Six Apologetic Topics Every Christian Should Learn About

Apologetics is a branch of theology that helps give reasons for the truthfulness of the Christian faith/worldview. The word “apologia” means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15). Throughout Acts, Luke uses words such as reason, (trying to) persuade, eyewitness, witness, defense. Apologetics is giving the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of why you think the God of the Bible exists and Jesus is his Son. Yes, people have tons of questions and if you can’t articulate why you have decided to commit yourself to the person of Jesus, you will have a hard time being a His disciple in the world around you.

On more than one occasion, people have asked me what areas should they focus on in their own study of apolgoetics. These are people that want to engage the culture and are burdened for the people God has placed in their lives. In my opinion, while there are many others not mentioned here, there are at least six  areas every Christian should learn about. What I mean is that over the years of talking to hundreds of college students and others as well, these are the continual topics that always come to the surface.  Now remember, you can’t learn everything. And you don’t have to know everything! But here are some of my picks:

1.God’s Existence

It is imperative to know the different approaches to the the existence of God. How can you talk to someone about the existence of God without using the Bible? Don’t get me wrong: I love the Bible. But many people don’t accept the Bible as an authority.  Remember, not everyone approaches God’s existence the same way. See our clip on this topic here. 

2. Biblical Reliability

Obviously,  many  people turn to the Bible to find God. Others will recognize, though, that the Bible doesn’t set out to prove the existence of God. In other words, the Bible presupposes God’s existence. On the other hand, not everyone thinks the Bible is an authoritative or inspired book. Even those who do believe the Bible is God’s Word differ in matters of interpretation. To add to the muddled mess, millions of people think that their holy book is “The One.”

See our clips on Biblical Reliability here and here. 

3. Religious Pluralism

One of the most controversial issues in religious dialogue is whether there is one way of salvation. In other words, the Christian claim that Jesus is the only possible Savior for the human race (Matt 11:27; John 1:18; 3:36; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 John 1: 5:11-12) is considered to be overly exclusive and arrogant. The Bible speaks of God’s judgment on pagan religions. They are said to have no redemptive value to them (Exod. 20: 3-6; 2 Chron: 13: 8-9; Isa. 37: 18-19; Acts 26: 17-18; Col. 1:13). While Christianity is a Jewish story and salvation is from the Jewish people (John 4:22), salvifically speaking, Paul makes it known that there is no distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish people. Both are under sin and must turn to God through repentance and faith through Jesus the Messiah (Rom 3:9; Acts 20:21).

What about those people in the Tanakh (the Old Testament ) that never exercised explicit belief in Jesus as the Messiah? What about people like Melchizedek, Jethro, Job and Rahab? In response, it is true that people in the Tanakh did not have explicit knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah as a payment for their sins. However, this objection fails to take into account the issue of progressive revelation. The principle of progressive revelation means that God does not reveal everything at once. In progressive revelation, there are many cases where the New Testament declares explicitly what was only implicit in the Tanakh. One of these truths is that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who takes away not only the sins of Israel, but the entire world (John 1: 29; 3: 16). To see more about this, see our clip here. 

4. Miracles

If there are no miracles, there are no resurrections. Can you articulate what a miracle actually is? What is the role of miracles in the Bible? What about objections to miracles? See our clip here: 

5. The Resurrection of Jesus

Given the resurrection is the central claim of our faith, it is important to be able to articulate not only the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, but also the purpose and meaning behind such a significant event. See our clip here: 

6. The Reliability of the New Testament

If someone rejects the reliability of the New Testament, it would be hard to talk about the resurrection. See our clip here 

While there are obviously many other topics, I think these are some of the essentials.  Study hard!

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A Look at Religious Pluralism: Is Jesus the Only Way of Salvation?

Here was a teaching we did on the topic of religious pluralism and the exclusive nature  of the Gospel. I discuss the issue of Coexist and the differences between exclusivism and inclusivism.

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Book Review: Essential Eschatology: Our Present and Future Hope, By John E. Phelan

 

Essential Eschatology: Our Present and Future Hope by [Phelan Jr., John E.]

