By William Lane Craig
Five reasons are presented for thinking that critics who accept the historical credibility of the gospel accounts of Jesus do not bear a special burden of proof relative to more skeptical critics. Then the historicity of a few specific aspects of Jesus’ life are addressed, including his radical self-concept as the divine Son of God, his role as a miracle-worker, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead.
“Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: The Evidence for Jesus.” Faith and Mission 15 (1998): 16-26.
Last time we saw that the New Testament documents are the most important historical sources for Jesus of Nazareth. The so-called apocryphal gospels are forgeries which came much later and are for the most part elaborations of the four New Testament gospels.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t sources outside the Bible which refer to Jesus. There are. He’s referred to in pagan, Jewish, and Christian writings outside the New Testament. The Jewish historian Josephus is especially interesting. In the pages of his works you can read about New Testament people like the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, King Herod, John the Baptist, even Jesus himself and his brother James. There have also been interesting archaeological discoveries as well bearing on the gospels. For example, in 1961 the first archaeological evidence concerning Pilate was unearthed in the town of Caesarea; it was an inscription of a dedication bearing Pilate’s name and title. Even more recently, in 1990 the actual tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over Jesus’s trial, was discovered south of Jerusalem. Indeed, the tomb beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is in all probability the tomb in which Jesus himself was laid by Joseph of Arimathea following the crucifixion. According to Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar at Emory University,
Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate and continued to have followers after his death.1
Still, if we want any details about Jesus’s life and teachings, we must turn to the New Testament. Extra-biblical sources confirm what we read in the gospels, but they don’t really tell us anything new. The question then must be: how historically reliable are the New Testament documents?
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By Fred Reed
I was about fifteen when I began to think about evolution. I was then just discovering the sciences systematically, and took them as what they offered themselves to be, a realm of reason and dispassionate regard for truth. There was a hard-edged clarity to them that I liked. You got real answers. Since evolution depended on such sciences as chemistry, I regarded it as also being a science.
The question of the origin of life interested me. The evolutionary explanations that I encountered in textbooks of biology ran to, “In primeval seas, evaporation concentrated dissolved compounds in a pore in a rock, a skim formed a membrane, and life began its immense journey.” I saw no reason to doubt this. If it hadn’t been true, scientists would not have said that it was.
Remember, I was fifteen.
In those days I read Scientific American and New Scientist, the latter then still being thoughtfully written in good English. I noticed that not infrequently they offered differing speculation as to the origin of life. The belief in the instrumentality of chemical accident was constant, but the nature of the primeval soup changed to fit varying attempts at explanation.
For a while, life was thought to have come about on clay in shallow water in seas of a particular composition, later in tidal pools with another chemical solution, then in the open ocean in another solution. This continues. Recently, geothermal vents have been offered as the home of the first life. Today (Feb 24, 2005) on the BBC website, I learn that life evolved below the oceanic floor. (“There is evidence that life evolved in the deep sediments,” co-author John Parkes, of Cardiff University, UK, told the BBC News website. Link at bottom.)
The frequent shifting of ground bothered me. If we knew how life began, why did we have so many prospective mechanisms, none of which really worked? Evolution began to look like a theory in search of a soup. Forty-five years later, it still does.
I was probably in college when I found myself asking what seemed to me straightforward questions about the chemical origin of life. In particular:
1. Life was said to have begun by chemical inadvertence in the early seas. Did we, I wondered, really know of what those early seas consisted? Know, not suspect, hope, theorize, divine, speculate, or really, really wish.
The answer was, and is, “no.” We have no dried residue, no remaining pools, and the science of planetogenesis isn’t nearly good enough to provide a quantitative analysis.
2. Had the creation of a living cell been replicated in the laboratory?
No, it hadn’t, and hasn’t. (Note 1)
3. Did we know what conditions were necessary for a cell to come about?
No, we didn’t, and don’t.
4. Could it be shown to be mathematically probable that a cell would form, given any soup whatever?
No, it couldn’t, and can’t. (At least not without cooking the assumptions.) (Note 2)
Well, I thought, sophomore chemistry major that I then was: If we don’t know what conditions existed, or what conditions are necessary, and can’t reproduce the event in the laboratory, and can’t show it to be statistically probable – why are we so very sure that it happened? Would you hang a man on such evidence?
