The Moral Superiority of Jesus

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Jesus was simply the man. But hey, I’m biased.

My thinking this is not arrogance. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all believe our religious founder is superior (or that they are all overrated if we have none). But what reasons do we have for that belief, and in what ways do we claim one is better than the other? 

Here, I want to take a quick look at why Jesus is morally superior to Buddha and Mohammed. 

Jesus’ Moral Revolution

Whether you look at the New Testament or the other extra-biblical sources that mention Jesus (there are numerous), they really don’t have any kind of evidence that he was an immoral man. The Rabbis didn’t like him because he did miracles and yet didn’t agree with them. The Romans saw him as an insurgent, but give us no reason to suspect he did anything violent. And his followers themselves were known for how counter-cultural they were in how they lived – communally, respectfully, lovingly… and never violently.

Further evidence of the morality of Jesus comes from the Biblical traditions and cultural changes that spawned from him. The Christian movement truly was a moral revolution, and most of us today hold to some distinctly Christian values, whether we think we do or not. In fact, the word “humility” which has the same root as “humiliation” was not something that people valued until after Jesus, whose humility was found in his willingness to be humiliated for the sake of others.

To preface my criticisms that follow, I say this: I want to be careful and yet critical. That is, I don’t with to be unfair in what I say, nor do I wish to say it impolitely. But I do want to be direct and to the point, and to not shy away from what I believe to be honest criticisms. I also welcome yours! 

Mohammed’s Conquests & Romances

Contrast the morality of Jesus with that of Mohammed. While Muslims praise him as the final and greatest prophet of God, I think that even Islamic tradition itself betrays Mohammed’s questionable character.

First, his whole campaign was not a peaceful one like Jesus’ was. The early Muslim regime was a militant one. Granted, they sought first a peaceful conquering of land and peoples (but still a conquering, and one which included institutionalized discrimination for those who did not convert), but if there was any resistance, violence was the 2nd resort. Whereas Christians crusaded in the 11th century over a thousand years after their beginnings, Muslims were crusading right away and have been doing so in larger or smaller groups ever since. And I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Mohammed set that tone.

Secondly, Mohammed had a questionable romantic life. Besides being polygamous and marrying 9-year-old Aisha, he justified the normally unlawful divorce (even by previously revealed Qu’ran law) of his adopted son Zayd’s wife so that he could marry her. Making things worse, he did it through a convenient and arguably self-serving “revelation” from God.

Buddha’s Negligence 

I find it funny how many Westerners adopt Buddhism as a convenient, new age kind of spirituality. I can definitely see the appeal in some ways, but I find the supposedly “enlightened” Buddha, in the end, morally lacking.

Being dissatisfied with his native Hinduism, Buddha left his family (wife and children too if I remember correctly) for a life of extreme asceticism, which is essentially a giving up of indulgences. People nowadays think that Buddha is noble for leaving behind excessive lifestyle choices, but how is leaving behind one’s wife and children and other societal responsibilities noble? Morality, after all, is more about our relationships to others than about ourselves.

Jesus lived a relatively poor, underprivileged lifestyle, devoid of any real excess. Yet he worked and was a faithful contributor to society for 30 years until his more significant religious work began. Even then, while he called for radical commitment to his teachings, his ethics centred around loving one’s neighbour, not leaving them to find personal fulfillment (which was indeed Buddha’s goal, though it wore the veneer of sacrifice).

Jesus’ sacrifice, on the other hand, was one of service to others. After his death, unlike the deaths of other Messianic would-be-nots of Jesus’ time, caused a total revolution and changed the moral landscape of the world. This is simply not the case for Mohammed or Buddha, who arguably may have caused more moral damage than good.

But again, I’m biased. What do you think of my criticisms? I’d be interested to hear, so feel free to hit me up in the comments below or via Twitter @rexCo27.

Keep thinking!

