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Five reasons to believe Jesus rose from the dead

Five Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead Pt. 1: The Empty Tomb – Adam4d.com

There an excellent christian web-comic written by Adam Ford called adam4d.com. He regularly posts humorous web-comics about apologetics and theology, and his latest strip summarizes 5 reasons to believe Jesus rose from the dead. As we have just finished celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, it seems appropriate to ruminate upon the evidence that supports Jesus’ historical resurrection.

Because there are five reasons, I will post a different reason each day. The way Adam has created the comic means that some days will overlap, meaning you can get a taster for what is coming the next day!

If you like this comic, please check out adam4d.com, and even consider supporting Adam in what he is doing.

Enjoy!

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mars steps

Diamond in the rough – Why Christianity is unique

In my previous post, we explored the falsifiability (or lack thereof) of some world religions. Here we will dive straight into the credentials of my personal favourite – Christianity.

We left off with you asking a question – How is the Christian religion any different from the others? Wasn’t Christianity founded by a solitary, subjective figure ? Didn’t Jesus claim to hear directly from ‘The Father’? Isn’t he also circularly impervious to the attacks of the enemy?

Yes, Christianity is founded on one man, claiming to be God. And yes, he does command your trust by virtue of him being God and owning you.  So far, so circular. The differences become clear when you take a look at the biblical authors approach to this issue. Rather than falling back on their divine authority and declaring “Believe, because I said so”, like Muhammad, the Buddha, and Joseph Smith, the biblical authors say, “Take a look for yourself”. Christianity invites investigation.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul addresses the bodily resurrection of Jesus to a culture steeped in pagan philosophy and mythology. See Paul’s words below:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for the 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. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)

Paul is reminding the Corinthian church of the basic theological foundation that he lay when he was ministering in Corinth – in fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was murdered, buried, and resurrected to claim a people for himself. The Corinthians didn’t have hearsay and rumours to go on with these claims, but actual witnesses of the events. While some of them had fallen asleep (died), others lived and continued to shine as beacons of testimony. Paul’s appeal to eyewitnesses to solidify the flesh-and-blood resurrection of Jesus from the tomb mirrors that of the Gospel writers. Frequently in their accounts, names of seemingly inconsequential people are given to add some extra oomph to the eyewitness accounts. To put it another way – “If you don’t believe me, go ask this guy.”

Paul goes a step further in the following section of his letter:

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. 

If Christ has not been raised, you faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

If in Christ we have hope for this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-15, 17, 19)

Let me try to put this in an even more provocative way – if Christ was not raised from the dead, then Christianity is pointless. Did you hear that? You are of all people most to be pitied if you have given your life for a cause still six feet under. If you are of the persuasion who thinks that even if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the Christian life is still worth living because of the “family values and strong morals” it breeds, go for it. But don’t call it Christianity. As for me, I am going to eat, drink (a lot), and be merry, for tomorrow I die.

By staking the the future of the Christian religion on an historical event that did not happen in a corner, the biblical authors willingly opened themselves up to scrutiny in a way that no other religion has or ever will. While the followers of Muhammad, Buddha, and Joseph Smith point to their leaders’ enlightened, mystical authority as unquestionable proof, the Christian bases their Leader’s authority by pointing to an empty tomb and saying, “Take a look for yourself”

Did Jesus Believe in Divine Punishment?

Paul Copan reviews Eric Seibert’s The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy:

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“In OT prophetic fashion, Jesus regularly issues denouncements and threats of judgment. He routinely pronounces temporal judgment on Jerusalem, which would come at the hands of Rome in AD 70. He also assumes Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon had been divinely judged, which serves a springboard for condemning Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum in Matthew 11:21-24 (cf. Matt. 10:15). Notice these warnings of judgment immediately precede Jesus’ self-description as gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:28-30)! Jesus likewise takes for granted divine judgment in Noah’s day (Matt. 24:37-39). And in a symbolic act, an enraged Jesus makes a whip to drive out moneychangers from the temple (John 2:15). Does this act not have a touch of the kind of “violence” Seibert condemns? What of Jesus’ indictment of stumbling blocks who should have a millstone tied around their necks and be drowned (Matt. 18:6)? Christ also threatens the “wretched” vinegrowers (Israel’s leaders) with judgment (Matt. 21:41; Mark 12:9)—just as he does the Nicolaitans and “Jezebel” in Revelation (Rev. 2:16, 21-23). Unlike Seibert, Jesus clearly believes in the appropriateness of temporal divine punishment.

