The Resurrection

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most pivotal event in Christianity and human history.  Christianity is founded upon it and human history is divided by it.  This year on March 31, 2013, Christians around the world from every nation, race and tongue will celebrate Easter Sunday commemorating this singular event.

As Easter approaches the resurrection of Jesus Christ is foremost in the thoughts of the faithful and questioned by those not so faithful.  Critics will arise.  Enemies of the faith point to the miracles declared in the Bible as evidence that it is filled with myths and fairy tales.  The Scriptures, they say, cannot be trusted or believed.

Of those miracles recorded in Holy Writ probably the hardest to believe is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To most, the idea that a dead man can live again seems incredible.  But this truth is central to the Christian creed, and, indeed, Christianity stands or falls on its historical authenticity.  So, what happened almost two thousand years ago?

I have maintained there is a difference in faith and blind faith.  Are Christians called to blindly believe in the Resurrection?  Where is the evidence for it?  While faith will always be a necessary ingredient in the life of every believer, we have not been left totally in the dark.  The evidence of the Resurrection can be clearly seen in the lives of the disciples, and the faith that was founded on their eyewitness accounts.

Anticipating that the disciples would attempt to steal the body of Christ and fake his resurrection, the Sanhedrin requested the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to place a Roman seal on the tomb of Christ and to post a Roman guard to prevent the theft of the body.  Pilate agreed.

In his book “Why I Believe” the late Dr. D. James Kennedy shares the following statement of Scottish theologian Dr. Principal Hill.  Hill said, “But if notwithstanding every appearance of truth, you suppose their [the apostles] testimony to be false, then inexplicable circumstances of glaring absurdity crowd upon you.  You must suppose that twelve men of mean birth, of no education, living in that humble station which placed ambitious views out of their reach and far from their thoughts, without any aid from the state, formed the noblest scheme which ever entered into the mind of man, adopted the most daring means of executing that scheme, and conducted it with such address as to conceal the imposture under the semblance of simplicity and virtue.  You must suppose that men guilty of blasphemy and falsehood, united in an attempt the best contrived, and which has in fact proved the most successful, for making the world virtuous; that they formed this singular enterprise without seeking any advantage to themselves, with an avowed contempt of loss and profit, and with the certain expectation of scorn and persecution; that although conscious of one another’s villainy, none of them ever thought of providing for his own security by disclosing the fraud, but that amidst sufferings the most grievous to flesh and blood they persevered in their conspiracy to cheat the world into piety, honesty and benevolence.  Truly, they who can swallow such suppositions have no title to object to miracles.”

History is inundated with accounts of those who have died for what they believed.  But those who sacrificed their lives for the things they believed did so believing them to be true.  I am not aware of a single instance in the history of mankind in which someone died for what he knew to be false.  If, as some say, the disciples stole the body of Christ and hid it, is it reasonable to believe they gave the remainder of their lives to suffer privations, persecutions and death knowing that the Resurrection was a lie?

This is the point Dr. Hill makes so cogently.  There is no evidence that the disciples profited by preaching the Resurrection.  On the contrary, they were forsaken and disinherited by their families and ostracized by their countrymen.  They were maligned as fools, they were pursued, arrested, tortured and martyred because they were faithful to declare the things they had witnessed.

If, as some say, the disciples stole the body of Christ and hid it, is it reasonable to believe they gave the remainder of their lives to suffer privations, persecutions and death knowing of a surety that the Resurrection was a lie?  No, ours is not a blind faith.  An empty tomb gives mute testimony to the angel’s words “He is not here, but He has risen” Luke 24:6.

Who do you say that I am?

It has been said, “In the beginning God created man in His image, and ever since man has been trying to return the favor.”  We recognize the humor in this statement because of the truth contained in it.  For many God is not who He says He is, but who they think He is.

Dr. D. James Kennedy, former pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and founder of Evangelism Explosion, told an interesting story of sharing Christ with a woman.  In attempting to show the importance of making a decision for Christ, he told her our eternal destination of heaven or hell depended on it.  The woman would respond to his overtures by saying her god was a god of love and would never send anyone to hell.  He finally realized she was right, her god was a god of love and would never send anyone to hell, but her god was one of her own imagination; he was not the God of the Bible.

