Why Is Jesus the Only Way to God?
People are constantly asking, “What’s so special about Jesus? Why is He the only way that someone can know God?”
Along with the problem of people who have never heard, there is no question asked more often than this one. We are accused of being narrow-minded because we assert there is no other way to get to God.
The first point to make is that we did not invent the claim of Jesus being the only way. This is not our claim; it is His. We are merely relating His claim, and the claim of the writers of the New Testament.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6, NASB) and, “For unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24, NASB). The apostle Peter echoed these words, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, KJV).
St. Paul concurred, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… . ”(I Timothy 2:5, KJV). It is therefore the united testimony of the New Testament that no one can know God the Father except through the person of Jesus Christ.
To understand why this is so, we must go back to the beginning. An infinite-personal God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) and man in his own image (Genesis 1:26). When He had finished creating, everything was good (Genesis 1:31).
Man and woman were placed in a perfect environment, with all their needs taken care of. They were given only one prohibition; they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest they die (Genesis 2:17).
Unfortunately, they did eat of the tree (Genesis 3), and the result was a fall in four different areas. The relationship between God and man was now broken, as can be seen from Adam’s and Eve’s attempting to hide from God (Genesis 3:8).
The relationship between man and his fellow man was severed, with both Adam and Eve arguing and trying to pass the blame to someone else (Genesis 3:12, 13).
The bond between man and nature also was broken, with the ground producing thorns and thistles and the animal world no longer being benevolent (Genesis 3:17, 18). Man also became separated from himself, with a feeling of emptiness and incompleteness, something he had not experienced before the fall.
However, God promised to make all these things right and gave His word that He would send a Saviour, or Messiah, who would deliver the entire creation from the bondage of sin (Genesis 3:15). The Old Testament kept repeating the theme that some day this person would come into the world and set mankind free.
God’s Word did indeed come true. God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 29). Jesus eventually died in our place in order that we could enjoy again a right relationship with God. The Bible says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” and “he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:19, 21, KJV).
Jesus has paved the way! God has done it all, and our responsibility is to accept that fact. We can do nothing to add to the work of Jesus; it has all been done for us.
If mankind could have reached God any other way, then Jesus would not have had to die. His death illustrates the fact that there is no other way. Therefore, no other religion or religious leader can bring someone to the knowledge of the one true God.
But the death of Jesus is not the end of the story. Let us illustrate why we prefer Jesus over other religious leaders. Suppose a group of us are taking a hike in a very dense forest. As we get deeper into the forest, we become lost.
Realizing that taking the wrong path now might mean we will lose our lives, we begin to be afraid. However, we soon notice that ahead in the distance where the trail splits, there are two human forms at the fork in the road.
Running up to these people, we notice that one has on a park ranger uniform, and he is standing there perfectly healthy and alive, while the other person is lying face down, dead. Now which of these two are we going to ask about the way out? Obviously, the one who is living.
When it comes to eternal matters, we are going to ask the one who is alive the way out of the predicament. This is not Mohammed, not Confucius, but Jesus Christ. Jesus is unique. He came back from the dead. This demonstrates He is the one whom He claimed to be (Romans 1:4), the unique Son of God and the only way by which a person can have a personal relationship with the true and living God.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Don Stewart, “What’s so Special About Jesus” (tape), The Word for Today, P.O. Box 8000, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626
Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, Tyndale House, 1977, 2009
What About Those Who Have Never Heard About Jesus?
No matter where we go or what subject we are speaking on, this question always seems to come up. Many times it is asked to relieve the individual of any personal responsibility to God.
It must be kept in mind, however, that the answer to this question does not determine whether Christianity is true or not. That matter has already been solved in Jesus Christ by His resurrection from the dead. The matter of authority has been solved once and for all, and this issue of those who haven’t heard is now merely a matter of interpretation.
The best way to deal with this question is to state certain truths that the Scripture make very plain. The Bible is very clear that no one can come to God except through Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6, MLB). The only basis for forgiveness of sin and life everlasting is the way made by Jesus. Many people think this implies that those who have never heard about Jesus will be automatically damned. However, we do not know this is the case.
Although the Scriptures never explicitly teach that someone who has never heard of Jesus can be saved, we do believe that it infers this. We do believe that every person will have an opportunity to repent, and that God will not exclude anyone because he happened to be born at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17, KJV).
The Bible also reveals that no one has any excuse. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19–20, RSV).
It is a fact that all of mankind can tell that a creator does exist, because His creation testifies to it. This testimony is universal. Although the people have enough information that God does exist, they become wilfully ignorant of the things of God because their hearts are evil.
The Bible teaches that the unbelieving individual is “holding down the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18, Lit. Trans). Moreover, the Scriptures relate that man is not seeking after God but actually running from Him. “There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11, KJV). Therefore, it is not a case of God refusing to get His Word to someone who is desperately searching for the truth.
We also know that it is God’s desire that none “should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9, KJV). This indicates that God also cares for those persons who have not heard the gospel. He has demonstrated this by sending His Son to die in their place. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, KJV).
The Bible teaches that God is going to judge the world fairly and righteously. “Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31, KJV). This means that when all the facts are in, God’s name will be vindicated and no one will be able to accuse Him of unfairness.
Even though we may not know how He is going to deal with these people specifically, we know that His judgment is going to be fair. Just this fact alone should satisfy anyone who wonders how God is going to deal with people who have never heard of Jesus Christ.
The Bible itself testifies to the fact that there are those who will hear and respond out of every people on the earth. “For you were killed, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
The Bible gives an example of a man who was in a situation not unlike many today. His name was Cornelius. He was a very religious man who was constantly praying to God. He had not heard of Jesus Christ, but he was honestly asking God to reveal Himself to him.
God answered the prayer of Cornelius, and sent the apostle Peter to him to give him the full story of Jesus. When Peter preached to him, Cornelius put his trust in Christ as his Savior. This example demonstrates that anyone who is sincerely desiring to know God will hear about Jesus.
There are people today, like Cornelius, who are praying the same prayer to know the true and living God, and they are being reached no matter where they might live. Simon Peter stated, “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35, KJV).
The Scriptures contain other examples of individuals who were accepted by God, even though their knowledge of Him was limited. Rahab, the prostitute, had only the smallest amount of knowledge of God, but the Bible refers to her as a woman of faith, and her actions were commended (Joshua 2:9; Hebrews 11:31).
Naaman, the Syrian, was granted peace with God because he exercised faith, even though he was living in the midst of a pagan culture (II Kings 5:15–19). Jonah, the prophet, was sent to Nineveh, a heathen society, and they repented at his preaching (Jonah 3:5).
No one will be condemned for not ever hearing of Jesus Christ. That person will be condemned for violating his own moral standard. “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:12–16, KJV).
Based on the above examples from Scripture, it can be seen that God will fairly judge all mankind and that no one can claim that he or she received an unfair hearing. Therefore, the people who ask this question should be very careful not to use this as an excuse for not coming to Christ.
What you think might happen or might not happen to someone else does not relieve your responsibility on Judgment Day. Although we might not be able to answer the question about those who haven’t heard to the satisfaction of everyone, there are certain things that the Bible has made clear.
One person put it this way, “Many things in the Bible I cannot understand; many things in the Bible I only think I understand; but there are many things in the Bible I cannot misunderstand” (Anonymous).
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Josh McDowell, “Romans—The Revolutionary Revelation,” 8-Tape series, Liberation Tapes, P.O. Box 6044, Lubbock, Texas 79413
Don Stewart, “What’s Going To Happen to Those Who Haven’t Heard?” (tape) The Word for Today, P.O. Box 8000, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
R. C. Sproul, Objections Answered, G/L Publications, Regal Books, 1978
Paul Little, How To Give Away Your Faith, Inter-Varsity Press, 1966
Norman Geisler, The Roots of Evil, Zondervan/Probe Ministries, 1978
Does It Really Matter What I Believe?
A question we hear often is, “Does it really matter what I believe as long as I believe in something?” Or, “As long as your belief helps you, isn’t that all that matters?”
The idea behind statements such as these is that there is no absolute truth to believe in, and thus the act of believing is all there is. We all believe in something, as Edgar Sheffield Brightman states, “A thinker cannot divest himself of real convictions, and it is futile to pose as having none” (E.S. Brightman in H.N. Wieman, B.E. Meland (eds.), American Philosophies of Religion, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1936).
The idea of finding any truth or meaning to life has escaped modern man. This statement reflects the inability to conceive of something outside of one’s self: “There are no rules by means of which we would discover a purpose or a meaning of the universe” (Hans Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy, p. 301).
Even though we live in a day in which we all have definite beliefs about things, the climate seems to be the act of belief rather than any real object of belief. “Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact,” states pragmatist William James.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Belief will not create fact. Truth is independent of belief. No matter how hard I may try, believing something will not make it true. For example, I may believe with all my heart that I want it to snow tomorrow, but this will not guarantee snow. Or I may believe that my run-down old car is really a new Rolls Royce, but my belief won’t change the fact.
Belief is only as good as the object in which we put our trust. Someone may come to me and say, “Hey, let’s go for a ride in my new plane!” If I come to find out that his plane hardly runs at all and he does not even have a pilot’s license, then my faith, no matter how much I have, is not well-founded.
My faith won’t create a great pilot out of my friend once we are in the sky! However, if another friend of mine comes along and makes the same offer, but he is a certified pilot with a new plane, then my trust has a much more solid base. So it does matter what I believe, for my believing it does not make it true.
The Bible also emphasizes the fact that it is vital what one believes. Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, MLB). We are also told, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36, NIV).
Thus, the stress of the Scriptures is not so much on the act of belief as on the object of belief. What is emphasized is not so much the one trusting, but rather the one trusted. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV).
People today are believing whatever they wish to believe, but this will lead to their ultimate destruction. The famous classroom story of the philosopher, Georg Hegel, illustrates the type of faith many people display, which is entirely unbiblical. Hegel, as the story goes, was expounding on his philosophy of history with reference to a particular series of events when one of his students objected to Hegel’s view and replied, “But, Herr Professor, the facts are otherwise.”
“So much worse for the facts,” was Hegel’s answer.
One of the darkest periods in the history of Israel occurred in the time of the kings. During this time, there was a contest between the Lord God and Baal, a highly regarded cult deity.
An altar of wood was built, with pieces of an oxen laid upon it as a sacrifice. The god who answered by fire and consumed the sacrifice would be acknowledged as the true god in Israel. Baal went first.
If anyone could start a fire from the sky, it was Baal—the great nature god who controlled the weather (e.g., rain, thunderstorms, lightning). The priests of Baal paraded around the altar all morning and until late afternoon, beseeching Baal to respond.
These false priests jumped all over the altar, cut themselves with swords, danced into a frenzy, raved and pleaded all day. Yet nothing happened. No one can say they were not sincere or did not believe.
After they were finished and the altar was rebuilt, the Lord God answered with fire from heaven and consumed the altar and sacrifice. The false prophets of Baal were then slain.
If sincerity and belief saved, then these prophets should have been spared. But they do not. These prophets had their trust in the wrong object. They had never chosen to investigate the truth. God requires man to put his faith in Jesus Christ; nothing less will satisfy either them or Him.
Don’t All Religions Basically Teach the Same Thing?
Many people wonder why we make such a fuss about Jesus Christ and Christianity, since they believe all religions are basically the same. They assume that all faiths are all talking about the same thing, but are putting it in a different way.
One man once gave this illustration. He said, “Suppose you take ten men and blindfold them, and lead them over to an elephant. You now let each of them touch a different part of the elephant—tail, trunk, etc.—without telling them what they are touching.
“You lead them back inside, take off their blindfolds and tell them to describe what they touched.” The man then asked, “Would their descriptions agree?” The answer of course is no.
The man then made this observation: even though these ten men touched the same thing, they did not agree because each touched a different part or, if you please, experienced it from a different angle. He went on to conclude, “Isn’t it the same in the area of religion?
“Aren’t all the different religious groups— Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, etc.—experiencing the same God, yet explaining it in different ways? Thus can’t they all be true, but with each giving a different emphasis?”
The problem with this illustration is identifying the elephant with God. You are assuming that all these people are experiencing the same God, when in fact this is not true. Christianity and Islam cannot both be true at
the same time. Neither can Mormonism and Buddhism both be correct simultaneously, nor can Christian Science and Hinduism.
All religions cannot be true at the same time, because they teach many things completely opposite from one another. They all may be wrong, but certainly they all cannot be right, for the claims of one will exclude the other.
As to matters of salvation and the person of Jesus Christ, only historic Christianity recognizes Him as the eternal God becoming a man who died for the sins of the world and arose again the third day. Salvation is obtained only by putting one’s trust in this Jesus.
The Jesus of Islam is not the Son of God who died for the sins of the world; neither is the Jesus of Mormonism- or Christian Science the same Jesus as revealed in the Bible.
Salvation is not by grace and through faith in these religions, but it is a matter of works. It can then be observed that we are dealing with different religious ideas that are not compatible with one another.
Even though many religions seem to be the same on the surface, the closer one gets to the central teachings the more apparent the differences become. It is totally incorrect to say that all religions are the same.
The God of the Christians is not the same God as that of the Mormons, Muslims or Christian Scientists. If the God of the Bible is the only true God, then the other gods are nonexistent and should not be worshipped.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Andersen, J. N. D. ed., The World’s Religions. 4th ed. rev. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.
Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Rev. ed. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1974. McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart. Understanding Non-Christian Religions.San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life Pubs., 1982.
Can Christianity Be Proved?
