Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. He holds a BS from the University of Maryland in Political Science/History and a MA in Apologetics & Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary. Frederick holds a Doctor of Practical Theology through the Master's Graduate School Of Divinity in Evansville, Indiana. Dr. Meekins is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics through Newburgh Theological Seminary.

Saturday, June 17

Those Denying God's Existence Should Forsake His Cash As Well

An article titled “Christian School Teacher Fired After Deciding To Live 2014 As An Atheist” attempts to place the onus for such a state of occupational limbo on organized religion. But isn't it even more the fault of the educator in question for attempting to turn his crisis of faith into some kind of theological publicity stunt?

According to the article, Ryan Bell was a Seventh Day Adventist minister and adjunct professor whose leftwing support of gay marriage and variance with his denomination's eschatology resulted in his resignation from the Hollywood congregation he pastored. He was forced from his teaching positions from Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University when Bell publicly announced his intentions to live as an atheist for a year to see if that particular worldview more accurately reflected his spiritual state where disillusionment caused him to question a number of his most deeply held beliefs.

The press account puts the blame for the hardship Bell would have to endure on these respective institutions of higher education. After all, Bell pointed out in the article, he has utility bills to pay and children to feed.

But shouldn't these employers be applauded for assisting Bell in taking his experiment in atheism to its logical conclusion? For Bell is not a minister in the Unitarian or Episcopal Churches so wishy washy in their core doctrines and beliefs that they are at times willing to keep outright unbelievers on their respective payrolls.

According to the article, Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University both require faculty to adhere to a statement of faith seemingly quite broad in terms of Christian specifics if these institutions of higher education claiming to be Evangelical openly embrace Seventh Day Adventism. What Dr. Bell has said is that, at the time this all came to a head in 2014, he no longer believes the bare bones required by these schools.

As such, if Bell for the time being no longer believes that there is an all powerful being sustaining the universe and providing a means whereby fallen men might be brought back into fellowship with Him, why shouldn't Bell also forfeit the salary provided by those that do believe in such in a context that already doesn't sound all that picky or particular regarding what are commonly referred to as secondary theological matters? After all, when the unbelievers are holding the administrative reigns and catch a whiff of doctrinal content they aren't particularly fond of they aren't exactly all that magnanimous either.

For example, in “Reason In The Balance”, popularizer of Intelligent Design Phillip Johnson chronicled the case of a Biology Professor that suggested that the complexity of even the simplest lifeforms pointed in the direction of a designer. Whom or what that might be was left up for the student to decide as the professor made no suggestions as to whether that designer was God in yonder Heaven or little green men zooming about the cosmos in a flying saucer. For engaging in the free exchange of ideas in an environment supposedly priding itself on such intellectual dynamism, this professor was booted out the door.

Adherents of Intelligent Design have faired little better in other settings. For example, a scientist lost his job at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for simply expressing an interest in Intelligent Design.

Yet that very same facility explicitly stated in its public propaganda how its administrators supposedly appreciate innovative perspectives. Apparently believing that a Higher Power is behind the grandeur of the universe has little to do with building better rockets with the exception, of course, of boosting the esteem of Muslims in regards to that civilization's developments in mathematics from nearly a millennium ago. President Obama was quite explicit in making that an aeronautical agency funding priority despite their being barely a cent available for manned extra-atmospheric travel in the form of a space shuttle or lunar expeditions.

Did the atheists that got all worked up on behalf of Ryan Bell rush to meet the material needs of the occupationally displaced adherents of Intelligent Design or flagellate themselves in shamefacedness over the way the establishment media expects Christians to upon hearing of the hardships caused by the failure to at first compromise and then ultimately set aside these minimal standards derived from a set of very rudimentary beliefs one would think nearly anyone even wanting to be employed in a Christian setting would agree to? After all, it is not like Fuller Seminary these days enforces a no movies under any circumstances rule.

Proponents of the decision to impose penalties upon the bakers refusing to bake cakes for gay weddings insist that we ought to be willing to accept such punishments with little comment as the price for standing for convictions at variance with established social norms. In the case of those professing some manner of public unbelief such as itinerant academic Ryan Bell, this is to be yet another of the expanding network of exceptions and double standards.

by Frederick Meekins

Thursday, June 1

The Cultural Impact Of Worldview & Apologetics, Part 2

Academics get the ball rolling on a more widespread denial or misunderstanding about the divine existence of Jesus by first calling into question and raising doubts about the validity and accuracy of the Biblical accounts pertaining to the life of the Messiah. Often such efforts are commenced under the banner of an epic endeavor such as "The Quest for the Historical Jesus" or "The Jesus Seminar" where professors with impressive scholastic credentials such as John Dominic Crossan claim to be doing the truly devoted a service by scraping away centuries worth of theological barnacles to get at the simple Jesus that existed before the executors of his reputation elevated the compassionate Nazarene handyman to religious superstar status. However, closer examination of the actual historical record reveals scholars advocating such a viewpoint are as mired in fiction and fantasy every bit as much as Dan Brown.

