Review of Crossway-TE in Themelios of The Gospel Coalition

Forgive me if I’m wrong, Jay, but I believe you meant the above quote to be derisive. Certainly this kind of ‘scenario’ put forth by Pope John II was derided by Dawkins and the other New Atheists. At first reading, I thought Teilhard’s proposal of the Noosphere was in that category. Could the recent birth of the Noosphere actually be as real and as Universally important historically as the Cosmosphere and the Biosphere which preceded it? The more I thought of it, even from the perspective of science, it made sense–the sphere of Mind, of Ideas and of easily (almost instantaneous) Information transfer was bound to change the very nature of the Universe. And, lo and behold, (in a non-theological fashion) Dawkins eventually climbed aboard, claiming Memes as his discovery of course.

If we allow Homo sapiens to be considered the first occupant of the Noosphere (that we know of) and the first of humankind, then the label 'theological man’ may help evangelical Christians accept Adam’s origin. (Incidentally, Adam need not have been a farmer, but he was a first class artist that Michelangelo would have admired.) I won’t hold my breath for this view of TE to be widely accepted, but who knows, eventually…
Al Leo

Yes, some ideas deserve to be poked fun at. I reject the thought that evolution was just fine for adam/“mankind,” but ha’adam/“the man” (or should that be “the Adam,” as if it were a proper name?) had to be specially created later on to fit the “historical” details of the story. That’s quite a different proposition than saying that mankind at some point became “theological man,” which I believe is your position.

It’s the same position @Jay313 =).

Ah. Now, I understand …


I don’t give a flying fig about Axe, but if you think that that the accounts of martyrdom of the Apostles and others came only centuries later, consider the following recorded in the New Testament:

  • The Holy Innocents were killed by Herod
  • John the Baptist was beheaded
  • Stephen was stoned to death (right in front of Paul)
  • Jesus explains in the Gospel of John how Peter is going to die
  • In Acts 12:2, Herod has James, the brother of John, executed with a sword.
  • Speaking about Paul, God says to Ananias,“Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
  • Acts closes with Paul under arrest in Rome, after appealing his case to Caesar. How did that go?

(Sorry, I just kind of threw this together quickly)

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Doug Axe is totally nuts, but Jesus did call his followers to take up their crosses. The cross was an instrument of torture and death, and not just a difficult and nasty mother-in-law.

I do actually still mean that (though with an asterisks as I will explain). If we grant that the New Testament narratives are accurate historical writing: regarding the martyrdom of the Apostles only we can find…

  • James executed by sword
  • There are no other accounts of any apostle martyrdom in the New Testament (Paul suffered a lot and he was in some kind of house arrest but nobody knows how it went after that since the story ends! There is maybe some allusion to Peter being crucified but we have no evidence of that happening at least in the Bible)

So where then do we get grand tales of martyrdom?

  • Not a scholarly article, but CT explains the writings of Origen (~100+ years after), Eusebius (~200+ years after). Polycarp (<100 years after) mentions that Philip fell asleep but that’s not a very dramatic description if it is referring to martyrdom
  • I didn’t dig too deep so perhaps there is more out there that the writer of this one article from CT missed
  • The Patheos blog, Daylight Atheism, has a summary as well as a good amount of sources but I didn’t read it too in depth:

I do not think that is accurate. This is some academic work from an author I know personally and trust.

My issue is not with looking to this example of martyrship (which we certainly see in Jesus), but in suggesting the focus is on dying for any particular truth, rather than dying for the right Truth. Anti-evolution arguments are not worth dying for, but the Gospel of Jesus is.

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Sidenote: here is a PDF of the intro and one book review written this year.

Where would Christian apologetics be if we couldn’t use the argument anymore related to “nobody in a position to know the truth of something would die for a lie?” I don’t mean to ask this to dismiss McDowell’s book, but certainly I know exactly what conclusions he is going to come to regardless of what evidence actually exists or doesn’t. It’d be like if Ken Ham writes a book evaluating the state of the theory of evolution, you know exactly what conclusions he is going to come to regardless of what is actually true.

I do see a significant engagement with nearly everything that’s ever been written in his book, but really it’s kind of like squinting into a foggy thicket (reading through some of the chapter on Peter that’s available) and then concluding, why yes, we were right all along you guys!

