Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Shelby Cade of Flatland Apologetics has written a great post dealing with skepticism and atheism.
"Atheism and skepticism have nothing to offer when it comes to evidence, but they do have plenty to say contra theism and the Christian worldview. In fact, skeptics can't say anything of note, so why should they be taken seriously? Skepticism is self defeating as a worldview, because the battle cry of skepticism (It is true that we need to be skeptical) espouses nothing more than relativism."
I encourage our readers to checkout the post in it's entirety here.
I would also encourage you to explore Flatland Apologetics.
Courage and Godspeed,
Recently, as I have been slowly working through Mike Licona's latest book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, I had one of those experiences that I wanted to share.
In the book, Licona shares 6 ways the historian can strive to overcome his or her presuppositions [or "horizons"] when researching a given topic. One of those 6 ways is a detachment from bias in which he offers the following quote by Roy Hoover:
"To cultivate the virtue of veracity, you have to be willing to part with the way tradition and conventional wisdom say things are, or with the way you would prefer things to be, and be ready to accept the way things really are. Veracity has to be the principal moral and intellectual commitment of any science or scholarship worthy of the name. That means, as I see it, that as a critical biblical scholar you have to be concerned first of all not with how your research turns out, not with whether it will confirm or disconfirm the beliefs or opinions or theories you had when you began the inquiry. You have to care only about finding out how things really are- with finding evidence sufficient to enable you to discover that and with finding also whether or not what you think you have discovered is sustainable when it is tested by the critical scrutiny of others...But to be open-minded interminably, or to be locked open, as a colleague of mine once put it, is not a virtue. It is a failure to think, a failure to learn, a failure to decide and perhaps a failure of nerve." 1
Courage and Godspeed,
1. Roy Hoover as quoted by Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, p. 58.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Brian Auten of Apologetics315 has been doing some outstanding interviews with various Christian apologists. His latest interview, with former atheist Holly Ordway, is of special interest!
"Today's interview is with Holly Ordway, professor of English and literature and author of Not God's Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. She talks about her background as an atheist, her encounters with Christians in the past, the influence of literature and poetry, personal influences from others, looking at arguments for the existence of God, counter-arguments against God, psychological explanations, her encounter with Christ, her advice to skeptics and her advice to Christian apologists.
Full Interview MP3 Audio here. (42 min)
Check out Holly's blog here, her podcast here, and her book Not God's Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. Also check out this audio which includes Holly's testimony."
I hope you enjoy this interview!
Courage and Godspeed,
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Ultimately, I believe that God has provided enough evidence for those who desire to know if He exists or not. As I have heard philosopher J.P. Moreland say:
"God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know He's there and yet hiding His presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore Him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free."
I do not believe the problem is the absence of evidence, but the suppression of it. The Bible is very clear that if someone wants to know God, he or she can:
"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13)
Jesus Himself said:
"If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:17; Emphasis mine).
So, if these verses are true, the unbeliever is without God because he or she isn't sure they want to be with God. 1
This claim also rests on the assumption that the individuals lack of belief stems merely from intellectual objections. However, as Ravi Zacharias puts it:
"A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God."
It is quite simple, I believe, to sustain this. Imagine what would happen if Jesus decided to personally visit a skeptic who continually claimed, "If God would only appear to me, then I would believe."
Initially, after the visit, the skeptic decides that he believes and begins to follow Jesus. However, after a week, a month, or even a year, he begins to think, "Gee...I wonder if that really happened or maybe it was a dream? Maybe it was a hallucination?" You see, the problem never was intellect; it was the fact that the skeptic never repented and admitted his need for God in the first place. Now, the skeptic finds himself right back where he started- "Okay God, if you appear to me just ONE MORE TIME, I promise to follow you for the rest of my days..." and so the endless circle continues.
Before someone can truly give his or her life to Christ and follow Him, He must first recognize and admit his own depravity.
For a great treatment of the question, "Why Isn't the Evidence Clearer?" by Dr. John Bloom, click here.
Courage and Godspeed,
1. I would encourage those who are still investigating the question of biblical authenticity to visit our Old and New Testament Research Materials located here.
Friday, December 03, 2010
"Jesus' own followers...were mainly lower-class peasants--fishermen and artisans, for example--and...they spoke Aramaic rather than Greek. If they did have any kind of facility in Greek, it would have been simply for rough communication at best (kind of like when I bungle my way through Germany, to the general consternation of native speakers). Even more strikingly, the two leaders among Jesus' followers, Peter and John, are explicitly said in the New Testament to be "illiterate." [Acts 4:13]...In the end, it seems unlikely that the uneducated, lower-class, illiterate disciples of Jesus played the decisive role in the literary compositions that have come down through history under their names." 
However, as New Testament Scholar Timothy Paul Jones reports, Dr. Ehrman only gives us part of the picture:
"...he [Ehrman] is correct that some members of the Judean ruling council pointed out that Peter and John were agrammotoi or "unschooled" (Acts 4:13). How, then, could such testimony-stories that may have circulated first in coarse Aramaic- have turned into Greek documents found in the New Testament Gospels today?
The first difficulty with Ehrman's interpretation is that the word agrammatos does not necessarily imply that Peter and John were illiterate. In the context of the Jewish council, agrammatos likely meant "untrained in the Jewish law." If this is the case, the council members were pointing out that, despite their boldness in interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures, Peter and John had not been schooled as rabbis." 
Were the traditional authors of the four NT gospels "illiterate" as many claim? Jones provides an in-depth look in hopes of answering that very question.
Matthew the Tax Collector
"In the book that bears his name, Matthew is presented as a "publican" or "tax collector." It is doubtful that any early Christian would have fabricated this bit of vocational trivia. After all, the very idea that Jesus asked a tax collector to follow him must have been a bit embarrassing. When the Gospels were written, Roman governors expected tax collectors to stockpile personal wealth by cheating people- and most tax collectors apparently complied with this expectation. Not surprisingly, tax collectors rarely make it to the top of anyone's list of most-loved citizens.