Essential Eschatology: Our Present and Future Hope, John E. Phelan.IVP Academic, 2013, 209 pp.  0830840257

Given that the study of eschatology has fallen on hard times, I am always looking for a healthy book on the topic. This is one of them. John E. Phelan’s Essential Eschatology: Our Present and Future Hope discusses the importance of eschatology to our daily discipleship and the need to stress the “hope” we have in our views of God’s dealings with this world. For example, here is some outstanding advice. He says:

“Then as now, people sought credit and honor. And people have always sought to secure their future by storing up “treasures on earth” (Mt 6:19). Throughout much of human history people have seemed to worry about little more than what they will eat, drink and wear and where they will live. So it is counterintuitive that Jesus would tell us “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life,” he insists, “more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Mt 6:25). Someone once suggested to me this was either the wisest or the craziest thing Jesus ever said. Jesus’ words here are certainly about trusting God: “If God so clothes the grass of the field . . . will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Mt 6:30). But there is more than this going on. Our cultures and our economies seduce and compromise us through fear and intimidation. Politicians panic us by warning of the weakness of the economy. We will put up with just about any nonsense from our leaders if the economy is strong. We will meekly do what powerful business and political bosses want if we think we can save our paychecks, our homes, our careers. For the sake of the economy we will “strain at gnats” and “swallow camels.” For contemporary Americans this is the most powerful force of compromise and seduction. I once heard of a pastor in a contentious denomination who said, “When the big split comes, I am going with the pension fund.” Every politician knows that in the United States, Social Security is the third rail of a political career. Step on it, and your services will no longer be required by the electorate! Some Christians seem to have no difficulty in trusting God for their eternal salvation. But Jesus wants us to really trust God and not the economic policies of the Republicans or the Democrats. He wants us to value the kingdom of God over capitalism or socialism. Those who trust God, really trust God, for their daily bread will not be seduced by fear or manipulated by threats. As difficult as it is for those of us who worry about little else, Jesus wants us not to “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own” (Mt 6:34). To have an eschatological consciousness is to trust in God and look to God’s kingdom and not to the kingdoms of this world.”

In each chapter, Phelan discusses topics such as the hope of the church, the hope for resurrection, hope for judgment, hope for the kingdom of God, hope for the millennium, hope for the kingdom, and others. If you are looking for a book where the author tries to take a position such as premillennialism, preterism, or amillennialism, this is not your book. Towards the end, Phelan does favor a postmillennial view, but he doesn’t make that the purpose of the book.He even mentions the Jewish concept of Tikkun olam which means “repair of the world.” It as an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially so that this world might be a better place.  But even in his post millennial views, he does have a chapter called hope for Israel. For example, Phelan says:

“However, does Christian eschatology, the hope of Christians for a new heaven and a new earth, really require supersessionism? Does it not make a place for Israel as Israel? Increasingly, Christian theologians are insisting that it does. Jürgen Moltmann famously argued that what he calls millenarianism does entail a hope for Israel as Israel. The term millenarianism refers to belief in the thousand-year earthly rule of God referred to in Revelation 20:1-6. For Moltmann, millenarianism anticipates a very earthly hope for both the people of Israel and the followers of Messiah Jesus. Millenarianism is the hope of an earthly kingdom—God’s direct rule over a new heaven and a new earth as promised by Israel’s prophets. For most of its history, the church rejected the notion of an earthly kingdom as a Jewish dream. As discussed in an earlier chapter, the prevailing view was amillennialism—the belief that there was no thousand-year rule of God. Rather, God was already ruling with his saints through the church and Christian empire. Moltmann argues that this Christian empire was the chief reason for the historical rejection of millenarianism, the future rule of Messiah on the earth, in spite of the clear expectations of Jesus, Paul and the early church. “We shrug our shoulders over the people of the election, and hence over chiliasm [the belief in the thousand-year earthly kingdom] too,” declared one Christian thinker.9 When the messianic kingdom was identified with the rule of a Christian king or emperor alongside bishops and clergy, the expectation of an earthly kingdom ruled by a Jewish messiah became less attractive—especially for the emperors and bishops. Moltmann, as seen in a previous chapter, intends to reclaim millenarian eschatology for both Israel and the church. He insists that there is a Christian hope for Israel as Israel.

