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For example, regarding the issue of immigration, Emergent Church theologian Brian McLaren is quoted as saying, “A lot of people don't realize the Bible is a book about immigration. Abraham was an immigrant. Moses was a refugee. The Hebrew scriptures have so much to say about how we should treat immigrants and aliens.”
Given the extent to which McLaren has come out in support of gay marriage, why ought he invoke the Hebrew scripture to justify a position he supports when it is quite obvious he has deliberately tossed aside one of that revelation's most foundational teachings?
If we as twenty-first century believers are to uphold the so-called “Hebrew scriptures” and the cultural milieu flowing from that body of teaching as the ideal to which our own society ought to aspire, perhaps we ought to consider and implement as a totality how the ancient Israelites approached (to borrow a term popular in the sort of postmodern circles those like McLaren love to wallow in) “the Other”.
The Mosaic law did indeed admonish that a degree of hospitality and kindness was to be extended to the alien or stranger that the Hebrews encountered that desired to sojourn in the Land of Israel.
McLaren insists, “So much of Jesus' ministry is defined by his reluctance to play along with the nativist urges of his day.”
Yet while the degrees of separation might no longer be as rigorous now in light of the completion of Christ's work in His death, burial, and resurrection as second member of the triune Godhead, it was Christ Himself as a member of the Triune Godhead that played a role in establishing a number of the Hebrew practices that even those religious conservatives McLaren loves to deride would no longer want to see implemented.
For example, regarding intermarriage with those categorized as foreigners from the perspective of the ancient Hebrews that McLaren apparently is emulating as his ideal, Deuteronomy 7:3 says, “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor shalt his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For thy will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.”
And of these foreigners that came to dwell in Israelite territory, they might have been bestowed a degree of hospitality not known in other cultures of the time.
However, it is doubtful that, if the letter of the Mosaic law had been adhered to, these strangers would have been allowed to continue in their explicitly pagan practices or that the Israelites would have ended up flagellating themselves for existing as a distinct people with their own unique culture and set of customs.
If anything, those wanting to dwell amongst Israel were often required to go through specific rituals to explicitly verify (one might also call the process extreme vetting) that they were in essence without reservation renouncing their former way of life
For example, Deuteronomy 21:11-14 elaborates that of women captured during a war, if an Israelite man wished to marry one of these, he was to shave her head, cut her nails, and to mourn her family for a month before she could be taken as his wife.
Liberals will snap how that seems exceedingly harsh by twenty-first century standards as to border on rape or sexual assault.
Probably so. But in this instance, is it not up to Brian McLaren to explain why he wants to uphold Mosaic law as the ideal upon which to base U.S. immigration policy?
Regarding the literary approach taken in the text, Scripture is believed to teach as much by historical example as by explicit didactic commands.
If so, even though Scripture counsels compassion towards the stranger, it also warns of the dire consequences that result when this is not done from the standpoint of the strength of adhering from morally superior convictions but from a spirit of amalgamative compromise where one god is seen as no different than any other god in the rush for nothing more than a romp in the sack.
Samson's decline can be directly traced to his attraction bordering on the pathological to Philistine women.
Despite serving as the conduit through which numerous warnings promulgated in the Book of Proverbs regarding a variety of strange women, King Solomon himself veered from the path of righteousness in order the placate his numerous heathen brides.
It was in such moments that the Nation of Promise sank to its most debauched depths.
It is doubtful that Ruth celebrated Moabite History Month or did so by demanding that Boaz articulate how wretched he felt for being a Hebrew.
Likewise, it is doubtful Rahab insisted that she be referred to as a Canaanite-Hebrew and that in her presence that events such as the Battle of Jericho were to be recalled only with a downcast face of regret.
God does indeed want Christians to be a beacon of hope in a fallen, troubled, and perishing world.
However, he does not necessarily require us to forsake commonsense to the point where we as individuals and as a distinct world people imperil our own prosperity and very survival in order to do so.
By Frederick Meekins
Friday, February 17
This debate extends back to the earliest days of the Church. Living in the Hellenistic world awash with numerous philosophies, mystery cults, and state religions, the Church quite early on had to address these realities.
Basing their approach on Paul's Mars Hill missionary efforts in Acts 17, early Christians advocating the value of philosophy pointed out that philosophy could be used as a point of contact with the unbeliever when both philosophy and theology concurred on certain matters. For example, Paul was able to win the attention of some Stoics because of the similarities between Christianity and that particular philosophy. Justin Martyr, who went from being a Stoic to an Aristotelian to a Pythagorean to a Platonist, ultimately settled upon being a Christian because he categorized the faith as the true philosophy.
