Category Archives: Theology

And Jesus Showed God’s Love by Guiding Sick, Injured, Poor People to Purchase “Free Market” Care

Portion of terra cotta panel at a former hospital in Liverpool. HistoricEngland.org.

Now, I hope you, dear reader, know that the title to this essay is absurd.i  The current state of affairs of our nation’s “health care” is problematic, and may soon get much worse in terms of how we (so-called Christians) treat people and in comparison to how other “westernized” countries of means, who seem to be less “Christian” than the U.S., treat theirs. I’m not just talking socialized medicine necessarily, but costs relative to care generally; they obviously consider what is going on with health care deliverers and regulate things appropriately to keep costs far lower than what you find in the states (while maintaining better health outcomes, too).ii  Why are these other countries more astute and caring than us in this “great and smart nation”? Who or what we serve is the difference. Our country serves Money (behind the guise of Freedom).iii

Of course our current system is broken, and virtually everyone agrees that it needs at least some fixes. But those who justify repealing “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) are not dealing with the core issues that are driving costs, while also ignoring a not-so-distant past when a great many persons didn’t have insurance. Ignoring all the heartache, deaths, bankruptcies, and suicides from that time, and the pre-ACA steep rises in premiums as well. Repealing Obamacare and throwing money at the states—much less money over the course of years—will not at all solve the basis for the wildly high costs of health care in America (which are still rapidly rising). The ACA contributed to this problem, but it’s not at all the single cause. The GOP talked of draining the swamp, but they are mired as deep into it as ever, as far as I can see; they couldn’t even include in their proposed legislation one of their long-term pet ideas, to open up insurance competition across state lines.iv

As it stands right now, the very very poor will still be eligible for Medicaid in the near future.  A number of poor that are in expanded Medicaid states will lose out relatively quickly (and I am going to say that it was cruel to leave people uncovered simply because they lived in a geography of no such expanded coverage), including the elderly in assisted living environments. I know that there’re plenty of people out there who don’t want to pay for much medicaid because they think people receiving it are lazy and taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen hearts-of-stone arguments regarding this, and it is not up to Christians to worry and judge so much about deceivers (and a lot of fraud is perpetuated by doctors, not patients). Deceivers will be found out and God will deal with them in His own way; our role is to lead people to Christ, even deceivers, if possible. We’re supposed to be the lights in a dark place here, not the judge.

The fact that there may be deceivers has nothing to do with helping the sick, who are often very poor because of their illness. It makes zero sense to push people who are very ill to work harder or at all in order to pay for health insurance: how can they work, and who would hire them? A lot of people get fired when they become sick—are you going to make their employer hire them back?  To even suggest this requirement is a hypocrisy and promoting a deception.  I bet a lot of these same people would nurse a sick or injured dog and not think anything of it. The dog would be getting all that care and attention for free, yet they insult and kick around those beings made in God’s image.  “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9, NIV).

But What Did Christ Do and Teach about Sickness and health?

Whatever it was He did and taught, that’s what we’re to do (or at least try!). The very first hospitals that freely treated poor patients were Christian, because the followers that started them received Christ’s teaching and tried to follow His example.  What was Christ’s example?  Well, get this.  It is estimated that He spent 80% of His time healing people.v  He met people where they were at in their need in order to show that God was a God who was there for them, not some aloof diety.  If you haven’t gotten this from reading the New Testament, read it again more carefully.  There’s a difference between how we perceive what is written regarding what was said and what was done. Seeing as the disciples didn’t have computers and cheap paper, you have to think about what was going on based on the few words chosen.vi  “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV). (I love John. Just think what a bold statement that was for his time period.) So, I think I could write a book on Jesus’ and his disciples’ works of healing, but I’m going to limit the examples to two very brief ones here; two that I think provide much insight into God’s will for our thinking in this matter (and the author of both, Luke, was a physician).

The Good Samaritan

(The full and short story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.) In this story, a “faithful” person wanted to justify himself, we’re told (that is, justify his actions or lack thereof), asking Jesus to define “neighbor” (the person who he had to love as himself).  So, Jesus told the little story commonly known as The Good Samaritan.  In it, two spiritually high-level Jews purposefully ignored a half-dead man lying in the road.  The man was there after suffering violence. But a man who the Jews would have despised (if not really hated), a Samaritan, stopped and helped the stricken stranger.  (Samaritans were considered idolatrous half-breeds who accepted only Moses’ scriptures and ignored the rest).  He not only treated the man’s wounds as best he could right there in the road, but took him to an inn and paid for his expenses, including whatever additional treatment the inn keeper could provide.  So Jesus’ (offensive) answer to the question was that the stranger in need who you happen to come across is your “neighbor” and worthy of your assistance/love. Perhaps God puts such situations in front of us, expecting us to provide His blessings–to be His hands.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

