I’m always fascinated at the various responses I get from Christians whenever I mention apologetics. The responses range from, “What are you talking about? Are you ‘apologizing’ for being a Christian?” to, “You should not really get involved with Apologists. They tend to be divisive and arrogant.” Some Christians know exactly what apologetics are but either have no interest in them or think that apologetics are better left to the academics. So what exactly are apologetics anyway?We get the word “apologetics” from the New Testament Greek word “apologia.” The literal translation of this word is “defense.” Continue reading
As shocked and appalled as we may be at seeing Muslim children and youths being martyred for Allah we should be even more so at Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim to be Christian sacrificing their own children in the name of Jehovah of the Watchtower. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that abortion is murder and denounce it yet at the same time are willing to allow their own children to die needlessly by refusing life saving blood transfusions. This kind of martyrdom has been going on in North America and around the world for decades with untold thousands of victims. One such victim was Bethany Hughes.
Bethany Hughes was martyred for Jehovah of The Watchtower at the tender age of 17 in 2002. Since that time, her father Lawrence Hughes has been battling the Watchtower in Canadian courts. Did Bethany really have to die? Do any Jehovah’s Witnesses really have to die for refusing blood transfusions? Well Lawrence Hughes doesn’t think so and neither do many who have lost loved ones in this manner. His fight continues to this day. He is currently in a position to appeal a court decision that sided with the Watchtower and is seeking your help. The following message is from an email he sent me dated September 5th, 2008. Continue reading
Today is L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday. Scientologists around the world will be celebrating the birth of their organization’s founder. Although I am NOT ‘Anonymous’ and have had no hand in the production of the uploaded video, I offer this as an RSVP to Scientology’s invitation to celebrate with them. Road To February 10, 2008
The following is a book review written by my son Caleb for his public high school World Religions class. I trust you will be as encouraged by it as much as I was.
Where is the crown in ‘The Jesus Dynasty’?
A Review by C.D. Upton
When one reads the title of Dr. James D. Tabor’s book The Jesus Dynasty one may be tempted to think that it is another conspiracy theory about how Jesus was married and had children, but such is not the case. Dr. Tabor is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is an expert on such matters as archaeology, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian origins. His book is a historical treatise of Christian origins. His thesis contains several parts but can be summarized as follows: Jesus had a human father who was not Joseph and had four brothers and two sisters that were born from a father after Joseph died; Jesus joined a Messianic Movement started by John the baptizer his relative who he considered to be a great prophet and his teacher; they considered themselves to be the two messiahs who were to usher in the Kingdom of God and fulfill the Hebrew prophets; then suddenly when John the baptizer was killed Jesus appointed his ‘council of twelve’ who were to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel when the kingdom of God came, which included four of Jesus’ brothers and finally, once Jesus was crucified James took leadership over the movement, but this form of Jewish Christianity was all but lost when Paul came into the story and ‘hijacked’ Christianity. While Dr. Tabor is much more of a sober historian than others who have attempted to present a view of Christian origins that differs from Christian orthodoxy, his case is still flawed in many crucial points.
Before I get to the criticisms of Dr. Tabor’s work there is much to commend about the work. Tabor is right to reject swoon theories (The Jesus Dynasty, 229-30), to accept the differences in Jesus’ birth accounts in the Gospels compared to those of Greco-Roman mythology (The Jesus Dynasty, 45), and reject the legendary material about Jesus’ childhood (The Jesus Dynasty, 86). Tabor also accepts the James ossuary as authentic while many assert that it is a forgery, the historicity of the four gospels including John, the Jewishness of Jesus, and the idea that the Suba cave perhaps could have been a place where John the Baptizer did his baptizing and much else that could be agreed upon. What is also so refreshing about Tabor’s work is that it is not filled with wild unsupported theories such as notions that the Gnostic gospels predate the New Testament Gospels (eg. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown) or Egyptian origins for Christianity (eg. The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur).