The second approach emphasized its own Pauline justification as well by invoking I Corinthians 1 where in the passage the world's wisdom is categorized as foolishness. Elsewhere, Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” Those adhering to this approach noted how philosophy often bred heresy and unbelief.
A number of Church Fathers favorably disposed towards philosophy harbored questionable beliefs often linked to Platonism. For example, Origen of Alexandria believed that Satan was not beyond redemption since the Devil is a spirit not unlike a run of the mill human being (Gonzalez, 80). Such a perspective was often derived from the Platonic view that God was a nondescript entity that did not create the universe from nothing and did not personally care for individual human beings. Yet God as revealed through Scripture and incarnated in Jesus Christ is known personally by His followers and cares when even the tiniest sparrow falls to the ground.
When viewed from a certain light, both of these approaches relating philosophy and theology possessed merit. Each agreed regarding the centrality of God's revelation of Jesus Christ and on the need for salvation. Those appreciating philosophy were correct in pointing out that all truth is God's truth and that segments of truth can be used to introduce the lost to the source of all truth. Those leery of philosophy were correct in pointing out the danger the discipline would wreak if left unchecked. The descendants of the early Church walking the Earth would do well to consider both of these positions.
I Peter 3:15 commands the Christian to provide an answer for the hope within. Many apologists and theologians interpret this as giving a response to objections and inaccuracies raised by the unbeliever. In the process, the potential exists to bring a substantial number into the faith by highlighting those points of commonality shared between the faith and the most profound insights that human thought have to offer.
Realizing that a percentage of the persecution befalling the Church was the result of inaccurate rumors and incorrect assumptions, the early Apologists set out to set the record straight in a manner that would make a Madison Avenue public relations firm proud. The Apologists answered head on the charges leveled against Christianity and turned them against their pagan adversaries. When accused of orgies and incest through misunderstandings as to the nature of the love feast and the practice of calling fellow believers “brother” or “sister”, the Apologists explained what these terms meant and the pointed out that the pagans themselves committed such debaucheries as exhibited by certain Dionysian rites. (Gonzalez, 50). Accused of atheism for believing in what the Romans considered god and for not believing in the sanctioned state pantheon, Polycarp at his trial was ordered by the judge to vocally proclaim, “Out with atheists.” Polycarp theatrically gestured towards the assembled crowd and declared, “Yes, out with the atheists (Gonzalez, 45).”
Having deflected some of the criticism, the Apologists sought to win Classical civilization by showing that the insights and accomplishments achieved by that particular cultural tradition were not necessarily antithetical to Christian belief in and of itself. Justin Martyr argued that all knowledge stemmed from the universal reason of the Logos manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. Reason was to the Greek what revelation was to the Hebrew in terms of the basis of each culture's epistemological foundation. Justin in fact characterized Christianity as true philosophy.
The Apologists found themselves in an era hostile to the claims of Christianity. Yet they were willing to proclaim the message that the hostile forces arrayed against the Church needed to hear. Though it has not yet come to the same point in our society where believers are being executed for their faith, the contemporary Church needs to emulate this example before such a state of affairs occurs once more.
Over the course of its early history, the Church faced numerous threats. Some of these such as the hostile Roman and Jewish authorities came from without. Those claiming to come from within the Church's own ranks as embodied by the heresies of Gnosticism and Marcionism were as equally dangerous in their own particular manners.
Gnosticism was the name given to a number of related sects claiming they possessed knowledge beyond that held by the Church and the ordinary believer. Gnosticism was in fact a blending of Platonism Judaism, Zoroastrian, and Christian beliefs (Chadwick, 35). A number of these beliefs held by Gnosticism put the movement at odds with the Christian faith.
First among these was that only the spiritual was good and that matter was in fact evil. This teaching manifested itself in two primary ways. Some Gnostics engaged in extreme ascetic practices that ignored basic bodily needs. Other Gnostics invoked their disregard for the material as an excuse for debauched and licentious practices since they insisted bodily actions bore no impact upon one's spiritual well-being.
Beyond this, Gnostics possessed several faulty notions regarding Christ. For example, many Gnostics held that Christ did not actually possess a human body but rather merely appeared to have one. Such a claim would make Christ a liar and thus unworthy of worship.
In Luke 24:39, Christ Himself says, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” If Christ did not have an actual material body, why would He go to such a length in deceiving His associates into thinking He had one? In regards to Gnostic conceptions of salvation, it was not enough to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, one needed to be initiated into the inner circle of hidden knowledge in order to obtain the passwords needed to ascend to higher levels of enlightened existence.
