Daily Archives: March 6, 2020

March 6 Life-Changing Moments With God

He … preserves the way of His saints.

You, Lord God, go before me to search out a place for me to pitch my tents, to show me the way I should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so You, Lord, alone lead me. My steps are ordered by You, Lord, and You delight in my way. Though I fall, I shall not be utterly cast down; for You uphold me with Your hand. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but You, Lord, deliver me out of them all. For You know the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. I know that all things work together for good to those who love You, to those who are the called according to Your purpose. So, You are with me, Lord God, to help me and to fight my battles.

You, Lord God … my Mighty One, will save; You will rejoice over me with gladness.

May I follow Your lead today, trusting You’re working my life’s circumstances for good.

Proverbs 2:8; Deuteronomy 1:32–33; Deuteronomy 32:11–12; Psalm 37:23–24; Psalm 34:19; Psalm 1:6; Romans 8:28; 2 Chronicles 32:8; Ephesians 3:17[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2007). Life-Changing Moments With God (p. 77). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

March—6 The Poor Man’s Evening Portion

She bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.—1 Sam. 1:20.

It is really both blessed and profitable to observe, how holy men of old made memorandums of the Lord’s kind dealings with them, as well in providence as grace, by way of preserving alive a due sense of divine mercies upon their souls. A night or two since, the Evening Portion remarked a beautiful instance of this sort, in the case of Hagar: and in the scripture I have brought forth for our present meditation, is another, equally beautiful, in the instance of Hannah. In the former, the memorial was set up to perpetuate the place of the Lord’s graciousness: in this latter, the dedication is of the person concerning whom divine favour was shown. But in both, the design is one and the same, to glorify God. I pause by the way to remark, how much to be lamented it is, that this truly scriptural and pious custom is so little followed by Christians, and even believing Christians too, in the present hour. What a number of unscriptural, and frequently heathenish names, are now given to children of parents professing the great truths of the gospel! Whereas, with those early followers of the Lord, they called their children by somewhat that should be always significant of divine mercies. So that whenever their children were at any time called upon, or looked to, the very name might bring to remembrance past blessings, and refresh their souls in the recollection of the mercies which occasioned them. This instance of Hannah is beautifully in point, by way of illustration; she called him Samuel, which signifies, asked of the Lord. For we find in her history, with what earnestness she sought a child from the Lord. Hence, therefore, we may suppose, upon numberless occasions, in after-days, whenever she heard her Samuel mentioned, or she called him herself, the soul of Hannah went forth in faith, and love, and praise, to the Author and Giver of this blessing. And it is but reasonable to suppose, that if the name reminded the mother of her mercy, and she called her son by this name purposely that she might see the Lord in his bounty, no doubt she was not forgetful to instruct her Samuel also in the same thing. We may, indeed, conclude that Hannah betimes made Samuel acquainted with the cause of his name. And from the sequel of the prophet’s history, we find that he who was a child of prayer, and asked of the Lord, was a servant to his praise, and given to the Lord. Reader! methinks it is blessed, it is gracious, and sure I am it is right, thus to keep up intercourse with heaven. You and I have our Samuels, I mean our asked blessings, whether in children, or in other providences. Oh! for grace, while receiving mercies, to make those mercies the memorandums of the great Giver! If what we ask from God in prayer, we give back again to God in praise, and in the stream of creature enjoyments, find a tenfold relish in them from living upon the Creator’s fulness, then we shall find cause to call many a blessing, Samuel because “it hath been asked,” and often given unasked, “of the Lord.”[1]

 

[1] Hawker, R. (1845). The Poor Man’s Evening Portion (A New Edition, pp. 70–71). Philadelphia: Thomas Wardle.

March 6, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

24:8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty. The question here is a liturgical response, not a formal request for information. The word translated as “strong” is found in only one other place in the Old Testament (Isa. 43:17; NIV: “reinforcements”), where it describes a powerful army. The word “mighty” (gibbor) is quite common and is repeated in the following phrase, identifying Yahweh as a God who is powerful in military conflict (Exod. 15:3).[1]


8. The watchers at the gate hearing the song look over the battlements and ask, “Who is this King of glory?” A question full of meaning and worthy of the meditations of eternity. Who is he in person, nature, character, office and work? What is his pedigree? What his rank and what his race? The answer given in a mighty wave of music is, “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” We know the might of Jesus by the battles which he has fought, the victories which he has won over sin, and death, and hell, and we clap our hands as we see him leading captivity captive in the majesty of his strength. Oh for a heart to sing his praises! Mighty hero, be thou crowned for ever King of kings and Lord of lords.[2]


[1] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, p. 178). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, pp. 377–378). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

March 6 Streams in the Desert

We trusted.” (Luke 24:21.)