In Roman rhetoric, to refer to someone as a tax collector was to call that person's honor into question. In the writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian told how a Judean tax collector bribed the corrupt governor Florus not long before Florus incited the Jewish rebellion against Rome. And, according to the Gospels, folk in Judea and Galilee grouped tax collectors with drunkards, gluttons, pagans and adulterers (Matt. 11:19; 18:17; Luke 18:11). Simply put, answering the classified ad that read "Become a Roman tax collector! Make millions fleecing your friends!" was not the most promising pathway to personal popularity in the ancient world.
But there was one skill that tax collectors did possess. They could read and write.
Tax collectors were, in fact, know to carry pinakes, hinged wooden tablets with a think wax coating on each panel. Tax collectors used styluses of metal or bone to etch notes in the wax- notes that, in most cases, were later translated and rewritten on papyrus. Papyri from Egypt prove that tax collectors also wrote receipts and registers for citizens in their villages.
Despite Ehrman's disdainful description of the first disciples as "uneducated, lower-class, illiterate," a tax collector such as Matthew could not have fit such a description. The daily tasks of a Galilean tax collector required him to collect, copy and record information, probably in multiple languages." 
Jones continues by describing the skills that a physician in the ancient world would have most likely possessed:
"...a physician would seem to have possessed, at the very least, the capacity to read the summaries of medical knowledge that flourished in the first century. What's more, papyri from Egypt prove that ancient physicians and their scribes frequently wrote reports for law-enforcement officials regarding suspicious injuries and possible causes of death, as well as statements for slave masters certifying the health of slaves. So- if indeed Luke was a physician, as the letter to the Colossians suggests-it's unlikely that he was "illiterate" or "uneducated." And many physicians were capable of pulling together various eyewitness accounts into a coherent report, just as the preface of Luke's Gospel implies that the author has done." 
Mark and John
"That leaves Mark and John. When it comes to these two witnesses, Ehrman may be correct: Though it is by no means certain, either or both of these men may have been illiterate. Yet even this doesn't preclude the possibility that eyewitness sources stand behind the NT Gospels.
In the first century A.D., professional scribes were readily available to render messages from other languages, including Aramaic, into polished Greek. Complex legal titles, eloquent epistles to family members and simple commercial receipts all required secretarial skills- and provided livelihoods for a multitude of scribes not only in urban areas such as Ephesus and Rome but also in Galilee and Judea. And prosperous patrons weren't the only people that used professional scribes; persons from poorer classes employed scribes too. Even though Paul was completely capable of writing Greek (Galatians 6:11; Philemon 1:19-21), scribes penned Paul's letters for him (Romans 16:22; see also 1 Peter 5:12).
It's entirely possible that Mark and John employed professional scribes to render their oral accounts of Jesus' life into the Greek documents that centuries of copyists have passed down to us. If so, they would still have been the sources of these Gospels, even if they didn't pen the actual words.
I do find it intriguing that the simplest Greek in the New Testament is found in the Gospel According to John and the Gospel According to Mark, the two Gospels whose traditional authors might have been less than literate. In fact-after translating hundreds of Greek epigraphs, papyri and writings from prominent second-and-third-century Christians-I still haven't found a document written as simply as the Gospel According to John." 
So, it seems, as is often the case with Professor Ehrman, there is indeed more to the story! Ironically, even Ehrman himself admits that the New Testament is reliable! Check it out here.
For those desiring to explore the authorship of the Gospels, go here or here.
Courage and Godspeed,
1. As quoted by Timothy Luke Jones in Misquoting Truth, p. 113.
2. Timothy Luke Jones, Misquoting Truth, 113-114.
3. Ibid., p. 115.
4. Ibid., p. 117.
5. Ibid., p. 117-118.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
EXPLANATION AND SCRIPTURAL BASIS
A. The Meaning of Inerrancy
We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God's words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Therefore, all the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Num. 23:19; Pss. 12:6; 119:89; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 24:35). God's words are, in fact, the ulimate standard of truth (John 17:17).
Especially relevant at this point are those Scripture texts that indicate the total truthfulness and reliability of God's words. "The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6), indicates the flawlessness or absolute reliability and purity of Scripture. Similarly, "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him" (Prov. 30:5), indicates the truthfulness of every word that God has spoken. Though error and at least partial falsehood may characterize the speech of every human being, it is the characteristic of God's speech even when spoken through sinful human beings that in is never false and that in never affirms error: "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent" (Num. 23:19) was spoken by sinful Balaam specifically about the prophetic words that God has spoken through his own lips.
With evidence such as this we are now in a position to define biblical inerrancy: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth, and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.
It is important to realize at the outset of this discussion that the focus of this controversy is on the question of truthfulness in speech. It must be recognized that absolute truthfulness in speech is consistent with some other types of statements, such as the following:
1. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Speak in the Ordinary Language of Everyday Speech. This is especially true in "scientific" or "historical" descriptions of facts or events. The Bible can speak of the sun rising and he rain falling because from the perspective of the speaker this is exactly what happens. From the standpoint of an observer standing on the sun (were that possible) or on some hypothetical "fixed" point in space, the earth rotates and brings the sun into view, and rain does not fall downward but upward or sideways or whatever direction necessary for it to be drawn by gravity toward the surface of the earth. But such explanations are hopelessly pedantic and would make ordinary communication impossible. Form the standpoint of the speaker, the sun does rise and the rain does fall, and these are perfectly true descriptions of the natural phenomena the speaker observes.
A similar consideration applies to numbers when used in measuring or in counting. A reporter can say that 8,000 men were killed in a certain battle without thereby implying that he has counted everyone and that there ae not 7,999 or 8,001 dead soldiers. If roughly 8,000 died, it would of course be false to say that 16,000 died, but it would not be false in most contexts for a reporter to say that 8,000 men died when in fact 7,823 or 8, 242 had died: the limits of truthfulness would depend on the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by his original hearers.
