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Faith vs. History, Archaeology, Philosophy

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Question #1: 

Hello Robert,

I have two questions for you, 1) I am speaking with someone who thinks Michael the Archangel is Jesus and despite quoting Hebrews they still do not accept it, have you any articles on this matter?

2) Another thing I read was: David and Solomon were also largely or entirely mythical. At the time Solomon was supposed to have ruled his vast and wealthy kingdom, supplied by caravans of camels from every corner of the ancient world, archaeology shows us that Jerusalem was a pitiful tribal village of a few hundred people living a rude existence - and camels would not be domesticated in the Levant for hundreds of years, while the Second Temple had to wait for the return from Babylon..

Very grateful for your comments

Warm regards

Response #1:  

Good to hear from you. As to your questions, the first one comes up from time to time. There are several cults out there who use this false teaching about Michael as a wedge to undermine a true understanding of the Person and work of Jesus Christ – a good place for the devil to attack inasmuch as that true understanding (Jesus is God and man, and He died for the sins of the world) is essential to salvation. Here are some links on that:

Angelic Issues IV: Michael et al.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ – Michael is not Jesus

The Archangel Michael is not Jesus Christ

Michael rebuking Satan

Michael in Revelation (in CT 4)

As to archaeology, I deal with this discipline in my professional capacity as an ancient historian as well as having had classes in it in seminary. Suffice it to say that whenever archaeology proclaims something like this they are making wild generalizations on the basis of "evidence" which is 1) woefully insufficient (think what an infinitesimally small thing a piece of pottery is compared to an entire civilization existing over hundreds or thousands of years!); and 2) usually wrongly interpreted. What does it mean if I find a potsherd on level IVa of Tel XYZ? It only means that there was a potsherd found at this point in my digging down into the Tel. If may or may not have been contemporaneous. It may or may not be dated correctly via "scientific methods" (see the links below on that) or through comparison to other pottery. It may allow some vague general suggestions. What it does not allow the archaeologist to say is, "this is a Babylonian pot so Babylon controlled this area in 1452 B.C.; from its quality we can tell that the Tel was very rich, no doubt from the trade route that must have passed nearby" etc. However, these are just the sorts of things they do say, and what you have found is a good example of this (it's as if a person ten thousand years from now would try to reconstruct a cultural history of the USA from independence to present through finding part of a garbage can lid in what used to be Buffalo NY). All of the best ancient historians I have ever known or read have always places written sources light years ahead of what the archeologists did up – unless they find objects with inscriptions (written words) that may actually tell us something not entirely subjective. We have a wonderful written source: the Bible. Even for (honest) ancient historians, these texts (the Old Testament) are not easy to dismiss, especially when they represent contemporary accounts of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. It only goes to show the arrogance of the secular world and world-view that it would take a secular text or a religious text from, say, Babylonia, and give it a measure of credence, but when it comes to the Bible the fact that the Bible says something becomes reason for these unbelievers to disbelieve. It's a madness which can only be properly understood through reference to satanic influence and opposition to the truth. Here are some other links:

Science and the Bible

The problem of science and the Bible

Charles Hodge and Charles Darwin

Is the earth ever described as round in the Bible?

The origin of the four seasons

The shape of the universe according to the Bible

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hope you are well Dr. Luginbill and 2015 finds you reaping endless blessings of good health, joy and prosperity!

In awe of His wondrous love, always,

See article below:


Is this the site of Jesus' trial? "Joel Baden is professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale University. " (CNN)Every few years, it seems, an archaeological find of major biblical significance is announced, almost always to do with either Jesus or King David. This week, it's Jesus, and it's a big one. Just inside the western walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, beneath the tall Ottoman-era fortification known misleadingly as the Tower of David, archaeologists this week proclaimed the discovery of the site of Jesus' trial by Pontius Pilate, at which he was condemned to die by crucifixion. More accurately: They proclaimed the opening to visitors (read: tourists) of the site, which has now been excavated and prepared for public viewing. Without pinpointing the precise location, scholars have known for a long time that the trial must have taken place somewhere in this general vicinity -- despite the fact that tradition has put the spot of the trial on the very opposite side of the Old City, in the Antonia Fortress. First, the background: According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus' trial before Pilate happened in a place called the praetorium. Originally a term used to signify the tent of the general when encamped for war -- and thus the place where the important military decisions were made -- praetorium came to signify the palace or administrative center for very high-ranking officials. In Jerusalem, this was the palace of Herod the Great, and according to ancient witnesses, it was at Herod's palace that visiting Roman prefects, like Pilate, would hold any necessary trials during their visits to the capital city. These same ancient writers declared that Herod's Palace was in the western part of Jerusalem -- near the Tower of David. On these grounds scholars have long doubted, indeed outright rejected, the notion that the Antonia Fortress on the northeastern side of the city was where the praetorium was located and the trial occurred. This most recent announcement is being hailed as a blockbuster, in large part because the Antonia Fortress is the first station of the cross on the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus is thought to have taken from his trial to his crucifixion and burial at Golgotha, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via Dolorosa is an important pilgrimage site and a massive tourist attraction. But if its first station is on the completely wrong side of the city, then the whole thing is cast into doubt. The Tower of David museum, which is housing the exhibit of the newly discovered trial site, is openly hoping to draw pilgrims and other interested visitors, and it is certain to get them. What should not be overlooked, however, is that an important archaeological revelation about the life and death of Jesus was effectively kept under wraps for nearly 15 years -- the discovery of Herod's Palace beneath the Tower of David was first made in 2001 as part of a museum expansion project. The timing of the announcement is linked entirely to the potential for tourist dollars, rather than to the remarkable historical and religious significance of the discovery on its own terms. This may sound cynical, but it is par for the course, especially in Jerusalem, where the integration of history, religion, archeology, and tourism is at the very heart of the city's economy. It is a safe bet that this discovery will not significantly diminish interest in walking the Via Dolorosa --customs and traditions are awfully hard to break, even with the best historical evidence. What is more likely to happen is that there will be two sites of Jesus' trial, happily coexisting, just as there are two sites of Jesus' burial: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb. Jerusalem, despite being riven by conflict, remains one of the most religiously pluralistic places on Earth, and that pluralism is nowhere better exemplified than in the sharing, duplicating, and often just plain old creating of religious sites. From a scholarly perspective, however, it is nice that in this case, the significance for the tourism industry of an archeological discovery really does match up with its significance in history. Better 15 years late than never.

Response #2: 

As to the article, I have dabbled too much with archaeology to get excited about this. To be blunt, without inscriptions which actually describe the function of ancient spaces, there is no way to make sure of such claims. Also, it is far from clear that Pilate used Herod's palace as his praetorium. Herod was a client king and I don't know of any evidence for his eviction. Even if there were some, why do these folks think this structure is the same place? The geography of Jerusalem is some of the most complicated (and deceptive) in the world, and much more open to argument than this article suggests. Plus, it is a "given" with archaeologist that only famous things are discovered. Just as in wishful-thinking genealogy we are all descended from kings and princes (even though the vast majority of the worlds population of the past were farmers), so one never discovers John Doe's tomb or a warehouse – it's always Alexander the Great or, in this case, Herod's palace. There are far too many logical jumps in these assertion-based pieces to lead me to believe that Noah's ark has been discovered (again), or that the ark of the covenant has been discovered (again) or that this is the place of Jesus' trial (etc.). So while I don't mean to dampen the enthusiasm to no purpose, it is true that such things have a tendency to capture the imagination (and thenceforth the energies and even judgment) of believers . . . which is no doubt why the evil one is always sponsoring "discoveries" of this sort.