(The full and short story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.)  Another story Jesus told was that of an unnamed “rich man” and a poor diseased beggar named Lazarus.  Lazarus suffered greatly, and his situation hadn’t changed after someone laid him at the rich man’s gate. The rich man lived in luxury his whole life, never lifted a finger to help Lazarus (even with him at his gate!), and ends up in hell upon death.  Sometime later, Lazarus himself died and was carried to Abraham’s bosom (without getting into a big theological discussion, just say heaven).  Lazarus, although he suffered on earth and might have seemed cursed to some, was in fact blessed by God; God knew his name and in the end Lazarus found rest and peace. The story continues with Abraham telling the rich man, who tries to intercede on behalf of his still living brothers, that his brothers (like himself) have not listened to Moses and the prophets. Therefore, neither will they listen to someone who was raised from the dead. They have no faith in anything or anyone else.  All in life is for self, and they are so focused on that that they can’t see anything else.

The poor and diseased are at our gate, the gate of the wealthy and powerful United States, and we only hear of ways to cut back funds for them in order to help those better off.  We don’t hear talk about greed, the high value of medical industry stocks that benefit government employee pensions, the extreme amount of money the medical industry puts into lobbying, advertising, and other types of influence, etc.  Costs do need to come down for everyone, but not at the expense of the poor, disabled, diseased, and elderly.  Price reductions need to come down by appropriate and humane means that deal with greed, corruption, and catering to the wealthy.  And our church leaders need to say so out loud, to let those in need see that God is there, and loving, and not an aloof diety.  God isn’t dead, but what of the visible church?

Notes

i  Setting aside for a moment the fantasy of a truly “free market” economy, such a market would be for choosing which potato chip brand you want to buy, not whether or not you or your child lives or dies. Markets have nothing at all do with the human need to get life sustaining help from one’s fellow man. It’s too weird that this kind of thing even needs to be said . . . that there’s this context in America where the idea of needing to say it had been formed. I don’t see how we can move further away from God than we are now.
ii  See 2015 International Profile on Health Care Systems (at the time of this writing, the most up-to-date report) and The U.S. Health Care System: An International Perspective (2016).
iii  And why don’t we have preachers out there preaching on greed and the root of evil, money (1 Timothy 6:10, but many more verses are needed for the understanding of greed and its consequences)? Jesus was radical. When He walked the earth, people knew of Him. It is really no wonder the church in America is so weak, as it just doesn’t seem to even exist.  Jesus knew what people’s needs and concerns were, he was anti-establishment (anti-world system) and the book of James is very much so as well.  I think people know this inherently; they know if God is speaking to them and their needs, and they’re not seeing it come out of today’s Christian institutions. Preachers aren’t publicly denouncing financial scandals or a living wage being denied to laborers.
iv  Besides the sources found in note ii regarding costs, here are bipartisan recommendations from persons well-experienced in the system: JAMA Forum: Reforming Medicaid
v  Healing is a Major Aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
vi  You have to use your imagination, as the common expression goes, but some Christians fear this type of mental exercise. Many only use the scriptures as a moral rule book, and they like to throw that rule book at people. Right living comes after receiving God’s spirit, not before. In any case, a dashed reading through the scriptures will not yield the insights into God’s will that we need for living His way.

Advertisements

Is Your Bible Missing Verses?

Hey hey.  Blessed Sunday everyone.  I know I haven’t posted in forever–I’ve been using my (limited) writing energy at my “work-related” site, phahpa.org (trying to catch up with regional and state history, preservation laws, doing projects, etc . . . ).  But I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.  That is, the graphic below . . . but as  I’m not graphics-program savvy, I did it in Word, printed it, then scanned it (not the highest quality I wished) in order to put it on here.   The quality actually came out pretty well, considering, and if you click on it you can view it in its large format.  I hope you like this and share it with those who might seem to need it (the title is sarcastic, yet)–even atheists who cherry pick or only actually read other atheists who cherry pick.   It’d just be nice if you cited the source and creator (this site).

Which Bible are You Reading?
By Vicki Priest

 

Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.
Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.

