We do not follow myths Part 2

1 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Yesterday as I looked at this verse from 1 Peter I wrote that the modern critics write with an agenda. But, didn’t the writers of the New Testament also have an agenda? Yes they did. Their agenda was to tell the world what they saw. They had witnessed Jesus being crucified and buried. But they also witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. There was Jesus just three days after a horrible death walking around, talking and eating. The only sighs of the crucifixion were the nail whole in His hands and feet.

So what is the difference between the two agendas? For starts the modern critics are not facing death at the hands of the Romans for their beliefs. The modern critics get their egos stroked by the media and they get rich off book sales and lecture fees as well as appearances on History channel videos. The writers of the New Testament, with the possible exception of John, all died painful deaths most at the hands of the Romans. The Roman emperor Nero before he died made it a point to execute as many Christians as possible and to destroy the scriptures we have. They did everything possible to eradicate Christianity.

Yet despite the actions of the Roman government the Christian church grew. Even as its leaders were killed by the Romans the church thrived. If Christianity had been built on a lie how did it continue to grow? It has been said that people will not die supporting a lie. That is not exactly true; people die in support of lies all the time. They believe the lie to be true. What they do not do is die for something they know is a lie. The disciples knew if Christianity was true or false. They could have escaped horrible deaths just by denouncing their faith. Yet not one did so.

The reason is made clear by Peter in today’s verse. They were not following myths but the truth. They knew Jesus had been resurrected. They had seen Him and touched Him. They talked to Him and ate with Him. They knew the truth and could not deny it. So they went to their death in the knowledge that they too would one day be resurrected.

Have a blessed day,

David

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A. C. Grayling’s The God Argument: Another Disappointment

dwwork:

I thought this would go well with some of the comments I have had on the resurrection.

Originally posted on Thomistic Bent:

I recently picked up a copy of a new book, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism by A. C. Grayling. In seeing the book, my first thoughts went to the common and tired refrain from many atheists who try to claim that atheism is merely non-belief, that they never make a case for anything, but always express a lack of belief in something. Such a position only holds up briefly, until one considers that the majority of modern popular atheist writers are doing nothing but building a positive case against religion. Grayling’s book is a case in point, but others are easy to come by.

Grayling’s book is yet another attempt to build a case against Christianity. He also uses the same level of poor argumentation that is common to modern atheist writers. Claiming their arguments are based in reason, we actually find more rhetoric and…

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We do not follow myths

1 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Something that has resurfaced over the past few weeks as I posted the resurrection series on my blog is that there is still this misconception that what we as Christians believe are nothing but myths and fabrications. Yet even in the first century Peter felt the need to let people know that the gospel he and the other apostles preached was true.

The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus is who the writers of the New Testament say He is. Yet many refuse to accept the evidence. They would rather believe someone who lived almost two thousand years later rather than those who lived at the time and in the first two centuries. Why would they know what had happened during their life time? Are we so much smarter today? What always gets lost is that the modern critics have their own agenda and it is to repudiate Christianity. Maybe someone hurt them when they were younger. Maybe some professor made atheism seem cool. Maybe they just want to stir things up but the simple fact is they do not have the evidence on their side so they argue from silence. They even make up documents that we have no proof ever existed in order to support their views.

Nothing much seems to have changed over the last two millennia. We still have doubters and we still need to reach out to them in love. Maybe we will never reach them but we still need to try.

Have a blessed day,

David

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EQUIPPING BELIEVERS TO ANSWER CRITICS OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS Part 8

Conclusions
All the criticisms we have examined fall short in refuting the crucifixion and resurrection. They either ignore historical evidence, medical testimony, or eyewitness accounts. Each criticism tries to address one part of the equation, but leaves other events unanswered. With the exception of the theory that the disciples stole the body, the theories do not explain the dramatic change in their lives. They went from a cowardly group of dispirited men to world changers in forty days. The Gospel accounts of the disciples are not flattering. They are presented as doubters, cowards, betrayers, and most of all unable to comprehend what Jesus was teaching. These men believed so firmly, that they would face death rather than recant their testimony. These theories fail to explain why a group of Jews would change their day of worship to Sunday rather than the Jewish Sabbath.
None of these theories address one of the most profound changes ever to take place in a man. They do not account for Saul of Tarsus. This man was a persecutor of the early Christians. When we first meet Saul in the book of Acts he is participating in the stoning of Stephen. Later he is on his way to Damascus to arrest followers of Christ. This was a man whose personality does not lend its self to hallucinations or visions. One not easily deterred from his mission. In his own words he was:
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. Philippians 3:4-6
These are not the words of a man easily dissuaded from his task and yet he became the greatest evangelist the world has ever known, spreading the Gospel to the gentiles. Without an explanation for Saul’s conversion, all criticisms of the resurrection fall short. What caused Saul to become Paul?
Paul is unique from all the other New Testament writers in that he alone is accepted by nearly all critics as reliable and accurate. If what Paul writes is reliable, then his accounts of the resurrection must be taken as reliable. (1)
Finally the criticisms do not take into account the rapid rise of the church. From a small group of believer in Jerusalem, Christianity spread to the world. Dr. James Kennedy in his book Why I Believe (2)  writes:
“It is an indisputable fact of history, not faith, that the largest institution in the history of the world began in Jerusalem AD 30 when the Apostles began to preach that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.”
The evidence for the resurrection is there, it is up to each of us to let the world know what we believe and why. Because Jesus commanded it:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19
And God commanded it:
“always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. 1 Peter 3:15

I had originally intended to finish this series this coming Saturday but then thought that Easter would be the best time. If you have been following this series and the comments then you know that I have had three atheists make comments. All were well thought out and are comments usually made by unbelievers. Did I change their minds, I think not but neither did they change my mind. For some there just is not enough proof and never will be. But that does not mean we stop replying to their comments but always in love and respect. The evidence is there for those who chose to believe, after all many atheists have come to believe in God and Jesus once they examined the evidence. Finally, this series was not meant to be an exhausted look at the resurrection. Countless books have been written on this subject. Rather it is an attempt to give believers answers to some of the more common criticisms of the resurrection and hopefully pique you interest in further study.I hope all of you have had a blessed Easter.

