Before I jump feet first into this newest series here on the FWC Apologetics Blog, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Jacque, and I am a member of the FWC Tech team – you can almost always find me in the sound booth at church! I grew up in the church, spent many years pushing away from my faith, and came back to the church when my daughter (now 10) was born.
I found my home at Family Worship Center in 2008, and have been an active part of this community ever since! Aside from serving in the sound booth and the technical side of the office staff? I am also active with the Apologetics and Women’s Ministries, as well as leading a life group.
Now, let’s jump into the basics of what I am hoping to share with you over the coming months.
I can’t count high enough to tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Aren’t all religions basically the same thing?” It’s one of the reasons I have been passionate about understanding and debating other religions, especially those that closely resemble Christianity.
As I begin this adventure in blogging with the FWC Apologetics team, I will be looking at many of the world religions and cults. A few examples are Buddhism, Christian Science, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology and more. I will be focusing on both the similarities and differences, as well as how you can defend the Christian Faith when you encounter these other world religions.
Understanding these other religions is so important, and passing that knowledge to our loved ones, will help us all to better understand the broader world-views. I have found that as I study other religions, my own convictions grow stronger.
My fascination with world religions started early in life. I was raised in the church, but all of these other religions were one big mystery to me. In high school, I befriended a Buddhist – and it led me to seriously question my faith. I firmly believe that if I had been well educated in other religions, I may not have wandered as far and for as long as I did. (And I thank God every day that he kept drawing me back to him!)
My goal with my series of posts on this blog is to help us all to get to know these other religions, understand exactly what they believe, and be able to engage in a friendly conversation with members of these faiths in hopes that we plant seeds to lead them to the one true God!
If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
These beautiful lyrics have impacted me deeply from the first moment they came through the speakers of my car stereo. It is so worshipful and really helps me to visualize the power and glory of God at the creation of the universe.
God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
God was there from before the beginning of time, He created everything and everything exists to worship and exalt Him.
God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
God’s promises come to pass! His Word will accomplish His purpose and will not return to Him void.
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die
Despite all of the failures and pride and sinfulness of humanity, God came to Earth and became a man to die for people created by His own hands on a hill created by His very Word. It is simply amazing that the God of the universe would do that for you and me.
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
God’s plan of salvation culminated in the resurrection of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, as He left the grave behind Him to sit at the right hand of the Father on our behalf. Everything He created, everything He did for us on the cross was out of His never-ending love for His creation. He orchestrated His own execution and then in His human form, surrendered to the cross for us. Knowing all that He did for us, we should willingly and happily surrender to Him.
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I
Every single person is created by God and so precious to Him that He died to save them! Because of His great love for humanity, we should give our lives to love people by proclaiming His gospel.
These are all such breathtaking verses about our awesome God and Creator!
After a few times listening, I decided to Google the lyrics. What I found was disheartening.
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I don’t really follow Hillsong, so it came as a surprise to me that they would insert theistic evolution into one of their worship songs like this. Apparently, however, this is nothing new for the Australian megachurch. In a 2010 article entitled, “A Sad Day for the Assemblies of God Denomination,” Ken Ham* addresses the connection between AOG changing their official position on the Genesis creation account and this 2005 statement from Hillsong’s founder, Brian Houston. (Note: Hillsong is an Assemblies of God church.)
I believe in creation. The Bible starts in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. If I waver on the first 10 words of the Bible I think I’m going to have problems properly representing the rest of the Bible. However, timeframes, over what period of time that was, whether there was room for any evolving in some areas of life as well, I’m more than open to that. I’m happy to leave that to the experts. – Brian Houston
(Quoted in the above referenced article, originally posted here.)
Theistic evolution is the attempt to reconcile the Bible with Darwinian Evolution. Most Christians want to shake the notion that Christianity is in conflict with science. Some do this through the study of apologetics while others simply rewrite their doctrine to fit the “science” of the day. That is what theistic evolution does. It takes a little bit of evolution and a little bit of God and mixes it all together in an “origins of life stew” that teaches some version of, “God created the world through the process of evolution and the Big Bang.” This theory cannot be found within the pages of the Bible and it is, in fact, wholly incompatible with Christianity.
