Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

Why I Am A Christian And Believe The Bible Is The Literal Inspired Word Of God

October 6, 2015

There is simply so much to contemplate in these words from the Apostle and leader of Jesus’ Disciples, St. Peter, that I urge everyone to consider:

For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.  Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.  — 2 Peter 1:16-21

What grabs me about this passage (which I have memorized because it is so powerful to me) is the eyewitness account from a disciple how had the unique opportunity to see “the Word of God” (see John 1:1-18 to see another close disciple of Christ literally call Jesus “the Word”) alive and in Incarnate in the flesh.  Peter is zooming in on one experience related in the Gospels, when James, John and Peter himself saw Jesus transfigured into glory (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36).  And Moses, representing the Law (see John 1:17 as an example), and Elijah, representing the Prophets (Malachi 4:5 cf. Matthew 17:11-13), were sent from heaven as a witness to this glorification of Jesus before these men’s very eyes.

It sends chills down my spine.  And I have no doubt in my mind that it continued to send chills down Peter’s spine every single time he thought about that moment for the rest of his life until he himself was crucified as a martyr in testimony of his Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, under Emperor Nero in 64 AD.

Listen to what this man who testified to his faith in his very own blood had to say: he was not making up a bunch of fables or fairy tales: he himself saw everything he writes about and he saw it in the company of other men who saw the same things alongside him.  You keep seeing the witness verbs: “We saw.”  “With our own eyes.”  “We ourselves heard that voice.”  “When we were with him.”

They saw it with their own eyes and they heard it with their own ears and they touched it with their own hands.  St. John – another Apostle and Disciple of Christ who also personally witnessed and experienced the Transfiguration of Jesus with Peter, said the following:

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.  This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.  We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.  — 1 John 1:1-4

Again, St. John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 13:25, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20), again and again pointed to what he had personally witnessed and experienced: “W proclaim to you the One … whom we have heard and seen.”  “We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands.”  “This One who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen Him.”

Everything that Jesus did and said was publicly witnessed, especially by His Disciples, who Jesus commissioned as His witnesses.  They were there.  They lived it.  They saw it and heard it and touched it.  John recorded that Thomas literally put his fingers in the holes that remained in Jesus’ wrists and ankles following His Resurrection (John 20:19-28).

It is a FACT of history that all of the Disciples of Jesus, save old John – who himself was tortured and suffered scrounging for existence as a slave-laborer in the mines of an island prison – sealed the truth of their testimony in their own blood.  Why was it not John’s fate to die as a martyr?  Maybe because he was the one that Jesus commissioned to take care of His mother, Mary, when he said the words, “Woman, behold your son.”  And to “the disciple whom He loved” the words, “Behold your mother” (John 19:26-27).  But it was ultimately St. John alone, the youngest of the Disciples during the public Ministry of Jesus on earth, who lived on as the final apostolic link to the unbreakable chain of the Testimony of the Church to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, from the dead, and of the New Life in Christ that was available to any who would call on the Name of the LORD Jesus so they could experience the Resurrection Life of Jesus for themselves.

We know that people can sincerely believe something that turns out not to be true.  And yes, there are even people who would be willing to die for what turns out to be a lie.  I submit that every Islamic terrorist who blows himself up so he can kill as many innocent people as possible, believing that he will go straight to Paradise and enjoy the carnal affections of seventy virgins, fall under this category.

I remember watching the theologically-liberal series, “From Jesus to Christ” on PBS.  But even the theological-liberal New Testament scholars that the series heavily relied on all unanimously acknowledged “that his disciples really and with absolute conviction saw him again afterwards.”  St. Peter continued to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead AS A FACT THAT HE HAD WITNESSED for more than thirty years until his own death.  St. John continued to proclaim the FACT of the Resurrection THAT HE HAD PERSONALLY SEEN, HEARD AND TOUCHED for something on the order of seventy years after the Crucifixion of Jesus until his own death around 100 AD.

What makes the Disciples – who of course were also true martyrs who died as witnesses rather as than mass murderers who died killing innocent people – categorically different is the fact that they PERSONALLY saw and PERSONALLY experienced and PERSONALLY heard and PERSONALLY touched Jesus after His Resurrection from the dead.  They PERSONALLY were there to experience all the key events FIRSTHAND.

They really, sincerely, with absolute conviction believed the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And my point is that there was absolutely NO POSSIBLE WAY they could have been mistaken.

Let me get back to the Transfiguration of Jesus, for example.  Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him.  They were all there to see the Transfiguration of Jesus and experience it for themselves.  And afterward, they clearly would have been saying to one another, “Did you just see what I saw?”  And “What did YOU see?”  And they were easily able to verify that it had really, truly happened, that they were NOT having a hallucination, for the very simple reason that three people cannot have the same hallucination, the same exact departure from reality, at the same time.  Three witnesses saw the same thing.  They verified it to one another.  It happened.  It wasn’t just a “clever story.”  It was real.  Real enough to be willing to live for.  Real enough to be willing to die for after having lived your entire life completely transformed by that they each saw with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, and touched with their own hands.

Twelve ordinary, uneducated men from a conquered backwater Roman province rocked the world with “what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what they beheld and their hands handled, concerning the Word of Life,” as John put it in the opening verse of his first epistle.  Think also about the key early followers of Jesus: think of James the Just, the brother of Jesus.  Not only had James not believed in Jesus or His ministry while it was popular to do so, but James had actually believed that Jesus was out of His mind.  I just ask you: what would it take for you to believe that your brother was in fact GOD?  I mean, just imagine being the parents: “Mom, my brother is saying He’s God again!”  “Stop telling James you’re God, Jesus!”  “But I Am that I Am!”  “MOM!”  Seriously: imagine what had to happen to bring James to his knees before Jesus: first of all, it required a post-Resurrection appearance, which Paul describes in what is very clearly an EARLY Christian creed found in 1 Corinthians 15 dated to within five years of the Resurrection by historians: “Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (vs. 7).   James had to realize upon self-reflection how Jesus had lived His entire life in moral perfection.  And James believed that his half-brother (James’ father was Joseph; Jesus’ Father was God) truly was God Incarnate.  And he believed.  James became the leader of the early church in Jerusalem.  James came to be known by the nickname “Camel Knees” because of the large calluses on his knees that he developed from spending long hours on his knees in prayer – to his Brother.  Again, imagine the personal transformation that had to occur!  James was murdered about AD 62 in a mob riot incited by the Sanhedrin.  He gave his LIFE in his faith in his Brother.  Imagine that!  Add to the mix Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was a rabid Pharisee in the very spirit of the rabid Sanhedrin that murdered James.  He went out breathing fire and hate in his desire to destroy what he viewed as a terrible, blasphemous heresy against his beloved Judaism as men and women began increasingly worshiping One named Jesus they claimed was the Messiah of Israel.  Saul went out on the Road to Damascus to hunt down Christians and put them in chains; somehow, he amazingly BECAME a Christian when he heard the very Jesus he was trying to eradicate speak to him and strike him blind until another Christian came to heal this Persecutor of the Church.  Paul, after having suffered a LIFETIME of suffering for His Lord whom he once tried to exterminate from history, died as a martyr in testimony to his absolute faith in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the World.

How do you explain these men???

Now, allow me to return to 1 Peter 1:16-21 and enter into evidence the additional witness of Moses and Elijah, and what their appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration meant: as I already pointed out, Moses represented the Law, and Elijah represented the Prophets.  In other words, they represented the Scriptures, the Word of God as it had been handed down to God’s people from Adam and Eve until Jesus’ day.

Take some time, please, to just scroll down the list of the hundreds of prophecies from the Law and the Prophets that Jesus literally fulfilled in His First Advent when He came as the Suffering Servant, to die as the Lamb of God in fulfillment of the penalty in the Law for the sins of the world.

Those prophecies clearly present 456 identifying characteristics of what the Messiah would be like. And the mathematical odds of one man fulfilling just EIGHT of them is one chance in ten with seventeen zeroes after it, or less than one chance in a quadrillion.  Pretty good job for 32 men who mostly never even TALKED to one another, let alone in any way, shape or form conspired.

Over forty men who wrote over a period of over 2,000 years.  And yet it marvelously, miraculously tells one story: the story of the fall of the human race, and the story of the Creator God who ultimately became a man Himself in order to take our sins upon Himself and save us.

