Waiting for the End – A Meditation for Easter

Crucifixion of Jesus – Marco Palmezzano

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’–which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  When some of those standing near heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he’s calling Elijah.’
One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,’ he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”

 

“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.” When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.

Mark 15.34-37; 42-45

Pilate was surprised to learn that Jesus had died so quickly. That was because Roman crucifixion was not merely an  execution. It was a slow death by way of torture, filled with excruciating pain, designed by the Romans to  extend the amount of time it actually took to die as long as possible. “Historically the process could take anywhere from 3-4 hours to 3-4 days. And there were reports of people living as long as 9 days on a cross.”[1] The Jewish leaders and Pilate were both expecting it to take days for Jesus to die as was typical. That’s why the Jewish leaders petitioned Pilate to have his legs broken (John 19.31).   Because when hung on a cross for crucifixion, “Modern forensic research shows that a person whose hands are bound above his head has severe trouble breathing.”[2] The results being that:

“The muscles that run between the ribs are basically fully extended which means the ribs are fully expanded, which means the chest is essentially passively full of air. In order to get the stale air and the carbon dioxide and all the waste gases out, the victim would actually have to actively lift themselves up to get the pressure off of these muscles and allow themselves to exhale.”[3]
Robert M. Morris, MD
ER Chief, Stanford medical center

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Are Biblical accounts copied from pagan religions? Part 2. The Resurrection

Depiction of the empty tomb of Jesus

Depiction of the empty tomb of Jesus

Since the original sin in the garden of Eden, mankind has searched for reasons not to believe God so he could live a life independent of God. In the garden, the serpent convinced Eve not to trust God. Why? Supposedly because God was holding back the knowledge of good and evil to the detriment of Adam and Eve. The serpent suggested God was wrong f0r withholding that knowledge, but that if they were to discover the truth, they would be “like God”. (Gen 3.5) That was a big lie. God was indeed withholding the knowledge of evil, but he was not wrong in doing so because he knew that (experiential) knowledge of evil (like disobeying God) would lead to death.  And the biggest irony is – they were already like God (Gen 1.26),  there was nothing to be gained from what the serpent offered.

Today there is another lie circulating to destroy belief in God: The claim that the biblical accounts are not history, but rather stories borrowed or stolen and then adapted from the made up stories of pagan religions. If there’s no reason to believe the pagan religions, then there’s no reason to believe a made up story based on it either. Continue Reading

Intelligent Design’s Blind Side

Intelligent Design’s Blind Side

William Dembski is a leader in the Intelligent Design (ID) community, so I read with initial interest a recent interview he did with Sean McDowell titled How is the Intelligent Design Movement Doing? Interview with William Dembski.  which is posted on McDowell’s blog. That initial interest turned to dismay as the adversarial attitude Dembski has toward revealed truth in general and Young Earth Creationism (YEC) in particular was made apparent. When asked how he assesses the reception of ID within the church, Dembski states:

“I would say that the church broadly and even the evangelical community has — on balance — been somewhere between useless and downright counterproductive to the success of ID.”

A most unfortunate assessment given the potential ID has to impact a culture that has largely fallen under the sway of the junk science put forth to support the materialist religion known as Darwinian Evolution. Even more unfortunate is Dembski’s  apparent blindness to how he (and other ID advocates with similar positions) has caused such a reaction from the God fearing, Bible believing faithful they’d like to gain support from. To unravel this mystery for them, let’s start with what both ID advocates and YEC advocates are trying to achieve. Continue Reading

The Resurrection – The Bible’s Undepicted Miracle

Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb of Jesus in “The Bible” episode Courage.

A meditation for Easter

The resurrection of Jesus is arguably the most important miracle in the entire Bible. The creation gives us a place to live, the exodus demonstrates God’s gift of freedom, the Passion leading to the atonement forgives our sins, but without the resurrection, we still would not have eternal life to enjoy all the good things God has provided. As theologian Norman Geisler puts it:

“Without the resurrection there is no salvation (Rom 10.9), and the whole of Christianity crumbles if it is not true (1 Cor. 15:12-19).[1]

So of all the Biblical scenes where I wish movie makers would take some artistic license to display magnificently – but they they never do – it’s the depiction of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Watching the Biblical epics like Cecil B. DeMille’s classic “The Ten Commandments” (who can forget that parting of the red sea) and the more recent productions of the “The Bible” (they opened with a most impressive depiction of the global flood) and “AD – The Bible Continues” (the depictions of the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit definitely took some artistic license, but delivered an appropriately visually appealing and inspiring depiction of those events) – I suppose tends to raise expectations. Continue Reading