The second heresy faced by the early Church was Marcionism, named for its founder Marcion. Marcion believed that the God of the Old Testament who created the physical world and who was worshiped by the Jews was not God the Father of Jesus (Chadwick, 39). The higher God sent Jesus into the world to correct the evil wrought by the maniacal Jehovah. To do away with physical procreation which nauseated him, Marcion argued that Christ stepped onto the world stage as a fully grown individual.
Marcion then took it upon himself to establish a canon of sacred writings suitable to the teachings of his sect. Having enunciated this antipathy for the Old Testament God, Marcion rejected that particular portion of Scripture. Of what came to be known as the New Testament, Marcion accepted only the Gospel of Luke and Paul's Epistles. Even these documents did not escape his editor's pen as Marcion proceeded to expunge these texts of their Old Testament quotes and allusions which he claimed had been placed there as Jewish propaganda.
Gnosticism and Marcionism presented powerful threats to the fledgling Christian Church. Fortunately, the Church was able to rally around the faith elaborated in Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit to keep these false doctrines at bay.
As the Church grew in number and influence, it was not long before those assembling under its banner or claiming to speak on behalf of its divine founder began promoting and squabbling over differing theological beliefs and interpretations. A number of these were either highly controversial or even blatantly aberrant.
Montanism was a reaction against Marcion and Gnostic theologies. Both Gnosticism and Marcionism sought to undermine the more conventional literal interpretation of Scripture by allegorizing these as many Gnostics had done or by denying the authenticity of such outright as Marcion had done. Each sect also denied essential doctrines such as Christ's virgin birth or physical incarnation.
Montanus along with Prisca and Maximilla were alleged to have prophesied under direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit against as what was classified as “...the Gnostic elimination of the eschatological expectation (Chadwick, 52). “ In many ways, Montanism proved as divisive as its Gnostic and Marcion competition. Many congregations in Asia Minor split, with the church at Thyatira remaining Montanist for nearly a century (Chadwick, 52).
The Montanist movement even appealed to theologians of considerable reputation such as Tertullian. Tertullian was originally attracted to the movement's rigorous ethics and spiritual vigor. However, even he grew weary of the innovation after a fashion because of the movement's failure to deliver on its promise of a new era marked by increased accessibility to the power of the Holy Spirit and its promise of a Christian life surpassing even that enjoyed by the Apostles themselves (Gonzalez, 76).
Such enthusiasm could not be sustained indefinitely. Even if it could, Montanism was not even necessarily that good of an idea since it was itself based upon questionable theological assumptions. For example, Montanists claimed that those doubting the veracity of their prophetic utterances were guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, the greatest offense one could commit in violation of Scripture. Hippolytus pointed out in reference to the Montanist emphasis on supernatural manifestations that these were not the greatest miracle that an individual could experience. But rather that honor was reserved for the occasion of their own individual conversion (Chadwick, 53). The orthodox response to Gnosticism and Marcionism was not to be found in the fits of ecstasy and seeming irrationalism as offered by Montanism but rather in more powerful tools that the Church would find at its disposal.
It would probably not be an exaggeration to say that the average Christian thinks that the Bible plopped down from Heaven complete with leather binding and the words of Christ conveniently highlighted in red. However, the process by which the Church came to accept this gift from God, particular in regards to the books of the New Testament, was a gradual process fraught with a certain degree of controversy along the way.
In response to the Marcion and Gnostic denial of certain Gospels and portions of the Epistles embodied by Marcion's acceptance of only the Gospel of Luke and his removal of Paul's Old Testament quotations as Jewish propaganda, the Church felt that it needed to formalize which writings were binding as divinely inspired. Since Jesus accepted the Old Testament as divinely inspired, so would the Church. Therefore, most of the debate arose surrounding what post-Old Testament writings would be accepted into the corpus of holy writ.
According to Justo Gonzalez in “The Story Of Christianity: The Early Church To The Dawn Of The Reformation”, the first works accepted by the Church were the Gospels. Instead of being discouraged by alleged discrepancies between the exacting details of the Gospels, orthodox Christians pointed out how the considerable agreement between these documents undermined Gnostic claims to the secret knowledge as found in the sect's preferred text the Gospel of Saint Thomas (Gonzalez 63). The next set of works accepted by the Church included the Pauline Epistles and the Book of Acts.
The greatest debate centered around the texts found towards the end of what Christians categorize as the New Testament. Debate ensued over II Peter, Hebrews, James, II John, III John, Jude, and Revelation. Councils were convened at Hipporegiaus in 393, at Carthage in 397, and the Council convened in 419 was under the leadership of none other than Augustine. It was the purpose of these councils to identify which books stood out as having been authored under divine inspiration. However, this process of consensus did not always end the dispute as was the case regarding the Book of Revelation. Though accepted by the third century, its inspiration was questioned after Constantine's conversion because of the book's harsh words regarding tyrannical government and worldliness but this concern subsided by the second half of the fourth century (Gonzalez, 63).
