I recently attended a dialogue between a Christian pastor and an Ahmadiyya Muslim imam. The topic of the dialogue was, Did Jesus Die on the Cross? (Please see my previous post, Did Jesus Die on the Cross, here) After the presentation by both of the speakers, no opportunity was given to the presenters to critique the presentation of the other presenter, and the moderator moved to open the floor to the audience for the Q & A segment.

I was impressed by the conviction and articulation of the members of the local churches when questioning the claims of the Imam, specifically his claim that Jesus didn’t die on the cross but was instead ‘swooned’ and then later traveled to India where he died a natural death. (Amongst Muslims, this is a belief that is particular to the Ahmadiyya movement, as all other Muslims reject the ‘theistic swoon theory’ and believe that Jesus was not crucified, and instead a substitute (either Simon of Cyrene, Judas, etc.) was crucified in His place and that Jesus was subsequently raised to Heaven by Allah.)

During the Q & A I posed a question to the Imam along the lines of, “Both the Bible and the Qur’an say that Jesus is a true prophet. Jesus stated/prophesied on numerous occasions in the Gospels that He would die and indicated the type of death He would die. How then can you claim that He didn’t die without saying that He is a liar and false prophet?”

The Five GospelsThe Imam’s answer was amazing! Instead of addressing my question, he referred me (and the audience) to the book, The Five Gospels, stating that “it is your own Christian scholars who have proven that 80% of Jesus’ words in the New Testament are inauthentic and these statements by Jesus regarding His death are in that 80%. This is what your own scholars say so we really don’t know what Jesus said or didn’t say.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book, it is the ‘findings’ and ‘conclusions’ of the Jesus Seminar, a group of self-described scholars who meet twice a year to dissect biblical passages. Their goal: separate historical fact from mythology, which they do by voting via casting different colored beads into jars as to the authenticity of Jesus’ words as recorded in the New Testament gospel narratives. So far, they have rejected as myth the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the virgin birth, all Gospel miracles, and a full 82% of the teachings normally attributed to Jesus–all dismissed as legendary accretions with no historical foundation. For example, only two words of the Lord’s Prayer survive as authentic: “Our Father.”[1] The Jesus Seminar are certainly not my scholars, nor can their methodology or findings be considered to be representative, or speak for, the majority of the New Testament scholarly community, regardless of what stripe they may be.

Considering that this is one of the resources that the Ahmadiyya movement is using as their authority on textual criticism, it should come as no surprise as to the unhistorical and confused position that they have taken as to Jesus’ death and resurrection. In presenting The Five Gospels as the ‘trump card’ in an attempt to neutralize and dismiss my point, the Imam unwittingly confirmed why he, and the Ahmadiyyan movement believe in a fictional story line regarding Jesus’ life, instead of the eyewitness, historically based life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament Gospel narratives and extra-biblical sources.

Let’s begin with the presuppositions of the ‘little bead men’ of the Jesus Seminar which were laid out clearly in their very first meeting by the co-founder Robert Funk:

“What we need is a new fiction that takes as its starting point the central event in the Judeo-Christian drama and reconciles that middle with a new story that reaches beyond old beginnings and endings. In sum, we need a new narrative of Jesus, a new gospel, if you will, that places Jesus differently in the grand scheme, the epic story.”“We should give Jesus a demotion. It is no longer credible to think of Jesus as divine. Jesus’ divinity goes together with the old theistic way of thinking about God. The plot early Christians invented for a divine redeemer figure is as archaic as the mythology in which it is framed. A Jesus who drops down out of heaven, performs some magical act that frees human beings from the power of sin, rises from the dead, and returns to heaven is simply no longer credible. The notion that he will return at the end of time and sit in cosmic judgment is equally incredible. We must find a new plot for a more credible Jesus.” [2]

