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May 222015
 

Is-Christianity-the-only-way-Wow, that title right there will get a lot of people hot under the collar. How dare you say that Christianity is the only way to God. You have probably heard it said on more than one occasion that “all paths lead to God” People will call you arrogant for making such a claim that there is only one way. So why do we proclaim it confidently? I want to set out some of the reasons below, in the hope that you will have confidence in your own beliefs but also to counteract false claims.

One of the simplest reasons for disagreeing with the statement that all paths lead to God is because all faiths and religions to a smaller or a greater degree contradict each other. Going back to logic; If ‘Truth’ is true (and there can only be one truth), it must be that ‘non-truth’ is false. For example, some religions have many gods and some are insistent that there is only one God, some believe in reincarnation and others believe in an afterlife away from the body, they can’t both be right. Some religions have similarities but they all disagree on one point or another. The bible states that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and if he did allow all these different beliefs it would indeed be confusing. It is reasonable to believe then that there is an absolute spiritual truth and that some religious claims must be false.

This way of thinking goes against a ‘post modern’ thought pattern, which believes you can pick whatever you like as long as it is true for you. In the post modern world you cannot tell somebody that they are wrong no matter how crazy their belief system is.

So why is Christianity true amongst all these other false beliefs? There are reasons why we can be confident of the truth of the Christian gospel.

Firstly, there are the amazing prophecies contained in the bible. Other religions have prophecies in them but they are way behind the bible in its level of accuracy. The Old Testament prophesied many hundreds of years before Jesus numerous accurate descriptions about Him, about His character and what He would do. Things such as the fact he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), he would be betrayed by a close friend (Psalm 41:9) He would be crucified (Psalm 22) and his side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10) and many more. This is clear evidence of divine influence upon the Bible.

Another reason to suppose that Christianity is true is because of its central character, Jesus Christ. Jesus has shaped history more than any other person and many throughout history have tried to deny he even existed or at the very least deny His claims and His miracles and His incredible teachings. He wasn’t just a great spiritual leader though, it was His claims that set Him apart. He claimed to be God incarnate, but unlike many before and since who have claimed to be God, Jesus actually backed up His claims. He did this by performing many staggering works which are recorded in the gospels. Things like; Turning water into wine (John 2:6-10), Casting out demons (Matthew 8:32), healing diseases (Luke 6:17-19), feeding a multitude (Matthew 14:15-21), walking on water (Matthew 14:25-27) and raising a man who had been dead for 4 days (John 11)

These accounts have been carefully transmitted to us by many reliable witnesses.

One of the central miracles of Christianity though is the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. We looked at this in detail recently at Easter time. The death and resurrection is so important though because without it Christianity itself would crumble (1 Corinthians 15:14).

It was the resurrection which changed the lives of His disciples and followers forever. Prior to the resurrection they were cowering in fear, afterwards and with the power of the Holy Spirit given to them by the ascended Christ, they turned the world upside down.

No other religious leader has died in full view of trained executioners, had a guarded tomb, and then risen three days later to appear to hundreds of people.  This resurrection is proof of every claim that Jesus made about himself, especially His divinity.

Buddha did not rise from the dead, neither did Muhammad, Confucius, Krishna or any other religious leader. Why would you want to follow a lesser leader?

We’ll conclude with what Jesus actually said about himself, which leaves no doubt as to what he thought about other ways to God;

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

 May 22, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
May 152015
 

CreationI still want to look at a couple more subjects in my series on apologetics, but I just wanted to finish the more scientific type posts on the subject of creation. I am keen to highlight and underline this subject as scientific because I know that many people in the scientific community are dismissive of even the thought of God.

I’m afraid I’m probably going to anger those people even more because this week I’m talking about ‘Young earth creation.’ I’m going to define this even further and call it ‘biblical creation’ I know that Old earth creationists will call their beliefs biblical creation as well, but I beg to differ as their arguments are simply too contrived.

Biblical creation starts with God and what He reveals about himself in the bible and from that starting point we seek to understand science.

Biblical creation is mentioned many times in the bible both in the Old and the New Testaments. But the foundational thoughts are focused in the first few chapters of Genesis which explain how God created the universe and everything contained in it. I understand that some of it is written poetically, but that shouldn’t mean that we totally rewrite the meaning of the text.