Thanks so much for you prayers and good wishes!

Wishing you a wonderful 2015 as well!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the only truth.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

As always, I appreciate your reasoned and informed insights. When it comes to so called "evidence" of such things, I'm guilty of assuming that it has come from credible authorities who have well documented and verified source material. I really should stop reading anything on CNN, as I always seem to get sucked into the sensationalism, and blinded by my desire to believe from without. The Kingdom of God is within us where His Holy Spirit counsels as we seek Him purely. And correct you are.... it is also a huge distraction and ridiculous waste of energy. We get so excited over mention of any new discovery related to Jesus that we want to believe that it's true. God is Spirit and we must worship Him in Spirit and Truth. Leave the world to it's own devices. I vowed this year to spend more time in stillness. As the Orthodox say, "In stillness, let us worship the Incomprehensible." God's Word is enough. If we think that a "new" discovery trumps that, then we haven't spent enough time alone with God's Word.


Response #3:  

I appreciate your godly humility and your Spirit-filled common sense.

All good words here, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:


You may have answered this question regarding the Exodus route before but I will ask again.

It is my understanding that these boundaries are the Promised Land.

Exodus 23:31 " I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates River."

Genesis 15:18 "To your offspring I give this land, from the River of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,"

Numbers 34:5 "The border will turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, where it will end at the Mediterranean Sea. "

With this firm establishment of Israel's borders from the time of Abraham, the question is simple. We all know what happened when the spies returned to Kadesh Barnea. The people rebelled and the Lord banned that generation form entering the land.

Numb 14:23 "Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:"

The question is simple and fundamental. With the southern border of Israel extending from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea adjacent to the southern border of Edom, how did the Hebrews move from the Sinai to the Eastern side of Edom and Moab without crossing the southern border of Israel and thus into the Promised Land? And where did they spend their 40 years in exile? The most popular maps have the Hebrews wandering 40 years in the Negev, which is part of the Promised Land, then crossing into Edomite territory (and some maps include crossing Moab) to the east. We all know the Hebrews were forbidden entry in Edom and Moab. As for the location of the Red Sea of the southern border, rather than get into a discussion I hope we can settle for the Bible in this case.

1 Kings 9:26 "King Solomon put together a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea in the land of Edom"

If we draw a line, along the River of Egypt, from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea of Edom we see the Hebrews could not have reached the east side of Edom without crossing into the Promised Land which they were forbidden. It is my humble view that you simply cannot have the Hebrews spending 40 years in Exile from the Promised Land in the Promised Land. It makes no sense. And why, if they were in the Negev, swing so far to the east and return by crossing the Jordan when Jerusalem and Hebron were just a few miles away to the north? Modern Exodus maps have Kadesh Barnea within the southern border of Israel. It is my view that God's word should be considered first before any theory of men. God said the rebellious Hebrews would neither enter nor even see the Promised Land. And yet our children are essentially taught not to pay attention to what God actually said, or that He did not really mean what He said. Perhaps He was speaking figuratively. As for the Red Sea of the southern border, again if we follow only the bible, at least two verses make it clear that Red Sea is south of Edom. So the question remains: how did the Hebrews accomplish a journey from Sinai to east of Moab, including 40 years in Exile from the Promised land without setting foot in the Promised Land, Edom or Moab?

Looking forward to an answer.

Response #4: 

We had a long discussion about this some years ago (at the link). As I probably said then, in some way or another, I'm not a staunch traditionalist. I believe in scripture, and I believe what God says to be true. So I'm not the best representative you could find to defend what amounts to an interpretation of geographical details which may be known now only in theory (so much has changed over the millennia, both in terms of the physical geography and also of course in terms of the representations of it which are so many centuries removed from that time). Secondly, I'm not sure that there is any major spiritual issue at stake here – certainly no doctrinal one – so for that reason too I would not want to get too wrapped up in the issue (I'm a teacher of the Bible, not an archaeologist). Thirdly, there is also a principle of hermeneutics at issue: just because there are apparent problems with one way of looking at a "problem" like this does not mean, ipso facto, that an alternative view is correct. Indeed, it may also be incorrect (assuming that the "traditional" view or other related views are in fact all incorrect), and it may cause more problems than the one it is trying to solve.

If you recall from our previous discussion, my speculations on these issues are somewhat different from what is often expressed in "traditionalist" approaches to the mapping of the Exodus and the entry into the land of promise. In any case, we know what the Bible says, and we know it is true, and we can glean all of the important spiritual points without recourse to a map or archaeological data or arguments about place names. Matching scripture to chronology and/or geography is a difficult task (as is the case in all of ancient history), and archaeology is often misleading in this regard. That said, there is a reason why there is a "traditional view" of the route (with important variations according to the interpreter, as mentioned), and that is because it "works", more or less, and that is why almost everyone in the past has landed in pretty much the same place (with minor differences as noted). If that view were "absolutely wrong" in fact, and if you are the first to come across the correct interpretation which "solves all the problems", then you are certainly to be commended.

Perhaps, then, it's best to start by making sure that your theory (which is not spelled out in detail here) does not cause more problems than it solves.

First, if none of that generation would "see" or "enter" the land is to be understood as an absolute, how do you explain the fact that we know of at least twelve men who did (Joshua, Caleb and the ten other spies)?

Second, if Kadesh is not technically in the land, how do you explain, e.g., Joshua 10:41 in light of Joshua 10:40?

Thirdly, where is Hormah? This is the place towards which the Israelites were repulsed when they tried to break into the land outside of the will of God. It would seem to have to be then in fairly close proximity to Kadesh, and that will have to be explained in light of e.g., Josh.12:14 compared with Josh.12:7-8. It seems to be within the greater eschatological boundaries of Israel as well.

In sum, establishing narrow definitional arguments and deducing conclusions from them indirectly can produce bad results when it comes to biblical interpretation. The Exodus generation wandered 40 years and did not cross the Jordan nor did they receive their inheritance "in the land". Even if their route of wandering took them across territory which will one day be part of greater Israel (a territory which has not yet once been completely under Jewish control), I do not see how that would violate the spirit and therefore the truth of our Lord's words. I rather suspect this is because crossing a barren that may technically be part of the greater territory of Israel in the future is not at all the same thing as "coming into the land" (Num.14:30) – which suggests a finality of arrival and also enjoying the fruits of entry and conquest, or "knowing" or intimately working/enjoying the land (Num.14:31) – which only their descendants would do.

