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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Book Review: Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms

Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms, by Kutter Callaway.  278 pp. IVP Books

When an author writes a book and calls it “Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms” I would automatically assume it might create some  tremendous challenges. When people hear something that challenges their community or longstanding convictions, this creates cognitive dissonance. For example, we may say to ourselves “I thought I knew this was the thing to believe, but now I am hearing counter evidence and I am experiencing dissonance or conflict.”

So many readers may ask, “How in the world can marriage be an idol?”

The only thing that was missing from this book is short chapter on defining idolatry. Remember, an idol is anything that consumes your thoughts or becomes your core identity. You can’t live without your idol because it defines you and gives you that ultimate security and satisfaction. We get mad when the idols in our lives are challenged and we cling hard to them because they do define who we are. Idols bring power and control. Yes, that is why there is so much political idolatry. So having said this, in this book, Calloway (who actually is married) is concerned that the church as a whole needs a paradigm shift. People like paradigms. Paradigms allow us to say “this is the way we have always thought about this and this is why we do it this way.” But Calloway thinks we need to help young people and people in general to rethink what marriage is all about.

As Calloway says:

“Marriages within the church continue to dissolve as quickly and as often as those of the general population, these romanticized notions of marriage are proving inadequate. In fact, based purely on the odds, the majority of those who find their way into our offices for pastoral counsel are not going to have successful or healthy marriages. And yet, almost in spite of this glaring reality, we continue as both leaders of the church and as a church body to enact and reenact the same old story about singleness and marriage.”- Pg 5.

Calloway notes “ when marriage functions as the normative vision for Christian life, and no alternatives for relational flourishing are made available, a kind of ripple effect takes place”- pg 4. Thus, as he says, “we’ve allowed marriage to function as the standard against which all other relationships are evaluated and understood, our vision of singleness, marriage, community, sex, and even celibacy has become distorted. And the time has come for us to construct a new vision, to develop new eyes to see and ears to hear.”- pg 4.

As Calloway also notes “ Marriage is touted as the ideal relational paradigm, and anyone who doesn’t fit neatly within this framework is not only socially inept, but worse: they are not quite human. When marriage functions as the dominant metaphor for understanding what it means to be a disciple, a member of the Christian community, or even a human being, we become blind to another equally important vocation: living in mutual interdependence as people called to embody singleness in community”- pg 8.

So with some of these comments  in mind, Calloway highlights some of the issues that have contributed to this problem. He discusses the impact of the prince and princess model that has rubbed off on the church. Films produced by Disney Animation Studios, the music of Taylor Swift, and the television programs The Bachelor and The Bachelorette  have all contributed to this problem.  As Calloway notes, in many of these reality television shows and movies “ Young single women are not quite fully human until they are wed to their soulmate, and the primary means by which they are able to find and secure their partner is rooted in the expression of their sexuality, then it makes perfect sense why the mythic world of Disney films envisions marriage as the culmination of a life quest rather than the start of a shared journey. “ pg 36. Calloway notes that this leads to an “ uncritically and  distorted vision of marriage, singleness, which makes us un aware of all that is hidden from our view. We are wearing blinders, but have mistaken them for spectacles. “- pg 47.

In Chapter Two Calloway discusses the impact of the of the “purity culture” movement.  As Calloway says “ Books and multimedia curricula like The Wait: A Powerful Practice for Finding the Love of Your Life and the Life You Love by Devon Franklin and Meagan Good and God Where Is My Boaz? A Woman’s Guide to Understanding What’s Hindering Her from Receiving the Love and Man She Deserves by Stephan Labossiere can lead to believing “ Sexual expression is thus pictured as the essential ingredient for an individual’s self-actualization, which is why so many evangelical leaders urge their fellow Christians to recognize that sex is well worth “the wait.”- pg 65. But as Calloway rightly notes, to reduce marriage as to being about endless sex and as the outlet for all our sexual frustration to end is misleading. He rightly notes sexual dysfunctionality can continue after being married and anyone who is married knows sex plays a very small role in the overall relationship. He also notes the pressure the Christians community places on getting married for sex has disastrous results to people who aren’t married. As he says:

“Singleness functions as a kind of extended purgatory. At best, it is a time of sexual purification that one must endure or suffer through. At worst, celibate singleness is understood to be simply impossible, especially when this season of refinement by fire extends later into life. Indeed, because faithful Christian discipleship demands that the single person abstain from that which is taken to be ultimate (sex), singleness simply cannot be seen as a gift or a calling. It can only be a curse. “-pg 78.

