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The Resurrection: A Physical and Historical Event

The following excerpt is modified from chapter 18 of Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century.

Christianity rests on a single, history-changing event: the resurrection of Christ. Paul himself proclaimed clearly, boldly, and unswervingly, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” and again, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).

Liberal scholars for the last two centuries have attempted to dismiss the resurrection as a myth tacked on to the life of the “historical Jesus.” In 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, Paul clearly describes the resurrection and subsequent witnesses in a passage that is universally accepted as being from no later than about 50 A.D., not long after he personally met with Peter and James and heard their accounts. The short years between the resurrection even and the penning of this passage are simply not enough time for a “resurrection” myth to have developed.

Even a cursory reading of the book of Acts reveals that the central message of the apostles was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event of which they were eye-witnesses. A few passages from the apostolic sermons in Acts include:

  • This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (2:32)
  • And you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To
    this we are witnesses. (3:15)
  • The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (5:30–32)
  • And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (10:39–41)

Critics have offered various explanations for the empty tomb found on Easter morning, none of which stand up to scrutiny. The most popular explanation is that the apostles stole the body to further their agenda. However, the apostles faced excruciating executions that could have easily been avoided if they had produced the stolen body. It is psychologically unlikely that an entire group of men would stand up to torture and death for the sake of a hoax. Other lines of thought believe that thieves or the Pharisees stole the body. There were plenty of people, namely the Pharisees, who wanted to see Christianity stamped out and would have stopped at nothing to find and produce the body. The young faith could have been easily strangled from the beginning if anyone had been able to produce it.

Scripture makes it clear that the resurrection was a physical and entirely historic event. The apostles take great pains to explain that they were witnesses of the risen Christ, and history provides us with an indisputable fact that no sources, Christian or otherwise, ever disputed: the tomb into which Jesus’ body was laid on Good Friday was empty on Easter morning.

Q: If pain & evil exist, then how can your God be good?

apologetics3One common argument against the existence of God is the ubiquitous presence of pain and evil in our world. Modern thinkers often conclude that horror and injustice make the existence of a loving, all-powerful God implausible.

Interestingly enough, it is the last two generations of Europeans and Americans, generations that have experienced a radical decrease in suffering, that have struggled the most with the problem of pain, much more so than previous generations that experienced much greater suffering in general.

In Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century, Louis Markos holds that the reason for this shift dates back to the eighteenth century writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who philosophized that humans were inherently good. Until then, people had accepted pain and suffering as a result of the inherently sinful nature of man. “Because we misunderstand—or refuse to accept—that we are fallen, we imagine that we ourselves (apart from God) can eradicate evil and suffering through state-funded public education, universal health care, and free-market capitalism…we are left angry and bitter when we do not get what we think we deserve,” Markos says in chapter 15.

“Because we misunderstand—

or refuse to accept—that we are fallen,

we imagine that we ourselves (apart from God)

can eradicate evil and suffering…”

Arguments have been made that if God is all-powerful and all-loving, that he would do anything he wants and eliminate suffering. The philosopher Alvin Plantigna refutes these claims by pointing out that God does not do irrational things, i.e. make a square a circle or simultaneously give and not give us free will in order to combat suffering. Many scenarios exist by which God demonstrates his love and power by using evil for good. In this way, God ensures our free will and shapes us into the people that he would have us be.

apologetics-for-the-21st-century2All other arguments aside, we see in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ a God who suffers for us and with us. He experienced full suffering himself on our behalf and is therefore a God who can truly empathize with our pain. While God does not promise that we will not suffer, he does promise to be with us when we do.

Excerpt modified from chapter 15 of Apologetics for the 21st Century.

Prepared to Give a Reason for Your Faith

apologetics2The main task of an apologist, which on some level is every Christian, has been to defend the core doctrines of the faith both within and outside of the church. The key doctrines that are most often under attack are:

  • The Incarnation: Jesus was not just a good man or a prophet, but the Son of God, fully human and fully divine.
  • The Trinity: God, though One, exists eternally as three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Original Sin: We are all born with a sinful nature and exist in a state of rebellion against God and his law.
  • The Atonement: Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross brought us back into a right relationship with God the Father.
  • God as the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
  • The Bible as the authoritative Word of God.

From the beginning of Christianity, believers have had to field questions similar to these:

  • If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why are pain, suffering, and injustice in the world?
  • How can Christians believe in miracles when events like the parting of the Red Sea, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the virgin birth, and Jesus’ walking on water clearly violate the laws of nature?
  • How can a God of mercy condemn people to hell?
  • How do we know we can trust the accounts of Jesus’ life that are recorded in the Gospels?
  • Isn’t the story of a dying and rising God just a myth for ignorant pagans and modern children?
  • Isn’t religion just a crutch and wish fulfillment for people too weak to deal with reality?
  • Hasn’t science disproved Christianity and shown it to be false?
  • Hasn’t the church done more evil than good and inspired more hypocrisy than any other institution in history?