That question, “Do Muslims worship the same God as Christians?” is not a new one, but has been in the Christian news (at least) recently over the controversial suspension of a black female professor at Wheaton College.  I haven’t written specifically on this topic, though I touched upon it in Does DA: Inquisition’s Imshael have anything to do with Ishmael and Islam?  In that article I point out how Islam rejects God’s plan for humanity, as provided by God in the Old Testament through Isaac, and openly celebrates this rejection through their holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  How can it be claimed that Muslims worship the same God when they reject biblical scriptures and even God’s plan for humanity?  As any bible student knows, God’s plan is interspersed throughout all of the Old and New Testaments, so to reject it and then claim you worship the same God makes no sense.  Yet the Wheaton professor, besides showing solidarity with the repression of women (which is not biblical), claims that Muslims worship the same God as Christians.

Continue reading Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Person of Interest’s God/Anti-God Allegory in Season 4 (Part 2 of 2)

Person of Interest, Ep 21, a demand
The Machine gives in to a demand made by its proxy. Similarly, God cares for each one of us and hears our fervent prayers. “Samaritan” only values its agents for what they can do for it and is only concerned with unquestioning humans (others are killed, not saved).

Part 1 of “Person of Interest’s God/Anti-God Allegory in Season 4” covers some show background, a description of the series, and an overview of the God and Anti-God allegory found in this latest season (and developed in season 3).  Please see that part for those topics.  This part includes an answer to the questionable name given to the antagonist, “Samaritan.”  It also includes a section on the biblical verses related to the show’s allegory.

Why “Samaritan”?

It seems really odd that the metaphor for God is “The Machine” and the anti-God is “Samaritan.”  We normally think of “the machine,” when the expression is used, as something cold, mechanical, and all that is opposite of human concern and empathy; as such, the result of its machinations tend to be against our best interests.  I don’t fully know why the creator of this series chose name The Machine for this role, but there are two considerations I can immediately think of.  One, the AI’s creator, Finch, has doubts about his creation and chooses not to give it any other name.  Two, since the metaphor grows to allegory in seasons 3 and 4, perhaps the show’s creator and writers didn’t have the it all fully conceived earlier on.  The first two seasons were much more about solving crimes before they happened, and corruption in law enforcement and government, than about massive dueling AIs.

Continue reading Person of Interest’s God/Anti-God Allegory in Season 4 (Part 2 of 2)

Person of Interest’s God/Anti-God Allegory in Season 4 (Part 1 of 2)

Person of Interest, from opening

As usual–for anyone that reads my media reviews, that is–I’m writing about something that is not new.  We don’t have cable or satellite, but in the case of the show Person of Interest, we couldn’t even get the channel in on our TV that ran it (CBS).  So, I finally was able to watch the latest season, the 4th, on DVD (it’s now available on Netflix, too), and will share my “God is working in the world” observations with you.

After not expecting much, really, from a show in its 4th season (the writing tends to go south in aging shows), I was pleasantly surprised by this season’s quality and freshness.  That basic laud can be considered a recommendation, if you will, but I’m not here to write a review.[1]   I’m here to discuss the show’s underlying God/Anti-God story, which seems more obvious than ever this 4th season.  I’m just happy to see that there are still stories being presented in the US that don’t altogether ignore the Judeo-Christian God.  Of course, the concepts brought up in Person of Interest (PoL)may be too subtle or esoteric for most of the population to understand in any other sense than a generalized “good vs evil.”

Continue reading Person of Interest’s God/Anti-God Allegory in Season 4 (Part 1 of 2)

New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

Happy In Church

This is the second part of New Testament Views of Women: 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Due to the length of this study, I decided to divide it up. Please see Part 1 here [forthcoming] as they relate to each other.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women [or she] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

There is so much seemingly wrong with this passage in relation to basic Christian doctrine and belief that it seems hard to take it seriously. If the epistle is authentic—which not all early church leaders believed was the case–Paul surely wrote it for a specific local situation and/or a particular false teaching. Verses 13 and 14 read: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” There are at least two implications here, so let’s go through them in detail.

Eve was Deceived: Why?

Continue reading New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

“Gay Love” by K. Smart: Excerpts and Pulled Verses

There is no shortage of information available on the internet regarding what the Bible says about sin and salvation in general, and homosexual acts as sin in particular.  I came across an article by Kevin Smart (I think it’s actually by his wife, however!) at Light & Life Communications and thought it was good, so I want to share it.  Also, the article contains references to biblical verses regarding homosexuality, so I’ve written them out here for your reference.