Millions/Billions of Years
Christians who believe in evolution all accept the modern “scientific” claims that mammals, including the ancestors of modern humans, have existed for millions of years and that the Earth is billions of years old. They will either place eons of time between each day in Genesis 1-2 or claim that the 6 day creation is literal but Scripture does not say how long ago it took place. This is one of their most glaring mistakes since genealogies and timelines throughout the Bible clearly demonstrate that approximately 6,000 years have passed since the creation. John D. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research said this…
… every honest attempt to determine the date, starting with a deep commitment to the inerrancy of God’s Word, has calculated a span of just a few thousand years, most likely close to 6000 years, since creation. The largest figure I’ve ever seen from a trustworthy scholar is approximately 15,000 years, but even this seems to stretch the Biblical data too far.
Answers in Genesis explains the method of calculating 6,000 years in their article, “It All Adds Up,” by Roger Patterson. You simply cannot fit millions or billions of years into the Bible and the evidence for such a length of time is severely lacking.
In the opening scene of the movie, “Is Genesis History,” Del Tackett explores a canyon with a small stream running through it and wonders how long it must have taken for that little stream to carve the massive canyon. He then picks up a rock and begins to explain its history. The rock that he holds and others from the area have been dated to be anywhere from 350,000-2 million years old. Eventually Del reveals that he is standing at the site of Mount St. Helens and that the rocks and everything there (including the canyon and the geological formations) are younger than he is!
The layers were formed quickly and a couple of years after the initial eruption, more volcanic activity caused a mud flow that cut the canyon out in a couple of days. The dating method used to arrive at these highly inflated figures was radioisotope dating. It is the same method scientists use to this day to “prove” that the earth is billions of years old. The Mount St. Helens experiment should have been reason enough to reevaluate their methods, but instead scientists just make excuses to fit their narrative.
Biblical Timeline vs. Evolutionary Timeline
Another major problem for theistic evolution is that the evolutionary timeline contradicts the biblical timeline. For example, Genesis records that God created grass, herbs and fruit trees on the 3rd day and all living creatures in the water on the 5th day. Evolution, however, claims that water creatures existed before any land vegetation. The Bible says that God created birds on the 5th day and land animals on the 6th day, while evolution contends that dinosaurs (land animals) evolved into birds. According to evolution, land mammals evolved into whales, but the Bible teaches us that water creatures were created the day before land animals. There are many more discrepancies between the biblical creation timeline and the evolutionary timeline – so many that it is impossible to reconcile the two.
The Cause of Death
The most significant deviation between evolution and the Bible is the cause of death. Evolution teaches natural selection or survival of the fittest. The strong survive and the weak do not. Life is made better through death. In absolute contrast stands the gospel which teaches that everything – people, animals, and all life – was perfect from the moment of creation. God created Adam and Eve with free will and forbade them from only 1 thing. They were warned that doing that 1 thing (eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) would result in death, but they did it anyway. Just as God promised, death resulted – spiritual death was instantaneous and physical death would come later. But, God had a plan in the works. In fact, according to Revelation 13:8, His plan was in the works since the foundation of the world. That plan was to come to Earth Himself, in human form as the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and dwell among men in order to give His own life for all of mankind. Thus death as the result of sin was the reason Jesus came. He told His disciples that He came to give us life. So, what happens to the gospel in evolution’s scenario of death as a natural process that came before sin?
The truth is, rejecting the Genesis creation account as a literal and historical event is a dangerous practice that will lead only to the dismantling of the Christian faith. The Virgin Birth, Incarnation, Resurrection and miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea, raising the dead and walking on water all defy science in an arguably more profound manner than does a literal 6 day creation and it won’t be long until they too are tossed onto the garbage heap if Christians continue to compromise on scriptural authority. God’s Word is our basis of all truth and should be treated as such. When Scripture disagrees with science, we must not back down. Instead, we wait for the day when the Bible is vindicated by science as true. It has happened before and it will continue to happen until Jesus returns. Until then, instead of falling prey to false doctrines as Hillsong and others have done, let us heed the words of Paul…
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
– Colossians 2:8, NKJV
* There was a bit of a back and forth between AOG and Ken Ham. Please refer to his second article on this topic, “Assemblies of God Denomination Responds…but What Does It Really Mean?”
