The Heresy of Orthodoxy

Book Review:
Kostenberger and Kruger
The Heresy of Orthodoxy

Perhaps you have seen specials on PBS or National Geographic where liberal scholars, like Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, try to say that there were many christianities competing to be the one in power. They have an aire of authority when they try to demonstrate such from the writings of some of the early fathers, but neglect others. They say that the New Testament books were decided on after the fact, several hunder years after the New Testament era, and after “orthodoxy” had been decided by those who had the power. Enter Kostenberger and Kruger who survey the fathers, their quotes of the New Testament, and then survey the New Testament itself to demonstrate how wrong these liberals are. Kostenberger and Kruger demonstrate that the New Testament books were already being considered scripture by fellow apostels, such as Peter who referred to Paul’s writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16), Paul who quoted Luke as scripture (1 Timothy 5:18), and first generation fathers who quoted the Apostles profusely as scripture, such as Polycarp who knew John quoting Ephesians as scripture. This is a very encouraging read and not so full of jargon that you have to be a specialist to hanlde it, yet these men are keen scholars. This book is soft cover and only about 250 pages of text.

The Very Rev Dr Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ

Darrell L. Bock & Daniel B. Wallace, Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ (2007)

Bock and Wallace are both professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, progressive dispensationalists (the milder form), and very conservative. Bock has an expertise in New Testament backgrounds, and is often called on by the secular media as an expert in such things as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, and so forth. Wallace has written the advanced Greek grammar used in most seminaries, and is an expert in New Testament manuscripts and textual criticism, a hobby for me. This is the story of the Discover channel and its presentation of “alternative gospels,” how Bock was consulted and how they respond to Discover’s hatchet job on these materials discovered in 1947 (Nag Hammadi).

This is more tedious than Peter Hitchen’s book above, and delves into more scholarly issues, but still very readable for those with just a modicum of perseverance. Bock does a very fine scholarly job in demonstrating that the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas were written at least 100 years after the New Testament was completed, if not longer, were known by the early fathers, and rejected by them. Reasons for their rejection were that they were too late to be apostolic, too Gnostic to be true, and denied the faith as it has been handed down for at least 150 years. For example, the Gospel of Thomas states that a woman must become a man before she could be a Christian, which is conveniently overlooked by too many liberals in their zeal to discredit Christianity.

Bart Ehrman, who is on a tirade to destroy Christianity, having converted to liberalism from his Moody Bible College days, tries to demonstrate how the New Testament Greek manuscripts were tamped with by those allegedly untrustworthy early fathers, and Wallace rises to the defense of the integrity of both the fathers and the manuscripts. Wallace demonstrates many times how Ehrman leads people to believe things by innuendo. Having read Ehrman’s book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, I concur wholeheartedly with Wallace concerning Ehrman’s subjectivity in many of his arguments regarding how changes took place in some of the early Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Attacking Christianity by attacking the Bible is not new, of course, but has been going on since Marcion in the 140s who tampered with the text, rewrote much of Luke and Paul’s epistles, and rejected the connection between Old Testament and New Testament. The fathers rose to the occasion, rejected his Greek texts that he rewrote, and rejected him. Then a few decades later, the fathers rejected the new gospels as an attack against orthodoxy, wrote against them, and maintained both the original four gospels and the gospel of the grace of God as contained in them. In this day of constant attack by the media, we need to be armed to answer our people who may be concerned by these wicked wolves. As Peter said, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

Rage Against God

Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God (2010)

This is another book written by a former atheist. (Last time we reviewed former atheist, Antony Flew, who for 50 years wrote against theism and was considered the leading academic atheist, but about six years before he died, changed his mind and wrote There Is a God.) Peter Hitchens is brother of the famous (or infamous) Christopher Hitchens, who has written many books against Christianity. I say with no sense of delight that Christopher recently postponed his latest book tour to undergo treatment for throat cancer, perhaps caused by his heavy smoking and drinking. May the Lord be pleased to deal with him regarding his soul. Christopher has spent a lifetime fighting the Lord and His Messiah (Psalm 2:1-3).