In the new book Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century, Louis Markos equips readers to address these questions and more, while giving readers a crash course in the apologetics of C.S. Lewis, GK Chesterton, Josh McDowell, Dorothy Sayers, and Francis Schaeffer.apologetics-for-the-21st-century1

Two More Tips for Apologists:

  • A good apologist not only answers questions, but addresses the anger, guilt, despair, and confusion that often lies behind the questions.
  • A good apologist does not treat belief systems as inherently false, but begins by establishing common ground (whether it’s monotheism or the nature of a problem that an ideology addresses).

Learn more about Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century or pick up your copy!

October 20, 2010 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Apologetics,Book News,Books,News & Announcements | Author: Crossway Staff @ 6:00 am | 0 Comments »

Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century

apologetics1

The notion that Christianity makes sense and also has the power to explain the truth about the nature of God, man, and the universe is largely out of sync with the ideology of the culture outside the church walls. That’s nothing new. Apologists have been defending and explaining the faith since the beginning of Christianity. However, in each age, a new generation is responsible for articulating our reason for the faith.

In Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century (October 2010), Louis Markos discusses the explosion of apologetics in response to secular Enlightenment modernism and lays out the groundwork for careful apologetics today.

He divides the book into two main parts:

  1. The Legacy of Lewis and Chesterton: Markos makes the case that C.S. Lewis was the biggest contributor to Christian apologetics in the 21st century. In these chapters, he crafts a survey of Lewis’ major apologetic works and arguments. He also explores the work of G.K. Chesterton, who’s work had a major influence on Lewis.
  2. Making the Case for Faith in a (post) Modern World: In the second half of the book, Markos addresses broader apologetic themes and arguments.apologetics-for-the-21st-century He examines apologetic arguments from logic, science, and regarding the problem of pain. He also reiterates the authority of scripture and explores the most recent developments in apologetics, including comparisons with those of other religions.

Readers will walk away from this book better able to articulate and defend Christianity in a world of competing views. Learn more about Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century.

October 19, 2010 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Apologetics,Book News,Books,News & Announcements,Social Issues | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

A Battle Ground for Absolute Truth

9781433501432Thanks to Joe Blackmon for reviewing The Heresy of Orthodoxy and allowing us to re-post (full original review).

In today’s society, there appears to be only one unassailable absolute truth—there is no absolute truth. Further, the quickest way to be labeled hateful, intolerant, or mean spirited is to suggest that the gospel as revealed in scripture is true and is the exclusive way to God. It used to be that those who would label you hateful or mean spirited for saying that were those outside of the church. That is no longer the case. Many of those who advocate accepting any and all beliefs as being equally Christian base their position on the works of German theologian Walter Bauer and a contemporary disciple of his, Bart Ehrman. In short, Bauer, and now Ehrman, propose that what we know today as Christianity is not the Christianity of the apostles and certainly not what Jesus taught. Rather, they propose, there was a diverse opinion about Jesus, what He taught, and what the apostles taught and that there was no one view that was more “right” than any of the others. The fact that we today believe that there is only one correct theological position on, for instance, the Virgin Birth is because the Roman church finally won enough theological and political power to squash any theological opposition to their positions. In fact, they assert, what we know today as orthodox Christianity represents the view of the winning side rather than the truth of the gospel.

The book The Heresy of Orthodoxy was not written to refute this Bauer-Ehrman thesis. Rather, as the authors’ state, the purpose of the book is to determine “why the Bauer-Ehrman thesis commands paradigmatic stature when it has been soundly discredited in the past.” Kostenberger and Kruger deliver a slam dunk in their presentation. They take the thesis that there were no absolute truths in the early church and we certainly have no way to know exactly what they believed anyway and clearly present convincing evidence to the contrary. In fact, as the reader discovers, the evidence for what we know today as orthodox Christianity is overwhelming and that the thesis presented by Bauer-Ehrman ignores significant historical and textual evidence that discredits their position in addition to engaging in occasional circular reasoning. In short, the book would encourage any Christian to have confidence that their faith is in fact “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 1:3)”

I would recommend this book for all Christians who are interested in a better understanding of their faith or who are looking to better educate themselves in issues related to apologetics. The work is a scholarly text and as such is not a “casual read.” I could see this being used in a college or seminary classroom. If you’re looking for a resource to gain a better understanding of issues related to postmodernism and its effect on Christianity, this would be a great book to add to your library.

Learn more about The Heresy of Orthodoxy here.

August 16, 2010 | Posted in: Apologetics,Books,Reviews | Author: Crossway Staff @ 11:39 am | 0 Comments »