1 Gary R. Habermas, “Miracles,” speech delivered to AP10 Class, May 24, to 29, 2004, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC.

2 D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1980), 108.

WORKS CITED In Series
Braswell, Jr., George W.. Islam Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics and Power. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.
Caner, Emir Fethi and Ergin Mehmet Caner. More Than a Prophet. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2003.
Habermas, Gary R.. The Historical Jesus Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ. Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 2003.
———. “Miracles.” Lecture delivered to AP10 Class, May 24 to 29, 2004. Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC.
Hanegraaff, Hank. resurrection. Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2000.
Hoeller, Stephen A.. Gnosticism New Light On The Ancient Tradition Of Inner Knowing. Wheaton: Quest Books, 2002.
Hugh Shonfield. The Passover Plot. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1965.
Josephus. Josephus The Complete Works. Translated by William Winston, A.M. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 1998.
Kennedy, D. James. Why I Believe. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1980.
McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.
Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Pickthall, Mohammed Marmaduke. “The Meaning Of The Glorious Quaran.” Sacred-texts.com. http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/pick/index.htm. (accessed August 9, 2004).
Ryrie Study Bible New International Version. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.
Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998.

 

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Silence

The Gospels tell us a lot about the week leading up to the crucifixion and they detail what went on that Friday when Jesus was crucified but as to the next day the Bible is silent. All we know is that Jesus was placed in a borrowed tomb sometime before 6:30 on Friday. Then the story picks up around 6:30 Sunday morning as the women find the tomb empty.

This of course is not the first time God’s word has been silent. From the time the last of the prophet, Malachi, was recorded to the coming of Jesus about 400 years passed. Even when it comes to Jesus we have long periods of silence. After Jesus’ birth we are told nothing until Jesus turns twelve then once again we are left in silence until He turns about 30. We can conjecture what Jesus did during those years but we just do not know.

Then we have Saturday. Jesus is dead and the disciples are probably in hiding. At least that is what I would have done. No one would want to go through what Jesus had just done. The Romans were good at many things but they were especially good at handing out death sentences. They made sure the deaths were as gruesome as possible the better to head off any more trouble makers. Peter had already denied knowing Jesus and with the exception of John, the youngest, the rest were nowhere to be found. So they hid and Jesus lay in a cold tomb.

Perhaps one of the reasons we do not know what happened that day is that the writers of the Gospels just found their actions too painful to recount. And really does it matter what happened that day? I can guess the Jewish priests had a good Sabbath day thinking that that trouble maker was now no longer a problem. Things could get back to normal, business as usual. The Romans most likely give the events of Friday little thought. After all what was one more criminals execution when they had executed thousands. Maybe Satan did a little victory dance. After all it sure looked like God’s plan had been derailed.

So the day passed. Slowly for some and quickly for others. The Jews observed the Sabbath the others went about their daily lives and we are left with silence. But oh the next day. That day would change the world. That day God would speak loud and clear. That day would be the birthday of a whole new way of worshiping God and a new way to relate to God. That day heaven would have been alive with the rejoicing of all the angels and all the patriarchs. No silence that day.

Have a blessed day,

David

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EQUIPPING BELIEVERS TO ANSWER CRITICS OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS Part 7

Islamic Teaching on the Resurrection
With the events of the past few years there has been an increased interest in Islam and its teachings. Many are surprised to learn that Jesus is mentioned in the Qur’an. Jesus is not only mentioned, but considered a prophet in Islam. Before we look at what Islam has to say about the resurrection, we need to look at how Islam views Jesus.
Jesus is mentioned many times in the Qur’an. Mohammad calls Jesus a prophet and Jesus is the prophet before Mohammad. The Qur’an tells of Jesus’ virgin birth and the fact that Jesus performed miracles. Two things are of interest. First, while the Qur’an tells of Jesus’ miracles, there are no miracles attributed to Mohammad. Second, there are more surahs about Jesus virgin birth and Mary in the Qur’an than in the New Testament.
The Qur’an denies (1) that Jesus was crucified. Surahs 157 to 159 state:
157 And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.
158 But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise.
159 There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them -

In Islam Its Prophet, People, Politics and Power (2) , George Braswell writes that not only does Islam teach that Jesus was not crucified but Allah made it seem that the crucifixion took place. This was done by having someone else take on the likeness of Jesus and that person was crucified in Jesus’ place. Islam teaches that Jesus was taken bodily, alive, into heaven and will return. If Jesus was not crucified, then who was? In More Than a Prophet (3) the authors indicate that some Moslems believe it was Judas, while others believe it was Simon of Cyrene who was crucified in place of Jesus.
The Islamic teachings about the crucifixion go against all Christian teachings and, as we have seen earlier, against other ancient secular historical texts. There is no historical evidence to back up what is written in the Qur’an. Mohammad’s reasoning and Islamic thought is that Allah would not allow one of His prophets to die a criminal’s death.

1 Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, “The Meaning Of The Glorious Quaran,” Sacred-texts.com, http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/pick/index.htm. (accessed August 9, 2004).
2 Jr. George W. Braswell, Islam Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics and Power (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 283.

3 Emir Fethi Caner and Ergin Mehmet Caner, More Than a Prophet (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2003), 63.

 

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