For anyone who comes to this article and wants to rave about how I’m picking on a certain sin and somehow that negates the points made–please, don’t be absurd.  Sin is sin, no matter WHICH sin it is (if one can in all seriousness claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexual practices, then in all seriousness, it doesn’t condemn anything).  The reason why Smart’s article exists, and others like it, is because so many people are trying to make homosexual acts NOT a sin when they clearly are in God’s view.  The worldly embrace of homosexuality has entered the church and thus it’s a big issue indeed.  Who would accept a church that embraces adultery the same way?  That would be funny, wouldn’t it, to see a bunch of leaders in churches who are proud practitioners of adultery?  Adulterous acts and homosexual acts are both sexual sin–they are outside of God’s provision of marriage between one man and one woman.

Continue reading “Gay Love” by K. Smart: Excerpts and Pulled Verses

Review: “God According to God”

Cover of "God According to God: A Physici...
Cover via Amazon

God According to God, by Gerald Schroeder (HarperOne 2009)

If the discoveries in physics over the past century are correct, then that physically condensed energy of the big-bang creation is totally the expression of metaphysical wisdom (cited in Gen. 1:1) or information (J.A. Wheeler) or idea (W. Heisenberg) or mind (G. Wald).  Physics not only has begun to sound like theology.  It is theology (p 156).

God According to God, written by a MIT trained physicist and applied (Jewish) theology professor Gerald L. Schroeder, is a fascinating read (even if the subtitle, A Scientist Discovers We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along, seems a bit of a stretch).  It’s an important read, too, if one takes the accolades on the cover seriously.   For example, “A remarkable book.  The science as well as the meaning of this universe and of life are discussed with insight, rigor, and depth,” says Nobel Prize (physics) awarded Charles H. Townes.

What’s really amazing about this book is that it combines modern science with theology in such a human way.  It’s written for the layman, yes, but it is written to show that not only is belief in God not inimical to science, but that modern science is actually proving God (or at least the metaphysical), and that taking God and the Bible seriously (and not simplistically or superficially) reflects reality and how we are to live in it.  The God of the Bible is simply not the god the critics so energetically and often vehemently criticize.

“The world gets its share of free reign and when a mess arises, the God of the Bible may enter to aid in the repair.  Nipping the potential evil before allowing it to flourish would be a compassionate world-management system, but that fails to match the blueprint brought by the Bible.  The logic lies in the need for an unhampered free will.  God hides the Divine presence sufficiently to allow each of us to make our own choices, for better or worse, freely within the confines of our physical and social landscape . . .“ (p 205).

After the introductories, Schroeder presents issues regarding the origin of life, and how much “science” popularly held is not accurate or true.  For instance, there is no logical reason why RNA would have developed on its own in our prebiotic world; everything is against it happening.  He refutes Stephen Hawking’s (and Scientific American’s) embarrassingly optimistic view of life happening on its own, providing data on how it would be impossible for random mutations to create the variety of proteins used in earthly life.

Earth itself is unique and improbable.   The elements in our universe that make life possible are surprising and improbable too, with carbon being the most unlikely.  While carbon is common, it is not at all easily made.   The astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, who was an agnostic before the means by which carbon could be abundantly formed was discovered, later said:  “Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly miniscule” (p 62).

For the Christian who has read other layman-oriented resources regarding origin of life and evolution issues, and facts about the specialness of earth, I recommend reading this book as well.  In combination it is about the most informative and wonderfully written as you’ll find.   Also for the Christian, Schroeder offers some eye-opening insights into Genesis and the possibility of nature as rebel (his other biblical interpretations from the Jewish perspective are also very much worth chewing on).  He ties in the possibility of nature rebelling with what we are learning of nature at the quantum level.  We now know that atoms are not the smallest units of matter, but the particles that make up atoms do not behave like matter.  They may even be waves, and they seem to behave in way that indicates “mind.”

The European conception of “evolution” includes the metaphysical, and apparently many leading scientists are leaning toward the view that nature has “mind.”  Neurosurgeon Frank Vertosick, Jr., talks of the “microbial mind,” Freeman Dyson (physicist, Institute for the Advanced Study, Princeton) and others show that “Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances.  They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities . . . .  It appears that mind . . . is to some extent inherent in every atom” (p 95).  Mathematician and physicist Sir James Jeans wrote (pp 90-91):

“There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.  Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter.  We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”

We cannot see or understand this “mind” in nature, and we cannot even understand our own brain-mind connection.  We may know that chemical reactions take place in our brain that are related to specific activities, but we still do not understand how we remember, think, or imagine.  Just as there is something else to nature than predictable natural laws, there is more to us than the physical.  “The dogmatic myth of materialism has been proven to be wanting, more fantasy than fact. . . . in the words of Nobel laureate and biologist George Wald, ‘The stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff.  It is mind that has composed a physical universe’” (p 151).

