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Monday, October 31, 2011

Do Not Be Deceived; Christ is Risen!

In college, I had one professor who told the class that he would accept any written interpretation of the poems we were reading, as long as we could find sufficient proof of our point in the text itself.  In other words, if we wanted him to believe our take on it, we had to find a lot of things that supported what we were saying, and explain away all of the things that seemed to disprove our point.  This task is a lot trickier than it may sound.

Last night, I discovered that the old second-hand paperback novel I've been reading for awhile was actually an attempt to disprove Christianity.  I suppose I suspected it all along, but I had been withholding judgment until the end.  Less than fifty pages from the end, the author suddenly began clumsily trying to explain away the miracles of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection, and even the calling of Paul.

My outrage over the distortion and omission of evidence throughout this anti-Christian diatribe has led me to talk about such things today.  I don't want to mention this author's name, or the name of his book, because I don't want to give notoriety to people who disseminate false information.  I will, however, address the author's theories, because they are commonly propagated thinking:
  •  Parables and even non-miraculous prophecies concerning Christ are accepted as having really happened, but problematic prophecies are neatly avoided.  For instance, it is easy to accept the prediction that Christ would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey's foal (Zechariah 9:9). That can be arranged by human effort.  It is much, much harder to accept other Messianic prophecies, such as Christ's virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14).  A good theory should have an explanation for every prophecy; it should not be so easily undermined by additional information.
  • The claim that Jesus did not die at the crucifixion, but rather fainted, was put forth.  I have heard this many times, but it always omits a vital detail from the crucifixion--the account of the Roman soldier piercing Jesus' side (John 19: 33-35).  The soldiers had come to break Jesus' legs to hasten His death, but they found Him already dead, according to the Biblical account.  Obviously, based on the story in the Bible, the bloody water gushing out meant that the Roman soldier hit something vital with his spear, as he intended, because he, too, wanted to make sure Jesus hadn't just fainted.  It was his job to ensure there were no survivors of this execution.  I've read some medical theories put forth that said the organ punctured was the pericardium, the watery sack around the heart.  It makes sense to me that the soldier would have aimed for Jesus' heart in this killing blow.
  • The claim that this was a small group of isolated people, who all believed in Jesus anyway, and thus saw what they wanted to see at the time of His crucifixion.  The only way this could be believable is if there had been no evidence that could convince an outside skeptic.  This means overlooking the supernatural occurrences on the night of Jesus' death, which even Pharisees and Romans observed and could confirm.  For instance, there was three hours of darkness during the daytime, from noon until 3 o'clock (Matthew 27: 45), a serious earthquake that tore a very thick curtain (about a foot thick) that hung in front of the Holy of Holies, and a lot of dead people who came back to life and entered the city, appearing before many (Matthew 27: 50-53).  Even pagan Romans are recorded as having spoken out their belief that Jesus was no average man, to have died with such signs around Him (Matthew 27: 54).  To say early believers made these things up is ludicrous, since they could easily be proven or dismissed.  The fact that they could so easily been dismissed is itself verification that they did happen.
  • The claim that the apostles and even Paul were naive, having been deceived by Jesus and several "co-conspirators," including Judas.  Considering the context and the penalty of joining in lies of this magnitude or believing in them, I think this is at best an arrogant insult to human intelligence--both mine and these early Christians.  Concerning their alleged naivety, though the apostles were uneducated men (Acts 4: 13), they did not lack the ability to think.  Paul, in contrast, was one of the best educated men among all of Israel; he knew what scripture said and could not be tricked by a few twisted scriptures, or even a multitude of them (Acts 22:3).  If they were in any way not acting in a clear, well-informed frame of mind, they had to be crazy, not merely naive.  Furthermore, this theory is ridiculous because, when faced with the threat of death, most people take stock of what is important to them.  People don't die for something they doubt themselves, and certainly are not inclined to die for something they know is a lie.  Maybe a few might try such a thing, but at least one person who is "in on it," will talk. 
I could go on analyzing the book and these commonly-held false theories about Jesus, but I think that is enough to make my point.  There is far too much evidence supporting the deity of Christ to easily dismiss this claim with a few half-baked theories.  Any good theory would have to answer all the evidence presented, or it would fall short of being believable.  Well, at least, that's how it should be.

Anyone can believe in theories without hearing the opposing evidence.  This is done all the time, and it attracts a large readership of people who don't check their facts.  These theories leave readers in jeopardy, because one well-aimed fact will undermine all that they believe.  I pray that for the sake of the deceived, the facts will destroy these theories before too many are taken in by them.

It is best that Christians should not be numbered among the gullible masses.  As my banner for the site reminds you, Christians are warned to be, "shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves, " (Matthew 10:16 NIV).  My mission with this site is to inform Christians and encourage them to analyze these tricky theories, rather than fall victim to their entanglements.  The truth needs no defense, because it defends itself.  Our minds need defense, so we should arm our thinking with the truth.

Until next time, this is my reminder to stay savvy and hold on to Jesus.  He is worthy.  He really came, He really rose from the dead, and He really is coming again soon!