The Son of God/Son of David and The Good News

 

When it comes to whether or not Jesus is the Messiah, there is no disagreement between Christians and Jewish people that the Messiah has to be a descendant of David. The area of disagreement is when Christians assert that Jesus is the divine Son of God.  What Christians tend to forget is that the designation “Son of God” is used in various ways in the Old Testament—not just to refer to God’s only begotten Son in the way Christians would assume. When Jewish people thought of the Davidic King as the Son of God, it had very little to do with the Second person of the Trinity. In other words, “Son of God” didn’t denote divinity. Even though divine sonship does appear in the Jewish Scriptures in reference to persons or people groups, such as angels (Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan. 3:25)  and Israel (Exod. 4:22-23; Hos. 11:1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Son of God issue is that of king.

Not only did God promise that Israel would have an earthly king, (Gen. 17:6; 49:6; Deut. 17:14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever ( 2 Sam. 7:12-17; 1 Chron. 17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually reach its climax in the birth of a person who would guarantee David’s dynasty and throne forever. For example, Psalm 2 (which is a coronation hymn, similar to 2 Kings 11:12) describes the king’s crowning. Just as 1 Chronicles informs us that “the fame of David went out into all lands; and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all nations,” [1] so God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v. 8). In addition, Psalm 2 declares that God will ultimately subjugate all nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.[2] In Psalm 89:24-27, the Davidic King is elevated over the rivers and seas and is the most exalted ruler on earth. He also will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings. In Psalm 110, the Davidic King is invited to sit at God’s “right hand,” and is called “lord” and called a “priest” after the pattern of Melchizedek.[3]  John Collins, who is a specialist on this topic, says the following about the Davidic Messiah:

This concept of the Davidic Messiah, as the warrior king who would destroy the enemies of Israel and institute an era of unending peace constitutes the common core of Jewish messianism around the turn of the era. . .  . There was a dominant notion of a Davidic Messiah, as the king who would restore the kingdom of Israel, which was part of the common Judaism around the turn of the era.[3]

Collins goes on to say:

He is the scepter who will smite the nation, slay the wicked with the breath of his lips and restore the Davidic dynasty. Hence his role is in the eschatological war. He is the Messiah of righteousness, who will usher in an era of peace and justice. He is presumably a human figure, although he is endowed with the Spirit of the Lord. He is expected to restore a dynasty rather than rule himself.[4]

There is also a text in the Qumran literature, which predates the New Testament, about the Davidic King:

[And] Yahweh [de]clares to thee that he will build thee a house; and I will raise up thy seed after thee, and I will establish his royal throne [forev]er. I wi[ll be] a father to him and he shall be my son. (2 Sam.7.11c, 12b-c, 13, 14a). This is the Branch of David which will arise with the Seeker of the law and who will sit on the throne of Zion at the end of days; as it is written I will raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen [Amos 9.11]. This tabernacle of David which is fallen (is) he who will arise to save Israel. (4Qflor.1.110-13) [5]

Furthermore, though Luke calls Yeshua the “Son of the Most High,” there is a similar theme in Qumran literature:

He will be called the son of God, and they will shall call him the son of the Most High. . . . until the people of God arises and makes everyone rest from the sword. His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all his paths truth. He will judge the earth in truth and all will make peace. The sword will cease from the earth and all the provinces will pay him homage. The great God is his strength, he will wage war for him; he will place the peoples in his hand and cast them away before him. His rule will be an eternal rule (4Q246 II, I, 1-9).[6]

Collins goes on to concede that even if the dominant Messianic expectation mostly revolved around a Davidic warrior, hardly anything in the Gospels corresponds with the Jewish expectation of a militant messiah. Keeping these principles in mind, let’s look at Romans 1:1-5:

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.

Here we see Paul’s message of Good News is the following: Jesus is the Son of God/The Davidic King (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:2, 7; 89:19-21, 26-27) and there will always be a King on the throne of David. Thus, Jesus is “designated” or “declared” as the Son of God and this “Good News” was announced in the Jewish Scriptures. As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, as already said, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two possibilities for a coming Davidic King to rule forever: Either God could continually raise up a new heir, or He could have someone come who would never die. Better yet, He had someone come who did die, but who rose again to live forever.  Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

So now a pertinent question arises: “How many modern-day Gospel presentations utilize what Paul says here in Romans 1:1-5 about the Davidic King?”

Sources:

[1] H. W. Bateman IV, D. L. Bock, and G. H. Johnston, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012), 80.