Calloway does spend time looking at how marriage the First Testament (I like how he doesn’t call it “Old Testament”) and the Second Testament.  He rightly points out that God calls us to community, and to not live in isolations. But marriage isn’t the perfect or only community that God calls us to participate in.

In Chapter Four, he rightly notes that “according to Jesus, marriage is a relationship that is bound up with the present age. However, in the resurrection—that is, in our fully realized human life in the age to come—no one is married. By extension, neither is anyone having sexual intercourse.”- pg 129.

In Chapter 5, Calloway discusses the call of marriage and why people should consider marriage. This is something that is radical and goes against the grain. But it is refreshing. One reason to be married is a call to justice. He says “ the Christian call to marriage demands a response from God’s people that is consonant with God’s project in the world—even and perhaps especially in the process of identifying our prospective spouses. For example, what might it look like for single Christians to abandon their “ideal spouse” checklists and instead seek out only those partners who would enable them to respond to the call of justice in ways that would otherwise remain inaccessible? Or, to put it differently, what if the chief criteria for a future spouse were not sexual chemistry, a common set of personal interests and hobbies, or even emotional compatibility, but rather a capacity (and willingness) to collaborate in a lifelong project of caring for the outsider, the marginalized, and the oppressed?”- pg 166.

Considering marriage also means we need to consider a call to be generous. As Calloway says “ the last thing a Christian should do is pursue marriage as a way of having one’s sexual “needs” met, even if it is a more religiously acceptable way of doing so. That’s a recipe for disappointment or disaster. Indeed, the call to marriage embodies a topsy-turvy wisdom that appears as utter foolishness to the world (and to many in the church) because it suggests that the only way for us to find true fulfillment (sexually or otherwise) is to give up our vain pursuit of satisfaction altogether and instead devote ourselves to satisfying others. It is a call to be generous— to give without the expectation of getting anything in return.”- pg 174-175.

Thirdly, marriage is a call to forgiveness. As he says “

“ If the call to marriage is in fact a call to forgive, then it has nothing to do with becoming our best self or helping someone else become a better version of himself or herself. It is instead an invitation to love someone who neither now nor ever will deserve our love. Which means that one of the reasons why Christians should get married is that in and through marriage they are provided an opportunity to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times (Mt 18:22). What is more, when this radical commitment to forgive takes shape in the context of a relationship as intimate and vulnerable as marriage, it’s also a commitment to be wounded, perhaps even repeatedly. And the reason is that marriage is a calling to bear burdens, not just to be relieved of them. It’s to take on the pains of others, not just to be healed from them.”- pg 179.

Fourth, marriage is a call to hospitality. He says “the Christian call to hospitality extends beyond the individual commitments that spouses make to each other. As a call to welcome those who are unwelcome, Christian marriage is a call to create the kind of generative space that can accommodate unexpected visitors. And in our present age of radical individualism, the most unexpected and indeed most unwelcome visitor that I can imagine showing up at a couple’s doorstep unannounced is the community of faith otherwise known as the church.”- pg 182.

Now having read these four reasons for  the call to be married, how often are these taught?

Calloway goes onto give some practical suggestions about how the ideas in this book might be implemented in the local church by the means of thinking, teaching, and educating. He would like to see single people given a voice. He thinks there is no reason for them to not be taken seriously in vocational ministry.

Overall, I found this book to be a paradigm shifting book. But then again, I like seeing paradigms challenged and, in many cases, done away with. When I was a new Christian in my early 20’s I can easily say that marriage was portrayed as the ideal relational paradigm and that anyone who wasn’t married was missing out on God’s best for their life. The goal was  to find that  “special someone.” I  have been married for over 20 years. But as I look back, sex was idolized then and it still is today. That was nearly 25 years ago and not much has changed. It is my hope this book will be used in discipling people. It is a great resource.

 

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What Factors Are Involved in How People Change Their Beliefs?

I have spoken to hundreds of people from different religious backgrounds. I have also spoken to my share of atheists and skeptics. One thing that I have thought about is the complex factors in changing a belief system/worldview (i.e., the way a person views reality).