Many times during conversations relating to truth, particularly religious truth, someone asks the question, “Can you prove Christianity to be true?” Most often, however, the question is phrased, “Can you say 100% for certain that Christianity is true?”
The answer to the first question is, “Yes, Christianity can be proven to be true.” This, of course, does not mean that everyone will accept the evidence, however good it is. But the answer to the second question is, “No, not 100% for certain.”
Some people feel that this “no” lets them off the hook. The problem is a misunderstanding of the nature of proof. The key is not a perfect or absolute certainty, as some believe, but a standard of proof that amounts to a moral certainty or puts the matter beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is the standard used in our courts of law historically. When a judge charges a jury, he or she tells them to decide based on probability, not certainty; based on the evidence presented, not the certainty of having viewed the crime. If jury decisions were delayed until 100% certainty existed, no verdict would ever be rendered.
Everybody makes the decisions of life based on probability, not certainty. Decisions are based on a combination of faith related to fact. For example, a person about to cross a road stands on one side, looks both directions (hopefully he does!), collecting the evidence necessary to determine the probability of making the journey across in safety.
He can never be 100% certain that he will make it. He could have a heart attack halfway across, an earthquake could swallow him, etc. The lack of 100% certainty doesn’t keep him on the side of the road, however. He moves out toward the other side with maybe 90% certainty and 10% faith, but he must take himself 100% across.
Many people seem to demand absolute certainty in religious matters, when they don’t apply the standard of absolute certainty to anything else of major importance. The atheist cannot even be 100% certain of his belief, “There is no God.”
To deny the existence of God necessitates admitting the possibility of His existence. People do not stop making decisions because they cannot reach absolute certainty. A high standard of proof is needed, but not an unreasonable one, like the demand for 100% certainty.
Just as the man crossing the street didn’t need 100% certainty to take those steps across, neither does anyone need 100% certainty to make a decision to believe in Christianity, in Jesus Christ.
Christianity claims a moral certainty, to anyone who is willing to take the evidence and weigh and evaluate it. Christianity claims an external verification through evidence, as well as an internal witness through God.
To those outside the Christian faith, Christianity can be shown to rest on strong evidence and have a high degree of probability for its truth claims. But when a person becomes a Christian, the “assurance” or “certainty” becomes a reality. Christianity from a “morally certain” standpoint becomes as undeniable as one’s own existence.
Between the two of us, we have spoken to millions of students, professors, businessmen, and laymen about the evidence for the Bible and Jesus Christ. We have probably not met more than a half dozen people who, after hearing the facts, still claimed an intellectual problem with accepting Christianity as true.
The problem is not a matter of “I can’t believe because the facts won’t let me” so much as a matter of “No matter what proof, I won’t believe.” If anyone is truly interested in evaluating the evidence for proof of Christianity’s truth, the words of Jesus are applicable: “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17, NASB).
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
John Warwick Montgomery, “Sensible Christianity,” tape series, P.O. Box 500, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. 92693
Colin Chapman, Christianity on Trial, Tyndale House Publishers, 1975
Is Christianity a Crutch?
Every single college, it seems, has the campus atheist who says, “Christianity is for the weaklings; it is just a crutch.”
Karl Marx’s famous line, “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” is still a common view of many. Those who call themselves Christians are seen as people who need something to enable them to cope with the problems of life. Some people use alcohol, some drugs, others Christianity to get themselves through this difficult world.
The fact of the matter is we all do need a crutch to get by in this world. We are all crippled in some sense, and down deep inside there is a desire for something to sustain us. The real issue is, “Is this crutch we call Christianity true, or is it something on the same level as drugs or alcohol, invented to meet an admitted need?”
There are definite psychological needs, fear of danger, disease, and death, that might prompt us to invent God so that we would feel secure. However, there are also psychological needs that might lead us to deny that God exists. The agnostic or atheist may be using his agnosticism or atheism as a crutch to avoid the responsibility of God’s demands.
The God of the Bible is awesome and a threat to mankind. A God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, righteous, holy, and just, and who is going to judge the world for its sin, is an extremely imposing figure. Thus it is only fair to point out that some need the crutch of denying God’s existence in order to live their lives as they please without fear of judgment.
Aldous Huxley articulated this in Ends and Means: “For myself, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political” (Ends and Means, p. 270 ff.).
The truth of the Christian faith is not based upon psychological needs for or against God. Yes, it is possible that Christianity could have started because people need something to lean on, but the question is not how it could have started but how it did start.
We again are brought back to the real issue, which is the person of Jesus Christ. Does mankind need to lean on Him, or can we lean on something else?
Jesus made the issue very clear, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”(Matthew 7:24–27, NIV).
One could also state it this way. A crutch presupposes two things: (1) that there is a disease, sickness, or hurt, and (2) that a person has been given some type of a remedy (this is why he has the crutch).
Two questions immediately arise. First, what is this disease? Is it real or imagined? And second, is the remedy the correct one for the disease?
With Christianity, God clearly states that the disease is sin, and that the disease is real. It is not a psychological, imaginary hand-up in need of a religious fix as Marx would propound. Rather, the remedy instead of being a religious crutch, is a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Therefore, Christianity in one sense is a crutch. But it is more than a crutch; it is the sure foundation, the truth of life.
If Jesus Christ be God and died on the cross for our sins and created us to be in fellowship with God the Father through Him, then to call Him a crutch would be like a light bulb saying to an electrical socket, “You are my crutch.” As a light bulb was created to function properly when inserted into the socket, so we have been created to function properly in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
What Hope Does Christianity Offer the World?
We are living in a day in which people are pessimistic about the future. There have always been pessimists, but now there is a general feeling of hopelessness regarding the future. With the advent of tactical nuclear weapons, fear has engulfed our planet. Examples of this attitude can be seen in the following statements:
It is becoming more and more obvious that it is not starvation, not microbes, not cancer, but man himself who is mankind’s greatest danger” (Carl Jung, “Epilogue,” Modem Man in Search of a Soul, New York, Rutledge Books, 1933).
“The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man” (Albert Einstein, cited by Mead, p. 192).
“Today, even the survival of humanity is a Utopian hope” (Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death, London, Sphere Books, Ltd., 1968, p. 267).
“The world has now become too dangerous for anything less than Utopia” (John Rader Piatt, The Step to Man, New York, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., 1966, p. 196).
The problem of lack of hope and meaning to life is not unique to our generation. It has been expressed by others in the past who have felt the same emptiness as our modern world feels. To a large segment of the population, this life is all there is, and there is no hope beyond the grave, but this idea is nothing new.
Compare what some of the writers in the past have said concerning death. “Oncea man dies, there is no resurrection” (Aeschylus); “There is hope only for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope” (Theocritus); “When once our brief light sets, there is one perpetual night through which we must sleep” (Catullus).
Against this background of pessimism, Jesus Christ offers real hope. He gives mankind the opportunity to become right with God and his fellowman. Thus Christianity offers a full life to those who will accept Jesus: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV).
However, the abundant life never ends. There is a hope of life everlasting based upon the promises of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25, 26, KJV).
In a changing world, there exists an unchanging God whose world lasts forever. “The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8, MLB), and He Himself never changes, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, KJV).
Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of the nation, left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, and from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day” (Bill Bright, Jesus and the Intellectual, p. 14).
Shakespeare commented on life, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (MacBeth).
What a contrast to the words of the Apostle Paul written just before his impending death: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NASB). Christianity offers the world a genuine hope.
Don’t My Good Works Count for Anything?
In the early sixties, a song came out by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers, entitled “The Last Kiss.” The song is about a couple out on a date who get into a car accident. The girl dies in her boyfriend’s arms. He mourns her death singing:
“Oh, where, oh where, can my baby be,
The Lord took her away from me,
She’s gone to heaven so I got to be good,
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.”
This song sums up the attitude of a lot of people. They think if they can live a good life, if the good works they do outweigh the bad, then they will have earned their way to heaven.
Unfortunately, the Bible does not allow anyone to earn his way to heaven. The Scriptures teach that good works have nothing to do with one entering into a right relationship with God. This relationship is nothing we can earn, because God has done everything for us.
“he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5, NIV).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NIV).
“And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV).
“This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29, KJV).
If our eternal salvation was on the basis of works and we could earn it successfully, then God would be our debtor: He would owe us something (Romans 4:1–3). The Bible teaches that God owes no man anything, and our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
The simple reason is that God has a perfect standard, and all of us have sinned and come short of this mark (Romans 3:23). We like to compare ourselves to others, and thus we feel that we are not so bad after all. But God compares us to Jesus Christ, and next to Him we cannot help but fall far short, all of us without exception.
This can be illustrated by the following example. Out in Southern California, there is an island off the coast called Catalina, twenty-six miles from the pier atNewport Beach. Suppose that one day three men are standing on the end of the pier.
One is an alcoholic, grubby, sick, living in the streets. The second is the average American, and the third a fine, upstanding, pillar-of-the-community person.
All of a sudden, the alcoholic leaps off the edge of the pier five feet out into the water. The other two yell, “What are you trying to do?” The man in the water yells back, “I’m jumping to Catalina!”
The second man, the average man on the street, says, “Watch me. I can do better than that!” He proceeds to jump, landing ten feet out, twice as far as the alcoholic. The third man, very moral, upright, outstanding person that he is, laughs disdainfully at the two men in the water.
He moves back about fifty yards, takes a running leap and lands twenty feet out, twice as far as Mr. Average, and four times as far as Mr. Alcoholic.
The Coast Guard fishes them out of the water and asks what they are doing, to which they all reply, “We are jumping to Catalina,” and Mr. Average boasts of his beating Mr. Alcoholic, and Mr. Great boasts of his accomplishment in beating both of them.
The Coast Guard officer could only shake his head and exclaim, “You fools! You are all still twenty-six miles short of your mark.”
Although modern man considers himself better than — or at least as good as — others, he is still far from the target God has set for us. It is impossible for anyone to jump from the pier to Catalina, and it is impossible for anyone to reach heaven by his own deeds and apart from Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself puts it, “ No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV).
Why Should I Become a Christian? The Worst Hypocrites Are in Church.
One major excuse that people use in their refusal to embrace Christianity concerns hypocrites in the church, both past and present. People like to point to past misdeeds done in the name of Christ, such as the Spanish Inquisition, witch trials and other horrible acts.
Then, there are the present-day examples of preachers, deacons, or church leaders who have been caught in alcoholism, adulterous relationships or some other inconsistency with what they say they believe. This type of behavior has led many to say, “If that’s what Christianity is all about, then I don’t want any part of it.”
It must be admitted that there has been hypocrisy in the church, and today we are not exempt from people who are hypocritical. A hypocrite is an actor, one who puts on a false face. He says one thing but does another. However, just because the church contains hypocrites does not mean that all Christians are hypocrites. With every example of hypocrisy that can be pointed to in the church, a counter example can be pointed out showing people who are living consistently with the teaching of Jesus Christ.
It is important not to confuse hypocrisy with sin. All Christians are sinners, but not all Christians are hypocrites. There is a misconception that a Christian is a person who claims that he does not sin, but the truth is that to call oneself a Christian is to admit to being a sinner (1 John 1:5—2:2). All believers, including the clergy, are fallible human beings who are prone to all types of sin. Just because a person is not perfect does not mean that he is a phony. The distinction between the two is important. The failures of the believers do not invalidate the truth. Jesus Christ had very harsh words for people who were committing the sin of hypocrisy, especially the religious leaders of his day. He denounced them in no uncertain terms.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15, NIV).
People can and do enter the ministry for the wrong reasons, or they can compromise the convictions of the faith. When people do this they are wrong, and the Bible denounces this clearly. Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was not a hypocrite. He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day, for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him. His disciples were silent because there was none. Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done in the name of Christianity.
The non-believer cannot be excused from believing just because it is possible to point to those who simply pretend to be what they are not. Hypocritical Christians cannot be excused on the basis of not being perfect because of the terrible effects hypocrisy has.
Let’s look at one illustration of the reasoning involved in this question. For example, let’s say the president of a large car company is always advertising and telling his friends that a certain make of car in his company is the best in the country and the only car we should be driving. In fact, a number of automotive magazines and consumer groups have backed up some of his claims. But yet, when you see this man, he is driving the competition’s leading model! (Perhaps he likes their colors better.) You say, what a hypocrite! If he believed all that stuff about his car, and he’s in a position to know, then he’d be driving one. That is probably true. Yet his being a hypocrite does not invalidate the claim that his car may be the best one in the country.
The same is true of Christianity. People may claim it’s true, yet have lives inconsistent with their claim, but this does not necessarily mean Christianity is not true.
If Christianity is so Great, Why Are There so Few Christians?
Christians are now and have always been in the minority. Most of the people presently living have not trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. This, however, is exactly as Jesus said it would be. “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14, NIV). This has been the case throughout all of history. There are several reasons why a large part of humanity has rejected Jesus as their Savior.
One reason people do not become Christians is out of ignorance. This is not ignorance that there is a God or a person named Jesus Christ, but rather ignorance to the facts validating the Christian faith. Many times this ignorance is self-imposed. Some people are not even bothering to consider the claims of Christ, while others are actively refusing to believe.
Many people claim they have intellectual problems with the Christian faith, when usually what they have are intellectual or emotional excuses. We are aware of many people who, after having been presented the facts of Christianity, have readily admitted that they know Christianity is true, yet they still refuse to become Christians.
