Higher Criticism and the Bible

Higher Criticism and the Bible
We often deal with people who criticize the Bible for one reason or another. However, some scholars study the Bible and apply what is called biblical criticism. They may be practicing lower criticism (also known as textual criticism) in which they work to determine the correct text of ancient documents. These scholars work with copies of ancient manuscripts of both biblical and non-biblical material to attempt to determine what the original documents said. There is also a method called higher criticism in which scholars deal with the authorship, dating, and unity of manuscripts.

There have been numerous instances over the years in which criticism of these two types has exposed frauds. In the fifteenth century, for example, higher criticism proved that a document called “Donation of Constantine” was not genuine. The events described in the manuscript turned out to be events that happened hundreds of years after the original document was supposed to have been written. Obviously, “donation” was a fraud. In this way, higher criticism can expose frauds and identify claims about manuscripts that could not be true.

At the beginning of the twentieth-century furious debates raged over higher criticism because many viewed it as a threat to the Bible and Christian faith. In our day it has become fashionable to use higher criticism to claim that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. I confront skeptics in my lectures who use higher and lower criticism to attack the material I am presenting. We need to take a brief look at biblical criticism to understand it and to be prepared to defend the faith.

Higher criticism has sometimes been used to attempt to prove that one book or another in the Bible is fraudulent. In 1805, for example, a scholar by the name of W. M. DeWette tried to prove that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses but by Jerusalem priests in the time of Josiah. DeWette’s assertion was widely accepted until archaeologists proved that many parts of Deuteronomy reflect a period earlier than that of Josiah. In the nineteenth century, it was popular to claim that all ancient biblical manuscripts must be assumed fraudulent unless proven true. Archaeology has mostly removed that negative attitude, but it is not uncommon to run into it even today.

Many proponents of higher criticism attempt to use style as a means of proving a biblical manuscript fraudulent. A good example of this is first and second Peter. The styles of these two books are very different. Why would that be since they are supposedly both written by Peter? Subject matter can make a huge difference in the style of writing. Gilbert Highet of Columbia University pointed out that Cicero had at least six different styles depending upon what he was writing. There is even the possibility that Peter wrote one book in Greek and the other in Aramaic which would automatically produce significant differences in style.

There are questions about the Bible that higher criticism may help us solve. The Bible designates Moses as the author of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy but does not identify the author of Genesis. Jesus identifies Moses as the author of the same four books but makes no mention of the author of Genesis. If higher criticism could verify the authorship of Genesis, it would be a welcomed contribution to our understanding.

However, instead, some scholars have attempted to prove that the first and second chapters of Genesis were written by different authors who disagreed with each other. They ignore the fact that those chapters were written for different purposes and to show different relationships. Higher criticism scholars have also raised questions about the authorship and dates of some of the Psalms and Hebrews. We must remember that higher criticism is the work of people who have preconceived ideas and prejudices that affect their conclusions.

Higher criticism is at best a tool to help us understand some concepts related to God’s Word. If we believe that the Holy Spirit was active and that the Bible was God-breathed, we will not be shaken by the winds of modernism that roar through the religious world today. Excellent and open-minded scholarship has, over the centuries, confirmed and supported the concept that the Bible is the Word of God. Letting the Word speak to us is the doorway to a closer walk with God.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

STD Rates Increasing

STD Rates Increasing

In August 2018, the Center for Disease Control released 2017 data showing STD rates increasing. The report showed a radical increase in the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The CDC says that 2.29 million new cases of these three common sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017. Gonorrhea led the way with a 19% increase in cases in that year.

The CDC suggests that the reason for the STD rates increasing is a lack of government funding on sex education. There has been no increase in federal spending in that area since 2013. We would suggest that education about the mechanics of how to avoid STDs won’t change the trend. People won’t change their behavior until they truly understand the purpose of sex and how sexual behavior functions in committed relationships.

We have pointed out before that more and more Americans say “none” when asked about their religious affiliation. That is especially true for the younger generation. Without a religious basis, how can young people understand that sex is a creation of God that binds parents together in a loving, healthy home? The answer to STD rates increasing is not more funding, but more faith.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from USA TODAY, August 29, 2018, page B1.

Archaeological Discoveries at Masada

Archaeological Discoveries at Masada
More than 2000 years ago, King Herod built a fortress in the Judean Desert that could house 10,000 soldiers. He equipped it with five palaces and water installations which included three bathhouses and a swimming pool. Masada is a butte with incredibly steep sides making it an easy place to defend. When Rome set out to defeat the Jewish zealots, the rebels sought refuge at Masada where they held out from A.D. 66 to 73. In recent years there have been new archaeological discoveries at Masada.

