23 December 2015
Detectives create lists. As a cold-case detective, I'm no different. When investigating an event in the distant past (in my case, an unsolved murder), I collect evidence, make lists and do my best to reach the most reasonable inference. When I began to investigate Christianity at the age of thirty-five, I approached the gospels the same way I approached my cold-case files. Lists were an important part of the process. One New Testament claim was particularly interesting to me: the conception and birth of Jesus. When I first read through the gospels, the birth narratives seemed incredible and unreasonable. I'm not the only person to express such a concern. In a recent article posted in the Herald Scotland, Reverend Andrew Frater called the Nativity story a "fanciful, fairy tale" and called on Christians to "disentangle the truth from the tinsel". Frater is a minister and a believer, and even he doesn't believe in the virgin conception of Jesus. As an atheist, I was even more skeptical. I rejected supernatural claims altogether, and the first Biblical claim about Jesus was a supernatural one. But as I collected the evidence and formed my lists, I found there were many good reasons to trust the story of Christmas. I've assembled them here with links to longer treatments of each topic:
The Supernatural Nature of the Virgin Conception Shouldn't Disqualify It
When I began to investigate the virgin conception, I was actually investigating my own philosophical naturalism. I was, in essence, asking the following questions: "Is the natural world all that exists?" "Is there anything beyond the physical, material world we measure with our five senses?" "Are supernatural events possible or even reasonable?" In asking these questions, I was putting naturalism to the test. It would have been unfair, therefore, to begin by presupposing nothing supernatural could ever exist or occur. If we want to be fair about assessing the virgin conception or any other supernatural aspect of the nativity story, we cannot exclude the very possibility of the supernatural in the first place. Our presupposition against the supernatural would unfairly taint our examination of the claim.
The Claim of the Virgin Conception Appears Incredibly Early in Christian History
It's always easier to tell a lie once everyone who was alive to know the difference has already died. But if you're going to make a claim early in an area where people are still available to debunk your claim, be prepared to have a difficult time getting away with misrepresentations. The virgin conception of Jesus is one of the earliest claims in Christian history. The students of the gospel authors cited the virgin conception as a true claim about Jesus. Ignatius, the student of John (an Apostle who chose not to write about the birth of Jesus in his own gospel), included it in his early writings to local churches. Other Church leaders repeated the claim through the earliest years of the Church, and the doctrine also appears in the most ancient Church creeds. Even early non-canonical documents include the virgin conception of Jesus.
The Birth Narratives in Luke and Matthew Are Not Late Additions
Critics, in an effort to argue the birth narratives in Luke and Matthew are not reliable, point to stylistic differences and "content shifting" within the gospels. Critics claim that the Greek language…
Read the rest
16 April 2015
The question that arises and dealt with in the article is that the finished goal is always the same, but how could this have been known with standard evolutionary hypothesis of nondirected evolution?
The video embedded there explains everything best. Definitely worth your 10 minutes to read and watch.
Psalms 19:1 WEBA "For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. The heavens declare the glory of God. The expanse shows his handiwork."
13 April 2015
Resurrection--True or False
Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead or was it a vision?
Bart Ehrman, the famous apostate, atheist, deconverted Christian, holds that it was only a vision, so also others (for example Francis Maloney, "The Resurrection of the Messiah: A Narrative Commentary on the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels" as reported by Kermit Zarley in his blog).
Kermit Zarley brings reasonable logic for believing this view is false (see the reference link above).
How many post-resurrection appearances in the NT gospels are we talking about? In my book, I state that there either nine of ten. None of them are described as a "vision." Rather, I think the authors clearly present their narratives with the purpose of causing their readers to think that these were historical events that actually happened, thus certainly not visions that people only think in their minds. But in saying this, I need to address Luke 24.13-43.
Luke's says that on the first Sunday afternoon following Jesus' crucifixion death, two of Jesus' disciples were walking from Jerusalem seven miles to the village of Emmaus (Luke 24.13). Luke says, "While they...
This is well worth reading.
So how many people saw Jesus alive after His resurrection? It was at least 520 people. It is never enough for some folks, but these passages of Scripture were written in the first century and seem most reasonable.
What about where Jesus tells Mary to not touch Him, but later He invites the apostles to touch Him? Is this a contradiction? Many have written about this, but here is my opinion which is partly based on M. R. DeHann's argument.
- Jesus rose from the dead.
- Mary Magdalene sees Him.
- Jesus wants her to be the first witness. It is not written as to why, but it seems reasonable to me that since women in those days were not considered to be reliable witnesses, Jesus wants to show the world and especially the Apostles that women are very reliable witnesses. Jesus scolds the Apostles even for their unbelief of NOT believing the women.
- Jesus ascends to heaven to present His blood in the heavenly Temple.
- After completely His priestly ministry there, returns to earth when He visits/appears to the people. First He appears to other women, then Peter, the two on the Emmaus Road, then the 11.
The Post-resurrection appearances of Jesus
- Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11, John 20:11-18
- Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James (Matthew 28:9-10, compare with Mark 16:1)
- Peter (Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
- Cleopas and the other disciple on the Emmaus Road (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-35)
- Ten Apostles with Thomas absent (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-25)
- Eleven Apostles, including Thomas (John 20:24-29)
- Seven Apostles at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25)
- Eleven Apostles at some mountain in Galilee where Jesus told them to meet Him. (Matthew 28:16-20)
- Over 500 brethren who were together at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6)
- James, His half-brother (1 Corinthians 15:7)
- With the Apostles for a meal. (Luke 24:44-49, Acts 1:3-8)
- His ascension. (Acts 1:9-11, Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50-51)
- Paul (Acts 9:1-6, Acts 18:9-10, Acts 23:11, 1 Corinthians 15:8)
19 January 2015
In his book "The Divinity of Doubt," former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi argues that agnosticism is the only sensible position to hold. But the book never gets to the heart of the Christian message. Instead, Bugliosi trots out the usual challenges to faith, mocking believers along the way with taunts about how his questions have never been, and cannot be, answered. Here's a sampling of his "can't be answered" questions: At the very beginning of the book, Bugliosi claims that theists have not a single fact to support their position. "By fact I mean a truth known by…"
Are there really unanswerable questions that "prove" God cannot exist?
True Christianity is based on faith. This faith is a REASONABLE faith, not blind faith.
Most atheists that I have dealt with demand proof that has no possibility of doubt. They accept only what their senses "know". Eyewitnessed events are not accepted except from themselves and even then it might not be accepted.
Al Serrato provides the answer. A very good read!