Saturday, June 07, 2008

April/May Truthbomb Apologetics Newsletter


A Ministry of Faith Christian Fellowship (explorefcf.com)

* Author’s Note: For those who did not read our Feb/March Newsletter, I recommend doing so before continuing.

Click here: http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2008/03/febmarch-truthbomb-apologetics.html

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Part Two

Hello everyone! This month we will take a look at some of the most common objections put forth by skeptics regarding the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Keep in mind, an alternative hypothesis must explain the known facts from history, but must also do so using first century evidence. Let’s revisit the “minimal facts argument” before we proceed.

The Minimal Facts Revisited

If you’ll remember from last month’s newsletter, there are a total of twelve facts available that are accepted by the majority of scholars-both skeptical and non-skeptical-regarding the resurrection of Jesus. However, we focused only on five of those twelve facts:

Fact #1- Jesus died by crucifixion
Fact #2- Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them and their lives were radically changed as a result
Fact #3- The Conversion of the Church Persecutor Paul
Fact #4- The Conversion of the skeptic James, Jesus’ half-brother
Fact #5- Jesus’ Tomb was Empty

Please keep in mind that the majority of scholars have come to believe these facts based upon viewing the Bible only as a collection of historical literature. We do not have to appeal to the inspiration or inerrancy of the Bible to present a compelling case that Jesus rose from the dead.

What Explanation Best Explains the Available Evidence?

Our goal will be to examine the alternative explanations put forth by skeptics, in light of the available data we have, to determine which hypothesis best explains the evidence. If one is willing to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, the evidence is formidable.

The Objections

Number One

Jesus didn’t die on the cross (Apparent Death Theory or “Swoon Theory”)

To be honest, I debated as to whether or not I should even include this objection due to it’s weak, virtually groundless position. Also know as the “swoon theory,” this hypothesis causes more problems than provides answers for the unbeliever.

With what we know about the scourging and crucifixion itself, it stretches the mind to the breaking point to even suggest that Jesus could have survived the cross.

Roman soldiers were trained to kill and they were very proficient at their job. We must remember that before Jesus was even nailed and hung on the cross, He was brutally beaten, whipped, and flogged.

The following is an excerpt from the Journal of the American Medical Association put out by a team of three who studied the process of scourging and crucifixion and how the victim was affected medically:

“The usual instrument was a short whip…with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals…the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to the upright post…The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged…The scourging…was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death…As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles.” (1)

Further, the post-resurrection appearances convinced the disciples, even “doubting Thomas” that Jesus was gloriously alive (Jn. 20:19-29). It is psychologically impossible for the disciples to have been so transformed and confident if Jesus had merely struggled out of a swoon, badly in need of a doctor. A half-dead, staggering sick man who has just had a narrow escape is not worshiped fearlessly as divine Lord and conqueror of death.(2)

Finally, the apparent death theory fails to explain why Paul and James, being skeptics, came to believe in Jesus and follow Him, even to their death.

Number 2

The disciples were hallucinating when they saw Jesus.

In his book, Without a Doubt, Kenneth Samples describes a hallucination:

Hallucinations are understood to be private, subjective, and individual mental experiences (or projections) that do not correspond to objective reality. Hallucinations are also typically brief explanations (lasting seconds or minutes), often induced by drugs or the extreme deprivation of food, drink, and sleep. They typically happen to people who are extremely nervous and/or high strung.” (3)

Keeping that in mind, to believe that hallucinations explain the encounters numerous people had with the risen Jesus utterly fails to explain, once again, the available data.

Consider the following points:

1) As Samples pointed out, hallucinations, like dreams, are individually experienced and private. This is significant because we know that the resurrection appearances of Jesus were experienced by various people, at various times, in various places, under various circumstances over a period of forty days!

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 we learn that Jesus appeared to 500 people at once! This is even more remarkable than five hundred private “hallucinations” at different times and places of the same Jesus. Paul even goes on to tell us that most of those who saw Jesus were still alive to verify or nullify the truth of the account. Had he been making up the appearance to the 500, he surely would have been exposed by his numerous enemies.

2) The hallucinations lasted for forty days, not a few seconds or minutes (Acts 1:3). (4)

3) The existence of the empty tomb is a grave flaw with the hallucination theory. If 500 eyewitnesses did have the unheard of experience of seeing the same hallucination at the same time (takes much faith to believe that!), then why didn’t the Jewish or Roman authorities simply parade Jesus’ body around the city? That would have stopped the spread of the Christian message before it even started!

