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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Who are Theudas and Judas of Galilee and why is Jesus Different?

There have been many teachers throughout the history of humanity whose life and teachings are supposedly word-changing—at least this is what their followers believe or have believed.  Such may be said about Jesus.  Of course, history has shown that Jesus' teachings did indeed reshape humanity. We even number our years by His coming. But have you ever thought about why? In the view of the movers and shakers of the day, Jesus of Nazareth was a backwoods preacher in a third-rate province of Roman Empire. With no army and no money or political influence, why is it that two-thousand years later people across all continents celebrate His birth with more fervor than the greatest of any of their heroes? It isn't because of Christmas; it's because of Easter!

As influential as Jesus' teachings were, they wouldn't hold nearly as much power unless there was something else accompanying it; something that proved His authority. I make such a claim because we see the same reasoning in the book of Acts. In Acts 5, the Jewish Sanhedrin was wondering what to do with this new sect of Jesus followers who won't obey their cease and desist orders.  Gamaliel, a respected teacher, comes before them and says,

"Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men.For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."(Acts 5:35-39)

 The Sanhedrin should've understood this.  In John 2:19, when Jesus drove out the moneychangers, they asked Him what kind of authority he had to dictate what should and shouldn't happen in God's temple. Jesus replied "Destroy this temple and I will raise it up on the third day" speaking of His resurrection.

Some like to point to Jesus as being a great teacher as the explanation for His popularity.  But reducing Jesus to merely a good teacher neither explains the magnitude of His influence nor does justice to the things He actually said. Of course the teachings of Jesus were revolutionary and profound.  But Jesus was unique.  He claimed to speak with the authority of God, and backed up that claim by going to the cross, dying, and rising again. It is because of the resurrection that Jesus is held to be the source of authority on matters of God and mankind and it is because of the resurrection that we celebrate this season.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

First Continental Congress Proclamation

Below is the official proclamation issued by the First Continental Congress.  Note that they were interested in not only glorifying God for His blessing and provision, but also spreading "the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness."

IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, AD 1782.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God and the Philosophers

I spent all of last week in Atlanta at the annual Evangelical Theological Society/Evangelical Philosophical Society meetings.  The ETS/EPS meetings happened over three days, where top scholars discuss the latest issues of religious significance or Bible understanding. It’s always an informative time and helps me understand then progress currently being made as well as get a good idea of topics to teach on in my apologetics classes.

Some of the papers I heard were very interesting. Dr. Michael Licona spoke about his new book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.  I’d received a pre-published version of the hefty book (700 pages!) and have been enjoying it immensely. You can see a small clip of Mike’s presentation here:

Dr. Gary Habermas presented some new findings of the Shroud of Turin that really caught my ear. It seems the Shroud exhibits x-ray type images, where you can see the teeth and metacarpals on the image – very odd for someone to render those if they were trying to fake an image.  There was also a 15 foot full-scale replica of the shroud at the exhibit.

J.P. Moreland defended his argument that consciousness cannot in any way arise from non-conscious material, thereby offering evidence for the existence of God, and William Lane Craig spoke on Peter Van Inwagen’s approach to God and Other Uncreated Beings.

The highlight of the EPS conference was the plenary talk by Dr. Alvin Plantinga, where he demonstrated that the position of naturalism actually contradicts the concept of evolution. Since naturalists deny the supernatural, they must believe in evolution as the origin and development of all life, which means naturalists hold to a self-contradictory view!  The paper was fascinating albeit a bit technical for the non-philosopher.

Along with the Annual Meeting, the EPS also presents an annual Apologetics Conference at a local church.  I was honored to be asked to speak at this year’s event, and I’ll report more on that in my next post.
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