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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 www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Sunday, April 05, 2015
Of all the religions in the world, Christianity is unique. It bases its entire existence on a historical event that we can check out for ourselves. In this short introduction, Lenny talks of how the Apostle Paul hangs the entire Christian faith on the single thread of Jesus's resurrection from the dead, and how others have tried to topple the faith, but wound up being converted themselves when they investigated the evidence.
Saturday, April 04, 2015
March was a very busy month for the ministry, with one of our Apologetics Missions Trips to Berkeley taking place right in the middle of it. Of course, this always offers some new insights for the blog. There blog itself served up 22,742 pages, showing continuing growth. The top posts last month focused on atheism and the existence of God, and defining a cohesive worldview lead the way. Without further adieu, there are the top five blog posts for March 2015.
Friday, April 03, 2015
The news is gruesome and we mourn with our Christian brothers and sisters in Kenya, just as we mourn for Christians in other areas of Nigeria who have been slaughtered by another Islamic faction, Boko Haram.2 We also mourn for the Christians who were killed or driven from their 2,000 year old home of Mosul to the point of extinction by ISIS terrorists.3 According to Open Doors, each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith across the globe, along with 722 acts of violence against believers.4 And acts of persecution are growing.5
Islam Compared to the CrossToday is Good Friday, and this day really emphasizes the difference between Christianity and all other faiths. It underscores the Uniqueness of Christ and his instruction to his followers. In Islam, Mohammad conquered with his armies while Jesus conquered with his blood. In Islam, Muhammad sought treatment to cure him and pleads for healing before his death6. In Christianity Jesus chooses to "lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:1, ESV). In Islam, followers are instructed to "fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)" (Sura 9:5, Yusuf Ali) when Christians are told "rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed" (1 Pet. 4:13, ESV).
The suffering of Christians is sobering, yet we still rejoice because what Jesus accomplished on this day will ultimately make such sufferings worthwhile. Instead of seeking to conquer by force, Jesus conquered by sacrifice. Instead of viewing enemies as people to be slaughtered, Jesus saw enemies as victims to be saved. Instead of looking to establish its dominion in this world, Jesus sought to establish his kingdom by first defeating death and sin. When Christians suffer for their faith, they are simply following the model of their Lord.
It is because of his victory over death that Christians can rejoice, even when they face death. This is why we call this particular Friday "Good." It signals that the ultimate enemy of man has been defeated and no matter what our end on earth, our destiny in heaven can never be taken from us. Remember Christ’s sacrifice this Good Friday, Pray for those who also laid down their lives for their faith in him, but also pray for those who took those lives. Christ died for his enemies; may they be reconciled to him.
2. Morgan, Timothy C. "How Boko Haram's Murders and Kidnappings Are Changing Nigeria's Churches." ChristianityToday.com. Christianity Today, 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/october-web-only/boko-haram-chibok-hostages-persecution.html.
3. Esposito, Lenny. "The Atrocity Against Christians in Iraq." Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 22 July 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/07/the-atrocity-against-christians-in-iraq.html.
4. "Christian Persecution." Open Doors. Open Doors USA, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/.
5. Newman, Alex. "Christian Martyrdom Doubled in 2013, Persecution Growing." The New American. The New American, 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. http://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/faith-and-morals/item/17417-christian-martyrdom-doubled-in-2013-persecution-growing.
6. Silas. "The Death of Muhammad." Answering-Islam.org. Answering-Islam.org, 28 Nov. 2002. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/mo-death.htm.
Thursday, April 02, 2015
These questions have become centrally important in recent days as the furor continues to pour forth from Indiana's passage of their Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The statute is modeled on the versions passed overwhelmingly by the Federal government and signed into law by Bill Clinton, yet detractors state the Indiana law is a license to discriminate against homosexual patrons. Such a leap hasn't ever happened in all the other states that have similar laws, but such trivialities seem to matter not to those who are outraged.
However, if the RFRA is a bad idea, then how do you fight against it? In previous years, we had a word we used for one who thoughtfully approached his choices. We would call someone who exhibited good judgment a discriminating man. When seeking to resist bad ideas, one can become a discriminating individual. You may choose to not patronize an establishment who holds the idea with which you disagree. Or perhaps as a business owner you may choose to no do business where it could imply that you support such an idea. Tim Cook seems to feel the Apple boycott of the state of Indiana is his right because he simply standing for "what is just and fair." He is being a discriminating man in his business choices.
Ideas versus PeopleBut here's the thing in all this. There is a difference between discriminating against ideas and discriminating against people. Ideas have merit based on their claims and how they best represent the world. Sane people should always discriminate when weighing ideas. We need to know the facts and we need to see if the idea plays out the way it is said to play out. There may be ideas that are bad and there may be ideas that are evil.
But there is a real difference between being discriminating and being a discriminator. The charge of discrimination carries with it the concept that you are excluding a group for no good reason. It is an unwarranted bias that drives your selection. That's a big difference from being selective about ideas based on their merits. The difference between being discriminating and being a bigot are vast, but those differences are getting lost in the Indiana controversy.
