We have concluded that an absolute moral law requires an absolute moral Lawgiver, complete with judgment. We have seen that human free-will, Love, Reason, Joy, and other emotions, without a Spiritual component, are reduced to “a meaningless flux of atoms”, having no more significance than the individual neurons in which they reside. We have examined scientific evidence that points to a Prime Mover and an “Intelligent Designer”. All good so far. But who is this Being? How can we know Him? There are several ways to approach this question. However, it is important to remember that it is God Himself who must establish His Being upon our deceitful and desperately wicked hearts. I did make the claim in an earlier post that Christianity is a reasonable faith, and now I endeavor to support this statement. We can start our rational search for God’s identity by first establishing who He isn’t. What does our Universe tell us about God?
In the first place, we saw that the universe has been shown to have had a finite beginning. This not only establishes the existence of a Prime Mover, but also helps to establish His identity. We can very quickly eliminate all Eastern Religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc.), which base their faith on endless cycles of reincarnation, as these would require either a “Steady State” or “Oscillating” universe model. Likewise, we know that the Creator, being established before the Universe, must transcend our universe, thus eliminating Native American and all pantheistic religions and their “New Age” affiliates. The lack of habitable planets in our universe (as well as a host of other facts) eliminates Mormonism.
There are far too many religions in existence for me to even list in this blog, much less evaluate. Most of these are easy to eliminate as having any basis in fact by most learned men. Therefore, we will focus the remainder of our efforts on the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible itself. Islam, as well as several “pseudo-Christian” cults, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christadelphianism, are newer religions built on the premise that the original manuscripts of the Bible have been corrupted by the Church, all without any substantial proof whatsoever. I dealt with many of their false teachings in earlier blogs, like their denial of The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity and The Lost Doctrine of Eternal Hell. Is the Bible reliable? Yes. As we shall see, the Word bears witness to itself, not only by means of Supernatural Revelation, which is most necessary for conversion, but through reason. This will be established in two parts, internal evidences and external evidences.
Proof of Scripture from Prophecy
If logic, science, and reason have established one thing, it is that time is a limiting factor to all three. It is true that, given some established sets of conditions, one may be able to predict certain results. For example, I can predict, quite accurately, that the Sun will rise tomorrow. I can also reasonable guess that I will go to work, arrive at 7:30, get my time in, and leave at 4:30. This may or may not happen, but barring unforeseen circumstances, I can make a reasonable guess. Past experience also helps. This is why I’m confident that when I push the brakes on my car, it will stop. Had I lacked any such confidence, I would be driving another vehicle.
However, the accurate fulfillment of Bible Prophecy cannot be explained away by such reasoning. There are literally hundreds of prophecies given in Scripture, and unlike those of our modern charismatics, they are 100% accurate. I’ll focus on a few prophecies in the apologetical exercise, and will elaborate more on prophecy in general beginning next week.
Prophecies from Daniel
Daniel’s prophecies concerning events future to his time were so accurate that skeptics have attempted to re-date Daniel to the time of the Second Century B.C. Maccabean Revolt. They would like to date it even later, but are prevented from doing so by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain fragments of Daniel and are dated to the Second Century B.C. Daniel dates itself to the 5th and 6th Centuries B.C., and there is no reason to date it any later. Redating the book doesn’t help the skeptic when it comes to fulfilled prophecy, because Daniel contains prophecies that took place well after the Maccabean Revolt, such as the Rise of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2:40-43), the First Advent of Christ (Daniel 2:44-45), the timing of His crucifixion and atoning work (Daniel 9:24-25), the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (Daniel 9:26-27), The Actian War featuring Augustus (King of the North – Rome), Cleopatra, Marc Antony (King of the South – Egypt), and the actions of Herod the Tetrarch (the blasphemous king at the “time of the end” of the Old Covenant - Daniel 11:36-45). Obviously, these prophecies cannot be written off as merely “good guesses”, but require divine foresight. We’ll focus more on these details of these prophecies in the coming weeks.
The Olivet Discourse
“Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34)
In the 24th Chapter of Matthew, Jesus spelled out the end of the Old Covenant in great detail, reaffirming the destruction of Jerusalem within the time frame prophecied by Daniel (See Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15-21 cf. Luke 21:20-24) Mark verifies this in the 13th Chapter of His Gospel as well, and it is universally accepted that the Gospel of Mark was written well before the events of AD 70, which saw the fulfillment of these prophecies. The tendency of skeptics is to try at date the writing of the Olivet Discourse after 70 AD. However, several factors prevent them from doing so.
I.) Gospel Content
Luke’s second book (Acts) ends with Paul imprisoned in Rome, thus placing the writing of Acts about 63 AD, and thus the writing of Luke and Mark before that. In addition the synoptic gospels make no mention of several key events that would be unthinkable to leave out, such as the deaths of James, Peter, and Paul (in fact, they don’t mention Paul at all.), the death of Herod Agrippa, the persecution of Nero, and the Roman Civil War and the Roman-Jewish War. This would be like writing a history of America and not mentioning the Civil War. For the Gospel writers to have ignored these events would have been unthinkable, unless the Gospels were written before they happened.
II.) The Testimony of Paul
Paul, who died in 68 AD, quotes Luke 10:7 in his first Epistle to Timothy (See 1 Timothy 5:18). How could Paul quote a scripture that had not yet been written? Also consider his defense of the gospel and the doctrine of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
One has to wonder what “scriptures” Paul was referring to if the gospels had not yet been written. Paul’s familiarity with the Synoptic Gospels can be documented by the themes he preached, such as Love Fulfills the Law (Romans 13:8; Matthew 22:35-40), Water Baptism (Colossians 2:12; Matthew 3:16), and The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-29; Matthew 26:26-29). Since Paul was killed in 68 AD, then the synoptic gospels were written before 67 AD.
III.) The Testimony of Early Church Fathers
Clement of Rome (AD 30-100) uses Matthew 25:35 in his epistle to Corinthians. Polycarp (AD 69-155), in his Epistle to the Phillipians, quotes several passages from both Matthew and Luke. Eusebius (AD 263–339) quotes Papias (AD 60-135) for the traditional story of the writing of Matthew and Mark. Ignatius (Martyred in AD 107) refers to passages from the Gospel of Matthew. In his Epistle to the Magnesians, he quotes Luke 5:46 and John 5:30. No historical evidence exists to support the idea that the gospels were written by anyone other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or that any of the first three were written after AD 70. (The date of John is open for debate. However, since John’s gospel does not contain the Olivet Discourse, we’ll address that issue at another time.)
The exact fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse supports the Divine Inspiration of Scripture. It must also be noted that both Josephus and Eusebius verify that the Christian Church was able to flee Jerusalem before it’s destruction by being “commanded by a revelation”. (See Josephus - Wars 5:10:1 and Eusebius - History of the Church 3:5:3)
Proof of Scripture from History and Archaeology
In my walk through our Christian Bookstore a while back, a new Bible caught my eye. It was the Archaeological Study Bible, an idea whose time has come. I highly recommend this Bible to any serious student of Scripture, though I’m not a big fan of the NIV. (Note: I wouldn’t expect to see an “Archaeological Book of Mormon” anytime soon.) Here are a few of the many archaeological artifacts featured in this marvelous new Bible.
Fragments from the Book of Balaam, Son of Beor
1.) In 1967, an archaeological discovery at Deir Alla, Jordan almost definitely references the Biblical Balaam. See Fragments from the Book of Balaam, Son of Beor.
2.) The Khu-Sebek Inscription, discovered at Abydos in Egypt, contains a first person account of the career of Khu-Sebek, who rose to power while in Pharaoh’s service. It lends support for the career of Joseph and the Burial of Jacob in Genesis 50.
3.) The Soleb Hieroglyph, in a temple dedicated to Amenhotep III, speaks of “the land of Shasu, those of YHW”. (YHW is universally recognized by scholars as the God of Israel.)
Evidence for Adam
Hugh Ross writes about a discovery that supports the Biblical account of Adam. “A new study by evolutionary biologists Robert Dorit (Yale), Hiroshi Akashi (University of Chicago), and Walter Gilbert (Harvard) flies in the face of prevailing origin-of-man scenarios. In an attempt to trace the ancestry of humans, these researchers looked for genetic differences in the Y chromosome of 38 men living in different parts of the world and having different ethnic backgrounds. Since only males possess the Y chromosome, such a study offers a narrowly focused look at genetic material as it has developed over time and distance.To their great surprise, Dorit and his associates found no nucleotide differences at all in the non-recombinant part of the Y chromosomes of the 38 men. This non-variation suggests no evolution has occurred in male ancestry. Based on this analysis, they concluded that men’s forefather – a single individual, not a group – lived no more than 270,000 years ago.”1 (I would suggest that the actual date is closer to 60,000 years ago.)
Historical Evidence for Jesus
Aside from the Gospels, there are sources from secular history to support the existence of Jesus, as well as his crucifixion at the hands of the Jews, and even references to his possible divinity. The Roman Historian Tacitus writes, “Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. . .”.2 Pliny the Younger wrote concerning the worship of Christ, “They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food--but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”3 The Jewish Historian Josephus even recognized that Christ was possibly more than a mere man. He writes, “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . . condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life. . . . And the tribe of Christians . . . has . . . not disappeared.”4
I have made the case, to the best of my weak human ability, I support of the Christian Faith. I have used the three previous arguments to support the existence of God, and this final one to identify Him. Christianity does not require us to abandon reason and logic. Instead, it demands us to reason. It shows us that we, as humans, are in a fallen state, and must be redeemed by God Himself. If you are an unbeliever, I pray that my effort has whetted your appetite for more of Christ. I encourage you to read the gospel Call to the Unbeliever. I have made a rational defense of the Christian faith. I now appeal to you to run to Christ. It is now up to the Holy Spirit to make you His. May He use my humble efforts in this blog to accomplish this in many of His lost sheep.
For More Information, See:
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Fingerprint of God by Hugh Ross
The Archaeological Study Bible
Who was Adam? By Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana
Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources by Michael Gleghorn
1 Hugh Ross, CHROMOSOME STUDY STUNS EVOLUTIONISTS
2 Tacitus, Annals 15.44
3 Pliny the Younger – Letter to Emperor Trajan
4 Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64