Blog Archive


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.

Powered by Blogger.
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Jesus: The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived (podcast)

If you were asked to choose the most intelligent person in history, who would it be? Einstein? Newton? Socrates? What about Jesus? We often think of Jesus as many things, but rarely do we think of him as an intellectual, using reason and logic skillfully. Yet, he did so frequently. In this four-part podcast, you'll hear Lenny explain just how Jesus out-thought his detractors and you'll learn about a underappreciated aspect of his ministry: how he wants us to engage our minds as much as much as our hearts.

Subscribe to Come Reason's Podcast via iTunes or RSS feed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Can You Love God Fully If You Can't Show Jesus' Divinity?

Before the advent of instant communication, separated sweethearts would communicate via handwritten letters. Receiving a note from one's beloved from across the ocean was a source of great joy and comfort and the recipient would pour over the letters, treasuring them and reading them multiple times. Many times the couple actually became more familiar with each other as their thoughts and feelings were transferred to the written word. One could see how his or her beloved thought and which matters they deemed important by their continual exchange.

The New Testament offers the Christian a similar experience as we await the return of our bridegroom, Jesus. Even though we are temporarily separated from him, we are not left without a way to draw closer to him and to know him more intimately.

In their book, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski have given us a wonderful resource for not simply arguing for Jesus's deity with non-Trinitarians, but a way to more deeply experience who Jesus is:
It's easy to be tempted to focus our efforts on making Jesus "relevant" to today's cosmopolitan, postmodern tastes. Non-Christians are becoming increasingly guarded—if not hostile—toward traditional Christian beliefs. By emphasizing Jesus' humanity, some Christians are, indeed, bending over backward to make Christianity-and Christ himself-more "approachable" They may not deny the deity of Jesus, but in practical terms his humanity overwhelms his deity. In the end, though, a lack of appreciation of Jesus' identity as God makes him less approachable. As New Testament scholar Grant Osborne warns, some of us have lost the holy reverence and awe that we should have toward Jesus:
Christians are guilty of the syndrome "Your Jesus is too small." We have made Jesus our "big brother" and "friend" to such an extent that we have lost the sense that he is also our sovereign Lord. We must recapture capture the realization that he too is our God and worthy of worship at the deepest level."
If we are to experience a healthy relationship with God, we need to be intimately acquainted with the biblical teaching about the divine identity of Jesus. This involves more than merely knowing about, and agreeing with, the doctrine of the deity of Christ, though that is certainly essential. It must become come more to us than a line we say in a creed. We need to know what it means to say that Jesus is God and why it matters. We need to see Jesus as God. We need to think about Jesus and relate to him in the full light of the truth of his identity. We need to appreciate the significance of his divine identity for our relationships with God and others. 1
I've written before on Putting Jesus in His Place and the HANDS argument therein. This is an important book that you should pick up if you don't yet own it.


1. Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kindle Locations 135-149). Kindle Edition.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Trinity, Firstborn, and the Dead

The Trinity is central to Christianity. If you deny the triune nature of God, then you've denied the historic Christian faith. Some like the Mormons deny there is only one God. Others like the Jehovah's Witnesses deny that Jesus was God at all. New Testament writers like Paul strove to describe the distinction between the Father and the Son while still honoring both as God, but those very passages can be taken out of context and twisted to carry a meaning the original author never intended.

One example of this is the phrase "firstborn" that Paul uses in Colossians 1:15-17. It reads:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.1
In this passage, Paul is trying to stress how Jesus is creator, master, and lord over all of creation. This role has been traditionally understood as God's. The Bible even begins with the grand claim that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Psalm 8 directly attributes the creation to Jehovah, stating "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him?" Even we ourselves are the direct creation of God, as Psalm 100:3 admits, "Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his." As we see, over and over the Old Testament ties God to all of creation and uses it to show his rightful lordship over that creation.

Firstborn Doesn't Mean First Created

Despite this, the Witnesses and others point to Colossians 1:15 to try and prove that Jesus was the first created being of God. To do this, they must redefine Paul's use of the word firstborn in that verse to mean first created. On its face, the mistake can be an easy one to make if you aren't paying attention. Western cultures no longer abide by traditional patriarchy and inheritance traditions where the first born son becomes the chief of the family.

So, when we hear the word firstborn, we simply think of "first-born," that is the order of coming into the world. But the Greek word it is ranslated from, prototokos, carries a much richer meaning than simply birth order. It more properly is understood in Colossians as "pre-eminent" or "primacy in rank."2Of course, many Witnesses have resisted this interpretation, claiming that we should take the word firstborn in its natural meaning. I can understand their desire; a more literal rendering of words is usually the first choice of translators unless the context shows otherwise.

Given that most people on both sides of this debate have not mastered Greek, how are we to show that the meaning of firstborn I've offered is to be preferred over the more literal rendering? In fact, it's very easy and context is the key. All we have to do is to keep reading Colossians 1, for in the next two verses we read "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." Note verses 15-17 above and verses 18-19 here are both in the same paragraph. They are all one thought and the word firstborn appears not once, but twice! In the second instance, Paul claims that Jesus is "firstborn from the dead." If we are to use the natural rendering of this word, it would mean that dead people give birth! That doesn't make much sense at all. Jesus wasn't born from a dead person when he rose from the dead; that isn't a resurrection. In fact, Paul explicitly unpack the meaning of the word in verse 19, explaining that "in everything he might be preeminent." Paul is using prototokos to refer to Jesus's pre-eminence! He tells us that very plainly.

The big takeaway here is that it isn't necessary to have mastered a biblical language to answer folks like the JWs when they charge that the Bible makes Jesus out to be less than God. Many times, we just need to read the verses in context and carefully. The meaning can show itself in plain English.


1. Colossians 1, all other scriptures taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). Bible Gateway. Web. 28 Sep. 2015.
2. "prototokos." Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdsmans, 1985. 968. Print.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gentile Forgiveness on the Jewish Holiest Day?

Why read the book of Jonah on Yom Kippur? This evening will mark the observance of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. This is by all accounts the holiest day pf the Jewish calendar when all observant Jews will fast, reflect on the sins they've committed in the past year, and seek some absolution from them. Yom Kippur was instituted by God in Leviticus chapter 16 and it is the one day out of the year where the High Priest can enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple to bring a blood offering designed to cover the sins of the people. Included in the ritual is the transfer of sins from the people to a scapegoat.

