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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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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

War is Hell - and so is Divorce

An interesting article appeared in today's Los Angeles Times about the detrimental effects a father's deployment in Iraq has had on his family - particularly his 4-year-old daughter Tatum. Marine Staff Sgt. Tyrone Baugh was deployed for one year in Iraq and the effects on his toddler were shocking. She became rebellious, punching and throwing scissors at her teachers. The article reports:
A recent Rand Corp. study commissioned by the National Assn. of Military Families showed that approximately a third of children aged 11 to 17 from military families reported anxiety symptoms — sleeplessness, unexplained fears — double that seen in civilian families.

The youngest are also turning out to be more vulnerable than once thought: Tricare, the military's health insurance system, reported that mental health visits for children under 5 jumped 73% between 2005 and 2009.

"We would like to think that little kids won't remember, or won't notice; we know that's not accurate," said Ellen DeVoe, an associate professor of clinical practice at Boston University, who is developing a program to support young children with a parent returning from war. "Even babies and toddlers understand and will miss their parent. They may become withdrawn, they may cling to the parent at home. They don't yet understand the concept of time."
So, if being away from your young children for only a year can do so much damage, why isn't anyone asking "What about being divorced and being separated from them for their entire childhood?" Although divorced parents can have visitation rights, many of the same issues and feelings of abandonment and isolation come into play, especially when the divorce is being processed.

In the article, it states that Sgt. Baugh was returned stateside, but stationed in a town other than where his family had taken up residence, so he had to visit the kids on weekends and when he could. It also states that the problem persisted because Tatum didn't have full access to her father. And when the family tried to alleviate the problem by having Tatum move in with her dad, she cried at night because she didn't have her mom with her.

If a one year separation is problematic enough to warrant a front-page story in the Times, then the nastiness of a full-blown divorce must be off the charts. But something tells me it's too politically incorrect to chide divorcing parents in this day and age. I doubt the Times would cover that kind of story.

Image courtesy Tony Guyton and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Christians in the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."  -Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

100 years ago today Theodore Roosevelt visited Sarbonne University in Paris and gave an incredible speech entitled “Citizenship in a Republic” about how the efforts of ordinary citizens play a vital role in making democratic countries strong.  The quote above has become the most famous from that speech – so much so that the speech is more often referred to as the “Man in the Arena” speech instead of its title.

As Christians, I feel the quote above is quite applicable to the responsibility we have as citizens in the Kingdom of God.  The assault on faith has become more and more blatant; with judges barring a day of prayer and activists protesting any Christian who states that they think their beliefs are really true.  Of course the arena image immediately calls to mind those brave Christians in the first few centuries of the church who were forced to face the wild beasts or professional gladiators of ancient Rome. Although facing the most unimaginable fears, the saints did so because of their devotion to their Lord.

We are blessed that in the Western world we do not have to face such horrors. But as citizens of a city “whose architect and builder is God”(Heb 11:10),  we need to be ready to step into the arena and engage others in the war of ideas.  Will we be men and women whose faces are “marred by dust and sweat and blood” to spread the good news of the gospel?  And while you think you may “fail” at such tasks, know that it is a better thing than to be one of those “cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Most Important Advice in Defending the Faith

Sometimes people will ask me what they should know in defending their faith to others.  There are, of course, many ways to answer that question – learning theology, apologetics, debating tactics, current events, and so on.  However, before you seek to do anything else, the most important admonition comes from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church.  This is key to successfully sharing the gospel on any level.

"We are giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God,

in much endurance,
in afflictions,
in hardships,
in distresses,
in beatings,
in imprisonments,
|in tumults,
in labors,
in sleeplessness,
in hunger,
in purity,
in knowledge,
in patience,
in kindness,
in the Holy Spirit,
in genuine love,
in the word of truth,
in the power of God;

by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left,
by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report;

regarded as deceivers and yet true;
as unknown yet well-known,
as dying yet behold, we live;
as punished yet not put to death,
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing,
as poor yet making many rich,
as having nothing yet possessing all things." (2 Corinthians 6:3-10)

Give no one the ability to dismiss the message because of the failings of the messenger!  Are you willing to live as Paul did above, knowing that you may suffer insults, discrimination, mocking or worse - and you don't retaliate? Are you willing to take on difficulty because you love the lost enough that you know it's worth it? Are you ready to believe that your true worth is not found in the comforts of this world but in obedience to your master? This is what the heart of ministry looks like in a Biblical worldview.May the Lord grant us such hearts as we seek to save a lost world.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Celebrating Holidays in Graveyards

As I was driving to Easter services this morning, I passed a cemetery. It started me thinking about our culture’s popular reaction to cemeteries. Graveyards are supposed to be kind of spooky places we wouldn't want to be stuck in at night. But this morning I looked at the cemetery with new eyes. You see, the very first Easter was celebrated in a cemetery. Jesus appeared to Mary there. John and Peter saw the empty tomb there. And I thought to myself, “cemeteries are really paper tigers for the Christian.” It looks like it’s the end, but we know that death is swallowed up in victory. A graveyard could not hold Jesus and it cannot hold any of His children. So we read “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

