No Apologizing

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Category Archives: Is Jesus Real?

Are Christians Sociopaths?


Are Christians, particularly Christians in America, sociopathic?

What started as an off the cuff remark I made during a recent sermon at my Church (Legacy Church, in Kansas City, MO) has begun to legitimately haunt me (you can hear the sermon here)…

Christian… Sociopath… These are two words that on the surface seem completely incompatible.  Acts 11:26 tells us that the term “Christian” was first used of disciples in the Antioch church.  This was initially used as an insult in that people were saying they were “little Christs”.  In other words, they were just like Jesus, who because of His great love for people, voluntarily died to pay for the sins of the world. On the other hand – the dictionary defines sociopath as “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” Another says that “Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.”

How can someone who is living a life that is reminiscent of a man whose critics admit was at least a good person and moral teacher exhibit behavior or attitudes that are patently selfish and apathetic to others? However, in spite of the apparent contradiction, I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, the answer is closer to “yes” than any of us who call ourselves a Christian would like to admit… And it tears me up inside… Let me allow this clip from Atheist Magician and Comedian Penn Jillette to begin to explain what I mean:

“How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” There is the rub… Way too many “Christians” fall in a daily routine and are comfortable to coast through life without a broken heart for their friends and family who, if what we believe is really true, are destined for an eternity without God… Well… to be honest that is the essence of selfishly living life “without concern for the effects of their behavior [or lack thereof] on others”, isn’t it???

We certainly shouldn’t be comfortable with it… But sadly I think that may just be the problem… our comfort.  Because we are relatively comfortable, especially in comparison to most of the rest of the world, we just get into auto pilot and unintentionally slip into apathy.  It’s not a conscious thing, but it occurs anyway… and it’s tragic.

Penn said “There comes a point where I tackle you… and this is more important than that.” Because people’s eternities are so important, our “social conscience” should remind us that we have a “moral responsibility” to love those around us enough to take the risk of offending them or losing a friendship to in a sense “tackle” them by sharing the truth about Jesus

Let’s pray to God for forgiveness for our sociopathic tendencies and begin to live a life that actually reflects our name-sake, Jesus… and refuse to scoot through life uncaring and unaffected by the many people we know who do not yet have a relationship with Him.

TGIF?


Today was the day...

This is a post we wrote on Good Friday Last year… Thought you may enjoy reading it again and reflecting upon just exactly what Jesus did for you… If there is any significance in the shape of Laminin, this event is the reason why.  More Easter-themed posts will be up tomorrow and Sunday.

Thank God it’s Friday? Not for these guys… Not today.  This day held more anguish, pain, panic and despair than all the days from the beginning of time combined…  Today was so indescribably bad because it was such a stark contrast with the highs they had experienced over the last 3 ½ years – especially this last week – even earlier last evening had been intimate, festive, warm and safe!

Not now… Now He was gone and they were scattered – scurrying like roaches when the lights come on, because… HE… was… DEAD… And Hope was no more.

Let me explain by backing up a bit. For centuries their people had been waiting – waiting for a man sent from God who would make everything right… A man who would restore all things to the way they should be – one who would rebuild the bridge to God that we had broken so long ago… one who would bring Freedom to the captive… Hope to the desperate… and Love to all.

This waiting wasn’t just wishful thinking. Scriptures spoke about Him over and over and over… on every line of every page.

Now He was here! They were absolutely 100% sure of it! He was born into the right family, in the right town at the right time… He was there when they most needed Him and He was doing all the things Scripture said He would! They said He would be a prophet, and He boldly taught about God’s Kingdom and fearlessly spoke of the future. The prophets said He would be a healer, and they had seen Him give sight to the blind, restore strength to the cripple, open the ears of the deaf… even raise 3 people from the dead!

But He wasn’t just any prophet… and He wasn’t a typical physician, nor was He a magician. This one had a power and air of authority they could not explain.  For goodness sakes, evil spirits and even the elements obeyed His voice!