Because there is no Temple today, the ritual commanded by God cannot be followed. Instead, some Orthodox Jews follow the Rabbinic tradition of the Kaparot Ceremony, where a chicken is used to transfer the sins from the people.1 Observant Jews also refrain from eating, wearing leather, and sex for the entire day.2

A Reluctant Jewish Witness and Forgiveness for the Gentiles

There is one other interesting tradition, though. On the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the Book of Jonah is read in Synagogues across the world. Of all the books in the Old Testament, this one is a really strange choice, as the Jewish prophet Jonah is continuously derelict in carrying out God's command to preach repentance to the savagely cruel Ninevites. After seeking to flee from God's command and a bit of aquatic indigestion, Jonah eventually (albeit reluctantly) preaches forgiveness to these enemies of Israel. He then sits atop a hill to watch their impending judgment only to be utterly amazed that these Gentiles actually repented and were forgiven! The bad guys make good and the good guy comes off really bad.

Nahum Sarna offers some insight into the choice of this strange text:
What is remarkable is that the work is not at all about Israel. The sinners and penitents and the sympathetic characters are all pagans, while the anti-hero, the one who misunderstands the true nature of the one God, is none other than the Hebrew prophet. He is the one whom God must teach a lesson in compassion.

It is precisely these aspects of this sublime prophetic allegory, and in particular the subthemes of the book, that inform Yom Kippur. These motifs attracted the ancient Jewish sages and led them to select Jonah as one of the day's two prophetic lectionaries.1 Its universalistic outlook; its definition of sin as predominantly moral sin;2 its teaching of human responsibility and accountability; its apprehension that true repentance is determined by deeds and established by transformation of character (Jonah 3:10), not by the recitation of formulas, however fervent; its emphasis on the infinite preciousness of all living things in the sight of God (Jonah 4:10–11); and, finally, its understanding of God as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness” (Jonah 4:2)—all these noble ideas of the Book of Jonah constitute the fundamentals of Judaism and the quintessence of Yom Kippur.3

The Dovetailing of Both Traditions in Christ

Given the Temple's destruction, there is no faithful follower of Judaism that can accomplish the traditions commanded of them in Leviticus 16. The Orthodox seek to emulate it as best they can, with each synagogue offering a chicken. Less stringent forms of Judaism see personal abstinence and prayer as enough. But the huge hole that the lack of a Temple creates is a noticeable void.

That void is filled when you understand the ultimate atonement that Jesus offered. The New Testament book of Hebrews makes it explicitly clear. In chapter 10 it states:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.4
The writer to the Hebrew them explains that Jesus didn't have to offer his blood year after year but he entered the true Holy of Holies in heaven and offered it once for all time. Because of the perfection of this atonement, his forgiveness is extended to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. While the Jews have been reluctant to receive it for now, the Gentiles have embraced it giving us a perfect reflection of the book of Jonah.

Some say that Christianity is a cult of Judaism; it's an offshoot that abandons the core Jewish understanding of God and his dealings with man. I don't see it that way. I see Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism and the only way one can properly approach God based on the requirements he delivered through Moses. Jesus fulfills the law. May my Jewish friends be blessed and have an easy fast this Yom Kippur.


1. "The Kaparot Ceremony." Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.
2. "What is Yom Kippur?." Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.
3. Sarna, Nahum. "Jonah and the Whale: Why the Book of Jonah Is Read on Yom Kippur." Biblical Archaeology Society. Biblical Archaeology Society, 20 Sept. 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.
4. Hebrews 10:1-4, ESV.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sean McDowell on Proof of a Messiah

My friend Sean McDowell has just launched a brand new web site with a lot of great articles and video clips on apologetics. Sean's become one of the core go-to guys in equipping young people to better defend their faith and this site is a great resource for anyone who seeks to know more about apologetics.

Below is an excerpt from just one of Sean's articles, entitled "Is there Proof for Jesus as Messiah?" Sean writes:
Of course Jesus did claim to be the "Anointed One." But do the prophesies of the Old Testament confirm that he was actually the Messiah? The answer is yes. It’s as if God gave us a specific way to recognize who the "Anointed One" would be, through what has been called Messianic prophesies.

It seems impossible, but because of these prophecies, out of billions of people born over thousands of years we are able to pinpoint one person in history as the Messiah. It is as if God had an answer waiting for us when we asked, "How will we know who the Messiah is?" Imagine we are having a conversation with God as he uses these prophecies to pinpoint who this Messiah would be.

God begins by saying, "You will know he is the Messiah because I will cause him to be born as an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham" (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).

"But God," we protest, "Abraham’s descendants will be many!"

"Then I will narrow it down to only half of Abraham’s lineage and make him a descendant of Isaac, not Ishmael" (Genesis 21:12; Luke 3:23-34).

"That will help, but isn’t that still an awful lot of people?"

"Let him be born from Jacob’s line, then, eliminating half of Isaac’s lineage" (Numbers 24:17; Luke 3:23-34).


"I will be more specific. Jacob will have 12 sons; I will bring forth the Messiah from the tribe of Judah" (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23-33).
Sean goes on to list about three dozen very specific prophecies from the Old Testament concerning Jesus, He concludes with this:
He will enter Jerusalem as a king 483 years after the declaration of Artaxerxes to rebuild the temple (444 BC) (Daniel 9:24).

"As a final testimony, on the third day after his death, he will be raised from the dead" (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31), "ascend to heaven" (Psalm 68:18; Acts 1:9), "and be seated at my right hand in full majesty and authority" (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:3).

As you can see, God has gone to extraordinary lengths to identify his Son Jesus as the Christ—the Messiah who would give his life for us. And one day, "when he has conquered all things, the Son will present himself to God, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere" (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Make sure you check out Sean's new site and see all he has to offer there.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Did Jesus Go to Hell on Holy Saturday?

When I was young, the word salon was only used by old women who would go for their weekly rinse and set. I accompanied my grandmother on one of these trips and I still remember her sitting under one of those huge hot air dryers reading an old magazine while waiting for her sponge-rolled hair to dry. While there were a ton of magazines available, they were mostly old issues filled with stuff that would never interest me.

Given the ubiquity of digital media today, one would think that stale old magazines are no longer a threat. But if they are reading Salon, the digital magazine, they'd be proven wrong. Borrowing a headline that would be more apt in the Weekly World News, Salon published the article "Jesus went to hell: The Christian history churches would rather not acknowledge" where author Ed Simon unveils the shocking—shocking I say!—discovery that the Apostles creed states Jesus descended into hell. Simon writes:
The fourth century Apostle's Creed tells us that following his crucifixion, but before his resurrection, Jesus "descended to the dead." The Athanasian Creed of at least a century later is more explicit, Christ "descended into hell." Depending on context and translation Jesus either journeyed to Sheol, Hades, or Hell. 1
Um, yeah.

If you were raised Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or in one of the more traditional Protestant faiths such as Lutheran or Anglican/Episcopalian you have said the Apostles Creed many times in your life. It is a weekly recitation in many churches. Yet, Simon takes the phrase "descended into hell" and applies it in a way to mean "Holy Saturday was a day in which God was not in His heaven, but rather in his Hell."2 But that's insane. The phrase originates from the passage found in Ephesians 4:7-9, which reads:
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

"When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."

(In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)3
The Greek for "hell" in the creeds is the same as the one translated "lower parts" in Ephesians 4:9: katōteros (κατώτατα). A quick look up in Kittel tells us:
This word might refer to the realm of the dead (the underworld as the lowest part) or simply the earth itself. The reference to "above all heavens" in v. 10 suggests that "under the earth" is in view here, and Christ's death rather than his incarnation offers a better antithesis to his resurrection and ascension… The idea of leading captives is not so much that he liberates the dead in Hades as that he subdues the spirits that kept us captive I1:21, 2:1 ff).4


Well, opening one book before writing this article wasn't too hard for me, so I'm kind of stumped on how Ed Simon couldn't accomplish it. Of course, scholastic theology books may be a bit much for Simon, but he could have always used, I don't know, perhaps a professional research tool like Google to find this article on the subject at Christianity Today.

It seems that the word Salon still invokes the idea of hot air, but maybe not in the way that the digital publication's authors had imagined. That's why shortly after the article was posted, Twitter users decided to have some fun at Salon's expense. Creating a new trending hashtag #SalonChristianitySecrets, Twitter users began to imagine some of the other headlines that Salon may come up with concerning Christian beliefs. A few of my favorites are below:


1. Simon, Ed. "Jesus Went to Hell: The Christian History Churches Would Rather Not Acknowledge." Salon Media Group, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
2. Simon, 2015.
3. Ephesians 4:7-9. English Standard Version, Crossway Pub. Web.
4. Buchel, F., III. "Kato, Katotero, Katoteros." Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdsmans, 1985. 422-23. Print.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Jesus and Logical Fallacies: Answering Absurd Claims

Not many people think about Jesus and his intellect, but Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived. He wasnt a philosopher, but he could argue logically and philosophically when the need arose. For example, in one passage of scripture, the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus by asking him if the faithful Jews should pay taxes to Caesar or if they should rather choose to love God. Jesus unraveled their trap by pointing out the logical fallacy hidden in their question.

The Pharisees weren't the only ones, though, that tried to trap Jesus. The Sadducees, who were another group within first century Judaism and the sect that had the primary control over the Temple in Jerusalem, also tried to catch Jesus by asking him a question. In Mark 12:19:27, they offer a thought experiment, one that was designed to prove their belief that once people die, they cease to exist.They asked Jesus to imagine a man who has six brothers. He married a woman, but then died, leaving the wife childless. They then said that the mans brother took the woman for his wife, but he also died, and so did all the brothers, each after taking the woman as his own wife. (One must wonder what kind of a scary cook such a woman would be!) Finally the woman dies. The Sadducees then inquire "In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife. (Mark 12:23)"

Trying To Leverage the Reductio

In this example, the Sadducees are using as tactic from logic known as arguing from absurdity or the more formal Latin title of reductio ad absurdum. Basically, the tactic is to take whatever proposition one is arguing against and follow it even in an extreme situation to see if the proposition still makes sense.  Parents are famous for this tactic. After asking to stay home alone because your friend Johnny is allowed, you may have heard them respond, "If Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?"

Reducing an argument to absurdity is in itself not a fallacy; in fact it can be very effective in clarifying the points of someones position. I've used it myself in arguing against abortion.  But, the problem with this attempt is the Sadducees were committing another fallacy in their argument. They assumed that because people experience marriage in one way on this earth, that experience will continue to be true in heaven. This is known as the fallacy of composition or the part-to-whole fallacy. Simply because a man and a woman are properly joined in the covenant of marriage on this earth, doesnt mean that that bond will extend beyond the grave. Jesus makes this clear when he corrects them, saying "Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Mark 12:24-25, ESV).

The Fallacy of Composition

Jesus makes it clear that marriage is as we say ion our vows today: until death do us part. The Sadducees assumed that such a union made no sense with the wife and the seven brothers in heaven, and they tried to use this argument to dismiss the idea of an afterlife at all. But all our relationships will be different in eternity.

Not only did Jesus point out this problem with the Sadducees argument, but he also turned the argument around on them! The Sadducees were very strict in the way they read the Torah and they would not accept the traditions and teachings of many Jewish scholars who came before them.2But, because the Torah played such a high view in the theology of the Sadducees, Jesus chooses to quote from one of its defining verses, Exodus 3:6 where God declares himself to Moses. Jesus answered them, "And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong" (Mark 12:26-27, ESV).

Jesus emphasized the fact that the verb used is "am" not "was," thus proving that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all conscious souls who still relate to God. Given the Sadducees strict adherence to the written Torah, they had no way to answer this, for to deny that scripture would make their entire belief system crumble. It was a master stroke that demonstrated again just how knowledgeable Jesus was and how he could draw upon logic as he needed to make his point and silence his critics.


1. Unger, Merrill F., R. K. Harrison, Howard Frederic Vos, Cyril J. Barber, and Merrill F. Unger. "Sadducee." The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody, 1988. 1111. Print.
2. Unger, 1110.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bible, and Bias (video)

The Jehovah's Witnesses claim that both the Bible we read and orthodox Christian theology has been some kind of trinitarian bias that unwittingly leads us to believe Jesus is God. However, when looking at the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses and their  sponsoring organization, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, it becomes clear that the only bias on display is their own.

Watch this short clip as Lenny explains how the JWs misunderstand the name of God,  proper biblical interpretation, and how they deliberately change passages of Scripture to try and dodge the conclusion that Jesus is God.

Image courtesy Steelman and licensed under the CC BY-SA 2.5

Monday, January 19, 2015

Christian: Your Relationship with God Is Not Your Own

Last week a small group from my church attended the 2015 Los Angeles Theology Conference. The conference had several notable speakers and interesting papers surrounding the topic of the atonement. However, one of the most edifying times was the extended open periods available for discussion.

On Friday as we sat down to lunch, we were joined by Mark McConnell , a theology professor from Laidlaw College, NZ. Dr. McConnell said that in his time teaching theology to his students he would ask the question "Is Jesus still a man today," whereby he would overwhelmingly receive the response of "No." It seems many Christians believe that while Jesus was fully human on earth, he shed his humanity at the resurrection. But that belief is a heresy known as Gnosticism that the early church fought against!

Early Christianity recognized that once Jesus is incarnated as a human being, he will remain a human being throughout eternity. Paul writes that "There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5, ESV), showing that Jesus remains a man in order to reconcile us with God.

Our Relationship is Borrowed from the Son

You may think "Ok, so some people have made a mistake. It's nice to know theology and all, but I have a relationship with God, that's enough for me!"  Actually, one reason why it matters is that the very relationship you point to requires Jesus being a man. Dr. McConnell provided a great illustration for this. He said:
Imagine a man sitting at his desk in his office at home. The door opens and his young son, who had been playing in the yard with a neighbor from down the street, runs in and jumps into his father's lap with the kind of joy and exuberance children have. The father will of course receive his son and embrace him.

Now, imagine that they neighbor friend chases after the boy and he also jumps into the lap of the father. The father catches him, too, while still holding onto his son. In any other circumstance, such a move would be considered presumptuous, rude, and out of place. However, in this instance, the neighbor is allowed to borrow the relationship of the son to the father. It isn't his own relationship that grants him access to such intimacy; it is the intimate relationship the son has always had with the father that the neighbor is now sharing in. Thus, the neighbor relies on his connection with the son and the son's relationship with the father to have some kind of relationship himself.1
I think Dr. McConnell's illustration is a great way to communicate a couple of key ideas. First, our relationship with God is dependent upon our relationship with Jesus. Paul states he is found in Christ "not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ" (Phil. 3:9). It is our relationship with Jesus and his righteous standing before the Father that allows us to have that relationship with the Father as well. The Father sees us not as we are, but counts our faith in Jesus as righteousness because of Jesus's right relation with the Father (Rom. 4:5, 22; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Our Justification Depends on Jesus Being a Man

Secondly, we can have a relationship with Jesus because of the fact that he is fully human. In 1Timothy 2:5, which is quoted above, Paul declares that the mediator between God and mankind must be a man. Further, the writer of the book of Hebrews states:
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:16-18).
While there are other reasons Jesus must be fully human and there are other ways the Bible portrays our relationship with the Father (e.g. adopted sons and born again as a new creation) I think the concept that we are borrowing Christ's relationship with the Father is a significant one. As a human being in the line of Adam, Jesus was not separate from us. He is our kinsman. This kinship brings us into relation with him, and allows us to then jump into the lap of the Father. Our intimacy with God depends on the relationship of us to Jesus, through his humanity. If Jesus is no longer a man, we are like presumptuous kids trying to hop into the lap of a stranger. Such presumption doesn't afford that child grace, but punishment for his actions.


1. While this isn't a verbatim quotation from Dr. McConnell, it does portray the crux of his argument.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Top Five Blog Posts for December

While the holiday season proved a busy one, we had a lot of folks stop by the blog. Last month saw over 25,000 pageviews which is the largest month to date! Three of the top five posts focused on Jesus, which was befitting. Two others took on atheism and naturalism. So, without further adieu, here are the top five posts for December:
  1. Why Naturalism is Simply Unbelievable
  2. History Testifies that Jesus Worked Miracles
  3. To Witness Like Jesus, Use Logic and Reason
  4. The Resurrection is Central to the History of Jesus
  5. What the 'Atheist Invocation' Really Demonstrates

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jesus and Logical Fallacies: The False Dilemma

There have been many times where I've been speaking to a non-believer who tells me that he would rather place his trust in science and reason than in faith. Versions of this include "facts rather than religion" or "knowledge over ancient belief."

Such objections are certainly not uncommon today, even though they are completely illogical. Each one exercises a logical fallacy known as a false dilemma. A false dilemma tries to limit one's choice between only two options when there may be more options available. To use a popular example, imagine a man on trial. As he sits in the witness stand, the prosecutor comes to him and asks, "Is this the first time you've beaten your wife, yes or no?" Of course, either answer to such a question immediately incriminated the man. The third choice of "I have never beaten my wife" is never offered by the prosecutor, which sets the defendant up with only two options, each of which places him in a bad light.

Why Faith Versus Reason is a False Dilemma

In the objections above, the ideas of faith, religion, and belief are all positioned as incompatible with science, facts, and knowledge. But the assumption that these are incompatible is itself not true. For example, the multiverse theory is based on certain mathematical beliefs and assumptions. There exists no observational data for other universes, nor will there be given that our universe is a closed system. Therefore, scientists who hold to the multiverse theory are doing so based on certain beliefs and a faith in the models they have constructed. Does that disqualify the multiverse theory from being classified as science? Will those skeptics disavow it because they would rather place their trust in reason? Of course not.

Similarly, Christianity is based on certain facts, such as Jesus' resurrection from the dead, based on the historical accounts. Christians use arguments to show that the existence of God is a reasonable position to hold. Reason and evidence are the foundation of Christianity, which just like the multiverse model shows that faith and reason are not exclusive but work in concert.

How Jesus Answered the False Dilemma

Sometimes people offer false dilemmas intentionally as a strategy, such as our lawyer example above. However, it's probably more common for a person to not realize there are more choices than the two presented when he or she is presenting the argument. Still, it is important to highlight the dilemma and show it to be false.

The Gospel of Luke provides us with an example of how Jesus faced a false dilemma. In Luke 20:19-26, the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into incriminating himself. Luke tells us that they asked him "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" This was cunning, because if Jesus replied that paying taxes was wrong, he'd be considered a traitor to Rome, but if he said it was OK according to the Jewish law (that is the Old Testament commands) to give a tribute to Caesar, then the would be sanctioning support for a Gentile ruler when Israel's only allegiance should be to God alone.

However, Jesus didn't fall for it. Luke reports:
But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's." He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.
In Jesus' answer, he brilliantly splits the horns of the dilemma. There are more than the two options of allegiance to God or allegiance to Caesar. One can be a good citizen of the state while disagreeing with some of its positions. The Pharisees weren't offended at the graven image of Caesar so much that they refused Roman money. They simply didn't want to give it back in taxes. Thus Jesus's answer shows that one can be a good citizen and not offend God. In fact, he may have thought of Malachi 6:8, which teaches that all believers should seek to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. Paying for the services of Rome is part of doing justice.

In highlighting the false dilemma the Pharisees offer, Jesus gives us one example of how to better defend our faith. Jesus' use of logic had the effect of silencing his detractors while teaching new truths to his audience. This is just one example of Jesus using logic and reasoning in his interaction with others. We need to prepare ourselves to do likewise.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Apologetics is Foundational Since the Earliest Times of the Faith

It should be the goal of every Christian to reflect the heart of Jesus in his or her life. Yet, some in the church bristle at the idea of equipping themselves to defend the faith against ideas raised against it. They assume apologetics to be an intellectual game, where they would rather take the path of Jesus and model love. However, as I've shown, Jesus integrated apologetics into much of his ministry.

Here, Dr. Craig Hazen notes that the apologetics task has been exemplified in every ambassador who sought to introduce a lost world to the Creator. He writes:
It is very important to understand that in justifying the task of Christian apologetics throughout the history of the church, it was Jesus himself who set the stage. He did this not by writing apologetic tracts and treatises but by creating what I shall call here an "ethos of demonstration" among his followers. Jesus demonstrated the truth of his message and his identity over and over again using nearly every method at his disposal, including miracle, prophecy, godly style of life, authoritative teaching and reasoned argumentation' And although Jesus clearly authorized the apologetic ethos for his followers by living it out himself, it is also important to note that he did not create this approach ex nihilo during his three years of ministry. Indeed, Jesus was really just reaffirming an ages-old ethos of demonstration that had been well established in the Old Testament tradition. From the miracles of Moses in Pharaoh's court (Ex 7) to Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) to God himself calling for his opponents to "present your case ... set forth your arguments" (Is 41:21), a divine pattern was already fixed by the time Jesus came on the scene.1.
1. Hazen, Craig J. "Defending the Defense of the Faith." To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview: Essays in Honor of Norman L. Geisler. Francis Beckwith, William Lane. Craig, and James Porter Moreland, Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. 37. Print.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Enjoy the Trappings of Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope you have a chance to celebrate the day today. It's easy to see all the commercialism, the merchandising of a sacred remembrance, and resent buying gifts or gathering to spend time with extended family. It's even easy to think that the trees, presents, and decorations distract us from the real reason for Christmas, that is the coming of Jesus. But that isn't true. Just as the solemnity of bonding two people together is followed by a celebration, so to should the joining of holy God with human flesh be recognized. That isn't my idea; Saint Augustine preached on it over 1500 years ago:1
That day is called the birthday of the Lord on which the Wisdom of God manifested Himself as a speechless Child and the Word of God wordlessly uttered the sound of a human voice. His divinity, although hidden, was revealed by heavenly witness to the Magi and was announced to the shepherds by angelic voices. With yearly ceremony, therefore, we celebrate this day which saw the fulfillment of the prophecy:
  • "Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven." 2
  • Truth, eternally existing in the bosom of the Father, has sprung from the earth so that He might exist also in the bosom of a mother.
  • Truth, holding the world in place, has sprung from the earth so that He might be carried in the hands of a woman.
  • Truth, incorruptibly nourishing the happiness of the angels, has sprung from the earth in order to be fed by human milk.
  • Truth, whom the heavens cannot contain, has sprung from the earth so that He might be placed in a manger.
For whose benefit did such unparalleled greatness come in such lowliness? Certainly for no personal advantage, but definitely for our great good, if only we believe. Arouse yourself, O man; for you God has become man. "Awake, sleeper, and arise from among the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee."3 For you, I repeat, God has become man.
  • If He had not thus been born in time, you would have been dead for all eternity.
  • Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, if He had not taken upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh.
  • Everlasting misery would have engulfed you, if He had not taken this merciful form.
  • You would not have been restored to life, had He not submitted to your death; you would have fallen, had He not succored you; you would have perished, had He not come.
Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festal day on which the great and timeless One came from the great and timeless day to this brief span of our day.
So, give voice to the joy that we have in the Savior's arrival. Enjoy your holiday and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!


1. The text of Augustine's sermon #185 has been reformatted by me. The translation is taken from "For The Feast Of The Nativity: Sermon 185." Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons. Trans. Sister Mary S. Muldowney. New York: Fathers of the Church, 1959. 6-7. Print.
2. Ps. 84.12
3. Eph. 5.14.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

You Just Might Be Celebrating a Japanese Christmas

To look at it, Christmas in Japan looks pretty Western. There are Christmas trees, lights, and even pictures of Santa adorning windows. There are some differences, of course. Christmas cake is ubiquitous and you may be a bit disturbed to discover that what you thought was a statue of Santa was actually Colonel Sanders decked out in a red Santa outfit. It seems that many Japanese think a proper Christmas dinner centers around a bucket of KFC. But, such are the quirks of a holiday spread across the globe. Cultures will interpret the joy of celebrating Christ's coming in their own ways, right?

Except the Japanese don't. Japan is a country that is only about 1% Christian, according to the Pew Forum1. Christmas isn't an officially recognized holiday at all; children still attend school and businesses are open (especially KFC!) Yet, the trappings of a Western tradition are there. So, why do the Japanese get into the decorations and the trees at all? It seems those Christmas cakes provide some good insight into the motivations for the Japanese celebration.

