Meet the Real Jesus

tell the truth

The ground I covered in this brief series does not come near to addressing all issues associated with the historical Jesus topic. My scope was limited to the very popular and straightforward claim that prior to the 4th century, the four Gospels were not considered authoritative. Of course, the consequence of such is that Jesus wasn’t who we all have been lead to believe he was. And if he was not who he claims, then it proves the Christian religion is false. Therefore, so it goes, let your conscience be at ease for you will not face him in judgment. There is no threat of Hell. However, if he is who he says he is, then the opposite is true. That is my concern for my readers.

My study of and exposure to the historic Jesus reconstructionism has shown me that like the inquisitive child there will always be another question asked. In rapid fire, the next question is posed before the previous one was fully answered. The curious child that I imagine is an information junkie, a sponge, her young synapses firing at peak efficiency and her memory cells absorbing knowledge. Those with the Da Vinci Code Perspective don’t strike me that way. It smacks of the skeptic. The skeptic asks questions not to gain knowledge but as a tactician with a destructive goal in mind. I write that not to be provocative but to appeal to what I think is an obstacle to truth. The skeptic has made up his mind, not because of, but in spite of the evidence.

I see this sort of thing often in my workplace. My job is somewhat like the old Dragnet TV dragnetshow where Sergeant Friday, in his characteristically stoic monotone manner, reminds his informants to give him “Just the facts ma’am.” My day-job is to find failures in micro-electronic circuits. The results of my investigation can have relatively severe consequences. My findings may cause a production line to shut down for long periods, which costs the company a lot of money. Or, they could expose a design weakness and harm the company’s technical reputation. The bottom line is that some problem exists and it will eventually implicate one department or another, or even the customer. The temptation for upper management to spin the results in order to “point the finger” at the most opportune group rather than the true source can be strong. One way that plays out is for conclusions to be made before I have even begun the investigation. Management may implement a change to a product or process based on speculations made in a meeting room with no input, no facts, from the investigation! Sadly, such reactions can cause more damage than they try to avoid.

The best approach is always to let the evidence lead you to the conclusions, to the true point of failure. With truth on your side, then you can have confidence of implementing a legitimate fix to the real problem. In the end, everyone benefits. The product gets better, the company’s reputation is spared, relationships with the customer improves, on and on. It sounds simple, but when the consequences are high and emotions get involved, the right process can be short-circuited.

Perhaps the historic Jesus debate is like that. The skeptic is faced with too great a consequence and has made up her mind to present a solution to a fictitious problem, irrespective of the evidence. Nag Hammadi is an archeological treasure for sure. It reveals a great deal of insight into second century thought and culture. But for modern man to implement a change, to re-write the events of two thousand years ago makes no historical or logical sense—when we know the first documents of eyewitness testimony were written between thirty and sixty years removed from the events and extant copies have proven to be an extremely reliable, continual historical legacy of those testimonies.

Let me recommend to my readers some of the books I read in my Professional Doctoral studies that were the foundation for this blog series:

eyewitnessesJesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, by Richard Bauckham. Bauckham is a Cambridge scholar and Professor Emeritus at St. Andrews University in Scotland. His book explains, largely from the writings of Papias, that the four Gospels were written in a manner consistent with 1st century culture of eyewitness testimony. In the world of historiography (“doing history”), having reliable early manuscripts of eyewitness testimony is the “Holy Grail.”

The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, by Michael Licona. Licona’s liconawork exposes the point I made in the first blog post that historians do not have an established quality control method for documenting history. Because of that void, professional historians went through a phase akin to postmodernism—you cannot know anything for sure. But the profession is returning to its senses and affirming that yes, there are ways to discern the past with significant confidence after all. Perhaps the search-for-the-historical-Jesus movement was caught up in that milieu. Licona’s work provides professional historians with the historiographical methodology that has been lacking. I think this a key book, but beware…it is loooong and technical!

missing gospels bockThe Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities. By Darrell Bock. Dr. Bock really is the go-to guy when it comes to all things Nag Hammadi. Ever since The Da Vinci Code, Dr. Bock has been called upon to respond to these popular and erroneous publications that storm popular culture. Every few years another reconstructionist book about “the real Jesus” gets published because of a newly-found “lost Gospel” that supposedly destroys the biblical account. If you are persuaded by these things, please read Dr. Bock’s books.

how we got bible_How We Got the Bible, by Timothy Paul Jones. I’ve mentioned this one throughout the blog. I consider it a “one-stop-shop” of solid, accessible facts about the authenticity, reliability, and transmission of the Bible. The way I put it in a class assignment (yes, I’m quoting myself): “[Dr. Jones’s book] is a practical distillation of the massive pile of scholarship written on the subjects of biblical canonicity and textual criticism…a compendium of the key dates, persons, facts, and issues…covering patristics to statistics.”

I began this blog series stating that by the end we will be able to ask “The real Jesus to please stand up.” The historical and circumstantial evidence clearly show that the traditional, Christian history concerning the person and work of Jesus was accepted in the 1st century, not the 4th. The literature found in Nag Hammadi does not warrant a re-write of Christian history, but rather affirms it.

Indeed, the personal stakes are high. While I have tried to present a reasonable defense for the traditional Jesus, the issue transcends merely winning or losing an argument. The plea of the Christian faith, from the self-sacrificed and resurrected Jesus, that his followers have continued through the ages, is “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

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Who exactly was “the early church?”

 

As I thought through the claim that the pre-4th century church did not regard the four New Testament Gospels as authoritative, it occurred to me to ask, “Have you considered exactly who these ancient people are?” This is a ginormous question for skeptics claiming we must re-write the history books about the church’s own authoritative documents. It is most certainly one of several elephants in the room.

The Da Vinci Code Perspective (see blog post 1 and blog post 2) pits the Nag Hammadi documents, the Gnostic Gospels, against the four New Testament Gospels as the proper source behind the “real” Jesus of Nazareth. Like Gnosticism itself, it asserts special, almost mystical insight into supposedly murky and mysterious things that are otherwise unknowable. However, the reality is that we can lay the historical data out in the open, side-by-side with the four Gospels, and compare them with a great deal of clarity. No special glasses are needed.

urrim and thumin

Back to the elephant…WHO supposedly did not recognize the four Gospels as authoritative? The answer of course is the Christian church. The Da Vinci Code Perspective overlooks the fact that the 1st century church owes its very existence to the historical events surrounding the traditional Gospel message—Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, who lived and died and was resurrected to atone for sin. It was their impetus. It was their very identity. The 1st century church and its message of the Good News is rooted in the historical narrative. The four Gospels and Acts (Luke Volume 2) chronicle the history. If the lost Gospels were accurate and the Jesus of the revised history were true, there would be no Christian church in the 4th century or the 21st century to even look back upon the 1st. It would be utterly different. Such a Jesus and such a church is a phantom. Let’s follow the historical bread crumbs back to the beginning of the trail.

 eyewitnesses

First, there was a pre-4th century church who witnessed the events, proclaimed them, and wrote prolifically about Jesus and the Christian faith. So, we do not have to wonder and speculate about what these people believed about Jesus. The revisionists justify their need to re-construct Jesus by introducing doubt about the gap between the events of Jesus’s life and when the Gospels were penned. Certainly, there was a gap in time, but it is not cloaked in mystery. This is the fog-machine needed to peddle their special anti-fog glasses. Richard Bauckham’s book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimony, makes a very strong case that “The Gospel texts are much closer to the form in which the eyewitnesses told their stories or passed on their traditions than is commonly envisaged in current scholarship.” (pg. 6). The take-away here is, evidence shows the early church was comprised of eyewitnesses to the events; and the four Gospels, not the lost Gospels, are reliable hard copies of their orally transmitted testimonies.

The strength of the traditional history is that it is traceable to the eyewitnesses, opposed to Nag Hammadi which is traceable to a detached group of people some one to three hundred years removed.  Michael Licona, in The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, points out, “It is often proper for those Christians who side with orthodoxy to say that the Gnostics got things wrong when referring to the teachings of the historical Jesus and his disciples. The Gnostic literature is later than the New Testament literature, usually quite a bit later. Moreover, that the Gnostic literature contains authentic apostolic tradition is dubious, with the possible exception of the Gospel of Thomas. But there is even uncertainty regarding Thomas.” (pg. 37).

quality-control

Second, concerning who the early church was, their name is important. We could perhaps call them “the meet-ers.” We use the term “church” with no obvious significance for us today. It is an anglicized, Germanic transliteration of the Greek word meaning “of the Lord.” It relates more to the place of worship than the people who are worshipping. As in our day, we see a building with a steeple and think “church.”

However, the early Christians did not have such structures. They met in private homes. The key is, they met. Their very name, “ekklesia,” in Greek, was an ordinary word for any assembly. They were known for what was most obvious about them…they gathered together often and regularly. Why is that important to this discussion? From the very beginning, they were a distinguishable, identifiable group of people with clearly recognized leadership. Jesus had twelve men in his inner circle. Eleven of them went on to lead this assembly of converts (most of whom were eyewitnesses, even participants in Jesus’s crucifixion).  Luke, the historian, quotes from Peter’s first sermon, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Luke explains, “when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart.” (Acts 2:36-37). After that sermon, the membership exploded. “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4). Such growth required more leadership. The church appointed deacons (servant-leaders) to handle the practical needs of the group while the apostles were responsible for teaching and preaching. As the church expanded and moved beyond Jerusalem, local pastors, also called elders and bishops, were appointed to oversee the new “ekklesias” (congregations.)

Let us try to grasp the significance of these things. Christianity emerged onto the world stage with a message of faith around the historical events of Jesus of Nazareth. The message, the Gospel, was everything. It was their identity. It was the reason for which they gathered. It was the reason for which Jews and non-Jews abandoned their families, their way of life, overnight, and joined the church at great personal expense—even martyrdom. Built into the psyche of the assembly was preserving that message. The early church had an extraordinarily robust quality control system in place. As Timothy Paul Jones notes: “Early Christians rejected these [other] writings because they were looking for trustworthy testimony about Jesus, and that’s not what they found when the [sic] read the “lost Scriptures.” (pg. 88).

By contrast, the Gnostics had no structure or identifiable group. There was no creed, no gnosticbody of doctrine, and no cohesive leadership. Gnosticism was a philosophy, not a church, in an incipient form during and after the time of Christ. Nag Hammadi shows that a hundred or so years later it had gained some consistency of topics with disconnected leader like Carpocrates, Saturninus, Basilides, and Valentinus (See the Missing Gospels, by Darrel Bock, pg. 10).

Therefore, when the claim is made that the four New Testament Gospels were not authoritative among the early church, we must point out the elephants in the room. The church was vitally linked to the message, the events, and the people of the Gospels. The church produced them. There was no alternative, authoritative body or documents. The Da Vinci Code Perspective is self-refuting.

In the next post, I’ll discuss if the Gospel writers were even aware that they were writing scripture!

 

A Resurrection? I Object!

‘How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?’