As I say, if you have come up with a different way to understand these matters, that is commendable. However, if the theory requires forcing other geographical passages into a Procrustean mold based on a prior placing of meaning on our Lord's statements which they are not in fact meant to have, then take care that the cure is not worse than the disease.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, whose truth is our guide and heart's desire.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

Historian Edward Gibbon was famous for speculating that Christianity played a role in the collapse of Rome during the 5th century. However, let's look at this from another perspective: the most powerful empire on Earth has become the most Christian country on Earth. The truth of the gospel was widely available in codex form, in the lingua franca of Europe (Latin), which would have inevitably spread by means of the economic trade with all the other nations of the Earth. Satan must have been getting pretty nervous at this point. But surrounding Rome were hordes of pagans that practiced extremely brutal and violent pillaging, and thus were easily under the sway of the evil one. It wasn't Christians who rebelled and fought against the government of Rome (in fact, Julian the Apostate lamented that Christians provided better social service than the government!), but it was Alaric the Great (an Arian and thus not a believer) who sacked Rome.

Gibbon's thesis would have more gravity if Christians were rebellious and ruining the efficiency of the government, but the exact opposite was true. If anything, the collapse of Rome was most likely the work of Satan through pagan and unbelieving tribes.


Response #5:  

I mentioned that I love history, and Christian (or "Church") history (or the role played by Christianity in secular history) is also an interest – but in terms of the latter, there is really a very limited amount of information we can garner from extra-biblical sources about generations past when it comes to spiritual matters. Think about it. If history continued several more millennia without the second advent (only hypothetical, of course) the "church history" of our day would talk about Billy Graham and Joel Osteen perhaps, but even more about the popes and the course of Roman Catholicism, the decline of the Greek Orthodox faith and of old line Protestant denominations, about women gaining access to the pulpit and the cloth, about gay marriage becoming more and more acceptable, in short, about all manner of things which really have almost nothing to do with the true history of the actual "Church of Christ", namely, what is going on in the hearts of genuine believers, and especially in the hearts of believers who are genuinely pursing spiritual growth, progress and production. These are the individual who are going to be rewarded substantially before the bema of Christ. Similarly, one wonders if Constantine was even a believer; it is safe to say that organized Christianity at least by the time of the fall of the city of Rome was in dire spiritual straits, and things went from bad to worse until the old religious structure fractured a millennium later and the remaining believers left. In short, the "Christianity" that concerned Gibbon (and was knowable to historians) was/is not the true history of Christianity of the period at all (from God's point of view). That is lost to secular history – but the actual spiritual history of all eras will live forever in the New Jerusalem once "the day" reveals all things – and we will no doubt learn many interesting things when all our true brothers and sisters are rewarded along with us on that great day to come.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

If this is the case for documented history, then how much more for "reconstructed" history!

As for Constantine, when it comes to determining who is and who isn't a believer, these two verses come to mind:

"Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:3)

"This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world." (I John 4:2-3)

The Bible is very clear about this: absolutely nobody can make a public witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is God Himself in human flesh unless they are a believer. Furthermore, it is very obvious what constitutes a witness to the truth and what doesn't, so the idea that someone could "secretly" be an unbeliever but give a witness to the person of Jesus Christ is absolutely, 100% impossible. The converse is true as well: nobody can deny the person of Jesus Christ and be a believer (which is why the punishment of taking the mark of the beast is what it is).

This is also why I find the Calvinist position that apostates who proclaimed Christ were never believers in the first place to be total straw. If it is possible to give a witness to the person of Jesus Christ but be an unbeliever, then there is no reason for the Gospel to exist whatsoever.


Response #6: 

I certainly agree. However, it is rare for people to make such specific professions of faith which are unambiguous, especially in public. For that reason, people are often misled. I have seen Mormons crying while expressing ecstatically their love for Jesus. Are they saved? They didn't go into the specifics of his deity (which we know their religion/cult does not accept). So when, for example, a football player points to the sky after making some play he's happy about, people may take it that he is a believer, but maybe not. Also, in the history of the world, plenty of people have said "good things" about God and Jesus although they were not saved (usually doing so for political advantage). Hence my point about Constantine.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is God and man, and who died in the darkness of Calvary for all of our sins.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Freedom of christianity: Constantine the great

Greetings Dr.

I have been reading about how the early church was persecuted, and how God manifested Himself in those tribulations of the Christians. How they would not freely preach the gospel in public, but now there was a convert in the Roman empire; Constantine the great. Was he right by legalising Christianity? I mean looking at the lives of Christians today, or was it in line with prophesy?

Response #7:  

Good to make your acquaintance.

While it was dangerous to be labeled a Christian in the Roman Empire (because of the fact of execution for being unwilling to sacrifice to the emperor), I find no particular evidence for any lack of willingness to spread the gospel (please see the link: "The Ichthys Symbol"). Indeed, it was only by sharing the truth that Christians came to be the dominate group in Rome. As for Constantine, what he did he seems to have done largely for political purposes. Naturally, I can't judge the man's heart – only God can do that. But I will say that the only place where it has ever been legitimate to have a state-sponsored "religion" where no other "religion" is/was tolerated was ancient Israel – because that was God's own nation/people and He was the true Sovereign. In Rome or today or in any other place before or since the best thing is "religious freedom". Genuine Christianity, of course, is not a religion but is the truth. However, to make it mandatory is an evil thing. A person can only be a Christian through an act of faith in committing to Christ from one's own free will. No amount of pressure will produce genuine conversion (even if a person is made to say all the right things). And even if there is no coercion, state-sponsorship is very bad for many other reasons as well. For one thing, it accelerates the influx of false brethren into the church visible, precisely because they want to reap all the advantages of the favored religion and to avoid all the disadvantages of being on the outside. In truth, there is only one true Church, the Church of Jesus Christ which is composed of all those who are truly born again and truly belong to Him through faith in the gospel. He knows who are His. And no earthly organization calling itself Christian can compete with that.

Please see the link for discussion of the Church era in question: in CT 2A "Pergamum"

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8: 

Do you think that the Emperor Hadrian's decision to rebuild a pagan city in dedication to Jupiter Capitolinus was on the same level of evil as Antiochus Epiphanes' decision to dedicate the temple to himself?

Response #8: 

Well, the latter is used by Daniel as a paradigm/analogy/type of antichrist, but as far as I know the former is not even mentioned in scripture.

I think we can safely assume that they are both in hell. His predecessor Trajan wrote to Pliny the Younger that Christians should not be ferreted out, but if it came up that someone was a Christian and refused to worship to the emperor, they should be executed.

In Jesus Christ our Lord, whether we live or die.

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Why did Herod rebuild the temple?

Response #9:  

Herod didn't rebuild the temple; Herod embellished it. As to the why, no doubt for the same reason that dictators and kings have always erected monumental edifices, namely, to promote their own glory. In Herod's case, this may also have had a political purpose. He was not beloved among the priestly caste or within most of the major politico-religious groups in Judea (i.e., the Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots and Essenes), being an Idumean and owing his rule to the hated Romans. But becoming the patron par-excellence of the religious trappings of Jerusalem no doubt produced much good will (not to mention patronage et al.).

Question #10: 

Hello Bob,

I hope you’re doing well. I am feeling much better in my walk and I am moving forward again. I still have days but I’m able to handle them better with reading and study and help from you and your site. I think I just might make it!

