Woody Allen Interviews Billy Graham

While reading about the movie Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham which was just released over the weekend, I came across a reference to this interview done by Woody Allen on his show back in the 60’s.

It’s fascinating how folks back then could be so civil and witty even as they make clear from the very start that they’re on opposite sides of the fence. That’s the way conversations should go.

Part 1 of the interview is here:


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and Part 2 is here:


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Good exchange between two people who respect each other.

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Dying for Rebels

(…continued from To Understand, Stand Under)

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And what does the Bible say?

That the Almighty Creator God, who is love [1], loves us so much that Jesus Christ died for us to take the penalty for our sins [2].

We are by nature rebels, shaking our fists at God, thumbing our noses at Him and declaring that we don’t need Him, and that our standards of right and wrong are better than His. Because of this we do not deserve to be in His presence. The penalty for our rebellion against the very One who created us is death—eternal separation from God. I have discussed this in my post Will Dead Babies Go To Hell?

But God loves us so much that Christ died for us—even while we were still rebels [3]! Even while we had not yet given any indication that we were willing to lay down our arms, to set aside our desire to live separate from Him, in fact even to live in a world where He does not exist—even while we were still sinners, as the Bible says, Christ died for us!

The King of kings dies for the sake of rebels against Him

The King of kings dies for the sake of his rebellious subjects

THIS is the difference between Christianity and other religions or philosophies. If you analyze them closely, other religions are ultimately about what human beings can or should do in order to gain the favor of the god or gods in that religion, or to progress from one level to higher levels of existence. There are rules to follow and specific behaviors or actions that must be performed. This is the common denominator among the other religions. Unfortunately, this common denominator, and the expectation among many people that it is a necessary part of ANY religion—that certain behaviors must be done first before the god(s)’s favor can be earned—has been exploited by various cults which have taken advantage of so many people through the centuries.

But Christianity is different. Where other religions would say that we have to earn a god’s favor, and teach what we should do in order to do that, Christianity says that God, the true God, the One who created us, already loves us—even while we were and are still rebels. His love, His favor, is already on us. We do not have to do anything to earn it. And His love is so great that He actually died for us, in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to pay the penalty for our rebellion, so that we can enjoy a blessed life with Him in eternity.

The other systems talk about what we should do in order to gain heaven (or higher levels of existence, or whatever else they call it in their systems).

Christianity is about what the Almighty Creator God has done so that we can gain heaven.

The other systems are about what human beings should do. The Christian God, the one true God, says, “I have already done what needs to be done. What you have to do, for your part, is to believe that I have indeed done it.”

If we do that, if we believe that Jesus Christ, in dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our rebelliousness, has done what needs to be done in order to reconcile us rebels to God and to make us deserving to live in eternity with Him—if we believe this first, then we will understand the rest.

Then we will be able to obey what needs to be done next—to lay down our arms, give up on our rebellion, and surrender to the One true God.

To be continued…

[1] Read 1 John 4:8
[2] Read John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10
[3] Read Romans 5:8

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This is Part 4 of a series. Other posts in this series:

Part 1: Judging God

Part 2: Original Sin

Part 3: To Understand, Stand Under

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To Understand, Stand Under

(…continued from Original Sin)

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Don Carson has called this the de-godding of God.

It is putting ourselves above our Creator, judging Him, assessing Him.

Which of course is impossible. How can a created being truly understand its creator? As the apostle Paul says,

Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?”

Romans 9:20-21

And as God Himself says, according to the prophet Isaiah,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
….neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
….so are my ways higher than your ways
……..and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

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But the good news is, our Creator, God, is allowing us to have a relationship with Him. But it has to be on HIS terms. He has graciously taken the initiative and revealed Himself to us (and by “grace” I mean “unmerited favor”, meaning we did not do anything at all to deserve what He has granted). He has revealed Himself first through His messengers the prophets (like Isaiah, quoted above), and ultimately through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3). This gracious self-revelation of our Creator is recorded in the Bible, rightly regarded by Christians as THE written Word of God.

And through His written Word, God has not only revealed who He is, but also who human beings really are—the only beings in all of creation who are created in His image, offered the incredible privilege of enjoying eternity with Him—forever!

Moreover, the Bible reveals not only  who God is, and what human beings really are, but also what is good and what is bad for us. Not just what is morally good and bad, but indeed what is truly good and truly bad for us, as graciously revealed by our Maker—who of course knows infinitely more about us than we ever can find out on our own.