Though the New Testament did not plop down fully formed from Heaven into the hands of Billy Graham or John Paul II, the Church can rest assured as to this work's divine authenticity because even to this very day there are few things to which all Christians agree. For example, Dispensationalists and Covenant theologians seldom agree on the specifics of Scripture's eschatological chronology, but both will agree upon the supremacy of the Lord proclaimed within its pages and the value of each inspired word to the salvation of mankind to this very day.
Faced with challenges such as Gnosticism and Marcionism, the Church formulated several weapons to be used against these kinds of heresies, the New Testament canon being the most powerful tool at the disposal of the Church. However, the Church also possessed a number of other supplementary weapons to be used in a supportive role in the realm of intellectual and spiritual confrontation.
One of these tools used by the Church came to be known as the Apostle's Creed. This symbol of faith was used to identify true believers since those reciting it with understanding were enunciating orthodox doctrine. This creed spoke to the subject of Jesus as God's Son, of the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the historicity of Christ's incarnation under the rule of Pontius Pilate and other foundational Christian doctrines with which assorted competing sects found themselves at variance.
The second used in the Church's arsenal was the Rule of Faith. Very much akin to the Apostle's Creed, the Rule of Faith provided a brief summation of key doctrinal ideas such as those enunciated in the Creed such as the Creation, the Incarnation, and the Ascension. Tertullian found the Rule of Faith easier to use than the Scripture itself since the heretics interpreted Scripture through the lens of their pre-established theological preferences while not accepting the doctrines articulated within the Rule (Chadwick, 45).
The third method employed by the Church to protect the faith was the notion of Apostolic Succession. According to the idea of Apostolic Succession, Christ passed his teaching authority on to the Apostles who in turn handed orthodox teachings over to their successors who eventually handed down this heritage throughout history in an unbroken chain. This idea was formulated to combat Gnostic claims of secret knowledge either passed down outside the established Apostolic channels or lost until rediscovered by the Gnostic adepts of succeeding generations.
Each of these tools used by the Church did possess considerable influence yet could not surpass the power of the New Testament Canon. Both the Apostle's Creed and the Rule of Faith were derived from the teachings of Scripture and were merely tools used to summarize the greater body of work contained within the pages of the New Testament. Apostolic Succession was only of use if those invoking it were willing to adhere to the truth of the Gospel proclaimed by the Apostles and embraced by the early Church. Succeeding centuries would provide the results of what would happen when the traditions of men were given nearly the same weight as the revelation of God.
I Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 list the office and gift of teaching as one of the primary missions within the structure of the Church. It has often been the duty of those taking up the mantle of teaching to fight the doctrinal errors of the day and to prepare their respective congregations to face challenges in the society at large. Two individuals taking up this role in the early church included Irenaeus of Lyon and Tertulian of Carthage.
Iraeneus was born in Asia Minor around AD 130. Eventually Irenaeus migrated to Lyon in southern France where he became presbyter and ultimately bishop after Photinus died under persecution. A disciple of Polycarp, Irenaeus had a pastor's heart in that his greatest interest was in teaching his congregation to live the Christian life and comprehend doctrine. As such, he did not engage in significant philosophical speculation (Gonzalez, 68).
That does not mean, though, that Irenaeus was an intellectual slouch. In “Demonstrations of the Apostolic Faith” and “Against Heresies”, Irenaeus played the role of an ancient Hank Hanegraaff or Norman Geisler by refuting the doctrinal errors of his day --- namely Gnosticism --- and by instructing his readers in essential Christian belief. Taking the shepherd role of a pastor to heart, Irenaeus saw God as a shepherd lovingly leading his flock of humanity to the culmination of history (Gonzalez, 68).
According to Irenaues, humanity was created as children eventually to takeits place as the judges of angels who themselves would help mankind in reaching the point of maturity like a tutor teaching a prince to one day take his place of rulership. Man is also to be taught by God's Word and Holy Spirit. Though history is now marked by sin, there would have been a history anyway (though one not quite as tragic as that now filling the world's libraries). In the drama of history, Israel is the instrument through which God's Word and Spirit reach out to all of mankind with an offer of eternal communion in the form of Jesus Christ.
The second teacher to be discussed is Tertullian of Carthage. In certain respects, Tertullian was the Francis Schaeffer or Ravi Zacharias of his day, utilizing logic and argument to reveal the intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of his opponents. For example, Tertullian used his legal and rhetorical training to expose the inherent inconsistency of Trajan's policy regarding Christianity: don't actively flush out believers but indeed prosecute them if they happen to get caught (Gonzalez, 74).