According to Moltmann: The presuppositions for a Christian hope for Israel are these: (a) Israel has an enduring “salvific calling,” parallel to the church of the Gentiles, for God remains true to his election and his promise (Rom. 11:1f). (b) The promises given to Israel are as yet only fulfilled in principle in the coming of the Messiah Jesus, and in him without conditions, and hence universally endorsed (2 Cor. 1:20); and in the outpouring of the Spirit “on all flesh” are as yet… what Paul calls the time of the gospel—in the language of Maimonides, the praeparatio messianica. (c) Christianity is God’s “other community of hope” parallel to Israel and over against Israel. Parallel to the people of God, it is the missionary and messianic church of the nations. It can therefore only remain true to its own hope if it recognizes Israel as the older community of hope alongside itself. In its hope for the nations the church also preserves the “surplus of hope” in Israel’s prophets, and therefore waits for the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes too.

So here, Phelan doesn’t discuss any details about raptures and tribulations, but he does believe Paul and others were justified in seeing a hope for Israel. Yes, it isn’t heresy to believe such a thing!

Phelan also discusses what the Bible does teach about heaven and hell, as well as what Second Temple Jews believed about such issues. He even discusses the growing popularity of universalism.

Given the over reaction to sensationalist and pop prophecy books by John Hagee and The Left Behind Series, I truly believe that we need to be able to incorporate healthy teaching on eschatology into local discipleship. This book would be a great resource to use for such an endeavor. The first followers of Jesus were an eschatological community. We need to understand what they believed and what it means for us today

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Book Review: Mapping the Apologetics Debate: Comparing Contemporary Approaches By Brian K. Morley

Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches by [Morley, Brian K.]

Mapping the Apologetics Debate: Comparing Contemporary Approaches By Brian K. Morley. IVP Academic, 2015, 384 pp. 978-0830840670

Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that helps give reasons for the truthfulness of the Christian faith/worldview. The word “Apologia” means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15). Throughout Acts, Luke uses words such as reason, (trying to) persuade, eyewitness, witness, defense. If you’re an apologetics geek like me, you probably are already interested in the various apologetic methodologies that are out there. Apologetics is giving the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of why you think the God of the Bible exists and Jesus is his Son. Yes, people have tons of questions and if you can’t articulate why you have decided to commit yourself to the person of Jesus, you will have a hard time being a His disciple in today’s world. Before I had read this book on apologetics methodology, several years ago, I had read the book Five Views of Apologetics. So I was aware of the various apologetic systems. Morley’s book did not disappoint me at all. I love how he laid out all the different apologetic approaches and talked about the apologists who have formed and utilized these apologetic methods in their ministries. I also appreciated how he provided some possible criticisms of each approach.

Since I do apologetics full time on two local campuses, I must pull from several apologetic methodologies. Even though I lean towards the classical and evidential approach, in my experience, it can be necessary to cross over into other apologetic systems.

As Morley notes, apologetic methodology is a complex topic, and brilliant, godly, dedicated people can disagree. Many apologists and the method they use will have different views regarding  the relationship between faith and evidence, the possibility of using induction, the relationship between fact and theory (especially whether we can reason from fact to theory) and the rational capability of the fallen mind.

One thing that I agree on with Morley is the limitations of apologetics. As Morley rightly says:

“We cannot expect to have 100-percent proof, in the normal sense of the term proof, for most of what we believe. As nonomniscient beings, we do not have absolute, airtight proof for real-world things. Proof is multifaceted, and varies according to what is proved.  We prove historical truths differently from those of physics or mathematics. Furthermore, we have different levels of certainty for different things. We have a higher level of certainty for the statement “circles are round” (a tautology) than we do for the statement “Booth shot Lincoln” (what if his legal name at the time was not “Booth” and the records were lost?). But that does not mean that we cannot have certitude, the inner assurance that something is true. We saw that Alvin Plantinga has argued that we can be considered rational for being sure of things we would have difficulty proving (e.g., the world wasn’t created with apparent age a few minutes ago), so our level of certitude can exceed our level of proof. We can inwardly be just as sure of two things for which we have different levels of proof.”

One thing I did appreciate from Morley in this book was his overview of someone that tends to be forgotten: John Warwick Montgomery. As Morley notes:

“Montgomery holds ten advanced degrees, among them the PhD from the University of Chicago and the DThéol from the University of Strasbourg, France—three of his degrees being in law, including the higher doctorate in law from Cardiff University, UK, granted for his publication record. He has written or edited some fifty books in five languages, plus hundreds of articles.He went on to found a law school and a graduate program in apologetics, then to teach law in England (he is a practicing English barrister and an avocet à la cour, barreau de Paris), and to win important international human rights cases. A student in his Renaissance class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School wrote that he seems to embody the idea of a Renaissance man completed by the Godward focus of the Reformation. Norman Geisler has called him “one of the pioneers of historical apologetics,” adding that his extensive knowledge and work are “virtually unparalleled in this field.” His work had a significant effect on Josh McDowell, whose 23,000 talks have reached over ten million people, and whose 108 authored or coauthored books have sold nearly 50 million copies (including Evidence That Demands a Verdict and More Than a Carpenter).”

