The BGV Theorem: An Unexpected Asset for Christian Theism

Source: The BGV Theorem: An Unexpected Asset for Christian Theism

By: Brian G. Chilton | October 15, 2018


Turn on the Discovery Channel or the Science Channel and you may find interesting theories pertaining to how the universe came to be. Some propose that an eternal multiverse gave rise to our modern universe. Others will hold that eternal wiggling dimensions or planes collide to form universes. In 2003, three theoretical physicists discovered a theorem that dispelled the idea of an infinite regress of physical past eternal universes—infinite regress describes an eternal chain of past events. Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin developed the theorem based on the well-established fact that anything traveling on a geodesic (shortest point between two points on a curvature) through space-time becomes what is known as redshifted (when light or electromagnetic radiation from an object is increased in wavelength, shifting to the red end of the spectrum, or moving away from the observer).[1] The physicists argue,

“Our argument shows that null and timelike geodesics are, in general, past-incomplete in inflationary models, whether or not energy conditions hold, provided only that the averaged expansion condition > 0 holds along these past-directed geodesics. This is a stronger conclusion than the one arrived at in previous work in that we have shown under reasonable assumptions that almost all causal geodesics, when extended to the past of an arbitrary point, reach the boundary of the inflating region of spacetime in a finite proper time (finite affine length, in the null case).”[2]

While the language is quite technical, the theorem provides three unintentional helps for the Christian theist.


  1. The BGV Theorem pinpoints the need for the beginning of our physical universe. First, the theorem agrees that our universe had a beginning. Ideas of an eternal, self-existing universe is growing quickly out of favor in the scientific community at least at this stage. Our universe, the laws of physics found in our universe, and time itself had a beginning at what scientists call the singularity.
  2. The BGV Theorem pinpoints the need for a beginning of all physical universe. The BGV theorem is especially helpful in noting that not only does our universe require a beginning point, but all physical universes require a singularity. Any physical universe including the theoretical multiverse must have an initial starting point. Thus, while it could be that a multiverse exists, a multiverse does not get around the need for a starting point which leads to the third point that needs to be considered.


  1. The BGV Theorem assists cosmological argumentation for God’s existence. The BGV theorem does not prove God’s existence. But, it does indicate the necessity for something beyond the scope of the physical world to account for the existence of any physical thing. Experimental particle physicist Michael Strauss argued,

“As an experimental physicist I tend to draw conclusions based on what is known observationally and experimentally rather than on conjecture or speculation. So what are the facts about the origin of our universe? The equations of general relativity suggest that the universe had an actual beginning of space, time, matter, and energy and the BGV theorem along with the expansion of the universe would require that this universe had an actual beginning of the expansion.  Other ideas about the origin of the universe like those proposed by Lawrence Krauss or Sean Carroll do not have real scientific evidence to back them up. They are conjecture.”[3]


Oddly, while Christian theists are accused of holding no evidence for their beliefs, Strauss seems to indicate that the exact opposite holds true. Cosmological arguments like the kalam are strengthened by the BGV theorem. With the BGV theorem and other mounting evidence supporting the claim, one holds good reasons for believing in a transcendent God who brought forth everything that exists into existence.

[1] Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2011), pg. 498.

[2] A. Borde, A. Guth and A. Vilenkin, Inflationary space-times are not past-complete, Physics Review 90 151301 (2003): 3.

[3] Michael Strauss, “The Significance of the BGV Theorem,” (January 28, 2017), retrieved October 15, 2018.

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.


© 2018.


The Link Between Church Attendance and Youth Retention

Source: The Link Between Church Attendance and Youth Retention

By: Wes McGarry | October 8, 2018

Barna conducted a study and found that 97 percent of Christian parents who engage in church have a strong desire to see their teens exhibit a strong faith that lasts into adulthood[1]. More specifically, 93 percent of parents state that they want their children to regularly attend worship services. Roughly 89 percent of parents believe the best way to accomplish this is to attend church together as a family.

One final statistic: 79 percent of teens felt comfortable raising questions, struggles, and doubts, particularly with their parents. In essence, teens are searching for spiritual guidance. The real question is, then, where are they getting it from? Parents need to be spiritually equipped to handle the issues and concerns that their teens are facing. This extends beyond a mere biological relationship. Spiritual mothers and fathers in the church also need to be prepared to address the concerns that are plaguing the Christian life.