Biblical creation asserts that God created all things within 6 literal, 24 hour days. As you might imagine this has been hotly disputed. A lot of the arguments centre around the Hebrew word ‘yom’ which can indeed mean a different period of time, but in most cases simply means a day. It seems to me that the account in Genesis 1 is referring to days because it also mentions morning and evening.

Another reason why it is referring to a normal day is because God rested on the 7thday. Now God doesn’t need to rest at all, but he wanted to institute a rest day for his people to bless them and so He chose the seventh day (see Exodus 20:8-11)

These are just 2 arguments, but there are many others, which I cannot go into now for the sake of time.

If you accept that the bible was referring to 6 literal days, that means that the earth is somewhere between 6-10,000 years old. This is worked out by looking at the various historical events and many lists of genealogies listed in the bible.

This leaves many people with a problem with why the earth looks older than that, given geology, the fossil record etc. These problems can be explained by a worldwide flood at the time of Noah as recorded in Genesis 6 & 7. It is likely that the earth looked extremely different before the flood, with a huge canopy of water surrounding the earth (Psalm 104:6). At that time there were possibly no large mountains or oceans. The effect of this water covering the earth would have caused massive upheaval in the earth’s surface and it is this catastrophic event which caused the formation of mountains and oceans. This is consistent with how the earth is structured today and also the fossil record.

This may seem utterly amazing to imagine, but you have to consider that none of us were around at the time and so we just cannot prove anything by pure science (i.e. a repeatable experiment). So we are left with two main choices; One being evolution (which is highly problematic as we saw 2 weeks ago) and the other creation, which involves trusting what God says in His word. I know which one I choose to believe.

 May 15, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
May 082015
 

How it all beganWe’ve spent quite a few weeks now from a scientific angle and I don’t want to carry on for too much longer. I don’t have a huge passion for science, but what I’ve wanted to do is show you that science does fit comfortably with Christianity. We should have confidence that there are a growing number of very intelligent scientists and philosophers who can argue very effectively for intelligent design or a God inspired creation.

What I just wanted to do today was to sum up the main views about how the universe and life itself all began. This may help you as you are talking to people to see where they are coming from. These are very broad explanations as I don’t want to go into too much detail.

The first viewpoint is routed firmly in last week’s subject about Evolution. That is the belief that the universe came about without any help from God, “there is no God” they say. They say that life emerged from pre-existing building blocks which were influenced by natural laws (although it is not clear where these laws came from). I will call it atheistic evolution because as we will see later some people try to mix God and evolution together. There are various terms for people who would not believe in God such as Atheist, humanist, secularist or even agnostic.

The second viewpoint could actually be used as an umbrella for all the others, it is called ‘Intelligent design’. But I just wanted to mention that this idea is by no means exclusively Christian or religious. The very basic definition is “the theory that life, or the universe, cannot have arisen by chance and was designed and created by some intelligent entity.” Intelligent design does not state who or what did the creating just that it must have been intelligent given the amazing complexity of the created order and this is a better explanation for how things came into being rather than just blind, random chance. We looked at this a few weeks back when we were considering the argument for the existence of God from design.

The remaining 3 views we will look at today are the different views that people have that believe in a biblical God (and I guess other world religions would have aspects of these views). The first one believes that God created indirectly and the second two direct creation;

1. Theistic Evolution or evolutionary creation

These views are not identical but for the purposes of this discussion the differences are negligible so I have lumped them together. Theistic Evolutionists say that God created all the necessary ingredients and building blocks needed to sustain the universe but He then stood back and let it all happen. The only difference between theistic evolution and atheistic evolution is obviously the presence of God. After that, everything else can be largely agreed upon.

Theistic Evolutionists would generally believe that Adam and Eve were just stories and only served some symbolic purpose, although those that do believe in Adam and Eve would tend to think of them as a special creation at the end of the evolutionary process.

The last two viewpoints centre on the questionDid God create everything in 6 (24 hour) days?

