Adelaide Chapter

Archive for the ‘Biblical Issues’ Category

Have you ever heard people claim that the Bible is full of contradictions? I expect so, but is it true? This presentation reviews the claims of “The Bible Handbook for free thinkers and inquiring Christians” by GW Foote and WP Ball. This catalogues numerous alleged contradictions and problem passages in the Bible.

The forward to the 10th edition states:

  • OUR BIBLE HANDBOOK was first issued in 1888. It has now survived the storms of religious controversy and continues to carry devastation into the ranks of Christian bibliolators without receiving any adequate answer… the anti-Christian controversialist “has only to open our Handbook, and in five minutes he will be able to advance more arguments against the Bible than his opponent will be able to answer in a lifetime”.

Stephen White assesses some of these alleged contradictions and whether the claim in the forward is true.

Stephen White

In addition, he addresses the following issues:

  • What do we mean if we claim that the Bible is inspired?
  • How should we respond to alleged contradictions or problematic passages in the Bible?
  • How should we respond when people claim that the Bible is rubbish and full of contradictions?

Stephen’s talk is available on YouTube.

Dating the gospels is controversial, but some scholars date the gospels from 65 AD for Mark and up to 95 AD for John. In the meantime, the gospel message was supposedly passed on mainly by word of mouth. Sceptics claim that the stories were distorted and embellished by Chinese whispers, and then written down to meet the needs of the church at the time of writing. Thus, they are historically unreliable.

Chinese whispers

Is this true, or are the gospels based on eye-witness testimony? So,

  • What do the gospel authors claim about the nature of their testimony,
  • Can they be trusted, and
  • How can we know?

Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide. He is also a researcher, research supervisor and former lecturer at the University of South Australia.

Dr Kevin Rogers

Kevin’s presentation can be viewed on YouTube.

You’ve no doubt heard of the pyramids and other huge monuments of ancient Egypt. Many inscriptions are chiselled on to these monuments and people have been fascinated by them for centuries. Once the hieroglyphic script was decoded in the modern era, our understanding of the stories, religion, history, and laws of ancient Egypt has greatly expanded.

More recently, over the past 100 years or so, a huge number of texts from other ancient nearby cultures – Sumerian, Babylonian, etc., have been discovered and decoded. This has similarly added hugely to our understanding of these ancient cultures.

The Bible, widely available and read by westerners over the past 2 millennia, includes the stories, religion, history, and laws of the ancient Hebrew people, who existed in the same general area as those other ancient peoples.

So how do the texts from these different cultures relate? In particular,

  • How do the non-Biblical texts from various cultures relate to the Bible texts?
  • Are they related?
  • To what extent and in what way do the non-Biblical texts help us to understand the Bible texts?
Geoff Russell

Geoff’s presentation can be viewed on YouTube.

All four gospels claim that Jesus was from Nazareth. However, some sceptics claim that Nazareth did not exist at all in the first 1st century, or that it was a small village, rather than a city, as Luke claims (Luke 1:26). The traditional site for Nazareth was certainly not a large city in the 1st century. So, what is going on? Is Jesus truly Jesus of Nazareth?

Trevor Harris will describe the archaeological evidence and compare this with the gospel claims. The answer is probably not what you expect.

Trevor Harris

Trevor Harris has an honours degree in Architecture and a masters degree in Urban and Regional planning. He has practised in these areas for 45 years in government and private practice. For the last 20 years he has developed a passion for bible research, particularly in identifying Bible sites. This includes history, archaeology, and geography. He has engaged in seven research trips to the Middle East.

Trevor’s presentation can be viewed on YouTube.

The whole demonic realm sounds implausible to the modern ear, but it is a real part of the Christian worldview. In fact, it is claimed that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), but how does that work out? Often Satan is depicted by gross and obvious images, but that is dead giveaway.

Rather, Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Evil is inherently deceitful and that is where it derives its power. It affects all human institutions, but it also affects us at a personal level. Thus, Geoff will present:

  • What does the Bible say about how Satan works?
  • What is the nature of his work?
  • How have these things been defeated?
  • How will these things be defeated? and
  • How should we respond?