Teens are going to look for an answer to the spiritual questions that they have. What is frightening is where they may be looking for the answers. The amazing part of it is though, the majority of parents seem to instinctively know how to handle the situation (at least 89 percent do). For real, last statistic this time: 61 percent of young people who attend church regularly never miss a beat in attendance as they grow into adulthood. The flipside is 78 percent of those who grew up outside of the church or had poor attendance never returned.[2] In summary, the more that children are exposed to church functions as a child, the more likely they are to attend through adulthood.

All of the above information is compiled in a way to demonstrate the importance of regular church attendance and to participate in church activities. This is in the form of Sunday morning worship, Wednesday evening Bible studies, discipleship opportunities, business meetings, mission trips/opportunities, and the list goes on. As parents (figurative or literal) and grandparents (figurative or literal) it is imperative to regularly attending church functions. The younger generation is watching. They know what is important and what is not important from those parental figures. No pressure, but the future of the church rest with those parental figures and their willingness to prioritize attendance. If teens do not see that importance displayed, the statistical likelihood of them falling away from the church is extremely high.

People are insanely busy. Children and teens are watching what the adults around them are doing and not doing. They are observing what they are prioritizing as important and unimportant. They see where people sacrifice and not sacrifice their resources. What is the younger generation seeing?

Wes McGarry serves as the Associate Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church. He received his BA in Christian Ministry from Piedmont International University where he doubled minored in Student Ministry and Pastoral Studies. He is currently in pursuit of an MA in Christian Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Wes enjoys Star Wars, serving the local church, spending time with his family, and expressing a deep love to his Savior.






Emotional Doubt and How to Combat It

Source: Emotional Doubt and How to Combat It

By: Brian G. Chilton | October 1, 2018


In a recent class at Liberty University, it was noted how 80% of a person’s doubts do not stem from intellectual problems with Christianity, but rather from emotional doubt. Emotional doubt is a problem for every person, but it seems to be a tougher concept for men to combat. The reason is because most men abstain from talking about their emotions. Many will suppress the emotional doubt and ignore it. However, such actions do not eliminate the doubt. Emotional doubt may address issues concerning the loss of a loved one, an unanswered prayer, or frustrations in life for which one blames God.

Interestingly, emotional doubt can be combated by a form of biblical cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Some may claim, “Hold up, Brian! You are talking that psychology mumbo-jumbo! What good is cognitive therapy?” Actually, cognitive behavioral therapy is quite a good practice. Paul argues the following:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things” (Php. 4:6-8).[1]

The believer should focus on those things that build up one’s faith and not on worry and fears which cause anxiety. CBT does just that. Using CBT to combat emotional doubt is quite effective. CBT can also combat depression and anxiety. Biblical CBT follows three steps.

  1. Identify your lies. First, recognize the doubts and fears you tell yourself. You may say, “I am going to certainly fail this test even though I have studied hard for it. I am too dumb to pass it.” Realize that the statements do not correspond with reality. If you have studied hard for the test, then you have learned the information which will be on the test. You are certainly not too dumb to learn the material.
  2. Remove your lies by arguing against it and give reasons for your optimism. Second, argue against the lies you are telling yourself with a positive, encouraging case. You may tell yourself that if you fail the test that it would be the worst thing in the world. In this case, remind yourself that you have studied the material and have learned the material quite well. Even if the worst should happen and you fail the test, it is not the end of the world. As bad as it may be, it is not as bad as you’re making it out to be.
  3. Replace your lies with the truth of God’s word. Third and finally, replace your lies with the truth of God’s word. Realize that “I am able to do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Php. 4:13, brackets mine). Realize that “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). With these truths in mind, the doubts and anxieties begin to lose their grip.

            CBT is a biblical practice that all believers need to practice. For too long, we have allowed the devil to steal our joy and hope. Often, we are our own worst enemies as we feel to frightened to take a chance on something for playing the “what if” game. Stop letting fear and anxiety steal the thunder from the grace that God has given you. Always keep in mind that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Tim. 1:9).



Brian G. Chilton is the founder of and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.


