4/17/17

THE LOVELINESS OF PROMISE-KEEPERS by Jim Mc Guiggan

https://jimmcguiggan.wordpress.com/2016/04/


THE LOVELINESS OF PROMISE-KEEPERS


“May the Lord deal with me ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
Ruth the Moabite
There’s so much betrayal of trust in the world that you might think we’d all be cynics by now. Believing no one, insisting on pre-nuptial agreements, pages of fine print and a list of witnesses the length of a football field—that’s pretty much the order of the day in some cultures.
In light of all that, isn’t it a grand awakening to discover that the bus you run to catch is packed full of “trusters”. Supermarkets are jammed full of them, they’re bringing up coal out of the mines and fixing your televisions; they’re hanging off roofs and swinging on chandeliers; they’re writing you a speeding ticket or cutting your hair. Everywhere you go they’re popping up or out or in or over or across or back again. They’re everywhere! Praise God they’re everywhere! They’re fixing our cars, our plumbing and our electrical problems; they’re teaching our children and looking after our ill in hospitals; they picking up our trash, checking us out at grocery stores and delivering our mail. They  promise to do a good job and they live by the promise; they not only keep their word they believe that others will also.
They know the horror stories, know their own limitations and the shaping power of a glib and shrewd society. They look at the world with steady eyes, fully aware of the shiny veneer and the gold-plated promises, missing nothing; and then as if the world was made of solid oak they give their hearts away. They mortgage the only hearts and lives they have because someone says to them: “I’m not very smart, I’m not good-looking and I may never make my mark in this world; but I love you. Yes…I do, I…love you, and if you’ll come with me I’ll never leave you!”
They hear that and they trust! They deserve to be honored with our faithfulness because they’ve earned it with their “yes!” And it’s precisely because of their noble-spirited trust that they suffer incredible heartache when that trust is trampled in the dirt. Their emotions are savaged but their whole view of the world takes a battering as well and that adds calamity to tragedy. Believing that somehow right is stronger than wrong they defy the jeering world and are run over by a juggernaut. The more cynical among us aren’t hit as hard by treachery because we don’t commit a lot—we know better, you see. Still, while we don’t get badly hurt we aren’t greatly loved or blessed and, perhaps what’s worse, we never love gloriously. We shrewdly grab the shiny metal and turn down Aladdin’s lamp because we’ve seen too many poor souls mangled beyond repair by the callous and the glib.
In Puccini’s opera, Madam Butterfly, Cio-Cio-San is a sensitive fifteen-year old Japanese girl who’s swept off her feet by Lieutenant Pinkerton, U.S.N. She turns from her traditional religion and marries the sailor who makes her believe she’s the only one in the world he wants. Despite the bad record of marriages with “visiting foreigners” and despite the fact that the marriage has an “out” clause, Butterfly believes in Pinkerton with all her heart. He sets her up in a fine house, promises her that he will come back and take her to America, and goes back to sea. It’s only later she discovers she’s going to have his child—a child he doesn’t know about.
He’s gone for three years, she misses him beyond words, she’s having a hard time financially and socially but far worse than all that, there’s a lingering dread. But when her devoted maid Suzuki tries to persuade her of the worst, she rages against her and says that Suzuki lacks faith, that she simply doesn’t know Pinkerton! At that point, full of faith and smiling, seeing it all with her trusting heart, she sings the beautiful aria One Fine Day.
‘Hear me! One fine day we’ll notice a thread of smoke arising on the sea—In the far horizon, and then the ship appearing; the white trim vessel glides into the harbor, thunders forth the cannon. See you? Now he is coming! I do not go to meet him. Not I! I stay up on the brow of the hill, and wait there…and wait a long time. But never weary of the long waiting. From out of the crowded city there is coming a man, a little speck in the distance, climbing the hill. Can you guess who it is? And when he’s reached the summit can you guess what he’ll say? He will call “Butterfly” from the distance. I without answering, hold myself quietly concealed, a bit to tease him and a bit so as not to die…”Dear baby wife of mine!” “Orange blossom!” The names he used to call me when he came here. This will come to pass as I tell you. Banish your fears, for he will return. I know it!’
The American Consul, Sharpless, arrives with a letter saying that Pinkerton has married in the U.S.A. and is returning with his wife. Sharpless tries again and again to tell her but he can’t bring himself to do it. They’re interrupted by the arrival of the young prince Yamadori who wants to marry Butterfly but she insists she’s already married to the only one she’ll ever love and, on the basis of what Pinkerton had promised, she turns down security and dignity for her child and herself.
Later Pinkerton does arrive, but with his wife Kate. He learns of the child and is torn with grief at the agony his selfishness has caused. As soon as Butterfly enters and sees Kate, she senses who she is, and when the woman confirms it Butterfly’s world collapses. She sets her house in order, arranges for the little boy’s future with Pinkerton and all alone, broken-hearted and beyond comfort, she stabs herself and dies.
Only a silly story? Hmmm, do you think so?
The biblical Ruth took it all seriously and wouldn’t walk away from her calamity-ridden mother-in-law even though the older woman urged her to go back to her familiar and secure world. The young Moabite made this unforgettable commitment (1:16-17):
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord deal with me ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
The good news is that there are tens of thousands who say to one another, “I can’t be sure of the world or what they will do; I can only be sure of me and what I’ll do. I will stay!”
Landon Saunders put it like this, “Marriage is two people looking deep into each other’s eyes and saying: ‘Others may come and go in your life but I never will. If you get sick, I’ll care for you, feed you, bathe you; I’ll do anything for you except leave you. I will never leave you.’ “
To give our solemn promise is a gallant and profoundly serious thing. It alters the world for us because it shapes the future; it says some things are no longer options for us. [Oh God, how lovely it would be to be like that, how fine it is when we are like that.] Keeping our promises doesn’t only change our world—it changes the world for those who take us seriously. They too see the world and the future differently because they believe some things are certain. And on that promised future their present world is shaped—they live in the light of that.
I know some lovely people who are as distressed as I am at times about the state of the world, about terrorist threats, about the global economy, about the restlessness of the nations, about spiraling crimes rates and deteriorating health. It’s all that uncertainty, don’t you see. But if I were to ask them if they were sure that their beloved would always be there, the answer would come back decisive and immediate, “Oh, always and always, come what may.”
Now that’s something to be sure of.
Don’t people like that make you happy to be a human or make you want to be a lovely human?


Co-Habitation by By Louis Rushmore

http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/1999/oct/page19.shtml

By Louis Rushmore

Co-Habitation

“What does the Bible teach about co-habitation? ~ Dan Gannon”
The question is short and unadorned.  It is difficult to know the perspective from which the querist poses the inquiry and for what reason it is submitted.  However, a sufficient response, we suppose, is possible by first identifying the definition of “co-habitation,” and second, by taking that definition to the Bible. “Cohabit” means “1 : to live together as or as if a married couple.”  [Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 1993.]  Further, to cohabit is refined to mean:  “1. to live together as husband and wife, usu. without legal or religious sanction.”  [Webster’s Talking Dictionary, (Parsons Technology, Inc.) 1996.]   Another dictionary adds:  “1. To live together as spouses, especially when not legally married.”  [Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99, (Redmond, Washington: Microsoft) 1998.]
Hence, usually “cohabitation” is distinguished from marriage.  Further, those cohabiting may be a heterosexual couple, but they may instead be (1) homosexuals, (2) lesbians, (3) a plurality of communal, heterosexual participants, (4) polygamists or (5) incestuous parties.
Since the 1960s, several variations on the family unit have emerged. More unmarried couples are living together, before or instead of marrying. Some elderly couples, most often widowed, are finding it more economically practical to cohabit without marrying. Homosexual couples also live together as a family more openly today, sometimes sharing their households with the children of one partner or with adopted or foster children. Communal families, made up of groups of related or unrelated people, have long existed in isolated instances (see Communal Living). Such units began to occur in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s as an alternative life-style, but by the 1980s the number of communal families was diminishing.  [Ibid.]
It is clear that the cohabitation pertains to a sexual relationship, but without the sanction of legal marriage.  Then, we approach Scripture with the understanding that “cohabitation” involves:  (1) a distinction from lawful marriage, and (2) includes sexual activity.
The biblical ideal has always been one man for one woman for life, beginning with the Garden of Eden with the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:21-25; Matthew 19:4-6).  However, God tolerated polygamy under Patriarchy and Judaism.  Even then, though, polygamous marriage was distinguished from fornication – sexual intercourse outside the bounds of marriage.  God, through the Bible, has always condemned the sin of fornication (1 Corinthians 5:9-10; 10:8), including the subclasses of adultery (Mark 10:19; Galatians 5:19), homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27; Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 7) and certain forms of incest (Leviticus 20:14; Deuteronomy 27:22-23).  (It seems certain, though, that marriage between siblings following creation, and at least between cousins after Noah’s universal flood, was not only permitted by God but necessary, to repopulate the earth.  Marriage between half brothers and sisters, such as Abraham and Sarah, was also permitted under Patriarchy.)
Therefore, from evaluation of dictionary definitions and consideration of biblical material, “cohabitation” involves three elements:  (1) living together as sexual partners, (2) without legal sanction, and (3) without religious sanction.  However, an added distinction must be observed where contemporary legal and religious sanctions may be granted to sexual relationships that are nevertheless condemned by God in the Bible.  For instance, what man calls “marriage,” on some occasions God calls “adultery.”  “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke 16:18).  Irrespective of what laws today may allow or what certain religious groups may approve, adulterous marriages and homosexuality continue to constitute unlawful (Divine law) cohabitation.  As such, then, cohabitation as distinguished from marriage (whether upheld by civil law or our religious neighbors) is sinful.

