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.

April 22, 2011

Reasons I Believe - Part 2: Prophesy

Buon giorno. Are you having a Good Friday? Originally, I was going to repeat my Good Friday post from last year. Instead, I will link to that here and also expand on it.

One of the strongest evidences for the validity of the Bible and of the Christian faith is the fulfillment of prophesy (see the above link). It is amazing how so many details in the "messianic prophesies" were foretold by prophets hundreds of years before they happened. As an introductory lesson, take a look at Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Then, compare them with Matthew 26 and 27. Also, compare Zech. 11.12-13 with Matt. 26.14-15 and Matt. 27.3-5.

But those are just some of the "suffering servant" prophesies. Old Testament prophesies of the resurrection were fewer, and it was quite startling that Jesus prophesied his own resurrection!

"Come on, Cowboy Bob! The writers of the Jesus story knew their scriptures and just stuck things in so that they could say, 'Aha! Prophesies fulfilled!'"

I asked around about how to give an answer to such an arrogant, ignorant remark. Greg Koukl of "Stand to Reason" came through for me again (his fabulous answer takes about ten minutes, full three-hour podcast available here):

Again, I hope you'll take the time to check out my article on prophesies from last year. Have a Good Friday.

April 20, 2011

Richard "Daffy" Dawkins is Caught

Dawkins caught in either (a) disinformation or (b) an outright, repeated lie. Also, a man who became a Christian partly because of the vicious atheist Dawkinsites. Read about that, and see the video, here.

April 18, 2011

Reasons I Believe — Part 1: Diversity and Faults

Yes, Lela, I know you like it when I blast some cafone with the thunder and lightning, but I'm putting that on hold for a while. I want to talk to the people without scaring them, capice? Alrightey then.

Buon giorno. Go ahead, sit down. I want to talk to you. Just hear me out, OK? I want to tell you some of the reasons that I believe that the Bible is true and, ultimately, that Jesus is who he said he is.

There have been many times I have come across people who make the charge that the Bible was cranked out by people who wanted to start a religion. (Sometimes, they make the ridiculous claim that it was done to control people, but I won't dignify that with any discussion.) Well, that's kind of difficult. You see, the Bible is based on the word biblos. It is not really a book, but a collection of sixty six books. These were written over a span of centuries by people from diverse cultures and in various walks of life: Fishermen, shepherds, kings, a tax collector, a physician — the prophet Amos was a part-time fig picker. You get the idea, all sorts of people who spoke different languages. That right there shows how absurd it is when ignorant people simply say that it was to create a religion — too many professions, too many languages, too much time, too many cultures.

Get ten of your friends and have them answer questions about difficult, controversial subjects. There is not much chance that they will all agree on the stuff. Yet, the Bible writers, with all of their cultures and professions, were in agreement.

Here's a point that keeps popping up in my Bible reading: The "ring of truth". Be honest with me: Do you really think that if someone was going to create stories out of thin air (or use them to illustrate greater truths), they would put all the flaws of the people in there?
  • Israel saw the power of God in their escape from Egypt, and started worshiping the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain talking to God and getting the Ten Commandments
  • Elijah saw God's power (1 Kings 18) and Baal's priests were destroyed. But his life was threatened, so he ran and hid, feeling sorry for himself.
  • Jonah did not want to be God's prophet to Nineveh, he hated them. After the incident with the whale, he preached and they repented — much to Jonah's dismay (Jonah 4)!
  • The disciples of Jesus argued among themselves as to who was the greatest (Mark 9.34)
  • One of Jesus' disciples betrayed him.
  • One of Jesus' disciples denied him.
  • The apostle Paul was a persecutor of the church, and was essentially dragged into the Kingdom kicking and screaming.
  • Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement and stopped working together (Acts 15.39-40).
I don't think I need to go on. But all through Biblical history, the flaws of God's people were unvarnished.

That's enough for today. Ciao.

April 17, 2011

Atheist Standards of Morality - Part 3 and a Challenge

Buon giorno. After this article, I'm changing the subject for a while.

I have a challenge for the intelligent, civil atheists. But I have other things to say first because I have to set this up with examples, capice? 