The Final Word on Marriage

Aslan, a type of the Christ, resurrected (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2005)

Just as Aslan, a symbol of Christ, had the final word over death; likewise the Lord Jesus will have the final word on Marriage. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On June 26, 2015, five justices of the supreme court took it upon themselves to   overturn legally enacted state constitutional amendments against same sex marriage that had been enacted in 30 states[1], to redefine the meaning of marriage that has been understood as between a single man and a single woman for multiple millennia by the majority of religious adherents[2] and  thereby disregard the religious beliefs of 2/3 of the world, so that the less than 4% of Americans[3] who identify as gay can legally fulfill their sinful desires. That is to say nothing of the trampling underfoot of the clear teaching of scripture[4], and the disregard for the maintenance of a modicum of morality (having already lost most of it to the sexual revelation) preferring instead to push us over the slippery slope toward polygamy, and a host of other evils.[5]

As one might expect, supporters of the gay-rights movement erupted in all sorts of displays of joy and approval. A new hashtag was born to link like minds: #lovewins. For those not on twitter, you can see a sample of the rejoicing here.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of the scene from the 2005 production of CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan has surrendered himself to the witch. The witch gloats in her apparent victory:

Behold, the great lion.
Bind him.
Wait, let him first be shaved.
Bring him to me.
You know Aslan, I’m a little disappointed in you.
Did you honestly think by all this that you could save the human traitor?
You are giving me your life and saving no one. Ha!
So much for love.

(To the crowd) Tonight – the deep magic will be appeased. (Crowd is increasingly roused)
But tomorrow we will take Narnia forever! (round of cheering)
In that knowledge – despair and die! (thrusts a knife into Aslan)
The great cat is dead! (Cheers)
General, prepare you troops for battle. (General celebration continues)
(To herself) However short it may be.

As usual, Lewis’ allegories are uncannily accurate.  Though I see at least eight parallels, so as not to be tedious, let me point out just three:

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AD Apologetics – Part 2: Jesus’ Triumphant Resurrection

A light shines during the resurrection of Jesus while Guards at the tomb are unaware.

A light shines during the resurrection of Jesus while Guards at the tomb are unaware. (AD The Bible Continues)

The series “AD – The Bible Continues” presents a strong case for the resurrection of Jesus.

In  part 1, Jesus’ death and the empty Tomb, the uniqueness of Christianity was examined through  a consideration of the following questions:

Why believe in Christianity?
What makes Christianity different from any other religion?
Why not believe in other religions?
What makes Jesus different from the founder of other religions?
How do you know Christianity is true?
Why should I believe in Jesus?

The answer to all those questions is resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – it is the answer to each question, and what makes Christianity unique. Furthermore, Christianity is the only religion which provides hope for us mortal men and women through a savior who has demonstrated mastery over death by himself rising from the dead. And that savior offers the same resurrection to all who believe in him.

That claim – resurrection from the dead –  is so startling, so bold, so beyond common experience that some people refuse to even consider it as a possibility. Such doubt has been expressed by the well known liberal scholar,  the late Rudolph Bultmann who in his disbelief writes,

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AD Apologetics – Part 1: Jesus’ death and the Empty Tomb

Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb

Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb (John 20.1) in “AD – The Bible Continues” episode 2 “The Body is Gone”

The series “AD – The Bible Continues” presents many strong evidences of why the resurrection of Jesus is true.

Why believe in Christianity?
What makes Christianity different from any other religion?
Why not believe in other religions?
What makes Jesus different from the founder of other religions?
How do you know Christianity is true?
Why should I believe in Jesus?


The answer to these an many other question about the authenticity of the Christian faith is the same.  That which:

 – distinguishes Jesus and Christianity from any other religion,
– validates that Christianity is true, and
– proves that Jesus is the son of God

 is the same fact: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus is the most important doctrine of the Christian faith

No other religion has a founder who has proved he is the Lord of Life by showing mastery over death by being raised from the dead. This is precisely the point scripture makes when it proclaims:

…who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Rom 1.4)

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important doctrine of the Christian faith, because without the resurrection there is no point to the Christian faith, and indeed no  faith at all. Or as the apostle Paul put it:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
1 Cor 15.14, 17

It is no wonder then that of all the doctrines that critics, liberal scholars and those who wish to destroy Christianity could take aim at,  the one they choose to attack early, often and most viciously is the teaching that Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead, after having being put to death on a Roman cross and entombed. Continue Reading

“Finding Jesus” – the Shroud of Turin – A Review

The first episode of the new CNN Series “Finding Jesus – Faith Fact Forgery” uses selective evidence to support the unwarranted conclusion that the Shroud of Turin is a forgery.

