“Before I can make the case for Christianity, I have to make the case for making the case,” so states J. Warner Wallace in the preface of his new book, Forensic Faith-A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. And he most certainly succeeds in making the case for making the case. (Wallace defines forensic faith as: Believing in something because of the evidence.) I recently purchased not only the book, but the Forensic Faith Curriculum Kit which includes the book, Forensic Faith, a participants guide, and an 8-episode DVD by J. Warner Wallace, with each episode leading the reader/class participant through an amazing apologetics journey, one that will result (if used and embraced) in a newly empowered Christian case-maker. This study is user friendly and can be used in small or large groups, youth Sunday classes, etc. I highly (and that is understating my exuberance) recommend the Forensic Faith Curriculum Kit to youth pastors, parents and individual Christians who have a desire to take their faith and case-making to the next level. Wallace has put together a tremendous tool, one that will help to stem and reverse the tide of the dwindling number of youth in their church if only it is used and applied. In the book, Wallace states the vital and urgent need for apologetic training if we are to keep our youth and transform them into Christian case-makers who are “always ready to give a defense to anyone who asks them for the reason of the hope that is in them…” (1 Peter 3:15):

When Christians see a crisis, we typically respond passionately. We readily rescue those devastated by natural disasters, feed the hungry, and do our best to meet the needs of the impoverished. We have a history of doing whatever it takes to respond to the real human challenges. Well, there’s another real challenge on the horizon. Christian (especially young Christians) are leaving the church in record numbers. Surveys and polls have been exposing this disturbing trend for many years now:

Most teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their religious beliefs and practices. They typically cannot defend what they believe.
Young, uniformed believers also reject important Christian claims. Sixty-three percent of teenage Christians don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God; 51 percent don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead; 68 percent don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real Being.
Between 60 percent and 80 percent of people aged 15-30 will leave the church for at least a season, ad most will never return. Only 33 percent of young, churched Christians said that church will play a part in their lives when they leave home.
When surveyed, the largest segment of young, ex-Christian respondents said they left Christianity because they had intellectual doubt, skepticism, and unanswered questions.

Dr. Craig Keener, author and professor of New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, offers the following endorsement for this vital tool:

J. Warner Wallace is one of the most engaging writers I’ve ever read: to read him is like hearing him argue a public case. It is tragic that we have such strong evidence supporting Christian faith and yet many church-attending Christians never learn to articulate such evidence for people who–like me in my atheist days–desperately needed to hear it. More tragic still are young minds swayed by the mere assertions of Christianity’s often grossly misinformed, uncritical yet self-assured critics. Wallace’s case for making a case offers a desperately needed correction to a church culture too negligent about articulating truth.

 
I believe that the following challenge from Wallace is one that we as the Church need to meet head on by embracing a forensic, evidential faith that will strengthen us as believers, will energize and help keep our youth, empower us to “give a reason for the hope that is in us,” and thereby be effective case-makers when presenting the Christian worldview, and as such, make the impact that Christ intended us to make by being the “salt & light” of the world:

Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be the one group who knows why our beliefs are true and is most willing to defend what we believe? Why, then, are we often uninterested in the evidence? Why do we sound like every other religious group when asked to give a reason for our beliefs? It’s time for the distinctly evidential nature of Christianity to result in a distinctly intelligent, reasonable, and evidential family of believers. This Christian difference ought to form our Christian duty. We are called to embrace a forensic faith and to love God with our minds. Police officers are called to serve and to protect. You don’t enter this profession unless this mission is part of your DNA. Officers understand their sworn duty, train rigorously in preparation for their mission, and lean how to investigate and discern the truth so they can ultimately communicate this truth to a jury. Every day is a call to action.
As a church, we can learn something from this resolute approach to mission. As Christians, we have a similar duty. The apostle Peter said we are called to serve one another with “sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8 ESV) and called to protect the truth by “being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason of the hope that is in you” (verse 16 ESV). Christians are called to serve and protect. If we want to fulfill this duty, we’ll need to train rigorously so we can investigate and communicate the truth. I hope Forensic Faith is your call to action. It’s time to change course. It’s time to raise the bar. It’s time to get serious. It’s time to embrace our distinct duty as Christians.

