Monday, January 31, 2011

Historical Reliability of the Gospels #2

Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions
 The following is an outline of what I consider to be the key sections of an apologetic for the trustworthiness of the Gospels by Kenneth Samples from his book, Without a Doubt.  I encourage you to read this book.  It answers 20 difficult questions of the Christian faith.  

Chapter 7:Important Information Part II

Are the Gospels Myth or Fact?

1.       The Gospels and the external sources that support them were written so closely to the events that they historically record; there isn’t enough time available for myths to have crept into their accounts.  

·         Jesus’ death – 30 to 33 AD
·         The Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, and Luke) – existed by the early 60’s
·         This evidenced by the lack of important events that occurred later, such as the destruction of the Temple (70 AD), martyrdom of Paul, James, or Peter, or persecution under Nero.  

2.       The Gospels as myths is only plausible if several generations existed in-between the death of Jesus and the time they were written down. 

·         Legends can’t replace facts so long as eyewitnesses remain alive. 

3.       The Apostles recognized the difference between myth and fact and because of this they made efforts to make claim that what they were writing as fact!

·         Luke 1:1-4
·         John 19:35
·         1 Cor 15:3-8
·         The Gospels are in the canon because they emerged from within the apostolic circle.

4.       There were other witnesses, both friend and foe, who could have refuted false claims.  Nothing refutes or contradicts the claims of the Gospels.  The Apostles even called upon the testimony of others to be checked (Acts 2:22, Acts 26:25-27)

5.       The Gospels are not written like Greek mythology. 

·         The miracles in Greek mythology are bizarre and frivolous
·         The miracles of Christ are always put into context of His ministry!

6.       The arguments for rejecting the Gospel claims are circular.

·         The Gospels can’t be true, because they say Jesus is God.  Miracles are impossible!
·         The Gospels must be rejected as myth because of this.
·         The Gospels are myths because of miracles!
·         And we’ve come full circle.  


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Seeing God?

We had a message about the sinfulness and dangers of horoscopes, Ouija boards, palm-reading, physics, and the like in chapel this week.  It was a tag-teamed message, and one of the teachers speaking grew up in Venezuela where people commonly participated in such occultist fortune-telling practices.  He shared how such activities "open the door" to spiritual world and how he and his family experienced this on several occasions ministering to people who were demon-possessed or demon-oppressed by such dabbling in the occult.  

Some students after chapel shared that they didn't believe in any of that non-sense.  Their reason was that they hadn't seen it or experienced it themselves!  Their basis of truth is purely subjective.  

Isn't that the case with a lot of people and God.  I can't believe in a God I can't see.  If he really wanted me to believe he'd make it more clear.  Just like the apostle Thomas - I need to see, I need to touch.  

But can you see gravity?  Can you see magnetic fields?  Can you see electricity flowing through a wire?  Can you see the wind?  Can you musical notes?  No!  You can see their effects though.  This is true with God.  We can't see him, but we know he exists through his creation.  

Not everything in life can be experienced by all five senses.  It's a big error to put almighty God into a certain category that requires him to be seen to be real.  

However, in the person of Jesus Christ, God took on flesh and he was seen and touched.  God revealed himself and did make himself known in history through Jesus.  We of course haven't seen him in the 21st century, but we can investigate the truth claims about Jesus found in the Bible just as we would any other truth claims from other texts concerning historical figures in ancient history.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Historical Reliability of the Gospels #1

Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions
Click image to learn more about Without a Doubt.
 Without a Doubt by Kenneth Samples

Key Points from Chapter 7 Part 1: Historical Reliability of The Gospels

The Christian faith depends on the historical nature and accuracy of the unique claims, character, and credentials of Jesus Christ! – Page 91

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-18. Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Christ. 

Support for the Historical Reliability of the Gospels

1.      The New Testament documents are the best attested documents of antiquity in terms of total number of manuscripts. 

·         Check out this website:
·         5,000 individual Greek Manuscripts
·         8,000 copies of the Latin vulgate
·         Without these there are still thousands of manuscripts from commentaries and sermons that can be used to piece together the entire New Testament and these are from the early church fathers in the second to fifth centuries. – Page 92
·         Textual criticism exists because of the Bible.

2.       The interval of time between the date of the original authorship and the date of the earliest New Testament manuscript copies is extremely short.
 T   The historic statements made about Jesus by ancient non-Christian authors for the most part matches well with the Gospel record. 

·         He was a provocative teacher, a wise and virtuous man from the region of Judea.
·         He reportedly performed miracles and made prophetic claims.
·         The Jewish leaders condemned him for acts of sorcery and apostasy.
·         He was crucified by Pontius Pilate at the time of the Jewish Passover, and during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.
·         Jesus’ followers reported that he had risen from the dead.
·         The Christian faith spread to Rome were the Christians were persecuted and tried for crimes.
·         First-century Christians worshipped Jesus Christ as God and celebrated the Eucharist in their services.
·         Even though these Romans ridiculed the Christians as being morally weak, they were often times known for their courage and virtue. 

