The Resurrection

During the Easter season our thoughts turn to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most pivotal event in human history. Christianity is founded upon it and human history is divided by it. Indeed, Christianity stands or fails on its historical authenticity.

Do we as Christians ask the world to blindly embrace the reality of the resurrection? While faith is an essential component of Christianity there is a difference between faith and blind faith. We have not been left totally in the dark. The evidence for the resurrection is clearly seen in the lives of the apostles and the faith that was founded on their eyewitness accounts.

I cannot formulate, nor have I ever read, a more compelling argument for the historicity of the resurrection of Christ than that offered by Scottish theologian Dr. Principal Hill. The late Dr. D. James Kennedy in his book Why I Believe shares the following statement by Dr. Hill. Hill said, “But if notwithstanding every appearance of truth, you suppose their 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 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 replete with accounts of those of different faiths who have died for what they believed, but they died believing those things to be true. There is not a single record of anyone who died for what they knew was a lie. If the disciples stole the body of Christ and hid it to feign Christ’s resurrection, is it reasonable to believe they gave the remainder of their lives to suffer privations, persecutions and death knowing the resurrection was a lie?

This is the point that Dr. Hill makes so cogently. 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.

The Pastor Protection Act

It appears the Florida version of the Pastor Protection Act has passed and will become law on July 1, 2016 here in the Sunshine State. When it was first proposed I was asked to comment on it and I also wrote an article on it at that time. With its passage I thought I would revisit the matter.

Florida seems to be following the pattern of several other states that have enacted similar legislation. Trudy Ring writing for the Advocate, a gay rights publication, said, “The U. S. Constitution assures that clergy members won’t be forced to perform any marriage they don’t endorse, but that’s not good enough for some Florida lawmakers, who today advanced a piece of state legislation that does the same thing.”

Trudy is not entirely right. While the First Amendment to the United States Constitution assures “the free exercise” of religion, those specific freedoms are not enumerated and could be subject to the interpretation of the United States Supreme Court.

Scott Plakon, a Republican in the Florida House of Representatives and the sponsor of the Pastor Protection Act, has said this law provides an “extra layer of protection.” That’s not entirely true either. All state statutes along with Florida’s are just one United States Supreme Court decision away from being unconstitutional. That “extra layer of protection” is as ephemeral as the will of the Court.

Since state statutes are subordinate to the United States Constitution, I said the Pastor Protection Act was “a waste of time.” I have rethought my position on that and here is the reason why.

It is true that any state legislative act has no binding effect on any future Supreme Court decision, and in that sense is “a waste of time.” But I do not believe Supreme Court Justices make rulings in a cultural vacuum. I think they are people like us in many respects and they are subject to peek out from under Lady Justice’s blinding mask on occasion.

Judicial decrees, like legislation, often have unintended results. I do not think Justice Kennedy ever intended his decision in Obergefell v. Hodges to become a right of one citizen to be able to coerce another to do something against the other’s firmly held convictions. I think the conflicts created between same-sex advocates and people of faith by Kennedy’s decision were not completely foreseen by the Court (I might be naïve here).

The legislation enacted here in Florida and other states to protect people with strong religious convictions, while not binding on the Court, could have an influence on the future outcome of a case that comes before the Court.

Whatever happens eventually in the legal realm, justice for believers is not guaranteed in this life. “Many seek a ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord,” Proverbs 29:27. Ultimate justice for man does not rest with any earthly legislation or decree; it is lodged with a much higher Court of Appeal.

Scientific Superstitions

PLOS One, a scientific journal, recently published an article titled, “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living.” Based on the title you would not think it to be that controversial, but you would be wrong.

The article came under fire for two comments made about the human hand. The article claimed the way muscles in the hand coordinate movement are the “proper design of the Creator,” and those coordinated movements “should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention.”

The article passed PLOS One’s criteria for publication, and though many have complained about attributing the complexity of human hand movement to the “Creator,” the observations and scientific data contained in the article have not been disputed.

