Archive for April, 2009

Torn between Life and Death

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Image result for photo death public domain

By Spencer D Gear

Why is it that many of us will do many things to live longer but others want to end life now?

We go on diets to reduce the strain on our hearts and the cholesterol from the fatty foods that we eat.

A recent study in the USA found that if people want to be healthy and live longer, they should consume less red and processed meat.[1]

The research of half a million American middle-aged and elderly people who consumed four ounces of red meat a day (an amount equivalent to a small hamburger), found that there was a 30% higher chance that they would die in the next 10 years.

Most of these would die of heart disease and cancer. The risk was increased through eating sausage, cold meats and other processed meats.

But this desire to try to avoid death, is also seen in some treatments of cancer. In spite of severe side effects of chemotherapy, such as fever, chills & sweats, abnormal bleeding, severe vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, patients want to live longer to spend more time with their relatives and friends.

Why is it that we have this love of life and need to prolong the date of death? Could it be connected with our culture’s deep fear of death?

“I want to be with my loved ones who have gone before, but I’m not sure about that,” are among the comments I hear.

For others, life has become a burden and ending life sooner than later sounds like a good release. The euthanasia movement in Australia, Europe and the USA is pushing this line. “To die with dignity” sounds like a reasonable and responsible way of thinking until one sees how euthanasia is happening in countries such as Holland.

The recent series of articles in The Times (UK) demonstrates this continuing push for euthanasia and assisted suicide.[2] The Dutch experience shows that this push will not be limited to the terminally ill. After a three year inquiry, the Dutch Medical Association (as reported in the British Medical Journal) wants more freedom to kill. The report stated that “doctors can help patients who ask for help to die even though they may not be ill but ‘suffering through living.'”[3]

Some experience this ambivalence: Extend life as much as possible but end life if it becomes unbearable.

This is where the Easter message of the resurrected Christ has particular application. We do not have to guess about what happens at death. Here there is an opportunity of knowing why life must end and what lies beyond the grave. The physical resurrection of all human beings after death is firmly grounded in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Jesus Christ himself affirms this. After raising a man the dead, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”[4]

He demonstrated the reality of this through his own resurrection from the dead, which was a turning point in human history.

Because of Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead, there is a solid biblical, theological and historical basis for the belief that the souls of both believers and unbelievers survive death and will be raised again.

There is no reason for the believers in Christ to fear death as they are eternally redeemed. Are those who push for euthanasia certain of the destiny of those for whom they push for “death with dignity”?

 

Notes:

[1] Rob Stein, The Washington Post, 24 March 2009, “Daily red meat raises chances of dying early,” available from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/23/AR2009032301626.html [4 April 2009].

[2] A. C. Grayling, The Times (UK), 31 March 2009, “Allowing people to arrange their death is a simple act of kindness”, available from: Timesonline at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6005023.ece [3 April 2009]. See other euthanasia & assisted suicide stories linked to this article.

[3] Tony Sheldon, British Medical Journal News roundup, Extract, 18 January 2005, “Dutch euthanasia law should apply to patients ‘suffering through living’ report says,” available from: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/330/7482/61 [4 April 2009]. Sheldon’s full article may be viewed at: http://www.lists.opn.org/pipermail/right-to-die_lists.opn.org/2005-January/000555.html [4 April 2009]. I was alerted to this information by Weblog: Christianity Today, “Dutch doctors want to kill the healthy,” 13 March 2006, available from: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/januaryweb-only/51.0.html [4 April 2009].

[4] John 11:25-26.

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Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

Monday, April 27th, 2009

 Open Bible 2

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This is part 4 of a 4 part series.  See:

Flower11Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

Flower11Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

Flower11Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

A. Introduction

Josh McDowell relates what happened after a ‘free-speech’ lecture outdoors at a university. A professor approached him (he had brought his literature class with him) and said,

“Mr. McDowell, you are basing all your claims about Christ on a second century document that is obsolete. I showed in class today how the New Testament was written so long after Christ that it could not be accurate in what it recorded.”

Josh replied, “Your opinions or conclusions about the New Testament are twenty-five years out of date”.[1]

This professor was basing his opinions on the conclusions of German critic, F.C. Baur, who assumed that much of the N.T. was not written until late in the second century A.D.

However, 20th century archaeology has confirmed the accuracy of the N.T. manuscripts as FIRST CENTURY documents.

B. Some of the main N.T. manuscripts

In this final part of the series, I want to mention some of the main N.T. MSS that have been found along with endorsement from substantial historical and archaeological authorities.

¨The John Rylands papyrus fragment (in John Rylands Library, Manchester, England) was a significant find. It is the earliest known copy of any portion of the N.T. It dates from the first half of the second century, probably A.D.117-138. Written on both sides, it contains portions of 5 verses of John’s Gospel (18:31-33, 37-38). Although it’s only a small fragment, it has proved to be the closest and most valuable link in the chain of transmission. It tends to confirm the traditional date for the composition of John, before the end of the first century. [See photographs in Norman Geisler & William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 388]

  •  The Bodmer Papyri (in Library of World Literature at Calagny, near Geneva) dates from about A.D. 200 or earlier. It contains 104 leaves of the Gospel of John 1:1-6:11; 6:35b-14:26 and fragments of 40 other pages, John 14-21.
  •  The Chester Beatty Papyri (in Beatty Museum near Dublin) consists of three codices and contains most of the N.T. It dates from about A.D. 250 or later. The University of Michigan owns (30 leaves.)[2]

We must not miss the two major MSS:

(1) Codex Vaticanus (B), dated about 325-350 [a codex is a book form on parchment or vellum (writing material made from animal skins)]. It contains most of the Septuagint (LXX) of O.T., most of the N.T., and the Apocrypha with some exclusions. It’s housed in the Vatican Library.

