Saturday, September 24, 2011

Apologetics: "Always having an answer"

I am adding some ‘help’ to my blog. My friend Paul Ernst is a local of Boulder and has given me permission to share some of his email answers to local “New Age” and Atheist/Agnostic friends.

As Christians, we are called to “…always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you…” (1Peter 3:15) Below is an example of what this looks like.

Here is the back-story:

An acquaintance of Paul’s viewed a program on the History Channel on the Shroud of Turin and sent him an email with the question: “What difference does it make if Jesus rose from the dead?” This person is a self-professed “Gnostic” (New Age believer)…follow Paul’s answer and see if it can help you to explain questions to those who ask to know the “whys” of our faith.

Last week you asked me why the resurrection mattered. You were the 2nd person that week to ask me that. I thought God might be prompting me to take my nose out of all those books about it and give an answer. So here goes.

The Jews had some very good reasons to think their scriptures (OT: Old Testament) were from God. Even so, the OT itself said it was incomplete and that a new deal was coming.

When Jesus came he claimed to be the promised messiah. Others had made the claim and it ended badly. Jesus claimed to be more than just the long awaited messiah, he claimed equality with God—God’s ONLY son. This was not some general notion that we are all sons of God in some sense. This was blasphemy to the Jews and it got him crucified. As with the other pretenders, he got killed and a dead messiah was a failed messiah—except for the resurrection.

No other leader of a world religion ever made that claim. Why would a proper orthodox Jew go around making that claim? CS Lewis called it the Lord, liar, lunatic dilemma.

Folks like Deepak Choprah want to make him into an Eastern guru. This violates Jesus personal self understanding and the worldview of Christians and Jews. I may say I don't believe someone else's religious claim, but for me to tell someone they don't understand their own religion, and I as an outsider do, is the height of arrogance.

So if the resurrection is true, Jesus is God; and what he says about man's relationship to God is the final authority on the matter. The resurrection is a matter of religious epistemology, it's how we know it’s true. The 1st Century Roman world is close enough to us and the documentary evidence good enough that we can get at this with the tools of the historian. As with anything in history, some will dispute. It is up to each to evaluate the evidence.

The resurrection proves the Incarnation (God took on flesh as a real person). This assumes God would not validate a false claim by resurrecting the perpetrator. The incarnation gives us the truest picture of who God is that we can understand. The Jews had some understanding from the prophets, who God had revealed himself to with dreams, visions, voices etc. God had the prophets predict certain future events like the Babylonian exile so the prophets themselves would be validated for inclusion in scripture. But the average OT Jew knew God through the mediation of a priesthood/temple system.

Philosophers could speculate about God; what it means to be "Omni" this or that. They could see God in the creation. The OT tells us about his character: good, just, hates sin, forgiving etc. But there is nothing like seeing the real thing. God can show us what he is like as a man, which is what we can understand. Most importantly he showed us what he is willing to do for us in order to reconcile us to himself. His suffering on the cross not only paid our sin debt (the Judge himself pays the penalty) but showed us his love in the most graphic way.

But why a physical resurrection?

God is spirit. God created a spiritual realm (angelic beings) and I suppose he could have stopped there. For his own reasons, he wanted to create something "other"…a material world. I guess he just likes the stuff. He pronounced it “good" and humanity “very good!” The Jews understood this. The Greeks, following Plato, didn’t. They despised the material world. God becoming man was blasphemy to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. If you tried to invent a religion for the 1st century you couldn't come up with a worse story.

But only in Christianity are you more in death than in life. Buddhism is nothingness, Hinduism (after enough tries) is union with the impersonal. Gnosticism (ancient/New Age) is a merger with a "world soul". Islam has the sexual fantasy thing but you won’t enjoy God, because Allah is "totally other" and cannot be personally known. Only his will (Quran) is known.

Christianity, with reunion with loved ones and the fellowship of other believers, all enjoying God forever, with perfect bodies in a new creation (a real world of some sort), would seem to be the best alternative. The resurrection gives us warrant for believing it’s true. The others are just guessing.

Now the ‘verdict’ (so to speak) is still out as far as I know.

Perhaps this man will see the truth, eventually.

1 comment:

IssacharLogos said...

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:50-55 ESV)