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" Peter Defends His Actions (11:1-18) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                 Peter Defends His Actions (11:1-18)

INTRODUCTION

1. The news of Cornelius' conversion quickly spread...
   a. Those in Jerusalem heard of the Gentiles' reception of the Word- Ac 11:1
   b. But Peter's actions were soon criticized by some Jewish Christians- Ac 11:2-3

2. As noted previously, there are two accounts of Cornelius' conversion...
   a. There is Luke's description, given as it occurred - Ac 10:1-48
   b. There is Peter's description, when he is called to defend his actions - Ac 11:1-18

[In this lesson, we will focus our attention to Peter's description of
the events as they occurred...]

I. PETER'S ACCOUNT OF THIS CONVERSION

   A. PETER HAS A VISION...
      1. While praying in Joppa, in a trance, Peter has a vision - Ac 11:4-9
         a. A sheet descends from heaven, containing all sorts of creatures
         b. A voice tells him "Rise, Peter; kill and eat"
         c. Peter objects, for he has never eaten anything common or unclean
         d. The voice tells him, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."
      2. The vision is repeated three times - Ac 11:10

   B. THE SPIRIT INSTRUCTS PETER...
      1. Three men from Caesarea arrive as Peter contemplates the vision - Ac 11:11
      2. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them, doubting nothing - Ac 11:12
      3. Six brethren from Joppa went with him (now with Peter in Jerusalem) - Ac 11:12
      4. They entered the man's house - Ac 11:12

   C. CORNELIUS EXPLAINS WHY HE SENT FOR PETER...
      1. He had seen an angel standing in his house - Ac 11:13
      2. Who told him to send to Joppa and ask for Peter - Ac 11:13
      3. "who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved" 
           - Ac 11:14

   D. THE SPIRIT FALLS ON THE GENTILES...
      1. "As I began to speak...as upon us at the beginning." - Ac 11:15; cf. Ac 2:1-4
      2. Reminded Peter of the Lord's promise to the apostles concerning
         being baptized with the Holy Spirit - Ac 11:16; cf. Ac 1:5
      3. Convinced him that if God gave Gentiles the same gift as given
         to the apostles when they believed on the Lord, who was he to 
         withstand God? - Ac 11:17 

   E. THE IMPACT ON THOSE AT JERUSALEM...
      1. They were silenced, then glorified God - Ac 11:18
      2. Saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." - ibid.

[Peter's account silenced the objectors, and led to the Gentiles
considered acceptable recipients of the gospel of Christ.  His account
also adds a few details of which we should take careful note...]

II. OBSERVATIONS REGARDING THIS CONVERSION

   A. THE ORDER IN WHICH EVENTS OCCURRED...
      1. Peter explained the events "in order from the beginning" - Ac 11:4; cf. Lk 1:3
      2. If there is any question as to the sequence of events, Peter's account 
          takes precedence
 
   B. THE MOMENT WHEN CORNELIUS WAS SAVED...
      1. Remember that Cornelius was told to send for Peter, who would tell him...
         a. "what you must do." - Ac 10:6
         b. "words by which you...shall be saved." - Ac 11:14
      2. From this, and from what we see in other conversions...
         a. Cornelius was not saved until he heard the "words" (i.e., after the sermon)
         b. Cornelius was not saved until he obeyed what he was told to do
      3. What were the words he and his household were told to do?
         a. They were told to believe, as implied in Ac 10:43
         b. They were told to be baptized, as commanded in Ac 10:48
      4. Thus Cornelius and his household were not saved until they
         believed and were baptized! - cf. Mk 16:16; Ac 8:12,13

   C. THE PURPOSE OF THE SPIRIT FALLING ON THEM...
      1. Some presume that the purpose was to save Cornelius and his family
         a. That therefore they were saved before obeying the command to be baptized
         b. But the Spirit came upon them as Peter "began to speak",
            before they could hear words by which they could be saved! - Ac 11:14-15
      2. The purpose of the Spirit can be gleaned from the following...
         a. The effect it had on the Jewish brethren who were present,
            and Peter's response - Ac 10:45-47
         b. The reaction of those in Jerusalem when Peter explained what
            happened - Ac 11:17-18
         c. Peter's explanation at the council held later in Jerusalem - Ac 15:7-11
      3. The purpose of the Spirit falling on Gentiles was therefore to show Jewish brethren...
         a. That God was no respecter of persons - Ac 10:34-35
         b. That God was willing to grant Gentiles opportunity to repent and have life 
             - Ac 11:18
         c. That Gentiles could be saved in the same way as Jews...
              - Ac 15:9,11; cf. Ac 2:38; 10:48

CONCLUSION

1. Peter's defense of his actions silenced those who accused him of impropriety...
   a. For socializing with Gentiles
   b. For sharing the gospel with them

2. But the issue of Gentiles in the church was not over...
   a. It will come up again later in Acts - cf. Ac 15:1-2
   b. It was a major issue addressed in several epistles (Romans, Galatians, etc.) 

But we who are Gentiles today can be thankful that God in His grace has
made it clear:  He is no respecter of persons, and that all can be
saved by the grace extended through His Son Jesus Christ...! 
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" The Conversion Of Cornelius (10:1-48) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                 The Conversion Of Cornelius (10:1-48)

INTRODUCTION

1. Up to this point, the gospel had been somewhat limited in its outreach...
   a. It had spread throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria - Ac 9:31
   b. Other than Samaritans (who were half Jewish), it had gone only to the Jews

2. With "The Conversion Of Cornelius" the first Gentile is saved...
   a. A conversion noted not only because he was the first Gentile
   b. But also for the miraculous events that accompanied his conversion

3. As with Saul of Tarsus, we have more than just one account of his conversion...
   a. There is Luke's description, given as it occurred - Ac 10:1-48
   b. There is Peter's description, when he is called to defend his
      actions - Ac 11:1-18

[In this lesson, we will focus our attention to Luke's description of the
events as they occurred...]

I. LUKE'S ACCOUNT OF THIS CONVERSION

   A. CORNELIUS HAS A VISION...
      1. Cornelius, a centurion, is a very religious man - Ac 10:1-2
      2. The angel appears to him - Ac 10:3-6
         a. With an announcement that his prayers and alms have been noticed by God
         b. With instructions to send for Peter:  "He will tell you what you must do."
      3. Cornelius then sends two servants and a devout soldier to Peter  Ac 10:7-8

   B. PETER HAS A VISION...
      1. The next day, praying, hungry, Peter has a vision - Ac 10:9-15
         a. A sheet descends from heaven, containing all sorts of creatures
         b. A voice tells Peter to "kill and eat"
         c. Peter objects, for he has never eaten anything common or unclean
         d. The voice tells him, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."
      2. The vision is repeated three times - Ac 10:16

   C. THE SPIRIT INSTRUCTS PETER...
      1. The men from Cornelius arrive as Peter contemplates the vision - Ac 10:17-18
      2. The Spirit tells Peter to go, "doubting nothing, for I have
         sent them" - Ac 10:19-20
      3. Peter receives the men and takes brethren with him as they go to
         Cornelius - Ac 10:21-23

   D. PETER ARRIVES AT CORNELIUS' HOUSE...
      1. Cornelius has gathered his family and close friends - Ac 10:24
      2. Peter deflects an attempt by Cornelius to worship him - Ac 10:25-26
      3. Peter explains his presence is a violation of Jewish custom, but
         now understands "I should not call any man common or unclean" -Ac 10:27-28
      4. To explain why Peter was called, Cornelius recounts the
         appearance and instructions of the angel - Ac 10:29-32
      5. Cornelius and household were ready "to hear all things commanded
         you by God" - Ac 10:33

   E. PETER'S SERMON TO THE HOUSEHOLD OF CORNELIUS...
      1. He begins with a full perception that God shows no partiality- Ac 10:34-35
         a. A perception started with the vision of the sheet and unclean beasts
         b. A perception continued with the Spirit's instruction to go with the messengers
      2. Peter then proceeds to proclaim Jesus Christ - Ac 10:36-43
         a. As Lord who was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power - Ac 10:36-38
         b. Who was killed, but then raised from the dead and seen by
            eyewitnesses who knew Him well - Ac 10:39-41
         c. Who has commanded the apostles to proclaim Him as ordained by
            God to be the Judge of the living and dead - Ac 10:42
         d. Through Whom remission of sins is offered to those who believe - Ac 10:43
   
   F. THE SPIRIT FALLS ON ALL WHO HEARD...
      1. While Peter was still speaking - Ac 10:44
      2. Astonishing those of the circumcision - Ac 10:45-46
         a. Jewish Christians who had come with Peter
         b. Because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Gentiles also
         c. Empowering them to speak with tongues and praise God

   G. PETER COMMANDS THEM TO BE BAPTIZED...
      1. How could anyone forbid water to those who had received the
         Spirit just as the apostles did? - Ac 10:47; cf. Ac 2:1-4
      2. So Cornelius and his household were commanded to be baptized in
         the name of the Lord - Ac 10:48; cf. Ac 2:38

[The events surrounding this conversion are certainly remarkable.  They
evidently were intended to convey important truths.  As we endeavor to
glean what those truths were, here are a couple of...]

II. OBSERVATIONS REGARDING THIS CONVERSION

   A. RELIGIOUS PEOPLE NEED SAVING...
      1. Many people believe that if you are religious, you will be saved
         a. That if you go to church, do good, etc., you have a hope of heaven
         b. That you will have earned the right to enter heaven
      2. Yet, though Cornelius was a man who...
         a. Was a devout man and feared God with his whole family - Ac 10:2
         b. Gave alms generously and prayed to God always - ibid.
         c. Still needed to be told "words by which you and all your
            household will be saved" - cf. Ac 11:14
      3. Clearly, being religious alone isn't what saves you
         a. Most examples of conversion in Acts involved religious people
         b. It is the blood of Christ that saves! - cf. Ep 1:7

   B. THE GOSPEL IS FOR ALL NATIONS...
      1. Peter perceived that God is no respecter of persons - Ac 10:34-35
      2. Indeed, God desires that ALL men be saved - cf. Jn 3:16; 1Ti 2:3-6; 2Pe 3:9
      3. Therefore He has not predestined some to be saved and others to
         be lost!