My point was not that evolutionists were necessarily wrong. I simply didn’t see the evidence. While they couldn’t demonstrate that life had begun by chemical accident, I couldn’t show that it hadn’t. An inability to prove that something is statistically possible is not the same as proving that it is not possible. Not being able to reproduce an event in the laboratory does not establish that it didn’t happen in nature. Etc.
I just didn’t know how life came about. I still don’t. Neither do evolutionists.
What Distinguishes Evolution from Other Science?
Early on, I noticed three things about evolution that differentiated it from other sciences (or, I could almost say, from science). First, plausibility was accepted as being equivalent to evidence. (And of course the less you know, the greater the number of things that are plausible, because there are fewer facts to get in the way.) Again and again evolutionists assumed that suggesting how something might have happened was equivalent to establishing how it had happened. Asking them for evidence usually aroused annoyance and sometimes, if persisted in, hostility.
As an example, it seems plausible to evolutionists that life arose by chemical misadventure. By this they mean (I think) that they cannot imagine how else it might have come about. (Neither can I. Does one accept a poor explanation because unable to think of a good one?) This accidental-life theory, being somewhat plausible, is therefore accepted without the usual standards of science, such as reproducibility or rigorous demonstration of mathematical feasibility. Putting it otherwise, evolutionists are too attached to their ideas to be able to question them.
Consequently, discussion often turns to vague and murky assertion. Starlings are said to have evolved to be the color of dirt so that hawks can’t see them to eat them. This is plausible. But guacamayos and cockatoos are gaudy enough to be seen from low-earth orbit. Is there a contradiction here? No, say evolutionists. Guacamayos are gaudy so they can find each other to mate. Always there is the pat explanation. But starlings seem to mate with great success, though invisible. If you have heard a guacamayo shriek, you can hardly doubt that another one could easily find it. Enthusiasts of evolution then told me that guacamayos were at the top of their food chain, and didn’t have predators. Or else that the predators were colorblind. On and on it goes. But…is any of this established?
Click here for the full article and footnotes.
Question: What is the meaning of life?
Answer: What is the meaning of life? How can purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life be found? How can something of lasting significance be achieved? So many people have never stopped to consider these important questions. They look back years later and wonder why their relationships have fallen apart and why they feel so empty, even though they may have achieved what they set out to accomplish. An athlete who had reached the pinnacle of his sport was once asked what he wished someone would have told him when he first started playing his sport. He replied, “I wish that someone would have told me that when you reach the top, there’s nothing there.” Many goals reveal their emptiness only after years have been wasted in their pursuit.
In our humanistic culture, people pursue many things, thinking that in them they will find meaning. Some of these pursuits include business success, wealth, good relationships, sex, entertainment, and doing good to others. People have testified that while they achieved their goals of wealth, relationships, and pleasure, there was still a deep void inside, a feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill.
The author of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes describes this feeling when he says, “Meaningless! Meaningless! …Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment available. He said at one point that anything his heart wanted, he pursued. And yet he summed up “life under the sun”—life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—is meaningless. Why is there such a void? Because God created us for something beyond what we can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our hearts we are aware that the “here-and-now” is not all that there is.
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we find that God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26). This means that we are more like God than we are like anything else (any other life form). We also find that before mankind fell into sin and the curse of sin came upon the earth, the following things were true: 1) God made man a social creature (Genesis 2:18-25); 2) God gave man work (Genesis 2:15); 3) God had fellowship with man (Genesis 3:8); and 4) God gave man dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26). What is the significance of these things? God intended for each of these to add to our fulfillment in life, but all of these (especially man’s fellowship with God) were adversely affected by man’s fall into sin and the resulting curse upon the earth (Genesis 3).
