Posts Tagged ‘ Core Facts ’

The Core Facts: Converted Conspirator

For some words of wisdom, head over to Proverbial Thought!

To keep up to date, do not forget to go back and read the first two Core Facts that show why Christianity is based on truth and reason: Jesus’ death on the cross, the despair of the Disciples, and the change in the Disciples. I give my usual reminder that this is not meant to be an exhaustive study of the arguments, but these posts are primers to get you thinking. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at these points, look up my wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger, at Fervent Youth.

Now for the third of The Four Core Facts:

The Conversion of Saul/Paul

All of the facts build on each other, building to the point that none work without the others, especially and most importantly because of #1.

Without the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ there is no despair in the Disciples. Either there was never a Jesus of Nazareth to have followed and have taken away, or Jesus was just a good leader and the Disciples could have found another great leader.

Without the Resurrection after the Crucifixion there is no reason for the Disciples to change. The could have easily gone back to their old lives. The Disciples would have had every reason to abandon the mission, especially if a body could have been presented.

There would have been no reason for Saul to hunt down blasphemers, and he would not have been able to see the Resurrected Jesus.

The Apostle Paul is one other person whom should not be doubted as having existed. I can understand people who think Paul was the creator of Christianity. He covered a lot of land in a relatively short span of time, and he impacted countless lives.

However, before he was Paul the Apostle, he was Saul the Pharisee. I will let his own words explain:

“The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.”
Acts 26:4-5, NIV

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
Philippians 3:4-6, NIV

This man did his best to be a really good Jew. He even went so far as to literally hunt down people who defied his fellow religious leaders.

This man was allowed to study under Gamaliel, one of the greatest Rabbis in history. He is renowned within Judaism for his strict adherence to and reverence of the Law of Moses. This is not just the 10 Commandments, but all of the 613 laws found in the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible known as the Books of Moses.

Our man says “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God” (Acts 22:3) (Emphasis added, and, yes, I admit to shortening the verse by a few words.).

There should be no doubt that Saul was a man seeking to work his way into God’s good graces, who was passionate about God’s Law and the teachings and holiness.

Saul was a man who was so devout that he did his best to never be defiled in any way and went as far as to hunt down, arrest, torture, and even kill (at the very least through other people while he approved, as stated in Acts 8:1) those who claimed God became a man.

But then it all changed.

Why would a man so devout to following every letter of the Law to the point of feeling a need to persecute others to protect it suddenly join those he was hunting?

This Saul of Tarsus would have had to have had a truly life-altering event take place.

What would send Saul (meaning “prayed for”) into synagogues to preach the Gospel and the desert wilderness for some time to study to eventually come back as Paul (meaning “small”)?

Other than brain-washing, the only possible explanation is that he saw a vision of the Resurrected Jesus.

It is possible to claim he hallucinated, however when taken with the other three Core Facts that seems unlikely.

In fact, the conversion of Saul the Pharisee in to Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ and one of the greatest missionaries and church-planters ever also falls under the third Core Fact.

Next month I move on to our youth group‘s Four Core Values:

  1. Desperate pursuit of God
  2. Diligent prayer
  3. Consecrated heart
  4. Focused life

Thoughts?

The Core Facts: A New Boldness

A wise mind would go find some wisdom over at Proverbial Thought!

To keep up to date, do not forget to go back and read the first two Core Facts that show why Christianity is based on truth and reason: Jesus’ death on the cross and the despair of the Disciples. I give my usual reminder that this is not meant to be an exhaustive study of the arguments, but these posts are primers to get you thinking. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at these points, look up my wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger, at Fervent Youth.

Now for the third of The Four Core Facts:

The Change in the Disciples’ Willingness to Die

I feel I must first verify for everyone that there were indeed more than 11 or 12 Disciples as evidenced by Jesus appointing 72 to go on a short-term mission (Luke 10) and 120 meeting in “the upper room” between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost (Acts 1:15). You see, the Twelve Disciples were Jesus’ inner circle, His closest friends entrusted with leading the fledgling Church after His ascension.

And now, we should start with the obvious: Why were the Disciples willing to die?

They firmly believed they had seen the Risen Lord.

Jesus was not just another man. He made the impossible claim that He is God (John 10:30). Jesus backed up this claim through various miracles …

… the ultimate miracle being that He was beaten, crucified, died, and buried, and rose back to life.

The Disciples were convinced they saw Jesus risen from the dead, and that gave them the confidence they needed to willingly face death for the sake of the Gospel.

This change is more than just a willingness to die. This needs to be understood.

People of many beliefs are willing to die for what they believe. That cannot be denied. September 11, 2001 is enough evidence for Americans, and many nations around the world see evidence of this deadly devotion many times a year if not every day.