Schroeder’s thesis can be summed up thusly:

“Within the subatomic world, there is a probabilistic pattern established by the laws of nature.  Individual quanta, however, may ‘choose’ not to follow the given path.  So too is the history of humanity.  Torturous though the trend may be, God has a plan for humanity.  The microengineering of that plan is largely up to us.  There is a flow from pagan barbarity toward the elusive goal of peace on earth, goodwill to all.  Each of us, as individuals, chooses whether to enhance or impede the flow toward the Divine goal” (p 215).

 

Authors Cited

Dyson, Freeman.  “Progress in Religion” (acceptance speech, Templeton Prize), March 2000.

Heisenberg, Werner.  Physics and Beyond (New York:  Harper & Row, 1971).

Vertosick, Jr., Frank.  The Genius Within (New York:  Harcourt, 2002).

Wald, George.  “Life and Mind in the Universe,” Quantum Biology Symposium, International Journal of Quantum Chemistry 11 (1984):  1-15.

____________

© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012 (prior publication at Examiner.com, 2011, and at withchristianeyes.com)

Is it Rational to be a Christian? (2 of 2)

Anastasis, symbolic representation of the resu...
Anastasis, symbolic representation of the resurrection of Christ. Panel from a Roman lidless sarcophagus of the “Passion type”, ca. 350 CE. From the excavations of the Duchess of Chablais at Tor Marancia, 1817-1821. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is the second half of a relatively long (but actually concise) treatment of evidences or evidential steps for the view that the Christian faith is rational, and even desirable, to hold (the first half is here).   The introductory paragraph is repeated for clarity.  Thanks for reading, and may the God of all creation bless you.

______________

For the person who wants to know that there is reason to believe a holy book–that there is evidence to back it up–different areas of apologetics have those answers.  In fact, there is more evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible today than ever before, excepting when the events actually occurred.  This essay assumes that the person searching for a legitimate holy book already believes that there is a deity of some sort; it does not cover arguments for the existence of God.  What this essay does cover, in concise form, are the issues of reliability of the Old and New Testaments, fulfilled prophecies, miracles, and Christ’s resurrection.

Miracles

What is a biblical miracle, and what is its purpose and meaning? In the Judeo-Christian context, a miracle is a work of God outside of the patterns of normalcy. Miracles of healing and of being saved from death obviously show the intervention of a God who loves. Biblical miracles consistently show three things. One, they display God’s glory (they also have the effect of showing to God which persons react faithfully to His glory, and which do not). Two, they are proof that the person “performing” the miracle is from God (the source is God, not the person). And Three, they display God’s benevolence. Some examples of such miracles are found in Exodus 14:13-18, Daniel 3:16-30, Mark 2:1-12, and John 11:38-44.

Do miracles happen today? Yes, they do! Most people think they don’t because they aren’t reported in mainstream media. I knew a lady personally, one of the most stable and intelligent ladies I have ever met, who told me the story of her daughter being healed from a terminal illness. The Lord did an emotional healing of myself, and I felt His work in my whole body (I will not explain further here). Open Doors USA reported on its website, in 2002 (April 7), a cancer completely healed in China: “one young woman was healed from cancer. The doctor treating her had fainted from the shock of seeing the cancerous growth gone. We all laughed at that.” Pastor Andrae Crouch was healed of cancer (Nappa  1999). In September 2001, The Voice of the Martyrs wrote of a healing in its magazine/newsletter: a young Pakistani Muslim man was hit by a car while riding his bike, and his leg was broken. A woman came out of the crowd and prayed for him, in Jesus’ name. He felt energy move throughout his body and his leg was healed (later, she gave him a bible and was never seen again, and he became a follower of Christ).  I have read of many other miracles, too, occurring at the time of a person’s salvation and others that happen that save a person from death.  Some medical miracles can be read about at the World Christian Doctors Network.

What about miracles outside of the Judeo-Christian faith? There are some amazing and unexplained things that happen in the world that people might say are miracles, but which do not meet the criteria that show that they are from God. Some of these may not be explained yet, and others may be the activity of fallen angels. The magicians of Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7 performed seeming miracles. A girl had a spirit that told the future in Acts 16 (16-24), but the spirit in her was not from God. The book of Revelation foretells of someone who will perform ungodly miracles (13:11-14). So, if “miracles” happen that do not seem like they are from God, that may in fact draw people away from God, we should not be surprised.

