The Really Recommended Posts this week are really wide-ranging. I hope you’ll enjoy this smorgasbord as much as I did. We feature Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology, creationism, feminism, intelligent design, the conquest narratives in the Bible, and more! Check them out, and, as always, let me know what you think!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a New Testament Pastoral Theologian– Bonhoeffer is, I admit, one of my favorite theologians. I only wish he had had more time upon the earth to develop more systematic works than he did write. I’m Lutheran too, which makes me gleeful at the broad appeal Bonhoeffer has demonstrated. In this post, Joel Willitts explores the way in which Bonhoeffer did theology. It’s a fascinating look at the development of his theology.
Multiple Lines of Evidence Support an Ancient Earth– The charge is often made from young earth creationists that dating methods don’t work. What about when those dating methods correspond across independent and multiple lines of evidence? It seems this presents a major challenge to the young-earth paradigm. Check out this post for a summary of several related points.
Was There an Exodus & Conquest– Two of the biggest challenges to the OT narrative are directly related to the historical accounts of the Exodus and the Conquest narratives. That is, did these even happen? Here, there is a post which briefly summarizes the issues and evidences related to these events.
“Darwin’s Doubt” with Stephen Meyer (and Eric Metaxas) [VIDEO]– A fairly lengthy video in which Eric Metaxas discusses intelligent design with Stephen Meyer. I found this video to be highly informative and also really entertaining. Metaxas is clearly a great speaker, and he keeps the discussion going and interesting throughout. Meyer, of course, is also a great speaker and it is worth hearing his discussion of these ideas.
thoughts on being a “Jesus Feminist”– What does it mean to be a Jesus Feminist? Can Christians be feminists and follow Christ? Check out this reflective post on what it means to be a Jesus Feminist.
Rescuing Songs of Christ’s Birth from Christmas– Should songs of Jesus’ birth be sung only during the Christmas season? Here, compelling reasons are offered as to why these songs are appropriate year-round.
The Advent Project– A pretty sweet deal: Biola University, one of the best schools out there (not biased at all ;)), has a series of Advent devotions going up daily available on their site. Each has a work of art, a music selection(s), and a brief reflection upon the coming of Christ, the incarnate God, into our lives. I’ve been following them as they go up and have enjoyed them all. Check them out for an excellent way to meditate on the meaning of Christmas.
…Either we will stand behind objective truth or sink into the abyss of relativism in the name of political correctness. (278)
One area Christian apologists need to explore further is the study of historiography. Historiography is, basically, the study of how to study history. It provides the framework in which one might seek truth in understanding historical facts. The way we study history will directly impact the results of historical investigation. John Warwick Montgomery, Michael Licona, and N.T. Wright have done an excellent job integrating historiography into their approach, and there are several treatments of historiography in works on archaeology with apologetic import (K.A. Kitchen is but one example), but there remains much room for development of this essential discipline in the area of Christian evidences.
James Stroud, in his work The Philosophy of History: Naturalism and Religion- A Historiographical Approach to Origins, has provided much development in this area. Historiography, he noted, touches upon a number of extremely important questions such as “What does it mean to know something?”; “How do we come to know something?”; “Can we know the past?”; “How does one study history?”; “Is there objective meaning to history…?” (30-31). He does a good job presenting some of the difficulties inherent in the study of the past, as well as providing a few possible solutions. Central to Stroud’s argument is the notion that “one’s personal philosophy and presuppositions guide.. one’s interpretation of the available data…” whether one is talking about science, history, or religion (31).
Next, Stroud turned to an analysis of positivism and academic freedom. His argument is essentially that one should not pre-commit to a “closed” philosophy of history such that one cuts off any and all debate about the presuppositions one uses to interpret history and historical sciences. The winners write the history, but they are also capable of restricting the direction research may turn (49-50). There must be a distinction between the definition of science and science in practice; that is, one should not restrict scientific study through the use of one’s presuppositions to determine what is even capable of being studied or used as a hypothesis. Instead, people should be allowed to follow the evidence where it leads, even if such a project may discover things which lie outside the accepted explanations.