The best place to start in critiquing the book is to ask ‘What kind of biases does the author have?’ and ‘How do those biases affect the work?’ Tabor clearly has an anti-supernatural bias as expressed in this quote:
Historians are bound by their discipline to work within the parameters of a scientific view of reality. Women do not get pregnant without a male — ever. So Jesus had a human father… Dead bodies don’t rise… So if the tomb was empty the historical conclusion is simple — Jesus’ body was moved by someone… Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty 233-234
Clearly Tabor’s philosophical view of the nature of reality affects his conclusions about historical matters to some degree. Is Tabor unaware that there are plenty of good historians and scientists that do believe in miracles? This bias is simply an unwarranted faith assumption or rather a dogma (It is rather ironic that Tabor has such a unwavering faith assumption, when he himself is so critical of people who hold dogmas).
Tabor, while an expert on archaeology, seems not to be concerned that there is some criticism of some of his archaeological speculations, not the least of which is the Talpiot tomb. While Tabor’s thesis does not rely very heavily on archaeology it is noteworthy to examine the claims. Tabor I am sure is very aware that he is most likely one of the very few archeologists in the world today who believes that the Talpiot tomb has any connection to Jesus and his family. While I will not go exhaustively through all the problems with the family tomb hypothesis there are some brief things that should be noted: Why is the tomb in Talpiot. If it is the family tomb should it not be in Nazareth?; There is no historical record of any kind that says Jesus was married or had children and Amos Kloner, the Jerusalem District archeologist who officially oversaw the work at the tomb in 1980 and has published detailed findings on its contents, maintained that the possibility of the tomb having any relation to Jesus is close to zero (The Jesus Dynasty 25-26). Another radical archaeological claim is that Tabor believes that we may possibly have the tombstone of Jesus’ father Pantera. New Testament scholar Dr. Ben Witherington III, who has been very critical of Tabor’s work, has this to say in regards to the inscription on the tombstone:
German theologian Adolph Deissmann concludes from this inscription that Pantera died in the middle of the first century. If this is correct, it follows that (1) Pantera was not a Roman soldier in 2-6 B.C., the period in which Jesus was born (as Tabor acknowledges); and (2) if indeed this cohort of archers went to Dalmatia in A.D. 6 and then on to the Rhine in A.D. 9, as Tabor avers (p.69), then our man Pantera was not even yet with them, or if he was he had only just become a soldier in the first\decade of the current era, not in the period 2-6 B.C. In other words, the calculations are off by a least a decade. Witherington, What have they done with Jesus 297
Aside from the archaeology and presumptions, most of Tabor’s criticism has been received from Tabor’s history and exegesis of the New Testament texts. While much can be argued in terms of history and exegesis of Tabor’s work we will only examine the issues that are more important in terms of Tabor’s thesis. One of the crucial parts of Tabor’s thesis is that Jesus considered John the Baptizer a second messiah and a co-partner in the messianic movement, but this is highly suspect. Scholar Dr. Darrell Bock a professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary had this to say:
Tabor claims that John is the one who initiated the messianic movement, though it might be more accurate to say he announced the arrival of the promised time of renewal… The evidence for twin Messiahs comes from a text from Qumran, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls, even though we can’t be sure John was part of that Dead Sea movement…There is no evidence for it in any Christian materials (or even in sources that some argue go back to John the Baptist’s circles). Bock and Wallace, Dethroning Jesus 180-181
It is also important to note that in John 3:27-30 and its parallel in Mark 2:19-20 says that Jesus is called the ‘bridegroom’ while John the baptizer is called the ‘friend of the bridegroom.’ These texts make it clear that John and Jesus are not on the same level. While much more time could be spent on Tabor’s view of John the Baptizer, another crucial part of Tabor’s thesis, which he calls ‘the greatest secret of the New Testament’ is also suspect. Tabor believes that Jesus’ four brothers were part of the twelve apostles. Beside the fact that in the epistle of James and the epistle of Jude there is no evidence of this, are there any other problems with this idea? Some scholars believe Tabor’s exegesis of Luke 6:14-16 is flawed. This is what Witherington has to say about this issue:
