Can You Argue Someone into the Kingdom? by Alan Shlemon: “Sometimes when a person discovers I teach apologetics, they say, 'You can’t argue someone into the Kingdom.' As a professional apologist who makes arguments and teaches others how to argue…I wholeheartedly agree. That’s right, you can’t argue someone into the Kingdom. Guess what? You can’t love someone into the Kingdom either. You can’t serve enough, preach enough, or pray enough to get someone into the Kingdom. That’s because whether or not someone trusts Christ is not dependent upon us. It’s up to God. The Holy Spirit is the One who draws people to Himself. God is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).” (Read more.)
When the Problem of Evil Gets Personal by Brett Kunkle: “April was suffering emotionally from the loss of her mother. Her death had damaged April’s trust in the Lord. The last six months had been filled with grief, questioning, and now April was slipping into bitterness. The problem of evil was no longer a philosophical puzzle, but an intensely personal trial. April was in agony. What does one do in that situation? How should we answer?” (Read more.)
Belief in God, Evidence, and the Human Heart by Tim Barnett: “The famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say to God if he found himself standing before Him after his death. Russell replied, “I probably would ask, ‘Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?’” For Russell, it all came down to the evidence. The implication here is that given enough evidence, Russell would have believed. But is it really that simple? Does belief in God merely depend on evidence?” (Read more.)
We all need to meditate more on the love of God—especially now. By “meditation,” I don’t mean what people in our culture usually mean by that word. Christian meditation isn’t an emptying of the mind but a filling of the mind with truth. Here’s how Tim Keller describes it in his book Prayer:
Meditation is likened to tree roots taking in water [in Psalm 1]. That means not merely knowing a truth but taking it inside and making it part of yourself. Meditation is spiritually “tasting” the Scripture—delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually “digesting” the Scripture—applying it, thinking out how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture, letting it give you hope, using it to remember how loved you are. To shift metaphors, meditation is taking the truth down into our hearts until it catches fire there and begins to melt and shape our reactions to God, ourselves, and the world. [See here for more from Tim Keller on Christian meditation.]
With that definition in mind, listen to these wise words from Trevin Wax on what will enable us to continue to stand when the culture opposes us:
If you fail to get this truth deep down into your heart, if you fail to recognize God’s unfailing, unchanging love for you no matter your circumstances, you will not be able to represent Him well in exile.
The only way you will ever be able to withstand the hatred of the world is if you are immersed in the love of God.
The only way you will ever be able to live without the approval of others is if you are assured of God’s approval of you in Christ.
The only way you can stand against the world when everyone is jeering you is when you know God is there, cheering you on, calling you His beloved child.
Unless we are overcome by the love of God, we will be overcome by the fear of man.
How can you meditate on the love of God? First, read the Bible. You can’t mediate on the love of God if you haven’t seen the love of God. Think about the events God brought about from Creation until today in order to bring about the redemption of His people. Think of Jesus’ life and death on the cross for us. Read about your union with Christ. Memorize Ephesians 1–2 to see how God, in His grace and through the “kind intention of His will,” brought you to Himself. Recount the ways He has provided for you in the past, and thank Him for each one.
Immerse yourself in the truth of God’s love, let it take root in you, and then stand.
The Bible suggests that Jesus rose from the dead and made appearances to hundreds of people before ascending into heaven. It is unlikely that this would have escaped the notice of Herod and Pilate and the vast majority of the Roman occupiers, not to mention the Jews, who would have either directly witnessed this amazing phenomenon or heard about it from credible sources. This would have provided proof that Jesus was a divine being, prompting Herod and Pilate to convert along with the Romans and the Jews, with Christianity then becoming the official religion of Judea.
Obviously, this did not happen, and the fact that it didn’t suggests strongly that Jesus did not rise from the dead.
How would you respond to this challenge? Perhaps answering this needs more of a knowledge of human nature than anything else! Give us your answer below, and Alan will post his answer on Thursday.
As I wrote earlier this year, an experience of suffering can be very disorienting to Christians who are trusting God to protect them from pain. This is not the kind of trust God has called us to have, and though most of us know this intellectually, I think this is something that has to be learned through experience. What will you cling to when your hopes for God’s provision seem to fail? What does it really mean to trust in God’s provision? You will struggle with these questions.
The last line of this quote from Kevin DeYoung’s The Good News We Almost Forgot is a crucial truth you need to learn as a Christian. Either suffering will teach this to you, or suffering will drive you away from God:
All of this theology is moving us to trust. Because God created everything out of nothing, and because He still sustains His creation by His providence, and because the God who did and does all this is our Father by virtue of our union with Christ—because of all this, we can count on our God.