I HAVE always felt so sorry that in that walk to Emmaus the disciples had not said to Jesus, “We still trust”; instead of “We trusted.” That is so sad—something that is all over.

If they had only said, “Everything is against our hope; it looks as if our trust was vain, but we do not give up; we believe we shall see Him again.” But no, they walked by His side declaring their lost faith, and He had to say to them “O fools, and slow of heart to believe!”

Are we not in the same danger of having these words said to us? We can afford to lose anything and everything if we do not lose our faith in the God of truth and love.

Let us never put our faith, as these disciples did, in a past tense—“We trusted.” But let us ever say, “I am trusting.”

Crumbs.

The soft, sweet summer was warm and glowing,

Bright were the blossoms on every bough:

I trusted Him when the roses were blooming;

I trust Him now ….

Small were my faith should it weakly falter

Now that the roses have ceased to blow;

Frail were the trust that now should alter,

Doubting His love when storm clouds grow.

The Song of a Bird in a Winter Storm.[1]

 

[1] Cowman, L. B. (1925). Streams in the Desert (p. 73). Los Angeles, CA: The Oriental Missionary Society.

March 6th The D. L. Moody Year Book

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes.—Psalm 119:71.

A DEAD level in a man’s life would be his ruin? If he had nothing but prosperity, he would be ruined. A man can stand adversity better than prosperity. I know a great many who have become very prosperous, but I know few such that haven’t lost all their piety, that haven’t lost sight of that city eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God. Earthly things have drawn their heart’s affections away from eternal things.[1]

 

[1] Moody, D. L. (1900). The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody. (E. M. Fitt, Ed.) (pp. 49–50). East Northfield, MA: The Bookstore.

Bank Of America: “We Are In A Global Recession” | ZeroHedge News

The market scrambled to hit Michael Hartnett’s “S&P price target of 3,333 by March 3 ” more than a month early. And now comes the hangover.

With risk assets crashing, gold soaring, and bonds enjoying their biggest yield drop in years – if not ever -the time to pay the piper has come, and in his latest weekly Flow Show titled appropriately “Crashes, bubbles & leadership”, the Bank of America CIO shows the YTD cross asset performance, and it is a clear indication that a deflationary black swan has made a hard landing in the middle of Wall Street, with gold the best performing asset for the first time in a decade:

  • gold 7.9%,
  • government bonds 3.8%,
  • IG bonds 2.8%,
  • US dollar 1.0%,
  • cash 0.3%,
  • HY bonds 0.0%,
  • global equities -4.8%,
  • commodities -14.5% YTD.

Of course, for gold to be soaring, risk has to be crashing, and sure enough, the global equity market cap collapsed by a record $9tn – or two-thirds of China’s GDP – in 9 days, while developed market 10-year bond yields at 16bp, the lowest in 120 years.

It’s not a uniform puke in stocks, because while EU banks (SX7E -25%), US airlines (-30%) are in a  bear market “meltdown” with laggards e.g. FAANG stocks, IG bonds, and “credit event” tells such as private equity (PSB), levered loans (BKLN) & CLOs (CLODI) vulnerable to policy impotence, recession, default, according to Hartnett, China stocks are back to old highs, although where they would be without now explicit government support is anyone’s guess.

But while governments may be buying risk assets to prop up markets, retail investors are puking, with $23.3BN in equity outflows (most since Aug’19), and $12.6BN in bond outflows, the most since Dec’18, as investors scramble for the safety of cash.

And speaking of bond flows, Hartnett concludes that the “bond bubble pops” with the 2nd biggest weekly outflow in IG/HY/EM debt ever of $16.1bn (biggest was 2013 Taper Tantrum )…

… and the 3rd biggest outflow from financials of $3.0bn (biggest was Dec’18 – Chart 5).

