Exodus: Gods and Kings

» 12 December 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

Q. We’ve seen a spate of biblically themed movies in theatres lately: Son of God, Noah (starring Russell Crowe), and now Exodus: Gods and Kings (featuring Christian Bale of Batman fame). Why do you think this is?

A. Very often, movies are adapted from bestselling books. The Bible is the bestselling book of all time, so it only seems natural that biblical films would be made – there is always a high degree of interest. Of course, the reason that the Bible’s message is so perennially popular is that it reveals the truth to humanity – the truth about God, and about ourselves: why we are here, and what we were created for. Most people wander through their lives without any idea of their true purpose, or their need for salvation. Familiarity with the scriptures is a key to understanding life. It’s also essential for being an effective Catholic, for, as St Jerome once famously said, “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ”.

Q. The film Exodus: Gods and Kings is obviously about the biblical book of Exodus, and about Moses. Can you speak a bit about parallels between Moses and Christ?

A. Moses, although vitally important in his own right for God’s overall salvation plan, is also what scholars call  a “type” of Jesus Christ. What does this mean? God writes history (“His story”) the way human beings write with words. Just as a human writer can use a device like foreshadowing to tip off a reader about future events in his story, God uses actual people, places, and things in history to foreshadow greater people, places, and things to come later on in salvation history, especially at the time of Christ.

Q. What are some of the parallels between Jesus and Moses?

A. Despotic rulers attempted to murder both of them in their infancy (Pharaoh and Herod the Great, respectively). They both procured deliverance for their people: Moses delivered the Israelites from the tyranny of Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt, while Jesus delivered his followers from the slavery of sin, death and the despotic control of Satan. Jesus is the true Passover lamb, leading us out of spiritual bondage. And just as the Israelites had to eat the lamb of the Passover, we must consume the Eucharist. One of the plagues God sends on the Egyptians was turning the water of the Nile into blood. Jesus turns water into wine at Cana, and later, when instituting the Eucharist, turns wine into his Blood.

Just as the Israelites pass through the Red Sea, Jesus passes through the waters of baptism, and, like Israel, enters into a period of wilderness temptation. Unlike Israel, Jesus passes the test. Just as Moses ascended Mount Sinai and returned with the 10 Commandments, Jesus ascended the Mount of Beatitudes and delivered the 10 Beatitudes to his people (and, yes, there are 10, not 8, Beatitudes – look closely at Matthew 5:3-12). Moses’ face shone, reflecting the glory of God’s presence. Jesus, as God himself, radiates his unveiled glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. God fed his people Israel with the manna, the miracle bread from heaven, in their wilderness wanderings. In our sojourn in the wilderness of life on earth, en route to the promised land of heaven, Jesus feeds us with the miracle of the Eucharist, turning ordinary bread into his Body.

This is only a sampling of the many parallels between Moses and Jesus. It speaks of how God works in similar ways in different epochs of salvation history to rescue his people (although, obviously, the salvation Jesus wrought is much greater in kind). One is reminded of the words of Mark Twain, who famously said that “history may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme!” This is the essence of biblical typology. “The New Testament is in the Old, concealed; the Old Testament is in the New, revealed” (St Augustine).

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Second Sunday of Advent: “The beginning of the Good News”

» 07 December 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

Q. Can you tell us about the significance of this Sunday’s Gospel reading?

A. For this Second Sunday in Advent, the Gospel reading is from Chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel. Mark does not have an infancy narrative in his Gospel, but rather, gets right into the action of Jesus’ public ministry. His incipit (introductory statement) is as follows: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). This may seem like a very basic declaration to us, as we read Mark approximately 2000 years after it was written. But, make no mistake, with this one line, Mark has instantly captured the attention of the entire world, Jew and Gentile alike.

Q. How is this so?

A. For the Jewish reader, Mark has declared Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah. The word “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name! It is the English translation of the Greek word Christos, which in turn is a translation of the Hebrew word Meschiach (“Messiah”).

The Gentile world would have been arrested in particular by the statement that Jesus is “the Son of God”. The Roman Emperors were called “God”, “Son of God”, “God from God”, and “Universal Savior of Human Life”, among other exalted titles. Their victories were hailed as “Good News” throughout the Empire. We know this from archaeological inscriptions that have been uncovered in Roman cities. These were displayed publicly because they were things that citizens of the Empire were expected to know and believe.

