Time to Think. 3. How Reliable is the Biblical Account of Jesus Christ?

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In Defense of the Gospel

If we find Mark’s Gospel account of Jesus’ life reliable it could also point to the reliability of the other Gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke and the rest of the New Testament. So, we will consider the Gospel of Mark in some detail with the concerns that Mark’s account might not be reliable.

The account of Jesus’s life by Mark (the Gospel of Mark) is accepted by most Christian and non-Christian scholars as the earliest account of Jesus’ life. If the account of Mark is found to be reliable even so, then would the other gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke be. (90% of what is written in Mark is written in Matthew and 60% of Mark is written in Luke. Matthew has 44% and Luke 58% material in common that is not found in Mark)

There are however three important objections to the reliability of Mark’s account to consider I. Was he a reliable witness to tell the story, close enough to Christ, and willing to tell the truth? Or was he trying to make a Jewish peasant into the Son of God? II. Is the transmission from what Mark wrote to the Greek manuscripts reliable? Important to know that Mark’s original documents are not available. Was it perhaps changed, even corrupted? III. Is the translation from the original Greek manuscripts to today’s New Testament reliable or in some texts changed to what Christians want it to say?

We will discuss each of these objections and start with the most important.

On the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts see – ‘The Resurrection of Christ’

I. The Objection of Unreliable Testimony.

  1. Mark was not with Jesus, he was a post-resurrection person. Response: From scriptural/Biblical as well as second-century evidence it is evident that Mark was associated with Peter while in Rome as Peter’s interpreter. Bishop Papias of Hierapolis (60-130AD) claimed that Mark wrote the Gospel in Rome as he scribed the preaching of Peter.
  2. Jesus was a legend. Response: Experts date the writing of Mark to be around 60 A.D., within 25 to 30 years after the crucifixion, making it most probably the oldest Gospel written. Thus, written much too early to create a legend. Legends are not created within the lifetime of the acquaintances of the supposed legend – created facts and stories are too easy to be exposed as untrue. Records of the life of Alexander the Great was between written 400 and 450 years after the events yet they are given the benefit of the doubt as factually correct.  
  3. Controversial stories of Jesus Christ vs the Pharisees were invented to dissolve debates and written later into the story of Jesus Christ. Response: The issues in the New Testament church were not solved by the sayings of Jesus. If the story of Jesus in the gospel were made up, Paul and others would have solved it by saying ‘Jesus said’ but Jesus is almost never cited to solve controversy except with The Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11.
  4. Teachings like the Sermon on the Mount were invented to provide instructions to new Christians. Response: The is no Biblical or extra-Biblical evidence for this statement and accepted widely as the word spoken by Jesus.
  5. Miracles were invented as apologetic material. Response: see The Resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection happened, then miracles can happen.

More evidence for the reliability of Mark

  1. The unflattering portrayal of Jesus. Mark told the truth. He would not have included Mark 1:4-9, the baptism of repentance of Jesus and Mark 6:5, that Jesus could not do any miracles, Mark 10:18, Why do you call Me good or Mark 16: 5-7 the woman as witnesses of the resurrection. Mark gives a feel of integrity, unlike the non-canonical books.
  2. The Presence of Independent Witnesses to what Mark wrote. Matthew and Luke’s account of Jesus’ life that coheres with Mark’s account. And Paul’s account that He saw the risen Jesus who radically changed his life. The high Christology that Jesus is the Son of God, Devine, died for our sins, worked miracles, raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of God in heaven, took years to develop. Response: Paul wrote a high Christology of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15 and written around 51 AD.
  3. The effects of Jesus’ life on people. If he was just a teacher, He would have had minimal effect on the lives of His followers, but His followers were so convinced of His Christology that the church exploded, and His followers were prepared to lay down their lives.

From the above, it can be concluded that the Gospel of Mark is a reliable testimony of the life of Jesus.  

II. Transmission from what Mark wrote to the Greek manuscripts. The objection is that it could be tainted because Mark’s original manuscripts are not available. Response: The question is not whether we have the original documents but how many copies of the original documents do we have, and how early were they written – how close to the original. The time from the earliest copies of Tacitus’ Annals that were written AD 14–68, the central historical source for the first century C.E. Rome, to the original writing is at least a thousand years and 20 copies are available.  With Mark, the time between Mark’s original documents and existing copies is 140 years and thousands of copies are available. The reconstructed text from these manuscripts demonstrates 99% similarity with no major doctrinal (foundational teaching) variance.

III. Translation from the Greek manuscripts to today’s Bible. The objection is that it is a biased translation, that the modern translations from Greek were changed into what they wanted it to say. Response: There are many translations and different translations use different forms to express the same meaning. Some translations emphasize the precise meaning like the New International Version (NIV), and some emphasize the original language, like the New American Standard Version (NAS). Thus, different translations have different emphases but the same meanings and are not biased. The accuracy of the English translations is open to scrutiny by Christian and non-Christian Greek scholars. It is an accurate translation from Greek. This is not really an issue anymore and the least important of the objections to the reliability of Mark’s account of Jesus’s life

Conclusion: each of the main objections to the reliability of Mark’s account has been addressed. It was shown that Mark was a reliable witness, and willing to tell the truth. That the transmission of Mark’s writings to the earliest Greek manuscripts can be trusted and thirdly that the translation from the original Greek to today’s Bible was not corrupted and reliable and open to scrutiny by scholars. Mark’s Gospel is a reliable source about the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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Time to Think. 2. Why Life without God is Untenable, if not Absurd

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Man is the only creature that asks ‘why’- questions about his existence. If we are no more than the by-product of nature, the result of matter, time, and chance, and there is no reason for our existence, the answers might just be dark and terrible. (Loren Eisley) If God is left out of the equation, the only prospect is that we will all end up, with the universe, in a purposeless death.

Modern man thought when he got rid of God, that he freed himself but in killing God, he only orphaned himself. Without God, man and the universe are doomed to nothing more than a dark cold purposeless death. Science tells us that the universe is running out of energy and eventually everything, the entire universe, will end up in death. In Sartre’s words ‘the universe is marching irretrievably to its grave, there is no hope, no escape’.

If each individual will pass out of existence when he dies, what ultimate meaning could there be? Does it matter that he/she lived at all? Consider the average person that lived a thousand years ago, in the Middle Ages. The vast majority of these people are completely forgotten by everyone. What they did as individuals, good or bad, makes no difference to anyone today. Their actions while they were alive bore no significance relatively soon after their deaths. And so will our life and actions have no significance within years after our death, once we are forgotten as individuals. ‘We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.’ Ecclesiastes 1:11. If there is only death, there is no ultimate meaning. Everything will be forgotten as if it never existed – our final destination would be unrelated to our behavior. So, we can live as we please.

Without God life becomes ultimately absurd with no ultimate meaning, no ultimate value, and no ultimate purpose. Just today’s pleasures for today.

If all is doomed to die anyway, what difference if one has ever existed? Mankind is in the doomed race of a dying universe – it will cease to exist, and it will make no difference. Each individual will die, the human race will stop to exist, and the universe will die; just a cold, dead, lifeless, lightless chaotic conglomeration of stars swallowed by black holes. And no one to remember anything.

