What do you want to accomplish in 2018?

So are you are a Christian who is really interested in Christian apologetics? Given this next year is about to start, what do you want to accomplish in in 2018? Here are some of tips:

1. Set realistic and time- bound goals: I can speak from experience and say that unless I set very specific goals with a start and end date, it doesn’t get done! Feel free to check out this Apologetics 315 link as to how to make a contribution to apologetics.

2. Pray over your goals and surround yourself with people who can help you:  The good news is that  apologists are coming together to accomplish great things for the advancement of the reign of God. I see a lot of synergy between Christian apologists. There are plenty of high quality apologetics blogs/websites  that can be utilized. Many of us post and share material on our sites. Rather than just trying to make name for ourselves, God gets glory from his children when they work together!

3. Learning: What areas of study do you want to focus on this year? Remember, you can’t learn everything at once. Maybe you want to spend more time studying philosophy or linguistics? Maybe you want to spend more time focusing on learning about various religions and how to answer their apologetic arguments?  There are many areas that are continually being debated .

4. Evangelism: So you have been brushing up on the arguments and building your knowledge. But deep down you know you need to  put it into practice. What are your strategies for evangelism? Who is your circle of influence? Maybe God wants you to take the initiative and talk to someone about the Gospel? The point is unless we get out of our comfort zones we will not grow. The busyness of life and personal challenges can make us hardened and complacent to those around us. We need to pray for boldness and ask God to give us a broken heart for people around us.

These are just a few tips for the New Year. May God bless you with the energy you need to accomplish what you lay before Him

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“‘Who’ is God and ‘What’ is God?”: Comparing Theism, Deism, Pantheism, and Polytheism: A Closer Look

Note: see Edward Feser’s post called “The one God Further Objection”

From my own experience I would say most discussions about God are centered around the following “isms”- that being Theism, Deism, Pantheism, and Polytheism. So let’s take a look at some of the differences. Please note this is not an extensive treatment of the subject.  Also, if you want to read more about atheism, see our suggested reading list.

1. THEISM

Christianity, Judaism, Islam, are all theistic faiths. One of the major areas of disagreement between these three faiths is the issue about the identity of Jesus. In Orthodox Christianity- Messianic Judaism, Jesus is both God and man/Jesus is an uncreated being. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah as foretold in the Tanakh (the acronym that is formed from the first three parts of the Hebrew Bible) the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), Nevi’ im (the Prophets), and K’ tuvim (the Writings) as well as the second person of the Godhead, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 1:1; Col. 1:15-19; Phil. 2: 5-11).

Traditional Judaism says Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah as foretold in the Tanakh. Jesus may be simply regarded as a prophet or teacher but not divine. See more here:

Islam, which says Jesus is a prophet also states Jesus was never crucified, and therefore, never risen. The Qur’an was written some six hundred years after the life of Jesus which makes it a much later source of information than the New Testament. So given Judaism, Islam and Christianity/Messianic Judaism all make contradictory claims about Jesus, they all can’t be right. I tend to view Judaism as a true religion but incomplete since the majority of traditional Judaism are missing it on the Messiah issue.

Theism says that the physical universe is not all there is. There is a personal God who created it, sustains it, and can intervene within it in a non-natural way. While God is the primary Cause of singularities, He also uses secondary, or natural causes for the operation of the world.

2. DEISM

Deism is the belief in a God who made the world but who never interrupts its operations with non-natural events. It is a theism minus miracles. God does not interfere with his creation. Rather, he designed it to run independent of him by immutable natural laws. In nature, he has also provided all that his creatures need to live.

PROBLEMS WITH DEISM

Since the universe is dependent in its being, it needs something independent on which to depend- at all times. The universe never ceases to be dependent or contingent. Once contingent always contingent; a contingent being cannot become a Necessary Being, for a Necessary Being cannot come to be or cease to be as a contingent being can. Furthermore, the assertion that miracles do not occur is even more problematic. (1)

Natural laws describe how nature generally behaves. They do not dictate how nature must always behave. As I said, natural laws do nothing and set nothing into motion. A “law of nature” is a description of what happens when no agent (whether it be divine, human, etc) is interfering or intervening into the casual order.

Furthermore, if God has already acted (hence, He did create the universe- the life permitting universe can’t be the result of chance), it begs the question as to whether He has intervened into the world He brought forth. And since there is good evidence He has intervened in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah, the question becomes as to whether people want a God who still intervenes in the world. For if this God does intervene into the world (as seen in Jesus), we as humans are accountable to him.

3. PANTHEISM

Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism

Pantheism is the worldview held by most Hindus, many Buddhists, and other New Age religions. It is also the worldview of Christian Science, Unity, and Scientology.

There are many types of pantheism:

Absolute pantheism is represented by the thinking of the early Greek philosopher Parmenides, who lived in the fifth century before Christ and by the Advainta Vedanta school of Hinduism. This type of pantheism teaches that there is only one being in the world, God. All else that appears to exist does not actually exist.

Emanational pantheism, as set forth by Plotinus in the third century after Christ, holds that everything flows from God, just as a flower unfolds from a seed.

In developmental pantheism, as reflected in the thinking of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), the events of history are viewed as the unfolding manifestations of Absolute Spirit.

Modal pantheism, as espoused by the rationalist Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677), argues that there is only one absolute Substance in which all finite things are merely modes or moments.

Multilevel pantheism is found in some forms of Hinduism, especially as expressed by Radhakrishnan.12 This view proposes that there are various levels or manifestations of God, the highest level manifesting God as the Absolute One and the lower levels successively manifesting God in greater multiplicity.

Finally, there is permeational pantheism where the Force [Tao] penetrates all things. This kind is found in Zen Buddhism and was popularized in the Star Wars films.