His brother Peter was also an atheist at one time, but the sub-title to his book tells his story: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. The book tells Peter’s life story in atheism, and how he came to faith in the resurrection of the Christ. Peter also writes in an irenic spirit, and many times he addresses his infidel brother with gentle challenges. Peter also demonstrates the rage that the new atheism has against Christians and Christianity. Unlike the calm atheism of the recent past, this new breed of atheism, of which Christopher is a leader, engages in name calling, hate speech, and ad hominem attacks. They are fundamentalist atheists. They are writing books saying that religion, especially Christianity with its exclusive claim to truth, should be destroyed. (Persecution of Christians would be the next logical step.)

This is an easy to read 200 page book that should be great encouragement to Christians to see once again a man who was a hard core atheist come to faith not only in some kind of God, but the Christian God, more specifically, Jesus as the Son of God, and belief in His bodily resurrection. Particularly interesting are the three chapters where he deals with the three things often brought up by atheists. (1) Atheists claim that most wars are caused by religion, but Peter Hitchens shows that other factors dominate. Moreover, Peter shows how many hundreds of millions atheistic governments have murdered in the last 100 years. (2) Atheists think they can have morality without the Triune God, but Hitchens demonstrates otherwise. (3) When atheists are confronted with the horrors of atheistic governments and all their murders, they claim such governments were not really atheistic but religious in disguise! Take a look at this one!

The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

There Is a God, Antony Flew

This book is soft cover and only about 220 pages of text. It is written by one who was for 50 years the foremost scholar for atheism in the world. He was a British philosopher who died about a month ago (April 2010) at age 87, and was noted for the many books he wrote on the philosophy of religion, promoting atheism. Much to the chagrin of his fellow atheists, in 2004 he changed his mind, and then wrote this book in 2007. All the work done by theistic scientists in intelligent design convinced him there was a super-intelligence who created the universe. This is the very readable, non-technical story of the reasons for his change. Flew became open to the Christian faith, and even had Christian scholar N. T. Wright add an appendix on the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Christ, which he said was “very powerful”! Whether he became a Christian will only be revealed at the Last Day, but this is a very encouraging read. He takes atheists like Dawkins (The God Delusion) to task, and the atheistic world is in a tizzy about this book!

The Very Rev Dr Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D. 

David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion

David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion (2009), is a take off on Dawkins’s book, The God Delusion. Berlinski describes himself as a secular Jew, who is also a mathematician who has written books on math, and holds the Ph.D. from Princeton University. This book is soft cover and about 220 pages. It is absolutely hilarious to read as he ties up the materialist atheists in knots, accusing them of holding to creation by evolution and believing that science is inerrant. He demonstrates many times that modern atheists hold their views because of circular reasoning, metaphysical assumptions, and often just bad science. He displays vast learning in many fields.

Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

Sam Harris, also considered a leader in the very militant and mean spirited New Atheism, wrote Letter to a Christian Nation (2006). Like Dawkins, he is unwilling (or unable) to analyze his own assumptions and thus resorts to name calling, rage, and other emotional outbreaks. One wonders if he is really a woman with a bad case of pms. It is one of the most militant and arrogant books I’ve ever read with incredible ignorance of the Bible, though he thinks he really knows it. It is a quick, easy read of just over 100 pages. He refers to Christians as ignorant, dangerous, and just plain stupid. Who can take something like this serious? Of course, he considers himself brilliant, magnanimous, and educated. The logical conclusion to this book and to Dawkins’s book above is the persecution of Christians. One gets the impression that he wants to see us all dead.

Keith Ward, What The Bible Really Teaches (Not)

When one sees the title of a book like that (What the Bible Really Teaches), it always breeds caution.  The author, Keith Ward, is retired as Regius Prof. of Divinity at Oxford.  About the only thing good about this book is that it gives us what not to believe. I’ve never seen so many passages twisted in one short book of about 200 pages.  He denies the infallibility of Scripture but assumes it himself.  He says the Bible has authority, “but that authority is not unchangeable, final, or complete” (p. 15).  How does he know this without assuming such himself?  As one theologian has pointed out, infallibility is an inescapable concept.  It is only denied to show up somewhere else, in this case, as is so often true, it is transferred from text to reader.  Now Ward will infallibly tell us which parts are infallible.  Among his many denials are these:

  1. Creation is symbolic
  2. No one could possibly know about a second coming
  3. Everyone will be saved in the end

I could name many more heresies in the book, but you get the point.  If you want to know how liberals think, read this one; otherwise, read a novel.