This is the horror of modern man: in reality, because he ends in nothing, he is ultimately nothing. And doomed to purposelessness in a forgotten vacuum of nothing.  

Life might be significant relative to now but ultimately there is no significance to anyone’s life. What is the ultimate difference between the life of a Hitler and a Mother Teresa, if they both and their actions will be forgotten in a thousand years from now?

If there is no God, there is no ultimate meaning. People live as if their lives have meaning, but it is inconsistent with their worldview. A self-delusion really to ‘create’ your own meaning.

So does the concept of morality lose its meaning without God? If there is no God there can’t be objective morality, no objective right or wrong. Without God, who can say whose values are right or and whose are wrong? Hitler, Mother Theresa? Morality becomes an expression of individual taste, of personal subjective feelings, and relative judgments. With the implication that means it is impossible to judge war, suppression, crime, evil, love as bad or good. It becomes only the bare valueless facts of existence, personal opinion. I will soon do a talk on morality in this series.

If death is the only and final outcome of existence, what can the goal and purpose of life be? All for nothing? We are here to know purpose and humans seek it all the time!
If not, we are no better than a dog or an insect. Without God, there can only be despair if we are honest with ourselves. If God is dead, man is dead.  For atheist Friedrich Nietzsche the implication is that atheism equals nihilism, the belief that nothing is real, that it is impossible to know anything, that all values are based on nothing, especially moral values, believing that life is inherently and utterly meaningless. Without God, there is no goal or purpose for the universe. And man is merely a biological electro-chemical machine, controlled by altering genetic codes and cannot have a free will and neither have rational thoughts.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s solution holds ‘two possibilities: face the absurdity of life or live valiantly with courage and determination’. Or atheist Bertrand Russell ‘build your life on unyielding despair’. Albert Camus ‘come to terms with the absurdity of life, then learn to live in love with one another’.

Without God, you are in a desperate position and have to try and make the best of reality. But it is impossible to live consistently in despair and with incessant attempts to deal with the situation.

Francis Schaeffer illustrates this concept in the Two-Story Universe – model a ‘two-story division of knowledge’. The first level is the finite world without God: a life without ultimate meaning and purpose. Absurd. The second level is life with meaning, purpose, and value because of a belief in God that created the universe and us for a purpose. It is impossible to live happily and consistently without God, on the first level. Without God, you can either be consistent and unhappy being stuck on the first story or inconsistent, in what you believe and jump to the second story and be happy. Modern man, the atheist, is living in this two-story universe. He lives in the lower story because he believes there is no God. But he cannot live consistently and be happy. He makes leaps of faith into the upper story to affirm that life has meaning, value, and purpose, but he has no right to do it. He is inconsistent if he does that.

Three areas that show that life is absurd without God and that you cannot be consistent and happy. To be true to yourself, to be true to truth, and be consistent with a materialistic worldview one cannot be but unhappy. To be happy you have to be inconsistent with one’s materialistic worldview.

  1. Meaning

Without God life has no ultimate meaning because everything is ultimately on its way to death and all will be forgotten as if never existed. But people continue to live if life has meaning. You can ‘create’ meaning by freely choose to follow certain actions – Sartre. This is utterly inconsistent. If life is meaninglessness, because there is no ultimate meaning, then to ‘create’ meaning is meaningless as it will also end in death and be forgotten.  Man is trapped in the lower story. To ‘create’ meaning represents a leap of faith into the upper story. Sartre has no basis for this leap of faith – without God, there cannot be any objective meaning. This is only self-delusion because each person can’t give the universe its own meaning. The universe without God is ultimately meaningless irrespective of how the individual sees it. So, you have to pretend.

2. Value; ethical values and human value.

Represents the most blatant inconsistencies in the materialistic worldview.

Bertrand Russell confessed ‘I do not know where ethical values come from. Dostoevsky, ‘All things are permitted but man cannot live this way. Everything in him cries out to what is wrong but does not know why.’  Sartre admitted that the Holocaust was wrong but he could not live with his denial of absolute ethical values. Moral compatibility – an atheist cannot live consistently with this.

Feminism. If God does not exist, then women have no value more than a female goat. In nature male is dominant. But nobody can live with such a dehumanizing view. Francis Crick (Watson-Crick-DNA) concludes that man is no better than a laboratory specimen. If so, why was the holocaust wrong? We can only protest consistently if we believe in God.

No God and humans have no value. Inconsistent if you say they do

3. Purpose

You have to create a purpose. It is self-delusion without God. You cannot reach a logical conclusion.  Ernest Bloch, ‘the only way modern man lives in the face of death is by subconsciously borrowing the belief in immortality that his forefathers held to, even though he himself has lost and has no basis for believing it since he does not believe in God.’ He believes that life ends in nothing. It is hardly sufficient to keep the head high and to work as if there is no end. He makes the leap of faith to confirm but it is inconsistent. If God does not exist, then nobody has any value. And if you say that humans do have value, you are inconsistent. Live as if immortal.

The dilemma. Postmodern man denies God’s existence and results in absurdity of purpose, meaning, and objective moral values. Life is ultimately without meaning or purpose. If you are consistent in believing and living this, you will be profoundly unhappy. To live happily demands a lie. Man, desperately try to escape this. L D Rue. The ‘Noble Lie Option.’ We deceive ourselves means by some noble lie thinking that we exist in the universe that has meaning. Our quest for personal wholeness and self-fulfillment becomes only relative to the individual. No social coherence – relativism. In order to live modern man must live in self-deception. But once you see this lie, it doesn’t work anymore like a placebo, and atheism fails.

Biblical Christianity offers meaning, value, and purpose. Not proof but spells out the workable alternative. The existence of God makes sense of morality, the moral force behind the moral law, shame and guilt, equal rights, human value.

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Time to Think. 1. Arguments for the Existence of God

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We all, at times, experience a sense of detachment from people, from matters important to us, and sometimes, from life itself. As if we are not really in control. We all experience shame and guilt. And deep inside, we hunger for meaning in life and sometimes even wonder about the possibility of life after death. We find ourselves with a sense of alienation from a God that we might not even believe exists, but guilt feelings are real. We feel we are not in the best place we could hope to be and have a constant and deep yearning for something better somewhere out there.

Why would this discontent be, why these feelings of alienation that dwell in the human heart, if we only consist of matter and nothing but a product of blind evolutionary processes? Why can’t we just live and enjoy what is at hand and find happiness in this life, find true contentment? Or could it be that a developmental process was at play, at least as a possibility, a process that guided human development for a higher purpose? That the human heart was created for meaning rather than for happiness?

We find ourselves in a natural world that communicates to us and is filled with the splendor of great beauty, of astounding order in nature, of perfect scientific laws, a cosmos filled with mathematical rationality. All these that epitomize our universe. Why is there not simply chaos around us if the only reality that exists is that of no purpose, no plan, no design? If it is only a fact of matter, energy, and pure chance? The universe a mere product of blind unguided processes?

The existence of objective moral values, the sense of right and wrong, is impossible to explain lest there is a perfect standard outside of us to compare it to. C.S. Lewis ‘A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.’ Relativism, subjective moral values, that is, ‘what is true for you is not necessarily true for me’ is the logical and necessary consequence of a materialistic worldview, a view that nothing but matter exists. A view that implicates that there is no standard outside of us. But this is not tenable. Hitler thought his actions with the Holocaust were perfectly justified. What would have made his thoughts and actions crooked if there was no objective Straight Line to measure his actions to. Materialism fails to explain the deep sense of universal objective right and wrong. Even if you might argue that a culture or society determines its own moral values. If a religious movement believes and accepts that female circumcision is justifiable and the proper thing to do in their society, does that make it right?