On Monday, 6/4/18, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the Masterpiece Bakeshop case. The case was about a Christian baker in Denver, CO who refused to custom-make a wedding cake for a gay marriage. Jack Phillips, the owner of the shop, had offered to sell the couple any of the ready-make cakes in the shop, but stated that, because of his belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman, he would not comply with their request for a custom-made cake.
The case was taken before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) who found that the baker had violated the anti-discrimination laws in CO and, therefore, should either make the cake or be fined. The case then went through the federal legal system with the courts affirming the CCRC’s decision. In January of this year the case was heard by the Court and, on Monday, they issued their ruling.
The majority (7 to 2) found that the CCRC did not take into consideration the religious rights of the bakeshop owner and were in some instances hostile to those beliefs. The Court therefore ruled that the CCRC would need to take another look at the case. Left out of their decision was to what extent a business or individual selling services to the public can refuse those services to a customer, because of the business owner’s religious beliefs.
Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in which he stated:
“Some of the commissioners at the formal public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried in to the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillip’s faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust…The comments thus cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commissions adjudication of Phillip’s case.”
Justice Kennedy also stated that,”When the CCRC considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.”
Supporters of Masterpiece Bakeshop point to the ruling as a win for Christians, as they see in it that the government cannot treat them differently than others, and must take into serious consideration the beliefs of Christians when deciding what course of action to take. Those who support the government forcing current societal beliefs on Christians point to the fact that the Court did not say the baker could legally refuse to make the cake. Instead it declared that when someone demands a Christian baker make a cake, that person must first seriously consider the the baker’s beliefs and be respectful of them before then forcing him to make the cake.
In truth, the latter position, unfortunately, is one which may prevail in government going forward until other similar cases are decided upon by the Supreme Court. The point is that the Court did not say the baker could refuse to make the cake, it merely said that the lower courts or commissions cannot be hostile to the religious beliefs of either party in the case.
In 1952 the Supreme Court ruled on one of the many religious freedom cases that have come before over the years. The case was Zorach v Clausen. This decision, like several previous ones, argued that the government should not merely permit the free exercise of religion, but should actively cooperate with religious authority. The decision, reads in part:
“The First Amendment does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State. Otherwise the State and religion would be aliens to each other, hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly. We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”
The Supreme Court could have used this case as a guide, however it was not mentioned. The Court stated plainly that they did not want to rule on the broader issue of to what extent religious beliefs take precedent over civil law. So Christians need understand that they may still be subject to persecution for their beliefs and may continue to be subject to the whims of the judicial system.
A law passed in California in 2015 has required Pro-Life Planning Clinics to advertise state-funded abortion services. Pro-Life groups sued the state and on Tuesday, March 20th, the Supreme Court heard arguments in this case. A decision on this case will come later in the year. Many Pro-Life groups are watching this case as other states might institute similar requirements, should the Court rule in favor of California.
The argument from the California side is that many of the women who have “un-wanted” pregnancies do not know that the State provides low-cost or no-cost abortion services. They argue, therefore, that any clinic or family planning, or pregnancy center must advertise the State’s services regardless of their beliefs about abortion.
The Pro-Life clinics and pregnancy centers see this law as a violation of their right to religious freedom under the First Amendment. That is, the right not to advertise for services they object to on religious grounds. Additionally, the Pro-Life groups believe that the new law is one which “compels speech”, which in this case means that regardless of beliefs, the clinics must “speak” about abortion services. Historically, the Court has ruled that individuals and groups cannot be “compelled to speak” beliefs with which they do not agree. The Pro-Life groups also realize that this new law is a desperate attempt by the Pro-Abortion groups because the Pro-Life movement has gained broader acceptance within the population across the country.