Tertullian believed Christianity represented all truth and to seek truth apart from it through Classical culture was pointless at best and idolatry at worst. This sentiment was summarized by his famous aphorism asking what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem. Despite his wit and penetrating logic, Tertullian veered from the straight and narrow off into the Montantist movement which often emphasized alleged fits of the Spirit over the application of logic in addressing other rising heresies.
Perhaps Tertullian's greatest contribution was his understanding of the Trinity. His understanding was formulated in response to Modalism (the belief that the names of “Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Spirit” signify the modes or roles of a unitary God rather than distinctive individuals). Tertullian said of the Trinity that the Godhead consists of one substance and three persons with Christ as the Savior being that distinct person possessing two natures (Gonzalez, 77). And to top off this formidable existence of intellectual accomplishment, Tertullian is honored as the father of Western theology for being among the first to use Latin rather than Greek in his writings.
It is often easy to look down upon teachers and apologists for their application of the intellect in approaching the things of the spirit. However, it cannot be denied that these thinkers play a pivotal role in strengthening the faith of believers and in introducing the faith to a hostile and unbelieving world.
By Frederick Meekins
Chadwick, Henry. “The Early Church.” 1967.
Gonzalez, Justo. “The Story Of Christianity (Vol. 1): The Early Church To The Dawn Of The Reformation. Harper Collins Publishers, 1984.
Wednesday, February 15
Monday, February 13
Saturday, February 11
Even if the atheist is convinced as to the insufficiency of their unbelief, there still exists a dizzying array of theistic options available to select from that would end up sending the individual down the same road to Hell if the apologetic task is botched or mishandled. Thus it is imperative to guide the nascent theist into the arms of Christ before they are gobbled up by competing heresies, cults, and world religions.
Since man is a sentient creature that lives amidst the flow of time, the primary revelation and outreach of this Deity would therefore need to consist of some pivotal event occurring in what we know as history. As one of the world's foremost texts detailing the earliest eras of mankind's religious experience, the Bible ought to be one of the first sources considered.
The Bible is perhaps the best-known book in the world and contains within its pages the account of the most widely known person in the world, namely Jesus Christ. Love Him or hate Him, no other figure from ancient times has elicited as much of a response down to this very day. For though many distort His very nature and the claims made by this Nazarene carpenter, scores hoping to sway hearts and minds have often presented themselves as if they had the endorsement of what should have been a figure otherwise forgotten centuries ago.
One of the first objections the atheist that does not want to consider the claims of Christ raises is that the Bible cannot be trusted as an objective factual account. At best, all the Bible can provide is a chronicle of the biases of the early Church and these assumptions not even necessarily from the time when Jesus was supposed to have walked the earth.
In this era of instantaneous global communications, any event that does not have a CNN crew there on the ground to Twitter about it is hardly even considered newsworthy. Thus, it is only natural that, given the nature of the documentary evidence that has come down to us, that the unreflective would cast a leery eye towards it.
According to Geisler and Turek, the gap between the original autographs and the earliest surviving copies is about twenty-five years (226). To put this into perspective, one needs to compare it with other texts coming down to us from the Classical Mediterranean.
For example, there is a gap of 1200 years between the earliest surviving copies of Plato and the originals. Likewise, there is a gap of 1000 years between the earliest surviving works of Julius Caesar and the originals. Yet one does not find many scholars attempting to make careers of respectable renown and adulation by discrediting and throwing into doubt these Greco-Roman pillars of the Western tradition.
The skeptically inclined will likely still not be impressed as to the small gap in time between the earliest surviving copies of a text and the time when the document was believed to have been written if what was written about occurred decades and even centuries before the time in which it was written down. On this point also, however, the New Testament Scriptures in general and the Gospels in particular remain in good standing.
For example, it is believed that most of these works were likely written down in a time frame no later than between AD 62 to 70. Such an assertion is conjectured along the following lines of argumentation.
In Mark 13, Jesus predicts that the Jerusalem Temple will be destroyed before the generation He was speaking to at that time passed away. That prophesy was fulfilled by the Romans in AD 70 in what the historian Josephus categorized as “the greatest war of all time”, a conflict in which the Jews not only lost the focal point of their religious material culture but also tens of thousands of their fellow countrymen (238). Yet not a word of this fulfillment is mentioned in the pages of Scripture even though it could have been one of the greatest "see I told you so" moments in all of history. This causes conservative scholars to conclude that most of the New Testament had likely been written by the time of that event.