It must be acknowledged that Christianity is, by its nature, a distinctly historical religion: “[T]he truth or falsity of Christianity stands or falls with individual events within history…” (69). Thus, Christianity is almost uniquely capable of being approached in such a manner as to discern its truth through historical claims.
Interestingly, Stroud did not limit his use of “philosophy of history” to the study of history. Rather, he expanded it to include origin sciences, which are, he argued, a kind of historical science themselves. Thus, he examined both the origins of the universe and the origin and diversity of life alongside the historical portions of the book. In these sections on the historical sciences, he presents the design argument both in its cosmological and biological forms.
The meat of the book, however, may be found in the exploration of human history, which comprises approximately half the book. Here, Stroud really gets into stride. One central part of his argument is that “Language, writing, civilization, and religion all seem to be in a fairly advanced stage of development [from the beginning]….” (146). Proposed solutions which argue for a gradual evolution of human culture continue to be confronted by discoveries to the contrary, such as Gobekli Tepe, which shattered preconceived notions of the history of religion (155-157). Language appears to be highly complex from the beginning, and there is little reason to think that some languages are more primitive (in the sense of development) than others (149-150). Stroud relates these points back to the expectations one might get from the biblical text and argued that the biblical text presents a plausible interpretation of such evidence (163ff).
The Flood served as one of the case studies Stroud utilized to make his point. He argued that the preponderance of evidence suggests that the biblical flood is accurate (174-177). The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 also hints at “astonishing” accuracy regarding the historical recordings in the earliest portions of the Bible. Moreover, stylistic evidence within Genesis places its date as very ancient, just as one might expect from taking the book at face value.
Yet Genesis is not the only portion of the Bible which received insight from Stroud’s analysis. The conquests recorded in Joshua have been backed up by archaeological findings. The history of David also garnered attention, and Stroud’s handling of the archaeological data is informative and concise.
The New Testament is, of course, centered around Christ, and Stroud explores the evidence for the Resurrection and the narratives related to Him. One very important point he made is that “…it must be pointed out that the… manuscripts we have for Jesus today did not start as a ‘Bible’ but were later [collected into one]… [T]o dismiss any of this manuscript evidence is in effect to dismiss the most primary sources we have on the Historical Jesus” (240). Yet even sources apart from these can account for a number historical aspects of Christian faith and practice, to the point that it becomes very difficult to reject entirely the Christian story (240ff). Stroud defended the Resurrection itself with a type of “minimal facts” argument, in which he reasoned from several largely established facts of the historical Jesus to the resurrection (248ff).
Naturalism, argued Stroud, fails to account for the historical and scientific evidences for the origins of the universe, life and its diversity, civilization, and the evidence related to the historical Jesus. One should therefore not be constricted to operating within a naturalistic paradigm when one investigates origins or history generally. An a priori rejection of the supernatural is unwarranted.
Thus far, I have shown a number of positive portions of the book. That is not to say there are no areas of disagreement or any problems. First, Stroud’s writing style often comes across as autobiographical, which takes away from the academic feeling of the overall work. Second, there are a number of grammatical errors in the book which are sometimes quite distracting. Third, there is a tendency to overstate the case in some places, such as asserting that any discussion of evolution beyond microevolution is “100 percent speculative” (117) or that “all scholars” in some certain field agree with some fact or another. Fourth, at points Stroud states the view of the opposition in ways that I suspect would be objectionable. One example may be found here: “[T]he vast majority of naturalists confirm that humankind did indeed share a common language…” (177) or the notion that “even the most adamant proponents of naturalism” would admit that the origin of life is unexplainable through naturalistic means with the current understanding (115). I suspect that adamant naturalists would object to this and argue that the RNA world hypothesis or some other origin-of-life scenario does, in fact, explain the origin of life.
Many of these difficulties are minor, but they tend to pull down an otherwise excellent work. It is unfortunate, because it also seems like these could all be solved by a good editor. As it stands, however, one should be careful when reading the work to be aware that in many cases one should perhaps temper the sweeping conclusions Stroud makes. In any field of study, there are rarely (if ever!) times where “all scholars” might agree on something, and the language in the book constantly implies that there are many such agreements in some of the most contentious areas of all historical or scientific studies. Although this does not throw his conclusions out the window, it does somewhat devalue the work, as one must read it with an actively cautious eye.
