15 Suggested Readings on the Resurrection of Jesus

When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. From a soteriological perspective, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.”

Jesus could not have made full atonement for our sins without the resurrection. Also, through the resurrection, Jesus took on the role as advocate and intercessor (1John. 2:2;Rom. 8:34). His resurrection also guaranteed us the opportunity of having a resurrected body’s like His (1 Cor.15:20-23,51-53;1 Pet.1:3;Phil.3:20-21;John.5:25-29).

Here some of my picks to read on the resurrection:

1. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona (Paperback – Sep 25, 2004)

This book is apologetic in nature. Gary Habermas, who has been one of the top resurrection apologists over the last few decades and his protégé Mike Licona give one of the most thorough treatments that I have seen. They discuss just about every counterargument that has ever been formulated against the historicity of the resurrection. They also provide some charts and acronyms that are extremely helpful.

2. Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew (Veritas Forum Books) by Gary R. Habermas, Antony Flew, and David J. Baggett (Paperback – Apr 29, 2009)

This is rich reading. The first part of the book was an updated version of a debate that took place between the late Anthony Flew (who left atheism for deism or some kind of theism) and Gary Habermas. Flew was quoted as saying the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle that he had seen. David J. Baggett offers an assessment of the debate along with some of the counterarguments to the resurrection.

3. Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality by Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland (Paperback – Jan 2004)

This is an interesting book. It provides some apologetics and comments about ethical issues. It also goes over the arguments for near-death experiences. It is a nice combination of philosophy, apologetics, theology, and ethics.

4. The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought by Neil Gillman (Paperback – Apr 2000)

This is written by Jewish author Neil Gillman. He traces the history of resurrection thought in Judaism and why many modern Jewish people don’t accept the resurrection concept. Guess what? He even discusses naturalism and how it has impacted the Jewish community.

5. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach [Paperback] Michael R. Licona (Author)

This was Mike Licona’s doctoral dissertation. This is not simply an apologetics book. It is very helpful resource for Biblical scholars, historians and philosophers. It is a very long book but fairly easy to read. Mike has provided a large chapter on what he calls ‘horizons.” Horizons are the presuppositions that impact all Biblical scholars and historians. Horizons always play a role in how we approach the resurrection. Mike also covers the work of several scholars on their work on the resurrection such as J.D. Crossan, Geza Vermes, Michael Goulder and others. He also provides several responses to the arguments of Bart Ehrman (whom he has debated). He covers the historical sources for the resurrection and confirms that the “historical bedrock” for the historical Jesus is the following:

1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion
2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them
3. Within a few years after Jesus’ death, Paul converted after experiencing what he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.

Licona provides a response to the naturalistic alternatives to the resurrection and shows how they don’t meet what he calls the requirements of:
1. Plausibility
2. Explanatory scope and explanatory power
3. They are less ad hoc
4. Illumination

6. Risen Indeed: Making a Sense of the Resurrection [Paperback]: Stephen T. Davis

Stephen Davis has been one of the top theistic philosophers for quite some time. This book covers a wide variety of topics such as the philosophical issues surrounding the resurrection. Davis provides a nice critique of naturalism and discusses some of the challenges of dualism and physicalism. I found the chapter on resurrection and judgment to be quite interesting.

7. The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3) by N. T. Wright (Paperback – Apr 2003)

This was the third volume in N.T Wright’s work on Christian origins. Along with the Licona book, it is probably the most comprehensive book to date on the topic. Wright covers a wide variety of issues such as the worldview of the Second Temple Judaism period, the resurrection in Jewish thought (in the Bible and the extra-biblical Jewish literature). He has also provided a correction that has been long overdue in Christian discipleship/theology. Does everyone know going to heaven is not what resurrection is? Sadly, due to a lack of teaching on the resurrection, Wright points out that the average Christian assumes that that the final destination is to be in the intermediate state- the place that is called ” heaven.”

Hence, immortality is generally viewed as the immortality of the soul. Contrary to what many people think, salvation in the Bible is not the deliverance from the body, which is the prison of the soul. The believer’s final destination is not heaven, but it is the new heavens and new earth- complete with a resurrection body. In the final state, heaven including the New Jerusalem portrayed as a bride breaks into history and comes to the renewed, physical, earthly, existence (see Rev 21). This shows that God is interested in the renewal of creation- God cares about the physical realm.