This, therefore, is not a problem of the mind, but of the will. It is not that they cannot become Christians; it is more of a matter that they will not become Christians. The Bible teaches that humanity is attempting to suppress the truth of God (Romans 1:18). People are ignorant of the credentials of Jesus, by and large, because they want to be.
Another reason is the simplicity of the gospel. It is so simple to become a Christian that even a child can do it. In fact, to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus taught that we must become as children (Matthew 18:3). In simple faith, we must place our trust in Christ whether we be college professors or people who have never finished grammar school.
The apostle Paul said concerning the simplicity of the gospel, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty… That no flesh should glory in his presence” (I Corinthians 1:26, 27, 29, KJV).
Paul taught, as did Jesus, that Christians would never be in the majority, and that not many prominent people would believe in Jesus. Although there have not been many great men and women in history who have trusted Jesus, there have been some.
Further, people don’t become Christians because of the mistaken idea of what really is a Christian. Many think Christianity is a religion with a set of negative commandments saying, “Don’t do this or don’t do that.” They get the idea that, when you believe in Jesus, you resign yourself to a life of unhappiness, restrictions, and boredom.
Since no one wants to live that way, they write off Christianity as something to which they don’t want to commit their lives. It is a sad fact that some Christians give the impression to the world that their faith consists only of a group of negative commandments. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When a person trusts Jesus as Saviour, he becomes truly free. Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, KJV). Jesus Christ is in the business of setting men and women free from things that have them in bondage so that they can be the type of people they were meant to be.
As believers, we are free to do what we want to do and not do what we don’t want to do. The Christian life is anything but boring, because there is the daily joy and excitement of knowing the living God and experiencing all the good things He has in store for us. “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalms 37:4, KJV).
Some people don’t become Christians because of guilt feelings. They have lives in which they’ve committed many ugly acts and crimes, and they don’t believe they can be forgiven by God and that a decent life can be given to them. However, the Bible clearly teaches that anyone, without exception, who seeks God and desires to be forgiven of his sins will be forgiven.
There is no sin that’s too great to stop someone from going to heaven except the sin of unbelief. If a person refuses to believe in God’s provision for his sin—the person of Jesus Christ—then there is no hope for him. Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37, KJV).
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). You and I are included in that “whosoever.” If you will come to Jesus, He has promised to forgive you of your sins, and He will allow you to start over again with a clean slate, no matter how corrupt you have been.
Another reason some refuse to accept Jesus is because of some specific sin in their life. They realize that, if they become a believer, they will have to stop committing that certain sin, and they do not want to stop. Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19, KJV).
Many people love their sin to the point that they will miss getting to heaven. To become a Christian, a person must repent (change his heart and mind) of his sins, and this many people are not willing to do even though Jesus said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, KJV).
In addition, people refuse to believe in Jesus because of self-centeredness. Someone has said—correctly, we believe—that Christianity is the easiest religion in the world to believe, and it is also the most difficult religion in the world to believe.
It is the easiest because God has done everything for us that needs to be done, and it is impossible to add to the work of Christ. It is the most difficult because we have to admit to ourselves and to God that we cannot do anything to save ourselves.
Our pride does not like that, since we want to work out our own salvation our way. Human nature desires that we dictate our own terms, but God will accept us only on His terms, and this fact keeps many people out of the kingdom.
There are many reasons why people reject Christ, but there are no good reasons.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCE
Josh McDowell, “Evidence for Faith” (7-tape series), Liberation Tapes, P.O. Box 6044, Lubbock, Texas 79413
What About Alternatives to Christianity – Agnosticism, Atheism, & Humanism?
Many individuals who have rejected the Christian claim have embraced other views of life. Most state that there is no God as the Bible teaches, and if there is, then He is unknowable. The claims of these alternatives will not hold up under investigation.
An agnostic usually is someone who does not know whether God exists. The agnostic has not made up his mind on God. He is a doubter. Some agnostics are more aggressive than others in searching for God, and this we applaud.
The Bible promises, if anyone desires to know the truth about God, they shall. “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17, NASB).
Unfortunately, most agnostics do not make a real effort to know if there is a God. They do not consider the question all that crucial. Yet it is crucial. The very fact that an agnostic cannot be sure whether there is a God makes it logical that he should consider the claims of Christianity. Therefore, agnosticism is not grounds for rejecting Christianity; rather it is grounds for examining Christianity.
Atheists affirm there is no God. Yet they cannot hold this position dogmatically. For us to be able to make this type of statement with authority, we would have to know the universe in its entirety and to possess all knowledge. If anyone had these credentials, then by definition he would be God.
Thus we see that, unless the atheist is all-knowing, he cannot make a dogmatic statement on God’s existence. Therefore, he can only state that he is uncertain whether or not there is a God, and this view is agnosticism. This we have already investigated earlier and found wanting. The atheist’s claim that God does not exist crumbles under examination.
The humanist believes that man will be able to solve all his own problems. This creed that “man is the measure of all things” offers no concrete solution to those looking for a way out. Today, in our world, humanism is quite popular.
Humanism fails on two counts. First, man operating by himself cannot set up true standards of justice or values in the world without God. If one man decides his human view of values is correct, while another man decides differently, who will decide between them?
Who would decide between the Nazis and the Jewish race in World War II? Each had a set of values, but who was right? The majority? The nicest? The meanest?
Without a higher standard of authority to go to, which is God, all of life is based on the values of the majority or a dictator in power. They have no sure truth to turn to; it is all a matter of opinion.
Secondly, humanism believes man is “getting better and better every day in every way.” However, with two world wars in this century and the world on the brink of nuclear holocaust, the demise of optimistic humanism is a foregone conclusion.
Thus humanism offers not hope but despair. Humanism does not solve problems; it creates them. If humanism is honestly examined, it leads man not to look to man, but beyond himself, for the answers.
These alternative views, when soundly probed, are found not to undermine Christianity but rather to reinforce it. This is because philosophical systems and other religions, in their search for truth and meaning to life, fall short in their quest. Without the Bible as a solid foundation, there is no way to determine whether or not we have the truth. It alone offers man truth and hope.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Carnell, E. J. An Introduction to Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950.
McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart. Understanding Secular Religions. San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life Pubs., 1983.
Schaeffer, Francis. He Is There and He Is Not Silent. Wheaton,Ill.: Tyndale House, 1972.
Sproul, R. C. If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists? Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1974.
What Makes Christian Conversion Valid? Can’t It Be Explained Psychologically?
Whenever a believer gives his or her testimony, there always seems to be someone who objects to this being used as evidence for the Christian truth-claim.
They contend that it seems like everybody has some sort of conversion experience or religious testimony.
The Mormons talk about the burning in their heart; those in Eastern religions will talk about the peace and tranquility they receive; others will admit to a new joy or happiness.
Why is Christian conversion correct and the others incorrect? Can’t it be better explained by conditional responses or some type of self-hypnosis?
It is true that many today are testifying to religious experiences in which they claim to have met ultimate reality. At first glance, the Christian sounds like everyone else because he is also claiming to have experienced truth. The unbeliever or casual observer needs more than a mere testimony of subjective experience as a criterion to judge who, if anyone, is right. The difference is that Christians have that criterion.
Christian conversion is linked to the person of Jesus Christ. It is rooted in fact, not wishful thinking. Jesus demonstrated that He had the credentials to be called the unique Son of God. He challenged men and women to put their faith in Him, that they might know God and what life is all about.
Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV). When a person puts his faith in Jesus Christ, he enters into personal relationship with God Almighty, which results in changes taking place in his life.
Christian conversion is neither self-improvement nor culturally conditioned. There are many who put their faith in Christ, and do it against the pressures of friends and family. The Christian’s experience ultimately depends on God and His work in the person’s life. This must take place. The experience is grounded in this fact, not in the person himself.
Besides the fact that Christian conversion is based upon something objective, the resurrection of Christ, there is also the universality of Christian experience that must be considered. From the time of Jesus until today, people from every conceivable background, culture, and intellectual stance have been converted by the person of Jesus Christ.
Some of the vilest individuals who ever walked the face of the earth have become some of the most wonderful saints after trusting Jesus Christ. This must be considered. Because of the diversity of the people, it cannot be explained away simply on the basis of conditioning.
Let’s say, for example, that someone approaches you and says that he has found the meaning of life, ultimate reality. He confesses that his life has undergone a drastic change. So you ask him what the key is to this major change. He responds by saying, “Ever since I started wearing a watermelon rind on my head, my life has been changed.”
You check with this person’s friends, and they tell you that indeed he has been different since the day the rind was put on his head. Now you want to know if this experience is peculiar to this one individual, or if others have made the same claim. Thus you start looking for people with watermelon rinds on their heads.
You look far and wide, but cannot find anyone else with a similar experience. Thus you conclude this person is generating his own experience, and is not meeting ultimate reality.
Christian experience is universal, and though this in and of itself does not make it true, it does make it worth considering. What does make it true is that it is based upon the overwhelming evidence of the deity of Jesus Christ.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev. ed., Here’s Life Publishers, 1979
Paul Little, How To Give Away Your Faith, Inter-Varsity, 1966
William Barclay, Turning to God, Baker, 1964
Norman Geisler, Philosophy of Religion, Zondervan, 1974
How Do I Become a Christian?
“As the kings of the earth and the mighty men of the earth are born in exactly the same way physically as the simplest men, so the most intellectual person must become a Christian in exactly the same way as the simplest person.
This is true for all men everywhere, through all space and all time. There are no exceptions. Jesus said in a totally exclusive word: `No man cometh unto the Father, but by me’” (John 14:6, KJV) (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, p. 1).
Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of heaven a person must be “born again” (John 3:3). This consists of an act of the heart in believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of heaven a person must be “born again” (John 3:3). This consists of an act of the heart in believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When we were born into the world physically, we were born spiritually dead, and therefore we need a spiritual birth. The spiritual birth involves two facets.
The first is to realize that we cannot make it on our own. We are sinners who need help.
What is a sinner? A sinner is someone who is separated from God, has chosen to go his own way and cannot get back to God on his own because of his sin.
Sin can be simply characterized as our own self-centered pride and selfishness. More specifically, sin is the violation of a holy God’s standard of righteousness.
Thus, we must own up to the fact that we need a Savior, someone who will accomplish all that God requires.
The only person ever to do this was Jesus Christ. He lived the only life that was acceptable to God.
He died as a substitute on the cross for our sins, because we have no chance of pleasing God on our own merit. Thus the initial step is to realize that we all have sinned, broken God’s law and deserve judgment as a result. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, KJV).
Once a person sees his hopeless condition and realizes that Jesus Christ offers an answer, the next step is to receive that offer personally, for “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, KJV).
When a person receives Christ as his Savior by accepting God’s gift, at that moment he becomes born again.
It is so easy a child can do it, but it is hard because we first have to realize that we cannot do it on our own. Jesus said to enter the kingdom of heaven, a person must be willing to humble himself as a child, and only then will God receive him (Matthew 18:3).
How about you? Have you done this? Have you been born again? If you wish to do it, we offer this prayer that you might pray: “Lord Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner; I realize that I can’t make it on my own. Thank You for dying for me. Right at this moment, the best way I know how, I trust You as my Savior and Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
One thing which is important to note, though, is that it is not the reciting of the above words which makes the difference.
There is nothing magical in them; anyone can repeat a sentence. It is the attitude of your heart and your desire when you pray and trust Christ that makes the difference.
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How do You Know God Exists?
Is there truly a God? How can anyone be sure such a being exists?
We believe that the existence of God, and questions such as these relating to it, can be intelligently answered. The reason we know that God exists is because He has told us so, and has revealed Himself to us. It would be no help to us at all in our human predicament if God were silent, but happily this is not the case. God not only exists, but also He has communicated that fact to us. He has told us all about who He is, what He is like and what His plan is for planet earth.
He has revealed these things to mankind through the Bible. The Bible has demonstrated itself to be more than a mere book; it is the actual Word of God. The evidence is more than convincing to anyone who will honestly consider its claims.
Because of the boasts the Bible makes for itself, many have tried to destroy it, as related in this statement by Martin Luther:
Mighty potentates have raged against this book, and sought to destroy and uproot it—Alexander the Great and princes of Egypt and Babylon, the monarchs of Persia, of Greece and of Rome, the Emperors Julius and Augustus—but they prevailed nothing.
They are gone while the book remains, and it will remain forever and ever, perfect and entire as it was declared at first. Who has thus helped it—who has protected it against such mighty forces? No one, surely, but God Himself, who is master of all things.
G/L Publications, Regal Books, 1967
Even the French skeptic, Rousseau, saw something different in the Scriptures. “I must confess to you that the majesty of the Scriptures astonishes me; the holiness of the evangelists speaks to my heart and has such striking characters of truth, and is, moreover, so perfectly inimitable, that if it had been the invention of men, the inventors would be greater than the greatest heroes” (Frank Mead,Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, p. 32).
The Bible, therefore, gives us sufficient reason to believe that it is the Word of the living God, who does exist and who has revealed Himself to the world.
Another reason that we know God exists is because He has appeared in human flesh. Jesus Christ was God Almighty who became a man. The Bible says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, RSV), and it is clear about the fact that Jesus came to earth to reveal who God is and what He is all about (John 1:18).
If someone wants to know who God is and what He is like, he only needs to look at Jesus Christ. As Lord Byron said, “If ever man was God or God was man, Jesus Christ was both” (Frank Mead, Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, p. 81).