 
Even a casual perusal of the above statements will bring the reader to the following conclusion: from its inception the Jesus Seminar was put together with one purpose, and one purpose only, that of creating and/or fabricating a ‘new’ Jesus via a “new fiction, new story, new gospel, new plot.” The interesting connection with the Ahmadiyyan Muslims is that the founder of the movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, followed the same path of extreme revisionism (bordering on fantasy) 100 years prior to the founding of the Jesus Seminar via his book, Jesus in India, in which he states that Jesus swooned on the cross, recovered, then traveled to India, died a ‘natural death’ and is buried in a tomb called Rauzabal in the state of Kashmir. Whatever these revisionist speculations and conjectures are, they are certainly not based on sound historical criteria and reliable sources, as F. F. Bruce so aptly states:

“Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.”[3]

 
Jesus-Dissimilarity-4In Jesus Under Fire , J.P. Moreland sums up what the Jesus Seminar is asking us to believe based on nothing more than the strength of their philosophic assumptions:

“It requires the assumption that someone, about a generation removed from the events in question, radically transformed the authentic information about Jesus that was circulating at that time, superimposed a body of material four times as large, fabricated almost entirely out of whole cloth, while the church suffered sufficient collective amnesia to accept the transformation as legitimate.” [4]

 
William Lane Craig offers the following expose of the Jesus Seminar’s methodology and how they have attempted to create a ‘new gospel’ in their book, The Five Gospels:

Let me take just a couple of examples which are favorite sources of the Jesus Seminar. First, the so called Gospel of Thomas. The Jesus Seminar considers this such an important source that they include it along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in their edition of The Five Gospels. Now what is the Gospel of Thomas? It is a writing which was discovered in Egypt just after World War II. It was part of a collection of Gnostic documents. Gnosticism was an ancient near eastern philosophy which held that the physical world is evil and the spiritual realm is good. Salvation comes through secret knowledge of the spiritual realm, which liberates the soul from its imprisonment in the physical world. The so called Gospel of Thomas is shot through with Gnostic philosophy. It was no doubt part of the literature of a Gnostic Christian cult, much like New Age cults in our own day. Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas as old as AD 200 have been found, and most scholars would date the original to have been written in the latter half of the second century after Christ. One evidence of this fact is that the Gospel of Thomas uses vocabulary that comes from second century translations and harmonies of the four gospels.Thus, the vast majority of scholars today regard the Gospel of Thomas as a derivative source from the second century after Christ which reflects the view of Christian gnosticism. Incredibly, however, fellows of the Jesus Seminar regard the Gospel of Thomas as an early, primary source concerning Jesus and use it to revise the portrait of Jesus found in the Gospels. Now what reasons do they have for dating the Gospel of Thomas so early? Amazingly, their whole approach to this question is reasoning in a circle. It goes like this:

1. The Gospel of Thomas is an early, primary source.“How do you know?”
2. Because no apocalyptic sayings are found in the Gospel of Thomas.“Why is that evidence of an early date?”
3. This is evidence of an early date because Jesus wasn’t into Apocalyptic.“How do you know he wasn’t?”
4. Because the Gospel of Thomas proves he wasn’t.“Why believe what the Gospel of Thomas says?”
(repeat) 1. The Gospel of Thomas is an early, primary source.

Thus, Howard Clark Kee of Boston University hails this procedure as “a triumph of circular reasoning!” British New Testament scholar Thomas Wright says it’s like Winnie the Pooh following his own tracks in the snow around a clump of trees and each time he sees more tracks he takes this as evidence that his quarry is even more numerous and more real than he thought before! No wonder that the fellows of the Jesus Seminar haven’t been able to convince very many of their colleagues by means of arguments like this![5]

New Testament scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson, gives the following expose on the real agenda of the Jesus Seminar:

The agenda of the Seminar is not disinterested scholarship, but a social mission against the way the church is dominated by evangelical theology that is, a theology focused on the literal truth of the Gospels. It is important to note from the start that Robert Funk does not conceive of the Seminar’s work as making a contribution to scholarship but as carrying out a cultural mission. The Seminar’s declared enemies are not simply fundamentalists or the Southern Baptist Convention, but all those who subscribe to any traditional understanding of Jesus as Risen Lord and Son of God. [6]

