A Look at Five Ways God Has Revealed Himself to the World

Christianity stresses that  the God of the Bible is capable of giving a revelation to mankind through a specific medium. One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intentions.  Revelation is a disclosure of something that has been hidden– an “uncovering,” or “unveiling.” There are three things are needed for a revelation to take place: God, a medium, and a being able to receive the revelation. In this session, we discuss the various mediums God has picked to communicate to humanity.

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A Look at God’s Existence: Evidence We Want vs Evidence We Should Expect

A Look at  Evidence We Want and Evidence We Should Expect

REMEMBER: Sometimes questions are better than answers!

Some Common Objections:

  • “There is no proof for God!”
  • “We can’t know if there is a God or that Jesus is the Son of God” (agnostic)
  • “We do know that God does not exist and that Jesus is not the Son of God” (knowledge claim)

Questions to ask:

What is “Proof”?

“Does “proof” mean we  need 100 percent, absolute, mathematical certainty — with no possible alternative explanations for the existence of God/Jesus as the Son of God?”

Does Proof mean to have “Certitude?”

  • Means it cannot be challenged by the consideration of new evidence that results from improved observation
  •  It can’t be criticized by improved reasoning or the detection of inadequacies or errors in the reasoning we have done. Beyond such challenge or criticism, such judgments are indubitable, or beyond doubt. Note: This was adpated from Mortimer Adler’s Six Great Ideas.
  • Aside from common sense beliefs (i.e, beliefs we take for granted in the common concerns of life), we generally don’t’ get certitude with much of anything.

Therefore:

  • If someone is asking for 100 percent,  to truly know that God exists, we need to remind them this is unrealistic. We believe lots of things with confidence even though we do not have absolute certainty.

 “There is no  evidence for God or the Christian faith?”

Questions to ask:

  • “Are you asking if there is good reasons or grounds  for being a Christian?”

Evidence We Want vs. Evidence We Should Expect

Note: Thanks to Stephen Bedard at Hope’s Reason for the differentiation here.

Example: Evidence We Want

“God is a supernatural being, so I want a  supernatural sign or be handed undisputable evidence of one. If only I could see a miracle, then I will believe.”

Response:

The skeptic constantly assumes that if they could just see God directly or if God would give them an unmistakable sign that He is there, they would bow their knee and follow Him.  Sadly, this is misguided on several levels. God declares, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).  However, there seems to be other texts that indicate  people did see God. Even in Exodus 33:11  Moses speaks to God “face to face.” Obviously, “face to face” is a figure of speech which means they were in close communion or conversation.

Also, in Genesis 32:30, Jacob saw God appearing as an angel. But he did not truly see God. In Genesis 18:1,  it says the Lord appeared to Abraham. Obviously, there are other cases where God  appears in various  forms. But this is not the same thing as  seeing God  directly  with all His glory and holiness. It is evident that people can’t see  God in all His fullness (Exodus 33:20). For if they did, they would be destroyed. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God and he shows the world who God is (Heb. 1:1).

Also, the demand for signs doesn’t guarantee one will believe.  For example:

Jesus did signs for people and they still rejected him: John grieved: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37).

Jesus himself said of some, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). One result, though not the purpose, of miracles is condemnation of the unbeliever (cf. John 12:31, 37).

Jesus did the miracles for those who were Beatitude people. Are you poor in spirit? Do you recognize your poverty before God? Or do you just want a sign so you can say, “Oh, I guess that God exists, but I have no intention of placing my faith in God.”

Evidence We Want: Scientific Evidence

Questions to ask:

  • What is science? “Science the attempted objective study of the natural world/natural phenomena whose theories and explanations do not normally depart from the natural realm.” (Del Ratzsch, Philosophy of Science (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 15.
  • Is God natural or non natural? How would science ‘prove’ or provide evidence against the non-existence of God?For example, if God created the universe from nothing (think, Big Bang), then all naturalistic attempts to explain the universe’s beginning are going to run into problems!
  • Some skeptics want to cling to the claim that science can say nothing about the existence of God (he is supernatural) but they also desperately want to tell people how science has shown that God doesn’t exist. This makes no sense!
  • Science operates on induction (A posteriori knowledge which is dependent on experience or empirical evidence ).The inductive method entails searching out things in the world and drawing generalized conclusions about those things based on observation. The only way one can say a thing does not exist is by using a deductive method (A priori knowledge which is  independent of experience).
  • One cannot know anything inductively with absolute certainty. The inductive method gives us knowledge that is only probably true.
  • Can we observe God directly? No! But since science is a search or causes, we can observe the effects in the world and make rational inferences (i.e, is the cause of what we observe the result of natural causation or intelligent causation?
  • Does science allow for agency?  Human beings habitually understand themselves as agents. Agents have goals (things they desire), and produce behavior which they believe will achieve those goals.  They plan ahead and show intentional design and purpose.  Example: Does the universe have a goal or purpose? Is the universe set up to allow  for scientific discovery? It is set up for life to get going on earth?  Note: Natural selection has no reasons for its “choices,” and it has no goals, only selecting on the basis of past performance.
  • God of the gaps? When theists cannot explain something in nature, they will conveniently say, “God did it.” So the complaint is that when we appeal to God to plugs the gaps of our ignorance,  science will continue to provide answers.
  •  Remember: (1) The Biblical authors didn’t differentiate  between natural and non natural causes. God is the author of nature (i.e., we need to account or the existence of nature/natural laws themselves that allow science to flourish); (2) “Naturalism of the gaps: “Naturalism-of-the-gaps implies so great a confidence in scientism that ultimately no evidence for God can ever emerge, no matter how strong.  

There is evidence for God in the sciences: Note: These issues are always being debated: NOTE: Thanks to Wintery Knight for some of these resources:

Evidence  We Should Expect

We need to discuss the difference between factors and proofs

Webster’s II New College Dictionary says a factor is “something that actively contributes to an accomplishment, goal, or process.”

The plausibility factor: “Isn’t it reasonable to believe that a God who created us could, if he wanted to do so through the vehicle of inspired writing?” In other words,does it make sense that God should provide a revelation of Himself to humanity?” (see Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism, pg 127-128.