I don’t often (in fact, I can’t think of ever mentioning this before) discuss the cover of a book I’m reviewing, but I have to say this has what might be the coolest cover for an academic book I have seen. I mean seriously, look at it! It is awesome.
With The Philosophy of History James Stroud has provided much needed development for Christians who might want to look into the study of the methods of historical investigation to develop their own understanding of Christianity. He also applies these methods in sometimes surprising ways. I have noted a number of areas of difficulty found within the work, but it should be noted that these are comparatively minor when compared to the project as a whole. Stroud has provided some necessary development in an area of study that Christians should continue to develop. Historiography is an essential field for Christians to study and become involved in, and The Philosophy of History has provided a broad framework for others to continue the work (and hopefully for Stroud to continue, himself). It is an excellent, thought-provoking read which illumines areas of which many apologists, unfortunately, remain unaware.
James Stroud, The Philosophy of History: Naturalism and Religion- A Historiographical Approach to Origins (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, 2013).
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book for review. The author only asked that readers provide feedback of any kind, including negative, in order to broaden the dialogue in this area.
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I have to admit, I think this is one of the most engaging “Really Recommended Posts” I’ve put together. There are multiple views presented on two of these posts, and the others give some good food for thought. Check out opposing views on charismatic/miraculous gifts; delve into the notion of concordism from different sides. Leave comments to share your own thoughts on these issues. Then, archaeology, abortion, the Noah movie, and Hume round out the discussion. I hope you’ll drop some comments to let me know your thoughts.
Debate: Have the New Testament Charismatic Gifts Ceased?– The “Strange Fire” book and conference have caused a huge amount of discussion to arise within evangelical circles regarding miraculous/charismatic gifts. Do these gifts continue past the New Testament times? Here, Michael Brown debates Sam Waldron on this topic. I have also written presenting four major views on this topic should you like to explore the topic more deeply. Which side do you think is correct? Why? Leave a comment!
Defending Concordism: Response to The Lost World of Genesis One– Concordism is the view that science will line up with biblical teaching about origins and other scientific aspects of reality. One major challenge to the position is the notion that the Bible simply doesn’t address such things. Here, Reasons to Believe, a major concordist group, answers several objections posed against concordism. William Lane Craig has recently answered a question about concordism himself, in which he raises a few objections to the position and explains why he is not a concordist. What are your thoughts on this debate? Leave a comment!
A Brief Sample of Old Testament Archaeological Corroboration– The Old Testament clearly makes a number of claims about the actual historical events of the Bible. Here, J. Warner Wallace addresses some of these claims and notes how we have archaeological research to back them up.
How the ADF kept nurses who wouldn’t perform abortions from being fired– The ADF–Alliance Defending Freedom–successfully reached a settlement regarding a hospital that was going to force nurses with moral objections to abortion to perform them. I find this a particularly stunning case, because so often the pro-choice side says things like “Don’t want an abortion, don’t get one!” But this is shown to be mere lip service, because now the attempt is being made to force even those with moral objections not to get abortions, but to actually carry them out. I am very pleased to see that sound reasoning prevailed and the nurses were not forced to do this or lose their jobs. It remains troubling to me that anyone would even think this could be okay. Check out the post.
How Should Christians Respond to Noah the Movie?– Greg West over at The Poached Egg (an amazing site you should follow if you don’t already!) found this gem of a post regarding the “Noah” movie. Check out my own thoughts on the trailer and upcoming film.
David Hume’s Genuine Theism– A provocative title, to be sure! In this brief post, the author argues that one of Hume’s aims was to restore “genuine theism” over and against rationalistic deism. It’s a quick read, but very thought-provoking.
Dear Reader, it is now that time to once more share with you my own wanderings across the internet. I have brought to you a random mix of posts which interested me. Given that you still choose to read my site, you probably have some random interests which match my own. Thus, I’ve done your work for you. For free. No problem. Just check out the posts! This week, we have the Ice Age and Creationism, Mormonism, Papal Infallibility,Constantine, the need for apologetics, and an archaeological mystery for you to solve. Leave a comment. Let me know what you liked. Have a post you think I need to read? Well, pass it along!
