Return to 3rd Quarter 2017 articles.
A large percentage of the articles that we have in this journal is devoted to twenty-first century challenges to the existence of God. The reason is that science deals with things which help us know there is “something out there.” We have discussed cosmology, quantum mechanics, and evidence from the wisdom and design that we can see in the physical world around us. That evidence is massive and grows with every passing day. But science cannot directly help us with the question of “Which God?”
Our present-day culture embraces pluralism saying that all approaches to religion are of equal value. The evidence shows that this is not true. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Other religious figures have made similar statements. We need to ask what evidence they have to support their claims. Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Earlier in that chapter, Paul asks “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14). Verse 16 tells us that this is about the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, not the existence of God.
There are at least five lines of evidence to show that we can believe these verses. This discussion focuses on the Bible because the Bible claims that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the [man or woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16 – 17).
SECULAR RECORDS SUPPORT THE BIBLICAL CLAIMS.
By secular records, we mean writings from biblical times that were not produced by the church and had nothing to gain by the history they recorded. Historians from shortly after the time of Jesus tell us much about Christ and the early Christians. Examples are Thallus (AD 50), Phlegon (AD 140) with his Chronicles, and Origen (around AD 200) who wrote over 6,000 books backing Phlegon. Roman rulers and writers such as Pliny the Younger in AD 112, Cornelius Tacitus, Hadrian in AD 117, Suetonius in AD 120, Lucian of Samosata a Greek in AD 170, and Mara Bar-Serapion a Syrian in AD 70. Josephus, who was a Jew recognized by the Romans for scholarship, backs up the Bible in many details telling in book 18 (chapter 5) about John the Baptist and giving a record of James in book 20 (chapter 9), including a record of Ananus having James stoned.
In addition to Roman sources, there are Jewish Rabbis who verify the biblical record of Christ: Rabbi Eliezer in AD 40, Ulla in AD 276 and Records from the Sanhedrin 43a which name Jesus and five disciples. Early church writers were so prolific in their production of manuscripts that very few modern scholars, even the most skeptical would deny their validity. Tertullian in AD 160 quoted the New Testament 7,000 times with 3,800 quotations coming from the gospels. Polycarp in AD 69 quoted the New Testament 60 times. Papias, the Didache, Barnabas, Quadratus, and Hegesippus all contribute documentary support for the validity of Christ and the Christian system.
There are only eight secular sources that support the existence of Plato and his teachings. There are only 12 secular sources that support the existence of Socrates and his teachings. Very few people deny the existence or the teachings of either of these two philosophers. The number of secular sources that support the existence of Christ and his teachings and followers is well over 1,000. A good source for this information is The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-2282-7).
Archaeology is the study of the artifacts and remains of people who have lived in the past. A good example of this is Luke 2:1 – 4 where we are told some details connected with the birth of Christ. We are told that the decree was made by Caesar Augustus and that people were required to go back to their home city. We are also told that this happened when Quirinius (Cyrenius in KJV) was governor of Syria. For many years skeptics ridiculed the Bible because Jesus was born somewhere around 3 BC and Quirinius was governor in AD 33 – 38. Later archaeological finds, however, showed that he was governor twice, the first time from 2 – 5 BC well within the time when Jesus was born.
Numerous other details have been verified by archaeo logy. In recent years archaeological evidence has told us more about Simon the Tanner who is mentioned in Acts 10:6. Whole books have been written about archaeological discoveries, and we have reviewed these in past issues of this journal. Bibliographies are available on request which will give you references of available material on this subject.
PROPHECY AND FULFILLMENT.
Every attempt by skeptics over the centuries to explain away the prophecies about Christ in the Old Testament and their fulfillment more than 400 years later have failed. The Dead Sea Scrolls including the scroll of Isaiah 53 now displayed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum are modern finds that verify the long list of fulfilled prophecies. Consider these prophecies about Christ which have been verified by being fulfilled:
He would come when the temple was standing.
....Malachi 3:1; Haggai 2:7
In the last days of the Roman Empire.
.... Isaiah 2:2; Joel 2:28; Daniel 2:44
From the tribe of Judah when Judah was a ruling tribe.
.... Micah 5:2
That one would come to prepare the way.
.... Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3
That his message would be confirmed with miracles.
.... Isaiah 35:5 – 7
He would be rejected by the Jews and his brethren.
.... Psalm 69:8; Zechariah 13:7
He would be sold for 30 pieces of silver.
.... Zechariah 11:12
He would be crucified.
.... Isaiah 53:8; Psalm 22:16
He would be scourged.
.... Isaiah 50:6
Soldiers would gamble for his clothing.
.... Psalm 22:18
His birthplace would be Bethlehem, Ephratah.
.... Micah 5:2
(Note: At the time Micah was written the only Bethlehem was Bethlehem Zebulun — Joshua 19:15).
There are numerous books that detail this information. Our bibliography available upon request is the source of this data.
THE UNIQUENESS OF HIS TEACHINGS.
C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity) once wrote: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be a Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Jesus claimed deity (John 1:14). Jesus repeatedly spoke on his own authority. Jesus confirmed his message with miracles.
From a personal standpoint, I would challenge you to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 and suggest that all of that material is the product of a lunatic or an uneducated carpenter's son. When you read other great religious leaders, you do not see the uniqueness that you do in the teachings of Christ. They may have had good things to say, but human frailty and weakness ultimately come out of their writings and teachings. Matthew 5 – 7 and the messages that build upon that great sermon are beyond the reach of the common man and show that Jesus as more than a great teacher.
THE CHRISTIAN SYSTEM WORKS — IT CHANGES LIVES.
What has been the effect of men and women following the teachings of Jesus Christ? I want to emphasize that I am talking about what Jesus taught and did, not what a denomination or religious order teaches or does. Things like the Crusades, the Ku Klux Klan, or the Mormon wars are in diametric opposition to what Jesus taught and did.
It is because of the teachings of Jesus Christ that we have major help available to alcoholics, prostitutes, drug addicts, the uneducated, and poor people all over the globe. It is the followers of Jesus who run the homeless shelters, the hospitals, the women's shelters, and all the programs to help women exercise their rights as human beings. Compare the treatment of women in the United States with those in countries where militant Islam is the dominant religion and you will see the uniqueness of Christianity. It is the teachings of Jesus that have caused schools to be opened all over the world for kids enslaved by adult abuse, child labor exploitation, and government apathy. You can look around in your own community and see the influence of Jesus Christ all around you. When there have been social experiments to exclude Christianity (such as in the town of Liberal, Missouri), the result has always been catastrophic for the participants.
Alvin Schmidt wrote a book titled Under the Influence which details the positive things that Christianity has brought to people all over the world throughout Christianity's history. You cannot read that and not see Christ's words shining through from Matthew 11:28 – 30, “Come unto me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I grew up in an atheist home and lived as an atheist for many years. It was science that forced me to realize that there is more to our existence than the physical world in which we live. It was the wisdom of Christ revealed in the Scriptures that caused me to become a Christian and not something else. We can see God's wisdom, love, power, and design shining through in the Bible. You do not have to put your brain in park to be a Christian. You do need to be willing to apply the clear teachings of Jesus to everyday life and act on your convictions that Jesus really is “the way the truth and the life.” We can only come to the Father and find our place in life and in eternity through him.
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