I went to see the recent Faithlife film "Fragments of Truth" featuring Dr. Craig Evans of Houston Theological Seminary and narration by John-Rhys Davies. This film deals with Textual Criticism of the Bible manuscripts.
Overall, this is a great film and I think the first documentary film that deals with this particular subject. When talking about the reliability of scripture, one does this on two planes - transmission and content. This film deals with the transmission of the NT. Featuring experts such as Daniel B. Wallace, Peter Williams, and others, the film deals with the shear number of full manuscripts we have of the NT along with the fragments themselves. The film also deals with the idea of variances in the New Testament text.
One claim made by Dr. Evans is that the NT texts lasted and were used for hundreds of years. This is controversial as it does not comport with facts presented by Paleography since the manuscripts themselves were written on papyrus, not parchment and lasted throughout the centuries because of the environmental conditions in Egypt where the majority of NT manuscripts were found. Those details were not included and must be understood so that it is not applied in a general sense when speaking about NT manuscripts but rather a result of the conditions present in Egypt.
There were two issues I personally did have with the film. First, the film itself didn't deal with the vast difference between other ancient texts and the Bible when talking about the number of manuscripts we have and the time between the manuscript and the original autographs. When compared with the works of Plato or Homer, the Bible has vastly more complete manuscripts and they are much closer to the original in their dating. This should give credence to the accuracy of the NT we have today and that we can know that the Bible you have in your hands is the one that was written 2000 years ago.
The other issue was the Council of Nicaea. There was an argument in the film that stated Constantine "forced the hand" of the council to make a decision concerning the canon. But this does not appear to be accurate as the council already had a canon in hand and were comparing other documents that had been circulating to see if they met the criteria to be considered canon as well (for example, St. Jerome included what is known as the Apocrypha).
It is widely believed that Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, but this is false. Constantine had become a Christian, but he outlawed the persecution of Christians and thereby created a religious freedom throughout the empire that hadn't existed before.
Fragments of Truth is a great film to see by yourself or with a group and should garner more study on the subject.
For more information on the film, visit Faithlife at https://faithlife.com/fragments-of-truth
On Thursday, the CA Assembly passed Bill 2943, a bill that assemblyman Evan Low claims is directed at so-called conversion therapy - therapy designed to change the sexual orientation of those in the LGBTQ community.
Low states that this bill is not designed to infringe upon religious freedoms or the ability to talk about or sell books on the subject. That the bill instead is designed to prevent the advertisement of such therapies as services and that such therapy claims are fraudulent. The bill claims that contemporary science recognizes that being a part of the LGBTQ community is "part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.", but offers no scientific data for this claim. The bill then outlines a series of studies on conversion therapy that show the dangers of such therapy. While the debate on conversion therapy is one that is needed - even within the church - there is another issue at play in the bill.
When reading what the bill considers to be Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, we are given the following:
Contrast this with what the bill says is NOT a Sexual Orientation Change Effort:
i) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.
(2) “Sexual orientation change efforts” does not include psychotherapies that: (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.
This is troubling as the bill clearly denotes a difference between "practices" and "psychotherapies" on Sexual Orientation Change efforts. This could be used to include communicative efforts in Christian sermons, publications, or even individual conversations between a pastor and a congregant. A group could sue a Christian college using this law on the grounds that courses there teach students how to change sexual orientation by means of counseling or even by the study of the Bible itself. If this seems unlikely, it should be pointed out that the Roe v Wade decision was based on the concept of a citizen's "right to privacy" that SCOTUS rules is inferred by the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments though the language of these amendments do not even speak on abortion nor were they intended to. If the language of a law is left vague enough, those seeking lawsuits can interpret such vague wording to include their grievances. So it would not be so unbelievable that HB2943 could be used for such purposes.
While the Bible itself may come out unscathed by such a law, Christian books that speak on Gay or Transgenders and how God can change a person's life would line up under the broad spectrum in this final statement of the bill.
This bill still needs to be approved by the California senate before going to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. It is doubtful it will live very long without a legal challenge, but it is unknown if such a challenge would succeed in defeating the bill or if it would become California law. If it is allowed to stand, then state courts will not only begin to rule on the validity of LGBTQ orientations but would outlaw any attempts to argue against such orientations by circumventing the 1st amendment on the grounds such efforts would be fraudulent. Such a law could then be coming to a state near you.
There is now a popular argument against Christianity whereby a skeptic states that "I don't think the truth of Christianity follows if Jesus rose from the dead, it just shows a man rose from the dead".
There are a few issues with this argument, but the one glaringly obvious one is that as a rule, people do not rise from the dead. Popular shows like The Walking Dead tell stories of dead bodies becoming reanimated, but they are still in a sense dead. The Highlander tells the story of a man named Connor MacLeod who is an immortal - that is, when he is killed, he rises again (unless you cut off his head).
Both of these are not what the Bible means when they refer to resurrection. The resurrection was more than Christ coming back from dead. Christ had raised Lazarus during his ministry. But Lazarus died again. The dead who rose at the end of Matthew's Gospel died again. But Jesus is alive and does not die again. In fact, His body was changed to a glorified body - showing His wounds as evidence that He was the Christ and to glorify His sacrifice for sins. The proof text of this is in 1 Corinthians 15
"So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven."
But, there is also the fact that Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection and told this to the disciples. If Jesus really performed all of these miracles, proclaimed Himself to be the Son of God, predicted His death and resurrection from the dead and then in fact was crucified, died, and was buried and rose three days later as He predicted, there are no other reasonable explanations that explain this other than He in fact was the Son of God. It then naturally follows that what He said was true. This includes His teachings from the OT. It also follows that His disciples proclaimed His teachings and were willing to die for what they heard and saw.
This objection fails because it does not take into account what it means to be resurrected, Jesus life and ministry and the rarity of resurrection itself. The objection also does not give credible explanations that are backed by evidence. It's simply an alternate explanation. But, alternate explanations are not refutations as Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason so aptly states.
The Resurrection of Christ would be the most powerful piece of evidence for the truth of Christianity.