 
N.T. Wright expounds on the complete lack of historical methodology of the Seminar:

“The Five Gospels, in other words, systematically deconstructs its own title. If this book gives us the truth about Jesus, about the early church, and about the writing of the five books here studied, there is no gospel, no good news. There is only good advice, and we have no reason for thinking that it will have any effect…From a historical point of view it might of course be true that there is no good news to be had. Christianity as a whole might simply have been whistling in the dark for two thousand years. Subversive aphorisms may be the only comfort, the only hope, we have. But this question must be addressed precisely from a historical point of view. And, when all is said and done, The Five Gospels is of no help whatever’ in that task. There is such a thing as the serious contemporary search for Jesus in his historical context. This particular book makes no contribution to it.” [7]

 
textual integrityThe almost unanimous position of the scholarly community, whether liberal, agnostic, conservative or otherwise, is that:

FACT #1: After his death by crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary-His resurrection was the very origin of the disciples belief and vindication of Jesus’ claims to Deity.

 
The Resurrection Hypothesis passes all of the standard criteria for being the best explanation, such as explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, and so forth.

I will end with a statement built on historical criteria and sound methodology regarding the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth:

It is widely agreed that the historical Jesus stood and spoke in the place of God Himself, proclaimed the advent of the Kingdom of God, and carried out a ministry of miracle working and exorcisms as signs of that Kingdom. I find it tremendously gratifying to see that the movement of New Testament scholarship as a whole is in the direction of confirming the traditional understanding of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels. In particular, my own research concerning Jesus’ resurrection has convinced me more than ever that this was a historical event, verifiable by the evidence. The Christian can be confident that the historical foundations of his faith stand secure. You can bet your life on it. [8]

 
References:

[1] Greg Koukl, Jesus Seminar Under Fire, here
[2] Robert Funk, opening remarks of launch of Jesus Seminar in March 1985 in Berkeley, California
[3] F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents-Are they reliable?, Eerdmans, 2003, p. 123
[4] J. P. Moreland and Wilkins, Jesus Under Fire, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995, p. 22
[5] William Lane Craig, Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: The Presuppositions and Pressumptions of the Jesus Seminar, Faith and Mission 15 (1998), pg. 3-15
[6] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 6
[7] N. T. Wright, Five Gospels but No Gospel: Jesus and the the Seminary, originally published in Authenticating the Activities of Jesus, ed. Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans, Leiden: Brill, 1999, 83–120
[8] William Lane Craig, Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: The Presuppositions and Pressumptions of the Jesus Seminar, Faith and Mission 15 (1998), pg. 3-15

How Seriously Do Scholars Take The Jesus Seminar?-Dr. William Lane Craig

Jesus Seminar and False Presuppositions-Dr. Gerry Breshears

What is the Jesus Seminar?-Craig Evans, N.T. Wright, and more

For more information on the course, here

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Many people ask “What is Christian Apologetics?” Christian Apologetics is a field of Christian theology which attempts to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections. Please join us May 19-21, 2017 for CLC’s 4th Annual Apologetics Conference entitled REASON for BELIEF – DEFENDING THE FAITH as we seek to meet the challenge of evangelism in today’s culture by being equipped with the truth of the Gospel. Guest speakers for this year’s conference will be Dr. Mark Farnham & Dr. Byron Curtis. For information on the conference, here

The prophetic claims made by Jesus of His crucifixion (death on the cross) and resurrection are attested to in all four Gospel narratives. Some Muslims dismiss these prophetic claims by appealing to the charge of textual corruption, or even go so far as to apply an eisegetical treatment of Jesus’ statements by introducing their own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. To dismiss Jesus’ prophetic claims on either of these points is to basically dismiss all the words of Jesus in the Gospels (Injeel), which according to the Qur’an, a Muslim cannot do as the following ayas state:

“And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him…Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God has revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God has revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. To you We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety…” Sura 5, 46-48 Yusuf Ali