I am now going to brush up on my reading of Montgomery’s work.

In the end, for anyone that is in the field of apologetics, Morley’s book is a must read. I appreciated it very much and found it both intellectually satisfying and spiritually uplifting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Do You Have a Worldview?

Do you have worldview? The term worldview was used in the sense described by prominent German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911). Dilthey affirmed that philosophy must be defined as a comprehensiveness vision of reality that involves the social and historical reality of humankind, including religion. A worldview is thus the nature and structure of the body of convictions of a group or individual. (1) Worldview includes a sense of meaning and value and principles of action. It is much more than merely an “outlook” or an “attitude.” Each person’s worldview is based on a key category, an organizing principle, a guiding image, a clue, or an insight selected from the complexity of his or her multidimensional experience. (2)

There is no doubt that a worldview plays a huge role in our discussions with others about spiritual issues and the questions below. If you don’t think this ever happens, check out this video here:

Some of the fundamental questions that make up a worldview are the following:
• Origins: How did it all begin? Where did we come from?
• Fall: What went wrong? What is the source of evil and suffering?
• Redemption: What can we do about it? How can the world be set right again?
• Morality: What is the basis for morality? In other words, how do we know what is right and wrong?
• History: What is the meaning of history? Where is history going?
• Death: What happens to a person at death?
• Epistemology: Why is it possible to know anything at all?
• Ontology: What is reality? What is the nature of the external reality around us?
• Purpose: What is man’s purpose in the world? (3)

In addition to these primary questions, there are three major narratives :

  1. Identity: You have to be true to yourself.
  2. Freedom: I should be free to live any way I want as long as I’m not harming anyone else.
  3. Happiness: You’ve got to do what makes you happy in the end. Morality: No one has the right to tell anyone else what is  right or wrong for him or her.

Does this sound like the thoughts you have about yourself and about life? If so, then you have drunk deeply from the well of Western culture. But we think that if you ponder the Big Questions noted above, you will see the connection between these and the four aforementioned narratives. And if God does exist, well—that has ramifications for all of the questions and narratives we have. Our worldview speaks not only to questions about origins, meaning, morality, and destiny, but also to secondary questions about family, career and calling, politics, economics, education, the arts—all of life. Our worldview is all-encompassing, and the different components fit together like the strands of a web. We ask ourselves a lot of questions: What am I supposed to do with my life? What is ‘the good life’ and how can I be happy? Who am I and what is my identity?

People tend to find their core identity in their job or career, possessions, relationships, sexuality, political views, and reputation (Am I funny, smart, attractive, talented?). But what happens when something threatens your core identity?

How does one decide on a worldview? Here are some guidelines:

First of all, a worldview must be consistent: Reason has to be utilized which includes systematic criteria. In using systematic criteria, an individual appraises the truth of a system or worldview.These criteria do not produce systems of thought; instead they judge them. David Wolfe has identified four ways in which one may judge a system of thought: consistency (meaning ideas do not contradict each other) and coherence (the ideas have a positive fit). These are the rational criteria. Comprehensiveness (a system of thought that incorporates the broad range of experience) and congruence (the idea fits human experience) are part of the empirical criteria.(4)

Reason also utilizes the laws of logic (the law of non-contradiction- A is not non-A; the law of identity- A is A; the law of excluded middle- either- A or non-A). The laws of logic have to be used in evaluating a worldview. If contradiction is a sign of falsity, then noncontradiction (or consistency) is a necessity for truth. A real contradiction occurs when two truth claims are given and one is the logical opposite of the other (they are logically contradictory, not merely contrary).(5)

Secondly, a worldview must be comprehensive: A worldview should cover the whole world of reality. A worldview must provide adequate answers to the worldview questions mentioned above.

