Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Notes for The Case for Christ-The Film featuring Lee Strobel

Note to Readers: I recently showed this video as an introduction to some of the scholars and arguments related to the historical Jesus. The following are some notes I passed out to the class. I thought maybe they would prove helpful for someone considering the video for small group discussion, etc.

The Case for Christ- The Film

The Case for Christ- The Film
The Case for Christ- The Film
A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus
Lee Strobel
PART ONE: Examining the Record

Lee Strobel accepted the New Testament as ancient historical documents and new that historians had certain criteria they applied to assess whether or not these documents were reliable. These became the basis for the first part of his investigation

Scholars Interviewed

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

Key Points

  • 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.
PART TWO: Analyzing Jesus

Lee Strobel sought out more scholars to answer the question, “Who was Jesus?”

Additional Scholars Interviewed

Michael Rydelnik, Professor of Jewish Studies, Moody Bible Institute
Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Seminary

Key Points

  • 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:
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.” (NIV)

  • 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.

PART THREE: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Strobel now zeroed in on the ultimate evidence for who Jesus really was- the purported resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Additional Scholars Interviewed

Dr. William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy, Biola University
Dr. Gary Habermas, Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy, Liberty University
Michael Licona, Director of Apologetics, North American Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention

Key Points

  • 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.
PART FOUR: Lee’s Decision

Key Points

  • 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.
Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Conference: Loving God with All Your Mind

with Sean McDowell, Craig Hazen, Greg Koukl, Frank Turek, and Steve Schrader

When you boil it down, isn't Christianity really about blind faith and mystery? That's certainly what we hear the world saying through every vehicle of the media. But it turns out to be the furthest thing from the truth.

In this fast-paced and stimulating conference, some of the leaders in Christian thinking and philosophy will demonstrate that Christianity is really all about KNOWLEDGE! As the Apostle John said, we can "KNOW the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). The very best scholarship and thinking in history, philosophy, science, and cultural studies point to the truth of the Christian worldview. This seminar will help equip you to make your case for Christ in a hostile world.


Successful Tactics in Defending the Faith with Greg Koukl
Thursday, October 7
7:30 – 9:30 pm


Friday, October 8, 7:00 - 10:00 pm
Christianity and the Challenge of World Religions with Craig Hazen

Saturday, October 9, 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Apologetics for a New Generation with Sean McDowell

Saturday, October 9, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Historical Reliability of the Bible with Steve Schrader

Saturday, October 9, 1:00 - 4:00 pm
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist with Frank Turek


Mount Airy Bible Church
16700 Old Frederick Rd
Mount Airy, MD 21771

For pricing information, discounts, and to register for this can’t-miss conference-

I would encourage you to consider attending this conference. The conference was excellent last year!

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Facts of Life: The First 12 Weeks

These facts speak for themselves...

Week 1:
Conception; the baby is smaller than a grain of sugar, but the instructions are present for all that this person will ever become.

Week 2: The baby attaches and burrows securely into the wall of its mother's womb.

Week 3: The baby's blood vessels and sex cells form. Foundations of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system are laid.

Week 4: The baby's heart has begun to beat. Eyes, ears, and lungs begin to form.

Week 5: Tiny arms and legs appear, as well as the baby's face. The baby's blood is now separate from the mother's.

Week 6: Tiny fingers and toes develop. The baby's brain is divided into 3 parts for emotion and language, hearing, and seeing.

Week 7: Buds of the baby's mild teeth appear. 99% of the muscles are present, and brain activity is detectable.

Week 8: The baby begins spontaneous movement and is now well proportioned, about the size of a thumb. Every organ is present, but immature. The skull, elbows, and knees are forming.

Week 9: If prodded, hands and eyelids close. Genitalia become visible, indicating whether the baby is a boy or girl. Muscular movement begins.

Week 10: The baby's fingerprints begin to form. Nerve and muscle connections have tripled. Eyelids fuse together temporarily to protect the baby's delicate developing eyes.