© 2018.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

The Christian’s Response to Cultural Change (V. T. Clark)

Source: The Christian’s Response to Cultural Change (V. T. Clark)

By: V. T. Clark | September 24, 2018

Daniel was a young man when his world changed.

The world Daniel knew and grew up in changed to a world contrary to his culture and his faith. Christians today find themselves not immune to the shifting cultural changes of society. With this brings personal and communal challenges of what is the Christian response and role in culture. It becomes vital figuring out how to respond to culture with a stance in Apologetics, through actions reflecting Christ and standing firm in the faith.

One response could be disengagement. However, as Chuck Colson wrote in “How Now Shall We Live?” Christians should not shy away from culture, but be prepared to minister, serve, and share the Gospel. Disengagement from the culture is not a best response nor should it be a choice. Instead as Christians, what needs to be done is finding ways to engage and live within society as Daniel did, but without compromising Biblical values. This is a fine line to walk, but the reality is Christians must live and interact within the society and culture.

Although Daniel could have tried to escape with repercussions, he becomes an example of courage and steadfastness in a culture different from his own. When offered food considered defiling (Daniel 1:8-16), rather than compromise, Daniel relied on his faith in God. God’s response for Daniel’s faithfulness was favor not only in God’s eye, but through later circumstances the king’s so Daniel was given opportunities to display in words and actions, credit to God.

For Christians, Daniel’s responses to his world is an example of the Christian response to modern day culture. While Daniel did not have a say in where he lived, he did have a choice in how he would respond to society and culture. Likewise, so do Christians and one form at a believer’s use is in the form of apologetics. Mary Jo Sharp writes in, “Living in Truth” apologetics is, “making a case for belief in the Christian God, which includes answering objections to belief in God.” This echoes 1 Peter 3:15 of being prepared like Daniel to give reason and why to belief in God. For those unfamiliar with apologetics, there are bible studies geared toward teaching believers not only how to share their belief, but even how to defend their belief. Daniel use every opportunity to credit God and use those moments to be a testament in his faith in God.

Paul, in the book of Acts, interacted with diverse groups of people in a form of apologetics where though the message of the Gospel stayed the same, he considered how he interacted with society and the culture. There are many ways to handle the encounters without changing the message. Tim Muehlhoff argues the greatest skills for Christian is not in debating but recognizing and affirming God’s truth through conversations with people and how Christians engage others in their daily lives. The challenge is engaging in culture while not being part of culture. (John 17:13-19) Obviously Daniel was facing more extreme situations where he had little if any say in his life. However, like Daniel, he showed the struggles for us as Christians, being under pressure to conform to society and culture without compromising values and belief.

Those who follow Christ are called to shed light on the Gospel to the world. (John 17:15). There is the reality though not to be too influenced by the world. (James 1:27; 1 Corinthians 7:31; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15). One solution is suggested by Dr. Jim Eckman for believers to evaluate how they speak the language of Christianity in a relativistic world. This also brings the need to do heart checks and determine if one’s faith and even actions line up with Christ. A favorite quote from Francis Schaeffer is:

“We are not excused from speaking, just because the culture and society no longer rest as much as they once did in on Christian thinking. Moreover, Christians do not need to be in the majority to influence society.”

Daniel was one man, but he held fast to God and by obedience he followed God. The same can be said for modern Christian engaging others in an increasingly secular world. Reality, this can make casual conversations and daily interactions sometimes a complex manner. The concept of what is truth is becoming more convoluted and with it changing definitions of even what is tolerance. Christians are supposed to be counter-cultured. John Lennox saw post-modernism having within itself a self-contradiction of “no absolute truth” while the Christian finds themselves sharing truth seen through the eyes of God.

When looking at how Daniel handle his response to a changing society and culture, what is found is a core commitment to God. While the Christian finds themselves immerse in day to day engagement with people in real life or even on social media there is a point of conflict when the two worlds meet. Apologetics calls for sharing the truth of God’s world which is a contrast to a pluralistic world where sometimes the prevailing idea is “live and let live.” For the Christian, this is not biblical, and laced with grey areas of morality not founded on biblical truth.

