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Berlin, 21. Oktober 2015

Hallo!  Vicki and I are back from Düsseldorf, where we spoke on Christianity, Women & Freedom, besides giving a special Sunday evidences program based on Answering Skeptics. (Thanks, Frank, Vlad, and all who made the weekend successful.) Last night in Berlin I completed the third in a series of three classes on The Holy Spirit.  Changing gears now, let's get straight back to Answering Skeptics.
The Answering Skeptics series:
Hypocrisy, Scripture, Morality, Nonsense questions, God, Science, Suffering, Miracles, Christ, and Religion

Recap: Skeptic challenges 1-6
  • "There's no proof Jesus even lived, apart from the Bible" -- False, disproved by a number of ancient Roman, Greek, Syrian, Jewish, and Christian sources.
  • "Jesus' original words were lost..." -- Actually, the process of oral tradition in ancient cultures was more than adequate to preserve the record of Jesus' words and deeds. Further, the Jews were renowned for their careful preservation of tradition, oral and written alike.
  • "The NT was written so long after Jesus' time that it has no historical value." -- The NT began to be written some 20 years after Pentecost, and a few sources cited in the NT go back to about 2 years before Pentecost!
  • "Jesus' limited knowledge proves he wasn't the Son of God." -- Jesus' incarnation meant emptying himself, including part of his knowledge. 
  • "Jesus taught the same things as other religious founders." -- Not so. Careful scholarship has shown us that the differences between religions far outweigh the similarities.
  • "In the 'missing years,' Jesus traveled to India, finding enlightenment at the feet of the Buddha." -- This is both implausible and impossible. Implausible because Jesus, the eldest of five brothers, would have had family responsibilities -- no time for a trip to India; impossible since the Buddha died 500 years earlier.

Jesus Christ: Skeptic Challenges 7-12

We continue with six more skeptic challenges to what the Bible says about Christ. Next week we will finish this study, and then move on to the final section of Answering Skeptics.

7. Why should I follow someone given to temper tantrums (John 2:13-17), hate speech (Matt 23:13-33), and antisemitism (John 8:39-47)? The "tantrum" was carefully calculated, conducted in a spirit of righteous indignation, and executed to signal the establishment that he was ready for the inevitable clash. Jesus said many hard things, but they were always tempered with love (Matt 23:37; Mark 10:21). While he did challenge the leaders of the Jews most forcefully -- rightly so on account of their greater responsibility level -- to accuse him, or any of his apostles, of antisemitism is silly. They were all Jews, after all!

8. Jesus' divinity evolved. The earlier parts of the New Testament know nothing of his being God. Actually, Jesus is clearly divine, equated with the Lord of the Old Testament and Jewish faith, in the very earliest strata of the N.T. Later works expand on this insight, but Jesus is clearly divine in the earliest gospel, the beginning of Acts, the earliest letter, and the Apocalypse (Mark 1:1,11,24, 2:7; Acts 2:36; Gal 6:18; Rev 1:8). Every section of the N.T. points to him as Deity.

9. 1000s of manuscript errors have obscured the truth about Jesus. One person's guess is good as another's. The copying errors are minor. No doctrine of Christianity is affected by a misspelling or a missing word here or there, especially when plenty of other ancient copies supplement what may be lacking. Copies of all ancient documents suffered some degree of degradation, but scholars don't for that reason automatically reject their contents. For more on the manuscripts, review the Bible section of Answering Skeptics: "The Bible has been changed," "Minimizing the Word," and "Bible conspiracies."

10. The miracles of Christ were concocted by the church. Jesus was a good person, and his teachings were good, and would be good even without the miracles. Then why did he stir up the wrath of the establishment? Why was he so loved and so hated? Christ was much more like the prophet Jeremiah than a mild-mannered rabbi. Removing the miracles from Christianity, like the incarnation, the healings, and the resurrection, leaves nothing of substance, for then God did not visit our planet, he is unable to meet our needs, and there is no hope for life after death. Some miracles, especially the resurrection, vindicate his claims (Acts 17:34; Rom 1:4). Other signs tell us who Jesus is, like the miraculous signs running through the gospel of John (2:11, 4:54, 5:9, 6:11, 6:19, 9:9, 11:44, 20:1-29). Discredit the central miracles in the life of Christ, and we might as well not be Christians (1 Cor 15:15,19).

11. Jesus only wanted us to be good people, not saints. He didn't require purity. He made out with his girlfriend, Mary Magdalene. He certainly did insist that we lead holy lives (Matt 5:27-30). While Mary was one of his followers, the notion that he and Mary were involved is an idea much later than the first century. (You got this idea from Dan Brown, right?) As for the idea of being good people, Jesus taught that no one can be good enough to be saved (Mark 10:18). And all his followers are called to live holy lives -- to be saints (Mark 8:34).

12. I might believe if you could show me an example of someone who accepted Jesus' claims and miracles -- as long as he wasn't a biased Christian. The request doesn't really make sense, since anyone who accepted these things would certainly become a Christian! We can give you a long list of unbelievers and skeptics -- in ancient times as well as in our own day -- who were persuaded by the evidence. Besides, no one is completely unbiased, including the one making such a request.

Biblical Study Tour: Berlin - Wittenberg - Zürich - Geneva

Our annual study tour begins in just a few days. We'll learn from the Reformation in the places where history was made. The dynamic 16th century was a time of rapid change in secular and spiritual history alike. People sensed that something was wrong, that Christendom had gone astray. The reformers made significant progress in pointing people back to God and his word. Today we strive to continue their work.

This year the BST group is composed of Colombians, Germans, Nigerians, and Americans (nearly half the group), plus a Filipino, a Briton, and a Swiss brother. My fellow teachers are Joey Harris (Augusta), Stephen Staten (Chicago), Gilbert Kimeng (Lagos), and Rolan Monje (Manila). This is going to be a phenomenal time of learning for us all.

Next week I'll write to you from Zürich, Switzerland. Please remember this ministry.

All for now,
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