I’m studying in Matthew and I had a question about the birth of Jesus and the death of Herod. I’ve understood that Jesus was born in 2 B.C. My NASB study Bible has a chart of Herod’s family tree and it says he died in 4 B.C. Another study Bible I have has a footnote that says Herod died in 4 B.C. but Jesus had to have been born in 6 B.C. and our current calendars are off. The family tree shows Herod the Great and his son Archelaus with his wife Malthace, which would line up with Matthew 2:22. I’ve read through BB 4A Christology: The Study Of Jesus, and I didn’t see anything there about a discrepancy in dates. Is the Herod who died in 4 B.C. the same Herod who was king when Jesus was born? Is the date of his death wrong?

In Him,

Response #10: 

Good to hear from you as always – and thanks for the encouraging report!

The chronology of Jesus' birth is covered in part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series; here is what I say about the Herod issue in that piece (footnote #63):

[that the birth of Christ occurred in] 2 B.C., as opposed to 1 B.C., is also required because of the need to place the birth of Christ before the death of Herod (cf. Matt.2:1-19). Although many have found such a late date for the death of Herod impossible, it is important to note that our only source for the earlier dating of his demise is Flavius Josephus, a somewhat dilettantish historian. Moreover, it is entirely possible that Josephus' statements in this regard have been wrongly interpreted in any case. See W.E. Filmer, "The Chronology of the Reign of Herod the Great", Journal of Theological Studies 17 (1966) 283-298, who proposes January of 1 B.C. as the time of Herod's death. This date leaves ample time for a December 2 B.C. birth of Christ, the events of Matthew 2:1-9, and the death of Herod immediately following.

The point is that the grounds for being dogmatic about 4 B.C. for Herod's death are very flimsy, based entirely on the common interpretation (one which as Filmer suggests may be wrong) of one historian whose track record on getting things right is not overly impressive. In any case, I can tell you from my own work in ancient history (my "day job") that ancient chronology is a very complicated affair (for lots of reasons), and that there are few dates which are so solidly discernible so as to be able to be absolutely dogmatic about them. Herod's death certainly is not one of these (far from it). So even without the points above, we should still rather prefer the information to be gleaned from scripture even if it seems to conflict with secular sources (which, as I say, is not even clearly the case here).

Keep running the good race!

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Good day,

I have found myself going down a spiritual rabbit hole concerning non Biblical documents for the historicity of Jesus: Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the younger, Celus etc. I thought it would be enlightening, however I found this to be a hotly debated topic. The skeptics say that the documents were tampered with by Christians i.e. lying for God's glory. Yet my faith remains unscathed. As if science and Christianity are mutually exclusive? And also the statements that Jesus was a fictional conglomerate of previous pagan gods i.e. Serapis. Anyway, I just wanted your take on it or if you have even pursued this direction.

Thanks and God bless,

Response #11:  

Good to hear from you again. That really is a "rabbit hole". Let me put it this way, we have more documentary proof for the actual life of Jesus Christ than we do for all of ancient Rome and ancient Greece, both in terms of volume of evidence and variety of sources (the entire New Testament with all of its books and epistles; the apostolic fathers, and all of the early church writings, including, for example, Eusebius; and an embarrassing mountain of manuscripts of each which put everything in the Classics to shame, with the lone exception of Homer). If Jesus were, say, a philosopher instead of the Son of God, no secular person in their right mind would dream of arguing that "he didn't exist". And no honest unbeliever (or an academic unbeliever concerned about his/her own credibility) would actually dare to make that argument today either. Only someone with an atheistic or anti-Christian ax to grind would be saying something like that. It's not skepticism; and it's certainly not "science"; it's taking a contrarian position against mountains of evidence parti pris.

As to references in secular historians, small wonder that our Lord and the fledgling Church received little notice – this was a blessing from the Spirit; otherwise the secular opposition would have been even more tremendous than it was. That said, the citations in Tacitus and Pliny are legitimate references to the early Church (with the one in Tacitus being significant for the name "Christian"; please see the link).

In short, I'm not sure what the issue is. For every principle of truth in scripture, historical or otherwise, one can easily find secular "scientists" or "historians" or "experts" who oppose and ridicule it. Would we really expect anything less of the devil? After all, the Word of truth is the Spirit's sword (Eph.6:17; cf. Heb.4:12). Christians who apply themselves to the Word grow, progress and end up serving Jesus Christ. The truth is the most dangerous thing in the world to the father of lies. It will always be opposed, early and often, and on every level.

But you, dear friend, keep fighting the good fight of faith in the power of the truth.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12: 


I was researching "Jezebel" (Rev 2:20-23) and I came across the "Seven Churches" article on your website. I enjoy your in-depth site. I have a question that may be complicated, and I really need a Biblical answer to. Do you believe God was giving "Jezebel" the false prophet time to repent of her activity in the church? Or, was she given space to repent of personal immoral sins before she became a "false prophet" in the church? For her to call herself a "prophetess" and lead Christians astray makes her a sort of "criminal" in a way. Did God give her space to repent of that "crime?" Or was she given space to repent before God allowed her to become a "criminal", by that time it was too late? (By your article, I can't tell if you think "her" represents a group of people, or just an individual.) Her time given to repent is written in a way to show it is past tense (in verse 21) by the time the letter was written. In verse 20, we see her activity had gone on for some length of time already. But, I can't tell if that "space to repent" was given within the beginnings of her grave error in the church, or was that repentance period given beforehand? If you think "Jezebel" stands for a sect, it would mean the space to repent was in the church.

Does God forgive false doctrine, I guess, is the question I really ask? Technically, a false gospel brings anathema. I don't know if that is a curse that God will remove if one repents, though. And, I'm not sure if Jezebel technically was touching the doctrines of salvation (the Gospel), of if she had an extreme mindset of Christian liberties. I know the church is not to tolerate her at all, and she is an enemy to God's people. I was told by another that to not tolerate her meant to expel her and not evne try to reform her. (By the time the letter was written, it looked too late to even carry the letter over to her, and warn her.) Of course, false teaching shouldn't be allowed in any church. But, would "Jezebel" be allowed to remain in church if she had sincerely repented? Or, does that letter show that church (and any church nowadays) that a person like that is to be removed and not be allowed back in (even if they repent), because it is too late?

Thanks for your time and help.

Response #12: 

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your questions, the seven churches (please see the link: CT 2A: "The Seven Churches"), in addition to being actual local churches in John's day, are, even more importantly, representatives of the seven Church eras of the Church Age which is now on the point of drawing to a close. Thyatira represents the penultimate era of the middle ages (ca. 802 to 1162 A.D.), and Jezebel represents that element within the church-visible which is not genuinely Christian (the one which would, in the next Church era, that of Smyrna, develop into the imperial Roman Catholic church as we now know it). Jezebel therefore does not represent a sect, per se, but a cadre of unbelieving opportunists who were using institutionalized Christianity as it then existed to their own advantage: Satan's "anti-Church" in the sense both of replacing the true Church with a false substitute and opposing it with false teaching meant to deceive. Rather than throwing the offenders out of their fellowship, as the true believers of that time should have done, they were tolerating Jezebel within their midst (one of the many negative side-effects of the general ecumenicalism of that day). The "adultery", therefore, is spiritual unfaithfulness. Paying attention to false teachings (the "deep things of Satan") was part and parcel of idolatry in its essential sense. For what are the false rites and rituals and false teachings of Rome if not a modern form of paganism whitewashed over to appear to look like a version of the ancient Jewish religion (temples, alters, sacrifices, priests, censers, etc.)? The details of this explanation are to be found at the link in Coming Tribulation part 2A: "Jezebel".

As to the historical church of Thyatira, our Lord says at Revelation 2:21 that He had at that point already given this false prophet "time to repent", so that the judgment against her was already underway. Our Lord is incredibly merciful, but when it comes to looking out for His sheep, He is a most loving and protective Shepherd. Anyone who is seducing other believers to follow what is false cannot and must not be tolerated within the fellowship of the faithful: that is our Lord's attitude and it should be ours as well, and if we do not take appropriate action, He most definitely will. From the historical or main application of this passage, Thyatira represents the last chance for the ecumenical one-church organization. By this time, it had been thoroughly infiltrated by the "Jezebel crowd"; if they were not thrown out immediately, complete death of anything good within the organization would have occurred – and did occur (as the next Church era of Smyrna demonstrates, not to mention the history of the imperial Roman Catholic church). So for the historical person in question in John's day, for the Church era of Thyatira, and for all individuals and groups who parallel them, God's approach is the same. Genuine believers who err need to turn from and confess their sins to be restored to fellowship; had the woman done so, she could have been restored (assuming she was a believer). But for believers (or groups) who go on in their sins and sinfulness, divine discipline will continue to increase until, if a point of complete rebellion be reached, the result is the sin unto death. In some cases, as seems to be the case for Jezebel and also most definitely for Rome, apostasy is the result instead (rather than our Lord's removal of the person/group in question immediately, He allows them to depart from Him; see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). Persons and groups who/which are not just involved in sin but in gross evil, and who/which are willfully suborning believers to fall into the same trap, have long since left our Lord Jesus Christ and His truth far behind. Their end is destruction for they have made themselves enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil.3:18-19).

These things are all a matter of choice. In other words, it is not God who limits these people; they limit themselves. He is willing for all to be saved; those who are not saved perish because they have chosen to reject Him. There is no indication in these verses that Jezebel or the individuals she represents had the least inclination to return to the Lord (He is happy to receive any prodigal son who genuinely wants to come back to Him). Indeed, her/their deeds testify against her/them: there is no worse or more evil deed than dragging others down to perdition along with oneself, as all these parties in question were doing with vigor:

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:6 NKJV

You asked a lot of questions here, and I think I have covered your areas of concern, but please do feel free to write back if you have further things you wish to have clarified about this passage or this posting.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #13: 

Dear Bob,

It is also nice to meet you! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this reply to me. I deeply appreciate it. I needed somebody that really knew the Scriptures to answer these questions. I really appreciate your in-depth Bible knowledge and your writing skills (glory to God alone, of course, for skills/gifts He gives). Thanks be to God for your reply.

I just was confused about Jezebel's space of repentance given. I couldn't tell if she was given a "last call" within her horrible evil, or if her "last call" was given before she entered into that evil. (I wasn't sure if she had, for example, been involved in sexual immorality in her personal life for years beforehand, and because she didn't repent of those sins, she was judged to fulfill that role as a "false prophet.") Now, it is clear to me by your note.

My confusion came down to this: Jezebel's actions just sounded like descriptions in 2 Peter 2 and Jude, so I couldn't tell if she was already "twice dead" and "perished in Korah's rebellion" (Jude) yet. Your reply to me about Jezebel (and your link to "Apostasy: Sin Unto Death") made it clear she wasn't fully there quite yet.

Because of the distinction between the word "prophet" and "teacher" in verses Matthew 23:34 and 2 Peter 2 (although those terms, prophet and teacher, are similar), I've wondered if some false prophets could possibly still be a "partial apostate" (where hope is still available, if they repent), while a "false teacher" could be a "full apostate" (and that is why it says "twice dead" in Jude). Your reply seems to possibly confirm that. Correct?

Balancing other verses on the same subject, I also notice the Gospel talks about false prophets (in Matthew 7:15-19), and those verses sound like there could be an opening for a "bad tree" to repent and produce "good fruit" before being cut down. It sounds like Jezebel wasn't "cut down" yet in Revelation 2:20-23, but was nearing that. Correct? I notice the Gospel doesn't have verses like that on a false teacher, although some people might consider the Pharisees an example of one.

I don't want to take anymore of your time, but can you just simply confirm those two "Correct's" (in red)? All I need is a "correct, correct." If something is wrong, can you please correct me? I won't take anymore of your time after this email.

Thanks so much,

Response #13:  

You're very welcome.

As to your two further questions:

1) On the one hand, where there is life, there is hope. If a person is still in the world, that person still has free will, and therefore a complete change of mind is still a possibility in most cases (although there are exceptions: taking the mark of the beast seems to represent crossing a line which cannot be re-crossed – or in any event will not be re-crossed: Rev.14:9-11). In practical terms, it is very rare for anyone who has gone down the road of evil so far as to be an advocate for it ("teacher" or "prophet") ever to turn back. I don't know of any biblical examples of this. We do have to account for the possibility, however. As you note, the Lord gave the Jezebel of Revelation chapter two "time to repent". And there are some examples of extraordinarily wicked individuals repenting and turning back to the Lord. King Manasseh is one (2Chron.33:13-19), and also the apostle Paul who by his own reckoning was "the worst of sinners" (1Tim.1:15-16). So on the one hand we should never sell short the grace of God; on the other we have to be realistic about the odds of those who have completely sold themselves to Satan ever recovering.

2) God often allows the wicked to remain for a time, but not forever (e.g., Ps.37:35-36; Ps.73:1ff.). His reasons are as manifold as His unsearchable wisdom. What we can say for certain is that a) everything He has ever done is completely fair; b) everything He does is always for the purpose of "working all things out together for good for those who love Him"; and c) no wicked or evil person ever "gets away" with anything: in the end, all who have rejected Him not only die physically (very often in ways that demonstrate His displeasure with them very graphically) but also of course face the second death.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

I would like to know who was Junias in Romans 16; was this an apostle?

Response #14: 

Good to hear from you.

For Junias/Junia, see the links:

153 Fish

Paul's family

There is nothing known definitively about this person (the name may be masc. or fem., depending upon accentuation, and the accents were not written in the ancient manuscripts at the earliest dates). As to the "apostle" part, there are two types in the NT, apostle = missionary, someone "sent forth" by a local congregation on a particular "mission", and Apostle with a capital "A", i.e., the twelve (only) apostles of Christ (whoever Junia/Junias was, he/she was not one of the twelve). But even unknown today outside of this reference, what a profound honor to have one's name in the Word of Truth forever! We will definitely know our brother (or sister) on that wonderful day to come when all are rewarded before Christ's judgment seat.