What does this unprecedented shift in investors sentiment mean for the global economy? Alas, nothing good: according to Hartnett, who may or may not speak for all of Bank of America, the “working assumption is that as of March 2020 we are in a global recession” (see PMI of world’s 2nd largest economy China – Chart 6); with the sharp drop in 2020 global EPS estimates (8.7%, down from 10.7%) just beginning (Chart 7).”

So with the economy now in a recession, the question is can it be “short-circuited” back into expansion? The answer will come from two distinct sources: US consumers and policy makers (i.e., monetary and fiscal policy):

  • US consumers: they are the key to whether the global recession is measured in months not weeks. Key indicators here will be if small business confidence collapses below 100, and US jobless claims (currently 216k) surge above 250k; additionally, lower US mortgage purchase activity would be negative, especially in light of the record low yields; There are also political implications: the likelihood of Trump being re-elected (per Oddschecker.com) is dipping…Trump 58% (was 62% Fed 20th, Biden 36% (was 4%), Sanders 6% (was 17%).
  • Policy makerts: One of Hartnett’s favorite sayings is that markets stop panicking when policymakers start panicking… and they have: 50bps Fed cut, 19 rate cuts YTD; fiscal $106bn pledge to counter Covid-19; but this time something is wrong – it does not appear to be working: the past week has seen biggest disconnect since 2008/9 between US banks relative performance & US yield curve steepening; until bond yield up and banks stocks up, policy makers “behind-the-curve”;

And here is why policymakers, and most notably Trump, need to push stock prices higher: as we have repeatedly shown in the past, Wall Street is 5.5x the size of Main Street (i.e., US GDP), and as such, the “easiest way to recession remains a sharp fall in asset prices.”


Those awaiting a Fed bailout can hardly be blamed – after all it has become an almost Pavlovian response: Black Monday 1987, LTCM 2008, 9/11 2001, Lehman 2008, US debt downgrade 2011 always caused the Fed to ease…

… as did the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a 50bps rate cut.

Yet this time may be different: after a decade of chronic central bank intervention to prop up markets, either CBs are out of ammo, or it no longer appears to be working. As Hartnett notes, “Wall Street era of excess liquidity giving way to debt deflation, policy impotence & Minsky moment or higher inflation, war on inequality and national insecurity; either way portfolio diversity (asset allocation of 25/25/25/25 bonds/stocks/cash/gold) likely to outperform today’s concentrated longs in QE winners (credit, private equity, tech) in coming years.”

While we wait for the Fed, there is a distinct shift in leadership as crash/recession concerns accelerate:

  1. Fed shift to YCC (Yield Curve Control, i.e. commitment to maintain Treasury yields within low range),
  2. peak US dollar (Bank of Japan announcement of YCC Sept’16 marked peak Japanese yen),
  3. shift from QE to Modern Monetary Theory to finance fiscal spending frenzy in coming quarters.

As such, the real question is what happens after the Fed’s imminent massive stimulus?

Well, as Hartnett concludes, crashes lead to bubbles or big leadership changes:

  1. Japan bubble followed ’87 crash,
  2. TMT bubble followed LTCM,
  3. US dollar peak & EM/commodity/China leadership after 9/11
  4. Lehman… end of Europe & global bank bulls
  5. US debt downgrade beginning of great credit & private equity boom.

Finally how to trade it: well, after Hartnett was right in his 3,333 S&P price target (which came well before his stated deadline of March 3, which ironically was the date of the Fed’s emergency rate cut), he now sees a stock drop as low as 2,880 as a good re-entry point in stocks:

Base case: adjust 2020 EPS of $175 to $160, apply policy reaction/bond yield collapse PE of 17-18X, suggests SPX 2880-3040 good entry point back into S� policy panic has begun (and likely has further to go)…own barbell of extreme growth and extreme value…long US Tech/FAANG and long “value ghettos” of Asia cyclicals/FTSE/oil.

However, as he noted earlier, stocks will (should) no longer be a key pillar of portfolios. Instead, as we approach a crucial low in inflation expectations and rotation to weak dollar & inflation plays, investors should load up on gold, commodities, EM bonds, value stocks & high dividend yielding equities found mostly outside of the US market; today 41% (1149/2827) MSCI ACWI stocks have dividends yielding >3% global bond yields (16bp); even US bank stocks now have dividend yields of 250bps above Treasuries.