Archeologists have been exploring the remains of Masada for a very long time. In the past ten years, new technology has revealed a great deal of information about the history of Rome, Palestine, the Jewish community, and the Christian community. Biblical Archaeology Review for September/October 2018 carries an excellent article about what they have learned. The discoveries have strong implications for the credibility of the Bible and help us understand the conditions that existed at the time of Jesus and during the early years of the Church. Here are some of the recent finds:

Masada had an advanced water system, enough to produce extensive agriculture including a winery with 50 fermentation tanks.

Herod had huge gardens with trees and flowers as well as agricultural products.

There was an Essene community at Masada. The Essenes are the Jewish group that left us the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Jews had animals of burden during the siege by the Romans.

A Christian community had a chapel on Masada by A.D. 400 and a Church which included a monastery on Masada from the fifth to seventh centuries.

Archaeological discoveries at Masada give us new insights into biblical events and beliefs. The interactions of the apostles and Jesus with the Jews and the Romans give us a better understanding of what happened in New Testament times, during the life of Jesus, and for the first 500 years of the Church.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

China Forces Atheism

China Forces Atheism
Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has launched a drive to subjugate both Islam and Christianity to government control and to limit their activity. China forces atheism by installing Chinese flags wherever there is a minaret or a cross and pressuring people to embrace the Atheist Communist Party. There has been a dramatic expansion of China’s surveillance apparatus using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to weed out religious leaders and to reward loyalty to the Atheist Communist Party.

It is going to be important for religious leaders and missionaries in China to use apologetic material like ours to combat the government propaganda machine. The volume of mail we are getting from Chinese students has dramatically increased. One student suggested that if we would learn Chinese, we couldn’t handle all of the opportunities there would be to teach the gospel. As China forces atheism, we are working on that idea.

Our experience has been that once atheists see the evidence for God’s existence, they are eager to become Christians. An atheist doesn’t have the baggage of someone who is already a member of some religious body or cult, so there is nothing for them to unlearn.

Our video series is available with a Mandarin overdub as well as our regular International Series. Contact us at jncdge@aol.com for more information.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians in Western Europe
We have reported on the Pew Research Center’s survey in the United States which indicated that those who list their religious affiliation as “none” are increasing. (See more about that HERE.) New research indicates that those nones can be more religious than Christians.

In May of 2018, the Pew Research Center released a study of religious beliefs and practices in western Europe. Some of the things they learned are very surprising. The survey involved 25,000 people in 15 countries of Western Europe. Since Pew had previously gathered similar data in the U.S., they were able to make comparisons. In comparing the results in the U.S. and Western Europe, the Pew researchers found that:

1-Americans are more religious than Western Europeans. That isn’t too surprising. The questions asked included “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

2-American “nones” are more religious than Western European “nones.” This is more surprising since you would think that those who have no religious affiliation would be equally lacking in faith. However, many Americans who have given up on organized religion still believe in God, and they even pray to Him.

3-American “nones” are as religious as or more religious than Christians in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That is the most surprising finding of all that nones can be more religious than Christians. Only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In the United States 27 percent of “nones” have that much faith. Only eighteen percent of Christians in Western Europe pray daily. Twenty-percent of the “nones” in the United States say that they have daily prayer. In Western Europe, fourteen percent of Christians say that religion is very important in their lives. Religion is almost as important to U.S. “nones” where thirteen percent say that religion is very important.

According to Pew Research, even though Western Europeans identify as Christians, for them it is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a genuine religious faith. Eleven percent of Western Europeans say they are “spiritual but not religious.” That allows them to keep the traditions of Christianity without a commitment to the doctrines and things they don’t like.

Looking at these statistics, we can see that it is possible that some nones can be more religious than Christians. We see that even though faith in God has eroded in the United States, Western Europe is far ahead of us in secularization. All of these statistics give those of us who are committed Christians something to think about.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
You can read more about the recent Pew study HERE.

How Satan Works

How Satan Works
Yesterday we examined the question of whether Satan is real. We reviewed what the Bible has to say and concluded that Satan is real and at work in our world. Today we are going to examine how Satan works and how we can recognize what is from Satan and not from God.

