Did Jesus really rise from the death?

I believed in Christianity because its message appealed to me. I was raised running on an empty love-tank. I believed it. I never asked if it was true – I just wanted LOVE.

Unconditional love.

But a feeling didn’t matter when I was confronted with other faiths. So I was ready – as difficult as it was – to test my own beliefs, and follow the evidence. It was the worst year of my life, but without a doubt, it was the most enriching experience I have ever had.

I hope you enjoy this debate. David Wood is one of my personal heroes.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…

1 Corinthians 15:17

He is risen 🙂

 

Jesus and the Historical Method – Part 7

Last time, we discussed the eyewitness testimony for Jesus by demonstrating the validity of the Gospel records. Such an endeavor was important to establish particular witnesses found within the Gospel accounts. We have seen that one holds good reasons for accepting that the apostle Matthew had, at least in part, a hand in the writing of the First Gospel; that John Mark wrote down the information found in the Second Gospel; that the physician and co-hort of Paul—Luke—wrote the third Gospel; and that the apostle John wrote the Fourth Gospel. But, how does this influence the eyewitness testimony that one holds for Jesus of Nazareth?

The Testimony of Peter

As noted last week, Irenaeus notes that “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”[1] Thus, the church unanimously accepted that John Mark recorded the testimony of one Simon Peter.

The Gospel of Mark does focus quite a bit on the life of Simon Peter. Of the information in Matthew’s Gospel believed to have been taken from Mark, the majority of the shared material deals with the life of Simon Peter. Thus, the believer has essentially the eyewitness testimony from one of the inner circle disciples—Simon Peter.

The Testimony of John

Last time, we noted that despite the skepticism of some modern scholars, the majority of internal and external evidence for the Fourth Gospel demonstrate that the apostle John wrote the text. It has always amazed me how one misses John’s imprint in the Fourth Gospel. In John 21:1-2, the writer lists Jesus’ appearance to seven disciples “Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together” (John 21:1-2).[2] It is interesting that John the son of Zebedee is never explicitly listed, but rather this “disciple who Jesus loved” (John 21:7). It was Peter and this mysterious disciple who traveled to the tomb of Jesus. Who else would one imagine accompanying Peter to the tomb other than John the apostle? In fact, John the apostle is linked to being the caretaker of Jesus’ mother after Jesus’ death by the early church fathers.

Among the writings of the early church fathers, there is a letter written by Ignatius to John the apostle. These writings are normally attributed to the late first-century. Nevertheless, Ignatius writes, There are also many of our women here, who are desirous to see Mary [the mother] of Jesus, and wish day by day to run off from us to you, that they may meet with her, and touch those breasts of hers which nourished the Lord Jesus, and may inquire of her respecting some rather secret matters.”[3]

Even if the letter is spurious, it demonstrates the early acceptance of the idea that John the apostle assumed the role of caretaker of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This mysterious disciple whom Jesus loved is also linked with being the caretaker of Mary, the mother of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (John 19:26-27). Then, the Gospel states as a postscript, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know his testimony is true” (John 21:24). What this tells us is that we have another witness by an inner circle disciple. Even if John was written by a disciple of the apostle, we would still have eyewitness testimony about Jesus since the apostolic witness would have been recorded.

The Testimony of Matthew

As we noted last week, good reasons exist to hold the apostle Matthew as the author of at least part of the First Gospel. It seems quite odd that the early church would choose Matthew, a tax-collector, as the author of the First Gospel if it were in fact not based upon truth. I could provide further reasons for holding Matthean authorship. But suffice it to say, that if one accepts the apostle Matthew as the writer of the First Gospel, then one has another apostolic eyewitness for Jesus of Nazareth.

The Testimony of the Early Church

We have already noted the existence of pre-New Testament material in the letters of Paul and, some would say, in the Gospels. This is particularly the case in Luke’s Gospel where Luke notes that he used the testimony of those “who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word [who] have delivered them to us” (Luke 1:2). Thus, in Luke’s Gospel, one will find a panoply of eyewitness testimonies from various individuals used by Luke to construct his Gospel account.

The Testimony of Mary the Mother of Jesus

The first few chapters of Luke’s Gospel relays information pertaining to the birth of Jesus and the experiences that Mary, the mother of Jesus had before Jesus’ birth. Robert Stein states that It is clear from the first chapter of Matthew as well as the traditional nature of the material in Luke 1–2 that Luke did not create all this material.”[4]

Luke records the Magnificat (Mary’s Song of Praise) in Luke 1:46-55. In addition, the Evangelist records particularly intimate details about Mary such as the time when Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Since this material is not original to Luke, and since pagan myths do not account for the inclusion,[5] it seems to me that the most likely explanation is that Luke received the eyewitness testimony of Mary, the mother of Jesus for the beginning of his Gospel.