Let’s do some comparison for the sake of contrast: how many men wrote the Qur’an?  One.  His name was Muhammad.  How many other men could independently verify that Muhammad wasn’t making up a whole bunch of stories?  Zero.  Muhammad was alone in a cave called Hira the first time he allegedly received the dictation of the Qur’an by an angel that Muhammad had already heard about from the Jews who frequently came along the Arabian trading routes.  At no time during any of Muhammad’s revelations do we ever find that anyone else was present.

If you want to trust a sacred Book, which one should you trust?  Particularly given the fact that Muhammad clearly pirated large portions of the rival sacred Book: he couldn’t even find his own angel; he had to steal one from the Jews.  He couldn’t even invent his own patriarch, he had to pirate Abraham from the Jews and warp their account to reject Isaac and make Ishmael the hero in blatant contradiction of what the original account presented in Genesis chapters 15 through 18.  And if you read the excellent work, “The Truth About Muhammad,” you will find that, amazingly, every single time Muhammad wanted to do something to advance his own interest, he would somehow have a revelation from Allah that let him have whatever he wanted.  There were dozens of these “convenient surahs,” but the most infamous of them were the so-called “Satanic Verses” that allowed Muhammad to receive one “revelation” that allowed allies to have their own gods in order to secure their alliance against a common enemy, only to then receive a completely contradictory “revelation” when the first “revelation” became inconvenient for Muhammad.  It’s kind of like me promising I’ll give you a billion dollars if you risk your life fighting for me, and then I receive a revelation from God after you’ve fought and won my war for me declaring that I don’t have to pay you a dime.  Whenever Muhammad wanted something, he could mysteriously soon afterward have a surah “revealed” to him that justified his doing or taking or murdering or marrying whatever he wanted.

The same is true of the Book of Mormon.  One guy wrote it.  Initially, there were three so-called “witnesses” that claimed they had seen the “golden plates” that Smith said he used to write the Book of Mormon.  Such that:

The Three Witnesses were a group of three early leaders of the Latter Day Saint movement who wrote in a statement of 1830 that an angel had shown them the golden plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and that they had heard God’s voice testifying that the book had been translated by the power of God

The Three Witnesses were Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, whose joint testimony, in conjunction with a separate statement by Eight Witnesses, has been printed with nearly every edition of the Book of Mormon since its first publication in 1830. All three witnesses eventually broke with Smith and were excommunicated from the church.[1] In 1838, Joseph Smith called Cowdery, Harris, and Whitmer “too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.”[2]

Some “witnesses.”

The Mormon Church still disgracefully calls them “the Three Witnesses.”  I call them “False Witnesses.” As history does to anyone who looks into their “testimony.”

You ultimately find, if you bother to do the research, that while the so-called “witnesses” (both the three and the eight) testified that they had “seen” the golden plates. But they actually only “saw” them “by faith.”

I suppose I could point out that at least Joseph Smith managed to find some so-called “witnesses” who at least initially claimed to be able to verify that Smith wasn’t full of bovine feces, which makes his book vastly superior to Muhammad’s in that regard.  And at least Joseph Smith managed to invent his own angel, rather than merely pirating one from the Bible, as Muhammad had.  The problem is that all of Joseph Smith’s primary “witnesses” were bogus and ended up being excommunicated from the church their “witness” had given birth to.  And then there is the unfortunate fact that Joseph Smith was a convicted fraud and con-man before he suddenly became a “prophet.”

That is NOT the way the Bible is.  Not at ALL.  There are layers upon layers of interlocking sources.  As examples from the Old Testament period, Ruth was written contemporaneously with Judges.  So you have writers who didn’t even know each other authenticating one another.  The Pentateuch covered the period written in Job.  During the period of 2 Samuel, David was writing his Psalms.  And we can learn more from both sources about the other from each.  As we get into the Books of Kings, we’ve got all kinds of interlocking sources: we’ve got 1 and 2 Chronicles, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Obadiah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Lamentations all during that same period.  All these different biblical writers giving us accounts that never contradict one another the way Muhammad frequently contradicted Muhammad.  Daniel and Ezekiel wrote during the same basic period of time.  Ezra, Esther, Haggai, and Zachariah were written over the same period of time.  Nehemiah and Malachi were written over the same period of time.

The same is true of the New Testament, only we have even MORE corroboration.  How many Gospels, how many accounts of the life of Jesus, how many perspectives, do we have?  We’ve got FOUR.  We’ve got St. Matthew, we’ve got St. Paul, we’ve got St. Luke, we’ve got St. Peter, we’ve got St. John, we’ve got St. James, we’ve got St. Jude, we’ve got the writer of Hebrews, all writing about the same Gospel over the same period of time.  And they NEVER contradict one another when their writings are closely studied in full context.  The deeper you get, the more the harmony.  Which is an amazing, and literally miraculous thing.

And the Bible has been called “God’s Anvil,” because it has stood the test of time as critics have tried to pound away at it for millennia.  No book has been more read.  No book has been more attacked.  The Bible has withstood everything ever hurled by hell against it.  The atheist Voltaire sneered, “In no more than one hundred years, intellects like mine will make the Bible disappear.” But within fifty years of his own death, Voltaire’s own printing press was used to churn out BIBLES for people hungry to devour the Word of God.  That is why no Book has ever changed more hearts and transformed more lives.

Again, for the sake of contrast, try that with the Qur’an.  Salmon Rushdie pointed out the sordid history of the self-refutation of Muhammad as a prophet of God, and he was rewarded with a fatwa on his life as a result.  And they recently reinstated it just to make sure we know they’re still out to murder him.  Think of the sneering liberals who mock the Bible and Christians who would NEVER DARE do the same thing to the Qur’an and Muslims – because they are cowards and because they know that Muslims would murder them whereas Christians will only pray for them.  My point is that the Bible has withstood 2,000 years of hateful, demonic attack and unrelenting criticism from unbelievers that would have long-since destroyed any book that was NOT from God.  And the Bible didn’t survive by murdering and massacring its intellectual and moral opponents the way the Qur’an has.

The New York Times Best Seller List never mentions the Bible.  That is because The Bible refutes absolutely everything liberalism stands for.  But the Bible is every single day, every single week, every single month, every single year, year-after-year, century-after-century, the best-selling Book on planet EARTH.  NOTHING ELSE even comes CLOSE to it.  More than FIVE BILLION Bibles have been sold, according to Guinness World Records.

At this point I can throw in the incredible uniqueness of Jesus.  There has NEVER been in ALL the history of the world ANYONE like Him.  Today, every major religion on earth has tried to claim Him, co-opt Him, make Jesus theirs: not only the obvious Christianity, but Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etcetera.  This is not true of ANY other religious figure from ANY other religion.  Jesus is UNIVERSAL.  And it is fitting that He would be so: because He alone is the Savior of the whole world, in fulfillment of the Scriptures and demonstrated by His Empty Tomb where every other religion has a corpse for a founder.

So let me get back to where I began, with 2 Peter 1:16-21.  Peter witnessed, along with James and John – with Moses and Elijah representing the testimony of the Law and the Prophets of the Deity and Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth – the Transfiguration of Christ.  And Peter, reflecting on that day, writes:

Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.  Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.  — 2 Peter 1:19-21

Peter is pointing out what the great historian and careful researcher St. Luke pointed out in his Gospel when he wrote of two disciples experience when they unknowingly encountered the Resurrected Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.  They had been talking to one another about all of the events that had taken place since Jesus’ arrest and public execution and Jesus – His identity concealed from them – began walking with them as they walked along the road.  Jesus asked them, “What are you guys talking about?”  And they incredulously asked Jesus, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (Luke 24:18).  Jesus asked, “What things?”  And they told Him, culminating in this:

And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said: but Him [Jesus] they did not see.

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”  And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.  — Luke 24:24-27

And again when Jesus appeared to the eleven Disciples and Jesus ate with them and told them:

“These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “This it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  — Luke 24:44-48

I’ve already provided a link to the hundreds of prophecies that Jesus would have explained to them how He fulfilled in His birth, His ministry, His sacrificial death as the Lamb of God in atonement for the sins of the world and His glorious resurrection.

