This coming Monday night (January 19), in select theaters across the country, there will be a one-time showing of a documentary exploring the evidence for the Exodus. Joe Carter reviewed Patterns of Evidence for the Gospel Coalition, saying:
The film won’t convince any Biblical minimalists, and even many Bible believers will remain skeptical. But the documentary itself is quite an achievement and worthy of consideration.
Mahoney’s “pattern of evidence” suggests the events of Exodus likely did not occur in the Egypt’s New Kingdom under Pharaoh Ramesses II. Instead, Mahoney makes the case that the modern view of the chronology of Egyptian history is off by about 200 years. Once that gap is corrected, the evidence (scarce though it may be) lines up more closely with the Biblical account….
[D]espite being made for a niche audience, Patterns is one of the most well-crafted documentaries released in years. Audiences have become so accustomed to seeing low production values in “Christian” films that it’s rather shocking to see a work of such high quality. Mahoney is a filmmaker of such considerable skill that it’s almost worth watching his film simply to admire the craftsmanship.
Mahoney also shows how to present a particular point of view—even a contrarian one—in a way that is fair-minded and compelling. He allows skeptics almost equal time to explain why they disagree, and though he is convinced of his findings, he never oversells the evidence. He trusts the audience enough to let us judge for ourselves what to make of the “patterns.”
Read the rest of his review here. It sounds like the documentary argues for the earlier 1446 BC date for the Exodus (the position I hold). I heard some of the evidence for that date while I was in the apologetics program at Biola, and it was definitely intriguing.
You can search for theaters and order tickets here. The pre-show starts at 6:30, the documentary at 7:00, then they’ll show a half hour panel discussion (with Eric Metaxas, Dennis Prager, and others) afterward.
If you’re in Southern California, you should know about the AMP Conference coming up on February 20-21 in Anaheim. From their website:
AMP aims to amplify the voices of Christians sharing their faith with the world. Too often those voices remain silent out of uncertainty and doubt. By bringing together leaders in Christian apologetics, AMP hopes to cultivate in all believers an awareness of issues key to today’s outreach efforts. This year’s theme, Equip to Evangelize, is designed to prepare Christians to use apologetics tools in their evangelism and to become confident witnesses to a skeptical world. AMP 2015 is a two-day apologetics conference, hosted by Eastside Christian Church. The conference will feature 10 speakers, all leaders in their respective fields as well as committed evangelical Christians, ready to share their wisdom and experiences in spreading the Good News.
It looks like they'll have an interesting range of topics, including “The Resurrection Meets Skepticism” (Gary Habermas), “Why I Believe God Exists: Evidences from a Biochemist” (Fuz Rana), “Beauty, Love, and Human Longing” (Kenneth Samples), “How to Engage in Science-Faith Conversation” (Jeff Zweerink), and “A Son from a Stone: A Muslim’s Journey to Christ” (Abdu Murray). You can see the full list of speakers here and the schedule with their topics here.
Register here (use promo code "STR" to get $10 off), and if you come, be sure to find me and say hi!
For those in Southern California, particularly in the Orange County area, I will be teaching a six-week introductory apologetics class for students in 5th through 9th grade. Class begins on January 27th and will be held on Tuesday afternoons (3-4:30 pm), so it's accessible to homeschoolers AND public and private school students. We will meet at Grace Fellowship Church in Costa Mesa. For more information and registration instructions, see the attached course syllabus.
Over a year ago, I heard something on James White’s podcast that I’ve been thinking about off and on ever since. It’s a clip of Yusuf Ismail, a Muslim, from a debate he did with a Christian, and it gives some insight into how Muslims view God and the Christian gospel. Dr. White explains in the podcast:
I think this is one of the best insights into the Muslim mind that is trying to interpret the gospel of Jesus Christ within a context that has no room for a suffering Messiah, has no room for the gospel message. This, to me, is a clear illustration of how…Mohammed never understood the very central aspect of the message of the gospel. He never understood it.
This was Yusuf Ismail’s objection to the gospel:
The idea, or the concept, of Jesus being God or being divine has raised for Muslims a number of issues pertaining to the theological mistrust. If Jesus is God, and God allows Himself to be edged out of the world and onto the cross—and as John had suggested earlier on, it was the idea of God incarnate, coming down to earth, humiliating Himself, in a manner of speaking, and being crushed by his enemies, in a manner of speaking—now, if that’s the idea of God, if God allows Himself to be edged out of the world onto the cross, then our understanding of God is fundamentally a God who is weak and totally powerless in the world. He helps us, not through His omnipotence, not through His almightiness, but rather through His weakness and suffering.
