Posts

"Why Are Christians So Focused On Hell?"

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 In my previous post , I addressed the so-called "Problem of Divine Hiddenness," since it appears to be making the rounds again. Another issue that has been making the rounds is related to the concept of hell. The question was put well by one Twitter user, as seen below. This Twitter user appears to believe that Christians just really wish that hell were real. Implied in this claim is that we wish that it were real so that we could see people punished for things that we do not like. But is this actually the case? There are two aspects to this question. First, whether or not Christians teach that there is a hell. Second, whether or not we sincerely desire for it to be true in some malicious way. Let's take each of these claims one at a time. Does Christianity teach that there is a hell? If I were to poll most people who are practicing Christians, we would say yes, we believe there is a hell. This does not mean that we want  people to end up there. So why do we teach that h

"If God Existed, You Wouldn't Have To Argue For His Existence."

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The title of this post is a claim that I woke up to from an atheist in one of our debate groups. It is not a new statement, to say the least, but it seems that this claim is making the rounds once again. Although this claim has been shown fallacious in the past, that doesn't stop it from being parroted again after a short cooldown period. This is not the first time this claim has made the rounds, and it will not be the last time. So how do we, as Christians, respond to this? In short, it depends on the nuance behind the argument. Let me explain what I mean. The claim that was made in a theist/atheist debate group If, by this response, the person giving it means that, if you have to argue for something, it must not be true. Or, at least, it must not be obvious enough to accept. However, this nuance to the argument is simply a non-sequitur. This is easy to show by simply parodying the argument. Take some examples: "If gravity were real, you wouldn't need scientists to argue

How Many Languages Did Jesus Speak?

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  Introduction It is no secret that many, if not most, people in the first century were at least functionally illiterate. While the literacy rates may have varied based on a person's social class or location in the known world, the fact remains that there was a large population that was functionally illiterate. For this reason, some have claimed that Jesus MUST have been illiterate, since the population as a whole was largely illiterate. This is the argument used by individuals like Reza Aslan  to support their reconstruction of the life of Jesus. However, there is a problem with this. The issue is that a general statement about people at large cannot be used to describe an individual. It is logically fallacious to claim otherwise. For example, I cannot claim that, since most pastors in Texas make approximately $40,000 per year, that therefore Joel Osteen must make approximately $40,000. This is false. Another example would be that, since most books that are written are not New Yo

Who Were The Pharisees?

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 So far in this series, we have discussed three major groups of Jews that were around in the first century. We have discussed the Essenes , who were a separatist group that placed a heavy emphasis on ceremonial cleanliness and lived in Qumran. We have also discussed the Zealots , which was a group of Jewish revolutionaries noted for their zeal for the Jewish way of life, although they were probably not formally recognized as a party until the Jewish Revolt. These two groups are similar in the fact that most of the information we have about them comes from outside of the New Testament. In the last post, we talked about the Sadducees . This was the group which held power in the Jewish Temple, accepted only the Torah as an authority, and denied the resurrection. It is an interesting fact that, while Jesus spent most of his time sparring with the Pharisees, it was the Sadducees that primarily opposed the early Church. The final group that we will be discussing is the party known as the Pha

Who Were The Sadducees?

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So far in this series, we have discussed the Essenes and the Zealots . The Essenes were a group of separatists who, for the most part, lived away from other groups and had a zeal for ritual purity and cleanliness. The Zealots, on the other hand wanted independence from Rome and were willing to use violence and guerilla warfare to get their way. The one thing that both the Essenes and the Zealots have in common is that the New Testament doesn't really give us much information about either group. For this, we need to sources other than the New Testament. Today, we will look at the Sadducees. Unlike the Essenes and Zealots, the Sadducees are mentioned in the New Testament, and we can gain a decent amount of insight from the writings of the New Testament about them. Of course, a fuller picture is gained when looking at a wide variety of historical sources, but it is sufficient to note that, unlike the Zealots and the Essenes, the Sadducees were not largely insignificant to the point th

Who Were The Zealots?

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  In my last post , I mentioned several facts about the Essenes . In this post, I want to examine some things about the group that is often called the "Zealots" from the first century. As with the Essenes, the Bible says very little about this group of people. Despite this, understanding this group can help us understand the climate of the first century in this part of the world, and thus improve our understanding of the Gospels as a whole. Here are five things we should know about the group of people who are often called "Zealots." First, we should understand that there probably wasn't a particular party known as the "Zealots" in the days of Jesus, unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees, which were recognizable. There were, to be sure, loose movements of people who opposed Rome's rule, but the name "Zealot" likely didn't come to refer to a specific group of people until the Jewish Revolt of 66-73 AD. Although the title wasn't there,

Who Were The Essenes?

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  Of the Jewish religious parties that were around in the first century, there is one fairly important party that is not mentioned in the New Testament. This group may not be mentioned because they separated themselves from everyone else, or because they were simply not significant to the authors of the Gospels. Whatever the reason, the Essenes are not mentioned in the New Testament. We do know about them from historical sources and archaeological findings, however. So what are we to make of this group of first-century Jews? There are a few things that we need to know about this group. First, we need to understand that the Essenes were a group of Jewish separatists who believed that the Temple and its priesthood had been corrupted. That is, the Essenes did not believe in the legitimacy of the Temple program, which was run predominantly by the Sadducees. The Essenes did not believe that the contemporary priestly class had a right to handle the priestly affairs of the Temple. There are s