Apologetics is about finding common ground to be able to engage in conversations where the message of the Gospel can be interlaced in conversation. It is easy to react to a post-modern society without grace or think culture is useless, but Theodore Turneau countered like Paul, use culture in a way to connect with non-believers without compromising the message. Disengagement from society and even culture will not help discussions. Disengaging can be detrimental or even argued contrary to the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20). Every day brings with it new challenges to those who follow and believe in Christ. The challenge then lies in the Christian understanding more what is their role in society and culture and how to engage in the community in a way which reflects Christ.


Charles W. Colson.”How now shall we live?” Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 5, no. 1, 2002, p. 287+.

Dr. Jim Eckman. “Culture and the Christian: Separate, Identify or Transform? – Issues In Perspective.” Issues In Perspective. 31 Dec. 2011.

James A. Patterson.  “Cultural Pessimism In Modern Evangelical Thought: Francis Schaeffer, Carl Henry, And Charles Colson,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 4 (December 2006): 813.

Mary Jo Sharp. Living in Truth: Confident Conversation in a Conflicted Culture by Mary Jo Sharp (September 26, 2015).

About the Author

V. T. Clark is a graduate student via Houston Baptist University Online graduate program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry with a minor in Biblical Studies from Liberty University. She’s currently part of HBU Chapter of Ratio Christi at Houston Baptist University, as well as writer for By Grace, In Faith. V. T. Clark is a member of CAA: Christian Apologetics Alliance and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Married to a Combat Marine Veteran, she is dedicated to apologetics, theology, and biblical studies.


Disclaimer: The views of guest columnists are their own and may not reflect those of Bellator Christi Ministries or its affiliates.

Theologies that John Chapter One Combats

Source: Theologies that John Chapter One Combats

Theologies that John Chapter One Combats

By: Brian G. Chilton | September 10, 2018


The Gospel of John has been one of my favorite Gospels since I first started studying the Bible. The Gospel of John is theologically rich as well as historically accurate. One of the important sections of John’s Gospel is found in its opening chapter. John says,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it . . . He was in the world, and the world was created though him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be the children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-5, 10-14a).[1]


The best evidence suggests that John the apostle wrote these words. John bar Zebedee is confirmed as the author both by internal and external evidence (especially by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, and later Eusebius).

John also confirms an additional segment of information in his first letter. He writes, “This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father as well” (1 John 2:22-23). That is to say, the truth is that Jesus is the Word as described in John chapter 1. If one denies this truth, then one denies a core fundamental of the faith.

Such information is important to know because John chapter 1 combats three modern forms of theology that must be eschewed by the believer who seeks to accept the truth of God’s word. These three false modern doctrines will be described in this article. Note, however, that I realize that there are many good people in the groups I will discuss. Their problem is theological and not necessarily moral. Good people can hold to bad theology.

John 1 Combats Jehovah Witness/Arian Theology. The Jehovah Witness movement was started by one Charles Taze Russell. Their theology is not that original in scope as they borrow from an ancient heresy known as Arianism. Arius of Alexandria (256-336 AD) was a presbyter who formulated the idea that Jesus was not really God, but rather an archangel. Jesus was the first created being according to Arian theology. Arianism was successfully combated by Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373 AD) who stood for the orthodox Christian view that Jesus was God come in the flesh. Athanasius’s victory was not without cost. He was exiled at least three times until it was finally resolved that Athanasius’s view corresponded with biblical truth.

Unfortunately, in today’s fragmented ecclesiastical structure, there is not as much church authority to combat false doctrines such as Arianism. For that reason, Charles Taze Russell’s theology was able to succeed. He developed a very similar doctrine as Arius’s and formulated the Jehovah Witness movement. Yet, John 1 stands opposed to any claim that Jesus was merely an angel. Jesus was God (Jn. 1:1) and not a mere angelic entity. Thus, the Jehovah Witness doctrine finds itself falling short from biblical orthodoxy just as Arius’s view did.


John 1 Combats Mormon Theology. Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont on December 23, 1805. Smith claimed to have seen an angel by the name of Moroni who supposedly gave Smith a newer testament called the Book of Mormon which describes how the risen Jesus purportedly visited a group of Native Americans known as the Nephites. According to Mormon theology, Jesus was the first spirit-child originating from the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother. However, John 1 greatly combats that idea. Jesus is presented as being co-eternal with the Father. Thus, Jesus was not the first spirit-child. Rather, Jesus was God who existed since from before the beginning of all creation and who came in flesh “and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14a).


