Thursday, March 8, 2018

Resurrection Apologetic



Introduction
     This paper is on an apologetic defense of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This discussion is necessary because without validation of the resurrection there indeed is no real Christian belief system.  This defense is foundational in all discussions of doctrine.  The existence of Jesus is not debated, and the historical fact of Jesus's death on the cross is documented in Christian and non-Christian writings.  The resurrection is the key.  In this paper, the minimalist fact argument will be explained and used in defense of the resurrection. The second step will be to present a reasonable case or apologetic to the stated resurrection using scholarly research and finally reaching a convincing conclusion on the validity of the event. 

Summary of the Minimalist Facts Argument
    
     Firstly, as Dr. Habermas states, the Minimalist Facts Argument is a "methodology" a way to explain and make a case of a viewpoint of one's facts. There are two basic concepts of the method. The first is the factor of the lowest common denominator[G12], whereas there are verifiable historical facts from multiple sources.  These sources can be Biblical or secular research and the more secular research, the stronger the position becomes.  Secondly, it is vital to secure facts that over ninety percent of recognized scholars will agree.  These scholars should be doctoral or a very least provable experts in their respective fields of study.[G13] [G14] [G15] [G16] [G17] [G18] [G19] [G20] [G21] [G22] 



Apologetic

     There are some factors that are of use in our apologetic discussion.  Dr. Habermas gives us a great basis for our defense in his class lecture entitled, The Resurrection of Jesus.  Dr. Habermas starts with a statement that there are at least eleven verifiable sources for the crucifixion of Jesus and this is a great place to establish a starting ground on the debate on the actual rising from the dead of Jesus. Dr. Habermas actually states, "can you get verification of a miracle?" [1]Meaning that factual events are much stronger arguments in a debate. In Reasons for Our Hope it states that “if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead bodily from the tomb ... then the faith of every believer throughout church history is in vain.”[2]
  
Conclusion

    The use of the testimony of women would have been embarrassing and useless data unless it was true which brings increased validity to the writing of Scripture overall.  The life, death, and burial of Jesus is fact and proven in secular sources, as well as the reality of the empty tomb.  There is not much that needs to be taken on faith alone, and the reasonableness of the argument is proven and established. 



Bibliography

Dr. Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus, lecture accessed February 24th, 2018 on liberty.edu.


House, H. Wayne and Dennis W. Jowers, Reasons for Our Hope. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2011.






[1] Dr. Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus, lecture accessed February 24th, 2018 on liberty.edu.
[2] House, H. Wayne and Dennis W. Jowers (2011), Reasons for Our Hope.Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. p. 333.



Sunday, February 25, 2018

Progressive Christianity



 FEBRUARY 18, 2018 BY ROGER E. OLSON

What Is “Progressive Christianity” and Why Should You Beware of It?

First of all, do not assume anything! I will define what I mean by “progressive Christianity” here. It is, of course, an indexical phrase which means it cannot be defined except within a particular context. And, of course, different people mean different things by it. And yet, it is being used within churches and denominations and Christian organizations and cannot just be ignored. Generally speaking, at least outside of very conservative Christian circles, it tends to have a positive “ring” and many especially educated Christians are attracted to it. Sometimes, however, it is an insidious and pernicious code phrase for liberal theology being introduced into moderate Christian circles. Many people do not seem to see what is happening in such situations; I believe I do see it and I want to sound an alarm so that others may begin to ask questions they might not think of asking.

When I hear the phrase “progressive Christianity” alarm bells immediately ring, but I resist the temptation to make any assumptions and I try to ask questions or, if that doesn’t work, observe the distinctive “symptoms” of language and behavior within the church or other Christian organization that seem to signal what is being described as “progressive Christianity.” This takes time and attention to details. It is the attention to details and the questions that I often have to ask, based on my observations, that occasionally occasion resistance, even marginalization from those within the church or organization that are busy introducing and promoting “progressive Christianity.”

All such projects require some criteria of normalcy—of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. In some cases (not always), in my experience, “progressive Christianity” signals a paradigm shift away from what has been considered normal, acceptable, standard, orthodox, within the given church or Christian organization. I believe I have become quite adept at discerning this process. No, I do not go about it in “knee jerk fashion,” but take quite a bit of time and careful thought, striving not to work from a position of automatic suspicion but from a position of open-mindedness, generosity, combined with knowledge that, without vigilance, sometimes Christianity is so compromised as to lose its meaning and become something else—while still being called “Christianity.”