There are a couple of differences with they young Church. The Disciples had a passion to share the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. They taught a radical message that required change in all who believe.

Just like the Western world today, people in the Roman Empire had an understanding that you could believe anything you wanted, just do not try to tell anyone they are believing wrongly. If you did, you were clearly wrong and must be stopped.

The Disciples started a new revolution of love for all people, no matter how old or young, rich or poor, color, nationality, or societal stance. But it was also a revolution of needing to change yourself: your habits, your thoughts, and especially your beliefs; in other words, that everyone was essentially wrong.

They knew the consequences: Deny your teachings or risk imprisonment, torture, and even death.

This means the Disciples went from a group of cowards who ran away from punishment to not shying away from the threat of suffering and death.

As I said two weeks ago in my fourth point, it would have been easy to stop the early Church from growing beyond several dozen or several thousand people.

If the Disciples had stolen Jesus’ body, most if not all of them would have cracked under torture and the threat of death and admitted to the removal of the body (which Jews would not do, because touching a dead body made you ceremonially unclean … very non-kosher).

If the Disciples had suffered from mass hallucination, all the authorities would have had to do is open the tomb and show them the body and snap them back to reality … or at least stop new converts rather handily.

If the Jewish and/or Roman authorities had stolen the body … THEY COULD HAVE PRODUCED THE BODY!

Did you notice a trend?

The Disciples becoming so bold in the face of the most powerful forces in the known world is not a trivial matter.

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth can not be credibly denied.

The Disciples despairing after Jesus was led away is and understandable truth.

The change in the Disciples to endure pain and death for a belief that Jesus was who He said He was and had risen from the dead only helps to prove that Jesus really is the risen Son of God.

It also helps explain the fourth of the Four Core Facts: The Conversion of Saul/Paul

Are there any other thoughts? Is there anything to add?

The Core Facts: Despairing Disciples

Here is another friendly reminder to go read the wise words written by the men at Proverbial Thought!

Also, the youth pastor with whom I work speaks on all of this. Find Jesse Bollinger at Fervent Youth.

Last week I began the study of the Core Facts, starting with Jesus’ death on the cross. And I remind you that these posts are not meant to be exhaustive arguments on these topics. I currently do not have the time for that! Rather, these are a brief synopsis of the main points.

This week I continue with the second of The Four Core Facts:

The Despair of the Disciples

There are two main reasons why the Disciples being desperate is true:

  1. the Jews (of which all of the initial Disciples were) were expecting a Messiah to overthrow the pagan government; and
  2. it was shameful to record faults of heroes of the story.

On point number one, as was discussed last week, the Jews were expecting Israel to be freed from oppressive rule by a great King.

One example of the Disciples’ fervor for a conquering King is demonstrated while travelling through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem for the last time:

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Luke 9: 51-54

One example that they did not expect their Messiah to die comes immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Matthew 16:21-22

Imagine being in their shoes … er … sandals. They are expecting the heir of King David to come to the rescue, restore Israel, and lead them as King …

… not die.

If you saw your unstoppable leader killed, would you not be emotionally destroyed?

If you saw your Lord being taken away by soldiers, put on trial, flogged (beaten, whipped, and tortured), and crucified, do you think you would run in and try to save the day or run and hide?

This leads to point number two: The Gospels recorded the Disciples running away!

Throughout history, those who have written history have generally put themselves in the best possible light. The epics written of old showed individuals and armies alike running into danger to rescue a friend, a leader, or an army. Individuals confronted hundreds or thousands of soldiers to save the day. Mere mortals braved the pain and torment of the Underworld to save a loved one.

The first leaders of the Church fled and hid. Then they told everyone about it!

At the time of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, they forgot He ever said that He must be killed and raised back to life. Peter even denied his best friend of the previous three years!

Some might argue that this kind of thing happens all the time, but I urge you to look into the current world of politics. Rarely do we see a politician taking the rap for a mistake, let alone deserting friends. If they do own up to it, usually it is to cast it in a good light.

The Disciples knew what they did was sad and wrong. They owned up to it.

Even today that shows someone who is honest and therefore trustworthy.

These were heartbroken men, literally scared for their lives, who believed their Lord and Messiah died. They had enough reason to suspect that they could also be arrested and even crucified for inciting a rebellion.

Perhaps they even thought they were wrong all along about who Jesus is.

Talk about an existential crisis.

Fortunately for them, within three days they were redeemed (on so many levels).

It changed their lives.

But that is for next week when I cover Core Fact #3: The Change in the Disciples’ Willingness to Die

Are there any thoughts on this?

The Core Facts: The Crucifixion

I may not be the most eloquent nor wise, but to get some good truth and wisdom go check out Proverbial Thought. If nothing else, the proverbs are excellent!