All of these types of pantheism identify God and the world, but they vary in their specific conceptions of this identity. That is, all pantheistic views believe that God and the real world are one, but they differ as to how God and the world are to be identified. (2)

PROBLEMS WITH PANTHEISM

There are several problems with pantheism, but I will mention one. Pantheism fails to adequately handle the problem of evil. To pronounce evil as an illusion or as less than real is not only frustrating and hollow to those experiencing evil, but also philosophically inadequate. If evil is not real, then what is the origin of the illusion? Why has man experienced it for so long, and why does it seem so real? Despite the pantheist’s claims to the contrary, he, along with the rest of us, experiences pain, suffering, and eventually death. Even pantheists double over in pain when they get appendicitis. They also jump out of the way of an oncoming truck so as not to get hurt. If the world is not real, then why, when I sit upon a pin and it punctures my skin, do I dislike what I fancy I feel? (3)

Are good and evil are illusory? If so, it seems that they are not real categories. This is what most pantheists believe. But if evil were only an illusion, then ultimately there would be no such thing as good and evil thoughts or actions. Hence, what difference would it make whether we praise or curse, counsel or rape, love or murder someone? (4) Furthermore, Buddhism and Hinduism say the universe is eternal. This means they fail the test of factual adequacy. The latest cosmological evidence has shown the universe has a beginning. In pantheism, if divinity and matter are mystically “one” (so you can’t have god without matter), how is the pantheistic god capable of producing the effect in question such as the origin of space, time? Also, what evidence is there for reincarnation?

Furthermore, since modern pantheism denies miracles, a pantheist does not have to be accountable to a God who is not personal, knowable and has intervened in the person of Jesus Christ. Sounds easier to me!

4. POLYTHEISM

Polytheism is the worldview that many finite gods exist in the world. There are differing versions of polytheism. In some forms, all the gods are more or less equal. Each has a personal sphere or domain. In others, the gods form a hierarchy. Henotheism has a chief god, such as Zeus. In some forms, such as the Greek and Roman pantheons, the number of gods is limited. Mormonism supports an indefinite number of gods. Some forms of polytheism stand alone, unconnected with any other worldview. In Hinduism, however, polytheism and pantheism go hand-in-hand with one impersonal Brahman and 330 million-plus personal manifestations of the one impersonal ultimate Reality.

PROBLEMS WITH POLYTHEISM

If God is infinite, there can’t be more than one infinite Being. To distinguish one being from another, they must differ in some way. If they differ in some way, then one lacks something that the other one has. If one being lacks something that the other one has, then the lacking being is not infinite because an infinite being by definition, lacks nothing. So there can be only be infinite Being. Also, is it more simple to posit that there are many gods instead of one God? Polytheism fails the Ockham’s razor test. To see some of the problems with Mormonism, click here:

BACK TO THEISM

Let’s revisit theism. Here is a helpful quote:

“Suppose you want to answer some specific question. How will you proceed? That depends on what you want to know and how it can be known. For instance, “Where is Kenya?” can be answered by consulting an encyclopedia, looking at a globe, or asking someone who knows. Answering “Did I leave the bedroom light on?” usually requires going to the room to see or asking someone else to go.

Consulting an encyclopedia or  “What is 12 x 12?” can be answered from memory (if you learned your multiplication tables) or by looking at a multiplication table, working out the answer on paper, using a calculator, counting out twelve rows of twelve sticks and then counting through them all, or (again) by asking someone who knows. It cannot be answered by looking at a globe. We ask “What are you thinking?” only of persons—and only the person who is being asked can answer it. We may guess, but we won’t know for certain unless we are told. Consulting encyclopedias, looking at globes, going to another room, or trying to work out the answer on paper aren’t good ways to answer this question. Our primary question is, What is God like? That is what we want to know. Let us assume for the moment that it is possible to know some significant things about God. Yet still we must ask, How can we know them? Our answer to this question depends on the kind of being we think God is.”Mark Talbort, “Does God Reveal Who He Actually Is?” quoted in God Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents God, Douglas S. Huffman, Eric L. Johnson, R. Douglas Geivett, Gerald L. Bray, Bruce A. Ware, Charles Gutenson, James S. Spiegel, Mark R. Talbot, William Lane Craig, Paul Helm, and D. A. Carson/

I will add one thought to this: If we could remember the nature of the object determines how we know it, than for skeptics to constantly say there is no evidence, the first thing to ask “What is the nature of the object they are trying to know?” What is God? Welcome to natural theology. Revealed/Historical theology follows after that.

Recall that ‘proof’ is a loaded term, which turns on our understanding of what constitutes knowledge. There are knowledge claims that are rooted in inference, and are therefore on various levels of probability. Some arguments for God’s existence use this approach. A different approach in terms of ‘proof’ in establishing the existence of God is by metaphysical rational demonstration. This is found in the classical writings of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, & Leibniz. Feser writes that philosophical arguments are still the most adequate approach to showing there is a God—the God of classical theism. The God of classical theism is immutable, immaterial, eternal, uncaused, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and can’t be compared to created gods that are part of the physical world such as Thor, Zeus, and others. Two recent books that have taken this approach are the following books by former atheist Edward Feser.  Please note that if you want to find out about these thinkers by reading Richard Dawkins, you are already off to the wrong start. You can also see his interview with Ben Shapiro here:

Five Proofs of the Existence of God by [Feser, Edward]

How much we may know about God from rational demonstration, or probabilistic arguments from scientific evidence may not lead us to worship the God of classical theism. So, assuming the arguments are good, and that theism is true, is the God that exists the God of the Bible? At this point, we may venture into the world of history. If there is a God, it makes sense that God would desire to communicate to us—after all, He made us. How are we to determine, of all the religions in the world, which one God has communicated through—if any? Or, has God communicated through some of them, or even all of them? While Christians understand the Old and New Testaments as God’s revelation to mankind, for example, Muslims take it for granted that it is the Quran—not the Bible—which is the Word of God. Mormons have the Book of Mormon, Hindus have the Vedas, animists have oral traditions, and so on.

