Tag Archives: resurrection

A simpler way to defend biblical inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration

Inerrancy and the Death by a Thousand Qualifications brought up some interesting points about how to defend the truth that the original writings of scripture were without error. If you offer too many qualifications then it seems to neuter your statement, but you do need to offer some sort of support.

I prefer to say that the original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers desired, and that we can easily demonstrate that they have been faithfully transmitted to us in our language.

That appeals to the simple truth that the real God could — and would — easily ensure such a thing.

To the latter point I have found it persuasive to share a brief reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls and/or to the way even atheist Bart Ehrman will strenuously argue about what he thinks the originals really said on some finer point (meaning that even he thinks it can be known).  I have seen skeptics, Mormons, etc. immediately change their views on the transmission process (if not the inspiration) once they hear that.

Even though I believe that the original writings of the Bible were without error, God-breathed and incapable of error, those views aren’t required for belief in God or the resurrection.  You can take a minimal facts approach and see that even if there were slight discrepancies in the accounts about Jesus that the resurrection could still be true.

Just look at key facts that virtually all historians agree on, such as the following, and realize that his resurrection is the best explanation for those facts.

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead and appeared to them.
  • Paul believed that Jesus appeared to him.  Even skeptics concede that Paul wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, Galatians, I & II Corinthians and others.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, was a skeptic who converted after Jesus died.

There are skeptics who endorse alternatives to the resurrection (e.g., Jesus’ body was stolen, it was ripped up by dogs, the swoon theory, etc.).  These folks unwittingly  give a lot of support for the resurrection: They show that the historical facts are so strong that one must concede that a real person named Jesus lived and died on a Roman cross and the body did not stay in the tomb. 

—–

bible5.gifClaims of Biblical inerrancy, inspiration and infallibility apply to the original writings.  I have researched countless difficulties and found answers that satisfied me.  Some are tougher than others.  Some things are in the Job category (as in, I’m not capable of understanding them or God doesn’t need me to understand them).

I learned enough about the book to be comfortable that God “wrote” it, and I trust that if there is something in the 1% that appears to be a contradiction then either there was a translation error or – much more likely – there is something I’m just not understanding properly.

In short, after working through enough difficulties with satisfactory answers I tend to give God and his Word the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure this thrills him to no end.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, because on the one hand He certainly doesn’t need the Neil-seal-of-approval but on the other hand He does love it when we exercise faith.  Not blind faith, not faith despite the evidence, but faith grounded in the truths He has revealed to us.

Are there passages in the currently published Bibles that don’t belong?  Perhaps.  The ending of Mark and the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery are not in the earliest and best manuscripts.

Also, some verses sometimes lose a little meaning in certain translations.  For example, when Exodus 21:22-25 is properly understood it is a pro-life passage, yet pro-choice people will use a poorer translation (for that passage) such as the RSV because it supports their position.

These issues don’t bother me that much because they show that the system works: We have so many copies of ancient manuscripts and different translations that it possible to figure out what the originals said.  The exceptions are limited and we can show why they are exceptions.

But on most of what really matters there is no debate.  Every version I’ve seen says, “Love your enemies.”  There are 100 clear passages saying that Jesus is the only way.  That is plenty for me.

I know enough of the Bible and the difficulties to have great faith (trust in evidence) that God inspired the originals.  And I have faith in the copying and translation process so that I can read the Bible with confidence.  For difficult or controversial passages there are plenty of ways to resolve issues on the essentials.  But on the non-essentials I don’t lose sleep.

If people want to have church meetings to debate how often to serve communion, whether to use wine or grape juice, etc., I say go ahead and have a swell time.  Just don’t make me participate.

We can read the Bible with confidence that God has transmitted his Word to us accurately.  Sometimes the words inerrant, infallible and inspired are too loaded with various meanings to be helpful, so I like to emphasize that the original writings of the Bible turned out just the way God and the human writers wanted them to.

The “Christian” Left denies the physical resurrection because they have to

“Christian” Leftists want the veneer of Christianity to support their Socialist worldliness, but to do they they have to deny most of the truths in the Bible, hence the Tiny Bible of the “Christian” Left.

One clear and primary example is the physical resurrection of Jesus.  As my pastor noted this morning, you should start with the resurrection.  If it isn’t true, then nothing else in the Bible matters, but if it is true — and it is, hallelujah! — then everything else is true.  So of course “Christian” Leftists have to attack that.

One of the ways the “Christian” Left tries to wiggle around the truth of the resurrection is with wordplay about it being just a spiritual resurrection.  Here’s a good analysis showing how thoroughly false that is: Bible study: Was the resurrection body of Jesus spiritual or physical? | WINTERY KNIGHT.