Tabor says that the phrase “James of Alphaeus” means James son of Alphaeus, and this is likely correct… But Tabor then wants to turn around and read the adjacent phrase “Judas of James” as meaning Jude brother of James. This will not do. The Greek construction is the same in both cases… when Luke wanted to say someone was the brother of another disciple, he inserted the word adelphos… But neither was Simon the Zealot or Jacob listed as one of Jesus’ brothers… In a desperate move Tabor suggests that Matthew/Levi son of Alphaeus is actually Joseph (p.164), even though no gospel text or later source even remotely suggests this. But then no source suggests that Mary was married to Clopas who is really Alphaeus either, as Tabor argues. Witherington, What Have they Done with Jesus 304-305
It appears that a closer look at the list of twelve shows that Jesus’ brothers were not part of the twelve. This is a crucial part of Tabor’s thesis because if Jesus’ brothers are not part of the twelve then you don’t have a Jesus dynasty.
What most astounds me though about Tabor’s thesis is his explanation of where he believes Jesus is buried. Tabor suggests that Jesus was finally buried in Tsfat and he bases this on the testimony of a sixteenth century rabbi who had no independent knowledge of the early evidence of Jesus’ death and burial! (The Jesus Dynasty 238) This in my mind smacks of bad history, taking so-called evidence from the sixteenth century is not very helpful for the understanding of the historical Jesus. Tabor also wants to explain the resurrection appearances by saying that they were some kind of powerful religious experiences (Ibid.). Well this simply won’t do. N.T. Wright, whom Tabor acknowledges (Ibid. 345) has shown in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God that resurrection only had one meaning in that time and that was of a physical body coming back to life.
One last controversial part of Tabor’s thesis must be addressed and that is Tabor’s idea that James and Paul had irreconcilable Christianities. It is important to acknowledge two things concerning this issue, one that this part of Tabor’s theory is not new and two that practically no New Testament scholar thinks that there wasn’t any conflict between Paul and the other apostles, the question is how far reaching was this conflict and is it really as big of a conflict as some think. All of the conflicts presented in the New Testament (Acts 10-11, 15, 20; Rom.13-15; Gal.1-2) are about the Jew-Gentile conflict, they are not arguing about the deity of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the death of Jesus or anything major, they are for the most part arguing about the relationship of Jews and Gentiles, and observance of the law. What is also crucial to recognize is that in one of Paul’s epistles, 1 Corinthians, he speaks very positively of his apostolic colleagues (3:5-9, 21-23; 4:1; 9:5). So I think this argument about conflict in the early church is exaggerated.
Much more could be said about Dr. Tabor’s work. As stated earlier, this is a refreshing criticism to the Christian faith because it’s grounds are more scholarly than most. It definitely got me thinking about a lot of things and it at least kept me on my toes in wrestling with his ideas. Tabor’s book I believe does offer us a contribution to the study of world religions because it very much stresses that Jesus was a Jew, the apostles were Jews and they lived in a Jewish culture, something that Christianity has long needed to be reminded of. I like what Darrell Bock says about the issue:
Perhaps the solution is to reject both the approach of Marcion, who shut out the Jewishness of early Christianity, and the approach of Tabor, who in seeking to maintain the Jewishness actually excludes the contribution of the most Jewish-instructed of all the apostles, Paul. Bock and Wallace, Dethroning Jesus 191
Bock, Wallace. Dethroning Jesus. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2007
Witherington. What have they done with Jesus. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006
Tabor. The Jesus Dynasty. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006
This past year has been a very busy one for ARM. New doors were open to us to offer seminars and our print and digital publishing had also expanded. In addition to our own ministry activities, we were actively promoting other ministries and events throughout the year. For instance, our friend Tony Costa has been especially busy this past year as you will see in our following calendar of events.
