Archive for the ‘Christian Truth’ Category

postheadericon TV historian admits that he was wrong about Christianity

Tom Holland, the TV and radio historian and author of the prize-winning Rubicon, says he had the completely wrong idea about Christianity. Holland realised that his false ideas about God had been cultivated in him by the works of Edward Gibbon and other writers of the Enlightenment. He now sees Christianity as a revolutionary idea which has changed the world, and calls it the “principal reason” behind many of our most deeply-held values.

‘Christ crucified’

Central to the changes in his thinking were the Apostle Paul’s words: “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (I Corinthians I :23). In his article for the New Statesman, Holland wrote: “Nothing could have run more counter’ to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. “The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive.” “In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.”

Egoism

Holland writes that he had a Christian upbringing and attended Sunday school, but eventually turned his back on Christianity, preferring to explore his fascination with dinosaurs and ancient empires. He was drawn into what he saw as the glamour of the Greek and Roman gods, preferring their ideology of egoism to biblical values. “If they were vain, selfish and cruel, that only served to endow them with the allure of rock stars”, he explained.

Value of life

But eventually he came to realise that these societies invariably promoted cruelty and dominance. He highlighted the Spartan practice of murderous eugenics, and Caesar’s slaughter and enslavement of the Gauls. “It was not just the extremes of callousness I came to find shocking, but the lack of a sense that the poor or weak might have any intrinsic value”, he said.

Revolution

Holland concluded that countries once part of Christendom “continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents”. He calls it the “principal reason” that such societies take for granted that “it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering”.

The Christian Institute 19th September 2016

postheadericon The Bible

The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by about 40 authors, in three different languages, on three different continents, over approximately 1600 years. The Bible claims to be inspired and inerrant. This means that the Bible claims to be from God and that it is without error in everything it addresses.

The Bible contains many different styles of writing such as poetry, narration, fiction, history, law, and prophecy and must be interpreted in context of those styles. It is the source of the Christian religion in that the Bible contains the words of God and how the Christian is to apply the words of God to his life.
Basically, the Bible describes the origin of man in the Garden of Eden along with his fall into sin and out of fellowship with God. It then describes how God called out a special people to Himself, the Israelites. He promised the Israelites a future Messiah who would restore mankind’s relationship with God. The Bible is the account of the work of God in history bringing to fruition His prophetic declarations concerning Jesus. Jesus was born of the Virgin, died on the cross, and paid for sins, just as the Bible prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. In short, the Bible points to Jesus, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me,” (John 5:39).

Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that forgiveness of sins is found in Jesus alone, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4: 12).

Some say that the Bible is nothing more than fairy tales. But this cannot be for it contains great wisdom and truth and it has been verified throughout history as being accurate. Its historical accounts are flawlessly accurate. In fact, archaeology routinely demonstrates the accuracy of the biblical records concerning locations and events recorded in the Bible.

postheadericon The Trinity

Throughout its history the Christian Church has maintained the doctrine of the Trinity, that God exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not possible to explain how this can be true in a logical way, nevertheless christians believe that this is the teaching of the Bible, given as follows.

You and I live in a three-dimensional world. All physical objects have a certain height, width, and depth. One person can look like someone else, or behave like someone else, or even sound like someone else. But a person cannot actually be the same as another person. They are distinct individuals. God, however, lives without the limitations of a three-dimensional universe. He is spirit. And he is infinitely more complex than we are. That is why Jesus the Son can be different from the Father. And, yet the same.
The Bible clearly speaks of: God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. But emphasizes that there is only ONE God.

If we were to use math, it would not be, I + I + I =3. It would be Ixlxl=1. God is a triune God.
Thus the term: “Tri” meaning three, and “Unity” meaning one, Tri+Unity = Trinity. It is a way of acknowledging what the Bible reveals to us about God, that God is yet three “Persons” who have the same essence of deity. Some have tried to give human illustrations for the Trinity, such as H2O being water, ice and steam (all different forms, but all are H2O). Another illustration would be the sun. From it we receive light, heat and radiation.

Three distinct aspects, but only one sun. No illustration is going to be perfect.

From the very beginning we see God as a Trinity. Notice the plural pronouns “us” and “our” in Genesis 1:26 – Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Though not a complete list, here is some other Scripture that shows God is one, in Trinity:
• “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut, 6:4)
• “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.” (Isa. 45:5)
• There is no God but one. (I Cor. 8:4)
• And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matt. 3: 16-17)
• “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28: 19)
• Jesus said: “I and the Father are one.” (john 10:30)
• “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (john 14:9)
• “He who beholds Me beholds the One who sent Me.” (john 12:45)
• If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Rom. 8:9)
• “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 1:20)
• And the angel answered and said to her [Mary], “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be. called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

[Jesus speaking to His disciples] “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper. that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.” … “If anyone loves Me. he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.” (John 14: 16-17, 23)

postheadericon Introduction to the Creeds

If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in yourheart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ROMANS 10.9

From the earliest days of the Church, Christians developed short, simple summaries of the faith. Many of them are embedded in the Scriptures.