Sunday night CNN launched a new documentary series on the Christian faith titled “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery”.  The first episode, “The Shroud of Turin” was, as the title implies, a re-examination of the highly venerated, highly questioned burial cloth of Jesus. The question is, of course, is the cloth authentic? Is it really the cloth of which the gospel writer Mark records:

“So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
Mark 15.46

… or is it a forgery? Based on the title, the producers want to draw a sharp line of demarcation between what is faith (that which science can neither affirm nor deny); what is fact, and what is unwarranted faith (that which science can attempt to either affirm or deny and if denied, declare a “forgery” or false). Based on the first episode, the producers want to remove any scientific basis for faith – even when such evidence is overwhelming. This is clearly the case because of the wealth of evidence that exists concerning the authenticity of the well studied, well researched Shroud that the producers chose to ignore. I say chose to ignore, because as producers of a documentary on the well known relic, they are responsible for being aware of such public domain information and should surely  know about these evidences which contradict their theories. And if they don’t know, they are not qualified to be doing a documentary on it. This first episode (and thus presumably the rest of the series) is clearly biased against evidence that confirms the veracity of Christian claims.

In an apparent effort to cover their bias, the documentary is overall respectful of the faith – providing a traditional retelling of the events leading up to the burial of Jesus.  In my previous article Physical Evidence Jesus Existed I list 6 evidences of authenticity for the Shroud; 3 of which are not mentioned in the documentary, the others are either ignored or outright denied. Below is further exposition and clarification on some of those evidences, and the addition of new evidence from an effort to date the Shroud apart from Carbon dating. Obviously a documentary cannot be expected to present every piece of evidence, but certainly some of the well established evidences – especially those which contradicts your proposed theory – should be presented – if the goal is to present a fair and balanced piece of journalism. Of course if you’re not interested in fair and balanced reporting, then liberal usage of the fallacy of suppressed evidence is a viable course, and the route which they have obviously chosen for this episode, and presumably the series. 

So what is the theory that they resort to suppressing evidence to protect? Continue Reading

“Questioning Darwin” – Perpetuating Stereotypes and Misinformation

HBO's Questioning Darwin Documentary HBO’s documentary Questioning Darwin   questions Christian belief instead of Darwin
From Questioning Darwin, an HBO Documentary

The IMDB storyline synopsis of HBO’s recent1  documentary  ends with the statement, “the film takes a balanced look at this 150-year-old debate.”  It appears the film wants to take a balanced look, and they certainly had the opportunity, but if they were trying to achieve a balanced look, they failed miserably.  Either the writers are so steeped in anti-Christian evolutionist doctrine that they couldn’t see their own bias, or they willfully withheld important data that is relevant to the discussion. Or perhaps it’s a bit of both.

If they were seriously trying to present objections of those who “Question Darwin” why have they chosen to only present the case from the point of view of Bible believing Christians (of which I, of course, am one)? Such objections stem primarily from the fact that evolution is in direct contradiction to Biblical teaching. But that is not the only source of objections.  Why did they not also present the case of scientists who do not believe in evolution from a scientific point of view? Surely the existence of scientific objections to Darwin is not a newsflash to the writers of a documentary on Darwin. There is an entire site highlighting the hundreds of scientists who have signed their names to the statement:

” We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

The site is Dissentfromdarwin.org and you can look up all the scientists who dissent yourself.  Instead, the picture that is painted is that only fundamental, Bible believing Christians who,  as the narrator tells us,  “… believe their Bible is the Word of God, the ‘literal truth’ …”2,  don’t believe in Darwinian evolution. That only Christians object to Darwin is clearly not the case and so that is a  misrepresentation.  The fact that they have omitted any reference to any scientific objections to Darwin points to what this documentary is really about: questioning Christians who question Darwin.

Without speaking to those responsible for this production, one  can only speculate as to their motives. But based on what they choose to include (statements from Christians without any investigation as to whether they might be true)  and what they chose to omit (objections from scientists who disagree with Darwin’s theory), and the amount of time they spent explaining how Darwin arrived at his theory vs. the amount of time spent showing Christians who “question Darwin,” the motives seems clear: to present Christians as slightly irrational, slightly backwards, science rejecting people whose opinions should not be taken to seriously in this matter. Unfortunately,  too often Christians provide ample fodder for this distorted view.