Corey

Evil and the Cross of Christ

Original Post: Wednesday, 19 June 2013

 

After discussing evil and suffering for a few posts, I think I’ve done a half decent job at dealing with the overarching themes and discussions pertaining to evil and the existence of God. At the same time, I do feel that there is a lot more to these problems and concerns when it comes to evil. Sure, maybe you’re at the point now where you can see evil and God co-existing logically and you understand that your emotions, if anything, don’t give you enough reason to deny God’s existence (and maybe even motivate you to the hope that God does exist)… But there is still a hunger and a thirst there for something more, I bet.

But is there a satisfying answer to why evil exists and how it can be overcome or dealt with?

This is where I’d like to get a lot more specific. I’d like to contend that the Christian God, particularly through the person and work of Jesus Christ, is the most satisfying answer to evil and suffering, bar none.

The Only God to Suffer

First and foremost, let me talk about Jesus. The Christian view of Jesus of Nazareth was that he was God incarnate (See the first chapter of the Gospel of John). That is, he was very much God and yet he was God manifesting himself in the everyday body of a man of middle-east descent. He wasn’t a superman with special powers or abilities but was a man, plain and simple. He slept, ate, drank like a man. He got hungry and thirsty and tired. And he also experienced pain, betrayal, sadness, and so on. I could go on. But I will make a point of looking at how Jesus, in his human flesh, also suffered.

As he was being tried for crucifixion, Jesus was betrayed by all who loved him and whom he also loved. They scattered and left him, not saying a word to defend him. His top disciple even denied having ever been his friend and follower – three times, publicly. Imagine being betrayed like that by your best friend, and tell me Jesus can’t sympathize even with social sufferings that are so common even here in the West. Feeling alone? No one was ever more alone than Jesus, even though he was as innocent and moral as they come and deserved none of it.

When it came to actually being criminalized, Jesus suffered immeasurably. Before he was even crucified, this innocent man (not to mention God incarnate) unjustly suffered flogging and scourging. Think being whipped, but with a 5-string sharp leather whip with iron balls that would penetrate the skin and cause many a contusion and laceration as deep as the muscles. Oh, and you’re naked while they do this to you. They would do this to near collapse or even death. Feel free to look it up for yourself, but be warned, I’ve toned down the description considerably.

Crucifixion itself is a most brutal form of execution. Victim’s arms would be nailed and tied to the horizontal beam of the cross and hung from them. Death would not be quick – imagine a slow suffocation as you hang from outstretched arms, either cold because you are naked, or hot because of the roasting middle-eastern sun over you. If suffocation didn’t get you, it might be because you’ve already died from blood loss or organ failure thanks to the scourging you just received.

Evil Dealt With

Evils though there might be in this world, Christians worship a God who can sympathize with it all. He became a man and suffered and died unjustly. He wasn’t willing to put his creation, which he loves, through anything he wasn’t willing to go through himself.

Another very important truth about the work of Jesus Christ. When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, it was more than simply a physical event. Anyone familiar with Christian theology knows that it was a very spiritually and theologically significant event as well.

On that cross, the Bible tells us that death and evil were conquered. The victory of all things good and righteous was sealed. And there will be a day in the future when that victory comes to consummation, when evil is destroyed and dealt with and good will reign forever. As the New Testament’s final book puts it:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:4).

Evil Does Not Get the Last Laugh

In Christianity, God is not complacent about evil. He comes down and faces it man to man. Then he deals with it decisively.

So when it comes to evil and the sufferings of the world we live in, Christianity gives us hope. And our hope, ironic as it might seem given the problem of evil itself, is God himself. Thus, he is the very reason we can endure evil and sufferings in this life, knowing he sympathizes with us and that his truth comforts us and gives us hope that what we endure will not be for naught.