Wright has been quoted elsewhere as saying the following:

“ If nothing happened to the body of Jesus, I cannot see why any of his explicit or implicit claims should be regarded as true. What is more, I cannot as a historian, see why anyone would have continued to belong to his movement and to regard him as the Messiah. There were several other Messianic or quasi-Messianic movements within a hundred years either side of Jesus. Routinely, they ended with the leader being killed by authorities, or by a rival group. If your Messiah is killed, you conclude that he was not the Messiah. Some of those movements continued to exist; where they did, they took a new leader from the same family (But note: Nobody ever said that James, the brother of Jesus, was the Messiah.) Such groups did not go around saying that their Messiah had been raised from the dead. What is more, I cannot make sense of the whole picture, historically or theologically, unless they were telling the truth.” (John Dominic Crossan and N.T Wright. The Resurrection of Jesus. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press. 2006, 71).

8. Resurrection Reconsidered – Paperback (Aug. 1, 1996) by Gavin D’Costa

This book contains a variety of essays on the resurrection. Some of them are written by skeptics and those who are of other religious backgrounds. One chapter that stands out is an essay written by Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok. I saw Sherbok speak several years ago. What is interesting are his comments about why he doesn’t buy the resurrection story. He says:

“As a Jew and a rabbi, I would be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, but I would set very high standards of what is required. It would not be enough to have subjective experiences of Jesus. If I heard voices or had a visionary experience of Jesus, this would not be enough.”

Sherbock goes on to say the only things that would convince him would be something that takes place in the public domain. Such an event would have to be witnessed by multitudes, photographed, recorded on video cameras, shown on television, and announced worldwide. The resurrection would have to be announced on CNN and world media.

With these expectations, I wonder how Sherbock even knows anything happened in the history of the Jewish people. None of the events in the Torah, etc, can meet these expectations that he has for the resurrection. So he sets an expectation level that will never be met. Oh well!

9.The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective by Pinchas Lapide and Wilhelm C. Linss (Paperback – Mar 31, 2002)

In contrast to Sherbok, the late Pinchas Lapide was an Orthodox Jewish scholar who did some significant work in Christian/Jewish relations. He came to think that the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection was quite compelling. He said,

”The resurrection of Jesus by Creator is a fact which indeed is withheld from objective science, photographers, and a conceptual proof, but not from believing scrutiny of history which more frequently leads to deeper insights. In other words: Without the Sinai experience-no Judaism; without the Easter experience-no Christianity. Both were Jewish faith experience whose radiating power, in a different way was meant for the world of nations.”

Lapide was so impressed by the creed of 1 Cor. 15, that he concluded that this “formula of faith may be considered as a statement of eyewitnesses.”

What is ironic is that Lapide thought Jesus was not the Messiah for the Jewish people. But he was resurrected for the sake of the Gentiles. He thinks it is part of God’s redemptive plan for the nations. Interesting indeed.

10. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan And N.T. Wright in Dialogue by Robert B. Stewart (Jan 2006)

This book is an exchange between John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright on their different understandings of the historical reality and theological meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection. The book highlights points of agreement and disagreement between them and explores the many attendant issues.
This book brings two leading lights in Jesus studies together for a long-overdue conversation with one another and with significant scholars from other disciplines. The book also contains a series of responses to Wright and Crossan by scholars such as Robert Stewart, William Lane Craig, Craig Evans, R. Douglas Geivett, Gary Habermas, Ted Peters, Charles Quarles, and Alan Segal.

11. The Resurrection of the Messiah by Christopher Bryan

This is a book I have been reading through this summer. Bryan has been doing some excellent scholarship. This book is a combination of literary, historical, and theological approaches in a study of the doctrine of the Resurrection. Bryan does examine the sources for the resurrection. He also includes an appendix where he critiques John Crossan’s (of the Jesus Seminar) on whether the resurrection is “the Prophetization of History.”

12. Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God by J.R. Daniel Kirk

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Amazon gives the summary of the book here:

If the God of Israel has acted to save his people through Christ, but Israel is not participating in that salvation, how then can this God be considered righteous? Unlocking Romans is an intriguing study of Paul’s letter that is directed in large extent toward answering this question in order to illuminate the righteousness of God the book of Romans reveals. J. R. Daniel Kirk explains that this God is best understood not in abstractions, but in the particularity of Israel’s story. This story contextualizes the identity of God and the quality of Gods righteousness. The answer here, Kirk claims, comes mainly in terms of resurrection. Even if only the most obvious references in Romans are considered – and Kirk certainly delves more deeply than the obvious – the theme of resurrection still appears not only in every section of the letter, but also at climactic moments of Paul’s argument. The network of connections among Jesus resurrection, Israel’s Scriptures, and redefining the people of God, serves to affirm Gods fidelity to Israel. This, in turn, demonstrates Paul’s gospel message to be a witness to the revelation of the righteousness of God. Unlocking Romans is a clear and inviting theological study of what many consider the Bibles most theological book.