1-SATAN WORKS BY BRUTE FORCE. In the Genesis account, God tells us how the battle between good and evil will progress. “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. It will bruise your head and you will bruise His heel.” The blow to Satan will ultimately be fatal–evil will die. The damage to the heel will be bad in this life, but not eternally.

The Bible is full of descriptions of Satan’s brute force–the repeated captivity of Israel, the slaying of the babies by Herod, the crucifixion of Jesus, etc. Satan frequently enters his workers to make brute force happen. In John 13:27 Satan entered Judas. In Matthew 16:23 he attempted to enter Peter, but Jesus rebuked him. In our world today he enters people, especially when invited or not resisted. Every day we see examples of this on the front page of our newspaper.

2-SATAN WORKS BY SOWING BAD SEEDS. In Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus told a parable to explain a second way how Satan works. It is almost impossible to tell the difference between a tare seed and a wheat seed. Satan sows seeds that are not always obvious at the time. It is not always obvious who is sowing the bad seed as verse 25 says the sower of the bad seed comes at night.

3-SATAN WORKS BY IMITATING GOD’S GOOD THINGS. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 we read, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And don’t be surprised for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” In the parable, the tares were not removed until the harvest, because it would do too much damage to the wheat to rip them out. So also, evil will not be removed from our lives until the harvest when the fruit of our lives can be seen. God allows perverse forms of marriage and sex to continue to exist, but in the end, the results of these perverse things will be clear.

Once we understand how Satan works, we can know what comes from Satan and not from God. Mathew 7:15-20 tells us to “watch out for false prophets who will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them … every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit … thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” The next three verses have these evil workers claiming miracles in the name of Christ. People can claim anything, but Jesus says, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.” We find Paul reaffirming that in 2 Corinthians 11:15.

Jeremiah 23 gives five tests we can all make of religious leaders to see if they are good leaders or false prophets.
1-Vs 9-14 Do they have high moral standards?
2-Vs 16-17 Do they offer false hope?
3-Vs 21-22 Do they have integrity and oppose evil?
4-Vs 29-32 Do they speak where God has not spoken?
5-Vs 33-36 Do they state their opinions as God’s Word?

There are plenty of cheap imitations of the Lord’s Church out there as you can see by turning on your TV. The religious teachers that fail the tests Jeremiah laid out are Satan’s workers, and they are all around us. That is how Satan works.

There will be a final answer to Satan. In the bad seed parable of Matthew 13, the master says, “Let them both grow together until the harvest time and at harvest time I will tell the reapers ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” It isn’t up to us to make the final judgment because the long-term result of Satan’s activity will make it clear. In Revelation 20 an angel binds Satan and casts him into the fire. The dead, both small and great, will be judged according to their works.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Military Religious Freedom Foundation?

Military Religious Freedom Foundation?
Atheists have made remarkable progress toward removing all vestiges of religion from all branches of the military services during the last ten years. A leading group in this effort call themselves the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).

MRFF has a capable spokesman in Mickey Weinstein. He has said that the group wants to combat “gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize Americans.” Recently Weinstein fought to remove the Bibles that are placed on the tables commemorating the POWs and MIAs from recent conflicts. He argued that the Bible on the table “significantly disturbed at least 36 men and women at Warren Air Force Base.” The commander of the base, Col. Stacy Huser agreed and ordered that a generic “book of Faith would replace the Bible.” That book contains statements from five Department of Defense approved faith groups and a set of blank pages to represent the non-religious.

Since Christians provided the commemorative tables, it seems that groups not wanting to have a table with the Bible on it should have their own table with whatever book they wish to have or none at all. How can this group call itself the Military RELIGIOUS FREEDOM Foundation?

The point is that the continued hostility to Christians in the military erodes morale and contributes to needless confrontations between people whose attention needs to be turned toward their common goal, not their differences. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wrote, “Just think: if our service men and women are traumatized by a Bible, how are they going to handle war?”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

‘Oumuamua: Mysterious Space Visitor

'Oumuamua: Mysterious Space Visitor
In October of 2017, astronomer Robert Weryk using a telescope in Hawaii discovered an object careening through our solar system from somewhere in interstellar space. Astronomers assumed it was an asteroid from some other stellar system in our galaxy. UFO promoters saw it as a spaceship from some other star system that was spying on our planet. The name given to it is ‘Oumuamua which is Hawaiian for “scout.”