2007 Annual Report
We hosted ‘In The Name of Jehovah’ seminar at Westmount Park Church. We also promoted the Decoding The Da Vinci Code Seminar by Tony Costa at Tyndale Seminary. And just to let everyone know what we were doing the previous year, I posted our 2006 Annual Report on our web site.
This month we were pleased to promote The Bible Skeptics Conference in Whitby, Ontario hosted by Paul MacGregor. Speakers included Bruce Malone from Search For The Truth, Dr. John Barnett from Discover The Book, Andrew Barron from Jews for Jesus Canada and Dave Hunt from The Berean Call. We have DVDs available of that conference. Write to us to find out how to get your own copy (see address below). We also promoted ‘The New Age Movement: Is it Really New?’ seminar by Tony Costa at Tyndale Seminary as well as his‘Who Is Jesus?’ presentation at York University. In response to tract distribution program done in my neighborhood by the Seventh-day Adventists this month, I responded to the claims of the tract first in email conversation with someone on the other end of the email address given on the tract. This in turn resulted in my February web posting ‘Why Sunday?’. The spamming and negative emails I have been receiving as a result of this posting continue to this day.
ARM hosted the ‘Understanding Islam’ seminar led by Neil Bulloch at Westmount Park Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew in Scarborough. Tony Costa was busy this month speaking at the Toronto Mission Fest on the subject of Cults in Missions, debating with Muslim Apologist Shabir Ally at McMaster University, on the subject of “Who is Jesus?” and delivering his ‘Raiders of The Lost Tomb’ lecture at Grace Bible Church in Scarborough. ARM also promoted the ‘Becoming A Contagious Christian’ live satelite broadcast with Mark Mittleberg and Lee Strobel hosted by The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran in Mississauga and we promoted The Toronto Passion Play at Queensway Cathedral in Etobicoke. After receiving an amazing email letter sent to the ministry, I had to post ‘A Pastor Repents’ on web site. Last but not least, Pastor Sieg Pudel of Hope Community Church in Brampton invited me to write an article for The Messenger, a denominational publication of the Church of God in Eastern Canada.
ARM hosted ‘Mormonism: What’s The Difference?’ seminar at Westmount Park Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew in Scarborough led by Vincent Poldrugovac, author of ‘ENSIGN: Raising The banner of Truth.’ After receiving an amazing book in the mail called I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult I posted ‘The Case For Easter’ on our web site. And with last month marking the tenth anniversary of the Heaven’s Gate suicides, I directed readers once again to my posting ‘Alien Obsession!’ which includes a story by my friend Terrie Nettles.
We hosted ‘Catholicism: What’s The Difference?’ seminar at Westmount Park Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew led by Vincent Poldrugovac. We also promoted the following events: The ‘Discover the Bible’ seminar at The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran led by Rev. Dr. Jeff Loach, District Director of the Canadian Bible Society. The former Catholic Priest Richard Bennett’s speaking engagements in Ontario at the Toronto Free Presbyterian Church in Scarborough, Faith Reformed Baptist Church in Scarborough and Barrie Free Presbyterian Church in Barrie. We also promoted the ‘Deluded About God’ lecture by Alister McGrath at Wycliffe College and ‘The God Hypothesis: Theism versus Naturalism’ lecture by Tony Costa at Seneca College. Tony was also one of many speakers who participated in the The Copernicus Lectures which we also helped to promote. Finally, in response to the growing popularity and activity of a new breed of atheists I posted ‘Does God Exist?’ on the web site.
We were pleased again this year to help promote the Summer Fellowship Series at Knox Presbyterian Church called ‘Images of God’ with speakers like Victor Shepherd, Professor of Systematic Theology at Tyndale Seminary, and Donald Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, among many others. Also, our ministry partner Neil Bulloch taught a course on Islamics every Monday evening at Bridle Trail Baptist Church in Markham.