12. I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus by George Eldon Ladd (Sep 1987)

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This is an excellent short little book by one of the most influential New Testament theologians of the last century. It can be read in about an hour.

13. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Paul D. L. Avis (Oct 1993)

This book features a series of essays on the resurrection. Some of essays present some objections to the resurrection which can be helpful for all of us who are in the apologetic endeavor. One of my favorite essays is written by Richard Bauckham.

14. Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments by Mr. Michael Welker, Mr. Ted Peters and Mr. Robert John Russell (Oct 2, 2002)

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The Amazon review says:

A team of scientists and theologians from both sides of the Atlantic explore the Christian concept of bodily resurrection in light of the views of contemporary science. Whether it be the Easter resurrection of Jesus or the promised new life of individual believers, the authors argue that resurrection must be conceived as “embodied” and that our bodies cannot exist apart from their worldly environment. Yet nothing in today’s scientific disciplines supports the possibility of either bodily resurrection or the new creation of the universe at large. Bridging such disciplines as physics, biology, neuroscience, philosophy, biblical studies, and theology, Resurrection offers fascinating reading to anyone interested in this vital Christian belief or in the intersection of faith and scientific thought.

15. Defending the Resurrection by James Patrick Holding

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I think all apologists should read Holding’s work. Why? Because he is one of the most well known internet apologists and he has dealt with the majority of junk arguments on the internet. He also has had plenty of online debates and a public debate with Richard Carrier.

Paul’s Gospel- Good News for Pagans

 Over the years, I have asked people what comes to their mind when they hear the word “Gospel.” I have had some very interesting responses. Some say that when they hear the word “Gospel” it brings to mind a choir singing a song in a church, or a message/teaching of some kind. But overall, there seems to be great confusion about this issue.

In the New Testament, the “gospel” denotes the “good tidings” of the kingdom of God and of salvation through the Messiah, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 15:7; 20:24; 1 Peter 4:17). I am well aware that the Gospel is presented in a variety of contexts in the Bible.

Two predominant people groups in the New Testament are Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles (I would of been one of them) were the ones who were pagan idol-worshippers (1 Cor.12:2), who were “uncircumcised,” “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel” (Eph 2:11-13), and “without hope.”

That is why it is significant to note that Paul, who was a very competent rabbi was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ (who was a key rabbinic leader) was presenting a Gospel that was opposed to pagan mythology. So let’s look at Paul (who wrote a good majority of the New Testament) and see if we can learn some tips in how he viewed the Gospel.

Romans 1: 1-7:

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So we see that the Gospel is first and foremost a message about Jesus. Six things stand out:

1. In Jesus of Nazareth, specifically in the cross, the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil, including sin and death themselves.

2. In Jesus’ resurrection, a new age has dawned, inaugurating the long-awaited time when the prophecies would be fulfilled, when Israel’s exile would be over, and the whole world would be addressed by the one creator God.

3. The crucified and risen Jesus, was, all along Israel’s Messiah, her representative king:

Paul lays great emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection in other places in the NT. Through Jesus’ resurrection, He installed as Son of God (Rom. 1:4), as universal Lord (Rom. 14:9; Eph.1:20-21; Phi.2:9-11), and judge of the living and the dead (Acts 17:31).

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” The references to the word “kingdom” can be seen in two classes: First, it is viewed as a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it (2 Thess 1:5). Second, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward (Matt 25:34), as well as glory (Matt 13:43).

There is no kingdom without a king. In the New Testament, Jesus is the inaugurator of the Kingdom of God. The New Testament states that Jesus the Messiah, the “seed of David,” was sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. Therefore, the fulfillment reached its completion in the Messiah, both son of David and the one greater than David ( Psalm 110:1-4). As it says in Luke 1:32-33, “He shall be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.”