In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, God reveals that He will destroy this present earth and heavens and usher in the eternal state by creating a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, He will restore full fellowship with redeemed mankind, while the unredeemed will have been judged unworthy and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). The curse of sin will be done away with; there will be no more sin, sorrow, sickness, death, or pain (Revelation 21:4). God will dwell with them, and they shall be His sons (Revelation 21:7). Thus, we come full circle: God created us to have fellowship with Him, man sinned, breaking that fellowship, God restores that fellowship fully in the eternal state. To go through life achieving everything only to die separated from God for eternity would be worse than futile! But God has made a way to not only make eternal bliss possible (Luke 23:43) but also life on earth satisfying and meaningful. How is this eternal bliss and “heaven on earth” obtained?
Meaning of life restored through Jesus Christ
Real meaning in life, both now and in eternity, is found in the restoration of the relationship with God that was lost with Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. That relationship with God is only possible through His Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 1:12; 14:6). Eternal life is gained when we repent of our sin (no longer want to continue in it) and Christ changes us, making of us new creations, and we rely on Jesus Christ as Savior.
Real meaning in life is not found only in accepting Jesus as Savior, as wonderful as that is. Rather, real meaning in life is when one begins to follow Christ as His disciple, learning of Him, spending time with Him in His Word, communing with Him in prayer, and in walking with Him in obedience to His commands. If you are not a Christian (or perhaps a new believer), you might be saying to yourself, “That does not sound very exciting or fulfilling to me!” But Jesus made the following statements:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
What all of these verses are saying is that we have a choice. We can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or we can choose to pursue God and His will for our lives with a whole heart, which will result in living life to the full, having the desires of our hearts met, and finding contentment and satisfaction. This is so because our Creator loves us and desires the best for us (not necessarily the easiest life, but the most fulfilling).
The Christian life can be compared to the choice of whether to purchase the expensive seats at a sporting event that are close to the action, or pay less and watch the game from a distance. Watching God work “from the front row” is what we should choose but, sadly, is not what most people choose. Watching God work firsthand is for whole-hearted disciples of Christ who have truly stopped pursuing their own desires to pursue instead God’s purposes. They have paid the price (complete surrender to Christ and His will); they are experiencing life to its fullest; and they can face themselves, their fellow man, and their Maker with no regrets. Have you paid the price? Are you willing to? If so, you will not hunger after meaning or purpose again.
Recommended Resource: Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot, by Max Lucado.
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople (c. 400 AD)
Hat tip to ChristianHistory.net
LIVING LIFE APART FROM GOD IS FUTILE
By John MacArthur
A commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:13
The Book of Ecclesiastes is greatly misunderstood. It is a difficult book to read simply because it is hard to understand. Everything in it appears wrong and as if it doesn’t fit with the rest of Scripture. But it is part of the Old Testament wisdom literature because it is a statement of human wisdom. Ecclesiastes tells us how man perceives his world, God, and the realities of life. Most scholars believe Ecclesiastes was penned by Solomon. They debate whether he wrote it before he was a true believer or after. He may have written it in retrospect, or he may have penned it sometime before he had a full understanding of the life-changing truth of God.
Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book because it reveals the folly, uselessness, senselessness, and frustration of human wisdom—that which James calls “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15). In Ecclesiastes 1:16 Solomon says to himself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me.” That verse shows me that when God initially gave Solomon wisdom, He gave it to him on a human level. He gave Solomon wisdom to make successful decisions and judgments as king. But although divine wisdom was available to him, I believe Solomon opted for human wisdom the greater portion of his life. And that wisdom was never able to answer his ultimate questions.
The sum of Solomon’s perspective on human wisdom is in Ecclesiastes 4:23:
“I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed.” That’s a death wish and is the logical end of worldly wisdom—futility.
Fortunately, Solomon did eventually embrace true wisdom. At the end of his book, he said, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (12:13). What then can satisfy your heart and make life worth living? The wisdom of God alone.
Suggestions for Prayer:
Ask God to help you follow His ways for a blessed and fulfilled life.
For Further Study:
Read Proverbs 3:13-26, noting how the benefits of true wisdom are in contrast to what Solomon experienced.
Click here for the original post.
Question: What is the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible?
Answer: The Skeptics Annotated Bible is a website dedicated to pointing out all of the supposed errors, contradictions, and discrepancies in the Bible. The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible divides the supposed errors into the following categories: injustice, absurdity, cruelty and violence, intolerance, contradictions, family values, women, good stuff, science and history, prophecy, sex, language, interpretation, and homosexuality. It is not the purpose of this article to refute every issue the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible raises (there are over 6,000).