That’s what Peter is describing.  He saw the prophetic Word of the Scripture come alive right before his very eyes, his very ears, his very hands.  The Scriptures are a lamp in a dark place that shine our way straight to Christ and to His salvation from sin into a new birth through regeneration and a new life through sanctification.

There are times in my mind when something occurs to me and I conclude based on my experience, based on my reasoning, based on my intuition, that something is going to happen.  That’s NOT what the prophets did.  Peter – a prophet and writer of Scripture through divine inspiration himself – specifically says that prophets DON’T write from their own understanding of what they happen to think, or from any human initiative or intuition.  NO, Peter says very plainly, these prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

So Peter had Jesus Himself teach him about how the Scriptures prophesied His coming and precisely detail what He would do when He came.  Hundreds of prophecies fulfilled; 456 identifying characteristics described.  And Peter – who also witnessed the Resurrected Jesus after having seen His dead body – saw the prophetic Word made more sure.

More sure than anything in this world.

I am now watching with amazement the last days prophecies unerringly coming to pass.  I read the Scriptures in Ezekiel about the coming war of Gog-Magog, in which Russia and Iran lead a confederation of nations that would ultimately all become Muslim attack Israel.  I have now witnessed for the first time in history, I believe, both Russia AND Iran in Syria, RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO ISRAEL.  We are seeing the last days clock zooming toward Armageddon because of the abject demonic foolishness of the Obama presidency, make no mistake.

All the political coalitions are in place that the Bible amazingly described 2,600 years ago.  China’s way across the mighty Euphrates River has not merely been cleared, it has literally been PAVED as a network of concrete dams literally allows them to shut off one of the mightiest rivers on earth.  And not only cross the river but use it as their HIGHWAY to Armageddon.

Is the passage of Revelation 6:14, detailing the opening days of the period that will soon befall a wicked humanity when “The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up,” was that merely symbolic?  Not when you consider that that is PRECISELY what a nuclear warhead looks like when it is detonated.  And God’s Word prophetically saw that day coming 2,000 years BEFORE THE FIRST HUMAN EVEN DREAMED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF A NUCLEAR WEAPON.

Just as God’s word wasn’t merely being “allegorical” or “symbolic” when it described an army of 200 million soldiers from the east – PRECISELY WHERE SUCH A VAST ARMY WOULD COME TODAY – when at the time this prophecy was given there weren’t 200 million human beings on the entire planet.

Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of His First Advent LITERALLY.  He wasn’t symbolically born of a virgin; He didn’t allegorically rise from the dead.  It is fools from hell who deny the literal Word of God.  And in the same way, we are watching the prophecies of the end times and the Second Advent culminating in Jesus Christ coming as King of kings and Lord of lords being fulfilled LITERALLY.  And that is made sure just as sure as the fact that Russia and Iran are not “symbolically” in Syria immediately north of Israel.

Even if you’ve got nothing else, ESPECIALLY if you’ve got nothing else in this world, you can COUNT on the Scriptures.  that is because “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

And you can count on Jesus, the Word whom the Word of God heralded from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis straight through the Scarlet Thread that runs through the entire Bible.

Maranatha, Lord Jesus.  How I long to see you, my dear Friend Who sticks by me closer than a brother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! An Easter Message On 1 Corinthians 15

April 20, 2014

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  That millennia-old paschal greeting sums up the essence of Easter.  Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, as prophesied in the Old Testament as a future event and as described in the New Testament as a historical fact, was crucified and His dead body was placed in a guarded tomb.  But on the third day, on that first Easter morning, He was raised from the dead.  And by being raised from the dead Jesus was able to offer His resurrection life to anyone who would believe in Him.  According to Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

In our modern age, the Christ of Easter has been replaced by what we can call an “Easter Bunny Jesus.”  2 Corinthians 11:4 points out that false culture, false religion and false science manufacture false Jesuses.  The Easter Bunny Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, who was killed for preaching socialism, pacifism, and whatever other politically correct “-ism” is in vogue with the secular humanist, anti-supernaturalist, postmodernist, existentialist, moral-relativist crowd that has anointed itself the arbiters of truth.  Their Easter Bunny Jesus, of course, died and is still very much dead.  One of their favorite assertions is that the biblical accounts of Jesus are myths and fables written after the fact by people who were not eyewitnesses.

The problem with the Easter Bunny Jesus is that such a Jesus, like the Easter Bunny itself, ultimately means nothing, because he is nothing but a fabricated story with a fabricated theological meaning.  And a dead Messiah can’t do anything for anybody for the very simple reason that he is DEAD and BURIED.  And it is a doubly fabricated story because it has no connection whatsoever with the real Jesus and what the real Jesus really did on Easter.

So what really happened on the first Easter morning?

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 we have an early Christian creed that dates to within the time of the crucifixion of Jesus that defines the meaning of the Gospel of Easter and defends the HISTORICAL REALITY of Easter.

Turn with me in your Bibles, if you have them, to 1 Corinthians 15:

   1Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

What is the meaning of the Christian Gospel of Easter?

First of all, the Easter Gospel is that by which we are saved.  According to the Bible, there are ultimately only two kinds of people: those who are saved, and those who are lost.  Jesus believed in the reality of hell.  We avoid discussing hell, because a lot of modern people find the concept very unpleasant.  But the fact is that Jesus talked more about hell than anyone else in all of Scripture.  In fact, Jesus talked about hell almost more than everyone else in Scripture COMBINED.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:23 that there will be many to whom He will say, “Depart from me.  I never knew you.”  In Matthew 8:12 Jesus spoke of a place of outer darkness, and said “in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”   According to Matthew 25:41 Jesus will say to those who are not saved, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

No Easter Bunny Jesus can save you.  Only the power of the real Resurrected Son of God can save you.

What do you have to believe to have the Easter Resurrection Life of Christ?  1 Corinthians 15:3-4 tells us: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  Forget the Easter Bunny Jesus; we’re talking about the REAL death and the REAL Resurrection of the REAL Christ Jesus who came in fulfillment of the Old Testament that prophesied the coming Christ.  And this real Jesus REALLY died.  The body of this real Jesus REALLY was buried.  And the body of this real Jesus was REALLY raised from the dead.

Who is Christ?  As Peter confessed to Jesus in Matt 16:16, He is the Son of the Living God.  He is God the Son.  The Gospel of John begins by teaching that Christ was with God the Father from the beginning, and ALL things came into being through Christ.  Colossians 1:16 confirms this truth about Christ Jesus, teaching that “in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

God the Son took on a human nature.  He created man and woman in His own image knowing that one day He would assume our image, so that He could live the perfect life in our place that we could not live, and then die the death that we could not die in our place for our sins.  And all you have to do to be saved, according to the Bible, is accept what He did for you on the cross, and believe that God raised Him from the dead with the kind of Resurrection Life that He alone can offer to YOU right here and right now as He takes your sin and gives you His righteousness.

Now comes the question: why should anyone believe this Gospel?  Why should anyone believe that this Christ came, died in our place for our sins that separate us from God, and was raised from the dead as the Lord of Life to offer that Life to us?  What evidence does St. Paul present that he’s telling the truth about the first Easter?

In verses 3 through 7 of 1 Corinthians 15, scholars identify an early Christian creed (there are SEVERAL early creeds preserved in the New Testament that were passed on from the very first Christian witnesses).  St. Paul – who began his own career as a Jewish rabbi and a Pharisee – in saying, “For what I received I passed on to you” – is actually using technical rabbinical terminology for the receiving and passing along of established oral tradition.  He’s pointing out that he received this creed from someone else and is now passing it on.    Paul points out that he had ALREADY given the Corinthians this creed on his first visit, which history confirms happened in 51 AD.  He uses the past tense: “I passed on to you.”  So we’re already within twenty years of the cross, aren’t we? But St. Paul tells us that just as HE passed the creed on, it had been previously passed to HIM, right?  So who did St. Paul receive the creed from?

It gets exciting: most scholars argue that Paul had to have received this creed when he made the trip to Jerusalem described in Galatians 1:18-19 to meet with Peter and James – the very people specifically named in the creed. That event is fixed historically: it happened in AD 38.  That’s just a few years from when Christ was crucified.