Hell and Suffering

A final note. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and your God, you do not share this hope. You do not have God, the hope himself. The evil and suffering you endure in this life will be but a shadow of what you face when you die and are completely separated from God. That is what “hell” in the Christian tradition is – separation! And so I plead with you – deeply consider that the answer to evil and sin and all that is wrong with this life lies in the person of Jesus Christ. Please, talk to me, read the Bible, talk to someone you know who truly knows Jesus. My whole reason for writing these blog posts is that people would meet Him, so you would do me great service even if we could just chat about this. At least give this great thought! If indeed what I speak is true, it has great consequences and is worth checking out.

Thanks for reading! This is for now my last post on evil, but there are many more questions that people are always asking, and so there will always be more blog posts. Until then,

Keep thinking.

 

Corey

Dealing with Evil Emotionally

Original Post: Tuesday, 4 June 2013

As I think I showed quite well in my post on evil and suffering, we perhaps don’t have good enough reason to think that there is a logical problem with the simultaneous existence of God, evil and suffering. Nonetheless, I think that if we’re all totally honest, there’s more here than straight logic.

The Fight between Emotion and Reason

Even the most logical of us surely battle our emotions from time to time. For all intents and purposes, your reason tells you one thing but your emotions say something else completely. And so it often is for evil and suffering. Even if we can see logically no incompatibility between the existence of God with the existence of terrible moral evils or seemingly pointless but awful suffering, we still feel like all these wrongs mean there can’t be a right. We’ll even go as far as to say that life is meaningless, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” as Shakespeare wrote. We go this far, perhaps, because we hope that our emotional pain (whether our own or lived vicariously) will be numbed or eased. Behind this might be a hope that if we can convince ourselves that it’s all just part of life, part of our “meaningless” existence, then we can just move on and not have to worry about it. We want peace – and when life’s evils seem to keep us from this peace, we try to convince ourselves that there is no evil at all. Just existence.

Taking the Honest Step Back

If we take a step back, however, we can see where we go wrong. We are telling ourselves these things. We are the ones trying to redefine what we understand as evil, and for our own convenience no less. The evils and endless sufferings of life impact us emotionally – and we respond based on our emotions. Thus, our emotions govern our actions and control what we believe or how we live.

Emotions: Important but Not Authoritative

I think we would all agree that our emotions are important. Clearly, they can be very helpful as we make big decisions, as we relate to others, and as we undergo self-discovery. Our emotions can tell us much. But they can also mislead and interfere. We have all had times where our emotions have gotten the better of us, made us say or do something we ended up regretting or even changed so suddenly that we wished we had never listened to them in the first place. Indeed, as helpful as emotions can be, they are not the be-all, end-all, and must be cautiously watched, and constructively questioned and criticized.

When it comes to our worldview, (that is, how we see and understand the world) we must be incredibly careful that our emotions do not govern us. Why? Because how you see and understand the world will determine how you live and how you relate to those around you, and will in a very real way lead you (and others) either to success or to destruction. And even more importantly, if how you live and thus what you believe have consequences not only in this life but any life that may follow this one, then your worldview (led by your emotions, if you let them) will have great and lasting (even, possibly, eternal) consequences.

Our emotions can only tell us so much. Ultimately, they cannot be what we base our worldview on – and so when it comes to the existence of God, indeed perhaps the most important question of anyone’s life, we cannot let our contempt for evil and suffering guide us to say, simply, “there is no God”… That, I think, is foolishness.  

And so our emotions, though helpful, must not be the real decision maker in our lives.

What Emotions Can Really Tell Us

Though I think the above case is sound, I know still the depth and power of emotions and don’t pretend to make light of them nor their ability to guide and determine our minds. I think a future post should deal with the superiority of the Christian God in these matters, as I think that there is still a lot to deal with when it comes to evil and suffering, and I also think that the God of the Bible answers and satisfies these problems better than any (largely through the person of Jesus Christ, God in a human body, who himself suffers and endures evil unlike anyone else).  

For now though, I would plead with you that you do not let your emotions decide such an important question as the existence of a loving God. Please, keep thinking. And my hope is that instead of a resentfulness towards the thought of a “so-called” loving God who allows evil, you would see such a being as the good comforter in the midst of a world filled with evil, and that you would see pain and suffering as the “megaphone” (as C.S. Lewis puts it) to a sleeping and broken world that He uses to awaken and heal it.