A pastor3  is shown saying,  “If in the bible I were to find a passage that says 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.”  Brother, I understand what you’re saying.  It is incumbent on the reader of the Bible to investigate further to work out apparent contradictions so as to resolve the contradiction and understand what the Biblical writer was saying. (Of course that clarification was not in the documentary.)

For instance, Jesus while standing in the magnificent temple that took 46 years to build  is quoted as saying, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2.19) This was clearly misunderstood by his audience, the Jews. (As it would be by anyone in that context who didn’t know Jesus.) Thankfully John, the writer of the gospel explains what he meant – that he was referring to his body.  So Jesus was in essence saying if you kill me, I will physically raise this body and make it live again in 3 days, which is proof of my claims. A prediction and a promise he made good on that first Easter Sunday by his resurrection from the dead.

So I understand the pastor to be underscoring the importance of working out apparent contradictions – though he chose, in my estimation, a poor example to illustrate the point. Arithmetic statements by nature and design leave little room for interpretation; and as such don’t illustrate the broad (though clear) range of meaning that verbal statements may convey, particularly when set in various contexts. So while his point is valid, it was used by this production to stereotype Christians as following blindly without a rational basis. As I state in What is Rational Faith Part 2, Christian Faith does not require a blind leap of faith.

From there, the depiction of Christians gets worse, with a Professor  accusing Christians of lying to children because they teach as truth what’s taught in the Bible; things that contradict evolution such as creation and a young earth. His exact  statement was:

“If the only way you can get your beliefs to persists is to lie to children – which is what creationists do about the age of the earth and things of that nature, if that’s the only way this thing can persist, it’s now worth it, it should disappear.”4

Clearly,  instead of looking at scientists today who “Question Darwin” and how they view Darwin’s theory against today’s evidence, the writers chose to channel the accusations of the new atheists, who accuse Christians of child abuse for teaching them religion.5   Instead of looking at the scientific questions, they chose to look at how Christians interpret the Bible, apparently appalled that Christians can take Genesis “literally”6, and even more appalled that such an approach can be persuasive, noting:

“Creationism – the fastest growing branch of Christianity – not just here in the United States but worldwide.”

That fact is only surprising (and disconcerting) to those who have bought into Darwinism lock, stock and barrel.  While the program does an admirable job of correctly articulating Christian views – since they directly quote Christians, and even shows scenes from Ken Ham’s Creation Museum – still  it is quite apparent that they mean to question those views. With their disdain for the views of those who doubt Darwin apparent, their refusal to show scientists who doubt Darwin gives the show a strong appearance of suppressing the evidence.  This point is underscored by the fact that they had comments from former college professor Dr. Jobe Martin, who has published evidences against evolution in titles such as Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution (I-III), but you don’t see any of his evidences; he provides history and commentary on Darwinism and its effects. Yet as philosopher of science and Intelligent Design advocate Dr. Stephen Meyer put it,

“For every evidence based argument for one of Darwin’s two key propositions, there is an evidence based counter argument.”7

You won’t see any of the counter arguments to Darwin in this documentary however.  In fact to the contrary,  Darwin is presented as a hard working, state of the art (even if it is 19th century art) scientist who worked tirelessly to gather evidence for his theory.  We are told of all the specimens he examined and the correspondences he had with other scientists.  Darwin no doubt considered himself an objective researcher. (We’re supposed to believe that too.)  We’re led to believe that his conclusions were valid based on all the research he did, however the documentary never bothers to mention or even question if the research that he conducted supported the conclusions he jumped to. The evidence suggests his research did not support his conclusions.

The documentary makes clear however that he suffered  greatly at the loss of his favored daughter Annie, and couldn’t understand why there should be evil in the world.  Outspoken creationist, Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis  graciously offers that if his theology professors had told him the source of evil was sin – not God, it may have changed his perspective.  What is more likely the case, (since as the documentary tells us, Darwin once intended to be a clergyman)  is that  Darwin knew what the Bible said about the cause of evil, but didn’t care. It appears Darwin  was determined to reject God in spite of the Bible’s explanation of evil in the world.

The documentary further wants you to believe Darwin let science direct his thinking, not his (anti-God) theology; and that he reluctantly came to the conclusion that evolution is true. We are supposed to believe that he was objective about it all because he is quoted as saying: Continue Reading

Is Faith Rational?