Last time, I provided an audio clip where several problems with Internet atheists were discussed. Some of this problem is of a spiritual nature. On the call that I present below to "Faith and Reason" "Carm Radio" (Matt Slick of CARM), I inadvertently set Matt off a bit. I know he was not exasperated with me personally, but rather, with the concepts that I was bringing forward. In my discussions with many people online, we have seen that the majority of Internet atheists are angry, hateful, dishonest and manipulative. Too bad they lost interest in their Korgi Cards so rapidly, and then wander off to bother other people...

Recently, I had another writer of a Christian Weblog send me a message. He noted that the atheists at Ray Comfort's "Atheist Central" were even more vicious than usual. (One reason that I do not spend much time there anymore is that their moderation is inconsistent. They allow ad hominem attacks despite their posted policies. That makes it almost impossible to have a decent conversation. So, I get them angry in my attempts to shock them into thinking. I fail.) Some cafones are so desperate to hate, so petty, that they will come up with any excuse, no matter how flimsy.

"Yeah, we know, Cowboy Bob. You hate atheists and think we're all bad people!"

Actually, I have had similar comments. When I get hit with misrepresentation and outright dishonesty, I withdraw from the conversation because the other party is either downright stupid or simply dishonest. Or both.

Addendum: One of my atheist trolls has an incomprehensible raving that seems to say that I am making this up, that what follows is a "gimmick". Denial is another aspect of schizophrenia.

There is a public "discussion" forum on Facebook that provided me with some screen shots of their behavior. It is allegedly for Christians and atheists to have discussions, but in reality, it's Christian bashing and trolling at its most typical (profanity warning):

This article has been heavily edited since the original post, links are now missing. Some people do not want the truth of their actions to be known.
I am humbled to be reading the words of such an intellectual and moral giant.

I could keep going, but this is irritating enough. If people actually want intelligent discussions, then show intelligence. Be rational and logical. Show some respect to those to whom you disagree. Personally, when someone starts in on me, I won't kowtow and try to live up to their concept of a "good Christian" when they are being bad atheists — Waitaminnit! There is no atheist standard of morality to make comparisons with! There is a Christian standard of morality (which atheists disunderstand and misrepresent for the sake of manipulation), but no standards of "measurement" for atheists!

Some basic, simple things that I want to have in a discussion, whether it's about religion, the nature of God, the nature of workplace décor, why the kids should be home at a certain hour, whatever: Listen to what I'm saying and hear where I'm coming from. Disagree later, and with some semblance of intelligence, without attacking and ridicule. It makes for a better discussion experience. When I demonstrate your folly, crying to your piranha friends does not help you learn, does not help me learn, does not help the process of discourse. However, it does make me laugh at your childishness.

Now that I've wasted this much time on obstreperous, recalcitrant Internet atheists, I have my aforementioned challenge to the mature, thoughtful, intelligent atheists. Are you ready? Start a "club", or a "guild". Get together and intellectualize the issues, flex your intellectual prowess, have a great time. But have courtesy rules, and "police your own". It would be nice to see this grow, as well. "The comments by this atheist fall short of the standards of the Atheist Guild and do not represent all of us". Do you think it is worth a try, or am I just being silly?

Anyway, here is Matt Slick telling me about wayward atheists, bad logic, manipulation and the need to follow rules. It runs just over ten minutes. (The original, unedited almost-hour-long version is here. I did not need to edit much of my content this time, and I believe I left his untouched.) We never did quite get my exact question answered, but I don't care, it was fun:

April 16, 2011

Atheist Standards of Morality - Part 2

Buona sera. In the first installment of this "series" (which may end after Part 3), I used an excerpt from Greg Koulk's "Stand to Reason" radio show/podcast. He was discussing with a caller certain logic fallacies of atheists, and I pointed out that these matched my own experiences fairly well. Now, I am going to expand on that with an excerpt from "Faith and Reason" with Matt Slick.

This excerpt is heavily edited. Well, my parts are. I made some attempts at humor, did some "ummm" things and had some other false starts. Those are distracting, so I edited myself, capice? Matt's comments are intact, however. But since some petty trolls think that all Christians are liars, you can check the source material for yourself here. If your time is valuable and you want the essence of the conversation, it is below and runs for less than 7-1/2 minutes:

By the way, the challenge is still open for atheists who want to call in. He gets calls from various places around the globe, including England and Australia. Don't be afraid. If you're going to be civil, not insulting him or his family, sticking to the topic, take time to actually dialog instead of rant, you won't get spanked.

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