Analogy: As someone who is married, how do I know what my wife expects of me in certain situations unless she communicates!

Why the need for a revelation?

  • We need to know the character of God: we need a concrete communication to establish the exact  nature of God’s character. Who is God and what is He Like?
  • The Origin of   Evil/The Fall: Man needs to be educated concerning the reasons  for our situation.
  • Man’s Origin: Without a  clear revelation, people might think they are the result of a blind,  naturalistic process instead of being created in the image of God.
  • Mankind’s   Destiny: In the absence of a revelation, we might think  that this life is all there is

Going about providing Legal/Historical  Evidence

  • Testimony of witnesses
  • Hostile eyewitness testimony
  • Written documents
  • Archeological/external evidence
  • We use textual studies to show  that we have trustworthy versions of the original biblical documents.

Remember, when it comes to historical evidence: Since history is inductive, probability comes in degrees:

  • Virtual Certainty: Where the evidence is overwhelmingly in its  favor( the law of gravity)
  • Highly probable: Very good evidence in its favor (There was a man named Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago and was crucified)
  • Probable: Means there is sufficient evidence in its favor (Paul wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians)
  • Possible: Seems to have evidence both for and against (The Shroud of Turin is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was in the tomb)
  • Improbable: Insufficient Evidence in its favor (Life can come from non-life)

The Old Testament explains:

The New Testament explains:

Evidence We Should Expect:

“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.” C.S. Lewis,  The Weight of Glory. Note: see Paul Copan’s God: The Best Explanation

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A Response to David Klinghoffer’s “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point In Western History”

David Klinghoffer is a observant Jewish man who happens to be a big advocate of the Intelligent Design movement. He also is the author of the book  Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.

Just glancing at the title alone may lead a reader to conclude that the Jewish people at the time of Jesus rejected him. Let’s look at the evidence:

In the Book of Acts (Acts 2:41) we see 3000 Jewish people come to faith at Pentecost  after Peter’s Sermon (goes up to 5000 in Acts 4:4);(Acts 6:7). “The number of disciples increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”; (Acts 21:20) Within twenty years the Jewish congregation said to Paul, “You see how many thousands (in Greek, it is literally “myriads” or “ten thousands” or “countless thousands”; Hence, we see at least 100,000 Jewish believers in Jesus. Now I know not every single Jewish person accepted him as the  Messiah. But then again, where does the Bible say a sign that the Messiah has come means that He accepted by every single Jewish person (including all of the religious establishment)? The prophets were rejected by their people and Jesus is the ultimate prophet who is the one like Moses spoke about (Deut 18:15-18).  I won’t offer a full blown review of the book here. But I want to mention one major issue:

Klinghoffer summarizes Israel’s messianic expectation, articulated in the prophets such as Ezekiel, in the following list: (1) gathering of Jewish exiles; (2) the reign of a messianic king; (3) a new covenant characterized by a scrupulous observance of the commandments; (4) eternal peace; (5) a new temple; and (6) the nations recognize God. Klinghoffer argues that these criteria disqualify Jesus for any messianic claim because none of them was fulfilled during Jesus’ lifetime.—David Klinghoffer, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus (New York: Doubleday, 2005), 36.

Sadly, this doesn’t represent the entire scope of messianic thought. And it always lead to the “heads, I win, tails you lose approach.”  In other words, “Jesus doesn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies so we have that all settled and we can move on and wait for the true Messiah to come.”

The reality is that we have the same problem Jesus had when he was here. Hence, the Jewish expectations of the kingdom what would come would be (1) visible, (2) all at once, (3) in complete fullness, (4) when God’s enemies would be defeated  and (5) the saints are separated from the ungodly, the former receiving reward and the latter punishment. But  once again, as Beale and Gladd note in their book Hidden, But Now Revealed, the kingdom  that is revealed by Jesus is (1) for the most part invisibly, so that one must have eyes to perceive it (2) in two stages (already- and- not yet), (3), growing over an extended time from one stage to the last stage, (4) God’s opponents are not defeated immediately all together, but the invisible satanic powers are first subjugated and then at the end of time, all foes will be vanquished and judged and (5) saints are not being separated from the ungodly in the beginning stage of the kingdom, but such a separation will occur on the last day, when Jesus’ followers receive their reward and the latter punishment.

Also, the other problem with the assertion by Klinghoffer is that it ignores the contingent element to messianic prophecy. In other words, the covenants that were made between God and Israel both have a conditional and unconditional element to them. Obviously, we see for Klinghoffer and Jewish people, the redemptive work of the Messiah is a one act play that isn’t broken up into different time periods.  Thus, when the Messiah comes to bring his kingdom, it is to this world that he comes and in this world that he establishes his reign. Hence, the Jewish expectations of the kingdom what would come would be (1) visible, (2) all at once, (3) in complete fullness.

But what can be forgotten is that while God made unconditional promises to Israel in both of these covenants, Israel has to do their part to obtain the fullest blessings of the covenant. Because of the conditional nature of the covenant God made with Israel through the Torah, Israel was judged and sent into exile. Thus, there is a delay in the blessings. But even Israel’s failure to obey God’s commands doesn’t negate the promise. Therefore, the prophecy of restoration follows every message about the prophecy of judgment and doom. Hence, there are several passages that speak to the issue of a restoration of Jewish people back to the land (Isa.11:10-16; Jer. 3:11-20; 12:14-17; 16:10-18; 23:1-8; 24:5-7; 30:1-3, 10-11; 31:2-14; 32:36-44; Ezek. 11:14-20; 20:33-44; 28:25-26; 34:11-16, 23-31; 36:16-36; 37:1-28; 39:21-29).

 Notice that Klinghoffer says two of the messianic qualifications are that the nations recognize God and  there will be a new covenant characterized by a scrupulous observance of the commandments. It is true that the Jewish Scriptures say that Gentiles (goyim) will be restored to God as a result of Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them (e.g., 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).

Regarding what Jesus has done, even Jewish scholar  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.”–Michael S. Kogan, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity (Oxford University Press. 2007), 68.