If they conceded the truth of the resurrection then they’d have trouble dismissing the majority of passages that they hate, such as God’s views on sex, giving, devotion to him, and so much more.

As Paul and the Holy Spirit so clearly teach, the resurrection is at the center of it all.  This is the central moment in human history.

1 Corinthians 15:3–5 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

If you deny the physical resurrection, you deny Christianity.  There is no middle ground.

Thanks be to God for making us spiritually alive and pointing us to the magnificent truth of the resurrection.  The debt is paid, God’s wrath has been satisfied, the tomb is empty, we have the Holy Spirit, we have freedom in Christ, we have assurance, and so much more!

A simpler way to defend biblical inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration

Inerrancy and the Death by a Thousand Qualifications brought up some interesting points about how to defend the truth that the original writings of scripture were without error. If you offer too many qualifications then it seems to neuter your statement, but you do need to offer some sort of support.

I prefer to say that the original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers desired, and that we can easily demonstrate that they have been faithfully transmitted to us in our language.

That appeals to the simple truth that the real God could — and would — easily ensure such a thing.

To the latter point I have found it persuasive to share a brief reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls and/or to the way even atheist Bart Ehrman will strenuously argue about what he thinks the originals really said on some finer point (meaning that even he thinks it can be known).  I have seen skeptics, Mormons, etc. immediately change their views on the transmission process (if not the inspiration) once they hear that.

From an earlier post of mine

Even though I believe that the original writings of the Bible were without error, God-breathed and incapable of error, those views aren’t required for belief in God or the resurrection.  You can take a minimal facts approach and see that even if there were slight discrepancies in the accounts about Jesus that the resurrection could still be true.

Just look at key facts that virtually all historians agree on, such as the following, and realize that his resurrection is the best explanation for those facts.

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead and appeared to them.
  • Paul believed that Jesus appeared to him.  Even skeptics concede that Paul wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, Galatians, I & II Corinthians and others.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, was a skeptic who converted after Jesus died.

There are skeptics who endorse alternatives to the resurrection (e.g., Jesus’ body was stolen, it was ripped up by dogs, the swoon theory, etc.).  These folks unwittingly  give a lot of support for the resurrection: They show that the historical facts are so strong that one must concede that a real person named Jesus lived and died on a Roman cross and the body did not stay in the tomb. 

—–

bible5.gifClaims of Biblical inerrancy, inspiration and infallibility apply to the original writings.  I have researched countless difficulties and found answers that satisfied me.  Some are tougher than others.  Some things are in the Job category (as in, I’m not capable of understanding them or God doesn’t need me to understand them).

I learned enough about the book to be comfortable that God “wrote” it, and I trust that if there is something in the 1% that appears to be a contradiction then either there was a translation error or – much more likely – there is something I’m just not understanding properly.

In short, after working through enough difficulties with satisfactory answers I tend to give God and his Word the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure this thrills him to no end.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, because on the one hand He certainly doesn’t need the Neil-seal-of-approval but on the other hand He does love it when we exercise faith.  Not blind faith, not faith despite the evidence, but faith grounded in the truths He has revealed to us.

Are there passages in the currently published Bibles that don’t belong?  Perhaps.  The ending of Mark and the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery are not in the earliest and best manuscripts.

Also, some verses sometimes lose a little meaning in certain translations.  For example, when Exodus 21:22-25 is properly understood it is a pro-life passage, yet pro-choice people will use a poorer translation (for that passage) such as the RSV because it supports their position.

These issues don’t bother me that much because they show that the system works: We have so many copies of ancient manuscripts and different translations that it possible to figure out what the originals said.  The exceptions are limited and we can show why they are exceptions.

But on most of what really matters there is no debate.  Every version I’ve seen says, “Love your enemies.”  There are 100 clear passages saying that Jesus is the only way.  That is plenty for me.

I know enough of the Bible and the difficulties to have great faith (trust in evidence) that God inspired the originals.  And I have faith in the copying and translation process so that I can read the Bible with confidence.  For difficult or controversial passages there are plenty of ways to resolve issues on the essentials.  But on the non-essentials I don’t lose sleep.

If people want to have church meetings to debate how often to serve communion, whether to use wine or grape juice, etc., I say go ahead and have a swell time.  Just don’t make me participate.

We can read the Bible with confidence that God has transmitted his Word to us accurately.  Sometimes the words inerrant, infallible and inspired are too loaded with various meanings to be helpful, so I like to emphasize that the original writings of the Bible turned out just the way God and the human writers wanted them to.