But the stylized, structured wording of this creed strongly suggests to many scholars that it predates even Paul’s visit to meet with Peter and James.   The underlying wording is clearly Aramaic rather than Greek, for example.  When the passages are re-translated into Aramaic, they possess the rhyme and rhythm that clearly reveals they were originally developed in that language.  That is why it’s “Cephas” rather than “Peter.”  And in the words of this creed, we are back right to the moments right after the Cross, to the Resurrection, as the eyewitnesses described what they saw and who saw it with them.

Let’s look again beginning with verse 5: “and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”

For the first thousand years after the Crucifixion of Jesus, the ONLY polemic from Jews – who saw the rise of Christianity as a threat to Judaism – was that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body from the tomb.  That was the only rival explanation that was offered.  Jesus died and stayed dead, and His disciples stole His body and started preaching a lie.  But here’s the thing: that explanation has largely been abandoned by even the most skeptical scholars today.  Do you know why?  Because in the thousand years SINCE the end of the first millennia, critics have had to contend with a brutal fact of history: that these twelve men who claimed they had seen Jesus resurrected from the dead CHANGED THE WORLD preaching about that resurrected Jesus they claimed they saw and heard and touched.  The calendar on planet earth is dated in A.D., Anno Domini, In the Year of Our Lord, BECAUSE of the testimony of the apostles about Jesus.

History records the fact that Jesus’ disciples traveled across the known world preaching about what they witnessed that Easter morning.  With the sole exception of St. John – who was himself tortured for his testimony – all of these men gave their lives as martyrs proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, whom they had seen crucified and whom they saw raised gloriously from the dead.

Here’s the problem for skeptics and for those who prefer the Easter Bunny Jesus: these disciples were in a UNIQUE position to know whether or not they had really witnessed what they claimed they had seen and heard and touched.  While it is possible for people to be sincerely mistaken, the disciples were in a UNIQUE position to know for certain whether they saw, heard and touched what they claimed they had.

Would you be willing to die for something that you categorically KNEW was false?  Do you think you could assemble a dozen other people who would likewise all be willing to die for something that they knew was not true???  No.  Nobody dies for a lie.  Everyone pretty much agrees that the disciples clearly, sincerely believed that they had seen their Lord Jesus gloriously alive after His death by crucifixion and after having spent three days in a tomb.  There are some who want to argue that Jesus was the one who pulled off the fraud, having somehow survived being crucified, having a Roman spear shoved through His heart, waking up in a tomb and climbing out to deceive His disciples.  But the problem with that is that it makes JESUS a horrible, lying fraud and in fact the greatest villain in all of human history.  Does that work for you that the Man regarded as the greatest moral teacher who ever lived was a dishonest imposter???

So modern skeptics have devised a phenomena of mass hallucination, whereby all twelve of the disciples over and over again all thought they were seeing the same thing, hearing the same thing, even TOUCHING the same thing, but of course they had to be somehow mistaken every single time.  And when 500 people all saw and heard the same thing at the same time, well, what else could have happened except that they were suffering from a mass delusion?  A delusion so powerful most of them ultimately sacrificed their lives as martyrs for what they thought they had seen but of course hadn’t really seen.

I find it easier to simply believe that there really is a God who can do what the God of the Bible says He can do.

St. Paul provides three specific witnesses that we have to briefly discuss: Cephas (or Peter), James, and last of all, Paul adds himself to the list in verse 8.

These three men cover the panoply of possibilities and responses to Jesus: When Jesus was crucified, Peter – who had believed in and followed Jesus – was a completely broken man even before Jesus was crucified.  He had fled like a coward from the One he had previously declared he would die for.  He had denied Jesus three times that night while Jesus was on trial for His life.

Question: what would it take to make this completely broken man the boldest of the disciples who would preach until his own martyrdom by crucifixion?  What would it take to make such a man – facing his own cross of execution – ask the Romans to crucify him upside down because he did not feel worthy to die in the exact same manner as his Lord Jesus?  What would it take to restore Peter?  Only one thing: an appearance by the resurrected Lord of Life who forgave him and restored him and gave him a mission that he would doggedly pursue to the moment of his own martyrdom.

Take James, the half-brother of Jesus.  The Gospels record that James was highly skeptical of his half-brother Jesus.  John 7:5 openly declares that James didn’t believe.  Mark chapter 3 indicates that James was one of those who literally thought that Jesus had lost His mind.  Here comes the question: what would it take for you to believe that your oldest sibling was the Creator God of the Universe???  Because THAT is the point that James the brother of Jesus had to somehow arrive at.  What would it take?  How about seeing his half-brother, having been crucified, gloriously risen from the dead in proof that everything He had said about Himself was true and that He really WAS the Savior of the world???  We know that James became a believer at the worst possible time, right after his half-brother was brutally executed by Rome as a warning to anyone who would believe what Jesus had believed.

And history records that James, known as James the Just for his godly character, was murdered by a mob as a martyr for preaching, yes, that his half-brother Jesus really was Lord and God.

And we arrive at St. Paul.  Verse 8 says, “and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”  St. Paul started out as Saul, a rabid Jewish Pharisee who despised Christians and literally wanted them all either dead or in chains.  Until something knocked him off his high horse when he was on the road to Damascus to persecute more Christians and changed his mind – and more – his heart forever afterward.  And so Saul the most ardent persecutor of the Church became St. Paul, the most ardent evangelist of the Church he had tried to destroy.  What could cause such a transformation?

Paul repeatedly offered only one answer: he saw the risen Jesus and he believed what he saw and heard.

On this Easter morning, I it is my privilege to declare to you that it all really happened just as the Scriptures declare: that Jesus the Christ, the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, really came, really lived a perfect life in your place, really took your sins upon Himself at the cross, taking the blame for what you’ve done, and really rose bodily from the dead so that you could be raised to the Resurrection Life of Easter with Him.

And all you have to do to have that eternal Easter life is believe in the Lord of Life, believe in Jesus.

Jesus, The Glorious Conqueror Of Death, Also Conquered Circular Reasoning And Pseudo-History

May 2, 2011

I wrote an article on “liberal religion,” and how said religion was utterly empty of any meaning.  And pointed out that the total lack of liberalism to stand for anything outside of itself was the reason it is going the way of the Dodo bird.  And why militant Islam is growing in the void created by the emptiness of Western secular humanism.

Somone responded to that article by sneering:

“The only true religion is the Napkin Religion. It says so right here on this napkin.”

Sound like anyone you know?

Obviously this is a rather pathetic way of accusing me of circular reasoning.  The claim is being made, however poorly, that I believe the Bible because the Bible tells me to believe the Bible.

Aside from St Peter’s words –

“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”  For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7)

– Here was my response:

Actually it doesn’t.

We know more about Jesus’ death than virtually anyone else in humany history. And history has had this record to contemplate  for 2,000 years.

As a result of something amazing that happened, Jesus’ disciples went from cowardly men who only wanted to hide to bold proclaimers that they had seen Him alive even at the direct risk to their own lives. These one-time cowards then proceeded to go all over the known world, with all but one dying as martyrs testifying that Jesus was the glorious living Savior just as Jesus Himself had proclaimed Himself to be.

Look into the “Lord, Liar or Lunatic” argument. Was Jesus a cynical liar from hell? Or was Jesus mentally deranged? Or was He whom He said He was? Lord and God? It is a FACT that Jesus gave the most sublime moral teaching the world has evern heard. Even Gandhi would testify to this truth about Christ:

In the cross of Christ, Gandhi found the supreme example of satyagraha: Christ was the ‘Prince of satyagrahis’. “It was the New Testament”, wrote Gandhi [on page 92 of his autobiography], which really awakened me to the value of passive resistance. When I read in the Sermon on the Mount such passages such as, ‘Resist not him that is evil: he who smiteth thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also, and love your enemies, pray for them that persecute you, that ye may be the sons of your Father which is in heaven’, I was overjoyed.”

Do you believe that the greatest moral teaching ever heard in this world came from a demonic liar or a deranged lunatic? I don’t.

Another question: given that the disciples of Jesus were in a unique position to KNOW FOR CERTAIN that Jesus was who He claimed, and that He truly rose from the dead; and given that they basically all died testifying to His Resurrection, let me ask you this: how many people do you know who would WILLINGLY DIE FOR SOMETHING YOU KNEW FOR CERTAIN WAS A COMPLETE LIE???