Keep thinking, and consider how Jesus handles the problem of evil. 

 

Corey

 

 

Dealing With Evil Logically

The Old Argument

There is an age-old argument against the existence of God, and it is one to this day still dealt with in the hearts and minds of many. It is known as “theodicy” or the Problem of Evil (often suffering is included here also), and it goes something like this:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Many attribute this particular statement to the Greek philosopher Epicurus, though there is debate as to who actually has said it. Nevertheless, this kind of argument has been around for some time and even in our culture is manifested in the cries of people everywhere, religious and non-religious. Some use it as a means to justify denial of anything and everything to do with religion. For others, dealing with many a challenge and difficult circumstance, simply walk away from any idea of a so-called “loving God”. I think the best way to deal with the problem of evil and suffering is to look at it in two different ways: logically and emotionally. In this first post, we will deal with evil logically.

Being both a thinker and one who’s emotions can definitely get the best of him (surprising as that may seem to those who know me), I have wrestled much with the ideas of evil, suffering and the existence of God. I’m sure the worst of life has yet to hit me too however, and so I know I will wrestle all the more in the future with the deep, heart piercing questions that plague each one of us. I also know that I have not delved into the depth of the debate in modern philosophy regarding this question, and so as per usual the discussion below will likely only be surface level. Nonetheless, I hope to give the big picture and make the case that evil is still no reason to deny God’s existence; to the contrary it is all the more reason to believe in it!

The Assumption You May Have Missed

First, we must start with the big picture. We must define evil – what is it? Evil is first and foremost a moral problem – wickedness, or acting immorally.

You might be surprised at how simply I will deal with evil right now. The reason for this, I think, is that the problem isn’t a problem at all, at least from a logical perspective. The truth is, if you believe in evil, that is, a transgressing of some moral standard, then you of course presume that very moral standard. In other words, you believe that there is also a such thing as good. But what defines this good? Therein lies the second presumption of the “problem” of evil – it presumes a source of moral law. And this source must be transcendent! It cannot come from us; otherwise it would be defined by us and therefore subjective and subject to change. But when we speak of the problem of evil, we assume that indeed, something is objectively evil, that is, it is bad whether or not someone says it is (or isn’t). For an extreme example, if Hitler had claimed to us all that the killing and torture of millions of people was not evil we would not have agreed with him, though at least then we may have given him the insanity plea (maybe). He could have argued that it was all for science and for the greater good of humanity that we kill off these people and perform these experiments. But no, I think we would all agree that regardless of the potential benefits he may have argued for, we would have denied him any claim to “good”. We would have condemned such ideas because we believe that such things are evil, objectively, whether or not someone argues otherwise. Isn’t it interesting? We make an audacious claim in calling things evil – effectively, we imply the very existence of God when we do so.

But isn’t there still a problem?

So sure, maybe our claims against evil imply God’s very existence… But still, why does he allow it? Again, perhaps simpler than we might think. It would be unhelpful (and incredibly difficult, if not impossible) to come up with an answer to every single evil committed, but perhaps a general look at things would suffice. From a logic standpoint, it is perhaps enough to simply say that God may have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil. If we could have even one good reason for allowing evil that is morally sufficient for God to do so, then there is no logical reason to believe that God ought not to allow evil. Make sense?

One example that comes up often is the idea of free will. If God wanted to create a world of free creatures that had choices, in particular a choice to love or not to love (thereby enabling true, self-giving love to someone, namely God in this case) then he had to allow for the possibility of un-love. It is in this choice that evil is made a possibility, and indeed, in the Christian view, it is the choice that brought evil into the world when Adam and Eve chose to follow their own, subjective “moral law” (see the book of Genesis, chapter 3). So, God has given humanity some degree of freedom, and within that freedom is a choice of evil.