But, just like Adam and Eve in the story, human beings rebel at this. We prefer to retain the idea that we can, in time, understand the whole universe, the whole of creation, including ourselves, without help from the Creator.

And some people, in response to the assertion that the Bible is the Word of God, get sidetracked in endlessly trying to prove that it is historically inaccurate and contains accounts which contradict one another and cannot be reconciled. The reasoning is that if it can be proven that there are errors or inconsistencies in the Bible, then it cannot be the revelation of an infallible God.

But so much precious time is wasted in this. I personally believe that everything in the Bible can indeed be proven to be historically accurate, and that the accounts there do not contradict one another. However, I also believe that concentrating in such efforts to “prove” and “disprove” every little account and detail could be a fatal waste of time.

As John Stott says,

The Bible is essentially a handbook of salvation.  Its overarching purpose is to teach not facts of science (e.g. the nature of moon rock) which men can discover by their own empirical investigation, but facts of salvation, which no space exploration can discover but only God can reveal.  The whole Bible unfolds the divine scheme of salvation—man’s creation in God’s image, his fall through disobedience into sin and under judgment, God’s continuing love for him in spite of his rebellion, God’s eternal plan to save him through his covenant of grace with a chosen people, culminating in Christ; the coming of Christ as the Saviour, who died to bear man’s sin, was raised from death, was exalted to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit; and man’s rescue first from guilt and alienation, then from bondage, and finally from mortality in his progressive experience of the liberty of God’s children. [1]

The pursuit of proofs pro and con the historicity and integrity of biblical accounts is, of course, useful—to a point. It is of course important to be assured that the BIble, in the forms that we have it today, is indeed a reliable transmission of the original documents. It is important to be assured that there are no historical errors nor unexplainable “contradictions” in the biblical accounts [2]. However, it is easy to focus so much on the pursuit of proofs and arguments pro and con these matters that one misses THE point: the need to have a right relationship with our Creator, and how God Himself has provided the means for such a right relationship.

No, created human beings can never fully understand their Creator. They cannot even truly, completely, understand themselves, and what is truly good and bad for them, without help from their Creator.

The only way to truly understand and know God, is to bow before Him in humility and to accept that He is God, and we are not. The only way to understand the Bible is to stand under it, accept it as the Word of the Creator, as indeed it is, and to obey His will as revealed in it [3].

We cannot stand in judgment of God, and say to Him, “Alright, big guy, if you can explain yourself to me, then I’ll do as you say.” No, that won’t work with God. Man’s way is “Let me understand first, then I will obey”. That may  work out fine in relation with other human beings and human authorities. But that is not the way we are to relate with our Creator. God’s way is: “Obey first, THEN you will understand“.

There is only one God, one Creator. We can have a relationship with Him, and we can know Him, and thereby also fully and truly know ourselves. But it has to be on His terms. The good news is, if we come to Him on His terms, He will reveal Himself more and more to us—as we continue to trust and obey Him. If we obey, then we will indeed understand. He will grant us wisdom and understanding—not only for this life, but for eternity.

He will not only guide us into the knowledge of good and evil, but also allow us to enjoy the fruit of the tree of life.

To be continued…

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[1] From “The Message of 2 Timothy” (The Bible Speaks Today series: London and Downers Grove: IVP, 1973), p. 102, as quoted in the May 21 2008 issue of the John Stott Daily Thought e-newsletter. Emphases mine.

[2] See, for example, the posts Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? and Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? What About the Differences in the Manuscripts?, and the comments to them.

[3] In his post Are There Errors in the Bible?, Tim Challies says, rightly:

After all, if something is the ultimate authority, to what else can it appeal? Were the Bible to appeal to our reason to substantiate its authority, it would implicitly show that human reason is a higher authority. 

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This is Part 3 of a series. Other posts in this series:

Part 1: Judging God

Part 2: Original Sin

Part 4: Dying for Rebels

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Original Sin

(…continued from Judging God)

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She is doing what millions of billions of people have done since the serpent deceived Eve and Adam.

“This is the real score: God doesn’t want you to be like him, to know good and evil”, the serpent said.

But Eve and Adam decided that it was indeed desirable to be like God, to know good and evil. They thought that it was unfair of God to keep them from being like him in that way—so they went ahead and ate the forbidden fruit.

This is the original sin: the desire to be like God, able to decide for oneself what is good and what is evil—independent of God!