[2] Ibid, 97.

(3) Ibid.

[4)J. J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiah of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2007), 68, 209.

[5]  C. A. Evans, Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (Leiden: Brill. 2001), 104.

[6]A. M. Mengestu, God as Father in Paul: Kinship Language and Identity Formation in Early Christianity (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 154.

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Why Do People Completely Misunderstand the Word “Faith?”

Anyone who has been engaged in talking to people in our culture about the Christian worldview knows that many people misunderstand the word “faith.” I could go ahead and blame the media, pop culture, and the university for this widespread problem. But the reality is that it is incumbent upon pastors, apologists, and ministry leaders to teach and instruct Christians about the proper definition of the word “faith.” Yes, many Christians don’t know how to explain the word “faith.”

Some theologians and apologists have suggested that it might be a good idea to substitute the word “trust” in place of the word “faith.” This has some merit to it. Joseph Thayer says the following:

“To believe” means to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, [to] place confidence in. [And in] a moral and religious reference, pisteuein [from pisteuo] is used in the N.T. of a conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul. “ (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 511).

Here are some of the examples of faith in our popular culture:

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: starring Harrison Ford & Sean Connery as Indy’s father) – At the end of the story, Indy must retrieve the Holy Grail to save his father’s life. He makes it through a long corridor of obstacles; only to find he is standing on the edge of a deep chasm he must cross. He steps out “in faith” and finds he is actually walking on a camouflaged footbridge. Therefore, we see that FAITH = BELIEVING IN THE FACE OF CONTRADICTORY EVIDENCE.

2. Revolutions: the third movie in The Matrix trilogy: In the final scene the Oracle is asked if she always knew that Neo was “The One”? She replies, “Oh no. But I believed. I believed.” Therefore, we see that FAITH = BELIEVING WITHOUT REALLY KNOWING.

3. The Polar Express: The boy, who is skeptical about whether Santa Clause is real, finally is lead to say, “I believe, I believe.” Just then, Santa appears to him. Therefore, we see that FAITH = BELIEVING MAKES IT REAL. (1)

The Leap of Faith or Leap to Faith?

Another common assertion is that faith in God or Jesus as the Messiah is nothing more than a “leap of faith.” Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), became one of the foremost contributors to existential philosophy because of a reaction to one of the largest influences on his life, that being George Hegel, who believed the only way to discover reality was through rationalism. (2) Another contributing factor to Kierkegaard’s existentialism was the experience he had in his formal church that was located in Denmark.

It was there that practicing faith with passion was discounted. Out of his reaction to the cold formalism, Kierkegaard discovered what was important was to have an existential encounter with God. (3) Many assume that the phrase itself “leap of faith” finds its origins in the writings of Kierkegaard. However, he himself never used the term, as he referred to the leap as a “leap to faith.” For Kierkegaard, since man finds his authentic existence in a relationship with the Creator, the decision to believe must involve a criterionless choice.(4) Even though Kierkegaard says there are no rational grounds to take the leap to faith, the individual must do so or he will forever remain in an inauthentic existence. (5)

Kierkegaard was correct in calling people to a passionate experience with God. After all, faith is not simply about adhering to a set of objective, historical, propositions.

In their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli give a summary of faith.

Kreeft and Tacelli say we must distinguish between the act of faith from the object of faith- believing from what is believed. The object of faith means all things believed. For the Christian, this means everything God has revealed in the Bible. This faith (the object, not the act) is expressed in propositions. Propositions are many, but the ultimate object of faith is one. The ultimate object of faith is not words, but God’s Words (singular), indeed-Himself.

Without a relationship with the living God, propositions are pointless, for their point is to point beyond themselves to God. But without propositions, we cannot know or tell others what God we believe in and what we believe about God. There are four aspects of faith:

1. Emotional faith: is feeling assurance or trust or confidence in a person. This includes hope (which is much stronger than a wish and peace (which is much stronger then mere calm.).
2. Intellectual faith: is belief. It is this aspect of faith that is formulated in propositions and summarized in creeds.
3. Volitional faith: is an act of the will, a commitment to obey God’s will. This faith is faithfulness, or fidelity. It manifests itself in behavior, that is, in good works.
4. Faith: begins in that obscure mysterious center of our being that Scripture calls the ‘heart.” Heart in Scripture does not mean feeling, or sentiment, or emotion, but the absolute center of the soul, as the physical heart is at the center of the body. “Keep your heart with all viligence” advised Solomon, “for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).