Instead of man reaching up to find God, God reached down to man, as Casserley explains, “The gospel provides that knowledge of ultimate truth which men have sought through philosophy in vain, inevitably in vain, because it is essential to the very nature of God that He cannot be discovered by searching and probing of human minds, that He can only be known if He first takes the initiative and reveals Himself (J. V. Langmead Casserley, The Christian in Philosophy, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, p. 21).
Jesus, in coming back from the dead, established Himself as having the credentials to be God, and it was this fact that demonstrated its truth to the unbelieving world. As Machen says, “The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was a historical message, an account of something that had happened; it was the message, ‘He is risen’” (J. G. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 28, 29).
Thus we have the Bible, and the person of Jesus Christ, as two strong reasons arguing for the existence of God. No other religion or philosophy offers anything near to demonstrate that a God exists.
Where Did God Come From?
This question assumes that everything, including God, is subject to the limitations of time and space, as man is; that there is nothing outside of time and space, an assumption that the scientific community has questioned and virtually dismissed since Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Einstein showed that time can actually be altered, slowed down, speeded up, when objects begin to travel at extremely high speeds. This would suggest that the common concept that all things originate and operate within the context of fixed time and space, that nothing exists outside of time and space, is not necessarily correct.
While not totally understandable, the facts do make it easier to accept the biblical teaching that God exists outside of time and space as we know it (Psalms 90:4; Colossians 1:17; II Peter 3:8). To accept that God exists outside the time and space framework as we know it renders any question of where He came from and what He was doing before He created what we know as the universe totally meaningless.
These questions might be legitimate if God is subject to time and space, which He is not. The Bible teaches that God is not bound by time or space, and that He has not chosen to reveal to us (from our perspective) all that took place before He created the universe.
John Warwick Montgomery, How Do We Know There Is a God? Bethany Fellowship, 1972
Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, Inter-Varsity Press, 1972
Content taken from Answers to Tough Questions that Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith, Pg. 56
© 1986 Josh McDowell Ministry. All rights reserved.
Learn more on our Apologetics blog!
What Is the Trinity? Do Christians Worship Three Gods?
One of the most misunderstood ideas in the Bible concerns the teaching about the Trinity. Although Christians say that they believe in one God, they are constantly accused of polytheism (worshiping at least three gods).
The Scriptures do not teach that there are three Gods; neither do they teach that God wears three different masks while acting out the drama of history. What the Bible does teach is stated in the doctrine of the Trinity as: there isone God who has revealed Himself in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three persons are the one God.
Although this is difficult to comprehend, it is nevertheless what the Bible tells us, and is the closest the finite mind can come to explaining the infinite mystery of the infinite God, when considering the biblical statements about God’s being.
The Bible teaches that there is one God and only one God: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NASB). “There is one God” (I Timothy 2:5, KJV). “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me’” (Isaiah 44:6, NASB).
However, even though God is one in His essential being or nature, He is also three persons. “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26, KJV). “God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us’” (Genesis 3:22, RSV).
God’s plural nature is alluded to here, for He could not be talking to angels in these instances, because angels could not and did not help God create. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ, not the angels, created all things (I John 1:3; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:2).
In addition to speaking of God as one, and alluding to a plurality of God’s being, the Scriptures are quite specific as to naming God in terms of three persons. There is a person whom the Bible calls the Father, and the Father is designated as God the Father (Galatians 1:1).
The Bible talks about a person named Jesus, or the Son, or the Word, also called God. “The Word was God… ” (John 1:1, KJV). Jesus was “also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18, NASB).
There is a third person mentioned in the Scriptures called the Holy Spirit, and this person—different from the Father and the Son—is also called God (“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?… You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3, 4, RSV).
The facts of the biblical teaching are these: There is one God. This one God has a plural nature. This one God is called the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, all distinct personalities, all designated God. We are therefore led to the conclusion that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, the doctrine of the Trinity.
Dr. John Warwick Montgomery offers this analogy to help us understand this doctrine better:
“The doctrine of the Trinity is not ‘irrational’; what is irrational is to suppress the biblical evidence for Trinity in favor of unity, or the evidence for unity in favor of Trinity.
“Our data must take precedence over our models—or, stating it better, our models must sensitively reflect the full range of data.
“A close analogy to the theologian’s procedure here lies in the work of the theoretical physicist: Subatomic entities are found, on examination, to possess wave properties (W), particle properties (P), and quantum properties (h).
“Though these characteristics are in many respects incompatible (particles don’t diffract, while waves do, etc.), physicists ‘explain’ or ‘model’ an electron as PWh. They have to do this in order to give proper weight to all the relevant data.
“Likewise the theologian who speaks of God as ‘three in one.’ Neither the scientist nor the theologian expects you to get a ‘picture’ by way of his model; the purpose of the model is to help you take into account all of the facts, instead of perverting reality through super-imposing an apparent ‘consistency’ on it.
“The choice is clear: either the Trinity or a ‘God’ who is only a pale imitation of the Lord of biblical and confessional Christianity” (How Do We Know There Is a God, pp. 14, 15).
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
John Warwick Montgomery, How Do We Know There Is a God? Bethany Fellowship, 1972
Kenneth Boa, God, I Don’t Understand, Victor Books, 1975
Walter Martin, “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity” (tape) Christian Research, Box 500, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. 92693
Why Does a Good God Allow Evil to Exist?
One of the most haunting questions we face concerns the problem of evil. Why is there evil in the world if there is a God? Why isn’t He doing something about it? Many assume that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God.
Sometimes the problem of evil is put to the Christian in the form of a complex question, “If God is good, then He must not be powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on. If He is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing, then He Himself must be an evil God since He’s not doing anything about it even though He has the capability. So which is it? Is He a bad God or a God that’s not all powerful?” Even the biblical writers complained about pain and evil. “Evils have encompassed me without number” (Psalm 40:12, RSV). “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (Jeremiah 15:18, RSV). “The whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now” (Romans 8:22, RSV). Thus we readily admit that evil is a problem and we also admit that if God created the world the way it is today, He would not be a God of love, but rather an evil God.
However the Scriptures make it plain that God did not create the world in the state in which it is now, but evil came as a result of the selfishness of man. The Bible says that God is a God of love and He desired to create a person and eventually a race that would love Him. But genuine love cannot exist unless freely given through free choice and will, and thus man was given the choice to accept God’s love or to reject it. This choice made the possibility of evil become very real. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they did not choose something God created, but, by. their choice, they brought evil into the world. God is neither evil nor did He create evil. Man brought evil upon himself by selfishly choosing his own way apart from God’s way.
Because of the Fall, the world now is abnormal. Things are not in the state that they should be in. Man, as a result of the Fall, has been separated from God. Nature is not always kind to man and the animal world can also be his enemy. There is conflict between man and his fellowman. None of these conditions were true before the Fall. Any solution that might be given to the problems mankind faces must take into consideration that the world as it stands now is not normal.
Although evil is here and it is real, it is also temporary. Evil will eventually be destroyed. This is the hope that the believer has. There is a new world coming in which there will be no more tears or pain because all things will be made new (Revelation 21:5). Paradise lost will be paradise regained. God will right every wrong and put away evil once for all, in His time.
Christians have a justification for fighting evil, immorality and corruption. The world was not designed with evil in mind and the believer has a real basis for fighting social ills. He is not following the belief that whatever is, is right. The Christian does not condone wrongdoing by claiming it is God’s world, neither does he assume that everything that happens is agreed to by God. God does not desire evil nor does he ever condone it. He hates evil, and the Christian also is not only to despise evil, he is obligated to do something about it. Even though sin is real, it is not something that the believer accepts as the way things ought to be. By identifying with Jesus, the believer has a duty to call things wrong that are wrong and to speak out when evil is overtaking good. The Christian is not fighting against God by fighting social problems. Natural disasters, crime, and mental retardation should not be the accepted order of things, because they were never meant to be and they will not be in God’s future kingdom.
However, some people are still bothered that God even allows evil in the first place. They question His wisdom in giving man a choice in the matter. Dorothy Sayers put the problem of evil in the proper perspective: “For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? New York, Harcourt Brace, 1949, p. 4).
The Bible tells us that God’s purposes are sometimes beyond our understanding. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8, 9, NASB). Paul, in a similar vein, wrote to the church at Rome, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways” (Romans 11:33, NASB).
Although the Bible informs us how and why evil came about, it does not tell us why God allowed it to happen. However, we do know that God is all-wise and all-knowing and that He has reasons for allowing things to happen that are beyond our comprehension.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Geisler, Norman. The Roots of Evil. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.
Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain. New York: MacMillan, 1950.
Martin, Walter. “Evil and Human Suffering” (tape).
Christian Research Institute, Box 500, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. 92693. Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1977.
Isn’t the Old Testament God a God of Hate and the New Testament God a God of Love?
Another of the frequent accusations against the Bible is that it contains two different conceptions of God.
The Old Testament allegedly presents only a God of wrath, while the New Testament allegedly depicts only a God of love.
The Old Testament contains stories of God’s commanding the destruction ofSodom, the annihilation of the Canaanites, and many other stories of God’s judgment and wrath. The accusers claim this demonstrates a primitive, warlike deity in contradistinction to the advanced teachings of Jesus to love one another and to turn the other cheek, as contained in the Sermon on the Mount.
These ideas about God seem to be in direct conflict, but a moment’s reflection will show otherwise.
Jesus Himself declared that the Old Testament may be summed up by the commandments to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37). He also observed that God in the Old Testament had continually desired love and mercy rather than sacrifice (Matthew 9:13; 12:7).
This attitude can be seen with statements such as, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked… and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23, RSV).
God would not have destroyed certain nations except that He is a God of justice and their evil could not go unchecked and condoned.
He did intend and desire to punish them as a part of His plan, in consistency with His holy nature and jealousy for His wayfaring people. What He desires in consistency with His pure character, He does in justice, in their case, providing they have not repented and come into harmony with His nature (Jeremiah 18).
In the case of the Amorites, God gave them hundreds of years to repent, yet they did not (Genesis 15:16). Noah preached 120 years to his generation before the great flood (Genesis 6:3). The proper Old Testament picture is one of a very patient God who gives these people untold opportunities to repent and come into harmony with Him, and only when they continually refuse does He judge and punish them for their evil deeds.
Contrary to some popular belief, the strongest statements of judgment and wrath in the Bible were made by the Lord Jesus Himself.
In Matthew 23, for example, He lashed out at the religious leaders of His day, calling them hypocrites and false leaders, and informing them that their destiny was eternal banishment from God’s presence.
In Matthew 10:34 (KJV), Jesus says that the purpose of His mission is not to unite but to divide. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” He goes on to say that His word will cause a father to be against his son, a mother against her daughter, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law (Matthew 10:35).
We find judgment as well as love scattered very pervasively throughout the New Testament, and love and mercy as well as judgment throughout the Old Testament.
God is consistent and unchanging, but different situations call for different emphases. Therefore, when the two testaments are read the way they were intended, they reveal the same holy God who is rich in mercy, but who will not let sin go unpunished.
Did Jesus Claim to Be God? Even if He Did, Why Should I Believe It?
Among the religious leaders who have attained a large following throughout history, Jesus Christ is unique in the fact that He alone claimed to be God in human flesh. A common misconception is that some or many of the leaders of the world’s religions made similar claims, but this is simply not the case.
Buddha did not claim to be God; Moses never said that he was Yahweh; Mohammed did not identify himself as Allah; and nowhere will you find Zoroaster claiming to be Ahura Mazda. Yet Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, said that he who has seen Him (Jesus) has seen the Father (John 14:9).
The claims of Christ are many and varied. He said that He existed before Abraham (John 8:58), and that He was equal with the Father (John 5:17, 18). Jesus claimed the ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5–7), which the Bible teaches was something that God alone could do (Isaiah 43:25).
The New Testament equated Jesus as the creator of the universe (John 1:3), and that He is the one who holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). The apostle Paul says that God was manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16, KJV), and John the evangelist says that “the Word was God” (John 1:1). The united testimony of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament is that He was more than mere man; He was God.
Not only did His friends notice that He claimed to be God, but so did His enemies as well. There may be some doubt today among the skeptics who refuse to examine the evidence, but there was no doubt on the part of the Jewish authorities.
When Jesus asked them why they wanted to stone Him, they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33, NASB).
This fact separates Jesus from the other religious figures. In the major religions of the world, the teachings—not the teacher—are all-important.
Confucianism is a set of teachings; Confucius is not important. Islam is the revelation of Allah, with Mohammed being the prophet, and Buddhism emphasizes the principles of the Buddha and not Buddha himself. This is especially true of Hinduism, where there is no historic founder.
However, at the center of Christianity is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not just claim to be teaching mankind the truth; He claimed that He was the truth (John 14:6).
What Jesus taught is not the important aspect of Christianity, but what is important is who Jesus was. Was He the Son of God? Is He the only way a person can reach God? This was the claim He made for Himself.
Suppose this very night the President of the United States appeared on all the major networks and proclaimed that “I am God Almighty. I have the power to forgive sin. I have the authority to raise my life back from the dead.”
He would be quickly and quietly shut off the air, led away, and replaced by the Vice-President. Anybody who would dare make such claims would have to be either out of his mind or a liar, unless he was God.
This is exactly the case with Jesus. He clearly claimed all these things and more. If He is God, as He claimed, we must believe in Him, and if He is not, then we should have nothing to do with Him. Jesus is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.
Yes, Jesus claimed to be God. Why should anyone believe it? After all, merely claiming to be something does not make it true. Where’s the evidence that Jesus is God?
