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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Interview with Donald Trump

I continue my election-year coverage with a series of interviews with leading candidates for president.  The first person to drop by -- hey, Don! -- is the winner of yesterday's Republican primary in New Hampshire.  


Congratulations on your victory yesterday!  

Yeah, wasn't that fantastic?  That was the greatest victory EVER.  No one has ever won such a huge victory, anywhere!

Uh, well . . . You didn't get as high a percentage as Hilary Clinton on the Democratic side, who was blown out, so I don't know . . . 

Don't be such a loser.  Come on, what are your questions?  I've got a plane to catch.

Well, uh, can you give me some inside baseball?  For example, how did you manage to convince so many evangelical Christians to support a man who recently supported partial birth abortion, got rich by building gambling joints and evicting widows from their homes for a parking lot, and brags about all the married women he's had?  And Christians used to think pride was a sin, too . . . 

My followers would do anything for me.  You know the girl so beautiful that a bishop would kick a hole through a stained-glass window for her?  That's me.  I can do or say anything -- I'm going to make Mexico wall itself off from the US, I'm going to get everyone to say Merry Christmas again-- and these stupid bastards will eat it up.  I kid you not!

And it will be the same when I'm president.  I'll go over to China and say, "Stop ripping us off by devaluating your currency!"  And they'll do what I say.  Because I am God!  You look at me and say, "What is this schmuck saying?"  You'll see.

But wouldn't a revalued Chinese currency mean goods would be more expensive here in the US?  Is that good for the poor and uneducated people who form the primary base of your support?  

Don't you believe it.  I know economics like nobody else.  I've been in business all my life -- building stuff.  Building big stuff.  REALLY big stuff.  The tallest erections in the world . . .

You mean tall buildings?  

Right.

But back to economics.  What about the economist who says you inherited $50-100 million, and if you'd just put it all in index funds instead of building Trump Air and gaudy casinos you'd be twice as r . .

A LOSER!  A BIG loser.  Very bad at math.  Also evil.  A total hypocrite, too -- when has he ever made like ten billion dollars?  He should be ashamed of himself.  Very sad.

So, uh, why should we believe you?  It's not like you're Bill Gates, who made it all from scratch . . . Nor have you ever run a government office.    

That's exactly why you should believe me when I say I'll make America great again!  Because I'm used to paying off government officials.  Nobody knows what it feels like better than I do.  Hilary, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, they all come running to me when they need money.  So why not put the guy who's used to paying off crooked politicians, in charge of paying all government employees?

You promise that you'll build a wall along the border and make Mexico pay for it, rebuild the nation's bridges and airports for a third of the normal price (without cheating illegal aliens this time, I assume), "take care of women," kick out 12 million foreigners then let the good ones back in, get Americans released from Iran before your take office, take the president of China out for Macdonald hamburgers and get jobs back from China, simplify tax codes, make golf affordable, bring guns back into school, triple customs officials, force Ford, Apple and Nabisco to make their goods in the US, bomb the * out of ISIS, torture terrorists, and get everyone to say "Merry Christmas."  Also, you'll "make America great again." 

Any chance you're over-promising?  

No, we'll do all that, and more.  Just you watch.  You won't believe it.   These politicians have failed miserably.  They're all talk, no action.  But we'll get things done, once I'm in charge.

Are you really going to put this on television?  I mean, you're a crap reporter.  All your questions are really stupid.

Have you ever thought of reading Shakespeare and improving the quality of your put-downs?  

My insults are the best ever.

Look, I'm busy.  I'm going to go to South Carolina now, they absolutely love me down there, great place.  You're a pussy, so you don't know.  I'm really the best person, ever.  Then I've got to fix this country.  After that, I'm going to come back and take your job, and be the best reporter ever.  I promise.

Actually, I'm not with a television station, this is just an obscure blog based most of the time in China . . . 

Well, OK.  Your job can stay there.  I'll give the king of China, or whatever the hell they have over there, a couple french fries, or something.





Sunday, February 07, 2016

Marco Rubio makes me feel good -- and bad.

I can sympathize with Rubio's brain freeze under Chris Christie's relentless questioning during the Republican debate last night.  It's happened to me a few times in debates, too.  I remember during my debate with Richard Carrier, leaving my notes about the Problem of Pain on the table, and then nothing better coming to mind, in front of hundreds of spectators, to rebut Carrier's arguments on that subject.  But Rubio was speaking to millions, he was being challenged precisely on his over-scripted speeches, and for the life of him, he couldn't come up with anything off-script to reply!

So that makes me feel good, knowing so professional and "scripted" a speaker could mess up that badly.

Yeah, I mean you!
In retrospect, here's what I would have said in Rubio's place:

"Chris, your audiences and your staff know perfectly well that you repeat yourself relentlessly, as well.  Everyone knows that you're a former prosecutor.  We've all heard about how you saved New Jersey after a hurricane -- Jeb Bush is unimpressed, Florida gets one of those about as often as Hillary Clinton sends out national security secrets through her private server.  