4. Jesus was therefore, also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one whose very knee must bow:

In the Roman Empire, pagans would have seen Caesar as their “Lord.” But for Paul there is a different “Lord” and his name is Jesus. Hence, the willingness to do call Jesus “Lord” is to place Jesus in a role attributed to God in Jewish expectation. For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity.

5. The God of Israel is the one true God, and pagan deities are mere idols:

This sounds alot like 1 Corinthians 8: 5-6: “For though there are things that are called gods, whether in the heavens or on earth; as there are many gods and many lords; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we live through him.”

Here is a distinct echo of the Shema, a creed that every Jew would have memorized from a very early age. When we read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which says, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is our God, the Lord is one,” Paul ends up doing something extremely significant in the history of Judaism.

If we look at the entire context of the passage in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, according to Paul’s inspired understanding, Jesus receives the “name above all names,” the name God revealed as his own, the name of the Lord.

In giving a reformulation of the Shema, Paul still affirms the existence of the one God, but what is unique is that somehow this one God now includes the one Lord, Jesus the Messiah. Therefore, Paul’s understanding of this passage begets no indication of abandoning Jewish monotheism in place of paganism.

6. The God of Israel is now made known in and through Jesus himself. (1)

Sources:

1. These six points were made in N.T Wright’s What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 1997), 60. I have added some of my own thoughts after each point as well.

Apologetics seldom works

This is a post that has some good tips on the limitation of apologetics. I can identity with many of the authors points- especially #4!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Make sure you read the entire post. Don’t judge it by the title. And please note the author is not speaking against apologetics.

Apologetics seldom works.

Notice that I italicized the word “works”. What I mean by “works” is that the answers given do not always eventually lead that person to faith in Jesus. Why? Because of the effects of sin on the unbelieving mind. Consider,

“. . . the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7b-8 NASB)

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21 NASB)

To read on, click here:

Why The Church Needs Apologetics: A Look at Critics, Seekers, and Doubters

Introduction

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Over the years I have spoken to several people from a variety of backgrounds about the Christian faith. When we started a Ratio Christi apologetics chapter on The Ohio State University in the Fall of 2009, I had been talking to college students about spiritual beliefs for several years. It was during my experience while doing campus outreach that I began to see the need for a stronger apologetics presence on the college campuses. Also, it should be noted that it was a debate between William Lane Craig and skeptic Robert Price in 1998 that really got me interested in apologetics.

Anyway, over the years I have taught classes, given sermons and written articles about the need for apologetics in the Church. Therefore, myself (along with other Christians who are passionate about apologetics), generally have to take some flack about apologetics. Even though apologetics is seen throughout the Bible, we are sometimes seen as exalting reason to a place that was never intended or we assume apologetics is the sole catalyst as someone’s conversion. I bring this all up because I am presently enjoying reading Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment by James Taylor. Taylor lists three kinds of people who we will encounter when doing evangelism. If anything, if we do evangelism and encounter people in these categories, we should see why we need apologetics in the Church. Taylor says when dealing with people, many people may fall into various categories such as:

1. Critics: those with criticisms of the Christian faith who are not open to the possibility of its truth. Critics need to be answered to neutralize the effects of their criticisms on seekers and doubters.

 

2. Seekers: people who are open to our faith but are prevented from making a commitment primarily because of honest questions about the Christian claims.

 

3. Doubters: are Christians who find it difficult to believe one or more tenants of the Christian faith with complete confidence. Doubters need to be restored to full Christian conviction by giving them the tools to remove their doubts.

In own experience, I run into a lot of #1′s. Many of these people read a lot of the skeptic literature online or have decided to be a disciple of Richard Dawkins, Richard Carrier, or some other famous atheist. Or, they may say they used to be a Christian or a former Christian apologist and they now have a life calling to tell the entire world how bad Christianity is for the world. Now I don’t have the time to go into the complexities of why these people got to where they are. But my point is that there are a lot of critics and it is these critics that tend to be quite evangelistic.

I also see #2′s and maybe some #3′s. I have seen people who are truly open to the claims of the Christian faith but need some of their questions answered. There are testimonies of people that have come to Christ through apologetic works. Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig and other apologist can testify of many, many, people who have been impacted by their apologetic contributions.

As far as doubters, I am convinced there are doubters all over the Church. But since the Church is not equipped to handle many forms of doubt (whether it be factual, emotional, or psychological), Christians can end up suppressing their doubts or questions. This is unhealthy and can thwart a full commitment to the Christian faith. If anything, some basics of apologetics could help these people. I have run into several college students that had doubts all throughout their youth but never got a handle on it before college. This is one reason why they tend to become agnostics or atheists during their college experience.