Did the Apostles Lie So They Could Die as Martyrs?

Short answer: No.

Medium answer: Read the rest of this post.

Long answer: Read Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, former homicide detective

As a skeptic, I believed that the story of the Resurrection was either a late distortion (a legend) created by Christians well after the fact, or a conspiratorial lie on the part of the original Apostles. It wasn’t until I started working homicides (and homicidal conspiracies in particular) that I decided an Apostolic conspiracy was unreasonable. I’ve written a chapter in Cold Case Christianity describing the five necessary elements of successful conspiracies, and none of these elements were present for the Apostles. But even more importantly, the Apostles lacked the proper motivation to lie about the Resurrection.

My case work as a homicide detective taught me something important: There are only three motives behind any murder (or any crime, or sin, for that matter). All crimes are motivated by financial greed, sexual lust (relational desire), or the pursuit of power.

If the Apostles committed the crime of fraud on an unsuspecting world, they were motivated by one of these three intentions. Most people will agree that none of the Apostles gained anything financially or sexually from their testimony, but some skeptics have argued the Apostles may have been motivated by the pursuit of power. Didn’t these men become leaders in the Church on the basis of their claims? Couldn’t this pursuit of leadership status have motivated them to lie? Wasn’t it a goal of early martyrs to die for their faith anyway?

The Apostles Knew the Difference Between Ministry and Martyrdom
The Book of Acts and the letters of Paul provide us with a glimpse into the lives of the Apostles. The Apostles were clearly pursued and mistreated, and the New Testament narratives and letters describe their repeated efforts to avoid capture. The Apostles continually evaded capture in an effort to continue their personal ministries as eyewitnesses. The New Testament accounts describe men who were bold enough to maintain their ministry, but clever enough to avoid apprehension for as long as possible.

The Apostles Knew the Difference Between a Consequence and a Goal
These early eyewitnesses were fully aware of the fact that their testimony would put them in jeopardy, but they understood this to be the consequence of their role as eyewitnesses rather than the goal. That’s why they attempted to avoid death as long as possible. While it may be true that later generations of believers wanted to emulate the Apostles through an act of martyrdom, this was not the case for the Apostles themselves.

The Apostles Knew the Difference Between Fame and Infamy
It’s one thing to be famous, but another to be famously despised. Some of us have attained widespread fame based on something noble (like Mother Teresa). Some of us have attained widespread fame because of something sinister (like Jerry Sandusky). The apostles were roundly despised by their Jewish culture as a consequence of their leadership within the fledgling Christian community. If they were lying about their testimony to gain the respect and admiration of the culture they were trying to convert, they were taking the wrong approach. The Apostles only succeeded in gaining the infamy that eventually cost them their lives. This was obvious to them from the onset; they knew their testimony would leave them powerless to stop their own brutal martyrdom.

As I examine the motives and consequences related to the testimony of the Apostles, I still find their martyrdom to be one of the most powerful evidences related to the veracity of their testimony.

Think about it for a minute: Twelve designated eyewitnesses travelled the known world to testify to the Resurrection. Not a single one of them recanted their testimony. Not a single one of them lived longer because of their testimony. Not a single one benefitted financially or relationally. These folks were either crazy or committed, certifiably nuts or certain about their observations.

Roundup

Two good iPhone apps recommended by my 83 yr. old father — Appygraph (send cards via text, with your pictures pasted in) and Heart Rate (you put your finger on the camera lens and it takes your pulse).  Apparently he’s the go-to guy for high tech.  And my 78 yr. old mom had him text a picture of something to her in a store.  Glad to see they are up on the latest things!

‘Revealing Heaven:’ Episcopal Pastor Details Hundreds of Near-Death Experiences, Backs Rob Bell — I know the author and have done prison ministry with him. I’m very disappointed at the direction he has taken. Rob Bell?! Ugh. I can’t see how he missed the obvious, namely that these things are demonic. Who would want to reassure people that everything is swell and they are definitely going to Heaven and don’t need to repent and believe?

The Post Resurrection Behavior of Jesus Eliminates the Possibility of an Imposter — a good refutation of a false theory about the resurrection.

The Atlanta Public School cheating scandal was immense in its breadth and duration, not to mention its recklessness.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, though.  Unionized bureaucrats and teachers rarely have the interests of the children at heart.  It is one more reason the “No Child Left Behind” and all other Federal initiatives are doomed to cause more problems than they solve.  Education funding and incentives should be as local as possible.  Federal initiatives are a waste that just lead to more corruption like this.

