Horus and Jesus: Practically Twins! (well, not really….)

As I wrote in my last post, there are many different sources that claim a multitude of similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth. Does closer scrutiny bear out these claims? The devil, as they say, is in the details…

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Jesus? Is that you?

The similarities claimed to exist include ” born on December 25th. His mother was a virgin. His birth was announced by an angel, attended by shepherds and heralded by a star. At 30 years of age he was baptized in a river, and the one who baptized him was later beheaded. He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcized demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water.” According to which site you visit, there may be even more similarities listed. As I discussed in my last post, many other mythological figures have been credited with some of these same similarities, including Mithras, Krishna, Attis, Dionysis, and many others.

Now, as discussed in the last article, if in fact these similarities were to be accurate, that obviously does not preclude the existence of the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, one would actually expect to find at least some similarities when dealing with supernatural deific beings. For instance, one would expect a god to be able to supersede and rule over nature (i.e. perform miracles). A god would be able to rule over death. A god would be mentally superior to men, and seem to be all-knowing. A god who lived among men would draw men (disciples) to him. So we see that these types of similarities, if they existed, would be expected.

On the birthday claim: Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus’s birth date mentioned. The date was chosen by emperor Aurelian in the third century. In fact many believe, because of evidences offered in the Bible surrounding the account of Jesus’s birth, that he was not born in the winter time, but that’s a different subject. The point is, a claim of being born on December 25th (or at the winter solstice) simply seems to be suspiciously convenient, especially once the claims are more closely scrutinized.

When one looks more closely, at books and web sites that are dedicated to scholarship and not tearing down the Christian faith, a different picture emerges. For instance, the “Tour Egypt” website:

We offer scholarly articles on historical as well as contemporary issues and we are always looking to renovate our services to live up to the expectations of our millions of visitors.

Their account of Horus seems to be very different from the ones presented at those other websites that seem to have an agenda. There is no mention of any of those similarities I mentioned above. Indeed, when you read the article offered at the “Tour Egypt” web site, you would be hard pressed to find many similarities at all between the falcon deity Horus and Jesus of Nazareth.

In an effort to avoid the accusation of cherry-picking web sites that “agree with my agenda”, I will list two more sites that are more scholarly in nature and “agendaless”:

Encyclopedia Mythica: Horus

Ancient Egypt Online: Horus

It seems an honest look at the evidence would lead the unbiased observer to admit that there are not really that many similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth after all. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have not personally tracked down every single claim made about the supposed similarities that exist between Jesus and these other mythological figures. However, I have seen enough evidence on the few I have bothered to check, and read work by others who have done the “heavy lifting” and really run these claims to the ground, that these similarity claims are, to put it in a southern vernacular, hogwash. It almost seems as if these things have been made up purely to discredit the four independent eyewitness testimonies about the life of Jesus of Nazareth contained in the Bible as a case of mythological plagiarism. Surely no one would purposely just make stuff up just to do that though…. would they?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Christians and Tattoos: Peanut Butter and Jelly, or Oil and Water? (Part Two)

In my first article on the subject, I looked at tattoos and the reasons to get (or not to get) them in a general sense. In this article I would like to drill down and talk specifically about Christians and tattoos.

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Some things just don’t mix well…

It seems to me that there are two kinds of tattoos, broadly speaking, that a Christian might get. These would be, simply, those that are religious in nature, that a Christian might feel pertains to their faith, or those that fall outside this category. For those that would fall outside the religious category, please refer to my first article which speaks on the subject of getting tattoos in general. Then come back to find out about some ways Christians can think “Christianly” about the subject.

Historically speaking, religious tattoos have represented an outward and visible sign of a spiritual relationship with the object of worship. Many times the tattoos are meant as symbols of protection, to ward off evil spirits and the like, or to curry favor with a particular spirit or diety.

Of course, as Christians we understand that these things are not necessary. “The Lord knoweth them that are His” and we are “preserved in Jesus Christ” regardless of our possession of or lack of tattoos, religious in nature or not.

What do we say to the Christian who wants to get a religious tattoo? Since the Bible is our authority (as God’s word) that should be our first stop for information. What does the Bible have to say about tattoos? Relatively little, it turns out. Leviticus 19:28 says “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” There are other similar passages. Of course we know that this is a part of the Jewish Law, the Mosaic Covenant handed down by God to the people of Isreal. We understand that under the New Covenant we are not subject to that code of laws, in the sense that they were civilly enforced laws with legal ramifications if broken.