Third, a worldview must be livable:
After all, a worldview is not just a philosophical system but something that can be attempted to live out each day. Thus, if some views are not livable, then they are not adequate. However, remember that what works is not always true. Lies work very well for many people, but that does not make a lie true.(6) Truth is determined by what corresponds to reality, not simply results. Therefore, while a pragmatic test is helpful, it cannot be the only test for the truthfulness of a worldview.

Fourth, a good worldview will have adequate explanatory power: When examining how a worldview needs explanatory power, it is important to emphasize that a good worldview needs to avoid both extremes of being neither too simple or too complex. In his book called A Case For Christian Theism, Arlie J. Hoover uses the famous “Occam’s razor test.” William of Occam (1300-1349) supposedly said, “Do not multiply entities without necessity” which basically means to resist the temptation to make our explanations too complex. On the other hand, the worldview should not be so simplistic that it commits the reductive fallacy. In other words, it cannot be too simple. (7) A good worldview will be able to explain a wide variety of things that we observe in the world.

Epistemology and Ontology: Fifth, a good worldview will allow for a wide range of methods in the knowing process. To reduce reality to one area of knowledge (such as the scientific method) is a fatal mistake. Furthermore, it also commits the reductive fallacy. A worldview should recognize that humans come to know and experience reality in a wide variety of ways by not only the scientific/empirical method, but also by memory, the testimony of others, intuition, religious experience, logical reasoning, listening to the authorities of others, etc. Since humans are also subjective, a good worldview will emphasize a balance between both the objective and the subjective.

Where do I begin? I recommended these resources:

Sources:

1.Newport. J.P. Life’s Ultimate Questions: A Contemporary Philosophy of Religion. Dallas: Word Publishing. 1989, 4.
2.Ibid.
3.Pearcey, N. Total Truth. Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 2004, 25-28.
4.Clark, D.J. Dialogical Apologetics: A Person Centered Approach to Christian Defense. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books. 1993, 85-86
5.Geisler, N.L. Systematic Theology Vol 1. Bloomington, MINN: Bethany House Publishers 2003, 82-96.
6.Ibid, 40-63.
7. Hoover, A.J. The Case for Christian Theism. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1976, 52.

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Three Things The Gospel Authors Would Have Never Invented About Jesus

 Over the years, one of the common complaints by skeptics of the Gospels is that the Gospel writers supposedly took great liberty to make up or embellish certain parts of their work to make their point. In other words, many parts of the Gospel authors  ‘invented’ or ‘fabricated’ certain aspects of the life of Jesus. Also, the Gospels are supposed to be so biased and given they are written by the ‘insiders’ how can we trust these documents? In response, the more I have studied the Second Temple Jewish period in Jewish history, I have found the exact opposite. Let me offer a few examples:

A Dying Messiah

The crucifixion of Jesus is attested by all four Gospels. Therefore, it passes the test of multiple attestation. It is also one of the earliest proclamations in the early Messianic Movement (see Acts 2:23; 36; 4:10). It is also recorded early in Paul’s writings (1 Cor.15), and by non-Christian authors Josephus, Ant.18:64; Tacitus, Ann.15.44.3. Donald Juel dicusses the challenge of a crucified Messiah:

“The idea of a crucified Messiah is not only unprecedented within Jewish tradition; it is so contrary to the whole notion of a deliver from the line of David, so out of harmony with the constellation of biblical texts we can identify from various Jewish sources that catalyzed around the royal figure later known as the “the Christ” that terms like “scandal” and “foolishness” are the only appropriate responses. Irony is the only means of telling such a story, because it is so counterintuitive.[1]

Even Paul commented about the challenge of proclaiming a dying Messiah to his fellow countrymen:

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor.1:21-22)

According to Martin Hengel, “The social stigma and disgrace associated with crucifixion in the Roman world can hardly be overstated.”[2] Roman crucifixion was viewed as a punishment for those a lower status- dangerous criminals, slaves, or anyone who caused a threat to Roman order and authority. Given that Jewish nationalism was quite prevalent in the first century, the Romans also used crucifixion as a means to end the uprising of any revolts. In relation to a crucified Messiah, Jewish people in the first century were familiar with Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

“If a person commits a sin punishable by death and is executed, and you hang the corpse on a tree, his body must not remain all night on the tree; instead you must make certain you bury him that same day, for the one who is left exposed on a tree is cursed by God. You must not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

The context of this verse is describing the public display of the corpse of an executed criminal. The New Testament writers expanded this theme to include persons who had been crucified. Just look at Paul’s statement in Gal 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.” Therefore, to say that crucifixion was portrayed in a negative light within Judaism in the first century is an understatement. In other words, anyone who was crucified was assumed not be the Anointed One of God. Also, Deut. 21: 22-23 does not really speak directly to the matter of crucifixion, nor of the crucifixion of God’s Anointed One. So this passage couldn’t of generated such a belief.