Lessons from 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 

” For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

Four observations can be made from this passage:

First of all, faith has an object: In the Bible, the object of faith is sometimes described as resting in God Himself (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:24). Even in the New Testament, Jesus confirms this issue (Mark 11:22). But even as God is the object of faith, the author of the Gospel of John directs his audience to Jesus as being the object of faith as well (John 20:31).

Secondly, the object of biblical faith must be true: As D.A. Carson says,

“Paul is communicating to the Corinthians’ that their faith is “futile” (vs.17). In other words, the Corinthians faith is valid only if its object is true. Faith is never validated in the New Testament when its object is not true. Indeed, New Testament faith is strengthened when its object is validated supported by witness, shown to be revealed by God, impregnably real, true. Such an understanding of “faith” is utterly at odds with the use of faith in the Western culture.” (6)

In relation to truth, both the Old and New Testament terms for truth are emet and alethia. In relation to truth, these words are associated with fidelity, moral rectitude, being real, being genuine, faithfulness, having veracity, being complete. (7) According to a Biblical conception of truth, a proposition is true only if it accords with factual reality. There are numerous passages that explicitly contrast true propositions with falsehoods. The Old Testament warns against false prophets whose words do not correspond to reality. For example Deuteronomy 18:22: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”, and the ninth commandment warns against bearing false testimony. (8)

Thirdly, biblical faith is rooted in historical reality: Objectively speaking, no matter how much faith a Christian has, it can’t change whether Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, believing Jesus rose from the dead won’t make it true. The event of the resurrection is in the past. Either Jesus rose from the dead or He did not rise from the dead.

A correct view of biblical faith simply appropriates what is already written in the Bible. Perhaps modern-day Christians can learn something about their own faith by reading this comment by New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III:

“Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time. A person who gives up on the historical foundations of our faith has in fact given up on the possibility of any real continuity between his or her own faith and that of a Peter, Paul, James, John, Mary Magdalene, or Priscilla. The first Christian community had a strong interest in historical reality, especially the historical reality of Jesus and his resurrection, because they believed their faith, for better or for worse, was grounded in it.” (9)

Finally, there is a relationship between faith and knowledge: Does biblical faith assert that we can believe in things we cannot know? According to Paul, unless his audience accepts the “fact” that Jesus rose from the dead in the context of time, space, and history, they are still dead in their sins. They are to be pitied. In the words of Greg Koukl, “The opposite of faith is not fact, but unbelief. The opposite of knowledge is ignorance. Neither is a virtue in Christianity.” (10)

What about Hebrews 11:1?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I hear skeptics quote this passage to support the view that faith is blind and not supported by any evidence. Is this correct?

First, don’t quote this verse out of context. It has to be read in light of the rest of the chapter.

Second, we need to know how the verse and chapter fits in the overall context of the the book of Hebrews.

Most of the time this passage is laid out by skeptics in the following way:

1. If we can’t see God, God does not exist.
2. We can’t see God
3. Therefore, God does not exist.

What is wrong with this argument?

It must also be remembered to insist that God must be a visible object which can be observed with the five senses is to commit a category mistake. A category mistake is to assign to something a property which applies only to objects of another category. We must not confuse two categories- the made and the Unmade. Obviously, from the Orthodox Christian view, God has no composition. The Hebrew word for one is “echad” which leaves room for a plurality within a unity of substance- but there is no implication of a plurality of beings or parts within a being. Scripture admonishes mankind about making any physical image of God (Exodus 20:4). God is pure spirit ( John 4:24). He has no parts and is an immaterial Being. Hence, the God of the Bible is unmade.

That is why we have to observe the effects in the world and make rational inferences as to what the cause is of the effect. So while it is true that God is not a material object, we can observe the effects in the world and ask whether they can be explained by a blind, undirected natural processes or intelligence. By the way, this is similar to what Paul says in Rom.1:18-21. We see that 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).

Biblical Faith: Three Aspects

There have been three aspects of faith expressed throughout church history: notitia (knowledge), fiducia (trust), and assensus (assent). Notitia refers to the data or doctrinal element of faith. Assensus refers to the assent of the intellect of the truth of the Christian faith. According to the book of James, the demons can have intellectual assent to the fact that God exists but not have saving faith. That is why a person must exercise fiducia- this is the aspect of faith that involves the application or trust in the faith process. (11)

In other words, fiducia allows a person to go beyond merely intellectual assent. Fiducia involves the will, emotion, and intellect.

Belief In And Belief That

It must not be forgotten that there is a relationship between belief that and belief in. For example, in James 2:19, it says the demons believe that God exists. Apologetics may serve as a valuable medium through which God can operate, but faith is never the product of historical facts or evidence alone. Everyone takes their past and present history into examining the existence of God. Sin and a hardened heart can dampen a person’s receptivity to God’s invitation to them.

Objectively speaking, the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian faith to enable us to understand that God exists. However, from a subjective perspective, the Holy Spirit also enables an individual to place his trust in God. (John 16: 12-15). In other words, one can trust that God exists and still not be a true believer.

So we can conclude by stating that humans not only need to believe that Christ is the Savior, but that they also need to put our trust in Christ to become a follower of Him.

One Piece of Advice to Christian Apologists

There is no doubt that we need to do our homework and examine all the passages about faith and the apologetic methods that were used by both Jesus and the Apostles. I can say without hesitation that the object of my faith is not evidence. If the object of my faith was evidence alone, than evidence would be an idol. Instead, the object of my faith is God or Jesus Himself. So while reason and evidence does support my trust in Jesus/God, it does not take the place of God Himself. If you are at the place where you have allowed evidence to take the place of faith, you need to pull back and find some balance on this issue.

Sources:
1. These three examples of faith are courtesy of Summit Ministries. Available at http://www.summit.org/resources/tc/2008/05/is-faith-blind.php
2. Erickson, M. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 1998, 40-47.
3. Ibid.
4. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith. Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books. 1984, 56.
5. Ibid.
6. Carson, Donald A. Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 2005, 216.
7. Moreland, J.P. and W.L. Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003, 131-132.
8. Ibid.
9. Ben Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, 167.
10. Koukl, G. Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 2009, 153.
11. Moreland, J.P Love Your God With All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress. 1997, 60.

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What does it mean to say Christianity is true?

A common approach in apologetic discussions is to ask someone what would convince them that  Christianity is true. And if it is true, would you believe it?  After all, we rely on truth every day of our lives. We want our banks, our employers, government, friends, and  family to be truthful with us. And why would you want to believe something that is false? But the more I have thought about this question, I think it leads to some very important questions.

Truth

1. First of all, when you say the word ‘true’ or ‘truth’ you have to define what you mean! Whatever determines a test for truth determines one’s apologetic approach. It is quite common for the Christian or Christian apologist to defend  the correspondence theory of truth. Thus, truth is what corresponds to reality. As Norman Geisler says:

“Truth is what corresponds to its referent. Truth about reality is what corresponds to the way things really are. Truth is “telling it like it is.” This correspondence applies to abstract realities as well as actual ones. There are mathematical truths. There are also truths about ideas. In each case there is a reality, and truth accurately expresses it. Falsehood, then is what does not correspond. It tells it like it is not, misrepresenting the way things are.”–Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, pgs,741-745.

Now here is the challenge: Many people aren’t asking whether Christianity corresponds to reality.  Instead, they are asking if it is true because of the pragmatic benefits they see in people’s lives. This is a very popular approach. In this argument, many people say their religious beliefs have been tried and tested out in the reality of life.  In other words, “Christianity works because it is true!”

This does have some merit. After all, if the Christian faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Jesus and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false. It could be that the person is not under healthy teaching/discipleship or living in sin. So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. Everyone knows Christians have done some amazing things for the world (see here), but we also have some inconsistencies.

When we are challenging people on whether Christianity is true, sometimes the goal is to break them out of all other tests for truth (especially the pragmatic one) and get them to ask whether Christianity corresponds to reality? So our attempt  to get people out of a post modern view of truth is quite challenging. 

Proof and Evidence 

Another challenge when talking about whether Christianity is the relationship between proof, evidence, knowledge, and certainty. Some people assume you can’t  ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ God’s existence. Sadly, this can allow a person to punt to some form of lazy agnosticism. Thus, they are off the hook and and can ignore the God question. When this comes up, we need to know the difference between deductive, inductive or abductive proof. Unless someone has taken an into to logic course, in most cases, they don’t know any of these terms.’ You can see the chart here.

“The Christ” and First Century Context

If we are going to say “Christianity” is true, obviously  it is about Jesus Christ. But what does that mean? “The comparable New Testament Greek word is Christos, from which we get the English word “Christ.” But this Greek word carries the same connotations as the Hebrew word — “the Anointed One” which is is where the word “messiah” comes from. “Messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Jewish Scriptures records the history of those who were anointed for a specific purpose such as priests, prophets and kings. So are we saying Christianity is true because Jesus is the “Christ”? Thus, he is the Messiah that was discussed in the O.T.? Does this come up in your discussions? Also, guess what?

Linguistically speaking, Christianity didn’t exist in the first century. Judaism in the first century wasn’t seen as a single “way.” There were many “Judaisms”- the Sadducees, the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, etc.  The followers of Jesus are referred to as a “sect” (Acts 24:14;28:22); “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5).  Josephus refers to the “sects” of Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees. The first followers of Jesus were considered to be a sect of Second Temple Judaism. Even James Dunn says the following:

“Prior to Paul what we now call ‘Christianity’ was no more than a messianic sect within first-century Judaism, or better, within Second Temple Judaism — ‘the sect of the Nazarenes’ (Acts 24.5), the followers of ‘the Way’ (that is, presumably, the way shown by Jesus)”- James Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Gospels, pg 119.

Let’s look at how the apostles spread the Gospel in Acts.

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4. Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).

As Russell Moore says:

“As the secularizing and sexualizing revolutions whir on, it is no longer possible to pretend that we represent the “real America,” a majority of God-loving, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth cultural conservatives like us. Accordingly, we will engage the culture less like the chaplains of some idyllic Mayberry and more like the apostles in the Book of Acts. We will be speaking not primarily to baptized pagans on someone’s church roll, but to those who are hearing something new, maybe for the first time. We will hardly be “normal,” but we should never have tried to be.”

The Resurrection

For many of us, we say Jesus is the “Christ” ( the Messiah)  because he rose from the dead. But there isn’t a lot about the Messiah rising from the dead in the Jewish Scriptures. Not to mention hardly any Jews today think the resurrection is a messianic qualification. I still think the resurrection is important. But just remember, you may have to get the person to see that this historical claim corresponds to reality.

Natural Theology?

Some Christians have followed the C.S. Lewis approach when he said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (see The Weight of Glory). To apply what Lewis says, we might utilize what is called inference to the best explanation. The inference to the best explanation model takes into account the best available explanation in our whole range of experience and reflection. For example, when we look at these features of reality, which provides a more satisfactory explanation:

  • How do you explain the Origin of the Universe?
  • How do you explain the Mathematical Fine-Tuning of the Universe?
  • How do you explain the Terrestrial Fine-Tuning of Planet Earth?
  • How do you explain the Informational Fine-Tuning of the DNA molecule?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Mathematical Laws?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Logical Laws?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Physical/Natural Laws?
  • How do you explain the Origin of the First Cell?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Human Reason?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Human Consciousness?
  • How do you explain the Origin of Objective Morality?
  • How do you explain Ultimate Meaning in Life?
  • How do you explain Ultimate Value in Life?
  • How do you explain Ultimate Purpose in Life?

Using God as an explanatory explanation is seen in philosophical theology or natural theology arguments. The book The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology does a fine job in handling this issue. To see a short example of this approach online see,  The Return of the God Hypothesis  by Stephen C. Meyer or Paul Copan’s God: The Best Explanation

The challenge is that  if we try to use natural theology arguments in showing Christianity is true, it doesn’t show us the character of God. In other words,  these arguments only get people half the way to the “Christ.” Thus, we have to do historical apologetics.

Conclusion

Apologists have their work cut for them in showing what they mean when they say “Christianity is true” or “If Christianity is true, would you follow Jesus?” We need to remember that the definitions of terms is crucial to our cultural engagement.

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What is Faith? A Look at 1 Corinthians 15

Is it any wonder why our culture does not have a clear understanding about the nature of biblical faith? One of the most common assertions about biblical faith is that it is nothing more than a “leap of faith.” A good place to start looking at biblical faith is in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-17:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[ that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

Some observations can be made from this passage:

1. First of all, biblical faith has an object.

2. Secondly, the object of biblical faith must be true. As D.A. Carson says,

“Paul is communicating to the Corinthians’ that their faith is “futile”( vs. 17). In other words, the Corinthians faith is valid only if its object is true. Faith is never validated in the New Testament when its object is not true. Indeed, New Testament faith is strengthened when its object is validated supported by witness, shown to be revealed by God, impregnably real, true. Such an understanding of “faith” is utterly at odds with the use of faith in the Western culture.” (1)

In relation to truth, both the Old and New Testament terms for truth are emet and alethia. In relation to truth, these words are associated with fidelity, moral rectitude, being real, being genuine, faithfulness, having veracity, being complete. (2) According to a Biblical conception of truth, a proposition is true only if it accords with factual reality. There are numerous passages that explicitly contrast true propositions with falsehoods. The Old Testament warns against false prophets whose words do not correspond to reality. For example Deuteronomy 18:22: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”, and the ninth commandment warns against bearing false testimony. (3)

Given that Paul was Jewish and he was raised in the Jewish Scriptures, he must have known that the seriousness of the Sinai Covenant. Within the covenant, bearing false witness was considered to be a major crime (Exod 20:16). Hence, he must have had a commitment to presenting the resurrection story in an accurate manner.

Thirdly, biblical faith is rooted in historical reality: There is no doubt that Christianity is a historical faith. For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the verification of the Christian faith as true or false. There is no doubt that Christianity is a historical faith. Biblical faith entails an objective element (the existence of God, Jesus’ resurrection), and a subjective element (the individual must appropriate the objective truths through a subjective act). Objectively speaking, no matter how much faith a Christian has, it can’t change whether Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, believing Jesus rose from the dead won’t make it true. The event of the resurrection is in the past. Either Jesus rose from the dead or He did not rise form the dead. Perhaps we can learn something about their own faith by reading this comment by New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III:

“Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time. A person who gives up on the historical foundations of our faith has in fact given up on the possibility of any real continuity between his or her own faith and that of a Peter, Paul, James, John, Mary Magdalene, or Priscilla. The first Christian community had a strong interest in historical reality, especially the historical reality of Jesus and his resurrection, because they believed their faith, for better or for worse, was grounded in it.” (4)

Finally, there is a relationship between faith and knowledge: Does biblical faith assert that we can’t believe in things we cannot know? According to Paul, unless his audience accepts the “fact” that Jesus rose from the dead in the context of time, space, and history, they are still dead in their sins. They are to be pitied. In the words of Greg Koukl, “The opposite of faith is not fact, but unbelief. The opposite of knowledge is ignorance. Neither is a virtue in Christianity.” (5)

1. Carson, Donald A. Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 2005, 216.
2. Moreland, J.P. and W.L. Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003, 131-132.
3. Ibid.
4. Ben Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, 167.
5. Koukl, G. Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 2009, 153.

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Does the Resurrection of Jesus mean He is the Jewish Messiah?

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most important doctrines for followers of Jesus the Messiah. The center of Biblical faith is not found in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. It is true there is no explicit teaching throughout the entire Tanakh (i.e., The Old Testament) that says, “When the Messiah comes, what qualifies Him to be the Jewish Messiah means that He must rise from the dead.” Eugene Borowitz discusses why the resurrection of Jesus is of relative insignificance:

Jews can see that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is told against the background of Pharisaic belief. Despite this our people has never had difficulty rejecting it. Our Bible is quite clear that the chief sign of the coming of the Messiah is a world of justice and peace. No prophet says the Messiah will die and then be resurrected as a sign to all humanity. Except for the small number of converts to Christianity, Jews in ancient times did not believe Jesus had actually been resurrected. Modern Jews, who believe in the immortality of the soul or in no afterlife at all, similarly reject the Christian claim.[1}

So with these comments in mind, let’s look at the relationship between Jesus being the Messiah and his resurrection from the dead. Remember, the issue that comes up is whether the resurrection of any specific individual is a messianic qualification. The Greek word “christos” from which we get the English word “Christ” carries the same connotations as the Hebrew word — “the Anointed One” from which the word “messiah” is derived. The Jewish Scriptures record the history of those who were anointed for a specific purpose such as priests,  kings, and even prophets.

1: The Resurrection is Necessary for the Messiah to be the Davidic King

King David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem.[1] God made an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David. We find texts in the Jewish Scriptures about how the Davidic King’s rule is universal [2] and everlasting. [3]

Let’s look at Paul’s Gospel:

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 (Romans 1:1-5).

In this passage, Paul says through the resurrection Jesus is declared (by God) to be the Son of God and a descendant of David. As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy given to David’s house is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, as already said, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. Remember, Davidic kings die. It is the line of these kings that is “eternal.” The promises entailed in the covenant with David are divided by the text into two: (1) those to be fulfilled during his lifetime and (2) those to be fulfilled after his death. As Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum explain this:

The promises to be fulfilled after the death of David are also three: (1) an eternal house, (2) kingdom, and (3) throne. There are two ways in which God could give David an eternal house. It could be that every descendant would be successful in producing a male heir—something which has always created problems for every human royal house. Or it could be that someday, a descendant would be born who would never die. According to the New Testament, this is what happened: the eternal house/seed is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, a descendant of David who according to his resurrection is an eternal person.[4]

 #2: The Resurrection is Needed for Jesus to be the Initiator of the New Covenant

 Christians and Messianic Jews realize the importance of the new covenant and most would be familiar with the following Scriptures:

And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God (Mark 14:24-25).