What factors play a large role in how people form their beliefs? In my experience, here are some of them:

1. Sociological factors such as parents, religious institutions.

2. Experiential, psychological/existential factors: (i.e., some beliefs bring comfort, hope, meaning, purpose).

3. Learning through authorities: (i.e., professors, people who are experts in a certain field of study).

Sadly, one area that plays a smaller role is evidence, data, reason, and philosophy. Granted, I am just being general here and nobody can be boxed into one category. But I do know many people who have a religious background have developed convictions through a specific community or family.

From my own experience, here are some factors that continue to play a large role in this topic.

Problem #1: A Priori Commitments

A priori belief/commitments: means to assume something or presuppose something prior to experience/observation. This means any attempt to look at or interpret evidence will be seen though a prior commitments. We can see this in the following quote:

“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.” – Richard C. Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” Available at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1997/01/09/billions-and-billions-of-demons/ accessed May 17th, 2017.

Methodological naturalism is a position that says science or history should seek only natural explanations and that attempts to find supernatural causes are ipso facto, not science. In contrast, metaphysical naturalism starts with the presupposition that all that exists is nature. Presupposing that all that exists is nature and then using methodological naturalism to prove this presupposition is arguing in a circle. In my experience, many people confuse metaphysical and methodological naturalism.

Problem #2: Plausibility Structures (what sounds reasonable or probable)

Another issue with people changing beliefs must deal with plausibility structures.  Having talked to so many people from different backgrounds, this plays a huge role. As we talk to people, it is evident what we consider to be plausible is implausible to them. And what they say to us can sound implausible as well. Let me give a couple of examples:

1.Christian to Muslim: “Jesus is God and he died and rose from the dead.”

2. Muslim responds to Christian: “That is implausible. God is one! And Jesus dying for the sins of humanity is weak.”

1. Christian to Jewish person: “Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel and the nations.”

2. Jewish person responds: “Jesus didn’t bring peace to the world. The proof is in the condition of the world.”

Christian to atheist:

1. “Isn’t it reasonable to believe nature isn’t all there is.”

2. “Isn’t it reasonable to assume that if God were real, he would be powerful enough to communicate with us in a way we could understand?

Atheist tries to build a plausibility structure with a religious person

1. “Have you noticed almost every time we have said something has a supernatural explanation, we ended up finding a naturalistic explanation.”

NOTE: If you want to see a clip where an atheist won’t even consider any evidence see this short small critique of a debate between Hugh Ross and Peter Adkins. It is fascinating:

Problem #3: Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by only looking for, or interpreting, information that confirms one’s existing beliefs. For example, a Christian, Mormon, Jewish person, Muslim, and even an atheist will be surrounded by community beliefs.  And when they hear something that challenges their community or longstanding convictions, this creates cognitive dissonance. For example, we may say to ourselves “I thought I knew this was the thing to believe, but now I am hearing counter evidence and I am experiencing dissonance or conflict.” People can tend to seek out answers that confirm what they already believe.  I have seen this happen with people from different faiths as well as atheists. Confirmation bias isn’t going away. It is unavoidable, and everyone is guilty of it. Remember, many people have access to the same evidence. But they don’t agree with the interpretation of the evidence. That’s because they take their presuppositions into the interpretative process.

Problem #4: The Will

I found this to be an outstanding quote from apologist Frank Turek. I have had Frank come to our campus a couple of times. He says:

“I am not saying that an atheist’s motivation proves that atheism is false  — someone can have the wrong motives and still be right. What I am saying is that many atheists don’t want Christianity to be true. I’ve seen this firsthand among atheists on college campuses. When I sense hostility during the Q& A period of an I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist presentation, I normally ask the questioner, “If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” On several occasions I’ve had atheists yell back at me, “No!”