Throughout political and religious history, one of the most time-tested tactics to undermine one's opponent is to attack the credibility of his messengers or heralds. That is why the so-called "cultured despisers of religion" have spent so much of their effort to drag the Bible in general and the Gospels in specific into disrepute. For if one begins to doubt the authenticity of these ancient documents, it is often not long until one begins to question the claims of and about the Savior Himself detailed within those pages.

First and foremost, the apologist must show that the Bible can go toe to toe with what is considered established, factual history. In his essay, Quarles compares the New Testament with the Roman Annals of Tacitus (106). Of this work, Quarles points out no complete sample of the manuscript survived from the time it was written around AD 115 to 117, with only two fragments known to exist and the earliest complete manuscript of the text dating back to the ninth century. Regarding the New Testament, the earliest surviving manuscript, the Vaticanus, is dated at AD 325, several centuries closer to the time of the New Testament Autographs.

However, the superiority of the New Testament as an authentic historical document does not end here. For whereas only two ancient fragments of Tacitus have been discovered, numerous portions and segments of the New Testament have been discovered that are believed to date often just a few decades from the time the originals were believed to have been written.

One could easily conjecture there would have been more of an opportunity to perpetrate some kind of forgery in regards to the writings of Tacitus. Yet we find no clever professor having academic laurels bestowed upon his furrowed brow for bringing into question our entire understanding of the Classical World or Ron Howard producing from such speculation a summer blockbuster bringing in sufficient box office receipts so he can finally afford that realistic toupee or hairweave he has desperately needed for so many years.

More importantly, how many (other than the most enthusiastic of historians) would really have their epistemological and moral worlds shattered if it was eventually discovered that the likes of Tacitus, Julius Casear, or even Plato and Homer were frauds? Thus, the documents of Scripture are not only historically authentic, but so is the account of an individual whose meaning and significance far transcended the ordinary.

The Christian can be assured of this because not only are the Biblical documents historically authentic in terms of their mechanics in how they came down to the contemporary world but also in terms of being reliable in regards to the credibility of the internal content. For example, if the Bible was nothing more than propaganda literature, in all likelihood those compiling the documents would have taken considerable care to downplay the faults of the movement's earliest leaders. However, this clearly did not happen.

In Church History, Christ's handpicked Apostles are considered the closest any human beings can come to epitomizing the ideal qualities of leadership. However, before being imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, the New Testament is rife with instances where the pillars of the Church were closer to the human rather than ideal side of the lofty concept.

For example, John's mother is depicted as a social climber who wasn't fully aware of what she was getting her sons into when she went right up to Christ demanding that her sons be placed at His right hand in the coming kingdom. And though many view Peter as the unyielding rock upon which Christ built the Church, given his bumbling and cowardly nature, he seems no more competent than any of us and certainly neither a figure militant nor triumphant.

Thus, from such attention to the details that could have easily been brushed over if those penning the New Testament had been out to perpetrate either a religious fraud or to craft an inspirational but still a nevertheless fictional narrative, the believer gains a confidence that the Bible may be just as truthful in regards to its much more majestic claims as well.

Since the Bible itself teems with historical respectability, those serious about considering its claims ought to examine what is said about the text's central character, Jesus Christ. Certain skeptics wanting to pat themselves on the back just how broadminded they can be claim they applaud the so-called "ethics of Jesus", insisting that He was a good man but did not claim to be deity.

However, the Bible tells us otherwise. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus said, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

And since we have no reason to disbelieve the legitimacy of the account, Jesus did indeed rise from the grave. Secondly, at no time did Jesus condemn those that claimed He was God despite the rigorous monotheism of ancient Judaism. Of special interest to the skeptic will no doubt be Thomas who, like his counterparts in contemporary academia, was reluctant to accept the reality of the risen Jesus without more tangible proof. Upon examining Christ's wounds first hand, Thomas declared in John 20: 28, "My Lord and my God."

In previous eras, such would likely bring us to the end of an evangelistic apologetic discourse since respect for (though perhaps not always adherence to) Scripture was ingrained throughout the culture. However, today there are so many worldview alternatives to select from that the believer must not only state what Lee Strobel has termed "the case for Christ" but also begin to plant the seeds that will assist the seeker to disentangle themselves if they so desire from the webs of deception in which they are entrapped. The Christian cannot assist in this process unless they themselves are familiar with at least the basic tenets of their own faith's most prominent competitors.

By Frederick Meekins