 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me (1 Cor. 11:23, 25).

There are passages in the Jewish Scriptures that speak of the coming of the new covenant. For example, Moses summons all of Israel and tells them God “has not given you them hearts to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”[5] He goes onto tell them God “will circumcise their hearts and the heart of your offspring, so that they will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and that they may live.” [6] The Hebrew expression “the stubbornness of his/their heart” occurs ten times in the Tanakh.[7]  So the need for a new covenant is the solution to this problem. The only place the words “new covenant” are seen is the following text:

Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.  “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jer. 31: 31-34).

Though Ezekiel never uses the phrase “new covenant,” as Jeremiah does, he mirrors the concept:

Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it.  And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God (Ezek. 11: 17-20).

 I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.  For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God (Ezek. 36: 23-28).

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the new covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. These passages promise the day when God will place his Spirit permanently inside people so they can walk in holiness and love. We can look forward to:

  1. God promises the forgiveness of sin.[8]
  2. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit [9]
  3. Knowledge of God. [10]
  4. Obedience of God by his people.[11]
  5. The fulfillment of Israel’s future restoration to the land.[12]

Before Jesus rose from the dead, he made a promise related to the new covenant passages. As Jesus says:

 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you (John 14:16,17).

We can conclude with the following syllogism:

  1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Holy Spirit and inaugurate the new covenant.
  2. Jesus rose from the dead
  3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the new covenant.

 

 Gentiles Participation in the New Covenant

It is abundantly clear the Lord made the new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (see Jeremiah31:31–34, quoted in Hebrews 8:8–12) and not with the nations of the world, which leads us to ask the question: how do Gentiles get to partake in the new covenant? In response, God’s plan for Israel was to be a light to the nations and be a conduit for Gentiles to come to faith in the one true God.

We see the unique calling in the Abrahamic Covenant. The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 exhibit’s God’s plan to bless the nations; the Messianic blessing is for all the world. All peoples on all the earth – seventy nations at that time- would be beneficiaries of the promise.[13] So it could not be clearer that God intended to use Abraham as a channel of blessing to the entire world. The election of Israel was for a universal goal— the redemption of humanity. The challenge is how Gentiles comes to appropriate the blessings of the new covenant we previously mentioned. After all, the context of both passages has to do with Israel. Just because the promises about are made to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, we can’t logically conclude others are not able to participate just because they aren’t part of Israel. The Jewish Scriptures reveal that Gentiles would be restored to God through Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them.[14]  References to the new covenant foresee Gentile involvement and blessing. [15] The prophet Isaiah illustrates that Gentiles will receive the “trickle down” blessings:

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, To be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered. (Is. 56:6-8)

God’s planned for Israel to be a light to the non-Jewish nations from the beginning. Thus, Gentile believers are grafted into Israel’s new covenant (Romans 11:17). As Michael Kogan says:

Has Jesus brought redemption to Israel? No, but he has brought the means of redemption to the gentiles—and that in the name of Israel’s God—thus helping Israel to fulfill its calling to be a blessing to all peoples. A Jewish Messiah for the gentiles! Perhaps, as I have suggested, an inversion of Cyrus’s role as a gentile Messiah for the Jews. Israel is redeemed by engaging in redemptive work. Perhaps redemption is not a final state but a process, a life devoted to bringing oneself and others before God. To live a life in relationship to the Holy One and to help the world to understand itself as the Kingdom of God—which it, all unknowingly, already is—is to participate in redemption, to live a redemptive life. This has been Israel’s calling from the beginning.”[16]

But even though the nations of the world have been allowed to participate in the new covenant, we see God will fulfill his promises to Israel. Though Gentiles are experiencing spiritual blessings during Israel’s partial hardening, this will escalate with national Israel’s salvation.[17] Though Israel that has been partially hardened, there will be a future group of Jewish people who will experience salvation.[18]

#3: The Resurrection is Important to Jesus being a Prophet like Moses

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia” which is considered a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it. [19] However, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward [20] as well as glory. [21] Jesus’s inauguration of the kingdom of God included not only the dispensing of the Spirit,[22] but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. Deuteronomy is a pivotal text that speaks about the first coming of the Messiah:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Deut. 18: 15-18)

