Jesus and the Gospels

Jesus and the Gospels

by Allison Oster

Marj Harman is not apologetic about her desire to help those searching for answers. “It is a pleasure to help other Christians find answers to Bible or science questions that have troubled them for years,” says Harman. “I derive encouragement and satisfaction from sharing what I have learned about God through His creation and from seeing others understand that the universe bears tremendous testimony to God’s reality and love.”

Serving as a volunteer in various capacities since 1987, hotline apologist and member of the Reasons to Believe (RTB) Speakers Bureau, Harman helps others answer the questions she was once too intimidated to ask. Her long history with RTB has afforded her the opportunity to fill a gap for others that long went unfilled for her.

Raised in a Christian home first in Tennessee, then in Denver, Colorado, Harman started asking questions when she embraced her faith at nine years old. Many of her questions centered on discrepancies between the Bible as she understood it and the science she was taught at school. People around her considered those kinds of questions threatening; so she stopped asking. “I was not willing to give up God,” says Harman, reflecting on her past, “So I just avoided the questions and science.”

Through her formative years Harman continued to pursue her educational goals while she filed away her many unanswered questions. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Colorado, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Arizona. A breakthrough finally occurred when she heard Dr. Walter Martin on “The Bible Answer Man” radio program. “Dr. Martin was the first person I ever heard who could answer the questions that I’d had for years,” recalls Harman. She learned that Dr. Martin was teaching courses on apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, a Christian graduate school in Southern California, so she began taking classes there.

Harman’s yearning for truth was rewarded. With the help and encouragement of Dr. Martin, Harman continued her apologetics training, gaining a greater appreciation for the faith and envisioning one day helping others with similar questions or doubts. Her fear of science began to fade and was replaced by an interest in learning more about the relationship between science and faith. Then one day she heard Dr. Hugh Ross speak on the radio. “It was as if this new world opened up,” she said. “I was excited to be able to look at science and not feel threatened by it.”

Harman contacted Dr. Ross, absorbed many of his materials, and then joined RTB as a volunteer along with her husband, Mike, just as the ministry was getting off the ground. Two years after joining RTB, the Apologists Hotline was instituted, and Harman became one of the first volunteer apologists available to answer questions on science and the Bible. With a love for research and for people, she found the hotline to be a great place to assist others with questions about their faith. After many years of perceived importunity, she was excited about this opportunity to share what she had learned.

In 1993 Harman became a member of the RTB Speakers Bureau. As a member of this group of apologists, she travels and gives lectures on several science and apologetics issues. She has lectured more than 50 times on a variety of topics, including “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God” and “Genesis 1 and 2: Myth or History?” She also speaks on quantum mechanics, the subject of her master’s thesis at Simon Greenleaf University, where she graduated with a Master of Arts in Christian apologetics in 1999.

Harman had long been interested in physics and math, and then later, quantum mechanics. Her interest in this specialty (see sidebar) began when she read a magazine article relating quantum mechanics to faith. After hearing a theologian say that quantum mechanics would become the greatest challenge to the Christian faith, if it proved true, she was determined to find the truth for herself. She began to dig into quantum mechanics with vigor, taking math and physics courses to better understand the topic and writing research papers. The knowledge she gained was beneficial in a number of ways, including the work she did with another apologist, Erica Carlson, to create a video, “Quantum Apologetics,” for RTB in 1998.

Along with her other duties as a volunteer, Harman coordinates the scheduling of hotline apologists for the weekly RTB Radio program, coordinates the round table for the apologists, and provides some editorial support for Facts for Faith as well. It would be fair to say that she is an indispensable asset to the ministry, and to those affected by it. Her cheerful attitude, her integrity, her expertise, and her Christian character are highly valued.

Harman’s eagerness for learning and research has not only enriched her life, but also the lives of those she teaches. Everything she has gained from her education and interactions with others has brought about a deeper understanding of and trust in God. She finds tremendous fulfillment in the relationships she builds through speaking and through the hotline, relishing the chance to help others as she recalls her own experience as a young person with nobody to answer the tough questions.

“When people have questions that hinder their relationship with God, I’ve always encouraged them to keep seeking the answers, not to give up, because there are answers,” advises Harman. “Even if we cannot find an answer to every question, at least we can get enough answers to be confident in our faith.”

A Brief Description of Quantum Physics Classical physics expresses general rules to predict the behavior of a physical system when it interacts with its environment. For instance, how a baseball arcs after a bat exerts a force on it, or how to predict the path of a rocket sent into space. Quantum mechanics deals with the behavior of atomic and subatomic phenomena. This includes the behavior of light waves or the behavior of the electrons in an atom. “My interest began when I heard Shirley MacLaine declare she could call herself god because quantum physicists were proving the observer determines reality,” says Harman. “Then I read of a theologian who thought quantum physics was ‘the greatest contemporary threat to Christianity’ which might be able to ‘shatter his faith.’ I was certain something in their understanding of modern physics was incorrect and felt it was important to provide an answer.”

  1. This is precisely the conclusion Albert Schweitzer came to when he evaluated the Quest for the historical Jesus up to his time. I think the same thing has been happening ever since.
  2. See for example, Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990); The Book of Acts in its Ancient Literary Setting, ed. by Bruce W. Winter and Andrew Clark (1993); The Book of Acts in its Greco-Roman Setting, ed. by David W.J. Gill and Conrad Gempf (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994); Brian Rapske, The Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994); The Book of Acts in its Palestinian Setting, ed. by Richard Bauckham (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996); The Book of Acts in its Theological Setting, ed. by I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000); A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992).
  3. Acts 1:12-13, 5:12, 6:2.
  4. For reasons we cannot go into here, almost all scholars believe that the writer of Acts had not seen Paul’s letters and that Acts and Paul’s letters are, therefore, independent sources.
  5. Acts 21:18.
  6. Acts 10; Acts 12:17.
  7. Acts 8.
  8. Acts 11:22; Acts 15:39.
  9. Acts 13-28.
  10. Galations 2:11-12.
  11. Romans 16:1.
  12. 1 Corinthians 16:5-10.
  13. Philemon.
  14. Luke 1:1-4.
  15. The Historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan (San Francisco : Harper Collins, 1991) is a good example. Crossan argues that the most reliable information about Jesus comes from AD 60 or earlier, which conveniently excludes even the Gospel of Mark. But Crossan provides extensive historical, social, and religious background to Jesus’ life using Josephus who writes about the same time that Crossan says the Gospels were written!
  16. Richard Burridge, What are the Gospels? (New York: Cambridge University Press), 1995.
  17. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
  18. 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, see also Romans 14:1-24.
  19. 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.
  20. 1 Corinthians 12-14.
  21. e.g. Acts 5:21–25, 11:26, 15:35.