Fulton County prosecutors announced that a grand jury had indicted the Atlanta Public Schools’ ex-superintendent and nearly three dozen other former administrators, teachers, principals and other educators of charges arising from a standardized test cheating scandal that rocked the system.

Former Superintendent Beverly Hall faces charges including conspiracy, making false statements and theft because prosecutors said some of the bonuses she received were tied to falsified scores. Hall retired just days before the findings of a state probe were released in mid-2011. A nationally known educator who was named Superintendent of the Year in 2009, Hall has long denied knowing about the cheating or ordering it.

During a news conference Friday, Howard highlighted the case of Juwanna and another student, saying they demonstrated “the plight of many children” in the Atlanta school system.

Their stories were among many that investigators heard in hundreds of interviews with school administrators, staff, parents and students during a 21-month-long investigation.

Hmm. Turns out Karl Marx was just as smelly and personally useless as his modern-day acolytes!  The NY Times is honest about what Marx is like but doesn’t seem to get the current correlation:

The Karl Marx depicted in Jonathan Sperber’s absorbing, meticulously researched biography will be unnervingly familiar to anyone who has had even the most fleeting acquaintance with radical politics. Here is a man never more passionate than when attacking his own side, saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene, living in rooms that some might call bohemian, others plain “slummy,” and who can be maddeningly inconsistent when not lapsing into elaborate flights of theory and unintelligible abstraction.

Still, it comes as a shock to realize that the ultimate leftist, the father of Communism itself, fits a recognizable pattern.

Global warming: Still a hoax.  And the notion that it was man-caused was a bigger hoax.

Socialized Medicine: Money for Fake Boobs as Patients Starve — The title says it all, but it left out the part about gender-reassignment surgery (i.e., self-mutilation) being covered as well:

Why are capitalist countries wealthy and socialist countries poor? Because the free market allocates resources more wisely than bureaucrats. This is how healthcare resources are allocated under Britain’s regime of socialized medicine:

Britain’s National Health Service, the NHS, recently spent £4,800 — about $7,200 — on enormous breast implants for an aspiring model while nearly 1,200 patients starved to death in hospitals over the past four years. Critics say the deaths were caused by neglect due to understaffing.

The NHS provided Josie Cunningham with 36DD implants in January after she told her doctor that being flat-chested was causing emotional distress.

It gets worse:

In addition to the breast implants, the NHS has also spent £25,000 — about $37,000 — on a sex-change operation for a 19-year-old male diagnosed with “gender identity disorder.”

Wow, check out the anti-gay hate speech from all of these . . . Democrats?!?!  Not shocking at all, really.  And not hate speech, of course.  They just said whatever would optimize their votes, just like most Republicans do.  But their words at the were true, even if they didn’t believe them.  They have no substantive reasons for their change other than public opinion.

Child’s complaints of sexual abuse by gay couple were ignored by social workers — political correctness yields many victims.

University Compares Pro-Life Students to White Supremacists — But of course!  Abortions kill blacks at a rate 3 times that of whites, and the taxpayer-funded abortion portion of the Democrats’ platform will increase that, so of course the pro-choicers are like white supremacists or worse.  Oh, wait, what’s that? They said the pro-lifers were like the supremacists?!?!  Wow.

Abortion kills unwanted innocent but human beings.  It is a scientific fact and basic common sense that a new human being is created at fertilization.  So if someone calls you anti-abortion, don’t get defensive.  Embrace it!  Would you apologize for being anti-slavery?

Friendly reminder: Christ is also risen today, tomorrow and . . .

This is one of my all-time favorite songs but churches typically just sing it only once per year.

Another friendly reminder: Be sure to know the minimal facts about why we can trust that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

And read your Bible.  A lot.  It will accomplish what God promised it would.

Bonus: Lyrics to the song (thanks to Glenn for posting them on Facebook!).  Read them all.  Great theology!  Too bad they don’t sing all the verses.

1. “Christ the Lord is ris’n to-day,”
Sons of Men and Angels say!
Raise your Joys and Triumphs high,
Sing ye Heav’ns, and Earth reply.

2. Love’s Redeeming Work is done,
Fought the Fight, the Battle won,
Lo! our Sun’s Eclipse is o’er,
Lo! He sets in Blood no more.

3. Vain the Stone, the Watch, the Seal;
Christ hath burst the Gates of Hell!
Death in vain forbids his Rise:
Christ hath open’d Paradise!

4. Lives again our glorious King,
Where, O Death, is now thy Sting?
Once He died our Souls to save,
Where thy Victory, O Grave?