   C. THE GOSPEL CULMINATES IN BAPTISM...
      1. It begins with the need to believe in Jesus - Ac 10:42-43
      2. It ends with immersion in water - Ac 10:47-48; cf. Ac 2:38; 8:35-38; 22:16
      3. "Baptism is here [in Ac 2:38, MAC] a part of the proclamation of
         Christ. In an Apostolic sermon it comes as its logical 
         conclusion.  An effort ought to be made to restore this note in 
         our [Baptist, MAC] preaching." - George Beasley-Murray, Baptism
         In The New Testament, p. 393

CONCLUSION

1. There are other observations to be made...
   a. Which we will consider in the next chapter
   b. As Peter is called to account for his actions

2. While miraculous events surrounded "The Conversion Of Cornelius", his
   salvation was no different from what we have already seen...
   a. He had to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ - e.g., Ac 8:35
   b. He was taught to believe and commanded to be baptized 
        - e.g., Ac 2:36-38; 8:36-38

3. As Peter would later say, it is "through the grace of the Lord Jesus
   Christ" that both Gentiles and Jews are saved - cf. Ac 15:11
   a. We are saved by grace, not works - cf. Ep 2:5,8; Tit 3:4-5
   b. For it is not enough to be religious...
      1) Who could be more religious than Cornelius?
      2) Or the 3000 at Pentecost, the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul of Tarsus,
         Lydia of Thyatira?

4. The grace of God which saves does require a response, however...
   a. A response of faith - Ac 10:43
   b. Faith in Jesus that comes by hearing the gospel - Ac 10:42
   c. Faith which expresses itself in obedience - cf. He 5:9
      1) Particularly, repentance and baptism - cf. Ac 2:38; 3:19; 10:48
      2) Not as works of merit, but as acts of faith by which one receives God's grace

Those of us who are not descended from Israel can rejoice in what God
revealed with "The Conversion of Cornelius". As properly concluded later
by Jewish brethren in Jerusalem:

  "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." - Ac 11:18

Have you taken advantage of this wonderful gift, by responding to the
gospel of Jesus Christ in faith, repentance, and baptism...?
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

The Quran and Corrupt Christianity by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=1535

The Quran and Corrupt Christianity

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Both Muhammad and the Quran show a failure to grasp the difference between New Testament Christianity and the corrupted Christianity practiced by those who professed to be Christians in the Arabian peninsula of the sixth and seventh centuries. The fact that the Quran reflects this failure shows that its author(s) did not have divine guidance, even as it failed to detect the Jewish misrepresentations of the Old Testament as projected by the rabbinic folklore of the day. The form of Christianity reflected prominently in the Quran is Catholicism (e.g., Surah 57:27—monasticism; Surah 17:56—saint worship). Anyone familiar with the first five centuries of church history is well aware of the extent to which the Christian religion had become perverted and distorted. These perversions did not escape the attention of the author of the Quran. However, even when an appropriate criticism is leveled against a doctrine with which Muhammad disagreed, the criticism often will contain an implicit approval of another element that is contrary to New Testament teaching.
For example, the Quran refers to Jesus as “son of Mary” 22 times. Most of these allusions are uttered by Allah Himself (Surah 2:87,253; 3:45; 4:171; 5:17,46,75,78,110,114,116; 9:31; 19:34; 23:50; 33:7; 43:57; 57:27; 61:6,14). Yet this phrase occurs in the New Testament only one time—and only then as used by certain unnamed townspeople whose use of the term shows they knew of Him only in terms of His earthly relationships, i.e., the son of Mary, and as a carpenter who had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). The Quran places an undue and unbiblical emphasis on Mary, thereby reflecting the Catholic notion that characterized his day (cf. Surah 5:116). The overwhelming emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus being the “Son of God” (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35; John 1:34; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4; Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Hebrews 4:14; 7:3; 10:29; 1 John 3:8; 4:15; 5:10,13,20; et al.)—an acknowledgment made even by Satan and the demons (Luke 4:3,9,41; 8:28). [NOTE: The notion of Mary as intercessor on behalf of those still on Earth (Abbott, 1966, pp. 96,630) is reflected in the comparable role assigned to Muhammad by Muslims (Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, pp. 85-86)].
The author of the Quran unquestionably had heard the squabbles between Christians and Jews (Surah 2:113). Mistakenly assuming they were supposed to follow the same book, the Quran demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the relationship sustained between Judaism and Christianity. This surface misconception undoubtedly contributed to the uninformed conclusion that the Bible is corrupt, and is unable to transmit God’s will accurately.
The Quran possesses many characteristics that demonstrate its uninspired (i.e., human) origin. One such trait is its failure to distinguish between the Christianity taught in the New Testament and the distorted form of Christianity to which the author of the Quran was exposed. It unwittingly endorses the corrupt features that characterize the Byzantine Christianity that manifested itself in Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries after Christ.

REFERENCES

Abbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press).
Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb (1993), Answering Islam (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Tunneling For The Truth by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=518

Tunneling For The Truth

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Quite often, the Bible will make a very specific remark about a certain person, place, or thing that can be checked against historical and archaeological evidence. Such cases provide an excellent way to build up corroborative evidence in support of the Bible’s accuracy and inspiration. The book of 2 Kings relates the story of King Hezekiah, one of the few kings of ancient Judah who did “what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done” (2 Kings 18:3). Second Kings 20:20 lists a number of his achievements: “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah—all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city—are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah.” We then read in 2 Chronicles 32:30 that “this same Hezekiah also stopped the water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah prospered in all his works.” These two verses provide us with a wonderful opportunity to verify the Old Testament’s accuracy. One would think that such a feat of aquatic engineering would leave behind some type of archaeological evidence as a memorial to this king. Is there any extra-biblical information to verify this story?
Indeed there is. Randall Price, in his fascinating book, The Stones Cry Out, catalogs amazing evidence to confirm the tunnel Hezekiah dug underneath the old city of Jerusalem. In fact, on page 267 Price includes a picture of his daughter standing in the actual tunnel. How Hezekiah carved this 1,750-foot tunnel through solid limestone remains a mystery, even today. However, in 1880, an inscription now known as the “Siloam Inscription” was discovered that helped fill in some of the blanks. Apparently, two crews of Hezekiah’s men, working with picks, tunneled from opposite ends, snaking through the limestone in an S-shaped style. How these two crews met in the middle without the aid of a modern compass or other such device is still unknown. However, the fact that Hezekiah built this tunnel leaves no mystery to uncover. Time and time again, the Bible “checks out,” and remains the most accurate and authoritative book ever written.

REFERENCE

Price, Randall (1997), The Stones Cry Out (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).

The Problem of Evil by Dave Miller, Ph.D. Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=890

The Problem of Evil

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.
Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On February 12, 2009, in a debate with Kyle Butt, Dan Barker affirmed the proposition that the God of the Bible does not exist. Three minutes and 15 seconds into his opening speech, he stated that one reason he believes God does not exist is because “there are no good replies to the arguments against the existence of God, such as the problem of evil. All you have to do is walk into any children’s hospital and you know there is no God. Prayer doesn’t make any difference. Those people pray for their beloved children to live, and they die” (Butt and Barker, 2009). Barker suggested that “the problem of evil” is one of the strongest positive arguments against the existence of God.
What, precisely, is the so-called “problem of evil”? Atheists like Barker note that the Bible depicts God as all-loving as well as all-powerful. This observation is certainly correct (e.g., 1 John 4:8; Genesis 17:1; Job 42:2; Matthew 19:26). Yet everyone admits that evil exists in the world. For God to allow evil and suffering either implies that He is not all-loving, or if He is all-loving, He lacks the power to eliminate them. In either case, the God of the Bible would not exist. To phrase the “problem of evil” more precisely, the atheist contends that the biblical theist cannot consistently affirm all three of the following propositions:
  • God is omnipotent.
  • God is perfect in goodness.
  • Evil exists.
Again, the atheist insists that if God is omnipotent (as the Bible affirms), He is not perfect in goodness since He permits evil and suffering to run rampant in the world. If, on the other hand, He is perfect in goodness, He lacks omnipotence since His goodness would move Him to exercise His power to eliminate evil on the Earth. Since the Christian affirms all three of the propositions, the atheist claims that Christians are guilty of affirming a logical contradiction, making their position false. Supposedly, the “problem of evil” presents an insurmountable problem for the Christian theist.
In truth, however, the “problem of evil” is a problem for the atheist—not the Christian theist. First, atheistic philosophy cannot provide a definition of “evil.” There is no rational way that atheism can accurately label anything as “evil” or “good.” On February 12, 1998, William Provine, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the distinguished Cornell University, delivered the keynote address at the second annual Darwin Day. In an abstract of that speech on the Darwin Day Web site, Dr. Provine asserted: “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent” (Provine, 1998, emp. added). Provine’s ensuing message centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (1998, emp. added). If there is no foundation upon which to base any ethical conclusions, then how could an atheist label any action or occurrence as “evil,” “bad,” or “wrong”?
Frederick Nietzsche understood atheistic philosophy so well that he suggested that the bulk of humanity has misunderstood concepts such as “evil” and “good.” In his work Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche wrote: “We believe that severity, violence, slavery, danger in the street and in the heart, secrecy, stoicism, tempter’s art and devilry of every kind—that everything wicked, terrible, tyrannical, predatory, and serpentine in man, serves as well for the elevation of the human species as its opposite” (2007, p. 35, emp. added). Nietzsche’s point simply was that what we might call morally “evil,” actually helps humans evolve higher thinking capacities, quicker reflexes, or greater problem-solving skills. Thus, if an “evil” occurrence helps humanity “evolve,” then there can be no legitimate grounds for labeling that occurrence as “evil.” In fact, according to atheistic evolution, anything that furthers the human species should be deemed as “good.”
As C.S. Lewis made his journey from atheism to theism, he realized that the “problem of evil” presented more of a problem for atheism than it did for theism. He stated:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust...? Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple (Lewis, 1952, p. 45-46, italics in orig.).
Theistic apologist, William Lane Craig, has summarized the issue quite well:
I think that evil, paradoxically, actually proves the existence of God. My argument would go like this: If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist. (2) Evil exists, (3) therefore objective moral values exist, that is to say, some things are really evil. Therefore, God exists. Thus, although evil and suffering at one level seem to call into question God’s existence, on a deeper more fundamental level, they actually prove God’s existence (n.d.).
Craig and Lewis are correct. If evil actually exists in the world, and some things are not the way they “should” be, then there must be a standard outside of the natural world that would give meaning to the terms “evil” and “good”—and the atheistic assumption proves false.

AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL

In addition to the fact that “evil” cannot even be discussed without reference to God, Barker rested the force of his statement on an emotional appeal. He said: “All you have to do is walk into any children’s hospital and you know there is no God.” Is it really the case that anyone who walks into a children’s hospital is immediately struck by the overwhelming force of atheism? No, it is not true. In fact, it is the farthest thing from the truth. Anticipating Barker’s tactics, one of us [KB] visited the children’s hospital in Columbia, South Carolina and met a lady who volunteered there. When asked why she volunteered, she pointed to a bullet hole in her skull. She said that it was a blessing she was still alive and she wanted to give something back since God had allowed her to live. When asked if many of the volunteers in the hospital were religious, she responded that many of them were from churches in the area, i.e., churches that believe in the God of the Bible.
According to Barker’s “line of reasoning,” the lady with whom we talked should not believe in a loving God, the volunteers that gave their time to the hospital should not believe in a loving God, we should no longer believe in a loving God (since we walked through the hospital), nor should any other person who has visited that facility. The falsity of such reasoning is apparent. Seeing the suffering in a children’s hospital does not necessarily drive a person to atheism. Truth be told, most people who visit a children’s hospital, and even have children who are patients there, believe in the God of the Bible. Barker’s assertion does not stand up to rational criticism.
Furthermore, Barker’s emotional appeal can easily be turned on its head: Walk through any children’s hospital and observe the love, care, and concern that the parents, doctors, and volunteers show the children, and you know atheistic evolution cannot be true. After all, evolution is about the survival of the fittest, in which the strong struggle against the weak to survive in a never-ending contest to pass on their genes. If evolution were true, parents and doctors would not waste their valuable resources on children who will not pass on their genes. Only theism can account for the selfless devotion and care that you see in children’s hospitals.

SOME SUFFERING IS ACCEPTABLE

When the “problem of evil” is presented, it quickly becomes apparent that the term “evil” cannot be used in any meaningful way by an atheist. The tactic, therefore, is to swap the terms “suffering,” “pain,” or “harm” for the word “evil,” and contend that the world is filled with too much pain, harm, and suffering. Since it is evident that countless people suffer physical, emotional, and psychological harm, the atheist contends that, even though there is no real “evil,” a loving God would not allow such suffering. [NOTE: The atheist’s argument has not really changed. He is still contending that suffering is “bad” or “evil” and would not be present in a “good” world. In truth, he remains in the same dilemma of proving that evil exists and that suffering is objectively evil.]
At first glance, it seems that the atheist is claiming that a loving, moral God would not allow His creatures, the objects of His love, to suffer at all. Again, the atheist reasons that humans are supposed to be the objects of God’s love, yet they suffer. Thus, God does not love or does not have the power to stop the suffering—and therefore does not exist.
The thoughtful observer soon sees the problem with this line of reasoning, which even the skeptic is forced to admit: it is morally right to allow some suffering in order to bring about greater good. On numerous occasions, Dan Barker and his fellow atheists have admitted the validity of this truth. During the cross-examination period of the Butt/Barker Debate, Barker stated:
You can’t get through life without some harm.... I think we all agree that it is wrong to stick a needle into a baby. That’s horrible. But, if that baby needs a life-saving injection, we will cause that harm, we will do that. The baby won’t understand it, but we will do that because there is a greater good. So, humanistic morality understands that within certain situations, there is harm, and there’s a trade off of values (Butt and Barker, 2009, emp. added).
In his debate with Peter Payne, Barker stated: “Often ethics involves creating harm. Sometimes harm is good” (Barker and Payne, 2005, emp. added). In his book, Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide for Young Thinkers, Barker wrote: “When possible, you should try to stop the pain of others. If you have to hurt someone, then hurt them as little as possible.... If you do have to hurt someone, then try to stop as soon as possible. A good person does not enjoy causing pain” (1992, p. 33, emp. added).
It becomes evident that the atheist cannot argue against the concept of God based on the mere existence of suffering, because atheists are forced to admit that there can be morally justifiable reasons for suffering. Once again, the argument has been altered. No longer are we dealing with the “problem of evil,” since without the concept of God, the term “evil” means nothing. Furthermore, no longer are we dealing with a “problem of suffering,” since the atheist must admit that some suffering could be morally justifiable in order to produce a greater good. The atheist must add an additional term to qualify suffering: “pointless.”

POINTLESS OR UNNECESSARY SUFFERING

Since the skeptic knows that some suffering could be morally justified, he is forced to argue against the biblical concept of God by claiming that at least some of the suffering in this world is pointless or unnecessary. The skeptic then maintains that any being that allows pointless suffering cannot be loving or moral. In his book The Miracle of Theism, J.L. Mackie noted that if the theist could legitimately show that the suffering in the world is in some way useful, then the concept of the God of the Bible “is formally possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil” (1982, p. 154). In light of this fact, Mackie admitted: “[W]e can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another” (p. 154). Did Mackie throw in the proverbial towel and admit that the “problem” of evil and suffering does not militate against God? On the contrary, he contended that even though some suffering or evil might be necessary or useful, there is far too much pointless evil (he terms it “unabsorbed evil”) in the world for the traditional God of the Bible to exist. He then concluded: “The problem, therefore, now recurs as the problem of unabsorbed evils, and we have as yet no way of reconciling their existence with that of a god of the traditional sort” (p. 155, emp. added). Notice how Mackie was forced to change the “problem of evil” to the “problem of unabsorbed evil.”
Dan Barker understands this alteration in the “problem of evil” and has used it himself. In a debate with Rubel Shelly, Dan used his standard argument that the suffering in a children’s hospital is enough to show God does not exist. Shelly responded with a lengthy rebuttal, bringing to light the idea that suffering in this world can be consistently reconciled with God’s purposes for mankind. In concluding his comments, Shelly stated: “The kind of world, apparently, that unbelief wants is a world where no wrong action could have bad effects or where we just couldn’t make wrong actions” (Barker and Shelly, 1999). Barker responded to Shelly’s comments, saying:
I’m not asking for a world that’s free of pain.... No atheist is asking that the world be changed or requiring that if there is a God, He be able to change it. I’m not asking for a world that’s free of consequences. I think pain and consequences are important to a rational education.... What I am asking for is for human beings to strive as much as possible for a world that is free of unnecessary harm (1999, emp. added).
Barker went on to describe a scenario in which a forest fire forces a baby fawn to flee its home. In the process, the fawn catches its leg in a snare and is consumed by the flames. Barker then stated that he believed no one’s soul or character was edified by the fawn’s suffering, thus it would be an example of unnecessary or useless suffering. Barker further admitted that even though some suffering is acceptable, there simply is far too much to be reconciled with a loving God. Here again, it is important to notice that Barker’s entire argument has been altered. It is no longer a “problem of evil (harm)” but now he has amended it to the “problem of unnecessary evil (harm).”
The next question that must be asked is: What would classify as “pointless,” “unnecessary,” or “unabsorbed” suffering? The simple answer that the atheistic position must suggest is that any suffering that the atheist does not deem necessary is pointless. As Timothy Keller points out, the fact is that Mackie and others use the term “pointless” to mean that they, themselves cannot see the point of it. Keller stated: “Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless” (2008, p. 23, italics in orig.). Keller further noted:
This reasoning is, of course, fallacious. Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one. Again we see lurking within supposedly hard-nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one’s own cognitive faculties. If our minds can’t plumb the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’t be any! This is blind faith of a high order (p. 23).
Indeed, it is the atheist who lives by the blind faith that he mistakenly attributes to the theist.

THE PURPOSE OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

In his monumental volume, Have Atheists Proved There Is No God?, philosopher Thomas B. Warren undercut completely the atheist’s use of the problem of evil. He insightfully demonstrated that the Bible teaches that “God has a morally justifiable reason for having created the world...in which evil can (and does) occur” (1972, p. 16). What is that reason? God created the planet to be “the ideal environment for soul-making” (p. 16). God specifically created humans to be immortal, free moral agents, responsible for their own actions, with this earthly life being their one and only probationary period in which their eternal fate is determined by their response to God’s will during earthly life (p. 19). Hence, the world “is as good (for the purpose God had in creating it) as any possible world” since it was designed to function as man’s “vale of soul-making” (p. 19). The physical environment in which humans were to reside was specifically created with the necessary characteristics for achieving that central purpose. This environment would have to be so arranged that it would allow humans to be free moral agents, provide them with their basic physical needs, allow them to be challenged, and enable them to learn those things they most need to learn (p. 47).
Whereas the atheist typically defines “evil” as physical pain and suffering, the Bible, quite logically, defines evil as violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Observe, therefore, that the only intrinsic evil is sin, i.e., disobeying or transgressing the laws of God. Hence, pain and suffering are not intrinsically evil. (“[I]ntrinsic evil on the purely physical level does not exist” [p. 93]). In fact, animal pain, natural calamities, and human suffering are all necessary constituent variables in the overall environment designed for spiritual development. Such variables, for example, impress upon humans the very critical realizations that life on Earth is uncertain, precarious, and temporary. They also demonstrate that life on Earth is brief—that it will soon end (p. 58). Such realizations not only propel people to consider their spiritual condition, and the necessity of using this life to prepare for the afterlife, they prod people to contemplate God! Suffering, pain, and hardship encourage people to cultivate their spirits and to grow in moral character—acquiring virtuous attributes such as courage, patience, humility, and fortitude. Suffering can serve as discipline and motivation to spur spiritual growth and strength. It literally stimulates people to develop compassion, sympathy, love, and empathy for their fellowman (p. 81).

WHO IS IN THE BEST POSITION TO KNOW?

Since atheists cannot say that real, moral evil exists, they must adjust their objection and say that a loving God would not allow suffering. This position quickly becomes indefensible, so again the position is altered to posit that some suffering is morally permissible, but not pointless or unnecessary suffering. Who, then, is to determine if there truly exists unnecessary suffering that would negate the concept of God? Some atheists, such as Barker, are quick to set themselves up as the final judges who alone can set the proper limits of suffering. Yet, when those limits are analyzed, it again becomes apparent that the “problem of evil” is a legitimate problem only for the atheist.
In his book godless, Dan Barker stated: “There is no big mystery to morality. Morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm” (2008, p. 214). In his explanation about how to minimize harm, Barker wrote: “And the way to avoid making a mistake is to try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (p. 214). Reasoning from Barker’s comments about morality, if there truly is an omniscient God Who knows every consequence of every action that ever has been or ever will be taken, then that Being, and only that Being, would be in a position to speak with absolute authority about the amount and kind of suffering that is “necessary.” Barker and his fellow atheists may object to God’s tolerance for suffering, but were God to condescend to speak directly to them, He could simply respond by saying: “What you do not know is...,” and He could fill in the blank with a thousand reasons about future consequences that would legitimize the suffering He allows.
Indeed, this is precisely the tact God employed with Job, when He challenged Job’s knowledge and comprehension of the mysteries of the Universe:
Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Do you know it, because you were born then, or because the number of your days is great? Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? (Job 38:2-4,18,21; 40:2,8).
God’s interrogation of Job elucidated the fact of humanity’s limited knowledge, especially as it relates to suffering. In contrast to this, Barker wrote:
Why should the mind of a deity—an outsider—be better able to judge human actions than the minds of humans themselves? Which mind is in a better position to make judgments about human actions and feelings? Which mind has more credibility? Which has more experience in the real world? Which mind has more of a right? (2008, p. 211).
Of course, Barker’s rhetorical questions were supposed to force the reader to respond that humans are in a better position to understand what actions are moral, or how much suffering is permissable. In light of his comments about knowing the consequences of actions, however, Barker’s position falls flat. Whose mind knows more about the consequences of all actions? Whose mind is in a better position to know what will happen if this action is permitted? Whose mind has the ability to see the bigger picture? And Who alone is in the position to know how much suffering is permissible to bring about the ultimate good for humankind? That would be the infinite, eternal, omniscient Creator—the God of the Bible.

REFERENCES

Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Barker, Dan (1992), Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide for Young Thinkers (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Barker, Dan and Rubel Shelly (1999), Barker/Shelly Debate: Does God Exist? (Brentwood, TN: Faith Matters).
Barker, Dan and Peter Payne (2005), Barker/Payne Debate: Does Ethics Require God?, [On-line], URL: http://www.ffrf.org/about/bybarker/ethics_debate.php.
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Craig, William Lane (no date), Pain and Suffering Debate, Part 1, [On-line], URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZTG5xyefEo.
Keller, Timothy (2008), The Reason for God (New York: Dutton).
Lewis, C.S. (1952), Mere Christianity (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Mackie, J.L. (1982), The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Nietzsche, Friedrich (2007 reprint), Beyond Good and Evil (Raleigh, NC: Hayes Barton Press), [On-line], URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=C7sRYOPWke0C&pg=PA1&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=0_1#PPP1,M1.
Provine, William (1998), “Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life,” [On-line], URL: http://eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin/DarwinDayProvineAddress.htm.
Warren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press).

Look Who’s Talking by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1349

Look Who’s Talking

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

As we study and defend the Bible, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with an inspired record that contains numerous uninspired statements. Even though “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), not everything that the inspired writers recorded was a true statement. For example, after God created Adam, He told him not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil lest he die (Genesis 2:17). Yet, when the serpent approached Eve, he “informed” her that she would not die if she ate of this forbidden fruit (3:4). Obviously, Satan was not inspired by God to say “You will not surely die.” In fact, as we learn earlier, he actually lied (John 8:44). However, when Moses recorded the events that took place in Eden hundreds of years later, he wrote by inspiration of God (cf. Luke 24:44; John 5:46). When Jesus healed a demoniac, some of the Pharisees accused Him of casting out demons, not by the power of God but by the power of “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 12:24). Like Moses, Matthew did not write a lie, but merely reported a lie. The inspired writers of the Bible are in no way responsible for the inaccurate statements that are recorded therein. Whether the statements were true or false, they reported them accurately.
When giving a defense for a particular truth the Bible teaches (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), or when refuting the error that someone else may be teaching (cf. Ephesians 5:11; 2 Timothy 4:2), we must keep in mind who is doing the talking. The above examples are rather elementary: Satan’s statement and the Pharisees allegations clearly were false. But what about when statements are made by individuals who do not seem “as bad” as these?
Oftentimes when attempting to defend a certain doctrine, a person will quote a verse from the book of Job and say, “See, that’s what it says…the book of Job says…therefore my doctrine is proven true.” Not long ago I read an article by a gentleman who was defending a doctrine by citing various verses in the book of Job. This man never indicated who made the statements; he simply cited all of them as being true statements. Those who “defend the truth” in such a way totally disregard one of the fundamental rules of interpretation, i.e., knowing who is speaking. One who studies Job must realize that it is an inspired book that contains many uninspired statements. For instance, we know that Job’s wife was incorrect when she told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). We also know that many statements made by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were incorrect. Nine of the 42 chapters in the book were speeches by these “miserable comforters” (16:2) whom God said had “not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (42:7). Clearly then, one never should quote these men and claim it as an inspired truth.
Finally, we must understand that even though Job was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (1:1), there is no indication that his speeches were inspired. Neither He nor anyone else in the book ever claimed his statements were “given by inspiration of God.” In fact, when Jehovah finally answered Job out of the whirlwind, He asked: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2, emp. added). Obviously, God never would have asked such a rhetorical question had Job been inspired. Prior to the Lord’s speeches, Elihu twice accused Job of the very same thing (34:35; 35:16). Later, Job even said himself: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (42:3, emp. added; cf. 30:16-23). Clearly, then, these passages indicate that Job’s speeches were not inspired.
Through the years, various authors have sought to establish scientific foreknowledge in the passage found in Job 26:7 where Job, in speaking of God, observed that “He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.” Two items from this passage are alleged to be prescientific in nature. First, appeals have been made to the fact that one supposedly can observe an “empty space” in the northern skies—a space where there are no stars, thus corroborating Job’s statement about an “empty space” in the north. Second, some have suggested that since Job’s phrase, “He hangs the earth on nothing,” is literally true (because as everyone now knows, the Earth is freely suspended in space), this is an example of scientific foreknowledge. But if we attempt to convince people that this verse is to be taken literally, how do we then consistently deal with statements in the same chapter that obviously are figurative (such as verse 11: “The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his rebuke”)? Further, there is no empty space in the north. Instead, “billions of stars and galaxies extend outward in all directions” (DeYoung, 1989, p. 95). [Job was not speaking of a literal “empty space” in the north. During his day, pagan gods of idolaters were said to live “in the north.” Job pointed out, correctly, that this could not be true because in the north there was nothing but “an empty space.”]
The honest Christian desires to defend the Word of God with every legitimate weapon in the apologetic arsenal. However, we only hurt the cause of Christ when we employ arguments that are backed by uninspired statements. When studying your Bible or when teaching and defending one of its many truths, always remember to look who’s talking.