Q. Is there, then, special significance to the Roman centurion’s confession of faith in Mark 15?

A. You are quite right, and this links Jesus’ Passion back to Mark’s incipit. When the centurion, assisting in Jesus’ crucifixion, witnesses the manner in which he dies and the portents that surround it, he is overwhelmed. He exclaims, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39, emphasis mine).

The most powerful person in the world was the Emperor of Rome, the Caesar. The most powerless person in the world was a victim of crucifixion. Beaten, scourged, naked – utterly forsaken. Crucifixion was so horrific that it was illegal for Roman citizens to be executed in this manner. Jesus, as a Galilean Jew, was afforded no such courtesy.

But the centurion was given an amazing grace. He recognized that his boss, the Emperor, on his Roman throne, was not the “Universal Savior of Human Life” and the “Son of God”. The seemingly powerless Jesus, on the “throne” of his cross, truly was. The centurion changes his allegiance from Tiberias to Jesus, and places all of his hope in the Lord. Mark invites his readers, and you and me, to do the same.

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Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey

» 28 November 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

imagesPope Francis’ touched down at Ankara airport today to begin his three-day pastoral journey to Turkey. The Holy Father was invited to the cities of Ankara and Istanbul by the Turkish government and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians. The Pontiff’s first address was to the civil authorities:

Mr President
Mr Prime Minister,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to visit your country so rich in natural beauty and history, and filled with vestiges of ancient civilizations. It is a natural bridge between two continents and diverse cultures. This land is precious to every Christian for being the birthplace of Saint Paul, who founded various Christian communities here, and for hosting the first seven Councils of the Church. It is also renowned for the site near Ephesus, which a venerable tradition holds to be the “Home of Mary”, the place where the Mother of Jesus lived for some years. It is now a place of devotion for innumerable pilgrims from all over the world, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.

Yet, the reasons why Turkey is held with such regard and appreciation are not only linked to its past and ancient monuments, but also have to do with the vitality of its present, the hard work and generosity of its people, and its role in the concert of nations.

It brings me great joy to have this opportunity to pursue with you a dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect, in the footsteps of my predecessors Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. This dialogue was prepared for and supported by the work of the then Apostolic Delegate, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who went on to become Saint John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council.

Today what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them.

There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all.

To this end, it is essential that all citizens, –Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, –both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.

The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship. The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence.

How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better! With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace! Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development.

Mr President, interreligious and intercultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion.

Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment. The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can “reverse the trend” and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.

Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts. In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating. Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws. Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially, –though not only, –Christians and Yazidis. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs.

Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies. In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.

What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the promotion of sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today.

Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress.

May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker!

(Note: Thanks to Fr Tom Rosica from the Holy See’s press office for the English translation.)

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Q and A: What does Pope Francis think about marriage?

» 22 November 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

marrigeQ. I have heard many pundits from the MSM (mainstream media) declare that Pope Francis wants to redefine marriage. Is this true?

A. No, this is simply not the case. People who say these things are clearly not reading the Pope’s actual writings on this issue, or paying any attention to his homilies. That Pope Francis wishes to uphold Catholic teaching on sexual morality and marriage (which cannot be changed, at any rate) should have been abundantly clear when the Pontiff beatified his predecessor, Paul VI, at the conclusion of the recent Synod on the family. Pope Paul VI himself suffered greatly because of his defense of marriage, and is a personal hero to Pope Francis.

Q. What did Pope Francis say in his opening remarks at the Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman this past week at the Vatican?

A. This is a very important conference indeed. What stood out to me in particular was the brilliant connection the Pontiff drew between marriage and ecology. In a world where so many people are (quite rightly) concerned about the environment, it is so often forgotten that the “environment” of human society is the family. As the Holy Father said, “we must foster a new human ecology” by strengthening marriage. Here is a great quote from his speech (translated from the original Italian):

“We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

“Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.

“The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection. And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.”

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Q and A on this Sunday’s readings: the talents

» 16 November 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

Can you elaborate on the parable of the talents from this Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 25:14-30)?

