Is the Bible a Work of Plagiarism?

I came across this interesting comic on the web (below). A teacher gave her students the following assignment: What is the “Golden Rule” and its source? The answers she got from her students are quite telling. In fact, many atheists use this example to illustrate why they think the Bible is not the Word of God but a mere fabrication of pre-existing (pagan) traditions.

thegoldenrule

Now, what is fascinating is that all the answers given by the students were correct, and factual. The problem is that some of the people quoted lived centuries before Jesus was born, and yet we often attribute the Golden Rule to Jesus (Matthew 7:12). But Confucius (551–479 BC) and Buddha (480-400 BC) said and taught the same thing and yet they lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

Similar examples have been cited as arguments against the validity of the Bible stories. Such as Noah’s flood. Many argue that the story was merely a Jewish adaptation of the Neo-Assyrian Gilgamesh flood myth found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The myth, according to historians, is very similar to the Biblical stories and yet it existed centuries before the supposed period of Noah.

Do these examples disqualify the Bible? Many people believe so. Yet what such arguments against the Bible reveal is the arguers’ ignorance of what the Bible is and what the Bible does. The Bible is not God’s Word because it contains novel (new and unique) ideas about God. In fact, the reverse is the case, all true ideas about God that exist outside the Bible only prove that God is the author and owner of all truth. It is the reason R.C. Sproul has popularized the phrase: “all truth is God’s truth.”

Truth is truth, wherever you find it. To argue that only the Bible contains truth is to actually speak against the Bible, because the even the Bible claims that there is truth about God outside itself. Romans 1:19 actually says whatever may be known about God is available to even those who have never read the Bible. Psalms 19 talks about how nature teaches us about various attributes of God. Even Paul often  quoted pagan sages in the Bible (1 Cor 10:23).

The availability of truth apart from the Bible is actually an argument for God, not against Him. It is proof of His sovereignty — that  God is God over all people and all things, not just the Jews and the Christians. It is proof that those who will never encounter Christianity will not be judged unfairly, because “what may be known about God is “plain” to them (Rom 1:19).

No, the Bible is not a work of plagiarism. But it is a work that seriously needs to be plagiarized by you and me.

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

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When ‘good’ professors fail ‘good’ students and how it relates to Christianity.

[By Julie Wang’ombe]

Imagine its exam day at a university. Anyone who’s ever been a student, as I currently am, knows that in any class, there’s a ‘colorful’ range of students. The serious; the cavalier; the ‘brilliant without much effort” the “must work twice as hard to do half as well as the average person” the “school is really not my thing” people etc.

I want to focus on one of these students. The procrastinator. She isn’t stupid, except in so far as procrastinating is stupid. She has known for 10 weeks that the exam is coming and only picked up her notes two days ago (:-/). But when she looked through her notes and the syllabus, she realized that there was far too much content for her to go through in two days. So, what does she do? In an attempt to do her best in the time she has while retaining her sanity, she decides to try and make some informed guesses about what would come in the exam. She decides to take a gamble. Perhaps there were ten topics to be studied, and she chose four thinking “after all only one topic will come in the exam.”

Unfortunately, what she studied for doesn’t come in the test. Instead she finds herself sitting in class, on exam day, staring at a question for which she has absolutely no answer. Panic hits as she begins to envision the big fat ‘F’ that will be her due at the end of the semester. Panic gives way to the self-assurance that worry won’t change things: “You’re here now so think: what’s the best you can do?”. Smart. The student decides to make the best of the situation: she decides to write what she knows, what she studied, not what is needed in the exam paper. She takes a gamble. Maybe the professor, seeing that she at least understands something in the course, will be kinder to her even though she will not answer the questions asked but the questions she had hoped would be asked. She writes her paper, hands it in and hopes for the best.

Have you ever seen this happen?

What do you think a professor should do when faced with such a case? Reading the students exam paper, the professor may adjudge that this student is capable, literate, smarter than average and has a way of reasoning distinctly higher than the rest of the class. But, holding that paper to the exam’s marking scheme, the professor cannot reconcile the answer the student has given with the answer that is required. While the professor may want to be lenient and show mercy it would be, ethically speaking, unfair. What’s the point of a marking scheme if your going to throw it out for one student? Besides, it would be unfair to treat this student different from all other students some of whom have prepared really long, and worked really hard for a good grade. Even giving the student a chance to resit the paper would be, in a way, unfair to the rest of the class.