These short statements became known as creeds. The word ‘creed’ comes from the Latin word credo, meaning ‘I believe and trust’. Two creeds in particular were developed in the early centuries of the Church, which have remained important to the Church and are regularly used in our worship today. Both are printed at the end of this Introduction.

The Apostles’ Creed is a faithful summary of the apostles teaching. It begins with the clear statement; ‘I believe’. It declares the faith of the Church in an easily accessible way in a simple threefold structure.
Many of its individual words and phrases echo the Scriptures. This is the faith of the Church which every believer declares at his or her baptism and by which we live. According to tradition it was the creed used in the Church in Rome from earliest times.

The Nicene Creed is a more detailed summary of what the whole Church believes about the great doctrines of the Christian faith. It begins with the statement: ‘We believe’. The Nicene Creed uses the same threefold structure as the Apostles Creed but goes into more depth and detail. It was first adopted at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 by a gathering of bishops called the first ecumenical council.
In the early centuries of the Church a number of different teachings arose around key questions of Christian belief. How is God one and yet three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Is Jesus fully God and fully human? ls the Holy Spirit one with the Father and the Son?

As we read the pages of the New Testament it is possible to see the beginnings of the debate around what is the right and true understanding of these questions. In Acts 15 the early Church in Council has to settle the question of whether keeping the Jewish law is essential to salvation. In Acts I9 Paut comes across some disciples who have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. In Colossians I Paul builds a strong case that Christ shares fully in the divine nature because there were people arguing that he did not.

The Church continued to wrestle with these issues, sometimes in fierce controversy. The early Christians sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit and they took counsel together. They studied and pondered the Scriptures. They used their understanding and reason as gifts given by God. Finally they reached agreement at Nicaea on the fundamental shape of the Christian gospel and the defining doctrines of the Christian faith.

In the centuries following the first ecumenical council the Church has become divided. The divisions are mainly about secondary matters. All the major traditions continue to use the words of the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed in their worship and teaching.

Every time we come to say the creeds it is vital to reflect and remember how it is that we come to believe them. It is by the grace and mercy of God that we have come to faith and are able to say and explore these words. It is not through human cleverness or ingenuity. The Christian faith is not a human invention. There are signs of God’s existence and handiwork in creation for anyone to read [Acts 14.15-1]. But we believe in the way we believe because God has come to seek us out and has made himself known to us. God has revealed himself through the Scriptures. God has revealed himself most clearly through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. God makes himself known personally to each believer through the work of the Holy Spirit:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. HEBREWS 1.1—3.

When we say the creeds we are not summarizing a human creation but the story of God’s great good news for all that he has made. We also need to remember that we are declaring not our own set of personal, individual beliefs but the faith of the Church: we believe as part of the great company of faithful Christians down the ages. As we speak these words we do so as part of the worldwide family of Christian believers, the household of God. This precious faith has been passed on to us by the Church, our fellow Christians. In the same way we have the responsibility to pass it on faithfully to others.
Exploring the creeds today can seem a little daunting, especially for someone who is still fairly new to Christian faith. Think of the creeds as a great hamper full of good things. Each one needs to be unpacked and unwrapped, tasted and savoured. This takes time but more than repays the work involved. Or think of the creeds as the desktop of a computer or tablet, full of icons. Behind each one is a whole world of meaning to be explored — and they all connect together.

Each of the sessions in this short course is one part of the hamper, one icon on the desktop. We look first, in Session I, at what it means to say: ‘I believe’ and ‘We believe and at the role the creeds play in strengthening our relationship with God. We move on in Session 2 to explore what it means to understand God as Trinity: one God in three persons. Sessions 3 and 4 take us deeper in our understanding of Jesus and look at the way Christ is fully God and fully human and at the great work of redemption on the cross. Session 5 explores the person and work of the Holy Spirit and Session 6 at what we believe about the Church — the people of God called into being through God’s grace.
Unpacking the hamper through this short course will equip you with priceless resources for living the Christian life and understanding the faith and for knowing God better. May God bless you as you begin this next part of the journey.

postheadericon Biblical arguments to support the Resurrection of Jesus

Biblical arguments to support the Resurrection of Jesus

Bible scholars widely agree on the following three points regarding the resurrection of Jesus:

  1. Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his death by crucifixion.
  2. Shortly after this claims started that Jesus was alive.
  3. Within weeks the disciples were proclaiming the Gospel message, based on a sincere belief that God had raised Jesus from death in accordance with Old Testament prophecies.