5. Soar we now, where Christ has led,
Following our Exalted Head,
Made like Him, like Him we rise:
Ours the Cross; the Grave; the Skies.

6. What tho’ once we perish’d All,
Partners of our Parent’s Fall,
Second Life we All receive,
In our Heav’nly Adam live.

7. Ris’n with Him, we upward move,
Still we seek the Things above,
Still pursue, and kiss the Son,
Seated on his Father’s Throne;

8. Scarce on Earth a Thought bestow,
Dead to all we leave below,
Heav’n our Aim, and lov’d Abode,
Hid our Life with Christ in God!

9. Hid; ’till Christ our Life appear,
Glorious in his Members here:
Join’d to Him, we then shall shine
All Immortal, all Divine!

10. Hail the Lord of Earth and Heav’n!
Praise to Thee by both be giv’n:
Thee we greet Triumphant now;
Hail the Resurrection Thou!

11. King of Glory, Soul of Bliss,
Everlasting Life is This,
Thee to know, thy Pow’r to prove,
Thus to sing, and thus to love!

A great Christmas gift idea!

Resurrection iWitnessNot for me (but thanks anyway!).  As the French Knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail would say, I’ve already got one.

What is it, you ask?  A copy of Resurrection iWitness by Doug Powell.  As noted on Amazon:

This book gives evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ by using the easy-to-understand Minimal Facts argument. That means it relies only on the historical facts that almost all biblical scholars (including atheistic, Jewish, and liberal) accept and shows how only the biblical story of the resurrection can account for all these agreed-upon facts.

Across 32 intensively designed pages (16 spreads acting as individual chapters) — each containing information that is physically nested and must be actively opened to discover — the reader investigates the story of Christ and weighs the evidence to determine its historical accuracy.

While a 700+ page book by N.T. Wright will obviously go into more depth, the odds of getting someone to actually read about the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus go up dramatically with this book.  At only 32 pages it is an easy read, and the artwork and interactive nature will be compelling for people.

The “minimal facts” argument is probably my favorite to use with believers and non-believers alike.  It is very compelling and easy to explain, and it quickly explodes all sorts of myths, such as how Christians are to have a “blind faith” without evidence.

It starts by quoting 1 Corinthians 15 and notes that if an enemy wants to find the weak point of Christianity we hand it to him.  Paul couldn’t be more clear: If the physical resurrection of Jesus didn’t happen, then Christianity is false, we are making the real God mad and we are to be pitied above all men.

It goes on to note key facts that even those hostile to the faith willingly concede, and then explains how alternate theories all fail in light of those facts.  Our faith is grounded in reason and evidence and we can be confident that the resurrection really happened.

Remember, Christmas is the time of year where people expect us to talk about Jesus.  Even the non-believers will listen to and hear songs about him.  Wouldn’t a book that elegantly and accurately explains why we should believe that He really lived, died and rose again make a great gift?

So buy one or a bunch (only $12.46 for a coffee table quality book) and give them away.  It will be your easiest evangelism of the year.  Be sure to have it lying around your house as a conversation starter.  Give one to your kids. This is the kind of message that our youth desperately need when they go off to college.  It really disarms critics when we politely point out why we have solid reasons for trusting in Jesus as our Savior.

P.S. Now that’s weird — the link this page didn’t show up on Facebook on my computer and on my iPhone it gave a message saying that the link was “reported as abusive by Facebook users.” Huh??!!  The worst part is that they never contacted me or explained why, and I have no idea how to figure it out. It will be interesting to see if that happens again.  This is a recommendation for a book about Jesus — as a Christmas gift! It’s one of the least offensive things I’ve published all year!

Evidence for the Resurrection PowerPoint slides

The physical resurrection of Jesus is foundational to Christianity:

1 Corinthians 15 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

All Christians should know this basic truth and strive to be able to defend it when asked.

1 Peter 3 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Mary Jo Sharp is a Christian apologist who created a good overview of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that you can share with Sunday School classes and others.  See MJ’s Evidence for the Resurrection.  Go read them now.  I’ll wait here.  (Click the “Actions” menu at the bottom to download them.)

Bonus: Here’s an interview with an atheist who converted to Christianity based on the evidence for the resurrection.

Easter eggs, Santa, etc. in churches . . .

I yearn for churches that have enough faith in God to hold the same views about the Bible that He does — and then actually study and apply it carefully.  Then they would see the truth, advance his kingdom and give him glory.  Instead, they use all kinds of tricks to get people into church — as if that is what the early church did.