The good news is that we can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book. (5) Former atheist Antony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen. (6) In a debate with Gary Habermas, Flew agreed that if it is a knowable fact that Jesus rose from the dead literally and physically it then constitutes “the best, if not the only, reason for accepting that Jesus  is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.” (7) Remember, all revelatory claims must be taken on a case by case basis. We need to evaluate the evidence for each claim in its own historical and religious context. Thus, we will need to examine the written documents, both oral and eyewitness testimony, as well as archaeological evidence to support the people, place, or events in the documents they have available to them.(8)

In the end, rational demonstration will help us answer to what God is (His nature/metaphysical attributes), but we then need to look into history to see who God is (His character/moral attributes).

Sources:

1. See N. L., Geisler, N. L., and W. D. Watkins, Worlds apart : A Handbook on Worldviews. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House. 1989, 146-182.
2. Ibid, 73-104.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.

5. See Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 2007).

6. Gary R. Habermas, Antony Flew, and David J. Baggett, Did the Resurrection Happen? A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew (Downers Grove IL: Intervaristy, 2009), 85.

7. Gary R. Habermas and Antony G. N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, ed. Terry L. Miethe (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 3

8. See Boyd and Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 2007).

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Why Don’t Many Christians Seem to Care About Messianic Prophecy Anymore?

Recently a friend asked me why so many Christians don’t seem to know much about the role of Messianic prophecy in the Bible and how it was utilized as the main apologetic in the several places in the Bible. I have been reflecting on what he said. So here are some of my thoughts:

There’s no doubt that when many people hear the word “prophecy,” it can conjure up thoughts of Nostradamus, Harold Camping, or apocalyptic best sellers that are sitting on the shelves of the local bookstore. But despite the cynical attitude by some towards prophecy, the reality is that prophecy is God’s preferred argument to demonstrate He is the one true God and that such a writing is from him (Deut. 18:15ff; Isa. 41:21-24; 42:8-9; 43:9-13; 44:6-8, 24-28; 45:11-13, 20-22; 46:8-11; 48:3-7, 12-16). Even Jesus Himself utilized Messianic prophecy in two post resurrection encounters (Luke 24:25-27; 24:44-46). Jesus  even rebuked the men on the road to Emmaus for being slow to believe in all that the prophets spoke (Luke 24:25).  Furthermore, the apostles approach to spreading the message about Jesus of Nazareth is accompanied by appealing to Messianic prophecy:

Acts 17:2-4 — “As his custom was, Paul went into the Synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ [Messiah] had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ He said. Some of the Jews were persuaded….”

Acts 17:10-12 — “[Paul and Silas] went to the Jewish Synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonicans, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. [As a result] many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Acts 18:28 — “[Apollos] vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ [Messiah].”

Acts 26:22-23,27 — “But I [Paul] have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen — that the Christ [Messiah] would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to His own people and to the Gentiles…. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.

Even when Peter made his defense before the Sanhedrin for healing the lame man, he cited Messianic prophecy to explain his position  by charging the council with rejecting Jesus in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures:  “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the headstone.” (Acts 4:11).

Stephen also made mention of Messianic prophecy in his case before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7). Finally, Philip utilized Messianic prophecy when the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:26-40), who apparently was a proselyte to Judaism, asked of whom does Isaiah speak about. Philip answered that it was Jesus. whom Isaiah spoke about (Act 8:34-35).

So if Jesus and apostles used Messianic prophecy, why are so many Christians unaware of the importance of Messianic prophecy and it’s relationship to apologetics. I think the problem stems from a few issues:

1. The impact of pragmatism:   Our culture is built on pragmatism. 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” which we see in the writings by William James (1842–1910) and recently by neopragmatist Richard Rorty (1931–2007) are quite popular these days. People want to know if beliefs can be tried and tested out in the reality of life. This does have some merit. After all, if one’s faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life.The lesson here is that the practical difference a belief makes in one’s life should be one aspect of our overall cumulative case for what we believe. Sadly, many Christians have punted to a pragmatic view of everything. Therefore, Messianic prophecy is not even on the table.

2.Biblical Illiteracy: Obviously, many Christians simply don’t know their Bibles. They may have read these texts I just mentioned. However, they don’t see it has having any apologetic value to them today.

3. Messianic prophecy was utilized with people who already believe in God: It is true that many of the Jewish people the apostles spoke to were already Jewish theists. However, as of today, many Jewish people are secular and don’t know much about their own Scriptures.

4. Messianic prophecy takes serious study: The proper starting place to learn about Messianic prophecy is in the Jewish Scriptures. We need to see what the writers had to say to their own audience and how prophecy spoke to their own circumstances. This leads me to my next point.

5. In many cases, Christians are Marcionte in their approach to the Bible: Just recently, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about how Christians approach the Old Testament. He happened to pass this quote onto me by Richard B. Hays who says the following:

“Many “mainstream” Protestant churches today are in fact naively Marcionite in their theology and practice: in their worship services they have no OT reading, or if the OT is read it is rarely preached upon.  Judaism is regarded as a legalistic foil from which [Jesus] has delivered us.  I once had a student say to me in class: “Judaism was a harsh religion that taught people to fear God’s judgment, but Jesus came to teach us to love God with all of our heart and soul and strength.”)  This unconscious Marcionite bias has had a disastrous effect on the theological imagination of many Protestant churches, at least in the United States….” – Richard B. Hays, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Waco: Baylor University, 2014), 5.

So in the end, many Christians simply don’t place much emphasis on the Jewish Scriptures. Never mind that it was all Jesus and Paul read! Thus, there was no New Testament at the time of Jesus.

