Apr 242015
 

What about miraclesWe’ve been looking in this apologetics series on problems that opponents to Christianity have about our faith. We spent 3 weeks on the existence of God because for many that is one of the major hurdles they have to jump over – admitting that God exists.

As we saw last week, many of the reasons people struggle with the existence of God is because they see a problem with believing in God and science, they think they have to make a choice. I think I said enough last week to show that this needn’t be a choice. You can be a fully fledged, lab-coat wearing, science geek and still have a deep passion and love for God. In fact that love for God motivates you to discover more of his creation through education and science.

Another potential barrier from science comes with the whole subject of miracles, surely science and miracles are incompatible? And if they are, shouldn’t we call into question the miracles of Jesus. But when you start to do that you soon find that you have no faith left to speak of at all.

Firstly, I think we need to define what a miracle is. As you might imagine there are very many definitions but basically, a miracle is an event that cannot be normally explained through the laws of nature. In the context of Christianity, miracles are the product and the work of God who created the natural laws as well as the universe. Well of course this gives many people a problem, especially those who don’t want to believe in God.

The argument against miracles from the scientific establishment can be traced back a couple of hundred years ago to a philosopher called David Hume. He was one of the foremost thinkers of his day and in 1748 wrote an essay called ‘on miracles’ He wrote at a time when the elite thinkers were especially sceptical about miracles and saw them as an affront to science. He stated that “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature” since he believed that the laws of nature couldn’t be broken, he therefore believed that miracles were impossible. It was rather circular reasoning because he used the premise that miracles were impossible, to prove that miracles couldn’t happen!

You would be amazed by how pervasive his arguments are, even today. It is reckoned that about 85% of the criticism against miracles stems from his arguments, which is incredible considering they were made nearly 270 years ago, but a lot has changed since then.

So the big issue in all of this is a belief in God. There’s not going to be much point in persuading someone about miracles if they have no belief in God at all. We need to go through those arguments about the existence of God and at least get to the point where someone is open to the possibility of God.

With even the possibility of a creator God, it is not a big jump then to believe in miracles. The God who created the universe in the first place would have no problem intervening in His creation and perform a miracle. You don’t even have to ditch science. Just imagine Newton’s apple tree. Gravity is the force that causes the apples to fall to the ground and not float in the air. But what if someone was to reach out and catch one of the apples? You couldn’t say that gravity doesn’t work anymore, just that a greater force has interrupted it. Miracles are just the same as someone catching an apple. A greater force has been at work.

If we believe in God and indeed a God who intervenes, then we can certainly believe that the bible is full of miracles demonstrating God’s desire to touch mankind with His great love and mercy.

The truth is, there have been 10’s of millions of miracles in the world, in fact I have seen some myself and heard countless testimonies of absolutely amazing healings, including people being raised from the dead. A significant number of these have documentary and sound medical evidence. If someone doesn’t want to believe in miracles, they will always find an explanation no matter how ridiculous. I hope that if you are reading this and are not sure, you will at least have an open mind. I find it extremely ironic that atheists accuse Christians of not being open minded and subjective when they are some of the most close minded people that can be.

When you think about it, it is illogical to state that miracles cannot occur. How can you say that with any certainty unless you know all things?

Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought; The Christian’s faith and hope is built on a miracle and that is the miracle of the resurrection. Jesus was dead, in the tomb for three days. He was resurrected, demonstrating God’s power and now He performs miracles on a daily basis by saving people from their life of sin. He is indeed a miracle working God

 April 24, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Apr 172015
 

Science v ChristianityI have been going through a series for a while now on the subject of ‘apologetics’ and even the recent blogs on the resurrection come into this category. Apologetics is a defence of the Christian faith. Lots of people try to find fault with Christianity by arguing about God himself, the bible, creation and many other aspects and apologetics is a way to counter arguments using logic and sound reasoning. Just before Easter we looked at various arguments for the existence of God and a lot of these arguments involved science. Modern atheists will try to use the argument that you can’t believe in science and Christianity at the same time. They will say that they are incompatible. I wanted to write a few lines this week to refute that argument.

Firstly, Christians do not need to be fearful about Science, in fact we believe in an intelligent God who created the universe in an orderly way. One of the reasons science works is because the vast amount of things that scientists study behave in a consistent way. If matter changed all the time and was erratic, you wouldn’t be able to perform scientific studies and be confident of the results. It was this fascination with the world that God created that has caused scientists throughout history to want to discover more. Throughout history, a huge amount of scientists (who were also Christians) have made amazing discoveries. People such as; Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Boyle and many, many others. Even today there are eminent scientists who are Christians and who hold key roles in the scientific community. This is obviously not conclusive proof, but it is clear that it is not a black and white choice between Christianity and science as some would believe.