Pre-World War II Japan didn't have a lot of exposure to Christians. The Roman Catholic Church had sent missionaries to the island in 1549where they "soon established churches, hospitals, orphanages and educational institutions, which became venues whereby the two cultures could encounter one another."2 Yet, crushing martyrdoms and extended persecutions left Japan with only a sliver of Christian believers who were forced underground for centuries.3 The nation was still feudal and agrarian, with only the elites having the wealth for indulgence. Cultural scholar Hideyo Konagaya states that "Modernity and affluence in Christmas were still not a realistic notion when rural lives and feudalistic social systems still predominated."4

Christmas as Affluence

After World War II, things were worse. According to an NPR article, the economy was a disaster. People there did whatever they could to make ends meet, but luxuries such as sugar or chocolate were in short supply. However, US soldiers often had candy bars they distributed to children.5 Konagaya writes, "Sweet chocolates, above all, given by American soldiers epitomized the utmost wealth Japanese children saw in American lives. They brought the message that affluence and happiness took American forms (Fujiwara)."6 Cake had also been previously linked to western affluence and it was "available exclusively to the upper aristocratic class or urban elite."7

However, as Japan's economy recovered and then boomed in the 1980's, "Christmas celebrations gave the Japanese the most tangible pictures that could convey images of prosperous modern lives in America" and the cake was the epitome of that symbol of success."8 Today, young urban Japanese see Christmas Eve not as a day to celebrate at home with family, but as an upscale night on the town where tangible gifts to your beloved are expected.

Sometimes a Mirror is Uncomfortable to See

While the Japanese interpretation of Christmas may seem remote, I think Konagaya was right when noting that the Japanese were simply trying to mimic American values and traditions. They saw the commercialism, the emphasis on stuff, the weight we placed on the trappings of the day and presented all of that without any of the spiritual root that should be the focus of Christmas. Was something lost in the translation? Perhaps. Yet, an imperfect mirror will distort an image but it can highlight flaws you hadn't noticed before.

We need to make sure in our Christmas celebrations that Jesus is the central focus for the day. The Japan Times noted this conversation where a Japanese woman enquired about the origin of Christmas from an American man:
Young Japanese woman: Is Christmas celebrated to mark the birth of Jesus or his death?
American man: Do people usually go shopping before a funeral?
At least she knows it has something to do with Jesus!

When my kids were young, we used cake to celebrate Christmas as well. It wasn't a Japanese Christmas cake; it was a birthday cake. We had a plastic Nativity set that the kids could play with. We would set the Wise Men figures at the back of the house and the kids would move them each day until their journey was complete on Christmas Eve. We would also hide the baby Jesus figure until Christmas morning. Later that day, we'd decorate the cake with birthday candles and everything. It isn't much, but these traditions put the emphasis back on the coming of Jesus instead of the coming of presents.

I pray that you and your family will emphasize the amazing gift of the Savior, of God with Us, this Christmas. Make sure that your outward celebrations show that aspect of the holiday. After all, you never know who's watching.


1. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, comp. "Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population." Pew Research Center, Dec. 2011. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. 2. Hull, Simon. "Christian Heritage of Japan." The Japan Times. Japan Times Ltd., 04 Aug. 2014. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.
3. Hull, 2014.
4. Konagaya, Hideyo. "The Christmas Cake: A Japanese Tradition of American Prosperity." The Journal of Popular Culture 34.4 (2001): 121-36. Web.
5. Bruzek, Alison. "Japan's Beloved Christmas Cake Isn't About Christmas At All." NPR. NPR, 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.
6. Konagaya, 2001. 122.
7. Konagaya, 2001. 122.
8. Konagaya, 2001. 123.
Image courtesy Catherine and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

That Quote May Not Mean What You Think It Does!

Yesterday, I began a rebuttal of some comments from a previous post on Gandhi. I had said that Gandhi's eastern background hindered him from understanding the gospel message because he filtered it through his pre-existing Eastern conception. I quoted Gandhi, who said, "If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself." I then explained, "Jainism specifically teaches that one can remove all their bad karma and become God. In fact, in Jainism the only Gods that exist are those humans who've rid themselves of their karmas."1 So, it isn't surprising that Gandhi would somehow misunderstand Jesus' unique claim to divinity since in the Eastern view, being divine is not unique; it's the goal.

I supported my point with several footnotes, including one by scholar Huston Smith and one from, which is one of the most comprehensive sites covering Jainism. However, that passage elicited this response from Nate:
Also, as far as Gandhi's issues with "if God could have sons, all of us were sons." Are we not "children of God?" I don't see any issue with his logic here. And this: "If Jesus was like God, or God himself, then all men were like God and could be God himself---" Seems as though his perspective is consistent with many great Christians.
In order for Gandhi's perspective to be consistent with many great Christians, these Christians would need to be polytheists, like Hindus and Jains are. However, being a polytheist is a direct contradiction to the most basic of Christian theology, which is widely recognized as one of the three great monotheistic faiths of the world.

For his support, Nate included sixteen different quotes from the Bible, C.S. Lewis, and others. They are reproduced here as he supplied them:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . .
—C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

. . . the Spirit and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory."
—St. Paul, Rom. 8:15-17

They (those who love him) are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers.
—St. Paul Rom. 8:29

God became man, so that man might become God.
—Early Christian Proverb

I am the vine, you are the branches.
—Jesus, John 15:5a

For the Son of God became man, that we might become God.
—St. Athanasius, De inc

God said to this hairless monkey, "get on with it, become a god."
—C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

"the Word became flesh and the Son of God became the Son of Man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God"
—St. Irenaeus, Adv Haer III 19,1

I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works.
—Jesus, John 14:12

Souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes . . . abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made God.
—St. Basil the Great, On the Spirit.

(God) said that we were "gods" and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him-for we can prevent Him if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for.
—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 174-5

Let us applaud and give thanks that we have become not only Christians but Christ himself. Do you understand, my brothers, the grace that God our head has given us? Be filled with wonder and joy—we have become veritable Christs!
—St. Augustine of Hippo

The Only-begotten Son of God, wanting us to be partakers of his divinity, assumed our human nature so that, having become man, he might make men gods.
—St. Thomas Aquinas

In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.
—St. Paul, Ephesians 4:13

Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be remade. . . . we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.
—C. S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle, p. 85

A seed of God grows into God.
—Meister Eckhart
With the possible exception of Eckhart, who was a very controversial figure in the 14th century and whose teachings were put on trial as heretical, these are good Christian sources. However, these would more prove my initial point than Nate's. Each of these sources, removed from its context does not communicate the full thought of the passage. Some, such as the John 15:5 quote, are incomplete. The entire verse reads, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (emphasis added). Rather than teaching Gandhi's view that we have the power within ourselves to become sons of God, it teaches the opposite. We need Jesus otherwise we are hopelessly lost.