Mormonism and Christianity: which one is supported by the evidence?– Do you like evidence to go along with your beliefs? I sure do. Wintery Knight investigates the claims of Mormonism and Christianity to discern which one has better evidential support. Read this… you will not be disappointed.
The Pleistocene is Not in the Bible– “Pleistocene” is basically a fancy name for “Ice Age.” Check out this post, which investigates one major young earth creationist claim about the Ice Age and the Bible.
Before “Infallibility” Was a Twinkling in a Pope’s Eye– I found this post very interesting because I have a major love for historical theology and the interplay between history and theology. The author explores the historical development of Papal Infallibility.
It Should Never have Come to That Point– I found this a powerful call for churches to engage in apologetics. I think apologetics is a vital educational tool and anyone who says we don’t need it needs to think again. Check out my own post as a call to apologetics.
Was Constantine a Christian or Pagan?– Constantine has a pretty bad reputation in many circles. Here, Max Andrews addresses some of the more pressing questions about Constantine’s life. I think that in places the case is overstated, but he brings to light many interesting issues to discuss. Look forward to a post from me on Constantine sometime in the (fairly distant) future.
Massive submerged structure stumps Israeli archaeologists– I found this an interesting little piece of archaeological mystery. What was this thing? I’ll be taking your submissions in the comments here.
As always, note that my linking to a post does not entail my endorsement of all of its content.
Another Owl Post edition. This edition of my really recommended posts features a critique of Krauss, archaeology, abortion and polity, an apologetics comic (check it out!), molinism, Christopher Hitchens, and religious diversity. Check out the links and let me know what you think!
Not Understanding Nothing– Edward Feser, one of my favorite bloggers and a fantastic Thomistic philosopher, critiques Lawrence Krauss’ book, “A Universe from Nothing.”
Archaeologists Uncover first extra-biblical reference to Bethlehem– It’s amazing that something so small can be so important!
An Unexpected Confession at the Great Disclosure– A great apologetics comic with a “what if?” scenario.
“They Would Have Believed…” — A Molinist Exegesis of Matthew 11:20-24– Molinism is a theological position I hold strongly because it seems to solve many difficulties of both philosophy and exegesis. Check out this excellent post on the latter.
Christopher Hitchens confessed he would not get rid of all religion. What is, perhaps, most interesting about this video is the discussion of Dawkins, who as a “free thinker” was utterly incredulous about Hitchens’ view.
Do We Need to Prove All Other Religions False?– Interesting look at the rationality of a particular belief in light of diversity.
Abortion Jeopardizes 900-year-old Liechtenstein dynasty– very interesting read about polity and abortion in another country (unless you’re from Liechtenstein, in which case it’s your country!).
I found some really diverse posts this go-round. Check out some thoughts on archaeology, marriage, logic, cultic churches, volcanic eruptions, logic, and the rule of secularism. I highly recommend these posts! (Owl Post edition 2–if you get it, you’re awesome!)
The Story of Ian & Larissa -Really beautiful video about a couple demonstrating Christian marriage and love. Although I don’t agree with everything in the video (women being emotional, needing to be reeled back by a man?), I think it’s amazing overall.
Avoiding Crackpot Archaeology– It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking some extraordinary, worldview-shattering discovery has been found in archaeology. Too often, that trap is founded upon poor research and scholarship. Reasons to Believe shares some great ways to avoid “crackpot” archaeology.
The Mass Cult of Big -Again, not sure I agree with everything here, but I think the author raises some good points. Not discussed, however, is the notion of what exactly is “big” and is “big” necessarily bad? I don’t think it is.
Marvel Comics and Logical Fallacies– A creative look at logical fallacies and how easily we can fall into them.
The Toba Super Eruption: A Non-Flood Catastrophe–The Artifacts Say Yes!– Another serious challenge to a young earth is presented by super eruptions of volcanoes. Check out this very interesting post.
That the Name of God Should be Forgotten– It is easy to forget that what one believes can easily come under attack. The Soviet Union tried to eliminate all religion in the name of secularism. Let us not forget.