Thus, I would argue that one has the eyewitness testimony of Mary in Luke’s Gospel, which further adds to the testimony found within the Gospel narratives.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, there are many more witnesses than those presented in this article. Nevertheless, one may still remain skeptical. It is quite apparent that not everyone will accept all of my conclusions in this article. But let it be said that even if one does not accept the evidence listed in this section of our presentation, one still must accept the early eyewitness testimony found in the pre-New Testament creeds and formulations.

Therefore, when coupled with the Gospel accounts, the eyewitness testimony for Jesus of Nazareth is quite good. Jesus of Nazareth passes the eyewitness testimony examination of the historical method.

Our investigation is not quite yet complete. Next time, we will examine two other areas of historical research offered by New Testament scholar Michael Licona. Thus far, Jesus of Nazareth has withstood the scrutiny of the historical method. Will he continue to remain standing after these final two areas of research?

Bibliography

Ignatius of Antioch. “The Epistle of Ignatius to St. John the Apostle.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Irenaeus of Lyons. “Irenæus against Heresies.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Stein, Robert H. Luke. The New American Commentary. Volume 24. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Notes

[1] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 414.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to St. John the Apostle,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 124.

[4] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 81.

[5] See Stein, Luke, NAC, 81.

What is The Gospel?

I had the opportunity to go to a Missions Conference this past weekend. It was truly awesome. I learned many things, and definitely felt the call of God for my life – which is something that I had probably known for the past seven years. I had never been to a conference, tough 🙂

Ever since I became a Christian, I have enjoyed talking to others about God and how much God loves them. At times, I guess, my family and friends have thought that I am crazy, brain-washed or just a “lost cause”.

But that is what happens when something radical is observed in your life. I was the worst of sinners. I know that is how Paul describes himself… and maybe he was, but I also killed a baby in my womb. And I have a history of sexual immorality that does not make me proud. I had a history… of so many things. But I am not that person anymore. I have no other explanation for the radical change in my life that the fact that I gave my life to follow Christ almost eight years ago.

I would like to encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

I understand it might be too long to post it so I won’t, but I will definitely talk about it – even if it’s little by little.

One [Jesus] has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.

I no longer live for myself, but for the One who died for me. He died for my sake and for everybody’s sake. But you have to believe – you have to trust in His Death and Resurrection. You have to trust that His death takes your sins away. It doesn’t cover them – it wipes them away.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.

It is Christ’s death what actually made me have peace with God. It is trusting that God is good, and that He actually wanted to be reconciled with me what made me follow Christ. If you owe someone a huge amount of money, and He himself hands you a ton of cash to pay Him back – wouldn’t you take the money? Wouldn’t you say “Thank you for paying yourself what I actually owe You?”  Why would you be proud and try to pay off a debt that you know you will never be able to repay? God forgave me everything that I rightfully owed Him.

Do you see how I cannot longer live for myself? Do you see how I cannot do anything but to live for Him who died for me?

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come… in Christ God entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.

I am not the woman I was when I was 20 – thank God. And I am not the woman I was when I was 24. My life was radically changed when I trusted Jesus as my Savior. And at times, I forget that God has a purpose for my life, but He never forgets. At times, I don’t trust Him, but He has proven Himself faithful to me. If Jesus died to reconcile me with God… now He trusts me to reconcile the world to Him.

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul implored the Corinthians, I implore you – make peace with God. What is it that you feel you are going to loose? What is it that you feel you will have to give up? If you don’t believe in God, of course, I cannot convince you. I would argue, tough, that the evidence for God is huge. But if you do believe that this life is not all there is, then, what are you waiting for?

Salvation is a free gift from God. Why wouldn’t you take it? Is it because the cost of following Jesus is too much for you? You know, I get it. In all honesty, i never consider the cost of following Him. This Following-Jesus- thing sounded great at the beginning, but then it became hard. It became hard to stop thinking about me all the time, and let the Spirit of God control my anger… It was hard to hold back my tongue, and to be patient, and kind. And you know what? I still mess up… But God knew that, and He still choose to die for me. He still died for you. But you have to make a choice: Will you choose to be reconciled with God through Jesus?


