Greg is back from vacation and doing the broadcast tomorrow, but we're doing it early so he can get to the airport.Give him a call 1:00–3:00 p.m. PT Tuesday with your questions and comments:(855) 243-9975.
The May issue of Christianity Today features a cover story on Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Their pastor, Bill Johnson, was asked about his association with the New Apostolic Reformation. This is a movement full of theological error. Its primary doctrine is that the office of apostle is active today, that God gives special revelation to these apostles, and that the church’s effectiveness in the world is dependent on following them.
The Bible says that Christians are ambassadors for Christ. At STR, we’ve highlighted three skills an ambassador needs to develop to be effective representing our King: knowledge, wisdom, and character. I’ve been reminded recently that essential to being an ambassador is being a representative in a foreign country. For most of us in Western culture, our culture hasn’t been all that foreign to us. But it’s becoming increasingly foreign territory populated by people who speak a different language and have very different values. But that’s where ambassadors belong. This foreign land is precisely where ambassadors are meant to be representing our Sovereign.
On today’s podcast, Greg talks about an article discussing how people who object to radical changes in our society, like transgender bathrooms, are being bullied to abandon their reasonable sensibilities and objections. Tevin Wax has some good questions about this radical new theory of sexuality. If you’re challenged about your views, it might be helpful to have some of these fair questions in mind to try to engage in a respectful and useful discussion about these highly charged issues. The questions also constitute some very good reasons why we shouldn’t accept the new theory on human sexuality.
Listen to Greg Koukl and Michael Kruger discuss Herman's article.
Just in time for Holy Week – it’s just about a tradition now for Christmas and Easter – Bart Ehrman is raising the same old doubts about the New Testament documents. His conclusion is that we can’t know what really happened during the first Holy Week. The historical claims of the Gospels are unreliable.
One of Ehrman’s fundamental premises behind pretty much everything he writes is that the New Testament documents were not written by eyewitnesses. They were written very long after the events and are therefore unreliable products of oral transmission or just plain fiction.
If you learn some basic facts about the dating of the New Testament writings, you can see the problems with Erhman’s conclusions. This video by Frank Turek is a great, short explanation of evidence for the early dating of the New Testament books. There’s ample reason to believe the Gospels were written by the eyewitnesses Matthew, Mark, and John, and Luke is the investigative report of interviewed eyewitnesses.
The problems of memory and oral transmission Ehrman brings up to undermine the Gospels’ reliability are undercut when you realize that not that much time had passed when the accounts were committed to writing by the people who witnessed them. These were astounding events, which tends to burn things into memory. The events were also shared by many people, which helps support accurate memories and details. And the eyewitnesses began relaying these events to others very shortly after the resurrection. The Holy Week details were part of what they taught over and over from the beginning. And Luke interviewed many people for his account so he was able to get corroboration from various eyewitnesses.
Lee Strobel quotes A.N. Sherwin-White of Oxford in his recent article:
Is the resurrection a legend? Not a chance. A. N. Sherwin-White of Oxford said it took more than two generations of time in the ancient world for legend to develop and wipe out a solid core of historical truth. Yet we have a report of the resurrection – that Jesus appeared to named individuals and groups of eyewitnesses – which has been dated to within months of Jesus’ death.
Ehrman always sows doubt with a few issues. But looking at the scholarly evidence demonstrates that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts written within the living memories of the authors and others who lived through the events. They’re reliable accounts.
We (most of the STR office staff) just got back from seeing the movie Risen. I think it’s one of the best Christian movies I’ve seen, and it’s a movie that would be interesting (and not embarrassing) to bring a non-Christian to. There’s one omission, but it’s a significant one.
The Roman tribune Clavius is Pilate’s right hand keeping order in Jerusalem. So on Friday afternoon, Pilate sends him out to Golgotha to finish up the crucifixions taking place. He’s there to make sure everyone is dead and is surprised to find Jesus already dead.
On Saturday, Pilate calls on him to secure the tomb Jesus is buried in to appease the Jewish leaders’ concerns about His body being stolen. It’s interesting how the character of Clavius is used to walk through the evidence—the overwhelming evidence—why Jesus is dead and the tomb is secure. There’s no question a demoralized rabble is getting into that tomb.
Pilate sends him out to the tomb on Sunday to investigate how the tomb was opened and the body stolen. Clavius is an intelligent man and begins a thorough investigation. He examines the evidence at the tomb, and it can't be explained by a grave robbery. He interviews the witnesses and eventually interrogates Mary Magdalene and Bartholomew. Bartholomew has a silly smile on his face. Some of our staff thought that made him seem silly. I thought that if He’d actually seen Jesus alive after mourning his death that he would be giddy and have a smile nothing could wipe off his face. Clavius is finally confronted with incontrovertible evidence, and he’s literally stunned.
The movie doesn’t leave it inconclusive for the audience to decide. The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is about facts and reality, not subjective opinion. That’s a unique take for a movie about Jesus and, I think, one of the most significant things about this movie. It’s consistent with the Bible’s claims about the resurrection. It happened. He was physically resurrected, not a specter or spiritual presence. The reality and Clavius’ response to it aren’t left open for the audience to decide for themselves. It happened, and there’s ample rational evidence to believe that.
Early in the movie, it’s clear Clavius is a pluralist. He’s a typical Roman—there are many gods and it’s subjective which ones you pray to. Even Yahweh is one more in the pantheon, no more true or superior to the others. But what Clavius confronts in the evidence he finds is objective truth. It calls for abandoning all the other gods and following the true way. This is very similar to our own culture now. Kind of amazing that we have so much in common with the Romans. This is the Christian message—a claim about reality and truth.
