.

 [6] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 21-23. Midrash comes form the Hebrew root ‘darash’, meaning to search or investigate. Midrash attempts, through minute examination and interpretation of the Tanach, to bring out the deeper or ethical meaning of the text. There are many different collections of Midrash. The largest collection is called Midrash Rabbah (The Great Midrash), which consists of a number of volumes. Midrash Rabbah contains volumes on the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) and the Hamesh Megillot (Five Scrolls, from Ketuvim). The Hebrew word for “law” is Torah. Torah means “direction, guidance, instruction.” There are 613 of the commandments in the Torah, which were decreed for the Jewish people.

 [7] Douglas Pyle, What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach (United States: Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data, Third Edition, 2010), 17-18.

 [8] David Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory (Barking, Essex, U.K: The Messianic Testimony, Second Edition, 2000), 258.

 [9] Various translations of 4QPBless are found in Millar Burrows, More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking, 1958), 401; Geza Vermes, Scripture and Tradition(Leiden: Brill, 1961), 53; cited in Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 660.

 [10] Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? , 48.

 [11] Ibid, 49-51.

 [12] The appendix of Michael Brown’s Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Vol 2 (Grand RapidsMI: Baker Books, 2000), defines the Babylonian Talmud as the foundational text for Jewish religious study. It consists of 2,500,000 words of Hebrew and Aramaic commentary and expansion of the Mishnah. The Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud is similar to the Babylonian Talmud but a bit shorter and less authoritative in the Jewish community. It reached its final form about 400 C.E.

 [13] Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology, 21-23.

Jesus’ View of Scripture

The structure of this argument may be formalized as follows: Read a fuller form  from the book In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture here:

(1)  The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence

(2) The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate/the Jewish Messiah.  God authenticated Jesus’ teaching/ claim to divinity by His miracles/His messianic speaking authority, His messianic actions, and His resurrection .

(3)  Hence, Jesus is God incarnate.

(4) Jesus (i.e., God incarnate) taught that the Old Testament is divinely inspired, and he promised the inspiration of the New Testament through his apostles.

(5) Therefore, the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is divinely inspired.

In this post, I will expand on #4 and #5 with the help of Daniel L. Akin

Akin says:

“In the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), Jesus spoke on the theme of God’s kingdom. Matthew 5:17–20, in particular, serves as the introduction to the six great antitheses of 5:21–48. They also explain how we can live out the beatitudes (5:3–12) and be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (5:13–16). Matthew 5:17 reveals Jesus’ high view of Scripture: “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (HCSB). Clearly, what is said here pertains to the Old Testament Scriptures. Nevertheless, what Jesus affirmedabout the Old Testament He also promised about the New Testament. Jesus said:

 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you” (John 16:12–15 HCSB).

Several points should be made about Jesus’ view and use of Scripture. First, Jesus introduced teachings that were new and striking. Indeed, as John 7:46 states, “No man ever spoke like this!” (HCSB). Some may have concluded that His teaching constituted a decisive break with the Old Testament Scriptures. That is certainly the judgment of some scholars today. “Not so,” says Jesus. “Do not think [or consider] that I came to destroy [annul, abrogate, disintegrate, demolish] the law.” J. A. Alexander noted that the idea is “the destruction of a whole by the complete separation of its parts, as when a house is taken down by being taken to pieces.”7 Jesus said He did not come to tear apart or dismantle the law and prophets (a reference to the OT Scriptures of His day). He did not come to destroy (repeated for emphasis) but to fulfill. Note that the antithesis is not between “abolish” and “keep” but between “abolish” and “fulfill.” The Scriptures find their fulfillment, their intended purpose, in the life and ministry of Messiah Jesus. He is the one to whom they point. He is the one they predict and anticipate.

Second, Jesus provided not only an emphatic denial but also a positive declaration about the purpose for His coming—He came to fulfill the Scriptures. He came, as the Son, to complete what had previously been delivered in bits and pieces by the Old Testament prophets (see Heb 1:1–2). To set Scripture aside was never His agenda. To bring them to fulfillment and fruition was why He came. Don Carson was correct when he said:

 Jesus fulfills the entire Old Testament in many ways. Because they point toward him, he has certainly not come to abolish them. Rather, he has come to fulfill them in a rich diversity of ways. . . . Jesus does not conceive of his life and ministry in terms of opposition to the Old Testament, but in terms of bringing to fruition that toward which it points. Thus the law and the prophets, far from being abolished, find their valid continuity in terms of their outworking in Jesus. The detailed prescriptions of the Old Testament may well be superseded, because whatever is prophetic must be in some sense provisional. But whatever is prophetic likewise discovers its legitimate continuity in the happy arrival of that toward which it has pointed.8

That our Lord would have affirmed that “all Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation”—which concludes the BF&M (2000) statement on Scripture—can hardly be questioned:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39 NKJV).

Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Mos Bes and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the leScriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:25–27 NKJV).

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24:44–45 NKJV).”-Daniel L. Akin,  Jesus, Evangelicals, and the Bible, from Defending the Faith, Engaging the Bible, Essays Honoring Russ L. Bush.

Sources:

 1. Scriptures which attend the article are: Exod 24:4; Deut 4:1–2; 17:19; Josh 8:34; Pss 19:7–20; 119:11,89,105,140; Isa 34:16; 40:8; Jer 15:16; 36; Matt 5:17–18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44–46; John 5:39; 16:13–15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff; 17:11; Rom 15:4; 16:25–26; 2 Tim 3:15–17; Heb 1:1–2; 4:12; 1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 1:19–21.

 2. T. Starnes, “6 Words: ‘Defining Moment’ between Conservative and Moderate Baptists,” Baptist Press (June 21, 2000): 2.

 3. M. Knox, “Editorial,” Baptist Standard (June 19, 2000): 5.

 4. Editorial, “Do Good Fences Make Good Baptists?” Christianity Today (August 7, 2000): 26.

 5. Speaking for the Baptist Faith and Message study committee at the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Florida, on June 14, 2000.

 6. C. Pinnock, “The Inspiration of Scripture and the Authority of Jesus Christ,” in God’s Inerrant Word: An International Symposium on the Trustworthiness of Scripture, ed. J. W. Montgomery (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1974), 202.

 7. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel according to Matthew (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1860; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 126.

 8. D. A. Carson, Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5–7 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), 37; italics added.

J.P. Moreland and the Revelance of Rational Apologetics

Here is an excerpt from the fabulous book called Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J. P. Moreland

“FOR THE PAST THIRTY YEARS and more, J. P. Moreland has tenaciously defended the idea that advancing apologetic arguments on behalf of the truth of Christianity is essential to the health and vitality of the cause of Christ. In countless articles, books, sermons, interviews, lectures, and debates, J. P. has taught and embodied the (perhaps initially) unexpected truth that there is no conflict between faith and reason, between what is known based on the Bible. Indeed, he has had the audacity to claim that apologetics is actually a “New Testament ministry.” Thus, as followers of Jesus, we’re obliged to engage in it. J. P.’s strong advocacy in this area has fanned into a flame the wake-up call originally issued to an intellectually slumbering Church by the apologetic giants of the last generation (Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell, and others). We are all the better for it. Apologetics organizations, radio shows, conferences, websites, and blogs literally abound. In many ways, things have never been better in the world of apologetics. And yet there is little denying the fact that the predominant outlook and trajectory of the coming generation of evangelicals is decidedly anti-intellectual. Titles with highly relational themes such as Blue Like Jazz and Love Wins are instantly snapped up by young evangelicals, becoming bestsellers virtually overnight. We are not prophets (nor even the sons of prophets), but it seems clear to us that the apologetic torch J. P. has carried throughout his ministry—and which he has passed to us—might well be extinguished in a future evangelical subculture that scorns the very notion of rational, truth-based apologetics. No doubt we will be told that such an approach to engaging nonbelievers is intolerant, irrelevant, and non-relational. It advances itself by making objective truth claims, as opposed to participating in “conversations” where the aim is merely to appreciate one another, minimize our differences, and enjoy the process.

According to J. P., there are four reasons we should engage in rational apologetics. First, it is a biblical command (Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15) for which we have pristine examples in the ministries of Jesus and Paul. We should obey the command and follow the examples. Since, in particular, “Paul reasoned with unbelievers and gave evidence for the gospel,”so should we. Secondly, apologetics serves to remove impediments to faith “and thus aid[s] unbelievers in embracing the gospel.”And of course that is a good thing. Third, it strengthens believers by (i) instilling in them the conviction that their faith is true and reasonable, and (ii) fostering spiritual growth by filling out their Christian worldview, thereby enabling them to better see God at work in His two books: the Bible and the book of nature. And then finally, apologetics contributes “to health in the culture at large.” It promotes the idea that Christianity can be argued for with publicly accessible facts. It can’t be culturally quarantined as a stream of emotive, cognitively meaningless nonsense. Now what’s truly striking about this fourfold purpose is just how relational it is. It speaks of the relation of the believer to himself (his own spiritual life), the believer to the unbeliever, and the believer to the larger culture. And the role of apologetics in each case (as J. P. sees it) is to help people become rightly related to the Ultimate Person—God Himself. So at first glance this worry about apologetics being anti-relational seems perplexing. If anything, the exact opposite seems to be true. J. P.-style apologetics is fully and completely relational.”– RICHARD BRIAN DAVIS AND W. PAUL FRANKS, What Place, then, for Rational Apologetics?, featured in Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J. P. Moreland (p. 129). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.