4.       The authors of the four Gospels were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life themselves, or were closely associated with the eyewitnesses.  

John 19:1-4
1 John 1:1-2
Luke 1:1-4
Galatians 1:11-12
2 Peter 1:16

5.       The Gospel writers intended to convey factual and historical information and the writings of their historical content have been confirmed to a significant degree.

6.       The apostles’ testimony becomes more credible when it is considered that they had nothing to gain from it and everything to lose.  

·         They received no monetary reward or power from their message.
·         They received only beatings, imprisonment, and death.
·         Adversaries could have exposed their message as a lie, but they couldn’t. 
·         We can trust their message because they had no motif to lie or deceive.
·         If they did lie and deceive they violated everything Jesus taught about honesty and truth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Apologetics Mp3 - Refuting Zeitgeist

I copied the following text and image from Apologetics 315:

If you have heard of or watched the online conspiracy-theory movie Zeitgeist, then this audio file may be helpful in dissecting just how deceptive and incorrect it is. In this audio file, Glenn Peoples unpacks and refutes many of the movie's false claims and errors. A good audio file to point people to who may have questions. This audio is from Glenn's "Say Hello to My Little Friend" podcast, found here. Blog here.

Full MP3 Audio here (55 min)


In the film Zeitgeist, the narrator claims that there are many gods before Jesus who were "solo Messiahs" who died and rose again on the third day.  One such god was the Son god of Egypt.  Many people are making such assertions that Christians simply copied the myths of previous gods and applied them to Jesus. 

I saw one such argument made by Dr. Bart Erhman in a debate against Dr. William Lane Craig.  Sadly Bart didn't having any quotes from other qualified men to back up this claim, and People's points out in this audio file that the narrator of Zeitgeist, never quotes anyone and never interviews any historians.  He simply throws out claims and they are never supported by research.  The narrator of Zeitgeist also dismisses any and all sources for the historical Jesus by non-Christians in and near the first century in a few sentences.  In this audio Glenn Peoples does a good job of playing clips from Zeitgeist and then provides sound refutation to those Zeitgeist bits. 

I'd recommend this audio clip for your commute to work.  I don't think you could find something better to listen to on Christian talk radio, besides the Frank Pastore Show, of course.

Full MP3 Audio here (55 min)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I Have Learned from Henry Rollins #1

I firmly believe that Christians should know the people they are sharing their faith with, and by this, I don't mean a solid relationship is necessary.  I mean that Christians should have a clue about the person's cultural background, hobbies, interests, and enjoyments.  Paul in Acts 17, mingled in the marketplace and he learned and observed the people of Athens.  When they asked him to share his beliefs on the resurrection, he was able to connect with some of them by quoting their own poets, making references to a good aspect of their current worship, and also was able to directly address their current philosophy.  

I love that Paul didn't just quote the Bible with the men of Athens.  In fact, he didn't quote the Bible at all.  He just quoted their own poets!  

I love to watch movies and listen to music to hear the poets of the world, to learn from them, and inevitably I get something back from them that actually benefits my Christian faith.  I also learn more about how to communicate with others my beliefs through the current culture. 

Henry Rollins - Photo taken from here.

A favorite singer of mine (if you'd call him that, I do, and he's so much more btw, such as an author, actor, and TV host), Henry Rollins, has taught me a lot.  He has a heart for helping others and he is also brutally honest, and calls things the way he sees them.  I want to share with you some of what I have learned from Henry which I like to use when sharing my Christian faith with others.  

From an album he released called, Weighting, comes the following lyrics from "Miles Jam #3":

I want to see all the straight lines go crooked
So I know they’re real
I want to see you screw up
So I know you’re real
I want to see you bleed
So I know you’re there
I want to see you fall
So I know you’re human
Cause everything is too slick, too bright
The lines are too straight
It’s too right
Nothing ever fails
I need you to remind me of your mortality
I need you to remind me of my mortality
I want to see the colors fade
I want to see the shine fall away
I want to see a mistake
I want to see a mistake
I want to see a great fault or catastrophe
Because it’s too straight, it’s too slick, it’s too right
I want to see the cracks
I want to see the fault lines
I’m tired of hearing the word causality
They should just say . . . death.
I’m tired of hearing the word virus
They should just say. . . plague.
Because the life’s are too smooth too easy.
They don’t use the word failure enough
Cause everything’s not alright, and I’m tired of being strung along.
And in my weaker moments, I almost believe it. 