The Declaration of IndependenceThe Declaration of Independence – a permanent testimony to the establishment of the United States of America
Rejecting the Bible because it’s an “ancient” document and we didn’t witness any of it is as foolish as rejecting the Declaration of Independence because it’s ancient and we didn’t witness the signing.


Is faith rational? If one took this question at face value,  the answer is quite simple: yes, faith is rational. How do we know that?  We merely need to understand the terms and see if “faith” fits within the bounds of “rational.”  That’s a simple academic exercise handled in the sidebar below. Of greater interest is what people usually mean when asking the question. What’s commonly being asked is either:

1.  How can faith be rational, when faith means believing in something with no evidence?

Or:

2. Is Faith/belief in God/belief in miracles  compatible with science?

 

Starting with the second  question – Faith in God and belief in miracles are compatible with science because faith and science are complimentary; not contradictory. There are questions that science is not equipped to handle. In such cases it doesn’t mean the item the question isn’t real; it simply means that science is incapable of answering the question.  One such item, as author, scientist and theologian Alistair McGrath points out is this:

 “What is the meaning of life?” This is clearly an important question. But can science answer it?1

The answer clearly is no, science can’t answer it. And why not? Famous evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen Jay Gould suggests it’s because science and religion deal with different spheres of knowledge – “magisteria” as he called them – and they do not overlap. Science and religion are thus Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA)2 – so the one can not comment on the other. This formulation is close. Science can not see or measure the spiritual world, so it can not comment on it; but God, who is spirit (John 4.24) sees both the spiritual and material world, and thus can comment on both as an eye witness. Thus regarding the creation of the world, what you have in Genesis 1 is an eye witness account of the creation of the heavens and the earth in 6 days, and recorded as evidence – a testimony for all time.

In passing, God as an eye witness to the creation is something science can not disprove. They can disagree with his testimony,  (which they do) and disbelieve he even exists (which they do), but they can not prove he does not exist. Neither can they provide an eye witness to their version of creation – the big bang.  They say believing God’s testimony can only be done by faith. Okay, so what is it when you believe George Washington was the first president? No one alive today was there to see it. All we have are testimonies. Is that not then, also faith?  Yet no one asks scientists to prove George Washington was the first president, or prove that he existed. They take both to be true on the word of historians. Biblical testimony is no different. So why is faith in God’s written testimony any less rational than believing written testimonies that George Washington was the first president?


If doubters of the Biblical account still want “proof” one can say creationists have higher quality “proof” than scientists – since in addition to scientific evidence,  creationists have an eye witness account by a perfect witness while science merely has a of highly disputed theory – the big bang3 which is backed by highly disputed evidence. Indeed the more we learn, the more the big bang is discredited.  The universe is both too young for the theory to be true (for more on that see  Saturn’s Rings are Young!)  and recent discoveries like the Higgs Boson (the so called “god particle”)  contradict the Big Bang theory. (For more on that see Testimony of the Higgs Boson.)

So faith expressed as belief that God exists is rational; it is consistent with how we use “faith” in other spheres, and it is consistent with science. But some people don’t agree with that assessment for reasons that take us back to the first question:

“How can faith be rational?” (implied: when science can’t see the evidence to prove it). This is perpetuated by a chorus of acolytes echoing the refrain:

“Faith is believing something for which you have no good, objective, rational reason to think is actually true.”4

What’s always amusing about these statements is the claim there is no evidence. Because the first thing they typically do is list the evidences then explain why they refuse to believe it. First off they want to eliminate the Bible as evidence because it’s well – the bible – a holy book.  They never seem to realize they are committing the fallacy of a false analogy when they compare the Bible to a book of mythology or even other holy books. Unlike mythology and other “holy” books the Bible is full of verified history, fulfilled prophecy (we’ll note one below), known, verified historical people, and geographical locations that exist to this day that you can visit. That makes it a reliable source of information. In fact regarding reliability of  the key section of the Bible that records the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – the New Testament – author and apologist Josh McDowell states:

“There is more evidence for the historical reliability of the new testament than any 10 pieces of classic literature combined.”5


Objective scholars regard the Bible as a reliable historical record, it’s people with an atheistic agenda who object to using the testimony of the Bible. But let’s look at a few of these objections. Typical of those stating faith is not rational, is the blogger above6 who states faith is believing something which you have no good reason to believe is true. He has 3 main objections:
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