6. Some Christians were told there are over 365 Messianic prophecies in the Bible and they found out this isn’t true: When I was a new Christian, I read several Christian apologetic books that stated there are over 300 Messianic prophecies that are all fulfilled in Jesus.  At the time I thought this was a convincing evidential apologetic for the truth claims of our  faith. But as the years have gone by, I have realized this approach to Messianic prophecy is not as effective as one might think. Now please let me clarify: I do think there is Messianic  prophecy.  Prophecy was one of the primary ways the apostles spread the faith in the first century. However, I think we need to tweak our approach. I have taught on this subject on several occasions. Here are some tips in studying the Messianic prophecy issue. 

Anyway, don’t underestimate the value of Messianic prophecy. See our reading list here.

 

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The Top Six Most Popular Posts of 2017

So as we close out another year, I wanted to pass on the most widely read posts on our blog this year. By the way, if God should motivate you to donate to our work here, we have a new PayPal tab.
Here are our top posts of 2017:

The Most Common Objection to God’s Existence on a College Campus 

Revisiting the Minimal Facts Argument: A Hypothetical Discussion Between a Skeptic and a Christian 

Why the Truth Question Still Matters 

Does It Matter Whether God Exists? 

Are there over 300 Messianic Prophecies? 

Why Do You Profess to be a Christian? The Need to be a Christian Casemaker

 

 

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The Kergma of the Early Church and Historical Aspects of the Life of Jesus

As I have said before, the Kergma of the early church can be summarized as follows:

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2: 30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22; Rom 1;2-4;1 Tim:3:16;Heb. 1:1-2;1 Peter 1:10-12;2 Peter 1:18-19).

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

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

4. He conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God (Mark 10:45; Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Mark 10:45; John 3:16; Acts 2:23; 3;13-15; 10:39;26:23; Rom 8;34;Gal 1;4;Heb1:3; 1 Peter 1:2; 19, 3:18; 1 John 4:10).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23;Rom 8:34;10:9;1 Cor.15:4-7;1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim 3:16;1 Peter 1:2;21;3:18;21).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36;Rom 8:34;10:9;1 Tim 3:16;Heb 1:3;1 Peter 3:22).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47; 1 Peter 1;12).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31;1 Cor. 15:20-28; 1 Thess: 1:10).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20; Rom 1:17;10:9;1 Peter 3:21).

Paul

Given Paul’s Letters are not biographies and they are predominately dealing with the needs of the community (e.g., doctrinal issues), we shouldn’t expect Paul to provide an abundance of biographical details about Jesus. In other words, since he is writing the believing communities and addressing the doctrinal issues of each community there is no need to establish historical evidence for the life of Jesus. However, we can note  Paul also recorded the following earthly features about Jesus:

1. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham the patriarch (Gal 3:16).

2. Jesus was a direct descendant of King David. This is critical to the belief that he was the Christ, the Messiah of Israel (Rom 1:3; 9:5;15:8; cf. 1Cor 15:3).

3. The mention of Jesus being “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4-5) suggests that Paul knew of and confirmed the virginal conception of Jesus. Paul’s words are in agreement with Matthew’s:

4. “Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt 1a6). Jesus was born of the woman, Mary, not of her husband Joseph. 4. Jesus was born and lived in “poverty” (2 Cor 8:9).

5. Jesus was “born under” and lived under Jewish law (Gal 4:4).

6. Jesus had a brother named James and other brothers, unnamed.

7. Jesus had twelve disciples, to whom the risen Lord “appeared” (i Cor 15:5; cf. Mark 3:14 pars.).

8. Peter was the spokesman of the Twelve (e.g., Mark 8:27-30 pars.), a role that developed, post resurrection, into his leadership of the mission (apostole) to the circumcised in Israel (Gal 2:7-8).

9. Jesus’ manner was one of humility and meekness, agreeing with his words recorded in the Gospel, “I am gentle and lowly in heart” (2 Cor. 10:1; Matt 11:29).

10. He was externally “transfigured” on a mountain (Mark 9:2; Matt 17:2), as Paul expects believers to be “transformed” inwardly (2 Co.r 3:18; cf. Rom 12:2).

11. Jesus called God “abba” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15).

12. He ministered primarily to Israel/Jews (Rom 15:8).

13. He instituted a memorial meal on the night he was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

14. He was cruelly treated at that time (Rom 15:3).

15. He was killed by the Jews of Judea (1 Thess. 2:14-15).

16. He testified before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim 6×3).

17. His “death on a cross” (Phil 2:8) implies execution at Roman hands for treason (cf. Gal 3:1; 6:17).

18. He was buried (1 Cor. 15:4).

19. He was raised on the third day and was seen alive on a number of occasions by many witnesses, most of whom were still alive, able to confirm this (1 Cor. 15:5-7).-See Paul Barnett. Paul, Missionary of Jesus: After Jesus, Vol. 2.

Note that Michael Bird also says:

“A central purpose of the Jesus tradition was to provide content to the faith of the early church. The kerygmatic formula “Jesus died and rose” is one of the most basic and well attested beliefs of the early Christians (1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 15:3-8; 2 Cor 5:15; Rom 4:25). Yet this creedal formula presupposes or at least raises the further question of the identity of the one who is proclaimed as the crucified and risen Lord. Jesus’ passion and his exaltation to the Father’s right hand cannot be separated from his earthly vocation since the prophetic career, messianic task, and redemptive death of Jesus are all intertwined in the New Testament. Samuel Byrskog writes, “the kerygma, the story of the present Lord, remains, after all, intrinsically linked with the Jesus of the past.” In which case, it is presumptuous to assert that the early church had an entirely kerygmatic faith focused exclusively on the death and resurrection of Jesus, entirely divorced from any interest in his earthly life. Without the narration of the Jesus tradition, the kerygma of Jesus’ redemptive death would have been incomprehensible to the church from the beginning.”- The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus by Michael F. Bird
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Ben Shapiro Interview Dr. Edward Feser on the Existence of God

Here is an outstanding interview with Edward Feser. If you are not familiar with Feser, he has two books that should be read by everyone including atheists that rely on Richard Dawkins to tell them what to think about philosophy and God.