Muslim terrorists die for lies that they sincerely believe to be true. But the disciples were uniquely able to know for certain whether Jesus was standing before them or not, whether He could speak to them or not, whether they could touch Him or not. And they went out and proclaimed the Resurrection until they were killed for proclaiming it.

History also records that Christians in the hundreds of thousands or even in the millions died during the persecutions of the Roman emperors. History clearly records as reported by the BBC (when again, these first Christians were in a unique position of being able to verify the truth, to actually talk to actual witnesses of the Resurrection):

Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group by the emperor Nero in 64 AD. A colossal fire broke out at Rome, and destroyed much of the city. Rumours abounded that Nero himself was responsible. He certainly took advantage of the resulting devastation of the city, building a lavish private palace on part of the site of the fire.

Perhaps to divert attention from the rumours, Nero ordered that Christians should be rounded up and killed. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches.

Over the next hundred years or so, Christians were sporadically persecuted. It was not until the mid-third century that emperors initiated intensive persecutions.

Which means the persecutions against Christianity actually went from terrible to even worse. And while Islam grew by the spread of violence and threat of death, Christianity flourished under the reality of some of the worst and most murderous persecutions in human history.

The book of Hebrews recites some of the great past martyrs of God’s Word, and says that which we also proclaim of these martyrs soon to come:

“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, men of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:37-38).

And yet, because of the ROCK of Jesus’ testimony to the truth, Christianity flourished in spite of the worst efforts of the devil to stop it. It triumphed over the Roman Empire. It has triumphed over the world, with 2.3 billion followers today, according to the statistics that I show in my article above.

And with all that said, all I have to do is look at my calender. When I see it is “2011,” I know that it is 2011 Anno Domini, “In the year of our Lord 2011.” Because the very calender that you look at every single day testifies to the power of Jesus. And while some peoples maintain separate calenders, they have to know the one that testifies to Jesus Christ.

None of this is stuff I have to depend on my Bible to know: they are all documented facts of history. I put the record of history together, and then I read my Bible, and I see that the Bible teaches the Truth that Jesus came to testify to (see John 18:37).

Good luck with your worship of napkins. I’ll stick with my Jesus who confirmed who He was in human history by rising from the dead, just as He told His disciples He would do, just as His disciples proclaimed, and just as the Word of God teaches.

The bottom line is that 1) virtually all of the basic claims of Christianity are testified to in the works of ancient historians and 2) the Bible itself has been proven over and over again to be reliable history.  And while a devout  Jew has other reasons for affirming the reliability of Scripture, I myself begin with the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and the transformed lives of the witnesses of His Resurrection from the dead, and then proceed to believe the testimony of the risen Christ about just Whose Word the Bible is.

The fellow proceeds to post back, saying:

“documented facts of history” Ludicrous…actually, just plain silly. It’s sad really, as you seem so lucid but for these self-corroborating delusions. Not a crumb of proof. Not a scintilla of documentation.

The holy napkins are just as likely to be true as your ancient books and prehistoric god-man.

I’m happy for you that you have found something that works for you, but the venom and vitriol you direct at others compelled me to respond.

If you really want to come off as erudite, you might want to spend a few minutes with a sixth-grade science book. Study the part about the scientific method, and someday you might come to understand why reality has such a strong “liberal” bias.

Or just ignore my advice and continue to scream obscenities in your empirical darkness. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

I’m left wondering just which of my “documented facts of history” aren’t documented facts of history.  It’s not 2011 AD?  Or what evidence there possibly is to make such an assertion that what I say in that response above isn’t true.  “Not a scintilla of documentation”???  The life and the teaching of Christ.  The record of the very well historically attested lives and martydoms of Jesus’ disciples.  The history of the early Christian church and the intense persecution it not only survived but thrived under – until Rome itself embraced the faith it had tried and failed to destroy for three centuries.  The calender that has dominated both Western Civilization and the entire world that was the result of this demonstrable triumph of Christianity.  Nope; not a scintilla of documentation.  One begins to wonder about the point of offering substantial arguments to someone who refuses to even acknowledge that you offered any argument at all.

And yet this sneering liberal who merely dismissively waves his hand in contempt at the clear record of history thinks he is the “objective” one.

This liberal (both secular and theological) doesn’t seem to need to acknowledge arguments.  He doesn’t need to present any facts.  His opinions are all he needs for his self-contained bubble.  But this particular liberal proceeds to offer an assertion that the “scientific method” somehow proves his secular humanist liberal worldview to be the correct one.

That assertion runs into one small problem: it entirely lacks the virtue of having any truth whatsoever to justify it.  He depends on a pure myth that somehow science erupted entirely free of Christianity, and that science somehow proceeded to replace, correct and refute Christianity.

So what is there to say about the assertion that if I just knew anything at all about the “scientific method” I would see the light?  I respond to this drive-by claim as follows:

I wish you yourself would study the “scientific method” without the bias that consumes you.

I write an article titled, “The Intolerance Of Academia Creating Modern-Day “Galileos” I end that article pointing out:

106 of the first 108 colleges in America were founded as religious Christian institutions. It was these colleges that shaped the minds of our founding fathers, who in turn produced the foundational principles and values that enabled this country to become the greatest nation in the history of the world. And in a similar but even earlier vein, the first universities in Western Europe were founded under the aegis of the Church, and emerged from the monasteries. The scientific method itself emerged from the mind of a publicly-confessed Christian: Roger Bacon joined the Franciscan Order in 1247, and argued that a more accurate experimental knowledge of nature would be of great value in confirming the Christian faith. Sir Isaac Newton – almost universally regarded as the greatest scientist who ever lived – actually wrote more on Christian theology than he did on science. And the founders of every single major branch of science were confessing Christians.

The fact is that science arose only once in human history – and it arose in Europe under the civilization then called “Christendom.” Christianity provided the essential worldview foundations necessary and essential for the birth of science: The earth was not the illusion of Eastern religion and philosophy, but a physical, tangible place. And the material world was not the corrupt and lower realm of Greek religion and philosophy, but God created it and called it “good.” And God endowed the capstone of His creation, man – as the bearer of His divine image – with the reason, the curiosity, and the desire to know the truth. And God – who made the universe and the earth for man – made man the caretaker of His creation. And thus the great astronomer Johannes Kepler described his project as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

And yet today, amazingly, against all history and against all truth, we are assured that science must be officially and completely atheist in order to have any legitimacy, and that God – or even the possibility of God (or even a far more intellectually neutral “Intelligent Designer” – must be purged from every element and aspect of “science.”

Tragically, genuine science has been perverted and undermined by ideologues who are attempting to impose their atheistic worldviews upon society and remake the scientific enterprise in their own image. And in their efforts, they are using the very worst and most oppressive of tactics to destroy, intimidate, and silence their opposition. Such academics cite Galileo (another confessing Christian, by the way) and the largely propagandized tale of his persecution by the Church as an example of religion being hostile to science. But how is their own behavior any different from the worst intellectual intolerance exhibited by the Church? In their overarching zeal to persecute and expunge any meaningful sign of God from the ranks of academia, they have themselves become even worse than their caricature of religion which they so despise.

The facts are that the universities from which the scientific method came themselves came from Christianity. The facts are that the “scientific method” that you point to actually came from Christians who were thinking and reasoning out of a uniquely Christian world view. We wouldn’t HAVE a scientific method if it weren’t for Christianity; nor would we have virtually any significant branch of science had it not been all those Christians who laid the foundation. Versus you, who have as your foundation your feet planted firmly in midair.

I have written before why this is: science is limited. It must necessarily depend on something greater than itself to have any foundation or offer any valid conclusion.

It’s actually funny that you speak the way you do. I offer fact after fact. You express your useless opinions, and like a fool ignore the facts.

Then you speak of “my venom and vitriol,” but again, the record of academia today – with the above article being merely one of many I can cite (here’s just one example) – is one of people who think like me being rabidly attacked and persecuted and fired by people who think just like you.

Now begone. I won’t continue to argue with someone who spews worthless opinions in a drive-by attack. Two such comments were enough.

Why do I block him?  Am I disinterested in having debate?  Well, when someone doesn’t even bother to respond to your argument, and proceeds to offer assertions in place of facts, there is little point to a “debate.”