4) What about Paul? Even if one did want to entertain the senseless notion that the disciples experienced “hallucinations” due to grief, that still would not explain the transformation of the Apostle Paul.

Dr. Gary Habermas explains:

“He (Paul) did not appear to have been in the frame of mind to experience a hallucination, since it seems he hated both Jesus and his followers and believed it was God’s will to stop them. He was far from grieving over Jesus’ death.”(5)

5) Hallucinations also fail to account for the conversion of the skeptic James, the Lord’s half-brother. When one considers the fact that James believed his brother to be a charlatan and that he was a pious Jew, we have no reason to believe he was grieving over the loss of his brother or looking to Him to be the promised, Jewish Messiah.

The Hallucination theory contradicts what we know about hallucinations and fails to explain the concrete historical evidence.

Number 3

The apostles were deceived or deceivers

For someone to claim that the resurrection was a fraud, he or she must be able to back-up their claim with first-century evidence. It is not enough to simply set forth a alternate hypothesis. An empty objection does not equal evidence.

We have good reasons to believe that the disciples were not deceived, nor were they deceivers.

1) What would have been the disciples motivation for lying? Lies are always told for selfish gain. However, what would the disciples have to gain for making up the resurrection story? History tells us that the disciples were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, and crucified. [6] Not exactly a desired benefits package!

2) The Gospel narratives and the writings of Paul were written so closely to the events they describe, that they (Paul and the disciples) could not have gotten away with preaching a risen Jesus with so many around who had witnessed the events unless Jesus truly had risen.

William Lane Craig points out:

“The Gospels were written in such a temporal and geographical proximity to the events they record that it would have been almost impossible to fabricate events…The fact that the disciples were able to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of their enemies a few weeks after the crucifixion shows that what they proclaimed was true, for they could never have proclaimed the resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances hand it not occurred.” [7]

3) If Jesus had not risen, the Jews simply could have gone to His tomb and got the body, displaying it for all to see. However, they could not do so because the tomb was empty (Fact #5).

4) The disciples were willing to die for the message they were preaching. Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, their lives were radically transformed and they went from being fearful to fearless, cowardly to bold, and not once did they recant their belief in the risen Christ, even in the face of torture, persecution, and imprisonment.

Here, the skeptic may point out that there are Muslims who are willing to die for what they believe to be true, but this misses the point entirely. The disciples would have known that Jesus’ resurrection was a fraud if they were deceivers, therefore, why would they have persisted with preaching the gospel after enduring such punishment unless they witnessed it and knew it to be true. It’s one thing to believe that something is true, it’s quite another to absolutely know and witness the truth.

5) Paul would not have been convinced by a fraudulent story created by the disciples. Paul was in the business of persecuting those who followed Jesus before his conversion and I believe it’s safe to say that he would have suspected that the disciples were lying from the onset. A risen Christ best explains Paul’s conversion and is completely consistent with Paul’s claim that he had a personal encounter with the risen Jesus.

6) We have already mentioned that James believed Jesus to be a charlatan so it’s doubtful that he would have believed the disciples either. His conversion is also best explain by him seeing the risen Lord.

Number 4

The resurrection account was stolen from Pagan myths

Time and time again, this objection has been debunked, however, this does not stop internet skeptics and atheists alike in using it to attack the resurrection account. There are a few simple reasons why we have no good reason to believe the resurrection account or the Gospel narratives were derived from pagan myths.

1) The Gospel accounts contain eyewitness testimony to confirm events the recorded and the narratives also speak of real, historical figures, confirmed by numerous outside, non-biblical sources. Famed author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis understood this, as a writer of myths, and discounted the claim that the Gospel accounts are mythological:

“All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job…..And I’m prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legends or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff.” [8]

2) The pagan-myth theory can’t explain the empty tomb.

3) The pagan-myth theory can’t explain the radical transformation of the eyewitnesses and their willingness to be killed for the message they proclaimed.

4) The first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, more than 100 years after the origin of Christianity. [9] It would be more accurate to say that the New Testament influenced mythology, not the other way around.

5) Admittedly, the story of the Egyptian cult god, Osiris, supposedly surviving death, predates Christianity. However, to say the stories are different would be a GRAND understatement!

One version of this story says that Osiris was killed by his brother, who proceeded to chop him up into 14 pieces and then send the pieces to various places throughout Egypt. The goddess Iris then collects 13 of the pieces and puts him back together, bringing him back to life. Osiris then becomes the god of a dark underworld.