This parable is very similar to Luke 19:11-27, and the parable of the “Ten Minas”, or “Ten Pounds”. It is possible that these parables are versions of the same basic parable, or that Jesus himself varied the details of the basic parable when preaching at different times and in different locations. Jesus’ teaching would have incorporated recurring themes (like that of many preachers, even today). Both the Matthean and Lucan parables have much in common with the simple statement of Mark 4:25: “For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away”.

The businessman who entrusts his property to his servants is indeed a “harsh man” (Matt 25:24). Is he supposed to represent God in the parable?

Not really. There is a correlation of course, but it is not exact. In fact, this man would not have been viewed favorably by Jesus’ original audience. He is a cutthroat businessman, who would be quite at home on the modern-day TV show “Dragon’s Den”. Although he is ruthlessly focused on profit, he is nonetheless prescient about his servants’ abilities. Indeed, the one the master trusts the most earns the greatest “ROI” – return on investment. The one who is trusted with the least amount earns nothing with his master’s resources.

So, what then is the lesson for the original hearers of Jesus’ parable, and for us today?

The parable is a warning to those who do not take the Christian life seriously – there will be serious repercussions for those who do not. God has entrusted us all with talents and abilities – some with more, others with less. But all of us are necessary to fulfilling God’s designs in the world. All of us are of equal worth as human persons, but not all have the same skills. There is a lesson here at the natural level, as we should quit comparing ourselves with others, and spend more time determining who God has created us to be, in order to fulfill some unique task in the world that only we can accomplish.

We as Catholics have also been entrusted with the unsearchable riches of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in the Catholic faith (cf. Eph. 3:8). How are we investing those truths in our day-to-day living? Are we studying our faith so that we may apply it better in our lives, our friendships, our families, our workplaces, and in society? “If you don’t use it, you lose it” is a popular saying. Many Catholics have advanced to a Masters or Doctoral level in their educations, or reached the pinnacles of their secular professions, yet have been content to remain at the level of a small child in their understanding of the faith. It is necessary to “grow up”, becoming mature adults in Christ (Col. 1:28), so we do not lose our heavenly reward.

Very often in the New Testament, the image of fire is used to describe hell. But in this parable, it is pictured as “the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Are these different renditions compatible?

Indeed, they are. In the Dead Sea Scrolls we read this description of hell from the Community Rule (1QS 4:12-13), which speaks of “everlasting damnation in the wrath of God’s furious vengeance, never ending terror and reproach for all eternity, with a shameful extinction in the fire of Hell’s outer darkness”. This is an example of Jewish thinking, roughly contemporaneous with Jesus, that ties the two images of fire and darkness together.

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Q and A on The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

» 09 November 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

images-1Q. This Sunday we celebrate the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. Why is this particular Roman church so important?

A. It would surprise many Catholics to learn that the official cathedral of the Pope is not St Peter’s in Rome, but rather in the Basilica of St John Lateran. The bishop’s chair is known as the “cathedra” (the term “cathedral” is derived from this). Hence, the cathedral in each archdiocese is the “mother church” of the diocese, because this is where the bishop’s “chair”, or “cathedra” resides.

In Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, for example, one can view the “cathedra” of Cardinal Thomas Collins, our Archbishop. The insignia of his episcopal coat of arms is embossed into the very fabric of the chair. In the same way, the Lateran Basilica is the home of the “cathedra” of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and earthly head of the Universal Church. Thus, the Lateran Basilica is, in a very real sense, the “mother church” of the entire world. If the Holy Father were to speak ex cathedra (“from the chair”) in a solemn dogmatic statement, it would be from St John Lateran.

Q. What is the connection of this Feast with today’s Mass readings?

A. The first reading, from the book of Ezekiel, speaks of the Temple of Jerusalem. “Living waters” flow from it, irrigating the earth. This is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, bringing supernatural life to the world. The source is God, and his unique dwelling place on earth in the Old Covenant period was in the Temple.

Jesus Christ, in his physical Body, became the true dwelling place of God on earth in the New Covenant. In the sacred humanity of Christ, God “pitched his tent”, or “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14; the tabernacle was the forerunner of the Temple for the Israelites). This is one of the points Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading from John 2.