This story highlights something that can be witnessed every day around us; people who say they believe in God but trust their imagination as to what His nature and will are like.  If God exists, and I only say “if” rhetorically, do we really believe His nature and will are what we think?

If you were to visit our church’s website (www.wayword.info) and navigate to the page “What We Believe” you would notice, like many other churches, our statement of faith begins with our stand on the Scriptures and is followed by several doctrinal statements.  The order of these articles of faith is not the product of mere happenstance.  There is purpose in their order.  We begin with a declaration of what we believe about the Bible because every subject that follows is predicated on what the Scriptures teach.  It follows that what we believe about God should be found in His Word.

The things I believe about God are not based on what politicians think, what celebrities say, or what other religions believe.  The things I believe about God are rooted in that which He has revealed to us about Himself in the Bible.  In every instance in life I have found His Word to be an indispensable and infallible guide to those issues that are really important, and that would include those things He has revealed regarding His nature and will.  As a result, I am not confused about who God is, nor baffled by what he expects.

I do not expect people who do not believe in God to read the Bible, and, subsequently, I do not expect the things they say about Him to be accurate.  But I do expect those who claim Christ to read the Scriptures, and not be ignorant of who He is, or susceptible to the false perspectives of others.  Even the teaching and preaching of God’s Word in church each week should not be a revelation of what the Bible says but a confirmation of what it teaches.  Biblical preaching serves to explain and how to apply the teachings of Scripture, but it is not a substitute for reading and studying the Bible personally.  The believer whose sole knowledge of the Scriptures is spoon-fed to him or her on Sunday mornings from the pulpit is doomed to a perpetually malnourished and immature faith.

There has never been a time in the history of the Church when the Bible has been more readily available to believers in both plentitude and variety of versions.  In most instances, there is no reason for a seasoned Christian to be ignorant of what the Bible teaches about God and a host of other issues.  It is time we cease allowing ourselves to be distracted by other pursuits and give ourselves to the reading of His word.

Let us heed the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).”  Only then can we have a righteous influence on our culture, and put an end to the culture’s unrighteous influence on the Church.

Who is your god?  Is he the god of your imagination or the God of the Bible?  “Who do you say that I am?” Mark 8:29.

I Read the Book

The word is real.  I do not know etymologically if it is a combined form of the words history and authenticity, but that in fact is what it means.  Historicity is a term that refers to the historical authenticity of a subject.  If that subject is the Bible, then biblical historicity addresses the historical authenticity of the Scriptures.

During the five Sundays in March the History Channel is presenting the five-part miniseries The Bible in two hour segments from 8 to 10 pm.  The last part will be telecast on Easter Sunday.  Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey are believers who produced the docudrama The Bible to bring its message to the viewing public.

Its presentation on the History Channel is intriguing.  It seems to imply the Bible has historical significance and it understandably does.  The History Channel would not be broadcasting it, and Mark and Roma would not have produced it if it didn’t.  But the nature of that significance depends on one’s perspective.  So, in broadcasting The Bible is it the intent to portray the Bible in history, or the history in the Bible?

I have not interviewed anyone involved with the production or airing of The Bible.  But I think it is safe to say the History Channel is showing it because of the Bible’s undeniable place and influence in human history, and Mark and Roma produced it to depict the history that is recorded in the Bible.  But let us also grasp the unmistakable truth that the Bible commands its place in history, because of the history it contains.

Unlike other religions founded upon myths and philosophy, the Judeo-Christian faith is predicated on the historical record of God’s interaction with mankind.  While skeptics may doubt the supernatural elements in the Bible, they cannot claim the people and places spoken of in the Scriptures did not exist.  Who would dare say Egypt or Babylonia were fabled lands, or the Persian Empire was a myth, or Greece and Rome never existed?  Even people and places that are historically obscure and unknown except for their mention in the Bible have their existence corroborated by every turn of the archaeologist’s spade.