It is He Who sent down to you (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind…). Sura 3, 3 Yusuf Ali

If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side…Say; “O People of the Book! You have no ground to stand upon unless you stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord.” Sura 5:66, 68 Yusuf Ali

And I will write down (my mercy) for those who are righteous and give alms and who believe in our signs; who follow the apostle, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in the Torah and the Gospel THAT IS WITH THEM. Sura 7, 156-157 Yusuf Ali

Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).” Sura 2, 136 Yusuf Ali

The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfilment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all. Sura 6, 115

…in the life of the present and in the Hereafter; no change can there be in the words of Allah. Sura 10, 64 Yusuf Ali

The above Quranic ayas affirm that the Torah and Gospel (Injeel) being referenced in the Qur’an, are the same Torah and Gospel that existed before the Qur’an, and therefore were available at the time of Mohammad. They (the above ayas/Qur’an) are speaking of the same Holy Bible that we have today! (Codex Sinaiticus-AD 350; Codex Vaticanus-AD 325-350.) Therefore, as commanded by the Qur’an, the Muslim must believe that Allah has preserved his word with no changes or corruption. “He (Allah) sent down the Torah and the Gospel before this as a guide to mankind…guarding it in safety.” Sura 3, 3; 5, 48

There are 37 quotations which testify to a true Torah and Gospel being available to the people of Mecca and Medina while Muhammad was alive.

New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce offers the following insight as to how the Gospels were considered and referred to in the 2nd century by the early Church fathers:

“At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection. They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John. This fourfold collection was known originally as `The Gospel’ singular, not `The Gospels’ in the plural; there was only one Gospel, narrated in four records, distinguished as `according to Matthew’, `according to Mark’, and so on. About A.D. 115 Ignatius, bishop, of Antioch, refers to `The Gospel’ as an authoritative writing, and as he knew more than one of the four `Gospels’ it may well be that by `The Gospel’ sans phrase he means the fourfold collection which went by that name.”[1]

 
Jesus Foretells of His Death and Resurrection

[Before reading the following scriptures, it must be noted that every time the word ‘kill(ed)’ or ‘die’ or ‘slain/slew’ is found in the Gospels (Injeel), it is a direct translation from the Greek word, apokteino—which means:

To kill in any way whatever
To destroy, to allow to perish
To inflict mortal death— In the New Testament apokteino is used: Kill (55x), slay/slew (14x), put to death (6x)

 
There is therefore no ambiguity as to what the New Testament writers mean when they use the word, apokteino—definition: to kill, to destroy, to perish, to inflict mortal death.

Jesus speaking to disciples about his deathMark 8:31—And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. [32] And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. [33] But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Mark 9:31—…for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”Mark 10:33, 34—Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: [34] And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Matthew 16:21—From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Matthew 17:22, 23—And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: [23] And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

Luke 9:22— Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.

Luke 18:31, 32—Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles, they will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.

John 12:30-32—This voice was for your benefit, not mine…But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Claims by Ahmadiyya Muslims that Jesus was ‘speaking metaphorically of His death’ and that He was referring only to His suffering, extreme physical hardship, or near death experience, (so as to justify their support of the ‘theistic swoon theory’) are by definition completely unfounded and should therefore be dismissed. Such claims lack an exegetical and/or hermeneutical treatment of the text, and instead use an eisegetical approach of interpreting the text or portion of the text in such a way that the process introduces the Ahmadiyya’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text, which are based upon the writings of their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who denies that Jesus died on the cross. (For more on the historicity of the crucifixion, please see my page on the topic, here.)

In regards to the above scriptural evidence, Muslims who support the ‘theistic swoon theory’ (or that of the substitution hypothesis) have a choice to make—either Jesus was a true prophet, or He was a false prophet. Now we know that a true prophet, which the Qur’an states that Jesus was, cannot lie. If one holds to the position that Jesus only ‘swooned’ (or was substituted) and did not die on the cross (and was therefore subsequently resurrected) as He clearly stated, then they have no other choice but to declare Jesus (Isa) a liar and false prophet. However, if one holds to the words and/or prophecies of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel regarding His death and resurrection, then they can confidently declare Him to be a true prophet and that His death and resurrection did indeed happen as He said they would. Even the Jesus (Isa) of the Qur’an said, “And peace be on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised alive.” Sura 19, 33

Fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies

All three on crossLuke 23:46-53—[46] Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last…[50] Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, [51] who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. [52] This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. [53] Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid.