Why does the universe exist at all? Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did it come from? Why am I here? Life’s deepest questions.

If the universe had no beginning, always existed, coming to the present moment would require crossing an infinite number of actual earlier moments and it would be impossible to reach the present moment. But the present moment is here, therefore the universe had a beginning.

Observation of our universe teaches us that 1. whatever begins to exist has a cause (there are no known exceptions). We argued that 2. the universe began to exist, had a beginning. This also confirmed scientifically – a beginning 13.772 ± 0.040 billion years ago, the Universe Singularity. The necessary conclusion that follows from 1. and 2. is that 3. the universe has a cause. (The Kalam cosmological argument).

What could the most plausible cause be for the existence of the universe with its astonishing beauty, inbuilt order, elegant scientific laws, exquisite and exact fine-tuning that makes life possible, the existence of mathematical and human rationality, of objective morality? Could the cause be a senseless reality caused by random chance with no purpose, just a brute fact? Can this ever be a reasonable and satisfactory conclusion? (even if a multiverse is postulated, that has no scientific grounds as an argument but a mere attempt to escape God, would still need an explanation of how it all started).

Logically, a much more plausible cause for the existence of the universe would be an uncaused cause, a cause outside of the universe with its matter and the time-space continuum that came into existence at the universe singularity event (Big Bang). An uncaused cause that existed before and outside the existence of matter, time, and space. A Cause that is immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, with intelligence beyond comprehension and with a personal will that, by volition would use the power of His will to bring a universe into existence.  

‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’ Genesis 1:1. As scientific evidence became stronger and stronger over the last 100 years it was realized and accepted as fact that the universe indeed had a beginning and did not exist from the ‘eternal past’.

The Judeo-Christian concept of God has always been that He is an everlasting (timeless and omnipresent) God, all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), an unseen Spirit (immaterial and spaceless), and a personal God with a free will. A God who would create the universe with so much beauty for His pleasure and a desire to share this pleasure with His created beings, with humans created in His image. Genesis 1:26. Beauty is a mental awareness and can only exist if a conscious mind exits that can perceive it. A Mind, God, that created beauty for His created beings, for human minds.

God. The most plausible cause for the existence of the universe, for our very existence.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” ― C.S. Lewis

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Time to Think – future topics

  1. Why Life without God is Untenable
  2. The Problem of Evil
  3. Can we Trust the Bible
  4. Evidence for the Resurrection
  5. Other Religions
  6. What about those who never heard about Christ?
  7. Darwinism
  8. Defense of the Soul

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A Concise Essay that Refutes Physicalism (Based on a lecture by J.P. Moreland’)

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Christianity teaches that the soul and the body are not the same. This is supported in Old Testament2 as well as in New Testament3 scriptures. The soul continues after death to exist without the body until the resurrection4. Paul also talked about the soul that left the body5.  Many Christian scholars, however, do not believe this any longer and do not hold that the soul and the body are different entities. Under pressure of modern neurophysiology, they believe the soul is a behavior of the brain and that the resurrected body will be recreated out of nothing.  Some hold that evolution makes the existence of an immaterial soul highly unlikely. Further more, if Darwinism is true, then there is no god, and the mind and the brain are the same thing. But the question is; can the mind be pure matter and how did it come to be?  Did it evolve from matter and is nothing but matter? Or are there persuasive arguments to contradict this notion?

To argue that the soul and the brain are not the same, we have to define certain terminologies.  It is important to distinguish between property and substance. Property is a characteristic or attribute possessed by something, it belongs to something, e.g. brown, square, humanity – these all belong to ‘something’ but is not the ‘something’. Physical properties are used in hard science; in chemistry and physics, like mass, being in motion or electric charge to describe and study these disciplines. Substance has properties but nothing has it. Substance can gain or lose properties, though the substance stays the same. For example, an electron can gain or lose charge but stays an electron. Even so myself. I can gain or lose properties, yet my substance would not change.

The mind-body problem raises the question; are humans one kind of thing with the mind equal to the body, just material? Or two kinds of things namely body and mind, that is, material and something more?

The Strict Physicalist holds that humans are one kind of thing. Just physical. We are a physical substance, brain only, with physical properties. Yet, holding this view, the existence of consciousness is a problem.

Dualism asserts that humans are two kinds of things namely physical and immaterial. There are, however, two dualist views. a. The property duelist. Humans are one physical substance but with two kinds of properties namely with physical properties and with immaterial mental properties (mind/consciousness). b. The substance dualist. Humans are two kinds of properties. Each has its own possessor or substance: a material object, the brain (the substance), that has physical properties plus an immaterial thing (substance) that has mental properties, that is the ‘I’ or the soul.

We have to consider the nature of identity and look at the law of indiscernible identicals – ‘Leibniz’s Law 6; for any or all of X, and any or all of Y, if X is identical to Y, then for all properties P, P will be true of X only if P is true of Y (X with all properties P = Y with all properties P). Thus X=Y is identical and the same thing. But if all P is not in X but in Y, then X and Y are not identical.

Science cannot help with the question of mind and body.  We have to ask; are there things that we know about the mental properties P, say of X, that are not true of the physical properties P, say of Y. And vice versa. If so, then X does not equal Y.

Science can show that stimulation of the brain causes a reaction; a thought or an emotion of pain. Or with damage, loss of function can be demonstrated. But if X is shown to functionally interact with Y, it does not follow that X equals Y. Now we can ask; are there things we know are true of mental properties that are not true of physical properties and vice versa? Are there mental properties that are not the same as physical properties? As an example, stimulating the brain can cause a physical reaction but the person can also see his mother in a green dress. This image is not physical but mental and therefore not the same for each.

Arguments for At Least Property Dualism (mental properties not identical to physical properties)

Mental states are sensations of two kinds. 1. Perceptual Sensation. These are states of sentience or an awareness of conscience produced by the five sense organs. E.g., awareness of color or sound. This awareness is present in the person. 2. Non-perceptional Sensation. This is the same but not produced by the senses e.g., a. the feeling of pain, b. the sensation of fear, love, anger, c. thoughts, that exist while occurrent, can be expressed in sentences and can be true or false, d. beliefs, mental content, e. beliefs that are not thoughts. I can have beliefs that I am not thinking of and they can be true or false, f. acts of free will, g. desires. These mental states or properties do not have physical properties like size, mass, electric charge. Thought activities can be seen on a scan but not what they are or if they are true or false.

Therefore, there are things true of perceptual and non-perceptual sensation that are not true of physical properties. And vice versa. They are not identical to the physical properties of the brain and the physical properties of the brain are not identical to these mental properties. The mental state or mental properties do not have shape, size, and not are not spatially located. Physical states cannot be true or false, but thoughts can. Some sensations are pleasurable but physical properties can never be. There are things true of perceptual and non-perceptual sensations but not true of physical properties which have shape and weight, etc, and vice versa. These are not the same kind of properties.