The “bait and switch” method is un-biblical, but what is worse is that these churches always seem to forget to switch.  That is, they water things down to draw people in then withhold the truth from them.  Pretty soon no one there remembers the truth.

Glenn made good points in The Watchman’s Bagpipes: “Easter” vs Resurrection Day:

I have to address the issue of Easter and Christians.  Some cities are dropping the word “Easter” from their annual egg hunts and other such frivolity, and Christians are in an uproar about the removal of all things “Christian” from such events.

Okay, Christians:  Can you explain to me what all this egg and bunny stuff has to do with the resurrection of our Lord?  The fact that Christians adopted these pagan practices for celebrating on Easter (let alone adopting a fertility goddess’ name for the day) is an affront to the name of Christ to begin with.  So quit belly-aching about anyone dropping the name “Easter” from these pagan celebrations.

In light of this, I find it abhorrent that so many churches sponsor Easter egg hunts and have such programs; again, what do these have to do with the resurrection of Christ, or any Christian doctrine?

I used to think highly of 2nd Baptist in Houston, but last year their Easter billboard was simply their pastor, Ed Young, and the Easter Bunny.  Because they definitely wouldn’t want to mention Jesus . . .

Glenn also had a sadly thorough rundown of recent random apostasies and heresies.

That’s going to leave a mark — unless . . .

tomb.jpgOne of the unique things about Christianity is that it is falsifiable.  It makes a specific claim about a historical event: The physical resurrection of Jesus.  This is no small thing, as the Bible explicitly says that if there was no resurrection then we are not only wrong in our faith, we are offending God and are to be pitied above all men.

1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV) Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But here’s the thing: The evidence points to the resurrection being real.

Here’s a short overview, often called the “minimal facts” approach: Nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others. He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty.

I submit that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts.

Here are a couple very thorough sources:

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona

The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright

Evidence for the resurrection

tomb.jpgThis is a summary of the “minimal facts” approach, which points to commonly held historical facts as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and the truth of Christianity.

Nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucificion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.

75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty.

I submit that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts.

There is a great set of PowerPoint slides here outlining the “minimal facts” approach.

——-

I am confident that we can defend the inspiraton and innerancy claims of the Bible, but the discussions are wide and deep and it is easy for them to get off track.

An interesting approach is to consider what the skeptical historians tend to agree on – that is, what elements of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus do the well educated skeptics concede?  You can actually build a very strong case starting with those.  If nothing else, it helps annihilate the “blind faith” accusations often lobbed against Christians.

When virtually all historians agree on something – believers and skeptics included, we have a term for those views: Facts.

I readily concede that God used the writing styles and experiences of the humans who wrote the Gospels, but I don’t concede that it didn’t turn out exactly as God wanted it to. He is sovereign over his creation and could easily guide the people and circumstances to achieve what He desired.

I think those doctrines are quite defensible but not necessary to share the Gospel. There are several important facts that even skeptical historians will concede, and we can work from there:

  • Jesus really lived and then died on a Roman cross.
  • The disciples really believed He rose physically (even if the historians don’t believe He rose physically they agree that the disciples believed that He did).
  • The Apostle Paul persecuted Christians then converted after claiming to see the risen Christ and wrote at least Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philipians, Galatians and Philemon, which record key doctrines and traditions at early dates.  Paul was originally hostile to the faith and had no reason to believe.

Mike Licona is a New Testament historian, author, and Christian apologist. He is a PhD candidate in New Testament at the University of Pretoria and has an M.A. in Religious Studies from Liberty University.  He has a great web page that addresses these in a very accessible way.  Here are a couple excerpts.  Go read the whole thing.  I also put a link in the apologetics section to the right.

1. Jesus’ disciples believed he appeared to them. (% of scholars from 1975-Present who agree: Nearly 100%)

No less than 9 ancient sources from an eyewitness, very early oral traditions dating within 20 years of Jesus’ crucifixion, and several written sources testify that Jesus’ disciples were claiming that he had risen from the dead and appeared to them.

“It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which He appeared to them as the risen Christ.” -Atheist New Testament Scholar Gerd Lüdemann, 1995

2. A few skeptics believed Jesus appeared to them. (% of scholars from 1975-Present who agree: Nearly 100% for Paul; ~90% for James)

Paul experienced an immediate change from a persecutor of the Church to one of its most aggressive advocates.  He said the change was because the risen Jesus had appeared to him, and he willingly suffered and died for that belief. (Sources: Paul, Luke, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Dionysius of Corinth, Origen)

Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, the brother of Jesus named James was a skeptic (Sources: Mark, John).  An appearance of the risen Jesus to James is reported within 5 years of Jesus’ crucifixion (Source: 1 Corinthians 15:7).  James became a leader of the Church in Jerusalem (Sources: Paul, Luke).  James willingly died for his belief that Jesus was the Messiah (Sources: Josephus, Hegesippus, Clement of Alexandria).