This past weekend, I felt so happy that I had decided to go to the conference. I was completely exhausted after spending my Friday night – and literally all Saturday – talking about Jesus. We were actually joking about having a Jesus overload. There was so much information and even theology given – it blew my mind.

I actually bought a book of one of the speakers – Jackson Wu. His lecture impressed me so much. It was something that I had never listened to before. He basically said that if Jesus did not die then God is a liar. 

God gave a promise to Abraham. God told Abraham that though him all nations would be blessed. Abraham always believed and he was declared righteous because of this. All through Israel’s history, the LORD (YHWH) always saved His people, and it was not because they deserved it, but because of God’s name sake. It was always because of God’s sake – because God promised to bless them.  

So if you fast forward to all the events in the history of Israel – the slavery in Egypt, the exile in Babylon… all until the moment God Himself enters history in the person of Jesus… God has always been in the business of keeping His promises and saving His people – all the nations. So if Jesus (God in the flesh) does not die, then God cannot keep His promise.

Of course, there are a thousand objections if you have other worldview, like if you’re a Jew or a Muslim or whatever. But then, that is a discussion that might have no end until Messiah comes (which at least is something that Jews, Christians and Muslims can partially agree on). Of course, Muslims and Christians would rather say until Messiah comes back.  Again, this is not an apologetic post.

In my life, there have always been two Bible passages that make my heart beat faster, and I have always known that is definitely something God has purposed for my life:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1,2,5

What exactly does that mean? I don’t know. I don’t think I have been called to be a Pastor. I am of the idea of male leadership in the Church, but I also agree that there were a lot of women that did very important things in the years of the Church in Acts.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:1,13-16

I know what this means. It has always been obvious to me or maybe not. I don’t know. But I want to go.

Salvation comes when somebody listens to the good news about God wanting to be reconciled with them. They only have to take action – Repent from their wrong doings, and Trust in the name of Christ.

But how are they gonna call in the name of the Lord Jesus, if they don’t know about Him first? And how will they know if nobody tells them? Somebody has to go and tell them! Somebody has to be sent… I know the Lord Jesus. I wanna go and tell them.

What does that look in my life? I have no idea. I think I will figure that out with my pastors. I am definitely telling my computer right now, ha!

That Romans chapter has so much meat. In Romans 10:13, Paul quotes directly from the Prophet Joel 2:32, “Everyone who calls in the name of the LORD shall be saved”. This is in the mind of Paul, along with other Christians, understood as events described for when the Messiah comes. In the Hebrew Bible, this is a Messianic prophecy. Do you see how LORD is uppercase? That LORD means YHWH.

It is YHWH who saves. But Paul is applying the ability to save to Jesus Himself. People need to hear about Christ in order to be saved. How can Jesus save unless He is more than a mere human being? You see? Jesus is YHWH in the mind of Paul.

But if you think that Paul made up the divinity of Christ, then how can you explain away Acts 2:21, where Peter ends up quoting Joel 2:32 also? This is within the context of believing in Jesus as both Lord and Christ for the forgiveness of sins (verses 36-38). In Peter’s mind the name who saves is Jesus. This points to Jesus’ deity – for who can forgive sins but God?

I will end with my deepest thoughts.

During the conference, it was really humbling to see many people walking forward when an African missionary asked them to respond to God’s call in their lives. I saw people responding to the call of being pastors, and leaders. I saw people answering the call of becoming missionaries. And I cried when people responded to the call of going to places where they know they might die.

You see, these people don’t feel like dying. They do not want to kill or be killed. They don’t gain anything by going to these places – they have everything. They have peace with God already. They have salvation already. They have been reconciled with God. And that is exactly the reason they are going. They want to reconcile others with God.

They want to go because there are people who don’t know about Jesus. And they actually want to tell them – even if it costs them their lives.

You can watch this beautiful video about what the GOSPEL is all about.

YOU were Jesus’ destination when He left heaven 🙂

FAITH AND DOUBT – PART 3

Abdu Murray was Muslim – a very serious Muslim.  His story really impacted me last year. It impressed me that people were willing to go years looking for Truth. Why wouldn’t I do the same? It took Abdu nine years – nine years – to investigate the historical, philosophical, and scientific underpinnings of the major world religions and views. Abdu became Christian.

I was a Christian! Yet, here I was doubting. I have heard testimonies of people becoming Christians because the evidence for Christianity compelled them. What was that about? I just had to know. I was about to jump ship on Jesus. Being honest, I never had the conviction in my heart of Mohammad being a prophet. And all due respect to Islam, I don’t think there is anything new or anything kinder or gentler or more compassionate in Islam’s teachings than what I had already learned from Jesus.