(2) Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), dated about 340. Regarded as “the most important witness to the text because of its antiquity, accuracy and lack of omissions.”[3] It contains half of O.T., O.T Apocrypha, all of the N.T. except Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; Epistle of Barnabas and large portion of Shepherd of Hermas. In 1933, British Government purchased it (from Russia) for 100,000 pounds for the British Museum.

(3) Codex Bezae (about 450 or 550) is the oldest known bilingual manuscript of the N.T. Written in both Greek and Latin. Contains 4 gospels, Acts, 3 John 11-15, with some omissions. It is in the Cambridge University Library.

C. What are the experts saying NOW?

Millar Burrows of Yale University says:

“Another result of comparing New Testament Greek with the language of the papyri [discoveries] is an increase of confidence in the accurate transmission of the text of the New Testament itself.”[4]

William Albright, who was the world’s foremost biblical archaeologist when he wrote this:

“We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about AD 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics today.”[5]

He explains further:

“In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably some time between A.D. 50 and 75).”[6]

Sir William Ramsay is regarded by many as one of the greatest archaeologists of all time.

“He was a student of the German historical school that taught that the Book of Acts was a product of the mid-second century A.D. and not the first century as it purports to be. After reading modern criticism about the Book of Acts, he became convinced that it was not a trustworthy account of the facts of that time (A.D. 50) and therefore was unworthy of consideration by a historian. So in his research on the history of Asia Minor, Ramsay paid little attention to the New Testament. His investigation, however, eventually compelled him to consider the writings of Luke. He observed the meticulous accuracy of the historical details, and gradually his attitude towards the Book of Acts began to change.”[7]

Sir William Ramsay concluded:

“Luke is a historian of the first rank… This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[8]

Josh McDowell says that “because of the accuracy of the most minute detail, Ramsay finally conceded that Acts could not be a second-century document but was rather a mid-first-century account.”[9]

Even theologically liberal scholar, Dr. John A.T. Robinson came to the amazing conclusion that the whole of the New Testament was written before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”[10]

Professor of ancient history, Paul L. Maier, writes:

“Arguments that Christianity hatched its Easter myth over a lengthy period of time or that the sources were written many years after the event are simply not factual.”[11]

Professor Simon Greenleaf of Harvard University was one of the greatest authorities in the nineteenth-century on the law of evidence in the common-law world. He

“applied to these records [the Gospels] the ‘ancient documents’ rule: ancient documents will be received as competent evidence if they are ‘fair on their face’ (ie. offer no internal evidence of tampering) and have been maintained in ‘reasonable custody’ (ie. their preservation has been consistent with their content). He concluded that the competence of the New Testament documents would be established in any court of law“[12]

D. Testing the Bible and ANY other piece of literature from history

To show that the Bible is an accurate and trustworthy book, I submitted for  your consideration three tests:

  • First: T –The Transmission Test,
  • Second: I – The Internal Evidence Test,
  • Third: E – The External Evidence Test.

There is a fourth: S: The Spirit of Conviction from the Holy Spirit of God.

E. A BRIEF test of the Muslim’s Qur’an: Subjecting the Quran to the T.I.E.S. test

The Quran says that it is “infallible” [2:2] and “inspired.”

1. The Transmission Test

We run into unique difficulties when we submit the Quran to the “Transmission Test.” We can find stacks of manuscripts for the Bible, or parts of manuscripts, dating back to the second century after Christ. Muhammed lived from ca. A.D. 570-632.

“Although a standard Muslim claim says the Quran has no textual variations, this is in fact incorrect. No one original manuscript of the Quran ever existed, since Muhammed (c. 570-632 A.D.) didn’t write any of it. Instead various followers wrote scattered revelations on whatever material came to hand, including pieces of papyrus, tree bark, palm leaves and mats, stones, the ribs and shoulder blades of animals, etc. Otherwise, they memorized them. These [kinds of][14] materials were susceptible to loss: Ali Dashti, a Islamic statesman, said animals sometimes ate mats or the palm leaves on which Suras (chapters of the Quran) were written! After his death, Muhammad’s revelations were gathered together to eliminate the chaos. . . .

To solve the problems of conflicting memories and possibly lost or varying written materials, Caliph Uthman (ruled 644-56) had the text of the Quran forcibly standardized. He commanded manuscripts with alternative readings to be burned. But he didn’t fully succeed, since variations are still known to have existed and some still do. The Sura Al-Saff had 200 verses in the days of Muhammad’s later wife Ayesha, but Uthman’s version had only 52.