Sherlock Holmes Quote[1]

-The Sign of Foursherlock

 

I ran Plantinga’s argument (see Blog #4) by my nineteen-year-old son, to see how acceptable the acclaimed philosopher’s thoughts would be taken in a real-world context. My son didn’t buy it. Perhaps his innate common-sense realism just didn’t buy into it. Nevertheless, it could indeed be the case that any naturalist who may read this blog won’t buy it either. Firmly holding to his materialistic ground, the resurrection skeptic sets forth several options that explain the resurrection naturally. This post will consider some of the common naturalistic explanations that have been proposed and the common retorts. Gary Habermas rightfully explains that to say “resurrections just don’t happen” is insufficient. Denial is a claim only and not a theory.[2] The skeptic must provide his own explanation. Hopefully, by the end of this post, reader and author alike will confirm Sherlock Holmes’ point above and accept the truth, no matter how improbable it may seem.

The first refutation of the resurrection of Jesus is found in the pages of the Bible itself. Matthew 28:11-15

Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

The obvious thing to note here is that the text plainly tells us this naturalistic explanation is a hoax, a conspiracy, and the real story had just been presented. If we take the Bible for what it says, the objection must immediately be dismissed. But perhaps the Bible is using some sort of psychological trick to disguise the truth and the hoax actually lies with its own explanation. The author is the conspirator after all and the disciples did steal the body.

For the sake of argument then, let’s consider the events and why that theory is implausible. It is implausible for several combined reasons. First, these tombs were built intentionally to keep grave robbers out, not to keep dead people from escaping. A 2016 article form the Biblical Archaeological Society explains that the traditional thought that the tomb was sealed with a disk-shaped stone is very unlikely. Of the 900 contemporary tombs, only four were disk-shaped. Of course, the rare of anything is set apart for the ultra-rich, nobility. The other 896 were square (cork-shaped) and were used by commoners, even wealthy ones like Joseph of Arimathea. The disk-shaped stones were designed to be re-opened, to entomb multiple family members over the course of time. The cork shaped ones, as seen in the picture below, could not be moved about easily, once set in place.

tomb-with-stopper-260x195

Moving a giant cork-shaped stone would certainly be a very difficult project physically for the disciples. Though perhaps eleven men could do that. However, they would have to perform this feat with a Roman guard on duty. Here “guard” indicates a company, and not a single soldier. Notice the plurality mentioned in the Matthew text above. Having been in the military, I know that falling asleep on watch is a punishable offense. I am sure for a Roman soldier, the penalty could cost him his life. These soldiers would all have to be asleep to such a degree as to remain undisturbed despite such activity all about them. This theory simply replaces one miracle with another. It is highly unlikely that the disciples, who were observed in public soon afterwards, stole the body of such a locally famous person and successfully hid it. Also, it is very unlikely that these disciples would be willing to die for a hoax, and most did die for their testimony of Jesus. Furthermore, the empty tomb is only half the story. The stolen body theory does not answer the eyewitness’ accounts of Jesus’s appearances.

The more common theory in our day is the hallucination theory. Habermas writes:

After a decades-long hiatus, the subjective vision theory [hallucination] is making a comeback and is again the most popular natural response to Jesus’ resurrection. The most influential version is that argued by German theologian Gerd Lüdemann. After a study of the major resurrection texts in the NT, Lüdemann appeals to “stimulus,” “religious intoxication,” and “enthusiasm” as the states of mind leading to the visions seen by Peter, as well as by others who concluded that Jesus was alive. Lüdemann prefers to speak of these experiences as visions rather than hallucinations, but he is clear that nothing literally happened to Jesus himself.[3]

One problem with this theory is that the disciples’ state of mind was far from being euphoric. They were quite the opposite. The disciples were grieving the loss of their leader. The spirit of the objection is the disciples experienced an extreme emotion—great joy or great grief. But the better rejoinder is not to argue the disciples’ emotional state as the stimulus for hallucinating. Rather it is not likely that groups of people experience the same extremities and the same hallucination simultaneously. The 1 Corinthians 15 passage, which is one of the “minimal facts” approved texts, states that Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred brethren at one time.” Furthermore, Paul states there “many of whom remain until now.” The implication is that his readers did not have to take Paul’s word for it, they could talk to the eyewitnesses personally, if they wish to corroborate the story. This theory also does not account for the Apostle Paul’s testimony, witnessed by others, of an experience with the risen Christ three years later. And we must remember that he was not a disciple in a euphoric or depressed state, instead he was an enemy to Christians, a thoroughgoing unbeliever. Paul was not the only skeptic to have changed his position on the matter of Jesus’ resurrection. The story of “doubting Thomas” and Jesus’ own skeptical brother, James, provide two examples of non-euphoric eyewitnesses. For these reasons, the hallucination theory also seems implausible.

The last naturalist theory that gained wide acceptance in generations past was the so-called “swoon theory.” This argument proposed that Jesus did not really die and that he recovered. The swoon theory has largely faded into oblivion. Jesus’ crucifixion is among the most reliable historical accounts in ancient history. The depiction of His death unmistakably describes death. First, the Romans were experienced crucifiers. They employed various techniques to hasten the death if needed. They would brake ankles in to prevent the person’s ability to push himself upward to inhale, ensuring suffocation. This technique was considered, but the crucifier recognized that Jesus had already expired, according to the Apostle John. To ensure death, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ heart with a spear. The famous description “blood and water poured out” indicates the pericardium sac, surrounding the heart, had been punctured. An article entitled, The Science of the Crucifixion by Cahleen Shrier, PhD. explains this. The swoon theory also decreases in feasibility when we consider again the cork-shaped stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. If Jesus survived crucifixion and a stab to the heart, how could he possibly remove the stone seal? Again, the naturalist theory replaces one miracle with another.

Given the reliability of the death of Jesus, acknowledged even by skeptics, as recorded in the Bible, no naturalistic theory can account for all of the data. Surely, we can see that all naturalistic theories fall short. When this is combined with the overwhelming historical accounts in the affirmative, the skeptic surely must acknowledge that best explanation is the improbable one; namely, Jesus was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is true.