Earlier that week, as they entered the city for the festival, people flooded the winding road that lead down the hill through a garden full of olive trees. They screamed out His name! They just knew NOW was the time He would set the wheels in motion to take His rightful place – to become King! But they didn’t understand that on this day when families across the nation would choose their sacrificial lamb, HE, the Promised One, was presenting Himself as the only sacrifice that would be needed… EVER!

That night, they retired to an adjacent town to spend time with friends – It was an exciting day and a restful and refreshing evening. The next day as they made their way into the city He cursed a tree for having no fruit… this was just a precursor to the events later that day… Oh, how encouraged they were as they watched Him enter the religious center of the nation and clean house… He drove out the corrupt merchants who were using the people’s religious hopes as an excuse to turn an unfair profit… and then He healed the sick there… The people were amazed, grateful and sang out His praises, but the leaders were enraged… His followers could scarcely contain their joy – the revolution MUST be beginning!

After another wonderful evening with their gracious hosts, they returned to the city to find the cursed tree was dead – What power! What a King! That day, they spent quite a while with Him on a special mountain overlooking the metropolis. He spoke about the coming destruction of the city – Could it mean that He was planning on mounting a rebellion against their oppressors? Could it be now?! They could only assume they would play central roles in the coming new order… They knew it was coming because they were confident in His right to rule and His power and authority to make it happen! They also knew that they, His chosen few, would get the privilege to eat with Him at a very special occasion tomorrow!

They did share that meal with Him… but before that He washed their feet – to them, it was like being knighted – What an honor and pleasure to be so favored by this soon to be crowned King. During dinner He prayed for them and made them new promises of how God would see and relate to them. They were confident in Him and His promise, but there was an air of sorrow in His voice and a look of grief in His eyes.

After the meal, they went back to the olive grove where He had spoken of the city’s destruction the day before – this time they went to pray. Then, one of their own, one they had hardly noticed had left during supper, showed up with a troupe of men armed with weapons and torches. As their friend greeted Him with a kiss, the guards seized their Lord!

What could be happening?!?! Chaos and panic set in… One of His followers drew a sword and cut off a guard’s ear. But the Master demanded they stop, and He even healed the man – Why was He letting this happen? The group of soldiers moved to arrest them all, but everyone but Him ran… one only escaped by slipping out of his clothing!

They could not understand; their heads were spinning! Through the fog of adrenaline and fear each of them did their best to lay low while keeping tabs on what was happening to Him – He had to be okay… How could they go on without Him?

He was put through trials by several religious and political figures. A few of the trials were illegal… all of them were rigged – they were shams. None of the inquisitions showed a shred of evidence proving Him guilty of ANY wrong doing – Yet, through it all He was punished and tortured and beaten to the point one could no longer tell He was even human. Then, the people who earlier had cried out His name in triumph shouted for His execution!

They marched Him naked through the streets forcing Him to carry His own instrument of death. But, as they were slowly killing Him, He begged God to pardon them. As He breathed His last, the sky darkened, the earth shook, the temple was damaged and the hearts of His followers melted and their hopes evaporated into mist… Sorrow reigned.

The next day’s headlines would not sing to the world the news they had hoped: A NEW REIGN AND RENEWED FREEDOM. Instead, they would be replaced by an obituary:

At the age of 33. Jesus Christ, of Nazareth, King of the Jews, has passed. He died outside Jerusalem on Golgotha by crucifixion – Executed by the Romans at the request of the Sanhedrin for treason against Caesar and spreading subversion throughout the land. Death was confirmed by spear thrust through the heart. He was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great. He spent His early life as a carpenter, but gained fame in recent years as an itinerant rabbi. The body is being held in the tomb of a friend, under Roman guard. Funeral services and body preparation are scheduled for after the Sabbath. He leaves behind a grieving mother, Mary; a Father, God… and many followers whose dreams were shattered, whose expectations were crushed and whose optimism was gone…

All because He… was… DEAD…

Easter is a Myth?


Easter is fast approaching.  So now we get the fine pleasure of hearing a ton about a magical

Hollywood's real version of what easter is ALL about!

