April 28, 2011

Reasons I Believe — Part 4: Minutiae

Buona sera. At first, this was going to be a simple addendum to Part 1 of this series, but decided it would be a force fit instead of complementing the existing material. So, here we go with some new-ish material.

As I had stated before, if someone was going to simply make up a religion and write a holy book (a ludicrous idea even on the surface when applied to Christianity), they would not be clever enough to put in all sorts of details where people deny the faith, betray God, do dreadful things to each other, get severely disciplined by God and so on. That is, these details in the Bible add to the "ring of truth".

Know the expression, "The devil is in the details"? Well, details show lack of the either the devil or of conniving men. People will come up with a book of sayings and say that it is a "lost" Gospel. Those "gospels" were "lost" for a good reason: They stink. If someone wants to read one of those things, I recommend that they read the real Gospels first. Notice all sorts of details, including personalities and locations. Then notice the lack of details in the "lost" version.

I get the feeling of, "We just can't win" with some people. If the four real Gospel accounts were pretty much word-for-word copies of each other, then people would complain that they are just copies. Since the Gospels are not copies of each other for the most part (sure, some sharing took place, naturally), people will whine about the differences and pretend, "They're full of contradictions!" Talk to someone who knows about evidence and can tell you that different accounts and perspectives from witnesses are expected, and give a clearer picture of the whole story. The minutiae can add significant details.

There was a discussion on the April 24, 2011 podcast of Evidence 4 Faith that I found fascinating. They interviewed Dr. Tim McGrew of Western Michigan University (I have to spell it out, I lived in Kalamazoo for a few years). He was discussing the undesigned "coincidences" in the Bible.

Here is something he pointed out that I really liked. Luke 23.1-4 has Jesus being questioned by Pilate: "So Pilate asked Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' He answered him, 'You have said it.' Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, 'I find no grounds for charging this man.'"

Waitaminnit! Something is missing, here. But John 18.28-38 has some missing details. How about if I put some of this together for you?
So Pilate asked Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?"

He answered him, "You have said it. Are you saying this on your own initiative, or have others told you about me?”

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own people and your chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!”

Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no grounds for charging this man."

Looks like simplistic, knee-jerk reactions to dismiss the Gospel records are foolishness, huh? The harmony of the Gospels makes a great deal of sense for people who bother to check things out. If you want to listen to this Evidence 4 Faith podcast MP3, click here. And if you want a bit more, there is an interview on 4Truth on "Hidden Gems in Old Apologetics Literature".

Addendum: I'm still having fun here! On the Christian Heritage UK site, there are two audio downloads of Dr. Peter Williams that fit in very well with this article

By the way. A bit of advice for slanderous trolls: Make sure you know what you're talking about this time before you go running off at the mouth (or keyboard) again, so you don't make quite the fools of yourselves, capice?

April 24, 2011

Reasons I Believe — Part 3: Changed Lives

Buon giorno. There are too many testimonies to count of people who where involved in crime, porn, drugs, sexual affairs and every other evil under the sun who had their lives were turned around because they surrendered to Jesus. I have put occasional videos on this Weblog (like this one and this sequel) of people giving their stories.

There are also testimonies that are less dramatic. Like mine. I was raised in a "religious" home, but the theology was liberal. When I went to a Christian school, I realized that I had to examine what I believed, how it was different from what they believed (it was much more theologically conservative than I had experienced). I became a "chapter and verse" kind of guy, wanting to know, "Where did you get that?" when some doctrine was put forward.

Later, I needed to know about the Bible itself. OK, these people are showing me where they find their beliefs in the Bible, but can I trust it in the first place? This led to further investigation, and I realized that Christians do not need to put their intellects on "hold" to become believers. (In fact, some of the greatest minds of all time were followers of Jesus.) Committing my life to Christ satisfied me intellectually as well as spiritually.

Being a foolish, fallible moral, I chose my own desires and to have sin in my life instead of following what was God's best for me. That, and other fallible mortals in churches managed to hurt me as well. Putting my self in charge and seeking my own desires, I left the Christian life and put God on the back burner, so to speak. While I never actively renounced Christ or became really awful, I was definitely not living the way I should be.

Nobody is good enough to please God in his own power (Rom. 3.23). We have sinned against a holy, righteous God and deserve the death penalty (Rom. 6.23). By surrendering our pride and our selves to Jesus, his death on the cross takes our sin; he is our sin bearer (Isaiah 53.4, 6), not Satan, not us, not anyone else. That's the only way it can happen. 

I recommitted my life to Christ on Resurrection Sunday, 2010. In the past year, I have been regaining lost ground and also learning about things I did wrong before. It's a process. Two things are true, although they seem trite. First, "Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet". Also, "I am a piece of work in progress". Becoming a Christian does not make anyone perfect (despite the outrageous demands of disbelievers); it's a process. It's interesting, the more someone knows and the closer they get to the Lord, the more they realize that they have further growing to do.

"But Cowboy Bob, all that you and those others did was make a choice to straighten up. God had nothing to do with it!"

Get real, willya? I can't count the number of times I have heard or read about people trying in their own strength to turn their lives around. If it was simply a matter of their own wills and choices, they would do it already, capice?

What do you think changed Peter's life? After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied him (Luke 22.60-62). In the book of Acts, this coward preached to a crowd of those who approved of the crucifixion (Acts 2.23,41). Something happened

In Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell said:

"On the day of the crucifixion they were filled with sadness; on the first day of the week with gladness. At the crucifixion they were hopeless; on the first day of the week their hearts glowed with certainty and hope. When the message of the resurrection first came they were incredulous and hard to be convinced, but once they became assured they never doubted again.

"What could account for the astonishing change in these men in so short a time? The mere removal of the body from the grave could never have transformed their spirits, and characters. … Think of the psychological absurdity of picturing a little band of defeated cowards cowering in an upper room one day and a few days later transformed into a company that no persecution could silence. …"
God forgave me for my own denials of Christ, and my sinful life. He can do the same for you. You see, when Christians present the gospel message, it's not just parlor room discussion or "winning an argument" for us. We are presenting a life-changing message, and we care about your eternal destination.

The gate is open at the foot of the cross.

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