After all, today we eat shellfish and pork, which were both forbidden in the Mosaic Covenant. Does this give Christians the “green light” to get tattoos? Or should we try to look at the underlying principles behind the laws? In the same chapter, verse 14 tells us “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shall fear thy God: I am the Lord.” Is it okay to make fun of deaf people when they can’t hear you, or to trip blind people for fun? (I hope to go into this in more depth in a future article, but for now I will leave these questions open-ended.)

Does the Bible ever advocate altering your body as a sign of your fidelity to God? In fact it does. Abraham, and later the Jewish nation, was commanded to be circumcised as a symbol of their covenant with God. However, we see specifically in the New Testament what this signified exactly, and why we are no longer required to participate in the act of physical circumcision as religious commandment. By comparison, the nature of circumcision (unlike tattoos, in general) should ensure that only the parents, the individual, and the individual’s wife would ever know the individual was circumcised under normal circumstances.

It seems that if God were going to allow tattoos, an excellent opportunity to do so would have been in Deutoronomy chapter six: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)” However He does not. He tells us to post His commandments in prominent places, but he does not tell us to write them in our flesh.

In the New Testament, Christianity is taught as a change to the heart of an inward man, and not to the appearance. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus clearly teaches against making your offerings, prayer and fasting public events. We are also taught that we do not own our own bodies. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1Co 6:19-20)” This also would seem to argue against Christians getting “religious” tattoos.

This principle was taught in the Old Testament as well. The whole purpose of the Mosaic Covenant was to separate Isreal as a peculiar people from the rest of the world, not by the way they looked, but by the way they acted. Some of the Biblical prophets were asked to behave in what might seem bizarre manners by God, but they weren’t asked to permanently alter their appearance. For instance, John the Baptist wore camel hair and ate insects. Ezekiel had to cook his food over dung. Elijah ate only food carried by ravens—nasty carrion birds. God has set us aside as a peculiar people: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deu 14:2) and “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1Pe 2:9-10) Our peculiarity isn’t of ourselves, but is because we are chosen in God. It shouldn’t be manifest in our outward appearance, but in the way we follow God and his commandments.

If your purpose in getting a tattoo that is religious in nature is to draw the attention of others, what are you really communicating? In essence you are inviting others to look closely at your body in order to discern whatever message it is you are trying to convey. Is this how the Biblical saints carried out their faith? What is the Biblical precedent for this type of behavior? Are we, as Christians, supposed to call attention to ourselves, or are we supposed to point others to Christ? In addition, as we discussed in the previous article, whether right or wrong people judge others based on appearance. Is it possible to damage your Christian witness by getting tattoos? Even if there do not seem to be hard and fast answers to these questions, is it worth the risk to get tattoos?

Finally, how is it that you want to be perceived by your peers inside and outside the church? Do you want to be considered “cool” by them, or serious, thoughtful and virtuous? How will a tattoo help you to be perceived the way you want to be perceived?

To close, a note to those who may disagree with my tone, those who already have tattoos, and/or those who think I am displaying a “holier than thou” attitude. I am only trying to introduce ways of thinking about the matter, and especially trying to get straight in my own mind what I think about this particular subject, since it seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. My advice to any Christian seeking to get a tattoo is to search out these things in God’s word for yourself, and to seek counsel from those in the church whom you respect.

I have made many mistakes myself, and admittedly some more serious than getting a tattoo that I might regret getting later. The tattoo represents a physical mark on your skin that can be erased with personal monetary expense, but some of my mistakes have hurt others who I care about deeply, and imprinted my soul with indelible blots that I must continually remind myself can only be washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

This is a follow up post to Tattoos: Why? (Part One)

(09–7-14 edit) For further reading – Is Getting a Tattoo a Sin?

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

genesis-bible-book-of-moses

Questions are only natural.

Who are the sons of God? Are they angels? Demi-gods? Holy people? If they’re gods, then the Bible isn’t monotheistic, and angels are commonly thought to be creations like humans, not children of God. But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t? And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts? And why would they marry human women?

These questions are from the sixth chapter of Genesis, which is an account of the state of humanity leading up to the flood.