I point out:

Mark Twain said, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can put it’s boots on.”

One of the problems with lies versus the truth is that any fool with an opinion can tell a lie. And tell it very quickly. But it takes knowledge and careful argument to present the truth and refute the lies.

I don’t have any intention of spending all my time on my blog. But if I allowed liberals to post these 3-4 sentence fact-free dismissals, and then worked on refuting them, I would end up spending ALL my time on my blog.

The book of Proverbs chapter 26 verses 4-5 teaches that one needs to respond to a fool, lest the fool become wise in his own esteem. In the same breath, it teaches that if one spends too much time arguing with a fool, others won’t be able to tell the difference between the fool and the one trying to correct the fool.

I try to strike a balance.

And I do.

The fellow posts back to my spam file to inform me that boy did he ever wipe the floor with me, and that just as my hobby is whatever he wants to imagine it, his hobby is “destroying Christians” or somesuch.  I’ll let you be the judge as to whose arguments prevail, and whose are rather trivial assertions with no basis in fact.  I don’t doubt for a second that unbelievers will see whatever they want to see.  The question is, as Jesus Himself asked, is what do YOU think about Jesus?  Who do YOU say He is?

I thought the above discussion was illustrative due to a) the facts I present and b) the galling absence of facts or truth or even the perception of the need for them by my attacker.  It’s interesting that secular humanists only see the Christian’s need to win the argument, but never feel that their worldview should ever be questioned or need to be defended.

There is an interesting story that illustrates how the world thinks when it comes to Jesus and the Bible that I heard in a sermon on John 15:18-16:4:

 When missionaries were first going to inland Africa, the wife of an African chief visited a missionary station.  Hanging outside the missionary’s cabin, on a tree, was a little mirror.  The chief’s wife had never seen her hardened features and hideous paintings on her face.  (She was want we would call “one ugly momma!)” She gazed at her own terrifying countenance and then jumped back in horror, exclaiming, “who is that horrible person inside the tree?” 

Oh,” the missionary explained, “it is not the tree.  The glass is reflecting your own face.” 

She wouldn’t believe it until she was holding the mirror in her hand.  When she understood, she said to the missionary, “I must have the glass.  How much will you sell it for?”  The missionary really didn’t want to sell his only mirror, but the African insisted so strongly that the missionary didn’t want to cause trouble, and so finally capitulated and sold the mirror. 

The chief’s wife took the mirror, exclaiming, “I will never have it making faces at me again!”  And with that she threw it down, breaking it to pieces.

And the fact of the matter is that people hate to see what they really are and hate God’s Word because it reveals their true selves.  The mirror never changes.  Every human being must choose how he or she will react when we take a good look at Jesus as revealed in God’s Word.  Either we will repent of our sin and turn to him, or we will reject and hate him.

Given that communism is state atheism, and given that state atheism has been documented to be responsible for more than 100 million murders during the 20th century alone and during peacetime alone, one would think that secular humanists and atheists should also have to give an account for why what they believe should be accepted as true.  But in our elite mainstream media culture, that challenge is never given.  Meanwhile, the Bible and the historic resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead stand like twin anvils no matter who pounds on it or for how many centuries successive generations of unbelievers continue pounding.

Jesus conquered death.  We know more about that death (in which Jesus gave His life to take the blame for our sins) than any other death in antiquity.  And people have had two millennia to examine that perfect life and the details and results produced by that death.

We also know that more people celebrate that death than have ever celebrated the life of any other human being who ever lived.  Because of the testimonies of the witnesses to that death – and the glorious Resurrection that followed – which was sealed in the blood of these martyrs – Christianity stands confirmed by history.  The tomb of every other great religious leader is venerated by the followers of those religions.

We have stories like this one that fittingly came out on the day that Christians celebrate the Ressurection of Jesus Christ from the dead:

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba, revered by millions of followers as a living god, died Sunday in a hospital in southern India. He was 86.

Sai Baba, who was admitted to hospital in his hometown of Puttaparti a month ago, died of multiple organ failure, media said.

His followers, estimated to number six million, included top Indian politicians, business tycoons and Bollywoods stars.

Soon we will be able to visit Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s tomb, just as we can go and see the tomb of the prophet Muhammad.  The same is true of Buddha, and Confucious, and everyone else.  The tomb of Jesus alone is empty.

And because of Jesus’ life, and death, and glorious Resurrection to resurrection life as the firstfruits of all who call upon His name, the world changed.  And, myths and lies aside, the very science that secular humanists point to as a replacement for the ultimate Truth of the Christian Life is itself  a powerful testimony to the incredible change that Christianity brought to the world.

A sermon by John Piper points out that ultimately – and I believe one day very soon – the scoffers will receive all the proof that they have always demanded.  But by the time they receive the evidence their refusal to believe demands, it will already be too late.  And their eternal destiny will already be decided.

I pray you don’t share their fate.

Maranatha, my glorious King of kings.

In Easter We Can Know That God Loves Us With His Life

April 4, 2010

What is the message of Easter?  It is that Jesus of Nazareth conquered death.  It is that “He is risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6).  And in rising bodily from the grave, it is that Jesus was vindicated in everything He said about Himself.  The One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) put to the lie the Pharisee’s mockery that “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself” (Matthew 27:42).  In rising from the dead, Jesus demonstrated that He is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Over the centuries, Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike have provided many arguments for the existence of God.  But the Bible never makes any such attempt.  God’s existence is as much assumed as is our existence; and to question one’s existence would be as silly as to question one’s own existence.  Thus, the first words of the Bible are, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  We are told, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1).  Paul says in Romans:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).

And James tells us, “You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).

There is clearly a great deal more to the Christian faith than merely believing in the existence of God.

On my view, in agreement with St. Paul above, I believe that the existence of God has been made plain.  It is no amazing thing to believe in God; and as Alvin Plantinga has pointed out, such belief is properly basic.

Believing in God is not the “hard part” about being a Christian.  You want to know what is?  Believing that God – the creator of space and time, energy and matter – loves me and cares about meTHAT’S the hard part.

And that’s exactly the part that Easter morning speaks to.

Take a look at Eli Weisel’s Night, written from the vantage point of a Holocaust death camp survivor:

The first night in camp turned Elie’s life completely. It was the first time he learned how people could be so cruel to the others, it was the night that turned his dream to dust, and it was the night he lost the faith in God. From that day on, although many people believed the concentration camp is where the God tests them, judges their characters, and proves that God loved them, Elie doubted the God’s absolute justice. As time went by, Elie became accustomed to all the horrors he had experienced. Unlike the beginning of the book, which he take care the neighbors with all he can do for them, now he cared only the food but no one else. He was numb to the burning body, to the beating and to the hard works. But one day, the last hope was torn away from Elie when he had to witness the hanging of a small boy. “For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes.” (62) A man behind Elie asked, “Where is God? Where is He?….Where is God now?”  A voice inside Elie answered, “Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows…” (62) At this moment, Elie’s world was collapsed, and the God was murdered.

In this account, God hanging on the gallows represents the death of God, in the sense of extinction.  But there is another side to this story.  Because God Himself – in the form of the Son of God who had assumed a human nature so that He could live a perfect human life and die a substitutionary death for the sins of mankind – actually DID hang on a cross.

Our suffering certainly doesn’t prove the death of God when God Himself has entered into our suffering.  Rather, God suffered so that He could ultimately put an end to suffering.

God is not dead.  He did die for us.  But death could not keep Him down.  He rose from the grave.  He conquered death.  And He is now gloriously alive forevermore as the first fruits of resurrection life that one day every believer will experience.

Easter assures us that God did not create planet earth to serve as His fishbowl.  He is not looking dispassionately down at earth.  In the Incarnation of the Son of God, God demonstrated that He not only cared about His creation, but was willing to go to the farthest possible lengths to save His wayward creation and win it back to Himself.

The Incarnation of God is the greatest love story ever told.  The Son of God – God Himself in every way – chose to temporarily set aside key attributes of deity and assume a human nature.  God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27) so that one day He could become a man.