 Easter bunny who runs around getting people fat(ter).  Movies like “Hop” are coming out but strangely there are no movies about the resurrection of Christ coming out this Easter.  So, I thought it would be good to tackle the resurrection from a historical perspective.

To sum up where we are thus far…

  1. We can prove that the time span of the writings of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament took place within an acceptable time frame from the crucifixion.
  2. We can also demonstrate that the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is far superior and in fact the most documented event in history.

This post is going to take a look at the most critical event in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

The resurrection is the lynch pin of the Christian faith.  Without it, there is no arisen God, and thus Jesus was not who he said he was.  So the question then becomes, are the events depicted in the Gospel historically accurate?

Here are the facts that are relatively agreed to by most New Testament Scholars

  1. On the Sunday morning after the crucifixion the tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
  2. On multiple occasions many people and groups interacted with a live  Jesus after his death.
  3. The original disciples suddenly and sincerely changed directions and passionately argued for a resurrected Christ.

Those that dispute the above three facts are on the fringe.  Many New Testament skeptics will accept the above facts.  The support for this evidence is the documents within the New Testament. 

Quick Note….Most atheists immediately dismiss the use of the New Testament because it is part of the Bible.  I would argue against this.  You cannot, at least from a true scholarly perspective, dismiss the documents of the New Testament.  While it is presented in a single book, the New Testament must be viewed as a collection of documents which were recorded by several different men.  Thus the New Testament provides an opportunity for skeptics to corroborate evidence from one author to another.  Again, historical evidence shows that the New Testament was written within an acceptable amount of time from the crucifixion.  The manuscript evidence is 99% accurate.  So we can say with comfort, what we read in the New Testament, was in fact written within 20-60 years of the crucifixion.  Let’s look at each fact.

1.       The Empty tomb

There are multiple sources besides Mark that testify to the empty tomb.  Matthew and John are independent sources about the empty tomb.  It is also mentioned in the sermons in Acts (2:29; 13:36) and implied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:4.  These are independent sources attesting to the fact of an empty tomb. 

Another thing to consider is the fact that women discovered the tomb first.  This is most definitely note worthy for one simple fact: women were not highly regarded in Jewish society.  Josephus says that women weren’t even permitted to serve as witnesses in a Jewish court of law! If the empty tomb was legend and not fact, the writers of this legend  most certainly would have put men at the tomb for the discovery, rather than women.  The fact that it is women who discover the tomb empty can only mean one thing…they were in fact the chief witnesses to this event. 

2.       On multiple occasions many people and groups interacted with a live  Jesus after his death.

The list of eyewitnesses to have Jesus after his death is numerous.  Paul provides a list of those who have seen him in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.  In this list Paul includes the name of Peter, the Twelve, and James.  These are people that Paul personally knew.  These appearances cannot be dismissed as mere legends.

Additionally, narratives of the appearances are multiple and independently attested to.  Consider for example this, the appearance to Peter is attested by Luke and Paul; the appearance to the Twelve is attested by Luke, John and Paul; and the appearance to the women is attested by Matthew and John.  The testimony of the appearances is so broad that it cannot be reasonably argued that the earliest disciples did have such experience.

3.      The original disciples suddenly and sincerely changed directions and passionately argued for a resurrected Christ.

This is a topic we have covered before by asking you “Would you die for a lie?”

Here is the reality of the situation for the disciples.

  1. Their leader was dead.  Messianic expectations of their Messiah were one of the Messiah defeating Israel’s enemies not being shamefully executed as a criminal.
  2. The Jewish belief system did not have/did not allow for anyone being arisen from the dead before the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the world.

Despite these two realities the original disciples came to believe so strongly that Jesus had arisen from the grave and began preaching it throughout the world.  The simple fact here is that these Jewish men went about the world preaching something that ultimately was un-Jewish and outlandish according to their own faith.  Acts 5:33-39 illustrates these points of contention. 

So now the question becomes…what is the best explanation of these facts?

First some common attempts to explain the above facts:

  1. The body was stolen.

This would explain the empty tomb, but not the appearances, and most definitely not the change of the disciples, even if they stole the body.