What I love from these lyrics is the call to truth.  Things in this life are not peachy, perfect!  Humanity makes an attempt at hiding the pain, problems, suffering, and death.  Individuals make an attempt to appear perfect, so they can be accepted and loved by all!  We wear mask to conceal our flaws.  And you are not allowed to point out the faults, because then you'd be the problem.  Especially, in today's politically correct environment, no one is a failure anymore.  

Rollins, an atheist (from all that I have heard and read from his own words), sees through the facade and calls for honesty.  As a Christian, I have to applaud him and I take this to heart in my life witnessing for the God I believe to be real and true.  How often do Christians show their faults?  How often do people who are not Christians get hit over the head with the law, being called a sinner in need of grace before the Christian takes the time to know what the person already believes about himself or herself!  What if, what if, they already know they're broken, know they need help?  Heaping more law and brokenness on a person in that situation won't be helpful. 

Listening to Rollins, I see that he wants honesty.  I ask myself how honest are many church congregations, or Christians, with their sinfulness. To an outsider looking at the church, what would they see?  Would they see that the church is a bunch skewed lines acting as if they are straight?  Do they see humble, repentant people?  

I just read from Death by Church by Mike Erre:
"I think He [God] hasn't given up on us, His church.  I think He is calling us to reexamine some things and reshuffle some priorities, but more importantly, He is calling us to wake up.  To not just point to our shiny, happy megachurches and Christian bookstores  and tell ourselves all is well.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we really started addressing the things that plague the church - things like pride, infatuation with power and influence, narcissism, idolatry, greed, envy, and hypocrisy."
Reading these words from Mike Erre, made me think about Rollins' words, "Everything is too slick, too bright. The lines are too straight. It’s too right."  Do Rollins' words apply to the church, just like Mike's words?  Rollins sees through the smoke and the mirrors designed to hid the faults; he sees the cover-up, and what he really wants is to see the real you, the real me.  

So for Christians what can we take from this?  I take that for some people who are not Christians what they really need to see his open honesty.  They know their mortality, they know their faults.  They don't need us just to jump into the conversation saying they have problems and they need God.  They want to see us admit and bare our problems and our vulnerability.  Besides, the Christians are called to do this, to bring sin into the light.  We need to be messy in the church, and I don't just mean a generic confession of sin at the start of a sermon.  Hypocrisy is a big claim against the church by non-Christians, and I don't think the problem is really hypocrisy, just a lack of admitting our own faults and the ways we as a church of hurt and burned others.  

As a Christian apologetic, our first defense, in some cases, might need to be simply apologizing for our misrepresentation of Christ and for hiding our sinfulness as if we were sinless and had no problems ourselves.  

Blue Like Jazz (Limited Edition) 

There's a great chapter in Blue Like Jazz that shows this apologizing apologetic put into action.  

Death by Church: Rescuing Jesus from His Followers, Recapturing God's Hope for His People (®) 

Mike Erre also writes an entire chapter on this approach in Death by Church called "Jesus Wept: Apologies and Apologetics".

WeightingAnd of course I must add a link to the Rollins Band CD Weighting, which contains the jam I quoted.  I'll have to warn you though, it's not his best CD.  It's certainly a release that is best for fans of Rollins. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Penn and the Bible

Warning - There is vulgar language in the following video. 

The reason I posted this video is to show how extremely against the Bible Penn is. 

Now that you see how strongly Penn opposes the Bible, now watch this video. 

Here's the main section of the video that really hit home to me.


If you truly believe that Jesus is God, that he died for the sins of the world, and that he rose from the dead, for the salvation of all mankind, that his works beat sin, death, and the devil, then how much must you hate a person to not want to share that news with him or her?  Powerful words from an atheist indeed.  I certainly share this with others after having seen this video.  Whenever, I share my Christian faith now, I usually mention that because I believe this to be true, I am compelled to share it.

I think sometimes we avoid sharing it because of our own pride.  We don't want people to hate us.  It's not that we just don't want to make others socially awkward, we don't want to be socially awkward ourselves.  It comes down to a fear of man problem.  Penn certainly brings it home!  If you truly believe that there is a heaven and a hell, you must share that with others!  How could you not? 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Karma and God? ... And LeBron James?

I pulled the following from a Yahoo! Sports' blog called, "Ball Don't Lie":

LeBron James, Mixing Karma with God

LeBron [James] apparently doesn't feel much sympathy for his old team in these troublesome times. In the closing minutes of the Cavs game, with the only issue left to determine being whether or not the Lakers would double-up the Cavs, Cleveland's former savior Tweeted about karma, hate, and divine retribution. Here is what he said:
Crazy. Karma is a b****.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!
I think it's very  interesting how Karma is thrown around so much today in society.  

Sharon Stone claimed that Karma was the reason that the Sichuan earthquake happened.  She claimed that China was getting what they deserved for atrocities and human rights that had occurred and still continue to occur within the country.

What disturbs me more is the mixing of Karma, initially a solely Hindu belief, with other religions. 