2. Old-Earth Creationism

This view separates the creation of the universe from the creation of life. Old-Earth Creationists agree with mainstream science that the universe is billions of years old, but they deny evolution. They believe that God specially created humans and that there was a literal Adam and Eve. They can be further split into two camps:

  • Gap Creationists believe that there is a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 – God created the heavens and the earth (pause) then the earth became void. This view is based on the study of verb tenses in verses 1 and 2, which could suggest that an indefinite time period existed before a literal 6-day creation took place. Gap Creationists vary on what made the earth become void of life, but some believe another original creation existed and was destroyed which would account for the age of the earth and the existence of dinosaurs).
  • Day-Age Creationists believe that the creation days of Genesis should not be taken to mean literally 24-hour days, but rather indefinitely long periods of time. This is based primarily on the analysis of the Hebrew word “yom,” which is usually translated day but can mean a period of time.

3. Young-Earth Creationism

Lastly, we come to the view people most commonly associate with the term “creationism.” This is the belief that all things were created by God in 6 literal 24 hour days. That’s what it says in the beginning of Genesis and why would it not be as it says. If we really believe that God is all powerful and can create the world from nothing we should believe He is capable of doing it in 6 days. In fact He could do it in 6 nano-seconds if he wished! The outworking of this viewpoint is that the earth is somewhere between 6 to 10,000 years old based on time frames in the bible and the well recorded genealogies. Young-Earth Creationists answer disputes over aspects of geology and why the earth appears older to the events of Noah’s flood. This would explain such things as the fossil record.

Please indulge me, but I would like to take one more week on this subject and look in further detail at creation next time.

 May 8, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
May 012015
 

EvolutionWe have been looking in this series on apologetics and the role that science plays in Christianity. So far, I think I have shown that science and Christianity are not incompatible. In fact there are many well known scientists throughout history and today, who are Christians, but see no problem with combining their love for science with their love for God.

But what about evolution? Can you be a Christian and believe in evolution at the same time. Some would say no and others would say yes. I wouldn’t want to make that call and I don’t believe it’s mine to make anyway, I’ll happily let God sort all that out. My part is to love people whatever they believe and not create stumbling blocks to prevent them encountering God. What I will say though, is I have major problems with evolution and I plan to set some of those arguments out below. This series so far has mainly been about defending Christianity but today I am fully on the offensive.

Let’s just establish from the outset what I mean by evolution. I am not talking about ‘micro’ evolution, that is the subtle changes that can occur within a species. I think it is fairly clear and has been demonstrated that these things can occur. What I am talking about is referred to as ‘macro’ evolution. That is that major changes can occur; such as the belief that an amoeba developed into ever more complex creatures until eventually a human evolved. This is the belief that given enough time and luck, things will completely change from one thing into another. I’m sorry but I just don’t buy it. For me evolution exists because of man’s futile attempts to do away with God and quite frankly it is ridiculous.

Let me briefly set out some of the glaring errors with evolution;

Mutation and natural selection – In theory a mutation in DNA increases a creature’s natural ability to survive so it adopts this mutation through natural selection. This might conceivably work if it took one gene to control one part but given that each part of a creature is incredibly complex with different components all needing to be in place at the same time for something to evolve, it makes the chance of this working nigh-on impossible. By way of illustration imagine that all the components needed to build a house (bricks, cement, nails, windows, tiles, pipes etc etc) were all lying on the ground. Now tie a hammer to a dog’s tail and let it roam around the parts with its wagging tail and see how long it takes its wagging tail to build a house. That’s how long it would take to adapt one gene, let alone a completely new creature.

That argument is only relevant if you believe that mutations can be beneficial. All known mutations are at best neutral but in most cases are either harmful or fatal. Not a great start.

Fossil record – Evolution is all about constant change, whether gradual or in leaps. The thing about fossils is they are all complete animals. For evolution to occur one would expect multiple examples of fossils with evolving creatures. There are none. That’s right, not even one (out of millions found). Darwin even recognised this himself. Writing in his seminal book “Origin of species” he wrote “The number of intermediate varieties which have formerly existed on Earth must be truly enormous.  Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?  Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.

The fossil record pretty much proves that evolution never happened.

There are loads of other arguments against evolution such as the fact that life has never been created from non-life (the law of biogenesis), and also it is disproved by the second law of thermodynamics which states that all natural processes become more disordered over time. It prevents the invention of new organs by mutations ,because without a construction system already in place, things naturally fall apart.