REFERENCES

DeYoung, Donald B. (1989), Astronomy and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Jesus Christ--Unique Savior or Average Fraud? [Part II] by Kyle Butt, M.Div. Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=609

Jesus Christ--Unique Savior or Average Fraud? [Part II]

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the February issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]

JESUS—UNIQUE SAVIOR OF MANKIND

One important fact that cannot be ignored is that Jesus is the only historical figure Who fulfills the criteria necessary to justify, sanctify, and redeem mankind. No human’s creative mind concocted the narrative of Jesus of Nazareth. Human eyes saw Him, and human ears heard Him. He walked and talked—lived and loved—on the streets of real cities and in the houses of real people. His life is the only life of any “savior-god” that can be (and has been) thoroughly documented. As Stephen Franklin remarked: “[T]he specific character of Biblical religion and, thus, of Christianity stems from the priority given to the historical-factual dimension of the Bible’s basic teachings and doctrines” (1993, 17[1]:40).
Therefore, the story of Jesus Christ does not occupy a place amidst the pages of Greek mythology or ancient religious legend. But oh, how the skeptics wish that it did! As Freke and Gandy observed in The Jesus Mysteries:
Early Literalist Christians mistakenly believed that the Jesus story was different from other stories of Osiris-Dionysus because Jesus alone had been a historical rather than a mythical figure. This has left Christians feeling that their faith is in opposition to all others, which it is not (1999, p. 13, emp. added).
Indeed, skeptics would delight in being able to place the story of Jesus on the same playing field as the stories of other legendary savior-gods, because then the parallel stories easily could be relegated to myth, due to the fact that the stories cannot be verified historically. Trench wrote of such skeptics:
Proving, as it is not hard to prove, those parallels to be groundless and mythical, to rest on no true historic basis, they hope that the great facts of the Christian’s belief will be concluded to be as weak, will be involved in a common discredit (n.d., p. 135).
If infidels were able to create a straw man that could not stand up to the test of historical verifiability (like, for example, pagan legends and myths), and if they could place the story of Jesus in the same category as their tenuous straw man, then both supposedly would fall together. However, the story of Jesus of Nazareth refuses to fall. The stories of other savior-gods are admitted to be—even by those who invented them—nothing but fables (e.g., the Greeks realized that their fictitious stories were merely untrue legends that were totally unverifiable; see McCabe, 1993, p. 59). But the story of Jesus demands its rightful place in the annals of human history. Osiris, Krishna, Hercules, Dionysus, and the other mythological savior-gods stumble back into the shadows of fiction when compared to the documented life of Jesus of Nazareth. If the skeptic wishes to challenge the uniqueness of Jesus by comparing Him with other alleged savior-gods, he first must produce evidence that one of these savior-gods truly walked on the Earth, commingled with humanity, and impacted people’s lives via both a sinless existence and incomparable teachings. Humanity always has desired a real-life savior-god; but can any of the alleged savior-gods that have been invented boast of a historical existence any more thoroughly documented than that of Christ?
In addition, Jesus has a monopoly on being perfectly flawless. He lived life by the same moral rules that govern all humans, yet He never once made a mistake. The writer of Hebrews recorded: “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (4:15; cf. also 1 Peter 2:21-22). Renowned religious historian Philip Schaff wrote:
In vain do we look through the entire biography of Jesus for a single stain or the slightest shadow of his moral character. There never lived a more harmless being on earth. He injured nobody, he took advantage of nobody. He never wrote an improper word. He never committed a wrong action (1913, pp. 32-33).
Bernard Ramm commented in a similar vein when he stated of Christ:
There He stands, sinless. Whatever men may claim for being great, this is one thing they cannot. They may be brilliant or strong, fast or clever, creative or inspired, but not sinless. Sinless perfection and perfect sinlessness is what we would expect of God incarnate. The hypothesis and the facts concur (1953, p. 169, emp. in orig.).
Examine the stories of other savior-gods. See if they subjected themselves to the same rules as humans. See if they learned human nature and suffered unjustly, all the while never sinning with either their lips or their hearts. Try to find a savior like Christ who lived 30+ years on the Earth and yet never committed one shameful act. Norman Geisler summarized the situation as follows: “All men are sinners; God knows it and so do we. If a man lives an impeccable life and offers as the truth about himself that he is God incarnate we must take his claim seriously” (1976, p. 344). Jesus did “offer as the truth about himself that he is God incarnate.” As John Stott noted:
The most striking feature of the teaching of Jesus is that He was constantly talking about Himself.... This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus immediately sets Him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world. They were self-effacing. He was self-advancing. They pointed men away from themselves, saying, “That is the truth, so far as I perceive it; follow that.” Jesus said, “I am the truth; follow me.” The founders of the ethnic religions never dared say such a thing (1971, p. 23).
There is another important point to be considered, however. Who better to deny the fact that Jesus was perfect than those who spent the most time with Him? There is a grain of truth to the adage that “familiarity often breeds contempt.” Surely His closest friends would have observed some small demerit. Yet when we read the comments of His closest followers, we find that even they lauded Him as the only sinless man. The apostle Peter, who was rebuked publicly by Jesus, nevertheless called Him “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). One chapter later in the same epistle, Peter said that Jesus “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (2:22). Indeed, Christ even went so far as to invite anyone who dared, to convict Him of sin when He said: “Which of you convicteth me of sin” (John 8:46). No one alive in His day could convict the Lord of sin; neither can anyone today. However, when one begins to examine the lives of the other alleged savior-gods, it soon becomes evident that these “heroes” committed fornication with humans, allowed their sinful tempers to flare, and raged with overt jealousy. Every supposed savior of mankind besides Jesus had an Achilles heal. If any such “savior” existed (other than Jesus) who did not have a vice or a sin, his life certainly cannot be documented historically. And if any savior-god besides Jesus could be documented historically, his life easily could be proven to be laden with sin.

Christ Was Unique in His Teachings

Not only have the specific details of Christ’s life come under allegations of plagiarism, but His teachings also have undergone intense scrutiny. Some have complained, for example, that Jesus’ teachings were little more than warmed over Old Testament concepts. In the feature article he authored on Christ for the March 29, 1999 issue of Newsweek (the cover of which was titled “2000 Years of Jesus”), Kenneth Woodward suggested: “As scholars have long realized, there was little in the teachings of Jesus that cannot be found in the Hebrew Scriptures he expounded” (135[13]:54). The non-Christian Jew and the skeptic frequently view Jesus as an ancient teacher Who borrowed much of His material from the Hebrew text that had been in existence hundreds of years before He entered the global picture, since many of His sayings can be traced back centuries to the Jewish psalmist David, the prophet Isaiah, and a host of other ancient Hebrew writers. Others have complained that Christ’s teachings had their origin in ancient pagan lore. Freke and Gandy suggested:
...[W]e discovered that even Jesus’ teachings were not original, but had been anticipated by the Pagan sages.... Pagan critics of Christianity, such as the satirist Celsus, complained that this recent religion was nothing more than a pale reflection of their own ancient teachings (1999, pp. 6,5).
Thus, if it is to be argued successfully that Jesus truly is unique in His teachings, the incontrovertible fact that He used a considerable amount of ancient Hebrew literature must be explained, and certain important dissimilarities must be made manifest (between either Old Testament material or that from previous pagan sources). Otherwise, we have merely another Jewish rabbi who knew both heathen sources and the Scriptures well—just as a host of other Jewish rabbis did.
In order to explain why Jesus employed so much Hebrew literature, we must understand His relationship with that literature. A statement from Peter’s first epistle is quite helpful in this regard:
Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto (1 Peter 1:10-11, emp. added).
Peter’s point of emphasis was that Christ was not just an interested reader of ancient Hebrew scripture; rather, He was its Author. He wrote the Jewish Old Testament through His Spirit that worked through the prophets. When He quoted Isaiah or Jeremiah, He neither copied their material nor plagiarized their truths. Quite the contrary, in fact. He simply quoted the texts that He personally had inspired and published through the ancient holy men. As the famous “church father” Tertullian wrote in his Apology, “There is nothing so old as the truth” (chapter 47). To suggest that Christ’s teachings were not unique because He quoted passages from the Old Testament would be like saying that the author of a particular book could not quote from that book in later lectures or publications, lest he be charged with plagiarism of his own material.
There are those, of course, who will discount the above argument by claiming that the New Testament has no authority to answer such questions. Thus, they will continue to claim that Jesus “borrowed” His ideas from the pages of Israel’s texts. If they wish to defend such a viewpoint, then let them find in the Old Testament any description of eternal punishment comparable to the one Jesus provided in Mark 9:42. Where in the Old Testament Scriptures do we find that it is more difficult for a rich person to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle? Where in the Old Testament is the idea of loving one’s neighbor developed to the extent that Christ described in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Jesus of Nazareth did not merely regurgitate Old Testament passages, adding jots and tittles as He went along. Instead, He came to fulfill the Old Law, and to instigate a New Law with distinctive concepts and commands—a point the writer of Hebrews made quite clear when he stated: “In that he saith, ‘a new covenant,’ he hath made the first old. But that which waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away” (8:13).
Even though it can be proven that Jesus did not plagiarize the Old Testament, the battle for the uniqueness of His teachings does not end there. Traces of concepts that predate Christ’s earthly existence also can be found in His teachings. Earlier, we quoted from Augustine, who noted that Plato’s followers claimed Christ had copied their philosophical hero (except, they opined, that Christ was not nearly as eloquent). Further, rabbi Hillel, who lived approximately fifty years before Jesus, taught: “What thou wouldest not have done to thee, do not that to others” (see Bales, n.d., p. 7). Confucius (and a host of other ancient writers) taught things that Jesus also taught. From China to Egypt, a steady stream of pagans uttered things that Christ, centuries later, likewise would say. How, then, can the teachings of Christ be considered unique if they had been surfacing in different cultures and civilizations for hundreds of years before His visit to Earth? Perhaps this would be a good place to ask: What is the alternative? As Bales noted:
If Christ had been completely original, He would have had to omit every truth which had been revealed in the Old Testament, or which had been discerned by the reason of man. If He had done this, His teaching would have been inadequate, for it would have omitted many moral and spiritual truths (n.d., p. 21, emp. added).
Jesus came not to reiterate ancient truths, but rather to synthesize those truths into a complete unit. He embodied every spiritual truth the world had ever seen or ever would see. As Bales commented: “Christ embodies all the moral good which is found in other religions, and He omits their errors” (p. 7). In his letter to the Christians in Colossae, Paul described Christ as the one “in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden” (2:3, emp. added). Christ’s teachings are like gold; tiny amounts can be found in almost every area of the world—from ocean water to the human body. However, in order for that gold to be usable, it must be collected into a mass large enough to refine. Christ is the “refining pot” of all knowledge and wisdom, wherein the dross of error is purged from the precious metal of divine truth. While tiny specks of His teachings emerge from practically every religion, they can be refined only when collected as a whole in the essence of Jesus the Nazarene. Stephen Franklin put it like this:
By providing echoes of Christian themes in every culture and in every religion, he [God—KB/BT] has given the entire human race some “handle” that allows them at least a preliminary understanding of the gospel when it is preached (1993, p. 51).
Furthermore, consider both the power and the authority evident in Christ’s teachings. Even His enemies were unable to refute what He taught. When the Jewish Sanhedrin decided to take action against Him and dispatched its security force to seize Him, those officers returned empty handed and admitted: “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46, NKJV, emp. added). When He was only twelve years old and His parents accidentally left Him behind in Jerusalem, they returned to find Him in a discussion of religious matters with the learned scribes, “and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47).
The Jews had long yearned for a Messiah (“Christ”) Who would save and deliver them. The Samaritan woman Christ met at the well spoke of this very fact, to which He replied: “I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:26). When Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas the high priest asked: “Are you the Christ?” His reply was firm: “It is as you said” (Matthew 26:63-64). He spoke with authority regarding the pre-human past, because He was there (John 1:1ff.). In the present, “there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). And He knows the future, as is evident from even a cursory reading of His prophecies about the building of His church (Matthew 16:18), the sending of the Holy Spirit to the apostles (John 14:26), and His many descriptions of His ultimate return and the Day of Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46, et al.). All of this, and more, explains why Paul referred to Him as “King of King, and Lord of Lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). No one ever possessed, or spoke with, the kind of authority with which Christ was endowed, which is why He taught: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Fraudulent saviors never claimed such, nor had their own enemies confirm such. Perhaps this is one reason why, in the feature article from Time magazine’s December 6, 1999 cover story (“Jesus at 2000”), author Reynolds Price wrote:
It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millennia but in all human history—has been Jesus of Nazareth.... [A] serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus. It’s an astonishing conclusion in light of the fact that Jesus was a man who lived a short life in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire [and] who died in agony as a convicted criminal... (154[23]:86).
Mythical saviors never had such an assessment made of their lives.