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

As always, examples and illustrations are called for. I could cite many, perhaps scores of experiences that taught me to be a bit vigilant about this matter.

Some years ago I went to hear a well-known and influential seminary professor and theologian speak. I did not know anything about him except his reputation as an excellent Christian scholar. I went to hear him together with hundreds of other Christians—most of them students. He was being promoted on campus as a Christian worth hearing and being taken seriously. I settled into my seat in the large auditorium next to my companion to the event, another broadly evangelical theologian and campus minister. Everything sounded good until about halfway into the guest speaker’s monologue when he mentioned that he was both a Christian and a Buddhist. My ears pricked up at that as did my companion’s ears. We looked at each other with a bit of surprise and concern. I looked around at the students; many of them were leaning forward with eager anticipation to hear more. The speaker, a professor at a well-known Protestant seminary, continued to explain that he was finding great personal and spiritual help through involvement with a specific Buddhist sect from Japan and he argued that there is no conflict between Christianity and it. I knew much about that particular Buddhist sect—including that it is controversial in Japan (and elsewhere) even among Buddhists! After the speaker’s lecture I spoke with the university professor who invited him as I was not able to get near the speaker who was inundated by curious students. The professor fended off my curious questions as evidence of “fundamentalism.” To my chagrin, and that of my companion’s, nothing came of the event; there was no reaction from the administration after we reported on it to the powers that were. In that case, apparently, being “open minded” meant considering as possible that Buddhism and Christianity can be blended without damage to Christianity.

This experience, among scores of others throughout my adult lifetime, alerted me to what I consider an extremely dangerous mindset among some Christians in America. (I will limit my remarks here to American Christianity although I strongly suspect what I am talking about is a reality elsewhere as well.) What “mindset?” The mindset I refer to is one that regards “Christianity” as cognitively contentless or at least as so cognitively flexible as to be compatible with almost anything—so long as the “anything” is acceptable among educated elites of the American academy.

Within reach from where I sit right now are, on my bookshelves, many volumes that argue, in one way or another, for a Christianity that does not include doctrinal orthodoxy but is strictly defined in terms of feelings and ethics. Years ago, even within my lifetime, this approach to Christianity was commonly called “liberal.” However, also some years ago, even within my adult lifetime, liberal Christians (if they are really Christians) dropped the label “liberal” and adopted “progressive” in its place. Of course, much confusion ensued as many orthodox Christians also consider themselves “progressive” in some ways.

Gradually, however, in my experience (as a Christian theologian for almost forty years now), “progressive Christianity” has by-and-large become a replacement for what used to be called “liberal Protestantism” (although it can be found in some Catholic circles as well).

The first signal (of liberal Protestantism disguised as “progressive Christianity”) is a disinterest, especially among Christian leaders (of congregations, denominations, and organizations) in doctrine. That’s sometimes difficult to detect because progressive Christians (as I mean that here) often talk about doctrines but only as historical relics, not as living realities to be protected and defended (even if reinterpreted and translated for the sake of understanding).

The second signal is a distinct tendency to replace doctrines, in terms of importance for membership and leadership, with “kindness” and “inclusion” as well as “social justice”—usually for some newly discovered “oppressed group.” Included in this tendency is a complete abandonment of church discipline especially as that relates to doctrinal accountability and sexual behavior (except for what is illegal).

A third signal is a determination, however, slow and subtle, to accommodate to trends within academic culture—regardless of their fitness with Scripture and tradition. In other words, the so-called “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” shifts beyond being an equilateral to being one in which reason (defined as what the American academy and its movers and shakers consider reasonable and normal) and experience (defined as what the American academy its movers and shakers consider normal and acceptable) dominate Scripture and tradition. Something to listen for is this now common saying in progressive Christianity circles: “Who cares what Paul said? I follow Jesus.”

A fourth signal is an elevation of inclusiveness to a virtue bar none (or “par none”) within the church, denomination, and/or Christian organization. Of course, “inclusiveness” is never complete; persons perceived to be “discriminatory” in any manner (language, behavior, sentiment) are marginalized if not ostracized.

A fifth signal is the abandonment of the “language of Zion” by which I mean traditional Christian concepts such as “sin,” “repentance,” “salvation,” “return of Christ,” and, yes, “judgment of God.” These are replaced by concepts such as “Kingdom of God” or “city of God”—interpreted as a condition of social justice including inclusion of all people equally without judgment (except discriminatory or perceived intolerance).