The Bible gives various reasons, including miracles and fulfilled prophecy, that are intended to convince us that Jesus is the one whom He said He was (John 20:30, 31). The main reason, or the sign which Jesus Himself said would demonstrate that He was the Son of God, was His resurrection from the dead.
When asked for a sign from the religious leaders, Jesus replied, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40, RSV).
In another place He said, when asked for a sign, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up… but he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:19, 21, KJV). The ability to raise His life back from the dead was the sign that separates Him not only from all other religious leaders, but also from anyone else who has ever lived.
Anyone wishing to refute the case for Christianity must explain away the story of the resurrection. Therefore, according to the Bible, Jesus proves to be the Son of God by coming back from the dead (Romans 1:4). The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus did rise from the grave, and it is this fact that proves Jesus to be God.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev. ed., Here’s Life Publishers, 1979
Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, Tyndale House, 1977
Arlie J. Hoover, Dear Agnos, Baker Book House, 1976
Michael Green (ed.), The Truth of God Incarnate, Eerdmans, 1977
Sir Norman Anderson, Mystery of the Incarnation, Inter-Varsity Press, 1978
Were the Biblical Miracles Magic Tricks Which Fooled the Simple, Primitive People?
It is often contended that people who lived during biblical times were more simple minded and superstitious than modern man, and could be tricked into believing the miraculous stories contained in the Bible.
Today it is claimed we live in a scientific age and have outgrown these superstitions, since we have developed the mental capacity to see these miracles as being superstitious myths rather than paranormal phenomena. A close study of the evidence will show that these accounts are not a superstitious reaction to some clever trickster. The response to the miraculous acts of God show the same surprise and anxiety that modern man would have if he were placed in the same situation.
The people living at the time of Jesus certainly knew that men born blind do not immediately receive their sight (John 9:32), that five loaves and a few fish would not feed 5,000 people (John 6:14), or that men do not walk on water (Matthew 14:26).
Doubting Thomas said, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, RSV). He refused to accept the testimony of the unbelievable event of the resurrection, but changed his mind when confronted face-to-face with the resurrected Christ. Thus we are not expected to believe the ridiculous, and neither were the people of biblical times.
The people living in those times were no less skeptical than we are today. It was the unavoidable, the inescapable, the irrefutable fact that caused them to believe. The natural order was interfered with as a miracle occurred. It is only the skepticism of modern man that causes him to deny that miracles occurred.
How Can Miracles Be Possible?
The following statements, one ancient and one modern, are typical of the response people make to the miraculous.
For nothing can happen without cause; nothing happens that cannot happen, and when what was capable of happening has happened, it may not be interpreted as a miracle. Consequently, there are no miracles … We therefore draw this conclusion: what was capable of happening is not a miracle” (Cicero,De Divinations, 2.28, cited by V. van der Loos in The Miracle of Jesus, Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1965, p. 7).
For example, there is the record of the life of Jesus Christ in the Bible. That record contained accounts of events which, in light of the facts of the natural order which were known, could not possibly have happened.
Children are not born to virgins, angels do not bring messages to people, men do not walk on water, people who die do not return to life, and so on.
The story of Jesus Christ was filled with what men had learned were impossibilities; therefore, the story could not be a literal account of the actual happenings.
When the New Testament was written, men may have been naive enough to believe the things that were said about
Jesus, and they may have seen no contradiction between the reports and their knowledge of the world, but now all was otherwise (Protestantism, cited by J. Leslie Dunstan, New York, Washington Square Press, Inc., 1962, pp. 128, 129).
Many laugh at the idea of the possibility of miracles. They argue that miracles are a violation of scientific laws, and are therefore unacceptable to modern man.
The Scriptures, however, from one end to the other, contain stories of the miraculous. There are accounts of blind people who immediately received their sight, dead people being raised and extraordinary occurrences within nature, such as a universal flood and the parting of the Red Sea.
The basis for believing in the miraculous goes back to the biblical conception of God. The very first verse of the Bible decides the issue. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, RSV).
If this verse can be accepted at face value, that in the beginning an infinite-personal God created the universe, then the rest should not be a problem. If He has the ability to do this, then a virgin birth, walking on water, feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, and the other biblical miracles, become not only possible but expected.
Of course, if one does not believe in God, he will not accept the miraculous, but for those who have granted the possibility it is not at all ridiculous. As the Apostle Paul once said to an unbelieving king, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”. (Acts 26:8, KJV).
So behind this important question is the familiar issue of whether or not God exists. For if there is a God, then certainly miracles are possible. In fact, the very nature of the question: “How can miracles be possible” presupposes there is a God, for a miracle is an act of God.
As for the idea that miracles violate natural or scientific laws, we must remember that scientific laws neither dictate events nor do they explain them. They are merely a generalization about observable causes and effects.
One cannot reject the claim of the parting of the Red Sea 3,500 years ago by noting that this event does not happen every day. Appealing to the laws of nature to refute the miraculous will not work, since the Bible teaches that an all-powerful God has broken into the natural order from time to time with His mighty acts.
A miracle is by definition an event that is unique and without a precedent. It is impossible to account for it as we do other events. The proper way of determining if something happened is not whether we can explain it. The first question to be asked is not can it happen, but rather did it happen?
If an event can be determined as having happened yet it defies explanation, we still have to admit to the fact that it happened, explanation or not. The evidence for biblical miracles is as powerful historically as other historical events (such as the fall of Rome and the conquests of Alexander the Great). Just because miracles are outside of our normal daily experience does not mean that they have not occurred and do not occur.
Thus when all the evidence is taken into account, there are excellent reasons for believing not only in the possibility of miracles but also in their actuality.
Why Do Christians Appeal to Fulfilled Prophecies to Prove the Bible is God’s Word?
Believers in Jesus Christ are constantly being asked why they believe the Bible to be inspired, and a common response is because of fulfilled prophecy. The argument from fulfilled prophecy is one of the strongest imaginable.
The apostle Peter, after testifying that he had seen Jesus Christ in all His glory, said, “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19, NASB). Peter here is appealing to fulfilled prophecy as a witness to the truth of the Scriptures.
The Bible itself gives the purpose of prophecy, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done… ” (Isaiah 46:9, 10, NASB).
“I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.… Therefore I declared them to you long ago, before they took place I proclaimed them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, and my graven image and my molten image have commanded them’” (Isaiah 48:3, 5, NASB).
The New Testament spoke of the coming of Jesus Christ, “Which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures” (Romans 1:1–4, RSV).
The testimony of the Scriptures is that the purpose of prophecy is to let us know that God exists and that He has a plan for this world. By the foretelling of persons, places, and events hundreds of years before their occurrence, the Bible demonstrates a knowledge of the future that is too specific to be labeled a good guess. By giving examples of fulfilled prophecy, the Scriptures give a strong testimony to their own inspiration.
An example of this would be the prophecy of King Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1). The prophet Isaiah, writing about 700 b.c., predicts Cyrus by name as the king who will say to Jerusalem that it shall be built and that the temple foundation shall be laid.
At the time of Isaiah’s writing, the city of Jerusalem was fully built and the entire temple was standing. Not until more than 100 years later would the city and temple be destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 b.c.
After Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians, it was conquered by the Persians in about 539 b.c. Shortly after that, a Persian king named Cyrus gave the decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This was around 160 years after the prophecy of Isaiah!
Thus Isaiah predicted that a man named Cyrus, who would not be born for about 100 years, would give the command to rebuild the temple which was still standing in Isaiah’s day and would not be destroyed for more than 100 years. This prophecy is truly amazing, but it is not isolated.
There are, in fact, literally hundreds of prophecies which predict future events. The idea that the fulfillment of the predictions is a result of coincidence or chance is absurd, in light of the evidence. God has given sufficient evidence of His existence and of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures by means of fulfilled prophecy.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Peter Stoner, Science Speaks, Moody Press, 1958
Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, ch. 9, rev. ed., Here’s Life Publishers, 1979
How Do You Explain Contradictions in the Resurrection Story?
The New Testament makes the assertion that the truth of Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus.
The apostle Paul stated, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ.… And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins… . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (I Corinthians 15:14, 15, 17, 19, KJV).
A common objection to the fact of the resurrection is that the four Gospel narratives contain hopeless contradictions. If the four accounts were placed in parallel columns, a number of apparent differences would be highlighted. However, these apparent differences ultimately confirm the truthfulness of these accounts, rather than refute them.
If all four Gospels gave exactly the same story, in exactly the same order, with exactly the same details, we would immediately become suspicious. We could also wonder why all four writers did not simply attach their names as co-authors of one account. Obviously, this is not the case. None of the four Gospels gives all the details of what transpired.
Matthew is the only writer who records the first appearance to the women, while only in Luke do we find the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The appearance of Mary Magdalene is omitted by both Matthew and Luke. Only John records the appearance of our Lord in the upper room, when Thomas was absent and the appearance on the sea of Galilee.
It is quite clear that all of the Gospels relate their portraits of Jesus differently. This is what we should expect. No four witnesses (or news reporters), all of whom witness a series of events, will write them up in exactly the same way, detail for detail. If they did, there would be obvious collusion.
If the differences concerned the main points of the story, then there would be justification for doubt, but when the salient points are agreed upon by every witness, insignificant differences add to, rather than subtract from, the validity.
It should be noted, too, that none of the details necessarily flatly contradicts any others, but in some plausible way they correlate together to supply the larger picture. The variations in detail the different writers chose to include in the resurrection narratives consist of incidental things which in no way jeopardize the main plot of the story.
One of the seeming contradictions that bothers people concerns the time the women came to the tomb, related differently by John and Mark. Mark’s account has the women coming to the tomb at the rising of the sun, while John states that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb when it was dark.
This difficulty is solved when it is realized that the women had to walk quite some distance to reach the grave, since they stayed in Jerusalem or Bethany. It was dark when they left the place in which they were staying, but when they arrived at the tomb the sun was beginning to shine. Therefore, Mark is speaking of their arrival, while John refers to their departure.
The area which has generated the most discussion concerns the angels who were at the tomb of Jesus. Matthew and Mark relate that one angel addressed the women, while Luke and John say that two angels were at the tomb.
This seems to be a discrepancy, with Matthew and Mark knowing of only one angel while Luke and John speak of two. However, Matthew and Mark do not say that there was only one angel at the tomb, but that one angel spoke to the women.
This does not contradict Luke and John, for Matthew and Mark specify that one angel spoke, but they do not say there was only one angel present or only one angel spoke. Quite possibly one of the angels served as the spokesman for the two, thus he was emphasized. There is no need to assume a discrepancy.
Though they report some of the details differently, the Gospels agree in all important points. The accounts are in harmony on the fact that Jesus was dead and buried; that the disciples were not prepared for His death, but were totally confused; that the tomb was empty on Easter morning; that the empty tomb did not convince them that Jesus had risen; that Mary thought the body had been stolen.
The Gospel writers also concur that the disciples had certain experiences which they believed to be appearances of the resurrected Christ. That normative first century Judaism had no concept of a dying and rising Messiah is a historical fact.
The disciples proclaimed the resurrection story in Jerusalem, in the place where Jesus had been killed and buried. All these facts considered together constitute a powerful argument for the validity of the resurrection story.
The venerable scholar, Wilbur Smith, had this to say about the differences in the resurrection accounts and the areas in which the Gospels agree:
“In these fundamental truths, there are absolutely no contradictions. The so-called variations in the narratives are only the details which were mostly vividly impressed on one mind or another of the witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection, or on the mind of the writers of these four respective Gospels.
“The closest, most critical, examination of these narratives throughout the ages never has destroyed and can never destroy their powerful testimony to the truth that Christ did rise from the dead on the third day, and was seen of many” (The Supernaturalness of Christ, W.A. Wilde Company, 1954, p. 205).
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
George Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, Eerdmans, 1975
Wilbur Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ, W.A. Wilde Company, 1954
W.J. Sparrow-Simpson, The Resurrection and the Christian Faith, Zondervan, 1968
Merrill Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection, Harper and Row, 1963
Are There Legitimate Objections to the Virgin Birth?
There are possibly other ways which God could have chosen to send His Son into the world, but the fact is the way He chose to do it was through the virgin birth.
The Gospels record that Mary and Joseph did not have sexual relations until after Christ was born, and he “kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25, NASB).
The New Testament also relates that Joseph was known not to have fathered Jesus and that most people had assumed Mary had an illicit relationship with someone.
Even though the virgin birth is given as a historical fact and certain things made the virgin birth essential, many still voice loud objections to its occurrence.
The main problem that people have with the virgin birth is that it is a miracle. Scripture does not treat this event as an ordinary occurrence but rather as a supernatural act of God. The miracle of the virgin birth should not pose any special problem if one grants the possibility of miracles.
Why, we may ask, is the virgin birth any greater miracle than say the feeding of the 5,000 or Jesus walking on water? If an all-powerful God does exist, who spoke all creation into existence, a virgin birth would not be beyond His capability.
A common objection to the virgin birth is that it is a biological impossibility, which was accepted by people ignorant of these things. C. S. Lewis made some pertinent observations in this view:
“Thus you will hear people say, ‘The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.’ Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the course of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it.
“A moment’s thought shows this to be foolish, with the story of the virgin birth as a particularly striking example. When Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men.
“No doubt the modern gynecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And Joseph obviously knew that” (Miracles, New York, Macmillan Pub. Co. Inc., p. 48).
Some have attempted to account for the virgin birth by tracing it to Greek or Babylonian mythology. They argue that the Gospel writers borrowed this story from the mythology of their day. This view does not fit the facts, for there is not any hero in pagan mythology for which a virgin birth is claimed, and moreover it would be unthinkable to the Jewish mind to construct such a story from mythology.