If I almost left Christianity, it wasn’t because I thought Islam was true. I almost left Christianity because I didn’t know how to handle my doubts. Not knowing what the TRUTH was consumed me day and night.

In all equality, I also heard many testimonies of Christians becoming Muslims. You know what, tough? It was never the evidence for Islam what made these people accept Islam. They always left Christianity – at least the people I watched – because no one was able to answer their questions. They never understood The Trinity, or they were sick of the hypocrisy in the Christian world.

There are thousands of people who leave Islam and join Christianity and vice versa. I know the videos I watched are not representative of the whole picture. But for me, DOUBT was definitely important to deal with. I think it should be addressed when talking about Christian Faith.

If you are not a believer in anything, you deal with doubt all the time. But even Christians, we have doubts, too.  We doubt because of our circumstances, and I think that is a very human thing we do. God has answered my prayers many times. I have logs full of answered prayers. And last year in India, when I looked at them, I was almost cynical about it.

After eight years, I looked at those journals, and I doubted that those answers had actually come from God. Or maybe it had been God – but not Jesus. You have to understand where I am coming from. I was confronted with Islam on a regular basis, so almost all my doubts had to do with Jesus not answering my prayers. Or Jesus not being God. Or Jesus not claiming divinity. Or the New Testament being corrupted. Or Jesus not dying on the cross. I am talking Muslim-Christian apologetics.

So as I was listening to Rich Nathan’s series on Faith – Heroic Faith – I felt somehow able to breath. It was okay to have doubts. And I also heard Abdu’s podcast. Both were saying the same thing. They were talking about Richard Dawkins, and how blind faith is something Christians SHOULD NOT practice. They were also saying that Faith in something in the face of contradictory evidence, or even in the face of NO evidence at all, is absolutely UNBIBLICAL.

But the Faith encouraged in the Bible is the active action of TRUST based on evidence. We exercise this on a regular basis, we just don’t think about it anymore. We get on a car and we trust the brakes will work – because they have always worked. We trusted our lives on that car – because of previous evidence.

Cars don’t just explode on ignition and brakes don’t fail out of the blue. They might fail. Sure. Did I have CERTAINTY? No. I had Faith on that car because I have taken a ride for thousands of times, and it has never exploded. I trusted the evidence I had available.

WHAT IS DOUBT?

Doubt is NOT a dirty word. According to Murray, there are a lot of solid followers of Jesus who have doubts. Doubt is not a bad thing if it drives you to sincere search. In the Bible, Jesus never says not to question Him. Actually, Hebrews 11:6 teaches that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Jesus helped those who sincerely confessed their unbelief to Him. He never drew them away.

Murray encourages asking questions, and he sees that this is a challenge that the Church is facing. Some people have doubts, but they never ask questions mainly because doubt is often seen as a bad thing. When a teenager asks a question, Murray says, sometimes he doesn’t ask his parents. And it is not because the question doesn’t have an answer, but because of the parents’ unwillingness to be questioned about it. Or sometimes, the parents themselves do not know the answer.

Inquisitive minds sometimes cannot settle for “The Bible says it. I believe it, and that settles it for me”. So it was refreshing for me to know that asking the tough questions was perfectly fine.

My heart was set on really finding God so I had peace about it. Sincerity is proven by our willingness to be proven wrong.  I was well aware that The Gospel could be false, but it could also be true. Sincerity is determined by our willingness to go where the evidence points. I had to be willing to accept that to say that all religious traditions believe basically the same thing, or that to say that our differences don’t matter was insulting for those faiths and for me.

If I agreed to say that all paths lead ultimately to God, what I was really saying was that my choices don’t really matter. But real choice emerges only when the options have consequences. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a choice.


I wish I had your faith. You seem to have a peace about you, a confidence regarding the future. You don’t worry the way I do about everything. I wish I had your faith. But I really struggle with faith. I have lots of doubts. I still have lots of questions about God or about Christianity…

What does Faith feel like?


I was so sure about many things, and then I wasn’t sure about anything. Rich Nathan, tough, continued in the series saying that most folks believe that Faith is something you either have or your don’t have.

But in Hebrews 11:23-28, we find that Faith is a choice. It is a decision regarding how we’re going to look at life based on the clues that God has given us. Again, Faith is based on the evidence. Moses chose to be mistreated. People saw things at a distance. Faith feels like a choice to see and not look away. Faith and Truth are more than a feeling.