…[W]hat about the rest of the NT? Paul references severe temporal punishments on Israel as an example to us (1 Cor. 10)—some Israelites laid low, others destroyed by serpents, others by “the destroyer.” He acknowledges the judgment of sickness and even death because of the abuse of the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:30). Stephen matter-of-factly mentions nations dispossessed by Joshua (Acts 7:11). Paul says Israel “overthrew” the seven nations of Canaan (Acts 13:19). The author of Hebrews speaks of the faith of those who “conquered kingdoms,” “became mighty in war,” and “put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11:33-34). He also commends Noah and Abraham for their faith (Heb. 11:7, 17)—the very settings of “virtuous violence” Seibert rejects. And what about the temporal judgments—and final judgment—on unbelievers mentioned throughout Revelation? Jesus and the NT writers don’t actually read the OT the way Seibert thinks they should. Contrary to the advice Seibert gives about reading carefully and critically, he himself glosses over clear pronouncements (or descriptions) of divine judgment by both Jesus and the NT authors. Seibert’s approach includes downplaying or even denying the historicity of numerous OT events as well as clear statements by Jesus because of their connection to divine wrath. He claims only a “few cases” are historical events essential to our faith (Disturbing Divine Behavior, 120).

However, imposing this non-violent grid on the words and actions of God/Jesus requires significant hermeneutical gymnastics—an approach that creates an interpretive straitjacket for Seibert. Unlike various other Christian pacifists, Seibert’s absolute pacifism requires him to dismiss or ignore Jesus’ own authoritative statements, vast tracts of Scripture pertaining to divine judgment (e.g., the prophetic books, Revelation), and sections of Scripture where force—even of a lethal nature—is warranted. These include God’s ordaining the minister of the state to bear the “sword” (Rom. 13:4) or Paul’s benefiting from military force when his life is under threat (Acts 23; cf. Luke 3:14). What about Peter who strikes down Ananias and Sapphira, who have lied to God (Acts 5)? What of Paul who blinds Elymas (Acts 13)? Seibert calls us to read the Scriptures discerningly, but his own hermeneutic promotes undiscerning selectivity that ignores the very stance of the NT and Jesus himself.

“Behold, the kindness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22). Seibert emphasizes God’s kindness but, in Marcion-like fashion, denies God’s severity—essentially expunging many “divine judgment and wrath” texts from his “non-violent canon.” Even the chief OT text describing God as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exod. 34:6) is immediately followed by these words: “But he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Exod. 34:7; cf. Exod. 20:6). Moreover, the prophet Habakkuk pleads with God in light of pending judgment on Judah: “in wrath, remember mercy” (3:2). Seibert is right to remember divine mercy, but wrong to fail to acknowledge divine wrath. Despite his attempts to correct the church’s thinking about violence in Scripture, Seibert himself often does violence to Scripture in the process.”[/pk_box]

Read the whole thing here.

 

New Book: Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright

Whatever your views on his theology, it’s hard to deny the fact that N.T. Wright presents theology in a gripping and fascinating way. Whether he is addressing the nature of heaven in Surprised by Hope or the attractiveness of the Christian life in Simply Christian, Wright finds it impossible to write a boring sentence. One of the most influential and prolific New Testament scholars of our day, the Anglican theologian is gifted at distilling oceans of Biblical scholarship into vivid, clear, and understandable prose. His latest book Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, brings all that technical expertise to bear in presenting a compelling new picture of who Jesus was and how we should relate to him today.