There are some Buddhist scriptures with interpretations that record possible miracles, but since the miraculous activities are self-aggrandizing and do not point to God (such as the changing of physical things to other physical things, flying, reading minds, passing through solid matter, etc.), they are not Godly miracles.   A modern day Hindu “miracle” happened in 1995, which was apparently reported from all over the world (Hinduism Today, November 1995 [as cited in Powell 2006]). A man in New Dehli dreamt that the Hindu god Lord Ganesha wanted milk. So the man went to the temple and told a priest, who then gave the statue of Ganesha some milk. The statue “consumed” the milk. People heard of it and started offering milk to Ganesha statues all over, and the statues “consumed” the milk. This went on for 24 hours in India, but longer elsewhere. The “miracle” seems useless and it lacks benevolence; indeed, God is not transcendent in Hinduism belief and so any such displays are supernormal, not supernatural. In the Quran, it is written that Muhammad did not perform any miracles.


The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I wonder if other Christians feel the same as I, that for some odd reason Jesus’ resurrection does not need explaining? The reality of Christ’s resurrection is a very significant topic in apologetics, however, since it is such a hard to believe event for the unbeliever. A subissue is the disharmony of the differing gospel accounts as to what happened at the empty tomb. (This issue had led me to read Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus [Carla Ricci 1994], and I highly recommend it!) Women were very involved in Jesus’ ministry, he taught them much as disciples, and women were the first witnesses of His resurrection. This happens to play an important role in showing the reality of the resurrection, explained below, along with other rationales for accepting the resurrection as fact.

If the resurrection did not happen, how can anyone explain the beginning of the church? That may seem like an overly simple question–after all, there are many religions today that begin and grow for what seem to be very shallow (and unreasonable) reasons. Well, today, people in the Western World, at least, do not become lion chow in a public arena, are beheaded, or are crucified, for having beliefs counter to those of the government or religious elite. In conditions like that, one would be much more careful about choosing one’s beliefs!

Today, Muslims die (kill themselves) for a belief they think is true. People will die for the truth (and, in fact, Christians do die perhaps every day in countries that are hostile to their faith). But if some critics are correct that the Apostles were promoting false beliefs, why would they die for a lie (almost all were killed for their faith)? Who would do that?  The Apostles and very many early believers died for their faith, knowing it to be true; it would be absurd to die for a cause that you knew to be false. Paul, as an apostle, is very hard to explain indeed, if the resurrection had not happened. Paul was not one of Jesus’ followers, but an ardent persecutor of Christians! He had a great education and was a Roman citizen—in short, he had a privileged life and his future was bright prior to his conversion. Because of his encounter with the living God and after convincing the other apostles that he was sincere, Paul served His Lord (and thus His church), and for this he was eventually beheaded by Nero.

So there was an empty tomb . . . that doesn’t prove Jesus was resurrected, or does it?  A lot of people must think the evidence pointing to Jesus’ resurrection is good, since they try and come up with all kinds of explanations countering the event. Some, like the alien theory, are down-right silly. But what of the evidence? It’s interesting that the Jews tried to cover up the resurrection right from the beginning, knowing that Jesus’ body was gone. This is more significant when one considers that the tomb had been guarded by Roman soldiers who would forfeit their lives for this kind of negligence, and, that the Jews never did find Jesus’ body (you can bet that they tried) (Matthew 27:62-65, 28:11-15).

Another bit of evidence comes to us in a less obvious way. Some critics try to claim that the story of the resurrection was made up and developed through some time by the gospel writers. Even though there is good argument against this in general, we know that in fact Paul wrote of the resurrection early on, within 20 years, at the most, after Jesus died (and prior to the gospels being written). This is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, where Paul tells of the many witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, many of whom were still living at that time (readers and hearers of his letter could go and ask these people if what Paul said was true).

One of the evidences is of a type that people of today cannot appreciate unless they know the historical context of New Testament times. At that time, women were held in very low regard amongst the Jews. Sometimes it is hard to see or fathom this from the texts, since women do not seem to have trouble following and supporting Jesus. But women at that time did not testify in court as the men deemed them unworthy witnesses. Yet here, women are indeed the first witnesses to the resurrection. The men at first dismissed what the women had to say about the resurrected Jesus. One can imagine, in this social context, that the men had a very hard time writing the gospels with the women’s stories included. At that time, including their witness would be the opposite of what one would present in order to prove something, and something as important as Christ’s resurrection. The fact that the women’s accounts in each of the gospels varies is also telling—it shows that the writers did not collaborate to try and come up with a totally coherent and slick story that sounded official and convincing (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8 [and perhaps 9-11]; Luke 24:1-12).

Sir Lionel Luckhoo, who during his lifetime won 245 consecutive murder trial acquittals (for this he is in the Guinness Book of World Records), is not alone in his thinking and assessment of Jesus’ resurrection:

“I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt” (Anon 2012).

