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Bryan Fischer Says Borders Are Set by God and Are Not to be Crossed Without Permission

more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Friday, July, 11th, 2014, 7:52 am

braynfischerafaBryan Fischer said in a column at BarbWire yesterday that [o]ur southern border is there by God’s design.” That “What we learn from the Bible is that borders are God’s idea, and that such borders are to be respected. They are not to be crossed without permission.”

What we learn from the Bible is that borders are God’s idea, and that such borders are to be respected. They are not to be crossed without permission.

Crossing a border without permission is like breaking in the back door of a house to help yourself to goodies instead of being invited in by the host through the front door. You might get to eat either way, in the same house and from the same cupboard, but in one case you would be doing something respectful and civil and in the other doing something that rightly should land you in jail.

The Scriptures make it clear that national sovereignty, including clearly defined borders, is God’s idea. In Acts 17:26, we read, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” (Emphasis mine throughout.)

Two things, we are told, are under God’s sovereign control: how long a nation lasts, and where its borders are. The verb translated “having determined” is the Greek verb “horizo,” from which we get the word “horizon.” It means “to mark out, to define.” So God has marked out and defined the borders of each country.

Our southern border is there by God’s design. To disregard it, to treat it as if were not there, to regard it as something not worth respecting and defending, is an insult to the God who put it there for our benefit.

The lesson? Each nation’s sovereignty is marked by its boundary, and each nation has the moral right to decide who will be given permission to enter its sovereign territory. Moses recognized this, and so should we. The only exception is under circumstances of a just war.

Bottom line: borders are biblical, and are there by God’s sovereign design. And they are to be respected by everyone.

This is almost beyond belief, if only because the Jews themselves completely ignored the sacred inviolability of borders when it came to the Pagan Canaanites once they arrived in the Promised Land. God himself ordered them to violate borders, cities, women, and children.

Another problem is that this argument largely comes down to the highly problematic Acts of the Apostles. I say problematic of course because Acts presents us with many problems, including a Jerusalem – clearly a Jewish city – overrun with Christians.

The stories of early mass conversions in Acts are simply ridiculous. Were they to be true, Jerusalem, as pointed out by would have been the first Christian city.[1] If Rodney Stark’s figures are correct (and Bart Ehrman accepts them), then in 40 CE, four years after Paul’s conversion, there were only some one thousand or so Christians of all types. Hardly the stuff of wildfire expansion given that Jesus had died ten years before! Therefore, the wild claims of multitudes of people converted (Acts 2:41 and 21:20) are fantasy and should be seen as such.[2]

More damning still, where we can test it against Paul’s own writings, Acts falls short. The two accounts are irreconcilable. Samuel Sandmel’s verdict is that Acts has no “weighty, reliable information about Paul.”[3] Bart Ehrman points out that “Most scholars contend that Paul is a better source for knowing about Paul than Luke is – that where there are discrepancies, it is Paul who is to be trusted.”[4] David Bronson’s judgment in 1967 was that “In Acts we find Luke’s selection and interpretation of some early data. While this latter document is highly interesting and uniquely useful, it tells us more about Luke than about Paul.”[5]

For example, while Acts 10-11 also shows Peter starting the mission to the Gentiles, Paul’s own letters show not Peter, but Paul starting the mission to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:2). Both could not have been first! The two sources (Paul – Galatians 2:2 – and Acts 15:1-2) also disagree on the nature of the Jerusalem Council of 49 CE and how it came about. If Luke wrote Acts and was a companion of Paul, how could he have gotten Paul so wrong?

Speaking of differences, what about James the brother of Jesus and his followers in Jerusalem? The origins of the community are unclear. As Rabbi Samuel Sandmel has noted, “We do not know how it came into being…we know only that it existed.”[6] The reason for our ignorance is simple: We have only the apologia of Acts to guide us and despite its name, the author of Acts was not much interested in the Acts of Jesus’ disciples. Sandmel goes on to observe that “even if one accepts the entire narrative in Acts as historically reliable, one still has only scanty information about early Christianity.”[7]

Robert Eisenman, one of the book’s harsher critics, writes that, “The first ten or fifteen chapters of Acts are so imaginary as to contain no overtly historical material that one can entertain with any degree of certitude…So difficult to credit are the early chapters of Acts in their present form that many specialists simply jettison them altogether.[8]

If all this is not damning enough, the similarity of much of Acts of the Apostles to Hellenistic romance has also been well noted,[9] and Paul’s shipwreck, while almost certainly fictional, is quite realistic. Michael Grant, in fact, argues for the sense of realism imparted, saying “in its main lines it may be true”[10] and Bruce Chilton accepts that it is.[11]

Rodney Stark, an apologist if there ever was one, notes in its defense that the Acts account “is fully in accord with meterological and nautical conditions and principles.”[12] But as H.H. Huxley demonstrates, shipwrecks were a popular motif in ancient literature. They occurred “in Epic poetry…in comedy and tragedy, in lyric, elegiac, and didactic verse. History, epistolography, and philosophical prose furnish further examples.” And divine intervention while being tossed about in stormy seas was a Pagan motif far older than the book of Acts.[13]