It seems that the tide is slowly starting to turn. It has been very difficult to argue against evolution as up until recently it has been accepted by all the influential academic figures in the scientific community. But there is an increasing groundswell in scientific circles which is starting to see through the obvious flaws of this theory and many hundreds of well respected scientists and educationalists have stated that they no longer believe in evolution. See the 22 page list here sceptics list

My opinion is that man in his pride and rebellion refuses to admit that there is a God and will hold on tightly to any alternative to a creator, because the consequences for admitting the existence of a God would be unthinkable. The following quote by Richard Lewontin pretty much sums up a lot of people’s thinking;

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. “

At least he’s honest. It’s incredible that they would rather believe absurdities than admit or even entertain the existence of God.

If you would like to study this subject further, there are loads of materials and websites to visit. I would recommend the following website https://answersingenesis.org/evolution/

 May 1, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
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 »
Mar 272015
 

Evidence for the resurrectionAs we are approaching Easter and I am also continuing in my series on Apologetics, I thought I would combine the two themes and look at the evidence available for the resurrection of Jesus. As this event is probably the most important aspect of the Christian faith, many opponents of Christianity have constantly sought to undermine it and come up with alternative explanations. But the case I am going to present to you today is well attested by many people and has never been successfully refuted. The case is a strong one and just as for the evidence for God, the facts are formed one upon another until a very compelling case has been built

Even secular historians will admit that there is enough evidence from history that a man called Jesus actually existed, that he was a Jewish teacher and that he died under the hand of the Romans. There is also plenty of evidence for the claims that three days after he was crucified, he somehow came back to life. His followers then spread Christianity throughout the whole Roman empire and His teachings are still followed today.

The first question to consider is “Is the New Testament reliable?” Many critics during the 19thcentury doubted its authenticity but as more and more archaeological discoveries have been unearthed, the more they have supported what was written. This adds a lot of weight to its authenticity. Also the sheer volume of the various manuscripts that are available support it. This has also led to the evidence that these accounts were written at the time or shortly afterwards, rather than hundreds of years later. To put it simply, the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus has more evidence for it than any other event in all of ancient history.

The New Testament witnesses were fully aware of the background against which the resurrection took place. The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. This was covered by about 100 pounds of aromatic spices. The body was then placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone weighing approximately 2 tons was then rolled against the entrance of the tomb. This tomb was then guarded by well disciplined Roman guards who ‘sealed’ the tomb with a Roman seal. To break the seal would have incurred the wrath of Roman law and the punishment would have meant crucifixion for the perpetrators. This was one of the first facts of the crucifixion: The Roman seal was broken.

The second fact was; The tomb was empty.Both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions admit an empty tomb. Those resources range from Josephus to a compilation of fifth-century Jewish writings called the “Toledoth Jeshu.” Dr. Paul Maier calls this “positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favour, then that fact is genuine.” Gamaliel, who was a member of the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, put forth the suggestion that the rise of the Christian movement was God’s doing; he could not have done that if the tomb were still occupied, or if the Sanhedrin knew the whereabouts of Christ’s body.

The third fact was; That the large stone was moved the most likely ones to have done this were the disciples, but they had all fled in fear. They certainly weren’t capable of overcoming a crack squad of Roman soldiers, neither would the Jewish authorities who would have no reason to move the body. The Roman soldiers would have no reason either. It is highly likely that an empty tomb would have led to their execution for not fulfilling their duties. But the clear fact was that the next day the stone had indeed been rolled away from the entrance, the seal had been broken and no guards were to be seen (which was the fourth fact).
A fifth fact is a small point but not insignificant and that is that the grave clothes were lying in the tomb, obviously with nobody inside them. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes—undisturbed in form and position.

The sixth fact of the resurrection were the numerous sightings of Jesus by many people over a number of days. The more witnesses, the more likelihood of the truth of the claims. One of the earliest records of Christ’s appearing after the resurrection is by Paul. The apostle appealed to his audience’s knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time. Paul reminded them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned as witnesses.

Another factor crucial to interpreting Christ’s appearances is that He also appeared to those who were hostile or unconvinced. No author or informed individual would regard Saul of Tarsus as being a follower of Christ. The facts show the exact opposite. Saul despised Christ and persecuted Christ’s followers. It was a life-shattering experience when Christ appeared to him. Although he was at the time not a disciple, he later became the apostle Paul, one of the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection.