It would seem that a ‘good’ professor, a just professor, has no option but to fail this student albeit begrudgingly. In this situation, however, the F will (or may not) not be an indicator of the student’s ability (or lack thereof) but will rather be a reflection of the student’s unpreparedness. (both of which, by the way, are  important (perhaps equally important. After all, a future employer of this student would be as wary of a the fact that he/she is a known and persistent procrastinator (read unreliable) as they are of a person who simply won’t be able to do the job. So either way the F helps weed out ‘undesirables’)

But what does this have to do with Christianity?

I’ve just finished reading the book “The Reason for God by Tim Keller in which he tackles some of the questions that skeptics have about the existence of God, the goodness of God and the legitimacy of Christ’s claims. (It’s a helpful read, by the way you should get a copy!)

One of the ‘issues that people have with God, which the book tries to deal with, arises from the issue of evil and suffering especially. You’ve probably heard the question: “why do bad things happen to good people?”. Stretching this question, one should of course wonder why Hell (which is perhaps the worst place and most painful suffering there is) happens, even to the best and brightest of humanity.

How can God send good people to hell? How will he punish even  those who give their lives for the sake of ideals: freedom, justice, equality, human rights?  Those who are working hard to make the world a better place whether in obscurity or on a recognized platform. Doesn’t he see that their good? Their not perfect, but they’re trying! Can’t he just let them into heaven?

There’s one main problem with these questions. Whose definition of good (bad) are we talking about?

According to Christianity, God has his standards which he is faithful to and will use to judge men.

Most of us, however, decide on our own definition of good and expect God to judge us in accordance with that. The Professor is continually asked to change His scheme to accommodate our blatantly ‘wrong answers’. Imagine the aforementioned student going back to his professor and forthrightly saying, “Listen, I’m sure you pretty much made a mistake in you’re setting of this question. It’s really not what you meant to do but I went ahead and took the liberty to write a response to the question I’m sure you wanted to ask; the question I really felt you should ask and the question I prepared for. I also developed a marking scheme too just to help you in the grading.”

Sounds Ridiculous? It should! But isn’t that just like us? Believing that if we think we are good, then God must (and is obligated to also) think we are good and if God thinks we are good, he would be unjust to throw us into Hell.

Truthfully, God would be unjust to throw innocent people to Hell. But who, pray tell, are these innocents who live in such danger?

God’s standards of good are so high that what He thinks the best human being is, is wicked. Because God‘s standard of God is…. Him. Being good is not about doing good deeds outside of God’s standards, its about being like God: perfectly loving, perfectly humble, perfectly merciful, perfectly holy.

Indeed:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

God loves justice. He loves mercy and kindness. He loves giving to the poor. He loves freeing people. And loves people who recognize their need for God. If you pursue the justice/mercy apart from God, you fail. Miserably and on all three counts in the verse. Because only God can help you to seek true justice and practice proper kindness. That’s God scheme of things. The true scheme of things.

Most of us think we are good in comparison with other people. All of us will know we are bad when we truly see ourselves in light of a Holy, loving, merciful God who judges (fails us) not only on the basis of action, but also on the basis of inaction and ill-intention and any really any single act, thought or desire that is not in conformity with His law. The simple truth is this:

‘There is no-one good, not even one’.

When we truly realize that, it shifts our paradigm and our question invariably changes from why God sends good people to hell, to a cry of desperation: “is there any way  a good and just God might allow bad people into heaven?”  and finding the answer to this question, becomes the matter of life and death it actually is.

God and Science: Friends or Foes?

Pick up your Bible and trace the historical story-line of the Israelites, from Abraham down to the New Testament Jesus and His followers. If you read the story like any other story, you will notice a significant trend. Take Moses and the burning bush, for example. Apparently, this event was unusual to Moses. It was not natural. Bushes just don’t spontaneously ignite; and when they burn, they get consumed; they just don’t burn on and on and on.

science godOr take the case of the Israelites at the shores of the Red Sea. Moses, at the command of God, raises his staff and voila! The body of water divides into two great walls with a dry path between them. Waters don’t just part with nothing but air to hold them in place. That was not natural.

These events and many others, as described in the Old Testament, were considered strange, miraculous and “unscientific” by those who witnessed them. They were considered unnatural, even supernatural, if you’d like to call them that.

What these events, and the reactions evoked, tell us is that there was a norm the people were used to, what they could see with their eyes and perceive with their senses. These Old Testament “primitives” knew a miracle when they saw one. Why? Because their senses and minds were scientific. They could discern a specific pattern or law in nature, and they knew when this law was defied.

These people were not blindly superstitious as they have often been presented. Continue reading God and Science: Friends or Foes?