So it is okay to doubt… I was happy about this. I seriously was. Doubting did not mean I did not have Faith. My Faith was based on the exercise of my will. My choice.

And I was in good company. Jesus’ followers where doubters all the way until the Resurrection. They didn’t even know who He really was. And that is something that skeptics seem to dislike about Jesus’ disciples. They render as shameful the fact that Jesus’ closest friends did not really understand Jesus’ purpose. For a historian, however, that is called Principle of Embarrassment. It is very likely that an event who might embarrass the author is true. So the eyewitnesses writing these gospels were very likely telling the truth.

John The Baptist was a doubter himself. When he was in jail, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah. John was thinking maybe he had the wrong guy. And this is John the Baptist. The one who was prophesied by Isaiah about making straight paths for the Lord. This is John, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb when Elizabeth found out that Mary was pregnant. This John is doubting whether or not Jesus is the Expected One.

And what did Jesus do? He NEVER calls John out on his doubts. Jesus actually heals more people right there in front of John’s disciples. He gives them more evidence so that they can go and tell John!


John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ In that hour He [Jesus] healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And He [Jesus] answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Luke 7:21-23


That was Jesus’ gentle answer. He eased John’s doubts.

Every one of us has different doubts. When we ask God with a sincere heart, He will always guide us. So as followers of Jesus, we deal with doubt by asking sincere questions. But the attitude in our hearts when we ask those questions is also very important.

Why are we asking? Do we really want answers or are we asking just for kicks? Last year, there came a time when I was just so used to question Islam and Christianity that I kind of became a cynic. I began questioning just for the sake of questioning. I was praying, and my prayers were being answered during my season of doubting.

But as soon as my prayers were answered, I kept on questioning whether or not it had only been a coincidence. I was almost demanding God to perform for me. I knew I had to stop. I repented from my cynical approach, and I made a choice based on the evidence I had recollected for and against Christianity during my year in India.

My Faith is stronger. My Faith is very well placed. I am so thankful that my God never let go of me during those difficult times. I am thankful for my Savior who died for me. I am thankful that the information was available to me because it helped me recommit my life to Christ. I want to make the information available to people who might need it 🙂


Who is the King of the Jungle? Who is the King of the Sea? Who is the King of the Planets? J-E-S-U-S!

– My sweet daughter


Sources:

FAITH AND DOUBT – PART 2

So Faith is attacked when The New Atheists uniformly say, “We base our lives on reason. You Christians base your lives on blind faith”.

But if reason is the authority when it comes to belief, and you can rely on reason because your own reasoning tells you – then you’re busted. It’s a totally circular argument. Unless you have something outside of reason to calibrate reason, you don’t know if your reasoning is accurate.

I think of this often when I watch debates. We, Christians, say Jesus died for our sins by crucifixion. Three days later He rose from the dead. Why do we believe that? Well, because the Bible says so is definitely one answer, but that answer won’t satisfy everybody. It will definitely not be enough for a Muslim, for example. Quran 4:157 says nobody kill Jesus nor they crucify Him. But God raised Jesus up to Himself.

When I began reading the Quran, my Bible stopped being the only source for my ‘reasoning’ – if that makes sense. Last year I found out that apart from the Bible, there are a lot of ancient non-biblical sources that talk about the crucifixion of Jesus as an event in history. When I evaluated the evidence that Islam has for Jesus not dying by crucifixion, I was confronted with many theories about it.

I read about different interpretations of that particular Quran ayat (verse). One interpretation is that God made Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, look exactly like Jesus. So it was Judas who died. Another version is that the person who was crucified was not Jesus, but someone who bore His likeness, whom the Jews and the Romans had disgracefully put on the cross, while Jesus was standing nearby and laughing at their folly.

Yet another version is that the one who was nailed to the cross was Jesus, but He did not die on the cross, and was alive when He was taken down from it. They even argue Jesus might have died a natural death years later. But the theories (in Muslim Apologetics) go as far as they can go – as long as they have Jesus NOT dying on the cross.

But the more debates I watched, the more I knew that the position of the Muslim apologists was to say “We really do not have any further details, except that Quran tells us that Jesus was not the one who was crucified, but somebody that looked like Him”. 

I respect that. Absolutely I do. But I made the personal decision to go with the ancient historical evidence and not the theories. So I was able to calibrate the Bible with something outside of the Bible – call them Tacitus, Josephus, The Jewish Talmud. These accounts were not bad, given this information was coming from ancient accounts hostile to the Biblical record.