To this all we can say is that perhaps there is a reason why the risk premium has become so grotesque: perhaps the market, in suggesting a great depression is coming for profits, is right…

Source: Bank Of America: “We Are In A Global Recession”

Last woman standing | Tulsi Gabbard plays a rigged game

A lot of US election focus right now is on how the Democratic party choice is pretty much down to white men in their seventies. But Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race. She won two delegates in American Samoa and so makes it through to the next Democratic debates – but the party executive wants to shift the goalposts on that.

9-Year Bull Markets Could End At These Price Points, Says Joe Friday — Kimble Charting Solutions

By now you are most likely aware that the S&P 500 just experienced its quickest 10% decline in its history. Did this decline break long-term rising channels?  Check out the 3-pack above.

This 3-pack takes a monthly look at the Bank Index (BKX), JP Morgan (JPM) and the S&P 500. Each has spent the majority of the past 9-years inside of rising channels, as they have created higher lows and higher highs.

These channels are important as the 20% decline in the S&P 500 in the fall of 2018 tested rising support, yet it did not break it.

The Bank Index closed below its 9-year rising channel in February, which was a first in the past 9-years.

JPM and the S&P 500 both remain above 9-year rising support at each (1), reflecting the long-term bull trend is still in play.

Joe Friday Just The Facts Ma’am- If the S&P and JPM close on a monthly basis below 9-year rising channels at each (1), the 9-year bull market/trend looks to be in jeopardy.

via 9-Year Bull Markets Could End At These Price Points, Says Joe Friday — Kimble Charting Solutions

Assurance from God’s Promises — Credo Magazine

A Christian’s assurance of faith is one of the strongest graces to energize godliness and zeal and one of the first fruits to suffer decline due to low levels of holiness and obedience. Well-cultivated assurance produces holy living marked by spiritual peace, humble gratitude, cheerful obedience, tenderness of conscience, freedom in prayer, boldness in evangelism, and heartfelt mortification of sin.[1]

Therefore, it is of utmost importance for Christians to cultivate assurance of faith. The Westminster Confession (18.2) explains that assurance is founded upon God’s objective, unchanging promises of salvation; the inward evidences of Christian graces; and “the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God.” Of these three foundations of assurance, the Puritan Anthony Burgess rightly says that it “is a more noble and excellent way” to find assurance of faith by relying upon God’s promise in Christ outside of us than it is to find assurance by being assured of the evidences of grace within us.[2] In this article, therefore, we will consider the primary, objective ground of assurance: God’s promises of salvation. This emphasis on God’s promises in Christ implies several things for our experience of assurance.

God’s Faithful, Trustworthy Character

First, we gain assurance by looking to God’s faithfulness in Christ as He is revealed in the promises of the gospel rather than by looking at ourselves or anything we have produced. Our assurance is anchored in the character of our faithful God, who manifests Himself in the unchangeable person and finished work of His Son. God doesn’t speak out of both sides of His mouth. God’s Word is always trustworthy, and Jesus Christ is God’s everlasting “yea” and “amen” (2 Cor. 1:18–20). Thus, believers in Christ are assured of salvation because their God and their salvation are true, sure, perfect, and unchangeable in Jesus Christ forever. Believers in Christ are assured of salvation because their God and their salvation are true, sure, perfect, and unchangeable in Jesus Christ forever. Click To Tweet

Our salvation and security in Christ, therefore, rest on the immutability of God Himself (Mal. 3:6); the eternality of God’s electing love (Jer. 31:3); the irrevocability of God’s gifts (Rom. 11:29; cf. 1 Cor. 2:12); the inviolability of God’s oath (Heb. 6:17–20); the perfection of Christ’s work as Mediator (Heb. 10:19–23); and the sovereignty of the Spirit’s application of that work (1 Cor. 2:10–14).[3]

In summary, if you are a believer, don’t doubt, but seek grace to enjoy the assurance that God has settled your account forever because He is satisfied with Christ for you as He is for every one of His repenting, believing people.