But Jesus also has a “Mystical Body” – the Church, of which all the baptized are members. Because we have received the very life of God via the Holy Spirit’s action in the Sacraments, we too, as long as we remain in a state of grace, are “temples” of God on earth. God truly lives within us! We are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

This is why a Theology of the Body, as Pope St John Paul II so tirelessly proclaimed, is so crucial. As St Paul writes in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians 3: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” If more Catholics realized this, they would fastidiously avoid sin. As Alexander MacLaren so memorably proclaimed in the 19th century, in words that are just as relevant today:

“Christianity reverences the body; and would teach us all that, being robed in that most wonderful work of God’s hands, which becomes a shrine for God Himself if He dwell in our hearts, all purity, all chastisement and subjugation of animal passion is our duty. Drunkenness, and gluttony, lusts of every kind, impurity of conduct, and impurity of word and look and thought, all these assume a still darker tint when they are thought of as not only crimes against the physical constitution and the moral law of humanity, but insults flung in the face of the God that would inhabit the shrine.”

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Q & A on All Saints & All Souls

» 02 November 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

imagesQ. What are the origins of the feast days of All Saints and All Souls?

A. First, let’s talk about All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1). Anyone in heaven is a saint. And that is the goal of our lives, for to gain heaven means allowing God to make us saints. But, of course, not everyone in heaven has their own feast day on Church’s liturgical calendar. After all, there are only 365 days in the year! At first, only St John the Baptist and some martyrs had their own particular feast day.

In the early centuries of the Church, the faithful would celebrate the anniversary of a martyr’s death at the site of the martyrdom, and in the fourth century, dioceses which were geographically very close would begin to “trade” relics and feast days with each other. It was common in those days (as, sadly it still is in our time) for many people to be martyred at once, which led to joint feast days. The Church felt that every martyr should be venerated, and the only sensible way to do that was to eventually create a common feast day for them all.

The Church has taught since her earliest days that one who gives their life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes directly to heaven, thus becoming an “automatic” saint. Their suffering serves as their “purgation”, if you will, as they bypass purgatory altogether. Of course, many other exceptional saints have not needed purgatory, due to their outstanding holiness.

But the fact is that most of us will not yet have “been made perfect” (Matthew 5:48, Hebrews 12:23) at the time of our death, and have need of some purification after death in purgatory, for “without holiness no one can see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). What a good reason not to delay our need for spiritual development! And this brings us to the Feast of All Souls, commonly known as All Souls’ Day.

Q. Tell me more about why All Souls’ Day is so important.

A. All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) is so important that priests are granted the rare opportunity on this day to celebrate three Masses (normally two is the max): one for the faithful departed; one for the intentions of the Holy Father; and one for the priest’s own intentions.

For the faithful, there are plenary indulgences granted to those who visit a cemetery to pray for the dead, and for visiting a Catholic church. This year, every Catholic must visit a church, because All Souls’ Day falls on a Sunday, a holy day of obligation to attend Mass! As Catholics we are also obligated to pray for the dead. Our prayers and spiritual sacrifices are counted on by those in purgatory. They need our help to allow God to purify them so that they may gain full entry into heaven. Once there, they will be no longer in need of our prayers, but will instead pray for us!

For those lost for all eternity in hell, no prayer can help them (the Church does not state who has ended up there, only who we know is in heaven). The only people who have passed into the afterlife who we can help with our prayers are the souls in purgatory. And those prayers are never wasted. If the deceased person whom we are praying for has, tragically, not died in God’s friendship, or if that person is already in heaven, the Lord will direct the benefits of our prayer to someone else who does need it and can benefit from it – perhaps souls in purgatory who have no one to pray for them.

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This Saturday’s conference talk topics revealed

» 26 September 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

imagesFolks, there is still a bit of time left to order tickets for The Faith Explained Conference online at this link: http://goo.gl/Rdgl6M. After tonight, one can only buy tickets at the door.

Here are the topics of tomorrow’s presentations:

Cale Clarke: Jesus, Alive Forevermore: The key question is this: Did Jesus rise from the dead? If this didn’t happen, nothing else matters, as St Paul himself said: “If Christ is not risen, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith”. We’ll examine the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dr. Craig Evans: Talk #1: How Old and How Reliable are the Bible Manuscripts? Many scholars say that one can’t trust the text of the Bible – that it has been hopelessly corrupted over time. Is this true? What do the latest discoveries tell us about the trustworthiness of the Scriptures?