This is also true for measurements. Whether I say, "I don't live far from my office," or "I live a little over a mile from my office," or "I live one mile from my office," or "I live 1.287 miles from my office," all four statements are still approximations to some degree of accuracy. Further degrees or accuracy might be obtained with more precise scientific instruments, but these would still be approximations to a certain degree of accuracy. Thus, measurements also, in order to be true, should conform to the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by the hearers in the original context. It should not trouble us, then, to affirm both that the Bible is absolutely truthful in everything it says and that it uses ordinary language to describe natural phenomena or to give approximations or round numbers when those are appropriate in the context.
We should also note that language can make vague or imprecise statements without being untrue. "I live a little over a mile from my office" is a vague and imprecise statement, but it is also inerrant: there is nothing untrue about it. It does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. In a similar way, biblical statements can be imprecise and still be totally true. Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness, not with the degree of precision with which events are reported.
2. The Bible Can be Inerrant and Still Include Loose or Free Quotations. The method by which one person quotes the words of another person is a procedure that in large part varies from culture to culture. In contemporary American and British culture we are used to quoting a person's exact words when we enclose the statement in quotation marks (this is called direct quotation). But when we use indirect quotation (with no quotation marks) we only expect an accurate report of the substance of a statement. Consider this sentence: "Elliot said that he would return home for supper right away." The sentence does not quote Elliot directly, but it is an acceptable and truthful report of Elliott's actual statement to his father, "I will come to the house to eat in two minutes," even though the indirect quotation included none of the speaker's original words.
Written Greek at the time of the New Testament had no quotation marks or equivalent kinds of punctuation, and an accurate citation of another person need to include only a correct representation of the content of what the person said (rather like our indirect quotations): it was not expected to cite each word exactly. Thus, inerrancy is consistent with loose or free quotations of the Old Testament or of the words of Jesus, for example, so long as the content is not false to what was originally stated. The original writer did not ordinarily imply that he was using the exact words of the speaker and only those, nor did the original hearers expect verbatim quotation in such reporting.
3. It Is Consistent With Inerrancy to Have Unusual or Uncommon Grammatical Constructions in the Bible. Some of the language of Scripture is elegant and stylistically excellent. Other scriptural writings contain the rough-hewn language of ordinary people. At times this includes a failure to follow the commonly accepted "rules" of grammatical expression (such as the use of a plural verb where grammatical rules would require a singular verb, or the use of a feminine adjective where a masculine one would be expected, or different spelling for a word than the one commonly used, etc.). These stylistically or grammatically irregular statements (which are especially found in the book of Revelation) should not trouble us, for they do not affect the truthfulness of the statements under consideration: a statement can be ungrammatical but still be entirely true. For example, an uneducated backwoodsman in some rural area may be the most trusted man in the county even though his grammar is poor, because he has earned a reputation for never telling a lie. Similarly, there are a few statements in Scripture (in the original languages) that are ungrammatical (according to current standards or proper grammar at the time) but still inerrant because they are completely true. The issue is truthfulness in speech.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Common Objection #13- "If Jesus really performed miracles and rose from the dead, we would have more historical records referring to Him."
"If these sorts of things really did happen on such large scales we would expect a myriad of eye witness testimonies and outside biblical reports around that time frame, but outside the bible, we don’t find any."
I believe Dr. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona offer a satisfactory answer to this point in their book The Case for the Resurrection:
"In the first century, people did not have access to all of our convenient ways to record and preserve the facts about events. Further, we know that much of what was recorded in the past has been lost. New Testament Scholar Craig Blomberg , who served as an editor for and contributor to a large scholarly work on the Gospels, provides four reasons why more was not written on Jesus in his time: "the humble beginnings of Christianity, the remote location of Palestine on the eastern frontiers of the Roman empire, the small percentage of the works of ancient Graeco-Roman historians which have survived, and the lack of attention paid by those which are extant to Jewish figures in general." We know that about half of what the Roman historian Tacitus wrote is no longer available. Only a fragment of what Thallus wrote in the first century about ancient Mediterranean history has survived. Suetonius is aware of the writings of Asclepiades of Mendes, yet, his writings are no longer available. Herod the Great's secretary. Nicholas of Damascus, wrote Universal History in 144 books, none of which have survived. Livy, the great Roman historian, has suffered a similar fate. Only his early books and excerpts of the rest survive.
We also know of several early Christian writings that are no longer available. For example, an influential church leader of the early part of the second century named Papias wrote five books that are quoted by several early church fathers. However, none of these books have survived. Only a few citations and slight summary information remain. Quadratus was a Christian leader who wrote a defense of the Christian faith to the Roman Emperor Hadrain around 125. However, if Eusebius had not quoted a paragraph and mentioned his work, we would be totally unaware of its composition. The five books of Recollections, written by Hegesippus in the second century, have likewise been lost. Only fragments have been preserved, mostly by Eusebius.
What we have concerning Jesus actually is impressive. We can start with approximately nine traditional authors of the New Testament. If we consider the critical thesis that other authors wrote the pastoral letters and such letters as Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians, we'd have an even larger number. Another twenty early Christian authors and four heretical writings mention Jesus within 15o years of his death on the cross. Moreover, nine secular, non-Christian sources mention Jesus with the 150 years: Josephus, the Jewish historian; Tacitus, the Roman historian; Pliny the Younger, a politician of Rome; Phlegon, a freed slave who wrote histories; Lucian, the Greek satirist; Celsus, a Roman Philosopher; and probably the historians Suetonius and Thallus, as well as the prisoner Mara Bar-Serapion. In all, at least forty-two authors, nine of them secular, mention Jesus within 150 years of his death.
In comparison, let's take a look at Julius Caesar, one of Rome's most prominent figures. Caesar is well know for his military conquests. After his Gallic Wars, he made the famous statement, "I came, I saw, I conquered." Only five sources report his military conquests: writings by Caesar himself, Cicero, Livy, the Salona Decree, and Appian. If Julius Caesar really made a profound inpact on Roman society, why didn't more writers of antiquity mention his great military accomplishments? No one questions whether Julius did make a tremendous impact on the Roman Empire. It is evident that he did. Yet in those 150 years after his death, more non-Christian authors alone comment on Jesus than all of the sources who mentioned Julius Caesar's great military conquests within 150 years of his death.