This post is meant to be an introduction to the various alternative, naturalistic explanations that are offered for the resurrection of Jesus. I urge the reader to research the topic using the links I provided. You will find ample material to read or watch which present far more exhaustive and reasoned arguments from both sides of the issue.

[1]http://sherlockholmesquotes.com/ accessed March 10, 2017.

[2]http://garyhabermas.com/articles/trinityjournal_latetwentieth/trinityjournal_latetwentieth.htm accessed March 10, 2017.

[3]Ibid.

How COULD Jesus Rise from the Dead?

naturalism-of-the-gaps1-625x469 

I began this blog series by pointing out the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in Christianity and the warrant for the topic. I then argued that Christians are not different from any other human beings in terms of their rational and intellectual acumen. In fact, some of the greatest minds mankind has known have been Christians. I also made the point that for any rational person to believe such a miracle, they would need to have a personal experience of it or accept the vast weight of historical evidence attested by eyewitnesses. The question in this post is, “How Could Jesus Rise from the Dead?”…with the emphasis on the word of ability “could.” How is it even remotely possible?

The skeptic may reasonably object to any claim of the veracity of Jesus’ resurrection because resurrections simply do not happen. Dead people—certainly people who died a violent and traumatic death, and who remained dead for three days—do not recover. It is not possible. I would ask: But what about the eyewitnesses and the reliable historical accounts? The skeptic may respond by saying that, at best, history proves those people sincerely thought they saw the resurrected Jesus…but there MUST be a natural explanation, because people do not return to life.

This is the classic case of just about every Sherlock Holmes mystery. The keen detective is presented with a set of clues and circumstances that defy reason. Common men, lesser mortals, are struck with fear. With their intellect thoroughly overwhelmed, they resort to concluding the perpetrator must be some supernatural (spiritual) miscreant at foul play. At times, Sherlock appears to be on the tipping point, in doubt himself. Yet, he reminds himself of his faith in naturalism, musters his intellectual powers, and solves the crime. It was not a ghost or devil, but the handiwork of a mastermind criminal, and each step of the plot is explained, debunking any notion of a spirit. Indeed, everything has a natural explanation.

If I were the victim of a heinous crime, I would certainly want my detective to be such a naturalist. However, the world in which Sherlock Holmes operates, his conviction that the natural or material world is all there is, is not sustainable. Let’s now consider how the theory of naturalism fails under its own weight.

Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Notre Dame University, Alvin Plantinga, offers the following argument, filtered through my own understanding. First, the naturalist is defined as an atheist. The naturalist believes there is no god, no spiritual, or supernatural reality. The naturalist is a materialist. Matter and energy is all that exists. And a naturalist, or materialist, is also an evolutionist. He believes that the world around us, and more importantly we ourselves, exist solely from the means of natural processes. The activities with which we involve ourselves are the results of purely chemical, electro-mechanical mechanisms. Over billions of years, those chemical and electro-mechanical actions and reactions produced life of various forms which have resulted in their successful procreation—or survival. This worldview gives us words such as “instinct.” There is no rhyme or reason, no cognitive motive, just behavior. These instincts have become hard-wired, passed along from generation to generation to ensure survival.

Beyond the behavior of instinct, lies thought. But thought itself is the effect of electro-chemical activity. We all have heard of neurons firing and crossing synapses in the brain. Thought is the activity of neurons and bio-chemistry. Beyond rational thought, lies belief. Belief is more subjective, but also must be the result of electro-chemical activity only.

A quick search on the internet provides plenty of articles of scientists explaining the natural phenomena of faith. They claim to have located the area of the brain responsible for spirituality. For instance, in this article, a professor of health psychology at the University of Missouri stated

“We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.

Belief is ultimately irrelevant. What one believes, that is, the why one acts the way he does, has no impact upon the effect of his actions. Results of behavior are isolated from belief. If a behavior results in survivability, who cares what the person believes? That belief can be true or false. Furthermore, the probability of a belief being right or wrong, true or false, must be about 50/50. The same probability must apply to all thought. Therefore, Plantinga argues, the reliability of one’s faculties “is very low.” Since the naturalists’ reasoning faculties are unreliable, then his notion of a materialist-only reality is unreliable. A true naturalist must admit that he cannot have confidence that naturalism is certain.

One likely response is that reliability in rational thinking is high because experiments are reproducible. Technology works, we see it work, it is reliable. However, I must reiterate Plantinga’s point, if naturalism produces unreliable thought processes, then your experiments and your interpretations of those experiments are unreliable. The experiment has been compromised at every level. Each person has at some time come to grips with having been wrong about something. We all have experienced times when we were certain about a thing, only to be humbled and forced to admit that our “reality” was false. Ultimately, Plantinga argues that if one is relying solely on the chemical activity of neurons in the brain for a reliable interpretation of reality, that one must doubt if his neurons have produced a right conclusion.

This argument is a lot like daily life at my job. As an electronics engineer, I make measurements. I measure voltage, current, resistance, and all sorts of signals. I rely on the accuracy of the measurement tools. To ensure the reliability of those measurements, our equipment gets calibrated each year. If I find, after-the-fact, that my measurements were taken with an uncalibrated instrument, then all my data is suspect and the conclusions are dismissed. I must do my work all over again. Plantinga has shown that if the naturalist is consistent with his worldview, he must admit that his data is suspect and his conclusion is unreliable at best.

If the naturalist’s conclusions are potentially false, then logically the opposite is potentially true. A spiritual reality can exist coincident with a physical reality. In such a case, miracles like the resurrection can indeed occur; and the evidence provided in the previous blog supports the claim that they did occur.