John 1 Combats New Age Theology. New Age theology holds that each person is his/her own god. Ironically, it seems that false doctrines deescalate the person of Jesus and elevate the human being, whereas orthodoxy elevates the persona of Jesus and deescalates humanity. Nevertheless, John 1 teaches that “all things were created through [Jesus], and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created” (Jn. 1:3). Thus, if “all things” (Gk. panta) really means “all things,” then human beings cannot claim to be any form of god much less their own.


Each Christian must test truth each doctrine they come across philosophically and theologically by God’s word. While we need to remember that we must love each person with whom we come into contact, we cannot accept false doctrines. Stay true to God’s word and the theological power found within its pages. Leave everything else by the wayside.


Brian G. Chilton is the founder of and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.


© 2018.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

Determining the Apologetic Starting Point

Source: Determining the Apologetic Starting Point

By: Brian G. Chilton | August 28, 2018

I am fully immersed in a fantastic course describing apologetic methods. I have been engaged in apologetics since 2007. But, I never realized that there were so many various methodologies employed. One of the most off-putting of the methodologies that I have encountered has been one version of a method called presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics (PA) holds that one should begin with the assumption that God exists and that the Bible is inspired as one evangelizes a person as opposed to more empirical methods such as classicalism (where one shows evidence for God’s existence and then shows evidence for the Bible’s reliability) or evidentialism (where one provides evidence for God’s existence by showing the evidence for the reliability of the Bible).

At first, I was appalled at the system. I was especially troubled at how some in the PA movement disregarded all empiricist methods. However, after talking with some who hold to the PA methodology, I can see some viability in its use while I readily admit that it is not my preferred method. In reality, all apologetic methodologies may hold a place in the apologist’s toolbelt as he or she seeks to reach different kinds of people in differing places in their lives. The starting point is, in many ways, based on three areas.


The Starting Point Depends on the Person’s Assumptions. What does the person assume to be true about God and the Bible? It may be important for the apologist to combat those assumptions before engaging with the evidence. PA can have an influence in this area if the person holds some belief in God. However, if a person goes the route of PA, I personally think Alvin Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemological model works better than the traditional form of PA as found in Cornelius Van Til’s model. Plantinga argues that belief in God is a warranted belief—that is, a belief that is so evident that one can accept the belief without substantial evidence. From there, he builds his apologetic defense for the faith.

Already, some of the readers will say to themselves, “Oh yeah! That makes sense.” Others will say, “Come on! Really?” Thus, this model will not work for some because some people need hardcore evidence to back up the claim that God exists. For those, empirical apologetic models would work best. Quite honestly, PA would not have worked with me when I had doubts about the Bible’s reliability.


The Starting Point Depends on the Person’s Behaviors. Many apologists have noted that a person’s doubts come not so much from intellectual problems, but from emotional issues. If a person’s doubts come from issues of theodicy (i.e., why a loving God would allow evil in the world), then the apologist must first deal with the emotional issues blocking a person’s acceptance of Christian truths. The justification of certain behavioral issues may cause a person to doubt. This will cause different starting points with different people.


The Starting Point Depends on the Person’s Commitment. Does a person commit oneself to historical methods and science? If so, why not share the historical and scientific evidences for the Christian faith? Why argue over the use of the scientific and historical methods if we can use the scientific and historical methods to show the reasons to believe in Christ? It is odd that a person would avoid empirical methodologies if it would have a positive impact on the listener.


The point of the article is simple. Use whatever apologetic methodology that would be most beneficial for the person being evangelized. If a person’s presuppositions are the problem, then use a version of PA. If a person wants to know the empirical reasons to believe in God, use the classical method. If a person wants to know whether there is evidence for the resurrection of Jesus or the reliability of the Bible, use the evidential method. If a person wants to see the overall evidence for Christianity, use the cumulative method (evaluating all the evidence for Christianity and building a case out of the overall evidence). Use the method that would best benefit the person being evangelized. Such is necessary, along with the Holy Spirit’s involvement, for the obstacles to be cleared which stands in their path to faith. So, how does one determine the best apologetic starting point? It is determined by the person being evangelized. But, all in all, I think empirical methods will be more useful than PA methods with most people in society.