Many deities among the Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians were reported born in an unusual manner, but for the most part these beings never actually existed. The accounts are filled with obvious mythological elements which are totally absent from the Gospel narratives. They are reports of a god or goddess being born into the world by sexual relations between some heavenly being and an earthly woman, or by some adulterous affair among the gods and goddesses.
Dr. Thomas Thorburn comments appropriately, “All these various stories of supernatural conceptions and births, which we meet with in folklore and the history of mythology, have this one point in common—they serve to point not so much to the similarity as to the complete contrast and dissimilarity which exists between the Christian birth-story and the tales which are current in various pagan circles” (Thomas James Thorburn, A Critical Examination of the Evidences for the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth, London, 1908, p. 158).
Thus when we closely consider the objections to the virgin birth, we become more convinced that it did indeed occur just as the historical record in the Gospel states.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Wilbur Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ, W.A. Wilde Co., 1954
J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ, New York, Harper and Brothers, 19930
Robert Gromacki, The Virgin Birth, New York, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1974
Arthur Custance, The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1976
What Makes the Bible so Special?
Christianity believes and teaches that the Bible alone is the revealed Word of God. Even though it was written by men, the ultimate author was God Almighty. This claim was not invented by the Church, but is the claim the Bible makes for itself.
“The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25, The Modern Language Bible). “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16, MLB). “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21, KJV).
Over 2,000 times in the Old Testament alone there are clauses such as, “And God spoke to Moses,” “the word of the Lord came unto Jonah,” and “God said.” Moreover, the Bible claims to be a record of the words and deeds of God, thus the Bible views itself as God’s Word.
The mere fact that the Bible claims to be the Word of God does not prove that it is such, for there are other books that make similar claims. The difference is that the Scriptures contain convincing evidence as being the Word of God.
One reason that the Bible is different from other books is its unity. Although this book was composed by men, its unity reveals the hand of the Almighty. The Bible was written over a period of about 1,500 years by more than forty different human authors. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds, including Joshua (a military general), Daniel (a prime minister), Peter (a fisherman), and Nehemiah (a cupbearer).
The authors of the various books wrote in different places, such as the wilderness (Moses), prison (Paul), exile on the Isle of Patmos (John). The biblical writings were composed on three different continents (Africa, Asia, and Europe), and in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek).
The contents of the Bible deal with many controversial subjects. Yet, the Bible is a unit. From beginning to end, there’s one unfolding story of God’s plan of salvation for mankind. This salvation is through the person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Jesus Himself testified that He was the theme of the entire Bible.
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. . . . For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:39, 46, 47, KJV).
In another place: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27, KJV; see also Luke 24:44).
The Old Testament is the preparation (Isaiah 40:3). The Gospels are the manifestation (John 1:29). The Book of Acts is the propagation (Acts 1:8). The Epistles give the explanation (Colossians 1:27). The Book of Revelation is the consummation (Revelation 1:7). The Bible is all about Jesus.
The entire Bible is a unity with each part needing the others to be complete. Dr. W. F. Albright puts it this way: “To the writers of the New Testament, the Hebrew Bible was Holy Scripture and they were the direct heirs of its prophets. It is, accordingly, quite impossible to understand the New Testament without recognizing that its purpose was to supplement and explain the Hebrew Bible.
“Any attempt to go back to the sources of Christianity without accepting the entire Bible as our guide is thus doomed to failure” (cited by Roger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston, That’s a Good Question, p. 67).
Lest anyone think this isn’t something marvelous, we’d like to give you this challenge. Find ten people from your local area having similar backgrounds, who speak the same language, and all are from basically the same culture. Then separate them and ask them to write their opinion on only one controversial subject, such as the meaning of life.
When they have finished, compare the conclusions of these ten writers. Do they agree with each other? Of course not. But the Bible did not consist of merely ten authors, but forty. It was not written in one generation, but over a period of 1,500 years; not by authors with the same education, culture and language, but with vastly different education, many different cultures, from three continents and three different languages, and finally not just one subject but hundreds.
And yet the Bible is a unity. There is complete harmony, which cannot be explained by coincidence or collusion. The unity of the Bible is a strong argument in favor of its divine inspiration. The unity of the Scriptures is only one reason among many which supports the Bible’s claim to be the divine Word of God. Others which could be explained in detail are the testimony of the early church, the witness of history and archaeology, and the evidence of changed lives throughout the centuries, to name but a few.
These factors led the great archaeologist, W. F. Albright, to conclude, “The Bible towers in content above all earlier religious literature; and it towers just as impressively over all subsequent literature in the direct simplicity of its message and the catholicity of its appeal to men of all lands and times” (The Christian Century, November 1958).
The Bible is special. It is unique. No other book has any such credentials. No other book even comes close. “England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England” (Victor Hugo, cited by Mead. Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, p. 49).
Isn’t the Bible Full of Contradictions?
It is truly amazing how often this question is asked. This question contains the assumption that the Bible is filled with many obvious discrepancies which, if true, would make it impossible to believe that the Bible has a divine origin. It is a popular idea to maintain that the Bible disagrees with itself, which casts considerable doubt on its trustworthiness.
If, indeed, the Bible does contain demonstrable errors, it would show that at least those parts could not have come from a perfect, all-knowing God. We do not argue with this conclusion, but we do disagree with the initial premise that the Scriptures are full of mistakes. It is very easy to accuse the Bible of inaccuracies, but it is quite another matter to prove it.
Certain passages at first glance appear to be contradictory, but further investigation will show that this is not the case.
One of the things for which we appeal with regard to possible contradictions is fairness. We should not minimize or exaggerate the problem, and we must always begin by giving the author the benefit of the doubt. This is the rule in other literature, and we ask that it also be the rule here. We find so often that people want to employ a different set of rules when it comes to examining the Bible, and to this we immediately object.
What constitutes a contradiction? The law of non-contradiction, which is the basis of all logical thinking, states that a thing cannot be both a and non-a at the same time. In other words, it cannot be both raining and not raining at the same time.
If one can demonstrate a violation of this principle from Scripture, then and only then can he prove a contradiction. For example, if the Bible said—which it does not—that Jesus died by crucifixion both at Jerusalem and at Nazareth at the same time, this would be a provable error.
When facing possible contradictions, it is of the highest importance to remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. Some fail to make a distinction between contradiction and difference.
For example, the case of the blind men at Jericho. Matthew relates how two blind men met Jesus, while both Mark and Luke mention only one. However, neither of these statement denies the other, but rather they are complementary.
Suppose you were talking to the mayor of your city and the chief of police at city hall. Later, you see your friend, Jim, and tell him you talked to the mayor today. An hour later, you see your friend, John, and tell him you talked to both the mayor and the chief of police.
When your friends compare notes, there is a seeming contradiction. But there is no contradiction. If you had told Jim that you talked only to the mayor, you would have contradicted that statement by what you told John.
The statements you actually made to Jim and John are different, but not contradictory. Likewise, many biblical statements fall into this category. Many think they find errors in passages that they have not correctly read.
In the Book of Judges we have the account of the death of Sisera. Judges 5:25–27 is supposed to represent Jael as having slain him with her hammer and tent peg while he was drinking milk. Judges 4:21 says she did it while he was asleep. However, a closer reading of Judges 5:25–27 will reveal that it is not stated that he was drinking milk at the moment of impact. Thus, the discrepancy disappears.
Sometimes two passages appear to be contradictory because the translation is not as accurate as it could be. A knowledge of the original languages of the Bible can immediately solve these difficulties, for both Greek and Hebrew—as all languages—have their peculiarities that make them difficult to render into English or any other language.
A classic example concerns the accounts of Paul’s conversion as recorded in the Book of Acts. Acts 9:7 (KJV) states, “The men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” Acts 22:9 (KJV) reads, “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”
These statements seem contradictory, with one saying that Paul’s companions heard a voice, while the other account says that no voice was heard. However, a knowledge of Greek solves this difficulty. As the Greek scholar, W. F. Arndt, explains:
“The construction of the verb ‘to hear’ (akouo) is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7 it is used with the genitive, in Acts 22:9 with the accusative. The construction with the genitive simply expresses that something is being heard or that certain sounds reach the ear; nothing is indicated as to whether a person understands what he hears or not.
“The construction with the accusative, however, describes a hearing which includes mental apprehension of the message spoken. From this it becomes evident that the two passages are not contradictory.
“Acts 22:9 does not deny that the associates of Paul heard certain sounds; it simply declares that they did not hear in such a way as to understand what was being said. Our English idiom in this case simply is not so expressive as the Greek” (Does the Bible Contradict Itself, pp. 13–14.)
It must also be stressed that when a possible explanation is given to a Bible difficulty, it is unreasonable to state that the passage contains a demonstrable error. Some difficulties in Scripture result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances, and do not necessarily involve an error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background.
As historical and archaeological study proceed, new light is being shed on difficult portions of Scripture and many “errors” have disappeared with the new understanding. We need a wait-and-see attitude on some problems.
While all Bible difficulties and discrepancies have not yet been cleared up, it is our firm conviction that as more knowledge is gained of the Bible’s past, these problems will fade away. The biblical conception of God is an all-knowing, all-powerful being who does not contradict Himself, and so we feel that His Word, when properly understood, will not contradict itself.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
W. F. Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?, 5th rev. ed., Concordia Press, 1955
John J. Davis, Biblical Numerology, Bake Book House, 1968
John W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, reprinted, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1977
W. F. Arndt, Bible Difficulties, Concordia Press, St. Louis, 1971
How Can Anyone Believe the New Testament?
There seems to be some type of general consensus among many people that the New Testament documents were written many years after the events took place and hence do not contain reliable information. However, the fact of the matter is that the life of Jesus was written by eyewitnesses or people who recorded firsthand testimony. The writers were all living at the same time these events transpired, and they had personal contact either with the events or with people who witnessed the events.
There is strong internal testimony that the Gospels were written at an early date. The Book of Acts records the missionary activity of the early Church and was written as a sequel by the same person who wrote the Gospel according to Luke. The Book of Acts ends with the apostle Paul being alive in Rome, his death not being recorded.
This would lead us to believe that it was written before he died, since the other major events in his life have been recorded. We have some reason to believe that Paul was put to death in the Neronian persecution of A.D. 64, which means the Book of Acts was composed before this time.
If the Book of Acts was written before A.D. 64, then the Gospel of Luke, to which Acts was a sequel, had to have been composed some time before that, probably in the late fifties or early sixties of the first century. The death of Christ took place around A.D. 30, which would make the composition of Luke at the latest within thirty years of the events.
The early Church generally taught that the first Gospel composed was that of Matthew, which would place us still closer to the time of Christ. This evidence leads us to believe that the first three Gospels were all composed within thirty years from the time these events occurred, a time when unfriendly eyewitnesses were still living who could contradict their testimony if it was not accurate.
This type of evidence has recently led one liberal scholar, John A.T. Robinson, to re-date the New Testament documents much earlier than most modern liberal scholars would have us believe. Robinson has argued in Redating the New Testament that the entire New Testament could have been completed before A.D. 70, which is still well into the eyewitness period.
Facts involved in the issue led W. F. Albright, the great biblical archaeologist, to comment, “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today” (William F. Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands, New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1955, p. 136).
Albright’s A.D. 80 date might be questioned when it comes to the Gospel of John. There is a strong possibility the apostle John’s banishment to Patmos under Domitian was as late as A.D. 95–96 in Revelation 1. There is strong tradition John wrote Revelation there at that time. This is testified to by Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, and Irenaeus (cf. New Testament Survey, p. 391, by Robert Gromacki).
The evidence points out that:
- the documents were not written long after the events but within close proximity to them, and
- they were written by people during the period when many who were acquainted with the facts or were eyewitnesses to them were still living.
The inescapable conclusion is that the New Testament picture of Christ can be trusted.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? rev. ed., Eerdman, 1977
John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament, London, SCM Press, 1976
A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, Oxford, Claredon, 1963
Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method, Concordia, 1977
John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity, Here’s Life Publishers, 1983
Hasn’t the New Testament Changed?
A common misconception is that the text of the Bible has not come down to us the way in which it was originally written. Accusations abound of zealous monks changing the biblical text throughout Church history. This issue is of the utmost importance, since an altered text would do grave damage to the credibility of the story.
As F. F. Bruce says, “The historical ‘once-for-all-ness’ of Christianity which distinguishes it from those religious and philosophical systems, which are not specially related to any particular time, makes the reliability of the writings which purport to record this revelation a question of first-rate importance” (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p. 8).
Fortunately, the problem is not a lack of evidence. There are three different types of evidence that are to be used in evaluating the New Testament text. These are the Greek manuscripts, the various versions in which the New Testament is translated, and the writings of the Church fathers.
The New Testament was originally composed in the Greek language. There are approximately 5,500 copies in existence that contain all or part of the New Testament. Although we do not possess the originals, copies exist from a very early date.
The New Testament was written from about A.D. 50 to A.D. 90. The earliest fragment (p. 52) dates about A.D. 120, with about fifty other fragments dating within 150–200 years from the time of composition.
Two major manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus (A.D. 325) and Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 350), a complete copy, date within 250 years of the time of composition. This may seem like a long time span, but it is minimal compared to most ancient works.
The earliest copy of Caesar’s The Gallic Wars dates 1,000 years after it was written, and the first complete copy of the Odyssey by Homer dates 2,200 years after it was written. When the interval between the writing of the New Testament and earliest copies is compared to other ancient works, the New Testament proves to be much closer to the time of the original.