[Robert] Morey says Shiite Muslims claim Uthman cut out a quarter of the Quran’s verses for political reasons. In his manuscript of the Quran, Ubai had a few Suras that Uthman omitted from the standardized version. Arthur Jeffrey, in his Materials for the History of the Text of the Quran, gives 90 pages of variant readings for the Quran’s text, finding 140 alone for Sura 2.[15]

The major problem with the Transmission Test for the Quran is that the Muslims are not interested in it. Allah revealed it to Muhammed and that’s good enough for them. They argue in circles:

Muslim: Muhammed was the prophet of God.

I ask: Why is this true?

Muslim: The Quran says so.

I ask: Why is the Quran true?

Muslim: Muhammed was the prophet of God.

I ask: Why is this true?

Muslim: Because the Quran says so.

I ask: But why is the Quran true?

Muslim: The Quran is without error.[16]

2. The Internal Evidence Test

This yields more fruitful information. The Quran claims it is [17]free from error, infallible [Sura 2:2][18] It claims that it Consummates All Scriptures[19] and is a continuation of the Bible.[20]

But look what we find?

a. Internal self-contradictions

The Quran claims that it is consistent and without ambiguity (Sura 39:23, 28).[21] BUT we find FOUR different versions (conflicting accounts) of how Muhammed received the Quran.[22] Muhammed says, “[53:4] It was divine inspiration.”

1. In Sura 53:2-18 and 81:19-24, Allah came to Muhammed in the form of a man with the message of the Quran.[23]

2. Sura 16:102 says it was the Holy Spirit who came to Muhammed with the message.[24]

3. Sura 15:8 says that the angels came down to Muhammed.[25]

4. The most popular version is that the angel Gabriel delivered the Quran to Muhammed (Sura 2:97).[26]

Which one was it? You can’t have infallibility, consistency, without ambiguity, and 4 different accounts of how Muhammed received the Quran.

b. Within the Quran you will find examples of:

  • Convenient revelations.

“When Muhammed wanted his son-in-law’s wife, he suddenly got a revelation from Allah” declaring it was OK. Sura 33:36-38[27]

  • Legendary Materials;[28]
  • Arabian Sources;[29]
  • Jewish Sources;[30]
  • Heretical Christian sources — Gnostic gospels and their fables.

He has the baby Jesus speaking from the cradle, and Jesus making clay birds come alive (Sura 3:49; 100:110).[31]

  • Eastern religious sources;[32]

There are major contradictions internally in the Quran.

3. The External Evidence Test

This is where we encounter major problems and I have only the time to give you the tip of the iceberg.

a. Errors in the Quran

  • How many days of creation? Eight days (Sura 41:9-10, 12) — 4 days + 2 days + 2 days = 8 days.[33] The Bible says 6 days according to Gen. 1:31 and Ex. 20:11
  • BUT, the Quran ALSO says creation took place in 6 days: [Sura 7:54][34]
  • One of Noah’s son’s perished in the Great Flood (Sura 11:42-43)[35]

The Bible says that all 3 of Noah’s sons went into the Ark and were saved from the Flood (see Gen. 7:1, 7, 13).

  • The Quran says that Noah’s Ark came to rest on the hills of Judea (Sura 11:44). The Bible says Mr. Ararat (Asia Minor, in Eastern Turkey), Gen. 8:4.
  • Many mistakes about Abraham[36]
  • The Quran says his father’s name was Azar [Sura 6:74][37] The Bible says it was Terah (Gen. 11:27)
  • It was his son, Isaac, that Abraham went to sacrifice, but the Quran says that it was Ishmail [Sura 37:100-112].[38]
  • Mistakes about Bible characters.

The Quran “refers to Goliath as Jalut, Korah as Karun, Saul as Talut, Enoch as Idris, Ezekiel as Dhu’l-Khifl, John the Baptist as Yahya, Jonah as Yunus, etc. Muhammed did not have access to the Bible because an Arabic translation of the Bible was not in existence at that time.”[39]

Mistakes about Mary, the mother of Jesus Concerning The Birth of Jesus, the Quran reads:

[19:22] When she bore him, she isolated herself to a faraway place.

[19:23] The birth process came to her by the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “(I am so ashamed;) I wish I were dead before this happened, and completely forgotten.”

[19:24] (The infant) called her from beneath her, saying, “Do not grieve. Your Lord has provided you with a stream.”

[19:25] “If you shake the trunk of this palm tree, it will drop ripe dates for you.”

  • Mistakes from secular history:

In Sura 105, “Muhammed claimed that the elephant army of Abrah was defeated by birds dropping stones of baked clay upon them.”[40],[41]

BUT, “according to the historical record, Abrah’s army withdrew [its] attack on Mecca after small-pox broke out among the troops.”[42]

  • Scientific problems

The sun setting in the ocean and found people there” [18:86][43]

  • Mistakes about Jesus:
Jesus was NOT the son of God, Messiah (Sura 5:17);[44]

To say that Jesus was the son of God was to utter a blasphemy (Sura 9:30);[45]

Jesus was not crucified (Sura 4:157);[46]

He was NOT fully God and fully human. He was just a messenger and his mother, Mary, was a saint (Sura 5:75);[47]

“The utter contradiction between the biblical and quranic view of Jesus cannot be dismissed easily.”[48]

What can we conclude about the Quran?[49]

1. Devoted Muslims believe that the doctrines of Islam came from Allah and have a heavenly source;

2. Middle Eastern scholars have shown that the rituals and beliefs of Islam were there in Arabian culture BEFORE Muhammed had his supposed revelations.