Christ Was Unique in His Fulfillment of Prophecy

Surely, one of the most undeniable traits of Christ’s uniqueness was His fulfillment of prophecy. In his book, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell discussed the fact that “the Old Testament contains over three hundred references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus” (1999, p. 168). Hugo McCord observed: “Testimony about Jesus was the chief purpose of prophecy. To him all the prophets gave witness (Acts 10:43)” [1979, p. 332]. Every prophecy in the Old Testament had to have been written at least 250 years before Christ appeared on the earthly scene. Why?
[The] Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—was initiated in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.). It is sure that if you have a Greek translation initiated in 250 B.C., then you had to have the Hebrew text from which it was written (McDowell, p. 168).
Indeed, the Old Testament—which had been written hundreds of years before Christ actually lived—foretold the minutest details of His life. The Prophesied One would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4) who was a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22), from the family of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Luke 3:34), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14), of the royal line of David (2 Samuel 7:12; Luke 1:32), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), in order to bruise the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:12).
The prophets had foretold His Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1-2), as well as the fact that a precursor would proclaim His arrival (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-3). He would appear during the time of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2:44; Luke 2:1), while Judah still possessed her own king (Genesis 49:10; Matthew 2:22). He would be murdered about 490 years after the command to restore Jerusalem at the end of the Babylonian captivity (457 B.C.), i.e., A.D. 30 (Daniel 9:24ff.). He was to be both human and divine; though born, He was eternal (Micah 5:2; John 1:1,14); though a man, He was Jehovah’s “fellow” (Zechariah 13:7; John 10:30; Philippians 2:6). He was to be kind and sympathetic in His dealings with mankind (Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:15-21).
He would submit willingly to His heavenly Father (Psalm 40:8; Isaiah 53:11; John 8:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). He would be abandoned and know grief (Isaiah 53:3), and be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9) for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12). He was so betrayed (John 13:18; Matthew 26:15). He would be spit upon and beaten (Isaiah 50:6; 53:5), and in death both His hands and His feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16). This is precisely what occurred (Matthew 27:30; Luke 24:39). The Scriptures foretold that He would be numbered among criminals (Isaiah 53:12), which He was (Matthew 27:38). He would be mocked, not only with scornful words (Psalm 22:7-8), but with bitter wine (Psalm 69:21). And so He was (Matthew 27:48). Although He would die and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57), His bones would not be broken (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33) and His flesh would not see corruption, because He was to be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:22ff.) and then ascend into heaven (Psalm 110:1-3; 45:6; Acts 1:9-10).
The previous paragraphs present an overview of just a fraction of the numerous predictions fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Time and again biblical prophecies are presented, and fulfilled, with exacting detail. Jeremiah wrote: “When the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that Jehovah hath truly sent him” (28:9). Thomas Horne was correct when he said:
The book which contains these predictions is stamped with the seal of heaven: a rich vein of evidence runs through the volume of the Old Testament; the Bible is true; infidelity is confounded forever; and we may address its patrons in the language of Saint Paul, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish!” (1970, 1:291).
On Tuesday, prior to Christ’s crucifixion the following Friday, Jesus engaged in a discussion with the Pharisees, who made no secret of their hatred for Him. When Matthew recorded the scene in his Gospel, he first commented on an earlier skirmish the Lord had with the Sadducees: “But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, gathered themselves together” (22:34). Jesus—with penetrating logic and an incomparable knowledge of Old Testament Scripture—had routed the Sadducees completely. No doubt the Pharisees thought they could do better. Yet they were about to endure the same embarrassing treatment. In the midst of His discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus asked: “What think ye of the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42). They were unable to answer the questions satisfactorily because their hypocrisy prevented them from comprehending both Jesus’ nature and His mission. The questions the Lord asked on that day, however, are ones that every rational, sane person must answer eventually.
Both questions were intended to raise the matter of Christ’s deity. The answers—had the Pharisees’ spiritual myopia not prevented them from responding correctly—were intended to confirm it. Today, these questions still raise the issue of Christ’s identity. Who is Jesus? Is He, as He claimed to be, the Son of God? Was He, as many who knew Him claimed, God incarnate? Is He, as the word “deity” implies, of divine nature and rank?
The series of events that would lead to Jesus’ becoming the world’s best-known historical figure began in first-century Palestine. There are four primary indicators of this fact. First, when Daniel was asked by king Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his wildly imaginative dream, the prophet revealed that God would establish the Messianic kingdom during the time of the Roman Empire (viz., the fourth kingdom represented in the king’s dream; see Daniel 2:24-45). Roman domination of Palestine began in 63 B.C., and continued until A.D. 476.
Second, the Messiah was to appear before “the scepter” departed from Judah (Genesis 49:10). Bible students recognize that this prophecy has reference to the Messiah (“Shiloh” of Old Testament fame) arriving before the Jews lost their national sovereignty and judicial power (the “scepter” of Genesis 49). Thus, Christ had to have come prior to the Jews’ losing their power to execute capital punishment (John 18:31). When Rome deposed Archelaus in A.D. 6, Coponius was installed as Judea’s first procurator. Interestingly, “the...procurator held the power of jurisdiction with regard to capital punishment” (Solomon, 1972, 13:117). Hence, Christ was predicted to come sometime prior to A.D. 6 (see also McDowell, 1999, pp. 195-202).
Third, Daniel predicted that the Messiah would bring an end to “sacrifice and offering” before the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70; cf. Daniel 9:24-27 and Matthew 24:15). When the Lord died, the Mosaical Law was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
Fourth, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2). It is a matter of record that Jesus was born in Bethlehem while Palestine was under Roman rule, before Judah lost her judicial power, and before the destruction of Jerusalem (see also Matthew 2:3-6; Luke 2:2-6).
The Old and New Testaments paint a portrait of Christ that offers valuable evidence for the person desiring to answer the questions, “What think ye of the Christ?,” and “Whose son is he?” In Isaiah 7:14, for example, the prophet declared that a virgin would conceive, bear a son, and name him “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (a prophecy that was fulfilled in the birth of Christ; Matthew 1:22-23). Later, Isaiah referred to this son as “Mighty God” (9:6). In fact, in the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah said he saw “the Lord” sitting upon a throne (see Isaiah 6:1ff.). Overpowered by the scene, God’s servant exclaimed: “Woe is me,...for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts” (6:5). In the New Testament, John wrote: “These things said Isaiah, because he saw His [Christ’s] glory; and he spake of him” (John 12:41).
Isaiah urged God’s people to sanctify “Jehovah of hosts” (8:12-14), a command later applied to Jesus by Peter (1 Peter 3:14-15). Furthermore, Isaiah’s “Jehovah” was to become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (8:14), a description that New Testament writers applied to Christ (cf. Romans 9:33, 1 Peter 2:8). Isaiah foretold that John the Baptizer would prepare the way for the coming of Jehovah (40:3). It is well known that John was the forerunner of Christ (cf. Matthew 3:3, John 1:23). Isaiah pictured Christ not only as a silent “lamb” (53:7), but as a man Who “a bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench” (42:3; cf. Matthew 12:20). Various biblical scholars have suggested that this imagery was intended to portray a leader Who,
wherever he finds men wounded and bruised by the harshness of life’s experience, or wherever he finds wounded and bruised consciences, whether among the Gentiles or in Israel, there he is most tender and delicate in the gentle handling of these souls (Leupold, 1971, 2:62; see also Oswalt, 1998, p. 111-112; McGarvey, 1875, p. 106).
Other Old Testament writers illuminated Christ in their writings as well. The psalmist suggested He would be known as zealous for righteousness (Psalm 69:9), that He would be hated without cause (Psalm 22), and that He would triumph over death (Psalm 16:8-11). Daniel referred to His coming kingdom as one that would “stand forever” (2:44). The prophets’ portrait of Christ was intended not only to foreshadow His coming, but to make Him all the more visible to people in New Testament times as well (see Bromling, 1991).
The prophets had said that He would be raised from the dead so that He could sit upon the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7). This occurred, as Peter attested in his sermon on Pentecost following the resurrection (Acts 2:30). He would rule, not Judah, but the most powerful kingdom ever known. As King, Christ was to rule (from heaven) the kingdom that “shall never be destroyed” and “shall break in pieces and consume all these [earthly] kingdoms, and...shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). The New Testament establishes the legitimacy of His kingdom (Colossians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25). The subjects of this royal realm were to be from every nation on Earth (Isaiah 2:2), and were prophesied to enjoy a life of peace and harmony that ignores any and all human distinctions, prejudices, or biases (cf. Isaiah 2:4 and Galatians 3:28). This King would be arrayed, not in the regal purple of a carnal king, but in the reverential garments of a holy priest (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6). Like Melchizedek, the Messiah was to be both Priest and King (Genesis 14:18), guaranteeing that His subjects could approach God without the interference of a clergy class. Instead, as the New Testament affirms, Christians offer their petitions directly to God through their King—Who mediates on their behalf (cf. Matthew 6:9; John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:12,19-22). It would be impossible for the New Testament writers to provide any clearer answers than they did to the questions that Christ asked the Pharisees. Furthermore, no similar “savior” from mythology ever had his entire life prophesied, or personally fulfilled predictive prophecy (in whole or in part), like Jesus.