"You're a straight-talking man, no doubt about it.  And you're good at press conferences.  Is that what America most needs in a president?  If it is, then it's between you and Donald Trump.

"But why are you attacking me?  Why don't you go after the front-runner?  Are you afraid to challenge Donald Trump?  Or could it be because your handlers have told you that I have the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton, and keep her from setting up a private server in the White House?  And that's true.  Polls show that I have the best chance of winning, among all those on the stage.  Trump and Cruz are wildly unpopular among the electorate at large.  So aren't you harming the Republican field, and the future of America, by attacking me?

"Maybe rather than going for the Republican with the best chance of winning, you should ask yourself why you haven't caught on in our party.  Maybe your bluster and straight-talking wear thin, when it turns out your claims aren't exactly accurate?  (Do you want examples?)  Or maybe some Republicans -- elephants have long memories -- remember that when Mitt Romney needed your help, you pouted and slobbered all over Barack Obama, helping him into the White House four years ago?"

Honestly, I rather like Chris Christie, despite (and partly because) of his bombast.  But I think he had a response something like that coming.

But given what Rubio said later in the debate about women being drafted, I think he also has something coming -- maybe, losing the election.  Possibly, losing my support.

And that makes me feel bad, because I think either he or Christi, or probably most of the others but Trump, would make a good president.

Here's what I would like to tell Marco Rubio:

You should have kept your mouth closed!
"For thousands of years, real men have defended women.  It's programmed into our genes.  It's the core military tradition of all civilized peoples.  Read the ancient Greeks: it's all men.  Read the Chinese: it's all men.  You might get an occasional rumor about Amazons, or an occasional Hua Mulan, but those have been rare exceptions to the norm in civilized nations: women run risks in childbirth, and are given by God the duty and instinct to take care of our young ones.  Men are endowed by nature with a protective instinct, and with the physical strength and psychological makeup to fight in combat.  That's why most gang murders are committed by young men.  It's also why mountains are climbed, continents explored, and football played and watched, far more often by men than women.  

"Sorry if you don't care for human nature, but that's part of what we are.

"Now you want to toss all that away on the whim of some politically-correct new fad?  You didn't fall for the 'gay marriage' fad, why do you have to fall for this one?

"The idea of sending young women to face ISIS or the Iranian army on the battlefield, is noxious.  You ought to have your head examined.  If captured, they will be raped.  If serving, sexual relations will happen, and degrade the army services.  

"A conservative shouldn't be so quick to toss human history and human nature so quickly.  I am now officially rethinking my support of your candidacy, and hope someone will talk some sense into you."


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

"Wealth, Women, and God" + "The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters"

In the past few days a couple books came in the mail for which I wrote a blurb and a forward, respectively.  If you're interested in the Gospel around the world, you may like to take a look.  

Yesterday arrived Wealth, Women & God, by Miriam Adeney and Sadiri Joy Tira.  Miriam, an anthropologist who teaches at Seattle Pacific University, has in the past been kind enough not only to write a generous blurb for my How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test, she also wrote a wonderful chapter for Faith Seeking Understanding, a deeply personal account of how the Gospel relates to other religious traditions.  So I was happy for the chance to read her book, and to recommend it to you.  (It should also come in handy on my next writing project, on How Jesus Liberates Women.):

"'Come, see a man who told me everything I did.  Can this be the Christ?'  An unnamed woman in the First Century asked that question.  Miriam Adeney and Sadiri Joy Tira show, through a series of deceptively simple stories, how women in the Middle East today are meeting Christ, then introducing him to others, just like that First Century seeker did.  To marginalized women Christ still offers living water, especially guest workers from the Philippines, Africa, and India.  This is happening in an improbable place: the wealthy, orthodox Muslim Arabian Peninsula.  Told with characteristic grace and understated insight, these accounts exude the warmth of testimonies shared around a fire on the last night of camp."  

Take a look if the topic interests you!

A week or two ago, a very different but equally fascinating book showed up in the post office across the road from our house.  This one was by Tim Boyle, whom I have never met personally, but corresponded with for some years.  The book is entitled The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters.  My forward explains what's inside, and why it's important: 

Product Details"According to the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is both a time to "cast away," and a time to "gather."   Indeed, science teaches us to seek truth not just by cutting up fact and discarding bad theories, but also by synthesizing converging truths.  Thus James Thrower, a scholar of religions, argues that one of the key tests of religious truth must be whether a given spiritual or secular model of how religions fit together, manages to explain, include, or even anticipate what is true in "rival" traditions or philosophies.  
 