3. Muhammed didn’t preach anything new. “Even the idea of ‘only one God’ was borrowed from the Jews and the Christians.[50]

4. This means that the religion of Islam is not revealed from heaven as it claims, but is an invented religion.

5. “Western scholars have concluded that Allah is not God, Muhammed was not his prophet and the Quran is not the Word of God.”[51]

If you want further information comparing the Bible and the Quran, I’d recommend these references:

1. “The Bible and the Qur’an: An Historical Comparison,” available at http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/bib-qur/contents.htm (Accessed June 23, 2002)

2. “Is the Quran the Word of God?” available at: http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/debate/debate.htm (This is an excellent one by Jay Smith, Hyde Park Christian Fellowship, London, who has debated Muslims and has an active ministry among Muslims.)

3. The book, Islam Unveiled: The True Desert Storm, Robert A. Morey. Shermans Dale, PA: The Scholars Press, 1991.

For people to accept the Bible’s evidences, I put to you that there is a fourth dynamic, rather than a test.

F. Fourth Dynamic

“S” for the Spirit of Conviction from the Holy Spirit of God

Go to the Bible and what do you find?

Ephesians 4:17-19: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

  • The non-Christians are futile in their thinking;
  • They are darkened in their thinking;
  • Because of their ignorance, they are separated from the life of God;
  • A life of no sensitivity, sensuality, impurity, lust is their lifestyle. [Sounds like the rebels and abusers I deal with daily in my counselling work.]

What is it going to take to get these people interested in what the Word of God says about them, life abundantly in the here and now, and eternal life?

I Corinthians 2:14 gives some profound answers:

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

What is the Bible saying? Unless God opens the eyes of the unbelievers by His Spirit, the Word of God will be foolishness to them. They will not understand the Word. As we witness, as we share about the trustworthiness of the Word of God, we MUST pray that God will open the eyes of the unbeliever by the Holy Spirit.

I Cor. 12:3 says: “. . . no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (NIV).

This led John Calvin to write:

“The Word of God is like the sun, shining upon all those to whom it is proclaimed, but with no effect among the blind. Now, all of us are blind by nature in this respect. Accordingly, it cannot penetrate into our minds unless the Spirit, as the inner teacher, through his illumination makes entry for it. . . Christ, when he illumines us into faith by the power of his Spirit, at the same time so engrafts us into his body that we become partakers of every good.”[52]

G. Where does this lead to?

Josh McDowell concludes, and I enthusiastically agree with him: There is “more evidence for the reliability of the N.T. than for almost any ten pieces of classical literature put together.”[53]

Let’s revisit and example I gave at the beginning of this 4-part series:

I said that I believe that the Bible is completely true. It is without error in all that it affirms. Not just in matters of faith and practice. If it speaks about history, science, counselling, marriage, family, sex, the nature of human beings, the nature of society, what’s wrong with our world, how to fix our country and the world, etc. — it gives us the truth about all of these matters. I believe that the Bible is without error in everything that it affirms.

You might ask, “But surely you’re not referring to translations such as the King James Version, the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, etc.? You must be referring to the original manuscripts of the Bible and NOT modern translations.”

I say, “You are correct. I am referring to the originals. Scribes and translators have introduced some variations into later versions.”

You are justified in responding: “We don’t have the originals. You are convinced that some Bible documents that you have never seen (some hypothetical documents), some NT documents that NOBODY has seen for 2,000 years, are completely truthful. Sounds like you are living in fantasyland. Maybe the Mental Health Unit is the place for you.”[54]

How can I possibly state that the original MSS which I have never seen and nobody has EVER seen for about 2,000 years can possibly be true in everything that they affirm?

I trust that the answer to my statements has become clearer. We can reproduce the content of the originals on the basis of excellent MSS evidence. Evidence that is so good that it leaves the other MSS from history for dead. The evidence is outstanding.

Many people have developed arguments against the excellent Bible MSS that they would NOT raise concerning any other document from history.

Surely we are entitled to discuss things that we have never seen first-hand. I have never seen our Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Must I, therefore, assume that Kevin does not exist and that I cannot assess his policies.

I have never seen an atom, or black holes in the universe, or music on a tape, or the wind, or the life principle within me, etc.  I have never seen my own brain or anybody else’s brain.  Does that mean these do not exist?

All we are asking as believers in the Bible, is to use the standard methods for establishing the reality of any MSS from history and then evaluate those MSS. Surely you and I are entitled to evaluate these MSS. That is all I am asking for in evaluating the MSS of the Bible.[55]

Do you realise that even if we did not have such excellent MSS evidence, we could construct

“Almost the entire New Testament from quotations in the church fathers of the second and third centuries. Only eleven verses are missing, mostly from 2 and 3 John. Even if all the copies of the New Testament had been burned at the end of the third century, we could have known virtually all of it by studying these writings” from the early church leaders.[56]

Some believers back off from stating the teaching that the Bible is without error in all that it affirms (inerrancy) because they think it is unprovable when we don’t have the original inspired writings and this doctrine only applies to the original documents.