Brian G. Chilton is the founder of and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.


© 2018.

7 Ways to Tell if a NT Text Contains Early Content

Source: 7 Ways to Tell if a NT Text Contains Early Content

By: Brian G. Chilton | August 21st, 2018


One of the most powerful ways a person can know that the testimony of Jesus is not the product of late legendary fictions is the evidence of pre-New Testament (pre-NT) material found in the New Testament text. Perhaps the most popular and important of the pre-NT material is the resurrection creedal formulation of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Other important pre-NT material includes Colossians 1:15-20 and the hymn of Philippians 2:5-11. Gary Habermas also includes the following texts from Acts as pre-NT material: Acts 1:21-22; 2:22-36; 3:13-16; 4:8-10; 5:29-32; 10:39-43; 13:28-31.[1] Habermas’s writings indicate that there are many, many more of these early texts.

A person recently asked me, “How can we tell if a text is early and predates the NT document?” Gary Habermas provides the answer. Habermas notes seven ways a person can tell if a text comes from material that predates the document being written.[2] In other words, it shows that the author is pulling from material that predates his or her writing.


  1. Delivered Material. The first way that a person can tell if the material is earlier than the writing is if the author claims that he is providing material that was received. Going back to 1 Corinthians 15, Paul starts off the creedal statement by saying, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received” (1 Cor. 15:3).[3] The admission that the material was received strongly indicates that the text is early. Many scholars have dated 1 Cor. 15:3-7 to no later than 3-5 years after Jesus’s resurrection, some indicating that it may be dated to within months after the resurrection.


  1. Parallelism and Stylized Accounts. Jewish writings use certain styles especially in their poetry. Jewish poetry did not focus so much on rhyme as much as they did on parallelism. In the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the OT), at least three forms of parallelism were used: synonymous (repetition of a phrase that builds upon the previous statement, see Ps. 2:4), antithetic (the second line states something in contrast to the first, see Pr. 15:2), and synthetic (the rest of the phrase builds upon the concept first presented, see Ps. 1). These methods may have helped individuals memorize the text. Nevertheless, when a form of parallelism is found in the NT text, it serves as an indication that the author is pulling from earlier material that did not originate with him.


  1. Proper Rather than Popular Names Employed. Often, one can tell if a text is early if proper names are used rather than the more popular versions. For instance, when the Aramaic form of Peter’s name is used, Cephas, the text comes from an earlier source than the author.


  1. Triple Hoti Clauses. Habermas notes that another indicator of early material is what he calls the “triple hoti clauses.”[4] Hoti is translated as “and that.” When the term hoti is used three times, it indicates a style of Hebrew narration that indicates that the material is earlier than the author’s writing.


  1. Scripture Being Fulfilled. Habermas notes that there are times when the author provides early material to prove that the event fulfills Scripture. This indicates that the material used is early as the author is making an apologetic point.


  1. Indications of Aramaic Originality. Aramaisms (words left untranslated from Aramaic) indicate that the material is very early. An example of an Aramaism is in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus raises a little girl back to life, he says “Talitha koum” (Mk. 5:41). This is an indicator that the material is very early.


  1. Differing Terminology. Finally, if the terminology, diction, and/or structure of the material is different from that which is normally used by the author, there is a strong indication that the material is derived from a source earlier than the author.


The more I read about pre-NT material, the more I am convinced that the entire NT is riddled with early material. While I hold to traditional NT authorship (that is, that the early church historians noted correctly who wrote the Gospels and NT texts), this pre-NT material actually ensures that even if the NT documents were written later they pulled from material that originated with the early church. One who holds to the historicity of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection stands upon a sure foundation. The one who discredits Jesus’s historicity stands upon sinking sand.


[1] Gary Habermas, “Evidential Apologetics,” in Five Views on Apologetics, Stanley N. Gundry and Steven B. Cowan, eds (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 110, fn 58.

[2] Ibid., 108-109.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

[4] Ibid, 109.

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.


© 2018.