Even Michael Bird says:

Adding the title ‘Messiah’ to a crucified figure created more problems than it was worth given the divisions created in Jewish communities. It is hardly the kind of problem one would wish to create in the effort to venerate a departed leader, nor can messiahship be attached to a crucified Jesus on the back of some ad hoc scriptural proof-texting. Let us remember that the ‘Christ’ element of Christianity proved to be a point of lasting division between Jews and Christians (e.g. John 9:22; 12:42; Justin, 1 Apol. 31.5-6; Dial. Tryph. 10; 49; 90; 108). That is because a crucified Messiah was far more than an ‘insufferable paradox’. A crucified Messiah was, to many, utter madness (Acts 26:23-25) or complete foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). Yet this is precisely what Christians maintained under trying and difficult circumstances. As Joachim Jeremias put it, ‘the scandal of the crucified Messiah is so enormous that it is hardly conceivable that the community should have presented itself with such a stumbling block.”–Michael Bird, Jesus Is the Christ: The Messianic Testimony of the Gospels

We must also expand on Dialogue with Trypho the Jew:

To build on Bird’s comments, Justin Martyr, the Palestinian Christian who in his mature years taught and wrote in Rome, tries to make the case that Jesus’ Spirit empowered ministry fulfills Scripture at many points and offers proof that he really is Israel’s Messiah to Trypho the Jew. But Trypho is not persuaded by this argument. He replies:

“It has indeed been proved sufficiently by your Scriptural quotations that it was predicted in the Scriptures that Christ should suffer…But what we want you to prove to us is that he was to be crucified and be subjected to so disgraceful and shameful death…. We find it impossible to think this could be so.”[3]

Just look at some other quotes about the failure of Jesus to meet the messianic credentials is seen in the following statements by the following rabbis:

Jesus mistake was that he thought he would be the Messiah, but when he was hanged his thought was annulled.” (R. Shimon ben Tzemah Duran (1361-1444).

We are obligated to believe that a Jewish man will come who will begin to save Israel and will complete the salvation of Israel in that generation. One who completes the task is the one, while the one who does not complete it in that generation but dies or is broken or is taken captive (Exod 22:9) is not the one and was not sent by God.” (R. Phinehas Elijah Hurwtiz of Vilna (1765-1821), Sefer haberit hashalem (Jerusalem, 1990), 521.[4]

I should note that hyper-skeptic Richard Carrier has attempted to show that it would not be hard to get a dying Messiah story going, but I have responded to that here:

Why invent a Messiah who becomes the Temple in person?

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken” –John 2: 13-22

The Temple was the center of Jewish religious, cultural, political, and economic life. The impact of its destruction can be seen in some of the following comments in Rabbinic tradition:

Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, a wall of iron has intervened between Israel and their Father in Heaven. b. Ber 32b

Since the day when the Temple was destroyed there has never been a perfectly clear sky. b. Ber 59a

Through the crime of bloodshed the Temple was destroyed and the Shechinah departed from Israel. B. Shab 33a

Ever since the day the Temple was destroyed the rains have become irregular. B. Ta’an. 29 a [5]

Forgiving sins was something that was designated for God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9) and it was something that was done only in the Temple along with the proper sacrifice. So it can be seen that Jesus acts as if He is the Temple in person. Even in the trial scene in Mark 14:58, it says, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ The Jewish leadership knew that God was the one who was responsible for building the temple (Ex. 15:17; 1 En. 90:28-29).  Jesus is the foundation of the new temple (Jn 7:37-39) and he is the place for worship (Jn. 4:23-24 ). Also, God is the only one that is permitted to announce and threaten the destruction of the temple (Jer. 7:12-13; 26:4-6, 9;1 En.90:28-29).[6] So it is apparent that for the Gospel authors to make up a Messiah who behaves as if He is the physical Temple in person would only make it more difficult to convince a Jewish person about the messiahship of Jesus.This point has been expanded on by N.T. Wright in his book The Challenge of Jesus: See a summary here:

The Son of Man as Lord of the Sabbath

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. First of all, “Son of Man ” is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, his suffering and resurrection (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33); Third, his eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31).