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Gen 6:1-2, emphasis mine)

This passage has created quite a stir in Christianity, unnecessarily in my opinion, because the answer that best fits the criteria I have set forth and that is also the most parsimonious is actually rather dull, especially compared to some of the more outlandish answers that some have given. “Who are the sons of God [mentioned in Genesis 6:2]?” They are simply the men who called upon the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 4:26)

Often we find that the Bible is its own best interpreter. When a term or phrase is confusing, sometimes we can get a better grasp on it by finding other examples of the term or phrase in other areas of scripture. In this case, our phrase is defined for us in the book of Romans.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom 8:14, emphasis mine)

So we see that the simplest reading of the text, and the one that fits the criteria for internal coherence with the rest of the narrative, points to the sons of God merely being men who were serving God the best way they knew how with the light they had at the time. HWT asked “But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t?” First, I’m not sure “holy men” is the right description. I try to serve God as well, but I in no way consider myself a “holy man.”  Also, I’m not sure I see that particular implication. There is no doubt that for whatever reason Enoch was special in God’s sight, and God “took him.” However the text doesn’t indicate that the rest of the people in Enoch’s time were “ungodly.”

And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts?

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(Gen 6:4-5)

This is a result of the sons of God becoming “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) with the daughters of men. Today’s equivalent would be a Christian marrying a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist. This type of marriage is typically detrimental to the Christian’s walk with God. In the days of Noah, there were no governments or laws such as we have in this day, and the evil in their hearts was unrestrained by the societal norms we have in this day. The men who were unequally yoked were turned from serving God by their wives, and/or their children were not taught to serve God by their mothers. Because of this their fallen and selfish natures were unrestrained by neither religion nor society. I imagine that it was a pretty dangerous time to live in.

My interpretation of “the sons of God” may be considered somewhat controversial by some, however it seems to be the answer that makes the most sense. The phrase is used in one instance (Job 38:7) where I struggle to make this interpretation make sense, but every other time it appears in the Bible, this interpretation fits nicely. To view the phrase as representing angels, as some have, just adds an additional level of complication to the narrative, much like the positing of the special creation of wives for the sons of Adam and Eve, complications which are never “worked out” subsequently in the narrative. In addition, the things that we do know about angels and biology through Biblical revelation seem to inveigh against angel/human marriage and reproduction.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

 

Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let’s jump right into it. There are several lines of reasoning that, to me, offer compelling evidence to believe in the God of the Bible, in Jesus of Nazareth, and the veracity of the Old and New Testament historical accounts.

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A Creator God: The most reasonable conclusion

Belief in a Creator God

This issue is the easiest to address in my mind. There are several philosophical arguments that one can use to come to the conclusion that it is more reasonable to believe in a creator God than it is to hold there is no such being. First, in my mind, is the fact that there is anything at all. When we look at the “stuff” around us we realize that everything we see is temporal (finitely existing in time) and that it had a cause. If we trace the causation of each thing back, we realize that the cause had a cause, and etc. At this point we can infer one of two things: either there is an unbroken and infinite causal chain, going back into eternity past, or, more parsimoniously and probably, at some point in the finite past, there was a first cause.

Science actually confirms, as nearly as possible, that there is indeed a first cause. Here’s how: back in the early twentieth century, a man named Edwin Hubble discovered that our universe is undergoing constant expansion. Everything in the observable universe is actually moving farther apart from everything else. This was a huge surprise for scientists at the time, because if you simply “rewind the tape” you inevitably come to the conclusion that there had to be an absolute beginning. Many scientists of that day (and this day as well) did not like that implication and there have been several theories proposed to try to “rescue” the universe from an absolute beginning, but to this day all of the evidence we have from science (via observation and testable and repeatable experimentation) is that the universe did indeed have an absolute beginning.

In my article on the subject I walked through the reasons why positing God as the “Big Banger” is the most reasonable inference for the beginning of the universe. The most compelling and easily understood philosophical argument, in my mind, is what is commonly referred to as the Kalaam Cosmological Argument. It posits two premises followed by the conclusion that most naturally follows. Here it is in its simplest form:

Kalaam Cosmological Argument

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. God is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe.

In my article entitled “Why is there SOMEthing and not NOthing?” I explain the reasoning behind the first two premises, and flesh out the conclusion.

There are similar arguments that trade on the need for a contingent being, and they follow through as well, but they are also more nuanced than the Kalaam. Perhaps down the road we can look at those types of arguments more closely. However, the Kalaam Cosmological Argument serves to show that belief in a creator God is indeed the most reasonable conclusion, given the evidence from science and observation that is available to us today.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability). For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. She has many questions! I asked the author if she would mind whittling down the number of her questions to those she found most essential, and she has attempted to do so. I will now attempt to write a series of my own articles, and attempt to answer her questions as completely as possible.

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Got questions?