Even if the apologist is able to martial a number of these historical technicalities to blunt this particular variety of skepticism, the unbeliever is likely to respond that such details do not validate the content. After all, numerous works can be authenticated to the era in which they are believed to describe and been written in, but are filled either with mild distortions, shushed-over omissions, or even outright lies.
For example, the works of Julius Caesar no doubt cast events in a way to put him in the best possible light and scholars to this day speculate as to what Plato was actually doing during the trial of his beloved Socrates. It is simply an aspect of human nature to obfuscate when we are embarrassed by our responses to certain situations whether we take pen to paper for publication or merely try to get out of a speeding ticket. The Bible, on the other hand, is one of the few books where the warts of its protagonists and even those overseeing the compilation of its documents are put out there for all the world to see. For example, it is believed that Mark penned his Gospel under the oversight of the Apostle Peter. Yet in that very document, Christ chastised Peter as Satan, the very embodiment of evil, and elsewhere in the New Testament this rock upon which Christ is said to have built His church comes across like any other human being as a loudmouth coward that often fails to live up to his bellicose promises.
It is at this level of detail that the Christian is able to present the case that the Gospels are an actual historical account rather than a mythological legend. Geisler and Turek write, “Now think about this: If you were a New Testament writer, would you include these embarrassing details if you were making up a story...Would you depict yourselves as uncaring, bumbling cowards, and the women --- whose testimony wasn’t even admissible in court --- as the brave ones who stood by Jesus and later discovered the empty tomb? Of course not (277).”
Once the credibility of the New Testament eyewitnesses is established, the unbeliever is forced to confront the underlying claims of the Gospel narrative and ultimately of Scripture. Those happen to be nothing less than what happened to Jesus and whom did Jesus claim Himself to be.
The central event in the life of Jesus was nothing less than His resurrection from the dead. No one living in the contemporary technocratic world --- be they devout or atheist alike --- believes that rising from the dead is a common occurrence. Where opinion diverges is on the issue of whether such an event is an impossibility or rather one requiring divine intervention in order to be orchestrated.
Skeptics not wanting to accept the account at face value have over the decades concocted a number of theories as to why the orthodox understanding as to what happened is not entirely accurate. These accuse the parties involved of a variety of shortcomings from a naive innocence, to incompetence, to outright criminality.
The first attempt to explain away the Resurrection is the Swoon Theory. This theory posits that Jesus did not really die on the cross but rather merely lost consciousness. It really does take more faith to believe in this particular explanation than the one provided in the Gospels.
This theory, in fact, does not take the facts into account. For starters, to say Jesus merely passed out or even went into a temporary coma is to seriously underestimate the brutality the Romans had perfected as an art of terror. Even from non-Christian disciplines such as contemporary archaeology and ancient sources such as Quintilian, we learn about practices such as plunging a spear into the heart to make sure that the victim was really dead (304).
Even if the Romans had botched the job in failing to kill Jesus (as we all know of instances where government employees have been less than dutiful), Jesus would have been in no physical shape to accomplish what the Gospels said He did following the Crucifixion. Even Jack Bauer could not have pulled it off as it must be remembered anyone in such a condition would have had their body broken beyond repair.
The following makes the Swoon Theory downright impossible. Jesus would have been embalmed with nearly 75 pounds of spices and bandages (305). To affect an escape, a man critically injured would have not only had to remove these, but also to remove the two-ton stone closing the tomb as well as take on the Roman soldiers. Had such a scenario transpired, Geisler and Turek humorously quip, "Even if he could get out of the tomb and past the Roman guards, Jesus would have been a battered...man whom the disciples would pity, not worship They'd say, 'You may be alive, but you're certainly not risen. Let's get you to a doctor' (305)."
For starters, to accuse the Disciples of stealing the body is to ignore that all but one of Christ's most loyal Apostles were believed to have died violent martyrs’ deaths and the one that did not was essentially exiled on a desolate island. While history and the evening news is replete with examples of those that give their lives for things that are ultimately proven to be falsehoods, seldom will someone give their life willingly for what they themselves know to be a lie. For example, would someone like Peter, whose survival instinct was so strong that he ended up denying his beloved Jesus multiple times, have willingly allowed himself to be crucified upside down, if legends are to be believed, if he knew that the account of the Resurrection was merely a fabrication?
Ironically, as scholars eager to tear down the traditional intellectual structures of Western civilization in favor of ones more socialistic in orientation are often fond of pointing out in their preferred narrative of Jesus as a merely human Apocalyptic revolutionary, the Jerusalem and Greater Palestine of that day were powder kegs set to go off in terms of violence at any moment. No on in authority --- be they Jewish religious leaders, the Herodians holding tenuous political power, or the occupying Roman military forces --- would have allowed news of a Resurrected Jesus to continue to spread if they could have found a plausible grave robber on which to pin the blame.