For Christians, the issue should be clear. Life begins at conception and God is “knitting you in the womb”. From that point forward, any termination of life is murder. Many Pro-Lifers get caught up in the arguments such as, “What about rape or incest?” Such arguments are distractions when you stick to the Truth as stated above. There are many remedies in rape and incest cases after the child is born. But until that time, any termination is murder.
What is missing from the arguments on behalf of California is the answer to the question: “What are the consequences from the broader concept that once the government can compel speech in one instance, what is to stop them from compelling it in others?”
A similar case was argued before the Court earlier this year in the Masterpiece Bake Shop being required to participate in a gay wedding when it violated their Christian beliefs about the definition of marriage. While the outcome of this case will come later this year and while this case of not coerced “speech” but “action”, the concept is the same. It is the government requiring actions by Christians which are against their beliefs.
While the Court, over recent years, has moved far away from the original intent of the First Amendment, there is always hope that they will show common sense in this and the Masterpiece Bake Shop case to protect Christians from what amounts to religious discrimination.
The Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment (the very first of all amendments) to emphasize that the government should not interfere with religious practices, nor should they “establish” a state sponsored religion (as had been the case in England). Today, America has “Secular Humanism/Anti Christianity” as its state sponsored religion. Christian principles, which are the bedrock of this country’s founding, are no longer welcome in the public square. It is time for us to begin the long road to restoration of those principles so as to not continue to lose favor in the eyes of God.
Spontaneous combustion. What else would have caused the bush to suddenly burst into flames in the middle of the desert? Well, perhaps the breath of the One Whose breath brought the stars into being. Alright, point well made. At any cause, the flames caught the shepherd’s eye. The Lord’s question, “May I have your attention, please?” was answered with a yes.
Duh, you say? Of course a bush burning in the middle of the desert would get him to look and explore. He must have been bored nearly to death out there herding sheep after his high life at the center of Egyptian government. Almost anything would have gotten his attention at that point.
The Lord saw that He had Moses’ attention. Wow. That statement in Exodus 3:4 caught my attention. God asked for Moses’ attention by starting a bush ablaze, and when He had it, He spoke to him of an approaching lifestyle change. God wanted to use Moses to get Pharaoh’s attention and then lead His people to freedom. I AM, within a burning bush, asking “may I have your attention, please?” Mission accomplished.
God tried to get Saul’s attention, but he wouldn’t heed. “May I have your attention, please?” God asked once more, and knocked him off his horse with a blinding light from heaven. It worked. Speak of an approaching lifestyle change. God used Paul to get the attention of the Gentiles across the then-known world, and ours, today.
God has had a plan in place to arrest the attention of the world since before its foundation. The basics of that plan are that Jesus is God, Jesus came to earth as a human born of a virgin, He lived a pure and sinless life, He died for our sins on the cross, He rose again to life, He returned to heaven, and He’s coming again to judge the earth. Believe with all your heart, and you’ll be saved.
“May I have your attention, please?” He asks of those whose hearts are right with Him. He wants to use you and me to get the attention of the lost just as He once attracted us. No burning bush, most likely, and no blinding light from heaven. But the still, small Voice still whispers, “May I have your attention, please?” A yes response could be an approaching lifestyle change. What will the answer be?
Skeptics can’t seem to come to an agreement about which aspects of Christianity to attack. As addressed in my previous post, some admit that Jesus was a real historical figure, but allege that He never claimed to be God. Others, however, want to throw the baby out with the bathwater by claiming that He never even existed. The proponents of such intellectual dishonesty are even denounced by those on their own side. For example…
“The consensus of scholars, including non-Christian scholars, is that a historical Jesus most likely existed and the later stories about “Jesus Christ” were told about him. The idea that there was no such historical person at all and that “Jesus Christ” was a purely mythical figure has been posited in one form or another since the eighteenth century, but is not taken seriously by anyone but a tiny handful of fringe scholars and amateurs.”