Let's look at an even better example, a contemporary of Jesus. Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus' ministry and execution. Tiberius is mentioned by ten sources within 150 years of his death: Tacitus, Suetonius, Velleius Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Seneca, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, and Luke. Compare that to Jesus' forty-two total sources in the same length of time. That's more than four times the number of total sources who mention the Roman emperor during roughly the same period. If we only considered the number of secular non-Christian sources who mention Jesus and Tiberius within 150 years of their lives, we arrive at a tie of nine each." 
So, the historical data we actually do have, especially after one considers other examples from antiquity, is actually impressive.
Finally, I would also like to add that I believe it to be mistaken to adopt the attitude that the gospels are not a reliable source of history.
For an exhaustive treatment of this question, see here or visit our Old and New Testament research page located here.
Courage and Godspeed,
1. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection, p. 127-128.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Here are some great apologetics videos available on youtube from Biola University:
1. Craig Hazen- Christ and the Challenge of World Religions
2. Toni Allen- Cultivating Dialog: Assisting Christians to Defend their Faith Well - Biola Chapel
3. Kevin Lewis- The Theological Coherence of Christian Particularism
4. Craig Hazen- Was Jesus an Advocate of Blind Faith?
5. Clay Jones- Will Heaven be Worth It?
Courage and Godspeed,
Thursday, November 04, 2010
About the Book from the Publisher
The question of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection has been repeatedly probed, investigated and debated. And the results have varied widely. Perhaps some now regard this issue as the burned-over district of New Testament scholarship. Could there be any new and promising approach to this problem?
Yes, answers Michael Licona. And he convincingly points us to a significant deficiency in approaching this question: our historiographical orientation and practice. So he opens this study with an extensive consideration of historiography and the particular problem of investigating claims of miracles. This alone is a valuable contribution.
But then Licona carefully applies his principles and methods to the question of Jesus' resurrection. In addition to determining and working from the most reliable sources and bedrock historical evidence, Licona critically weighs other prominent hypotheses. His own argument is a challenging and closely argued case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Any future approaches to dealing with this "prize puzzle" of New Testament study will need to be routed through The Resurrection of Jesus.
This is the book to read on the resurrection!
You can get it here.
Courage and Godspeed,
Friday, October 29, 2010
Brian Auten over at Apologetics 315 has given his blog a makeover that you can checkout here.
For those who are not familiar with the resource, Apologetics 315 is your one-stop for the latest, most up-to-date apologetics materials.
Some of the features offered are as follows:
- Christian Apologetics Blog Directory- Truthbomb made the list!
Courage and Godspeed,
Monday, October 25, 2010
On October 10th, 2010, Dr. Frank Turek spoke at Faith Christian Fellowship on the topic of, "Does God Exist?" Here is the audio from that event. In this particular audio, Dr. Turek focuses mainly on the cosmological argument for God's existence.
You can find it here.
For more resources featuring Dr. Turek, see here.
Courage and Godspeed,
"I have come to the conclusion that if you cannot translate your own thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts are confused. Power to translate is the test of having really understood your own meaning."
So basically, if you cannot communicate your thoughts to the average person on the street, it's most likely because you don't fully understand them yourself!
Courage and Godspeed,
Monday, October 18, 2010
On the first page in Chapter one of Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's newest book, The Grand Design, the following is stated regarding questions about the origin of the universe:
"Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge."
This statement reflects the attitude among many toward philosophy. I personally have run across this type of "Scientific Snobbery" in conversation and interactions with skeptics.
Statements such as
"I'd rather ask a physicist than a philosopher any day"
"Philosophers are full of baloney and just like to hear themselves talk; I'll take a quantum physicist's word over theirs any day. "
are not entirely uncommon in the blogosphere or in the local newspaper.
Within these statements, such as the one made in Hawking's new book, exists an obvious misunderstanding that needs to be addressed. Simply put, science is built on philosophy. Indeed, as authors Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Frank Turek point out, science is a slave to philosophy. Why? Because:
Science cannot be done without philosophy. Philosophical assumptions are utilized in the search for causes, and, therefore, cannot be the result of them. For example, scientists assume (by faith) that reason and the scientific method allow us to accurately understand the world around us. That cannot be prove by science itself. You can't prove the tools of science-the laws of logic, the Law of Causality, the Principle of Uniformity, of the reliability of observation-by running some kind of experiment. You have to assume those things are true in order to do the experiment! So science is built on philosophy. Unfortunately, many so-called scientists are very poor philosophers. 
Indeed. Even the statement, "Science is the only source of objective truth" is not itself a scientific truth, but it claims to be true! Therefore, the statement is self-defeating.
Science is an extremely valuable tool and it's contributions to mankind have been great. But let us not be deceived- science owes it's life to philosophy.
Courage and Godspeed,
1. Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Frank Turek, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 127-128. Note: Geisler and Turek offer 2 other ways that science is built on philosophy in their book.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Harvard's 1650 Charter states:
Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3). 
Courage and Godspeed,
1. As quoted by Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Frank Turek in I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 205- Original spelling and Scripture references retained
Monday, October 11, 2010
At any rate, here is a great article by Dr. Hugh Ross addressing the question entitled Finding a Wife for Cain.
For answers to other common objections, see here.
Courage and Godspeed,
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Dr. Turek's speaking engagement yesterday at Faith Christian Fellowship was a smash success! With hard-hitting evidence, clever illustrations, and witty humor, Dr. Turek presented compelling evidence that truth exists, God exists, miracles are possible, and that the New Testament is historically reliable.
Many thanks to all of you who made Dr. Turek's visit to FCF possible. Special thanks goes to Dr. Turek for making the trip and enouraging each of us to "always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" [1 Peter 3:15, NASB].
I know that numerous people were interested in more resources from Dr. Turek. Here are some from his website, CrossExamined.org:
I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist and couldn't afford it, please contact me at email@example.com and I'll be sure that you get your own book, free of charge.
Again, thank you to Dr. Frank Turek and all who made his visit to Faith Christian Fellowship possible.
Courage and Godspeed,
Note: As soon as Dr. Turek's messages are ready, I'll be sure to post them here!