The first argument for At Least Property Dualism: The comprehensive knowledge of matter through science does not exhaust all knowledge that there is. For example, a scientist may have more knowledge about my brain than what I have but he cannot have more knowledge of my thoughts, emotions, etc. I only have this first-person private awareness.

The second argument for At Least Property Dualism. Intentionality is not a physical feature. Intentionality is an ofness, a unity of thought, or aboutness, of my sensations, beliefs, and thoughts. Intentionality points to things like thoughts about objects, about God, beliefs about the holocaust, sensations of the sound of a musical instrument. All conscious mental states have this feature of intentionality, but physical ones have not. I know my thoughts and feelings just by paying attention to them and I can inspect them. A scientist cannot do that, he can only monitor my brain status.

Conclusion. What is it that has these mental properties? Either it is the brain that has two kinds of properties (property dualism) or we have a body and a soul that each possesses its respective kind of properties (substance dualism). Thus that At Least Property Dualism is true.

Arguments for Substance Dualism

  First argument. No amount of information about my body or my consciousness will tell anyone who or where I am. At least, in theory, one can switch from one body to another, but you cannot switch your mind/soul. Then, if I am a brain others should be able to tell, by describing my brain, which person I am, who I am and where I am. Yet, it still is an open question to ask, “Which one is mine, which brain is mine, after I have switched bodies?” I have to be immediately acquainted with my own ego to know the description is true of me. Now consider the ‘split-brain operation’. One-half of person 1’s brain is put into a body (call this person 2), and the other half is put into a different body (call this person 3). Suppose that persons 2 and 3 have all person 1’s memories and personality traits, where is person 1? There could be four options: a. Person 1 was annihilated, and two new people came to exist. b. Person 1 is equal to person 2, and person 3 is just a mental double, but not a new person. c. Like option 2, but here person 2 is the mental double and not a new person, and person 1 is equal to person 3. d. You cannot split persons in half, where person 2 is equal to ½ person 1, and person 3 is equal to ½ person 1. What is the solution? While we know where person 1’s body and brain are, we don’t know where person 1 is. Yet, we would, if person 1 is equal to person 1’s brain (i.e., the physicalist view). We would know where person 1 is if person 1 is equal to all his or her personality traits, memories, and conscious life (on a property dualism view). But, one person cannot be two people, person 2 and 3.  No amount of information in this dilemma can solve the question. We are missing the information about person 1’s ego, so there is more to person 1 than just his or her brain, or his or her personality traits, memories, and conscious life.

  The second argument. I, the soul, the mind, have the property of being possibly disembodied but my body does not have this property. Therefore, I am not identical to my body. Even if life after death is false, it is at least possible that I am the kind of thing that can exist in a disembodied manner. If so, I am not identical to my brain. Near-death experiences involve an immaterial self that can look at one’s body. Where did humans get this idea that one can leave one’s body? From what we experience and how we see ourselves separate from the body/brain. We are aware of being a conscious being and not a brain. Throughout the world and history, people talk about ‘my brain, my foot, my eye’, not meaning that I am a brain, a foot or an eye but that I possess it.

  Thirdly, the argument from the reality of free will. Physical objects behave by natural laws and inputs. If I am just a brain, even if with consciousness, then all my behaviors are fixed by my brain, genes, and environmental inputs. Free choices require that I am more than just my body, more than just physical material, that I am a body and an immaterial mental substance.

The Structure of The Human Soul

  Evolution can explain where the body comes from but not where the mind, the soul or ego, the immaterial comes from. Darwinism is a physical theory. Humans have many capacities (potentialities, abilities) that we do not exercise, that are often not functional. And cannot be physical. For example, when we are sleeping, we can have the capacity to speak English but not speaking English. We also have the capacities to have capacities. I have the capacity to speak English, but not Russian, but I have the capacity to develop that capacity, to speak Russian, too.

  Faculties of the soul are families of resembling capacities Examples are; 1. Capacities of seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing. My eyes don’t see. I see. But my eyes have to function. My soul needs the faculty of sight. 2. The mind is my set of capacities to reason, think and believe. My mind is a faculty of my soul – all my capacities together. 3. Emotions are a set of capacities. 4. The will is a set of powers to choose – the faculty of volitional will. 5. The spirit, a faculty of the human soul. It is a power to be aware of God and be related to Him.

  I am essentially my soul. I, my soul, is attached to my body but I am not my body. I have one and have a mind but am not identical to it.

           1. J.P. Moreland. (B.S., M.A., Ph.D., Th.M.) American philosopher, theologian, and Christian apologist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California

2. Ecclesiastes 12:7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

        3. Matthew 10:28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.

      4. Philippians 3:20–21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will            ………. transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

5. 2 Corinthians 12:3 Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows.

6. The Identity of Indiscernibles First published Wed Jul 31, 1996; substantive revision Sun Aug 15, 2010 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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When one’s last day on earth is over, personal ultimate purpose of life will get its full meaning.

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For the Christian, the last day will be a personal fulfillment of a life lived. A reflection spanning his and her entire life. Every act, every thought important. The meaning and purpose, the significance of his and her life, of every deed, will usher him/her into the new future. Through grace into an intimate closeness to his and her eternal Creator, to the God who is love.

For the atheist, should atheism be true, it will be a day when everything comes to an end, a day when everything that has had temporal meaning in his or her life, will dramatically, abruptly, permanently, and totally lose all personal meaning. An end in nothingness ‘entering’ a state of non-existence, of non-consciousness. From pre-conception nothingness to post-death nothingness. A life lived but with the total annihilation of  any ultimate personal meaning on the day of death. The absurdity of a life without God. 

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The ‘Third Most Important Law’ – Love Yourself.

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“Teacher, which is the most important commandment … ?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law (is) … based on these two commandments Matthew 22:36-40.

By implication, ‘love yourself’ – but Jesus placed no emphasis on this self-love though mentioned it as a fact. The ‘entire law’ is not based on this love, but we tend to base our entire life on this love. And make ‘love yourself’ the ‘Third Most Important Commandment’ – a law in our hearts.

Self-respect, self-care, self-love is good and necessary. We cannot function without these in their rightful places in our lives.

But our human nature tends to, all the time, move the position of this love up on the hierarchical scale. Above the love for our neighbor, and not equal to, as commanded by Christ. And we do not hesitate to move it above our love for God. And the ‘Third Most Important Law’ – Love Yourself’ dwell in our hearts as our first love – the first and most important law. The original and continuous profound fallen state of man. Choosing our needs above God. (Adam – used in the Bible as a pronoun; individually as “a human” and in a collective sense as “mankind”)

Listen carefully and consider church sermons’ messages. How often is the Word subtly turned solely to our needs; how to cope with our circumstances as the main concern. Our job, our income, our relationships stand at the top of needs list. Without having God, our love for Him, His purpose as the main concern, but rather my needs, my love for me, as the primary goal.

‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.’ Matthew 6:33

‘You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.’ Psalm 16:11

Do we desire heaven and eternal life because of the ‘Third Law – Self-love’, self-preservation or because of our love for God, to be forever with our eternal Lover? To be filled with the joy of His presence, forever?

‘When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am.’ John 14:3. That is what He promises, to be with Him. Is that the desire of our hearts?