I think that is one half-decent argument among many. One could also posit quite effectively that through allowing evil God is somehow seeking a greater good, thereby having more than sufficient reasons.

These definitely aren’t always the “comforting” answers that many, perhaps even you, have sought. But this is the logic aspect of the question, and I think that from a logical perspective we don’t have reason to disbelieve in God because of evil… But rather we have reason to believe in his existence if indeed there is evil in this world.

 

Check out my other posts where I deal with the emotional problems associated with the existence of evil and why I think Jesus’ own dealings with evil and suffering give Christianity the most powerful responses to evil amongst the world’s religions. Thanks for reading!

Corey

 

Original Post: Saturday, 19 January 2013

 

 

The Resurrection of Jesus

I decided this would be a great post to kick off my new (ish) blog. Hope you guys like the new look and enjoy the stuff I put out on it! Hoping this will be the first post of many, and hoping to go beyond my usual “why I believe” stuff to some life stuff also.


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Christians see Jesus’ scars as a symbol of altruistic sacrifice. Interesting historical tidbit? Scholars debate whether the nails would have been in the palm or wrist.

To my surprise, I have yet to write anything blog related on the resurrection of Jesus (and why I believe it to be a true historical event). Why so surprising? Because it’s one of the most substantiated facts in the Christian religion.  

New Testament textual and historical studies have been a booming research field in the last half-dozen or so decades. One of the main reasons for this has been the archaeological findings of the New Testament geographical areas. Whether early manuscripts of the Bible, findings on Jewish culture and practises of the first century and much more, there has been a lot to study and a lot to try and understand. And of course, with the person of Jesus of Nazareth so significant to this time period and the rise of the Christian church so pivotal to even world history, it’s really no surprise a lot of attention has been given to understanding the events around these peculiar happenings.

I won’t spend any time looking at the rise of the Christian church right now, though it is relevant to the discussion. You can check out the archives for that one.  

What I want to focus on is an overview of the current scholarship regarding the resurrection of Jesus (yes, serious secular historians study it even if they don’t all assert that it happened). You might be interested to hear the results.  

First let’s start with the facts. By “facts” I mean what scholars affirm quite unanimously to be factual, given multiple independent attestation and other historical criteria agreed upon.  

5 Facts about the Resurrection of Jesus

We know Jesus of Nazareth died, so we will start with that. It might sound insignificant to affirm, but what you might not know is how well attested to the fact of the man’s death is. Multiple Roman and Jewish sources affirm it, as well as the multiple and independent Christian sources we have. The only source ever to outright deny the death of Jesus is the Muslim sources that came over six hundred years later. There is simply no debate among historians here.

Secondly, Jesus was specifically buried by a man named Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (a leadership council of sorts). Besides being multiply attested to by independent sources, it’s important to note that no alternate burial story exists (probably because it was less controversial).

Thirdly, there was an empty tomb. Note we haven’t said that Jesus “rose again” yet, but are simply affirming that the tomb he was placed in was empty. Of historical note, we see the sources attest to women discovering the empty tomb. Given the insignificance of women’s testimony in that society, it would have been actually embarrassing for the Jewish Christians to have to include this fact, especially in “selling” the story to fellow Jews and the Greeks they would share it with (scholars call this “embarrassment criteria”). Also very interesting is the Jewish response to the empty tomb: his disciples stole the body! If the tomb wasn’t empty, they would have just pointed to it. Instead, they had to find an explanation for what was obvious fact.  

Fourthly, different groups of people experienced post-mortem appearances of Jesus at different occasions. Again multiple and independent sources attest to this fact, and an apostolic epistle that we have guarantees it. A letter written by the Apostle Paul likely 20-25 years after Jesus’ death attested to over five hundred people seeing Jesus in the Jerusalem area after his supposed resurrection (he writes this because some people in the new church were under the impression that the resurrection wasn’t literally real). In effect, he was saying that they could go and talk to many of these 500+ witnesses who would still be alive to get their eye witness accounts for themselves. Such an audacious claim couldn’t have been made if indeed those eye witnesses weren’t around to confirm, nor would that letter or the Apostle Paul’s story have held any weight either. (You can read this appeal in the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 15).