There are a few principles that need to be kept in mind throughout this process. First, some of the questions she has asked can not be answered with any certainty whatsoever, because the information is just not there. Next, some of the questions she has asked may have more than one possible answer. I will give what I feel is the best answer, but I freely admit I could be wrong. I am not a Biblical scholar, or a trained theologian. My only claim to any knowledge of the Bible is what I have learned through reading, study, and hearing the preaching of God’s word.

What makes a good answer for these questions? I will attempt to establish some criteria for my answers, and for each answer I will attempt to meet the criteria I have established. (HWT, if you have suggestions for these criteria, I am open to them.)

  1. The answer should be logically consistent in the context of the narrative in question. One goal I have is to make sure I don’t go so far out on a branch in attempting to answer these questions that I walk out of the tree.
  2. The answer should be internally coherent with the classical Biblical and Christian worldview. For instance, I love going to movies. All I ask from a movie is to be internally coherent. This means that whatever ‘world” the director is trying to present needs to make sense throughout the movie. In The Avengers, for example, the heroes and villains have certain powers, strengths, and weaknesses. These attributes should be consistent throughout the movie, or it is not internally coherent.
  3. My goal is not to try to satisfy the question asker with an answer that will fit any other worldview other than that listed in #2. For instance, the Christian worldview holds that God exists, and He has certain attributes. I won’t try to defend these initial premises on their own merits (although I have begun to do so in other articles), except when to show how they pertain to the specific questions at hand. For the purposes of this exercise, we will again resort to  The Avengers example. The director has asked us to “suspend our disbelief” as we watch the movie, meaning we know that these things aren’t true in the real world, but for the duration of the movie we accept them as being true, and as long as the movie is internally coherent, then no matter how fantastical the story gets, it is still a good story. HWT, I ask the same thing of you. I understand you don’t believe these things you are reading. That’s ok. All I ask is that you evaluate the answers I attempt to give on the merits of being internally consistent within what you believe is the work of fiction called the Bible.

I hope to be able to show the writer at HWT and other Biblical skeptics that there are plausible explanations for the questions they have. Hopefully we can at least agree on that much, whether or not she finds my answers compelling enough to accept as satisfying. Finally, HWT has asked more questions than I have time to devote to give complete and reasonable responses for, so I will sort of pick and choose my way through her questions, answering those that I think I can offer the best and most complete answers for. I will also give her ample opportunity to rebut my answers or to ask for further clarification.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous Writings Published on “The Patch” (Part 1)

About a year ago, I started publishing articles on a web site called “The Patch“, which a actually collection of sites specific to local communities. I started posting in the Woodstock Patch, and branched out from there to cover much of the metro-Atlanta area and even some other states. “The Patch” has recently undergone a major reformat, and thus far the tools provided to post articles on the new platform seem to be somewhat of a downgrade from what they were previously.

I tried somewhat to start working on a foundational basis of explaining why the Christian worldview is a reasonable worldview to hold. Here I will list links to the articles I posted there, and along the way I might pull them out, dust them off, and re-post them. Take a look. Let me know what you think!

CLIMATE CHANGE!! GLOBAL WARMING!! THE SKY IS FALLING!! Or is it?

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear how man-caused climate change/global warming is in danger of making our planet an inhospitable desert unfit to live on. How do we deal with this information?

Christianity: A “Blind” Faith?

Is the Christian faith a “blind” faith, or are there good, solid reasons to hold the beliefs that we do? Hopefully we can answer this question together over a series of articles on some of the foundations of the Christian faith.

Climate change, Consensus, and Galileo

This is a follow-up post to my article on Climate Change/Global Warming (CCGW). Some issues were raised in the reader comments that were too lengthy to follow up on there, so I decided to post my reply as another article.

Why is there SOMEthing and not NOthing?

It was a difficult decision to try and figure out where to begin this series, but ultimately I decided to begin at the beginning! It seems like a natural “jumping off point” and after all, if we can’t trust Genesis 1:1, well what can we trust?

Why is there SOMEthing and not NOthing? (A response to critics)

My previous post seemed to draw the ire of several people who disagreed with my conclusions. I invite everyone to read the article and the comments by my detractors.

The “Art” of Discussion (AKA Argumentation)

I prefer to use the word “discussion” over “argument” because of the popular perception of the latter, but whatever you call it, it can be productive if pursued properly.

Multiverse? A note on the difference between observation and speculation…

Sometimes you hear something that makes you think of the Athenians during the time of the Apostle Paul. “[They] spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” Acts 17:21

God Did It: Ignorance or Best Answer?

Is it really a huge “Leap of Faith” to believe in an all-powerful God that has created our universe?

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