Yours in Jesus Christ the Lord,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Today my Bible Study leader was going over the woman at the well. And even though it is not in the Bible, she shared how the Catholic church felt her name was Photena, five sisters and one brother, and Nero killed her. They believe she went around preaching and teaching the gospel then after her death her sisters continued.

Even though the Bible does not say anything further about the women at the well, is there anything you have through your many yrs. of study and teaching God's Word?

I know it shared about the Samaritans and through Jesus teaching they believed.

And so when something is not further mentioned in the Bible I feel it has it's place and anything that is repeated and further Bks. of the Bible teach on it then it is something God wants us to know, remember, and apply in our Christian walk and sharing with others.

Thank you

Response #15:  

Good to hear from you as always.

The legend of Photina is part of a collection of materials called the history of the martyrs, a variety of texts written sometime ca. the 9th century, and explaining in many cases the lives and acts of the "saints" of the respective churches; the details about this particular "saint" go back to the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox church (in my understanding of the matter), though it would not be surprising or irregular if the R.C. church claims her too and follows the same traditions about her.

Where do these stories come from? In truth we cannot say. The odds of an oral tradition containing these details surviving eight centuries and being correct in all of its details are astronomical, apart from God. But God has only preserved the Bible in this miraculous way, not traditions. Indeed, the whole point of having a written Bible is so that we may know the truth and not be subject to being "swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit" (Eph.4:14). Anyone can makes claims to know what happened in the past. Secular ancient history has records and methods to evaluate those records and sources, and even in that discipline there is much about ancient history which is "up in the air". We have nothing of the sort when it comes to the stories which have accreted around biblical characters – although we do know for certain that many such works are apocryphal (the false gospels, for example; see the link). In this case, my first question would be how did a Samaritan woman come to have a Greek name?

What can be the harm of believing such stories, even if, as is undoubtedly usually the case, they are largely or entirely made up? The harm can be great indeed. While I don't necessarily see anything untoward in the legend that has grown up about this woman and her family, the mere fact that it might not be true (and almost certainly is not entirely true) should have any good Christian wincing. After all, we can only grow through the actual truth, not "nice stories" (however inspiring). And it is also the fact that the evil one always uses an outer coating of sweetness and light to cover over the lies he wishes to spin. When it comes to something like this, the problems are not necessarily so obvious at first. But consider, the practice of venerating saints and the legends surrounding them is part and parcel of the rot and decay that ruined the Eastern church and even more so the Western church until both became spiritually dead and occasioned the Reformation. So while I have no problem with Christians reading mythology, we need to understand that that is what it is. The moment we begin to invest any spiritual significance whatsoever in mythology, be it pagan or "Christian", we are going to be doing ourselves serious spiritual harm.

Keep on fighting the good fight of faith!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

After studying how humans obtain knowledge and how sensory information integrates with our knowledge, I have concluded that it is impossible for humans to not have a spirit that is responsible for recording knowledge.

Aristotle delineated the five traditional senses, but what he didn't know is that there are multifaceted senses throughout our body, such as our sense of time, our sense of the circadian cycle, or even senses of our brain state (such as confusion). Each one of these senses sends information, but to where?

As it turns out, the simplest assumption involves the distinguishing of noumenon, which is the physical item-in-itself, the phenomenon, which is the symbol that stands for the noumenon (we call these symbols senses) and the interpreter of the noumenon. If human beings were purely physical, than why would we need phenomenon to interpret the physical world? The existence of a symbol inherently implies that there is something that is being communicated, which in turns that there is something that is being communicated to. This something is the human spirit. Q.E.D.

Response #16: 

Sounds like you've been reading Plato! I've long thought that his philosophical inquiries do lead in this direction – but then every fishmonger down at the Piraeus knew there was a God just from being in and observing the world (see the link: Natural Revelation). What we do with this most critical information is what is important. And for those of us who respond in the right way so as to be born again, one chapter of the Bible is worth all the philosophy ever written.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi Bob,

Plato's argument that people do evil because they are ignorant of good is entirely correct. The only reason why people sin is because they are ignorant of good, and nobody who has knowledge of good can sin. However, all ignorance is willful ignorance. Being ignorant is not a passive behavior, but an active one, because the ignoramus must consistently choose to not learn and consistently choose to be ignorant. Satan, despite all of his wisdom, continues to rage the war against God because he is willfully ignorant.


Response #17:  

So, in other words, Plato was dead wrong. If ignorance is willful, if "knowing good" means, choosing what is good, and if "not knowing" means making a conscience decision to harden one's heart to the point where good is bad and bad is good, then we have really turned Plato upside down. Plato has been much beloved over the millennia, especially by Christians and people with a good moral compass, but the problem with his argument is that it makes the environment the problem and people "basically good". In reality, people are "basically bad" (possessing a sin nature), regardless of the environment (choosing good or evil is done with free will). Trying to correct "the problem" via Platonic reasoning led to the Soviet Union, Gulags, and the murder of tens upon tens of millions (Communism is a Platonic philosophy). That's one way to change the environment: kill tens of millions, impoverish and enslave hundreds of millions, and terrorize everyone else. This, by the way, was started by "basically good" people (so they said) trying to achieve "goodness" on earth . . . without Jesus Christ. Antichrist will make use of similar propaganda, so it's good to get these things straightened out before "the balloon goes up".

Yours in the only One who was ever "good", the dear Lord Jesus Christ who died to cover our sins with His blood.

Bob L.

Question #18: 

I have a great sympathy for most of the victims of the Soviet Union, because to this day I choose ignorance all the time. The finite nature of the human body forces us to choose ignorance, which is the root reason why it is impossible for anybody to not sin. The only way I can avoid all sin is if I were to be free of ignorance, but this is impossible. The righteous man will meditate on God's law as frequently as he can, but nobody can do this all the time. When unbelievers blame God for not providing the gospel to someone in the middle of nowhere, I dispute their implicit assumption that ignorance is a passive behavior, dependent on circumstances. All ignorance, be it of spiritual things or of intellectual things, stems from an active decision to not learn. The ignorance of anyone is active rebellion against God, when it comes to spiritual manners, and foolishness, when it comes to general intellectual manners.

Response #18: 

Yes, it's all about choice. We know perfectly well that sin is sin; we (informed Christians) even know that it has consequences – and not just academically (we have suffered divine discipline in the past). And yet, we sometimes sin nonetheless. That really isn't ignorance so much as it is arrogance. I will allow that arrogance blinds the heart (this explains the devil), but that is a choice. Q.E.D. So while I am sympathetic to the argument, it's a bit like going too far with the truth of predestination and then excusing things as "fate"; similarly, in my view all believers need to accept responsibility for their actions. That is an essential ingredient in staying spiritually safe. As long as responsibility is accepted, philosophy is fine.

Question #19: 

Dr. Bob,

God bless and I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I pray for your ministry continually.

I have a quick question. Was Plato and/or Socrates believers of Christ. I know they were born prior to Christ birth but some of their philosophical writings about the Oneness of the creator and its overall form being good sounds like they were nascent believers searching for the truth.

Thank you again.