WHAT WOULD YOU EXPECT?

In his fascinating book, What If Christ Had Never Been Born?, D. James Kennedy discussed at length both the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and His singular impact on the Earth’s inhabitants. In assessing that impact, Dr. Kennedy wrote:
...Jesus Christ has had an enormous impact—more than anybody else—on history. Had He never come, the hole would be a canyon about the size of a continent. Christ’s influence on the world is immeasurable.... Whatever Jesus touched or whatever He did transformed that aspect of human life. Many people will read about the innumerable small incidents in the life of Christ while never dreaming that those casually mentioned “little” things were to transform the history of mankind (1994, p. 4).
Philip Schaff discussed Christ’s influence when he wrote in his book, The Person of Christ: The Miracle of History:
This Jesus of Nazareth, without money or arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times (1913, p. 33).
It has been said that Christ changed the course of the River of History and lifted the centuries off their hinges—a stirring verbal tribute that is quite apropos, considering the evidence. When unbelievers write books to challenge His deity, even they (albeit inadvertently) acknowledge not only His existence, but His uniqueness, when they place the copyright date in the frontispiece of their tomes, admitting that the volume was published in, say, A.D. 2001. That “A.D.” stands for Anno Domini—in the year of the Lord. No one dates time from Osiris, Dionysus, Hillel, or Confucius. But the entire inhabited world recognizes the designations of “B.C.” (before Christ) and “A.D.”
In The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell listed seven things that people could (and should!) expect from the Savior of the world: (1) an utterly unique entrance into human history (prophecy and virgin birth); (2) the ability to live a sinless life—none of the Jewish heroes was presented as perfect, nor were the mythological heroes presented as viceless; (3) control over all the forces of nature—“Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:41); (4) the capability to speak the greatest words ever uttered by human lips; (5) a lasting and universal influence on humanity; (6) the power to satisfy the spiritual hunger of mankind (see Matthew 5:6, John 7:37, 4:14, 6:35, 10:10); and (7) the ability to defeat both death and sin.
The simple fact is, Jehovah left no stone unturned in preparing the world for the coming of the One Who would save mankind. Through a variety of avenues, He alerted the inhabitants of planet Earth regarding the singular nature of the One Who was yet to come, as well as the importance of believing in and obeying Him. Humanity’s sins can be forgiven only by a sinless Savior. A mythological sacrifice can forgive only mythological sins, but Jesus truly is the Lamb of God “that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As Norman Geisler put it:
It is one thing to claim deity and quite another to have the credentials to support that claim. Christ did both. He offered three unique and miraculous facts as evidence of his claim: the fulfillment of prophecy, a uniquely miraculous life, and the resurrection from the dead. All of these are historically provable and unique to Jesus of Nazareth. We argue, therefore, that Jesus alone claims to be and proves to be God (1976, p. 339).

CONCLUSION

Who, then, is Jesus Christ? Is He a unique Savior, or an average fraud? The choices actually are quite limited—a fact reiterated by Josh McDowell when he titled one of the chapters in his New Evidence that Demands a Verdict: “Significance of Deity: The Trilemma—Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?” His purpose was to point out that, considering the grandiose nature of Christ’s claims, He had to be one of the three. As McDowell began his discussion, he presented for the reader’s consideration a quotation from the famous British apologist of Cambridge University, C.S. Lewis, who wrote:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. 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 a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the 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 up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to (1952, pp. 40-41).
Lewis’ point needs to be explored. Consider, for example, the cover story of the March 27, 2000 issue of Newsweek, “Visions of Jesus.” In that issue, staff writer Kenneth Woodward penned the feature article, “The Other Jesus,” in which he defended the idea that the Jesus of the Gospels may not be the “real” Jesus. In fact, Woodward said, “the lack of extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus has led more than one critic to conclude that he is a Christian fiction created by the early church” (2000, 135[13]:53). But, Woodward admitted, “the Christ of the Gospels is certainly the best-known Jesus in the world. For Christians, he is utterly unique—the only Son of God” (p. 52).
One month later, in its April 17, 2000 issue, Newsweek’s editors ran in the “Letters” section a sampling of responses from readers. One letter was from a young lady by the name of Jennifer Rawlings of Gaithersburg, Maryland, who wrote:
I am a 17-year-old student, and I was disappointed by your cover story “Visions of Jesus.” It seems that Newsweek attempted to find a middle ground in presenting a view of Jesus as a character who could appeal to all people. But that is impossible. Either Jesus was in fact the son of God, as he claimed, or he was a lunatic. No one who claims to be the Son of God is simply a “good teacher”! Other great religions will never accept Jesus to be who he said he was. If they do, then they are not Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist. They are Christian (2000, 135[16]:17).
Apparently one does not have to be a distinguished Cambridge University professor (like C.S. Lewis) to understand what 17-year-old Miss Rawlings so eloquently stated in her simple-but-accurate reply to Newsweek’s “scholarly” approach. Jesus not only existed as a historical character, but also claimed to be God incarnate (John 5:17-18; 8:42; 10:30; 12:45; 14:7,10-11; 17:21-23; 19:7). He therefore cannot be viewed merely as a “good teacher” since, if His claim were false, He would have been either a liar or a lunatic. In Mark 10, the account is recorded concerning a rich young ruler who, in speaking to Christ, addressed Him as “good teacher.” Upon hearing this reference, Jesus asked: “Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, even God” (Mark 10:18). So, is Christ God?

Was Christ a Liar?

Was Christ a liar? A charlatan? A “messianic manipulator”? In his book, The Passover Plot, Hugh J. Schonfield claimed that He was all three. Schonfield suggested that Jesus manipulated His life in such a way as to counterfeit the events portrayed in the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. At times, this necessitated “contriving those events...contending with friends and foes to ensure that the predictions would be fulfilled” (1965, p. 7). Schonfield charged that Jesus planned to fake His own death on the cross, but had not counted on a spear being thrust through His side. Thus, rather than recovering from His stupor, Jesus died unexpectedly. On Saturday evening, His body was moved to a secret place so that His tomb would be empty on the next day, thus leaving the impression of His resurrection and, simultaneously, His deity (pp. 161ff.).
In considering the possibility that Christ was little more than an accomplished liar, biblical historian Philip Schaff asked:
How in the name of logic, common sense, and experience, could an impostor—that is a deceitful, selfish, depraved man—have invented, and consistently maintained from beginning to end, the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality? How could he have conceived and successfully carried out a plan of unparalleled beneficence, moral magnitude, and sublimity, and sacrificed his own life for it, in the face of the strongest prejudices of his people and ages? (1913, pp. 94-95).
Furthermore, what sane man would die for what he knows to be a lie? As McDowell summarized the matter: “Someone who lived as Jesus lived, taught as Jesus taught, and died as Jesus died could not have been a liar” (1999, p. 160).

Was Christ a Lunatic?

Was Jesus merely a psychotic lunatic Who sincerely (albeit mistakenly) viewed Himself as God incarnate? Such a view rarely has been entertained by anyone cognizant of Christ’s life and teachings. Schaff inquired:
Is such an intellect—clear as the sky, bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always ready and always self-possessed—liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning His own character and mission? Preposterous imagination! (1913, pp. 97-98).
Would a raving lunatic teach that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Would a lunatic teach that we should pray for our enemies? Would a lunatic teach that we should “turn the other cheek,” and then set an example of exactly how to do that—even unto death? Would a lunatic present an ethical/moral code like the one in the Sermon on the Mount? No. Lunacy of the sort ascribed to Christ by His detractors does not produce such genius. Schaff continued:
Self-deception in a matter so momentous, and with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sound, is equally out of the question. How could He be an enthusiast or a madman who never lost the even balance of His mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the wisest answer to tempting questions, who calmly and deliberately predicted His death on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the founding of His Church, the destruction of Jerusalem—predictions which have been literally fulfilled? A character so original, so completely, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction (1910, p. 109).

Was Christ Deity?

If Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic, then the question He asked the Pharisees still remains: “What think ye of the Christ?” Is Jesus, in fact, Who He claimed to be? Was He God incarnate? The evidence presented here suggests that the answer to both questions is “Yes.” Could anyone, taking into account all the evidence, really suggest—and expect to be taken seriously—that He was merely an “average fraud”? We think not.

REFERENCES

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