Finally, the original disciples came to a sudden and sincere belief that their leader had risen from the dead – and were ready to die for it – despite all predispositions to not believe it. Jewish theology and Messianic understanding did not permit a crucified Messiah coming back to life right away like that, nor did any disciples of executed revolutionists before Jesus go through a similar pattern of martyrdom-embracing belief. It is very remarkable, and a unique and even strange historical phenomenon.

Finding the Best Explanation

So those are five very agreed upon facts surrounding the death and supposed resurrection of Jesus. Note also that these are not simply what “conservative” or even Christian scholars affirm. Rather, it is the pattern of the vast majority of New Testament scholars to affirm these facts.

A very plausible explanation of these five facts is that Jesus indeed was resurrected from the dead by God, given the following criteria that scholars use: It has great explanatory power and scope, it is plausible given what we know about Jesus’ life and claims, it’s not “ad hoc” or contrived (it only requires one other hypothesis, namely that God exists), AND it easily beats out other explanations. Actually, contemporary scholarship has almost universally rejected all other proposed theories.

Now you might have guessed it – not all of the scholars believe that Jesus rose from the dead! My understanding is that most take an agnostic position on it, unable yet to give a solid alternate theory.

Making the Call, Historian or Not

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So that’s a lot to take in, and we’re really only scratching the surface of a lot of these historical understandings and criteria and so on. Perhaps we can dig in a little more in the future (I’ll post some resources you can look at right away for further study below). But I do want to end with a personal story on why I think even an objective historian can look at these facts and still be persuaded honestly that Jesus rose from the dead.

I had the sweet opportunity of taking a Religious Studies class at McMaster University as an elective. Obviously, the program itself is secular. While studying the resurrection and events surrounding it, my professor said that the resurrection of Jesus has been problematic for historians, because of the religious implications that would come with affirming it.  

Now, in ways I understand this problem, but in other ways I do not. I think it’s possible for one to hold religious persuasions and still be an objective historian. Can he not say that the best explanation of the evidence is that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead? Does this affirmation necessarily undo his academic integrity or affect all the other work he does?

I think we need to be able to hold even religiously affirming views while still looking at evidence honestly and objectively. And I think we can do so too – in fact, I think if we cannot look at things objectively while holding on to some kind of worldview, then none of us can actually think or critique objectively! I say this because we all bring our own presuppositions and assumptions to the table, no matter who we are. This doesn’t mean objectivity is impossible or even that difficult, but it does mean that things will take some effort and a decent amount of introspection. It will also take a lot of trying simply to understand, rather than to make ourselves understood, while we have the conversations needed (be they in book or paper form, or in actual verbal discussion and healthy debate).


You, too, have a decision you have to make confronted with the evidence I’ve put forward. Shall you take an agnostic position? Try and make up your own theory? Or will you take a step of well evidenced trust and investigate further into this person who appears to have risen from the dead?

I hope it is the latter!

Keep thinking.  

Corey

The Miracle of the Church

Original Post: Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Not so Humble Origins

The majority of people today don’t know much about the beginnings of Christianity. A lot of people seem to think religions just kind of spawned out of nothing or some dude just wrote a book and started yelling at people and some people just believed, or maybe that political leaders made up a system of government that was used to manipulate people with so-called “spiritual truths”.

Though some religions probably have spawned in these ways or for these purposes, the case with Christianity is quite contrary.  

Christianity arose in the midst of a Jewish and Greco-Roman context right around 0 A.D.