Also, the youth pastor with whom I work speaks on all of this. Find Jesse Bollinger at Fervent Youth.

Last week I implicitly made some bold assertions: Christians have faith in provable facts, and only a handful of facts should be enough to prove that assertion.

In other words, Christians should not and do not have a blind faith (though there are some who claim it is, both within and outside of the Church), and it is justifiable to say so.

And right off the bat, let me say that if someone says there is no evidence that Jesus of Nazareth even existed, they are being intellectually dishonest. The mere fact that Christianity has existed since the first century is more than enough evidence. I will even make the statement now that I will delete comments that seriously offer that argument. It is not censorship, it is keeping the garbage and the trolls out.

Also, one great resource to find all of this information (though not necessarily an exhaustive source, though they source very well) is I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek (Crossway, 2004).

Now, and finally, on to the first of the Four Core Facts:

Jesus’ Death on the Cross

First for the obvious argument: A crucifixion is not hard to believe in area of Palestine 2,000 years ago. People were crucified left and right throughout the Roman Empire, rather literally.

Secondly, we know there were many people claiming to be the Messiah since at least the Maccabean Revolt until the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. (Yeah, I used A.D. and am not afraid to use it!) It is not unheard of to have “messiahs” crucified. They were calling for the downfall (or at the very least to be left alone by) the Roman Empire. We still treat treason as a capital offense today.

Poor Pontius Pilate, while by no means innocent, is given a bad rap during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Most scholars agree that Barabbas (the man released when Jesus was crucified) was one of these messiahs. We need to remember that Pilate was in charge of keeping the peace. He would want to squelch any insurrection before it happened, if possible. He knew that Jesus was not trying to overthrow Rome, but he also knew that the Jews might very well all rise up if he did not acquiesce to their demand to kill Jesus.

This man just wanted to keep the peace (even if he hated the Jews).

Thirdly, Hebrews have long and largely believed that the Messiah, or Christ, would be a man who would arise and defeat all of Israel’s enemies, effectively making them not only a viable world power but perhaps even the strongest (depending on to whom you talk). This man would not be defeated but be more triumphant than King David ever was!

Further, the Jews have believed that there would be only one resurrection in all of history: at the very end of history as we understand it!

Fourthly, there are many arguments about Jesus fainting on the cross (“Swoon Theory”), that the Disciples stole the body, that the Jews/Romans hid the body, or that there was mass hallucination within the Disciples making them think they saw a resurrected Jesus.

  • This first point also works within the third Core Fact, but it must be explained here, as well. If the Disciples stole the body, they would know the Resurrection was a lie. People generally do not die willingly for a lie (though a lot of movies and TV shows have people doing it quite a bit). Especially when faced with intense and prolonged pain or death, people usually come clean.
  • If the Jews and/or Roman authorities hid the body, they could have easily stopped the expansion of the Church by revealing the dead body.
  • The same argument can be made for mass hallucination: the authorities could have easily stopped the Church by revealing the dead body.
  • I am still surprised people still use the argument of “Swoon Theory”. Here is why: 1) He was flogged with a whip with metal balls or pieces of metal and/or glass fragments in the tails. He was bleeding from all over His body before even making it to the cross. 2) He had a crown of thorns (thorns up to two or three inches long) pushed on his head … more blood. 3) He was wrapped in a purple robe, which would have rubbed on his fresh wounds and pulled out any scabs when it was pulled off. He lost even more blood. 4) He was crucified by having his arms stretched out to either side (potentially dislocating His shoulders), having nails run through His wrists (more blood) causing paralysis of his hands, having a nail run through His feet (more blood) effectively making Him crippled, and having a spear thrust into His side (more blood, if there was much of any left). 5) He was buried for at least 36 hours and as much as 80 hours without any food or water to help revive Him. 6) He would have had to roll away a heavy stone and overpower two Roman soldiers to escape … after all of that other stuff having happened to Him.

Not likely.

Lastly, even though the Gospels may not have been written for at least 30-40 years, they were written to a) spread the Gospel to people and b) combat stories which had arisen contrary to the truth. This means the story was definitely well-circulated before they were even written, and there was plenty of time to have fact-checked the story before then.

Even after the gospels were written, it would have been possible to fact-check most if not all of the story being presented. Whether that be by people were still alive and had been there or by checking with the government and locals! (“Were those governors and kings really there?” “Are these places really in existence?”)

In truth, this post could go on for another thousand words briefly covering other evidences for the Crucifixion.

I think this is more than enough evidence, though.

Next week, I delve into Core Fact #2: The Despair of the Disciples

I would like to think you found this informative, or at least a good reminder of some points.

Are there any other thoughts on the matter?