(Frank responds) No? “Wait, you claim to be a beacon of reason, yet when I ask you if something were true would you believe it, you say ‘no!’ How is that reasonable?” It’s not. That’s because reason or evidence isn’t the issue for such people. They don’t have an intellectual objection to Christianity  — they have an emotional, moral, or volitional objection. They’ve been hurt by Christians or think they’ve been let down by God. But more often, as several atheists have admitted, they simply don’t want to give up their autonomy and submit their will to God. They are not on a relentless pursuit of the truth, open to following the evidence where it leads. They’re on a happiness quest, not a truth quest. They reject Christianity because they think doing whatever they want will make them happy. So it’s a heart issue, not a head issue. It’s been said that this kind of atheist is looking for God as much as a criminal is looking for a cop. This resistance affects all of us at times. When we want to be our own gods, we’re not open to accepting the true God. Pascal put it this way, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Girlfriends, boyfriends, and maintaining your independence can be very attractive. Pascal’s insight may also help us answer the questions we posed at the end of chapter 1. Namely, why are atheists such as Dawkins and Krauss open to deism but not theism? And why are Dawkins and several other atheists open to admitting that the evidence points to an alien intelligent designer of the first life but not to God? I could be wrong, but it sure seems that the answer is right here: morality and accountability. A theistic God brings such demands, but an alien or a deistic god does not. What other reasons could there be? What reasons do you have for what you believe? Are you following the evidence where it leads? Honestly? Or are you more interested in believing what you find attractive? To be fair, this sword cuts both ways. Many people are Christians not because they’ve investigated the evidence, but because they find a heavenly Father and eternal life attractive. The difference is  — although many Christians don’t know it  — abundant evidence exists for their beliefs. So Christians can say with confidence that while some atheists have the attitude, “There is no God, and I hate him,” Christ had the attitude, “There are atheists, and I love them. In fact, I died for them. ” Frank  Turek, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case (p. 113).

So in the end, is it possible for people to change beliefs. Yes, it can happen. But it can be a long process. There are many complex factors at work. People are holistic beings. Thus, changing beliefs involves questioning, study, our emotions, our intellect, and our will. We can’t divorce any of these issues out of the process.

Note: you can also see our video here on the topic.

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James Tour: Origin of Life Lecture at The Ohio State University

Dr. James Tour is a very well respected  synthetic organic chemist, who received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Syracuse University, his Ph.D. in synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry from Purdue University, and postdoctoral training in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin and Stanford University. After spending 11 years on the faculty of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina, he joined the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in 1999 where he is presently the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering. Tour’s scientific research areas include nanoelectronics, graphene electronics, silicon oxide electronics, carbon nanovectors for medical applications, green carbon research for enhanced oil recovery and environmentally friendly oil and gas extraction, graphene photovoltaics, carbon supercapacitors, lithium ion batteries, CO2 capture, water splitting to H2 and O2, water purification, carbon nanotube and graphene synthetic modifications, graphene oxide, carbon composites, hydrogen storage on nanoengineered carbon scaffolds, and synthesis of single-molecule nanomachines which includes molecular motors and nanocars. He has also developed strategies for retarding chemical terrorist attacks. For pre-college education, Tour developed the NanoKids concept for K-12 education in nanoscale science, and also Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero science packages for elementary and middle school education: SciRave (www.scirave.org) which later expanded to a Stemscopes-based SciRave. The SciRave program has risen to be the #1 most widely adopted program in Texas to complement science instruction, and it is currently used by over 450 school districts and 40,000 teachers with over 1 million student downloads.

Tour has over 680 research publications and over 130 patent families, with an h-index = 141 and i10 index = 634 with total citations of 95,000 (Google Scholar). Based on the impact of his published work, in 2019 Tour was ranked in the top 0.004% of the 7 million scientists who have published at least 5 papers in their careers.  He was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in 2015. Tour was named among “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by TheBestSchools.org in 2014; listed in “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters ScienceWatch.com in 2014; and recipient of the Trotter Prize in “Information, Complexity and Inference.”

Read more about him here. 

Dr. Tour lectured at our Ohio State University apologetics chapter a couple weeks back. Here is the lecture. To support what we do at The Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College, see here. 

 

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How Do Christian Apologists Confront the Pragmatism in Our Culture?

Over the last several years I have done outreach on a major college campus . I have had hundreds of spiritual conversations with students and direct an apologetics ministry called Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance. It is no secret that many apologists have written books on the Truth question. In other words, the statement “we are living in postmodern times” has almost become cliche in today’s society. Hence, because of the impact of post-modernism, many seem to assume that college students are not interested in objective truth. So the supposed fallout is that people are not asking whether Christianity is true. Given my experience on the campus, I will respond to this issue. So the good news is that I am  speaking from personal experience.

I will go ahead and give some definitions of truth here. These are taken from Dr. Norman Geisler’s Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, pgs,741-745.