‘But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ’ Philippines 3:8.

‘And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect’ 1 John 4:17

‘May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God’ 2 Thessalonians 3:5, so we will put Him above all, above our hearts. In our daily lives, in our quiet times with Him, in the sermons we attend.

And keep the ‘Third Most Important Law’ – Love Yourself’ as the least important law.

‘For even the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ Mark 10:45. Serve God, serve man.

Know Him and make Him known. ‘May you have more and more of His loving-favor and peace as you come to know God and our Lord Jesus Christ better.’ 2 Peter 1:2

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Time to Think 10. Christians are narrow minded to claim that ‘Jesus is the only way to God’

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A Response to the Objector

In response to your objection that ‘Christians are narrow-minded by claiming that Jesus is the only way to God’, I realize that this might probably be one of the most offensive elements of Christianity. I would, therefore, like to share with you the basis for this Christian claim. I think that the claim is reasonable, just, fair, and defensible. Though, in today’s pluralistic society, this claim can certainly be seen as audacious and politically incorrect, implicating that those who do not believe in Christ will go to hell. Some might even be of the opinion that such a view can encourage hate crimes – ‘You, Christians, think you are better because only you know the truth and the only way to heaven’ – this can cause certainly negative feelings.

I would like to address your objection under four key headings.

1. Why do Christians hold this belief?

  • does Scripture teach it

2. Why would Jesus Christ be the Only Way?  

  • moral failure and guilt
  • what about good, moral, sincere people?

3. What about other religions?

  • are they not all basically the same, just different paths to God?

4. What about those who never heard?

 

My response:

1. Why do Christians hold this belief?

Does the Bible teach this? There are at least one hundred verses in the New Testament that, explicitly or implicitly, expressed either by Jesus or the disciples, that communicate this teaching. ‘Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.’1 and Peter said ‘There is salvation in no One else!’2

Greg Koukl gives nine lines of argument that Jesus is the only way to salvation supported by the hundred scripture verses in his book ‘Jesus the Only Way’3These scripture supported arguments are, 1.  Jesus is the only source of salvation for the world 2. Jesus is the Father’s choice 3. Rejection of Jesus is a rejection of the Father 4. Rejection of Jesus brings judgment and wrath; belief in Jesus rescues from wrath 5. Jesus is the one who provides forgiveness of sin. 6. Many imposters will claim to provide other ways of salvation 7. There are no alternatives for salvation 8. All nations are to be given this Gospel 9.  Jesus will be man’s judge on the final day.

Christians believe the Bible as the word of God. This makes it impossible for a Christian not to believe that Jesus is the only way. But what is the basis for this teaching, these statements in the Bible?

The Bible teaches that people are dying from sin and the Bible conveys the message for the cure. I realize the Gospel is offensive enough to the world, but Christians cannot remove this ‘offensive’ doctrine of sin inherent to the Gospel, or Christianity will no longer have a message. Sin is the problem. Jesus Christ the solution. Why this belief and why is Christ the only answer?

All religions believe their way is the true way but contradict each to such an extent that only one or none can be true. It is not reasonable to pick and choose certain aspects from each religion and for individuals to form their own ideas of truth. The God of the Bible has always been narrow but so are all other religions in what they believe. Christians believe we can inherit eternal life, that is, will be in the loving presence of the personal eternal God, through the grace of repentance and the forgiving of our sins through Christ. Muslims inherit eternal life through good works that outweigh the evil that man has done in life. Neither the Hindu faith nor Buddhism teaches an afterlife but a state of having escaped the ‘this troubled life’. Through ‘enlightenment’ of the individual in Buddhism. In Hinduism liberation means the deliverance of individual souls (atman) from Samsara or the cycle of births and deaths. It is a complex, transformative process that requires the cleansing of the mind and body, the overcoming of duality, delusion, and egoism, and achieving oneness with the Self or Brahman. Thus, not only do the major religions contradict each other in the way to ‘salvation’ but are also very different in what the end goal means and will be. In all major religions sin, moral failure is central to what will happen to the soul.

2. Why would Jesus Christ be the only way?

i. The identity of Jesus is central to Christianity. Not His teachings, but who He is. He drew the attention to His own identity. We read ‘Then He asked them, “But who do you say I am?”4 and Jesus was crucified for blasphemy. ‘Then the high priest said to Him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God.”- therefore, claiming to be God. Jesus answered in the affirmative and the high priest tore his clothes and said they needed no further evidence.5Blasphemy that deserved death.

ii. Jesus claimed to be God. That makes Him either Lord God, a liar, or a lunatic.6Making this claim, He is either right or wrong. If wrong, He either knew it or did not: (a) If He knew He was wrong, He lied. (b) If He did not know He was wrong but thought He was the only way to God, He was a lunatic. But if He was right, He is the Lord.

Was He a lunatic? Not a reasonable alternative: most people regard Jesus’ teaching as good and coherent. Was He a liar? If so, and we say He was a good man but lied about who He was, it makes no sense. Therefore, if He was neither a liar nor a lunatic, He was the Lord.

iii. In the eyes of the world sin is probably the second most offensive element of the Gospel. Sin, however, is totally tied to Christ as the only way, the reason for His birth into this world. No one is good and everyone needs Jesus Christ. Is this claim correct, you might ask? We are all aware of our moral failings and guilt. This is coherent and comprehensible to people. Maybe we feel guilty because we are guilty. We are aware of our brokenness, our moral failures. One might ask the question “Do you think people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?” And then, “Have you and I ever committed moral crimes, maybe most of the time not so serious but also serious ones throughout our lives?” Moral crimes ought to be punished, in particular serious moral crimes. Agree? We are all guilty of moral crimes in our lives. We all need clemency. God made provision: Jesus Christ. ‘For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.’7‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.’8Our own experience of life convince us of our own moral guilt. Even if we try to live one single day without any moral failure in thoughts or deeds, we will realize there is a problem, and we fall short of God’s standard. But there is clemency. That is in one particular way only. Jesus Christ. God is fair. He has offered a way of pardon, and we are responsible to act or not. As a righteous God, a righteous Judge, He has to punish sin, moral failure, lest He is not righteous. Christ has taken our punishment onto Himself.

iv. I realize you might object and ask what about good, moral people? The good person, one who has never sinned, would not need Jesus. Since no one is good, we all need Jesus. God does not want any people to go to hell, but we are all guilty. God provides a way out. Now it is up to us. You might feel: “I have not committed that many sins.” Just because we do one thing right does not allow us to commit other wrongs. God is the highest perfect Being and His perfect justice requires perfection. And we know that over our lifetimes we are repeatedly guilty of moral failures. We are repeat offenders.

Jesus is the only way because He is the only One dealing with the problem of sin. Either you pay for your moral guilt or Jesus pays for it.

And what about sincere people? Sincerity is irrelevant if we break the law. Sincerity does not create truth. But seek the truth sincerely. And it will be found.9

3. What about other religions?

“All, religions are basically the same.” This is in reality said by people who do not have much knowledge about other religions. Religions are superficially the same but fundamentally very different as I have pointed out in 1. Different religions have different views of God, as well as what happens after we die. These views are mutually exclusive. All religions can simply not be true as they contradict each other in the most fundamental ways. That Jesus the only way is defensible. He is the only One dealing with sin. Every person is a repeat offender. Moral failure, the defiance of what we know is morally right, deserves punishment. And Jesus is God’s provision, the perfect God who takes our punishment unto Himself. The only way out of this predicament.

