The Christian Apologetic: Jesus Christ.

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March 11, 2016.

Over the past few weeks, I have been writing an apologetic for a discussion with a friend in Germany. It is an apologetic that I don’t think Christian communities use as often as we should, though I could just be wrong about the prevalence of the thoughts. When we ask the question, ‘Why do I believe in the God of the bible?’ I think it is important to see that God has given us ample evidence to believe in Him, through His Son. If you think about it, making the defense of the Christian faith through Jesus brings the theological and philosophical arguments down to a very practical, tangible level, one in which we can examine the evidence for instead of create an abstract or metaphysical theory about. Today, I would like to share my thoughts on this topic. This is not meant to be a exhaustive study with every piece of evidence, but rather a starting place to begin your own search for evidence. Don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself. I believe God is calling, maybe even screaming, at us to believe. Consider these words.

God and Blind Faith

As we begin to discuss the possibility of and the evidence for the Christian God, I believe it is important consider what we might be looking for if the Christian God did exist. I do not offer this as proof that he does exist, as that would be circular reasoning, but rather as something to watch for and a better understanding of the Christian worldview than some (even some Christians) would put forth today. If there is a God who cares about his creation, it would make sense that he would want to be involved with his creation. This is in stark contrast to the deism position that states that God created the universe in the beginning, but then left the creation alone and did not interact with it. The Christian worldview expects that God will interact with us in a way that we can see him. Though it is often said mistakenly, I do not believe God ever intended for us to have blind faith. Even if some (if not the majority of Christians) do have faith that is blind, I do not believe that this was the way it was intended to be. Throughout history, I believe he has given us reasons to think and come to know him, for those who are seeking.

Circumstantial case vs. empirical evidence

Though I believe that God has given evidence of himself to mankind throughout history, it is important to note here that any case that we build to determine something that happened that we did not actually observe is a case that has to be built on circumstantial evidence. This word can sometimes cause aversion to a case from the start, but it should not be so. Note that all cases involving past history are circumstantial as opposed to empirical. Even the scientific interpretation of the history of evolution is completely circumstantial for the sole reason that we do not have the evidence for mechanism. There are articles of evidence that we can view, but the case is made circumstantially (i.e. you cannot test the unfolding of evolutionary history in a closed lab setting). I say all this to simply reiterate that the case for God (as with the case for anything historically) is based on the totality of evidence, not any once piece in particular (though some pieces of evidence are stronger than others, as can be expected). It should also be noted the importance that eye witness testimony plays in circumstantial cases made in court trials, as for the eye witness, the evidence was indeed empirical. Genuine eye witness testimony has long been held as one of the strongest lines of conviction in any court case.

Part 1: Using the New Testament as a Historical Document

Any time a group of people points to their holy book as evidence for their worldview, it raises red flags in the eyes of the opponents, if not only because of the apparent bias involved, but perhaps from what would be seen as, again, blind faith. However, the set of writings that are found within the bible play a key role in the evidence for Christianity, and for this reason, the logic behind using these documents as an apologetic to the Christian faith should be firmly established through historical means, just as any other ancient text is. If it can be established that they are indeed honest, eye witness accounts, then they should be allowed into consideration. It should be noted here that showing their reliability historically doesn’t necessarily indicate that their message is true. It simply means that they should be allowed to be considered as evidence in the case. There are several lines of evidence that give historical validity to the gospels.