 
In the Forward to Forensic Faith, John Stonestreet offers the following challenge to the Church in realigning their position as to the role that apologetics must play if we as Christians are to present a reasonable, rational and robust case when presenting the Christian worldview:

To loosely paraphrase the late Mark Twain, “The news of the demise of apologetics has been greatly exaggerated.” For decades now, skeptics who prematurely proclaim their beliefs as “settled science” have been assisted by Christians who prematurely proclaim apologetics–the practice of presenting arguments for the Christian worldview and against non-Christian worldviews–no longer helpful, if it ever was in the first place. They couldn’t be more wrong. It certainly sounds spiritual to say things like, “Arguments never saved anyone,” or, “No one is ever argued into the kingdom.” Such cliches are, however, silly straw men. I don’t know a single apologist who things of their arguments as salvific. Perhaps there are one or two who do, but I’ve never met them. More importantly, however, such statements display a misunderstanding of who we are as people. Certainly, faith involves more than our brains, but it does not involve less.–John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview

 
Other articles regarding the importance of developing a forensic, evidential faith:

Apologetics & Evangelism-oil & water, or peaches & cream?-by Lane
The intellectual ‘ostrich’-Pt.1 ‘apologetics isn’t for me’ Really?! It’s time to open your Bible-by Lane
The Intellectual ‘ostrich’ Pt. 2-Survival to influence-the embarrassment of riches-by Lane

(Forensic Faith is the third book of a trilogy-for the first book, Cold-case Christianity, and second book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, click on the titles to be directed to Amazon.com. I highly recommend J. Warner Wallace’s site-coldcasechristianity.com–it is a valuable resource for every Christian case-maker.)

Forensic Faith Preview-J. Warner Wallace

What is a forensic faith?-J. Warner Wallace

The Importance of Developing a Forensic Faith-J. Warner Wallace

I recently participated in a multi-faith symposium on the topic of fasting. (For my presentation of the Christian position on fasting, here) After the presentations there was a Q & A with the presenters taking questions from the audience. One of the questions was, “What do you think is the answer to bringing peace to the world?”

The imam’s response/solution to the problem of violence, unrest, man’s inhumanity to man, was that of promoting dialogue between religious faiths, similar to the one we were participating in that evening. Through such dialogue, the world would be brought to a peaceful existence.

The rabbi’s response was similar, that through our own human efforts of showing love and respect to one another we would find peace at the end of the road.

Although I agree in part with both the imam and rabbi regarding the positive effects of loving and respecting one another and the need for dialogue, history has shown that on their own these measures have proven to fall demonstrably short of bringing a solution to the conflict in the world, whether it be between countries, religions, families, etc. One need only look back on the millennia of mankind trying to achieve peace through dialogue, peace treaties (most of which were ultimately broken), UN resolutions [1], etc., which, although well meaning, have failed, hence, the ongoing global violence and conflict that prompted the original question. The reason that these types of approaches have failed, and continue to fail, is that they fail to address the root of the problem–the brokenness of the human heart. As former U.S. President Herbert Hoover so aptly put it, “Peace is not made at the council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men.” It was for this reason that when the microphone was passed to me I presented a different approach and answer to the question.

I began by stating that although these initiatives were good and needed, they will not bring a lasting solution to the problem; only a regenerated, transformed heart will do that, and that can only come through the Prince of peace, Jesus Christ himself. I then went on to highlight the root of the problem—the broken condition of the heart of man. I quoted several references from the New Testament beginning with James 4:1-3:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this; that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 
Then to Jesus’ expose of the condition of the human heart from Mark 7:20-23:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

 
Because of time constraints, I concluded my response by stating the Christian worldview’s solution to the problem-the transformation of the heart that Jesus promised to bring to those who truly desire it.

When addressing the issue of peace, John Paul ll makes a clear affirmation as to where peace must first be founded:

“Peace is a value and a universal duty founded on a rational and moral order of society that has its roots in God himself, “the first source of being, the essential truth and the supreme good” … To prevent conflicts and violence, it is absolutely necessary that peace begin to take root as a value rooted deep within the heart of every person. In this way it can spread to families and to the different associations within society until the whole of the political community is involved. Peace is, consequently, the fruit of that harmony structured into human society by its Divine Founder.”[2]

 
Preeminent missiologist, Frank Ellinwood, explains the uniqueness of the inner transformation of the Christian faith:

Christianity, then, is not a record, a history of what was said and done eighteen centuries ago: it is not a body of doctrines and precepts: it is the living power of God in the soul of man. The written Word is the sword of this Divine Spirit. The renewed soul is begotten of the Spirit and it is instinct with the indwelling of the Spirit. No other system makes any claim to such an influence as that of the Holy Ghost…The dead heart must be quickened and renewed and only Christianity reveals the Transforming Power.[3]

 
In His conversation with one of the religious leaders of His day, Jesus gave the ‘blueprint’ for the transformation of the human heart:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God…For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:1-5; 16-17)

 
As the ‘salt and light’ of the world, which Jesus has called each of His followers to be, we must continue to present with all boldness where true and lasting peace can be found, that of a ‘born again’ and transformed heart through the redemptive work of the person of Jesus Christ. In doing so, we will be witnesses of the ‘way, the truth and the life,’ and thereby bring peace to the hearts and lives of those to whom we are ambassadors for Christ (John 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:20). (For more on the Christian calling as ‘salt & light’, here)

Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life. Ravi Zacharias

 
References
[1] Can the UN Bring Peace to the World, here
[2] Pope John Paul ll, World Day of Peace Message, 1990
[3] Frank F. Ellinwood, The Divine Supremacy of the Christian Faith, here

The following talk from Andy Bannister succinctly highlights the source of the world’s ills as well as the remedy-that of the inner transformation that only Jesus can bring.

Does Religion Poison Everything–Andy Bannister

[The following article was originally given as a presentation at an interfaith symposium, Fasting in Religion, on June 22nd, 2017, sponsored by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at of Richmond Hill, Ontario-Canada. There were three presenters, a rabbi for the Jewish understanding of fasting, an imam for the Muslim understanding, and myself, presenting for fasting in the Christian context. The presentations were then followed by a Q & A with the audience.]

The Bible informs us that there are certain practices, such as prayer, fasting, celebration, solitude with God as well as others, that we can undertake in cooperation with God’s grace, to raise the level of our lives toward godliness. These activities have often been referred to as spiritual disciplines, disciplines of mind and body purposefully undertaken to bring our personality and entire being into effective cooperation with the divine order.

When practiced, these disciplines enable us more and more to live in a power that is, strictly speaking, beyond us, derived from the spiritual realm itself, as we “offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and we offer every part of ourselves to him as an instrument of righteousness,” as Paul wrote in Romans 6. The necessity for such disciplines comes from the very nature of the self as created in the image of God. Once the individual has, through divine initiative, become alive to God and his Kingdom, the extent of the integration of his or her total being into that Kingdom will significantly depend upon the individual’s initiative.

The late Christian philosopher, Dallas Willard defined the spiritual disciplines as:

“…an activity undertaken to bring us into more effective cooperation with Christ and His Kingdom…Spiritual disciplines, “exercises unto godliness,” are only activities undertaken to make us capable of receiving more of his life and power…”

 
I will now focus on one of the spiritual disciplines within the Christian context, which is our subject for this evening, that of fasting. In doing so, I will briefly address three different aspects of fasting within the Christian worldview and their biblical context.

1. First, I will address very briefly the historical and biblical context;
2. Second, I will explain fasting as a spiritual discipline, which includes fasting in anticipation of ministry or miracles;
3. And third, I will address fasting as a transformational tool that results in compassionate service to others.

Historical Context

From the earliest days of the church, Christians have practiced fasting. Early Christians imitated Old Testament biblical characters that fasted, and sought to follow Jesus’ instructions about fasting in their lives.

Within the Christian context, fasting was never perceived as a sign of righteousness in itself. Early followers of Christ didn’t fast out of a sense of obligation, but in a desire to seek the Lord’s presence and out of necessity for the ministry of the gospel. Such discipline is encouraged as the Lord does his work through his people. However, the act itself did not have the kind of formalized or ritualized meanings it occasionally had for contemporary Judaism.

As William Thrasher so aptly put it,

“The abstinence is not to be an end in itself but rather for the purpose of being separated to the Lord and to concentrate on godliness. This kind of fasting reduces the influence of our self-will and invites the Holy Spirit to do a more intense work in us.”

 
Early church leaders such as Basil and Augustine wrote about the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting, urging their parishioners to practice discipline of the flesh. Regardless of abuses of fasting that later occurred within medieval monasticism and church formalism, the Protestant Reformers unanimously affirmed that fasting could find a proper role in Christian practice, and their followers sought ways to implement these ideals.