Here we see Dr. Geisler comment on what truth is not and then give an argument for the correspondence theory of truth.

Geisler says:

 Truth is not “what works.” One popular theory is the pragmatic view of William James and his followers that truth is what works. According to James, “Truth is the expedient in the way of knowing. A statement is known to be true if it brings the right results. It is the expedient as confirmed by future experience.” That this is inadequate is evident from its confusion of cause and effect. If something is true it will work, at least in the long run. But simply because something works does not make it true. This is not how truth is understood in court. Judges tend to regard the expedient as perjury. Finally, the results do not settle the truth question. Even when results are in, one can still ask whether the initial statement corresponded to the facts. If it did not, it was not true, regardless of the results.

 What Truth Is: Correspondence with Reality Now that the inadequate views of the nature of truth have been examined, it remains to state an adequate view. 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.

So after reading these tests for truth, what do I see out there?

The most popular view today seems to be a pragmatic view of truth. I see it everywhere! Many people tell me that all that matters is the benefit or outcome of a religious belief. If something doesn’t work, you try something else that gets results. Thus, the idea that “if theological ideas prove to have a value for concrete life, they will be true” are seen in the writings of William James (1842–1910) and recently by neopragmatist Richard Rorty (1931–2007).  So what does this mean for us? Realistically speaking, I suppose Mormons can testify as to why Mormonism helps them have strong families. Black Muslims can testify in prison that Islam has helped them be more responsible. I could go on with more examples.

Hence, many people  are not asking whether it is objectively true. Comments like “I don’t see what difference Jesus would make in my life” and “I don’t think it is relevant whether God exists or Jesus is the Son of God” are somewhat common. This shouldn’t be surprising given our entire culture is built on pragmatism. After all, people go to college to get a job that will work for them and help them get a good job.

So what about atheists?

The one bright spot is that since popular atheists started writing their books and we saw a more aggressive approach towards atheism on the campus, I so see some interest in the truth question. In other words, atheism has caused some people to ask whether a belief is objectively true and corresponds to reality. Ravi Zacharias once said,

“There is just enough of the modern worldview left so that reason still has a point of entry. But we have to use this knowledge wisely. We cannot give an overdose of argumentation.”- “An Ancient Message, Through Modern Means To the Postmodern Mind” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, 2002, p. 27

What is my solution?

So you may say well it is nice that we have some success with our apologetic speakers. But what about all those people that just don’t care or don’t respond to apologetic arguments?

My response is the same as it has always been. I share the Gospel, answer objections, and if I see people are lapsing into a pragmatic or subjective view of truth, I simply say “So the first question is whether the Christian story is actually true.” In other words, I just bring the person back around to the issue of objective truth. Believe it or not, many people say tell me that once they think about what I am saying it is clear that it does matter if Christianity is objectively true. How they feel about whether God exists or the resurrection of Jesus won’t change the fact as to whether it is objectively true and corresponds to reality. So I think it is incumbent upon me to explain what objective truth is and how the person can’t avoid it!

Why not stick with pragmatism?

So why not ask the question as to whether religious beliefs can be tried and tested out in the reality of life? 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. Furthermore, the Gospel is not “What Can Jesus Do For Me?” but instead a call to die to ourselves and follow the Lord (Luke 9:23).

So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. If I was to stick with the pragmatic view of truth, sadly, when it seems Christianity doesn’t work, people tend to leave the faith and pick another spirituality. Trust me, it happens all the time. So in conclusion, I think that apologists are responsible for taking people back to the correspondence theory of truth and then discuss the pragmatic issues of following Jesus.

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A Look At Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity

Ontology is a branch of philosophy that examines the study of being or existence. For example, when Jesus says, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9), ontology asks questions such as, “Is Jesus saying He has the same substance or essence of the Father?”

Ontology is especially relevant in relation to the Trinity since Orthodox Christians attempt to articulate how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same substance or essence. As of today, one of the main objections is that Jesus is not the Messiah since he did not fulfill the job description. For the Jewish community, the messianic idea is somewhat pragmatic. In other words, “What difference does the Messiah make in the world?” One of the Jewish expectations is that 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 unite humanity as one (Zech. 14:9).