Textual Evidence

  1. The number of early copies of the New Testament that still survive today is unparalleled by any other ancient literary text in history.[1] Before we begin here, it is important to point out that this point is not to ‘prove’ that the content of the gospels or the New Testament is necessarily true, but rather to establish a firm confidence that what we have today is accurate to the original documents as they were written. With this, we can see that we have an authentic copy of the original version. Today there are just under 6,000 Greek copies (note here that these are not full copies, but rather fragments of what was at one time a copy) of New Testament manuscripts that have been found, the earliest of which dates to only about 30 years within the original document’s composition. This truly excels in comparison to any other manuscript that is considered historically verifiable, the closest of which seems to be Homer’s Iliad, which we have 643 copies of, the earliest being written 500 years after the original document. Beyond this, when textual criticism is applied to these New Testament manuscripts, the New Testament we have today is considered 99.5% textually pure. Again, this is not to say that what the writers said in the gospels is true, but rather to say we do have the documents that they wrote.
  2. The gospels are written early, especially the gospel of Mark. The large majority of biblical scholars by far date all New Testament documents to have been written within the first century. Simply taking this conservative estimate, this means that the New Testament was written within at least 70 years of the life of Christ, which is too early for myths and legends to have arisen. Further, there is good reason to believe that many of the documents were written much earlier than the turn of the first century (the reason for this date is because John’s revelation is typically dated to 96 AD, though there are arguments for an earlier date for this book as well). Perhaps more importantly, there are good arguments to believe that the gospels of Mark and Luke were written very early after the death of Christ. Luke wrote two books in a chronological, historical manner. His second book, Acts, details the history of the early church. In doing so, however, Luke fails to note the deaths of Peter, James (the brother of Jesus) and Paul in his writing, three of the most influential people in the church, even though he tells of the deaths of James the brother of John (Acts 12:1-2) and of Stephen Acts 7:54-60). In fact, the book itself seems to end openly, with Paul still alive and teaching. Further, Luke writes nothing about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, a crucial event in Jewish history. There is no reason to leave this event out, as its inclusion would only help to verify the deity of Jesus, as Luke records Jesus’ prophecy of the city’s destruction (Luke 19:41-44). Paul appears to quote Luke upon at least two occasions, once in I Timothy and once in I Corinthians (which is widely accepted to have been written by AD 56). Luke then quotes from Mark, placing the gospel of Mark even earlier on the timeline. This is corroborated with internal evidence, as it seems Mark withholds some names in his gospel that are supplied in gospels that were written later, possible because he was trying to protect their identity because they were still alive. With these (and other evidences), the gospel of Mark has been dated to the late 40’s to the early 50’s. Luke has been dated to the early 50s, with his second book written in the late 50’s. This would put these gospels within 15-25 years of the life of Christ.
    • Why is this important? When using the New Testament documents as an apologetic, it is important that we take the gospels for what they are: historical, eye witness accounts. We are not looking at it, currently, as the “word of God”, but rather as a historical document. For an eyewitness to be an eye witness, they have to actually be alive during the event to which they are witnessing. They have to been at the scene when it happened. The dating is also important because this is not a long enough period of time for legend to creep into the story. It would have quickly been weeded out by people who were there and actually saw what happened. It is also very worthy to note that these gospels and the teaching of Christ were written and circulated in the area where the stories came from- thus if they were untrue, all that had to happen to discredit them would be people from this area to say “No, that’s not what happened, I was there.” I will say more on this later, but as for now, just note that these writings place their authors well within the time period of Jesus and the people who saw/interacted with Jesus, and should be considered based on their eye witness merit. It is again worth noting that this does not necessarily mean that what the writers said happened is actually true, but rather it just places them in the scene and verifies their position as a witness. We will discuss alternative motives for witting the gospels later to see if they make any sense.
  3. Scripture was regarded with high esteem, even early on. This is the last comment I will make on the textual evidence to at least bring the gospels into an intelligent discussion, showing that they are at least trustworthy in terms of being actual accounts written by people who were there. Christianity ultimately finds its root in Judaism (this is not exactly how it sounds, but we can get into a theological discussion on this later). For quite a few years after the death of Christ, the gospel was only spread to other Jews, and the earliest Christians were Jewish Christians. Jews held scripture in the highest regard, and their copyists were meticulous when it came to making copies of scripture. This tradition followed through to early Christianity, as can be seen by the 99.5% textual purity of the New Testament we have today mentioned earlier. Early Christians were not likely to add to scripture, even if it would seemingly make it more believable. If this were not so, the later scribes would have easily changed some hard passages to make it flow better and silence any critics- but these passages remain. Also, the cannon (accepted scriptural documents) began to be formed very early on. Early Christians circulated documents that were accepted as scripture, and rejected gospels that clearly did not contain the truth. The New Testament did not come about simply because it was a religious text from one person. It came from different people who were witnesses to events in history- and it has stood the test of rigorous criticism throughout time, beginning from the start, from both Christians and non-Christians alike. It should be therefore worthy to be at least presented in the discussion of apologetics.

Geographical evidence

Another line of evidence that gives validity to the gospels as eye witness accounts comes from archaeology and linguistics. There have been books written to include these things, so I will try to keep it short and concise, as I in no way intend for this part to be exhaustive.