Because of the finished work of Jesus and the nations of the world have been allowed the opportunity to participate in the New Covenant, we need to heed the words of Paul who said that in the future God will fulfill his promises to Israel. For Paul, while Gentiles are experiencing spiritual blessings during the state of Israel’s “stumbling,” this will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation (see Rom. 11:26). Hence, while Israel that has been hardened, in the future, all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:26–29, quoting Isaiah 59:20–21).

In conclusion, Jesus has fulfilled these messianic qualifications. The issue is that it isn’t a one act play. Part two will happen in the future. This post isn’t meant to be a full review of the book. But I felt compelled to respond to this issue. Grace and peace!

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God’s Existence and the Quest for Certainty

For the last fifteen years I have done campus apologetics. Thus, I have heard my share of objections to God’s existence. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard comments such as “You can’t prove God’s existence” or “We can’t be certain there is a God,” or, “I don’t think we can know God exists.” The list goes on and on. I have run into my share of people who think they need to be absolutely certain of God’s existence and that Jesus is His Son. Most recently,  two Christians critiqued William Lane Craig’s article in the New York Time about God’s existence. They don’t like any claim that says we aren’t  absolutely certain about the truthfulness of our faith. What is this really all about? It is about what is called Religious Epistemology. I was blessed to be able to take a graduate level class on this topic in seminary. I don’t claim to be an expert. But I have learned some of the basics.  Here are some of the terms help with these discussions:

 I. Epistemology:  Is the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related issues such as justification, truth, types of certainty.

a. Justification: a belief is said to be justified when a person fulfills his or her duties in acquiring  and maintaining a belief. A belief is said to be justified when it is based on a good reason/reasons or has the right grounds or foundation.

b. Knowledge: Knowledge is a belief that is true and warranted or properly accounted for. In other words, knowledge excludes beliefs that are just true accidentally.

Example: It is 12:30 pm and through an antique shop window I happen to look at a non-working clock, which happens to indicate 12:30. I would not be warranted in concluding that it’s 12:30 P.M. I may have belief that is true- the first components of knowledge—but I happened to get lucky. That does not qualify as knowledge; it’s not properly warranted (which completes the definition of knowledge). NOTE: This example was taken from Paul Copan’s True for you, but not for me: Deflating the Slogans that Leave Christians Speechless.

Also: All possible knowledge depends on the validity of reasoning. Is mind the product of matter—more precisely, an accidental by-product of blind material forces of nature? From an evolutionary perspective, it doesn’t matter whether an organism has true beliefs, false beliefs, or no beliefs at all, as long as the organism can effectively preserve and pass on its genes. Evolution isn’t truth-directed. It’s only survival-directed. (James Anderson, Why Should I Believe Christianity? (The Big Ten) (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2016), Kindle Locations 1178 of 2480).

 Common Sense Beliefs: Beliefs we take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them:

a.Testimony: We rightly accept what others tell us without having first established that they are worthy of trust. Without testimony, we could never be able to learn a language or accept something we learned before checking out for ourselves.

b.We trust our senses on a daily basis/we trust our cognitive faculties. We rely on introspection, intuition, and perception on a daily basis.

c. Memory: Memory is a pervasive, bedrock of our intellectual existence.

 Skepticism and God’s Existence: 

 Strengths of Skepticism: 

a. Skepticism can be healthy and constructive. After all, we shouldn’t be gullible and naïve, believing everything we hear or read.

b. Religious/Revelatory Claims are contradictory: We are required to provide reasons and evidence for what we believe.

Weaknesses of Skepticism: (NOTE: Points a-e are adapted from How Do You Know You’re Not WrongA Response to Skepticism  by PaulCopan).

a. Skeptics are more skeptical about religious beliefs that anything else!

b. Skeptics aren’t truly skeptical about two fundamental things they take for granted: (a) the inescapable logical laws that they’re constantly using to disprove the claims of those who say they have knowledge or (b) that their minds are properly functioning so that they can draw their skeptical conclusions!

c. Being less than 100% certain doesn’t mean we can’t truly know. We can have highly plausible or probable knowledge, even if it’s not 100% certain.

d. The skeptic does not realize we don’t have to have absolute certainty to know something; we know many things that we aren’t absolutely certain about, and this is legitimately called “knowledge.”

e. The hyper-skeptic is in a position that ends up eliminating any kind of personal responsibility or accountability.

f. Skeptics need to be clear about what kind of approach they are taking to the existence of God (i.e., religious experience, induction, deduction, a historical approach, empirical approach, inference to the best explanation, etc).

Deduction, Induction, and Abduction 

When someone tells me I have not proven God’s existence, I ask them if they know the difference between deduction, induction, and abduction. You may say ‘well, you are using big words.” But look at our chart here:

Deductive Arguments: In a deductive argument, the premises are intended to provide support for the conclusion that is so strong that, if the premises are true, it would be impossible for the conclusion to be false.

(Premise 1)…….All the books on that shelf are science books.

(Premise 2)…….This book is from that shelf.

(Conclusion)……This book is therefore a science book.

You might say, well what kind of deductive arguments are there for God’s existence. I would suggest reading Edward Feser’s Five Proof’s For The Existence of God. 

Yes, it is true that nobody needs to master these arguments to find God.  But they are still important.

Inductive Arguments: In an inductive argument, the premises are intended only to be so strong that, if they are true, then it is unlikely that the conclusion is false.

(Premise 1)…….This book is from that shelf.

(Premise 2)…….This book is a science book.

(Conclusion)……All the books on that shelf are science books.

In this argument, even if the premises are true, you could not conclude, with certainty, that all of the books on the shelf are science books just from the two pieces of information given in the premises.

Now, when it comes to inductive proofs (as seen in the chart above), we can only arrive at probability levels. This happens in science as well. This may make people uncomfortable. But that’s the way it is.

Remember, probability comes in degrees

a. Virtual Certainty: Where the evidence is overwhelmingly in its  favor( the law of gravity)

b. Highly probable: Very good evidence in its favor (There was a man named Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago and was crucified)

c.  Probable: Means there is sufficient evidence in its favor (Paul wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians)

d. Possible: Seems to have evidence both for and against (The Shroud of Turin is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was in the tomb)

e.  Improbable: Insufficient Evidence in its favor (Life can come from non-life)

f.  Highly Improbable: Very little evidence in its favor (The events in the Book of Mormon took place)

Abduction: Inference to the Best Explanation 

We don’t have direct evidence for the events in the Bible. But remember we don’t have direct evidence for many events that are in the past that lead to scientific conclusions. Almost all historical inquiries as well as cold case investigations are built on indirect or what is called “circumstantial evidence.” A large majority of science, history, and cold case investigations involve making inferences. Historians collect the data and draw conclusions that provide the best explanation that covers all the data in what is called “Inference to the most reasonable explanation” which never leads to absolute certainty or exhaustive knowledge. Mathematical propositions like 2+2=4 are absolutely certain by most people (except for a few philosophers maybe); such certainty is at times required for the resurrection question by skeptics. The process of finding the best explanation involves applying standards such as explanatory power and scope to the different theories on offer. Explanatory power is how well an explanation explains; explanatory scope is how much an explanation explains. While some skeptics will say they don’t absolute certainty for the resurrection of Jesus, many people choose to stay in a stubborn agnosticism simply because they claim they haven’t found the level of certainty that they need.

Remember that many people make major commitments in life based on probable knowledge. When you get married or take a job or make other life commitments, you may have unanswered questions, gaps of knowledge, or levels on uncertainty. But you still make major commitments. You say “I know this is the right choice!” Why do some people have to have every question answered before making a commitment to God or Jesus? I think it is because it involves  their autonomy.

 Kinds of Certainty

a.  Mathematical Certainty: ( 7+5+12)

b. Logical Certainty:  (There are no square circles)

c. Existentially Undeniable: ‘I exist’

d. Spiritual (Supernatural) Certainty: ‘I experience the Holy Spirit in my life

e.  Historical Certainty: Since history and science is mostly  inductive, we can only arrive at probabilities

f. Pragmatic certainty: If something works or has beneficial consequences. This is challenging since someone could believe something works that does not correspond to reality.

Remember, a Christian can claim  to arrive at “spiritual or supernatural certainty” because of the work of the Holy Spirit. That is fine. But that is not a public claim. It is a private and internal experience.

If you haven’t purchased the book Doubting Toward Faith by Bobby Conway, please do. It is a great book. I came across this section which is quite helpful. He says:

“Here’s a thought to digest: In the absence of certainty, there’s always room for doubt. And this applies not only to the Christian but to everyone. No one, in any belief system, can prove his or her faith with 100 percent certainty. But 100 percent certainty is also not required in order to believe in something or to have reasonable assurance that what you believe is true and trustworthy. • I believe my wife when she says she’ll be faithful to only me. • I believe my friends when they say, “I’m telling you the truth.” • I believe the red light will turn green in a reasonable amount of time. • I believe my government won’t collapse tomorrow.

But Bobby, I feel 100 percent certain that Christianity is true,” you may contest. And I would add, we cannot confuse feeling certain and being certain. There’s a difference. Mormons also feel certain their beliefs are true, as do Muslims, atheists, and many others. Feeling certain and being certain aren’t necessarily equivalent. As we all know, feelings are fickle. One day your moods may sing the praises of your faith and the next day your moods will betray you, drowning you in the despair of doubt. Many people who walk around saying “I know with 100 percent certainty that my faith is true” haven’t thought much about their faith. They’re often blissfully naïve, which insulates them from an onslaught of doubts.The reality is, even those who feel 100 percent certain can’t prove Christianity with 100 percent certainty. And we do the church a great disservice when we act like we can. Not to mention, we also set new believers up for a future doubt crisis when they realize things in our faith aren’t as tidy as they once thought. In any event, we must avoid two extremes, this time as it relates to certainty. On one extreme we have philosophers like René Descartes who seek certainty through doubting everything, and on the other extreme are those who doubt nothing in order to feel good about their supposed certainty. Neither solution is helpful.”

A Christian could claim that they have absolute certainty regarding  the historical evidence for the resurrection. Bur this is incorrect. We can only make inductive and abductive claims about history.  A Christian could also claim to have pragmatic certainty. But guess what? What kind of certainty do you have when Christianity doesn’t work? 

What is Certitude, Doubt, and Beyond A Reasonable Doubt?

Certitude

In order for a judgment to belong in the realm of certitude, it must meet the following criteria:

(1)  It cannot be challenged by the consideration of new evidence that results from improved observation

(2) It can’t be criticized by improved reasoning or the detection of inadequacies or errors in the reasoning we have done. Beyond such challenge or criticism, such judgments are indubitable, or beyond doubt.

 Doubt

A judgment is subject to doubt if there is any possibility at all (1) of its being challenged in the light of additional or more acute observations or (2) of its being criticized on the basis of more cogent or more comprehensive reasoning.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

A courtroom analogy is helpful here: a jury is asked to bring in the verdict that they have no reason to doubt- no rational basis for doubting- in light of all the evidence offered and the arguments presented by the opposing counsel. Of course, it is always possible that new evidence may be forthcoming and, if that occurs, the case may be reopened and a new trial may result in a different verdict. The original verdict may have been beyond a reasonable doubt at the time it was made, but it is not indubitable-not beyond all doubt or beyond a shadow of a doubt–precisely because it can be challenged by new evidence or set aside by an appeal that called attention to procedural errors that may have invalidated the jury’s deliberations- the reasoning they did weighing and interpreting the evidence presented. NOTE: This was adpated from Mortimer Adler’s Six Great Ideas.

How many of our beliefs are based on certitude? Not many!

I hope these terms help in your discussions about God.

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A Look at How to Identify Modern- Day Idols

Anyone who has been keeping up with the literature knows many scholars have been writing on the topic of idolatry for a while. Some of us may assume idolatry was Israel’s problem and if we are not worshiping a golden calf, we are in good shape. However, we will discuss some of the modern-day idols that are around us on a regular basis. 

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An Easy Way to Understand the Role of Apologetics in a Christian’s Life

For most of us in the apologetics endeavor, on many occasions I have found myself having to explain what apologetics is to my Christian friends. I have also noted elsewhere that I have had to give an apologetic for why we should see the need for apologetics. After the last election (in 2016), I  have found a very simple way to explain the role of apologetics. Given there were so many debates and so many Christians had to give reasons or justification for why they picked a specific candidate, I have used this as a springboard to explain the need for  apologetics.

I generally ask my fellow Christians if they had to give reasons for why they picked a specific candidate. They always say “yes.” Then I ask them if they have to had to ever give good reasons for why they chose a specific vocation or a specific major to study. Again, they agree they have had to do that as well. What about giving good reasons for why they picked a specific church? Or what about giving reasons for why they picked a specific spouse? Or what about giving good reasons for picking a specific place to live? Or what about giving reasons for why they follow a specific sports team? The list goes on. The point is we have had to give reasons for almost every position we have taken or choice we’ve made. In the book Good Arguments: Making Your Case in Writing and Public Speaking, the authors note the following definitions: 

  1. Argument: the process of giving a systematic account of reasons in support of a claim or belief.
  2. We use effective argumentation to defend our position as a reasonable option among various choices.
  3.  Claims and beliefs go hand in hand. For anything you believe, you can state that belief in the form of a claim

So as we’ve just noted, almost all Christians have to give reasons to support their positions/claims or choices they’ve made. Therefore, why wouldn’t a Christian see the need to give good reasons for why they think there is a God and Jesus is His Son? It seems like this issue impacts one’s view of reality. So this is a huge issue. Once I explain it this way, most Christians see the need to learn apologetics.  Also, if the Bible is the Word of God, we see plenty of places where Jesus and the Apostles gave reasons for their claims and asked others to do the same. For example:

The word “apologia” means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15). The apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia” which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15). Furthermore, Paul wrote of ‘defending and confirming the gospel’ (Phil. 1:7). Luke records that Paul spent time reasoning and explaining that Jesus suffered and rose from the dead. (Acts 17:2–3). Also,” Every Sabbath [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4). Paul also appealed to what is called ‘natural theology’ in Rom.1: 18-21. Here, 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).   When John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus likewise appealed to the evidence of his works (cf. Matthew 11:4–6).   Peter commands Christians to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have . . . with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15) The Greek translated as ‘give an answer’ in 1 Peter 3:15 is apologia – from which we get the word ‘apologetics.’

In his book Evangelism and the Early Church, author Michael Green notes that the early church advanced the gospel through the first four centuries because of three things: (1) The ability to engage in persuasive apologetics and outthink her opponents, (2) The transformed character and biblical compassion of believers, (3) The manifest power of the kingdom of God.

After doing outreach for the past fifteen years, I am saddened to say that one of the predominant reasons our culture rejects our faith is because of a lack of information. Therefore, it is the Christian’s responsibility to give the individual the right information so they can make an informed decision about the gospel. Furthermore, many people are simply rejecting a caricature of our faith. And most importantly, if parents or pastors cannot articulate what they believe to a teenager or a college student, they may be showing that their faith is not important to them. I once heard a story of a father who had raised his daughter in the faith. After going to college, she returned home to tell him she had left the Christian faith. His daughter, along with so many other young people had attended plenty of youth activities and pizza parties. However, she had never been taught about why her faith was true. Stories like these could be multiplied. Therefore, it is incumbent upon parents and pastors to have apologetic training. In an age of intellectual skepticism, both teenagers and college students walk away from the faith because of unanswered questions.

“But Doesn’t Faith Come From Hearing the Word of God?”

Most recently, I had a discussion with another fellow Christian about the role of apologetics in evangelism. I was discussing how difficult it is to do outreach on a college campus without apologetics. The fellow Christian proceeded to tell me that apologetics isn’t the issue. Instead, her response was that students come to faith by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:5-13). I responded that she was confusing evangelism and apologetics. I have seen this happen on several occasions. Mark Denver summarizes the confusion:

“People mistake apologetics for evangelism. Like the activities we’ve considered above, apologetics itself is a good thing. We are instructed by Peter to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Pet. 3:15). And apologetics is doing exactly that. Apologetics is answering questions and objections people may have about God or Christ, or about the Bible or the message of the gospel. Apologists for Christianity argue for its truth. They maintain that Christianity better explains that sense of longing that all people seem to have. Christianity better explains human rationality. It fits better with order. They may argue (as C. S. Lewis does in Mere Christianity) that it better fits with the moral sense that people innately have. It copes better with problems of alienation and anxiety. Christians may – and should – argue that Christianity’s frankness about death and mortality commends it. These can be good arguments to have. Answering questions and defending parts of the good news may often be a part of conversations Christians have with non-Christians, and while that may have been a part of our own reading or thinking or talking as we came to Christ, such activity is not evangelism. Apologetics can present wonderful opportunities for evangelism. Being willing to engage in conversations about where we came from or what’s wrong with this world can be a significant way to introduce honest discussions about the gospel. For that matter, Christians can raise questions with their non-Christian friends about the purpose of life, what will happen after death, or the identity of Jesus Christ. Any of these topics will take work and careful thought, but they can easily lead into evangelism. It should also be said that apologetics has its own set of dangers. You might unwittingly confirm someone in their unbelief by your inability to answer questions that are impossible to answer anyway. To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.”—  Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism,  (pgs. 76-79).

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 Handling a Rabbi’s Objection to the Resurrection of Jesus

Dan Cohn-Sherbock, a well-known rabbi of Reform Judaism and Jewish theologian provides his own reasons for rejecting the resurrection of Jesus. He says:

As a Jew and a rabbi, I could be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, but I would set very high standards of what is required. It would not be enough to have a   subjective experience of Jesus. If I heard voices or had a visionary experience of Jesus, this would not be enough. Let me sketch the kind of experience that would be necessary. If Jesus appeared by hosts of angels trailing clouds of glory and   announcing all for His Messiah ship to see, this would be compelling. But it would have to take place in public domain. video cameras, shown on television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Jesus appearance would have to be a global event, televised on CNN, and other forms of the world’s media. Further, if as a consequence of his arrival, all the prophecies   recorded in scripture were fulfilled; the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of the Temple, the resurrection of all those who died, the advent of the days of the Messiah, final judgment-I would without a doubt embrace the Christian message and become a follower of the risen Christ. [1]

The comments by Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock demonstrate the attitude among many in the modern world today. He also raises some objections based on another traditional role of the Messiah in Judaism.  However, there isn’t one messianic expectation in Judaism. Also, whether certain passages are about the coming of the Messiah in the Jewish Scriptures will depend upon what the preconceived idea of the reader. What do they believe the Messiah is supposed to do? If a traditional Jewish person says the Messiah cannot suffer and die and rise from the dead, how would we expect them to interpret the Messianic passages?  It is also obvious that Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock has unrealistic explications for the evidence for the resurrection. If we were to apply the same criteria that to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we could never know that happened as well. After all, the giving of the Torah was not witnessed by multitudes (they saw Moses after he received it), photographed, recorded on video cameras, shown on television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide.

Thus, while Jewish people like to boast of the thousands of witnesses that were at the Sinai event, both Christians and Messianic Jews can discuss the witnesses to the resurrection. However, in both cases, the testimony of the witnesses is imbedded in a written text. This means we must differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence. The demand for direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses. We have no access to the witnesses of the event. Keep in mind that this happens all the time with cold-case investigations. Jurors may accept both direct and circumstantial evidence, and many criminals are convicted based on indirect/circumstantial evidence.  Since we can’t obtain direct evidence about the resurrection of Jesus nor for the giving of the Torah, we must build a circumstantial case for both events. Therefore, both Judaism and Christianity/Messianic Judaism are supported by circumstantial evidence.

1. G. D’ Costa, Resurrection Reconsidered (London: Oneworld. 1996), 198-199.

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N.T Wright on the five senses of how the term “history” works

When attempting to examine the evidence for a figure in antiquity such as Jesus or events such as his resurrection, what do historians look for? Since there were no video cameras, cell phones, internet, Facebook, or Twitter in the first century, we can’t place modern day expectations on an ancient figure such as Jesus.

Sometimes critics complain that the story of Jesus the Messiah is based on hearsay evidence. Thus, since those that wrote about Jesus can’t be cross-examined and since they’ve been dead for many centuries, this means the entire story of Jesus  is illegitimate. But this accusation fails to differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence. The demand for direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses. Keep in mind that this happens all the time with cold-case investigations. Also, modern science studies events that are in the past and are not observable nor repeatable.

In his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, N.T Wright succinctly summarizes how the five senses of the term “history” works. These are summarized in Rene Lopez’s book,  Killing Jesus.

Wright says:

First, there is history as event. If we say something is “historical” in this sense, it happened, whether or not we can know or prove that it happened.

Second, there is history as significant event. Not all events are significant; history, it is often assumed, consists of the ones that are. The adjective that tends to go with this is “historic”; “a historic event” is not simply an event that took place, but one whose occurrence carried momentous consequences.

Third, there is history as provable event. To say that something is “historical” in this sense is to say not only that it happened but that we can demonstrate that it happened, on the analogy of mathematics or the so-called hard sciences.

Fourth, and quite different from the previous three, there is history as writing-about-events-in-the-past. To say that something is “historical” in this sense is to say that it was written about, or perhaps could in principle have been written about. (This might even include “historical” novels).

Fifth and finally, a combination of (3) and (4) is often found precisely in discussions of Jesus: history as what modern historians can say about a topic. By “modern” I mean “post-Enlightenment,” the period in which people have imagined some kind of analogy, even correlation, between history and the hard sciences. In this sense, “historical” means not only that which can be demonstrated and written, but that which can be demonstrated and written within the post-Enlightenment worldview.

What then is the sense of the word “history” that we ought to understand when the early witnesses claimed to have seen Jesus or when Paul wrote, “He was buried, and … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4)? Were they recording a historical event or writing metaphorically? All the early first-century witnesses spoke of Jesus’ resurrection as a historical event that actually occurred according to Wright’s first point: “history as event.”-Rene Lopez, Killing Jesus, pgs, 61-62.

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Interview with Dr. Michael Keas: Dealing with the Supposed Warfare Between Science and Faith

In our weekly apologetics meeting, here we interview Dr. Michael Keas who is a historical scholar who specializes on the history of the relationship between faith/theology and science. Sadly, many people ascribe to what is called The Conflict Model which says faith is rooted in fantasy, whereas science is based on observable, empirically available data. Faith is highly emotional and subjective, whereas science is dispassionate, impersonal, and objective. They have propagated so many myths about the history of science and faith that need to be deconstructed. Dr Keas is author of Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion.

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A Look at the Objection: “Why Jewish People Don’t Believe in Jesus!”

Anyone who has talked to people from groups from Jews for Judaism or anti-missionary groups will generally encounter the objection, “Jesus didn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies.” Unfortunately, this is an oversimplification. Also, there is some overlap with this post and my other post called “Are There Over 300 Messianic Prophecies? After all, if we can’t even define messianic prophecy correctly and provide some tips on approaching the subject, we will never make any progress.

Here is a common internet post by Jewish organizations called Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus.

To summarize some of the messianic expectations in this article, we see:

1. The Messiah is not divine. Thus, he is an earthly figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.

2. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.

3.  The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).

4. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

 5. The Maimonides view of Messiah: Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:

1.  The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David

2.  He helps Israel follow Torah

3.  He builds the Temple in its place

4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel

Sadly, this doesn’t represent the entire scope of messianic thought. And it always lead to the “heads, I win, tails you lose approach.” In other words,“Jesus doesn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies so we have that all settled and we can move on and wait for the true Messiah to come.”  Let me offer some responses to the  assumption that Jesus can’t be the Messiah.

Problem #1: Some Prophecies are Unconditional Prophecies, Conditional Prophecies, and Sequentially Fulfilled Prophecies

We need to remember  there is a contingent element to prophecy. In other words, the covenants that were made between God and Israel (i.e., the Abrahamic, the  stipulations of the Torah, and Davidic covenants) both have conditional and an unconditional elements to them. Because of the conditional nature of the covenant God made with Israel through the Torah, Israel was judged and sent into exile. Thus, there is a delay in the blessings. But even Israel’s failure to obey God’s commands doesn’t negate the promise. Therefore, the prophecy of restoration follows every message about the prophecy of judgment and doom. Hence, there are several passages that speak to the issue of a restoration of Jewish people back to the land. I am well aware Christians differ on how to interpret these texts. This is important because many of the messianic expectations mentioned in the article are seen in relationship with Israel dwelling in the land. But for any of the messianic expectations mentioned above, Israel would have to fulfill their role in the covenants. But they didn’t and that’s why there is a delay in the blessings. Of course, Paul discusses this in Romans 9-11.

Remember: The Messiah’s Role is to Help the Gentile Nations Come to Know the One True God

The passages mentioned above also can tend to overlook the role of the Messiah to the nations. Our view of the covenants plays a large role in how we interpret the messianic texts and whether we view Jesus as the Messiah or not.  For example, we see in the Abrahamic Covenant God’s plan to bless the nations (Gen. 12:2–3; cf. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14).  All peoples of all the earth would be beneficiaries of the promise. So it could not be clearer that God intended to use Abraham in such a way that he would be a channel of blessing to the entire worldIsrael was chosen as light to draw the nations to salvation, which is confirmed by Isaiah:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2: 2-4).

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising (Isa. 60:2-3).

The Jewish Scriptures unmistakably reveal that Gentiles will be restored to God as a result of Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them (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). Even Jewish anti-missionaries agree that the Jewish Messiah will open the door for the nations to have a relationship with God. For example:

The Jewish concept of the Messiah is that which is clearly taught in the prophets of the Bible. He is a leader of the Jews, strong in wisdom and power and spirit. It is he who will bring complete redemption to the Jewish people both spiritually and physically. Along with this, he will bring eternal love, prosperity and moral perfection to the world. The Jewish Messiah will bring all peoples to God. This is expressed in the Alenu prayer, which concludes all three daily services: May the world be perfected under the kingdom of the Almighty. Let all the humans call upon Your Name and turn all the world’s evildoers to You. Let everyone on earth know that every knee must bow to you . . . and let them all accept the yoke of Your Kingdom. (1)

Why does this matter? Though Israel has had many messianic figures, Jesus is the only one that has opened the door for non-Jewish people to come to know the one true God. Just as Israel is called to be a light to the entire world (Gen 12:3), the Messiah’s mission is also to be a “light to the nations.” Regarding Jesus, though a remnant of Israel believed in Him, it is significant that the church is now predominately Gentile. We need to ask: Has there ever been any Jewish person who has founded a world religion of Gentiles? With the backdrop of Genesis 12:1-3 in mind, we see in Isaiah 49:6 that the enlarged mission to the Gentiles climaxes the Servant’s commission from God—“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” An expected Messiah who wasn’t viewed favorably by his own nation and who was reliably reported to have been executed as a criminal would not seem to be an ideal candidate.

Yet, because of the finished work of Jesus, polytheistic idolatrous Gentiles are now enabled to have a relationship with the one true God.  Gentiles across the world have come to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

Problem #2: Forgetting the Variety of Messianic Expectations

Articles such as this one assume that withing the history of Jewish thought, there has only been one messianic expectation. But this false. The article says Jesus fails the prophetic role of the Messiah. Even Jewish scholar Amy Jill Levine (who is not a follower of Jesus but specializes in New Testament studies) sheds light on the first-century Jewish mindset. When asked if the Jews rejected Jesus because he wasn’t the Messiah they were expecting, her response is enlightening:

“That claim that Jews rejected Jesus because he counseled peace and all Jews were looking for some warrior Messiah whose job it would be to get the Romans out of the country misses the variety of messianic ideas that were floating around in the first century. The majority of Jews did not accept Jesus as a Messiah because most Jews thought that the Messiah and the messianic age came together. The messianic age meant peace on earth and the end of war, death, disease, and poverty, the ingathering of the exiles, a general resurrection of the dead. When that didn’t happen, I suspect quite a number of Jews who were highly attracted to Jesus’ message of the kingdom of heaven thought: That’s a good message, but we have to keep waiting.” (2)

Remember, Jewish messianism is a concept study. The word “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 (Exod 28:41; 29:7, 29; 30:30; Lev. 7:36; 8:12; 16:32;), kings (Jdg 9:8; 9:15; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12, 13; 2 Sam 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3; 1 Chron. 11:3; 5:17; 127; 2 Sam 19:11; 1 Kgs 1:34, 39, 45; 5:15;19:15,16; 2 Kgs 9:3, 6,12;11:12; 23:30; 2 Chron. 22:7; 23:11; 29:22; Ps 89:21), and even prophets  (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15).

But notice these figures were all in the present. Hence, none of these texts speak of a future figure. What we  do see is that  in many cases, the word anointed one, then, was not originally predictive, but descriptive. There are only a few cases where we see the possibility of one who will be a future eschatological figure.  One is in  Daniel 9:25-26 where it speaks of “anointed one” who will ‘finish transgression, put and end to sin, bring everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy Place” (Dan. 9:24). Another is seen in Isa. 45:1 where God “anoints”  the pagan king Cyrus for the task at hand (Is 41:2-4, 45). Yes, even the pagan  king Cyrus was used to restore Israel while the nation was under attack (Is 44:28;45:13). Another text about a messianic figure  is seen in Psalm 2, which speaks of a day in which God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne. We will discuss this more as we move forward.

Also, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah  comes, he will do x, y,  and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. Let me give an example. Remember, other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One. Therefore, to say Jesus is the Messiah is like asking whether he is the Son of Man, Prophet, Branch, etc.

Problem #3: Jesus doesn’t fulfill the Davidic King Expectation? 

The article assume Jesus doesn’t qualify as the Davidic King. But the reasons it offers is far too simplistic. While God promised 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 Chr.17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a specific person who will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.  Royal messianism is seen in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 2  which is a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) is  the  moment of the king’s crowning. 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). While David did have conquest of all the nations at that time, (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, which is described as the conquest “of all the nations”  1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11) in Psalm 2, one day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.

In Psalm 89, the Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25) and  is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27). He also  will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings. As Israel went into the Babylonian captivity, the prophet  Hosea says that Israel will be without a Davidic king for many days (Hosea 3:4).