This month we added the ‘Jesus in Islam’ video debate between Muslim Apologist Shabir Ally and Christian Apologist Tony Costa on the web site. Lawrence Hughes was busy this summer in Calgary with his continuing battle against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in his wrongful death suit against them. He was restored as the administrator of His daughter Bethany’s estate thereby allowing him to proceed with legal action. We will keep you posted.
This month we hosted the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses: What’s The Difference?’ seminar at Westmount Park Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew.
We also promoted Sola Scriptura’s CHRISTIANITY – ISLAM : Two Faiths! Two Worldviews! – One God? Conference with Dr. Michael Haykin, Dr. James White, and Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile,
as well as ‘The Case For The Real Jesus’ with Mark Mittleberg and Lee Strobel live broadcast event at The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran in Mississauga.
We offered the ‘Called to be free’ seminar at Westmount Park Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew and promoted ‘The Truth Project’ weekend at Rexdale Missionary Alliance Church in Etobicoke. We also promoted the ‘Exploring Islam’ satelite broadcast at The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran in Mississauga as well as The Way of The Master Basic Training Course also offered at The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran. We were also pleased to promote ‘The Jesus Conflict’ debate between Muslim Apologist Shabir Ally and Christian Apologist Tony Costa which can be seen and heard at TheConflict.ca.
Our last event of the year was called ‘The Mission At Your Door’ which was an all day seminar led by myself and Vincent Poldrugovac on the subjects of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons at The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran in Mississauga and we also promoted the CCN broadcast called ‘Secret Believers- What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ’ with Brother Andrew hosted there. Tony Costa was also busy answering ’3 Top Questions’ on God, Jesus and the meaning of life to students at Humber College.
For those readers who have supported this ministry with your prayers and generous gifts of support and also for the benefit of those who may only have just heard of this ministry, I’d like to share some encouraging words from some folks who have been served and encouraged by The Apologetic Response:
“I enjoy getting your updates and this was a great response. Well researched and well stated. I have always seen the key being Exodus 31:17 – “It will be a sign between me and the Israelites for ever” as was stated in your post.”
Posted by Brian in response to ‘Why Sunday?’.
“I was a member of a Bible-based cult for seven years. As a Christian who was raised in the mainstream Southern Baptist denomination, who had earned an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Religious Education from one of the world’s foremost Protestant seminaries—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—and who had worked in the mental health field for twenty years, I should have been the last person to join a cult! Cults and new religions are thriving and it is imperative that churches understand how they operate and why they appeal to Christians and nonChristians alike. I thank God for David Upton and his ministry. I pray that the Apologetic Response Ministry will continue to equip the church to better minister to individuals who have been led away from the freedom that is in Christ.”
Wendy J. Duncan
Author of ‘I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life In A Dallas Cult’
“David Upton has a sincere heart for God, and his Apologetic Response offers a strong, consistent and much needed defense of the faith.”
Kevin Rische and Jill Martin Rische
Walter Martin Ministries
“The Apologetic Response often offers a number of informative resources such as books and DVDs to help equip Christians in their outreach efforts; however, an even greater resource that ought not to be overlooked is found in the very members that constitute A.R.M. and who, due to their unswerving commitment to serve Christ by serving His people, tirelessly share both their knowledge and their experience in reaching out to others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apologetic Response serves as a unique resource that I prayerfully hope many congregations will consider utilizing as they consider their commitment to Christ’s commission– for it invariably includes communicating God’s Good News with cultists.”
Director of Christian Outreach
The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran
“With so many cults in the world today, it is refreshing to have people like David Upton in Apologetic Response providing sound evidence and resources to counter the tide of falsehoods these movements spread. This is particularly important since cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons can literally wreck a life or a family , sometimes they look nice and noble, but the truth is painfully different. The fact that Apologetic Response has material in Spanish was particularly valuable to me since my previous church is in Lima, Peru where Spanish is the official language. Keep up the good work David, and may Apologetic Response have an even better year in 2008.”