~ Tim O’Neill, History for Atheists
“This billboard for poor method, we are now asked to believe by freethought’s bad boy, PZ Myers, has cold-cocked a senior New Testament scholar for saying something as reasonable as “Jesus existed.” Only in the age of instant misinformation and net-attack is this kind of idiocy possible. Only in the atheist universe where the major premise– “religion is a lie so the study of religion is a study of lying”—infects everything is this kind of lunacy possible. Unfortunately, we have Richard Dawkins to thank for the original formulation of that premise.”
~R. Joseph Hoffmann, The New Oxonian
Even though the, “Jesus Myth Theory,” is not taken seriously by most serious scholars, it is important to be equipped to respond to challenges such as these. Just like everything else presented in the Bible, there is ample evidence for the existence of Jesus. An article published on carm.org entitled, “Did Jesus Ever Exist,” outlines, “over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’ death which mention his existence and record many events of his life.”
It is clear that the claims that no evidence of Jesus exists outside of the pages of the Bible are false. I want to spotlight a few of the writings here (I have displayed some parts in bold for emphasis), but as always, I encourage you to investigate them for yourself. Links are provided at the end of this article to help you get started. There are also hyperlinks within the text that will point you to articles referenced here.
While others might conclude with the biblical evidence since it is not necessarily trusted by those outside of the faith, I have chosen to open with it. The Bible is God’s Word and as followers of Christ, we should not be ashamed to refer to it first and often. More than that, the Bible is an extremely reliable historical document that was finalized before the end of the first century (not canonized, but all books were written), and likely before 70 AD. The 27 books of the New Testament were written by 4 close friends who were eye witnesses to virtually every event in Jesus’ life, 2 of His brothers who had previously been hostile to His ministry, a physician who painstakingly interviewed eyewitnesses, a Pharisee who was killing Christians prior to his conversion, and a young man who was close to the apostles and wrote his Gospel from the testimony of Peter. We have more and earlier manuscripts for all of these books than for any other trusted historical document. But what is even more significant is the fact that these men and others were all willing to be tortured, imprisoned and murdered for what they believed about Jesus. It is inconceivable that anyone would do that for a fictional person.
Other Christian Writings
Aristides was a second century philosopher and Christian apologist who wrote, “The Apology of Aristides,” between 120-130 A.D. It was a defense of the Christian faith written and delivered to Emperor Hadrian. Among other things, he confirms the virgin birth to a Jewish woman, the fact that Jesus chose twelve disciples, that he was crucified, died and buried and subsequently rose from the dead after three days.
“The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they are become famous.”
The Didache, or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, was written very early between 50-120 A.D. and referenced by Eusebius, Athanasius, the Epistle of Barnabas and likely Origen. It is highly respected and considered helpful, though not canonical. The entire Didache is based on the teachings of Jesus, but mentions His name specifically in the context of the Eucharist or communion.
“Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup: We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”
But after you are filled, give thanks this way: We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever.”
Secular, Jewish and Other Sources
Flavius Josephus, or Josephus as he is more commonly known, was born in Jerusalem in 37 A.D. He was a Jewish historian who wrote volumes on Jewish history. His work, Antiquities of the Jews, includes a section called the “Testimonium Flavianum,” which confirms the existence of the Jesus of the Bible. While there have been some disputes about this section, they do not negate the fact that he did write about Jesus as a real person who existed in the first century. This is one translation of his account.
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
Tacitus was a Roman senator and historian who lived from 56-120 A.D. and is greatly renowned for his works. He wrote about the Christian persecution by Nero, the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate, as well as explains that Christianity got its name from its founder, Christ.
“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the Bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements Which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero From the infamy of being believed to have ordered the Conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he Falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were Hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time Broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief Originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things Hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their Center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first Made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an Immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of Firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”
Pliny the Younger lived from approximately 61-113 A.D. and was governor of Bithynia around the turn of the century. In 106 A.D., he mentioned the worship of Christ as a god in a letter to Emperor Trajan.
“They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.”