These three points are widely acknowledged to support the resurrection as an historical event. This note briefly outlines some of the supporting arguments.

  1. The Empty Tomb

The ‘empty tomb’ is noted several times in the New Testament. Matthew 28 gives one reason: the tomb guards were bribed to say Jesus’ disciples stole his body. This shows there was an empty tomb soon after the crucifixion, and it was not denied by the authorities. In all four Gospels women are the first to discover the empty tomb. Much is made about this as in first century Jewish society women were treated pretty much as second class citizens and would not be seen as reliable eye witnesses, particularly for something so significant. It is suggested that if the empty tomb story was a later legend, it would be more likely to feature the disciples.

Jesus’ crucifixion was a very public event and the location of the tomb would have been known, and checked. This appears to be the case from Peter’s address to the crowd in Acts 2, a few weeks after

Jesus’ resurrection on the Day of Pentecost, when he refers to the empty tomb and that his audience were aware of this. Peter also states Jesus‘ body would not see decay in keeping with Old Testament prophecies. Finally, in a 2006 survey of over 2,200 publications on the resurrection since 1975, 75% of scholars accepted the historicity of Jesus’ empty tomb. The evidence is so compelling that even a number of Jewish scholars are convinced that the tomb was found empty‘.

  1. The Resurrection Appearances

Paul wrote about Jesus’ resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15. These can be summarised as: Jesus died, was buried and raised on the third day; he appeared to Peter; then ‘The Twelve’; to 500 at once; then James, then all the Apostles and then to Paul.

Appearance to Peter: Galatians 1 states that Paul visited Peter in Jerusalem after his Road to Damascus conversion. This may be the earliest New Testament writing from around 48AD. So, when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians (around 54AD), that Jesus appeared to Peter, he presumably got that from Peter himself.

Appearance to the ‘Twelve: it is thought that Paul is referring to the disciples here (less Judas), with ‘The Twelve’ being the group’s collective name, some of whom Paul had personally met.

Appearance to the ‘500’: Paul must also have known some of the ‘500‘, as he states most of them are still alive (1 Corinthians v6), so presumably they could have confirmed what Paul was saying. These witnesses may have been questioned during one of Paul’s trials for his claims about the resurrection of Jesus (see Acts).

Appearance to James: This is the brother of Jesus. According to Mark 3 and John 7, none of Jesus’ brothers believed in him while he was alive. However, Acts 1 states they were with the disciples in Jerusalem following his Ascension, and that they were ‘joined together constantly in prayer’. In Galatians 1 Paul states that he stayed with Peter and ‘saw none of the other Apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother’. So a few years after the resurrection, James was being named among the Apostles. In Galatians 2 Paul states he visited Jerusalem again 14 years later, and this time he met with James, Peter and John, who were ‘reputed to be pillars’ of the church in Jerusalem.

In Acts 21 Raul returns to Jerusalem during his third missionary journey to visit the church leaders (some 20-25 years after the resurrection). This time Paul ‘went to see James, and all the elders were present’. Some commentators state James was by then the leader of the church in Jerusalem.‘ How can we explain James’ transformation from non -believer during Jesus’ lifetime to head of the church in Jerusalem? Paul suggests the answer in 1 Corinthians 15: James had met the risen Jesus.

Appearance to Paul: Paul‘s ‘Road to Damascus’ experience is recalled three times in the Book of Acts and also referred to in his letters. This transformed Paul from committed Pharisee and persecutor of the early church, to a life of poverty, suffering and ultimately execution. Clearly something signi?cant happened that day – like James, Paul met the risen Jesus.

  1. The origin of the Christian Faith

Even sceptical New Testament scholars generally agree the disciples were convinced that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and that the origin of the Christian faith was based on this core belief . This conviction was vital as they faced considerable opposition to their claims about the resurrection from Jew, Roman and pagan.

From the outset the disciples openly accused the Jewish leaders of being complicit in Jesus’ death (see Acts 2). There would also be the threat from the Roman occupiers, who would have brutally put down any unrest, or anything standing against their authority, and they would have seen the ‘Kingdom of God‘ as an earthly kingdom and therefore a rival. The disciples, being Jews, would have no concept of a suffering Messiah, who would be crucified then raised from the dead, so it is unlikely the resurrection accounts were based on existing Jewish beliefs. Following Jesus’ death it seems likely that belief in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah would have ended without the resurrection.

Finally, had there been no resurrection it is difficult to imagine how a small group, whose leaders included uneducated fishermen, could have devised and established a new world religion, which spread with extraordinary speed across a very large area within the space of a few years.