4. What about those who never heard?

This is certainly a reasonable concern. The assumption though, is that those who never heard the message of Christ, even if they would have wanted to know it, will go to hell. It assumes that there are millions of unevangelized who really want to know God but cannot, since they are isolated from the message. People born in the wrong place – and one might ask, is that just? We believe again that the Biblical answer is reasonable, just, and fair.

We need to look at five fundamental Biblical Truths in response.

i. God only punishes because of guilt – all are guilty. No one goes to hell because he never heard of Jesus, and no one goes to hell because he did not believe in Jesus. It is not the disbelief or ‘never heard’ why people go to hell: it is sin, not wrong belief but wrong behavior. God only punishes the guilty, sin. We read that we are judged by our deeds.10 Since we have all committed sin, we are judged justly if we are sent to hell. We go to hell because we break God’s law, not because of belief. No one goes to hell for not believing in Jesus. Instead, God sends people to hell for violating His moral law.

ii. God does not owe anyone a pardon. A judge is never obliged to pardon the guilty. Justice requires punishment, not pardon. Justice also requires that God would not send anyone to hell who is innocent. Forgiveness is not obligatory; that is why it is grace. Those who never heard stand before God just as they are: guilty. God can forgive who He wants, the rest, all, still deserve punishment. This is not ‘unfair’ because God has not hidden Himself from anyone.

iii. He does not hide Himself. ‘Forever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So, they have no excuse for not knowing God.’11‘In the past He permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but He never left them without evidence of Himself and His goodness. For instance, He sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts’12God reveals Himself through His Word, the Bible and through His works, nature.

iv. Humans do not seek God but run from Him. We read ‘people suppress the truth’13, and often go to great lengths to deny it and ‘exchange the truth for a lie’14Anyone who genuinely seeks God will receive the gospel of grace. For it is not because people cannot, but will not.

v. God actively seeks the human heart and He always responds to the seeking heart. ‘Come close to God, and God will come close to you.’15He loves us and wants no one to perish. ‘He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent.’16‘But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.’17God is doing something to draw them. So, He will give them what they need to be saved, i.e., the Gospel18 They need to be seeking God’s mercy due to their guilt. The God they discover will be the true God. Those who reject Jesus reject the true God, their only solution for their sins. Either He pays for our sins, or we do. William Lane Craig “God will judge us on the knowledge we have, even if we have never heard of Christ Jesus, like the gentile Job, who had a personal relationship with God but could never have heard of Jesus, yet was still saved through Christ’s sacrificial death’

In short: Christians believe that Christ is the only way to God, to eternal life, based on scripture, and on the reality of the moral guilt that we all experience, on the righteous of God who needs to punish sin because He is righteous. Jesus is the only One dealing with the sinful nature of man and took the guilt onto Himself. We cannot overcome our daily moral failures. We cannot stand perfect before God. Through grace, accepting what Christ has done, we are freed from our guilt and failures, it’s paid, and we can inherit eternal life.

References

1 John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

2 Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

3 Jesus, the Only Way: 100 Verses by Gregory Koukl June 10, 2009

4 Matthew 16:15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

5 Matthew 26:62-64 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

6 C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Pascal

7 Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard

8 Galatians 3:10. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law

9 Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.

10 Revelation 20:12 … the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done

11 Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse

12 Acts 14:16-17 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

13 Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness

14 Romans 1:25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…

15 James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you…

16 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord …. not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

17 Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

18 Acts 17:27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.

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Time to Think. 8.“How Do You Know Jesus Rose From the Dead” Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ

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Click here for: Link to YouTube Video: Discussing the Facts of the Resurrection

This is a really important question. Christianity stands or falls on the evidence for this event. Is there enough support for the truth of this and to give an answer with confidence, you might ask? I believe there is strong historical evidence that Jesus did rise from the dead.

It is not generally accepted that people come back from the dead, but the evidence is overwhelming that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. And I will tell you why I say this.

The resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith. If the resurrection is shown not to have happened, Christianity will collapse into insignificance. If Christ was not raised from the dead, then holding on to this belief, ‘spreading the Gospel’, would all be in vain, not only worthless but misleading, a message deceiving people.

Christianity is not ‘blind faith’ asking us to believe what we do not see but is based on verifiable facts. The testability of the facts of the resurrection is of particular importance. In stark contrast to all other religions, which is not supported by verifiable facts, Christianity is testable. The resurrection in particular sets Christianity apart from all other religions. It leaves itself open to scrutiny, to claims that are testable. If the ‘evidence’ for the resurrection is found to be inaccurate, Christianity can be written off as a mythical story, a legend, a narrative hardly worth any consideration except that it misled hundreds of millions of people over the last 2000 years and nothing short of a tragedy.

To answer the question of the truth of the resurrection, we need to look carefully at the sources of knowledge available to us. Firstly, what are these sources and are they reliable? Do they represent the original text so we can know that we read today is what was written millennia ago and secondly, is the content of that that was originally written, reliable?

The Case for the Resurrection – discussion points

I. Sources of Knowledge and Reliability

  A. Sources

    1. Non-Biblical (extra-)

     2. Biblical manuscripts

B. Reliability of the manuscripts

II. Reliability of the Content

1. Changed lives

2. Birth of the Christian church that exploded into a worldwide Church

3. Academics (Christian and non-Christian) agree on a number of minimal facts about the resurrection

The Case for the Resurrection

I.                       The Available Sources and Reliability of the Sources

Ancient Biblical manuscripts describe the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We also find descriptions of this in non-Biblical external Christian and non-Christian sources.

A. The Sources are a. the ancient manuscripts that were used to reconstruct the New Testament. b. Extra-Biblical ancient writings and c. Archeology. Do b. and c. support what was written in a. the ancient Biblical manuscripts?

1.  Non-Biblical (External) Support. Support for the truth of the New Testament is found in archeology as well as in ancient writings. a. Two examples of archeological findings that support the New Testament records are the existence of an ossuary of Caiaphas1, the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest, who sent Jesus to Pontius Pilate for His execution and secondly an inscription of the name of Pontius Pilate on a tablet2, the Roman ruler who gave Jesus over for crucifixion. An important side note is that not once in history has any archeological finding contrasted Biblical content. b. Several ancient writings support what is written in the New Testament. Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Thallus, and Pliny the Younger and others, all describe the life of Jesus, where He lived and died, that He did miracles as well as mention that Jesus claimed to be God. ‘We know 60 facts of the life of Jesus from sources outside the New Testament (the Biblical manuscripts), from 130 Christian and non-Christian sources, about His life. Seventeen of these non-Christian sources were written within 100-159 years of Jesus’ life.’ Gary Habermas3.

2.     The Biblical Evidence, the New Testament. How can we know that what was written 2 000 years ago is what we read in today’s reconstructed New Testament, and that it is trustworthy? We do not have a single original manuscript at our disposal, not of the Gospels nor any of the letters of the New Testament.

There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and nearly 20,000 in other languages (close to 10 000 in Latin Vulgate, 9 300 in other ancient languages) available to us today4. Today’s New Testament is reconstructed from all the different ancient manuscripts available.

