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The Progress of the Gospel in the Book of Acts

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The book of Acts follows the progress of the gospel from the time of our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, which occurred in a.d. 30, to the time that Paul reached Rome as a prisoner in about a.d. 60. The first twelve chapters follow the ministry of Peter; the remaining chapters follow the ministry of Paul.
Jesus himself provides us with an overview of the progress of the gospel in geographical terms in 1:8 when he says to the twelve: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This is how the book unfolds, by recounting the witness of the apostles:
In Jerusalem: chaps. 1-7
In Judea and Samaria: chaps. 8-9
To the ends of the earth: chaps. 10-28

This geographical progression roughly corresponds to an ethnic progression of the gospel.
In Jerusalem: chaps. 1-7 Jews In Judea and Samaria: chaps. 8-9 Half-Jews To the ends of the earth: chaps. 10-28 Non-Jews
We unders…

The Providence of God

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In the book of First Samuel, when we’re first introduced to Saul, whom the Lord had chosen to become Israel’s first king, we find a remarkable instance of God’s providence.
Saul was the son of a wealthy man named Kish. As it happened, Kish’s donkeys wandered off, and he sent his son to go find them. After three days of searching without success, Saul determined to return home, lest his father cease to be worried about the donkeys and begin to worry about his son. But Saul’s servant advised that since they were so near to Ramah, the city of the prophet Samuel, they ought to consult him to see if he could divine the location of the missing donkeys. This is where the curtain is pulled back for just a moment and we’re allowed a glimpse of the secret working of God. The day before Saul arrived in Ramah, the Lord had said to Samuel, “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel” (9:16).
Did you catch it? It's n…

The Copernican Revolution and Man's place in the Universe

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In a previous post we noted the conventional wisdom that posits an eternal conflict between Christianity and science, a narrative made plausible only by a selective reading of the historical evidence.
One of the many subplots of this narrative is the Columbus and the Flat Earth Myth. The truth is that virtually no educated person in Columbus’ day believed the earth was flat—not leaders in church or state, not university professors, and probably not even the average medieval serf plowing the field of his lord.
Another subplot focuses on the supposedly catastrophic consequences of the Copernican Revolution for the Christian faith. Prior to the 16th century nearly everyone took for granted that the earth lay at the center of the universe, a view known as geocentrism. This certainly seemed obvious enough. After all, do we not see the sun, moon, and stars move across the sky? What could be more obvious than the fact that the heavenly bodies circle a stationary earth?
The ancient astronomer…

The Curious Case of Jephthah's Daughter

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What exactly did Jephthah do to his daughter? The usual—but by no means universal—view is that he literally sacrificed her (i.e., slit her throat and burned her on an altar). This seems to be the implication of the text. 
Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “Whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”
Then Jephthah came to his home in Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances… And [he] did with her according to his vow that he had made (Judges 11:31, 34, 39)
If he did indeed put her to death and burn her on the altar, then the episode is a tragic illustration of the morally chaotic period of the Judges. But I don’t think this is what Jephthah did. In the first place, in a variety of ways Jephthah showed himself to be a faithful man. He committed the outcome of his campaign against the Ammonites to the Lord’s providenc…

Columbus and The Flat Earth Myth: Washington Irving's "Mischievous Nonsense"

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In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He took three ships with him, too, And called aboard his faithful crew. Mighty, strong and brave was he As he sailed across the open sea. Some people still thought the world was flat! Can you even image that?
- A traditional child’s poem -
In a recent post we remarked that conventional wisdom assumes a perpetual conflict between Christianity and science—perpetual and inevitable—because the two are inherently irreconcilable.[1] The history of science is said to be the history of the emancipation of the human race from the ignorance and superstition foisted upon society by two millennia of Christian teaching by obscurantist clergy who suppressed (sometimes violently) discoveries that undermined the view of the world as depicted in the Bible.
John William Draper, for example, accused the Catholic Church of “ferociously suppressing by the stake and the sword every attempt at progress.”[2] This idea of the violent persecution of sc…