‘Proof’ is a loaded term, which turns on our understanding of what constitutes knowledge. There are knowledge claims that are rooted in inference, and are therefore on various levels of probability. Some arguments for God’s existence use this approach. The fine-tuning argument, for example, says that the universe is so intricately tuned for life, that it is most likely that a Fine Tuner orchestrated the cosmos. A different approach in terms of ‘proof’ in establishing the existence of God is by rational demonstration. This is found in the classical writings of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, & Leibniz. Feser writes that philosophical arguments are still the most adequate approach to showing there is a God—the God of classical theism. The God of classical theism is immutable, immaterial, eternal, uncaused, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and can’t be compared to created gods that are part of the physical world such as Thor, Zeus, and others.

The primary classical arguments for God’s existence from pure reason are Aquinas’ Five Ways. We will only summarize them here, and take a snippet at the 2nd Way, while offering a few comments; it is enough for us to sum them up, and offer you some recommended reading, because a full defense of them would require a small book (at least). So here they are: Aquinas says we can know God exists from 1) movement and change 2) efficient causality 3) contingency and necessity 4) gradations of being, and 5) design.

These arguments can be found in Aquinas’ Summa Theologicae, First Part, a, Question 2, Article 3. The 2nd Way is about “efficient causality,” which is what is listed below. Efficient causality is to say that when you consider something like a tree, that tree has an origin and it came into being. The tree’s efficient cause is the acorn that fell to the ground in grew into the tree that it now is. Similarly, a child’s efficient cause is his parents. And so on. Here is what St. Thomas says about efficient causes and how they lead one to conclude that God must exist.  There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity.… Therefore, it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause to which everyone gives the name of God.

As Feser notes, “The real debate is not between atheism and theism. The real debate is between theists of different stripes—Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, purely philosophical theists, and so forth—and begins where natural theology leaves off.”He adds that discussions of God’s existence must begin with natural theology (i.e., the practice of philosophically revealing on the existence and nature of God independent of revealed theology (Scripture).

 

 

 

 

[2]. Ibid, 15.

Uncategorized

Tips in Dealing with Doubt

We now have some podcasts that are online. Here is our latest one called Tips in Dealing with Doubt. Here are some of the points I mention in the podcast.

Whenever I teach an apologetics class, I always clarify the relationship between faith, doubts, and questions. It is important to remember that asking questions about what you believe is not necessarily the same thing as doubt. For example, when I was a new Christian, I had all kinds of questions. And I still have questions to this day. Asking questions is a part of spiritual growth.

Let’s look at a more technical definition of doubt. Baker’s Evangelical Online Dictionary says the following about doubt. Daniel L. Aiken says the following:

“It is possible to have questions (or doubts) about persons, propositions, or objects. Doubt has been deemed a valuable element in honest, rational inquiry. It prevents us from reaching hasty conclusions or making commitments to unreliable and untrustworthy sources. A suspension of judgment until sufficient inquiry is made and adequate evidence is presented is judged to be admirable. In this light, doubt is not an enemy of faith. This seems to be the attitude of the Bereans in Acts 17:11. Questioning or doubting motivates us to search further and deeper in an understanding of faith. However, doubt in Scripture can be seen to be characteristic of both believers and unbelievers. In believers it is usually a weakness of faith, a wavering in the face of God’s promises. In the unbeliever doubt is virtually synonymous with unbelief. Scripture, as would be expected, does not look at doubt philosophically or epistemologically. Doubt is viewed practically and spiritually as it relates to our trust in the Lord. For this reason, doubt is not deemed as valuable or commendable.”

So having said this, here are some few tips when dealing with doubt.

First, identify the type of doubt.  Second, be honest with God about your doubt. Many of God’s servants have dealt with the same issues for centuries. As far as types of doubt,  perhaps we can ask some questions:

  • It is emotional doubt? Does God’s presence seem to be quite distant at times?
  • Does God seem painfully absent?
  • Is it an unanswered prayer issue?
  • It is factual doubt?

Remember, the following about emotional doubt: In Deut. 6: 4-9, we see who our God is and how we should respond to him. It should be a holistic commitment towards him. We love our God with our emotions, our actions, our entire beings (including our minds).  “Heart” (Heb. lebab/leb, Gk. kardia) occurs over one thousand times in the Bible, making it the most common anthropological term in the Scripture. It denotes a person’s center for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities.

 John Piper says in his essay on Faith and Reason:

Paul said in Ephesians 4:18: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” In other words, at the bottom of human irrationality and spiritual ignorance is hardness of heart. That is, our self-centered hearts distort our reason to the point where we cannot use it to draw true inferences from what is really there. If we don’t want God to be God, our sensory faculties and our rational faculties will not be able to infer that he is God.

In 2 Corinthians 3:14, Paul says the mind is “hardened” (epōrōthē). In 1 Timothy 6:5 he calls the mind “depraved” (diephtharmenōn). And in Romans 1:21, he says that thinking has become “futile” (emaraiōthēsan) and “darkened” (eskotisthē) and “foolish” (asunetos) because men “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). In other words, unrighteousness disorders the capacity to see the truth. The corruption of our hearts is the root of our irrationality.

Note: You can download Piper’s book THINK right here.

I bring this up because from a biblical perspective, there is no way to separate our emotions, rational faculties and our wills. Sin has a way of impacting all our being. We have to examine our hearts and ask if the condition of our hearts is tied to our emotional doubts with God.

Remember that when it comes to factual doubt, there is no need for exhaustive knowledgeAs Paul Copan says in his article, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? A Response to SkepticismBeing 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.”

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.

Remember, 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.