Rather than citing Acts as evidence, as does Fischer, we should ask, why is Acts so off-base in so many ways? S.G.F. Brandon, in arguing that the author of Acts did not have Paul’s letters as reference when he sat down to compose his own account, argues for a late date for its composition, some 40 years or more after Paul’s Epistles, and “consequently represents a view of Christian Origins current in the Church some time after the destruction of Jerusalem,” and not the period it purports to relate. Nor must we forget to mention its apologetic purposes.[14]

Acts has been variously dated as early as c. 90 CE to as late as 135, a century after Jesus’ crucifixion and some 80 years after Paul’s death. And given that Irenaeus is the first to mention it in 180 CE, this latter date is certainly within the realm of possibility.[15]

Gerd Ludemann provides the following scathing analysis of Acts:

By interweaving history and legend, Luke confused facts, fiction, and faith. He blended historical and suprahistorical fact, thereby falsifying history for the sake of piety, politics, and power. This was clearly an offense against the rules of critical historiography even in his day. This evaluation is neither intended as denunciation nor rooted in skepticism. After all the issue before us is not a matter of taste, but of truth. Indeed, it is my close and critical inquiry into the details of Acts that has, as it were, obliged me to formulate such a harsh verdict – one which I hereby present for the process of verification and criticism that is inherent in public discourse.[16]

Acts, therefore, then cannot simply be taken at face value and accepted as an accurate, chronological and historical account of the Early Church. If we cannot trust Acts for history, how can we trust it accurately presents the words of a divine being?

Given the conflict between Acts and Paul’s own writings, if Paul did not say in his epistles what Acts says at 17:26, what reason is there for us to believe Paul said it at all? And Fischer wants to base our policy on something so unreliable? Not to mention the little problem that the Constitution, and not the Bible, is the law of the land.

Fischer has the right to believe his Bible says what he says it says, but those claims are, in the end, irrelevant in a pluralistic modern liberal democracy.

Notes:

[1] Rodney Stark. The Rise of Christianity, 1996: 5.
[2] For Stark, see Rise of Christianity (1996), 56-57, and Bart D. Ehrman. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (NY: Oxford University Press, 2004), 432.
[3] Samuel Sandmel, A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005 [1956]), 264.
[4] Ehrman, Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene, 96 cf. The New Testament, 288: “In virtually every instance in which the Book of Acts can be compared with Paul’s letters in terms of biographical detail, differences emerge.”
[5] David B. Bronson, “Paul, Galatians, and Jerusalem,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 35, (1967), 119.
[6] Sandmel (1956), 40.
[7] Sandmel (1956), 263. Sandmel admits to being skeptical about the historicity of Acts.
[8] Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus (NY: Viking, 1996) and James D. Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2006), 76.
[9] Bart Ehrman, The New Testament, 134. Though Ehrman does not himself seem to be persuaded by this thesis, he notes that “Among the subgenres typically employed in the novels are travel narratives, shipwreck scenes, dialogues, speeches, and private letters – all of which are found in the book of Acts.”
[10] Michael Grant, Saint Paul (London: Phoenix Press, 1976), 11,
[11] Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Paul,: An Intellectual Biography (NY: Doubleday, 2004), 246. Gerd Ludemann shows a willingness to accept a trip to Malta but believes that the fact Acts suddenly seems to forget that Paul is a prisoner “cast doubt on the historicity of the whole episode.” See Gerd Ludemann, The Acts of the Apostles: What Really Happened in the Earliest Days of the Church (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 342.
[12] Rodney Stark, Cities of God (San Francsico: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006), 16. Citing the studies of Jefferson White, Evidence and Paul’s Journeys (Hilliard, OH: Parsagard Press, 2001) Hanson (1968).
[13] H.H. Huxley, “Storm and Shipwreck in Roman Literature,” Greece & Rome 21 (1952), 117-124. See also Ludemann (2005), 333-334. Ludemann calls Acts 27 “a typical episode in a religious novel.” Ludemann would no doubt say of Grant’s credulity, since he says the same of James D.G. Dunn, The Acts of the Apostles (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 335, that “he places altogether too much trust in the verisimilitude created by ‘the details of the storm and the desperate measures taken.’”
[14] S.G.F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church (London: SPCK, 1957), 23. This apologetic purpose is present almost everywhere in Acts. Ludemann calls Apollos a “hot potato” – the nature of this hot potato being the pre-Pauline tradition that Apollos is “an independent Christian teacher.” See the discussion in Ludemann, The Acts of the Apostles, 246-249.
[15] Bart Ehrman, (The New Testament, 148) dates Acts to c. 80-85 CE while Samuel Sandmel (A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament, 263), places Acts “well after 115.” Lawrence Wills, “The Depiction of Jews in Acts,” 153, favors a date towards the end of the second century, saying the evidence for it is to be found in Acts itself, and lay in the fact that the split between Christians and Judaism appears to be “complete and in the past.” John Knox, Marcion and the New Testament (University of Chicago Press, 1942) 77-106, 124, views Acts as a response by the Church of Rome in the mid-second century to Marcion’s views. A mid-second century date is also argued for by J.T. Townsend, Burton Mack and J.C. O’Neill. W.H.C. Frend, (The Rise of Christianity [1984], 106, 122) argues for 62 CE as the date of its composition but 75-80 CE for its final version.
[16] Gerd Ludemann (2005), 363.

Bryan Fischer Says Borders Are Set by God and Are Not to be Crossed Without Permission was written by Hrafnkell Haraldsson for PoliticusUSA.
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