"Since 635, when the Nestorian Christian Alopen arrived in the Chinese capital of modern Xian and was welcomed by the great Li Shimin, co-founded of the glorious Tang Dynasty (who wrote a "blurb" for the Christian books he brought), Christians in China have tried to meet this challenge by relating Christianity to Chinese tradition.  The "Nestorian stele" inscribed in 781, which tells Alopen's story, in fact touches on some of the very concepts you will find in this book.  A millennium later, French Jesuits and Chinese Christians noticed that Chinese characters themselves often carry theological connotations that fit remarkably well with the message of the Bible.  The Kang Xi emperor, educated in part by the Jesuits and equal to Li Shimin in greatness, listened with some exasperation to a Jesuit who found Christ throughout Chinese culture, and told him, in effect, "Your great learning is driving you mad."  
 
"Tim Boyle is not a madman.  Neither do I think is he engaged in a frivolous ink-blot type exercise in free association.  He has, I think, written the best modern book on how Christianity relates to Chinese characters -- more restrained, and based on more credible premises, than alternatives.  Of course the specifics can be questioned: Tim does not claim to be a professional linguist, and many interpretations are admittedly subjective.  Still, pour over the details, and prepare to be startled.  It appears as if the ancient Chinese culture that produced the very language shared today by one and a half billion people of the "Far East," cut off by tradition beliefs as well as by vast deserts and mountains, fits the biblical account rather like a hand in glove.  
 
"What is the proper explanation?  Did the ancient Chinese deliberately inscribe truths from Genesis, or else parallel traditions that they somehow preserved?  Or, as seems more likely to me, did God prepare the hearts of the Chinese from within their own culture, as Christians from St. Matthew to Augustine to Pascal to Plantinga have said He prepared the hearts of the Jews through the sacred scriptures of the Old Testament?  Or do these numerous, often detailed, parallels somehow reflect similar stages of two societies, both God-haunted, ancient peoples to whom truth was somehow manifest through creation?  
 
"Whichever theory you subscribe to, or even if you prefer to believe this is all a subjective figment of the imagination -- and Tim's argument is strongly suggestive, not compulsive -- I think most readers will find room for amazement here.   Symbols that Chinese and Japanese use every day, sacred for centuries also in Korea and Vietnam, stand up and point pretty clearly to Christ.  It is as if an American were to look at a quarter for the first time, and be surprised to find the words "In God we trust" on them.  Only the currency of these words is vastly more ancient, and arises in a "pagan" society that had never heard of the Bible.  Thus truth in far-removed cultures gathers together, East and West, to call us to praise God.  In the light of Christ, as Clement of Alexandria put it, broken fragments of truth, scattered within different 'pagan' schools, are joined and brought to life.  However you understand that process, here, surely, we can collect many of those fragments."

 
Dr. David Marshall, author, True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture; How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Answering a critic of True Son of Heaven

Isn't it fun to get shot at from both sides?  I find myself criticized, from time to time, by both atheists and "fundamentalists," by which I mean not people who believe in the central truths of Christianity, but Christians who embrace a fundamentally hostile view of other religious traditions.  (My perspective is more nuanced.)

A year or so ago, a "fundamentalist" reader calling himself Slim Jim posted a highly critical review of my first book, True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture on Amazon and on his blog.   He accused me of poor history, sloppy theology, border-line syncretism, and typos.   I responded to his critique on Amazon some time ago.  But I just discovered the same uncharitable and error-plagued critique on his blog.  Pity: I like some of the blogs he follows: we may have mutual friends, and might find some common ground, if he were to read my book with caution and charity.  (He links Alvin Plantinga, for instance, who is friendly to my views about God outside of the Christian tradition.)

I have been complaining about how poorly skeptics like Bart Ehrman, Matthew Ferguson, and Richard Carrier often read.  Let this post serve as an admission that this failing is not limited to atheists, or to non-Christians.

Here is the substantive parts of his Amazon review, and then my twin responses:

This book has far too many problems that can’t be ignored. I will begin looking at the problems first and then what’s good with the book; but the weakness far outweighs its strength and I hesitate suggesting this work to anyone else . . . 

The book’s thesis is that “many important symbols and ideas within Chinese culture points to Jesus” (7). Some of his evidences of how Chinese culture points towards Jesus and Christianity does not seem to logically follow. For instance, on page five Marshall talked about how Beijing’s Temple of Heaven had twelve red outer pillars and that the number twelve and the color red pointed to the apostles. I don’t know how the color red necessitate that it is the apostles’ blood in view. We must also not forget that the Apostle John was not martyred so it is hard to see 12 red pillars. Later in the book Marshall would argue that the Forbidden Palace’s three layer roof is proof of the Trinity but this seems somewhat of a stretch.