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” –Matthew 12: 1-8.

Given the Sabbath was and still is the most important observance in Judaism, for the Gospel authors to make any figure as having authority over  the Sabbath would only create another huge stumbling block for Jewish people.

As Ben Witherington III says,

“Now in Jewish theology, God of course was the Creator of the universe who set up the sabbatical pattern in the first place, and rested on the seventh day (see Gen. 1). Since God had created the Sabbath, only God was the Lord thereof. Yet here, Jesus’ claims, as Son of man, to be Lord over the Sabbath, and claims that He can reinterpret the Sabbath to mean, this is the perfect day to give sick people “rest” from their illnesses, even though this activity constitutes work by any Old Testament definition. In other words, as Son of man, Jesus felt He could rewrite the Sabbath rules. Why? Because He was Lord over the Sabbath and its proper observance now that God’s divine saving activity was breaking into human history through Him. “[7]

Conclusion

I could cite many more examples. But suffice to say, the more we learn about the Second Temple period, it is clear that it would be counterproductive for the Gospel authors to invent a Jesus that would die, replace the Temple, or be the Lord of the Sabbath.


[1] Donald H. Juel, “The Trial and Death of the Historical Jesus” featured in The Quest For Jesus And The Christian Faith: Word &World Supplement Series 3 (St. Paul Minnesota: Word and World Luther Seminary, 1997), 105.

[2] See Martin Hengel: Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).

[3] Saint Justin Martyr, The Fathers of the Church, trans. Thomas B. Falls (New York: Christian Heritage, Inc., 1949) pg, 208, 291.

[4] David Berger, The Rebbe, The Messiah And The Scandal Of Orthodox Difference, (Portland: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001), 21.

[5] Michael Brown, Messianic Prophecy Objections, vol 4 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus(Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books, 2007), 152-161.

[6] Willam Lane Craig,  Reasonable Faith: Third Edition (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008), 307.

[7] Ben Witherington III. Did Jesus Believe He Was The Son of Man. Available athttp://www.4truth.net.Did_Jesus_Believe_He_Was_the_Son_of_Man.htm

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A Look at Common Questions About Doing Apologetics on College Campuses

In 2004, I started going to The Ohio State University (64,000 students) and engaging students for the truth claims of the Biblical worldview. I did hundreds of surveys with students and certainly begin to see some of the objections people had to the Christian faith. Around 2006 I moved away from the survey approach and started using a variety of approaches to reach out to the students here. Anyway, it was 2009 when myself along with some  students at The Ohio State University planted a Ratio Christi chapter on the campus. This was done out of the necessity for a stronger apologetics presence on the campus.

Since we planted the chapter, we have had some very well-known speakers come such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Bart Ehrman and Michael Brown, Michael Licona,  Paul Nelson. Michael Strauss and James Warner Wallace. We have also had some student debates with the skeptic group on the campus. We have  been endorsed by James Warner Wallace here:

““Eric Chabot and the team at The Ohio State University is doing amazing work. If you are interested in becoming a good Christian Case Maker, I highly recommend joining Eric and the entire team at the Ohio State campus” – Jim Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity

We have also partnered with other campus ministries on debates. Since then, we have planted another Ratio Christi chapter at Columbus State Community College (30,000 students). So now we are attempting to be the only apologetics ministry on both of these campuses.

Columbus State is kind of unique in that it has hundreds of Muslims students. After all, Columbus, Ohio has the second highest Somali population in the city. I have included some pics of myself and our team speaking to various Muslim students here.

Anyway, I wanted to go ahead and share some of the trends and objections that I have seen on the campus over the last several years. Keep in mind that Ohio State is a very large campus (64,000) students. So what is it like to try to do an apologetics ministry on a major college campus? Here are some common questions that I tend to get asked:

#1: What kind of objections do you tend to hear on a large college campus?

I list some of the objections here.

To see one of the most common objections, see this post. 

#2:  Do college students know what apologetics is?