I liked the disciples’ joy. That would be the response to seeing the man they loved alive again. They are changed men and not afraid of anything, ready to obey His Great Commission.
The one omission is the Gospel—the reason Jesus suffered that tortuous death and then rose to defeat death. Forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with the Father. It’s one detail, but it’s a glaring omission. The message we hear Jesus teach in the movie is love. There were a few great moments in the movie where a simple exchange of words could have conveyed Jesus’ purpose. The movie does convey that the evidence compels a decision about Jesus.
The movie goes the whole length of the course and then stumbles an inch from the finish line. But it may as well be a mile because of the significance of that omission.
It’s well worth seeing. The violence isn’t too graphic, so it’s suitable for older children. It does what so many portrayals of Jesus’ life don’t do—it deals in the realm of facts and reality. But Jesus’ message wasn’t about loving each other. It was about how great the Father’s love that He gave His only begotten Son to take the penalty of our sin so we could enjoy reconciliation with Him.
We’re headed to Alaska August 6-13, 2016. Come join Greg Koukl and Stand to Reason, along with J. Warner Wallace from Cold Case Christianity and John Stonestreet from The Chuck Colson Center, for an invigorating, revelatory adventure. You’ll study fascinating topics relevant to your faith and experience unique fellowship with kindred believers. You’ll get equipped to positively represent your faith and enjoy the magnificent Alaska coastline. We hope you’ll join us for this enriching getaway.
Crossway published a terrific little book on prayer that can have a big impact on your prayer life. Donald S. Whitney's book, Praying the Bible, is under 100 pages. It'll take no time to read, but it'll give you plenty of practical, insightful counsel on how to enrich your prayer life by praying through Bible passages. Whitney says that this is how we can learn a biblical way of praying and it provides fresh content for our prayers so that it doesn't become routine and dull. Praying the Psalms is how we learn to pray, he states. The Psalms are the Bible's prayer book so it's a particularly good place to start. Praying Scripture keeps us engaged in prayer in a more meaningful and motivating way than the routines we tend to get into.
The book (let me say again, it's under 100 pages) walks through the method so it's easy to grasp how it's done. To supplement the book, Crossway has a five-day email series of videos featuring Whitney teaching and modeling how to pray the Bible.
In a recent post, I quoted historian Rodney Stark extensively about how religions are not all the same. The different theologies of god in the world religions produce very different kinds of moral systems – some religions have no moral features at all. Consequently, monotheism, and Christianity in particular, was uniquely capable of theologies of God and humanity that made slavery incompatible with faithfulness. It was only when the Bible was corrupted by unchristian motivations that it was perverted to excuse an evil and sinful institution. From the beginning of the church, Christianity developed theology that condemned slavery. The church in the American South and other Christians throughout history who used the Bible to justify their bigotry and enslavement of human beings were the tragic exceptions to the rule. Their abuse of the Bible stood against the broad and historical understanding of what Christians believed the Bible taught about the equality and intrinsic value of every human being, not matter their race.
Antislavery doctrines began to appear in Christian theology soon after the decline of Rome and were accompanied by the eventual disappearance of slavery in all but the fringes of Christian Europe. When Europeans subsequently instituted slavery in the New World, they did so over strenuous papal opposition, a fact that was conveniently “lost” from history until recently....
Except for several early Jewish sects, Christian theology was unique in eventually developing an abolitionist perspective....
As early as the seventh century, Saint Bathilde (wife of King Clovis II) became famous for her campaign to stop slave-trading and free all slaves; in 851 Saint Anskar began his efforts to halt the Viking slave trade. That the Church willingly baptized slaves was claimed as proof that they had souls, and soon both kings and bishops—including William the Conqueror (1027–1087) and Saints Wulfstan (1009–1095) and Anselm (1033–1109)—forbade the enslavement of Christians. Since, except for small settlements of Jews, and the Vikings in the north, everyone was at least nominally a Christian, that effectively abolished slavery in medieval Europe....
The first shipload of black slaves [arrived in Portugal in the 15th century], and as black slaves began to appear farther north in Europe, a debate erupted as to the morality and legality of slavery. A consensus quickly developed that slavery was both sinful and illegal…. The principle of “free soil” spread: that slaves who entered a free country were automatically free. That principle was firmly in place in France, Holland, and Belgium by the end of the seventeenth century. Nearly a century later, in 1761, the Portuguese enacted a similar law, and an English judge applied the principle to Britain in 1772. Although exceptions involving a single slave servant or two, especially when accompanying a foreign traveler, were sometimes overlooked, “beyond a scattering of servants in Spain and Portugal, there were very few true slaves left in Western Europe by the end of the sixteenth century.” ...
The problem wasn’t that the Church failed to condemn slavery; it was that few heard and most of them did not listen....
In 1787 the Quaker-inspired Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery was headed by Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, two of the most respected and influential living Americans. Not to be outdone, many Christian groups and luminaries took up the cause of abolition, and soon abolitionist societies sprang up that were not associated with a specific denomination. But, through it all, the movement (as distinct from those it made sympathetic to the cause) was staffed by devout Christian activists, the majority of them clergy. Indeed, the most prominent clergy of the nineteenth century took leading roles in the abolition movement...
Moreover, as abolition sentiments spread, it was primarily the churches (often local congregations), not secular clubs and organizations, that issued formal statements on behalf of ending slavery. The outspoken abolitionism expressed by Northern congregations and denominational gatherings caused major schisms within leading Protestant denominations, eventuating in their separation into independent Northern and Southern organizations....
[A] virtual Who’s Who of “Enlightenment” figures fully accepted slavery…. It was not philosophers or secular intellectuals who assembled the moral indictment of slavery, but the very people they held in such contempt: men and women having intense Christian faith, who opposed slavery because it was a sin.