Another of his evidence that Chinese culture points towards Christianity is Confucius. For instance on page 9-10 Marshall claims about Confucius that he “did more than anyone in China to point people to this way.” I would say that is a bold claim. I have reservation with Marshall’s claim about Confucius when Marshall in the book also admitted that Confucius “did not know how to approach heaven” on page 41, that “one thing Confucius lacked: closeness to Heaven” on page 56 and also how “he did not know how to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, or fully understand why it needed to be bridged” on page 57. How can one point to the way when he is ignorant of all the essentials of the Way? Marshall also believed that Confucius’ talk about Sheng Ren (Holy Man) anticipates the Messiah and one of his defense of this is that “Confucius never said the Sheng Ren would be Chinese” (42). But Marshall here is making a fallacious argument from silence. There are so much question begging assertions that the book makes about Confucius and Jesus that it is hard to keep track of them; for instance on page 68 the author claims that both Jesus and Confucius and Jesus “are going the same direction” except Jesus makes it “a dangerous adventure” (68).


Marshall also tried to argue that in the past Chinese thinkers did know the God of Christianity. I think he failed to interact with the strongest arguments of those who disagreed and instead Marshall engaged in a defense the Chinese concept of God is personal. While I do believe that Chinese does have some conception of a personal God that hardly makes it the Christian God. He also failed to account for the silence of Chinese intellectual figureheads with the concept of the Trinity, something that is distinctively Christian. Marshall’s discussion about God’s transcendence and imminence is misplaced in the debate. Added to his confusion is Marshall’s statement that “there are passages in the Bible where the boundary between God and man appear a bit fudged, too, such as Paul’s famous ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’” (24). When one look up Acts 17, we do see the passages affirm God’s transcendence and immanence but it does not present it as being muddled. God is indeed transcendent but also His presence is everywhere though that does not mean God is His creature or creation.


It does not help Marshall’s cause when he is theologically weak that affects his discernment and presentation. For instance, he talks about Nestorians as “the first Christians in China” (25) without acknowledging their heretical status. There is the danger of syncretism in Marshall’s theology. He claims on page 68 that “Jesus and Lao Zi were ‘spiritual brothers.’” I wished the book was more pronounce and clear concerning sin, Jesus’ death and salvation. Even when he does talk about those subject towards the end of the book, he doesn’t connect the relationship of sin to justification and Jesus’ work on the cross which I see as essential for one’s Gospel presentation.
His methodology is problematic because everything points to Jesus Christ, even Mao’s rebellion is something Jesus took to make part of His Way (64-65). Marshall thinks Jesus was speaking about Mao’s regime when He said brothers will be against brothers, etc (168). It is a bit of a stretch. It must also be said that the same method the author use can also be used to demonstrate how Chinese culture points to say Marxism, Islam, etc. It is a flawed and speculative method. Plus, I don’t think Mao is a good “bridge” to Chinese culture for Christianity, given how he is a tyrant and also someone who is not necessarily held in high regards among everyone in the Chinese community.


I thought it was ironic that the author could point out “Chinese Buddhism” is “very Chinese, but not very Buddhist” (81). At times I felt Marshall’s work ended up being more Chinese than Christian.
I think any reference to historical and political realities that the book make must be double checked. For instance, on page 82-83 the book claims “A symbol of both Mao’s success and his failure is that under socialism, the poor learned to waste this precious grain,” with the grain referring to rice. Supposedly, “the communists alleviated China’s chronic food shortage” (83). I had a hard time with this personally since it goes against what history tells us of the man made famine that Mao’s economic policies produced. In fact, Mao’s policies followed that of Stalin and Mao didn’t change it even with the Russians warning him that it wasn’t going to work since they have done it already themselves. Given the historical inaccuracy of the statement we must ask what is the basis for Marshall to assert such a horrendous claim and he tells us following the above quote when he go on to say “When I walked by student dorms in China in the mid 1980s, I learned to keep an eye out for uneaten rice thrown through a window” (83). Assuming this to be true, we must remember that the author’s experience in the mid-1980s was the reign of Deng Xiao Ping and not Chairman Mao. Chairman Mao has been dead for a decade so the basis for his evidence of Mao’s economic success does not support his conclusion . . . 


As I said before the bad outweighs the good in the book. What I did appreciate from the book is his chapter on how Buddhism cannot fulfill the expectation and longing of Chinese culture. Of course, one might ask why must Chinese Culture be the standard to judge one’s religion in the first place and if consistent it is also detrimental to the Christian cause since not everything in Chinese culture is right and compatible with Christianity. It seems as if this didn’t occur to the author giving his silence on the issue.

I also enjoyed it whenever the author discussed Chinese character and how it points to some profound truth or confirm Biblical truths and this is probably the strongest evidence he presents in the book. Sadly when it comes to the characters pointing to Genesis he shares in the appendix that he is skeptical of it; but if he is skeptical of the strongest evidence in his book, that doesn’t speak a whole lot for the rest of his superficial look at how Chinese culture points towards Christ.