  1. The appearances were hallucinations.

This is highly improbable (if not absolutely impossible) considering that the ENTIRE list provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 would have had to have the same hallucination.  That is 500+ people all having a hallucination of Jesus returning from the dead.

The only plausible and absolute explanation of the three facts mentioned above is that Jesus in fact rose from the dead.  No other event or explanation could cover all three facts.

We hope we have answered some of your questions regarding the historicity of Jesus and His resurrection… If you have further objections you would like us to answer, please let us know… If not, would you consider trusting in Him today?

More reliable…Aristotle or the New Testament?


 In one of our previous posts we took a look at the time frame between the crucifixion and the writing of the New Testament.  What we found was that the timeline of the writing was no different than our current timeline of writing books about our recent history.  This is a standard that is acceptable to all historians.

Now that we can verify that the timeline is acceptable, can we verify that the words

Which is more reliable?

Which is more reliable?

 themselves are acceptable?

First it must be conceded that the original text of the New Testament (and Old Testament for that matter) do not exist.  However, there are a significant number of copies (manuscripts) that do.  This is a critical point.  Most atheist’s will argue that a lack of the original autographs indicates that there is no way we know that the words in the New Testament accurately represent the events they depict.  This argument is faulty because copies can give a gateway into what the original text said. 

Consider for a moment that someone (for whatever reason) wanted to copy this post.  Two days later…wordpress.com goes crazy, and this post is lost forever.  The only evidence that the original post existed would be the one copy made.  Now let’s expand that scenario.  Let’s say that 100 copies were made of my original post, and then wordpress.com crashes.  The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made.

In both examples the original post has been destroyed, and all we have are copies of the original post.  Now, how can we determine which best preserved the text of the original post?  Some would answer that the one copy would be the best representation of the original because there is less chance for an error in the copying of the original post.  Theoretically you would be correct.  The less something is copied the less chance there is for error in the copy.  Realistically that argument cannot stand.  The premise with the argument is that the copy is correct.  But how can you tell?  You can’t.  You have nothing to compare the 1 copy to, to determine how faithful it was to the original that was destroyed.  In this case the 100 copies would be a more reliable source to see what the original post said.  The reason, you can compare 100 copies and see any variance.  For example, if 99 of the copies have the sentence “The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made” and the 1 copy has “The only evidence of my post are the copies that are made” there is a high probability that the former was in the original. 

So the principle is simple, verification through sheer volume.

Consider the following statistics:

  Author Date Written Number of Copies Accuracy of Copies  
Plato 427-347 B.C. 7 —-  
Aristotle 384-322 B.C. 49 —-  
Homer (Iliad) 900 B.C. 643 95%  
NewTestament 1st Cent. A.D. (50-100 A.D. 5600 99.50%  
 

 

This is an incredible chart.  The New Testament has 5,600 copies…In Greek.  The “in Greek” is significant because the original text was written in Greek (common language of the day).  If we add copies from various languages such as Latin the total number of copies would go as high as 24,000.  That is 24,000 copies of the original documents, the original writings of the Apostles.  No other document in antiquity can claim such a volume.  Other famous writers of antiquity fail this test.  This is not to say that the copies of these other documents are inadequate or that the copies are wrong.  It is simply to say that you have much less quantity with which to verify its contents and, therefore, much less confidence in those copies. 

Consider Plato.  Plato is well known for his writing “The Republic”.  There are only 7 copies of the original.  How confident can one be that the translation we read of “The Republic” is the one that Plato wrote?  Confidence level has to be low because you only have 7 copies to compare against one another.  However, historically speaking, “The Republic” has been accepted as an accurate recording of Plato’s words.

Now consider Aristotle.  Aristotle is credited with making contributions to logic, metaphysics, biology, botany, politics, etc…  How confident can we be that what we read today represents what Aristotle actually wrote?  There are only 49 copies of Aristotle’s works.  Once again, historians easily accept the historicity and authority of the writings of Aristotle as many have dubbed him the “father of the field of logic”.  However, as compared to the New Testament, the confidence level has to be low.