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Book Review- Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong about the New Atheism by Phillip E. Johnson and John Mark Reynolds
Phillip E. Johnson and John Mark Reynolds have written a little gem of book in Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong about the New Atheism.
For readers interested in the book's arrangement, Johnson has written the introduction, the epilogue and the first five chapters; while Reynolds has written chapters six through eight.
Johnson and Reynolds have succeeded in addressing the arguments from the New Atheism with a fresh, sensible approach that is difficult to argue with.
As Johnson explains:
"Our attitude toward the surge of atheism is that it opens up an opportunity for university discussions in and out of the classroom that can make teaching more exciting for the instructor and for the students. With that in mind, our intention is not to attack the atheists, but to explore the case they are making, in the hope of encouraging classroom instructors to put the arguments for atheism on the table for academic consideration...our position in this book is that the arguments for atheism should be taken seriously and considered both respectfully and critically." [p. 8-9]
The result is an engaging, surprisingly short book (116 p.) that is packed full with informative, well thought out argument and challenges to the New Atheist movement.
Chapter 1- Introducing the New Atheists
In this chapter, Phillip Johnson, most likely best known for his book Darwin on Trial, provides the reader with a brief history of the rise of the New Atheism and highlights some differences in their approach. Topics covered include the framing of the so-called "God vs. science" debate, why the new atheists are a threat to science, and the false connection between scientific advancement and naturalism.
Chapter 2- Harvard's Aborted Requirement in Reason and Faith
Much of the focus in this chapter is on the work of the passionate Darwinist Steven Pinker, Harvard psychologist and popular author. Building upon a piece written by Pinker in the Harvard Crimson in October of 2006, Johnson persuasively argues that faith is necessary for all people, including the scientist.
"If I were planning a course in reason and faith, the first thing I would want my students to understand is that it is wrong to assume that some people (e.g., the ones you find in church) rely on faith, whereas other people (e.g., the ones you would find in a laboratory) rely solely on reason. It would be much closer to the truth to say that everybody relies on faith and everybody reasons." [p. 34]
Johnson further builds upon this point using illustrations from laboratory science and past political conflicts.
Chapter 3- Earth's Distinction
Professor Johnson begins this chapter discussing science's search for extra-terrestrial life through its much talk about SETI project and concludes that:
"there is no evidence that intelligent life, superior to us or not, exists anywhere but on our own planet." [p. 42]
With this in mind, the reader is challenged with the fact that, with the current evidence we have, only intelligent life, and science, exist on Earth. Johnson then precedes to indirectly address the question, "What is the best explanation of these facts?" Building upon the work of astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay Richards in their book Privileged Planet: How Our Planet is Designed for Discovery, he argues that sufficient evidence exists to challenge the idea that our Earth is merely a product of chance.
The chapter is closed with numerous suggested questions for college students and their professors to discuss regarding the uniqueness of planet Earth.
Chapter 4- The Darwinian Worldview
This reviewer found this chapter to be extremely thought-provoking, as Johnson explains the kind of "pre-suppositional" approach used by Darwinists to teach their epistemology.
"The one subject to which the corrosive Darwinian method is never applied is Darwinism itself, which is too cherished to be subjected to such undignified investigation. It must be a rock of certainty, while everything else is dissolved into shifting sand by the acid of reductionism. In consequence, the possibility that Darwinism itself is a product of brain chemistry rather than reason is never mentioned..." [p. 55-56]
Thus, Darwinism, as Dawkins contends, is the only lens in which everything, including biology itself makes sense.
Those who are familiar with Professor Phillip Johnson's work on Darwinism will get nothing much new here, but this reviewer found his ever present bold denouncement of dogmatic naturalism to be refreshing, especially when one considers the many members of the scientific establishment that are to timid to question the current paradigm.
Chapter 5- The God Hypothesis in Physics
In this chapter, Victor Stenger's book God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist is given special attention.
Johnson effectively demonstrates that Stenger merely succeeds in rigging the game before it is played. This reviewer found these comments especially thought-provoking and relevant en light of the release of Stephen Hawking's newest book, The Grand Design:
"If the scientist is as respected as Stephen Hawking, publication ever in a popular book will suffice to refute any suggestion that the evidence of science supports the existence of God. Readers have probably noticed by now that Stenger's approach to the arguments for and against theism is asymmetrical. Theists are expected to produce proof, including proof that no naturalistic solution to the problem of creation is possible. Atheists need only to publish suggestions. Wildly speculative entities like undetectable, alternative universes are perfectly acceptable if they are advanced to refute theism. When atheists are allowed to enforce one-sided rules like that, the argument is effectively over before it has begun. We might say that Stenger's universe is fine-tuned for atheism." [p. 66-67]
Chapter 6- The Obstacle of Old Books
As I read the chapters presented by Professor Johnson in this book, I felt as though I was being led along a journey that recapped the rise of New Atheism and the state of the debate today.
However, I must admit that this reader feels that John Mark Reynolds took this work to another level. Not only is Reynolds' writing witty and powerful, but he seems to possess the uncanny ability to cut to the heart of whatever matter he is addressing while simultaneously educating the reader.
In this chapter, Reynolds intelligently points out, from an academic point of view, that while attacks on the Bible by atheists such as Richard Dawkins are not offensive, it does not help that Dawkins and others like him do not know how to read such books!
To this reviewers delight, after giving 4 reasons why the Bible deserves to be taken seriously, Reynolds presents a brief "mini-lesson" to the reader in biblical hermeneutics! Not only does the author explain the discipline and give helpful examples, but he also succeeds in writing one of the most mature and transparent responses to the often criticized narrative in the Bible of the conquest of Canaan by Joshua that this reader has ever come across. This response alone makes the book worth owning!
This chapter concludes with a challenge to skeptics to ask the right questions, with an opened-mind, when reading the Bible.
Chapter 7- A Wonderful Education
Reynolds continues in this chapter by demonstrating that historic Christianity has always valued education and that, contrary to popular rhetoric, it is modern skepticism that threatens ones desire to learn. The author's answer to this dilemma? A resurrection of wonder. Reynolds contends that it is wonder that "wants to believe that it may see what is actually true."