He will turn to good whatever adversity He sends me. The Bible is not naïve about suffering. Trusting in God’s provision does not mean we expect to float to heaven on flowery beds of ease. This is a “sad world” we live in, one in which God not only allows trouble but at times sends adversity to us. Trust, therefore, does not mean hoping for the absence of pain but believing in the purpose of pain.
Keep repeating that last sentence to yourself until it reshapes your soul’s expectations, enabling you to focus your trust on something solid and unshakeable: God’s goodness, sovereignty, and love for you through purposeful pain.
When I say Christianity is true, I’m not merely saying it’s meaningful to me personally, I’m saying it accurately represents the truth about reality. And there’s nothing more central to Christianity than the idea that Jesus died on the cross, removing the guilt that separated us from our perfect God by taking the punishment we deserved on Himself, and was resurrected, restoring us to a joyful relationship with God who is the very standard of goodness, truth, and beauty.
No resurrection, no Christianity.
Where does this leave the truth seeker? Fortunately, though miracles have a supernatural cause, the evidence of the effect is available for our scrutiny just as the evidence for any historical event is available to us, and so I offer this brief outline of an argument:
1. The disciples and early Christians believed in an actual, physical resurrection, according to the first-century historical evidence.
(Please note that at this point, I’m only arguing for what the disciples believed, not for whether or not it’s true.) Consider what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14 (his first-century authorship is generally uncontested): “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Both the context of this passage and the Jewish concept of resurrection support the idea that Paul was referring to a bodily resurrection and not merely a “spiritual” one. (See also “Acts Points to a Physical Resurrection.”)
So the Christians considered the resurrection to be an actual, bodily event that was central to their faith. Indeed, as Paul asserts, without that resurrection there is no faith.
2. The resurrection was central to Christian teaching early on and was not a later addition.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now....
The technical phrase “for I delivered to you...what I also received,” along with the phrases “and that...and that...and that” indicate, according to the conventions of the time, that Paul is reciting a creed and this is not his original writing. This creed places the atonement and the resurrection at the center of the Christian faith and is not Pauline material. In fact, it can be traced back to within a few years of Jesus—probably to the ministry of Peter and James, who are mentioned specifically in the creed (James is mentioned in v. 7).
If the crucifixion happened in AD 33, Paul’s conversion happened in approximately AD 36-38. Three years later (39-41), he went to Jerusalem and met with Peter and James (see Galatians 1:18-19), so it’s probable that when they discussed the gospel then, this creed was passed on to Paul. (The fact that Peter and James are mentioned specifically in the creed indicates it probably came from their area.) Since the creed was already formulated when it was given to Paul, this means it dates back to earlier than AD 39-41. And of course, the beliefs that inspired the creed predate even the creed. Again, this time frame is accepted by critics and Christians alike. Some date the creed even earlier.
3. The disciples experienced something.
You must agree that the disciples experienced something. Whatever that something was, it changed them from a group of people who deserted Jesus and began to disperse after His death to bold proclaimers of His resurrection.
What happened to change their minds? They claimed it was seeing the resurrected Jesus. Were they trying to perpetrate a hoax? This is extremely unlikely, for nobody would go through torture and death (as most of them did) for something they knew to be a lie. So the disciples were convinced. Were they fooled by someone or something, or did Jesus actually rise from the dead?
4. Naturalistic explanations fail.
Different naturalistic explanations have been offered to explain the disciples’ experience. Those explanations have either been debunked or do not explain the evidence as adequately as does the resurrection. For example:
“Jesus faked His death (or fainted), and did not really die on the cross.” This theory is impossible since if a man were to only pretend to be dead on a cross, he would have to discontinue pushing himself up and down—the action enabling him to breathe. However, as soon as he did that, he would, of course, not be able to breathe and would be dead anyway.
“The disciples [or some other party] stole the body.” We are back now to the idea that the disciples sincerely believed the resurrection to be true, so it’s highly unlikely they stole the body. Additionally, had anyone else stolen the body (the Jews or the Romans), they (the body-stealers) could have easily produced a body and put an end to the unrest that was resulting from the birth of the church. This church had its start in Jerusalem where critics had a reason to stop it and the means by which to do so if any body still existed. They did not produce a body, and the church continued to grow.
The other contending naturalistic explanations likewise fail to sufficiently account for the available historical data (see here and here for responses to the hallucination hypothesis). Instead, the weight of the evidence lies with the resurrection, and rational people should always side with the weight of the evidence—even if they don’t like what they find there.
(For more information, see the work of Gary Habermas or this book by an Orthodox Jewish man who, though he has a different idea about the meaning of the resurrection, is convinced by the evidence it actually occurred in history.)