Response #19:  

I have read plenty of Plato (in Greek) and plenty about Socrates (Plato and Xenophon being the two solid sources on his life and teachings), and I can assure you that neither one of them was a believer.

Just because someone is "good" or is "seeking knowledge" or acknowledges "the existence of God" or "understands that God is good and righteous and all-powerful" or accepts that He "created the world and everything in it" does not at all mean that said person is saved. After all, every single human being who has ever lived (and come to normal mental maturity) has understood all these things – at least at first early in life before rejecting the importance of these truths (see the link: BB 4B Soteriology). Putting them down in a philosophical format or discussing them in terms of upright behavior is perhaps encouraging for Christians to hear (which explains why Plato was a hero of sorts to many early church fathers), but it would be a mistake to extrapolate from any of that a true saving faith. Believers are born-again: they have been transformed by the power and grace of God and have eternal life; many unbelievers are "good" in the world's eyes – for all sorts of reasons, many of them legitimate. Believers are righteous – in God's eyes – having been justified by Him by their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith represents a decision to trust God's truth about Jesus Christ and to rely on God for salvation. Thus it is both an acceptance of the truth He shares about Himself and a willingness to accept Him on His terms, trusting Him for deliverance from sin and death. It's very clear from Platonic (and from what can tell about Socratic) teachings that pagan ideas have been accepted in many cases instead of the truth, and that no sense is present of the understanding of deliverance from sin through God's Substitute provided for us all and accepted through faith. Even before the incarnation, cross and resurrection, the Old Testament looked forward albeit through shadows to the time when God would provide such a Substitute (see the link: the protoevangelium). There's no trace of any of this in any Greek philosophy – or in any other philosophy or religion apart from the Bible.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hi Bob,

I never saw philosophy as antithetical to the truth. My definition of philosophy is simply a field of study (which includes Christian Theology) abstracted to the highest possible level. Even mundane subjects like your favorite T.V. show can be philosophy. Vain philosophy, however, is called out in the New Testament as something we should stay away from. But Paul uses many philosophical arguments in his epistles, and the Book of Ecclesiastes is the greatest philosophical treatise ever written.

Anyway, what is your opinion on Immanuel Kant and Plato? I've always found the idealist school to be quite fascinating.


Response #20: 

Of course in Byzantine times Christian scholars were likewise enamored of Plato and Aristotle, and that trend continued into relatively recent times until scholarship officially divorced itself from any fig-leaf of a connection with Christianity. The world is filled with God's truth (natural revelation; see the link). But this truth written in what He has created serves the purpose of turning the world to God – all who wish to escape death and judgment by embracing His grace, that is (sadly, a miniscule percentage of human beings since the fall of Adam and Eve). Apart from God's direct revelation of Himself to us (special revelation = only the Bible, today), there can be no unique understanding of Him and His ways. Secular philosophy is thus completely hamstrung in gaining any truly deep insights into these greater truths – beyond detailed consideration of the basic principles of life which every human being knows instinctively and from general observation of life by the time he/she reaches mental maturity. Anything beyond this developed by any human system apart from God's direct revelation of His truth will be wrong – or only partially right (which is usually worse than being wrong because it may be entertaining or seductive on account of the "right" parts and will then lead those enamored of it into believing the "wrong" parts). Personally, I wouldn't call the Bible philosophical – but that is neither here nor there. It is God's truth. His complete and perfect message for us who believe. Whatever form or format the various books take and whatever approaches or arguments the various human authors make, the Holy Spirit controlled the entire process to ensure that it is entirely pure in its presentation of the truth – and is absolutely complete.

Plato and Kant are good examples of the above. The former has many things to which a Christian can relate . . . up to a point (and then the end result is disturbingly wrong on every hand); the latter produced probably the finest demonstration of natural revelation outside of a scriptural approach that has ever seen the light of day . . . but in my opinion missed the most important insight in the whole issue of epistemology (namely, that there is no epistemological problem for believers because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit; 1Cor. chapter 2; see the links: "Faith Epistemology", "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth", and in BB 5A: "Gospel Epistemology").

I very much enjoy Plato as a stylist in Greek. He's really fascinating to read in the original because of his unique use of the language (not at all evident and hence deathly boring in English, again, in my opinion) – but I don't expect to meet him in heaven (or anyone else who put his philosophy over scripture).

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the very truth.

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hi Bob,

The philosopher Peter Suber wrote this considering the leftist culture of Academia:

'As a result, conservative critics conclude that higher education is a world apart, out of touch with traditional political values, and dangerous for exercising its power over 18 year olds while it is in this state. In this form, the complaint is strikingly similar to the charges against Socrates 2400 years ago: making the weaker argument appear the stronger, disbelief in the gods, and corrupting youth. These routine controversies are not new.'

When he put it like this, I am now starting to think that it is likely that Socrates was executed because he was indeed doing all those things: making the weaker argument appear the stronger, promoting atheism, and corrupting the youth. While I cannot side with the Athenians who executed him, given that they wanted him to return to worship of the pagan gods, I can say that whatever direction Socrates was heading was worse than the status quo.

Perhaps the most serious charge against Socrates is "making the weaker argument appear the stronger." Truth doesn't need an argument, because what is true and what is not is intuitive to all of us. The fact that people are evil and do not reach the same conclusions does not change the clear, prima facie nature of truth. Socratic dialogue pretends to be free-minded inquiry, but in essence it is a subterfuge for the purpose of abandoning natural revelation in exchange for slavery. In this sense, the rejection by philosophers of natural revelation in exchange for some "system", be it Kantianism, existentialism, Thomism (Christians don't get off easy on this score), Aristotelianism, Platonism, utilitarianism, Hegelianism, or who-knows-what does not make Philosophy a form of the truth, but instead makes it an anti-truth, which is worse than an outright falsehood.

Response #21:  

The "weaker/stronger" charge is unfair and comes from Aristophanes' Clouds. (where for humorous effect the poet portrays Socrates as a sophist – he was not).  His work gives one of three pictures of Socrates, the other two being Plato's work, but the third Xenophon's. All are quite different. I think we can dismiss Aristophanes' entirely; with Plato we have to ask what belongs to Plato and what to Socrates; with Xenophon we have to do with a man of practical brilliance not really much taken with theoretical philosophy (his Memorabilia presents a man engaged in refuting sophistry).

No one can get far with the truth – beyond natural revelation – apart from God's direct message, so I have never been one to wax lyrical about Socrates or Plato (though in the history of Christianity many have fallen into this trap). But as a matter of historical objectivity, it's not much use debating about the views of a person whose exact words were never written down, especially since he has been so variously interpreted by his own contemporaries.

Bob L.

Question #22: 

My comment wasn't really about debating the views of a person who is remembered far more often because of his life rather than his teachings, but rather against the historical philosophical notion represented by Peter Suber, namely that the challenging of traditional ideas is excusable because argument reveals truth. However, the reason people take theoretical philosophy with contempt is because all people start out being able to tell the true from the false. It's only through the deliberated dialectic that people become desensitized to the truth.