Quote-Mining Distorts of the Truth

I don't how Nate amassed these quotes. He may have been gathering them in his studies or he may have done a bit of Googling. Regardless, I highlight this to show how quote-mining without context is a dangerous thing.  Notice how C.S. Lewis used scare quotes in Mere Christianity when he wrote, "(God) said that we were ‘gods' and He is going to make good His words." That's a tip-off that Lewis doesn't believe that we will become divine in the way the Hindus, the Jains, or even the Mormons do. He's talking about something else. To use this quote as support for Gandhi's perspective being "consistent with many Christians" is to twist Lewis' words and make him say something he is not saying.

And so it is with all of the quotes above. Not one of these quotes supports a view that would coincide with man becoming an equal of Jesus. Remember what Gandhi said: "If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself" (emphasis added). That isn't Gandhi claiming to have a God-centric attitude. That's saying man has the potential to be all that God is—omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Can the context for any of the quotes above to show that they argue for that position? I think not.

The problem with quote-mining is that it's pyrite, fool's gold. It looks like it supports a point of view, but it often has no value for the conversations. Occasionally, like the John passage above, it can even be used to support the opposing point. Without context it always disregards the author's intent. I think it smacks of dishonesty, as it portrays form of knowledge that doesn't really exist.

I've seen Christians who have been caught up trying to defend their faith sometimes resort to gathering quotes that they don't completely understand and offering them as proof of their position. You shouldn't do this! This is unfair to the author and to your objector. If you are researching some supporting evidence for your view, make sure you understand the author and his or her position.  Even then, make sure you understand the quote itself, in its proper context. That may even require you to read the entire chapter in which the sentence appears. However, it will be an honest way to present good evidence to others who are questioning the faith.

Yesterday, I quoted another passage from Mere Christianity where Lewis explicitly states that one cannot take Jesus as a moral teacher and leave behind His claims to Lordship. Lewis said, "let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." Jesus very clearly taught the same thing: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). While Gandhi wants to take Jesus in just this way, he has taken Jesus out of context.  That was his undoing.


1. Esposito, Lenny. "Why would Gandhi Reject Jesus?" Come Reason Ministries. 2014-07-24. Web

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jesus as God and Man

Christians at Christmas celebrate Jesus becoming the incarnate Son of God. But exactly how can God be a man? Does this mean God is limited to a certain time and place? In our most recent podcast series, we explored the humanity and divinity of Jesus and how both are crucial to his role as Messiah. Listen below.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Christian Must Believe That Jesus is God

I've begun a series of blog posts talking about the necessary beliefs one must hold to be considered a Christian. As a guide, I've been looking at the Nicean Creed to formulate the basic beliefs that define the Christian faith. One clear aspect of the Christian faith is the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Right on the heels of declaring monotheism, the church fathers also declare that Jesus is God:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

Jesus is equal with the Father

Notice that the emphasis on this part of the creed is to place the Son on equal footing with the Father. That's why the repetition of "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God" is used. In the early days of Christianity there were several heresies that cropped up trying to claim that Jesus is in some way lesser than God the Father. The Arians, like the modern day Jehovah's Witnesses, held that Jesus was God's first creation. Jesus is a "mighty god" but not "Almighty God."

Christians had long held that Jesus is God as much as the Father is God. He claimed the honors afforded to God and the attributes ascribed to God. He forgave sins only God would and received worship that is reserved for God alone.1 Robert Wilken writes that the Greek philosopher Celsus was offended by the Christian view of God even in the second century. In discussing his views, Wilken says Celsus is fine with those who would hold Jesus in some type of divine status, such as that reserved for the Caesars. Celsus wasn't convinced that Jesus even deserved this level of honor, but as long as those worshippers recognize the "high God" as greater than lesser deities, it would be OK. Wilken then writes, "The Christians, however, made even more extravagant claims: they said that Jesus was unique among the gods and that he should be worshipped to the exclusion of all other gods. To Celsus such excessive adoration set up Jesus as a rival to God and undercut the worship of the one God." 2

Jesus is different from the Father

While Christians recognize Jesus as being fully God, equal with the Father, they recognize that Jesus is not the same person as the Father. He is not the Father, but the Son. In scripture, we see Jesus coming from the Father (Jn. 5:37, 12:49), He prays to the Father (Mt. 26:39, Lk 23:34,Jn 17:1), He obeys the Father (Lk 22:42, Jn 6:38), and He humbles Himself before the Father (Phil 2:4-8). Jesus is distinct from the Father but both He and the Father are recognized as God.

The Arian view of Jesus was the motivating issue that caused the church fathers to gather from across the globe and convene the first church council in Nicea. The formulation of the Nicean Creed was the result. Its purpose was to clearly establish the equality of Jesus with God the Father while still maintaining the concept of a single God. The church fathers did this by distinguishing between the concept of personhood and being. Next time, I'll unpack the teaching of the Trinity a bit more. For now, recognize that one must believe that Jesus is God in order to be a Christian.


1. For a more conmprehensive understanding of the biblical case for why Jesus is recognized as God, see my post "The HANDS Argument for the Deity of Jesus" at
2. Wilken, Robert L. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). 120.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The HANDS Argument for the Deity of Jesus

Is Jesus God? That is one of the most popularly searched questions about Jesus on Google. People can get confused by the idea of God being both three and one. However, the early church recognized that Jesus made specific claims to divinity, and they honored His divinity. This was so apparent, that even the critics of the early church took note of it. Celsus, a Greek philosopher writing around a hundred years of Jesus' death, couldn't figure out why the early Christians revered Jesus as they did. Historian Robert Wilken writes:
Celsus' criticism of the elevation of Jesus to divine status , however, had another dimension. By offering such adoration to Jesus, Christians make him a rival of the one high God, the God above the heeavens, as Celsus calls him. If Christians taught that "God is father of all and that we really ought to worship him alone" there would be no quarrel. But Christians make Jesus almost equal to God, "not because they are paying very great reverence to God but because they are exalting Jesus excessively" (c. Cels. 8.14)1
So from its formative days, Christianity revered Jesus as divine. In their book, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski lay out a very tight case for why Jesus is properly recognized as God from the evidence of scripture. Using the mnemonic acronym of HANDS, they take you step by step through five different points recorded in the Bible:2