  1. The geography and historical figures mentioned in the gospels is continually confirmed through archaeology. At the onset of this point, let us note that the silence of archaeology can neither confirm nor deny any claim (at least in a broad sense of this claim, there’s probably a rare exception somewhere). However, the findings of archaeology can certainly corroborate a claim made by writers who write documents claiming to be set in a certain time. This is the case especially with the gospel of Luke, as he records many things that can and have been corroborated by archaeology. These things include, but are not limited to: Quirinius conducting a census (Luke 2:1-3), Lysanias as Terarch in Abilene (Luke 3:1), Iconium as a city of Phyrigia (Acts 14:6) and Politarchs as the word used for leaders of an area (specifically in Thessalonica, Acts 17:6). There are many other corroborations, but I include these because they were once points of criticism, as critics pointed to these to show how the gospel of Luke and Acts were unreliable- until archaeology confirmed them as true. Luke has been shown to be a historian of the highest regard, giving him credence and reason to believe him to be trustworthy.
  2. The culture and linguistics of the New Testament is congruent with the time and place they are writing about. The gospel accounts present a culture that is unmistakably first century Hebrew. Also, the names presented in the gospel are the very names that were popular in Palestine during the first century. If the gospel writers were far removed geographically and separated by time from the events they wrote about, they would not have been able to write accounts that were so true to the time and culture. This gives evidence that the writers again were there where the action took place.

Historical Evidence

The final line of evidence that I would like to present to make the case that the New Testament should be considered worthy to be brought into discussion to show the Christian God (though again, this is not an exhaustive list) is the historical evidence outside the documents that corroborate them. This can be divided into two lines.

  1. Corroboration from Non-Christians. There is actually a lot of non-biblical texts (relatively speaking) that corroborate the events told in the gospels. Perhaps most famously, Jewish historian Josephus makes at least two references to Jesus, recording that he was a wise teacher, reportedly had wondrous power, was condemned under Pilate and his followers believed him to have appeared to them after his death. Samaritan historian Thallus apparently makes a claim to the darkness that the gospels record happened when Jesus was on the cross, attributing it to be an eclipse of the sun. Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus made a reference to Jesus, recording that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate and his followers were severely persecuted. A Syrian philosopher named Mara Bar-Serapion describes Jesus as a wise King when he is discussing influential people of different cultures. Pliny the Younger, a Roman writing a letter to the emperor Trajan, describes the lifestyles of early Christians as having a high moral code, meeting regularly and believing that Jesus was God. These are just some of the non-Christian accounts describing Jesus or early Christianity in the same ways that the gospels describe it. This give evidence that the gospel writers are at least trustworthy in the most general sense, as these are hostile witnesses that confirm what the gospel writers said in many ways.
  2. Corroboration from Christians. Further, there is corroboration found for the New Testament from early Christians who wrote documents that were extra-biblical. It has been said that even if we didn’t have copies of the New Testament today, we could construct almost the entire New Testament simply from quotes from early church fathers. We also have corroboration from Paul, who was at first very hostile to the Christian religion, but went through a conversation (which we will discuss later) and went on to write a good portion of our New Testament. He himself writes letters confirming and recording the testimony of many people who were with Jesus and had seen the unfolding of the church. Further, we have letters from James, Peter and Jude, all who were not gospel writers, but confirmed the message. Here we should note the importance of the composition style of the New Testament- it is not just one document. The books found within the New Testament are written by different authors for different reasons, and the reason is not “to create a religious text.” They are written by real people for specific tasks, and would become a religious text simply because it is through these books that we learn about Jesus. The intent of each of the writers is very important. This is why the New Testament should be allowed into the discussion to make a statement about the Christian God.