And so God came into the world, born of a humble virgin into a carpenter’s family.  Perfect God became a perfect man; Jesus obeyed His Father perfectly, and never sinned even once, so that He could be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Jesus said of His own purpose, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus said, “No one can take my life from me.  I sacrifice it voluntarily.  For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18, NLT).  And Jesus allowed His life to become a sacrifice in such a terrible, humiliating, painful manner that no decent human being could have been able to even look upon His death, let alone endured it.  He allowed men who were literally filled with demons to unleash their rabid hatred upon Him.  And He demonstrated His compassion, love, and mercy even for those who were torturing Him when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Before He was crucified, Jesus was flogged in a manner that literally stripped Him to the bone, and ripped out chunks of flesh and muscle.  His body was very likely already dying.  A jagged crown of thorns was shoved onto His head as a form of further mockery.  And then He was forced to carry His own instrument of execution as He stumbled agonizingly along the Via Dolorosa (Latin for “the way of grief”) while jeering crowds mocked Him.

“And they crucified Him” (Mark 15:24).

Death by crucifixion was the most extreme Roman penalty.  Crucifixion is without question the most painful and humiliating form of official death penalty ever devised.  The word “excruciating” was Latin, and means, “out of the cross.”  The victim was displayed naked, and his slow death by suffering available for all to see as a warning to any who would dare to threaten the supremacy of Rome.

Here is a medical account of the suffering inflicted by crucifixion:

Jesus is quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood.  The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist.  He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.  Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexibility and movement.  The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.  The victim is now crucified.  As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain – the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.  As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this wrenching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet.  Again there is the searing agony of the the tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurs.  As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward.  Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act.  Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled.  Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath.  Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside.  Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.

Jesus’ suffering was not merely physical.  His emotional and spiritual suffering were as unparalleled in human history as was his bodily suffering.  The Son of God had known eternal loving relationship with the Father.  But on the cross, Christ became a sin offering – And in His agony His Father was forced to turn away from Him.  Galatians 3:13 tells us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

Jesus suffered as no human being has ever suffered.  And yet Jesus wasn’t a helpless victim.  We have heard Jesus say prior to His crucifixion that He would sacrifice His life voluntarily (John 10:18).  As the soldiers, priests, and mob came to arrest Him at Gethsemane, Jesus said to His disciples who tried to protect Him, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52).  A legion was 6,000, meaning 72,000 angels would have come to save the Son of God at His bidding.

For the record, ONE angel put one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian warriors to death in one night (2 Kings 19:35).

So why on earth would Jesus have allowed Himself to be so horribly tortured and killed when He could have stopped it?

Because of His love for me.  And for you.

We talk about love all the time.  But we can’t even begin to fathom the depths of Christ’s love for us.

The last recorded word from Jesus on the cross was “Tetelestai.”  It is usually translated, “It is finished.”  But there is so much that we can learn from how that word was used in Roman culture at the time of Christ.  “Tetelestai” was used to stamp “paid” upon a receipt, and it was also the stamp put on a criminal’s charges once he had completed his sentence.  Paid in full.

In His substitutionary death, Christ paid the price for our sins.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  But Christ paid the price for us in full.

As I said earlier, “the hard part” of Christianity is believing the incredible concept that the Creator of the entire universe actually loves and cares about me.  There’s your real miracle.  It’s believing that no matter what my temporary situation might look like, I’m NOT alone and unloved; rather, I am loved by a God who literally loves Me with His life!  But there is more.  There is more than we could ever imagine.

What is the meaning of Easter?

It is summed up in Philippians 2:5-11:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

And because Christ was raised from the dead to glory, so also will those who love Him.

1 Corinthians 15: 50-57:

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the meaning of Easter?  On Easter morning, after loving humanity with His life, Christ was raised from the dead.  The Resurrection and the Life conquered death once and for all.  And He paid for our sins so that we could share eternal life in heaven with God. That’s good news indeed to anyone who wants to go to heaven rather than hell, but who isn’t as righteous and sinless and perfect as God.

Before He was taken away to be beaten, flogged and crucified, Christ assured His first followers:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

And Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead is all I need to know to believe that a beautiful room in the very house of the Father awaits me.  What incomprehensible joy awaits those who love Christ!

Christ loved us with His life (past tense); He now loves us with eternal life in Him and with Him.

And so every Easter, Christians from all over the world joyfully greet one another and say, “He is risen!”  “He is risen indeed!”

The Manhattan Declaration As The New Barmen Declaration

November 25, 2009

Christians are hearing about the Manhattan Declaration with great excitement.  It is a tremendous document with tremendous support from some tremendous Christian figures.

The actual declaration (linked to above) is some 4,000 plus words long, and is available to read at the link above.  But here is the nutshell version:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I hope you stand with me – and with (at last count as of November 24, 2009) 106,738 other believers – and sign this declaration.

It reminds me of another time, and another declaration: the Barmen Declaration of 1934, which was a point-by-point denunciation of the fascist and racist ideological doctrines of Nazism and a positive expression of true Christian faith against a government and a culture that had become evil.

Adolf Hitler attempted to redefine – or “Nazify” – the Church and transform it into a component of his ideological agenda.  At one point in its history Germany had been the seat of the Protestant Reformation, and while Germany had since become the most secular humanist nation in Europe, there was still a vestige of Christianity remaining.  And Hitler wanted to harness that still-influential vestige toward his own ends.  The government thus passed resolutions to limit the influence or dictate the agenda of the church.  One demanded the purging of all pastors who rejected “the spirit of National Socialism.”  Another resolution categorically rejected the very foundations of Judeo-Christian transcendent morality even as it tried to conflate “being a German” with “being a Christian”:

“We expect that our nation’s church as a German People’s Church should free itself from all things not German in its services and confession, especially from the Old Testament with its Jewish system of quid pro quo morality.”

The German Confessing Movement was a reaction against the German government’s attempt to impose its agenda upon the Christian Church in Germany.  As Gene Edward Veith put it in his book Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview:

The Barmen Declaration thus sets itself against not only the German Christian aberration but against the whole tradition of modernist syncretism that made it possible.

[Article 1 affirmed Christ as the transcendent authority and source of values (as opposed to the German race, the Nazi revolution, or the person of Adolf Hitler)].  Article 2 asserts the sovereignty of Christ over all of life.  Article 3 asserts Christ’s lordship over the church and rejects “the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political conventions.”  That is to say, the world does not set the agenda for the church.  Article 4 teaches that church offices are for mutual service and ministry, not for the exercise of raw power.  Article 5 acknowledges the divine appointment of the state, but rejects the pretensions of the state to “become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.”  Article 6 affirms the church’s commission to proclaim the free grace of God to everyone by means of the Word and the sacraments.  “We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans [pp. 60-61].

One article, entitled “Hitler’s Theologians: The Genesis of Genocide,” takes time to describe how various key German liberal theologians systematically tore apart the Bible and orthodox Christianity – and in so doing systematically undermined the ethics and morality of the German people in preparation for the hell to come.  The author begins with Friedrich Schleiermacher, called “the founder of Liberal Protestantism,” and profiles the “contributions” of Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Wellhausen, and Adolf von Harnack.

Georg Lukacs has observed that tracing the path to Hitler involved the name of nearly every major German philosopher since Hegel: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dilthy, Simmel, Scheler, Heidegger, Jaspers, and Weber [page 5, The Destruction of Reason].  And Max Weinreich produced an exhaustive study detailing the complicity of German intellectuals with the Nazi regime entitled Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People.  Ideas have consequences, and it was the ideas of these liberal theologians, philosophers and scholars who provided the intellectual justification and conceptual framework for the Holocaust.  Thus Nazism did not merely emerge from a liberal theological system, but from a distinguished secular humanist intellectual tradition as well — a distinguished intellectual tradition that had repudiated all the moral and spiritual values inherent to the orthodox Christianity of the Confessing Church.

Josef Hromadka wrote that:

“The liberal theology in Germany and in her orbit utterly failed.  It was willing to compromise on the essential points of divine law and of “the law of nature”; to dispose of the Old Testament and to accept the law of the Nordic race instead; and to replace the “Jewish” law of the Old Testament by the autonomous law of each race and nation, respectively.  It had made all the necessary preparation for the “Germanization of Christianity” and for a racial Church.”