Distinguished professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, John Lennox, explains that the naturalist vs. theist debate is not new. It has existed since antiquity. And he makes the point that the two are indeed simply worldviews—how one interprets the world. The naturalist likes to think that his view is a lock-tight truth based on unbiased empirical evidence, science. But it is not the case. The fact that the community of leading scientists is comprised of both believers in God and non-believers shows that belief exists on a deeper level than science alone. Ultimately, the worldview one adopts is based on faith. I will give an example.

I asked my non-Christian co-worker why he did not believe in Jesus Christ? He answered that the Bible was just too myth-like. He could not accept stories such as a snake speaking or Noah’s ark that drew animals from all over the world. Furthermore, he was unwilling to simply believe what men had written in a book. I asked him that if did not believe the Bible, that God had created the world, then what did he believe? How did everything we see come to be? He answered that he believed in Darwinian Evolution—the Earth is billions of years old and that life formed from primordial soup and over time evolved into what we now see. I went on to ask how he knows that is the case? Have you witnessed the evolution of a life form? Of course he had not witnessed it, for no individual has. So, if you have not witnessed it, then how did you come to believe it? He said that he believed what he was taught in school. I asked, “You read it in a book written by men?” The point was obvious.

The summary of this blog post is that the answer to the question, “How COULD Jesus Rise from the Dead?” is: Jesus could rise from the dead if reality is not limited to a naturalistic materialism. In a theistic world, a man can be raised from the dead. Furthermore, this post points out that naturalism is an assumption, a belief, a worldview and not the “slam dunk,” sine qua non that society has blindly accepted.

 

 

 

Addendum for Presuppositionalists The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science part 7

 

This addendum to my blog series is given as a disclaimer of sorts, and as another teaching opportunity. I think it is necessary for me to explain my current position on why and how I could publicly post a reasoned defense of the existence of God using science, when I consider myself a Reformed Baptist. For, most adherents of Reformed Theology in our day align themselves exclusively with Presuppositionalism…seeing absolutely no place or purpose for such a discussion. Actually, there are those who go so far as to say it is unbiblical to do so. But I disagree. I also am an evidentialist, because I believe the Bible uses both apologetic philosophies. I believe they both have a proper place in defending the faith.

van-til

Presuppositionalism

The term “Presuppositionalism” refers to that apologetic philosophy set forth by Cornelius Van Til at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1929 to 1972. The term refers to those things that Christians know, or presuppose, about God as revealed through the Bible. From verses such as Romans 1:18-ff, we learn, via special revelation, that mankind inherently knows there is a God, but that alone is insufficient for saving faith. In fact, the passage tells us that men even suppress the minimal knowledge of God they do have. By contrast, Christians have been given the very Spirit of God who sheds the light of truth, saving knowledge as set forth in the Bible, in them. Saving faith is a gift of God, supernaturally and Providentially given to them. Therefore, they have a completely different worldview than the unconverted. And since salvation is imparted TO men, the only worthwhile communication in our apologetics is the Truth of God’s word.

Christian theologian John Frame explains, “These facts pose a problem for apologetics. Non-Christians do not share the presuppositions we have discussed. Indeed, they presuppose the contrary, as they suppress the truth. The job of the apologist, trusting in God’s grace, is to persuade the non-Christian that the biblical presuppositions are true.” (“Presuppositional Apologetics”  May 23, 2012. Article found here.)

Frame further explains the position by showing us that if the apologist (evangelist) attempts to meet the unconverted man where he is in his thinking, accepting the atheist’s own presuppositions for the sake of argument, then he cannot help but come to wrong conclusions. It is argued that the Christian’s place is to proclaim Christian truth so that God can use that appointed means to bring salvation. To apply this to my blog, the presuppositionalists would point out that it does no good to defend the faith using science, because science and human reasoning will not bring the soul to be in conflict with his sin and show him his need for Jesus as Savior.

Those are all points well taken. And I indeed agree that there is no salvation via science. I disagree that it is the ONLY weapon in our God-given arsenal.

Classical Apologetics

I have to admit that my adoption of evidentialism, along with Presuppositionalism, into my apologetic system is in large part due to the book Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics by R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley. (You can view a brief summary by R.C. Sproul in this video clip.) The book argues that Presuppositionalism is really nothing more than fideism. Fideism as defined by Webster’s dictionary is “A reliance on faith rather than reason in pursuit of religious truth.” Sproul uses it pejoratively, claiming that the Christian church, merely followed liberal theology and post-modernism having “been severely crippled by the Enlightenment. Ours is perhaps the most anti-intellectual era of Christian history, despite our positive support for scholarship, research and technology (Classical Apologetics, pg. 12). He argues in the book that the very goal of the Apostle Peter’s appeal for us in 1 Peter 3:15 is to give a reasoned defense of or faith. I have to agree with Sproul, et.al., on this. We see Paul reasoning with the Jews. Acts 17:2 “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” True, it says “From the scriptures.” But later in verses 22-31, we read of Paul also standing the midst of the Aeropagus and using the Greek gods as a launching point for reasoning with them.

doubting-thomas-jessie-boston

Evidentialism

Evidentialism is part of Classical apologetics. I separated here to point out that it is the specific rational argumentation that focuses on “Evidence.” And evidence was such a huge part of my blog series as it dealt with Intelligent Design. The Intelligent Design philosophy is one sophisticated and detailed presentation of the Cosmological and Teleological arguments. That is, it looks at the universe and all it contains and reasons that the complexity and orderliness and grandeur of it all proves God. Furthermore, due to the basic knowledge that every effect had a cause, the first cause is God—the only truly eternal, and self-existing being. I am fine with using this approach as well because I think Jesus also used evidentialism.