After the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and his death around 33 A.D., people suddenly came to worship the crucified man in droves. This is attested to not only by reliable Biblical sources (anyone who’s studied the exceptional historian Luke and his Gospel and Acts of the Apostles accounts of early Church history understands his knack for historicity) but by external sources as well (Pliny the Younger, Josephus, etc. ) This might not seem significant at first, but referring back to our historical context and the proceeding historical events surrounding the early Church we see that it is very much so.

The people who professed this Jesus as their saviour and Lord were heavily persecuted in both Jewish and Greek contexts for varying reasons. Social pressures were intense – confess and practice this faith, and you very well could die. In fact, 11 of the 12 disciples of Christ died horrible deaths; upside down crucifixion, being boiled alive and skinned alive, etc. So this raises an important question: why would people be willing to go this far for a man who had simply died?

I think the best explanation for this is simply that they had every reason to believe that he was no longer dead; that indeed, this man had been resurrected. The Bible claims that at least 500 people saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion at some point. This was actually an early claim of an apostle in a letter, written well within a generation after Jesus’ death. This is then a claim that could have been verified by talking to apparent eyewitnesses, as could be the claims about the empty tomb that were circulating at that time.

Being Totally Honest

To be honest, I can’t see thousands of people falling to their knees in worship of a man who had just been brutally murdered unless they truly believed he was who he claimed to be (that is, they believed that he was resurrected and therefore his claims were vindicated). There were many self-proclaimed messiahs and prophets before Jesus of Nazareth who also had radical claims and were eventually put to death for them – but none of those men had thousands of people worshipping them post mortem amidst persecution and even death.

This then is the miracle. Nothing natural can suitably explain the rise of the Christian Church. There is no good reason why Jesus Christ should still be worshipped as God today unless his seemingly preposterous claims were vindicated by his post mortem appearances. Only then would people face death fearlessly knowing with full assurance that their Saviour was alive.

Hopefully this has you thinking, and if it does, I’m sure there are many questions and potential rebuttals floating around in your head – all are welcome here. Don’t simply let this pass over you – if Jesus did rise from the dead, it matters, and so we should inquire honestly, and I know many have challenged these claims before (and still do today). I might like to look at these different proposals/challenges, so if you can think of any or find any, post away and we can discuss.

Corey

 

Tried and Tested Scriptures

Original Post: Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Bible is an interesting style of religious text. It’s a compilation of books of ancient history, poetry, wisdom, biography, and even letters written by Christians to Christians only years after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. These books (66 of them) were written by around 40 different authors over a time span of around 1 500 years and in 3 different languages. Among their authors are kings, “prophets”, fishermen, a doctor, teachers, and lots more.

Yet despite all of this broad variation, the entirety of the Bible coalesces in an epic history of creation, fall, forgiveness and redemption. Even before I start talking about the historical reliability of the Bible, I just want to articulate that even apart from the hard evidence that I can trust in, I think the Bible speaks for itself. It was said of Jesus that “no man has ever spoken like this man”… And the more I read the Bible, the more convinced I am that it truly is the very inspired words of God I am reading.

At the same time, as I’ve really challenged my faith, I’ve sought after more empirical evidence to see just how well the Bible stands up to the tests of time and criticism.

I think today I’ll focus on one particularly significant area in New Testament scholarship: manuscript evidence.

Of all ancient documents, the New Testament has the most and earliest manuscripts still in existence and still studied today. (A manuscript being: A book, document, or piece of music written by hand rather than typed or printed) Also of note, this is by a fair margin. There’s well over 5 000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and some still around are dated within a couple generations of the original authors. Other ancient documents such as Homer’s Iliad don’t even come close to these numbers. This runner up to the New Testament is lucky to have 700 manuscripts, and well over 900 years spans between when it was first inked to our earliest known manuscript. But why does this matter?

Scholarship has shown through study of these manuscripts just how reliable New Testament scribal work really is. Despite variations in them throughout the centuries, scholarship unanimously declares that our current day New Testament is well over 99% pure to its original form.[1] The remaining < 1% of impurities has zero effects on any major Biblical doctrine. With this alone, I feel more than confident that what I’m reading are the very same documents that tell of Jesus, his death, and resurrection, and how his church grew and developed in the years following. It also dispels the idea that the early church corrupted the documents to further a religious agenda of some kind.

