Implications of the Resurrection

worship

If you have followed along in this series of blog posts, I trust that you recognize my desire to engage in thoughtful discussions of the matters of the Christian faith. I absolutely understand why topics such as the resurrection seem like fantasy and myth rather than reality and serious history. As I stated in the opening section, I and most Christians I know, also dispute, refute, and disbelieve so-called “miracle” stories. These accounts really have no bearing upon Christianity whatsoever. My faith does not live or die on them. And frankly, I suspect that most of these anecdotes have a purely naturalistic explanation. But the resurrection of Jesus is different on several levels.

In the debate with atheist Antony Flew, Gary Habermas makes the point, to which Flew confirmed, no other founder of a significant religion ever claimed to perform miracles. Jesus is unique. His claims were unique and relatively outlandish. Though many people consider Jesus as one of the “great teachers” alongside Buddha, Confucius, Gandhi, and etc., He cannot be classified as such. C.S. Lewis famously and rightly said that one must consider Jesus in one of three categories: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. His teaching included, even founded upon His claims to Deity. To be a great intellect or one among other great men is to undermine His teaching altogether. You see, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. The problem for the skeptic is that history proves His claim is valid. The historical record of human history that even makes us aware of the great teachers, attests to the Deity of Jesus. These implications place the greatest demand upon each of us to heed His words. As the writer of Hebrews states “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

Jesus showed us God. He showed us that although God is holy and just who judges every evil though, motive, and deed and there will one day be a day of reckoning, He is also a God who condescends to meet with us, to reach out to us, to offer us hope. In the Bible, We see Jesus talking to the skeptics of the world. We see Him explaining and showing that there is more to reality than the physical world. The miracles He performed had multiple purposes. They validated His claims of Deity.

One of my personal favorite accounts of Jesus was the paralytic who was lowered through the roof before Him (Luke 5:18-25). The story goes that the house was full of people, clamoring to be with him, to be healed, to listen to Him. It was so crowded that this man’s friends decided to remove the roof above Jesus and lower him down. What a sight that must have been. It demanded Jesus’ attention. He was not perturbed by the incident, but instead admired the faith of the paralytic’s friends. Instead of healing the man, Jesus stated “Your sins are forgiven.” How interesting! Imagine being the paralyzed man. Was he disappointed by this pronouncement? He was not restored to health. Furthermore, Jesus knowingly provoked the religious leaders in the room.

These religious leaders, not Jesus’ friends, immediately recognized his claim of deity in that pronouncement. They responded with the greatest disdain, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” The punishment for blasphemy was death. Eventually they had their way on this matter, but for now they were just provoked. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing.

This situation, a paralyzed man before and a spiritual claim made, also shows us that Jesus is aware of the difficulty of believing a spiritual reality exists in a physical world. He addresses this directly by asking, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” Certainly it is easier to say “your sins are forgiven” because you cannot prove that. It is un-seeable. It cannot be proven or refuted. His disciples would believe it, just because He said it. His detractors would not believe it because He said it. Perhaps you would not believe it, because you do not believe in a spiritual reality involving God and the need for His forgiveness of your sins against Him. His claim to forgive the man’s sin could not be proven by the proclamation alone.

Therefore, Jesus took things to the next level. Surely the tension in the air was palpable. Here is a poor, broken man who wants to be healed. His friends have made a spectacle of themselves before everyone. The religious leaders were furious. The crowd was all eyes and ears. Jesus knowingly orchestrated the situation to prove His claim of Deity. He said, “’But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’—He said to the paralytic—‘I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’” Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God.

In this instance, Jesus claimed to be God, claimed there is a spiritual reality over a purely naturalistic one, and proved it by performing a miracle. The resurrection was the ultimate validating miracle. It was the greatest demonstration of power and His claim of Deity. The implication is unmistakable. If Jesus is God, then who are we and what else has He said and does He require anything of me?