However, in the last days, God kept his promise of the Davidic covenant by rebuilding Israel which includes the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom (Isa.11:1–2; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11–12).  The Davidic King will be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), even though he is not spoken of specifically  as “The Messiah.” Ezekiel also spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). There are other texts that speak of the Davidic King as the “Branch” who will reign and rebuild the temple and be a king-priest on His throne (Zech. 3:8; 6:12–15; Jer. 33:1–8, 21–22).

Even though this is one expectation in the Second Temple Period, it is one of several other expectations. Also, I  am aware of the argument that Jesus isn’t entitled to the Davidic throne because of his genealogy. But see here for more on that topic. 

Problem #4: The Messiah will not be a demi-god

The article says the Messiah will not by divine. This is a common objection. But once again, it fails to acknowledge the variety of messianic expectations in the first century. Daniel Boyarin’s book The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ  discusses this in great lengthThe article assumes rabbinic Judaism is the correct starting point.

Remember, the term “Son of Man” in the time of Jesus was a most emphatic reference to the Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14). The title reveals divine authority. In the trial scene in Matthew 26:63-64, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself. Jesus’ claim that he would not simply be entering into God’s presence, but that he would actually be sitting at God’s right side was the equivalent to claiming equality with God. By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God.

As Randall Price notes:

“ The concept of the Messiah as a “son of man” after the figure in Daniel 7:13 is expressed in a section of the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch known as Similitudes, which has been argued to have a date as early as 40 B.C. It  should be noted that scholars have found in Similitudes four features for this figure: (1) it refers to an individual and is not a collective symbol, (2) it is clearly identified as the Messiah, (3) the Messiah is preexistent and associated with prerogatives traditionally reserved for God, and (4) the Messiah takes an active role in the defeat of the ungodly. New Testament parallels with Similitudes (e.g., Matt. 19:28 with 1 Enoch 45:3 and Jn. 5:22 with 1 Enoch 61:8) may further attest to a mutual dependence on a common Jewish messianic interpretation (or tradition) based on Daniel’s vision.” (3)

Problem #5: Jesus fails as the role of the prophet like Moses!

The article assumes Jesus failed to fulfill the role as the prophet like Moses (Deut 18: 15-18). But this is an oversimplification.  It is also evident at the time of Jesus, that Jewish people were looking for a prophet like Moses. For example:

The people said, “When they heard these words, some of the crowd began to say, “This really is the Prophet!” (John 7:40)

Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14)

John the Baptist began to preach, he was asked, “Are you the Prophet?”(John 1:19-23).

Also, Peter refers to Jesus as the prophet of Deut. 18:15-18:

And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.—Acts 3: 17-24

Peter is referring to the Deut.18: 15-18 text which mentions “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” The prophet only respeaks the words of God (cf. Jer 1:9: Isa. 59: 21). God said to Moses “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exod. 4:12).

 We see  in the context of Numbers 16, Moses faced his opposition in that they challenged his headship and authority.  Hence, they challenge the idea that Moses has a special mission and that he was sent  from God.  In response, Moses  defends his mission in that he has never “acted on his own,” i.e., claiming for himself an authority which he did not have.  Moses says, ” Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord”  (Num.16:28).  As far as Jesus being like Moses, we see a similar pattern in that Jesus doesn’t claim to speak or act on his own authority:

 So Jesus answered them and said, My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him”  (John 7: 16-18)

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.And he who sent me is with me.He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. (John 8:26)

For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12: 49-50).

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works(John 14:10).

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:24).

For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me (John 17:8).

Also,  while actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophetssuch as Moses. “Signs” have a specific apologetic function in that they are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God. Hence, the signs Moses does proves he is truly sent from God.  Moses had struggled with his prophetic call when he said “ But they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exod. 4:1). God assures Moses that  the “signs”  will confirm his call:

God says, “I will be with you. And this will be אוֹת “the sign”to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Exod 4: 8-9).

We see the signs are used to help people believe.

 Moses “performed the “signs” before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31)

“Works” are directly related to the miracles of Jesus (Jn. 5:20; 36;10:25; 32-28; 14:10-12; 15:24) and is synonymous with “signs.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus speaks of miracles and he calls them “works” he doesn’t refer to  Exod. 4:1-9, but to Num. 16:28, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.” For example:

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;  but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believethe works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38).

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very worksthat I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)

Problem #6: Jesus Doesn’t Fulfill Isaiah 53

The article assumes Jesus doesn’t fulfill the prophecy of Isa. 53. Their response is overly simplistic. But I will defer to Michael Brown’s pdf on Isa. 52-53 here. 

Problem #7: Judaism is solely based on national revelation

The article says only Judaism bases its belief on national revelation – i.e. God speaking to the entire nation. But this problematic because this argument confuses direct and circumstantial evidence. The giving of the Torah to Moses is the central event in Jewish history, is said to be observed by thousands of witnesses. It is supported by written documents and by a chain of oral tradition that can be traced back to the event itself. Likewise, the resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal event in Christianity (including Messianic Judaism). Both Christians and Messianic Jews can produce witnesses to the resurrection per the New Testament. The only supposed
“private” witness is possibly Paul. But he wasn’t alone when he saw the risen Jesus.  Not to mention the resurrection of Jesus is observed by  groups of people.

Historians have at their disposal written documents, oral tradition eyewitness testimony, and archaeological evidence which support the people, places, and events in the Jesus narrative.When it comes to discussing the historical evidence for Jesus or the giving of the Torah,we must differentiate between direct and circumstantial evidence. Nobody directly observed the giving of the Torah.  The claim to have direct evidence is misguided from the start, because when it comes to antiquity, no one can interview or cross-examine eyewitnesses. Keep in mind that this happens all the time with cold-case investigations. Jurors may accept both direct and circumstantial evidence, and many criminals are convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence.  Both Judaism and Christianity/Messianic Judaism are supported by circumstantial evidence.

Conclusion

I am well aware this article is a general overview of the Messiah topic. But it simply doesn’t provide any solid reasons for rejecting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Sources:

  1. Kaplan, The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries (New York, NY: National Conference of Synagogue Youth, 2000), 26-35.
  2. A. J. Levine, A Jewish take on Jesus: Amy-Jill Levine talks the gospels” at http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2012/09/jewish-take-jesus-amy-jill-levine-talks-gospels.
  3. See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament athttp://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;
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