Kicking Christ out of History

When it comes to kicking Christ out of things the skeptics did not stop with Christmas; they are trying to kick Him out of history too. Of course, this is not new. Replacing B.C. (Before Christ), and A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”) with B.C.E. (Before the Common Era), and C.E. (the Common Era) was the start. But it did not stop there.

In an article for the Washington Post titled, Did historical Jesus really exist?, Raphael Lataster questions whether Jesus was an actual historical person. Lataster claims, “there are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus.” He is right if you discount the four Gospels, which give every indication of being simple straightforward eyewitness accounts of the life of Christ. Regarding the Gospels he writes, “These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity, which gives us reason to question them.”

The events were recorded decades later. Jesus had promised to return and unsure as to when, and thinking it would be sooner than later, the apostles did not initially see the need to record what they and others had witnessed. Jesus and his earthly ministry were well known. When it became evident His return would be later they wrote down what they had seen for those who would follow. Indeed, they were eager to promote the message of God’s redemptive work in Christ, a message that has brought the Light of God’s love for man to the benighted of the world. Who would not be eager to share such a message?

Lataster is eager to share his skepticism with us, and part of his motivation is no doubt the remuneration he received for his article in the Washington Post, the byline of which promoted his book, There Was No Jesus, There Is No God. Royalties promote great eagerness. For all of his writing Lataster has only given us his reasons for doubting the Gospel accounts. He has not shared any actual evidence refuting the historicity of the Gospels.

The Gospel writers recorded what they saw and heard with an apparent contempt for financial gain and worldly comforts, and despite being ostracized and dispossessed by their countrymen, suffering persecution by the civil authorities, and experiencing the most grievous tortures known to man and finally dying for what they witnessed, they persevered in sharing the greatest story ever told. Not one of them ever sought to secure his welfare by renouncing the Gospel message they penned. Their simple testimony was “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard,” Acts 4:20.

Lataster may profit from pandering his skepticism, but the Gospel writers paid the price of persecution for publishing their faith. Until the skeptics come up with some genuine evidence, I am going to stick with the story that cost the apostles everything.

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Are Bible Movies Really Bible Movies?

In its first weekend in theaters Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings dethroned The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1, as the reigning moneymaker, by raking in $24.5 million to Mockingjay’s $13.2 million. I had thought about watching Exodus: Gods and Kings despite Christian Bales, who plays Moses, calling Moses “schizophrenic” and “barbaric” in an October interview. Then I read an article by Brett McCracken, who was making a case for going to see the movie, and I changed my mind.

McCracken said Christians should not let a number of inaccuracies in the movie keep us from watching it, but when he said that God the Father is portrayed by a petulant 11-year-old British boy that did it for me. McCracken defends the film claiming he prefers a biblically themed film that is artistically done despite inaccuracies, rather than an accurate one that is poorly done.

I disagree; given the cinematic capabilities of modern-moviemaking I do not understand the need to sacrifice one for the other. Why can’t the film industry give believers both accuracy and artistry? After watching the first episode of the Bible series produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, I did not watch the remaining episodes. I was so disappointed by the first episode I could not bear to watch the rest. Fraught with inaccuracies, the angelic messengers sent to rescue Lot and his family from Sodom being depicted as ninja warriors especially irritated me.

McCracken argues that believers “who claim to live according to a gospel of grace” should overlook mistakes and go see it. But I tend to agree with reviewers like Gary Black, Jr., who writes, “When will a moviemaker demonstrate the confidence or courage to tell the actual stories these biblical movies are titled after?” He makes an insightful point when he posits what directors like Ridley Scott and Darren Afronofsky, who directed the film Noah, “miss…is that the primary character in these biblical stories is God.” Those Scriptures that admonish us not to “add to” or “take away” (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19) from what God has said applies to movie directors also. Where did Afronofsky get the idea that Noah needed the help of giant rock monsters?

I disagree with McCracken; this is not about grace in the eye of the beholder, but the faithless disregard of biblical truth by the directors. The film industry makes movies to make money. It is not a ministry, but an enterprise. Any enterprise that disparages the God I revere, perverts the Scriptures I hold sacred, and thereby mocks the faith I embrace, will be graciously forgiven, but they will not get my box office dollar. Why should I pay for them to mislead millions of moviegoers? I will just go next door and watch the Penguins of Madagascar. At least I will leave with a smile on my face instead of irritated and disappointed.