Now consider the Greek poet Homer.  Homer is well known for his literary works such as “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”.  If we look specifically at the Iliad you will see that there are 643 copies of the original.  This allows for a fairly broad comparison and can create a high degree of confidence that the Iliad that we read today, is very similar to the original version.    

Finally consider the New Testament. The New Testament is a combination of several authors.  There are 5,600 copies of those books in their original language.  This allows historians to compare 1 copy with 5,599 other copies to see if it matches.  Based on this comparison, scholars have been able to identify a 94% word for word match of all of the copies.  To put this into context…there are 138,020 words in the New Testament.  All 5,600 match precisely for 129,738 words.  Pretty incredible?  This would leave 6% open to review for error.  Scholars state the 3% of the 6% can be attributed to misspellings, notes in the margins, and punctuation errors.  This would leave 3% open for review.  Scholars argue, (and I agree) that the 3% have no impact on the message being delivered – they are simply a similar statement with perhaps slightly different vocabulary and syntax.  It would be the same as the example given above (“The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made” verses “The only evidence of my post are the copies that are made”).

What does this mean?  This means that the 5,600 copies of the originals are at least 97% consistent with one another.  This means, that on text evidence alone, that you can feel 97% – 99% sure that the words you read are exact representative of the original documents.

That makes the New Testament the most textually reliable document in ALL of antiquity.

This fact, taken with the historical accuracy spoken of in our previous post means you can have complete confidence that the story recounted in the New Testament is reliable – this should, in turn increase your confidence in its message.

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The evidence that Jesus is real…The New Testament


By request we have decided to take a like at some of the overwhelming evidence for Jesus.  Not just the fact that he existed, but also that he was God in the flesh.  This can be a daunting task, so much so, a number of great books have been written on the topic.  One that is highly recommended by both KB and I is the book More than a Carpenter.  This is a great read that focuses on one man’s search to disprove that Christ existed, and ended up coming to Christ.    

To set this up…

Many atheists will say that either Christ didn’t exist (wasn’t even born), or will concede the point that He existed, but was not divine.  Most will tell you that the New Testament cannot be counted as historical evidence to support Christ.  This is a fascinating argument by atheists because the argument would undercut most, if not all historical events that were documented in antiquity.  The truth is that the historical events recorded in the Gospels, and the New Testament are the most documented events in antiquity.  Atheists choose to deny this truth…either out of ignorance or plain stubbornness.  We simply ask that atheists apply the same standards to the Bible as they would to other historical documents.

Now consider this for one moment.  The original dates of the New Testament writings were between 50 – 100 AD.  Some atheist’s will disregard the historicity of the

The New Testament...written in the same time frame as Band of Brothers.

 Gospels and Acts because they were not written at the time of Christ.  However, I would submit that this is simply a red herring.  Take for example the Events of World War II.  One of the most celebrated books about World War, Band of Brothers, was written in 1992.  Using interviews of the men, Stephen Ambrose was able to compile an excellent retelling of the events of Easy Company.  Band of Brothers chronicled the acts of the men of Easy Company.  It detailed some of their conversations, their emotions, and their actions.  I don’t believe there is anyone who would doubt that the events, or conversations documented in this book were not real.  But there is a catch.  This book was written some 40 years after the fact. 

Christ was crucified in approximately 33 AD.  If we were to apply the same time frame for Band of Brothers that would put that book being written at about 73 AD, which is smack dab in the middle of the time-frame when the New Testament was being written.  History books, in general, are written several years after the fact.  There are books being written about US Presidents… 200 years after the fact.  All are generally accepted as being historically accurate.  Remember, the New Testament was written within 20 – 70 years of the events it records.  This is the equivalence of reading a new history book about, Ronald Reagan’s Presidency (20 years), The Vietnam War (40 years), The Korea War (57 years), and World War 2 (65 years).

Keep in mind this is only a set up to future posts.  Our goal with this post was to demonstrate that the timing of the writing of the New Testament, is not that dissimilar to our current history books.

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