The theory of evolution regarding the present existence of life in all its diversity and complexity is that life, in whatever form, is the random product of a mindless process that began by accident. Creationism holds that life in all its present diversity and complexity is the result of a creative process of intelligent design, and is neither random, mindless, nor accidental.

Whether one believes in evolution or creation is just that, a matter of belief, because neither one can be proved or disproved scientifically.

What we see in the reactions to this article is the bias in the scientific community to an admission of intelligent design and the possibility of a Creator. No one has questioned the scientific observations in the article. What has been questioned, even vilified, is the idea that the human hand owes its complex and coordinated movement to an intelligent Designer.

Science has often ridiculed some religious beliefs as being mere superstition, an attempt to make sense out of the unexplainable, the mysterious. What scientists are unwilling to admit is their theories without supporting evidence are just modern day superstitions couched in scientific language.

Scientific theories about how the universe and life began are attempts to satisfy our curiosity about those events, but the whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observable fact about either. Their theories are just scientific superstitions and the scientific community is as devoutly faithful to its superstitions as the Christian community is to its beliefs.

Science is the study of the natural order through direct observation in the field and experimentation in the laboratory. Christian faith is the study of man’s relationship with God, lost in the fall and restored in the Atonement. There are subject areas where science and the Scriptures overlap, but I am not aware of a single contradiction between the two.

“The fool has said in his heart ‘There is no God,’” Psalm 14:1. It seems to me the scientific community ought to cut this article some latitude, especially when it cannot disprove the existence of God, a subject entirely beyond its scope of inquiry. It is simply foolish of the scientific community to insist on adherence to its superstition here.

Marc Driscoll

Marc Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. The church had its first official meeting in October of 1996 and had an attendance of 160. It would eventually grow to a membership of almost 6,500 with a weekly attendance of over 12,000, and swelled to 15 campus locations in 5 states.

The rapid growth of the church created the need to revise its by-laws several times and restructure leadership creating some friction among the staff. Some lost their jobs in the restructuring. Charges of plagiarism by Marc Driscoll and growing dissension from alleged bullying of staff and abusive leadership led to Driscoll’s resignation on October 14, 2014.

Within months Mars Hill broke up. The rise and fall of Driscoll’s meteoric celebrity conservatism has proved to be the most notably disruptive event in recent church history here in America. Among those who know who he is, few straddle the fence of opinion; they either love him or hate him.

Driscoll is on the verge of reinventing his ministry in Phoenix, Arizona. Those who love him must believe he has corrected any failings of his past failed pastorate and are willing to move on into a new ministry with him.

Brian and Connie Jacobsen, and Ryan and Arica Kildea are not among them. They allege Driscoll and other church leaders at Mars Hill misappropriated donated funds of $90,000 between 2008 and 2014, and $2,700 from 2011 to 2013, respectively. They claim the funds were designated to go to foreign missions, but were instead used for other purposes.

In their lawsuit the Jacobsens and Kildeas further allege Driscoll and certain church leaders ran Mars Hill Church like an organized crime syndicate using finances illegally. If Driscoll and others had acted illegally it is hard to believe they did so under the radar of law enforcement agencies that track racketeering activities.

Paul told the Corinthians, “Actually, then it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7). Paul’s point is it is better to be wronged or defrauded than to squabble over financial matters before unbelievers.

I give to my church regularly and cheerfully. I do not designate how my giving is to be used trusting those who handle the church’s finances to use it where needed. But if I did designate those funds, I do not think I would object to their being used for another legitimate church need. My reason for giving is to invest and participate in the spread of the Gospel, if I did not trust my church, I would find another ministry I had more confidence in.

We do not know the motives of the plaintiffs. They may want a refund or may want their giving redirected to their designated charity, but if they merely wish to give this fledgling ministry a black eye at its inception they would have been better off to be defrauded and forgive.