The Beautiful Truths of Ezekiel 18

Source: The Beautiful Truths of Ezekiel 18

By: Brian G. Chilton | August 9, 2018

Christian leaders are hit with many concerning issues within the modern church. Church attendance is in a state of decline in many areas. Even in the Bible Belt, the culture is becoming post-Christian. As a Christian leader myself, I have had great anxiety over these issues. One of the important truths that has helped me cope is the doctrine of divine sovereignty, realizing that God is in control. Quite honestly, as one can see in Revelation, it may be that God himself is removing the light of many churches from their lampstands due to a loss of their first love (Rev. 2:5).

Yet, another area that I have struggled with is the idea that I, as a pastor, am personally responsible for the actions of others. If a person doesn’t respond to the gospel or if someone has caused issues, I thought that I was responsible for their actions, or the lack thereof. However, I recently came across a wonderful chapter that illuminated many beautiful truths that have brought me hope. Ezekiel 18 teaches three important truths one must remember when ministering in this culture.


The Beautiful Truth of Personal Accountability. The first truth that must be considered in Ezekiel 18 is the issue of personal accountability. Ezekiel gives three test cases that notes how God holds each person responsible for his or her own actions.

Test Case #1: The Righteous Man (Eze. 18:5-9). Ezekiel considers the righteousness of a man who probably lives in a sinful area. The man lives according to God’s standards and “does what is just and right” (18:5).[1] The man trust God as he does not commit idolatry (18:6a) and treats others justly (18:6b-8). The man of faith is not held accountable for the actions of the society around him. Rather, God holds him accountable for his own actions (18:9).

Test Case #2: The Wicked Son (Eze. 18:10-13). The son is nothing like his father. One can assume that the father was a good parent. The wicked son has chosen his path. He is guilty of violence (18:10), idolatry (18:11a), adultery (18:11b), and abuses others (18:12-13). The judgment of the son is not the father’s fault. Instead, as Ezekiel states, “Since he has committed all these detestable acts, he will certainly die. His death will be his own fault” (18:13).

Test Case #3: The Righteous Grandson (Eze. 18:14-20). The wicked son has a son who is the righteous man’s grandson. The grandson sees the evil deeds of his father and chooses to live in faith according to God’s laws. This individual is not held responsible for the deeds of his father. Rather, “the righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him” (18:20). No matter where a person comes from and no matter how bad a person’s parents are, God does not hold the child responsible for the actions of his or her parents. Each person is held accountable for their own actions.

Understanding this truth has brought me great peace. We are responsible for getting the message of the gospel out there. We give defenses for the faith. But ultimately, each person is responsible for him or herself. We cannot change anyone. Only God can. So, be faithful in what God has called you to do and leave the results up to him.


The Beautiful Truth of Providential Ambition (Eze. 18:23-29, 32). Another great truth shown in Ezekiel 18 is God’s desire for people to be saved. God asks, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked . . . don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives?” (18:23) Again in verse 32, God says, “For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death . . . So repent and live!” (18:32). In both of these passages, God shows that he does not take pleasure in judging and condemning anyone. God desires that people repent of their sins and turn to him so that they can avoid judgment. I believe that Simon Peter probably had this chapter in mind when he wrote “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Some may question God’s grace, such as those mentioned in Eze. 18:25-29, but it must be remembered that God does not desire for anyone to be in hell or for anyone to face judgment. Ezekiel 18 makes this vividly clear!


The Beautiful Truth of Penitent Acceptance (Eze. 18:21-22; 30-31). The final great truth found in this amazing chapter is that God accepts a person’s repentance. Since each person is held accountable for one’s own actions and that God desires for all to be saved, then it is no surprise that God willingly accepts the genuine repentance of anyone who calls upon his name. If a wicked person genuinely repents from all the sins he or she has committed, God will forgive him (18:21-22). God appeals to Israel and to all people to repent and turn to him

These truths are remarkable and quite revolutionary when properly understood. Some believe that the God found in the OT is a mean, vengeful being. But, such is not the case. The God of the OT is the same God of the NT because he is the genuine God over all creation. God holds each person accountable. Each person will have to stand before God in judgment (Heb. 9:27), including Christians (Rom. 14:10). So, don’t think that you will be held accountable for another person’s actions. In addition, don’t think that God is unwilling to accept your or anyone one else’s repentance. He will because it is not God’s will for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).


Brian G. Chilton is the founder of and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.


© 2018.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).