I enthusiastically support the conclusion of Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks:

“If we can be this certain of the text of the New Testament and have an Old Testament that has not changed in 2,000 years, then we don’t need the originals to know what they said. The text of our modern Bibles is so close to the original text that we can have every confidence that what it teaches is truth.”[57]

Let’s conclude:

  • I have not been able to find any Bible verse that says that we MUST have a pure text of the Bible down through history;
  • There’s a pile of evidence to show that the Bibles we have today, even translations, are “extremely close to the original, inspired manuscripts that the prophets and apostles wrote.”[58] We have excellent evidence to show that the Bibles of today represent the original MSS “with a very high degree of accuracy, like no other book from the ancient world.”[59]
  • “Such reliability helps support [my] claim that the Bible is valuable as a historical account as well as a revelation from God.”[60]
  • We can say with confidence: The Bible is God’s Word;
  • This teaching comes with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself. (I haven’t had the time to expound on that teaching);
  • Jesus confirmed the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament and the promised New Testament.

Of the OT, Jesus said in John 10:35 that it is the “Word of God . . . and Scripture cannot be broken” (ESV). Luke 16:17 (ESV), “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”

Of the soon to be written NT, Jesus said: John 14:26 (ESV), “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” [See also John 16:13.]

“If Jesus, who is God in the flesh and always spoke the truth, said that the Old Testament was the Word of God and that the New Testament would be written by His apostles and prophets as the sole authorized agents for His message, then our entire Bible is proven to be from God. We have it on the best of authority — Jesus Christ Himself.”[61]

  • Jesus and the apostles gave evidence that the Bible is without error (inerrant) in what it teaches about all matters;
  • This is even “down to the tenses of verbs and the very last letters of words”;[62]
  • The Bible you read in English today is God speaking to you.[63]

According to Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Jesus was very clear:

  • One day you will give an account for your life;
  • On that day, the crucial question will be, “What place did the REAL Jesus have in your life?”
  • If what Jesus said is not true, if 80% of what he said was made up by the early church and didn’t even come from the mouth of Jesus;
  • Then the sooner we conduct the funeral for Christianity the better;
  • Down through the centuries, many have tried to do that and millions would like to do that today;
  • If the words of Jesus are not true, we might as well bring pokies into the church buildings; make our auditoriums into bingo halls;
  • Put the Bible into the museum;
  • Christian workers, pastors, missionaries should STOP wasting their time;

HOWEVER, since Christ’s teaching is the truth, the Bible is reliable and trustworthy Word of God, we must take a very different view.The REAL Jesus, who lives in you and me and in the church, is the one who radically changes lives. He’s the Jesus of history, who is the SAME as the Jesus of faith.

There is a radical answer to those who come to see me who are rebels, destroying themselves and their families;

There’s a profound answer for the sexually abused, the drug addicted and the blasphemers;

There is NEW LIFE in Jesus Christ – radical new life.

We must KNOW and proclaim REAL Christianity and not that of radical, liberal heretics who only want us to believe 18% of what Jesus said.

I have presented what I believe are some solid reasons for accepting the Bible as a thoroughly trustworthy and reliable book from God to us. Some of you might have thought I was too intellectual. But please remember: God does not promise to reveal himself to us to satisfy intellectual curiosity. If you want to justify your unbelief, you will NEVER discover the God who is real, the Bible that is trustworthy, and the Christ of the cross who is the resurrected Lord.[64]

Conclusion

Dr Jim Kennedy tells the story of

  • We should stop the persecution of Christians immediately because this Christianity is a FAKE.

“The man who fell off a cliff, and on his way down, he managed to grab a limb sticking out from the side of the earthen wall. He wasn’t a praying man, but he called out to God anyway and asked for help. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Just believe — and let go.’ He hesitated for a moment and then said, ‘Uh, is there anybody else up there?’

“The Christian faith doesn’t operate that way. It’s not a matter of looking for a God who requires the least of us or who simply sounds the best of all the choices. Our faith is rational and reasonable. It’s based on well-grounded facts of history. The apostle Peter sums it up by saying, ‘We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty’(2 Peter 1:16).”[65]

Please remember: It is only God by his Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of the blind.

An unknown Christian said:

“This Book [the Bible] is the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable [i.e. unchangeable]. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s character. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. Follow its precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected life in Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity.”

“One measure of your love for God is your love for God’s Word”[66]

Appendix

A criticism that is often made against the Bible is that Christians argue in circles. The charge goes like this: Christians claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and to prove it, they quote a passage from the Bible that says so.

This kind of argumentation is known as begging the question or circular reasoning. Nothing is proved by it. It is based on assuming something is true, but using that assumption as fact to prove another assumption.

But there is no need to do this. Instead of assuming the Bible to be the Word of God, we can begin by:

1. Demonstrating that the Scriptures are reliable historical documents.

2. In these documents, Jesus claims to be God in human flesh, and he bases His claim on His forthcoming resurrection.

3. We examine the evidence for the resurrection in this historic document and find that the arguments overwhelmingly support the fact that Christ actually rose from the dead. This demonstrates that He is the unique Son of God, that He claimed to be. If He is God, then He speaks with authority on all matters.