Who's discriminating now?As I laid out the attributes of being discriminating above, they could be equally applied to those who support the RFRA as well. What if legislation that undercuts religious freedom is the bad idea that needs to be fought against? What if the business owner isn't Tim Cook but a photographer or baker that simply doesn't want to be forced to participate in an event with which he doesn't agree? Where is the difference?
People should have the right to discriminate against ideas; otherwise there would be on recourse left to us whereby we can fight the bad ones. Don't mix that up with bigotry. The two are wholly different.
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
These comments are from the CNN special series Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery which has been airing on Sunday nights. The March 25, 2015 episode was entitled "The Gospel of Judas" and highlights the text that received so much attention when the National Geographic Society published a translation of the rare manuscript in 2006. National Geographic promoted its translation in a special, saying it was "a lost gospel that could challenge what is believed about the story of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus."2 Back then there was much fanfare, but little to surprise or sway biblical scholars. But the media always love to provoke, especially if they can undermine the traditional biblical accounts with any wild speculation they can find. So, nine years later, CNN offers an entire episode on the Gospel.
In fact, the Gospel of Judas wasn't groundbreaking even in 2006. Scholars had known for some time that a document called the Gospel of Judas existed from the writings of the early church fathers, particularly Irenaeus. What's amazing to me is how some otherwise intelligent people lose all sense of bearing when they are confronted with an ancient text that has the word "gospel" on it. Just because a document has the word "gospel" at the top, doesn't mean it even comes close to being on par with the canonical gospels.
Still, the discovery of an actual copy of the text is significant. Was the Gospel of Judas hidden as the result of some kind of conspiracy to keep power in the hands of a few? Does it place the canonical gospel stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke , and John in doubt? Hardly. Let's examine just what this document is and then we'll look at why it really tells us nothing about the formation of early Christianity.
Another Gnostic GospelThe Gospel of Judas translation that was recently published comes from a third century manuscript, written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language. It contains many strange teachings such as:
- Creation was corrupted by lesser gods who made the material world
- Jesus wished to be set free from His material body so He could access the holy realm
- The Gospel holds a type of secret knowledge that only one person (Judas) has
- The rest of the disciples are clueless to the true mission of Jesus
Judas Gospel is Too New to be BibleNow, I don't want to go into a technical discussion of Gnosticism to show why the Gospel of Judas doesn't hold a candle when compared to the four canonical gospels. We don't need to go that far to show why it should be rejected. We know that the manuscript we have is authentic - which means that it really did come from the third or fourth century. However, that doesn't mean that its contents are true. There's a big difference there. And why am I so sure that the contents of the Judas gospel are false? Well, it's simple. The gospel is too new to be written by the Judas of the Bible. You see, most scholars agree that Jesus' death happened somewhere around AD 33. The gospel is around 100 to 120 years later. Just how old would Judas have to be to write this account? 150? It doesn't make sense. Judas died well before this text originated.
The Associated Press interviewed James M. Robinson from Claremont Graduate University and who they said is "America's leading expert on such ancient religious texts from Egypt."3 There, Robinson agrees with this assessment. Robinson states, "There are a lot of second, third, and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles. We don't really assume they give us any first century information."4 He concludes that nothing new can be learned about Judas of the Bible from the text.
Secondly, since Judas didn't really have anything to do with this "gospel", we also know that the documents facts are in serious question. Remember, Judas dies during Jesus' crucifixion, so he couldn't have told anyone this special revelation. Therefore, these conversations must be fictional. You see, real gospels have what is known as an apostolic tradition. In other words, the four gospels can be traced back to the apostles themselves. Christians such as Irenaeus understood this and rejected it as a forgery.
Looking at a Modern ExampleI think for a good starting point when discussing this text with others, let's look to a more modern example: the forged memos that surfaced during the 2004 presidential election. During the campaign, 60 Minutes reported on the discovery of an Air National Guard memo that suggested favorable treatment for the president. If these documents were accepted as real they could do much damage to his campaign. However, when the memos were scrutinized it became apparent that they were forgeries. Type styles used in the memos were too recent for the documents to have originated in the 1960's when they were purportedly written.
I think that no matter which candidate you supported, most news agencies showed maturity in their rejection of the documents as unsubstantiated. Even if one holds that special treatment was afforded Mr. Bush during his National Guard service, these specific memos do nothing to give us new or better information about those charges, simply because they are false testimony. Similarly, a forged gospel of Judas doesn't help us to really understand Jesus, Judas or first century Christianity.
Ultimately, the biggest piece missing from the Gospel of Judas is the gospel message itself. Remember that the word "gospel" means good news. It was called such because early Christians saw their redemption from sin as the good news to share with others. But redemption is the one thing the so-called Gospel of Judas doesn't have. Without that, there's no freedom from sin and no reason to follow Jesus who becomes just another dead man claiming to speak from God.
2. "The Lost Gospel of Judas." National Geographic Channel. National Geographic Society. Web. 20 April 2006. http://www9.nationalgeographic.com/channel/gospelofjudas/. Archived page at https://web.archive.org/web/20070623220135/http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/gospelofjudas/
3.Ostling, Richard. ""Expert Doubts 'Gospel of Judas' Revelation"" USAToday. USA Today, 2 Mar. 2006. Web. 1 Apr. 2015. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/2006-03-02-gospel-of-judas_x.htm.
4. Ostling, 2006.
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