Posts Tagged ‘Resurrection’

The Apostles’ Creed: The Living and the Dead

September 15, 2014

Who is it that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Our next stop in our look at the Apostles’ Creed is that God will judge the living and the dead. Recently while I was out somewhere, I saw someone with a tattoo that said “Only God can judge me.” My thought upon seeing that is “That should ultimately terrify you.” People might think they can escape all judgment here and no one has any right to say anything about them, but wait until they get to where they will see God.

That God judges the living and the dead shows that no one can escape this event. When it comes to the final judgment, we will all stand before God and give an account. Death is not a way to escape the reach of God. No one can ultimately escape it. God will call everyone in the world to accounts, from the small to the great.

This would also be a message of hope for those in the Roman Empire at the time who were suffering. If Jesus is Lord, then He will indeed judge the world. The one who once sat in the place of receiving judgment will instead turn and be the judge of Pilate. The one who was condemned by members of the Sanhedrin will instead now condemn those members of the Sanhedrin.

The judgment will also be fair for all. Many times, we have this idea that getting into the Kingdom of God is like a theological exam. If you answer all the questions right, then you get in. If you don’t, then it really doesn’t matter to talk about all the good that you’ve done. You’ve ultimately failed at your lot in life and you will be judged. To many, this strikes them as unfair.

In reality, what God does is entirely fair. God sets the same standard for everyone else. That standard is perfection. You can either accept the score someone gave on your behalf, namely Christ, or else God will judge you by the only thing that He has left to judge you by, and that is your works. If they’re not absolutely perfect, then you’re out.

Now it’s not enough for some to say Jesus is the antidote to that because then comes the obvious rejoinder. What about people who have never heard about Jesus? In this case, my answer is simply we have no definitive answer on this. We do know from Scripture that God is good and God is just. My best response to this is that as Scripture says, the judge of all the Earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25. Psalm 98:9) God will judge each person I believe who never heard about Jesus by the light that they had and He knows where their heart is and how they would have responded.

Until then, we have our marching orders. We are to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ did not give us a plan B. He did not tell us what will happen when we do not fulfill our assignment. If you are concerned about those who’ve never heard, the ultimate thing you can do is to make sure that they hear, by either being a missionary yourself or supporting those who are.

We don’t know when the judgment will occur ultimately, but let it influence you in everything you do. One day you will be judged.

Are you ready to give an account?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Story of Jesus In History and Faith

July 14, 2014

What do I think of Lee McDonald’s book on the historical Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Lee McDonald has written a book on the historical Jesus and one aspect of this book is that it’s quite unique from other books I have read on the historical Jesus. McDonald places great stock in history, but he also says we must go beyond history at times. History can produce the data but at times, there is an element of faith involved with what we do with the data.

I am pleased that McDonald does state his own personal bias upfront. I have no problem with an author doing that and I in fact have no problem with an author having a personal bias. We all do. We cannot avoid that. We should seek to limit our bias as much as we can, but at the end of the day, we must all realize we’re humans capable of bias.

For instance, in the debate about the Historical Jesus, data is not really the problem. Seriously. It isn’t. Most everyone out there seriously involved in the debate will agree to the same data. There are disagreements over some minor issues of course, but except for those on the fringe, such as the Christ-myth camp or the ultra-conservative hyper-inerrancy camp of the new fundamentalists, the data is not the problem.

And for data, McDonald is very thorough and presents plenty of data about the historical Jesus. He goes into each of the Gospels arguing about authorship and date of writing and purpose of writing and looks at the non-Christian sources to see what they say about Jesus. He interacts with scholarship everywhere on the spectrum.

But to get back to the issue, I really don’t like saying that faith is what is involved. Oh there is an element of faith in Christianity of course, but it’s not the case that faith becomes some kind of belief in regard to the evidence. Faith is rather an action in relation to the evidence. Faith is the act of loyally following through the evidence. I would in fact conclude that a historian can make a knowledge claim that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. One can use history I think and demonstrate this.

While that is a criticism I have of McDonald’s book, it should not count against the overall excellent depth of information that is in the book and even if you’re highly familiar with Jesus studies, you’re sure to get something out of this one.

While McDonald agrees with the resurrection, I also think he’s fair about how far he thinks the evidence goes. He’s not going to defend a hard line inerrancy either. He does admit that there are some passages of Scripture that he sees as difficult to reconcile. Does that mean that they cannot be? Of course not, but it does mean that many of our explanations can often be so-so and just little bandages trying to sustain a view of inerrancy that cannot survive scrutiny.