In John 10:38, Jesus was again confronting the Jews and proclaiming His deity to them. They naturally picked up stones to kill Him for it. In His discourse with them, Jesus said to them, “do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” In this one episode, we see Jesus both proclaiming truth (score for the presuppositionalists) and also appealing to them using evidence (score for the classicists and evidentialists).  Also there was the time Jesus dealt with “Doubting” Thomas as recorded in John 20: 27 “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’” Clearly Jesus condescended and met Thomas where he was, so to speak.

faith-reason

Personally

For the reasons given above, I am inclined to incorporate both systems of apologetics in my evangelism. I think it is perfectly biblical and Christlike to be—as John said of Jesus—full of grace and truth. Being full of grace, I would argue, means being respectful to people and starting the conversation from where they are.

I have had many occasions to do this in my line of work in the technology field. I work with people who are highly educated in the field of science, typically Electrical Engineers. They are thoroughly a thinking, and highly analytical group of people. And like most in our world, they have been indoctrinated into the evolutionary theory of origins. The Bible to them is simply myth and they see Christians stereotypically as fideists who ignore science. Admittedly, I have never “reasoned” anyone into the Christianity. I do not think the classical apologist would every claim that could be done either. But what a classical and evidentialist approach has done, is gain there respect and challenged their worldview. And when it is done winsomely, it surely puts us and him in a better position to proclaim the truths of God’s word.

 

The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science part 6

 

The skeptic of our day thinks he has a lock-tight, impenetrable argument for denying the existence of God by demanding the Christian prove God scientifically before he will believe in God. He makes such a demand because he truly believes it is an impossible task. It is really a rhetorical demand meant simply to proclaim his own faith in materialistic scientism. Nevertheless, the arguments discussed in this blog shows that we can actually provide him with evidence that science can and has proven the existence of God. The Intelligent Design community has provided ample, quality, scientific proof of the existence of God in nature. The type of science used is not quite what the skeptic had in mind; but, he needs to come to grips with the fact that legitimate “science” is not limited to so-called empirical evidence produced in a laboratory. “Empirical Evidence” is often the “best explanation” of secondary evidence. That is what the study of origins is all about. For the skeptic to not accept historical science as science, would mean he would also have to abandon all adherence to evolution that is if he wants to not be a hypocrite.

resurrection

Going Farther Than Intelligent Design

The existence of God is proven scientifically by common observations of the world around us as well as by sophisticated, molecular biology. However, I went further than Intelligent Designers by stating that the same type of abductive reasoning or historical science that Stephen Meyer uses to prove an Intelligent Designer has long been used to prove the veracity of the Bible. The clues gathered in paleography, for one, lead us to the best conclusion that the Bible is a reliable, ancient, historical document. Many volumes have been written about the historical evidence—internal and external biblical information—proving that Jesus also existed as the Bible reports.

Since the historical evidence surrounding the Bible and Jesus is reliable, then the claims of the Bible must be taken as true. They are true because they are not mere religious platitudes, but are based on historical accounts. These words of Jesus are critical: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” The point here is that the teachings and claims of Jesus were proven to be true by the miraculous works He performed. It is a bit ironic, that the skeptic also often asserts that in order for him to believe in God, God would have to “write it in the sky.” That is, God would have to perform some miracle that would make His existence utterly undeniable. Well, He did, in the person and work of Christ. But, rather than repeating some sky-writing miracle for every person in every age, Jesus performed many miracles for two years as God incarnate and the accounts are available for us to read and believe. Of course, the most important of His miracles was his resurrection. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (That does not sound like the words of a man trying to deceive the world.)

 creator

Jesus is the Intelligent Designer

What does this have to do with proving that Jesus is the creator and not some Hindu demi-god? The answer lies in the difference between mythology and history. The Bible is an authentic historic document and Jesus is an authentic person of history. The scientifically proven Bible and the scientifically proven Jesus teach us that Jesus is the Intelligent Designer. Jesus is the Creator. The Bible states it emphatically in Colossians 1:16 “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Another verse is Hebrews 1:1-2 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

The connection between Genesis 1 and Jesus is an interesting exercise in Biblical Theology. Of course Genesis 1 is the account of God creating the world, “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” Each new day of creation is prefaced with, “Then God said, ‘Let there be….’” We also know that the Spirit of God was an active agent. Genesis 1:2 “…and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Then, we also note that God reveals He is a plurality of persons, Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The next revelatory milestone takes place at the “burning bush” with Moses.

God, the Creator in Genesis 1, summons his servant Moses while Moses was tending sheep on Mt. Horeb. God identifies Himself as the same God of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The purpose of the encounter was to commission Moses to free the nation of Israel from Egypt. Moses asked God what he should tell the people if they ask, “What is His [God’s] name?” God said that his name is, “I AM WHO I AM.” Thus, the covenant name of God was established, which we transliterate as “Yahweh.” This name is what links God, the creator, to the God of Israel, and later to Jesus.

If we fast-forward about fifteen hundred years, from the burning bush to Jesus confronting the Pharisees, the link between the Creator and Christ is completed. The scribes and Pharisees were the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus and His claim of being the long-awaited Messiah. In John chapter 8, these Jews again approached Jesus in an attempt to trap Him with legal questions—this particular episode involved an adulterous woman. In the course of the conversation, Jesus repeatedly refers to God as His Father. He provokes these Jews by contrasting His Father, God, with their father, the devil. They respond that “Abraham is our father.” Later, they ask Jesus “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died?” Jesus claims, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” That statement confounded them thoroughly because it was impossible for Abraham to have seen Jesus who was by their estimation, “not yet fifty years old.” It was at this point that Jesus makes this supremely important statement, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” The gravity of that pronouncement prompted the Jews to “pick up stones to throw at Him.” They were, in their minds, doing was lawful and stoning someone who uttered blasphemy. Jesus’ use of the words, “I am” communicated that He was assuming that most holy covenant name of God, Yahweh or “I am.”