Part 2: The Eye Witness Testimony of the New Testament

Part one of this apologetic was focused more on the validity of the New Testament and the reasonable case for its inclusion in the discussion about the existence Christian God. This section was not necessarily intended to show that what is in the New Testament documents is true, but rather to show them as valid accounts. Part two of this apologetic will examine some of the claims of the New Testament and attempt to make a reasonable case of the evidence that the Christian God has given us of himself. By the end of this document, though not exhaustive, I hope to have adequately conveyed the firm (cumulative) evidence for why I believe in the God of Israel and Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Christianity Began Openly

It has been said that Christianity is the most falsifiable religion in the world today. What this means, at least where I see the strength in this statement, is that when Christianity first began, it did so publicly, around the people who had known and seen Jesus, who could either verify or deny the things that were being taught. Other religions are not nearly as open to criticism as Christianity was in its beginning. Other religions start with someone having a dream, or a private idea about God, or there is no central line of teaching as to how they started- they are simply an ideology. Christianity is different. When Jesus began his ministry, it was a public ministry. The miracles that the gospels record are recorded as happening openly, and the locations he did each miracle are given, knowing that people who were there would be able to deny them if they were not true. He was publicly expected on the cross (even cited by non-Christian historians in their time). Even his resurrection was a public event, as the gospel and New Testament writers almost beg their readers to simply go ask one of the more than 500 witnesses to the resurrection that were still alive (more on this later). Christianity was very open and very vulnerable at its onset. When you take this into consideration, plus the known persecution that Christians underwent both from Jews and Romans from the very beginning, we see that the central claims of Christianity stood the test of tough criticism. Even in the midst of persecution which could have easily exploited Christian claims (because they were public), Christianity stood firm. We should at least ask the question, “Why?” Or perhaps the better question is “How?” A reasonable answer to these questions could very well be “Simply because the claims were true.”

The Empty Tomb

Perhaps the most central claim of Christianity is that Jesus Christ was resurrected on the third day after having been killed on a cross. Without the resurrection, surely Jesus is merely a good teacher, or perhaps not even that good, as he would have then said things that were not true. However, it is because of the resurrection that his followers truly believed. But is there a reasonable case to be made to believe that the resurrection actually happened? Let’s consider several lines of evidence.