In conclusion, I don’t agree with everything, and again, how many authors will we agree with entirely, I do think McDonald’s book is a welcome edition and that it would be a great help at a Seminary for students wanting to learn about the historical Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: He Rose Again From The Dead

June 4, 2014

Did Jesus stay in that tomb? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The center of the Christian faith lies right here. If this did not happen, then let’s all just pack up and go home. We might become deists or some other kind of theism, but we certainly cannot be Christians any more because Jesus would not be who He said He was.

Now many of us know about the minimal facts approach of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Many of you also know that I use that approach, but I also use another approach and since the minimal facts is already well known (And if it isn’t, get the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona)I will be here using another approach. This is one used by my ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics, and one I plan to do even further research on later on to improve it more.

When a minimal facts approach is started, it’s usually started with Jesus’s death by crucifixion. Yes. This is a fact. It is one of the most certain facts in history. The most that many apologists get from that is that Jesus died.

Let’s not stop at that point.

What kind of death did Jesus die?

Jesus died a death that would be seen as a shameful death. It was designed to lower his status in the eyes of the people as far as possible. To non-Jews, Jesus died as a traitor to Rome. He was a would-be king who got what He deserved and once again, Rome put down those who were opposed to her rule. To a Jew, Jesus died under the curse of YHWH. He claimed to be the Son of God and Messiah and because of that, He was put to death. (Mainly for the first one. Claiming to be the Messiah was not blasphemous. It just might be seen as egocentric, crazy, etc.)

Note in Jesus’s society also, your identity came from someone else. There was no self-made man. Connection to the group was important and if you were a follower of Christ, that would be who your identity was in. It would be in a man seen as a traitor to Rome and under the curse of YHWH.

How many of you want to be a part of that group?

In fact, if you were telling the story about Jesus to someone as a Christian, as soon as you got to crucifixion, the person you were talking to would likely shut their ears at that point. There would be no need to listen any further.

Want to know what it would be like to say a crucified man was your Messiah, savior, and God?

Imagine what it would be like to have someone say that the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention was an open homosexual and pedophile.

Imagine what it would be like to hear the person running for the office of president used to be president of the KKK.

Imagine what it would be like to be a part of Ken Ham’s organization and hearing that Francis Collins or Hugh Ross will be the guest speaker at a convention this year.

Imagine what it would be like to hear that a terrorist arrested in Afghanistan was going to be put in charge of our military.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples. Pretty much, this kind of event would fly in the face of everything that you knew. If you knew anything about crucified people, you knew that they were no good and certainly no one worth putting an investment in.

And what are you being told to invest in them?

EVERYTHING!

Your whole life and identity is being put on the line with this one. If you are wrong, there’s no turning back. Now this isn’t because of threat of Hell. For many in the ancient world, you die and that is it. You might go to some shadowy existence. Jews could hold to some variation of Hell at times. Either way, the turn and burn approach would not be what was most likely used.

What temporary gains would you get in this life if you became a follower of Christ? Well let’s name a few.

You would be mocked. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but in an honor-shame society like the ancient Mediterranean was, it was. Think back for instance to when you were in high school. You would have cliques being formed and you needed to identify with the cool kids. If you were a guy and got identified as a homosexual for instance, that could end your social status. If you were a girl and got identified as loose, that could also end your social status. Everyone else determined where you were on the social ladder.

Now multiply that a few times and you have a better idea of what the ancient world was like.

A major difference is this world has far more power. You go home from school and school is done. There is no place in the ancient world where you can escape life itself.

You want to go to the marketplace? You’re known there. Want to go worship at a pagan temple or Jewish synagogue? You’re known there. Want to go to a club or meeting place? You’re known there. Not only are you known, your ancestors will be known as well. What you do will forever stay with your children.

Not only will that happen, but with this shaming you will be seen as deviant. Why? You’re going against the gods! You’re going against the emperor! If we suffer, it is because we have not been giving the honor to the gods that is their due. Any major calamity shows up? You’re the problem! You will then be dealt with by Rome because you’re being a traitor to the social order.