The Bible unashamedly declares its place in human history.  The God of the Bible is not a disinterested, transcendent observer as deists claim, but is the Creator who is intimately concerned with and involved in the affairs of mankind.  Those who do not see God’s handiwork in history are those who have not given thoughtful consideration to the subject, or have chosen to ignore it.

Any movie script based on a book will face its difficulties in adapting a written work to film.    It is hard to capture the heart and mind of an author, and how his work connects with the imagination of his readership.  The adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was masterfully done in my opinion, but I was not as impressed with the transformation to film of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

In this respect The Bible is no different.  And that difficulty is exponentially increased when the Author is God with such a widespread readership.  I watched the first part of The Bible and I was disappointed.  I do believe they could have done a better in the area of special effects, but that was not my chief complaint.  In the pursuit of dramatic effect I think they cut too many doctrinal corners, and there were unnecessary inaccuracies.

As a result I lost interest in the series and did not watch part two this past Sunday.  But I am already hearing about more inaccuracies and that concerns me.  So where does that leave us?

If this miniseries spurs dialogue about the Bible, and causes people to read the Bible, and inspires people to study the Bible, it has served a very good purpose.  But if it gives people the impression that the Bible can be read or interpreted as they please, or the Bible is inaccurate, and an untrustworthy account of history, that would be a concern.

When you want to know the truth about anything it is always best to get information from the source.  Firsthand information is always better than secondhand information, and whatever you see on TV or at the movies about the Bible is secondhand information.  Having lost interest in The Bible because of inaccuracies will probably preclude me watching the remaining episodes.  But that’s okay; I read the book.

Gifted Hands and Wise Words

Ben was born on September 18, 1951, in Detroit, Michigan.  When he was eight years old his parents divorced.  His mother only had a third grade education, but worked hard at several menial jobs to provide for Ben and his brother Curtis.  A poor student, Ben was mocked by his classmates and he began to respond violently.  Poor and troubled, Ben’s life was in a downward spiral.

Concerned her sons were not doing well academically, Ben’s mother Sonya restricted their TV time requiring them to do their homework first.  She made the boys get library cards and read two books a week and submit a book report to her on what they read.  Within the year Ben’s scholastic progress amazed his teachers and fellow students.  When he won an achievement award, a white teacher ridiculed the white students for allowing a black student to best them academically.

Though he was improving in school, he still had a violent temper.  Once he threatened his mother with a hammer and in another incident seriously injured a classmate by bashing his head into a locker.  Then in an argument with a friend over which radio station to listen to, he tried to stab him with a knife.  The knife struck his friend’s belt buckle and broke.  Fearing he had hurt his friend he ran home and locked himself in the bathroom with a Bible.  He asked God to help him control his anger and read Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”

Ben graduated from Yale in 1973, and then attended the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan.  He became a resident at John Hopkins University in 1977.  Specializing in neurosurgery he made medical history when he successfully separated the craniopagus Binder twins in 1987.  It was the first time siamese twins conjoined at the head had been surgically parted and lived.

Today Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr., has been the head of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins University’s Children Center for more than twenty-five years.  He continues to perform three hundred surgeries a year and is a board member of numerous educational institutions and businesses.  He is an internationally respected neurosurgeon and has earned recognition and awards that time and space prevent being shared here.  In 2008 President Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States of America.

The made for television movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was my introduction to the life and achievements of Ben Carson.  Ben was in the public spotlight again recently when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast this past February 7.  With President Obama sitting ten feet away Dr. Ben Carson simply and clearly explained what he saw as the problems with what has become known as Obamacare, and what he believed to be a solution.

His thirty minute speech has been lauded by conservative pundits and decried by liberal ones.  A groundswell of public opinion is calling on him to consider running for President, and The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed article titled Ben Carson for President.  The editorial said Carson “may not be politically correct, but he’s closer to correct than we’ve heard in years.” But Dr. Carson is not interested and said he is making other plans for when he retires this June.