How many of our claims past the test of certitude? Not many! Does this mean we are left to blind faith? No! There are two kinds of defeaters: rationality defeaters (that provide grounds that undermine the rationality of a basing a belief on certain grounds) and knowledge defeaters (that provide grounds that undermine the legitimacy of a claim to knowledge on behalf of a belief based on certain grounds). The two kinds are not mutually exclusive: some defeaters function at both levels, including those that challenge the objective alethic reliability of one’s actual grounds (see Robert C. Koons and George Bealer, Epistemological Objections to Materialism in The Waning of Materialism).

Why do I bring this up? You can read all kinds of arguments on both sides. Both sides will present defeaters. It never ends.So at some point,you will have to get over the need for certitude or exhaustive knowledge.

You can work on your issues of factual doubt and try to answer defeaters. But in the end, you need to ask yourself the question: Am I looking for reasons to leave the Christian faith because there is some sin that’s appealing to me? Or, am I looking to grow more confident in my faith so I can be equipped to share and defend it in the public square? Only God knows the issues of your heart. He can see what’s really going on.

For an in depth treatment of the subject of doubt, see these two free online resources:

Gary Habermas: Dealing with Doubt

Gary Habermas: The Thomas Factor: Using Your Doubts to Draw Closer to God

Uncategorized

Six Messianic Expectations and One Messiah

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 Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16). Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” Hence, we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Old Testament.

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:

The only way to define “the Messiah” is as the king who will rule during what we call the Messianic age. The central criterion for evaluating a Messiah must therefore be a single question: Has the Messianic age come? It is only in terms of this question that “the Messiah” means anything. What, then, does the Bible say about the Messianic age? Here is a brief description by  famous Christian scholar: “The recovery of independence and power, an era of peace and prosperity, of fidelity to God and his law and justice and fair- dealing and brotherly love among men and of personal rectitude and piety” (G.F. Moore, Judaism, II, P 324). If we think about this sentence for just a moment in the light of the history of the last two thousand years, we will begin to see what enormous obstacles must be overcome if we are to believe in the messianic mission of Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why have suffering and evil continued and even increased in the many centuries since his death.” (1)

“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).

Remember:  the Jewish Scriptures don’t reveal an explicit, fully disclosed, monolithic “messianic concept.”  To build on the comments stated here, Stanley Porter says:

Intertestamental and New Testament literature suggests that the expectation was all over the map. Some Jewish people did not expect a Messiah. Others thought that the Messiah would be a priestly figure, still others a royal deliverer. Some scholars interpret the evidence to suggest that at least one group of Jewish thinkers believed there would be two messiahs, one priestly and one royal. From what we know we can be certain that the New Testament did not create the idea of the Messiah. But we can also be sure that there was nothing like a commonly agreed delineation of what the Messiah would be like. The latter point means that modern-day Christians who shake their heads about why the Jewish people did not universally recognize the Messiah, considering all the fulfilled prophecy, really do not understand Old Testament literature.-Porter, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (McMaster New Testament Studies), 29.

Varied Messianic Expectations at the Time of Jesus

#1: The Davidic King Expectation

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. (2)

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).

One of the most valuable resources that speak to the Messianic expectation of the time of Jesus is found in The Psalms of Solomon. The Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms that are part of the Pseudepigrapha which is written 200 BC to 200 A.D. Even though these works are not part of the Protestant Canon, they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Therefore, they help provide the historian with valuable information about the messianic expectations at the time of Jesus. In it, there are two passages about a righteous, ruling Messiah:

Taught by God, the Messiah will be a righteous king over the gentile nations. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy and their king shall be the Lord Messiah. He will not rely on horse and rider and bow, nor will he collect gold and silver for war. Nor will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war. The Lord himself is his king, the hope of the one who has a strong hope in G-d. He shall be compassionate to all the nations, who reverently stand before him. He will strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever; he will bless the Lord’s people with wisdom and happiness. And he himself will be free from sin, in order to rule a great people. He will expose officials and drive out sinners by the strength of his word.” (Psalms of Solomon 17.32-36)

Even though this is one expectation in the Second Temple Period, it is not the most prominent one in the New Testament.

#2: A Transcendent Messiah/The Son of Man

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. First of all, “Son of Man ” is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Third, the Son of Man would serve an eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31). In other words, there is a correlation between the returning Son of Man and the judgment of God.

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)

#3: A Miracle Working Messiah

Even though miracles are often overlooked in the traditional messianic expectation (as in the article I posted),  it is evident that Jewish people at the time of Jesus did look for signs/miracles to accompany the Messiah’s work. In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” The references to the word “kingdom” can be seen in two classes: First, it is viewed as a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it (2 Thess 1:5). Second, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward (Matt 25:34), as well as glory (Matt 13:43). In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives  and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”- Luke 4: 18-19

Even in the Messiah Apocalypse, which is dated between 100 and 80 B.C.E mentions a similar theme as seen in the Luke 4 text:

“He [God] frees the captives, makes the blind see, and makes the bent over stand straight…for he will heal the sick, revive the dead, and give good news to the humble and the poor he will satisfy, the abandoned he will lead, and the hungry he will make rich.” (4)

Also,  Paul says:

“ For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Paul notes here about how Jews demand signs. 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 prophets such 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.

“Sign” (sēmeion) is used seventy-seven times (forty-eight times in the Gospels). As far as the “signs’ Jesus does,  29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1). In John’s Gospel, Jesus performs three “signs,” at the beginning of his ministry; the water turned into wine at Cana at Galilee (2:1-12), the healing of the son of the royal official at Capernaum (4:46-64), and catching of the fish in the sea of Galilee (21:1-14). The link between the first two signs in Jn 2:12 while the link between the last two are seen in Jn 7:1, 3-4, 6, 9. Jesus follows the pattern of Moses in that he reveals himself as the new Moses because Moses also had to perform three “signs” so that he could be recognized by his brothers as truly being sent by God (Exod. 4: 1-9). In the exchange between Nicodemus said to Jesus, Nicodemus said, We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). Also, the signs of Jesus are part of the apostolic preaching:

#4: A Prophetic Messiah

Moses and Jesus both claim to speak the words of God. 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:

 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Here, we can notice the emphasis, “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 meAnd 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 prophets such 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, believe the 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 works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)

#5: A Priestly Messiah

The priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).  There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14).  In the Qumran community which predated the time of Jesus was convinced there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22). The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.