1. Jesus shares the HONORS due only to God.

There are many honors due to dignitaries, but there are certain honors that are reserved for certain positions. The salutation "your Majesty" is reserved for a royal head of state, with princes or lesser positions of royalty being addressed as "your highness." Worship is an honor that is only reserved for God, yet Jesus received worship. Jesus even reinforced this idea when He said refused to worship Satan and instead quoted Deuteronomy 6:13, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him" (Matt. 4:10). Yet Jesus received worship Himself from Thomas (John 20:28) and the rest of the disciples prior to His Ascension ( Matt. 28:17). Thus, the early church was simply continuing to do that which Jesus allowed when He was with them.

Beyond worship Bowman and Komoszewski explain that the scripture documents people praying to Jesus, singing praise songs to Jesus, honoring and serving Him as God. Thus, Jesus holds all the honor of the Father.

2. Jesus shares the ATTRIBUTES of God

One can identify a thing by its attributes. The attributes of a dog are different from the attributes of a pig, which allows us to distinguish between the two. One reason we can recognize Jesus as God is because He shares the very attributes of God. First, the Bible claims that Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. Jesus claimed to have existed even before His birth in Bethlehem (John 8:56) and other passages reinforce this (Col. 1:15, Rom.8:3). Jesus is, in fact eternal, without beginning or end, and an uncreated being (John 1:3, Col. 1:15, Rev. 22:13). Jesus doesn't change, but He "is the same yesterday, to day, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). He's also shown to be omniscient, omnipotent, and in comprehensible.

3. Jesus shares the NAMES that are used of God

Names in ancient cultures were key. People took on certain monikers because it reflected some aspect of their position or character. Thus, Alexander of Macedon was called "the Great" after his whirlwind conquering of the known world. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is called God, Lord, Savior, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, Mighty God and more. Also, the early church was taught to baptize people in Jesus' name, pray in Jesus' name, and even find salvation in Jesus' name.

4. Jesus shares in the DEEDS that only God can do.

The deeds of Jesus also match those deeds only attributable to God. Jesus is the creator of the world (John 1:3, Col. 1:16-17) and will judge all humanity (John 5:22-23). When Jesus forgave the paralytic's sins in Luke 5:20, the Pharisees rightly complained saying, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus answered their question by performing a miracle in order to prove that he had the power to forgive sins against God. Lastly, Jesus holds the power over life and death, including His own (John 10:18), a power reserved for only God alone (Ecc. 12:7).

5. Jesus shares the SEAT of God—that is Jesus sits on God's throne.

In a courtroom, one can always expect to see the judge's bench raised higher than any other seat. That is to communicate the judge as the presiding authority in the courtroom. Seats and thrones are important symbols that communicate the respective authority of the holder and we will refer to them interchangeably. So when we speak of Jesus' seat or Jesus' throne, it also connotes the authority bestowed on Him. The Bible tells us that Jesus is exalted above even the heavenly creatures (Phil. 2:10, Heb. 1:6, Eph. 1:21). Jesus sits on the throne reserved for God alone (rev. 22:1, Matt. 25:31) and He shares ruling authority with the Father by sitting at His right hand (Heb. 8:1, Heb. 12:2).

While this is a very quick synopsis of their argument, I think Bowman and Komoszewski have done a great job in this book showing why Jehovah's Witnesses and others who claim that Jesus was something less than the creator God fail. The Christians have recognized Jesus as God from the time that He walked the earth; the scriptures leave us no other alternative.


[1] Wilken, Robert L. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). 105-106.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus: What does "Firstborn" Mean?

One of the main problems with Jehovah's Witnesses is their denial of the deity of Jesus.  They claim that the Bible teaches that Jesus is a created being and point to passages like Colossians 1:15 and Proverbs 8:22 to make their point.

In this video, Lenny dispels those teachings by showing what the word firstborn really means and why Jesus must be more than someone who is created.


Image courtesy Emw and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Friday, January 03, 2014

Christians Cannot be Intellectual Slackers

C. S. Lewis had a great quote when talking about the followers of Christ. He said, "God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of being a Christian, I warn you: you are embarking on something that is going to take the whole of you, brains and all."

I completely agree. Christians today have accepted the secular world's idea that somehow faith and reason inhabit separate spheres. The two are sitting on opposite ends of a spectrum and the more one applies tools such as logic and philosophy to his or her beliefs, the less and less they will be considered faithful or pleasing to God. A bumper sticker that used to be fairly popular summed up this kind of attitude: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."

But nowhere in scripture are we commanded to approach our beliefs blindly. In fact, we are commanded to do just the opposite. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was he replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). Tellingly, although Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, He added the phrase "and with all your mind." Jesus said that loving God must include developing the life of the mind.

This makes a lot of sense, given how Jesus identified Himself. In John 14:6 He said, "I am the Way the truth and the Life." Well, if we think about Jesus as truth, then we should be applying reason and logic to our beliefs. Logic is simply a tool that we use to find truth.

Part of our difficulty in seeing logic and critical thinking as ways we can better love God may be because we think that such tasks are only human enterprises, while Jesus is divine. Logic means works, while He is grace. But if Jesus is truth and we can use logic to discern truth, then we can use logic to see the reality of Jesus.

You may be surprised to find that out that the implementation of logic is actually found throughout the Bible and especially in the New Testament. Jesus used logic and argumentation many times. For example, just before He gave the command to love God with your mind, the Sadducees tried to test Him with a question about a woman who was married and widowed seven times. They used a technique in logic known as reductio ad absurdum to show that their views on the afterlife were correct. However, Jesus capably destroyed their argument and chided them, saying "Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?" He then give the command that we must love God with all our minds.

The Sadducees were unprepared. They hadn't done their homework and as a result had a mistaken view of God. As faithful followers of Christ, let us not shy away from some of the harder work of learning and developing our minds so we can more completely love our God with all that we are.
Come Reason brandmark Convincing Christianity
An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
Check out more X