Man the creation looks at God the Creator and says, “I can be like you, you know. I can decide for myself what is good and what is evil. I can set my own standards. I don’t have to depend on your standards”.

So man sets his own standards for judging what is good and what is evil. Then he compares his standards with God’s—and then evaluates God’s standards according to his own standards.

“Well, OK, I know that you said that is wrong, but, you see, it actually depends. That may be wrong in this situation, but I think you’ll have to agree that it can actually be the right thing to do in this situation…”

Then…
“You know what? I’ve done a lot of thinking. That thing you say is wrong? It’s not just the right thing in some situations, but come to think of it, it’s actually the right thing in all situations!”

Still later…
“There’s no real right and wrong anyway. It all depends. If I may say so, you were a bit off there, God, when you gave us the entire notion of sin, of right and wrong. No such thing, big guy. It all depends.”

“How do I know? I’ve got wisdom, big guy. I know what’s right and what’s wrong. I ate the fruit which—in your selfishness!—you told me not to eat”.

And…
“I don’t need you to tell me what is good and what is evil, what’s right and what’s wrong. I can decide all that for myself, thank you. I don’t need your standards. I don’t need your guidance.”

“In fact, guess what? I don’t even need you at all.”

“You give me no good standards. What you call evil I call good. What you call good, well, me no like.”

“You don’t give me wisdom. You don’t make me happy. In fact, I’ve found other gods who give me more wisdom. They give me more happiness. They deserve my loyalty more. Jealous yet?”

Finally…
“I can be wise all by myself, and if I need it find more wisdom elsewhere. I can be happy without you, and find still more happiness elsewhere.”

“I don’t need you.”

“Remember you said I would die if I ate that fruit? Hah! Newsflash! I’m still alive! And you’re—dead! Bam! Goodbye!”

“You were right about that fruit, though—I AM much wiser now.”

And the serpent laughs.

To be continued

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This is Part 2 of a series. Other posts in this series:

Part 1: Judging God

Part 3: To Understand, Stand Under

Part 4: Dying for Rebels

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Expelled Victims

Here’s an interesting account of three scientists featured in the movie Expelled. As I have posted earlier, the movie is about alleged prejudice experienced by scientists and professors who either support Intelligent Design, or fail to support evolutionary theory.

The article was written by Dr. Ray Bohlin, holder of MS and PhD degrees in molecular biology from the University of Texas at Dallas. Here’s a brief intro on the three scientists he writes about:

Richard Sternberg has a double PhD in evolutionary biology. As editor of a scientific journal, he oversaw the publication of an article promoting Intelligent Design and critical of evolution. As a result, he was harassed and falsely accused of improper peer review. He has been blacklisted.

Caroline Crocker is a a PhD with degrees in pharmacology and microbiology. A research scientist who taught introductory biology, she made the mistake of including questions about evolution contained in science journals. She was accused of teaching creationism and eventually lost her job, and has been unable to find work ever since.

Finally, Guillermo Gonzalez is a well published astronomer who has accumulated over sixty peer-reviewed publications in various science and astronomy journals. In addition, he has presented over twenty papers at scientific conferences, and his work has been featured in such respected publications as Science, Nature, and Scientific American. He has been denied tenure because he supports Intelligent Design.

…Trust me, you’ll find it hard to believe what you read.

Check out the article here.

You can find more data on the article’s writer, Dr. Bohlin, as well as the other speakers and writers of Probe Ministries.here.

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Related post:

EXPELLED! No Intelligence Allowed!
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MERRY CHRISTMAS! (Did the First Christmas Really Happen?)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Lee Strobel, investigative reporter, former award-winning editor of The Chicago Tribune, and former atheist, presents his case for Christmas (in admittedly greatly summarized form):

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The Case for Christmas From Eyewitness Testimony

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The Case for Christmas from Early Records

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The Case for Christmas from Historical plus Embarrassing Records

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May we all have a special experience of the love of Jesus Christ this Christmas! God bless you!

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Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? What About the Differences in the Manuscripts?

(continued from  Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?)

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To recap the previous post on the topic: the amount of New Testament manuscripts available to scholars dwarfs the number of manuscripts of any other ancient literature.

Not only Greek manuscripts are available, but also thousands of manuscripts in several other languages, including Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, etc. [1]

It is inevitable, of course, that there would be variations among these thousands of manuscripts. There would be spelling errors, transpositions of words, etc. After all, there were no photocopiers during those times, no eyeglasses to correct for myopia, presbyopia, or astigmatism, no bright electric lights, etc., and the sources of the copies would many times be faded manuscripts. This is the subject of the second important question of manuscript analysis—how much do the manuscripts differ from one another?