Tomorrow, most of the world will go back to work, back to their daily lives. They will once again think of cemeteries as places to dread. But we know better. Death is the ultimate threat against a person, and if death cannot hold the Christian, then how can it be fearful? However, not all of those graves will be opened to victory, as many who will fall do not know the risen Jesus. So, when you go back to work, dear Christian, think of the graveyards – and seek to widen the victory Christ has already obtained by sharing it with others. To the Corinthians Paul said “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Let us take this message beyond Easter. Let your friends and loved ones know that we celebrate our most holy day by looking to a graveyard.; We do so because we know it is to us only a paper tiger. It can be for them, too.

Image courtesy Parrot of Doom (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL]

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Fact of the Resurrection Part 5 - The Empty Tomb

As we end our recent study on the resurrection as a fact of history, we look at one of the most daunting problems posed to the skeptics - the empty tomb of Jesus. The absence of Jesus' dead body from its burial place gives incredible support to the disciples' claims that He had risen from the dead. It is therefore not surprising that this point is attacked continuously by doubters. Was the tomb empty? And if so, could it have become empty through some other means than Jesus' resurrection?

If we can show that the empty tomb did in fact exist and that there is no good naturalistic explanation for Jesus' missing body, then we have strong evidence for a supernatural explanation. This not only argues for God's existence but also legitimizes the truth of Christianity.

Was the Tomb Empty?

There exist many objections to Jesus' tomb being empty at all. Most notably, the Jesus Seminar's John Dominic Crossan puts forth the belief that Jesus was never buried in a rock tomb but his body was placed in a common grave and probably eaten by dogs.1  However, Crossan fabricates this explanation because there is absolutely no evidence on which to base his specific account. Although, as Crossan himself admits, burial for crucified criminals was rare it did occur and we have both written and physical evidence to support it. 2

Tomb commonly assumed empty by both Christians and Jews.

So was there a tomb that Jesus was buried in? Crossan and others argue that the whole tomb event had to be added later because the most primitive reports of the resurrection never cited it. However, this is an argument from silence. Even though Peter doesn't specifically mention the empty tomb in his speech in Acts 2, that doesn't mean it didn't exist. It is quite likely that an empty tomb didn't need to be stated because it was "front page news" if you will.

J.P. Moreland says, "In the early speeches of Acts, no mention is made of the empty tomb... Why is the empty tomb not mentioned in those speeches? The best answer seems to be that the fact of the empty tomb was common ground between believers and unbelievers."3

Likewise Paul's recount of the resurrection belief in 1 Corinthians does not prove that there was no empty tomb, but just that the writer felt no pressing need to mention it. The tomb was assumed to be empty - a fact we can derive from our next point.
The stolen body story corroborates Jesus' tomb being empty.

Another explanation given is the women in Mark's account simply went to a random tomb or found the wrong tomb. However, the early accusations by the Jews of Jesus' disciples stealing His body demonstrate that this cannot be the case.

Dr. William Lane Craig writes,

In Matthew 28, we find the Christian attempt to refute the earliest Jewish polemic against the resurrection. That polemic asserted that the disciples stole away the body. The Christians responded to this by reciting the story of the guard at the tomb, and the polemic in turn charged that the guard fell asleep. Now the noteworthy feature of this whole dispute is not the historicity of the guards but rather the presupposition of both parties that the body was missing. The earliest Jewish response to the proclamation of the resurrection was an attempt to explain away the empty tomb. Thus, the evidence of the adversaries of the disciples provides evidence in support of the empty tomb.4

As we mentioned in a previous article, because the Jews were opposed to the idea of Jesus being raised, this lends credence to Jesus' tomb specifically being empty. It makes no sense for the Jews to lie about Jesus' body being stolen when producing the body or showing the tomb would be their strongest argument against the resurrection. The same is true for the women being mistaken. We must conclude that the tomb of Jesus was truly empty and it was available for all to examine.

How Do You Explain it?

So, if the tomb of Jesus really was empty, how is it explained? Did the disciples steal Jesus' body? Given Matthew's account of the tomb being sealed and a guard placed there, it wouldn't seem likely. There's also the problem of the disciples having to roll back that huge stone in order to accomplish their goal , and they would have had to do so without being detected. However it seems to be the best naturalistic explanation, so many doubters claim it must be so.