As Harvey E. Finley says:

Psalm 110:4 reads: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” This is a royal psalm. Two significant points are made about the One who is to sit at God’s right hand. First, the order of Melchizedek is declared to be an eternal order. Second, this announcement is sealed with God’s oath. Neither of these affirmations applied to the Aaronic order of priesthood. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3Hebrews 7:13Hebrews 7:16), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood  ( Hebrews 7:11-12Hebrews 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:3).  Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven (8:1). (5)

#6: A Suffering Messiah

As far as any expectation of a suffering Messiah, I talk more about that in greater detail here.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that the are a variety of Messianic expectations, I think Jesus is the most likely candidate to fulfill all six of the ones mentioned here.

Sources:

  1. David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod, “Jews and Jewish Christianity” A Jewish Response to the Missionary Challenge (Toronto: Jews for Judaism, 2002), 20; cited in Oskar Skarsaune,  In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 302.
  2.   Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, And Coming of Israel’s King ( Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012),  80.
  3. See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament at http://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;
  4.  Evans, C.A., and P. W. Flint, Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1997). Qumran is the site of the ruin about nine miles south of Jericho on the west side of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls contains some 800 scrolls with parts or the entirety of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, discovered in the caves near Qumran.
  5. Harvey E. Finley, Melchizedek” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).
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A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Hints and Signs of the Coming King in the Old Testament

Introduction

One of the most prominent themes throughout the Bible is the kingdom of God. The framework of Israel’s existence and self-understanding was formulated from God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s servant to God the King. Israel is the people of the king, and the holy land is the land of the king’s rule. Given the Messiah is supposed to be the ideal representative of his people, He has a kingly role as well. Let’s look at some of the messianic texts in the Old Testament that speak about the kingly role of the Messiah.

Genesis 49:8-12:

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Gen 49:8-12)-NASB

In the previous context (Gen. 49: 1-7) we see the following issues:

1. Jacob, prophesied various details as to the fortunes and fates of the descendants of these men.

2. God is revealing to Jacob the future history of his descendants.

3. The older brothers are disqualified from the birth-right (i.e., Reuben, Simon, Levi).

4. Jacob foretold a future for the tribe of Judah that pictures him as the preeminent son – the prominent tribe.

5. Judah: is the name of the son of Jacob/or the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel. (1)

We see the following about this passage:

1. The Messiah has already been declared to be a man, descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18)

2. His descent is now limited to being a son of Judah

3. He is going to be a King

4. The rule of Judah is envisioned by Jacob as extending beyond the borders of Israel to include the entire world.

We see in the prophecy that “Scepter” is a “symbol of kingly authority” and will remain in Judah’s hand until “Shiloh comes.” In the minds of the Jewish people, “Scepter” was linked with their right to apply and enforce the law of Moses upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment. The prophecy declares that Judah will finally lose his tribal independence, and promises a supremacy over at least some of the other tribes until the advent of the Messiah. See more on this here:

The Davidic Covenant

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; Ps.89:28-37). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a person whose eternality will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.

As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. The desire for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty became even more fervent after the united kingdom of the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, at the time of King Rehoboam.

The Davidic King in  Isaiah

As we look at Isaiah, he speaks more about a powerful descendant of David, the Messiah with a capital “M”:

 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [David’s family], from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him [an “anointing”] — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD — and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes or decide by what he hears with his ears, but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. . . . In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him. (Isaiah 11:1 – 10).

It isn’t a huge challenge to relate this messianic expectation with the ministry of Jesus. For example:

Acts 10:38
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”

Matthew 7:28-29
” And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

Also, regarding the ability of the Davidic figure to be a light to the nations, a careful reading of the four servant songs has nonetheless led many scholars to argue that the servant refers to an individual who fulfills in himself all that Israel was meant to be. If we look at  Isa. 49:1-7,  we must take some things into consideration. First, in vs 3, the Servant is Israel, while in vs 6, the Servant is an individual. The Servant will be powerful, bringing God’s “salvation to the ends of the earth,” and yet he will be “despised and abhorred by the nation” of Israel, although rulers of the gentiles will “bow down” to him. So let us keep the following things in mind:

Has there ever been any Jewish person who fits these words, having begun 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” (v. 6b). “Light” is here parallel with “salvation” (cf. Isa. 42:6).  How does one calculate the probability that a Jewish person would found a world religion that mostly consists of non-Jewish people.

But now we go to read the rest of the chapter:

“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia,from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations  and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah  from the four quarters of the earth.  Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,   nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.  They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;   together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab,   and the Ammonites will be subject to them.  The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand  over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals.  There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel   when they came up from Egypt.” –Isa. 11: 10-16.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize none of this has taken place yet.

Another text is the following:

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on his shoulders, and he will be given the name Pele-Yo’etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace], in order to extend the dominion and perpetuate the peace of the throne and kingdom of David, to secure it and sustain it through justice and righteousness henceforth and forever. The zeal of ADONAITzva’ot will accomplish this.” (Isa 9:5-6 CJB)

Every Old Testament prophecy has an immediate context. For the audience in Isaiah’s time, a prophecy about a Davidic King would be worthless if that is something coming hundreds of years later. They needed a hope at that time. So when Isaiah writes it, there is a type. Hence, it is a literal Davidic king at that time period. In observing the immediate context of this passage, one might assert that this passage is referring to Hezekiah’s reign. But it is pointing to the anti-type, the literal Davidic King (the Messiah).