Reference: Reasonable F aith; Christian Truth and Apologetics (Third Edition). W. L. Craig. Crossway

 

postheadericon BBC commissions drama from author who wants to ‘kill God’

BBC commissions drama from author who wants to ‘kill God’

The BBC is set to air a drama based on novels from Philip Pullman, the author who has previously said he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief”.

BBC One announced on Tuesday [17th November] that it was commissioning a drama series based on Pullman’s book, His Dark Materials, but is yet to give a date for transmission.

Pullman has repeatedly attacked the Christian faith, at one point saying his books are about “killing God”, and that God should be “put down” if he is as Christians describe him.

“Overthrow God”

BBC News has said that the His Dark Materials trilogy tells of “a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God”, while The Guardian says the books cast “original sin in a positive light”.

Jane Tranter, who is leading the BBC project, dismissed the idea that religious groups may object to the upcoming drama. However Pullman himself said in 2008 that the Christian response to a film version of one of the books “did influence a number of people not to go to see it”.

Toned down

The Golden Compass film, which was released in 2007 featuring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was intended as the first instalment of the trilogy. Many of the more explicitly anti-Christian themes of the first novel were toned down for the film version, but its Director said these would emerge in later films. So far the other two books have not been adapted for cinema.

Rebel

Pullman has told The Washington Post, that he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief”, while The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Pullman said: “My books are about killing God”. In 2002 he told The Sunday Telegraph: “if there is a God and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down and rebelled against”.

Christian Institute – 10 November 2015

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postheadericon Truth Matters

…contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

(Jude 3)

On the morning of my wedding an uncle who had been married a good number of years gave me some advice. ‘She’s always right. Even when she’s wrong, she’s right’. He wanted me to realize that to enjoy a quiet life as a husband I should always surrender the argument to my wife. Sound advice? On occasions when little is at stake it may be best not to risk division by pressing home an argument. But even within marriage there will be times when the issue under discussion is so serious that searching for the best outcome through gracious argument has to be the responsible course. Some times contending for the truth is necessary. Truth matters.

Jesus Christ certainly thought so. He presented himself as the truth: I am the way and the truth and the life.’ (John 14: 6) and He was a contender for the truth about himself as the Son of God, the world’s Saviour and Judge. Christ’s enemies understood this better than most. They once tried to entrap him and although they were unsuccessful their flattering approach contained more than a grain of truth: ‘You teach the way of God according to the truth. You are not swayed by others because you pay no attention to who they are’ (Matthew 22: 16). Jesus spoke the truth about himself even to those who were skeptical and hostile, and he was undeterred by the prospect of disagreement: ‘Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division’ (Luke 12: 51).

Christ’s claim to be the bringer of division and not ‘peace on earth’ may seem to challenge his right to be the prophet Isaiah’s ‘Prince of Peace’ whereas the opposite is true. Had he withheld the truth about himself for fear of alienating skeptics no one would have heard his Good News, believed in him and gained peace with God: ‘Therefore since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1).

Christ understood the importance of contending for the truth and he expects his followers to be equally committed even if it results in disagreement within families: ‘From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three’ (Luke 12: 53). Jesus does not set out to deliberately create division between people; on the contrary division is always regrettable and sad. Nevertheless, if those who are ignorant of God’s love are to come to know him the truth about Christ must be explained to them, and if those who claim to be Christian and yet hold fast to heresy are to be challenged and enlightened the truth about Christ must be contended for. There is always a risk of disagreement and division but the Bible clearly sets out the Christian’s responsibility: ‘Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’ (Jude 3).

Jude’s exhortation is less than popular with those who insist it does not matter what you believe as long as you live well and love all. Such people should consider the mind of Christ.  He who calls himself ‘the truth’ does not share such a lack of doctrinal concern. It is plain that Christ loves the truth, speaks the truth, he is the truth. How then can his followers be so indifferent to it? There is always room for debate on peripheral matters but the central Christian truths cannot be compromised. We must, as Rupert Meldenius famously wrote, ‘…preserve unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials and charity in all things.’ Problems arise among Christians when we make concessions on clearly revealed scriptural truths which should never be surrendered yet insist on secondary matters which are neither revealed nor required by God. E.g. Christians may agree to disagree on the bodily resurrection of Christ and at the same time divide over whether or not clergy should robe to lead worship.

What are the essential truths that Christians must never fail to contend for? They are the Truth about Christ, and the Truth about Holiness. The irreducible minimum of Christian belief is that Jesus of Nazareth is the unique God-man who died for our sins and was raised from death to be the Saviour of the world. Christians believe and act on these truths by submitting to Christ as Lord and trusting him as Saviour. Just as Christianity exalts Christ so it promotes holiness. The truth about Christ and the truth about holiness are essential truths that cannot be sacrificed and should always be contended for even at the expense of disagreement and division. We have to accept that ‘they may not always be right and when they’re wrong, they’re wrong’.  Truth matters.

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