"Belief combined with wonder allows for faith without foolish certainty. Faith is the best belief that retains what is hoped for within the bounds of best reason and experience. Education is the process of grounding our religious and cultural hopes in long discourse, reason and life experience. The educated religious person is a person of a reasonable and passionate faith. From the compromise between Socratic wonder and Christian theology came the traditional liberal arts curriculum of the English-speaking world in flagship institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge." [p. 89-90]
Chapter 8- Christianity and Beauty
In this final chapter, Reynolds takes issue with Christopher Hitchens' claim that everything religious is ultimately evil in some way. Instead of defending Christianity in the traditional manner, the author goes on the offensive contending that it is secularism, not Christianity, that in the end offers nothing of value to culture or progress.
"The story of secularism is positive only when it has theism to criticize. It has shown no long-term capacity to govern and sustain a culture." [p. 109]
To his credit, Reynolds concedes that groups of people have used the guise of "religion" to do a great deal of harm; however, eventually it is Christian theism, not secularism, that finds itself at home with reason and meaning.
Further, Christians have a "better story to tell" than secularists:
"The basic story is this: the combination of Greek philosophy and Christianity produced Christendom, which has produced most of the great goods of our world. Christendom provides a home for both reason and meaning. It balances law and liberty. It makes love the central motive for human action and a reasonable God the end of that love. While Christians often fail, the basic ideas of Christendom keep pulling humanity back from the brink of utter tyranny or ruinous social chaos." [p. 103]
Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong about the New Atheism was simply a treat to read. I especially recommend it to those who have found the arguments from the New Atheism persuasive. I believe if you read this book with an opened mind you will find that the Christianity attacked by the likes of Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris to be a child's Sunday School version. Reynolds and Johnson do well in presenting a mature look at the Christian Worldview that proves to be very compelling; or at least worth looking into!
Apologists will especially enjoy John Mark Reynolds' contributions to this text, as this reviewer believes that he succeeds in persuasively arguing for the legitimacy of the Christian Worldview and, in most cases, even manages to show it to be the superior.
Courage and Godspeed,
***Forthcoming Review- The Passionate Intellect by Alister McGrath
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Here is our contribution to Apologetics315's series called How to Get Apologetics in your Church. I encourage readers to check out all the essays in this series!
Many thanks goes out to Brian for the opportunity to contribute.
Courage and Godspeed,
Friday, September 10, 2010
On October 10th, 2010, Faith Christian Fellowship and Truthbomb Apologetics will welcome Dr. Frank Turek of CrossExamined Ministries to speak on the topic of I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. He will be speaking at 9:00 am and 10:30 am.
As Turek's website explains:
"Dr. Frank Turek is a dynamic speaker and award-winning author or coauthor of three books: I Don’t have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Correct, Not Politically Correct and Legislating Morality.
As the President of CrossExamined.org, Frank impacts young and old alike at colleges, high schools and churches with hard yet entertaining evidence for Christianity. He hosts a hour long TV program each week called I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist that is broadcast Wednesday nights at 9pm and 1am Eastern on DirecTV Channel 378 (the NRB Network). His radio program called CrossExamined with Frank Turek airs on 136 stations every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. eastern.
Frank also writes a column for Townhall.com and has appeared on many TV and radio programs including: The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes, Faith under Fire, Politically Incorrect, The Bible Answerman, and Focus on the Family. He has debated atheist Christopher Hitchens twice. A former Aviator in the U.S. Navy, Frank has a Masters from George Washington University and a Doctorate in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary.
To help reverse the exodus of young people from the Christian faith, Frank conducts dynamic I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist outreach events on campus. At these events, Frank presents the evidence for Christianity, cross-examines arguments against it, and answers student questions."
So, invite your skeptical friends and be there to hear Dr. Turek!
For more information, call 301-223-4803 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courage and Godspeed,
16726 Lappans Rd.
We have been asked by Apologetics315 to contribute an essay to a series that will eventually be turned into an e-book and be made available in podcast form.
Brian of Apologetics315 explains:
"During the month of September 2010, Apologetics 315 will feature a series of blog posts that respond to the question: "How can I get apologetics in my church?"
The goal of this project is a simple one: to share stories, experiences, and advice that will help Christians to start their own local apologetics initiatives. Whether you be a pastor, youth pastor, teacher, elder, or lay person, this series of short essays could hold the keys you need to get things started in your own local congregation."
The schedule and table of contents is as follows:
Sep 10 - Introduction - Brian Auten
Sep 13 - An Apologetic for Apologetics - Tawa Anderson
Sep 14 - Why Apologetics is Important to Your Church - Paul D. Adams
Sep 15 - Apologetics, the Church, and Cultural Relevance - Vocab Malone
Sep 16 - Take the Scenic Route - Peter Grice
Sep 17 - Cultivating a Local Church Apologetics Ministry - Chad Gross
Sep 20 - Apologetics Functions in the Community - Carolyn Horne -
Sep 21 - Beginning an Apologetics Class - Derek Jarrard
Sep 22 - Starting a Church Apologetics Ministry - Daniel Hannon
Sep 23 - How We Got Apologetics in Our Church - Marcus McElhaney
Sep 24 - Getting Apologetics in the Local Church - Ron Pantalena
Sep 27 - Apologetics Training in the Church - Mikel Del Rosario
Sep 28 - What I Learned While Teaching Apologetics in Church - Daniel A. Ashworth
Sep 29 - Forming Local Church Apologetics Society - Adrian Urias
Sep 30 - Leading Apologetics in Small Groups - Mark Tabladillo
Oct 1 - Apologetics Movie Night - Nate Harmony
Oct 4 - Apologetics in the House Church - Wes Widner
Oct 5 - Apologetics in a Rural Setting - Shelby Cade
Oct 6 - Starting a Reasonable Faith Chapter - Brian Auten
Oct 7 - Preaching to the Choir? Intentionally Apologetic Sermons - Tawa Anderson
Oct 8 - Resources for Getting Started
RSS Feed for podcast | iTunes link for podcast
We are grateful to Brian for the opportunity and don't forget to pray about this project!