One theory that seeks to deny the truth of the Resurrection while upholding the good but somewhat naive natures of Christ's disciples is the Hallucination Theory (302). According to this hypothesis, those that loved Jesus were so distraught with grief that Jesus merely appeared to them in their own minds as part of a mental breakdown.
While this might be a valid line of argumentation if there were only one or two followers stepping forward to claim they had seen the risen Christ, such was not the case. Bible scholars and theologians such as Norman Geisler point out that not only did 500 see Christ after the Resurrection took place but some of these interactions were tactilely tangible such as when Thomas touched our Lord’s wounds. Hallucinations would not be a communal experience but rather something highly individualized.
Once the unbeliever has been presented with evidence attesting to Christ’s resurrection, they will have to pay attention to his claims and the claims made about Him for no other reason than that someone having been risen from the dead needs to be considered seriously because of having accomplished something so outside the historical norm. In the attempt to accommodate a place for Jesus somewhere in their worldview, many people as well as most religions will concede that Jesus was a very good man but certainly not God or God’s only Begotten Son. Such a position may be even more intellectually disingenuous and self-deluding than the brand of atheism espoused by the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche. To his credit, at least this crazed syphilitic was consistent in heaping condemnation on both God and Christ.
One must either embrace Jesus as Savior, Lord, and God or one cannot embrace Him at all. Perhaps the greatest summation of this idea was formulated by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity when he said, “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be a lunatic --- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg --- or else he would be the Devil of Hell (Geisler, 346).”
The astute unbeliever then might point out that what was it exactly that Jesus said since the elaborate Christologies that developed could be accretions that attached themselves to the narrative at a later date and might not be actual components of the original texts. After all, it is common for Christians in this hypersensitive era to point out that not everything done throughout history in the name of Jesus would necessarily be approved of by Jesus. Dan Brown, because of his blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, will never have to work another day in his life, having capitalized on the assumption in the popular culture that the Jesus of orthodoxy presented to the ecclesiastical world might not exactly be the Jesus of raw history.
The idea that Jesus never claimed to be deity is clearly refuted by His own words recorded in the pages of Scripture. There are numerous instances where Jesus clearly addresses the matter to both the accepting and critical alike.
For example, in John 8, Jesus says, "before Abraham was, I AM." This is in fact a name of God the Lord first reveals to Moses when He imparted to Moses instructions as to what Moses was supposed to say on behalf of the Israelites. The title attests to God being self-existent and dependent on no one; in other words, the Unmoved Mover to formulate the concept in a manner preferable to those more familiar with the terminology of Aristotle and Aquinas.
In accounts of those that already believed in Jesus or would come to believe in Jesus, Jesus asked them whom they thought He was. For example, after Thomas examined the scars of the resurrected Jesus, upon resolving his initial skepticism, Thomas declared Jesus to be his Lord and his God. And when Peter was asked by Jesus who he thought Jesus was, Peter responded in Mark 16:16, "Thou art the Christ."
In neither of these instances did Jesus refute the claims. And in the case of Peter, Jesus said, "thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." Though theologians might debate as to whether Jesus meant the faith and devotion of Peter or rather the divinity of Christ upon which all other assumptions of the faith flow, that is not the point of this particular exposition.
The road to embracing the Christian faith can be a long and arduous journey. The climate in which we find ourselves is of little assistance in alleviating the doubts that arise within ourselves as fallen creatures wanting to embrace our own sinful desires as well as elaborate systems of thought external to ourselves that have been crafted in the attempt to justify refusal to accept the one solution capable of rescuing man from his Hell-bound situation. It is, thus, the purpose of Apologetics to assure the skeptic that Christianity is a faith founded on fact and that it is atheism which stretches the bounds of reason beyond belief.
By Frederick Meekins
Thursday, February 9
Wednesday, February 8
Tuesday, February 7
Monday, February 6
Saturday, February 4
These are none other than time and chance. With no conscious hand guiding the cosmos as posited in theism, everything we see around us today is the result of fortuitous confluences; in other words, by blind random luck over vast eons of time.
Even with vast amounts of time, the atheistic evolutionist must account for how everything is just so to sustain the universe as demonstrated by the Anthropic Constants. Theists point out it defies probability for the universe we experience today to have arisen on its own since such a vast number of fortuitous coincidences to occur in such a manner is not likely.