And yes, that finally gets us to persecution. A pagan would persecute you because you were a traitor to Rome and denying the gods. If you had wanted to include Jesus among other gods to worship, well worshiping a crucified man would be odd, but okay. No. You’re saying that not only do you worship YHWH through Christ, you say that is the only way to worship. You deny that the other gods even exist. How can the people earn their favor if they tolerate you in their midst?

Yeah. Tolerance. That’s a big one. The Jews could be tolerated because they were an old religion. They were just told that they had to sacrifice on behalf of the emperor. They did not have to pray to him. You want to come with a different belief? Well that’s fine if you can fit it into the Roman pantheon.

A new idea however is viewed with suspicion. That’s going against the social order. That’s claiming that our ancestors have been wrong for centuries. That’s saying that these beliefs that have guided and shaped us our whole lives have been wrong. Come with something new and you are a threat.

“Well geez. Mormonism was something new also and look how well it survived!”

While Mormonism did get some persecution, Americans had far more of a live and let live attitude. Mormons also had several wide open places that they could go to to escape any persecution. Christians only had the catacombs. If Mormonism had survived in an honor-shame culture, there might be something to the argument, but there isn’t.

“Well Islam was also a new belief.”

Yes. It was. And early on it spread by the sword and it offered its followers in this life power, wealth, and women. Those were some nice perks. The perks that came from Christianity could come elsewhere. You want to live a good and virtuous life? Greek philosophy can give you that. You want good fellowship? The pagan festivities can get you that. You want to get in touch with the divine? Mystery religions can give you that.

For Christianity, it’s biggest rewards would not even be seen in this life. They were waited on for the life to come. As you can hopefully see, becoming a Christian was not a simple task of walking down the aisle and saying a prayer and expecting your family and friends to celebrate your new belief. No. It was putting everything on the line.

Which makes it interesting since according to a scholar like Meeks, the middle and upper class were people who were often converting to Christianity. Why does this matter? These people had the most to lose on the social strata. Another aspect is these people often had the means to check out the stories. “You claim you have eyewitnesses? Well let me send my slave to Jerusalem to talk to these ‘eyewitnesses.’ ” These were the people who could most do a fact-finding mission and come to a conclusion.

Well Christianity did offer forgiveness of sins! As if the average Gentile or Jew was worried! Jews already had a system to deal with their sins. The sacrificial system and following the Law worked just fine. Why would they want to risk all of that for a system that abandoned both of those and even abandoned other aspects of Jewish life like the Sabbath and Torah observance? That would help ensure that they got cut off from YHWH!

The Gentiles? They too could offer sacrifices and frankly, they were more interested in living the good life. Of course, this was a life of virtue, but they had the philosophers to help with that. An approach that focused on the sinfulness of the people just would not work as well. (And in fact it assumes right off that Jesus is the solution to that, something that it would be very hard to persuade an ancient person of.)

Note also that Christianity had high high standards of living. Now the Jews would be familiar with them as would a number of God-fearers, but they were still high. Most especially would be in the area of sexual ethics. Chastity was the rule until you were married. Adultery was absolutely forbidden.

Christians also gave to the poor. “Well that’s nice.” Not so fast. The ancients did not really trust the poor. The poor were the ones who were likely to steal from you. After all, they didn’t have anything. The rich were the ones who were your benefactors and you wanted to be in their good favor.

Well surely Christians had something going for them! They taught the resurrection of the body!

Of course they did.

Another strike against them.

What?

Yeah. In the ancient world, the world of matter was a lower world. Go look at your Plato. The material world was lesser and the higher world was the spiritual world. In fact, even having a God not taking on the appearance of a human but of becoming human would be seen as totally bizarre.

To escape the body was seen as a relief. Apotheosis would have been the main goal. This would be being exalted to the realm of deity, and no body was required. This would often happen to the Caesars supposedly.

In the Phaedo of Plato, at the end Socrates asks for a cock to be sent to the god of healing as a gift. Why? Socrates is being released from his body. That is the ultimate healing. He is being free from the prison that he has lived in.

Is it any wonder that some of the earliest Christian heresies had a problem with Jesus being material? Think of Gnosticism or Docetism. Each of these would have made a whole lot more sense than the message the Christians were giving. In fact, if the Christians were supposedly changing the story to make it more acceptable for Gentiles, they would be seeking to remove the resurrection. That was just something seen as bizarre and unwanted to the Gentiles.

Now Jews could be more open, but a resurrection happening in the middle of space and time? That made no sense! The disciples in fact took the hardest route they could with their belief. They did not claim divine vindication. That would be easy! They claimed resurrection. They claimed it in the very city that Jesus was crucified in and in the very faces of those who did it.

So why is it that the resurrection would matter so much? It was more than the forgiveness of sins. It was more than dealing with the problem of evil. It was vindication. If God did raise Jesus from the dead, then God is essentially saying “Jesus was right.” Right about what? He was right about being the Son of God. He was right about being the Messiah. He was right about having your whole life depend on Him.

And if Jesus is raised, well that’s a good reason to believe He’s who He said He was.

In fact, that’s the only reason to do so.

If Jesus was not raised, Christianity should have died out early on like any other cult group would have. Christianity instead overcame the most impossible odds ever and not only did it dominate the Roman Empire without using the sword, today Jesus holds the allegiance of billions all over the world.

Not bad for a guy who was crucified.

Notice also how well this works if you add to it a minimal facts approach as well. We did not have to go into that too much, but even the social data alone makes a powerful case for the resurrection of Jesus and one that is too often overlooked. Why not add it to your apologetic arsenal?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Third Day

May 21, 2014

Why does the text talk about the third day? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Christians have long held that Jesus died and rose again and when He rose again, He rose on the third day. What exactly does this mean? Why does the text phrase it this way? Note how 1 Cor. 15:4 phrases it.

“that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”

According to the Scriptures.

Now this has often been followed by our modern prooftexting idea where we will go and find the one text that Paul has in mind and see what we can get. Many people think they’ve found it in Hosea 6:1-2.

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.”

Except that this refers to Israel in a different context. Now of course, this could apply in a dual-fulfillment later on to Jesus as the true Israel, but I am doubtful that Hosea had Jesus in mind when he wrote this passage. So what is it that is really being referred to by Paul?

The best explanation I know of is to go and do a search like I did through a tool like Bible Gateway. My results can be found here. I looked for the exact phrase, third day. Now some times it could mean purely chronology, like the third day of the creation week, but it’s interesting how often the third day is referred to in the Bible.

Now another objection can be raised that Jesus said He would be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights. Evan Fales, an atheist, in fact in “Debating Christian Theism” writes an essay on the passage and goes into a long long piece explaining his opinion on the matter missing one simple piece that never occurs to him throughout his whole work.

This is a common idiom in the Middle East.

It does not require that Jesus be buried on Wednesday night. All it requires is one understand the social context. In fact, look at the references to the third day in the Scripture and see how many of them have three days and three nights and then talk about what happened on the third day. The Pharisees say the same thing about guarding the tomb of Jesus in the end of the Gospel of Matthew itself.

So what do we conclude? This is not classical prooftexting going on that we do today such as finding a chapter and verse. This is looking at a general theme that takes place in the Scriptures and saying that Jesus fits into the paradigm. What the ancients saw was an entire tapestry of Scripture of themes that could be readily reproduced and reenacted as it were. Perhaps we should learn something about much of our modern hermeneutics today because of this?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: He Descended Into Hell

May 20, 2014

Why does the creed say that Christ descended into Hell? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

If there’s one part of the Apostles’ Creed that’s really problematic and the subject of debate, it’s this one. Some versions of the creed are said to not even include this part of it. Yet since it is in the one that I am using, I will be making some comments on it.

First, if I take Hell in the traditional sense, no. I do not think that Christ went there. Of course, many readers know that I have a different view on the nature of Heaven and Hell than most people do. It would not make sense for me to say Christ descended into Hell.

Yet I do hold to an intermediate state. I think there are several passages of Scripture that show this to be true. Paul talked about desiring to die and be with Christ and about being naked apart from the body. The thief on the cross was told about how that very day, He would be with Jesus in Paradise. (Yet another reason to think Christ did not literally go to Hell unless somehow Hell has become Paradise.)

Also, I think events like near-death experiences have shown that there is something more to man than just his body. These experiences cannot give us the furniture of Heaven or Hell, but I think they do pose a problem for a more naturalistic worldview.

Now there are many views on what happened to Christ. Some theologians have said that He did indeed descend into Hell and this way to release those who were there or else to proclaim his victory to those who were there, which could be two sides of the same coin.

Most of this comes from the passage found in 1 Peter 3:18-22 which is an extremely difficult passage to interpret and some commentaries even have an appendix in the back just meant to deal with this passage. Let’s make sure to keep in mind that while we hold that the Scripture is infallible in what it says, the creeds, as important as they are, are not necessarily. Yet even if we lost this phrase in the creed, it would be up to us to explain this passage of Scripture.