This passage speaks to the everlasting rule of the Davidic King. The figure is called “Wonderful Counselor” (Pele-Yoeitz) which is used only of God and what God does. This is never used of what God does. “Mighty God”  (El-Gibbor) is never used of a mere man. We read in Isaiah 10:21 that “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”  The word ‘el’ always refers to a deity.  “Everlasting Father”- “Father” is here in a pre-Trinitarian sense. Jesus  is not literally the Father but he can play the role of a Father in that he cares, protects, etc. “Prince of Peace”- is sometimes used of men in the Hebrew text. In Isaiah, the work of peace is of God only. The significance of this passage is the phrase “there will be no end.” In observing the immediate context of this passage, one might assert that this passage is referring to Hezekiah’s reign. This assertion is problematic since Hezekiah’s reign was one that was rather limited in an international sense.

The Davidic King in the Royal Psalms

Psalm 2

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!  (NASB)

What do we see here?

1. Psalm 2 should be read as a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) and today marks the moment of the king’s crowning.

2. 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).

3. David did have conquest of all the nations (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, etc-1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11).

4. Vs 11-12: One day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.

Psalm 89 is another royal Psalm.

We see the following:

1. The Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25).

2. Just as God is the most exalted ruler in heaven (vv.6-9), the Davidic King is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27).

3. The Davidic King will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings.

4. God promises to establish David’s throne and continue his dynasty from one generation to the next for perpetuity (vv.28-29).

The rule of the King as the Son of Man

It should be noted that “Son of Man” is a messianic title. As we see in Daniel 7: 13-14:

I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.  “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

John Sailhamer notes that there is a thematic correlation between Gen 49:8-12 and other passages in the Old Testament. He says:

The plural word “nations” rather than singular suggests that Jacob had a view of Kingship that extended beyond the boundaries of the Israelites to include other nations as well. In any case, later biblical writers were apparently guided by texts in formulating their view of the universal reign of the future of the Davidic king. For example, “Psalm 2:8 “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance”; Daniel 7:13-14, “There was one like a son of man, he was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him.” (see John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Zondervan, 1995), 235.

Conclusion:

The reign of God is one of the most pertinent themes in biblical theology. God has extended His mercy and grace to the human race by allowing us to glance at the role of the kingdom of Godin His plan for the redemption of the entire world. God took the initiate by revealing to mankind a fuller part His kingdom program through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ miraculous deeds, healings, and power over nature as well as His role as a Suffering Servant was another stage of inaugurating the kingdom of God. Jesus also fulfills the role of the inaugurator of the kingdom of God by being honored and demonstrating the authority to execute judgment. Jesus currently rules over the cosmos at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:24-33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Eph.1:20-21; Col.3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 2 Peter 3:22). Jesus, being the divine Messiah exhibits the same attributes as the God of Israel. One day, Jesus will return to fulfill the promise of completing the earthly aspect of His kingdom work. May all of us as wait with eager anticipation. As the Apostle Peter said,

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Sources:

[1] Michael Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010),  47-48.

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The Challenge of God’s Incorporeality and the Incarnation

Recently, I wrote a post called The Problem of God’s Visibility and Invisibility. I wanted to note the following quote by Marvin Wilson. He says:

“The claim that Jesus is God incarnate is foundational to traditional Christianity but is one of the most difficult concepts for Jews to understand. Going back to early Israelite history, Jews have had a fundamental theological resistance to the idea of God becoming a man. The command to make no image or physical likeness of God has generally led Jews to prefer keeping the worship of God as an abstraction. Jews usually avoid concrete representations or physical symbols of God. It is held that to believe in such would be a departure from the idea of pure monotheism and would compromise the teaching of God’s incorporeality. Christians, however, point to theophanies in the Old Testament. These temporary physical manifestations of God, they claim, indicate that God did occasionally choose to manifest himself in human form to his people. At the end of the day, however, both Jews and Christians subscribe to monotheism. Though paradoxical and mysterious to many, most Christians in the creedal tradition would be comfortable describing themselves as Trinitarian monotheists.”-Wilson, Marvin R,  Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage,  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Now, note here that Wilson says “Christians, however, point to theophanies in the Old Testament. These temporary physical manifestations of God, they claim, indicate that God did occasionally choose to manifest himself in human form to his people.”

The good news is we now have a new resource that deals with the theophanies topic.

The Publishers description says here:

The language of ‘christophanies’ is used technically by scholars to refer to appearances of the incarnate Son of God after his resurrection, as narrated in the New Testament Gospels and Acts. At a more popular level, though, the term is increasingly applied to alleged appearances of the pre-incarnate Son in the Old Testament.

That Jesus appeared to – and was even recognized by – the likes of Abraham and Moses is usually argued from several scriptural trajectories. The New Testament suggests that God the Father is invisible, inviting us to ask who conducted the Old Testament appearances; the mysterious Angel of the Lord has often been interpreted as a manifestation of the divine Son; and several New Testament passages imply Old Testament appearances of and encounters with Jesus. It seems obvious, indeed orthodox, to affirm that Jesus has always been at work in communicating with and saving his world.

However, Andrew Malone argues that, while Christ-centred readings of the Old Testament abound, christophanies prove to be a flimsy foundation on which to build. Despite apparent success, any scholarship commending the idea does not withstand close scrutiny. Malone carefully sifts the evidence to show that the popular arguments should be abandoned, and that the pursuit of Old Testament christophanies ultimately threatens to undermine the very values it promotes. He concludes that it better honours the Trinity and the text of Scripture to allow that the Father and the Spirit, as well as the Son, were themselves involved in Old Testament appearances.

To see Malone’s article called The invisibility of God: A survey of a misunderstood phenomenon, read here.

Also, note our articles called “But Jesus never said, ‘I am God.’ ” and The Jewish Background of the Incarnation in The Gospel of John

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