What’s the Point?

The reality is that if any Christian wants do obey the commands of Jesus and make disciples (Matt. 28:19), they will encounter critics, seekers, and doubters. But my question is how can we expect any Christian to be prepared to engage critics, seekers, and doubters without some basic apologetic training? If this stirs your heart, then I suggest trying to start an apologetics ministry in your church. To see how you might go about it, see the clip here with William Lane Craig. God Bless!

Paul and Creation

The skeptical issue in our culture mostly enters into the religious dialogue in the following way: “In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, what kind of evidence should we expect to find? There is a tendency to forget that the Bible stresses that sin can dampen the the cognitive faculties that God has given us to find Him. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13). Christianity, Judaism, Islam, are all theistic faiths in contrast to pantheism (all is God), polytheism (many gods), and atheism (without God). In a classical apologetic argument, the cosmological (including both the horizontal and vertical cosmological argument) point to the theistic God of the Bible. Therefore, the God of the Bible is capable of giving a revelation to mankind through a specific medium. One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. (1)

While God predominately revealed Himself to the Jewish people through specific actions in the course of human history, the Jewish people agree that the Torah was the pivotal moment of God’s supreme revelation to them. But what about the Gentile nations? After all, it is Israel that was given the Torah. The good news is God has also taken the initiative to reveal Himself to Gentiles through general or natural revelation. In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine, invisible being, we have to use induction. Induction is the method of drawing general conclusions from specific observations. For example, since we can’t observe gravity directly, we only observe its effects.

Romans 1:18-21

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.” (Rom.1:18-21) In this passage, God’s knowledge is described as “eternal power and divine nature.” Paul lays out the basic principle of cause and effect. Paul says since God is the Designer (God is the cause), His “everlasting power and divinity” are obvious, “through the things that are made” (this is the effect).

Romans Ch1:18: The word “suppress,” means “to consciously dismiss in the mind,”to “hold down”, or to “hold back by force or to dismiss.” However, that which is “suppressed” is not destroyed. As much as humans try to suppress the truth of God’s existence, the human mind is still aware of their moral accountability to Him. In relation to this passage, Paul says God’s revelation says is not hidden or concealed. The reason this revelation is clear is because God shows it to him.

In other words, God makes knowledge of Himself available to man! The creation gives a cognitive knowledge of God’s existence but not saving knowledge. However, according to Romans 1:18-21, man is not left in ignorance about God.

Theologians, philosophers, and apologists have made significant comments in relation to Romans 1:18-21. Here are a few of them:

The revelation of God in nature is mediate, but it is so manifest and so clear that it does not necessitate a complex theoretical reasoning process that could be achieved only by a group of geniuses. If God’s general revelation is in fact “general,” in that it is plain enough for all to see clearly without complicated cosmological argumentation, then it may even be said to be self evident. The revelation is clear enough for an unskilled and illiterate person to perceive it. The memory of conscious knowledge of the trauma encounter with God’s revelation is not maintained in its lucid, threatening state, but is repressed. It is “put down or held in captivity” in the unconsciousness. That which is repressed is not destroyed. The memory remains though it may be buried in the subconscious realm. Knowledge of God is unacceptable, and as a result humans attempt to blot it out or at least camouflage it in such a way that its threatening character can be concealed or dulled. (Sproul, R.C, Gerstner, John and Arthur Lindsey. Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing.1984, 46-59).

Former atheist J. Budziszewski:

I am not at present concerned to explore Paul’s general claim that those who deny the Creator are wicked but only his more particular claim that they are intellectually dishonest. Notice that he does not criticize nonbelievers because they do not know about God but ought to. Rather, he criticizes them because they do know about God but pretend to themselves that they don’t. According to his account, we are not ignorant of God’s reality at all. Rather, we “suppress” it; to translate differently, we “hold it down.” With all our strength we try not to know it, even though we can’t help knowing it; with one part of our minds we do know it, while with another we say, “I know no such thing.” From the biblical point of view, then, the reason it is so difficult to argue with an atheist—as I once was—is that he is not being honest with himself. He knows there is a God, but he tells himself that he doesn’t. How can a person explain how he reached new first principles? By what route could he have arrived at them? To what deeper considerations could he have appealed? If the biblical account is true, then it would seem that no one really arrives at new first principles; a person only seems to arrive at them. The atheist does not lack true first principles; they are in his knowledge already, though suppressed. The convert from atheism did not acquire them; rather, things he knew all along were unearthed. ( Geisler, N. L. and Paul K. Hoffman. Why I Am A Christian. Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 2001, 49).