Some meanwhile think that the idea of descending into Hell is just a way of saying that he suffered death. This would be a parallel to the idea of death even if it is mentioned before burial. I really do not find this one persuasive however.

So what is my view? It’s important to keep in mind that we don’t want to do something like read Dante’s Inferno into the Creed. There’s no need to think about Jesus going into Hell to battle the devil one-on-one for instance.

What I would think of it as saying is simply that Jesus went to the realm of the dead, which was often described by the term “Sheol” in the Old Testament. I would be just fine with Him going to where the OT saints were and announcing the victory to lead them then into Paradise where He would be with the thief on the cross.

I am also not firmly settled on any of this as this is a difficult passage of the creed to interpret and there are many facets about this in-between time of Christ’s death and resurrection that we do not know about. Like other blogs, this is one I definitely welcome discussion on if you have your own theory.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Wrong Jesus

May 16, 2014

What do I think of Greg Monette’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Greg Monette is a good friend of mine who is doing his doctoral work under Craig Evans. He recently sent me his book “The Wrong Jesus” and wanted to see what I would think of it. I am pleased to say that this is a book I can indeed highly recommend for seekers and those learning to defend their faith.

Monette starts off with a piece on why it is that history matters. He talks about his own journey into doubt and how it was that the only way to get past it was to study the evidence. He gives the wise advice that there are no shortcuts in this field. I fully agree and that is something that must be stated in our society today that likes to think that everything is right at our fingertips which should include understanding. Data and facts can be present immediately to us. The understanding of that data is not.

He also deals early on with the idea that Jesus never even existed. While I think he did a fine job on this chapter, I was concerned that Richard Carrier was never mentioned. It is not because Carrier makes good arguments against Jesus’s existence. It is that Carrier is much better known to the laypeople I suspect than Robert Price, which I particularly notice when atheists regularly cite Carrier in response to any scholar whatsoever.

From here on, Monette deals with various questions such as the reliability of the New Testament texts, the question of if archaeology has helped us understand the Bible, if Jesus was a femininist, were the birth accounts based on legends, and were the Gospels written by eyewitnesses. Of course, there are others, but these are all important questions to be asked.

In fact, a major criticism that I would have is that in fact the book is not long enough. There were many areas I would have liked to have seen more expansion on. Sometimes it would seem like I’d get enough to just get someone’s feet wet and then it’d move on. Still, I understand the book could have been doubled in size had my desires been met. Fortunately, Monette does make up for this by having recommended reading at the end of every chapter.

Also at the end of every chapter there is a section that contains questions for discussion. I find this to be an important aspect to have in a book like this and I would be thrilled if the day came that people were reading The Wrong Jesus in church small groups more than reading books by, say, Rachel Held Evans or Joyce Meyer or others.

Monette also throws a lot of humor into the book which I consider a plus. An excellent example of this is his counter-theories to the resurrection where he plays out humorously why the opposing explanations for the resurrection just do not work. There is a good deal of sarcasm involved here which is always a bonus for me.

One aspect that is lacking in the book is that there is no index. It would be incredibly helpful to be able to look up something in the index for future reference if anyone comes back to the book for a second time, which I would encourage that they do.

In conclusion, Monette has given the church an excellent book that is well-written and engaging and can keep the reader’s interest. More importantly, it’s filled with excellent information that will prepare the reader to go out and fulfill the Great Commission.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: And Was Buried

May 13, 2014

Was Jesus buried? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we look at the Apostles’ Creed, the next claim to look at is that Jesus was buried. This is highly important since Bart Ehrman has come out lately saying he does not think that Jesus was buried, a position that has been held by John Dominic Crossan as well. An excellent rebuttal to Ehrman can be found by Greg Monette here.

So is there any evidence that Jesus was buried?

Well all of our texts that speak about this do indicate a burial. The 1 Cor. 15 creed says that Jesus was buried. This would not mean being thrown into a common grave to be eaten by dogs. That would not be a burial but would rather be a lack of a burial.

It is true that this was the common treatment of people who were crucified in the Roman Empire, but in Israel, things were done a little bit differently. They had scrupulous views on how the dead were to be treated and this included even the criminals. To do otherwise would be to desecrate the persons involved. With Passover coming, the people of Israel would want to remove any uncleanliness from the people and the land.