Wright maintains that many Christians have minimized and misunderstood Jesus’ story. As a result, the kingdom of God has been reduced to private piety, the victory of the cross to comfort for the conscience, and Easter to a happy, escapist ending after a sad, dark tale. While piety, conscience, and ultimate happiness are important, Wright argues these things are not nearly as important as Jesus himself. In Simply Jesus, Wright takes us back to the Gospels and to Jesus’s public career, his accomplishments, his death, resurrection and ascension. In investigating these events and their meaning, Wright intends to reveal a Jesus who is larger, more disturbing, and more urgent than we ever imagined.

The goal of Simply Jesus is to challenge the faith of Christians and invite them to ponder afresh what “following Jesus” might entail. Wright maintains that the identity of Jesus is hugely important in every area – not only our personal lives and our religion, but also in political life and human endeavors such as worldview, culture, justice, beauty, ecology, friendship, scholarship, and sex. He writes:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center” text_align=”left”]”Christian worship declares that Jesus is Lord and that therefore, by strong implication, nobody else is. What’s more, it doesn’t just declare it as something to be believed, like the fact that the sun is hot or the sea wet. It commits the worshipper to allegiance, to following this Jesus, to being shaped and directed by him. Worshipping the God we see in Jesus orients our whole being, our imagination, our will, our hopes, and our fears away from the world where Mars, Mammon, and Aphrodite (violence, money, and sex) make absolute demands and punish anyone who resists. It orients us instead to a world in which love is stronger than death, the poor are promised the kingdom, and chastity (whether married or single) reflects the holiness and faithfulness of God himself. Acclaiming Jesus as Lord plants a flag that supersedes the flags of the nations, however so “free” or “democratic” they may be. It challenges both the tyrants who think they are, in effect, divine and the “secular democracies” that have effectively become, if not divine, at least ecclesial: that is, communities that are trying to do and be what the church was supposed to do and be, but without recourse to the one who sustains the church’s life. Worship creates—or should create, if it is allowed to be truly itself—a community that marches to a different beat, that keeps in step with a different Lord.”[/pk_box]

The church has a desperate need for Bible scholars who are able to retell the story of Jesus in a way that rouses hearts and quickens consciences where they have become dull to the good news. No doubt there will be some quibbles with Wright’s portrait and we may not agree with how he frames every theological idea, but that said, Simply Jesus looks to be a good book to help readers rediscover Jesus and a life in which “following Jesus” makes sense.

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters is available from Amazon and Christianbook.com.

We Should Be Biblicists in the Same Way Jesus Was

Kevin DeYoung describes Jesus’ view of Scripture:

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  • He believed that the entire Old Testament came from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).
  • He believed that for Scripture to say something was the same as God speaking (Matt. 19:4-5).
  • He believed the inspiration of Scripture went down to the individual words (John 10:30).
  • He believed that Scripture cannot fail, cannot be wrong, and by implication cannot ultimately contradict itself (John 10:35).
  • He believed that the apostolic teaching – what is now preserved in the words of the New Testament – would be divinely inspired by the Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-15).
  • He settled disputes on all kinds of matters, from Christological to ethical to political, by appealing to Scripture, often “prooftexting” from a single verse (see Matt. 41-10; 19:1-7; 22:32).
  • He believed there were correct interpretations to Scripture that others should recognize even in the midst of interpretive pluralism (Matt. 5:21-48; 22:29).

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For further reading on the topic, John Wenham’s Christ and the Bible (Third Edition, 2009) is an excellent place to start.

Debunking the Zeitgeist Movie

Jonathan McLatchie addresses the internet documentary’s claim that Jesus is a mythological amalgamation of ancient pagan deities.

Did God Change at the Incarnation?