The resurrection, though validating Jesus’ claims and really all of the history and claims of the entire bible, had another purpose. The resurrection secured the salvation of all those who repent of their sin toward God and have faith in Him. You see, the resurrection is tied to the crucifixion. We understand from the Bible, that each of us has broken the Law of God and the just thing for a holy Judge to do is to punish the lawbreaker. He said that the wages of sin is death. But the “Good News” or “Gospel” is that Jesus’ death carried out that death sentence and was a substitution for your guilt. The wrath of God against sin and evil and disobedience was directed at His Son who was not guilty at all—who had not displeased God, His Father, in any way whatsoever. Here we see what Peter meant when he wrote, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”

Like Jesus with the paralytic in front Him, we hear an unprovable, spiritual claim being made—Jesus’ death was a substitution for you and me and our guilt. We deserved the death penalty, but Jesus paid it for us. All He demands of us is to confess our sin, agree with Him that we have offended God, turn our hearts away from our love of self and sin and turn toward Him in love, trust Him by faith. For we are told that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—So, how can we know if this spiritual claim is true? In the case of the paralytic, Jesus healed him. In the case of His claims that His death paid for sin, He rose from the dead just like He said He would. His resurrection established proof and hope that we too will be raised from the dead, forgiven, washed clean of the guilt of our sin.

You see, the “debate” about the resurrection far exceeds winning or losing an argument. See that the resurrection of Jesus is an historical event, proving spiritual claims, with the greatest implications of eternity. The first question I asked in this blog is the question before you now, “Is the resurrection believable?” I hope you see that it is entirely believable and the risen Jesus calls you even now to believe in Him, pleading with you, saying, “Follow Me.”

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The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science

A constant drum beat in our age is the skeptic’s mantra: “Prove God exists using Science.” It seems as though every public, social media comment promoting God is vehemently attacked with this sentiment. Even though the essence of the question is “as old as dirt,” each generation deals with it afresh. This series of blog posts is my attempt to contribute to the discussion in our times. Perhaps it will assist some Christians with speaking to friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers about the hope of Christ that is in them.

telescope

Perspective

The only difference between our generation and previous generations in trying to prove the existence of God by observing the natural world is the sophistication of the data. The ancient king of Israel wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him…?” King David “considered” the heavens using only his eyes to see the night sky. Today, massive rocket-launched space telescopes can travel a million miles from Earth in order to peer into deep space using giant mirrors detecting the slightest traces of infrared light. I suspect that if David saw these telescopes’ dazzling images of galaxies, stars, super-novas, and nebula, his conclusion would be the same: “What is man that You take thought of him?” Modern information yields age-old conclusions. Truly David’s son Solomon had it right when he said “there is nothing new under the sun”—even though we know a lot more about the sun and what is under it.

helix-nebula-unraveling

The complexity of science stands as a Goliath-like foe taunting Christians to dare challenge its impenetrable theories and conclusions. Often times we average Christians feel as though we are resigned to sit in the bleachers as spectators watching the intellectual champions fight the battles we cannot. We tell ourselves, “I do not have a PhD in Astrophysics or Molecular Biology. Who am I to refute science?” We often stick our heads in the sand, exercising “blind faith,” appealing to more learned Christians and theologians. Unwilling to face the implications, we shrug our shoulders in ignorance and go on. As I was writing this blog, I came across this article by the Pew Research Center citing the worst case response—apostasy—is on the rise:

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.

Let me encourage you to neither live in passive ignorance nor renounce the faith because of science. Instead, educate yourself to the degree you are willing and able, then by faith launch your stones against the adversary. The fact is, God has providentially placed each of us within a sphere of influence comparable to our ability. Admittedly, most of us would be pummeled in a debate against Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens. The encouraging thing is that you and I will never have to! God has placed other Christians in that sphere who can. The likes of Ravi Zacharias, Alister McGrath, and John Lennox come to mind. These men are among those great intellectual champions we admire from a distance. But, like the young fan watching his favorite sports hero on television, who then goes to the back yard and mimics them for hours honing his own skills, we too can learn from our apologetic champions and put those skills into action in our own arenas. You and I typically traffic among people within our own “league.” Our sphere of influence is among those having a similar background and education. We are satisfactorily equipped to converse about these topics with our peers.