Next week I am going to look at a few arguments and objections people have put forward against these facts of the resurrection and see how believable they are.

 March 27, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection 2 Responses »
Mar 202015
 

Existence of God part 3This is now the third week in our huge subject on the existence of God.

As I have mentioned previously, each argument builds upon each other, until we have a very compelling case for God’s existence.

We have already looked at the Cosmological argument (everything, including the universe has a cause). Then last week we looked at the argument for the existence of God based on the evidence of the amazing and intricate design of the universe and the things within it.

This week we will be looking at the argument of the existence of God from morality.

We are not looking at subjective morality (what individuals believe to be right or wrong) but objective morality. This is that there are absolute moral standards which exist outside our own personal opinions and beliefs.

This argument is stated as follows;

  • There exists an objective morality.
  • The best explanation for the existence of that objective morality is the existence of a moral law giver (we call God)

Some will try to argue with the first premise and say that there is no objective morality. They will say that different cultures have all sorts of different standards and I agree, yes they do. These are what we stated earlier as ‘subjective’ moral standards. But there are certain things in all cultures we know to be wrong from the very core of our being. Things such as; rape, murder, child abuse etc, these are ‘objective’ moral standards, universally accepted, which we automatically know to be wrong. If you don’t believe that these are inherent, just look at the reaction of even small children to things like; lying, cheating and unfairness. They know instinctively that these things are wrong.

Atheists seem to differ on whether there is an objective morality or not and they are in pretty deep trouble no matter which way they lean.

Those who do believe in an objective morality (i.e. admitting that some things are bad and some things are good) will have a hard time trying to justify an objective moral law without a moral lawgiver. You can’t have one without the other. If you admit that there is evil, you have to admit there is good. If there is good and evil, then there is an absolute and unchanging moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. Given an absolute moral law, there must be an absolute moral law giver, but that would be God – the one whom the atheist is trying to disprove.

There are atheists on the other side who don’t believe in objective morality at all, such as the famous Nihilist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche who said “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist “. Another leading modern atheist is Richard Dawkins who said “Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life…life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA…life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

The problem with saying there is no good or evil and that everything is subjective, leads to justifying things like the holocaust. After all, Hitler was only trying to make sure the strongest survived; he wanted to annihilate what he (subjectively) considered the weakest part of society. Isn’t this the basis of evolution ‘the survival of the fittest?’ Taken to its logical conclusion, anybody can do anything and it is neither good nor evil. Really? We instinctively know that is not true.

You will find that people can be very hypocritical in this regard, because we all make moral judgements without even thinking about it. People will say one thing but act in a very different manner. Try doing something bad against someone who only believes in subjective morality and they will soon objectively judge you!

Click on this link to watch a short video which explains this argument really simply http://www.reasonablefaith.org/moral

We have now looked at 3 of the most common and compelling arguments for the existence of God. I will just finish with a few others, although there are many more.

The argument from miracles. People will try to tell you that these can all be explained away and that they don’t fit in with science. But you just can’t dismiss extraordinary well attested miracles. Miracles such as; whole limbs growing in front of people, eyes growing into empty sockets and people who have been dead and laid on the slab for many hours coming back to life.

The argument from consciousness. The fact that we are self aware, intelligent etc is a strong indication that God has put that awareness there. We live in a physical universe and it is really difficult to explain an immaterial ‘soul’ without referring to God.

The argument from personal experience. I know that God exists. I can’t necessarily explain it all to you and be able to convince you, but I know from all my experiences of walking with Him for 40+ years that He is real. His reality is as strong as anything else in my life.

The argument from desire There is a desire in us that nothing on earth satisfies, we can spend our life chasing after the things of this world, such as; money, sex and power, but ask rich famous people and many of them are still sad and dissatisfied. We all yearn for something to fill that void within us. As someone once said “We were born with a God shaped hole that only He can fill” In my experience, people who have ‘found’ God and walk with Him closely are the most satisfied and peaceful people I know.

I hope you have found this little series useful and it has caused you to think that actually there are some very convincing arguments for the existence of God. Of course, some people, with an agenda, will always find a reason or excuse not to believe. But I hope I have showed you that belief in God is very reasonable.

 March 20, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »