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Zürich, 28. Oktober 2015

Greetings from Zürich, Switzerland! While Berlin certainly impresses, the medieval town of Lutherstadt Wittenberg, where the German Reformation was kindled, is also a place where history comes alive.

There are many obvious parallels between the dark system once surrounding Berlin -- symbol of division, propaganda, and abuse of power under the rule of communism -- and the swirl of controversy surrounding Luther's town, as systemic evil and unbiblical practices pushed this Augustinian monk to challenge the pope himself!

After admiring Luther's courage, we overnighted in stunning Nürnberg (as in the Nuremberg trials following WW 2), then headed to Zürich, the town of Zwingli, dominant figure of the Swiss Reformation before Calvin. Zwingli too had many strong convictions -- and, like Luther, some pretty egregious weaknesses. Sound familiar? (I'm just looking at the man in the mirror.) We will finish the tour in Geneva. 

Tonight we enjoyed fellowship with our Swiss brothers and sisters, while Steve Staten taught the 4th class in our series, on the truly radical Anabaptists, a movement from whom we can all learn a lot. The 2015 program:
  • Flashpoint: Fuel for the Reformation  (Rolan Monje, Manila)
  • Luther: Man on Fire  (Gilbert Kimeng, Lagos)
  • Zwingli: The Limits of Compromise  (Douglas Jacoby, Atlanta)
  • The Radicals: Anabaptists & Other Revolutionaries  (Stephen Staten, Chicago)
  • Calvin: No Compromise  (Joey Harris, Augusta)
The Answering Skeptics series:
Hypocrisy, Scripture, Morality, Nonsense questions, God, Science, Suffering, Miracles, Christ, and Religion

Recap: Skeptic questions 7-12
  • "Jesus often didn't act like a Christian." --  Jesus said and did many hard things, but they were always tempered with love.
  • "Jesus' divinity evolved."  -- Actually, every section of the N.T. points to him as Deity, from the earliest strata (from the early 30s) to the latest (in the 90s).
  • "Manuscript errors make the truth about Christ unknowable." -- No doctrine of Christianity is affected by minor errors like misspellings or the odd missing word,  especially with such a broad manuscript base. Historians seldom have access to such large numbers of ancient documents as Bible translators do!
  • "The miracles of Christ were concocted by the church..." Removing the miracles from Christianity leaves nothing of substance in the biblical message, and certainly not a truthful message for which believers of all ages have been willing to die!
  • "Jesus only wanted us to be good people." -- All his followers are called to live holy lives -- to be saints.
  • "I might believe if I found an example of a contemporary non-Christian (not a believer) who accepted Jesus' claims and miracles." -- That's illogical: anyone who believes in Christ is a believer, not a non-Christian!

Jesus Christ: Skeptic Challenges 13-18

Today's skeptic challenges all relate to the Resurrection.

13. Jesus' resurrection was faked. His followers didn't want to give up on him, even when he failed, so to honor him they made up the story that he conquered death. His followers (eyewitnesses) are unlikely to have been willing to die for something they knew was a lie. The Gospels depict their reluctance to stick their own necks out (John 20:19) -- until they were convinced of his resurrection. Then they were transformed men! Besides, would they be honoring the one who insisted on telling the truth by fabricating his comeback from death? Hardly.

14. Christ was a copy of other mythic figures, like Diogenes, Herakles, and Apollonius of Tyana. The so-called parallels are too late and are poor "parallels." Scholars put the final nail into the coffin a century ago, though this unsubstantiated allegation has been resurfacing of late.

15. Other ancient divinities died and rose from the dead, so Christ's resurrection wasn't unique. The pagan divinities typically died and rose annually, whereas Jesus' death and resurrection were one-time events (Heb 9:25-28). Unlike them, he rose with a resurrection body, and not in the underworld, but on the earth. Another important difference: his resurrection was not tied to annual agricultural cycles, but to our perennial need for a Savior.

16. Jesus' followers, who were mainly women and slaves, found nothing strange in his coming back from the dead. After all, like other ancient people, they were superstitious and poorly educated. Ancient people, including the lower classes (many of whom found a warm welcome in the church), knew as well as we do that people don't come back from the dead. The early church wasn't teaching that such was a normal event! Their special claim was the Jesus was the first to conquer death, the first human (first fruits) resurrected, in a new body, and that he is inviting us to follow him, with the assurance that we too will be resurrected, with the gift of immortality. It has nothing to do with the education level of church members.

17. The Gospel accounts of the resurrection appearances are hopelessly confused. Why should I believe them? While each gospel has its own emphases, all four agree that the tomb was empty. The resurrection was unexpected, even though Jesus had foretold it. And the disciples doubted. On all these points they are in perfect harmony. They are also in full agreement that the first witnesses to the resurrection were women. This is an especially telling point, since the testimony of women was not acceptable in a court of law. If the disciples were making the story up, it is doubtful they would have made the first witnesses female. But back to the incredulity of the disciples: why include this in an account written to persuade others of the resurrection? They are hardly presented as men of faith ready to take on the religious authorities! Once convinced, almost against their will, the disciples stand up for Christ, ready to die for him if necessary. These are some reasons you should believe them.

18. The disciples experienced a group hallucination, perhaps triggered by their deep sadness over Jesus' death. Thus they were convinced that they had seen the risen Christ. The appearances (see 1 Cor 15:5-7) were to individuals as well as to groups of various sizes. Normally when someone "sees" a dead person, the person making the appearance is dead. Yet in Jesus' case, they saw a living person. Nor was this just a fleeting glimpse of their dear departed friend. He had conversations with them, ate with them, and continued to instruct them -- over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3)! 

I'd like to close our section on Jesus Christ by recommending two of the best books on the resurrection I've ever read.
  • The first is The Case for the Resurrection, by Gary Habermas & Michael Licona. This book utilizes a "minimal facts" approach, emphasizing what can be known and agreed upon by the majority of scholars, believers or not. It's easy to read, and the accompanying CD includes a test, to see whether or not we've mastered the material. I highly recommend this work. These guys are a great team, and they definitely know their stuff.
  • The second work is written at a scholarly level, superbly researched, though not for the faint of heart. The author is (my friend) Michael Licona, and the full title is The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.
Let's all continue to grow in our ability to proclaim and defend the gospel (Phil 1:7)!


Next week we'll begin the final section of Answering Skeptics, where we counter several common complaints / accusations about religion. Thanks for hanging with me!

Yours in Him,
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