A.   Reliability of the Sources

Are the available manuscripts reliable in communicating what was written in the original texts?

Historians evaluate the authenticity of ancient manuscripts on mainly three points.

1. How many copies are available – the more copies, the more reliable the reconstruction would be. The number of copies of ancient writings available today is 5,735 New Testament Greek manuscripts. The closest to this number in other ancient writings is Homer’s Illiad (a recount of the significant events of the final weeks of the Trojan War and the Greek siege of the city of Troy) with 643 copies5. On Plato, there are 219 manuscripts available.5

2. How large is the time gap from the original writing to the earliest manuscripts.  Homer’s Illiad 400 years, Plato 1300 years, and the earliest New Testament copies 35 years.6

3. How significant are the differences between the different copies/manuscripts. There are 400 000 differences between the numerous different New Testament manuscripts. However, the vast majority are spelling differences and different synonyms that were used. Less than one percent of these differences have significance in meaning and none of these differences affect the core doctrines or principal beliefs of Christianity.7

When was the New Testament written? Most researchers place the date of Jesus’ death at Passover time around the year 30. In the year 70, the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. The earliest New Testament books, the letters written by Paul, were composed in the decade of the 50s. In the mid-60s, James, Peter, and Paul were all killed. None of the four Gospels or the book of Acts, neither any of the 21 epistles (letters of Paul and others, e.g., James, Peter) mention the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, except for Jesus predicting it forty years earlier, before His crucifixion. One would expect that such a major event in the life of the Jews, would have been mentioned unless the books were written before it happened. It is, therefore, reasonable to accept that the Gospels, Acts, and letters of Paul and others were written pre-A.D. 70. Thus around 35 years after the event.

Homer’s Illiad, (like the Bible of the ancient Greeks) was composed in 800 BC by Homer with an account of the Trojan war that was fought around 12th or 11th century BC – a 400-year lapse.

Therefore, the large number of manuscripts, the short period from when they were written to the first manuscripts, the insignificant differences between the copies, and the short period between the actual events and when the original was written, makes a very strong case for the confidence one can have that the reconstructed books of the New Testament are the same as the original writings penned nearly 2,000 years ago and that the content is reliable.

II.        The Reliability of the Content of the Manuscripts

How do we know that what was written is true? We have tried to beyond reasonable doubt, establish that the New Testament is a reliable source of what was written about the life and death and the resurrection of Christ. But can we be sure that what was written actually happened and was not made up by the writers?

If the sources are found to be reliable, how can we be sure that what was written in them is true, a true reflection of what really happened? Here we will consider, amongst many facts, the dramatic and radical changes that took place in peoples’ lives that claimed to have seen the risen Christ and interacted with Him, and the dramatic explosion of the Christian church into a worldwide movement despite brutal persecution.

1. Changed lives. In the scriptures Jesus’ disciples claimed to have seen and interacted with the risen Christ. We read that it radically and dramatically changed their lives from timid scared followers of Jesus afraid of the Jewish authorities into bold preachers that would directly disobey the authorities ‘We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard’ Acts 4:20. They were prepared to be imprisoned and to die for what they believed was true. Paul, a devote Jewish pharisee, filled with zeal for God, for Judaism, and for the Jewish tradition was prosecuting the church but dramatically changed when he encountered the risen Christ. (Galatians 1:11-14) He became a most zealous follower of Christ and wrote most of the new Testament letters.  James, Jesus’ brother, and a skeptic was converted and became one of the prominent leaders of the Christian faith in Jerusalem.

Let us look in particular at what Paul wrote and witnessed. We read in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4 and 14. 3 ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’ This account was written much earlier than the Gospels’ time of writing, around AD 54-57, at most 27 years after the crucifixion.

2. The Christian church was born. The Christian church was born at this time and exploded into a worldwide Christian movement spreading the news and meaning of the resurrection as the central theme, because of the absolute confidence of these men in what they experienced. A movement that has 2.3 billion followers today despite the fact that most of the disciples and Paul were tortured and martyred and so many millions more Christians to follow, persecuted and many martyred throughout history to this day. Something dramatic touched them and is still touching them confirming what they saw. The risen Christ Jesus said: “… I am always with you until the end of time.” Matthew 28:20. His tangible presence. Colossians 1:22. And a  love that compels them. 2 Corinthians 5:14

3. Scholars agree on a number of minimal facts about the resurrection. The available information that we find in all of the manuscripts makes the most sense in coherence and in a logical progression of the narratives and argues for the truth of the resurrection. The belief that the disciples, Paul, and many other witnesses (500, many still alive at the time of Paul’s writing, 1 Corinthians 15:6) saw the risen Christ is the best explanation of the data available today.

‘On the basis of accepted principles of textual and historical analysis, the Gospel records are found to be trustworthy historical documents — primary source evidence concerning the life of Jesus of Nazareth.’ About 95% of New Testament scholars, that is, academics anywhere on the theological spectrum (Christian and non-Christian), agree with a number of minimal facts about the resurrection as assembled from the Biblical and extra-Biblical ancient manuscripts. Dr. Gary Habermas.3

William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas catalogs the historical data concerning the resurrection, twelve historical facts from the ancient Biblical and extra-Biblical manuscripts that even the harshest, most skeptical critics consider to be true:

1) Jesus died by crucifixion 2) He was buried 3) Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended 4) The tomb was discovered to be empty just a few days later 5) The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus 6) The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection 7) This message was the center of preaching in the early church 8) This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before 9) As a result of this preaching the church was born and grew 10) Sunday became the primary day of worship 11) James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed he saw the resurrected Jesus 12) A few years later, Paul was also converted by an experience which he, likewise, believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.

All the available facts argue for the resurrection and the fact that all other theories trying to explain away the resurrection fail and have to yield to the conclusion that Paul and disciples really saw the risen Christ. Liars do not make martyrs.

Some of the many different theories that try to explain away the resurrection are the unknown tomb theory, the wrong tomb theory, the legend theory, twin theory (Jesus had a twin brother), hallucination theory and more. We can test these theories against known facts and all have been shown not to be supported by facts or logic and have failed.8

Lord Darling, formerly Lord Chief Justice of England, wrote: “On that greatest point (the resurrection of Christ) we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favor as a living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in the verdict that the resurrection story is true.”9  

If Jesus claimed to be deity and He was in fact raised from the dead, then this would be a very powerful argument for His deity. His resurrection would confirm the claims of Jesus, including His claim to be God. If Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, that what He predicted, His death and resurrection, and He claimed to be God, we should give Him our fullest attention and adoration.

 

References

1 Israeli, Yael, and Mevorach, David, Cradle of Christianity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2000, English / Hebrew

2 Caesarea, Israel. New Testament Period. Pontius Pilate, (26-37 AD), Limestone, inscribed 82.0 cm H, 65.0 cm W. Building Dedication, 4 Lines of Writing (Latin). Date of Discovery: 1961. Israel Museum (Jerusalem). AE 1963 no. 104

3. Gary Habermas. New Testament scholar and Christian apologist who frequently writes and lectures on the resurrection of Jesus. He is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University.

4 McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 34-36.

5 Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody, Chicago, Revised and Expanded 1986, 366-67.