While some may consider the debate of his existence to be of little value, the apostle John would have a different view.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”
1 John 4:2, NKJV
According to John, the very spirit of the Antichrist is to deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, which makes it one of the most significant issues of our time. The sources that I have listed are really just the tip of the iceberg. An examination into the divinity of Jesus or His resurrection might be a reasonable pursuit, but it is so abundantly clear that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who existed in the early first century that the only way to believe the “Jesus myth theory” is to simply refuse to examine the evidence.
1. “Did Jesus Really Exist?” By Paul L. Maier, Emeritus, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University
2. “Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?” By J. Wallace
3. “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible” By Lawrence Mykytiuk
4. “What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?” By Simon Gathercole
5. “Was Jesus a Real Person?” published by y-jesus.com, author unavailable
6. “Darkness at the crucifixion: metaphor or real history?” By Daniel Anderson
7. “Historical Evidence” published by reasonsforjesus.com
It’s hard to believe in anyone today. Do you take the word of the used car salesman that the vehicle is in triple-A condition? The politician who only wants what’s best for the little guy? The company that’s only in business for your business success? The professor who pushes evolution though there’s no evidence? Or the preacher who says a Man named Jesus rose from the dead? Who do you trust? What do you trust? To believe or not to believe: that is the question.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Believe me, this was not an era of easy believism in Rome. Christians were dying like flies for acknowledging any competition to the mastery of Caesar who had elevated himself to deity. If they were going to confess and believe in Jesus as living and Lord, they knew they could very well be signing their own death warrant. But if He indeed died for them so they could be saved, would, should they not be willing to live and even die for Him? To believe, and confess that they believed, became the testing question.
Actually the “confess and believe” requirement Paul presented was a strong one, a life-or-death issue. When he wrote “confess”, these Roman Christians understood that he meant they were to declare publicly, speak out freely, of their allegiance to Christ as their Master and Lord. This same Jesus Who was the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, no less, Who professed to be the Son of the Living God. The same One Who died to deliver everyone from their sins and give them eternal life – if they would but confess and believe. Their deep conviction of the facts of His life and death and return to life were to be a cause of celebration. Public celebration.
And to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Well, this is the part where the Athenians laughed and walked out on Paul at Mars Hill, right? Now, not only must I confess that the humble Judean is my Master and Lord, demoting Caesar, I must believe that the One Who hung on a Roman cross, crucified by Roman soldiers for competing with Caesar, was indeed the Son of God and shown to be so with great power, Almighty power, through His resurrection from the dead. To believe, and confess my belief, in a crucified, resurrected Jew from Nazareth, and so be saved from sin and eternal death, though the confession may cost me my life – to believe or not to believe: that is the question.
And the question hasn’t changed. We must still be willing to publicly confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead. To stake our eternal life, and maybe this life, on these truths. To so firmly believe that our daily celebration of life declares that Jesus is our living Lord. “Neither is there salvation in any other.” To believe or not to believe: that is the question. He IS Lord! He IS alive! Believe! And be saved.
The picture above is taped to the top of my computer. “Word Before World.” Three words that order and shape my days. Before the computer gets opened and the relentless noise of the busy online world rushes into my living room, the quiet Word of the Still, Small Voice is ushered into my soul. A foundation. A respite. These same three words should also order the steps we take when shaping our children’s worldview training.
When federal treasury agents train to spot counterfeit money, they do not begin by studying the counterfeit. They begin by saturating themselves in the knowledge of the real thing, and only by studying genuine bills until they master the look, feel, smell, and weight of them, can they recognize bogus money. In the same way, we must immerse our children in the truth of the Word of God before they are introduced to the world’s false ideas.
There is indeed a necessary time and place for the in-depth study of false religions, errant philosophies, and mistaken ideas, but this is where our training must begin – where it must always begin: With the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. The belt of truth is the first piece of spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6:13 and 14 for a reason. Without truth, you and I leave ourselves and our children open to deception and thus unable to stand firm.