A sixth signal is implicit universalism—a complete abandonment of any mention of hell—except perhaps as a code word for misery in this life usually described as oppression—both the oppressed and the oppressors are in a living “hell” from which they need deliverance through social transformation which often includes social engineering via politically correct language.

A seventh signal is the way in which the Bible is described—not as a supernaturally inspired and unique message from God, possessing final authority for faith and practice—but as “our sacred stories”—different in degree but not in kind from other great and inspiring writings.

An eighth signal is the complete abandonment of belief in the supernatural together with a strong emphasis on the immanence of God in all people. The “imago dei” gets reinterpreted as a presence of God in every human person. Together with this comes a tendency to horizontalize Christian recognition of God’s presence—as totally within historical movements for justice and completely within the “face of the other”—especially the weak, the vulnerable and the marginalized.

Finally, a ninth signal is the adoption of hostile language about groups of human beings who dare to defend traditional values. They are often lumped together with racists, bigots, oppressors, “fundamentalists,” and even “red necks” solely because they hold to traditional “family values” or express the opinion that too much is changing too fast in terms of what is acceptable within the church and society.

As in fundamentalism, within many progressive Christian circles an echo chamber develops. In this one, though, those “out of touch” with the latest trends in sociology, social work, education, journalism and the social sciences in general are effectively silenced. There develops a “fundamentalism of the left” that is not really inclusive at all.

I will close with one more illustration drawn from my own life. Many years ago, while I was teaching at a Christian liberal arts college, advertisements began to appear in the student newspaper for a Baptist church that advertised itself as “A Liberal Church.” The combination of “Baptist” and “liberal” intrigued many students and faculty members and soon the pastor of the congregation was in the hallways and classrooms speaking about his “progressive Christianity.” I invited him to speak to my theology classes (two or three years in a row) about “liberal theology” and “progressive Christianity”—not with the intention of infecting students with that but with the intention of allowing him to expose his own double standards and hypocrisy. I admit that I sometimes “salted” questions among students before he came to class. One question (I don’t remember whether I suggested it or not) was asked by a student during the Q & A time after the pastor spoke: “What would you say to a fundamentalist Baptist who wanted to join your ‘inclusive church’?” (The pastor had defined “liberal” as “inclusiveness.”) The pastor answered “I would help him find a different Baptist church to join.”

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Proofs of the Resurrection of Christ