There has actually never been a time in all of history when the discoveries of science have backed up the existence of God more than now. For example, for many centuries Christians were struggling to explain why in Genesis chapter 1 it says that light was created before the sun, surely that must be a mistake. Well of course this could just be poetic, but it could be explained by the light in verse 3 being the ‘big bang’ which has only been a recent scientific discovery. What we do have to remember is that the bible never claims to be a scientific textbook and that may be the cause of some people’s problems.

I think though, the problem is not science but scientism, which are subtly different. Scientism says we should only believe what can be scientifically proven. But when you think about it that statement itself cannot be scientifically proven so you are in problems from the start.

Science answers many of the questions we have about life, but it is silly to say that only science can answer all of these questions. There are many other ways to learn apart from science, such as philosophically or through history. I intend to explore this subject a little further when we look at the whole aspect of ‘miracles’ which are not anti-science as some would have you believe, but that’s for next week.

 April 17, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics 2 Responses »
Apr 102015
 

Why did Jesus have to dieEaster is a wonderful time to take some time aside and think about what Jesus has done for us. It is amazing that God should become a man and die for us, but have you ever wondered why he needed to die for us and why it had to be in such a horrific way?

When somebody writes a biography, they usually write the vast majority about the person’s life and very little about their death. In a biography of Winston Churchill’s life, the British prime minister, there are only 3 pages out of 300 that are devoted to his death. That’s just 1% of the book. However, when we look at the New Testament we see that approximately 33% of each gospel is devoted to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The reason for this is that His death and resurrection are absolutely vital to the gospel message. Indeed, the main reason why Jesus came to earth was not just to give us a good example of how to live, or provide us with moral teaching, but to die and rise again!

The cross of Christ lies at the heart of Christianity, to not understand it means we have missed the very reason why Jesus had to die. The death of Christ was no accident, it was foretold in many places throughout scripture.

Some would ask “So why couldn’t God just forgive sin without Jesus having to die?” To ask this question demonstrates a lack of understanding of the holiness of God and also the severity of sin which undermines it. The holiness of God means that God cannot just sweep sin under the carpet, it must be punished. The true and just punishment of sin is death. The other side of God’s character is love and mercy and that is what happens at the cross; God’s holiness and judgement meet His love and mercy, in a ‘once for all’ sacrifice. It was once for all because only a perfect person could meet the full criteria. If we had died on the cross it would simply have been a just punishment because we are all sinful, but because it was Jesus, the perfect substitute, God’s judgement is satisfied. Jesus died in our place.

There are 4 main things that happened at the cross and we will look at each of them briefly;

Justification – to be declared ‘just’ (or not guilty)

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are declared not guilty by God. Christ died for us to pay our debt. How amazing, the God whom we have offended is the one who comes to our rescue!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The Apostle Peter also speaks of Christ’s death in this way:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

An easy way to remember this concept is to break the word justified up into ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’ not great English but a great truth!

Redeemed – to be bought out of slavery

To redeem means to ‘buy back’. The bible shows that we were slaves to sin and death, but now we have been bought back at a very high price, the death of Jesus. Slaves were sometimes redeemed in ancient times, if they had enough money they could redeem themselves by buying their freedom for a price. The bible is clear that we would never have had enough ‘money’ to free ourselves, we were morally bankrupt. The only person who could buy our freedom was Jesus and He paid the ultimate price with His own life.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace  (Ephesians 1:7)

Substitution – to have someone take our place

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big follower of football. Oftentimes in football, when somebody is having a bad game, or is injured a substitute will come on in their place. One person is replaced for another. Jesus was our substitute. In the Old Testament a lamb was substituted for the sinner and was killed instead of the person. A death had to occur and it was better that it was the lamb’s. In the same way Jesus was our substitute, He took our place on the cross and bore our punishment. He was saying to the father “Father, punish me instead of them”

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Jesus was willing to be our substitute to bear our punishment so that we could be spared.

Reconciliation – the healing of a broken relationship

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)

The bible makes it clear that even from birth we are alienated from God, we were born in sin because of our first parents – Adam & Eve. Every human being since has started life separated from God because of that sin. We don’t start life with a clean slate, it is already tainted. This prevented us ever having a relationship with him.

But on the cross Jesus restored that broken relationship by removing God’s wrath and anger from the sinner and taking it upon himself. With the barrier of sin removed, it is now possible to have peace with God. A relationship restored and not only that but adoption into God’s own family.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

These 4 things mean the following wonderful truths:

  • We know God’s forgiveness– God chooses to forgive and not remember our sin anymore
  • We have access to God – We can now enter right into God’s presence, free from guilt and fear. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) signifying the separation has been completely taken away.
  • We have peace with God– we are no longer enemies of God but have now become friends
  • We are adopted into God’s family– God has adopted us into his family and we are now sons and heirs.
  • We have eternal life – The fear of death is gone because Jesus has defeated it. When we die in this life, we just pass on to a better life forever with Him.