But Dr. Craig notes the biggest obstacle to believing this scenario. "Perhaps the most serious objection to [the idea of someone stealing Jesus' body] is that it seeks to explain only half of the evidence (namely, the empty tomb) and completely ignores the other half (that is, the appearances). A second hypothesis to explain must be added. But if explanatory scope is the criterion for preferring one hypothesis to another, then the resurrection... is to be preferred."5

In looking at the evidence: the historicity of the resurrection accounts, the trustworthiness of the reports from the disciples, the fact that eyewitnesses saw the resurrected Christ, their changed lives and the fact of the empty tomb, one can see that it is reasonable to believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. Since He claimed He would do as much beforehand, it also shows that His claims of deity are true and that the Christian God exists.


1. See: Crossan, John Dominic PhD. Who Killed Jesus? San Francisco: Harper, 1996.
2. Crossan, John Dominic PhD. "Was Jesus Buried?"
3. Moreland, J.P. PhD. Scaling the Secular City.
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1987 pg 162.
4. Craig, William Lane; PhD.. "Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ." June 16, 1998.
5. Craig, William Lane PhD. In Defense of Miracles. Ed. R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas. Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 1997 pg. 260. Image courtesy Frank Swift and licensed via Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Fact of the Resurrection Part 4 - The Changed Lives Of The Disciples

In our studies of the resurrection of Jesus, we've shown how the resurrection accounts must be considered as written documentation of an historical event. Many skeptics of Christianity will argue against these premises vehemently, because to admit them would mean that Jesus was who He claimed to be - the only Son of the living God.

Today, I'd like to examine a proof for the resurrection that most skeptics won't deny - at least initially. That is, how the lives of Jesus' followers were radically and completely changed after the resurrection event. The disciples faced some of the most unspeakable tortures and persecutions because they believed Jesus was resurrected and they would not admit otherwise.

Now, many people undergo a change in lifestyle when they adopt a new belief system, but that's not really what I'm talking about. In order to more clearly demonstrate the uniqueness of the disciples' transformation, we'll examine three prominent figures of the early church: Peter, James the brother of Jesus, and the apostle Paul.


Peter is one of the most well-known of Jesus' early followers. All four gospels show him to be a man who was impulsive; one who would react to a situation first and analyze it later. Sometimes he benefited from this, as when he proclaimed Jesus as the Christ in Matthew 16. Other times it was to his detriment, as when he denied the Lord three times.

However, throughout all the accounts we see Peter as completely human, and because of that we can relate to him so well. So, what happened to Peter that changed him from the person who fled with the other disciples at Jesus' capture (ref. Matt 26:56)to the strong believer we read about in the book of Acts? One who would not give up his faith in the face of beatings, jail and even an excruciating death?

Peter's shortcomings are clearly documented throughout the Scripture.  Is it reasonable to believe, then, that he would admit to a falsified resurrection when faced with repeated punishment? He would, unless the resurrection accounts were true and Peter could not deny them because he knew them to be true. He says as much in Acts 5 when he explains why he continues to preach Jesus raised from the dead:
"We must obey God rather than men."


Some critics may object at this point and say that Peter still had a vested interest in wanting to believe the resurrection to be true. After all, he had spent three years under Jesus' teachings and was either not ready to give that up or was in denial. However, when we look at James, the Lord's brother, we find an entirely different scenario.

James didn't follow Jesus throughout his years of ministry. John 7:6 tells us that James did not believe in Jesus. As J.P. Moreland writes "What could cause a Jew to believe his own brother was the very Son of God and be willing to die for such a belief? It certainly was not a set of lovely teachings from a carpenter from Nazareth. Only the appearance of Jesus to James (1 Cor. 15:7) can explain such a transformation." 1


Even more amazing than James' conversion is that of Saul of Tarsus.  Paul was a well-schooled Pharisee, not easily given in to fables. He was also so wholly devoted to Jewish law that he sought out Christians to persecute them. He became so good at it the Bible says he "laid waste the church (Acts 8:3)".

So how can anyone explain his complete and immediate reversal? What, other than the real appearance of Jesus to him, would be so convincing that he would abandon a lifetime of convictions and join the very group he hated most? In summarizing Lloyd Littleton, Josh Mc Dowell writes "If Paul's twenty five years of suffering and service for Christ were a reality, then his conversion was true, for everything he did began with that sudden change. And if his conversion was true, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, for everything Paul was and did he attributed to the sight of the risen Christ." 2

When examining the lives of not just these three, but all the eyewitnesses of Christ's resurrection, we find that the situation is the same. Not one person exposes Jesus' being raised as a fraud.  They all truly believe they saw Jesus and every one is willing to die because of that belief. There is no explanation for such a steadfast faith among such a divergent group other than Jesus really did rise from the dead and show Himself to his disciples, to James, and finally to Paul.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about the last point in our resurrection series - the stone that was rolled away from the tomb. If you're enjoying these features, would you write and tell us? Until then, God bless.


1. Moreland, J.P. Scaling the Secular City. ; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987.179.
2. McDowell, Josh A Ready Defense.  San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Pub., 1990. 434.

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