Week 11: The baby "practices" breathing and facial expressions, even smiling. The baby can also urinate and stomach muscles can contract.

Week 12: The baby is now 3 inches in length and weighs 2 oz. with fine hair on the face. The baby is able to swallow and feels and responds to skin stimulation.

Courage and Godspeed,


1. Precious One,

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Common Objection #11- "Darwin Killed God!"

With the recent release of the film Creation onto home video, the claim that "Darwin killed God" could become more prevalent. "You've killed God, sir," says Huxley to Charles Darwin in the forthcoming film.

Further, biologist and vocal atheist Richard Dawkins has claimed that "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectual atheist." [1] However, is this truly the case?

Nick Pollard says no. In fact, he claims that if atheists think that Darwin killed God, they are not thinking widely enough.

Pollard argues:

"Those who think that Darwin's theory can be used to establish the non-existence of God are missing the point. Well, at least three points out of four, actually.

We are conscious human beings, living in a world full of life, within a universe of matter and energy. If someone wishes to argue that there is no God then they have to answer at least four questions about our existence (only one of which is tackled by Darwin's theory). What is the origin of the universe? What is the origin of life? What is the origin of biological diversity? What is the origin of consciousness?

Put in this wider context we see how Darwin's theory only tackles the third of this big series of important questions. Whether or not Darwin's theory is a true explanation of how biological diversity might have evolved from a common ancestor, all this could tell us is something about the process by which the variety of life developed. It cannot, in itself, tell us anything about the existence or non-existence of God.

So let me lay down a challenge to such atheists and ask them to stop making unfounded assertions about God's existence just from one particular view of one quarter of the big questions, and to consider the bigger picture, including the other three questions.

First, the origin of the universe. When we look at the universe around us we have to ask ourselves, "Why is it here at all?" Why does anything exist rather than nothing? Even if we had an established theory of the possible processes by which parts of this universe may have formed - such as stars, sandstone and even species - that doesn't tell us why those processes happened. Even if we can establish how the laws of nature could lead to such developments within the universe, that doesn't tell us why those laws exist. Why not another set of physical laws? Why any physical laws at all? Why does anything exist rather than nothing existing?

Second, the origin of life. When we look at the various forms of living beings that exist in this world we have to ask ourselves, "How did life begin?" Even if we had an established theory of the possible processes by which complex life may have evolved from simple life through the natural selection of mutations in reproductions, that doesn't tell us how reproductive processes began in the first place. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection can only work on a self-replicating system where variations in the product of the replication might be more or less fitted for survival. But how did the first self-replicating, naturally selectable organism arise? How did we get from non-replicating matter to self-replicating, naturally selectable life?

Third, the origin of consciousness. When we look at the people who live around us (and, indeed, at ourselves) we have to ask, "Where does consciousness, and all that flows from it, come from?" Even if we had an established theory of the possible processes by which the complexities of the human body may have developed, that doesn't tell us why we have a conscious awareness, why we have such a strong sense of morality, or why we have the capacity to reason. It is interesting that Darwin himself, in the last decade of his life, began to doubt the reliability of the human brain. If, according to his theory, the brain has evolved because of survival rather than for truth, would it have the capacity to address metaphysical questions with any level of reliability? Why should we trust anything it says about the big questions of morality and meaning? And (here is a real problem for anyone who wants to argue for atheism) what is our basis for trusting the brain's capacity for any high level reasoning at all - such as the level of reasoning required to consider the existence or non-existence of God? Perhaps, for the atheist, this question is logically unanswerable?" [2]

So, I suppose Christianity Today was right after all- God is Not Dead Yet!

Courage and Godspeed,


1. Richard Dawkins,
The Blind Watchmaker, p. 6.
2. Nick Pollard, Did Darwin Kill God?,, Sept. 18, 2009.

Monday, August 02, 2010

"Do Not Love the World"

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."
- 1 John 2:15-17, ESV

Many times, the reason one will not bow the knee and confess Jesus as Lord is simply because they love the world- and all its enticements- to much to let it go.

Courage and Godspeed,