Talk #2: Jesus and Archaeology: Learn how archaeology helps us to understand – and in many cases to confirm what we know of – Jesus of Nazareth.

Cardinal Thomas Collins: Discipleship: What does it mean to truly follow Jesus in the 21st century?

I can’t wait…see you there!




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Bible Study (Genesis) Thursday; The Faith Explained Conference this Saturday!

» 23 September 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

GenesisYou’ve no doubt heard about The Faith Explained Conference this Saturday, Sept. 27, featuring Cardinal Thomas Collins, Dr Craig Evans, and me. If you don’t have tickets yet, grab them at this link: http://goo.gl/Rdgl6M, but hurry, as online sales will end soon.

However, that’s not the only big event we’ve got this week: if you’re in the Toronto area and are looking for a Catholic Bible Study, join us this Thursday night at 7:30 at St Justin Martyr parish in Markham as we begin The Faith Explained Bible Study of the book of Genesis.

The Bible’s first book is endlessly fascinating, and we’ll be exploring a lot of important questions people ask about it. Just what does Genesis teach, for example, about creation?

One of the best Catholic scholars out there, Dr Brant Pitre, has put together a good shortlist of what we need to believe about creation, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). The axiom about Church teaching as an interpretation of Scripture holds here:

Fundamental Catholic Doctrines on Creation

1. Creation is a work of the holy Trinity (CCC 290-92)

2. The world was created for the glory of God (293)

3. God created the world from his free will and divine love (295)

4. God created the world ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) (296-99)

5. God created an ordered and good world (299)

6. God transcends creation and is present to it (300)

7. God upholds and sustains creation at every moment (301)

8. God’s providence guides creation towards its perfection (302-305)

9. God gives his creatures free will to share in his providence (306-308)

10. If Creation is good, why does evil exist? (309)

a. Reality of physical evil (310)
b. Reality of moral evil (311)
c. God can bring good out of an evil (312-314)

(source: BrantPitre.com)

For much more, join us for our series on Thursday evenings.

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William Lane Craig on the value of apologetics

» 12 September 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

UnknownThe Faith Explained Conference on September 27 (go here for tickets: http://goo.gl/Rdgl6M) is fast approaching, and I can’t wait! As we explore our conference theme of “Jesus: Yesterday, Today, and Forever” (Hebrews 13:8), we’ll be spending some time in the presentations on apologetics – offering a reasonable basis for Christian faith.

William Lane Craig is one of the foremost Christian apologists and philosophers active on the world stage today. Over at his Reasonable Faith site, Craig has posted a great talk that he presented at Calvin Seminary on the value of apologetics. Here’s a snippet:

Having sound arguments for the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe or evidence for the historical credibility of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus in addition to the inner witness of the Spirit could increase one’s confidence in the veracity of Christian truth claims. On Plantinga’s epistemological model, at least, one would then have greater warrant for believing such claims. Greater warrant could in turn lead an unbeliever to come to faith more readily or inspire a believer to share his faith more boldly. Moreover, the availability of independent warrant for Christian truth claims apart from the Spirit’s witness could help predispose an unbeliever to respond to the drawing of the Holy Spirit when he hears the Gospel and could provide the believer with epistemic support in times of spiritual dryness or doubt when the Spirit’s witness seems eclipsed. One could doubtless think of many other ways in which the possession of such dual warrant for Christian beliefs would be beneficial.

So the question is: do natural theology and Christian evidences warrant Christian belief? I think that they do. In my published work I have formulated and defended versions of the cosmological, teleological, axiological, and ontological arguments for God’s existence and have also defended theism against the most prominent objections lodged by atheist thinkers to belief in God, such as the problem of evil, the hiddenness of God, and the coherence of theism. Furthermore, I have argued for the authenticity of Jesus’ radical personal claims and the historicity of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances to various individuals and groups, and the unexpected belief of the earliest disciples that God had raised him from the dead. Moreover, I have argued, using the standard criteria for assessing historical hypotheses, that the best explanation of these facts is the one given by the disciples themselves: God raised Jesus from the dead.

The entire address, which is well worth your time, can be found here.

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