In this sense, the "weaker/stronger" charge is a very pithy summary of the main problem with philosophy. Epistemologically speaking, we need not fear making claims about God (as Kant has suggested) because truth has a non-cognitive component and most "salt of the earth" types understand this quite well. If it is the case that the current set of academics and their insistence on cultural Marxism is simply carrying the Socratic tradition, then I can only ask if the tradition is worth carrying.

Response #22: 

Which is why I prefer the Bible to philosophy. Philosophy, the "love of the truth" is essentially wrong headed because only God has the truth.

Question #23: 

But what if we need philosophy to protect ourselves from bad philosophy? And if that is the case, then is philosophy synonymous with apologetics?

Response #23:  

So this is a question of definitions. If it is followed, at least, philosophy is a bad thing, scripturally speaking (Col.2:8). However, it is true that we all have our own gifts and our own fields of ministry. Just as the average Christian has no real need of learning biblical Hebrew, so the average Christian has no real need of learning philosophy. But if a person's gifts/ministry is apologetically inclined, then it certainly behooves said person to learn well whatever field he/she will be contending in. Anyone wanting to take evolution to task had better learn science very well; anyone wanting to counter cults and false religions had better make a very detailed study of them and their beliefs; likewise, anyone wishing to be able to point out to Christians the problems with philosophy of whatever ilk (historical, analytical, or anything contemporary with new "wrinkles") needs to be fully vested in all the details of the false system being combated as well as the background and milieu of the discipline generally.

But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
1st Corinthians 7:7 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hi Bob,

After careful inspection, I've determined that Kant and the German idealists were 10x better than the philosophers of antiquity. I think Hegel was also very interesting, although his willingness to equivocate the "Geist" with God is somewhat blasphemous. As someone who studied German, what do you think of Hegel? Even though I hate philosophy, I like the parts of it that get closer to God's natural revelation. I feel that the German idealists were the closest that got to a systematic study of natural revelation.

Response #24: 

I agree with your overall assessment, and I confess to dabbling with these things earlier in life, especially as touches the philosophy of history (to which Hegel's contributions are large). But if a person believes scripture, there is no need for a philosophy of history (God is directing all things; cf. Acts 17:27-26); and if a person believes scripture, there is no need for a philosophy of epistemology (God has solved that problem through the Holy Spirit; cf. 1Cor.2:9-16). The fact that these obviously gifted and brilliant men turned to rationalized views of such important matters shows by definition that scripture was insufficient for them – and that's the great tragedy (no need for the rest of us who do believe to follow suit as their examples are sufficient to demonstrate the true insufficiency of all effort to attain truth apart from God).

In Jesus Christ who is the only truth,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

If God offered man the Truth behind Door #1, the pursuit of the Truth behind Door #2, and politics behind Door #3, man would gladly choose Door #3.

Actually, here's a pithier and more quotable version of the previous:

If God were to offer mankind the truth in His right hand and politics in his left, man would gladly choose politics.

Response #25:  

Blessedly, no offer is made to "Man"; blessedly, we all have the image of God individually and have been offered salvation individually paid for by the blood of Christ. The "one" making the offers is not God.

In our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Hi Bob,

I was reading on Wikipedia the following description of Chrysippus regarding emotions:

'Chrysippus wrote a whole book concerning the therapy of the emotions. The passions are like diseases which depress and crush the soul, thus he sought to eradicate them (apatheia). Wrong judgements turn into passions when they gather an impetus of their own, just as, when one has started running, it is difficult to stop. One cannot hope to eradicate the emotions when one is in the heat of love or anger: this can only be done when one is calm. Therefore one should prepare in advance, and deal with the emotions in the mind as if they were present. By applying reason to emotions such as greed, pride, or lust, one can understand the harm which they cause.'

Considering how many lives are wasted because of sex, war, greed, euphoria, pride, anger, depression, fear, anxiety, procrastination, and whatnot, would not the world be a better place if we were trained not to have emotions? And what is wrong with a Christian adopting this kind of philosophy for day-to-day living?

What if Christians were to teach this idea of living free from emotions within their congregations by, say, creating a denomination? Americans would be better off with this kind of teaching. I don't think that the Scholastic's idea merging of Christianity with secular Greek philosophy is inherently a bad idea if the latter is true. Ludwig Wittgenstein maintained that there really is only one truth, and that these different distinctions are merely an artifact of language.


Response #26: 

Good to hear from you. I certainly agree that secular philosophy has nothing to offer Christianity, and I would put Chrysippus into the category of the completely unhelpful. God made us as we are, and we do have emotions. In fact, we are more highly controlled (for the most part) by our emotions than we realize. Indeed, we Americans in particular are so confident that we are above emotional manipulation so as to be in fact extremely vulnerable to it (they don't spend hundreds of billions a year on advertising in this country for no reason, after all). You also lump in here a variety of desires/lusts. As with emotion, desire for the opposite sex can be a good and godly thing. The problem with both categories of internal forces is that they have to be subordinated to our free will / choice in a godly way, and that is impossible to accomplish to a perfect degree (since we do have a sinful nature). Christians who grow up spiritually can and do get plenty of help from the truth and from the ministry of the Spirit so as to be able to avoid gross sin on the one hand and being led down all manner of self-destructive paths on the other – yet even so, no one is perfect. Paul, perhaps the greatest believer who ever lived, suffered years of imprisonment because of an emotional decision to go to Jerusalem when he had been warned against it by the Spirit. So there are two problems I would have even with the suggestion that we as individual Christians can ever "rise above" these powerful forces in a perfect way. The first is that since we most definitely cannot, pride has a tendency to claim that we have even when we haven't, and that leads to the worst sort of Pharisaical legalism as we redefine what "sin" is in favor of our personal strengths versus our weakness and in favor of what we can hide versus what we cannot. The second problem is that the moment we think that we can master these powerful forces we begin to lose proper respect for the dangers of them even as we begin, of necessity in such a preoccupation, to construct "systems" to do so. This makes us more vulnerable even than we were before (since we are adopting a "philosophy" about these matters which is by definition untrue, at least in its fundamental presumption), even as it preoccupies our efforts in all things spiritual on defense – which cannot help but compromise our spiritual offense. The latter is highly ironic, because, really, the only hope we have of getting better about balancing out our emotions and reining in sinful tendencies of every kind (including what we say and what we think) is through preoccupation with the truth of the Word of God – the deeper into God's Word we get and the more of our attention we give to its truths, the better we get at these things as a natural matter of course and the more resources we have, true inner spiritual resources, to fight this fight. Whereas we will never achieve any meaningful results by systematizing an approach based on control from the outside in (whereas true spiritual growth is always "inside out"). This outside-in approach tends toward legalism (of a sort) almost by definition. When all is said and done, all problems and all challenges in the Christian life always have the same solution: spiritual growth in the Word, spiritual progress in applying the Word to the tests of life, and spiritual production in helping others do the same through whatever ministries our dear Lord Jesus has called us to. This is the only true path to engkrateia "self-control/temperance" (Acts 24:25; Gal.5:23; 2Pet.1:6; cf. 1Cor.7:9; 9:25; Tit.1:8).

If you haven't already seen these, here are a few related links:

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

Our New Orientation as Reborn Believers

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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