Growing in our Experience of God’s Promises

Second, as our assurance grows, God’s promises become increasingly real to us personally and experientially. The promises of God and assurance of faith reinforce each other. When God spiritually applies His promises to our hearts, He gives us, as Jonathan Edwards writes, “a spiritual sense or relish of the holy and divine blessings offered, and also the sweet and wonderful grace of the offerer, in making so gracious an offer, and of his holy excellency and faithfulness to fulfill what he offers, and his glorious sufficiency for it.”[4]

As our experiential knowledge of God’s promises grows, then the more our hearts echo the truth of God’s promises. William Spurstowe (c. 1605–1666) said that God’s gospel promises are like stars at night. When you look into a dark countryside sky, you see few stars at first, but the longer you gaze into the sky and your eyes adjust to the night light, the more stars you see, until “the whole firmament, from every quarter, with a numberless multitude of stars, is richly enammelled as with so many golden studs.”[5] So when we begin to meditate on God’s promises, the number of promises and the light coming from them may at first seem to be small and weak, so as to be insufficient to quell our fears and dispel our darkness, but when we read and meditate further—and begin to see the thousands of promises in the Scripture together with the bright light that shines from them clearly and distinctly—our souls are then ravished and filled with delight and assurance.[6]

Glorifying God by Trusting His Promises despite Our Feelings

Finally, though subjective phenomena may sometimes feel more real than faith in God’s promises, such experiences give less glory to God than divine promises apprehended directly by faith. Burgess said, “Trusting in God and in Christ when we feel nothing but guilt and destruction in ourselves is the greatest honor we can give to God.”[7] Thomas Brooks said that “the sight of Christ should be ten thousand times more comfortable and delightful” to us than the sight of our own graces.[8]Finally, though subjective phenomena may sometimes feel more real than faith in God’s promises, such experiences give less glory to God than divine promises apprehended directly by faith. Click To Tweet

Moreover, the smallest degree of saving faith in God’s promises will prove as effectual as full assurance of faith in God’s promises. The strength of a rock is constant, whether a spider’s web or an anchor is attached to it. The Lord Jesus Christ is just as much the rock of salvation for that trembling soul who grasps Him with a weak faith as He is for one who has full assurance of faith. Don’t’ forget that, as Brooks wrote, “The least degree of grace, if true, is sufficient to salvation.”[9]

Concluding Applications

When Christian was confined in Doubting Castle in Pilgrim’s Progress, Giant Despair beat him and threatened to kill him the next day. But that night Christian remembered he had “the key of promise” in his pocket. Using that key, he quickly opened all the castle’s locks and escaped. Bunyan’s message is unmistakable: we don’t need an extraordinary personal revelation to believe that those promises are given to us.

But you may ask, how do I know I am truly living out of God’s promises in Christ and may draw assurance of faith from them? Thomas Brooks offered several ways we can know whether we have properly embraced God’s objective promises in Christ. By the Spirit’s grace, they include:

  • resting my soul upon God’s promises, appropriating those promises to myself;
  • subjecting myself gratefully to God’s words of command;
  • waiting on God for the fulfilling of His promises in the face of discouragements and difficulties;
  • having within me those divine graces to which these promises are made, such as faith, repentance, love, fear, hope, and patience;
  • being united and married to Christ by faith;
  • flying to God’s precious promises in my greats trials; and
  • valuing God’s promises more than anything in this world.

Our conviction and feelings are fallible, but the objective promise embraced by faith is infallible because it is God’s comprehensive and faithful covenant promise. When we fear that since our heart is desperately wicked and that therefore we may be deceiving ourselves when we think we are trusting God’s promises, we must remember that in His Word, God pours His promises in Jesus Christ at our feet, and grants poor sinners like us freely to use them. As we believe in Jesus Christ who is the content of these promises, we discover to our astonishment and joy that Giant Despair is powerless to keep us as his prisoner. The gospel promises of God in Christ are mightier than all the arsenals of Satan and his minions.


Endnotes

[1] John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin, in The Works of John Owen (1689; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1968), 6:33–53.

[2] Anthony Burgess, Faith Seeking Assurance, ed. Joel R. Beeke, Puritan Treasures for Today (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books), 140 (Spiritual Refining, 51).