Furthermore, I maintain that the answers to the tough questions, whether they are posed by Dawkins, your brother-in-law, or your co-worker, are essentially the same. The only differences between us and the juggernauts may be the breadth and depth of knowledge about the data and the level of sophistication in the arguments. But we can identify the arguments and concepts, understand them biblically, and do quite well in defending the faith. You will find that the truth concepts are within grasp without having to master the science. Nevertheless, being able to dialogue with your friends about science to some degree will help. The world around us is enamored by science. Because they are interested in science it behooves us to be able to speak to them intelligently and respectfully.

ID DNA evolution

Intelligent Design

The scope of scientific knowledge is vast, spanning Physics, Cosmology, Geology, Biology, and etc. This blog will be limited to introducing concepts and arguments largely from Intelligent Design (ID) scientist, Dr. Stephen Meyer in his book Signature in the Cell . I will also add to those concepts using my own background in Semiconductor (or Integrated Circuit) Failure Analysis and Theology.

The ID community has done a spectacular job in promoting and buttressing the “Cosmological Argument.” The Cosmological Argument, accredited to Thomas Aquinas, states that every effect must have a cause. It is an elaborate name describing a simple concept. It speaks to a truth that mankind knows intuitively as we look at the world around us and as we consider the heavens—“Surely somebody made everything! It’s all just too complex with order and too spectacularly beautiful to have happened by chance.” The recent ID effort has sought to argue for the existence of an intelligent designer using science and the philosophy of science. They make no claims about WHO that grand designer is. (Actually, that is consistent with the theological framework that God has revealed truth to mankind by two methods: General and Special Revelation.)  Since ID is focused on General or Natural revelation (the physical world), it cannot identify the Designer. I will seek to argue that using Scientific means, we can go further than ID and state that the Intelligent Designer is Jesus Christ.

Humans are the Greatest

Taking cues from Scripture, the best place to prove the existence of God is with mankind. Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NASB) Mankind bears the “fingerprints” of God most clearly.

Studying the extremities of the natural world, from far away galaxies to subatomic particles, shows us the eternality and power of God. But those divine attributes are just the introduction to the Being revealed to us as God. The closest, natural expression—evidence—of God is man, the pinnacle of His creation. The temptation for me is to jump to discussing the attributes that give us the highest resolution of God, holiness or righteousness—at the least, morality. But these aspects fall into the Anthropological and Ontological arguments. [The Anthropological argument is that man’s morality and self-aware search for God proves God exists. The Ontological argument is the concept that man’s ability to imagine no greater Being than God, proves God exists.] For the secularist, these philosophical and metaphysical arguments are inferior to empirical, scientific data.

Therefore, in the spirit of being all things to all men, this blog will consider some empirical data resident in humans. Drawing from Dr. Meyer, the biological evidence of intelligence residing in DNA has no other logical explanation than an intelligent designer.  Secondly, Dr. Meyer teaches us that the entire study of origins is based on abductive reasoning of the scientific information. [I’ll explain abductive reasoning more thoroughly in the next blog entry. Basically, it is reasoning that infers knowledge of past events derived from present information.] This is an important counter-argument against the presupposition that science is strictly, bare empirical evidence. This sword cuts both ways. In other words, Christians can benefit from using science to argue science. One line of argument Christians should abandon is their oft-used claim that science contradicts its own Scientific Method. That is not entirely true. The standard “Scientific Method” approach we were taught in Junior High science is a mainstay, but it’s not the only definition of “science.” Ironically, the God-skeptic that we deal with in our common-man life does not know this either. And thus, he lays down the gauntlet: “Prove God using Science.”

Therefore, after arguing for the empirical evidence of an Intelligent Designer, I will apply the same abductive reasoning to the Bible and show that the Intelligent Designer is indeed the God of the Bible. The next blog entry will lay a philosophical foundation necessary for building my case.