After the Reformation, the Church of England sought to balance fasting traditions with the Protestant emphasis on a free conscience. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was the epitome of practicing such a balance, and he promoted fasting in both private and churchly devotion. Although fasting seems to have somewhat declined in the modern era of Christianity, the Spiritual Disciplines movement over the last several decades, has called Christians to renew a practice that has biblical warrant and thorough support from every wing of Christian tradition.

A prime example of contemporary fasting is the 40 day season of Lent, directly preceding the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, which places a particular emphasis on fasting and was spoken of by the early church fathers such as Irenaeus and Athanasius. For many Christians, Lent is a time of ‘profound reorientation’, a time to imitate Christ and participate in his life in concrete ways. Lent commemorates Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness, and for many Christians, it is a spiritual journey whereby they identify with Christ, hoping to become more like him by looking within themselves, to examine their hearts and surrender themselves to Christ. It is also a time to look to others, to see how we, as Christians, might serve and lay down our lives for others as Christ has done for us. A recent Barna poll has shown that around 90% of Christians fast within the season of Lent, even fasting technology for a time.

Contemporary interest and emphasis in fasting has been highlighted in the work of the Quaker theologian, Richard Foster, in his 1978 book, Celebration of Discipline, in which he reported that his research could not turn up a single book published on the subject of fasting from 1861 to 1954, however, over the last several decades a volume of books has been published on the subject such as Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting, by Derek Prince; Fasting: A Neglected Discipline, by David R Smith; God’s Chosen Fast, by Arthur Wallis, hence the sense of a ‘revival of emphasis’ if you will, on fasting within Christianity.

Biblical Context

While the Christian faith extols and emulates examples of biblical fasting recorded in the Old Testament, the primary focus of Christian fasting is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is due to the fact that central New Testament passages related to fasting specifically present this practice as a means for highlighting Christ and his messianic work.

Jesus’ ministry begins with two events—His baptism by John the Baptist, and His time of fasting and temptation for 40 days in the wilderness. Unlike Adam, the first man created from the dust, Christ endures temptations in the inverse of the ideal conditions of paradise. Satan attempts to cause Christ to fail even as the first Adam had failed, and in both cases in connection with food consumption. In overcoming these temptations and resisting Satan, he brings humanity at its weakest into complete submission to the will of God, showing that humanity can be united to divinity. As such, fasting is used both as a means to prepare Jesus for his messianic ministry, and to identify him as such in that role.

Genesis 3:6—So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

 
However, Satan’s attempt to repeat history failed when Jesus was presented with the same temptation:

Matthew 4:3, 4—And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

 
Considering Jesus’ circumstances, it would seem that He was at a great disadvantage, humanly speaking, when confronted by the tempter, in comparison to the situation of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were in paradise, enjoying the fullness of God’s created provision, with the freedom to eat from every tree of the garden, except one. In contrast, Christ was in the wilderness, experiencing his humanity in its weakest condition, eating nothing. Jesus’ successful resistance of the devil while in his weakest physical state reinforces the truth of his quotation, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” His true life is sustained by “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

Dallas Willard expounds on the power that Jesus received through this time of fasting and solitude:

“[T]he place of solitude and deprivation, was actually the place of strength and strengthening for our Lord, the Spirit led him there…to ensure that Christ was in the best possible condition for the trial. In the desert solitude, Jesus fasted for more than a month. Then, and not before, Satan was allowed to approach him with his glittering proposals of bread, notoriety, and power. Only then was Jesus at the height of his strength. The desert was his fortress, his place of power. Throughout his life he sought the solitary place as an indirect submission of his own physical body to righteousness (ie Mark 1:35; 3:13; 6:31, 46). That is, He sought it not as an activity done for its own sake, but one done to give him power for good.”

 
Jesus is consistent throughout His ministry in reminding His disciples of where true strength and power was to be found, downplaying the importance that human beings place on food, and promoting the importance of the strength and power that is found through God’s Word and Spirit:

John 4:31-34—Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Matt. 6:25—Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Jesus is expressing the same truth He spoke to Satan in the wilderness, which God, through Moses, spoke to the Israelites. It is not just physical food that sustains us; it is doing the will of God. This is the truth that underlies the practice of fasting in a Christian context. Fasting is not magic; it does not manipulate God to do our will. It is our submission to His will, as evidenced by the fact that our time is better spent in prayer or in some specific ministry than in eating a meal. Jesus subordinated eating to doing the will of God.

Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in him a source of sustenance beyond food. Through it, we learn by experience that God’s word to us is a life substance, that it is not food (“bread”) alone that gives life, but also the words that proceed from the mouth of God. We learn that we too have meat to eat that the world does not know about (John 4:32, 34). Fasting unto the Lord is therefore understood in the Christian tradition as feasting—feasting on God’s presence and on doing his will.

The Christian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay expresses the discovery of the “other” food in her poem entitled “Feast”:

I drank at every vine.
The last was like the first
I came upon no wine
So wonderful as thirst,
I gnawed at every root,
I ate of every plant,
I came upon no fruit,
So wonderful as want,
Feed the grape and the bean
To the vintner and the monger;
I will lie down lean
With my thirst and my hunger.

 
Upon the completion of Jesus’ time of extensive fasting in the wilderness, the Gospel writers in the three synoptic Gospels record a dialogue in which Jesus is queried as to why his disciples are not fasting. The following is from Luke 5:34-35:

Luke 5:33-39—[33] And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” [34] And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? [35] The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

 
The fasting query that Jesus is responding to here is derived from the covenant between God and His people in the Old Testament, in anticipation of the eschatological fulfillment of the Messiah. Jesus was that fulfillment, referred to metaphorically by Jesus as the “bridegroom,” and as such, his companions could not fast while He was still with them. The bridegroom’s presence is a cause for rejoicing and feasting—it would be a sad wedding indeed if the celebrants were expected to fast! Just how radical was the nature of Jesus’ response? Christian apologist C. S. Lewis poses a question that reveals the answer,

“This Man (Jesus) suddenly remarks one day, ‘No one need fast while I am here.’ Who is this Man who remarks that His mere presence suspends all normal rules?”

 
Yet he foresaw the era after his departure from this world when the bridegroom would be taken away, and he said this would be a time for fasting, and their fasting would be an expression of their sadness at his absence. Even so, we, as Christians, find ourselves today in an age of fulfillment since Jesus has come in fulfillment of messianic prophecy, while still being in an age of anticipation, as we await His second coming. The feast has ended, and fasting has taken its place.

There is continuity with the past in that both fasting and feasting mark the Christian’s experience. But since Christ has come, the significance of each of these practices has been reversed. Where once the faithful feasted in hope, they may now feast in realization of hope fulfilled. Where once the community fasted in mourning, they may fast because of Christ’s absence and in anticipation of His return.

As John Piper so aptly put it:

What’s new about the fasting is that it rests on all this finished work of the Bridegroom…The newness of our fasting is this: its intensity comes not because we have never tasted the wine of Christ’s presence, but because we have tasted it so wonderfully by his Spirit and cannot now be satisfied until the consummation of joy arrives. We must have all he promised. And as much now as possible.

 
If Christian fasting is done in imitation and remembrance of Christ, then it follows that this also anticipates something. In the Gospel of Luke, an elderly prophetess named Anna, fasted and prayed in anticipation of the messiah to come. In meeting Jesus in the temple, she witnessed the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies she had earnestly awaited. (Luke 2:37). So too, Christians may now fast in anticipation of the end of the ages, longingly awaiting the new creation when all will be made right and the faithful will dwell in God’s presence for eternity. The depictions of creation’s consummation in Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, are more oriented toward feasting, signifying the end of this earthly period of mourning.

Fasting as a Spiritual Discipline

Fasting is one of the more important of the spiritual disciplines, as it is a way of practicing that self-denial required of everyone who would follow Christ (Matt. 16:24). In fasting, we learn how to suffer happily as we feast on God. One aspect of life that is certain is that we will all experience suffering at some point regardless of what else happens to us. Fifteenth century theologian Thomas a Kempis remarks: “Whosoever knows best how to suffer will keep the greatest peace. That man is conqueror of himself and the lord of the world, the friend of Christ, and heir of Heaven.”