Don’t take my word for it – I encourage you to check out what scholarship says when it comes to the historicity and reliability of the New Testament. If you have any questions about this topic you want explored more, let me know, as there is a lot to say on this. I may go deeper in later posts, but I think this serves as a solid intro into why we can trust the Bible.

Recommended resources: The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller.

The history detailed in the gospels and extracted from the letters of the apostles of Jesus furthers my confidence to the historicity of the claims made. Why would the writers of these documents lie? Why would so great a number of people profess faith in a man who had simply been murdered, knowing that doing so was putting oneself at so high a risk for a brutal death? Because they knew he wasn’t dead, and knew he and his message were worth dying for. This is often called “The Miracle of the Church” – I explore it and the questions surrounding the resurrection of Christ and the early church in another post.

Corey

 

The Hope That I Have: Faith and Reason

“All truth is God’s truth” – Arthur F. Holmes

Original Post: December 29, 2011

A number of years ago, when I started to finally take my faith more seriously, I was assailed on all fronts concerning the rationality of it (not so much from people but from my own mind). I had heard of the challenges before, but had never been compelled to take them on intellectually. Some of the challenges were philosophical, some scientific. Others were historical, and some were emotional. On the scientific side of things, the belief held by many today is that faith and reason, or at least religious belief and science, are mutually exclusive. I’ve never believed this, and still don’t.

Reason and faith are not mutually exclusive. They can’t be. All rational belief is based in a faith (trust) of some kind; therefore reason presumes faith. In fact, this is the very basis of the scientific method. Science presumes on faith that the world surrounding us is intelligible and that truths can be drawn from its analysis.

6937142431_516b364032_nHere’s a more pragmatic example. You trust, in faith, that the next time you step in to your car it will not fall out from under your weight. Some now argue that you have rational grounds for believing that your car will support your weight – and they’re right. Based on rational grounds, you trust that your car will support you, but you can’t prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, so you trust. So there is an element of trust that work
s with your rational cognitions. I would content that this is true for almost every aspect of your life as you know it. You are always basing decisions you make and positions you hold on both faith and reason.

You also cannot scientifically prove anything. Outside perhaps mathematical proofs of certain relationships, no scientific “fact” is proven. They are simply well-founded. One has much reason to believe something based on the given verified evidence, but we really can’t be 100% certain of anything. This is assumed in the scientific method. Even the outspoken atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins states in his book “The God Delusion” that he would on a 7-point scale consider himself only a 6, where 7 would be a position of more absolute certainty that God does not exist (The God Delusion, p. 51).

With that said, don’t religious people in general and maybe Christians in particular believe in things that are not rationally grounded at all, and based purely in faith? I think it’s a fair question, mostly because I do think there are many a religious person who don’t think through what they claim to believe. They have a sort of blind faith, or what you might call faith without reason. Though I could go on about the specifics, I think for now I’ll focus on how things should be, as opposed to how they sometimes are. I would now contend that biblical Christianity is not to be of blind faith. I believe this not only because I think my faith is rationally grounded (and it would make sense that if God gave us brains he gave them to us to use them), but because the Bible teaches it. What is the great commandment? To “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, emphasis added). The apostle Paul wrote that “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile… we of all men are to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:16). Christianity is founded on truths like the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and its truthfulness is assumed throughout the Bible; it is therefore not to be believed on untruthful or irrational bases.4355587247_c0d854d5f4_n

There’s so much to say on this topic, so I’m sure I’ll cover it in more depth in the future. If you have any questions or contentions I’d be glad to hear them out and address them either here or personally, so don’t be afraid to message or text or whatever.

If you have any particulars you want discussed or questions you have or have heard, send them my way.

 

Corey

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus Christ,  John 14:6