Trinitarianism is a cardinal doctrine of Christian theology. Episodes like the one above clearly teach that Jesus was God, God the Son. The Athanasian Creed gives the fullest expression of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity where it states

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.

For these reasons we know that Jesus, the Son of God, co-equal with the Father and Spirit, was present and active in creating the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1.

iceberg

Conclusion

Dear reader, I hope you have found this blog series helpful for your own faith and in your defense of the Christian faith to the skeptic. I have presented merely the “tip of the iceberg” on the topic of proving the existence of God using science. Perhaps in an upcoming addendum to this series, I can address those brothers who take issue with the very thought of trying to “prove” God using science. What I hope that you and they take away from this venture is that we live in a world where scientism is the religion du jour. It is a false religion, but it is a prevalent religion in which our neighbors are indoctrinated from all areas of society, especially in education. Therefore, if we can winsomely, respectfully, and lovingly offer them reasoned, informed, perspectives about God from their worldview, we may very well be turning the soil of their consciences in preparation for the seed of the Gospel.

The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science part 4

Mt. Rushmore taught us important lessons about how to identify something that was made by an intelligent designer vs. naturally occurring randomness. The faces’ complexity, specificity, and recurrences in other places such as photographs and paintings combined with historical records—even if there was no record of their carving—tell us those presidential images did not appear in that mountain by chance. They were intentionally made by someone. They function as both “information” and evidence of intelligence. Likewise, the best explanation (abductive reasoning) of the complexity, specificity, and recurring likenesses of DNA tell us that DNA was intentionally designed by someone outside of nature. The “recurring” likeness of DNA is found in modern technology. The computer is a marvel production of human intelligence. It is no wonder that this greatest “creation” of the human mind so closely mimics the creation of God within mankind. Remember, man was created imago Dei—in the image and likeness of God.

This blog entry is devoted to building upon that foundation by looking at some examples of the similarities between DNA and technology. This one is a bit long, but if you hang in there, I trust it will be worth the effort! I put in some really interesting pictures and resources to season it for you.

dna-binary

The Code

Here again is the quote by Bill Gates, in order to complement the claim from a non-religious viewpoint (Note that I am using Bill Gates as an “authority” because he is arguably THE most well-known representative for computer operating systems.):

“DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software every created.”

If you are a bit “rusty” on your biology and haven’t watched the video I mentioned in Blog #3, please do that now. It quickly and creatively explains some fundamental aspects of DNA. For my purposes, you need to know that the Genetic Code in DNA is comprised of four chemical bases that molecular biologists have assigned the characters, “T, C, A, and G.” My very simplified explanation is that how these chemicals are arranged within the DNA strand tell your cells what to become and what to do. In the womb, you are “built.” All of the biological components—the heart, the lungs, the brain, lymph nodes, and etc.—are formed into systems—circulatory, respiratory, nervous, immune, and etc.— needed for life are constructed. They are constructed simultaneously and interdependently.

Computers, though not self-generating like DNA (see why Bill said DNA is “far, far more advanced”), operate using a code. Computers use electrical charges, voltage, that have been assigned the characters “1” and “0” by electrical engineers. (The picture below is taken from an excellent slide show explaining DNA and computer technology. Check it out here.)

dna-binary-chart

Note that computers accomplish their myriads of tasks using two characters (binary) while DNA is made up of four characters. Mathematically, this puts the potential functionality of DNA on orders of magnitude beyond computers!)

The sequential arrangement of these 1’s and 0’s were standardized in what is known as ASCII code (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Assigned sequences of 1’s and 0’s equate to letters of the alphabet. That means, after having loaded and opened a word processing program, when you push a key on your keyboard, a voltage is passed along to the computer such that a set pattern of 1’s and 0’s are generated internally, and put into memory, awaiting the next command.

ascii-chart

The base elements of binary logic can serve their function only because there is an internal group of systems within the computer. Where organisms have organs within biological systems, computers have components within electronic systems—power supply, input/output devices like disk drives and keyboards, the CPU (central processing unit), and memory—all interconnected through conductive traces which function like nerves and blood vessels for transport between systems.

pc-architecture-blocks

The Hardware

Thus far I’ve shown you the most basic concepts of computer architecture. Next I’ll show you the fascinating world of the hardware, the physical make-up of how this technology works. This is like the laboratory looking under the microscope at your cells, because it is using microscopes.

As a Failure Analysis Engineer, I have to get at the internal “guts” of the chip (integrated circuit). To do that, we use acid to dissolve the chip’s outer shell and expose the “die.” It looks like this:

decap-die

Those tiny gold strands in the middle are wires that connect the outside world to the electronic circuit inside. Here is what the circuit looks like under a microscope:

die-picture

You can make out some of the separate circuits by noticing the outlined sections of squares and rectangles. That shows the various circuits that are made up of sections designed with independent functions. The above chip is a relatively simple one and likely an analog, not digital, The partial chip below is more complex and shows the parts of a CPU with the blocks outlined for you:

digital-die-pic

The purpose of this detail is to simply emphasize the organization, purpose, and structure—both physically and logically—that goes into the inner workings of a computer, which mimics the inner workings of biology and DNA. The physical design shown in the previous pictures works because an electrical design engineer, trained in the principles of electronic theory, produced an electrical diagram with functionality. To most of us, the schematic diagram below means nothing and might as well be ancient hieroglyphics painted on a pyramid wall. But to electrical engineers, it is information that all makes perfect sense. (By the way, the picture below would more likely represent the simpler, analog die above and not the complex digital, computer circuit. Also, for any electrical engineers reading this, I recognize that analog circuits are in many ways more difficult than digital circuits. By “complex” I mean the number of functions that typical digital circuits perform is greater which requires more and smaller components.)

schematic

The “Guts” of the IC

My final dive into the semiconductor world is the deepest I can go with my training. For a physical reference, the dimension of the IC I showed you earlier could likely be about 5 millimeters by 5 millimeters. Now I want to show you what a single transistor looks like.