4. Since Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17,18; 15:1-4) and the soon-to-be written New Testament.

[Jesus “promised His disciples, who either wrote or had control over the writing of the New Testament books, that the Holy Spirit would bring all things back to their remembrance (John 14:26).” So,

“we can insist, with sound and accurate logic, that the Bible is God’s word. This is not circular reasoning. It is establishing certain facts and basing conclusions on the sound logical outcome of these facts. The case for Christianity can be established by ordinary means of historical investigation.”[67]]

Note: The above 4 points are an abbreviated version taken from John W. Montgomery’s points for the “crux validation” of the New Testament:

1. On the basis of accepted principles of textual and historical analysis, the Gospel records are found to be trustworthy historical documents — primary source evidence for the life of Christ,

2. In these records, Jesus exercises divine prerogatives and claims to be God in human flesh; and He rests His claims on His forthcoming resurrection.

3. In all four Gospels, Christ’s bodily resurrection is described in minute detail; Christ’s resurrection evidences His deity.

4. The fact of the resurrection cannot be discounted on a priori, philosophical grounds; miracles are impossible only if one so defines them — but such definition rules out proper historical investigation.

5. If Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament and of the soon-to-be-written New Testament.[68]

Notes

[1] Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, pp. 41-42. Now available online at: http://www.blufftonchurch.com/Josh-McDowell-More-Than-A-Carpenter.htm (ch 4, ‘Are the Biblical Records Reliable?’)

[2] The above details are from Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible: Revised and Expanded. Chicago: Moody Press, 1968 [1986], pp 388-391.

[3] Ibid., p. 392.

[4] Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones. New York: Meridian Books, 1956, p. 52, in Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, p. 42.

[5] William F. Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1955, p. 136, in McDowell, ibid..

[6] William F. Albright, Christianity Today, Vol. 7, January 18, 1963, p. 3, in McDowell, ibid., p. 43.

[7] McDowell, ibid.

[8] Sir William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915, p. 222, in McDowell, ibid.

[9] McDowell, loc cit.

[10] Paraphrase of John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament. London: SCM Press, 1976, by McDowell, ibid., 43-44.

[11] Paul L. Maier, First Easter: The True and Unfamiliar Story. New York: Harper and Row, 1973), p. 122, in McDowell, ibid., p. 45.

[12] John Warwick Montgomery, Human Rights and Human Dignity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986, p.137, emphasis added. The full details are in Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984. The article, “The Testimony of the Evangelists” by Simon Greenleaf is in Montgomery, The Law Above the Law, Appendix, pp. 91-140. “This article examines the testimony of the evangelists by the rules of evidence administered in courts of justice” (Montgomery, The Law…, n1, p. 149). The article is from the Soney & Sage (Newark, N.J.) edition of 1903.

[13] C. Sanders, Introduction to Research in English Literary History. New York: MacMillan Company, 1952, pp. 143 ff.

[14] The original said “disparate.”

[15] “Is the Bible the Word of God? Appendix A,” Eric V. Snow. Retrieved on June 23, 2002, from: http://www.rae.org/bibref.html

[16] Based on Robert A. Morey, Islam Unveiled. Shermans Dale, PA: The Scholars Press, 1991, pp. 126-127.

[17] Most of this information I obtained from, ibid., “A Scientific Understanding of the Quran, p.125ff.

[18] From An Authorized English Version of the Quran, translated from the original by Rashad Khalifa, Ph.D. Retrieved on June 29, 2002, from http://www.submission.org/suras/sura2.htm, “The Heifer,” 2:2, “This scripture is infallible; a beacon for the righteous.” All quotations from the Quran will be from this online edition.

[19] [2:89] When this scripture came to them [the Israelites] from GOD, and even though it agrees with, and confirms what they have . . .

[2:91] When they are told, “You shall believe in these revelations of GOD,” [the Quran] they say, “We believe only in what was sent down to us.” Thus, they disbelieve in subsequent revelations, even if it is the truth from their Lord, and even though it confirms what they have! Say, “Why then did you kill GOD’s prophets, if you were believers?”

[20] [2:136] Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters.”

[21] Sura 39:23 “GOD has revealed herein the best Hadith; a book that is consistent . .” Sura 39:28 “An Arabic Quran, without any ambiguity.”

[22] Morey, p. 141.

[23] [53:4] It was divine inspiration. [53:5] Dictated by the Most Powerful. [53:6] Possessor of all authority. From His highest height. [53:7] At the highest horizon. [53:8] He drew nearer by moving down. [53:9] Until He became as close as possible. [53:10] He then revealed to His servant what was to be revealed. [53:11] The mind never made up what it saw.

[24] “The Holy Spirit has brought it down from your Lord, truthfully, to assure those who believe, and to provide a beacon and good news for the submitters.”

[25] [15:7] “Why do you not bring down the angels, if you are truthful?”

[26] Sura 2:97: “Anyone who opposes Gabriel should know that he has brought down this (Quran) into your heart, in accordance with GOD’s will, confirming previous scriptures, and providing guidance and good news for the believers.”

[27] [33:36] No believing man or believing woman, if GOD and His messenger issue any command, has any choice regarding that command. Anyone who disobeys GOD and His messenger has gone far astray.

[33:37] Recall that you said to the one who was blessed by GOD, and blessed by you, “Keep your wife and reverence GOD,” and you hid inside yourself what GOD wished to proclaim. Thus, you feared the people, when you were supposed to fear only GOD. When Zeid was completely through with his wife, we had you marry her, in order to establish the precedent that a man may marry the divorced wife of his adopted son. GOD’s commands shall be done.