Courage and Godspeed,
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Hawking claims “because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist… It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”
Personally, I would like to ask how something can come from nothing. If we are speaking of "nothing," in the correct philosophical sense, then how could the law of gravity be included in the so-called "spontaneous creation" of the universe. That would be something rather than nothing.
Regardless, the media is celebrating Hawking's forthcoming release; however, as mathematician John Lennox points out in this article, Hawking's claims are nothing new.
Some other thoughts in regard to Hawking's comments and latest book can be found here:
- Dr. William Craig's Questions for Stephen Hawking Current Events Audio Blog (13:56)
- Hawking's Book Fails to Disprove God- The Science and Values Blog
- Why God Is Still Necessary by Stan Guthrie (Thanks to Chad V., a Truthbomb team member, for this link!)
Courage and Godspeed,
Monday, September 06, 2010
His claims were different
If you have read the Gospels, you may well have been struck by a remarkable contrast. On the one hand, Jesus is a humble, self-forgetful figure, healing the sick, teaching the people, befriending the outcast. He is no academic theologian but a carpenter with calloused hands, whose words are full of hardheaded wisdom and and earthly illustrations. He has no money, no settled home, no vote, no rights. On the other hand, he makes the most fantastic claims, and many of them are almost casual, offhand remarks. For example, he takes it for granted that he is entitled to man's worship, the worship due to God alone. When Peter falls at his feet in adoration after a fishing expedition and says, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8), Jesus does nothing to stop him. When Thomas falls at his feet after the resurrection and exclaims, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), Jesus does not rebuke him-except for needing the evidence of his eyes to come to that conclusion. No good person would do that. Indeed, we have examples in the New Testament of two good men, Peter and Paul, who found themselves being worshiped by ignorant pagans, and they reacted violently against it, telling them to worship God alone. Jesus seems to have accepted such worship as his due.
Watch him deal with a woman accused of adultery (see John 8:1-11) or a man sick with paralysis (see Mark 2:1-12). In both instances, Jesus forgave their sins, and in the case of the paralytic, he gave a visual demonstration of the fact- the man got up at Jesus' command and walked! Not what are we to make of a claim like that? The Pharisees knew very well what to make of it. "Who is this that forgives sins?" they asked. "There is one who forgives sins, God." That is precisely the point. Jesus was laying implicit claim to do what God does, to forgive people their sins. Indeed, when Mary is told that her baby must be called Jesus, the explanation of the name is brought out like this: "for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). In the Old Testament (Ps. 130:8, the authority to forgive sins is solely, and naturally, said to belong to God alone. Here, right at the start of his life, Jesus takes on the job. The implication is obvious. In Jesus we meet someone who is different.
What are we to make of this? C.S. Lewis puts the challenge with his customary force.
"There is no hallway house, and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him: "Are you the son of Bramah?" he would have said, "My son, you are still in the vale of illusion." If you had gone to Socrates and asked, "Are you Zeus?" he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, "Are you Allah?" he would first have rent his clothes and then cut off your head. If you had asked Confucius, "Are you heaven?" I think he would probably have replied, "Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste."
This man was different. He was not merely a great teacher.
Listen to Lewis once again:
"The things he says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, "This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go." But he says, "I am the Truth and the Way and the Life." He says, "No man can reach absolute reality, except through me. Try to retain your own life and you will inevitably be ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved." He says, "If you are ashamed of me, if, when you hear my call, you turn the other way, I will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from me, whatever it is, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to me, everyone who is carrying a heavy load, and I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out. I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat me, drink me, I am your food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole universe." That is the issue."
Yes, that is the issue. What are you going to make of it?
Courage and Godspeed,
Note to Readers- I was impressed with the broad scope of popular objections this book addressed from a philosophical and theological perspective. This would be a great resource to give someone who is beginning to ask questions about the validity of the Christian Worldview. I would highly recommend this book as an evangelism tool!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus
J.P. Moreland, Professor of Philosophy, Biola University
Mark Strauss, Professor of New Testament, Bethel University
Craig Blomberg, Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
Craig Evans, Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College
N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, United Kingdom
- What you find in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John gives us very vivid portraits of who these people were and what they were doing.
- The New Testament (NT) gospels are biographies of Jesus. While the authors do not identify themselves in the text, from very early in the Christian era, the Gospels have been attributed to Matthew, a disciple, or follower, of Jesus; Mark, a colleague of Peter, also a disciple; Luke, a historian and confidante of the apostle Paul; and John, a disciple of Jesus.
- The gospels are clearly attempts to describe exactly what Jesus said and did, and the consensus of New Testament scholarship has moved in that direction.
- Luke was clearly a historian who had done his research.
- People in the first century valued eyewitness testimony. This is why from the 2nd century on, it was important to the early church fathers that the people who were alleged to have written the Gospels actually wrote them and that they were eyewitnesses of the things they wrote.
- We have early attestation of the authorship of the Gospels.
- The NT Gospels are by far our earliest and most reliable records of Jesus of Nazareth.
- The 1st century apostles were deeply concerned to get this information correct because they saw it as sacred holy tradition. Oral tradition is a community event. A story is passed down by individuals within that community. If they get it wrong, you’ve got an entire community that is going to correct them. So it is self-correcting all the way.
- Scholarly studies have been done on oral cultures and they have demonstrated that through several generations, oral tradition can be preserved and passed on without changing a thing.
- The vast majority of supposed contradictions in the Bible are quite easily resolved.
- We have thousands (approx. 5, 600) of manuscripts of the NT. We also have virtually the entire New Testament preserved in the quotations of the church fathers in the first four centuries, so that if we had no copies of the New Testament, we could reconstruct the NT from quotations from the early church fathers.
- We have an impressive amount of extra-biblical documentation that reports numerous details about the life of Jesus Christ. For more on non-Christian evidence for Jesus, see here.
- The Gnostic gospels are almost universally recognized to be much later than the NT Gospels and do not record historically reliable material related to Jesus.