3. The original disciples were willing to suffer and die for their belief that Jesus rose and attests to the sincerity of their faith, which strongly rules out lies on their part.

Sources: Luke, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Tertullian, Origen.

4. “All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor of [the empty tomb], and those scholars who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”-William Wand, Oxford University, 1972) (% of scholars from 1975-Present who agree: ~75%)

Since Jesus was publicly executed then buried in Jerusalem, it would have been impossible for Christianity to get off the ground there had the body still been in the tomb.  His enemies in the Jewish leadership and Roman government would only have had to exhume the corpse and publicly display it for the hoax to have been shattered.

Rather than point to an occupied tomb, the Jewish leadership who had Jesus crucified accused His disciples of stealing the body. This move seems to have been an attempt to account for a missing body, since it is highly unlikely that this claim would have been made if the body had still been in the tomb. (Sources: Matthew, Justin, Tertullian).

When we come to the account of the empty tomb, women are listed as the primary witnesses.  This would be an odd invention, since in both Jewish and Roman cultures woman were not esteemed and their testimony was regarded as questionable; certainly not as credible as a man’s. Given the low view of women that existed in the first century, it seems unlikely that the Gospel authors would invent testimonies, place them in the mouths of those who would not be believed by many, and then make them the primary witnesses to the empty tomb.  If the Gospel writers had invented the story about the empty tomb, it seems that they would most likely have depicted men discovering its vacancy and being the first to see the risen Jesus.

Conclusion

a. A number of people claimed to have seen Jesus alive after his execution.  These were friends and skeptics, individuals and groups.

b. Jesus’ tomb was empty

c. Since these facts are well established historically and are accepted by the majority of scholars, any theory of what happened has to account for all of the facts.

d. Jesus’ resurrection certainly accounts for all of the historical facts.  But can any natural explanation (opposed to a supernatural one) explain these facts too?

Competing theories

Psychological phenomena, fraud, legend. [see the web site for refutations of these theories]

The New Testament wasn’t first compiled into a single volume until the middle of the second century.  Thus, we have no less than 9 New Testament authors who write about Jesus in the first century.  Furthermore, 11 additional early Christian authors, 4 heretical writings, and 7 non-Christian sources make explicit mention of Jesus in their writings within 150 years of his life. This amounts to a minimum of 31 authors, 7 who are non-Christian, who explicitly mention Jesus within 150 years of his life.

Roundup

Did the divinity of Jesus emerge slowly after many years of embellishments?  Short answer: No, and we can prove it.  Read this important piece about how we can use data that even skeptics agree with to demonstrate how Jesus’ physical resurrection and divinity date to the earliest years of the church. 

Al Gore Exploits Envirofascism for Fortunes — what a shocker — Al Gore making tens hundreds of millions off of his global warming propoganda.  Follow the money, people.  Do you really think that greed is a sin committed by Republicans?  Don’t be naive!

And he’s only a Socialist when he’s trying to control your life and increase your expenses.  Mr. Hypocrite is fine with business when he’s the beneficiary:

Do you think there is something wrong with being active in business in this country?  I am proud of it. I am proud of it.

Excellent overview of Calvinism vs. Arminianism resources by Randy Alcorn.  I enjoy debates between civil, well qualified people on this topic.

Scottish Gay Rights Activists Found Guilty of Pedophilia Sentenced to Life Imprisonment — glad to see the system work here.  That should be the punishment for all pedophiles.

Roundup

Simple and important reminder by Mike that we shouldn’t just pray for people, we should pray with them.

After talking with Shirley for about 5 minutes or so, and as I saw the tears in her eyes, I asked Shirley if I could pray with her. Not simply FOR her, but WITH her. She nodded her head and held her hands to her face, shielding me from her now-falling tears. I prayed a short prayer right there in the restaurant with her, and when I finished she wrapped her arms around me, put her head on my shoulders, and cried. And cried, and cried, and cried. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. I just comforted Shirley for those few raw moments. Neither of us seemed to care much about whatever else was going on around us.

Read it all.

It occurred to me that Obama is “That 70’s President,” deftly combining the bad ideas and ineffectiveness of Carter with the ethics and paranoia of Nixon.  Just sayin’.

William Lane Craig debates radical skeptics on the resurrection of Jesus — great apologetics post, as usual, by the Wintery Knight.