So how do we know that Jesus succeeded in what he set out to do on the cross?

We know He succeeded because He rose again. We can so easily purely focus on the cross, but His death and resurrection go hand in hand. In fact, if Jesus had not raised to life on the third day our faith would be pretty meaningless. But the very fact that he did rise shows that his mission was completed and his death on the cross was a success. He rose because death no longer had a hold on Him and everything He said about himself, including His divinity was true.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

So in conclusion, there was no other way for our sins to be dealt with. The cross shows us the seriousness of sin before a Holy God and that a death had to occur. It shows how rebellious mankind can be and it also shows us the amazing love that God has for us and the beautiful obedience of the son who would go to any lengths to rescue us.

The fact that Jesus died though, demands a response. It is not enough just to know that it happened. The bible makes it clear that we need to take some action in response. To fully experience God’s forgiveness and have a right relationship with Him you need to;

  • Repenting of your sins, admit that you have done wrong in your life and that you need Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died on the cross bearing the full penalty your sins deserved. That He rose again from the grave and has conquered death as the risen Lord.
  • Commit your life into his hands. He is now Lord of your life and with the power of His Holy Spirit, you can now live a life that pleases Him.

That is the gospel in a ‘nutshell’ and it is no wonder they call it good news!

 April 10, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Apr 032015
 

Answering problems about the resurrection Last week we looked at a number of well attested facts about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This week we will now look at some traditional problems and objections people have put forward in the hope that they can debunk the resurrection story. There are 4 main ones that I have listed below

The wrong tomb

Some people have assumed that the women who reported that the body was missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. If that was the case, then the disciples who went to check up on the women’s statement must have also gone to the wrong tomb. This scenario is highly unlikely, but it is certain however, that the Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus’ body from being stolen, would not have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there!

If the resurrection claim was just due to merely mistaking where the tomb was, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumours about the resurrection.

Hallucinations

Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. Just as in the claim of the wrong tomb, it would have been easy enough for the body to be presented as evidence against the claim. Also as was stated last week, Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time. Hallucinations don’t happen to that many people at the same time. Also, Jesus on other occasions ate with his disciples and allowed them to touch him.

The Swoon theory

Another popular explanation is that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, he merely swooned, fainting from exhaustion and loss of blood. This idea would not have been put forward at the time for anyone who would have witnessed the full barbarity of Roman crucifixion. Don’t forget, Jesus didn’t have his legs broken because it was obvious He was dead, instead he had his heart pierced. You don’t survive after your heart is pierced. His crucifixion was carried out by professional Roman executioners who were very good at what they did. Also when he was taken off the cross he was wrapped in about 100 pounds of grave clothes (which would suffocate even a healthy person) and then laid in a freezing cold tomb. The fittest person in the world wouldn’t recover from that, especially in that state, rolling the stone away, overcoming the guards and then convincing his disciples he was alright really.

The body was stolen

We considered this a bit last week. It is impossible to think that the disciples who had fled from the living Jesus not 24 hours earlier and the leader of them, Peter, denying he knew Jesus to an insignificant slave girl, should suddenly muster up the courage to overcome professional Roman guards and then steal the body. If the religious leaders had stolen the body, they could have quickly produced the body when the disciples started claiming they had seen the risen Jesus. This would have stopped the disciples in their tracks and quashed the whole movement. The only other candidates would have been the Roman soldiers who had nothing to gain by doing it and everything to lose. If they had lost the body they would have been crucified themselves for failing in their duty.

If these four theories are the best excuses that people have been able to put forward in two thousand years, I think it is safe to say that we can be very confident of the facts of the resurrection. These are that Jesus was definitely killed, his dead body was wrapped and placed in a seal guarded tomb until Easter Sunday, when the tomb was found empty and shortly after Jesus was found to be alive. He had been resurrected.

On top of all that, the disciples were transformed men, they went from fearful people cowering in an upper room to fearless trailblazers who spread the message of the gospel across the whole world, laying down their lives as they did so.

But what does that mean for you dear reader?

It means that you have a decision to make, a decision that will transform the rest of your life. If Jesus did rise from the dead then everything he said about himself was true. His claim to be God himself was true, His claim to forgive sins was true and His offer to save all who repent of their sins and ask Him to be Lord of their lives was true.

So what are you waiting for? Good Friday would be a very good and appropriate day to make that decision.

 April 3, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection No Responses »