The Messiah is also supposed usher in a period of worldwide peace, and put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is. 2:1-22; Mic. 4:1-4). Hence, since the world is not in a state of peace and the Jewish people are not dwelling securely in the land of Israel, the Jewish community objects to the claim that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

Within the Hebrew Bible, there are Messianic texts such as Isaiah 52:13-53; 61:1-3, that focus upon the Messiah’s works rather than his essence or being. Perhaps this shows us that one of the starting points in Jewish-Christian dialogue is to understand the importance of the relationship between not only who the Messiah IS but also what the Messiah DOES. In his famous book, The Prophets, Abraham Heschel said, “Biblical ontology does not separate being from doing.” (1) Heshel goes on to say, “What is acts. The God of Israel is a God who acts, a God of mighty deeds.” (2) In contrast to ontological Christology, functional Christology emphasizes the actions of the Messiah.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, he continually appealed to his actions as evidence of his Messiahship. Some of the visible actions of Jesus included the healing of the sick (Mark 1: 32-34; Acts 3:6; 10:38), teaching authoritatively (Mark 1:21-22; 13:31), forgiving sins (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; Col. 3:13), imparting eternal life (Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:12-14), raising the dead (Luke 7:11-17; John 5:21; 6:40), and showing the ability to exercise judgment (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:19-29; Acts 10:42; 1 Cor 4:4-5).

From a Christian perspective, the work of the Messiah is accomplished in a series of stages: (1) The consecration at John’s baptism, (2) Messiah’s death, (3) Messiah’s resurrection, (4) Messiah’s present role as priest and advocate for His people which is presently happening (1 John 2:2; Romans 8:34), (5) Messiah’s current positional rule or Lordship over the Church and His enemies. And we see in the final work of the Messiah will be in the future. Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God. (Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic.4:1-4;Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

In his book Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity, Richard Bauckham has asserted that an Ontic/Functional Christology distinction is not the correct approach to New Testament Christology. While some Jewish writers in the late Second Temple period did utilize some of the Greek metaphysical language, their understanding of God is not a definition of divine nature- what divinity is- but a notion of the divine identity, characterized primarily in ways other than metaphysical attributes. Bauckham suggests that in studying the relationship between Jewish monotheism and early Christology, it is imperative to understand the religious sects during Second Temple Judaism. The one God of Second Temple Jewish belief was identifiable by His covenant relationship with Israel. Various New Testament scriptures demonstrate that while the early Christians used titles to describe Jesus as God, they also clearly believed Jesus was God as evidenced by assigning attributes to Him which were clearly reserved for God. Moreover, they did so in a distinctly Jewish way that at the same time adhered to the monotheistic tradition of first- century Judaism.

While Greeks focused on philosophical matters of the nature of the divine, Jewish monotheism was more concerned with God’s divine identity. The God of Second Temple Judaism was identifiable by three unique attributes: (1) The God of Israel is the sole Creator of all things (Is. 40:26, 28; 37:16; 42:5; 45:12; Neh. 9:6; Ps 86:10; Hos. 13:4; (2)The God of Israel is the sovereign Ruler of all things (Dan. 4:34-35); (3) The God of Israel is also the only the only being worthy of being worshiped (Deut. 6:13; Ps. 97:7; Is. 45:23; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9).

Jesus’ divine identity is affirmed by the fact that He is given the same attributes as God. Through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus comes to participate as God’s sovereign Ruler over all things (Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44;26:64; Acts 2:33-35; 5:31; 7:55-56; 1 Cor.15:27-28; Phil. 2:6-11; Eph. 1:21-22; Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:22). Jesus is seen as the object of worship (Matt. 14:33; 28: 9,17; Jn. 5:23; 20:28; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:8-12). He is also the recipient of praise (Matt. 21:16-16; Eph. 6:19; 1 Tim. 1:12; Rev. 5:8-14) and prayer (Acts 1:24; 7:59-60; 9:10-17,21; 22:16,19;1 Cor. 1:2; 16:22; 2 Cor.12:8). Jesus is also the Creator of all things (Heb. 1:2; Jn. 1: 1-3; Col. 1:15-16; 1 Cor. 8:6). For Bauckham, the divine identity of God is seen in Jesus’ suffering, death, and glory.

It is a great read. Check it out!

Sources:
1.Abraham J. Heshel, The Prophets (New York, N.Y: 1962 Reprint. Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers 2003), 44.
2.Ibid.

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