To be like Moses, the prophet Moses speaks about will have to be a “sign prophet.” Of course, the Torah clearly states even if a prophet’s signs and wonders do come to pass but the prophet leads the people astray to worship false gods, he is a false prophet.[23] So the ability to do signs and wonders is related to being a prophet of God. While actions by other prophets including Ezekiel and Jeremiah show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophets such as Moses. We see God used signs to convince Moses of his divine mission: God says, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” [24]

When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs” his rod turns into a snake,[25] and his hand becomes leprous.[26] Moses “performed the signs before the people, and they believedthey bowed down and worshiped.” [27] As far as Jesus being a sign prophet like Moses, we need to remember the word “sign” is reserved for what we would call a miracle.  Nicodemus said of Jesus “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” [28] “Sign” (Gr.sēmeion) is also used of the most significant miracle in the New Testament which is the resurrection of the Messiah from the grave. Thus, when asked for a sign, Jesus repeated this prediction of his resurrection.[29] Not only was the resurrection of the Messiah a miracle, but it was a miracle that Jesus predicted.[30]

#4: The Resurrection is Important to Jesus Being a Priest in the order of Melchizedek

One text vital to understanding the priestly work of the Messiah is in the following text: Psalm 110:1-4:

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”  The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:1-4)

Who is qualified to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek? While David did perform priestly functions, he could not be a priest forever because he died and remained dead. If the figure mentioned in Psalm 110 is David’s son, how could he be a priest forever and die?  He would have to not die. The individual must be a descendant of David, but one that is greater than David, and he must also serve as priest in some way outside of the qualification of being a Levite.

Here the Psalmist answers saying the priest would be of the order (not the line) of Melchizedek. The word Melchizedek is derived from “melchi,” which means “king” and “zedek’ which means righteousness.” Therefore, Melchizedek means “king of righteousness.” Melchizedek was, as you recall, was greater than Abraham because he existed prior to Abraham. In the Tanakh, the priest was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people through his ability make to make atonement for the whole people (Lev.4:26; 31, 35; 5:6, 10;14:31). By doing this, the priests “sanctified” the people which allowed them to come into God’s presence. Another priestly function in the Tanakhh was to pray or make intercession on behalf of the people. The Messiah’s resurrection is the basis for his priesthood because in that life he can be the “priest forever” (Heb 7:17) who is typified by Melchizedek and portrayed in Psalm 110.  Here we see the purpose of the Aaron-Melchizedek contrast: to establish the permanence of the Messiah’s priestly ministry. One can see how Psalm 110 is stressed throughout Hebrews which is related to the endlessness of the Messiah’s priestly office.

 I discuss these topics in greater length in my book called “The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah.” 

The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah by [Chabot, Eric]

 Sources: 

 [1] E. Borowitz, Liberal Judaism (New York: Behrman House. 1984), 216.

[2]  2 Sam. 7:1-4.

[3]  Ps.72:8; Is. 9:7; Zech. 9:9.

[4] 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 21:14; 72:17; 89:36-37; Jer. 33:17.

[5] Deut. 29: 4.

[6] Deut. 30: 6.

[7]  Deut. 29:18; Jer. 3:17; 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10; 16:12; 18:12; 23:17; Ps. 81:12.

[8] Jer. 31:34; Ezek. 36:25.

[9]  Ezek. 36:27.

[10] Jer. 31:34.

[11] Ezek. 36:27; 37:23-24; Jer. 32:39-40.

[12] Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek.36:24-25; 37:11-14.

[13]  Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14.

[14]  Ps. 87:4-6; Is 11:9-10; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 25:6-10; 42:1-9; 49:6; 51:4-6; 60:1-16; Jer. 3:17; Zeph. 3:9-10; Zech. 2:11); G.K. Beale and B. L. GladdHidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery (Downers Grove:  IVP Academic. 2014),186.

[15]  Isa. 55:5; Ezek. 36:36; 37:28.

[16]  M. S. Kogan, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2007), 68.

[17]  Rom. 11: 25-26.

[18]  Rom.11:26–29, quoting Is. 59:20–21.

[19] 2 Thess. 1:5.

[20]   Matt 25:34.

[21]  Matt 13:43.

[22]  John 7: 39.

[23] Deut.13: 1-3.

[24]  Exod. 3:12.

[25]. Exod. 4:3.

[26]  Exod. 4:1–7.

[27]  Exod. 4:30–31.

[28]  John 3:2.

[29] Matt. 16:1, 4.

[30]  Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19.

 

 

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