We forget how entirely unexpected and shocking the humility and servanthood of Jesus is—how foreign it is to human expectations of God, and in this case, to Muslim expectations. Transcendence, power, judgment, and victory, they expect. But humility? Self-sacrificial grace? These seem obviously incompatible with deity to Yusuf Ismail.
But this is Christianity: God accomplished His purpose through the weakness, suffering, humiliation, and even death of Jesus, the divine second person of the Trinity. And even more shockingly, Jesus did this for people who were the cause of His suffering, and humiliation, and death. Because of this, it’s not by accident that Christians who live in gratefulness and awe of this don’t seek revenge on those who mock them and their God. We’re told in Philippians 2:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Yes, God will accomplish perfect justice in the end. Justice is good, and we rest in that. But the most honored act of all time, for which Jesus was highly exalted by the Father, was not avenging His Name, but dying for those who disgraced it. He didn’t dismiss justice, but instead He upheld it by bearing it on His own shoulders. This central act of Christianity burrowed into our understanding of the virtuous life and slowly infiltrated all of Western culture—so much so that we in the West now take for granted the beauty of patient, gracious, self-sacrificial humility over an immediate exercise of punitive power. We forget that not every culture has seen this as desirable. It’s an echo of Christ, not something men naturally reason to on their own.
As with any ideal, neither individual Christians nor societies shaped by Christianity have always lived up to this. But the astounding truth is that our knowledge of Christ created this cultural ideal where it didn’t exist before.
This challenge comes from the first item in the Pro-Choice Action Network’s article refuting “some common misconceptions about abortion”:
Human life begins at conception. There is no scientific consensus as to when human life begins. It is a matter of philosophic opinion or religious belief. Human life is a continuum—sperm and eggs are also alive, and represent potential human beings, but virtually all sperm and eggs are wasted. Also, two-thirds of human conceptions are spontaneously aborted by nature.
What mistakes are made here? How would you argue that we can objectively know when a new human being comes into existence? Answer this challenge in the comments below, and then we’ll hear Alan’s answer on Thursday.
In an effort to shock the reader, Eichenwald appeals to two significant textual variations in the NT, namely the long ending of Mark (16:9-20) and the pericope of the adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). These are the same ones that Ehrman highlights in his book Misquoting Jesus—which is evidently a big influence on Eichenwald.
But, Eichenwald only tells part of the story. First, he doesn’t tell the reader that these are the only two significant variations in the entire New Testament. He presents them like they are typical when they are not. Second, he doesn’t explain how text-critical methodologies allow scholars to identify these changes as later additions. And if they can be identified as later additions, then they do not threaten our ability to know the original text [emphasis added].
Even more, Eichenwald continues to make factual errors about these changes. He states:
Unfortunately, John didn’t write it. Scribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages. It does not appear in any of the three other Gospels or in any of the early Greek versions of John. Even if the Gospel of John is an infallible telling of the history of Jesus’s ministry, the event simply never happened.
This statement is riddled with errors. For one, scribes probably didn’t make the story of the adulterous woman up—it probably circulated as oral tradition. Second, it was not added in the “Middle Ages” as he claims, but probably sometime between the second and fourth century. Third, we don’t know that “the event simply never happened.” On the contrary, scholars have argued it may be an authentic event that circulated in the early church for generations.
Kruger’s two-part response to the Newsweek article (Part 1, Part 2) is worth reading in full. I appreciate his conclusion:
By way of conclusion, it is hard to know what to say about an article like Eichenwald’s. In many ways, it embodies all the misrepresentations, caricatures, and misunderstandings of the average non-Christian in the world today. It is short on the facts, it has little understanding of interpretive principles, it assumes that it knows more about theology than it really does, and it pours out scorn and contempt on the average believer.
Nevertheless, in a paradoxical fashion, I am thankful for it. I am thankful because articles like this provide evangelicals with an opportunity to explain what Christians really believe, and what historical credentials the Bible really has. Eichenwald’s article is evidence that most people in the world understand neither of these things. With all the evangelical responses to this article, hopefully that is changing.
You can learn more about how textual criticism works in this brief interview with Dan Wallace or by watching his more detailed iTunes U course.