  1. The resurrection accounts are too early to be legendary. We have seen the evidence for the early dating of the gospel writings. These stories were first recorded within 15-25 years of the event, and there is good evidence to believe that the story began circulating orally within at least seven years of the event, based on a pre-Markan source. This is simply too early for legends to form around the resurrection. Further, we have examples of writings that date to a much later date recording the resurrection, such as the gospel of Peter, that do show these signs of legendary material, such as a talking cross coming out of the tomb. But the account of the empty tomb in Mark shows no signs of legendary material, lending evidence that it was simply an account of what happened.
  2. Women who witnessed the resurrection first. This may not seem significant to use in the culture we live in today, but we must remember that in the time period in which the gospels and the New Testament was written, women were thought of in a very different way. The testimony of women in the first century Jewish culture was considered worthless. If the story were being made up, the fabricators would not have had women be the first witnesses to the resurrection- no one would have taken them seriously. Unless it was true.
  3. The resurrection accounts were preached in Jerusalem. When the apostles began to preach the message of the resurrection, they started in Jerusalem, where the crucifixion and burial of Jesus had taken place. We have already examined the evidence for the early writing of the gospel accounts. This, taken with the fact that they were writing and preaching in Jerusalem gives much validity to the case for the empty tomb. Those who first started preaching about the way were heavily persecuted, both by Jews and eventually by Romans. Since they were preaching in Jerusalem with people who were still alive when Jesus was crucified, the easiest way to silence the early Christians would have been to go to the tomb and show that Jesus body was still in the tomb. This would have stopped the message of the resurrection dead in its tracks. Note, however, that the claim that the body was still in the tomb was never asserted, either by the Christians or those who were hostile to the Christians. Instead, the Jews make up a different reason as to why the tomb was empty, saying that the disciples of Christ came and removed the body (according to the gospel accounts). Note that we even have Jewish writings (non-Christian) that use this reason instead of denying the empty tomb. Further, since the message was being preached in Jerusalem, anyone could have went to the tomb of Christ to see for themselves. Even the apostles, according to the gospel eye witness accounts, went and checked the tomb before they believed that Christ had risen. If one were to make up a false religion, it would be much easier to tell of events that ‘happened’ in a different region, where no one could go and prove them wrong. Yet, the resurrection was preached in the place where it happened to the people who were there at the time- a very bold, gutsy thing to do to proclaim such a falsifiable piece evidence. Unless it was true.
  4. The resurrection was a public event. We talked about this a little in the previous section, but here we will examine it more specifically. Again, we have seen the case for the early writing of the gospels and the New Testament, and even critical scholars would date Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth to have been written by 56 AD, well within the life span of those who would have seen Jesus. The gospel accounts claim that Jesus rose and presented himself publicly on multiple occasions. Paul writes to the Corinthians and tells them that there were at least 500 eye witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, in what would seem to be a statement of “you don’t have to take my word for it, go ask them!” They were still alive and could attest to the resurrection (a bold claim for Paul if it were not true). Even critical scholars date a creed that had been developed by early Christians that affirmed Jesus’ bodily resurrection to 2-5 years after the crucifixion, indicating that the Christians were circulating this idea very early on. They could not have claimed resurrection if the tomb was empty.
  5. The Jews reluctantly admitted the empty tomb. I have already touched on this, so I will be brief here. The Jews circulated the story that the disciples stole the body of Christ. Justin Martyr even records that this story was still being circulated by the Jews in the mid-100s as does Tertullian in 200 AD. Note that this does not prove that Jesus arose, but rather that the Jews did not claim that the body was still in the tomb even early on (if so, that’s what would have been circulated in the 100s-200s, as this would have been much stronger evidence against Jesus). There is simply no reason for the Jews, hostile to the Christian message, not to make the claim that the body was in the tomb. Unless it wasn’t.
  6. There are no other plausible explanations. Note that there are no other explanations that have been given to satisfy the historical account of the empty tomb. Those who deny the empty tomb do not do so on historical grounds, but rather on theological or philosophical assumptions. There have been a few theories proposed, but they have been considered refuted for almost a hundred years by serious scholars. Let’s look at some ideas considering this, as well as some of the theories to the empty tomb.
    • Jew/Romans would not have moved the body. This first idea might seem simple, but it is worth noting. The Jews or the Romans would have had absolutely no motivation to move the body. In fact, it would have worked much more in their favor if they could have shown the tomb was in fact not empty.
    • Swoon theory. Again, theories such as these have been long refuted, but I would like to address it in brief just in case for the sake of thoroughness. One alternate way of explaining away the empty tomb is that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross. However, when this theory is looked at closely, it quickly falls apart. There is no way that Jesus could have survived such severe beating, the Roman perfected art of crucifixion, a piercing of the heart and then three days alone in a tomb, much less continue to have the physical ability to remove the large stone that was on the covering of his tomb.
    • Hallucination theory. A second theory, long refuted, is that the disciples’ experience with the risen Jesus was simply a hallucination. However, when hallucination is considered, it is quickly noted that this does not fit the case of the eye witness accounts. Whereas group hallucination is possible, it takes extreme circumstances and a common location. There is no way that multiple people could have had the same hallucination at different times in different places, especially when you take into account the 500 witnesses that Paul mentions in his letter to the Corinthians. Nor can the hallucination theory account for the physical encounters that the disciples had with Jesus afterwards (such as eating and drinking) or the conversion of Paul, three years later.
    • The witnesses lied. The last idea presented, and which is probably the biggest case for those hostile to Christianity today, is that the disciples simply lied. Let us now examine if this is actually plausible by seeing if they would have had a motive to do so.

The Motives of the Witnesses

Of course the question of bias comes up when we are discussing religion by using writings of those who were adherent to the religion themselves. Perhaps one of the most plausible answers to the empty tomb and Christianity in general, aside from the writers simply telling the truth, is that it was all a lie. The theory goes that the early disciples got together and came up with a plan to start a new religion, and fabricated the story. Almost every motive or bias in a criminal case falls into one of three categories: the motive of financial gain, motive of the pursuit of power or the motive of sexual drive. Let’s examine if the apostles had any of these motives.