The object was quite narrow and seem to be less irregular than most asteroids. Closer examination has shown that the surface of the object is a reddish color which is typical of some comets which have a crust covering an icy interior. Its size is approximately 800 by 100 feet (230 by 35 meters).

Studies of the trajectory of ‘Oumuamua show it is tumbling and changing directions in a way that indicates a force other than the Sun’s gravity working on it. Naturally, the UFO promoters were overjoyed saying that this proves that alien spacecraft are all around us, and we just happened to catch this one. The SETI Institute used its powerful Allen Telescope Array to examine the object but detected no radio signals indicating intelligence. The problem with the UFO idea is that the change of direction is much smaller than what rockets on a spacecraft would cause. The overall trajectory of ‘Oumuamua has not changed significantly as it heads out of the solar system. It is traveling to fast for any of our existing spacecraft to reach it, but it will still take 20,000 years to be completely clear of our solar system.

After much study, astronomers concluded that ‘Oumuamua is a comet. When comets get near the Sun, they spew gases from their interior. This jetting of gas always has some effect on the trajectory of the comet. The amount of change in ‘Oumuamua’s trajectory is consistent with the effect of a comet’s gas jets.

As we have emphasized before, the Bible doesn’t say that Earth is the only place in the universe where God chose to create life. At present, however, there is no credible evidence that there is life elsewhere, although microscopic forms may exist on Mars and some moons in our system. The idea of alien visitation is pure speculation with no evidence to support it.

The Lord tells us how to live in another existence. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 to learn more about it. Waiting for an E.T. to come and whisk you away to a heaven is wishful thinking. Waiting for the Lord to come again has much more promise and much more supporting evidence.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Fake News

Fake News
In the last two years, the word “fake” has shown up so many times in the media and political arena that people are now well aware of the fact that not everything is as it appears. Fake news is nothing new, and the early Christians had to deal with fake apostles, fake witnesses, and scams of all kinds. (See Acts 6:13 and Acts 8 for examples.)

In the scientific area, there have been so many fakes in every field that there are some people who make a living just exposing fakes. This is a constant problem in the field of paleontology where fake fossils have confused the theories of evolution and earth history. In The Week magazine for August 10, 2018, carried an interesting story about “The Great Chinese Dinosaur Boom.” Scientists have found rich fossil beds in northeastern China. Local farmers have discovered that they can make good money by selling fossils to collectors who are not scientists. The result is that they have glued pieces together to make it look like a new form of life. This reminds us of the fake human tracks that were promoted in Glen Rose, Texas, in past years by people trying to sell the religious position that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

There are several lessons for all of us here. One is not to trust any human without checking out their claim. That is true of every endeavor in our lives. Few of us would buy a used car without investigating the claim of the salesman about what an excellent deal we are getting. Why would we accept religious or secular claims without giving the same spirit of investigation to the story?

In a world of fake news, the one thing we can trust and that is absolutely true is God’s word. Don’t trust what people claim that it says. Study it for yourself. That may mean looking up the meaning of the words of the original language and taking the time to look at the context. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for teaching, for refuting error and for giving guidance as well as for moral discipline, that the man of God may be complete and adequately equipped for all good work ” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Religion in Canada

Religion in Canada
The Angus Reid Institute is a highly respected polling agency in Canada. They have released a detailed study of religion in Canada which is titled “A Spectrum of Spirituality.” Their study divided the Canadian population into four categories:

Non Believers 19%
Privately Faithful 30%
Spiritually Uncertain 30%
Religiously Committed 21%

When the “Spiritually Uncertain” were asked “Do you believe that God or a higher power exists” 87% indicated doubt. The study observes some interesting points about morality and belief:

“When one is unsure of the existence of a supreme arbiter of truth, it becomes increasingly easier to abandon previously held values… Identifying with a specific religious organization usually means sharing a set of values with others of like belief. Removing the connection has facilitated an increasing number of Canadians to adopt or accept practices that they would have otherwise seen as immoral.”

Religion in Canada reflects the tragedy of the modern church in which the leadership assumes that everyone believes in God. When people ignore the evidence for God, they choose to live according to their own desires. We need to make a strong effort to show young people how we can know there is a God, and what a difference belief in God makes in our lives.

We invite you to build your own faith and to know why you believe what you believe. For our free correspondence course, go to doesgoedexist.org. You can watch our video series free of charge on doesgodexist.tv. Build your faith in God and His word. Know that a fulfilling life comes from following the rules and practices that Jesus gave us for successful living.
–John N. Clayton © 2018