 The resurrection of Jesus Christ is key to all Christian doctrine and fundamental understanding of the Gospel.  The Oxford Dictionary validates this point, “The conviction that God not only sent His Son into the world but also vindicated Him after His death upon a cross, is fundamental to the NT witness and the corner-stone of Christian faith and theology.1 Jesus was born a virgin birth as the Blessed Son of God, both fully man and fully God.  Jesus lived a sinless life and was crucified dead and buried, and rose again on the third day to sit at the right hand of God.  If any of these facts are deleted or altered in anyway, the Gospel is distorted.  According to Dr. Willmington, there are ten appearances or validations of the resurrected Christ2 that form the proof of this key doctrine.  The proofs that exist are mainly Biblical, but evidence exists outside of this key source of all knowledge to assist in establishing this truth. 
In order to frame the resurrection properly, visitation of the some events that led up to the cross are important to establish.  Jesus started his 3 year ministry at about 30 years of age.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present a history of these days. These four Gospel accounts, “ are selective in the events they report surrounding the resurrection. Each emphasizes the empty tomb, but each is somewhat different in the post resurrection appearances recounted.3  All the Gospels are in concordance, but would have been specific to the intended audience. Jesus moved about the region of Israel and its neighbors preaching the Word of God and teaching a large number of people the truth in the word of the Old Testament recording.  Jesus taught to Jew and non-Jew the love and supremacy of His Father, Yahweh. The leaders of the day, namely the Pharisees are grossly offended by His message and sought to destroy and later kill this man, our Jesus.  The Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus; this referenced in Matthew 12:14, But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”(NIV)  The plans of the Pharisees are coordinated through the betrayal of one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot; the trial of Herod and Pontius Pilate; and finally the walk down the Via Dolorosa to the place called Calvary to be hung on the Cross of Crucifixion. 
Jesus is hung on the cross on Friday at 9:00 am.  The Messiah hangs there until about 3:00 pm that same day, at which time the Christ cries out, Tetelestai, it is finished.  Jesus is taken down from the cross and the body is claimed by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to be placed in a new tomb.  The Pharisees concerned about the body being taken, arrange with Pontius Pilate to have the tomb sealed with a large stone and the entranced guarded by soldiers. During the night “Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; and other women sit near His tomb, viewing the tomb in silent sorrow.”4  It is during this very night that our Lord is risen. 
   Ten different appearances of our risen Christ are recorded in the New Testament. They are as follows: 
“(1.) To Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre alone. John (20:11–18 
(2.) To certain women, “the other Mary,” Salome, Joanna, and others, as they returned from the sepulchre. Matthew (28:1–10 
(3.) To Simon Peter alone on the day of the resurrection. Luke 24:34 
(4.) To the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection, recorded fully only by Luke 24:13–35 
(5.) To the ten disciples (Thomas being absent) and others “with them,” at Jerusalem on the evening of the resurrection day. John (20:19–24). 
(6.) To the disciples again (Thomas being present) at Jerusalem. Mark 16:14–18; Luke 24:33–40; John 20:26–28) 
(7.) To the disciples when fishing at the Sea of Galilee. John (21:1–23 
(8.) To the eleven, and 500 brethren at once, at an appointed place in Galilee (Matt. 28:16–20). 
(9.) To James, but under what circumstances we are not informed (1 Cor. 15:7). 
(10.) To the apostles immediately before the ascension. They accompanied him from Jerusalem to Mount Olivet, and there they saw him ascend “till a cloud received him out of their sight” (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50–52).”5 
These appearances form the basis of proof for the resurrection of the Messiah.  These passages are supported in full by the knowledge gained from 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness….” (NIV) 
There are also a few non-Biblical accountings to support the evidence of Christ’s resurrection.  Including the Shroud of Turin, writings from Josephus, the Roman Historian Tacticus, and writings of Roman Governor Phiny the Younger.   The Shroud of Turin according to the research of experts is possibly evidence of a man raising from the dead due to absence of decomposition, lack of unwrapping, possible markings of a dead body.  The Shroud also notes abnormalities with the recorded history of Jesus’s crucifixion; such as head wounds, lack of broken bones; and a post mortem chest wound.6  The writings of the aforementioned Roman Tacticus discusses the “Christus” suffering at the hands of Pontius Pilate; and Phiny the Younger writes of the actions of Christians in about 112 A.D.7  These sources that support the proof of Christ bring to validation the existence of Christ, therefore providing credibility to the Bible and the fact that is it all truth.  Since these writing support the same facts and agree with the Scriptures, it is viable to conclude that the Bible is truth, as the other writings are valid. 
In fact, an article presented by GotQuestions.org five additional arguments are presented.  These are as follows:  
  • Secular response to the stated events—non-Christians believed that Christians acted a particular way because of the crucifixion of Christ. 
  • Eyewitness accounts are recorded in the Scriptures and verifiable by various outside sources 
  • The conversion of noted skeptics, notably Paul and James 
  • Enemy attestation to the empty tomb and the validation of location of the event 
  • The culture fact that women are used as eyewitnesses in a culture that was very masculine in nature and authoritativeness.8  
These additional arguments are supportive in nature and provide a foundation to build the very conclusive statements that Christ was the Messiah and through prophesy and recorded history support the claim of resurrection. 
Christians today need to understand the facts and the Biblical and non- Biblical evidence that Christ is the Son of God and that the Bible is the final authority in life.  A believer today needs to understand the foundation or doctrines of faith in order to defend the beliefs, inherent to our religion.  Christ is the Messiah, He died on the cross for payment of our sins, so that all who believe would have everlasting life, through relationship with Jesus Christ. Amen. 










Bibliography 

Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England, Steve Bond, E. Ray Clendenen, Trent C. Butler, and Bill Latta, eds. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. 

Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 

Easton, M. G. Easton’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893. 

Gleghorn, Michael. 2015. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” Probe      Ministries. Accessed February 13, 2016. http//:www.probe.org/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian-sources-2/ 
GotQestions.org, 2015. “Why Should I Believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” Accessed February                              14, 2016. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html. 
Willmington, Harold. Great Truths from God’s Word. Forest, VA: Bible Institute Network, 2011.