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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.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
In the game of telephone, a message is told from person to person until it eventually becomes unrecognizable to its initiator. There is less chance the message has been corrupted the closer a person is to the originator. This is one of the ways scholars studying ancient historical events judge a record's accuracy.
Most conservative scholars date the Gospel accounts of Jesus' death and resurrection from between A.D. 50 to A.D. 80. If we are to assume Jesus died somewhere near 30 A.D., then these historical records would be between 20 to 50 years after the events they record. Not only are these dates very close to the actual events by historical standards, but that also implies that the Gospels were circulated when the apostles were still alive to be questioned by skeptics and detractors.
Now there are other scholars who would prefer a late dating of the Gospels, from the middle of the first century to perhaps as late as the beginning of the second. But late-dating the Gospels doesn't put the historicity of the resurrection in doubt, because a record exists that is older still than any of the Gospel accounts.
In 1 Corinthians 15 verses 3-8 the Apostle Paul writes "For I delivered unto you as of first importance that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time... then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as one untimely born, He appeared to me also."
Nearly all scholars, those both sympathetic to Christianity and skeptical of it, believe that First Corinthians was written by Paul and was written about 55 or 56. However, scholarship also shows that the above passage is considered an ancient tradition that Paul received from others in the early church when he first became a convert to Christianity. This means that the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 dates from somewhere between two to eight years after Jesus' death!
That early dating means that it is virtually impossible for the resurrection account to be a myth that gradually grew into the church tradition. It had to be accounts from eyewitnesses who saw the events themselves, otherwise too many people would be around to contradict the events in question.
Because this evidence is so convincing, there are those doubters who feel that the resurrection account was a deliberate fraud made up by the apostles to continue their movement. In our next post, we'll look at those claims and show why this couldn't be so. (If you'd like a preview of some of the things we'll discuss then, you can read our article "Is Eyewitness Testimony Reliable?")
For a modern day example to this, think of someone telling you that John F. Kennedy didn't die in November of 1963. He is still alive and in hiding because the CIA wanted to remove him from office. The government made the whole assassination up for their benefit. The problem with such a story is that there are too many people still alive who remember the event and can contradict your assertion.
The more we study the documents testifying to the resurrection of Jesus, the more we can understand why it is called "the most well-attested fact of ancient history." I hope these discussions bolster your faith in Christ and Him being raised from the dead. Comment below and let us know what you think!
Monday, March 29, 2010
You can see why the resurrection is such a target to the skeptic. If he cannot dismiss this event, then all that follows makes him accountable to God. He must find a way to reject its truth.
The most common way people reject the resurrection is to say that it was a myth created by disciples who wanted to give their new religion credence. If you've ever read any of the Iliad or the Odyssey, you'll be familiar with myth. The ancient Greeks used myth as a way of explaining the world around them and getting some type of understanding.
However, when one reads the New Testament accounts of the resurrection, a careful reader should pick up on something else - these accounts aren't written like myths but like historical reports to an actual event. There are numerous passing comments and inferences that, unless they really happened, make no sense for a writer to invent.
Things such as all the disciples abandoning Jesus when He was arrested, James and John's mother asking for her sons' favor from the Lord, and the women at the tomb. This last idea is very compelling, as women were looked down upon drastically in this society. Women were considered more property than persons, with any excuse serving as grounds for divorce and their testimony wasn't considered solely reliable in a Jewish court of law.
In this light, having women being the first ones to find the empty tomb and the first ones to believe that Jesus was resurrected rings as true history rather than something made-up to justify some created religion. In fact, Josh McDowell quotes Oxford ancient history scholar Thomas Arnold who said:
Now, most Biblical scholars, whether conservative or liberal, agree that Jesus did really live and He really was crucified. Most liberal scholars, however, doubt the resurrection as history. But any explanation that liberal scholarship offers to explain away the resurrection must be manufactured out of thin air. This is because there is no evidence of any kind that can be offered to counter the resurrection story! So, if we are to make judgments about historical reliability, an honest approach would be to base the claims on the evidence that exists. To manufacture a counter story because you want to disprove the evidence is faulty logic.
The resurrection accounts are the best evidence we have as to what happened to Jesus Christ on Sunday morning. This is one part of the proof that Jesus rose from the dead and because of that we know God exists. Next time we'll look at how the proximity of the recorded accounts to the events themselves lends even more credence to our argument. God bless until then.
1. Mc Dowell, Josh A Ready Defense Here's Life Publishers 1991 pg.216
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
1. Patrick showed the love of Christ towards his enemiesMany people don't realize that Patrick was not Irish, but an English Christian.' His autobiography Confessio explains that he was taken captive by a band of Irish marauders, and held as a slave in Ireland. During that time, as he tended flocks, his faith in God grew stronger. After six years, he escaped as made his way back to his parents' home. However, God called him back to evangelize the Irish via a dream:
And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: 'The Voice of the Irish'; and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: 'We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.' And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry."
2. Patrick was steadfast in the face of oppositionThe Druids saw Patrick as not only a foreigner who upset their ways but a crazy person with a peculiar look and a more peculiar message. He was most likely beaten and put in chains. A seventh century poem criticizes him by saying:
Across the sea will come Adze-head, crazed in the head, his cloak with hole for the head, his stick bent in the head. He will chant impieties from a table in the front of his house; all his people will answer: "so be it, so be it."