Matthew 27:46-50—[46] And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…[50] And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Mark 15:33-39—[33] And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. [34] And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…[37] And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last…[39] And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

John 19:30-38—[30] …he (Jesus) said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. [31] Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. [32] So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. [33] But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. [34] But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. [35] He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe…

If Jesus is a true prophet, which the Qur’an says that he is, and if the Gospel (Injeel) is true, which the Qur’an says it is (being the same Gospel at the time of Muhammad as we have today), then Jesus did die on the cross and was resurrected three days later. This brings us to the inherent contradiction within the Qur’an on this point: If Jesus and the Gospels are right, then Mohammad and the Qur’an are wrong. However, if Jesus and the Gospels are wrong, then Mohammad and the Qur’an are still wrong because they say that Jesus and the Gospels are right. (For further insight into this inherent contradiction see the video at the end of this post-The Qur’an, the Bible, and the Islamic Dilemma) Only the eyewitness accounts as recorded in the Gospels, give us a non-contradictory and coherent rendering of Jesus’ life, the fulfillment of His prophetic claims of His death and resurrection, as well as His ascension.

No reputable historian denies the fact of Jesus’ death by Roman crucifixion under Pontius Pilate—not even the most liberal scholars (ie Jesus Seminar) dispute this fact. John Dominic Crossan, co-founder of The Jesus Seminar, states, “Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus.”[2]

Jesus’ death by crucifixion is affirmed for principally two reasons:

(1) Jesus’ crucifixion and death is abundantly attested in multiple, early, independent sources; and
(2) had Jesus not died via crucifixion, it is unfathomable that the early Christian movement would have invented a story about his end so repelling to those they sought to win, both Jews and Gentiles alike. Similarly, only a small minority of scholars (mainly, those who see where the historicity of Jesus’ burial is leading!) deny the fact of Jesus’ burial in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court that condemned Jesus.

 
The evidence for the historicity of Jesus’ death by crucifixion is so powerful that one of the world’s leading Jewish theologians, the late Pinchas Lapide, who taught at Hebrew University in Israel, declared himself convinced on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead! Oxford professor, Thomas Arnold stated,

“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”[3]

 
References
[1] F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove Ill. 1992, p. 23
[2] John Dominic Crossan, Co-founder of The Jesus Seminar, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, pg 145
[3] Thomas Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed., London: T. Fellowes, 1859, pp. 15-16

See also:
The Death of Jesus & the Defeat of Islam-by Michael Licona, here–highly recommended
The Question: Why Was Jesus Crucified?, here

Did Jesus actually die on the cross?-Gary Habermas, John Ankerberg Show

Was Jesus raised from the dead? Did he really die, or only pass out?-N.T. Wright, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig & others

The Qur’an, the Bible, and the Islamic Dilemma

In meeting after meeting, network representatives and producers would ask me a critical question: “What did your investigation reveal about the Gospels?”

I always responded the same way: “I found them to be reliable eyewitness accounts, and I can demonstrate this evidentially.”

Few of these network representatives were willing to talk beyond this response, although most were polite and gracious as they bid us farewell.

At first I was surprised. After all, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s production of The Bible (on the History Channel) and A.D. The Bible Continues (on NBC) have been hugely successful. Given the ratings of these shows, both of which present the Biblical narrative artfully, wouldn’t another faith affirming Christian production be welcome? Not necessarily.

It’s one thing to present the Biblical narratives as stories, another to argue they are true. Networks seem to be willing to air any show that presents what they consider to be mythology, so long as there’s an audience large enough to make it profitable. If, for example, there were more people interested in the Greek or Egyptian gods, the major cable channels would be airing miniseries depicting them as well.

