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A few days ago the mysterious fragment of the Gospel of Mark was published. In 2012 Dan Wallace said in a debate against Bart Ehrman that he had it on good knowledge that a first century fragment of the Gospel of Mark was discovered. This bit of news excited the apologetics community, but then began a period of silence. It was discovered that Wallace had signed a non-disclosure agreement after his debate and details about the fragment were kept under wraps … until now.

Elijah Hixson broke the news of publication at his Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. The most immediate piece of information one should know that that the fragment dates not to the first century, but the late second or early third century. It is a small fragment, containing Mark 1:7–9 on one side and Mark 1:16–18 on the other. In addition to this fragment there was a fragment of Luke and Philemon discovered. It is arguably the oldest piece of Mark that we have, and certainly is the oldest section of Mark 1 that is extant.

Michael Rota’s book, considered with respect to organization, cogency of argument, and clarity of writing, merits high rank among contemporary works in apologetics and natural theology . He relies on an “updated version of Pascal’s Wager” to advance a compelling, sophisticated defense of Christianity. The central argument:

Rota supports the first and second premisses in Part I and Part II, respectively. He ends the book by recounting the lives of three Christians—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jean Vanier, and Immaculee Ilibagiza—so as to show that total Christian commitment is not only reasonable but beautiful as well.

Part I. According to Rota, Blaise Pascal directed the Wager argument to people who are genuinely open to Christianity—those who are uncertain as to its truth but think that it might be true. The insight is this: it is rational to commit to God and live a Christian life, since there is much to gain and little to lose by doing so, much to lose and little to gain by not doing so, and in any case a decision is has to be be made one way or the other—for or against.

Rota builds on that insight to argue for his first premiss, and does so by using decision theory, which studies how we can make good decisions in the face of uncertainty or risk. When something is at stake and you must choose between options, how do you discern the best course of action? Decision theory, based on common sense, says that you should pick an action if it weakly dominates its rival. In other words, you should pick an action if there is at least one possible scenario in which it delivers a better outcome than its rival and there are no possible scenarios in which it delivers a worse outcome; it is not only rational to pick it, but in ordinary circumstances it is irrational not to.

Rota begins by comparing two choices—committing to God and not committing to God—with respect to two possible outcomes. One outcome is that Christianity is true; the other is that naturalism—“there is no God, or anything like God, [there are no supernatural beings and no souls], and when we die it all goes black”—is true. It goes without saying that the two outcomes cannot both obtain. To commit to God (or to Christianity) is, roughly, to act in a way that would lead you to God if he were real (or if Christianity were true). It follows that you can commit to God even if you are an atheist; for instance, you might, in a certain sense, lack belief in God, while still possessing a desire to believe and a determination to act as if God were real. Rota goes well beyond Pascal’s brief sketch of the Wager, appealing to recent studies in psychology and sociology on the goods that religious commitment brings, to show that committing to God weakly dominates not committing to God. (more…)

John Frame (1939- ) has taught at some of the most prestigious seminaries in North America, including Westminster Seminary (Philadelphia), Westminster Seminary (Southern California) and Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando). Perhaps best known for his 4-volume series A Theology of Lordship, he is the author of more than twenty books, and has recently retired from teaching full-time. This book is a work of deep reflection on his life and more than five decades of teaching theology, philosophy, and apologetics.

In the Reformed world, he is perhaps best known for his theory of tri-perspectivism, the pedagogical device suggesting that we can understand the world through three lenses. The third of these lenses is existential and that is where this book would fall: an existential consideration of how God has worked in the life of a theologian and philosopher.

From an early age, Frame was more bookish than anything. Despising most sports and never being able to shake the social awkwardness he always felt, his description of his early years might remind some of C. S. Lewis and other authors who had similar struggles growing up. Additionally, he acquired a love for music early in life as he learned to play the piano and organ. This would be a significant part of his life in ministry leading to several books concerning music and (more…)

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of reality around us. All of life’s ultimate questions, whether about the nature of reality, the nature of man, the distinction between good and evil, or the possibility of the afterlife, they are all metaphysical questions. In Essentials of Christian Thought published by Zondervan , Roger Olson attempts to show that the Bible is not only a trustworthy source of spiritual and ethical guidelines, but also contains an accurate account of metaphysics, and this must be the lens through which a Christian must interpret reality (12). He says that many Christians wrongly assume that the Bible has no implicit philosophy, and hence try to interpret the Bible with metaphysics from worldviews that contain elements contradictory to Christianity, a phenomenon called syncretism (13).

In Chapter 1, Olson delves into epistemology, or the study of knowledge. First, he attacks the most common account of knowing in philosophy, called foundationalism, which claims that only objective truths of reason are indubitable and all other truths are either induced or deduced from them; he argues that such an approach often reduces metaphysics and religion to the realm of subjectivism (26-29). Olson adopts a ‘postfoundationalist’ and ‘perspectival’ approach to knowledge.He argues that nothing can be known objectively; they are known as they are seen by us through bliks or subjective lenses. If one defines epistemology in this way, then metaphysics becomes ‘existential map-making’ or mapping out a full picture of reality on the basis of what you perceive through the totality of your bliks (32-34). Olson argues that Christians do have a good reason to believe that they have the right blik because it is ‘supported by universal human experience’ and ‘better answers life’s ultimate questions than its competitors’ (36). Thus, while Christianity, like every other worldview, cannot be rationally proved with certainty , it does not entail that it is not true. In his first interlude, Olson explicates his own position of post-liberal soft fideism , which is the view that while Christian truth cannot be known through reason, it is not irrational (50). (more…)