I realized that the Christian Faith is not that blind. Actually, it is not blind AT ALL.

Faith is a very important word in the New Testament. It is used over 24 times. Faith is so important that it is a prerequisite for being saved by God. On one occasion, a jailer asked Paul and his traveling companion, Silas, “What must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without Faith it is impossible to please God.


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11:1-3


We can see several things in this passage.

FAITH IS RATIONAL. Biblical Faith is never set against reason. Biblical Faith – Christian Faith – involves thinking. It involves our brains. Christian Faith is never a leap in the dark. The Greek word for Conviction is Elenchos. It means proof. It’a a conviction that comes when something has been tested.


Faith is trusting what we have good reason to believe is true.

Faith is trusting the evidence of the One who promised.


Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Evidence that appeals to your mind. Take any fact of history. Sure, you can’t prove in a lab that the American Revolution took place, or that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, or that George Washington was there when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

We believe this based on historical evidence – eyewitness testimony, records that were kept, historical investigations. There are lots of things that we reasonably believe that can’t be proven by the scientific method. But just because we cannot recreate them in a lab does not mean they never actually happened.

Was I there to see how Jesus died? No. Was I there to witness the Holocaust? No. But I believe the Holocaust happened because there are documents that were written about it. People preserved these records of history. I guess I can ALWAYS questioned whether the Holocaust took place because I wasn’t there to see it with my own eyes, but it is very likely that it happened. The same goes with the crucifixion of Jesus. And if you study the Resurrection – your mind will be blown away.

You can always find a counter-argument against Christianity. That’s for sure. You need to know, tough, that Christian Faith does not mean you have to be completely certain about something. Jesus tells us that even a little bit of Faith can go a long way. Faith IS NOT an all or nothing proposition.

I was so happy when I learned this.

FAITH GRABS HOLD OF THE FUTURE. Faith is the assurance – Hupostasis – of things hoped for. Faith gives substance to things. Faith reaches into the future Kingdom of God where life will be like when there are no wills contrary to God’s will – no human wills rowing in the opposite direction. Right now we rebel, and we want things contrary to what God wants for us. There are also demonic wills working in this present world.

But when the Kingdom of God is finally established on Earth, no child will ever die again. There will be no more cancer, no more heart disease, no more heartbreak, no more Alzheimer’s, no more diabetes, no more murders, or kids in jail, or funerals, or wars, or mental illness, or addiction. No more tears, no more crying, no more pain. God Himself will wipe your tears away. That is the hope given in Revelation 21:4 for all the children of God by adoption through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So Faith gives substance to that future Kingdom and makes it real now. By Faith we bring God’s Kingdom of justice into this world now – as we work for justice. By Faith we grab hold of God’s future Kingdom of healing into the world  – as we pray for the sick. By Faith, we grab hold of God’s future Kingdom of forgiveness and we make it real now – as we forgive others and ask for forgiveness.

FAITH IS A WAY OF SEEING THE PRESENT. Faith is seeing life the way Jesus saw it. People say that Christian Faith is looking at life through rose-colored lenses. But Scripture says quite the opposite. Faith is taking off your rose-colored lenses. All the myths and lies that the marketing machine of this world keeps pumping out – “You can have it your way” or “Life is all about you and your desires – your wants”.

Jesus was the only clear-sighted person in all of human history. He is the only one who saw with perfect vision how to live a completely full life no matter what your circumstances are. Jesus taught that if you want to have a great life – what He called abundant life – you have to deny yourself. Do not try to affirm everything about yourself, instead, deny yourself.

Forgive everyone for everything they’ve done against you, and you will live a full life. Forgiving takes Faith that God will uphold you and defend you. Be patient when you have all the reasons to lose your patience. Respect your husband when he doesn’t deserve your respect – specially when he doesn’t deserve it. Love your wife when she is absolutely hard to love – specially when she is very difficult to love.

Christian Faith makes sense of this world.

Sources:

FAITH AND DOUBT – PART 1

A mom has a son who is asking if Christianity is true. This is a real mom I interact with, by the way. How can he trust the Bible? How do we know it is true? What if our faith is in vain? What if somebody made it all up?

All these questions are flooding her son’s mind because he has lots of friends challenging him at school. I do not have anything AGAINST these teenagers. I think it’s awesome they ask though questions. I recently discovered that when you look for answers, you find them. I am honestly all pumped when I write and when I read books, because I know that my children will ask me those questions. I want to be ready to give them answers for the reason why I believe what I believe.