The 5,500 copies are far and away the most we have of any ancient work. Many ancient writings have been transmitted to us by only a handful of manuscripts (Catullus—three copies; the earliest one is 1,600 years after he wrote; Herodotus—eight copies and 1,300 years).
Not only do the New Testament documents have more manuscript evidence and close time interval between the writing and earliest copy, but they were also translated into several other languages at an early date. Translation of a document into another language was rare in the ancient world, so this is an added plus for the New Testament.
The number of copies of the versions is in excess of 18,000, with possibly as many as 25,000. This is further evidence that helps us establish the New Testament text.
Even if we did not possess the 5,500 Greek manuscripts or the 18,000 copies of the versions, the text of the New Testament could still be reproduced within 250 years from its composition. How? By the writings of the early Christians. In commentaries, letters, etc., these ancient writers quote the biblical text, thus giving us another witness to the text of the New Testament.
John Burgon has catalogued more than 86,000 citations by the early church fathers who cite different parts of the New Testament. Thus we observe that there is so much more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament text than any other comparable writings in the ancient world.
F. F. Bruce makes the following observation: “The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning.”
He also states, “And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt” (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p. 15).
Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, was one of the foremost experts on ancient manuscripts and their authority. Shortly before his death, he wrote this concerning the New Testament:
“The interval between the dates of original composition (of the New Testament) and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (The Bible and Archaeology, pp. 288-89).
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? rev. ed., Eerdmans, 1977
John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity, Here’s Life Publishers, 1983
Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev. ed., Here’s Life Publishers, 1979
Colin Brown (ED), History, Criticism, and Faith, 2nd ed., Inter-Varsity Press, July, 1977
Why Should I Believe Your Interpretation of the Bible?
One of the complaints we often hear is that everyone has a different interpretation of the Bible. Because many people arrive at varying conclusions when they read the Bible, there is supposedly no way to get a consensus. People point to the variety of denominations as an example that there can be no unanimity of agreement between Bible believers.
This idea neglects to take into account certain facts. The great majority of Bible readers have no problem with agreement on the central teachings of the Bible. Even those who do not believe the Bible to be true have no difficulty whatsoever discerning the main message.
Within all branches of Christianity, we find the same basic understanding as to what the Bible teaches. They usually accept the same creeds that assert such basic truths as that God made man in His image, with freedom of choice, and that man chose to rebel against God, thus bringing sin into the world.
God, because of His everlasting love, became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and died a substitutionary death on our behalf, paying the penalty for sin. Mankind can have their relationship restored with God through placing their faith in Jesus Christ.
The message of the Bible is clear for those who will read it and seek to find out its meaning. The problem comes when people bring their preconceived notions to the Bible and attempt to make the Word fit their preconceived ideas. This is not the fault of the Bible, but of the persons who force the Bible to say whatever they want it to say.
As for the matter of the various denominations, it must be stressed that they are not formed because of division over the central teachings of Christianity. The differences are a result of a variety of factors, including cultural, ethnic, and social. When closely compared with one another, the doctrinal differences are not always that crucial.
Some people use this argument as an excuse for not believing in Jesus, but like all others it does not prove to be valid. Jesus made the main issue crystal clear, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, NASB). Often the disagreement is not so much with the interpretation of the Scriptures, but rather with the application.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Baker, 1970
R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, Inter-Varsity Press, 1977
I. Howard Marshall (Ed.), New Testament Interpretation, Eerdmans, 1977
Don’t the Gospels Give Contradictory Reports as to the Time Christ Was Crucified?
One of the so-called contradictions that we hear brought up concerns the disagreement between the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John as to the time of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Mark 15:25 (KJV) states, “and it was the third hour, and they crucified him,” while in John 19:14 (KJV) we read, “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!”
This does indeed present a difficulty, since Mark has Jesus being crucified at the third hour, or nine o’clock in the morning, according to Jewish reckoning, while John places Jesus before Pontius Pilate at about the sixth hour, or noon.
Many say this discrepancy is impossible to reconcile, while others say the difference between the two is a result of a mistake early in the copying process. Neither of these two views is plausible or acceptable.
There are two possible solutions which carry reasonable weight. One solution centers on the word “about” in John’s statement of the time. He reveals that it was not exactly the sixth hour, but only about this time.
Also, Mark’s account does not force us to believe that it was at exactly 9 a.m. when Jesus was put on the cross. This can be observed by understanding the way the New Testament calculates time.
The night was divided into four watches, each consisting of three hours (see Mark 13:35), and the day was to some extent likewise divided into periods. In light of this, we can imagine that Mark’s statement about the “third hour” simply meant that Jesus was crucified sometime during the third hour (between nine o’clock and noon), while John’s statement that the trial ended about noon can mean before noon.
Thus, if the crucifixion took place between nine o’clock and noon, Mark could have placed it at the earlier period (nine o’clock) and John at the later period (noon) without there being any discrepancy.
“If the crucifixion took place midway between nine and twelve o’clock, it was quite natural that one observer should refer it to the former, while another referred it to the latter hour.
“The height of the sun in the sky was the index of the time of the day; while it was easy to know whether it was before or after midday, or whether the sun was more or less than halfway between the zenith and the horizon, finer distinctions of time were not recognized without consulting the sun dials, which were not everywhere at hand” (The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, commenting on John 19:14).
Another possibility is that John is using a different method of reckoning time than Mark. We know for a fact, from Plutarch, Pliny, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius, that the Romans calculated the civil day from midnight to midnight, just as we do today.
Thus John’s “sixth hour” would be six o’clock in the morning. This would make 6 a.m. the time of the last of the trials of Jesus, and of His sentencing, giving adequate time for the events leading up to the crucifixion which, in Mark, was at 9 a.m. or afterward.
There is good evidence that John used this method of computing time. This is not unusual in Scripture to have different authors use different methods of measuring time and determining dates.
In the Old Testament, the writers often would state their important dates by the calendar system of the country they were serving under at that time. For instance, in Jeremiah 25:1 and 46:2, the time was by Palestinian reckoning, and Daniel 1:1 was Babylonian reckoning, the same year.
A New Testament example is John 20:19. The evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead is considered part of that same day. Apparently John is not reckoning by Jewish time. According to the Jewish system of reckoning time, the evening in question would be part of Monday, the first day of the week, since the Jewish day began at sunset.
This possible factor, along with the one previously mentioned, shows that the difficulty in these two passages is not at all impossible to solve, nor does it pose any difficulty that is without a reasonable explanation.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
W.F. Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?, 5th rev. ed., Concordia Press, 1955
The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, Eerdmans, 1951
Aren’t the Genealogies of Jesus Given in Matthew and Luke Contradictory?
A question that has longed perplexed the readers of the New Testament concerns the differing genealogies of Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke 3.
At first glance, the impression is created that both accounts are tracing the family line of Jesus through His earthly father Joseph in which case we would be faced with an obvious contradiction, because Matthew 1:16 indicates Jacob is Joseph’s father, while Luke 3:23 tells us that Heli is the father of Joseph.
A plausible solution to this difficulty is to understand that Matthew is indeed giving us Joseph’s family line, but Luke is tracing the genealogy of Mary. The reason that Mary is not mentioned in Luke 3 is because she has already been designated the mother of Jesus in several instances.
The usual practice of a Jewish genealogy is to give the name of the father, grandfather, etc., of the person in view. Luke follows this pattern, and does not mention the name of Mary, but the name of the legal father. However, Luke is quick to add that Joseph is not, in reality, the father of Jesus, since Jesus had been virgin born (Luke 1:34, 35).
A literal translation of Luke 3:23 would be, “Jesus, when He began, was about thirty years old, being the son of Joseph, as it was thought, of Heli.… ” This does not at all mean that Jesus was the son of Heli, but that Jesus was a descendant, on His mother’s side, of Heli. The word “son” has this wider meaning.
Thus Luke is tracing the roots of Jesus through His mother, Mary, who was a descendant of Heli, etc. Joseph’s name is mentioned, according to the common practice, but he is clearly portrayed as the supposed father of Jesus, and God as the actual father.
The purpose of the two genealogies is to demonstrate that Jesus was in the complete sense a descendant of David. Through His foster father, Joseph, He inherited—by law—the royal line, albeit a deposed line according to Jeremiah 22:28–30. More importantly through His mother He was a flesh and blood descendant of King David through David’s son Nathan. Thus, Jesus had the proper credentials for the throne of David.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Clark Pinnock, “Genealogy of Jesus Christ” in Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1975.
W. F. Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself? 5th rev. ed., Concordia Press, 1955
Does Archaeological Evidence Prove The Bible? How Do Archaeological Discoveries Relate To Events In Scripture?
Archaeology is the study of non-perishable debris, the rubbish man has left behind him that has survived the ravages of time. The initial motivation for digging up ancient civilizations was the desire for buried treasure.
Today, however, the most modern scientific methods are used to recover the study the remains of the past in order to achieve a better understanding of ancient people and their practices. The Middle East, particularly the Palestinian area, is the subject of many archaeological excavations because of its continuous history.
It is important to note that archaeology without history is meaningless. All that archaeology can tell us is a sequence of cultural development, not give us an exact chronology. History gives us the chronology, the events, people, places.
What archaeology has done in the past 100 years is to verify some of the history contained in the Bible. For instance, two of the cities mentioned in the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah, have been for many years considered mythological.
However, recent excavations at Tell Mardikh, now known to be the site of Ebla, uncovered about 15,000 tablets. Some of these have been translated, and mention is made of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Other archaeological verifications include proof that there was a ruler named Belshazzar; the Hittites not only existed but also had a vast empire; King Sargon also ruled; and the matters that touch upon history in the Book of Acts are demonstrably accurate. So far, the findings of archaeology have verified, and in no case disputed, historical points of the biblical record.
While archaeology can verify history and shed light on various passages of the Bible, it is beyond the realm of archaeology to prove the Bible is the Word of God. At present, archaeology is an improving science, with limited data available, but even with its limitations this discipline is very helpful in illustrating that many biblical passages are historically accurate.
One cannot stress too strongly the importance of the Bible giving an accurate historical picture. Christianity is a historical faith which claims that God has broken into history with many mighty acts.
Although the miracles recorded in Scripture cannot be scientifically tested or repeated due to their nature, persons, places, and events can be investigated historically. If the biblical writers were incorrect in their historical picture, serious doubt would then be cast upon their trustworthiness in areas which couldn’t be verified.
Putting it another way, if the authors of Scripture are accurate in their accounts of the things that transpired, it then follows that they cannot be ruled out of court because they happen to mention things out of the ordinary.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Donald J. Wiseman and Edwin M. Yamauchi, Archaeology and the Bible, Zondervan Publishing Company, 1979
Josh McDowell, More Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975, pp. 17-22, 301-322
Joseph Free, Archaeology and Bible History, rev. ed., Wheaton, Scripture Press, 1969
Clifford Wilson, Rocks, Relics and Biblical Reliability, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1977
Clifford Wilson, Ebla Tablets: Secrets of a Forgotten City, San Diego, Master Books (Division CLP), 1979
What is the Apocrypha? Why Aren’t These Books Found in the Protestant Bible?
Today the word apocrypha is synonymous with the fourteen or fifteen books of doubtful authenticity and authority. These writings are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament, but they are contained in some manuscripts of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, which was completed around 250 b.c. in Alexandria, Egypt.
Most of these books were declared to be Scripture by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1545–1563), though the Protestant Church rejects any divine authority attached to them.
Those who attribute divine authority to these books and advocate them as Scripture argue that the writers of the New Testament quote mostly from the Septuagint, which contains the apocrypha. They also cite the fact that some of the Church fathers, notably Iranaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, used the apocrypha in public worship and accepted them as Scripture, as did the Syriac Church in the fourth century.
St. Augustine, who presided over the councils at Hippo and Carthage, concurred with their decision that the books of the apocrypha were inspired. The Greek Church adds its weight to the list of believers in the inspiration of the apocrypha.
The advocates point also to the Dead Sea Scrolls to add further weight to their belief in the apocrypha. Among the fragments at Qumran are copies of some of the apocryphal books written in Hebrew. These have been discovered alongside other Old Testament works.
The case for including the apocrypha as holy Scripture completely breaks down when examined. The New Testament writers may allude to the apocrypha, but they never quote from it as holy Scripture or give the slightest hint that any of the books are inspired. If the Septuagint in the first century contained these books, which is by no means a proven fact, Jesus and His disciples completely ignored them.
Appealing to certain Church fathers as proof of the inspiration of the books is a weak argument, since just as many in the early church, notably Origen, Jerome, and others, denied their alleged inspiration.
The Syriac Church waited until the fourth century a.d. to accept these books as canonical. It is notable that the Peshitta, the Syriac Bible of the second century a.d., did not contain them.
The early Augustine did acknowledge the apocrypha, at least in part. But later, Augustine’s writings clearly reflected a rejection of these books as outside the canon and inferior to the Hebrew scriptures.
The Jewish community also rejected these writings. At the Jewish Council of Jamnia (c. a.d. 90), nine of the books of our Old Testament canon were debated for differing reasons whether they were to be included. Eventually they ruled that only the Hebrew Old Testament books of our present canon were canonical.
Citing the presence of the apocrypha among the Old Testament fragments proves little regarding inspiration, as numerous fragments of other, non-Scriptural documents were also found.
It cannot be overemphasized that the Roman Catholic church itself did not officially declare these books Holy Scripture until 1545-1563 at the Council of Trent.