Rather than admit the need for a God, a number of atheists reach into the conceptual “black hole” and pull out what has to be a last ditch explanation. According to the Multiple Universe Theory, the probability of something happening should not be viewed as a statistical barrier to it occurring since parallel realities have formed where everything that could possibly happen has happened (107-108).
It is time to invoke the Geisler/Turek doctrine of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist”. Isn’t it just easier to admit that God exists?
Admittedly, over the years, Multiple Universe Theory has led to some interesting science fiction such as the episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk met an evil version of the Enterprise crew with a Mr. Spock that Dr. McCoy admitted looked like a pirate. However, in the end even DC Comics found the concept of divergent parallel realities very confusing with multiplying Batmen, for instance, that writers often yanked readers around by the chain in terms of plotlines by invoking as a defense as to whether or not the Caped Crusader’s famed insignia had a yellow oval around it at the time or not. Editors finally put a stop to the implausibility over two decades ago through the monumental “Crisis On Infinite Earths” miniseries. Its about time those claiming to be grounded in the real world did the same.
Though they attempt to pass themselves off as detached and dispassionate seekers of truth, the proponents of scientism often have less than scientific reasons for undermining the credibility of theism. For example, it has been claimed that when he was asked by Merv Griffin why he believed in Darwinism, famed evolutionist Julian Huxley is said to have responded, “The reason we accepted Darwinism even without proof is because we didn’t want God to interfere with our sexual mores (163).”
I will be the first to admit that more than one Evangelical scholar has cited the recall of D. James Kennedy as the source of this quote (including Geisler and Turek) rather than a more irrefutable reference such as a transcript of the broadcast. As such, academic nitpickers will likely snip at it with their feigned sophistication and pretension as if their own claims don’t already rest on a house of cards.
However, Huxley’s alleged mindset is just as pervasive among evolution's lesser luminaries as well. Ron Carlson, author of classic apologetics texts such as “Fast Facts On False Teaching”, relates an incident where at an after-lecture dinner a biology professor admitted that, while what Carlson had to say made considerable sense, he himself held a position disturbingly similar to what Huxley is said to have revealed on national TV. The professor said, "I mean if Darwinism is true --- there is no God and we all evolved from slimy green algae --- then I can sleep with whomever I want. In Darwinism, there is no moral accountability (163)."
Many will no doubt be shocked by this claim since most academics look like they can barely get dates much less be chronic bed-hoppers though Bertand Russell certainly went through a number of marriages and liaisons for someone looking so disheveled. However, its bluntness is absolutely honest. For if atheism was true and God did not exist, then nothing is right and nothing ultimately wrong.
Geisler and Turek tackle this unsettling reality in the chapter titled “Mother Teressa vs. Hitler” since these two figures epitomize the dichotomies of good and evil to the contemporary popular mind. The authors make the following argument: “(1) Every law has a law giver. (2) There is a Moral Law. (3) Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver (171).”
Concepts such as justice, fairness, and rights are ultimately predicated on the foundation of there being a Law Giver unchanging in His nature. For if there is no consciousness existing above mankind and the institutions of the species, whatever those institutions decide becomes by definition the good and the right. As has been said, democracy with no higher check placed upon it is a group of 100 where 51 men vote to rape 49 women.
The sensitivities of the delicate in this culture that just about goes to ridiculous extremes to curry favor with the self-appointed mouthpieces of certain favored demographics might be shocked by such a statement. However, it is an honest assessment if the world described by atheism was the most accurate.
If there is no intelligence existing above and transcendent to the physio-social realm, the right or rather the operationally convenient becomes whatever those holding power over a given territory say it is. Geisler and Turek highlight a few of these startling implications.
For starters, if there is no divine moral law existing about men and nations, there would be no human rights. In an atheistic world, no authority exists above the government; and since it is the final word, whatever it says is by definition proper. If its leaders want the consent of the governed, that is fine and so is rounding up all the Jews and putting them in gas ovens if that is what authorities think is necessary to secure the survival and prosperity of the nation.
The fact that a wide array of individuals from Rosa Parks to Gandhi to Alexander Solzhenitsyn have spoken out against the shortcomings of the nations and times in which lived they is itself proof that a moral law exists. Figures such as these are remembered largely in history for marshaling reason and and argumentation on behalf of their respective causes rather than armed force.
Geisler and Turek write, "Without a Moral Law, there would be nothing objectively wrong with Christians...forcibly imposing their religion on atheists. There would be nothing wrong with outlawing atheism, confiscating the property of atheists, and giving it to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (181)." These authors conclude, "Unless atheists claim that there is a moral law [that] condones or condemns...then their positions are nothing more than their own subjective preferences (181)."
by Frederick Meekins
Bibliography: Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. “I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.”