  1. Were they motivated by financial gain? It is well known that following Christ in the first century was absolutely no means of financial gain. In fact, on several occasions in the New Testament, we see that the disciples of Christ actually were very poor and needed help. Peter acknowledges the fact that the apostles had left their homes to follow Jesus (Luke 18:28). Further, James speaks out strongly about the rich and how they treat people. Often, especially in the Jewish culture, converting to Christianity actually meant giving up business transactions, leading to financial loss, not gain. None of the apostles are ever recorded, in the New Testament or in history, to have gained money by proclaiming Christ. Barnabas specifically sells some of the things that he has to give to the support of the first Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36-37), as did many of the disciples. Paul attests that he was hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed and homeless (I Corinthians 4:11). I believe we can safely say that the apostles were not motivated by financial gain.
  2. Were they motivated by the pursuit of power? This is perhaps the go to argument as to give motive to why the apostles would have made everything up. However, this theory relies on the position of power and authority that Christians eventually held in Rome in the fourth century. No such power was available to the apostles for proclaiming Christ in the first century. Christianity was immediately met with hostility from Jews in the area, the ones who did have power. After rumors were spread about the Christians, they also met hostility from Rome and suffered severe persecution. There was no power to be gained by proclaiming Christ- if anything, doing so actually took away their power, especially in the business world of the day. Other tried and true methods would have been taken if the apostles were after power, and they would not have involved making up their own religion in the middle of a highly conservative religious culture. The apostles were not motivated by the pursuit of power.
  3. Were they motivated by sex? The final motivation that drives people to do anything is sexual drive/desire. This is perhaps the most easy to see that the apostles certainly weren’t motivated by, as they teach very often against sexual immorality. Paul advocates that it is better to remain unmarried even so that your mind can be solely focused on doing the work of the Lord (I Corinthians 7:32-35). Clement of Rome even records that apostles denied themselves of sexual contact with their wives to better minister in the teaching of the gospel. The apostles were not motivated by sex.
  4. Paul defies all three of these common ulterior motives. I would like to make a simple point about the testimony of the apostle Paul, who was converted to Christianity three years after the resurrection. Paul’s conversion and life story denies all three of these motives in his conversion. Note here that Paul was at first very hostile to Christians, bringing them to be tried and put to death by the Jews. Paul was very zealous, and we have accounts written about his persecution of early Christians, as well as his own testimony that he was once a firm persecutor of the church. However, he witnesses that he had indeed seen the risen Jesus, and from that point on, his whole life was completely changed. Note that before he became a Christian, Paul trained at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the top five Jewish rabbis in his day. Paul was on the track to being one of the most powerful rabbis in the first century. Paul was also a very educated man, and he apparently was well off, even having Roman citizenship (through birth). Thus, he was on the path to financial success and had the pursuit of power well within reach. Yet he gave up both of these things willingly after seeing Jesus alive after the crucifixion. Further, as we have seen, Paul even encouraged people after his conversion to remain single as he was so as to serve the Lord with a more focused mindset. Paul had given up power, financial gain and an intimate relationship all for the sake of Christ. He didn’t start out this way- he willingly gave it all up. From this, we can see that Paul was not motivated by any of these three things, which brings us back to the question, why? The most plausible answer is simply to believe the reason that he gave. He had seen Jesus alive.
  5. People simply do not die for something they know is a lie. Martyrdom is one of the biggest piece of evidence there is for the resurrection in my opinion. I’m not sure you could ask for a stronger piece of evidence for something that happened 2,000 years ago. It is important to note, however, which martyrdom we are talking about. When a Christian (or one of any faith for that matter) is martyred today, though it speaks volumes for their faith, says nothing about whether or not Jesus actually raised from the dead. Even martyrs in the first few centuries who had not seen Jesus tells us very little, if anything, about the reliability of the resurrection accounts. However, the martyrdom of the eye witnesses, specifically the apostles, is very important to what they believed. People simply do not willingly die for something they know is a lie, especially when there is no motivation to do so in the first place. One might die for something he or she believed in (but didn’t actually witness), but scarcely will one die for something they knew to be false. Of the original 12 apostles, 10 were martyred (one other committed suicide after betraying Jesus and the final one died in exile on the isle of Patmos). Even if the argument is made that there is a chance that someone would die for a lie for some unknown reason, this is a very low probability, and certainly 10 people wouldn’t do it all for the same lie. At least one, probably the majority actually, would have recanted and said that Jesus didn’t actually raise from the dead. However, none of them did. They all went to death willingly, including the apostle Paul, and some faced excruciating deaths. We must ask the question, why? At the very least, we should be able to tell that the disciples certainly believed that they had seen the risen Jesus. The most plausible explanation, one that would satisfy all the raised concerns, is that they had actually seen Jesus alive after the resurrection.

A conspiracy theory that lasts?