“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

1 Peter 3:15


I have failed at being gentle and respectful. I know I have. I have asked God to forgive me, and also the people I wronged. That being said, disagreeing with people over faith issues is inevitable. I want to challenge my children to look for TRUTH. I myself don’t want to be lukewarm saying, “Well… this is my truth, then you have your truth, and all of us are right – somehow”

I don’t believe in Relativism.


Truth is true – even if no one knows it
Truth is true – even if no one admits it
Truth is true – even if no one agrees what it is
Truth is true – even if no one follows it
Truth is true – even if no one but God grasps it fully


I want to encourage my children to ask God to guide them when looking for Truth, because when your heart is set on finding Him, then He will show you who He is – guaranteed.

So I am writing this post for this teenager struggling, for myself, for my children, and for all the people who struggle or have struggled, or who will struggle with the concept of Christian Faith. All the credit goes to Rich Nathan, and Abdu Murray. I am just here to share what I have learned from them, and interpolate my own experiences.

I hope somebody finds this useful in their own spiritual journey. I encourage you to listen to the resources I provide at the end of this post.

WHAT IS FAITH?

You might be interested to know that there a lot of writers and thinkers who call themselves the “New Atheists”. One of the core New Atheist assertion that is repeated endlessly is Richard Dawkins’ statement that Faith is blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence.

For Dawkins, Faith is a kind of mental illness. Dawkins and others rail against Faith because whereas the New Atheists prove their convictions with reason, religious people live in a fantasy world totally disconnected from reality. As Richard Dawkins puts it, Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.

And so the New Atheists love to talk about blind faith or something taken on faith or a leap of faith. What they mean is that people who have Faith are acting and believing without sufficient justification. People’s beliefs that are not supported by facts or logic. People embracing ideas despite an absence of evidence or proof.

I was definitely in this category.

For the most part of my experience as a Christian, I relied on reading my Bible and I never questioned its authenticity. So it wasn’t until my friends challenged me on the reliability of the Bible that I actually began asking the same kind of questions my friend’s teenager is asking.


What if the Bible is actually corrupted? What if I have blind faith? What if Jesus never died? Is that possible at all? Was I misguided into Christianity? What if I chose Christianity because I was never exposed to other religions? What is Faith?


So when I began having all these reasonable questions – that undoubtedly come when your faith is challenged – I felt awful. I felt guilty, and I felt like I was not supposed to doubt. I had no idea what to do. I wish I had had the “guts” to say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it for me”.

But I couldn’t do that. I had to know more.  In the next post I will address what Biblical Faith really is 🙂

Sources:

The Leftovers – Part 3


Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn, He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified.

Mark 6:47-49


Basically the disciples are freaking out in the storm. I don’t know how to put it any other way – they were freaking out. The storm was more than they could handle. Sometimes I have the same feeling, but to tell you the truth, I am not afraid anymore.

I was looking for some information on hell – why not – and I stumbled upon the concept of the afterlife from the Jewish perspective. I am still planning on writing about that, but something struck me. For Jewish people, this life is more important than the next. Heaven and Hell are not mentioned specifically in the Five Books of Moses (The Torah), but only in the books of the Prophets, the Writings, and the Talmud.

Why is the afterlife absent form the Torah if it is such a crucial part of Jewish philosophy? Heaven is not discussed in the Torah to emphasize that Jews do what’s right because it’s right. As simple as that.

We are not meant to dwell on the reward and punishment that awaits us in the next world. I can be a “righteous” person my whole life, do every single commandment, stop hunger, bring about world peace, save the ozone and cure all diseases. I can go to church every single Sunday, pray in the name of Jesus, and give my money to the poor – but if I did it all for a reward in the next world – I have lived a selfish life.

A story is told of a Jew who gave away his portion in the World to Come in order to rescue a kidnapped family being held for ransom. When asked why he was not sad over losing his place in Heaven, he responded, “I was always concerned that I was serving God for the wrong reasons. Now that I don’t have a portion in the World to Come I can serve Him reassured that I am doing it purely out of love and devotion.”

This is true service of God. God will judge our actions as well as our motives.

Even from the Muslim perspective, I found a poem from a Sufi poet. My Christian friends: You should know Sufi Muslims are the Charismatic Muslims. They are the Mystical Muslims. I met a Sufi Muslim in Delhi, and we had a wonderful conversation, I will write about that too – as God allows me. Sufis do not constitute a separate sect of Islam (as do, for example, the Shi’ites), but can be found within both the Sunni and Shi’a sects. All Sufis stress the supreme importance of religious experience, and distinguish themselves among other Muslims by their insistence that experience of God can be achieved in this life.