Persons well used to fasting as a systematic practice will have a clear and constant sense of their resources in God. And that will help them endure deprivations of all kinds, even to the point of coping with them easily and cheerfully. Kempis again says: “Refrain from gluttony and thou shalt the more easily restrain all the inclinations of the flesh.” Fasting teaches temperance or self-control and therefore teaches moderation and restraint with regard to all our fundamental drives. Since food holds the pervasive place it does in our lives, the effect of fasting will be diffused throughout our personality. We discover in the midst of all our needs, wants and suffering, that we can nonetheless experience contentment. And we are told in the New Testament that “godliness with contentment, is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said that his disciples should fast in secret before the Father, “and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matt 6:18). Clearly this suggests that, like prayer or almsgiving, fasting with proper spiritual motives will lead to spiritual blessings from God. So while fasting may at times seem mournful, Christian fasting is also never completely separated from the anticipation of God’s Spirit breaking into our experience even now. As our attentions are lifted from sole concentration on material needs to the often unseen, world of God’s kingdom, the believer anticipates connecting with the God who can operate beyond our normal experience.

Fasting in Ministry and Service

Subsequent to Jesus’s death and resurrection, another purpose for fasting is noted in the epistles of the Apostles, which is fasting for purposes of Christian ministry, sharing of the Gospel, and service to others.

In the early beginnings of Christianity, as Jesus’ followers began to missionize and travel to new lands to share the Christian message, we read in the New Testament book of Acts that they fasted and prayed before doing so. As they appointed leaders to their fledgling churches, they also fasted and prayed. (Acts 13:2, 3; 14:23)

The True Fast

And lastly, a final purpose for fasting was for transformation that would translate into compassionate acts and service to others. For this point, I will refer to Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, in which He instructs His disciples as to how to fast, both physically and spiritually.

In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says,

[16] “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [17] But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

 
Fasting for the Christian was not meant to be a public event that would enhance one’s standing in the community or the perception of a person’s spirituality or righteousness before God, but rather a time of personal reflection with the Father. When Jesus directs His followers to anoint themselves and wash their faces so that their fasting wouldn’t be seen by others, he addresses directly the issue of hypocrisy and enunciates the proper motivation for fasting. Through fasting, His followers will discover that life is so much more than food, and in turn their actions will reflect the transformative work of God in their lives.

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his disciples to a different kind and quality of righteousness than that of the religious leaders of His day. The Kingdom righteousness that Jesus is illustrating works from the inside out because it first produces changed hearts and new motivations (Rom. 6:17; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:22–23; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 8:10), so that the actual conduct of Jesus’ followers would “[exceed] the expectations for righteousness” of his day. Thus in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus extols the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, and the peacemakers.

We need only look back to Isaiah chapter 58, to see the continuity between God’s instruction to Israel and that of Jesus’ teaching in regards to true fasting and what such fasting does in transforming the heart and actions of the individual who is exercised thereby:

Isaiah 58:6-10

[6] “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
[7] Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
[8] Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
[9] Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
[10] if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

 
In Luke 4 we find Jesus applying Isa. 61 as the foundation of His ministry and mission. It is striking how the true fast that is spoken of in Isaiah 58, is confirmed in Jesus application of what He, as the Messiah, would do in fulfilling the prophecies of His coming and ministry:

Luke 4:17-19—[17] And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
[18] “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
[19] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In Matthew 25, Jesus commends the “sheep,” His followers, for their great compassion for those in need—for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger; for those who are naked, sick, or in prison. The righteous will inherit the kingdom not because of the compassionate works that they have done but because their righteousness comes from their transformed hearts in response to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom, as evidenced by their compassion for the “least of these.” In caring for those in need, the righteous discover that their acts of compassion for the needy are the same as if done for Jesus himself. (Matthew 25:34-40) 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the primary focus of Christian fasting is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. We as Christians live according to the ‘now, but not yet’, between the times, if you will. We fast now as our Bridegroom is not immediately with us, but we rest in the trustworthiness and assurance of the promise He has given of our being reunited with Him at the wedding feast that He is even now preparing:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6-9)

 
Until then we will continue to practice the true fast, that of “loving God with all our heart, mind, spirit and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself.”— John Chrysostom

 
Sources for this article:

Bible.org–I highly recommend their fasting page, found here
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines-Understanding How God Changes Lives, Harper Collins, 1998

Dallas Willard-Fasting as a spiritual discipline for renewal

Fast From Overloaded Lives-the Neglected Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

Fasting as a Spiritual Discipline

Evangelism, Iranian Style
Amid persecution and a travel ban, Iran’s youth want community and transformation from within.
K. A. ELLIS| JUNE 21, 2017–Christianity Today–(link found, here)

When I first met Hormoz Shariat in 2016, I expected the president and founder of Iran Alive Ministries to be a larger-than-life figure who matched the legendary stories of his sacrificial and protective love for Iran’s underground church. I was instead greeted with warmth and humility by him and the staff of his prominent television and evangelism ministry. Though Shariat is constantly in danger, his eyes sparkled with excitement as we talked. As recent US foreign policy decisions about Iran made news headlines, I caught up with Shariat by email to hear his thoughts about this year’s travel bans, Iran’s next generation of Christian leaders, and the work of Iran Alive.