Alvin Plantinga

 Our original knowledge of God and his glory is muffled and impaired; it has been replaced (by virtue of sin) by stupidity, dullness, blindness, inability to perceive God or to perceive him in his handiwork. Our knowledge of his character and his love toward us can be smothered: it can be transformed into resentful thought that God is to be feared and mistrusted; we may see him as indifferent or even malignant. In the traditional taxonomy of seven deadly sins, this is sloth. Sloth is not simple laziness, like the inclination to lie down and watch television rather than go out and get exercise you need; it is, instead, a kind of spiritual deadness, blindness, imperceptiveness, acedia, torpor, a failure to be aware of God’s presence, love, requirements. (Plantinga, A. Warranted Christian Belief. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2000, 214-215).

1. Dulles, A.J. Models Of Revelation. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1983, 13

A Look at John Piper’s View of Israel and How a Christian Should View the Israel/Palestinian Crisis

Introduction

At the present time, there are hundreds of debates and ongoing discussions about the ongoing war in Israel. I grew up in a large Jewish community here in Columbus, Ohio. The mainline demolition that I was birthed in sat between two Orthodox Jewish synagogues. I attended countless Jewish holiday events, weddings, and numerous Bar Mitzvahs. My daily exposure to Jewish culture continued throughout my youth and into my college years At age 24, I had never before met Jewish people who believed in Jesus. I was invited by a friend to a messianic congregation led by a Jewish believer. For the first time, I heard the powerful and convicting message of salvation taught from the Book of Matthew. So here I was as a nominal Christian hearing the Gospel from a Jewish person who believed Jesus was the Messiah. I have also been in Jewish missions for a number of years. Since then I have done my best to educate myself as much as I can on the topic of Israel. I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic. Let’s start with a few issues:

#1: Christians Need to Know the History of the Conflict

Christians (and for that matter anyone else) are not supposed to be ignorant. You can watch Dennis Prager’s overview here. 

#2: What About Christian Zionists?

As Michael Rydlenick points out, there are three serious misconceptions about Zionism. He says:

First, it is erroneously alleged that Zionism is a colonial movement and not a national one. Zionism was never about colonizing. Colonialism refers to the oppression and exploitation of an indigenous population. Zionism is primarily a national liberation movement that contends that Jewish people, like any other people of any other nation are entitled to a homeland. As second misconception is that Zionism is imperialistic and seeks to conquer Arab territory. If that were true, the people would have never returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for peace in 1979, or offered the return of the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for a full peace agreement. A third error about Zionism is that it is racist and hateful of Arabs. The United Nations, led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Arab states, passed a resolution in 1975 (repealed in 1991) claiming Zionism is “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Israel’s democracy society is evident in its one million Arab citizens who have more freedom than Arabs in any other Arab country. The Zionist state of Israel has been scrupulous in protecting the religious, civil, and political rights of all Christians and Muslims in the state. To identify Jewish self-determination exclusively as racist is in reality really anti-Semitic. American civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz rebuked those in the international community who have termed Zionism racist, arguing “A world that closed doors to Jews who sought escape from Hitler’s ovens lacks moral standing to complain about Israel’s giving preference to Jews.-Understanding the Israel- Arab Conflict: What The Headlines Haven’t Told You, pgs 62-63.

#3: John Piper

Recently, the Gospel Coalition had this article called on their site. In the article, it says:

Ten years ago John Piper, then pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, delivered a sermon from Romans 11:25–32 titled “Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.” In it, he offered seven principles concerning the ever-contentious issue of “the Land”:

I will go ahead and give my thoughts on each of these points. Piper says:

1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.

Response: I agree

2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Response: I agree

3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.

Response: I agree but that still doesn’t nullify the covenant. Hence, if most of Israel is in unbelief right now, that doesn’t mean they have no right to have no divine right to the land. I expand on this more as we read on.

4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.

Response: When Piper says his own people rejected him, this is quite vague.