As Dr. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona point out:

“The hero of the account is not even Osiris, but Isis or even Horus, their son. This is far different than Jesus’ resurrection account where he was the gloriously risen Prince of life who was seen by others on earth before his ascension into heaven.” [10]

The uniqueness of Christ, His life, death, and resurrection speaks to the truth of who He was and is.

Number 5

Someone else died on the cross in Jesus’ place.

This objection is most common among Muslim who believe that God provided a substitute that looked like Jesus on the cross, to die in His place. This teaching comes from the Qur’an itself.We have dealt with this objection in the past on our blog-

See here:
http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2008/03/historical-resurrection-of-jesus-christ.html

Book Review

The Case for the Resurrection by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona

Whether you are a new believer in Christ who desires to learn the evidence for the resurrection or a seasoned saint looking to refresh your memory, The Case for the Resurrection is a wonderful, informative book on the topic.

Masterfully blending excellent scholarship and great illustrations, this book is designed to not only educate the believer in the evidence for the resurrection, but also to give them practical, easy-to-remember ways to share this evidence with non-believers.

The book covers topics such as (but not limited to):

1) What are the historical facts that virtually all scholars-skeptical and non-skeptical-accept as true regarding Jesus and His resurrection?
2) What best explains these historical facts?
3) What are the most common objections to the historicity of the resurrection accounts?
4) How can you share this evidence with unbelievers?
5) Did rise spiritually or physically?
6) Did Jesus believe He was God?

When you have completed this book, you will be able to better communicate the gospel using historical facts and also be equip to answer the objections of the skeptic.

I highly recommend this book!

Article of the Month

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm - This article, Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, examines five possible theories that could explain the historical resurrection account, one of them being He rose from the dead! Imagine that…

Website of the Month

http://www.christianfathers.com/- Hey, I’m a dad before an apologist! I recently stumbled upon this site while searching for some Christian devotions for dads! Dads, check it out and ladies, please pass it on to your husbands!

The following is taken from the site:

“Our prayer is that these parenting resources will help you in your home as you strive to become a blessed father and husband.”

Truthbomb Apologetics Updates

- We will be revamping our Apologetics Arsenal page at our home site, explorefcf.com;
look for the updates soon!

Apologetic Verse for the Month

“So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17, ESV, Emphasis mine).

This is an important verse when sharing the gospel with unbelievers because of the challenge it puts forth. Here, Jesus is saying, in effect, “If you want to know if I’m from God or just some guy making all this up, seek to do the will of my Father and you can “know.” Hence, the question, “Is there a God?,” transforms to but, “Do you want to know God?”

Upcoming Newsletter

Due to some expressed interest, we take a look at Eckhart’s Tolle’s New Age book, The New Earth. Please pray for me. I started the book and already I feel like I’m reading a New Age book written by Dr. Seuss. I prefer Green Eggs and Ham…

Prayer Requests

1) Mark Douglas- Outreach ministry in ministry in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Pray that God will completely lead and direct him and anoint him with His might, power, and wisdom.
2) Our unborn daughter- We found out that our unborn daughter has a little bit of fluid resting in her kidney so please pray for it's removal. *Update: We found out that our daughter may need minor surgery directly after her birth. We are praying that God will be glorified through this situation!
3) Faith Christian Fellowship- Pray for future staffing; that God would bring whom He wants.
4) Truthbomb Apologetics- Pray that God would lead us to the topics He desires us to tackle and allow us to manage our time effectively so that we can have more opportunities to write and study.
5) Impact Thursdays (First Thursday of Every Month) - Pray that God will bring forth laborers to share the gospel and visit those who have been to the church.
6) A.H.- Please pray that God will soften his heart; also, for his career as a police officer.
7) 315 Apologetics- This ministry is run by “Brian” and his blog is a valuable resource. Pray that God will continue to give him wisdom regarding the content he chooses. Thank you Brian!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Resources

1) William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association, p. 255, as quoted by Dr. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona in, The Case for the Resurrection, p. 100.
2) Peter Kreeft, “Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ,” http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm.
3) Kenneth Samples, Without a Doubt, p. 144.
4) Kreeft, Ibid.
5) Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection, p. 107.
6) Kreeft, Ibid.
7) William Lane Craig, Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection, Chap. 6, as quoted by Peter Kreeft.
8) C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, p. 209, as quoted by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
9) Norman Geisler and Roman Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 312.
10) Habermas and Licona, p. 91.

2 comments:

Brian said...

I appreciate your work. Keep it up.

Chad said...

Brian,

Thank you so much for your encouraging words! Right back at you!

Godspeed,
Chad