Now some might say that this did not take place in the war on Jerusalem around 70 A.D., but this was hardly a normal time. Most of these people would not be buried because the Israelites were too busy trying not to be killed and the Romans weren’t really caring about Jewish sensitivities at that time.

It’s also important to note that the burial would not be talked about as much because the burial of Jesus was not an honorable burial. When we look at the account we find that it is not Jesus’s family that buries Him, as would be the case in an honorable burial. It was instead Joseph of Arimathea, a practical stranger to Him.

Also, Jesus was not buried in the tomb of His family. Many times in the book of Kings, we will read about a king and how he was not buried with the kings. How the king was buried spoke volumes about how his life was to be viewed. A good burial would mean a good life. A bad burial would mean a bad life.

In fact, this is even one of the judgments pronounced on a prophet who disobeyed God in the book. He is told that as punishment for his disobedience, he would not be buried in the tomb of his ancestors. For us today, we would say he got off easy. The ancient world would have been aghast and thinking that this is someone they don’t want to model themselves after!

Also, Jesus’s family was not allowed to mourn for Him. This would be another aspect of the shame. We don’t read accounts of His mother Mary going to the tomb or of His own brothers going to the tomb. Jesus’s burial was meant to be a mark of shame to Him.

So what about Joseph and Nicodemus wrapping him up and giving him a burial and covering his body with spices? They couldn’t make the burial honorable, but they wanted to make it a little bit less dishonorable as difficult as that was.

This fits us in then with the criterion of embarrassment. The burial of Jesus is not something that people would want to talk about as much because of the high nature of it being dishonorable. If Jesus was raised from the dead, the burial could easily be skipped over provided one mention that He had died and the nature of His death would indicate the divine vindication that took place with His resurrection.

For these reasons, I conclude that the burial is indeed a historical reality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Easter is Pagan and Other Fables

April 4, 2014

What do I think of Holding’s defense of Easter? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Easter time is coming up. This means that before too long we’ll be seeing colored eggs, bunnies hopping around, and paranoid Christians who run from the thought of anything that could be “pagan” as if they were Dracula running from the sun.

J.P. Holding, my ministry partner and president of Tekton Ministries back around Christmas wrote an Ebook about people who think that Christmas is pagan. Now he’s done the same for Easter. Those who have read the Christmas book will find this one is a lot shorter and there’s a reason for that.

The sad reason is that Easter is not treated as seriously as Christmas usually is, which is a shame since without Easter we would not really be celebrating Christmas. Easter is the foundation of our worldview. We can hope that that will change sometime, but until then, we need to address what is being said.

If you’re familiar with the Christmas book then, you won’t find a lot of new stuff and if you’re familiar with the book he wrote about conspiracies, that will also add in to what has been said in this book. This book then is much shorter and you will quite likely be able to read it in about half an hour or so.

In it, Holding looks at claims that there were goddesses who used eggs as their symbols and had a fondness for bunnies. Holding shows that these do not add up and keeps repeating a refrain that must be stated. God owns creation. If he wanted to use a symbol that the pagans were using any way, he can do that.

In fact, the early church thought the same way. They did not take on the behavior and the beliefs of the pagans around them, but they did take on the artwork. Why? Because art is a tool in itself and art is a remaking of the creation. The Christians then were reclaiming from the pagans what already belonged to God. As it were, they were taking the spoils of war.

Holding deals with ideas all across the board in this one. He’ll look at the charge that sunrise services are pagan because of what is said in the book of Ezekiel. There’s even what is probably one of the most researched defenses of hot cross buns, a topic that I never would have thought I’d need to see a defense of, but it is the methodology of Holding to cover all of the bases when he’s dealing with these kinds of objections.

When Easter comes from now on, just always be able to delight in and enjoy the resurrection. This is an important date to celebrate. Don’t let your freedom to worship God on this day be restricted because someone else has a fear of paganism. You are a servant of the God who conquered the pagans and is still conquering them to this day. Go out and live accordingly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Defending The Resurrection

January 21, 2014

What do I think of Holding’s book on the Resurrection? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

DefendingTheResurrection

 

In the interest of being upfront, I am Holding’s ministry partner.

Defending the Resurrection (DTR) is really a different book from other books you will find on the resurrection. Many books will examine many of the historical details. If you read Licona, you will hear about the eyewitness appearances, the empty tomb, the conversion of Paul, etc. If you read Wright, you will hear about the place of Jesus in the story of Israel.