But Dr. Carson is more concerned about the direction political discourse has taken.  He thinks there is too much thought given to political correctness that hinders open and honest discussion on the issues facing us as a nation and hamper progress on our problems.  He said, “The PC Police are out in force at all times…We have to get over this sensitivity.” He appears to be correct on this point.  Carson opined “What I would like to see more often in this nation is an open and intelligent conversation, not people just casting aspersions at each other.”

A Seventh Day Adventist, Dr. Ben Carson possesses a calm Christian demeanor whose words are as surgically precise when he speaks as his hands are in the operating room.  He is a model of Paul’s words “speaking the truth in love” Ephesians 4:15.  For the moment it seems the man whose “gifted hands” could separate the shared brains of conjoined twins could not separate politicians from their policies.  He has gifted hands and wise words.  We should listen.

Did Tebow Fumble?

When Tim Tebow was asked to be a guest speaker by Pastor Robert Jeffress at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, he readily agreed.  Tebow was scheduled for April 28 to bring a message at the dedication of newly constructed facilities on the church campus.  The scheduled dedication was going to be a media event, which is part of the reason Tebow was invited to speak.  You could hear the liberal howls almost immediately.

This past February 21 Tebow tweeted that based on “new information” he had received, he was cancelling his appearance.  Tebow has not disclosed what this “new information” is, but it seems to be a shoddy excuse considering his hesitancy to publish his reasons for cancellation.

Dr. Jeffress is no stranger to controversy.  As pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, he has ascended to one of the most venerable and prominent pulpits in America and the world.  His comments regarding the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the issue of homosexuality, while well within the mainstream of orthodox Christianity, have been perceived as being unduly harsh by the public and the media has not been kind in response.

Dr. Jeffress first insinuated himself into the public discourse when he announced his support of Texas Governor Rick Perry when he threw his hat into the ring as a candidate for the republican nomination for the Presidency.  At that time he denounced Mitt Romney’s candidacy because he was a Mormon and later endorsed Romney when he won the republican nomination.  As a result, Dr. Jeffress has been in and out of the public eye ever since, and unless Tebow has had his head buried in a playbook this is not “new information.”

Tim Tebow’s celebrated Christian witness considered cute in college has not been as well received in the glaring stadium lights of the NFL.  For the most part Tebow’s ostentatious Christianity has irked one sportscaster after another and they have vehemently derided him for it.  To his credit, Tebow has not responded with unkind words or actions and has maintained a serenely unflappable attitude through all the attacks.  He has been a model of Christian fortitude and behavior despite the relentless and acrimonious assaults on his character.  He has earned the love and respect of many by doing so.

But this recent incident may tarnish his testimony.  The prevailing perception is that Tebow cancelled his appearance to avoid any further controversy.  If that is true, Tebow created an even greater media maelstrom.

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Senior Religion Editor for the Huffington Post, showed his approval of Tebow’s decision when he applauded Tebow’s “refusing to be associated with a particular strain of religious faith that is publicly connected with an anti-gay stance and flagrantly hostile to other faith traditions.”  But Raushenbush’s praise will not serve Tebow well in conservative Christian circles.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., apparently thinks Tebow made a bad decision writing an article entitled Tebow’s Big Fumble.  Mohler said, “If Tebow meant to mollify his critics, it is not likely to work for long.”  Mohler bases his statement on the fact that Tebow was raised in a church holding these same views, he has been an outspoken proponent of biblical truth, and his closest friends assure us he has not changed his convictions.

Dr. Jeffress and the congregation of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, are no doubt hurt by Tebow’s decision.  In Numbers 30:2 we read, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  People assume one must swear to do something for it to be an oath, but our word is our oath.  When I say I will do something and don’t, I’ve broken my oath.  It’s just that simple.  Jesus clearly said “let your statement be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’” Matthew 5:37.  Jesus’ point is we should say what we mean and mean what we say.

In an attempt to avoid controversy, Tim Tebow created an even greater one when he broke his word.  He has offended his brothers and sisters, and has given the appearance of backing away from biblical truth, and compromising his Christian convictions.  Tebow needs to repent and he owes pastor Jeffress and the congregation of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, a public apology.  It looks like Tebow fumbled this one.