If the differences are too big, then they would greatly compound the difficulty of deciding which manuscripts are reliable copies of the originals and which are not, and what the original documents really said.

But if the differences can be attributed to scribal errors (such as misspellings and word transpositions), then it would be easier to ascertain the contents of the original documents.

And our confidence that we have the original message of the original documents would be greatly enhanced if we also have manuscripts in other languages coming from different places. As renowned scholar Dr. Bruce Metzger explains, “The more often you have copies that agree with each other, especially if they emerge from different geographical areas, the more you can cross-check them to figure out what the original document was like. The only way they’d agree would be where they went back genealogically in a family tree that represents the descent of the manuscripts”[2].

Dr. Metzger himself made a study comparing the extents of differences in the manuscripts of three famous ancient literary works: the Iliad, the Mahabharata, and the New Testament. Don Bierle, in citing Metzger’s study, says “The works varied in length from 15,600 lines for the Iliad, 20,000 for the New Testament, and 250,000 for the Mahabharata[3]. All variations which did not affect the meaning of the line (such as misspellings and word transpositions) were ignored. Only those variations which affected the meaning of the text were counted.

The result of the study?

According to Dr. Metzger, the Iliad had about a 5% distortion rate—764 lines out of about 15,600 were corrupted or led to readings or interpretations that were either uncertain or differed among the different manuscripts. The 5% distortion rate means that the meaning of roughly one out of every twenty lines is uncertain. Yet, as Dr. Bierle points out, this fact is very rarely, if ever, pointed out in literature classes where the Iliad is assigned as a reading. “Its integrity is assumed without question”[4].

The Mahabharata fared much worse, with a distortion rate of about 10%. This meant that “One out every ten lines of this religious book was ‘up for grabs’, so to speak”[5].

How about the New Testament? The data, according to Dr. Bierle, is “incredible. Only 40 of 20,000 lines, or 1/5 of 1% (0.2%), are distorted. This is 1/25th of the distortion found in the Iliad, which itself has a low distortion rate among ancient writings”[6].

The following chart summarizes the findings of Dr. Metzger’s landmark study:

Distorion rate of New Testament documents vs. other ancient literature

(This chart is copyrighted by FaithSearch International. Used with permission.)

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Drs. William Nix and Norman Geisler have this to say: “The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book”[7]. Pure indeed. Following Dr. Metzger’s findings, the New Testament documents can even be said to be 99.8% pure.

Further, Metzger explains that the variations tend to be minor rather than substantive. That is, “The more significant variations do not overthrow any doctrine of the church. Any good Bible will have notes that will alert the reader to variant readings of any consequence”[8].

Another renowned Biblical scholar, Dr. F.F. Bruce, concurs: “the variant readings about which any doubt remain among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice”[9].

So the reliability of the New Testament documents is demonstrated by the results of answering the first two questions of manuscript analysis: (1) how many manuscripts are there, and (2) how much do they differ?

The answers: (1) New Testament manuscripts far outnumber the manuscripts of other ancient literature; and (2) these thousands of manuscripts differ much, much less from each other than the fewer manuscripts of other ancient literature. So our assurance is greatly increased that what we have in our present Bibles correspond quite substantially to the original writings.

But how do we know that what the original writings said were true? Even if what we have now are 100% faithful copies of the originals, if those originals were only made up of legends, then it does not do us much good, does it?

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To be continued…..

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Related posts:

Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?

Was Jesus Christ a Real Person?

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[A very sad note: Dr. Bruce Metzger, greatly esteemed for his scholarship and much admired for his character, died early this year, on Feb. 13, 2007. A tribute at Christianity Today can be found here, and a tribute from another widely respected scholar, Dr. Ben Witherington III, can be found here.]

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[1] Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ,p. 76* and Don Bierle, Surprised by Faith, p. 30.
[2] The Case for Christ, p. 76.
[3] Surprised by Faith, p. 35.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] As quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ, p. 85. Quoted from the book General Introduction to the Bibleby Norman Geisler and William Nix.

[8] As quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ, p. 85. From a one-on-one interview between Strobel and Metzger.
[9] Surprised by Faith, p. 35.

(*page numbers for the book The Case for Christ refer to the Philippine edition, published locally by OMFLit.)
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