I think both of these are excellent and absolutely essential.

I’d also round them all off by reading DTR. DTR will not go into the history of Israel. It also will not make many claims about the creed in 1 Cor. 15 or why scholars think that Jesus did in fact appear to eyewitnesses. It’s not that these don’t matter, as DTR does have an extensive chapter on the topic of hallucinations, but that DTR wishes to focus its work on another area altogether.

DTR mainly focuses on the social setting of the NT and why resurrection was so important and why we can indeed believe it happened. It goes into extensive detail of the relationship of Christianity to the Roman Empire with such ideas as tolerance, the rejection of the new, claims of exclusivity, and others.

An interesting one for many readers will be the concept of resurrection itself. Today, we tend to view resurrection as a good thing, provided we have a new body. Who wouldn’t want another go around in life? Yet to the world of the NT, it was a different story.

In that world, the body was a prison to be escaped and you did not want to return to it. This is why so many of the lower class did in fact flock to the mystery religions. Christianity did not even really offer them something that they wanted, which would be another strike against it. It could have easily gone with the docetic heresies that were floating around, and yet it didn’t.

DTR also compares the survival of the Christian religion in comparison to Mormonism, Mithraism, and Muhammad. Readers of Holding will realize that this is pointing back to another work of his, The Impossible Faith, and that only Christianity truly qualifies as an Impossible Faith.

Also, you will find responses here to the internet theories that you won’t find responses to in many other books. What about the idea for instance of Cavin that Jesus had an identical twin show up who acted like he was the resurrected Lord? Most don’t take that one seriously for a reason, but DTR doesn’t want to leave you unprepared and will give you what you need to know in order to meet the objections that you will normally find on the internet.

In conclusion, I do recommend this book, though I recommend you read works like Licona and Wright first to get the case entirely there and then get this one to answer the objections that come up afterwards. DTR will be a valuable reference in any library for dealing with those.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Inconsistency in Historiography

October 22, 2013

Does the NT get treated differently than other works? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Ancient history can be difficult. For that matter, so can modern history. We can have a hard time piecing together events that happened yesterday if we try to remember them. For ancient history, there are definitely no memory accounts today that are oral. Instead, we rely largely on archaeology and written documents.

Yet when it comes to Jesus, we find that while these methods generally serve us well, the rules change when He shows up.

We are often told about how important it is to have eyewitness testimony. Now by and large, that’s always great, but what about someone like Alexander the Great? What about someone like Hannibal? We do not have contemporary accounts of the existence of these people, and these people both did remarkable things. Alexander conquered the world around the age of 30! Isn’t that something worth mentioning? Hannibal was a general that nearly conquered the Roman Empire. Isn’t that something worth mentioning?

And yet, contemporaries are silent.

Now someone could say that we have archaeological evidence such as coins of Alexander the Great. Wonderful. We also have coins of Zeus. Now I’m not saying the coins of Alex are useless. I do affirm he existed and did indeed conquer the world. I’m just pointing out the differences in methodology.

But now what we will be told is “Yeah, but none of these others are claimed to have risen from the dead and have a religion based on them. For that kind of claim, we need to have some sort of extraordinary evidence!”

Because we all know conquering the world and nearly conquering the Roman Empire are not extraordinary claims to make about someone in the ancient world at all.

The more important point to realize is that the standards have indeed changed. Yet if we are to have a consistent methodology, how can it be that we have one if we change the standards based on the kind of claim that we see? Why not use the same standards? If you don’t have to have eyewitness testimony for Alexander and Hannibal, why is it a necessity for Jesus? (To which we do have eyewitness testimony. I don’t encounter people with a refutation of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Bauckham.)

Now I’m not saying don’t be skeptical. Skepticism is fine. In fact, I’d say every apologist in the world can understand someone being skeptical of the claim. What I have a problem with is unreasonable skepticism, the kind that says that I will only believe in the resurrection if God Himself appeared to me. (To which, I think most of these people would still disbelieve even then and chalk it up to a hallucination.)

The only statement I wish to make here is let’s simply be consistent. If we are not, then the skeptic is proving the Christian right in that the Bible is treated by a different standard than every other work out there in ancient history. Could it be the skeptic might be frightened what he will come across if he uses the same standard?

In Christ,
Nick Peters