____

© Vicki Priest 2012 (this is a modified and edited version of a series of articles published by the author at Examiner.com, 2011)

________________

Bibliography and Recommended Reading (for both article parts)

Anonymous. “Why should I believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” GotQuestions.org. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html (accessed March 2012).

Arlandson, James. “Do Miracles Happen Today?” American Thinker. January 13, 2007. http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/01/do_miracles_happen_today.html (accessed March 2012).

Chong, Timothy. “Bible, Canonicity.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hinson, 101-102. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.

Dowley, Tim, Editor. Eerdman’s Handbook to The History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Geisler, Norman, and Ed Hindson. “Bible, Alleged Errors.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hindson, 97-100. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Gleghorn, Michael. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” bethinking.org. 2001. http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/intermediate/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian.htm (accessed March 2012).

Hart, David Bentley. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Kennedy, D. James. “Christ: The Fulfillment of Prophecy.” In The Apologetics Study Bible, by Ted, General Editor Cabal, xxviii-xxix. Nashville: Holman, 2007.

MacDonald, William. “Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” In Believer’s Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald, xviii-xxiii. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 (1989).

Nappa, Mike. True Stories of Answered Prayer. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1999.

Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006.

Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus . Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Sailhamer, John H. Biblical Prophecy. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998.

Yates, Gary E. “Bible, Transmission of.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ed, and Ergun Caner Hindson, 107-110. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Christian Books for Reference and Reading (of course!)

Reading with the kitty scholar

This bibliographic article was first at Squidoo and called My Christian Bookshelf: Apologetics (I).  I removed it to my blog here and I hope you are informed by it!

_____________

Christian Apologetics Covers an Array of Topics

Apologetics is a term many more Christians know today since there’s been a publishing boom on the subject in recent years, and universities have added classes and degrees in it. I have a certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, where, if a student is interested, credits from the low-cost certificate can be applied to a master’s degree. But what is apologetics? It’s not apologizing for one’s faith, as it might sound. Our modern word “apologetics” comes from the Greek “apologia,” which means “defense,” “answer,” or “vindication.” Of course, apologetics covers many topics and responds to whatever new fad of popular criticism crops up. There are a variety of topics that some people specialize in, like apologetics relating to science-based criticisms, or philosophical criticisms, or even textual criticisms.

Regarding textual criticism, there is so much evidence to show that the Old and New Testaments are reliable and unaltered, that it’s a bit odd that this area of criticism continues. Yet, this may be because this subject seems to have the least amount of publications readily available, or perhaps many people just don’t care to understand it as much as other Bible-related issues. It is certainly necessary to understand, since various cults, and even Islam, baldly and falsely claim that the Bible is unreliable. This is to justify their own later writings and to gain followers.

Presented below are some of my general apologetics favorites or those I find very useful. I’ll write about more resources in another post. Be aware that there are many more good apologetics books that I not only don’t have time to read, but don’t have the money to buy them with, or have room in my home to keep them all! If you have any favorites, you’re welcome to talk about them in the comment section near the bottom of this post.

Christian books

The Apologetics Study Bible.  This Holman Christian Standard Bible version is the entire Bible interlaced with 142 short articles (most are 2/3 to 1 1/2 pages long), many “twisted scripture” notes, bullet notes (dictionary/glossary), and more. With its numerous easily read articles that cover a very wide variety of apologetics topics, the Apologetics Study Bible is a great resource for beginners. It’s not a bad way to compare views and nuances on the various topics, either, since some articles overlap, add to a subject, or provide different views by different authors. Unlike some resources, the articles in this Bible come from many different authors, and their bylines are given so that you can look them up further if something intrigues you. In addition, since this translation is a newer one, it wouldn’t hurt to have a copy of it to compare it with other translations.

Holman Quick Source Guide to Apologetics.  This colorful book by Doug Powell is one of my favorites, thus its place at the top here. In fact, I need to get the newer edition since mine is actually falling apart! Powell is a creative, art-oriented person (besides being an apologist, he’s a graphic designer, recording artist, and more, and has appeared on Conan O’Brien’s Late Night show), and this book is overflowing with photos, graphics, charts, and color text. This isn’t to say that the material is overly light. It’s not, but it does provide a great deal of good information in a fairly concise way. The topics run from the various arguments regarding the existence of God, to which God exists, to the reliability of either testament, and so forth, and it includes a valuable discussion on how God could allow evil.