Some do while others have no idea what apologetics is.  I can recall several times being out on the campus sharing my faith with our table talking to students about the Gospel and our apologetics ministry at the campus. More than one student has said “So what is apologetics?”  So in many cases we are always explaining the role of apologetics.  Once I ask students if they ever heard any tough objections to their faith on the campus or in the classroom, the light bulb goes off.  We educate and exhort people to learn to articulate and defend their faith.  Also, at just about any of our apologetic events where we have Frank Turek or another speaker come, many students have told us they have never heard anything like that before. That also goes for Christians that were raised in churches. NOTE:  I have a clip from a ways back here where I am talking to a student about the need for apologetics campus. 

#3; Do you have weekly meetings on the campus? 

Yes, since 2009, we have had weekly apologetic meetings on the campus. We meet about 34-36 meetings a year. That means we have a lot of topics to cover. I have posted some of our clips/teachings on our you tube channel. Here is pic from one of our meetings when we had a former atheist speak.

#4:   What About  the Challenge of Post Modernism?

We have experienced some challenges with postmodernism on the campus. I also see alot of pragmatism, mysticism, etc. Also, take a look at the following clips and tell me if the objections you hear here sound more modern or post-modern to you.

 

#5: How do you know what  speakers to bring to the campus?

This can be a challenge. First, we have to think about what speakers are a good match for the campus. Is the speaker a good speaker? Do they connect with students? Are they difficult to understand? Are they really an authority on a particular topic? What will be a title for an event that will grab people’s attention? What is the cost of the speaker? Let me give an example: I brought William Lane Craig to the campus a several years back. He did a lecture on seven reasons for the existence of God. Some students said it was great. Others said it was too much information. Others said he was over their heads.  The next year I brought in Frank Turek.  Many students enjoyed Frank. Of course, the atheists didn’t like him. But that is no shock! The other challenge to bringing a speaker to the campus is that we have to work hard at promoting an event. This includes flyers, social media, word of mouth, etc. I recall one time when I was out promoting the Turek event on campus. A student walked up to me and said they were offended by the title ( I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist). That’s  no shock at all.

#6: Do you see results from this kind of ministry?

People always ask me about the results of doing campus ministry. They tend to think if you show up, share the Good News, in five minutes, the person understands it and comes to faith. Those days are long gone!  Outreach is a process and, in many cases, (especially on a college campus) it takes multiple discussions. Also, God is much more interested in faithfulness than results. Just read the beginning of Ezekiel where God told Ezekiel his audience wouldn’t listen to him. But he wants Ezekiel to take the message to the people.  Most of us would say to God “Well, what’s the point?” But it shows God is much more interested in our obedience. But in an American culture that wants instant results, this is foreign to us. We also don’t get to go where the soil isn’t hard (see the Parable of the Sower in Matt 13).

We exist to strengthen the faith of Christians and help others see there are Christians that do care about the “what’”and “why” of what we believe. We also want to Christians confident in their witness to others. We have some testimonies here.

Feel free to watch some our speakers from the events we have had here:

Frank Turek, author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To An Athesist ’s Exchange with Jewish Atheist on the Hell Question

Michael Licona lecturing on the Resurrection of Jesus

Michael Brown lecturing on whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah

Does The Bible Provide an Adequate Answer to Suffering? Dr. Michael Brown vs Dr. Bart Ehrman

William Lane Craig answering questions at our Ohio State Event

Paul Nelson lecturing on whether we can detect design in the natural sciences

Michael Licona and Larry Shapiro debate at The Ohio State University 

Michael Strauss Lecturing on God and Science

#7: “What are some of the challenges of directing an apologetics ministry on college campuses?”

There are always challenges. First, because college students do graduate, we always have to look for new students who have a calling to this type of ministry. They are out there. But we have to keep our eyes open and we always have to think about the future. Second, students are busy. Many of them have plenty of studies, they  have to work, and they also might be involved in a church on campus. Third, as an apologist, one must always be learning and keeping up with the latest information. Given apologetics crosses over into so many fields, this takes hard work. Obviously, we can’t know everything. But we must constantly be sharpening our skills. Fourth, the key is to be faithful and leave the results to God. That is in ongoing process.

#8: “How can people help with this type of ministry?” 

I do this full time. So if anyone wants to partner with us, they can go this page here and do that.  We also look for people to partner with us in events. That is a big help as well.

#9: “Do you have to be a student to be involved with these ministries?” 

No. We have volunteers who are not students. Anyone is welcome to participate in our outreach, events, and meetings on campus.

 

 

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