 
I. Of course I don't say the three layers of the Temple of Heaven "prove" the Trinity, as you claim. Having demonstrated that the Chinese worshiped the Supreme God there, I ask, "From a Christian perspective, what better way to represent the God of Heaven, who is three persons in one?"  So there is no talk of "proof" or even "evidence" in this passage, at all.  It is a hint, a foreshadowing or type in traditional Christian language.  You are simply inventing a position for me, and putting it in my mouth.  Such hostile "rephrasing" suggests that you did not read this book with a very open mind. 

The answer to your question about Confucius is equally simple: READ THE TEXT. Here's what I say immediately before the bit you quote: 

"China long believed in a God who judges mankind. Chinese believed God's love or anger depended on how we followed the tao, the way of right living in harmony with the true nature of things.  A man who lived two thousand years ago in what is now Shandong Province did more than anyone to point people to this way."

So I make it clear what "this way" refers to, and it is not "Christianity," as you (again) carelessly claim. It is truth that I think anticipates Christianity, within Chinese culture.  And that resolves the "difficulty" you raise in that paragraph completely. 

Nor does "fudged" mean "muddled."  My point is obviously just what you admit to be true: the Christian God is not purely transcendent, and the Chinese God is not purely imminent.  Why do you work so hard to misunderstand? 

It is hardly a "stretch" to relate Jesus' warning that brother would rise against brother, to this very prophecy coming true under Mao (as it also did under other tyrants): why should it be?  I am, after all, a Christian, who thinks Jesus was the Son of God and knew the future.  The fact that he depicted it so accurately certainly tells in His favor.  Jesus warned us that this would happen, and it has. 

Of course Mao was a tyrant!  Isn't that obvious from what I say about him?  My very first voluntary published writing, in 1976, was a letter to the editor on the death of Mao, denouncing journalists who were going too easy on the mass-murderer!  I didn't say Mao was a fulfillment of Jesus, for heaven's sake! How could you miss the point so spectacularly? 

Yes, grain production did massively increase under the communists.  Here's the data from Wikipedia: 

"In its first fifty years, the People's Republic of China greatly increased agricultural production through organizational and technological improvements.

Crop[27] 1949 Output (tons) 1978 Output (tons) 1999 Output (tons)
1. Grain 113,180,000 304,770,000 508,390,000
2. Cotton 444,000 2,167,000 3,831,000
3. Oil-bearing crops 2,564,000 5,218,000 26,012,000
4. Sugarcane 2,642,000 21,116,000 74,700,000
5. Sugarbeet 191,000 2,702,000 8,640,000
6. Flue-cured tobacco 43,000 1,052,000 2,185,000
7. Tea 41,000 268,000 676,000
8. Fruit 1,200,000 6,570,000 62,376,000
9. Meat 2,200,000 8,563,000 59,609,000
10. Aquatic products 450,000 4,660,000 41,220,000

Sorry if your history teachers didn't fill you in on that fact.  Partly communist success in increasing agricultural production came about simply because the World War and endless civil wars, which the communists had themselves helped to fuel in the latter case, had come to an end.  But in part, such increases are easy to achieve through concentration of labor and infrastructure projects, whether under tyrannical emperors or under the communist party. In China, they are famously associated with the agricultural scientist, Yuan Longping. 

No, this in no way conflicts with the fact that mass starvation also occurred under the communists at times -- which I also talk about, and also terrible poverty, as on page 89. 

And I said "under socialism," not "under Mao," which further disarms your criticism there.  What Mao accomplished was mainly to unite and pacify the country.  Those benefits allowed other benefits, under more reasonable leadership, to acrue. 

I despise communism with all my heart, and see Mao as one of the most evil tyrants of modern times.  But if you are an historian, which I am (and you obviously are not), even the devil must be given his due. 

Throughout your review, you seem determined to find fault, and often misread my arguments badly, always in a negative direction. Why did you read this book? Your hostility could not be clearer. 

There is nothing "superficial" about the arguments in this book.  They represent the popular version of serious arguments that I also made in my doctoral dissertation, which passed scrutiny from leading theologians and informed China scholars.  That is, admittedly, more rigorous, but even rigor cannot stand against an excess of hostility. 

Sorry you (also) don't like the pictures: I think they add a lot to the book, and many readers have agreed. (Though the next printing will update and modernize all the graphics, which is overdue.) I am not forcing readers to believe something here in a strident or "rigorous" way, I am introducing them to China, and to Jesus, as friends.  But there is rigorous scholarship behind my arguments, of which I do give the reader a peek, from time to time.  I don't believe, however, that a overly hostile reader can be convinced of anything against his or her will. 