The left slide shows what a simple “inverter” looks like. The leftmost image in that slide is the physical layout, the other two symbols shows the electrical schematic equivalent. An engineer sees this and recognizes that whatever logic value enters the circuit simply changes to its opposite. In other words, a “1” is changed to a “0” and vice-versa. The image on the top right is a physical cross section of a transistor taken with a Scanning Electron Microscope. The individual chemical components and their functions have been outlined for you. The lower image is just a diagram of it. Note that the scale of the physical dimension is 100nM (nanometers). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter! The width of a strand of DNA is about 2 nanometers. A carbon or oxygen atom is about 0.15 nanometers.

So, from the concepts of computer architecture, the coding of information with instructions, to the physical dimensions we see similarity between biology and technology! The similarities are uncanny, which leads us to conclude that the best possible explanation for biology is an intelligent Design Engineer!

Some Really Cool Mechanics

Just for fun, to wrap up this blog entry. I want to show you another comparison to marvel. Don’t worry, it is not as involved or lengthy. The Scanning Electron Microscope is such a cool instrument to see these things.

The technology that gave us the physical properties of transistors lead to what is called “Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems” or MEMS. When I worked for Texas Instruments at the turn of the latest century, they were producing their DLP© technology which gave the world amazing clarity in cinematic and projector technology. The specialized chip uses micrometer sized mirrors for each pixel. Those mirrors are mounted to hinges which move, directing the reflected light and turning the mirror on or off. (If you are interested, you can read more detail on TI’s website.) Here are two Scanning Electron Microscope images of the mirrors. Some mirrors (the squares with the hole in the middle)are missing, which shows their hinges:

mirrors-low-magmirrors-high-mag

Here is another cool picture I found on the internet of MEMS technology used to make micro-scale gears:

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Now, check out this close-up image of 20 micron (micrometer) scale gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-high-mag

Now, let’s zoom out and see more of this gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-low-mag

gear-jumping

These gears function as a cock and release mechanism that propels this tiny leaf hopper forward. According to the article in Smithsonian.com bug

The reason for the gearing, they say, is coordination: To jump, both of the insect’s hind legs must push forward at the exact same time. Because they both swing laterally, if one were extended a fraction of a second earlier than the other, it’d push the insect off course to the right or left, instead of jumping straight forward. 

(The article also mentioned):

To the best of our knowledge, the mechanical gear—evenly-sized teeth cut into two different rotating surfaces to lock them together as they turn—was invented sometime around 300 B.C.E. by Greek mechanics who lived in Alexandria. In the centuries since, the simple concept has become a keystone of modern technology, enabling all sorts of machinery and vehicles, including cars and bicycles.

 

I highlighted “the reason for” to again show that scientists are compelled to use terminology of intelligence and purposeful design. I argue they do so NOT because it has the “illusion of design” as Darwin said, but because nature actually has been designed at every level.

Concluding Remarks

I had mentioned that DNA is “orders of magnitude” more advanced than computers. I want you to try to grasp the magnitude of scale at play in this discussion. Indeed, DNA and the world of biology mimics computer technology and thereby proves the same complex and specific architecture exists in two completely different environments, proving an intelligent designer is behind it all. But that is just “scratching the surface.”

What we see in nature are complex and functional systems working from the subatomic level to the cosmological level, both ends of which appear to go on infinitely. You and I can know and observe these things because we are alive and have the brains to do so. We are alive because we have the biological systems working in concert with an environmental system arranged to sustain life. Our bodies can breathe and eat because our planet has its own complex chemistry of air, seasons, and nutrients. Our planet is able to do this because of its place within our solar system which is governed by complex laws of physics, chemistry, and things we really do not yet understand. As humans, the supreme creatures made in the image of God, we are the only creatures capable of exploring the Creation and discovering these things. We are doing what we were created to do—bring glory to God and enjoy him forever! (Hat tip to the Westminster shorter catechism question 1.)

What science is doing for us is showing the great complexity and specificity of the natural world at every level. In so doing, it is showing us that the most reasonable explanation is that a supreme, intelligent Being has designed it all and brought it all into existence. The scientific explanation of origins—randomness and chance—that has dominated the modern era is untenable and short-sighted.

There always seems to be a pendulum swing. The pendulum of enlightenment is swinging in the Christian’s favor. It would behoove us and bring glory to God if we would lay hold of these things and present them to our world. Before modernity, the world largely accepted Theism as the intuitive explanation for our world (Romans 1:18-ff). As humanism and the Age of Reason gave rise to Scientism, the world seemed to gain the upper hand in the cultural war for truth. Christianity, as Theists, appeared to be operating from “blind faith” hanging on to a passé world view, ignorant and unsophisticated. Ironically, the science of Darwinism is now passé. He, comparatively, knew nothing of microbiology, genetic codes, etc. at work within the cell. His followers today have their own “God of the gaps” to explain scientific mysteries. Theirs is “chance and time.” Post-modernity science is pointing to the conclusion that Theists had it right all along. They were just unable to explain it “scientifically.” May we Christians equip ourselves with the latest information to put us on the leading edge of the pendulum rather than the trailing edge. Let us use recent scientific discoveries to buttress the truth of God’s word and confront our world—not with medieval knowledge, but cutting-edge knowledge.

Having shown that science does indeed reveal the “fingerprints of God,” the next blog will show that we can know WHO the Intelligent Designer is.