[3] For a fuller treatment of most of these points, see Michael Barrett, Complete in Him (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 252–62.

[4] The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959), 2:225.

[5] William Spurstowe, The Wells of Salvation Opened: or, A Treatise discerning the nature, preciousness, and usefulness of the Gospel Promises and Rules for the Right Application of Them (London: T.R. & E.M. for Ralph Smith, 1655), 78–79.

[6] Spurstowe, The Wells of Salvation Opened, 79.

[7] Burgess, Faith Seeking Assurance, 156 (Spiritual Refining, 57).

[8] Thomas Brooks, “A Cabinet of Jewels,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. A. Grosart (1864; reprint, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1980), 3:502.

[9] Brooks, Works, 3:259.

via Assurance from God’s Promises — Credo Magazine

Every religion claims to be historical (but only Christianity is) — Southern Equip

It is far from surprising that world religious adherents typically claim that their faith is unique in several regards. Christians are no different here. These are quite natural assertions, as everyone wants to believe that something so crucial to them is both different and well as exceptional. But Christians often go further. They claim frequently that they actually have evidence that their faith is different from all the others.

How do the claims of other religious founders compare evidentially to Christianity? Of the difficulties afflicting the major non-Christian religious claims, arguably the most troubling are historical in nature. Here we will briefly examine Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism.

Buddhism

Some may be surprised to find that Buddha most likely rejected belief in God, at least in the sense of a personal or creator God. Buddha’s more philosophically-inclined followers tended to follow the same course.

Buddhist studies in Japan yielded surprising historical results. One historical example drawn from nineteenth century Japanese Buddhists may be helpful. University of Chicago historian James Ketelaar points out that various dates for Buddha’s birth differed from each other by over 2,000 years, noting that this compares to stating that Jesus was born sometime between Socrates and Descartes! Yet, Buddha’s historical existence was crucial for these Buddhists because their faith was built on the historical Buddha’s actually having achieved enlightenment. As a result, “endless contradictions” yielded frustration because the available accounts were thought to be reliable.

Buddhist scholar Edward Conze raises another issue. Many of Buddha’s major writings date from 600 to 900 years after his death, with oral teachings being the norm for the first 500 years. Conze then states clearly the corresponding issue that this causes: while some of the myriad volumes mustactually represent Buddha’s original teachings, the chief problem is epistemic in nature: “we have, however, no objective criterion which would allow us to isolate the original gospel. All attempts to find it are based on mere surmise, and the discussion of the subject generally leads to nothing but ill will and fruitless disputes.” In other words, some of Buddha’s original teachings must be among the ones we possess, but we can never really tell which are authentic because the documents are so late. Conze concedes that that’s why Buddhists cannot compete with Christians regarding the reliability of their traditions.

Hinduism

Another instance concerns the Hindu faith, where probably the best-known figure is that of Krishna.  It is significant that, according to one report, even most Hindu scholars doubt whether or not Krishna actually lived. This conclusion is probably supported from certain claims made on behalf of Krishna, who was believed to have first delivered the text of the Bhagavad-Gītā “to the sun-god some hundreds of millions of years ago.” Comments like this may contribute to statements such as, “The general pattern translators have followed” has been to count the larger work of which the Bhagavad-Gītā is a part (the Mahābhārata) as “quaint mythology.” Then Krishna himself “becomes a poetic device for presenting the ideas of some anonymous genius, or at best, He becomes a minor historical personage.”

Additionally, none of the actual Hindu texts can be accurately dated prior to the Twelfth Century AD! On the date that Krishna actually lived and spoke with his first disciple Arjuna approximately 3,000 BC, the earliest copy which we have today dates from some 4,100 years later! How many changes may have occurred to the text regarding Krishna’s teaching in the over four intervening millennia, especially in a culture where historical events were thought of in a far different manner than with Jewish chroniclers?

Islam

Muslims have long cited the Qur’an against the Gospels in order to argue that Jesus did not die by crucifixion. A leading Muslim apologist, the late Ahmed Deedat, summarized the typical Christian response to this Muslim objection: how could a man 1,000 miles away and writing a full 600 years after the crucifixion know what happened to Jesus? Deedat’s reply to this critique is surprising: “The Christian plea is valid. Their logic is good”! Then he uses the Qur’an anyway, in order to argue against the Gospels! Amazingly, Deedat admits that the Christian’s historical critique is “valid . . . . good”—600 years is too late to be an authentic contributor to the dialogue concerning Jesus’ crucifixion.