How Can I Be Free if God Already Knows the Future?

free willIt’s a perennial debate that has plagued many theologians at least since the first century A.D. How can we say we have free will if God already knows every move I am going to make? Another way that this question is often phrased is, “If God knows that I am going to call my mother tomorrow, does that mean I have no choice but to do it? Can’t I change my mind?”

I am strongly persuaded that this question is more often a matter of semantics than anything else. For instance, whenever we say “God knows”, very few of us stop to consider what we mean. An important accompanying and clarifying question is, “How does God know?”

THE COMPLEX NATURE OF THE LOVE OF GOD

A parallel example may help clarify this problem. This is the question of love. What do we mean when we say “God loves?” Is God’s definition, nature and extent of ‘love’, limited to our perceptions of love? Some people, by love, only mean “having fond feelings or affection for someone”. Continue reading How Can I Be Free if God Already Knows the Future?

I Apologize for Being a Christian

js_gloc_apologetics

To see Saul standing atop that hill stirs in us feelings of compassion, and deep sadness. You just have to understand the man. His soldiers are fearful and wide-eyed. The scene is so captivating that the scribe of 1 Samuel 13 places his quivering quill down and picks up, not a thesaurus, but a geographical map for phrases that best describe the scene. Saul’s soldiers hid in “caves” and “thickets”, among “rocks”, in “pits” and “cisterns” (vs. 6). Any hole in which a human body could fit, there you’ll find a scared Israeli soldier. Some of them didn’t just step back, they went back home! (vs. 7) And those who chose to stay only did so because they could barely steady their wobbly knees. To say that they were trembling with fear would be an understatement. They were “quaking” with fear (vs. 7).

Saul doesn’t get why Samuel is not yet here. He should have been here two days ago. The Philistines are advancing. The gap between the camps is closing. The Israelite soldiers are cowering. The stench of defeat is choking. He glances at his shadow. It’s now a few inches longer than the last time he checked. Continue reading I Apologize for Being a Christian

Blog Break (11 Mar 13)… and Some [Not So] Bad News

Are you ready? Check these out:

  1. WHO CREATED GOD? No, the answer is not as simple as you may assume at first (it is not “no one”). This question is usually asked in the context of the argument that says, “If something cannot come from nothing, then where did God come from?” This article provides a brief but excellent way of approaching the question when confronted by atheists or skeptics. Check it out.
  2. BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE … MATHEMATICIAN? Did you know that there is a direct correlation between a woman’s physical beauty and mathematics? Read on and find out what it is… Amy Henry: “Telling our girls that outward beauty doesn’t matter isn’t going to keep them from wanting it. Somewhere in their soul, they know beauty matters.”
  3. SEX IN THE SERMON Melissa Kruger: “Society shames sex by speaking of it too often in the wrong context, with smirks and innuendos. Conversely, we in the church often shame sex by failing to speak of it all, missing the opportunities the Word of God appropriates for our instruction.” This article reminded me of a song by Mission Driven from a few years back, “Sex in the Temple” Check it out.
  4. Finally, in THE COVER VS THE CONTENT, Tony Were reminds us that “looks can be deceiving. Judgment is easily passed on the most trivial of assumptions – but that does not change the hard facts of stubborn truth. Some of the  greatest books ever written  have the  weirdest or most  bland covers ever. That doesn’t change the fact that they are great books!”

Enjoy the links!

NOW, TO THE [NOT SO] BAD NEWS…

I am taking a break. That’s right, Cornell needs to take some time off from blogging and social media to take more walks in the green countryside and gaze at the starry night skies. It’s important, you should try it too. There are also other private projects that I need to focus on and they may take up much of my time. Don’t worry, I won’t be gone for long, only a month or two… or less 🙂 Meanwhile, keep your light shining… and keep reading.

I’ll be back before you know it.

Cornell

Soli Deo Gloria.

The Problem with Half Truths in Preaching

You’ve probably heard or read this quote before, “The problem with half-truths is if you have the wrong half.” Well, the truth is that there is no such thing as a half truth. It doesn’t really matter which half you have, they are both falsehoods. I am not the first person to point this out. A casual scan through classical authors and ancient proverbs confirms this. It was Mark Twain who said that “a half truth is the most cowardly of lies.” Alfred Lord Tennyson put it even more darkly, “a lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies.” A Yiddish proverb goes straight to the point, “a half truth is a whole lie”. So, what happens when we preach half-truths about God? But even before we answer this, what is considered a half-truth about God? Continue reading The Problem with Half Truths in Preaching