Australia considers bill to criminalize free speech by Christians — as I often say, coming soon to a country near you.

Check out some of the sample articles of Salvo, a phenomenal magazine.  Great content and presentation on key issues of day.  I think it targets college aged / 20’s types but could be of interest to anyone.

The abortionist and his #1 foe — Late-term abortionist Larry Carhhart and pro-lifer Troy Newman are analyzed. CNN owes me a new irony meter, because these quotes broke it:

He glances at the poster of [murdered late-term abortionist George] Tiller. “I don’t want his death to be in vain.”

“I have abortion on the front of this building, because I think abortion isn’t a four-letter word. It’s a part of life.”

Tomorrow, just before and after performing abortions, Carhart will pray at the bedside of his patients.

And did I miss it, or did CNN fail to mention the pesky fact about the pro-lifer who was recently murdered?

This quote makes more sense:

What part of wanting to save a baby’s life is so bad that it makes people hate me?
–Troy Newman

The answer is that abortion makes a lot of money for some people and gives a false illusion of sexual freedom and equality for others.

(Hat tip: Theobromophile)

Are abortion proponents smarter than a 2nd-grader? (um, no)

Inerrant, infallible, inspired

I’m re-running this post with some more thoughts.  Even though I believe that the original writings of the Bible were without error, God-breathed and incapable of error, those views aren’t required for belief in God or the resurrection.  You can take a minimal facts approach and see that even if there were slight discrepancies in the accounts about Jesus that the resurrection could still be true.   

Just look at key facts that virtually all historians agree on, such as the following, and realize that his resurrection is the best explanation for those facts.

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead and appeared to them.
  • Paul believed that Jesus appeared to him.  Even skeptics concede that Paul wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, Galatians, I & II Corinthians and others.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, was a skeptic who converted after Jesus died.

There are skeptics who endorse alternatives to the resurrection (e.g., Jesus’ body was stolen, it was ripped up by dogs, the swoon theory, etc.).  These folks unwittingly  give a lot of support for the resurrection: They show that the historical facts are so strong that one must concede that a real person named Jesus lived and died on a Roman cross and the body did not stay in the tomb. 

—–

bible5.gifClaims of Biblical inerrancy, inspiration and infallibility apply to the original writings.  I have researched countless difficulties and found answers that satisfied me.  Some are tougher than others.  Some things are in the Job category (as in, I’m not capable of understanding them or God doesn’t need me to understand them). 

I learned enough about the book to be comfortable that God “wrote” it, and I trust that if there is something in the 1% that appears to be a contradiction then either there was a translation error or – much more likely – there is something I’m just not understanding properly.

In short, after working through enough difficulties with satisfactory answers I tend to give God and his Word the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure this thrills him to no end.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, because on the one hand He certainly doesn’t need the Neil-seal-of-approval but on the other hand He does love it when we exercise faith.  Not blind faith, not faith despite the evidence, but faith grounded in the truths He has revealed to us.

Are there passages in the currently published Bibles that don’t belong?  Perhaps.  The ending of Mark and the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery are not in the earliest and best manuscripts. 

Also, some verses sometimes lose a little meaning in certain translations.  For example, when Exodus 21:22-25 is properly understood it is a pro-life passage, yet pro-choice people will use a poorer translation (for that passage) such as the RSV because it supports their position. 

These issues don’t bother me that much because they show that the system works: We have so many copies of ancient manuscripts and different translations that it possible to figure out what the originals said.  The exceptions are limited and we can show why they are exceptions. 

But on most of what really matters there is no debate.  Every version I’ve seen says, “Love your enemies.”  There are 100 clear passages saying that Jesus is the only way.  That is plenty for me.

I know enough of the Bible and the difficulties to have great faith (trust in evidence) that God inspired the originals.  And I have faith in the copying and translation process so that I can read the Bible with confidence.  For difficult or controversial passages there are plenty of ways to resolve issues on the essentials.  But on the non-essentials I don’t lose sleep. 

If people want to have church meetings to debate how often to serve communion, whether to use wine or grape juice, etc., I say go ahead and have a swell time.  Just don’t make me participate. 

We can read the Bible with confidence that God has transmitted his Word to us accurately.  Sometimes the words inerrant and infallible are too loaded with various meanings to be helpful, so I like to emphasize that the original writings of the Bible turned out just the way God wanted them to.

The Gospel

He is risen!  Seriously.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

God treated Jesus (on the cross) as we should be treated, and He will treat us in Heaven how Jesus’ deserved to be treated.