3. Patrick's Heart for God and ServiceBelow is a traditional Irish prayer attributed to St. Patrick. Whether Patrick genuinely wrote this or not, it does show his heart toward his God and the service to which he was called.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
2. Ibid. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/patrick/confession.vi.html
3. James F. Lydon. The Making of Ireland: From Ancient Times to the Present.
(New York:Routledge,1998) p.6
See the book page here.
4. "St. Patrick" New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm (accessed March 17, 2010).
Image courtesy Andreas F. Borchert and licensed via the CC BY-SA 3.0 de license.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Of course, on TV and in universities, ushering in the age of unrepressed sexual activity is still lauded as one of the great advancements in society. This, as we all know, is nonsense. To underscore his point, Muehlenberg offers this critique from Chesteron:
As G.K. Chesterton wrote a century ago: A society that claims to be civilized and yet allows the sex instinct free-play is inoculating itself with a virus of corruption which sooner or later will destroy it. It is only a question of time. He is worth quoting at length:
What had happened to the human imagination, as a whole, was that the whole world was coloured by dangerous and rapidly deteriorating passions; by natural passions becoming unnatural passions. Thus the effect of treating sex as only one innocent natural thing was that every other innocent natural thing became soaked and sodden with sex. For sex cannot be admitted to a mere equality among elementary emotions or experiences like eating and sleeping. The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant. There is something dangerous and disproportionate in its place in human nature, for whatever reason; and it does really need a special purification and dedication. The modern talk about sex being free like any other sense, about the body being beautiful like any tree or flower, is either a description of the Garden of Eden or a piece of thoroughly bad psychology, of which the world grew weary two thousand years ago.Muehlenberg ends his article by saying, "We are today witnessing the bitter fruit of allowing sex to become a tyrant. Each day new headlines testify to the fact that when we abuse the wonderful gift of sex, we abuse ourselves and our neighbours. The question is, how much more abuse can we take as a culture before society can no longer function?"
A more pertinent question could not be asked.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Goldman opens his op-ed piece by quoting from a recent Pew study that states:
Large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.Goldman then sums up the findings by writing "What is striking about the Pew study is not the prevalence of superstition and hocus-pocus, alarming as that is. It is the feeling that we are free to choose from a broad, cafeteria-style menu of superstitious hocus-pocus. Charles Blow in the New York Times called it the construction of 'Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities.'"
It's true that Americans DO take a cafeteria-style approach to beliefs – often holding contradictory beliefs as both being true. This has been a big problem in our culture, primarily because people just don't think through the implications of their belief system. However, Goldman completely crumbles in his analysis. He tries to make a distinction that facts are not things based on preference by referring to the story of elementary class that couldn't tell whether their pet rabbit was a male or female, so they decided to vote about the rabbit's sex. He then opines:
We no longer trust the guys in the seminaries to determine which ideas are inside and outside the community of faith. We feel entitled to make our own decisions. Fair enough; the facts with respect to spiritual matters have always been somewhat elusive. But now many of us feel entitled to decide which scientific ideas to accept. Scientists have their ideas about, say, the age of the Earth or evolution by natural selection, and other people have other ideas. According to this new view, neither has any more claim to legitimacy than the other. There is no fact of the matter."Goldman concludes his article by saying "We used to be a nation with a broad consensus. If you had a religious question, you asked a religious leader. If you had a scientific question, you asked a scientist. Today, if you have a question (about your enthusiasm for a belief) you ask another enthusiast." Here's where Goldman shows that he doesn't know what he's talking about. He seems to think that expert consensus is the determining factor whether or not we should believe something. That position is ridiculous. If an individual holding to a belief doesn't make the thing true or not, then an expert consensus doesn't make it true either.
There have been many times where "asking a scientist" has given a wrong answer just as asking a religious leader did. Two examples I can think of right away are the science of genetics – where Gregor Mendel's findings didn't achieve widespread acceptance for some 40 years, since Mendel's theory collided with the Darwinian view of blending inheritable traits from parents – and the age of the universe, where the desire for an infinitely old universe was so strong, it caused Einstein to add a fudge factor to his equations.
Goldman really stumbles here. What he should have said was that we hold to certain ideas because we believe them to be true. We have knowledge because we have justification for a certain belief. If a belief that we hold is contradictory – either internally (such as a Christian believing in reincarnation) or externally (such as calling a male rabbit a female), then that cannot be true – we must rethink our position. Experts can help, but that presupposes that they have also critically examined their field of study. However, it may very well be that the experts are wrong. It's quite possible the public could see this and choose to reject the belief.
Rational examination and holding to a belief because its true are the golden standard. Goldman may dismiss matters of faith as "the facts with respect to spiritual matters have always been somewhat elusive." This shows that Goldman has never investigated faith matters seriously. If there is a God, then dismissing the hard work of finding Him out is like the class who would rather choose the rabbit's sex than work to find the answer. Goldman is committing the same crime he's accused us of – choosing which beliefs fit his worldview and then running with them while he sanctimoniously rebukes everyone else.
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