He is risen…and man, do we need that.

Every year on this planet, I become more and more convinced of a certain fact.

In fact, let me back up for a bit. I have always loved a good debate on the topics of philosophy and religion, as long as all parties kept the respect level high and the arrogance level down (regardless of what worldview they were coming from). So when, in my first year at Chemeketa Community College, a whiteboard simply sat in the middle of the Student Life Center with the question: “Can we be good without God?” on it, there was no way I could not stop to read the responses to that question that were written on the whiteboard.

And perhaps you can guess what was written. The Christians and other assorted theists say no. The others say “How dare you! I don’t need God to give me a sense of morality…I have a sense of morality!” And so on and so forth. But one question, written on the “no” side, particularly caught my eye.

“Don’t you believe in the innate goodness of the human soul?”

That is the response that I remember. I remember it because I am sure that optimism like this is shared by more than just one person.

But every year on this planet, I become more and more convinced of a certain fact…no matter what worldview you are coming from, it is very, very hard to miss this fact. Humanity is so messed up.

As a self-proclaimed sociology nerd, as the son of a history buff who has picked up his own interest in history, you really can’t miss this one: Humanity is messed up.

As I examine history, I can’t help but notice how often evil people held power over a nation, and the nation supported them. The Canaanites sacrificing helpless children to fire in order to please their gods. The brutality of the Roman Empire as the Caesars kept finding new and grotesque ways of killing their victims. The corruption and immorality of the Catholic Church during the crusades and the renaissance. The British abused the people they were in power over. The way the Americans, the lovers of freedom and liberty, virtually annihilated the indigenous Native Americans to get the land they wanted. The way that the French people during the French Revolution danced around the guillotine with their children singing songs of joy whenever someone got beheaded for breathing a word of support to the monarchy. Nazi Germany could not have run on Hitler alone…he had to be supported. I don’t know how to examine history and come out thinking that humankind is pretty okay.

 

“But Carson, we are getting better and better! Humankind is more moral today than our primitive past.” You know, that is EXACTLY what enlightenment thinkers were saying. In fact, the belief that “education is making mankind better and better, without religion” was one of the cruxes of modernism. But we now live in what is called a postmodern society.

Why is it called post-modern? Because modernism is dead. Why is modernism dead? Because the claims made by thinkers in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s that we were getting better were slapped in the face by World War 1, World War 2, and nuclear weaponry, amongst countless other things. Modernists couldn’t make it through the 20th century without their position looking obviously insane.

When has humanity ever NOT had a problem with wars?

When has humanity ever NOT had a problem with slavery?

When has humanity ever NOT had a problem with economic fairness?

The evidence stands: Humanity is messed up.

As I examine present-day sociology, I can’t help but notice several things. For one, the number of “douchebag” men (I can’t think of any other way to put it, nor do I really feel the need to) is far higher than I ever expected. The number of men that go to such great efforts to impress the girl enough to win her heart, but then turn into manipulative, controlling jerks…these men are FAR more common than they should be.

I can’t help but notice teenagers getting more and more messed up by others. By parents who uproot their teenager’s life in pursuit of that parent’s ever-fleeting happiness. By each other.

I can’t help but notice the bullying problem in today’s schools. Bullies do not operate in a vacuum…bullying is built on the reinforcement of the surrounding society. According to Olweus’s research, a bullying scenario has several roles that are being played. The bully (A) has people that copy their behavior (B), and people that laugh at or cheer on their behavior (C).

Where did these dictators, these douchebags, these bullies, learn this type of behavior? Or was it in them all along?

No, every year I become more and more convinced of the fallenness of humanity. And it hurts.

And although I don’t have the time to cover it, I have become quite convinced of my own fallenness. I am not examining fallen humanity from a pedestal. Rather, I am right there with them.

 

So when Easter comes around, especially this year, the reminder comes exactly when I need it.

God is not the cause of all this stupidity, these wars, these abuses. God created all things perfect, but humans with free will. When man sinned, God’s immediate next move was to curse…but also to promise the solution. The seed of the woman.

I am reminded that when humanity fell, God put in motion the fix: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, but that’s not the whole story. Jesus Christ, crucified and then RESURRECTED. And He is still coming to take every tear away.

When I see an abuse that I can change, I can do what I can. But if I can’t fix it, I know that Jesus is coming. I know that because He RESURRECTED, and He said He’s coming back.

Everything else is small potatoes compared to this.

The Art of Apologetics: Does God give proof? (Part 3 – Is Jesus the Son of God?)

Rom 1:1-6 (NASB)

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake,

 

John 10:25-39 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 

31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 

33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles , that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”  39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

 

So continuing our last series…does God just expect blind faith? Does God want us to place faith in Jesus Christ, without Him bringing any evidence to the stand?

No. He doesn’t expect that. He has revealed stuff to us. Yet again, He never asks us for faith without giving us reason first. It is not that He has to…it is that He does.

 

But let’s recap for a moment…two posts ago, we talked about this: God does not just expect us to believe He exists despite the evidence. He has left as much evidence as He has chosen to leave (which is a lot). We do not believe in God despite reason…quite the opposite. In light of the complexity and beauty of this planet and this universe, belief in God is very reasonable.

However, don’t think for a second that this, and this alone, says “See? Christianity is true. Right there.” Christianity is more than just believing in God’s existence.