My dissertation will probably also be published later this year.  It demonstrates both the theological foundations of my position, and (in detail) the historical evolution of the ideas that I highlight here in the context of classical Chinese thought, responding carefully to contrary arguments from other scholars. But frankly, as hostile as you seem to my thesis, and as careless as you certainly are in reading this book, I'm not sure I would recommend it to you.

You argue: 

What I did appreciate from the book is his chapter on how Buddhism cannot fulfill the expectation and longing of Chinese culture.  Of course, one might ask why must Chinese Culture be the standard to judge one’s religion in the first place and if consistent it is also detrimental to the Christian cause since not everything in Chinese culture is right and compatible with Christianity.  It seems as if this didn’t occur to the author giving his silence on the issue.

My "silence" on the issue?  Slim Jim seems to be smoking something more powerful that Slim Jims, to make such an asinine statement.  

Who said "everything in Chinese culture is right and compatible with Christianity?"  Slim Jim again shows that he is not reading at all attentively.  I talk about forced prostitution, idolatry, human sacrifice, abuse of women, and mass murder, among other things!  

This sort of comment makes clear that Slim Jim has probably not asked many Asians what they think about Christianity.  Were he to do so, as I have, he would discover that tens of millions see Christianity as a "foreign religion," and that that perception has effectively blocked the spread of the Gospel among two billion or more people in Asia.  

I wrote this book as a missionary.  I wrote it because of course we judge new ideas according to what we know or feel to be true already.  

St. Paul understood this.  That is why when he arrived in Athens, the cultural center of the Mediterranean world, he appealed to Greek philosophers and to the "altars to the unknown God," to preach Christ.  

But notice that what Slim Jim appreciates is when I criticize other religions.  Odd, since he didn't seem to notice earlier that I did that.  This reflects the apparently lack of balance he brings to evaluating other faiths -- he just doesn't like it when I say positive things, apparently.

I also enjoyed it whenever the author discussed Chinese character and how it points to some profound truth or confirm Biblical truths and this is probably the strongest evidence he presents in the book. Sadly when it comes to the characters pointing to Genesis he shares in the appendix that he is skeptical of it; but if he is skeptical of the strongest evidence in his book, that doesn’t speak a whole lot for the rest of his superficial look at how Chinese culture points towards Christ.

Jim again shows that he misunderstands my argument.  What I am skeptical of is a particular set of historical arguments claiming that the Chinese consciously inscribed themes from Genesis into the Chinese written language.  I recently wrote the forward for a book that relates Chinese characters to Christianity more carefully, however.  So I'm actually pretty positive about the general argument.  

But it's only Jim who thinks the few Chinese characters I relate to Christianity are the "strongest evidence in (my) book."  

Who is Jim, anyway, to say my analysis of Christianity and Chinese culture is "superficial?"  Does he have BA, MA, and PhDs in the subject?  Does the atheist anthropology professor of the world's 16th most important university, a specialist in Chinese religion, still praise his field research on a Chinese sect of Buddhism 20 years ago?  Has his dissertation in Theology of Religions been read and tested by an eminent Professor of Christian Thought popular with the Vatican, at one of Britain's leading universities?  


II. What your review really calls into question at times is your own reading ability.  For instance:

"I don’t know how the color red necessitate that it is the apostles’ blood in view."

Where did you get the idea that that's what I was saying?  I explain my actual point clearly and directly:

"I looked at those twelve pillars and immediately thought of the twelve apostles, red AS IF SPRINKLED WITH THE BLOOD OF CHRIST."

Christ, not the apostles.

Nor do I say the three-layer roof of the Temple of Heaven is "proof" of the trinity.  Don't misrepresent my argument, please.  

You ask, "How can one point to the way when he is ignorant of all the essentials of the Way?"

That's an easy question to answer.  Did John the Baptist know all the details of  Jesus' work?  Did King David?  Did Abraham?  Yet they all pointed to "the Way" (the Logos).  If you understand how the gospels related Jesus to the Old Testament, this should not be a difficult question.

You also complain:

"Marshall also believed that Confucius’ talk about Sheng Ren (Holy Man) anticipates the Messiah and one of his defense of this is that “Confucius never said the Sheng Ren would be Chinese” (42).  But Marshall here is making a fallacious argument from silence."

Do you know what an Argument From Silence is? I gather that you do not.  Nor are you reading fairly.  All I am doing with this parenthetical comment, a lead-in to the next chapter, is pointing out that for all Confucius said about him, the Sage need not be Chinese.  That minor point is not itself not my argument that the Sheng Ren does anticipate Jesus.  I go into this in more detail in my dissertation, and show that Jesus fits the description of the Sheng Ren in Confucius better than any other commonly-cited figure.

I do, in fact, interact with the strongest arguments of those who deny that God in the Classics should be identified with God in Christian tradition.  Do you really claim to know what those are?  But there is only so much room for that discussion in this book.  Read with a modicum of fairness -- which you don't seem to have brought to the book -- and I think most people will find the facts I point to convincing.