Geoff Russell is a professional electrical engineer. He has a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours from the University of Adelaide, a post-graduate Diploma in Engineering & Computer Applications.

Geoff Russell

Geoff’s talk can be viewed on YouTube.

The book of Job in the Bible is one that has resonated with people for thousands of years. It confronts one of the enduring questions that continues to plague mankind: Why do the righteous suffer?

Elihu contradicts Job and his friends (Job 32). Wood engraving, published in 1886.

But how should we view this book? Is it a philosophical/theological treatise? Is it one man’s struggle in written form to come to grips with the question? Is it the work of many people over a period of centuries? Or is it the story and experience of a real human being struggling first-hand with major catastrophes in his own life?

Brian Schroeder

Brian’s talk can be viewed on YouTube.

In a previous presentation Gordon pointed out that many of the Old Testament miracles have a naturalistic explanation, but this does not in the least detract from their miraculous aspects of timing and improbability. However, Jesus’s miracles are in an altogether different category. None of these miracles have a naturalistic explanation. On the contrary, many of these miracles point to Jesus as being unquestionably the Son of God.

Are we to take these miracles just at face value? Is it just a case of “Wow! Look at God doing the impossible again – isn’t that cool!” I would argue that certainly most, if not all, of Jesus’s miracles are merely the ‘attention catcher’. They go beyond the immediate and obvious circumstances. They all have theology behind them, and it is this deeper significance and application that we should concentrate upon. The miracle may be important in its own right, but we do well to keep an eye on what’s behind and beyond the miracle.

Dr Gordon Stanger

Dr Gordon Stanger is a geologist, hydrologist, water resources specialist, and a climate-change impact analyst. He is semi-retired and is a keen advocate of ‘sensible Christianity’.

Gordon’s talk can be viewed on YouTube.

The account of Joseph of Arimathea is very familiar. It is often read in churches at Easter time. It records how Joseph requested the body of Jesus from Pilate and buried him in a tomb at a known location. However, on the following Sunday, the body was gone, many were claiming to have witnessed appearances of the risen Jesus; and Jesus’ opponents could not produce the corpse. Thus the historicity of the burial in Joseph’s tomb is paramount to the central truth claim of Christianity.

The entombment of Christ by Caravaggio 1603-1604

However, Joseph is only mentioned during one cameo appearance and is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, the location of Arimathea is not absolutely certain, and there are no references to this town in contemporary non-Christian sources. Thus, the brevity of the evidence has prompted some to challenge whether the event occurred at all. After all, isn’t absence of evidence the evidence for absence? So, is Joseph of Arimathea historical?

There are records in each of the four gospels that have some common material but are viewed from different perspectives. From these we can judge whether they are based on factual eye-witness testimony.

Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide. He is also a researcher, research supervisor and lecturer at the University of South Australia.

Dr Kevin Rogers

Kevin’s talk is available on YouTube.

In the very dark days of World War 1, Britain made agreements with both the Arabs and the Jews regarding the land, then known as Palestine, to seek short term assistance to win “The Great War”. As an inevitable consequence, both Arabs and Jews believed they had received a promise that they would possess that land, but the contradictory promises resulted in growing anger and conflict between Arabs and Jews in that land. By 1947 Britain, so weary after World War 2, had had enough of this conflict and, on 29th November 1947, the United Nations agreed to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. The conflict has been going on ever since.

Stephen White addresses the following issues: •

  • What has happened?
  • What were the causes?
  • Is anyone right or wrong?
  • How should we view it?
  • What has God got to do with it?
Stephen White

Steve’s talk is on YouTube.

The story of Jonah is one of the better known tales in the Bible. The concept of a man being swallowed by a whale certainly piques the imagination, though there is more to it than that, but what are we to make of it?

Was it intended to be read as history, a fable, or something else? What was its purpose intended to be? And if it was supposed to be read as history, how much of it can we believe? How much of this story is actually historically plausible?

Brian Schroeder

Brian’s presentation is available on YouTube.