Satan’s every attack is marked by this one thing: deception (John 8:44).* As your children grow in the knowledge of the Lord and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, only then can they face the powers and false doctrines of this present world with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom (2 Pet 3:18; Matt 6:33; Eph 6:12; Prov 2:6). We must not teach our children to lean to their own understanding! We must acknowledge God and all of His ways in all of our ways – and He will make our paths straight (Prov 3:5&6). False doctrines can never stand up to God’s truth. When we know God’s truth, when we allow ourselves to be guided by the lamp that lights our path (Ps 119:105), the deceptions of the enemy are exposed. Ephesians 5:13 tells us that “all things become visible when they are exposed by the light.”
I read an article a few years ago on the topic of the benefits of Christian parents teaching their children about other religions.** The author wrote that her son was doing fairly well at learning his ABCs, but had trouble differentiating between Cs and Os if they were hidden in an exercise designed to help kids decipher the letters of the alphabet. She then began to show how many times false beliefs mimic the doctrines of Christianity, and how it can be difficult, if you are not fully aware, to automatically discern falsehood from Truth. Isn’t that just like our enemy?!
The Bible says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). We must become aware, and ensure that our children are aware, of unbiblical beliefs and know how to differentiate between God’s Truth and false doctrines, to tell the difference between the Cs and Os. Yet, though it’s vital to understand how others believe and why, and how those beliefs differ from Christianity, a firm foundation of the truth as it is revealed in the Bible is where it has to start. It begins here, with knowing God and making Him known (John 17:3; Acts 20:24). It’s that simple; it’s that important. Word before world.
*Priscilla Shirer, Armor of God, Session 2
**Natasha Crain, Christian Mom Thoughts.com
Some critics of Christianity argue that Jesus never claimed to be God and that early Christians did not even hold to the belief. They maintain that Jesus was not worshiped as a deity until several hundred years after His death. Can our faith withstand these attacks or will they crumble in light of Scripture? Let’s find out.
The Son of GodJesus’ assertion that He was the Son of God is what compelled Israel’s religious leaders to plot His execution. Jesus was not claiming to be simply a child of God, like you or I. Rather, by claiming to be the Son of God, He was actually claiming to be God. They knew it and He knew it.
In the second chapter of his gospel, Luke records a well known story of Jesus’ boyhood. At 12 years old Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his family for Passover. When their group left to head home, Mary and Joseph thought he was somewhere in their caravan. After a day’s journey, they couldn’t find Him and returned, panic-stricken, to Jerusalem. Upon discovering Him in the temple, astonishing everyone with His wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures, they scolded Him as most parents would. This was His response…
And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
Not yet a teenager, Jesus knew His identity as the Son of God. He repeated this claim many times. For example, in Matthew 16:15-17, Jesus affirmed Peter’s proclamation that He was the Son of God and then proceeded to refer to God as His Father.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
When Jesus came to Bethany after the death of Lazarus, Martha found Jesus and lamented that her brother would not have died if He would have come sooner. During their conversation, she professed her belief that He was the Son of God.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
There are many other scriptures throughout the gospels as well as the rest of the New Testament that proclaim Jesus as the Son of God (see Jesus Christ, Son of God) and, as I mentioned previously, it is for this reason His own people sought to crucify Him.
But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?”
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” (Matthew 26:63-66; see also John 5:18, Luke 22:66-71 & Mark 14:60-64)
Jesus Accepted Worship
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped
Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:31-33)
Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:38-39)
Many others fell down before Him in worship during His time on Earth and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. If you have not read through the four Gospels, now is a great time to start.
Other Indications of His Claim to Divinity
The very first verse of the Gospel of Mark recognizes Jesus as God, and a few verses later, Mark tells us of the baptism of Jesus, when
…immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:10-11)
Similarly, John begins his Gospel with a proclamation of Jesus as part of the triune God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
Then, he expands on this in verse 14…
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Matthew also has a lot to say about the divinity of Jesus very early in his writing.
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)
Finally, Luke’s gospel refers to Jesus as the Son of God twice in the first chapter alone.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
From these examples alone we can conclude that all of the Gospel writers believed that Jesus was God. However, there is so much more evidence throughout the New Testament scriptures that Jesus’ followers worshiped Him as God that, as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Consider the following.