Indeed, reviewers who know Chinese culture well have found my argument in this book quite successful:

James Hudson Taylor III: "An amazing piece of writing."

Tony Lambert: "Showing deep, original thought, the author challenges the assumption that God and Christ are totally alien to the Chinese tradition, and writes a modern book on Christian apologetics in the process . . . Stimulating and provocative."

Wright Doyle, Global China Center: "It seems to me that Marshall has followed in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, who told us that are desires are to weak, not too strong; and of Blaise Pascal, who urged Christians to show how lovely, how utterly delightful, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The True Son of Heaven presents us with effective contextualization of the Christian message without dilution of its essence . . . Marshall’s style, both poetic and colloquial, requires a translator of the very highest skill in both English and Chinese to render the beauty and subtleties of this fine work." 

So far as I know, no knowledgeable theologian has found any "syncretism" in my book.  You seem to have read it a real chip on your shoulder, frankly.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Free books! (GOOD ones!)

Mom is moving into an apartment on the ground floor of my sister's house.  That means all those wonderful books stored in her garage (along with other things) need to find new homes!

Jesus and the Religions of Man, which I have the most of, is a wonderful book, a book that will change how you, or those you love, see the world.  Don't take my word for it: read the reviews below.

So, here's the deal.  Buy ONE copy of my new book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story (which is also getting fantastic reviews -- again, below, or at Amazon [ignore the one-star reviews by people who didn't read the book]) at $4 off . . . just $13 . . . and I will give you as many copies of Jesus and the Religions of Man as you like . . . for free!  (And add postage, I don't want to pay for that!)

Use these books for ministry.  Give them away to friends, Christian and non-Christian.  They will cause your friends (and you, if you haven't read them yet) to see the world in a fresh and very exciting new light.

I would love to see people make use of these books.

Here are the reviews:


How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story

Dr. Ivan Satyavrata, Indian Theologian

"Marshall is uniquely gifted as a writer – his careful scholarship, depth of insight and logical analysis is matched only by his illustrative genius as he skilfully blends inspired prose and vivid imagination in a much-needed, readable counter to the contemporary assault of the new atheists. This is a book you will not want to put down once you begin to read it, and a `must-read’ for any thoughtful follower of Christ. It has immense value both as a apologetic and pastoral tool - to help demolish obstacles to faith among genuine sceptics, and to encourage the weak and equip the strong within the community of faith.

Miriam Adeney, Seattle Pacific Missiologist: 

"Widely travelled and widely read, David Marshall unlocks a wealth of wisdom in this book . . . Greek and Roman Christianity, Viking Christianity, Indian Christianity, and Chinese Christianity are visited by a scholar who is fluent in the major languages of Asia.  What is truth? How do we know? What is love? Such questions are explored with flashes of dry humor and wit.  Christ's many gifts to humankind are described from an original perspective.  By turns, Christ is seen as a koan master, a sage, a guru, a messiah, and a reformer, as well as the center of the cosmos, the suffering sacrifice, and the risen Lord.  "Christ fulfilled the archtypes and prophecies given by Plato, Homer, Confucius, Lao Zi, Mencius, the Norse poets, and the great Vedic and Zhou texts.    This book is a treasure chest.  Read it and you will be enriched."
Brad Cooper, pastor 

"I found myself being carried along as if by an incoming hurricane, swept along by David's wit and mastery of metaphor. But unlike a hurricane, David did not leave behind a barren wasteland in his wake. Instead, fresh insights from the history of religions sprung up page after page, and an original and cogent argument had grown tall and strong as a redwood when the winds finally died down . . . 

"At one point, I was thinking to myself: "I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much."  (And I read a lot.)  Then I remembered that it was when I read Chesterton's Orthodoxy. Quite honestly, I think this book even surpasses that for me."
Randal Rauser, Canadian philosopher
"For some time now, Christianity’s cultured despisers have claimed that the Christian faith fails the so-called outsider test for faith. In this delightful riposte, David Marshall demonstrates the opposite is the case: Christianity, of all faiths, is most adept to pass this test. Nor is this a dry academic volume: Marshall presents his case with rhetorical wit and the cosmopolitan vision of a true world citizen. A must have for any apologist."
Don Richardson, author, Peace Child and Eternity in Their Hearts:
"An engrossing historical tapestry laden with insight . . .  Read on and be enriched!"
Tom Gilson, Thinking Christian blog:
"In the earliest days of the church there was a skeptic named Celsus whose works have been lost, and whose name would be forgotten had not Origen written his important rebuttal, Contra Celsus . . . Much as Celsus has become a footnote to Origen, I suspect (skeptic John) Loftus is destined to become a footnote to Marshall . . .  an outstanding read by a terrific storyteller, broad in scope, great in depth."


