March 2007

thesecret.jpgToday I started reading The Secret, and came across the following quote:

Quantum physicists tell us the Universe emerged from thought! (Page 15)

I admit my knowledge of quantum physics is sorely lacking … is this statement accurate? If so, what exactly does it mean? I know what it means in "The Secret" context, but what does it mean in the world of quantum physics (if anything)? (I'm not trying to be a smart-ass by the way, this is a serious question!)

I'll post some thoughts on the content of The Secret as I get farther in the book. For those who haven't heard of the book, it's basically the best-selling New Age repackaging of the 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking. Available via Amazon, eBook version from (this is the version I got) or your local bookseller. I'm reading it because I'm writing one of my research papers on it. My initial impression is that the power of positive thinking stuff is generally good, but the "thought magnet" stuff and the implication that thoughts create reality is simply unnecessary at best. [Edit: As I read further into the book, I'm becoming more increasingly concerned. I think this book could actually be harmful.]

I forgot to post it before, but Alvin Plantinga, one of the foremost philosophers alive today, wrote a review of Dawkins' The God Delusion for Christianity Today magazine recently. Read it here:

» The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism ad absurdum

The title of the article is groan-worthy, but the article itself is not. Plantinga begins his review by making an important note:

[Dawkins] and [Daniel] Dennett both appear to think it requires considerable courage to attack religion these days … Here it's not easy to take them seriously; religion-bashing in the current Western academy is about as dangerous as endorsing the party's candidate at a Republican rally.

This is one of the initial objections I had to Sam Harris' book, Letter to a Christian Nation: This is not a "Christian nation", it's a secular nation, especially in academia. Dawkins' dismissal of biochemist Michael Behe's work out of hand because "Behe believes in God" is an example of the prevailing academic attitude.* Also, note that in Dawkins' own nation, One third of all Christians say: We've suffered discrimination ( news story).

Also worthy of note, one of my professors at Tyndale University College & Seminary is working on the first North American book in reply to The God Delusion. Alister McGrath's book is already out in the UK (McGrath also teaches at Oxford University; I wonder Dawkins and McGrath have ever bumped into each other on campus?) but I haven't read it yet either, so I don't know how good it is.

For the record, I still haven't read Dawkins' book. I should have time to read non-school related books after I finish my degree this summer.

* This incident is related in more detail, in context, in James W. Sire's excellent book Why Good Arguments Often Fail, p63-64.

Walking on WaterI'm currently in the process of working on my research essay for my Apologetics class (PDF course outline). We're allowed to choose any topic we want for our essays, so I chose the historical reliability of the New Testament. One book that I was sure I wanted to use was Richard Bauckham's newest, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, which argues that "the four Gospels are closely based on eyewitness testimony of those who knew Jesus". (Bauckham is professor of New Testament at St. Andrews University in Scotland.) I haven't had a chance to read the entire book yet (this topic comprises only part of my overall argument in my essay) but it seems like a fantastic book so far; thoroughly researched and convincing, as well as being evenhanded and logical.

Here is the relevant excerpt from my paper. The footnotes are removed; the majority of the references are from Dr Bauckham's book. (See "Further Reading" below for more sources.)


Although everyone recognizes the limitations of eyewitness testimony, it is still powerful evidence that was highly valued in the ancient world and is still valued highly today. Communication in the first century was primarily oral, necessitating that people develop strong memory skills. Some first century Rabbis even memorized entire books of the Old Testament! (I personally once witnessed a man dramatically recite the entire book of Luke from memory.) This lends credibility to the idea that the eyewitness accounts would still be reliable many years after the events themselves took place; even today amazing feats of memory are still possible, especially when the circumstances are ripe for strong memory retention.

Ancient historians did not place as high a value on recording the exact words spoken by an individual, and instead attempted to communicate the speaker's intended meaning as fully as possible. Therefore, while different authors may record a speaker's words slightly differently, their testimonies can still be reliable. Additionally, if the stories in the gospel were all related in exactly the same way, we might suspect collusion between the authors: “If the gospels were too consistent, that in itself would invalidate them as independent witnesses.” (Craig L. Blomberg) That the gospels relate the same events but in slightly different ways suggests that what they present is a common historical core from different perspectives.

Doubting ThomasIf the New Testament material comes directly from eyewitness accounts rather than secondary or tertiary accounts, the case for the reliability of the New Testament is strengthened. Since the New Testament was written within the lifespans of those who observed the events it records, the eyewitnesses to the events would still be alive to verify the contents of the New Testament when it was written and began to be circulated. [Note: In the full essay I develop the case for the early dating of the New Testament texts.]

A good case can be made that Mark's gospel is based on eyewitness testimony, namely that of Peter, and perhaps also of Mark himself and others. (Cases can also be made for other New Testament documents.) Firstly, Mark's gospel places more emphasis on Peter than any other gospel. For example, Mark notes Jesus speaks to Peter directly twice in Gethsemane, whereas the other gospels are more general. Mark also mentions Peter more times per page than any other gospel writer. Secondly, Mark uses the technique of inclusio (a literary “framing” device) at the beginning and end of his gospel which likely indicates that Peter is the source of the gospel's material. Finally, external testimony from Papias in the late first or early second century (as quoted by Eusebius) confirms Mark as author of the gospel and his use of Peter as a source. Taken together, this evidence strongly suggests that Mark's gospel is based on testimony from Peter, a direct eyewitness to Jesus' ministry. (Bauckham also suggests several other lines of evidence, such as the curious wording of section 13 of the "Gospel of Thomas".)

A unique and puzzling detail in Mark's gospel is recorded in Mark 14:51-52: “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” This seemingly inconsequential incident does not appear in the other gospels. Why did the author choose to include it? It seems quite possible that the author himself was the “young man … following Jesus” (the young man was not one of the apostles) and therefore chose to include this incident in the gospel because it involved himself. This theory is inconclusive, but nonetheless an intriguing possibility, and regardless it is an example of one of many “anonymous witnesses” in the gospels, any of which are probable eyewitness sources for the gospels.

Further Reading:

David RoySometimes hearing the stories of other people's lives is just so inspiring. Since I'm a hockey fan, learning about the lives of people involved in my favorite sport is always interesting. David Roy, a skating coach who has worked for NHL teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars, as well as the Canadian National Team and Canadian Women's Olympic Team, describes what it was like when a tsunami hit during his vacation in Thailand in 2003:

I remember that day very clearly, that day when 186,983 people died and 42,883 went missing. People started running and screaming …

He also describes what his faith means to him:

Jesus offers me forgiveness and a better life, not an easier life, but a better life. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteous” in Matthew 6:33. The words spoke to me as never before. My worries about accomplishing my future plans in hockey, artwork and law were gone. Those things didn’t matter anymore compared to having a relationship with God. I felt a sense of freedom. I was free and didn’t have to worry; I just wanted to live for God.

Read David Roy's full store here. There are also many other interesting life stories available, including famous sports stars like Paul Henderson and Roger Neilson, but also of many "average Joes". In fact, my story will be appearing on sometime soon! :)