It is the purpose of this article to point out the fallacies behind the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. First, we commend the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible for giving the Good Stuff section. It is rare for an atheist / anti-Christian website to say anything positive about the Bible and/or Christianity. At the same time, the “Good Stuff” section is the only place the Bible is treated with any respect or logic. In regard to the “contradictions” and “absurdities” sections, please read our article on Bible errors, contradictions, and discrepancies. The sections on homosexuality and tolerance can be answered simply and concisely. Speaking the truth and not tolerating sin is the most loving thing we can do. Ignoring evil and promoting ungodliness may be seen as tolerant, but it does not result in anything truly positive.
The sections on “injustice,” “family values,” “cruelty and violence,” and “women” fail to account for an important concept—the Bible was written to reform our souls, not our societies. While the teachings of the Bible were revolutionary in the protection they gave to slaves, women, etc., some of the commands and statements seem brutal and unjust to our modern minds. God “breathed out” the Bible in an ancient culture. God approached the sins of man from the “inside out.” If a man comes into a relationship with God, God will reform his heart, teach him to love, to respect, to forgive. Yes, some of the laws in the Bible seem brutal and primitive, but if a person had a genuine relationship with God, the laws would not even be necessary.
The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible’s section on “sex” does nothing but point out all the various verses in the Bible that mention sex. Why is this section even necessary? Yes, the Bible talks about sex. Sex is, obviously, an important aspect of life in this world. It is normal, therefore, for the Bible to address human sexuality. The “interpretations” section is filled with difficult verses and passages. However, these difficulties are answered in detail in nearly every major Bible commentary. The existence of a difficult passage is meaningless in verifying or rejecting the inspiration of the Bible.
Again, if you have questions about the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible or have found something in the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible that you cannot explain, please feel free to ask us, and we will be happy to provide a personalized answer.
Recommended Resource: The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Geisler & Howe.
By Hugh Ross, Ph.D.
Losing stuff seems to be part of life. For me, it’s the phone numbers I write down. Even though I write down important phone numbers in at least two different places, I still can’t find them when I need them.
Losing stuff is also part of the lives of all stars and galaxies. The difference is that such losses are good things. In fact, the timings and the rates of the losses must be fine-tuned for advanced life to ever be possible in the universe, thus providing additional evidence for the anthropic principle. (This principle states that the universe and its constituent bodies were designed in advance for the benefit of the human species.)
In a recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal, a team of four American astronomers, headed up by Xinyu Dai, established a strong inverse correlation between the depth of a galaxy or galaxy cluster’s gravitational potential well and the extent of baryon loss in the respective galaxy or cluster.1 The gravitational potential well depth refers to the strength of the gravitational attraction exerted by a galaxy cluster or a galaxy and is proportional to the mass density of the cluster or galaxy. Baryons are particles made up of three quarks and include protons, neutrons, antiprotons, and antineutrons.
Click here for the full article.
By Fazale Rana
Some people claim that taking serotonin supplements can improve a person’s health and well being. Recent research by scientists from Harvard and Cambridge suggests that this compound may also improve moral judgment.1
If this discovery turns out to be the case, it raises some very provocative questions. Is human morality nothing more than biochemical and physiological processes in the brain? If so, does that mean that human beings are merely physical entities with no soul? Or is there a way to understand this work from the perspective of the Christian worldview?
Serotonin’s Impact on Moral Judgment
Work performed prior to this study had suggested that serotonin may have some influence on prosocial behaviors and, consequently, moral decision-making. For example, the serotonin system innervates the areas of the brain shown to be involved in moral judgment and behavior. Other studies have demonstrated that enhanced serotonin function is associated with prosocial behavior while impaired function is associated with aggressive, antisocial behavior.