Many religions believe in the existence of God. Many of America’s founding fathers were deists, NOT Christians. They believed that God exists, and that He created the world in which we live. But deism believes that although God created the universe, He is not involved in its day-to-day affairs. Deism believes that God wound up the toy, but it continues to spin on its own, without His help.

Many believe in God, but not as a Person but as a Force. He (or it, really) holds the universe together, and it created/designed the universe. But emotion is not its thing.

And then, you have polytheism and pagan religions. They believe in multiple gods, so the universe being created would make sense in these cases: The world was created by intelligent beings.

Islam, Judaism (traditional, pharisaic Judaism), Mormonism, traditional Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity…all of these believe in one God. Where they disagree is twofold, yet connected:

  1. What is God like? / What does God value?
  2. Is He revealed to us? How is He revealed to us?

 

So here is the position that Christianity states: God is revealed to us through Jesus Christ. Because (get ready for it!) Jesus is the Son of God. Better yet, Jesus IS God, in human form.

And you know, people don’t seem to mind us Christians believing in God, since belief in God is quite common. If a politician says “I believe in God,” he doesn’t lose any votes. It’s when someone says “Jesus Christ is LORD” that someone tends to make a few enemies.

In fact, when a Christian thinks about it, although we’ve accepted it as truth as long as we have called ourselves Christians, you really do have to understand how insane we sound when we claim that the guy that lived a normal life for 30 years, traveled and taught for three years, and then died on a cross was actually God in human flesh. Where did we get that notion? Did we take our beloved leader and say “He is so great, I think that He is God!” Traditional Jews might say that this is exactly what we did.

Nope. We didn’t elevate Him there. He told us that Himself. He was God. He actually said it somewhat plainly.

 

John 14:9-12 (NIV)

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

 

John 8:52-59 (NASB)

The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he shall never taste of death.’ 53 “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word. 56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”  57 The Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”  59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

 

Random side tangent number one

At this point, I need to point a few things out. Number one: Christians…we will never completely understand the Trinity, but there are a few things that we CAN understand about it. The Son is God. The Father is God. The Son and the Father are One. But the Son IS NOT the Father, and the Father is not the Son.

Think of it this way…although this is a very incomplete picture. My body is “me.” My soul is “me.” But my body is not my soul. Body = Carson. Soul = Carson. Body not same thing as soul, although both are Carson. Yes?

 

Tangent, but not so “side” and not so “random”

There are many people out there who respect Jesus as a great teacher, but do not think He is God. C.S. Lewis says something to that end that, in order to do it justice, I must simply copy and paste it.

(C.S. Lewis ‘Mere Christianity’ page 56 )
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a good moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

 

Let us some it up like this…what Jesus is asking us to believe about Himself is nothing short of (pardon the expression but I can’t think of a more effective way to say what I want to say) batsh*t insane. Jesus actually asked us to believe that He is God. He actually asked us to believe that He Himself is the ONLY way to get through to the Father in heaven. That the entire system of morality and “good boys go to heaven, bad boys go to hell” was inaccurate because no one would get to the Father except through Him.

 

So, if this is true, does God simply expect us to believe Jesus’s outrageous claims?

Enter the rule we talked about: God always gives some sort of evidence before asking for faith. Again, it’s just something that He does.

So what was our proof with Jesus? Two things…

  1. 1.      Miracles.

John 10:25-39 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 

31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 

33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles , that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”  39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

 

If you look throughout the Old Testament, miracles (by definition, a miracle is something that breaks the laws of nature, and therefore science cannot study miracles any more than a calculator could study colors) often were employed by God as His stamp of approval for someone that He would send. Miracles were how Moses proved that God sent him (and yet Israel and Egypt still doubted…so what does that tell you about “if God showed me a miracle I would believe in Him” people?), with both the “staff transforms into a snake” types of miracles as well as the plagues upon Egypt. The Judges, which we find in the book of, well, Judges, often were accompanied by miraculous signs or feats.

Elijah and Elisha were granted miracles so that they would be accepted as having been sent by God. Miracles are God’s stamp of approval (God’s proof!) whenever He sends someone new or changes something. Beyond that, God expects our belief in previous miracles, and He makes sure to document them well for us (we’ll go over the Bible next post).

In the New Testament, miracles did two things:

  1. Validated Jesus as having been sent by God the Father (see above Scripture)
  2. Validated Peter and the other apostles as continuing Jesus’s work, in Jesus’s power.

Miracles were God’s stamp of approval.

However, Jesus was doing more than bringing a message. He was bringing a) A really important message, and b) a message so crazy that no one would possibly believe it by itself. So God, knowing our minds and knowing that this was so important that we couldn’t afford to get it wrong, did not just do miracles but rather pulled off THE miracle.

  1. 2.      The Resurrection and empty tomb

Rom 1:1-6 (NASB)

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake,

He was declared BY THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. This was the Father’s way of saying that this crazy message was actually true.

 

God didn’t call anyone to place their faith in Jesus Christ by “taking a lucky guess.” He did not call for faith in His Son without putting forth proof first.

 

Matt 3:16-17 (NASB)

And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son , in whom I am well-pleased.”

 

Again, God does not seem to be turning up new evidence. He calls us to have faith in the evidence He has already given, the case He has already made.

 

COMING NEXT – The Bible as the Word of God?