Additional Scholars Interviewed
Michael Rydelnik, Professor of Jewish Studies, Moody Bible Institute
Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Seminary
- Sages and Rabbis always taught that you have to teach in the name of someone else. That’s the way Rabbis were taught to teach. Yeshua came and said, “You’ve heard it said, but not what my Rabbi taught me, but I say unto you.”
- Jesus would clarify and, in some cases, even overrule the Old Testament (OT) law. For Jesus to say, “I am the authoritative interpreter of the law. I am the one who has come to fulfill the law” was the same as claiming the authority of God.
- Jesus clearly presents Himself as the self-revelation of God. Example- John 10:30.
- Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man.” More than 80 times in the NT Gospels, Jesus is identified as the Son of Man. While the human connotations of the phrase are obvious, a broader interpretation is found in an OT scripture written by the Jewish prophet Daniel in Daniel 7:13:
- Jesus’ contemporaries, that is, people who liked Him, people who were indifferent, neutral, and people who opposed Him, all acknowledged that He did extraordinary things.
- The NT Gospels record at least 40 separate miracles performed by Jesus during the course of his ministry.
- One of the most astonishing things that Jesus ever did was when He claimed to forgive sins. In Mark’s Gospel, chapter 2, a man is brought to Him, a paralyzed man. And the crowds around him are expecting Jesus to heal him, but instead, the first thing Jesus said is, “Your sins are forgiven.” Only God forgives sins.
- Isaiah 53, which clearly alludes to the coming of Jesus, was written down some 8 centuries before Jesus was born.
- Scholars have determined that Jesus fulfilled at least 4 dozen major prophecies, each written a minimum of three centuries before His birth. There content range from specific details about His life to the symbolic implications of His death.
- Psalm 22- David wrote, 300 years before crucifixion was known, “they have pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16b).
- Dr. Peter Stoner, a college professor of mathematics, wanted to determine what the odds were that any human being throughout history could fulfill the messianic prophecies. He and his students determined that the odds of any human being fulfilling 48 of these prophecies are virtually impossible.
Dr. Gary Habermas, Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy, Liberty University
Michael Licona, Director of Apologetics, North American Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention
- The chances of surviving crucifixion were extremely bleak. Crucifixion and the tortures that normally preceded it was the worst way to die in antiquity. A person was scourged to the point that usually their intestines, arteries, and veins were laid bare. And then after that, a person was dragged out where they were impaled to a cross or a tree, and left hanging there in excruciating pain. In fact, the word “excruciating” comes from the Latin, “out of the cross.”
- The reference in John 19:34 of Jesus’ side being pierced confirms that Jesus was dead. Medical experts have concluded that this account from John, an eyewitness of the crucifixion, is evidence that as Jesus suffocated on the cross, Jesus’ heart had ruptured.
- All four Gospels tell us that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. That is a remarkable historical statement. Joseph of Arimathea is described as a member of the Sanhedrin, whom had condemned Jesus. Joseph’s name would have been known, as well as the burial location of Jesus. Further, it is highly unusual to find that the person who alone has the courage to go to Pilate and give Jesus an honorable burial is not members of his family, faithful disciples who followed him to the end. Instead, it is a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the very high court all of whom, Mark says had condemned Jesus of Nazareth to the cross. The fact that it is Joseph of Arimathea who is the person responsible for giving Jesus an honorable burial is an awkward and embarrassing fact for the early church, and yet this tradition is faithfully preserved in almost all of the traditions that we have about the burial of Jesus.
- The empty tomb story also has a very embarrassing feature to it that is preserved in the memory of the early church. Namely, the discovery of the empty tomb by women. To appreciate this, you must understand the status of women in Palestinian Jewish society. In that society, which was a patriarchal society, women were considered second class citizens. If one was going to invent an account about the empty tomb, they would not include women as your primary witnesses whom no one was going to believe.
- Jesus enemies affirmed that His tomb was indeed empty. See Matthew 28:12-13.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-7- The 500 who witnessed the risen Jesus, mentioned by Paul, here were still alive. He was basically saying, “If you don’t believe me, ask them. They are still alive.” In these verses, Paul tells the church in Corinth that he “passed on what he received.” He actually uses the language of formal transferred tradition. This confirms that accounts of the resurrection where creedal tradition that were passed on to Paul. This makes it very, very early.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 provides evidence that belief in the resurrection was already present among Jews within two to three years after Jesus was killed. That means that the resurrection stories aren’t something that evolved over 30, 40, 50 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.
- Even the most critical, skeptical scholars recognize that the earliest disciples at least believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead. They pinned nearly everything on it. Without belief in Jesus’ resurrection, the early Christian movement could never have come into being.
- Somehow have to explain the explosion from scared followers who run away to, “Let’s worship Him. Let’s sing to Him. Let’s pray to Him.”
- The disciples were willing to die for the gospel. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples lived lives of hardship for 20-40 years, suffered greatly in their ministries, and eventually suffered martyrdom and execution without recanting for their belief that they had seen Jesus raised from the dead.
- We must remember that the disciples died not just for something they believed was true. They died for something they actually saw with their own eyes. It’s much more difficult to explain that away than it is for someone who dies for a belief and they’re sincerely wrong. Very few people are willing to die for something that they know is a lie.
- James was a half-brother of Jesus and he was not a believer in Jesus during Jesus’ lifetime, but he later died the death of a martyr as a leader of the local church. In a similar way, Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor of Christians and yet, he later becomes the apostle Paul, this incredible missionary. The resurrection of Jesus best accounts for the conversion of these skeptics.
- The disciples went from being fearful and doubtful to boldly proclaiming the message of the risen Christ publically, even to their deaths. The most rational explanation for this is that they truly did encounter the risen Christ.
- Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” That is Lee’s story. Here was someone who said, “I’m going to investigate this stuff with an open mind and let it take me wherever the evidence will take me.”
- Jesus made the claim that He is the truth, that everything hinges on His identity. In fact, everything hinges on the resurrection because everybody can claim to be the Son of God. If Jesus really did return from the dead, then He is who He claimed to be and that changes everything.