[33:38] The prophet is not committing an error by doing anything that is made lawful by GOD. Such is GOD’s system since the early generations. GOD’s command is a sacred duty.

[28] See Morey, 143.

[29] Ibid., p. 144.

[30] Ibid.

[31] [3:49] As a messenger to the Children of Israel: “I come to you with a sign from your Lord – I create for you from clay the shape of a bird, then I blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by GOD’s leave. I restore vision to the blind, heal the leprous, and I revive the dead by GOD’s leave. I can tell you what you eat, and what you store in your homes. This should be a proof for you, if you are believers.

[32] Morey, p. 147;

[33] [41:9] Say, “You disbelieve in the One who created the earth in two days, and you set up idols to rank with Him, though He is Lord of the universe.” 41:10] He placed on it stabilizers (mountains), made it productive, and He calculated its provisions in four days, to satisfy the needs of all its inhabitants. . . [41:12] Thus, He completed the seven universes in two days, and set up the laws for every universe. And we adorned the lowest universe with lamps, and placed guards around it. Such is the design of the Almighty, the Omniscient. Ibid.

[34] [Sura 7:54] “Your Lord [Allah] is the one GOD, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then assumed all authority.” [10:3] “Your only Lord is GOD; the One who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then assumed all authority.”

[35] [11:42] As it sailed with them in waves like hills, Noah called his son, who was isolated: “O my son, come ride with us; do not be with the disbelievers.” [11:43] He said, “I will take refuge on top of a hill, to protect me from the water.” He said, “Nothing can protect anyone today from GOD’s judgment; only those worthy of His mercy (will be saved).” The waves separated them, and he was among those who drowned.

[36] Morey, p. 135.

[37] [6:74] Recall that Abraham said to his father Azar, “How could you worship statues as gods? I see that you and your people have gone far astray.”

[38] [37:107] We ransomed (Ismail) by substituting an animal sacrifice.

[39] Morey, p. 137.

[40] Ibid., p. 139.

[41] [105:0] In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

[105:1] Have you noted what your Lord did to the people of the elephant? [My addition: the elephant army of Abrah.]

[105:2] Did He not cause their schemes to backfire?

[105:3] He sent upon them swarms of birds.

[105:4] That showered them with hard stones.

[105:5] He made them like chewed up hay.

[42] Morey, p. 139. His footnote reference is: Alfred Guillaume, Islam. London: Penguin Books, 1954, pp. 21f.

[43] [18:86] When he reached the far west, he found the sun setting in a vast ocean, and found people there. We said, “O Zul-Qarnain, you can rule as you wish; either punish, or be kind to them.”

[44] [5:17] Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is the Messiah, the son of Mary. Say, “Who could oppose GOD if He willed to annihilate the Messiah, son of Mary, and his mother, and everyone on earth?” To GOD belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, and everything between them. He creates whatever He wills. GOD is Omnipotent

[45] [9:30] The Jews said, “Ezra is the son of GOD,” while the Christians said, “Jesus is the son of GOD!” These are blasphemies uttered by their mouths. They thus match the blasphemies of those who have disbelieved in the past. GOD condemns them. They have surely deviated.

[46] [4:157] And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of GOD. In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him – they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him.

[47] [5:75] The Messiah, son of Mary, is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate!

[48] Morey, p. 147.

[49] Based on ibid., p. 153.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] John T. McNeill (ed.), Ford Lewis Battles (transl.). Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960, Book 3, ch. 2, No. 34 -35, pp. 582-583.

[53] McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, p. 46.

[54]This approach was suggested in Vignette 2, “The Missing Originals,” by Winfried Corduan, Reasonable Faith: Basic Christian Apologetics. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993, p.183.

[55] This solution is suggested in “Response to Vignette 2,” in ibid., pp. 203-204.

[56] Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1990, p. 160.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid., p. 157.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid., p. 144.

[62] Ibid., p. 161.

[63] These points are based on ibid., pp. 157-161, but mostly pp. 160-161.

[64] Some of these points suggested by David Watson, My God Is Real. Westchester, Illinois: Good News Publishers, 1970, p.9.

[65]D. James Kennedy, Skeptics Answered: Handling Tough Questions About the Christian Faith. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1997, p. 29.

[66] Our Daily Bread, March 11, 1987, “A Book to Be Loved.”

[67] Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions. San Bernardion, California: Here’s Life Publishers, 1980, pp. 147-148.

[68] John Warwick Montgomery, The Suicide of Christian Theology. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1970, n. 58, p. 306. Montgomery writes that this summary is based on his book, Shape of the Past, n. 26, pp. 138-39.

  • As you give reasons for the existence of God; as you show the Bible to be reliable and trustworthy, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the spiritually blind person to whom you are witnessing.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 July 2016.

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Easter and the healthy committing suicide

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

At this Easter season (2009), we are faced with a situation where the eternal consequences of death are ignored and the promotion of suicide is glorified. Those of us who have spent years trying to prevent suicide receive a lethal message from this Swiss lawyer.

Here’s the situation. There should be virtually no restrictions on helping people to commit suicide. These are the comments from human rights lawyer, Ludwig Minelli, from the Dignatas Swiss clinic that offers help to people to kill themselves. That is what Minelli told BBC radio in the UK on 2 April 2009.