James Anderson:

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[pk_image image=”” title=”” w=”60″ image_style=”square” h=”0″ align=”left” icon=”” action=”” link=”” link_target=”_self” lightbox_gallery_id=””]The puzzle can be stated as follows:

  1. Classical theism holds that God does not change; indeed, God cannot change, because he transcends time altogether.
  2. Scripture likewise teaches that God does not change (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17).
  3. Scripture also teaches that God the Son “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14); but becoming involves a change from one state (not being human) to another (being human).
  4. Scripture further teaches that God the Son died and rose again (Rom. 1:4); this also entails a change from one state (being dead) to another (being alive).
  5. So the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Resurrection seem to contradict the doctrines of divine immutability and timelessness. [/pk_box]

Read his answer here.

Understanding the life of Jesus and what it means for us

In this video, Pastor Tim Keller talks about the story of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and the cosmic, historical, and personal implications for each of us.

Christmas Wishes from Thinking Matters

On behalf of Dominic, Stuart, myself and the rest of our contributors, I’d like to wish all our readers a Happy Christmas. Thanks for your continued readership, participation, and support this year – we’ve had a great time writing and interacting on the blog and look forward to serving you through the New Year.

As you celebrate this wonderful day, may you take the the opportunity to open your minds and hearts to the great and glorious news of the Gospel: the King who became not just a man but a servant, and took not just a manger, but a cross so that treasonous, stubborn, rebels might become sons and co-heirs with Him. Let us humble ourselves in gratitude and together seek to prove the wonders of Jesus’ love far as the curse is found.

Video from the Saddleback Apologetics Weekend

Last weekend, the Saddleback Church in Southern California hosted its second annual apologetics weekend. Hosted by pastor Rick Warren, the conference presented several scholars and pastors to discuss the life and person of Jesus Christ. At this time of the year when life seems to get more crowded with activity, these talks offer a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the meaning of Christmas and the God who took on flesh, the incarnate Christ.

If you’re having trouble accessing the links below, you can also get the lectures on iTunes.

Jesus Before He Was Born
Chris Wright (Langham Partnership’s International Director and author of The Mission of God)
Audio| Video

The Radical Message of Jesus
Scott McKnight (Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University)
Audio | Video


The Shocking Life of Jesus

Peter Kreeft (professor of philosophy at Boston College)
Audio | Video

Jesus’ Miraculous Death and Resurrection
Greg Koukl (adjunct professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University and president of Stand to Reason)
Audio | Video

The Jesus Left Behind – The Body of Christ
Philip Yancey (editor-at-large for Christianity Today and popular Christian author)
Audio | Video

HT: Brian Auten

The Mystery that Makes Sense of Everything

“The real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie here [in the atonement, the resurrection, or the Gospel miracles] at all.  It lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man — that the second person of the Godhead became the “second man” (1 Cor 15:47). . . the second representative head of the race, and that he took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as he was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one — the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and the most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. “The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.

…It is from misbelief, or at least inadequate belief, about the Incarnation that difficulties at other points in the gospel story usually spring. But once the Incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve.

If Jesus had been no more than a very remarkable, godly man, the difficulties in believing what the New Testament tells us about his life and work would be truly mountainous. But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father’s agent in creation, “through whom also he made the worlds” (Heb 1:2 RV), it is no wonder if fresh acts of creative power marked his coming into this world, and his life in it, and his exit from it. It is not strange that he, the Author of life, should rise from the dead. If he was truly God the Son, it is much more startling that he should die than that he should rise again.

‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies,’ wrote Wesley; but there is no comparable mystery in the Immortal’s resurrection. And if the immortal Son of God did really submit to taste death, it is not strange that such a death should have saving significance for a doomed race. Once we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of this; it is all a piece and hangs together completely. The Incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.”

J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993 – 20th-Anniversary Edition), Pages 53-54.

Vernon C. Grounds on Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine, than all the philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of the school, He spoke words of life such as were never spoken before, nor since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, works of art, learned volumes, and sweet songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world, and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe.

Vernon C. Grounds, The Reason For Our Hope (Chicago: Moody, 1945), p. 40.