Hard Sayings of the Bible.  This is the most used book in my apologetics library. It is a compilation of four previously published books by different authors. As with just about any large resource with multiple authors, you’ll probably find some things that you disagree with in here. I disagree with some things. For anyone who has read the Bible and talked with a variety of believers, they will know that there are some subjects that are controversial; indeed, there are some things that are simply mysteries–things we can’t comprehend in our present form. And a lot of people like to argue about them, as if they have solved the mystery. In any case, as the title suggests, Hard Sayings of the Bible tries to help readers understand passages or topics that many people find confusing, and it mostly succeeds. Having this book along with a variety of commentaries will really help you understand the context of God’s word.

The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics.  Published by Harvest House, this book is pretty much described in its title. It’s an encyclopedia of apologetics that is “popular” due, I think, to the brevity of the entries and, perhaps, as an excuse to leave certain topics out. I’m not trying to criticize the book too much here, as it is included for its usefulness, but it is not all-inclusive as far as topics are concerned. For instance, many religions are covered, yet Scientology is left out (“socinianism” is there, however – any guess as to what that is?). As for the length of the entries, they really aren’t all that short; it’s not a dictionary. In addition to covering many religions and philosophical ideas, there are many entries in this book about apologetics itself, Jesus, and God. Topics are easy to look up quickly in the accessible format.

True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.  This book is now available in hard copy form instead of only Kindle, as I have it. This is a good thing for those who find that print documents not only help with retention, but are easier to mark with notes and are definitely easier to cite (since there are page numbers). Multiple contributors wrote about multiple subjects in True Reason, so the topics can be looked up and read about when interested or needed. I love the last chapters the most, 13 – 16, since those chapters interest me personally and they are topics not understood well by many people. One of these topics, from chapter 15, is about slavery in the Bible. There is a very big gap between biblical slavery and the worst examples of slavery found in the historic Southern U.S., or in many parts of the world today. However, from reading high sounding critics, you would completely think that biblical slavery was equivalent to the worst forms of slavery. Perhaps bible translators should sometimes choose different words for “slave” since it seems to have only one meaning anymore.

In any case, some “slaves” among the Jews were persons who today would be those who became too poor to pay their debtors. Someone would agree to pay their debt for six years (or fewer) of labor. After the time was over, the owner-employer sent them on their way, with funds and goods. This is more like indentured servitude and it was unique to Israel. This is due to God’s word; everywhere else, slaves were simply property, no matter the reason they had became slaves. Slaves in Israel were more like servants and were considered to be people, not property, and as such had the same protections against injury and murder as anyone else.

Slavery in the New Testament was not condoned, only made the best of in a time when the new, small Christian church had no power to change the entrenched Roman system. Author Glenn Sunshine gives us some context:

“. . . although a number of Pauline epistles and 1 Peter instruct slaves to be obedient to their masters, they also tell masters to treat their slaves with dignity and respect, in essence recognizing their humanity. This was a radical idea in the Roman world, more than we in the 21st century Western world can easily appreciate. Even more radical was Paul’s insistence on the spiritual and moral equality of all people when he says that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28). Paul tells people to remain in whatever condition they were in when they became Christians, with the exception that should an opportunity to become free arise, slaves should take advantage of it (1 Cor. 7:21).”

 

A Tiny Bit of CS Lewis on Will

“There are two kinds of people: Those who say to God ‘thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says ‘All right then, have it your way.'”

 

Mere Christianity.  On the back cover of the HarperCollins edition shown of Mere Christianity (which is an edited version of radio talks the author did for the troops during WWII), there’s a simply fantastic evaluation of this book and its context in history. I point you to it. C.S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity, is considered to be the greatest apologist of the 20th century. He basically started it all for us who are now in the 21st century. Lewis himself had been an atheist who eventually accepted Christ in his life, through both intellectual reasoning and personal experience. If you’d like to read a thoughtful piece by someone who had been an atheist and then accepted Christ through Lewis’ works, you can check out Philip Vander Elst’s engagingly informative article at bethinking.org: “From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey.”

Zak, pretending to read.The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism.  Written by Timothy Keller of the well-liked Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, this book continues much of Lewis’ earlier work. It is a very readable and friendly look at the Christian understanding of such topics as suffering, forgiveness, sin, science, and God’s interaction with us.

The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.  This book is of more interest than it perhaps generally would be because it is by the journalist brother of the late and popular anti-theist Christopher Hitchens. Peter Hitchens provides personal experiences and much history in explaining not only how he became a believer, but also how the new atheists ignore and/or twist history in their attempts to discredit belief in God and Christ. Besides being informative, it’s an interesting read, particularly if you want to know more about the relatively recent history of the United Kingdom.