This controversial comment has come from the organisation that runs a clinic in Switzerland that has assisted almost 900 people to kill themselves, about 100 of them being British. Fortunately, Swiss psychiatrists are not recommending this clinic.

The British newspaper, The Guardian (4 April), reported that Minelli saw assisted suicide as “a very good possibility to escape a situation you can’t alter.” But he went way beyond this recommendation to cold-heartedly suggest that attempted suicide makes good business sense because of its burden on the costs of health care.

“For 50 suicide attempts you have one suicide and the others are failing with heavy costs on the National Health Service,” he told the BBC. “They are terribly hurt afterwards. Sometimes you have to put them in institutions for 50 years, very costly.”

For those of us who have spent many years counselling those who are troubled by the issues of life and the family, Minelli’s kind of comment is like a kick in the guts. This lawyer is advocating that attempted suicide is such a financial burden on the health system that these people should be done away with.

Ultimately, what’s the difference in consequences between the ethics of Minelli and Hitler?

For my exposition on the deleterious consequences of euthanasia, see: “Voluntary Active Euthanasia – a compassionate solution to those in pain?”

Dignatas and the euthanasia advocates in Holland are demonstrating the slippery slope that happens when those who begin with the desire to assist suicide of the terminally ill, ends up advocating much more.

Herbert Hendin MD, Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College, and medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, stated in 1995: “Over the past two decades, the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia.”

Dr. Hendin advocates against physician-assisted suicide.

At this Easter season we need to consider another dimension. Among the advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia, an important factor seems to be overlooked.

What happens one second after you die? Where will you be? Is death the very end and the body and soul are obliterated? Talk of heaven or hell seems to be missing from this lethal advocacy for assisted suicide.

Worldviews have consequences. Worldviews of death need to be opposed by those who believe in eternal life and eternal punishment. Death does not end it all and Christ’s resurrection demonstrated this: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins” (First Corinthians chapter 15:16-17).

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Torn between life and death

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Why is it that many of us will do many things to live longer but others want to end life now?

We go on diets to reduce the strain on our hearts and the cholesterol from the fatty foods that we eat.

A recent study in the USA found that if people want to be healthy and live longer, they should consume less red and processed meat.[1]

The research of half a million American middle-aged and elderly people who consumed four ounces of red meat a day (an amount equivalent to a small hamburger), found that there was a 30% higher chance that they would die in the next 10 years.

Most of these would die of heart disease and cancer. The risk was increased through eating sausage, cold meats and other processed meats.

But this desire to try to avoid death, is also seen in some treatments of cancer. In spite of severe side effects of chemotherapy, such as fever, chills & sweats, abnormal bleeding, severe vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, patients want to live longer to spend more time with their relatives and friends.

Why is it that we have this love of life and need to prolong the date of death? Could it be connected with our culture’s deep fear of death?

“I want to be with my loved ones who have gone before, but I’m not sure about that,” are among the comments I hear.

For others, life has become a burden and ending life sooner than later sounds like a good release. The euthanasia movement in Australia, Europe and the USA is pushing this line. “To die with dignity” sounds like a reasonable and responsible way of thinking until one sees how euthanasia is happening in countries such as Holland.

The recent series of articles in The Times (UK) demonstrates this continuing push for euthanasia and assisted suicide.[2] The Dutch experience shows that this push will not be limited to the terminally ill. After a three year inquiry, the Dutch Medical Association (as reported in the British Medical Journal) wants more freedom to kill. The report stated that “doctors can help patients who ask for help to die even though they may not be ill but ‘suffering through living.'”[3]

Some experience this ambivalence: Extend life as much as possible but end life if it becomes unbearable.

This is where the Easter message of the resurrected Christ has particular application. We do not have to guess about what happens at death. Here there is an opportunity of knowing why life must end and what lies beyond the grave. The physical resurrection of all human beings after death is firmly grounded in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Jesus Christ himself affirms this. After raising a man the dead, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”[4]

He demonstrated the reality of this through his own resurrection from the dead, which was a turning point in human history.

Because of Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead, there is a solid biblical, theological and historical basis for the belief that the souls of both believers and unbelievers survive death andwill be raised again.

There is no reason for the believers in Christ to fear death as they are eternally redeemed. Are those who push for euthanasia certain of the destiny of those for whom they push for “death with dignity”?

Notes:

[1] Rob Stein, The Washington Post, 24 March 2009, “Daily red meat raises chances of dying early,” available from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/23/AR2009032301626.html [4 April 2009].

[2] A. C. Grayling, The Times (UK), 31 March 2009, “Allowing people to arrange their death is a simple act of kindness”, available from: Timesonline at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6005023.ece [3 April 2009]. See other euthanasia & assisted suicide stories linked to this article.

[3] Tony Sheldon, British Medical Journal News roundup, Extract, 18 January 2005, “Dutch euthanasia law should apply to patients ‘suffering through living’ report says,” available from: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/330/7482/61 [4 April 2009]. Sheldon’s full article may be viewed at: http://www.lists.opn.org/pipermail/right-to-die_lists.opn.org/2005-January/000555.html [4 April 2009]. I was alerted to this information by Weblog: Christianity Today, “Dutch doctors want to kill the healthy,” 13 March 2006, available from: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/januaryweb-only/51.0.html [4 April 2009].

[4] John 11:25-26.

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