Maybe the apostles did die martyr’s deaths, I dunno. Nobody really does that’s alive today but it is commonly believed as an absolute matter of fact and used with 100% certainty in apologetics material.

All in all, I was just simply stating that our main sources of the martyrdom of the apostles rely on things written quite long after they lived and died which at this point, is not even really related to your main question.

That is actually not is conclusion. He concludes that most of the died, but appears all of them were willing to die. The evidence, however, is uneven. He uses methods similar to, for example, NT Wright and secular scholars in assigning confidence to each event.

Except you got his conclusion wrong.

I would encourage you to read a book first before critiquing it.

Sean McDowell did a PhD, with this as his thesis. Its not actually an apologetic work, even though it has apologetic work. It is an academic book. Its no different than, say, NT Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God or Gary Habermas’ work on the Resurrection (e.g. Over the last several decades, there was a revolution in history of 1st century palestine, with most biblical scholars coming to adopt similar methods and also concluding (atheists and agnostics too) that there is compelling evidence for historical claims Christians have traditionally made about this time.

To dismiss his work just because he is convinced by it is a very odd type of ad hominem.

The real claim is about whether or not it happened.

Besides, I agree its absurd to equate martyrdom for belief in Jesus with arguing against evolution. That, actually, is the real problem here.

Fair enough. I was unclear in that was actually my conclusion, not his. Sorry for any confusion.

That’s at least true of 100% of everyone who’s ever been born (unless we count the two stories of Enoch and Elijah as factual of course). I do appreciate you summarizing his viewpoint.

Sorry again for part of the confusion. But I mean common, if a Christian (and future Christian apologist) writes a book on such a topic, you pretty much know what it’s going to say. It’s kind of like the idea of the scandal of the evangelical mind idea where you can ask any question but must arrive at a predetermined answer (or at least close enough to it to avoid being ‘expelled’ from the evangelical world).

I read what I could for free. I believe he did the best with what we have available but it’s certainly not a knockout 100% case as most apologists use even if he tentatively concludes the accounts are accurate. I was also probably more sympathetic to the legend telling version that he was critiquing throughout as well but what do I know, I’m not a historian and don’t care to try to piece together those types of events by taking bits and pieces of ancient manuscripts that may or may not even apply and make such a case.

Sure, I suppose you’re right. I really am over my head in this type of field of inquiry. For now, I am only convinced of one thing, and that is nobody can be certain that any of the apostles actually died such heroic martyr deaths. But given a scholarly analysis of such using the best techniques we currently have available, maybe some of them died such deaths. And given such, Christian apologists will continue to have dogmatic confidence that since nobody would die for a lie they know for a fact is true then this all supports their argument for the resurrection of Jesus.

See the epistle by St. Clement of Rome to Corinth. St. Clement was an apostolic father. This epistle is one of the earliest Christian documents outside of the NT canon and was written between 70 and 140 AD.

Okay. Let’s check it out. Probably the relevant section is 1st Clement 5:

  • 1 Clem. 5:1 But, to pass from the examples of ancient days, let us come to those champions who lived nearest to our time. Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our generation.
  • 1 Clem. 5:2 By reason of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were persecuted, and contended even unto death.
  • 1 Clem. 5:3 Let us set before our eyes the good Apostles.
  • 1 Clem. 5:4 There was Peter who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one not one but many labors, and thus having borne his testimony went to his appointed place of glory.
  • 1 Clem. 5:5 By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith,
  • 1 Clem. 5:6 having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance.

I do appreciate the reference but can’t find any other relevant sections. He writes that some people died for their faith but doesn’t explicitly list any apostles being martyred other than that Peter and Paul died at least in some way.

Well, that sounds to me like Peter and Paul were killed a little bit.

But they did. Even this Clement passage supports that maybe some of them died but it isn’t even specific in regards to Peter or Paul dying such heroic deaths in the verses right after he claims some of the pillars died. It still seems the most explicit sources don’t come until centuries after the time of the Apostles. Unless you have anything that’s clear otherwise, I’m going to at least keep making the claim of centuries after and personally remaining agnostic and highly skeptical on the topic of the heroic martyrdom of the Apostles (though I would never claim that they definitely did not die such deaths).

I have no proofs of course, but who else but some of the Apostles would Clement of Rome consider to be the “greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church”?

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