Further, it is arguable that no miraculous events at all are reported of Muhammad in the Qur’an beyond the words themselves. While miraculous reports do appear in the Hadith Muslim tradition, these texts begin some 200 years later still and extend even several centuries beyond that.

Zoroastrianism

The span of potential dates for Zoroaster’s birth varies as widely as a full 1,000 years, being placed somewhere between 1,500 and 500 BC! Further, the vast majority of writings that teach Zoroastrian eschatological beliefs date only from the ninth century AD. So this immediately removes the bulk of the most crucial Zoroastrian material to at least 1,350 years after Zoroaster lived.

The only items that could have been written by Zoroaster himself are a small portion of non-theological prayers and hymns, contained within the Avesta, which was composed over a period of 1,000 years. Moreover, the earliest manuscript copies of the Avesta are “highly dubious” and date to the thirteenth century AD, or some 1,800 years after the closest of Zoroaster’s birth dates! Much of the religion’s theology (especially eschatology) comes from the Bundahishn, a ninth century AD writing. So the end result is that we know very little concerning Zoroaster’s theology except through very late sources (of at least 1,350 years later) that were not written by him. There are certainly no rivals here to Christianity’s teachings.

Scholarly Responses to the Evidential Comparisons

How do critical scholars recognize and treat these historical data that clearly favor the Christian tradition as compared to the data that are possessed by the other religious traditions? Some even quite skeptical scholars somewhat surprisingly acknowledge the situation, or at least various aspects of it.

For example, after asking if the New Testament can be trusted, John A.T. Robinson comments: “It’s not a question that a Hindu would ask of the Bhagavad-Gita or a Muslim of the Koran or even a Jew of the Old Testament.” Then he adds that the majority scholarly outlook favors a generally conservative view of the New Testament texts, due to the vast available data. Robinson concludes that the New Testament is “by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.”

In spite of his criticisms, Bart Ehrman acknowledges that, “the New Testament is preserved in far more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity.” Additionally, “scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (though probably not 100 percent) accuracy.”

However, well-copied manuscripts by themselves do not insure that the content is therefore reliable. Critical scholars have also commented on this matter. Many researchers, including Ehrman, have provided numerous comments regarding the early dates, reliable testimony and traditions, and multiple attestation of sources within various New Testament scenarios.

But on too many occasions, scholars have also placed other religious examples almost on a par with the historical case for the New Testament writings by failing to look critically at the lack of non-Christian provenance. In fact, this is too often done without requiring any evidence at all for the non-Christian teachings.

For example, leading critical philosopher Charles Hartshorne implied in his comments regarding a public debate on Jesus’ resurrection that he felt bound not to accept Jesus’ resurrection because it might also confront him with the miraculous events that Buddha was supposed to have performed! But how can events regarding Jesus’ resurrection confirmed perhaps just months afterward be compared fairly to events reported several hundreds of years after Buddha? Perhaps the reason for this comparison is at least partly solved when Hartshorne confesses in the last sentence of his essay, “My metaphysical bias is against resurrections.”

Precisely such an overly-critical attitude toward Christian beliefs while hardly posing any similarly tough questions at all to the almost always unevidenced, non-Christian situations reveals a scholarly double standard. But too seldom scholars are hardly at all critical of non-Christian teachings. Granted, it could be that the lack of factual data regarding the non-Christian religions is simply unknown to the commentator. But it seems at many other times to be a case of political correctness or something similar that we see regularly in the news.

As a final brief point worth remembering, the popular platitude favoring “tolerance” above all is that all major religions basically proclaim the same core message or set of truths, though they may be packaged differently. The most common rendition is that all religions are paths up various sides of the same mountain. Interpreted in that manner, evidence is often not required, unless, of course, we are discussing Christianity! This double standard could be the most important back-handed compliment of all—the reason for this attitude is that above all other belief systems, Christianity does trade in factual and evidential data.

via Every religion claims to be historical (but only Christianity is) — Southern Equip