A long, long time ago…

“A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” No, this is not the introduction to another Star Wars saga. It is an introduction to the theory of Directed Panspermia that was once espoused by Francis Harry Compton Crick. Dr. Crick was the English born molecular biologist, who along with James D. Watson co-discovered DNA.

At one point in his studies Dr. Crick, who believed in evolution, theorized that the current complexity of human DNA could not have evolved from simpler forms of DNA over the last 3.6 billion years life is believed to have existed here on earth. So Dr. Crick hypothesized that more than 3.6 billion years ago (a long, long time ago) higher evolved intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe (in a galaxy far, far away) directed sperm pods to various planets in the universe capable of supporting life and earth was one of them. That in a nutshell (pun intended) is the theory of Directed Panspermia.

Since there is no definitive evidence that life exists elsewhere in the universe this theory has fallen into disrepute. Dr. Crick later forsook the theory himself. But the search for extraterrestrial life continues. In an article entitled, Is your religion ready to meet ET?, David A. Weintraub believes it is just a matter of time before scientists discover life elsewhere in the universe. Weintraub theorizes the discovery of life beyond our planet “would raise immediate and profoundly important cosmotheological questions.”

While the Bible is silent on the subject of life elsewhere in the universe, it does not expressly say life exists on earth alone. For this reason, discovery of life beyond this terrestrial existence would surprise me, but it would not alarm me. Such a discovery would not disprove a single word in Scripture.

Scientists, like Weintraub, assert it is not logical to assume we are alone in the universe. I believe we are not alone in the universe and I have proof. I am in possession of a book full of instructions delivered through a wireless connection from the Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. In part of His instructions He has revealed, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. Since there is a greater likelihood we will die before we discover life somewhere else in the universe, the most important question is not, “Is your religion ready to meet ET?,” the most important question is, “Are you ready to meet your Maker?”

Crick and Weintraub’s theories of exogenic life are unproven theories, and as a believer my trust in what God has revealed to us in the Bible supersedes unproven theories. Of course, you do not have to believe the Bible, if you prefer you can believe “A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

To Sign or Not to Sign

The Christian magazine First Things has published a document titled, The Marriage Pledge. The pledge calls for pastors and others to divorce Christian marriage from civil marriage by refusing to sign “government-provided marriage certificates, ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings,” and “preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage.” Marriage as an institution was created by God, and is blessed by the church, and recognized by the state. Those affixing their signatures to the pledge declare they will no longer be agents of the state following the state’s redefinition of marriage.

Traditionally marriage has served a twofold purpose. First, it serves as a covenant of committed companionship between a man and a woman, the basic unit of society and the only institution that provides for the continued flourishing of humanity. Second, the state recognizes the marriage license as a legal contract between a husband and his wife. Marriage is first a covenant; and second a contract. But how can we marry a couple and then refuse to sign the very document that gives their union legal significance and protections under the law?

In an article entitled Not Yet Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention says the pledge is premature. Moore posits, “if the state ever forced congregations or religious institutions to solemnize unions that are not, in our view, marriages, we would be compelled to obey God and conscience and not the bureaucrats…that moment will not be upon us any time soon.” There is no instance I am aware of where a pastor has been forced to solemnize a same-sex marriage. Why the haste?

Moore is not alone in calling for restraint. John Stonestreet at the Colson Center agrees there is no rush to sign the pledge. He writes, “There may very well come a time when the church must take this step. It is quite conceivable that church officials will be forced out of the civil marriage business and not even given the option of being an agent of the state. But my view is that we’ll know when that time comes, because we’ll have been forced out. But let them do it to us. Let’s not leave before then.”

If that time does come Moore is right, “We must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29. But as Moore and Stonestreet have observed that time has not yet come. Until it does Moore advises, “by registering Gospel-qualified unions as civil marriages and not officiating at unions that are not Gospel-qualified, we call the government to its responsibility even as we call attention to its limits.” Like Stonestreet cautioned, “There may very well come a time when the church must take this step,” but as Moore pointed out, “Not yet.”