Jason Lee, Scientologist
One example of this comes from, What About Earl, a television show completely centered a dude trying to shake the chains of bad, Karma.  The actor who plays Earl, Jason Lee, is a scientologist.   This of course wouldn't necessarily mean that there is a mixing of religions, since he is in fact just an actor and the character he plays wouldn't necessarily have to represent his own personal beliefs.  However, I know if I was playing a character in a show about Karma, I would make clear statements that I don't belief in the idea of Karma, and in fact, I'd have to pass on such an ongoing role if I was an actor, because it would conflict with my Christian beliefs and I wouldn't want to lead others astray.  

LeBron, in this quote, is clearly mixing religions.  I read online that he is Roman Catholic, so why is he referring to Karma?  Why are we mixing religions?  Is this just another sign of religious pluralism running a muck?

I think what disturbs me most about this quote from LeBron is the clear evidence of watering down religion.  Because of religious pluralism the fundamental teachings and beliefs of each religion has been hacked down to bits, to the point that universalism is possible.  Terms such as Karma have been ripped from their religious meaning and origin.  Karma now is strictly, people getting what they deserve, "what goes around, comes around."  Karma no longer rests as a key piece to a more complex system of Hindu theology. 

Frankly, it makes me sick and I want to puke (not literally, not yet). 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Muslims, the Qur'an, and the Injeel #5

In review, the Qur'an states that the Injeel (New Testament) is from Allah - it's the word of God!  However, Muslims reject Jesus as being divine, the second person of the Trinity, and claim he is just a prophet.  They also say that he never died on the cross!  How can these two documents both be from God and yet be contradictory on such points?  Muslims claim it is because the Injeel has been corrupted and changed!

The one response already suggested for Christians to use is the "theological" response which simply says that God is stronger than man (Luke 18:27 and Qur'an 2:148).  God keeps his word and humans are not stronger than God to be able to change it.  

The second response already suggested for Christians to use is the "logical" response.  It simply asks who, when, where, and how questions about the corruption of the Injeel.  Muslims don't generally have any answers to these questions, so it certainly gets them thinking.  Following this line of questioning, a Christian can also propose how do you know the Qur'an hasn't been corrupted too?

And the third response...

The Historical Response

I personally like the historical response given here: "Is the Bible Trustworthy?".

The "historical" response provided by Crescent Projecct, a Christian orginzation dedicated to helping Christians build relationships with Muslims, presents the historical response through three stages.  

The first stage is the Eyewitness Stage (AD 1-100)
  • Jesus was crucified 33 AD and raised from the dead. 
  • There were eyewitnesses who lived during this time, both friend and foe who could have discredited the Gospel writers if their information was not accurate and correct.  There isn't such documentation.
  • We can trust the Injeel to be historically accurate since it was written by eyewitnesses and directly based on the accounts of eyewitnesses. 
  • There are no eyewitnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus alive at 100 AD.
The second stage is the Persecution Stage (AD 100-325)
  • The Romans decreed to martyr Christians and burn their books.  
  • We however have found partial manuscripts from this time period.  
  • We also have letters and writings from early Church fathers. 
  • We also have early translations of the Injeel.  
  • Since the Christians in this time period were under persecution, we can trust that since they were willing to die for what the believed from the Injeel that they made every effort to accurately copy and preserve its message for future generations and themselves. 
The third stage is the Translation Stage (325 AD-Present)
  • 325 AD - Codex Sinaiticus - A complete copy of the Injeel.
  • 350 AD - Codex Vaticanus - AD 400 Codex Alexandrinus - other complete copies. 
  • All translations of the Injeel that we have today are based on the Greek partial manuscripts from the Persecution Stage and the other full copies from the Translation Stage.  
  • The message is one and the meaning has not been changed.  
  • There were copies prior to Muhhammad in 570 AD, and Muhammad instructs Muslims to believe and read the Injeel as part of being a Muslim.  
  • Clearly, Muhammad thought the Injeel at his time in history had not been corrupted or changed!  The historical evidence shows that it definitely has not been changed after Muhammad's lifetime. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church?

I think that this video does a great job of revealing how inappropriate, confusing, and unwelcoming many local church congregations can be not only for visitors who may or may not be Christians, but also for many Christians who even regularly attend a local church congregation's gatherings and services.

Let me ask you a couple of questions and I'd love to hear feedback:

Do you relate to this video at all?
Have you experienced anything similar at the church you currently attend or have attended?
Do you think this video is just completely out of line?  If so, why? 
What could and should be different in church gatherings, if anything at all?

I personally think this video does a good job of showing that relationships need to be more important in church community.  Relationships need to be built and fostered.  I think it also shows that for the current moment, the way most churches function and operate, sharing the Christian faith doesn't need to revolve around, "Hey, do you want to come to church with me?"