Based on this earlier research, neuroscientists speculate that serotonin’s positive effect on social interactions is due to one of two mechanisms:
- Control of violent impulses and emotional reactions toward others
- Increased aversion to doing harm to others
To further evaluate the role of serotonin in prosocial behavior and to distinguish between these two possible mechanisms, researchers from Harvard and Cambridge used the compound citalopram to alter serotonin levels in the brains of volunteers. (Citalopram inhibits the uptake of serotonin in the synapse between nerve cells, thus, prolonging serotonin’s effects during nerve transmission.)
Click here for the full article.
By Candace Jackson
On a daily basis, I hear that Christians are judgmental and are not at all tolerant. But I think that the problem is largely a result of a misunderstanding of what it means to be tolerant in our culture. To clarify terms, philosophers distinguish classical tolerance from a modern understanding of tolerance by stating that according to a classical view of tolerance one should accept the differing views of other people and treat them fairly no matter what. Therefore, a person who holds to this classical view will continue to respect, uphold the dignity of, and value the other person no matter what he or she believes, understanding that each person has a right to argue or propagate his or her own ideas. However, the modern view of tolerance states that each person should always accept others (their ideas, arguments, beliefs, morals, and behaviors) as equally valid as anyone else’s, to the point that any judgment will be interpreted as intolerance. The latter is problematic for the following reason: the classical view of tolerance continues to uphold the value and dignity of the person, while the modern view seeks to uphold the value and accuracy of each person’s beliefs.
All people are created equal and have immeasurable value, but it would be foolish to say the same is true of all people’s ideas. Can we with all sincerity equate Jeffrey Dahmer’s beliefs about the value of human life to Martin Luther King, Jr’s or Gandhi’s beliefs? You may be thinking that if someone’s beliefs are that important to them then if you disagree with their beliefs you’re also devaluing them as a person. But the classical view (and biblical view) states that no matter what a person believes, feels, or thinks you are to love and respect him since he is made in the image of God. Notice that I did not say you have to agree with him, but that you are challenged (because you’re obligated) to not only tolerate him, but to love him. So, if calling Hitler’s or Dahmer’s actions wrong makes you judgmental or intolerant by the modern view of tolerance’s standards, then wear your judgmental badge proudly. But know that it is by no means wrong to make a judgment regarding someone’s behavior. I have to follow up that sentence with the statement that it is important to note the attitude of one’s heart and perspective when they comment on another person; if you continually speak as though you are flawless and you take pleasure in pointing the finger to show how god-like you are, then ironically you’ve just demonstrated that you’re not God-like at all. The attitude of your heart should be one of humility and compassion.We all struggle with the temptation to be self-righteous, which is why we must hold each other accountable to maintaining an attitude of humility (read Philippians chapter 2 for the best example of humility known to man).
Click here for the full article.
WHY SHOULD I BELIEVE IN HELL?
By Hank Hanegraaff
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2 NIV).
The horrors of hell are such that they cause us instinctively to recoil in disbelief and doubt; yet, there are compelling reasons that should cause us to erase such doubt from our minds. First, Christ, the Creator of the cosmos, clearly communicated hell’s irrevocable reality. In fact, He spent more time talking about hell than He did about heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), He explicitly warned His followers more than a half-dozen times about the dangers that lead to hell. In the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), He repeatedly told His followers of the judgment to come. In His famous story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16), He graphically portrayed the finality of eternal torment in hell.
Furthermore, the concept of choice demands that we believe in hell. Without hell, there is no choice. Without choice, heaven would not be heaven; heaven would be hell. The righteous would inherit a counterfeit heaven, and the unrighteous would be incarcerated in heaven against their wills, which would be a torture worse than hell. Imagine spending a lifetime voluntarily distanced from God only to find yourself involuntarily dragged into His loving presence for all eternity. The alternative to hell would be worse than hell itself in that humans made in the image of God would be stripped of freedom and forced to worship God against their will.
Finally, common sense regarding justice dictates that there must be a hell. Without hell, the wrongs of Hitler’s Holocaust would never be righted. Justice would be impugned if, after slaughtering six million Jews, Hitler merely died in the arms of his mistress with no eternal consequences. The ancients knew better than to think such a thing. David knew that it might seem for a time as though the wicked prosper despite their evil deeds, but, in the end, justice will be served. We may wish to think that no one will go to hell, but common sense regarding justice precludes that possibility.
Click here for the full article.