Jesus and the Religions of Man


Frederica Matthewes-Green, free-lance writer (National Review, Christianity Today, etc) 

"David Marshall takes cultural analysis several levels deeper, and in prose that is several levels higher, than we've come to expect. The result is not only enlightening but also a great deal of fun to read."
David Leshana, President Emeritus, Seattle Pacific University

"Very well done . . . This book should be read by all who . . . are preparing for ministry in an increasingly multicultural world."
Leslie Keylock, professor of Apologetics, Moody Bible Institute  

"Carefully reasoned and beautifully written by a man who has read widely . . . One of the finest books on world religions I have read in a long time."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram 

"Learned, urbane, and refreshing."

Jason Pratt, novelist

"In my opinion, this book is an entirely fitting successor to Chesterton's Everlasting Man.  With both passion and compassion, Mr. Marshall blends rigorous research with touches of poignantly poetic flair, in a forceful tour of incisive probing into what could be called the 'practical guts' of very many religious traditions."

A scholar of Japanese culture and new Christian

"What I liked most about (Jesus and the Religions of Man) is that it gave me a framework with which to think about and understand Christianity in the modern, pluralistic world."

TO ORDER: Send $14, plus $4 for one copy of How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test, and $1 each for each additional book requested (ask about postage on orders above 10), to David Marshall / PO BOX 403 / Fall City, WA 98024.


Warning: I'm flying back to China on February 17th.  I'll personally mail out all orders that come in by the 16th.  After that, your order may take just a little bit longer 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Can Matthew Ferguson Read?

In his usual charitable style, Ken ("Arizona Atheist") responded to my post rebutting a grotesque and baseless allegation from Matthew Ferguson (that I wished his demise: may he live long and prosper) as follows:

"You haven't addressed Matthew's post in any substantive way.  Evasions, excuses, and other tricks of your trade.  Perhaps if I have some free time I will go through line by line and point out all the reasons you have not directly addressed his post.  Which, by the way, can be found HERE since you placed the link in the middle of this large post, making very difficult to find.  Was that on purpose, in an attempt to keep it somewhat hidden?  Makes one wonder...."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Secularist Manifesto for Biblical Scholars

Have you ever noticed how Religious Studies programs in secular universities have become a villainous hive of wanton religiosity and pro-Christian propaganda?  No?  Well, Hector Avalos and Andre Gague have.   And they're mad as heck and decided they can't stand it any longerSo they've written a manifesto.  It's not as pithy as the Communist Manifesto.  And that's not the only evidence that Avalos and Gagne have forgotten what really happens when society decides to show nothing but contempt for "religion." 

Monday, January 04, 2016

Response to Matthew Ferguson: The Morbid Fantasies of Christian Apologists

In the past two days, I noticed evaluations of a certain "Christian apologist" by two deeply dedicated foes of Christianity.  Both men used the same name to describe this person, who appears to be a writer of some sort  But I can't believe they're really talking about the same person.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

John Loftus does math. (Hoooowwwww?)

I returned to North America two days ago and found the copy of John Loftus' How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist that I had ordered, in a box from Amazon in my office. I bought it because Loftus attacks me in it, and of course I wanted to see what he would say this time.   But that's late in the book, and I haven't gotten to that chapter, yet.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How does John Loftus (or anyone) know anything?

Explaining epistemology, how we know what we know, to New Atheists, feels a bit like rolling up a stone in Hades, only to have it slide back down, throughout eternity.  Asking them to stop blindly worshipping "science," and start thinking about our sources of knowledge rationally, is like asking a cat to be kind to mouse-flavored straw men.  (Sorry for the mixed metaphor: I have a cold, so make no guarantees even worse will not follow.) 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Year with Great Old Books



Yes it has been.  That's partly because I don't watch much TV here, and practically no movies.  But I can order books for our department, and I did bring a bunch with me -- no, not Kindle, the heavy ones, good for the abs.  Also, since I'm writing a highly ambitious defense of the gospels, I felt obligated to read as much ancient Greek fiction and history as possible, to provide a basis for comparison and analysis. 

So I haven't read as much in Chinese as last year.  But I have found some wonderful and fascinating works -- also some solid duds. 

Here are the ones I remember:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

In Defense of "Christian" Civilization

Recently, I responded to Andy Rhodes, a former Christian with a lot of tough questions about Christian thought and the Christian record.  In that post, I offered some ideas about the Problem of Pain.  Andy responded with a couple dozen or so posts, which I don't have time right now to fully answer (or even read, because that will start me answering).  Hopefully over the next few weeks I'll take the time to sift through and respond to those posts more completely, because we do welcome serious challenges. 

But I would like to answer some of Andy's points on the relationship between Christianity and the western record.   This begins by delving into politics, on which of course Christians have different opinions: as a conservative, I'll freely share my own.  Then we get more specifically into the Christian record in reform.