Jesus forgave sins, as only God can do.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5-7)
Jesus said that He was Lord (i.e. master, owner) of the Sabbath.
And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)
Jesus used the title of God from the Old Testament, “I Am,” for Himself!
Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:57-59)
Jesus told His disciples that He was one with the Father.
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)
The Apostles and New Testament writers believed (and taught) that Jesus was God.
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:27-29)
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord… (2 Peter 1:1-2)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:14 & 18 ESV)
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:8-10)
Even the demons knew that Jesus was God (and trembled).
For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. (Mark 3:10-12)
As we have seen, the New Testament clearly demonstrates that not only did Jesus proclaim Himself God, but His followers from the beginning (some even before the resurrection) worshiped Him as God. Even His enemies knew exactly what He was doing and had Him killed for it. So, despite the claims of Dan Brown, Bart Erhman and others, it is not reasonable to believe that Jesus was only made into a God three or four hundred years after His death. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.
Up until the last number of years, the answer to the title question, does sex equal gender, was an obvious “YES”. However, with the success of the homosexual community’s drive for “protected class” status under the law, that same community has now moved to bring into the fold the “transgender” community. While the number of homosexuals in the population is below 5% by any measure, the transgender community is even smaller at fewer than 1%. This is not to say that merely because a group is a minority they should not be treated appropriately, but rather the amount of attention to the “issue” far exceeds the “problem”.
In order to keep money flowing to “oppressed minority” groups, the homosexual community has now (as mentioned above) co-opted a new group of people. They have enlisted the help of the psychological profession with a subtle change in the classification of the “issue” that transgenders face. Prior to the 1980s, any male or female who believed he or she was the opposite sex was classified as having a gender disorder. Now, however, that diagnosis has been officially changed to gender dysphoria. By eliminating the term “disorder” people with this problem can be considered “confused” rather than needing real help.
In truth, these people do need real help, and not the kind that includes hormone therapy to enhance a chosen gender. In fact, just the opposite. Science is clear that the sex and gender of a child at birth is the one that child will have for the remainder of his or her life, and the body will adapt itself throughout life to maintain that gender, regardless of what treatments are used.
Sadly, many of the people with gender disorder do need serious help, as many of them have experienced childhood trauma, which science indicates may lead to gender confusion. In 2008, a study by Holly Devor, PhD showed that 60% of gender disorder individuals were abused as children. The study also showed that those who suffered abuse had long-term effects of this abuse. There are other studies with similar results both among the transgender and homosexual communities. These studies show gender confusion does not come from being born in the wrong body, but develop after birth.
It is unfortunate that today’s society has chosen to glamorize the issue and to encourage those who have the gender disorder to “come out” as a sex opposite to that which they were born. Such encouragement only leads to additional life-long problems and a significantly higher suicide rate. Additionally, such encouragement has led to parents allowing their male children to begin hormone therapy to prevent the development of puberty. It is now “cool” to be a boy who dresses like a girl or visa-versa. This does not even begin to touch on the other social issues of gender choice bathrooms, locker rooms, or sports activities. All of which have begun to raise their collective “ugly heads”.
Psychologists have known for many years that this mental problem is treatable and there are doctors available to help. Particularly in young people who go through many changes in their early lives counseling and therapy are able, in most cases to solve the problem. Also, as many doctors will tell you, most children grow out of this gender disorder by the time they complete puberty.
The Bible is quite clear on this issue. In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created man in His own image; male and female he created them.” Later in Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord said, it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper fit for him”. God defined the roles for both male and female so that they would always be compatible, not interchangeable.
There is real damage to innocent children that can be done by “gender fluidity” and the blurring of roles that God established for men and women. Certainly there are times when a single parent must assume both roles, but that is not God’s plan. God’s plan is for the man to be the spiritual head of the household and the protector of the family, while the woman is to be the caregiver for the family. Both these roles are vital for the survival of the family. Neither one is less valuable than the other.
As Christians we must stand against this trend in society to promote acceptance of gender disorder. It is not now, nor has it ever been, part of God’s plan. Our own children are at risk and need our prayers and our guidance.