One final thought on considering whether or not the apostles lied and simply fabricated the story of Jesus. Consider how much planning, dedication and complete commitment each of the witnesses would have had to make that happen. When we think about conspiracy theories today, they are never taken seriously, even when a decent case could be made from evidence that someone has thrown together. The likelihood of the apostles fabricating this whole scenario, perpetuating the idea over the course of time and distance from one another and having it catch on in the very regions that the ideas were fabricated about is very, very low. The fact that it caught on, Christianity flourished and the gospel was spread far and wide is a huge testament to the apostles’ word. The only way that Christianity could have been established through the means that it was established by was if the claims of the gospels were actually true. Conspiracy theories and fabrications don’t last. Truth does.

When all of these ideas are taken into account collectively, the most reasonable answer as to why each holds true is simply that the gospel writers were telling the truth. There is no other singular explanation that has been given that could adequately answer each of these reasons together. Thus, according to Occam’s razor (back to philosophy for a moment), the simplest answer is typically the best answer. Christianity offers a singular answer that satisfies each of these historical questions. I would like to finish with one more line of reasoning for believing in the Christian God before I end. To do so, I would like to look at the ministry of Jesus and Christianity itself.

The teaching and ministry of Jesus

For fear of going on too long already, I would like to keep this section very short and concise. The brevity thereof, however, does not reflect the importance I believe each point has, nor the extensive data that could be given for part a. That being said, I would like to close with three ideas.

  1. Fulfilled prophecy. Again, I will be brief here. Jesus’ life and ministry on this earth fulfilled over 360 specific prophecies that were made in the Old Testament (which can be externally verified to have been completed many years before the life of Christ because of the Septuagint, a Greek copy of the Hebrew scriptures completed in 132 BC). This gives a testament to the idea that God did not expect those who believe in him to do so blindly. He had given the evidence through prophecy so that we could look back, see what was said and see how Jesus fulfilled each one. In fact, this was the go to line of reasoning for the early church. When the apostles got up to preach the gospel to the Jews, they used Old Testament prophecy, which messianic prophecies would have been well known in the Jewish culture. I believe that even today, this line of reasoning is very effective in seeing that Jesus was sent from God.
  2. Non-violent spread. Unlike some other religions, Christianity profuse throughout the Greco-Roman world in the first couple of centuries through non-violence. In fact, Christians were heavily persecuted in this time period, but did not fight back. The fact that Christianity was established and spread without force and in the face of strong opposition speaks volumes to its validity. From the very early church, the teachings were spread in the region in which the very things happened (and were not refuted). As time went on, Christianity spread to a pagan world that was not apt to give up their pleasures and gods to take on Christian ideology and morality. Yet it happened.
  3. Relevant, even outside of time and culture. Finally, I would like to point out the truly remarkable thing about Christianity, and that is that it remains relevant outside of time and culture. Christianity has continue to spread throughout the years, to many different cultures in this world. Yet it catches on anywhere it goes, and speaks to the hearts and minds of people all over the world. I believe that this is truly a miracle in and of itself. No other ancient document or ideology has proven to do the same at the level of Christianity. Has Christianity been perfect throughout the years? Certainly not. But that is because we are human, attempting to serve a divine God. However, regardless of what man does with it, the core of the gospel remains the same, and it remains just as viable today as it was 2,000 years ago.

In conclusion, I believe in the Christian God because I believe that he has given us ample evidence throughout the years through his word, his son and his spirit. The apologetic above, though I believe it to be thorough, is in no way exhaustive. Entire books have been filled with evidence and apologetics for the Christian faith, unlike any other faith in the world. I believe this apologetic to be far more practical than philosophy or scientific arguments. What I have presented is much more tangible, based on established history. These evidences have been rigorously studied and have stood the test of time and scholarship, and since they are so practical in nature, so tangible, I believe it is here where we should look first. If these things are true, if Jesus Christ really did raise from the dead, then everything else must be interpreted through this worldview. And I believe it can be, and has been for many years by many rational people. If Jesus Christ is true, it doesn’t mean that science is false- science is simply the study of what he created. But it could very well mean our interpretation of science (or even the bible) are incorrect, which has proven true time and again.

In short, I believe in God because of Jesus Christ.

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[1]
Though there are many resources for this, this website cites all of its sources: http://www.str.org/articles/is-the-new-testament-text-reliable#.VtytaSgrKM8

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