Jose Luis Hurtado
Beaches Worship Centre
“Both Neville and I really appreciate your ministry. Your presentations on the various cults are informative and very relavent to those of us in the
church. Our congregation certainly has appreciated your seminars. May the Lord open more doors for you so that you can educate others.”
Anna Maria Matthews
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew
The beginning of 2008 marks the beginning of our fifth year as non-profit volunteer ministry consisting of myself, David Upton, Vincent Poldrugovac and Neil Bulloch offering seminars on Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism and Islam. At every seminar we offer free materials as well as materials from our resource table for purchase. We also promote other ministries and events in and around our city when we are notified of them through our friends in ministry. Our mailing list serves to notify readers in advance of upcoming events as well as a means of dialogue with readers and other ministries.
We are uniquely called to equip the body of Christ to meet the challenges of competing world views that are misinformed about the Christian faith and who Christ is. With our city of Toronto growing rapidly with almost 50% of our population being new Canadians, we are equipping individuals and churches with the tools they need to not only learn about other world views but to also learn how to share the Christian faith with them. This is accomplished through our web ministry, monthly seminars, resource table and outreach materials.
Having served and equipped individuals and churches from over 20 different denominations from as far west as Brampton to as far east as Scarborough, we are equipped to come to your church or small group with videos, handouts, powerpoint presentations and live speakers to answer questions and share with your group ways to share your faith with friends, family and neighbors in ways you may not have thought of before.
Support for this ministry comes solely from the gifts of A.R.M. friends. We are not funded or endowed by any group or denomination. Because we are a volunteer based ministry donations are not tax refundable. Donations to this ministry that make are jobs easier are especially appreciated. This year we were blessed with a 400GB external hard drive, an external firewire CD writer, a 21″ colour monitor and an older iMac hooked up to a dual cassette deck for converting our audio tape library into digital format.
How You can Help
Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in hosting ARM seminars in your church or small group or even if you just need further information or clarification on anything in this report. You can also write by snail-mail to:
The Apologetic Response
P.O. Box 282, Stn. D
- For wisdom, guidance and direction as we offer apologetic responses to the world around us.
- For those who are angry and/or confused, that the Holy Spirit would use this ministry to speak to their hearts and minds to receive the free gift of salvation that He has to offer.
- For protection from those who would seek to discourage this ministry.
First and foremost to our Lord Jesus Christ for sustaining this ministry this year. Thanks also go to my friends and brothers in Christ who have helped so much this past year, Vincent Poldrugovac, Neil Bulloch, Tony Costa and Paul MacGregor. I’d also like to thank Peter Cavanaugh and Bobby Greer for their technical support. I’d also like to thank the churches who hosted our seminars in 2007: Pastor Werner Peters and the congregation of Westmount park Church, Anna Maria Matthews and the congregation of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew, Basil Christi and the congregation of The Church of St. Mark – Lutheran, and Pastor Lee Wong and the congregation of Bridal Trail Baptist Church. Special thanks to all the individuals and ministries who contributed resources to share with churches in Toronto; MacGregor Ministries, CCN, Living Hope Ministries, IRR.org, 4truth.net, BereanBeacon.org, Humbleheart Ministries, Silentlambs. I also would like to thank all those who have contributed to this ministry with your financial contributions, donations of equipment and your prayers. Thank you also to those who have written kind and encouraging comments both on the web site and privately. Encouraging words are as valuable and needed as money and prayers. Last but not least, I thank my wonderful wife Heather whom I affectionately refer to as ‘Holy Heather full of Grace’ simply because she is and my faith filled son Caleb who never ceases to amaze me in so many ways.
May God Richly Bless You All in 2008,
The Apologetic Response