O my Lord, if I worship you

by Sufi Rabi’a Al-‘Adawiyya

O my Lord,

if I worship You
from fear of hell, burn me in hell.

If I worship You
from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.

But if I worship You
for Yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.


I think that the more I see the world, the more I want to follow Jesus. And don’t misunderstand what I mean by that. Does that mean I believe Jesus is God? Or that He died for my sins? Or that He was crucified? I don’t have the answer to those questions as of now. But I will continue to hold on to His teachings. It’s like a marriage, you know. If Jesus is indeed who the Bible portrays Him to be, I have been betrothed. I am a Bride waiting for my Bridegroom. Would I dump my husband because He is not coming back just yet? Would you dump your wife just because someone told you they saw her with another man? Would I get a formal divorce because I heard rumors of my Bridegroom not being the person I have thought Him to be after all these years? No. Of course not.

When you have marriage problems, you deal with your own problems as a couple. You fight, and wrestle with each other, until things become clearer. You stay there if you really love each other because marriage is sacred in the eyes of God. You try, and keep on trying, because when you married your spouse you made a promise to God. That is what marriage is for me – commitment. For better or for worse.

If Jesus is the Savior- if He is the Savior of the world- then nobody can snatch me out of His hand. Nothing spiritually evil can touch me. My body, you can kill it if you give me a poisoned red velvet cupcake – but not my soul. Nothing will be able to separate from the love of God. Not death, not life, not angels, not demons, not things present, not things to come, not any powers, not height, not depth, not any other created thing (call it human beings, jinns or Shaytan himself), will be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Jesus the Messiah.

Isn’t that awesome? That if Jesus is the real deal, then the love of God for somebody can be so wide and long and high and deep that God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. And that this love surpasses human wisdom, knowledge or human understanding – because it doesn’t make sense that God could love this much! And that by knowing this love, you might actually be filled with the fullness of God.

If someone misguided me to worship Jesus – the church or a pastor – then I will deal with that. Not alone, but with YAHWEH who knows it all. I hope my blog helps other people to see this fearless faith – even if you don’t agree with it.

The Christian faith is NOT just a blind leap in the dark, you know, like you are gonna run to the end of the cliff hoping there’s something there to catch you. No. The Christian faith is also rational. 


Faith is trusting what we have good reason to believe is true. It provides us EVIDENCE that appeals to our minds. The Christian faith is not an ALL or NOTHING proposition. You don’t have to be TOTALLY CERTAIN or else, you have NO FAITH AT ALL. That is not the faith that Jesus talked about…

– Rich Nathan


This has been my struggle. But what if Jesus saw His disciples in the storm and thought, “I wish you would just look down in the boat, ’cause you’ve got your sack full of broken pieces…”

They had the evidence for the miracle of feeding fifteen thousand people. They had just witnessed it, but they were focusing on the storm. In the middle of my own storm, I should not focus on my circumstances. I will focus on the things that Jesus has done for me before. I will take my basket full of broken pieces into the storm of tomorrow. The same God who was with me back in the storms of yesterday is the same God who is with me in the storms of today. The same God who brought me to where I am now is the same God who will get me through this.

Jesus climbed into the boat with them, and told them DO NOT BE AFRAID.

There have been times when I have asked God who He really is with only a Bible in my hand. I have also done that with only a Quran in my hand. Was He Allah as revealed in the Bible? Without corruption theories… Or was He Allah as written in the Quran? With Quran as the final revelation?

My Muslimah has been so faithful praying for me through all this. She prayed something called Istikhara in my behalf. In love, she asked Allah to guide me. After finding out what Allah had revealed to her, I asked God to reveal to ME who He really was – Bible and Quran side by side. I am thinking that If Allah gave HER an answer in my behalf, then Allah would have to give ME the same answer. Otherwise, we were not talking to the same Divine Being.

Call me crazy, but on my own prayer time, Allah guided me to the same account in both Quran and the Bible. The account of Judah as he offers himself to protect Benjamin during the famine in Egypt. The accounts are SO different in both books and Judah WAS NOT a mere coincidence for me. God did not lie with His revelation to my friend. He was so truthful with His guidance to me as well. In His loving character, and being faithful to Himself, Allah showed me the two paths.

And I chose the LION OF JUDAH.