The acceptance of certain books in the apocrypha as canonical by the Roman Catholic church was to a great extent a reaction to the Protestant Reformation. By canonizing these books, they legitimized their reference to them in doctrinal matters.
The arguments that advocate the scriptural authority of the apocrypha obviously leave a great deal to be desired.
There are some other telling reasons why the apocrypha is rejected by the Protestant church. One of these deals with the unbiblical teaching of these questionable books, such as praying for the dead.
Praying for the deceased, advocated in II Maccabees 12:45–46, is in direct opposition to Luke 16:25, 26 and Hebrews 9:27, among others. The apocrypha also contains the episode which has God assisting Judith in a lie (Judith 9:10, 13).
The apocrypha contains demonstrable errors as well. Tobit was supposedly alive when Jeroboam staged his revolt in 931 b.c. and was still living at the time of the Assyrian captivity (722 b.c.), yet the Book of Tobit says he lived only 158 years (Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11).
Finally, there is no claim in any of these apocryphal books as to divine inspiration. One need only read these works alongside the Bible to see the vast difference.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody Press, 1973
Merrill Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., Chicago, Moody Press, 1971
G. Douglas Young, “The Apocrypha” in Revelation and the Bible, edited by Carl Henry, Baker Book House
Bruce M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha, Oxford Univ. Press, 1957
Are the Two Accounts of the Death of Judas Contradictory?
How would you explain the inaccuracy between Judas hanging himself in Matthew 27:5 and “falling headlong he burst open” in Acts 1:18?
This question of the manner in which Judas died is one with which we are constantly confronted in our travels. Many people point to the apparent discrepancy in the two accounts as an obvious, irreconcilable error.
Some have gone so far as to say that the idea of an inerrant Bible is destroyed by these contradictory accounts. However, this is not the case at all.
Matthew relates that Judas hanged himself, while Peter tells us he fell and was crushed by the impact. The two statements are indeed different, but do they necessarily contradict each other?
Matthew does not say that Judas did not fall; neither does Peter say that Judas did not hang himself. This is not a matter of one person calling something black and the other person calling it white. Both accounts can be true and supplementary.
A possible reconstruction would be this: Judas hanged himself on a tree on the edge of a precipice that overlooked the valley of Hinnom. After he hung there for some time, the limb of the tree snapped or the rope gave way and Judas fell down the ledge, mangling his body in the process.
The fall could have been before or after death as either would fit this explanation. This possibility is entirely natural when the terrain of the valley ofHinnom is examined. From the bottom of the valley, you can see rocky terraces twenty-five to forty feet in height and almost perpendicular.
There are still trees that grow around the ledges and a rocky pavement at the bottom. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that Judas struck one of the jagged rocks on his way down, tearing his body open. It is important to remember that we are not told how long Judas remained hanging from the tree or how advanced was the decomposition of his body before his fall.
Louis Gaussen relates a story of a man who was determined to kill himself. This individual placed himself on the sill of a high window and pointed a pistol at his head. He then pulled the trigger and leaped from the window at the same time.
On the one hand, a person could say that this man took his life by shooting himself, while another could rightly contend he committed suicide by jumping from the tall building. In this case, both are true, as both are true in the case of Matthew’s and Peter’s accounts of the death of Judas. It is merely a situation of different perspectives of the same event.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
W. F. Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself? 5th rev. ed., Concordia Press, 1955
Louis Gaussen, Theopneustia, Gospel Union Pub. Co., 1912
What Are The Dead Sea Scrolls?
In the 1948 printing of his excellent book Our Bible and Ancient Manuscripts, Sir Frederic Kenyon, the textual scholar, had this to say, “There is indeed no probability that we shall find manuscripts of the Hebrew text going back to a period before the formation of the text which we know as Massoretic. We can only arrive at an idea of it by a study of the earliest translations made from it… ” (cited by Pfeiffer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, p. 107).
At the same time his book was being printed, discoveries began in 1947 that would render any further statements like Kenyon’s impossible. Until this time, scholars had only the clay tablets of Babylon and the Egyptian papyri to help them understand background information on the Bible, since no ancient Old Testament manuscripts were known to have survived.
However, all that changed with a discovery of some scrolls in caves along the northwest corner of the Dead Sea. These scrolls brought to the world manuscripts of Old Testament books 1,000 years older than any previously in existence.
There was immediate excitement over the find. Dr. William F. Albright, one of the world’s leading archaeologists, in a letter to John Trever who had an integral part in revealing the find, said:
“My heartiest congratulations on the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times! There is no doubt in my mind that the script is more archaic than that of the Nash papyrus (a very small portion of the Old Testament dated between the second century b.c. and first century a.d.)… I would prefer a date around 100 b.c.…
“What an absolutely incredible find! And there can be happily not the slightest doubt in the world about the genuineness of the manuscript.”
Before the discovery of these scrolls, the oldest complete copy of the Old Testament in Hebrew was Codex Babylonicus Petropalitanus from a.d. 1008, more than 1,400 years after the Old Testament was completed. Fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls now closed the gap by a thousand years and left the world waiting to see if the text had been transmitted accurately. The answer was a resounding yes.
The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated unequivocally the fact that the Jews were faithful in their transcription of biblical manuscripts. This reverence for the Scriptures was summed up long ago by the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus:
“We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew from the day of his birth to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully die for them.
“Time and again ere now, the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theaters, rather than utter a single word against the Laws and the allied documents” (“Flavius Josephus Against Apion,” in Josephus, Complete Works, translated by William Whiston, Grand Rapids, Kregel Pub., 1960, p. 179, 180).
The attitude that Josephus related is borne out by the comparison of the Massoretic text, which is the basis of our Hebrew Bibles, and the scrolls from the Dead Sea. Among the fragments discovered are complete copies or parts of every Old Testament book except Esther, and the variations in the text after a thousand years of copying are minimal. Thus any appeal to the Dead Sea Scrolls as casting doubt on the Bible’s reliability is invalid.
Charles Pfeiffer had this to say along that line, “It should be noted that, while negative higher critical views of the Bible cannot be refuted by a study of the Qumran scrolls (Qumran is the main location in the Dead Sea area where the scrolls were found), there is no evidence from Qumran to justify a major reassessment of the traditional views of the origin of biblical writings.
“The Old Testament books from Qumran are those which we find in our Bibles. Minor textual variants occur as they do in any document which depends on hand copies for multiplication, but the biblical text may be regarded as essentially reliable” (The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker Book House, 1967, p. 114).
Therefore, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls only supports the critical but conservative approach to the Old Testament as scholars of this persuasion uphold upon studying the reliability of the Old Testament books.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
William Sanford La Sor, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1972
J. T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judea, Allenson, 1959
Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective, Collins, 1978
Roland De Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Oxford University Press, 1973
Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, Baker Book House, 1967
Doesn’t Mark Disagree With the Other 3 Gospels About Peter’s Denial of Jesus?
A problem that has perplexed many careful students of the Bible concerns the accounts of the denial of Christ by Simon Peter. Jesus said to Peter, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:34, NASB).
Matthew records the fulfillment of this prediction, “And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:74, 75, KJV).
The problem comes when we read Mark’s version, “and Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Mark 14:30, KJV). The fulfillment reads, concerning Peter, “He went out into the porch” (Mark 14:68, KJV), and later, in verse 72, “the second time the cock crew.”
Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said to him, “Before the cock crowtwice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.” Was it before the cock crowed once or twice that Peter denied Jesus? Luke and John give the same basic account as Matthew, making Mark’s statement seemingly at variance with the other three.
This problem is not as unresolvable as it may seem. It is quite reasonable that Jesus made both statements. He told Peter that he would deny Him before the crowing of the cock, and his denial would occur before it had crowed twice.
What we have, therefore, is Mark recording the story in more detail. This would seem natural since Mark wrote his Gospel under the influence of Simon Peter, and it would be natural for him to further detail this story, seeing that he is one of the main characters.
Thus we have all four evangelists recording that Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of Jesus, with Mark adding further details. A possible reconstruction would be the following: Jesus reveals to Peter that before the cock crows, Peter will deny Him three times.
Peter, as was his way, probably objected loudly to this idea that he would deny his Lord. Jesus then in turn repeats His earlier prediction, along with a further note that before the cock crows twice Peter will deny Him three times. (This harmony fits well with Mark’s account in his Gospel.)
Furthermore, the clause, “Before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:34, NASB), is not contradicted by Mark relating that after Peter had denied Jesus the first time, the cock crowed. The cock crow was the sign that morning was soon to appear, and the phrase, “the time of the cock crow,” is another term for dawn.
When Jesus is referring to the cock crowing twice, he is predicting a crowing of the cock in the middle of the night long before daybreak.
“Observation over a period of 12 years in Jerusalem has confirmed that the cock crows at three distinct times, first about a half hour after midnight, a second time about an hour later, and a third time an hour after the second” (William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, p. 543).
When all the facts are considered, the problem of Peter’s denial is not at all a blatant contradiction, but can be harmonized.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
W. F. Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself? Concordia Press, 5th rev. ed., 1955
Cheney Johnston, The Life of Christ in Stereo, Portland, Western Baptist Press, 1969
Existence of the Jewish People Today is Objective Evidence That the Bible is True. Why?
If anyone wishes to know whether or not the God of the Bible exists, one of the strongest reasons he can examine is the Jewish people. An honest inquiry into this question will provide more than an adequate answer to the truthfulness of the Christian faith.
About 4,000 years ago, God called a man named Abram out of the country where he was living and gave him these promises, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those that bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2, 3, NASB).
“And the Lord said to Abram… Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:14, 15, NASB).
In other words, God promised to Abram (1) a great nation; (2) a great name; (3) being a blessing to all nations; and (4) a land which shall forever belong to his descendants.
Several hundred years after God made these promises to Abram, the great nation had indeed appeared, numbering in the millions. They were about to enter the land of promise when God, through their leader, Moses, gave them some warnings as recorded in Deuteronomy chapters 28-33.
God warned them against disobedience and promised that He would use other nations to remove them from that land if they were unfaithful to Him. He predicted that they would eventually be scattered across the whole earth as strangers in unfamiliar lands and that they would find no rest from their wanderings. However, God in His faithfulness did promise to bring them back into their land.
What has been the verdict of history? The children of Israel, even though they were warned, fell into idolatry and were removed from their homeland. In 606 b.c. King Nebuchadnezzar took the people captive to Babylon and returned in 588–586 b.c., and after a long siege burned the city and the temple.
However, as God promised, He allowed those who desired to return to the land in 537–536 b.c. or after seventy years (Ezra, chapter 1). The removal from their homeland occurred a second time in a.d. 70 when Titus the Roman destroyed the city of Jerusalem and scattered the people.
For almost 1,900 years, the Jews wandered about the earth as strangers who were persecuted from every side. This culminated in the holocaust of World War II, when six million Jews were put to death in the concentration camps.
Yet, against all odds, the state of Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948, and the Jews began to return to their homeland from all points of the compass. This was the second time in their history since becoming a nation that they have come back into their land. Since 1948 they have survived some terrible conflicts, including the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Holy Day War.
Through all this, the nation neither perished nor lost its national identity. History has demonstrated that any people who leave their homeland will, after about five generations, lose their national identity by being absorbed into the new culture, but the Jews remained a distinct entity.
Not only have they survived, but the nations that persecuted them—Moab, Ammon, Edom, Philistia, and many others—have either been destroyed or completely lost their individual identity.
Have you ever heard of a Swedish Moabite? A Russian Philistine? A German Edomite? An American Ammonite? No! These people have been totally absorbed into other cultures and races.
However, have you ever heard of a Swedish Jew? A Russian Jew? A German Jew? An American Jew? Yes! As prophesied, they have not lost their identity.
One of us was once attending a debate over the person of Jesus Christ in which a rabbi was participating. During the question period, the rabbi was asked why he did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. “I don’t believe in the miracles of the New Testament,” he replied.
Some sharp student immediately asked the rabbi why he rejected the New Testament miracles but accepted the Old Testament miracles, and on what basis he made the distinction. Without batting an eye, the rabbi replied, “That’s easy; I don’t believe in the Old Testament miracles either. I think they are all myths.” It’s hard to believe he could make a statement like that, considering the fact that his survival, as a Jew, is one of the greatest miracles in all history.
When the two of us were in Israel in 1976, filming the movie, “More Than a Carpenter,” we were invited to meet with a high official of the Israeli government. One of the questions we asked him concerned the survival of his nation.
How did they manage to survive being twice removed from their homeland, the second time almost 1,900 years; survive the holocaust when one out of every three Jews living was put to death, and stave off the attacks of the more than 100 million members of the Arab world in both 1967 and 1973?
Was this a result of their nation being so resourceful or was it because some divine hand was watching over His people? He looked up at the two of us and said, “Although most of the people in my country today would claim to be atheists, don’t you believe it. I think that all of us know deep down inside that some force greater than us has been protecting this nation.”
He added that after the recent recapturing of Jerusalem by the Jews, there were at one time about a million people either at or on their way to the wailing wall to give thanks to God.
The God of the Bible is faithful. He has demonstrated both His existence and faithfulness by His dealing with national Israel as an objective sign to the world, testifying to His existence and verifying His promises.
ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES
Josh McDowell, The 7-Point Whammy (tape), Liberation Tapes, P.O. Box 6044, Lubbock, Texas 79413
Don Stewart, Reasons Why I Believe (tape), The Word for Today, P.O. Box 8000, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626