Veith subsequently says, “in deciding whether or not to sign the Barmen Declaration … the dividing line was clear.”  And he states, “The German Christian theologians predictably denounced the confessional movement as being ‘narrow’ and ‘fundamentalist.'”  He rightly described the opponents of the Barmen Declaration as being “modernists,” “existentialists,” and “dialectical” in their thinking.  The theologians who rejected Barmen were men like Emanuel Hirsch, who taught that the resurrection of Christ was only a spiritual vision, and that the idea of a physical resurrection distorted Christianity by focusing attention to the hereafter rather than to the culture and community of the present.

In short, it was Christians who thought like the evangelicals and fundamentalists of today who signed the Barmen Declaration and openly opposed Nazism, and it was “Christians” who thought like the mainline liberals of today who stood for the German Christian Nazification of Christianity and for the resulting Nazification of German ethics and morality.

Confessing Church pastors and priests who resisted this Nazification of the church paid dearly.  Thousands of clergymen were hauled away to the concentration camps.  According to the Niemoller archives, 2,579 clergymen were sent to Dachau alone – and 1,034 of them died in the camp.  And that only refers to the priests and pastors – not the untold thousands of devout Christians such as the Ten Booms who perished in the death camps for their opposition to Nazism.

An article entitled “Asking ‘Why Nazism?’” reviewing a book by Dr. Karla Poewe has this:

“One of the dangers of liberal Christianity, where all sorts of interpretations are permitted, is that it can easily slip into becoming a new religion,” Poewe says. “This is what happened. In a bid to rid Germany of what it saw as Jewish Christianity, several home-grown practices sprang up, including some that incorporated Icelandic and pre-Christian sagas, as well as ideas from German Idealism.”

Although initially these new religions were separate and disorganized entities, they eventually came under the umbrella of what was known as the German Faith Movement. Hitler saw in it a mechanism for transmitting and reinforcing the National Socialist worldview. “He shaped its followers into a disciplined political force but dismissed its leaders later when they were no longer needed,” Poewe says.

We’re clearly not to the point where Jews, or Christians, or anyone else are being gathered by the thousands and placed in death camps.  But we’re beginning to see a trend that is frightening, as government, with the assistance of liberal “Christian” churches and organizations, are trying to impose their will upon the church and its agenda.

We’ve had a “hate crimes” law imposed upon us that makes homosexuality a protected behavior.  And one evangelical expresses the Confessing Church position in a nutshell:

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a written statement the bill “is part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality.”

In another recent case, a Christian mother who has homeschooled her child is being forced to put her ten-year old child in public school, not to improve her academic education, but to limit her exposure to Christianity and forcibly expose her to a government-approved “public” point of view:

According to the court order, the guardian concluded that Amanda’s “interests, and particularly her intellectual and emotional development, would be best served by exposure to a public school setting in which she would be challenged to solve problems presented by a group learning situation and…Amanda would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior.”

This is a shocking case, in which the government is usurping both parental and religious freedoms.  And there are many similar usurpations today, in which our government is actively opposing Christian values.

Nearly fifty million babies have been killed in this country by a government-sanctioned “pro-choice” system.  Gene Edward Veith addresses the “pro-choice” movement and its philosophical underpinnings:

Existential ethics brackets the objective issues on abortion entirely.  At issue is not some transcendent moral law, nor medical evidence, nor a logical analysis.  The content of that choice makes no difference.  If the mother chooses to have the baby, her action is moral.  If she chooses not to have the baby, her action is still moral.  If she bears a child against her will or aborts a child against her will — then and only then is the action evil.  Those who believe that abortion should be legal do not consider themselves “pro-abortion.”  They are “pro-choice.”  The term is not only a rhetorical euphemism but a precise definition of existential ethics.

Existentialism is also reflected in those who are “pro-choice” but personally oppose abortion.  They do not believe in abortion for themselves, but refuse to impose their beliefs on others.  In this view, a belief has no validity outside the private, personal realm of each individual.  Moral and religious beliefs are no more than personal constructions, important in giving meaning to an individual’s life, but not universally valid.  Or, to use another commonly accepted axiom, “what’s true for you may not be true for me.”

Such a view of truth flies in the face of all classical metaphysics, which sees truth as objective, universal, and applicable to all” (page 96, Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview).

We can return to the historical analysis of Nazism presented by Karla Poewe, and what happened when such “anything goes” belief systems were allowed to rule.  [I have written an article describing how existentialism became a primary component of Nazism, and link to it HERE].

Before we leave the issue of abortion as a vile violation of Christian ethics and morality, let us consider one more voice:

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” — Mother Teresa

Christians should fight for life.  And allowing a human being to live should not be a “choice,” but a duty.

In 2003 one David Allen Black wrote an article bearing the question, “Do We Need A New Barmen Declaration?”  No Christian with a knowledge of history can answer any other way than, “YES!

The Barmen Declaration was written in 1934, but in many ways it was already too late: The Nazis were already in power.  Hitler was in his second year of power; and the ideas of the liberal theologians, the existentialist philosophers, and the amoral intellectuals were already firmly in place.

It is my fervent hope that we finally have that “New Barmen Declaration” to answer the evils of our own day.  If we already should have written one, then every day that passes is one more day wasted; if we are acting pro-actively, then let us thank God that we acting before it is too late.

From the UK Telegraph:

At last, Christians draw a line in the sand against their PC secularist persecutors

By Gerald Warner UK Last updated: November 24th, 2009

At long last, Christian leaders have faced up to their persecutors in the secularist, socialist, One-World, PC, UN-promoted axis of evil and said: No more. In the popular metaphor, they have drawn a line in the sand. For harassed, demoralised faithful in the pews it will come as the long-awaited call to resistance and an earnest that their leaders are no longer willing to lie down supinely to be run over by the anti-Christian juggernaut. This statement of principle and intent is called The Manhattan Declaration, published last Friday in Washington DC.

It is difficult to believe that so firm an assertion of Christian intransigence in the face of persecution will not have some beneficial effects even here. For this Declaration is no minor affirmation by a few committed activists: on the contrary, it is signed by the most important leaders of three mainstream Christian traditions – the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Evangelical Protestants. For an ecumenical document it is heroically devoid of fudge, euphemism and compromise.

The Manhattan Declaration states that “the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions”.

For Barack Obama, the PC lobby, the “hate crime” fascists and, by implication, their opposite numbers in Britain, the signatories have an uncompromising message: “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.” That is plain speaking, in the face of anti-Christian aggression by governments. The signatories spelled it out even more unequivocally: “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will under no circumstances render to Caesar what is God’s.”

In a world where a Swedish pastor has been jailed for preaching that sodomy is sinful, similar prosecutions have taken place in Canada, the European Court of Human Rights (sic) has tried to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms, Brazil has passed totalitarian legislation imposing heavy prison sentences for criticism of homosexual lifestyles, Amnesty International is championing abortion, David Cameron has voted for the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies, and Gordon Brown’s government has just been defeated in its fourth attempt to abolish the Waddington Clause guaranteeing free speech – this robust defiance is more than timely.

The signatories are unambiguously expressing their willingness to go to prison rather than deny any part of their religious beliefs. Those signatories are heavyweight. On the Catholic side they include Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop Emeritus of Detroit; the Archbishops of Denver, New York, Washington DC, Newark, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Louisville; and other Bishops. The Orthodox include the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and the Archpriest of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. There are also the Anglican Primates of America and Nigeria, as well as a host of senior Evangelical Protestants.

In terms of influence on votes and public opinion, this is a formidable coalition. It has served notice on the US government that further anti-Christian legislation will provoke cultural trench warfare and even civil disobedience. As regards the sudden stiffening of resistance among the usually spineless Catholic leadership, it is impossible not to detect the influence of Benedict XVI.

We need more declarations like this, on a global scale, and the requisite confrontational follow-up. This is Clint Eastwood, make-my-day Christianity – and not before time. From now on, any governments that are planning further persecution of Christians had better make sure they have a large pride of lions available for mastication duties. The worm has turned.

As a young Christian, I was inspired by the music, lyrics, and album cover of Keith Green’s album, No Compromise.  The cover says it all:

The Manhattan Declaration – like the Barmen Declaration – calls for Christians who are willing to stand up and be singled out even in the face of persecution or punishment.

I hope you are willing to be one of those Christians.