In the end, shows that make a case against Christianity, or even shows that present the “mythological” stories of the Bible, are welcome. Shows that take an evidential approach and argue for the truth of the Gospels and the Deity of Jesus, are not.

As Christians, we’ve exacerbated this situation. Most of us don’t even realize an evidential case could be made for the truth claims of Christianity. Instead, we’ve adopted a cultural notion of “faith” independent of evidence. The unbelieving world is willing to acknowledge this form of belief. People who have blind faith in the Christian god, are no different than people who have blind faith in the Greek gods. Both groups are easy to dismiss. If our ability to defend what we believe as Christians is no better than the ability of those who still believe in Greek gods, we can expect to remain in this position of irrelevance and ridicule.

We can do better.

For complete article, here

Nearly two decades have passed since Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ first hit bookstore shelves. Written as a response to the former journalist’s conversion from atheism, Strobel’s investigation into the truth claims of Christianity remains a landmark work of apologetics, often mentioned alongside mainstays such as C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. And while the culture has changed much since 1998, Strobel insists that using reason to defend—and, more importantly, to share—the gospel remains as important as ever.

Later this week, the film adaptation of The Case for Christ, which tells the story behind Strobel’s investigation and resulting conversion, will premiere at theaters across the country. For this week’s episode of The Calling, CT managing editor Richard Clark sat down with Strobel to learn more about the challenges of adapting his book for the big screen, the role his marriage played in his conversion, and the future of apologetics in a “post-truth” world.

For complete article, here

In 1980, committed atheist Lee Strobel took on the case of his life.
His wife, Leslie, had found a new faith in Jesus Christ and it was ruining his marriage. He decided that if he could prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead, he could free Leslie from “the cult” of Christianity.
“I saw Christianity as a cult, a mind-control of some sort, that was trying to lure her into a different world where I wasn’t welcome,” he said. “I thought I could disprove it in a weekend, but it took a year and nine months, in the end, to come to the opposite conclusion.”
Using his skills as an award-winning legal editor for The Chicago Tribune, Strobel launched an investigation into the historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection. The results of his findings convinced him of the truth of Holy Scripture.
“Everybody takes a leap of faith in one direction or the other. We can’t know anything with absolute certainty short of two plus two equals four,” said Strobel, who turned from atheist to Christian apologist. “But the way I see faith, it’s a step we take in the same direction the evidence is pointing.”
A new film based on Strobel’s 1998 Christian apologetics book The Case for Christ hits theatres April 7. It recounts Strobel’s journey researching the science, history and philosophy behind the most important event in Christianity.
For complete article, here

ORLANDO, Fla. (NRB) – Author and Christian apologist Lee Strobel shared strategies for increasing churches’ evangelistic effectiveness during a Feb. 28 session on pastoral apologetics at Proclaim 17, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Orlando.

Strobel, Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University and Teaching Pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas, began his presentation by saying he is concerned and fearful that the value of evangelism is diminishing in American churches. He pointed out that far too many churches are growing not so much through conversion of the lost but as by taking members from other churches. For complete article, here

Tolerance is misunderstood in America today, says a former atheist who is now a Christian apologist. Tolerance is set up by Jesus Himself in the Sermon on the Mount, in Luke 6, where Jesus talks about doing good to those who don’t necessarily do good to you, said Mary Jo Sharp director of the nonprofit apologetics ministry Confident Christianity, Inc., during The Table Podcast by Hendricks Center of Dallas Theological Seminary.

The idea of tolerance in the culture today has shifted “where we have to accept other people’s views, so there’s no possibility of doing good to those with whom we adamantly disagree,” she noted. For complete article, here

What does it mean to be human? More than 3,500 students and Ann Arbor residents filled Hill Auditorium on Tuesday night to grapple with this very question and listen to Christian apologist writers Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray discuss questions of value, morality and human worth in the context of a Christian faith. For complete article, here