He doesn’t really go into any detail about any of the covenants as he does in other points here. It is true that not all of Israel believed. There was a remnant who believed. One passage (even though Piper doesn’t mention it) that is misunderstood is the following:

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”-Matthew 21:43. Some have said that this teaches God divorced and judged unfaithful Israel (who had murdered the Messiah) and married a faithful bride: His Church. However, a more careful reading shows that the “you” of Matt 21:43 is identified in Matt 21:45 not as Israel or the Jewish people but as ‘the chief priests and the Pharisees,”—the temple authorities who confronted Jesus in Matt 21:23-27. The “people” referred to in Matt 21:43 is not the church in contrast to to the Jewish people, but the new leadership group that will replace the old.

Furthermore, Craig Keener notes that “nation” here probably recalls Ex 19:6 and strict Jewish groups that characterized themselves as “righteous remnants” within Israel (e.g.,Qumran) could also view themselves as heirs of the biblical covenant community. In this period “ethnos” applies to guilds, associations, social classes or other groups or even orders of priests: urban Greeks used the term for rural Greeks, the LXX for Gentiles, and Greeks for non Greeks. Matthew implies not rejection of Israel but of dependence on any specific group membership, be it synagogue or church (The Gospel f Matthew: A Social Rhetorical Commentary), pgs,515, 516.

Also, in Rom. 9:1-5: Paul wishes he was cut off or accursed from the Messiah so that his countrymen would know the Messiah. Paul explicitly affirms that the “covenants,” “temple service,” and “promises” still belong to Israel. This is in the present tense.

Also, despite Israel’s unbelief in Jesus, “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2). Israel remains God’s beloved chosen people “on account of the patriarchs” (Rom. 11:28). Paul also says God’s gifts and callings to Israel are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). Also, in Romans 11, the“riches” Gentiles are experiencing now during the state of Israel’s “stumbling” will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation (see Rom. 11:26). The 10 references to “Israel” in Romans 9-11 refer to ethnic/national Israel so the Israel who will be saved in Rom 11:26 must refer to ethnic/national Israel. Israel will experience a national restoration and salvation at some point in the future.There is no reason to think that “Israel” in Rom 9-11 is referring to “spiritual Israel” which is composed of Jews and Gentiles. The Church today is composed on believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Also, there is no use of “Israel” in the Gospels/Acts which does not refer to the Jewish people/nation, the Israel of the Jewish Scriptures. Israel will be grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles leads it to respond (Rom 11:11-12; 15, 30-32). Finally, as a Calvinist, does Piper think God can divorce Israel but not divorce his own children?  It seems inconsistent.

4. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.

Response: Whether Piper sees Israel as having divine right to the land will depend on his exegesis. Obviously, there are good Christians who disagree here. Exegetically speaking, I do think Israel has a divine right to the land. If you want, see this series of lectures with Craig Evans, Darrell Bock and others about the land and Israel. In the end, I am not opposed to a two state solution. But as long as Hamas is in the picture, that seems like an impossibility.

5. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.

Response: Once again, this is an exegetical issue. I don’t see any basis that within the Abrahamic Covenant, Gentiles receive the material blessings. Gentiles certainly receive spiritual blessings, and ultimately these were fulfilled though the one specific “seed” of Abraham—the Messiah.

7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ’s people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.

Response: Overall, I have no disagreement here.

#3: What is the solution to the conflict in Israel? Blessed are the Shalom Makers!

As a follower of Jesus, I would hope that no matter if you are a Zionist or a zealous pro Palestinian Christian (e.g., the Gary Burge crowd), you know the only hope for this situation is the Prince of Peace. I think this an excellent paper on the issue of biblical reconciliation. It is called PROCLAIMING THE PRINCE OF PEACE:MISSIOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF BIBLICAL RECONCILIATION by GALEN PETERSON. Here is an excerpt:

One of the names given to the Messiah prophetically in Isaiah 9:6 (MT 9:5) is “Prince of Peace.” The term affixes purpose regarding peace to the ministry of the Messiah and through His authority (John 4:34; 17:4; Rom 5:1). Jesus declared that the manner in which hebrings peace is distinct from that of humanity, saying in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; Mypeace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” It follows that all aspects related to peace will be shaped by this distinction. This paper seeks to establish the parameters associated with one peace-related dichotomy, namely that of reconciliation, and will show that reconciliation exists both as the world gives and as given by Jesus, and has relevance in the Holy Land.

To read on, see here:

Christians can go back and forth on this. But please remember we are called to Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6).