6 http://generationword.com/_notes/2.html

7400,000+ Scribal Errors in The Greek New Testament Manuscripts What Assurance Do We Have that We Can Trust the Bible? by Edward D. Andrews

8 Josh McDowell The Resurrection Factor, p. 76

9. From ‘ The Day Death Died’, p.15. Michael Green (Author)’

https://youtu.be/tijlW4kSU-g
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Forgiveness. But what about the Restoration of the Relationship? It is not the same.

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I. When you are wronged by a friend or foe, to forgive is to heal your hurt.

i. This healing of your heart will set you free from being trapped by negative feelings. The one who has wronged you is not involved in this process. This is about you, being set free from carrying the baggage of unforgiveness and the negative effects it will have on you. It will also soften your attitude towards the person that wronged you.

ii. Your relationship with this person, however, cannot be restored unless he/she comes to you, confesses the wrongdoing, say that they are sorry, and ask for forgiveness. This will restore trust and restore the relationship. Approaching you will also be so much easier for him/her sensing your positive attitude as a result of your act of forgiveness, even without you having said a word.

Two other possible scenarios:

  1. Though, even without you having forgiven him, he still carries the moral obligation to ask your forgiveness, to repent, and confess the wrongdoing. But without your forgiveness, the relationships cannot be healed.
  2. If you have forgiven the wrong against you, but the wrongdoer has not confessed and repented, it may leave you with an unfulfilled feeling of sadness because of the broken relationship that cannot be healed and there is very little you can do about it but to live in love and integrity, and in the hope that he/she will come back to you.

Thus, you forgive and get inner healing. But to restore the relationship he/she has to confess his/her wrongdoing towards you. This confession will complete the process and mutual trust will be the basis of a restored relationship.

And, of course, forgiveness, confession, and repentance have to come from the heart to have any meaning. Mere words will accomplish nothing.

II. With God, it is, to no surprise, remarkably similar.

Forgiveness is possible for every human being. He took our sin, our wrongdoing against Him, onto Himself on the cross (whether committed directly against Him or indirectly by sinning against fellow man). This forgiveness stands as a solid rock.

But, unless we confess and repent, our relationship with Him cannot be restored. John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just (to the cross, to His promise) to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The word confess implies agreeing with God about how bad our sin is and saying sorry. Repentance, or turning away from it, is part of this confession. For those who have not been pardoned by Christ, every sin that is unconfessed is unforgiven, yet in the full potential of complete forgiveness, it was already dealt with at the cross.

Though forgiveness is freely available, our relationship with Him will stay broken until we confess and repent.

Thus, we sin (just try to live one day without doing anything morally wrong by thoughts, words, or deeds). Our relationship is broken with the One whom we are sinning against, our Creator God. Forgiveness was made available to all on the cross, all who would confess and repent. This restores our relationship with God.

‘So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.’ Romans 5:11

‘This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ 2 Corinthians 5:17

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Happiness and the Meaning of Life

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Happiness and Meaning in Life

‘What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful.’ Dalai Lama– the 14th Dalai Lama born Lhamo Dhondup, 6 July 1935, a monk of the Gelug school, the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism

‘The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.’ Audrey Hepburn -British actress and humanitarian.

The Reality, however, is:

‘I think I’ve discovered the secret of life – you just hang around until you get used to it.’ Charles M. Schulz– American cartoonist and creator of the comic strip Peanuts

‘It would seem like life is designed to frustrate us in our quest to find happiness.’ Sam Harris – an American author, philosopher, neuroscientist. New age atheist.

‘I love walking in the rain because no one can see my tears.’ Charlie Chaplin – Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin KBE was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer

‘Smile though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking.’ From the song ‘Smile’ – Music by Charles Chaplin, Lyrics by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons

‘The mass of men leads lives of quiet desperation.’ Henry David Thoreau– an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher.

‘Live is hard, bloody hard.’ Jordan Peterson– Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

‘Life is hard and then you die.’ Woody Allan– an American director, writer, actor, and comedian. Agnostic.

Happiness is a feeling or expression of joy – Collins Concise Dictionary. It is a fleeting emotion, a temporary feeling of excitement, now up, then down. An ever-evading dream. Grab it in the moment and soon it’s gone again. Build your life on this dream and times of heartache and desperation will soon be crouching at your door.  It is a temporary emotion.

It is Meaning that gives meaning to life.

‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.’ ― St Augustine – a theologian, philosopher AD 354-430.

‘When I finally reached the point where I expected the rest of my life to be very difficult, I suddenly found myself wholly changed. My soul, which had always been troubled, finally came to rest in a profound inner-piece.’ ‘God often allows us to go through difficulties to purify our souls and to teach us to rely on Him more (In this one rejoices greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7).  Brother Lawrence – a 17th-century Carmelite friar. From the book ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ – written over three hundred years ago.

I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless – Ecclesiastes 2:1 So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind – Ecclesiastes 2:17 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! – Ecclesiastes 5:10 In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow – Ecclesiastes 6:12 When all has been heard, the end of the matter is: fear God – worship Him with awe-filled reverence, knowing that He is almighty God – and keep His commandments, for this applies to every person. Ecclesiastes 12:13. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself – that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others-.’” Matthew 22: 36-39

The question of the meaning of life may be asked in many ways, such as ‘Why are we here?’ or ‘Does my life have a purpose?’ The Bible shows that our purpose in life is to build a friendship with God.

Consider some of these fundamental truths that the Bible reveals:

God is our Creator. “It is God that has made us, and not we ourselves.” — Know and fully recognize with gratitude that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, not we ourselves and we are His. We are His people Psalm 100:3 “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they exist, and were created and brought into being.” Revelation 4:11. God has a purpose for everything He creates, including us. — For the Lord, who created the heavens (He is God, who formed the earth and made it; He established it and did not create it to be a wasteland, but formed it to be inhabited) says this, “I am the Lord, and there is no one else.” Isaiah 45:18.

‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever’ ― Westminster Catechism – 1646-7 by the Westminster Assembly, a synod of English and Scottish theologians and laymen.

  1. To glorify God: For from Him all things originate and through Him all things live and exist and to Him are all things directed. To Him be glory and honor forever! Amen.; Romans 11:36 You were bought with a price, you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own. So then, honor and glorify God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20 “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they exist, and were created and brought into being.” Revelation 4:11
  2. To enjoy Him forever: How blessed, fortunate, prosperous, and favored are the people whose God is the Lord! Psalm 144:15 “Behold, God, my salvation! I will trust and not be afraid, For the Lord God is my strength and song; Yes, He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people Luke 2:10 Rejoice in the Lord always, delight, take pleasure in Him; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Jesus the Christ: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, following Me as My disciple, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest, renewal, blessed quiet, for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world John 16:33

Peace I leave with you; My perfect peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge. John 14:27

And the peace of God, that peace which reassures the heart, that peace which transcends all understanding, that peace which stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus is yours. Philippians 4:7

This transcends, far exceeds happiness. Knowing God in a personal relationship, knowing, and being assured of the purpose of one’s exitance is the ultimate meaning in life.

Standing firmly on this rock of meaning, the waves of happiness that come and go, would suddenly lose their high priority in life. Enjoy happiness when it comes. And when it’s gone meaning will carry you to deeper levels in your love for God, for others.

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