The Iranian church is seeing explosive growth, despite every effort to silence it. How is this?

There is a very special grace on Iranian Christians living inside Iran. Through satellite TV, we teach them to love their enemies and pray for them. We not only help persecuted and isolated Christians grow strong in faith and action, but we also teach them to share the gospel with their persecutors.
I have many stories about how persecuted Iranian Christians love their persecutors. Many experience the presence and power of Jesus while in jail or when tortured. Our best underground house church leaders are women who were formerly oppressed and desperate but are now attracted to Christianity, where women are respected.

What has been the response to President Donald Trump’s temporary travel bans?

Feelings were mixed. Some were directly affected and were not happy. Iranians both in America and outside America were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to see their loved ones. Those who were hoping to immigrate to America lost hope. Iranians love America, and succeeding there is an ultimate dream.
Many Iranians say they understand that the President must put US interests first. I’ve heard this even from those who were negatively affected by the ban. Iranians are both hopeful and afraid of Trump. And, they’re hoping that their Islamic government will be replaced by a secular democracy, but they don’t want war or violence to achieve it.

Many young people around the globe are taking up justice causes. What about Iran’s young people?

There are some similarities between Iranian and American millennials: Both are looking for a worthy cause to believe in and give their lives to. Both are interested in social justice and solving social ills, with many helping the homeless and poor. Community is important to both, and they are not interested in superheroes of faith.
The under-20 generation has the greatest potential to transform Iran. Most Iranian youth are secular in thinking, and the spirit of Islam has no control over them. They’re not afraid of Allah, the government, or death. They’re not interested in religion until they are presented with Christ, in whom they find salvation and purpose. Because of the killings after the 2009 election results, they are against public protest or violent uprising, but they’re open to the message that we share on satellite TV: Transform Iran without violence by first being transformed yourself, and then become an agent of transformation.

Do you wish American Christians would give attention to the 1–2 million Iranian Christians living in secret?

My prayer is that American Christians will wake up and see what the Lord is doing around the world and in the Middle East, especially among the youth in Iran. I pray they will see that God is doing something special in Iran; the whole Middle East could be transformed by the gospel through [it]. God has prepared the hearts of millions of Iranians; he is appearing to them in visions and dreams. He has given us technology so that we can connect with them both en masse and at a personal level—even from a distance.

Redemptive technology—is this where Iran Alive satellite TV comes in?

Iran Alive isn’t a TV ministry; it’s a church and a church planting organization. We deliver church services to every home in Iran, and help Christians to gather in homes and form churches. Our role is to encourage, equip, activate, and mobilize Iranian Christians with worship services, classes, prayer meetings, and children’s programs.

Iran is ready for a major transformation; we can truly make history there.

How Christians See Muslims
Missions experts urge concern for both souls and security.

KATE SHELLNUTT| MAY 26, 2017—CHRISTIANITY TODAY
Last December, two Muslim college students visited an upstate New York megachurch as part of an assignment to learn about different faiths. After the service, some congregants shared stories and offered hugs. One called Homeland Security.

The incident was an anomaly. But it still made national news, because it played into stereotypes of American evangelicals’ unfamiliarity with Muslims and tendency to conflate Islam with terrorism.
Surveys suggest that what evangelicals think Muslims think is quite different from how Muslims in the United States and abroad describe their beliefs. White evangelicals are also the least likely Americans to know a Muslim.
This concerns evangelical experts on Muslim missions. Because as more Muslim migrants flee unstable and violent homelands, the mission field that was once half a world away has made its way into many American communities. Last year, the US admitted about 39,000 Muslim refugees, a record high.
“This is the best chance we’ve had in human history to share the love of Christ with Muslims,” said David Cashin, an intercultural studies professor at Columbia International University.
But survey after survey indicates that white evangelicals are the least excited about their new neighbors. They show the highest levels of support for restrictions on Muslim immigration and the most skepticism toward Muslim Americans. (for complete article, here)

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